As the sands of 1974 run out Michael Duggan takes a look at past issues of the Catholic Herald to see how the Church has lived up to its promises.
When our first parents were driven cut of Paradise, said Dean Inge, Adam is believed to have remarked to Eve: "My dear, we live in an age of tran sition." Had he lived in 1974 our primeval progenitor might have displayed less complacency. After all, Adam had little more to contend with than a snake surplus and the shortage of apples. He knew nothing of oil and food crises, general elections and inflation. Nor was he forced to work a three-day week.
Some observers think the rot set in with that film The Exorcist. In March the Festival of
Light asked the distributors to set up a clinic in London for green faced members of the audience. As the satanic hooves galloped to Birmingham distressed cinemagoers were invited to contact counsellors manning 16 "hot lines."
Dr Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury, said that controversy over exorcism was "a sign of religious immaturity." But in box offices throughout the land an eager public possessed more by curiosity than demons — set the tills tinkling. Even before that, 1974 got off to a bad start. The Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity in January took place against a backdrop of the most bitter political discord for decades. Confrontation between the miners and the Conservative government led to a reduced working week and a minority Labour victory in the February election. Bishops in the mining areas of Scotland and Wales spoke of "fierce polarisation" and the right to a living wage. As the Arab oil pipelines started to silt up, coal won the day. After the crisis of fuel came that of grain. Soon before the second election in October a Catholic economist, Barbara Ward, warned that the world's granaries were almost empty and there could be "megadeaths of mass starvation." Rich countries must eat less high protein food to build up stocks, she said. One hamburger a week from each US citizen would supply India with its entire grain needs.
The November UN World Food Conference in Rome theoretically approved practical steps which may help in the long term. On the Indian sub-continent people were already starving. The Bishops of England and Wales supported a Justice and Peace Commission plan to eat less. Meatless days — irony of ironies — were particularly recommended, since it is estimated that farmers need several pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat. Fishmongers — still smarting from the abolition of Friday abstinence generally seemed to agree that eating less meat was in the interests of society at large.
If industrial strife in Britain threatened to undermine the temple of national unity, the Catholic Church in England faced the danger of a split along English-Irish lines as the Northern Ireland conflict spread to Britain. Fr Patrick Fell, the Coventry priest sentenced to 12 years on conspiracy charges, was forbidden to say Mass by authorities at Wakefield Jail.
In June Mr James Prior, shadow Home Secretary, asked Cardinal Heenan to step in and urge the Price sisters to end their 20 I -day hunger strike. The Cardinal dissociated the Church from incidents at an IRA funeral in London the same month which led to the suspension of Fr Michael Connolly. In May a car bomb killed 24 people in Dublin. Archbishop Dwyer of Birmingham refused a full funeral service to James McDade, an IRA bomber who in November blew himself up in Coventry, and said that bombings caused "feelings of revulsion and disgust among all decent people".
On the evening of Thursday November 21 two bombs killed a score of people, mainly young, in the centre of Birmingham. This led to near hysteria in the country, a rush of anti-terrorist legislation and unsuccessful calls to bring back hanging.
Bishop McGuinness of Nottingham, a Derry man, said: "Such acts of violence have besmirched the good name of Ireland and her people." Archbishop Dwyer resisted
pleas to excommunicate IRA
members, pointing out that this had not helped in Ireland. A
wave of anti-Irish feeling swept over the Midlands and bishops appealed for unity, saying: "The vast bulk of Irish people condemns this terrorism as much as we do."
Despite the horror of Birmingham the people of Northern Ireland must have quietly wondered why the fact of well over 1,100 deaths on the other side of the Irish Sea since 1969 had not aroused similar feeling among British MPs. Since the Loyalist Workers' Strike brought down the assembly and its power-sharing executive in May there had been a political vacuum in the Six Counties and much talk of a drift into civil war. It was refreshing to hear the hierarchy
of England and Wales bravely point out in their November statement that injustice was the cause of violence.
The proposal to establish a system of shared schools in Northern Ireland, from Mr Basil Mclvor, Minister of Education in the Ulster Executive, fell on deaf ears. Archbishop Murphy of Cardiff said in May that shared schools could lead to even worse divisions. The Catholic Advisory Council on Education in the North defended separate schooling. In December the major Churches of Ireland launched a campaign for peace with newspaper advertisements and special prayers. Hope flickers on.
