Friday, June 26, 2009

Battles lost or preparing for war

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significant tenets of faith and morals in common with our seperated brothers and sisters, post-Christian values have superseded those which most of Europe held in common, the Church is no longer welcomed as a significant partner in the public forum.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.


Henry said...

You are being very provocative, thank you.

Kris R. from the U.S. said...

Father Blake, your posting today gave me a little drop of hope. I think you and your young friend are right: the goal of ending abortion (and other of today's legally sanctioned sins) is a good one, but the methods we are using are just plainly not effective. Admitting this fact can release us from the chains of repeating ineffective endeavors. A lot of creative energy is being wasted.
I think if we could be transported back to the 1st or 2nd century Roman Empire, we would find our fellow Christians not even attempting to convert the whole empire by changing its laws and culture. I think their emphasis may have been more individual-to-individual contact, converting individual Romans, until the Christian "salt" had seasoned so many people that the empire, as a whole, could change.
In other words, conversion of a culture is from the bottom upward.
I hope that's right. Our governments don't seem to be listening to us through all the usual, legitimate channels. I don't suggest we stop trying, but I don't think I could bring Christ to my "government" as easily as I could think up ways to bring Christ to the people I know.

Anne Mansfield said...

Sad post but an excellent one. God bless you, Father Blake.

Anne Mansfield said...

An excellent warning, Father.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Kris, Yes it is always individual conversions, that is how the Church grows.

Pablo the Mexican said...

Dear Father Blake,

If Bishops issued orders such as the below noted, laypeople would not have to hand out leaflets and demonstrate at abortion clinics. We could go back to attending Mass.

What is your opinion, Padre?

1795 Oct. 14

Penalver y Cardenas, Luis Bishop
(New Orleans)

1) The Bishop notifies:
a) That examining the parochial books, upon the occasion of the holy visit of his diocese, he notified sorrowfully the great number of adults that die without the sacraments of Penance, Eucharist, and Extreme Unction.
b) That that is due to the non-observance of the physicians and surgeons of the canonical orders of the fourth Council of Lateran under Pope Innocent III, of the holy Bull issued by Pius V whose beginning is "Super Gregem Dominicum" and of the instruction given by the Roman Council under the pontificate of Benedict XIII in 1725.
c) That all of which orders them not only to call the attention of those they cure to prepare themselves to eternal life through the holy sacraments, but also that they must refrain from continuing to help the sick if at the end of the third day of illness they have not been administered.
d) That all those doctors who do not proceed so will be punished with a major excommunication.
2) therefore the Bishop decrees that in order that all those who live amidst vice and lincentiousness may be saved by an efficient confession of their sins, this decree is to be made known to every physician and surgeon, thus reminding them of their responsibility and the strict account they must give on Judgement Day to Our Lord for the least failure in the fulfillment of their duties.
3) That in the case of a known and proven neglect to carry out such orders, they will be punished properly for their disobedience. Signed by the Bishop of Louisiana and witnessed by Dr. Joseph Maria de Rivas as secretary.
--To this is added a note by Santiago Saldivar, (Notary Public) certifying that on Oct. 15, 1795, at New Orleans, he notified the following doctors: Jose Monteguin, Estevan Pelgim, Roberto Dow, Joaguin Ablanedo,Jose Lavie, Mr. Fortain, and Crusel de St. Martial of the above decree. That on Oct. 16, 1795 he notified Luis Guiovelnia of the above decree. That on Oct. 17, 1795 he notified Santiago Leduc of the above decree. IV-5-d D.S. 3pp. 4to. (Spanish)

Yours truly in the service of Our Lord and His blessed Mother.


the owl of the remove said...

As always, Father Ray, wise words. Back in blighty in a few days - hope for a visit!

gemoftheocean said...

Oh, Father. BUCK UP. Where is the Churchillian spirit: Fight them on the beaches, etc. but NEVER "surrender." Stand up and be counted.

Stand together or you will surely hang separately. [Worked for us!]

Michael Petek said...

Father Frank Pavone, the founder of Priests for Life, is fond of saying that we fight not for victory, but from victory.

Now, it may be that the battle is lost in the UK in regard to abortion, gay marriage, adoption etc. But I think it's even worse than that. The battle is not even being fought. The Church's adoption agencies have decided to sever their links with the Church and become secular so they can comply with the Government's Equality Act. In doing so the Church has conceded the battlefield unfought. Christian civil registrars are being hounded out of their jobs because they will not preside at civil partnerships.

