Core values and Christian faith
Sir, – Brian Grogan SJ sees a positive future for the Catholic Church “shorn of outmoded accretions” (June 12th). He could well be right and, personally, I would welcome such an outcome. But I can’t help wondering whether there is a willingness to shed only those “outmoded accretions” which no longer serve. What about the church’s vast property holdings? A gift to the people of extra parks, wonderful buildings and, best of all, free land for housing would win general approval and help us all to press the reset button. By their fruits ye shall know them. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Journalists, and those who read them, like to label people. I suppose they would label me a traditional Catholic – if they were in a good mood – and otherwise a hard-liner or right-wing Catholic. But I actually arrived at my current position via a long and unhappy period of agnosticism, followed by a period of intense involvement in charismatic renewal. Now I simply go to Mass, say the rosary and go to confession. Back to basics, in short.
I have come to the following understanding of what it means to be a Catholic, as opposed to Christians of other denominations. Jesus set up a hierarchical church, with Peter and the other apostles at its head. The authority thus bestowed is referred to as the “magisterium” and resides in the pope and bishops. To be Catholic is to accept the magisterium – that is the main difference between Catholics and Protestants.
Thus, I cannot agree with Fr Grogan (June 12th) when he separates the institutional from the intellectual and mystical elements of Catholicism. He more or less says good riddance to the institutional elements, but I think that is to say good riddance to Catholicism.
The world is full of Christian sects that cherry-pick the scriptures to suit their own agendas, whether that be abortion, same-sex marriage or divorce. Catholicism has never made this mistake. The magisterium of the church may not always have been exercised with the attitude of loving service that Jesus taught us, and at times the mystical element may have been overshadowed by emphasising the rules. But strong, clear, binding teaching, based on scripture, has been the hallmark of Catholicism.
The reason this referendum result is a disaster for the Irish church is that, when strong, clear teaching was most required from the church, what we got instead was half-baked and defensive. The church developed a bad habit in the last few decades of turning a blind eye to its own teachings, and started pacifying those Catholics who developed Protestant tendencies. Instead of insisting on weekly attendance at Mass as a pre-condition for the other sacraments, such as first holy communion, confirmation and matrimony, a relaxed liberal approach was taken instead. Much to the disgust, let it be said, of individual priests, who actually believe in the real presence, and are keenly aware of the implied insult to Our Lord when the church and its sacraments are put at the disposal of cherry-pickers. We should approach the sacraments as penitent sinners, or not at all.
So what happened on May 25th became just another exercise in cherry-picking by nominal Catholics. The church’s opposition to abortion seemed as watery to the cherry-pickers as its requirements for the sacraments, and they acted accordingly. Informed consciences, my eye! How many of them even bothered to visit a pro-life website before making up their minds in this referendum? No, they took their instruction in the form of media propaganda, because they had fallen out of the habit of listening to the church. – Yours, etc,