FROM A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
PrHE life of the Church has in many ways "never been so healthy," Cardinal Heenan said last week in Rochester, New York, where he conducted two retreats for priests on his way back to England after his visit to Peru and Chile. He arrived back in London on Wednesday.
"By comparison with other periods in the Church's history we are really in a glorious age.
"Consider the confusion in the Church after some of the other Councils. We must keep some sense of proportion. We are a thousand times better off than in past centuries."
PRIESTLY LIFE The Cardinal based his retreat conferences on the Second Vatican Council's decree on the priestly life and ministry.
He said: "Because we must be the living instruments for the sanctification of the Family of God, priests must discipline their lives to a much higher spiritual plane of perfection than even the finest of the laity." Despite the bitterness of internal controversy distressing the body of the Church, and the current "rash of defections" of many clergy and religious, Cardinal Heenan said he believed the post-Council era was "a happy time."
"If it had not been for the Vatican Council coming precisely when it did, we might have ended up pretty much as badly as our predecessors in the 16th century, when the Protestant Reformation broke the Church. I believe that is why God allowed the Council to be called."