Brothers and Sisters

The recent Papal Encyclical caused a fuss even before its publication. It was addressed to Fratelli Tutti. As you may imagine, there were complaints that it appeared to apply primarily to men (‘Brothers All’).

Some of the argument related to usage. Would Italians immediately assume that ‘Brothers All’ applied equally to both sexes? Perhaps the issue is too minor for general consideration, but the pressure from some groups for women to be ordained turned it into a more dramatic question. It is one which we have considered in the past on this Blog.

The Church’s strong teaching condemning female ordination is clearly and briefly set out in  https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/1994/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_19940522_ordinatio-sacerdotalis.html .

The arguments are well worth reading But I have to say that my own view is that I can see no reasons why women should not be ordained. I cannot see why a woman is less able than a man to take on the role of Christ as a priest. One commentator took the view that we should stop our prayers for increased ordinations given that we have perhaps thousands of women only too ready to apply.

So I would find it helpful if readers consider the issue themselves, and tell us how they would argue their case.

Link to the Encyclical: http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20201003_enciclica-fratelli-tutti.html

About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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48 Responses to Brothers and Sisters

  1. David Smith says:

    Well, the text string “ordination” appears in “Fratelli Tutti” only three times – twice as a sub-string of “subordination” and once as a sub-string of “coordination” – and “ordain” doesn’t appear at all, so I guess we can assume that the new encyclical doesn’t touch on that subject.

    I dislike the idea of the Church doing anything officially now to give attention and respect to the cause of ordaining women, because the issue has become so heated. Making major changes in the heat of passion is seldom wise. But I don’t see this cause cooling off for a long time. The dominant culture of Western democracies has become mired in a swamp of internecine hatred and blame and victimhood, and radical feminists have secured an honored place for themselves in the muck.

    Surely, any issue that inflames such a large and loud segment of society is worthy of calm and reasoned thought. This one doesn’t interest me in itself, but we in America and Britain are still representative democracies, of sorts, and in such places all reasoned arguments deserve a respectful hearing.

  2. John Nolan says:

    Pope Francis’s latest tome is not addressed to us as ‘fratelli tutti’; the two words are in fact a quotation (supposedly) from St Francis addressed to his ‘brothers and sisters’ , according to the translations I have read. Not that this would trouble the professional offence-takers.

    English has the useful archaic plural ‘brethren’ which was regarded as gender neutral. ICEL prefers it as a translation of ‘fratres’, putting ‘brothers and sisters’ in brackets after it.

    Interestingly, the use of Sarum has ‘Orate, fratres et sorores’, addressed to the congregation despite the fact that the response is made by the ministers (privatim) and not the choir.

    Let’s not go down the rabbit-hole of women’s ordination. ‘I can see no reason why women should not be ordained’ is disingenuous to the point of mendacity. The writer can see any number of reasons, but chooses to put his private opinion over what the Church holds to be ‘de fide’.

    It has been aired before on this blog and I don’t think that any of us has anything new to contribute.

  3. ignatius says:

    I agree with both John Nolan and David Smith. The current issue over ordination of women is by now so thickly layered over with contemporary political as to be practically indistinguishable. If it were possible to disentangle the topic from the wider context then there is little to say about it.

  4. John Nolan says:

    When a papal document has a title in the vulgar tongue it usually means that it has a primarily local focus. Examples are ‘Tra le sollecitudini’ (1903) and ‘Mit brennender Sorge’ (1937). ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ (2013) has a Latin title, though it lacks a definitive Latin text – it probably defies translation into a precise language.

    Can the same be said about the over-long and largely self-referential effusion which has already been dubbed ‘Tutti frutti’? It seems to be a summation of PF’s views on matters which concern him and which might stand as his legacy (in which case it will rapidly be forgotten in the next pontificate).

    The Becciu affair suggests that those who, seven-and-a-half years ago, hoped for action against corruption in high places have been badly let down. I predicted then that Bergoglio’s lack of curial experience, poor administrative skills and cronyism would militate against it, and that was before Pell was stitched up.

  5. FZM says:

    One commentator took the view that we should stop our prayers for increased ordinations given that we have perhaps thousands of women only too ready to apply.

    They want to become priests but are not prepared to become religious?

    I read a summary of the new encyclical, it had some interesting content about migration and the universal destination of goods, I thought an encyclical discussion might be about that.

