Page 10, 19th June 1992

19th June 1992
Page 10
Page 10, 19th June 1992 — Bogart's 'play it again Sam'

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Organisations: Council of Toledo, Stanford
Locations: Casablanca


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Bogart's 'play it again Sam'

Gerard Noel

RELATIVELY unnoticed

amongst last week's deluge of newsprint on the plight of the royal family was an inset in The Times chronicling the fall of the British monarchy.

The process which brought this about began exactly 350 years ago this month.

In June 1642, Parliament agreed on 19 propositions as terms for settlement with the beleaguered Charles I.

These evolved into certain Heads of Proposals which. at a later stage. the King's advisors begged him to adopt as an acceptable price for avoiding further unpopularity.

But he could not. or would not change his ways. Herein lay his downfall.

The historian Maurice Ashley described Charles as "temperate and grave... a sincere Christian (but) lacking any sense of humour."

He was an aesthetic purist in architectural matters, as shown by his dealings with Inigo Jones, but unable, according to his friend the Duke of Buckingham. to show a "human face" to the public at large.

Are there any lessons here for 1992?

They never said it THE year 1642 contained other events of relevance for today. It was the year which saw the death of Galileo who, apart from his main achievements, was a sort of forerunner of Humphrey Bogart's "Rick" in the film Casablanca 300 years later.

Both were alleged authors of famous sayings which in fact they never uttered. In the case of Rick. it was: "Play it again Sam". In Galileo's case (almost certainly) it was: "Eppur si muove."

Galileo, however, might never have been arrested by the Inquisition had it not been for the flippant way in which he dismissed the solemn arguments of his adversaries. Barbed wit is a hated weapon in such disputes, as a disrespectful Irish publisher found after the war.

He asked a question about the Church's allegedly culpable silence over the Holocaust. "Imagine," he said, "if Hitler, instead of murdering infidels, had dropped hundreds of thousands of contraceptives from aeroplanes all over Europe.

"Would the Vatican still have maintained the silence supposedly demanded by its strict rules of neutrality and diplomatic finesse?"

The anti-smoking Pope AS for the Pope, Urban VIII, who referred Galileo to the Inquisition. would he have somehow managed to be a "Green" hero at the Rio Summit?

Possibly. if only for one reason. Urban was an inveterate campaigner against a certain "product of the devil" which, in his opinion, caused hallucinations and all kinds of wayward behaviour. It was upsetting harmonious relations between men and women and would, in the end, destroy the fabric of society.

The reason for Urban's wrath was that he was history's first recorded official opponent of smoking. He even went so far as to Ilan tobacco throughout his dominions, hoping this would become the accepted norm for all Christendom.

Bran Waugh would not have approved.

Protecting property THE Bishop Casey affair was, perhaps inevitably, followed closely by a repeat showing on television of Priests of Passion, devised by David Rice on the basis of his book.

A subsequen't programme. Daughters of Eve, featured stories told by women who had fallen in love with priests.

Apart, however, from Peter Stanford's book on the subject of Catholics and sex, the basic problems in the background of the whole theme have been largely evaded.

Some of the original reasons. moreover, for the Church's imposition of celibacy would surprise even the most ardent advocates of the conflicting arguments.

The cynics like to say that the Church's unhealthy fear of sex lies at the root of the problem. Others, more idealistically, claim that celibacy enables priests to love all members of their flock and frees them from the distraction of marriage duties.

Both views are partially true, but neither is nearly as important as the main reason for a change of Church attitudes in the first place. It was no coincidence that the definitive enforcement of clerical celibacy came in the same century the twelfth which saw the Church first embarking on its role as the world's most successful fund-raising agency. There could be no question as to which was the most important, sex or money.

The Church's concern with the former has always been considerable, even if only in the abstract sense largely divorced from real life. But its understanding of money. at least until modern times, has seldom been anything but profound and intensely practical.

The battle lines had been drawn as early as the seventh century. The Church at this time was beginning to acquire large amounts of property. It soon became apparent that such property was in danger of falling into the private hands of clerics, sometimes noble or even royal, who would naturally pass their worldly goods on to their descendants. This would never do.

Stern even draconian measures were therefore introduced to bring about clerical celibacy by indirect means.

Concubinage and lapses from chastity were not the Church's main targets. Illegitimate children could not inherit and were therefore of minor concern. But legitimate offspring were another matter.

The (local) Council of Toledo, in 655, decreed the enslavement of the legitimate offspring of clerics. This soon became general Church law along with the enslavement of clergy wives.

Finally, in the twelfth century, clerical marriage was made illegal, null and void. Gregory VII even ordered the breaking up of existing priests' marriages and the banishing of their wives and children into slavery.

Some would say that such "wives" and children suffer an equivalent fate today, even if the vocabulary is different.

Winners by default IN A recently-published letter to The Times, I pointed out that St Paul had, as he recounts in his letter to the Galatians, confronted St Peter as to the latter's ambivalent attitude towards Gentiles.

It was thus that Peter, as narrated in the Acts, reversed the policy in force in Our Lord's day

by admitting Gentiles unconditionally into the infant Church. (The sequence, in "logic" between the two events is made clear in the new Catholic Encyclopaedia.)

Unfortunately not everyone believes this and some have taken the trouble to tell me so in letters. I have answered such letters politely, if briefly, but may not yet owing to being away have answered them all, for which I apologise.

I also have a confession to make with regard to some past unanswered letters. During a particularly busy period, punctuated by a lot of travelling, I felt that certain rather troubled letters merited detailed answers. I may have been wrong but, for safety's sake as I fondly thought filed such letters away carefully in a special folder.

My intention was to answer them at length during a long stay in the country specially set aside for the purpose. When the time came, I discovered, to my horror, that the precious file was missing. It has never been found.

I can only report this with embarrassment and profound regret. The writers of such letters, if it be any consolation, must be considered winners by default of any controversies that might have

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