Catholic Herald: Bp. Conry (Arundel & Brighton) speaks out

Today in the excellent Catholic Herald, the best Catholic weekly in the UK, there is an article/interview with His Excellency, Most Reverend Kieran Conry, Bishop of Arundel and Brighton.  Inter alia he talks about Summorum Pontificum and the TLM.

Let’s have a glance at what His Lordship is saying, with my emphases and comments.

‘You can’t talk to young people about salvation. What does that mean to them?’
Bishop Kieran Conry talks frankly to Andrew M Brown about youth ministry, contraception and the traditional Latin Mass

19 December 2008

The Bishop of Arundel and Brighton: Even after Summorum Pontificum, the traditional Latin Mass ‘can’t become a regular Sunday Mass’ I went to see Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton at the offices of the Bishops’ Conference at Eccleston Square near Victoria station on a Friday afternoon recently. He was standing at the rather cramped reception by the water-cooler. He looks trim and fit for 57 and sporty. In his nylon zip-up jacket, dark jersey and slacks he might be a dad taking his son to a rugby sevens tournament.

When I first knew Kieran Conry, about 12 years ago, he had recently taken charge of the Catholic Media Office in London, a role he performed adroitly. He was always friendly and informal and known simply as "Kieran".

A monsignor at 33, he has experienced promotion without seeking it. As he says "categorically": "I was quite happy as a parish priest in Stafford."

As we sat down in a committee room he quickly asked: "How long will you need?" He had a few more jobs to do before taking the train back to Brighton. In the end we talked for less than an hour.  [It was good of His Excellency take the time!]

He was unsure why I want to interview him: "Is this part of a series?" It wasn’t, I said; I wanted to interview him to find out what a bishop really thought and I remembered him fondly. He was "congenial", I said.

He thanked me and seemed pleased. It’s true that his niceness is what strikes you. Like most Church people he pretends to be above labels like "liberal" and "conservative" but I got the feeling he thinks niceness goes with a liberal tendency[Well… it is.  But "nice" is a certain sense.  I have found that many on the liberal side of things tend to perpetuate the myth that liberals are nice and conservatives are mean.  But this is a rabbit hole.  It was nice of His Excellency to do the interview.]

For instance, he cited approvingly something that Cardinal Hume said – "it was always easier to deal with the loony Left than the conservative Right. He said they were always nicer people."  [See what I mean?  At the same time, he is right about this.  Some of the sourest people I have ever met are on the traditional side of the fence.  Sadly, the traditional thing attracts people who are only happy when they are unhappy.] He’s also mentally quick, articulate, polished and full of conviction about the kind of Church he wants to belong to.

Kieran Thomas Conry was born in Coventry and educated in north Staffordshire – at Cotton College, a junior seminary, now closed. You can hear a hint of the Potteries in his voice. Then he went to the English College and the Pontifical Gregorian University.

In the late Seventies he went back to his old school to teach English and RE for a while before coming to London in the Eighties to take an important job as private secretary to two successive Apostolic Pro-Nuncios (Archbishops Heim and Barbarito). He was appointed monsignor at that time.

To begin with I laid out for him a scenario that I’ve heard proposed many times: you have a coterie of liberal English bishops who think the Pope is too conservative and who are privately hostile to his policies.

For example, they’re on a "go-slow" when it comes to implementing the Pope’s letter Summorum Pontificum. (It liberated the centuries-old Tridentine Mass that some Seventies reformers had tried to get rid of, so that it could be celebrated more widely than before.)

Bishop Kieran was adamant: "It’s your classic conspiracy theory, which of course, like all conspiracy theories, is impossible to prove, and for which there is no evidence."   [Hmmm… not so sure about that.  There are ways, I think, to quantify the number of places/Masses and the number of requests made to parish priests and the number of people making them, etc.]

He fairly hammered the point. "I’ve never refused permission for a Mass. I’ve never refused to meet them. If they’ve come to me for permission I’ve given it. I have never attempted to restrict, shut down, exclude. If anyone could produce evidence that I’ve attempted to stifle or restrict then I’d be interested to see it. Even a letter." Then he sighed.  [I must interject that Summorum Pontificum clearly established that priests do not need permission of the diocesan bishop to establish the TLM in their parishes.  Perhaps he is talking about the days before the Motu Proprio.]

Did he, for instance, find some of the traditional ceremonial a bit over the top? "Yes. A bit over the top." [So, it is not his preference.] And off he went again: "But I’ve made no attempt to restrict it. I participate in it fully. I’ve made no attempt to change it."  [Has full participation included celebrating the older form of Mass?]

I’ve heard it said many times that liberals fear a resurgence of the Tridentine or Extraordinary Form of the Mass because they think it symbolises a retrograde movement and a rejection of the reforms of Vatican II. Did Bishop Kieran think attachment to the old Mass signifies hostility to Vatican II? "I’d never immediately jump to that conclusion. But there is a risk that with some people that’s what it signifies."  [Indeed, there is.]

Is liking the old Mass a sort of code? "No. It’s an indicator, it’s a sign, for some people." Which are the reforms you think are not being accepted? "Oh, I don’t know. Some people just blank out the whole of the Vatican Council and say, you know: ‘We either weren’t ready for change, didn’t want change, or didn’t need change.’ "

If the Tridentine Mass became too popular would he worry we’d have a situation comparable to the Church of England where people choose "high" or "low" Church? "I don’t think there will be a big take-up," he said. "It would be a worry because you’d have two Churches really [Huh?] and in the end it doesn’t come down to language or liturgical style, it comes down to your view of Church. Do you accept the reforms of the Vatican Council or not?"  [I think the question made sense in the context of the UK.  There you find far more tensions between high and low, different classes, the implications of being "high Church".  However, His Excellency suggest that widespread or "popular" use of the TLM would creat "two Churches".  That implies that there are differing, if not conflicting, ecclesiologies.  On the other hand, with Summorum Pontificum the Holy Father is working toward unity and continuity.  What’s it going to be?  Furthermore, desire for the TLM doesn’t automatically imply rejection of Vatican II.  The Holy Father doesn’t reject Vatican II.  Most people I know who want the old Mass don’t reject Vatican II.  They just want the real Vatican II, and not some chimeric "spirit" redolent of 60’s iconoclasm.]

Is there a strong body of people who want the old form of the Mass? "A strong but very small body. Very small. I’ve had two requests, one from a guy in Horsham who said ‘can we have the 1962 Latin Mass in Horsham?’ And I said according to the terms of Summorum pontificum you can’t because first of all it can’t become a regular Sunday Mass, and there must be a request from a ‘stable group of people’[There are problems here.  1) Small groups have rights too.  What are these people?  Half-members of the Church?  "Hey, you lot!  Go to the BACK of the bus!" All sorts of initiatives and special Masses are implement for small groups of people.  2) Summorum Pontificum openly states that TLM’s can be a regular Mass on Sunday: 5 § 2.  "Celebration according to the Missal of Bl. John XXIII can take place on weekdays; on Sunday, however, and feasts there can be also one celebration of this kind."  Also, a parish can be established for exclusive use of the older forms.  It is understandable that if there is one Mass on a Sunday in a parish, some care must be given as to how to approach requests.  But it is simply wrong that the TLM cannot be a regular Sunday Mass.  3) A "stable group" can be very small.  A group of three people can receive a law.  Also, the parish priest(s) can be counted.] 

"Well, we can’t translate the Latin accurately, ‘stable’ means a sizeable group in a parish, [Um… no, "stable" doesn’t mean "sizeable".  But I think he is running this together with the next point.]  it doesn’t mean you get 50 people from all over Surrey to come together in Redhill and say ‘we’re a stable group in Redhill’ – no. It’s not the site, it’s where they come from. You can’t come to gather at a place and say ‘we’re a stable group’."  [I don’t see why not.  After all, people come from all over Redhill to go to Mass in Redhill.  This is a mobile society.  Furthermore, are we going to restrict who can attend a Novus Ordo Mass in this place or that?  If not, then we have a double-standard.  Furthermore, imagine for a moment that a parish is going to have a Mass for the deaf, with sign language people helping and people come from all over the diocese and beyond.  Say Mass is going to be celebrated at St. Ipsidipsy regularly for immigrants from Fredonia in Fredonian.  That’s okay isn’t it?  Do they have to be from St. Ipsidipsy to count enough to have this consideration?  Why the rigidity when considering the older form of Mass but not the newer form?  Are these people second-class in the Church?]

Doesn’t that interpretation make it harder for people to have the Tridentine Mass? "No, no, [well… "yes, yes" actually…] if you look at the LMS [Latin Mass Society] news bulletin, it lists at the back the places in Arundel and Brighton where there is Latin Mass regularly: Mary Mag’s, West Grinstead. Again, any permission that’s been sought, I’ve never said no." [With all due respect, according to Summorum Pontificum permission is not needed from the local bishop.  The parish priest takes care of this now.  Perhaps he is referring to the time when just Ecclesia Dei adflicta of 1988 was in play.  These are different times now.  We must implement Summorum Pontificum, not Ecclesia Dei adflicta, right?]

What does he really think about it? "It’s exaggerated, first of all. It’s a very small group of very vocal people. In fact the only comment I’ve heard recently is when I went to a place called West Hoathly, in Worth parish. [Small groups still have rights and legitimate needs.]

"A small group, three or four people, came along to me and said: ‘Please tell us you’re not going to bring back the Latin Mass.’ And I said: ‘Look, things are not going to change.’   [This other small group who doesn’t want the old Mass comes and complains and they get a very positive hearing, assurances that the TLM isn’t coming back.  If a group of three or four were to come and say "We want the TLM back", would they have the same positive reception?  Or is this another case of "Your kind can’t drink out of that water fountain!" all over again?]

If you look at Summorum Pontificum it doesn’t suggest significant change. [Let’s see.  All Latin priests have faculties to say the older Mass.  Parish priests, not bishops, implement the document.  Parish priests and bishops must provide for the TLM when requested.  Sound significant to me.] Really because [the Tridentine Mass] does cater for such a small group, it would be inappropriate to stick it onto a Sunday morning in a parish where most people would say: ‘We don’t really want this.’ That’s why the Pope will say: ‘Have it, but not as part of your standard Sunday repertoire.‘"  [This is a fair point.  There are practical considerations.  It is hard to undertake a parish wide initiative, such as changing a Mass schedule, for very few people.  However, Summorum Pontificum a) leaves this in the hands of the parish priest and b) provides for a regular Sunday Mass.  Also, Card. Castrillon of the Pont. Comm. Ecclesia Dei, the Holy Father’s surrogate in these matters, has stated that the TLM should be made available widely so that people can learn it.  In other words, the TLM should be made available even when it hasn’t been requested.  I believe it was in London that Card. Castrillon said that the Holy Father wanted the TLM in every parish.  Perhaps this more closely reflects "what the Pope will say".  Remember: Summorum Pontificum is a major tool in the Pope’s "Marshall Plan" to revitalize our Catholic identity.  We need to know who we are as Catholics in order to be effective in our vocations in the world.  How we worship is a major dimension of our indentity.  Having the old Mass is part of a larger vision.]

A lot of conservative enthusiasm comes from the young. Bishop Kieran thinks there are three reasons for this. They are geopolitical more than theological.   [hmmm… geopolitical not theological?]

"I think it reflects a very natural anxiety about the way the world is. We’ve got three massive areas of uncertainty. We’ve got first of all massive climatic change heading our way inexorably. They’re going to have to suffer it so they’ve got that anxiety. Now we’re in the middle of enormous economic uncertainty. And the whole threat of terrorism. Even today in the paper reports say that the US has lost it and that China could wage cyber-war."

