Letters to the Editor
FAITH Magazine Jul-Aug 2007
AN ATTEMPT AT MODERN CATECHESIS
Dear Father Editor,
Through Our Lady’s School of Evangelisation we have conducted Youth Outreach to secondary schools and third level colleges. There is a team of 15 evangelisers visiting these schools and colleges in an effort to bring the Gospel message to our teenagers and young adults.
I have found it interesting how often the question of biological evolution arose within the outreach discussion groups in these schools. It was great to be able to articulate the vision promoted by Faith Movement of Creation through ‘The Unity-Law of Control and Direction’ and to be able to explain and to answer the questions related to Science and the orthodox Catholic Faith. I have had some good feedback from these encounters.
St. Michael’s House
THE SPIRITUAL SOUL
Your March-April issue on the soul and human person is very timely.
In your excellent editorial article, you write:
“There has been a long-tradition within Catholic catechesis for making a rational case for the immortal nature of men... She (the Catholic Church) needs to make a renewed case for her teaching concerning the human soul. In this regard we need to return to the essential outlines of the Thomistic tradition while developing its specific arguments... in the light of modern science.” (my emphasis).
I notice that Fr. Dylan James, in his article, says: “the existence of the spiritual soul in man is a truth (we argue) that can be deduced from reason.”
The need for clear teaching about the soul becomes ever clearer. For one thing, it is inconsistent to believe that the same person is raised up at the end of time unless his or her soul is immortal. Belief in the resurrection of the body requires the immortality of the soul.
In this regard may I mention my own book The Soul: An Inquiry(London, St Paul’s Publishing, 2004)? It aims to provide the arguments of reason which support the biblical, and so Church’s, view of man, and especially the creation and immortality of the soul. Its underlying approach is based on Aristotle and St. Thomas. It also engages contemporary philosophy and modern science (why we are not just the products of evolution).
Director of Philosophy
Allen Hall Seminary
A CATHOLIC TEXTBOOK?
Dear Father Editor,
The review by James Preece of the book “Catholic Christianity Today” (in the May/June issue of Faith) is both disturbing and depressing, especially in view of its being recommended as “the best text book available for teaching Religious Education in Catholic schools.”
This appalling ignorance of the Church’s teaching in Faith and Morals is surely the root cause of the decline of Catholicism in this country today, and, as many people observe, goes back at least one generation, (presumably that of its authors).
To think that it is being perpetuated, -nay, perpetrated- in this way is shocking to say the least, and I suggest that a copy of this Review should be sent to every Bishop in the British Isles. May we then hope that the offending book be withdrawn from circulation in our schools, and something of real Truth be produced to replace it.
MARY DOUGLAS AND A PRESCRIPTION FOR MODERN BRITAIN
Dear Fr Editor
Some of the more thoughtful parts of the secular media have recently acknowledged the passing of Mary Douglas, who Commonwealdescribes as “one of most influential Catholic intellectuals of the postwar era, and... perhaps the most influential social anthropologist from any background”.
Her work is highly relevant to the rebuilding of Catholic culture and to challenging the credentials of our current liberal secular consensus. She may be familiar to some of your readers but I feel it is worth recalling and honouring her great contribution to the sum of scientific wisdom.
Her most famous book, Grid and Group, looks at organisations from the point of view of two counterbalancing social forces; “grid” standing for traditions, conventions, hierarchical structures, accepted mores and patterns of behaviour; “group” encompassing the bonds of personal interaction, mutual recognition and communal self identification. Individuals in community define themselves and are shaped by these intersecting parameters, being both limited and/or enabled by the prevailing culture type.
Looking at the varied interplay of these factors makes for a powerful and very successful sociological analysis that can be applied to many situations – businesses, churches, (including dioceses and parishes) as well as clubs, movements and whole nation states. There are several possible broad combinations of grid and group factors, each of which produces fairly predictable types of community.
High grid, high group organisations have clear internal rules of engagement and a strong, shared cultural identity, producing great cohesion and stability for a period, but tending to be immobile and slow to adapt to external changes. One could think of the Edwardian British Empire, or perhaps the pre-Conciliar Church. High grid, low group organisations are typically dictatorships and moribund or ossified religious groups where rigid control mechanism dominate all relationships but with little sense of personal belonging or communal purpose, so internal pressures can eventually be explosive. Prerevolutionary Russia or China, or present day Zimbabwe would be examples. Low grid, high group entities are characterised by intense interpersonal bonds but with few controls or boundaries. Theycan be very internally fluid but highly unstable. Religious cults and radical political movements with charismatic leaders are typically located here.
Finally there is the low grid, low group category. Groups that adopt this style of working believe that they have reached great social maturity but ditching all vestiges of deference and dissolving old fashioned notions of tribal pride. In fact they are usually entering upon their own demise. Does this ring any bells in modern Britain? Many in the post-Conciliar Catholic Church could do well to examine their anthropological consciences in this regard too. To be anti-hierarchical, antiinstitutional, anti-ritual and against any clear sense of Catholic cultural identity is not the mark of liberation but a sign of sociological and spiritual senescence! True maturity, one might venture, lies in the middle way where hierarchy, structure, law and ritual, as well as personality, initiative,inspiration and group dynamics are all acknowledged and valued and held in balance.
