“The Concept of Liberal Catholicism was always Flawed”

The concept of liberal Catholicism, it seems, is crumbling before our eyes. Of course, it was always flawed. Liberal Catholics want a Church that: moves with the times and is “progressive”; allows for the use of contraception and abortion in some instances; is more lenient towards homosexuality; allows for the laicisation of the Catholic world and freedom to experiment with liturgy. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, hasn’t budged. It is unchanging in its stance towards the sanctity of human life and remains quite clear where it stands on homosexuality. It wants the laity to remain active, but in their rightful place. In other words, if liberal Catholics want a Church that moves with the times, they’re in the wrong place. (Will Heaven, Telegraph.co.uk)

Well, we always knew that, didn’t we? No, we didn’t, writes Will Heaven in his op-ed piece about recent well-deserved criticism of the “The Tablet” by both an auxiliary bishop of Westminster and the US Archbishop of Denver (see here and here – NB. Bishop Hopes’ criticism came in the form of a Letter to the Editor which The Tablet “had to print” according to this report in CNA, but which you can only read online if you are a subscriber to the Tablet) – it’s something we are just beginning to realise.

So what has changed in the Catholic Church to finally wake us up to the fact that the “liberal Catholic agenda” is doomed? The new pope (well, he’s not that new anymore)? No. Heaven points to an entirely different phenomenon in order to explain the failure of the Liberal Catholic push: The Internet.

The internet – and how Catholics are using it to communicate with each other – has played a huge part as well. Ten years ago, you would not often have a US archbishop criticising a wayward editorial in a British Catholic magazine. Nor would the laity have access to Vatican documents which they can print out to show to their local parish priest. The internet has changed all of this. Sure, the Catholic Church has always been about universals. But now Catholics have formed an online community they’re becoming a more coherent force, and they won’t be sidelined or misrepresented.

In this, he is certainly correct. The Internet has connected the Catholic world to the See of Rome in ways that the 19th Century Ultramontanes could hardly have imagined. The early 20th Century publisher W.G. Ward may have delcared a desire for ‘a new Papal Bull every morning with my Times at breakfast”, but only the 21st Century has been able to make this a real possibility (thanks to sites like Zenit.org). Thanks to the Internet, the Holy Father is truly able to act as a Universal Teacher – anyone anywhere with a computer and modem can hook right into the heart of the Catholic Church’s magisterium. And of course, what goes for the Pope goes for the Curia.

Much has been written about the important role that technology (in particular, the invention of the printing press) had to play in the success of the Reformation five hundred years ago. With the coming of the Internet, it is now Ultramontane Dream which has finally been achieved. In fact, perhaps it was not so much that the Liberal Catholic agenda was “always going to lose”, but that Ultramontanism was always, eventually, going to win. It just took 150 years or so for the right technology to be developed.

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61 responses to ““The Concept of Liberal Catholicism was always Flawed”

  1. PM

    The other side of the equation is that the church of ‘Come As You Are’ liturgy and ‘Jesus was a nice ghuy and we should all do our own thing’ catechesis and RE is not reproducing itself – it appeals to practically no-one under 50.

  2. PM

    Please excuse the typo in my last – it should be ‘nice guy’. Ithink I need glasses!

  3. I wouldn’t get your hopes up too high, David. As I’ve been saying for a long time — you can gather the 5% at the MCG, Randwick Racecourse, Yankee Stadium, St Peter’s Square, or … on the internet. And you can make it look really impressive. The harsh reality is though that the (spiritual and emotional) needs of that 5% are a long, long way removed from the needs of the rest of the population. The exercise cannot be repeated Sunday in and Sunday out at each local parish. While the remnant certainly believe they are the ones with all the answers and the true or only way to paradise, or they are attracted to certain cultural aspects of Catholicism (a way of relating to others, the smells, visual and aural appeal of aspects of Catholicism from a particular period in history), I find scant evidence from surveys or anywhere else that they have the proverbial snowflakes chance in hell of spreading their particular enthusiasms to the population at large. Catholicism, ultimately, is not about the niceties of certain styles of liturgical form, it is not about a particular style of social conformism, it is about the search for personal wholeness, goodness and truth in each of our lives. While I would acknowledge a large sector of society have just opted out because ‘it’s all too hard’, or because of the distractions in secular culture, I’d be willing to bet my own salvation* that at least 50% who have left have simply done so because the agendas, and thinking of the remnant 5%, are simply considered of no value whatsoever in leading anyone to “personal wholeness, goodness and truth” and ultimately to God and the Divine in their lives. They see it as a personal emotional indulgence and little more. That’s why they have given up. Trying to come up with a program that enthuses the 5% minority and to then believe that what appeals to that sector of the population can then somehow magically be made to appeal to the other 95% is in the realms of fantasy, or delusion.

    *In fact I effectively have.

    Cheers, Brian

    • Welcome back to the table, Brian! Your absence has been too long! (Someone get a fresh glass, for Brian so we can pour him a glass of port – and pass the cheese platter to him while you’re at it.)

      You are quite right – there are many out there to whom the gospel must still be received, INCLUDING the 95% (that many? surely not world wide?) of baptised Catholics to whom you refer. Yet these and all others (being other Christians and other believers in God and others who have never heard the Gospel in any form) must still HEAR the Gospel proclaimed in all its fullness and richness, and from that endeavour we can never shrink (without being faithless to our original commission) .

      We are not, therefore, trying to come up with what “enthuses the 5% minority. We are rather attempting to be faithful to the Gospel, and with that (not with “what appeals”) seek to address our “appeal” (as even St Paul calls it) to the whole human race. As faithful disciples, we have no other choice.

  4. jules

    But Brian, the ” rest of the population ” for whatever reason has place itself outside of what the Church teaches. The 5% remain true to the teachings- why blame them for the 95% lost sheep?

  5. “Catholicism… is about the search for personal wholeness, goodness and truth in each of our lives.”

    Bollocks!

    Catholicism is about Him Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and our incorporation into Him, to the glory of the Trinity, which includes our salvation.

    Typical of liberals to be so self-centred.

    I thought it was sixties hippies who drone on about discovering themselves (an endless quest and quite absorbing apparently), but the grey-cardigan brigade are rather similar.

    ******

    However, aCatholic et al. do tend to offer evidence that liberal “catholicism”, deceiving and deceived, still has an awful lot of influence, David – is it really true that orthodox Catholicism is winning on the Net?

    I should have thought that the liberals must also reinforce their own networks using the Web…

  6. David, was I overcritical, or do you agree that the above comments seemed solipsistic?

  7. I could say “bollocks” also to what you have written in the paragraph which follows. Joshua.

    “Catholicism is about Him Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and our incorporation into Him, to the glory of the Trinity, which includes our salvation.”

