Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Two A levels

Cardinal Heenan commented in a letter to Evelyn Waugh in 1964 about the rise of the new Catholic pseudo-intelligentia, saying how anyone with two A levels considered themself an intellectual whose opinions were worthy of public interest. Well, what appeared in the 60s certainly gained momentum in the UK as the years wore on, and I have encountered this syndrome so many times that it really does seem to have become an obstacle to the Christian Life.
As a newly ordained priest I remember in 1988 a lady striding into the sacristy as I was vesting for Mass and wanting to know if I would be using inclusive language in the Mass. Five years later, I remember another lady, addressing a conference of the Leeds clergy, telling us that she would give the new Catechism, which was about to be published, a shelf-life of four years. In one of my parishes, in North Yorkshire, I encountered a culture of opinion to such a degree that the Parish itself was disfuntional. I was told, as Parish Priest, that it didn't matter if young people didn't go to Mass or Confession, that we mustn't burden them with Sacred Scripture, and that if Joseph Ratzinger were elected Pope there would be a schism in the Church. Now all of these were personal opinions, but opinions which actually were an obstacle to the Gospel and to the life of Church in that place.
Today the culture of opinion is all-pervading; signs of it are clearly evident in the Catholic world. The religious interest magazine "The Tablet" would be an example of this culture and how it places itself as a guiding and moderating influence upon the teaching and the message of the Holy Father and the Church, developing its own sort of orthodoxy, one which runs parallel to that of the Church.
What Cardinal Heenan noted with some concern in 1964 is a paralysing phenomenon of our age: Catholics applying a secular critique to Christianity. In fact, it is the opposite which is true - that it is Christ and the Church who enables us to understand our lives and the world in which we live. We see this formative attitude especially in people who actually listen to the Holy Father and the Church, and in those who participate faithfully in the Mass.


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Peter said...

To the lady who asked if you were going to use "inclusive" language, I would say: "Yes, I always do, as the Church has always done". the term "man" is inclusive, as it includes both male & female species of man.