The Swing of the Sea

I was probably rather intemperate in my rant regarding Mrs Dorries yesterday. Rudeness always undermines reason and let’s face it Nadine is something of an easy target. Upon reflection I realised that I had failed to highlight the glaring irony in her diatribe about the Archbishop of Canterbury. Her identification of the spiritual needs of Christians encapsulates the values of the Catholic Church:

 church goers across the country scream out for guidance. A church to lead and one they can follow. They want and need continuity and conformity, basic tenants upon which the church is based.

What could be more explicit than a written set of rules such as we have in the Catechism? Continuity and Conformity are indeed the very precepts of the Roman Catholic Church which follows the traditions handed down from Christ and the apostles. When Nadine stated that church-goers wanted to know Dr Williams’ views on abortion and euthanasia, that they were screaming out for guidance, she was advocating for a strict line on these issues; the Catholic Church is well-known and often criticised for its dogma regarding the sanctity of human life.

The irony is that Nadine Dorries was calling for leadership, for the Archbishop of Canterbury to be explicit in his views, but as I pointed out, his views are simply that, Anglicans must come to their own conclusions on these matters, not being bound by any formal teachings. Dr Williams has spoken out  with regards to how far society has deviated from the spirit of the 1967 Abortion Act, he has not however come down on any side of the debate, not even supporting Dorries’ bid for the reduction in the time limit for abortion, but  instead stated that “clear principles are not going to get you off the hook”.

So the answers and leadership that Nadine seeks from the Established Church in terms of life issues will not be found. I share her frustration, it is incomprehensible that the Archbishop of Canterbury is willing to be politically contentious, willing to upset his flock and give a clear indication and lead on matters of political ideology, but will not state his position when it comes to the lives of the most vulnerable. That is nothing short of tragic.

It puts me in mind of an early poem of Gerard Manley Hopkins, Heaven-Haven, written in 1864, prior to his conversion to Catholicism in 1866 and one of the few poems which survives the holocaust of his early work which he burnt upon entering the Jesuit order as it was “not belonging to my profession”.

I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail,
And a few lilies blow.

And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea. 

Though the poem is ostensibly about a nun taking the veil, it is also read as an Anglo-Catholic poem. The images of nature lyrically and sensuously evoke that which must be renounced, namely the beauty of Anglican patrimony; Catholicism the place of tranquility by contrast to the ‘swing of the sea’ that is Anglicanism which shifts and changes with the tides.

I was right in my original assessment. Behind the emotive rhetoric, Nadine Dorries hit upon an element of truth, although I don’t see her becoming a nun at any time in the near future. To quote another poem of Hopkins on a similar theme, The Habit of Perfection; whilst she is in politics her lips cannot remain ‘lovely-dumb’.

2 thoughts on “The Swing of the Sea

  1. Good stuff Caroline! Poor Rowan Williams, what an awful situation to be expected to speak for the Anglican Communion by some, and yet unable to speak in this way because his position has no real authority behind it. So whatever he says, some will say not only that they disagree with him, which is fine, but that he shouldn’t even be speaking!

  2. I have read both +Rowan William’s article and Dorries’ and I’m not sure I have read the same thing she did. She describes his interesting, thought provoking article on democracy and the way Left and Right communicate as an attack. Her response has lots of examples that suggest she has misunderstood what he is saying. Her blog is a personal attack on a man that does not himself attack others personally (not even when faced with Ricky Gervais being irritating and rude.) +Rowan is always careful to treat others with respect and generosity. Dorries lessens herself by not doing the same. Ifeel uneasy that she seems to think she can tell the Archbishop what he should or should not talk about (given that she has not understood anyway.)

    The Archbishop does give guidance in lots of areas, it is just that not many in the Anglican church listen. It takes time and consideration to listen to what he is saying and members of the Anglican church are too busy shouting at each other and resorting to personal attacks. This has happened because too much power has been given to General Synod. The Archbishop isn’t responsible for this, he inherited it.

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