Don’t Proselytize

I follow on from yesterday’s article with some stuff that is being sent out by e-mail. In particular, there is a link to a posting by the Young Fogey, our odd friend by the name of John Beeler – who estimates that I have no vocation to the priesthood because I don’t think exactly like he does (perhaps my growing hair has something to do with it, infatuated as he is with the 1950’s, the short back ‘n’ sides and Brylcreem gunk). I hardly idolise the reign of George III, but I do approve of the gentlemen’s hairstyles of the period (no wig)!

Anyway here is his article Cafeteria Catholicism of the right?

This article links to Fr Longenecker’s article The Rise of Conservative Cafeteria Catholicism. I won’t comment on this one, but a second article is doing the rounds by e-mail – Is Proselytism Solemn Nonsense?

Pope Francis, it appears, eschews proselytism – and thus directly opposes one of the prime tenets of conservative Roman Catholicism. We come back to the Kripkean dogmatism I discussed yesterday evening, inspired by Fr Jonathan Munn’s article, and the stages of bringing about a totalitarian theocracy not far removed from what some of the more fanatical Islamists want.

I have no interest in defending the Pope because he is Pope, or for any pretended infallibility, but for once I agree with him:

Don’t proselytize; respect others’ beliefs. We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyzes: ‘I am talking with you in order to persuade you,’ No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytizing.

I go a little further and observe that the more Christians proselytise, the more the credibility of their message will go down in the eyes of the more critical and scientific among us. I haven’t taken much interest in Pope Francis since he was elected in March 2013, and I have by and large felt rather apathetic. I pray for him at Mass, but that’s as far as it goes. I generally find Jesuits as boring as watching paint dry!

What about the command from Christ to preach the Gospel to the world? It is a difficult one, but what is sure that we have forgotten how to communicate by means other than the spoken word. Beauty is out of the window, as in the days when the Puritans were smashing stained glass, organs and altars. The conservatives know only verbal persuasion – as a prelude to compulsion once they get the political means to do so. Pinochet and Franco were quite useful for that kind of thing. Not a few Catholic Monsignori ended their lives on the gallows in 1946 for crimes against humanity!

I agree with the Pontiff as he prefers attracting people to the Church rather than forcing them, albeit through modern marketing and hard selling methods. One great mistake was getting rid of the Church’s liturgical tradition. Another was to alienate art, music and culture – so that all that is left is the spoken word.

I don’t know what the Pope is up to, not that I really care, but what he says here makes sense. At the same time, what is he doing to open up non-verbal means of communication to draw people to Christ and God’s love? There, I am less convinced.

The Church and Diocese to which I belong are not in communion with Rome, but we are in communion with the wider Catholic Church. We do care about Christ’s commandment and the duty of the Church to build and civilise, but also how we do it. Like most other Christians, we are on the defensive and fighting for survival in the face of justified criticism.

The essential of my experience in Europe simplifies things somewhat. Christianity, and monotheism in general, has discredited itself through fanaticism and the desire to impose itself as the only truth. Because of this and its own incoherence, it is no longer possible to give the world Christ’s message without all the baggage that discredits the three monotheist religions. I used to speculate as a seminarian that it was almost as if the Redemption was undone, that the Good News was no more, and the “tea break” was over. I fully understand the reaction of the post World War II period when priests were ashamed of their bishops who had collaborated with the Nazi occupation. They sought to make amends by sharing the lives of ordinary working men and removing the symbols of privilege like the cassock and Roman hat. I sympathise with them. Many of them turned to politics, but a few remained in the “workshop of Nazareth”.

I see many parallels between our time and the end of the eighteenth century, except for the executive suits of politicians and bankers replacing the powdered wigs of the guillotined aristocracy. I return to Berdyaev and his vision of a long and hard dark night during which Christians must expiate and suffer. Even worse than martyrdom is the feeling of helplessness, absence of meaning and purpose and the foreboding of a world without a future history. We have work to do on the virtue of Hope!

Let us be sincere with ourselves. We have ourselves to evangelise before we can start on other people, lest the other sees our hypocrisy. We yet have a timber yard to take out of our eyes!

