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The Church is not a party and it doesn’t need a ‘Clause 4 movement’

Thankfully the younger generation understand better than the elder BBC crowd

By on Thursday, 21 February 2013


Following my blog for Monday in which I indicated why I was underwhelmed by Radio 4’s programme about Pope Benedict, which was presented by Ed Stourton, a friend has kindly pointed me towards a blog site called “GenerationBenedict.” Its purpose is simple: “40 days, 40 reflections, 40 young people on how Pope Benedict has touched their hearts and why they are proud to be part of GenerationBenedict.” The blog states, “Pope Benedict will be truly missed by our generation. Those who have met him look upon him fondly as a gentle grandfatherly figure, as he has pointed us towards Christ at a point in time when many of us were at a crossroads, telling us not to settle for second best but to strive for sainthood.”

Someone outside the Church who happened to tune in to the Radio 4 programme on Benedict aired last Saturday evening could be forgiven for thinking that the Church is merely a political body, much like the political parties in this country, where ideological think tanks and focus groups pore over the careers of outgoing prime ministers – I mean pontiffs – who they think made this or that mistake in earlier decades: where the Pope, like a party boss, should appease, or appeal to, this or that constituency; which gaffes/scandals are likely to sink him and his cronies; which is the way forward for the Party – I mean the Church – in a modern, multicultural world in which diversity, equality and feminism play such a huge part; how he has to abandon the old “Clause 4” bit in his manifesto – I mean encyclical – and get wise to contraception; and how “New Church”, much like “New Labour”, could be a rallying point to attract floating voters from the middle classes and so on.

In contrast to Radio 4’s dreary take on Pope Benedict, entirely monopolised by yesterday’s men, GenerationBenedict is crammed with young people – the next generation who will form the future hierarchy and the future laity if the Church is to survive and thrive at all – who have worked out the obvious: at heart the Church is about holiness, getting to heaven, and the Holy Father’s main task is leading, teaching and preaching the way to arrive there. Lisette, who is studying for an MA in Marriage and Family at Maryvale Institute, remembers hearing Pope Benedict’s words when he came to London in September 2010: “We were made to receive love. Look into your heart each day, to find the source of true love. Jesus is always there.” In Hyde Park, she recalls kneeling in Adoration, forgetting the tens of thousands of other pilgrims and thinking “it was just Jesus, the Pope and me.” She feels certain that the Pope has inspired her generation “to become part of the New Evangelisation, to discern their vocation and to strive for holiness.”

Fr James Bradley, a young priest of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, thinks that the Pope had “acted in the way that only Peter’s successor could”, in bringing about the possibility of Anglicans joining the Church in parish groups. “We have to be part of this” he realised, when surrounded by thousands of Catholics in Hyde Park in 2010. He reflects, “Pope Benedict has shown us how to pray the liturgy with true reverence and devotion… and how to become friends with Jesus Christ.”

Michaela Blackwell, a medical student, was inspired by Benedict’s message at World Youth Day in Madrid to realise that “I was being called to live a life that was “counter cultural”, one that many people shunned me for.” Fr Paul Moss, Vocation Director for the Archdiocese of Birmingham, thinks it is for the Pope’s “gentle yet firm teaching that he will be most remembered.” Charles Bradshaw, who lives in Oxford, is currently discerning his vocation; he writes, “Benedict has been an inspiration in my life, as a young man called from a young age to be a priest…I look to him to guide me by his holiness, humility and love, to guide me to understand the Mass as key to my life.” He refers to the Motu Proprio on the Mass as “a gift that no one could ever have imagined.” Ryan Service, a 25-year-old seminarian at the English College, remembers the Pope’s words in front of Westminster Cathedral in 2010; it caused him to “climb off the fence I was sitting on” and to understand that a vocation to the priesthood is an act of “pure and generous love…for the building up of the Church and the redemption of our world.”

After reading these testimonies I feel uplifted again; I am reminded not to get too bothered if the BBC or Ed Stourton misses the point of this papacy; they are looking at the Church from a worldly perspective alone. I heartily encourage others who read this to follow the 40 days’ reflections by these and other young people on their website. Then you will come to grips with the true heart of Benedict’s papacy and his real legacy.

  • Benedict Carter

    Ah! So the way we communicate “basic teachings” ipso facto means assuming the potential to change them.

    Pure Modernism, as so often from you Alan. 

    Or is your problem the fact that the Church has an ultimate authority who has the power to say, “Shut it, the question has been decided”? 

  • Benedict Carter

    But what sort of Catholics are they turning out? The Catholics I knew in Kenya didn’t even know what the Real Presence is.

  • JabbaPapa

    In reality, the FACT that priestly ordination is reserved for men ONLY has been definitively established as infallible Catholic doctrine.

    There is NO other way to “communicate” teachings belonging to this order of doctrinal Authority other than the one that was used in this particular case.

    The Catholic Church, quite simply, has NO Authority to allow the ordination of women into the priesthood.

  • AlanP

    But people are more likely to accept it if they are given convincing reasons, other than “the Church says so, period”.  That is simply a fact of life, whether we like it or not.

