Charterhouse Chronicle by Peter Hebblethwaite
SCANDAL at the Venerable English College. via del Monserrato. Rome: they do not take the Catholic Herald. Paul Grogan, now half way to being transmuted from a Universe journalist to a Leeds moralist, does not know the explanation. Perhaps an impulsive ukase from some by gone Rector?
Finding myself in Rome on a Sunday. I naturally went to the College for Mass at ten o'clock, and stumbled upon Andrew's ordination to the diaconate. But who was this diminutive presiding bishop with a flat Midlands accent?
Of course: I should have known. Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, White Father now re-baptised Missionary of Africa, was ordained bishop last year so he could become secretary of the Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. Since the departure of Mgr Peter Coughlan to points west. Bishop Fitzgerald is the top Englishman in the Roman Curia.
I have always had the highest regard for this Council and for its President. Cardinal Francis Arinze, especially for its courteous dealings with Islam. In an article in The Irish Times last September I mentioned Cardinal Arinze's name as a possible candidate for the next pope.
Sofar from "predicting" he would be pope, I said he was an "outsider." a dark horse if you will.
whose election, should it occur, would capture the imagination of the world. That still seems true if trite. I added that if Pope John Paul II was just the man to deal with Communism, then Cardinal Arinze could be seen as just the man to "deal with' Islam, which was the next urgent item on the international agenda.
That was a speculation, a guess, a shot in the dark. This did not prevent African papers form turning it into a "prediction" and for Islamic parels in Cardinal Arinze's Nigeri .t became a virtual certainty.
One casts one's bread upon the waters. Nothing I wrote can be construed as unfriendly to Cardinal Arinze, rather the contrary. Yet Bishop Fitzgerald reproached me with the article. repeating that it had "created difficulties" for his cardinal.
What difficulties? The answer is not very clear. Does it mean that all his acts are judged from now on in the light of his possible candidacy? Does it mean that people invite him, or don't invite him. with this in view? One got the impression that Cardinal Arinze was mightily displeased.
Other witnesses, admittedly not quite so close, declared that he had been rather flattered and was not in the least "fazed" — to use that useful American word. The Ibo people, said Holy Ghost Father Willie Jenkinson. who knows them well. do not lack self-confidence.
The real reason for official displeasure is probably that one is not allowed to envisage the imminent possibility of a conclave since to do so casts doubt on Pope John Paul II's state of health. Officially he is fully fit: so you can forget about resignation and conclaves for the time being.
FATHER Jenkinson has just retired after ten years as president of SEDOS, the organisation which groups missionary orders. male and female, in Rome. The difference between these religious brought to Rome to serve their orders on the international level and the members of the Roman Curia is that they are reluctant curialists. Their hearts remain in the countries where they were missionaries.
The function of SEDOS is to give them intellectual stimulation , and keep them thinking during their period in the Roman bureaucracy. Among the speakers who have addressed them have been Gustavo Gutierrez, the Peruvian "father of liberation theology." Virgilio Elizondo, the leading Hispanic theologian in the US, and Margaret Hebblethwaite, who needs no introduction from me.
The generalate house of the
Holy Ghost Fathers (they want to be called Spiritans) at Clivo di Cinna is on Monte Mario, not far from the Hotel Hilton. It was built by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre who had been elected General in 1962 just as the Council began. He had not yet shown his hand, and seemed a dynamic Frenchman of great charm.
Fr Jenkinson gave me a footnote for history on how Lefebvre broke with the Holy Ghost Fathers. Elected in 1962 for a I2-year term, Lefebvre nevertheless agreed that the "Chapter of Renewal" he summoned for 1968 would be an elective one. He assumed that his grateful confreres would re-elect him. A faulty assumption.
It soon became clear that he would not be able to control the chapter which was sovereign. The rules of procedure conceded him only a presidency of honour, not effective control. Lefebvre objected, claiming he should be an active president and calling for a vote to decide the question.
He was defeated, stormed out of the chapter, and was seen in their company only twice more: two weeks later when he announced his break with the order, and when the chapter was received by Pope Paul VI. Then he went off to found the Pius X Society and the rest is history.
WERE I an Anglican, the Rev Martin Flatman would be my vicar. He invariably figures in the local press as the "controversial vicar of St Mary and St John" because he is so opposed to the idea of women priests that he announced, long ago that he would become a Catholic if the measure were passed.
Now that W-Day has come and gone he is waiting only to hear the terms of compensation that will be decided. Then he will join his wife, Frances, who became a Catholic five years ago.
Now here is an interesting complication. Our vicar has had good relations with the Muslims who are numerous in East Oxford. So much so that the Pakistani Welfare Association has urged Martin Flatrnan not to take a step which will mean giving up his work with Muslims. They have written to the Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, in this sense.
What is one to make of this? It doesn't reflect any perception of the difference between Anglican and Catholic approaches to Islam, said Tariq Madood, Oxford's Community Relations officer. Fr Flatman has simply been a good friend of Muslims, and half the pupils of the C of E school are Muslims.
It has proved difficult enough to build bridges to the Muslim community. Tariq Madood points out that Christians often think that imams are the natural interlocutors in inter-religious dialogue, as rabbis are for Jews. But the imam, he says, does not play the same role of leadership that a priest or rabbi has.
The imam is not a learned man, is badly paid, not highly regarded. and has often just arrived from — in this case Pakistan. What the Muslims want. says Madood, is "not dialogue but to be listened to".
Even so. hearing them is the first stage on the road to anywhere. And it would be a pity if Martin Flatman's personal religious homecoming were to mean the end of this vital community work. Something for the Oxford deanery to think about: just the job for a married deacon.
Apology: In her Charterhouse Chronicle last week (22 Jan). Bronwen Astor referred to a communion service in Alton, Hants, conducted by a nun. The article gave the misleading impression that this service was a Mass, which clearly it was not.