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December 2000


PROPAGATING CATHOLIC TRUTH
AND THE ENEMIES WITHIN

JOHN BISHOP

"In cases of necessity where faith is in danger, everyone is bound to proclaim his faith to others, either to give good example and encouragement to the rest of the faithful, or to check the attacks of unbelievers."

  St Thomas Aquinas
  Summa Theologiae
  11a-11ae.qu.iii, art.2. ad2m

Some years ago I was chatting to a faithful priest who was having serious difficulties with his bishops because of their failure to propagate orthodoxy. They had lost the Faith and he had not. A world-wide situation with which many Christian Order readers will be familiar. During our discussion the priest stressed the need for caring Catholics to stand up and proclaim their belief in "Catholic Truth". I winced. It seemed to me that the phrase gave ammunition to those who criticise the Church. After all if truth carries a label, why not "Protestant Truth", or "Islamic Truth", or "Relative Truth", that old favourite of agnostic academics. Seeing my dilemma the priest explained that the term simply meant the Truth of Our Lord Jesus Christ handed on to St Peter and the Apostles as Revelation and supported down the centuries by the teaching of the Fathers and the Magisterium of the Church. And that is how the expression will be used for the purposes of this article.

Devilish Defiance
So what about the "enemies within"? To call dissidents "enemies" is a bit strong isn’t it? Not at all. Those who speak or act against the Magisterium whether they are clerical or lay are, wilfully or unwittingly, hell bent on leading the Church to the "auto-destruction" which Pope Paul VI warned of during his last days. Some examples. Every time a Catholic Archbishop takes an active part in an Anglican service a message is sent to our separated brethren that Catholicism and Anglicanism are interchangeable. They are not. If they were why would a former Anglican Bishop of London, now Father Leonard, and thousands of his fellow communicants, have crossed over to the Catholic Church? Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O’Connor participating on the altar in the Anglican thanksgiving service at St Paul’s Cathedral for the Queen Mother’s one hundredth birthday quite simply sends out a false message. Why did he do it? Never mind if he had been invited to take part; why couldn’t he have politely declined and demonstrated Catholic respect for the grand old lady by simply being a member of the congregation?

If he was trying to send some sort of message of ecumenical solidarity it failed badly. It was after all an Anglican service. Thinking Anglicans realise that the only true union will come by submission to the Holy See, the acceptance of the Pope as the successor of St Peter and of the Catholic Church as the one true Church of Christ. Former Anglican Bishop Leonard did the right thing. The present Catholic Archbishop Murphy-O’Connor did the wrong thing. His comments on the papal Declaration Dominus Iesus issued in August 2000, seem to indicate that he believes that the document, despite the clear statement that the Catholic Church is the "mother" of all particular churches, is simply something for bishops and theologians to wrestle with and of no consequence for laymen or for the ecumenical movement so enthusiastically pursued by him and his fellow bishops, including the late Cardinal Hume (1). Does his Grace really believe that Anglicanism and Catholicism can still be regarded as of equal status, as "our two churches"? - an expression which was used in the preface to the most recent ARCIC document which Archbishop Murphy-O’Connor signed as the then co-chairman. True, the signing took place before Dominus Iesus emerged from the Vatican, but instead of bowing before its definitive teaching he seems to fob it off as a plaything for theologians (c.f. article by Fr. Ian Ker, The Catholic Herald, 15/9/00, p.6). No wonder the Catholic Church in England and Wales is subject to so much "supermarket" theology and liturgy. The leadership sends a signal to the parishes that anything goes. Perhaps his Grace and his fellow bishops will now take note that Dominus Iesus has the full approval of the Holy Father and with this document the Pope has reasserted the primacy of the Catholic Church. Commenting on the declaration shortly after its publication Pope John Paul II said: "If the document, with Vatican II, declares the only Church of Christ is the Catholic Church, it doesn’t intend to express lack of consideration for the churches and ecclesiastic communities. This conviction is accompanied by the knowledge that it comes not through human merit, but as a sign of the faith of God that is stronger than any human weakness and sin." The bishops might also note and pass on to the faithful the Vatican’s statement that the document was issued because "some theologians had been hindering the Church’s missionary efforts by manipulating fundamental truths to depict all religions as the same" (1/10/00 AP].

