article appeared in The Daily Telegraph on 26th June 1999, the day
after Cardinal Hume's funeral at Westminster Cathedral. The title
is the Telegraph's.
BAPTISM THAT WASHED AWAY THE DOGMA OF FAITH
We had grown into each other, like seaweed into a piece of gauze, but we had major differences of outlook. He allowed himself, too often I felt, to be flattered by the established order; whereas I was born the child who spotted every emperor without clothes. My genetic programming had kicked into action when I married Andrew. I had become the traditional Eastern wife, ancestrally programmed to devote myself to my husband. I loved everything about him: he was the purpose of my existence. When he came home, life stopped, only to begin in another, more exquisite key. Acquaintances suggested that I had enslaved myself, but they were wrong. Slavery is imposed; Andrew asked for nothing. He did not demand that I be one way or another. I was just myself. He conceded that I was intelligent, but not as intelligent as some of the women in his office. "Sarah Hogg, for example. If you had been to Oxford you might have been as formidable as Sarah Hogg," he would say.
Perhaps because he was unnecessarily insecure, perhaps because he read Machiavelli far too often, he was generally drawn to people who had more power or wealth than character. He accused me of being reticent about most of the people we saw, but the simple truth was that not many of the people he admired ever said anything worth remembering. One evening, I sat next to a man who looked as though he could have been one of my ancestors, and we spent the whole evening discussing many of the subjects Andrew had forbidden me to talk to him about: revolution, poetry, religion, Britain, government. I told Andrew that I had at last met a free spirit. "His name", said Andrew, "is Isaiah Berlin." Of course, I did not know who he was. I was 27 years old, and Berlin's books were not yet part of my repertoire.
Andrew would warn me against polluting my thinking by acquiring feminist notions. "There is a lot of feminist non- sense around - they will cram your head with it. You are ordinary - be ordinary." But the ordinary had always been special to me.
The Lonely Bachelor
Andrew explained that I was not a Catholic. Basil looked at me, smiling conspiratorially. Andrew wanted to take him upstairs, but Basil came into the kitchen and sat down on a bench. I cooked dinner and we ate in the kitchen. Andrew told Basil how elated I had been after talking to Isaiah Berlin, without knowing who he was. Instead of laughing at me, Basil asked: "Now that you know his writing, what do you think of him?" By that time, we had had the privilege of spending many evenings with Isaiah Berlin - he had become a frequent guest at our home. "And what came across in his writing? What remains with you?" asked Basil. "Basil, I beg of you, don't get her into these conversations she's hopeless," sighed Andrew. But Basil was not to be deflected. Eventually, I said that I had often wondered why Isaiah did not speak out in defence of unpopular causes, as J. S. Mill, whom he so admired, had done. After all, we can guess where Mill would have stood on the Dreyfus case, Suez, Budapest, apartheid, colonialism or women's rights ... "Darling, you know nothing of all that," said my husband. "You should not be saying these things. Basil, just ignore it - don't get into an argument."
"But there is no argument! Sabiha does have an excellent point," said Basil coolly, his eyes shining. "If we believe in something, we have to become that thing. Represent it. Live for it. Sabiha is on the right track. Andrew, I took my first vows at 18. You know what I miss most? A wife. You are so fortunate. I am often lonely - I think about how much easier it would have been with a wonderful wife..."
Barely a year later, Basil Hume was installed Archbishop of Westminster. The monk whose soul shone through his limpid gaze would henceforth be seen as an embodiment of the Church. He would have to learn to be political. He would have to learn to be patiently social and patently worldly. He would have no time to call his own. So the cosy kitchen dinners came to a holt.
Our first baby, Amaryllis, was baptised by a salt-of-the-earth monk in Tuscany, who understood immediately what I meant. Two years later, we had our second baby, Afsaneh. But, by this time, I felt more strongly about the confusion between religion and spirituality, between the Church and Christ's message. I said no. No more baptisms.
