More tea, Cardinal?

What happens when you've lost your religion, and the most senior figure in Britain's Roman Catholic Church invites you round for a chat? In a rare and candid conversation, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor defends the faith to one of the unfaithful
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Archbishop's House, the intellectual engine-room of English Catholicism, sited a rosary's throw from Westminster Cathedral, is not a jolly place. You approach it with slightly drooping spirits. Perhaps you'd expected a whiff of high-church, bells-and-smells papist extravagance? Forget it. A touch of the Mediterranean/Gothic spikiness and sentimentality you find in Spanish or Italian church buildings? Nada and niente. You're looking at a large, cold, off-puttingly bricky edifice in London's Victoria, that could easily pass for town-planning offices in Birmingham. Inside, you go through a glass lobby with a resident anchorite eyeing you suspiciously, and wait at the foot of an echoing marble staircase to meet your fate.

Archbishop's House, the intellectual engine-room of English Catholicism, sited a rosary's throw from Westminster Cathedral, is not a jolly place. You approach it with slightly drooping spirits. Perhaps you'd expected a whiff of high-church, bells-and-smells papist extravagance? Forget it. A touch of the Mediterranean/Gothic spikiness and sentimentality you find in Spanish or Italian church buildings? Nada and niente. You're looking at a large, cold, off-puttingly bricky edifice in London's Victoria, that could easily pass for town-planning offices in Birmingham. Inside, you go through a glass lobby with a resident anchorite eyeing you suspiciously, and wait at the foot of an echoing marble staircase to meet your fate.

Well, actually, to meet Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, but there's something decidedly fateful about our encounter today. It was well over a year ago that I received a letter from this distinguished House, and I remember sitting at my desk and looking at the envelope with apprehension. It was evidently a reply to a piece I'd written in these pages last year. I'd criticised the Roman Catholic Church for its smug assurances about how they'd minimised the risk of child abuse; I'd presented an unpleasant image of the modern Catholic priest as a sexually stunted emotional maverick; I'd brought up my own schooldays, at the hands of excessively tactile Jesuits...

It was a short but furious anti-Catholic rant, about which I soon felt remorse. Now, here was a reply from the Cardinal's office, and I felt worse. Obviously, it couldn't be from the Cardinal; he'd be too busy to tick off gadfly attacks from lapsed Catholics in the media. It was probably from some hatchet-faced, episcopal hit man in rimless spectacles, someone employed to harangue ex-believers who dared to attack the church of their forefathers. "You grubby little sinner," it would read. "You vicious little traitor. I'll teach you to undermine the One True Church. Hold out your hand..."

It was all too reminiscent of visiting the headmaster's study at my Jesuit school to ask (ask!) for six of the best. So I left the letter unopened. It stayed on my desk for a day or two, Then for a week, gathering dust, accreting guilt. For months, it lay under a growing pile of press releases from the Barbican and the Man Booker... Over a year later, I found it during a Homeric desk clear-out. Significantly, I'd never felt able to throw it away. Reasoning that the guy in the Himmler specs couldn't hurt me now, I opened the envelope and read the contents. It was from Cardinal Murphy- O'Connor. "I noticed your article," it read, "but I'm not writing to you about that (you may be glad to hear). I'm writing to say how much I enjoyed your book about growing up Irish and English, just as I did. Would you care to come round for tea?"

A year and a half later, I'm here. And despite our new cordiality, this is still like visiting the headmaster's study. Because, for anyone who (in the words of Anthony Burgess) had Hell injected into their veins as a child, the Catholic hierarchy retains a power to alarm you rather than to enfold you in the embrace of shared belief.

The Catholic Church was made for retribution and chastisement, for the punishing of sin and the prosecution of false values and impure thoughts. Adherents are familiar with the feeling of being chronically in the wrong; the concept of Original Sin rather guarantees that. And in the years before you felt able to fight it, or argue with it, or turn your back on it along with all other metaphysical propositions, all you could do was obey it, or take the consequences.

But now, in the Noughties of the new century, a different spirit is abroad among the four-million-strong Catholic faithful. As both congregations and priestly vocations dwindle, lay Catholics are less disposed to do the bidding of the Vatican, or its representatives at parish level. Church teaching on birth control, abortion and gay relationships is ignored or ridiculed by the Church's own rank and file. It's the Archbishop's job to punish backsliders and inspire the perplexed. How can he do it?

