2 Timothy 4, 2-3
2 Proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, give encouragement - but do all with patience and with care to instruct. 3 The time is sure to come when people will not accept sound teaching . . . [NJB]
Today’s Gospel (Sunday 4 OT, year C) tells of Our Lord in the Synagogue at Nazareth; and in his homily this morning at the Oratory, Fr Fordham made the point that people are always happy to listen to you when you say what they want to hear . . . it’s when you start saying things that they don’t want to hear - when, as S. Paul says, they ‘refuse to accept sound teaching’ - that, as happened to Our Lord in this morning's Gospel, they run you out of town, and try and push you over the cliff.
Father made no specific mention of anyone or anything in particular : but I think it unlikely that I was the only person in the Church whose thoughts turned to a topic which has been conspicuous in UK Catholic blogs in recent weeks – the issue of the Catholic Education Service’s reaction to the Government’s plans for compulsory Sex Education in all non-private schools. To give but one example, Fr Ray Blake of S. Mary Magdalene, Brighton, has a good post on it here; although many other people have also posted on it in the recent past.
CES has made comments which are almost laudatory of the Government’s plans; comments which have not been disavowed by the Bishops, under whose control CES falls, and who are presumably ultimately responsible for its opinions.
I am sure that – to use S. Paul’s word in 2 Timothy (above), all this is very ‘welcome’ to the Government, as they can present it as effectively amounting to ‘official endorsement’ by the Catholic Church of their proposals.
However, I think it would be true to say that it is extremely ‘unwelcome’ to many Catholics.
If one looks at the blogs, it is painfully clear that many of the Catholic faithful – and the clergy – are extremely uncomfortable with the fact that the Bishops have not, as one man, risen in their pulpits to denounce the plan forthrightly, and make abundantly clear to the Government that Catholics cannot in good conscience support a party which attacks Christian values in this way – verb. sap. with a General Election due within the next six months.
Now : I fully accept that my Bishop has been set over the Diocese of which I am a part by the Holy Father, and that it is his job to lead the Church in that Diocese, and that – as a matter of holy obedience – I am expected to submit to him.
However, as I understand it, there is no guarantee that the Bishop cannot make mistakes; and there is also the point that (to the best of my knowledge and belief) I am not bound to follow a superior in any matter which is contrary to the teachings of the Church – and as far as I can see, what the Government proposes is (like their previous nonsense about Adoption Agencies) completely contrary to the teaching of the Church.
I’m sure that if the Bishops did publicly denounce the Government’s plans they would be criticised in all sorts of places – including within the Church, very probably – and no doubt the National Secular Society would suggest that this was evidence that religion was retrograde, and determined to interfere with the right of the population to enjoy the best possible life, and all that sort of bilge.
Indeed, I think it is likely that the Bishops would become quite unpopular with the Government, and that they might very well lose influence with Ministers, and support in parliament, and the civil service, and the media . . .
All I can say, in response to those no doubt excellent reasons for holding their peace, and dealing with things in whatever other way they have chosen (as I am sure they have) to adopt, is ‘What would S. Paul have said they should do ?’
I think, having read 1 & 2 Timothy, the answer is quite clear. Have the lessons of last year - the ‘Year of S. Paul’ - faded so quickly ?
And just to prove it's not uniquely an English problem, shadowlands has just posted this clip from the US !