Friday, April 23, 2010

The Amorality of the Church

Greg Pope! I am not even going to go there. God preserve us!
One of the big problems with Catholicism in England and Wales both in the popular mind but in the mind of many Catholics is that it is amoral.

The old canard of the Catholic committing adultery or getting drunk on Friday, confesssing on Saturday, communicating on Sunday seems still to exist, except no-one bothers with the confessing anymore.
Far from being life changing, faith for most Catholics touches only the edges of their lives. Despite the bishops issuing statements about the election most Catholics will not vote according to their faith but along very secular lines.

The Church's teaching on reproduction, on sexuality and sexual activity, on bio ethics drfts over most people. Abortion, at least in its later stages, certainly not the morning after pill, might cause a little hesitation but not much more than that for most Catholics. If you polled most Catholics they would see no problems with any of the equalities legislation which the Pope criticised at the ad limina visit of our bishops, as being contrary to the Natural Law. Indeed most would see a lot to criticise in what they understand to be the Church's teaching.

Those who teach what the Church teaches are classed as fundamentalist, reactionary, traditionalist, extreme.
The whole sad, sorry saga of child abuse underlines the assumption that we Catholics are essentially hypocritical, that we and certainly our bishops condone if not the abuse itself at least its cover-up. We are not to be trusted and seem to be seen not as a force for good in society but for evil.  Indeed the very wickedness of the Catholic Church is part of the vocabulary of secularists like Dawkins, Hitchens and Fry.

Those touched by Kungian global ethics embrace the agenda of fairtrade, of a secularist approach to human rights and of green politics. It seems to owe more to bourgeois leftism than anything Catholic.

Those who vist the Catholic blogosphere con themselves that Catholic ethics are taken seriously by anyone beyond it but look at the evidence: where are the non-contracepting Catholic families? The CES hardly seems committed to Catholic ethical teaching. Only Archbishop Smith seems to speak to the media on ethical issues. The Tablet with its screwed up dissenting ethical teaching is sold at the back of most cathedrals and churches.

It is not just issues of bio/sexual ethics that Catholics appear light on but simple issues of honesty, like belonging to a Church which teaches one thing but its members and even some of its leaders appear simply do not hold some of its basic tenets, the reception of Tony Blair into the church for example. The ethical teaching of the Gospel - Jesus' words on remarriage, on the commandments, on our responsibility to the poor and stranger, even on personal integrity, and repentance - are not uppermost in our minds. Indeed much of what has passed for moral theology over the last 40 years has tended to obscure the face of Christ.


Michael Petek said...

I think the problem with receiving Tony Blair into the Church was that the Cardinal believed him when he said at his reception that he professed and believed everything the Catholic Church declares to have been revealed by God.

His former constituents will probably give him this epitaph:

Here lie the bones of our MP
Who promised lots for you and me
His words his deeds did not fulfil
And though he's dead, he's lying still

Crux Fidelis said...

It always makes me laugh, albeit in a hollow fashion, when secularists like Polly Toynbee advance the ludicrous accusation that the Holy Father is responsible for "countless deaths from AIDS" in Africa because of his "ban on condoms". How many Catholics actually listen to anything the Pope has to say on matters of sexual morality?

Hippolytus said...

"It seems to owe more to bourgeois leftism than anything Catholic."

Thanks for your analysis Father Ray - once again you get to the heart of issues. I found it difficult not to get deeply pessimistic about The E & W Church on reading the CES appointment news yesterday. Your term "bourgoeois" leftism sums up so well the 'new catholicism' dominated by committee-loving middle class worthies who dominate so many liberal parishes. These same 'worthies' also seem to specialise in persecuting priests who are faithful to Catholic teachings, reporting them to Bishops for minor disagreements.

Patricius said...

It is constantly asserted that most catholics use contraception. Perhaps it is true- but is it any more true than the fact that most catholics do not attend Sunday mass? How do they know? No one has ever asked me. I strongly suspect that the assertion began as a deliberate piece of propaganda.

universal doctor said...

