Did the window slam shut?

Everyone remembers John XXIII’s gesture of throwing open a window to symbolise his forthcoming Council which would bring the Church out of the shadows and open it to the world. That was some 50 years ago.

At that time my father was the editor of the Catholic Herald, so the expectations of the Council which we shared were considerable.

My father knew many of the problems. Shortly after taking over his editorship in 1934 he felt that he had to resign because a Church official was permanently on hand to ‘approve’ copy. He only returned when the official was removed. Later, he started the first Catholic newspaper correspondence page allowing for a free expression of opinion. Even in his last decade with the Herald, leading up to 1962, he had trouble with the bishops over questions like communication and ecumenism. And that was tricky because the bishops had the power to forbid church door sales – on which, at that time, the Herald was financially dependent.

So what were we expecting?

The most obvious expected change was that the Council would complement the teachings on the primacy of the pope by setting out the status of the bishops, not as delegates of the pope but with powers in their own right as representative of the Apostles. This, it was believed, would shape the Church into a collegiate organisation, without prejudice to the ultimate powers of the pope, and bring about a Church which was a community rather than a totalitarian structure.

And indeed that teaching was introduced. Unfortunately no road map or general indication of principles which would offer a pathway to community in action was put forward. There are those who claim that the conservative influences which sought to neutralise any change through the Council were happy that this should be so. When in due course the bishops finally returned home the old guard would remain in control at the centre.

And this, as far as we can see, was what happened.  The popes appears to continue their one man rule. We do not know whether they do this in their own right, or as head of the college of bishops. If the latter, it is not clear how the views of such a college are present to him. The synods which are called to advise them do not represent the whole body of bishops and, it would seem, that the agenda is set by the Curia, and only after the synods are over is the official response published. Incidentally, over a long period, bishops appear to have been chosen for their orthodoxy – and orthodoxy, for this purpose, is not confined to solemn teaching but covers the whole party line. Although the comparison is odious, this looks remarkable similar to what happens in fascist dictatorships. Or perhaps a Renaissance court. Nor does the independence of the bishops appear valuable when it’s only freedom is to agree to the centre.

And the centre here is the Curia. Another feature of the fascist dictatorship is a kitchen cabinet. Naturally the Pope is but one man – he must have a staff or a civil service to assist him. But beware a kitchen cabinet which puts a barrier between the top man and his senior executives. Of course many of the diktats of the Curia appear with the Pope’s fiat attached but in the Church, as in commercial business, the chairman has little alternative to taking his advisers’ advice. The Council, having resisted attempts by the old guard to get them to rubber stamp the draft documents for the Council, asked for Curial reform. Yes, a few changes were made, but root and branch was required, cosmetics are a waste of time. “We’ve almost forgotten that reform of the Curia was part of Benedict’s program at the start,” recalled Isabelle de Gaulmyn, who was Vatican correspondent for the French Catholic daily La Croix at the time.”Seven years later, the Curia has never seemed as opaque, ineffective, closed and badly governed as it is today.”

There is more to say, but that is enough for the moment. Perhaps contributors to this Blog will have further examples and issues which will throw more light on the situation. And, from time to time, people have related their parish experiences. I am always glad to hear of these because I am fortunate enough to live in a large parish which is undoubtedly a Christian community, and much of which is directly handled by the laity – under the benign eye of a clergy which is much loved and much trusted.

Do I protest too much? Remind yourself of what the late Cardinal Martini had to say on his deathbed: “The church is tired, in the Europe of well-being and in America. Our culture has become old, our churches and our religious houses are big and empty, the bureaucratic apparatus of the church grows, our rites and our dress are pompous….The church is 200 years behind the times. Why doesn’t it stir? Are we afraid? Is it fear rather than courage?”

Link to Martini

About Quentin

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122 Responses to Did the window slam shut?

  1. John Candido says:

    Depending on where you sit on the continuum between conservatism and liberalism, the Roman Catholic Church is either a healthy, well governed organisation, or it exhibits distinct tendencies towards non-democratic governance, involving non-transparency, non-accountability, and an office (the papacy) which has unchecked power, supported by an all-powerful curia and Vatican bureaucracy. I can’t see how conservatives can support a continuance of the status quo when the church is facing its greatest crisis since the Reformation. But they do, of course! I am sorry to have to say that it is a case of the blind leading the blind.

  2. St.Joseph says:

    Quentin we have had this discussion over and over again-and for myself I don’t need to go into it all again .It is so repetitive.
    I have come to the conclusion, comment my mother always made and that is ‘Give someone enough rope and they will hang their self.’-to be likened to the liberals who thought they had the rope slackened .after Vatican 2, and that is just what they have done.
    I believe that Holy Mother Church has gone and still is going through a testing and cleansing period-and only then will She be ready to meet Our Lord at His second coming.!

    • Vincent says:

      St.Joseph, I think there may be some elements in this post which you have missed. It looks specifically at the question of whether we are a Church run by one man (which to a large extent means in practice by the Congregations in the Varican) or whether it is a community under the bishops who work in communion with the successor of St Peter. It is quite clear that the Council opted for the second; it is equally certain that a strong and centrally placed cabal ensured that the power would remain with them — although ostensibly with the pope.
      Put simply, the Church has strayed woefully from its conciliar decisions. That is a very serious matter — and loyal people like you should be the first to make a fuss about it. It has been very costly — look at the steady decline in numbers in the Western Church. Yes, it has an inpressive headcount in some other countries, but that will not last for long once these populations have matured into democracies.
      If we were to rely on purely human judgement, we would expect the Church to have reduced to a small, and quite irrelevant little group. Fortunately we believe that the Holy Spirit will preserve the Church. However the Holy Spirit will have to hope that good people like you are not prepared to walk away from the challenge.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Thank you for your reply.
        The kind of Catholic I am and that is to not worry about the politics (if that is the correct word) But to try to live the Lords work within my capabilities of family life and the structures of the soul in terms of abortion.
        On issues which concerns me, I will challenge those who are not are consistent with the Magisterium. in matters of faith and morals.
        When my children and grandchildren lapse and stop going to church and lose their love for Holy Mother Church, then I will challenge my conscience.

      • John Candido says:

        Thank God for thinking people everywhere!

    • Vincent says:

      St,Joseph, you are surely right to remind us that our first duty is to look to our own spiritual good. It is only too easy to get het up about ‘the Church’, while failing in our own immediate duties. However we do all share a degree of responsibility for building the community of love which the Church was founded to be. For some, this is discharged by applying their influence, for others it is through prayer. You may have chosen the ‘better part’ but there needs to be activists too — if only to ensure the kind of Church which your, say, great grandchildren will recognise and want to be part of.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I am not reminding anyone of their duty, I follow my own conscience.
        No one can ever say that I am not an activist ,It is often said I protest too much!
        I have ‘not’ chosen the better part-who can say what that is?
        It is easy to be an activist in front of a computer,but what does that achieve?
        It reminds me of the large statue of the Thinker in Woodchester Priory my local parish where I don’t worship. It has been there for I don’t know how many years and has done nothing just sit and think!!.
        People don’t lapse because of the big shots in Rome- people who lapse probably wont know anything about it all. Get real. They are too much interested in themselves and what they ‘think’.
        Perhaps a good education in reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church would help them to understand the Church that Jesus was born and to die for -the invisible to the visible one on earth, and that to me is the Church ,not the one that is critical all the time,
        I consider my self to be a free soul in Christ.-just proud and thankful to be Catholic ,and I like people to ‘know’. moaning all the time will surely put others off.,Big time.! Get a LIfe.

  3. Horace says:

    My first thought on reading this post was to look again at a book that I had been given by a quasi-Catholic relative; Lucien Gregoire’s “Murder in the Vatican” which before I had simply considered an interesting essay in “Conspiracy Theory”.

    Of course, my childhood memories are very different from those of Quentin. Up to the age of nearly 5 years, I was brought up in India by a nanny, english not an ayah, and so my Hindustani is very limited – however a phrase that I learnt early was “Hukum hai ! ” (it is an order).
    In Kipling’s “Jungle Book” ( dating from some 25 years earlier -1908- but the first book that I remember) we find (at the end of “Her Majesty’s Servants”) :-
    ” . . . Mule, horse, elephant, or bullock, he obeys his driver, and the driver his sergeant, and the sergeant his lieutenant, and the lieutenant his captain, and the captain his major, and the major his colonel, and the colonel his brigadier commanding three regiments, and the brigadier his general, who obeys the Viceroy, who is the servant of the Empress. Thus is it done.”
    “Would it were so in Afghanistan ! ” said the chief ; “for there we obey only our own wills.”

    My father was was an Anglo-Irish Protestant whose philosophy could be summed up in the motto of Chandos “Fais ce que dois–adviegne que peut” (do my duty, come what may). Although he never entered a Catholic Church himself (except when he married my mother) he always insisted that mother and I attended Mass on Sundays and Holidays of Obligation, driving us to Mass himself and picking us up afterwards, and if necessary preparing breakfast for us in the interim.
    I have therefore always simply accepted the hierarchical structure of the Church
    and done my best to obey the instructions that I am given.