    • milliganp says:

      Most of the women I know who argue for women priests are married, so it would appear the abolition of celibacy would be a pre-requisite.
      The religious life and vocation is entirely different to that of secular clergy.

      • FZM says:

        The most credible arguments I have heard for the ordination of women have come from younger female religious. The least credible came from younger women who apparently wanted to be priests but did not want to become religious because it would mean accepting a stronger form of the evangelical counsels. If a person actively doesn’t like the evangelical counsels in the stronger form they are probably not going to be a good secular priest either; the life of secular clergy and religious is not entirely different in the way that working in banking or on an oil rig is entirely different to the religious life.

  6. ignatius says:

    //If a person actively doesn’t like the evangelical counsels in the stronger form they are probably not going to be a good secular priest either//
    Yes I think that’s a fair enough thing to say. Vocation is vocation and I know for myself that, were my circumstance different, then I would offer myself as a priest instead of a Deacon. Not because I just fancy the job but I recognise the call on my life, the same for becoming a religious.

  7. David Smith says:

    FZM writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/10/09/brothers-and-sisters/#comment-61370 ) :

    // The least credible came from younger women who apparently wanted to be priests but did not want to become religious because it would mean accepting a stronger form of the evangelical counsels. //

    In case anyone other than I needed a definition, here’s Wikipedia:

    // The three evangelical counsels or counsels of perfection in Christianity are chastity, poverty (or perfect charity), and obedience.[1] As Jesus stated in the Canonical gospels,[2] they are counsels for those who desire to become “perfect” (τελειος, cf. Matthew 19:21, see also Strong’s G5046 and Imitatio dei). The Catholic Church interprets this to mean that they are not binding upon all and hence not necessary conditions to attain eternal life (heaven). Rather they are “acts of supererogation” that exceed the minimum stipulated in the Commandments in the Bible.[3] Catholics that have made a public profession to order their life by the evangelical counsels, and confirmed this by a public religious vow before their competent church authority (the act of religious commitment called “profession”), are recognised as members of the consecrated life. //

  8. David Smith says:

    Offered as food for thought, under cover of the fact that at the very end there’s a quick review of “Fratelli Tutti”: from the Spectator, some thoughts on a selection of the current machinations at the papal level of the Vatican. Dialogue desired.

    https://www.spectator.co.uk/podcast/is-pope-francis-s-vatican-turning-into-richard-nixon-s-white-house-

    If this is taking opinion sharing too far, please delete, of course.

  9. Geordie says:

    David Smith Thank you.
    I was aware of the troubles going on in the Vatican but to hear it set out so clearly by Damian Thompson is chilling. Where do we go from here? Even if a fraction of it is true it leaves a very bad taste. It is very depressing to find that the leaders of our Church are so corrupt. No wonder they do not want information out in the open. They are impervious to any criticism.
    It is not as though such accusations are new. We can go back the “murder” of Pope John Paul I and even further. Our Lady warned us that cardinals were are the road to eternal damnation. May the Holy Spirit protect our Church.

  10. David Smith says:

    Geordie writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/10/09/brothers-and-sisters/#comment-61388 ) :

    // It is very depressing to find that the leaders of our Church are so corrupt. No wonder they do not want information out in the open. They are impervious to any criticism. //

    I, too, find it depressing – and disgusting. Some years ago, a gentleman and I had a short conversation. He was the director of the county-run English as a Second Language program that was housed in a moderately large building set in pleasant seclusion in the suburban countryside. It had been, I believe, a Catholic seminary but had become – I imagine in the fallout of Vatican II and the eruption of the scandal of sexually abusive priests that had recently broken out in the news – largely if not completely disused except for the rooms serving as offices for the diocesan Hispanic outreach program, of which the English as a Second language program was an extension. Referring to the abandonment and, probably, the eventual sale of the building, Jack – who, I think, was not Catholic – told me of his disgust with the hierarchy who had let the scandal fester until it was finally, inevitably exposed to the public. His feeling was that they had been enormously stupid in letting all this happen. I agreed, of course. How could one not? Fools in mitres.

    The government-funded English as a Second Language program continues, by the way, but in other quarters, the building in which it was housed having been sold to help repair the financial damage caused to the diocese by legislation brought against it because of the sex scandal. And, the last I knew, the diocesan outreach to the Hispanic community had been discontinued.

