Tuesday, 23 November 2010


Five Church of England bishops have gone over to Rome under an arrangement offered by the Pope while he was on his state visit at the expense of the British taxpayer. A nice irony that something that would have got their heads chopped off under the first Elizabeth is sponsored by the Government of the second Elizabeth. They have done well: shining careers and the support of their wives, and now they can be Catholic priests and keep their families!

I find it amusing that the chess pieces that stand next to the King and Queen are called bishops. In the original Indian game of Chaturanga they were elephants - one of the four corps in Indian armies. In Arabic that became 'fil', which the French heard as 'fou' - madman! So a confusion between bishophood and madness goes back several centuries. In the current instance, the problem was with women bishops. I wonder what is so special about possessing a Y chromosome? And what about women who have a Y chromosome but suffer from androgen insensitivity syndrome? Could they be bishops, and if not why not?

However, the original folly was surely to think that the message of Jesus needed a hierarchical structure to put it into effect. Where in the gospels is there an unambiguous statement that there should be priests to come between disciples and their God, and bishops to control the priests? But perhaps it is just human love of authority. Muhammad never said that there should be Sunni caliphs or infallible Shiite Imams, and yet his followers very quickly instituted them.

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