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The dynamic, missionary, ‘evangelical’ Church of today is a world away from unthinking pre-Vatican II complacency

What John Allen describes as ‘Evangelical Catholicism’ gives me hope for the future

By on Friday, 7 October 2011

Pilgrims at the World Youth Day closing Mass (Photo: CNS)

Pilgrims at the World Youth Day closing Mass (Photo: CNS)

A friend has forwarded to me an interesting blog, dated September 28, by Fr Stephen Wang of the Westminster diocese. Entitled “Liberal, conservative, progressive, traditionalist: where is the Church going?” it throws open a debate about an article written by John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter at the conclusion to World Youth Day.

In his article, Allen thinks the Church is turning towards “Evangelical Catholicism”. He defines this as having three aspects:

1. A strong defence of traditional Catholic identity, meaning attachment to classic markers of Catholic thought (doctrinal orthodoxy) and Catholic practice (liturgical tradition, devotional life, and authority).

2. Robust public proclamation of Catholic teaching, with the accent on Catholicism’s mission ad extra, transforming the culture in light of the Gospel, rather than ad intra, on internal Church reform.

3. Faith seen as a matter of personal choice rather than cultural inheritance, which among other things implies that in a highly secular culture, Catholic identity can never be taken for granted. It always has to be proven, defended and made manifest.

Allen continues: “I consciously use the term “Evangelical” to capture all this rather than “conservative”, even though I recognise that many people experience what I’ve just sketched as a conservative impulse. Fundamentally, however, it’s about something else: the hunger for identity in a fragmented world.”

Allen finds this Evangelical Catholicism widespread among committed Catholics of the younger generation. Fr Wang comments on this analysis: “Most of this fits with my own experience of the Church over recent years. What do you think?”

Good question. I also agree with John Allen’s analysis and it is what gives me hope for the Church in the future. Growing up as a Catholic in the 1950s and during Vatican II, as I did, was a very different experience. It was a Church of “pray, pay and obey”: unquestioning faith (but little capacity to defend it), the Sunday obligation, no understanding of the Church’s mission (except for the foreign missions and “adopting” black babies in Africa) and one’s Catholic identity entirely taken for granted.

Then came Vatican II and this cosy world of Catholic habits and assumptions fell completely apart. This gives the flaw in the Traditionalist argument that everything was fine until we abandoned the Latin Mass. It wasn’t; the Church in England was comfortable, complacent and (in my neck of the woods) a place of bills, bingo and bourgeois respectability. The fervour of the early Christians was nowhere to be seen.

Today such an outlook is unthinkable. You have to choose to be a Catholic, with all the commitment to truth this implies. If you don’t make that choice you are already lost to the values of the secular world – which is not just neutral or indifferent to Christianity but deeply hostile to it. Just about every day one is confronted with the choice of putting a pinch of incense on the altars of the secular gods (and thereby having an easy life) – or being marked out as a bigot for standing up for one’s faith.

On the World Service last night I listened to some of David Cameron’s speech at the Conservative Party Conference. As the Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland later commented: “He also succeeded in winning applause for the important and admirable declaration that ‘I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.’ ” According to Freedland: “That was revealing, and not only of the oceanic distance that now separates British conservatives from their counterparts in the US, where such a statement is unimaginable from someone in Cameron’s position.”

It doesn’t just separate British conservatives from their American counterparts; it completely separates British Catholics from any possibility of identity with Conservatism (or indeed, any of the political parties) over here. Imagine Harold Macmillan (Cameron’s hero, apparently) declaring “I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.” Or even Margaret Thatcher. That is the distance the party of “traditional values” has travelled in the last two decades. As John Allen comments, and as Fr Wang agrees, in the morally compromised and fragmented world around them, serious young Catholics today have found the identity they hunger for within the Church. But this is not the pre-Vatican II Church; it is the dynamic, missionary, “evangelical” Church of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

  • Alcuin

    If only the Church could accept masculinity more. It seems to feminize men. Priests often became priests because of their mothers. How many became priests because of their fathers? When we go to Church, we see Mary everywhere, and a feminine-looking Jesus. Church is way too feminized and emasculating of men. If Christianity has a future, it has to become more masculine. Get rid of female altar servers, and women in general anywhere near the altar. Only men can be priests; only men should be able to go near the altar.

  • Mikethelionheart


    I agree with you that Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, has a problem with its masculine identity.  Young men are turned off because being a Christian is seen as being weak, passive, feminine, airy-fairy, a bunch of push overs etc. The priesthood is often viewed as unmanly, feminine, emasculated, even homosexual. Other religions, such as Islam, Judaism and Sikhism are seen as being tougher and more masculine.
    However, I don’t think the answer is in banning women from being near the alter. The answer is in allowing married priests, making churches centres of community and learning (like every other religion does with their places of work, banning Catiholic schools because of the immense damage they are doing to the faith, a stronger identity, return of tradition devotions that help identify us as being Catholics (note the recent return of Friday abstinence and Marian processions), and a more apologetically trained laity that will evangelise and argue back against those who seek to proselytise or demonise Catholics (I once did a training session at my church to help people know how to counter argue against Johovah’s Witnesses, after the session ended they all decided that they would not engaged JWs in debate but would just shut the door on them, this lazy, comfort seeking, runaway attitude of Catholics has got to change). All in all, a return to a modern kind of ‘Muscular Christianity’ is needed. It certainly seems that we are going in the right direction.
    But ban women from being servers, eucharistic ministers and alter servers?  No.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting article, but you minimise the impact that the abandonment of the Latin Mass has had on the faith. Surely the fervour you claim was lacking could have been nurtured without wholesale liturgical reform. Anyone with eyes can see the damage done to the Church by these reforms, the Holy Father has often said so himself which explains why he encourages traditional Catholic practices because they encourage the ‘evangelism’ you talk of.

