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Emboldening lay Catholics


In this fiftieth anniversary year of the opening of Vatican II, a number of interviews on Eureka Street TV have featured critical reflections from prominent Catholic thinkers and activists on various aspects of the Council.

This interview is with journalist, author and broadcaster, Clifford Longley, who is one of the UK’s leading lay Catholics. He was invited to Australia by the progressive Catholic organisation, Catalyst for Renewal, and he delivered a series of lectures in May this year on the legacy of Vatican II.

In the interview he focuses on the issues and challenges in developing a mature Catholic laity in the light of the teachings of the Council, and the video also features excerpts from the inaugural Rosemary Goldie Lecture he gave on this topic.

(Continues below)

It’s fitting that his talk was delivered in this context, as Rosemary Goldie was one of Australia’s leading lay Catholics. She was a theologian and lay activist, and one of the first women to be named an official observer of Vatican II. She died in Sydney in 2010 at the age of 94. 

After the Council for several years she was Under-Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, one of the first women and lay people to serve as a bureaucrat in the Curia. In this capacity, in the 60s and 70s she helped organise a number of major international lay congresses in Rome.

After this she was appointed a Professor of Pastoral Theology at the Lateran University in Rome. While large in intellect and influence, she was tiny in physical stature, and Pope John XXIII referred to her affectionately as ‘la piccinina’ which translates from the Italian as something like ‘a little slip of a thing.’

Clifford Longley was born in the UK in 1940, and has had a distinguished career mainly as a print journalist. He worked as a general reporter on a number of newspapers before specialising from 1972 onwards in the coverage of British and international religious affairs.

He wrote a weekly column on religion for The Times from 1972 till 1992, and from 1992 to 2000 for the Daily Telegraph. This made him the longest continuously appearing columnist in British national papers, and in 1986 he was honoured with an award for ‘Specialist Writer of the Year’ in the British Press Awards.

During this time, as well as his work as a columnist, he was leader writer and religious affairs editor for these newspapers. Since 1994 he has been a columnist, contributing editor and leader writer for the prestigious weekly Catholic journal, The Tablet.

In more recent times he has also made regular appearances on radio. Since 2002 he’s been a contributor to Thought for the Day, and since 2004 he’s been a panelist on The Moral Maze, both on BBC Radio 4.

Longley has also been a consultant to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and has been on the advisory council of the Three Faiths Forum. In 1998 he was made an honorary fellow of St Mary’s College at the University of Surrey.

As well as his prolific writing for newspapers and journals, his books include The Times Book of Clifford Longley, The Worlock Archive and Chosen People.

Peter KirkwoodPeter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant who worked for 23 years in the Religion and Ethics Unit of ABC TV. He has a Master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity.

Topic tags: Clifford Longley, Peter Kirkwood, Vatican II, Catalyst for Renewal, Catholic laity



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In regards to the debating of certain issues mentioned by Clifford Longley in the video...Let's be Honest now- there is a so called Wisdom of the World - or if you like a Secular Wisdom - which is not God's Wisdom.... 'Where is the wise?- Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hasn't God made foolish the so called Secular Wisdom of this world?' ...The difference between what we do ( spend endless energy in dead end debates- like the ordination of women priests ) and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems. I am certain Rosemary Goldie would be in agreement with me...NB- 'la piccinina'in Italian means 'the tiny one' and not 'a little slip of a thing'

