BY A.N.Gus MACDONALD A LEADING MISSIONARY theologian this week spoke of his "sadness" at parts of the new papal encyclical, *ritatis Splendor."The encyclical seems to recover language and notions which we thought were buried," said Fr Raphael Esteban, a Spanish White Father and lecturer in theology at the Missionary Institute in Mill H.
Addressing nearly 100 people who attended a day conference of Catholics for a Changing Church, formerly the Catholic Renewal Movement, Fr Esteban said the encyclical could cause "deeper polarisation" within an already polarised Church.
Fr Esteban, who earlier this year addressed the National Conference of Priests on the subject of collaborative ministry, said the thorny issues of priestly celibacy and a married priesthood were peripheral to the central mission of the Church.
"A lot of the things we say about morality sound very hollow to the oppressed and the destitute the real challenge is not celibacy, it is how to say to the poor: God loves you."Fr Esteban said that he and fellow liberal theologians had been "in the firing line" of the new encyclical. But he pointed to Cardinal Basil Hume's assertion last week that there would be no "witch hunt" of liberal theologians. "As long as he is around, we are free," he said.
The conference also heard from Prof Mary Grey, a feminist theologian from La Sainte Union, Southampton, and the outspoken American Episcopal bishop, John Shelby Spong.
Catholics for a Changing Church campaigns for "progress in the spirit of Vatican II". It espouses an end to compulsory priestly celibacy, a welcome for married priests as "presidents of the Eucharist" and the extension of women's ministry.