This delicious snippet from the excellent “Yes, Minister/Yes, Prime Minister” TV series (possibly the best TV series ever produced, certainly the favourite of Baroness Thatcher) is, as almost every word in this series, perceptive and profound whilst always managing to be suavely entertaining.
A quarter of a century after the episode, and with two of their three main actors going to their eternal (hopefully) reward, we can reflect that on the one hand the so-called church of England was already in an advanced state of decay and – more worryingly – that there is almost no sentence coming from the wise mind of Sir Humphrey (a hero of our times, and still underestimated…..) which could not – to an extent, if not always literally – be applied to the Catholic hierarchy here in Blighty.
“The word modernist is code for non-believer”
“When they stop believing in God they call themselves modernists”
“The c of England is primarily a social organisation, not a religious one”
“….significant religious events, like the Royal Garden Party”
” the Church is trying to be more relevant”. “To God?”. “No, of course not, Prime Minister!”
One listens to this refined dialogue and understands that it is not the fruit of parody or comic exaggeration, but acute and critical reflection of everyday reality. I would love to tell you that such devastating criticism does not apply to the men currently leading the Catholic church in England and Wales but if we are honest, this just doesn’t seem to be the case.
Say a prayer, if you want, for Nigel Hawthorne, the unforgettable “Sir Humphrey”. I do hope he managed to save his soul in the end.