  11. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/10/09/brothers-and-sisters/ ) :

    // The arguments are well worth reading But I have to say that my own view is that I can see no reasons why women should not be ordained. //

    To the priesthood? Nor can I, if we put aside the magisterium. The diaconate is apparently up in the air in some people’s minds, but that’s a slippery slope, I think. A female deacon would be just a little pregnant, no?

    Honestly, I don’t understand why Catholics who find various Church teachings in error and unacceptable stick around. It seems they want to eat their cake and keep it untouched, simultaneously. Why don’t they simply start up a better church of their own, rather than work to destroy the church that exists for the people who find it fine? On the face of it, that seems simply childish, not to say churlish.

    • Alasdair says:

      Or on the other hand, rather than re-invent the wheel, why don’t they move to another church that is already up-and-running. Note that I don’t say “convert”. As Catholics they have already experienced conversion ie to a follower of Christ.

  12. John Nolan says:

    The removal of a single sentence in Paul VI’s 1972 Motu Proprio ‘Ministeria Quaedam’ would allow the ministries of lector and acolyte to be conferred on lay women. At the moment they can substitute for these ministries (whether or not they should do so is another question). Yet there seems to be no push for this.

    One reason might be that the campaigners want ‘the diaconate or nothing’, since once the wall of Holy Orders has been breached the central citadel is vulnerable – look what happened in the Anglican church. However, there is another consideration. Paul VI made it clear that an instituted acolyte might function as a subdeacon, and indeed may be referred to as such if local custom permitted it. So this particular can of worms remains firmly shut.

  13. David Smith says:

    Alasdair writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/10/09/brothers-and-sisters/#comment-61419 ) :

    // Or on the other hand, rather than re-invent the wheel, why don’t they move to another church that is already up-and-running. //

    I suspect it’s ego and power seeking. Progressives seem to have a thing about converting the world to their perfect vision – by force, ultimately, since they presume those mired in error will resist their righteous crusade and will not go quietly. First, therefore, the plan is to soften them up, and then, when they’re weakened, pounce. It seems odd to me that these Catholics would so fervently desire to undermine their own church; but if you look at the issue from the progressive point of view, it follows logically that true believers should undermine whatever they find themselves in a position to undermine. It’s apparently a duty.

    It’s late in life for me to change my view of human potential, but the recent sudden eruption of the radical left into political power in the West – practically unopposed – and the very strange dictatorial behavior of most governments in reaction to just another emergent virus – also practically unopposed by the populace – have almost convinced me that humans are fatally flawed thinkers, probably suicidally inclined. I’m despairing of them.

    • ignatius says:

      // Or on the other hand, rather than re-invent the wheel, why don’t they move to another church that is already up-and-running. //
      Actually quite large numbers do that very thing and move to other churches. Equally there are people from other churches becoming Catholics ..me being one. I’m not convinced it really matters but I do know that, for myself , Catholicism is home

      • Alasdair says:

        People moving between traditions as their conscience dictates yet remaining within the wider body of Christ is a good thing.

      • Alasdair says:

        People moving between traditions as their conscience dictates yet remaining within the wider body of Christ is a good thing.
        Indeed in my neighbourhood there is a Catholic deacon who is formerly Church of Scotland (ie Presbyterian – evangelical) and a Church of Scotland “Minister of Word and Sacrement” who is ex catholic.
        I believe both are stronger due to the wider perspective they have.
        Deacon Doug’s ministry goes beyond simple parish duties and he has made the national press and TV with his outstanding contribution in highlighting and improving an international situation.

    • ignatius says:

      // have almost convinced me that humans are fatally flawed thinkers, probably suicidally inclined. I’m despairing of them.//

      One could easily despair until one looks at the smaller picture rather than the greater. The New testament is such a thing, very small cameo’s of good set against a great backdrop of political tumult and minor intrigue. Jesus died for this struggling heaving world and he died in a nondescript backwater of a place watched by most probably a couple of hundred people coming and going during the course of the day many just gawking, not especially interested. I like the old Leonard Cohen line.. we have spoken it before on here:
      “There’s a crack in everything, its how the light gets in”

