Saturday, December 08, 2012

The Silence Continues

I cannot help but feel very angry that since the letter from the Archbishops of the four Provinces of England and Wales we have heard nothing officially from the Bishops or the Bishop's Conference on "gay-marriage". In the last few days I have received communications from several individual priests urging me to write to my MP or to the Prime Minister, I have also received emails from a few non-Catholic Ministers of Religion and a local Rabbi, and as it is Brighton from a group of Gay Christians who recognise the redefinition of marriage as an attack on the stability of the family but from the hierarchy there is only continuous silence.

Many of our Bishops are holy and all are good men but I am convinced it is the Episcopal Conference structure that keeps them from giving any leadership to the Church and the country. However if the problem is not the Conference then we do need to ask serious questions of our Bishops but they are not questions I can ask publicly as a priest.

A Curial Bishop once told me that a few Episcopal Conferences in the world give leadership but most frustrate it. In our case the Bishop's Conference certainly frustrates the accountability of individual Bishops to their Presbyterates and their people, an accountability which was in the vision of Vatican II, in its strengthening of the bond between a Bishop and his diocese. The principle of subsidiarity meant that Bishops spoke collectively only when really necessary and for "pastoral good". However what we have is that every action or more often inaction is based on collective responsibility, which means no Bishop takes responsibility for much more than minor administrative tasks in his own diocese. Little is their responsibility, all is the collective responsibility of the Bishops Conference or particular Commissions of the Bishops Conference. The Pope spoke about this in the past particularly in the 80s in the Ratzinger Report.
The decisive new emphasis on the role of the bishops is in reality restrained or actually risks being smothered by the insertion of bishops into episcopal conferences that are ever more organized, often with burdensome bureaucratic structures. We must not forget that the episcopal conferences have no theological basis, they do not belong to the structure of the Church, as willed by Christ, that cannot be eliminated; they have only a practical, concrete function. (The Ratzinger Report, 59-61)
For years there have been mutterings about a rift been our Bishops Conference and various Dicasteries in Rome, this perhaps is an inevitable part of the life of the post-Concilliar Church, individual bishops are successors of the Apostles in their own right and not merely delegates of Peter. However the rift is more likely to come from the reliance on a process which seems designed to frustrate decision making.

Recently Archbishop Mennini suggested our Bishops should look at France for a model of action and leadership on the defence of Marriage. Sandro Magister gives a brief description of what is happening in there under Cardinal Vingt-Trois leadership.

No one would have bet on it. But after decades of invisibility and torpor, the French Catholic Church has returned vigorously to the public scene. It was a minority and a minority it remains, in a country where less than 5 percent of the population goes to Sunday Mass, and where baptisms of children are increasingly rare. But it is one thing to give up, to and another to be creative. That of "creative minority" is the future that pope Joseph Ratzinger himself has assigned to Catholicism in secularized regions. The Church of France is putting this to the test. The turnaround came all of a sudden. One sign of foreshadowing was, in mid-August, the prayer that the archbishop of Paris, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois..., had raised to Our Lady of the Assumption: "May children and young people cease to be the object of the desires and conflicts of adults, in order to enjoy fully the love of a father and mother." A furious controversy exploded, in a France on the path to legalizing marriage between persons of the same sex, with the possibility of adopting.
Whether or not there will be the type of mass demonstration in our country as in France is uncertain, we tend not take to the barricades quite so easily but there seems to be a growing degree of unease about this issue as even the secular media begin to understand the implications of any new law that might be forced on the country by Mt Cameron. Few of the professional political class are willing to be stand out from the pack and risk being called "bigot" or "homophobe" or to be seen as out of step with the sacred cow of "equalities legislation", there is void that is crying out to be filled. Even in Ireland the poor beleaguered discredited Irish Bishops are taking to the streets and giving a lead in the current aborttion debate, they too are an example to our own Bishops.

There is a point when failure to act or to speak becomes a scandal to the faithful, I think we have reached this point. The silence seems to indicate tolerance of the impending change in the Law or even assent, which is obviously not the position at odds with the Catholic Church. What can we do? The answer is sadly most probably nothing, because any decision to act depends on a collective decision.

Perhaps one might suggest that the Conference is negotiating quietly behind the scenes but again and again this seems to be inaffective, access doesn't not necessarily give influence, and indeed under the last Labour Government or this one, the Church's influence has gradually grown less and less.

Let us heed the words of our Nuncio and learn from the French Bishops


Jessica Hoff said...

If the trumpet does not give a clear note, then how shall the people know? The Bishops seem more concerned with global warming than with Christian marriage.

