Thursday 3 April 2014

Convert! Become a Radical Catholic!

This is not a joke. I am inviting catholics to become radicals all over again. For a long time we had proscriptions against divorce, contraception, homosexual acts etc. We were told to use our head and all but forget about the heart, though the heart is the level where each of us lives (we do what brings us emotional joy and we avoid what causes us emotional pain). In worship we had a language that was ancient and nothing to do with modern life, and our priests celebrated with their back to our faces and as such, did not engage with the people. We said we had a strong Church because 80% of Catholics came to Mass and were obedient to the laws of life set out for us, but this was from a fear of hell. The spirit, however, had something in store for us in the 1960’s: a radicalisation of the Faith. The Church was to come alive in the modern age.

We thus began to reconsider the use of contraception and develop our understanding of sexuality and marriage, ultimately seeking ways of helping people -all people- to experience their dignity by finding ways of accommodating their private, consenting relationships. This new focus on the person was demonstrated by putting Mass into our own language; by having the priest face us and actually engage with us. We have now had this radicalisation of the Faith for fifty years and its fruits are beginning to show. Yes, we have a smaller Church, but those who come are there not from fear of hell but because they want to be there and keep the radicalism alive.

The fruits we gained cannot be denied, and they are exactly what the spirit wanted: catholics who question the Faith and the Gospel. Many have been made comfortable enough to walk away from Mass without seeing it as walking away from God and spirituality, having discovered a God of mercy who “loves us anyway”. No more of the 80% practice rate from fear; we now have a 20% practice rate where those who have dared to be radical have been able to stay and see through the changes called for by the spirit. It is precisely these catholics of the radical 1960’s and beyond that I call to become radical again.

I invite them to challenge the ideologies of today; to return to objective truth known to reason and leave behind the subjective, rationalist ideologies of the heart that bind men and women to the passions of their “inner self” rather than binding them to the Church, the Gospel and He Who is Truth. For the spirit of the 1960’s which took hold of our intellect and will was not the Holy Spirit but the spirit we call Satan; he who who has us follow the wayward passions of the heart -the Holy Spirit frees us from bondage to our passions and binds us by faith and reason to the Church, thereby guiding us to heaven along the narrow road that few find (Matt.7:13,14). The radical catholics of the 1960’s now need the radicalism of an orthodox Catholic Faith, for while the 80% who practised in yester-year may indeed have practiced from fear and blind obedience, they were on the road to heaven; and it is better to reach heaven through holy fear and obedience than fall into hell from the self-orientation of subjectivism and relativism.

So come on, ye oldies of yester-year, get radical: challenge the world to give up its anti-life mentality and challenge it to return to the natural law. Challenge also yourself and your pastors to give up the fruits of the old radicalism: increasing lapsation, closed convents, closed monasteries and seminaries; reduced numbers of marriages and baptisms; challenge yourself and your pastors to seek a way of worship that puts God, not man, back at the centre; a way of worship in which we all face God rather than one another; worship in which we use a sacred language to help us experience the transcendence of heaven, instead of using a language of the work-a-day world which ties our worship to a specific time and place and as such, fails to help us experience the above and beyond. Are you radical enough to faithfully follow the Gospel as handed down to us, or are you too tied down by your passions to the world and its subjectivism and relativism?


  1. O Father
    What a wonderful post. It fills me with great joy to hear a priest say these things. "You have made our gladness greater; you have made our joys increase."
    O how my heart aches for the days when everything was certain, when our priest just told us what to do and how to live and we gave all we had to keep our Church going! When the Mass was in Latin, we were all on the same page and left it to Father to pray on our behalf. I think it is danger ous to let people talk to God in their own way.
    These days it is all uncertain and terrible; I don't know what is going to happen next. It's almost like we have to trust God more. That is hard. It was much easier when there was certainty and we just did what the priest told us. So, thank you Father for telling us what to do and making everything more certain again,
    I think the current Holy Father is changing everything. There is a danger that things will get worse and we will have to rely on traditionalists like your good self to keep us going. I think he may soon allow people who have been divorced and remarried to receive Holy Communion. Whatever next? People who have been lapsed, returning to the Faith.
    No, what we need is your radicalism call. This will fill our churches again and the Church will once again be the bastion that it was and we will all feel safe and secure again.
    At first I thought your post was a cynical ploy to get people to react but no: I think you are genuinely calling us to baton down the hatches.

    I can almost hear the Holy Spirit singing as we speak ...
    "Go for it Francis. Rebuild my Church."

    Meantime, perhaps we can dare to be radical by living with a much more uncertain and honest Church. Maybe that's the radical bit, eh, Father!

    1. Thanks for this, Alicia.

      I can see what you are saying, and have to say that I am not actually calling for hatches to be buttoned down; only that the Church’s shepherds be clear about doctrine and its application to life. We would then have the kind of radical Catholic we need: one who is counter-cultural to the secular world (Jn.15v19) who has not taken to dabbling in the false philosophies of the world (2 Tim.2v16) which are the uncertainties (which back away from objective truth). We have tried the uncertainties and radicalism of ditching clear teaching and norms, and the Church has all but withered away.

      As for the Mass, even if it were to remain in the vernacular (but to the limit prescribed by Vatican II), and even if the priest did not have an answer for every problem (which he doesn't), the inability to follow Canon Law which protects rights and gives form to doctrine in everyday life, has to be overcome, and the Church’s norms faithfully followed.

      Finally, if people truly spoke to God in their own way and in the depth of their being, they would only discover Him saying what the Church has always taught, since he who hears the Church hears Christ (Lk.10v16), and because God cannot contradict Himself. He cannot say one thing to Jim and another thing to John; nor one thing yesterday and another thing today, for He is “The same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13v8). This is what the radicals of the 1960’sff forgot.