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17 Responses to Don’t Proselytize

  1. Pope Francis recently sent a message of support to the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. This contained support and blessing for the 6th September next when the Ordinariate holds a special day in the UK explaining everything to both C of E people and anyone else who may wish to come along. I think then that the expression ‘Pope Francis eschews proselytism” is a bit wide of the mark. Personally I regularly pray for his ministry believing him to be as the Western Patriarch a great asset to the Church in the West.

    As at long last I am close to entry to the Nordic Catholic Church I have no interest in attending these sessions but wish everyone well who is involved in it.

    My own view is that all Christians, Bishops, Priests and members of the Holy Laity should obey Our Lord Jesus Christ and obey His Great Commission to make disciples of all human kind. Why on earth would we not? The Love of God, the forgiveness of sins even for the worst of offenders, help in living in this difficult world, and the welcome prospect of eternal life.

    I’ll close in the expectation of assorted posts deploring what I expect will be described as muscular Christianity and etc etc. Final point – 1950s hairstyles were quite ghastly. Especially when as an older teenager I used to regularly plaster my hair with Brylcream. In retrospect it all looked awful. Readers might care to research the advertisements which used to appear of the cricketer Dennis Compton advocating the stuff. I rest my case.

    • Jim of Olym says:

      Wasn’t the other part of the Brylcream ad, ‘A little dab will do you!”? So you were slathering to no or probably ill effect, to clog your cranial pores. Just my opinion. When I was in middle school we boys used to put green food colouring on our hair in the restroom. After several bottles were spilled on the floor, this was verboten! By orders of the ‘Vice Prinzipal’!! Ah, to be young again…..

  2. My general approach is, “Look, if you are interested in learning to know God, I and the Church can help you with that. We will be happy to introduce you. If you are not so interested at this time, I really have little to say to you on this subject. If, however, that ever changes and you become interested, I will certainly be here for you.

  3. Joseph says:

    John has some issues. Most people who bounce around people who bounce between Orthodoxy and Catholicism typically do if they are stuck in the rut of trying to find the “real” one true church. He’s doing what he needs to make sense of things. He left a rather obnoxious comment on my blog which I’ve refused to publish. It is hard to admit that Catholicism (be it Roman or Anglican) is in a sorry state and there are no easy answers, which I think he wants. Hell, I guess we all want easy answers to one degree or another and, if we’re human, we all get frustrated by the clear lack of them.

    I recall one post you made some time back in which you stated that were you not a priest, it would be challenging to live a fully sacramental life in Catholicism. This sums up the situation! Think of what it is like for us who are not called to orders, who simply want to remain in the lay state and observe regular, canonical, and traditional worship. The temptation is to fall towards extremism of one variety or another.

    • raitchi2 says:

      “I recall one post you made some time back in which you stated that were you not a priest, it would be challenging to live a fully sacramental life in Catholicism…Think of what it is like for us who are not called to orders, who simply want to remain in the lay state and observe regular, canonical, and traditional worship. ”

      This is one of the reasons why I often muse about how nice it would to no longer be a layman. Geographically I am limited to moderrn liturgy, the same 10 hymns since ’78 on continual repeat, and incoherent homilies. Oh the things we laymen do to remain canonically regular.

      • Joseph says:

        One has to ask if the possibility of being canonically regular has been denuded of its value. Were I a Hindu, or a someone along the lines of Rene Guenon, I would be tempted to believe the West has entered the period of Kali Yuga and all things are undergoing degeneration and decay. In reality, it way well just be a matter of institutional incompetence.

        I’ve begun regularly attending the local Antiochene Orthodox Cathedral. The liturgy is overwhelming English, save for one or two Arabic hymns, and the congregation is at least 60% non-Arab. Of the ethnic Arabs, most don’t know a lick of Arabic.

        Why? Frankly, when one has children, it makes all the difference. Where I live in the US, Catholiism is a mess. If it isn’t a liturgy fraught with ritual signs and symbols that appear to have been derived from a poorly planned group therapy session, it’s questionable doctrine influenced by a parish community (clergy including) that has effectively rejected tenets of religion.

        I don’t want my kids to take on the same struggle I did. Frankly, in retrospect, that struggle wasn’t worth it; you have an institution that embarked upon a course and will not accept any attempts at correction.

        I should end my rant here. Sorry.

      • Jim of Olym says:

        I am assuming you are a rather conservative Roman Catholic layperson, raitchi2. Is there no venue for people in your part of the boat to get together and recite part of the Office in common? And possibly some litanies etc? i think that might help.

