Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Against the current

I was in London yesterday - this was taken looking upstream from Battersea Bridge. The occasion? To take part with a couple of hundred other liberally-minded Catholics in a new initiative called "Stand up for Vatican II". We were invited to come together to explore how we might reinvigorate the legacy of Vatican II and provide a platform to stand and declare our felt concern for our Church in the world today.

It was, Chair Frank Regan stressed, first and foremost a celebration of the growth we had experienced at the time of the Council. "Most of us here are a bit wrinkly and crinkly," he said. (There was no arguing with that!) "How do we hand on what we have received, so that the next generation will be able to build their Church in turn?"

Theologian Michael Winter urged us to work to make our parishes real communities. The danger was they were becoming larger and larger as priest numbers dwindled; whereas for people to know one another, an authentic parish community should comprise no more than about 70 people. In pre-Reformation times, Canterbury had 40 parishes: there were eight churches in King Street, Norwich, and even today Trumpington Street in Cambridge has six mediaeval church buildings.

"We are a mature society," he said, richly entitled to make non-violent protest: "Our own conscience has to be obeyed," as Joseph Ratzinger wrote in 1968.

And we can build the new within the shell of the old. Start by signing the petition!

P.S. There is also an Italian version of "Stand up for Vatican II", supported by a couple of cardinals.


PiaPoi said...

Yes... I wonder how far away the "liberally-minded" interpretations are from what was actually being said at Vatican II..... :/

Londiniensis said...

How does one reconcile the following two statements:

"a celebration of the growth we had experienced at the time of the Council" and

"they (parishes) were becoming larger and larger as priest numbers dwindled" ?

PiaPoi said...

Well, since Vatican II there has been a lot more participation of the laity in the Liturgy.

By which I don't mean *real* participation in the mystery of the Eucharist, but rather they felt that they should all have jobs - you know, have something to do to keep them busy (Eucharistic Ministers, etc.).

Consequently, the Liturgy for many became focussed on man, rather than God. A community for its own sake, rather than the body of Christ.

All this diminished the role & centrality of the priest; made the laity feel self-important to the extent that the priest's identity as the "persona Christi" was a lost understanding. No one any longer knew what priesthood was. Fewer and fewer young men were attracted to the vocation.

The numbers of Catholics grew, with immigration, but the numbers attending Mass dropped away - liberal, modernist theology has no sticking power. The next generation did not inherit the gripes of their parents, nor their sense of liberation after V2. But it was too late for most 2nd generation V2 Catholics. The Liturgy & the Catechesis was diluted beyond recognition by liberals. There was nothing to keep them anymore. They drifted away.

May God have mercy on this mess.

j./ said...

I would question whether 'growth' in faith can be measured by the numbers of Priests.

The dwindling in Mass attendance is sadly similar to the dwindling in attendance at any church in the UK these days - and is symptomatic of a failure of society.

Solutions? Well - a couple of suggestions:

Representing Christ on Earth - Example

V2 enabled us to participate in politics in a deeper way than before - but we have in the main failed to do so. We need to fill our councils and parliament with good Christians who are prepared to witness to their Faith and change things in response to it. Vote Christian not L, C or LD!

Representing Christ on Earth - Ministry

I believe that V2 enabled a real growth in the personal faith of the laity - more important than mere numbers on seats. I'm further convinced that this has happened - those who still come to Mass (and they do, and in large numbers Deo Gratias!) are much better informed about their faith, and much more able to share it than ever in the history of the English speaking Church. Including for example our contributions here. The Church of the 50's was characterised by attenders who came because they had to - now it is because they want to. And this want is catching - people are turning to God and to The Church in response to their experience of failure in society elsewhere and the witness of Catholics in the world around them. This witness is the real ministry of the Laity which V2 promoted - the adoption of various 'ministries' in the Parish is not really the point at all, its just a response to various practical needs and are all in any case encouraged by cannon law.

