Wednesday 7 November 2012

Hermeneutic of bias?

Now, for the non-Catholics among you this may seem more than a little recondite, but please bear with me and you might find it interesting (even if you disagree with my commentary). My lack of close intimacy with Catholic history and theology (given that I'm not a Catholic) may lead me astray in this post, so please set me straight should I wander from from the path of reality. 

Returning to the theme of what I (as a non-Catholic) believe to be BBC Radio 4's Sunday's bias towards liberal Catholicism, as signalled by the preponderance of invitations sent by the programme to the liberal Catholic weekly The Tablet (of which its main presenter, Edward Stourton, is a trustee), as laid out in this post (and thank you to every one of you who read it, linked to it or commented on it), I want in this piece to highlight that bias in action. Please see whether you agree that it does. 

The focus here is the 14 October 2012 edition, hosted by Ed. This was a Vatican II 50th anniversary special. 

As a Church outsider, I must start by saying that the programme and the research it provoked were fascinating. (Whether you find this post fascinating is a different matter!) If the many and various links between Sunday and The Tablet are to be significant they should result in demonstrable bias. Do they?

The 2012 'Tablet' Lecture

The Second Vatican Council was the subject of the 2012 Tablet lecture, delivered by the Time reporter who attended the Council, Robert Blair Kaiser. You can read a transcript here. Before coming to Sunday's take on the event, it might be worth spending some like on it. Its title Don't let anyone tell you the Council didn't change much gives you a good idea of its message. It begins:
These days, both wings in the Church are saying the Council was a failure. The left wing is saying the Council didn't go far enough. The right wing is saying it went too far.
I do not believe the Council was a failure. It has already changed the way we live - and think - as Catholics. I believe the charter that was written at Vatican II is the only thing that will save the Church, the people-of-God Church, not the hierarchical Church.
The lecture chronicles Mr. Kaiser's personal involvement in the story, then sets out how Pope John XXIII deliberately moved away from the anti-communism of his predecessors and sought to bring the church up-to-date, overcoming the resistance of conservative forces. The Council was his means to this end. The Latin mass was scrapped "in favour of the language of the people. It was our first clue: that Vatican II was trying to re-create a people's Church." The promise was of "a new kind of Church, a people's Church, not a Church that was making itself less and less relevant with its excessive clericalism, juridicism and triumphalism." Mr. Kaiser's book (which he mentions) uses "an extended metaphor, imagining the Church as the barque of Peter, a boat that had been in port for too many centuries, its bottom so encrusted with barnacles that it couldn't even sail. Now, by calling a Council, I said that Pope John had figuratively launched that vessel out on to the seas of the world."
Pope Paul VI (John XXIII's successor) was impressed by this image. The Curia [the Vatican civil service], however, "didn't get it". 
"Why am I telling you these stories? Because I want you to be aware during the coming year of efforts to dumb the Council down, of efforts to convince you that the Council didn't change the Church very much. I think it did, and after you recall what kind of Church we lived in before Vatican II, I think you will agree with me, and rejoice with me and be glad for what the Council did do, irreversibly, I hope.
The Council changed the way we thought about God, about ourselves, about our spouses, our Protestant cousins, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Jews, even the way we thought about the Russians."
John XXIII "helped end the Cold War" (in 1962) by refusing to condemn Communism. The Council reversed the Church's long-standing anti-Semitism. Catholics stopped being miserable sinners and gained a new view of themselves. "It didn't matter so much what we said. What mattered was what we did: helping to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and find shelter for the homeless. That's what made us followers of Jesus." Protestants were now 'separated brethren' to be "conspired the fight for justice and peace". Catholics began reading the Bible. "Something good and something great in all religions" was perceived and Catholics after Vatican II "didn't think [they] had all the answers." "Before the Council, we identified 'salvation' as 'getting to heaven.' After the Council, we knew that we had a duty to bring justice and peace to the world in our own contemporary society". For Mr. Kaiser the Council's "crowning document" was "Gaudium et Spes: please don't forget the poor" and "even the current powers-that-be in the Church (still so unaccountable in so many other ways) get it." "After the Council, we learned a new geometry. The Church wasn't a pyramid. It was more like a circle, where we are all encouraged to have a voice. We are the Church. We have a right and a duty to speak out about the kind of Church we want." 
Please note that most of these changes did not come about because the Fathers of Vatican II revamped what we had already professed believing in the Apostles Creed. They didn't change our faith, they didn't come up with a new understanding of God. Still one God, two natures, three persons. Only in this sense can I agree with Pope Benedict XVI when he keeps insisting on something he calls 'the hermeneutic of continuity.'
I have to agree with him when he says the Council didn't come up with anything new. No, no new dogmas. 
So, from this (as an outsider) I get the idea that the revolutionary Pope John XXIII stormed his own Winter Palace, as it were, overcame the reactionary Curia and empowered the bishops at Vatican II to create a people's Church. Many changes were made, getting rid of all manner of bad things and replacing them with all manner of good ones, mainly focused on helping the poor. These changes are real and have radically changed the Church, in spite of Pope Benedict XVI (of whom Mr. Kaiser is quite clearly no admirer).

