17Jun

The truth can be demanding

Another great nugget from Fr. Benedict Kiely.

Our Church has reopened for private devotion. Each day from 10am-12pm people can come and pray before the sacrament thanks to the generosity and help of our volunteer team. So far we have seen a slow but steady trickle of visitors, which is exactly what we want. It enables us to remain well within the protocols set by the diocese to minimise risk of infection.

2020 has been a dark and challenging time for our nation. Many people remain frightened and pessimistic as we face the dual threats of pandemic and economic collapse. Part of this fear is due to an unbalanced media. My pastoral advice then is to turn off the TV and stop reading gloomy articles ad nauseam. Instead try to look for positives without denying the challenge. Here then are five earthly reasons, and five spiritual reasons, to give thanks to God this day.

5 Earthly reasons for good cheer:

  • The virus is on the wane throughout the UK. It may resurface, there may be future waves, nevertheless it is GOOD NEWS that both infection rates and deaths are falling on a daily basis.
  • London recorded below average deaths for June. This confirms the fact that many of those who have died of Covid were going to die this year anyway. Which means the risk to healthy people is much lower than it might appear on paper. Death in old age is perfectly normal and not to be feared and we must hold this fact before us.
  • Medical knowledge is improving. You will have read about a new drug that cuts deaths of the gravely sick by a third. This is excellent news and shows our ability to tackle Covid 19 only improves as time goes on. So does the chance of finding an effective vaccine.
  • The virus is safer than first feared. When the nation went into lockdown forecasts from Imperial college suggested a worst case scenario of 500,000 deaths. In reality the situation globally has been better. This virus is nasty, especially for those with compromised immunity, but we are not yet facing a situation as bleak as the bubonic plague.
  • We will get over this. History shows that pandemics come and go. And a virus tends to decrease in potency over time so as not to kill off its host just as the hosts gain strength as herd immunity is reached. There will be an end to this disaster.

5 spiritual reasons for good cheer

  • Death is not the end The central message of Christian faith is that we need not fear death, indeed worst thing that can happen to us like loss of supernatural faith! We believe in eternal life with God. So even if we should die of Covid, or be buried under the patio by a lunatic- we need not despair. Christ awaits his fold with a heart of love.
  • Churches are open for prayer Whilst we all want to see Mass resume and the life of the church open up again church doors have now opened. Time before the sacrament in prayer is good for the soul.
  • Daily mass has continued. Every single day of this pandemic the altars in our little church were active. You may not have been able to attend but priests, across the world, offered Mass on your behalf.
  • Hedonism challenged Throughout scripture man tends to lose God when life is comfortable and rediscovers him in times of challenge. Man lost faith in Eden but found him again in the wilderness. Many people are now questioning life in a serious way. I believe this could lead many to find Christ if we evangelise effectively.
  • God is good Whenever economic collapse and pandemic face us we can fear for the future. It is easy to grow gloomy and focus only on what has been taken instead of looking to the future with hope. But reflect a moment and there are plenty of reasons for cheer even in the midst of crisis; families have had time together, nature is flourishing, people are challenging injustices like racism. Good will come from this period of history as well as bad. Seek it in prayer.
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5 thoughts on “The truth can be demanding

  1. I am pleased, Father Ed, that you have now been able to re-open your church, albeit only on a partial basis. This must be a relief (if relief is the right word) for you and your parishioners.

    I have been reflecting on one aspect of your post. You suggest, quite rightly I think, that “many people are now questioning life in a serious way”. And this questioning certainly involves, at least for some of us, challenging our hedonistic assumptions about what constitutes a good life. You described such assumptions rather neatly, I thought, in your 26 May post as a preference for “mammon and Magnums” – although for those who benefit most from our current economic system, “magnums” would surely refer to champagne rather than to ice cream!

    And on the subject of our present economic system and our understandable worries, as you say, about economic collapse, how can we reconcile our wish for economic continuity/recovery with our knowledge that our economy depends to an enormous extent on our consumerist addiction to hedonism/mammon/magnums? We know that two of the sectors of the economy most affected by the pandemic are hospitality and travel. Yet both these sectors depend to a large extent for their profitability on many of us eating and drinking more than is healthy for us and travelling more than is healthy for the planet. Why do we in the 21st century first world feel entitled to eat, drink, travel and buy far more than any previous generation, or than people in any other part of the world?

