Sometimes, when the Media are interviewing Catholics on controverted issues, they tell us the religion of the person they have with them, as if to say "Of course, you should take account of the fact that X is a devout Catholic, and so what he says must be taken with a pinch of salt".
The BBC, in the person of Ed Stourton, a Catholic remarried after divorce, gave radio space on Sunday March 22 to the RC MP for Bournemouth, Conor Burns, to make another attack on Bishop Philip Egan, Burns' own diocesan Bishop.
I think it would have been helpful to listeners to mention Stourton's own status, so as to remind them that he is himself not impartial and unbiassed when it comes to Christ's teaching on Marriage and associated matters.
Burns is described by Wikipedia as "openly gay"; surely, it would have been appropriate to inform listeners of this? Perhaps Stourton could have introduced him with something like:
"Mr Burns, who is said to be openly gay, first attacked Bishop Philip last year when the bishop gave his opinion that legislators who voted for homosexual marriage 'shouldn't be receiving Holy Communion'".
This point of mine is pure Common Sense. We all know the phrase "I see where you're coming from". For the members of the Media Establishment to be so coy about letting us know where they and their darlings are "coming from", amounts to a culpable and deceitful suppressio veri.
Readers will remember the occasion of Burns' first attack on Dr Egan. The bishop made it clear that he would not himself deny Communion to legislators voting for laws which contradict Catholic moral teaching unless this were the common policy of his episcopal conference. Some Bishops' Conference employee called "Greg Pope" promptly issued a statement which, while formally eminently correct, effectively cut the ground from beneath Bishop Philip's act of witness. And I am also sure that readers will also remember Cardinal Mueller's recent observations that Dioceses and their Bishops are not 'branches' of Episcopal Conferences or of their bureaucracies; still less should a bishop be subject to the implied supervisory correction of Conference employees. Gerhard Mueller's observation that the diocesan bishop and the Roman Pontiff have a direct and unmediated relationship is not so much pastoral as it is theological: it is the local Particular (i.e. diocesan) Church, and the Universal Church (with their circumincessio), that are, for Catholics, the basic ecclesiological realities.
Let me describe the occasion of Burns' second, Stourton-facilitated, attack. Recently, Bishop Philip, in response to appeals for advice, put out a carefully argued statement on the complex subject of support for 'charities' which have varying degrees of involvement in controverting Catholic teaching. As a bishop has a duty to do, he warned against "formal cooperation in gravely immoral acts". Burns called this "legalistic" [the second time he used the term, he expanded it into "highly legalistic"] and "rigid".
Now that is an interesting word. Would he describe those who with unflagging determination worked for the passage of the Gay Marriage legislation as "rigid"? Or is this another of those Irregular Verbs ... "I am resolute, You are rigid ..."?.
Burns went on to attack the bishop's paper for causing "worry and anxiety". Having damned his Bishop with faint praise for being erudite, he then waffled on about "the World as it is". He referred to Bishop Philip's "absolute logic" (but, very strangely, these words do not seem to have been intended as complimentary but as a sneer). He revealed that a "couple of priests" were upset and were wailing "What on earth are we to do?". He was clearly enraged about the copious footnotes which support all Bishop Philip's statements. Imaginary "conflict" with Pope Francis got dragged into this load of nonsense.
Bishop Egan does indeed invariably footnote his utterances with great care. Far from being "legalistic", this practice is in the very highest degree reassuring to the ordinary, faithful, cleric or laic. Indeed, it is profoundly humble. A bishop's duty is, very obediently, very humbly, to teach the Deposit of Faith handed down from the Apostles in accordance with the Church's Magisterium; and footnoting exemplifies the authenticity of his teaching as well as drawing his readers more deeply into the authentic sources of the Faith. I hope that there is no Catholic bishop anywhere in the world who, instead of teaching what the Church teaches, uses his office to promote his own divisive whimsies. If there is, then there must be a relevance in Cardinal Brandmueller's recent observation that people who "insistently demand" change in the Church's dogma are "heretics" even if they happen to wear the purpura of a Cardinal. (I am glad, incidentally, that his Eminence has revived this useful analytical category.)
Nor do I like the cheap game of attempting to judge and condemn a bishop by deploying Media fantasies about what the 'policy' of Pope Francis is. Quite apart from the fact that these fantasies are grotesquely garbled, Leo XIII taught ... and so did Vatican II ... that the Bishops are not mere vicars of the Roman Pontiff, but themselves Successors of the Apostles. Here again, we have journalists assuming that maximalising view of the Papacy which I dealt with (yet again) in a recent post. Of course there isn't any "conflict" between the Bishops of Rome and Portsmouth ... the very suggestion is absolute and unmitigated rubbish ... but even to raise the possibility is to be asking a wrong question on the basis of a faulty understanding arising from a false theology.