Monday 31 October 2011

Memory and Identity: The positive fruits of the Enlightenment.

We should not limit ourselves to considering the destructive aftermath of the Enlightenment, but consider also its positive aspects.

The Enlightenment prepared the way for a better understanding of human rights (even if these were already known to be rooted in the nature of man created by God.) During the Enlightenment the rights of nations to exist, to maintain their own cultures and to exercise political sovereignty came into focus, and with it came the idea that "fraternity" is a bond which not only unites men, but nations also.

During the Industrial revolution, which did great harm to the fabric of society, in which men were exploited by industry and commerce, some of the values of the Enlightenment led to a profound rediscovery of the truths contained in the Gospel.

Likewise, the birth of Communism led to a clearer understanding of the Church's social mission. This came to be expressed in her Social teaching.

The teaching of the Second Vatican Council can be seen as a synthesis of the relationship between Christianity and the Enlightenment: that the Church is called to engage with the world, not in a polemical or condemnatory way, but through a desire to lead the world to Christ - to evangelise the world. For, "it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man becomes clear." (Gaudium et Spes, 22) Christ is the light of men, first in their interior lives, and then in their vocation and destiny. In Christ, man knows who he is and how he is called to live. For uniquely, in Christ, man's whole life is a unity, his interior life, his spiritual life, his social life, he affective life, his moral life and his political life is united. Man is made whole in Christ. Apart from Christ man remains divided in himself, he remains an enigma to himself.

The mission of the Church then, is to man, wherever he is and in whatever state he is in; the Church's mission is to lead him to transformation in Christ.

(The extraordinary photo above was taken in Sydney city centre in July 2009.)

Thursday 27 October 2011

Memory and Identity: Europe as native land.

In this cahpter, the Holy Father looks at Europe through the prism of Christianity which, as we will see, is also the root of today's Europe.

The evangelisation of Europe began with a mysterious call which St Paul received, to cross from Asia to Europe and preach the Gospel there (Acts 16: 9). Within a few hundred years Ireland, the western most part of the continent, had become itself a missionary centre of the faith.

Building upon the fabric of the ancient world, it was evangelisation which formed Europe; the Faith favouring the formation of different cultures, different nations, but all linked to the common patrimony of the Gospel. However, it is only with the advent of the Modern Era, when the known world was extended to Asia, the Americas, to Africa and Australia, that Europe was seen in a more objective way.

St Paul's address at the Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17: 22-31) holds the key for what would take place in the wider Europe. In this speech St Paul first recognises the religion of the ancient world and, in so doing, prepares his hearers for a proclamation of the Incarnation and the Redemption. The Church would go on to achieve a profound integration of faith and culture in the peoples of Europe.

The first great 'wounding' of Europe was the 'Great Schism' of 1054 when the Eastern and Western Churches ceased to function together. Then, at the beginning of the Modern Era disputes arose with the Protestant reformation, and the Western Church suffered further divisions.

During the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries - the era of the Enlightenment - Christ began to be rejected in Europe. The Enlightenment was not an outright rejection of God, but an attempt to exclude Christ from thought and from Europe's history.

Today a cultural drama continues for those who reject Christ; for the ideas of these secularists are, in fact, profoundly rooted in Christianity, so deeply has the Gospel marked Europe.

Christ himself gives us a Theology of the Incarnation and Redemption. In the metaphore of the Vine and the branches (John 15: 5ff), Christ shows how God cares for and cultivates his creature. He grafts it onto the stock of the divinity of His Son. From the beginning man has been called into existence in God's image and likeness. By agreeing to be grafted onto Christ, man can fully become himself. By refusing this grafting man is condemning himself to an incomplete humanity.

So, in the European Enlightenment man has endeavoured to cut himself off from the Vine, and thereby he opened up the path that would lead to the devastating experience of evil in the Twentieth century.

