Musings about Tradition in the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and an attempt to collect essays and articles which would appear in a Catholic press which exercised critical solidarity with the Hierarchy.
Anagnostis reminded me of something Evelyn Waugh wrote, "Scott-King's Modern Europe", which contains one of his profound insights, which condenses into a few lines the world view which dominated his thinking after the Second World War.
“You know,” [the headmaster] said, “we are starting this year with fifteen fewer classical specialists than we had last term?”
“I thought that would be about the number.”
“As you know I’m an old Greats man myself. I deplore it as much as you do. But what are we to do? Parents are not interested in producing the ‘complete man’ any more. They want to qualify their boys for jobs in the modern world. You can hardly blame them, can you?”
“Oh yes,” said Scott-King. “I can and do.”
“I always say you are a much more important man here than I am. One couldn’t conceive of Granchester without Scott-King. But has it ever occurred to you that a time may come when there will be no more classical boys at all?”
“Oh yes. Often.”
“What I was going to suggest was—I wonder if you will consider taking some other subject as well as the classics? History, for example, preferably economic history?”
“But, you know, there may be something of a crisis ahead.”
“Then what do you intend to do?”
“If you approve, headmaster, I will stay as I am here as long as any boy wants to read the classics. I think it would be very wicked indeed to do anything to fit a boy for the modern world.”
“It’s a short-sighted view, Scott-King.”
“There, headmaster, with all respect, I differ from you profoundly. I think it the most long-sighted view it is possible to take.”
I have spent too much time recently in Terminal 3 at Heathrow. (To be fair, any time spent at Terminal 3 is too much time if Terminal 5 is on offer, but it hasn't been.)
Do you remember the Curial Bishop who was supposed to accompany the Pope here who had suddenly to fall ill and withdraw after he was quoted saying that arriving in Britain was like arriving in the Third World? Well he was right. British citizen, valid pasport, hand luggage only: how long should it take from stepping off the plane to stepping out of the Terminal? I'd have said fifteen minutes plus another five for Immigration, but recently planes have been parking up in what feels to be as far away as Hertfordshire and then gradually disgorging passengers into tiny buses, and Immigration seems woefully undermanned, with long snaking queues of hundreds of people in front of you in the queue. And the grime is inescapable. It takes forever.
And departing! You can play the system, or at least gamble on successfully playing the system: hand luggage only, check in before leaving home, eat and drink at a pitstop off the motorway and within 10 minutes of the terminal, arrive exactly one hour before scheduled departure, and keep moving through security and straight on to the gate which will have been announced by the time you arrive. But that requires a journey that involves somebody with time to indulge you agreeing to drop you off. The alternative is jostling vast crowds for somewhere to sit and paying outrageous prices even to replace the bottle of water confiscated from you on the way in.
And no time to think; no time to find anywhere quiet to stop and reflect; no fresh air ...
The write-ups of the Low Week Meeting of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales is no laughing matter. "The Bishops’ Conference asks the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis to coordinate the process of consultation on the Synod of Bishops’ 2012 Lineamenta and to supervise the production of a response on behalf of the Conference" is the sort of thing they run off, or rather, that their staffs run off. This is an NGO like so many other NGOs in this fair land whose bureaucracy substitutes turgid officialese for clear words. But some interesting stuff has seeped through: interesting enough to make me wonder if the supertanker might be preparing to turn.
Among the Plenary Resolutions listed here, comes this:
"The Bishops’ Conference reviewed their aims and objectives for the next three to five years. The source of these aims and objectives are the vision and priorities found in the teaching which His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI set forth during his visit to the United Kingdom in 2010. They are also rooted in the requirement of the core work of Episcopal Conferences set out by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church."
(Note the use of capital letters, by the way.)
Now, there's nothing on view as helpful as a list of the new or revised aims and objectives, but there is a contextualisation here of where the new aims and objectives come from that leave me at least hopeful that real change might be on the way. Yes, they are insisting on Episocopalconferencism as a foundation of their "right" to set their aims and objectives: but the Pope's vision and priorities should be enough to set that "right" in perspective and keep it pointed in the right direction.
I found their document on Social Action (here) even more interesting. It says that the Bishops' Conference has two subordinate organisations involved in social action, both of which are subordinate to Caritas Internationalis: CAFOD and CSAN: Caritas Social Action Network. It then says that while everybody at the Conference is very pleased with what CAFOD is up to, it's about time we started to put more emphasis into what CSAN is, can, and should be doing at home, and some serious work is going to be put into identifying what that might mean over the next year.
Two thoughts spring to my mind, both positive: first, that the ludicrous identification of Catholic social action with an organisation indistinguishable from its non-Catholic peers except for its right to the first-fruits of Catholic charitable giving in England and Wales might be beginning to be weakened, and in favour of an organisation which will have to match up to Catholic social teaching in that very difficult area - right in front of its donors' eyes - and which might be about to reach some level of maturity.
Second, that this might be a straw in the wind: that if the reported Vatican crack down on Caritas Internationalis organisations which want to self identify as Catholic, without actually having to behave as Catholic, leads to CAFOD (for example) breaking away from Caritas Internationalis, then the Bishops' Conference has a manageable substitute in the wings. This, of course, puts the Conference into a win-win situation with regards to CAFOD's future direction.
