Another Plea for a Church of Human Dimensions

My brother priest Fr Jonathan Munn has written another cri de coeurUnashamed Idealism. I added a brief comment, suggesting that my old article Rigorism,Tutiorism and Probabilism had some relevance by analysing the roots of the legalistic and judgemental attitude some Christians have in regard to the weaker members of their Church and society in general.

It is difficult to be idealistic when everything we stand for is being challenged, extinguished and stamped out by our contemporaries. Is humanity reduced to the level of internet trolls and those who carve you up on the road in their cars? The cynic, according to Oscar Wilde, is one who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing.

Like Fr Jonathan, I write this blog because I think there is an alternative to the dystopian dread we all have of some kind of “fourth Reich” or Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. That alternative is the sweetness and freshness of Christ. Our agony is not being able to anticipate for the future beyond our own deaths. We are threatened either by global warming or freezing (depending on which scientists you find more credible), political and economic collapse and the breakdown of civilisation. At the same time, the tired out old monsters refuse to die and leave their place to youth and freshness.

This article on the Hitchins brothers and atheism is interesting:

Whereas Christopher has a rather baroque literary style, his brother writes soberly and directly. His fundamental theme is this: though the atheists claim just the contrary, the collapse of Christianity carries in its wake dire consequences for civilization itself. Peter Hitchens was a foreign correspondent in Moscow during the waning years of the Soviet Union, and he experienced a culture in deep crisis. There was political corruption of every type on every level of the system; there was widespread drunkenness; abortions far outnumbered live births; and a suspension of common courtesies—exchanging common signs, holding doors, etc.—was everywhere in evidence. How does one begin to explain this almost total ethical collapse?

The late Christopher Hitchins was an atheist, but his brother Peter saw the consequences of the suppression of Christianity in society. Suppress Christianity and you also suppress kindness, love and altruism. The world becomes money and money becomes the world!

Some day, there will inevitably be a reaction and a rediscovery of Christianity through hunger and thirst for everything Christ represents in terms of human values as well as transcendence. Churches would follow a similar path, eschewing legalism and bureaucracy to bring the Church back to the Sabbath being for man and not man for the Sabbath. Our little continuing Churches are a first step in this prophetic way of announcing the Gospel and living the sacramental presence of Christ among us – without facing uncaring ivory towers and whited sepulchres of inhuman bureaucracy.

I think most of us – individually – have a vision of a Church of human dimensions, in the same way as we are nostalgic for humanity and honesty in trade and business. We prefer our souls to some deterministic and mechanistic relentless “system” that processes us and dehumanises us. Man was never meant to live in such vast social and political “units” (nation, European Union, world government, etc.). We were intended to live in tribes and families. Our Continuing Churches, whilst they remain small, are spiritual “tribes”.

Nicholas Berdyaev had a profound vision of the end of the Renaissance and the revolt against God, a long period of darkness like St John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul, and finally a new Middle-Ages of luminous churches, learning, culture, kindness and love and everything in our dreams to which the human soul aspires. It will come in this life or the next, rather the next for folk of my generation. All we can do is plant and sow, for others will reap after us.

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2 Responses to Another Plea for a Church of Human Dimensions

  1. Neil Hailstone says:

    I have read right through the Apostolic Exhortation Evangeii Gaudium written by Pope Francis and recently published on the Vatican website. I find his views on the way forward for the Catholic Church inspirational. I will not attempt to summarise this lengthy document here but would recommend it to Anglican Catholics for study. He has much to say in the vital matter of reforming the institutional rigidity of the Church. I particularly agree with his comments regarding poverty,the healing of the distressed soul, evangelism, ecumenical relations and the Eucharist.Just a little taste – ‘The Eucharist …..is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’. This I can relate to personally.His views about the Confessional are very helpful. I’ll end with expressing my agreement with his words on how the Faith is so much more than a set of rigid rules and prohibitions. On a lighter note if I were him I would probably instruct the Vatican Gendarmerie to open any violin cases being carried by members of the Curia!

    In writing this reply I have no intention to stir up any controversy but believe the Exhortation and my words here relevant to the matters raised in this Post.

    • I fully agree with you. I haven’t read it entirely, but there’s something terrific about this Pope. If he lightens the bureaucracy around the Episcopal Conferences and the dioceses, then we are looking at something refreshing and hopeful.

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