There’s been a lot here recently about worship and ecclesiology and Anglicanism, as well as, yesterday, a protest about faith illiteracy in the public square; it seems time to draw some of these threads together – here goes.
In Christ’s time … there were some who were so earnest about the washing of the chalice and the paten and the tithing of mint and anise and cummin that they neglected justice and mercy and faith.
We argue over liturgy, doctrine, ecclesiology, and we wonder why governments feel free to ignore us or treat us as marginal to society? The wonder is that we wonder? Have we not taken ourselves there?
That should not be taken to mean I do not think these things are not important – they are, but it does mean that we need to focus on the things Jesus said a lot about – and there’s not a lot (in my ‘red letter’ Bible) about liturgical practice. There is a lot about justice and mercy and helping what Jesus called the ‘poor’ and we would call the ‘marginalised’. It’s one reason I am quite keen on a church leader others here are very much not keen on – that’s the Pope.
Pope Francis seems to me to be trying to right the balance. The last Pope was very good on theology, liturgy and the like, his precedcessor was a great man in all sorts of ways, a real leader, but the balance seemed, when Francis became Pope, to be on matters which were of great concern to people in the Church, but of marginal concern to others. Pope Francis saw the need to re-emphasise Catholic social teaching and the many ways in which it impacts on the wider world – that is what Fratelli Tutti pulls together.
In some quarters, by which I mean parts of the American Church and the more conservative parts of Christianity, it has been taken as almost socialist. I wonder how many of the critics have bothered to inform themselves about Catholic Social Teaching? This, from Cardinal Nichols, stresses the need to put our faith ‘into action.’ The areas covered by this are listed here, and are: Human Dignity; Community and Participation; Care for Creation; Dignity in Work; Peace and Reconciliation and Solidarity. This is not an ideology or a third way between Marxism and Capitalism, it is, rather, a Christian way of viewing the world, informed by the values Christ and the Church teach us.
Pope Francis is building on work which began in modern times, with Rerum Novarum where Pope Leo XIII sought to bring a Catholic lens to analyse the various social ills of the age. There were twelve other encyclicals dealing with areas covered by Catholic Social Teaching before Pope Francis’ pontificate, so anyone supposing him to be some kind of Peronist really needs to be explaining how what he writes is out of line with the work of his predecessors.
Catholic social teaching, whilst best set out by the Roman Catholic Church (which as anyone would, I hope admit does this work of setting things out systematically best) is not unique to it. There has always been a radical social element to parts of Protestantism, and Anglo-Catholicism flourished in the slum parishes of industrial England with priests committed to living out their faith by ministering among the poor and the dispossessed, some of whom found in the beauty of their churches an antidote to the grim realities of life in industrial slums.
In the Church of England the best-known exponent of Catholic social teaching was William Temple, who was Archbishop of Canterbury for a tragically short time (1942-44). He was deeply committed to extending educational opportunity across society and to trying to reform the structures of society to ensure a fairer deal for those left behind in the race for prosperity.
Temple began from the place all Catholic Social Teaching has to begin, that it its origins. It originates not is some Marxist view of the world but, to quote Temple (The Faith and Modern Thought, 1910, p. 148 – thank you C451!!) in the belief that if Christ is the Incarnation of the Divine Word, that is ‘the principle by which God rules the whole of existence and thorugh which he made the world’ then we, as Christians, can never ‘be outside’ it.
What did that mean for Temple, and what might it mean to us? Religion, politics, art, science, education, commerce, finance and industry are all connected by being ‘agents of a single purpose’. (The Church Looks Forward, 1944, preface). That purpose is neither the end that the State may decree, nor the end that the individual might desire, it is neither social engineering, nor consumerism, it is ‘the divine purpose’ or, as Temple put it: ‘the coming down out of heaven of the holy city, the New Jerusalem.’
I owe this little-know fact to C451 – the first person to use the phrase ‘the Welfare State’ in modern British politics was William Temple. By that he meant a State which, in contrast to what he called the ‘power State’, in which the State coerced its citizens for ends it thought good, focussed on serving the needs of all its citizens, including those at the margins – especially those at the margins, as they were dear to Our Lord’s concerns.
