In Cahoots with Heretics
- Cormac and the CCC -
On 4th October 2002, The Catholic Herald ran an article which revealed that The People of God Trust (POGT), an off-shoot of the dissenting organisation Catholics for a Changing Church (CCC), were being allowed to use diocesan premises – Vaughan House, part of the buildings attached to Westminster Cathedral – to hold study days and meetings which promote dissent. This came as no surprise to those of us who have been complaining for years about similar situations. In fact, it has long been de rigueur for bishops, priests, religious and diocesan personnel to open wide the doors of diocesan premises - sadly, even cathedrals and churches - to any heretical group or individual seeking a platform.
I recently received information about the above situation from a friend in the Archdiocese of Westminster, which reveals that Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has now pledged to look into the matter of dissent being promoted at Vaughan House. After making a couple of complaints to the Cardinal about CCC/POGT using Church premises, my friend received a reply from Fr Mark O’Toole, Private Secretary, which stated "I am pleased that you have brought this to our attention and please rest assured that the Diocese is in the process of reviewing its procedures and guidelines for the use of these premises". The recipient of this letter was pleased to get this assurance, and felt that the matter could now rest, but unfortunately, experience has shown that unless such situations are monitored and continually challenged, action is seldom, if ever, taken. The running scandal of the Catholic Women’s Network and other dissenting groups being listed as ecclesiastically approved groups in the Catholic Directory, after years of protest from orthodox Catholics, bears witness to this sad fact.
Although one is pleased that the Cardinal is now reviewing the situation, one might ask how CCC/POGT ever got into Vaughan House in the first place. The Catholic Herald stated that Vaughan House is let out on a "commercial basis", but this is no excuse. Catholic property is Catholic property and while it might be acceptable for halls and meeting rooms owned by the diocese to be rented out for non-Catholic activities that don’t in any way compromise the Faith, it can never be acceptable for such premises to be used to promote anti-Catholic propaganda. Also, as CCC/POGT have been completely open in their dissent from Catholic teaching for many years – in fact, dissent is their raison d’etre - it can hardly be a defence that this wasn’t known before the premises were let to them.
CCC began as the Catholic Renewal Movement in January 1969. It grew out of protests coordinated by the London Ad Hoc Group, against the Pope’s July 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, and has been promoting dissent from this and many other areas of Catholic teaching ever since. A history of this group can be seen on their website(1). This history, among other things, reveals their promotion of all the usual suspects such as the Catholic Women’s Network, Catholic Womens’ Ordination, St Joan’s International Alliance, Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement, Quest, CIIR, Advent, Seven-Eleven, We Are Church, etc, etc. In fact, even the briefest glance at their website, or indeed the publications mentioned on it which have been around for years, leaves one in no doubt as to where this group is coming from, so to say the least, it is very difficult to understand how those who run Vaughan House were not aware of all this.
Who’s Who of Dissent
The POGT, who hold their meetings in Vaughan House, is an off-shoot of CCC and claims to "promote the Church as newly envisioned in the Second Vatican Council"(2). The Trustees of POGT are all members or former members of CCC’s Executive Committee and the list of the Trust’s Patrons is a real Who’s Who of dissent: Ianthe Pratt, Mary Thomas, Bishop Patrick Kalilombe, Lord St John of Fawsley, Professors Mary Grey, Hans Küng and David Lodge. Although not listed on the website, lesbian theologian Elizabeth Stuart – who is now a "priest", soon to be "ordained" a "bishop" in the Open Episcopal Church, is also a patron.
Some of POGT’s meetings at Vaughan House have been advertised and subsequently reported on the CCC website under "reports and forthcoming events"(3). One of the meetings, entitled "Priest Shortage – Threat or Opportunity", was reported in the June 2002 issue of the Catholic Women’s Ordination newsletter by POGT patron Ianthe Pratt. In this report she stated: "Is the shortage of (male) priests a crisis or an opportunity? This was the theme of the April conference under the auspices of Catholics for a Changing Church, in which some 40 laity and priests, women and men, participated. The Panel of speakers comprised of Paul Hypher, Rafael Estaban SMA, Mellitus Lawlor, Derek Reeve and Ray Lyons.(4) If they were all male except for a woman religious running a parish, this was because in the present situation the ordained in the RC church are limited to this gender for the present, something openly lamented by all the speakers" [emphases mine]. Here is a classic example of Catholic premises being used by dissident clergy and religious to "lament" the Church’s teaching on women’s ordination.
