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Surveying the discussions over the Second Vatican Council, one thing which strikes me is the attribution of motive to those who disagree with one’s own point of view. It is never helpful to call other Christians semi-pelagians, or pharisees, or to insult those who pray the Rosary for you – and that, of course, is just the Pope being frank. Equally unhelpful is the way in which the word ‘modernist’ is bandied about, and ‘liberal’ is one of those terms of art so elastic as to be capable of being filled with almost any meaning, from believing that there is no truth at all, through to believing that there should be a little bit of a relaxation from the strict letter of the law. It all, of course, speaks to the heat the topic generates, but it shows how little light comes therefrom. This is a shame, as the Holy Spirit does His best to lead us into greater truth, hindered, very often, by our own conviction we have nothing to learn because we know it all.

It may, of course, be the case that other Catholics are agents of Satan bent on smoking out the Church, but it may be our own temper which generates much of the smoke. Perhaps traditionalists are all narrow-minded Pharisees and liberals all quasi-pagan enemies of Christ – or perhaps we all need to take deep breaths and pray a bit more. Ecumenism might be usefully started at home. A houses divided will find it difficult to convince anyone else that what it has to say should be listened to. It is clear to most people that the various sex abuse scandals and the attempts to cover them up have done much more damage to the reputation of the Church than anything Vatican II could do. Some attempt to link the scandals to it, with liberals saying it shows the need for more reform, and traditionalists that it went too far. So it gets ‘weaponised’, instead of being a common ground for shame and repentance and renewal.

To what extent are we, in all of this guided by the spirit of polemic and pride rather than the Holy Spirit? I wonder what would happen if the Pope gave a lead in how we should talk to and about each other? A lead, that is, different from the one he is currently giving.