From my reading around, this seems a fairly standard liberal Catholic take on Vatican II. It's the Tabletista point of view, so to speak. Also from my reading around, this revolutionary take ('the hermeneutic of rupture') is not shared by all conservative Catholics, some of whom are far more taken with the evolutionary view of Vatican II - the 'hermeneutic of continuity', as the Pope calls it. ('Hermeneutic' means 'interpretive principle'). Here the importance of tradition in Vatican II is stressed. Other conservative Catholics might accept Mr. Kaiser's view that Vatican II did significantly change the Church (or at least that the way Vatican II was taken up and 'misinterpreted' significantly changed the Church), but that some of those changes were for the worse, that some aspects of its 'modernist', 'secularist' agenda did a great deal of damage to the Church. [For an alternative conservative Catholic view to Robert Kaiser's please try Benedict's Hermeneutic of Continuity by Dr. Jeff Mirus.] 

Ed's Introduction

The introduction to Sunday's Vatican II special began with a bold statement of its significance from Edward Stourton:
Welcome to a special edition of 'Sunday' devoted to what's sometimes described as "the biggest religious event for half a millennium.
Another voice immediately followed. We weren't told immediately whose voice, but I think you will be able to work it out: 
The Council ended up changing the way we thought about God, about ourselves, about our spouses, about our Protestant cousins, about Buddhists and Hindus and Muslims and Jews, even the Russians.
Yes, Edward Stourton's introduction on Sunday quotes Mr. Kaiser's 2012 Tablet lecture. [There's a Tablet link right from the word go.]

Another voice is heard in the introduction also stressing the same message about the dramatic change brought about by Vatican II:
I didn't know what the Second Vatican Council was and I saw these thousands of peaked hats, funny men, parading in to Latin music and I didn't think it would ever have the impact on my life that it had.
This time we were hearing from another liberal Catholic, Fr Brian D'Arcy.

Ed's potted history lesson

Next came a short history of the Second Vatican Council from Edward Stourton.

