Facts we have to face

Statistics for the Catholic Church in England and Wales are sometimes difficult to find. As I discovered, when I tried to hunt down the repeated claim that 90 per cent of Catholic young have lapsed by the time they leave school. I consulted every organisation I could find, without succeeding in tracking the source. I have provisionally concluded that it started as an impressionistic guess which has gained a life of its own.

But the same cannot be said for the Latin Mass Society’s (LMS) splendid collation of statistics culled from the Catholic Directory. They stretch from 1847 to 2011. And they show some interesting trends. We do not in this case need to be concerned with precise accuracy. Nor do we need, for our purposes, to apply sophisticated mathematics. We can even live with occasional unavailable data. But some of the trends over recent years challenge us to think about the factors which have been at work.

I am not going to take you through all the statistics because they are available at http://www.lms.org.uk/resources/statistics-from-the-catholic-directory, together with commentary by the LMS. And you can download a spreadsheet to get a more detailed picture. I want to focus on certain areas which I think to be significant in trying to understand what has happened over the last several years.

The first concerns the estimated weekly church attendance. Here, figures from 1993 to 2010 are available. The total has reduced by about a third over that period. Between 1965 and 2010, baptisms dropped by more than a half. Conversions dropped by around 40 per cent. Catholic marriages in total are now less than a quarter of those reported in 1965. Marriages per 1,000 Catholic population are now 2.55 compared to 11.65 in 1965.

I imagine that most readers will have been aware of such declines. Nevertheless, I found facing up to this statistical record alarming. In his useful comments on the overall figures, Dr Joseph Shaw, the chairman of the LMS, considers two reasons for such declines over the last five decades. One is the effect of the Vatican Council (which he suggests was often erroneously applied) and the other is “the effect of dissent from the Church’s teaching is particularly manifest in relation to contraception”. I would suggest a third, which is the massive change in our culture’s attitude in matters of marriage and sexuality generally. It was for this reason that I chose 1965 as a starting point – because it comes at the end of the Vatican Council and before the publication of Humanae Vitae. It is also the decade when the contraceptive pill began to be used more broadly.

I undertake no critique of Vatican II here. Indeed, the constant papal view has been that we have yet fully to understand and implement its teaching. But there was certainly upheaval which can, at least in part, be attributed to a failure to grasp the Council’s deep continuity with tradition. The effect, on the one hand, was to stimulate extreme reform positions and, on the other, to cling tightly to old structures which were seen, often indiscriminately, to be the gauges of orthodoxy.

The issue of contraception, to which Dr Shaw refers, has undoubtedly played its part. In the face of widespread dissent, the pastoral response was to allow the application of the individual conscience, given that a hard line pastoral approach would have risked a mass exit. Unfortunately, the recipients of this clemency had learnt up till then that their consciences should only be formed indirectly by simple reference to the Church’s moral teaching. They had no experience of direct formation of conscience. Nor indeed, as far as I know, has there been any organised guidance in this vital spiritual skill since then.

The outcome of this was twofold. The first was that acceptance of the Church’s authority in moral matters was often seen as optional. The second was that a large body of the laity, while not excluded formally from Catholic life, could not rid themselves from the feeling of being second-class citizens, bought off with a concession.

The undigested Council and the dis-ease of much of the laity was fertile ground for the reception of changing attitudes within our society. Since I have written recently about this, I will confine myself to mentioning the recent survey work carried out by Linda Woodhead in connection with the Westminster Faith Debates, at http://faithdebates.org.uk (click on a topic, and look for the Resources pdf). It would seem that Catholic attitudes towards pornography, contraception and pre-/extra-marital sex are not that different from our general population. The groups which stand out in their sexual virtue by comparison are the Baptists, the Pentecostals and the Muslims. You may also explore our attitudes to the traditional family, abortion and same-sex marriage on the link above. And you may be surprised.

Currently our bishops are consulting us on marriage and the family. From the drafting of their questions, it is clear that they have little experience in gathering reliable information. So we may hope that they will make use of all the professionally culled information already available. They will then no doubt realise the extent of the disconnection between the ordinary teaching of the Church and the reception by the average Catholic. Finding the right answers, whatever they may be, must start with the right information, and be followed by asking the right questions.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Bio-ethics, Catholic Herald columns, Church and Society, Moral judgment and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

121 Responses to Facts we have to face

  1. Peter D. Wilson says:

    Thanks for the Faith Debates link. There may have been some doubt on the part of responders about which box to tick (for instance, given freedom to specify, I should have described my moral decisions – whether effectively implemented or not – as based on my own reason within the teachings of the Church); nevertheless, one thing that strikes me is the low or negligible influence of church leaders, including our own. Does that, I wonder, reflect more on the docility of the “faithful” or the quality of the leaders?

  2. milliganp says:

    Sadly you are giving oxygen to the LMS constant criticism of the post Vatican II church. You cannot directly link church attendance to either Vatican II, the “new mass” or trendy priests. There has been enormous societal change, particularly a total loss of the role of and respect for intuitions. It may be seen as negative that few fear eternal damnation, which was the principal weapon of the pre-Vatican II church. We also need to realise the societal impact of the two wars of the 20th century. In the first two great powers, both allegedly Christian slaughtered each-other in the millions. In the second women were conscripted into roles previously done entirely by men and, when the war ended, few wanted to return to the marital drudge of pre-war society. In equal measure the retuning menfolk, many of whom had been at war for nearly 5 years, had great difficulty adapting to the post war society. As prosperity returned, and under the cloud of “mutually assured destruction”, the pursuit of happiness was not seen as returning to old modes of behaviour. I really find this over-simplistic analysis and the linking of sexual mores to church attendance irritating. It’s utterly false use of statistics. We’ll be blaming the EU, overhead power cables and nuclear power stations next.
    /rant

  3. milliganp says:

    Calming down (not really) I read the material produced by the faith debates at the time and felt that once again it was not a neutral point of view. The statistics are useful but I think we have to temper comparisons with Pentecostals and Baptists with the understanding that they have a much more self-selecting membership. Similarly Muslims are unlikely to express views strongly at odds with their societal values. However, if you talk to parents of Muslim teenagers you will see a similar set of concerns to Catholic parents in early 1970’s. The challenge is modernity not modernism.

  4. ascylto says:

    I cannot pretend to have the intellectual capacity of either yourself or your bloggers but I can give my own assessment of the situation from a non-intellectual point of view. I blogged here before but was put off further comments by one of your regular bloggers who, right wing views apart, threatened to resign from the blog … evidently unable to take on my views. So, here goes …

    I write as a homosexual man of 66 years (having known since I was aged 12). The other day I was served at table by a young man who, when asked about his living arrangements, speedily offered that he lived with his (male) ‘partner’ but wouldn’t be getting married yet as he was only 19. How utterly refreshing! He didn’t feel the need to hide anything! He was able to be himself!

    How different this has been to my own experience. As a convert aged 19 I quickly fell in love with the Catholic Church but have recently had to see how the Church handled child abuse allegations and that a senior member of the Church hierarchy condemned homosexual practices but had also secretly drunk from the same bowl! I was reminded of the sheer hypocrisy of Pope John Paul II accepting the helmet of the Chaplain to the Fire Service of New York after 911. The Chaplain was killed. That Franciscan, too, was ex-alcoholic and a practising homosexual and yet JP II condemned homosexual practises.

    My point to this blog is that I have left the Church, being sick and tired of being labelled ‘intrinsically disordered but deeply respected’. I cannot claim rectitude but merely offer this as MY reason for contributing to the diminished figures of attendance or adherence.

    The hierarchy of the Catholic Church in this country is utterly ineffectual, caring more for its own aggrandisement than any moral leadership (good or bad from my viewpoint). I can argue with a Muslim or Baptist but not with a Catholic.

    I try to be honest and transparent. This is more than can be said for MY dealing with Catholicism. Why would any Catholic look to his or her church for teaching when it so obviously has double standards in morality. The hierarchy (or Pope) says one thing, the clergy who face the people say another and the people – surprise , surprise – do whatever their minds or hearts tell them. Consciences, informed or otherwise, rule in all matters.

    I could go on but am at risk already of rambling incoherently. What I have to say will, no doubt, be intellectually full of holes. However, they are my own views (as faulty as they may be) and as the Church now no longer has fear to govern its flock. Its flock will wander where it pleases.

    • Quentin says:

      I am indeed sorry that any comment on this blog should have offended you. We do of course speak our minds here but we hope always to do so with understanding and courtesy. And sometimes we get it wrong!

      You raise the question of “intrinsically disordered”. This is a technical phrase which is still in use, but one that I think is unfortunate. It carries the overtone of deep evil, which in fact is not intended. Thus if someone refers to lying as intrinsic evil they would be claiming that it breached the principle that we are given speech in order to communicate truth and not falsehood. In the matter of artificial contraception it would be argued that a breach is caused by defying the procreative nature of sexual intercourse. Given that a substantial proportion of Catholics do not accept this teaching, those open to intrinsic disorder are pretty numerous. In the matter of homosexuality, it is only necessary to look at the sexual plumbing to assess what is order and what is disorder.

      I share with you a distaste for the many instances of hypocrisy to be found in the clergy. But my anger is tempered by remembering that in, perhaps less dramatic ways, I have been known to go against the principles which I hold. Do you find that too?

      • RAHNER says:

        Perhaps human sexuality is more complex than being a matter of looking at the “sexual plumbing”??

      • Quentin says:

        Most certainly. And if we were to undertake a deeper investigation here (which I hope that we don’t since we have other things to discuss) there would be many issues to look at. ‘Order’ in sexual plumbing is similar to the ‘order’ between an electric socket and an electric plug. But we don’t need to discuss electricity extensively before we recognise that.

