Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Dean of York defends Anglican cathedrals

The Very Reverend Keith Jones, Dean of York has written to the Catholic Herald, responding to an intemperate and ill-informed attack on York Minster’s admissions charges and the Church of England in general.

An entry charge at York Minster is needed to maintain such a gigantic building

SIR – William Oddie makes very hostile comments about York Minster in protest at the entry charge, and many other things. He does not say how otherwise we are to maintain this gigantic building, which is not subsidised by the state, and which employs (proudly) numerous skilled workers in stone and glass, and music and teaching, to maintain York Minster for the nation and the world at large. We are not profiteers, but a charity. We take pains to make our references to our constant worship and Christian witness such that non-Christians will not be put off, but his sneers fail to mention that we give free entry to acts of worship or the fact that hundreds attend Evensong each day.

Then there is his charge of the Minster being “purloined” at the Reformation. As an expression of hard-line opinion he is entitled to utter it, but for those Christians who hope and pray for better it is crude and hopeless. For the record, our Anglican view is that York Minster is the product and expression of English Christianity, and belongs now as always to the people of England under their lawful sovereign. The Dean and Chapter maintain and administer it for them by the same law of the land.

The relationship of the Church of England with the see of Rome has varied in form considerably over the centuries; however, we do not believe that the Church of this land is constituted by our recognition of the jurisdiction of the Pope and we hold to the hope of a union of the Churches in which we can belong together again, the honour (and even primacy) of the Roman see being appropriately recognised. Of course it is a difficult thing, but York Minster is a place where already many traditions of English Christianity meet often in friendship and hospitality, praying together and sharing many things we hold in common. Mr Oddie’s accusations of criminality hardly relate to what we believe to be the guidance, let alone the charitableness, of the Holy Spirit, but rather to the jeers of sectarian strife.

Yours faithfully,
Keith Jones

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Comments

Well said, Dean Jones!

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 12:58am BST

The Dean of York's response is spot on.

Posted by: Scott Knitter on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 1:29am BST

Oddie's letter is ugly and hostile, surely. Having said that, when I visited the Minster 2 years ago, I was startled to see the toll booths inside. The set-up is professional, like a business. I couldn't help but remember the Gospel story of Jesus cleansing the temple.

I met an English lady who said she would not set foot in the Minster so long as the toll booths were there. 'You should not have to pay to go into a church!'

I understand that the costs of maintaining the Minster, but still.... I returned later for Evensong and was not required to pay a toll.

Posted by: Grandmère Mimi on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 1:29am BST

I don't honestly know whether there was anything worthwhile in the Catholic Herald's attack, but the Dean's reply is a masterpiece of invective. Reading it was pure sustained sensual pleasure. If we still had common-place books it would go immediately into all of them. (Well, we still do have common-place books, but they're all electronic now.)

Posted by: Charlotte on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 2:04am BST

A primacy of honour is a nonsense and the papacy is by Divine right endowed with authority and jurisdiction. Look at Anglicanism to see what a primacy of honour results in.

The Church of England has billions in assets and could easily subsidise entry to the major cathedrals. Interestingly the Ancient cathedrals of France, italy , Spain and Austria do not charge entry fees.

One thing you can bet on on, that the Dean of York lives in a comfortable Deanery with all the perks of the job.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 7:25am BST

The letter claims:

'Our Anglican view is that York Minster is the product and expression of English Christianity, and belongs now as always to the people of England'

So why then is the C of E refusing the Ordinariate any use of its buildings- many formerly Catholic? Are we not English and an expression of English faith?

Posted by: Ed Tomlinson on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 7:27am BST

Mr Oddie is a bully (as shown by some of his own comments on his blog). I think that the Dean would have been well advised not to respond to his intemperate rantings.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 9:01am BST

The Dean replies well and has a better grasp of theology and history than eg Ed Tomlinson. However, many of us would disagree that our hopes for union include giving the Bishop of Rome a special place. We had a big row about that in England a few years back and decided not to.

Posted by: Frozenchristian on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 9:49am BST

'...the papacy is by Divine right endowed with authority and jurisdiction.'

And I am right and you are wrong and I know that because I say so.

Wonderful. Thank you Mr Williams. We don't need to think for ourselves, we will just do and think everything you tell us. That will make life so much easier.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 10:07am BST

This is obviously a raw and tricky subject, but sectarian "yah-boo" on both sides edifies neither. For goodness' sake grow up...and that applies equally to both sides.

