Thursday, 23 January 2014

Reflecting on Cardinal Heenan

I don't know what to make of Cardinal Heenan; in truth, I don't know a great deal about him, but the fragments I do know seem to pull in odd directions.

I know most about him with regard to the changes in the Liturgy, as that is an area of particular interest. I have discussed his comments on the changes in previous posts, starting here

However, I am also aware of his correspondence with Evelyn Waugh, published as A Bitter Trial, and Waugh's feeling that Heenan had ultimately betrayed him (and implicitly himself, given his early statements about liturgical change).  

Likewise, I am aware of my own father's sense of betrayal, as conveyed in the notes from his notebook which I have previously published. These refer not only to the liturgical changes, but also to the English Hierarchy's abdication of responsibility (to put it kindly) in 1968 when Humanae Vitae was published (see here).

However, prompted by a post on Fr Ray Blake's blog on Tuesday, about Cardinal Mindszenty, I got out my (or rather, my late father's) copy of Cardinal Mindszenty's Memoirs.  

I had forgotten what a strong supporter Cardinal Heenan was of the persecuted Hungarian prelate (and this at a time when the Holy Father was trying desperately to put him out of the way, to smooth relations with the regime in Budapest).

After his departure (under false promises from the Vatican, in his view) from the American Embassy in Budapest, where he had been claiming asylum for 15 years, Cardinal Mindszenty spent some time travelling to minister to Hungarian expatriates (against the Holy Father's wishes).  That included a visit to London (1973), where he was warmly received by Cardinal Heenan.

In a sermon, Cardinal Heenan said:
While Cardinal Mindszenty remains an exile the world will not be allowed to forget that communism is inflexibly hostile to religion. To regard dialogue with Marxists as if it were a purely academic exercise is ingenuous and dangerous. We who live in liberty must not rest while men and women of any religion are persecuted. If world communism is in earnest about spreading peace let it cease from persecution. Let Hungary invite its Cardinal Primate to return home to the people for whom he is father and hero.
This was very much in opposition to the Vatican diplomatic approach at the time and will not have gone down well.  Indeed, so damaging was Mindszenty's witness (and in particular his Memoirs) deemed to be, that the following year, the Holy Father chose the 25th anniversary of the show trial of Cardinal Mindszenty to remove him, against his will, from the see of Esztergom.

But as for Cardinal Heenan, I remain intrigued.  I have his autobiography (my father's copy of course) but have yet to read it. It has just climbed several places up the list of intended reading...

In the meantime, remember both these holy Cardinals in your prayers.

Requiescant in pace.


Richard Collins said...

Well I think that he was a great man, in fact, my post tomorrow mentions him in this respect. He was a fighter for the Faith and never missed a chance to teach the truths of the Catholic Church.
He was, imperious, but then, he was a Prince of the Church.
He visited our home when we lived in Osterley and he did not use the words "My good woman" to my mother who met him at the door but, he might just as well have, such was his demeanour.
That, perhaps was a fault, but it is only too easy to judge history through the standards of today. All in all, we could do with more of his ilk today.

Jonathan Marshall said...

They were Hungarian expatriates, Ben, not ex-patriots! (Sorry to be pedantic, but they would have been VERY upset to have been described as "former patriots")

Ben Trovato said...

Thanks, both, for comments.

Jonathan, my careless error has been duly corrected! I trust no offence was taken.

Part-time Pilgrim said...

In contrast to Richard's family's experience I have met someone who was at Notre Dame school in Leeds and he used to teach her class RE. The nuns insisted they address him as "My Lord" but he asked them to call him Fr Heenan.

I suspect your research would find he was torn between obedience to Rome and dislike of the new liturgy and as with all people in such a position disliked by those who favoured change and those who thought he should do more to stop it. His autobiography may be to early to address this.

Jonathan Marshall said...

No problem Ben - I have no Hungarian antecedents or connexions!
It's a very easy mistake to make, and a common one - I just happen to have been an editor and proof-reader earlier in my career.

Ttony said...

As I remember it, the autobiography is melancholic. As were so many of his generation - as with your father - he was torn between loyalty to the Church, as he understood loyalty, and equally, loyalty to the eternal truths of the Church; added to which was an understanding of his awesome responsibilities as a Bishop and a Cardinal.

He fought to prevent Bishop Worlock succeeding him, so I guess that in ecclesiological terms the balance comes down on the right side.