Father Ed's Blog

A Catholic priest reflects…

The pendulum is swinging…

Here is an interesting fact that should not be dismissed as coincidence. The Dioceses which have most fully embraced the modernist zeitgeist are struggling to inspire vocations. But dioceses which have embraced a return to orthodoxy   experience resurgence in numbers entering seminary. Why is this?

If the lesson needed underlining, the truth applies also within the religious life. The communities which ditched habits and went trendy in the 70’s/80’s are decaying but those orders which retained (or returned to) orthodoxy flourish. And it isn’t a truth only ringing out across the Catholic world; within Protestantism studies show that the more biblically faithful a parish is, the more likely it is to flourish. Consider the Church of England which, despite a very modernist bench of bishops, would collapse without finances provided by thriving evangelicals. Across denominations then we tend to find a liberal leadership/vision out of synch with what is actually working on the ground.

Of course a loss of vocations and followers was never the intention of those whose revolution was to transform Holy Mother Church into something more appealing to a secular age; think of the lukewarm, seventies-esque model of churchmanship so dominant in the latter half of the 20th C. Those who took Vatican II and ran it into a place, neither authorised nor envisaged in the actual documents, imagined they were saving the church by making it more ‘relevant’ They believed (many still do) liberalisation to be a magic bullet for aiding Christ by softening the message of the Gospel and making it more appealing.

But even a cursory look at recent church history shows the vision flawed. A focus driven by the trends of man, not the timeless truths of God, only led to a church which struggles to convince. And so the modernist experiment weakened faith and also desecrated buildings. Looking back it is hard to perceive as wisdom the decision to rip out altar rails, discard sacred images and teach a fuzzy left wing ideology in place of solid doctrine. As novelties like Fair trade Sunday have replaced devotions like regular Benediction so emphasis on the supernatural has given way to something clubby and often naff; a church that celebrates the gathered community because it struggles to look beyond itself to God.

We are left with a painful truth, perhaps too painful for many of the current Episcopacy who were the original holders of this modernist vision. Much of the direction taken by the church in recent years has proved questionable at best. Far from halting decline modernist approaches have accelerated it. And now we reap where that experimentation sowed… hence the widespread closure of parishes, the empty seminaries, emasculated priesthood, poor liturgy and countless young people switching off from faith altogether and pursuing a secular life. And the loss of vocations which chief modernist Cardinal Marx is now lamenting even though his favoured eccliology created the problem! Men will not sacrifice much for a church lacking supernatural emphasis that ever bends the knee to moral relativism..

“Project Modernity” has failed.  Is it not OBVIOUSLY  time then to end it?

Pope Benedict XVI thought so. Hence he encouraged us to revisit the documents of V2 and counter the errors that later took place. He wanted an embrace of the council alongside appreciation for what went before. The creation of a church able to speak to the world of today, but also reconciled to the church of the ages; renewal not rupture. And the Ordinariate was amongst the first fruits of his effort at revival. The reform of the reform, in the few years it was practiced, bore fruit. There was a renewed confidence in the church in the wake of Pope Benedict’s visit to England. Bishops began to think differently. Blogs sprang up, vocations were rising…but then came a moment of shock which threatens to turn back the clock.

I speak of the abdication of Pope Benedict which continues to fuel rumour. Did he jump or was he pushed? Did left wing activist George Soros, as Wikileaks claims, influence the change of direction? Was it linked to the lavender mafia and wolves of whom Benedict spoke in the run up to his abdication? I have no idea and, in the end, it doesn’t matter. The change of direction happened. A radical change of papacy took place which saw a clear resurgence of the 1970’s old-guard, the return of Kasper et al whom Benedict had put out to pasture; the very modernists whose revolution was thwarted. We witness, for now, a laying aside of ‘the reform of the reform’ and a return with gusto to ‘project modernity’.

It is this key change which gifted the world a Pope whose every gesture hints at relaxation not revival of Catholic teaching; dare I suggest he delights those outside the faith but divides the adherents within it? The secular realm and voices on the left cheer loudly, as do protestants and atheists alike..and of course all who sincerely love ‘Project modernity’ ..but scratch the surface and all is not rosy. The Curia is rumoured to be at civil war, Cardinals contradict one another and there is a clear sense of chaos and confusion at play. And many who felt encouraged and emboldened under Benedict now feel dismay.

What to do amidst such political upheavals and confusion? I suggest we who minister at the grassroots, who believe in the proven reform of the reform and not in the failed project modernity, must not be too depressed or cowed. Let us take up the gauntlet laid down by Pope Benedict and pledge our future to building up the faith on that model which works, not on the tired model which doesn’t. Our focus should not be on the harvest being gathered in the present but on the laying down of new vines that can be harvested in the future. Bees may buzz loudly at the end of the summer but they will make way for a new generation.