Inside his large, sparsely furnished office, the Cardinal Archbishop greets me with a smile and a crushing handshake. He's a large, sparsely furnished individual himself, an imposing 6ft 4in in a priestly black suit and simple dog-collar. It's disappointing not to find him in bishop's purple or cardinal's crimson, but that would be like expecting the Queen to wear a crown at breakfast. Nor do you have to call him "Your Eminence" and kneel to kiss his ring. "Some people call me 'Cardinal'," he says. "But here in the house, it's 'Father'."

We start with a crucial detail. Why the double-strength-Irish surname? "In the middle of the last century, my great-grandfather was an O'Connor. He ran a wine and spirit business with a Mr Murphy. O'Connor had children, Murphy didn't. One day, Murphy said, 'I'm thinking of leaving my half of the business to your eldest son - but on condition that he takes the name Murphy-O'Connor'. The son was my grandfather. That's it. It's entirely commercial."

Ever since you took over from Cardinal Hume, I say, English Catholicism has been in a downward spiral of scandals, corruption, dwindling numbers of priests and disaffected congregations. Has it affected your own faith?

"Obviously, I don't like bad news about the Church, and we've had a lot of it. But it doesn't really disturb my faith, because we've lived through worse times. When we get a bad press, there's a useful Latin tag to remember, Ecclesia semper reformanda est - the church must always be reforming. So don't try to tell me we're sinners, or that we get things wrong. Of course we do. But the essential function of the Church is to nourish people so that they become holy.

"That's what is important - not whether you get things right politically, or whether there's a good or a bad Pope in office. The Church will continue right to the end of time, and I can't stand people saying that the Church is fading everywhere. It's not true."

So, where does he see it flourishing? "Mostly in Africa, the Far East, Vietnam, Korea, the Philippines, parts of Latin America. The main problem that the next Pope will have to address is the de-Christianising of Europe. How is it that the heart of Christianity has become so diminished? It's a struggle even to get the word 'Christian' into the EU Constitution."

Is it true that vocations in English Catholicism are so perilously low, you're finding new priests from Korea and Africa to run future parishes in Battersea and Kilburn - like a bizarre reversal of the English Catholic missionaries who went overseas to convert the pagans? "Well, I'm sure we're going to get some," says the Cardinal. "Especially in London. Do you know that in London, 25 per cent of practising Catholics are ethnics? It's incredible - when you look around the parishes, when you come from Sussex and Surrey, like I did, it's a revelation. I hope there will be some ethnic priests. I certainly need some".

He doesn't think that Catholic parishes in the UK will suffer the fate of 50 parishes in Boston, which closed down due to lack of funds and lack of congregation. "I've had a strategy, in the last two years, of forming in every parish small communities of Catholics, meeting together and listening to the Word of God from the Bible. Over 20,000 people in these communities now meet up twice a year. It has been incredible. A lot of people had never before engaged with their faith in any real sense.

"And I think our parishes should be more flexible, they should be more like the 'mission stations' of Africa, with lay people assisting the priest. The diminishing number of priests will make us focus on the church community in a new way."

Has it become a stigma in England and Ireland to be a Catholic priest? "No, I don't think that's true in England. I can't speak for Ireland, though I know it has been difficult for Irish priests. But the young men who are coming forward to the priesthood - I ordained two this week, and have another two next week - are not the least bit perturbed. They say, 'I'm very happy to be a priest'."

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor himself had been a bishop for 22 years when he was made a cardinal in 2001, at the age of 67. In fact, he has been a man of the cloth pretty well all of his adult life. Born 72 years ago in Reading, Berkshire, to Irish parents from Cork, he was the youngest of five boys in a household of six children. His father was a doctor. The young Cormac was "pretty conformist" and played a lot of sport. He was sent away with his brothers to a Christian Brothers school in Bath. The Brothers have an unrivalled reputation in scholastic circles for casual brutality, and, admits the Cardinal, "I felt I could have had a better education. I didn't like the strap, I felt they relied on it far too much." He left school at 18 and headed straight for Rome, to study at the English College, then the Gregorian University - three years of philosophy, four years of theology.

