So there I was, the other day, strolling down St Giles without a care in the world. I had just stocked up at the World's premier Deli, Manos in Walton Street. As I had passed the Tower of the Winds (American readers may be more familiar with a copy of this building in Athens), I had looked over the new statue of Dr Radcliffe ... no; it's not worthy of such a great man; nor a fitting monument to the great age of Oxonian Jacobitism. But then, what do you expect? Redeat magnus ille genius Britanniae ...
Then I stopped as I recognised a brother priest. After Rome, Oxford must be one of the most priested cities in the World. Urbs felicissima. We Exchanged Fellowship. "When you get home", he advised me, "have gin. A very, very stiff gin. Then another. Then read the Communique of the CBCEW just issued at the end of their ad limina visit to the Holy See. Then have some more gin".
I always do my best to take the advice of brother clergy. I have profound confidence in their sacerdotal wisdom.
I soon saw what he meant about the gin.
The Communique includes a passage which seemed to me familiar: "[PF] is indeed gifted with a unique grace of the the Holy Spirit of God. Even in this time of turmoil, the Holy Father is so clearly rooted in God and blessed by God. His peace is secure. His life is serene. We know, because he showed us his heart. It is the heart of a loving father. In our turn, we affirmed our deep communion with him and promised him our love, support, and prayers. We expressed confidently these sentiments on behalf of all the faithful Catholics of England and Wales."
It seemed familiar because it is manifestly from the same drafting hand which composed a letter to PF on the fourth anniversary of his election to the Throne of S Peter. "On behalf of the Catholic Community of England and Wales ... we thank God that the Holy Spirit guided the Church in the process of your election and that the same Holy Spirit guides and supports you day by day".
I would have to concede that such statements are probably not formally heretical. After all, each of the Baptised is gifted with a grace of the Holy Spirit which must be unique; crafted specifically for each differently created and variously loved individual. Praised be to God for this.
But if these encomia are meant to have any meaning beyond that of sycophantic woffle, then give me instead ... any day of the year ... the robust common sense and deft Bavarian humour with which Pope Benedict XVI responded when some fool of a journalist asked him whether the Holy Spirit guided Papal Conclaves.
Call me an unfaithful Catholic if you like, but I have no desire to be associated with these papolatrous statements implying that the Holy Spirit is the private personal bailiwick of PF. They seem to me to come close to blasphemy.
Nor am I very clear what is meant by "deep communion". I think I understand "communion" as a theological and canonical concept. I think I know the difference between being in full, and being in unfull, communion with the Church. But what on earth are these gradations of deepness in the matter of Communio?
"Are you in Communion with the See of Rome!" "Up to a point, Lord Copper".