29 May 1982
The alleged disobedience of Mgr. Lefebvre, which derives solely from his concern to uphold orthodoxy, must always be set within the context of the Conciliar Church, in which not only the actions of diocesan bishops undermine orthodoxy, but, alas, on occasions that of the Sovereign Pontiff himself. The Pope's frequent interventions on behalf of orthodoxy have been cited in this book. They indicate that he clearly wishes to uphold the Faith, even though these interventions have usually proved ineffective at diocesan or parish levels. Charity demands that we presume that such acts as his visit to Canterbury, or his later visits to a Lutheran church and a synagogue, were motivated by a sincere desire to present the Church as sympathetically as possible to those outside her unity, and to hasten the day when they will enter into her visible unity. But, however sincere his motivation, this does not alter the fact that such actions by the Pope are objectively scandalous and impede rather than hasten the cause of visible unity. They give those outside the Church the impression that the Holy See considers false religions to be as acceptable as the one, true Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ. This is made clear in the following article which I wrote for the September 1982 issue of Approaches, No. 78.
The Papal Visit – A Protestant Triumph
It is not part of the Catholic Faith that the Pope is inerrant or impeccable. He can be cowardly, compromising, imprudent, and sinful- in other words, a cause of scandal to the faithful. When Dante put several popes in hell, no one was scandalized by this in his day. Some conservative Catholics today consider that the least criticism of a reigning pontiff is a cause of scandal in itself, and this is not surprising as for well over a hundred years we had a series of popes whose lives and teachings were a source of inspiration to the Church. Then came Pope John XXIII, a good, well-meaning man in many ways, and extremely conservative in outlook on some matters, but a little too anxious to win popular acclaim, a little too inclined to make statements on some subjects that accorded with prevailing popular opinion rather than the perennial teaching of the Church, particularly where social teaching was concerned. He made some Catholics uneasy. They did not criticize him of course -good Catholics do not criticize the Pope. But long before the death of his successor, Pope Paul VI, many good Catholics were criticizing a reigning pontiff very vigorously -and criticizing him because they were good Catholics. Not all this criticism was well founded, but much of it was, and where this was the case those who made it were doing no more than their duty.
St. Paul's rebuke to St. Peter at Antioch (Gal. 2) provides a classic example of an occasion when the Pope himself needed to be corrected. Peter's behavior in refusing to eat with the Gentile converts was not in conformity with his own convictions or the truth of the Gospel. He was submitting to pressure from the Judaizers and compromising the integrity of the Faith, and, as St. Thomas Aquinas explained, was rightly rebuked: "St. Peter himself set an example for those who rule, to the effect that if they ever stray from the straight path they are not to feel that anyone is unworthy of correcting them, even if such a person be one of their subjects."1
However, in the entire history of the papacy, there can scarcely have been an exhibition of scandalous behavior on the part of a reigning pontiff comparable to that of Pope John Paul II during his visit to Canterbury Cathedral on Saturday, 29 May 1982. There cannot have been a truly faithful Catholic who saw the entire humiliating debacle on television who did not weep from love of Holy Mother Church, and shame for her sake, at the abject spectacle made by her visible head. Before explaining my reasons for making so grave an allegation concerning the reigning pontiff I must clarify a few points concerning the Church of England. Given that I am factually correct in what I state concerning this heretical sect, and given that I am factually correct concerning what the Pope said and did in Canterbury Cathedral, I would challenge any reader to refute my charge of scandal.
Facts Concerning the Protestant Reformation
1. The Church in England went into schism under Henry VIII and became the Church of England, but apart from its repudiation of the Pope it remained largely Catholic in belief and practice. All seven sacraments were still indubitably valid.
2. Under his son, the Boy-King Edward VI, the Church of England was transformed into an heretical Protestant sect with some of its sacramental rites of doubtful validity or certain invalidity.
3. Under Queen Mary Tudor the Church of England became the Church in England once again, totally Catholic in every way.
4. Under Queen Elizabeth I the Church in England became the Church of England yet again, an heretical sect with only two certainly valid sacraments, baptism and marriage. Leo XIII pronounced finally and irrevocably that its ordinal cannot confer valid orders, therefore it has no priests and no bishops, hence there can be no valid Eucharist, Penance, Confirmation or Extreme Unction. Anglican apologists make frequent reference to the fact that Old Catholic bishops have taken part in their ordinations, but the Anglican Ordinal is intrinsically defective and could not confer valid orders even if used by Catholic bishops. Some Anglican bishops have possibly been to Holland and been consecrated a second time by Old Catholic bishops using the Old Catholic ordinal. Their orders are valid, but they cannot transmit these orders to anyone else using the Anglican Ordinal.
