It is the startling descent into misanthropy and insult which hurts most. That moment when Gordon Brown called Gillian Duffy a “bigot” was but a scratching of the surface. The demographic most enthusiastic about voting Leave have been dismissed as racist or xenophobic for years, but it is only in the last few days, following the referendum, that I have seen the very legitimacy of their suffrage questioned – the prosperous, well-educated liberal left, summoning Victorian-era paternalism to question the wisdom of giving votes to the ill-educated.
Of course, this chasm between party and people is of surprise only to those cloistered away amongst the like-minded. Much has been made of the demographic divide between the two competing mindsets prior to the referendum. But turning this into one-dimensional face-off between the haves and the have-nots presumes an irresolvable conflict. That’s too pessimistic: there is a way out of our current malaise.
But we first need to understand what has gone wrong. It can be summed up in a word liberalism.This from a Catholic Herald article by Michael Merrick.
In the Church we have struggled with 'liberalism' for the past couple of hundred years, or more. In the last 50 years it has become the dominant Church culture, and it has been destructive. Merrick argues that the Labour Party's embracing of it has alienated it from its core support, the working class, the same could be said of the Church.
A culture that embraces liberalism, tends to loose clarity, it becomes a culture of semantics, cut of from real life, it is always soft and eventually runs out of momentum, and leads people into a mindless reliance on 'values', 'ethos' and a host meaningless terms. Ultimately it is about babel of meaningless terms where a lack of clarity and confusion are considered the ultimate virtue. This seems to be what is coming from the mouth of the Pope and Rome at the moment, it is becoming pretty obvious it is not just intellectual disability but policy.
Liberalism offers pleasing platitudes to the masses but beyond that it convinces no one. In contemporary politics liberalism leaves us with one great theory: Equality, but when one scratches the surface this is entirely meaningless, it is a word and nothing more, it does nothing to combat poverty, social inertia, the disparity between rich and poor, the hopelessness of many in our society, it certainly doesn't address the simmering resentments, the dis-ease with cultural 'integration'. The accusation against Jeremy Corbyn, that he failed to deliver his party's core constituency members into the 'Remain' camp, seems to be exemplify all that is wrong with contemporary politics: rather than being representational it is ultimately about control. The Labour Party seems incapable of realising that it is out of touch with those who once supported it.
Within the Church we have perhaps lost sight of the fact Catholicism is a 'grassroots' movement, Catholicism is that which is believed always, everywhere and by all, it is not something imposed by a central authority but rather infused by the Holy Spirit. During the Henrician schism it seemed the people held fast to the ancient faith, the Bishops -except for Fisher- abandoned the faith and embraced the pro-divorce, pro-king liberalism of the court, it mirrored much of what had happened during the Arian crisis, it was the Church's leadership, the elite, which embraced the heresy whilst the masses held on to orthodoxy - even if it was with a degree of uncertainty.
The referrendum has revealed a gulf between between the liberal elite and the masses, has not the same thing happened (and is happening) in the Church?