Thank you Martin for starting this discussion and so letting me know about what is going on. PiaPoi and Londiniensis, do please let us know who you are (i.e. sign your posts) so that this discussion can continue in an open way, and thank you for sharing your views - may God Bless us all in all the various ways that we seek to serve Him;

John Andrews;

PiaPoi said...

Hi John!! I guessed it was you! I am a well-known & friendly face, in my second term at Oxford..... how nice to meet you here ;)

Well actually, I think number of priests is quite as litmus faith tests go, because it indicates the strength of faith among the young men of vocation-discerning age. Good Catechesis, a strong prayer life, and active participation in the parish community will all provide fertile soil for vocations – and all depend on a healthy Church.

I just spent ages writing out exactly what I think about the Church today, but I realised it is too huge an issue to go into here. Perhaps we could have a better discussion if I ask you for a lift home one weekend? If I can stay awake!

I would, however, question what you meant when you said that we are “much better informed about our faith” now… because my experience of catechesis at Church & school was… I guess well-intentioned, but essentially fluffy & patronising. Most of what I know about the Church I have absorbed from traditional blogs & websites and conversations with traditional friends & priests. Unless young people hunt out sound, orthodox teaching for themselves, they don’t get it at all. When I talk to people who grew up in the Church & drifted away, I am stunned by their lack of understanding about Mass & Confession, the Eucharist, Mary, prayer… you name it, modern catechesis gives us no substance whatsoever on these defining aspects of the faith.

All I will say by way of a footnote, is that I’ve read all the horror stories about pre-V2 times, and I have no doubt that there was every need for change. I’m not for a moment suggesting they were the “good old days” and we should all just go back to how it was before. I’m just saying that the way forward for the Church may well be about rediscovering the spirit of V2, but the true spirit intended by the council fathers, which is often 180 degrees from the direction these die-hard old trendies want to drag us.

But I recognise that there is far more to this than can really come out in this kind of discussion. So maybe we will get the opportunity to discuss this in person :)

God bless,

Londiniensis said...

I must regretfully decline John Andrews' request to step out from behind my alias, which I have now used in the blogosphere and twitterspace for over three years.

I would gladly stand up for Vatican II, but not for the sort of deformation of its message which is advocated by Catholics for a Changing Church and similar dissident groups.

Ironically both CCC and the SSPX agree that Vatican II represented a definite rupture with the Church's 2000 year history. This interpretation has been rejected by all post-Conciliar popes, and is expressly taught against by our current Holy Father. CCC, it must be remembered, was formed in a public act of disobedience to the "Conciliar" Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae.

I cannot agree that Catholics are now better informed about their faith. To give just one example - proportionally many more people receive Holy Communion more frequently than in the 50's, but far fewer go to Confession: one can draw several different conclusions from this, but all indicate a serious deficit in the massgoers' knowledge of the Faith.

Liberals dislike my trad views. Trads dislike my liberal views. Me, I'm just a Catholic.

PiaPoi said...

Haha Londineinsis is blatantly Fr. Tom!

Interesting how we never hear anything from Mr. Davies on these discussions. The last post of his I commented on, Fr. Londineinsis, was when he linked an article by a "Catholic" priest saying how glad he was that people have stopped going to Confession, because they've obviously realised that it's not necessary - hurrah! I found this scandalous and heart-breaking, and objected to Mr. Davies, but unfortunately he just gave me the contact details of the priest in question, rather than defending his own support for the article.

I don't mean that as a personal offence, but merely to point out that it would be nice if he replied himself to our some of our objections.

In the meantime, did you see Mr. Thompson's reaction to the group "Stand Up for Vatican II"? :P

Tony C said...

I don't know everything about Fr Tom, but I serve his EF Mass on Thursdays, and I think that I can state emphatically that "Fr Tom is not Londoniensis". (I think L was "outed" once in a photoghraph of some bloggers jamboree in Fr Tim F's local opposite Westminster cathedral (or some such) but then maybe I'm just getting old.)

The thing that amuses me in all of this is that what they mean by "Stand Up 4 Vatican 2" is that they want to deny anybody else the opportunity to exercise choice, even though the choices they made in the 70s about what they wanted V2 to mean are what have caused some of the great problems we face today.

