I saw this at The Telegraph Sunday night:
The Catholic Church “is not an institution for respectable people”, according to Hilary Mantel, the Booker Prize-winning author.
Mantel was raised a Roman Catholic and educated at convent school.
However, the 59-year-old writer said child abuse scandals involving Roman Catholic priests demonstrated the “cruelty” and “hypocrisy” of the church.
Asked if she would call for a priest on her deathbed, Mantel replied: “No. I might very well call for a Church of England vicar, but I would not call for a Catholic priest.
“I’m one of nature’s Protestants. I should never have been brought up as a Catholic. I think that nowadays the Catholic Church is not an institution for respectable people.”
She said of the paedophilia scandals: “The fact that it could happen, the extent of the denial, the cover-up, the hypocrisy, the cruelty… When I was a child I wondered why priests and nuns were not nicer people. I thought that they were amongst the worst people I knew.
“But in a cold-blooded way, as a writer I’ve had full value from Catholicism – I can say that.
“It’s a great training in doubleness – this looks like bread but it is actually a man’s body, this looks like wine but it’s actually blood. And that’s very much a writer’s way of thinking – she comes in and says good morning, but she means damn you to hell.”
When I first read it, I was a bit offended. Then, after giving the article more thought, I came to a different conclusion.
She’s absolutely right. I’m totally cool with her claim.
The Church is chock full of non-respectable types. In fact, the only real respectable members are the saints in heaven, if you get right down to it. Yes, the Church contains her fair share of abusers and users, at all levels cleric and laic. She welcomes the weak, yet still provides for the powerful. She is the paragon of paradox – because She dispenses grace with equal abandon to all those who seek it – earnestly or not. She turns away none, and leaves the sorting out to her bridegroom. It’s what mothers tend to do. What mother stops loving even her most intractable child? Such love comes at the steep price of a broken heart – but the love still remains.
The Church is a haven for hypocrites and a refuge for the recalcitrant. Her doors are flung wide for the forlorn and forsaken, and She accepts the unacceptable. She rejoices over the return of her prodigal children, ever seeking and waiting with patience and hope. The Church looks after the diseased and the downtrodden, and seeks out the lost and the lonely. Christ hung out with lepers, prostitutes and tax collectors – which the respectable folks in His day looked down upon – so what’s good for the bridegroom is also good for the bride. What respectable person would lower themselves to do the things the Church does, to look after the lowest as She does? Such things are below respectable people. They’d rather claim the moral high ground, and not be associated with such “cruelty” and “hypocrisy”.
However, the Church would accept the respectable types – because it’s in her nature. God desires that all men be saved, so the Church desires it as well. Heck, She rarely throws out the malcontents and the malefactors, so having the respectable as part of the crowd would be nothing special.
If you’re part of the Catholic Church, then you’re not respectable. I’m totally in the right place. Which is why it’s okay for me to call this Hilary Mantel woman a complete and total bit—-ter person. I’m not respectable – certainly not in the eyes of the world – because I’m Catholic. The world has neither love nor respect for the Catholic Church. But more than that, I’m not respectable because of the wide gulf between my fallen nature and God’s innate perfection and goodness. He is perfection and goodness. Why a transcendent being such as God the Father loves a miserable imperfect creature such as me, and has mercy on me despite my sinfulness…it’s beyond my ability to comprehend. That’s the basis for our not being respectable – our sinfulness – and yet it’s why Christ came into the world.
It’s too bad some consider themselves too respectable to remain a member of the Church. They stand at the foot of their own altar and proudly declare their gratitude for not being like “those people”. If that what it means to be respectable, I’ll hang with the losers. Jesus came to save everyone, but He really likes us losers.