The pendulum is swinging then and grass roots growth suggest the right course to follow is that of orthodoxy. We have a Gospel to proclaim, parishes to build up and the great news is…..God is blessing abundently those who set about this work boldly and with fidelity to the faith of the Apostles. Let us be amongst them.

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36 Comments

  1. Paul Waddington

    I attend Mass at St Wilfrid’s Church in York, which for the past three and a half years has been run by Oratorians. In that time, they have attracted three young men as novices. The future of that parish is now assured for the next 40 years, something that cannot be said of any other parish in the diocese.

    I think this demonstrates your point admirably, Father.

  2. MV

    And see what’s happening here:

    http://www.newseminaryproject.org

  3. David Knowles

    The return of traditional liturgy, Benediction, Adoration, the wearing of religious habits, the increasing interest in traditional worship, and devotions and also the restoration of sanctuaries is to be welcomed.
    However I don’t think you can necessarily assume that all ‘traditionalists’ in Catholic worship are also rigid in opposing a more merciful interpretation of human sexuality.
    I know some young people who love the old ways of worship but who are still enthusiastic about Pope Francis.

    • Admin

      David I would not want any Christian lacking mercy towards people of same sex attraction. But we do also need to show fidelity to what God has revealed regarding sex and sexuality. The C of E has a large group called “Affirming Catholicism” who set out to be Anglo-Catholic in style and worship but liberal in theology. The experiment did not end well. The ‘catholic’ bit was rarely affirmed and it simply morphed into a pressure group for modernism. Within a few years a study was done and it transpired many members of this group now questioned many tenets of the faith including the Virgin Birth, Resurrection, etc…

      • David Knowles

        Fr.,

        I understand your concerns but I have never met or indeed heard of a Roman Catholic, however liberal who has doubted the Virgin Birth or the Resurection. Catholics in the mould of Pope Francis are traditionally minded as regards the elements of Catholicism surrounding those doctrines. Francis himself has a deep devotion to Our Lady.
        Many ‘intrinsically disordered’ Catholics leave the church, some kill themselves. They are between a rock and a hard place. Very few would have chosen their condition and we have to get away from the hackneyed concept that their sexuality is a choice.
        According to the CCC the only lifestyle open to them is lifelong chastity. Heterosexuals have a choice about whether or not to commit to marriage or remain single. Why would a loving God create someone intrinsically disordered and then expect them to live in enforced chastity. Surely that should be a choice. It is rather like a Catholic being born with one leg shorter than the other and being told never to limp.
        I do admit that it is possible for some heroic individuals in that situation to live in accordance with the teaching of the church but I do not believe that every catholic homosexual should be denied a loving sexual relationship and neither do I think does Jesus or why would God create them in that way?

        • MV

          That is silly, Dave. If you are made to be ‘not the marrying type’ it is because God has other great things for you to do in your life. See our Lord’s own words in Matthew 19.12. Sexual fulfilment is not the only kind of fulfilment in this life.

          • David Knowles

            One should not be required to sublimate one’s God – given sexuality. Fulfillment in other ways should be a choice. We are all potentially the marrying kind. That is why equal marriage has come about so that everyone can marry the person they love.
            In the fullness of time even the Catholic Church will accept this.

          • Admin

            You say sexuality is God given. What do you mean by that? How can you back the claim?

          • Pat

            Current attitudes in some folk seem to me to be the product of media ‘brain-washing’ which has glorified sensual gratification. Some people react in the same way as a smoker (or hereabouts also lycra-louts on pedestrian only walking trails) in denial. The church cannot change the sacramental nature of Marriage. It is between man and woman end of.

  4. Peter

    Remember that after the failure of the first Arakan campaign General Slim set about building the 14th army. In the darkest hour the foundation of victory was laid: Defeat into Victory.

    • MV

      Nope, I don’t remember that at all, Pete.

      • Peter

        In the chapter The Foundations Slim lists the three foundations of morale: Spiritual, Intellectual and Material. These are worth reading. So also is much else about Slim’s leadership. Bishops might do well to read the book.

    • Pat

      Seems to be a modus operandi which has been used by God on occasion. When we consider the Easter Period it shows us that the Ecclesia has already come through the worst that can happen to it – the criminal execution of its founder and the scattering of his followers.

  5. Great article. More evidence: Since the mid 70s the Episcopal Church has lost half its active membership. Meanwhile the Assemblies of God has quintupled in size. Take that to the bank.

  6. MV

    What exactly do you mean when you talk about an ’emasculated clergy’, Ed?

    • Admin

      A loss of masculine traits and leadership within the clergy, the move towards models and notions of priesthood that are rather wet and feminine. Touchy feely carers rather than spiritual giants.

