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November 1999

This 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.
Sub-headings are ours.

A BAPTISM THAT WASHED AWAY THE DOGMA OF FAITH
Sabiha Rumani Malik

Andrew left home early and came home late. If we were not going out, I cooked him elaborate feasts and pleaded with him to see the world not merely as a geopolitical arena, but as a field of human endeavours. My husband, Andrew Knight, was editor of the Economist and I wanted him to change the world. Or at least to deploy what influence he had to bring in a ray of justice and light.

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.

Basil: The Lonely Bachelor
Into our enchanted domain walked Basil Hume, a Benedictine monk who had been Andrew's house, master at Ampleforth College. My father had been a poet who spent most of his life at Sufi shrines. Reared in India, in the poetic traditions of Rumi, I had a direct relationship with God and scant faith in doctrine and dogma. But my reaction to the tall lanky Basil Hume, as he stood in the doorway, was one of simple and immediate acceptance. He was a Benedictine a monk, not a warring man of the Church.

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.

Baptismal Dilemma
Then a crisis arose. Andrew had wanted our children to be baptised as Catholics. I had always known that the Catholic God is the same as Brahma, Yahweh or Allah - the word we use to refer to Him has always been irrelevant to me. However, Andrew remained unconvinced. He explained to me that he wanted our children to be baptised because he believed that only Catholics go to Heaven. I was distressed that such a highly intelligent and good man could think that. But I loved him and I wanted to make him happy.

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."

Faith: A Fuzzy Feeling of the Heart
Over many months, I was struck by Cardinal Hume's free spirit, his integrity, his warmth, his absolute lack of any kind of pretension. He made me feel that he was a kindred spirit. The more gracious and generous he was, the more I wanted him to have no illusions about my feelings about Catholicism in particular, and all religions in general. I criticised the Church very explicitly because I wanted him to know how strongly I felt. He said he felt just as strongly. The light came through tall windows as we sat in armchairs with worn upholstery. I talked about the time when cardinal's hats were auctioned, and about the Church calling for savage, plundering rampages into civilised Islamic land and launching the horrors of the Inquisition. "The Church has a lot to answer for," I said. Cardinal Hume smiled easily. We always parted like old accomplices, part of some secret society, starry-eyed with awareness of our mission to live the Truth at all costs.

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.

Unholy Compromise
We discussed the baptism. During the ceremony, I would have to take a vow to bring my child up as a good Catholic. I had no such intention at all, I told the Cardinal. But I would bring up my children to have an open heart and mind, to be Catholics with a small c. I did not want my daughter brainwashed into bigotry by Catholic godfathers. "Just choose the right sort of Catholics," advised the Cardinal sensibly.

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...

"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.

Washing Away the Dogma of Faith
Then the last hurdle had to be addressed: the matter of making the sign of the Cross at the baptism. When I announced to the Jewish godfather and the Muslim godfather that they would be expected to make the sign of the Cross, they dug their heels in and refused.

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.

The Author
I will begin with Ms Malik's own views, for which she does not explicitly claim the Cardinal's agreement but which I cannot ignore since they are part of the warp and woof of her whole article. Most significant is the way she sweeps aside (as the title of the piece already indicates) the meaningfulness of dogma. This recurs throughout.

  • "I had a direct relationship with God and scant faith in doctrine and dogma." So out goes divine Revelation, the bible, the Councils of the Church, etc. How does she know who or what 'God' is, and whether her relationship with Him is correct, if doctrine and dogma are irrelevant?

  • "I had always known that the Catholic God is the same as Brahma, Yahweh or Allah." The fact that this is widely believed does not excuse the thinking person for repeating it. It is true that in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim view there can be only one God. But this does not mean that these views of the one God are the same, or that it is irrelevant which view one holds. The Catholic God is Father, Son and Holy Ghost; the Koran goes out of its way (nine times in fact) to deny explicitly that God had a Son who is himself God, and who is the Catholic God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. In other words, Islam flatly denies the essence of Christianity; the divinity of Christ. Is Brahma the same as the Christian Trinity? Does modern Judaism believe that Jesus Christ is God, co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit from all eternity?