Spring has been in the air for ecumenism during 1974. In the dark days of January Archbishop Bruno Heim, newlyappointed Apostolic Delegate, looked forward to the time when Churches could take the "final step" of eucharistic unity. Christians in AlsaceLorraine, France almost took the step only a week later. Protestants and Catholics there were permitted to receive Communion in each other's churches "in exceptional circumstances."
In May Dr Ramsey said there could be no reciprocal Communion rights between Anglicans and Catholics till the Vatican recognised the Anglican Church. He said in August that the main differences were Catholic views on nature, the exercise of authority and papal infallibility.
The International AnglicanRoman Catholic Commission started to discuss Authority at a meeting in the Roman hills and Bishop Clark, the Commission's Catholic co-chairman, was given a standing ovation by the Church of England Synod. This month a vote in the Commons ended 400 years of parliamentary control over details of Anglican worship and doctrine. The cause of disestablishment marched firmly forwards.
Dr Donald Coggan, Anglican Archbishop of York, said in March that he was not opposed to the naming of a nonEnglishman as Archbishop of Canterbury. In May the Prime Minister named Dr Coggan. The Archbishop took up his new post in November.
Schools are a traditional rallying point for Catholics and 1974 has been no exception. In July a planning group was formed to defend Catholic Colleges of Education following Government reorganisation proposals. It was announced in November that outline plans for 15 Catholic colleges would reduce teacher training places from 10,600 to 7,000 and involve the closure of two colleges. A Catholic school in Middlesex organised a 10-week course of religious study for 100 adults in co-operation with the local authority. Research from Chicago in January suggested that US Catholic schools might be working better than most people thought in terms of "ultimate values."
If that is true it is possible that Catholic students may be better equipped to withstand the "tremendous tensions in university life today" which the Essex University chaplain spoke of in March, after clashes on the campus. Assuming, that is, that such tensions are not due to lead in the atmosphere as recent reports imply.
Further east the problems of religious education were seen in a different light. "Pravda" complained in April that young people in the Soviet Union were showing too much interest in religion and too little in atheism. An all-party motion in the Commons deplored restrictions on Christians in the Soviet Union. In Kent an ecumenical college for the study of religion and Communism was founded. The sacking of Cardinal Mindszenty as Primate of Hungary marked the new climate in relations between the Vatican and eastern Europe.
At home Lord Longford said in March that "streaking" was exploitative. "People will make money out of a team of them," he added. Cardinal Heenan deplored a "decline in reverence for blessed things."
A Labour Councillor attacked a Council plan to spend £88,000 on the new piazza in front of Westminster Cathedral. Male chauvinism in the Church suf fered a blow in May when the first-ever woman was elected to the chair of the National Coun cil for the Lay Apostolate. Who said they could only clean candlesticks?
In Portugal a coup in April ended 50 years of dictatorship
and led to quite a few red faces in Church circles. Catholic bishops admitted in an August pastoral that members of the Church had often ignored or even supported regrettable behaviour by the ousted Caetano regime.
The coup set off a chain reac
tion in Africa, where Portugal had controlled Mozambique,
Angola and Guinea-Bissao. Rhodesia could no longer rely
on the support of the Portuguese government to maintain white supremacy by keeping out guerilla fighters from neighbouring Mozambique. The screw was tightened.
Pressure increased within Rhodesia. In January six Catholic bishops attacked the government's "racist policies." In April they denied that they were attempting to undermine "law and order." Two months later Bishop Lamont of Umtali said that terror and intimidation from the white minority government of Rhodesia differed "not in essence but only in degree from the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis." He later added that the Pope approved of his anti-Smith attitude.
Archbishop Hurley of Durban said that young South Africans should refuse to fight on the borders because defending apartheid was to defend an unjust cause. In October the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa published a 64-page report supporting racial segregation.
Latin American bishops occasionally went on the attack too. In May six Brazilian bishops said they did not want to be "instruments of the Brazilian capitalist system" in the treatment of Indians. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Ramsey, visited Chile and said that the Ecumenical Peace Committee led by Cardinal Silva Henriquez of Santiago was the "one effective force for human rights."
Hurricane Fifi ravaged Honduras in September, leaving 7,000 dead and at least 100,000 homeless. Sixteen British volunteers from the Catholic Institute for International Relations were among the first relief workers on the scene.
Abortion seemed to be one issue about which British Catholics were completely united. At the end of April a rally in Hyde Park drew an estimated 70-80,000 demonstrators against the abortion laws. Cardinal Heenan said in the same month that the Lane Committee report into the working of the abortion act failed to determine "what effect on national moral standards has resulted from the widespread destruction of life in the womb." In West Germany and France abortion was legalised.