I will begin by giving you what I wrote when I first heard it: 
Ed soon gave his listeners a primer, complete with clips from his documentary of 15 years ago about Vatican II, telling (with considerable narrative aplomb) how the elderly Pope John XXIII, who it was expected "wouldn't do anything to rock the boat", rocked the boat. "For the previous century the Church had set its face against the modern world", condemning (in 1864) all manner of things we now approve of. "John's ambition was to change all that". The calling of the Council was "a bombshell" that it is "impossible to overstate." The "eternally conservative" Curia was foiled by a virtuous "conspiracy" of liberal bishops. John died in 1963, "his great modernising project still incomplete", but his successor, Pope Paul VI, "kept the flame of change alive." "Almost every area of the Church's life was touched by the Council." Some changes were widely welcomed, some (such as the changes to the liturgy) "caused bitter division". To a listener largely unfamiliar with the detail of Vatican II, the impression was of a glorious revolution from above and below against the "eternally conservative" Curia that forced a totally benighted Church into the light of the modern world. 
From that it would seem that Ed's version of the event accords neatly with that of Robert Kaiser, who incidentally features twice in that very account. I'll let you judge though whether my characterisation was accurate by transcribing what Ed said [with summaries of what his contributors said in brackets]:
"And now to the main focus of this special edition of 'Sunday', the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. It is impossible to overstate what a bombshell it was when John XXIII announced he was convening a full council of the Church. Councils are very rare. There'd only been two in the previous 500 years and the elderly Pope John was regarded as a caretaker who wouldn't do anything to rock the boat. Most of those in senior church positions at the time are now dead but 15 years ago I made a BBC documentary about the Council and interviewed some of those who were there. Philip Hannan, who died last year, was an auxiliary bishop in Washington D.C. when the Council was called."
[PH, saying it was "a great shock" coming from John XXIII himself].
"For the previous century the Church had set its face against the modern world. In 1864 its Syllabus of Errors condemned everything from liberalism to freedom of religion. John's ambition was to change all that and he wasn't above the stratagems of modern politics. Robert Kaiser, one of the few first-hand observers of the Council who's still alive, was working for Time magazine and was summoned to the pope's summer residence, Castle Gandolfo."
[RK, relates a story about Pope John signalling to him that this council was going to be different to any other in the history of the world.]
"When the Council opened on the 11th October 1962, the biggest gathering of bishops in the history of the Church, Pope John's sermon was a clear signal he wanted change.The late cardinal Franz König, Archbishop of Vienna."
[FK,  Big surprise, bringing us hope. For us it was a signal.]
"The eternally conservative Curia, the Vatican civil service, had manoeuvred with its usual silky ruthlessness to control the Council's debates but on the very first day a group of liberal bishops worked up a conspiracy. The challenged a key vote on the membership of the commissions which would write up the Council's decisions. Cardinal Liénart of Lille, though nearly 80, led the liberal charge. The late archbishop Denis Hurley  recalled the scene like this."
[DH, tells the story.]
"The proceedings were duly suspended and St. Peter's was suddenly filled with the sound of applause, as more than 2,000 bishops from all over the world let their feelings show. It was the moment the Council became a real parliament, determined to make its own decisions, even if that meant defying the Vatican bureaucracy. The liberal German Cardinal Frings had brought a young theological advisor along with him to Rome, one Fr. Joseph Ratzinger. Today, of course, he's better known as Pope Benedict.
[Pope Benedict, The college of bishops showed they and the Pope were taking charge.]
"The press weren't allowed into the Council's debates and the fact that they were conducted in Latin didn't make covering the story any easier. But the old Latin Mass was to be one of the Council's casualties. The debate about whether 20th century Catholics should worship in their own languages - the vernacular, to use the shorthand - was one of the earliest items on the agenda. Robert Kaiser."
[RK, First vote 2200 for, 200 against.]
"Pope John XXIII died of cancer in the summer of 1963, his great modernising project still incomplete, but his successor, Pope Paul VI, kept the flame of change alive. Neither pope, of course, was directly involved in the Council's debates but Paul, like John, knew when to use a papal nudge to move things along. With Paul's encouragement the Council decided that the Roman Catholic Church should finally except the idea of  religious freedom. It was a milestone which allowed the church to become a champion of human rights. Archbishop Hannan."
[PH, liberty for others=human rights.]
"Almost every area of the Church's life was touched by the Council. Some changes, like the new approach to relations between Catholics and Jews, were eagerly embraced and quickly became established as mainstream thinking. Others caused bitter division. In this country the reform of the liturgy was deeply resented by many Catholics. The late cardinal Basil Hume was elected abbot of the Benedictine monastery of Ampleforth during the Council."

