Card. Nichols reacts to the 500 Priests

The other day I posted about an open letter, in the UK’s weekly the Catholic Herald, signed by almost 500 priests of England and Wales.  The letter urged the members of the upcoming Synod in October to stand firm on the Church’s traditional teachings concerning reception of Holy Communion.  HERE

I now see in the Catholic Herald a reaction/response to the priests’ letter from His Eminence Vincent Card. Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster.  His Eminence isn’t happy.  Here is his statement (my emphases):

“Every priest in England and Wales has been asked to reflect on the Synod discussion. It is my understanding that this has been taken up in every diocese, and that channels of communication have been established,” the statement said.

“The pastoral experience and concern of all priests in these matters are of great importance and are welcomed by the Bishops. Pope Francis has asked for a period of spiritual discernment. This dialogue, between a priest and his bishop, is not best conducted through the press.

During his general audience today, Pope Francis called for prayer not “chatter” ahead of the Synod. He said: “So here is what I, with my collaborators, have thought to propose today: to renew the prayer for the Synod of the Bishops on the family. We are taking up this commitment again next October, when the ordinary Assembly of the Synod, dedicated to the family, will take place. I would like for this prayer, and the whole Synod journey, to be animated by the compassion of the Good Shepherd for His flock, especially for persons and families that, for different reasons, are ‘troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd’ (Mt 9:36).

“So, sustained and animated by the grace of God, the Church can be ever more committed, and ever more united, in the witness of the truth of the love of God and of His mercy for the families of the world, excluding none, whether within or outside the flock. I ask you, please, to not neglect your prayer. All of us – the Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, priests, religious, lay faithful – we are all called to pray for the Synod. There is need of this, not of chatter! I also invite those who feel far away, or who are not accustomed to do so, to pray. This prayer for the Synod on the Family is for the good of everyone. I know that this morning you were given a little prayer card, which you have in your hands. It might be a little wet. I invite you to hold on to it and keep it with you, so that in the coming months you can recite it often, with holy insistence, as Jesus has asked us.”

The prayer which the Pope distributed reads:

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
In you we contemplate
The splendour of true love,
We turn to you with confidence.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
Make our families, also,
Places of communion and cenacles of prayer,
Authentic schools of the Gospel,
And little domestic Churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth
May our families never more experience
Violence, isolation, and division:
May anyone who was wounded or scandalized
Rapidly experience consolation and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
May the upcoming Synod of Bishops
Re-awaken in all an awareness
Of the sacred character and inviolability of the family,
Its beauty in the project of God.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Hear and answer our prayer. Amen.”

Damian Thompson of The Spectator offered his views on this exchange.

Also, don’t miss what the great canonist Ed Peters offered at his blog In The Light Of The Law.  Sample:

British priests have canonical rights, too

There isn’t a word—not one single word—in the short, open letter signed by hundreds of British Catholic priests to the Catholic Herald (London) defending Church teaching on marriage and sacraments that any Catholic could not, and should not be proud to, personally profess and publically proclaim. The priests’ letter is a model of accuracy, balance, brevity, and pastoral respect for persons. It fortifies the soul to know it exists. It gladdens the heart to actually read it.

I am at a loss, therefore, to understand why Vincent Cardinal Nichols seems to chastise priests who signed letter for their allegedly “conducting [a] dialogue, between a priest and his bishop … through the press.” The priests’ letter is statement of Catholic belief, not an opening gambit in a negotiation; it is addressed to a journal editor, and through him to lay and clerical public, not to a particular prelate. Moreover, the letter is a text-book example of clergy exercising a canonical right guaranteed to all the Christian faithful, namely, “to manifest to sacred pastors [Code for ‘bishops’] their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.” Canon 212 § 3, my emphasis.


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  1. pmullane says:

    “shut up”…he explained.

    Of course, I’m not the first to point out the irony in a bishop expressing the view that dialogue between a priest and bishop should not be done through the press by….sending a letter to the press. Or that the priests were not looking to engage in a dialogue.

    In all seriousness though, thank you to those brave Holy priests who put their name to this letter, and their god before their careers. If every vacant see in this country could be filled by a name from that list then we could win this land back for Christ.

