Last night, I browsed through the Statement on Abortion, put out by the British Episcopal Conferences and embargoed until coffee time this morning. No; that was not a nightmare. The Statement is deft, definite, sensitive and sensible. It does both the Conferences, and the drafter, much credit.
The nightmare struck at about 2.00 a.m. this morning, Monday. I am only just recovering from it. Hang on for a jiff while I mix myself yet another White Lady (you see, I am quite Americanophile).
I dreamed that I had woken up ... in 2067!
Worse: the Church was in crisis!!
The Pope seemed to be a Francis IV. He had recently published an Apostolic Exhortation called Vitae sanctissimum donum. It contained, at about paragraph 666 or perhaps not quite so early in the text, a completely orthodox statement about Abortion. Good, so far. But it then descended into a miasma of qualifications and footnotes, the jist of which appeared to be that we can't just leave the matter there. We need to bring to bear all the most sensitive up-to-the-minute moral considerations, as a result of which it is clear that, if a woman wants an Abortion, her priest needs to Accompany her sensitively as she explores her conscience. If she feels that Conscience impels her to ... er ... entrust back to God the life which ... er ... she is unable to accept, then Father must respect that and drive her to the ... er ... clinic.
It got nastier than that. Apparently, some 'Conservative' Cardinals had addressed some Dubia to the Pontiff; and a small group of insignificant reactionaries in the Church had had the impertinence to address a Filial Correction to the Holy Father in which they interminably cited all the previous Conciliar and Papal statements condemning Abortion as being always illicit. They made great play with the very definite statements against Abortion made by pope Francis I and the 2017 Statement by the Bishops of Great Britain. They even suggested that, being a substantive change in Catholic doctrine and morals, the document was ultra vires Successoris S Petri, and accused Francis IV of propagating heresies.
Worser and worser: Pope Francis IV refused any answer. But others were at hand to supply replies. Cardinal von Schwaermerei of Vienna got quickly to work, explained that Vitae sanctissimum donum was a development, not a contradiction, of the previous teaching, and that Newman would been proud of it. Meanwhile, he ensured that any signatories in Austrian establishments were either sacked or expelled or verbally beaten up. Cardinal Engels said that the German Bishops had already been applying the policy favoured by Francis IV for some decades. Archbishop Stiletto of Malta, having declared that the gates of his seminary were wide open to the departure of its one remaining seminarian, emphatically explained that any woman with an unscheduled pregnancy should "listen to the pope ... not to Pope Francis III nor to Pope Francis II nor to Pope Francis I but to the present pope, Pope Francis IV". Cardinal Pierrepoint of Westminster explained that the 2017 Statement on Abortion by the English, Welsh, and Scottish Episcopal Conferences had been sadly lacking in the ethical sophistication required in the second half of the twenty first century. He insisted that ...
Happily, at this point I woke up. Rarely have I been so relieved to return to 2017. Three cheers for Archbishops Nichols and Tartaglia and their colleagues. I hope their Statement will be carefully read both by Catholics and by our partners in ecumenical dialogue (including poor Welby) and ... perhaps, rather a forlorn hope, this ... by the Media.