The fact is such a building as York Minster does not really belong to anyone. At the moment, the Church of England has custody of it, but should it really have to fund stone and mortar out of the weekly collection? The bigger question is whether our ancient cathedrals and churches should actually be supported by the State.

Posted by: Mike from Devon on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 11:34am BST

'the honour (and even primacy) of the Roman see being appropriately recognised.'

Or not, more like. What primacy ? What honour?

The denomination needs to sort itself out on child abuse and its cover up etc...

The current undermining of Vatican 2 and oppression of gay people does little to inspire confidence in me, in the RCC as an institution.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 12:01pm BST

'our hopes for union'

Whose hopes,for what union ?

I commend JC Ryle's tract The True Church to your consideration.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 12:06pm BST

Mr Oddie is, I assume, agreeable to the return of the Pantheon to its pre-Christian usage.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 12:33pm BST

Laurence Roberts

I wouldn't go flinging mud about child abuse if I were you. It has a terrible habit of coming back to haunt you. Believe you me child abuse was never just a Catholic problem and covering up was widespread.

If you think it was just a Catholic problem then you really haven't understood it...but instead are conveniently scapegoating an institution you clearly dislike, which will always prevent you from looking around you at your own society. Be that Church (in every denomination) be that Schools, Local Authorities, everywhere. All are guilty of covering up child abuse and to scapegoat the Catholic Church is not actually to take the problem seriously enough.

Posted by: Mike from Devon on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 12:55pm BST

"Interestingly the Ancient cathedrals of France, Italy , Spain and Austria do not charge entry fees."

I can't speak for the others, but were not the cathedrals of France taken over by the state? Indeed, "purloined"?

The point is that if people want to see these monuments as monuments, someone has to pay for the maintenance and staffing of them. Free access for worship, of course, but otherwise an admission fee is sensible. One pays to go into any other monument, does one not? Whether it's the Tower of London or Westminster Abbey (both of which I visited a few weeks ago), what is the material difference? (And the Abbey doesn't charge a separate fee for its audio guide.)

Posted by: Alan T Perry on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 1:12pm BST

I don't know about Austria, Spain, or Italy, but in France many of the great cathedrals (e.g. Notre-Dame de Paris) are owned and maintained by the state. The English cathedrals aren't. Charging admission to visit (but not to worship) at churches in England isn't really a new idea. According to its website, Westminster Abbey started doing it in 1697.

Posted by: Paul Powers on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 1:48pm BST

The Dean of York's response is clear, and concise, and matter of fact. I would question his need to respond to a disagreable individual, who carries more baggage than the proverbial bag lady. He sounds a bitter and twisted individual who having left the Church of England can only be spitefull, and vindictive.
A warning to some of those who have run into the ordinariate, thinking the grass is greener on the other side.
I for one respect the Pope, but will remain a loyal Anglican , catholic and reformed.

Posted by: Fr John on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 2:01pm BST

The Dean of York's response to William Oddie is more thoughtful than the original article warranted, but I don't think it quite addresses the huge offence that is caused to many Christians by the very idea of charging money to enter a church - for any reason at all. The question of how to sustain these ancient buildings year round is a huge one, and those cathedrals that do not charge admission struggle to cover their costs (I remember a priest at Southwark telling me that the average per-person donation to the cathedral was about 4p). But it really does not sit well with most Anglicans to place toll-booths and barriers at the entrance of churches, especially at chucrhes like York Minster and Westminster Abbey which have very steep entry charges. It is no great exaggeration to call it blasphemous: "If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling-blocks!"


@ Mike in Devon: The cathedrals of France are owned by the state and are, consequently, dead buildings. They do not feel alive like English cathedrals do, because their communities do not belong to them. They are historical monuments, not living organisms. I believe there must be a better solution to the problem of supporting cathedrals, but handing them over to the state is not it!

Posted by: rjb on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 4:29pm BST

Looking forward to the primacy of Rome? Looking backwards shurely.

Posted by: Neal Terry on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 4:52pm BST

Incidentally, Oddie (not the smallest of the Goodies I take it?) may be a bully and a bigot, but his last paragraph makes the point jolly well in my view: "Nobody who enters a holy place should be regarded as a tourist, simply there as a source of revenue: each one of them has an immortal soul, and whether they know it or not they are all in search of God. They are more likely, much more likely, to find Him if they are allowed freely to enter His house." Amen to that.

Posted by: rjb on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 5:00pm BST

"Interestingly the Ancient cathedrals of France, italy , Spain and Austria do not charge entry fees."

