Unmoored Morals

The German and Swiss bishops have produced reports on the Vatican questionnaire published in preparation for October’s extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family. It will be interesting for us to discuss the findings. I put them in note form below. A further study has been produced more recently; it basically confirms the German and Swiss views.

The Synod looks likely, under the influence of Pope Francis, to be rather different from its earlier occasions – which have been held under tight Curial control. It is likely to test to what extent the beliefs of the laity will be allowed to influence the Magisterium.

1     Most of the baptized have an image of the Church that, on the one hand, is family friendly in its attitude, whilst on the other considering her sexual morality to be unrealistic.

2     Catholics value the vision of marriage as a lifelong union open to having children.

3     Pre-marital unions are almost universal. Many claim it to be irresponsible to marry without living with each other first.

4     The issue of divorced Catholics remarrying outside the Church is a live one. An archdiocesan initiative allowing the matter to be resolved through conscience, after discussion with a priest, is generally approved.

5     Formal nullity is not a solution because many do not see their first marriages as null; they see them as failed.

6     The vast majority reject or ignore the outright prohibition of artificial contraception.

7     Attitudes towards the acceptance and blessing of homosexual couples are polarised, but 60 per cent accept this.

8     They largely regard “the legal recognition of same-sex civil partnerships and their equal treatment vis-a-vis marriage as a commandment of justice.”

So what do you make of all that? And do you think that these views are generally shared in this and other countries?

You may read a brief, but fuller, account on http://ncronline.org/news/global/surveys-german-swiss-catholics-reject-many-church-teachings-family.

A second poll covering Catholics in 12 countries is now reported in several newspapers. While the views expressed are of the same order, it is reported that 65% said that abortion should be allowed – 8% said for all cases; 57% said for special cases, e.g. mother’s life at risk. See, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/vaticancityandholysee/10627312/Catholics-divided-on-issues-such-as-divorce-and-birth-control.html

However a recent, scientifically produced, survey showed that in this country 23% of Catholics believed that all abortions should be banned; this percentage rose to 42% of weekly-attending Catholics. It would seem that over half of active Catholics accept that abortion should be allowed under certain circumstances.

It appears that there is a substantial rejection of the Church’s moral authority in such matters. How did this come about? Will this rift continue and perhaps widen? Will this spread to matters of faith as well as morals? Has the Catholic Church joined the Reformation Churches in accepting that response to teaching authority is <em>de facto</em>voluntary?

About Quentin

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95 Responses to Unmoored Morals

  1. Iona says:

    “All the baptised…” Well yes, but among “the baptised” must be many who wouldn’t even identify themselves as Catholic, if asked. And one of the reasons they wouldn’t is that they go along with the abortion-permissible, gay-marriage-permissible set of viewpoints, and consequently feel themselves out of step with the Catholic Church into which they were baptised.

  2. Claret says:

    If the German and Swiss questionnaire in any way mirrored the UK one then I am surprised that that they were able to come up with any kind of rational consensus.
    I have not got the UK one in front of me but , from my memory of it, I cannot recall a question about abortion.
    Questionnaires have to have a tried and tested formula for disseminating the information , the one I received failed in every respect.

  3. Nektarios says:

    Isn’t sad that the self-proclaimed authority of the RCC has seemingly crumpled under the weight of public opinion?
    Looking through the questions answered by the bishops, it seems they are trying to get to grips with something, clearly too big, too complicated and the starting point is to collate statistical data on the present trends. I understand this approach. However it does nothing to answer any of the issues.
    To pontificate on such matters is equally meaningless as many people would see it, however wise
    to be irrelevant to their life and practice and worse a gross interference.
    Pastorally we know some may approach the Church for some guidance when relationships get into difficulties, but as many people related, saw it, especially in divorced cases, as merciless.
    The problem is not their problem but how the Church can maintain its power and self-proclaimed
    authority on such matters. There has been a massive loss of trust towards those in authority in the Church.

    So far, I did not read, even among experts, any solutions. They had plenty of ideas, but no solutions. The reason for this, to me are self evident. But in looking mainly at the peripherals, the outward aspects of these marriage, family, divorce, different sexual orientations problems as they call it, the bishops miss several source issues in all these matters.
    For example, a relationship does not come first and foremost out of lust and desire, but out of longing. And the longing to belong.
    How confusing it must be for youngsters growing up with no moral compass. Where parents inculcate into them their own version of morality. When, like so many marriages breaking down,
    and those who adopted co-habiting breaking down in even greater numbers, with all the sorrows and worries and concerns and difficulties attached to that – is it any wonder youngsters invent their own morality.
    Sadly it is a morality built on the changing sands of their limited experience and can only lead to sorrows and dependencies of one type or another. Vulnerable, they are making their journey in life, full of dangers and pitfalls.
    The longing to belong if not found within themselves, place or roots, for many, such healthy, normal relationships will become exceedingly difficult, nigh impossible and difficult to see where they fit in to society.

  4. Advocatus Diaboli says:

    So now we have it. Over the centuries the Catholic church has lorded it over their peasant congregations. They have ruled their personal and public lives with dictats which would make any dictator proud.
    But at last we have the ‘peasant revolt’. No longer can they sit, wagging their fingers from the end of the bed. Do this, don’t do that. Obey my command or merit eternal torture.
    But of course your church was right. They knew that once their people lost their fear it would only be a matter of time before they lost their authority. The end of the Catholic church is nigh. It may hang on for a few decades, but really it’s all over. Get used to it. .

    • Nektarios says:

      Careful, you don’t through the baby out with the bathwater!
      It is interesting where that phrase originates. It comes from the days
      when coal miners came home to a hot tin bath. After he had a bath, mother,
      older children, then last but not least, baby.
      By this time the water was black and the danger was one would not see the precious little one and throw the baby out with the bathwater.
      However, there are similarities that can be drawn… so an element of caution is necessary.

    • RAHNER says:

      I doubt if even these comments will penetrate the smug ignorance of many Catholics…..

