A RECENT visit to the Caribbean, made possible by a lecturing assignment, left me with the impression of tiny churches or places of worship almost every few yards in some towns, particularly Port of Spain and St George's. A depressing possible reason for this was suggested to me by the charming and charismatic Fr Tim Radcliffe, prior-provincial of the English Dominicans, whom I had the pleasure of running into in Grenada.
There is a theory that numerous, tiny evangelical sects are being financed from the USA to counteract Catholic influence in non-US parts of the western hemisphere. The thinking behind this is that Catholicism in such areas is primarily motivated by liberation theology. Herein lies a supreme irony.
The responsibility for such reasoning on the part of the alleged anti-Catholic "crusaders" lies with extreme "right-wing" elements, now notoriously powerful in the Catholic church, who have spread exaggerated rumours about the supposed influence of liberation theologians.
In the West Indies, moreover, the selection of more and more bishops born and bred in their own countries has ensured a new episcopal type, desirous to be, if possible, "more Catholic than the Pope". Thus does opus diaboli continue its stealthy work.
ALL, however, is not yet lost. The almost universally delightful and vibrant West Indians I have met over the years, in a dozen or so Caribbean islands, are not only naturally religious, but render religion itself refreshingly natural. Very different are "so many English and European Catholics whose p0-faced formalism makes a mockery of a friendly and spontaneous faith reminiscent of Jesus Himself.
Such vibrancy is not, unfortunately, visible in such Caribbean Catholic churches as have been made to return to more "traditional" forms of worship, le with less singing, music or contact and movement between worshipers. Where, however, a happy medium is achieved — as, notably, in Trinidad's cathedral in Port of Spain — the result is happy and heartening.
Fr Radcliffe, moreover, was working with others on the path toward an independent West Indian Dominican province. This in itself is a cause for hope in view of the added dynamism of the English Dominicans since the provincialate of Fr Radcliffe himself.
As it was the Dominicans, furthermore, who were the first carriers of Christianity to the Caribbean, it would be nice if the new province's inauguration could coincide with the 500th anniversary, in two years time, of Columbus's first landing in the West Indies.
ON this particular trip abroad I was more conscious than ever of the complete absence of anyone British leaving or entering London airport. The reason is simple. No one of British nationality is any longer recognised in that or any other airport in our own country.
To show your passport you have, nowadays, to pass under a sign saying either "European" or "Other". Not being, by nationality, "European" (whatever that may mean) I naturally go through "Other". This enables me — apart from being a solitary upholder of principle — to pass on a tip.
Those with 'Other" (than European) passports are usually less numerous and you can often pass through without delay. The "Europeans" (mostly, in fact, British) meanwhile wait in lengthy lines. If proof were needed, in fact, that there is still a world of difference between true Britishers and "Europeans", it is shown by the law-abiding preference of the former for standing in long and unnecessary queues.
If, like myself, you travel a lot, 1 calculate that by standing
in the "European" queue rather than going, correctly as a Britisher, through "Other", you could waste at least two hours over the period of a year.
LAST year some time, apparently, a book was issued about a certain Fr John Flanagan (late, unlamented) who, about 20 years ago, was successfully holding the Church in England up to ransom, thanks (as Cardinal Heenan himself admitted) to a Catholic hierarchy, with one or two notable exceptions, cowed into frightened silence. Flanagan's grotesque and libellous outbursts thus went on largely unabated until he suddenly died and, with him, the bogus "priests' association" which he had invented.
I mention this chiefly to pay belated tribute to Mgr George Leonard who, as a member of the Catholic Media
Commission, presented a devastatingly documented dossier against Flanagan, asking for some action to be taken. His request, however, was refused from the chair and several members of the Commission thereupon resigned in disgust.
WITH British trade unionism still reeling from the effects of the Scargill affair, along comes another political scandal, this one involving the crooked owners of Harrods, backed, it has been suggested, by the mega-rich Sultan of Brunei.
What hold has the Sultan got on the British government? Why did our busy Foreign Secretary take valuable time off a couple of months ago to pay a private visit to the Sultan in his Kensington _hotel?
Such questions will go on being asked in view of the government's refusal (at time of writing) to follow up the shattering indictment against the Fayeds with official legal action. Perhaps the Foreign Secretary and the Director of Public Prosecutions should make another private visit, this time to "King" Arthur, to learn something about allegedly concealing inconvenient secrets.
I AM grateful to a reader who wrote in attempted refutation of my assertion (CC February 16) that the Spanish Civil War was "ultimately" unnecessary, in order to express a hope that others did not also misread and thus misunderstand my main point. This was that the war was made ultimately unnecessary by the fact that the Second Spanish Republic (Catholic and conservative in leadership) was so constituted and so initially popular as to make by no means inevitable a civil war. It was only when self-interested rightwing factions managed systematically to undermine the Republic from within that war became inevitable.
This point was not tackled by the reader in question. (Very wise).