There is a big hoo-ha about gay marriage at the moment. Personally I couldn’t really give a fig for what this country’s civil law says about marriage just so long as the state doesn’t try to over reach and force priests to perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples. It leaves the Church of England up the creek without a paddle though because of its symbiotic relationship with the state, good incentive to swim the Tiber if ever there was one.
We are in the world but not of the world, we should remember that. Whilst it is sad that this country is becoming secular, we can’t force the world to obey Catholic teaching. The secular idea of marriage is that it is merely a legal arrangement to be forged and dissolved at a whim as and when the Hollywoodised version of love waxes and wanes.
How sad, and we see the disastrous consequences of such an empty idea of marriage in our society, disjointed families, children raised in emotionally damaging situations, single parents struggling to cope. Thus we have a broken Britain that nobody will dare fix because it will mean valuing the family and what holds it together, marriage.
Most people are understandably jaded about the hollow idea of marriage espoused by modern society, but they are without faith so they cannot embrace the Catholic ideal either. I’ve met people who don’t believe in God, yet who are totally committed to their partner and have children, yet still won’t marry…
A bit of a bizarre analogy I’ve thought of is this. There is a kung-fu game called Jade Empire, the protagonist is taught by a master, who turns out to be evil, when the protagonist confronts his master he is easily defeated because throughout all his lessons his master gave him a fatal flaw in his fighting style. The modern world has this fatal flaw. They have been dealt a cruel blow and they will never know what has hit them, the fatal flaw is modernism.
Whilst the rate at which the number of Church going Catholics contracts has slowed (probably more due to the wonders of modern medicine and immigration than anything else) unless we embark on a course of more vigorous evangelism the Catholic Church in England and Wales will continue to have an ever aging demographic. We need to address what is holding us back from effective evangelisation.
I’d say what is holding us back is the schmaltzification of the Catholic faith. Frequently a woolly, gooey version of Catholicism is given to children and converts, this gooey version, whilst not necessarily totally modernist in and of itself, is weak when it comes into conflict with modernism, i.e. every day. Our kung-fu is weak and we need to spice it up if we are going to swim against the current of modernism which is sucking all meaning and objective moral truth from our society.
How can we combat modernism more effectively? We need to know our faith, not just as it is now, but its history, its theological development of thought, we need to look back to times when our faith was more robustly clarified in order to go forward because today theological truths are often espoused in terms of feelings and opinions, schmaltzy platitudes that pull the rug from under our feet rather than objective truths that can be relied upon when times get tough.
I had a conversation with my mum (who is an evangelical Anglican) who was singing the praises of an ecumenical talk she went to about the history of the Church… it greatly amused me, I have no idea how you can know anything about the history of Christianity and not become Catholic, perhaps especially in this country where the reformation was ruthlessly imposed from above by the government. If you want to go back to a more authentic Christianity you have to turn to Catholicism.
Another gripe I have at the moment is all the gender inclusive language we get during mass, last Sunday the responsorial psalm was completely mangled in an attempt to exorcise all mention of masculinity from it. It had long since ceased to be a translation and become an exercise in political correctness. When we no longer deal in truth but ideology we are diminished. The psalm sounded completely ridiculous, like it was attempting hopscotch standing on its head in order to avoid mentioning men. Messing around with scripture to reflect the social mores of today (or the 1970’s as the case might be) puts us in dicey theological territory if you ask me, never mind its aesthetic poverty.
To end on a positive note the new translation of the Mass with its increased fidelity to the Latin offers hope that things can and will improve, maybe one day the hierarchy in this country will realise that fidelity to the gospel message will mean offending the focus groups responsible for the schmaltzy version of the faith that has been doled out with disastrous effect for the past 30 years or so. Meanwhile keep your kung-fu strong, dig around for robust Catholic teaching and grab every opportunity to share it with fellow Catholics.