Page 4, 6th November 1970

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People: Patrick Wall


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Keywords: Religion / Belief

THERE are reassuring features about Major Patrick Wall's Pro Fide movement. It is neither extremist nor uncharitable. It is conservative, but not reactionary. It pleads for dialogue, not divisions. It could do some useful radical thinking in a left-wing Tory kind of way.

But there are dangers. The movement's very "sweet reasonableness" is one. The plea for peace, the defence of the orthodox, could overspill to tepid and inactive Christianity, and a fear of the search for truth.

We need the irrational in our loves and loyalty. There is a holiness in righteous anger, new light to be found in daring speculation. The man who argues rationally, making all the right distinctions, will rarely right anyone's wrongs. Only Moses striking the rock will do that—even if God must punish him for the good he achieves. Such is the human paradox.

But there is more to be said than this. Underneath the prudent tones of Pro Fide, there lies a radical misconception born of personal insecurity. We are dealing here, one feels, with people for whom safety lies in the absolute statement, and truth is buttoned up in definitions.

They cling to a static notion of faith and ecclesia, and give knowledge priority over experience. For them it seems more important to know about than to know.

They speak of guarding the Church's authentic teaching. But it is they who unwittingly betray it. They will insist that every encyclical is infallible-though not a single Pope has ever claimed it. They cling to a faith based on "certainties", though the great mystics of the Church have told us for 2,000 years that faith lives only in darkness.

Doubts and fears

Christ Our Lord consigned himself to dark: ness, doubt and fear. He is to be found flat on his face under an olive tree, or dying in the ; fear of being abandoned by his Father. Your : "authentic" Catholic thinks he can dodge all : this by a stroke of the papal pen.

O He "knows" his sins are forgivenyet the ; Council of Trent has definitely told us that this is the one thing we can never know. He likes ; the Church to tell him what to do, yet the Vatican Council made it clear that, at the end • of the day, decisions must often be made, in • the light of what the Church has taught, by • the individual conscience, in the darkness and


; We are not suggesting that the Church's • truths cannot be stated in plain language, or I.; that all definition is meaningless. We are say ▪ ing that definitions are the beginning of the t: road, not the end of it that truth, fertilised by ±history and experience, develops and deepens 'a. with time.

= Our Lord has done us the honour of ing us to search for truth and build his King

dom with him, not just to be the passive = • recipients of something "given." This is the ; =. meaning of the eschatological hope bequeathed : : us by the Vatican Council, whose teachings : the Pro Fide group accepts. But do they under 1,1.11111 I Uri II I

stand them?

: It is true that the gospel message is identi: fiable and coherent, but it was better conveyed ; in the dynamism of English common law than ; by the static jurisprudence of the Roman tradi

tion. To establish true continuity between • established authenticity and the new enlightenment God and the Church are offering : daily, it is essential to be "insecure," to face : bravely the arrow that flies by day and the • terror that walks in the darkness.

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