Myra | 29 June 2012  

When I read or hear Clifford Longley and others like him give their opinions, I feel that they want to start a new Church rather than submit to the Magisterium. It seems almost fashionable to try and democratise the Church rather than obey what has always been taught by the by the Church. Long live the French Revolution of 1789 and let everyone decide what to believe by a majority consensus rather than listen to the Church who is lead by the Holy Ghost! “The doctrine of the Faith revealed by God has not been proposed to men as a philosophical invention to be perfected, but entrusted to the bride of Christ as a divine deposit, for her to guard faithfully and to infallibly teach. Further it is necessary to guard the sacred dogmas in the sense that the Church has once and for all time exposed, and it is never permitted, under the pretext of a more profound understanding, to distance oneself from them. It is thus important that intelligence, knowledge and wisdom grow and progress vigorously, in each as in all, for each individual man as for the Church as a whole, in the course of ages and centuries; but only in its kind, that is to say, in the same dogma, the same sense, and the same thought” - Dz 3020 Many of the progressive/modernist mindset are not concerned with true knowledge but rather with feelings [sentiments] and immanence - [i.e., the teaching that the foundation of faith must be sought in an internal sense which arises from man's need of God], and since they no longer have any external object to adhere to, the modern theologians have simply become begetters of symbols, designed to represent the divine emanating from human subconscious. They also consider that the Magisterium's sole function is that of transmitting or passing on common opinions. Their cult thus ends up being a humanistic expression of religious feelings. The modernist Church, for its part, is now seen as the collective conscience in the same way that popular regimes constitute the public conscience: and only the democratic form is considered suitable to their ends. Thus we end up with the error of separation of the Church and the State. In fact, since these like-minded people hold faith to be subject to human knowledge [science] and reason, to the total advantage of [human] reasoning and to the vanishing point of faith, the Church is seen to be subject to the collective conscience which constitutes what may be essentially called an all-encompassing Christian democracy, that is to say, the State. Understood in this way, authority becomes nothing more than a service whose mission is limited to the taking of the "universal pulse" in order to explain it in a formula comprehensible to everyone. However the Catholic teaching on the Magisterium and its teaching authority is clear. Namely that although the Pope is limited by the deposit of the faith, (Dz 3070) it is he who is the lawful expounder of Catholic doctrine and not every private individual (Dz 3055). This fact is well affirmed by all the fathers and doctors of the Church without question. It was finally defined by the First Vatican Council. St. Thomas Aquinas makes it clear that "neither Jerome nor Augustine nor any other of the sacred doctors upheld his own opinion" (Secunda Secundae Q.XI, Art. II.) unlike today’s progressive self appointed "popes". Pope St. Pius X condemned the Modernist notion of the Magisterium in Lamenentabili sane in proposition No. 6 which declares the following as condemned “The learning Church (ecclesia dicens) and the Teaching Church (ecclesia docencs) collaborate in such a way in defining truths that it only remains for the teaching Church to sanction the opinions of the learning Church. It is well to note that if a Catholic wants to remain a Catholic, he cannot attribute error to the Church's infallible teaching. What the progressive/Modernist does on the other hand is that he simply keeps the label (the same words with minor distortion for a while atleast) while substituting the content . Yet such a deceptive notion of the faith and the role of the Magisterium was clearly condemned by the First Vatican Council when it declared that "If anyone shall say that, because of scientific progress, it may be possible at some time to interpret the Church's dogmas in a different sense from that which the Church understood and understands, let him be anathema" (Dz. 1800). The same Council also teaches that Papal definitions are irreformable "of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church". Further for many years, in the wake of the first wave of modernism, priests and Catholic professors had to affirm on Oath "I sincerely receive the doctrine of faith which the orthodox Fathers have transmitted to us from the Apostles, always in the same sense and meaning. And therefore I reject absolutely the false and heretical view of the evolution of dogmas, according to which they may change meaning so as to receive a different sense."

Trent | 29 June 2012  

Trent, if you feel you must "submit" to the Magisterium, thereby allowing it to dominate you, it follows that you are not doing this freely and lovingly, which defeats the purpose of it in the first place.

AURELIUS | 29 June 2012  

As a rehab from thalamic stroke and cancer I was favoured to reside in the Llittle Sisters of the Poor Nursing Home, with Rosemarie Goldie. She was the utter antithesis of brash in-your-face femo reform gone crazy,;her simple piety was edifying, and she was impeccably loyal to the magisterium: the exemplar of lay womanhood, with a strong attachment to daily Mass and Holy Communion; the virtues of absolute humility shone through despite her international celebrity status of decades.