  • Anonymous

    Oh VERY nice try Ms Phillips – but we won’t be duped into believing it.

    Teenage Catholic lapsation is at 94%
    What’s the ‘Evangelical’ response to this?

    “Fine – cool – all those who remain are there through choice not complacent cultural  argot.
    This lapsation figure merely confirms what we always knew that Catholic schools are useless for instiling and promoting the faith – therefore we should close them al down and replace the paradigm with authentic ‘free schools’, or home-schooling, with catechetical programmes which promote parish catechesis and learning the faith at home as part of a nuclear family… The money saved from funding nearly 2,400 schools could be spent on retreat centres and religious education and formation centres where our aspiring , inquiring faithful can learn more of their faith through pastoral and theological programmes….”

    Sounds wonderful doesn’t it?
    Until you realise what it’s advocating:
    Which is basically the annihilation of grassroots Catholicism.- turning it into an elitist bourgeois club for the like-minded who have the time, enthusiasm and money to join the team.

    This concept is merely an offshoot of another proposition made by the ‘Evangelical’ brigade…
    I call it Futurechurch ; Fundamentally its directed towards the destruction of the very notion of a Catholic community within a Catholic parish with their Shepherding Catholic Priest.

    The proposed alternative are superchurches as centralised hubs covering a vast expanse of ‘pastoral’ territory; instead of a few dozen or a few hundred at every mass ; rather mass wil be measured in thousands in attendance in immense stadium-sized ‘chapels’ or in the handfuls of close-friends in private rooms making a return to the ’1st century notion of a house mass’ …and instead of their being a single priest there will be many priests on the co-ordinating pastoral team – all specialising in some aspect of presbyteral ministry [i.e. doing what they want - a specialist confessor, preacher, reteat co-ordinator or glorified social worker or counsellor of 'ishoos' or just a well-paid lecturer - rather than being an holisitc , fully-rounded multi-facetted actual priest] – joined with a vast array of lay-experts, academics , counsellors, enablers, facilitators etc – all ensuring that the supply and demand of the ‘catholicism product brand’  continues…

    Notice how it won’t be building a community outside its doors – rather it would be ‘team-building’ a cultic organisation.

    A parish Mass is directed to be the very life breath of Holy Mother Church – it inhales and the local people become spiritually and sacramentally renewed – the exhalation being these Catholics living and loving and sharing each others burdens and joys and consolations on a daily basis – reaching for generations into the future…A Catholic community built without stranger where all are welcome…

    But in this Futurechurch paradigm?
    The poor, lonely, disenfranchised, the potentially returning lapsed and those distant lost Catholics who still feel drawn to return for its sacraments – All those waifs and sttrays who belong to the parish and the catholic community [in their humble and weak way]
    - all these people will be abandoned to the wolves….
    This new Futurechurch would drive nails into the coffin of the Catholic parish…

    Mrs Phillips – sadly you’ve fallen into a cunning satanic trap..

    By perverting the words of Pope Benedict that the Church is destined to become smaller; these people are directed towards ensuring it becomes so…with them in lucrative influential places within it/

    Mrs Phillips you inadvertently believe the hype promoted by these ‘Evangelical’ scoundrels that it’s now time to spend all our time, energy and resources on the ‘deserving Catholics’ [Ss Lawrence, Vincent de Paul  & Benedict Jospeh Lardbre will be spinning in their graves]

    I’ve heard Fr Wang many a time speak on the fervour he sees in the young when engaging in their ‘new evangelisation’ initiatives…youngsters in the street promoting the faith to passers-by

    [lovely isn't it - yay! time for a group hug session and a gloat at how wonderful we all are - modern apostles in the tradition of St Phillip and the ethiopian!!!]

    While performing this vanity exercise  – those who truly require the effort to be evangelised and catechised are left bereft in our Catholic schools being told there’s no such thing as sin by an atheist trainee teacher , holding sponsored silences for greenpeace, shown how to put on a condom and drawing pretty pictures of Zacchaeus up a tree..

    If you still don’t understand the situation mrs phillips – et’s return to your original ‘pray, payy obey complacency’ scenario…

    Was it a Catholic community who lived, loved, worked, prayed and died together?
    Were the kids at least taught what Catholicism was and its cultural identity and its traditions and praxes?

    To some extent yes – albeit poorly otherwise it would not have been so easy for it to be dismantled and destroyed over the subsequent decades [ and let's make this quite clear - these people didn't walk away from their faith - THEY WERE PUSHED - cast out ! neglected, dispossessed, alienated, disenfranchised - deprived of and denied from their Catholic heritage and cultural identity - and Catholic leaders, journalists, academics, and the enthusiastic 'professional laity' - They did this to their fellow catholics - forcing them to conform to their 'vision of Church'.otherwise they were not welcome....

    Millions of Catholics very soon realised that they did not feel welcome..[actually they were being made to not feel welcome] they left!

    So how do we respond to this crisis in the Church?

    We’ve a broken Church – hundreds of broken Catholic communities led by clerics so disconsolate, lonely,disillusioned, poorly-trained and unsupported by their dioceses – hundreds of schools not even nominally Catholic…

    …and the ‘Evangelical’ response?
    Dump the whole lot of them!
    Replace them with our shiny new version – huge mega-complex Futurechurches where lay-empowerment is the prime directive and personal spiritualisation and renewal is readily available – plus every form of education and training certificate…

    Come join us in the new inner rings – become ‘elitist’ special Catholics – the new gnostic-cult – Jansenism without the pietistic and sexual hang-ups?!!

    In other words: Feel like you BELONG!!!
    [while many others - your real neighbour - the one who lives next door - the awkward ones with the irritating lives and concerns - DON'T!]

    Is this the Vision of Pope Benedict?
    Not in the slightest!!!