Fr Derek Reeve who spoke at the above meeting, also has an article published on the CCC website, titled "Belatedly Appreciated"(5) in which he makes some astounding admissions, like the following:
"I still feel, in many ways, an Anglican in communion with Rome and my stay in France felt so much like being an Anglican again that I think that was why I felt at home there. Bishop Derek Worlock didn’t turn out those who had difficulties with Humanae Vitae but somehow contained us by admitting in a roundabout way that he also had the same problems. I did get to the point, after HV was published, of seeing the local Anglican bishop with a view to moving back. Derek Worlock was very kind and asked me to let him have a list of all my problems with the R. C. Church. I did this and when he read them he kept silence for a few moments and then looked up and said ‘Well?’ which I felt was saying, ‘I’ve got all these problems too and I’m hanging in. So I did just that and even the Anglican bishop reacted by saying he was glad of my decision and ‘It was good to have friends in Rome!’ ".
He goes on to say:
"I have enjoyed being a priest and I continue to enjoy it but I look forward to a time when the priesthood as we have known it will be no more and when we will be able to select from among our numbers those whom we want to serve us, women and men, and ask the bishop to lay hands on them to be our presiders at the eucharist, our preachers, our carers or whatever."
Such are the views of those who are permitted to speak on Catholic premises attached to Westminster Cathedral!
The Cosstick Connection
Another Vaughan House meeting held in 2002 by POGT was titled "The Sign We Give" and featured a presentation on "collaborative ministry" by dissident feminist Vicky Cosstick, who is no stranger to regular readers of Christian Order(6). Ms Cosstick seems to have her feet well under the CCC table, as they are soon to publish a booklet by her, also titled "The Sign We Give". After reading the dire document of the same name issued in 1995 by the Bishops’ Conference on collaborative ministry – which amounted to little more than a heap of Cosstick-speak, rubber-stamped by the bishops – one wonders why any Catholic in their right mind would be interested in any further reading on the subject.(7)
The next CCC Annual General Meeting and Study Day has been provisionally booked to be held at Vaughan House on the 11th October 2003. CCC also promote a possible forthcoming speaking tour by the notorious dissident Michael Morwood(8), an Australian who has left the active priesthood (Sacred Heart Missionaries) and whose views and writings have been condemned by the Australian Bishops’ Conference. It is hoped that if CCC do book Morwood to speak that he will not be allowed to use Vaughan House or any other Catholic premises.
Infiltration of Bishops’ Conference
The use of Vaughan House is not the only way the bishops are assisting the CCC agenda. In issue 108 of Renew, the journal of the CCC, the following piece was written about one Mary Jo Radcliffe: "After fifteen years of continuous service on the Executive (of CCC), lately as Vice-Chair, Mary Jo did not offer herself for re-election. She worked for CCC in all sorts of ways – as a contact for members, organiser of workshops, writer in Renew, convener of a liturgical house-group, creator of liturgies for CCC meetings – but above all she gave carefully thought advice and stood consistently for a Church that explores new ways of being in the world. Her decision not to seek re-election will cause us to ask ourselves questions. The work of renewal is done by many groups besides CCC, and Mary Jo will be working with many of them on a wider stage, so her loss, real as it is, will be of limited, local, effect. On behalf of CCC, I thank her here for her outstanding and exceptional contribution – for her imagination, her expertise, her practical skills, and for giving herself, through many ups and downs, to the service of our movement, for no less than half of its life."
So after being a very active member of a dissident group for over half its life, Mary Jo Radcliffe is now seeking a "wider stage" for her activities – and it hasn’t taken her long to find one. She appears to be popping up all over the place recently, but most worryingly in Briefings, the official journal of the Bishops’ Conference.
