Monday, 31 August 2009

Who Wants "Reform"?

The picture above is of St. John Eudes. He lived at a time when the church in France was in great need of reform. He was particularly concerned about seminaries. Arguing for reform is not a popular activity. People don't like change. Many of those who are stuck in the "Catholicism" of the seventies and eighties are afraid of change - especially if it seems to be looking back to what some believe we have lost. On the other hand, there seem to be quite a few who are crying out for change - or, as they see it, reform. I have to say that I am one of them.

I was ordained in 1975. Whilst still at seminary I was invited to vote for Communion in the hand. I did vote for it, as did most of my contemporaries. We were encouraged to do so by some of the seminary staff. I also believed in the possibility of women's ordination. I had other beliefs which I have since repudiated. When I came out of seminary I thought I knew quite a lot. I found out - within a few years - that I knew less than I thought - considerably less. I had to supplement my seminary education, and I still read a good deal. I was not what some would call, "conservative", neither was I as liberal as some others, but gradually I began to realise that Catholicism as I had more or less always understood it (I was reasonably orthodox) was disappearing. I now believe that, in some places, it has almost gone. What do I mean by that? It would take too long to give a full explanation here, but I can present a few bullet points to give some idea of what I mean.

+ People not only talk in church - sometimes within a few yards of the Blessed Sacrament, but they resent anyone suggesting they should not do it (a poor sense of the "holy"?). Some see nothing wrong with talking during the Mass - even during the Consecration!!!, and seem to want to talk to each other after Holy Communion when they should (I would have thought) be inwardly conversing with Christ.

+ In recent years - and still today - some theologians and a good number of lay Catholics do not consider the Holy Father's teachings to be any more important than the opinion of the local priest (or, at least, they see no problem with taking his views rather than the Pope's)

+ Some Catholics, here and elsewhere, accept abortion in some circumstances and do not have a clear understanding of many aspects of the moral teaching of Christ and His Church. Many Catholics cannot think with the Church (with the "mind of the Church") and so have lost what we might call the "Catholic instinct" (the sort of thing Newman wrote about).

+ Many lay people (including some who regularly attend Mass and receive Holy Communion) do not want to hear homilies where sin is mentioned (or death, or judgement, or conversion or the path to holiness). They do not want Truth as much as they want to "feel good" about themselves.

+Only a very few now see any benefit in regular Confession (and some hardly confess at all)

+ Hardly any children or young people from any of our Catholic schools know about the Sunday obligation. Not only that, but they seem to have no awareness that cohabitation and sex before marriage are in any way "wrong". There is no awareness of mortal sin. They have heard about sins allright, but seem to have hardly any sense of an obligation towards their Creator and some seem to have no ambition to give anything to society or the world at large (helping to make the world a better place - helping to build the Kingdom on earth etc).

I realise this is not true of all young people (thank God) but it is true of many of them - too many of them.

Looking back over 34 years of priesthood, I realise that I have not always been told the whole truth about certain post-Vatican 11"changes" in the Church. I realise now that the vote for Communion in the hand was "rigged" (in the sense that not everyone had a chance to vote). I realise now that so much that I took for progression was really distraction or bordering on practical apostasy. Yes I want reform, or the "reform of the reform". Soon please. I have my faith. I have my books. I can visit the Blessed Sacrament and pray the Rosary. There ARE some good writers, theologians and spiritual teachers in the Church (thank God) but we are in need of healing. We have been through some kind of ringer, or worse still, laid on some kind of rack. When we cry for help hardly any bishops come to our aid (except a notable few in recent years). After all, most of them have presided over what has happened, and even encouraged it. Thank God for our popes. We have had magnificent popes in the 20th century and the one we have now is a beautiful gift from God. It is not all doom and gloom, but neither should we minimize the damage that has been done - theological, spiritual, liturgical and moral damage. From what I have seen and heard, many of those who want reform tend to be more prayerful and more serious about wanting to know the Faith. I am sorry if this offends anyone, but that is my perception. Prayer leads to conversion - not only personal conversion, but to a desire to see the Church shining with the holiness of the risen Christ. Prayer brings a thirst for Truth, not opinions, and an understanding that worship is at its best when we are on our knees.


  1. Ouch. Yes, you have described my impression of parish life in Scotland. I was much taken aback when Fr Tim Finigan wrote that he thought "ordinary Catholics" would welcome the return of the sedia gestatoria (I hasten to add that I only know what it is because of its pleasing retro-chic!); it seems to me the ordinary Catholic would, if at all bothered, think it a sign of Benedict's retrogressive medieval something or other (since in large part ordinary Catholics get their opinions from the papers like everyone else.)

  2. ps the way you have comments set up means that people reading in Firefox can't comment unless they allow cookies. Which, in practice, means anyone with cookies off, will not be able to comment.

  3. Thanks. I'm afraid I am ignorant about the problems with Firefox. I just went with the instructions when I first opened the blog. I suppose it is a problem with "Blogspot". I will investigate if this is at all possible.