Jesus and the apples

I note this morning that this blog had been operating since 2008. Since then it has carried over 130 articles of substance. That’s by no means a record but I think it tells us that Christians of intelligence are more than ready to think, to consult, to agree and to disagree. I have no firm picture of the contributors who take part in the discussions. Clearly, the majority are Catholics, and a proportion are in religious orders. But there are plenty of other Christians, and of course we have non-believers. The standard of comments is high. And they are frequent – often approaching, and sometimes exceeding, a hundred.

Not surprisingly we often come back to the question of communication within the Church. For me, that was triggered by a major study of communication within hospitals. It contrasted hospitals with poor communication upwards, downwards and sideways, with those who put emphasis on their internal communication. The outcome was that the communicating hospitals were significantly better at curing patients. Round about that time, businesses were finding good internal communication to be a big factor in success.

And, at first sight, it appeared that the Church by its very function was a non-communicator. Its chief, the pope, was absolute in authority and, in certain cases infallible. He was surrounded by a bunch of senior clerics, known as the Curia – a kind of administrative government. Then come the bishops – seen as the descendants of the Apostles, and, in turn, the obedient parish priests. Finally, there’s us, our hands inevitably in our pockets – because that’s where the money comes from.

The 1960s was a key decade. The second Vatican Council took place and demonstrated at least that the bishops were free to discuss issues which historically had been fixed by tradition and authority. Even today there are those who believe, and have argued strongly, that the Council was fundamentally wrong in freeing up the long held ecclesiastical Church authority. We see an outcome each week when we attend Mass in English as an expression of the whole community, and not one in a foreign language exclusive to a minority. It would be interesting to know how well we think the Church nowadays communicates with its members.

I attended Mass this morning on my computer. I am fortunate to have the best parish priest I have ever encountered. I just finish with a story he told.

‘I am reminded of a story told to me of a group of salesmen who had been on a conference. They were running late on their return trip and in their rush through the airport one of the group inadvertently knocked a basket of apples off a table. Apples were everywhere. The group kept running and reached the plane just in time.
All except one. He told his colleagues to go on without him and he went back to where the apples had been knocked off the table. He was glad he did. The young girl selling the apples as a sixteen year old blind girl. She was trying to recover her produce by feel, no one was helping all were trying to get to their departure gates. The salesman knelt on the ground with the girl and gathered the apples into the basket, replacing it on the table and rearranging the display. When he had finished he gave the girl some money to cover the cost of any damaged fruit. As the salesman started to walk away the bewildered blind girl called out “Mister, are you Jesus”.’

About Quentin

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

50 Responses to Jesus and the apples

  1. galerimo says:

    Thank you Quentin. Your story about the apples is very appropriate to a discussion on communication.

    It reminds me of the saying attributed to St Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary, use words”.

    Recently, during communion, I felt a deep sense of communication and it was the day we were remembering the couple sharing the road with Jesus, chatting on their way to Emmaus.

    And it was non verbal. I am amazed how much of that way of communicating between myself and God becomes more frequent in old age.

    Someone referred to nature as the first book of God’s revelation and it rings very true for me.

    The beauty and delicacy of what is all around impresses more and more God’s love and care.

    And God’s power too at times communicated through music – Hans Küng spoke of Mozart’s music.

    He said it has “relevance for religion … precisely through the compositional technique of the non-vocal, purely instrumental music, through the way in which music interprets the world, a way which transcends extra-musical conceptuality.”

    Notice too how much continues to communicate itself through well worn scriptures that have been read a thousand times but can be experienced as fresh and new, and almost feels like hearing for the first time.

    Our communicating is indeed very special – we receive the Word in community with each other and of course our silences in prayer and our kenetic liturgy all convey depth and height and broad broad horizons of God’s love in Truth.

    Our communicating with God, now possible as Church under the inflowing of the Holy Spirit. Sheer gift.

    I read somewhere that what we communicate to God our Father is like an empty, used and unwashed plate and God rushes towards us to accept it from our hands with beaming love and good grace.

    That is the communication that beggars comprehension – from our hearts that we can communicate directly into the heart of total Mystery and the fullness of all – often with distractions and little enthusiasm. No qualifications, no training, no fluency, no need for anyone to help – the most dumbfounded of humans now has direct access – and often the Spirit of God prays from within us.

    Just like that evening, a few weeks ago, during the lockdown, sitting in my own back yard, with an i-pad, and my heart too burning within me, in communication. Differently.

    It takes three to communicate. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And we are all invited to join in!

  2. pnyikos says:

    We see an outcome each week when we attend Mass in English as an expression of the whole community, and not one in a foreign language exclusive to a minority.

    In these extraordinary days, with streamed Masses, the whole community can hardly be thought of as the people who happen to be watching the same streamed Mass. It is more appropriate to think of it as all the Catholics of the world who are experiencing the same Mass of the Faithful, the same prayers, and the same scripture readings, in whatever language they can understand.

    For decades past now, I have attended conferences in mathematics where I could hardly understand a single word of Mass (except for the names of Jesus, Mary and the saints) in the language of the host country, but I went anyway. I would have much preferred to attend a Latin mass, having taken two years of Latin in high school and still familiar with the old version. In fact, bits like “Introibo ad altare Dei” still bring a catch to my throat. But there were never any available.