Facts Concerning the Catholic Church
As I am dealing with a matter of such historic consequence I had also better recall a few facts concerning the Catholic Church. Our Lord Jesus Christ perpetuated His presence on earth by means of His Mystical Body, a visible, hierarchically governed society of believers of which He is the Head, the Holy Ghost the Soul, and we the members. The Mystical Body of Christ has the same mission as that entrusted to Christ by His Father, to preach the Gospel and baptize those who accepted it, then to sanctify those members through the sacraments and unite them in offering solemn worship to the Holy Trinity. It is the will of Our Lord Jesus Christ that this visible hierarchically governed Church should be the ordinary means of salvation; that is, it is His will that we should be saved by incorporation into His Mystical Body. To God, all things are possible, and He offers extraordinary means of salvation to those outside the Mystical Body. As I have just explained, the Catholic Church is Christ, perpetuating the Incarnation throughout the nations and the centuries. There is thus no salvation outside the Church because there is no salvation outside Christ, and the Church is Christ. Even those who are saved in an extraordinary manner are saved through Christ, and thus in some way through His Church. Therefore an Anglican who is saved is saved in the Church of England but not through the Church of England: if he is saved ,his salvation must come through the Catholic Church.
Unfortunately, Catholics from the continent of Europe have frequently failed to appreciate the true nature of the Church of England. They have sometimes tended to equate it with the Orthodox or Old Catholic Churches which are schismatic, but have valid orders, valid sacraments, and doctrine which, in most respects, corresponds with that of the Catholic Church. The Church of England, in contrast, is simply a Protestant sect, but one in which a proportion of the members consider themselves to be Catholics, and have adopted Catholic beliefs and practices which conflict with the official teachings of their sect. Justice demands that we acknowledge that these people, the Anglo-Catholics or High Anglicans, sincerely believe themselves to be Catholics, accept the major part of Catholic teaching, are convinced that they have valid orders and that are truly celebrating Mass. But at the same time it must be stressed that the overwhelming majority of the Anglican clergy believe themselves to be Protestant, are proud to be Protestant, and would vehemently reject the idea that they are Catholic priests who celebrate Mass. They fully subscribe to the belief of the original Anglicans that the Mass is a blasphemous fable and a dangerous deceit.
To Deceive Even the Elect
There have even been popes who have been deceived by the appearances of Catholicity within the Church of England. Pope Leo XIII would probably have accorded at least conditional recognition to Anglican Orders had not Cardinal Vaughan had the courage and integrity to confront him and insist that this should not be done without a thorough examination -the result of which was the final condemnation of Anglican Orders in the encyclical Apostolicx Curx. Pope Paul VI flirted with Anglicanism on several occasions. As Archbishop of Milan he had clandestine meetings with Anglican clerics without the knowledge of Pius XII, and as Pope he made the theologically indefensible statement that the Church of England is a "Sister Church" of the Catholic Church, when, in fact, it is not a church at all, but what the Second Vatican Council referred to as an "ecclesial communion" -a euphemism for sect.
I have the good fortune to possess an original letter written by Cardinal Manning which, to the best of my knowledge, has never been published. In this letter (dated 20 August 1868, twenty-eight years before Apostolicx Curx) he stated:
I not only do not believe in Anglican Orders, but not even that the establishment is a church. From the hour I saw the only true faith and Church, the validity of Anglican Orders became incredible to me: and I have never believed the establishment to be more than one of many forms of human error.2
Manning, like Newman, had been one of the outstanding intellects within the Church of England before his conversion. In his book The Workings of the Holy Spirit in the Church of England, Cardinal Manning explains that grace is given in it, but not through it, or by it. The distinction is of great importance. Grace is offered in an extraordinary manner even to those who are not Christians, but Anglicans have the incomparably greater privilege of having been admitted to a state of supernatural grace through the Sacrament of Baptism. It is worth repeating that every valid sacrament is a Catholic sacrament-there is no such thing as a Protestant sacrament of baptism or matrimony.