    • Vincent says:

      Perhaps, AD, you should recall Macaulay’s words on the resilience of the Catholic Church: “She may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul’s.” (Ranke’s History of the Popes.)

    • johnbunting says:

      After the ‘Thousand-year Reich’ that lasted about fifteen years, and Soviet communism, which did a bit better at seventy-odd years, I’d be a bit careful on predicting the imminent demise of something that has chalked up two thousand. It must have something going for it, or it would have collapsed centuries ago.

  5. Brendan says:

    I have just finished reading ” The Future of Catholicism ” by Michael Coren. For me it is a seminal work of its kind and a wake -up call for all who cherish the Catholic Faith that comes down to us from our Creator via the Apostles. The ” decline ” of adherence to Church Teaching in ” first world culture ” is in startling contrast to the extraordinary flowering of Catholicism in ” third world culture “. For example , when I see the devotion and childlike trust these ” third world ” immigrants display in our parish and their obvious loyalty to their Faith , it is that which makes me ” alive ” in my own faith and take it into the world, and not the soundbites of a confused media who haven’t the first idea of — what it means to be a follower of Christ embodied in the teaching of His Holy Catholic Church. I then, like Mike Coren know where I stand.
    I did not move to a new parish recently from one where I was being served up a diet of children’s milk to where I am know being fed solid food , on a whim i.e. the full diet of the Catholic Faith that I remembered in my youth. Yes, I am aware that I may be portraying two distinct ideas of ” The Church ” we all love – it is becoming something of the ‘ elephant in the room ‘ – so I can only humbly suggest that we Catholics examine our conscience regularly and pray like we have never prayed before for a deepening of faith in ourselves and others !
    My great joy is my finding that there is no difference in my beliefs then as to now. The only difference is that my parish from our pastor down is being nourished and fed by it !

    • milliganp says:

      And in many of these cultures where the faith is blooming they murder men for being gay, practice female genital mutilation and are happy to torch the houses of their Muslim neighbours. It is not anywhere near as clear cut as you see it.

      • RAHNER says:

        I agree. And the idea that the future of the Church lies in an intellectually bankrupt, fundamentalist Catholicism is really quite absurd.

      • Brendan says:

        That’s culture not ‘ faith ‘. – As Father Lucie-Smith points out in this weeks Catholic Herald. Subjective faith is stronger than any Culture and transcends it.

    • milliganp says:

      It has been my experience that the children of these first wave Catholics who are very devout rapidly absorb the morals of our culture – to the dismay of their parents. In Africa everybody believes in God, so Christianity only has to convince them that Christ is the Son of God, in the West few care if God exists and few who profess belief feel that God is immanent in their lives.
      Churches that hold true to a more traditional line on the faith tend to end up with a self selecting congregation; sadly many of these self selecting Catholics merely display a different set of flaws – often smug self- certainty allied to judgemental ism and a lack of charity.

      • Brendan says:

        That’s my experience too. But do we have to be so jaundiced ! I love the story of Saint Paul’s conversion because it seems to me to demonstrate the ends of Natural Law in that Saint Pauls’ complete ‘ metanoia ‘ signifies what we can all be capable of with ‘ faith ‘. – to turn the existing order Milligamp, – upside down !

    • St.Joseph says:

      Michael Coren gave a wonderful series on EWTN lately ‘Why Catholics Are Right’
      He does not hide the Truth!

      • Brendan says:

        Exactly, St.joseph ! That’s the ” raison d’etre ” – we are set free before the outrages of global politics. We need home grown good example in our domestic situations.

  6. Quentin says:

    I need some help. I am planning to write a piece for the CH – not on the rights and wrongs of HV etc, but on the odd state of a Church where a large number of its ‘paid up’ members dissent from serious moral teachings. (In this regard I find Brendan’s contribution,14 Feb, 11:27pm, helpful.) I bear in mind that this rift now extends to issues like the status of marriage, cohabitation and abortion.

    How did this situation come about? What does it do to an organisation to have this, often unspoken, rift within it? Will the rift spread so as to include a laxity in doctrines of faith? What, if any, are the solutions? How will Catholics look back on this in 100 years?

    I think that I need to have the wisdom which so often appears on this Blog, as a background to my plans.

    • milliganp says:

      In missionary lands it was customary, before preaching the Gospel, to get to understand the local culture and to identify how to preach the Gospel to the particular culture.
      In “re-evangelizing” the west we have merely chosen, like the Englishman abroad, to speak slower and louder. Our young people grow up in a materialist, consumerist, throw away culture. Is it any surprise we can throw away an unwanted baby, end a relationship when it no longer satisfies our need and not see permanence, in marriage, faith, work or society as something to be valued.

    • RAHNER says:

      The situation has come about because of many social changes and the fact that many Catholics simply do not judge that a compelling case has been made for the moral judgements proposed by the Church. It really is that simple.

      • St.Joseph says:

        My grandmother and mother many years ago when they used to say to me this very same thing as below.When we took our pennies to school for the black babies. They will bring missioneries back to us

      • milliganp says:

        I work at our Archdiocesan centre for adult formation. We’ve recently had some staff changes and are moving to a more rigorous style of formation. We had a lunchtime discussion on Baptism as ‘Divine filiation’ at a level of rigour above that received during my own formation as a Deacon. In the ‘old church’ where people accepted what they were told, it would have been adequate if 1% of Catholics understood this, the remaining 99% accepted the teaching of the church. Today no assertion is allowed to pass without proof, mere authority is insufficient. We need Catholicism for grown ups but we also need grown ups who want to understand their faith.

    • Nektarios says:

      One could write a book almost to answer these questions you pose, hover in the interest
      of brevity: There never was a `golden age’ of agreement or conformity to the `serious moral teachings of the RCC.
      There was always departure from the `serious moral teachings’ of the RCC from the top to the bottom with the Church.
      The approach were dire threats to a then largely superstitious people; coercion, social, monetary and legal penalties to conform the moral teachings of the RCC.
      Of course everyone knew the rules were being broken.
      Setting down rules and regulation of modes of conduct is all very well, but there is no way
      of bringing about a conformity in morals involuntarily. Even sentencing people to death, imprisonment, banishment could bring it about.
      Fear reigned, and the RCC seemed to make some headway, but then it was rotten from
      within, from Popes, Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests and Laity – such failures of serious moral teachings are still evident today as it has been down through the centuries.
      Hence I say there never was a `Golden Age’. So to answer the first question, `How did this come about?’ The answer is never just came about, it has always been here with us, sometimes it would appear in a better state, at other times worse.
      Will stop here for now.