    • Peter D. Wilson says:

      Ascylto – I’m sorry that you have been offended by terms used in this discussion, but are you perhaps being a shade over-sensitive? A misdirected sexual drive – and presumably you don’t deny that yours is misdirected – is surely as much a disorder as haemophilia, and as an involuntary condition no more blameworthy. Nevertheless it leads to practices that many of us find deeply distasteful, and that is bound to colour attitudes. If for no other reason, it calls for discretion, not least in charity to those who find the topic offensive, and a degree of reticence is not the same as hypocrisy.

    • Peter Nyikos says:

      ascylto, let me call your attention to a Catholic with a permanent same-sex attraction who has come to terms with it, and leads a celibate life, and is a committed Catholic.

      For years he went by the pseudonym “Steve Gershom” but has recently revealed his real name, Joseph Prever. He maintains a blog here:
      http://www.stevegershom.com/
      with a brief introduction to him here:
      http://www.stevegershom.com/about/

      I have interacted with him twice on Catholic Exchange, where he has written two excellent articles which have a lot to teach many if not most people of all orientations. Here is the url for the more recent one.

      http://catholicexchange.com/coming-out-as-a-human-a-response-to-the-huffington-posts-gay-priest

      I hope you find it relevant to many of the things you write about here.

  5. Brian Hamill says:

    There are three possible attitudes to God (and the Church): fear, love and don’t care. In present day Catholicism fear has gone. We no longer consider that missing Mass on Sunday as a mortal sin, worthy of eternal damnation. Even the word ‘sin’ has largely gone. Therefore we are left with love or don’t care. One needs a fair degree of experience to love the Church, given all its manifest imperfections. So the Young are largely left with ‘don’t care’ and so ‘don’t listen’. What they really do care about is ‘good’ and ‘evil’. They see much good in the Church, and much evil too. It takes a mature mind and heart to live with this ambiguity and until the Church discards its self-image as the fountain of all wisdom and goodness and accepts that it is the heiress to the OT image of Israel as both ‘the Bride of Yaweh’ and ‘the Whore of Babylon’, little meaningful progress will be made in its influence in the modern world. It is hiding its light under a very self-centred bushel.

    • Horace says:

      In my comment of Dec 2 (See you in Hospital) I briefly stated what I thought ‘sin’ was.
      If you are correct “ We no longer consider that missing Mass on Sunday as [sic] a mortal sin.” then I am even more naïve than I thought! You go on to say “Therefore we are left with love . .” which underlines why I am so worried by the use of the word ‘love’ in Catechetics today.

      In an earlier comment (Did the window slam shut? December 7, 2012) I said “I have therefore always simply accepted the hierarchical structure of the Church and done my best to obey the instructions that I am given.“ The reason? 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).

      I also quoted a paragraph from Kipling’s “Jungle Book” :-
      {” . . . 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.”}
      – – – which could well be relevant today!

      • Vincent says:

        Yes, I can see the attraction of a Church bound together by hierarchical obedience. I once knew a C of E parson. I asked him why he had converted to Catholicism. He told me that it was in his moral theology studies that he discovered that he had to use Catholic textbooks. They were the only ones where the rules were stated clearly and accepted by all. So he decided to convert. A big sacrifice because he was a family man who thus lost his living. I am sure we have had many converts who came because of the Church’s clarity and certainty.

        But is that any longer possible? And indeed, is it desirable? But what price do we pay for taking personal responsibility?

  6. ascylto says:

    Dearest Quentin.

    Thank you for so speedy a reply.

    I am indeed sorry that any comment on this blog should have offended you.

    I was not offended by the views or comments. The fact that someone should feel obliged to RESIGN was what offended me.

    You raise the question of “intrinsically disordered”. This is a technical phrase which is
    still in use, but one that I think is unfortunate. It carries the overtone of deep evil …

    Indeed it does. ‘Unfortunate’ is not a word I could go along with. Its sad use has condemned some young people to suicide and the Church has used it as a stick to beat many a person for centuries.

    In the matter of homosexuality, it is only necessary to look at the sexual plumbing
    to assess what is order and what is disorder.

    Alas, it is not so. The ‘heart’, too, plays a part. One could almost call it ‘conscience’.

    … my anger is tempered by remembering that in, perhaps less dramatic ways, I have been
    known to go against the principles which I hold. Do you find that too?

    I don’t understand! Principles are held ‘despite’ other factors, surely?

    • Quentin says:

      I was only trying to explain the technical concept of intrinsic evil — which tends to be derived from structure — not the issue of homosexuality as such. Yes, I continue to hold my principles, but I don’t always live up to them. Surely a common experience?

    • Ann says:

      Ascylto
      In the matter of homosexuality, it is only necessary to look at the sexual plumbing
      to assess what is order and what is disorder.

      Alas, it is not so. The ‘heart’, too, plays a part. One could almost call it ‘conscience’

      So very true :-). It amazes me how many people think everything boils down to intercourse, much love and companionship is involved.

  7. Vincent says:

    Milliganp, you say “I really find this over-simplistic analysis and the linking of sexual mores to church attendance irritating. It’s utterly false use of statistics.” Why do you find this irritating? It does not sound odd to me that the rejection of the Church’s serious teaching on contraception should be accompanied by a fall off in practice — and should be seen in the fall off of baptism and Catholic marriage. It’s exactly what we should expect, isn’t it? And rather important to say so. No doubt there are other reasons too (beyond the effects of the Council and the change in the tone of society). Perhaps you could suggest what these might be, because I certainly don’t know the answer.
    Is acknowledgement of the source of the figures quoted, dependent on whether or not you approve of that source?
    But perhaps you have a good way in mind to reverse the situation?

    • milliganp says:

      Vicent, how did you manage to criticise my post without reading it? I did indeed offer an alternate source for what is a far more widespread breakdown in society, 2 massively evil wars and their aftermaths.
      On the matter of statistics I speak as mathematician, it is false practice to link as cause and effect without direct evidence, which has not been provided. The opinions of the LMS are not a reliable statistical source. The fact that I have a strong dislike of some of the dissembling of that organisation does not invalidate my criticism of their misuse of statistics.
      I think Quentin approaches the nub of the current disconnect between Catholics and the church on moral matters. Up until the early 1980’s most people accepted he moral authority of the church and did not need to inform their conscience on the detail underpinning moral decisions. With the rise of individualism and the breakdown of a highly structured society the church did not feel the need to help people inform their consciences; like an Englishman abroad it either repeated itself louder and slower or gave up trying to communicate with the natives.
      Now, having located the nub of the issue to 80’s individualism, using the same logic as the LMS I state with confidence that it’s all down to Margaret Thatcher.

  8. Iona says:

    Brian – “We no longer consider that missing Mass on Sunday as a mortal sin, worthy of eternal damnation.”
    Our PP reminds us, several times a year I should think, that intentionally missing Mass on a Sunday or Holyday of Obligation (unless for a good reason such as illness, caring for someone who is ill, or being somewhere where there is no Mass reasonably available) is a serious sin and needs to be confessed and repented of before the sinner takes communion.

  9. ascylto says:

    Clergy nowadays are just one of the moral teachers knocking on the door of the individual. Television, radio, Tweets and Facebook provide spurious friends who ‘teach’. Years ago it was just the clergy and they enjoyed immense power over their ‘flock’. That control (and power) has largely gone. Hence the growth in the use off the biretta, tall collars and the LMS. They feed the rump of Catholics who yearn for the older, more certain Catholicism where the laity were firmly behind the altar rails. Where, if you were fortunate enough, communion was given through a hole in the door and on a long spoon!

    The clerical class (Popes included) is in decline and the people themselves will make up their own minds aided by science, the internet and the above mentioned ‘friends”. It is no accident that countries formerly in the power of communism have turned to religions as they crave the certainty afforded by many

    What we have learned is that “It ain’t necessarily so.”

    Our senior clergy, the so-called Hierarchy, is impotent in providing moral values, especially in view of their own imperfections. Their imprecations to the ‘faithful’ are largely ignored so they exercise their (considerable) power on the clergy whose obedience is usually assured. The trouble is that the Hierarchy just don’t get it. They live, like politicians, on a different planet.

    “God forbid that any of my men become Bishops.” said (allegedly) St Bernard.

    Back to the point …

    One of the main reasons for the decline in church attendance and membership is that church and clergy no longer have the power over the people. Oh, they will do their damnedest to claw back that control, mostly by dressing up, but they are losing it because people will make up their own minds (rightly or wrongly) using their own lights. The wish of Pope Benedict will come true in that there will, indeed, be a ‘rump’. And it will probably be wearing a biretta!

  10. John Candido says:

    I think that in the broad sweep of matters, you cannot blame the Second Vatican Council for a decline in Church attendance, or to blame it for the critical decline in vocations to the priesthood and religious life. It is simply a matter of time stands still for no one. The Roman Catholic Church is simply too conservative and too hidebound to make timely changes to its teaching and doctrine. This is the crux of the matter.

    Why is it simply a matter of ‘time stands still for no one’? All that constitutes modernity; change through the explosion of knowledge and technology, and its massive effect on individuals and society. The social impact of national education systems, the mass media, public government, secular law and its rule over all, and the rise of human dignity over and above institutions, which include the church, businesses, and governments; all have their origin in the industrial revolution in the 19th century and the political revolutions in the 18th century.

    All of these individual causal strands have the ultimate effect of the rise of the dignity of the individual over institutions. This partly explains what is behind the fall in Church attendance and the fall in vocations. How does the Church arrest this massive decline in attendance? Change, adaptation, reform, simplicity, poverty, becoming humbler, ‘aggiornamento’, respecting modernity and modern knowledge are important aspects of regaining contemporary men and women.

    One principle effect of contemporary society is the empowerment of women and gays. One acknowledged reform by Pope Francis is minimising or expunging clericalism. Here are three reforms that will help it become relevant again. Namely, women priests, the reform of sexual morality, and expunging celibacy. Clericalism will decline given leaders such as Francis who eschew it.