[Wow.  First, we should immediately deny the premise: "Conservatives are conservative because they are scared about the future".  It couldn’t be that they have weighed the factors and made an informed choice.  However, let’s go along with His Excellency for a moment.  Let’s accept his premise and say that young people are fearful about their future, and that is why they are embracing a more traditional Catholicism, et al.  Is that bad?  After all, traditional Catholicism is legitimate, right?  They are Catholic, right?  They have a right to desire legitimate Catholic things and make their legitimate asipirations known, right?  Furthermore, if they want the older Mass because they are frightened, then, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD GIVE IT TO THEM!  Jesus said: "And which of you, if he ask his father bread, will he give him a stone? Or a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he reach him a scorpion?" (Luke 11).]

But surely other forces have drawn young people to traditional forms of worship, such as the wild experimentation that went on under the guise of reform?

"Fair enough. But the theology of the Mass never changed." [So… there is theological continuity between the Novus Ordo and the TLM?  If so, then what is the problem?  Why not happily see the two forms side by side if there is no conflict?] What about a lack of reverence? "It depends how you express reverence. Because reverence doesn’t necessarily imply silence, a sort of liturgical theatricality. There are many ways to express reverence." [I am confused by this.  I cannot understand how silence is "theatricality".  It might be that in silence you are far more sensible of what is happening in Holy Mass and that may have a powerful effect on the emotions.  Or perhaps he means that reverence doesn’t imply either silence or theatricality.  Not sure.  However, I will say that "theatricality" is precisely the opposite of the experience of Catholic worship.  If "theatricality" is a problem, I suggest you will find it more commonly in many celebrations in the Novus Ordo rather than the TLM, where actions and words of the priests and ministers are controlled by the rites.]

The old Mass was more formal, wasn’t it? "Oh yes, absolutely. It was very rigid. They used to say you could commit 26 mortal sins in the sacristy by not complying with the rubrics. Any ritual over the years becomes more and more complicated, you add little bits here and there. I remember serving the old Mass. I remember moving the Missal from the right to the left, from the Epistle to the Gospel.  [I cannot count the times I have heard especially priests run down the old Mass because of the way it was celebrated, a rigid or inflexible way.  But I respond that the abuse of something doesn’t not mean that it cannot be used properly.   With due respect, if His Excellency has baggage from his youth about the old Mass, perhaps because some overly rigid priest with jansenistic inclinations was overly scrupulous, that doesn’t mean that today a new generation of priests and lay people cannot learn from mistakes of the past and celebrate the TLM with the reverent flexibility that comes with wisdom.  That was then and this is now.  In the intervening years we have learned a great deal about rigidity and creativity, scruples and self-serving experimentation.  We have learned a lot about a sound ars celebrandi.  We must apply the core of Benedict XVI’s Sacramentum caritatis also the the older form of Mass.]

I was very glad when we had a language to the Mass that we could understand and a simplified liturgical expression of it. I thought this made great sense[The Council Fathers thought so too.  They also thought Latin should be preserved, along with Gregorian chant and the pipe organ.] I could see the argument that some priests gave in to excessive reform experimentation but I wouldn’t say there’s widespread liturgical abuse."  [Wow.  Really?]

I found myself using a phrase – "awesome contemplation of God" – to describe worship. He latched on to it.

"That’s a moot point: [hmmm] is liturgy supposed to be ‘awesome individual contemplation of God’? And the answer to that is probably ‘no’. Liturgy is an act of the community." [This old chestnut.]  He warmed to the theme. He’s not crazy about Latin, but he likes to use Greek words. "Leitourgia: the laos, the people of God, perform an act of worship, not a private devotion."  [I suspect he thinks that if people aren’t "doing things" at the same time, then they are engaged in something private.  They could be, together, very still and silent … praying.]

But Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue of Lancaster said just the opposite only the other day, didn’t he? "Well, I would challenge him on it." (Smiling.)

Bishop O’Donoghue said worship is not primarily about community. "It is! It’s the action of the people, it’s the action of the community. There are two points at which the person in the community says ‘I’ in the Mass, the rest of the time all the prayers say ‘we’. The opening word [of the Creed] is pistuomen, ‘we believe’, because again the Nicene Creed was expressing the belief of the Church, we believe this, this and this.  [ARGH!  No.  The opening word of the Creed is Credo.  The Greek plural of ancient symbols of faith stems from the fact that the council fathers were subscribing collectively to a set of beliefs.  That is a conciliar or synodal document.  However, we are talking about liturgy and the liturgical text of the Credo.]

"The only time in which the word ‘I’ is used, really, is ‘I am not worthy to have you under my roof’ and at the beginning: ‘I am sorry’.[Yes… "Confiteor… I confess to Almighty God, and to you, ‘brothers and sisters"…".  Even there a distinction is made between the individual and the rest of the congregation.  There is also a distinction in the Suscipiat.  "My sacrifice and yours", the priest says.  The fact is that the true "actor" in the sacred action of Holy Mass is Jesus Christ the High Priest.  Mass is an act of a community, but not primarily.  It is also that.  First and foremost it must promote the very object of religion itself, which is nothing other than an encounter with mystery which transforms the individual.  Individuals collectively transform the world.  We have to make logical distinctions about things which happen simultaneously.]

So there had been a stripping away of accretions in recent times? "Things develop naturally. Certainly the post-Vatican II liturgy would have more in common with the early Church than the post-Reformation liturgy. The Church [after the Reformation] had to re-state its case very strongly in terms of strictly monitored and controlled liturgical practice. The Church became very controlling and controlled."  [I think what we are getting here is an strand of the thought that the older something is (for worship) the more "pristine" it must be.  That old canard was dealt with when the errors of the Synod of Pistoia were condemned and when Pius XII wrote are false archeologizing in Mediator Dei.  The fundamental error in this is the idea that as time progressed, the changes made were degradations rather than expressions of a deepening understanding of who we are, what we believe, and what God’s plan is.  Corrections must be made along the way, but always (as Pope Benedict has stressed) in a line of continuity rather than of rupture.  In no aspect of the Church’s life is this more true than in her worship, which is the foundation of our Catholic identity.]

We met a few days before National Youth Sunday (Feast of Christ the King). Since the Catholic Youth Services were closed down earlier this year, Bishop Kieran has supervised youth ministry in this country.

A Youth Mass with a liturgy designed to appeal to youngsters had been proposed. The website for it displayed the bishops’ logo. Suggestions included distributing tips on high-energy light bulbs, handing out Fairtrade chocolate and in a list of things to be sorry for in the penitential rite: leaving water in your kettle.

Did the bishop think any of the suggested liturgy was a bit silly?

"Well, it might be. But it’s youth. [But… wait… what about the young people who are traditional Catholics and who want the TLM?  Are we to show indulgence to one group and not to another?  But wait…. I am falling into a trap.  It is legitimate to desire the TLM and it is silly to include "leaving water in the kettle" in a penitential right.] We’re not going to switch light bulbs on in young people’s heads, not at a single event. But it was felt some of that would be appropriate for young people." Leaving water in the kettle? "For young people that’s an issue – energy saving." 

Could the Church be more radical? Talk about the serious questions – repentance, salvation?

"You can’t talk to young people about salvation. What’s salvation? What does salvation mean? My eternal soul? You can only talk to young people in young people’s language, really. And if you’re going to talk to them about salvation, the first thing they will understand is saving the planet. You’re talking about being saved and they will say: ‘What about saving the planet?’ "  [I simply must restrain myself here.]

Doesn’t Jesus talk in black and white terms, as if we might be in danger? "Shoulder my yoke and learn from me," quotes the bishop, "for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light."

Doesn’t he also say we should repent, beware of sin – a stark message? "Not stark. According to where you look in the Gospel, and again if you go to Matthew 25, the final parable of Jesus, only in Matthew’s Gospel – ‘When I was hungry, you fed me … naked and you clothed me … you visited me in prison.’ That would resonate much more with young people."  [UGH… I can’t do it.  Okay, Matthew 25: "But he answering said [to the foolish virgins]: Amen I say to you, I know you not."   Jesus said in Matthew 25: "And the unprofitable servant, cast ye out into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."  Jesus said in Matthew 25: "Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels. … And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting." We must teach people the whole thing.  The wages of sin is death.  Whatever sin we are taking about here, there are eternal consequences.]

Does he think people should have a sense of personal sin? "Yes [firmly]. And I think young people do."

He gives an example: the helpers’ reconciliation service on the diocesan Lourdes pilgrimage. It started at nine o’clock and the last young person left the chapel at 11.15.

Is it a good idea to go to Confession regularly? "No, [No?] because my own experience when we had Confession every day at St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham was that regular penitents came back with exactly the same words week after week. So there you would say, actually, there is no conversion taking place."   [Look/  St. Augustine used his personal experience as a foundation for his theological reflection.  Fine.  But I don’t think that is what is going on here.  Did I really read that His Excellency doesn’t think frequent confession is a good idea?  I think the writer must have misunderstood.  I cannot accept this.]

What about the Four Last Things? Has the Church lost the vigour with which it used to talk about Death, Judgment, Hell and Heaven?

"Again it would be inappropriate to say ‘the Church has lost…’ People have lost a sense of sin."  [So the Church should teach people about the proper sense of sin.]

So the Church shouldn’t bang on about sin?

"No, not necessarily. Because that won’t necessarily re-instil … and you don’t know whether you want to face people with a primary experience of Church which is sin." Was the Church morbidly obsessed with guilt and sin in the past? "Might have been, but again I haven’t got enough evidence."  [I think His Excellency is trying to say that he wouldn’t want a constant and unbalanced emphasis on hell and sin.  Fine.  I think that is what he is driving at.]

Too much emphasis on sexual morality? "It’s sometimes distorted. For instance, we rarely talk about economic honesty, financial honesty, we rarely talk about greed and wastefulness.

"But to young people, boiling a kettle, wasting water, saving the planet, that’s language they will understand. Then you can move on from there: ‘Right, do you understand what saving means? Do you understand what good and bad is here?’ And they’ll say ‘yes’ and you can say: ‘Right now, if you look at your own life…’ And again I think for a lot of the claims there is simply no evidence."  [Uh huh… they are going to receive lessons about sexual morality from the starting point of boiling a kettle.  You know… I think if you talk to young people directly about sexual morality they will both listen and they will want to hear what you have to say.  We have to say it in the right way.  He is right about that.  But… kettles?]

People have the evidence of their own parishes, I said. You don’t hear the word "hell" mentioned that often in the average parish church, compared with in the New Testament.

"Why should you? [Why should we talk about hell?  Because the whole point of life is trying to AVOID IT?] How many times is hell mentioned in the New Testament? Do a word count." I wanted to pin this down: has the traditional homily featuring fire and brimstone been abandoned for the reason that it puts people off?  [Okay, my guess, above, was right.  But I must respond that we are not sola scriptura Christians.  Also, that chapter His Excellency cited, Matthew 25, is pretty clear about the fate that waits those who were faithful and those who weren’t, and, I don’t know about you, "everlasting fire", "outer darkness", "weeping and gnashing" doesn’t sound very congenial.  But… we have to be nice.]

"No, no, it’s not because it puts people off. It’s because the truth is that God loved the world so much that he sent his only son to die for us."

He was speaking from the heart, [I have no doubt.  And he is right to stress the salvific message of the Gospel.  But the message has a flip side: we can lose what Christ won for us.  We need both.] though he couldn’t resist lapsing into Greek jargon: "That is the basic kerygma of the Church. It has always been. It’s not that you are a sinner, but that God loved the world so much, and you see that is the primitive Church’s kerygma, its basic message.