According to St Thomas Aquinas evil is the absence of good. For man to deprive himself of the good of being a part of the Vine is to deprive himself of that fullness which God intends for man.

(The above photo I took a few years ago in the churchyard in the village of Birstall in North Yorkshire. It is the gravestone of the late Christopher Dawson, the Catholic sociologist whose life's work was given over to helping Europe rebuild itself on the foundations of the Gospel after the Second World War.)

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Memory and Identity: Nation and Culture.

The origin of history and culture is found in the Book of Genesis: the decision by the Creator to make man in His own image and likeness, blessing man, charging him to be fruitful and placing him at the forefront of the world. In one verse (Gen 1: 28) we have the earliest and most complete definition of human culture.

In the second account of Creation (Genesis chapter 2), we are given man's original experiences of solitude, unity and nakedness, together with the losing of original innocence in sin.

Man's mission then, which belong's equally to men and women, is to discover and confirm the truth about ourselves, and to receive the world as a gift and as a task. In order to undertake this mission we must be guided by the truth about ourselves and about the world.

Man's mission to the visible world has evolved throughout history, and we can see that where there have been problems, we have not been faithful to the truth about ourselves. Civilisation has always been linked to knowledge of the truth about the world, together with knowledge about ourselves.

Deeply ingrained in human culture is the element of beauty; that man reflects in his own life and work the beauty and goodness which is present in the created universe - man's testimony to God's work. This is a foundational element of the human experience and one which is expressed in the culture of a nation. It is this experience, by which man represents what is true, which reveals man's sovereignty in the world, his greatness. And for the same reason, the nation (natural society) is greater than the State (political organisation), for the nation's link to truth is more organic and foundational than is the State's.

Today, it can be said of many Western countries that they have arrived at the stage of "post-identity". That their relationship with truth and their own sense of sovereignty is now much diminished, and that consequently the citizens of these countries cannot give a testimony to their culture (man reflecting his own truth and the truth about the world). Instead, culture has in many cases been overwhelmed by false values, modern destructive trends in liberalism and economics.

Monday 24 October 2011

A weekend of grace.

This past weekend the Seminary of the Good Shepherd held a public 40 Hours of Adoration (Quarantore) for the intention of vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed on Friday evening at 9pm and finally reposed on Sunday at 1pm. The Seminary is grateful to the Sydney Archdiocese Vocations Office for their help and for providing such a great range of resources for spiritual reading and disernment during the 40 Hours.

There many times during the weekend, both during the day and during the night when our seminary chapel was vitually full, and you could 'feel' that a mighty work of grace was taking place. It was quite remarkable that there was a constant stream of young people visiting the chapel throughout the weekend. It was wonderful to see the Lord visibly at the head of His Church.

The 40 Hours ended with Solemn Benediction, which was followed by a mighty BBQ for all those who were present. We would certainly like to repeat this again next year.

Saturday 22 October 2011

Memory and Identity: History.

The whole created universe is subject to history; everything and everyone is subject to the course of events. Man however, unlike the plants and the animals, can reflect on history and give an account of it.

Communities of people, like individuals, have a historical memory; nations, for instance, seek to record what they remember. These histories are among the essential elements of culture, because they go to the heart of a nation's identity.

History for the Christian is not simply a question of acknowledging and understanding the past, it concerns rather, the whole of man's life: his origin, his historical experiences and his future, including his judgement before God. Such a perspective flows out of God's self-revelation; it is called "escatological". In other words, there is a diffrence between the history of nations and the history of man. A nation's history is confined to a course of events which have marked that nation. Man's history, as well as containing a course of events, also includes his divine origin and his divine vocation. This unique value within man's history is something which leaves its mark, and gives meaning to, the history of a nation.

(The above photo I took in 2007 inside the basement of the Bell Tower of the Tower of London. St Thomas More was confined in this cell before his trial and execution.)

Friday 21 October 2011

Memory and Identity: the concept of a nation.

