Pat Oliviers letter to Alex re the establishment of a North Atlntic Federation

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Alex Walker
10 Standen Park House

Dear Alex

Thank you for your letter and enclosures concerning the formation of a North Atlantic Federation of Married Catholic Priests (NAFMCP).

As I said on the phone, I find it difficult to be sure of the true intentions of those involved in forming this federation. My instinct is to follow Mike Hyland's and Joe Mulrooney's advice, since they were at the Madrid meeting representing Advent, and know more of the background and outcome than the rest of us. Drawing (1) on my own knowledge from being at the Atlanta congress of the International Federation, (2) on Joe's report to our AGM, reprinted in our Autumn 2002 bulletin, and (3) on further discussions with Mike at Hammersmith last month, this is the position as I understand it:-

The previously agreed plan that the International Federation should meet jointly at Madrid with 'We Are Church' and other organisations was overturned at a later stage by the committee because of the local bishop's opposition to We Are Church, and some of them wrote to him using the (Spanish) President's name without his knowledge. (Heinz-Jurgen Vogels tries to explain this away in his letter to Mike Hyland of February 2003). In the end Madrid went ahead with two separate conferences, one following on from the other. Several of the former prime movers of the international movement, namely USA, Canada, Germany and Holland were not represented there at all, and a new committee was elected. The Federation's assembly agreed among other things to consult with a view to forming a European federation.

According to the proponents of the new North Atlantic Federation (see their 'history' and also Heinz-Jurgen Vogels' letter to Mike Hyland of February 2003) the Latin-American federation suggested at Madrid that Europe should establish more than one region, as they themselves had done previously. Following this suggestion, a 'working committee' of delegates from Belgium, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States gathered in Antwerp in late November 2002 and set up the new North Atlantic Federation. (My comment: An odd interpretation of 'European'!) They have invited Austria, England, France North, Hungary and Ireland to join this federation.

Mike Hyland's (and, I understand, Joe's) interpretation of this development is that it is racist and divisive, deliberately avoiding working with Spain and Spanish-speaking groups, and evidence of the US muscling in on Europe. Heinz contradicts this interpretation, saying that it was Lambert van Gelder (Netherlands), Bert Peeters (Belgium) and himself (Germany) who invited the North Americans to work with them. He also argues that culturally North America is connected to Northern Europe. (My comment: How can he possibly be unaware of the huge Italian and Hispanic presence in North America? I recall being told that the Archdiocese of Chicago, for example, has four auxiliary bishops and deliberately appoints one for each of its principal cultural groups, one of them being Hispanic).

Heinz further says that Claude Bertin, the new international secretary and Paul Bourgeois, the treasurer, agreed to the idea of a North Atlantic federation. (My comment: We are not in a position to judge how far they would substantiate that claim. I note however that no southern European is claimed to have supported it).

Whatever the interpretation, it seems to me strange that several old hands should have absented themselves from the Madrid assembly, and the same people then established a new body without southern European participation. It looks on the face of it like a rearguard action by the old guard, to put it crudely. This strengthens my reluctance to join the NAFMCP.

A further argument is that a European federation makes great sense in the context of the developing European community. We should work for stronger ties with the whole of Europe rather than make separate ones involving a non-European nation, which lies thousands of miles away. I have some regret at turning down American enthusiasm and muscle! but if regional federations are the way forward, let's work on realistic regions. The consideration of cost in attending international meetings is reason alone to go for Europe rather than the North Atlantic. As a rider to this, the US is already a federation of states, and Corpus USA is a federation of regional groups, so it is perfectly reasonable for them to be a regional federation by themselves.

You mentioned on the phone the possibility of trying to establish a pan-European federation. If you have the energy to try that, I shall be glad to hear how people respond, and shall be delighted if it succeeds in place of the other. But I personally do not have the strength or commitment to play a part in such an attempt - I am not getting younger or fresher, and prefer to concentrate on what I can do more locally.

I think that Advent in its own mind should not completely close the door on the NAFMCP. If for example no European-only federation emerges which would include the UK, we might want to re-consider. But my vote is that Advent should not at present join the NAFMCP, and should make it clear that we deprecate the method of its founding.

I am attaching a further shorter letter which might serve as a draft response to the NAFMCP, but please feel free to modify or reject it as you and others think proper.

With many thanks for your own time on this business.

Love to you all from Nicola and myself.

Pat Olivier