Page 5, 6th October 1972

6th October 1972
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Page 5, 6th October 1972 — 4; Theological dispute A LONG-ACCEPTED means for the healthy person to
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4; Theological dispute A LONG-ACCEPTED means for the healthy person to

retain his health has been by vaccination and other forms of "preventive" injection. The serum introduced into the system contains an element of the disease against which immunisation is sought. Which brings me to the subject of "heresy"!

Those coming, in letters to the editor, to the instant defence of Fr. Hubert Richards, about whom we reported last week, were about equal in number to those condemning him out of hand. But there is of course much more to it all than just that.

What we have done is to send up a warning signal lest the average, intelligent Catholic that important but neglected mortal — should be taken unawares by further developments in fields such as these. What some may cal! "sensationalism" seems sometimes the only way to break preserve of the "experts."

In fact it is far from sensationalist to call atttention to the kind of discussions that are now going on all the time, all over the world, between theologians. Our faith is in no way endangered provided we understand the nature of what is happening.

As Fr. Edward Quinn puts it in the first part (to be published next week) of a very important two-part article, ''Today discussion ranges more freely and the breakdown of an over-rigid theology is mistaken for an attack on faith itself."

What is ultimately involved may have nothing at all to do with what Fr. Richards said, or is supposed to have said, in New Zealand, This particular incident is merely a symptom, if possibly an extreme one, of a continuing process within the contemporary Church to which the ordinary Catholic has a right to be privy. Calmness, prayerful thought and candour will thus be at a premium from now on.

For freer and franker discussions than ever before are obviously on their way with the object of avoiding a very dangerous conflict between the Church and the powerful forces. (not necessarily all secular) of modern scholarship.

How prepared, intellectually, is the average Catholic for this state of affairs? I say the "average" Catholic, and I mean just this. I am not referring to the fanatics, progressive or reactionary, who think they know all the answers beforehand and are already preparing for the fray from well

prepared and strongly fortified positions.

One reader pertinently asks for a public debate on the whole matter. The CATHOLIC' HERALD would like, at the appropriate moment, to set such a debate not a "re-hash" but a real debate — in motion.

But however much this paper does and will continue to dissociate itself from heterodoxy, it might not universally be given the benefit of the doubt on this score should such a debate get under way. So is the risk justifiable?

The question, I fear, is difficult to answer. It will become apparent only in the rather distant future whether it will have been better, here and now, freely to discuss certain matters that deeply worry intelligent Catholics; or to brush them under the kneeler. Personally — no doubt I am a simpleton in such affairs — I incline to the belief that the perennial answer, in essence, to the whole problem can be found in Thomas a Kempis who says that it is better (however difficult!) to love much than to know much. But there are too many others who are not so easily satisfied.

There are Catholics, for example, who go, or try to go, to Mass and Holy Communion every day of their lives. Yet they are seldom free from nagging worries as to the "image" left by the mode and expressions of conventional Catholic •teaching for the last thirty years or more.

Indeed it is not just those who have been asked to accept certain sorrowful "deprivations" who now suffer considerably. Even more anguished can be the Catholic whose nostalgia for the past and attachment to uncomplicated devotions vie with the knowledge of how terrifyingly narrow was our former outlook, due to lack of familiarity with scripture, paleontology, Church history, pshychology, comparative religion etc., etc. And on top of this have now come such discoveries as that of the Dead Sea Scrolls, about which, though Catholic scholars have long been at work on them, the "average" Catholic is told virtually nothing. Unfortunately the tensions between simplicity and complexity will greatly increase in the decades to come. The challenge from genuine scholarship, discovery and learning which the Church, in defence of its traditional doctrines, will have to face in the next twenty years may well be greater than anything faced in the last twenty centuries. No wonder the prudent Catholic realises how important it is to "commune" — daily if possible — with his Saviour.

But he is not likely, being a rational as well as a believing man, to spurn such prophylactic inoculations as are also available by way of immunising himself against future germs. Failure to take such precautions now could lead to a future epidemic making current ills look like humdrum maladies. In other words, in the course of an intensive intellectual onslaught on what is most precious and most spiritual about Christ's Church, the average, healthy Catholic may well need all the fore-knowledge he can acquire about the issues involved.

Meanwhile there are those who feel that our story was, on the one hand, a dastardly attack on Fr. Richards or, on the other, a mischievous defence of his alleged views.

It was, of course, neither.

IACK of past ecumenical ex, perience, with its broadening effects, must obviously be one reason for our thinking — quite wrongly — that our whole faith is at stake just because theologians are in dispute with one another. Have we so easily forgotten the long-drawn out controversy over predestination and efficacious grace?

To recall the sixteenth century wrangles between Dominicans and Jesuits over a topic on which successive Popes contradicted each other is perhaps to help us cool down under the collar to day. Ecumenical activity, moreover, has brought us into a world which was virtually shut off and forbidden to us in days gone by.

We are learning not just about "how others do it" but also something about the "mythologies" (the word is a respectable one in this context) which lie behind all religions; what Confucius taught centuries before Christ; about the faiths of peoples and sects we had never heard of before. In short we are beginning to realise, perhaps for the first time. what religion — in the course of human history — is all about. No wonder we occasionally get a few surprises!

And out of all such study few aspects are as fascinating and revealing as those provided by the philosophy of Judaism. What do we know of this in general? What do we know, in particular, od Sintchat Torah, the recent Jewish feast written about by Rabbi Dow Marmur in The Times earlier this week?

I single out Rabbi Marmur because he is to be one of Fr. Herbert Keldany's guest speakers at his coming series of talkdiscussions on Ecumenism at Cathedral Clergy House, Westminster. Fr. Keldany is Secretary to the Westminster Ecumenical Commission, and the arranging of a thrice-yearly series of talks is, to my mind, among the most important and interesting of his many activities.

The beliefs of other corn munions, Christian a n d otherwise, is the theme of this next course (entitled "Ecumenical Perspectives") and talks occur every Wednesday evening in the library at Clergy House, 42 Francis Street, London, S.W.7 at 7.30.

Judging by the meetings I have been able to attend in the past, I can't recommend them too highly. They deserve a large audience from whom participation is always welcome.

The course will be opened by Bishop Butler on October 18 and Fr. Keldany (47 Francis Street, S.W.I, Tel. 01-834 6128) would am sure, be only too pleased to give further details of future events.




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