By Diogenes (articles ) | October 15, 2006 2:13 PM
Probably the most uninformative interview you'll read this year. Journalist Gerard O'Connell cornered Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor in Rome's English College last Tuesday and asked some blunt questions. He got some un-blunt answers.
On the Cardinal's October 4 meeting with the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexis II:
Q. In recent years, the Patriarch has always said that there are some issues blocking the development of Orthodox-Catholic relations: the question of proselytism and that of the presence of the Greek Catholic Church -- "the Uniates" -- in the Ukraine.
A. Yes, this did come up. He obviously feels that very strongly. I was able to understand what he was saying. With regard to proselytism, I don't think the Catholic Church would want to use that word in reference to the way it promotes the Gospel; it promotes the Gospel very freely. Proselytism isn't a word we would want to use, and so I was able to reassure him about that.
Got it. The Patriarch went home thinking Catholics are both timid and disingenuous, while the Ukrainian Catholics feel undercut. Why couldn't the Cardinal have given an answer that was 1) honest, and 2) encouraging to his fellow Catholics -- many of whom put up an admirable resistance to the Soviets and who deserve the liberty to proselytise?
Later in the interview, Murphy O'Connor describes an audience with the Pope and tries to spin the Pope's good wishes as a kind of happy-talk. O'Connell asks the question he was trying to avoid:
Q. So [Pope Benedict] doesn't see any great problems in the Church in England and Wales?
A. No. I mean, clearly there are problems but they are the problems that affect the whole of secular society and we all know them. On the contrary, the Pope was saying to me in different ways how he appreciates and respects what the bishops are doing, and their endeavours to deepen the prayer life of their people, endeavouring especially in the field of adult education to actually strengthen that. And when I told him we were discussing a lot the formation of our people, I think he was very pleased.
Smiled, did he?
Later, O'Connell brought up the subject of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the collapse of Anglican-Catholic ecumenical progress.
Q. Well it's good to have dialogue and to talk, but the reality is that the Anglicans, by their decision to ordain women priests and now bishops, have opted to travel down a road that is unacceptable to the Catholic Church, as stated clearly by three Popes: Paul VI, John Paul II and now Benedict XVI and against the advice of friendly people like Cardinals Cassidy, Kasper and yourself and so one could say that the dialogue has reached an impasse today.
A. An impasse, a plateau yes, and the way ahead is very difficult to see. There isn't a central focus of authority in the Anglican Communion and that is a very big problem. At the same time one has to acknowledge that although we are on a plateau as regards the theological dialogue now, nevertheless that theological dialogue has revealed some very important things: the agreement on the Eucharist and on ministry, justification by faith so, if you wish, the quarrels of the Reformation period are theologically at an end. And yet we have these new questions that have come up.
What O'Connell terms an impasse, Murphy O'Connor calls a plateau. Can you guess which one is the archbishop? Still, it's good to know the C of E has thrown in its hand on the Petrine primacy and Apostolicae Curae, since those Reformation quarrels are, ahem, theologically at an end. The Patriarch, doubtless, will be delighted at the news himself.
A B-24 Liberator reaches a plateau. Quarrels are navigationally at an end.
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Posted by: JARay -
Oct. 17, 2006 10:08 AM ET USA
Cormac is close to retirement! There's always hope!
Posted by: Vincit omnia amor -
Oct. 15, 2006 11:43 PM ET USA
with statements like these from a Church official I always hope that maybe something was just "lost in the translation." But sadly, he was apparently speaking in English. Great photo...point well taken. But, shouldn't it be an RAF plane instead?
Posted by: Pseudodionysius -
Oct. 15, 2006 9:52 PM ET USA
"An impasse, a plateau yes, and the way ahead is very difficult to see. " I remember 300 or so folks at Thermopylae saying something similar.
Posted by: Gil125 -
Oct. 15, 2006 3:48 PM ET USA
For some reason, this interview made me flash on my own conversion---50+ years ago. One of the things that persuaded me of the Truth of the Church was its own confidence that it possessed Truth. (A Person, not a thing, as I understand better now than I did then.) If today's hierarchy had been in office in those days, I doubt seriously that I would have found my way to the Truth. (God might have called but the obstacles to answering might have been insurmountable.)
Posted by: Pseudodionysius -
Oct. 15, 2006 2:54 PM ET USA
Every moral problem is complex to a man with no principles.