Sunday, 19 March 2017

An Inclusive Church?

One of the truths of modern life that seems completely unquestionable is that we should always be (or at the very least, strive to be) inclusive. Especially the Church.

I think this bears examining. 

And especially for the Church.

For nowhere in the Gospel do I hear Our Lord preaching that inclusion is a virtue. And indeed, time and again, we read of him selecting people, and thereby, of course, excluding others.

This struck me particularly as I was reflecting on the Transfiguration. Christ had chosen 72 (to the exclusion of many others, doubtless). He chose 12 men (excluding all women and many other men). And then He chose Peter, James and John to ascend the mountain and witness the Transfiguration.  What did the other apostles make of that? They were a querulous bunch, so I bet they had something to say about it...

And whenever He talks of His return in glory, He talks of separating out: sheep from goats, those who clothed, fed and visited Him from those who did not, and so on.

And yet this drive for inclusion seems to dictate so much that has changed in the Church: the removal of the altar rails, the opening up of the sanctuary to all and sundry, girl altar servers, blessings at the altar steps for those not receiving (when all are blessed at the end of Mass), the Sign of Peace ritual, lay people reading, the bidding prayers, the choir that anyone can join (whether they can hold a tune or not) and which therefore cannot attempt serious music, and now, the reception of communion by those living in a public state of sin.

I think much of this is misguided, though well-intentioned, because it is driven by a secular standard and not by the example or teaching of Our Lord or the traditions of the Church.

Traditionally, Catholics excluded others from their worship (even catechumens had to leave before the Canon of the Mass). We excluded women from the Sanctuary during worship (with the symbolic exception of the Nuptial Mass). And so on...

'But... but... you can't want to exclude people!'

My point is, inclusion and exclusion are a particular frame we put around certain social situations. 

In some cases it may be a relevant frame, but in others it may not be. 

But insofar as I would argue for the exclusion of (say) public sinners from Holy Communion, it is because a higher set of values comes into play: ones that are rooted in the Gospel - values such as charity, and truth.

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