When I was at boarding school, the Dean used to stand outside the College chapel in the morning, as we trooped into (compulsory) Mass, staring at our shoes. If he found someone who hadn’t polished his shoes, there was hell to pay. Up to his room that night (so you’d lots of time to worry about it), then six of the worst he could deliver. Never mind the boy’s relationship with the God he was about to worship, never mind the job of opening up a young mind to the wonders and mysteries of life. He hadn’t polished his shoes and that was what really mattered.
I’m reminded of the shoe-focused Dean when I hear about Tom Elliot and Danny Kennedy maybe facing “disciplinary proceedings” for having attended Requiem Mass for PC Ronan Kerr who was killed, we’re led to believe, by dissident republicans. We’re hearing calls from ‘moderate’ sections of the Orange Order for the rule to be changed, so that the likes of Elliot and Kennedy can attend a Catholic church service without retribution. Shoe-polishing stuff. Where’s the courageous Protestant clergyman or woman, or Orange man or woman, who’ll stand up and say “See all this marching – not just the ones that are disputed, but all of them? Pointless and triumphalist. Excessive. Who needs over 3,000 marches every year? Who needs an organisation that rejects Catholics, rejects those with Catholic spouses, is suspicious of those with Catholic parents. OK, guys, I know the summer months are boring but let’s please, in the name of sanity, scrap the Orange Order and do something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT”.
The day I hear that, I’ll know that there is a truly enlightened unionism emerging and that the spirit of the shoe-fetishist has finally gone away.