Sunday, February 15, 2009

Chesterton on St Mary's Part 2

As I promised there is some more relevant GKC to refer to in relation to St Mary's. But first a more fundamental point: why discuss St Mary's at all?

I believe there is a much better reason why we should do so than merely the fact that it is topical and controversial at the moment (even though this is a 'Brisbane based' blog and it's definitely the biggest Catholic news in Brisbane right now). It's because some of the questions and objections Fr Kennedy is raising force us to ask questions well worth asking: why be Catholic? Why orthodoxy? Why dogma? Why the Church? At some stage in every Catholic's life these questions should be asked. For the convert this obviously occurs in the process of their discovery of Catholic truth. For the cradle Catholic there comes a time to choose to hang on to the religion of one's parents or to forsake it. On that note many of the present generation are not forsaking the faith properly speaking; they never had it to really know what is involved in their rejection but that's by the by. Let us not also forget the 'revert'. I should also add that I am speaking here of our firm decision to hold fast to these things, the learning goes on for a lifetime.

The worse a heretic is the more essential the issues they raise. Was Christ divine? Did he found a Church? Can that Church be found today if he did? Why would he found a Church? What is the nature and purpose of Divine Revelation?

There are other questions that this unique situation also raise such as how does social justice tie in with the rest of Christian teaching? There are enough issues to keep us going here for a long time.

In some ways it is tempting to think that all Fr Kennedy really needs is to just read a decent apologetics book. It would certainly contain answers but I doubt that would be a solution in his case. Nonetheless when Fr Kennedy says (as he is on record as saying) that he is "hazy" about whether there is an afterlife, that is a chance to perhaps review the arguments for the immorality of the soul. Most uncatechised Catholics probably don't even know there are such arguments, thinking perhaps it was all a matter of faith. In point of fact some things taught by Revelation are known to reason also.

As St Thomas says as soon as the heretic uses Scripture we can refute him using the same. (ST I, q 1, a 8).

In a recent article Fr Kennedy is reported proclaiming in a homily that:

"But we can take heart from the words of Jesus himself, who was judged harshly for his unorthodox behaviour - `By their fruits you will know them'."

Father takes heart from the fact that Christ was judged "unorthodox" by the Scribes and Pharisees (as many will remember "you're a Pharisee" is about as eloquent and insightful as most liberal arguments get). He even quotes Scripture to his favour. Yet he fails to remember Christ also taught that the Scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses' seat and therefore the disciples must "do as they say but not as they do." (Mt 23: 2-3). Father Kennedy can hardly claim he is following this. He is free to believe in the privacy of his own house that say, Archbishop Bathersby is a hypocrite. But whether that be true or false he must obey the legitimate authority of his bishop. Obedience it has been said, is the one virtue the devil can't imitate even though he is capable of appearing as an "angel of light" (2 Corth 11:14).

Authority can be abused but it is also necessary.

I'll deal with Fr Kennedy's references to "orthodoxy" another time. But for now here is the Chesterton (once again from his book called Orthodoxy):

"Modern latitudinarians speak, for instance, about authority in religion not only as if there is no reason in it, but as if there had never been any reason for it. Apart from seeing its philosophical basis, they cannot even see its historical cause. Religious authority has often, doubtless, been oppressive or unreasonable; just as every legal system (and espeically our present one) has been callous and full of a cruel apathy. It is rational to attack the police; nay, it is glorious. But the modern critics of religious authority are like men who should attack police without ever having heard of burglars. For there is a great and possible peril to the human mind: a peril as practical as burglary. Against it religious authority was reared, rightly or wrongly, as a barrier. And against it something certainly must be reared as a barrier, if our race is to avoid ruin. That peril is that the human intellect is free to destroy itself."

1 comment:

Stephen said...

The fact that the St mary's issue has coincided with the debate about the future of the SSPX has actually brought to the fore the issue of how great a latitude should the Second Vatican Council be interpreted and can you be catholic and still publicly harbour reservatins about the Council?

Of course what kennedy presents and believes is a distortion of the Council, in the same way that St Marys community twistd the Pope's words about acceptance of the SSPX.