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Noblesse Oblige

Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, the Master General of the Dominican Order from 1992 to 2001, is a descendant of old English nobility. He gave a talk on April 1 on healing divisions in the Church at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, and that he gave it there arouses suspicions.

The speech was adapted in the National Catholic Reporter (May 5) under the title “Overcoming Discord in the Church.” Tom Roberts, the Editor of the Reporter, described him as a “modern Catholic,” and John L. Allen Jr., the Vatican Correspondent for the Reporter, said that Radcliffe is known for his “sensitivity” and is “typically cast as a liberal.” So, suspicions confirmed.

In his “Overcoming Discord in the Church,” he mentions that John L. Allen Jr., in an earlier report in the Reporter, said that “liberals talk about dialogue, conservatives about truth…. As a result, the term ‘dialogue’ is by now ideologically charged and therefore unhelpful.” Radcliffe responds: “I would like to stand up for dialogue. It is not just a trendy liberal idea…. But if one is going to get dialogue going, then one has to be very sensitive to how people hear words, and there is no point in getting off to a bad start. So let’s try another word, conversation.” As if that makes a difference.

Now, Radcliffe is a nobleman, so he has to be benevolent to hoi polloi. No way can he be hoity-toity. It’s noblesse oblige all the way. So Radcliffe says that conservative Catholics feel betrayed: “They endured the loss of beloved traditions, ways of celebrating the liturgy, a sense of a Catholic world. Nuns threw away their habits, and it seemed that you could believe and do whatever you liked…. So the first thing that we must do is to get some feel of the loss of home that ‘the other side’ feels. We must get some sense of their pain in exile.”

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