      • raitchi2 says:

        @ Jim of Olymn:
        “I am assuming you are a rather conservative Roman Catholic layperson…”
        Not so much. Much like this blog, I don’t fit the conservative v liberal divide. At first blush I seem a liberal, especially when it comes to the outgrowths of the teachings of the Faith. However, when it comes to liturgy, doctrine or aesthetics I’m a huge fan of ’62 (1462 that is).

        “Is there no venue for people in your part of the boat to get together and recite part of the Office in common…”
        I honestly don’t know. I don’t think so; the parishes in my area are little more than a sea of grey heads. As a twenty something, there are really no contacts I have in the area that are: actively catholic, interested in trad. liturgy, and able to take time out of their schedules (the down turn in the economy has either everyone in grad school or slaving away so they don’t get fired).

        I make my peace by sitting through my weekly hour of mass, whether praying a rosary, reading scripture, or silently saying the office to myself (with pauses for the consecration). I know this isn’t a great solution, but it’s better than just up and leaving or taking a break until I have kids to baptize.

        You might think I should up and travel to trad parish. I’ve done that a few times. The liturgy and aesthetics are better. I don’t quite know how to describe it, but the group is so self selected it almost doesn’t seem like a Catholic [i.e. universal] Church (the kids are all in sunday bests, half the men are in suits, the women are wearing their ankle length skirts with mantillas in place…). The trad places (even those in full regular communion with the RCC) just have a cultish feel to them–I honestly wonder whether the laity or the priests know the Roman Missal better. The regular parishes have a true universal feel to them (there’s the crazy lady, the misbehaved kids, the old and young and everyone in between).

        Perhaps this sheds some light on why I have my intermittent musings on clerical life. I know these musings don’t come from a genuine vocational calling, but rather a “I just don’t want to be bothered with all that mess” calling. Such is my state.

      • David says:

        @raitchi2
        “The group is so self selected it almost doesn’t seem like a Catholic [i.e. universal] Church…The trad places (even those in full regular communion with the RCC) just have a cultish feel to them”
        I feel for you, man. I grew up in Trad churches and was a teenager until I regularly attended an “approved” one. I’m much happier with the Greek Catholics since they “have a true universal feel to them (there’s the crazy lady, the misbehaved kids, the old and young and everyone in between).”

        Can’t imagine what it would be like to only have a Pauline Mass as my options.

    • Michael Frost says:

      Joseph, When you wrote the following–“trying to find the ‘real’ one true church”–I think the “t” needs to be a “T”. I oft suspect that many, esp. newer converts, get so excited about what they view as their discovery of The Truth that they spend too much time looking for All Signs Of Error elsewhere, missing all that they share with those outside their faith group. Instead of looking for and obsessing over differences that divide, we should be looking for and celebrating similarities that unite us.

      I do wish more traditional, conservative RCs would do this in regard to the magisterial, confessional heirs of the Reformation, esp. Anglicans, Methodists & Lutherans. (Not sure there is any hope for “Calvinists”; only those branches of Reformed most influenced and faithful to Bucer & Bullinger might be relevant for discussions.) It seems like confessional faithful Lutherans often feel a lot like confessional faithful Anglicans when viewing Rome’s thoughts on them. Sadly, Anglicans tend to want to side with Rome (who rejects them) than Wittenberg. Of course, we EOs tend to just overlook or neglect all heirs of the Reformation, focusing so much on our OO brothers and then Rome.

      I wonder if the paradigm changer might have something to do with our views on where does one find the continuation of the Church. The RC’s like Augustine’s mechanistic view (anyone in the apostolic succession regardless of other issues, thus the schismatic PNCC is “in” while the Church of England is “out”) and we EOs prefer Cyprian’s more mystical view (sharing the faith, so pretty much everyone who isn’t “in” is really “out”). Is there a 3rd way? Say what you will about the Reformers and the Reformation, but they, in their magisterial & confessional foundations, were trying to preserve and maintain both the Church and the spiritual life of the laity. There are real ecclesial bodies to be found (e,g, LCMS). I think any 3rd way has to first reject any apostate groups (e.g., WO and an open acceptance of an active, practicing lifestyle, both amongst the laity and clergy) and then accept that they have preserved the most important aspects of Christianity (e.g., the dogmatic decrees and creeds of the 1st four Ecumenical Councils).

