It looks like peer pressure (no pun intended) may be at work among the 'right' people in the United Kingdom's branch of the Catholic Church.
Don't get me wrong: Interacting with the culture we live in is a good idea. There are cloistered orders whose members deliberately avoid contact with the rest of the world - and I think that's great. For them. Most of us, though, get more up-close-and-personal with the world we live in. We're not all alike-and that's okay. (August 26, 2010) The Catechism has a few words to say about the Church's "diversity of ministry but unity of mission." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 873)
Then there's the whole John 17 thing. I'll get back to that.
The way I see it, we'd have a really hard time following through on the great commission (Matthew 28:16-20), if we don't let folks get to know us.
On the other hand, there's a huge difference between interacting with a culture, and getting absorbed by it.
Here's what got me started:
"Outside the Magic Circle"Okay: so the secular elite generally wear nice clothes and enjoy the approval of - themselves. Again, is that a good reason for wanting their acceptance?
Dominic Scarborough, Analysis, The Catholic World Report (UK) (December 2010)
"Tension builds between the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales and orthodox Catholics.
"The Holy Father's September visit to the United Kingdom was widely regarded as a great success, both as a tonic to British lay Catholics and as a wake-up call to the country's secular society. But the visit also highlighted the tension that exists between his pontificate and what dismayed English Catholics call the liberal 'Magic Circle' of bishops who make up the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales (BCEW).
"Several of its number are known to be deeply opposed both to this papacy and to that of John Paul II. The first reason for this opposition is that the members of the BCEW have been largely self-selecting from a small pool of like-minded 'insiders' who come through lines of patronage that can be traced back to one man, the late Archbishop Derek Worlock of Liverpool. At the Second Vatican Council, Worlock had been one of the first of the English bishops to promote a new liberal vision for the Church.
"The vision appropriated the structures, cultural loyalties, and financial contributions of the old, inward-looking, triumphalist 'ghetto' Church to build a new, outward-facing Catholicism that focused on social climbing and liberal politics. Ultimately, Worlock's vision aimed for the broader acceptance of Catholicism by the secular elite...."
Besides, the Catholic Church was founded by the second Person of the Trinity, is rooted in eternity and marches through time to a goal that's beyond this world. Maybe the British upper crust has more to offer than I think they do - but I don't see the percentage in abandoning the Bark of Peter.
Picking up where I left off in that article:
"...This post-conciliar vision of a more visible Catholic presence is, however, at odds with Pope Benedict's conceptions of what visibility and presence require. The BCEW's vision ever since the days of Archbishop Worlock has aimed at 'liberating' Catholics from their past and helping them to embrace the values of secular society. But Pope Benedict's vision aims at fostering orthodox Catholics who can act as a 'creative minority' in the wider culture. The differences between these two visions are ultimately irreconcilable and go to the heart of the debate over the meaning of Vatican II...."There's a couple thousand miles of ocean, and much of North America between me and the Worlockians, so I'm not one of the people that lot wants to "liberate." On the other hand, we've got our own problems here in America - and one of them is the perennial temptation to abandon long-term goals for immediate gain.
(The Catholic World Report)
Jesus was pretty clear about what his followers can expect:
"I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.That reminded me a little of Churchill's assurance: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat." Not that I'm comparing a British Prime Minister to the co-creator of the universe.
6 I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.
They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world."
Which brings me back to wanting the upper crust's acceptance.
I haven't found a clear indication that my Lord wanted his followers to do whatever it takes to get favorable reviews from whoever has the most status in our cultures. What I keep running into is this sort of thing:
"16 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he 17 must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.By the way: Much as I think stories about the 'wandering Jew' are cool, that's not what verse 28 is talking about. Here's the footnote:
18 Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, 'God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.'
He turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.'
19 Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, 20 take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
21 What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
22 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.
23 Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.' "
" Coming in his kingdom: since the kingdom of the Son of Man has been described as 'the world' and Jesus' sovereignty precedes his final coming in glory (Matthew 13:38, 41), the coming in this verse is not the parousia as in the preceding but the manifestation of Jesus' rule after his resurrection; see the notes on Matthew 13:38, 41."About that "Get behind me, Satan!" rebuke? Jesus also put Peter in charge of His Church. (Matthew 16:18) Peter's problem seems to have been that he was "thinking not as God does, but as human beings do" at that moment. Naturally enough, I suppose, since Peter is as human as I am.
(Footnote 23, Matthew 16)
Back to followers of Worlock, and followers of Jesus.
In the short run, I think there's quite a bit to be gained by getting "liberated" from the Son of God's Church, and making nice with the folks who can give money, social status, and maybe even membership in an exclusive club.
I think it's a good idea to do some long-term planning, too. Like whose side I want to be on at the Last Judgment. The Catechism has a few words to say about that. (1038-1041)
Bottom line? We're all going to be sorted out: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him..." (Matthew 25:31) All things considered, I'd rather be with the sheep - metaphorically speaking - than with the folks mentioned in verse 41 of that chapter.
Like I've said before, this isn't exactly a feel-good faith: but I'd rather follow someone who tells me what to expect, than one who says what I want to hear.
- "Going My Way, and Why Anti-Catholicism is a Good Sign"
(November 18, 2010)
- "Libel Law Reform in UK: This Hasn't been Done Yet?!"
(November 13, 2010)
- "Tartans, Scotland, the Pope, and a Universal Church"
(September 12, 2010)
- "Pedophile Priests, 'Evil Pope' and The New York Times"
(March 31, 2010)
- "Outside the Magic Circle"
Dominic Scarborough, Analysis, The Catholic World Report (UK) (December 2010)
A tip of the hat to Christomicro, on Twitter, for the heads-up on The Catholic World Report article.