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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.

  • Kevin

    That was a good read. Thanks.

  • David Lindsay

    The old Clause IV did not mention nationalisation, although it certainly allowed for it; it had been framed so that people who already had nationalisation in mind could read that presupposition into it, even though no one could have read that presupposition out of it. But Tony Blair and his fan club thought that it was about nothing else.

    So, in repudiating it, they repudiated public ownership in order to repudiate everything that public ownership delivered and safeguarded, notably national sovereignty, the Union, and the economic basis of paternal authority. Likewise, in repudiating trade unionism, they repudiated controlled immigration and the moderating influence of the wider electorate in the affairs of the Labour Party.

    Mercifully, that latter, at least, reasserted itself in the victory of Ed Miliband over the Blairite candidate. But it still needs to be emphasised that requiring the production of a union card is no different from requiring the production of a British passport or a work permit, while the closed shop was as important for that as it was for giving the Tory 45 per cent of the industrial working class a moderating influence in the selection of Labour candidates for the safe Labour seats in which they lived.

  • The Great Stalin

    Looks like the truth is beginning to come out as to why Benedict XVI abdicated, Comrades!!!! The homosexual mafia has reached even the Cardinalate!!!!

    NOW will many of you accept that the Church is in total crisis?!!!

  • majorcalamity

    I have no doubt at all that the people mentioned are sincere, good, people and that there are many others like them. Indeed I meet some from time to time and, whilst I don’t share their faith, I respect and like them as humans. 

    It is just such a pity that they are far from typical. Many of the Catholics I encounter seem to have lost Jesus completely. They come over as nasty right wingers with a hatred of anything remotely “liberal” and much more interested in politics than serving the poor and disadvantaged. You have only to trawl the comments here to understand the truth of that. If the BBC, or anyone else, treats Catholicism as a political party and analyses the results you only have yourselves to blame.

  • rigmarole

    Stalin is DEAD!

    The Church is very much alive, vibrant and triumphant.


  • The Great Stalin

    You miss the point entirely, Comrade, but that happens on a daily basis on these pages!!!! 

    Are you a wrecker of Soviet Agriculture by the way?!!!

  • Lazarus

    1) A lot of the hot button issues (abortion, euthanasia, the undermining of marriage) are precisely about serving the poor and disadvantaged. Very few comments here are concerned with the political games of Westminster and elsewhere. Very many more are about the fundamental structures of society which are indeed political (=things of the city) questions and certainly within the purview of the Church and Jesus.

    2) Francis’ post is firmly focused on the worship of God and the pursuit of holiness. So are many others in the CH. How is that political in any sense at all?

    That Catholics come over to you as ‘nasty right wingers’ says more about your sensibilities than it does about any reality.

  • scary goat

     I think it’s about time we stopped feeding the trolls.

  • majorcalamity

    That is just so much nonsense. It is just an excuse for you pushing your own political agenda. 

    If you think abortion, euthanasia and the undermining of marriage are about serving the poor and disadvantaged you live on a different planet to me. I have lived amongst the poor and disadvantaged and these are not their concerns, other than that they would like to see abortion being more easily accessible, which is hardly your objective.  The poor need food, shelter, medical facilities and the opportunity to work. I see much good work being done in these areas, by Catholics and others, but the overwhelming sense you gain on here is nothing to do with this.   

  • majorcalamity

    I commented on the original article, which is just as much right as yours. As is my right to make comments in response to any others. Whether anyone replies to me is up to them. What is the problem? All we are doing is searching for the truth. For those who are always talking about it you seem a little scared that others might have some.

  • Drjones81

    Some of us grew up poor and disadvantaged and live in the real world where marriage is important and abortion and euthanasia are very real influences.

  • Frank

    I enjoyed this article and would like to thank the author for bringing these testimonies to our attention. Surely this shows the Holy Spirit at work?
    On another level would it be such a great a surprise to see the new generation react to the social conditions in which they find themselves?

  • majorcalamity

    Seems to me that you have managed to escape your upbringing circumstances. If so, well done and good for you. I am not suggesting that these are not real issues, for clearly they are. I am challenging the claim that the Church is interested in them BECAUSE they impact upon the poor and disadvantaged. I think that is just a smokescreen for wishing to push a particular, religion based political agenda. 