    What, precisely, does that mean? It’s a heap of mumbo, jumbo that I am sure makes you “feel good” — gives you the “warm fuzzies”. Jesus Christ is not some magician. I argue strongly that Jesus Christ is “the Way” (to the Father, and salvation) constantly in my writing but this quaint language your use is “bollocks”. It sounds impressive. I’m sure it does give a sector of the population the “warm fuzzies” but quite evidently (by the numbers) it means very little to most people these days.

    I feel though that I am banging my head against a brick wall even attempting to have a conversation with your good self. I doubt there is anything that I might think, or say, which you would find any intersection with — and, I have to confess, those feelings are fairly mutual as I find your understanding of “faith”, “belief”, “salvation” and all these terms that try to encapsulate why we engage in these (spiritual) activities frankly of little use in my attempts to “become holy” or, in the words of St Gregory of Nyssa which I find so attractive and “cut to the core” of what the quest is all about. “to become like God”. In crude language I think you’re pulling yourself and I am sure you feel exactly the same way about my approach to the religio-spiritual quest.

    Cheers, Brian

    • Yes, you are not only rude but sadly misled, and attempting to deceive others too.

      What vile insults to take those terms – all of them hallowed and defined by the Church and her great doctors and theologians – and to airily dismiss them! To show your irrationality, you then quote one of the Greek Doctors whom I am sure would quite disapprove of your words.

      You are the very stereotype of the proud, dismissive Modernist that St Pius X warned of! Give it up, your project is failed.

      I forgive you for your offensive words, but I ask you not to write directly to me again; I certainly find no pleasure, only pain, in having to write to you.

    • Watch it, Brian. “Pulling yourself” is not very polite. I don’t want to have to deprive you of the port bottle, now…

  8. David,

    Sorry about the typos in the post above. I’ll try and be more careful with this one. (At least on Catholica we can edit our posts.) Yes, it’s a very brief visit. I’m under the pump these days working about 18 hours a day with new developments on Catholica and trying to keep pace with our growth.

    I think this whole categorisation of the religio-spiritual quest in political terms is enormously distracting. It is not some conservative -vs- liberal contest. Before the French Revolution most people did not think in the political divisions in which most of us analyse most of life today. Religion and spirituality to most people today is not analysed in a “political” manner as seems to be the case with this tiny minority who think they are the conservatives, the traditionalists, the ones exclusively upholding the law and truth. I have as much disagreement with so-called “liberals” as the best of the conservatives but one thing on which I think Pell was correct was in his comment to the Sydney Catalyst Bishops’ Forum a few years ago that there are no true “liberals” left in Catholicism these days. If they were ever there they left decades ago and that’s essentially what the Cardinal argued. Most people are sick to death of being labelled as some kind of “liberals” when quite evidently they are not. They are people who simply don’t have this seemingly almost craving need to analyse everything withing a “political construct” or “we’re the goodies and all the rest of youse are the baddies”. That’s kindergarten stuff — rooted back in the playground behaviours of “my dad’s bigger ‘n your dad and he’ll bash you up if you are not nice to me”. All that’s changed is that it’s become “My (concept of God) is better than your concept of God and if you don’t do as I say he’ll cast you into hell!”

    All this talk the conservative sector carry on with about the liberals who’ve wrecked the Church since the Second Vatican Council … the reality is that you people have had your men in charge of the entire institution for the past forty years. It hasn’t been “liberals” setting the agenda of Catholicism but those who, at every step, disagreed with the direction the vast majority of the bishops at the Second Vatican Council discerned the Spirit was calling God’s people.

    No one would label JPII or Benedict as “liberals” yet they are the one’s who’ve “been in charge” for most of the lives of most people alive today. And we’ve got “more of the same” coming from Benedict at the moment perhaps in container ship loads more than at any previous point in the past 40 years. This “more of the same” is not going to halt the exit out of the pews but simply accelerate it.

    Jesus Christ did not come to “save” some self-elect few. He came with a message for “all nations” — in other words, all people! How many millenia will it take for that message to be finally understood?

    Cheers,

    • How many millenia? I don’t know. But the fact is, as Pope Benedict has put it, that we can’t stand on the shoulders of the giants of the past on this one as we can in science and philosophy. With regard to the Gospel, every new generation must appropriate the message for itself.

      For me, I stand where I have stood before: on the confession that the Catholic faith is not about “spirituality” or (as you put it) “the search for personal wholeness, goodness and truth in each of our lives”. Of course, it isn’t about all those other things you attack either – “the smells, visual and aural appeal of aspects of Catholicism from a particular period in history”.

      It is about the proclamation of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, about his Lordship over all the world, about the Kingdom of God which he has inaugurated, and about taking our place within that Kingdom and proclaiming it to all the world. (In this sense, Josh is spot on to say it is about Jesus who is “the Way the Truth and the Life”.)

      The task of this proclamation will never be completed, precisely because in every age it must be proclaimed and heard anew.

  9. This analysis is flawed: there is no evidence whatsoever that the Fathers of Vatican II called for some vast change in direction (if by this is meant that the Church ought not just change some outward forms and expressions, but really undergo substantial changes in her beliefs and morals), that is just a myth. To attribute such a myth to the Spirit begs the question of precisely which Spirit is being alluded to…

    As for the conservatives being in charge! – those in charge at every level (both in Rome and in dioceses) have varied widely in their stances. Surprise, surprise, the Popes have been most stedfast and similar, but among bishops there has been every sort from Lefebvre and friends to bishops that may as well have been contemporary U.S. Episcopalians. And amongst priests the range has been even wider. Arguably, while as said above the true liberals left long ago (since in all honesty they realized that their position was never going to be accepted), at the parish level matters are far more liberal than at the diocesan, let alone at the Papal level, and this is where the vast disconnect is be to found – witness the phenomenon of South Brisbane.

    I often think that the Church in her instantiations is quite schizophrenic these days: you can be told and behold one thing in one place, and its opposite in another. This makes a mockery of the classic Catholic claim that we hold to the Deposit of Faith.

    The point made above that the vast majority of Catholics are disconnected from “official” practices and beliefs is obviously true: but does this mean that these practices and beliefs are false, or does it simply indicate that people have free will to accept or reject what is proposed, and in the West have largely preferred Mammon? I would argue for the latter.

  10. Those who leave because they no longer can accept or even remain silent about various Catholic doctrines and disciplines are honest – I applaud them for this honesty, though of course I wish they could see their way to changing their minds.

