Catholic Herald Reporter
CHRISTIANS should he working for complete disarmament at all time, Cardinal Heenan of Westminster said on Tuesday night. "But", he added, "it is difficult to declare that Christians ought to disarm and leave their families and nations to the mercy of the enemy."
Giving the final lecture in the Burge Memorial series in Church House, Cardinal Heenan discussed the dual topic, Unity and Peace. Of Vatican Ws attitude toward the latter, he commented that it was probable that the wider question of disarmament would be considered before the end of the Council. "This might be more logical than thinking only of nuclear weapons," he said. The Cardinal maintained that while the principles concerning nuclear disarmament were clear enough it would he hard to imagine from the victims' point of view the difference between Hamburg and Hiroshima. "ls the principle of the kind of bomb very different'?" he asked. "Has a government the right or even the duty of owning any weapon which would deter a ruthless enemy from destroying the nation?"
Naturally enough the Cardinal devoted the greater portion of his lecture to unity. As the last of a line of speakers which had started in 1926, he was in a distinguished position, a Catholic closing an Anglican series. The Burge lectures have been delivered annually since their foundation to commemorate the work for international friendship of the Right Rev. Hubert Murray Burge, Anglican Bishop of Oxford.
The British Council of Churches, in announcing the discontinuance of the lectures due to a lack of finance, stated: "There is something peculiarly fitting in that the last lecture should be given by the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in this country."
No doubt conscious of this, the Cardinal explained to the gathering the change in attitude of the Catholic Church toward other Christian bodies. "It is so astonishing as to border on the miraculous," he said, in commencing a review of the ecumenical movement.
Warning against possible "foolish" arguments in the Vatican Council, he said that "in fact there were very few actual wrangles, and when they did occur it was over matters of principle. There was no politics in the Council in the sense of parties or nations striving for ascendancy. The struggle was one of ideas.
"Sometimes there were exaggerations which led to heated words and misunderstanding. This sometimes gave the impression to those outside of great turmoil within the walls of St. Peter's.
'There were one or two periods in the Council at each session when feelings were running very high. The first and greatest was, of course, the famous dispute about the source or sources of revelation. For what to me was a wholly insufficient reason this dispute was regarded as an aspect of ecumenism. It was, as you know, the old question of Scripture and tradition. Which came first? The theological chicken or the egg? Was there one source? Were there two sources'?
"This theological problem, incidentally, has never been any trouble whatever to the Orthodox Churches. I don't think it had caused much dispute among Roman Catholics until our own day. At the Council there were those who felt strongly that if tradition were spoken of as being equal to the word of God that was the end of ecumenism.
"I was one of those deeply involved in this dispute because to solve it Pope John withdrew the discussion from the Council cham
bet and appointed a mixed commission composed of the members of the Theological Commission and the members of the Secretariat for Christian U n ity." (Cardinal Heenan was a member of this Secretariat and is now a vice-president.) "That shows how completely the problem was regarded as ecumenical."
However, the subsequent mixed commission to discuss the revelation problem has "achieved practical unanimity in the iionling", he said, "and it should not be difficult to secure a favourable vote in the Council chamber".
Bri nging the topic closer to home, Cardinal Heenan said that one thing worth bearing in mind, when regarding the previous attitude of British Catholics towards other Christians, was the Holy Office Instruction of 1949.
It said that "Ordinaries will need to employ altogether exceptional watchfulness and control as regards mixed conventions and meetings held between Catholics and nonCatholics, which in recent times have come into vogue in many places to foster `reunion' in the faith".
Cardinal Heenan explained that "this quite clearly breathes a very different spirit from the decree on ecumenism. The Instruction was reluctant and restrictive. The Catholics in this country interpreted it only too loyally and correctly. This is something to keep in mind when the Catholics in this country are criticised for not doing more fur ecumenism" until recent developments.
Pinpointing a period when relations between Roman and Anglican Churches began to improve noticeably, she Cardinal stated that while "it would be srong to suggest that the ecumenical movement began anew after the visit of Dr. Geoffrey Fisher. Archbishop of Canterbury. to Pope John (in 1960) things did change after that visit".
Cardinal Heenan explained also why the Church of England is mentioned by name in the ecumenism decree, while so many other Christian churches are not. It was decided," he said, "that since the Anglican Communion is worldwide and for so long has had special ecumenical relationships with the Church of Rome, it deserved special mention.
"Until now," he said, "Catholics have not been especially sensitive to the convictions and feelings of other Christians." The Cardinal felt that this type of point brought discussion to the heart of any Council ecumenical dispute. "It is absolutely wrong, it seems to me, to study Catholic doctrine with an eye to those outside the Church. It is quite another matter to scrutinise expressions used in Catholic documents to make sure that no offence is given to other Christians.
"We have learned how easy it is to wound others without malice or I ntention."
The Cardinal said that no one knows what would have happened had there been no Pope John. His humanity, his evident bubbling love of people, quickened the pulse (Jr the whole ecumenical movement. Non-Catholics were not slow to discover what kind of man had become Pope, and one of the first to make a practical response was the Archbishop of Canterbury through what he called a "courtesy visit", "Rarely," said the Cardinal, "has courtesy been so richly and so quickly rewarded."
* Cardinal Heenan's speech hav been published as.a pamphlet "Unity and Peace" (SCM Press Ltd., Is. 6d.)