‘Modern’ Catholicism

Do you know what really drives me mad? (Other than when I see signs advertising “dvd’s” and “book’s”…)

What drives me mad is when people assume that Catholicism needs ‘updating’.

Okay, first of all, we’re not like Microsoft Windows, which apparently needs updating ALL THE TIME (my laptop keeps restarting and that too is driving me mad!). The Church is not a programme that constantly needs to be made better. The Church does not need modernising or improving in its basic ideals.

I love Pope Francis, but he seems to be wilfully misunderstood by a great many people at the moment. Here is an article that explains what I’m talking about (it’s from the Mail Online, I shouldn’t read it, yada yada yada!): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2425628/Pope-warns-Catholic-Church-fall-like-house-cards-continues-obsession-abortion-gay-marriage-contraception.html

It’s not the first of its kind, either. Basically, the Pope makes a few comments about the Church: in this case, that Catholics should not ‘insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods'; that we should not get caught up over ‘small-minded things'; that it is not his place to judge homosexuals; and that the role of women within the Church should be addressed.

None of those things are new or spectacular or different. He’s right: he’s saying that we should not get so caught up in arguing over specific moral issues, such as abortion and contraception and same-sex marriage, that we forget to pray and live charity and love. Of course those issues are important, deeply so, and we should abide by the Church’s teachings, but we should never forget that we exist to follow Jesus and to love and serve Him. We should not be small-minded. It is perfectly possible to live a moral and holy life and abide by the teachings of Christ without constantly arguing about the finer details with those who disagree.

Again with the not judging thing – of course it’s not his place to judge homosexual people, nor is it ours. It never has been. Only God can judge. Christianity in fact teaches a deep love and compassion towards absolutely everyone, regardless of sex, age, race, or sexuality. That’s not a new thing.

And finally about women – he’s simply saying that we should not underestimate the role of women within the Church. That’s all.

So what annoys me about this article is the way all of these things are presented. Somehow, the journalist has managed to make it sound like these things are ‘progress’ within the Church – as if we’re finally learning to keep up with the times. It’s made to sound as though Pope Francis’ proposed reform of the Church will eradicate difficulties of contraception and abortion by updating them to reflect current popular opinion. Apparently, his comments about gay people are ‘ground-breaking’ – because no one has ever said that before? Or because people think that because he has said he is not in a position to judge, suddenly the Church will go back on over two thousand years of tradition and allow same-sex marriage??? And simply because the Pope has mentioned a respect for women, suddenly we’re going to have women priests?

And all of this is so positive. “Hooray! The Catholics are finally being modern! They’re catching up with us! Isn’t this great?”

They just don’t get it. Things aren’t going to change. And the reason why things won’t change is that all of our traditions and teachings stem from absolute laws of nature. What is the definition of an absolute? It is something that cannot change: something that is intrinsically itself and cannot be anything else. Our Church is not about keeping up with the times, nor has it ever been. During some periods of history Catholicism would have been considered even too modern – think Jesus’ treatment of the poor and of women. But no matter the context, no matter the world around us, we have always endeavoured to follow the laws of God and those do not change.

So yes, contraception will always be wrong because it violates the nature of sexual love. Same-sex marriage will always be wrong because again it goes against the principles of love and marriage. We can change our attitudes – I expect a great many of us need to do so – towards others. We can learn to practice love and charity towards everybody. But we will never change our beliefs, because they are not simply a personal leaning towards a way of life. Our belief, our faith, is based on something real and solid and immutable.

I apologise if there’s a note of bitterness in my words. I suppose sometimes I get tired of people expecting me to be ‘modern’. It’s as if I’m allowed to be a Catholic and have weird habits like going to Mass and saying prayers and having a crucifix in my room, but only as long as I don’t express anything too controversial or ‘outdated’ – because apparently that’s the worst faux pas one can possibly commit. My odd religion will be tolerated only if it doesn’t contrast with popular opinion. And sometimes, that drives me mad.

But then again, to quote my mother, at least I’m not living in the times when Christians were thrown to the lions.