    Those who stay and wrestle with these worries, ditto.

    Those who stay on in bad faith, not believing nor practising sundry precepts, but hoping to change the unchangeable from within, like white-ants: these I reprobate and abhor.

    After all, wouldn’t one find most liberal desiderata in the local Anglican church, and better singing and a nicer class of person too?

  11. Here is a pertinent comment from an Anglican blogger:

    “What particularly upsets us sometimes is that there seem to be but two sorts of RCs. There are those whose heresies startle us and, imperceptive fools that they are, think they can endear themselves to us by whispering in our ears how the present Pope is wrong about nearly everything, but, not to worry, he will soon be followed by another one who will be as gloriously heretical as anybody could wish. The other sort of RC is the one who shares the faith which we hold, but because he has (rightly) come to see the problems of ‘ecumenism’ as it is often understood, seems to need to treat us with contempt instead of as brothers-in-arms.”

    (See this post)

    (Mea culpa, I sometimes fall into the second category… Charity is not my strong point.)

    David, Fraser Pearce told me that in his experience in ecumenical relations and just in dealing with Catholics when religion comes up, all too often the Catholics give scandal by coming across as the first sort described above – all too eager to mock and despise priests, Pell, the Pope, and whatever Catholic beliefs or practices are fashionably attacked at present. What say you?

  12. Fundamentally, the project of liberal catholicism just makes no sense to me – with regard to the Catholic Faith, which famously is buttressed by notions of infallibility and indefectibilty, either it’s all false (and ought be mercilessly extirpated), or it’s all true…

    We do our religion a profound disservice when we try and tone it down, water it down, and apologetically wink and mock at it – that just makes nonbelievers think Catholicism is a lot of dangerous nonsense fit only for silly women of both sexes!

    Something the Pope said at an ecumenical function on his visit to the U.S.A. (18th April 2008) is relevant:

    ”Too often those who are not Christians, as they observe the splintering of Christian communities, are understandably confused about the Gospel message itself. Fundamental Christian beliefs and practices are sometimes changed within communities by so-called ‘prophetic actions’ that are based on a hermeneutic not always consonant with the datum of Scripture and Tradition. Communities consequently give up the attemt to act as a unified body, choosing instead to function according to the idea of ‘local options’. Somewhere in this process the need for diachronic Koinonia – communion with the Church in every age – is lost, just at a time when the world is losing its bearings and needs a persuasive common witness to the saving power of the Gospel.”

    This is precisely the malaise of contemporary Catholicism: we are no longer unified, but split into a plethora of semi-sects, without real agreement and fellowship either amongst ourselves or, yet more seriously, with those who have gone before us. The turning away from the communion of Saints is evidence of this.

    South Brisbane is only the most obvious example of the sad truth that “Fundamental Christian beliefs and practices are sometimes changed within communities by so-called ‘prophetic actions’ that are based on a hermeneutic not always consonant with the datum of Scripture and Tradition.”

    We Catholics are a scandal by reason of our bad behaviour, disunity, and breakdown of belief and practice. (In this I would include the horrifying abuse scandals that give evidence of hypocrisy and conspiracy in mockery of morality and truth.)

  13. The replacement of faith and order with doubt and disorder leads to disillusionment, indifference, apathy, and a drift away from religion. The trajectory of Catholicism in the West has been just such, particularly as western cultures have dissociated themselves from religion, and Catholics have abandoned their own sub-culture (who now fasts? who, apart from Italians, still celebrates saint’s day feasts and processions?), to sink into the mass…

    There is of course a religion that makes very bold, absolute, and exclusive promises; that requires a firm adherence to rites and disciplines; that has a very detailed orthodoxy which must be observed strictly; and whose members have staunch fellowship one with another, while inhabiting a conscious communion and culture distinct from those around it; this religion, unlike Catholicism or even Christianity in general, is growing apace, and its members have no fear of demographic decline. It is Islam.

    According to Coyne, perhaps aCatholics should turn to Arabia for guidance?

  14. Don, Karen's dad

    If, Jesus were to come among as he did 2000 years ago, I think he would be appalled at how childish he followers are bickering with each other. I think he would tell us all to grow up and start truely listening to what his good news is all about. By this will you know that you are my disciples, if you love one another, not stand in judge of each other but love one another. Will we ever get the message straight?

  15. Kiran

    Dear Brian, you have a theory for why Churches are emptying, and so do “we”. The question simply is “why ought we to take on board your idea?” I mean we post-Nietzschean Catholics. Catholicism justifies itself as part of a continuity that traces itself back to Christ. I am yet to see a version of what you stand for, Brian, that doesn’t engage in a caricature of what we stand for (Keep in mind, it is you who accuse “us” of being “conservatives,” and persistently engage in conceptually secularizing the division of Catholics), and also doesn’t appeal to a standard of truth that is completely self-destructive, and has indeed failed (I mean, who that is not old and boring reads Loisy and Tyrell and Renan as serious ways of being Christian any more?). What JPII and Pope Benedict appeal to is at least coherent: the Eucharist and the resurrected Christ.

    • Thanks for this post, Kiran.

      There have been a number of new commentators who have attempted to post in this combox thread, and, unfortunately, they are not all worded in such a way that I would regard befitting of polite dinner conversation and debate over the port and cheese.

      May I therefore point to Kiran’s post as an example of how one can be both forthright and polite in this discussion?

      (P.S. You may also wish to be a little less “liberal” and a little more “conservative” with space in this discussion than our beloved brother, Joshua! :-))

      • Kiran

        Thank you. I seem to be getting many more compliments than I deserve lately. Which makes me suspicious: What is round the corner? 🙂

        In all seriousness, I don’t think one could label Pope Benedict as a “conservative” in the bad sense of the word – a reactionary. Rather, again and again, he shows an “openness” to ideas that would be surprising if one didn’t know the astonishing willingness of Christian tradition to engage with truth, whatever its provenance. Consider as examples of this, what he has said on Biblical studies, and on evolution. Whatever the popular press might say, on one level, Benedict is far more deeply engaged in both projects than was JPII, or indeed any Pope before him.

      • Yes, I can go on, and on, and on!

