It has been a week of moments. The first was Vincent Doyle (hidden son of a priest) whose ‘Open Letter to Pope Francis’ was printed in The Tablet. The final paragraph reads: “Holy Father, until it faces these questions, your Church is failing the hidden children of your cardinals, bishops, priests and nuns and all for the sake of its reputation, and will continue to do so as long ego reigns and God is silenced, for ‘as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.’”
Some years ago a retired cardinal died in a Roman brothel. The Vatican spoke of his ministry to prostitutes and we tried to understand how a retired cardinal would find blessing in having such a delicate ministry. Perhaps a retired cardinal is well placed to understand the pain of daughters and sons who have not been allowed to know their fathers.
I read Max Hastings, one of our best political commentators, on our Prime Minister in as clearly argued a condemnation as I have ever read of someone unfit for office. Our first Catholic prime minister, I thought. How do we defend him? Then, the second most important Catholic, the Leader of the House, was given promotion – so we can assume his loyalty. We know his brilliant mathematical mind from the slightly tipsy lesson of converting metres, yards and even inches into social distancing that he gave to a slightly tipsy class at one of the Downing Street working parties.
At that same party a lady press officer was pretend-rehearsing being interviewed in case news of such a non-party-event was leaked. She didn’t seem tipsy but was laughing in a non-professional way. She fell on her sword when the story became public and was courageous when, broken, she spoke to the press, admitting she will never be able to forget her foolishness and embarrassment. I think swords will be handed to our two fine Catholic politicians if they ask nicely.
Pope Benedict XVI was in the news again. The scandal of what he knew, what he hid, his failures as archbishop, cardinal, pope are out in the open. Of course he knew, and Pope John Paul II, his great friend, knew. That moment in 2005 at the Stations of the Cross in Rome on Good Friday is unforgettable. They were lost, overcome, at the horror they had come to know. Pope Francis is appealing to us to help heal the Church – the Synod is our call.
We knew, and we know – but our greater concern is justice for the victims of the abusing priests. We hear the cries of the children, now terribly wounded adults, and of the women and religious sisters sacrificed to clerical sexual appetites. Pope Francis has spoken very strongly to that pain, provided homes and shelter for some of the abandoned.
We prayed with the people of Ukraine and Eastern Europe in our fear of armed conflict, and were proud to imagine President Putin shaking when Prime Minister Johnson sent that strong message of consequence if Russia dared invade. Was it laughter or fear that shook our Russian friend? Our PM does not even dare visit Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
I read a letter from SPUC in which a surgeon wrote of his life-changing moment: looking at the bits of a baby he had just aborted, being paid $800 for doing it, and knowing what he had done. He became pro-life in that instant. On the news I saw the kicking of a cat as a social crime that has cost a big football club £millions. We know democracy is safe and working when we have contrasting news items like that – but puzzle why only one makes the mainstream news.
I hope democracy, charity and non-judgementalism are working in your lives. May God be our guide, blessing us.
(13th February 2022)