  • "I felt more strongly about the confusion between religion and spirituality, between the Church and Christ's message." Ms Malik apparently has sure and certain knowledge of Our Lord's message and is setting herself up as the supreme arbiter over what is true and false in religion and spirituality and what the Church is all about. Thus she is able to confidently inform the Cardinal that the early Church Fathers distorted the message of Jesus. Well, well, well.

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.

  • "...our second daughter could be baptized - but only if it were possible to arrange the baptism in the right spirit." Ms Malik is apparently privy to 'the right spirit' of baptism [one must assume in contradistinction to the normal, wrong, Roman Catholic spirit].

  • "I [Ms Malik] talked about ... the Church calling for savage, plundering rampages into civilized Islamic land and launching the horrors of the Inquisition ... Cardinal Hume smiled easily". Why did not the Cardinal ask Ms Malik what took the Muslims into the civilized Byzantine Christian land of Jerusalem in the seventh century and provoked their savage, plundering rampage? What were the Muslims doing in Spain from 711 till 1492? They conquered and ruled the Christian civilization of pre-Muslim Spain by the sword. Why did the Muslims embark on a siege of Malta in 1565; why were they in Budapest and the Balkans for several centuries; why were they at the gates of Vienna In 1683? What are they doing now (and ever since 1452) in Istanbul, once known as Constantinople and then as Byzantium, the greatest centre of Christian civilization in the world for a thousand years? Am I to be accused of betraying a lack of respect for Islam, while Ms Malik remains free to betray a lack of respect for Christianity? I will not have it. I recommend the reading of a long, eye-opening note on the Jihad, the Muslim Holy War - described as (still) an essential part of the Koran, and hence of Islam - in the book Interpretation of the Meanings of THE NOBLE QUR'AN in the English Language, by Dr Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Dr Muhammad Muhsin Khan of the Islamic University of Medina in Saudi Arabia (Fourth Revised and Enlarged One-Volume Edition, 1994, pp. 1043-1064), as well as sustained attacks on Christian doctrine and Christianity in the same edition.

The Cardinal
At other places in her article, Ms Malik puts words directly into the Cardinal's mouth. I am assuming the essential accuracy of her reporting.

  • "Andrew [Ms Malik's husband, a Catholic]", the Cardinal says, "doesn't see God as you do. That's all there is to it." While conceding that a friendly conversation is not 'ecumenism' in the strict sense, surely the Cardinal is bound by the obligation so clearly spelt out in Vatican II's De Ecumenismo, Section 11: "What is absolutely necessary is that the whole teaching [when presenting Catholic belief] be expressed with lucidity. Nothing is so foreign to ecumenism as the false attitude of appeasement which is damaging to the purity of Catholic doctrine and obscures its genuine, established meaning ... Catholic belief should be presented with greater depth and accuracy ... [Catholic theologians must] stick closely to the Church's teaching." And Section 12: "…All Christians must make a proclamation before all nations of their belief in God, who is One and Three, in the Son of God incarnate, our Lord and Redeemer". The Cardinal's statement, if accurately reported, comprehensively abandons these essentials of the Catholic faith.

  • "I [Ms Malik] criticized the Church very explicitly because I wanted him [the Cardinal] to know how strongly I felt. He said he felt just as strongly" About what did the Cardinal feel so strongly?

  • "Time after time, I told Basil that I could not admire what the Church fathers 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'." I try to bear in mind that these are the recollections of a woman who, it seems to me, heard what she wanted to hear, and was seeking sympathy in her internal religious conflicts. But she has published these statements in the press, and she gives it as her clear understanding of the Cardinal's position that he agreed with her. If the Cardinal, a monk, priest and scholar really accepted that 'faith is a personal matter' in the sense that Ms Malik always uses it in her article, then indeed the whole Christian position is lost.

