downton abbey and the church


Here is my latest column for the Prairie Messenger…

The days of maintaining pomp and grandeur at all costs are over. The days of patriarchal superiority are over. The days of claiming exclusivity over wisdom and decision-making based on titles and privilege are over. The days of oppressive hierarchical structures built on the backs of subservient and obedient people are over. The days of women working only behind the scenes with no access to proper leadership positions are over.

Days of Upstairs Downstairs in the Church are over

I had great fun writing this piece It also helped me rationalize the too many hours spent watching TV over the Christmas holidays. I was doing research! 😉

pope benedict xvi and the dowager countess of grantham


“I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter” (Pope Benedict XVI)


“Don’t be defeatist, dear. It’s very middle class.” (Violet Crawley)

One of the big questions surrounding the upcoming papal retirement concerns the role that Pope Benedict XVI will play once he has relinquished the rights of the papacy. Some wonder if his close proximity to the Vatican (he will be living in a converted monastery on the Vatican grounds) will make it difficult for the new pope to conduct business freely and without interference. The news coming from the Vatican Press Office is adamant that Pope Benedict will have no role in future Vatican business. His will be a true retirement. But, can we believe that he will have no influence at all?

I admit, I have Downton Abbey on the brain today. I’ll be glued to the TV tonight watching the two hour season 3 finale. As with most Downton fans, I’m smitten with Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham. I tape the show to make sure I get each and every brilliant line uttered by the inimitable Maggie Smith.

So, what do you get when your musings combine the Dowager Countess and a future ex-Pope? The imagination takes this seemingly unusual mix and comes up with a strangely similar picture of what could be.

Violet Crawley fully embraces her role as the elder Matriarch of the clan. She may no longer be the primary decision maker in the family, yet she certainly makes her wishes known. She has a deep love for her family – though not necessarily divided equally. Her love transcends fondness for the individual persons. Most dear to her heart is the family as institution, centered on Downton Abbey as its geographical and spiritual center. Regardless of the changing times around them, the family and estate must remain intact as a symbol of all that is good and holy in British society.

Violet knows how to move the tides without seeming to hold the rudder. Hers is an indomitable spirit that refuses to be put to pasture. Her husband may have died, but her ambition has not. She may no longer be the acting Countess, but she will certainly tell the new Countess how to act.

As the season finale unfolds on Downton Abbey, we can be assured that more delicious plot-lines will be served up to whet our appetites for another season.

As February 28 approaches, the eyes of the world will continue to be turned to the Vatican. As the focus turns from the resignation to the election, media interest in Pope Benedict may fade to the back-ground.

Once a new pope has settled in, is it so difficult to imagine Benedict (or Joseph) accepting visitors from across the garden for tea (or a cold glass of beer), willingly sharing his opinions on the latest issue circling curial halls? Is it so far-fetched to imagine him taking his cane and making a slow and determined stroll to drop in on old friends and offer his advice?

Sometimes the imagination is just too delicious! 😉