I was talking with a priest a few days ago, we were talking about the vast amount of literature that comes through the door every month from anti-abortion groups, a youngish catholic bookseller said, "What is the point? The battle is lost in the UK , far more useful to turn our efforts to the liturgy and re-shape the Church".
I had to concede the battle is lost in the UK, and for that matter most of Europe, over abortion, over the family, over adoption. Catholics are increasingly finding it difficult to work in the health service, in certain areas of social services, soon maybe in education. Many of our flagship charities seem to be less than faithful to the magisterium. We are fighting a rear-guard action to save our schools, if militant secularists remain in government that battle could soon be lost too.
Following the military analogy further, it seems that our soldiers are few and ineffectual, many have given up any sort of fight, and are actually confused which side they support.
A good commander might think the only option might be to retire from the field, rally those troops he can, retrain them and do all he can to turn them into a small efficient highly trained crack force for a new war.
I was amazed at Cherie Blair being chosen to front the Apostleship of the Sea Appeal but Mrs Blair is not an exception, indeed she represents the majority of Catholics in the UK, who not only personally do not support the Church's teaching, they are not so much ignorant of it but actually regard it as oppressive, a denial of human rights and wrong, even evil.
The Pope before his election had predicted a smaller but more committed Catholic Church in Europe. There is a need for a new ecclesiology to deal with a new situation. Vatican II met to deal with the situation following World War II, to bring the Church into the then Modern World. The contemporary situation is significantly different, the Church is different, no longer do we hold significant tenets of faith and morals in common with our seperated brothers and sisters, post-Christian values have superseded those which most of Europe held in common, the Church is no longer welcomed as a significant partner in the public forum.
The documents of the Council tended to see the Church and Christian as the leaven in the lump, or the salt giving savour but the reality but the experience of the last forty years is the lump stifles the leaven and the salt has lost its savour. The glorious vision of Gaudium et Spes in reality seems only to have weakened the Church.
Where do we find a new ecclesiology for today? I suspect the Holy Father sees it in an the old pre-Concillior theology, strengthening notions of Catholic identity, strengthening our understanding of the priesthood, of the Mass, of devotion, of a personal relationship with Christ. Fr Tim reports on rumour of a new motu proprio outlining discussion with the SSPX, part of which will be the clarification of the how the Council should be interpreted in keeping within the perennial tradition of the Church.