    • Kiran,

      You write “What JPII and Pope Benedict appeal to is at least coherent: the Eucharist and the resurrected Christ”. The harsh reality is that more people ceased practising, and it seems, listening, during the pontificate of JPII across the face of the educated, affluent, socially sophisticated Western world than during any other pontificate in history. They may be “coherent” to a particular sub-set in society but they’re not making much headway with the vast majority. I am numbered amongst those today who would argue that they are not “coherent” at all. What I do with my life is testimony to my own personal search for something that is more “coherent”. Ultimately though I thought the ultimate objective was “getting to heaven”, or what JPII described as “the universal call to ‘holiness'”, or what Gregory of Nyssa a long time ago described as “becoming like God”. “The Eucharist and the resurrected Christ” are the means to that end, not the end in themselves. If they are made the end in themselves that becomes a form of idolatry — and even Jesus himself warned against that.

      Frankly though I think this sort of conversation is almost useless. It seems there are two emergent forms of belief that are mutally exclusive. I honestly don’t believe there is anything that I might say that would appeal to the likes of Joshua in a million years. Equally, in the other direction, I find no empathy whatsoever with the style and form of Catholicism or Christianity that he seems to believe in and wants to encourage in the world. In the final analysis I simply do not believe it leads to salvation, communion with God, or the peace offered by Jesus Christ.

      • Strictly speaking, the End of all religion is quite simply God.

        Of course the ultimate objective for us qua humans is salvation (literally, healing and health), that is, holiness, that is, likeness to God, that is, sharing the Divine Nature, so we can be with Him in heaven, and rise again at the end of time.

        As you say, the Eucharist is the means to that end – Corpus Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam æternam. I think it somewhat wrong to say Christ is a means to the end, but I know what you mean: only by reason of being united to Him in Baptism, by living by His Eucharist, can we hope.

        It seems evident to me that the big fall-off in Western practice was during Paul VI’s time, but I could be wrong. Wasn’t it during the late sixties (before I was born!) that people went off into sex, drugs ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll? Certainly Our Lord warned that the rich – i.e., us Westerners! – would not enter the Kingdom except if we get through that eye of the needle. We cannot have both God and Mammon: most seem to choose Mammon. Our whole culture denigrates religion, especially Christianity, and turns us from virtue. Too much of our affluence is effluent; too much of our sophistication is sophistry; too much of our education is indoctrination in beliefs clean contrary to the Faith. Again, I should have thought this is obvious!

        I am amazed that Coyne could say that “I find no empathy whatsoever with the style and form of Catholicism or Christianity that he [me!]seems to believe in and wants to encourage in the world” – what do I want? what do I believe in? This:

        I go to Mass* and receive Communion, I pray (both formally and informally, just talking to God), I learn about my Faith, I try and lead a good life, I try and be kind and loving, I fail, I tell God I’m sorry and purpose to do better, and, hoping in Him, I go to Confession, and keep on holding on. [* Ideally, I prefer the EF, but of course the OF is valid, licit, and the occasion of great graces: this is a secondary issue!]

        He wrote: “In the final analysis I simply do not believe it [what I’ve just described!] leads to salvation, communion with God, or the peace offered by Jesus Christ.”

        Well, that’s just bizarre: if going to the Sacraments, praying, believing, trying to see my faults and to repent of them doesn’t help, then I’m damned.

        Gee, thanks for your charity and love, you old liberal. You’ve just proven again what I’ve learnt my whole life long: the liberals that everyone says are fuzzy and nice and badly done by are actually mean, nasty, domineering sorts; and the conservatives that everyone says are horrible, sinister, dangerous people are actually friendly, humorous and badly done by.

        • Tony

          It seems evident to me that the big fall-off in Western practice was during Paul VI’s time, but I could be wrong.

          I found a reference years ago — and haven’t been able to lay my hands on it since — that showed a steady decline in practice, with spikes during the wars, beginning at around the turn of the last century and that VatII was partly in response to this.

          You’ve just proven again what I’ve learnt my whole life long: the liberals that everyone says are fuzzy and nice and badly done by are actually mean, nasty, domineering sorts; and the conservatives that everyone says are horrible, sinister, dangerous people are actually friendly, humorous and badly done by.

          LOL. That shows me what the real value of these labels are: to poke fun at each other and remind ourselves not to take ourselves too seriously (a good thing to be sure)! Beyond that, very little.

          • Tony, I was very hurt by that comment, and I would thank you to bear that in mind and not denigrate my feelings.

            • Tony

              … I was very hurt by that comment …

              By what comment? That labels are useful for poking fun at each other and not taking ourselves too seriously and not much else?

              What ‘feelings’ am I actually ‘denigrating’?

              • Again, you seem extraordinarily insensitive by putting quotation marks around feelings, as if mine are not worthy!

                I was very upset by what I will now repeat, since you seemed unable to apprehend it:

                “I am amazed that Coyne could say that “I find no empathy whatsoever with the style and form of Catholicism or Christianity that he [me!]seems to believe in and wants to encourage in the world” – what do I want? what do I believe in? This:

                “I go to Mass* and receive Communion, I pray (both formally and informally, just talking to God), I learn about my Faith, I try and lead a good life, I try and be kind and loving, I fail, I tell God I’m sorry and purpose to do better, and, hoping in Him, I go to Confession, and keep on holding on. [* Ideally, I prefer the EF, but of course the OF is valid, licit, and the occasion of great graces: this is a secondary issue!]

                “He [Coyne] wrote: “In the final analysis I simply do not believe it [what I’ve just described!] leads to salvation, communion with God, or the peace offered by Jesus Christ.”

                “[I wrote;] Well, that’s just bizarre: if going to the Sacraments, praying, believing, trying to see my faults and to repent of them doesn’t help, then I’m damned.””

                The conclusion I think speaks for itself. According to aCatholic Coyne, my religion avails me nought; I may as well do away with myself.

                And you wonder why I’m upset!!!

                • Just because you think we should laugh and poke fun at each other doesn’t mean that I don’t take matters much more seriously.

                  • Tony

                    So are you saying this:

                    Gee, thanks for your charity and love, you old liberal. You’ve just proven again what I’ve learnt my whole life long: the liberals that everyone says are fuzzy and nice and badly done by are actually mean, nasty, domineering sorts; and the conservatives that everyone says are horrible, sinister, dangerous people are actually friendly, humorous and badly done by.

                    was serious?

                    If so, I’ve seriously misunderstood you!

                • Tony

                  Again, you seem extraordinarily insensitive by putting quotation marks around feelings, as if mine are not worthy!

                  No. I used quotation marks to refer to terms you used.

                  I was very upset by what I will now repeat, since you seemed unable to apprehend it …

                  But my comment wasn’t in response to that! I was responding to the text I reproduced in the post (that’s why I do it, so there’s no misunderstanding) beginning with ‘You’ve just proven again what I’ve learnt my whole life long …’.

                  I interpreted this as tongue-in-cheek and responding in a like manner.