[BH, the changes were disastrous for many people. The gain was in the sense of community around the altar,  the loss was the numinous, the sense of mystery.]
"The late Cardinal Basil Hume, speaking in an interview he gave some 15 years ago."
I believe this account is what many conservative Catholics describe at "the myth of Vatican II" - a myth put about by liberal Catholics. (It may, of course, be true).

Interview with Brian D'Arcy

Brian D'Arcy is quite a regular on Sunday. (Three preceding appearances during the course of this 21-month survey - 23/1/2011, 17/7/2011 & 6/5/2012). He is a familiar figure, of course - beyond his appearances on Ed's show. 'Father Ted' is said to have been inspired by him, though that would be an ecumenical matter. He also hosted BBC Radio 2's Sunday Half Hour. His views are strongly liberal and have run him into difficulties with the Church authorities. Just the man for Sunday then. 

The interview, following my usual procedure, runs as follows - with full transcription of Edward Stourton's contribution and summaries of Fr. Brian's, using occasional direct quotes:
"The real meaning of the Council's decisions have been debated within the Church ever since. We'll discuss that at greater length later in the programme. When it began no one could have had any idea just how much it would change. Fr. Brian D'Arcy was preparing to enter a seminary time 50 years ago. He's now, of course, a well-known Catholic commentator and broadcaster and he told me what a seminarian's life was like in the pre-conciliar Church."
[Fr. BD'A, describes it, including disrupted sleep and a spartan breakfast.]
"And while you were living that extraordinary tough regime, did you have any inkling at all about what was going on in Rome?"
[Fr. BD'A, watches in on TV. Uses quote from intro.]
"Because it meant that you became a priest in a very, very different sort of church?"
[Fr. BD'A, "Precisely." Wanted to forget Latin and "move on to a brighter, braver new world."]
"Well, I was going to ask you about that because what do you feel looking back on that excitement that you experienced then, about the way the Church has developed since those early days after the Council?"
[Fr. BD'A, "There was surface change but not transformation, not renewal. There may have been even reform, the quality of religious life changed,  the way we lived together changed, the language we spoken changed, but actually some of the old attitudes remained so it was actually only rearranging furniture rather than buying into the most magnificent wonderful liturgical change that happened."]
"And it does seem...this is a sweeping statement and you're at liberty to challenge whether it's true or not, but it does seem, in a curious way, that the older priest in the Church today...people like yourself..tend to be, if one can use the term, more liberal than the younger ones, who tend to be more conservative - which is the other way round from how it usually is, isn't it?"
[Fr. BD'A, "Yes, exactly." The abuse of children. "There are people around who blame the new regulations for that. Actually that is not so because I lived through the old Church and I know where the abuse came from, and it wasn't from Vatican II".
"Well, with that and other things in mind, looking ahead, there will come a time when your generation has died out. What future do you see for the way that the legacy of Vatican II is carried on?"
[Fr. BD'A, The "structures of power" who never really accepting Vatican II seem to be winning, mass "becoming more Latinised", "and that would be a backward step". On the other hand, there are "wonderful" theologians like Ladislas Orsy, who says the Holy Spirit will win out.]
"People sometimes say that the Church needs a Vatican III?"
[Fr. BD'A, "No, I think we need to look at Vatican II. The answer is there."]
"Father Brian D'Arcy."
Note how Ed pursues the "very, very different Church" angle. It's that hermeneutic of rupture again. Also note his first use of a question that will become very familiar, reflecting what (it begins clear) is the presenter's puzzlement at the conservatism of younger Catholics. Fr Brian's perspective on things then becomes the launch pad for further questions, as you will see (if you're still awake at the back).

"Still to come in the programme, we'll put some of Fr D'Arcy's points about Vatican II's legacy to, among others, the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols."

