Saturday, 8 December 2007

Westminster — more speculation

According to a source in one of the Roman congregations, someone who has worked with His Holiness in the past, the only two names among our present hierarchy that the Pope is both familiar with and approves of, are those of the Archbishop of Cardiff, Peter Smith, and the Bishop of East Anglia, Michael Evans.
The latter is supposedly very ill indeed, and therefore not a likely candidate. Peter Smith might well be a candidate—his name already has been mentioned as being in the running.
A Londoner, ordained for the Archdiocese of Southwark in the early 1970s, having studied for the priesthood at St John's Seminary, Wonersh, he served as assistant priest at Larkhall Lane, Stockwell, for a very short period, and then went to Rome to study Canon Law. At the English College, he was highly critical of the lax and liberal atmosphere fostered by the then Rector, one, er, Monsignor Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, and, I think, left to live at the Beda College instead.
Back in England, he returned to St John's Seminary, Wonersh, and taught Canon Law and associated subjects (this was before the promulgation of the 1983 Code, when it was rather difficult to teach this subject, since everyone knew things were about to change, but not how). In due course, he was made Vice-Rector, and was much admired by the more conservative students, since he made no secret of his difference of views with the then Rector, one, er, Monsignor Christopher Budd, who was then systematically changing the seminary into something more like an Anglican Theological College.
For a year, Peter Smith was placed in charge of a parish—St Andrew's, Thornton Heath—which, with his 6 months or so at Larkhall Lane, was to prove his only parish experience, but on which he would continue to draw endless stories to illustrate this or that point of moral theology or canon law. Christopher Budd left Wonersh for his only pastoral experience (6 weeks as administrator of Brentwood Cathedral), and the seminary was run by one, er, Father Michael Evans, for a few months.
Peter Smith returned to Wonersh triumphantly as Rector, and then Monsignor, where he spent the next few years happily espousing all the causes he had spent the previous ten years despising. If Budd had been into psychobabble as a remedy for every problem, well, then Smith would make every student see a shrink. In fact he'd have a shrink on the permanent staff. If Budd made Compline sometimes optional, well then Smith made it always optional. Those like myself who had looked forward to a Smith rectorate as something of a restoration were to be sadly disappointed.
In due course, Smith was made Bishop of East Anglia, with a reputation for fairness, on the whole, and London good humour. He had his fingers burned over the publication of a school textbook by the wife of a former Jesuit which appeared to question the Resurrection, but, Teflon-like, the dirt slid off and stuck to someone else (who, I happen to know, wasn't really responsible: the real culprit was neither of these two, but the author and one other whose name was never mentioned in connection with the affair).
Since his translation to Cardiff, I've rather lost touch, but what I hear is unremarkable but good. He has spoken well on moral issues for the BBC, and the Archdiocese seem content.
So there we go; make your own mind up. Which is the real Smith? The conservative Catholic? The liberal reformer? Or something else?

11 comments:

Ttony said...

Or does he just bend with the wind?

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

I'm sorry, of course, to hear that Bishop Evans is rather unwell.

I wondered why we had not heard the name of Archbishop Peter Smith mentioned before.

The way men act when in charge of seminaries is not necessarily a pointer as to how they will act as a diocesan bishop.

Bishop Peter Smith moved to Wales at a very awkward time, and proceeded to play a straight bat when interviewed by the BBC.

An ability competently to handle an increasingly hostile and very critical media is, I would say, a sine qua non for Westminster these days.

Archbishop Vincent Nicholls seems similarly able to face the bowling.

Of course, there is a great deal more to running the diocese than that.

But the sporting analogy, if irreverent, holds good.

The next Archbishop of Westminster will need to put together a competent team within his own diocese, as well as being something of a diplomat and a public figure.

I wouldn't expect anything too controversial from Rome.

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

You have answered your own question in the very asking of it. A true disciple is a light which at all times shines out in the darkens. That which is occult can only be hiding something which should not be seen.

Lest one be accused of denying the possibility of personal conversion, for which it is never too late, one would simply observe that converts generally let their conversion be known very clearly, and rejoice in the truth to which they have come.

Berolinensis said...

Thank you very much for that, Father.
One often hears similar stories. How can it be explained? When he himself was opposed to all the liberal nonsense, and presumably didn't have it easier for that while still not in charge, why did he go "liberal" himself once he had the opportunity to implement hsi views? If it were opportunism, he would have gone along with the liberal agenda all along, no? I have heard similar things so often, also from Germany, and can never understand.

Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ said...

All very interesting..

Mac McLernon said...

Heheheh... Fr Justin, you've been tagged!

Paulinus said...

Which is the real Smith? The conservative Catholic? The liberal reformer? Or something else?

if you have to ask, he is unappointable

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

With respect to Dr Wright, we should remember the the administration of the Diocese is not the first duty of a bishop, but indeed, as explained in John Paul II's letter to bishops, PASTORES GREGIS 2003, it is the lowest in a hierarchy.

First and foremost they are called to holiness, as Witnesses of the Truth, seen to be men of prayer; they are to be Teachers, bringing the doctrine of the Church faithfully to their people; they are to be High Priests and Ministers of the Sacraments; they are to be Pastors with the care of souls, solicitous for even the weakest entrusted to them; and lastly, they are to be Governors, administering the offices and good of their diocese.

This is the only valid job-description for the Office of Bishop, and an understanding sadly all too lacking amongst our present Conference of Bishops of England and Wales.

Oremus pro illis.

the owl of the remove said...

Until, as George Weigel has said, members of the club stop appointing members to the club, we will continue to get more of the same.

Nicholas said...

I will place my money,hopes and prayers on a Benedictine returning to Westminster.

Auricularius said...

I suspect that the problem is not whether going to see the shrink was (or is?) optional or compulsory, but that the shrinks in question operated (or operate?) out of a sub-Freudian, non-transcendent anthropology which treated (or treats?) every altruistic impulse as evidence of a (more or less) sublimated sexuality and which saw (or sees?) lack of sexual intimacy as incompatible with healthy psychological development.

The main problem with all this Freudian b******t is its materialism. Whereas past ages would have seen psychological traumas as occasions for asceticism and the development of the virtues of temperance and fortitude, the Freudian mindset sees a therapeutic imperative which insists on raking up past difficulties at a depth and intensity which, in the end, does more harm than good. How many lives (and vocations?) have been ruined by this approach?