Thursday, 16 October 2014

What's to be done?

I raised the question recently (here, in fact): what are the faithful to do when they no longer trust many of their bishops?

I was thinking of the situation in England and Wales when I wrote that; and I am still thinking of that situation. I don't think we should let the Synod distract us from the +Conry affair and its ramifications.

However, I think the Synod has clearly demonstrated that problems with the episcopacy extend far beyond our home patch, so the question is even more acute.

I still don't know the answer.  I know bits of it: prayer and fasting is always a good starting point, as for any Catholic dilemma. In fact, in cases of difficulty, I always refer back to the first two questions of the Penny Catechism to reorientate myself:

 1: Who made you?

 God made me.

2: Why did God make you?

God made me to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in the next.

So, prayer, fasting and a good sacramental life, overflowing into the spiritual and corporal works of mercy are the sine qua non.

Beyond that, I think we have certain responsibilities: to make known to our pastors our genuine concerns (and yes, I have written to my bishop) and to warn those who may be at risk of dangers: which, I suppose, is the point of blogging about it.

However, the larger question, of what else we should do, and the associated question of how should we do whatever we decide to do, I find difficult to grapple with.

So I turn it about. What does Satan want me to do? If I can discern that, and avoid his temptations - and even do the opposite - that may be a good start.

Satan, it strikes me, would be happy with any of these responses:

  • Despair
  • Hating, denigrating or abusing anyone
  • Colluding with sin, by silence or consent
  • Fostering spiritual pride because I know I am on the right side
  • Focusing on high-level troubles to the detriment of my daily duties to God, family and others
  • Retreating into splendid isolation and ignoring my responsibilities to the Church and others
  • Prompting others to do any of the above
So  putting all that together gives some kind of plan of action, on top of the foundation of prayer and fasting.

Turning once again to the Penny Catechism, I refresh my memory about the Spiritual Works of Mercy:

322. Which are the Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy?
The seven Spiritual Works of Mercy are:
1. To convert the sinner.
2. To instruct the ignorant.
3. To counsel the doubtful.
4. To comfort the sorrowful.
5. To bear wrongs patiently.
6. To forgive injustice.
7. To pray for the living and the dead.
 That is why silence is not an option: we have an obligation to convert the sinner and to instruct the ignorant. In normal times, we may feel that we are members of a Church that is doing that, and as long as we play our role, and bear the silent witness of living a Catholic life (preach at all times, use words when necessary...) that is sufficient.

But these are not normal times: we cannot rely on many in positions of authority in the Church to discharge their obligations. Now may be a time when words are necessary.

So I think that we need to do more. We need to find new and more effective ways to make the truths of the Gospel heard, and in particular those truths which seem out of favour, such as the truth that sin always causes harm, even sin committed in ignorance and (therefore) relative innocence; the truth that the word love does not mean the gratification of physical or emotional desires, and nor is our identity determined by such desires; the truth that the one true Church, uniquely, makes Christ available through the sacraments for those who believe; and the truth that we are all called to repent and believe the Gospel.

But we must do that in ways that are oriented to hope and not to despair; in ways that refrain from hating, denigrating or abusing anyone; with a humble and contrite heart; without neglecting either our immediate or our ecclesial duties; and without tempting or provoking others to sin.

1 comment:

Left-footer said...

This is an excellent exhortation to a more Christian position than mine, which is uncharitable and fuelled by odium theologicum.

Thank you, and God bless.