When the FAITH Movement was founded in 1972, it was seen by many as essentially reactionary – reacting to the often confused situation in the Church in those years immediately following the Second Vatican Council. We were often linked in people’s minds with other groups that seemed to be primarily concerned with “getting things back to the way things were”, to a rejection of the teachings of the Council and/or to the liturgical reforms which followed it.
But the FAITH Movement was never reactionary in that sense. If anything, it was reacting to something rather different – the often rather bleak and formulaic teaching that tended to dominate the seminaries of the 1940s and 50s. Father Holloway, founder of FAITH and longtime editor of this magazine, was regarded in those early days as something of a troublemaker and those who worked with him recall being denounced as “modernist”.
2018 and some anniversaries
Essentially – although this was not known in the 1970s when there was so much happening in the Church that it was difficult to discern authentic renewal amid the shouting and the debating and the exodus of priests and religious sisters and so on – FAITH was one of the New Movements that would play a growing role over the next decades.
The Church marks two notable anniversaries in 2018. The first is the 50th anniversary of the climactic year 1968: students rioting in universities across the West, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, hippies and yippies in California …and massive dissension in the Catholic Church following the proclamation of Bl. Pope Paul VI’s landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae. And the other anniversary is of 1978 – the election of Pope St. John Paul, the first non-Italian Pope in centuries, the first Slav Pope, and the beginning of a more confident and authentic affirmation of what Vatican II really taught.
These two anniversaries are linked in all sorts of ways. Back in 1968, no one really spoke confidently of the end of Communism: the cruel tentacles of this nasty ideology had Eastern Europe in its grip and when the Czechs tried to loosen things up a little, the Soviet Army moved to curl the grip tighter. A Pope from behind that Iron Curtain seemed the unlikeliest of possibilities and such notions were never even discussed among Catholics in the West, busy with internal problems. They were mostly either trying to hold firm in the face of widespread dissent from authentic Church teachings or were part of that dissent or swept along by its confusing surge. The election, a decade later, of the Archbishop of Krakow to the see of Peter would change everything – a further decade on would see the collapse of Communism and the freeing of Eastern Europe and also the regrowth of a sense of confidence and unity in the Church with massive crowds at vast Papal pilgrimages and the emergence of World Youth Days and the discovery of a fresh generation open to the truths of the Catholic faith.
The New Movements were – and are – the bridge between that post-Vatican II era and today’s Church. The founders of FAITH did not know very much – if anything – about the other Movements that were emerging as the 1970s began. Chiara Lubich had founded the Focolare decades before – its name, but not much more than that, might have been known vaguely by Fr Holloway and others. The charismatics at that time were generally regarded as being a bit odd – as indeed some perhaps were in those early days before John Paul, with the aid of the magnificent Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), called them to a realisation of their place with Peter in the fullness of the Church and to growing Eucharistic and Marian devotion. Movements such as France’s Emmanuel community and Italy’s Communion and Liberation were unknown in Britain. The Neo-Catechumenate was in its infancy. And new religious orders established by noted figures such as Fr Benedict Groeschel and Mother Angelica were at that time still being fostered in the hearts and souls of those remarkable founders.
In 2018, taking stock, FAITH can see itself in the light of the developments of the past decades. We find some affinity with some of the other Movements: like them we have grown and flourished though on a more modest scale and with a quite different style: we are much smaller, we are not international, we own no properties or schools, and our priests are all diocesan, working in parishes under the direction of their bishops. But we are a strong community and our youth events flourish along with our conferences, retreats and seminars, and we continue to grow.
In 2018, St John Paul - often and rightly called the Great – is seen as one of the most notable Popes in history. His writings, especially on human dignity and freedom, the sanctity of life, the significance of male and female, the importance of marriage, and the centrality of Christ as the Redeemer of the human race, are taught as part of the authentic renewal of the Church following the Second Vatican Council. To young priests and seminarians of the first decades of the 21st century, he is the hero figure of the later decades of the 20th, and as such a priest and bishop for the modern era whose style and message, insights and vision are a model for them to follow, as well as a saint whose intercession they seek and to whose influence many attribute their discernment of a call to the priesthood.
In 2018 there is talk of Paul VI, already beatified, being canonised: his prophetic voice in Humanae Vitae is correctly seen as heroic. It is the unchanging and unchangeable teaching of the Church. The FAITH Movement is proud and glad to be able to affirm full support for that encyclical in its anniversary year. Today there is recognition of Pope Paul VI’s quiet courage in his final years as dissent ripped through the Church and he was personally insulted and denounced by both “traditionalist” and “progressive” factions. We applaud Paul VI, and take this opportunity to oppose any and all attempts to “water down” Humanae Vitae or to promote a nudge-and-wink suggestion that its teaching should be ignored. It teaches the truth, and we are proud to affirm it.
In 2018 we can view 1968 and 1978 through the lens of what happened in the ensuing decades. The growth of the New Movements in the Church, and their steady, and steadying, influence has been one of the most important, but often publicly unnoticed, facts of these decades. Their support for the Catechism of the Catholic Church, their thriving seminaries, their young priests, and their joyful presence at great international Catholic gatherings, have all contributed to renewal and given fresh hope to the Church.
In 2018 we can also recall 1988, when an Archbishop led a group out of the Church, ordaining his own bishops without Papal mandate and spending the next years denouncing the activities and teachings of the Popes from John XXIII onwards. Archbishop Lefebvre died excommunicated. In 2018 the Bishops of his group say they are seeking reconciliation with the Church: this will involve some swallowing of pride since their last most public statement before this passionately opposed the canonisations of Popes St John XXIII and St John Paul II. Canonisation is an exercise of infallibility by the Church.
In 2018 we can see the need for loyalty and unity in the Church, can rejoice in the vast growth of Church in Africa and Asia, can recognise and respond to the urgent call for a New Evangelisation in Europe, Australasia and North America, and can sense the role that our own FAITH Movement can have in our own country and perhaps further afield.
In 2018, looking back and looking forward, we can affirm along with our loyalty to the Pope and the Church, a certain confidence in the future. We are conscious of achievements that have more than fulfilled the modest hopes of the Faith Movement’s early days.
We have always been realistic. From its foundation, the FAITH Movement has spoken of a crisis in the Church in the West: it still continues. In Britain and across Europe, Mass attendance has slumped over the past decades, along with marriages, baptisms, and ordinations to the priesthood. There will be tough times: the social and political context here in the West where the FAITH Movement operates is a largely hostile one. Nor will the Church be immune to the infection of secularist campaigning: it has always been the case that the Church is influenced by trends in the world and there are some horrible trends in today’s Britain. We see it all at work among our young – and among the often tired middle-aged and elderly who have sought to weather the storms surging in and around the Church for decades. We are, however, as a Movement, the child of such storms: we have been buffeted since our formation. We are grateful for all that has been achieved, and as we plan our summer events for 2018, we are, paraphrasing Scripture, awake, watchful and unafraid.