"It’s not about us, it’s about God, and if we put the emphasis on ourselves we become heretical, we become Jansenists. I become the centre of the Church – an anthropocentric model of the Church, it’s all about me and me being saved. It’s not, it’s a theocentric model of Church which is: God loved the world, this is God’s action, stemming from God’s love for us. It is not God’s wish to condemn."  [Your Excellency.  Perhaps the two different forms of Holy Mass can be examined in light of what you very properly said here.  It strikes me that one is more theocentric and the other more anthropocentric.  One has God increase (even through our need to obey "rigid" rubrics) and the other is about us increasing (through seemingly endless options and shifting texts and adaptations).  One is more obviously about our reception, our still listening.  The other is about our constant talking.  I could go on.  But I think His Excelleny’s point is dead on.  If we put the emphasis on ourselves we become heretical.]

Is it possible that this image of God seems bland and boring to young people? "No, I would disagree. Young people want to be loved. We all want to be loved." Can they get that from other sources? "They can, but how many do? They need to be told God loves them. They don’t need to be told: ‘You’re heading for hell.’ No. I would disagree profoundly with that view, profoundly, profoundly." 

Time to move on to something else. It is 40 years since Humanae Vitae. It became acceptable, I suggested, for many otherwise loyal Catholics to routinely disobey a key teaching of the Church.

"Well, first of all, I would disagree that it’s a key teaching. The key teachings of the Church are in the Creed. [Which begins "credo" and not "credimus".]  It’s not a life issue." [Hmmm… Humanae vitae doesn’t concern a "life issue".] To do with the transmission of life, then? "It’s to do with what family and married life means, being open to procreation. So it’s not a life issue because then you tie it in with abortion. The two are completely different issues."

Does it matter if people disobey that teaching?

"In the great scheme of things I don’t think it’s high up the list. It became a very public issue which affected a significant number of people, not the majority of Catholics. The majority of Catholics are not in that position, where birth control is an issue. Look around on Sunday morning and see ‘is birth control an issue for most people here?’ No, it’s not. [Though it tore the Church apart in the late 60’s early 70’s.  Heck. Let’s ad the 80’s and 90’s.  Why not add the present decade too?]

But it became the place where the tug of war took place: it was to do with dissent and obedience. Can you be a Catholic and dissent?"

He thinks there should be greater emphasis on the virtues.  "Why do people never go back to the Beatitudes, ‘blessed are the poor in spirit’? You know, are you poor in spirit? No. Does that bother you? No. Do you practise birth control? Does that bother you? Yes. We’ve got a very distorted view of what we think Christian morality is."  [The writer may have misunderstood this part.  The Beatitudes and the virtues are related, but not the same.]

The Church has attempted to codify every detail of our behaviour hasn’t it? [No] "Yes, but it rarely in tradition has attempted to codify charity, for instance. Again the basic commandment of God – love God, love your neighbour. That has been left largely unexplored." [I think making lists to be memorized by all children, such as the corporal and spiritual works of mercy come pretty close.]

Codify charity? "You can’t quantify love. The birth control issue becomes easy because it’s measurable. You do it or you don’t. But love: you do it or you don’t do it, how can you measure that? We fight the easy battles but we ignore the bigger ones." 

Was Humanae Vitae a mistake? "I don’t know. I don’t know. But at the same time we’ve seen the disastrous effects of the devaluing of sexual relationships, to say they don’t mean anything, which has had catastrophic effects on society, catastrophic effects on the value of women."

He disagrees with environmentalists who attack the Church’s teaching on birth control[Back to the environment.]

"You get people like George Monbiot saying: ‘If the Pope changes his position tomorrow, the world would be rid of the scourge of Aids.’ He’s talking nonsense. Because, first of all, what percentage of the developing world is Catholic? The biggest growth in population is among Islam, not among Catholics. The Church isn’t encouraging people to have children, it’s the culture. That’s not why they’re having large families, because the Church is teaching it."

But is the teaching itself wrong? "It could be. It’s not an infallible teaching. Clearly the basic Creed formula, what the Church teaches about the sacraments is infallible but there’s only been one strictly infallible statement." 

So in a sense it’s a matter of opinion? "Well, it’s… It is. It’s an expression, however, of something quite profoundly important about human sexuality and relationships. If you really love your fellow human being then you’ll have profound respect for them and that has clearly disappeared from large sections of our contemporary society."

We got up to leave. My mind turned to the bishop taking the Friday night train back to Brighton, sitting in the carriage in his black clerical clothes. Then I realised he wasn’t wearing clerical garb.

He told me a story about how he once came back from a conference in clerical black and two people badgered him with their Da Vinci Code questions. It was a good anecdote. But as an explanation for not wearing clerical clothes, it struck me as only half convincing.  [And he lost a teachable moment.  I wonder if they were young people.]


I am torn.

I am glad Bishop Conry was so open and frank.  I admire that.

At the same time I profoundly disagree with his approach to many things.

First, he seems to have mistaken ideas about Summorum Pontificum.  Those can be clarified.

However, I think his approach to liturgy is incomplete.  In stressing the legitimate and necessary "communal" dimension, at least in this interview, he loses what is more essential, the transcendent.  He loses the very object of the virtue of religion and why we gather for worship.

I also differ with him about the reasons why young people, or anyone, might embrace a more conservative or tradition position.  He marks it up, at least here, to fear.  That strikes me as a little condescending.  I think it is entirely possible for people to both fear and reason.  It is also possible for people simply to have a preference.  In this case of the TLM, it is a legitimate preference.  Either way, if it is simply a preference or it is from fear, they deserve greater respect.

I agree that we as a Church should not in an exaggerated way stress hell and sin.  But in medio stat virtus right?  We need to teach about these things!  Not to do so does a horrible injustice to Christ’s own message, the Church’s teaching, and the image of God in each person whom God desires for Himself.  Our tone and message must be tailored.  But simply to trim certain things away for the sake of putting on a happy face is … just wrong.

Lastly, I write this with respect for His Excellency’s office and person.  As a matter of fact, I have the sense from this article that His Excellency is a man I would very much like to have a meal with and hash out these issues through the course of a pleasant evening.  I realize that this was an interview and there are strong possibilities of misunderstanding.  If I have made any observations that are unjust to him in my comments, I will welcome his correction.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. fortradition says:

    Father, I agree with you. Decades have passed without any talk from our pulpits about salvation, sin, the reality of hell, and for that matter, even heaven. (The devil must be so pleased!) As you said, hell should be spoken of so that we can avoid it. The omissions are lamentable for sure!

  2. I would emphasize the whole first paragraph, mainly the “call me just Kieran” part. That make me almost break in a laugh! The interviewer deserves a commend for the first paragraph. It really warns us of what kind of bishop we are reading from.

  3. Ohio Annie says:

    This is like our bishop here. Much light happy-talk. Liturgical abuses and violations of canon law abounding and nothing done. Conditions made on who and how can celebrate the Mass in the Extraordinary Form (we still have the indult parish, the only one in the diocese). Sigh…

    I am glad he was candid though.

  4. Ohio Annie says:

    Also, when I read about young people, I am reminded of the popularity of the program the Everts have on EWTN about chastity. There is frank high-level moral talk there, certainly not dumbed down. Also the EWTN program on the Eucharist with examples of the saints. Not dumbed down either. I don’t know where people get the idea that things for youth need to be dumbed down.

  5. Peter says:

    There are a thousand things to say and it was a very interesting read.

    One thing I noted: the “primitive Church’s kerygma” is an idea I was taught in my secular university’s biblical studies course. It’s the idea that there is a “true” original core of authentic sayings of Jesus which biblical criticism can extract from the gospels. These can be identical to the theoretical “Q” gospel or be older than it.

    But the idea that some parts of the gospels are more true than others is not Catholic. The Church says that the Gospels are all authentic, and the “primitive Church’s kerygma”, whatever one interprets them to be, are not relevant.

  6. “See what I mean? At the same time, he is right about this. Some of the sourest people I have ever met are on the traditional side of the fence. Sadly, the traditional thing attracts people who are only happy when they are unhappy.”


    I think some assume that taking the liturgy and spirituality seriously means taking THEMSELVES seriously! It also reflects a very distorted very of personal holiness and growth in Christian maturity.

    The moment we can bring joy back to orthodoxy and orthopraxis will be a moment of real triumph for the whole Church.

  7. Paul says:

    I go to the EF and find monstrances and humeral veils appealing because I’m afraid of global warming? For the love of Pete! I’m not afraid of global warming. I don’t know whether to wish more that people in positions of authority would stop making such outlandish statements, or that people my age would stop being such chumps as to make those statements sound reasonable. May God bless and preserve His Excellency nonetheless.

  8. Mark says:

    LOL! GLOBAL WARMING might be a major cause of Catholic conservativism!!!

    “I think it reflects a very natural anxiety about the way the world is. We’ve got three massive areas of uncertainty. We’ve got first of all massive climatic change heading our way inexorably. They’re going to have to suffer it so they’ve got that anxiety…”

  9. Perhaps it’s a mattter of breaking down barriers…One of the hardest things I’ve had to do as a teacher is break my students from mis-conceptions in physics. Similarly I believe that for many that are opposed to SP, there’s something blocking them, a bad experience, a mis-coception that must be broken through as alluded to. ..The candid and frank discussion is appreciated.

  10. pelerin says:

    I have just read this on another site but have re-read it here with Father’s comments. Living in this diocese I am saddened but not surprised by the comments made by my bishop.

    A couple of years ago I attended a talk he gave on the history of the Mass believing it would help me come to terms with the changes which I had felt so uneasy with for so long. Sadly I came away even more confused and none the wiser.

    On a happier note I have since found a parish in which the Novus Ordo is celebrated with great dignity and in which I feel I belong. The parish priest has also recently started to celebrate Mass in the EF and it has been deeply moving to learn that he too is benefiting from this experience. He told me last week that he had asked two other local priests to join him as deacon and subdeacon but sadly they both declined. I am so lucky to live in a town where the EF is available and where there is a priest who has been willing to learn it.

    Incidentally the bishop mentions only two places in the whole of the diocese where the EF is available. One of these is out in the country, completely impossible for those who do not drive. There is actually a third but it looks as though he does not know about this one!

  11. His Excellency’s remarks don’t inspire any attempt (by me, at least) to say something serious, but it does occur that I’ve met very few folks at traditional Latin Masses who seem the types to take seriously the global warming business. Though I’ll stop well short of suggesting that it’s any kind of Novus Ordo thing.

  12. Ron says:

    “”You can’t talk to young people about salvation. What’s salvation? What does salvation mean? My eternal soul? You can only talk to young people in young people’s language, really. And if you’re going to talk to them about salvation, the first thing they will understand is saving the planet. You’re talking about being saved and they will say: ‘What about saving the planet?’ ” [I simply must restrain myself here.]”

    Very, very sad. I was appalled that a Bishop of the Church would stress environmental concerns in the place of sins, as if young people’s souls aren’t as important or their minds cannot grasp the idea of a mortal sin. So we should speak of kettles and wasting water but ignore impurity, stealing, lying, sloth, etc? That is just very sad to me but I think it is how many in the church think in these days: “don’t speak of sins, or hell, or repentance, only speak of what people can handle and accept without making them upset or hurt.” Sometimes we have to be challenged in order to really live for Christ, to forsake our sins in His mercy.

    Pax Christi tecum.

  13. Ryan says:

    With all due respect to the office the Bishop holds, he is clueless. No person will give their life for the faith he espouses. I am 25 years old, so I guess the Bishop would consider me “young”. He does not understand me or any of my other friends my age. Young people are searching for meaning, for a rock on which to base their lives. It is insulting for the Bishop to say young people are not concerned about the salvation of their own souls. Young people do not want to base their lives on whatever PC political theory is currently fashionable. They want to base their lives on the Truth that is Jesus Christ, God made Man, who was crucified and killed for the forgiveness of their sins and who was raised from the dead that they may have hope for eternal life. Stupid “youth” masses and PC political theology by aging hippies in the Church does more to turn young people away from Christ than anything they might find in the outside world. May God bless our beloved Holy Father with many more years on St. Peter’s throne. He understands what young people face today and he knows the answer to all their questions in Jesus Christ.