Superbly put Father. I doubt though that those who visit the blogosphere do con themselves about the state of Catholic ethics and morality. Most of us have been where we would rather not have gone, and once our eyes have been opened, and we have faced the ridicule or isolation, the truth of the lack of authentic living in accordance with teachings of Christ and the Church is blinding. Thank you for your courageous witness.

fidelisjoff said...

I am a non contracepting Roman Catholic husband and father and we have had only ostracisation and persecution from Catholic institutions in England and Wales. We are viewed as being looney for trying to keep the Faith.

Anonymous said...

The trouble with trying to argue that chastity is better than condoms is that we cannot prove it. Ed Balls has his ideas, catholic whimper about chastity before marriage but that is all. What we should be doing is pointing to the Catholic Church and saying "There you are. Our young people are not promiscuious" In marriage we should be able to point to thousands of happy couples who never divorced. That is what the Church was meant to be - a contradiction. That is how the Church was meant to evanglise. You have to admit we do look like a bunch of hyporcrits. We need to revolutionaries of the 70`s gone and strong bishops in their place. John Kearney

Kate said...

Sadly, you are right Fr. To be a Catholic who believes and upholds the teaching of the Church (however imperfectly), is to invite the scorn and ridicule of many in the Catholic Church,and often those in positions of power and influence.
It is to be accused of having a rigid/judgemental/narrow/paternalistic/mysogynist view.
It is to be told that:
'attitudes (upholding the teaching of the C.C.)like yours, are what put people off the Church.'
'You are only pro-life because you have disabled children.'
'we don't have to do everything that Rome says!'

I could go on...
Sometimes it seems as if there is more than one RC Church operating in E+W!

Ma Tucker said...

The Amorality of the Church???

I wish you would head your piece as the amorality of lukewarm Catholics. I love the Church I find her most perfect in her moral teachings. Otherwise your piece is very true.

Lee Gilbert said...

One other huge contradiction- at least here in the States- is that the Church teaches that we should not contracept and also that we should give our children a sound Catholic education. How are Catholic parents supposed to give their, say, eight children a Catholic education when Catholic grade schools are charging $3,000 per year, and high schools are running 12-20,000 per year, hmmm?

The result is that a good Catholic education is typically the privilege of the well-to-do, who frequently are well-to-do because they contracept, and who really do not care much for the specifically Catholic elements of the good Catholic education their children are getting-with the result that neither do their children care.

For example, my wife is a substitute teacher in a Catholic grade school. She asked a class the other day how often they have religion. "Oh every two or three days. Miss **** is very good. She focusses on the important stuff."

In my view, the lack of a good Catholic formation and education for *every* Catholic child is the source of most of our other ills, anomalies, hypocrisies and ammorality.

RJ said...

I think it is better to 'plough one's own furrow' than to lament the behaviour of others. On the Last Day, the Lord will not ask us about the behaviour of others but about our own. It doesn't matter what other people think.
Of course, your vocation involves teaching and a pastoral responsibility for others, Father. I think all you can do is sow the seed (the Lord gives the increase); if someone listens - great (there is more rejoicing in heaven...); if they don't - it's not your fault.

Jacobi said...

You have defined the problem, Father.

What do you think is the solution?

Mark said...

Sadly a stunningly wise & accurate assessment of the real world for most Catholics. Father, you are a wise and holy man committed to the Truth but at the sametime clearly have a firm grasp of the reality of Catholic life & the disarray all around us! What to do, but soldier on regardless, implementing changes only when necessary to avoid further abuses!

Frere J said...

I agree with RJ. And Father, don't forget - the rot set in first with dissolute clergy during and post V2. The lack of catechesis on Sundays, then in our so-called Catholic schools, has led us to this fine mess. Lord, have mercy.

Discreet Observer said...

