By Bess Twiston Davies
THL ARCHBISHOP of Southwark has confirmed that he will not be cancelling a oneday festival in his diocese featuring dissenting Catholic groups.
In a letter seen by The Catholic Herald, the Archbishop Michael Bowen admitted the he was also "concerned" by this summer's Jigsaw 2000 festival but felt it would be "imprudent" to cancel the event.
"All the invited Catholic societies and groups are aware that the event is not promoted or sponsored in any way by the diocese." the archbishop wrote to a concerned Catholic laywoman.
Dissenting groups due to attend the day include We Are Church, a lay organisation which collects petitions from Catholics opposed to Church doctrine, SevenEleven, a support group for
women who have affairs with Catholic priests and Quest. a homosexual support group suspended from the Catholic Directory last year.
They will appear alongside orthodox Catholic bodies such as CAFOD and the Union of Catholic Mothers.
The archbishop said in the letter, dated April 12. that "the organisers have assured me that it is not part of their intention to promote dissent from Catholic teaching".
Catholic women's groups are divided over whether to attend the event, which critics allege will be a platform for dissent from the Church's official teaching.
The Catholic Women's League, which was wrongly included on an acceptance list by the organisers made swift moves to inform Jigsaw 2000 they would not attend, and had only made initial inquiries.
But the Union of Catholic Mothers said they still planned to come. Spokesman Margaret McNicholas said: "This is being put on as a Catholic occasion. 1 feel we have to be there because if we are not there to put our more traditional viewpoint across anyone coming is going to get the wrong impression."
She said that the UCM would have a different stance if the archbishop condemned the dissident groups.
"Until the hierarchy come out and say these organisation are not Catholic and not recognised by the Church, then it is not for us to judge."
Concern over the event was first brought to Archbishop Bowen's attention last year by the doctrinal pressure group Pro Ecclesia et Pontitice.
The group was worried that the festival would be held at Digby Stuart College, home to the Catholic Teaching Institute.
But the archbishop responded that the college, which is part of the Roehampton Institute and is shared with the Methodist College, was not "exclusively `Catholic"' property.
Therefore, the archbishop wrote, Southwark Diocese was "not in any way responsible for it".
"At the moment," he added, "1 think it would be unrealistic to suppose that I could simply forbid this event on the suspected intentions of some of the organisers. It might be unwise to do so anyway because it could play into their hands."