"It was the Fifties," he recalls, nostalgically. "There were lectures in Latin by Jesuits. And huge audiences in those days - 600 students at a lecture. Italy was wonderful. It was after the war, there were no cars, lots of days off and holidays. It was an education." Was he confident about his priestly vocation at 18? "Hmmm. I wouldn't accept somebody at 18 now - I'd tell them to go off to university first." He was ordained in 1956, aged 24, and cared for his flock in Portsmouth for nine years, before becoming Chaplain to Derek Worlock, then Bishop of Portsmouth. At 40, Murphy-O'Connor was sent back to his beloved Rome to become rector of the English College for seven years. He used to enjoy his privileged walks inside the exclusive enclosures of the Vatican gardens; and it's evident that he has always had an easy relationship with the Curia, and the daunting College of Cardinals who represent the intellectual Star Chamber of Roman Catholicism. "I have to go to Rome five or six times a year, so I often meet other cardinals there. We get on OK. An increasing number of them speak English. You get to know some more than others. The Roman cardinals, on the other hand, they try to get to know everybody, they keep an eye on everyone, with a view to the future when they'll be looking for a new Pope. They'll sidle up and ask you, 'So - what's he like?'."

I ask the Cardinal about the Catholic Church's resistance to change. Is it not true that a religion incapable of compromise is doomed to become an irrelevance? "When traditional beliefs are challenged, there's a tendency to go in different directions," he replies. "Either you become liberal and go along with the way of the world, in order to conform. Or you become ultra-conservative. The genius of the Catholic Church is to do neither. It may appear to have gone conservative, but in fact, it's the only church that's able to keep what's traditional, to keep the essence of the Christian message, and not retreat behind the walls, saying, 'We want nothing to do with the outside world'. Think of the Second Vatican Council. It's history now, but to my generation - changing from Mass in Latin to Mass in English! Being welcoming to other Christians! - it was revolutionary."

If the Church were to have a revolution, I venture, surely it would start with the twin problem areas of celibacy and the ordination of women. Allowing women to take holy orders and priests to marry would, for one thing, give an upward swing to the decline in vocations. Might either be addressed in the lifetime of the present, or the next papacy? "You can't put the two together. Celibacy is what I'd call a discipline of the church. There were once married priests in the early church, and there are married ones now - married Anglicans who've converted. So, if you're asking, 'Can the Church change its laws about celibacy?', the answer is 'Yes', any time in the next papacy."

Is he in favour of abolishing the requirement that priests be celibate? "My view * * is that there's a strong case for the ordination of married men - but they have to have been married and brought up a family before they're ordained. If the Church were to change its law, that's how it would change it. But I don't believe that's the answer to declining vocations. Priesthood comes from having a really strong community of the faithful. Where you get a really lively faith lived out, you'll get priests. It's not a matter of celibacy."

And women? "The business of women priests isn't a discipline, it's more a tradition, or a doctrine. The reason why the Pope and the bishops say, 'We can't have women priests', is not because we think they're not equal to men. It's because we have to ask - what is the will of Christ as handed down to us? Is it only to ordain men, as he did with the Apostles? Should that tradition be kept on, or can it be changed due to different cultural circumstances?

"The Pope and the bishops feel that, if we are to be faithful to that tradition, we are not authorised to make that change. The Pope can't just say, 'I think it's a good idea to have women priests; let's do it'. The bishops, who have the duty of handing on what we call 'the deposit of faith' - the essential teaching - have to decide this: is the maleness of the priesthood an integral part of what is handed down? And we decided that it is."

Surely, I say, the quality of maleness, and the furtive manipulations of testosterone, have been at the heart of the Catholic Church's troubles in the last few years. Wouldn't the Church benefit from more oestrogen, from an earth-mother spirit to stand alongside the Virgin Mary? "That it would be better to have more femininity in the Church, I wouldn't deny. If you can't have women priests, how can we in the Catholic Church make sure that women have their rightful place in parish communities?" the Cardinal asks, skilfully ducking the issue.

"Wherever I go, I see women with a very strong part to play in parish councils; often, they're running the parish alongside the priest..."