    Anyone who has read Spe Salvi, Caritas in Veritate and most especially the vanishing ‘invisible’ Verbum Domini [ a blueprint/manifesto for the Church in the future [which is nothing remotely like Futurechurch] will see that His Holiness is calling Holy Mother Church’s lambs, sheep [and goats!] home to the fold – he’s giving them every opportunity to become better Catholics – directly contrary to the ‘Evangelical’ mantra of ‘Only our sort of Catholics need apply’
    So the Schools are not Catholic enough – well why?
    Could it have something to do with Dioceses seeing them as nothing but a futile financial drain and liability?
    How many are conspiring in policies which will guarantee inevitable school closure and sale of the land to fund their new self-interested diocesan initiatives?

    Could it have something to do with the Leftist social engineering secularisation initiatives of the CESEW? Think Connexions and RE syllabuses [all lucratively nepotistically written by a network of conference luvvies] which water-down Catholic cultural identity, moral teaching and the lowest common denominator of doctrine to the level of Homoeopathy!!!

    Dioceses wanting to take the schools out of Catholic: a CESEW that wants to take the Catholic out of schools.

    94% teen lapsation?

    ‘Evangelical’ response?

    Yay for the 6% – let’s have a group hug – let’s all do something
    ‘feel-good’ for Charity or let’s go and collectively patronise some
    ‘poor people’.

    Why do you think the CDF & His Holiness himself supported the +O’ Donoghue/Ruscillo initiative “Fit for Mission” – the diamond in the ash glimmer of hope for Catholic schools?
    The Vatican for one wants national Catholicism to be saved for the future through ALL our Catholic young – not the elitist few in the Westminster circle of interns, faux-journalists and the quangocrat hangers-on.

    Failing parishes?
    The ‘Evangelical’ response?
    If they’re broken – don’t bother to fix them – just get rid of them!

    Verbum Domini calls out “Save the Parish”

    Every Benedictine Encyclical cries out:

    Save the Sacraments, Save the Community, Save the Priesthood , Save the Liturgy, Save the nation from itself, Save traditional Catholic cultural identity and praxes inside and outside the Mass, Save Catechesis, Save Authentic preaching of the Gospel, Save authentic Moral Teaching – and through all this – PRAY! [adding the Franciscan qualification - '...sometimes with words'] …and let every thought word and deed be directed towards truly Evangelising.

    Real ‘New Evangelisation” – Living the Catholic Life in the home, the parish, the workplace – everywhere – let your  Catholic identity become impossible to recognise and acknowledge: Love God and your neighbour as yourself.

    Renew Catholicism [not deny it exists like Ivereigh & Valero ] :

    Revitalise the Parish [don't systemically dismantle them like Bishop Roche] :

    Return Hope to the lives of the faithful [don't tell them the message of Pope Benedict's smaller Church means they're losing priest, parish, church and school]  :

    Let all Our Youth know they belong [not just friends of Freddy & Jocasta or the aspiring children of friends of Fr Wang and Abbot Jamison]

    Become the Salt of the Earth – Take a stand and morally fight against the nation’s relativist secularising perfidies  for the sake of our neighbour! [not the monosodium glutamate for the 'wavering round the centre' chattering classes]

    How do you save Catholicism for the future.

    Be a Catholic!!
    And don’t stop!!!

  • crouchback

    Well said Paul…..

    Went to my first “New Translation” mass today…..left before the Gospel …….same old wimpy crap it’s ever been.

    I’ll stick to the Tridentine, thanks very much.

  • Anonymous

    I consider myself an evangelical Catholic and agree with much of the article.  The church has been far too inward looking for far too long. Just going back to older forms of the mass on its own isn’t going to do anything to grow the church – we need to get out there and proclaim the message. And without sounding too Protestant, each one of us does need to accept Jesus in our hearts as our Lord and Savior – Catholicism is about both the personal and also the collective.

    I also like singing Stuart Townend hymns and those of many of the other good modern hymn writers, evangelical and Catholic alike.

  • Anonymous

    I think that the Catholic church in these Islands did not do the necessary groundwork in terms of preparing the flock for the transition from a body which was seemingly secure in liturgy, doctrine and practice and somewhat entrenched  to one which began a process of updating Her liturgical and pastoral practices while being more open to the outside world.  This mean’t that the believers in the pews were not given the necessary instruction by the local hierarchies  to fully appreciate the nature of the reforms ordained by the Great council Vatican 11.  The commonly very poor implementation of these changes did not improve this situation.  The very sharp fall-off in vocations and religious observance and practice over the following four decades or more, seemed to have been facilitated by these shortcomings.  
    We are now in a situation in Ireland, UK and across the Western world in general, where committed Catholics are now like the first Christians who were surrounded by missionary territory and populations that needed to be converted(in this case reconverted).   The pope in his apostolic journeys across the potentially hostile, spiritually-barren landscape of Europe has left a lasting impression with the compelling, truthful nature of his homilies and speeches.  His promotion of the Latin Mass of the Roman rite is a positive step forward regarding his emphasis on the transformational beauty of the liturgy and the “Hermeneutics of Continuity” . Mich of this is intended as much as a recovery of the real intentions of the Fathers of Vatican 11 as well as a  re-affirmation of what the Church has taught in terms of doctrine and practice during her long history.  Committed Catholics and Christians in general need to be the salt of the earth, seasoning the culture around them with the truths of the gospel, reinvigorated by the witness and words of our present pope.

  • Anonymous

    I usually agree with much of what Ms Phillips says, but her arguments here are so full of holes they could be colanders. Of couse you just need to mention National “Catholic” Reporter and I see only red. Having said that Mr Allen is about as good as it gets on there. All in all a very poor performance from Ms Phillips. D minus.

