13Jun

We need better laity

Having reflected on the need for better bishops and priests, men of God who exude confident leadership, loving zeal and authentic holiness, attention must turn to the laity. For the pews are the pool from which clerics are drawn, meaning that when the laity are not living the faith in the home the sanctity of the entire church comes under threat.

If parents are not raising virtuous holy children, through family devotions and teaching faith and morals, the quality of priest will suffer. We might ponder that seminaries today teach a basic level of theology on entry that would have insulted previous generations raised in homes where faith was taken seriously. They arrived in the adult world formed in faith with spiritual maturity. This generation is barely literate in terms of Christian faith. Now factor in how secular universities and modern school curriculums have failed people of faith as the culture all but abandoned virtues, like chastity, purity, self control and mortification, and a perfect storm emerges as regards the early formation of candidates for the priesthood.

So the collapse of the domestic church is the heart of the crisis. Few parents stand by traditional belief and transmit it to their offspring. The more usual pattern is lax church attending grandparents whose children barely practice and certainly don’t believe and whose grandchildren don’t bother with faith at all. That is the situation from which we must turn things round. It is a colossal challenge and quick fix solutions don’t exist. This needs surgery not sticking plasters. So let us identify where things went wrong in the hope of then putting them right. Three things stand out.

First the rise of a powerful modern media which the church failed to grasp or be part of. Television and radio came under control of those in thrall to the sexual revolution whose liberal ideology now dominates air waves as a direct confrontation to historic Christian belief. To understand how devastating this was read ‘the death of Christian Britain’ by Callum Brown.

Once magazines of the 1950’s stopped celebrating family life and turned to rampant individualism, sexual permissiveness and libertarianism, via magazines like Jackie and Cosmopolitan, the cultural revolution of the 1960’s began. And because the modern media streamed into homes 24/7 the competition was unfair. How could a ten minute Sunday sermon compete? Portrayals of cruel, dour, stuffy Christians set against an enlightened, kind, liberalised people became the norm. Christianity fell from fashion and even those remaining in church got into the habit of watching the television with children as family prayer time and faith instruction fell by the wayside. Soon the cultural changes led to breakdown of the family. A huge blow to faith.

The second factor was that radicalised ideologues did not stop at control of the media. Soon the education system fell under their power. Robust theology fell out of fashion in universities; a programme of doubt and confusion took its place. Campus life revolved around hedonism. I went to college in the 1990’s and the first thing I was handed was a welcome pack containing free condoms and a pamphlet instructing me to have fun but be safe! As the culture abandoned faith so our Catholic schools were hollowed out. Fifty years ago most every Catholic teacher was practising. Today our local “Catholic” Secondary has only a handful who attend Mass rarely. The number of practising Catholic pupils is no better. So even our faith schools, within the present education system, are hardly on the side of Christian praxis and belief.

And finally we have Vatican II which, however necessary, arrived at the worst possible moment because the working out of that seismic council became ensnared within the sixties revolution. Thus instead of a faithful working out of the council’s vision, to ensure historic Christianity was equipped to transform secular culture (the documents of Vatican II anticipate ad orientem worship, kneeling for communion on the tongue, use of plainsong and Latin, etc) the enterprise was hijacked by those who felt the emerging secular culture should transform the church. A generation more passionate about the various ‘isms’ than Christian doctrine was born. Soon they were ripping out altar rails, installing guitar stands, throwing out statues and raising rainbow flags in their place. Naturally it led to an historic decline in vocations, youth and piety. Yet the ageing revolutionaries cannot bear to admit defeat and, being in the positions of power due to age, continue to push hard for revolution. Ever undermining authentic Catholic faith to endorse subjectivity, virtue signalling and sentimentality. Their attempts to water down faith to appease the world is obvious suicide, all the data backs this, yet they continue to push for reconciliation of the impossible; the church and the world that at baptism we promise to resist.