About 15 years ago, I paid an admission fee at the cathedral in Sevilla.

Posted by: Jim Pratt on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 5:07pm BST

Fr John, I do not think Dr Oddie became "bitter and twisted" nor "spiteful and vindictive" after he left the Church of England.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 5:14pm BST

In Belgium, Germany, Austria (I think Spain and Italy as well?), the RC Church currently receives large sums of money from the state via church taxes. I doubt very much whether this system will last another generation, given the current massive falling away of members across Europe. So, the issue of funding for historic church buildings is likely to be very much debated in future years Europe-wide.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 5:34pm BST

Mike from Devon you make a great many assumptions about me ! in your semi-anon comment of Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 12:55pm BST

I am, and have been for years,in fact, quite involved with the RC denomination in various ways, but like Peter de Rosa, and the Taoiseach, I speak as a friend not an enemy. However, *I try not to fawn or bury my head in the sand, when it comes to the terrible cover-up of physical cruelty, neglect and sex abuse by RC authorities.*


* Having participated in programmes sponsored and funded by the Irish government for the adult survivors of such abuse, in my professional capacity. And a lifetime involvement with that Church. *

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 5:45pm BST

PS I spoke in support of Vatican 2, and feel my comments were not scape-goating, Mike Devon.

Rev Brian Darcy is another critical friend of the rcc.(radio 2 Sunday Half Hour), who also cares about the children and adults seeking to rebuild their lives anew...

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 5:52pm BST

Look at the Papacy and see what belief in its own "divine right endowed with authority and jurisdiction" has resulted in, RIW.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 8:45pm BST

I am hardly an expert on the French Revolution, the Great Terror, the Rise of Napoleon, and all that, but:
I believe that during the Revolution, the RCC structure was dismantled, priests and bishops executed, and church buildings seized for (mis)use by the State. During or after Napoleon, some sort of rapprochement was achieved whereby the State maintained ownership of church buildings, but Roman Catholicism and other faiths were restored, and the RCC was allowed to use church buildings for religious purposes.
Robert Williams, if that is indeed the case, your argument falls flat. Using French taxes to maintain church buildings (as property of the State) may not be as publicly bald as "toll booths", but people's pockets are being relieved of coin of the realm, nonetheless.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 8:47pm BST

Mark
"I doubt very much whether this system will last another generation, given the current massive falling away of members across Europe."

In Germany the taxation system is merely the collection vehicle. A church tax as a percentage of income is paid by everyone who is registered either with the Protestant or the Catholic church.
Falling member numbers automatically translate into reduced revenue.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 9:11pm BST

Cathedrals outside Britain are now starting to charge for admission.
Seville cathedral charged 8 euros when I was there last year.There was a long queue to get in all day.

Posted by: Peter Bithell on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 10:05pm BST

When I was a college student in the mid-70's I was able to spend a summer on the continent, but I only had an average of ten dollars per day for food, lodging and local transportation (to get from city to city I had the wonderful second class student Eurail pass). At that rate I averaged one meal a day, and meat no more often than once a week, but was very happy that I could spend lots of time in the great cathedrals, basilicas and shrines on such a budget. I couldn't have afforded nine pounds then, and though I could do so now, I balk at keeping our poorer neighbors out, whether they are tourists or transients, no matter what the communion.

And I'm not sure that the "worship" exception really gets to the heart of the matter. Perhaps it is a roughly Catholic/Protestant thing. When I was a Protestant it would never have occured to me to "make a visit" to a Presbyterian sanctuary. As a Catholic I sometimes do so, when in a strange place, and I think it's a common habit that conflicts with the notion that a sanctuary is primarily for corporate worship, that otherwise one is a tourist.

I don't know if anyone has commented on the original observation, that the offending writer actually first entered the Minster as a tourist, and the experience became for him something more than sight-seeing. Same thing happened with Paul Claudel, if I remember right. Another good reason to take down the toll booth, perhaps.

Posted by: rick allen on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 10:24pm BST

"When the French government officially separated itself from the Roman Catholic Church early in the 20th century, it took ownership of all cathedrals owned by the church, and they became public buildings. This included Notre-Dame. The cathedral is now technically managed by the Caisse Nationale des Monuments Historiques (the National Historical Monument Trust), a government agency that is responsible for most major landmarks. Services are still held inside the cathedral by the Catholic church, however, and it still manages the cathedral in many respects as if it still owned the structure."