Genty said...

But the premier cleric of England and Wales, the laid-back Archbishop of Westminster, has already spoken and I quote: "Who knows what's down the road?"

GOR said...

I applauded those words of the Holy Father in the Ratzinger Report and have referred to them more than once. To me episcopal conferences are a waste most of the time. They ‘give cover’ to pusillanimous bishops who avoid taking positions or showing leadership by referring matters to the conference.

They also create ever expanding layers of bureaucracy and generate reams of reports to which no one pays any attention. Then they have ‘spokespersons’ from the various committees pontificating to the media about the ‘mind’ of the conference.

In the business world if you wanted to shelve something indefinitely or deep-six it, you formed a committee or a study group. Episcopal conferences are aping the business world instead of providing individual leadership.

Bishop Bruskiewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska had it right when he refused to go along with the USCCB’s abuse reporting procedures a few years back. He said: “They don’t speak for me!” And they don’t – not for him nor for any individual bishop.

We need more like him.

Fr Seán Coyle said...

I am heartened to see the Irish bishops finding their voice(s) again. And more and more bishops in the USA have found their voices in the last two or three years along with a msall number in Canada. And in Britain you have a couple of voices in the hierarchy north of Hadrian's Wall. Signs of hope in the predominantly English-speaking countries.

Jeremiah Methuselah said...

An excellent article Father Blake, thank you so much for ventilating this most serious issue. When I was told, by a reliable person : “The Bishops of England and Wales have given their blessing to same-sex civil partnerships” I felt that was the end of the line - “what will they do (or not do) next ?” was my reaction.

If these pusillanimous prelates are so ready and obedient to the over-vocal modern liberal fringe of the Church (OK, that can be debated) that they stoop so low, then the act of hope that they will eventually fill their God-assigned role of protecting and defending the faith of all time will just be a phantasmagorical reverie.

Heaven help us when they ignore one of the most pressing and vital moral issues of the day, to their great shame. John Milton got it right : “to lowest pitch of abject fortune thou art fallen ”.

Anonymous said...

The ultimate aim of the 'equality programme' is to abolish the two most exclusive terms of all - 'male' and 'female', and this will happen within the next decade, if those who care, and/or whose duty it is to promote and defend (at the very least) the natural good of man, do not adopt a more robust and co-ordinated response to the latest stage in this diabolical programme - the threat to marriage.

The duty to defend marriage as the lifelong union between a man and a woman is incumbent upon all baptised Christians

Lepanto said...

This demonstration of the negative effects of reliance on collective responsibility might be a good thing. There must be at least one or two bishops thinking what you are saying and getting ready to 'do their own thing', this time and in the future.

nickbris said...

I'm beginning to think that the whole thing is a mega fiendish plot to piss off the majority of people to take their minds off what is really going on.

The wealthy are still filling their boots,millions are living in abject poverty and nothing can be done about it.

The anger being built up about abherrants taking over civilisation is keeping us warm.

Long-Skirts said...

Jeremiah Methuselah said...

"Heaven help us when they ignore one of the most pressing and vital moral issues of the day, to their great shame."

...but they're at Peace


There can be no peace
If not of good will.
There can be no race
For those who stand still.

Only she –
Full of grace
Was the miracle
Set in place.

To magnify
Her soul prepared
By God her spirit -
Never ensnared.

“Blessed art thou…”
Gabriel hailed
And at that moment
The enemy railed.

For he remembered
In the garden free
Between him and a woman

But who the woman?
God did not tell
Then Gabriel’s “Ave”
Shook the depths of Hell.

And Satan screamed
Turned on a wing
To offer some peace
And will good to a King.

“Peace.” Herod said,
“And yes good will…
I’ve a right to my reign,
If some Innocents I kill!”

Long-Skirts said...

"I am heartened to see the Irish bishops finding their voice(s)...and more bishops in the USA have found their voices... with a msall number in Canada...Britain you have a couple of voices"


As Roman Catholic mother of 6 boys I say, lets hope they find their "huevos"!!!!

Delia said...

One thing our bishops could certainly do is to organize simultaneous all-night prayer vigils on this issue in their cathedrals and in any parish churches able to take part. No problem In Westminster Cathedral with its swanky new loos!

Nicolas Bellord said...

A brave and excellent post Father. I scratch my head and wonder what is happening. The only explanation is that some are in a blue funk. Fear is a debilitating disease as Aung San Suu Kyi has frequently pointed out in her calls for Freedom from Fear.

Fear of what though? Ridicule etc or is there something more? Have the opposition got something on our Bishops?

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...