  • CullenD

    So anyone who questions the RCC is a troll? Why not be old skool and call them heretics?

    It seems Bene 16 did seem to have an impact after all.

  • MsAneem

    I agree: the BBC’s approach to religion is a disgrace.

    The BBC has a whole department devoted to religion and religious matters which costs several millions of £s each year of licence payers’ money.

    The BBC’s coverage of the Pope’s visit in 2010 was a good example of its bias. Opinion polls before and during the visit showed overwhelming public apathy – even among Catholics. Yet the Corporation behaved like a fawning schoolgirl. The then Director General (Mark Thompson, a prominent Catholic) visited the Vatican to plan the whole jamboree. Lord Patten, the Chairman of the BBC Trust (also a prominent Catholic), appeared on news programmes like Newsnight to build up its profile.

    The BBC often gives-way to religious pressure groups in the way described (factually) above, when we all know (the BBC publishes the results) that its research into viewing and radio audience figures for religious broadcasts, shows that the audiences are usually too small to actually measure.

    Religion is now very much a minority interest in Britain and the BBC should let its coverage reflect that.

  • CullenD

    Although personal witness can be uplifting, in this context it is misleading. Young people are not leaving the church, they just aren’t joining. It’s easy to claim an infant who is baptised to be a catholic, it’s far harder when, as teenagers and adults. the huge majority of them ignore the church. 

    In general terms, if you have to rely on on personal witness or revelation, to make a point, you are going to lose.  

  • rsmyth75

    no it is not misleading! it is not just the young that r ignoring the Church! The spiritual battles r being lost but the war between good and evil has already been won!!! Time and time again the Church has looked like it was down for the count, and time and time again has risen with a new fervor that every time has the young leading it!!! This is again the case! everywhere around the world i see so many young people and especially young men joining what Benedict remind’s us is The Church Militant! It is a calling from a Savior we r willing to die for! With courage and vigor they r saying Yes and stepping out into the deep to cast their nets with the words of Jesus, JP11, and BenedictXV1, To Be Not Afraid!

  • MsAneem

    “Time and time again the Church has looked like it was down for the count, and time and time again has risen with a new fervor that every time has the young leading it!!!”

    This is untrue. There have been instances where despots have imposed their own religion – or quasi-religion (eg communism). However there has been a steady monotonic decline in Catholic belief and in religion generally since the mid-to-late 19th century.

    In parts of the third world there is some growth (although it has now ceased in South America). Here the history of the developed world is repeating itself – but at a much increased pace, as Latin america demonstrates.

  • JabbaPapa

    Young people are not leaving the church, they just aren’t joining

    That is not entirely true — there is an underlying return of some youth to the Church ; it may not be as loud nor as brash as the coarse, secular nature of the surrounding Western culture, but it’s there, as can be seen in the WYD movement and in the revival of the Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, as well as in such places as Taizé.

    .In general terms, if you have to rely on on personal witness or revelation, to make a point, you are going to lose

    A purely secularist claim — however, personal witness through the Holy Spirit, and Revelation, come from God, not from we mere mortals.

    If we only had our own knowledge and our purely human abilities to rely on, you’d be right — but the Church, the Spirit, and the Revelation are provided to us by God, and their supernaturality transcend and exceed the petty limits of our own imperfect human abilities.

  • JabbaPapa

    there has been a steady monotonic decline in Catholic belief and in religion generally since the mid-to-late 19th century

    Wrong — you’re falsely assuming the state of affairs in the English-speaking world to be coherent with the state of affairs everywhere ; plus you’re ignoring the raw numbers, and relying on your impressionistic sentiment instead.

    Not only are there more Catholics alive today than at an other time in the past, this number is growing ; but also, the % of those who are Catholic among the whole world population is also growing, and is also higher than ever before.

    Even in the currently, shockingly secularistic environment of the UK, the numbers and % of practicing Catholics has overtaken the numbers and % of practicing Anglicans.

