Tuesday 26 December 2017

Can personal values be detached from Christian belief? UPDATED

There is a passage in Romano Guardini's book The End of the Modern World where the author suggests that, when the sense of the personal value of human existence is separated from its roots in Revelation, though that sense of personal value may survive for a time, it will eventually fade. The passage occurs in section V of the last chapter.
Personality is essential to man. This truth becomes clear, however, and can be affirmed only under the guidance of Revelation, which related man to a living , personal God, which makes him a son of God, which teaches the ordering of His Providence. When man fails to ground his personal perfection in Divine Revelation, he still retains an awareness of the individual as a rounded, dignified and creative human being. He can have no consciousness, however, of the real person who is the absolute ground of each man, an absolute ground of each man, an absolute ground superior to every psychological or cultural advantage or achievement. The knowledge of what it means to be a person is inextricably bound up with the faith of Christianity. An affirmation and a cultivation of the personal can endure for a time perhaps after Faith has been extinguished, but gradually they too will be lost.....
Guardini identifies a dishonesty on the part of modern man:
Modern man's dishonesty was rooted in his refusal to recognise Christianity's affirmation of the God-man relationship. Even as the modern world acclaimed the worth of personality and of an order of personal values, it did away with their guarantor, Christian Revelation.
It is interesting to read this in the context of Pope Benedict XVI's remarks about the relationship between religion and political life at Westminster Hall:
The central question at issue, then, is this: where is the ethical foundation for political choices to be found? The Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation. According to this understanding, the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms, as if they could not be known by non-believers – still less to propose concrete political solutions, which would lie altogether outside the competence of religion – but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles.....
I would suggest that the world of reason and the world of faith – the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief – need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilization. 
It is also interesting to read, or listen to, the Christmas messages of the leaders of the three major political parties in the same context. These messages can be found here: Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and Vince Cable.

In the cases of Jeremy Corbyn and Vince Cable, one is led to wonder whether they are in fact Christmas messages at all. The separation of human values from Christian belief is absolute. Guardini's critique applies in all its rigour.

Theresa May fares better in maintaining a connection between our country's "Christian heritage" and the values that are shared across society as a whole. One wonders whether, speaking in a more strictly individual capacity rather than that of a party leader, she might have maintained that connection more strongly.

One can notice the difference between these messages and that of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, with its explicit affirmation of her Christian inspiration (at 6:24 ff).

Pope Francis' Urbi et Orbi address also represents an example of human values that are firmly rooted in Christian revelation, with an affirmation of the incarnation of Christ preceding his survey of, and intercession for, regions of the world suffering from conflict:
Before the mystery of the Word made flesh, Christians in every place confess with the words of the Evangelist John: “We have beheld his glory, glory as of the only-begotten Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).

Thursday 7 December 2017

To understand Pope Francis, read Guardini

I am about to start reading a book by Romano Guardini. It is entitled The End of the Modern World, though the copy I have just bought includes the text of a subsequent work by Guardini, Power and Responsibility.

Pope Francis began higher studies looking at the thought of Romano Guardini, though he did not complete those studies. Footnote 182 of his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium references a quotation from The End of the Modern World. The Encyclical Letter Laudato Si cites the same work by Guardini in several places.

If you really want to understand Pope Francis, read Romano Guardini. It will be a better read than the latest recycling of inflammatory gossip masquerading as journalism....

Saturday 2 December 2017

An unacceptable representative of patrimony?

Fr Hunwicke (or JH, if we adopt his own manner of referring to those in high ecclesial office) makes great play of the Anglican patrimony that has been brought into the Catholic fold in the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

In richly Anglican fashion, he represents Pope Francis as the leader of a "party" in the Church:
The difference in our present situation is that one of these "schools" or parties - the Bergoglianist - is headed by the Roman Pontiff himself (or else by individuals who have worked themselves into the position of being able to manipulate the papal office). This is confusing; Christifideles are not accustomed to having to make the distinction between what the Pope does as the head of a party; and what he does by virtue of his Petrine Ministry. But we are left with no alternative except to work within this confusing situation. The pope is the boss, and this, clearly, is how he wants things.
JH then goes on to argue that unpopular (to some) passages of Amoris Laetitia (clearly an exercise by Pope Francis of his office as successor of St Peter whatever JH and other commentators might say about it not being a magisterial document) can be seen as the actions of the leader of a "party" in the Church rather than an exercise of office, and so be considered non-binding.