Will they please also note that every time a Catholic priest in one of their dioceses gives up the altar to a nun who not only reads the Gospel in contravention of Canon Law but delivers the sermon as well, a message is sent to the faithful that Church law can be defied with impunity and that women priestesses in Roman copes are just around the corner, despite the Holy Father’s definitive ruling on this matter. Don’t you find that there is something devilishly defiant about all this?

Konstant's Cruelty: The Knottingley Affair
But let parishioners stand up for what is right and proper, behind a good priest in defiance of a bishop, and you will soon see what will happen. Take the scandal at Knottingley in West Yorkshire. The story is well worth re-telling.

Earlier this year The Catholic Herald (7/4/00), reported that parishioners had ended their three-year campaign to have the tabernacle placed behind the high altar in their new church. They did so after a personal appeal from their parish priest, who had clashed with local Bishop David Konstant over the Bishop’s desire to put the tabernacle, where the consecrated body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ is kept, in a side chapel.

It seems the good parish priest, a Father David Smith, had received a letter from Bishop Konstant "calling for an end to the dispute". In other words, he was ordered to stop his opposition and place the tabernacle in a side altar which Bishop Konstant regards as the proper place for the Blessed Eucharist in a parish church. The Bishop refused to consecrate the church until this was done.

An absolute scandal, of course, but as Linda Poskitt, who led the opposition to the changes, told The Catholic Herald: "Fr David has asked us to put it all behind us and move forward. We’ve agreed to do it mainly because we are concerned for him-for his career and his health. We will just have to comply with the Bishop’s wishes. But we will never agree with it. We are more concerned for Father David".

There is more. Welcoming "the end of the dispute," a spokesman for Leeds diocese, or, put another way, Bishop Konstant’s spin doctor, said: "It is good to see that Fr. Smith and the parishioners of St Michael’s parish have felt able to make this move. Everyone in the diocese is now looking forward to working together to achieve the best for the parish as it sets out on its journey of faith. The fire has left deep marks on the parish. The future must be a time of healing and further growth with the support of all the diocese. The Bishop is looking forward to celebrating the opening of this church with Father Smith and the parish on Pentecost Sunday". The irony of choosing Pentecost will not have escaped you. On the first Pentecost day the Apostles saw the promise of Our Lord fulfilled when they received the Spirit of Truth in the form of tongues of fire. But on Whitsunday in the year 2000 the good parishioners of Knottingley had to receive Bishop Konstant.

While you shake your head in disbelief at these events let me explain that St Michael’s, the church in question, was burnt down by an arsonist in 1997. The parishioners raised one hundred thousand pounds sterling to repair the gutted building and now the Bishop’s determination to impose his will and relegate the Blessed Sacrament to a side chapel will cost them another sixty thousand pounds. What a disgraceful business.

Konstant's "Developing Theology"
What do we know of Bishop Konstant? Until I began researching this article I knew nothing about him but then quite by chance I came across a studies document published by Approaches the excellent periodical established by the late great Catholic layman Hamish Fraser and now carried on by his son Anthony. The book in question entitled "Dossier on Cathechetics" was compiled by Michael Davies and published in December 197O. Within its pages we encounter a certain Father David Konstant, then a youthful priest but already showing signs of being a high flyer in his capacity as Westminster Catechetical Director. But the "Dossier on Cathechetics" found him abusing the ‘development of doctrine’. This is how they argued the case:

"An example of the manner in which ‘development of doctrine’ can be abused is found in an article by Fr. D Konstant, Westminster Catechetical Director, in The Universe, July 10, 1970. In an article aptly entitled 'Revolution in the R.E. Class', he stated: 'Once the religion teacher can accept the notion of a developing theology his biggest hurdle (which is one of attitude rather than knowledge ) is crossed'."