As for Mr Davies: it's his blog and he can do what he wants with it. He's giving us a forum to exchange views. But as a member of SU4V2, he would have interesting things to say in response to these comments.

PiaPoi said...

Yeah, I was only joking! Agreed with the rest of your comment.

Londiniensis said...

Ha ha! I am not Fr Tom, I don't think I have met him (but I have met Fr Tim !) and I am a layman. And I wasn't "outed" - I am quite open about my blog and tweet activities at blognics and other social occasions, but I am of an age when getting on first-name terms is dependent on friendship, and by extension getting on real-name terms is dependent at the very least on "real", rather than virtual, acquaintance.

I was sorry not to have been at the Stand Up meeting last Tuesday and am genuinely curious about how it went and what was said. A search led me to this blog and I am grateful to Mr Davis - 66.66666 today, Congratulations! - for his kindness in letting me comment here.

Martin Davis said...

Frank Regan has sent me this Comment to add in:

"Those who came to the meeting to “Stand Up for Vatican II” seemed to have an instinctive feeling that since 1979 the church finds itself in an institutional cul-de-sac. After the close of the Council the church put its hand to the plough to open new furrows. Now it is looking back with apprehension and nostalgia.

The meeting looked and felt like an inclusive Church. There were religious and priests, women with priestly vocations, gays, justice and peace activists, Catholic women activists and, most importantly, laity from the pews. Without rancour, without bitterness, without polemics, with wry humour, with commitment to and love for their church, they spoke up about the way parishes are run by one man only; about the lack of adult formation in the faith; about the infantilisation of the laity, and about how that and other aspects of current Catholic ‘churchianity’ affect the Church’s apostolic mission to the world.

Despite being sinners ourselves we must look at our Church’s institutional sin. This occurs and becomes systemic when the institution comes to understand itself, to cipher its identity, in terms of a sinful way of doing things. Our institution is male-dominated, obsessed with its power and supported, on the one hand by a co-dependent laity, and on the other hand by a silent, uncomprehending yet loyal laity who must put up and shut up.

In a public debate held recently on the topic of whether the Catholic Church is of good and benefit to society, the Catholic apologists failed wretchedly to convince their audience. It can come as no surprise, if our own institution is hobbled by a way of doing things which can lead to sin and scandal. And our church’s sin is manifold.

A Church characterised by sexism says in effect that God is male, and so male is God. God is straight, and so straight is God. A church which is clerical says that Christ is a male priest, and so a male priest is Christ (‘alter Christus’). A dualist Church which separates soul from body can violate the bodies of the vulnerable and deceive itself in believing that it has not harmed their souls and psyches. An authoritarian Church says that God is power and so those with power have the authority of God.

Sadly, those are the four marks of a Church which cannot give joyful witness of God’s Reign of Peace, Justice, Wholiness and Pardon. It cannot be Sacrament of Salvation. It cannot be salt, leaven, light. Rather it is a dysfunctional church, a church not fit for purpose.

That is why we need the Secular. The Secular is almost the only sphere where the Spirit can roam at will, and where she is creating new forms of life-giving activity to which the Church is invited to respond. The Secular gave us the concept of human rights, the green movement, the women’s movement and countless other social responses to the plight of humanity. The Church has responded to them very slowly and reluctantly. Indeed it is from the Secular that the Church is beginning to learn how to treat with respect and decency Catholic gays and women in ministry, even though forced by Human Rights legislation.

At the London meeting, a speaker said that our Church is a shell of its former self. Yes, it is in a process of institutional meltdown. It is incapable of reforming itself or of changing its stifling clerical culture. Within the next decade or two the last generation of Sunday Mass-goers will be gone. What will the new panorama look like?

If the Church is to avoid shrinking to the size of a sect, then it must open spaces where a different Church, immersed in the secular and its challenges can gather. There committed Christian lives can be celebrated and bread broken and wine shared for the life of the world not for the life of the Church. That will be a Church fit for purpose. - Frank"

PiaPoi said...