  3. pnyikos says:

    I attended Mass this morning on my computer.

    So did I, with my whole family. Our parish is easing into the new freedom gradually. Today and yesterday were the first days of public Sunday Mass, but the parish is too big to accommodate everyone who might want to attend.

    We are on a quota system where people whose surnames begin in the middle of the alphabet, like ours, are assigned to next week’s Mass for the first time. We have decided to wait at least until our turn comes around once again, four weeks from now, hoping that the situation will by then be safe enough to satisfy even the most cautious members of my family.

    Many others are of the same mind, it seems. One parishioner who attended the vigil Mass yesterday evening told us that there were only about 25 taking part. This is a Mass where there are typically about ten times that many taking part. Under the present quota system, over a hundred could have been accommodated.

  4. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes:

    // It would be interesting to know how well we think the Church nowadays communicates with its members. //

    Poorly, I think. Far too many words and far too many committees and special interest groups. Too many words means that nothing is understood clearly. Too much socializing means that it’s all about externals.

    The Church is nothing if not hierarchical. Hierarchy means that authority speaks and the people listen, believe, and obey. That probably looks fine on a flowchart, but it does not work in practice, at least in the developed world today. Time and changing ways of thinking have made the traditional Church all but obsolete. I suspect that many if not most modern Catholics in Europe and the Americas are no longer Catholic in a dogmatic sense; instead, they’re probably just sticking around because they vaguely want to believe that they believe in something and the social environment is pleasant enough. And because everybody’s got to be somewhere.

    How should the Church deal with this? I have no idea. There may be no way. I still remember the drama of the priests and nuns deserting the ship in droves fifty years ago when they thought the hierarchy had been dissolved. Maybe it’s time for the hierarchy to be dissolved formally. I hope not, but I wonder. How might the pope communicate *that* message?

    • galerimo says:

      There are any number of ways he might communicate such a message depending on how rapidly the ship might be sinking.

      He could use an Apostolic Constitution or an Encyclical or a Motu Proprio or perhaps an Apostolic Letter or an Apostolic Exhortation, also he has at his disposal Decretal Letters, Allocutiones or Addresses, Papal Rescripts or even an Apostolic Brief.

      Recently I saw where Pope Francis delivered a TED talk and I think it too might be way of conveying a message of concern or a word of encouragement.

      And I believe the English priest, James Alison, actually had a phone call from His Holiness on a matter or canonical importance.

      So, like you, I wonder too.

      But just as in olden times it was the slowness of travel and the tyranny of distance that impeded good communications, the direct opposite could be true to-day.

      So much information arriving so rapidly.

      Church communication is no different to all communication these days.

      You have to wonder which is better – ignorance or confusion?

  5. David Smith says:

    galerimo writes:

    // You have to wonder which is better – ignorance or confusion? //

    Confusion is a form of ignorance. So, they’re the same thing.

    Of all the millions of facts billions of people now know because they’re battered with information from breakfast to bed, almost all are hearsay and opinion. We devour gossip and trivia and think ourselves wise.

  6. Geordie says:

    “It would be interesting to know how well we think the Church nowadays communicates with its members.”
    I agree with David Smith. The answer is “poorly”. However I don’t think that it is just because of “too many words and far too many committees and special interest groups” . These do tend to muddy the waters but a more serious problem for the laity is the inability of the hierarchy to tell the truth.
    They are good at half-truths and lies; most of the comments by the bishops obscure the truth. They are very like politicians. They never answer the questions. This is where “too many words” enters into the equation. They protect their own interests and claim they are protecting the Church; just like politicians who claim that they keep secrets for the security of the country. In fact bishops turn out to be politicians is mitres.
    They also have poor memories when they are accused of not replying to correspondence. They claim that they never received communications, which ask difficult questions; or they can’t remember. It is strange that sycophantic communications always reach them.

    • galerimo says:

      Your warning of “Too many words and far too many committees” lands as a strong reminder.

      Here in Australia we were planning to gather for the first Plenary Council to be held since Vatican II.

      It will be the fifth such council held here.

      In 2018, the entire People of God in this country began preparing for this historic moment – it is an enormous exercise in communication – first, listening to God.

      Then, in light of this, responding to the stories, we share about who we are and want to be in our time as followers of Jesus.

      The first stage involved a process that yielded more than 17,457 submissions from the 222,000 people who have so far voluntarily participated.

      The second stage in this vast communication exercise involves and still involves discernment. That means attending to these submissions to try and uncover how God is calling us to be a Christ-centred Church, in Australia today

      The main headings that are emerging is for a Church that is

      • Missionary and evangelising
      • Inclusive, participatory and synodal
      • Prayerful and Eucharistic
      • Humble, healing and merciful
      • A joyful, hope-filled and servant community
      • Open to conversion, renewal and reform

      In March, the names of more than 250 delegates, all nominated by dioceses, eparchies, ordinariates and a personal prelature were published.

