The Wrath of Cardinal Hume

Earlier this year, I wrote an article for the English Catholic Herald about the legacy left by the late Archbishop Derek Worlock to his Liverpool diocese. This led to me abruptly parting company with that newspaper and precipitated a great flurry of press comment about the state of the Church.

Modernists and liberals were outraged when I pointed out that in the twenty years of his episcopacy, Mass attendance in Liverpool had diminished to 19 percent, the lowest in England. I was accused of making a cruel personal attack on a person in no position to defend himself. George Basil Cardinal Hume, Archbishop of Westminster, in particular considered me impolite and was, I am told, instrumental in having me removed from my weekly column.

In England, the bishops have the power to ban any Catholic publication from being sold in the churches—the only point of sale available.

The fact that my comments on the archbishop were not personal but related to the fall in Mass attendance, the loss of vocations, and the dissatisfaction and grief felt by many Liverpool faithful was ignored. It was from the Liverpool diocese that the two so-called religious education books, Weaving the Web and Here I Am, originated, works that at best promote syncretism, and at worst heresy. The only really sound orthodox Catholic publication printed in England to spring to mind is the Jesuit Father Paul Crane’s little monthly booklet, Christian Order.

For some time now proper Catholic doctrine has been concealed from the young. It all began in the silly ’60s when the West went collectively mad and the self became supreme: The mantra “you gotta really love yourself, then everyone else will love you” (how anyone could subscribe to this grotesque notion is beyond me) and altered states of consciousness were considered desirable.

Church leaders, seeing everyone else singing and dancing and falling around giggling, decided we had all better get hip and join in. This is not the way the instigators of Vatican Council II intended it to be, but effectively that is what happened.

I have been trying for years to get someone to explain how and precisely why our religion has been turned upside down. Could I get any answers? No, I could not. Nor could anyone else, and there are plenty of us, believe me. Hordes simply left the Church. Mass attendance almost everywhere plummeted.

If we asked questions we were patted on the head by people who clearly would have preferred to take more drastic action (possibly with a baseball bat), assured that all was well, and told to go away. For instance: letter from a bishop to a lady, “I have read your letter and noted its content.” Letter from lady in response, “I have read your letter and noted its lack of content.” They abandoned our ancient form of worship, forbade the old devotions, destroyed the interiors of our churches, eroded respect for the Blessed Sacrament, suggested this was progress, and refused to allow us any protest. I think they intended all this to represent ecumenism, but it was appeasement and betrayal and the results were predictably disastrous.

I keep reading phrases in newspapers such as “Fear that the pope will appoint a conservative bishop.” Those faithful who remain want above all things “conservative” bishops. They are exasperated, bored, and totally fed up with the “pro gressives” with their bullying, their innovations, their refusal to answer questions, their destruction of Catholic heritage and culture, and, worst of all, their gradual erosion of all spiritual values and the introduction of what, in some cases, resemble bacchic rites, with hysteria taking over the congregation in a fashion hardly consonant with human dignity.

I have had baffling conversations with journalists when I speak of bullying bishops. “But,” say the journalists after a while, puzzled, “we thought the Church was more liberal these days.” I have to stifle a scream as I explain that it is the “liberals” I am talking about. One of us then usually observes that there is “nothing as illiberal as a liberal in a position of power,” and we nod sagely.

The liberals are determined to pretend that they represent the majority. What can we do if no one will listen to us or publicize our stand? The bishops demand that we show them our loyalty and obedience, but do not respond when we ask them what to do if they are not loyal and obedient to Rome.

Some tell us the new Catechism is irrelevant: They pick over it, discarding all they do not care for, substituting their own version. They invite “feminist theologians” (an oxymoron if ever I heard one) to their diocese to utter tripe about the Goddess and paganism, while refusing to allow the airing of any orthodox views.

A mother superior once explained to a group of novices that while they must practice obedience, if she should order them to eat worms or murder the verger they were in conscience bound to refuse. A bishop forbids the congregation to kneel for Communion; what is the proper course? To defy him and risk his wrath, or accede, thereby compromising all your deepest-held beliefs?

A priest who does not believe in the Virgin Birth or the Resurrection offers Holy Communion to all, regardless of their religion, lack of it, or the fact that they might be dripping with mortal sin. What are you to do? I once said to a friend, in just such a case, that I should protest to the priest’s bishop, but was reluctant to get him into hot water. My friend, knowing the bishop in question, responded that I had nothing to fear on that count. There are doubtless many who cannot see that any of this matters but even they, I imagine, would concede that in any situation a flat refusal to abide by the rules renders the exercise entirely pointless.

I have heard hair-raising tales about some American bishops, their sex-education programs, their disloyalty to Rome, and for a while we gave a superior smile at this, but the same thing is happening here. Having striven for years to bring our leaders into the open, I found that all I needed to do was to state the dissatisfaction that many people felt with one of their number—whereupon I was accused of a “vitriolic personal attack.” There was no vitriol in what I wrote about Derek Worlock and I owe no allegiance to a man who requires me to disregard the teachings of Rome. All that I am concerned about is the ruination of the faith of our fathers.

In May, the magnificent Mother Angelica, a traditional nun and a woman of great holiness and matchless wit, filled Westminster Central Hall with supporters of her fight against modernism, pluralism, syncretism, feminism, and the rest of the sorry and outmoded heresies (they are all old hat, warmed over for a new and ignorant generation, with an added dose of spiritual salmonella). She received ovation after standing ovation. This occasion, of great importance and reassurance to unhappy Catholics, received little press attention.

At the meeting, Cardinal Hume was asked to give his approval to the following resolutions:

1. That every Bishop shall himself examine the textbooks used in his schools for Religious Instruction and replace those which do not accord with the new Catechism on any basic issue. At the same time that he ensures that his catechists and teachers fully understand and accept every teaching of the Church on Faith and Morals.

2. That the Vatican document the Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality (January 1996) be faithfully followed and that therefore no classroom lessons on sex be given in Catholic primary schools (see sections 78 and 83). Also that no material of an erotic nature be presented to, or any role play be requested of, children or young people of any age group (section 126). Also that parents’ rights to protect their children from “damaging forms of sex education” be recognized and respected.

3. That anyone who is known to dissent from the Church teaching on Faith and Morals be removed from sensitive positions in Church Administration, Catholic education or any advising or counseling capacity; and not be invited to address official Catholic groups.

4. That the Bishops ensure that the faithful are able to hear Mass in their parishes, presented in a reverent and dignified manner, according to the liturgical norms laid down by the Holy See, without unauthorized liturgical innovations.

The cardinal’s answer was as follows:

[T]he introduction of resolutions at a meeting such as this changes its nature. It becomes a campaign rather than a celebration of our Faith … I must dissociate myself from this aspect of today’s gathering. As the bishop of the Diocese, and President of the Bishops’ Conference, I could never be identified with any campaign touching on Church doctrine, discipline and pastoral care, nor indeed could any of the bishops.

This response left us speechless. What—we asked ourselves—are these dignitaries for? It becomes increasingly clear that as our leaders abrogate responsibility, seek to identify with the “spirit of the age,” grow ever more “uncondemnatory,” and pluralist, that the laity, who love and need our Lord, must make their voices heard. It is a matter of great urgency.

By

Alice Thomas Ellis was a renowned English Catholic writer and author of numerous novels, essays, and cookbooks. She passed away at the age of 72 in 1995.

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