    You may imagine how shattered I was by reading :- ” . . . covers the whole party line. Although the comparison is odious, this looks remarkable similar to what happens in fascist dictatorships. Or perhaps a Renaissance court. ”

    When I retired, and perhaps had more time to think, I began to wonder at the changes that were happening in the church – the absence of Latin from the Mass, the rearrangement of the altar, the loss of the Altar rail, Communion in the hand, . . no Litanies, Adoration, Benediction, . . and so on.
    I bought a book “The basic sixteen documents VATICAN COUNCIL II ” [in Inclusive Language – what on earth does that mean?] but on reading it all the statements seemed admirable and uncontentious and I could find no explanation for the changes ( e.g. ” Sacrosanctum Concilium. 36 (1) The use of the Latin language is to be preserved . .”).
    I also bought another book “What happened at Vatican II” but I am still more than somewhat confused – as I am sure are many ‘ordinary’ Catholics.
    A recent course in Catechetics has done nothing to help.

    I now begin to wonder if it is perhaps true that as William Pitt the Elder said in 1770 ” Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it “.
    Is the Curia is indeed corrupted?

    • John L says:

      The trouble, Horace, is that anyone who had an agenda saw the Vatican Council as a grindstone for his or her own axe.
      The sad thing about this is that many could not find a Council Document to support their own contentions, as you rightly point out in your remarks.
      The next step was to invoke a nebulous idea described as “The Spirit of the Vatican Council”. This was not to pay service to recognising the Holy Spirit’s influence within the Council, but instead was used as a blanket reason for imposing all kinds of ideas which you will not find in the Documents.
      The fact that this has been allowed to continue, regrettably by some bishops, collegially or otherwise, has, I truly believe, been one of the causes of the decline we see in the Church. The much-maligned Pope is merely a voice crying in the wilderness.
      As one example, Blessed John Paul II saw abuses in the post-conciliar liturgy and produced a document “Liturgiam Authenticam” to try to set matters right. The Catholic Herald itself predicted, rightly as it turns out, that this document would “sink without trace”. Now how did that document get past the Curia? Surely the disregard of a Papal instruction stems from the larger Catholic world which “knows best”.
      We MUST have guidance from Peter’s Chair, and in the modern world it is hard to see how Peter can function without a cabinet or civil sevice, however distasteful this may seem in spiritual terms.
      I reaslis that I seem to be ranting at you – I am not. It’s just that you hit on a point which rouses my ire, so I’ll stop.
      John L

  4. Nektarios says:

    Fellow Bloggers,

    I have great difficuly with all this without sounding if I am disloyal to the Church as a whole, not just the Roman Catholic Church but the Orthodox Church and the Protestant Churches – so bear with me if I happen to inadvertantly offend anyone.

    I think all the Churches, in their administrations, leadership and heirarchs down through the centuries
    have been corrupted. They have given way to corruption to gain power, prestige, money and pride of place. To obtain those ends they became corrupted. It was there in the early Church, and it is with us today.

    The Church may seem strong numerically, economically, but so weak spiritually they cannot fight the good fight of faith. Many want to, but there are so few to guide them. Plenty of pundits to take their place and so they listen to them.
    If we listen to the world, if we even listen to all the divergent voices within the Churches, we will not hear the voice of God. We will hear the voices of disension, the voices of division, the voices of lobbyists all clamouring for the Church to change with the times to accomodate the sins they ar not willing to turn away and repent from. We will hear the voices of political agitators, secularists all clamouring for your heart and mind.
    Oh we resist it all, we say, but we have not resisted it, but imbibed the clamour and tenor of all their words and philosophy, but we go along to Church.

    We enter the church doors with all this noise in our minds and filling our hearts, sadly, so much so we can hardly concentrate on the Mass at all. One does it as a duty, so some say, But duty is a killer.
    We sing our psalms and hymns and choruses, but so often, our hearts are cold or lukewarm through it all. We hear the readings, but we are not really listening, we hear the homily, but it is just more words passing through between our ears.
    We take comfort we have been to Church, done our duty and we walk out with the same noise we walked into Church with. As spiritually detached as when we walked in and gained little or nothing.

    How can one assess amidst all the noise and clamour? How is one to discern what he Spirit is saying to the Churches if we do not listen to Him? What is one to do?

    I have found, I do have the energy to fight the good fight of faith, but I do not have the energy for all the rest of it. What is the point of arguing with the Church leaders if they are in the same spiritual state of weakness and full of noise too? They are no more listening to us, as they, for the most part, are not listening to God either.
    I can only say, give your mind to the problems that confront the Church or personally, but on no account give your heart, let that be for God.
    In the workplace, let your mind apply itself to ones work, but keep ones heart ever prayerful. That way, our work will be sanctified, otherwise it occupies not only our mind, but creates noise and stress in our heart and our work will remain unsanctified.
    Being prayerful and mindful of God in everything, keeps the heart before God, and God will be our strength and guide in everything we have to face in this life, and our All in All in the next.

    • St.Joseph says:

      In some of your comment you do see the Invisible One ,Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church! (I am not speaking about denominations) God does not make anything imperfect.But there had to be a Head.Or else why would He give St Peter the Keys To loose and bind.?He is head of all Christians .
      Jesus knew there would always be Judas’s -and doubting Thomas’s, when they don’t see the whole.
      Human beings no matter who they are are fragile and are not God.
      Mary Our Mother is the Mother of the Church and will protect Her always from error by the power of the Holy Spirit.
      I am pleased that the pews are full even if we are all sinners.
      The Church in Heaven is the only place the pews will be full with Saints.
      As long as humans are on earth in the visible Church, it will still always be perfect ,it is we who have to change as you say in not so many words..

      • Nektarios says:

        St. Joseph,

        St. Peter nor the so-called Apostolic Succession are not the head of the Church – The risen ascended Lord Jesus Christ is.
        I am not abusive. In my placing certain facts which any Priest , Minister or Pastor know
        about their congregations, they could concur with what I said.
        Faith is a gift of God, not of the Church institution. The Church has an institution, but the institution, is not the Church. Nor should the Adminstrationo the Church be bowed down to or served. All mainstream Churches have a bloated administrations, just like any Government and with that they controland exercise their so-called power.
        To answer the questions Quentin is asking, we need to apply our minds to it, but not our hearts whom we have given to God.

        The Adminstration in Churches know most are just walking blindly, and they put themselves forward as our guides and protectors of the Faith.
        How silly, only a person who has faith, knows how to defend the faith, and that is we defend our own heart by keeping it prayerful before God. It may shock you to know that many who serve the Vatican have little or no faith.

    • Rahner says:

      The usual pious platitudes……

      • St.Joseph says:

        Something wrong with pious platitudes- tell me I would love to know.
        This is a blog for faith-not just for insults .
        It would be good to hear some platitudes from you for a change. Rahner!!!!

  5. Geordie says:

    St Joseph you are judging others again. How do you know why people lapse? What right have you to say “They are too much interested in themselves and what they ‘think’.” Many people lapse because they have had bad experiences within the Church. I’ll never forget an American mother talking on TV in tears about her son being abused by a priest and the authorities ignored her. She said that she had not lost her Faith in God but but she no longer believed in the Catholic Church.
    Is this a person who is only thinking of herself?

    • St.Joseph says:

      Geordie. Again!!!!! explain please.
      I speak as I find. When people criticize the Church and say that the empty pews and the teachings of the Church are responsible for their lapsation and perhaps imply that my great grandchildren wont want to be a part of the church as it is to-day but would like a ‘new Church’ to be proud to be part of, as Vincent I believe and many more are implying , That is not judging people ,but a situation that exists all around us.
      You say above ‘Many people lapse because they have bad experiences within the Church etc. That is not the Church but the human errors of some in it .
      Don’t confuse them both and put them in the one basket. Too many are doing that. much to Satan’s pleasure
      Those who abuse are ”not’ the Church but represent the one who wan’ts to destroy Her, and take many many more with him!! As Satan is doing-and many are blind, so they don’t see it!
      I will always defend the Church and I don’t mind who is offended .
      The Church has been attacked since time began ,if you understand what the ‘Invisible Church ‘is.!

  6. Geordie says:

    Thank you for writing this article. I find it makes me feel both glad and sad. I’m glad because I am not the only one who thinks the Church as an institution is following the wrong track and it’s not just my own intolerance who makes me think it. However I’m sad because the Church leadership is in such a blinkered state. We need a new St Francis to rebuild Christ’s Church.

  7. John L says:

    Quentin – you ask about parish experience.
    Please don’t be offended if I remember a P.P. of many years back who, red in the face, insisted “I will not have anything that is to do with Michael de la Bedoyere in my church”. Note “his” church, not ours. We could happily have anodyne publications, but not something which aroused discussion amongst the plebeians.
    Fortunately I had been taught that it was a form of “Catholic Action” to order one’s Catholic publications direct from the newsagent rather than from the back of the church.
    I have had the Catholic Herald by this route ever since, and I have to admit that I turn first to the letters page. I can always rely on a gentleman from Frome to raise my blood pressure, but I feel that a Church which can argue within itself is a healthy Church which can argue with the outside world.
    The fact that these discussions can take place in the letters page, and (I sincerely hope) you are not censured for running this blog, indicates how far we have come since the P.P. I mention.
    I am called away but I hope to be back with some personal thoughts on the main thrust of your comments.
    John L

    • Quentin says:

      Thank you John. Your recollection of my father is interesting. As I have suggested before it was his championing topics such as the importance of the laity, freedom of criticism and ecumenism which so annoyed some member of the clergy (and some laity too, I expect). He was in effect laying out the agenda for the Council. Which is a personal reason why I find opposition to the Council’s teaching so disappointing.

