AA STRONG attack on the proposal to canonise the Forty English Martyrs was made last week by a Jesuit priest. He says the issue has been raised because the Catholic hierarchy in Britain has panicked in the face of the growing challenge to its authority.
Fr. Joseph Munitiz, a member of the English Province of Society of Jesus who Is studying in Paris for a doctorate in the history of theology, puts his view in the latest issue of New Christian, the interChurch fortnightly review.
"For the first time since the Middle Ages," he writes, "English Roman Catholics have begun to see through the veil of Vatican politics, and are justifiably disgusted with much that they have found. Some
even • dared to discover Christian teachings in the writings of Marx, and to question the capitalist base of much ecclesiastical economy.
"There is a second danger. Many Catholics seem to have become aware that Christianity has outgrown the traditional pigeon-hole not only in relation to social and economic theories but also in the question of Church divisions.
"New friends have been made who find Christ in some mysterious way, independently Of precise official structures; the identification of these transitory administrative channels with the immutable will of God seems a figment of one particular epoch's political imagination.
"To deal with both dangers the English martyrs are to be brought into the limelight. Their devotion to Rome and their aversion for the Anglican Church of their times deserve a special consideration and praise today as a reminder, even if veiled, for wayward Catholics in England.
"The note of caricature that has crept in was difficult to avoid and says much that otherwise must be left unsaid.
However, it would be a pity if it obscured the seriousness of the situation.
"The message that the martyrs are being asked to deliver runs counter to the most healthy movement in the Church today." Fr. Munitiz adds that there seems to be a sharp division between the sense of reality and of urgency and the pompous ceremony being prepared to "honour" the Forty English Martyrs.
If the Pope considered the ceremony still to have meaning today, Fr. Munitiz suggests that Pope John, his predecessor, would seem a more suitable subject. The English martyrs had already been canonised in the affection of their fellow Catholics for the past three centuries.
"The world today would gain new joy and hope if they were to witness the mist of distrust cleared officially in his own Church. The martyrs have been kept waiting too long for an earthly reward for their pains. They have suffered their fill for Rome.
"The least that can be done is to ensure that they are not Stuffed after death and turned into ventriloquist's dolls."
The canonisation of the Forty Martyrs has been tentatively arranged for May 17 or May 24 in St. Peter's Basilica, according to Vatican sources. Many Anglicans, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Ramsey, have complained that the canonisation would harm efforts for Christian unity.
Some Anglicans have said it would be inopportune in view of the Protestant-Catholic disputes in Northern Ireland, and others have stressed that the number of Anglicans who died for their faith far exceeded the number of Catholic martyrs.
The Pope is reported to have taken particular interest in the cause of the martyrs because they died to uphold Papal authority—a principle which has recently been much under attack.