  14. Alasdair says:

    My wife has signed me up for the following online Conference on Catholic Apologetics, which takes place next weekend, 23-25 October.
    https://www.virtualcatholicconference.com/PWA2020
    It is the largest ever Catholic Apologetics conference, with an impressive line-up of over fifty guest speakers.
    The Conference topics cover all of the challenging questions:
    Theistic Apologetics
    Does God Exist? What evidence and arguments are there for our atheist brothers and sisters?
    Christian Apologetics
    Exploring the foundational claims of Christianity. Is Jesus who he claimed to be? Is Scripture reliable?
    Catholic Apologetics
    Defending claims unique to Catholicism, such as the Eucharist, papacy, and Catholic dogma.
    Responding to Specific Faiths
    How to respond to claims from Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and other faith traditions.
    Catholic Moral Teaching
    Addressing the moral teachings of the Church regarding topics such as marriage and human sexuality.
    Responding to Contemporary Philosophies
    What are the pop-philosophies underlying secular culture, and how do we respond as Catholics?
    There is FREE access throughout the weekend of 23-25 October to 50+ online presentations, plus live Q&A sessions with top Apologists.
    So I’m looking forward to that!

  15. John Nolan says:

    David Smith

    Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s nominee for Supreme Court Justice, was recently taken to task by Nikitha Rai, one of Joe Biden’s staffers, for her traditional statements regarding the family, which are in line with Catholic teaching (not to mention Jewish and Moslem beliefs). Rai tweeted:

    ‘I’d heavily prefer views like that not to be elevated to SCOTUS, but unfortunately our current culture is still relatively intolerant. It will be a while before these types of beliefs are so taboo that they’re disqualifiers.’

    Dr Joseph Shaw cites this as a prime example of liberal doublethink. ‘We’re too intolerant today, so we need to become more intolerant in order to become tolerant.’

    • Alasdair says:

      I remember Bernie Sanders, saying that people with Pro-Life views had no place in the Democratic party. Let’s all thank the Lord that he didn’t become his party’s presidential candidate. I suspect that that would have propelled Trump back into power.

  16. Alasdair says:

    Fratelli Tutti would not normally be assumed by modern Italians to refer only to men. Italy has several organisations called fraternità, which include women in leadership. However the current Francis takes the titles of his encyclicals from mediaeval Umbrian (ie St Francis) so they may contain nuance – as in Laudato Si.

  17. David Smith says:

    John Nolan writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/10/09/brothers-and-sisters/#comment-61423 ) :

    // Dr Joseph Shaw cites this as a prime example of liberal doublethink. ‘We’re too intolerant today, so we need to become more intolerant in order to become tolerant.’ //

    That‘s putting it almost euphemistically. In fact, it’s re-education, away from the traditional liberal-democratic and Judeo-Christian into the rigidly egalitarian. And it’s been taught in schools for fifty years now. I suspect that’s one good explanation for why the radical left has been seeing almost zero resistance to its programming: most adults now alive must find it familiar, uncontroversial, perhaps even self-evidently true. I wonder to what extent most Catholic schools resisted teaching that stuff and to what extent they simply adjusted their teaching to it.

    • FZM says:

      In fact, it’s re-education, away from the traditional liberal-democratic and Judeo-Christian into the rigidly egalitarian. And it’s been taught in schools for fifty years now. I suspect that’s one good explanation for why the radical left has been seeing almost zero resistance to its programming: most adults now alive must find it familiar, uncontroversial, perhaps even self-evidently true.

      I tend to think that one reason strong or ‘positive’ Liberalism (the kind that involves using coercion to impose a specific set of liberal values and norms) has been more openly promoted in the past few years is that it has been facing increasing resistance from people still committed to the other version. For a long time they both seem to have been taught concurrently, until the late 1990s maybe the emphasis was more on the traditional version, after this point the ‘progressive’ version came to the fore, in academia at first, then education and via these channels, into the wider culture and major institutions. It’s hard to tell whether this is happening because it is really completely triumphant or because it is the beginning of the decomposition of this worldview, in some way it is running out of steam in Western countries. People invested in it are disturbed by the intuition and so mobilise to bring about a kind of ‘silver age’ for liberal egalitarianism before its fade out.