The term 'nation' designates a community based in a given territory and distinguished from other nations by its culture. Nation and family are natural societies - societies who basis is found within human nature, rather than in mere convention - and if replaced, it could only be in a contrived way. It is for this reason that the Church embraces these realities.

The nation therefore cannot be identified as the State, even though a nation may call itself a State. A State is not a natural society, but is rather the socio-political organisation which becomes established in a nation.

In Sacred Scripture we see that the 'nation' arises through one generation giving rise to the next through procreation. And that in Israel's case, she was chosen by God. This choice by God was made in order that He might reveal Himself, through Israel, to the nations. In time, Christ was born in Israel. Christ initiates generation of a different order; not now through proceation, but through rebirth in the Holy Spirit. Now all peoples have a new calling: not simply to belong to a nation, but to belong to the new People of God, who are taken from all nations.

Thus, every nation is affirmed in its identity because every nation is called to take its place in the history of salvation. The Church is the sacrament and sign of this call, in which men and women of every nation, possessing their unique attributes, now have equal rights of citizenship.

The Pope will return later in the book to consider the importance of the State.

(I took the above photo in 2007 in the undercroft of the White Tower in the Tower of London. I had taken a group of young people on a Martyrs Pilgrimage to London, and here in the undercroft, although totally remodelled in the eighteenth century, we saw the place where Catholic priests in the sixteenth century were tortured on the rack by the State.)

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Memory and Identity: Patriotism.

Patriotism is a word and a notion which is much overlooked by many today, yet it continues to be, in reality, a foundational element of society. How is this the case?

Patriotism flows out of the Fourth Commandment: honour your father and mother. We venerate our parents because for us they represent God. They have shared with God in giving us life, and the spiritual patrimony of our native land, which we receive, comes to us first through our parents. From this flows our sense of love and duty towards our native land. The native land is also the common good of all its citizens, in which everyone has a duty to serve and nurture that people's culture and traditions.

Today, we need to ask, have we seen the final end of the development of human society? For we have seen the rise of globalisation, in which many small nations have been absorbed into larger political structures. And we have seen huge cultural changes taking place within societies.

Catholic social doctrine speaks about "natural societies". This indicates that both the family and the nation have a particular bond with human nature. It is clear that every society's formation takes place in and through the family. It is also true that the nation, when understood as the cultural and historical identity of a particular society, is also a part of human reality. It is clear then, that today natural societies - the family and the nation - are overlooked and attacked by other social forces, even though we need them.

Nationalism is not a heatly response to this dynamic, for nationalism represents the recognition and pursuit of one's own nation alone, without regard for others.

Patriotism, on the other hand, is a love of one's own nation that recognises the equal value of other nations; it is a properly orderd social love.

(The above photo was taken as I gave Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, 2007.)

Monday 17 October 2011

Memory and Identity: the concept of "patria", native land.

Having reflected upon human freedom, the Pope now begins to unwrap the bases of human society. All people, he says, have a sense that they belong to a particular place or territory and have inherited their lives and their culture from their forebears. This inheritance is the totality of goods bequeathed to us by our forefathers and including their spiritual content. Thus, the concept of "patria", native land, implies a deep bond between the spiritual and the material, between culture and territory.

Humanity has been given another patrimony. Christ presents himself to humanity with a new patrimony - that of the Father - our eternal homeland. The culture of the Holy Trinity is the culture which Christ has lived from eternity; it is a culture which he shares with us in the Incarnation. And at his Ascension, Christ explicitly gives us this new homeland.

Thus, the inheritance which we receive from Christ orients our earthly patrimony towards heaven. Christ, by confirming the eternal laws of God, and by initiating a new culture, "cultivates" the world anew, and Christian culture in each sucessive age continues to be transformative of the culture of the world.