"Every infant, and also every adult baptized, having the necessary dispositions, is thereby placed in a state of justification; and, if they die without committing any mortal sin, would certainly be saved," wrote Cardinal Manning. "They are also, in the sight of the Church, Catholics." Everyone who is baptized is baptized into the Catholic Church, even those baptized in a Protestant sect. They cease to be Catholic when, having reached the age of reason, they adhere voluntarily to the tenets of an heretical sect. But as almost all baptized Protestants do this in good faith they are what is known as material heretics. They do not incur the guilt of formal heresy. To quote Cardinal Manning once more:
The doctrine, extra ecclesiam nulla salus, is to be interpreted by dogmatic and by moral theology. As dogma theologians teach that many belong to the Church who are outside its visible unity; as a moral truth, that to be out of the Church is no personal sin, except to those who sin by being out of it. That is, they will be lost, not because they are geographically out of it, but because they are culpably out of it. And they who are culpably out of it are those who know -or might, and therefore ought to, know -that it is their duty to submit to it. The Church teaches that men may be inculpably out of its pale. Now they are inculpably out of it who are, and have always been, either physically or morally unable to see their obligation to submit to it.
The Scandal Occasioned by the Papal Visit
It is thus correct to speak of Anglicans and other Protestants as our separated brethren, and, as such, we should have a great love for them and do all in our power to lead them into the visible unity of the Church. Although it is true that they have been given the grace of baptism, and can also receive the grace conferred by the Sacrament of Matrimony, they are deprived of the grace of the other five sacraments. This is something which should cause us deep concern, and impel us to do all in our power to reconcile them to the true Church in which all the sacraments instituted by Our Lord are available as aids to their salvation. There is thus no greater disservice we can do to our separated brethren than to confirm them in their false belief that they already belong to the Church, and that their salvation is assured within the sect to which they belong. Pope John Paul II stated that he was coming to Britain to confirm Catholics in their faith. The result of his visit has been to scandalize faithful Catholics and confirm Anglicans in the belief that their sect is a branch of the one, true Church. Most readers will be aware of the fact that Anglo-Catholics subscribe to what is known as the "branch theory,"i.e., that there is one Catholic Church with three branches-Anglican, Orthodox and Catholic.
Cardinal Basil Hume, and a good number of other Catholic bishops in Britain are what the late Cardinal Heenan described as "ecumaniacs." They are men who see unity as an end in itself, not unity in the truth, just unity. It is not being cynical to note that the enthusiasm of the various Protestant sects for ecumenism has increased in proportion to the extent that they have declined. The faster a sect declines the more ecumenical its clergy become. A successful and expanding denomination is rarely ecumenical. Thus, in the USA, such denominations as the Southern Baptists, which are making converts by the hundred thousand annually (largely, perhaps principally, from the Catholic Church) remain firmly outside the ecumenical movement. Before Vatican II, the Catholic Church in Britain and the USA was vigorous, expanding, and unecumenical. Since Vatican II the Church in both these countries has degenerated in a process of stagnation and decline -what Father Louis Bouyer has referred to as the decomposition of Catholicism. Predictably, the bishops in both these countries have suddenly become enthusiastic ecumenists. The reason is not hard to find, it is the same reason which has prompted ecumenical enthusiasm among the major Protestant denominations for several decades. Once a decline sets in, ecumenism can be described as "the opium of the clergy." Ecumenism provides clerics with a chance to banish from their minds any suspicion that they are not fulfilling the primary commandment of Our Lord, to preach the Gospel to the world. The world today does not wish to listen, and there is little satisfaction in preaching to those who are not interested. Even worse, there is often little interest in the Gospel message among the members of their own denominations. Congregations dwindle, the allegiance of the faithful becomes more and more nominal. The various denominations become mere social appendages, providing a consumer service on such occasions as births, marriages, and funerals-but having little impact on the lives of their members outside of these occasions. If asked in an opinion poll, they would probably profess belief in God and a life after death, but such a profession does not prohibit them from utilizing contraceptives, aborting their babies, divorcing their spouses, and spending Sunday morning in bed while they utilize Sunday afternoon for cleaning their cars before settling down in front of the TV for the rest of the day.
Ecumania: Opium of the Clergy
But what a contrast once a cleric becomes ecumenical. He is divorced as effectively from the real world as is a drug addict living in a narcotic haze. He can banish from his mind the fact that the pews of his church become emptier each Sunday. He can fix his face into a permanent ecumenical smile and go from ecumenical meeting to ecumenical meeting, take part in ecumenical discussion after ecumenical discussion, and read ecumenical paper after ecumenical paper. He will become more and more friendly with the clergy of other denominations, all of whom share his own problems of ineffectiveness where preaching to the world and his own congregation is concerned. He will have no difficulty in justifying his failure to obey Our Lord's command to preach the Gospel to the world by making the facile excuse that while Christians are divided the world will not wish to listen. It is necessary first to achieve Christian unity, once that has been done the work of evangelization will begin. I am not saying that there is conscientious dishonesty among ecumenical clerics-they are probably deceiving themselves more than they deceive the members of their flocks. It is our prayers that they need more than anything else.