The trouble is that the Church is facing the forces of secularism on the secularists' ground and not hers. God has given her His word to preach and declare, and an authority which He Himself will vindicate at the Last Judgement. "He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned." So the Church ought to stand on that authority and not approach the civil power as though she were a mere supplicant.

This is how the Church approached her mission in the Roman Empire. The Imperial authorities were perfectly happy to accommodate Christianity as a personal worship hobby and did not forbid devotion to Jesus as part of a cult of Jesus. What brought the Church into conflict with the Empire was that she challenged it on the religious level. The Roman religion was the Roman way of life itself, moderated by Caesar and structuring the whole of life and the world view of the populace. What the Church did was to insist that only Jesus Christ and His Way had the right to this privilege, and that instead of worshipping Caesar everyone, including Caesar himself,must worship and serve Jesus Christ whose authority and jurisdiction was total.

The Christians and the Church should not be afraid of being sued or prosecuted in the civil courts in causes where the rights of God are at stake. On the contrary, she should see it as an opportunity to bring Christ into court, not as a defendant but as the supreme King who Himself has the power of judgement over the court and everyone in it. It is here (including on the papers) that the Church can put civil judges on notice that their immortal souls are at risk unless they subordinate the civil affairs of the nation to the law of Christ and to His Kingship.

32. Nations will be reminded by the annual celebration of this feast [of Christ the King] that not only private individuals but also rulers and princes are bound to give public honor and obedience to Christ. It will call to their minds the thought of the last judgment, wherein Christ, who has been cast out of public life, despised, neglected and ignored, will most severely avenge these insults; for his kingly dignity demands that the State should take account of the commandments of God and of Christian principles, both in making laws and in administering justice, and also in providing for the young a sound moral education. (Pope Pius XI, Encyclical Letter Quas Primas, 11 December 1925).

Will this approach 'work' in the sense that we will see the UK become a Christian nation again? It might. But if it doesn't it will be an object lesson that the same word of God is sometimes declared for the destruction of a nation and not always for its salvation.

Mark said...

I think that's a superb analysis, father. I also think you're correct about Pope Benedict's desire to return to a pre-Vatican2 ecclesiology - with the qualification that he, like his predecessor, rightly desires closer relations with the Orthodox, whom he regards as sharing his own vision and values.

Simon Cotton said...

Father Ray, maybe it is time for a realignment of all those who believe in Christianity as a revealed religion, rather than one made up by man, to unite under the leadership of the Holy Father. But would the initiative for this come from Rome?

terry said...

I do not think that one should be so pessimistic.There have been other occasions when the outlook for the Church has appeared to be bleak and then the situation changed. I recall when I was at school in the early 1970s, a Jesuit priest predicted a “shakeout” leaving a smaller but more committed Catholic Church. At that time it was the time of the later years of the pontificate of Pope Paul VI. Priests were seeking laicisation in droves, there were very few vocations, and the laity was waiting for a new Pope who would “repeal” “Humanae Vitae”.
From the pew it did appear a time of confusion. Morale was low. Thankfully people persevered. In any event, has there really been any time in the history of the Church when there has been an easy time for the Church even when in effect the Church was the State and could promulgate secular law and put such laws into effect ?
Look at the Republic of Ireland. At the time when the Church there occupied such a prominent place in Irish society and its voice was apparently being listened to, the events narrated in the recent Ryan Report were taking place.
As regards abortion, is the battle really lost in Europe? Sadly it is true that in the United Kingdom the predominant culture does not regard abortion as wrong but a matter of a fundamental human right. But are there not signs that the situation is changing?
Perhaps the forces of a militant secularism are in charge at the moment but is this situation always going to prevail? I do not think so.
In France the French idea of separation of Church and State was enforced by the State in 1905. The Church did suffer. However within a relatively short time the State realised that it could not go on with such a rigid and unjust policy. An accommodation was reached and there was a new dispensation.
As regards Cherie Blair, does she really represent the majority of Catholics in the United Kingdom? As a person she is certainly not representative of Catholics up and down Britain. Most Catholics are not distinguished QCs, have great personal wealth and been married to a long serving Prime Minister. Most Catholics are just ordinary people, having to go out to work, raise families, pay taxes, and get on with life just like millions of their fellow citizens. Mrs Blair has lost one political platform – the Labour party – for her views. She now needs the Church to air her views. No doubt she will continue with her personal crusade. But that really is a matter for her and her conscience. She is only one voice. There have always been lay persons (and clerics) in the history of the Church who have spoken out publicly against Church teaching and for various reasons. Usually in the fullness of time, their attempts to change Church teaching have been without any significance whatsoever.
In any event, who elected her as spokesperson for the majority of Catholics in the United Kingdom? Please do not write off the majority of Catholics in the country.
But do we really need a new ecclesiology to deal with the situation? Does more time and effort have to go into questions about structures, powers, jurisdiction and the like? Even after the Council of Trent, the path was not easy. Look at the problems that St Charles Borromeo had in attempting to enforce the decrees of the Council in the Archdiocese of Milan. There were even attempts on his life and he had to face down his own Jesuit confessor.
It is however true that the Church has always had need of a band of committed followers to lead the Church and to constantly proclaim the Good News. Often they carry out their work quietly and without drawing attention to themselves. They are the quiet saints who get on with their tasks.
Sometimes in a beatification process long after they lived that we, the general Catholic public, catch a glimpse of the heroic scale of their works and achievements. They work slowly but surely taking each day as it comes. Is it not through these quiet and unobtrusive saints that renewal is effected and change brought about?