Father John Michael George | 02 July 2012  

Emboldening catholic laity? Ask Gorbachev[interviewed in la stampa] re bold polish catholic laity empowered by pope jp2 and hierarchy-matter of fact soviet union was badgered by emboldened catholic laity[many martyrs] Ex KGB Pacepa revealed the 1960s soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev plot to denigrate Pius xii by financing eg Hochhuth's play 'the deputy' as a concerted soviet effort to destroy the Vatican emboldening of eastern bloc catholics. The 1956 Hungarian revolution was emboldened by imprisoned Cardinal Mindzenty later freed by Hungarians as their exemplar of resistance to soviet repression. [After the soviet brutal suppression of the 3 day uprising, Mindzenty took refuge in US embassy a symbol of undaunted courage for laity[everyday for decades a secret-police car awaited outside the embassy, for an attempted escape. Forget not the inspirational long imprisoned cardinal kung of Maoist china at a staged communist banquet for visiting Philippine cardinal Sin. As custom both cardinals sang after the banquet before the communist claque[unbeknown to commos the hierarchs sang the latin 'Te Deum Laudamus' hymn with gusto. Such hierarchs inspired/emboldened millions of suffering imprisoned catholics.

Father John Michael George | 03 July 2012  

Father George Michael - it seems you still don't don't get what "laity" means.

AURELIUS | 03 July 2012  

O really Aurelius? So former eastern bloc laity aren't laity[In fact they exemplify vibrant active up front laity[Lech Walesa and hundreds of millions of other laity['running their own show' with clergy standing with them[many clergy in prison over years.Beware of a myopic western weltenschaung of postconciliar laity who lounge around whinging about hierarchy like browned off adolescents.[Surely Aurelius we aren't racially prejudiced re eastern European proactive Catholics or racially prejudiced against pro active papist Asian catholics who toppled dictator Marcos [organised by cardinal sin from Radio Veritas],-the same laity of 5 million at Manila Papal Mass on another occasion.

Father John Michael George | 03 July 2012  

Oh, yes, Father! My mistake. Once again you are correct!

AURELIUS | 03 July 2012  

..Though I do agree with Clifford Longley- in regards to suggesting the Laity should be encouraged by the practicing of the Virtues : Acceptance- Assertiveness- Authenticity- Beauty- Caring- Cleanliness- Commment- Compassion- Confidence- Consideration- Contentment- Cooperation- Courage- Creativity- Detachment-
Determination- Dignity- Enthusiasm- Ethical- Excellence- Fairness- Faith- Flexibility- Forgiveness- Friendliness- Generosity- Gentleness- Graciousness- Gratitude- Harmonious- Helpfulness- Honesty- Honor- Hope- Humility- Idealism- Integrity- Imagination- Joyfulness- Justice- Kindness- Love- Loyalty- Moderation- Modesty- Optimistic- Orderliness- Passionate- Patience- Peace- Perseverance- Preparedness- Prudence- Purposefulness- Reliability- Respect- Responsibility- Reverence- Self-discipline- Service- Sincerity- Tact- Temperate- Tenacious- Thankfulness- Tolerance- Trust- Truthfulness- Understanding- Unity- Visionary- Wisdom- Wonder- and Zeal

Myra | 07 July 2012  

Father George Michael, Marcos was ousted by the Catholic hierarchy in the Philippines and a very small middle class that was losing money. Would you spare a thought for the Catholic laity in Chile who were murdered for opposing Pinochet. Chileans still remain faithful Catholics despite witnessing their murderous president standing aside bishops and priests during special Masses offered on each anniversary of the coup during the 11-year dictatorship. The laity and clergy in Chile who dared "whinge" about the hierarchy were quickly disposed of.

AURELIUS | 09 July 2012