    • Brendan says:

      The questions you pose, for me is at the heart of what the last three Pontificates, moved by the Holy Spirit , are all about. It’s not so much a ‘rowing back ‘ to previous positions as Rahner seems to believe as a metamorphosis from one stage to another arising out of ‘ growing pains ‘ post Vatican 2. There’s no mileage in ‘ point scoring ‘ on this matter – that doesn’t cut any ice with Catholic youth or any of our youth. Bulding barricades for ourselves only serves to confuse young Catholics. This ” I am for Apollos, I am for Cephas, I am for Paul ” – is seen through by them for what it is. The ONE thing that the Church is known and respected for in the final analysis throughout its ” growing pains ” in ” one great act of giving birth ” as St. Paul says – is its self-sacrificing acts of Love. It’s that which will galvanise the youth of Christs’ Church and in turn rejuvenate us. To that end sanctification of the whole body of Christ in the Truth is fundamental – and I have no qualms whatsoever about using that word – to the future vigour and life of us all.
      One example for what its worth. The largest single crowd every recorded in history ( The Guinness Book Of Records ) was at World Youth Event attended By Blessed Pope John Paul in 2005. – 5 million souls ! This surely must tell us all something.

  7. Iona says:

    Milliganp’s assertion above

    And in many of these cultures where the faith is blooming they murder men for being gay, practice female genital mutilation

    sent me off to Wikipaedia. As I suspected, there is nil association between Christianity and FGM. The earliest known cases go back to ancient Egypt, nearly 2,000 BC. Christian missionaries always opposed it. Currently it seems to be very widely practiced as a tribal ritual among the Kikuyu, a tribe in northern Africa, nothing to do with religion, either Christianity or Islam.

    • milliganp says:

      Many of the Kikuyu have converted to Christianity but still practice FGM as well as certain Coptic Christians in Egypt. My daughter, on a visit to Kenya on behalf of Cafod met Catholics who still practice FGM, as well as murdering girls who become pregnant outside of marriage.

      • johnbunting says:

        If this is so, milliganp, it seems to confirm my suspicion that Christianity in Africa is often only skin-deep, and mixed with other beliefs and tribal customs that have become entrenched over many centuries and are still very strong.
        I assume you are not suggesting that people do these barbaric things because they are Christians, but rather that they do so in spite of being Christians; in which case the teaching is at fault, or needs more time to sink in.

      • milliganp says:

        John bunting. You’ve got my drift, but there is a slightly deeper problem – the church seems, sometimes, to be content with people’s barbarism or ignorance as long as they maintain the veneer of Catholic religious practice. In the case of the project my daughter visited it was a women’s rights group that was saving young girls who got pregnant – not the church.

      • johnbunting says:

        Thanks for your reply, milliganp: very much to the point.

  8. Iona says:

    Quentin, what do you understand by the “paid up” members?
    Among those who attend Mass regularly every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation, surely most are still in agreement with the Church’s official teachings on marriage, cohabitation and abortion?

    • RAHNER says:

      Are you really THAT naive?????

      • tim says:

        I’m not convinced that smug self-certainty allied to judgementalism and a lack of charity are failings necessarily confined to traditional Catholics.

    • Quentin says:

      Iona, the only way we can distinguish ‘paid up’ (my phrase) Catholics, is by whether they are regular church attenders. While I would assume that those who answered the Synod questionnaires are actively concerned with the Church, conclusions from such an informal study do need more support.

      It is generally accepted from different sources that about 80% to 90% of Catholics disagree with the Church’s absolute condemnation of contraception – although what proportion attend church regularly is harder to ascertain. But an interesting article by the authoritative researcher, Linda Woodhead, which does look specifically at churchgoers, is interesting. Find it at http://faithdebates.org.uk/blog/catholics-really-think-sex/

      Here is a quote:

      “What these findings show is that most Catholics under 40 now have a very different sexual ethic from their leaders. The Church’s official teachings still have a good level of support amongst over-60s, plus that of a minority of churchgoers including some younger people. Taking into account the age trend, support for Catholic teaching is declining rapidly.”

  9. Nektarios says:

    To attempt to answer your second question: `What does it do to an organization, with an often unspoken rift within it?’
    The organization will seek to keep status quo. Act although nothing has happened. That moral decline and corruption will continue bringing the organization in to disrepute.
    Please remember, the world, represented by equally morally bankrupt leaders, will carry on the same visiting the Pope and all the diplomatic intrigues behind closed doors and smiling faces photo opportunities.
    It may reach a state of religious and spiritual declension and do what it has always done in the past by way of cover up and to maintain status quo, – reinvent itself.
    Meanwhile many who are so inclined will continue in their sinful activities and way of life.
    To be balanced in all this, there are holy people within the RCC. Look not to leaders to show you the way, they are compromised before taking up the positions, but look to the holy ones among you, those who truly lie out the Christian life in Spirit and in Truth and love.
    Hear those you see living such a life, listen to them, be guided by them…. one will gain more in five minutes with such a one.
    The likelihood is, the vast majority won’t. They have become their own authority, their own morality rules in their lives. Not until something happens that the RCC has never had yet, and that is revival.
    What is revival? It is when the Holy Spirit comes to the Church, and revives that which is almost dead. Brings in the changes needed, but how many of my RCC Brethren pray for revival?

    • Quentin says:

      Nektarios, thank you for answering my questions (Feb 15 at 10:13) directly. That is very helpful to me – and I hope that others will do the same.

