Saturday, 11 September 2010

+Vincent's Saturday newspaper offensive

Both the Telegraph and the Mail today carry interviews with the Archbishop of Westminster, +Vincent Nichols. Some gems:

On the visit:
"I am not anxious. I trust the Lord. It will be a wonderful few days."

On its costs:
"This, remember, is a state visit – the Pope has been invited by the British Government. Benedict is the spiritual leader of a fifth of the world's population, and the Catholic Church is the world's second biggest development agency – this is a substantive visit. The relationship with the Holy See is also Britain's oldest formal diplomatic relationship: we've been exchanging ambassadors since 1479. Don't forget, the last G8 meeting in the UK cost £28 million. Who's complaining about that?"

On Pope Benedict's 'conservatism':
"He is out there intellectually and spiritually. He engages with the contemporary world but retains an inner peace and a rooted spiritual life. He is a man of real poise, gentle and respectful. His view is that the Church should not be a closed place, trying to preserve tradition, but that it should be a luminous place. And he believes the only way the Church can shine is by being deeply rooted. People try to construct him as a conservative pope, but he's not. What he's trying to say is that, as a society, we need deep roots from which to draw this luminosity."

On clerical sex abuse:
‘It is the most difficult thing in my lifetime. The abuse of children is the most hidden of crimes. It is profoundly devious. It is so difficult to understand. It takes enormous courage to break the circle of silence, especially for the victims.'

‘It is very hard for someone who has not been through the experience to know how deeply it cuts through the essence of being human. It cuts through the ability to trust, to love, and the sense of self. It is difficult to move on from being a victim.’

On how sex abuse of minors has taken a long time to be understood -- by both Church and society at large:
"Let me give an example: there was a priest in Birmingham who in the late Sixties or early Seventies was reported to the police by the diocese and brought before the court. He was given a £600 fine and told not to offend again. It wasn't just the Church that didn't understand the nature of the offender and the gravity of the offence. Remember, there was a movement in the Seventies to make sexual intercourse with minors of 14 legal. So there was a whole different culture. Now, that is no excuse at all for the way we didn't get it right, but we are now on the right road. I can assure people that children in the care of the Catholic Church, in schools and parishes, will be safeguarded. They can be confident of that."

On a Vatican-directed international conspiracy to conceal abuse:

"People think the Catholic Church is a big international concern with Pope as CEO. Until 2001 the responsibility for oversight of priests fell on the bishop, and that's where we got things wrong. It was mostly about bad judgment, not bad motives. There is within the Church a great tradition of forgiveness, of giving a person another chance and saying 'well, with prayer and help you will get over this'. We know that paedophilia is much more difficult than that to get over. I have learned that when I am in conversations with priests and those telling me about these things, I have to apply much stricter criteria about who I believe. Sometimes it's difficult to believe the stories of those who have been abused. Their parents find it difficult to believe; I have found it difficult to believe. And I have found myself too willing to believe what the priest who has offended says to me. That's why it's crucial to have a system that doesn't leave a bishop on his own."

On relations with Anglicans / the ordinariate offer:

‘We are one family. This is not a recruiting drive. The values of this country are not served by a weaker Church of England. We want to be robust partners.’

On whether the Church will ever accept same-sex partnerships:

"I don't know. There is in the Book of Nature an inherent connection between human sexuality and procreation; and those two things cannot ultimately be totally separate. People who are of a homosexual orientation say: 'Well, hang on a minute. How is the Book of Nature written in me?' The most important thing the Christian tradition says is, don't see yourself simply as an isolated individual but as part of a wider family. The moral demands on all of us made by that tradition are difficult. That tradition says human sexuality is for an expression of total self-giving in fidelity in a way that is open to the creation of new life. Now, that's tough, that's a high ideal. I'm not sure many people have ever observed it in its totality, but it doesn't mean to say it has no sense."

"Fear is never a good motivation. The whole point of the Catholic journey is that it is a journey, and we try to hold together high ideals and understanding. That is the same for people who struggle in whatever way with their sexuality. It's an aim."