      • ignatius says:

        //It’s hard to tell whether this is happening because it is really completely triumphant or because it is the beginning of the decomposition of this worldview, in some way it is running out of steam in Western countries. People invested in it are disturbed by the intuition and so mobilise to bring about a kind of ‘silver age’ for liberal egalitarianism before its fade out.//

        The latter I think.
        Times do change and ours are a changing, the hippies have all turned savage, even now reaching for their guns and wicked knives…

  18. David Smith says:

    ignatius writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/10/09/brothers-and-sisters/#comment-61431 ) :

    // One could easily despair until one looks at the smaller picture rather than the greater. The New testament is such a thing, very small cameo’s of good set against a great backdrop of political tumult and minor intrigue. Jesus died for this struggling heaving world and he died in a nondescript backwater of a place watched by most probably a couple of hundred people coming and going during the course of the day many just gawking, not especially interested. //

    So long as this technologically fragile world holds together, the times when clusters of people were isolated in small pockets from other small clusters will never come again. Then, innovation spread slowly. Christianity took nearly two millennia to sprout from seed in the eastern Mediterranean and grow and spread to the tip of South America. Today, one can imagine that Christ would be a momentary blip in the news, if that, quickly debunked and derided by the world’s media and forgotten. Christianity would have no chance to develop, mature, and grow. Now, almost the entire world thinks in lockstep, its thoughts conditioned by the electronic media, which are in turn controlled by whatever people are in power.

    The people in power today are an unholy mix of utilitarians (who tend the technology and keep the electricity flowing) and egalitarians (who tend the governments and keep the propaganda flowing). Those two groups of relatively few people act as shepherds to the rest of humanity, who, conditioned by the schools and the media to think as directed and to obey, simply think and do as they’re told. A planet of sheep. What a curious sight. One despairs, ignatius.

  19. ignatius says:

    //Today, one can imagine that Christ would be a momentary blip in the news, if that, quickly debunked and derided by the world’s media and forgotten.//

    If you substitute ‘Jewish/Roman historians’ for ‘Worlds media’ then that’s exactly what happened and exactly makes my point, David.

  20. ignatius says:

    My point is, I guess, either God is God or not. If the God we worship resembles even vaguely the reality we profess then our call is not to despair but to active love of God, self and neighbour. There are, I think, around 2.2 billion Christians on the face of this earth today. That means one third of the worlds population have committed themselves to some degree of heart towards the good. This also holds true for those of other religions or none who seek for the life of right relationships. God has a purpose that will not be thwarted and God has not made us with robot hearts. Of course we may have personal moments of despair, biochemical, attitudinal or circumstantial, but we also need to understand that Gods face upon the earth is not one of despair but one of hope and purpose.

  21. ignatius says:

    None of the above,of course, has any direct bearing on how any individual may perceive or feel the world to actually be. In the same way as Moral theology cannot dictate individual choice or deny individual experience. In other words ones worldview is, for whatever reason, a matter for ones own self.

  22. David Smith says:

    ignatius writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/10/09/brothers-and-sisters/#comment-61436 ) :

    ////
    //Today, one can imagine that Christ would be a momentary blip in the news, if that, quickly debunked and derided by the world’s media and forgotten.//

    If you substitute ‘Jewish/Roman historians’ for ‘Worlds media’ then that’s exactly what happened and exactly makes my point, David.
    ////

    Point taken. Thanks.

    I think that today, though, things are very different. Then, the world was a vast place; today, it’s tiny. Then, peoples were separated from other peoples by great and in many cases uncrossable distances. And time flowed much more slowly then than it does now. Ideas could sprout, grow, mature, flourish, and become deeply embedded in the consciousness and convictions of generations. Today, ideas that sprout almost anywhere are spotted almost at once by government and media sentinels and, if they seem to threaten ideas held and propagated by those authorities, they are likely to be quickly and effectively quashed.

    Proselytization and apologetics must be done very differently today than they were in even the recent past. Alasdair, I hope the people speaking at your apologetics meeting ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/10/09/brothers-and-sisters/#comment-61422 ) are aware of that.

  23. Iona says:

    David –
    //Now, almost the entire world thinks in lockstep, its thoughts conditioned by the electronic media, which are in turn controlled by whatever people are in power. //

    I really don’t think this is correct. The “liberal” views dominant in Europe and north America are not embraced by Christians in Africa and the far East, indeed they are firmly rejected. Europe isn’t the world. Europe may well be committing suicide (as Quentin suggested, I think) via its dwindling population which is largely a matter of “choice”.

  24. John Nolan says:

    The Incarnation did not occur in a ‘nondescript backwater of a place’. Roman Judaea was an important province in a crucial area both strategically and economically. Its importance can be gauged by the fact that its governor was of equestrian rather than senatorial rank – as with Egypt, the granary of the Empire, Rome needed to keep control.

