EVIDENCE that relations between the Archbishop of Westminster and Opus Dei have thawed somewhat is provided by Cardinal Hume's supportive words at a Mass on Friday October 2 to celebrate the society's seventieth anniversary, as reported by Luke Coppen in last week's paper.
However, this week the Cardinal's public affairs officer was at pains to caution me not to place undue significance on the fact that on Friday the Cardinal was kitted out in full Opus Dei stole and chasuble, bearing the Opus logo, across inside a circle.
It is quite normal on such occasions, the official spokesman explained, for the Cardinal to wear vestments provided by his hosts — he usually just takes along his own alb and mitre. "You should make that quite clear in anything you report about this event," the spokesman spelled out, firmly. "Nothing should be read into this."
Of course not, except to note that things seem to have moved on since 1981, when the activities of the group provoked the Cardinal to issue four "recommendations". which — since they were clearly intended to be corrective — contained implicit criticisms of Opus Dei. They were that no one under the age of 18 should be permitted to take vows: that before joining, young people should discuss it with their parents; that members Should be free to leave without
pressure, and that Opus Dei initiatives should be conducted in openness.
These implicit suspicions appear to have been laid to rest. Is this because Opus Dei has changed?Or is it just that under their new regional vicar, Mgr Nicholas Morrish, they are paying more attention to the need to explain what they are about?
AFTER an unsuccessful sortie to a medieval church — they found it was locked —a group of sisters (pictured below )from the Grace and Compassion Benedictines repair to a pub during a day our by the sea at Shoreham. When manly inquire what spirituous liquors were consumed, the delightful Sr Cannel assures me: "delicious afternoon tea".
THE NUNCIO' s office maintains perfect silence in response to polite queries about why the vacant bishopric of Argyll and the Isles has still not been filled after more than two years. (The last incumbent, Roderick Wright. resigned in September 1996 in accordance with Canon 401, paragraph two —for a "grave reason".) Certainly it cannot be because there is not a single priest or bishop in the land that the Vatican considers capable of taking on the diocese, which although geographically large contains a mere 11,000 or so Catholics.
Cocoa de Bourneville
Now recovering well after a period of fiscal shakiness, the Catholic Truth Society is trundling into the modern age with snazzy new booklets designed to entice the jaded palates of the MTV generation. in time for its centenary. In fact the CTS had cottoned on to the bite-size classics format long before Penguin did with their Penguin 60s.
Padre Pio, the Simple Prayerbook and the Penny Catechism continue to be the bestsellers they always were. General Secretary Fergal Martin tells me the new printings include a series of Great CTS Classics. I doubt, though, whether they will include such unforgettable titles (carefully preserved in my own collection) as Through Anglicanism to the Church and When is priest not a priest? (answer: when he is an Anglican).. Such unecumenical thoughts are now definitely taboo, I am glad to say.
The focus today is on more constructive subjects, like the revived collection on 20th century martyrs, this last under the unofficial editorship of Archbishop Couve de Murville of Birmingham — known affectionately as Archbishop Cocoa de Bourneville.
CALLED away this week on international pastoral duties: Bishop Vincent Nichols (above right, as a young Monsignor, wearing a stylish and practical blouson in black velveteen with buff i.se...cle-look edging). The bishop s currently enduring the rigorou peniteatial discipline of the wan oceanside resort at St Petersbur, FloriCa. This dynamic, evergreen tvourite of Cardinal Hume recerly jetted off to "St Pete" (as its, mogly eldedy, residents know it) to ive 'In-service training" to local prieis. I trust he packed his bucket anospade.
THE LATEST volume ofi.eines LeesMilne 's Diaries, 197,z.1978, Through Wood and Dale, just rhlished by John Murray, c-on rain f_ees-Afi Ine's explanation for iris re .irri to the Church of England af-r-a period as a Catholic. He gives threreason... Pope Paul VI's encyckcal Flunnnae Vitae was, he rhoughta,r3justijiable because it "deliberate; encohroges more births" anci ovencrpulatoti was "the fundameutal eviff our tine". Second vvas the scrap/4g of the Liturgy: "Third, the hfiews Irish situation." Lees-Milnevas new r known for his politicadQrrecbiess. but some Catholics mc-. think his morbid fear of overpourfatior puts him in unsavoury comAry is, after all, the same fearfter drcve the eugenicists of (he nveraesa, before "eugenics" became uri-lhionobrk.