  2. William says:

    One man’s chatter is another’s holy lio.

  3. Back pew sitter says:

    Many of the names of the priests on the list, like Britain’s finest theologians, Fr Aidan Nichols, OP, and Fr John Saward, are not ‘trouble-makers.’ They are faithful to the Catholic faith. What is truly worrying is that these good men, and the other 459 faithful co-signatories, considered it necessary to make this public declaration of the faith now.

    It is nothing short of scandalous that bishop after bishop, and cardinal after cardinal, are not similarly defending the faith that they have the responsibility of defending. Yes, some good men are. But too many are keeping quiet. And for Cardinal Nichols and even Pope Francis to seek to silence those who have a duty to proclaim the truth is also worrying – in fact, it is scandalous.

  4. Baritone says:

    Which is the chatter: 500 priests urging the synod to affirm the constant teachings of the Church or the unapproved synod report released to the media which has sparked the rumor and expectation that the Church is going to “change its mind” about the 6th and 9th commandments?

  5. Muv says:

    Damian Thompson observes:-

    “…I have a nasty suspicion that any priest who was brave enough to sign that letter will find his card marked. Thanks to the inertia of the Bishops’ Conference, there are easily 500 deadbeat parishes to which they can be assigned – though, come to think of it, the calibre of the signatories is so much higher than the average that this could be a way of reviving the Church’s mission…”

    I have spotted a few priests I know on the list, including one priest who was transferred to an out of the way parish years ago, where by all accounts he now achieves marvellous things.

  6. juergensen says:

    These 500 priests better have their financial houses in order, for they might soon be “investigated” for “financial improprieties”. It seems to be the modus operandi for removing orthodox priests.

  7. TNCath says:

    It seems to me that this “chatter” began with the off-the-cuff, in-flight papal press conferences, the smoke and mirrors chatter created by Father Lombardi and his English-speaking “Ed McMahoninan” sidekick Father Roscia, and the remarks of a number of other cardinals before, during, and after the Synod. Finally, if Cardinal Nichols didn’t want a conversation via the media, why then did he publicly respond to this petition via the media?

  8. Akita says:

    Bravo! Brave British priests leading the charge to stand firm against this Luciferian conniving to desecrate the Eucharist and disembowel the Catholic priesthood.

    St Thomas More pray for us!

  9. asperges says:

    This petition is echoing all over the Catholic world. The shame is not that it has been signed by good and faithful priests – God bless them all – but that the Church is so split and confused at the highest levels that it has been seen as necessary. Card Nichols is just annoyed about the backlash.

    A good article appears at the fratresinunum website, but only in Portuguese so far. Perhaps Google can make something of it.

  10. jherforth says:

    In all fairness, I can see this as being a tactic of the liberal left in the undermining of the faith to just use the press to drum up a fervor around your stance. “We” don’t like it when they do it to us, which they are doing in greater volume, so I feel that “we” should have a bit more tact on how we approach these matters. I think the first approach should have been that each of these priests concentrate on teaching sound orthodoxy in their own parishes. That is best approach. The laity with a sound [orthodox] understanding of what is being done to undermine the trueness of their faith is the best weapon against the devil.

    I do feel good to know that there are this many priests willing to stand up like this, so for what it’s worth I’m glad to hear about this, but it can be perceived the way the Bishop perceived it.

  11. Akita says:

    These are dangerous times to be a faithful Catholic–the persecutions have started. These are also soul endangering times to be an ill informed Catholic, least so many shepherds lead you to perdition inasmuch as they give a wink and a nod to The Father of Lies. Silence in the face of widespread contraception, fornication, divorce, bizarre reproductive technology, and the sodomite agenda have despoiled the societal landscape. There will be no new evangelisation unless these personal, sexual sins are addressed.

  12. I have turned on the moderation queue. Please exercise some self-editing skills.

  13. frahobbit says:

    “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:12).

    I wish the wind were blowing the chaff away already.

  14. benedictgal says:

    I cam across this petition in support of the UK priests who back traditional marriage. Two of my friends signed this petition and I believe that it is important that we show these courageous priests that their efforts are greatly appreciated.