                  I don’t speak for Brian and, you may be pleased to know, often disagree with him.

                  So maybe you could take your finger off the trigger, read what I wrote and direct your hurt feelings to Brian?

      • Frankly though I think this sort of conversation is almost useless. It seems there are two emergent forms of belief that are mutally exclusive.

        On one level, I am glad you said that, because it is important to realize that conversations must necessarily carry shared assumptions, a shared way of thinking. A person who merely says “This is what I think” is in almost just as bad as “This is what I feel.” The question must always be “what are the shared assumptions we are working from.” Just to make myself additionally clear I don’t have a use for labels except as some kind of mnemonic, and I don’t believe in the reification of labels. I certainly don’t, and I don’t think Joshua would either, consider himself an ultramontanist. My point is that all conversation among Christians must be substantiated by some genuine reading of tradition, fundamentally based, not just on a stray quotation from a Father which I use for my purposes, but on a recognition that we belong to a community, and engaged in an internal rereading and reinvention of Christianity. That is what Pope Benedict is doing, which is why he is often unpopular among extremists on both sides, as unpopular as Newman, or Aquinas, or Augustine.

        Ultimately, the point is divinization. The question is how to achieve it, and what it means to be divinized. For “us,” fundamentally, it means to belong to the Church – the Body of Christ continually developing to be in closer union with its Head – Jesus Christ, the Son of God become man. Of necessity, it means, as in any love story, that one allows oneself to be changed to be more in accord with Him.

        • No, I’m not an Ultramontanist: for, though of course I accept and believe what Vatican I taught (as a Catholic, I actually accept all the Ecumenical Councils!), I reject as fundamentally uncatholic that viewpoint that so magnifies the Pope as to make Scripture and Tradition irrelevant – since it is that maximalist misreading of Papal authority that has got the Church into such a sorry mess.

          I am a Traditionalist, if you will: one who emphasises the hermeneutic of continuity, and adheres to the Vincentian Canon: Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus. For this reason, I read things written before the Council (shock, horror), because I don’t believe in a Catholic “Year Zero” that discounts everything between Pentecost and 1965. So I appreciate the Deposit of Faith as expressed in all ages, diachronically, whether in the Bible, the Apostolic Fathers, the Latin and Greek Fathers, mediæval theologians, Aquinas, Trent, Counter-reformation saints and authors, theologians of the nineteenth century, and so forth. I also read modern writers and theologians in continuity, such as Aidan Nichols, or John Saward, etc. etc.

          One part of my Trad. Catholic outlook and practice is to prefer, as the Pope has admitted is entirely right and proper, the pre-reform liturgical books: so I use the ’62 Breviary and the ’62 Missal. But of course I accept, and perforce attend, the modern Mass, for lack of anything better here.

        • Yes, Kiran, I think the “shared assumptions” or paradigms (fundamental frameworks in which we do our thinking) are now mutually exclusive even if, on both sides, we make claim to the title “Catholic”. I honestly do not see anything that the traditionalists — and those who, at every turn, have sought to undo the direction discerned by the majority of the assembled bishops at the Second Vatican Council — have to offer has anything to do ultimately with “salvation”, “getting to heaven”, “eternal life” or however you might describe the end objective of “being Catholic”. To use a crude expression: it’s a wank or playing with oneself emotionally or intellectually.

          I once shared the conservative perspective — and was fairly vocal in prosecuting it also. Through personal experience I came to reject that perspective. As I’ve written elsewhere, ultimately I don’t think the spiritual quest is some conservative-liberal political game. I’ve not turned from being a conservative into some kind of liberal. In many, many things and in my base constituency, I am still very conservative in my outlook. What I am rejecting is this “conservative or, more correctly, ‘political’ lens” through which the traditionalists seem to view this “quest for eternal life”. Ultimately I simply don’t see it as leading to the objective it claims to lead to. It is basically a game about emotional (rather than spiritual) comfort. We feel good because a particular style of liturgy, particular hymns, a particular way of interpreting rules and law, a particular style of dress, ecclesial decoration and architecture gives us some kind of comfort, even a particular set of social mores and language. Ultimately it does not lead us to “know God” or “become like God” or “become holy” — a sanctified or divinized people.

          The gulf though is unbridgeable. Benedict said in a homily back in 1979 in defence of the decision to oust Hans Kung “The Christian believer is a simple person: bishops should protect the faith of these little people against the power of intellectuals.” (Allen,130)[1]

          I think that fairly clearly sums up the direction in which he’s endeavoured to take Catholicism. Most people in the Western world today are educated and consider themselves neither “simple” nor “little people”. Some do. They are still consumed with all the Trentan theology of docility, obedience (to temporal masters rather than a Divine master), and this game that seems to suggest that sucking up to God will bring “eternal salvation”. I understand the viewpoint because I lived it and was an advocate of it for a very long time in my life. In the end I reject it because it does not lead to the end objective not because I have some distaste for Gregorian chant, Latin, the liturgical styles of the past that helped form Catholicism, or the “nice manners” that the traditionalists seem to believe they have exclusive claim to. I reject it simply because none of those things lead to “eternal salvation” or “divinization” to borrow your term again. It’s ultimately a game of social conformism that I am rejecting — trying to please our (often) long dead Mums, or the ideas they planted in our heads and being of “what it means to be a ‘good’ person”. Jesus did not “come among us” to preach some game of social conformism. He came to show us how “to become like God”, how to find “the will of the Father” — and we achieve none of that by “social conformism” as he ultimately proved with his very own life. Jesus does not offer some formula by which if we go out and deliberately seek to set ourselves up as “nutters” and the one’s whom society considers to be “a little bit ‘different'” that it will be our “difference” that merits our salvation. Life itself throws up enough of the excoriation that we will get from seeking to “follow the Way of Christ” without any of us having to deliberately go out and pour bucketloads of the stuff over ourselves in the belief that by making ourselves weird, or different, or holier-than-the-rest-of-society, that somehow that will lead to us “being saved”. As I’ve already said, people who think like that are basically playing with themselves. They’ve lost the wood for the leaves — the substance for those things which are not of substance.

          [1]See Footnote at the conclusion of Dr Christine Roussell’s commentary for the source information re that quote. http://www.catholica.com.au/gc2/cr/002_cr_150308.php

          • Gareth

            Brian: I honestly do not see anything that the traditionalists — and those who, at every turn, have sought to undo the direction discerned by the majority of the assembled bishops at the Second Vatican Council — have to offer has anything to do ultimately with “salvation”, “getting to heaven”, “eternal life”

            Gareth:

            1.) Good, so what is the point of posting on a blogspot with people that DO see something?

