Daily Archives: November 18, 2008

"Fit for Mission? Church" – English Bishop Tells It As It Is

I was very impressed about a month or two ago when I came across the work of one very conscientious English bishop, Patrick O’Donoghue of Lancaster (not to be confused with our own very conscientious Bishop Patrick Dougherty of Bathurst). He has released two papers for his diocese, the first one called “Fit for Mission? Schools” and the second one “Fit for Mission? Church” (nb. I had downloaded the latter document from http://www.lancasterrcdiocese.org.uk/mission%20review/index.html but it looks like that website is undergoing some reconstruction at the moment).

These two “reports” are really more of a series of personally written catecheses by the bishop (following extensive consultation and review) addressing crucial issues in the life of the parishes and schools in his diocese. You can read about the whole project on this “blog/forum”.

Suffice it to say that he got himself into hot water with the UK education authorities for demanding that Catholic schools in his diocese have:

“Crucifixes in every classroom, “sex-education” based on the principles of chastity and the sanctity of marriage, no school fundraising for anti-life groups and religious education based firmly in the Catechism of the Catholic Church” (see source here)

but no way was he backing down:

Bishop O’Donoghue told the six committee members, “Every school has a philosophy. And a philosophy which puts God at the centre and morality as objective, is no less powerful than that which says God is irrelevant and morality is up to the individual choice.”

“To our view, the role of democracy is to embrace all views, and not to infringe on basic human rights.”

He said “the impression that is coming across” from politics and the media is that “some people seem to think that the only true democratic stance is the latter, namely that God is irrelevant and that morality is up to the individual.”

Now his “Fit for Mission? Church” has drawn praise from the Congregation of the Clergy in Rome.

This morning, Bishop O’Donoghue is in the news again with the Telegraph giving an extensive report of comments he made (source, as usual with the Telegraph, not given, although the impression – wrongly – is given that they came from “Fit for Mission? Church”) regarding the negative effect which more widespread higher education seems to have had on the Catholic faith in the UK:

“What we have witnessed in Western societies since the end of the Second World War is the development of mass education on a scale unprecedented in human history – resulting in economic growth, scientific and technological advances, and the cultural and social enrichment of billions of people’s lives.

“However, every human endeavor has a dark side, due to original sin and concupiscence. In the case of education, we can see its distortion through the widespread dissemination of radical scepticism, positivism, utilitarianism and relativism.

“Taken together, these intellectual trends have resulted in a fragmented society that marginalizes God, with many people mistakenly thinking they can live happy and productive lives without him.

“It shouldn’t surprise us that the shadows cast by the distortion of education, and corresponding societal changes, have also touched members of the Church. As Pope Benedict XVI puts it, even in the Church we find hedonism, selfishness and egocentric behavior…

“The Second Vatican Council tends to be misinterpreted most by Catholics who have had a university education — that is, by those most exposed to the intellectual and moral spirit of the age…

“These well-educated Catholics have gone on to occupy influential positions in education, the media, politics, and even the Church, where they have been able to spread their so-called loyal dissent, causing confusion and discord in the whole church…

“This failure of leadership has exacerbated the even-greater problem of the mass departure from the Church of the working-class and poor. For example, the relentless diatribe in the popular media against Christianity has undermined the confidence of the ordinary faithful in the Church.”

Is he wrong? We don’t think so. Neither does Telegraph journalist Damian Thompson, in a piece on his blog called “With friends like these, the Church doesn’t need enemies.” The “friend” to which Thompson refers is the Tablet with an article by Nicholas Lash called “Log in the Church’s Eye”. I don’t subscribe to “the Bitter Pill”, so I rely on Thompson for this summary and comment:

Meanwhile, on page 12 [of this week’s Tablet], “leading theologian” Nicholas Lash tears into Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue for his recent admirable statements about the sickness of contemporary society and the inability of his fellow bishops and Catholic university intellectuals to come to grips with it. If the Bishop had named individual universities or individuals “he might well have had a series of libel actions on his hands,” says Lash pompously.

He concludes: “Bishop O’Donoghue is, I understand, shortly to retire. Perhaps he might care, in retirement, to spend some months (incognito, if possible) in a university chaplaincy. He might then have the courage to withdraw and apologise for many of the grave accusations levelled in this interview.”