  7. Mary B

    David, I know that this issue of human sexuality is one of your particular areas of concern but, when you say that no-one should be required to sublimate their sexuality because it is God-given, I am starting to lose the thread. I can appreciate and accept that sexuality is God-given but I cannot see where you can draw the inference that, because it is God-given, no one should be required to sublimate it. We have of course had this discussion or something similar to it previously in the context of whether a man married to a severely disabled woman was or was not sinning if he sought sexual relief and able bodied companionship elsewhere. I would suggest that the very words of the marriage vows of “for better for worse…in sickness and in health” anticipate that one partner may have to sublimate his or her sexuality at some point? But when you then say that equal marriage has come about because no one should be required to sublimate their sexuality (which is not logical either ; you don’t need to be married to enjoy your sexuality certainly not nowadays as any fule kno) and when you then yoke that somehow to Catholic or even Christian teaching then I am afraid you’ve lost me completely.

    • David Knowles

      I was responding to MV in the context of his contention that because it is possible to find fulfilment in other ways than sexually then that means that God requires this of gay people. I was merely saying that such sublimation should be a choice. In other words that gay people have a right to express their sexuality on the same terms as straight people.
      Obviously in the situation to which you refer then one or both partners would no doubt quite rightly be willing to sublimate their
      sexuality.
      Perhaps if I tell you that I have a close family member, who after much suffering and conflict because of their sexual orientation has, after many years now finally left the church you may understand why I am so passionate about this subject. The sense of failure, exclusion, guilt, despair and rejection felt by most gay Catholics is unimaginable if you have not been closely involved.
      Of course there are those gay people in the church who come to terms with the expression of their sexuality, as indeed there are those who contravene other teachings,for example the birth control issue, and carry on regardless at peace with their conscience.
      However my relative was not able to do this because it meant living a lie and constantly having to deny who they really are. They just wished to be accepted as who they really are and didn’t wish to live their life in the closet. The fact that my relative felt that the only choice open to them was to leave the church has been a source of deep concern and sadness for me. I might add that this person has now married their same sex partner and has found happiness in another faith.

      • Hi David. Thanks for this honest response and I had rather suspected this might be the case. Obviously I am very sorry for your and your relatives past distress and I am not, despite possible appearances, at all unsympathetic. Like everyone nowadays I have gay friends just as I have divorced and remarried friends and, in many instances, their Christian charity puts us all to shame. My problem is reconciling acceptance of an active sexual life in such circumstances with the traditional teaching of the church grounded in the Gospels . I can’t see how you can so I have to accept the teaching of the church and that it/ God knows something I don’t or make it up myself. And making it up myself is profoundly dangerous and unCatholic or so it seems to me. I would hazard a guess that many priests if not all who have any pastoral experience feel the same way. Fr. Ed of course has seen in the C of E the end product of making it up yourself .

        • David Knowles

          Mary

          I can’t remember anywhere in the Gospels where Jesus makes any reference to homosexuality. Condemnations in the OT are on a par with food hygiene regulations and other restrictions which are obsolete and the condemnation by St. Paul relates to homosexual acts between heterosexual men in relation to pagan religious perversions.
          It is very easy for those who are married and have been with the person we love with the blessing of the church to view homosexuality as a disorder. It is my belief that the traditional teaching of the church regarding same sex relationships is outdated and based on obsolete understanding of sexuality.
          There is nothing in the church that I want to see changed except those things that cause immense suffering to individuals.
          I have no problem with this view and (although I suspect that there are those who would dispute this) I still regard myself as a faithful son of the church.

          • Mary B

            I do understand this David and what you advance has a lot of humanity attached to it. My difficulty is as I said it was but perhaps I should have made it clear that I was referring to the Church’s teaching as of their very nature being Gospel based rather than specific verses and condemnations. I don’t see how homosexual activity can be reconciled with the traditional teaching about and the theology of marriage; that said I can think of a lot worse things than a faithful same sex relationship. By a long chalk.

          • MV

            I don’t know where you get that idea about St Paul from, Dave. It is not in any of the commentaries on Romans on my shelf. Perhaps its from a more up to date one by the Dean of St Albans or someone?

  8. David Knowles

    Sexual orientation is the result of nature and nurture according to the ‘experts’. The argument seems to be swinging towards nature.
    However the resultant sexuality of an individual is far more likely to be heterosexual as a result of one or both of these factors on individuals. What is clear, because the evidence from research supports this, is that it is definitely not a choice.
    Insofar as a person ends up either straight or gay due to factors over which they have no control and because their sexuality is normal for them, then the expression of it should be governed by the same ethics.
    In such a context the sexuality of everyone, being governed by the same influences is therefore God-given. If the sexuality of gay people is not God-given then neither is that of straight people.
    As regards the procreation of children, if this is an essential part of marriage why does the church permit the marriage of those beyond childbearing age or those who are known to be unable to have children of their own?

