Our future Church

There is no doubt that the Catholic Church is changing in many ways. Indeed it has changed in many ways within our lifetimes. And often in ways which, say, fifty years ago we would have thought impossible. So it might be interesting to consider what may happen in the future. This week I am going to list some possibilities – without attempting to approve or disapprove. But you may think of many more and, of course, you are free to judge how welcome or unwelcome, they are.

First of all comes papal democracy. As things stand at the moment the next pope will be voted in by the cardinals. So it’s in the hands of these old gents about whom we know very little. They have by definition succeeded in reaching high office, but that may simply mean that they are better at ecclesiastical manipulation than being either wise or virtuous. Surely one day we will select the pope democratically, even if there is an interim stage when the immediate choice is made by the diocesan bishops – who must have taken advice from the junior clergy and their laity. Indeed taking the advice of the laity will, for several issues, be obligatory.

Of course there will be a wider pool for choice because by then women will have become priests, and eventually bishops – there may be a successor to Pope Joan (IXth century). It seems to work well in Anglicanism, and although the current Church declares this to be impossible, that is simply ecclesiastical stick-in-the-mud.

In fact the clergy will have rather more time than heretofore. The future of granting absolution will be general rather than individual. After all the whole process is automatic: express your contrition and your firm purpose of amendment – and you’re home and dry. It might just as well be done in public. Of course, you might want to know whether such or such an activity is sinful – mortal or venial, and what the penance should be. But that now could be available through artificial intelligence – much more accurate than relying on the individual confessor.

This of course requires the Church to go through the whole range of moral/immoral possibilities, and other factors such as motivation, excuses etc. But in the end we would have an absolutely splendid and comprehensive moral law. Naturally the Church will make this a very serious source, and would suggest infallibility or near infallibility. This might be be a little threatening, but the individual could always apply the “1968″ clause. This is named after the publication date of Humanae Vitae – following which several senior bishops told their flocks that they were free to apply their consciences to the question. Basically it means: think about a moral issue, then take your choice.

Of course this Blog will want to share in this more democratic approach so, at some time, I will issue the regulation that should John Nolan and Nektarios, our elders, both agree about some subject – indeed any subject – I will follow their decision immediately.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Church and Society, Moral judgment, Quentin queries, subsidiarity, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Our future Church

  1. David Smith says:

    Quentin, you’ve been far too conservative in your predictions. Future popes will not be elected, I’m sure, but, rather, as artificial intelligence constructs, they will evolve.

    If you’re correct that democracy will be the model for decision making, then voting will be constant, with changes in individual preferences being taken into account at least every microsecond. Thus, the moral law will change continually, as majority opinion, um, progresses.

  2. Nektarios says:

    Quentin,

    Ah, I do love a challenge, viz, JN, myself and following our agreed decision, you following such a decision. Tempting! But you know, Quentin, that is not the role of a spiritual elder.

    AI is not what it appears. It is designed and used by the Tech giants under the guise of being useful and helpful, is really a snoopers charter. It does gather information and shares it with others for profit. There are many more insidious applications the Tech giants have for AI.
    It is far from being democratic.

    Is Christianity democratic or is it meant to be theocratic? One is the rule of man and we all see where that has led us over the centuries.
    Or, the rule of God over His people where we are led by God.

    One thing I have noted over many years such man’s organizations, it is a false sense of power, when spiritually speaking, they are really powerless, and like AI demand surrender to it or them.

    Will there be another Pope, as Mackery prophesied all the poes to the present day and Francis being the last?

  3. John Nolan says:

    I agree with Nektarios on anthropogenic climate change.

    ‘Pope Joan’ is a myth which probably originated in Constantinople. Ironically, your dystopian vision of a future Church would be regarded by some so-called Catholics as desirable!

  4. Nektarios says:

    If the Church is to move forward in the future, according to the trends and present liberal ( man-centred) ways of thinking it does not bode well. It would appear that the long history of the Church
    with all its ups and downs, errors and corrections, modifications &c, has taught this day and generation in Church and out of Church little or nothing.

    There is little to attract people to Christ. We are presented with programmes and presentations to appear modern, but the substance is the same old religious way s of doing things re-hashed.