      In your first reply (12:21), you say that this infidelity is endemic to the Church. And I agree. But I think that the situation we are facing now has an additional, and very important, dimension.
      In the old days there was an acceptance of the Church’s authority to teach the binding moral law. Plenty of people were disobedient, but they knew they were disobedient – and that they stood in peril for their souls thereby.

      Today we have many Catholics who feel that they can disregard the Church’s moral authority, and yet remain in good standing, and continue to receive the Sacraments. This makes it an altogether new problem. (See my reply to Iona at 11:04)

      • St.Joseph says:

        One of the problems today no different to the past and that is Catholics as many others are sinners and weak.
        In the past Catholics received the Sacrament of Confession or now called’ reconciliation’ .
        Perhaps if that was taught in schools now not just for First Holy Communion, that is the starting point for our union with God. Every day!
        That is a huge problem, ‘I will not serve’!
        Thank you for your info above.
        Grace is not recognised today and the strength we receive from it.

      • Nektarios says:

        I read your reply to Iona and also the statistical info supplied by Prof Linda Woodhead.
        Interesting. However, I also noticed it was YouGov that funded some of it – the Government as such, and they will only want to use such statistics for their own ends.
        Like most statistics, they always seem to fail to get to the heart of the question or ask the right sorts of questions. For example, I do not read statistical information that asks where the views on the various aspects presently under discussed on sex were obtained. Perhaps the Professor could gather such statistical info asking such questions.
        Did they hold their views on sex, co-habiting, homosexuality, gay marriage gleaned from
        Education in schools, Government debates, the Media, films, peer pressure, the street?
        What information did they have and held to live their life accordingly?.
        Would they like their children to live out these views?
        What would they think if their parents held such views? &c., &c.

        The problem you see as a new problem was in fact present in the early Christian Church.
        The Apostle warned against eating and drinking unworthily, did he not, and what the consequences would be? Also for the Christian to live such a lifestyle as presently being discussed, what the eternal consequences would be.

      • milliganp says:

        Quentin you’re absolutely right in your final paragraph – and the dilema is in the previous. Can someone be in peril of their immortal soul for falling in love? That’s the question most people ask. A woman is abandoned by her husband, leaving her with 3 children to raise, she finds someone willing to support her and is then condemned to eternal torment in hell. It just doesn’t ring true in most peoples reason. We don’t need neo-pelagianism or neo-cathars(ism) but if we’re saved by baptism and belief in Christ we shouldn’t constantly fear damnation if our lives are mixed up.

      • Quentin says:

        Milligan P, your example is an interesting one. Some years ago a Catholic friend of mine told me that his conscience pricked him. He was divorced and now re-married. Both marriages had children. What should he do?

        I asked him if his first wife would take him back. He told me that she, too, was happily remarried – and would not have him back for all the tea in China. I asked him what he thought was the most loving thing he could do at the present point in time. He decided that he should continue in his current situation since any other action would damage innocent people.

        It is worth noting that he (and I) did not doubt the Church’s teaching. He knew that his situation was ‘disordered’ but he felt that his new decision would bring about (or sustain) the best ‘order’ possible in the circumstances.

        Had he asked me, I would have suggested that he returned to the practice of his faith but that he would not receive Holy Communion as a continued witness to his acceptance of the objective ‘disorder’ of the situation.

        Would you, or others, think that this solution was in fact the best answer?

    • St.Joseph says:

      How would you think that the RCC Church could learn from the Orthodox Church for its revival.?

      If you worshipped where I worship and were able to see the Retreats by young people from schools and Universities all year round. over 2 dozen this weekend and a young priest as their Spiritual Director. your self opinion of the RCC Church that is’ almost dead’ would soon change your tune.
      The RCC Church will not change Her ‘serious moral teachings’ for a ‘revival’!

      • Nektarios says:

        St Joseph
        God bless these young people on their spiritual journey.
        A revival is under the direct control of the Holy Spirit and not man.
        I am not asking the RCC to change her serious moral teaching as such.

      • St.Joseph says:

        The way I see it that is one has to look at the circumstances of the first marriage;.
        If a young couple have a sexual relationship and become pregnant and get married thinking that is the right thing to do and they marry each other (as that is what they do)marry each other!
        There are all kinds of scenario, one a catholic and a non catholic, marry in the Church in the presence of a priest. Far too young, no proper marriage preparation, which was often so in the past. These marriages, would often although not always end in divorce
        It is alright to say that there was no marriage in the first place, when at the time they were sure that it was it would be wrong to deceive so it could falsely be annulled and not void.
        I believe that one deserves a second chance as I know so many who have not gone to Church but believe that they are not living in sin in a second marriage in a registry office.
        Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if we were all perfect enough to receive the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus gave His Body and Blood to Judas at the Last Supper.
        I believe Holy Mother Church is capable of putting some thought into this when the time comes, She does not need my opinion to recognise the situation.
        I would give Holy Communion to anyone who came to receive Him. and risk ending up in Hell.(I will wait to be excommunicated!)Then some poor suffering soul can have mine!!

  10. St.Joseph says:

    Yes, however one must be open to the Holy Spirit, He does not force it on anyone.
    Nor does Holy Mother Church!
    We all have the gift of free will.

    • Nektarios says:

      St. Joseph
      Speaking of the Holy Spirit, let us be careful, we stand on holy ground.
      Obviously you have an idea about revival, which has nothing to do with revival as such. But compare your view, with the activity of Holy Spirit when came at Pentecost. Consider what happened to them. Consider also what happened to the people that Peter preach the Gospel to.
      Force is not a word I would use, power yes, power to convict, convince and convert from
      death to life, from the power of darkness to the kingdom of Light. To convey to us all the redeeming gifts procured by Jesus our Lord, through his life, death and resurrection.
      Yes, consider that with your view.

  11. St.Joseph says:

    I have no need to consider anything with my view as you call it.I am making statements.
    You are trying to convince people with a play on words-it does not work.!
    You are the one that seems to have the problem with the RCC Church-I don’t!
    On principle I would not want to enter into a questionnaire produced by the ‘clergy’-if the Church does not understand Her own teachings on morals and how we live, especially as it is all in the CCC then it is a sorry state of affairs and a slippery slope.
    I felt the same with regards to the one in the1979 NPC.
    To ask a Catholic what they think about contraception- abortion – same sex marriage etc is rather pointless . It is not a majority vote.!