Maybe I'm misreading this completely, but maybe I'm not: maybe this is the way Archbishop Nichols is asserting control, while not losing his left flank.
(There is some other interesting stuff about looking at the structures of the Conference itself, but I reckon that's there just to keep the staff under control!)
When I first read what the Bones had to say about the initial meeting of what might or might not become a Guild of Catholic Bloggers, I must admit to a certain disappointment:
"So, the idea came about to see if we can form some kind of a shared blog in which we can pool our talents, knowledge and reflections on the Catholic Faith. ... All in all, this is a project that could bring into 'one fold' several different blogging sheep, united in the common bond of the Catholic Faith, all determined to defend the Magisterium and the Supreme Pontiff. It was suggested that the blog would be simple in as much as it will simply teach the Catholic Faith - an evangelical mission using the internet to propagate the Faith. ... The shared blog would be an independent mission seeking only to raise awareness and educate those within and without the Church in the Faith. This blog would steer clear of some of the more controversial disputes within the Church, steer clear of polemics even, and simply reflect that Deposit of Faith guarded by Pope Benedict XVI and taught by Bishops loyal to him. It's great strength is that it is a grassroots blogging movement, that membership is free, that nobody is paid, but that we are all contributing to a new and exciting blog that will reflect the array of Catholic blogging talent that exists in the Church in the United Kingdom."
When I re-read it, I started to get a lot more enthusiastic. A focused, didactic blog about the Faith (especially if Paul Priest can be persuaded to write about philosophy and not just comment over at Damian's) is something we don't have at the moment, and for those of us who have pretty well given up hope about learning about our Faith (as opposed to learning about the Third World) from the pulpit, something devoutly to be desired.
A further musing made me start to think that there needs to be three axes to the E&W Catholic blogosphere: one didactic, a sort of Catholic Evidence Guild; one about the world of today as seen through the prism of Faith (the sort of thing the E&W priest bloggers tend to be rather good at); and one more inward looking, looking at the Church itself and its hierarchy and organisation. (This last axis is where I often find myself and it is probably a good idea to be able to distinguish it from the other two, as things can get heated at times.)
And thinking about all of that, I, who am emphatically not a joiner, started to think that a loose confederation of bloggers who could sign up to "united in the common bond of the Catholic Faith, all determined to defend the Magisterium and the Supreme Pontiff" and "simply reflect that Deposit of Faith guarded by Pope Benedict XVI and taught by Bishops loyal to him" might be something I'd be keen to associate myself with, especially as yesterday's Instruction was so clear (while addressing itself specifically to Bishops) about their doing what was in the Pope's mind.
Who knows - a series of different people able to cover the waterfront, able to enunciate different aspects of Catholic Life exactly in conformity with the will and intentions of the Holy Father: we could even call the project "Catholic Voices". .
I had hoped to be able to report gleefully on the Catholic men of Blackfen and Brighton tarring and feathering those who have calumnied one of "our" priests, but they must still be working off the monster hangovers from the Royal Wedding celebrations. Still: it will wait.
What follows is quite long but worth reading for the light it sheds on why we are in the mess were in, and what we look like to outsiders. It comes from the judgement in the appeal by the Diocese of Leeds against the ruling by the Charity Commission that Catholic Care, the diocesan adoption agency, should allow gay couples to put themselves forward as potential adoptive parents. The full judgement is here, but I have copied a section of it.
This isn't about the case itself: it's about Bishop Roche and his curia. I bet it could be about almost any of our Dioceses.
"24. The Tribunal also heard oral evidence from the Right Reverend Arthur Roche, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds, who was called by the Charity. He is the ex-officio Chairman of the Charity and in his witness statement he explained that, as the Bishop of the Diocese in which the Charity is based, he is responsible for ensuring that its activities are within the tenets of the Church: “in effect I am the arbiter of faith in respect of the activities of the Charity”. The Bishop told the Tribunal that the Church’s teaching is that a full sexual union without marriage is unacceptable, so that adoption services could not be offered by the Charity to unmarried heterosexual couples or to same sex couples. He did not think it generally acceptable for a single person to adopt, although he was aware that the Charity had in the past placed a child for adoption with a single adopter. He said he could not explain why the Charity’s website apparently suggested that single adopters were able to use the Charity’s services and said that whilst he was involved in setting the Charity’s policies, he did not necessarily know what went onto its website.
25. The Charity’s proposed objects (as currently drafted) did not seek to discriminate against same sex foster carers. The Commission had been informed by the Charity during the internal review process that the Charity did not object to placing children with same sex foster carers because this did not involve the creation of a family. When asked about this, the Bishop disagreed with this statement of the Charity’s policies and said he did not know why the proposed objects had been drafted in that way. He did not think the Charity had ever placed a child for fostering with a same sex couple and did not think it should. He thought that if a same sex couple who were already fostering a child applied to the Charity for assistance to adopt it, they would be referred to another voluntary adoption agency.
