A Latin proverb says ‘we perish by permitted things.’ The sins which spoil our progress are not actually forbidden. On the contrary, it is those things which are inherently virtuous but get out of control that are our undoing. The shortcomings of St Grizelda’s aren’t forbidden but permitted things; and the fact that they are admired by many makes them all the more difficult to discover and correct.
Fr Green is a young bachelor, St Grizelda’s is his first curacy, and he’s even more ebullient than Canon Browning was when first ordained. Young people love him; the older ladies wish they were his mother; and some of the Young Wives can’t do too much for him.
Fr Green simply cannot understand why Canon Browning doesn’t always warm to his ideas. Privately, he suspects that it is because he is under the thumb of Mrs Browning. Thus, when Fr Green occasionally fails to consult him about some bright idea, but simply puts it straight into practice, he is taken aback when, even if it is successful, Canon Browning appears less appreciative than Fr Green thinks he deserves.
Fr Green has many virtues. God knows, the Church of England could do with more ebullient, imaginative, enthusiastic priests like him who get on well with everyone, not least the ladies who make up most of our congregations. Even a little impatience, tempered with charity, works wonders when all else fails.
But extroverts like Fr Green often fail to understand that their virtues – energy, imagination and charm -by coming into contact with Canon Browning’s greater age and experience, and catalysed by the latter’s unresolved disappointments, form an unstable compound, easily detonated by a trivial spark.
And what he doesn’t (and couldn’t) realize is that the Brownings have been struggling for years with her recurrent bouts of depression which at times have threatened their very marriage.
So Fr Green’s admirable sparkling nature may yet end up dividing the parish into the Green and Browning camps without either of them intending it – hence becoming ‘the sin which is admired by many’.