Report from Christopher Lamb

Next came another Tablet link as The Tablet's Christopher Lamb presented a report for the programme. His link to The Tablet wasn't mentioned, which I why I assumed (as I suspect most other listeners would also have assumed, that Christopher was a BBC reporter. I'll transcribe this report in full:
Ed: "Well, a bit earlier in the programme we heard from some of those who attended the Second Vatican Council, which opened 50 years ago this past week, and we also talked to a priest about the way it changed his ministry and, indeed, his life. But what about the people in the pews? To access the Council's legacy Christopher Lamb visited two London churches. We heard firstly from parishioners attending Sunday mass at St. Mary of the Angels in Bayswater."

[Voice:] "I grew up under Vatican II, so that's all I know. But I think my parents' generation probably had a much more distant relationship, a much more fearful relationship with the Church. I think what Vatican II brought is an accessibility and an understanding and a closeness that perhaps didn't exist before."
[Voice:] "The best description I've heard of the Second Vatican Council was that it was a new Pentecost of love. So I think it opened the Church to the workings of the Holy Spirit, made it less rigid, less reliant on purely human ways of doing things, more open to the Holy Spirit. I think it helped people to see every aspect of their faith as somehow connected with the love of God, as opposed perhaps to being afraid of his judgement or having a very negative view of God."
[CL:] "Parish priest Mgr Keith Barltrop. So what was the purpose of the Council? Dr. Michael Kirwan, Head of Theology at Heythrop College, London, explained to me its impact.
[MK:] "The effects I think can probably be described in terms of, say, renovating a historic home, or a historic house, and you try to restore as lovingly as you can and where it's possible you use original materials as part of the restoration and where that's not possible you use modern materials."

[CL:] "But not everyone believes the renovation improved the building. The end of an old rite mass in Latin at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Blackfen, S.E. London [above]. This is the form of the mass that was celebrated before the Council. Its use has been widened in recent years. Afterwards, I spoke to 'Matthew Shellhorn' [sp?], a parishioner. Are you concerned at all that what happened after the Council has had a negative effect on the Church?"
[MS:] "Very much so. Now, as I look at it as a young Catholic and as a convert, it looks to me like there has been a certain amount of damage to the Church. But we can't lay the blame at the door of the Council. Though I draw the distinction. But I think Catholics do need to get back in touch with our identity and with their heritage and their traditions."
[CL:] "Fr Tim Finigan [see] is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary. I asked him about whether this view of the Council was widespread."
[Fr TF:] "Pope Benedict has encouraged us to understand that in terms of reform and renewal in continuity with the tradition of the Church. So, yes, I think a lot of people are sceptical about the idea that Vatican II was a great new dawn, that everything changed, everything in the past was bad, everything from 1965 onwards was good, because that's patently not the case. Mass attendance has gone down. The number of vocations went down sharply. Lots of people left the priesthood. Marriages, baptism and so on all went down."
[CL:] "But do you think Vatican II can be held responsible for the decline?"
[Fr TF:] "I'm not sure whether it's Vatican II itself. I think that there was a danger in having a Council. We can see with hindsight...I don't think John XXIII could see at the time...that having a council at a time when there was so much societal change anyway, in the 1960s.  Now everybody realises that all sorts of things were up for grabs, so there was a lot of confusion, and I think the Church was affected by that."
[CL:] "Dr. Kirwan, however, disagrees."
[MK:] "I find that a very strange kind of narrative and not one that I'd agree with. I mean, for a start the Council first met in 1962, not 1967, and the swinging '60s got going a few years after that and the problem with that kind of approach is that it kind of suggests the Council Fathers were all sitting around in kaftans smoking pots [sic] and looking optimistically at the world. And, of course, there's nothing optimistic to look at in 1962. The world was on the verge of nuclear catastrophe, less than 20 years after the Holocaust. I think it's actually the opposite, that the Church came up with an extraordinary vision of hope in a fairly hopeless landscape." 