            2) What precisely are traditionalists doing to undo the direction of the what the ‘spirit’ said at Vatican II? Is there any precise doctorine or Catholic practice that you are unpleased with that traditionalists are supposedly ‘undoing’ and how could this be implemented at a parish level

            3) If traditionalists do not have anything to ‘offer’ – do you have a concrete, alternative vision or precise practice that you would like to see implemented in the church that would be able to ‘offer’?

            Brian: I once shared the conservative perspective — and was fairly vocal in prosecuting it also.

            Gareth: And your personal experience is relevant to the church as a whole? I am sure there are people on this blog that have a differeing experience. e.g they once had a different perspective and now have a ‘conservative Catholic’ one.

            Brian: I think that fairly clearly sums up the direction in which he’s endeavoured to take Catholicism. Most people in the Western world today are educated and consider themselves neither “simple” nor “little people”.

            Gareth: I think you have misunderstood Ratzinger here. I am sure he did not mean little people in the sense that we are dumb, but little people in that we do not have the power to put our opinions into writing or that we people that do such as Kung, the Vatican has a right to critique their work or inform the average person in the pew of the true understanding of what Kung may have said and how this differs from the church’s view.

            Brian: As I’ve already said, people who think like that are basically playing with themselves.

            Gareth: I am sure this story would bring a tear to some people’s eyes but ultimately it is your story and not relevant to people here who support what you reject.

            Your thoughts that they are ‘playing with themselves’ (I am sure they think the same about your own viewpoint) is irrelevant as I am sure they have come to there conclusions after much thought and prayer and have a right to live out there faith as they deem fit without vulgar labels being applied.

            Whether they have chosen the right path is not up for you to decide, but rather there fellow local church members and ultimately when they face God.

            • Yes, here you see unveiled beneath the smiling liberal exterior the fascistic Nietzschean will to power, to dominate all life…

              He makes even religion – which ought be about apprehending the truth about God, and striving to abide by it – into a vehicle for domination of others by his own ego, treading down the little ones of Christ.

              Satan is the model of such a perversion of religion. I’m sure the devil is much in favour of “spirituality” and a focus on man rather than God.

              • Tony

                Crikey Joshua! Aren’t you the same guy that dressed me down for my insensitivity?

                • I stand by my comments; such persons do in fact want to take away religion and remould it after their own image, which is fundamentally fascistic and diabolical, against my God-given rights as a Catholic to observe the true Faith. I am sick and tired of liberals claiming to be nice, when they are not: they are dangerous.

                  • Mark my words, those like Coyne would stop at nothing to extirpate Catholicism as we know it had they the power – arguably, the damage and dissent in the post-Conciliar Church is due to such men. They would that all parishes be as South Brisbane, and would mercilessly oppress those wishing to keep the Faith, let alone make use of the Traditional liturgy.

                    • And I know from many priests that they faced, in getting through to ordination, such pestilent persons opposing it; Coyne would rather the seminaries be closed than have a new generation of faithful priests come through, who are unashamedly orthodox and love the Church, not hate her, ridicule her, despise her and condemn her as out of date and even contrary to Christ, when she is His beloved Bride.

                    • Gareth

                      Hi Josh,

                      In response to the following:

                      Josh: They would that all parishes be as South Brisbane.

                      Gareth: That is the problem as I see it. I am not entirely sure what precisely ‘they’ would have us worshipping at…
                      as they never seem to offer up a concrete vision to address their concerns.

                      Do you know what I mean?

                      If ‘traditional Catholicism’ has nothing to offer, then what excactly is the alternative, concrete vision?

                      Some people have suggested that this alternative vision would be in line with what the ‘spirit’ was telling people at Vatican II, but I am yet to fully understand what is precisely meant by this…

                      That is why I am in the opposite category as those that think traditional Catholic practices have ‘nothing to offer’.

                      They just have offered no alternate besides vague notions based on what they see as the ambigious ‘spirit of Vatican II’ – which ultimately could be interpreted as meaning anything.

                      What did the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ really say – to stop all traditional Catholic practices this instant??

                      Because I have no concrete, alternative vision to follow, I would stick with keeping with living the faith out to day to day and traditional Catholic practices.

                      It appears to have something more to offer.

                  • Tony

                    I think you also expressed a desire to avoid labels too, if memory serves.

                    … the smiling liberal exterior the fascistic Nietzschean …

                    How does that fit with your own standards?

                    Also, on a quick scan of Brian’s remarks I see no claim that he seeks to be ‘nice’. It’s hard not to conclude that it’s a claim that you assign to him (and, presumably, others who fit your label) then condemn him for not living up to it.

                    Finally, I’ve endeavored to explain my ‘insensitivity’ and you’ve left that hanging.

                    • I think I can get a bit overwrought… I am very sensitive, because I have suffered a lot at the hands of “liberals”, hence my distrust of them and my fear of them.

                      No, I don’t mind using labels – perhaps you’re thinking of the far more tactful Kiran.

                      I’m glad that C. doesn’t claim to be nice.

                      I believe that he and like aCatholics are a hindrance, not a help. Their project is antithetical to our Faith.

                      You seem a decent sort, anyway.

          • Okay. Fine. That is your articulation of yourself, an exercise of your will to power. Why should it be normative for any one else? You don’t believe that what you are saying is “true” sans qualification (whatever that is), I hope.

            Also, keep in mind Jesus’ statement which evidently, Cardinal Ratzinger had in mind when he made the quote about simple believers. “Unless you become as a little child, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” I think Pope Benedict is perhaps in any genuine sense of the word, the most “liberal” Pope there has ever been: one of the best educated in a wide range of disciplines and perspectives (See his several statements on Biblical exegesis), and one who is genuinely open to all that is good in the world. He is not an obscurantist. All of which is not to say that anything he says is automatically good, but simply that the hermeneutic of suspicion can be dropped.

            I too, in my own small way, have tried to be open, “liberal” if you wish. I do wish you would interpret some things and people, a little more charitably, but if you won’t, that is fine. Just don’t expect anyone else to agree.

          • I should say also that I have tried to engage in civil conversation. All I have seen from you is name-calling, a kind of fear-mongering. I am happy to talk with Christians who disagree with this or that particular teaching, but I don’t see how you are any different from the group in your imagination you are combatting (The word is deliberate. The imagery of conflict is yours).

  16. Amusingly enough, too many modernist Catholics actually have a super-maximal belief in Papal infallibility, which goes so far as to spill over into heresy – they believe that anything in faith or morals can be made to be true or false if the Pope so declares.

