People criticised me for recently describing Cardinal Basil Hume as 'admirable'. They tell me that he was responsible for a collapse in English Catholicism. To which I would reply that post hoc ergo propter hoc is a flawed logical assumption. As well as a massively simplistic way of doing history.
I rather admired him and certainly found him easy to respect, as well as downright lovable. But I do think it can be argued that, faced with bullies, he lacked gumption. Two examples of which I had knowledge.
One Thursday, in Archbishop's House in the 1990s (how many readers remember those Irish Country Dancing Classes?), vested in his elderly black cardigan, he revealed to the assembled Anglican clergy that the Anglican episcopate had requested that, when Anglican clergy had entered the priesthood of the English Catholic Church, they should renounce their Church of England pension entitlements. A noisy rumble of anger echoed round the room. Basil looked awkward. "You would not be prepared to do this?", he nervously enquired. There was an even louder, even angrier, rumble. "Very well", he said. He did not look to me like a man who relished carrying this negative answer back to his Ecumenical Partners in Dialogue.
Not only his Anglican episcopal 'friends', but also his fellow Catholic bishops, were prepared to bully him. His first reaction to the attempt in the mid1990s to find a corporate solution for Anglican Catholics was to say "Perhaps this is the Conversion of England for which we have always prayed". First thoughts are so very often the best thoughts! But it wasn't long before this grace-filled openness to a movement of the Spirit was knocked out of him by some of his colleagues, and replaced by their cautious and hostile negativity. This, of course, is why Benedict XVI, when the same question arrived on his desk fifteen years later, decided to play his cards rather close to his chest. Cuius laus in aeternum manebit!
Basil Hume was kind and gentle and holy, a true Father Abbot. There must be thousands whom he helped to find their way to the Lord Jesus. May he rest in peace.