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.
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?
Cruelty: The Knottingley Affair
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.
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:
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.
Tablet: "Treading in the footsteps of Luther"
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):
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."
Clifford I: Infallibly Faithless
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:
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:
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."