The "Dossier" tells us that the then Father Konstant was taken severely to task on this point by Fr Romuald Horn O.P. (The Universe, July 24,1970) who put it this way:

"If a lecturer in a teachers’ training college were to say: 'Christ achieved divinity' would Fr. Konstant call that a development? Perhaps the words of another teacher may be quoted: ‘The greatest care must be taken that the important duty of research does not involve the undermining of the truths of Christian doctrine. If this happens, and we have unfortunately seen it happen in these days, the result is perplexity and confusion in the minds of many of the faithful’ (Pope Paul VI)...what teaching has Fr.Konstant in mind: divine revelation to be believed or human science which can be understood? Who are his "pupils", theological students or schoolchildren? That he is interested in theological development is obvious in his article; there is less evidence of his interest in catechetics, or of his understanding of it."

Fr. Romuald Horn O.P. rebuking the youthful Fr. Konstant way back in July 1970. Thirty years later the rebuked priest had become the bullying Bishop of Leeds still pursuing his "developing theology" and forcing the good parishioners of St Michael’s, Knottingley, to refuse Our Lord His rightful place in the new church. Some "development"; some "theology".

Doesn’t the whole business stick in your craw? Why are these prelates allowed to get away with actions such as the Knottingley affair? Reading through the whole sorry story brought to mind Chaucer’s "Prologue" to the Canterbury Tales and his portrait of the "Poor Parson of the town", with Fr. David Smith of St Michael’s church cast in the lead role, and his parishioners as the "snowy flock". We don’t have to spell out who was, in Chaucerian parlance, the "shitten shepherd" in this real life drama.

The Tablet: "Treading in the footsteps of Luther"
Events such as the Knottingley scandal and the continual "modernising" of the Holy Mass, inflicted by clerics on Catholic congregations daily, are matched by the widespread apostasy of so-called "leading" Catholic laymen in the media who make a lively living out of criticising Church teaching and taking constant side swipes at papal authority.

Journals labelled as "Catholic" are among some of the worst offenders. Take The Tablet of London. Founded in 1840 soon after Emancipation, it rapidly became the voice of English Catholicism. A fearless upholder of Church teaching. It was a barque of Catholic truth in a sea of atheism and virulent anti-Catholicism.

But that was long ago and far away. After the last great editor Douglas Woodruff gave up the chair in 1967 it degenerated into yet another Modernist mouthpiece and week after week The Tablet illustrates the truth and wisdom of St Pius X when he wrote in his great encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis [On the Doctrines of the Modernists, 8 September 1907):

".....they feel no especial horror in treading in the footsteps of Luther and are wont to display a manifold contempt for Catholic doctrines, for the Holy Father, for the Ecumenical Councils, for the ecclesiastical magisterium; and should they be taken to task for this, they complain that they are being deprived of their liberty."

The 1 July 2000 edition of The Tablet vividly illustrates the great Pope’s prescience. There on the front page, in a banner headline, is the announcement: 'CONDOMS AND AIDS. Clifford Longley feels ashamed of the Catholic Church.' What is it that causes this Mr Longley to feel ashamed? In a full page article, in a very prominent position on page two, he tells us.

He is ashamed of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae which forbids the use of artificial birth control methods and the fact that since the first appearance of Aids, as he puts it: "spokesmen for the Church in various parts of the world have closed the door on one obvious remedy for the Aids/HIV epidemic, the ready availability of condoms."

He mentions a Catholic Church committee which has recommended making condoms available as the lesser of two evils and says: "There is no issue under heaven that causes more distress to practising Catholics than repeated Church opposition to the most effective, and therefore necessary remedy for preventing the spread of Aids. It is certainly not life that is being transmitted when someone with Aids has unprotected sexual intercourse. 'Each and every marriage act should remain open to the transmission of death' (Longley’s parody of the phrase, 'each and every marriage act should remain open to the transmission of life'] is a hellish doctrine that cannot possibly have been what Pope Paul VI intended."

Pope Clifford I: Infallibly Faithless
To which one must respond: "Oh really, Mr Longley, and how do you arrive at that conclusion? Is it one of those Modernist fuzzy inner-feelings again?" The present Pope, no intellectual slouch, fully supports Humanae Vitae, including its implications for Aids sufferers. It was he who coined the phrase, "the culture of death" and has written and spoken so forcibly on the subject. So here we go again, another Catholic layman setting himself up as his own Pope with a loud hailer blasting out his dissonance to a supine audience battered and confused by some forty years of Modernist distortion of Catholic Truth. But Clifford Longley is a sophisticated advocate of Bishop Konstant's "developing theology".

