Monday, 20 September 2010

Chickens Coming Home to.....?

I just saw part of a BBC discussion on the Pope's visit. Archbishop Nichols was challenged on the question of the rejection of "most" Catholics in the United Kingdom of the Church's official teaching against contraception. He struggled with it, but Huw Edwards let him off the hook. With deep respect to His Grace, it is true that most Catholics do reject official teaching on this matter. One reason is that they do not understand it, and why is that? Because so few bishops and priests attempt to explain it to them! Why is that? There are probably three or four reasons, but two are; 1. Some do not understand it themselves (because they do not read about it or because it has not been adequately explained to them) and because some of them also reject it.

This really is a case of "chickens coming home..." etc. This is only the tip of the iceberg. May we say again (sorry to do this again) that the teaching of the Faith over the last 35 years or more has been quite poor? Some "Catholic" school children (I do not jest) do not know who the Pope is or what he does (although following the visit they perhaps do now). Some of them do not care. The "moral underpinning" of society may well be crumbling but the Catholic moral foundations in our Catholic schools exist only at the level of social justice. If a recent blog message is correct, a highly-placed member of the Catholic hierarchy is unhappy with the phrase, "mortal sin". If we are now concerned about the widespread rejection of the official moral teaching of the Church and presumably - because it is true - the rejection of some doctrinal teaching (for example with regard to Our Lady) we have only ourselves to blame. Will this state of affairs continue? As far as I am concerned as a parish priest, it will not, but then, without the support of others, what can I reasonably do? This matter is regularly in my prayers and in my discussions with fellow priests. Beyond that, I am powerless. I pray that, following the Pope's visit, there will be a renewed call, from all corners of the Church in England and Wales for a full-blooded, confident presentation of the WHOLE Faith to both adults and children. Is this too much to hope for?

In case anyone is not convinced of the case I am making, why is it that for the 40th anniversary of Humane Vitae (2008) we heard almost nothing from our bishops?


  1. Maybe what the Church ought to do is what most professions require and that is in order for a candidate to become a bishop he must have to pass a test. And that test should focus on Catholic teaching. Maybe that's too easy.

  2. Although I was raised Catholic, I was, like most of my generation, very poorly catechised.
    My otherwise devout mother strongly encouraged me to contracept, and with each of our pregnancies, we felt a degree of disapproval.
    I fell away from the church when I discovered more zeal and life, and, dare I say it,more evidence of Christian virtue, in an evangelical Anglican church ( the same church that started the Alpha course)
    It was there that I was really encouraged to trust the Lord with my whole heart and "lean not on my own understanding".
    This led me to ponder seriously the issue of contraception. I found that none of my evangelical friends had an adequate response to my questions so I turned to the internet.
    It was there that I started to read the beautifully coherent teachings of Humanae Vitae, and also I found catholic bloggers who shared their enthusiasm for this teaching very eloquently.
    I found that the only well thought out position I could find was Catholic.
    My husband and I were always open to life in our hearts, and we felt cheated and sad that this teaching had never been shared with us as catholics.
    We became fully open to life while we were still away from the church.
    Although by itself, this wasn't enough to bring me home it gave me a new respect for, and fascination with the teachings of the catholic church.
    It took the stillbirth of my daughter, and my subsequent wrestling with the mystery of suffering, to bring us home at last.
    Thank you Father for discussing this issue. We need priests to have moral courage and to speak the teachings of the church with a clear voice. I find much of what our church leaders say to be confusing and unclear.

  3. Thank you Clare for this response. We need to hear more of this kind testimony to the Truth. I have added your blog to my list.

  4. In all fairness to Archbishop Nichols, I should like to point out that this line about "the majority of Catholics dissenting from Church teaching" in this matter has been constantly pumped out by the media since 1968 to my certain knowledge. I have never dissented from it but no one has ever asked me! Let us recognise it for the propaganda it is. One could, on a much stroger basis, argue that the majority of Catholics dissent from Church teaching on the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation. I suspect, indeed, that if one asked what proportion of Catholics who regularly attend Sunday Mass dissent on contraception one might get a very different response.

  5. A good point Patricius, and I certainly do want to be fair in all this. Like you I have never been asked my opinion - and, as far as I know, no one in ANY of the parishes I have worked in since my ordination have been asked either, so you are right to be skeptical about the claim regarding the number dissenting from Humanae Vitae etc. However, having said that, it is my perception as a parish priest (of 35 years ordination), along with genuine surveys done on this (and other issues)that it is true to say that most Catholics do, in fact, dissent from this teaching. It may not be fully conscious - because they do not know about it (I can testify that in many cases this is true - for example when I meet people who come for marriage instruction or to arrange baptisms etc). But this only points to the lack of proper catechesis - not only on this, but on other issues - such as Sunday obligation.

  6. It is sad to see a Catholic bishop unable to expound the church's teaching regarding contraception. I teach and if I cannot explain clearly children do not learn and I am out of a job. The stronger intellect in the discussion was exhibited by the dissenters. I winced as the archbishop smoothed the feather of dissenters and the gay lobby by saying how they collectively showed no opposition to civil partnerships and only spoke out loudly on education and social matters. So no moral teaching and on education presumably not Catholic education as they decided not to protect the Easter holiday and support permissive state sex ed. The message should be clear if you make yourself irrelevant then then what can you offer as a contribution to public debate and what is your mission? It is sad and embarrassing to see and hear at least he had nothing to distance himself from. Just one brave bishop please!

  7. To those who doubt the widespread dissent from the Church's teaching on contraception amongst church-going (as opposed to practising) Catholics, I would suggest looking at the number of children that most parishioners have! Do you see families of 5, 6, 7 or more children, or are 2 or 3 the norm? It gives a revealing general trend.