  15. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Was that issued as a written statement, and does the Herald reproduce it in full? I cannot find anything on the Diocese of Westminster website…

  16. Matt R says:

    Yes, it is online. It was a letter to the editor of the Catholic Herald.

  17. tzard says:

    I find His Eminence’s statement “Pope Francis called for prayer not “chatter”” a bit confusing.

    I read it as the Pope called them not to chatter – but no, the text of the general audience calls them to prayer (not unusual). There’s no admonition to avoid chatter – or for that matter to *only* pray and not “Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine.” 2 Timothy 4:2 for the official publication of what he said – now, we weren’t there so we don’t know what came off the cuff, Perhaps B. Nichols knows something more? How are the good priests or the rest of us to know?

  18. Orphrey says:

    If the upcoming synod adopts the kinds of “pastoral” changes promoted by Card. Kasper, does that mean St. Thomas More and the other English martyrs died in vain, since Henry VIII should have been admitted to Holy Communion and his divorce/uxoricide and remarriage should have been tolerated (if not accepted) by the Church?

  19. jmcj says:

    Kudos to Ed Peters!! That was masterful. He nailed it.

    Perhaps Pope Francis could cause some lio by making Peters a lay cardinal.

  20. anilwang says:

    pmullane says: “Of course, I’m not the first to point out the irony in a bishop expressing the view that dialogue between a priest and bishop should not be done through the press by….sending a letter to the press. Or that the priests were not looking to engage in a dialogue.”

    Adding to the irony is that the 500 Priest likely would not have signed the petition if the last Synod was not a media circus that confused the faithful, that this petition helps comfort the faithful, and that Cardinal Nichols’ “shut up” re-enforces the original confusion.

    It’s pretty clear where he stands.

    When liberals use the word tolerance and dialogue, what they really mean is you put up and listen to us and we shout you down and shut you down.

  21. Bosco says:

    I recall that 300 Spartans held off 100,000 – 150,000 Persians in three days of battle at Thermopylae.

  22. JBS says:

    Perhaps they have a right to make their concerns known to the rest of the Christian faithful: “According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful…” –(Latin) Code of Canon Law 212

  23. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I’m sure that all these pastors have already preached to their flock who go to Mass. The point of a letter to the press is to clear things up for both Catholics who don’t go to Mass often, and to preach the continuity of Church teaching to non-Catholics.

    In other words, it’s not a scandalous act, but rather an act that helps remove scandals from the path of those who are most prone to stumble over them. The archbishop should be thanking these good priests for helping him care for souls and teach the ignorant.

  24. Joseph-Mary says:

    Yes, I am reading that there should be no chatter, discussions, or ‘gossip’ about the synod. No, lets have everything done in darkness…

  25. Benedict Joseph says:

    Surely there has been no turn to orthodoxy since the October butchery we endured. This is the habitat we are forced to suffer until it finds its terminus. Pope Francis is a stealth actor, surrounded by likeminded characters such as Cardinal Nichols who find the current chaos satisfying and entertaining. Admonitions to “obedience” are good only for the orthodox. This simple and responsible call to awareness professed by heroic British priests is demeaned while a panorama of irregularities goes on unabated. Witness St. Patrick’s Day on Fifth Avenue, the attack on an orthodox religious educator in Metuchen, the chaos in Osorno, the grist poured out by German episcopate, the list is unending. These events are no longer unusual, they characterize this man and his agenda. Deeply saddening and unworthy of pastors.

  26. Aquinas Gal says:

    By all of these things, the priests and bishops are revealing who they really are, and if they stand with Christ and the Church or not. For that we should be grateful, for at least it’s getting easier to tell the shepherds from the wolves.

  27. jbpolhamus says:

    I love/hate to see duplicitous prevarication of such an common and unimaginative type, coming from someone so obviously elevated so far above his abilities. Should not conduct their dialogue in the press? “Eminance,” what, pray tell, do you think Cardinal Kasper has been doing all along? What’s good for the goose is better for the gander, if the gander’s good is based solely on JESUS CHRIST, HIS WORDS, AND HIS CHURCH’S MAGISTERIUM. Vinnie…Vinnie…old chinese proverb: make sure brain is in top gear, before engaging mouth. Take it from Jeremy Clarkson.

