03 June 2011

Catholic Instincts

A post by Ben Trovato here gives a really important (it seems to me) pointer to why some things in the Church in England and Wales are so out of kilter.

He discusses the debacle of the Methodist ordinations at Liverpool Cathedral - how Archbishop Kelly at first allowed them and then, coincidentally after the story had become public, had decided that he didn't think that they were a good thing after all - and wondered why if he (Ben) had realised instinctively that this was a bad thing to do, the Archbishop hadn't had the same instinctive reaction.

"So the worrying question is: why do we have bishops in this country whose instincts are contrary to those of the Catholic faithful of the past, (and indeed many of the present generations too) and contrary to Rome? And what can be done about it?"

My guess would be that the story of the Church in E&W in the 70s and 80s has a lot to do with this: a mixture of not wanting to look and sound and feel different from everybody else on the one hand, and on the other, a feeling that "We are the Easter People" meant that "we" could re-create the Church to reflect the way in which "we" perceived that it would be relevant in contemporary E&W.

Both of these could only be articulated (never mind achieved) by people who could consciously turn off the instincts they had imbibed from birth.  How could you be the fruit of 1900 years of organic development and not realise that abandoning Friday abstinence so that Catholics didn't stand out from the crowd (one of the reasons cited by the Bishops' Conference, don't forget) was to break with the past?  You couldn't, but once you start ignoring your instincts in favour of the new set of beliefs you profess, you have created a new Church (a Nuchurch, as OTSOTA might say) in which change and variety and experimentation might as well be virtues as vices, and in which fidelity to received tradition becomes an odd minority option, to be tolerated and patronised.

My guess is that you can't restore suppressed instincts, but I hope I'm wrong.  Much more important, however - at least for the moment - is that those who retain that instinctive understanding of what being a Catholic means in terms of ordinary practice should inculcate the right instincts in those whom they can influence. 

Ben is on to something here.


Left-footer said...

Ben is, and you are, indeed on to something here, and I hope that the clock may still be turned back.

Some years ago I met at a party two middle-aged Liberal Jews, who told me proudly (as well they might) that their children had all become Orthodox, keeping a Koher kitchen (unlike the parents), etc., etc.

Let us hope and pray

Mike Cliffson said...

Any insight into the way the devil inspires evil and tempts us all can be helpful: Fr Hunwicke's quote of CS Lewis's Screwtape on alienating one generation from the next is very much in line with your post and the post you quote.
But it is Christ, not us, who has conquered the devil - we have to be careful about being too clever by half unaided by a life of faith, the sacraments.......
My Generation was taught the Holy Michael Archagel prayer, and I'm teaching it to my kids.Along with the penny catechism, ......

Left-footer said...

Mike Cliffson - Bravo and Amen!

Richard Collins said...

I believe that, in the 70s and
80s, the Bishops looked at their counterparts in the Anglican church and thought "Why can't we have some of that?"
It must have been tempting, no holding to doctrinal truths, getting the laity involved to such a degree that you could swan around on a golf course most of the week, undertaking the old trick of appearing busy by merely attending countless pointless meetings.
Just off to confession now....

Genty said...

The Queen, no friend of Catholicism, called Basil Hume "my cardinal". That just about summed up his generation of sell-out hierarchy.
I wouldn't be too pessimistic about suppressed instincts. They're not too far below the surface and many of the new generation carry no such baggage.