The Baptism
If the reader is still not convinced that we have here, as intended by Ms Malik and apparently accepted by the editor of the Daily Telegraph, a Cardinal who has comprehensively abandoned the essentials of the Catholic faith, consider how Ms Malik is at pains to emphasise the Cardinal's expressed understanding that no Catholic priest would perform the baptismal ceremony she was seeking. I believe I am justified in thinking that this was because every Catholic priest would have condemned the proposed ceremony as a rejection of the Catholic faith, of the meaning of baptism, and of Canon Law? Surely the Cardinal is effectively saying: I will take responsibility for this denial and this rejection? Bear in mind what he is quoted as saying to Ms Malik: "I'll baptize [your daughter] myself, in my private chapel. You and I will take responsibility for the way we see God...most people, at best, just look for exactitude, for small truths which don't matter in the end". Surely I am correct in taking this to mean that Cardinal Hume agrees with Ms Malik that dogma doesn't matter; that the question of who is the true God is "a small truth that doesn't matter in the end"; that the difference between Allah and the Trinity doesn't matter; that the fact that Jesus Christ is God become man, the unique Saviour who calls all men to acknowledge His divine sovereignty, doesn't matter; that the Catholic Church is an irrelevancy - since what matters is what I think God is, ignoring the Christian belief that Jesus Christ laid down His life in the process of telling us a very great deal about Who He is and what He wants from us. In support of this assessment, we are given to understand that Cardinal Hume agreed to baptize the child even though her mother declared that she had no intention of bringing her up as a good Catholic. That would be to have her "brainwashed into bigotry by Catholic godfathers" The Cardinal tells her, "Just choose the right sort of Catholics". In other words, choose 'Catholics' who, like the Cardinal, part explicitly and part implicitly deny the Catholic faith, by rejecting the significance of Jesus Christ and the Roman Catholic Church.

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 'Godparents'
I will turn now explicitly but briefly to the actual baptism and the question of the godparents. In a transparent damage-limitation exercise, Father John Redford addressed this issue in an article in The Universe of 18 July, 1999. But it only served to confirm my interpretation of the indefensible nature of' the Cardinal's actions, on two points: the carrying out of a baptism where the mother has clearly said that she has no intention of bringing up the child as a Catholic, and secondly the matter of the Jewish and Muslim 'godfathers'.
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).(1)

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 Scandal
In response to Ms Malik's article, the Telegraph printed two strongly worded and telling letters which indicate something of the grave scandal given by the Cardinal in this matter. On Tuesday, 29 June, 1999, under the caption "Hume's Humanity", Miriam Stoppard wrote:

"Of all the column inches devoted to the passing of Cardinal Hume nothing speaks of his humanity more tellingly than the piece by Sabiha Rumani Malik recounting the baptism of her daughter Afsaneh ... Yes, it was against the rules of the Catholic Church to have three godfathers, one a Jew, one a Muslim and one a Catholic representing the three monotheistic faiths. But in the spirit of true generosity, he found a way to dispense with doctrine and dogma. He knew that love is pure and is one, regardless of the trappings it comes wrapped in. All the more lowering, as a Jew, to read that great though his respect and admiration for Hume was, the Chief Rabbi felt that Jewish law constrained him from making as grand a gesture. The truth of the matter is that Hume was a 'mensch'. Pity the Chief Rabbi isn't in the same class".

The next day (30/6/99), a letter by H.R. Lewis appeared under the caption "Insult to Rabbi":

"In unfavourably comparing the Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks, with the late Cardinal Hume...,, Miriam Stoppard is proving a disgrace to the wonderful religion to which she says she belongs. Dr Sack's qualities and performance in the upholding of Jewish religious laws are well known and widely admired. Cardinal Hume may have broken the rules of his Church for reasons of humanity, but others who staunchly observe their own traditions, as Dr Sacks does, should not be criticized for doing so. Mrs Stoppard's remarks are highly offensive and gratuitously insulting".

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'."

FOOTNOTE:
(1) By the way, I take the strongest exception to the use of a small 'c' for the word 'catholic', throughout the 1983 Collins translation of the Code. This can be destructive of the Catholic faith - as can be clearly seen by Ms Malik's argument that she did not want her daughter to be a good Catholic, but a good 'catholic' with a small 'c', meaning not a Catholic, not even necessarily a Christian. This is quite explicit in her mind. Similar usage in the translation of the Code is already hinting at the same idea. It is a blow against the unique Catholic Church; against Catholic identity.


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