English Pastor said...

I do not think we ever lose the battle, after all, we fight from the point of resurrection and therefore ultimate victory. However, we need the Bishops of the UK to speak out in an informed way, with medical and sociological evidence of the harm abortion (and contraception) produce. They also need to let go of the failed Catechetical methods of the last forty years to provide solid teaching of the Faith in schools, seminaries and parishes, so that we produce Catholics who know their faith and can present it wisely and inoffensively. I suggest that after doctine, communication skills are a major but negelected aspect of training in evangelisation and the one-to-one witness so badly needed today.

fidelisjoff said...

A rather horrible sign is the Church in this diocese actively collecting and supporting the Cabrini Children's Society with the full knowledge and I guess support, of our bishop as it appears in the diocesan directory and has a collection earmarked for it in the Church year. This is despite that fact the Bishop has resigned from its joint presidency as it had intended to adhere fully to the Governements Sexual Regulations i.e. gay adoption. They also collected in my son's "Catholic" school for the Good Shepherd Appeal arguing that funds will be earmarked for non contentious causes - doesn't this just provide them with the ability to fund the "contentious" causes more easily. How can we support a charity in direct opposition to the Church's teaching and how can priests feel pressured to collect this money. All links should be severed immediately and a new charity set up that is Catholic or support existing real Catholic charities in this country or overseas.

Brightonliberalcatholic said...

Hold on a minute ladies and gents, I thought you lot were all into this hermeneutic of continuity stuff - now you want a return to a pre-Vatican II ecclesiology. So, what happened at Vatican II, to quote the title of O'Malley's recent book? Something or nothing?

Patricius said...

It seems to me that while conversion is a person by person business commenters who take the practice of Christians within the Roman Empire as an example for us today miss the point that the political relationship of individuals to a modern state such as the UK or USA is significantly different. For what it is worth, it is claimed that we all have both rights and responsibilities within the "democratic process" through which our country is governed. We therefore bear some responsibility for what is done in our name. Our duty is surely to resist evil even if the battle appears lost as most surely it did appear on the cross.

Red Maria said...

The battle isn't - or wouldn't be lost - in the UK if if weren't for the fact that much of what is laughably called the Pro Life "movement" ha ha is so terminably hopeless.

I recall last year's shenanigans with raging frustration. When we were already battling on multiple fronts over the HFE Bill - conscience vote AND three contentious clauses - the egregious Josephine Quintavalle and her equally ludicrous mates (Andrea "the earth is four thousand years old" Minichiello Williams and Peter "castrate sex offenders" Saunders) aka The Alive and Kicking Campaign aka the 20 weeks campaign, tacked abortion onto it too. Without any consultation with its own membership, such as it is, other pro life groups, or pro life parliamentarians.

How the hell were we supposed to fight a battle not on two fronts, not on three but four fronts? How?

And not only that. Quintavalle chose perhaps the most bonkers MP there is, Nadine Dorries, affectionately known as "mad Nad" to front the parliamentary campaign. Just google around and see what happened whenever Nads said anything about abortion, neonate survival rates, hands of hope and cringe for pro lifers everywhere.