In the Feb 2003 vol. 33, issue 2 of Briefings, the "Forthcoming events" section lists a Study day led by Mary Jo Radcliffe on February 22nd 2003 at St Wilfrid's Convent, Chelsea, titled: "How do I recognise the areas of my life that can be changed, so helping me to grow?" Perhaps a more pertinent question to ask would be: "How on earth can the bishops support and promote the work of known dissidents in their official journal?" Mary Jo Radcliffe is also taking workshops and retreats at Campion House, the Jesuit-run hotbed of dissent and disobedience in Osterley, Middlesex, which according to its most recent newsletter is closing down in two years time. Deo Gratias.
All these things would be bad enough if it could be said that Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor didn’t recognise the dangers of liberalism, but apparently he does – or at least in limited cases. An article in the 4th September 2002 issue of The Daily Telegraph(9) confirms this:
"Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the head of Roman Catholics in England and Wales, yesterday denounced liberal critics of the Church as ridiculous, feeble and shameful. Liberalism in society and the media was "a pretty thin affair" and the Church was under repeated assault because it remained a potent force against it, the Cardinal said in a scathing attack on much of secular culture. But he warned that if the clergy became demoralised and their teachings were seriously undermined, they were in danger of being reduced to social workers or political advocates. The Cardinal, who was preaching at the annual National Conference of Priests in London, referred to a speech last year in which he said that the influence of Christianity was close to being vanquished in Britain. The phrase had "touched a nerve" and had been used to attack and diminish the Church's doctrines, he said. In contrast, liberalism was much easier to believe, but its claims about the relativity of values were "feeble" and it advocated "ridiculous, indeed sometimes highly shameful programmes" for social and moral living. "So we should not be surprised if the attack on the Church today is a subtle one," he warned. "And we are not to be too discouraged by our weaknesses, our shame or the changes which the media think are obvious for the Church of the future. "For Catholicism and the witness it displays, at its heart, is the force that confronts contemporary liberalism."
But it has to be asked - how can the Cardinal talk about "confronting contemporary liberalism" and denounce the "ridiculous, indeed sometimes highly shameful programmes for social and moral living", while allowing premises attached to his own Cathedral to be used for the promotion of precisely that same corrupting liberalism?
While we ponder this contradiction, at least we are now aware that the Cardinal and his staff are reviewing the procedures and guidelines for the use of Vaughan House - which is something, I suppose - but as I said before, this will have to be monitored. In an interview published in the Catholic Herald,(10) the Cardinal berated those who complain to Rome, saying "occasionally, you know, you have people writing to Rome with their complaints. Normally, complaints should be just dealt with by the bishop in the proper way, the bishop has the authority to do that. But jumping from one level of authority to another in order to receive an answer that suits someone personally is a serious matter and shows a self-seeking that of its very nature is not Catholic". The Cardinal fails to understand that most people write to Rome because their genuine complaints have not been adequately addressed by those in authority in this country, and that far from being "not Catholic", it is our right and indeed our duty under such circumstances to do so. Hopefully, this will be unnecessary in this case. Perhaps the Cardinal will intervene and stop the "shameful" forces of liberalism from operating in his cathedral premises. In fact, if procedures are drawn up to stop dissent being promoted at Vaughan House, there is no reason why such procedures could not be applied to all premises that are owned by the Catholic Church throughout the UK. In this, we are not asking for anything that we didn’t have a right to expect in the first place.
(4) Mgr Paul Hypher of the East Anglia diocese and Fr Rafael Esteban have both written booklets published by CCC (see www.c-c-c.freeserve.co.uk/booklets.htm). Fr Derek Reeve and Fr Ray Lyons are priests of the Portsmouth Diocese. For further information on Fr Ray Lyons and the POGT "priest shortage" meeting, see "Into the Lyons Den" by Ellen Fox – Christian Order, January 2003 at www.christianorder.com/features/features_2003/features_jan03_bonus.html.
(6) See "A Very Cosstick Solution" by Fr Martin Edwards – Christian Order, January 2002
(7) See "Collaborative Ministry" A Commentary on the 1995 Bishops’ Conference document "The Sign We Give" by Lionel Gracey – Christian Order, Nov 1996.
(9) "Cardinal denounces ‘shameful’ critics of Church" by Jonathan Petre, The Daily Telegraph, 04/09/2002.
(10) "Looking to the future with the gift of hope" The Catholic Herald, 6 July 2001.