Now the heritage of the Father which Christ gives us passes through Our Lady's heart also, since she received him in her womb, gave birth to him, and upon whom He depended. Thus, Christ's patrimony was enriched by what Our Lady gave to it. Looking at this same mystery in a much wider context, we speak of the Church as the meeting of Christ with innumerable human hearts. In the Mystery of the Church we find the whole patrimony of Christianity; and so we speak of the Church as our Mother, guarding and nurturing this patrimony for us.

(The above photo was taken in Huddersfield in 2007 as I placed the Sacred Host into the monstrance.)

Sunday 16 October 2011

Memory and Identity: the Mystery of Mercy.

In this chapter of Bl JP II's book, he reflects upon the last and most important dimension of human freedom, a dimension that is largely overlooked today - that man's freedom exists only in relationship with God's love.

First, the Holy Father gives an exposition of Psalm 50, the psalm which speaks of the truth about man's moral fragility and the infinite Mercy of God. But how do we know about God's mercy? Our experience of God comes from God's self-revelation, ultimately in the death and resurrection of His Son.

Thus, the limit placed upon evil, of which man is both perpetrator and victim, is Divine Mercy. We might naturally presume to think that the limit placed upon evil would be Divine Justice. No, there is something greater than Divine Justice; Divine Mercy. For in mercy God draws good out of evil. The Paschal Mystery, which we celebrate in the Mass every day, confirms that good is ultimately victorious.

(The above photo was taken in 2007 as I celebrated Mass in my parish in Huddersfield.)

Memory and Identity: the lessons of recent history.

We have seen how Bl JPII speaks about human freedom; that grace doesn't take away our freedom but actually gives us our freedom. In this chapter the Pope speaks about the rise and the fall of the two great totalitarian systems in Europe during the last century; Communism and Nazism. He makes note of a very important factor here. That in Eastern Europe these systems were not only resisted, but that many people aspired to live by true values. Whereas in Western Europe the growth of false values has taken place alongside a certain marginalisation of true values.

Indeed, the West has actively taken part in the building of an "alternative civilisation", a civilisation which is not built upon true values. In such a civilisation men and women live as though God did not exist. This means that they live outside the parameters of good and evil. Such a civilisation is another form of totalitarianism, subtly concealed under the appearences of democracy. So, today B16 has spoken publicly of the "dictatorship of relativism".

How then, asks JPII, can we respond to this situation? We must return to the roots. We must return to the roots in both human and Christian terms.

In human terms, returning to the roots means reclaiming the fundamental truths and values about humanity, being able to see these clearly again. The purpose of this book, "Memory and Identity", is to help precisely with this. Reclaiming fundamental truths and values which were taken up by the Enlightenment and contemporary secularism and given either a false or a secondary meaning.

It also means returning to the person of Jesus Christ himself. "Learning Christ" anew, by penetrating into the depths of the revelation of the mystery of Christ, and experiencing anew the testimony of life which flows from Him, whilst recognising that God intervened powerfully in the events of the twentieth century.

(The above photo I took, a year ago, of a former presbytery of mine in Huddesrfield. The house is now delapidated and souless as it was when I moved into it. Yet for three years this unprepossessing house became an oasis of the Christian life for the mission of the Church; during these years I had named the house "Our Lady Mother of Grace House".)

Thursday 13 October 2011

Soho to Sydney

What a great joy it has been for the Church in Sydney to welcome Fr Alexander Sherbrooke of St Patrick's parish, London, on a week long visit. Fr Alexander was invited by the Archdiocese to give the main address at a colloquium which was titled "Parish renewal and the New Evangelisation". He addressed first the nature and significance of the New Evangelisation and then spoke about the Eucharistic Heart of the parish. These addresses together with a "pub talk' in the evening, in which he spoke about his work in London, were very well received. In the photo below Fr Alexander is speaking with Bishop Julian Porteous of Sydney who organised the colloquium. Below that is a photo of myself speaking at the event on the theme of the laity of the New Evangelisation.