Frank can be assured of our appreciation for the trouble he has taken to set out his views so clearly and at such length!

I would agree with him on certain points, such as that "since 1979 the church finds itself in an institutional cul-de-sac", and that "our Church is a shell of its former self".

I'm sure we could have a very lively discussion on the subject, were we to be blessed with the opportunity. But for now, I lack the time to respond to every objection it raises, since it seems to be based on the most hideous (and deliberate?) misunderstandings of everything the Church fundamentally is.

I always wonder what it really means to call yourself "Catholic" when you disagree so totally and utterly with everything the Church teaches! Perhaps you would be more suited to an ecclesiastical community which does allow itself to be bent over by our secular society, and be buffeted about in the prevailing winds of whatever ideaology happens to be puffing at the time. I hear they're making room over at the Anglical Communion?

God bless you all, and Long Live Pope Benedict!!!!

Maryse said...

Mon Dieu quelle salade!* Or is it a can of worms? Now I know where I stand. I am both someone who loves to parade on the altar and to eclipse the officiating priest because of my need to be busy. On top of that I am not a pretty sight as I am an old wrinkly,trendy. It would be much better to hide myself underneath a mantilla or, to be more thorough, a hijab because now wait for it: I am of the female gender. I should not be on the altar where my presence together with that of girls altar servers is surely stopping young men thinking of their possible priestly vocation. You will be relieved to hear I was being a tease because in fact I have just stepped down being a Eucharistic minister. I received so many graces however in my spiritual life, which spilled over my life in general, doing this service that I very much want others to have a chance to enter into this service. Are there some who do it for show? Do we know the heart of all who are on the altar, or in church?
Is there a movement to also do away with Eucharistic ministers among the trads? As well as a determination to resume Latin as the language of the faithful at mass and to receive communion on the tongue (the other day I came upon a lovely short passage by some ancient pope or saint or both saying: ‘de tes mains fait un trône pour ton Dieu’)*? Will I be closer to my God if I know, and regurgitate during mass all the technicalities of catholic beliefs in Latin? Should I go to a trad for a refreshers course? Will I have then passed a sort of test which says I am someone worthy of attending mass, providing I have confessed before of course? Some of us do not have retentive, academic memory. In my convent school the only mass prayers I could partially say were the short ones. I am not Oxford material I expect, but I do know of the pleasure of writing one’s thoughts and beliefs down. One can solve all difficulties and world/church problems writing them down in one’s essay; it can hold together providing one is articulate, clever and has convenient facts.

The funny thing is that Christ never did write, with one famous exception, in his public life and then only did he write in the dirt/sand where the words would soon be blown away. I wonder why….Was it perhaps because he was busy being Christ to ordinary people? Dress code, incense, rituals did not seem to be his scene. Neither was decorum; a woman we are told he did let dry his feet with her hair. He seemed so far as I can make out to have been interested passionately, compassionately and ultimately to His Passion, death and resurrection, in what resided in man’s heart, helping man often to look deeply within for Truth. Tradition he bypassed over and over again.

It makes me wonder, if we were thrown back into time in a sort of Dr Who episode where would trads and liberals stand in that religious society of Jesus’ time. Where in the Passover crowd? Where in Jerusalem at the end of His life? Could we the religious people of this blog imagine where we would have been standing, what words would we be mouthing? Not many came up well then. Do we think we would we do better to-day?

Sorry I am erring from the subject which was I think Catholic trads versus Catholic liberals and the ‘perceived’ demise of V2 or of its ‘adulterated’ implementation. However to celebrate Vatican 2 let me end for us all if I may with a prayer to the Holy Spirit in Mauritian creole. Growing up there creole was certainly not permitted in worship. I rejoice for the little people of Mauritius who can now pray in their mother tongue and create hymns.

Vini Saint Esprit vini
Vini an nou vini


* I have left the French untranslated as I guess you are all erudite. If you are not, too bad you will now know what it feels like for the poor church goer who understands not a word of the Latin responses he is mumbling.