And as if that wasn't bad enough ... Alive and Kicking hadn't done its homework on the current science of premature neonate survival rates and made claims which didn't stand up to any kind of scrutiny whatsoever.

To top it off Christian Medical Fellowship doctors concealed membership of that body when they gave evidence to the Science and Technology Committee, a fact which was promptly
revealed by The Guardian

Want to know why the other side always wins? It isn't rocket science, this. Quite simply they put in the work.

Adulio said...

It is here (including on the papers) that the Church can put civil judges on notice that their immortal souls are at risk unless they subordinate the civil affairs of the nation to the law of Christ and to His Kingship.

While the above is perfectly fine in theroy, I hate to break it to you but the idea of the Social Reign of Christ has not been in vogue since the close of the council. It doesn't fit in with Kasper-esque dialogue and ecumenism.

Fr Ray Blake said...

"now you want a return to a pre-Vatican II ecclesiology."

My fault, I think. I as trying to emphasise that much of the ecclesiology of VII was addressed to a particular time and situation, with a particular mindset, which has produced a certain confusion. Obviously one can't dismiss a Ecumenical Council but there is a need to look to what went before VII to understand VII its continuity with the past.

Kris R said...

You are right, Patricius, to point out that the citizens of the Roman Empire had a different practical relationship to their government and so are not technically our "example" to follow. Citizens of every form of government have a duty to resist evil and to "bring Christ to the culture." But we must be alert to the fact that the governing process, at least in the US, has changed drastically. The laws and requirements that are being imposed on our Congress and on our private businesses have not gone through the democratic process for quite some time. So far it doesn't look like the will of the people is being consulted; phone calls, faxes, demonstrations seem to fall on deaf ears. I think this is what Father Blake's original posting referred to with regards to abortion laws. No, we can't give up trying, but someone observed that in Poland, when the people of that nation changed, its tyrannical government weakened and fell. I don't know how true that is, but people-to-people conversion gives us another avenue to Christianize our nation. Thanks for your clarification.

PaulineG said...

Red Maria is strong in her criticism of key pro-life campaigners and groups.

I wonder if she is fully aware of all that these people did, and of the full context of their decisions and actions.

Just to offer one counter: She mentions
"Christian Medical Fellowship doctors concealed membership of that body when they gave evidence to the Science and Technology Committee"
and offers a link to a Guardian article reporting this.

Readers might be interested in the CMF's response to this criticism here:

My experience of and research on the passage of this Bill leads me to a very different conclusion. I believe we owe a considerable debt of gratitude to all the people Red Maria mentions for their excellent campaigns and briefing materials and their strong and courageous leadership under fire.

Tony Locatelli said...

Fr Blake has only just skimmed the top of the iceberg. We have all been listening to the unlistening who simply keep on churning out the same old dogma. "Not adhering to the teachings of the Catholic Church disqualifies one from the right to be a Catholic". That is basically the objection to Mrs Cherie Blair opening Sea Sunday for the charity "Apostleship of the Sea". Does anyone think that the unfortunate sailors in all corners of the world who gain so much help and succour from this charity give a damn whether Mrs Blair uses condoms in her family planning or not?
It is very clear from the way the media take the issue of Catholicism these days that they have abandoned the need for it to be taken seriously. In fact, there is good evidence to suggest that a discrediting influence is sweeping through in the west now which is effectively branding hard line Catholics as religious cranks!
Unfortunately, the Pope is not helping this by preaching the need to adhere to traditional Catholic lines which appear more and more outdated, illogical and downright unbelievable to most modern day Europeans. Few in the hierarchy are prepared to challenge this in a tradition of sycophancy and genuflection not to mention fear, so it seems that the writing is on the wall for Catholicism. Unless of course we can generate a few more…. no, many more Father Blakes!

maryrose said...

I am shocked that any true catholic should suggest that Catholics withdraw from raising the issue of abortion and refusing to accept it. It seems an ostrich like reaction to retreat and concentrate on the liturgy. If the church and its members are not prepared to still fight to defend the life of the most defencless then they might as well forget it. The time for sitting on the fence is passing quickly for the church and having people who are catholic in name only representing the Catholic church is scandelous.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I think that there are a lot of positive pro-life initiatives we should be undertaking eg encouraging stem cell adult/cord, support/conselling for single mothers.
I can understanding that many see lobbying, trying to change the minds of hostile politicians as being a waste.

maryrose said...