  • Anonymous

    A very impassioned, articulate, unambiguous piece by Paul in relation to the implosion of Catholic religious culture over the last 40 years or more.  It might be worthwhile e-mailing this to the  Episcopal conference of England and Wales in relation to possible solutions for a recovery of genuine Catholicism.

  • Seangough

    what on earth is wrong with you to call the holy Mass crap whatever your preferable form of the rite. Truly disgraceful! Actually it’s blasphemous! At least say the translation is bad, but the Mass itself, Jesus’s sacrifice…

  • guest

    people. this isn’t a Mrs writing. Francis with an i not e.

  • Anonymous

    There are already married priests in the Eastern Catholic churches. Our issue is that men in general are not being taught what the priesthood stands for.  But, this is changing with the younger generation.

    It take courage to lay down your life for a friend.

  • Anonymous

    Why are you attacking a movement still in its infancy?

    How many of these Catholics have you met?

    They stand for everything you do.

  • TH2

    Brilliant commentary, Paul. Goodness, do you write and express well authentic Catholicism. I vote to have The Catholic Herald hire paulpriest as a regular columnist and/or have his own blog herein. Are you listening, Mr. Coppen?

  • irishsmile

    The TLM was the Mass that both my husband & myself  loved and attended from the time of our infancy until it was perceived within as condemned… and replaced by a newer, more modern liturgical approach.  We felt as if we had been run over by a truck!  Through the years, we have attended the N.O. without complaint.  We have discussed with hope the  motu proprios first promulgated by JPII and thereafter by our present Holy father geared toward making the TLM available to those who love it…. & there are many.  However, it seems clear to us that many bishops have no intention of honoring the motu proprios, regarding the TLM, of the last two popes.   Virtually all of the fellow Catholic school students that I & my husband  graduated with are now agnostic, protestant, or so progressive that they accept abortion, gay lifestyles and sleeping around.  The bottom line is that we Catholics were doing something right before and we’ve lost our way over the last generation.  We’ve tried to stay the moral course within our own family.  We sacrificed to keep our children in Catholic schools.  We put them all through Catholic colleges.  We frequently taught them their Faith at home.  One of our sons is a priest who celebrates the N.O. Mass.  None of our 5 children have had substance abuse problems or juvenile records.  Almost none of our friends’ children are even practicing Catholics today.  Sometimes it seems to me as if the only diversity that is not tolerated is the TLM.  Why?

  • Anonymous

    The modern Church, or should I say “modernist” Church, is in shambles.  After the council the seminaries emptied, the convents emptied, the pews emptied.  Homosexuals invaded the priesthood and gave us the abuse scandals.  Solid Catechesis was abandoned in favor of happy clappy, I’m ok you’re ok, we all go to heaven, social justice, horizontal not vertical leftist nonsense. 

    In case anyone hasn’t noticed, the vibrancy in the contemporary Church is in orthodoxy.

    Why anybody even bothers with John Allen is beyond me.

  • Anonymous

    @ Irishsmile.
                          I often ask myself the same question. We have been trying to persuade our Bishop to allow even an occasional TLM, for 3 years now. I am beginning to think it would be easier to arrange a “Black Mass”!

  • ms Catholic state

    The Bishops need to get a grip and make sure true Catholicism is taught in Catholic schools.  If not…then they might shut them.  But sometimes it is indifferent and even hostile head teachers that undermine any trace of strong Catholicism in a school…..replacing it with an empty Catholic ethos only….whatever that is.  Look at any Catholic secondary school brochure….and see this in action.

  • ms Catholic state

    Quite right Francis…..the Conservatives cannot in any sense of the word be considered Christian now.  However there are many good Christian MPs in it….as there are in all parties.  These must ALL act shrewdly together …..for the reChristianisation of Britain….as only this can save it.

    Our Christian MPs must serve the true God…..not the false god of secularism and relativism which they have been duped into serving for so long now.  And they must be as shrewd as serpents about it too.

  • Nat_ons

    Sadly one form of complacency replaced another; the bills, bingo and bourgeois set also built churches, schools, hospitals both here in the UK/ Ireland and funded the missions in Africa, indeed their piety saved numberless souls from horrific lives as ‘black babies’ amid Europe’s disintegrating imperial colonies. True the ‘pray, pay and obey’ souls of the Irish form of Jansenism was noted for it quietism, a concept that was wholly inimical to the twistful Swing of the 1960s with its mantras of change, progress, and relevance to a now long gone ‘Now!’ And the points are right, the complacency of the post Vatican I hierarchy and people and their quite confidence in getting on with the job that papa set up had outlived its spiritual purpose, and would be an utter disaster if mere tradition tried to reinforce or even revive it; the destruction wrought by the rebellious reform of a spirit of the Age of Aquarius never had a place in the tradition of orthodox Catholicism even if it reigned supreme, so seeking to smuggle this into ‘tradition’ of the Faith is worse than disastrous it is sin.

    Look at the spirit of much of the ‘Youth’ culture even as it is expressed today in a more conserving and evangelical mood – does it not have much of that Aquarian enthusiasm, here now, gone soon, ridiculed later, asserted at length?

    i wonder if there is not more of the Do They Know It’s Christmas hip worldliness in the expression of the current undirected youthful enthusiasms than an unworldly service in Not Counting The Cost to me!

    Yet their response to the awesome Benedict XVI speaks louder than the hype; he is no JPII showman, nor a political celebrity .. he is a quiet, resolute and sure evangelist.