How then to counter the three things which led to rampant decline in the pews? The answer is obvious. First we must work really hard to grow afresh the domestic church. Supporting the family, upholding marriage and encouraging mothers and fathers to pray in the home, teach their young and resist the cultural cues. Next we must relinquish or reform those schools and colleges that are Catholic in history and name only. An easy going cultural Catholicism is not going to evangelise the world. So we need radical authentic Catholic schools and universities where faith is taught and practiced with confidence. And finally we must look again at Vatican II and especially at the numerous errors that arose in its wake. It is surely time for a reform of the reform or  a third council. One that ensures liturgy is performed to good standard and focused on God not man. Without these things hope of change is futile. It begins with babes in arms then – we must grow the solution organically. This is the work for radical committed Catholics only. Application forms will be found in the parishes still taking faith seriously.

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32 thoughts on “We need better laity

  1. Please be the next Pope, we need a Catholic one next not another socialist politician. The only thing in addition to this is a return to proper Catholic liturgy not the watered down protestant version we have been forced to submit to by the ideologues in the hierarchy.
    God bless,

    Patrick.

  2. Sexual permissiveness? Jackie magazine? Did you ever read Jackie Father? I did ( and I think you are too young to have read it anyway) but it was if anything a bit buttoned up.
    The rest of this posting frankly reads like a rant. And are you going to be evenhanded and have a go at Deacons as well?

      1. I am all for deacons. They proclaim the Gospel and are jolly helpful. At least in our parish. solemn mass is much better with them – they have plenty to do!

    1. In reverse order:
      1. I needed a picture of laity- I believe the majority of those pictured count.
      2. I know several priests who lecture in seminary – and many who teach in universities. It is fairly well known that most universities now teach in first year what was once covered at school. I dont think many need much convincing about the dumbing down of the modern world and education system.
      3. Jackie was of course tame by todays standard. But in his book Brown identifies how it was instrumental in paving the way for a magazine culture given over to self and hedonism. It began the trend that continued into so much of the purile entertainment that is now common.

      I am not simply having a go but trying to look seriously at what has caused a catastrophic decline. you seem in denial of this or at least unfazed. Have you seen the statistics for the Catholic church in this land if you take immigration out of the picture? It is beyond appalling. Either we face up to the crisis or go down without a fight.

      1. 1. If you wanted a picture of laity to illustrate a post about how useless most of them are then you could have done better I respectfully suggest than use a picture of Lourdes where the very best of the Catholic laity is on display 24/7.
        2. To say you know priests who teach in seminary then to say universities teach what was taught in school ( incidentally I don’t necessarily disagree with this) and therefore seminaries teach a dumbed down syllabus is a staggering leap of (il)logic.
        3. With respect to the man who wrote the book I don’t think he can have read Jackie either. It was a magazine for teenage girls not sex crazed adults.

        And finally.. I am not unfazed as you put it by things. I merely have, dare I say it, a more Catholic attitude than you. That is to say that whatever ails the Church she will always survive and bounce back. There are plenty of things to be optimistic about not just beyond these shores but for eg the Dominicans who have undergone a vocations boom. You really need to try and shake off your Anglican habit of seeing fractured chaos round every corner. And if you haven’t been to Lourdes you should go. A priest friend of ours says it is always uplifting and restoring for a priest and it sounds like that is what you need.

        1. Being concerned for the church in crisis is hardly a Protestant trait. Didn’t put lord tell us we are sent out as lambs among wolves and to watch out for false prophets. Was he seeing fractured chaos around every corner? Or what of Peter Damian who criticised clerics of his own day. Was he being Protestant?
          And should one adopt your stance that we can all sit back and smile because all will be well- does that mean we need not show any concern for the myriad souls lost as numbers decline and the faith is dropped?

          1. I meant as I think you will probably accept if you read carefully what I have written that you should have confidence that the gates of Hell will not prevail. And yes of course we should do our best to tackle problems but the kind of monomaniac obsessive returning again and again to the same topic which you have exhibited of late is starting to spoil what has hitherto been an interesting and thought provoking blog. As I have said I can understand it given your Anglican experiences but, to quote a Catholics with Attitude T shirt “Keep calm and go to Lourdes”!