    The reform of the Curia is paramount. A complete reconfiguration of the CDF is also an urgent matter in order to prevent ecclesiastical scandal. Papal infallibility needs to be given a historical and theological review. Reform of the Code of Canon Law in order to give validation to the eternal teaching of the Church on the supreme rule of an informed human conscience above the authority of the Catholic Church, is also well overdue.

    If secular society places great store in the adage, how we treat the powerless & disposed of our community is how we will be judged. The Roman Catholic Church must espouse an ethic of protecting, nourishing and empowering the human conscience and every loyal dissenter inside the Church, if it is to be judged to be loving, kind and a true follower of Jesus.

    I believe that introducing married Priests and women Priests will also have the indirect effect on minimising clericalism. Needless to say, the entire Second Vatican Council must be implemented in all haste. It has been blocked by the Church the result of which is a weakening of membership. Pope Francis is to be congratulated for initiating an advisory body to better manage the risk of paedophilia to children and their families, and to properly care for its multitude of victims.

    All of these suggestions must be attached to and founded on the true and eternal values of the Gospel, as lived by Jesus & Saint Francis in poverty, simplicity and humility. Without such an attachment, the Church will be battered by secular society.

    I would like to recommend to all the latest work by Professor Hans Kung entitled, ‘Can We Save the Catholic Church?’, (2013) published by William Collins. A copy of his book has been presented to Pope Francis to read. I am not suggesting that this work is the final word on reform.

    • St.Joseph says:

      John Candido.
      The Anglican Church I don’t think is bursting at the seams. do you have the statistics of theirs for the last 150 years!.
      Perhaps you can tell me as I can not find any.
      The Catholic Church has more women in religious work in the world than any other church.. Just see what EWTN. shows on its programme. if you have not switched on, do so,it will open your eyes to what women are doing in the Church. We don;t have to be Ordained to be religious.These are females who are quite happy serving the Church in ways that the Lord has called them to do
      If all those who are waiting for the Church to change her teachings before they return to Holy Mass- they will be waiting for a long time.It is only pride that they keep away.It is not for the love of God and His Blessed Mother.

      • John Candido says:

        The Anglican church, like all Christian churches, are subject to the force of modernity and the passage of time. In any case, if you want to know what are the causes of their diminishment, ask Anglicans who might know as I am not an Anglican.

    • John Nolan says:

      JC, is this the same Hans Kung who recently wrote that Pope Francis is a puppet pope manipulated by Archbishops Mueller and Gaenswein, with the sinister figure of the Pope Emeritus plotting behind the scenes? If so, I don’t think that Francis will have Kung’s latest tome at the top of his Xmas list.

      Glad to see you want moral reform in sexual matters, although human nature being what it is, moral reformers have a hard task. Savonarola fulminated against the luxury and licentiousness of the late 15th century papal court; he identified a “gay mafia” even then, reserving some of his strongest strictures for the “Greek vice”.

    • Peter Nyikos says:

      How ironic that the last word on your comment is “reform.” You seem to want to lead the Catholic Church in the direction of the Protestant Reformation.

      Be advised, however: here in the United States at least, the mainline Protestant churches have been in steady decline for a long time. The Catholic religious orders that moved in the direction of liberalization have been in decline for a long time and are increasingly graying. In contrast, the orders of Catholic women religious which are growing are the ones that are most committed to the Magisterium and whose members are most likely to be clothed in habits.

      Compare the influence of Hans Kung with that of Mother Angelica, and I think it is no contest.

      • milliganp says:

        Two minor points. Not all reform is wrong; part of the problem Catholics can suffer from is seeing all change as a move to Potestantism. Secondly at least 50 times as many Catholics recognise Hans Kung compared to Mother Angelica (or was that your point?).

  11. John Candido says:

    Apologies, this link should have been part of my post.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aggiornamento

  12. Catherine says:

    My sister, who is 65, went to a catholic school but stopped
    going to Mass when she was 13. Both her children went to catholic schools
    neither went to Mass as children or now as adults. Now, the grandchild is
    baptised but has not made her 1st Holy Communion or Confirmation and does not
    go to a catholic school. I think this pattern is fairly typical.
    Friends who brought their 4 children up as catholics, since teenage years have
    not gone to Mass.

    If you ‘don’t go to Mass’ there doesn’t seem to be any other way of engaging
    with the church. I wonder if the church was more ‘visible’ e.g. nuns in
    habits etc.. one might be reminded of religion because the media does not
    support church going. The anglican church near me is lucky to find 6 people
    willing to pray on a Sunday.

    I think, for my family at least, they don’t go because they see no reason to go to Mass or pray. Life is fine as it is-they have enough to eat etc..As one of my nieces said, christians are as
    selfish as every one else (so why bother). I reminded her she has been
    baptised! Although my parents ‘catholic ‘marriage didn’t last and my sister’s with her husband’s ‘no religion in my house’ attitude has!

    Thank you for your blogs they are always thought provoking.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Catherine.
      Welcome to the blog and your very clear comment .
      I look forward to your future comments, I am sure they will be thought provoking too!
      Pleased to see another female!..

  13. John Nolan says:

    When one looks at these statistics (Mass attendance, marriages, baptisms, ordinations, conversions etc.) there is a peak in the late 1950s and early 1960s followed by a precipitous fall. This would suggest that the Church in England and Wales was, at least outwardly, in a fairly healthy state on the eve of the Second Vatican Council. To blame everything on the Council is to argue “post hoc, ergo propter hoc” but it cannot be denied that its net result was to engender divisions which remain with us still. There was indeed a new vigour in the Church following the Council of Trent, but where, fifty years on, is the new springtime promised by Vatican II?

    The decade 1963-1972, which we call “the ‘sixties” was an era of naïve optimism and massive social change. The economic realities of the 1970s certainly put paid to the optimism, but the social changes continued apace (and show no signs of abating) and worryingly they are now being driven by a political culture which is increasingly intolerant of any dissent. What would have seemed common sense a generation ago is now heresy, and the criminal law is deployed to extirpate it. It certainly did not help that the start of this process coincided with the weakest papacy of modern times, that of Paul VI.

    Last night I attended a performance of Handel’s “Messiah” in St Walburga’s church in Bruges, an imposing baroque church built by the Jesuits in the 17th century. It is a popular venue for concerts, is well looked after, and is still a parish church. Yet a notice in the porch announced that it would be closed over the Christmas period. Wherever one goes in Catholic Europe one finds magnificent buildings with little or no liturgical life to sustain them. Benedict XVI was of the opinion that the main cause of the crisis in the Church was the disintegration of the liturgy after Vatican II, and when I see a dining table plonked in front of a high altar, perfectly appropriate for the dumbed-down “liturgy” performed thereon, I heartily agree with him, as does Dr Shaw. Lex orandi, lex credendi.

    • St.Joseph says:

      John Nolan.
      As you say ‘Pope Benedict XV1 was of he opinion that the main cause of the crisis in the Church was the disintegration of the liturgy after Vatican 11, and when I see a dining table plonked in front of a high altar (I will just add with the place for the Tabernacle empty) perfectly appropriate for the dumbed-down “liturgy” performed thereon,.

      I heartily agree with you. Perhaps that is why the Church is empty and lapsed of those born in that era!.

    • Quentin says:

      John, I enjoy a good liturgy, with all the trimmings, as well as the next person (at least the next person of my generation). But this morning I went as usual to the 8:15 at my local. It mainly attracts older people (the family Mass is later) but there were plenty of parents with young children. It was straightforward, and conducted by all with reverence.

      The same Christ was on the altar as in the finest liturgy. We were all in the presence of Calvary. I received Communion under both kinds — as I might have done at any Mass. I came home feeling spiritually refreshed.

      I have nothing against those who would be happier if we had a Latin Mass. But a Mass is a Mass is a Mass.

      • John Nolan says:

        Quentin, don’t get me wrong. A simple vernacular Mass, if celebrated reverently, would also leave me spiritually refreshed. So would a Low Mass in the Old Rite, or a sung Mass in either form. I confess to being happier with the vernacular since the new translation came out; the old version was so impoverished, both linguistically and theologically, as to be for me a real stumbling-block – I tried my best to like it, but in vain. At least the Collect for Advent IV now reads “Pour forth, we beseech you O Lord, your grace into our hearts” instead of the limp “Lord, fill our hearts with your love” (the 1973 redactors had a problem with the concept of sanctifying grace, and avoided the word like the plague).

        Since I sing Gregorian Chant I would gravitate to the sung Latin Mass. I have, over the years, experienced some truly horrendous distortions of the liturgy from priests who are old enough to know better, and music of such mind-numbing banality that it has me running for the exit. I suppose attending such ‘celebrations’ is a way of mortifying the flesh, but that’s not what I go to Mass for.

    • milliganp says:

      I might posit that it was Benedict’s absolute failure to realise what was going on, and his charging off in entirely the wrong direction, that led the Holy Spirit to inspire him to resign.

      • John Nolan says:

        Milligan, you may posit what you like, but it’s still arrant nonsense. This time next year, when the dewy-eyed liberals wake up to the fact that there has been no U-turn, they will be less likely to credit the Holy Ghost.

  14. ascylto says:

    John Candido… We’ll said, sir.

  15. Iona says:

    Hello and welcome Catherine. I think you made a very good point, namely “they see no reason to go to Mass or pray. Life is fine as it is-they have enough to eat etc..”

    The areas of the world in which the Church is growing are precisely the areas where life is uncertain, food may be scarce at least from time to time, medical treatment is rudimentary or unaffordable, religious persecution is a reality.