    Vatican I served its dogmatic purpose, for good and ill, so too has Vatican II in its pastoral awakening, as with Trent or Florence. It is what we do with their lead that matters, not what reactive spirit prevails in this or that generation – important though it may also be; for Catholic Action truly brought souls into confraternal activity for the Faith, yet an active participation in the liturgy seems to have brought the wholesale suppression of active participation. Clearly the triumph of nineteenth century Irish quietism in piety, and its equivalents – whether genuinely Jansenist or not – was as ill-conceived and executed as that of the twentieth century’s iconoclastic marxian rebellion of Aquarius which militantly overturned it .. the big difference being this, I suspect, the quiet Irish spirit was staggering in its achievements in building up the church catholic across the whole world where the liberation promised by the We Are Church notion merely enslaved minds to protest without achievement, anywhere – other than in befuddled (and often un-catholic) minds.

    Preserving the enthusiasm for active Catholicism is as precarious as directing it. Herding cats, not leading sheep, is the call before those who would guide the ephemeral. Benedict XVI has that gracious knack; dear Lord preserve him for us all .. better still, if it so pleases you, Lord, I implore you instil that favour into many who listen to him.

    God bless, Nat.

  • Anonymous


    Great reply. Just out of interest do you believe this new Catholic evangelical church will be built around the idea of a “New Church of all the Catholicisms” which I presume would be made up of Ordinariates of various protestant churches. Any comments?

  • Anonymous

    Guest, if you take a glance at the photograph alongside this article you will see (I hope) that Francis Phillips is female.

    I am puzzled by her assertion that the church is now more “evangelical” than it was in the recent past. She has offered no evidence for this in the article. On the contrary the experiences she describes are of a church under Pope Benedict that seeks to preserve a faithful remnant following the true path.

    That might be the right policy for the church to follow, but it is complete nonsense to be describe it as “evangelical”.

  • Mikethelionheart


    “There are already married priests in the Eastern Catholic churches”

    The Eastern churches make up only 3% of Catholicism. The vast majority of young Catholic men will be unaware of the existence of the Eastern churches, let alone have met an Eastern Catholic priest.

    Oh, by the way, the Eastern churches do not have a vocation crisis.

    As for the the others you raise, it is more likely that we will ban Catholic schools than they will become places that teach the faith effectively and become places of evangelisation. 

    Also, there is no reason why married priests cannot be awesome priests and have ‘authentic love’. One of the best priests I have ever met was a married priest. 

  • Anders

    “[A] place of bills, bingo and bourgeois
    respectability”. That’s right. All those petit-bourgeois morons with their rosaries and Corpus Christi processions.
    Thank God they no longer go to Mass
    and receive the Sacraments! Goodness knows they
    might end up in heaven! Put aside your Oxbridge snobbery. 1950s faith by
    numbers seems to me to be a darn sight better than 2010s church closures and
    the culture of death.

    Things may look chipper in the cities and at WYD but
    out here in the regions we are so alone, often the only people under 35
    in a congregation. We’d actually appreciate the
    churches full of “pray, pay and obey” Catholics. Hey, if we could speak to some obedient Catholics perhaps we wouldn’t have to field
    questions every week about whether we’ve
    had ‘enough’ children or smile politely as fellow congregants tell us how they
    had their pipes tied, or be labelled fundamentalist because we actually try and
    follow the Church’s teaching. On the other hand, if the Catholics of the 50s
    were actually obedient, they probably would’ve had more children and/ or
    actually raised the 2.1 they had in the Faith.

    Traditionalists don’t think it was all rosy
    before V2 but they’re not so pompous as to think that they have the right to judge
    the spiritual value of others’ faith. 

  • Parasum

    Not having been around before V2, I can’t compare experience of the two forms of the Church, other than from what is said in books, mainly Catholic.  The advantage of living in a time when the Church is heartily despised, & little respected, however grudgingly; a time when the flaws & sins & crimes & wickednesses & deficiencies of the Church are covered from every POV, very publicly, in exhaustive detail, is that such a Church is not really in a position to “look down its nose” at  others; which it did in the 1950s, certainly in the USA. IMO it was riding for a fall, and badly needed a less or two in humility. So from that POV, its present wretched and disgraceful condition is really a great blessing, though well-disguised, admittedly.  A Church that has been brought down to the dust as the CC has, at least in the West, is in a poor position to boast of its excellence, or to gloat over the sins and failings of other Churches.

    What matters is less that it has problems, than what it does with them; what we do with them. For too long, it has in effect, even if not in principle been living by a “prosperity gospel”, treating its own “successes” & “strengths” as blessings – this is not exactly in accord with its praise of such Saints as Francis of Assisi; how can such a contradiction not lead to cognitive dissonance ? Why should earthly weakness not be a blessing, and earthly influence a great danger ? Maybe it is obviously weak now, because its outward strength concealed  weaknesses that needed only a sufficient opprtunity to have their natural, and ruinous, effect. I would not like to live before V2 – far better to live after the Church
    has crashed; once she can go no lower, she can only get better. One danger is that we will not learn from the past.

    The Church is only weak if it lacks the grace of Christ – with that, it is equal to anything, regardless of outward appearances. Without it, no prosperity, strength, power, influence, or success is worth anything. To be a crucified gallows-bird rejected as a filthy pariah is not exactly most people’s idea of a roaring success. How many of us really believe in the realities to which we give verbal assent ?

  • Anonymous


    I don’t disagree what you’re saying.  There’s a new book that’s coming out on this issue. It says that the younger priests strongly support celibacy, when the older ones do not.


  • Anonymous

    It’s not an either/or.  The fact is that scholastic theology as come a long way since the 60s. 

    We lay Catholics share a lot of blame too.

    The church is only top-down on doctrine, but bottom- up on everything else.

    The is no entity marching in lockstep on every issue under the sun, like people think.

    There is no uniformity outside of doctrine, even in the Vatican.

  • Anonymous

    Evangelical is the word used by Allen, but it’s the church going back to her roots.

  • Oconnordamien

    Honestly, has no one else considered the fact that the world changed during the time you are all speaking of?