The following day we were delighted to welcome him to the Seminary where he spoke, in an informal setting (photo below), about the need for priests to be alive in Christ and to keep His light alive in the Church. He spoke to us also of the freedom which faith and the language of faith still has in Australia, and how repressed are these dimensions of life in the UK; a call to these priests-to-be to promote and defend the faith in the public arena. Fr Alexander then made an overnight visit to the seminary in Melbourne to meet the seminarians there.

The following day he was welcomed at "Theology on Tap" in its pub venue in Parramatta. He spoke to over three hundred young people (photo below), calling them to participate in the New Evangelisation by seeking to develop their Christian formation, by adoring Christ in his Eucharistic Heart, and by being open to the poor and the way that God speaks to us through the poor.

We are extremely grateful to Fr Alexander for taking the time and the trouble to make the long return journey to Sydney and to give of himself to so many.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Memory and Identity: Freedom is for love.

The Pope has described how modern man has unsucessfully wrestled with his freedom, and that for freedom to truly be what it is, it needs grace. Man cannot be free on his own; man cannot be free without God. What then, the Pope asks, is freedom?

For Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, freedom is a property of the will which is realised by truth. Freedom is therefore a task which man accomplishes through virtue. Human freedom comes about when man reaches out, through virtue, for that which is true. (It is this moral vision which was taken up by St Thomas Aquinas the medieval theologian.) Thus, human freedom involves the four cardinal virtues: prudence has an overall guiding function, justice regulates the social order, temperance and fortitude discipline man's inner life (his desires and emotions).

Yet Aristotle is not here proposing an abstract moral system, rather he is taking up man's real experience. St Thomas includes, in this moral vision, the light of Revelation, because if freedom comes about when man reaches out for what is true, then the greatest truth of all is God's Commandment's and the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It is in Christ that human freedom finds its fullest realisation.

So, the truth about freedom is that it is not an end in itself; freedom is for something. Freedom is for love. Human beings are free because they are called to love. Love perfects human nature, and without freedom man could never become who he truly is.

Once we know what the fundamental human vocation is - to love - then we can look at the many different dimensions of this vocation. Human freedom is the basis of all Catholic personal and social moral teaching, in which the Church shows how man is called to accept and to implement the truth about the good. In this way man can escape from the possibility of embracing evil and making himself worse off than he was before.

Freedom then, is the implementation of the truth regarding the good, such that freedom becomes good in itself. If freedom ceases to be linked with truth, it becomes corrupted and evil becomes a part of man's life.

(I took the above photo in October 2010 from a small boat in Port Stephens on the NSW coast.)

Monday 10 October 2011

Memory and Identity:the just use of freedom

Next the Pope turns to consider human freedom. The nature of this human faculty is the fundamental question today. If I use my freedom well I become good; if I don't use it well then evil takes root in me and around me. So what is the proper use of freedom? How can freedom be used so as to avoid evil?

A problem for us today is that we speak about freedom as though it has no connection with morality, no connection with goodness or evil. Today, the appeal is made to freedom alone - mere choice. However, in the past we recognised the need for a criterion with which to regulate the use of freedom; the criterion which is most employed today is that of utility or pleasure. So, I choose according to what will be most useful or cause the most happiness.

Now if we analyse what is going on in a person when they choose, we see that a person's will and intellect come together in such a way that the person is responsibile for his actions. And to identify the moral character of an action we have to distinguish between the just good, the useful good and the pleasurable good.

The just good represents real objective goodness. For instance, observing the Highway Code when driving. This good is the traditional object of moral choice.

The useful good represents the advantage which will be gained by the person who is making the choice. For instance, choosing to drive only on narrow country roads. Such an object is morally neutral. This good has become the basis of modern morality.

The pleasurable good is actually the joy which accompanies acheiving moral goodness. It is linked therefore to objective goodness, to the just good. However in the modern view, the pleasurable good has become an end in itself; seeking the pleasurable good has displaced seeking the just good. In this vision the pleasurable good is not linked to the just good, it is free to be sought after for itself, even at the expense of the just good.