    • milliganp says:

      I’m now in my early 60’s. For my parent’s generation you could die of TB, Measles, Whooping Cough, Flu and myriad infectious diseases not to mention septicaemia following common accidents and widespread death in women giving birth. The warning “you know not the hour when the master comes” was very real in people’s lives. The four last things; death, judgement, heaven, hell were a backdrop to life.
      We no longer fear death as in any way an imminent danger. We don’t fear judgement because we’ve perverted God’s mercy to a universal dispensation and no-one believes in hell (though we all have people we hope will go there).
      This may seem disastrous but I would suggest that rather than trying to put the fear of God back into people we follow Pope Francis’ lead and start living the message of love. As St. Francis de Sales said, “Always be as gentle as you can and remember that one catches more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a hundred barrels of vinegar.”

  16. St.Joseph says:

    Iona.
    I do believe that if there was a better understanding of Jesus’s Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament and the spiritual beauty of the Sacrifice of Holy Mass that we as Roman Catholics ‘believe’ to be true, no one would stay away.Even if out of respect .
    It is not a case of what ‘Holy Mother Church tells us to,do as some seem to be of that opinion.(I will not serve).
    Our decisions should not be made through knowing the weakness of future priests bishops or popes or of the past, what they believe or not believe.
    Would one be happy leaving their loved one’s presence, just keeping them in their thoughts ‘even happy with one hour a week!
    Grace is available for all it just needs to be worked at.,I think parish involvement is essential.Unless one is given the Grace to believe like St Paul.with an immediate conversion.

  17. Peter Nyikos says:

    Here in Columbia, South Carolina, there is an interesting phenomenon of church attendance. Holy days of obligation only draw about half the attendance that Sundays do; on the other hand, the church is really crowded on Ash Wednesday, even though attendance is optional. Catholics who you would hardly guess to be Catholic on most days will unashamedly wear a dark spot of ashes on their foreheads at their place of work and other public places.

    Perhaps what Catholics need are more challenges in the direction of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “costly grace.”

  18. John Nolan says:

    In the nineteenth century, certainly in Britain and I assume in the United States as well, Catholicism had to be counter-cultural. In those days it stood out against the prevailing protestant culture; nowadays it is increasingly facing the challenge of an aggressive secularism hiding behind a mask of “tolerance”, and this applies to countries which until recently had a strong Catholic identity.

    John Candido thinks that the Church has to embrace every modern fad, including divers forms of sexual immorality, in order to survive. Even if his wish-list for “reform” were remotely realistic (it isn’t), his basic argument is completely and utterly wrong-headed and misguided, and simply repeating it ad nauseam will not alter this.

  19. ionzone says:

    I think that apart from the growing intolerance towards Christianity (seriously, how is it possible that they can constantly get away with saying we are worse than paedophiles when we built every damn country in the West?) and the almost completely imaginary ‘crimes’ of the church, the main reason that the Church can’t retain kids is pretty simple – TV is so mindless and entertaining that when they have to sit down and listen and sing songs they just zone out. They aren’t paying attention because they are thinking about the constant stream of fireworks in their living-rooms on the big flat screen. It’s painful to admit that this was the same with me when I was little. The fact of the matter is that priests are NOT really trained as public speakers and they generally don’t bring much energy or enthusiasm to the mass (certainly not as much as some hack on TV). Often what they do bring are mumbling, difficult accents, speech impediments, and worst of all, unfocused sermons.

    Now, I really like a good sermon, I have heard some that really opened my eyes on a variety of things and made me think. A key problem here, and it’s one I wish I could tell them without being rude, is that when you have made a really great point you need to either follow it with an even bigger one or stop talking. I cannot stress this enough. Many priests seem to try and fill time. Don’t. If you are trying to fill time in a public talk you are doing it wrong, the idea is to convey the information and ideas in a direct way and then step down so that the proper message is the one they remember. I cannot count the number of times I have wished I could shout “Speak up Father!” or “That’s the point to stop so the kids remember what you said!” or even “You are ruining what you just said by filling time with a tangent!”. I really don’t want to be the one to say this as it is rude, but somebody has to say it to all priests. I realise they are never going to get it perfect, but they need to be told that if they have a really strong accent or they know they mumble, they should get someone to help them practice speaking clearly. They defiantly all need some kind of training in public speaking.

    Will that ultimately be enough? Probably not, but it would be a big start. Another key thing to do would be to get back into the community and get people more involved in the mass. Mass has substance, now, I think, is time to add a bit of style as well.

    • ionzone says:

      By the way, I didn’t want to say this but the other main reason that people abuse us so much is because we *let* them. We are not nasty people. When you go to a rally where the subject at hand is abortion you will see the pro-life crowd being nice, friendly, and unthreatening. They sing hymns and light candles. The pro-abortion crowd, on the other hand, and this was in the Herald this week, dance topless, throw eggs, swear, scream, shout, preform sex acts, play really loud abrasive music, and generally try to disrupt and cover up the pro-life message. This is what they do, they simply don’t care what tactics they use and they don’t care how completely anti-social and utterly invalid their methods are because they see winning as a matter of humiliating the other side and preventing them from being heard, up to and including covering up pro-life placards with pro-abortion ones and trying to block parade routes. It’s the exact same thing they did in the Soviet Union and the French Revolution, just with less torture and murder (I say less because, obviously, abortion is what they are fighting for).

      It amazes me that the fact that one side are clearly lunatics is not swaying the public in our favour, but I don’t think they actually know these people do this.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Ionzone.
        I don’t like to say this either however I will, because maybe it ought to be said.
        One can not be pro-life and throw insults at the way a homosexual feels that they are .
        Obviously we believe that the way they express this is not the way God made us to love.
        Personally I would rather be in the company of a male or female homosexual than a vulgar macho male chauvinist..

        One of the main problems and I have said this before is the way that their sexuality is imposed on the general public with the Gay Marches and the ugly expressions that is shown when they demonstrate. They deny themselves any form of sympathy they receive from homophobia.
        A husband and wife or couple of different sex who portray their sexuality either in pole dancing -strip tease clubs as one would see in big cities wife swapping etc are also flying in the face of decency
        I objected to the Warwick Street Masses because I felt it a demonstration for same sex couples to openly show their ‘sexual relationship’ which were in error of Church teaching
        The Church is not against love between same sex partners. One can show love the way the Lord asks of us all. and that is to attend Holy Mass in their own parish’s and ask God to forgive us our sins. and the Grace to do better the next time.

        I am prepared to be shot down in flames!!

        . .

      • milliganp says:

        St Joseph, well said and God bless you.

    • John Nolan says:

      Ionzone, I couldn’t agree more about sermons. They should be written in advance, not extemporized, and the ideal length is ten minutes. Pope Francis occasionally departs from the text, but concentrates on three salient points (Jesuit training?) and rarely goes over time. “Energy and enthusiasm”, however, are not appropriate for the prayers of the Mass which are directed to God. Again, the Pope sets a good example here, although sadly he does not sing. As soon as the priest starts playing his audience like some televangelist, dignity and objectivity go out of the window. To declaim the Eucharistic Prayer in a portentous Lawrence Olivier manner would be an abuse; it would be the priest drawing attention to himself. It doesn’t help that it is common practice for the celebrant to face the congregation throughout – even when he is seated he positions the chair so that he is never out of eye contact with the assembly.

      Ideally, every Mass should be sung (as in the Eastern liturgy). In the revised English missal there is more music than in any previous missal and the chants are simple enough for everyone to use. That they aren’t used is a result of laziness, lack of even rudimentary training, and an assumption that dignity and objectivity in liturgical celebration are no longer desirable.

    • Peter D. Wilson says:

      Ionzone – “A key problem here, and it’s one I wish I could tell them without being rude, is that when you have made a really great point you need to either follow it with an even bigger one or stop talking.” How true! My impression is of verbal diarrhoea as an occupational disease among clergy of all denominations. Regrettably my PP is a prime example, and although he has responded well to its being pointed out and substantially cut down his half-hour rambles, he still doesn’t know when to stop.

      • John Candido says:

        I fully concur and I am sympathetic with everybody on the subject of priestly sermons. An obvious solution would be retraining for existing priests, and proper instruction within the seminary.

      • Quentin says:

        Yes, I am fortunate in getting most of my sermons from Jesuits — but even they could do with some help. Not only is public speaking an art, rhetoric was the pinnacle of classical education. If preachers cannot be re-trained then at least they could do two things. The first is to start by writing down their concrete objectives in terms of what they intend to have happened to their congregations between reaching the pulpit and leaving it. And then using the objectives as their guide to content and performance.

        The second is to have critical but constructive feedback. My wife used to do this for me (an argument for married clergy?). So when every one else was thanking me (they do that out of politeness) she would sit down with me and go through the good and bad points. It was painful but absolutely necessary if I were to improve. Were I a parish priest I would ask two or three trusted parishioners to comment on a regular basis — the only qualification being honesty.

  20. ascylto says:

    Here come the flames, St. Joseph.

    You really don’t need to say any mor than what you DID say… ‘they’ and ‘their’ creates and consolidates your separation. And to go on to say ‘Obviously we believe…’ merely deepens that chasm.

    • St.Joseph says:

      ascylto.
      I I spoke about male as as I am female I would call them ‘they’!
      I often think that one who protests too much is often a feeling of guilt-which is not a bad sign!.

      • St.Joseph says:

        The word ‘If’ is what I spelt wrong above in case you don’t understand!!
        Also whilst we are on the subject perhaps you would like to explain what a’ right wing person is’? As you mention in your first post.!

  21. milliganp says:

    Quentin, from 1976-1981 I lived in Ireland. The Second Vatican council had led to similar liturgical changes, which were accepted largely without the “LMS effect”. In Ireland the Mass had always been owned by the people, even in the earlier rite. The generation of children now in their 30’s and early 40’s were generally less promiscuous than in Britain, but in that generation almost everybody co-habited before marriage and used contraception.
    Mass attendance fell off a cliff with the abuse scandals and their handling. There has been some restoration but Ireland has an entirely different narrative to the UK.

