Friday, 21 January 2011

(Kiss and) Tell

Fully living up to her and her newspaper's reputation for a bit of anti-Catholic mischief-making, Ruth Gledhill of The Times is reporting apparently extraordinary comments made by Cardinal Walter Kasper, recently retired head of the Vatican's Council for Christian Unity.
If true (and Mrs Gledhill's reporting should sometimes come equipped with a pre-prepared pinch of salt,)  this is certainly a remarkable breach of protocol. But who, if anyone, would stand to benefit, as a result of these comments being released at this particular stage? The reported remarks about Anglicanorum Coetibus would have had substance if the Ordinariates had been set up at a time when Catholic / Anglican dialogue had been moving in anything like a positive direction. However, in the light of Cardinal Kasper's own (quite dismissively rejected) appeals both to General Synod and the Lambeth Conference about the contemporary direction of Anglicanism, they seem doubly extraordinary and out of place given the ecumenical realities. If true or if interpreted accurately....
"Retired Vatican prelate lays bare extraordinary divisions in Rome

Cardinal Walter Kasper appears to have told the Archbishop of Canterbury at a farewell dinner, the night before the ordinations of Frs Newton, Broadhurst and Burnham, that 'the day of tomorrow is not an easy one for you. It is not a day of victory for one side, it should be for both a day of penance.' Amazing. This video I shot a while ago, in Rome, soon after the constitution had been announced. But it is still relevant to this story. Below are the relevant paragraphs of Kasper's speech, attended also by our outgoing Ambassador to the Vatican Francis Campbell. Campbell's comments on the Ordinariate are among those that emerged in the Wikileaks revelations. Read Austen Ivereigh's comment on that here.

Kasper was of course meant to be among the party travelling with the Pope to Britain last year. He withdrew after his comments describing Britain as a 'third world country.' See our reports in The Times here and here.

Pope Benedict XVI and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who the outgoing Anglican bishops conducted their negotiatons with, have said repeatedly that the Ordinariate is a step forwards in the name of unity.
I had heard that not everyone in the Holy See agreed however. Apparently the first the Council for Christian Unity knew that anything was up was when a party of ecumenical visitors bumped into three - then still Anglican bishops - being escorted round the Scavi, the tombs beneath St Peter's, by prelates from the CDF, sometime in 2009.
Normally the Vatican manages to keep its internal divisions pretty much out of the public domain. But the world is changing.
For the former head of the CCU to suggest the Ordinariate requires 'penance' on both sides, just before the next round of ARCIC talks begin with Birmingham's Archbishop Bernard Longley as co-chair, is a strong indication of the level of disagreement in Rome that exists about to what extent the Ordinariate is thought to be an instrument of unity or division. It also makes public the anguish of the Archbishop of Canterbury. 'I know well, that the day of tomorrow is not an easy one for you,' Kasper tells the diners at Lambeth Palace. Misleadingly, the date on the Archbishop's website of the speech is given as the date it was posted, 20th January, or yesterday. But in fact the speech was delivered when the dinner took place last week, as I reported here. 'Tomorrow' was the day of the ordinations at Westminster Cathedral that we reported here.
Extracts from the Cardinal's address. He stepped down last year as head of the Council for Christian Unity......... etc. "
UPDATE: See comments for valuable clarifications of the Cardinal's actual comments - neither truthfully nor accurately reported, it seems. From the enemies and the unfair criticism it is attracting, the Ordinariate seems to have all the right people rattled, doesn't it?


  1. The penance on both sides is not because of the formation of the ordinariate - that is how Ruth Gledhill sees it.

    I see the penance as that which is demanded because of divisions in the Church. The failure of Church unity and the historic divisions in Christendom is a cause of scandal and for that, it demands penance. The Ordinariate project serves to highlight the fact of division - that as yet, Western Christendom is not in full communion, and the the reunification that the ordinariate brings is not the full corporate reunion that was hoped for.

  2. Justin is clearly correct - Ruth has just inserted a full stop mid-sentence to completely change the sense of what was said. Cardinal Kasper's English is imperfect, but it's absolutely clear what he means. The whole paragraph is quoted below.

    So I always was eager to understand better Anglicanism. Once you donated me one of your interesting books on "Anglican identities". I said: "O good, since long time I want to understand, what is the Anglican identity." You answered: "Look on, it's about Anglican identities." I know, here I touch a problem, a problem which is not only yours but ours, because when one member suffers, the whole body of Christ is suffering. So I know well, that the day of tomorrow is not an easy one for you. It is not a day of victory for one side, it should be for both a day of penance, that though all good will on both sides till today we were not able to fulfill the will of our Lord as we should. But I want to assure you, the Holy Father, my successor in the Pontifical Council and the Roman Catholic Church as a whole are willing and decided to continue the way of sincere dialogue we started after the Second Vatican Council now more than almost fifty years ago.

  3. Many thanks for the clarifications.
    So mischief-making combined with wishful thinking it is, then. Another coup for 'The Times!'

  4. To be fair to Ruth Gledhill I don't thing she is malicious, or even consciously biassed. She's just not very bright, and as she's also rather excitable, her reporting and opinions are all over the place, and her analysis is poor (though she has good access to sources).

    The odd thing is why the Times keeps her on, as she gets things demonstrably wrong again and again. Partly it's because a secular newspaper doesn't really care. A bit of religious reporting raises the tone, and scoops (in any field) are always good (even if they turn out to be rubbish - by then everyone has lost interest).

    But there is a more worrying side to the Times. The Murdochs are liberal Catholics, and are deeply frustrated that the Catholic Church is shutting the door on liberalism. Ruth G. is little more than a dupe in this game. but alas she serves their purpose well enough.


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