Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Church as Hospital

Whenever someone horrid (such as me) suggests that those living in open, manifest and persistent sin should not present themselves for Holy Communion without going to confession first and making a firm purpose of amendment, we are told that 'the Church is a hospital for sinners, not a club for saints.'

Of course, that is quite correct.  But I would argue that it is traditionally-minded Catholics (such as me) who take that notion seriously, and those who see themselves as more progressive who do not.

The progressives whose great mantra is inclusivity and non-judgementalism, seem to think we are all healthy. Indeed their version of non-judgementalism is precisely a refusal to diagnose spiritual malady.

Whereas we poor retrogrades who still believe in personal sin are very well aware of the need for diagnosis and treatment. And it starts in the confessional.

But I want to pursue the metaphor into some other areas.

Let's think about language. The current vogue is against complex language and towards language that is understandable by all. Yet jargon (or to be more accurate, specialist language) serves a real purpose. Thus it may not be easy for me if the surgeon talks in medic-speak to me, as a lay patient; but I would rather he used precise language and explained it, than told me I had something wrong with my innards, even though that might be both true and easy to understand. And when it comes to medics talking about medical matters amongst themselves, the specialist language is essential, both to save time and ensure precision. Latin used to serve this purpose for the Church, both in liturgy and in theological discourse.

Likewise, we can think about ritual. I gather that there are now cleansing gels so powerful and effective that surgeons only need a few seconds to get their hands completely clean and sterile. Yet my medical friends tell me that the pre-operation ritual of a good hand-washing continues.
Bugnini would have axed that: but I believe it serves a purpose. At the individual level, it allows the surgeon to get in the right frame of mind for the important work he is about to do; and for the team, it acts as an important opportunity to get together, and unite in purpose and focus. What is noteworthy is that the behaviour continues even though its obvious, ostensible, purpose is no longer served. A bit like having candles on the altar.


philipjohnson said...

ben.i do a lot of it !i go to confession!god bless you -your blog is good ,very good.philip johnson.

Mark Lambert said...

A hospital for sinners is an apt metaphor; the consultation process is Confession and the medicine prescribed is absolution followed by regular doses of prayer and reflection!