      No, there’s no censoring of this blog. But I use my commonsense. My longer postings have been published in the Catholic Herald, so they are suited to that readership. The alternate weeks are rather more demanding. That is because I have learnt to trust contributors to fill in the gaps and answer the points that need answering. Thank heavens the contributors don’t all agree.

      • John L says:

        I wrote “censure” rather than “censor” – but that is immaterial. I agree with you, and say “more strength to your elbow” (to coin a phrase).
        The question of “opposition” to the Council’s teaching can be a moot point. I won’t waste time or space by repeating myself, but several contibutions back I posted a reply to Horace which goes some way to setting out my stall. If you can be bothered, I’d be interested to know if you agree or would rather shoot me down in flames.
        (I’m just thinking of starting a competition in the blog for the greatest number of cliches in a single posting!)

      • Quentin says:

        You’ll have to give me a clue, John. With around 9000 comments on the Blog it’s hard to trace a particular one. Why not repeat it? Plenty of space on the net!

      • John L says:

        Stupid of me, Quentin – apologies and here goes…

        The trouble, Horace, is that anyone who had an agenda saw the Vatican Council as a grindstone for his or her own axe.
        The sad thing about this is that many could not find a Council Document to support their own contentions, as you rightly point out in your remarks.
        The next step was to invoke a nebulous idea described as “The Spirit of the Vatican Council”. This was not to pay service to recognising the Holy Spirit’s influence within the Council, but instead was used as a blanket reason for imposing all kinds of ideas which you will not find in the Documents.
        The fact that this has been allowed to continue, regrettably by some bishops, collegially or otherwise, has, I truly believe, been one of the causes of the decline we see in the Church. The much-maligned Pope is merely a voice crying in the wilderness.
        As one example, Blessed John Paul II saw abuses in the post-conciliar liturgy and produced a document “Liturgiam Authenticam” to try to set matters right. The Catholic Herald itself predicted, rightly as it turns out, that this document would “sink without trace”. Now how did that document get past the Curia? Surely the disregard of a Papal instruction stems from the larger Catholic world which “knows best”.
        We MUST have guidance from Peter’s Chair, and in the modern world it is hard to see how Peter can function without a cabinet or civil sevice, however distasteful this may seem in spiritual terms.
        I realise that I seem to be ranting at you – I am not. It’s just that you hit on a point which rouses my ire, so I’ll stop.
        John L

  8. St.Joseph says:

    I don’t really have much more to say on your post, but just wondering what you were saying about your parish and community. It seems to me it works very well as most parish’s do.
    You all seem to be contented with how the parish is conducted and I wonder how the Curia affects their attitude to the community of parishioners.There seems to be no problem as you imply.
    We must make it clear here if we are objecting to personalities or the teachings of the Church,those wanting change such as Contraception- Divorce-(not forgetting we do have annulments) Women Priests ,Married priests (we will have when the time is right). Gay marriage. stopping Latin Mass or the way we receive Our Lord in Holy Communion, whether we kneel. stand, or girl or boy altar servers or whatever..
    As far as I am concerned the Church is a building whereby we Worship God in the Sacrifice of the Mass, first and foremost, not just a community – we love our neighbour whether they are in church or not., but our attention is foremost on God.and the Eucharist.
    So how do the Curia affect us in a way that will give us cause to criticize.
    I have already said in a above comment that I will challenge a priest or bishop if I feel the need to do so. Rudeness goes over my head, that’s just ignorance on their part as any body else’s.
    What is it that is missing then in your life in the Church?
    I want to put my finger on why we are disagreeing and get to the bottom of it.

  9. St.Joseph says:

    R C Church teaches the Holy Father is head of the Church on earth -God’s representative.
    .One ,Holy ,Catholic and Apostolic Church , all one Body in Christ-not separated in denominations.
    I am looking after my grandson now so I will read your comment and reply if it is necessary when later.
    I understand you would not believe in that as the Greek Churches and others left because of authority.

    • Nektarios says:

      St Joseph

      I have no problem with the Pope being the Patriarch over Catholics, but he is one among the other 11 Patriarchs, and being Pope of Rome, is an honoury place among the Patriarchs. However, that is a far cry from every other Patriarch being in subordination to him.
      The view you express in your last sentence, is simply propaganda of the Catholic Church.

      Think about it, the Orthodox Church had been formed at the beginning. They have not departed from that -yet.
      How could the Orthodox Church depart from itself, and it as continued down through
      the centuries.
      Again, the Orthodox Church did not break with any of its own Canons and Holy Tradition,
      it remains intact.
      So, who did we break away from; which authority did we break away from?

      • St.Joseph says:

        I will continue this discussion with you on Monday as I will be busy with a choir Concert all day tomorrow.
        But maybe something you will think about in the meantime and that is why are Roman Catholics forbidden to receive your Eucharist unless there is not a RC Church available.
        So whose Authority are we speaking of. .
        Since when is a Catholic who is professing their faith been propaganda?

  10. Iona says:

    Nektarios: “I have found, I do have the energy to fight the good fight of faith, but I do not have the energy for all the rest of it.”

    That is very much how I feel. And it echoes, I think, what St. Joseph was saying in one of her early comments: “The kind of Catholic I am and that is to not worry about the politics (if that is the correct word) But to try to live the Lords work within my capabilities of family life and the structures of the soul”.

    • Nektarios says:


      It is extremely difficult here in the West with all the diversity of religious views and opinions.
      The cradle of Christianity has indeed been corrupted, in fact, it is worse than that, there is no cradle of Christianity from which we all belong, feel safe in, and nurtured in. The religious, theological and liturgical landscapes are continously and constantly changing.
      We could discuss much I am sure on this, but all I can say for now is, Abide in Him and He will abide in you. In so doing,we have the strength given us to fight the good fight of faith. Otherwise, we are attempting this spiritual warfare with little or no resources.
      God bless you.
      The worldly world is going it’s own way, but let us hear and follow after Christ our Lord, receiving from Him all the resources you need.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Before I rush off, I just want to say that I think maybe there is sometimes a very different understanding of our church here , due to the fact that females and males think differently about our faith.
      As mothers and grandmothers we have a ‘life’ as I tried to point out to Vincent ( which he other than worrying about I think issues that are not upper most in our minds-being the challenging of our faith and being the most important ‘duty’ of our faith
      We can multi task -we have too, but we, with the vocation we have see the church in a different light.
      I need the stability of the Holy Father’s Authority and thank God for it, because as you ask where would we be if the authority was left to the bishops,
      I believe it would be like babbling voices like the Tower of David.
      I can sit back and rely on the Churches guidance being in the hands of the Holy Spirit When one man is in control to whom He guides.

  11. Iona says:

    Quentin: “The most obvious expected change was that the Council would complement the teachings on the primacy of the pope by setting out the status of the bishops, not as delegates of the pope but with powers in their own right as representative of the Apostles. This, it was believed, would shape the Church into a collegiate organisation, without prejudice to the ultimate powers of the pope, and bring about a Church which was a community rather than a totalitarian structure.”

    Would you tell us how – in practical ways – you consider the Church would be different (now, in 2012) if bishops had been seen since Vatican II as being representatives of the Apostles, and as having powers in their own right?

    • Quentin says:

      Iona, that is a very interesting question — I could write a book about it. Come to think of it — I did write a book about it. It was called Autonomy and Obedience in the Catholic Church, and it was published and well reviewed back in 2002. It’s old news now of course, and effectively sold out, but you can get a copy for a matter of pence off Amazon. It’s late now. If I have a chance tomorrow morning I’ll give you a couple of examples.

    • Quentin says:

      Iona, here are some thoughts on your question. First, it is a ‘what if?’ question which means that any answer is speculative. Second, the decisions to define formally the power of the bishops was accompanied by other changes. An example of this was the need for reformation of the Curia. Sadly this never really happened. If it had, their would have been ongoing consultative feed from the bishops on the ground, making the decisions far more representative of the whole Church. The outcome of the reform was summed up by Cardinal Kônig (Tablet 27 march 1999) “…the curial authorities, in conjunction with the pope, have appropriated the tasks of the episcopal college. It is they who carry out almost all of them.” In fact, as sociologists point out, people who are properly consulted use consultation themselves. Thus the laity (Newman’s third magisterium) would have been able to feed through their experiences.)

      Another example, taken almost at random, was the public confirmation of the invalidity of Anglican orders. No surprise there of course. The surprise was for Cardinal Hume who was never consulted nor warned it advance. Very embarrassing! That’s the CDF for you – and it’s the CDF which has often been guilty of medieval censuring and punishing theologians, using methods that you and I would immediately condemn as flouting human rights.

