|God may not have changed but His Bishops have!|
Words from a famous and great Catholic woman, Alice Thomas Ellis whose anniversary of death it is today (March 8th), may God have mercy on her soul. Those words were written by her in a momentous article in The Daily Telegraph, headed: "I accuse the Catholic bishops". It followed close on the heels of a piece she had written for The Catholic Herald which strongly criticised the late but not lamented Archbishop Derek Worlock of Liverpool. As a result of that article, (so it is alleged) countless priests contacted the then acting editor of the Herald, Harry Coen (good Irish name) and Alice Thomas Ellis was sacked. Now, the names Cristina Odone (Catholic Herald Editor) and Cardinal Basil Hume are also in this mix and I recall the allegations at the time; that the Cardinal had contacted Ms Odone and asked for ATE's dismissal..... that is now lost in time but, if true, it does not surprise me.
Born Anna Lindholm, Alice converted to Catholicism at the age of 19 and entered a convent to pursue her vocation. It did not work out and she left, in time marrying publisher Colin Haycraft. Described as half Welsh, half Finnish, her first novel 'The Sin Eater' was published in 1977. She followed this success with a series of novels and a flurry of non fiction works including her much acclaimed 'Serpent on the Rock' a travelogue that looked at the sad state of the liberal excesses of the Church (1994).
Her home in Wales housed a collection of Church sized statues of the saints, which I think was rather a nice touch which we, as a family have since tried to emulate.
Extracts from her Telegraph article follow here:-
I was born in Liverpool and later attended the art school there. You could breathe
Catholicism in the very air. The churches were wonderful, full of what the aesthetically pure would doubtless call Catholic kitsch, and full of worshippers.
Between 1980 and 1995 there was a net loss of 50,000 practising Catholics. This disaster was never publicised. Instead we heard constantly of the glorious ecumenical work being done by the Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool, the Most Rev Derek Worlock, and the Anglican Archbishop, the Rt Rev David Sheppard, in their efforts to bring peace to the city. Last week, in my final column for the Catholic Herlad, I wrote publicly what many say privately, that Archbishop Worlock's venture with Dr Sheppard failed Liverpool's Catholics - and the city.
As a correspondent in the Telegraph put it: "The situation has been that if the Anglican Bishop could not accept a particular Catholic doctrine, the Catholic Archbishop did not teach it"....
There is a bitter joke going around Liverpool, that each gentleman had a signature tune. Worlock's being Anything Goes and Sheppard's, I did it my Way!
...One man, representing his parish on the matter of the destruction of the interior of St Robert Belarmine (church), found himself the recipient of a letter from the archbishop (Worlock) demanding an apology. Other bishops behaved similarly and Mass attendance has fallen dramatically everywhere. There is silence from the hierarchy and, after a while the people, neglected by their pastors, become indifferent.....
...Modernism, pluralism, syncretism and the madder forms of feminism are rife - not to mention many, many others too technical to describe here. There is continuing erosion of respect for the Blessed Sacrament. The Mass - the centre of our spiritual lives - is frequently distorted by priests with an agenda of their own. There is no specifically Catholic doctrine taught in our schools and teachers have been sacked for trying to remedy this.
"Well" people ask, "who would you like to be Liverpool's next bishop to be?" And I respond, not unreasonably, that a Catholic would be nice"
Alice Thomas Ellis was a great friend of fellow novelist Beryl Bainbridge, also a Catholic, and the two of them enjoyed their cigarettes together with their vodkas and tonic.
Tragically, one of her sons, Joshua, died in a fall from a roof and this naturally enough, had a profound effect on her. She was survived by four sons and a daughter.
The pen and voice of Alice Thomas Ellis are sorely missed in the church today. Sadly, not much appears to have changed in England and Wales with regard to the Bishops.