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 18 August 2011 at 11:43pm BST

The same ol' garden-variety grudge. In our time it's made worse by the fact that in most places Roman catholic services are unbearable to sit through while Anglicans are justly proud of their liturgy - and not just in marvelous places like York. All of this comes of the Roman penchant for requirements, obligations, "pain of mortal sin" and the rest of it that have made Roman adherence a chore at best; a bitter duty for many; and an unacceptable fraud for more and more. Roman catholics have become less and less able to sit still for having to apologize to themselves for the "leadership" of their bishops, the unpardonable ueslessness and outright vacuity of the pronouncements from the Vatican and the hypocritical continuing to harp on homosexuality. The leadership of the Roman church and those who continue to defend it are willfully deceived. I welcome them to themselves.

Posted by: Daniel Berry on Friday, 19 August 2011 at 12:35am BST

"a sanctuary is primarily for corporate worship, that otherwise one is a tourist"

OCICBW, but I don't understand the current Minster fee system in that way. There's a fee if you are not there for *religious purposes*: not just "corporate worship", but any kind of prayer, meditation, visit to the Blessed Sacrament (of the sort that RIW doesn't believe exists in an Anglican sanctuary, but no matter! ;-/)

One can find God anywhere. If I found God via the art in a museum I paid to enter (and I have!), would I demand my money back? Ergo, I don't think anyone finding God in a cathedral after having paid, would begrudge it either.

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 19 August 2011 at 1:35am BST

Some authorities say all ancient French churches are state property.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 19 August 2011 at 10:03am BST

By the same logic the churches in the diocese of New Westminster belong to their congregations not the diocese.

Posted by: Dave on Friday, 19 August 2011 at 10:45am BST

So many of the comments on this site are so deeply uncharitable. Commentators on this site like nothing more than to sling mud at "the Roman Church", it is quite disgraceful. I have seen it time and time again.

@Laurence Roberts: my point is that the neglect, cruelty and cover up was not, and is not, simply a Catholic problem. I know this first hand - both in my personal and professional capacity dealing with abuse claims against the CofE.

The media is just not as interested in paedophile priests in the Anglican Communion - because it prefers to wound Our Lord's side even more by attacking the Catholic Church...as many of the commentators on here do also. To think that some of you call yourselves Christian...shame on you.

Posted by: Mike from Devon on Friday, 19 August 2011 at 10:47am BST

I am so sorry you have been through all that Mike from Devon.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Friday, 19 August 2011 at 2:06pm BST

Martin Reynolds: "Some authorities say all ancient French churches are state property."

Yes, they are (it's all churches older than the late 19th c, I think), and when there is damage to the property by fire, floods or whatever, it is the commune which is responsible for getting the problem fixed.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Friday, 19 August 2011 at 5:41pm BST

For "Mike from Devon," give us a break from your self-righteous "offense" at posted criticisms of the Roman Catholic Church.

From my reading of them, most are in response to snide remarks from a combination of Former Anglicans plus a coterie of radical fringe elements of the RC's congregants. Most are indeed responses more of the "mote in your own eye" reference, and not attacks per se.

Having spent the first 33 years of my 67 year life as an RC, including seventeen years of RC education, I find it interesting -- but nauseating -- to witness the hyperbole from some RC's regarding any criticism of their church, whether from political leaders of formerly "Catholic" countries, or the media finding uncomfortable truths, or members of other faith communities (whose lambasting by members of their own faith community they don't seem to mind), or even from fellow members of their own faith community who have the temerity to point out the very motes that do exist there, particularly among the self-perpetuating hierarchy.

You might be surprised, Mr. "Devon", by the criticisms of today's RCC that you would hear at the family table from cousins who have remained RC.

Oh dear, maybe you would be offended by that too.

Posted by: Jerry Hannon on Friday, 19 August 2011 at 7:05pm BST

Those seeking "deeply uncharitable" comments could do worse than start with Mr Oddie.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Friday, 19 August 2011 at 7:44pm BST

I wish I had posted late last night, to be among the first of these comments. If you really want to read vitriolic bigotry, go to the comments on the Catholic Herald site-link ('comments' hyperlink in line one of the Dean's response) and any unfriendly tosh about RCs (and defensive-aggressive RCs on this site) will look like nursery rhymes compared with those about 'gussied-up prods' and Cathedral thieves etc there. Whoever said the Reformation was over a long time ago?