  • AlanP

    Sorry, but I can’t, unless the face and voice belong to someone like Richard Dawkins.

  • DustMan8

    Yes ONLY FOR MEN!!!
    You can’t have the “others” – God said so. The saints said so as well.

    Saint Augustin said “What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman… I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.”

    Saint ThomasAquinas Doctor of the Church said ” As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence. ”

    He meant Devils and Demons.

  • JabbaPapa

    erm … no : those are personal opinions, not Church doctrine.

    The Church doctrine is that the vocations of women are different to those of the men.

  • majorcalamity

    I think you need to pause and read comments with an open mind before firing off responses. I know your Church is not a political party, but some Catholics, as evidenced here, hide their politics behind their faith. It you cannot see the difference between your Church and the position of those Catholics then I am really sorry for you.  

  • DustMan8

    No it’s not personal opinions.

    Pope Gregory I (540-604): “Woman is slow in understanding and her unstable and naive mind renders her by way of natural weakness to the necessity of a strong hand in her husband. Her ‘use’ is two fold; [carnal] sex and motherhood.”

    New Testament passages include Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:7; 1 Corinthians 11:3, 11:9, and 14:34; and 1 Timothy 2:11–12 and 5:5–6.           Old Testament passages include Numbers 5:20–22 and Leviticus 12:2–5 and 15:17–33.

  • JabbaPapa

    Most translations currently circulating of Late Latin statements are inherently untrustworthy, but that quote from Gregory I still looks like a personal opinion.

    Colossians concerns discipline ; 1 Peter states that women have less personal physical (AKA military) strength than men (duh !) ; Corinthians 14 is routinely both mistranslated and misinterpreted — the text refers to situations where Christian women may be living where the secular Law forbids women from giving political or similar opinions in public — Paul provides a suggestion whereby the public views of such women in such situations are to be represented honestly and faithfully by their husbands, so as to bypass such laws while remaining in legal obedience to them — as well as restating the marital obligations of reciprocal duty and obedience of husband to wife and wife to husband ; 1 Timothy establishes that women may not teach the Scriptures in Church meetings, AKA that they have no vocation to the priesthood — 1 Timothy 5 simply supports my own point, about the vocational differences of men and women ; Numbers condemns adultery and extra-marital sex ; Leviticus concerns the necessary rituals of purity required for acts of worship towards the Altar of God set before the Tabernacle containing His Holy Ark of the Covenant and the Presence of the Godhead — but the Godhead is no longer in the Holy of Holies, but it is in the very Person of our Christ — and the Ark of the Covenant and the Tablets of the Law have been lost for Millennia, and very likely permanently.

    Not the Scripture, nor the Law, nor the Catechism of our Holy Church support in any way the frankly misogynistic contention that women might be inherently inferior to men ; the fact that some in Antiquity or the Middle Ages may have believed otherwise simply mirrors the fact that some people in the modern world, including in the 21st century, indeed even, apparently, among contributors to this discussion forum, also believe other than the truth of the equal value in the Spirit of men and women, despite the existence of the objective physical, social, and vocational differences between the sexes, as they are taught by our Church.

  • LocutusOP

    It seems to me that the problems are two-fold.

    First we assume that most people in the past did not have wisdom since they didn’t have what we consider ‘formal education’. A fallacy if ever there was one.

    Secondly, most of the ‘educated’ today have been taught what to think and not how to think. To think that somehow their protestations at Catholic teaching deserves respect is to perpetuate the fallacy.

    Regarding the ordination of women…..I can find no better reason than the one John Paul II gave. As it is, nobody who promotes this cause has valid theological reasons.

    If you have any theological reason as to why Jesus Christ did not institute the priesthood with women, and why those have changed with time, then I am sure the whole Church will be keen to listen.

  • AlanP

    The point I was making is that most people today, whether we like it or not, are more likely to accept a teaching if they are given good reasons for it.  As regards the question of female ordination, several reasons have been given against it over the years: the 12 were all men, the priest is an “icon of Christ”, the priest is a “giver” (male) and the communicant a “receiver” (female).  All of these 3 reasons, which have tended to wax and wane over time, have some validity (though I find the third somewhat esoteric), none is totally convincing.  Personally I think the strongest practical reason against ordaining women is that it would set back relations with the Orthodox, but we seldom hear this reason.
    To repeat my basic point: for most people today, it is no good simply saying “the Church says this, therefore it must be so”. 

  • Lil_mini_mozart

    This is a disgusting post. You are a disgrace to Catholicism.

  • Lil_mini_mozart

    Thank you for your comment. What a relief to see someone with some knowledge of their faith! No wonder though that women are abandoning the Church in droves.

  • DustMan8

    You dare to say this. Yet I have given no opinion of my own.

    ALL I have done is quote the Gospels (with references) and the Saints, Pope and the most learned Doctors of the Church.

    It is their teachings that you foolishly call “disgusting” and a “disgrace”.
    You are a woman, I think?

  • Brendan Wall

    “They need good reasons for accepting things”.
    If the things to be accepted are the teachings of the Catholic Church, then “they” have the most wonderful reason: Christ, the Son of God, guarantees the teaching.  It is believed on His authority alone.