Grid and Group theory is not Mary Douglas’ only significant legacy. Her earliest work on the relationship between ritual purity and holiness, and her later work on the true literary and theological meaning of the Book of Leviticus do much to counter the neo- Freudian view that Judeo-Christianity is based on a primitive, superstitious, patriarchal, taboo ridden ideology. But that would need an article in its own right.
She was not an apologist, but an original and truly objective scholar. As such she did much to clarify the truth of God’s Word for the modern world. May she rest in peace.
TOWARDS APPROPRIATE LITURGY
Dear Father Editor,
How fortunate for Fr Philippe Jobert that he lives where he does and is able to celebrate Mass in the way that he does, with his community. I would ask him to spare a thought for the many millions of Catholics who do not enjoy a comparable blessing. Does that represent an argument in favour of the Old Mass rather than the new? Well, not essentially, but there is a cause and effect factor related to the present liturgical debacle, which he has not perceived. There can be no doubt whatsoever that any crisis which exists in the the Church today, related to worship and belief, can be traced directly to intrinsic difficulties manifested in the present rite. I am simply repeating – though not verbatim- the sentiments of the present Holy Father, when he was a cardinal. But thereis more in Fr Philippe’s article with which I would take issue.
He writes in your last edition of Faith Magazine, “millions of the faithful throughout the world have spontaneously adhered to the new rite”. Indeed? What choice did they have from 1970? I went to Solesmes in the 1970’s and I have seen the dignity and the beauty of the liturgy there and I thank God for it. But it is not typical. In fact there is hardly such a thing as a typical Mass. The tragedy is that so many Catholics, in so many places, have to shop around for decent liturgy.
The old Roman rite was often done badly and hastily in many places. It still conveyed precisely what was intended by it. There was no mistaking either its spirit or letter as unambiguously Catholic, even when badly done. The same cannot be said universally, of the present rite. It has –maybe unintentionally- given rise in not a few places to an unwarranted emphasis on the participants over the central action of the priest as alter Christus. To use the parable of the Prodigal Son –as Fr Phillipe does- to demonstrate the argument, it is as though the most important part of the story was the people who attended the party for the boy’s return and not the generosity of the Father in giving it.
Fr Phillippe does not have to endure the present English translation of the Mass of Paul VI, so bad that it has had to be totally re-done to correct an amazing number of inaccuracies. Can he imagine the effect this strained and diluted nourishment has had on several generations of English-speaking Catholics all over the world? I have seen its results, as a pastor, for the past nearly thirty years, as have many others. The statistics of lapsation, as well as the catechetical ignorance of so many, speak for themselves.
I fear that in his analysis of the crisis, Fr Phillipe is strongly influenced by an understanding of the situation in France which has sharp differences to that elsewhere. There always has been a small though significant and still growing support for the Old Mass in the English-speaking world where liturgy in the English language was always seen as the unmistakable medium of non-Catholic worship. People in these islands died for the Latin Mass in opposition to Cranmer’s parody of it, however beautiful its vernacular, and many of us are not prepared to forget that or jettison irresponsibly those sacred rites for which they died. Very little attention was paid to this fact in Rome in the 1960’s, but the late Cardinal Heenan, Archbishop of Westminster, both recognised and understood it whenhe negotiated the indult for England and Wales in the 1970’s.
Another point that I will raise with Fr Phillipe is the question of the widespread abuses of the liturgy that the late Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have sought to halt. They place another serious question mark over the modern rite because it could be argued that the options and emphasis on interaction that is now an essential aspect of it have contributed to this situation. Again, it can be viewed as a simple question of cause and effect.
Can Fr Philippe assure me that these abuses will cease immediately? The answer has got to be no. Were there such abuses of the Old Rite? Certainly there were, but they began to be more widespread and outrageous quite soon after 1965, when tinkering and traducing went on, in the imagined expectation of spiritual benefits galore. Where there have been some, I suspect it is in places where the present Mass has been celebrated with as much reference to past forms as to any avant-gardeagenda. One has only to reflect on what has happened in countries like Brazil to see a measure of the effect of horizontal liturgy and its dependant theological aberrations, leading to a craving for panaceas providing an instantaneous buzz. People in droves are finding the emotional charge is better supplied intravelling the whole journey, from Catholicism into sectarianism.
In a phrase, the modern rite in its present form fails to deliver in quite the same way and with the same immediacy that was conveyed by the old. Its rating is far from totally satisfactory. We need the Old Rite to point the way to why that is so. Perhaps that is why so many have desired to bury it. They have not succeeded and will not succeed because the well-spring of piety and prayer from which it comes is itself the perennial source of nearly two millennia of the Church’s living tradition: the lex orandi, lex credendi.
Fr Antony Conlon
The Oratory School