    The only thing they learnt as children when catechised was that the Pope rules OK. What a sad distortion of the truth that the Pope is conservator and guard of the Deposit of Faith, and what a sad confirmation of the Protestant jibes against the Church.

    All one has to do is wait patiently for… (as Joachim of Fiore long ago imagined) Papa Angelicus to come, the Angelic Pope who will usher in the Third Age, the New Age of the Holy Spirit. (Joachimites believed that the institutional Church would die, and a new egalitarian age would dawn. Sound familiar?)

  17. Perhaps Coyne is the Moses of the aCatholics?

    Well, I’m Joshua, so watch out! 😉

  18. Cathy

    David, I think you’ve overlooked something here. Maybe the Internet means we can all read papal documents with our breakfast, but the Internet also enables “liberal”, “modernist” Catholics (or whatever adjective you prefer), to form on-line communities like Catholica, of which I am an enthusiastic member. Far from being the death-knell of “liberal” Catholicism, I think the Internet is going to enable those of us in this “camp” to connect with each in a way that would otherwise be almost impossible. (I also hate using labels and dividing people into “political” categories and all that, but we need to talk about all this and we can only do this with words!)

    David, Joshua and other like-minded people, I honestly love the Catholic Church and I could no more leave it than I could give up my Australian citizenship, or even my membership of the human race. But I also see myself as being a follower of Jesus Christ – this is what’s at the centre of my life – and while this should not conflict with being a “faithful” Catholic, for me it does. So much of the Church’s teaching, and the way it does things, seem distinctly at odds with the Gospels. I know, of course, that after 2000 years, and in a very different social context, you can’t expect the Church to be a replica of the early Christian communities, but then, isn’t that the whole point? I mean, how can Jesus’ Church be “unchanging and unchangeable”? Should we not be always striving to interpret the Gospel in an appropriate way for our time and place? Sometimes, of course, this may mean we leave things as they are, but sometimes change may be needed. And don’t we need to do this by drawing on the best modern biblical scholarship?

    I certainly would not want the Catholic Church to become a Protestant clone; I’m not saying we should throw out all our traditions or all of our distinctively Catholic culture. But if the Church claims to be preaching Jesus Christ to the world, why does this Jesus seem so different to the one we encounter in the Gospels? In particular, the Church seems so rigidly legalistic, so tied up in its own traditions, and isn’t this the very thing which Jesus CRITICISED so much in the religious leaders of his day? The Gospels present Jesus as some-one who people flocked to because he healed their illnesses, and he showed special compassion and acceptance to those who felt excluded by the Establishment of his day. Of course, Church leaders may claim that the Church IS following Jesus in this. But surely the real test is whether people OUTSIDE the Church (or disillusioned people within it) can experience the Church in that way, and how many of them would say their predominant experience of the Catholic Church is of a healing, compassionate, accepting presence?

    • Cathy, I am sure that we could all (individually and communally) do a lot to make sure the Church is perceived compassionately, but I disagree with the idea that the test of the Church is not that she is percieved as accepting. For one thing, Jesus promised us the hatred of the world. For another thing, loving God fundamentally involves changing oneself to be more in conformity with him (Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect).

      I think this is very difficult for all of us, and we should certainly avoid scapegoating, and name-calling. We should also recognize that the greatest of sins are not sexual (traditional Catholic teaching by the way, and something I have heard from more than one “traditionalist” homilist), and that we all find certain things difficult. But all of us are called to conversion, every day.

  19. Tony

    The whole notion of some sort of homogeneous grouping called ‘Liberal Catholicism’ is flawed.

    Where are they? On what basis do we include one person in such a group and not another. What are the ideas that distinguish a liberal from another grouping?

    For example, there’s an ongoing discussion on CathPews about Capital Punishment. One poster insists that the Church is very much for CP and the late PJPIIs writings to the contrary (effectively) are ‘personal opinions. The other is adamant that we can’t call ourselves ‘pro-life’ and be for CP. Which of these positions are ‘liberal’ and does having just one ‘liberal’ idea make you a liberal?.

    Time and again I see these labels, where ever they come from, as self-serving straw men.

    Apparently it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, ‘Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people’.

  20. Kiran

    Umm, Tony, while I agree we should ditch “liberal” as a catch-all category, and perhaps avoid name-calling. On the other hand, I think one can disagree with Christianity in ways which take us outside the pale of Catholicism, not just in denying individual propositions, but also in our specific approach to the Church. I suppose one might question whether one, qua member of the Church, thinks certain ideas make sense, and try to show their reasonableness within Christian tradition, or whether one has a certain abstract ideal, to which one is trying to make Christianity, ad extra fit. I suppose I mean that for a Catholic (using the term broadly), the Church is fundamentally a given. One reasons as a member of it. For a dissenter of a certain sort, the Church must be made to change so that it can better answer to their own needs.

    But your last quote, with all due respect, doesn’t make sense. Ideas, like minds, don’t exist independently of people. I have never met a mind, or an idea. I have met many people with whose ideas I disagreed, but who were very clever, and on the other hand, I have met many not-very-clever people, who nevertheless were soooo very right.

    • Tony

      I think one can disagree with Christianity in ways which take us outside the pale of Catholicism, not just in denying individual propositions, but also in our specific approach to the Church.

      I’m sure you’re right Kiran but I don’t think Will Heaven has done this. You can identify a group, say the followers of AB Lefebvre, and show how their ideas and approach are outside the church but the grouping known as ‘Liberal Catholics’ is so vague that it becomes a metaphor for ‘those folks that get up my nose’. As such just about anything you say about ‘them’ tends to reflect on the POV of who says it rather than the target of what it being said.

      Even in this string of posts, there are evident slightly different takes on what each contributor understands as the liberal Catholic agenda (to the extent that it is clear – which it isn’t!).

      Again, I make the point (as I always do!) that this kind of metaphoric grouping is not confined to one side or the other.

      Outside of specific, self identified groups (like the Lefebvrists) we are best to stick to the ideas rather than vague associations (labels) of people. This is what Eleanor R was getting at I think. In short, we should avoid ad hominem directed at known individuals or vague groupings of individuals.

      Depending on what forum I participate in I am told in no uncertain terms that I am a Liberal (or a ‘Troll’ apparently). The fact that I’ve never joined any ‘club’ or identified myself in those terms seems not to be a problem at all! It’s about boxing people into ‘sets’ that we can comfortably dismiss or embrace.