As time went on, I felt that I had been ungenerous. So, seven years later, I told Andrew, that, yes, our second daughter could be baptised but only if it were possible to arrange the baptism in the right spirit. Andrew flared up right away. "The spirit you call the right spirit," he said, "is not what the rest of us see as the right spirit." The right spirit, I replied, is always easy to spot: it unites rather than divides. The right spirit sees no divide between Us and Them.
There was little point in embarking on what Andrew would perceive as "argument." I decided to ask the only person I had ever met with whom I felt a profound spiritual kinship to help me find an understanding priest. I called the Archbishop of Westminster's office. Somebody responded. The Archbishop was completely absorbed in his task and there was little point in leaving a name. I left my name nevertheless. Cardinal Hume called back. I explained the dilemma. "Come to tea," he said, as if he had nothing better to do in the afternoons. "I can imagine what's going on. You and I can sort it out." When we met he warmly reassured me: "People have their own ways. Andrew doesn't see God as you do. That's all there is to it."
A Fuzzy Feeling of the Heart
Time after time, I told Basil that I could not admire what the Church fathers in the third century had done to the message of Jesus. Time after time, the Cardinal calmly stated that he agreed with what I was saying. "Faith is a personal matter and each of us stands alone before God."
When I related parts of our conversations to Andrew, he said I should know better than to waste the Archbishop's time with such nonsense and that Basil was just being kind to me, pretending to agree with me. But Cardinal Hume had told me: "Thank God you love Andrew, but don't listen to him on these matters!"
In the East it is said that one need never ask a true friend or loved one for anything, for the one who truly loves forsees the other's needs. Basil foresaw the need. We talked of children and theatre and Venice and dreams of travel. I told him that I wrote and painted at night, when the children slept and Andrew was travelling. I told him that I had become friends with the nuns at my daughter's school but that generally speaking, I did not find nuns particularly appealing. Cardinal Hume smiled and raised his eyebrows a little, as if to suggest that he wasn't mightily fascinated by nuns either.
"Tell me about Rumi," he said, when I was leaving, "Who is the Believer?"
"Rumi says, 'He who finds love in his heart when grief comes'."
The cardinal's eyes turned melancholy. "That is it," he said.
I announced that my daughter would have three godfathers, representing the three monotheistic faiths. This would help her see that All is One.
"Ah?" he said, and got up to pour some more tea. "Godfathers have to take a vow to bring their godchild up as a good Catholic," he continued. "Will these godfathers agree to do that?"
"But, Cardinal Hume, you know a good Catholic is no different from a pilgrim who follows the path of Love. Jesus Christ's path is also Rumi's path, Krishna's path and the Buddha's path," I protested.
Cardinal Hume said he knew exactly what I meant.
But who would be the priest? "I came to you in the hope that you would find such a priest," I said.
"There isn't one. They are all Catholic priests!" he answered. I was despondent. "I didn't say there wasn't a way," he smiled a naughty smile. "I just said that there isn't a Catholic priest around who would accept to officiate at such a rite."
"So I'll baptise her myself, in my private chapel. You and I will take responsibility for the way we see God," he said.
When I told the nuns at my daughter's school, they raised their eyes to heaven. "O dear! Don't you know - you cannot expect the Cardinal to do such a thing!" they exclaimed in alarm. I said I had asked for nothing but he had offered everything. I invited the nuns to the ceremony. A week later, the Mother Superior offered me a neatly folded white shawl. "You are not one of us," she explained. "The poor child cannot wear any of your shawls - she needs a shawl which has been worn by a Catholic. Take mine." Reluctant to hurt the Mother Superior's feelings, I accepted it. When we next met, we talked about the ceremony. We would all stand by the altar; at the appropriate moment, the Cardinal would drape the Mother Superior's white shawl around Afsaneh's shoulder's...
Cardinal Hume was amazed. "Don't you have a shawl? Why are we using the Mother Superior's shawl?" I explained. "She is a good person and an old lady. We must not upset her."
"Nonsense!" He turned on me with passion flashing through his serene temperament. "This is not about her. Return the shawl to her. Tell her I want to use your own shawl. And tell her that I would rather they didn't come to the baptism." I was shocked at the seeming injustice of his reaction.
