Welcome + Worship + Witness
Princess Diana

The Rector: Dicing with Di- judging others

4th Sunday after Trinity
27 June 2021
Sung Eucharist
Revd Nicholas Mercer

You may recall, shortly before lockdown, the Reverend James Barnett came to preach at the Priory

He was my Chaplain at School and, peculiarly, our lives have variously overlapped ever since,

Not least when he was appointed priest in charge of an Anglican parish in Strasbourg

As well as the cure of souls over a “quartier difficile” he was appointed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the European Institutions

And was interviewed by the Church Times when he took up his appointment

I revisited the interview the other day

In his interview, he quoted a monk called Patrick Barry, the former Abbot of Ampleforth who stated

“There is not one of us, whose life has not been entirely without success, who does not wish that, at some stage in his life, he had behaved with more honesty”

I was very taken by the remark – not least because of my own considerable failings

But, if we are being totally honest with ourselves, there are moments in all our lives when we don’t behave with complete integrity either

But, nevertheless, continue to judge others

At the time of writing this sermon, the British Press are still consumed with the interview conducted by Martin Bashir

It took place in 1995 and was a huge scoop for the BBC

Never before had a serving member of the Royal family royal spoken in such candid terms

In the interview, Princess Diana said:

· There were “three of us” in the marriage

· Prince Charles’s affair had made her feel worthless

· That she had had an affair herself

· And had self-harmed and suffered bulimia s a result of the torment she suffered

More than 20 million people watched the interview

Shortly afterwards, the Queen wrote to Prince Charles and Diana telling them to divorce

The results of the interview were seismic – but it was hardly an isolated incident in what had been a deeply unhappy marriage

But now the interview itself is embroiled in its own scandal

I watched a Panorama programme, about a month ago, where it became clear that Martin Bashir had faked bank statements, apparently, to ingratiate himself to Earl Spencer

This, in turn, apparently enabled him to secure the interview with Princess Diana

Even though Diana had confirmed that it hadn’t and was no longer available to ask

But in the media feeding frenzy which followed, Martin Bashir was now seemingly being held responsible for the death of Diana, as if he were the only one

I found myself standing back from this media storm and reflecting on the national outrage that was playing out in front of my eyes

Whilst I was very disappointed by the conduct of Martin Bashir, I was even more taken by the hypocrisy of those who sought to condemn him

First and foremost, it came from a media who were in no position to criticise, anyone

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black

In a biography written by a member of the paparazzi, called “Dicing with Di” the author Mark Sanders wrote how he snapped a picture of Diana in March 1994

He recounted an incident where he had pursued Diana who was having dinner with an art dealer

He described the chase as follows:

“My cell phone rang, Diana had been spotted driving into the Chelsea Harbour development.[I] gained access by lying to the duty guard… Diana’s Audi was there but the Princess was not to be found. Then an unidentified man emerged to drive her car. “Get to the rear of the restaurant I yelled….seconds later we were in hot pursuit, driving down the wrong side of a traffic island, accelerating in front of trucks until we got to Kensington Palace. I left from the vehicle, camera in hand and dived across the bonnet of the car, firing at the Audi.

My photograph of Diana driving the married millionaire was sold to the News of the World in an exclusive deal…it caused a sensation”

This was a scenario which Diana faced on a regular basis – until the moment, in Paris three years later, which proved fatal

I could not help wondering if the media had any sense of irony whilst they condemned others?

The New York journalist Janet Malcolm, who died last week, said

“Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on, knows that what he does is morally indefensible.”

Clearly they don’t

Time Magazine later stated

“The unspoken villain [of Diana’s death] was the paparazzi and their sponsors on Fleet Street – the notoriously hard nosed, intrusive tabloid newspapers that remain a staple of British life. From the Murdoch owned Sun and its competitors, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Star to the middle market cousins the Daily Mail and Daily Express, these newspapers offer readers a daily helping of news steeped in moralism and prurience, reflecting the obsessions of a broad stripe of the country’s middle class. Celebrity news remains the stock in trade

But, as the article points out, as well as the press, we are also to blame

As the countries middle classes, we were lapping this stuff up too and still do

We still have an insatiable appetite for all things Royal,

Unnaturally obsessed with class and blind to the consequences as to how this appetite is fed

We might not have deceived anyone else

But we certainly deceive ourselves

But why let that get in the way of lynching Martin Bashir?

And finally, what about the Royal family?

Our obsession with Royal deference means that we tend to shy away from such criticism

But there are no such constraints in the Bible

Diana was deceived by her husband and his now consort

But we too conspired with this deception

Our unwritten, but medieval, tradition of finding an aristocratic virgin for our future King created this car crash in the first place

She may have been naïve but she was also deceived

She was a young innocent girl who was treated with such contempt that it led her to suffer anxiety disorders to the point of feeling suicidal

How would you feel if it was your daughter?

But I did not hear any clamour for reform of the Royal family or the slightest contrition either?

Today the reading is about judging other people and seems so appropriate, not just for Jesus’ audience, but for our own times

And even more so given the headlines this morning

As Jesus rightly points out

“Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?

Or put another way

“Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone”

It applies to each and every one of us

So next time we seek to condemn others, just ponder the words of the former Benedictine monk

“There is not one of us, whose life has not been entirely without success, who does not wish that, at some stage in his life, he had behaved with more honesty”

Let us not forget, we are all culpable