Sunday, October 31, 2010
A bit of a grim week.
In the world at large the worst news this week has to be the occurrence of further natural disasters in Indonesia and Benin. However, most of the current bad news for the Church is the result of human action. Within the Church, orthodox Catholic bloggers are under attack from their heterodox brethren for being too orthodox. I dislike and resist politically tinged words like liberal and conservative. Maybe it is too simplistic of me to sort people out by how obedient they are to the magisterium of the Church, how loyal they are to the Pope, and if they are critical of him, how well informed they are as to his teaching. But honestly to apply these yardsticks is just about the only way for me to stay sane. The only other safeguard of my mental and spiritual health is the very reason why 51 years ago I converted from Low Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism. And that was the discovery of belief that the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. There were other issues of course, such as authority and obedience, but after the shock of Transubstantiation, these were not problematic. It was more a question of learning, of discovery. And of course a clear understanding of authority meant that I was not attracted to Anglo-Catholicism. In any case at the age of 16, I knew nothing about the Oxford Movement.
It seemed that no sooner had I become Catholic, that the Church began to dismantle herself. It wasn't so bad for many years, mainly because I found myself in traditional parishes and never experienced liturgical abuses in a parish setting. I was not exposed to such things until 1979 at a catechetical course I attended in London at what used to be a Catholic Teacher Training college.The opening Mass was celebrated 'in the round' in the college assembly hall, (even though there was a perfectly good chapel). The Gospel reading was the text about the man who built his house upon sand. Two religious sisters in truncated habits and veils 'performed' a dance drama in front of the priest as he read the Gospel . The priest was young and had been billed as not long ordained.
He preached a homily about Cardinal Mercier, who as a lapsed teenage boy and been dared by a friend to go into a church, kneel before the Blessed Sacrament and say the words 'You are Christ and I don't give a d***' Mercier agreed, got as far as kneeling down and then found he just couldn't say the agreed words, and was immediately converted. Not a bad story, but later when this priest reached the minor elevation of the Host, he said, 'You are Christ and we DO give a d***' (The word on both occasions was spoken in full. If the priest, as I understood it, believed in the Real Presence, how could he think that he was treating the Lord with due reverence and awe?) I began to wonder how much longer I could or should stay. Not much longer. When it came to Communion the priest just handed a bowl of hosts to the person immediately to his left and this began to be passed from hand to hand round the circle. By the time it reached the place where I had been standing I was walking up towards High St. Kensington with tears streaming down my face.
But I was sheltered in my parish; I thought such abuses were isolated rarities. I know better now of course. Thirty years later there are Catholics 'in full communion' who are not only pro-choice, pro-same-sex 'marriage', pro- female 'ordination', but who do not believe in the Real Presence, and who still receive Communion. Speaking out on the latter issue isn't so common as on the first three; it's something a person can keep to himself, something he won't feel if necessary to tell his priest. But I know of individuals who fall into that category and have read on the Internet, from some priests as well, that such belief is a medieval superstition, and that to hold it shows that one is not 'grown up'. Thank God there were so many 'un-grownup' people with the Holy Father at the Hyde Park Vigil.
To be continued.