      These delegates will represent those local churches at the celebration of the Council over two assemblies – originally planned for Adelaide in October 2020 and in Sydney in mid-2021.

      But of course, the current pandemic has meant that there will now be a deferral of these dates.

      So I am suggesting that there is not much scope for memory lapses or avoidance of truth telling. Community involvement has been there from the start.

      But of course the success of this whole vast exercise in communication will be the type of Church that emerges.

  7. John Nolan says:

    When was the last time you heard a bishop’s ‘pastoral letter’ which contained anything of substance? Bishops, then and now, are essentially committee men. This is more noticeable in England and Wales, with a relatively small Catholic population in a restricted geographical area, than it is in the USA.

    Recently the Bishop of Knoxville TN instructed his priests to refuse Holy Communion to those who wish to receive on the tongue. He used the excuse of COVID-19, despite the fact that there is no evidence that receiving in the hand is ‘safer’ and the USCCB has said as much. Since the right of the faithful to receive in the traditional manner is guaranteed by a higher authority, the bishop is clearly acting ultra vires and therefore his instruction does not command obedience. But at least he is acting independently, which would not happen over here.

    Remember what happened to Bishop Egan of Portsmouth when he stuck his neck out in 2014? And he had Canon Law and Catholic moral teaching on his side.

    • milliganp says:

      The canon law on this is quite clear, so I will not argue that point. However to suggest that the administration of communion on the tongue is free from risk directly contradicts the current medical advice to protect mouth and eyes from contact with our own hands, never mind those of a priest or other minister distributing communion. Whether that would ever be a just cause to refuse communion is obviously questionable.

      • John Nolan says:

        No-one is suggesting that receiving either on the tongue or in the hand is free from risk. If the ‘current medical advice’ is followed, then both practices are risky. When receiving in the palm of the hand, the communicant cannot be sure the minister’s fingers have not inadvertently touched another’s palm, and by picking up the Host with the fingers and transferring it directly to the mouth he thereby infects himself.

      • milliganp says:

        John, I don’t want to get into an argument. If you receive the genuinely traditional way, kneeling at an altar rail and properly putting out your tongue, I suspect the risk of cross infection is low. If you receive in the hand, there is a very low chance as well. However, as one who does this every Sunday, most people who receive on the tongue standing make little effort and I regularly find my hand colliding with their mouths. Wiping women’s lipstick off my fingernails is a regular part of my post-communion ritual.

      • David Smith says:

        milliganp writes:

        // Wiping women’s lipstick off my fingernails is a regular part of my post-communion ritual. //

        Thanks. I’d never thought of that possibility. I suppose an awareness of it might put paid to the preference for communion on the tongue. Sad. I’d guess it might also finish off sharing the cup. (I confess that the common cup has always seemed to me unsanitary.)

        Are people everywhere in the materially developed world becoming excessively fearful of germs? That seems an unfortunate price to pay for progress. Can you imagine a world in which everyone always wears a mask in public? I can. The snowflake mentality may have gathered in hundreds of millions of converts because of this Covid craziness. First, it was “every male is a rapist”; now, it’s “every human carries a deadly disease on his breath”. The human mind is bent toward insanity.

  8. ignatius says:

    I must admit to finding this thread, and others like it, somewhat miserable. It seems to me that as soon as Quentin mentions ‘Church’ or ‘Leadership’ or ‘authority’ we devolve rapidly into ‘us’ and ‘them’ I frankly fail to understand why there is this almost push button tendency to seperate ourselves from the body of which we are directly a part, as if we are somehow dissosociating our individual selves from our home because we are somehow ashamed of it. I’ve been interested in this before and when I have asked questions about things people post it often becomes apparent that they are also alienated from their local parish and may indeed be non communicating. I wonder if there is a link between personal dissatisfaction with ones own spiritual experience and dissatisfaction with our church.

  9. Geordie says:

    You are right Ignatius; it is miserable. However it is not because we are disassociating ourselves from our home; I, personally, am disassociating myself from the hierarchy. The lay members of the Church have kept me practising my Faith.
    The evidence against the hierarchy (apart from one or two exceptions) is patently obvious. They have failed in their duty to children throughout the world. Ireland is a particularly stark example. They have failed in their use of money donated by the Laity. They have covered up wrong-doing for years and it has only come to light through the secular media. Many of them are still trying to belittle anyone who speaks out, including many good priests.
    The bishops of England and Wales are totally ineffective in their moral teaching. For example, their response to the imposition of the abortion laws on the people of Northern Ireland by this present UK government was almost non-existent. They pay lip-service to the Church’s teaching but anyone who rocks the boat is called a loose cannon. They are spineless.

    • milliganp says:

      This generalised condemnation of the hierarchy is absurd. My current Archbishop wasn’t even a Catholic when most of the abuse we are aware of happened. It would be considered naked prejudice if I made a generalised statement about “all” members of a particular race or creed. Let us allow at least the same presumption of goodness to our own priests and bishops.

  10. galerimo says:

    Pope Francis makes a good point when he points out a major failure in proper communication.

    It is the inadequate presentation of Christian anthropology that gave rise to a wrong understanding of the relationship between human beings and the world.