The philosopher Emmanuel Kant has influenced our vision of morality. He observed that giving priority to pleasure in the analysis of human action threatens the very essence of morality. He proposed the notion of subjective obligation. That we are called to act justly becuase of the presence within us of 'moral categories'. However, building morality on the basis of subjective obligation means that you lose sight of what is objectively good.

The fundamental criterion of moral evaluation is in fact man's freedom - his will. It is man who chooses, it is man who decides what criterion to apply to his decision-making, whether this be the criterion of objective goodness or that of utilitarian advantage. But we find that real goodness and the happiness that goodness brings us remains an impossible goal, whether by seeking pleasure for itself, or constructing an subjective vision of goodness, or simply by failing to choose objective goodness - our freedom remains a question for us.

The question of freedom, today as before, is in fact the manifestation of man's need for a Redeemer - that man cannot acheive the fullness of his desire unaided, and that his freedom, far from being fulfilled is a problem for him.

JPII responds to this need in his Theology of the Body.

(I took the above photo in March 2008 at Stone in Staffordshire as a barge enters a canal lock.)

Friday 7 October 2011

Memory and Identity: the mystery of evil 2.

Bl John Paul II begins his book speaking about the co-existence of good and evil because this is the basic context of our lives, and because it is this context that Jesus Christ enters into. It is God, not man who puts a limit on evil; man cannot do this because he is divided in himself, and the limit which God places upon evil is the Redemption. Evil is radically overcome by the Redemption.

If we look round the world we can see the places which have suffered most from the presence of evil: those are the places where the Cross is most clearly revealed.

Sin is the greatest evil which affects man, and Christ forgives sin, indeed, he destroys it. Man's true greatness therefore lies in his conversion, by which he returns to God. However, this return to the Father is not about human effort, it is about grace. Man needs grace, and in Christ he is given grace.

Christ's death and resurrection reveal the full truth about man: that he is called to participate in God's life, and that this call is given to us in God's unconditional love for us; we are called to live a new life. The gift of grace is like light, given to us here and now in our divided condition.

The Redemption then is an unimagined victory for us, but it is also a task. It is a question of us receiving this gift into our lives. The Redemption will change us, but will we allow ourselves to be changed?

And so, we must speak about the Spiritual Life - our, my, relationship with God. This involves the way that I seek to keep God's Commandments; allowing Christ to conquer sin in me. It involves a growth in virtue as I allow God's light to pervade me. And this will lead to a certain experience of closeness to God, even now before I die, in anticipation of what is destined to be ours in eternity. It is Christ who reveals and teaches this way and accompanies those who travel.

So, we don't just need a way of understanding evil, we actually need to embark on the Spiritual Life, in which we personally participate in Christ's mission in which he defeats evil and restores goodness to us in superabundance.

(I took the above photo in January 2008 in the Fleurie hills of the Saone valley in France. Smoke rises from the burning of the dead wood of the vines in preparation for the new growth that will come in the Spring.)

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Memory and Identity: the mystery of evil.

It is perhaps surprising that Bl JPII should start his book by speaking about evil. This is because we all encounter evil in life, evil alongside goodness. It is goodness which we strive for but evil is always a problem for us. So a realistic approach to life involves recognising the presence of evil. Indeed, JPII says that we actually need to have what he calls a "philosophy of evil" - a way of understanding and "approaching" evil, so that we are able to continue building our lives, inspite of the presence of evil.
It is only in light of the truth that we can genuinely see evil for what it is and maintain our lives in the direction of goodness. Foundational Truth concerns the Mystery of God, of Creation and of Man. In the light of Revealed truth we can begin to see that evil is a mystery in which goodness, which should be overabundant, becomes reduced or even hidden. It is precisely to combat evil and restore goodness to man that God, in the three Persons of the Trinity, has undertaken what we call the Redemption.
However, today's secular vision of life reduces God to being merely an element of human consciousness. In the secular vision, God is no longer the God of Revelation but is the God who we can think of as we please. But, at the same time our way of understanding evil changes. Man, not God, is now the central player; if man now descides what God is, he also decides what is evil and what is good. We have seen this most terribly in the extermination of certain peoples by others.

