I wrote to Bishop Philip Egan thanking him for the stand he has taken in his public pronouncements on the reception of Holy Communion by those politicians who voted for same sex marriage and for abortion. I told him I thought it was courageous and thanked him for setting an example. Fr Dickson draws attention to the fact that Greg Pope's letter, written at the behest of Mgr Marcus Stock and therefore presumably under the rather nuanced direction of Vincent Cardinal Nichols, says the Bishops of E&W 'have no plans' to withhold Holy Communion from such politicians.
I think the great problem is that many Catholics including politicians are unaware of the existence of Canon 916 and a bishops or priests duty regarding the admission or exclusion of anyone from Holy Communion. No wonder Bishop Egan's words came as shock. I suspect that most, and my suspicion is born out by the responses to the German bishops questionnaire in preparation for the Synod on the family that after years of silence on sexuality, the family etc by us clergy most Catholics are profoundly ignorant both of what and why the Church teaches what she does. If they have any understanding at all it is a mere caricature of the reality fed by the media. I simply wonder what formation Catholics in politics have regarding their faith. The Church's 'opposition to SSM was a non-starter from its beginning bcause we have failed to teach effectively about the Natural Law, about the nature and effects of sin, or the richness of the Church's teaching on gender or the family. How many sermons or pastoral letters have you heard on these subjects in the last 30 years?
For too long we clergy have taught a hotch potch of the faith, barely believing it ourselves and convincing very few, the words of S Paul to Timothy are entirely apposite, when I stand before Christ to be judged, as a priest I dread them:
Before God and before Christ Jesus who is to be judge of the living and the dead, I charge you, in the name of his appearing and of his kingdom: proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, give encouragementWe simply haven't done it! The "message" hasn't been proclaimed, it has been eviscerated. Falsehood hasn't been refuted and error hasn't been corrected, most of us have insisted on nothing. We have fallen into the trap of groups like ACTA of faffing with deckchairs whilst the Titanic slips below the North Atlantic. After ten/eleven years of Catholic education in this country most 'Catholics' simply have no idea how to live or even how to die a Catholic, indeed the vast majority simply give up in their teens if not before. If there is any faith it has little exterior expression.
Vatican II said somewhere that Episcopal Conferences were suppose produce regional catechisms, as someone said to me recently we that have YouCat but something more fundamental is needed. Most Catholics don't know why they should baptise their children or how to pray with them, what to say in the Confessional or why, what marriage is, what the Church is or even how to die well. It is no wonder that in most dioceses in England and Wales, cities like mine with a dozen or so semi-active priests within two decades will been down to one or two if they are fortunate - some French dioceses will actually have that number for their whole diocese long before then. The easy, non-biblical, liberal answer is to dilute the faith, which probably works for one generation but is ultimately unconvincing -look at the demise of European Protestant Ecclesial Communities- rather than to concentrate and distil it and live it in its intensity.
I posted the words of Bishop Egan's own MP, he says 'we have a new gentle shepherd preaching a Christ-like message of inclusivity, love, tolerance and forgiveness', that is, I think, what many Catholics think the Gospel and Christ is about, it is the 'Church of Nice', which is as far removed from the Sermon on the Mount and the Cross as the Women's Institute scone making advice leaflet.