THERE is no use blinking the fact that Government legislation on the lines of the Crathornc Report would tend to secularise the Sabbath. Theoretically there is no need for this to be so. But in practice the opening of theatres. dance-halls. bingo clubs and shops would make Sunday appear less a holy day and more a holiday.
We can be sure, too. that Government implementation of the Committee's suggestions would be but the beginning of a trend. Very soon. there would be nothing to distinguish the average Briton's Sunday afternoon anywhere in the country from the late Sir Harry Lauder's mythical Saturday night in Glasgow.
The immediate reaction of the sincere Christian to the report must, therefore, be unfavourable. But reflection may produce different views.
Firstly, a reform of the existing regulations is long overdue. The present ludicrous enomalies merely emphasise their ambivalence and hypocrisy. Though these anomalies are not entirely removed by the Crathorne Committee's suggestions, they are at least reduced.
Secondly, Christians must realise that the report is not seeking to impose a Minority view. It merely reflects the fact that, for most Britons, Sunday is not a special day of religious observance hut simply a commonsense and necessary respite from weekday work.
Thirdly—and here we must return to the theory—there is no intrinsic reason why the opening of shops and the playing of football matches should make a Christian any less religious. He does not have to go to them any more than he has to go to the cinema at present. And if he did, might it not be a better way of relaxation than sitting at home before a telesion set?
Despite all this, the effects of Government implementation of the report would be that the character of the Sunday as a day set aside for religious observance will be further blurred. If it is, Christians have only themselves to blame.
For the most significant aspect of the Crathorne report is its implicit recognition that our society is no longer essentially Christian, however much its facade still reflects past Christian beliefs. No matter that we have known this for a long time: the practical manifestations of it are always disturbing when they appear.
How fat Christians themselves recognise what is happening is difficult to determine. Most of us seem perfectly content to continue in our accustomed rut despite the signs all round us that Christianity is on the retreat. Our general attitude seems to he that we belong to an exclusive club and our function is merely to conform to the rules. If the world does not subscribe to our values, we blame the world. We do not seem to think that we should blame ourselves for failing to present the values we hold in a way which will win the world's respect and adherence.
The hard thing which Christians of today must learn is that they can no longer depend on society to enshrine Christian values in general legislation. Today's world is a pluralistic one. The majority view will prevail and Christians are a fast-dwindling minority.
Our reaction to developments like the Crathorne Report, therefore. cannot be a vain attempt to enlist social, political or other pressures to support ideas which the nation rejects. We cannot impose our values from the top: we can only seek to convince society of them from below.
As far as Sunday observance is concerned, therefore, the only guarantees Catholics can demand is that nothing is done to make it harder for them to fulfil their duty as they see it and that those who conscientiously object to Sunday work, especially among public employees, are not penalised in any way for not doing it.
After that our apostolate to society can be summed up in the characteristically pithy and pregnant paragraph used by Cardinal Suenens. Criticising the inadequacy of the standard Catechetism answer to the question of why God made us, he said: We must not say only that we were made to know, love and serve God. We must say we were created to know God and to make Him known; to love God and to make Him loved; to serve God and to make Him served".
If Christians had seen their mission in these terms, we might not be facing the attrition of , Christian values in our society to the extent we see today.