Quite a few years ago, exasperated at the failure of an RAF Squadron Leader to get to grips with a project he was responsible for, a bunch of us conspired to make him responsible for a social evening, which, we suggested, ought to take place in the restaurant run by the local beer manufacturer. Our intention was to allow him to demonstrate whether or not he was capable of organising a piss-up in a brewery: he wasn't.
I look at the way the Hierarchy is organisaing the Papal visit, and I start to think similar thoughts. Just two examples:
The "Catholic" Education Service: it tried to set up a deal with Ed Balls which would allow abortion propoganda in Catholic schools when it was clear his party was about to be voted out; it then found a pro-life-some-of-the-time discredited MP to become its Deputy Head; now it has bravely set itself up against the idea that Catholic parents might take control of Catholic schools. Why?
The Hierarchy was given a mandate by the Pope during the ad limina visit at the start of the year:
"Your visit to Rome strengthens the bonds of communion between the Catholic community in your country and the Apostolic See, a communion that sustained your people’s faith for centuries, and today provides fresh energies for renewal and evangelization. Even amid the pressures of a secular age, there are many signs of living faith and devotion among the Catholics of England and Wales. I am thinking, for example, of the enthusiasm generated by the visit of the relics of Saint Thérèse, the interest aroused by the prospect of Cardinal Newman’s beatification, and the eagerness of young people to take part in pilgrimages and World Youth Days. On the occasion of my forthcoming Apostolic Visit to Great Britain, I shall be able to witness that faith for myself and, as Successor of Peter, to strengthen and confirm it. During the months of preparation that lie ahead, be sure to encourage the Catholics of England and Wales in their devotion, and assure them that the Pope constantly remembers them in his prayers and holds them in his heart."
How many of you, like me, have heard nothing whatsoever of any sort of preparation for this visit? How many of you, like me, have yet to find yourself in a church prepared to take up a second collection for the visit? I'm beginning to get a bit annoyed by all of this.
So here's a question: in the light of the forthcoming visit, who do the Bishops think they are?
Are they Princes of the Church, prepared to welcome their temporal superior? Are they Heads of a local Church prepared to welcome their Patriarch? Are they the servants of God, prepared to welcome the Servant of the Servants of God?
Or are they the equal (or even the better) of the Pope?
And where do they think that we fit in (other than putting notes into the collection)?