Quote: "Indeed much of what has passed for moral theology over the last 40 years has tended to obscure the face of Christ."

Father, how often do we hear about the failings of the "last 40 years". It applies not only to moral theology but also the liturgy, catechetics, re-ordering of churches, et al. It is now becoming a common complaint of every aspect of Church life. The Church is organised by the few (bishops and priests) for the many (laity). In a hierarchical Church this is only to be expected - BUT, the laity have given their verdict on the failings of the last 40 years - mostly in the abandonment of the practice of their faith. Literally millions of souls have been lost to this catastrophic seismic shift in the teaching of the faith and in the attempted destruction of centuries-old liturgy. As with the disaffected in the workplace, the laity have gone on indefinite strike and are withholding their support: viz empty churches, seminaries, schools. And yet this crazy and destructive 40-year experiment in trying to re-align the Catholic faith into a modernistic, one-world, sanitised religion devoid of real and hard truths that no longer challenge the mind and uplift the soul continues unabated. The laity as individuals, and even perhaps in groups, cannot really influence change; it has to come from our bishops and priests. Our priests are at the sharp end in parish life and see at first hand the deep dismay that has now engulfed the laity. Our bishops, on the other hand, are still living in 1960s ivory towers and are obviously aloof from the disaffection at grass roots level. The only people who can drive through real change are those priests who have seen the light and it is they who must demand from their bishops that policies change. It is those priests who must band together and demand from the nuncio and Rome that we need better, faithful, and courageous men to who are fit to wear the mitre. There are many sound priests in this country who know that only a return to the true Catholic faith will ensure the return of a healthy Church. Our priests have been ordained to be an alter Christus, to act in persona Christi. In these desperate days we need our good priests to rise up and declare that enough is enough. The hiring of such a person to run a 'Catholic' education service is not only an insult to the laity but should also be the straw that broke the camel's back.

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Why is abortion, the most extreme form of child abuse, acceptable to the bishops of England and Wales? Has a single one of them even read the 'heartfelt apology' issued in their name the other day?

georgem said...

“Those who teach what the Church teaches are classed as fundamentalist, reactionary, traditionalist, extreme.”
And who are the originators of this canard? Why, our very own hierarchy. We have bishops who believe confession is old hat, who would rather close down a parish than let traditional priests in, who applaud the moral bankruptcy of the CES. I could go on, but I won’t. They have out-reformed the Reformation.
We now have Sunday homilies used for basic catechesis, once the province of schools.
I listen, (on and off), with exasperation to my bishops’ occasional letters to the faithful; letters which consist of a string of platitudes with no coherent whole, pitched at the lower IQ levels and which say more about him than about the people in the pews.
Every time the EWBC issues a statement, my gloom-laden response is that it’s all up with the Catholic Church.
Then I come on to blogs like yours and, reading what you and your contributors say, I know there is hope, that we are not abandoned by Him. Only tested; almost to our limits, mind.
But the Holy Spirit is nothing but timeless and what works He can perform through that very modern communications highway - the internet. A rallying point we could not have conceived of a decade ago, but which He did!

Ernie Skillen said...

You are right about the hypocracy, Father. Either the Church teaches that certain things are mortal sins, perilous to the soul and warns people accordingly or it declares openly that what were formerly sins, no longer are mortal sins, and people are free to do what they wish. The de facto postion is that people think they can believe what they like, or what the Tabletistas tell them is ok. The couple of thousand Traditionalit Catholics in the UK meanwhile have to follow strictly rules that the rest of Catholics seem to be exempt from.

Independent said...

The branch of Life to which I belonged contained not only Catholics but also Anglicans (both High and Low) and also Methodists. Indeed one of the most eloquent sermons preached at a Life service was that of a Methodist Minister. All however seemed to be a minority in their respective churches. Th supreme activist was a Catholic lady who had a truly ecumenical effect - she intimidated clergy of all denominations.

May I congratulate you Fr Blake on an incisive and honest piece of analysis?

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