THE death of Cardinal Hume, the leader of Roman Catholicism in Britain, has generated glowing plaudits from even some nominal Protestants. He was extolled as an “outstandingly popular” spiritual leader who had “a quality of warmth and approachability”. The Prime Minister gave this extravagant tribute: “He was goodness personified, a true holy man with extraordinary humility and an unswerving dedication.”
However, any Protestant worthy of the name will not forget that he was, as one would expect, a most devoted son of the Church of Rome who had its interests as the main objective in his life. Even as he approached death “he asked to be buried in his Benedictine habit and a lambswool pallium [an episcopal vestment] signifying loyalty to Rome”. He was married, as he himself said in one interview, to his Church.
According to Humes obituary in The Times, Archbishop Bruno Heim, the Apostolic Delegate in London at the time of the death of Cardinal Heenan, Humes predecessor, stated that the kind of man Rome was looking for to fill the vacancy, “…should be a real leader commanding respect and affection, not someone concerned about his own image. He should have a warm personality and be able to inspire priests. He should also get on well with non-Catholics and play a considerable national role… Obviously, he should also be a man of Rome, but not just the usual safe, dull appointment, cautiously preserving the status quo. He should really be ecumenically minded and provide a very special leadership, daring and courageous.” Heims choice, which was accepted by the Pope, was Basil Hume. The Vatican knew that its interests were now in a safe pair of hands. Another factor in the choice was the influence of prominent Roman Catholic laymen. “He had also,” says the Roman Catholic publication The Tablet, “come to the attention of William Rees-Mogg and Norman St John Stevas, who with the Duke of Norfolk, felt the need for a change of style after Heenan”.
Humes ability to move with ease in high society was due in part to his family background. His father was the cardiologist, Sir William Errington Hume (who was not a Roman Catholic), and his mother, Marie Tisseyre, the daughter of a distinguished French military family and an ardent devotee of Rome. The obituary of Hume in The Tablet states that “he was the archetypal public-school Oxford-educated English gentleman. . . That Hume was not an outsider to the British establishment was demonstrated by the fact that Sir John (later Lord) Hunt, already Secretary to the British Cabinet and head of the Home Civil Service, was married to Humes sister Madeleine. Thus a ready-made network of contacts and influence was in place for him, both through these family connections and through the mafia of Ampleforth old-boys who had known and grown fond of him in his housemaster and abbot days.”
Ecumenism was now at the top of Humes list of priorities, but it was pursued, of course, with a view to advancing Romes interests. The Daily Telegraph informs us that “his hope was to embolden Roman Catholics and give the Church greater voice and influence in Britain.” “It seems to me,” he himself said, “that the dawning of the new Millennium, looming ever closer, is a time crying out more than ever for the striking witness of a single voice.”
That single voice of the Papacy was one to which he himself was submissive (although at times he gave the impression of pursuing an independent line but this was part of his political astuteness), and he required that others would submit to it also. As one obituary says, “Whatever his personal sympathy for individuals, he always defended the authority of Rome in the end.” “What matters to me profoundly,” he declared on one occasion, “is the existence of the Magisterium” the teaching authority of the Church of Rome. At the same time he was expert at putting a more acceptable gloss on those teachings of Rome which make some people feel uncomfortable. “He was extremely tactful towards the Church of England,” says The Tablet, “though careful to manoeuvre so as not to play second fiddle to the resident of Lambeth Palace.”
Despite all the plaudits about his humility and affability, he was a subtle operator on the ecumenical scene. Even the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, admitted, “There was more of the wily abbot about him than was generally thought I did not hesitate to tell him so.” The Tablet echoed this sentiment: “He could be wily and non-committal when the occasion demanded it.”
So successful was he in advancing Romanism in this country that the Pope spoke of him as the “saviour of the English Catholic Church”. It was under his personal supervision that a number of high-profile people perverted to Rome: among them the Duchess of Kent, Dr Graham Leonard, former Anglican Bishop of London, and politicians John Gummer and Ann Widdecome. His influence in royal circles was reflected by the fact that the Queen allegedly referred to him as “my Cardinal”. She also attended a Roman Catholic service in Westminster Cathedral in 1995, despite the protests of many Protestants, and then appointed a Roman Catholic honorary chaplain the following year. She chose him to be one of the 24 members of the Order of Merit. This very great honour was given, says The Daily Telegraph, “to mark the manner in which he had moved the Roman Catholic Church to the heart of British public life. . . During his leadership, being a Catholic became acceptable, if not fashionable, once again.” A former Conservative cabinet minister made the same point. “Cardinal Hume made the Roman Catholic Church an accepted part of our Establishment,” he said. At one stage (when hundreds of Anglican clergymen perverted to Rome following the Church of England decision to ordain women priests) Hume felt so optimistic about the prospects of his Church in our nation that he uncharacteristically let slip words which indicated what his real objectives were: “This could be a big moment of grace, it could be the conversion of England for which we have prayed all these years.”
In the midst of all the glowing tributes being paid to him let us not forget that it was a ominous day for Britain when the man who was born George Hume became the leader of Englands Roman Catholics. The Times claims that due to his efforts, and “after centuries during which there had always been a suspicion that to be a Roman Catholic was to be either foreign or in some sense disloyal, Catholicism had become, once more, a natural part of English life.”
Surely it must be our prayer that the rapid progress of Romanism in the nation under Humes leadership would not only be brought to a halt but drastically reversed. We have a crying need that the Reformed faith, which is just another name for the doctrines of Scripture, would prevail and flourish in this country once again.
Hume has been lauded to the skies as an eminently holy man, but the solemn fact is that he lived and, one must assume, died in the errors of Rome. Such a man cannot have heaven as his home; neither can purgatory be his abode, for that is a figment of the imagination. Those who imbibe, and live by, the great and Christ-dishonouring error of salvation by works rather than by faith in Christ alone, must end their days without the “good hope through grace” which true believers have. Their final destination can only be hell.
Hume, by his aura of saintliness and skilful diplomacy, played a very prominent and influential part in making these errors more acceptable to many the result being that immortal souls are further deluded and the danger to our nation increased. Romes estimate of Humes usefulness to her may be gauged from these comments about him by his fellow cardinal, Thomas Winning: “The astute policy adviser…a man for all seasons”. Our land is the poorer as a consequence of his time in office, and his cunningly and successfully promoting Romes interests. May God, in his mercy, bring Britain to rediscover its Protestant heritage and prize it!