Thinking further about the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster's response to the letter signed (in support of marriage and the family) by around 490 priests, I believe I understand the Cardinal's concern. Pope Francis is emphasising mercy, and rightly so. I think this has unsettled many in the Church because they don't understand what this means in practice - some believe that doctrines are going to be changed. I don't believe this, and never have. There is, to be sure, a balance needed here; we must uphold and teach the Truth, positively and confidently (which means not apologising for it) and we must also show compassion towards those who find themselves in situations which prevent them from receiving Holy Communion as well as those who are struggling through painful difficulties in their relationships at this time. In this I see no real difference between the approach of Pope Francis and that of Pope St. John Paul II (except the difference of personal style).
Against this background I think I can understand the Cardinal's dismay at that letter. I believe the Cardinal is a very caring and sincere man. I have met him on two occasions, once when he was a young priest, many years ago, when I was greatly impressed by him, and once when he was visiting a conference for exorcists as Archbishop of Westminster. I was equally impressed then. I believe he is concerned about many people who are suffering and would like to present the face of a caring, compassionate Church. This, I believe, is why he reacted as he did to that letter.
I am not at odds with either the Cardinal or my own bishop, but I do believe I was right to sign that letter. The Pope asked for a frank exchange of views, and we should not be afraid of expressing them. Those who know me will not need any assurance that I wish to show compassion and mercy to those in difficult situations with regard to the Church. Reading the statement in that letter again, I have to say that another sentence expressing our compassion might have helped, but we also have to be confident that speaking the truth is NOT against compassion or mercy, in fact to be truly merciful, truth is required, spoken in love for sure, but still spoken, and spoken clearly. For me there is no conflict between truth and mercy. If there are problems here at all, they have to do with our own human weakness and the question of how we put the message across. This is where personal "style" comes in, and this is where Pope Francis is, in my opinion, leading the way. I cannot say I am entirely happy with every apparent sound-bite that seems to come from the Holy Father, but I agree wholeheartedly with his emphasis on mercy. We need prayer, calmness and a sense of balance.