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Posts Tagged ‘Roman Catholic Church’

Bearing in mind the present row within the Roman Catholic church – for that is what it is – about admitting divorced persons to the sacraments, it is a jolt to come across, in passing, the following quotation from half a century ago:

“It is impossible to escape the impression that, to certain sorts of clergy, the effective exclusion from sacramental communion of divorced persons who have remarried is the highest form of the Church’s moral witness. The cynic might well be tempted to say that the heartless zeal frequently displayed in the bearing of this particular testimony, is a way in which ecclesiastics compensate for their unwillingness to engage with other besetting moral issues of our age, for instance the moral permissibility of nuclear weapons.” D M Mackinnon  Moral objections; in Vidler, Alec  Objections to Christian belief  London: Constable, 1963 p14

I attended Professor Mackinnon’s lectures when I was reading theology at Cambridge in the late 1960s and found them exhilarating.  Seeing a group of straight-backed Jesuits walk out of one of his lectures, on the great I Am statements in the Gospel, is a particular memory.

 

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Thirty or forty years ago, I recall, there was much anguished talk in the Church of England about Christian unity – or lack of it – and the perceived need for determined ecumenicalism to tackle the problem with ‘solutions’; much more so than nowadays. Thank God. (more…)

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On Sunday we attended the first communion mass for the daughter of a friend, in an RC church in one of Milton Keynes’ 77 neighbourhoods.  Like every other Roman Catholic mass we have attended recently, this one took place in a modern building designed in Brutalist style – plate glass everywhere, light-coloured conference centre-type wooden furnishings, exposed beams, painted concrete – lifting up a single enormous skylight bathing the whole interior in natural light.

All the usual depressing details of the decorative mis-en-scène of the church today are present: Stations of the Cross in sub-Gill semi-cartoon format, Sunday school murals and, suspended above the free-standing altar, a modernistic but faceless (!) depiction of the Risen Christ.  The music is all evangelical songbook ditties – folksy tunes you can’t get out of your head, banal words, guitar accompaniment.  The flow of the service, too, as I have seen elsewhere, seems all too provisional, improvisational, laid back: unexpectedly, disturbingly unserious.

It’s not helped by being subject to numerous sotto voce asides from the priest himself.  Their purpose seems to be to reassure all those present that what we are collectively involved with here is a temporary suspension of normal behaviour in order to accommodate the outlandish, scarcely credible demands of the eucharistic liturgy before we can return to normal daily life.  Its effect is that of a let’s-get-this-over-with lack of any profundity of thought or intensity of experience.

Except for the communion in both kinds (when did that happen?), the questionable aspects of modern Catholic worship – at least, from an Anglican perspective – are on full display.  Confusion in the sanctuary; gabbling of the text; the constant feeling of routine.

Queuing to receive communion, one after the other down the line, is oxymoronic; we should be in it all together, instead of participating in an individual, semi-automatic box-tick proceeding.  Where is the majesty, the quiet engagement, the sense of bringing the burden of our sins to rest upon the altar?  Where is the quality in this routine enactment?  Where is the mystery? Where is the feeling of God Shared?

What goes on in church, especially at the altar rail, is supposed to elevate us, or bring us up short.  If the Roman church itself fails in this duty, what is the point?

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Popes Francis and Benedict welbyThis week gone, two men have been raised, with vivid ceremonial, to the leadership of their respective branches of the
Christian faith.   In Rome, an investiture; in Canterbury an enthronement. In both cases, traditional procedures,
stirring imagery, heads of state present, and media frenzy. There are resemblances here.  In some interesting and revealing ways, I suggest, the two men thus honoured are rather like each other.

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