Saturday, 15 March 2014

Not This Man!

The Tablet, that august organ, reports Bishop Burns talking about the recent questionnaire on marriage and family life thus:
the Questionnaire on Marriage and Family Life was constructed in such an obfuscating manner that it could have been a deliberate ruse to deter responses and halt the roaring train. [Respondents] have a right to know the strength of uniformity in what they said. The views belong to the people who made them. It’s called transparency. Let’s be among the first to re-build the Church – with good marriages, good families – and good re-marriages too!
There is much here that I find worrisome: in particular the comment about re-marriages. From the context, it seems abundantly clear that the bishop is not talking about widows and widowers re-marrying. 

Therefore he can only mean that people who are already validly married, and entering a second (or subsequent) union are capable of contracting, not only valid, but 'good' marriages.  Maybe it was poorly worded (or misquoted); I certainly hope so, for otherwise, the Bishop, in this statement, has stepped outside orthodoxy, which is a very serious problem indeed.

However, I want to pick up on something else. He seems to be calling for the views of respondents to be made public, and seems to be doing so because he feels that their 'strength and uniformity' lend them some validity.

I would agree that the views could usefully be made public, but not in the name of 'transparency' (a rather vogue and often weasel word) but because of the Church's commitment to truth.  Truth does not necessarily require such transparency: but what it does require is for widespread error to be corrected.  Acknowledging the scale of the problem might be a good first step in that process.

But, as I say, Bishop Burns, it would seem, does not approach it from that point of view at all. Instead, he seems to subscribe, as far as one can tell, to a rather naive version of Vox populi vox Dei.

Interlude: meditate on the third of the Luminous Mysteries.

To resume. There were once two men, One proclaimed a Gospel of Love; but not the simplistic love that says 'don't upset people' - rather the love that says Sin no more!  Whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery, and other rather unpopular things.

The other was a murderer.

But when asked whether the first should be spared execution, the people, (with strength and uniformity, no doubt), cried out: Not this Man, but Barrabas!

Vox populi is really not a sure guide to truth or virtue.  Of course, if people practice contraception, and have divorced their spouses, they will ask for these to be declared good (particularly if they have some residual sense of guilt).  'Whom will you follow: Jesus of Nazareth, who teaches that you must repent your sins?'

'Not this Man!'

But it is really not the job of a Catholic Bishop to oblige.

1 comment:

Fr Dickson said...

Excellent post Ben:
"Vox populi is really not a sure guide to truth or virtue" hits the nail on the head.
God bless you and yours.