by Michael Duggan
It has been a good year for openness in the Church. Cardinal Alfrink took the
Catholic Herald to task over an article on the Dutch Church; Fr. Peter Hebblethwaite S.J., writing in the Observer, dragged a few Vatican secrets into the light: and on the Clyde, Mgr. Bruce Kent symbolically "exorcised" a nuclear submarine. In Germany the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Bafile, got himself into hot water over a letter asking the Vatican to sack the Bishop of Limburg.
Yet the hulk of news has been more humdrum, reflecting the everyday concerns of the Church in the twentieth century.
On the ecumenical front there were "conversations" on union between the major British Churches, Cardinal Willebrands discussed closer co-operation with the World Council of Churches, and the AnglicanCatholic International Commission produced a joint statement on the Ministry.
Westminster Pastoral Council voted for the Catholic Church to join the British Council of Churches — a decision later postponed by the Bishops while on a more personal level two Anglican ordinands went to study at the English College in Rome, and Bishop Butler helped launch the call to United Evangelism at St. Alban's Anglican Cathedral.
Disappointment was expressed in some quarters over the Vatican document Mysterium Ecclesiae, although some Catholics felt the restatement of basic doctrine to be an essential element of true progress.
Bad housing and abortion have been prominent concerns of the Church in the past year. With mounting pressure on doctors and nurses to participate in abortions the Hierarchy backed a plan to open a centre for the study of medical ethics. At a meeting on euthanasia Cardinal Heenan asserted that the Catholic Church had failed to oppose the 1967 Abortion Act strongly enough.
In Manchester and Cardiff thousands marched against the working of the act, and in Wales Anglican and Catholic bishops publicly criticised abortion on demand.
November saw a massive lobby of Parliament by up to 10,000 people, with the backing of many M.P.s. Cardinal Heenan later spoke of the "organised attack on life" in Britain.
After urging Catholics to write to M.P.s over the housing shortage, the Catholic Housing Aid Society were rapped over the knuckles by Mr. Paul Channon, the Housing Minister. He is reported to have said that there were no slums in London. The Society later recommended Catholics to give 1/5000 of the value of their homes to help more than five million living in condemned houses, There were other signs of Church concern for the homeless, and badly housed, The Pope had flats built for shanty dwellers in Rome; a Leeds priest opened a self-help day shelter for homeless men and the crypt of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral was used as a night shelter.
During a television interview, broadcast in February, Bishop Harris, Auxiliary of Liverpool upheld the right of conscience in family planning. in August, Dr. John Rock, a Catholic who is known as "Father of the Pill", predicted that the Church would reverse its attitude on certain methods of contraception soon after the election of Pope Paul's successor.
The apparently almost insolu
hie problems of Northern Ireland were given wide coverage. Irish protests that the Vatican and the World Council of Churches wrongly regarded the conflict as religious in character were followed by a call for reconciliation from the Pope.
In September the major Irish Churches met in Dundalk. A request to the. Bishops of England and Wales to finance community projects in the six counties and to nominate-representatives to the Ft C.C. Northern Ireland
Advisory Group met with no immediate response. The English Hierarchy wanted further consultation with their Irish colleagues before taking action.
Fr. Des Wilson of Belfast alleged that a Catholic army chaplain had • supplied the British Army with information: a report on the Northern Irish courts showed bias against Catholics: and after protests by Cardinal Conway that the Government had played down murders of Catholics, two loyalist organisations were proscribed. During the Commons debate on the new Ulster Assembly, Mr. David James, M.P. for North Dorset and a Catholic. asked the Irish Hierarchy to relax their attitude towards the children of mixed marriages and to press for integrated schools.
In the face of attacks on denominational schools Catholics put up strong resistance. The Vatican said they were a contribution to the pluralistic society and Fr. Kevin Nichols, of Christ's College. Liverpool. emphasised the dangers of a state monopoly of education.
The interdenominational Order of Christian Unity reported that 97 per cent. of head teachers in state secondary schools approved of religious lessons in school. The Order later made five proposals to the Minister of Education to im prove and maintain the teaching of Christianity. In March St. Margaret's Parish. Twickenham, Middlesex, concerned at the inadequacy of religious teaching for Catholic children outside the Catholic school system, set up working groups on education.
Controversy over the nonreinstatement of the headmaster at Sacred Heart Secondary School, Redcar, after structural changes at the school, continued throughout the year.
A week before the visit of Portuguese President Caetano in July, Fr. Adrian Hastings published details of a massacre by Portuguese troops in the colony of Mozambique, and caused a storm of controversy. An Anglican Bishop and four government ministers in the Netherlands called on the Pope to investigate.
Shortly afterwards, in a clear reference to Portugal, the Pope condemned "misdeeds". As evidence for the Wiriyamu massacre mounted up, the. White Fathers in England released evidence of further brutalities in Mozambique.
In Rhodesia the bishops publicly attacked racial legisla tion and an article by Bishop Lamont was described as "rabble rousing". The South African bishops asked for a parliamentary commission, investigating the Institute of Race Relations and the Christian Institute to be scrapped.
Church-State relations in Latin America were as tur bulent as ever. In July Cardinal Henriquez of Santiago thanked the Chilean Communist Party for their readiness to open dialogue with Christians, but the Christian Democrat Party afterwards broke off talks aimed at a political compromise. After the fall of President Allende, Cardinal Henriquez said the Church in Chile was "not political" and would not intervene in political affairs.
An American priest visited Chile and reported that there was repression of human rights, violence and torture. This confirmed the findings of two priests from Chile who gave in
terviews to the Catholic Herald. While the doors of the British
Embassy remained closed. the World Council of Churches said that Chilean refugees urgently needed asylum.
In May Brazilian bishops criticised their government for
supporting torture and assassination. Scandinavian newspapers campaigned for the
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