      A more recent example was the sheer impertinence of the Congregation of Divine Worship which simply took over the new translation of the Missal from the English-speaking bishops who had been working on it according to the norms set down. The point here is not that the resulting translation is abysmal but the appropriation of the task from those most competent to conduct it by those who had a lesser competence but greater power.

      Oh dear! I could go on and on. But I won’t – it’s a depressing catalogue.

      • Rahner says:

        Hear! Hear!

      • John Nolan says:

        Qentin, did you actually like the old ‘translation’? And are you unaware that the norms set down (Comme le prevoit 1969), a document which doesn’t even have a Latin original and was never published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, were being seriously questioned in the 1970s? And that Liturgiam Authenticam is actually an official document? Why should Cardinal Hume have to give his post facto assent to Leo XIII’s ruling on Anglican ‘orders’? I know you are a liberal, but I’m disappointed that you seem keen to jump into bed with Tina Beattie. You know as well as I do that ‘subsidiarity’ as far as the E&W bishops are concerned means not breaking ranks with an agenda worked out at Eccleston Square, which in effect means saying nothing outside a vague commitment to ‘justice and peace’.

        You have opened a veritable can of worms with this thread, and I doubt that this will be my last contribution.

      • Quentin says:

        I didn’t particularly care for the old translation, and there was certainly a need for a new one. Yes of course Liturgiam is an official document — all the more reason for it to be ashamed of itself. I have not suggested that Hume needed to assent to the Anglican orders question. Merely that he should have been told in advance that it was about to be mentioned in an official document. Jump into bed with Tina Beattie? — chance would be a fine thing!

  12. Singalong says:

    Quentin, your link to Cardinal Martini gave me “Page not found”, I wondered if it was Montini you meant, Pope Paul VI? It is a very striking and true statement you have quoted, especially the mention of bureaucratic apparatus, and pompous rites and dress.

    I am afraid however, that during the Vatican Council, I was so busy with several young babies and children, that the political and organising issues passed me by, though my husband was more interested.

    What we noticed more personally was the New Mass, in the vernacular, facing the congregation etc.. Now in theory some of this was fine. We had been leading up to it with Dialogue Masses and more participation, but, it was accompanied by so much insensitive criticism of the past, and of the ways of our families and upbringing, and some really way out implementation in some parishes, that it was quite a long time before we could adjust. Even though we were both teachers, perhaps because of that, it had an marked effect on our confidence in teaching our children, and in understanding how they were being taught in school, which we very much regret.

    I would not like to think that the Church is ruled by a “Fascist dictatorship”, but sometimes the benefits of a benevolent dictatorship seem very appealing.

  13. Geordie says:

    I agree with you, Singalong, about the lack of confidence in teaching children. For a long time I wondered whether I was putting unnecessary burdens on them by teaching them what I had been taught. As a Catholic teacher, I found the new syllabuses almost totally without Catholic content. In the end I left the Catholic sector and went into the state sector. I found that I could practise my relegion without being in conflict with my job.

    • Rahner says:

      “I found the new syllabuses almost totally without Catholic content.”
      Providing content IS a problem. But we cannot simply fall back on 19th century Catholic theology and the CCC is quite inadequate….

      • St.Joseph says:


        How do you mean inadequate-to whom? Monsignor Wrenn RIP who I knew quite well . He did the translation after a lot of difficulties from objectors.
        As Mary Gray called it at a Newman meeting I was at- ‘A block of frozen ice’ and she was going to re-write another one!

        Perhaps you would like to say how you could improve it ?

  14. St.Joseph says:

    If the Holy Father had not put his foot down when he did and kept leaving it to Bishops, it may have suited those who were on a over eager ecumenical movement regardless of Truth as thought by the Chair of Peter-The Lateran Church in Rome ‘Lest we forget’ .
    There would have been no need for them to sign the Oath Of Obedience, which I understand wasn’t welcomed in England.
    That’s his Job-to put it bluntly!It would not be the One Holy Catholic Church that Jesus came and died for.
    If we look at the reformed church if the 16th century we find that their principle of the Bible and each ones interpretation of it soon split them into endless divisions and sub-divisions. They destroyed the very principle of unity and have become tossed to and fro and carried about with every whim of doctrine. (eph. 1v 14).
    The claim of ordination was lost when the last line of bishops died.I
    I believe I am right in saying that the orthodox Church still has the Sacrament of Holy Orders therefore are valid and then the ‘Real Presence’ in their Eucharist.I think the Sacrament of Confession too The ‘power to forgive sins”
    Maybe Nektarios will confirm that. I was tempted to if they would accept me many years ago to be privileged to join them, I have said this many times in the past. But at the time thought I would not leave a sinking ship ,but place a oar in my hand and keep my eyes on the Lighthouse.
    I agree with Nektarios on my last comment to him, i am interested genuinely (still awaiting his reply) when he say’s about heart and love of God-but Jesus didn’t come down here and suffer all the torment He did just to be one with Him in that sense’ we are here to defend the Truth that Jesus taught. Die for our faith if necessary-even if we are off the mark sometimes.It is better if we get along with our separated brethren and each do what our own denomination preaches.We all have a vocation in our own right. But not all called to be ordained- why were they not ‘I ask?
    The Catholic Church will always be tormented for Her beliefs.
    Whilst we are gathering a bigger flock we are separating our own. It just wont work!


  15. John Nolan says:

    In rejecting the 1998 ICEL Sacramentary the CDW provided a critique of the existing ‘translation’ which was pretty damning and which no-one, as far as I am aware, has been able to rebut point by point. I am no great fan of Bugnini’s Consilium, but they did restore texts from older sources, presumably for their theological content. ICEL then presumed to change them in the name of ‘dynamic equivalence’. A good example is last Sunday’s OF Collect. The new translation renders the Latin fairly literally, and largely keeps the structure, which is important if it is to be sung (as it should be). Cranmer did likewise in the 16th century. ICEL 1973 starts by telling God (they were very adept at giving God instructions) to “open our hearts in welcome”, which is literally meaningless – who’s welcoming whom? Then “sed sapientiae caelestis eruditio nos faciat eius esse consortes” does not mean “so that we may share his wisdom and become one with him when he comes in glory”. What on earth was the point in restoring ancient prayers so that so-called translators could simply make up their own? And the example I have given is by no means the worst.

    The present translation is largely the work of ICEL, but working from a better template (LA as opposed to CLP). It may be a matter of regret that Vox Clara was allowed to tweak it at the last minute, and we can argue about that, but to say that it was ‘imposed’ by the CDW is false. If you don’t believe me, speak to Monsignors Harbert and Wadsworth (I have).

    Dealing with dissident theologians, the scandalous conduct of a small minority of the clergy, and liturgical abuse is the responsibility of the local Ordinary. Only in rare cases should the CDF be involved. Bishops talk about subsidiarity but would rather boot everything upstairs.

    • Quentin says:

      John, this is precisely why I didn’t emphasise the question of quality of texts but did question who should be doing it. I have seen, and I am sure you must have seen, many examples of the new translation held up to ridicule. Personally I find it latinate, pretentious and awkward. But that’s just my view.

      Yes, the unwillingness of lower ranks to accept the responsibility of subsidiarity is common in all organisations. In this case perhaps the knowledge that stepping out of line means that one’s episcopal progress is likely to stop then and there might be an added pressure. This is why so many organisations prefer to be hierarchical then to be successful at their objectives. It makes for a quiet life.

  16. John Nolan says:

    It isn’t about ‘stepping out of line’, it’s about doing your job. Do you think Ratzinger was pleased when the US sex abuse scandals landed on his desk because the US bishops had tried to cover them up? One of the weaknesses of the British army in two world wars was the reluctance of senior NCOs to accept responsibility, preferring to hide behind junior officers (in the German army there were no officers below company level). And bishops are not NCOs – they are officers, and senior ones at that.

    The new translation isn’t perfect, but it is at least a translation, whereas what went before was not. Catholics are supposed to be familiar with the concept of sanctifying grace, and yet nowhere in the 1973 orations was ‘gratia’ so rendered. The Collect for Advent IV is a case in point. “Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts” became “Lord, fill our hearts with your love”. The only people who have held up the new translation to ridicule (not very convincingly, in my opinion) are those with another axe to grind.

    By the way, by what authority does a journalist, even one as distinguished as your father, lay out the agenda for an Ecumenical Council?

    • Quentin says:

      A difficulty in explaining this is that an organisation which operates on Y theory management is altogether different from one which operates on X theory. This is why Y theory management is hardly ever brought about unless the man at the top is determined — and is present for long enough to make the ideas stick. If the bishops don’t take up their responsibilities now it is because they were either picked as yes-men, or learnt that it was wiser to make no waves. What is so sad is that good secular management learnt all this fifty years ago, while the Church bumbles along hoping that its outworn management skills will somehow get by.

      Axes to grind? Yes, I wrote about bias blind spot, didn’t I? Sadly detection of one’s own BBS is no easier for the intelligent than for anyone else.

      I think you missed the words ‘in effect’ with reference to my father. The key ideas of Vatican II did not spring up overnight. Many people of foresight anticipated them. Unfortunately the key theologians who did were muzzled. Only to be let out as ‘periti’ when the Council sat. Perhaps it was only a lay journalist who was in a position to put pen to paper, who could express the issues which the Council set out to discuss.