    • St.Joseph says:

      And before you start with a play on words again, what I say is not because of pride but dignity, that is something else I believe from my Baptism and Confirmation being a RCC!
      And that comes from my receiving the ‘Holy Spirit!’

  12. Singalong says:

    Milliganp 16th 4.43, Or a man abandoned by his wife because she doesn`t want children, leaving him childless and alone. Does God require this of him on pain of damnation, if they cannot get an annulment? Christ `s teaching is strict, He tightens up on the laws of the Old Testament, “It was said . . . but I say to you . . . ” He describes “the narrow way.” I only ask the question. How are the rest of us to win eternal life when it is so excruciatingly difficult for some?

  13. Peter D. Wilson says:

    Referring to your post of February 15, 2014 at 10:13 am: I think the decline has been going on for a long time, but has been compounded by problems arising or revealed in the last half-century or thereabouts.

    One is the “must have it now” attitude, e.g. for material goods as encouraged by a barrage of advertising (especially in a grossly over-developed entertainment industry) together with the rise of excessively lax credit facilities and an economic model in which living within one’s income is made to appear positively anti-social. Such an attitude is naturally carried over into the desire for experiences such as sex (licit or otherwise) or drug-taking and a disdain for any restraint.

    Of course such appetites have always been with us, but to some extent restrained by social pressures and the strictures of the Church. The moral authority of the Church, especially in sexual matters, has however been all but destroyed by the scandal of abuse by its ministers; I doubt whether our leaders fully comprehend the extent of consequent damage to its reputation and influence.

    Faith and morals are of course linked in the formula defining the scope of papal infallibility (a dogma widely misunderstood outside the Church, and probably within). I imagine that anyone seeing the mess made by the Church on morals might not unreasonably come to think it equally unreliable on doctrine.

  14. John Nolan says:

    I have a question to which I would like some honest answers from those who post on this blog from a liberal standpoint. The Belgian parliament has just passed a law which allows euthanasia to be legally imposed on children. Fifty years ago Belgium was the most Catholic country in Europe. In most of Flanders attendance at Sunday Mass was a hundred per cent of the population. It is now just five per cent.

    Can you put your hand on your heart and say that this was nothing whatsoever to do with Vatican II and the liberal reforms pushed so hard by Cardinals Suenens and Daneels? Why did I, a fairly mainstream Catholic who attends Mass in both forms of the Roman Rite, find that on a visit to Brussels eight years ago the only thing remotely resembling Catholic worship was provided by the SSPX?

    Bury your heads in the sand and take refuge in pious platitudes. The problem is here and now, and you have a lot to answer for.

    • Nektarios says:

      John Nolan
      Yes they have. Clericalism – the modern day Philistines are responsible. Clogging up the wells to life-giving water. Perhaps it is time to dig again, clearing out all their rubbish they have place there, and drink that pure water again.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Do you include your ‘Orthodox Clericalism’ in the modern day Philistines’?
        I feel you are threading on Sacred Ground here, seeing that Our Lord ‘instituted Holy Orders’ at the Last Supper to which a Judas was a cleric!

    • milliganp says:

      Jesus had a parable which entirely covers your mentality. The Pharisee at the front of the synagogue telling God how wonderful he (the Pharisee) is and the sinful publican at the back praying for mercy. And Christ tells us whose prayer was most acceptable to God.
      The sexual revolution was not a Vatican II thing, the rise of materialism was not a Vatican II thing, the impact of the EU was not a Vatican II thing, the rise of Communism in the West, with the Red Brigades and their like were not a Vatican II thing.
      Just in case you haven’t noticed – the world has changed in the last 50 years.
      Muslim countries still have the veneer of public compliance but amongst their middle classes many western vices now abound.
      Every religious group has a small elite who think they’re better than everyone else and the SSPX is just one of these.

  15. tim says:

    Nektarios (February 16, 2014 at 1:24 pm) I fear you are mistaken in assuming YouGov is a government organisation. The name is perhaps misleading.

  16. johnbunting says:

    I think that ‘disordered’ situations are likely to come to anyone who tries to live in a principled and responsible way; not just to those in the church.
    In cases such as those that you and milliganp describe, to refrain from receiving Holy Communion may indeed be a recognition of the disorder, but it may also give the impression that the sacrament should be witheld from someone who is not necessarily to blame for his/her situation, but has suffered a misfortune: a penalty for bad luck, so to speak. At that point, one begins to see some similarity to the situation of Jesus Himself. Some comfort there, perhaps.
    This blog is no place for personal revelations, but I will just say that in my case, being received into the church at a time when I might have married someone who shared my beliefs, things did not go as I expected. I met a few charming Catholic women, unfortunately all married already. In the long run, the ‘disordered situation’ was to marry outside the church, or not at all.
    In a lighter vein, a bit of AD’s post struck a chord with me: “No longer can they sit, wagging their fingers…….” etc. What was it?
    “Prince, on their iron thrones they sit,
    Impassable to our despair.
    The dreadful Guardians of the Pit:
    And Mrs Roebuck will be there”.
    Belloc, of course.

  17. Quentin says:

    Monday am. I am very grateful for all the comments which have come in. And I daresay there are more to come. I will be studying them all with great care.

  18. Nektarios says:

    St Joseph
    Do I include Orthodox Clericalism as modern day Philistines?
    Clericalism has nothing to do with Holy Orders as you call it. But it is responsible largely for many of the problems that exit within the Church today.
    Clericalism is the bane of Christianity. Get rid of that and Quentin will resolve many of the problems presently existing in the Church.

    • St.Joseph says:

      What you really mean is ‘get rid of Authority!
      Don’t confuse the priesthood of the Laity-from the Ordained Priesthood .
      You may be a Lay Preacher but you can not Celebrate the Eucharist .
      You will not be content until you get rid of the Chair of Peter!