Posted by: Peter Edwards on Friday, 19 August 2011 at 11:36pm BST

"A primacy of honour is a nonsense and the papacy is by Divine right endowed with authority and jurisdiction." - Robert I. Williams -

Robert and Ed Tomlinson (Ordinariate) have one thing in common - their fealty to the Bishop of Rome. In both cases, they claim to have 'Seen The Light', which has meant their transfer of loyalty from the Church OF England to the Church OF Rome. In each case, they now obviously feel the need to denigrate their former Mother in he Faith, to seek the embrace of a wider constituency.

Unfortunately, for both of them, and for the sad originator of the article, Mr.William Oddie, the history of the Papacy is not without flaws - with regard to property-alienation - so that their claim to R.C. 'ownership' of Britain's magnificent old Church Buildings is easily dismissed.

What both Robert and Ed should be more concerned about is - who will pay for the upkeep of the convents and monasteries that used to house many monks and nuns and are now becoming a burden on the few vocations that are left to live in them?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 20 August 2011 at 7:02am BST

"The media is just not as interested in paedophile priests in the Anglican Communion - because it prefers to wound Our Lord's side even more by attacking the Catholic Church"

Because, by your logic M-from-D, "our Lord's side" is not to be found in the Anglican Communion (which *you* distinguish from the Church Catholic)? Charity, come again? O_o

If the game is set as "Heads, You Win/Tails, I Lose", don't be surprised if most of us here at Thinking Anglicans don't choose to play.

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 20 August 2011 at 8:21am BST

If we move this thread away from the Catholic vs. Protestant mud fight and get back to the actual point made... do those who do not like semi-compulsory pay points at the entrance of Cathedrals have any credible alternative funding ideas?

I expect the Cathedrals don't like it much either and many will regret that "toll booth" style entrances are necessary because visitors would otherwise not donate any money.

Considering that the CoE is legally responsible for the upkeep of these buildings and that their own parishioners cannot possibly pay anywhere near the costs for this - what would you do?

And I don't mean long term solutions that require a lengthy political process like making the Government responsible for the buildings, or negotating a deal with English Heritage. The bills are coming in right now and have to be paid right now.

What do you suggest as an alternative?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 20 August 2011 at 8:23am BST

This, from yesterday's Guardian article on the Bishop of London. - 'The church is responsible for 45% of the Grade I-listed buildings in the country, yet receives only 6% of the maintenance costs from any public source," he says.' puts things in perspective perhaps.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Saturday, 20 August 2011 at 9:52am BST

As I have stated on previous occasions the Catholic Church gave up claim to the ancient churches and endowments as apart of a deal before Catholic emancipation was granted in 1829.

In 1850 they even forbade us by parliamentary legislation to take on the names of the ancient sees.

It is illegal to charge entry to a Catholic church or Cathedral where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Saturday, 20 August 2011 at 1:33pm BST

Precisely the point Erica. As I have posted before here, the average donation in my cathedral where there is no admission charge, is 67p.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Saturday, 20 August 2011 at 11:10pm BST

How "illegal", RIW? English law, or the Vatican law that so often trumps local law where charges of pedophilia are concerned?

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Sunday, 21 August 2011 at 3:07am BST

"It is illegal to charge entry to a Catholic church or Cathedral where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved." - Robert I. Williams -

Since when was it against the law in the U.K. to charge entrance to Roman Catholic churches where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved? Or is this another plea of 'injustice' to R.C.'s in the U.K.?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 21 August 2011 at 7:31am BST

RIW:

"Illegal"...or simply against canon law? There is a difference, you know. I doubt the civil authorities would arrest a priest who charged admission.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Sunday, 21 August 2011 at 11:39am BST

Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal charges a fee to enter, except for those attending Mass. Surely the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in that glorious building.

Posted by: Richard on Sunday, 21 August 2011 at 6:05pm BST

"What do you suggest as an alternative?"

I think that most historically significant American Churches rely, if not on parish or diocesan funds, on special endowment funds that seek assistance from the broader community, those that recognize that a particular church may have special historic or cultural value.

This is the website for the endowment created for the Cathedral Basilica of St. Frances of Assis in Santa Fe, built in the later 19th century by Santa Fe's first bishop, John Baptiste Lamy:

http://www.cbsfa.org/friends_of_the_cathedral_endowment0.aspx

This is of course the cathdral whose construction was rather transparently fictionalized in Willa Cather's "Death comes to the Archbishop." Though obviously not a competitor with York Minster as a historic see, it nevertheless attracts a constant stream of visitors, who enter without having to go through a toll booth.