    • Rahner says:

      How would you suggest that we explicate the concept of sanctifying grace other than by reference to God’s love?

      • St.Joseph says:

        By reading the CCC.Plenty of information on Grace.
        It would be nice of you if you would answer questions that are asked of you.My post at 4.50pm.
        If you are prepared to make statements, you ought to have the ability and knowledge to back them up.. and ‘explicate’ with an ‘adequate’ answer (your words) of what you mean and why you say it.!
        Of course that is if you understand what you are saying in the first place.

      • John Nolan says:

        Harenga rubra, Rahner. The purpose of a Collect is not to provide a commentary on the terms used. But I suspect you knew that already.

  17. Iona says:

    Does the concept of sanctifying grace need to be explicated by reference to a different concept?

  18. John Nolan says:

    To apply business models to Church governance rather misses the point. Starbucks is not concerned with saving souls or safeguarding eternal verities. What Vatican II says about collegiality is clearly set out in Chapter III of Lumen Gentium. But this is a separate issue from the bishop’s responsibility in his own diocese. In the reign of Mary I there was no need for an English Inquisition; heresy was dealt with at diocesan level. In my opinion the problem lies with national bishops’ conferences. If a bishop thought that, for example, the standard of Catholic education in his diocese was not good enough, then it is his duty to act. But he doesn’t want to break ranks, and so waits until he retires before speaking out. I suspect it’s the same in the CofE – Lord Carey is far more outspoken now than he ever was as +Cantuar. In the USA, presumably because it is a much larger country, diocesan bishops exercise more autonomy, even if it does mean bucking the liberal-modernist trend (and even on occasion excommunicating individuals).

    Incidentally, the greatest act of centralized authority is post-Conciliar, when Paul VI imposed the Novus Ordo Missae, and effectively forbade the use of any of the older rites (Hans Kung actually objected to this, and indeed it was without precedent in the history of the Latin Church). However, most liberals kicked up far more fuss about Humanae Vitae, which merely restated existing teaching. Under John Paul II it was ruled that the earlier books had not in fact been abrogated, with the clear implication that Paul had acted ultra vires.

    • Quentin says:

      John, I fear that modern management approaches have a great deal to teach the Church, which — because it is a society made up of human beings — obeys the normal rules of sociology and psychology. I won’t develop this here because it may be worth looking at in more detail on another occasion.

      Whatever may have been said in Lumen Gentium about collegiality it cannot be described as ‘clear’. Mary McAleese treats the, possibly deliberate, confusion on the subject of collegiality in the Council and other official documents as the theme of her new book. She is well qualified to talk on such matters being a secular lawyer, a canon lawyer, and twice President of Ireland.

      Pope Paul VI understood that the rejection of the Vatican II liturgy was a rejection of its ecclesiology and theology. Massimo Faggioli , in his new book, True Reform: Liturgy and Ecclesiology in Sacrosanctum Concilium, gives Paul’s response when it was suggested that he should concede the 1962 missal to Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and his followers. He said:

      “Never. This Mass … becomes the symbol of the condemnation of the council. I will not accept, under any circumstances, the condemnation of the council through a symbol. Should this exception to the liturgy of Vatican II have its way, the entire council would be shaken. And, as a consequence, the apostolic authority of the council would be shaken.” Ultra vires? Right or wrong, it is surely his office to uphold the authority of a Council.

      • John Nolan says:

        Quentin, I find the above comment baffling in the extreme. I have never heard Mary McAleese cited as an authority on the Council and Canon Law, and the fact that she was the Irish President is totally irrelevant. I have seen the reviews of Faggioli’s book, and they are by no means unanimously favourable. Chapter III of Lumen Gentium was the the most controversial in the history of the Council, when over 300 bishops voted against the first draft, as they feared it might resurrect the conciliarism which followed the Council of Constance. Paul VI intervened to make clear that the Roman Pontiff could act on his own authority, and as a result only five voted against. I know it upsets liberals, but you are always accusing conservatives of picking and choosing when it comes to Council documents. Motes and beams, old boy?

        If Paul VI actually made the comment you quote, it begs a lot of questions. Apart from anything else, the ‘liturgy of Vatican II’ is not coterminous with the Novus Ordo of 1969. It is quite astonishing that the Pope should describe a liturgy more or less unchanged for over a millennium as a “a symbol of the condemnation of the Council” when it was in fact nothing of the sort. That its continuation would shake the “authority of the Council” is only plausible if you assume that the said Council was ‘super arenam aedificatum’.

  19. John Nolan says:

    I have just googled McAleese and found that although she has had a career at the criminal bar she is not a canon lawyer. She also supports ‘gay’ marriage and women priests. You certainly have strange bedfellows …

    • Quentin says:

      John, you have now got me in bed with Beattie and McAleese. Both handsome women, but I doubt if they’d thank you for the suggestion.

      McAleese has a Licentiate in Canon Law at the Gregorian, where she is continuing doctoral studies. She was formerly Reed Professor of Criminal Law etc, at Trinity.

      I do not know whether Beattie personally approves of homosexual marriage. What she has said is “We suggest that it is perfectly proper for Catholics, using fully informed consciences, to support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.” She claims that this meets the criteria set down by Cardinal Hume. I disagree because I do not think this oxymoron passes the Hume test of “Are there reasonable grounds for judging that the institution of marriage and the family could be undermined by a change in law?” Nor do I support women’s ordination, on the grounds that this is not a political question but a sacramental question — and therefore within the Church’s province to rule.

      You lump me in with the liberals. Not so, I fear. To conservatives I am liberal, to liberals I am conservative. That looks about right to me.

  20. Geordie says:

    John Nolan,
    Mary McAleese is at present studying canon law in Rome. I didn’t know she supported ‘gay’ marriage.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Also contraception’. I hope she does not support abortion as Mary Stopes is planning to open a clinic in Ireland .
      I hope she is made to take the Oath of Fidelity.!f I understand rightly that is necessary if she receives a Doctorate.
      Her new book is a very apt timing whilst Ireland is so sore from all the scandals of abuse.
      She ought to be so ashamed. or ‘Shamed’.

      • John Nolan says:

        No, she is actually against abortion (and divorce). I shall reserve judgement on her book until I have read it, although one wonders if she could have got it published had she not been a political celebrity. She claims she doesn’t have a problem with ‘gay’ marriage, which is not the same as actively promoting it, but is it really an issue one can be neutral about?

  21. Geordie says:

    To get back the Church.
    I believe all that the Church teaches as to doctrine and dogma. That is why Our Lord founded the Church; to preserve the orthodoxy of its teachings. I see the Church as the bishops, clergy and laity in communion with the bishop of Rome. Without the bishop of Rome there is no Catholic Church.
    However, the Church existed long before there were cardinals, the curia, the Vatican City and all the other man-made structures we have today; and it will exist long after these creations are gone.
    We are quite a liberty to question the authenticity of these structures and, if they are found wanting, to do away with them. The Church in the 19th Century believed that it couldn’t exist without the papal states but it has grown in spiritual strength and stature since Italy took them over.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Geordie. well said. If I hear you right.
      I was quite surprised when the on the 24th November in the Sunday Message Redemporist Bulletin Reflect stated. ‘ Our Church is in a mess,largely of its own making’.
      Holy Mother Church will never be in a mess-it is the people who are in it representing the Church who are messy.We are all sinners and ought to reform ourselves and not keep blaming the Church for our fall in Grace.
      Statements like that will make people with little faith, lose the little they have.,and not do Her justice., for all the goodness and God giving Life that is within Her.

      • John Nolan says:

        Geordie, quite correct. The Church existed before even before the first book of the New Testament was written, and it was the Church Fathers, under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, who determined what should be included in Scripture. Sola scriptura protestants and door-stepping JWs occasionally need reminding of this.

        However, most of those who question the structures of the Church do not “believe all that the Church teaches as to doctrine and dogma” and make no attempt to hide the fact.

      • John Candido says:

        So true John Nolan!

  22. Geordie says:

    John Nolan,
    I do have problems with some of the moral teaching of the Church. For example usury was a sin but now it’s acceptable at reasonable rates of interest. Co-ed schools were condemned in the 1920s as the”promiscuous mixing of the sexes”. Now almost every Catholic school in England is co-ed. In the 1820s-1830s democracy was condemned but is now encouraged. Not eating meat on a Friday is once again “forbidden”; it’s no penance to me so it serves no purpose. Sexual intercourse within marriage was tolerated as long as you didn’t enjoy it; I think this dates back to Pope Gregory the Great. Even the interpretation of the Ten Commandments has changed; e.g. Thou shalt not kill. Capital punishment was once encouraged, especially for heretics but would Our Lord have condoned this?
    As far as I know no moral teaching has been proclaimed ex cathedra; which is just as well if the Church authorities continue to adjust their stance.

    • Singalong says:

      Thank you, Geordie, for articulating what has troubled me for some time. Slavery is another example, and usury. Some things seem very unfair to our forbears, such as the enjoyment of marriage which we are now allowed. Do we belong to the group which Christ has hired at the 9th hour? If I can ever look at the book which Rahner has suggested, perhaps I will be enlightened.