  28. Kathleen10 says:

    It is ugly to see authority abused. They should be frank and state that only dialogue that supports their position is wanted. This is all as transparent as glass. I think they should realize laypeople do comprehend it. While millions do continue to sleep, millions now have a very solid grasp of the situation, even as it plays out, what is at stake it understood. We are watching to see how faithful priests, bishops, and cardinals are treated from here on in. The letter from Cardinal Nichols is a great example. Do these Cardinals believe that laypeople do not understand what is going on? I believe the people will only tolerate so much, and we are not sleeping, we are watching. Do not abuse our faithful men, nor expect people to remain silent forever. I think it can be expected that the noise level is only going to increase if this continues to be the direction.

    Mr. Peters, well done sir!

  29. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    As far as I can see, it was not Cardinal Nichols via a spokesman who referred to and quoted from Pope Francis’s general audience, but Madeleine Teahan juxtaposing those two things in her Herald article.

    I just noticed that Fr. Alexander Lucie also had an article about why he signed the letter:

    With reference to Canon 212 § 3, might the statement be attempting to imply that the 500 priests were failing to “to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful […] with reverence toward their pastors”?

  30. Imrahil says:

    To be fair,

    what the priests did was giving a public statement which well goes beyond suggestion, which is quite certain that this and this only is the thing to do, in a public debate where other Catholics say things to the contrary*. They issued a statement. They subscribed to it and made sure to get as many signatures as possible. They saw to at, as far as they could, that they would be as much heard as possible.

    So,canonically licit or not, it is – of course – direct and, in fact, undisputed propaganda (taking that word in a neutral sense). [Over-thinking this a little?]

    [* They might hold that Catholics though they may still be, it is not a Catholic position they subscribe to. But the point is that this has not been made clear by the authorities responsible.]

    It would, quite in fact, be outside common-sense to think such a course of action is the normal state of affairs in the Catholic Church.

    So… was it wrong of them to do so?


    They perceived (and it is in conscience always decisive how one perceives things to be, not how they actually may be) themselves in a dire situation, an emergency, in which they had to take such an extraordinary measure. They felt compelled by conscience. And contrary to some rumours this is a good Catholic thing. To Conscience first and the Pope second, as Bl. John Henry said (excluding, of course, the question where exercises of infallibility come into play).

    But the measure still is extraordinary and not ordinary. [So what? The stakes are extraordinarily high, too.]

    And that a bishop whose rather unabashed aims are rather unabashedly attacked as un-Catholic is not going to be friendly about it is no secret either (and if they’re right no less so than if they’re wrong).

  31. Nicolas Bellord says:

    I must say I wish some commentators could try and write in plain English so that I do not have to read a sentence five times in order to try and tease some sense out of it e.g.

    “And that a bishop whose rather unabashed aims are rather unabashedly attacked as un-Catholic is not going to be friendly about it is no secret either (and if they’re right no less so than if they’re wrong).”

  32. Sonshine135 says:

    500 Priests did there job- Support Catholic teaching and instruct the faithful in the process. My take is that the Cardinal did not much care for this happening, because he is inclined to the Marx position. He is now being looked at to explain his rather indefensible position, and lashing out like a cornered cat.

  33. John Nolan says:

    Cardinal Nichols has published a book on St John Fisher, whom he greatly reveres. Giving the saint due honour for his defence of the indissolubility of Christian marriage, he also maintains that Fisher’s great strength was his support of the clergy.

    Just sayin’ …

  34. Imrahil says:

    Dear Nicolas Bellord,

    well, the rules of English orthography forbid me to put any comma in there (which would be there in my native), which might make that particular sentence more understandable.

    Anyway, someone, they say Mark Twain, they say Pascal, once said he was sorry for not writing in a more brief way because he had not had time to shorten what he said. I quite second that.

  35. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    I’m sure Chesterton said something like that, but can’t find it immediately.

Comments are closed.