As I have mentioned, Cardinal Hume and most British bishops are ecumaniacs. No ecumenical gathering in England would be complete without an appearance by Cardinal Hume. There is no doubt at all that what mattered most to him where the Pope's visit was concerned was to win the acclaim of his Anglican friends by handing them the Vicar of Christ upon an ecumenical platter. It would be impossible to exaggerate the importance which the Anglican clergy attached to inducing the Pope to appear in Canterbury Cathedral. It was to be a Canossa3 in reverse. A penitent Bishop of Rome would appear before Dr. Runcie and beg forgiveness of the sin of schism. If the Pope could be induced to come to Canterbury this could only be interpreted as de facto recognition of the Church of England. This coup was achieved by Cardinal Hume. The euphoria of the ecumenical establishment was indescribable. Dr. Runcie, the married layman who describes himself as "Archbishop of Canterbury," was triumphantly jubilant. He invited the Anglican "primates" from all over the world to come to England to witness the papal humiliation. Moreover, he devised an order of service which would be a glorification of the Church of England, and even more a glorification of Dr. Runcie.
Then disaster struck. War broke out in the Falklands. How could the Pope come to Britain when she was at war with one of the most Catholic nations in the world? But how could he not come? Cardinal Hume had promised to deliver him on a platter and deliver him he must. If the visit was cancelled the ecumenical set-back would have been incalculable. Anglican bishops from all over the world would have travelled to England to accept the submission of a Pope who did not appear. The credibility of Cardinal Hume and Dr. Runcie was at stake. Such a debacle must be prevented at all costs. Cardinal Hume and a high-powered delegation of ecumenical prelates travelled to Rome to persuade the Pope that, cost what it may, he must come to Britain. The Falklands crisis was a heaven-sent opportunity given to Pope John Paul II to withdraw gracefully from a situation in which the integrity of the Catholic Faith would be compromised. He did not accept it.
Julius Caesar made the briefest report submitted by any general in human history: "Veni, vidi, vici." ("I came, I saw, I conquered.") Pope John Paul II could have written an equally brief report: "Veni, vidi, victus sum." ("I came, I saw, I was conquered.") His visit to Canterbury Cathedral was not simply a personal humiliation for him, it was a humiliation for the Catholic Church, the Immaculate Bride of Christ, and, the most bitter blow of all for British Catholics, a public repudiation, a cruel repudiation, of the martyrs of England and Wales who preferred to undergo unspeakable torture and death rather than do what he did. I am not arguing that he did this consciously, he is probably even more ignorant of the history of the Church in Britain than was Pope Leo XIII. Why should a Polish prelate know anything about the history of Britain? But Pope Leo XIII was corrected by a profoundly Catholic Cardinal. Pope John Paul II is relying on the advice of an ecumaniacal cardinal whose knowledge of theology is terrifyingly abysmal (I can testify to this from correspondence I have had with him).
Before commenting in any detail on the Pope's visit to Canterbury, I had better make it clear what I am not alleging. Firstly, he did not take part in a service of a false religion. What he took part in was a specially devised ecumenical service, and not part of the Anglican liturgy. Secondly, in his address he did not say anything heretical. Everything he said could be interpreted in a Catholic sense. But, and this is what matters, where Anglicans are concerned he took part in a service with them, on their own terms, and in what they regard as their own cathedral, a cathedral wrested by physical force from the jurisdiction of the Pope. Furthermore, although he did not say anything heretical in his address, he did not say anything incompatible with the heretical belief that the Catholic Church and the Church of England are "Sister Churches."4 It would be ludicrous to suggest that this was an accident or a coincidence. The Pope's address was a masterpiece of ecumenical ambiguity. According to the media, in no previous visit had the Pope submitted his addresses to the advice of the national hierarchies to the extent that he did in Britain. But even if his address at Canterbury was written for him, the Pope cannot be absolved from all culpability. I have said that a Polish prelate could not be expected to be familiar with British history, but every Catholic prelate should know enough theology and have sufficient integrity to avoid giving the impression that the Mystical Body of Christ and a Protestant sect are bodies of equal status.
I fear that by now some readers will consider me guilty of gross disrespect towards the Vicar of Christ. They will consider me to be the victim of an anti-ecumenical idle fixe. If only this were the case, but it is not. I will not quote from the British media on the subject of the Canterbury visit. Its assessment is identical to mine.
