Monday, October 06, 2014

Not Cowards but English


I was asked to take part in a radio programme which was broadcast on Thursday night on Radio 4 about the Synod. I spent a pleasant quarter of an hour talking to the producer/researcher (?) 'off the record'. I think he said he had spoken to thirty or so clergy who like me had misgivings about the whole thing, as well trends within the Church but none of us were willing to speak 'on the record'.

My initial reaction was, 'aren't we a lot of cowards' but on reflection I think we are just English. We are used to muddling through, we like muddling through, it iis a cultural thing, that is why we don't even have something as vulgar as a Constitution. The only cleric who did speak, not that I actually listened that closely, was that quintessential Irish Cardinal, Cormac Murphy O'Connor, who I love but who like the horse trader he is set out his usual string of elderly windy nags.

What I really am beginning to resent are men with 'ideas' (Francis' ideologues?) but who never seem concerned about Christ or the Gospel or holiness or ultimately Eternal Life, who turn the Church into a debating chamber. I hate their squabbles, I detest their clever solutions. The spiritual life is about muddling through, the muddle is the wound of concupiscence, I just wish we had men who recognise the muddle for what it is and point to Christ as our hope but no, it is about clever schemes to deal with the previous clever schemes that have got us into the mess we are already in. Why do so many of our Bishops and senior clergy sound like Enda Kenny or Nick Clegg rather than Christ? Why the strong reek of the politician?

Naturally I am jaded by the recent events in my own diocese but after only a week I detect attitudes have changed, hurt has moved from our ex-bishop, let me simply say he should not have been appointed, pray for him. I blame the good old magic circle, which in reality is more like a web and it is the spider in the middle who will I suspect will be the ultimate recipient of anger. What stinks is that it is about all power, and factions and so very little about Christ. In future I hope the Nuncio actually makes sure he asks such simple questions as: do you believe? and, are you willing to follow the discipline of the Church? A question I suspect which was of little concern in the Venerable English College and  other seminaries, and amongst senior prelates for decades. The preferred question was: do you belong to my faction? As Pope Francis might say it is about 'careerism', that is on the days on which he doesn't show favour to yet another careerist, but it is so endemic in the Church, the poor man can't avoid it. Incidentally, yes, we all knew about the rumours but consoled ourselves that they were only rumours. We trusted those who appointed him, we trusted Cormac our former bishop, the then Nuncio, Archbishop Puente and Rome.

I think we English actually find politics, including Church politics, rather distasteful - which is why we have had so many foreign (Scottish) Prime Ministers: Cameron, Brown, Blair, Hume, MacMillan, even why we have tended to import foreign monarchs Germans, Scots, Welsh. Yes, yes I am being frivolous, my tongue is definitely in my cheek but I think there is something very English in despising public controversy and thinking those who take part in it as being just short of beneath contempt, which is why we eventually dismiss and despise our Prime Ministers like inept servants.

The politicking and partisanship of the Synod seems distasteful to my sensibilities, public squabbles are for foreigners not for the English. South Americans might well have revolutions, North Americans their powerful capitalit barons with unlimited political influence, Germans their putsches, Italians vendettas, but we English just like to muddle through.There is something grossly unpleasant about dirty washing being seen in public or Cardinals behaving like fish wives and washer women or worse still, bragging about their influence and whose ear they have in their back pocket - that is the ultimate crime for us English which some have never learnt - but that is the nature of a Synod and of most clerical gatherings.

Standby for a great deal more of wrangling, daftness, and horse dealing but ultimately in the final document the Kasperite and anti-Kasperite faction will have reach some kind of agreed statement in the final Synod document. In some cases the medicine can be worse than cure and the big question is can the Church's leadership hold it together or will unity be so damaged that we end up as some kind of federated Church, much like it looks as the once United Kingdom will become under the Cameroons or the Milibanders.

Fragmentation is in the air!
And while mud wrestling goes on in public what really matters is going on in back rooms with sleight of hand by worldly men.

14 comments:

Just another mad Catholic said...

You said Father, what I am thinking

Sixupman said...

Bravo Father! I fear preferment will not come your way. Canon Sheehan's book "Luke Delmege" deal with the issue of Church politics, very moving.

gemoftheocean said...

Oh, I think the English LOVE political fights. But you do it differently. You never confront head on, but throw the handgrenades and artfully duck, and if you are VERY clever, no one knows that you [generic you, not *you*] did it.

As far as "Why do so many of our Bishops and senior clergy sound like Enda Kenny or Nick Clegg rather than Christ? Why the strong reek of the politician?" Liberation Theology BS. Has been under wraps, but since Pope Frankie, who is the ultimate careerist, has been in the ascendancy, it only makes the home grown libbies bolder.

The trouble is if someone really *wants* to be a bishop, he all too often shouldn't be, and too many good priests, who should be bishops, don't want the gig....because they know the big pain in the rear the job entails. Harder to juggle the responsibilities and still *enjoy* being a priest, I expect.