The Cardinal is interrupted by his adviser and communications chief, Tim Livesey, and goes out for a stroll in the corridor. I seize the opportunity for a quick snoop around. The room features a big, benevolent-dictator desk, and a piano with the sheet music to the songs of Percy French, the droll Anglo-Irish composer of "Are Ye Right There, Michael, Are Ye Right?". An occasional table bears half a dozen magazines, most prominently The Tablet, the Catholic intellectual weekly with which the Cardinal had regular doctrinal sparring matches, and Greville Janner's Complete Speechmaker. Framed photographs of family and friends, two wine glasses and a corkscrew, hint at a man of modestly convivial habits. His library is surprisingly secular and middlebrow, with lots of Le Carré and Antonia Fraser, Victoria Glendinning's biography of Swift, Lord Jenkins' memoirs, the collected essays of Matthew Parris, Jeremy Paxman on politics, coffee-table books on Wines of the World and Irish Houses and Castles. On a side-table, there's a small booklet entitled How to Choose a Pope, by Charles Burns. As Archbishop of Westminster, Cormac Murphy-O'Connor will be a key figure in selecting the man to succeed the ailing John Paul II. He is, of course, eligible for the position himself.

On his return, I ask Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor how the exercise of power worked in the Catholic Church. Where is the policy unit? Who's in the Oval Office? Who decides the wording of official Church pronouncements? "My policy unit is the other bishops. We have a standing committee of eight or 10 bishops, who meet twice a year for the best part of a week and discuss all kinds of things." What is the role of the Bishops Conference Secretariat, a much-abused organisation sometimes accused of hijacking the Church's power and forming policy without consulting its members? "The Secretariat exists to serve the bishops; it can't do anything without the approval of the bishops. I am president of the Bishops' Conference, and I meet regularly with the secretary-general, who sort of runs the show."

So, if we hear the words "senior Catholic Church officials", whose views are we hearing? "If they're speaking 'on behalf of' the bishops, it should be the bishops themselves. Although I'd like a lot more lay people to speak out. Where are our modern-day Chestertons and Bellocs? While 'official teaching' [he sketches speech marks around the words] comes from the bishops, I want to hear from our intelligent lay people, who can be found all over the place."

Does he think that it is right for the Church to air views about public affairs that have no religious or moral context? "There are many political issues that have a moral context," he replies. Like whether to support the EU constitution? "Well, no, I wouldn't have said that was a moral issue. But the bishops expressed a view because we are European. Why shouldn't the format of the new Europe be of concern to the bishops? How is the Catholic Church, how is Christianity, going to flourish in all these countries? The de-Christianising of Europe is an important issue - the decadent withdrawing of religious spirit in the West, compared with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. The French were against putting any mention of the Church into the preamble to the Constitution because they want a lay state with no question of any religious stuff about it. It's a tradition in France ever since Napoleonic times."

Would he like to see Church and State more entwined, with the laws of the latter reflecting the doctrines of the former? "Well, I'd be pleased, naturally. But I wouldn't like the Church to impose it. I think history tells that, if the Church gets into power, the two things don't work and the Church gets corrupt. In our present society in Europe, it's better for the Church to be, not quite on the sidelines, but a bit distant from the political scene, though brave and open enough to intervene when people think that it should."

When would that be? "There are three areas where I think church people not only have a right but a duty to speak out. First, all political matters that concern social policy. Second, everything that concerns human dignity - and I don't mean just speaking about abortion, but about, say, refugees or prison reform. And third, international matters such as aid to the Third World."

Where did the Church stand on the invasion of Iraq? "The Pope certainly had a view - he was dead against it, in every way. I was a bit more nuanced, but I was certainly not in favour of it. At a certain point, the decision to go to war is a political one. The Church must naturally come at it from a different angle - we're for reconciliation and peace, we can't be preaching war."

But, as every Catholic schoolboy knows, the Church approves of a "just war" - which, broadly speaking, means a war started by someone else against which you have to retaliate. Was Iraq one of those?

The Cardinal muses. "Hmmm. It didn't seem that it was going to be a preventive war. I think it was about not believing in the political reasoning, in company with a vast number of people in this country."

But hang on, Cardinal, I say. Was your attitude to the Iraq war a Catholic response, concerned with the moral justice of going to war? Or a political response, concerned with the existence of weapons of mass destruction? Was the church view, in other words, a religious or a secular view? "I think it was a moral instinct that violence breeds violence," says the Cardinal, in measured tones. "And unless there's an absolute clarity that you're acting in self-defence, then you shouldn't do it."