There is no doubt that throughout the world The Times is regarded as the most authoritative voice of the media in Britain. On Monday, 31 May 1982, its Religious Affairs correspondent, Clifford Longley, summed up the visit to Canterbury as follows:
Every word, symbol and gesture from the Pope said that he was in the company of a church, a real church, and nothing but a church, alive and rich with spiritual wealth. Anyone who tried at any point in that service to explain it as the Bishop of Rome meeting an assembly of heretical laymen, whose only duty was to return individually to the one true fold at once, would have found that it just could not be done; every moment contradicted such a hypothesis. The truth is the very opposite. It was indeed an Anglican triumph; and they know it.
Precisely the same assessment was made by Gerald Priestland, the Religious Affairs correspondent of the BBC. He also laid great stress upon the fact that the Pope had gone to unprecedented lengths in allowing the British bishops to dictate what he would say or, more importantly, would not say.
After The Times, the Telegraph is certainly the most respected paper in Britain. One of its leading writers, T.E. Utley, assessed the Pope's visit in The Sunday Telegraph of 6 June 1982, in the following terms:
Since it is now de rigueur to describe the activities of the ecumenical movement in terms of sports commentary, would one not be justified in saying that the result of the meeting between Pope John Paul and the leaders of British Protestantism was a knockout victory for the Protestant cause... None of this, of course, should have surprised anybody. It has for a long time been obvious that the Pope is a very good Protestant... Up until a few years ago what chiefly made Roman Catholics objects at least of mild suspicion to English Protestants was the Latin Mass which seemed to emphasize the "magical" elements in Rome's view of the Eucharist. Added to this was the belief that Rome reduced the lay congregation to a purely passive role in worship, that papists were taught to listen to priests rather than read the Bible, and that a condition of belonging to the Roman Church was a total surrender of the individual conscience to the keeping of an earthly authority exercising its eerie powers in the secrecy of the confessional box. No doubt all these assumptions were largely travesties of the truth. What matters now, however, is that it is no longer possible for anyone with any knowledge of the current, often disorderly and populist practices of the Roman Church to make them.
One of the greatest scandals of the post-conciliar Church has been the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC). This commission has produced a series of Agreements on the Eucharist, Priesthood, and Authority, in which the Catholic delegates have been guilty of a cynical betrayal of the teaching of the Church on all three issues. In not one instance is Catholic teaching affirmed where it conflicts with that of the Church of England. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has published a report in which the ambiguity of these Agreements is exposed forcefully and clearly. But incredibly, after the publication of the critique of the Congregation, which the Pope himself had authorized, he joined Dr. Runcie at Canterbury in signing a document praising the members of ARCIC for their integrity. The following is the comment of Clifford Longley, Religious Affairs correspondent of The Times:
Thus, when the Pope together with the Archbishop of Canterbury, says in the joint declaration, "We join in thanking the members of the Commission for their dedication, scholarship, and integrity in a long and demanding task undertaken for love of Christ and the unity of the church,' he is in fact telling critics of ARCIC that their discrediting tactics have failed miserably... Critics on both sides naturally wanted a reference back at least, or better an abortion of the whole exercise; they might have grudgingly accepted a long delay before anything else happens.The two church leaders have in fact agreed to proceed immediately for setting up another commission, not waiting for the measured official responses to the work done so far. The new commission in fact will see the whole thing through to its end, the restoration of full communion between the two churches. And first on the agenda will be the one last major barrier, the status of Anglican holy orders.
What The Times correspondent and others have consistently overlooked during the current wave of ecumenical euphoria is that Catholicism and Anglicanism are incompatible for reasons which were not even mentioned during the visit.
The Anglican Communion now accepts priestesses in many of its branches; the Catholic Church can never do so.
To the best of my knowledge, there is not a single bishop in the Church of England who is opposed to abortion on principle, some are opposed to abortion on demand.
The Church of England does not simply permit but endorses contraception, and has recently issue a report which, at the very least, accepts the hypothesis that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle for Christians.
It is also a fact, though the Pope is unlikely to realize this, that the impressive spectacle he witnessed in Canterbury Cathedral is simply a facade covering up the fact that the Church of England has little if any influence upon the life of the country. There are far more Catholics than Anglicans in church on Sundays.
Is there anything to compensate the Church in Britain for the Canterbury debacle? The answer is no. The Pope did indeed say many orthodox things in his sermons and addresses. Conservative Catholics who do not wish to face up to the truth could well depict the visit as a triumph for orthodoxy. I have no doubt that they will do so. He delivered sermons on all seven sacraments. The first, on baptism, was extremely good with a very clear reference to original sin. Those on the priesthood and the Mass were very weak. It was clear that those aspects of Catholic teaching on these sacraments which separate us from Anglicans were deliberately played down.
