YOUR COLUMNS, Feb 26, give generous space to the pressure group which claims that its loyalty to Pope John Paul entitles it to denounce the Bishops of England and Wales. I declare my interest; I am one of those bishop. I offer this purely personal reply to the more serious charges being made.
First of all, 1 ask for natural justice. Two serious allegations are published without a single supporting fact. One states that some of us are 'suspect' of being even more Protestant than were the English bishops at the time of' St. Thomas More's arrest.
The other states that we no longer teach the faith'. I ask for justice; no-one can take such defamations seriously until some supporting facts have been put forward.
The very least that I can say from my own knowledge of our bishops are that these two charges are unjust, irresponsible and untrue.
Secondly, Bishop Clark and Bishop Butler were attacked for causing division in the Church by putting 'their signatures to the agreed statements of the Anglican/Roman Catholic International (ARC1C) on the subjects of ministry and the Holy Eucharist'.
I think that the rest of us are supposed to be at fault because we have not disowned them. Anyway, we were told that our first duty is to teach the truth ... In Heaven's name, get on with it'. Very Well, I will.
A RCIC was set up jointly by the Pope (Paul VI) and the Archbiship of* Canterbury (Michael Ramsey). Each appointed nine delegates.
Pope Paul appointed Bishop Clark and Bishop Butler among his nine. The Commission was asked to study Catholic and Anglican teachings, and eventually produce reports on three areas, Eucharistic Doctrine (1971), Ministry and Ordination (1973) and Authority in the Church (197().
What did the Pope say? Did he say that the theologians were clearly wrong, as the pressure group does?
, In 1977, Pope Paul agreed that 'without compromising their respective allegiances, they have addressed these problems together, and in the process they have discovered theological convergences often as unexpected as they were happy'.
Has Pope John Paul refused to have anything to do with A RCIC? Like Pope Paul, he has received the Commission in :Ind ience; the last time was during last autumn.
Does he think that their work has to be denounced? No; and. on the contrary, he went out of his way to mention it only five weeks ago, during a homily on Christian Unity preached on 25th January.
Speaking about his 1982 visit to Canterbury he said, For this I ask for God's blessing, especially at this moment, when after eleven years of work, the Joint International Commission of Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion has submitted an important report to the respective authorities'.
Pope John Paul, then, speaks with approval of the work that ARCIC has done. The pressure group which claims to speak in his support strongly disapproves of the work that ARC1C has done.
Which opinion should a Catholic follow? I will say, as 1 always ao, 'Follow the Pope'. Incidentally. that leaves the pressure group on the opposite side to the Pope and the bishops not, as it claimed, with the Pope but against the bishops.
Hugh Lindsay Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle