Category Archives: Dignity of the Human Person

Some Quick Takes…

Sunny Portsmouth

Sunny Portsmouth

2013-05-19 18.46.47

A quick Sunday night post… After a celebration-filled, sunny and super-contented weekend with family… Couldn’t we all do with a few more of those?!

– 1 –

Happy Pro-Life Story: This is a real heartwarmer.

Adoption isn’t a quick and easy process, however, so let’s keep everyone concerned in our prayers.

– 2 –

Faith in the Family: I am proud to say that this wonderful new booklet, produced by CTS, was compiled in my wonderful, old parish. It is based on a very popular series of around 25 sessions for parents which ran each year at Holy Ghost for many years. These sessions were basic catechesis for parents; each one included practical tips for passing on the faith in the home. The book was authored by Anne Burke-Gaffney, one of a team of amazing catechists, with whom I was privileged to work at Holy Ghost. Surely one of the best parishes in the UK 🙂

– 3 –

Welcoming Lumen Fidei: Here is a message from our Bishop, welcoming the new encyclical, Lumen Fidei.

It’s a good and helpful read – I hope you get to enjoy it 🙂


Teaching Life in Christ

man and woman

The last few months in the UK have led to numerous discussions – both challenging and fruitful – between Catholics and their family members, colleagues and friends. The Same Sex Couples Bill is in many ways a tragedy for Britain – revealing our collective lapse of memory concerning who the human person is and even the most basic notion of a natural law. Last Tuesday evening, many of us watched with sinking hearts a debate in which only a few voiced authentic reason. Hearing the emotional appeals of many others leads us to wonder whether, as a nation, we have forgotten how to “think”, how to do philosophy, how to use our minds to discern truth.

How do we speak about this issue with others? How, when we are enjoying a drink in the pub with a group of friends, and one person raises this subject, do we approach it?

This is exactly the question we addressed a couple of weeks ago in the parish in our parents’ programme. In the lead up to the evening, we put out an online survey asking parents ‘what are the challenging questions about the Faith that your children ask you?’ Of course, any question such as this is a hidden way of discovering the questions that the parents themselves are asking.

We have been blessed during this parents’ programme to have an average gathering of around 50-60 parents who, I am pleased to say, are not ‘usual suspects’, most of whom have not been to other adult formation in the parish. I was therefore really glad when someone on the night brought up the question of gay marriage, and how to discuss it with children, because 98% of children in our catechesis programmes (who are old enough to have heard about this debate) think that the Church is being ‘unfair’. All of them are from practising Catholic families, all of them go to good Catholic schools, all have weekly catechesis.

So, when our speaker came to offer an answer (and thanks be to God, it was none other than the can’t-help-but-always-agree-with-him apologist, Father Stephen Wang), it was like there was an enormous drumroll in the room and complete silence as we listened to his response.

Now, I am not going to do justice to it, because it was a really excellent response, and is summed up on Fr Stephen’s blog here. I have used this approach since when the topic has come up with cynical friends. It goes something like this:

Mostly, this question is broached as a question of fairness. If marriage is a ‘good thing’, which we are all agreeing it is, why shouldn’t gay couples have it open to them? The Church is discriminatory, unfair, cruel for not agreeing with this. However, the whole question needs to be turned around. The real question we should be asking is: what is marriage? At the heart of marriage has always been an understanding of sexual difference and complementarity. Saying that gay couples can get married is like saying a circle can be a square.

marriage

As I listened to the debate last week, it became strikingly clear that because we no longer accept a given reality in human nature, we can manipulate language to the reality we contrive.

All these arguments have been aired frequently and far more articulately than I have done here. My concern is catechesis: how do we teach people, and help them to accept, the reality of natural law, of human nature and dignity? In RCIA, we find that people often require a full 180 degree turn in their mindsets. They come from the mindset that demands, unreflectingly, fairness and equality at all costs. Gradually, with careful reasoning, clear teaching, and friendship, we need to help them to think more deeply. This is all part of the ‘third dimension’ of formation and the trickiest one, life in Christ. Life in Christ begins with a relationship with him, so unless that is there, we shouldn’t even begin on gay marriage. Don’t go there, whatever you do! I have seen this done in RCIA and it is not pretty. Only when someone falls in love with Him, will they have enough trust and enough grace (and hopefully sound reasoning too) to discern authentic truth in this area.


Are we in crisis?

I was interested to read one of the bishop’s homilies at the excellent Joshua Camp – the Catholic Church’s frontline evangelisation initiative during the Olympics. Here is some of what he said:

“it is easy to think that we live in a time of crisis. I don’t think it is true. I don’t think we are that privileged or special to live in a time of crisis, for the Church has been in crisis since the cock crowed the first time. But our society has lost its way.”

For the full homily, click here.

In other corners of the Church, you hear nothing but crisis-talk. At a recent conference, we listed all the challenges afflicting the Church as we face out into the world today.

This intrigues me. Either the time we currently live in is a crisis for humanity, or it is not.

In favour of “crisis”, we could cite the distorted anthropology exhibited in everything from the gay marriage debate to the catastrophic misunderstanding of the human body, epitomised by the skimpily-clad Jessie J at the Closing Ceremony. We could cite the attacks on the dignity of the human person, from abuse of the elderly in care homes to the (let’s be realistic) holocaust that is abortion. We could cite the social disintegration in our society, from the pressure on teenagers living in certain postcodes to join gangs, to the shocking acts of violence in the riots last summer. With all respect, I don’t think it is exactly a “privilege” to live in the midst of all this.

At the same time, let’s not be too hasty. Let’s not forget the many details we see of the beautiful and great in our society. This has been beamed into our lives over the last few weeks in the Olympics. We have seen an exquisitely beautiful vision of the human person achieving excellence by being pushed to the limits. We have seen the human body, created by God, giving him glory in achieving feats we don’t imagine are possible. We have seen a heart-warming spirit of charity and self-sacrifice in the volunteers and commuters patiently putting up with the chaos.

While I don’t think we should play down the extreme, horrifying attacks on goodness, truth, and beauty in our society, neither should we vilify secular society, keeping within the safe walls of our cosy little Church.

For example, we may speak of the horrors of medical care related to life issues, but coming from a family of nurses, I know that there is much that is taught and practised in hospitals, which upholds the dignity, truth and beauty of the human person. Whatever is good and true “belongs” to the Church in a sense. This is what St Irenaeus meant when he talked about seeing the “seeds of the Word” in the world.

I just want to encourage all Catholics that we need to be right at home in the world 🙂 Especially as lay people, there is a “secular character” to our vocation which means finding God in every aspect of our lives and of the world, not just at Mass or on a retreat.

Maybe we are in crisis. I agree that many disturbing aspects of our society suggest this. But, especially if this is true, Christians need to be right in the world, sanctifying it. Not accusing it, moaning about it, writing it off… But loving the world. Allowing the Holy Spirit to transform it from within, through us.