  14. DavidJ says:

    The reason a lot of clergy, in my experience, think they have to “dumb things down” or “speak their language” with regards to young people because the young people don’t speak Catholic theology. Young people are not dumb. They can grasp high concepts. The problem is not that they don’t understand, it’s that they’ve been poorly taught over the years. The only “speaking their language” you need to do is to educate them on vocabulary. After that, they’re as easy to converse and preach to as anyone.

  15. Brian Mershon says:

    Wow! The Church had done a bang-up job of theological and pastoral formation of its bishops. The Church authoritites should be applauded.

    And people here still heap criticism on the comments of the likes of Bishop Fellay?

    Thanks be to God for the SSPX, the FSSP, the ICR and the Institute of Good Shepherd and all of those parish priests (those seeming few there are) and bishops who are truly Catholic in their beliefs without any tinge of modernism or liberalism.

    I wonder how many there truly are…

  16. Martin says:

    Father…there’s more to the article, beyond where you finish it, on the Catholic Herald site.

  17. Lucia says:

    Young people are not stupid. Some of us–gasp!–even waste water on occasion.

    (We even know what ‘ineffable’ means.)

  18. Fr. Andrew says:

    “You can’t talk to young people about salvation. What’s salvation? What does salvation mean? My eternal soul?

    What was most striking and saddening to me about this statement is how it reflects on the Bishop’s own understanding and relationship with our Lord. A deceased bishop of our diocese (Lord grant him rest) often said: “You can’t give what you don’t have.” I’ll be praying for Bishop Conry.

  19. Father, I loved the way you examined and refuted what the bishop said, point by point. All your points are well taken. Bishop Conroy’s condescending dismissal of conservatives psychology “conservatives are afraid of change” is a common weapon that post-Freudians use to discount the real motives and real arguments of people who don’t agree with the point of view that they are trying to foist on others. I encountered that at the San Jose Institue for Leadership in Ministry when I would contradict the opinions of theologians that were being taught there as if they were received doctrine. Moral imbelicity was one aspersion I heard used in the classroom for people like me.

    Some of us are sadder but wiser former liberals and now conservatives. We could use the same types of condescending psychobabble language to try to discredit our opponents. But we don’t usually. Let try one on for size: Liberals like change because they have a hatred of their fathers and so they want to overthrow authority. They heatedly claim that morality has changed because they want to take advantage of the new freedom they believe that Vatican II brought to the Church to express their own sexuality outside of marriage. The only immorality to them is wasting water and contributing to global warming.

    I have to admit that I’ve noticed liberals are nicer too. And at the extraordinary rite oratory I attend, the congregation has a large number of “misfits.” (I may fit that category.) I sincerely think it may be that people who are accepted by their peers have psychological investment in not alienating the people around them. If the mood of your community is liberal, then you may be liberal if you are the type who is afraid of rejection. Maybe the people who dare to say and believe unpopular things are more likely to be the ones that have nothing to lose. The best spokesmen for the conservative point of view (what’s the matter with conservation of the truth?) would be people who are psychologically healthy and well liked, and who are not acting out of rejection. Such people should be able to purge themselves from the desire to please, ready to lose friends and status and to be considered unintelligent or backward. Come to think of it, that sounds like the requirement for being a follower of Christ: to love Him and to follow the truth even unto our deaths. Ever hear the phrase, someone cut someone dead? I have been cut dead many time for voicing conservative opinions to liberal Catholics who I would like to keep as friends. But I must do it in spite of the pain. So must we all.

  20. Brian Mershon says:

    See what I mean? At the same time, he is right about this. Some of the sourest people I have ever met are on the traditional side of the fence. Sadly, the traditional thing attracts people who are only happy when they are unhappy.”


    I think some assume that taking the liturgy and spirituality seriously means taking THEMSELVES seriously! It also reflects a very distorted very of personal holiness and growth in Christian maturity.

    The moment we can bring joy back to orthodoxy and orthopraxis will be a moment of real triumph for the whole Church.

    Father, Spend the next 20 years telling all of the 50ish and 60ish year olders who welcomed the “new springtime” of Vatican II and the new liturgy that they cannot have it anymore and that they must only attend the TLM.

    Do that for 20 years and see how “happy and joyful” those people will be. Take their Mass away from them and see what kind of sentiments are expressed.

  21. Calleva says:

    Again we have the idea that having the EF Mass alongside the OF constitutes a rejection of Vatican II

    “Did Bishop Kieran think attachment to the old Mass signifies hostility to Vatican II? “I’d never immediately jump to that conclusion. But there is a risk that with some people that’s what it signifies.”

    Vatican II stated that Mass may be said in the vernacular when there were good pastoral reasons for it, but that Latin must remain the norm. This to me looks like suggestion that more than one language of Mass be allowed, and since suppression of the TLM was not mandated, it would seem that the liberals are the real ‘risk’ of ‘hostility’.

    +Kieran is my bishop, from all accounts a very compassionate man, but unless we start talking about salvation, preaching the gospel and that ole time religion (you know, Confession, Adoration, the message of Fatima, processions etc), then the Church will have less and less impact on the world around us.

  22. catholicone says:

    I would respectfully ask the good bishop to stop for a second and realize that he’s now become the “authority figure” in the Church which is hopelessly out of touch with the younger generation. Take from a 20-something-year-old: this good bishop is tragically un-hip and hopelessly unaware of it.

    Thanks for trying to be “with it” and “relevant” in your assesment of our situation, but we’d like to be treated like adult Catholics now.

  23. John says:

    This is a NICE man. However, it was a mistake to name him bishop. He would make a nice teacher, neighbor, any number of things but Thomas More he ain’t or even Becket he ain’t.

    Niceness is not enough, for Bishops. Give me a simple man who gets angry if he sees sex abuse or liturgical abuse. I will go with that person a long way. Bishop Conry’s attitude fails to reflect what some might call a zeal for the house of the Lord. If one does then one is labeled grumpy at best.

  24. Romulus says:

    Is there anything more lame and pathetic than a past-it priest straining for hipness?

    Has HE never wondered why yoof should take the Church seriously if her bishops won’t?

    Has HE never considered that young people despise phonies and their stink of fear? Has he never considered that what they long for is challenge and commitment and authenticity?

  25. Romulus says:

    God save us from grinning nice bishops (“Call me ‘Kieran'”)whose lust for human respect is their besetting vice.

    My anti-spam word is: “pray 4 priests”.

  26. ALL: I won’t let the tone of your comments get out of hand or nasty. If you post nasty comments or personal attacks on the bishop, rather than restrict yourselves to the issues, I will lock you out of this blog.

  27. chironomo says:

    Again, with all due respect to His Excellency…

    There are so many false assumptions made in the above article that to try and itemize them would take more time than I can devote right now. His views of the youth show not compassiion for them but contempt for what he thinks they are able to believe. This is the problem in a nutshell..

  28. opey124 says:

    Wow. Maybe that is too frank.
    I even speak of salvation to our 4yo. Meaning/you want to stay as close to Christ as possible. He knows of death. He knows those that are close to Christ and do what he has commanded us to do will have eternal life.

  29. Edward says:

    Whenever I read junk like this coming from a high ranking Catholic official, I am forced to wonder if I am even Catholic. I am not sure I belong to the same religion as this bishop.

  30. Paul says:

    I just filled up my kettle to the brim and left it there. I’m young, too (20).

    Frankly, this man can’t be honestly called a Catholic (I hope that’s not too nasty, Fr.). His Excellency clearly does not hold the apostolic faith, if his comments are taken at face value (no need for confession, ABC may be ok). He should resign.

    After Cardinal Shonborn’s dance-club Mass, nothing that comes out of the hierarchy really surprises me. This sort of thing always gives me real sympathy for the SSPX position.

  31. Maynardus says:

    Wow – the second part – originally not included above – is as maddening as the first. Without being personally disrespectful to His Tepidness, er, Excellency; I must comment that this interview sounds like a parody. Unfortunately I’ve heard enough similar things from enough priests and bishops to believe that he’s completely in earnest and simply doesn’t know any better. But he’s “nice”. I’d love to ask, when I hear such twaddle, “So, if this is what you believe, would you be willing to die for it?” As we recently had occasion to recall, St. Nicholas would probably not have been described by his peers as “nice”!

  32. Edward says:

    First, it is really annoying to read comments about “conservatives” being mean. From my own experience with traditional parishes, the truth is quite the contrary for the vast majority of the people you come accross. However, for the sake of argument, if we concede that there is a higher percentage of meanness amongst those found to be adequately labeled “conservative”, I would suggest the consideration that liberals can be thought of as nicer ONLY because they have gotten their way for the last forty years. Conservatives for most part have had their Church taken to the brink of destruction right in front of their eyes.

    If you want to get an idea of just how “nice” a liberal is, go to a progressive parish and tell them that they can have their Novus Ordo, but they can only have it if the common parts are sung in Latin, the priest prays Ad Orientem, no altar girls or extroardinary ministers of communion, etc. In other words impose a true reform of the reform and see just how many of those nice liberals are still sitting in the pews of that church just one month later. You have never seen nastiness like that of an enraged parish liberal.

  33. Thomas says:

    “I was quite happy as a parish priest in Stafford.”

    Too easy…

    I can’t tell you how sick I am of being condescended to as a young Catholic. Why do so many bishops and priests think my youth means I have no taste, a tin ear, and an unquenchable desire to be the center of attention?

    Bishop, give me the Faith!

    If I want to listen to offensive popular music and lectures on how flushing the toilet too often is killing the polar bears, I’ll start dating Al Gore’s daughter.

  34. It was the constant harping on about love by men like his excellency that almost destroyed my faith as a teen, I have a family who loves me I didn’t need as a teenage boy to be attending love fests with strangers every weekend. It comes across as shallow and superficial and does not engage teenage boys who do not have time for any cissy nonsense.

    The only people this approach attracts in my opinion is girls and effeminate boys.

  35. Joe says:

    I think it would be legitimate to look at St Paul’s description of a bishop and his ministry (and to take other examples like the charge to a bishop-elect at his ordination) and see how bishops compare, without judging them as worthy or unworthy of the office.
    I have a question about his understanding of the word leitourgia. That is of course the common and popular explanation of it: that it refers to the Liturgy as the work of the people. I heard an alternative theory years ago, though, to which I have lost the reference, but which attracts me: that the Liturgy was a public work done by a private individual for the sake of the public. The original leitourgia would have been private financing of a public Play in classical Greek times. The relevance for Christian Liturgy was that Jesus did the work that we needed (in His Passion), and continues to do it for us in our Liturgies. Have any readers here heard such a thing?

  36. Joe says:

    with regards to birth control and the line “The majority of Catholics are not in that position, where birth control is an issue. Look around on Sunday morning and see ‘is birth control an issue for most people here?’ No, it’s not”, I took His Grace to mean that most of the people he sees on Sunday morning in church are beyond the age where it is relevant.

  37. Elastico says:

    My experience with the temperaments of conservatives/liberals is contrary to the bishop’s. Also, read some of the commentaries on the National Catholic Reporter web site and you will find some hysterically angry libs.

  38. Jean pearson says:

    AAArgh! ~I haven’t been able to read the whole of this as I’m sure my blood pressure was reaching dangerous levels before the end of the first paragraph. Thank you so much for this site. There is no need to engage in conspiracy theories in the face of an organised, articulate, and identifiable coterie working to subvert the authentic gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord and it’s realisation in the liturgy of the Church!