The York Address
Many commentators were waiting for the sermon on marriage at York with particular interest. Prominent Liberals had made it clear that under no circumstances should the Pope condemn contraception. The notorious National Pastoral Congress held in Liverpool in 1980 had made it clear that contraception is considered acceptable by the prevailing consensus within the Catholic Church in England. Cardinal Hume asked for a revision of the Church's teaching on contraception during the 1981 Synod of Bishops in Rome. In his sermon at York the Pope referred to his recent Apostolic Exhortation on marriage, Familinris Consortio. Now this is a really excellent document. Every basic Catholic teaching on marriage is re-stated with firmness and clarity. Unfortunately, it is far too long, as are so many papal documents and discourses. There is no possibility whatsoever of the average Catholic wading through it. The Pope mentioned in this exhortation certain negative phenomena undermining marriage today. He listed some of them in his sermon:
A corruption of the idea and the experience of freedom, with consequent self-centeredness in human relations; serious misconceptions regarding the relationship between parents and children, the growing number of divorces, the scourge of abortion, the spread of a contraceptive and anti-life mentality.
When I watched the Pope delivering this address on television I was relieved and delighted."Praise be to God!" I said to myself, "He hasn't let the bishops dictate to him." Alas, I was too naive. The Liberals were jubilant. They also condemn the "contraceptive mentality." By this they mean the use of contraceptives on a permanent basis with the object of never having children, i.e., on an "anti-life" basis. But they do not condemn contraception as such if it is used simply to regulate births. The current consensus among the British bishops can be summed up as follows: "Contraception, yes; a contraceptive mentality, no:" The other matter upon which the English National Pastoral Congress rejected the teaching of the Church was that of the admission of divorced Catholics to Holy Communion when they have remarried without obtaining an annulment. Archbishop Worlock demanded that this should be permitted during an intervention at the 1981 Synod of Bishops. His demand, like that of Cardinal Hume, was firmly rejected. The Pope's comment on this subject was also awaited eagerly by both traditional and Liberal Catholics. He spoke as follows:
I praise all those who help people wounded by the breakdown of their marriage, by showing them Christ's compassion and counselling them according to Christ's truth.
Once again the Liberals were jubilant.
Here is what Clifford Longley wrote about it in The Times of 1 June 1982. It needs to be stressed for the benefit of readers who are not British that Clifford Longley is looked upon as the mouthpiece of the Liberal Catholic establishment in Britain.
The one text of the entire visit of Pope John Paul which will be read with a magnifying glass, and was listened to as it was made, with sensitivity to every phrase, was his address at York yesterday on marriage.
His reputation as a conservative stems more than anything from his attitudes to sex, marriage, women, and in the United States it was his teachings in this area which caused most uneasiness, both within his own flock and among those of general good will towards him.
There is a Roman Catholic "code" for talking about these subjects, and it is usually necessary to apply a process of deciphering to gauge where a speaker stands. Deciphering the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has led to the conclusion that it is out of phase with the Pope, far more tolerant of contraception and divorce, for example, than his usual tone. So would he rebuke them, and hammer hard a hard line?
The result of the decoding of the Pope's address at York yesterday was surprising. He did not say, as he has said elsewhere, that all contraception is wrong, instead he attacked the "contraceptive and anti-life mentality," a phrase which measures only two or three on a scale of ten in these matters.
For English Roman Catholic married couples, who, it is generally accepted, are rather more likely to use contraceptives than not, that was a phrase they can live with.
It means, according to the decoding experts, the "selfish" use of birth control. It says nothing about those Roman Catholics who would describe themselves as "prolife"- if they have children, they are, almost by definition "pro-life"-and who use contraceptives to space their children and ensure that the resources of the family, material and emotional, are not overburdened.
It was the first time the Pope had referred to this subject, and the way he handled it must have come as a great relief to those for whom this was the most difficult part of the entire visit. The Pope was very carefully briefed by the English and Welsh bishops on these points, and it was possible to detect evidence of this briefing in his address.
There is a phrase, for instance, invented by Dr. Jack Dominian, the English Roman Catholic psychiatrist-author of many books on contemporary marriage and director of an institute studying marriage breakdown. He described marriage as "a community of life and love." This phrase appeared in the documents of the Roman Catholic National Pastoral Congress in 1980. In the form "a community of love and life" it appeared in the Pope's address yesterday. Thus do ideas circulate.