    • Quentin says:

      You’re right. I didn’t have Ireland in mind, my focus (and my figures) was on England and Wales. The paedophile scandal effect was dramatic in Ireland, but it will have had some degree of effect over here. I understand that ‘thinking’ Irish Catholics disliked the omnipresent clericalism at that time. There was also resentment at the privileges given to the Church through the Constitution. Am I right?

      On the issue of co-habitation, I start from the view that sexual intercourse belongs of its nature only to committed marriage. A big problem which arose out of the Catholic contraception issue was that this fundamental belief about the nature of sexuality got lost in the general mess.

  22. Iona says:

    Despite ascylto’s flames, I can’t help feeling that St. Joseph is still flying high.
    I don’t see the need for “gay” people to force their “gayness” on the community as a whole, demanding recognition and trying to push others into an extreme position, either enthusiastic acceptance or “homophobic” rejection (and I’m quite sure that many of them don’t, – that they just get on with their lives). Why should it be assumed that I care what sort of sex lives my electrician, my hairdresser or my window-cleaner engages in, just so long as they do a competent job of work for me?

    • St.Joseph says:

      Iona.
      I am not too sure what it is you are suggesting when you say ‘I cant help feeling that St. Joseph is still flying high.
      Before I answer your comment I would like to understand what you mean first thank you Iona. if you would be so kind too..

      In case anyone would get the idea because I answered ascylto;s comment-it was not I that threatened to resign from the blog as he said someone did.
      Never would I go and hide in a hole!! ‘unless I was insulted to the extreme that I had to’ before I ‘killed them off’ first!! Not literally of course.
      Just to make it clear.

      • Iona says:

        What I meant was that although ascylto had tried to shoot you down in flames, I didn’t feel he had succeeded, – I thought the point you made about “Gay marches” was a good one, and nothing ascylto said had invalidated it.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Iona.Yes I see your point now. I am a little slow on the mark sometimes,thank you.
        It was quite humorous,sounds like my sense of humour too!

  23. ascylto says:

    Dearest St Joseph… Your references were not about males. ‘Right wing’ is, I think, wrong.
    Dearest Iona… How right you are.. Best to keep quiet really. Just like the protesters against apartheid.

    • St.Joseph says:

      ascylto.
      No it was not about males in particular, however it was about a difference in gender, Surely you are not believing that same sex relationships are the same as male and female, inside or outside marriage.
      I presume we are discussing this as mature adults. With no offence meant.

      • ionzone says:

        They are not the same physically, but as far as I have seen they are emotionally the same. You have to realise that homosexuals really do feel no desire towards the opposite sex, that desire is redirected towards their own gender. Some even identify as the opposite gender from a young age. Nobody chooses to be gay, if there was a choice most would choose to be heterosexual because being gay can get you shot, stamped on, spat on, and worse. And that is before you realise that most of them seem very upset by the fact that they can’t reproduce and that their options are pretty limited.

      • St.Joseph says:

        ionzone.
        There are plenty of women who do not consider themselves capable to give birth to children, but still want to have a sexual relationship. Does that mean that they ought to be able to go against Gods Law and have a termination each time they become pregnant.
        Should God be thinking of their emotions?.

        If I fall in love with my neighbours husband and he likewise with me should God consider our emotions.?
        My mother is suffering and wishes me to give her an overdose.(not really she died at 65 36 yrs ago just an example)should God consider her or my emotions?

        We are allowed to love,- God has no objection to that. It depends really where our priorities lie..and our first duty is to love God above all things ,then let Him do to us what He wills.-not do to ourselves what we will.

        Just remember that the subject of homosexuality was not brought up by me- I am just expressing my beliefs when they are questioned! Which is my right! And also when it encroach’s on my human dignity as a married person and a person of the public who witnesses the indecent behaviour of Gay Marches in our streets..
        Let them keep their relationships between themselves and God.That also applies to the same sex couples or singles who are living the lifestyle unfit for common decency, not just homosexuals as I mentioned above.
        I have mixed with numerous gay people, especially in business who have showed respect.. Also it is disrespectful to homosexuals who through the help of the organisation ”Encourage’ are living their life as the Lord has called them to do.
        All you need to think about is what the Church teaches about homophobia. But that does not mean we have to accept it to be right. Just pray that they will find the grace to accept it as their Cross as Christians. We all have crosses to carry.
        It is quite easy for any of us to be promiscuous ,but there for the grace of God.go I!

    • Iona says:

      Not remotely like.
      Longer response with explanation will follow later, – have to go out just now!

      • Iona says:

        ascylto – further to this morning’s post –
        people keeping quiet about apartheid were colluding with a system which separated people on the basis of their heredity and visible appearance, giving major advantages to one group (voting rights, education, where they could live etc.).
        The only “keeping quiet” that I am asking for is for people not to force detailed information about their sex lives onto me – either individually or via highly public displays.

  24. ionzone says:

    ““Energy and enthusiasm”, however, are not appropriate for the prayers of the Mass which are directed to God.”

    Well, why isn’t a bit of enthusiasm 0k? Instead of saying “mumble mumble mumble” they should put some force of conviction into what they are saying and doing! I’m not saying shout, I’m saying that I want to know that what I am witnessing is something profound and important we should pay attention to. We had a priest like that once who brought an energy to proceedings that made people sit up, but sadly he moved away. I should say that I’m not talking about gospel choir stuff, though I think that there is something to be said for exuberant celebration, what I am saying is we need priests with strong clear voices who make their devotion felt. A priest should be like a father to their community, and I don’t think that’s what’s going on at the moment.

    Having said that, the carol service we had last night was very good.

    • John Nolan says:

      Of course, it is easier in the older form of Mass to convey that something profound and important is happening, and it doesn’t depend on the personality of the priest. I associate exuberance with the baroque, which isn’t to everyone’s taste, and there is exuberance in the chant, for example the Alleluia (Pascha nostrum) for Easter Sunday. But exuberant histrionics on the part of the celebrant, epitomized by the modus celebrandi of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, is alien to the Roman Rite. I know that a lot of people lap it up, but I find it both embarrassing and repellent.

  25. claret says:

    There are obviously a multiple of reasons why Church attendance ( and adherence) is dropping so alarmingly.
    In no particular order. (my personal opinion of course.)
    It is, and was , inevitable. Society has changed in so many ways and Church attendance does not figure in people’s lives to the extent it did. Sunday sport seems to be a bigger thing than Church attendance. Indeed it is assumed that people are free to attend any event on a Sunday and that Church attendance is a sign of erratic behavior! Certainly in my case when I turn down multiple invitations on a Sunday because I express the intention to go to church I am looked upon as someone who is slightly odd! ( Conversely I find my oddness in this respect has a kind of appeal.)
    The child abuse scandals within the Church have gone very deep and done irreparable damage. A bit like the Spanish Inquisition, the adverse effects will never go away.
    The Church despite numerous expressions to the contrary shows a marked reluctance to effect real change. Women Priests are long overdue. A married clergy has already got so many holes in it that we may as well just ‘bring it on’ and stop all this playing about with a worn out principle.
    The Church needs to stop priding itself on not being a democracy and cease giving only ‘lip service’ to lay involvement/ leadership.
    When I look at the College of Cardinals and Bishops I really do ask what relevance has all this pomp and dressing up really got with people’s everyday lives.
    I turn now to the recent questionnaire that we have been invited to complete.
    Quentin was very discreet in his criticism but the whole questionnaire is a total nonsense.
    There is a well established ‘art’ to questionnaires and this one falls apart at every level. There is absolutely no way that any reasonable analysis could be deducted from it. Some questions had four questions in one! (With about one inch of space in which to answer them.) I gave up the battle about half way through.
    On the plus side the Churches have many wonderful people whose generosity, sense of mission and piety are an inspiration.

  26. ascylto says:

    Ionzone says: “…we need priests with strong clear voices who make their devotion felt. A priest should be like a father to their community…”

    In Manchester, Priests (celibate) were known for going among the slum poor people and rendering gifts (both physical and spiritual), even risking Cholera. However, we now live in a risk-averse society where the priest would probably not go among the impoverished and we have had fire or ambulance crew NOT going to help because the requisite training had not been given! I suspect (and it is pure speculation) that the rescue services did not go into the Glasgow pub because it was DANGEROUS. I’m sure we can all remember times when such dangers would not even be THOUGHT about, let alone acted upon.

    The Church of England, too, was famous at one time for its work amongst the impoverished of London.

    Alas, those times are long gone and we no longer have clergy who are ‘different’. The clergy are no longer associated with their parishioners. This is not always the clergy’s fault of course; the sometimes huge presbyteries were populated by priests of many ages and competencies, most priests had a clerical ‘helper’ but the priest now has not only multiple parishes but multiple calls on his services. The day of the priest being almost a member of the family has pretty much gone.

    Without such ‘leaders’ the people will just go their own way. And they are doing just that.

  27. Ignatius says:

    Well what a fuss!!!

    I must admit to not being able to worry much about church attendance, in many ways, if its performance we are after then I’m surprised so many carry on going and that there are any Catholics at all! Lets face it the acoustics are awful so you can’t hear anything and the priest is scowling, the hall is cold and no one speaks to you. Then there is all the mumbling and grumbling, kneeling, sitting and standing, not only that there is the out of tune organ and the high pitch singing .Come to think of it even the coffee is thin and there are insufficient biscuits in the church hall which in any case is nearly empty and only inhabited by the sort of desperate types who you wouldn’t sit next to at the cinema -even in the dark. Then don’t they all just moan about everything…you need a degree just to understand what they are banging on about, in fact anybody wold think you had stumbled into a kind of Latin based University challenge the way some folk go on….yet still we go…I wonder why?

  28. John Nolan says:

    Claret, quite honestly this questionnaire should not have been put on-line by the E&W bishops. Most of the questions can only be answered at deanery level. There are over a billion lay people in the Catholic Church, and in the unlikely event that everyone should send in his or her response, how many years would it take to collate all of them? It also gave the impression to the naïve that Church doctrine can be decided by referendum.

