Friday, 7 November 2008

Accepting that we were wrong ...

Austria's Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, the Arch­bishop of Vienna, in a sermon at a Neocatechumenate meeting in Jerusalem on 27 March this year, criticised those bishops who did not stand firm with Paul VI when he issued the Encyclical Humanae Vitae.
After the publication of the encyclical in 1968, numerous bishops' conferences around the world - including those of Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the US and later Australia - is­sued statements assuring the faithful that the issue was a matter of conscience.
But those bishops, said Cardinal Schon­born, were "frightened of the press and of being misunderstood by the faithful". Blame lay not only with the bishops responsible at the time - none of whom is still alive - but with all bishops for the fact that Europe is "about to die out". "I think that it is also our sin as bishops, even if none of us were bish­ops in 1968," he added.
Bishops have not had, or did not have, the courage to "swim against the tide" and say yes to Humanae Vitae, he said. The cardinal particularly crit­icised two of the many 1968 bishops' confer­ence declarations on Humanae Vitae, which all stressed the importance of the individual conscience.
He singled out the Maria Trost Declaration, whose signatories included Cardinal Franz Konig, the late Archbishop of Vienna, pres­ident of the Austrian bishops' conference and a Father of the Second Vatican Council, and the Konigstein Declaration, whose signatories included Cardinal Julius Dopfner, the late Archbishop of Munich, president of the Ger­man bishops' conference and another Council Father.
Cardinal Schonborn accused the signatories of "weakening the People of God's sense for life", so that when "the wave of abortions" and increasing acceptance of homosexuality fol­lowed, the Church lacked the courage to oppose them.
Cardinal Shonborn's discourse in Jerusalem earlier this year reminds me of that of Cardinal Pole, the English cardinal who, at the Council of Trent, stood up in the Council's Aula and declared that the Bishop's of Europe - that is, ourselves - are to blame for the Protestant Reformation. He cited three ways by which the Catholic Bishop's of Europe enabled the Reformation to gather speed: that the Bishop's had not corrected moral errors, that they had not corrected small "mis-representations" of faith and so had allowed them to grow into full blown heresy, and that they had not spoken out against the numerous wars all over Europe which had weakened society. We Bishops, he said, are to blame for the state that the Church is now in, and called the Council Father's to recognise their need to do penance and so to bring down the mercy of God upon the Church at this very needy moment in history.

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