    The world has become more intertwined since WW1. Think how that changed the game, rail transport, beginning of the dependency on oil, radio, faster communication and the start of a global media. The crash and boom afterwards also confirm this. Then WW2, an even bigger conflict with all the same reasons to remove a localist view but backed up by much improved technology.

    By the 50′s and 60′s the counter culture idea was established. To put it hugely simple, the idea that our leaders aren’t always on our side and that we can learn from other cultures, began to be a political force.

    Then of course came the international news on TV. Since the 70′s a big international story trumps a local one. And on it went till the net. Now we can find information. It’s at the touch of our fingers. There is no place to hide. If you say it.. it will be recorded and posted… turn up at an event and the photo will be on-line.  

    After all that, my point is this, catholics stop bashing yourselves. Much of the thought here seems to validate the commonly held idea that catholics are too busy feeling guilty to be effective. Carry on, blame the liturgy or vatican 2. 

    I, as an atheist will carry on have meaningful discourse on how to improve the world, with people of any ilk. 

    Please once done with your self incrimination and apparent self loathing, well feel free to join the table. 

  • irishsmile

    We recently had a young priest assigned to our parish in Oregon.  He was so good.  My 14 year-old grandson actually was asking questions, showing an interest with the homilies that this young priest was giving.  Within a month, he was reassigned. Some parishioners had written a petition to the pastor requesting the TLM which he, the priest, privately offered.  The Papal motu Proprios aside, it is the kiss of death for a priest in many dioceses to even consider offering the TLM.  It makes no sense.

  • Anonymous

    @ Dammo O Connor.
    #                               Bit of an exaggeration there Dammo if you don t mind me saying so. Self loathing, is way too strong.
     Possibly because you are” outside the pale”.You may not understand that the Church is ever changing, yet always the same. All the arguments here are about ways to worship, and the re-presentation of Christ s sacrifice (the Mass)to the world. There are different visions. Since Vatican 2 up until fairly recently only one was was regarded as authentic, now people are beginning to realise , with the help of the great B16, that in 1970 the baby was thrown out with the bathwater.
     BTW, hope your central heating has been fixed. Is it turf-fired??

  • Anders

    I am beginning to view V2, in continuity with culture at large, as a power grab by self-elected intellectuals from the masses. V2 intellectualised the Faith away from the people, complicating it to such a degree as to make it virtually unattainable by the ordinary man. It maintains this now, in its teachings and letters. None of its actually that complicated (do what you like, just don’t sin) but trying to prise open the convoluted theology is beyond most people’s desire or ken, so justifiably they don’t even try.

  • Oconnordamien

    More than a bit of exaggeration to be honest. I was very much over-stating my point. I was doing so because I’m quite fond of catholic people,(see I’m still being patronising), and hate to see futile arguments where they blame themselves for events out of their control.

    Sorry for trying to do the devil’s advocate thing but I was doing it in the kick in the bum sense to get people so annoyed with me they’d change the tone of the thread. Although I do stick to my point that the world has changed far more than people have.

    By the way, call me Damo…… nearly everybody does.

  • Anonymous

    I believe Mr Cameron has described himself as a liberal conservative. I guess his position on homosexual ‘marriage’ would be an expression of that. I think there is a liberal consensus across all three main parties, at least in the field of sexual morality.

  • Anonymous

                  Well you are certainly right that the world has changed more in the last 100 years than in possibly the previous 10,000.
     ” Quite fond of Catholic People” lol. I presume you are one of the growing band of “recovering Catholics” on the adjacent isle, which once housed saints and Scholars?

  • David Lindsay

    Catholic theology as such, as opposed to a Late Medieval Western popular piety very much akin to contemporary popular faux Evangelicalism, has never been under the slightest misapprehension about where the initiative lies regarding salvation: God freely saves us by His grace, undeserving sinners though we are, and He does so only because of the saving acts of Jesus Christ.

    However, God does not merely declare the sinner righteous forensically, as if as a sort of legal fiction, but actually initiates and effects a process whereby righteousness is genuinely brought about through willing co-operation with His grace. For some people, this involves conversion and assurance as classically understood by Evangelical Protestants; for others, the experience of conversion and assurance is different. Both happen, so Rome has never rejected either, but has anathematised merely the narrow insistence on the former. There is certainly no doubt at all that God, being God, foreknows and in some sense predestines who is to be saved, but the workings of the mystery of election are not given to us to understand, and it is not our place to speculate upon them.
    Catholic history abounds with movements for the reform, revival and renewal of the Church at times of crisis or corruption, through the Holy Spirit’s raising up and subsequent use of minorities at the cutting edge. Being ecclesia semper reformanda has always been an integral part of being ecclesia semper eadem. Central to many such reforming, reviving and renewing movements has been and is the truth that every Christian has a vocation, to be lived out in whatever course of life he or she pursues. Bizarrely, this thoroughly Biblical, Patristic (up to and including High Medieval) and Tridentine idea is frequently alleged to have begun with the Reformers.

    Within what is now called “every-member ministry”, which Catholics invented and Protestants tried to dismantle, the Catholic Church certainly maintains the threefold pattern of Holy Orders – Bishop, Priest and Deacon – in the tangible Apostolic Succession through the imposition of hands with prayer. That succession by that profoundly Biblical means is a matter of historical fact, which no one thought to dispute until it suited certain people’s purposes to do so after sixteen centuries. The Preaching of the Word has always been held by Rome, at least in principle, to be the priest’s primary duty. If this calls for a renewal in the art of Sacred Oratory, not least in the seminaries, then such a renewal can only be effected from the inside.
    In order to be more fully Herself, the Catholic Church needs to encourage large numbers of Her members to learn the culture of the Word from that Evangelical tradition which is historically, if even in its own terms no longer necessarily, separated from Her full communion. Such a culture is one in which the defining narratives are those of the Old and New Testaments. The Bible culture initially arose in order to fill the gaps left after the Reformation where the Lives of the Saints had previously been. Catholicity, however, requires both, not least in order to express the indivisible continuity between the Bible and the Church. Catholics are not being asked to take on anything remotely Protestant as such here: look at the Liturgy, look at the Fathers (up to and including the Medieval Doctors), look at the Medieval and post-Medieval mystics, and look at the iconography and other spirituality of the Christian East, whether Catholic or separated. Taking on is a defining mark of Catholicism, which radically and fundamentally distinguishes the Catholic Church from the giving up that characterises Protestantism.
    Buy the book here.

