If You Want us to Fight, Give us the Weapons!

Lent is always a time of attack for us Catholics, the spiritual reality of our sojourn with Christ in the desert bleeds through into the physical world. This Lent is no exception and there is a lot going on, but two of the most prominent avenues of attack at the moment are a documentary on the Beeb and the attempt to undermine marriage. The insidious BBC4 documentary "Catholics" has annoyed me. It's attack on the Church is insidious and uses quirky music, largely empty churches and disenchanted, heterodox 'Catholics' to undermine the current, vibrant, growing Catholic community. It makes us look backward, dated, at best, reticent and unsure of our faith, at worst, ignorant and indoctrinated.

The initial programme, which considered seminarian's at Westminster diocese' seminary, Allen Hall, was greeted with some warmth by many, including the Catholic Herald as a sympathetic portrayal of our faith. Personally, I didn't feel that the programme set out to give a positive portrayal at all and rather people were relieved that the documentary did not constitute an out and out attack on the faith. When you think about it though, the strange questions asked and the quirky music seemed to be saying 'look at this funny, out of date cult'. They were at pains to describe Allen Hall as a strange, innocuous building. I don't recall any mention of the fact that it was St.Thomas More's house, the amazing library, or even the mulberry tree under which St. Thomas used to sit.

They also seemed to be saying that we are dying, noting that only "19 men were ordained last year", whenever last year was (they were using the old translation, so the documentary was obviously dated a bit). They didn't say that there's been an increase in vocations, more men at Allen Hall this year than for ten years!
If you juxtapose it against something inspirational like Robert Barron's epic "Catholicism" series, it looks very peculiar. When you think the Catholic Church has provided the bedrock for the UK's whole structure & civilisation, this documentary was, well, weird. Like it was filmed by people with no idea of the socio-political context of the faith.That said, there were positives in the first programme. The Seminarians were an inspiration and spoke beautifully and passionately, communicating Pope John Paul II's definition of a priest as "A man for others" convincingly on at least two occasions, once in the context of ordination and once in the context of celibacy. One of them also did a fabulous job explaining the majesty & beauty of the Mass. However, the success of the programme was almost in contradiction to the programme makers intention, or so it seemed to me.

This though is nothing compared to the proposed legislation attempting to re-define marriage. As Richard Waghorne brilliantly explains:

"The support and status that marriage entails is not a societal bonus for falling in love and agreeing to make a relationship lasting. That is not, of course, to say that love and romance are not an important part of marriage. But they are not the reason it has special status. If romance were the reason for supporting marriage, there would be no grounds for differentiating which relationships should be included and which should not. But that is not and never has been the nature of marriage.

Marriage is vital as a framework within which children can be brought up by a man and woman. Not all marriages, of course, involve child-raising. And there are also, for that matter, same-sex couples already raising children. But the reality is that marriages tend towards child-raising and same-sex partnerships do not." - FACT.

Archbishops Vincent Nichols & Peter Smith issued a letter rallying the faithful, which (I think) is to be read out from pulpits this Sunday. Whilst I am pleased that some leadership has finally been shown on this issue, I can't help but feel, as someone who has studied Catholic theology and is a card carrying member of the Church, a mild frustration at the lack of fire and clarity. Father Z explains my frustration eloquently:

"Tepid leadership, worship and instruction has over time produced Catholics who don’t know who they are and who, when introduced to something genuinely Catholic and clear (liturgical worship, basic catechism, moral preaching) become confused, disoriented, even hostile. In turn, Catholics have little to say in the public square concerning the great questions of our day. They have little to say or, what is worse, they actively take the wrong side.

We need a renewal of our Catholic identity. If we don’t know who we are as Catholics (this is the question considered from within the Church, ad intra) then we won’t have anything of value to contribute in the public square (ad extra), which is the point of Our Lord’s great commission to Holy Church and all her members.

I am convinced that to spark, support, and sustain an effort to revitalize our Catholic identity, we must have a revitalization of our liturgical worship. If we do not have solid, clear, dignified, faithful, transcendent liturgical worship, all our efforts, in regard to raising a new generation of Catholics in our Faith or recovering those who have fallen away or who were only slightly formed to begin with, will fail.

Fr. Blake gets this. A quick look at his blog will reveal what he has been up to in restoring his parish church and organizing events for the parish’s anniversary. Take a look at what he is doing."

This post by Fr. Z is based on Fr. Ray's reflections on the letter which, I have to say, made me feel great happiness reading. It sums up perfectly how I feel about the Church in the UK. Nothing is taught, no one has the stomach for an argument, no one has the gumption to stand up for what the Church teaches. If you do, you're decried as some kind of zealous nut case. I thank God for good priests like Fr. Ray & Fr. Z, and my own Parish Priest, Fr. Kevin, men who have the strength to stand up for the Church's teaching! My sincere hope is that as we find ourselves increasingly under attack on basic principles like this, we will stand up and enter into the argument. 

If you feel ambivalent with regard to issues like this, it is probably because you have failed to understand the fundamental  points of the argument. Marriage is a term synonymous with family, indeed, marriage and the family constitute one of the most precious of human values (Familiaris Consortio 1). This fundamental building block of society must be protected.

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