Friday, July 14, 2017

Good Article by Damian Thompson in the Catholic Herald

Can Anything Stop Catholic In-Fighting?

I'm not that interested in the main focus of the article, as I'm not sure we should even be trying to avoid in-fighting right now. And yes, I know there are various Scripture verses that could be quoted at me here, but there are also plenty of Scripture verses asserting the duty of orthodoxy, of which Galatians 1:8 is my favourite.

Some of the other passages are very interesting, though, including these passages on Traditionalism: "Traditionalists must stop fantasising that one day the whole Catholic world will return to the “timeless” Latin rituals of the pre-conciliar Church. It’s the Mass that’s timeless, not a particular cultural expression of it, however numinous. Demand for the 1962 Missal may grow, but it will always be limited because there is almost no one left who grew up with it."

"It's the Mass that's timeless, not a particular cultural expression of it, however numinous". That's how I feel. I'm all in favour of the Latin Mass, I just can't get as worked up about it as other people I know-- including some dear friends, and indeed readers of this blog! My attitude might change in the future, but right now it would seem an affectation to pose as a traddie. (Though maybe I should "fake it till I make it".) Listening to Traditionalists talk about liturgy is, to me, a bit like listening to audiophiles talking about sound systems, or listening to bibliophiles talk about binding and gilt edges.

He also says: "Secular culture wars have created a dichotomy that is meaningless to Catholics in Africa and Asia, who are often happy to celebrate Mass with exuberant, made-up rubrics but are at the same time as uncompromising as Cardinal Burke on issues of sexual morality." Take that for whatever it's worth. I'm no more keen on "exuberant, made-up rubrics" than your average Traditionalist.

However, I really liked this bit: "Finally, the Church needs to face up honestly to people’s fundamental objection to the Catholic faith. It has very little to do with sexual scandals or styles of worship. The problem is that doctrines such as transubstantiation and the Virgin Birth are hard to believe. These teachings are not negotiable – but, at the same time, they are less plausible to modern people than they were to our ancestors, whose imaginations were formed by societies that were naturally receptive to miracles and metaphysics."

Now, it's true that I came to faith after years of agnosticism verging on atheism. And it's also true that I'm a natural sceptic (even now). So I may be projecting my own frame of mind on others. Furthermore, I'm often surprised at the ease with which other people accept the supernatural and miraculous-- sometimes people who I'd expect to be outright rationalists.

Having said all that, I still think Thompson is onto something. So much of Catholic apologetics seems to defend details, venerable points of controversy with Protestants and other old sparring partners, rather than the basic credibility of the supernatural. I think we could pay a lot more attention to that.


  1. Do you believe that you can earn merit during your time on Earth that will count in Heaven? That's Catholic teaching. So please allow me to suggest a particular article to you regarding the merit earned at mass, and you make a judgement for yourself as to which mass earns more merit, the old, or the new. I will put the link. You may make comments there, and after you read it, I wish you would.

    1. Thanks Janet. It's a long article so I won't read it tonight, but I will read it.