    In short, what was handed on from our communications around Genesis’ creation story was a Promethean vision of mastery over the world.

    Instead of talk about dominion we should more correctly have been communicating ideas and understandings of the meaning of stewardship. (Laudato si;116)

    Could the same be said about our earlier understanding of “the Jews” in the scriptures? Wrong ideas, miscommunicated that fed into bigotry and racism made a major impact on the Anti-Semitism that was typical of Christianity for the best part of two millennia.

    And in light of our systems of governance and the ordering of our liturgies how well have the words of St Paul been properly communicated – “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28)

    But miscommunication of ideas is one thing. Forceful communication of wrong ideas is another.

    What became known as the “Doctrine of Discovery” resulting from Pope Alexander VI’s Papal Bull, “Inter Caetera” communicated the idea that Christians had the right to claim lands, territories and resources of native peoples all over the world because they were not Christians.

    The native Indians of North America, the Aboriginal peoples of Australia and many other races of people have born the destruction unleashed on them as a result of how this “doctrine” was communicated, mediated through persecution.

    As we discuss “how well the Church nowadays communicates with its members”, we need to pay attention to those times we have not communicated well in order to do better, now.

  11. John Nolan says:

    I don’t remember ever being told or indeed reading that dominion and stewardship were mutually exclusive; simple logic dictates that dominion is a precondition for the exercise of stewardship.

    As for Alexander VI’s Bull Inter Caetera (May 1493), it was ignored by Portugal as being too favourable to Spain and its demarcation provisions were significantly altered by the Treaty of Tordesillas a little over a year later as a result of negotiation between the two Iberian powers. An objective reading of the Bull suggests that Alexander’s main concern was the conversion of the heathen (i.e. evangelization) and he trusted Ferdinand and Isabella with the task.

    The mainly Protestant colonizers of North America and Australasia are unlikely to have been influenced by a papal Bull, and to suggest that Inter Caetera was of particular historical significance or had a direct bearing on subsequent European exploration, discovery and overseas expansion (which, like it or not, has shaped the modern world) is to indulge in fantasy.

  12. FZM says:

    I don’t think a number of the things Galerimo is referring to were really failures of communication, because a teaching can be communicated but then other people can reject it or ignore it.

    You can see that in the case of environmentalism, when the Church was warning about the dangers of industrialisation and materialism throughout the 19th and early 20th century and the consistent condemnation of belief in the kind of ultra-racialist worldviews emanating from Germany in the first half of the 20th.

    In both these cases the Church was quite harshly condemned as anti-progressive and out of step with modernity at the time.

    I remember that on the old Portuguese Escudo currency notes the first line of Fernando Pessoa’s poem ‘O Infante’ used to be printed ‘Deus quer, o homem sonha, a obra nasce’; God wills, man dreams, the work is born. The work in question was the age of discoveries.

  13. David Smith says:

    Quentin wrote:

    // It would be interesting to know how well we think the Church nowadays communicates with its members. //

    How well it communicates what? There’s doctrine, there’s direct application of doctrine, and there’s everything else.

    One thing I’d think an institution that has been growing for two thousand years would be intensely concerned with communicating to modern minds is the wealth and richness of its tradition. Two thousand years is about a hundred generations. Every human life is short, and every new child must be taught anew, from scratch. If every Catholic child learns little or nothing of the Church’s history and traditions, that knowledge will effectively soon go dead. I suspect that’s been happening.

    Doctrine, too, is probably dying. In the modern age, objectively observable facts rule in the minds of men. The real presence is not an objectively observable fact. Nor is the Trinity, nor is the soul, nor is God himself.

    Good works, however, are observable and quantifiable. Thus, the modern Church focuses on them. It communicates their importance, daily, constantly. So, as a result, we have a two thousand year old institution with no living roots in the past and no living beliefs that transcend the physical. What we have is a social-service organization that is slowly, gradually ridding itself of its religious trappings.

    • milliganp says:

      As a deacon, I find myself looking out at the congregation at Mass, often wondering “what do they believe?”. The 70+ parishioners have a remnant of the era of high Mass, Benediction, May and October devotions and belief that the faith incorporated a strong moral code.
      Then, in most congregations, there is an age gap to the 30-40+ years-old group who bring their children to Mass, in part, at least, because they want them to be educated in Catholic schools; but, I suspect, it’s the education they want, not the religion.
      In our congregations we have doctors, nurses, teachers, accountants, legal professionals, scientists and accountants. Almost all of these are degree educated but have, at best, GCSE religious education (that’s High School for those outside the UK) and we offer little to change this situation.
      We also have working class but these are declining, the social church is not an easy place for poorer members of our society as they do not ‘fit’. We have churches full of articulate people who have little to say.
      I’ll stop. I’m getting grumpy but still wonder how do we change this. I find myself contemplating Jesus’ words “do not the heathen do as much?”

      • galerimo says:

        This is a difficult question – and in my experience I am the one who has to change when it comes to the community of faith – which may not always be the congregation.

        I find I am formed by the community which is ultimately the Divine Mystery of the Trinity – the people who are included in that community of love can appear so far away from “my” faith at times that I scarcely “feel” like being part of it.