    It was also the junction of the Roman and Hellenistic worlds – in fact Greek, not Latin, was the lingua franca. Assuming that God intervened at a definite time in human history, the location makes sense. Christianity was able to spread thanks to the Roman Empire, and even reached Britain. After the fall of the Roman Empire in the west, the Church survived due to the fact that it had adopted a governmental structure based on Roman provincial administration.

    What is astonishing is how quickly Christianity spread throughout the known world. It might have been a short-lived Judaic heresy, but Providence had other ideas.

  25. ignatius says:

    //What is astonishing is how quickly Christianity spread throughout the known world. It might have been a short-lived Judaic heresy, but Providence had other ideas.//

    Yes, that is the point. Even if Jesus was crucified outside the big city, so were many many others. Were it not for Providence then the whole thing would have been quickly passed over and sunk without trace. I can understand that the ‘news’ of the day passed quickly along trading routes and so on. But converting to Christianity was a big deal. If the letters of Paul are to be taken seriously then people didnt just simply get baptised into a faith nor were they politely invited to a RICA course. But there was repentance, conversion under the direct power of the Holy spirit and an understanding that persecution could well be dogging the heels of the evangelist and arriving as a fellow traveller to faith..

  26. John Nolan says:

    Ignatius

    Fair enough, but Christianity did not spread through individual conversion. It depended on the power of the State, whether it was the Roman Empire, the successor kingdoms in the West which had become Christian, Iberian imperialism in the New World, or, very recently, the colonization of Africa by the European powers.

    It was also challenged when Islam burst out of the Arabian peninsula and overran the ancient centres of Christendom in the seventh century – and although its spread was halted by force of arms it remains the greatest threat to European civilization which itself is so mired in post-Christian relativism as to be defenceless.

    • ignatius says:

      John Nolan,
      Yes, there are those stories about Constantine and his mass baptisms though it probably wasn’t him. I guess my own experience of Christianity spreading, in the face of a hostile Chinese government, post Tiannmen Square, was of seeing individual conversions,
      hundreds of them. I’ve never really understood the growth of a faith by fiat so tend to discount it, I’m a bit like that with purely intellectual assent also, can’t quite fathom it.

  27. Alasdair says:

    If you’re interested: The “elders” of my Church of Scotland parish who are currently without a minister, voted on Thursday (on a Zoom meeting) to depart from the CoS tradition by allowing applications from, amongst others, candidates who are in a same sex relationship or civil partnership. The vote was 6-4. This has split the parish ordinary members, many of whom are likely to leave. Our neighbouring parish with whom we share resources, will no longer do so. I tried hard to avoid the crisis but failed. All prayerful helpful advice, including from my Catholic friends will be gratefully received.

  28. David Smith says:

    ignatius writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/10/09/brothers-and-sisters/#comment-61465 ) :

    // John Nolan,
    Yes, there are those stories about Constantine and his mass baptisms though it probably wasn’t him. I guess my own experience of Christianity spreading, in the face of a hostile Chinese government, post Tiannmen Square, was of seeing individual conversions,
    hundreds of them. I’ve never really understood the growth of a faith by fiat so tend to discount it, I’m a bit like that with purely intellectual assent also, can’t quite fathom it. //

    Purely intellectual assent in matters of abstract thinking seems curious to me, too. Reaching a firm conclusion that doesn’t involve the emotions in some way to some degree, seems – feels :o) – to me unlikely. But, then, I’m reminded practically every day that at least some human minds can, apparently, be satisfied with thinking things through and deciding on a resolution based solely on what’s at least claimed to be purely rational thought processes.

    As for mass conversions, though, I have little doubt they’ve been done. The human mind is extremely impressionable and malleable.

  29. David Smith says:

    Alasdair writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/10/09/brothers-and-sisters/#comment-61461 ) :

    // If you’re interested: The “elders” of my Church of Scotland parish who are currently without a minister, voted on Thursday (on a Zoom meeting) to depart from the CoS tradition by allowing applications from, amongst others, candidates who are in a same sex relationship or civil partnership. The vote was 6-4. This has split the parish ordinary members, many of whom are likely to leave. Our neighbouring parish with whom we share resources, will no longer do so. I tried hard to avoid the crisis but failed. All prayerful helpful advice, including from my Catholic friends will be gratefully received. //

    Do you know the numerical breakout of the vote?

