Thursday, 9 April 2015

A Call to Communion: a bishop's blog and ACTA

One of the things that struck me about Bishop Campbell's blog post A Call to Communion in the Diocese of Lancaster with regard to ACTA was that he based his post upon his understanding of his own ministry as Bishop of Lancaster diocese as being a ministry in favour of ecclesial communion and unity:
“This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed we profess as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, handed on to Peter to shepherd, committed to him and the other apostles to extend and rule, and erected for ever as “the pillar and ground of the truth”. This Church constituted and ordered in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although outside its structure, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found, which as gifts proper to the Church of Christ, impel towards catholic unity.” (LG 19).
My own favourite image (not excluding any of the others) is that essentially we are the baptised pilgrim People of God, and thus the Body of Christ; head and members united by the Holy Spirit in visible communion with the successors of the Apostles, united with the Pope as successor to Peter. Such unity forged in bonds of charity and communion in the Church is a precious – sometimes fragile – gift of the Lord to His Church – be cherished, protected and shared. 
As Bishop of Lancaster and thus as a Successor of the Apostles, I am charged, in accord with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, with a special care in my ministry as ‘overseer’ to uphold the unity of the Church in this Diocese of Lancaster and so to guard against any attempt to confuse the faithful regarding authentic Catholic teaching and ministry in this Diocese. 
In his BBC Radio Lancashire interview linked from the blog post (it is only available to listen again on line for a limited period), Bishop Campbell describes how he found it offensive (Bishop Campbell's very word) that an ACTA spokesman, interviewed earlier that same day, should suggest that he was in any way out of step with Pope Francis. Fr Alex Lucie-Smith's piece at the Catholic Herald web site relates something of the radio interviews: Bishop Campbell’s criticism of ACTA is spot-on.

It is from this perspective that Bishop Campbell then makes his carefully judged observations with regard to ACTA, observations that have some echo of Pope Benedict XVI's words about recognising dissent for what it is:
In this light there appears at times a momentum for certain pressure groups in the life of the Church Universal. Amongst these at the present moment is a small but vocal interest or lobby group self-styled A Call to Action (ACTA) which happens to meet within the Diocese of Lancaster and other dioceses and appears to espouse positions – at times and among others – in opposition to the defined teaching of the Catholic Church on faith and morals....
I need to make it clear here that in my judgement, as Diocesan Bishop, ACTA moves well beyond its self-described aim of ‘dialogue’ on controversial issues on its agenda and so does not provide an assured authentic forum or interpretation of sound Catholic teaching and sound pastoral practice in this Diocese. Accordingly great care is required here from priests and people. 
I believe that we need to understand Bishop Campbell's words in a catholic way - that is, we must take them as a whole. We must take both the critique of ACTA, and the urgency of communion in the diocese and with Pope Francis. Some of those who have heaped praise on Bishop Campbell's "calling out" of ACTA might need also to examine their consciences with regard to recognising the implication of his anxiety in favour of communion, and in particular communion with Pope Francis.

See also two earlier posts on this blog:
The Church we are in
Dialogue in the Church (or: What should bishops do about ACTA)

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