        2. I agree with Fr Ed – we do need laity that is better educated in Catholic faith and that takes it seriously. That was his main point. Also, I believe that the quality of liturgy is essential – this doesn’t imply coming back this the romantic better past, but to stick to what the VCII actually stated (as Fr Ed nicely points out).
          This is exactly what drives Dominican vocations you mentioned – deeping the faith with study, prayer and contemplation, and solemn liturgy oriented towards God. Last but not least, we need unity within the church, mutual respect and nurturing the beautiful diversity it offers, rather than having a go on each other and pushing our likeings.

  3. Dear Fr
    What an excellent trilogy. However you appear to have omitted what really should have come first – the need for a holy pastor to lead Christ’s flock into the repentance and renewal and restoration of his holy church
    Martin. MPB Southwark

  4. Father,
    I have to say I agree with Mary B. You have always maintained a very pessimistic view of the church and I think I have said in the past more or less what Mary has said about the Catholic Church having both a mandate and a cast iron guarantee of ultimately prevailing. Your attitude to the problems facing the church is still predominately Anglican.
    We have to deal with the bishop’s, priests and laity that we have. There doesn’t appear to be any part of the church that you have not denigrated except the elephant in the room(the pope). Granted there is much in what you say but you do not appear to have faith in the promise made by Our Lord that the gates of gel will not prevail. I’m sure that Mary would agree with me that we have to believe in the end that ‘all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well’.
    The only thing we can all do is our best and, like Julian of Norwich have optimistic faith.

  5. Once again it is the Laity to blame; never the clergy or the hierarchy. I have written to clergymen and bishops, on numerous occasions, about the state of Catholic schools, over the last fifty years. No-one was interested. One bishop, who had the decency to reply, put me in my place. He asked me “Are you trying to tell me my job?” I am not the only one who has tried to get through to the hierarchy. The Catholic papers have had many articles and letters pointing out the failings of Catholic schools.
    Then we have the comment that Catholic parents, once upon a time, educated their children in Catholic doctrine. They didn’t. They relied on Catholic schools. My parents taught me Catholic devotions and Catholic practice. They also answered questions about our Faith but the main Faith teaching came at school. My parents were well educated and devout Catholics; but there must have been many decent Catholics who couldn’t teach their children because they didn’t have the formal knowledge. This is call passing the buck.
    It is the responsibility of bishops to pass on the Faith and they have failed miserably. They allowed the destruction of churches, the banal liturgy and the watering down of Catholic beliefs. Many priests were left bewildered by the lack of leadership. I could go on but enough’s enough.

    1. Umm did you read the two previous posts? In which I call for better bishops and better priests? How can you then say it’s only the laity I criticise?

  6. @ David and Mary:

    The Church as a whole will, of course, always be with us. However, that doesn’t mean that the Church in this country is going to survive. There are large parts of the world, chiefly in North Africa and the Middle East, which were once solidly Christian but now have few to no believers left. It’s quite possible that the British Isles will end up joining them, especially if we all just sit back and assume that God will bail us out so we don’t need to do anything ourselves.

    1. Mary, I am unsure why you are so critical of Fr Tomlinson, who makes some very sound points, and is backed up by every piece of data about Church attendance I have seen. You seem to think that Fr is a great bore and hard-hearted, close-minded, rigid Catholic but I would not dare to denigrate him for having been an Anglican if I myself were born Catholic and at any rate he must love the Church dearly to have left his Anglican community. Of course God is in control but, as mentioned in the comments, this does not mean that the Church will not almost dissapear in the UK, especially as this young generation, very few of whom are religious, comes of age. I don’t think that Faith in God and concern about the state of the Church are at all incompatible: we should be concerned at our failings, and, as I expect we all agree, do our very best to give the world authentic Catholic Faith.

