True Catholic Belief, UK Edition.

I really do not know why I failed to write about this at the time of release – I can only imagine that it was because there was so much information coming out around the papal visit, that I simply could not keep up. The findings of this survey however are valuable still, confirming similar research findings from other parts of the world: what Catholics in fact believe, does not coincide with what the Vatican claims we believe. In a survey for ITV of 1,636 Catholic adults in Britain prior to last September’s papal visit, these were the key findings:

Broadly Orthodox

Not Supportive
Artificial contraception:

4% agree  it should not be used

Artificial contraception:

71% believe should be used more often, to avoid pregnancy and STD infection

Abortion

11% agree “only as indirect consequence of life-saving treatment”

6% – should never be permitted

Abortion

44% believe termination should be permitted for rape, incest, sever disability to child;

30% should always be allowed

Homosexuality

11% agree homosexual acts are wrong

Homosexuality

41% said homosexual relationships should be celebrated along with heterosexual ones.

Clerical Celibacy

Just one third supported compulsory celibacy for priests

Clerical Celibacy

65% believed priests should be allowed to marry

 

The sensus fidelium requires that to be valid, a teaching must have the assent of the Church as a whole. Now I confirm once again that the SF is not determined by a simple matter of opinion polls, but the evidence of such extensive disagreement does at least prompt the obvious question: what grounds exist for believing the opposite, that these teachings on sexual ethics do in fact have the assent of the Church as a whole?

These results also demonstrate the importance of constantly challenging the bishops, drawing their attention to the obvious disjunction between abstract Vatican orthodoxy and the views of those Catholics with real-world sexual experience, so as to fashion sexual teaching with some foundation in reality.

This was the response to the results by the UK reform group, Catholic Voices for Reform

What the survey confirms very strongly is that Catholic Voices for Reform is correct in its claim that the Church has reached a stage where an open discussion about how the Church can best fulfil its sacred mission in the modern world is the only way forward.

Concerns and needs should always be brought to the Bishops and shared among others of the laity as is perfectly legal in Church law. (Can. 212 (3))  Those who ask for dialogue and reform are demonstrating loyalty in their commitment to the Roman Catholic Church.

We now call upon our all of our bishops to initiate a full and open dialogue involving the whole Church in England and Wales, laity, priests and bishops, to cover all of these issues which are already being discussed by Catholics all over the country after Sunday Mass and on other occasions when they meet.

Such a discussion should include:

  1. Governance of the Church in England and Wales and the role of the laity, with a view to introducing fully inclusive governance through collaboration at parish, diocesan and national level.
  2. The requirement for compulsory celibacy for priests.
  3. The treatment of people of a different sexual orientation and others who feel separated and excluded from the Church.
  4. The role of women in Church ministry.
  5. The imposition of the new translation of the liturgy.

We believe that, in the true spirit of collegiality and subsidiarity, as indicated in outcomes of the Second Vatican Council, it is appropriate for the Church in England and Wales to make a genuine effort to listen to lay Catholics and consult with them in the most collaborative way.

Philippine Idiocy, Continued

In the Philippines, where the Catholic bishops are engaged in a foolhardy, Quixotic fight against the government’s plans to reform the national reproductive health system by easing access to contraception for low-income families, their latest salvo is a highly offensive attempt to justify their stance by invoking the memory of the church’s historic role on the side of the poor and for justice,during the remarkable display of people power which unseated former President Marcos and his wife Imelda (and her famous shoes). The two issues are not comparable.

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Pray, Don’t Pay, Disobey: The Catholic Revolution Has Begun.

Prickly Pear, at Far From Rome, has written about a personal decision to remove himself from the sacramental life of the Church. He says that this was “precipitated” by moving house, but has been a long time coming – and was preceded by substantial time for reflection, during a time without easy internet access.  It’s important to note here, that this time was accompanied by an increase in meditation practice.  I was alerted to Pear’s post by a report on it by Jayden Cameron at Gay Mystic, who writes on his own experience outside the formal life of the Church for over 25 years. Anyone who is familiar with Jayden’s writing will recognize that he too may have left the institutional church, but retains a very strong spiritual, even sacramental life, with a strong devotion to the Eucharist. He simply chooses to practice his spirituality independently.  Pear quotes from a Commonweal article by Cathleen Kaveny (sadly, hidden behind a paywall I cannot access), on many others who are doing the same thing:

From the perspective of these Catholics, doctrine and practice are not developing but withering. But why not stay and fight? First, because they think remaining appears to involve complicity in evil; second, because fighting appears to be futile; and, third, because they don’t like what fighting is doing to them. The fight is diminishing their ability to hear the gospel and proclaim that good news. The fight is depriving them of the peace of Christ.

