Over the last couple of days I’ve been busy watching coverage of the Pope’s visit. To put it into context, many years ago, when I was an ordinand, I ended up being helped by a spiritual director who was a Jesuit monk. I used to visit the retreat house/conference centre on the outskirts of Glasgow and spend a day there in prayer and meditation. During the course of the day I would visit with the monk and he would ask how things were going in my work and my walk with God, then he would suggest a bible passage that I could use as a focus for the day. I learnt to reflect on my life, work, family and study. It was a special time out of a very busy life, and I valued the insights I learnt over three or four years.
So my personal experiences of working ecumenically with Roman Catholics have been positive. It never seemed to be a problem that I was a woman ordinand or that there were differences between our two churches over matters of hierarchy, tradition and issues of justice. We simply had a working relationship whereby I was encouraged to learn more about faith by someone who was older and wiser than myself.
Over the years I have been disappointed at the intransigence of the RC church on matters of equality, but that is as it is – a difference we live with. What I have come to realise is that just as there are differences of opinion in Protestant churches in the UK between an Institution’s policy and the practice on the ground, there are similar differences in the Roman Catholic church. Within the faith there are those who disagree with policy that is laid down on things such as women in ministry, genetic research, sex education, sexuality, condoms, AIDS and married clergy. Their church has been subject to great scandal over child abuse and the way they have handled it in the past. In fact, all churches have their own scandals because we are all people.
What I would wish for is a sympathetic dialogue between people of all faiths and none, so that we can do the best for humankind and the world we inhabit. It seems that these themes are being addressed throughout these few days and for that I am grateful. It is just plain common sense that we should get on with each other.