  • Anonymous

    There’s a fundamental problem with relaxing the discipline over married priests, and that is that soon there’d be a much smaller pool of celibate priests. I imagine many or most would be married within a couple of decades. Yet bishops, in Eastern tradition, and in ours as well (cf the convert Anglicans), cannot be married.  Would we end up with a wholly monastic episcopate?

  • Anonymous


    The whole problem is that we need strong examples of good celibates and good married people. The two re-inforce and complement each other.

    When a married man sees a priest who is not afraid to love the people of God with an undivided heart. He is inspired to do the same for his family and vice versa.

    When a young girl sees the witness of a visible”nun (in habit).  She sees that spiritual motherhood is a calling, for all women, not just married ones. That there are different ways women can bring life into the world.

    “The most successful institutes in terms of attracting and retaining new members at this time are those that follow a more traditional style of religious life in which members live together in community and participate in daily Eucharist, pray the Divine Office, and engage in devotional practices together. They also wear a religious habit, work together in common apostolates, and are explicit about their fidelity to the Church and the teachings of the Magisterium. All of these characteristics are especially attractive to the young people who are entering religious life today.”

  • Parasum

    The split between the “intellectuals” & “the simple faithful” has been with the Church since the second century CE. It’s a sociological thing. No such split exists in Protestantism: “intellectuals” & “the faithful” don’t constitute separate castes as they do in Catholicism. 

  • Parasum

    “Catholic theology as such, as opposed to a Late Medieval Western popular piety very much akin to contemporary popular faux
    Evangelicalism, has never been under the slightest misapprehension
    about where the initiative lies regarding salvation: God freely saves us
    by His grace, undeserving sinners though we are, and He does so only
    because of the saving acts of Jesus Christ.”

    ## Unfortunately, Catholic theology’s appreciation of that fact has been far less in evidence in popular piety than has something closer to semi-Pelagianism. The doctrine of grace is not exactly distinctive opf the CC, alas – the CC is much more usually thought of as the Mary-worshipping, Mass-going, Pope-ruled Church. None of those items go to the heart of faith in Christ. The disjunction between popular piety (most of it extra-liturgical) and theology has not been lessened by the encasing of theology in Latin. Theology has for a long time been  the preoccupation of a clerical caste using a non-vernacular language looking upon theology not as a meams of serving Divine Revelation, but as a means of recondite and vain speculation. Matters have not been helped by the great slowness of Rome to allow translations of the Missal & the Bible; in the case of the Bible, as a long-lasting over-reaction to the Reformation. Classical Protestantism has been spared these blunders. Fortunately, matters are beginning to improve; and V2 deserves some of the credit.

  • Parasum

    “On the contrary the experiences she describes are of a church under Pope
    Benedict that seeks to preserve a faithful remnant following the true

    ## So much for the Church’s claim to be catholic, if that’s true. A Church that aspires to be a “faithful remnant”, without any of those annoying “unfaithful” members, is aspiring to be a sect – even if a big sect. This is Donatism, not Catholicism. I can’t believe BXVI intends that – though I can believe there are  Catholics who do.

  • Anonymous

    Very impassioned, but where are superchurches mentioned in the article or the closing down of Catholic schools?

  • Gail Finke

    I think you’ve misunderstood which group Allen was calling “Evangelical,” because they do not advocate anything like this at all. You are thinking of a real but very different group of people. I don’t know what Allen calls them.

  • Gail Finke

    I think you  misunderstand John Allen. He is talking about a group of people who are vocal and committed to being Catholic in their public lives as well as on Sundays and in private. They are far, far more orthodox than the people who have been running the Church for a long time.

  • Anonymous

    This article is actually an inversion of the truth!

    The Church before Vatican II was very much alive in its faith at lay level, as at every other level. Contrarily, the Church of Vatican II is dead at lay level to all but occasions of mass hysteria such as WYD’s.

    Francis Phillis makes the classic mistake of equating healthy Catholicism with healthy morals. She then presumes to paint a flowery picture of the good morals of today’s young Catholics, a picture that does not remotely chime with reality.

    The truth of the matter is that Catholicism is made up of faith and morals. If the former is missing, as it is big time today, then the latter will also be abjectly poor, as it is today. So here’s the reality: 

    In the1950s, seminaries and religious houses were bursting with vocations. Today, most have been closed down. In the 1950s there were, on average, 4 Sunday Masses in every City parish church, each filled to capacity, and almost every parish had at least 3 priests. Today, parishes are being merged for lack of parishioners and City parishes are lucky if they can managed one resident priest. In the 1950s there were missions preached in the churches, again filled to capacity. Today, hardly anyone knows what a mission is. In the 1950s there were regular weekday Rosary & Benediction devotions. Today Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is hardly ever available to the faithful, and where it is available it is poorly attended. Such is the price of removing tabernacles from Sanctuaries and encouraging unbelief in the Real Presence of Our Lord by removing altar rails and forcing people to stand and lay hands on their Lord like those who crucified Him.

    Our Saviour told us that we should know them by their fruits. Well, the fruits of pre-Vatican II Catholicism were fairly good given the Saints and Martyrs we can count amongst them. Much more emphasis on saving one’s soul in those days, so people went regularly to Mass and the Sacraments in order to get to heaven, or at least not to go to Hell.