Following on from my last post, by the way, is this post from Fr Z’s blog: http://wdtprs.com/blog/2013/09/sudden-unprovided-death-and-you/

It’s quite shocking in the sense that it made me stop and think, and it’s short and to the point, so have a read.

Today has been a lovely day because it began with me feeling terrible and not being able to get out of bed, with the result that Tiny Whale and my other housemate (who definitely does need a code name! Any suggestions?) brought me breakfast in bed and tea and chocolate!! I definitely am looking forward to the year ahead with such lovely people! Our house is still one member short but the rest of us had a lazy evening tonight and a meal involving much cheese sauce, and I’m feeling so blessed to have such wonderful friends here.

Also, funny story – the housemate-yet-to-be-nicknamed did some shopping the other day and ended up dripping washing up liquid on her shoes by accident. Then a few days later we went out in the pouring rain, and when she looked down there were bubbles all over her shoes!! It was most amusing to see the contrast between the clean white dots where the liquid had landed and the rest of the shoes…

P.S. Tiny Whale is now installed in my room (in ‘her’ armchair), wrapped in a blanket, making monkey noises at me. Oh how I’ve missed that girl…

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4 Responses to ‘Modern’ Catholicism

  1. Excellent! People don’t seem to understand that TRUTH DOESN’T CHANGE. Never. Absolute truth endures forever, and we can’t just compromise our God-given morals to adapt to changing times. That’s what we call “moral relativism.”

  2. Thanks for these important truths. But remember that today we need to emphasise the existence of the human soul to clinch these points. One of the reasons “these people just don’t get it … [about] absolute laws of nature” is that modern science shows that truths about the nature of purely physical things are not really absolute (unlike pre-modern science – see point (i) below if you want to explore this idea a bit further). But at the human level your points about the laws of nature do apply, because we have a spiritual soul (see point (ii) below). The soul is crucial to disproving “moral relativism”. “These people” also use modern science (wrongly in this case)to disprove the existence of the non-physical human soul. That’s why the FAITH movement thinks it’s so important to use modern science to prove the existence of the spiritual soul as complementing the physical body (see the free FAITH pamphlet here: http://www.faith.org.uk/Shop/Acrobat/Can%20we%20be%20sure%20God%20exists.pdf)

    I think this is one of the reasons why Pope Francis providentially and powerfully spoke the following words in the above-discussed interview (I think these words are central to the whole argument and ethos of the interview): “The thinking of the church must recover genius and better understand how human beings understand themselves today, in order to develop and deepen the church’s teaching”. And just before saying this, the Pope said that the “sciences and their development help the church in its growth in understanding”.
    A bit more on the above two points:
    (i) Modern science has shown that at the physical level truths about the nature of things are not quite so absolute. (Previous science was based on the old Platonic forms which made the idea of unchangeable natures a lot easier to defend – but Platonic science other disadvantages for Christian culture). It’s actually just not that easy crisply to define the nature of many purely physical things (e.g. the species criteria of inter-breeding just doesn’t work well for flowers; evolution suggests fuzziness at the edge of some species; is an ass a horse?; Is a lichen a species or a genera?; and there are numerous other examples if anyone wants them!) Furthermore it seems okay to interfere with aspects of the nature of animals, and other species, in a way that Christians believe it’s not okay to interfere with human nature. And these facts have been applied a lot to humans in order to foster “moral relativism”. It’s been somewhat successful sadly, partly because we haven’t taken the Pope’s recent advice, and developed our understanding of the human.

    (ii) But human nature is spiritual as well as physical. We each have a spiritual soul, which harmoniously sweeps the body up to deeper meanings – ultimately that of mediating our self-giving – enabling us as persons to build unity and friendship. Because of the soul human nature is called to communion, ultimately founded on God, which is to say that we share an immutable, absolute nature. This is why moral truth applies unchangeably to the life of every human being. And this vision is supported by the discoveries of modern science about the inter-definition of physical things – see above-mentioned pamphlet.

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