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As one who holds both Bishop Coffey and Father John Speekman in high esteem, I was troubled by the report "Vatican orders reinstatement of wrongly removed Sale Diocese parish priest (February AD2000). The report included recognition that Bishop Coffey may appeal to the Signatura - a higher court in Rome. Hence the issue is still sub judice, so the term "wrongly removed" is clearly presumptive.
The report is consistent with the theme of the book Lost! which attributes many of our current woes within the Church in Australia to "the spirit of Vatican II" and to inadequate bishops. Without doubt there were those who celebrated Vatican II more as a grand final victory than as a movement of the Holy Spirit.
Yet Pope John XXIII clearly had good reason for calling the Council. It came at the end of half a century including two horrendous World Wars which caused anguish to both Pope Benedict XV and Pope Pius XII, and each experienced their efforts to restore peace being ignored.
When convoking the Council, Pope John XXIII noted that "[today the Church is witnessing a crisis under way within society. While humanity is on the edge of a new era, tasks of immense gravity and amplitude await the Church, as in the most tragic periods of its history" (W.M. Abbot, The Documents of Vatican II, p. 703).
Subsequently in his address, Pope John had cause to lament, "[in the daily exercise of our pastoral office, we sometimes have to listen, much to our regret, to voices of persons who, though burning with zeal, are not endowed with too much sense of discretion or measure. In these modern times they can see nothing but prevarication and ruin. They say that our era, in comparison with past eras, is getting worse, and they behave as though they had learned nothing from history, which is, none the less, the teacher of life. They behave as though at the time of former Councils everything was a full triumph for the Christian idea and life and for proper religious liberty" (ibid, p. 712).
It seems unlikely that this disheartening episcopal experience would be limited solely to that experienced by the Bishop of Rome.
JOHN H. COONEY
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 20 No 2 (March 2007), p. 14
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