    What you seem not to realise is that the decline in some parts of Western society of religiosity itself reached its full extent some decades ago ; and the Faithful inside the Church now are, generally speaking, far stronger and more clear-minded about the Faith than at any time since the Middle Ages.

    This does not mean that there are no problems whatsoever, nor that there aren’t far too many wishy-washy and very loud, and sometimes very influential, unorthodox “catholics” inside the Church joining the crowing voices of the unfaithful secularists outside ; nor that some of the more lukewarm, or café, or cultural “catholics” aren’t just pure and simple abandoning a faith that they never really had in the first place ; but the silent Catholic majority generally (again, NOT just in the English-speaking world) remains true and steadfast in the Faith, no matter how many times it is maligned or transgressed by these modernist activists or political cliques or heterodox rebellions.

  • JabbaPapa

    “scared” ??? LOL

    I highly doubt it !!!

    “bored”, more likely.

  • JabbaPapa

    It is just an excuse for you pushing your own political agenda

    You’ve obviously not fully digested the point that the Catholic Church is NOT a political party.

    In other words, you’re simply rejecting the central point of the whole article for your own petulant reasons.

    Why is the presentation of this simple fact so hard for you to accept ?

  • JabbaPapa

    Comrade !!!

    Superb job, as always, with spreading the great Propaganda !!!

    In the name of the whole Party, and with the glorious support of 99.68% of our liberated Soviets, please accept the Order of Küng, First Class !!!

    Thank you, Comrade, for crushing these Western Imperialist LIES that their Pope is a frail old man !!!

  • Parasum

    “Wrong — you’re falsely assuming the state of affairs in the
    English-speaking world to be coherent with the state of affairs
    everywhere ; plus you’re ignoring the raw numbers, and relying on your impressionistic sentiment instead.”

    ## The Church lost the working classes in the nineteenth century. It’s losing tens of millions in Latin America now.  60 million Catholics in the US have lapsed – that’s almost equivalent to the entire USCC now.  A Churchful of ex-Catholics is nothing to be cocky about. Quite apart from the problems in the USCC itself. What is the Church going to do when it blows it in the global South ? Rely on the Far East to make up the numbers ? It may have to. And what happens when it’s rumbled there ? Will it go to outer space – or set up shop at the Poles ? The CC is fast running out of sources of manpower – when will it do when it has nowhere left to turn ?

  • Lazarus

    If you think killing off the inconvenient and bringing up children in a unstable environment aren’t evils which affect the poor and disadvantaged, you are indeed living in a different world from me.

    I came from a very left wing background and a key aspect of Catholicism which first attracted me was its emphasis on social justice.My views on abortion, euthanasia and the undermining of marriage are part of that emphasis. Your sort of world screws up people’s lives especially the vulnerable.

    My only political agenda in the narrow sense that you’re using it is to ensure that liberal blowhards whose only agenda is anti-Catholicism and whose only solution moral anarchy are not left unchallenged in their smug complacency.

  • Cestius

    I got the distinct impression that the BBC journos turned up to the pope’s visit with their stories already half written – nervous pope harangued and besieged by protesters, but when it became undeniable even to them that the pope was warmly welcomed by crowds of people of all ages, while the protesters formed a very sad and pathetic minority completely drowned out in all the joy and enthusiasm, they had to report that instead.  BBC types still don’t get Catholicism, it baffles them, and they quickly revert to form as witnessed in more recent output following the pope’s resignation.

  • Lazarus

    ‘there has been a steady monotonic decline in Catholic belief and in religion generally since the mid-to-late 19th century.’

    Wishful thinking, I’m afraid…England and Wales: Priests 1851: 826 2001: 5600Catholic population: 1767: 80,000 1901: 1.5 millions   2001: 4.2 millions And of course, as you know, Catholic numbers are currently booming worldwide:

    1950: 437 millions 2011: 1.196 billions

    I don’t deny there are many problems in the Church, but to describe the above trends as a steady monotonic decline since the nineteenth century is simply tosh.

  • Cestius

    Good article.  The likes of Hans Kung and the usual suspects that the BBC wheels out to discuss Catholicism don’t represent anybody much any more. The liberal “spirit of Vatican II” movement is dead and over, the future lies in the direction Benedict and John Paul II before him have set. I wonder how long it will take for the BBC to get that.

