I visited Taize only once, back in the summer of ’99. Among other good memories I have kept from that week is the personality of Brother Roger Schutz, the founder. He had an evident goodness and sincerity, of a kind that one does not easily forget. Clearly, he wanted his life to be wholly centred on Christ. Particularly touching were the moments at the beginning or end of services at which he would pray with a group of little children.

This month is the 7th anniversary of his murder by a deranged Romanian woman. I am very willing to believe that he is not only in heaven now, but has been since shortly after his death; perhaps immediately after.

Yet as far as anyone knows, he never became a member of the Catholic Church. Brought up as a Protestant, he is quoted as having said in 1980, in the presence of Pope John Paul II, “I have found my own identity as a Christian by reconciling within myself the faith of my origins with the mystery of the Catholic faith, without breaking fellowship with anyone.” According to Cardinal Kasper, in an interview given shortly after Br Roger’s death, this was what enabled the founder of Taize to receive Holy Communion at a Catholic Mass, as he did most famously from the hands of Cardinal Ratzinger himself, before the eyes of the world, at the funeral of Pope John Paul, just a few months before he died. It would be preferable, Cardinal Kasper says, not to apply to Br Roger terms such as ‘conversion’ or ‘formal membership’. Br Roger’s own words, Kasper says, should suffice for an explanation.

I suggest that this is nonsense. One is either a member of the Catholic Church or one is not. If one is a member of a denomination which is not the Church that Christ founded, then in order to join the Church that Christ founded, one must leave that community.

Holy Writ tells us in one place, in a phrase that doesn’t in any way impugn the divine innocence, that ‘an evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul’. Can we not in a similar way see the knife wielded by the lunatic woman as a pale image of the double-edged sword that divides soul from spirit, nature from grace, the Church that Christ founded from man-made sects, Aye from No – and so seeing, tremble?

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