    I don’t get this thing about “women priests” being long overdue. Even protestant denominations with very different concepts of ordained ministry only started considering it forty years ago, and the Church has been going for two millennia. If she has “no authority whatsoever” to ordain women (as taught by the universal and ordinary Magisterium, and reiterated as recently as twenty years ago) then either live with it or choose another Christian denomination (which will not have a valid sacramental priesthood or bishops in apostolic succession). I don’t think anyone is deterred from converting because of the historical existence of the Spanish Inquisition, the popular view of which is still conditioned by protestant propaganda, which conveniently ignores the fact that the witch-hunts of the 17th century (look at Scotland in the hundred years after the Reformation as an example) were almost unknown in Spain, since the legally-trained officials of the Inquisition refused to be swayed by popular hysteria or give credence to village gossip.

    The last time I met my bishop he was wearing a dark suit. He does have something more distinctive for formal occasions, but people in “everyday” lives also dress up from time to time. I find your observations regarding clerical dress both puerile and tiresomely predictable.

    • When the question of ‘married priests’ was first raised I remember my mother saying “ We have enough trouble raising the money to support our parish priest without having to support a wife and three or four kids as well!

      • St.Joseph says:

        Horace Townsend.
        Your mother made a sensible point there.

        But nowadays we do have married priests many of course are perhaps self sufficient. . .
        Although I believe there is a young priest ex Anglican with a new baby last year. So a friend told me I seem to think it was the Westminster Diocese..
        However if a parish is lacking financially that would make to parishioners more active-plus a Legion of Mary to help the Spiritual welfare of a parish. Get everyone involved..

  29. Singalong says:

    One of my uncles was a pilot in the RAF whose plane was shot down early in WW2 while on a reconnaissance mission. Only one of the crew survived, injured, also a Catholic, and as soon as he managed to disentangle his parachute after landing in a field, he prayed. He wrote from his prisoner of war camp to my grandmother some months later when he was able, to tell her, saying, “It may relieve you to hear that at the time of his death your son`s soul was not forgotten by prayer, as, immediately on reaching the ground I knelt down and offerred up prayers for each of the other four members of our crew who were in the plane when it crashed.” We finally met him last year as a veteran at the Dedication of the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park.

    I think that fostering that spirit of prayer and the right priorities in life is one of the most important things we can do to keep us all faithful to Christ`s church, and to attract others to join. And I agree completely with St. Joseph, Dec. 7th, 10.53 pm, that it is of the utmost importance to promote a better understanding of the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and of the Holy Mass, reverently offerred in the old or the new rite. The most recent “convert” in our parish is a lady who was initially drawn to the hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the monstrance on the altar, which we have here twice a week.

  30. Ignatius says:

    Singalong:

    That is precisely it. I am always amazed at the enormous amount of words these kind of discussions throw up, most of them theorising about very very complex changes in culture. If there is an answer…or perhaps I should say if there is a valid question …Then the only answer that each of us can have is to pray and adopt the correct priorities in our lives and to be diligent in praying for others and in trying to draw in those for whom we sense a call-be they friends, neighbours whatever. I was just yesterday taking holy communion to a lady who, when I was about to go, took a deep breath then poured into a heartfelt thanks that she was able to receive communion at home as, without it, the week ‘didn’t seem to go so well’

    Personally I couldn’t care less about the statistics -as far as I’m concerned they are insignificant when compared with the enormous and mysterious joy of seeing one soul come alive to Christ.

    • Quentin says:

      True. Yet the statistics are people,too.

      • Ignatius says:

        Quentin, Yes they may be. I emphasise ‘may’ because it is impossible to glean much from them. I wonder if a decline in ritualised church’ going’ and church ‘doing’ matters that much.

      • Quentin says:

        It is always difficult to arrive at firm conclusions about human affairs. But the appearance of strong trends (for example the drop in the Catholic marriage rate) helps us to ask the right questions. It is well established that we are more inclined to be convinced by an actual, proximate, incident than by the statistics, however good. But this is simply an example of how emotion so easily trumps reasoning.

  31. Iona says:

    John Nolan said (of the questionnaire): It also gave the impression to the naïve that Church doctrine can be decided by referendum.
    Not so much the naive as those who get their information from the secular press rather than looking at the questionnaire for themselves. Indeed, one factor which may be contributing to the exodus from the Catholic Church in the UK is the negative way that Church is almost routinely presented by the secular media. Someone did a count of Channel 4 references to paedophilia, and came to the following conclusion:

    the BBC devotes almost half of its coverage of sexual abuse to the Catholic Church, yet Catholic clergy make up just 0.1% of cases! (Cases of paedophiles, that is).

    (The complete article is called “Scapegoating Catholicism” and can be found here
    http://clearvisioncatholics.blogspot.co.uk/2013_05_01_archive.html
    but you will have to scroll down through three other blogs before you get to it.

  32. tyke says:

    I remember having a discussion some time ago when the point was made that the decline in mass attendance and baptisms was already evident before Vatican II.It’s a shame your statistics begin after 1965 so we can’t confirm that.

    It seems that the decline of participation in the Catholic Church is mirrored by a lack of participation in other main-stream churches and in non-religious movements (charities, political movements, unions…) which raises the question whether our society has moved from a community-centred mindset to an individual-centred one.

    • John Nolan says:

      Tyke, the statistics published in graph form by Dr Shaw begin long before 1965 (in some cases they go back to the 19th century) and show no signs of decline in the 1950s, quite the opposite in fact. One reason for publishing them was to refute the sort of statement like the one you say came up in a discussion.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Tyke.
      I think the attendance as far as I noticed has declined since Vatican 2.
      My own experience living in London in the 50’s there were 3 or more Mass’s on a Sunday and High Mass at 12 noon sung ,all in Latin. in most churches.
      The Missions were packed to the brim. That wasn’t an obligation .
      I would go along also a lot of a teenagers who I did not know- and then on to a Mecca Dance Hall or Jazz Club or Ice skating, every night-then up up in the morning for work £3 a week, and then a Saturday job in a butchers shop for £i.50 and a piece of Beef for mothers Sunday dinner ,travelling to Islington ,then to the 6d hop at the Tottenham Royal Mecca Sunday evening..
      Also always involved in the Church social activities,and dances to raise money for the Church
      This carried on when I married and moved to the West Country, except the social activities. More involved in Church activities.then. Built a Presbytery, paid off the debt so then the Church was Consecrated, New Hall built new heating etc etc.
      It has got to be the modern thinking and improper instruction of Vat 2 . Although not the priest where I worshipped-until 1982 when a Shepherd arrived and scattered the sheep!!
      All because of Vat 2.

      Just my experience and a lot more parishioners..

      • tyke says:

        St. Joseph

        How do you explain the fact that the Church of England has seen a more rapid decline? Vatican II didn’t apply there. And what about the decline in non-religious movements?

        If you look at the full statistics on the LMS site it appears that the decline starts just slightly before Vatican II ca 1959, 1960. It does accelerate afterwards which probably has something to do with the council. And the early start might just be a blip. My point is that the figures are not clear cut and open to some interpretation.

        Most of my fellow parishioners would travel quite a distance to avoid a mass in Latin. I suppose that it all depends in which area we’re talking about.

        But I agree with you that one of the problems is the “improper instruction of Vat 2(*)”. Last year we had a number of parish discussions and study sessions on the documents. I was amazed by how little people really knew what was written. It’s so easy to stay focussed on the inessentials.

        (*) Vat 2 sounds like it could be George Osborne’s latest money raising scheme

      • St.Joseph says:

        Tyke.
        As I said in my post the misinterpretation of Vatican.
        The liberals were around just ready to do just that.
        Our divine Lord warned us that whenever wheat is sown (by this this, the Word of God) the enemy will sow cockle with it,to confuse the ordinary faithful who are trying to atune their mind to the Church.
        If the devil can misquote Scripture for his purpose, he can misquote the Vatican Council and any other documents that are destined to proclaim the message of Christ to the modern world,and to save souls.
        Pope John XX111 in his inaugural address to the Council fathers explained quite clearly that the purpose of the Vatican Council was certainly not to change doctrine,which,as he emphasized ,is unchangeable,but rather to enunciate the eternal truth of the Faith to the modern world. This is quite clearly brought out by his address “This certain and unchangeable doctrine to which faithful obedience is due, has to be explored and presented in a way that is demanded by our times.
        The deposit of faith, which consists of the truths contained in sacred doctrine, is one thing ,the manner of presentation, always however with the same meaning and signification, is something else”. The faithful are called to be vigilant, lest they be confused by ‘experts’

        The late Cardinal Hume of Westminster announced to his people and priests in 1999 that he had only a short time to live and felt impelled to emphasise certain points of faith. .This is what he wrote in his last pastoral letter to his priests which was published posthumously ‘Communion in the hand, moving the Blessed Sacrament from the High Altar,failure to genuflect, have in my experience weakened respect and devotion due to such a great Sacrament”
        He went on to say the Mass should be celebrated with prayerfulness and dignity

        When we look back and see what has happened in the past with Holy Mass, I am not surprised that people have lapsed.
        .

  33. John Nolan says:

    Mike, it used to be said that Anglicans went to church because it was the “done thing”, Nonconformists because they wanted to feel part of a worshipping community, and Catholics because they were obliged to. My parents’ generation was the last that put obligation above choice; my father (1920-1998) dutifully attended Mass at his local parish church, despite the liturgical abuses and ghastly music, which for him was a trial. “It’s an obligation”, he would say.