Posted by: rick allen on Sunday, 21 August 2011 at 9:13pm BST

Rick
Many small village churches survive only because of a "Friends of..." who fundraise for their upkeep. And the Cathedrals also have their own "Friends of... " organisations but they cannot possibly generate the millions it costs to keep the buildings going.

If the Friends had to raise all the money, people would resent that they had to subsidise the millions of overseas tourists who currently rightly contribute a large part of the income stream.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 22 August 2011 at 7:48am BST

Rick, the Friend of St Paul's Cathedral publish their annual accounts here: www.stpauls.co.uk/documents/foundation/friends%20accounts.doc

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 22 August 2011 at 2:54pm BST

I could have predicted many of the responses I'd get from my earlier post: nasty, bitter and deeply unpleasant.

I take offence, Jerry, because slinging mud at Christ's Church is slinging mud at Christ, whichever "branch or department" you happen to be in. Even if you personally dislike the Roman Church intensely what you cannot deny is that it is the largest Christian denomination and therefore when you sling mud at it, you sling mud at those Christians too.

If, by the way, you are tempted to reply "but Mr Oddie started it" I'd agree with you. His article was deeply uncharitable too, but to tear into the Catholic Church in response to such an article is frankly immature.

Of course criticisms can be made of the Catholic Church, but it is the spirit in which such criticisms are made that seems to need tempering on this site.

Of the regular issues that come up, child abuse is of course high on the agenda. My point is (a.) that no church or institution has a shining record on this and (b.) that the media agenda on attacking the Catholic Church is quite often merely a front for attacking Christianity in general: they just go for the biggest prey.

It's a wound in Our Lord's side whether Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Brethren...whatever...

On the point of this thread - I also know Keith Jones and, whilst I disagreed with some of his arguments about the English Church, Erika's point is right - these buildings are hugely expensive to maintain and money is needed now.

Posted by: Mike from Devon on Monday, 22 August 2011 at 3:47pm BST

I love reading Thinking Anglicans, especially the comments. As a website it has the biggest bollocks on the Internet.

Now for some facts. Why are the churches of England not supported financially by the State? Stonehenge is, after all. In 1913 when the first Ancient Monuments Act was passed the Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson, made a pledge that the Church of England would look after its own. The Government of the day was willing to admit the cathedrals and ancient churches into the purposes of the Act. Then came the Great War and its aftermath. Since 1913 no Government has been willing to shoulder the financial burden, leaving limited state funds for their repair. As a result Britain is out of step with Europe.

In Italy churches in Venice such as the Frari recently began to charge admission. St Mark's, however, did not. For this they were reprimanded by the Vatican but took no notice. The custom is spreading throughout Northern Italy. Not long ago I was in Pisa and discovered that not only the cathedral, baptistery, leaning tower and the campo santo charged stiff admission, but so did many, but not all, parish churches. This despite generous maintence from the State. On the same visit I went to Lucca but did not find admission charges to the cathedral or any churches. In Rome St Peter's, St John Lateran, the basilicas and parish churches are all free and so are the chapels of religious Orders.

In some ways you can understand institutional misogyny in the Church of England when you consider the massed crones and harridans who often woman the tills in English Cathedrals, exercising a ministry of deterrance. That arch misogynist, Barbara Pym of blessed memory, filled her novels with such people. I wish she was still alive to write another on the subject.

I doubt if you will publish this, women and men of wide and affirming views.

Posted by: John Bowles on Monday, 22 August 2011 at 11:50pm BST

I sang in Chartres with a group last year, and at that time there was no charge to enter the building, but photography permits, along with the tours were fairly expensive. That and the maintenance is quite behind the deterioration, sadly to say, and has been my experience with French churches, especially Franck's church, St. Clotilde, which was filthy with dust. (but then again, King's/Cambridge could use a bit of work in this same regard!)

Posted by: evensongjunkie on Wednesday, 24 August 2011 at 6:40pm BST

A while back I wanted to visit StPauls (I'm Catholic), with the family. I have three kids. It would cost, for the 5 of us, £45. We, as a family, therefore are debarred from having vaguely religious experiences connected to these places by the money barrier.

I've no idea why France's secular state pays for Churches upkeep so they need charge no entrance fee while it forces other ancient sites to charge - who can understand the French!

Clearly these Anglican Cathedrals are no longer British Christian Cathedrals, they are Cathedrals for Rich City workers.

What is required is for super rich Anglicans to fork out and pay, as they do for Museums.

Well done protesters for closing the place down - I for one was very pleased.

Posted by: John Hawthorne on Sunday, 23 October 2011 at 9:12am BST
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