My good friend in the states, Monsignor Shipley once told me that early in his time as a priest, he could see they were trying to set him up on the path most future bishops take: further study in Rome (which he did) then "bishop's secretary" type jobs -- he told them "no dice" as far as that sort of thing went.

Some "careerist" types have been known to be ordained in another diocese, in hopes that they get on the path of bishop, with delusions of grandeur that eventually they will make the cut and get sent back to the original "big deal" diocese they first left. Politicians from the word "go."

But overall you are right. The English don't like OVERT conflict. Covert? They are masters.

Francis said...

On the point about everyone knowing the rumours (and I am a party to them too, even though I live in North America and was alerted to the potential problem years ago by the 2002 CO article): I think it's human nature (and not just English reserve) not to confront someone about rumours but just to carry on hoping and praying that potentially earth-shattering bad news is not true.

Thomas said...

Dear Father, please be careful of speaking "off the record". There is no such thing in journalistic reality. They can and will use what you say and attribute it to you if it suits them (or their editors). It's just that if they want to cultivate a more long term relationship and come back to you for more inside track, they won't normally betray your sense of trust. But there's nothing to stop them.

As for "windy old nags", I'm afraid they seem to be under some delusion that they are men of some importance in the eyes of the world and of the faithful. The truth is that the world thinks they are fools at best and knaves at worst. As for what the faithful think, I think your own assessment will prove true. Dear Lord, give us men of God rather than "men of the Church"!

Maria said...

Dear Father Ray, thank you for your loyalty , courage and honesty and goodness. It helps to sustain me and stops me from feeling despair about the future of the Church . I will pray for you .

Joao said...

Is a "federated church" still "The Church"?

Wouldn't a "federated church" falsify what the Church says (or used to say) about herself?

JARay said...

Some very interesting comments above! I particularly liked the bit "the ultimate careerist, Pope Frankie" and "windy old nags" that the world thinks are fools at best and naves at worst!
There is no doubt that the "magic circle" has produced far too many fools at best and naves at worst. The sensus fidelium is only too well aware of the failings of that circle. Unfortunately it only seems to be getting worse, not better.
That said, I am not without confidence that those who are muddling through will indeed muddle through and get there alright.

Patrick Langan said...

Great to see you in good form again Father Ray! You have been a bit subdued recently. The main thrust of your piece is spot on and encouraging to see however the picture you paint of your fellow countrymen and their relationship with us Scots is to say the least a bit indulgent. The catholicity of holy mother church in relation to the UK situation displays the image of the eccentric Englishman,loveable but frustrating. Henry VIIi and all that Catholic endeavour, Divorce, remarriage and all the baggage. Things change but stay the same! God bless Father from the Brent Alpha Oil platform, say a prayer for me

Mater mari said...

And thanks be to God for the many loyal and devoted priests (including some outstanding ones in the diocese of Arundel and Brighton) who soldier on in spite of attacks from the Devil, manifest in several different forms. Thank you Father.

Zephyrinus said...

Wonderful Article, Fr. You've said it all, really.

In reply to our dear "gemoftheocean", who said: "The trouble is if someone really *wants* to be a bishop, he all too often shouldn't be . . .", I am reminded of the pithy saying from a very good Army Regiment: "If you NEED the Rank, you're not worth it. If you're WORTH the Rank, you don't need it".

God Bless, Fr. Keep up the good fight. God is on our side.

Liam Ronan said...

I appreciate your candour, Father, as well as your mix of tongue-in-cheek.

Given the times we live in I feel it is natural to feel exhausted and tempted to disengage regardless of our deep desire to be about God's business at every moment.

I recall the words of Luke 22:45 when Our Lord was sweating blood, in the throes of agony and He returned to find His disciples:

"... sleeping, overwrought with sorrow."

His Agony, and they asleep from grief!

"How can you sleep? he asked. Rise up and pray, so that you may not enter into temptation." Luke 22:46

Stricken and weary as we all are for Christ and His Bride's present agony, we must pray fervently that God's Will be done.

Liam Ronan said...

Just as an aside, does anyone want to place a wager on who will be announced as the new Nobel Peace Prize winner this Friday?

I have my suspicions.

James said...

Why do so many of our Bishops and senior clergy sound like Enda Kenny or Nick Clegg rather than Christ? Why the strong reek of the politician?

## Might not a comparison to Tony Blair be more apposite ? Or did the Blairification of the Church take place at V2 ? The Popes have made the same mistake as David Cameron - they have alienated their natural supporters in the process of trying to appeal to those who despise the Church.

Unlike in British politics, the loopy raving nonsense from Rome comes to us without our voting for it. Popes can't be impeached when they go on a wrecking spree - they have to be endured. So we get the worst of both worlds. Did Christ really intend this when He committed His keys to St Peter ?