It’s true that “POD” is retiring from active ministry as a bishop; but he will, of course, continue to serve as a priest, as he has done faithfully for decades. Which is is more than can be said for Nicholas Lash, who, like so many Tabletistas, is an ex-priest.

It seems to me that Lash’s comments merely prove the Bishop’s point, no?

But sadly, one thing that the Bishop of Lancaster has in common with the Bishop of Bathurst is age. Both men, at the end of their careers as bishops, have shown courage right to the very end. And here is where we are winning, folks. The faithful priests and bishops among us have staying power. They will be working for the Kingdom until the day they die.

The others end up writing for the Tablet…

(BTW: There is a support page for Bishop O’Donoghue on Facebook. Is that, perhaps, a “POD”-cast?)

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ABC Lessons and Carols at OUR Cathedral!

As I went to Mass this afternoon, I almost tripped over the multiple electrical leads leading in all directions. There were several big ABC TV trucks outside the Cathedral, and cameras and pews moved, and all sorts of stuff, not to mention the Chrissy decorations all up about a month and half too early. What’s all this then?, I asked myself.

Well, the mystery is solved. According to this story, its all because Aunty is coming to town to record Carols and Lessons for the first time at the Micks’ joint, rather than at the local Anglicans.

ABC recording of the St Patrick’s Cathedral Annual Carols and Readings Service
Wednesday 19 November 2008
7pm, St Patrick’s Cathedral
Cathedral Place
East Melbourne

The ABC will make a recording of the Annual Carols & Readings Service at St Patrick’s Cathedral. This service is usually held Sunday before Christmas Day.

This is the first time the ABC has ever recorded a Christmas service in a Catholic Church. [How about THAT, eh?]

We invite you to be a member of the Congregation for this very special occasion.

Please make a note of this in your diary and come along to prepare together for Christmas in this way.

I know that our Cathedral Choir is second to none (hat tip to the Herr Kapellmeister, Dr Geoffrey Cox (admittedly, a convert we nicked from the Anglicans) and well up to the job, but what worries me is how they are going to manage to get a whole congregation of singing Catholics…

Oh well, it is only Christmas Carols after all. Even Catholics should be able to manage that. Good luck, Aunty.

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The US Exit Polls, the "Catholic Vote", and parallel universes…

Exit polls, schmexit polls, I say.

But in any case, some people are fascinated by what the “exit polls” (based on answers asked by pollsters as the voters leave the voting booths) have to say about the “Catholic Vote” in the US.

The question is, when these polls show that (self-identifying not necessarily practicing)Catholics voted pretty well the same way as the rest of the US population (ie. pro Obama by about 4-6%), what should one make of the very vocal stand some Catholic bishops took against the pro-abortion policies of the Democrats?

The Tablet, for instance, carries a story by Michael Sean Winters: “Why they didn’t listen”, in which he declares that “the greatest problem is that these “abortion-only” bishops are living in a parallel universe.”

But at the same time, Catholic News Service is carrying a story which indicates that some Catholics well might have been listening to their bishops:

Mark Gray, a research associate at Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, pointed to several states as examples of where a higher percentage of Catholics supported McCain compared to the rest of the state’s voters.

In Missouri, McCain and Obama each got about 50 percent of the vote. Catholics in Missouri voted for McCain by a difference of 55 percent to 45 percent.

In Pennsylvania, Obama won 55 percent of the vote and McCain 44 percent, but Catholics favored McCain by 52 percent to 48 percent.

What distinguishes those states, Gray noted, is that in each at least one bishop issued statements that leaned strongly toward telling voters they should vote only for candidates of the party that supports overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion virtually on demand.

Now admittedly, that’s not a big difference (that’s still 45-48 percent of “Catholics” in favour of the pro-abortion party) but hey, it indicates that about 10 percent of Catholics (God knows, but that might represent all of the usual Democrat voters among the active Catholics in the Dioceses) WERE listening to their bishop.

In any case, we ought not to be fazed by the “parallel universe” accusation. Didn’t Jesus say as much in the “in the world, but not of the world” line?

We are citizens of heaven, guys…

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