Ed: "Michael Kirwan, ending that report from Christopher Lamb."
OK, well that report does give two contrasting perspectives. Unfortunately, it presents then in a biased fashion. Yes, there's one parishioner and one priest on each side, but the balance is tilted by the inclusion of an expert voice (Dr Kirwan) on just one of those sides - the Tabletista side. The sandwiching of the conservative voices by liberal voices and the giving of the last word to a liberal voice rather than to the reporter, further imbalances the report - as does allowing Dr. Kirwan to rubbish Fr Tim's point of view without giving the latter any right of reply. [Personally, I'd say that Dr. Kirwan's view was the stranger one.]

Interview with Archbishop Vincent Nichols

The senior Catholic leader in England and Wales was up next. He haw been on the end of some tough - dare I say rude? - interviewing by Edward Stourton in the past (11/3/2012). This was a gentler affair. Ed questions him from the liberal standpoint of Brian D'Arcy, describes the conservatism of younger Catholics as "curious", has a little snigger at the Pope's expense and drops in a mention for The Tablet. (Only a complete cynic would connect the invite to Archbishop Nichols, who had just written an article for The Tablet, with this chance to advertise the magazine live on air.)  

Here's how the interview went:
"Well, the Archbishop of Westminster, Dr Vincent Nichols, is in the studio and was listening to that report. Good morning. And you were studying in Rome, I think, at the time of the Council?"
[VN: He was there from 1963...]
"It must have been very exciting?"
[VN: "It was." Some of lessons were clear, some of the tensions were clear.]
"Well, since you mentioned the tensions, we heard a little while ago from Fr Brian D'Arcy, who was a young man like you, just entering the priesthood at that stage, and he talked about his sense that the Council hadn't created the transformation that he expected it to do. He said it was more like moving the furniture around. What do you make of that?"
[VN: His description of seminary life "was very, very different to mine." We way we were taught at the time "moved organically" as the Council went along "and for me, therefore, it was not an experience of sudden was an evolutionary process" and it's still going on.]
"Well, I was going to say he's talking about what's happened since the Council. He says that the sort of deep transformation of the Church and its spirit has not taken place and, interestingly, he cites the whole paedophile abuse scandal as an illustration of what's not changed."#
[VN: The change has perhaps been more profound than he realise. The opening-up of a vision of Christian humanism was opened up by it. We now take it for granted that the Church now stands on a foundation of God-given human dignity.]
"Well, let me put to you the point I put to may choose to disagree with it...that it does appear that the younger generation of priests are those that express the sort of scepticism we heard expressed from priests in Christopher Lamb's report about the whole project of the Council and it's a curious inver...reversion of the way...what you'd expect. The younger generation in an archdiocese like yours appear to be the conservative ones."
[VN:  "Well, I think every priest, every disciple of the Lord, faces the reality of their own day and I think it's not surprising that younger priests today who try to be faithful to their ministry in a society that doesn't give them much of a hearing. in a culture that doesn't given much space for religion, really have to dig deep to find what do they stand on and what do they believe in and if they're looking to the continuity and the richness of the Church's tradition that's not very surprising. But the thing we must no do is separate, as it were, the Council out from that great treasury of the life of the Church."]
"Well, that's an interesting point because it brings me to something I wanted to ask you about anyway, which is a piece you wrote in The Tablet where you said "Pope Benedict calls the Church to see and follow the Council in its full context, as a step in its great pilgrimage, not a radical remaking of it."  Is that a sort of tacit recognition of the fact that a lot of people suspect that the Pope thinks [laughing] the whole thing was a terrible mistake, even though he was part of it?"
[VN: "No, no, he doesn't." Quotes the Pope saying that he hopes to "revive" the "positive tension" found at Vatican II. He would seek a great fidelity to Christ above conformity to an age.]
"Archbishop Vincent Nichols, thank you very much for being with us this morning."

