Don’t call me ‘Sir’ THE NEW YEAR brings a knighthood for Diarmaid MacCulloch and a new documentary series for BBC2 following his acclaimed A History of Christianity for BBC 4 in 2009.
The Oxford don and Anglican deacon has just put the finishing touches to How God Made the English, a three-part examination of his thesis that religion has shaped national identity.
“Englishness was created by religion and the Catholic Church originally. Now that Britain is questioning its future, Englishness is back and we need to know what it is about,” said MacCulloch, who is professor of the history of the Church in the theology faculty of Oxford University.
His next project is preparing for the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh, which he will deliver from 23 April to 3 May on the theme of silence in the history of the Church. He told us he was surprised and delighted by his knighthood: “It is a huge pat on the back for religious history and it is great to see the Government and the powers that be recognise that the history of Christianity is very important.”
Asked if he intends to style himself “Sir”, he tells us that as an Anglican clergyman he is not allowed to. The appropriate way to address him is, he explained, “Diarmaid MacCulloch, Knight”.
That elusive red hat IF VATICANISTAS are to be believed, the next consistory will take place on 19 February. By this time there will be 107 cardinal electors, leaving Pope Benedict XVI with 13 slots to fill to bring the consistory up to the 120 limit allowed to vote in a conclave.
It seems, however, that the Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols is unlikely to be on the list currently being finalised in the Apostolic Palace. This is because the voting cardinal of England and Wales, Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, will not turn 80 – the age when cardinals lose their right to vote in a conclave – until 24 August. It is widely accepted that those bishops of cardinalitial sees do not receive the red hat while their predecessor is still able to vote. The 19 February date is posited by Italian journalist Sandro Magister of the weekly news magazine l’Espresso, but the consistory may take place in the autumn, giving Archbishop Nichols a chance of becoming a cardinal this year.
Another sign that a consistory is coming up soon is a report that the ecclesiastical goldsmiths, the Savi Brothers, have received orders for the new cardinals’ rings. According to Andrea Tornielli of La Stampa, there is a new design replacing the cross on a rectangle of worked gold with a simple cross.
Pole positions WHEN ARCHBISHOP Patrick Kelly celebrates the golden jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood next month, his priests want to give him a gift worthy of the occasion.
His auxiliary, Bishop Tom Williams, suggested a crozier that would match the decor at Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral. In fact, Bishop Williams felt it important to tell the archbishop in advance about the plan so that he could contribute to the design. Now nearing completion, the crozier is made from stainless steel with a piece of glass at the top representing the Eucharist. It is being made to match the stained-glass windows and other works of art in the cathedral.
Priests and parishioners have been invited to contribute to a collection to pay for the crozier, but it seems a few are not too happy about the idea. Judith Foy, who lives in north-west Merseyside, told us some parishioners were putting Monopoly money or buttons into the collection envelopes. She said a local Catholic charity, Nugent Care, which is desperately short of funds, would be a more worthy cause.
Another parishioner said she and others were “disgusted” about the gift. But Bishop Williams pointed out that the crozier was for the cathedral and was not a personal gift so the archbishop would leave it behind when he retired.
“A gift is a gift,” he said, adding he did not know how much had been raised nor how much the crozier would cost.
War over peace mural IT TOOK a year to complete but only a few short days to reduce the colourful tiled mural that once adorned the facade of San Salvador’s Metropolitan Cathedral to rubble.
The destruction of the mural has caused outrage among its admirers and reportedly condemnation from the Salvadorean Government. A Facebook page, “Indignados por El Mural”, has attracted dozens of furious posts. The Church ordered the removal of the mural and said that parishioners had been consulted and were in agreement with a plan to replace it with a depiction of the Divine Saviour of the World, to whom the cathedral is dedicated.
The earlier mural was the work of local artist Fernando Llort. Completed in 1997, it was made in homage to the 1992 peace accords that ended El Salvador’s civil war. In a statement Llort said the commission had been the highlight of his career and its destruction by the Church was incomprehensible and upsetting.