Even so, we also see that evil is limited. Divine Providence allowed Nazism to exist for twelve years only. Yes, evil is limited by goodness.

The Church calls evil by its name in order to show that it can be overcome; it is overcome precisely when we open ourselves to the love of God. Most importantly and wonderfully, we know that Christ has definitively destroyed the evil that affects humanity. Thus, it is essential that we understand how Christ overthrows evil. In this, the Holy Spirit is Himself our guide - he guides us through the redeeming work of Christ.

(To be continued.)

The above photo was taken in May 2007 as I was blessing the Parish Boundaries of what was then my parish in Huddersfield.

Monday 3 October 2011

The Memory and Identity Sessions

Back in 2007, before I came to Australia, I lead some evenings in the parish in which we looked at the themes which John Paul II had developed in his book "Memory and Identity". I happen to think that this book should be standard reading for young people today. This is because we live in a society and a culture (in the West) which is so heavily influenced by the secular project of superficiality, opinion and consumerism, that essential truths, upon whose basis human society can be elaborated, have been forgotten.

Having listened to the Elton John and ACDC for decades now, having daily absorbed the "culture" of the Soap Operas, and followed the relentless call to be a consumer, and having placed in political power leaders who are partisans of "lifestyle living", and having largely set aside the pursuit of truth and virtue, it is hardly surprisng that we have the social and economic problems that exist today. But there remains the essential task of handing on and giving formation to young people, the foundations of human living and its accompanying ethics, that they might again be able to discern and build their lives upon this basis.

This is precisley what John Paul II did during his Pontificate, especially through the World Youth Days and, before he died, bequeathed us, in "Memory and Identity", a presentation of the foundational elements of human living for the modern era.

I shall re-work my orginal notes which I used back in 2007 and post, over the next few weeks, on the themes which Bl John Paul II wrote about in his book.

Sunday 2 October 2011

For a new evangelical flourishing of wealth

Yesterday, I was privilaged to take part in a book launch by Fr Tony Percy, the Rector of the Sydney Seminary. What a great honour too that Fr Percy should draw a Cardinal of the Church to preside over the presentation. There are not many authors that I know of who get a Cardinal to their book launch!

The book "Entrepreneurship in the Catholic Tradition" was launched at Australian Catholic University in North Sydney. In the photo above Fr Percy is on the right, Cardinal Pell in the centre and Dr Gary Johns (Professor of Public Policy at ACU) on the left.

The impression that we have of Catholic Social Teaching is that it is mainly concerned with social justice and that the rich and weathly are somewhat 'evangelically disadvantaged'. Yet as any right-thinking public policy shows, wealth must be created before it can be distributed. Fr Percy's new book shows how much Catholic Tradition has appreciated businessmen and women for centuries. What follows I took from Fr Percy's presentation at the launch.

The entrepreneur is someone who is alert to new forms of knowledge and discovers new opportunities in the market place, who has an ability to engage the factors of production (land, labour, capital and enterprise) and is prepared to take a risk that the return will reward sufficiently. So, the Christian entrepreneur is someone who has an interest in money, but an interest which is moderated by a concern for the Common Good.

Delving into the tradition we find that entrepreneurship is appreciated in the Scriptures. For instance, in Sirach 42: 1,5 we read, "Of the following things do not be ashamed ... of profit from dealing with merchants."

St Thomas Aquinas reflects on the virtue of magificence (linked to magnanimity), and in doing so anticipates modern corporate finance theory. He argues that those who put their money away to earn interest are lovers of money, while those who undertake grand and magnificent projects for the Common Good demonstrate a capacity to moderate their love for money.