  • Catholic State3

    if the church geos Ms Aneem……then so does civilisation. Just make sure u are in with the powerful godless elites to avoid incarceration, subjugation and slavery. OK!

  • JabbaPapa

    The state of the Church in the US may not be something to boast about.

    As for the CC is fast running out of sources of manpower, you simply describe one objective of the contraceptionist and abortionist policies of secularist atheism and anti-Catholicism.

  • majorcalamity

    As I have said I don’t think these are issues which don’t have any relevance at all to our world. If you read what I said I am saying that the Church is using them as a cloak to hide under by justifying the poor and disadvantaged as the reason. These are issues at the centre of the Catholic view on the world, and are being pushed without compromise, irrespective of the circumstances, or need.   

    Not every circumstance is identical and the solutions need to be thought about, and tailored. Some countries need contraception to be made available and for the Church to stand aside in it’s objection. Some countries need to legalise abortion, for those who wish to choose it, and thus avoid the demand for, and danger in, back street abortion. No-one wishes to force any Catholic to use contraception, or abortion, or marry anyone. They just ask that you listen to those who do and do not stand in their way, if their actions are lawful. Campaign all you like, but accept it if you are not succeeding.

    I am far from left wing. I am a die hard Tory voter and believe in capitalism. Those who oppose your agenda are not “anti-Catholic” at all. They are anti hypocrisy and pro fairness. Even for you! 

  • majorcalamity

    I completely understand that your Church is not a political party. What part of that have you not digested? What I think is that many traditional Catholics push a political agenda and use their interpretation of their faith as the justification. 

    I gave, and give, great credit to those who hold your faith and who do wonderful work supporting others. There are some lovely people, who inspire me. However, there are also many political activists who are fully paid up members of the nasty party, attacking any who approach social problems in a different way to them. This approach is just so old fashioned and irrelevant, it is little more these days than an annoyance. It does though need to be routinely exposed so that others can work out where the truth lies.

  • AlanP

    Sad to see the BBC-bashing still going on.  The coverage of religious matters has generally been remarkably balanced over many years (my only complaint is that there should be MORE religious broadcasting).  Only somebody who thinks the BBC should be like Vatican radio, or even like Mother Angelica’s organisation in the USA, could think otherwise.
    As for a “Clause 4 movement”, I think the new Pope will want to do something revolutionary (at least in Church terms).  My prediction is a move towards ending clerical celibacy. 

  • Peter

    “The CC is fast running out of sources of manpower – when will it do when it has nowhere left to turn ?”

    This is absolute drivel!

    The seminaries and convents in Africa and Asia are bursting at the seams, and many are turned away, because there simply aren’t the funds to maintain them.

    It is disgraceful when vocations have to be turned away for lack of funds, but that where the West comes in through support for organisations like the ACN (Aid to the Church in Need) and the SPA (Society of St Peter the Apostle) who train thousands of priests every year.

  • Darren

     Good points Francis. Whenever I hear commentators talk about the Church needing to “get with the times”, modernise, and ultimately become more political, I am always reminded of the great sermon preached by the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen who said that the great temptation of the Church will be the temptation to forget theology and the worship of Christ, in favour of the short-term political issues of the day (it’s on YouTube under the title “The Devil”)

    The Church is not of this world, so to think it should become more worldly shows an absolutely naive view of what the Church actually is.

    As W. R. Inge said “whosoever marries the spirit of the age, will become a widower in the next”.

  • teigitur

    Are you real? The BBC s coverage of anything remotely connected to faith is appalling. In the case of the RCC you can multiply that tenfold.
     I really do wonder do you listen to the same BBC as I do. Though I do so less and less these days.

  • AlanP

    I really think you are completely blinkered if you think BBC coverage of faith issues is “appalling”.  What about the Radio4 series “Beyond Belief”, for example?  Very balanced on various faith issues, and the mere fact of it being broadcast at all shows that faith is thought worth taking seriously.  Similarly BBC1′s “Big Question” on Sundays.  Plus the various morning services.  And if you think that the coverage of the Pope’s visit was 10 times worse than appalling, well, words fail me.
    Honestly, are you being serious?