  39. Josiah Ross says:

    Oh noes! I’m too stupid to know what salvation means! I guess we should talk about cooking utensils and liquids!
    Yes,my fellow under 20 Catholics, you’re all too dumb to talk theology.
    Seriously, I can’t remember the last time I talked with anyone my age about global warming.
    If he really wants to be relevant, be actually relevant. Talk about how to deal with radical atheism. How to deal with issues of morality (And yes, that includes sin)
    With all the respect due to him for his office, why does it seem like people of this generation keep underestimating people of ours? I know people my age and younger reading Thomas Aquinas,people who know and understand traditional types and antitypes of the church and who know what the church teaches. Talk about sin, that that we don’t commit it. Talk about hell, so that we don’t go there. Talk about heresy, so that we don’t lapse into it. Talk about Satan so that we avoid him. It’s not that hard to understand. We did it before, why not now?
    If I was catechised with what most young Catholics get these days (Nadda) This would probably be the thing which convinces me to leave the church. Ambiguity and insults to boot. It kind of seems like he’s in denial to me.
    Give us some credit.

  40. David says:

    I just want to say, that as a 18 year old college freshman, I love the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, and everything about it. I can understand where His Excellency is coming from, as trying to “relate” to the younger generations, but find it completly disrespectful.

    Also, why is the cause of every problem, whether it really is a problem or not, global warming?

  41. Emilio III says:

    Mark: LOL! GLOBAL WARMING might be a major cause of Catholic conservativism

    Of course! If you were old enough to have experienced the “renovation” of the liturgy, you would remember that in the early ’70s the contemporary Intelligentsia were terrified by The Coming Ice Age. Clearly it was The Spirit of Vatican II that saved us from that horror! Now that climatologists (they’re like symbologists with tenure) tell us that the trend of thousands of years has reversed itself within a generation [pay no attention to that thermometer!] it is clearly time to reverse the liturgical changes so we can go back to Manmade Global Cooling.

  42. Nicknackpaddywack says:

    As with so many bishops, the main thing here seems to be defending the status quo. Any argument will do if it serves for a time. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard from stand pat Catholics, in response to a query about the vanishing of the “last things” from Catholic preaching, belief, and practice, that “we can’t make it all about sin and Hell.” Who said we should make it al about it? The point is that it is an important part of what it’s all about that is totally absent or nearly so in contemporary Catholic life. Isn’t that a problem, Minister the Word? The bottom line is that either these guys don’t really believe these teachings or believe they are not important or are just totally self-deluded and confused. I’d say in most cases it is some of all of the above.

  43. Tom says:

    “”I was quite happy as a parish priest in Stafford.””

    I can tell you that the feeling was not universally reciprocated. Nice-ness is not synonymous with faithfulness. This interview is very useful from the perpective that it gives others outside the UK a view of how bad things are in this country.

    Having said that, all kudos to the bishop for allowing these comments to appear in the Press: he is what I would call a genuine liberal. The interview indicates that the obsessive secrecy of the UK bishops’ confernece is beginning to unravel.

  44. Andraea says:

    With all due respect to the good bishop, I think his positions on majority of the topics asked of him (TLM, confession, NO, worhip, etc.) is very questionable and leaning towards a relativistic tendency. I think he represents the thinking of majority of the UK prelates…no wonder faith in the Church in that part of the world is seriously lacking. Very sad and troubling.

  45. Damian Thompson says:

    Father, I’m deeply impressed by your analysis of this article, and also by the measured tone you’ve adopted. Kieran was such a great press officer for the Church a few years ago; none of us imagined that he would be quite so partisan as a bishop. But I’m glad he has spoken his mind: as Tom says, the obsessive secrecy of the bishops’ conference is beginning to unravel.

  46. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    On salvation vs. environment, if I want to hear about the environment I’ll go to a Greenpeace meeting. I am sick almost to death of hearing about saving the planet. We cannot destroy the planet. We have the capability to destroy the human race, but in our arrogance we equate this with the planet. And at that point, we’ll all need a little salvation.

    Why is it always sin or love. Why can’t we do the small-c catholic thing and talk about both!

    My apologies for the nonsensical rant.

  47. NY Seminarian says:

    I find it interesting that he thinks that the number one priority on the mind of a teenage/early 20 person is global warming.

    I find that it is actually sex. People in their teens are discovering hormones, relationships, feeling towards the opposite, and sometimes same sex. They want to know what to do with these feelings, they recognise that there are right things to do and wrong things to do, but have conflicting thoughts. They get hurt in relationships, they see sex as both incredible and bad at the same time, they want to show love but dont want to be seen as cheap, they dont want to get hurt etc etc

    Sex and relationships are numero uno on the minds of teens and the church has valuable thoughts on the order of these things. When they come into church thinking \’what do i do about my new girlfriend, what is appropriate, what does God want?\’ and they get told, \’oh never mind about that, god loves you and here is a fairtrade teabag\’ why are we surprised they dont come back?

  48. paul says:

    I remember hearing that Pope Pius X11 stated that frequent confession was “introduced by the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit”- I should add that he was talking about confession of venial sins. “Mystical Body of Christ” 1943

  49. Dom Bede says:

    I so wish the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton would visit the Oxford Oratory and take time to visit with the young people who worship there Sunday after Sunday. They are among the brightest and the best England has to offer. His Lordship really should make the effort to have his assumptions challenged. Bishops and priests have used so called “young” people to justify agendas for far too long. I wish the Church would start to do things because they are the right thing to do not because they may or may not appeal to this or that demographic.

  50. Megan says:

    Anti-spam word: pray 4 bishops. <– Yes.

    First off…I agree with you, Father. It is good that His Excellency was open and honest, but on several points, he may have been misguided, but that is obviously up to God Himself.

    Secondly, the confession issue? It seems to me that even if confessions end up being mostly the same from week-to-week (as mine usually are, incidentally), the very act of going to make a sacramental confession shows the penitent’s true desire for amendment, and the graces received are of immeasurable value to help him overcome the sins he struggles with.

    Lastly, the way to communicate to the youth is NOT to speak to them on their own terms. It’s all about NOT watering down the teachings of the Church. In my experience and observation, it is in condescending to speak to youth on “their level” or by dumbing-down teaching or otherwise trying to spoon-feed it to them is precisely what drives them away. My conversion came about people not treating me as a child but as an adult, a rational person who was able to handle the Truth. And by feeding young people the Truth with no holds barred, perhaps we will see the true youth uprising that the Church so desperately needs.

  51. Martin says:

    Excellent point, NY Seminarian. Young people not only need but they WANT to know about sexual morality and relationships. If the bishops would only get to grips with John Paul II’s theology of the body (I’ve never heard any bishop here–in the UK–or any priest in a parish setting even mentioning it) they would realise not only that it helps to engage young people in the area of sexual morality (a subject they are intensely interested in), but that it also opens up the wider perspectives of the faith because the theology of the body broadens one’s horizons to the Trinitarian God and Man’s relation to Him.

    Could it be that the theology of the body is not promoted because, with its rejection of contraception, the bishops regard it as irrelevant?

  52. Gleeson says:

    It is customary to refer to bishops in the British Isles as ‘His Lordship’.
    [Yes. I know. His Excellency is a also perfectly legitimate and common way of addressing bishops. Furthermore, this is not of substance.]

  53. No one in England should be surprised at what Bishop Conry reportedly said. It’s tired old 1970s thinking. Predictable Bishops’ Conference stuff. He is by no means the only one who thinks and talks like this. Frankly, some people get hot under the collar about it, other people just ignore it because over the years they’ve got used to it.

    Incidentally, he is a very nice, very congenial man.

  54. Mitch says:

    While I agree with the concept of what young people want and including it in Church life I am somewhat baffled by that having anything to do with what the Church teaches and defends. Yes many things may seem out of reach in today’s world but shouldn’t the Church still set the standard high? What happened to the “unchanging Chrurch teachings”? Are they hidden in a vault? Seems like the Bishop has grasped finally the concept of what people may have wanted circa 1968, but it is dated, it was a time of tremendous upheaval in society and a time when we wanted many things not good for us, however I do not think it is an accurate reflection of what young people want today. And I say this not as a young person or old (39), but someone who recognizes youthful aspirations from the outside, in.. One can not accurately say or imply the youth does not want or can not relate to the TLM when there is little if no exposure to it. I do not hear anyone from my generation talking about the Masses of our youth (post conciliar) and how sorry we are to not have them anymore, as my parents and grandparents did about “Latin Mass”…I think that says it all…If I could comment to the Bishop that is simply what I would say.

  55. Bruce says:

    This might be off topic but I think it is related to the “young people are not stupid “comment.

    In the city that I am from there is a very liberal, hip, mostly anti- religious, weekly paper that is geared towards young people. A columnist wrote recently about why she likes Christmas even though she is not religious. It starts like this:

    “I wonder as I wander: how does one qualify a love for Christmas?…When you’re not religious, I mean..When Jesus ain’t the reason for your season …It just doesn’t add up.
    …Me? I’ve never been a churchgoer. By my count that should make me indifferent to the season”

    There is more of the same and she goes on to say that she likes Christmas but she is not sure why. Then my jaw dropped when I read the last sentence:

    “It must be, I think, that Christmas—or at least its spirit—is ineffable. We can’t put it into words. So just shut up and smile”

    Yes! she used the word ineffable and I am sure the young people who read her column understood what she meant.

  56. Brian says:

    Fr. Z, one of your comments stated, “Parish priests and bishops must provide for the TLM when requested.”
    Would you please briefly explain how best to interpret that statement?

    Thank you.

  57. Michael says:

    In my opinion the deeper issue here is that this Bishop really appears to be reflecting his own concern about ‘man-made global warming’ onto the kids who frankly may be much better critical thinkers than His Lordship. If Bishop Conry really cared about the last things himself, I can’t help believing that he would feel a much greater sense of urgency about saving the souls of the young who are in his flock.

  58. Kevin V. says:

    I find that leftists and liberals are the angry ones myself. They are constantly agitating for change, since the change 5 minuets ago wasn’t quite good enough for ’em!
    Viewing every thing as imperfect (as they should) but thinking if they could just educate people everything would become perfect. This makes for a very angry individual who is constantly railing against everyone else’s “ignorance” and the “reactionaries” and “fascists”.
    That’s why liberals always have a dozen angry bumper stickers on their car.

  59. Andrew says:

    I do agree with the Bishop’s concern over attempting not to ‘drive’ the young (and people in general for that matter) from the Church through inordinate emphasis on the more ”frightening” aspects of our Faith. But still, the whole Faith must be conveyed. Of course, Hell and sin, they are always going to sound ‘bad’ no matter how you say it. People may be bewildered and driven away. But was Our Lord concerned about winning respect, or the blatant truth, when in no uncertain He explained the necessity of eating His flesh, and drinking His Blood?

  60. Son of Trypho says:

    What I find interesting and would love to hear Conry’s opinion of is how he explains how Islam is growing so rapidly as compared to the very evident decline of Catholicism and yet Islam and the way it is transmitted to its youth, is totally at odds with the way he thinks (and implements) Christianity should be transmitted to its youth.

    For example, Islam quite clearly teaches its followers about hell, sin, punishment etc and it retains and increases over generations, yet avoiding this in Catholicism in the last few decades seems to have witnessed a decline of faith, vocations, youth, education etc to the point where you have this bishop advocating that youth need banal actions directed to them to make their faith relevant because they don’t understand the issues and are turned off by any approach which doesn’t include “Jesus Loves You!” TM.

    Similarly, Islam uses the same religious services that it has been using for centuries and it is even used in communities where the language is completely foreign eg. Indonesia and is in a form which is not relevant to the modern day.

    Additionally – as I have remarked here before – note the point about stable groups – Conry is probably being completely honest when he says he is not impeding the EF in his diocese – because he really believes that the practitioners are extremists (read Jansenists) and/or unstable and hence wont permit it.