The final debate, with three 'Tablet' contributors

It was in the long final debate that the Tabletistas gathered for a cosy-sounding seminar, with a couple of guests for company. From The Tablet came former Tablet editor John Wilkins, Tablet director Tina Beattie and, of course, Tablet trustee Ed Stourton himself. The other guests were Jack Valero of Catholic Voices (and Opus Dei), who has appeared on two other Sunday editions of this period (29/4/12 and 1/5/11), and Ian Linden, whose provenance Sunday listeners could only guess given his sketchy introduction to him. It seems an interesting omission on Ed's part not to have told listeners than Mr. Linden is director of policy for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. 

Hope you enjoy the interview:
"Also with us in the studio are John Wilkins, former editor of the Roman Catholic weekly The Tablet, which we mentioned; Jack Valero of the group Catholic Voices and Tina Beattie, a theologian at Roehampton University. Morning to you all. John Wilkins, would you care to pick up that last point. How would you characterise Pope Benedict's view of the Council today?"
[JW: Pope Benedict is a brilliant theologian, has said VII is as important as VI and the Council of Trent, so not repudiating the Council but he lost confidence in the people implementing the Council and in one or two of the texts - Gaudium et Spes. "he never liked that text. He thought it was naively optimistic. Many people think that one of the jewels in the Council's crown."]
"Well, Jack Valero, do you see damage flowing from some of the things that the Council decided - or at least some of the ways in which it was implemented?"
[JV: It's complex. Likes Lumen Gentium No.5. ...]
"Not too much Latin..!"
[JV: Explains it. Now the Church is the laity, with the clergy serving the laity to bring the message to the world. "This is very liberating". What's missing over last 50 years is how we are going to give sacramental support to these 1.2 billion lay Catholics.]
"Well, before we go onto that...which we will address...Tina Beattie, we've talked a lot about how radical the Council was in lots of ways but it was a lot of blokes, wasn't it? [Laughs]. There weren't many women in St. Peter's."
[TB: It was until women were invited in the second session. They would be "shattered" that that was probably "the high point for women in the Church". Lay women (and men) do good things. "You can't have that positive tension if you're only willing to let people say what they're allowed to say."]
"What about the other area that we talked about with the archbishop, which is that whole question of whether you've got a curiously conservative group of younger leaders of the Church? Is that something you recognise, particularly in this country?"
[TB: "I think it is true. I wouldn't want to say everybody is and I don't think being conservative is always a bad thing..."]
"Indeed, it's not necessarily a pejorative term after all."
[TB: "...and think the problem is that conservatism seeks to silence every other voice." Something has, however, been lost of "the beauty and mysticism" of the liturgy following Vatican II]
"That's a point, Jack Valero, I suspect you would have some sympathy with?"
[JV: "Yes," some of the early "experimentation" wasn't envisaged. It's settled down now and is "much better".  Feels positive about the Council and its emphasis on the world.]
"And what do you make of what Brian D'Arcy said in that interview about the transformation that he expected not having been achieved?"
[JV: Transformation within the structure of the Church is less important than transformation of the world through the lay people and we haven't given them the ability to do so yet.]
"But, John Wilkins, quick final word from you on this question of whether there's a conservative generation coming up, because I noticed you nodding at that point."
[JW:  Yes, he tells an anecdote about what liberal church leaders said to him about young conservatives].
"Well, on that note and at this point I'm going to bring Ian Linden into the conversation because I wan't to talk about something that we so far haven't discussed in any great detail, which is the impact of the Council on the Church and the wider world and he's on the line from Ipswich and he's just written a book called 'Global Catholicism.' Good morning, Ian Linden. It's interesting, the Council, isn't it, because in one sense it was the last gasp of the European domination of the Church and in another sense it was the first time we really saw the extent of the worldwide Church with bishops from every continent?"
[IL: "Yes, you're absolutely right. A global church. A church for all, and particularly for the poor. The Council's "radical change of attitude" towards other faiths also important.]