One report suggests the Church may be prosecuted under a law passed last year making it illegal to deface art deemed part of the country’s patrimony.
The cathedral contains the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero who stood up for the poor in the country’s civil war and was assassinated in 1980. During his funeral, 44 people were killed in a stampede as the congregation fled the cathedral when gunmen – allegedly members of the security forces – fired on mourners.
Morality tale IT IS expected to cause a stir when it is screened to Christian audiences later this year, but the members of the British Catholic family behind the film Doonby say their ultimate aim is to take its pro-life message to the wider, secular market on both sides of the Atlantic.
At first it is hard to identify Doonby as a pro-life film, beginning as it does with the arrival in a small Texas town of a mysterious drifter, Sam Doonby, who takes a job in a blues bar and becomes something of a local hero.
It later emerges that Sam was the result of an unwanted pregnancy and that his mother agonised over whether to have an abortion. Those who have seen the film mention an astonishing twist at the end.
The team behind the production are brothers and former Stonyhurst College pupils Mike and Daniel MacKenzie – who produced and filmed it respectively – and their father, writer and director Peter. Mike, 32, chose to return to his alma mater in Lancashire late last year to give the film its first public British screening and was encouraged by the response it received from pupils.
“I was a sixth-former at Stonyhurst when I first read Dad’s script for the film and I was blown away by it,” said Mike. “It’s not covered in crucifixes and other overtly religious symbols, and is not designed to offend pro-choice audiences, but I think it carries a clear message.”
14 | THE TABLET | 7 January 2012 LETTERS The Editor of The Tablet 1 King Street Cloisters, Clifton Walk, London W6 0GY Fax 020 8748 1550 Email email@example.com All correspondence, including email, must give a full postal address and contact telephone number. The Editor reserves the right to shorten letters.
A pastoral Pope? If Robert Mickens is anywhere near the mark with his list of likely candidates to succeed Pope Benedict (“Conclave contenders”, 31 December 2011), the Church faces a bleak future. Only one of the eight cardinals he names has ever worked as a parish priest. Can we assume that the remaining seven have never listened to the story of a single mother or talked personally to a girl with an abortion in her past, sat at the bedside of dying sinners, heard the pleas of a divorced parishioner barred from the sacrament, felt the anger of women who see themselves as scorned by their Church, discovered the desperation of jobless, debt-laden families, observed the dismay of an elderly person when told their church will have to close?
Is it not time that a significant period of hands-on pastoral experience is required as an essential condition for higher ecclesiastical office? Gerard Loughran Newcastle upon Tyne
Just-war theory – how tenable? Tina Beattie (“Unconscionable and unjustifiable”, 31 December 2011) tells us – on what evidence it is not clear – that “only a small minority of Catholics remains robustly committed to defending the just-war doctrine”, and that “no humanitarian can afford to support war today”. Certainly one would hope that no Catholic would support going to war until all other means have been exhausted, but she fails to answer the age-old pacifist dilemma of how to act when that point is reached. Should we ignore the threats and actions of those who would do us or others harm – from Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia in the recent past to future possible threats such as Iran or North Korea whatever the consequences: or are we content for the dirty work to be done by non-Catholics, enabling our hands to be kept clean – hardly a noble position? William Furness Glastonbury, Somerset
Tina Beattie may well be right about the shift in church thinking, but the just-war approach still has much to offer. It was never meant to be a means of legitimising war. The only “lawful authority”, in just-war terms, entitled to authorise military action today is the Security Council of the United Nations .The only exception is in a situation of immediate self-defence and only then until the Security Council has taken charge. The charter, signed in 1945, says that before any military action is agreed upon, all non-violent ways of settling disputes must have been explored and found wanting. This is no surprise. After all, the first aim of the United Nations is “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. Unhappily, the Security Council has been turned into an
The United Nations Security Council: the first aim of the UN is ‘to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’. Photo: CNS
instrument for legitimising wars either already active or pre-planned. The Libyan regimechange air war is the latest example of this process. Bruce Kent Movement for the Abolition of War, London N4
Pope Benedict XV may have been “a true and courageous prophet of peace who struggled strenuously and bravely, first to avert the drama of war and then to limit its terrible consequences”, but he was singularly unsuccessful in both ambitions. Sadly, the example of Hitler is relevant and in an imperfect world there have to be less than ideal solutions.