    To move forward into the future with confidence, we have to come to understand where we are coming from, that is the origins of the Church? How do we define a Christian Church? What is the basis of its faith, for that is the only way of moving forward with Christian fellowship?

    Obviously, all the models we have invented of the Church, of the Christian, or indeed Christianity today are ignored and many millions are returning to ignorance, superstition and bloated administrations ruling the roost.

    We must also take time to think about the times which we are living through as a Church.

  5. John Thomas says:

    “It seems to work well in Anglicanism [women clergy]”. The making of women priests and bishops in the C of E had a downside as well as the upside which Quentin seems to be referring to. The downside was that it released, or pandered to (because it was instituted purely out of political correctness, as Ann Widdecombe rightly observed) career ambition, which (for a church, and its clergy) is a very ugly thing to see. Sure, we know that we have had generations – centuries – of career ambition (and political ambition) on the part of men (which is equally ugly to see), but, sadly, when the women were released into becoming clergy, instead of denouncing ambition, they – very eagerly – said “We can do this too!” What happened to humility, reticence, belief in the primacy of calling (by God)? No, it was “I’m getting to the top (power!!!), by whatever means!” – not, of course, on the part of all women clergy.

    • John Candido says:

      Why be so negative when women aspire to a calling, but positive when men are called to priestly life?

      Why would you or any other person want to characterise an unknown number of women seeking to answer their calling to be a priest, as not being humble enough?

      Sexism dies very hard in Catholic circles due to centuries of male authority figures in the church because of their exclusive right to be priests.

  6. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes:

    // course there will be a wider pool for choice because by then women will have become priests, and eventually bishops //

    Far too timid. Women, of course – or, rather, humans who identify as female. But in tune with the urgently felt need for the Church to open itself fully to a much wider diversity of humanity, the priesthood needs to be made open to humans of all genders and to the rich variety of identities and lifestyles which the modern mind is being taught to recognize, acknowledge, appreciate, respect, and privilege. Quotas are in order, surely. Onward!

    • John Candido says:

      Well, what about a round of applause for that post?

      I have never read a more cynical, desperate, and chauvinist reply on SecondSight concerning women priests in the Roman Catholic Church, ever!

  7. Nektarios says:

    David Smith

    Are you serious, David? This is not in my view the Church moving forward, rather retrograde moves in confusion. Far from moving onward, one is regressing in human development by often sinful propaganda and for wicked ends.

    • David Smith says:

      Nektarios writes:

      // Are you serious, David? //

      Good heavens, no. But I’m fairly certain that many Catholics would be pleased were the hierarchy to dive down that rabbit hole. We’re living in strange times, when all the ships’ moorings seem to have come loose at once. Probably mass madness like this is not new in the annals of history, but, still, it’s quite a show.

      • John Candido says:

        Describing any women’s calling to be a priest in the Catholic Church as ‘mass madness’ is completely bonkers from where I stand on this issue.

  8. Nektarios says:

    In moving forward regarding the future of our Church, as the Church has been hi-jacked over centuries, including our own recent generations, the term ‘our Church’ has no Christian meaning apart from a distorted semblance of it, having departed the only source of what a Church is, and indeed what a Christian is.

    The only authoritative source is the Apostolic doctrine, teaching and practice. It is here I believe the Church, not just the Roman Catholic Church, has departed from the template set down by the Holy Apostles. Our forebears and our peers today have invented their own versions, although any one of us were Apostles. You have the Apostolic doctrine, teaching and practice in your own language now in your bibles.

    If one is to reclaim the term “our Church’ and move forward into the future in truth, then reclaim our heritage of the Apostolic doctrine, teaching and practice which our Lord has provided. We do not need to be in ignorance anymore, Christian!

    • John Candido says:

      Nektarios, you have blinded yourself with prescriptions that are not going to get up.

      A ‘back to the Bible’ fundamentalism is not going to happen any time soon.

  9. David Smith says:

    Nektarios writes:

    // The only authoritative source is the Apostolic doctrine, teaching and practice. It is here I believe the Church, not just the Roman Catholic Church, has departed from the template set down by the Holy Apostles. //

    Humans beings are constitutionally unable to leave well enough alone. Also, they will make of tradition and teaching what suits them and reject what does not. The Church is an example of the former propensity and both the laity and the clergy of the latter.