"And is that what made it possible, or is it the Council's decisions which made it possible, for the Church to become what it is today in the wider world? Most of the concerns that we've been talking about are perhaps very much concerns of the European Church, but it's quite different out there, isn't it?"
[IL: "I think so." Third World major questions aren't the same. Religious plurality is the reality. Pope John saved thousands of Jewish lives in Turkey, committed to re-writing document on anti-semitism. In Our Time.]
"It's fascinating that, isn't it, Tina Beattie. Do you think there's a danger in Europe we become obsessed on some things like (gay marriage? women priests?) the Latin mass...important as that question is!...and forget all this big stuff that's going on in the wider church?"
[TB: "Yes I think there is." Vibrant African experience. "These questions of social justice are important." The vernacular liturgy opened up these non-Western cultures to Catholic vibrancy.]
"That's an important point, John Wilkins, isn't it? If you went to a mass in Africa today you wouldn't recognise it if you'd come from one of the pre-conciliar Church?"
[JW:  "Yes." Inculturation of the liturgy. The world church being felt as the world church. Not a Western institution any more.]
"Jack Valero, do you think that's something that this pope is interested in? Certainly the last pope, Pope John Paul II used to travel widely in the developing world. Does this one have quite the same interest in the kind of wider things that you actually talked about earlier on in this discussion?"
[JV:  "Yeah, I think he does." Not travelled as much, given his age, and he is worried about "the dictatorship of relativism" in Europe. He's been to Africa and the Middle East. If Catholic laity know the doctrine they will completely renew the Church.]
"All right, well we've got a minute or so to go. Let me put to you all the question that I put to Fr Brian D'Arcy earlier. Do you think we need a Third Vatican Council, Jack Valero, why don't you...?"
[JV: Still got lots to apply from VII. So no, not right now.]
"All right, what about you Tina Beattie, particularly in view of the point we've just been discussing, which is that the Church is so much more than Europe? It's a church with lots of different needs and one would imagine out there in the wider world?"
[TB: Need a third council "when half the people calling it are women."]
"Ah! [Laughing] that's the big..the big..What about you John...John Wilkins? Do you believe we need a Third Vatican Council?"
[JW: "Well, I think that's in the future. I like Tina's vision of what it would be". VII is enough to be getting on with. "We need to get the momentum back."]
"Ian Linden, two sentences. What do you think upon this question?"
[WEIRD Vatican II. If VIII addresses non-WEIRD world, yes we need one."
"Wonderful. Thank you all very much for being with us this morning."
Several things come out of this interview, with the Tablet members of the seminar making the sort of points you would expect them to make (including digs at Pope Benedict), but I'd like to 'replay' one particular passage for you - transcribed in full - to show you how Ed's puzzlement at the "curious" conservatism of the younger generation seems a bit too much even for Tina Beattie, who has to remind him that being conservative isn't necessarily always a bad thing, before going on to bash conservatives herself: 
"What about the other area that we talked about with the archbishop, which is that whole question of whether you've got a curiously conservative group of younger leaders of the Church? Is that something you recognise, particularly in this country?"
[TB: "I think it is true. I wouldn't want to say everybody is and I don't think being conservative is always a bad thing..."]
"Indeed, it's not necessarily a pejorative term after all."
[TB: "...and think the problem is that conservatism seeks to silence every other voice." 
Incidentally, doesn't "the problem is that conservatism seeks to silence every other voice" raise a wry smile, given the dominance of her liberal magazine on the Sunday programme? 

Now, of course there was the presence of Jack Valero to represent a more conservative strain of Catholic opinion. He was, however, outnumbered by the three liberal guests (and the liberal presenter). I think it's undeniable that Edward Stourton steered the conversation in such a way as to encourage his guests to follow the various threads of the narrative that had been sewn throughout the programme and it's hard to disagree with Damian Thompson's characterisation of these types of interview, written nearly two years earlier:
Yesterday's discussion of the Ordinariate was introduced by Ed Stourton, whose interviews with his fellow liberal Catholics often sound as if they were taped at a meeting of the board of the Tablet (on which he sits). This was no exception.
This was no exception too.

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