Page 5, 27th October 1972

27th October 1972
Page 5
Page 5, 27th October 1972 — NO 'GUNNING' FOR FR. RICHARDS

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Organisations: Catholic Church
Locations: Auckland, Wellington


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Keywords: Richards, Surnames

AS the editor of The Nett Zealand Tablet. which set off the fuss over Fr. Richards, may I clear up some of the points raised by correspondents to your columns, and notably Dr. J. E. Pinnington.

The first point to be made is that no one was gunning for Fr. Richards even before he arrived. His visit was awaited with interest, and all that was known of his theological views was that Cardinal Heenan some months previously had been quoted as saying that they were orthodox. It is quite untrue to suggest that Fr. Richards began his tour in New Zealand in circumstances in which "he could scarcely have got an unprejudiced hearing." The second point is that The Tablet did not even mention Fr. Richards before he gave his lectures. His visit was handled as we would handle the visit of any lecturer; what news treatment he received would depend on the value and relevance of what he had to say. We are a weekly and Fr. Richards had completed his lectures in Auckland and Palmerston North before we published our account of what he was saying.

There were three articles in question, The first two, by Frs. Duggan and Richards, were done independently of each other, and without either priest knowing that the other was engaged on a similar task. Fr. Duggan's article was not written specifically for The Tablet. It was written as a submission to the Bishops on the orthodoxy of Fr.Richards' teaching.

Dr. Pinnington describes Fr. Duggan as a wellknown, if not notorious, controversialist. I would go along with that except

that I would substitute the word "formidable" for "notorious," an adjective which is quite inaccurate and quite unworthy of Dr. Pinnington as an academic (and especially as Dr. Pinnington himself has frequently engaged in polemics with Fr. Duggan). I do not myself agree with all Fr. Duggan's views, but I respect his mental powers and scholarship and I believe he exercises an important function in the Church by urging us always to look before we leap.

The important point about Fr. Duggan's assessment of Fr. Richards is that it was not done in his usual polemical style. It was a straightforward statement of what Fr. Richards had said, with, at the end, a brief conclusion under a separate heading, in which he stated that, on the basis of those positions, he believed Fr. Richards' views to be Modernist and "completely destructive of the Faith as taught by the magisterium of the Catholic Church."

The second article, by Fr. Durning, arrived independently at a similar conclusion. Again, Fr. Durning summarised Fr. Richard's position, then commented critically on it. It should be added that Fr. Durning is not a "well known, even notorious, controversialist," as Dr. Pinnington says, but a quiet Dominican university chaplain, who once tangled publicly with Dr. Pinnington over "Humanae Vitae." Perhaps that makes hint notorious!

The third article in question was a Tablet -editorial. which criticised the content of Fr. Richards' lectures, and which expressed surprise "that some of our Bishops should have given Fr. Richards permission to advance the views that he is advancing," and which added: "We expect our Bishops, as chief pastors, to recognise the grave obligations that rest on them in these matters."

That editorial was written as a result of the two articles mentioned and as a result of othei inquiries we made into the Richards' message. Since then we have heard tapes of the lectures Fr. Richards gave and, in the judgment of The Tablet, and o( competent and highly qualified clerics who heard them, the views we expressed and the views Frs. Duggan and Durning expressed were more than justified. It is significant incidentally that no one, least of all Fr. Richards himself, has attempted to refute them. The only comment we got from him was a brief more in sorrow than in anger letter which did not answer the charges that had been made.

The other point that needs to be clarified concerns the reactions of the Bishops. It is quite wrong to say, as some of your correspondents have done (e.g. Sisters Clare, J. Vianney, Mary Paul, Angela, Ursula and Maire) in your issue of October 13) that "the New Zealand Bishops have defended the integrity of Fr. Hubert Richards' teaching." They have not, and they will not be doing so. The position simply is that Bishop belargey of Auckland fired off a petulant memorandum attacking Flu' ablet and Frs. Duggan and Durning -and fired it oft against the advice of senior priests of his diocese who disagreed with hint.

This was followed by a further attack by Bishop Ashby, of Christchurch. He suggested that Fr. Richards was in New Zealand as part of a grand catechetical design by the Bishops. This was not so, and he was publicly challenged on the point by The Tablet. He has made no attempt to justify his claim.

In point of fact, it was highly significant that Fr. Richards was allowed to speak only to priests in Cardinal M c Kee f r y's archdiocese of Wellington, and that he was not invited to Dunedin, whose Bishop, Dr. John Kavanagh, is the Hierarchy's man on education and catechetics. I can assure readers of the CA1flout. HERALD that neither of these prelates endorses the positions taken by Fr. Richards.

The Richards affair, however, has served the Church in New Zealand well. It has brought discussions on catechetics right out into the open and has alerted the Catholic public to distortions that are being done to doctrine, as expressed in the Creed, in the name of updating.

1 he Tablet apologises to no one for its part in the affair. Indeed, we would regard our handling of it as the most significant contribution we have been able to make to the life of the Church here.

Finally, might 1 remind your correspondents that while I can understand their sympathy for Fr. Richards, there are some things that are more important than any one man. Foremost among these is the integrity of the Faith.

John Kennedy, _ Editor The New Zealand Tablet.

P.O. Box 955, Dunedin. N.Z.

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