        I feel it is my own willingness to offer service – even where it is not acceptable to continue with the community of believers and not go out looking just for the “like minded”.

        Congregations are not much different to a bus stop or a supermarket queue but once I am prepared to see them from Jesus point of view, they begin to open to me as a community of believers – unfortunately without any change in appearance!

        I still would like it to be the way I want it – agreeable, intelligent, enthusiastic – but the fact is I am the one who needs to step up to that mark and engage my faith with an agreeableness, intelligence and enthusiasm as I interact with the community, whether in worship or any other church way.

        I am no expert on this matter at all – any it is my own practice I am talking about so feel free to discard it – its my growing experience of being formed in the community without any compromise to my own gifts. And come to feel it is actually Jesus who forms us into his own body.

        But the “I”s of faith are different to the “eyes” of faith – so I am learning, and it is hard learning.

    • David Smith says:

      I see that the a Pope is now preaching openly for a Universal Basic Income.

      Did the cardinals who elected him realize that they were choosing a Latin American leftist politician to head up the Church? I mean that question seriously. Was it the collective wisdom of its elders that the Church should push openly for radical government-mandated redistributionism?

      It’s one thing to speak of charity to the hearts and consciences of individuals and quite another to advocate that charity be defined and ordered by the state.

      This is a lovely example of how the modern church communicates “the truth”.

      • ignatius says:

        David writes:
        “I see that the a Pope is now preaching openly for a Universal Basic Income.”

        “It’s one thing to speak of charity to the hearts and consciences of individuals and quite another to advocate that charity be defined and ordered by the state.
        This is a lovely example of how the modern church communicates “the truth””

        Sounds pretty much in line with the beatitudes to me…

      • David Smith says:

        ignatius writes:

        // Sounds pretty much in line with the beatitudes to me… //

        Blessed are the dictators who with the power of the state shall force the multitudes to be charitable?

      • FZM says:

        It seems like it can depend on how big and effective the state is, and how invested in and attached to it a population may be. When the state is very large and employs significant numbers of people or the people it rules are strongly invested in it, the state can become something more like a manifestation of the nation in which it exists. Then, many people feel a natural inclination or duty to serve their nation, also an expectation that it will look after them if they have unexpected difficulties.

        In countries where this is the tradition or current situation something like a UBI may be more feasible and be less of a moral hazard, or it may already exist in various forms. The problem not all countries seem to have the kind of tradition needed for this to work effectively.

  14. ignatius says:

    “I’ll stop. I’m getting grumpy but still wonder how do we change this. I find myself contemplating Jesus’ words “do not the heathen do as much?”

    I think the phrase ‘lex orandi lex credendi’ comes to mind here. Also the fact that there is a mystery dwelling in us all, which we all partake but cannot easily bring out as words.
    Lex orandi lex credendi, according to Wikipedia
    “is a motto in Christian tradition, which means that prayer and belief are integral to each other and that liturgy is not distinct from theology.”
    I like that.
    I think, for clergy, there is a great temptation to believe that the revelation which calls us to follow is somehow different than that given to others, this of course is pride and nonsense.

    • milliganp says:

      Sadly, my place on the altar allows me to see the lips which never seem to move during the mass. At least my father knelt and said his rosary – his lex orandi were the mysteries contemplated and his love for Mary, the Mother of God – which is as complex a theology as we would want any person to grasp. I’m not an utter pessimist but I do feel a failure to grasp the decline in genuine Catholic religious sentiment is something we should all care about.

      • ignatius says:

        Sorry but I don’t think its a good idea to judge from the front. I could come into Mass after having had a bad day and keep my mouth shut too. In fact I’ve done it several times, just uttered liturgy silently if that. You might view, from the front, a grim faced silent man saying not much and thus appropriate my features to suit your theories of decline. But you would be wrong.
        I also know the view from the altar and it is very different perspective than that from the pew.What can seem vibrant and life enhancing from the front may well seem like groundhog day from the back and ‘joining in’ may be like pulling teeth.. Not long ago I found my attention drawn to a man who never uttered a word, kept his lips pursed and didn’t even try to sing. I found out later that there had been a double bereavement in the family, I realised that the man was doing his level best just to keep coming to mass at all.

      • ignatius says:

        “a failure to grasp the decline in genuine Catholic religious sentiment is something we should all care about…”
        This is a can of worms..best not go there!!!

  15. John Nolan says:

    There is a hymn or ‘worship song’ popular in American parishes (and not just Catholic ones) which has the following refrain:

    Let us bring the gifts that differ
    and in splendid, varied ways,
    sing a new Church into being,
    one in faith and love and praise.

    I was reminded of this when I read Galerimo’s post on the Australian Plenary Council, which he appears to think can talk a new Church into being. Talk of a ‘new Church’ is problematic (if not heretical) from a Catholic point of view, and no amount of talking will produce a consensus. The type of Church envisaged by Galerimo (going on what he has posted in the past) would not be the Catholic Church as I and many others understand it. Put simply, it would not be the Church founded by Jesus Christ and guided by the Holy Ghost.