  61. Edward C. says:

    Very upsetting… I’m a youth (20’s) and most certainly my “conservatism” is NOT formed from fear of the unknown future… much less a half full kettle! Please your Excellency, give me the respect I deserve. Treat me as a human, If I want to hear, or even need to hear about hell and eternal consequences, teach me. Don’t LIE to me, don’t OMIT the TRUTHS of my faith. Trust me I can handle it.

  62. paul says:

    I don’t want to pile on bishops, and as Fr. Z said, I do respect his candor and sincerity, and trust that his views are the product of a deficient formation. That being said, given these public, on-the-record statements that are so profoundly flawed, in my view (esp on his view on ministry to young people–he couldn’t possibly get it more wrong), I can only hope and pray that this interview somehow makes it into the hands of the Holy Father.
    It would simply be a disaster to have another 20 years of bishops with views like these–again, not taking away from the bishop’s obvious sincerity–but we need bishops who believe that the Faith is not simply the Nicene Creed, but the entire Catechism. Period.
    God grant us more Cardinal Pells, Burkes, Archbishop Chaputs and Bishop Carlsons.
    And similarly may God grant England a holy Archbishop of Westminster to lead a reform to Spirit-filled, vibrant orthodoxy there.

  63. David says:

    Perhaps the reason why so many traditional Catholics are hostile to Vatican II is because we have so many bishops like this in the era after Vatican II. What came first? The chicken or the egg?

  64. ED says:

    If they were sincere they would tell you that they want be like Anglicans where everything goes. They refuse to pronounce dogmas such as Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus to the public because they like being liked. Giving a couple of Latin Mass parishes to the faithful in his diocese wont turn the diocese around,that takes ORTHODOXY,GUTS ZEAL COURAGE and only caring what JESUS taught not what the public “needs” His refusing to give a few Latin Mass parishes shows an underlining meanness common to liberals, in diocese that are liberal a Latin mass parish hasnt hurt there pushing of heresies.

  65. Manuel says:

    I’ve passed over 30 years of my life as a praticant Catholic without any idea that pre-conciliar Mass was so different from todays Mass, and so relevant and necessary. Since 2 years I’m regularly attending Latin Mass with the Old Rite, whenever possible.

    When comparing the 2 worlds I am deeply convinced that the plague of the New Rite world is mainly one: the Faith is strongly weakened or nearly lost. I feel this is the issue also with this Bishop.

    I’m so afraid that SSPX people (whose chapels I don’t attend) are actually right: attending the New Rite Mass in many cases involves the risk of eventually loosing the Faith (God forbid!).

  66. Irenaeus says:

    Global warming will kill us all. And not in the way most people think. It empowers governments and enervates churches. *sigh*

  67. Paul Stokell says:

    One wonders why the Millenium Development Goals weren’t mentioned. Perhaps the Anglicans have claimed them exclusively for themselves (BTW, Dr. Rowan, how’s that working for ya?).

  68. Daniel says:

    Regarding the notion that “some of the sourest people…are on the traditional side of the fence. Sadly, the traditional thing attracts people who are only happy when they are unhappy.”

    I haven’t found that to be the case.

    That said, I have found that regarding liturgy, a vast divide existed between “conservative” Catholics and “Traditional” Catholics in the following sense:

    A great many conservative Catholics opposed the TLM.

    For decades, many conservatives perpetuated the notions that the TLM had been outlawed and that it was wrong, even schismatic, to favor the TLM over the Novus Ordo.

    While I found that conservatives were opposed often to the TLM, I didn’t find them to be sour, embittered folks. They simply opposed the TLM.

    I certainly haven’t found among Traditional Catholics “some of the sourest people.”

  69. athanasius says:

    His Excellency’s remarks don’t inspire any attempt (by me, at least) to say something serious, but it does occur that I’ve met very few folks at traditional Latin Masses who seem the types to take seriously the global warming business. Though I’ll stop well short of suggesting that it’s any kind of Novus Ordo thing

    One of the problems I find is that folks end up going the other way. I consider myself an environmentalist, but I look at something like global warming with the same incredulity with which I treat Santa Claus. I take legitimate environmental concerns (not the snow owl) seriously, but I often find many Trads who take the line there is nothing wrong with trashing the environment, because the libs go nuts with the carbon footprint nonsense. The middle is generally the worst place to be, but on certain issues that don’t involve our eternal salvation (like the environment) it is much more sensible.

  70. athanasius says:

    “Well, first of all, I would disagree that it’s a key teaching. The key teachings of the Church are in the Creed. It’s not a life issue.”

    This is to me hugely problematic for many reasons.

    It is against the creed because the creed teaches “Credo in unam, sanctam, Catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam”, and if we believe in that Church we give assent to the ordinary magisterium unless it can be proven to have erred from Sacred Tradition. When 11 consecutive Popes teach in Encyclicals that contraception is a grave sin opposed to the 6th commandment, you have a hard case arguing we can ignore that. When you go back to the Tradition and find every Father or Doctor of the Church who treated the issue taught the same thing, and that the Church has always said the same thing when the issue has come up, the case is impossible. It is a key teaching, and denying it IS denying the Creed since you are denying an article the living magisterium proposes for your belief.

    Secondly when most contraception is in fact abortifacient in nature, the distinction is false in enough cases to make it irrelevant.

    Thirdly, has this Bishop seen to it that his priests have preached on the creed? Why is it that I doubt that?

    This man clearly needs our prayers.

  71. Daniel says:

    Regarding the bishop’s remarks about liturgy:

    It is so sad and unfortunate that our Church leaders have created the liturgical divisions and chaos that exist today. When the TLM was in place for century upon century, each Latin Catholic was a “Traditionalist.”

    We weren’t “conservative Mass” Catholics…”liberal Mass” Catholics…”

    …”Charismatic Mass” Catholics…”Polka Mass” Catholics…”Teen Spirit Mass” Catholics…”Novus Ordo” Mass Catholics.

    We were TLM Catholics.

    We didn’t beg Popes to publish documents that permitted, at best, one Traditional Mass each Sunday per parish.

    Could anybody on this blog who was born no later than circa 1960 have imagined that the day would arrive during which “Traditional” Catholics would be told…”you’ll receive one, just one TLM per Sunday…if you’re lucky”?

    Could any such person have believed that our Church’s leaders would have divided us so deeply along liturgical lines?

    Sorry, but the reality is that the Novus Ordo and the liturgical reform are debacles.

    We have “reform of the reform” Church leaders who are unable to acknowledge that the Novus Ordo is a debacle that cannot be “cleaned up.” Their “reform” would, to some extent, improve the Novus Ordo.

    We have Church leaders who oppose the “reform of the reform” in the sense that they dislike any return to Tradition, which the “reform of the reform” would, to some extent, accomplish.

    We have some laymen (please note that I didn’t use the term “Church leaders”) and SSPX bishops and priests who believe that we must return exclusively to the TLM.

    I am a laymen who believes that the only sensible course is to return to the TLM.

    The bishop’s comments regarding liturgy have convinced me more than ever that only the TLM can restore sanity to the Church.

  72. Michael UK says:

    Bishop Conry’s attitude and outlook is mirrored throughpout the Bishops’ Conference. ICKSP wanting to save a cchurch in Preston, St. Walburghe’s, denied as it would become a cathedral for the TLM and attract people away from other parishes. Attending Mass in Redhill, circa 1960, th PP preached the, then, mooted changes were the tin end of the wedge and forecat what subsequently took place..

    SSPX should recognise that the problem is not with BXVI but with the Bishops’ Conferences; the Conferences of Priests and the lay who have grabbed the management of the parishes.

    SSPX should accept the Papal overtures and join in a common front to re-establish authentic Catholicism within Mother Church. Regrettably, SSPX contain element which prefer isolation and the holier-then-thou heretic approach and neo-sedevacantism. Lord preserve us!

  73. Michael UK says:

    Mea Culpa for typos!

  74. peregrinus says:

    As a young person, I would say that I look for a holistic approach in spirituality. Yes, environmental concerns are important and are part of the Gospel, but don’t leave out the other parts of the Gospel, such as sin, salvation and the beatific vision, as well! Most young people have a brain capacity that is capable of managing the real and virtual world simultaneously, so we should be able to handle the soft and hard parts of the Gospel.

    What I’m more distraught at is the Bishop’s suggestion that the teaching of the Church, even if non-infallibly defined, is just an opinion. Young people need models who are brave and willing to call leaders and people with authority to accountability, not someone to offer us more opinions and suggestions – the world has plenty of those, and we know who is the prince of this world.

    But since everything he said is simply an opinion, I’ll not bother to comment of his opinions. He can keep them personal. I choose to follow the voice of Christ expressed in the authentic magisterium excercised by the Pope and the other bishops in communion with him.

  75. peregrinus says:

    By the way, since the Bishop mentioned that we use “we” in the Creed to express the faith of the Church. When I first attended an Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgy, I was devastingly shocked by the first words that I saw for the English translation of the Creed that is used in the Eastern Church. It read:

    I believe…

    Research shows that most of the Eastern liturgies (Orthodox or Catholic) also use the singular “I believe”.

    So the use of the plural “we believe” is quite peculiar to the English-speaking Church, and only since the 1970s. Isn’t it a little arrogant to use such parochial and recent practice to establish what the universal Church intends to express in reciting the Creed at Mass?

  76. Mark Polo says:

    I think there has to be a balance between saying “every group of three people should be able to have TLM” and pastoral concerns in the diocese (which is almost certainly suffering a priest shortage). Of course, if one of those three people is the priest, there is no problem, and as you say, Summorum Pontificum gives complete rights to them to celebrate the Mass. On the other hand, the bishop should be able to see that a group of 20-30 coming from a ten-mile radius is in fact a stable group.

    Here in Germany, Cardinal Meisner has reported that there have been few requests to start new Latin Masses, and since he has been closing and fusing parishes left and right due to lack of priests, he has opposed starting new ones, if there was not an undue difficulty placed on the faithful to be able to go to the existing Masses. For instance, someone from a completely different part of Germany wrote a letter saying that there was a group somewhere in the diocese of Cologne that wanted the Latin Mass. The Cardinal checked the train schedule and saw that there was a train every half-hour from the location of the alleged group (since someone outside the diocese placed the request, he has no was of knowing if the group is really there) that would take them to a Fraternity of St. Peter Mass. Thus he refused to order the local priest to institute a Latin Mass. The local parish where I live is a fusion of 6 former parishes, and has 5 priests (one of whom is religious and near retirement, so will probably not be replaced). I think that all of them have to trinate every Sunday. If they were to have to add a Latin Mass for a small group, they would be depriving faithful of the ordinary form at the same time. Fortunately, there are Latin Masses not too far from here, so that anyone who is inclined can get to one without extreme inconvenience.

  77. Mark Polo says:

    “We believe” is also used in Germany. The excuse is that the original Greek creed text from Nicea-Constantinople had “pisteuomen”, but the Mass is supposed to be a translation of the Latin, not the Greek, as the Pope so rightly pointed out.

  78. Dan says:

    “You can’t talk to young people about salvation. What’s salvation? What does salvation mean? My eternal soul? You can only talk to young people in young people’s language, really. And if you’re going to talk to them about salvation, the first thing they will understand is saving the planet. You’re talking about being saved and they will say: ‘What about saving the planet?’ ”

    As a 20 year old Catholic who attends both forms of the Mass (but I will always attend the Extradordinary Form when I have a choice), this must be one of the most condescending and un-Catholic things I’ve ever heard from a Bishop. Thank God a new generation of priests are taking over!

  79. Scott says:

    Reading that was depressing. Crap like this makes me want to go back to the SSPX.

  80. David says:

    And if you’re going to talk to them about salvation, the first thing they will understand is saving the planet. You’re talking about being saved and they will say: ‘What about saving the planet?’

    My hopes for a renewal of the Church slide even further down each time I hear a shepherd speak like this. I simply don’t recognise the supernatural faith of the Church in his words. He appears to belong to another religion – not the Catholic one.

