Saturday, March 2, 2013

Letter in Today's Irish Times Breaks the Cliché-o-meter

It's from Vera Hughes in Moate, County Westmeath and her third paragraph reads:

Today’s fast-emptying churches (many “converted” to commercial use), an ageing priesthood, the unprecedented falling off of religious vocations, compulsory clerical celibacy, the adherence to archaic ritual – all portray a church that has lost its way in a fast-changing, more open, liberal and democratic world.

Wow! Ten clichés in four lines! That's pretty good going!

I especially like the "archaic ritual" bit. Is there archaic ritual and non-archaic ritual, or is all ritual archaic? Would ritual be OK if we got some snappy new rituals? Why worry about an ageing priesthood or declining vocations if you renounce ritual anyway? Is the ordinary form of the Mass, that is barely fifty years old, already archaic?

And is there any possibility-- any possibility at all-- that a world that is "fast-changing, more open, liberal and democratic" might just possibly have "lost its way" rather than the church?

What Vera Hughes is essentially saying is "The world is changing at a breakneck pace. The church is continuing its traditional practices. Ergo, the church has lost its way."

And who says the world is "more liberal", anyway? I'm not so sure about that. It's certainly not more liberal towards religious belief. I don't think it's as liberal towards eccentricity, modesty or childhood innocence. With our stultifying political correctness today, it is rather less liberal towards humour or free speech. I'm not so sure liberalism can be so easily quantified.


  1. Excellent analysis ... hope you've sent it off to the IT by way of a response!

  2. >>all portray a church that has lost its way in a fast-changing, more open, liberal and democratic world.

    What she wrote reminded me of an incident when my cousins and I were waiting in line in Disney World some years back. I can't remember what ride (I think it was Splash Mountain), but there were two lines - Fast Pass and the non-Fast Pass - when a girl in the Fast Pass line came jogging up to us and sneered in our faces "We don't have to wait, unlike you people."

    The more 'open' and liberal the world becomes, I find it to be more obnoxious and mediocre.

  3. Ha! That's one of the most obnoxious and spiteful and petty things I've ever heard in my life. It's almost difficult to feel annoyed at it, it's such a gem.

    Oh, I didn't reply to that letter, Father. What's the point? Liberal Christians, liberal non-Christians and anti-liberal anti-Christians keep parrotting that "the Church must keep up with the modern world". Orthodox Christians keep replying, "No, the Church is there to change the world and save the world, not pander to it.". And on and on the exchage goes, ping-pong, ping-pong, ping-pong. Really, replying to that argument feels like swatting away a fly at this stage. The only thing I found interesting about that letter was its unusual richness in cliché.