Thursday, 9 September 2010

The Pope's British Divisions: a varied bunch

Mark Dowd's "The Pope's British Divisions" on BBC R4, broadcast this morning, is repeated at 2130 tonight and well worth a listen. Into half an hour he packs a vast panorama of the Catholic Church in the UK, asking how it has changed since Pope John Paul II's 1982 visit. He speaks to young Catholics who think the best thing about being a Catholic is how you can "pick and mix what you believe", as well as objectors to a Mass for gay people in London, who think that the fact that the Mass is approved by both the Archbishop of Westminster and the Vatican proves that only a "very small remnant" will be saved at the end. There are many stories of how immigrants have transformed the British Catholic Church.

Sir Stephen Wall, former adviser to the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, recalls how Cardinal Angelo Sodano, then secretary of state, would called Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor to "correct" something he had read in the Tablet. Dowd travels to Blackfen in Kent, where the Extraordinary form of Mass (the Rite pre-Vatican II) is proving very popular but has also alienated many parishioners. He talks to a priest who laments how the clerical sex abuse crisis has led to priests not wanting altar servers or football teams; but talks to seminarians at Oscott College who are stalwart.

Dowd concludes the Church is more "polarised" now between "traditionalists" and "progressives" but at the same time "more Catholic" -- in the sense of "universal" -- than 28 years ago. Superb.