  81. ken says:

    Is there a way to establish a Catholic IQ test before we elevate another twit like this to the office of bishop?

  82. Sussex Catholic says:

    I write as a Catholic who lives and worships in this Bishop’s diocese. If I may I would make the following comments on what he says in his interview.
    First, the Bishop knows only too well that there is limited demand for the TLM in his diocese. This is because his diocese has pursued a relentless campaign both under his and his predecessor’s (Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster) tenure to dismantle traditional orthodox Catholicism and replace it with this new religion of environmentalism, fair trade and “live simply” about which he speaks. In this he is supported by a diocesan set up of liturgy advisors, pastoral committees and a close circle of priest colleagues who share his Ecclesiology. Any priest in the diocese who is even suspected of challenging this “new orthodoxy” is denied a parish, severely censured or sent to a rural outpost where he is worked off his feet. Priests who support the TLM (or even just orthodox Catholicism) in the diocese live in a constant state of fear and often prefer not to admit their beliefs. As a result those EF Masses offered in the diocese frequently have to make use of priests coming in from outside the diocese.
    As a result the diocese is in a grave situation for the simple reason that the small number of priests and laity that control it (and its annual income of £22 million) are representing an ever shrinking liberal clique out of step with the needs of ordinary Catholics. Every year another parish loses its resident pastor to death or retirement and he is not replaced but instead a neighbouring pastor has yet another church added to his list of responsibilities. The diocese has fewer than 5 seminarians across the entire range of year groups and seminaries and its female religious orders are virtualy extinct.

    There is an ongoing and co-ordinated plan of proposed parish closures and the sale of Church property which is unprecendented. The Bishop gave an interview to the UK newspaper the Daily Telegraph in 2004

    in which he said he was selling the Bishop’s residence (which had been left to the Church by a devout Catholic family)and had previously been used as a school, because it was no longer appropriate for him to live in such grandeur when his priests were getting older etc. The property was sold in 2005 for £2.3 million. It might have been assumed that the money raised was used to relieve poverty or reverse the decline in vocations but no. By the time of the sale the diocese (annual income remember £22 million) had already purchased a new large house for the Bishop for £860,000. Of the proceeds of sale of the Bishop’s residence the diocesan accounts announced that £860,000 was used to purchase the new house (even though this had already been bought)and some other money was spent rehousing a retired priest. However the remainder was spent on upgrades and improvement works to the new house and the sum of £1 million given to the Bishop to “fund” him.

    Everything I have heard from the Bishop leads me to the conclusion that he considers Catholicism in his part of the world to be on a retreat into oblivion to which he appears completely resigned and seems to think that a “fire sale” of its assets as the only productive outcome. He seems to see hs role as that of a retreating general who needs to give the impression the defences are still manned while secretly planning a mass evacuation and the surrender of the territory. He faces another 20 years in post by which time the surrender will be complete. If the views he expresses in the interview are genuinely his views (and I am very confident from hearing many of his homilies that they are) then for the sake of those Catholics in Surrey and Sussex who are not prepared quite yet to surrender, he ought in my humble opinion to resign his position immediately and let someone else try to rescue the situation before it is too late.

  83. Tom says:

    “LOL! GLOBAL WARMING might be a major cause of Catholic conservativism”

    Haha, yes, this is just too funny. Anyways, I’ve always thought that it is the liberals who are trying to save our Mother Earth from sure destruction. The “conservatives” are the heartless ones who do not care about the poor animals, aren’t they? Or is His Lordship saying that exaggerated environmentalism is a path to “traditional” Catholicism? :-D

  84. Many of the comments here seem to suggest two things about young Catholics :
    They have a genuine interest in the salvation of their souls and in the ageless teaching and worship of of the Catholic Church.
    They are impatient with, and indeed are “turned off” by, the irrelevancies uttered by aging trendies.
    Every bishop would do well to avoid becoming the latter, or risk becoming irrelevant himself.

  85. RBrown says:

    Bishop Conry was not only the successor to Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor. He also was a seminarian at English College when the future Cardinal was the rector there.

    His comments on Eucharistic celebration (aptly refuted by Fr Z, who references JRatzinger’s understanding of the Eucharist) are a reflection of 1970ish theology, especially that promoted by the Jesuits. Further, His Excellency seems to be at odds with BXVI on the relationship of contemporary liturgy (and for that matter, the entire Church) to the documents of VatII.

  86. Greeny says:

    Environmental conservation and global warming may not be as important as salvation but that does not mean they are not important. Unfortunately the ‘live-simply’ campaign ill-serves both causes.

    Plus, may I add, the terms liberal and conservative as used in American parlance do not carry the same meaning in Europe or encompass the same beliefs. In Ireland the most ardent opponents of global warming theory are (right-wing) liberals, who also happen to be the most anti-clerical. In Britain, the Conservative Party has made global warming one of their most important electoral issues.

    The ‘conservative’ Pope Benedict has made the Vatican the first carbon neutral state by installing solar pannels and planting forests in eastern Europe to offset emmissions. As he said in Sydney:

    “Politicians and experts must be capable of responding to the great ecological challenge and to be up to the task of this challenge.”

    “God’s creation is one and it is good. The concerns for non-violence, sustainable development, justice and peace, and care for our environment are of vital importance for humanity”

    “Perhaps reluctantly, we come to acknowledge that there are also scars which mark the surface of our earth – erosion, deforestation, the squandering of the world’s mineral and ocean resources in order to fuel an insatiable consumption.”

  87. Phil (NL) says:

    I’d wish his Excellency would stop assuming.

    He makes the most broad assumptions about what young people think, believe and what they value, and worst of all, he seems not to have a shiver of doubt regarding these assumptions. Maybe his mind works that way, or maybe he’s only exposed to young people of a certain persuasion, but the result is an extremely narrow – and often flat-out wrong, of course – view.

  88. Simon Platt says:

    I, too, should like to comment on the assertion that “liberals” are nicer. It doesn’t match my experience, whether in church or other circles. I often say “there’s nowt so illiberal as a liberal” (there – I’ve said it again).

    Traditionally minded catholics like myself are often treated very badly by “liberal” clergy and their hangers-on. But traditional clergy suffer at the hands of “liberal” laity, too. There’s a priest I know in England, recently assigned to a parish, whose life is being made difficult by a group of his new parishioners. They dislike his clerical dress, his vestments, his choice of options at the (new) mass, for example his use of Eucharistic Prayer I on Sundays; in short, they seem dead against him. He really is a nice man, but some of his parishioners seem to hate him. Please pray for him and for them.

  89. Irish says:

    Fear leads to Conservatism? I can see where fear of the wrath of God might lead someone to the TLM.

    But, from a political point of view, that sounds like an excuse not a reason. How does the good Bishop explain the 60s? Talk about fear–the Russians could blow us up at any minute, without (seemingly) provocation. Children had lessons in ducking and covering under their desks in case of atomic war. People built nuclear bomb shelters in their backyards. The world’s entire foreign policy was based mutual assured destruction. And in England, the economy was non-existent until the 1980s. I’m several years younger than the Bishop, and I remember all that. Talk about fear.

  90. Jon K says:

    What can one say? A Bishop saying this… There can be no restored general trust in the Catholic hierarchy as long as people like this are made bishops – and take such liberties with Church tradition and Church teaching (and Church history). Why on earth would one wish to obey someone who makes up for him self which Church teaching to accept and which not to?

    His Lordship made me long for the FSSPX Bishops, which I normally don´t.

  91. Mike T says:

    I’m a baby boomer in my fifties. I have become resigned to the notion that my
    church, as a human community, will never have an interest in my perspectives.
    I will be treated respectfully enough, but my views will never be mainstream
    enough, never demographically compelling, never sufficiently in touch with
    the times.

    100 years ago we had rigid social stratification. Now we have an enlightened
    avant garde compelled by destiny to drown out the voices of hopelessly
    backwater conservatives. Isn’t social progress a marvelous thing?

  92. Fr. Egomet says:

    Dear Fr.z, although I believe that ‘in medio stat virtus’ at the same time it seems that today for many of us (priests and bishops) the expression became ‘in medio stat mediocritas’. The fuzzines of the proclamation of the Truth ended up in the last 40 years of wondering in a spiritual desert. I could be wrong but again in the post modern era (or whatever we are living in) everything became subjective. I respect His Lordhip but, in all charity and truth, I would not like to be in his diocese.

  93. Fr. Egomet: ‘in medio stat mediocritas’

    No quarrel there. However, I think we can preach both sides of the message (namely, a) that Christ has won for us our membership in His Kingdom and b) that we can lose it by own our choices and actions) without exaggerating either side. It might be mediocritas in some people’s way of thinking, but perhaps it is aurea mediocritas.

  94. dcs says:

    Maybe I am naive but I am frankly surprised that a diocesan bishop would speak in such a way in a public forum.

  95. Rose says:

    As an antidote to this Bishop’s views, I was relieved and happy to be able to read Sandro Magister’s commentary on the collection of Pope Benedict’s homilies called “Omelie”.

  96. RBrown says:

    Dear Fr.z, although I believe that ‘in medio stat virtus’ at the same time it seems that today for many of us (priests and bishops) the expression became ‘in medio stat mediocritas’. The fuzzines of the proclamation of the Truth ended up in the last 40 years of wondering in a spiritual desert. I could be wrong but again in the post modern era (or whatever we are living in) everything became subjective. I respect His Lordhip but, in all charity and truth, I would not like to be in his diocese.
    Comment by Fr. Egomet

    In moral theology the golden mean stands between the error of defect and that of excess, thus: In medio stat virtus.

    In the virtue of Justice, however, there is no error of excess. And so in politics the medium is compromise, which, as you note, is fertile ground for mediocrity. The problem for the past 40 years is that propagation of Church doctrine (incl the Sacraments) has been usurped by politics (read: Ecumenism).

    NB: Heaven concerns God’s Mercy. Hell concerns God’s Justice. Purgatory concerns both His Mercy and Justice. That’s why we need homilies on Purgatory.

  97. trp says:

    If His Excellency is right about what the youth want from Christianity, why isn’t the Episcopalian/Anglican Church bursting at the seams with enthusiastic young converts?

  98. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

    First of all, not to be impolite about it, but I think that Fr. Z’s comments about admiring this man are silly. Perhaps he is admirable in several respects but, given his attitude, it is just not appropriate to mention that. Sometimes, it’s best to say nothing. Being charitable doesn’t mean that we must comment when we’d rather not.

    I do see some good news in all of this. Bishop Conry’s repetitions that he’s never forbidden legitimate requests, given his implacable obstructionism in the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, looks very much to me like a smoke signal that he’s about to capitulate very quietly (as the Bishop of Metz in France has done recently). The Dioceses of East Anglia (at Cambridge) and Plymouth have recently gained their first current every-Sunday Traditional *Rites* of Mass, and there is reason to believe that the Dioceses of Middlesbrough and Lancaster will follow suit. That would leave only Conry’s Diocese and that of Hallam as the only sees in England not having the Gregorian *Rite* (not form) of Mass on an every-Sunday basis. Hallam has an every-Tuesday Mass and so it, too, might capitulate soon. The situation in Wales is not nearly as good but there is a much smaller per centage of faithful there.

    So, while I refuse to express admiration for this man in any way, shape or form, I do see hope for our people in his words.

    The Diocese of Meath, in Ireland, has recently gained its first every-Sunday Gregorian *Rite* of Mass. Times are ‘achanging.

    Why use military terms such as ‘capitulate’? It’s because, like it or not (and I don’t), this is a war. We didn’t start it: they took away something which, in law, they had no right to forbid, which is something I have been arguing for many years now.

    Greetings to all you neo-conservatives, semi-traditionalists, and real traditionalists on this list. May God bless you all!