  23. Vincent says:

    Geordie, I think that your concern about changing moral teachings is well founded. The Church’s way of deciding moral issues is to consider what actions are or are not consistent with the flourishing of human beings. But our understanding of human beings may change. Thus we have come to understand the importance of the ‘relationship’ element in the sexual act. As a result, the medieval suspicion of the enjoyment of sexual expression of marriage has largely disappeared (and quite recently). Secondly, general circumstances can change, and this can lead to a corresponding change in human flourishing. One of the many, and good things, in Vatican II was the emphasis on personal human rights. All we need now is for the Church authorities to introduce her belief in human rights into her own activities – and all will be fine and dandy.

    It would be better if the Church put in brackets beside its moral teachings the words – “as far as we know at present”.

    • Rahner says:

      On this see “Development in Moral Doctrine”, J Noonan, Theological Studies, 54, 1993.

    • John Candido says:

      Every now and then you question whether your own efforts on SecondSight do anything or achieve anything. Of course Vincent could have had such values and ideas, as exhibited above, long before he read any of my writing. In fact, I suspect that he did. I also suspect that none of my discourses are truly original works, as they are a product of my own general reading.

      Nonetheless, it is quite rewarding to read Vincent’s contribution above. Contemporaneity is an important notion in human life, and contemporary human life is an important notion in contemporary theology. Human progress, advances in the sciences and the humanities, as well as respecting our forebears, are important signposts of modern theological reflection.

  24. St.Joseph says:

    When did the Church teach that sexual intercourse within marriage was not to be enjoyed.?
    Sexual intercourse was a sin outside marriage-maybe the Church was teaching that the primary reason for sexual intercourse was for children, as it is the same to-day. If the marital act was so unenjoyable, not many would have been born. In a way if outside love ,it ought not to be enjoyed for its own sake.We have to look deeper into the that subject as Theology of the Body has done .
    Usuary- that could have been a very prophetic statement- look at it now!
    Capital punishment-did Jesus speak about that in His travels-what did He say on say Cross?
    Does the Church say that Capital punishment is wrong?
    Giving up meat on a Friday is not for the Church’s pleasure- it is to please The Lord in obedience-if we are vegetarians- give up something else.
    It would not be a bad thing to have same sex schools-especially the dress of girls today-school is for concentrating on education-not necessarily sex education.
    I believe the first sin of our first parents was disobedience.

  25. John Nolan says:

    Whether lending money at interest constitutes usury is an issue which predates Christianity and affects other religions (Islam is particularly strict on this). Medieval theologians were working within an economic theory that everything has a ‘just price’ and that money can’t make money. Their arguments are both cogent and logical. The main point is that economic activity must be carried out within a moral framework, which is why the Church is ambivalent about capitalism, despite the fact that it delivers the goods, so to speak. Also I don’t imagine married couples at any time in history felt any guilt about enjoying sex, human nature being pretty constant. When St Thomas More married for the first time much is made of the fact that he chose the less attractive sister, but this was not so much a mortification of the flesh as an act of benevolence (after all, Jane, at 16, was the elder). Regarding capital punishment, the Church still concedes that the state has the right to inflict it, while at the same time recommending that it should not be resorted to.

    Moral doctrine does indeed develop, but this should not be used as an excuse to disobey or call into question the Church’s teaching on (say) abortion or marriage because it does not conform with the new secular morality. Politicians have been using the term ‘immoral’ quite a lot recently; not about sodomy (perish the thought!) but about legal tax avoidance. So a minister tells me I am acting immorally if I pay a tradesman in cash out of my already taxed income. This is the height of impertinence. Lord Justice Clyde ruled in 1929 that “no man in this country is under the smallest obligation, moral or other, so to arrange his legal relations to his business or to his property as to enable the Inland Revenue to put the largest possible shovel into his stores”.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Some comments here tell me (I may be wrong) however , there seem to be a lot of unhappiness with their faith and Church.
      I don’t believe for one minute that The Lord or His Blessed Mother wants us to be miserable in this life.
      As Christians we ought to be ‘happy’ (not happy clappy) and show others that we are blessed to be children of the Church,one big cheerful family-glad to be alive and living in the Lord in these times not in the past (it could be worse).
      Love our faith that’s what Jesus died for! It might be good to prove that to Him.
      There ought to be no reason to keep defending it especially amongst Catholics.

    • John Candido says:

      ‘Moral doctrine does indeed develop, but this should not be used as an excuse to disobey or call into question the Church’s teaching on (say) abortion or marriage because it does not conform with the new secular morality.’ (John Nolan)

      There is an obvious contradiction in John Nolan’s sentence above. How on earth does moral doctrine develop without questioning or disobedience at times? Enter modern theology. In tensions and controversies in the rest of society you have the development and birth of new political policies through the agency of a democratic milieu. The same is mimicked in theology throughout the church’s history. It just takes ever so much longer in the church’s case, due to the nature of the Roman Catholic Church’s governance; it being so slow, gluggy and sticky.

      • John Nolan says:

        No contradiction at all, John. You may disagree with the sentiments expressed, but the meaning is clear. It is a critique of the position you advance in your second paragraph which effectively says “Democratically elected politicians have decided that abortion and same-sex marriage are OK. They must therefore be right, and the Church wrong. Only the latter’s sclerotic structures prevent her from recognizing this fact.” Piffle.

    • Rahner says:

      Candido’s question remains. How can moral doctrine develop unless a particular doctrine is questioned?

      • John Nolan says:

        Agreed, but questioning all doctrine from a subjective notion of what constitutes modernity and from a general disdain for the structures of the Church doesn’t get us very far.

  26. Geordie says:

    Than you Rahner. The Noonan article is very helpful.

  27. Singalong says:

    And thank you from me. Some things are still hard to credit, that acceptance of slavery, for instance, could have lasted for so long, and that in my early life we were forbidden to pray with other Christians. I remember going into the back of an Anglican Church as a child, and running out quickly before something terrible happened, and later, not being able to say the Our Father with fellow guests at a non Catholic wedding.

    • Quentin says:

      You’re not alone. I remember as a young man asking my PP if it would be all right for me to say the Grace at a company dinner. Being a Jesuit he said: No problem. They are praying with you, not you with them.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Remembering also that Catholics were not allowed until early years to be be able to practice their faith-priests not allowed to celebrate Holy Mass publicley, had to build our own churches and schools, and still not allowed to wear the long frock priests clothes in public at the risk of being arrested. We also can not receive Anglican communion (not that we would want to.
      We have all seen a lot of rules but for reasons only the church knows why and those who lived through those years.
      These things are best forgotten.
      Perhaps we would have been more ecunemical if there had not been a reformation.
      We are still as 2nd Class citizens, not allowed to be part of the Royal family in marriage, I could go on..
      I don’t say poor us how we were treated by the other churches, nor about what our church taught. either. Best put behind us!

      • St.Joseph says:

        I am going out soon to sing in a Anglican Church choir in an Anglican Church with 10 more around the country next year to with I am a member- 2 concerts this weekend, I don’t believe the Church to object to that.

  28. St.Joseph says:

    P.S. And nearly all the Churches I sing in are pre-reformation. At least I can think to myself
    ‘Yes’ They were ours first!!!! And not feel bitter about it!

    • Singalong says:

      St. Joseph, that is great! I shall be out soon for the last rehearsal of a choir I belong to before our concert on Saturday, similarly in a pre Reformation church. A few years ago the Catholic community used this Church for Mass for several weeks while our own was being repaired, and I was privileged to be a Reader on one occasion. We also have a Mass every year in a tiny pre Reformation Church out in the countryside near All Souls Day. It is a wonderful feeling to be there and think of the past history.

      • St.Joseph says:

        That is lovely, I have just come in from rehearsal ready for tomorrow and Saturday.. The acoustics are wonderful in most Churches,
        We have sung in a Catholic Church.
        I would like to chat about it but obviously not allowed on the blog-not the right place.
        Good luck for Saturday

  29. Vincent says:

    I am not trying to start a new thread here but, if I read between the lines, Quentin feels that more discussion on the potential for change in Catholic moral teaching would be valuable. So here are a couple of points.

    We are exhorted to do two things: one is to be obedient to the Church’s moral teaching and another is to follow our conscience in deciding what is good and what is bad behaviour.

    The need for obedience is clearly very strong – born as it is from the authority given to the Apostles by Jesus. Moreover, the Church’s deep understanding of the history of salvation and man’s deeper needs makes it a reliable source for moral rules. That means (and Newman puts this very strongly) that the burden of proof when we disagree lies with us. We ignore the Church at our eternal peril.

    Conscience, properly formed, tells us what we perceive as the good to be done and the evil to be avoided. In most instances conscience will tell us that the Church is the best guide for we can so easily fool ourselves. But it is at least possible that we might arrive at a serious decision that we ought not to follow the Church’s teaching in some respect or another. And conscience then becomes absolute – obedience must take second place to the truth (as we can best judge it).