      • But then again, ideas originate from groups of people. One always thinks as a member of a particular community, and one’s thought leads back to a certain vision of community. I don’t think it is the Lefebvrists alone (though I certainly do think the Lefebvrists are by and large, in their approach and their epistemology, fundamentalists) fit into a certain category. Members of certain other groups also define themselves against the “mainstream” or “conservatives.” Very often, they criticize

        Let me make clarify at least where I am coming from. I believe that the Church is a continuity, and belonging to the Church is something like a pre-condition for reasoning. Also, because of the very dynamism of tradition, Catholicism is quite capable of radically reshaping itself in an effort to get closer to the Truth. In other words, groups of disagreeing Catholics, unlike other combatants, can appeal to a reading of the tradition, that somehow justifies their position, and in doing so, can, from within, reshape Catholicism. Of course, there are good and bad, and more or less justified versions of these. (And by the way, by bad, I include both certain types of “conservative” positions including some variants of Leonine Thomism, as well as people like Nancy Pelosi who use Augustine and Aquinas for pithy quotes. Curiously, both are guilty in the same way. They read Thomas or Augustine without any sense of context, as a source to justify conclusions already reached). I think there is such a thing as a “reasonable” conception of “liberalism” as being that (in some cases self-identified) community which tries to change the Church to conform to an external and already apprehended standard (Note that, God, or the “Truth” is neither purely external, nor properly speaking apprehended here down below, except through a glass, darkly.)

        I also am not an ultramontanist. I think ultramontanism is itself problematic (fundamentalistic?). Christianity, including the Pope, has to be understood in relation to Christian tradition, not according to a particular authority. Of course, the Pope and Episcopal authority has a place in the Church, but not in order to provide ipse dixits by which we guide our lives. That is to reduce papal authority. And of course, Pope Benedict himself is not an ultramontanist. He views the exercise of his own authority in connection with Christian tradition.

        • I don’t know what I was intending to say with the fragment “Very often they criticize” Perhaps what I said below about ways of viewing the Church, ad extra. Sorry for the fragment.

        • Tony

          But then again, ideas originate from groups of people. One always thinks as a member of a particular community, and one’s thought leads back to a certain vision of community. I don’t think it is the Lefebvrists alone (though I certainly do think the Lefebvrists are by and large, in their approach and their epistemology, fundamentalists) fit into a certain category. Members of certain other groups also define themselves against the “mainstream” or “conservatives.” Very often, they criticize

          I chose the Lefebvrists only as an example of a group that is self identified and fairly coherent in where they stand.

          Heaven’s article starts with ‘ Liberal Catholics want a Church that …’. So he defines what a ‘Liberal Catholic’ is and then, in classic straw man style, demolishes ‘them’.

          Its money for old rope.

  21. We all of us struggle to live the Christian life – it would be slightly surprising if we found it a pushover! (Of course, as we grow in virtue it should grow easier to live in perfection, but this side of the grave I can’t see it being easy: even the Saints found it no joke, though withall wonderful, despite every cross.)

    The danger is that, rather than falling and getting up again and again, we can persuade ourselves that “really” we can make compromises, and end up inhabiting our own comfort zone, rather than persevere on the narrow path that leads to life.

    An illusive “spirituality”, coupled with a personal “interpretation” of moral norms, can lead one to find happiness in a hippie commune for example…

    We must pray for open eyes to see things as they are: and for us, the teachings of the Church are to be our rule and guide.

    As one of Chesterton’s quotations goes, Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies if they become fashions – notoriously, belief, let alone acceptance of moral norms (let alone moral norms that are a little difficult to keep), or acceptance of beliefs contrary to what secular society deems safe and inoffensive, is not at all fashionable today; doubt, suspicion of tradition, and all the rest are what the world tells us we should love.

    I saw a post recently that spoke of how there is a distinct Christian dialect (which was so new and different it remade Latin and Greek), using words like “God”, “Jesus”, “grace”, “heaven”, yes, and “hell”, “sin”, etc., which the world finds hard to bear – but we ought speak it.

  22. Paul

    At the moment, I happen to be re-reading Malcolm Muggeridge’s “Jesus Rediscovered”. Muggeridge is an effective and witty cynic, and it is interesting to read his thoughts from the far away 1960’s….

    “Many of the leaders and clergy of the various Christian denominations are insistent that Christ’s kingdom, contrary to what he said, is of this world, and that treasure laid up on earth to be distributed ever more lavishly to the citizens of an affluent consumer society is of the greatest possible moment. Anyone who suggests that the pursuit of happiness—that disastrous phrase written almost by chance into the American Declaration of Independence, and usually signifying in practice the pursuit of pleasure as expressed in the contemporary cult of eroticism—runs directly contrary to the Christian way of life as conveyed in the New Testament, is sure to be condemned as a life-hater, one who blasphemously denigrates God’s world and the creature—man—made in his image.

    Unspeakable clergymen twanging electric guitars denounce him; episcopal voices cast him into outer darkness; from without, and sometimes within, the churches comes insistence that to be carnally minded is life; that it is the flesh that quickeneth and the spirit that profiteth nothing. I speak here, I may add, about what in some small degree I have experienced myself. It was from the Roman Catholic chaplain of Edinburgh University and a number of his associates that there came the bitterest denunciation of myself as Rector and of my Assessor and friend, Allan Frazer, for having resigned rather than seem to countenance a demand for the indiscriminate distribution of contraceptives to the students. To the best of my knowledge no Church dignitary (with the honourable exception of the Free Church of Scotland) spoke up in public on our behalf, though one or two wrote to us privately in sympathetic terms. There are many other and much more important instances of the same sort. These induce me to say in all honesty that, in my opinion, the Church leaders and clergy have made such concession to prevailing permissive mores and materialism that, unless there is a quick and dramatic reversal of their present attitudes, I personally shall be very surprised if a decade or so from now anything remains of institutional Christianity—an outcome which quite a number of them openly hope for. Here, at least, their hopes are likely to be realised. ”

    Muggeridge, for all his qualities, was a poor predictor of the future. He was always predicting his own death, but lived a decade longer than he thought was likely. Equally, parts of Christianity have drawn back from the brink of self-imposed irrelevance that he saw coming, but the debate continues about Christianity pointing to the Kingdom of this world or the next.

  23. Kiran

    In response to the long line of indented comments above, my decision to invoke Nietzsche is not to depict someone person as “fascistic” but to take on board Nietzsche’s basic point that every assertion of truth is an assertion of self. Now, I think the point about the Church’s self-assertions, or self-assertions properly made on behalf of the Church, is that they aim to point beyond ourselves to Christ.

    Nietzsche rules!

  24. Kiran

    And as you can see, I am just as capable of going on and on as anyone else.