    I don’t like missing Mass on Sundays, but if my only option was to sit grinding my teeth while a priest played ducks and drakes with the liturgy to the accompaniment of Marty Haugen or Dan Schutte, I would be at home with my Liber Usualis. The Immaculate Conception is not a Holy Day of Obligation in this country, but last night I drove the 35 miles to Oxford to attend the Solemn Mass at the Oratory. The deciding factor was probably the Mass setting by Michael Haydn with organ and string orchestra, plus motets by the rather neglected German composer Carl Reinecke (1824-1910) and the virtually unknown Franz Regnart (d.1590). Is it worse to attend Mass because one is attracted to the liturgy, rather than attend out of obligation? By the way the sermon (by a visiting priest who teaches at Oscott) was very good, too.

    • St.Joseph says:

      John Nolan.
      Am I correct in saying that after Vatican Council. liturgical changes were introduced with the intent of helping the faithful take a more active participation in the Mass.This was published in the1969 Missale Romanum. And from this came the changes such as the introduction of the vernacular, the Novus Ordo and the priest offering Holy Mass facing the people. This does not appear to be mandatory, and experience has shown that this has become a distraction both to the people and the priest, The personality of the priest should not obscure that he is acting in the person of Christ. Persona Christi.. He should be hidden in Christ.
      It was said by a’ priest’ who changed everything around without consulting anyone that he should not say Mass with His back to the Blessed Sacrament.

      If he was saying Mass in Persona Christi how could Our Lord have his back to himself? Also said that the Blessed Sacrament should not take over the Church when one walks in, it has to be the priests chair and where the Gospels is read.
      The Tabernacle was a distraction in other words.
      How peculiar is that?

      • John Nolan says:

        St Joseph

        The 20th century Liturgical Movement identified the Low Mass as the main obstacle to “participatio actuosa”; Sung Mass was not really a problem, since the people participated in the sung responses and joined in the Ordinary chants. Placing the tabernacle on the high altar is a fairly recent phenomenon, dating from the Counter-Reformation. It was never the practice in cathedrals, and when a bishop celebrates Mass in a church where the tabernacle is on the altar, the Blessed Sacrament is always removed. The priest should offer Mass facing in the same direction as the people and with the image of Christ crucified before him.

        The reason why celebration “versus populum” became almost universal from 1964 onwards is that the Consilium which implemented the liturgical changes wanted the priest to “preside over” the assembly. At the time it was sold as a return to an earlier liturgical practice, but modern scholarship disputes this.

      • St.Joseph says:

        John Nolan
        Thank you..
        I can understand why the Tabernacle in placed on the side Altar in a Cathedral, as people are looking around and discussing the beauty of the architecture ..
        But when we go into a Church we go there to worship God and to pray.to Jesus in His Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.
        The objection that the priest should not say Mass with his back to the Tabernacle could easily be solved if a priest insists on praying the words of the Eucharist facing the people
        the tabernacle could be placed on a higher level with three steps going up to it.
        I thought also that a crucifix was supposed to be on the Altar but have noticed it isn’t.
        Maybe that has changed too!
        There is a local parish where the young priest has removed the ‘table altar’ and now says Mass with his back to the people.
        He has had a lot of objections. My daughter doesn’t mind., it is not a problem to her..
        However the Church is packed! One can hardly get a seat ! I don’t worship there..

        I have just been watching on TV ‘Pilgrimage’ with Simon Reeve and am amazed at the thousands of people in Rome and St Padre Pio’s pilgrimages etc and so many millions of Christians around the world , so things can not be that bad. when we see so many in those holy places.Maybe they are not going to Mass on Sundays but still believe !Maybe they just don’t see Mass as important And a different way of worshipping God.
        We have to have Hope.

      • tyke says:

        John Nolan

        “The reason why celebration “versus populum” became almost universal from 1964 onwards is that the Consilium which implemented the liturgical changes wanted the priest to “preside over” the assembly. At the time it was sold as a return to an earlier liturgical practice, but modern scholarship disputes this.”

        Before Vatican II the priest ‘celebrated’ the mass and the laity was present at the ‘priest’s’ mass. Vatican II put the accent on the whole Christian community celebrating mass together as the body of Christ. The role of the priest was indeed to preside (in the sense of ‘lead’) ‘in persona Christi’ over this communal celebration.As I understand it, this is indeed a return to earlier liturgical practice. I’d be interested in getting the references to the modern scholarship that disputes this.

    • Singalong says:

      John, your remarks about music at Mass have struck a chord with me, if you will forgive the pun.

      I sang classical Masses with the University choir for a year at St. Etheldreda`s when it was the Chaplaincy church, which was a wonderful aesthetic and social experience, but I am not sure how spiritual for me at any rate. Since then I have sung this music with other choirs in C of E churches, often pre Reformation, in concerts, and still have mixed feelings about it. It is musical and reverent, and often prayerful, but performed as a concert of course it is not worship. Occasionally, we have a small singing group of highly talented singers for a classical sung Mass at our own church, on a weekday evening, but it is not very popular, and is not well attended.

      My preference, and what I think is most suitable, is for simple chants led by the priest and a good cantor which most of the congregation can sing.

      Perhaps all this relates to what people mean who say that they are “spiritual but not religious” and may bring us back to the subject of this week`s Post.

  34. Singalong says:

    Our diocese, A and B, produced its own version of the questionnaire which my husband and I were quite happy to answer, especially about better and more widely available sound marriage preparation, and explaining fully the reasons for the Church`s teaching about this life choice, or as we used to call it, state of life, and other matters also.

  35. Ignatius says:

    John,

    There are some pretty good people at Oscott. I will only believe I have been ordained when the service of ordination in 2015 is complete. That is because I take the formation process seriously and recognise that, right up to the last day either party could turn round and say to the other
    ‘well actually no thanks’
    However it goes I will be always grateful for the opportunity to rub shoulders with the priests there. Over a 4 year period you do get to know people, catch glimpses of the men behind the office and gain a sense of the spiritual life. Also some of them are just straightforwardly good blokes with sharp minds and a good sense of the absurdities of religious life.

    • John Nolan says:

      Mike, the preacher was Fr John Flynn. I hope your diaconal formation includes instruction on how to sing the Gospel. And the highlight of your year is the singing of the Exsultet at the Easter Vigil. A couple of weeks ago I was at a chant weekend with the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge and despite creaky knees I was co-opted to MC for the three sung Masses, one EF and two OF. As a rule I would rather sing than serve, but having ascertained that Father was going to sing the Gospel at the two OF masses I volunteered to sing the other lessons – something I had never done before but which isn’t difficult. The ICEL website gives full instructions on how to point the text for all three readings.

      • St.Joseph says:

        John Nolan.
        You say that ‘placing the Tabernacle on the High Altar was a fairly recent phenomenon dating from the Counter Reformation’

        I always thought ,so looked it up this morning in a article written by a friend (Father Edwin Gordon-Diminishing of devotion to the Holy Eucharist Homiletic & Pastoral Review June 2005) and he writes .
        ‘Eventually the hanging pyx gave way to the fixed tabernacle which was beautifully decorated and placed over the High Altar.This practice which existed for many centuries was made mandatory by Cardinal Pole in all of Grt Britain in 1555 when he said that the tabernacle”. be raised and fixed in the middle of the High Altar with rare exceptions Pope Paul Paul 1V made this obligatory in all of Rome and recommended for all other dioceses in the world. The practice of placing the tabernacle on the High Altar became universal with the exception of cathedrals and large churches where it was customary to have a special chapel for adoration to avoid distraction.

        The question that I ask is why is the Real Presence of Jesus placed into a corner in a church so as not to take away the importance of the chair where the priest presides or where the book stands.’

  36. John Nolan says:

    St Joseph,

    It was not (and still is not) uncommon in Germany to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in an ornate shrine or “Sacrament House” in the sanctuary but not on the altar. One problem with placement on the altar is that some people have the erroneous idea that the priest is offering Mass to Our Lord present in the tabernacle.

    Tyke

    A good example of modern scholarship on the subject of orientation is Uwe Michael Lang “Turning Towards the Lord” (Ignatius Press, 2004, with a foreword by Cardinal Ratzinger). The Council of Trent wanted the people to be more involved with the celebration of Mass, so churches were built without rood screens so that everyone had an unimpeded view of the sacred drama. The early 20th century liturgical movement encouraged people to “pray the Mass” using bi-lingual hand missals. So to maintain that the Mass pre-Vatican II was a “priest’s Mass” is a hostile caricature.

    Since the 1960s the emphasis on the “community” or horizontal aspect of the Mass has arguably been taken to extremes. The priest’s role is distinct from that of the people, so the rubrics for the Novus Ordo refer to him as the celebrant. Of course we all celebrate in a wider sense, but to say we all celebrate while the priest merely “presides” , as they do in progressive liturgical circles, is deliberately misleading, as it underplays the priest-celebrant’s unique role.

    • St.Joseph says:

      John Nolan
      I do understand what you are saying.
      If what you say is right-then surely a proper education of the Eucharist to the ignorant is necessary
      To quote Fr Gordon’s words
      ‘Moreover the presence of Our Lord in the tabernacle,far from being a distraction,is helping the priest and the people to realize that the sacrifice which is made present on the altar leads to the victory of our risen Saviour present in the tabernacle.

      I owe all my thanks to Fr Gordon who in his time for 20 years as our spiritual advisor gave instruction to my children and my grandchildren who have an understanding of their faith and to my late husband who being a hard ‘nut to crack ‘and eventually converted. I also can add to many young ordained priests who now celebrate the Latin Mass who he instructed in his summer schools. in Nympsfield and Oxford. Also my husband and I accompanying him to Littlemore in Oxford where he used to celebrate Holy Mass in the late Blessed John Henry Newman’s private Chapel with the young seminaries.
      He gave weekly instructions on the CCC when it came out and when it as not too popular with many.
      A wonderful holy priest.
      He is now retired living in Fatima and always keeps in touch and it is always a joy and a blessing when he is over here and visits me… ..

      .