Fr Ray,
I am sorry but this type of policy reeks of appeasement which is what happened with Germany prior to Churchill taking a stand. There is no point in adopting this spirit of compromise. You cannot appease Satan. Thats the problem with much of the leadership in the church at the moment, not Pope Benedict, I hasten to add.

PaulineG said...

Father Ray,

I really don’t think it is a case of ‘either .. or’. The pro-life movement must actively engage in and promote positive alternatives and be seen to do so. But we must never abandon the call to engage in the battle for hearts and minds.

Another good priest observed to me last year that speaking out on such issues is an act of Christian witness. As such, he observed, it is always worthwhile and so we should never let a lack of worldly success discourages us.

The apparent lack of commitment to pro-life principles even among Catholics may be understandable, given the reluctance of many priests to speak on the subject (often out of a misguided concern not to upset – it is possible to speak out without causing upset). We are bombarded by secular media who misrepresent and caricature both religion and the pro-life cause. If Parish Priests do not work both proactively and reactively to counter this (and let’s face it, many don’t), and after so many years of poor catechesis in many of our schools, then small wonder many Catholics disagree with the Church. And yet, in my experience as a prolife visiting speaker in Catholic churches, parishioners are thirsting for solid, objective and factual information presented within the framework of Catholic teaching and the gratitude expressed by many on such occasions is an inspiration and encouragement that cannot be gainsaid. Such talks, if sensitively pitched and whether from the Priest or another, may also trigger a much needed healing process. Perhaps what is needed is a national strategy to equip priests to address these issues effectively.

Neither should we be too disheartened. We should not infer from the decisions made in Parliament last year, for example, that this was the will of the British people. In fact the evidence is they run counter to public opinion, properly informed and honestly assessed. Neither should the media be seen as representative of public opinion. The media, and Parliament in turn, were heavily influenced by key individuals and organisations of a particular mindset and many journalists are too busy/lazy to do more than regurgitate media releases from apparently, but not actually, objective (and politically ‘comfortable’) sources. Key elements of the media ran a tendentious and concerted campaign in favour of the Bill and chose simplistically and wholly erroneously to frame the debate as pitting science against religion.

The concern, therefore, should not be with the attitude of the general public but how this can be so arrogantly manipulated by the media and/or disregarded by our politicians – who received mountains of mail opposing the Bill and little in favour. It is a question of democracy – and that should also concern us as Catholics.

Further, there is always a danger that we see only the failures and fail to acknowledge the successes. Remember that there were some appalling abortion amendments tabled last Autumn and that the Government chose to timetable them out so they all failed. Those who feel our voice was ineffective need to explain why the Government did this, given the strong pro-abortion profile in our current Parliament, demonstrated the previous May.

In fact, after 20 years in this I am newly encouraged: Our politicians (and also judges) have now pushed the law well beyond what public opinion would countenance. This was particularly noticeable in the strong public anger at the failure to reduce the abortion time limit in May 2008. Perhaps people have now been shocked out of their complacent and misguided trust in Parliament to decide on ethical issues and are starting to think for themselves. That provides a great opportunity and the ‘expenses’ issue can only help.

So in the run up to the next General Election all those MPs who voted so dreadfully last year must be held to account by reminding the electorate of this. There is work to be done but if Catholics fail to get behind this, preferring to abandon themselves to despair, then that despair may well turn out to be justified.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Appeasement is not what I am into what I am into but I think one of the problems we have is that we need to help our people rediscover a radical committment to thinking with the the Church then Catholics might be a much more powerful force in public life.
Who knows we might even start voting from our religious convictions, at the moment some Catholics are just a small lobby group for different causes, rather than for the cause of Christ's church.

John Martyn said...

Most people in this country, and indeed Europe as a whole, seem to reject the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church on abortion, and the status of the human embryo more generally.
Those who support the teaching should ask the opponents why they do so. The supporters should then consider the reasons given, and (to the extent not persuaded by them)seek to answer them.
Mere assertions that every abortion is the killing of a human being and therefore inevitably wrong are unpersuasive.

Independent said...

Perhaps it might help discussions if an attempt were made to interpret the First Council of the Vatican. It seems generally to be ignored that Ward, Manning, and Faber and the other Ultramontanist Oxford Converts did not get what they wanted from that Council and the actual definition of Papal Infallibility was the moderate very circumscribed one believed by Newman and the ancient catholic families of England. So many people in England of all communions seem to believe an extreme doctrine rejected by the Council.

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