A matter of succession
CONNOISSEURS of lay advancement in the Church will be interested in the news from Holland that the diocese of 'S Hertogenbosch has invited all Catholics to help choose a successor to Bishop Bekkers who died on May 9.
A letter from the Vicar Capitular of the diocese, Mgr. M. Oomens was read in the churches on Whit Sunday asking priests, religious and lay people to let the Cathedral Chapter know what kind of man they would like to see appointed.
Evidently everyone is taking the matter seriously. The Diocesan Secretariat describes the reaction as "very positive", and goes on to say: "Letters are pouring in. Everywhere in the diocese people meet in small groups to discuss the matter of succession."
'S Hertogenbosch is, in fact, returning to an ancient Christian practice when Bishops were always chosen by the people. A well-known example is St. John Chrysostom who though not wishing to become a bishop, was forced to because of his popularity among the people of the diocese. Peckham, South London. There's also a large Processional Cross which was the spontaneous gift of the workmen who built the church — they made the Cross of their own time to their own design.
St. John's is probably the first church of its kind in this country, for it's much more than a conventional parish church—it is, in fact, a parish centre. "We're trying to say in this building," the Rev. Geoffrey Heal, the Rector, told me, "what we believe the Church is for. We want to concentrate on service rather than Services."
The building, which was opened by the Anglican Bishop of Southwark, Dr. Mervyn Stockwood, is strikingly contemporary and the focal point is the Eucharistic Room. Leading off this is a small chapel and the vestry. A large foyer opens into a coffee lounge and a meeting room. Then there are administrative offices, cloak-rooms and the vicarage. A most attractive feature is the small patio-garden attached to each section.
It all cost £80,000 and it would never have happened if Peckham's old church at St. Chrysostom and St. Jude had not been condemned because of intense dry-rot. The parishioners were given 24 hours to quit the building. "But" says Fr. Heal, "we saw it as an opportunity to make a completely new start and create a parish centre that would really serve the community and God."
Sic et simpliciter
CARDINAL OTTAVIANI'S views on the 1949 Holy Office decree excommunicating Communists, which he has now made known in an interview with the Italian magazine Genre, are initiating some interesting discussion.
The Cardinal said: "We must remember that the excommunication applies to those who profess Marxist doctrine, not those who adhere sic et simpliciter to the Communist Party. A person who votes for Communists or joins the party, but does not adhere to dialectical materialism, is not excommunicated." Voting for Communists was, however, forbidden, and those who did so committed an illicit action— "that is, they sin".
In other words, Cardinal Ottaviani says that there is no excommunication for merely physically joining the Communist Party. Excommunication only applies when the entire Marxist doctrine (which includes a denial of the existence of God) is "professed".
Without questioning the wisdom of the Cardinal's decision to make it clear that there is no excommunication for the act of joining a Communist Party, it must be said that the interpretation did have the merit of being easy for the ordinary Catholic to understand. The new emphasis on "professing" Marxism makes it difficult to know exactly when one offends against the 1949 decree.