Since Leo XIII the Church has consistently defended the right to private property. Socialising property, historically, has lead to mass poverty. The Church has also defended the poor, giving rise to the principle of solidarity. And in the face of a collapsing social order (the unemplyement and depression which followed WWI), the Church articulated the principle of subsidiarity - that families, businesses and associations are prior to government, and that government is called to help not hinder them.

The Church then has clarified the importance of private property and private action for modern societies. This is a truth that needs to be proclaimed from the roof-tops in the twenty-first century, gripped as we are by big governments and big corporations who have stopped helping and are now hindering free initiative. This has happened by government lowering tax and interest for large corporations and shifting the burden onto individuals and families, and by raising the rate of Capital Gains Tax.

Pius XII, bewteen 1941 and 1956 repeatedly addressed the world of business and commerce in order to inspire a new breed of young people who would be both entrepreneurial and ethical.

JPII called for a society of free work, enterprise and participation, with the understanding that private property has a social mortgage on it, and that the goods of this world have a universal destination for all people. JPII admired entrepreneurs not only because they manifest freedom in the social order, but because they manifest a unique ability to bring people together to form a communion of persons in the work environment. If people are given responsibility for their own lives, with minimal government interference, then they will become responsible for the less fortunate; that subsidiarity leads to solidarity. The Common Good then, takes precidence over self-interest. Families, businesses and associations should be respected, not undermined by government.

Entrepreneurship goes to the heart of the pillars of Catholic Social Doctrine - human life and its dignity, the Common Good, and the principles of Subsidiarity and Solidarity. It is people who are the mian resource of any economy. Natural resources are helpful, but it is the people who make transform those resources into wealth; people create wealth which alliviates poverty. Life is not the enemy of economic development, death is. Indeed, reducing the abortion rate would offer significant help to ailing economies.

I hope that Fr Percy's book will create a new awakening to the wonderful truths which are guarded by Catholic Tradition, and that many will see new opportunities for their wealth, indeed, an evangelical flourishing of human resources.

"Entrepreneurship in the Catholic Tradition" is published by ConnorCourt Press.

Saturday 1 October 2011

Mutually enriching

Before I went to America this June something had caught my eye on Zenit and I made a note to re-read this report. On 16th May there was a symposium held in Rome to reflect upon the Holy Father's "Motu Proprio" Summorum Pontificum. The symposium reveals that there is indeed in the Church an accurate understanding of this "Motu Proprio".

Not only is the Tridentine Mass an essential point of reference for the Liturgy today but, as the Holy Father said in his Letter accompanying the Motu Proprio, that "the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching".

In the light of this the secretary of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" said that the Motu Proprio is "the beginning of a new liturgical movement desired by the Pope", and should "be perceived by the Church as a sign of hope."

Today then, the two forms of the Roman Liturgy are called to purify, enrich and reform one another, something which is entirely in continuity with Sacrosanctum Concilium. Indeed, the Church, through Sacrosanctum Concilium, called for a reform of the Liturgy. However, the Liturgy was not reformed, but instead we were given a New Rite. And so we have the continuing presence of the Tridentine Mass; a Rite which is clearly in need of reform. Again, if we look at the New Rite, we find not only that there are many elements which are yet to be provided for, and a Rite which is somewhat unfashioned at the edges, but that "the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage [should be demonstrated in the new Mass] more powerfully than has been the case hitherto". (B16)

The reform of the reform, which the Holy Father has spoken of is something which the Church will engender by a consistent and reflective celebration and study of both the Tridentine and the New Rite of the Mass, in other words through an organic and genuine liturgical formation.

No doubt this work will require of many that they leave behind entrenched liturgical positions and look to a time when the Church will indeed have one reformed Rite, totally Catholic, focused on Christ and the Paschal Mystery, and in which Christ's Mystical Body is genuinly revealed.

The report in Zenit is well worth reading in full.