Bill Lindsey at Bilgrimage is another important Catholic blogger who writes specifically as a Catholic theologian, at his own site and at Open Tabernacle, and has frequently made clear his objections to participating formally in the sacramental life of the Catholic church. He has a useful summary of Kaveny’s piece, and includes this extract:

From the perspective of these Catholics, doctrine and practice are not developing but withering.  But why not stay and fight?  First, because they think remaining appears to involve complicity in evil; second, because fighting appears to be futile; and, third, because they don’t like what fighting is doing to them.  The fight is depriving them of the peace of Christ.

Prickly Pear, Jayden and Bill are far from alone. It has been widely reported that ex-Catholics, those who have either transferred to another denomination or simply ceased to identify as Catholic, are now the second largest religious denomination in the US. Similar patterns of disengagement are seen in many other parts of the world. (Research has shown that the most important reasons people give for leaving concern Vatican teaching on gender and sexual ethics, compulsory clerical celibacy, and the child abuse disgrace). I am more interested though, in another phenomenon: the abundant evidence that Catholics who choose to stay are simply ignoring official doctrine, on matters ranging from sexual ethics to church discipline.

A couple of months ago, an Irish paper asked, with reference to the call for a boycott of Mass, “Is this the start of a revolution in the Catholic Church?” My response is no, the start of a revolution is no longer possible. The revolution has already begun, and is well under way, in Ireland, in the US, and elsewhere.

 

Velvet Revolution, Czechoslovakia: Prague 1989

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Meddling Bishops, Filipino Style.

While meddling bishops in Minnesota are dividing the Church over gay marriage, and those in Mexico are working themselves into a froth over gay adoption, their counterparts in the Philippines are doing their best to destroy the church over – contraception!

The Philippines is unique in Asia as a majority Catholic country – 80-83% are described as “Catholic”.  Every Easter, some of the devout famously commemorate the crucifixion by putting themselves through the same agony. A quarter of a century ago, in the famous “yellow revolution” that put an end to the corruption of President Marcos and his shoe-fixated wife Imelda, the wonderfully named Cardinal Sin played an important part, demonstrating the commitment of the Catholic faith to justice and the marginalized poor.

 

Philippines, crucifixion re-enactment

 

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“Out of the Shadows, Into the Light”:Blessed John Henry Newman, Soho “Gay” Masses

Last Sunday I went up to London for one of the regular LGBT – oriented “Soho Masses”. Earlier in the day, Pope Benedict had conducted the beatification service for Cardinal John Henry Newman. Cardinal Newman is now officially Blessed John Henry – and so the liturgy used for our Mass was, quite appropriately, the newly minted liturgy for his festal day.

Portrait of Cardinal Newman by John Millais

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Conscience Formation, Spiritual Formation, and The Holy Spirit

A dove, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, who is be...

Image via Wikipedia

David Ludescher, a regular reader at the Open Tabernacle , has put to me some important questions on the formation of conscience. These arose in response to my post on empirical research findings on the current state of British Catholic belief, and some observations I made on the implications for our understanding of the sensus fidelium (on sexual ethics and priestly ministry in particular).

These questions were put in a comment box at the Open Tabernacle, where I cross-posted. (I have reproduced his questions in an independent post for easy reference). Just follow the link to read the questions in full. This is my response: Read the rest of this entry »

What British Catholics Believe, vs Vatican Doctrine.

Once again, two opinion polls (for ITV, and for the BBC) have demonstrated what we all know, but pay insufficient attention to: the enormous chasm that divides Catholic belief as is is, and what Vatican doctrine proclaims it ought to be.

 

On the ministry itself, whether it is priestly celibacy or women’s ministry, and especially on all matters of sexual ethics, what British Catholics in fact believe is very different from what the Vatican functionaries proclaim it ought to be. This is no surprise – exactly the same pattern is found the world over – only the detailed numbers change, not the basic fact of divergence. Read the rest of this entry »