26. The Bishop explained that, as he had taken the view that adoption services could not, consistently with the tenets of the Church, be offered to same sex couples then (unless permission were to be given to amend the objects to allow discrimination) the Charity would close its adoption service completely. He said there was no “Plan B” in this regard, although he told the Tribunal he was aware of various re-structuring arrangements which had been adopted by other Catholic adoption agencies. These included instances of de-merger with the Church or making a gift of their assets to another agency on a restricted basis. He did not think that the Charity could re-structure so as to be able to continue its adoption work because he said the necessary financial backing from its supporters would not be available. He said that “the people who provide us with funds have clear views on these matters”. The Bishop told the Tribunal that he did not know how many Catholics supported same sex adoptions, he just knew that the stance the Charity had adopted in this matter had attracted much support. When asked if a change of stance might not in fact attract new supporters who did not oppose same sex adoptions, he responded that this was untested water. He told the Tribunal that since the suspension of the Charity’s adoption service it had received over 100 enquiries from potential adopters. These people had been referred to Barnardo’s and the NSPCC, which both operate voluntary adoption services in the same geographic region as the Charity.
27. The Bishop explained that the Charity had provided a service of real benefit to the community and enjoyed a high reputation for its adoption work, especially its post-adoption support services. He considered that this accounted for the low number of the Charity’s placements which had subsequently broken down (5%, as against a figure of 6% for voluntary adoption agencies generally and about 20% for local authority adoption placements). When asked to describe how the ability to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation would assist the Charity in its work, he explained that charities want their income to be applied to their own vision of what is in the best interests of the child. He thought that voluntary income had dropped off in areas such as Birmingham and Cardiff when there had been de-mergers of voluntary adoption agencies from the Church. The Bishop told the Tribunal that he agreed with the principle that a child should have the widest possible pool of potential adopters. He said he had heard that same sex couples rarely adopt hard to place children, although when directed to the evidence before the Tribunal which contradicted that view (see paragraph 51) he was prepared to accept that he might be mistaken on that point. (Mr McCall helpfully conceded on behalf of his client that the suggestion that same sex couples did not adopt hard to place children was no part of the Charity’s case).
28. The Bishop described the Charity’s approach to fund-raising, which he said was often conducted through appeals at Masses and in schools. The Bishop was asked how he knew that the Charity’s donors would end their financial support for the Charity if it offered adoption services to same sex adopters. He explained that the Charity has always been very clear about the family structure it promoted (the “Nazarene family”) and that this gives people confidence in the Charity. He said that he had written pastoral letters to the Diocese about this case and was surprised by the many letters of support he had received. He told the Tribunal he did not consider that the Charity’s adoption services would be viable without funding from members of the Catholic Church. He thought that the receipt of donations and the promotion of a Nazarene family structure went hand in hand. He commented that the law does not require the Catholic Church to bless civil partnerships and he thought that the law should allow the Church to act in accordance with its conscience in relation to same sex adoptions also.
There are two separate things going on here. First, the Bishop has gone to one of the most important meetings he will ever attend as a Bishop and is completely unprepared. His performance is woeful. "He did not think it generally acceptable for a single person to adopt, although he was aware that the Charity had in the past placed a child for adoption with a single adopter. He said he could not explain why the Charity’s website apparently suggested that single adopters were able to use the Charity’s services and said that whilst he was involved in setting the Charity’s policies, he did not necessarily know what went onto its website." This from the Bishop who says that “in effect I am the arbiter of faith in respect of the activities of the Charity”. There are three possibilities: one, that he just didn't bother to prepare; two, that he assumes that his staff will make sure that he is adequately prepared for important meetings which are outside his area of main competence and they hadn't; three, that he wasn't expecting to be questioned (in the sense that his authority as Head of the local Church would be a given to the Tribunal which would not correct him).
One of his interventions is embarrassing: "He said he had heard that same sex couples rarely adopt hard to place children, although when directed to the evidence before the Tribunal which contradicted that view (see paragraph 51) he was prepared to accept that he might be mistaken on that point. (Mr McCall helpfully conceded on behalf of his client that the suggestion that same sex couples did not adopt hard to place children was no part of the Charity’s case)." Bear in mind that Mr McCall is acting for the Bishop: his own barrister is telling the Tribunal to ignore what his client has just come out with.
Some while ago, I blogged about the fact that few of the Catholic Bishops had experienced the same sort of tertiary education as many of their contemporaries in public life: this is perhaps an example of the consequences of that lack of experience.
I said there were two concerns: my other is about what is going on in the Diocese behind the Bishop's back. I complain enough about the influence of the employees of the Bishops' Conference: here's an example of the same thing in microcosm. In spite of the Bishop being pretty clear on the Catholic view of hoew an adoption agency should work, and into what sort of family structure children should be placed, his own adoption agency was doing exactly what it wanted: happily referring gay couples to other agencies, placing at least one child with a single parent, and allowing gay couples to foster. Whatever Bishop Roche's expectation of Catholic policies from his organisation, they were being ignored, by people who are happily taking the diocesan shilling.
Of course, the poor old Catholic faithful of the Diocese of Leeds have paid good money for all of this, and are expected to keep on paying. .