    Even the teaching in scripture is fluid, I think, Nektarios. How many translations, in how many versions, in how many languages have there been? And what, exactly, is “scripture”? What’s in the canon and what’s not? Add to this unstable variety all the interpretation of all the teachers and all the believers through time, and you have, I suppose, thousands of different “Christian” religions. People, “learned” and not, will make of all that what they will.

    • Nektarios says:

      David Smith

      When it comes to defining what a Christian is, what a Christian Church is, there is only one authority that God in His grace and mercy has given us and that is the Apostolic doctrine, teaching and practice, it’s not up for debate. All the mainstream Churches claim they believe in the Church is Apostolic, then duly ignore what the Apostles said and teach.

      Your second paragraph, David, only reinforces why such Apostolic authority was given and taught in the first place. If you start talking to certain Christians and clergy about obeying the Apostolic doctrine and teaching leading to the practice, they start talking about their Holy Tradition, Saints, which has no God-given authority only the Apostolic doctrine teaching and practice has that and needs to be obeyed and to hold fast to it.
      If the clergy are not obeying the Apostolic injunctions on their lives, and not conveying to others is it any wonder so many Christian are spiritually weak, confused and a pawn in their games?

      In your last paragraph, let’s start with the question you posed ‘ what exactly is Scripture? It is God’s word to mankind about Salvation essentially. It is the eternal word of God, it is therefore never out of date. God spoke through the Prophets, Christ, and His Apostles. They were witnesses to Christ.
      Apart from the Apostle John, they were all eventually martyred.
      The Apostles were holy men and inspired by God to preach and to write down what the doctrines were, what the teaching was and what the practice among God’s people was to be.

      It was to help us in our relationship with the God we have to do with. It was to help us spiritually grow. It was to bind us all together as one body in Christ of which He is the only head. It was addressed to one’s mind to explain what had actually happened to those who truly had become followers of Christ.
      It was to define what a Christian Church was. To define what a Christian was. To define what a Christian fellowship was; and how has Christian we were to conduct our behaviour.
      It was to help us in our spiritual warfare and go through many trials and difficulties, setbacks and failures and answer so many questions about the Christian who falls into sin and the Christian life
      that our faith would be strengthened, God adding and keeping us by His grace. And at the end receive us as His Adopted Children home to glory where we will reign with Him eternally.

      Scriptures perse are not fluid as you suggest, but many unfaithful translations especially some modern translations are.

      What was to be in the Canon of Scriptures was decided by the Apostles then alive, and Elders at Nicea.

      Lastly, when one departs from the Apostolic doctrine, teaching and practice, one lands up with what you described, Add to this unstable variety all the interpretation of all the teachers and all the believers through time, and you have, I suppose, thousands of different “Christian” religions. People, “learned” and not, will make of all that what they will.’

      I hope that answers your questions, David?

    • John Candido says:

      ‘Humans beings are constitutionally unable to leave well enough alone.’

      Yes and no.

      Spoken by a true conservative, in any case.

  10. David Smith says:

    Nektarios writes:

    // I hope that answers your questions, David? //

    It helps, Nektarios. Thanks.

  11. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes:

    // There is no doubt that the Catholic Church is changing in many ways. Indeed it has changed in many ways within our lifetimes. And often in ways which, say, fifty years ago we would have thought impossible. //

    Change is an illusion. In reality, every apparent change is a new creation, replacing what came before. One thing cannot not become another; rather, its place is entirely taken over by another. We think and speak of “change” to make abrupt transitions emotionally and cognitively easier to bear than they are otherwise likely to be. Too many disappearances and replacements coming too fast, one on top of another, can be disorienting, painful, pathologically stressful. And so, out of a subconscious need to protect our sanity, we imagine that the previous order has somehow been retained in the new. The old order, we say, is still there, only in different dress.

    • David Smith says:

      // One thing cannot not become another //

      One negative too many. Should have been

      – One thing cannot become another –

      Funny how one can miss things like that on re-reading to check for errors. Confirmation bias, perhaps. We know it’s not supposed to be there, so we simply don’t see it.

