Musings Dec 2017 Edition 28
By the Reverend Monsignor Harry Entwistle,
The past twenty years has seen a significant shift in how our Australian society sees itself. An increasing number of people refuse to acknowledge that there is more to life than the here and now.
Belief and faith in God no longer shapes how many people live. Archbishop Cupich of Pennsylvania comments that “we’re a culture of self-absorbed consumers who use noise and distractions to manage our lack of shared meaning. What that produces in us is a drugged heart – a heart neither restless for God nor able to love and empathise with others.” (Strangers in a Strange Land, 2016, p.12).
The influence of organised religion has waned. We Christians have been subjected to moves to make us aliens in our own land, and to be banished to the margins of public debate.
The temptation to accept the status who, to give up evangelisation and focus only on social justice issues and provide welfare services is ever present. So what response should Catholics make?
Some Christians suggest that Catholics should live close to each other in neighbourhoods, forming a non-enclosed community is the way we should respond.
Others take a very different view and believe that Jesus called his disciples to be the leaven in society. Yet that can never happen unless people have a personal relationship with Jesus, “follow the gospel, love the Church, and act like real disciples. If they don’t then religion is just another form of self-medication.” (Cupich, p.5). Sadly many Catholics live out their baptismal call in this way.
The real challenge we face is the challenge of lack of faith, and decades of inadequate catechesis. We are about to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, the Word made flesh who came to heal the breach between heaven and earth. “God became man so that man might become God.” (St Athanasius).
It is the belief in the Incarnation that makes Christianity distinctive from other world religions and secularism. It is the belief that shapes how we Catholics view the world, how we live and how we relate to others.
A recent article in the Catholic Herald (Natasha Marsh, Dec 1st, 2017) offered the view that “In 2017, the Australian Catholic Church has endured an abuse crisis, lost a same-sex marriage vote and
failed to stop euthanasia. Can it recover?” She observes that there are three groups emerging within the Australian community. She believes that the first group, which is the largest, does not realise there has been any change, because statistics indicate that only one percent of mass attending Catholics accept all the teachings of the Church.
The second group want to embrace the way of Liberal Protestantism and see the Church move “with the times”. Corporatisation is tightening its grip on the Church as the members of this group occupy the corridors of power in Diocesan offices, Education and Hospital management structures. Those of us in the Ordinariate who have experienced this same scenario in the Anglican Church are literally “voices crying in the wilderness” praying that this juggernaut is halted in its tracks because we know it will lead to embracing heresy and the Church’s disintegration.
Marsh argues that the third group seeks to hold to the divinely revealed truths of the faith and grow the Kingdom of God which the spirit of the secular age opposes. This group sees the most hostile places as the hospitals, schools and universities purporting to be Catholic and named after saints who were staunch defenders of the Faith.
Marsh says this situation explains why last week one St John of God Hospital wished its clients in a local newspaper a ‘happy holiday season,’ and a Catholic college chaplain was sacked days after celebrating an Extraordinary Form mass on campus, for which he does not need to seek episcopal permission. Members of this third group have the opinion that far too many Catholic leadership roles are filled by people who are nominal Catholics who no longer believe in the power of the message of salvation taught by the Church.
We are indeed in crisis, but must not concede defeat in our battle with the secular culture for the heart of the Church.
In 1969 the then Cardinal Ratzinger warned that the Church would lose much, become smaller and have to start afresh. Throughout Scripture, it has been a ‘Remnant’ of God’s people who have kept the faith in times of adversity. From that Remnant, new spiritual life has emerged.
It is vital that we members and supporters of the Ordinariate hold, believe and practice the faith of the Church, resisting the terrorism of sin, the world and the devil as we once more celebrate the birth of the one who defeated the absolute power of evil on the Cross.