Three tickets for Cardinal Burke’s talk collect dust on my shelf. And they will stay there for a long time, and become artefacts of our present times. His Eminence has cancelled his talk that was organised by Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice. I’m a tad sour that his talk had to be cancelled, as I had eagerly looked forward to it. His letter to Daphne McLeod is candid and to-the-point: ‘given my position as the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, in which I act on behalf of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, it is not right for me to give a presentation in any place which in anyway would reflect the lack of respect for the Office of Bishop.’
In response to the Cardinal’s letter, Ecclesia et Pontifice say they are ‘whistleblowers’ and have enemies who convinced the Cardinal not to come. The danger here (as I see it) is that they credit random, unseen, nameless nemesis with having changed the Cardinal’s mind, thus endowing their ‘enemies’ with great influence over the Cardinal. Doesn’t it suggest that the Cardinal is being blindly led by some cabal? The only obvious culprit is the flyer. The PEeP flyer need not have stated; ‘..Sadly, because our bishops are obdurate in their refusal to allow our glorious Catholic faith to be taught in our schools…’
It was fatuitous self-indulgence and the flyer was used as a platform to sound-off about the bishops. Is it unfair to ask - are PEeP their own worst enemy?
And even though I’m a disappointed that I won’t hear Cardinal Burke, I resent that blame is put on invisible ‘enemies’, when the flyer alone was enough to put the kibosh on the talk. I’m no Henry Kissinger, but a flyer with the wording, ‘the downward trend is set to resume with the second generation of immigrants’ is a diplomatic nightmare. It more than implies that the bishops are responsible for a generation of immigrants not having the faith.
There is, however, a dichotomy between that which Cardinal Burke calls ‘several expressions of concern from devout and faithful people’; and the gossipy whisperings about who warned Cardinal Burke. So, anyone who privately raised a concern about the flyer has an agenda? In this dimness, baseless conspiracy theories are sprouting like mushrooms. The article on The Catholic Herald website about Cardinal Burke cancelling his visit is surreally akin to a post on Daily Telegraph blogs. The commentators are jousting each other, and a growing faction are in a bid to out-do themselves in speculating about who warned Cardinal Burke against coming.
I have every respect for Daphne McLeod, in fact we owe her a debt; she has tirelessly alerted Catholic parents to the Religious Education shambles. There is something of St Catherine of Sienna about her. In her letter, she describes to Cardinal Burke that she took an RE book to this Pope, and that he ‘got really angry about it, lifted it three times above his head and slammed it down on the table saying “There is a heresy on every page, how can it have an Imprimatur?” But surely, the issue about the bishops of England and Wales sanctioning (ok – by delegation) the use of some textbooks should have been kept separate to the advertising of the Cardinal’s talk? The fact is Cardinal Burke has little or no direct jurisdiction over the bishops of our chilly island nation. Daphne McLeod in her letter to Cardinal Burke has been frank that she approved the wording on the flyer because she considered it ‘the plain truth’. But, does the flyer not give the impression that Cardinal Burke was coming to chastise the bishops and give them slaps on the wrist? Many point to a lack of ‘diplomatic nous’, but what about prudence? The flyer made it sound as though Cardinal Burke corroborated this criticism of the England and Wales Church hierarchy.
Allow a basic example; imagine if a school invited a politician to speak but advertised the talk by giving strident (and maybe deserved) criticism of the members in the politician’s party. The politician may be forced to drop the talk – because if he gives the talk he is ‘siding with’ or helping the school that gave bad publicity to his party. Yes, this is simplistic in the extreme, but it helps illustrate my point.
Is it just me that sees a disparity in the way Daphne McLeod’s letter states, ‘Rather as you yourself do, we sometimes call the Bishops generally to account.’ Am I taking matters too far, or is this trying to put PEeP and Cardinal Burke on the same page? The difference is that Cardinal Burke has held the office of bishop. No one in PEeP has. Cardinal Burke is known for being vocal and out-spoken – he came into the public gaze during the 2004 American presidential elections when he said that Democratic candidate John Kerry and Catholic politicians who support abortion may not be given the Eucharist. But Cardinal Burke’s courage in speaking out, does not change the fact that he has little authority over our bishops. And if he does speak out, he may do so himself, a flyer from a UK organisation should never act as his mouthpiece.
Fr John Boyle has written that the Cardinal was left with no choice, and Linen On The Hedgerow writes; Cardinal Burke ‘saw the proposed talk, quite rightly, as being an excellent opportunity for PEeP to lambast the Bishops’.
The problem with such an episode as this, is that ‘Orthodox Catholics’ risk losing credibility. The cancelled talk is being called an ‘embarrassment’, and it’s horribly mortifying for all involved.