    Now, it’s all about justice and peace and the dignity of man. It’s about saving the planet because our souls are already saved and we’ll all soon be angels! It’s about lovely wee funerals with the priest all in white to celebrate the life of one who is now “an angel,” playing the favourite pop song of the deceased, presenting personal belongings to the priest at the Offertory, such as in the case of the late Boyzone star whose boyfriend presented the priest with items of their civil partnership, and about reading from the pulpit little reminiscences about the life of. Never a word about praying for their immortal souls. Please don’t get me started on the Vatican II religion!!!!!!!!!   

  • Anonymous

    I can see your points about the errors of Marian theology that seek to promote supernatural claims about Mary which compete with the redemptive role that her son, Our Lord, carried out on the Cross and through His Resurrection.  Mary, herself would never usurp any of the glory that rightfully belongs to Her Son, but she deserves a very high place in our worship which places her above the angels and saints.  She is the “Theotokos”(in Greek the God-bearer), who brought Our Lord into this world.  She merits the “Hyperdulia”(theological Latin Medieval term reserved for the special devotion given to Mary) as distinct from dulia(worhip reserved for angels and saints).  Latria(Medieval Latin term which describes worship that is mean’t for God alone) is the highest form of praise which is reserved for our Creator. 

     This Latin nomenclature for different levels of adoration or worship might seem anachronistic to people in our modern age, but they served a very useful purpose in establishing the hierarchy of being in the Heavenly host.  It was also an indication of how theological truths could be teased out and framed in the Church’s own universal language, namely Latin.   It has served and nourished such great minds as St Jerome, St Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas, St John of the Cross and other great Doctor Saints and Theologians of Christ’s Church for over 2 millennia.

    You seem to be unduly critical of “popular piety” which often forms an accompaniment to the Church’s more formal liturgical expressions without eclipsing them.  One has only to think of Lourdes in France or Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine in Mexico which attract millions of pilgrims every year and where the sites of Marian apparitions which have been fully authenticated by the Church.  Protestant churches seem to have demoted Mary to just a bit part player, who makes a guest appearance around Christmas for the Nativity scenes.  Both the Catholic and Orthodox wings of the Church universal realized the theological significance of her being chosen to be Mother of the Lord and Savior of our fallen world and consequently have elevated her to a level where “all generations would call me blessed” as she prophesied. 
    How does “mass-going” inhibit Catholics from going to the “heart of the faith” that they have in Jesus.  Surely there is nothing more Christocentric than appreciating and partaking of the Holy Eucharist in Mass.
    While I appreciate that Catholics in the past have failed to fully explore the centrality of the bible and it’s relationship to the Faith that we proclaim in Christ, you somehow paint “classical protestantism” as being free of the errors as they would put it of Rome.  Well, the fruits of 500 years of the reformed faith can be seen in the splintering of the original churches of Lutheranism and Calvinism into thousands of pieces based on a subjective “sola scriptura” reading of the bible.  While Rome as you put it may have been slow into translating the Bible and Missal into the vernacular within the same time-frame, the spirit-guided Magisterium has enabled the Church to maintain the essential truths of the gospel message as laid out through the healthy intertwining of the Bible, Tradition and Reason.

  • Anonymous

    I laugh when I read the ridiculous calumnies heretics throw at Christ’s divinely instituted Church, particularly the Mary-worshipping one.
    Catholics, as I hope you know, do not worship Mary. Catholics honour Mary as their heavenly Mother and Queen, although they fall very short of according her the honour that God Himself has bestowed on her. It stands to reason really that man could never outdo God in loving and honouring Mary. It also fits with reason that God would reflect the natural parental order of father and mother with a supernatural equivalent, He being the Father and Mary the Mother. Hence, as the saints have said, “Those who have not Mary for their Mother have not God as their Father, but rather the Father of lies who is the devil.”

    One of the most potent examples of Mary’s intercessory power with her Divine Son is given to us in the Gospel story of the marriage feast of Cana. Here, Christ Our Lord demonstrates His mother’s influence with Him by carrying out His first public miracle at her request, even though His time had not yet come.
    We see the same thing again at Pentecost when Mary was present in the upper room praying together with the Apostles when the Holy Spirit descended.

    I take it you reject the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and bodily Assumption of Mary into heaven, taking rather the Protestant line that God has not the power to bring about such miraculous events? If that be the case with you, then I can only say that you are not in possession of divine faith, which believes without question mysteries revealed by God through His Church.

    “Blessed are those who believe without seeing,” said Our Lord to St. Thomas. He was referring to divine faith, a gift that Protestants do not have. Hence the mystery of how they can pour over such Scriptural texts as here recounted and yet never see the obvious in front of them.

    Here’s another interesting Scriptural quotation, this time from Genesis: “I will place enmity between thee and the woman, and her seed and thy seed. She shall crush thy head…”

    What does this mean if not that Mary had been chosen from all eternity to be the new Eve who would bring forth the new Adam, Jesus Christ, the Redeemer. And not only this, but she would also be Mother of all those Redeemed by her Son.
    So, yes, Mary is a human creature, she is not divine, but she has been exalted by God to such a height of sanctity and grace that she is truly the dispenser of the graces won for us on Calvary by her Divine Son, who has also given to her the privilege of crushing the head of the serpent. He has deigned it so.
    Finally, the Catholic Church is often referred to as “the mystical body” whose head is Christ. Well, the saints have likened Mary to the neck that joins body and head. It was Mary who brought forth the Redeemer into this world and it is through her that Christ has deigned to bestow his grace on souls. Now that’s what I call the love of a son for his mother.
    My advice is to get a hold of St. Louis de Montfort’s ‘True Devotion to Mary.’ It will open your eyes to a Mother’s love for her children.