    The Catholic Church in Australia is polarized to a greater extent than in England and the USA. Tolerance of open dissent and liturgical abuse surfaced at the ad limina visit to Rome in 1998 when the Australian bishops issued a ‘Statement of Conclusions’ which supposedly would address the problem, but did not. It took a further 13 years to remove the heterodox bishop of Toowoomba, ‘Bill’ Morris, and the maverick priest Greg Reynolds was allowed to continue with his wacky ‘liturgies’ during one of which communion was given to a dog, until Pope Francis laicized and excommunicated him in 2013.

    Yet we have the other side of the coin in the young (b.1960) Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher OP. A few months ago he was in Oxford (he has a D.Phil from University College) and celebrated Solemn Mass at the Oratory. Afterwards he joked that if anyone found fault with his Latin he was using the Australian pronunciation.

    There are plenty of priests and bishops in Australia and elsewhere who can communicate the truths of the Catholic faith clearly and unambiguously and see evangelization as not simply a matter of proclaiming ‘Hey you out there! We’re really nice people who care about inclusivity, equality, diversity, justice and peace – not to mention the environment! Forget what you thought you knew about the Catholic Church, because we are building, here and now, a New Church! Come and join us!’

    • milliganp says:

      A newborn baby is new but is not a novelty. We need to constantly renew the church and to speak the gospel in the language of society. When missionaries set out to spread the gospel they had to first come to know the societies they were evangelising. Our current society has little in common with the world of my father.
      When I was a teenager there was a new setting of the Mass (in Latin) popularised by inclusion in a film. Missa Luba was criticised at the time for the pagan influence in the music – because, at the time, we saw black people as savages.
      There is much modern hymnody and settings of religious texts which are far better at expressing the gospel message than some of the trite hymns of my childhood and the “clap hands, here comes Jesus” music of the early 70’s.

      • FZM says:

        It is interesting that for a long time (at least as far as I can remember myself) there was a general assumption that the Church needed to catch up with and adapt itself to trends coming from secular society. Recently I’ve noticed that there are younger Catholics in the West (in their 20s and early 30s) who are seeing things the opposite way around; that society has to be adapted back, in political and social terms, to fit in with the teaching of the Church. The emergence of this difference in mentality is striking.

  16. John Nolan says:

    Paul Milligan

    Please provide evidence that the Missa Luba (composed in 1958 by Fr Guido Haazen) was criticized at the time for ‘pagan’ influences. I know it’s run into criticism more recently as being an example of what the Left calls cultural colonization, and doubly damned since it uses the Latin text of the Ordinary.

    My great-uncle was a Holy Ghost Father and both he and his Superior (one Marcel Lefebvre) would have been appalled that anyone should regard black people as savages.

    Do you really believe that language and society have changed so much in one generation that we need to adapt the Gospel message to take account of it? For example:
    Gabriel: ‘Hi Mary, I’ve got news for you. You’re pregnant.’
    Mary: ‘You must be joking. I haven’t had sex .’
    Gabriel: ‘Yeah, I know, but it’s a sort of mystical thing involving the Holy Spirit. And the sprog’s going to be called Jesus.’
    Mary: ‘Whatever.’

    In any case, the ‘new church’ agenda involves rather more than setting religious texts to ‘accessible’ music or writing soppy hymns.

  17. ignatius says:

    David:
    “Blessed are the dictators who with the power of the state shall force the multitudes to be charitable?..”
    To my eye this is chiefly an exercise in hyperbole!! Is there any content in it

    • John Nolan says:

      Actually, David makes a very important point. The ‘Welfare State’ violates the principle of subsidiarity which is an important element of Catholic social teaching (cf Rerum Novarum 1891, Quadragesimo Anno 1931 and Centesimus Annus 1991).

      Once the state takes over responsibilities which belong properly to individuals or groups, it is nigh on impossible to roll it back. In the 75 years since the war, the Conservatives have been in office for 45 of them, and despite their rhetoric they have shown little inclination to do so.

      A recent survey showed that a majority of the working population are happy with the lockdown. Public employees such as teachers are still on full salary, others are being paid by the state to do nothing, and some have been frightened out of their wits by what the government tells them and will probably never go out again.

    • David Smith says:

      ignatius writes:

      // To my eye this is chiefly an exercise in hyperbole!! Is there any content in it //

      I agree, it’s hyperbole, and as such badly written. I’ve tried to think of a more appropriate neo-beatitude but have yet to come up with one that satisfies me. I’ll keep working on it in my off-hours.

      Heavens, yes, there’s content. The modern state is increasingly taking over the role of moral arbiter. If there’s little or no resistance from below, we’ll all soon be thinking and behaving as we’re told, and no more. That’s why, I imagine, John Nolan was at least a little appalled to see nearly all Britishers publicly praising the NHS in chorus and on command, and why it appalled me, too. There is more there than just the camel’s nose under the tent.