  99. Jason Keener says:

    It is important that we protect the environment, but the Bishop’s stress on environmental issues reminds of the secular progressives who replace true religion (repentance and conversion to Christ) with a new religion of environmentalism.

    “The time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn instead to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

  100. Jonathan says:

    Read Kierans “Broke Back Mountain” Homily – its available on the website for the diocese. Here is part
    ” In the film Brokeback Mountain, there are two people who enter quite a deep relationship, but one of them seems unable to sustain it. Leaving that relationship, he enters another, but that, too, fails. The woman (this time) asks him why he left her, and he says that he didn’t think he was much fun any more. “I didn’t fall in love with fun,” she says.”
    He’s seen the film and guess what he uses it in a pastoral letter for the entire dicoese – Low Sunday 2007 – and there is no criticism from him – its a reference point we are all suppose to agree with?

  101. leo says:

    With respect i would like to hear why he became a priest he was clearly formed in the faith attached to the old mass and was happy enough to stick to the decision to enter the junior seminary at 11 and to continue without time out to ordination perhaps he would now explain his attraction in a different way. To be fair his views are very typical i find a lot of people of a certain age understand the things of tradition but belive we have moved on, how else could they justify the damage inflicted to the faith?

  102. Jason Keener says:

    I have met some crabby traditionalists, but I’ve met many crabby liberals, too. Have you ever tried to engage in a logical debate with a liberal about abortion, gay marriage, or women priests? Having little or no logic to back-up their arguments, liberals will often hurl out the word “bigot” at anyone who does not agree with them. Liberals claim they are so open-minded, but they are only open-minded to people who share their worldview.

    The approach of Church liberals in providing access to the Ancient Liturgy is similarly close-minded. If Church liberals were truly so concerned about legitimate diversity, why do they not openly encourage celebrations of the Traditional Latin Mass so that everyone can have easy access to it?

  103. Jordanes says:

    PKTP said: Greetings to all you neo-conservatives, semi-traditionalists, and real traditionalists on this list. May God bless you all!

    What, no greetings and blessings for “Catholics”?

  104. Richard says:

    “Look around on Sunday morning and see ‘is birth control an issue for most people here?’ No, it’s not.”

    No, because “most people” in a typical Catholic church in England are well over 50 years old. Most celebrations of the Mass were designed to appeal to people who were teenagers in the 1960s; not surprisingly, hardly anyone else goes.

  105. Dominic H says:

    ” “most people” in a typical Catholic church in England are well over 50 years old”

    I must say, that does not match my experience at all (In various places over the years in inner London, on the one hand, and Essex, on the other, principally) .. Not even close.

    (True, maybe in places with larger, and more observant Portuguese, Italian, Philipino, Polish, populations than one might typically find in Anytown, UK – but that certainly isn’t the whole story or explanation)

    Although I do take (and, lamentfully agree, with only relatively rare exceptions) your point about too many (rather than most) masses “Being designed to appeal to people who were teenagers in the 1960s”.

    I am prepared to accept that matters may be different in other parts of the country

    But it does depress me immeasurably that the ordinary of a part of England that has a proud history of recusancy during the penal years (tied in with the history of its cathedral too), quite apart from being the home of Belloc, feels fit to hold and express such views.

  106. Meredith says:

    “You can’t talk to young people about salvation. What’s salvation? What does salvation mean? My eternal soul? You can only talk to young people in young people’s language, really.”

    *screams in a pillow*

    Here I am, 22, striving to become a classical scholar, and I am told to have some fairtrade chocolate and leave theology to grown-ups. It’s just so insulting to all the people in my generation who are trying to discern their responsibilities and assume them; who are trying to grow intellectually, start their careers, and try to understand the world. Why do theology and ecology have to be mutually exclusive? Why are we too flighty to think about ecology AND theo., or ecology AND politics, or ecology AND literature? And why would a bishop respond to people “badgering” him with their pitiable questions about theology and history by hiding from them? Okay I have work to do…

  107. athanasius says:

    We ought not get out of perspective. Fair trade is good, and so is the environment and social justice, all rightly understood in their correct context. Where people go wrong, is when as in liberation theology these things take the place of concern for our eternal salvation rather than function in a subordinated manner to our salvation.

    By all means, eat fair trade chocolate AND do theology. The concept of fair trade is rooted inexorably in Catholic social teaching which goes back not merely to Pope Leo XIII, but to Aristotle and the concept of distributive justice. The problem with it in the context of the Bishops’ comments, like the global warming bit, is that they are posed to us with a false dichotomy, according to him we shouldn’t be worried about liturgical expression, or prayer, or the spiritual life, but Christ in our neighbor, or in the poor, or in the tree hugger.

    Thus while I only buy organic fair trade products, or at least as much as possible, and am self sustaining as much as I am able, if these things were taken away, life goes on. Take away the sacraments, the Church’s sacred liturgy, then that is a different story. For the Bishop that seems to be the inverse. That is the problem. The social gospel is always subordinated to our eternal salvation, and when it ceases to be so, then you have a problem, and in fact a heresy which destroys the virtue of charity.

  108. Simon Platt says:

    Dear PKTP:

    You wrote:

    The Dioceses of East Anglia (at Cambridge) and Plymouth have recently gained their first current every-Sunday Traditional Rites of Mass, and there is reason to believe that the Dioceses of Middlesbrough and Lancaster will follow suit.

    I’m from Lancaster diocese and I really want to believe you. Can you persuade me?

  109. Simon Platt says:

    Somebody wrote

    most people in a typical Catholic church in England are well over 50 years old

    And somebody else queried it. Sadly, it’s pretty close to my experience. I live in what is often said to be England’s most catholic town. I’m 43. I have observed for a few years now that when I have assisted at a typical parish mass I have normally been very obviously the youngest man there, unless my sons have been with me, possibly with the exception of an altar server.

    I suppose it varies from place to place, but something has gone horribly wrong round here. Please pray for us.

  110. Simon Platt says:

    Dear Jason,

    How I agree with you! Perhaps you’d be interested in my definition of the word “bigot”, as commonly used by “liberals”: “someone with whom I disagree and whom I wish to insult”.

  111. TerryC says:

    Father,you’ve show much restraint in the face of what I must call nearly heresy. I’ve no doubt his lordship is sincere in his beliefs. His beliefs are, as a collection, so completely against what the Magisterium of the the Church teaches that I find in almost impossible to comprehend why Rome has not commented.
    His lordship has raised environmentalism to a level of theology. He has called an encyclical irrelevant while ignoring the basic theological soundness of its underlying basis (sadly he is neither the first priest, nor the first bishop to do this to that particular encyclical.) Worse he does not seem to understand these underlying theological facts.
    As a matter of fact, despite your generous inclination to give him the benefit of the doubt here, to me it seems beyond belief that a bishop in the Catholic Church could espouse the collection of beliefs that his lordship does.
    If he is typical of a member of the British episcopate it is no mystery to me why the Church is struggling there.
    It is no secret that we in America have similar bishops and similar problems.

  112. TerryC: has raised environmentalism to a level of theology

    Yes, indeed. I was just talking about this with a priest friend. Environmentalism is becoming the new religion of the post-modern, post-Christian era.

  113. Little Black Sambo says:

    “Look around on Sunday morning and see ‘is birth control an issue for most people here?’ No, it’s not.”
    Could he be referring to the phenomenon that many people have noticed: that Catholic families are no bigger than others?

  114. Andreae says:

    Can we invoke the “Bux Principle” on this nice/candid but heretical bishop?

  115. Maureen says:

    Why does everybody always assume they should preach that God loves us? Why doesn’t anybody preach on why we should love God, and act like it, too?

  116. GregY says:

    I think we would all do well, before rip into Bishop Conry, to take a deep breath and pray for the bishop. However legitimate our disagreements and concerns may be, he is, after all, one of the Lord’s anointed (Ps. 105:15).

  117. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

    There’s been much conversation here abotu the idea that conservatives are grumpy, whereas liberals are sweet-tempered. In my experience, it’s all about Eliot’s objective correlative. Liberals and sweet (even saccharine) on the outside and rotten within, just like the whited sepulchres our Blessed Lord referred to. The proof of this is repeated again and again. Just this Advent, our priest wanted to give us a T.L.M. Midnight Mass. When the liberals in the Parish found out about it, they demanded an N.O.M. at exactly the same time, even though there has only been one or two midnight Christmas Masses in the N.O. once or twice over the last thirty years. It’s not about getting an N.O.M. for Midnight Mass; no, for them, what’s important is PREVENTING traditionalists from having one, and bringing back all the lovely old customs which go with it.

    Conservatives tend to be innocent (sometimes, unforutnately, even naive) on the inside and grumpy on the outside. I’d rather be a conservative. But I don’t have to be either. There’s the option of real traditionalism, which means ZERO CHANGE for a period of fifty years until things settle, just as not one jot or tittle was changed in the Mass from 1637 to 1884 and yet the world did not crash because of it. No, the world–our world–crashed in 1970, or it would have done except that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against our Lord’s Mystical Bride.

    To answer Jordanes question, oh, I included Catholics somewhere in those other categories. Best not to say how many Catholics are in each. Best to leave that to God, which I do. It doesn’t change the fact that we are called to ‘get it right’ as best we can on earth, irrespective of who will go where for it hereafter. But some people just love to tinker: All Souls on the nearest Sunday, an ancient Good Friday Prayer altered to please the masoretes, and so forth. It never ends.


  118. most people in a typical Catholic church in England are well over 50 years old

    I doubt this is true at Sunday Mass in the typical suburban U.S. parish with a cross-section of ages, though it is certainly true at the daily Masses I attend, with a good many retirees driving up the median age of the congregation.

    However, at a recent Sunday TLM I estimated the number of people in various age groups and calculated the average age of the congregation to be in the 30s, with the median age somewhat lower because of the large number of children and students present.

  119. Thomas says:

    TerryC: has raised environmentalism to a level of theology

    Yes, indeed. I was just talking about this with a priest friend. Environmentalism is becoming the new religion of the post-modern, post-Christian era.

    Does this mean we are on a path back to worshiping nature? If so I pick the mule as my patron deity; what a noble animal.

  120. eft says:

    “It depends how you express reverence. Because reverence doesn’t necessarily imply silence, a sort of liturgical theatricality. There are many ways to express reverence.”

    Sacrosanctum Concilium # 30 (Dec 1963):
    To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence.

    Musicam sacram # 17 (Mar 1967):
    At the proper times, all should observe a reverent silence [footnote points to above]. Through it the faithful are not only not considered as extraneous or dumb spectators at the liturgical service, but are associated more intimately in the mystery that is being celebrated, thanks to that interior disposition which derives from the word of God that they have heard, from the songs and prayers that have been uttered, and from spiritual union with the priest in the parts that he says or sings himself.

    General Instruction of the Roman Missal # 45 (Mar 2003):
    Sacred silence also, as part of the celebration, is to be observed at the designated times [footnote points to both above]. Its purpose, however, depends on the time it occurs in each part of the celebration. Thus within the Act of Penitence and again after the invitation to pray, all recollect themselves; but at the conclusion of a reading or the homily, all meditate briefly on what they have heard; then after Communion, they praise and pray to God in their hearts.

    Even before the celebration itself, it is commendable that silence to be observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred action in a devout and fitting manner.

  121. I am eighty and from my perspective the bishop seems very young, perhaps too young to understand that Catholic Bishops must submit to Church Authority – H.V., TLM, CCC, etc. However, even at 57, he should realise the importance of belief in Hell as it is mentioned or referred to by Our Lord even more often than Heaven. Also, I have not found ‘liberals’to be particularly pleasant if one ventures to disagree with them, even very gently. But perhaps the bishop never disagrees with liberals. I agree with those who asked us to pray for him and for the priests and people of his diocese.

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