Bishop of Arundel & Brighton in Controversial Interview with Catholic Herald
The Rt Rev Bishop Kieran Conry, Bishop of Arundel and Brighton
Damien Thompson has posted a highly controversial blog on Holy Smoke. I'm not into bashing the Bishops of England and Wales on this blog, as I am never convinced it really helps the Church that much. However, an interview with His Lordship the Rt Rev Bishop Kieran Conry, on the Catholic Herald website, is worthy of some critical reading and analysis. Read the interview here.
Some important issues leap out of this interview:
1. His Lordship, during the interview, seems to suggest that the emphasis in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass should be on the community, over and above the reverence and worship befitting for Almighty God.
How much more love do people have for each other and how much more a sense of Christian community, when their devotion to God and reverence for Him, in the silence of holy prayer and in truly praying the Mass, increases?!
However, when told that the Rt Rev Bishop O'Donoghue, Bishop of Lancaster and author of 'Fit for Mission. Church', said worship is not primarily about community, he responded, "It is! It's the action of the people, it's the action of the community. There are two points at which the person in the community says 'I' in the Mass, the rest of the time all the prayers say 'we'. The opening word [of the Creed] is pistuomen, 'we believe', because again the Nicene Creed was expressing the belief of the Church, we believe this, this and this. The only time in which the word 'I' is used, really, is 'I am not worthy to have you under my roof' and at the beginning: 'I am sorry'."
2. His Lordship says he isn't against the Latin Mass and doesn't block it, but at the same time appears to actively promote a modern, 'Youth Mass'. On balance, therefore, the interview suggests that his enthusiasm for 'modern' worship seems to outweigh his desire to fulfil the wishes of the Holy Father in gently encouraging Mass in the Extraordinary Form.
The Holy Father has made it quite clear in Summorum Pontificum that in this age of uncertainty, distraction and lack of devotion, Mass in the Extraordinary Form is a key way to increase the reverence, faith and devotion of the Faithful. Furthermore, it is well-documented that people both young and old, when exposed to TLM find in it something totally 'other', something holy and mysterious. His Lordship makes it seem as if he is impartial on the issue, but his comments and actions say otherwise. The important question is this: Is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass about what we want (and let's face it, we often want what is not good for us) or about God?
When asked on his views, however, His Lordship answered: "If you look at Summorum Pontificum it doesn't suggest significant change. Really because [the Tridentine Mass] does cater for such a small group, it would be inappropriate to stick it onto a Sunday morning in a parish where most people would say: 'We don't really want this.' That's why the Pope will say: 'Have it, but not as part of your standard Sunday repertoire.'"
3. His Lordship seems to publicly muddy the profoundly vital, life-giving waters of Humanae Vitae (On Human Life), possibly the single most prophetic and important encyclical of the 20th Century, published by Pope Paul XI in 1968.
This document stresses the importance of marriage, condemns abortion and the culture of death, vehemently discourages artificial birth control and promotes the true dignity of human relationships.
When asked, "Was Humanae Vitae a mistake?" His Lordship answered, "I don't know. I don't know. But at the same time we've seen the disastrous effects of the devaluing of sexual relationships, to say they don't mean anything, which has had catastrophic effects on society, catastrophic effects on the value of women."
4. When asked whether it is a good idea to go to Confession regularly, I was surprised to read that His Lordship answered negatively. This is the first occasion when I have heard a figure of authority in the Church make comments which may, if read literally, discourage the Faithful from receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Many of us struggle with our sins daily, weekly, monthly and often find ourselves going back to our parish priest with the same list, sometimes worse than the last. We need encouragement, we need forgiveness, we need Grace, we need the Sacraments of God.
The Saints often wrote of the many Graces bestowed by and great merit of, regular Confession, in terms of absolving and freeing us of our sins, being united more closely to God, increasing in humility and devotion and in making spiritual progress in the Love of God. The secondary, but no less important implication of His Lordship's comments is that it could encourage the Faithful to receive our Blessed Lord in the Holy Eucharist without being in a State of Grace.
When asked, however, whether regular Confession was something to be encouraged, His Lordship answered: "No, because my own experience when we had Confession every day at St Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham was that regular penitents came back with exactly the same words week after week. So there you would say, actually, there is no conversion taking place."
5. The hearts of young people are won over by Truth and Love, the proclamation of the Gospel in fullness of Truth, rather than platitudes and an overly patronising view of them that you can only win their hearts to loving and serving Christ by talking about the environment and matters of social conscience.
Look at how many young people attended Mass when Pope Benedict XVI was in Sydney and the US, and the way young people always respond to him and did respond to the late Pope John Paul the Great, both unswerving in proclaiming the Fullness of Truth on sin and salvation! The tangible sense of dissatisfaction apparent in young people stems from the fact that hedonism, sexual promiscuity and materialism make nobody, young or not so young, particularly happy. These things may gratify us temporarily but by no means spiritually not in this life and certainly not in the next.
In response to the question: 'Could the Church be more radical? Talk about the serious questions - repentance, salvation?' the Bishop answered: "You can't talk to young people about salvation. What's salvation? What does salvation mean? My eternal soul? You can only talk to young people in young people's language, really. And if you're going to talk to them about salvation, the first thing they will understand is saving the planet. You're talking about being saved and they will say: 'What about saving the planet?'"
As a lay Catholic in the Diocese of Arundel of Brighton, I and my brothers and sisters give due respect to the Office and Apostolic Authority of the Bishop. Neither I, nor anybody I know, suggest that His Lordship is of suspect character. Some of his comments in the article, however, are alarming because they do not appear to emphatically, but humbly, reflect the Magisterium of the One True Church. Hopefully, he will clarify his true view in the days ahead to avoid the growing sense of confusion and alarm among Catholics, in this Diocese and beyond, caused by this interview. As Shepherd of the entire flock of Arundel and Brighton, Priests and Laity, His Lordship can be assured of my prayers and I am sure the prayers of many concerned Catholics nationwide.
Pope St Gregory the Great predicted that when Antichrist appears, not only Laity but hoards of Priests and Bishops would go over to him. We need our Bishops to be utterly Faithful in their Teaching to the Magisterium of the One True Church whilst proclaiming God's inexhaustible love and mercy for us all.
This excerpt from Humanae Vitae seems a particulary appropriate conclusion to this post: "For the Church cannot adopt towards mankind a different attitude from that of the divine Redeemer. She knows their weakness; she has compassion on the multitudes; she welcomes sinners. But at the same time she cannot do otherwise than teach the law. For it is in fact the law of human life restored to its native truth and led by the Spirit of God."