The World Conference on Population, which took place in Bucharest during August, produced a plan of action which emphasised: "Look after people and the population will look after itself." Bishop Holland of Salford sent a telegram to Barbara Castle saying that the provision of free contraceptives made it "more difficult for boys and girls to grow up respecting innermost high ideals."
But as the National Conference of Priests met in September it was clear that the clergy were split over the issue of contraception. What priests said in the confessional they would not necessarily say to their bishops.
In July theologians and medical experts reacted sharply
to a claim by a doctor that three test-tube babies had been born — one in Britain. Concern was expressed at the possibility of "breeding" babies or of using test-tube foetuses for experimental purposes.
At the other end of the spectrum Mr George Mair, a retired surgeon, said in November that he had killed patients "at their own request" by injecting drugs. The hierarchy of England and Wales issued a statement on the need for "generous and compassionate caring" towards the dying. An anonymous doctor threatened to prosecute Mr Mair.
If the Fourth Synod of Bishops did not quite end with a whimper it certainly did not end with a bang. Evangelisation was on the agenda at the October meeting in Rome, and among the topics which came up were "indigenisation" of the Church, the ordination of married men and the role of the laity in spreading Christianity. The bishops failed to agree a final document and presented all the papers to the Pope . . . who graciously received them.
The Jesuits also went to Rome, only to be rapped over the knuckles by the Pope. As the thirty-second general congregation got under way in December His Holiness spoke of the need for obedience. Some Jesuits had been thinking of relaxing the rules.
One cause of Jesuitical concern was said to be a downturn in applicants to join the Order. But in January according to Cardinal Wright, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, the world vocations tide was about to start coming in. Soon after this news, 21 bishops and three archbishops underwent an in-training course in north London. A trappist in the United States said that Christians should "keep fit for Christ."
Groundplan report July saw the publication of
GroundPlan, a report on diocesan restructuring which burst on an unsuspecting Catholic community with all the impact of a damp sparkler. Not that many disputed the idea of replacing the existing 19 dioceses in England and Wales by 37 dioceses. There was just a lack of enthusiasm one way or the other.
Bishop Cunningham of Hexham and Newcastle died on July 10 and was succeeded by his auxiliary, Bishop Lindsay. Members of the hierarchy who resigned were Archbishop Scanlan of Glasgow, Bishop Rudderham of Clifton and Bishop Ellis of Nottingham. Bishops Winning and McGuinness were appointed to Glasgow and Nottingham respectively.
Several Dominicans died in 1974, including Fr Simon Blake, best known for his interest in world peace, and Fr Ian Hislop, a former provincial.
In France Cardinal Danielou a leading theologian ended his life in Paris.
Cardinal Heenan suffered two heart attacks during the year. He invited Catholics to be "thinking and praying" about his successor.
World peace The Pope continued to display concern about world peace. Ile met Dr Kissinger in July, and in September he was photographed wearing a red Indian headdress. A papal letter to the UN secretary general in April called on rich nations to adopt a new life-style which would exclude excessive consumption and superfluous needs. At Easter we were warned that hedonism was "a philosophy of illusion and death." Opposition to the arms race was unabated.
In June the Pope complained that the Church was "treacherously attacked by an excessive and false pluralism," when a majority of Italians voted in favour of retaining laws which permitted divorce. It was clear that many Catholics had refused to share the attitude of the Italian bishops towards the divorce law. Whether the Church has the right to impose its views in this matter on the citizens of a pluralistic society must remain open to question.
Hans Kueng Limits of pluralism within the Church were further tested by the case of Hans Kueng v the Vatican. The German theologian refused to attend a Vatican "trial" of his views unless he was permitted to fully examine the charges against him and to choose his "defending counsel." It remains to be seen whether the Vatican is prepared to follow the rules of elementary justice. "For souls in growth, great quarrels are great emancipations," said L. P. Smith. Perhaps in years to come we shall look back and regard these internal conflicts as no more than teething troubles of the post-conciliar era, What will certainly be evident in retrospect is the value of a supra-national body such as the Church at a time of growing nationalism and widespread violence.
Only relatively independent organisation can constantly encourage individuals to view national policy with moral objectivity. Only a body able to put out long feelers through time and space can wrench us from our egoism and pettymindedness.
That is one aspect of the Church's redemptive task, and in a year of almost unrelenting gloom Christian inspiration has provided the occasional flash of light. Roll on 1975.