    • John Candido says:

      The function of a word in the English language is not an illusion.

      The word called ‘change’, which places the fear of God in the vast majority of conservatives, is not an imaginary word, with an imaginary purpose and function.

      ‘Change’ is not an ‘illusion’.

      ‘Change’ is a real word in our language.

      ‘Change’ has a function and a genuine purpose in our English language, that can never be dismissed or erased by lunatics that are committed to rejecting change and evolution in the Roman Catholic Church, whenever these issues approach them.

  12. John Nolan says:

    ‘What was to be in the Canon of Scriptures was decided by the Apostles then alive, and Elders at Nicea’ (Nektarios)

    The idea of a complete and clear-cut canon of the NT existing from Apostolic times has no foundation in history. The most that can be said is that in the days touching those of the last Apostles there was the nucleus of the later canon, viz. the four Gospels and thirteen Epistles of St Paul. Acts, 1Peter, 1John and Revelations were accepted as canonical by the end of the second century, but the complete NT canon of 27 books was not fixed until the beginning of the fifth century.

    Contrary to popular belief the Council of Nicaea did not define the canon of Scripture.

    In the 16th century Luther disputed four books (Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelations) but the Council of Trent reaffirmed the existing canon, and the Protestant bodies followed suit, as did the Orthodox Church.

  13. Nektarios says:

    David Smith

    “One thing cannot become another.”‘

    A good argument against evolution in the creation and on-going life of human beings.

    As we read, we come to understand the errors of Adam and Eve, and the catastrophic Fall that ensued, the effects of that Fall has infected us in our human nature in every part, and as you rightly
    point out, ‘we simply don’t see it.’

    Christ came to fix that error, not only that but all our errors and mistakes and to destroy the works of the devil.

    This paves the way for God to regenerate us and to justify us in Christ, and make a new creation in Him, which essentially is to reinstate what Man had pre-Fall and more than that, for whom He also justified He also sanctified, and whom He sanctified He also glorified.
    This is the work and action of the Holy Spirit.

    Our human mistakes should alert and point us to our deeper need, the source of these mistakes.

    • John Candido says:

      “One thing cannot become another.”‘

      ‘A good argument against evolution in the creation and on-going life of human beings.’

      Where does this illness come from in denying the very idea of change and using this belief to end any discussion or aggiornamento?

      ‘One thing cannot become another’ is not ‘a good argument against evolution in the creation and on-going life of human beings’.

      It is an entirely false premise to argue against the modern theory of evolution.

  14. galerimo says:

    Shock and horror Quentin.

    Didn’t Jesus say that the Church should be built on Peter – the rock? I know he didn’t leave a blueprint for the construction work, but doesn’t it make sense to have the rock always at the top.

    Supports too are important, I’m not denying that but their role will always be subservient and subordinate, and yes it was Peter he was talking to, not Mary so he clearly meant no women, ever.

    The substructure should be clerical, legal, complex and always male. Keep the rock at the top. And for Jesus’ sake don’t try building on it.

    Have you no regard for the words of our Divine Lord when he says that Peter would get it wrong with his denials before he would get it right with his repentance, thereby instituting Papal infallibility to make sure the gates of hell would not overpower the Church? Read your scripture.

    Thank God we are now always right – and you want to take all that away with…………..”Democracy”.

    I find it hard to even say the word in the same paragraph when speaking of the Lord who was so harsh on his disciples with their notions of governance – he put an end to that, right there and then – places of power and honor indeed!

    But you go too far with your flagrant disregard for Divine Revelation, The Incarnation and the miracle of the Resurrection from the dead, when you contradict so blatantly the necessity for only one way of doing repentance.

    It is as if Jesus had never come among us in the first place – Jesus didn’t die in order to have people coming to him for forgiveness outside the confessional box!

    A “1968” clause? – in the face of almost infallibility? – you have finally lost your faith. If it wasn’t for the vast numbers of our temple police constantly on the look out for such corruption like “thinking as an adult human being” and “taking responsibility with God for your behaviours” our Church would not be the vast propertied organisation that it is.

