IT was rather nice and English that the decision to write what will probably turn out to be the year's most debated book should have been taken over tea. But that's just how Rosemary Haughton and Cardinal Heenan teamed up for their double act. As reported exclusively in this paper last week, they are co-authoring a book to be published by Geoffrey Chapman in the autumn.
It will be a dialogue between the two: Mrs. Haughton, the radical, Cardinal Heenan, the middle-of-the-roader. In the first half—now completed— they discuss the present position of the post-conciliar Church and all the issues that divide it. The second part will be a commentary on what goes before it.
How did they come to be having that tea-party? Mrs. Haughton explains: "I suppose I've come in for all this publicity or notoriety because I'm a naturally interfering person. My husband laughs at me because when anything is wrong I always feel I have to do something about it. "That's why I wrote to the Cardinal. My contact with Catholics covers a very wide range of age, status and opinion. And I knew that everywhere there was a growing sense of disillusion and anxiety and even bitterness. "So I wrote and said: 'Can I tell you about it?' And he asked me to tea and I told him about it. So he said: 'Let's
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write a book' and I said 'Yes.' It was as simple as that." This will be Mrs. Haughton's seventeenth or eighteenth book. "I can't remember which," she says. Her previous books have ranged from those for children to the serious adult publications like her latest "On Trying to be Human."
She began her writing career by contributing a family diary to the Westminster Cathedral Chronicle, but says that her big break came when she contributed an essay to "Objections to Roman Catholicism." Now she does all her writing while her nine children are at school.
"In a sense," she says, "it doesn't matter how this new book turns out. The main thing is that it should exist. It will show that Catholics can tell each other their fears, grumbles and hopes openly. This is very important, especially now because there really is a crisis in the Church.
"It's painful, but it's a good thing. This is the sort of thing the Holy Spirit does to a community that's getting too smug. When Charles Davis left the Church I wrote a letter to the Press that it was 'a shattering blow' for the Church.
"A lot of people felt that this was a ridiculous exaggeration and, in fact, I began to think so myself. But it has turned out to be true. For one thing the broken pieces are still flying about, but more importantly. the shell of smugness which we mistook for unity has been cracked open. "We feel chilly; people complain that old certainties have gone. Certainty is a comfortable eiderdown, but that isn't what makes the Church Christ's witness. It isn't certainty but Faith that makes uS one. The walls of our complacency have been smashed; the eiderdown has blown off. We are open to the rushing wind of the Spirit. "The alarm clock has gone off. It's a waste of time to keep grabbing at that eiderdown, when the Holy Spirit keeps telling us it's time to get up."