Did you think I was a bit hard in my criticisms a day or two ago of bureaucracies which operate under the cover of episcopal conferences? But those of us whom Pope Benedict so graciously invited to bring our own distinctive patrimony into the one true fold of the Redeemer have seen it all before ... these bureaucracies, their unaccountable Spokesmen. Sequuntur a couple of boring old anecdotes of my own. I hope you're sitting comfortably.
Once upon a time, S John Paul II, in the course of his admirable catecheses, spoke about the Perpetual Virginity of the Most Holy Mother of God. Virginity in any shape or form being an unusual concept to journalists, the Press wanted a Story out of this, and so they turned to the Press Office of what our Patron Blessed John Henry Newman so beautifully called the House of Bondage. Duly, next day, it was reported in the public papers that a Spokesman of the Church of England had disclaimed the doctrine and said that Modern Scholarship did not accept it. Since I was working as a priest of the Church of England, I rather objected to this anonymous individual claiming to speak on my behalf. I objected all the more, because 'Ever Virgin', aeiparthenos, is in the Conciliar documents of the Council of Chalcedon, a Council to which the Church of England has historically been regarded as doctrinally committed (under the legislation of Elizabeth I, you could be burned as a heretic for denying its teaching). Semper Virgo is, to be specific, present in the Tome of S Leo, who was one of the dozen greatest latinists of all time. I am very attached to (as we say nowadays) the Spirit of Chalcedon ... but also to its words. And equally attached to the Spirit and words of S Leo. And to the doctrinal interventions of all Roman Pontiffs except Pope Honorius I, whom, of course, I anathematise.
So I made enquiries about this Press Statement. To be brief: my enquiry was passed from hand to hand, office to office, with nobody taking responsibility, everyone disowning it. But I persisted, eventually discovered the identity of the 'Spokesman', and the processes he had gone through.
His media contacts had demanded a response before their press deadline that very same day. So he had 'phoned up the only bishop of the Church of England who had an academic reputation ... a liberal Evangelical who was 'chair' of the Doctrine Commission ... who had told him what to say.
Thus did a 'Spokesman' for the Church of England disclaim, and dissociate his ecclesial body from, the common teaching of the ancient Churches, Latin, Byzantine, Oriental, and their ancient liturgies; and of the ancient Ecumenical Councils. And disrespectfully dismiss the words of the World Leader of one of our 'partners in ecumenical dialogue'. It's as easily done as that! It's what bureaucrats are for!
The waywardness of these proceedings was emphasised by the subsequent ARCIC document on Mary, which spoke about the doctrine with much more respect, and reminded readers that Cranmer, Latimer, and Jewell had subscribed to it.
Incidentally, I met a similar implicit disrespect for the Tome of S Leo during the period of 'priestly formation' which we had to go through at the beginning of the Ordinariate. One of the 'lecturers' described a formula found in the Tome (De nostro enim illi est minor Patre humanitas; de Patre illi est aequalis cum Patre divinitas) as "heretical" (ipso ipsius verbo). I was not impressed by what this revealed about the reliability of the doctrinal teaching still perhaps being given even today to Catholic seminarians, or the competence of all their teachers.
I pursued that chap, too. You just can't let these people, wherever you may find them, get away with things, can you?