Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Church is multi-faceted. Advertising planning applications in Irish is an old trick. Most never read them; some study them in order to act. Or so I thought reading Alan Titley's Grúptinc in The Irish Times (10 May 2012). Professor Titley headed the Irish Department in St Patrick's College, Drumcondra before taking the Modern Irish chair in University College Cork. In his column, atypical of The Irish Times, he addresses Anna Carragher's findings regarding RTÉ's 'Group Think' and Mission to Prey. Dr Titley recalls a Labour leader (Brendan Corish) stating he was Catholic first and Irish second, though his successor is a Frankfurter first who beats the Catholic Church while she is down. Criticising the Church twenty years ago was brave, but it now droves attack a Church bringing herself down. He points out these miss another Catholic Church working quietly for the poor and human rights. Labour, once singing Catholic Social Teaching, has a bad conscience from its capitalist Group Think in the Celtic Kitten years. Dr Titley then mentions media Group Think informed editorials on defeated referenda on divorce in 1986 and the first Nice and Lisbon treaties, pointing to similar uniformity for the Fiscal Compact vote. He mentions public Group Think, citing sudden shifts from severe school corporal punishment to teachers' inability to point at pupils. He concludes that RTÉ Group Think derives from wider culture. I will only address one point. Dr Titley makes a neat division between an active and ornamental Church. This is too tidy. Franco Zeffirelli's Brother Sun, Sister Moon conveys a Francis of Assisi without aspects of St Francis contradicting flower power imagery such as the saint's Crusade. The Church operates a global network of schools, hospitals and social services and is a patron of arts, largely serving those who cannot afford it. For centuries, the only access the poorest had to art was through the Church. St John Vianney worked for the Ars poor but furnished his church with the very best. The Church preaches the Gospel through many means. She sometimes fails: Dante populated Hell with priests and popes, but a Church divesting herself of ornament would not long afford her missionaries' dusty sandals. However, some conservatives and traditionalists forget the Church must serve the poor. Vladimir Solovyov tells the fable of Ss Nicholas, Cassian and the Siberian peasant. The saints saw a peasant's cart stuck in the mud. St Nicholas spoiled his vestments helping, as St Cassian watched. In Heaven, St Peter asked what happened. St Nicholas received two feasts and St Cassian got a 29 February feast-day. Solovyov thus compared Russian and Roman Churches. The Church of Russia excelled in spirituality and asceticism, but did not engage the world as the papacy did. So the glory of Rome outshone Moscow. Some Catholics can seem like western Orthodox in formal communion with the Pope. Liberals pedal this caricature, but it has some truth. It is fitting to remember St Matthew's Last Judgment (25, 31-46). Catholics must not pray at the expense of duty or charity. If we may not give to good works beyond capacity, it is on deeds rather than sin we will be judged. One should also understand the 1960s dreams following the Council. The apparent truce between Church and modernity and changed relationship between faithful and hierarchy were welcomed. The Council came soon after the Second World War and most progressive theologians came from its cockpit. It was also overshadowed by the Cold War and its resultant counter-culture. Many younger people saw the Council in this light. Few seemed concerned about the rights of traditionalists they assumed would die out. Right now, the children of the sixties are the endangered species. The 1970s Gill History of Ireland teaches as much about its young authors as Irish history. Dr Titley is of the same generation - a cohort formed in Catholic and patriotic optimistism. These identified with Christ cleansing the Temple but ignored His entry into Jerusalem underlined His authority to do so. Their guides persecuted traditionalists zealously as Pharisees; forgetful of their lack of authority to do so. But the liberal tide receded leaving some in denial and others paranoid. Let the orthodox learn from this. Progressives achieved ascendancy and remained for several decades. This happened because of the times, and much about the preconciliar Church justified rebellion. But many liberals could not help believing they could start afresh nor could abide any criticism of their dogmata. Their influence waned. But I will enter a caviat. Orthodox Catholics must learn how and why liberalism gained and sustained victories and must not repeat its mistakes. Otherwise, the same self-destructive wars will be waged sooner or later at the expense of the Church's mission

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