      This is not the place for politics except insofar as it touches importantly on Catholicism – or, at least, on Christianity – but surely, as the democratic state moves ever closer to openly articulated income redistribution, it is moving ever closer to removing from both the individual and from the independent institutions – a category that includes the Church – the role of determining who are and who are not worthy of charity. I understand, I think, why you disapprove of my calling income redistribution charity, but surely the intention is charity, and it functions as charity, and it looks very much like charity. The state’s using the money it takes in taxation to pay for the daily sustenance of tens of millions of people who pay no taxes is a radically different thing from its using taxes to pay only for the common welfare – for roads and bridges and airports and public safety, and so on. And when the taxpayer is forced to pay much more in taxes than he does now because of this, there will be a great decrease in the funds disposable in individual hands for what I suppose you would consider the sort of thing that “charity” ought properly to be limited to describing.

      In sum, perhaps, I’m worried that human beings in democracies are increasingly being neutered by their governments and their information purveyors into creatures strongly disinclined toward thinking for themselves. In return, it seems, they will be assured of the right to live, but only on condition that they think and behave as told. Does this concern seem to you exaggerated, overheated? It may be. A relativist would certainly say so.

      • FZM says:

        Charity seems more like the welfare state, where people receive money from the state if they are ill and cannot work or if they are unemployed and can’t find work to support themselves. At present I think this kind of system exists in almost every European country and has done for some decades. Sometimes it is seen not just as a charity issue but a social justice (in the old sense, as referenced in the Catechism) issue.

        UBI looks different because it seems it isn’t related to a right and duty to work, nor to people being in need or a difficult situation. It isn’t directly charity and it may not be just, unless the state derives large revenues from the sale of natural resources.

        Strange, but one of the reasons that welfare states arose is that without them it was claimed that the majority of people were overly dependent on the decisions of the relatively small number of people who owned and controlled the means of production and so had little control over their lives or scope to think about things.

  18. John Nolan says:

    However, the state does have the right and duty to ensure that workers receive a just wage. If Pope Francis’s ‘universal basic income’ is a call for all countries to comply with this, he is in continuity with Leo XIII, Pius XI and John Paul II.

    • ignatius says:

      Yes, this was my thinking. I don’t see how anyone can be ‘forced’ to be charitable.You can confiscate my belongings but you cannot force me to give freely with god intentions in my heart, no one can compel that.

      • ignatius says:

        Oooops; for ‘god’ read ‘good’ amounts to the same thing I guess.

      • FZM says:

        Perhaps the motivations for the creation of the welfare states were not entirely altruistic; they seem to come from a time when the state needed to conscript large parts of the young male population into the military and also employ them in warfare to defend property. Having significant populations of urbanised workers in heavy industry and things like mining that you had also given military training to, and trying to keep them on pre-1914 style welfare arrangements was probably understood to be not politically viable.

  19. galerimo says:

    It was under Bismarck’s leadership that the first national system of old-age pensions and partial health insurance was introduced. The old German principalities too had a long tradition of subsidising the arts and sciences as well as state protection of forests and other natural resources.

    In fact, the German clergy were ahead of Leo XIII (Rerum Novarum, 1891) with their Centre Party (1871) that advocated for Catholic interests openly calling for trade-union organization, the elimination of sales taxes for the staples of life as well as these forward-looking welfare laws instituted by the Chancellor.

    Perhaps it was with the intention to buy the loyalty of the new industrial working classes without having to give the full political and legal equality proclaimed in the French Revolution. Freedom at last for anyone who was not a priest, a land owner or a royal servant.

    However, it was the welfare systems developed in Scandinavia after the first world war and generalised in most on non-communist Europe after the Second World war that gave the higher standard of living and choice of lifestyles which we have become used to and had never experienced in history before.

    Relating this to our theme of communication the striking fact is that prior to the first world war very few people knew what was going on in the world. If you were not in the upper ranks of the army or diplomatic core then the world was a closed book.

    The discovery of radioactivity, and the beginnings of quantum physics and relativity theory all occur before the 1914 – but because we had not yet entered into the age of mass communication it would be decades before much would be known about these things.

    There were no hourly radio and TV news bulletins that tell us today, almost instantly, what is going on around the world, let alone our own continent. Only a very small proportion got to read the newspapers often enough to see any patterns emerge in the affairs that were current in their time.

    However well we communicate as Church, we are a lot better at it in society generally than ever before. And who can we blame but ourselves if we make such poor use of such great advances?

    • FZM says:

      However, it was the welfare systems developed in Scandinavia after the first world war and generalised in most on non-communist Europe after the Second World war that gave the higher standard of living and choice of lifestyles which we have become used to and had never experienced in history before.

      This is a strange way around to put it, because it is economic growth which enabled the creation of the welfare states and provided higher standards of living in Europe and it is consumer capitalism which has produced the choice of lifestyles we have become used to, not the existence of a welfare state.

      Perhaps it was with the intention to buy the loyalty of the new industrial working classes without having to give the full political and legal equality proclaimed in the French Revolution. Freedom at last for anyone who was not a priest, a land owner or a royal servant.

      Since the principles of the French revolution repeatedly seem to have led urban dwellers to go to war against peasants and to have provided a special level of freedom to those in the military or state security upon which the regimes it inspired usually depended maybe it was recognised it actually had nothing special to offer.

