0" thought which has been with me very much this past week and which I would like to share with readers who, like myself, have been going through a period of pain and crisis, is of the greatness of Almighty God. We are locked in a struggle and quite rightly so, but the background of that struggle is the immensity of God. We all need to pause and consider the smallness of ourselves and the greatness and the glory of God: that is the essence of humility, a sense of that disproportion. Pope Paul, Cardinal Heenan, Rosemary Haughton, Desmond Albrow, Ronald Flaxman, John -Marshall, Peter de Rosa, myself, we are all mere specks before that infinite wisdom and goodness and love. Now bad( to the foreground and back to the battle. First of all what are we arguing about? We are not fighting about the existence of the Church or the Holy See. They are given and should not be rejected. To those who in agony of mind are asking themselves, should we leave the Church, the answer must be a categoric no. was very struck by a television broadcast of Bishop Casey in which he referred to the sixth chapter of St. John where Jesus asks the twelve whether they too will go away. Peter replies: "Lord to whom should we go?" That is true for us today. In truth we have nowhere else to go. To abandon the Universal Church for say Anglicanism land I mean no disrespect to Anglicans) would merely be silly: to stand on our own would be pride: our duty is to remain in our Father's house. Equally clearly we remain in that house not as slaves but as sons. Slaves prostrate themselves before their masters but that is not the right posture for sons in relation to their father. Many Catholics I know are distressed to see Catholics, laity and priests. standing up and disagreeing with the Papal encyclical. That is not insolence as has been suggested but the prerogative of sonship. In this situation there is a positive duty for all who have something to say to say it, to say it strongly but to say it temperately and without rancour. And this brings me to a particular point. The laity who dissent from the encyclical must do what they can to protect priests who are of like mind. In this situation priests must not remain silent and for bishops to use the weapon of suspension against those priests who hold genuine convictions other than those expressed in the encyclical is, to say the least. imprudent. If priests are not to have a legitimate freedom of expression then the supply of priests in the future is going to dwindle even further than it has already. If priests do not speak up then a genuine "consensus fidelium" cannot emerge. This requires charity and restraint on all sides but from no one more than our bishops. I "hope and pray that they will not be tempted to use the weapon of suppression: this can only make things worse not better. My third point is that there can be no quick or easy solution to the problems we are facing now. The dialogue and the struggle, for it is both, will go on for a long time, but the laity must fight for their rights. Hitherto I had imagined that the transition from autocratic centralised governmentto collegiality and a system of shared power could be accomplished peaceably and gradually. What the encyclical has shown me is that this is not so. If the laity want a voice in Church affairs they will have to struggle for it: if they do not they will not get it. This is the real issue: contraception has merely brought it to a head. Is there to be a freedom within authority or is there not? Is the structure of the Church going to adapt itself to take account of the new forces within it and move flexibly to accommodate them or is an attempt going' to. be made to keep the old structure rigidly intact? It is important f4r all to see that it is not authority that is being challenged but the form which authority has taken in the Church up to now. The mistakes of policy that have led up to the present crisis are clear enough. It was an error to take away the issue of birth control from consideration by the Council. It was an error to appoint a commission to inquire into the whole matter and then totally disregard its findings. It was an error to promulgate the decision on birth control as an exercise of papal prerogative without the concurrence of the bishops or the faithful. It was an error not to take into account the development of theological thought on • birth control within the Church and to restate the Church view in wholly traditional terms. Even if the ban on birth control was to remain a new and contemporary meaning. ful basis should have been found for it. These have been human errors and there have been enough of them. Let us not make the situation worse by making more.
Page 5, 9th August 1968
9th August 1968
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The real issue facing us today
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