Saturday, 18 December 2010

Our new Nuncio

There seems to be a consensus emerging on the Italian blogosphere (as on Palazzo Apostolico among many others) that our new Nuncio was appointed because of his success in soothing the volatile temperament of the Russian Orthodox. In this his achievement has in all regards been conspicuous. He is, it is said, expected to perform the same miracle with the Church of England. Let us set aside the question of whether the aggrieved sensibilities of the CofE are perceived to be more important than the aggrieved sensibilities of the Russian Orthodox, or the extent to which either side brought it on themselves. What matters is that Mennini was perceived to have done a good job, and it is hoped that he will do it again.

It would appear that the Vatican has been serious in its post-Williamsongate (sorry!) intention to scan the online media, and has taken to reading Wikileaks among other things, and believes the Church of England to have been seriously annoyed by the establishment of the Ordinariates. This might a be a correct assumption, however incorrect the attribution of this opinion to Francis Campbell (whom I continue to believe to be a good thing). The Church has (in my view correctly) seen it as an important project to maintain good relations with non-Catholic bodies. The fact that the Church of England has taken some steps recently which have had seriously anti-ecumenical consequences (meaning that they see ecumenism as being less important than these other matters) does not change that. Eastern Churches frequently stamp off in dudgeon about some matter or other (I remember a formal breaking off of all dialogue with Rome by the Greeks because Rome exhibited a Macedonian icon in the Vatican museum) but despite the fact that actual unity has been postponed by the CofE sine die (unless we abandon our antediluvian ideas and join them in ordaining those whom our Lord did not), the Church still wishes, like a loving Mother, to keep the lines of communication open. This is good and Christian behaviour.

So Mennini's job is, they say, to soothe the savage breast and restore ecumenical equilibrium. I think, though, that the Secretariate of State has overestimated the problem, despite everything I wrote above. The Church of England isn't really that annoyed by the Ordinariates. Papalist Anglo-Catholics have long been a thorn in the side of the Establishment, and I am sure that there are many Anglicans, publicly posturing a 'Papal Aggression' stance, who privately are saying 'good riddance; just make sure they leave the silver spoons behind when they go'.

I believe, too, that the Church of England ought not entirely be allowed to get away with feeling that it occupies the moral high ground on the matter of women's orders, and I also dislike any notion that we Catholics are chasing to ingratiate ourselves once more with the people who caused the problem in the first place. Our first moral duty is to those now limbering up to swim the Tiber. They are our brethren, let us be in no doubt—and Rome is in no doubt—about it.

So Archbishop Mennini's first job is to keep Canterbury sweet. But he shouldn't waste too much time on that matter; it isn't necessary. Canterbury isn't Moscow or Athens (a far more intractable see than Constantinople). Canterbury is far too preoccupied with keeping its much bigger chicks within the nest—and the Anglican Communion right now risks losing far more members to the Southern Cone and the African group than it ever risks losing to us. Canterbury will keep talking to us because it needs to, and because it is right to do so, anyway. If it hesitate, it is because it feels, just a teeny bit, guilty about what has happened. The fulminations of such as Bishop Charteris (in denying Ordinariate swimmers use of London Diocesan property) are really the actions of someone who feels rather insecure, not someone who feels positive about his actions and wishes to make others feel positive too. He wishes to play the 'offended against' card. Sorry, it doesn't convince.

Archbishop Mennini is very welcome to our shores. I really hope he will enjoy his stay among us. Having served in Uganda, he should know some English already, which will help. But let him make no mistake about it: the real issue here is not ecumenism, vital though I genuinely believe that to be, but is  to be found in the various talks of the Holy Father on his visit to Britain only a few months ago. Those talks gave huge potential impetus to the faith of the Catholic Church here, and it will be vital to ensure that our future episcopal appointments realize this (in both senses of the word).


Miles said...

Hurrah! Good to see you posting again.

Sixupman said...

I am not concerned about Canterbury, I am greatly concerned with regard to the continuing machinations of the BCEW!

benedict said...

I too am not concerned about Canterbury.

Here in Scotland we have 5 out of our total of 8 Bishops retiring between now and the end of 2011. His Excellency will have a unique opportunity to shape the Church in Scotland for many decades to come.

GOR said...

I suspect that what many people would want – excepting certain porporati - is closer attention to future episcopal candidates. In too many places, Britain included, the terna tends to be derived from within a privileged circle, ensuring continuity of the existing regime. While I’m not ready to advance an Ambrosian solution of episcopal choice by popular acclaim (though it worked out well in Ambrose’s case…), I think a wider net needs to be cast.

But to do so would require detailed knowledge of the entire ‘electorate’ - something which will only come with time and singular determination. By all appearances Ab. Meninni is up to the task. As to Anglican relations I don’t see that as a major concern for the new Nuncio. The Holy Father has already established the ground rules for the ‘New Ecumenism’ and Ab. Meninni ‘s task will be to ensure proper implementation – which may present more challenges from within than from without.

Robert said...

I agree with your analysis. I am sure the C of e's reaction to anglo-papalsists "good riddance." I fail to see why anyone should feel threatened by the Ordinariate. the RC church will gain pastoral and expereinced priests and faithful laity. The C of E will be more free to go its own way.
We should really be concerned about the millions who do not possess any faith. there is more than enough firuit in the vineyard fro all Christian bodies. I have long believed that RC parishes should not see themselves as ministering to "gathered congragations" but should see themselves as pastors to all even though they are not part of the establishment. With increasing aggressive secularism we should not sit on the sidelines but "attack!"
Robert T.

Anonymous said...

You are a gracious man Fr Sean and a diplomat too . I like your final paragraph . Keeping 'Canterbury sweet ' should indeed be the least important task of the Nuncio.We've had the 'sweet' talking ; it's time now to look at what is happening within our own walls; a hugh task for our new Nuncio.

Little Black Sambo said...

After the Russians the Anglicans should be a pushover; at least they are not dangerous.

vetusta ecclesia said...

Let's hope that his major brief is to sort out the bishops' bench - so opposed to all BXVI holds dear and "so unapostolic" in his words (or were they those of JPII?)

The future retirements will offer a touchstone by which we can measure the new Nuncio.

Anonymous said...

Well stated 'Vetusta Ecclesia'