Temple was a major contributor to the Beveridge Report which founded the Welfare State. He held, passionately, that out of the horrors of the Second World War had to come not the ‘home for heroes’ promised by Lloyd George, which turned into homes you needed to be a hero to inhabit (thank you for that one too, C451, I do listen!) , but a society where equality of opportunity should be offered. Temple did not believe you could ever get equality of outcome, he believed in original sin, but he did hold that if Christian teaching permeated society, it would be for the best – both for the Church and the State.
Somewhere along the line, we lost sight of that, and that’s one of the many reasons the State finds it so easy to ignore the Church. Pope Francis is simply the most prominent of those reminding us of the truth that if this is God’s world, then God’s Church needs to be active in it, and not just in church.
I am glad that our conversations are bearing fruit. Kent’s book, placing Temple in context, is on its way to you as your reward … or as part of something for Monday – you already have part one of the latter 😊
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I’m also a fan of Temple because he had good relations with Dissenters.
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He was, in my view, a very great as well as a very good man.
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You are just the BEST – and your “something” should have arrived for our joint day 😊 xx
Alys Williams said:
I am no theologian nor have any desire to be, neither am I an admirer of the current pope. Indeed, I do wonder why, if you are so enamoured that you do not become fully Catholic Jess.
Churches – and not just the C of E – were the main source of charity for the poor and dispossesed for a long time thoughout the communities of the UK with charity distributed at the parish level. My own children attended a voluntary aided infant/jumior school in the village where they grew up and indeed, there are still many such scattered around but the involvement of the church nowadays appears to be limited to a couple of services a year. Sad. As for the creation of the welfare state in its current bloated condition with its millions of dependents well, that was initiated not by the Beveridge Report but by Lloyd George’s 1909 so called People’s Budget. At what point must we say enough is enough when millions of people seem to think it their divine right to live off the largesse of the state and some of whom make a career of creaming off money that could be put to better use. Charity is all very well for those truly in need but there is little satisfaction to be gained by living a life which is wholly dependent on funds which originate, at least in part, from hard pressed tax payers. As for the NHS, well that monolith has taken the place of the church in the UK in no uncertain terms. I would be hesitant to say it should be abolished completely but it is in serious need of total reformation, the same with our increasingly inadequate education system. If what you are advocating is not socialism pure and simple I do not know what is. Socialism, to which the twentieth and the early part of this century will bear witness, is never a good idea, far better to encorage people to be resilient and self reliant than allow them to turn to become dependent on the dead hand of the state.
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I agree that we are in a very big mess in this country and fear for our survival if the Labour Party should ever gain power again.
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I am no politician, but I fear for our survival with this lot in power, as they will be for 4 more years. I will worry about the alternatives if we all make it to the next election.
It seems to me that all political parties have lost sight of the common good, and I trust none of them. I could not vote for the Conservatives because of Brexit, or Labour because of the communist in charge of it. I voted Green as a protest vote, but to be honest, have no faith in any of them.
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I know how you feel to some extent, though our politics are not identical. I am a Romantic and conservative politically and legally and nationalistically so, which is why I still harbour some affection for the Church of England.
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I don’t know whether you read any of the links, Aly’s, if you did, I am surprised at your comments, as they show pretty clearly how Catholic social teaching is based teachings of Jesus, who said a great deal about our duty to help the poor and the marginalised, scandalising in the process those who did not think it was the job of a teacher to sit down with sinners.
On the welfare state, I will leave that to C451, but all the 1911 budget did was to establish national insurance as a principle to provide for old age pensions. No private charity could do that, and I cannot see that being against God’s word.
Temple was the first one it use the phrase, and he was, as I am, a committed and life long Anglican, and there is nothing political in any of this.
Again, if you read any of the papal encyclicals, I can’t see anything Francis says that is not in line, nor, to be honest, any reason why agreeing with him should mean I should go to Rome.
I am a Catholic in the Anglican tradition, and I’ll remain one, God willing.
Yes, the NHS, like so much else, needs reforming, but I doubt anyone would be voted in if they suggested the US system. I prefer the German model, of which, via my family, I have some experience. But the ideas of Mrs Thatcher have had their day. There is such a thing as society, and we are currently suffering from the excess of individualism she unleashed.
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