      • Nektarios says:

        St Joseph
        Clericalism has nothing to do with me or anyone else wanting to get rid of Authority.
        Clericalism, is a policy of the RCC and the Orthodox and C of E and other Episcopalian
        group of Churches, to uphold the power of the clergy. It will uphold the power of the clergy even when it is excessive.
        It has nothing to do with real spiritual authority, but everything to do with taking power to itself.
        There I will leave it with you, the definition and meaning of clericalism without going into all the areas of abuses by clericalism.

  19. Iona says:

    Quentin (6.30 p.m., 16th February) – you asked:
    Had he asked me, I would have suggested that he returned to the practice of his faith but that he would not receive Holy Communion as a continued witness to his acceptance of the objective ‘disorder’ of the situation.

    Would you, or others, think that this solution was in fact the best answer?

    I would answer, most certainly yes; and I have indeed known people in just this situation choose just this solution, and bring their children up as Catholics able to receive the sacraments.

    Singalong (6.25 p.m., 16th February) – you asked:
    Or a man abandoned by his wife because she doesn`t want children, leaving him childless and alone. Does God require this of him on pain of damnation, if they cannot get an annulment?

    But surely he would get an annulment if he pursued this, as getting married while of childbearing age but with no intention of having children is not fulfilling the Catholic Church’s conditions for marriage.

    And Rahner – you accused me of being naive – but I’m going by observation, based on the people who regularly attend the church which I regularly attend. Maybe your observations, in your personal circumstances, are different.

    • Singalong says:

      Iona, I think that a marriage can be considered to be unconsummated if conception is deliberately prevented every time there is intercourse, which would be grounds for applying for an annulment. The decision not to have children, I think, has to be made from the start of the marriage, rather than arrived at later after initially postponing their arrival.

      In my reply to the questionnaire, I included my opinions about some of the anomalies of annulment, and the long drawn out, intrusive and bureaucratic process that it seems to be.

  20. Horace says:

    I am afraid that I did not fill in and return the Bishop’s questionnaire – largely because I felt that I did not understand the questions well enough to provide a useful answer.

    To take Quentin’s points in order :-
    1/2) ‘Unrealistic’ is the relevant word here. In practice it means not ‘impossible’ but ‘too much bother’. ‘Vision’ means ideal but not to be taken seriously.
    3) There is good scientific evidence that pre-marital unions are more likely to result in divorce. In my (limited) experience this is surprisingly true.
    4) With reference to ‘divorced catholics’ I remember that “Moses allowed divorce ‘because of the hardness of your hearts’”.
    5) A marriage does not ‘fail’ – one or both of the participants ‘fail’.
    6) Undoubtedly true – but this simply reflects the inherent selfishness of humanity. In primitive societies unwanted children were left on the hills for the wolves and jackals – today they are aborted.
    7/8) It all depends on why same sex couples wish to live together. If it is to make Sodomy more convenient then it is obviously sinful. If it is for company and to share workload and save money then it is perfectly proper – perhaps even should be recognised as a ‘commandment of justice’.

    • milliganp says:

      I agree with point 1/2, we have allowed “ideal” to be an abstract concept like “in an ideal world” so nobody expects to have to live up to an ideal.
      Issue 3 is being made irellevant by the laws of diminishing returns, so few people wait till marriage to live together that statistics have become meaningless.
      Issue 5, since a marriage is the union of two people the failure of a party is de-facto a failure of the marriage. However we must not allow a detatched sense that a marriage is an object in it’s own right. Amongst the Orthodox, I understand, the failure of the person is deemed to have broken the marriage bond and therefore ended the marriage. I fully agree that this approach is difficult, if not iimpossible, to reconcide with Christ’s very direct and certain words on the matter.

  21. Iona says:

    To Peter Wilson’s account (6.48 p.m., 16th February) of “problems arising or revealed in the last half-century or thereabouts” might be added the ready availability and relative cheapness of alcohol.

  22. Iona says:

    I doubt if the Bishops’ questionnaire is going to result in any clarification at all of how the average regular-Mass-attending Catholic views the Church. I filled it in and returned it – but had to answer an awful lot of the questions “No knowledge of any such cases”. I don’t know anyone else who answered the questionnaire. I printed it out so that a friend of mine who doesn’t “do” the internet could complete it; but after a long time reading through it she decided against attempting it.

  23. St.Joseph says:

    I wonder if yo will know what it means to administer the Sacrament of Matrimony on each other.
    Do the couple need to be in the state of Grace for the Sacrament to be valid
    If the couple are taking the Pill which is an abortafacient does that affect the Grace on the marriage. or make the marriage null and void.

    Also if a couple are engaged and they are living together and not having a sexual relationship. does that cause scandal or are those people who say they are doing wrong by assuming that they are.They may be sharing to save money or saving to get married. They don’t have to share a house if they want to have a sexual relationship. The same applies to gay people.
    When a couple are engaged it is obvious they will be very close!

    A while ago women in the Church were interviewed on TV about their relationship with their Fiance’e and one Catholic lady admitted that in those days early 60’s girls did get married mostly to have sex as it was a sin outside marriage! Perhaps a lot of men married for the same reason !!
    I think that true love goes beyond that and whether one has sex before or after it will last.
    Some will take their commitment seriously.And love their family others won’t.

    • Quentin says:

      You don’t have to be in a state of grace to administer or receive matrimony – any more than a priest needs to be in a state of grace in order to consecrate.

      The question of whether or not the pill as an abortifacient is not relevant. There are, for example people who may legitimately take the pill for medical reasons.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Using the Pill for medical reasons is a temporary measure,however not I believe necessary in today’s advanced knowledge.
        The advanced knowledge by the Pope Paul V1 Institute and the work of Professor Hilger. which can be found on the web is amazing.Every Catholic need to read this info, not for their own use but to inform others.
        It was said many years ago that parents put their daughter on the pill to prevent pregnancy..I know many who did that.

  24. Iona says:

    Quentin – thank you for that reference, by the way; I did follow it up, and one of the references within it too.

