Church of Ireland primate enthroned

Mon, Dec 17, 2012, 00:00

People today live “in a culture within which anger rather than courtesy is the most prevalent behavioural pattern”, the new Church of Ireland primate Richard Clarke has said.

Warning that “many seem to find their only focus and meaning in life through constant rage”, he said, “Salman Rushdie has coined a useful phrase, ‘outrage identity’, for those who can find any meaning for themselves only in their anger at others.

“True courtesy is the converse of spiteful anger. And courtesy is not simply good manners – desirable as they most certainly are – but goes a great deal further.”

He was speaking in the context of deep divisions within the Church of Ireland over same-sex issues, though without making explicit reference to these, at his service of enthronement as Archbishop of Armagh, primate of All Ireland and Metropolitan, at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh on Saturday.

“The essence of courtesy is that it treats ‘the other’ – whoever or whatever that ‘other’ may be – as an individual always worthy of respect, whose very individuality is to be allowed an integrity of its own,” he added. Courtesy, he said, meant “generously going further than we actually have to go, in our service of another individual. It is the very reverse of manipulation, mean-mindedness, and calculated malice, which sadly can so easily be cloaked as moral high-mindedness”.

He said: “How often, when we hear those fateful words at the beginning of a speech, ‘With all due respect . . .’, we just know that we are going to have to endure a particularly nasty rant that is utterly disrespectful.”

The courtesy of God was “never ego-driven, unloving or bullying. And if you and I cannot, and will not, model the courtesy of God in our dealings with one another within the church, and in our relationships with those outside the walls of the church who are also made in the image and likeness of God, we have indeed fallen at the first fence in Christian faithfulness”, he said.

Attending the service were Catholic primate Cardinal Seán Brady, moderator of the Presbyterian Church Rev Dr Roy Patton, president of the Methodist Church, Rev Kenneth Lindsay, Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson and Anglican Communion secretary general Canon Kenneth Kearon.