      God bless you and yours.

  2. May God bless you for having the courage to call it as it is Father.

    In Christ
    Alan and Angeline

    1. Thank you for this, Alan and Angeline.
      By the way, prayers offered for your mum...
      God bless you and yours.

  3. Thank you Fr. for another inspiring and encouraging post. I think we need more reverence and respect at Holy Mass. . A devout liturgy will help us to be more active and radical. We seem to have fogotten that the Mass is a memorial of the passion and death (and resurrection) of Our Lord. We should think of all that He did for us when we attend Mass and especilly when we dare to approach Him in Holy Communion. I often think that I should take off my shoes as we are not allowed to kneel. But I don't in case I draw attention.
    Mass last sunday in a small place near Perth was none of the things it should have been. There was no reverence. Children all over the sanctury. Women wandering around the back of the Church distributing the Body of Christ like it was some kind of holy bread that we were all entitled to. While the final hymn was being sung those at the back on plastic chairs started stacking them even before the priest had left. It was chaos. It was like a Methodist Sunday School. I did not feel that I had attended a Catholic Mass. I should add that the time of Mass had been changed so that we were 1/2hr. late. But it would not have made much difference to the overall ethos.
    I am certain now that a particular faction has ambushed the Catholic Church and reduced and deliberately secularised the Holy Mass that I was lucky enough to have been brought up in.
    It is very sad what has happened to us. I just hope that this Pope will restore the Church.
    Thank you Fr for all you are doing for the Church. Working in the Lords vinyard.

    1. Thank you, brandsma.
      Unfortunately all the noise and hullabaloo are what so many of today's catholics -in whatever colour cassock or no they wear- see as indicating that we are a welcoming Church which values people. I disagree; we can be warm and welcoming while still asking that there is respect for the sacred space and the Blessed Sacrament. The behaviour we see at mass would more often that not be met with rebuke and even expulsion from cinemas and theatres.
      God bless you and years, near and far.

  4. You know, Father Gary, I still can't be sure whether Pope Francis is what the Church needs. Believing that he was chosen through the intervention of the Holy Ghost helps but my query to the Holy Ghost is 'why did Benedict have to stand down?'. It seemed (to me) that Pope Benedict was steadying the ship by reintroducing things which had been lost(?) or thrown away by earlier pontiffs such as Communion on the tongue. We visit a convent/old people's home each week as volunteers. There are 5 priests in residence but only 1 who can celebrate Mass. Under these circumstances I accept Communion from the sisters gratefully but now we are reaching the stage where a lay person distributes Communion while sisters sit in the benches. If only the magisterium would be more precise about such usages it would help. I cannot, in good conscience, take Communion from a lay person. Am I wrong?

    1. Thank you for commenting, David.
      I can sympathise with your desire to receive from a priest, since it is he whose hands are anointed to complete the four-fold action of Christ to “take, bless, break and give”, but if receiving from a layperson is the only option open to us, it is better to receive than not to receive, though we might want to protest at having our right to receive from a priest removed. In fact, the Sisters are laity, not clergy; they are not ordained to the shepherding role, so you have been receiving from non-consecrated hands anyway. The Magisterium has been quite precise on when and how laity may be used (see Redemptionis Sacramentum).
      As for Pope Francis, the Holy Spirit does not choose a Pope for the Cardinals; the Cardinals choose a Pope that the Holy Spirit must work with. Whether Francis is what the Church needs now or not, only history can say. He will have strengths and weaknesses however, as do all Popes (all people, for that matter). Benedict’s decision to stand down is a personal judgement upon which we cannot comment really, but being the holy man he is I am sure it was done with much prayer and in good conscience. Yes he was steadying the ship, but it is steadied ultimately by the Church’s laws and norms previously established by Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI; laws and norms which remain in place.
      God bless.

    2. Yes David you are wrong. Christ is present in the person sacrament, regardless of the person distributing it. And Gary, you ought to say so. Your narrow view of sacramental theology does no body any good.

    3. Thank you for this James.
      I'm sure David knows that Christ is fully and completely Present in the Sacrament no matter who distributes, so I took the view that there was no need to go into any theological detail about it. I'm not sure I needed to say 'you are wrong' when I took the time to give a wider explanation than a simple 'yes' or 'no'. I can see that you would have liked more a complete reply, but a response to a comment doesn't lend itself to covering all aspects of a point. Indeed, we are limited even by the Postings we put on, which are of their nature more an extended comment than a dissertation.
      God Bless.

  5. God bless, Father. Cassoscks? it's been a while since I've seen a real live collar at the least. the dignity of the priesthoid seems to have been a subject dropped through some trap door in some seminaries. An Alter Cristus! one day showing up to mass there was a chap leaning on the rail outside looking rather non-chalant, checking his tweets or something. he looked up as I entered the Church and said 'hi'. by the time I reached the font I realized he was our new priest. maybe it's radical of me, but at least around Mass and the confessional, you'd think the average professional could make an effort. the power to call God down to His altar, the power to absolve sins, ontological transformation; yet how many priests hide this awesome privilage and responsibility under civvies and just another blokesome. I wish more priests would radicalize as well - at least on Sundays, and during Confession times.

    1. Thank you.
      Once a month several of us gather for a support lunch in a local pub -there can be as many as six or seven of us sitting there in clerical dress! We do get some sideways glances now and again I've notices, but no doubt you would be stimulated by the sight!
      I have to admit that around the house I am not always in clerics, but always for Church services, bereavement visits, going to the school and visiting the sick and housebound. Pastoral work in public demands pastoral dress -and what is more pastoral than saying "Here I am if you need me"...


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