      • Singalong says:

        St. Joseph, our daughter atttended a week`s course, in the early 1990`s, for Catholic children of secondary age, organised annually in the summer holidays at different centres by David Foster. That year it was held at a large house in or near Nympsfield, with an amazing even larger historic house, rather derelict, and hidden in an overgrown valley below. She was very privileged that Fr. Gordon was involved in the teaching, as well as Joanna Bogle, and other well known speakers. I wonder if you were living in the area then? As far as I remember, the parish priest at Nympsfield was blind.

        We wanted her to go, as we considered the religious education at her Catholic school to be very deficient, and her brother had been several times previously because he was at a non Catholic grammar school.

  37. St.Joseph says:

    Singalong.
    Yes that was where we worshipped since 1982,St Joseph”s after having to leave another St. Joseph’s where the whole family worshipped since 1966 when the church was built, But that’s another story
    Fr Gordon is a wonderful priest I missed his 50 anniversary last year in Fatima because of a broken back.My 10 yr old grandson goes to St Joseph’s school at Nympsfield. as did the older ones. I pick him up often. He baptised them all.. .
    I used to read for him on a Saturday and take him to visit the sick with Holy Communion. also take him shopping. My late husband used to do a lot of things on the computer for him for his articles and his books, which he always gave a copy to us.We had some wonderful Corpus Christi Processions I met a lot of the children who went to the Summer School as I used to attend the Mass he celebrated for the boys and girls. I have some photos my husband took of a them all in Fr Gordon’s garden.
    I knew Mr & Mrs Foster very well. and all those connected to it..

    .

    • Singalong says:

      Thank you, St. Joseph, no wonder you have so many thoughts and ideas about our faith, and isn`t it a small world sometimes! Maybe our daughter is on one of your photos.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Singalong.
        I have been fortunate sine I was 16 for having some good sermons, I remember only going to the Miraculous Medal Novena in St Joseph’s Highgate London (It always seemed to be a St
        t Joseph’s) to listen to the priests sermon. it was always food for thought for me, when we say we
        will eat words-that is just what I did. He was a Passionate from the Church a Fr Jeremiah, and when I moved to where I live when I got married, it was about 30 years later on Sunday at Nympsfield- lo and behold it was he who was saying the Mass-a friend of Fr Gordon’s, he did not look any older.He then used to come down a lot, I think he was at the Summer School a few times. RIP.
        I am not saying I always get it right, even on the blog,however we have to try, as this is going to more people than we actually reply too. even if it means we have to repeat things to make it clearer to those who may not understand..It is not always a case of being adament as people will soon tell me if I am wrong and it is appreciated.if they do.
        I will sort the photos out and see if there is a date on them.

  38. claret says:

    It is perhaps a testament to this blog that one has to read personal offensive statements by John Nolan in response to generalized comments that are the subject of this particular debate.
    It goes some way to explaining why I despair of it.
    The cut and thrust of discussion on here are is all about differing opinions, which will always be the case.They should not be about hurling insults at one another.
    Quentin’s pleas for tolerance and respect seem to fall on some deaf ears.

    • John Nolan says:

      Claret, to refer to certain comments as puerile does not necessarily imply that the person making them is so; although I would recommend to anyone who taps a keyboard to consider what he is actually saying before hitting the ‘submit’ button. Indeed, I have been guilty of this and accepted correction in good part. The puerility I identified was not on the subject of priestesses (which is out of court anyway) but about your comments on ecclesiastical dress. When I was an army officer I wore ceremonial dress (even for dinner) which in its blue, scarlet and gold lace was far more ostentatious than anything worn by a bishop.

      If you disagree with my comments, feel free to do so; but don’t get huffy if your liberal nostrums are challenged, which, Deo gratias, they are increasingly.

  39. Ignatius says:

    ” It is perhaps a testament to this blog that one has to read personal offensive statements by John Nolan in response to generalized comments that are the subject of this particular debate.It goes some way to explaining why I despair of it….”

    I don’t despair of the blog at all. In fact quite the reverse, I think its getting much better! Generalised comments on this blog are all very fine, but to those on the receiving end those comments have become ‘particular’ and as such invite a particular response. If everyone has to remain distantly polite and essentially disinterested then the blog gets lost in a fog of tedium and anyone is free to write whatever they want without engaging the brain cells (or their heart come to that)

    It’s not great to be pulled up short about something and it’s not strongly edifying to watch some of the spats we get into from time to time. On the other hand ‘iron sharpens iron’ as they say and it is good to have a blog where, hopefully with a measure of decency, we can expect to be held to account for what we say. After all, we are speaking to one another and not just preaching at our computers.

    • Quentin says:

      Thank you for your comments here, Ignatius. Provided we keep to the principle that we should use the same courtesy to each other that we would use if we were face to face, we should not go far wrong. Two things are worth remembering, The fact that we cannot use facial expression and gesture to convey the tone of our contributions means that we should err on the ‘courteous words’ side. Second, if we allow ourselves to attack a contributor personally, rather than the idea expressed, we are less likely to get our rebuttal across. I should be very sorry if anyone felt reluctant to express a view for fear of being attacked. That would shame the blog.

      Our strength is dependent on our willingness to listen to a wide range of opinions. We learn less from those who agree with us than we do from those who disagree.

  40. Iona says:

    I’m another one who thinks the blog is getting better.
    And to go back to the original subject of this particular series of posts, a friend of mine told me something today which I thought provided an additional and intriguing light on the numbers of people staying away from the Church: one of her grandchildren (lapsed), who had opted to marry in a C of E church rather than a RC one, had said to her that he didn’t feel he could live up to the high ideals of the Church.

  41. Ignatius says:

    ST Joseph,
    They are all in the CCC!
    A wise old Dominican was talking about this the other week at Oscott. He says they set the bar very high when they wrote it!

    • St.Joseph says:

      Ignatius.
      Jesus said we would never be tempted beyond our means. I don’t know where He said that but I always remember He said it.
      .The gate might be narrow but not too narrow for us to pass through with Grace.
      It makes God sound ‘not’ like the Fathers image we ought to believe.

      Yes we have ‘ideals’ but never ‘too ‘high’!
      Is there something you find too high!!
      Despair is opposite to presumption.!

  42. Ignatius says:

    St Joseph
    Despair is opposite to presumption.!

    Sorry, not with you. Read a few saints and you will see that they ‘despaired’ of their inability to produce holiness in themselves-and their despair is real. Set that against the inexpressible joy of knowing ourselves to belong to Christ and you have the fullness of Christian experience, with each individual case moving somewhere along that spectrum at any time and their true place known only to God. If this were not so why is Mass attendance emphasised to be an antidote for venial sin? It is really important for a parish to understand themselves as a collection of sinners under grace -otherwise we cannot be happy, cannot delight in our ‘weakness’ and offer it gratefully to God. To go back to the topic it is my view that catholic Christians do not always seem to well understand the miracle afoot in their lives but are consumed a cold kind of lawgiving which brings failure as its consort. Failure to ‘live up’ to God is what marks Christian life….who will set me free from this body of death?….thanks be to God in Jesus Christ… (paraphrasing St Paul here)

    • St.Joseph says:

      Ignatius.
      Leaving the Catholic Church as that young man did and married in the C of E is to me a mark of despair of the RC Church and gives the wrong impression to those outside it. It does not show a very good impression of the teaching of the Catholic Church- either it is a failure to understand our faith.
      God is not the big bad wolf sitting on a cloud in the sky ready to bite our heads off if we do not live up to what Holy Mother Church teaches.Nothing is impossible with God,
      ‘If we had enough faith we could move mountains.
      Proper education in the CCC in our schools and every parent ought to have one in the home, if not how do we learn to understand and if we don’t understand how will we love the Church.
      The Anglican Church will have mostly the same sins as other Christian Churches..
      Unless the young man was Gay, however he was marrying so presumedly .not.
      Contraception is not a problem as the RC has NFP.
      Venial sins are not hell bound.!! We do have confession.
      What else do you think are high ideals to difficult live up to?

      If it is aduletry, he ought not be getting married in the first place!.

  43. Iona says:

    His bride wasn’t a Catholic, which may have had something to do with it. I don’t think she was strong C of E either, but wanted “a wedding in a pretty church” according to my friend. I’ve no idea what he had in mind when he said he couldn’t live up to the RC Church’s high ideals. Maybe the couple was indeed planning to use artificial contraception; maybe they didn’t know about NFP, lots of people don’t, or think it’s unreliable.

    Going back to despair and presumption, – somebody (Thomas Merton?) suggested that despair is an extreme form of presumption, being a refusal to believe that one can be helped.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Iona
      That is a good thought.! Despair is not trusting in God ,and presuming His death on the Cross was not enough for our sins.. We say in the Divine Mercy Chaplet-‘Jesus I Trust in You’ ‘Jesus I Trust in You’- ‘Jesus I Trust in You’.

  44. Ignatius says:

    Yes,
    I think ‘despair’ is often linked to pride.

  45. St.Joseph says:

    Peter Wlison.
    To love the Lord our God with our whole heart our whole soul our whole strength,and our neighbour as our self. You will find that is most religions not just the RC.
    In other words. Do unto others as you would have done to you
    Would we not all want to know God and if we didn;t would we not want to be told about Him. and to know right from wrong,also to be told the TRUTH.. Even if it hurts !
    Would one leave the Catholic Church because of that commandment.
    That also goes along with the 1st Commandment ;I AM the Lord thy God, thou shall not have strange Gods before me! Jesus said He would not change one dot of the Law.! .

    • Ann says:

      St Joseph,
      Could you explain alittle on what the Truth is?
      Thanks.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Ann.
        TRUTH is what we believe to be the Word of God spoken through Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium . The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. and what we call the Four Marks of the Church Also what we profess in the Creed,.
        That is the most simplest way I can describe it Ann, perhaps someone will give a better definition than that.

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