  • Cassandra

    Really! Have not noticed this

  • LocutusOP

    The Church’s position is “Jesus did so, therefore it must be so”.

    It’s a very strong argument and I don’t see any merit in employing other arguments frankly.

    Maybe one day we’ll find out why He did, but in the meantime we have to follow His example…Which is really what Christianity is all about.

  • generationbenedict Here is the link to our blog. Thank you so much for your write up! We have been blown away by the interest in the blog! May God bless the Pope!
    Collette and Lise

  • JabbaPapa

    The position of the Church is actually that after about 300 years of extensive pro et contra debate and honest consultation, Pope Gelasius I forbade all Catholic Bishops from ever ordaining a woman as a priest.

    This position was — and IS — consensual and in accordance with the beliefs of the Catholic Faithful.

  • JabbaPapa

     I agree.

  • JabbaPapa

    I’m not — but your views are closer to fundamentalist Protestantism than to any Catholic Christianity as such.

  • DustMan8

    As I have pointed out above, none of these views are simply my own.

    They are the “views” and teaching of the Gospel, the Saints, a Pope and the most learned Doctors of the Church – these know and understand better than JabbaPapa.

  • rigmarole

    Funny. There are more women who are doing work in my parish than the blokes.

  • rigmarole

    The BBC needs to change its attitude. It is woefully un-impartial when reporting many issues, especially with the Roman Catholic Church.

    The change needs to be brutal and radical.

  • rigmarole

    Don’t talk wet!

  • rigmarole

    I agree.

  • Gabrielle_fey

     I agree, but who is going to implement this change? It won’t be Aunty!

  • Thomas Carty

    The analogy is telling and contains a warning for the church; the ‘modernised’ Labour Party  aligned itself uncritically with both thatcherite economic liberalism (no such thing as society) and blairite social liberalism ( eg gay marriage) and simply abandoned its constituency and with it its identity and moral principles (eg participation in the attack on iraq). 
    It has also become more openly secularist.It doesn’t know what it is for any more and  does not deserve our support.The church will not be credible if it embraces the materialist culture of contemporary society. We should be challenging it.

  • Thomas Carty

    It’s a recognised psephological fact and one which tallies with experience that most Catholics in England have voted Labour since the 1920s and that for class and ethnic reasons (ie they were largely poor and of Irish origin). Indeed, the Labour Party itself was in many areas dominated by Catholics (not always to its advantage).It was noticeable how many of those who took part in the anti-iraq war demonstration 10 years ago were practising Christians, including Catholics and now work politically with other Christians. Many of us left the Labour Party over Iraq.

    There are a few more Daily Telegraph types in the public eye but that is largely irrelevant the church anyway represents different values and refuses to dance to the  current liberal tune.That’s why we worry liberal secularists: we challenge them by starting from elsewhere.Pro-Life for me involves respect for life in the womb and in old age, opposition to the death penalty and to war as an instrument of policy.We are called by the gospel to opt for the poor, the refugee, the stranger and the excluded (which includes women, as any reading of the NT will demonstrate, but that”s another story!).

  • Robin Leslie

    Well I don’t see how your interpretation was exactly how Ed Stourton would explain the Church.
    The Church is of course viewed from the absolute standpoint of the ego by modernizers of whom there are a residue in both priesthood and laity, but this is just the point, the Church’s whole rationale is mystery and liberation, a letting-go of  ego control. We could say that the ideological interpretation is
    one of having and possession (ownership) certainty, control and power, whereas Christians stand halfway between heaven and earth in the realty of being, mystery, and freedom and this is why the poor and powerless are nearest Our Lord. Isn’t that what we call true faith.
    What about Nature in this crazed world of machines and technique? We are rooted beings and not the strangers who populate the ridiculously artificial metropolises that suck up all our efforts and evict us from our place in nature.We have nothing to fear except fear itself  but we do now need to change ourselves first because re-engineering the structures and the externals of the Church as our lightweight
    neo-liberal friends suggest has proved a failure, as witness all the prodigious experimentation that
    succeeded Vatican 2. The first thing we must adhere to is a priesthood independent within the wider Church, independent but engaged with people in the Church and through Love outside it too. 
    We cannot allow the priesthood to be modernized nor reformed by the ‘liberal’ agenda (viz. women priests, gay marriage etc.) this would lead to what Renee Girard calls ‘internal mediation’ or rivalry and competition leading to conflict and power struggles. Much of feminism and homosexualism is a struggle for power, an attempt to identify themselves over against the ‘father figure’. Ironically such
    a struggle within the Church and priesthood would further lead to subjectivism and appropriative violence. A reading of Girard is in my view essential in trying to understand what is going on
    in the Church and outside it at the present time, we are in a crisis of  imitation and authority, added to which there is an increasing difficulty in transmitting the tradition and collective memory of the Christian faith. Yes there is a problem of the pastorate in the Church and the Church’s greater readiness and organizational ability to meet the needs of the victims of free-market Capitalism. We do however need to defend a stable and independent priesthood of that I am sure, even if other things are less certain.

  • Cassandra

    Thanks you made my point clearer. I had not noticed women leaving the church in droves!