    The way you are talking we could end up a small pilgrim and poor band of followers of Jesus. Such drivel.

    So stop interfering and suggesting all this nonsense – we are doing very well as we are thank you. After all who needs Jesus when they’ve got their religion to save them.

  15. Quentin says:

    Worth remembering my first paragraph: “This week I am going to list some possibilities – without attempting to approve or disapprove.”

  16. John Nolan says:

    What I find interesting is that despite six years of an increasingly dysfunctional papacy, with the McCarrick affair exposing a cover-up of (or at least a failure to acknowledge) homosexual behaviour among high-ranking prelates, and tolerance of such behaviour over a long period of time in seminaries, leading to the historical sex abuse crisis – the signs are that the Church at a number of levels is reconnecting with tradition. This has been noted by conservatives and progressives alike; the former applauding it and the latter deploring it.

    So a prediction, albeit an ironic one, that the rupture that occurred in the 1960s and spilled over into the 1970s is a) permanent and b) likely to spawn more and more excesses and innovations, is arguably wide of the mark.

    • David Smith says:

      // the signs are that the Church at a number of levels is reconnecting with tradition. This has been noted by conservatives and progressives alike; the former applauding it and the latter deploring it.

      So a prediction, albeit an ironic one, that the rupture that occurred in the 1960s and spilled over into the 1970s is a) permanent and b) likely to spawn more and more excesses and innovations, is arguably wide of the mark. //

      The Church, in some places and in some ways, may be “reconnecting with tradition”, but the damage of the past half century has been done, and it’s considerable, and it cannot be undone. The Church’s future will always bear the marks of it. One of those marks, sadly, is the current confusion, laxity, and lack of a steady hand in Rome.

      There’s an article in the current edition of the Herald about an interview with James MacMillan, a musician. Here’s the final paragraph:

      // Apart from teenage Marxism, his great regret is that the rise of high-class choral singing in Britain hasn’t carried through to Catholic parishes. “I’ve tried my best,” he says. “I’ve argued long and hard for a return to chant, which is the sound of Catholicism. But all this gets pushed aside as elitist, totally unfairly. So I can only accept that it’s a battle I’ve lost and am giving up. I need to get on with my life. It’s what happens at 60.” //

      Chant is gone, and the monks and the monasteries and the cloistered nuns are gone. Reconnecting with tradition, whatever that means, cannot bring them back.

      • Martha says:

        David, I do hope and trust that chant has not gone. If you Google St. Cecilia’s Abbey, Ryde, IOW, it will give you hope.

  17. John Nolan says:

    Also, David, if chant is ‘gone’ , how come I am singing it Sunday after Sunday (in different churches) and the demand for proficient chant singers exceeds the supply?

    If someone had told me thirty years ago that I would now be attending the traditional Mass on a regular basis; that young priests would be learning it (and also Latin); that English bishops would be celebrating the Pontifical High Mass in their own cathedrals; that the same bishops are handing over historic churches to the FSSP and ICRSS who only use the traditional Rite – I would have said he was wildly optimistic. But it is happening here and now.

    Sir James MacMillan is more than a ‘musician’; he is probably the world’s leading Catholic composer. He frequently visits the Benedictine monastery at Pluscarden in his native Scotland, which celebrates the entire liturgy in Latin and Chant.

    I shall be visiting the Isle of Wight in July and shall be attending Mass at St Cecilia’s Abbey, where the nuns arguably sing the best chant in the UK (and they are up against serious competition, not least from Westminster Cathedral and other London churches).

    • David Smith says:

      Good, John. But aren’t you, maybe, living inside a smallish bubble?

      • John Nolan says:

        Maybe. But I would argue that those whose only experience of liturgy and music is what their local parish dishes up, are living in a very much smaller one.

      • David Smith says:

        I agree. But both Rome and the typical layman disagree, I’m afraid. Chant is quiet, contemplative, and these are noisy, angry times.

  18. John Nolan says:

    Yet Gregorian chant was composed in extremely angry, noisy and violent times, popularly known as the Dark Ages. Modern man is in desperate need of quiet contemplation, because the outside world is relentlessly noisy. This point was eloquently made by Cardinal Sarah in ‘The Power of Silence.’

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