caught by your headline (July 16), "Cardinal took on Roman Curia".
Cardinal Hume's experience was something that could be matched by many of us who have had to deal with Vatican officials. He was a wonderful man in so many ways, but he was a gentleman first and foremost, and in some quarters that can be interpreted as weakness. That is why his moderate remonstrations with curial types bore such limited fruit. Constantly, he ran up against what all of us have had to put up with – Rome's refusal to come to terms with the importance of the local churches, coupled with Rome's inability to come to terms with the English-speaking world. The language defeats them, but the mindset and our ways of conducting affairs of Church and state are quite baffling to them; they are happier with the world of intrigue and espouse a mode of expression which means what they want it to mean.
There are one or two other factors in this equation which have to be identified if there is ever going to be the kind of change that Basil Hume was looking for.
First, there is the bishop who was educated at the North American College, or the Venerabile or the Collegio Scozzese and thinks he knows how to handle curial people. He is, by far, the most dangerous of all. He will be complimented on his Italian (even if it is execrable); they will hang on his every word; they may even admit him to meetings of the "superiors" of this or that Congregation. Once inside, he is "on the team", and any kind of dissent would be churlish. Second, there is the bishop who is, in effect, an "innocent abroad". Lacking any sense of his own position as the leader of a local church, overawed by the Roman "scene", he secretly enjoys being called "Your Excel lency", and has a good time striding (albeit briefly) the Vatican's "majestic halls" before heading off to Garnmarelli's for a load of ecclesiastical millinery. When it comes his turn to speak of the needs of his church, fie is struck dumb by the weight of it all.
Third, there is the bishop who (even at quite an advanced age) still hankers after another diocese (preferably one which carries with it the title of archbishop). Is it any wonder that Cardinal Arinze (and who would know better than he?) recently made a plea for bishops to "stay put" in the diocese they were ordained for? A man like this will listen to any kind of tosh purveyed by any grade of monsignore, if he thinks it will move him on the road "upwards".
The root of the problem, however, goes much deeper than all of this. The truth of the matter, pace the late Archbishop of Westminster, is that many bishops do not know who they are in relation to the College of Bishops united with the Pope. Some of them do see themselves as branch managers; what is worse, not only do they look upon Rome as headquarters but they regard the people in Rome as having a monopoly on the thought of the Founder and its interpretation in all circumstances.
I should have the thought the game was given away in the recent contretemps between Rome and the Australian Church, where the curial people had the nerve to describe themselves as "the Holy Father's prime collaborators". Where is the idea of collegiality in that frame of reference? The late cardinal's idea was that the Pope should periodically consult with the presidents of the episcopal conferences is essentially sound. The first topic they ought to discuss is "the place of the Roman Curia in the light of the Vatican II doctrine of collegiality", providing the machinery adopted is not that of past synods of bishops where ideas are pressed into the mould of "resolutions" which are so compressed, comprehensive, and evenhanded, as to be anodyne and in the end useless.
Finally, it must be said that the late cardinal's remarks about the appointment of bishops are particularly well made. There ought to be an open, accountable process. Perhaps that would avoid some of the disasters that have been inflicted by Rome on several churches. The local church must have a greater say.
As to the time it takes to get Rome to do anything, try asking whether the good priests and people of Argyll and the Isles are interested any more as to who becomes their bishop, or indeed whether they feel the need of a bishop at all.
It would be good to think that someone somewhere would take to heart Cardinal Hume's concerns, so clearly and eloquently stated, and do something about them. It would be a fitting tribute to a man who served the Church — and the Lord whose Church it is — so well in the way he lived and the way he died.
Yours faithfully, JOHN H.FITZSINIMONS, Renfrewshire,Scotland.