    Thus there is no simple either/or – rather, there is a tension between obedience and private judgment. I hope my description gets the balance right. No doubt someone will tell me if I haven’t.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Vincent .
      You have made the point very clear and a lot of thought went into it.
      One thing that’s fits that dilemma to me would be a second marriage where no annulment is possible. and a denial of the Blessed Sacrament. I believe that the Lord would not turn any one away who genuinely would in their heart believe in Him in the Real presence.
      That to me is an intricate misunderstanding by the Church of how the Lord thinks.
      If anything needs to be looked into, it is that situation. I don’t feel I am being disloyal to the Church to believe that.
      It is to me a contradiction of Gods Love.

      • John Candido says:

        Well said, St.joseph. I am right there with you regarding the Church’s ban of the Eucharist for all Catholics who remarry after divorce. It doesn’t make any sense to me and only serves to alienate all Catholic’s who remarry after divorce. I thought the Eucharist was partly instituted as food for the soul; for the arduous journey that we all undertake in living. How blind, silly and petty such rubrics are to those who have to endure them!

  30. Geordie says:

    I get the feeling that some people seem to think that the Church is an end in itself and that unquestioning loyalty to the Church is the same as loyalty to God; it isn’t always.
    The Church is a means to an end; i.e. to bring us closer to God; it’s a means to holiness. And my conscience has the same purpose. If conflict between the two arises, then conscience takes precedence. But as has already been pointed out, we can easily fool ourselves.

  31. Iona says:

    Could someone be loyal to God while at the same time being (knowingly) disloyal to the Church? – I can understand that someone might be loyal to his/her conscience while being disloyal to the Church; but to God?

    (Obviously I’m assuming that the “someone” in question regards himself/herself as a Catholic).

    • St.Joseph says:

      Of course one can be loyal to ones own conscience first.
      This is where common sense comes into it. Receiving. the Blessed Sacrament is not something that one does out of habit.
      If a person doesn’t believe in the Real Presence-then it wont be a problem not to receive Holy Communion. We do not do it because of show or because everyone else does so.
      I think maybe that is why the restriction is there at the moment.
      I believe that someone in right conscience (and not sinning against anyone else for- instance abortifacants adultery just to name two.
      We will now I suppose go into the sin of adultery- but we administer the Sacrament of Matrimony to each other-in the presence of a priest-with a Register present to make it a civil partnership
      If Holy Mother Church does not make the marriage valid but the blessing of the priest. I don’t see how a piece of paper can absolve,it if there was a valid marriage in the first .place. So to my mind it is left to ones conscience.
      The problem then as the Church may see it as causing a problem flaunting Church Law
      It can only be used once in a serious situation and the person doing so will have a conscience, otherwise they can not be serious about receiving the Blessed Sacrament
      As long as the person does not flaunt the situation as so many do on the contraception attitude, which is far worse than someone in a second holy marriage.
      One is disloyal to the Church by flaunting it and a genuine person wont.
      Sorry to go around the house on this but couldn’t say it in less words.
      Just what I believe.And I am not being disloyal to the Church-but loyal to Our Lord-as I love everyone to receive in Communion-If I was a priest I would probably give Him to everyone,.

      • Vincent says:

        St Joseph, I am not disagreeing with you but there are two arguments here. The first is the one which you give: that, under certain conditions, a re-married person should be allowed to take the Eucharist. It is, so to speak, making the best of a bad job.
        The other is that the witness to the indissolubility of marriage is more important. That is, that your argument could lead to slackness. The exclusion from the Eucharist is the symbol of the sacredness of marriage.

  32. St.Joseph says:

    Vincent. Thank you for you reply.
    The first argument as you say making the best of a bad job-I don’t think like that. I believe a person going through a bad experience within a marriage although may have genuinely made their vows and if children are involved and circumstance are the person either husband or wife object to the Church ,there are possibilities that a annulment may not be available.
    I believe that the Church has the power to dissolve it, because at the time it may not be possible to get evidence.,after so many years. I am speaking about serious conditions here, not just the case of someone meeting someone else, and deciding they want a annulment.
    It is not for us to question.
    Annulment , maybe I am wrong but says the marriage did not exist in the first place.Someone will correct me on that , I am not a Canyon Lawyer.
    It sometimes seems to me their is a stigma against divorce, and not too much understanding.
    Secondly. Vincent- the Sacredness of marriage is a symbol of the Eucharist-all Sacraments are sacred.It is not a necessity to the entry of Heaven- and I believe that to be a teaching of the Church.. I am fortunate I have had a happy marriage,but not easy we have to work at it, but can understand difficulties,and how the Blessed Sacrament can strengthen one.Not every one is fortunate. Especially with no proper Marriage Care.
    Have you read the Eucharist and Marital. by Dr Billings?

    Another point I believe and that is intercourse before marriage is a sin also when one is not responsible.
    I am speaking about condoms now not any abortifacants methods.That is a sin of taking a life of a soul created in the image of God.
    These are just my opinions for what its worth. I don’t speak for Holy Mother Church, and would not argue about . Just gave my account as you mentioned the two thoughts. I dont go shouting about it and dont disrespect the Church any less.

    • St.Joseph says:

      P.S. Vincent I meant to say The Blessed Sacrament is the relationship we have with Jesus-not the Church. not our worship. It is the closest we can be with Him on earth
      It is our inner conscience. One with The Lord. The greatest Gift we can receive from anyone,
      Does that make sense. Just to be light hearted. My late husband used to say I talked a lot of gobbily gook at times Reading it back it must sound like that to some. But I know what I mean.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Vincent. J F Kippley not Dr Billings.
        In the 60’s a long time ago I read it. Still have Can be found on the web..

      • Quentin says:

        I do in fact agree with you, St. Joseph. But I think that the other (giving scandal) argument has some weight. I just think that Christianity should always give a high place to personal compassion.

  33. St.Joseph says:

    I am not sure what you mean by Christianity ‘should always give a high place to personal .compassion
    If it is what I think it means,
    But the whole situation has to be looked at in each particular case, not only on the issue of an annulment., then it would not be a scandal.
    Obedience versus conscience. One can not obey one without harming the other.,
    I believe it ought be thought about and not left in the air- which will cause more scandal-when a person has to choose God or the Church.Then we get the children losing out on the faith.
    Complicated as it may seem -It has to be sorted somehow or other.I don’t know how.Does any one else know, I only know it is a problem- not mine by the way, but I think about others..
    I don’t like the attitude- I’m all right Jack
    Everyone seems to be compassionate about more ‘serious’ issues -so why not a little thought into this one.

  34. Singalong says:

    I think this is relevant to the discussion. Pope Benedict is quoted in this week`s Catholic Herald, talking about the sensus fidelium, the sense of faith. Speaking to the International Theological Commission, he said that “it is not some kind of ecclesial public opinion, and it is unthinkable to use it to contest the teaching of the Magisterium, because (it) cannot develop authentically in a believer except to the extent in which he or she fully participates in the life of the Church, and this requires a responsible adherence to the Magisterium.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I don’t really understand that- but it is not a perfect world-it is not easy to be a Saint today-some just need a little help along the way. Jesus fell 3 times under the weight of His Cross-maybe physical-but some are bearing a lot of Spiritual weight too!

    • Vincent says:

      Singalong, your quote from the Pope is intriguing. What does ‘responsible adherence to the Magisterium’ mean? If it means accepting all that the Magisterium teaches, then the sensus fidelium is a nullity because it is dictated by the Magisterium. If one is allowed to disagree with the Magisterium who defines ‘responsible adherence’?

      In my parish there are a large number of parents with children. They regularly go to Communion. Yet. if they subscribe to the norm, then well over 90% do not accept the Magisterium’s teaching on artificial contraception. It is clear that the Catholic faithful have not, as a body, ‘received’ this teaching. But perhaps this should be ignored — if their refusal to accept is, by virtue of that refusal, not relevant to the sensus fidelium.

      • St.Joseph says:

        The main reason I studied NFP.
        If a problem exists-we must try to solve it.Otherwise go on our merry sweet way as if there is not one, and turn a blind eye, and leave people to form their own conscience..
        That is all very well until God intervenes and The Holy Spirit will see those in distress and come to the aid of the Church, when facing the issues.
        It is a case of searching for the Truth that is there.
        Another problem I believe that exists is Homosexuality.
        It is believed by many that the Church has no feelings for Gays and lesbians-read what the CCC says on the Churches teaching. The sin that the Church speaks about is the sexual act that takes place-which is the very opposite to marriage.between male and female.Love does not depend on sexual intercourse-but is important within a husband and wife relationship- and no man made law will alter that.,nor special Mass’s for homosexuals-that will only cause scandal, where it was thought to solve a problem.,only increased one. Homosexuality has been around for hundreds of years and people went along using their conscience,catholic’s knowing what the teachings of the Church was on sexuality, but the trouble begins when people try to rule the Church, so that their conscience is clear.
        We can not compare a broken marriage through no fault of their own.therefore
        it seems to me that ought to take priority against all the others.,because that is the bed rock of society.. and needs to be fought for before it is too late and the law is passed for same sex ‘marriage’. in this country .

      • Singalong says:

        It looks as if Pope Benedict is not in favour of relaxing the Church`s teachings in any difficult areas. I believe he has previously asked for stricter interpretation of the rules governing annulment of marriage. There are indeed heart rending problems requiring compassion which many of us see in our own families. Should laws be changed? Should the Church “temper the wind to the shorn lamb”? Or does Christ share our pain, and send an angel to strengthen us?