      • Joseph says:

        You’ve gotten to an area that, really, is totally out of my league.

        I feel confident enough in saying that the Church (in totality, meaning East and West) is discouragingly dysfunctional. At the same time, these are issues I can’t get too wrapped up in.

      • Jim of Olym says:

        Michael, I spent last evening and this morning celebrating the feast of the Transfiguration in our little church in Wilkeson, WA. We were able to do the ‘whole thing’ even with a minimal choir! I wouldn’t drop that for anything!
        But your view of the church is much the same as mine: I rather miss the WR feasts and services at times. You may ask our host to give you my email address if you wish to correspond in another venue.
        Rdr. James Morgan

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        If I compare what Richard Hooker writes about both “the visible Church” and “the sounder part of the visible Church” in Book III of his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity with what the Second Vatican Council fathers write in Lumen gentium 15, I see not only big differences, but real similarities as well. And again, if I turn to Eusebius’s account in his Church History of St. Irenaeus’s approach in the Quatrodeciman controversy in the late Second century, with his references back to the approaches of Sts. Polycarp and Anicetus at mid-century, I get the idea that there is a striking millennial ‘hermeneutics of continuity’ involved, here

  4. Jim of Olym says:

    Father, I don’t know if this is relevant, but this weekend I was involved as a choir member in two Hierarchical Divine Liturgies according to the Byzantine Russian rite! Saturday and Sunday. This was a diaconal training session here in the PNW (Tacoma WA USA). The bishop came in, was vested in the middle of the church with acclamations by deacons echoed by the choir (including me a quasi-tenor). Lots of fun were had by all (probably seven deacons and an equal number of sub-deacons, and a few tonsured readers who held things like candles and pastoral staffs (and none fainted during the two hours of the service, God be praised!} At a few points of these services (I missed the vespers services which were not as ‘ceremonial’ as the Liturgies, but I wondered what the point of it all was. The Bishop being the ‘center’ of the church around which all the vesting and furfurah goes (if one has not encountered a full Russian Orthodox Hierarchical Liturgy one can’t imagine what goes one there!) but at the same time a nice warm feeling that we the laity and clergy are gathered around our head, who ironically represents Christ, who is the Head of the Church.
    I was the second tenor in the choir (I can’t do bass very well) and we did our emoting with fervor and rapt attention to what was going on, although some of us could not see it all.
    I’ve know this bishop for many years, since he was a mere choir director, and he did his part well.
    I congratulated him at the end and he told me we got a B+ for the first session.!! His sermons brief and cogent on the gospels of the day were something I should cherish. I hope someone got them down on their cameras.
    Incidentally, our bisop is a wonderful tenor, used to sing Verdi in college. And I think he is a nice guy even though I don’t always agree with him in his pastoral decisions. But he is to be judged for them, not me.

    rdr James

  5. David says:

    I honestly don’t know by what authority the man thinks he can judge Chadwick’s “vocation”, but the fact remains that Chadwick is a priest with valid Holy Orders. This is true regardless of your feelings on Catholic/ Anglican orders. Perhaps the fellow should evaluate his own “vocation” before passing judgement on others?

    I, myself, am weighing whether to pursue joining the Greek Catholic Diaconate and – I can assure you – it’s not something that comes to you magically from above. For an outside observer to presume to pass judgement on the matter is laughable.

    In the meantime, keep up the good work Fr. Chadwick! I will toast to the day when the Roman church returns to good liturgical sense and the Chalcedonian Orthodox drops their triumphalism.

    • Joseph says:

      ” I will toast to the day when the Roman church returns to good liturgical sense and the Chalcedonian Orthodox drops their triumphalism.”

      As will I….though I suspect we may be waiting a while.

  6. Martin Hartley says:

    To all readers, clergy or not, please pray for (offer the holy mysteries for) the Christians of Iraq who are being driven from their homes, slaughtered, or forced to convert to Islam. The Chaldean Patriarch has today appealed to the United Nations for help. I believe there are hundreds of thousands of believers, who have lived in the area for nearly 2000 years, now homeless, churches destroyed, forced to try and find refuge without food or water. Satan is rampant. Prayers are probably all that most can do, but if any are in a position to lobby governments, or the UN Secretary General, please do what you can.

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