UK Interfaith group deplores threat to reforms in Catholic Church

By staff writers
February 4, 2009

The Interfaith Alliance UK, which aims to be a progressive voice of religious cooperation on social issues, has expressed concern that some in the Catholic hierarchy are trying to reverse key reforms in the Church.

The comments come as Pope Benedict faces criticism for re-instating a an English-born bishop who has denied the holocaust, and for promoting a priest who described Hurricane Katrina as "God's punishment for sexual excess and tolerance of homosexuality" in New Orleans.

The Alliance, which has Christian, Jewish and Muslim co-chairs, says that
"the principles and practise of interfaith and ecumenical dialogue are rooted in the theological, spiritual, and structural renewal called for at the Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council", first announced by Pope John XXIII, fifty years ago on 25 January 1959. This sent out "signs of hope and clear evidence of the ongoing development of doctrine within the Catholic Church."

But the network is concerned that these reforms are now under threat. In a strongly worded statement, the trustees of the Interfaith Alliance UK say they "deeply regret any attempts by some members of the Catholic hierarchy to turn back the clock on such inspired theological reform and renewal as an abuse of ecclesial authority."

They continue: "We rejoice that the vast majority of grassroots Catholics, laity, clergy, and theologians, have accepted the comprehensive teachings of the Second Vatican Council, not as novelties of a frivolous age, but as entirely consistent with, and rooted in the deepest traditions of that Church.

"The authentic reception of such teachings by the body of the Church, the sensus fidelium, contrasts sharply with the stances seemingly being promoted by certain sections of the Hierarchy, even at the highest levels.

"Those fundamentalist groups and individuals, who have placed themselves beyond the structure of the Roman Catholic Church in their rejection of the Council’s insights, must be seen for what they are. They are not simply nostalgic people seeking a return to cherished rituals, but rather they use such forms of worship to undermine any concept of dynamic, doctrinal development within the Church or its Councils."

The groups says that "[t]his is nowhere more apparent than in the views of the holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson of The Society of St Pius X. We utterly condemn his remarks and reject others’ prevarications concerning them, whether they belong to the same organisation, or are associated with so-called traditionalist Catholic groups holding strong links with Levebvre-ite movements."

The Interfaith Alliance UK adds: "We further deplore the appointment of Gerhard Maria Wagner as Auxiliary Bishop of Linz, Austria, a place referred to by Hitler as his ‘hometown’. Bishop-elect Wagner’s views serve only to promote homophobia and other forms of irrational prejudice. The inability of the Vatican to understand the broader implications of some recent actions and statements cannot be air-brushed away by subsequent, non-specific papal statements purporting to offer criticism of such opinions."

The statement concludes: "We hold in prayer our Catholic sisters and brothers as they attempt in spite of, rather than because of some in their Church’s leadership, to be authentic witnesses of their faith and justice-seeking disciples of the all-merciful, all-compassionate Creator of all humanity."

Interfaith Alliance UK:

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