        Would somebody be able to explain what exactly is the Magisterium?

  35. Geordie says:

    St Joseph, you asked the question: When did the Church teach that sexual intercourse within marriage was not to be enjoyed.? I cannot find the quote from Pope Gregory the Great, which actually says sex should not be enjoyed but if you google: “Why The Church Fathers Were So Negative About Sex”: it will give information about the attitude which prevailed right up until Vatican II

    • St.Joseph says:

      Thank you for that info.
      They are speaking about hundreds of years ago, when there was no understanding of the sexual union between man and women.
      We can see how Holy Mother Church ,through the power of the Holy Spirit has worked through the Church. There are still those today who do not see the beauty of the sexual union and that does not surprise anyone when we see all the pornography in the market place plus the sale of sex through prostitution.
      In a way I believe the Holy Spirit was guiding the Church over the hundreds of years until we have opened our heart to the full understanding ,the way Humanea Vitea and ‘Theology of the Body’ speaks to the present, understanding ‘fertility awareness’
      Revelation comes to us in slow measures. All that web site tells me is sex on its own should not be enjoyed for ones own sake-self gratification.
      Groping around in the dark I would call it.and points out the dangers and how it is not to be enjoyed. Some have gone down the road of enlightenment and others to self destruction as we see all around us in the media, and unfortunately in the priesthood as we know. Our Blessed Mother Must be shedding tears of Sorrow !

    • Quentin says:

      Geordie, for your notes.

      Pope Gregory the Great

      In answer to a question about how long after marital copulation should someone allow before entering church.

      ‘Saying these things we do not assign fault to marriage. But because this lawful mingling of spouses cannot be done without pleasures of the flesh, one is to abstain (from entering the church at once). This pleasure cannot be without fault. For not of adultery nor fornication, but of lawful marriage was he born, who said: “Behold I was conceived in sins, and in delights my mother bore me.”’ Psalm 50.7

      Epistles 11.64 10th question. (Which is very interesting – includes for instance that having intercourse during a period calls for one to be struck down by sacred law.) See http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/360211064.htm

  36. St.Joseph says:

    To get an insight as to what the Magisterium is, if you have a Catechism of the Catholic Church-read from page 2 through to how far you would like.
    I sometimes think that people use it as a reference book and look into it when they want to know a particular answer.It is OK once one has read it from the beginning.Educating ourselves in the Faith. Scripture ,Tradition (important) to understand ,and Magisterium.It all makes sense.or ought to anyway.That to me is the best way every ones, conscience is ‘different’ we can only apply it to our own lives. as to how we live by it.,as it is said it will form our conscience.
    There has to be guidelines in life,and as R C’s we listen to the Church first not the hollowing crowd who speak in many tongues that cause confusion.

    • Singalong says:

      Thank you, and to John Nolan, and apologies for being somewhat lazy, I suppose, I thought there might be comments about its appropriateness etc..

      As regards these heart rending marriage problems, and other situations, could Solomon solve them to everyone`s satisfaction? The strict answer, according to Church teaching is a) isn`t it, but could it change in the future, and can we anticipate this happening in our actions and decisions now? Compassion or obedience? A very strict interpretation would no doubt say, misplaced compassion.

      Suicide is an issue which is much better understood now, and has resulted in a very different approach by the Church relatively rcently.

      • John Nolan says:

        The Church has not altered her attitude towards suicide, but now always gives suicides the benefit of the doubt. As St Augustine said “misericordia Domini inter pontem et fontem”.

  37. John Nolan says:

    Singalong, the Wikipedia entry on the Magisterium is informative and accurate. There was a time during the 1970s when it was easier to get an annulment in the USA than a ‘quickie’ civil divorce. John Paul II moved quickly to stop this happening. However, consider the following scenario. A previously unmarried Catholic is in love with a non-Catholic woman whose husband has divorced her and subsequently remarried. He would wish to marry her, but as a Catholic would not be able to marry outside the Church. The lady, for her part, would never agree to an annulment as she regards her former marriage as being valid while it lasted, and her children as legitimate. Also when she made her vows, she intended to keep them. Does he a) end the relationship, b) attend Mass but refrain from taking the Sacrament or c) maintain the full practice of his religion despite being in an irregular relationship?

    • St.Joseph says:

      John Nolan.
      You have made that very clear.
      The dilemma I was saying in the first post, before being questioned on the ins and outs of conscience.
      What will God do to those who disobey the Church and receive Him if their conscience tells them otherwise.
      I think I made it clear as to the way we receive Him in Holy Communion,but I don’t think it has been grasped yet
      Some would say they excommunicate their selves.What would anyone think on that?

    • Rahner says:

      “The lady, for her part, would never agree to an annulment as she regards her former marriage as being valid while it lasted, and her children as legitimate.”
      The annulment would not alter the legitimacy of the children.

      • St.Joseph says:

        IRahner, I believe it would ,I think the Church made a statement to that effect sometime ago.

      • John Nolan says:

        Legally correct, but if the original marriage was null and void, the children were ipso facto born out of wedlock. When Henry VIII obtained his (uncanonical) annulment his daughter Mary was bastardized. It took an Act of Parliament to restore her legitimacy.

  38. John Nolan says:

    St Joseph
    The reason I posed the question was that the Catholic party in this case had no part in the antecedent circumstances and is therefore left with a situation which was none of his own devising. He is not divorced and remarried, and yet technically he is committing adultery as the woman’s former husband is still living. And since adultery cannot be condoned by the Church, he is in a state of mortal sin, which precludes him from receiving the Sacrament unless he makes a sacramental confession beforehand, which will include a firm purpose of amendment. This is of course Julia’s dilemma in ‘Brideshead Revisited’ which Charles Ryder understands as he is (probably unbeknownst to himself at the time) on the road to becoming a Catholic himself. The most poignant thing Julia says is that she has to relinquish her future happiness whereas her non-Catholic friends do not have to do so and yet can still be saved.

    • St.Joseph says:

      John Nolan.That says to me that one can get into heaven through the back door-because then one would have good reason to become an Anglican-and believe that their eucharist is Sacramental and not the Real Presence. Would God take that into consideration, if He didn’t all the catholics who have gone over will not be saved.
      But the question still remains does conscience over rule obedience to the Church.
      Surely Gods mercy over rules .If a person is in a holy 2nd marriage with children.
      In that case not many catholic,s who are using an abortifacant that is taught by the Church ‘murder’ killing a baby are going to be saved..
      Do we all excommunicate ourself ? I can not find the answer to that, only abortionists..
      It seems to me to be ‘grey areas’with no positive answers..Just black and white-yes or no.
      I say this because I know a lot of people in this situation.It is not for us to say..
      People have said to me that ‘he or she are re-married’
      Is it our duty to tell them-? I don’t believe it to be mine!!,It is a heart breaking situation to me anyway.

      • Quentin says:

        St Joseph, I think all this discussion about who is saved or in a state of grace and who isn’t can get wildly out of hand. If God has a sense of humour he must chuckle at our doings. In the end the only measurement God uses is whether we love or not. You remember the woman, perhaps a prostitute, who anointed Jesus’ feet? Much is forgiven her because she loved much. And one thing we can be sure of – God never loses a single person who doesn’t choose to be lost. His son paid too high a price for that.

  39. Rahner says:

    From the Archdiocese of Liverpool:
    “A Church Annulment has no effects in the civil law of our country. Therefore, such matters as the legitimacy of children, property rights, alimony or child support, etc., are in no way affected by a Church declaration of nullity.”

    • John Nolan says:

      Rahner, as I said in my original comment, you are legally correct. There’s no need to quote chapter and verse.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Quite right-
        You are saying what I said in the beginning, no need for a big discussion.
        It gets one no where.
        I was not asking for answers to my dilemma- there is not one! Just making the point.
        As I said it is not my problem!

  40. John Candido says:

    I have some good news for a change for everybody who buys books for themselves or others. ‘Booko’ is a website which originated in Australia. It is a free service that helps you easily find the best price for a book, DVD, or eBook, from retail stores who do business on the internet. I have used Booko in Australia for a couple of years and I have saved hundreds of dollars doing so. The good news is that ‘Booko’ is now officially available in the UK. Go to http://booko.co.uk/ and you will see what I am talking about. Happy book hunting!

  41. John Candido says:

    The Vatican is going to digitize its library. A YouTube video about the project is here, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylENx9xvB7w&feature=youtu.be . A link to the Vatican library is here, http://www.vaticanlibrary.va/

  42. Iona says:

    Quentin, that link you gave us to Gregory the Great is quite astonishing. They say human nature doesn’t change, but surely it must have changed if in Gregory’s time it was possible for a man to have intercourse with his wife solely for the purpose of begetting a child and not taking any pleasure in it!

    But I was impressed by the analysis of sin into an initial suggestion (which comes from Satan), consideration of that suggestion (prompted by “the flesh” and not involving the will) and finally – if indeed the final step is taken – consent which does involve the will.

    On a completely different subject, I thought that legitimacy (of children) was not a Church concept at all, but a legal matter determined by state law. Which is possibly what Rahner was saying, a few posts above.

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