    You ask for our opinions on “the odd state of a Church where a large number of its ‘paid up’ members dissent from serious moral teachings…. I bear in mind that this rift now extends to issues like the status of marriage, cohabitation and abortion….What does it do to an organisation to have this, often unspoken, rift within it? Will the rift spread so as to include a laxity in doctrines of faith?”

    Maybe it (the rift) already has? Maybe a substantial proportion of people who consider themselves Catholic do not seriously believe in the existence of hell, or the reality of the devil as a spirit / person?

    Should the dissent be considered as constituting a rift? If some of the people working for an organisation are given to petty theft from their employer, falsifying their expenses, and/or to taking a few days’ sick leave when they want some time off even though they’re not sick, and justify this by saying it’s so commonly done that it’s almost expected, this is hardly a rift in the organisation, lthough it does undermine it to some extent. I realise it may not be a closely parallel case. I’m not sure that there is a parallel case to the Catholic Church, either among other organisations or among other Churches.

    • milliganp says:

      I like the analogy in your final paragraph and I think it’s a good starting point for a discussion on the “lived dissent” of many Catholics. In a large business there are procedures and processes aimed at identifying and minimising abuse – and in many somoeone caught fiddling expenses could well be in for summary dismissal. Perhaps we need a Catholic equivalent of an “employees handbook” – and no it’s not the Catechism (that’s closer to the corporate vision statement).

    • Quentin says:

      Iona, I think it is more serious than you describe. We are agreed, I think, that the Church teaches either infallibly or with binding authority. What we have is a magisterium which continues to teach moral doctrines as matters well established and taken for granted, and a laity who, for the most part, simply reject this authority – and doesn’t really bother to argue about it anymore. I call that a serious rift right at the heart of authority.

      Perhaps a sign of the times: I visited Westminster Cathedral a couple of weeks back, on a busy weekday afternoon. Only one confessional, tucked in a corner, was open. And there was no one waiting. (And no problems for me – given that my wife and I are both in our 80th year, the factor of contraception does not loom large!)

      • Singalong says:

        I think you were lucky, Quentin! Whenever I go, on weekdays, there are queues, and last time, towards the end of the afternoon, an attendant was making sure that it would get no longer.

      • tim says:

        Quentin, you must have been exceptionally fortunate. I go to Westminster for confession from time to time, and typically have to queue for 30-60 minutes. Admittedly I mostly go in the morning or at lunchtime – the one time I went around 4pm there was no queue.

  25. Iona says:

    Some regular church attenders will be attending for reasons that have little to do with faith but a lot to do with getting their child / children into a sought-after Catholic school. Such people may well give unorthodox answers to questions about artificial contraception, abortion and gay marriage.

    • milliganp says:

      There are inevitably church attenders in your first category – we loose them when their youngest child gets into secondary school. However a significant majority of those who stay would still subscribe to the positions that artificial contraception, sex outside marriage and homosexual acts are not automatically grave sins. Most agree, in principal, with the church on abortion and gay marriage but I suspect, if a close family member or friend had a gay marriage service they would attend. Similarly, if a daughter got pregnant in difficult circumstances, few would hold implacably to the Catholic position.
      I think any attempt to dismiss the German finidngs as in any way atypical of the “average person in the pew” is a journey of denial. We need to accept that these sentiments are widespread and then decide how we challenge them – other than by wagging our fingers.

  26. St.Joseph says:

    The definition of clericalism is what a person makes of it himself! Or to suit themselves, one need only to look it up and see what definition is placed on it by either liberals or traditionalists!!

    There are plenty of blogs and opinions, on that subject and as I know yours I am quite happy with my thoughts you have made that quite clear in your comments regarding the RCC!!
    We are too polite on SS as we should be-if you were to make comments about the RCC on some other blogs they may not treat you so kindly!

    • milliganp says:

      Can I just add that in my dictionary the word liberal is listed as “generous, noble-minded, broad minded” whereas in this blog liberal is nearly always an accusation of “dissent from the magisterium”. Please let nobody get wound up – traditionalist is also used as an insult for “narrow minded obsequience to an outdated orthodoxy”.
      I like to think of myself as a liberal traditionalist – I honestly believe in and want to hold true to the deposit of faith. My only dissent is that I think we need to be a little more generous in how we speak to people struggling with that faith. I have met few people who are divorced and remarried that I can think of as evil – we need a less confrontational vocabulary. But like clericalism, liberal and traditional the words we use do not always have the same meaning to the person with whom we are conversing.
      When I was 8 years old I had to recite a George Herbert poem for a parents evening at school, it contained the words “Be calm in arguing; for fierceness makes error a fault, and truth discourtesy.”
      George Herbert was a wonderful Anglican Priest and Poet. His being Anglican could be described as an accident of his birth – that he subscribed with conviction, I presume, to the 39 articles of his faith does not make his poetry any less a wonderful expression of the love of God, made manifest in Jesus to which all Christians subscribe.
      And if anyone wishes to reply “physician, heal thyself” I am happy to admit the same weaknesses as everyone else.

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        Milliganp – on first coming across your pseudonym I misread it as a “thousandth of an umbrella”. Your comments here would be a good umbrella for all our discussions.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Seemingly since Vatican 2 the word Liberal has been known by Catholics as those who disagree with all things since Vat 2.This as far as I understand is the most serious fall in Church attendance. Where the play on words like’ clericalism is a nonsense,however it is so much in grained in peoples minds the true understanding of the teaching of the Church has confused them. Just take for instance the Latin Mass the disagreements were so pathetic one could cry.
        It is about time we ditched this silly nonsense and get back to reality-like you say being a liberal traditionalist makes sense! Everyone preaching the Truth. God knows we have the guide lines in the CCC.
        To compare the lace to plain vestments or red shoes of Pope Benedict to Pope Francis again is pathetic. and Pope Benedict used a kneeler for those who wished to receive communion the way he wished to give it is pathetic again And on it goes So What if he does..
        I like to go to a Mass in Latin as well as in English.Why should people criticize or even comment’
        I am looking after my 10yr old grandson today his, Dad brought him to me at 7.30 I asked him if he would like to go to Mass, he asked ‘do you’? I said yes if you do ,he said lets go then, so we did at 8.0 am. No problem although he went on Sunday. No forcing just making it a nice thing to do.That is perhaps why my son and daughter and 5 grandchildren still go and my sons mother in law has converted to Catholicism! We make it a happy occasion.All ‘agreeing’ to differ..But knowing the Truth! .

