Following my last blog, which came about after reading a priestly obituary in the Fisher House Newsletter of the Cambridge chaplaincy, I read on and my spirits rose; instead of the dispiriting legacy of 1960s priestly rebellion against the Church’s authority, I read about St John Fisher (who gave his name to the chaplaincy), the magnificent and martyred alumnus of the 16th century. In an article by Dr Richard Rex, I was reminded that Fisher, who refused to renounce the authority of the pope in favour of Henry VIII, accepted execution rather than go against his conscience. “That Fisher would find himself called upon to deny a doctrine that had been taught in England all his life was something he could hardly have imagined in his student days. More surprising still is how few followed him in refusing. The reason was partly fear, but more the spirit of the age…”
Rex continues, drawing a parallel between the challenge faced by Fisher and those facing Christians today: “We shall not be called upon to make that ultimate sacrifice. But look out for the dominant ideology. Today it is just straws in the wind. Rocco Buttiglione disqualified from the European Commission because of his adherence to Catholic teaching on sexual morality. The closure of Catholic adoption agencies in England because of their refusal to place children with same-sex couples. How long will it be before a formal affirmation of so-called ‘liberal’ principles becomes a prerequisite for employment in the public sector?”
This is disquieting but should not be a surprise. Critics of Christians sometimes attack us for having a “martyr complex”, determined to find injury and insult from our secularist brethren where none is intended. But this is not the case, as Dr Rex soberly points out from the examples he gives.
He concludes: “The consensus is strong, and increasingly determined to have its way. For now we are rightly content to let them have their consciences if we can keep our own. Perhaps we should pray to St John Fisher that if – when – they come for ours, we have the grace and strength to keep them for God.”
I felt a premonitory shiver on reading this last paragraph. St John Fisher: pray for us.