  • teigitur

    It is duty bound to broadcast some faith related programmes. They are generally cringeworthy.
      Shall I give you an example of the appalling reprorting? World Youth Day Madrid. Somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million young people there celebrating their faith with B16. Newsworthy, yes?
      Radio 4′s today reported that the Pope was in Madrid and there were 10, 000 people demonstrating against him. Full stop. Not a single word about why he was there or indeed about the vast throng of young people. Not a single word. Now if that is not biased reporting, I do not know what is.

  • JabbaPapa

    These are issues at the centre of the Catholic view on the world


    If that’s what you think, then you understand not a jot of Catholicism.

    The Catholic view of the world is centred on the Person of Christ, and our Worship of God.

  • JabbaPapa

    What I think is that many traditional Catholics push a political agenda and use their interpretation of their faith as the justification.

    What I think is that many [ -- use THIS space to name the random group of your choice -- ] push a political agenda and use their interpretation of their [ -- name the relevant philosophical system HERE -- ] as the justification.


    IE your comment is universally true of ALL cohesive groups of people, and is NOT specific to Catholics. IE, it’s an irrelevance.

  • majorcalamity

    In some circumstances that may well be true, but it is your comment which is irrelevant. I am speaking only about Catholics, and the way they hide their politics behind their faith. Much of their political stance has little, or nothing, to do with any reasonable interpretation of genuine Christianity. It is naked right wing politics. 

  • AlanP

    You give a one-off example; fair enough.  But the examples I gave were regular weekly programmes which deal with faith in a way which is certainly balanced, and if anything favourable.  When the new Pope is elected, I guarantee that it will be given enormous favourable coverage on the BBC.  Are you suggesting that other mass media outlets are MORE favourable than is the BBC?

  • AlanP

    Of course the Church should not, and cannot, change its basc teachings to accord with passing fashions.  But the way it communicates them IS important.  We all need to realise that, unlike earlier ages when there was an educated elite and most people simply accepted what they were told, today most people have a reasonable degree of education and do not simply accept things on trust.  They need good reasons for accepting things.  JPII’s instruction that we cannot even discuss, let alone dispute, the ruling against the ordination of women is an example of how NOT to go about communicating a message.

  • Benedict Carter

    What planet are you on?

    Whenever the BBC has anything remotely to do with the Catholic Church, you can see the smirk on the face, and hear the contempt in the voice of whoever is speaking. 

  • Benedict Carter

    There are DOZENS of examples such as that given by teigitur. 

  • teigitur

    That is but one example of one of the times I formally complained. I can give more, as I have complained several times.
     No,  the media are generally not well disposed to the Church, or even faith. The point is we have to fund the BBC , no choice if you want a television set. It is a national broadcaster, funded by the public and should be impartial. But it is not.
     When you complain you get a trite, patronising reply , telling you how impartial they are, and how this must be something you feel stongly about, well yeah!
     But they care not a jot as long as we keep paying their ludicrious salaries.

  • JabbaPapa

    Utter, complete, pole-dancing, politicised RUBBISH !!!

    “In some circumstances” indeed !!!

    Your views on Catholics have, pure and simple, revealed themselves in all of their clichéd, prejudiced, and politically motivated “glory”.

    You claim OT1H that you “completely understand that your Church is not a political party” — and then, almost without drawing breath, move on to say that “it is naked right wing politics” ??????!!!???

    Trying to have your cake and eat it ???

    Why not just admit that your a priori judgmentalism is WRONG ???

  • AlanP

    I am perfectly capable of detecting lack of balance in any media outlet, and I have seldom detected it in the BBC.  Most of the press, on the other hand, is woefully unbalanced (they have no obligation not to be).  I also have, on 2 or 3 occasions, copmplained to the BBC about something, but that has been over a period of 40 years or more.  Overall, on both politics and religion, they have been perfectly fair.  But I could certainly do with MORE religious programming.

  • teigitur

    Oh well, it seems you will never see the wood for the trees.

  • teigitur

    Whatever do you mean Damo with your comment about B16?