      Ian, I share anxiety about our bishops but I know we have some very good ones, and I wouldn’t say they show the opposite of what Fr Tomlinson is speaking about: rather that they have perhaps not enough of a militant attitude to the decline (in the sense of the Church Militant). This is not to say that I don’t completely agree that, as you and Fr Tomlinson say, Catholic schools seem to be extremely poor at teaching and convincing young people of the Faith. I expect this is, as Fr says, because the teachers do not believe the Faith, and I can’t think that the lack of apologetics (as I understand this is not taught in Catholic schools) helps at all in a skeptical society.

      1. What am I doing? I sacrificed pension, preferment, a large comfortable rectory and security to join the Catholic church and witness to unity. There I have attempted to beautify a functional chapel and hall into a church fit for worship, push forth the reform of the reform, I preach my heart out for the faith as comes to us from the Apostles, try (but often fail) to live a life worthy of my calling. I do my best to raise my children in the faith.

  7. A lot of resistance to a priest making the case that a Catholic ought to be Catholic, rather than part-time, lukewarm or indifferent. It’s strange that – how Catholics who insist that we try and do the things we are required to do as Catholics are increasingly dismissed a being pessimistic or awkward.

    Yes, the gates of Hell will not prevail, but that’s hardly an excuse for a collective shrug of the shoulders and a request to ‘calm down’. Good thing the apostles weren’t so easily satisfied with themselves. Didn’t Christ also say, ‘When the Son of Man comes again will he find faith?’ And as for the ‘reasonable belief that all will be saved’ – really…

    The Muslims have a useful proverb – ‘Trust in God, but tie up your own camel’ – in other words, don’t assume that God will do those things that you are tasked with doing (like living and spreading the faith).

    And why is concern for the faith dismissed as ‘Anglican-thinking’ – sounds more a personal dig at Fr Ed than anything else. Very Christian. Can’t wait for someone here to accuse me of ‘Muslim thinking’.

    I wonder how much Catholics will put up with – the loss of Ireland to abortion, the Sacrament of confession overridden in Australia, the removal of faith from the public sphere, and so on. It won’t stop you know – no matter how much ground you give, how many concessions you make, or request that your own clergy pipe down and stop being so awkwardly Catholic – the secular-idealists will not stop until the Catholic faith is unrecognisable except as a reflection of themselves.

    1. Firstly I do not think that “Fr is a great bore and hard-hearted, close-minded, rigid Catholic” If I did I wouldn’t follow his blog . I do think however that he has a tendency to “go off on one” sometimes without checking his facts. He is also more than a little coy sometimes when a direct question is put to him.

      Secondly I see and hear what he says he is doing about the crisis ( which I do not doubt exists in one form or another across the Western Church); what he actually says he is doing/has done though has a lot to do with entering the Ordinariate than battling the crisis though the latter part of his posting isn’t to do with the Ordinariate and all credit to him.

      My point however is that there is a lot of dubious logic in his original posting (one of which I have pointed out) and as so often when he gets the bit between his teeth he runs away with himself.

      I was quite serious when I asked if he was going to do a posting about Deacons because, unless he regards them as having no input at all, it seems fair that he examines them as well.

      I stand with David however when we both say there is cause for concern yes but not cause for despair. Fr. Ed would do well to remember that and to make sure his blog doesn’t turn into a one trick pony in that it is forever banging on about the evils of Modernism

  8. A man takes his family to a restaurant, part of a once highly rated chain. At the conclusion of the meal he summons the manager and tells him that he and his family will not be dining there again.
    The manager – who quit his previous job as a sous chef at the Manoir de Quatre Saisons citing “culinary differences” and a strong sense of being undervalued – asks why.
    The menu, the man explains, had been long, scarcely comprehensible (being largely in Latin) and promised more than it delivered. He strongly suspected that the pleasing decor of the dining area was not matched by the hygiene standards of the kitchen. The service in particular fell well below standard.
    On this last point he elaborates. The head waiter was arrogant and patronising. Although his wife had chosen the wine, the sommelier had offered it to him to taste. When his daughter had fumbled grace, a waitress had boxed her ears. The incident of inappropriate touching in the rest room was best glossed over.
    The manager – not a bad man, though a trifle obsessive – does his best to defend the indefensible. He blames head office. He decries the poor standard of training provided by catering colleges. He also points out the high proportion of homosexuals in the restaurant trade. The man thinks he smells a red herring – but it could be the overflowing waste bins in the kitchen.
    The man and his family leave the restaurant. Within a fortnight they are more or less over their bouts of food poisoning and the kids are both receiving trauma counselling.
    The manager, meanwhile, surveys his half-empty dining room and exclaims “What this place needs is a better class of customer!”