The Cardinal, you may have noticed, is good at both the "nuanced response" (a phrase meaning, sometimes, "flannel and persiflage"), and the straight answer. So I try him on a couple of contentious issues relating to the current activities of the Catholic Church. One is the use of condoms in Africa. Artificial forms of birth control are forbidden by the Church, so having sex while wearing a condom is a grave sin. But in some of the Aids-torn wastes of Africa - where the Church's urgings of chastity and abstinence fall on deaf ears - a condom is the only protection against HIV infection and death. A recent Panorama programme showed the Vatican's family-affairs spokesman, Cardinal Trujillo, trying to persuade stricken Catholics that condoms allowed the HIV virus in through their membrane and were useless in combatting Aids - deadly, in fact.

The programme aired two extremes of current Catholic teaching. One was that of Cardinal Wamala, Uganda's top papist. He argued, implacably, that condoms were passports to Hell; as for having unprotected sex, he explained that embracing martyrdom was better than mortal sin. Elsewhere, in Brussels, the Belgian Cardinal Daneels insisted that men in Africa should wear a condom during sex, otherwise it was a sin against the Fifth Commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Kill". At such moments, he reasoned, it was no longer a birth-control device, but a protection against death.

Can you split doctrinal hairs like this? Can you argue that one definition of a condom eclipses another? What does the British Cardinal think?

"First, I'd say that it's right for the Church to preach chastity, that sexual intercourse is for within marriage. But God knows, people just do not live up to ideals. While we can say that, objectively, the use of condoms is wrong, there are places where it might be licit, or allowable, as when there's a danger of intercourse leading to death. It would be wrong to take a special case and make it a universal law. There is such a thing as objective morality, where things are either right or wrong; but there are also subjective matters that affect whether a thing is slightly wrong or not wrong at all. That's what we're talking about in this case. So I would agree with Cardinal Daneels's position."

I wonder if the Cardinal believes in taking a stand against the proponents of anti-Catholic views. A current test case is John Kerry, the Democratic Presidential candidate. Mr Kerry is a Catholic, but has liberal views about abortion and gay marriages - and, as a result, is considered a doctrinal pariah by American bishops. Some of them - the Archbishop of St Louis, Missouri, and the bishop from his home town of Boston - are refusing to give Holy Communion to Kerry until he changes his views. Would the Cardinal refuse Kerry Communion if he attended Mass in Westminster Cathedral?

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor looks grave. "I do not think the administration of the Sacrament should be a matter for public dispute," he says. "I don't think coercion is helpful in changing people's minds."

The Catholic Church is, if not in actual schism at present, fragmented into a dozen ideological factions, from extreme, doctrinaire Vatican hard-liners, to progressive liberals. How would Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor describe himself? "As a bishop who's been a bishop for a long time, who tries to live out the teaching of the Church with a real compassion, but with an awareness of the time in which the Church is set.

"The European church has lasted for 20 centuries. Now we're in a new age, when it must reinvent itself, must be ecumenical, have dialogue with other faiths and with the outside world. How do you live the faith in our country? How do I live by moral standards? These are spiritual questions, asked by every person of goodwill. I've been grappling with them, and I think many bishops and priests and Catholics and Christians are grappling with them, too."

Before I take my leave, I have to bring up the question of obedience that used to clamp our minds like a vice when I was growing up. Obedience, doing what the Church requires, examining your conscience, minding your Ps and Qs, avoiding occasions of sin, eschewing immorality and the seductions of impure thoughts and actions, steering clear of bad company, being fearful of Hell, appreciative of Baby Jesus, loving of God, on respectful nodding terms with the Virgin Mary (who, if you were very good, would have a word with her Beloved Son on your behalf) - being a Catholic used to mean being in a constant state of fearful self-abnegation. Does the Cardinal regret the passing of unthinking obedience among his flock, and their casual refusal to do as they're told?