The Pastoral Congress said some blunt things about the Church's attitude to the divorced and suggested that the policy of divorced Roman Catholics being excluded from Holy Communion was too severe.
The Pope, in previous teachings, has maintained this strict traditional position. But the decoders were delighted with the passage on divorce at York. The Pope praised "all those who help people wounded by the breakdown of their marriage, by showing them Christ's compassion and counselling them according to Christ's truth."
Many priests feel that Christ's compassion ought to be shown by encouraging the divorced back to the sacraments. They felt this already, and the Pope said nothing to discourage them. He said nothing about the "brother and sister" solution to the problem which he has advocated previously, whereby a Roman Catholic in a second marriage is only received back into communion after agreeing to live in a state of celibacy.
Now clearly, it would be totally wrong to conclude from this that the Pope is teaching that Catholics can use contraceptives or that Catholics in invalid marriage can receive Communion. If we are going to comment on someone's beliefs we must do so on the basis of the totality of his statements on any particular topic. I mentioned the Pope's very weak presentation of Catholic teaching on the priesthood and the Mass during his visit, but he stated Catholic teaching on these topics with admirable clarity in his Holy Thursday letters in recent years. And, as I have already mentioned, his recent Apostolic Exhortation on marriage makes it clear that he subscribes wholeheartedly to the fullness of Catholic teaching on these moral questions. What I am complaining of is that during his visit to Britain there were matters on which he needed to speak clearly and he failed to do so, and that this omission was made at the request of the bishops. This has certainly undermined the efforts of orthodox priests and laity who have been doing their utmost to uphold the Pope's own teaching in the face of considerable hostility from the bishops. Worse still, his address to the bishops was exceptionally weak-particularly in contrast to the strong line he took with the American bishops during his visit to the USA. He also went out of his way to tell the laity to listen to and be obedient to the bishops, which was astonishing when he must certainly know that most of these bishops fail to uphold the teaching of the Church when they are not actually contradicting it. Once again I will let Clifford Longley make this point to prove that I am not twisting the Pope's words for some sinister reason of my own. Those who read my writing regularly know that I have done everything possible to interpret his words and actions in the most favorable light. But where this visit is concerned, I would be gravely dishonest if I were to reach any other conclusion than that it has been a serious and probably irreparable setback for the Church in my country.
Now read the gleeful assessment of Longley in The Times of 3 June. The same sentiments were expressed by other Liberal commentators in all the media:
The leadership and the laity, in general, had received from the Pope precisely what they had looked for. Observers familiar with many of the Pope's previous twelve visits were saying that never before had he paid any national church leadership the compliment he paid the British, particularly the English, by accepting so wholeheartedly the briefs he had been given. It was an unprecedented vote of confidence.
If the immediate impact of the visit was that of a great evangelistic event, then the long term impact on the Roman Catholic community will be to confirm its confidence in the way it has recently been evolving. It was the bishops of England and Wales who set the tone of the Pope's message, not the Vatican Curia, and the Pope has set an unequivocal seal on their leadership. It also seems likely that the Roman Catholic community no longer need be troubled by problems of conscience surrounding birth control, for the Pope defined a line on that issue that lays to rest fourteen years of tension. His emphasis was on subjective attitudes and intentions, not on the sinfulness of certain acts. It was the first time in his reign, or that of any recent Pope, that the emphasis has been placed so unambiguously.
Those who watched the television presentation of the papal visit will have received the impression that it was triumphant success as a pastoral event, but this was not the ease. The crowds who turned out were far smaller than expected, sometimes well under a fifth of the anticipated number. Financially the visit has been a disaster for the hierarchy, but, no doubt, the bishops will eventually extract the full cost from the laity. Whatever the cost to them, the boost it will have given to their waning prestige will have made it worthwhile. It was also clear that much of the applause and acclaim which the Pope received was prompted by mass hysteria; it was precisely the same form of acclaim offered to a pop star or a sports team. This was particularly evident at Murrayfield in Scotland where, according to The Tablet, "44,000 young people gave him an exuberantly enthusiastic welcome. " The fact is that a mob of hysterical teenagers got totally out of control and displayed deplorable manners and behavior. They cheered every word of the Pope's wildly, and it was clear that they were not listening to his words or even remotely interested in what he was saying. They screamed and chanted wildly after every sentence just as they would have done at a match in which Scotland was playing football.
