In an historic victory, England beat Germany in the final of the FIFA World Cup in 1966. Not until women were allowed a proper go was such a feat repeated, with the Lionesses beating Germany 2-1 in last summer’s Euro 22.

In the religion magazine The Tablet this week, writer Christopher Lamb uses a soccer analogy of a “once brilliant football team” to write about the Second Vatican Council, on the 60th anniversary of its commencement in October 1962.

Leader writer Ruth Gledhill suggests that the solution to some of the Catholic Church’s serious problems might be to let the women in to run it.

However, she says that would probably arouse the same cries of derision that would have greeted such an argument in actual professional football in 1966.

“Watching the women play those soccer games was refreshing. It was like a return to ‘pure’ football.

“Without all the edgy fouls and play-acting, the abuse and other less-attractive features of the game, the women were a joy to watch.

“It was especially joyful when our team won. As we reflect on the future of our post-Vatican II Church, with next year’s Synod on Synodality coming down the line, maybe the time really is coming when some of our top women players will be asked to come off the bench.

 “The analogy of a once brilliant football team might help us to understand where the Church has reached in implementing the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. After the Council, ‘Vatican II’ was a superb side.

“They had star players such as Karl Rahner, Joseph Ratzinger and Edward Schillebeeckx who could take on any team. Few came close to beating them.

“Then, suddenly, the side split up. Ratzinger and another great player, Henri de Lubac, decided to form their own team.  Then the ‘greats’ retired, and the prestige of Vatican II became frayed.”

It was the same with the Celtic side who won the European Cup in 1967 and Rangers, who had considerable success in that same era.


Celtic in 1967: Craig, Gemmell, McNeill, Simpson, Murdoch, Clark;Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Auld and Lennox.

When the great Lisbon Lions retired from Parkhead then the team and the club went through a serious slump.

Rangers experiences on and off the playing field proved to be similar. They had a great team at one time – Ritchie, Shearer and Caldow; Davis, MacKinnon and Baxter; Henderson, MacMillan, Millar, Brand and Wilson.

Then, everyone wanted to see change.  When that didn’t happen then many supporters lost interest and drifted away.

But, from great institutions to famous football clubs, success  has to take its turn in the queue.

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