"I think more Catholics are disobeying the Church's directives, yes. And, of course, obedience is a difficult question because there's a sense in which people have to follow their own consciences, without being coerced. But we in the Church embrace poverty, chastity and obedience as the opposite of embracing money, sex and power, three things that, for the most part, diminish people. Money leads to greed; sex to sins of lust - but power leads to the worst one, the one the Lord called the sin against the Holy Spirit, namely sins against obedience. If you think that the sum total of yourself is yourself, you become so egocentric, you can't be forgiven."

So, the whole transatlantic cult of self-empowerment is wrong? "It's all me, me, me," says the Cardinal, "and the Church is dead against it. It's a sin against community and a sin against yourself."

Saying which, the most powerful Catholic in the UK, pastor and father-confessor to four million grumbling, disaffected believers, waves me towards the bleak, descending stairs, and is gone.

Critical Mass: facts and figures

Emperor Constantine recognised the Catholic Church AD313. He was baptised on his deathbed

The Vatican City covers an area of 0.44sq km, and currently has a population of 921

Number of Catholics in the world: 1970: 653.5 million, 2000: 1.045 billion

"The Catholic Church, once all her assets have been put together, is the most formidable stockbroker in the world... The Vatican's treasure has been estimated by the United Nations World Magazine to amount to several billion dollars. A large bulk of this is stored in gold ingots with the US Federal Reserve Bank, while banks in England and Switzerland hold the rest. But this is just a small portion of the wealth, which, in the US alone, is greater than that of the five wealthiest giant corporations of the country. Added to that the real estate, property, stocks and shares abroad, then the wealth of the Catholic Church becomes so formidable as to defy assessment."

The Vatican Billions by Avro Manhattan, 1972

The Catholic Church in the UK has assets of about £2.3bn and liquid resources of £750m

The Vatican gained independence from Italy on 11 February 1929

In 1974, the Roman Catholic population in Britain was 4,162,942, and the Mass attendance was 1,752,730.

In 2000, the Roman Catholic population was 4,121,004, and the Mass attendance was 1,005,522

Nearly 10,000 saints have been recognised by the Catholic Church in its 2,000-year history.

The following saints celebrate their feast days today: St Bartholomea Capitanio, 1807-1833; St Erastus of Corinth, 1st century; St Hyacinth, died cAD110; St Joachim and St Anne, parents of the Virgin Mary, 1st century; St Pastor of Rome, died cAD160; St Simeon of Padolirone, died 1016

Number of priests in England and Wales in 1980: 7,000.

Number of priests in England and Wales in 2003: 3,778, with half aged 60 or older

Number of priests ordained (or due to be) in England and Wales

1964: 230

2004: 18

Nearly one-third of parishes in Britain could be without priests by 2005

The patron saints of television are St Clare of Assisi, St Gabriel the Archangel and St Martin de Porres

Forty-three per cent of Catholic priests in England and Wales do not support the Church's ban on contraception

The First Council of Nicaea, AD325, established the Nicene Creed and 20 canons. These included the canon that all members of the clergy are forbidden to dwell with any woman, except a mother, sister or aunt

The patron saint of oversleeping is St Vitus

One in four priests is no longer convinced of the need for "chastity"

Number of Catholic baptisms in Britain

1944: 71,604

1999: 63,158

The Vatican State flag is yellow and white, with the crossed keys of St Peter and the papal mitre on the white band

Number of people beatified by Pope John Paul II since 1978: 1,320

Number of people canonised by Pope John Paul II since 1978: 473

The patron saint of scurf is St Genesius of Arles

In 1993, the Vatican's revenue was $169m. Its expenditure was $167.5m

"The true figure of the enormous wealth of the Catholic Church is difficult to establish because of their long-time reluctance to disclose their assets and financial interests. At a parish level, the church collects around $8bn in the United States each year, and this figure alone places the institution 234th on the Fortune 500 of US corporations."

Boston Globe, 2002

The patron saint of motorways is St John the Baptist

The number of priests in Europe: 1961: 250,859

2001: 206,859

Number of priests in Latin America:

1961: 43,202

2001: 63,159

Number of priests in Asia:

1961: 25,535

2001: 44,446

In a poll conducted in the National Secular Society newsletter in April 2003, 21 per cent of priests said that homosexuals should be allowed into the priesthood

Sources for figures: Official Catholic Directory;; Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate; National Vocation Office; 'Diocesan Dispositions and Parish Voices in the Roman Catholic Church'