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8 March 2015
posted by Canon Dakin on 09-03-2015

Are you aware of any modern parallel to the desecration of sacred space to which Jesus reacted by expelling the money changers?  Some English cathedrals are now charging an entrance fee. As far as I remember in Saint Paul’s, London, and York Minster there is free entry to a restricted area if you want to pray.  Otherwise, I think it is true that most visitors are there as though visiting a museum and so may reasonably be charged towards the maintenance of what they have come to see. The Catholic Church in Victorian times was not free from taint. I had occasion to examine the notice book of St Peter’s, Lancaster, for the 1880s. One item caught my eye. At Sunday Mass there was an entrance charge of 2d - not a negligible sum if you went into a grocer’s shop in those days. If a poor person was unable to pay the 2d entry fee he or she was not allowed to occupy s place in a bench but was humiliated by being obliged to stand in a designated area at the back of the church. That was the rule; it appears, in the Liverpool archdiocese - a rule which quite rightly nowadays is a cause for shame.

But sacred space is not confined to church. ‘The Lord’s is the earth and its fullness. It He who set it on the seas’. The universe is God’s creation. It is therefore to be respected. In fact is being abused. We have poisoned the atmosphere; we have polluted the seas; we are destroying the forests.          The world, of which we are guardians, is being exploited.  GNP, Gross National Product, is the sacred cow of modern politics. We must become wealthier by constantly producing more and so improve our standard of living.  Can the earth sustain our ambition? Research by the World-Wide Fund for Nature showed that human consumption surpassed the carrying capacity of the earth forty years ago; that presently we are using resources as though we had not just one planet but one and a half; that here in the UK we use them as though we had three planets to go at. Our profligacy is going to place enormous burdens on future generations. Is there a way out? Yes, in a model known as the Steady State Economy which recognises earth’s limits. But this, of course, strikes at the root of the current free market economy. My point is that the Christian, who accepts responsibility for the right use of God’s gifts, needs to look beyond the annual budget and question its deeper assumptions. Pope Francis is preparing an encyclical which promises to tackle these basic questions. We need to take political debate to a level where few at the moment are ready to go. We would have on our side all those who believe in God as creator   

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