In an argument that makes the perjorative term "sophistical" seem positively flattering, he suggests that the "scandal" of the Church’s refusal to permit the use of condoms can be overcome by applying the principle of double effect. This is how he puts it:

"If a husband infected with Aids through a blood transfusion say, has intercourse with his wife, he is threatening her life if he does not use a condom. In using a condom this intent is to perform the subjectively and objectively good act of making love to her while not threatening her life. It is not, per se, to prevent conception; he may even regret that the condom also has that effect.

"But his semen contains an inextricable mixture of spermatozoa, whose journey to the Fallopian tube it is wrong (according to Humanae Vitae) deliberately to interrupt, and particles of HIV virus, the agent of an incurable and deadly disease which must be interrupted at all cost. In order to interrupt the latter it is inevitable, as a foreseeable but unintended consequence, that you also interrupt the former. This, under the principle of double effect, is allowable."

No it is not. Mr Longley has side-stepped the encyclical itself. Pope Paul VI, seeing as it were, the ‘Longley thesis’, thirty-eight years before it was made, set it all down in clear and unambiguous terms. Reminding us that any action is excluded which, "either before, or at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation - whether as an end or as a means", the encyclical continues:

"Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with the normal relations of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these. Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it - in other words, to intend positively something which intrinsically contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. Consequently it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong" (Humane Vitae, Encyclical Letter of Pope Paul VI, 1968, No.14].

If the Catholic Mr Longley is seriously concerned about preventing the spread of Aids why does he not support the Catholic position, as taught through the Magisterium, that the use of condoms is "intrinsically evil"? (Cathechism of the Catholic Church, Art.2370). Has he given up on the Catholic teaching on abstinence and chastity? That they are the only moral solutions short of a cure for the disease? Yes, of course he has. He has surrendered to popular opinion. Not once in his article does he even give thought to the power of prayer and the graces which we can receive in the most difficult circumstances, including sexual relations.

Every day, all over the world, even in the worst Aids ravaged areas, there are celibate priests and nuns, severely injured married men and women who have had to forego sex, lonely young people praying for a lifelong partner and the bereaved elderly among others, who despite the hardship, obey the teaching of the Church. They are displaying heroic virtues. And, praise the Lord, an increasing number of young single Catholic men and women are banding together to keep vows of chastity before marriage and of fidelity in marriage. I met a group of them in London the other day. They constitute part of a Church of which no man should be ashamed and all men should be proud - except, it appears, for Mr Longley and The Tablet. But then of course his article is just what The Tablet ordered. In case its Editor raises the argument that he was simply inviting an outside view, you should know that Mr Longley is not a casual contributor. He is listed as Editorial Consultant. So his views on Humanae Vitae can be construed as part of The Tablet’s editorial policy.

What was I saying about "enemies within"?


John Bishop is a veteran broadcaster and author. He writes from Surrey

 

(1) EDITORS NOTE: It was precisely to correct this same spurious view of Dominus Iesus put forward by Australia's Cardinal Cassidy, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, that John Paul II moved quickly to affirm his personal approval of the document. In response to Cassidy's attempt to undermine the authority of the declaration by stating that the Pope had not signed Dominus Iesus as he had done with his encyclical on ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint, John Paul went out of his way during a canonisation ceremony to declare: "This document was approved by me in a special way." Further adding that Dominus Iesus "means so much to me." Fearful that the truly Catholic "language and timing of the declaration was inopportune" and seeking a way around its clear and simple meaning, Cassidy, like Murphy-O'Connor and others, also claimed that Dominus Iesus was "a text for theologians and not for the ecumenical world"; written "by theologians, for theologians." In his thinly disguised rebuke of this episcopal deception, the Pope demolished such patronising, neo-Gnostic nonsense: "The declaration simply clarifies the essential Christian elements," he stated. "This does not put an obstacle to dialogue, rather it shows its foundations, because a dialogue without foundations would be destined to degenerate into empty verbiage."



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