The internet seems to filled with the dreadful picture of that Jordanian pilot being burnt to death, a few days ago there was a picture of a homosexual being thrown from a tower block, beheadings have become so common, they are almost not news. Add to that pictures of crucified men, women and even children, women and children sold into slavery, child brides, mutilated or burned bodies, churches razed to the ground, Christians and others robbed and sent into exile and most world, and even religious, leaders will say, "this isn't a Moslem problem". Even closer to home, the Rotherham child abuse revelations, again, 'it isn't a Muslim problem'.
Of course they are right, just the same as abortion, or the sexualisation of young children in our society 'isn't a Muslim problem', neither is pornography, or family break up, or the huge disparity between the wealthy and the poor in our society, these are obviously not 'a Muslim problem', neither are Russian gulags or the Nazi extermination camps.
These are however problems for a world that does not know Jesus Christ, in that sense they are a Christian problem. These horrors show us a world unredeemed, a world dwelling in Christ-less darkness. These are the things those who do not know Christ do.
As a priest ordained sometime after the close of the Second Vatican Council, it is the missionary impulse of the Council that is fascinating, the whole sense of going out ad gentes rather than looking inwards and being concerned with a concern for soft furnishings and furniture.
The Church is neither a museum preserving the past, nor a laboratory inventing new things. The biblical images of deeply rooted vines, closely tended, producing abundant fruit or of a house set firmly on rock.
It is perhaps natural for the priests who studied whilst the Council was taking place, especially in Rome, to be obsessed the changes the Council introduced ad intra; one only has to read the dreary pages of the Catholic Times or possibly even other Catholic papers to be re-acquainted with the self referential nonsense that haunted the church forty years ago; all those obsessions about reinventing liturgy, about parish management, setting up new committees and the like, that replaced the simple Gospel imperative of bringing Christ to the world.
The years following the Council were very much about household management, patching and restructuring and structures, but by the 1990s there was a new breed of priests who began seeing the Church in far more dynamic terms. They started asking what the purpose of the Church was. In fact asking whether the Church really had anything to bring to world. They did it from a Church that was beginning to coalesce, no longer in a state of flux, no longer filled with uncertainties, a Church that was beginning to feel a certain confidence in its own message: Jesus Christ.
As fascinating as the news from Rome is at the moment is for some, the setting up of new management committees, getting the finances up to date, even debates about remarriage and divorce, gives a sense of déjà vu, a return to times past, where the Church talks about itself, rather Christ. As one young man who a couple of years ago was seriously considering the priesthood, put it recently, 'It is all become deadly dull, there is a lack of confidence even in those doctrines which we had considered long settled, Management-speak has replace Christ-speak, we are called to go out to the peripheries but we don't have anything to take, and no certainty of the place to which we are to return'.
I confess I feel anesthetised by the whole liberal obsession with 'structure and restructuring', it was a mantra for hippies and the children of the war-time generation, but today such introspection seems facile, it certainly will not engage the young.