Thursday 29 March 2007

Claire Short at Hinsley Hall

Hmmm. Sometimes I feel like a fish out of water. For most of this week I've been at Hinsley Hall - the pastoral centre of the Diocese of Leeds - for a meeting of the National University Chaplains group. I don't want to give a whole report on the meeting. I have to say I found it difficult. Anyone who has read this blog at all knows something of my understanding of priesthood, the Church, the mission of the Church, and key moral issues. It's easy, as a priest, to presume everyone else who calls themselves 'Catholic' more or less believes the same things, especially if you get involved in movements and organisations which are pretty well attuned to where the Church is today. Well, it was a little bit of a shock to the system to be transported back to some of the attitudes that were around when I was in seminary. Although not stated, these are some of the things I picked up (not in everyone I hasten to add):
  1. Priests not concelebrating Mass because it's not important to them to celebrate Mass every day, and moreover not wanting to offend women who were there as it would remind them that they cannot be priests.
  2. 'Spirituality' being a rather disincarnate search for another plane not really connected to the person of Christ or the spiritual tradition of the Catholic Church.
  3. The ultimate importance of counselling and psychology in the Christian life almost in place of grace.
  4. The ministry of a non-ordained 'chaplain' is much the same as that of a 'priest chaplain'.
  5. Life as continuous stress which needs to be dealt with.
  6. The centre being me rather than Christ, and my needs before those of the ones I serve.
  7. The need to pat ourselves on the back for all we have done.
Now, I say it was a shock to the system, but only because it's a different 'Catholic' world to the one I live each day. What really did affront me was a talk given by Rt Hon Claire Short MP on Wednesday afternoon. She had been asked to speak but not with a particular title. She spoke quite eloquently on the subject of climate change, living sustainably, etc. All very good really. Also very good was her presentation of her views on international aid and foreign policy. BUT, all this was overshadowed by her throw away comments in support of distribution of contraception and availability of abortion, and her views that the Church would be better (and churches fuller on Sundays) if the Catholic Church got over "its obsession with contraception and abortion" and ditched dogmas which separate it from worldly aspirations, and just became a place of simple living and justice. I was immediately reminded of the words of Bl Teresa of Calcutta "There can be no justice while there is injustice for the unborn". I sought to ask a question (or make a comment) publicly, but I was not given the opportunity. I did approach her at the end to make it known that I could not support what she had said, and she replied with some bad grace telling me that as a male I had no right to an opinion on abortion, and the arguments against it are "utter rubbish". Well, in the end we agreed to disagree - she was in no mood for a debate. Just exasperation with me. What truly affronted me was that not one other single person in that room (with about 40 members of chaplaincy staff from various Higher Ed institutions) challenged her on what she said. More to the point, there was one bishop there too who took it all on the chin. Indeed, not only that, but there was an atmosphere of near hero worship by some, and much adulation for what she had said.

Let me not be unfair. I like a maverick. I like the way she does say what she thinks. Though one has to be rather circumspect when such a person remained in a government during a war which she characterises as evil. But it offends me that such a person (who is honest enough to call herself a 'cultural catholic' and, although going to Mass with her mother each week, does not go to Communion, which is at least an honest position) is treated with near uncritical adulation by Catholic University chaplains, who should be at the cutting edge of the dialogue between faith and culture, and leading the moral intellectual crusade against the culture of death. I pray for Claire Short. I pray more for our Universities.


Anonymous said...

Just lost my post! The devil at work & will try again.
re Claire Short, 2 of my girls were school councillors, in their Primary chool, in Ladywood. She was invited in, & i absolutely refused for them to go anywhere her. they had to scramble around for 2 others. ( today i might get them to question her..but they were a bit young.) On a number of occasions she has been invited into St Paul's girls where all my girls go. She was a former pupil at school with my mother.why did she give her baby up for adoption, & have a happy reconciliation? Why didn't she abort?
How dare she go anywhere near my daughters, who if we'd followed her stance on contraception abortion, would probably not have been born?
Her father Mr Short was my Headteacher when i was a pupil at St Annes..

re the Chaplains. It makes me cringe ..i mean there is a Vatican approved document saying the term 'Chaplain' is to be restricted to Priests. i could have kind of gone along with a nun at their school, but they always have a young 'lay chaplain' & call themselves a Chaplaincy team. Sorry i nearly swore then..apologies but it's all a load of nonsense.

re the counselling/psychology thing. This is so 'pop' psychology. I ha enough troublw with a secular psychotherapist who kept introducing the mystics evolved into a type of buddhism.. Sadly some priests are into this eastern meditation/spirituality mindfulness, centering prayer type of jargon nonsense. you get it in the convents..too dreamcatchers/enneagrammes..& a whole lot more.

Why is it only Fr Julian can see out of 40 delegates? It's because they don't want to see. God forbid, instead of their bringing the sacraments to the people instead of counselling, they might spend some time in silent adoration of Our Blessed Lord.

i did need some secular therapy as part of my treatment for depression, but it was Fr Guy who brought me Holy Communion & ultimately daily Mass & weekly adoration that is the best healer.

I just cannot believe they invited Claire Short? What cowards not disagreeing with her, but then even more distressing they probably don't.God help them, for their disobedience & God reward Fr Julian a hundred fold for his obedience.

Thankyou Fr Julian

Noisy Parish Award said...

I've often been puzzled to the whole approach to the notion of Chaplaincy in it's widest sense in the UK.

I have a friend in the armed services who has a chat every now and again with the RC chaplain and sometimes, the head chaplain to his particular branch of the forces. Both the church and the services have hierarchy. This is seen in the Bishopric of the forces exercising it's authority in sending priests to minsiter and administer in differing contexts where service people are.

In academia, we have chaplains, often put in post by the Ordinary in whose see the University lies.

Our pleaces of Higher Learning are becoming less "local" in their catchments, with many student (just like service personnel) being in strange places and away from home for the first time - which can chalenge their faith.

Academia has a heirarchy too in it's administration.

Is it not time, then, to have a similar degree of uniformity in the provision of Chaplaincy to Higher Education by having a Bishop or Specially assigned Priest heading things up on a National level?

I can only envisage a coherence in how the Catholic is lived, celebrated and spread by everyone working from the one agenda and with the means and mechanics of chaplains' sharing through better co-ordination and regulation.

Is this unachievable?

Niamh said...

your still being martyred father! I can think of torturing methods that i would of preferred to that conference.

bb said...

silly cow