The Observer has published a full-page article by Diarmaid MacCulloch which has been headlined Pope Benedict opens new front in battle for the soul of two churches.
…There has been a great deal of excited talk about this move: one hysterical front-page headline in the Times proclaimed that 400,000 Anglicans were poised to head for the Tiber. This turns out to be the self-estimated membership of a faction calling itself the Traditional Anglican Communion.
Equally extravagant claims that this could be the end of the Protestant Reformation need to be taken with several fontfuls of salt. It is in the interests of various discontented groups on the margins of Anglicanism to talk up the significance of the latest piece of papal theatre, while ignoring its wider context.
This much broader struggle within Christianity at first sight appears to be about sex. Throughout the world, the most easily heard tone in religion (not just Christianity) is of a generally angry conservatism. Why? I hazard that the anger centres on a profound shift in gender roles traditionally given a religious significance and validated by religious traditions.
The conservative backlash embodies the hurt of heterosexual men (or those who would like to pass for being heterosexual men) at cultural shifts which have generally threatened to marginalise them and deprive them of dignity, hegemony or even much usefulness. What they notice amid their hurt is that the sacred texts generally back them in their assumptions, and they therefore assert the authority of sacred scripture…
By coincidence, the same issue has a review by Christina Odone of A History of Christianity by Diarmaid MacCulloch.