    • Quentin says:

      St Joseph, I think you are right in indicating that definitions are important here. When Jesus gave his apostles the mission of teaching and guarding the Church, they became, arguably, the first clerics, although the word wasn’t used.

      Clericalism as a word of criticism usually means (in my view) an attitude which forgets that authority means service, and becomes an end in itself. Jesus was ruthless in his condemnation of this. “Whited sepulchre” was the image he employed.

  27. Singalong says:

    “It appears that there is a substantial rejection of the Church’s moral authority in such matters. How did this come about? Will this rift continue and perhaps widen? Will this spread to matters of faith as well as morals? Has the Catholic Church joined the Reformation Churches in accepting that response to teaching authority is de facto voluntary?”

    I wonder if it is the widespread acceptance of democracy by the West as the ideal form of government which is responsible for so much freedom and desire to disagree? In human terms this must lead to stalemate. It is hard to think of the Church leadership becoming fully democratic, even led by Pope Francis, or to think that it would be right and wise to make such a radical change.

    It does not look as if asking for the opinions of the laity, and receiving such a limited response, will add very much to other surveys you quote, but it is how far these will influence the Synod, and how far they should affect their conclusions that matters.

    We are all speculating about the result, though it is hard to see how there could be much change. Christ was very authoritative, and so is His Church. It should perhaps be thought of more as a benign dictatorship than as a democracy.

    I think we have been through a period of trying to conform to many wrong values prevalent in contemporary culture and must now take stock. As Catholics, we should be well educated in our faith, and very different in belief and behaviour in many respects from the current Western norm, and we should expect this to cause us some problems.

  28. Iona says:

    We are to be “a sign of contradiction”

    • Nektarios says:

      `We are’ a sign of contradiction’.

      No, no, we are not a sign of contradiction but are actually living out our daily lives full of contradictions all the time.

      • Iona says:

        Nektarios – I didn’t say “We are a sign of contradiction”; I said “We are to be a sign of contradiction” – meaning, we are expected to be, we ought to be.

  29. milliganp says:

    Writing in Today’s Times newspaper under the headline “Marriage means what you like” Lord Wilson of Culworth ( a family justice in the UK Supreme Court) states “Christian doctrine cast an irrational opprobrium upon all sexual acts other than procreative ones. In my view, the malign effects of the doctrine leave a residue even today”.

    As I can’t emphasise within the quote I just wish to point out the words “malign effects”. That seems to be this judges impression of the role of Christianity in marriage and family life today.

    • johnbunting says:

      Here we go again: “When I use a word”, said Humpty Dumpty……….

    • St.Joseph says:

      Someone ought to educate Lord Wilson of Culworth on the meaning of Humanae Vitae.
      There again if a lot of Catholics don’t understand it how can we expect others to.
      Perhaps the future Cardinal Nichols will tell him!

    • Quentin says:

      On the other hand, Sir Paul Coleridge, the High Court judge who founded the Marriage Foundation think-tank, is championing the support and strengthening marriage. His particular cause is the commitment and continuance of the marriage relationship on which the welfare of the children depends so greatly. He argues not from a religious angle but on hard evidence.

      He has been in trouble with his regulators for speaking out of turn. I wonder whether Lord Wilson will be subject to similar criticism.


  30. John Nolan says:

    This morning the Holy Father has addressed the consistory of cardinals who are to discuss the issue of the family. He did not try to pre-empt the discussion or set an agenda, but spoke in general terms. When the synod of bishops meets later this year, I suspect he will do the same. At the 1981 synod, which Vincent Nichols attended as bag-carrier to Cardinal Hume and Archbishop Worlock, John Paul II had a very “hands-on” approach; it will be interesting to see to what extent Francis will intervene once discussions are in progress.

    My guess is that the final report will indicate a liberal/conservative (sorry about the labels) and first world/third world divide. There will probably be some “pastoral” initiatives but those who expect any significant doctrinal shift are going to be disappointed.

    Would it make any difference to contracepting couples or those in irregular relationships (even same-sex ones) if the Church were suddenly to endorse their lifestyle choices? Those who still attend Mass troop up for Communion along with everyone else.

    • milliganp says:

      I think it is fundamentally wrong to typify those who are irregular coming to Communion as defiant. It’s a mixture of genuine ignorance and confusion. Merely excluding them is more likely to cause them to give up their faith practice than cause them to consider their moral state. There is a massive void in Christian education and formation which needs to be overcome before we can expect people to seriously reflect on their behaviour in relation to the Gospel.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Also Catholics can be young and their faith may not be a great importance to them,at the time they marry,
        We all with age and in difficult times’ mature’ in our faith and receive graces to cope.
        I don’t believe that offering it up to God as people say- is a good reflection on denying one the Blessed Sacrament when meeting someone who will care for them and any children.,and the ex husband or wife has already married someone else.
        They may have a second marriage in all good conscience and be considered by Holy Mother Church to be living in sin,However I think this can be looked at on’ circumstances’ by the Church authorities.
        I think that there is a difference in certain cases.
        Perhaps the better idea in young peoples minds is that it would be better to live together first.
        These are only my thoughts.-not to be written in stone, Before I get eaten up by the wolves!!!!

  31. Singalong says:

    Lord Wilson also spoke out very strongly against divorce, a strange mixture of opinions in his statement:
    (apologies, from the Daily Mail again)

    It’s the end of the nuclear family … and that’s no bad thing, insists Supreme Court judge who says he fears watching couples take their wedding vows

    Lord Wilson said that, with more than four out of ten marriages now ending in divorce, he ?feared? for couples as he watched them take their wedding vows.

    Full Story:

    20 February 2014

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