CHRISTIAN COMMENT: Setting the right standard

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Start of the week... first two items on the evening News: “...allegations of inappropriate conduct.’

Uh-oh – who is it now? We’re getting almost inoculated against any more revelations, I would suspect.

First up, Lord Rennard. Claims and denials: did he or didn’t he? Did Nick Clegg turn a blind eye? Anyway what’s the precise allegation?

Second, Cardinal O’Brien. From those who know him well, shock and disbelief. From the man himself, immediate resignation. From the Vatican, prompt acceptance.

Any difference? Not as to the seriousness of what is claimed. In the responses, certainly.

Is the cardinal correct in so quickly distancing himself from a church that is going through a particularly difficult moment in its history? I think so. Anything like this in the life of someone responsible for choosing the next head of the Roman Catholic Church would be at least a distraction. More likely, it would be seen as a contamination – a further contamination, bearing in mind all the recent news concerning the sexual lives of priests.

Pity that this was the same man who was about to speak forthrightly on the need to allow Catholic priests to marry..... Do we smell ‘conspiracy theory’? Quite possibly. I’ll leave that to your imagination.

More important, should we expect church leaders to be wholly without guilt, without even a ‘suspicion of anything sexually inappropriate’, as Paul instructs early Christians? Of course. Oh, and by the way, Paul means all Christians, not just leaders.

Why? What’s the point of being good? Why does it matter how Lord Rennard or Cardinal O’Brien behave?

In their case, it’s easy: they head up large constituencies – one political, the other religious. Where the head decides to go, the body follows.

That’s been the argument fuelling most social and economic unrest, especially of the past four years: if cheating and deception for personal gain is OK for bankers and cabinet ministers, that gives me permission. And if I don’t know how to fiddle the system, I’ll take what ‘owing to me’ some other way.

The problem is that if I do something because ‘everybody’s doing it’– especially those who ought to set me an example – I’m damaging myself and I’m damaging others. Myself, because I’m no longer taking any personal responsibility for the way I behave. Others, because if I take something forcibly, someone else will have to foot the bill. Not just someone anonymous but loved ones – partner, child, neighbour, friend – as I reinforce my self-centeredness.

What’s the answer?

Do for others – regardless of whether they are nice to you or not – what you would like them to do for you.

Think about it.

By Nigel O’Dwyer, who leads Goring New Life Church, and lives and works in Worthing.