    Majority rule is always iffy and, I think, questionable, especially when the matter is as controversial as this and so vitally affects the future and form of the entire organization. In a very real sense, majority rule turns every issue into a finite game*. But I’m afraid it’s become sacrosanct in the modern mind.

    I have no advice. I’m not there. But I suppose that if I were a member and if there’s no chance of the congregation’s rethinking the matter, I’d just leave, since remaining would be assent.

    My condolences.

    * “Finite games” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finite_and_Infinite_Games

    • Alasdair says:

      Thank you David. Actually, in the case of departure from the Church’s (ie CoS) tradition there has to be two votes separated by 14 days which there was. Both went 6-4, but although it was a secret ballot I know one member changed sides, therefore someone else must have changed the other way! We have very good community relations with our local Catholic church, (including 2 intermarriages!) so I pray that that will not be damaged.

  30. John Nolan says:

    Ignatius and David

    I think you are both missing the point. Christianity is not spread by conversions (either en masse or individual). It is a matter of education, or, if you prefer, indoctrination from the earliest age. That’s not to say all those so indoctrinated will keep the faith. Colonization also imposes a dominant culture, which in the case of central and south America was a Catholic one.

    • ignatius says:

      John Nolan writes:
      //I think you are both missing the point. Christianity is not spread by conversions (either en masse or individual). It is a matter of education, or, if you prefer, indoctrination from the earliest age. //
      Yes, I was afraid you might say something like that. I think you would, John, be hard pressed to find much support for your view, outside that of secularised academia, that we come to the love of God solely by education. Putting forward the thesis that to be a christian one only needs to be ‘educated’ into a discipline and a culture, in my view, would be extremely hard to justify in whatever terms you might seek to apply. I can see that a person such as yourself might see the spread of ‘Christianity’ through an ideological/cultural lens but I’d love to see you justify that through the eye of faith.

      • ignatius says:

        PS Thats not to say, of course that we do not need to understand with our minds and so yes education and example are a genuine part of things…There’s a clear relationship between faith and understanding I know.

      • FZM says:

        I think there is some truth in what John was saying. Though individual and en masse conversion was how Christianity spread, you can see in various examples of medieval kingdom/tribal conversions that unless the king and nobility could obtain priests and monks and set up a network of churches and monasteries, even conversion by the influential was not enough to sustain Christianity over time. In the past, even until the quite recent past, education and the Church organisation was the way most European people got to hear about Christ. Then, people who were more spiritually orientated could make a deeper commitment and people who weren’t could stick with a more moderate level of religious practice.

        You can still see this traditional model more clearly in Orthodox countries, where it has been making a come back after the fall of the USSR.

  31. David Smith says:

    John Nolan writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/10/09/brothers-and-sisters/#comment-61503 ) :

    // Ignatius and David

    I think you are both missing the point. Christianity is not spread by conversions (either en masse or individual). It is a matter of education, or, if you prefer, indoctrination from the earliest age. That’s not to say all those so indoctrinated will keep the faith. Colonization also imposes a dominant culture, which in the case of central and south America was a Catholic one. //

    I’m don’t know where what I wrote seems to disagree with that, John. I don’t disagree. Today, though, in a post-colonial world, doesn’t spreading religious ideas depend on individual conversion, whether direct or indirect? Isn’t that all that’s left?

  32. John Nolan says:

    Ignatius

    I was using the term ‘education’ in its broadest sense. I am a Catholic primarily because I was brought up by Catholic parents who taught me the Faith. Had I been brought up an Anglican or a Methodist I would like to think I might have converted as an adult, but it would have been an intellectual conversion – as Newman said ‘to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.’

    Since Vatican II conversions to Catholicism have steeply declined. Before then, mixed marriages were frowned upon and it was easier for the non-Catholic spouse to convert. Most of the converts I have encountered are from an Anglican background, so they are not ‘coming to the love of God’.

    Very many Catholics of my generation have lapsed, married outside the Church and not had their children baptised. Surrounded by a post-modern and aggressively secular culture, these children will probably have no religion at all, not having been taught any.

  33. ignatius says:

    John and FMZ:

    “as Newman said ‘to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.”

    Brilliant line !!

    Yes, I think you both have me convinced and have together filled in another little gap in my understanding, for which I thank you.
    I had a pretty strong Damascene moment myself,as an unchurched adult of atheist parents and am of my nature spiritually inclined. So I do sometimes find the broader view you have both well elaborated a little difficult to grasp, but now I think about it it is pretty obvious.

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