It is impossible to have feelings and for them not to be engaged on the part of members of this blog who are Catholics. As far as I am aware, there is only one ‘cradle Catholic’ here, David Monier-Williams, who celebrated his 84th birthday last week – and to whom many happy returns. I am struck by the fact that he, alone, of the Catholics here, seems to accept things as they come and refuses to get himself worked up by Synods – my guess would be that after 84 years as a Catholic he’s seen a good deal and learned to accept the rough with the smooth in a way you can if you’re born to something. As a lifelong Nonconformist, I refuse to get worked up by whatever this year’s fashionable cause of angst might be; I have seen it come, I have seen it go, and have lived long enough to see it come back and go again; there is nothing new under the sun. As long as there have been Christians there have been disputes about what needed to be believed, and Christians have turned on each other in a manner which suggests to outsiders that they are deaf to the Gospel command to love one another. As an acquaintance of mine at school once said: “Who would want to be loved by a pack of hounds who snarl at each other as easily as they breathe?” She had a point.
The other Catholics on this blog all came to the Church by a process during which they must have tested what they believe in a way that only those who feel the need to be elsewhere can – that is a serious process of discernment and to be respected. I have known a few such, and even though I have disagreed with their conclusion, I have respect for the manner and the scrupulosity by which they reached it.
I don’t know how much of the inwardness of a church converts can grasp on the journey. The ones I have known have approached their new church with the enthusiasm of a man who had found, at last, the pearl of great price, and several of them went there with what I thought we starry-eyed views of what they would find there. During the reigns of the previous two Popes, the Catholic Church was an obvious refuge for those of orthodox doctrinal positions and conservative views; indeed, it was during that period and perhaps for that reason that my own native anti-Catholic prejudices largely melted away. But I bore in mind the words of a very dear colleague – another cradle Catholic – “the real test will come, Geoffrey, when we get a ‘Spirit of Vatican II’ Pope – and we shall, we shall.” And we have, with rambling Pope Frank. And, as my old friend predicted, it has made many converts uneasy – they did not cross the Tiber through storms only to find on the other bank the issues they thought they had left behind; now they find it so, it is difficult – and one sympathises.
Our commentator, quiavideruntoculi writes amusing ditties in the style of Flanders and Swann and Tom Lehrer – and rather witty they are too; our old friend, Dave Smith, like others, worries that the modernists are packing the Synod to get the result they want – a view shared by some of our commentators; I worry for them if their fears are right. Our host, Chalcedon451, is adopting, if I read him aright, the old Oxford model of using history to comment on matters which too current and hot to comment on directly; that is the old Oxford Movement model and creates some distance between writer and subject, whilst still allowing useful things to be said. David Monier-Williams alone here is content to let things flow on.
They say when in doubt … don’t. It is hard, I think, to convert to what you thought to be the security of the rock and find yourself on a sandy beach after all. I hope and pray for my friends here that there is rock under the sand, and that, to use a phrase I know Jessica and Neo are fond of, that ‘all will be well, and all manner of things shall be well.’