Christopher Howse meets the Dutch
theologian Edward Schillebeeckx on tour NOT MANY among the great and good can pronounce the name Schillebeeckx with confidence.
That became increasingly clear as Fr Edward Schillebeeckx, the controversial Dutch theologian, progressed on his round of prominent churchpeople during his visit to England this week.
Fr Schillebeeckx is helping the Vatican thought police with their enquiries once again. In other words, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is not happy with his new book on ministry.
This week the white-haired theologian was saying in private that he was not really worried by the stern questions coming from Rome. At the same time, he admitted that he thought the priesthood derived from the community. If (hypothetically) a community is left priestless, it could carry out an "emergency ordination" by appointing a layman to preside over the assembly.
But Schillebeeckx thinks Rome's old Holy Office is halting on a sticky wicket. They have asked him if his views are in conformity with the Council of Trent. He answers: "You have failed to distinguish between what I say myself in the book and its historical parts. I am quoting Tertullian. You must ask him if he is in conformity with Trent."
Fr Schillebeeckx held court on Sunday In an inner-London presbytery. Earlier in the day he had preached at St James's, Piccadilly, where he also shared the Anglican Communion. His theme was Jesus's communication of himself. But according to one lop Catholic press commentator, it went pretty much over the heads of his congregation.
In the evening the 70-year-old Intellectual stood in front of a flickering fire, responding carefully to questions like some latter-day Coleridge.
He looked academic enough, in a baggy black suit with a subtle twill
pattern, and a waistcoat bulging flaccidly. Some of his fine white hair had found its way on to his shoulders. He sported a knitted tie with red flashes over his off-white nylon shirt. Plastic hord-rimmed thick-lensed glasses frame his interrogative eyes. A wart hung on the loose flesh between his chin and neck.
During his visit to England, Schillebeeckx has met mainly with Anglicans. He is also interested in the sales of the paperback of his book on Jesus (Collins, f4.95), which he finally succeeded in justifying to a Rome tribunal in his last round of brushes with authority.
Oh, and the pronunciation favoured by the BBC is something like Skill-abakes.