  20. David Smith says:

    galerimo writes:

    // There were no hourly radio and TV news bulletins that tell us today, almost instantly, what is going on around the world, let alone our own continent. Only a very small proportion got to read the newspapers often enough to see any patterns emerge in the affairs that were current in their time.

    However well we communicate as Church, we are a lot better at it in society generally than ever before. And who can we blame but ourselves if we make such poor use of such great advances? //

    “The news” gives a very narrow and superficial and hyper-edited view of “what’s going on around the world” and of what we ought to think it means and how we ought to feel about it. It’s far, far more noise than signal. It is not education; rather, it drowns its would-be students in a sludge that’s equal parts raw data and propaganda. How can any sentient creature, all by himself, be expected to make any coherent sense of that?

  21. Geordie says:

    “In return, it seems, they will be assured of the right to live, but only on condition that they think and behave as told. Does this concern seem to you exaggerated, overheated? It may be. A relativist would certainly say so.”
    No, David Smith, it is not exaggerated. Our politicians seem to set the moral standards these days; especially in the UK. We must all conform to the liberal moral agenda or be accused bigotry or racism or fascism. Recently, the laws of N. Ireland on abortion have been changed by London against the wishes of the majority of the people. The new law has been imposed on them.
    The Catholic population led by the bishops should be up in arms about it; but only token resistance has come from the Church. The main resistance has come from the protestant churches of Ulster. The vast majority of English Catholics don’t know it has happened. Poor communication!!.

  22. John Nolan says:

    Bismarck’s national insurance scheme (mentioned by galerimo) was in line with the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, with contributions from employees, employers and the state (the last-named supplying help or ‘subsidium’). The same could be said of the British National Insurance Act of 1911. That it took thirty years to follow the German example was largely because both main political parties lacked vision. Gladstone was preoccupied with the Irish question and the Conservatives (whose record on social reform in the 19th century was better than that of the Liberals) failed to seize a golden opportunity to ‘dish the Whigs’. One suspects that Disraeli would not have failed to take advantage. However, he died in 1881.

    Galerimo also rightly draws attention to the older German sense of civic responsibility at a local level and it should also be remembered that the post-war Federal Republic restored the semi-autonomous rights of the Länder. The German health service seems to have dealt with COVID-19 better than has Nye Bevan’s state-controlled behemoth.

    Pius XI’s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno appeared in May 1931. In October there was a UK General Election. The Labour Party was committed to ‘Clause 4’ – common (i.e. public) ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange. According to QA this would constitute a grave evil. The British hierarchies had to reassure Catholic voters that they could still vote Labour. In the event Labour was trounced at the polls, and not as a result of a papal encyclical!

  23. galerimo says:

    There are two things the Church communicates very clearly today not only to its members but to the world at large. Failure and endurance.

    Just like Jesus failed, the Church fails. His efforts to be the Messiah for God’s chosen people were totally invested in bringing in the Kingdom for that purpose.

    It was rejected by his religious leaders, his followers and his family. We all abandon him as he dies alone, for us, his mission failed.

    The word ‘kingdom’ is found 55 times in Matthew; 20 in Mark, 46 in Luke and 5 times in John. Jesus uses it himself about 80 times.

    ‘Church’ occurs in only one Gospel, Matthew, 4 times. I think Jesus uses it twice.

    His execution as a blasphemer ended disgracefully the project of Kingdom, and it failed to arrive, as he obviously hoped it would, very soon.

    He taught us to pray, “Your Kingdom Come”, and when God raised Him back to life, they, both Father and Son, gave us God’s own “Spirit” to help us bring about that Kingdom.

    As we organize ourselves as Church(es) we continue to experience failure and the rejection of this broad and all-inclusive vision of His Kingdom.

    As individuals and as Church, we reject him with his Kingdom.

    However, through the presence of God’s Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, his presence endures among us.

    You can see it where women are honoured, children are kept safe, the sick and the dying are helped and sinners become liberated from enslaving patterns of behaviour.

    Sometimes it is even visible in the Church. But not a lot these days. And that is so sad.
    All we have to show for our responding to his offer of a Kingdom as magnificent as himself

    Is our entrenched politics, divisive greed from power, sheer arrogance in asserting our judgments, refusal to be led by Him and devotion to becoming greater by belittling Him.

    Failure and endurance, unmistakable, loud and clear- this is our message and it is so well communicated to ourselves and to the world for it is who we are as Catholic Church.

    • David Smith says:

      galerimo writes:

      // There are two things the Church communicates very clearly today not only to its members but to the world at large. Failure and endurance.

      Just like Jesus failed, the Church fails. His efforts to be the Messiah for God’s chosen people were totally invested in bringing in the Kingdom for that purpose..

      Failure and endurance, unmistakable, loud and clear- this is our message and it is so well communicated to ourselves and to the world for it is who we are as Catholic Church. //

      I’m not clear on your meaning. Could you expand with some specifics of “failure” and “endurance”?

      Of course, Jesus did not speak English, so whatever words he used or is reported to have used, “church” and “kingdom” are not among them. This may seem picky, but translations are always liable to mislead.

  24. John Nolan says:

    Jesus didn’t fail, he triumphed. That’s what we celebrate at Easter.

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