    So I asked myself what, if anything, Catholic Social Teaching has to say about the fact that our economy depends upon consumerist entitlement/addiction. I am no expert, but I have found nothing in (albeit second-hand accounts of) ‘Rerum Novarum’ and ‘Quadragesimo Anno’ about what should actually constitute appropriate economic activity that is compatible with Christianity. (There is, though, plenty about the duties of employers and employee within the existing system.) Of course both these foundational texts of Catholic Social Teaching were written well before contemporary hyper-consumerist capitalism came along.

    So my question is this: What does Catholic Social Teaching have to tell us about what sorts of activities/products/services we should find in a ‘good’’economic system?

    Terry Loane

    1. My short answer would be level playing fields, free markets, care for the lowly and fairness and power at grass roots as much as possible. Which is to promote the Catholic notion of subsidiarity.

  2. Thank you, Father Ed, for your reply, which I appreciate.

    I was already aware of the advocacy of subsidiarity in Quadragesimo Anno and of distributism in both Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno, and indeed I am a keen supporter of both principles, (particularly Universal Basic Income – a contemporary expression of distributism). Your reply relates to both subsidiarity and distributism, but you have not answered the very specific question I posed in the final sentence of my earlier comment. Perhaps I was not clear enough. I was not asking about the distribution of money and power within an economic/business system; I was asking about the morality of what people and organisations actually DO to make a living. To give an obvious example, Catholic Social Teaching would not approve of a brothel, no matter how evenly the proceeds were divided and no matter how well decisions were delegated to the lowest appropriate level! They would disapprove of the activity regardless of how it was organised.

    So the question is this. Does Catholic Social Teaching have anything to say about other work activities whose profitability is partly or largely dependent on hedonism/mammon? The airline industry would be a good example. Living in West London quite near Heathrow, I am all too aware of how the economic wellbeing of many of my immediate neighbours is dependant on the level of activity at Heathrow Airport. But I am also aware of the damage that flying does to our fragile natural world. And we know that the profitability of the aviation industry depends on promoting the idea that people in (so-called) affluent countries should feel an entitlement to fly huge distances several times a year to holiday in a manner that would have seemed excessive only a few decades ago. Other examples of similar moral issues in particular business areas are the fact that betting shops and pubs would almost certainly not be profitable were it not for the addiction of a number of their better customers to drinking, eating and gambling.

    Is it better to be unemployed or to work in an industry that damages both its customers and the natural environment?

    Your response, as well as my own research, reinforces my suspicion that Catholic Social Teaching has not addressed this important moral issues in the contemporary world – which is a great disappointment.

    Terry Loane

    1. I think there is much here that we would agree on. Certainly the morality of business is something much in the media, in terms of woke agenda, but entirely missing in terms of firm philosophical foundation. Indeed one might argue BLM and the like arise precisely because the ball was dropped…though in truth I think it has more to do with lack of hope amongst many people to pay for education and housing and provide for the family.

      1. Thank you, Father Ed, for taking the trouble to reply to my second message in this thread. It is good that you and I seem to be generally in agreement, although I am puzzled by your reference to “woke agenda”. Would you be able to explain precisely what you mean by this term? I ask because it is a label that seems to be generally used with more prejudice than precision:-)

        I believe you are quite right to imply that there is a lack of a philosophical foundation for business morality. I guess that I was hoping that Catholic Social Teaching might be able to help fill this particular vacuum, but my own research, and your contribution to this thread, suggest that I might be looking in vain, certainly in relation to the question of what businesses actually do, the products or services they actually sell.

        I was interested to discover that Charles Eisenstein asks, in his recent essay “The Coronation”, similar key questions to those I have asked in this thread:

        “We might ask, after so many have lost their jobs, whether all of them are the jobs the world most needs, and whether our labor and creativity would be better applied elsewhere. We might ask, having done without it for a while, whether we really need so much air travel, Disneyworld vacations, or trade shows.”

        Finally, (and changing the subject), may I wish you and your parishioners well for the return of public Masses in your church. I understand how delighted you will be that this is now permitted (at least until/unless the infection rate increases again), but I guess it might nevertheless be a challenging time for you.

        Terry Loane

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