And now JH has indulged in what can only be described as character assassination of Pope Francis:
Would you like a careful explanation of PF's skills in playing people off against each other, in making use of a person and then discarding him, in ruthlessly humiliating or disposing of people whose aptitude for sycophancy he finds insufficiently crafted? It's all here....
It has, I think, become so clear as now to be uncontroversial that what you get in PF is not what it says on the tin. He is not a kindly humble avuncular figure with a winning smile and a passion for cripples and babies, who spends his days and nights thinking about the poor. He is a hard and determined politician with a vindictive temper and an appetite for power and a disinclination to let anybody or anything stand in his way. .....
Persistent discrediting of the Successor of St Peter is simply not Catholic. And presenting it under the guise of an Anglican Catholic patrimony, and, so ironically, in the language of "party" in the Church familiar to the Church of England, does not make it any more acceptable:
And the Anglican Catholic Patrimony has been transplanted, surely, for the good of all Catholic Christians. Papa Ratzinger replanted us within Christ's Catholic Church Militant here in Earth so that we can share and proclaim our experience. So that we can tell our fellow Catholics: "If you go down that path, we can explain to you here and now exactly where you will end up. We can show you the map. We have already visited the future ... the future to which Bergoglianism beckons the Catholic Church ... and, believe us, it does not work."
It is doubtful that JH should be seen as an authentic representative of Anglican patrimony for the wider Catholic Church.

All the Cathedrals (7): Brecon

There is a short climb up a hill from the town centre in order to reach Brecon Cathedral. As Cathedrals go, it is on the small side, but it gains something of clean lines as a result. The information panels that are displayed in the Cathedral can be downloaded from the Cathedral website (it is best to use the "download pdf" link from each of the pages, and to read the downloaded version). Following each of these information panels will allow you to make a "virtual visit" to the Cathedral.

The present Cathedral has a foundation in Norman times, though another Church may have pre-dated it on the site. Like a number of English Cathedrals, it shares the narrative of Benedictine monastery established or rebuilt in the Norman time, with the monastic community coming to an end with the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. Before dissolution, it appears to have been a centre of pilgrimage, with the crucifix of its rood screen being the subject of particular veneration by visitors. Unlike some of the larger Cathedrals, after the dissolution, Brecon became a parish church. It gained its status as a Cathedral as recently as 1923. Some rebuilding took place in the 14th century, and, like a number of other Cathedrals, there was a restoration in the Victorian era.

The oldest feature of the Church is thought to be its font, dating from the  original Norman foundation (see the first of the information panels). A nearby stone column features a number of mediaeval stone masons marks.

At the time of our visit, the sacrament was reserved in a veiled tabernacle in the St Keynes chapel (see the information panel on the St Keynes chapel) rather than the wall shrine more customary for the Church of England, suggesting a worship of an ecclesiastically "high" character. An interesting feature of this chapel is the stained glass window showing Brychan, Cynog and Alud, pioneers of Christianity in the area.

Another feature of the Cathedral, that is well described in the relevant information panel, is the Harvard Chapel in its role as the Regimental chapel of what is now, after the amalgamation of its former regiments, the Royal Welsh regiment. Do download and read the information panel. A visit to this chapel acts as a reminder of the impact on local communities of warfare on the scale that was seen in the 20th century.

The highlight for me, however, was the reredos in the main sanctuary of the Cathedral. This is described in the information panel on the sanctuary on the website. Dating from 1937, it really is a lovely work. Where the reformation sought to remove such features as the previous reredos and the rood screen with its venerated crucifix, the presence of this reredos restores something of a Catholic character to the Church.

Brecon Cathedral enjoys a more "homely" feel than some of the other Cathedrals that we have visited, and this is probably due to its smaller size. It is worth the walk up the hill to visit.