The CYMFed (Catholic Youth Ministry Federation – England and Wales) are the organisers of ‘Flame2’. It is described on their website as: “…the largest National Catholic Youth event of 2015, taking place in the SSE Wembley Arena on Saturday 7th March 2015… The SSE Wembley Arena will be filled with 10,000 young people from across the country, receiving faith-filled inspiration from world-class speakers… Flame2 is open to anyone in school year ten and above, up to young adult (i.e. aged approx. 14-21).”
One of the key speakers will be Fr. Timothy Radcliffe OP. The question is: Why do CYMFed feel Fr. Timothy Radcliffe is an appropriate speaker for a youth conference?
Fr. Radcliffe has received public criticism over his comments in regards to homosexuality being consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Until they were abolished in 2013, Fr. Radcliffe, occasionally presided over ‘Soho Masses’ at Saint Anne Church’s for gay and lesbian church goers in central London.
In 2014 there were calls for Fr. Radcliffe to be dropped as a keynote speaker at Ireland’s annual International Conference of Divine Mercy at the Royal Dublin Society. The calls were in response to Fr Radcliffe’s contribution to last year’s Anglican Pilling Report on human sexual ethics in which he said of homosexuality: “How does all of this bear on the question of gay sexuality? We cannot begin with the question of whether it is permitted or forbidden! We must ask what it means, and how far it is Eucharistic. Certainly it can be generous, vulnerable, tender, mutual and non-violent. So in many ways, I would think that it can be expressive of Christ’s self-gift. We can also see how it can be expressive of mutual fidelity, a covenantal relationship in which two people bind themselves to each other for ever.”
Alabama-based Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) refused to broadcast the conference, due to Fr. Radcliffe being its keynote speaker; stating that Radcliff holds views that are at “at sharp variance to Catholic teaching“.
Fr Radcliffe also gave a keynote address to a US religious education conference, in which he was reported as saying: “We accompany people in friendship as they become moral agents. Let’s look at the gays. For some reason–I don’t actually understand why–it’s become a very hot topic in all the churches at the moment. It’s tearing the Church of England apart. It’s the cause of great dissension in our own church. Usually when we think about it, we ask, ‘What is forbidden or permitted?’ But I’m afraid I’m an old-fashioned and traditional Catholic, and I believe that’s the wrong place to start. We begin by standing by gay people as they hear the voice of the Lord that summons them to life and happiness. We accompany them as they wrestle with discovering what this means and how they must walk. And this means letting our imaginations be stretched open to watching Brokeback Mountain, reading gay novels, having gay friends, making that leap of the heart and the mind, delighting in their being, listening with them as they listen to the Lord.”
And on the issue of Women priest’s and Holy Communion for Catholics who are divorced and re-married, Fr Radcliffe hopes that: “…a way will be found to welcome divorced and remarried people back to communion. And, most important, that women will be given real authority and voice in the church. The pope expresses his desire that this may happen, but what concrete form can it take? He believes that the ordination of women to the ministerial priesthood is not possible, but decision-making in the church has become ever more closely linked to ordination in recent years. Can that bond be loosened? Let us hope that women may be ordained to the diaconate and so have a place in preaching at the Eucharist. What other ways can authority be shared?’”
At October’s Family Synod, Cardinal Burke was one of the most outspoken of the group of bishops to react strongly against the mid-term document, in which it was suggested that the Church should “accept and value” the homosexual “orientation” and cohabitation, and that such relationships could have positive or valuable “elements.”
In an interview with Ireland’s state broadcaster RTE last week, Cardinal Burke said that in regards to sexual morality, he has heard from lay people that “there’s really just a growing confusion about what the Church really teaches, and we’re not coming to any clarity.”
Surely, considering all the recent confusion surrounding the Synod, CYMFed are doubly obliged to make sure the speakers at their event are preaching the truths of the faith, not what they would prefer the Catholic faith to look like. By giving a platform to ‘progressive’ speakers like Fr. Radcliffe at Flame 2, CYMFed will be exposing 10,000 14-21 year olds to Fr. Radcliffe’s own personal opinions, many of which in direct opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church. He will stand there as a guiding voice for these young people – some of whom will no doubt be facing issues of same-sex attraction. Is this the man parents want their young adults to be guided by? What are CYMFed thinking?
When Fr. Radcliffe spoke at the first Flame conference the CYMFed website stated that: “On the Flame 2012 evaluations he (Fr. Radcliffe) was regularly named by young people as the speaker with the greatest impact, and we look forward to welcoming Fr Timothy back to Flame.”
Bernadette (20) who attended Flame 1, says that since learning about Fr. Radcliffe’s views her perception of Flame has changed:
“It probably would change my perception yes because I want to be able to go to something that I feel is completely orthodox, and I don’t like idea of prominent controversial figures being given a platform like this. Christianity is hard enough when you’re young and orthodox, without dissident individuals like Timothy Radcliffe trying to confuse things. I was talking to my house-mates about it and they were saying, that if a teenager left Flame, after having really enjoyed the day, and Googled Timothy Radcliffe, they’d be open to all the stuff that he talks about and goodness knows what they’ll read and begin to be influenced by. I would probably question CYMFed, on their motives for hosting such a figure. We either believe in the teaching power of the magisterium or we don’t.” – (Bernadette, 20)
I contacted the Chair of CYMFed – Fr Dermot Donnelly several times last week and politely asked: “Considering many of Fr. Radcliffe’s views go against the teachings of the Catholic church, why does CYMFed think he is an appropriate speaker for the Flame2 youth conference?”
He offered me a phone call but I explained that to avoid any possible misinterpretation it is best for him to reply in writing. Fr. Donnelly was unwilling to give a written statement.
So instead I decided to take the matter to the Bishop affiliated with CYMFed. Surely I’ll get some sense out of him! A Prince of the Catholic Church would never stand for the UK’s youth being exposed to such low moral standards would he?
However (of course) the Bishop affiliated with CYMFed turns out to be the recently retired Kieran Conry.