To mention some positive points, the Pope totally refused to give Communion in the hand throughout his visit, and his warm personality certainly made an impact and helped the many positive things he had to say to be well received by his listeners. But if his visits to other countries are anything to go by, it is doubtful if they will have any lasting impact. Some of those who watched him said that he clearly enjoys the applause and acclaim he receives; it would be strange if he did not. Every pope is a human being, and most human beings like to be liked. It is thus probable that he feels that his visit has indeed been a success.
For me, the first visit of a reigning Pontiff to my country has been a cause of profound sadness. The most abiding memory, one which I cannot get out of my mind, much as I would like to, is of the Vicar of Christ standing side by side with a heretical married layman, Dr. Runcie, in Canterbury Cathedral, and giving a joint blessing to the congregation as if both were Catholic bishops-and this after Dr. Runcie told the Pope that he, as the successor of St. Augustine (the first Archbishop of Canterbury) was happy to welcome the successor of St. Gregory the Great who had sent St. Augustine to convert the Saxons.
I could not help contrasting the Pope's behavior with that of Thomas Colton, a teen-age boy who suffered terribly for his Catholic faith during the Elizabethan persecution. He was brought before the Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury and asked to give his reasons for refusing so much as to enter a Protestant church. He answered as follows:
If I should go to your Church I should sin against God and the peace and unity of the whole Catholic Church, exclude myself from all the holy sacraments, and be in danger to die in my sins like a heathen boy.
Thomas Colton knew his faith well enough to submit to brutal torture rather than compromise on a matter of vital principle. The same principle was upheld with great clarity by William Cardinal Allen, founder of the English College in Rome from which so many martyr priests came to die for the Mass and the unity of the Church. I would ask those readers who feel that I have been too severe, or even disrespectful, in the criticisms I have made of the Pope to read what Cardinal Allen had to say with great care, and to note that he cited the opinion of Pope Clement VIII.
On Attendance at Protestant Services
Cardinal Allen, 1594
Never teach nor defend the lawfulness of communicating with the Protestants in their prayers, or services, or conventicles where they meet to minister their untrue sacraments; for this is contrary to all the practice of the Church and the holy fathers of all ages, who never communicated nor allowed in any Catholic person to pray together with Arians, Donatists, or what other soever. Neither is it a positive law of the Church, and therefore dispensable on occasions but it is forbidden by God's eternal law, as by many evident arguments I could convince, and it hath been largely proved in sundry treatises in our own tongue, and we have practised it from the beginning of our miseries. And lest any of my brethren should discuss any judgment, or be not satisfied. by the proofs adduced, or myself be beguiled therein to my own conceit, I have not only taken the opinion of learned divines here, but, to make sure, I have asked the judgment of His Holiness [Clement VIII] thereon. And he expressly said that participation in prayers with Protestants, or going to their services was neither lawful nor dispensable.5
If I had the opportunity of speaking to the Holy Father I would ask him whether the principle expounded by Pope Clement VIII, which was incorporated into Canon Law, is valid or not. If the Pope agreed that it was valid I would then ask him how he could reconcile it with his visit to Canterbury Cathedral.
St. Peter succumbed to the pressure of the Judaizers, but overcame their influence after St. Paul rebuked him at Antioch. We must pray that Pope John Paul II will overcome the influence of the ecumaniacs. Until he does, his word and example will cause scandal rather than confirm the faith of his flock. Let us pray for him daily, using a collect from the Roman Missal asking God that the word and example of the Pope will be of benefit to the Church:
"Oh God, the Shepherd and Ruler of all the faithful, look down favorably upon Thy servant Pope John Paul II, whom Thou hast been pleased to appoint pastor over Thy Church; grant, we beseech Thee, that he may benefit both by word and example those over whom he is set, and thus attain unto life eternal, together with the flock committed to his care."
The contrast between the attitude of Pope John Paul II to ecumenism, and the true Catholic attitude, is made clear in a dramatic manner by the profoundly Catholic sermon of Mgr. Lefebvre which follows in the the next chapter.
1. Ample documentation illustrating this point can be found in Appendix II to Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre, Vol, I
2. Letter to Mr. Nevers.
3. Canossa, near Reggio in northern Italy, the scene of the public humiliation and submission of the Emperor Henry IV to Pope Gregory VII in 1077.
4. In fact, he said: "On this first visit of a Pope to Canterbury, I come to you in love, the love of Peter to whom the Lord said, I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren (Luke 22:32). I come to you also in the love of Gregory, who sent St. Augustine to this place to give the Lord's flock a shepherd's care."
5. Mementos of the English Martyrs and Confessors, Burns do Oates, 1910.