The situation that surrounds the cathedral church of my new diocese is now an international story. It is a tale that is dividing a church in many regards, and one that is leaving a trail of destruction in its wake which seems to bear no resemblance to the purported cause at the heart of the matter.
So, we have a gang of protesters who have an issue with the bankers and capitalists. Fine - it's a viewpoint that is open to lengthy debate. They want to make a protest within the context of the capitalist heartland but were 'moved on' by a worried establishment. I can understand that too, in the wake of demonstrations, riots and the visible and well documented assaults upon our Royal Family in our recent history. So, the protesters seek a venue, and through an act of hospitality from a priest, found themselves an oasis from which to express their views. It is their right to protest, and whatever my views are on the matter at hand, support their view to make their protest.
Then the needs of modern life kick in - the need that all society has in the present day to maintain safety and not be exposed to needless harm. I too would have closed the cathedral, but hold to the view that any of us who were not in that room at the time that that difficult decision was made have no real right to judge the decision of those pressed into that position. It is very easy to judge that decision with the happy fact of hindsight (which, of course, is an exact science).
In the midst of decisions and hard choices, the protesters were, I assume, still protesting about bankers and capitalists - but one could be forgiven for forgetting that. Very quickly they started capitalising on the situation that the hospitality to them created - and using the name of Our Lord as a tool of protest. This very quickly stopped being about bankers and capitalists, but about biting the very hand that feeds (or in this case, judging the very hospitality offered by a church that didn't have to).
And then priestly ministries started to fall. Why? Because those who exercise their right to protest seem ill equipped to know when to stop, to know when the day is done or indeed when their protest has claimed unforeseen causalities. The disagreements that ensued have claimed the ministries of fine priests who were gifted by God to undertake the ministries that they had at St. Paul's. What now for them? I doubt that the protesters give a monkey's about the priests who have lost their livelihoods, if I am honest (and I can assure them that on stipends, none of us are poster-children for the capitalist ideal).
When (or if) the dust settles, the story won't be about bankers and capitalists. The silence from the political world is deafening, but that won't be the story either. The story will be about the wrong victims, ministries ended (which has a cost to the families of the priests involved too, lest we forget). The story will be about a pragmatic decision to close a building, not about those who precipitation that decision.