"What matters most to you?" he asked, sitting down. Justice, I replied. "Listen, then. It is justice you will be denied," he said. "Life will not be easy because living the Truth is much harder than trying to look for truths. You will have to learn that most people, at best, just look for exactitude, for small truths which don't matter in the end. It is good that you feel and think as you do. So, stand firm! You know there is only one way. We cannot waver for any reason at all. Go and tell the nuns. Return that shawl."
So, I did. The nuns were stunned but received Cardinal Hume's message thoughtfully and quietly.
Away the Dogma of Faith
The ceremony in the Archbishop's private chapel, was intimate, archaic, simple. Cardinal Hume spoke of the fundamental importance of standing alone before God, rather than being accountable to institutions, groups or individuals. He referred to Jesus's rebellion against dogma. He spoke of the importance of valuing individuals for what they are. He took my white shawl and draped it around Afsaneh's shoulders, saying: "This is your mother's shawl, a symbol of light and love." There were about 12 of us. Most of us wept.
Arnold Weinstock, the Jewish godfather, had tears in his eyes. He dipped his hand in the water and made the sign of the Cross. Mohammed Heikal, the Muslim godfather, did the same. If the Catholic godfather, Clive Gibson, wondered what was going on, it never occurred to him to question it.
Who but Cardinal Basil Hume, the monk who became a master of reconciliation, could have transcended the dogma of religion to infuse the spirit of unity into a doctrinal rite?
* * * * *
A CRITIQUE by Hugh Scott
From the outset I should state that I am willing to concede that the Cardinal Hume described by Sabiha Rumani Malik is not the 'whole' of Cardinal Hume. My analysis, however, is strictly limited to the specific issues raised by Ms Malik in her above portrayal of the Cardinal. In this context, it is my contention that in his conversations with her, the Cardinal comprehensively abandoned the essentials of the Catholic faith concerning the Catholic God, the Catholic Church and the meaning of Baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ. He then disobeyed the fundamental discipline of the Catholic Church on the Sacrament of Baptism by having a Muslim and a Jew intimately involved in this act of Christian faith.
Due to the stress on the Cardinal's love and humanity apropos the actual baptism, any attempt to portray his actions as a grave dereliction of episcopal duty might be seen to imply a criticism of the non-Christians in question or, indeed, of Judaism or Islam. That is in no way my intention. My protest is that the Cardinal's action is totally contrary to Catholic Canon Law; this does not involve any spin-off against other religions.
One should not need to point out (though in these postconciliar days it is necessary to repeat even the most basic of Catholic doctrine) that "it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone, which is the all-embracing means of salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained" [Vatican II, De Ecumenismo - "Decree On Ecumenism" - Section 3]; and again: "...the Catholic Church has been endowed with all divinely revealed truth and with all means of grace" [Section 4]. The Council document Dignitatis Humanae - "On Religious Freedom" - adds: "this Sacred Synod professes its belief that God Himself has made known to mankind the way in which men are to serve Him, and thus be saved in Christ and come to blessedness. We believe that this one true religion subsists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which the Lord Jesus committed the duty of spreading it abroad among all men ... On their part, all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it." Of course, use of the word 'subsists' cannot be interpreted in any way as to lessen the immemorial Catholic teaching that the Catholic Church IS the one true religion, although even the most watered-down interpretation absolutely contradicts Ms Malik and her understanding of the Cardinal's view. He knew those truths but (presumably through 'human respect') could not find it in him to 'hold fast to them' when discussing religion with her.
I cannot believe that deep in his heart the Cardinal really so believed; but he allowed 'human respect', or a false irenicism, to lead him to accept views which are indeed 'abandoning the essentials...'. And these views have been given wide publicity via The Daily Telegraph article. We have to face that fact.