  9. A man takes his family to a restaurant, part of a once highly rated chain. At the conclusion of the meal he summons the manager and tells him that he and his family will not be dining there again.
    The manager – who quit his previous job as a sous chef at the Manoir de Quatre Saisons citing “culinary differences” and a strong sense of being undervalued – asks why.
    The menu, the man explains, had been long, scarcely comprehensible (being largely in Latin) and promised more than it delivered. He strongly suspected that the pleasing decor of the dining area was not matched by the hygiene standards of the kitchen. The service in particular fell well below standard.
    On this last point he elaborates. The head waiter was arrogant and patronising. Although his wife had chosen the wine, the sommelier had offered it to him to taste. When his daughter had fumbled grace, a waitress had boxed her ears. The incident of inappropriate touching in the rest room was best glossed over.
    The manager – not a bad man, though a trifle obsessive – does his best to defend the indefensible. He blames head office. He decries the poor standard of training provided by catering colleges. He also points out the high proportion of homosexuals in the restaurant trade. The man thinks he smells a red herring – but it could be the overflowing waste bins in the kitchen.
    The man and his family leave the restaurant. Within a fortnight they are more or less over their bouts of food poisoning and the kids are both receiving trauma counselling.
    The manager, meanwhile, surveys his half-empty dining room – from which food crcritic shave now been banned? – and exclaims “What this place needs is a better class of customer!”

    1. Its not a restaurant but a hospital that sells a medicine without which death is certain. And yes the manager is vexed and struggling because many of the doctors and nurses abused patients or else forced medicine down people’s throats with little care for their actual wellbeing. Others didn’t bother explaining the need for the medicine and certainly refused to take it themselves. And yes many of them were arrogant and patronising. The manager is not about the business of defending the indefensible because the hospital however let down by shoddy medics belongs to the maker of the medicine who really is good and loving and really does promise life in fullness to all who come to him. But without better medics, patients and porters that wont happen- hence his rallying cries.

      1. Thank you for a fair and measured rebuttal. Ironic then, that whilst pondering my response over a cup of coffee I realised that I was sitting only feet away from a branch of Ed’s Diner – this in a city with several branches of Karachi Fried Chicken (no, seriously).
        I like your idea of a cure for death and should have made mention of my restaurant’s signature dish, “Pan Paradis” (Bread of Heaven). I wuld suggest however that whilst we will all at some time be forced to visit a hospital (NHS unless we are very wealthy) bo one is forced to seek spiritual sustenance. For those who wisely do seek it, there is no requirement to patronise a monopoly provider.
        Let me run with your ball.
        I am currently attending my local NHS eye hospital where I receive monthly injections in both eyes. Whilst essential, I found the prospect of this treatment as edifying as you would imagine.
        The experience has been wholly positive. Contrary to popular tittle-tattle my appointments are on time, there is little form filling, the staff at all levels, are courteous, professional, calm, good-humoured and reassuring – particularly the ones charged with sticking the actual needles in my eyes. It is only fair to point out that a number of these people wear hijabs.
        Were I to have been greeted with a lengthy questionnaire asking me to reveal my sexuality, newspaper reading habits, broadcasting preferences, musical tastes and whether or not I had ever been divorced or had read Jackie I might never have made it to the treatment foom.
        Had I reached the treatment room and found the man with the syringe seemingly in a state of permanent rage, sounding off about his colleagues’ inadequacies I would have run screaming for the door.
        “well, Mr. Lazarus, I’d like to help you but you’re just too sick”?

        1. I think it is more a case of a vexed doctor explaining to the one who refuses to take medicine that they are in fact in need of it….

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