The funeral of Lady Thatcher (pictured above) took place this week. The interpretation of her memory has divided commentators over whether she was divisive or not. Both her detractors and defenders have been given ample airtime to elucidate matters; but the quasi-Manichean nature of the discussion (of which the lady herself would perhaps have approved) does not seem well-adapted to increasing anyone's understanding.
The truth is, of course, that Lady Thatcher was neither monster nor saint. On the one hand, she was a politician of conviction and principle, dedicated to the good (as she saw it) of her country and its people and their service, and determined to reverse decline and failure, to develop strength and to encourage virtue. On the other hand, she was a Methodist. Some things are hard to forgive.
Still, a conforming Methodist, in the best traditions of the Test Act, and her funeral a Church of England one. We are sure that Mr Wesley and Alderman Roberts would both have approved of black copes and unbleached candles, and certainly of the sermon of the Bishop of London. Dr Chartres' sermons are a reliable source of Anglo-Catholicism, reaction, and whimsy, and his cathedral did well. The Church of England is generally thought to have emerged with credit, and that, perhaps, proves Lady Thatcher right that even apparently endless decline may not be irreversible.
Others pretending not to be divisive this week were the leaders of Anglican Catholic Future, a new organisation launched last night. Anglo-Catholics are sadly split between those who want women bishops and gay marriage, and those who prefer the other way round. Anglican Catholic Future, on what must be the least forthcoming website since Better Together, disclaims the intention of taking any side in these disputes, and claims that their work will be “pursued in an eirenic rather than a combatative spirit.”
Happily this nauseating piety was belied in the event. Only those issues where Anglo-Catholics disagree with one another are to be taboo: it will be quite in order to point out where others have gone wrong. We are to be locally inclusive, but constitutionally reactionary, following the Lord's example in praying unitedly (John 17 passim) and acting divisively (Matthew 10: 34-36).
In this spirit Dr Groves of St Mary Magdalen, Oxford (pictured above) preached against evangelicals, the Pope, and theological liberalism. This is the kind of message that we can really rally around. All these, he said, looked for too-easy answers and had not the humility to recognise that they did not possess the fullness of the truth. We Anglo-Catholics, however, had been led by the Spirit to read Augustine and Aquinas, and thereby are in the humbling position of being right.
After the mass Fr Bowie of Berkhamstead spoke about the moral superiority of Anglo-Catholics in the diocese of Sydney, and about the missional usefulness of the biretta. The Bishop of Ely confined himself to telling us that we were the best kind of Anglicans, and possibly the only ones worth mentioning, before leading us in a round of applause for the Archbishop of Canterbury (who was not present) and one for the Director of Forward in Faith (who was), presumably to demonstrate the via media.
Finally, as if to emphasise the Church of England credentials of the occasion, a collection was taken. The Bishop urged us to be generous in giving for the still-slightly-mysterious work of Anglican Catholic Future. We suspect and hope that this fund will turn out to be for the re-endowment of the suppressed Irish bishoprics; and then our joy will be complete.
In other good news, the Church of England's Ethical Investment Advisory Group proposes to vote against "excessive bonuses" so as to tackle a "culture of entitlement and greed".
We are not economists enough to say whether bonuses are really the heart of that culture, but we certainly think that it ought to be tackled, and this is the right way. It is obvious that here we are seeing the work of Trespassers W (pictured above), and continue to be impressed by his grip - a quality sorely needed in the Church of England, and rarely found.
The owners of capital are at last exercising their rights, squeezing the workers so as to provide well-paid sinecures for clergymen. Our Lady would be so proud. A good week.