Ms Malik also tells us that at the baptism the Cardinal "referred to Jesus' rebellion against dogma". I have no idea what the Cardinal actually said (though there are others who were present, who may be able to give more exact information on this). I would like to think that Ms Malik misunderstood the Cardinal. For it is totally untrue in what it says about Jesus. Perhaps Ms Malik uses the word 'dogma' in a very wide sense, to mean 'exaggerated legalism which is neither in the letter of the Bible nor in accordance with its spirit'. But that is not 'dogma'. One fears, however, in the context of the whole article, that there might be some grain of truth in Ms Malik's claim. Clearly, the Cardinal would have been trying to put his action in carrying out the baptism in the best ecumenical light. Ms Malik's clear intention is that we should draw the conclusion: 'I, Basil Hume, can rebel against Catholic dogma, because my Master Jesus rebelled against Jewish dogma'. I can be sure only that the statement about Jesus is entirely false.
The embarrassed stutterings of Father Redford that "the Cardinal [might have displayed] a moment of weakness, baptizing more liberally than the Church allows", is an incorrect understanding of Ms Malik's clear statement: "[At the baptism] I would have to take a vow to bring up my child as a good Catholic. I had no such intention at all, as I told the Cardinal." This is the first key point, and Fr Redford's reminding us that "The Code does not even say that the parents themselves have to be Catholic" has nothing to do with the matter. Canon 868.2 which he also quotes is the important text: "If such a hope [that the child be brought up in the Catholic religion'] is truly lacking, the baptism is, in accordance with the provisions of particular law, to be deferred and the parents advised of the reason for this". What more needs to be said? For this reason alone, the baptism should not have been carried out.
As regards the godparents, Canon Law, as quoted by Fr Redford, states that "a baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community may be admitted only in company with a catholic sponsor, and then simply as a witness to the baptism" (canon 874.5 - emphasis mine). It is therefore never permitted for a non-Catholic, a fortiori for an unbaptized person (worthy human beings though they may be), to be intrinsically involved in the rite of baptism. The Cardinal has broken in the most open and decisive way with the prescription of the previously mentioned De Ecumenismo: "Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false conciliatory approach ['irenismus' in the Latin original] which harms the purity of Catholic doctrine and obscures its assured genuine meaning" (section 11).
A further quote from De Ecumenismo, section 22, reminds us of an essential dynamic of baptism: "Baptism is thus oriented toward a complete profession of faith [surely, notably, that Jesus Christ is God, who made Christian, Jew and Muslim out of nothing for his own glory; what do non-Christian godparents make of this?], a complete incorporation into the system of salvation such as Christ Himself wished it to be, and finally, toward a complete participation in Eucharistic communion [or: 'the complete integration into the fellowship of the Eucharist']". What real warmth and humanity were Ms Malik and Cardinal Hume showing in totally muddying the waters, and having the Jewish and Muslim 'godfathers' trace the sign of the Cross on the baptizand?
The next day (30/6/99), a letter by H.R. Lewis appeared under the caption "Insult to Rabbi":
Despite their clash, Ms Stoppard and H.R. Lewis both accept the only possible interpretation of Cardinal Hume's actions: that he abandoned "doctrine", "dogma" and "the rules of the Catholic Church"(Stoppard); that he "[broke] the rules of his Church" and did not, therefore, "staunchly observe [his] own traditions" (Lewis).
It is a devastating indictment of post-Vatican II Catholicism if the only way now for a Catholic to be praised for his or her 'humanity' is to abandon the Faith in practice. Little wonder that, as Daily Telegraph correspondent Daniel Johnson put it (26 June), the good Cardinal has left the Catholic Church in England in a parlous condition. His promotion of false ecumenism drained it of meaning.
It would be a relief to be able to say that Ms Malik totally misread Cardinal Hume's words and actions. I want to believe that there was substantial misunderstanding. And yet… . I leave the last word to her: "When I related parts of our conversations to Andrew, he said I should know better than to waste the Archbishop's time with such nonsense and that Basil was just being kind to me, pretending to agree with me. But Cardinal Hume had told me: 'Thank God you love Andrew, but don't listen to him on these matters'."