Letters to the Editor
FAITH Magazine May – June 2012
Dear Father Editor,
Your editorials, "The Eclipse of Authority" (November/December 2011) and "Christian Formation: Where Do We Start?" (January/ February 2012), resonate with my experience, as an octogenarian.
The de-christianisation of the country by successive governments, with the formal assent of the sovereign, has gathered pace. Legislation has weakened marriage; permitted abortion; destroyed Christian adoption agencies; fostered adolescent promiscuity by promoting contraception; and hampered the supervision of failing parents, leading to the deaths of children. All have been justified by appealing to compassion and disregarding Truth. Greed has been accepted at all levels of society and the portrayal of cruelty is considered an acceptable form of entertainment.
God has long since been excluded from any role in civil society's reflections on how to conduct itself. Personal relativism, the notion that the truth or falsehood of moral statements varies from person to person, was actively promoted in the mid-20th century and welcomed as liberating.
Anthropologists such as Margaret Mead had a remarkable influence on social science, philosophical thinking and professional training. There was muted criticism, on theological and moral grounds, from Christians. In the face of society's crumbling morality the National Church, divided against itself, had little to offer, and has clearly become part of the problem.
The Prime Minister argues that parents should do what successive governments have undermined their ability to do. He retreats into proposing coercion as a solution to the crumbling of authority of society. An unsympathetic biographer has described him as "a man adrift in a sea of his own emotivity". A society not rooted in God, trapped in social relativism where, as Hume put it, "morality is more properly felt than judged of", readily collapses into emotivism; the looter claims his opinion carries as much weight as the victim's.
Jesus is not entirely absent from the thinking of politicians. He is called upon to set a seal on anything we choose to believe. Baroness Warnock speaking on Channel 4 expressed the view that Jesus was a revolutionary who would have been sympathetic to the protesters camped at St Paul's. Mr Cameron's office said in 2008 that he was of the view that Jesus would have been a "gay rights" campaigner.
Pope Benedict XVI offers a way forward in his reflections in Jesus of Nazareth, saying that being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice but of an encounter with a person which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. That person is the real historical Jesus of the Gospels -a person who, historically speaking, is much more plausible, intelligible and convincing than the reconstructions we have been presented with in recent times.
The way forward is with the Jesus of history; who else?
Dear Father Editor,
Your Road from Regensburg column (12 March) highlights the request of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for prominent study of the Second Vatican Council during the Year of Faith. In the light of some negative attitudes towards those texts from some Catholics it may be opportune to highlight these words from the Pope's recent letter Porta Fidei, (n.5):
"the texts bequeathed by the Council Fathers, in the words of Blessed John Paul II, 'have lost nothing of their value or brilliance. They need to be read correctly, to be widely known and taken to heart as important and normative texts of the Magisterium, within the Church's Tradition ... I feel more than ever in duty bound to point to the Council as the great grace bestowed on the Church in the 20th century.'"
Dear Father Editor,
Father Jack Mahoney's recent book, Christianity in Evolution: An Exploration, sees the constitutive role of death in evolution as a problem for Catholic teaching [see Cutting Edge in this issue - Ed]. When I was a theological student, I got to understand that once the human body had evolved and received the soul, we were dispensed from the apparent problems and conflicts, including death, within nature. We intimately shared life with God. Alas, God did not continue the dispensation owing to the human choice of sinful ways.
Subsequently, through our Redeemer, sharing in the Divine life became a real possibility once more. I've always found this so convincing. I am really puzzled why Father Mahoney SJ does not also find it convincing.