“Killing” the Exhortation by silence

I found an interesting about the bishops of the UK allegedly "killing" the story of the Pope’s Exhortation.

In a story by Damian Thompson I read (my emphasis):

This was the week that the leadership of the Catholic Church in England and Wales disgraced itself. Pope Benedict XVI issued one of the most significant documents written by a pontiff for many years – and the English bishops’ “communications network” effectively killed the story.

Real anger is building up in the parishes over the bishops’ behaviour, which led to the document – Sacramentum Caritatis – a historic, 60-page statement on the Eucharist and the Liturgy – receiving minimal coverage in most secular newspapers.

The Pope’s pronouncement, an Apostolic Exhortation, was a huge story for my newspaper, The Catholic Herald, which will publish full coverage of the document this weekend.

I can’t tell you how infuriating – and downright weird – it was to discover that our bishops just weren’t interested in talking to us about its contents.

So, yesterday, we took an unusual step. The Catholic Herald lodged a formal complaint with the Vatican’s worldwide head of communications, Archbishop John Foley, President of the Pontifical Commission for Social Communication.

Why did the Bishops of England and Wales keep silent? Inevitably, conspiracy theories are already forming, suggesting that they didn’t like the contents of the document. And I’m sure that some of them didn’t.

Pope Benedict calls for all new priests to be trained to say the new rite of Mass in Latin – he has yet to pronounce on the future of the Old Rite – and for a return to Gregorian chant. He also seems to shut the door on the prospect of married priests.

Not the sort of thing that the English Church’s right-on employees like to promulgate.

But those are side issues. The real point of Sacramentum Caritatis (Sacrament of Love) was its fabulously lucid and intellectually daring synthesis of Catholic teaching on the centre of the Church’s life – the Eucharist, or Holy Communion.

Reading the exhortation, I was awestruck by the quality of Benedict’s thinking: this is the most intellectually gifted pope for centuries. He spent months working on the document.

Today, two days late, the English and Welsh bishops’ website finally posted THREE WHOLE PARAGRAPHS on the subject. The Irish bishops, in contrast, issued a long and comprehensive response, setting out all the key points, on the day of publication.

So far as I am aware, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, has yet to say a word publicly about Pope Benedict’s exhortation. It is inconceivable that his predecessor, Cardinal Basil Hume, would have been guilty of such an omission.


In my article for The Wanderer which I sent today I wrote:

This document will have its enemies, as usual.  Some will say it’s bad because it doesn’t punish or impose.  Others will ignore it.  Some will intentionally misinterpret it. 

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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