One of my Dominican fathers, Fr. Aidan Nichols exhorts English Catholics to speak out and take action against secularism and bring their country back to its Christian roots. We Americans are in a similar situation, and should pay attention as well! Here’s a summary, with my emphases and comments.
Renowned theologian Fr Aidan Nichols has called on Catholics to make their voices heard in public bodies like Parliament, the BBC, Ofsted and the Human Rights Commission at a time of growing secularisation.
Delivering the Craigmyle Memorial Lecture for the Catholic Union this week, Fr Nichols said it was important for Catholics to “mobilise and react in a positive way.” [We need to do something, even if it is just to hold our ground. We can’t just let ourselves be sildenced or pushed out of the public square.]
However, he stopped short of suggesting that Catholics should take their protests to the streets.
“I am not in favour of public protest movements or civil disobedience,” he said. “To go down that road risks bringing the law in general into contempt,” he said.
He did not rule out, though, individuals deciding they could not abide by a particular law on conscience grounds.
He called on young clergy and young active laity to use new media technology such as the internet to communicate their faith to the wider community. [We’re on it, Father!]
Addressing the question of how Catholics should respond to the growing influence of secularism in society, Fr Nichols warned of the disintegration of the nation as a whole if its Christian narrative was lost.
He said secularism was far more of a challenge to Christianity in England than Islam, and he attacked the dangers represented by a “soft atheism that seeks to privatise the public space so that religion has no part to play”. [This has definitely been happening in the U.S. as well. Sen. Biden is a good example of somebody already in public office who doesn’t believe in bringing his Catholic faith to bear. He implicitly tells other Catholic Americans to keep their faith to themselves as well. Not the kind of example we need.]
Fr Nichols warned of the dangers of secularism coming together with utilitarianism, quoting the example of Lady Mary Warnock’s recent call on people in mental decline to see it as their “duty to die”, and drew attention to the recent legislation that forced Catholic adoption agencies to consider placing children with parents of the same sex as examples of how far the national discourse has strayed from its Christian basis.
“Catholic spokespeople were seen as lobbying for an exemption, yet the Church was protecting the moral ethos of the nation,” said Fr Nichols.
He identified developments such as devolution, membership of the European Union and migration as factors effecting the traditional national identity of England.
Previously its identity had been very much drawn from the Judeo-Christian tradition. “English people need a narrative,” Fr Nichols said, adding that it was bad for the mental and physical health of the nation not to have a joint shared narrative.
Looking back, he regretted what he regarded as the dilution of the Church with ecumenism, though was quick to state that he was not advocating either Catholic tribalism or a return to the 1950s. [We need to get back to the real meaning of ecumenism and away from the compromising indifferentism we’ve fallen into. Let’s dialogue with others–but do it without ceding our Catholicism… or worse, being ashamed of it. Ecumenism doesn’t mean being weak or doubting our own positions. It doesn’t mean turning ourselves and our faith into Play-Doh to be squished and molded. If we really stand by the Truth our faith claims, we need to show it.]
He called for a refocusing of Catholic institutions in areas such as education and healthcare.
Story: Paul Donovan
That must have been a terrific speech. Catholics today need this kind of exhortation. As a group, we need to get our voice and our confidence back. We need our Catholic identity back–we need to be dedicated to it and express it freely. It is critical, not only for our own well-being and dignity, but for our country and our fellow man. If we trust in God and believe in our faith, we have to show it and stand by it, through thick and thin, regardless of what others think. Everybody stands up for their own beliefs–the secularists and atheists certainly do–and so must we.
Lay Catholics have a really important role to play… the secular world is ours, and we interact with it in a way that our clergy and religious can’t. We carry the faith and represent the faith in the secular world. We are on the front lines of engaging secularism. That is a huge job and a huge responsibility, which the Church entrusts to us and for which the whole world relies on us.
I’m always mystified when I see something like this, or any other instance where laypeople hanker after Holy Orders and clerical roles. I’m mystified because there is already so much work for the laity to carry out. And when laypeople busy themselves with trying to become the same as clergy, it means they aren’t busying themselves with what the Church needs them to do. Maybe they are genuinely ignorant of what the Church asks of them–that’s one more reason why we laypeople need to get out and talk and show what it means to be Catholic and what it means to be laypeople. We need to show not only the world, but our fellow Catholics too–it can’t hurt! But often, those people are actively working against the Church, and shifting an unfair burden to their fellow laypeople.
The Church believe in us; we need to believe in her. And those who can’t believe in her, those who insist on trying to change her or harm her, need to seriously and honestly reconsider their status as Catholics and stop dragging the rest of us down. We need to pray for those people, but we also need to tell them to get on board or else leave the ship. As always, I’m not talking about people who are struggling with the Church… heck, we all struggle with the Church sometimes. There’s a huge difference between someone struggling with the Church and somebody who doesn’t bother struggling any more and instead just wants the Church to bow to them and their demands. HUGE difference. Where the latter are concerned, we need to take a strong stand. Not just the clergy, but all of us.