  9. Matthew the Wayfarer

    I would like to believe that but unfortunately their is a Bishop of Rome who seems more often confused than anyone should be about what the church is, was or should be. Plus the other problem is that there are still too many leftist liberal bishops in the church which try to strangle parish attempts to put the parish back on the right path. They must be dealt with first.

  10. David Knowles

    Pat,

    The sacramental nature of marriage between a man and a woman does not need to change. All that needs to happen is that a lifelong monogamous commitment between two people of the same sex who love each other can be celebrated.

    • Pat

      I think not so. The term ‘marriage’ has a been established over thousands of years, in many cultures and religions to have one highly respected meaning – the union of a man and a woman (often for the procreation of children). Taking the term and applying it to and in another area so as to give an impression that the root meaning has also transferred is misleading, wrong and lessens the original meaning. Not even the Classical Greeks, where homosexual relations were common, tried to do that. I’m sure another term could have been found or coined for the homosexual unions. Whether or not such unions can be celebrated in a Christian church context is another matter altogether.
      A more mundane example of misapplication of terminology is the food industry’s ‘vegetarian chile con carne’. That’s a total contradiction in terms.

      • Admin

        To claim marriage is a secondary issue is to dismiss the entire narrative of the bible. It begins with man and woman created for one another as a unity in distinction, marriage then runs like a river through scripture- the symbolism of God and his detached people being of the unfaithful wife and the caring husband, in the Old Testament we have fallen examples of marriage in polygamy etc but it is redeemed, with man, in the New Testament where we are taught that sex belongs in marriage between man and wife in life long and monogamous marriage. And, of course, scripture ends with a marriage of Christ to his bride the church. And this is aside from the natural law which speaks loudly of God’s plan in creation. Like Mary I have huge sympathy with same sex attracted people, the confessional is a place of healing, but we cannot pretend the Judeo-Christian narrative says little about this. It says much and is both consistent and clear. Sex is for marriage. And marriage is for one man and one woman. It isnt for everyone and both those who are married, and those who are not, are not free as Christians to be sexually active outside of marriage. Both the celibate and married must excercise self control and seek purity and chastity. That there is a crisis in the family at present means many dont see it this way and imagine being married is “getting it” and thus not being married is “missing out”. Christianity thinks differently to the sexual revolution.

        • David Knowles

          Whether it’s Judeo-Christian tradition or other traditions they were formulated mainly to ensure among other practical issues the inheritance of property and the coherence of the tribe.
          What no-one seems to care about is the inequality in in expectations of fulfillment between gay and straight people. How can it be right to deny gay people the same rights as heterosexuals and how can the lifelong feelings of guilt, exclusion and having to resort to the confessional to ‘confess’ the expression of their sexuality be seen as just?
          Perhaps I should call it a day with regards to this issue because we just seem to go round in circles. People say they have compassion, understand etc. But at the end of the day nothing but a lifetime of guilt can be offered to the gay catholic.

      • MV

        On school dinner menus it is often styled ‘veggie con carne’!
        We all know that veggie burgers were first constructed in the small Silesian hamlet of Veggiburg.

  11. MV. Can you please stop deliberately belittling commentators by using, unbidden, diminutives of their Christian names? It’s neither helpful nor edifying.

    • Admin

      Agreed. It comes across as rude and infantile.

      • Fr Barry Tomlinson

        Yes, Edward Tomlinson (as per Baptism)

        • Fr. Barry. but Fr. Ed of course invites people,to call him by his diminutive…and if course I was told once that if parents don’t want their kids to shorten their names they shouldn’t give them names that can be shortened..

          • Dave K

            Mary,
            I’ve always been a David. Growing up all my family and childhood friends called me David.
            Whenever anyone called me Dave I always looked round expecting to see some flashy, good looking sporty type.
            Not me at all!

          • MV

            What gives you the certain conviction that Dave doesn’t invite his friends and acquaintances to call him Dave, or that I am not an offline friend, acquaintance, colleague or even relative of Dave? In any case, would Dave not tell me himself that he doesn’t like to be called Dave if he felt belittled or affronted by me addressing him as Dave? Or are you Dave’s mum in real life?

            What’s Barry short for?

  12. MV, David himself has answered as to what he wants to be called and made it clear that you are not an intimate and he hasn’t invited you to call him Dave anymore than Peter had invited you to call him Pete and therefore you are outed as being cheeky and juvenile. To say the least. In addition, no, I am not his mum. I suspect he may actually be of a slightly longer vintage than I am. Finally if you don’t know that Barry is short for Barry then you need to read up a bit and get out a bit more.
    Stop pratting about and being a k%#*; it devalues sensible debate.

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