It is arguable that, for instance, Franklin Roosevelt’s creation of the United Nations, Jean Monnet’s vision of Franco-German amity, President Kennedy’s Nuclear Test Ban treaty or even 40 years of political/military containment of the USSR, which broke the back of the Soviet economy leading to the dissolution of the USSR and its empire, did more for world peace than the pious exhortations of unworldly religious leaders. Tina Beattie might even consider what would have happened in Libya in 2011 had Nato not intervened. The management of international affairs is a subtle and sophisticated art, which is why we have many politicians but few statesmen. Fine principles are all very well, but as the late Sir Isaiah Berlin commented: “The task of the wise was to undo the mistakes of the good.” (Professor) John Kentleton University of Liverpool
The Church in the high street Abbot Christopher Jamison (31 December 2011) writes on the potential for the Catholic Church setting up shops offering youth employment opportunities. I have long thought that the Catholic Church in the UK has huge potential for much wider encouragement with social enterprise. It has the built assets required, often situated in excellent trading positions for maximum impact – a nationwide network of buildings – churches and church halls which are often woefully underutilised. How many churches are now occupied only for a few hours one day a week? How many Catholic schools, despite various government initiatives, are in use for only eight hours a day on 192 days a year? It has access to skilled and experienced lay volunteers who could be galvanised into putting Catholic Social Teaching into practice within a structured environment. This is a huge opportunity for making a real difference, as the Church did in the recessions in the last two centuries. This is the way to evangelisation and engaging the young. (Dr) Martin Price Dinas Powys, Vale of Glamorgan
In the footsteps of Mary Gratitude is due to Abigail Frymann for all the information she has given on the Israeli tourist office’s “Mary Trail” (“Checkpoints and churches”, 26 November 2011). But the tourist office’s appropriate point of beginning would surely be the Church of St Anne, in Jerusalem, between St Stephen’s Gate (or the Lions’ Gate) and the beginning of the Via Dolorosa. The fine Crusader church is built on the site traditionally associated with the house of Joachim and Anna, and so the place where Mary was conceived immaculate. This shrine has been entrusted to the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) since the time of their founder, Cardinal Lavigerie. In the grounds lie the remains of the probatic pool where Jesus cured the paralytic. This is not connected with Mary, but is well worth a visit. (Archbishop) Michael L. Fitzgerald Embassy of the Holy See, Cairo, Egypt
The heart’s a wonder So Romanticism is alive and well at The Tablet. Having noted dutifully the themes in Archbishop Nichols’ Tablet lecture (“Formation of the human heart”, 29 October 2011), I nevertheless succumbed to a growing curiosity arising from his attribution of amazing qualities to the human heart. The archbishop, along with Pope Benedict, seems convinced that it can be “formed”, “nurtured”, “tutored” and “transformed”. It can also be “fashioned into a listening heart”, and can even talk – which explains how “heart speaks unto heart”. Accordingly, this conversational ability enables the human heart “to enter into a profound communication with God’s heart” and even “God opens his heart to us”. We should not be surprised, therefore, that the archbishop also believes it can actually see – “may we keep the eyes of our heart upon this little baby” (Christmas message, 17/24 December 2011).
Talking, listening, learning, seeing – truly a remarkable organ. The truth is, of course, that since Harvey in the seventeenth century we know that the heart is a pump. It is not
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