lördag 7 juli 2007

Religion and stuff

For some reason I have been pondering religion and stuff lately. As a Catholic, I take it for granted, go to Mass on Sundays and sometimes during the week, and confession once a month, which makes it as much a part of my routine as going shopping and washing. It helps me make sense of life, keeps me out of the worst sort of mischief and gets me through the rocky passages that we encounter from time to time. But increasingly I find myself coming under attack, openly, or in an attitude of sniggering, or in a kind of coldness, because I hold to this position. So why do I stick with it?

I find the clergy mediocre on the whole, and the hierarchy, at least in England and Wales, unimpressive. And a lot of trouble has been caused by people acting, or claiming to act, in the church's name, to say nothing of recent scandals where people in authority have covered up.

On the other hand, there are plenty of front line clergy who do a first-rate job, often in difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances, having given up the opportunity to enjoy a well-paid job and comfortable life.

In the final analysis however, the quality of the clergy and the disreputable events in the history of the church are beside the point. It is the message that counts. I have no problem with that message, and it is important to distinguish between the teaching that is being put across and the, sometimes bad, teachers who are carriers of the message. One has to look behind the messengers and their own behaviour. This is difficult but has to be done.

In this respect it helps to be a Catholic as it possesses the authority given to Peter by Christ (Matthew 16)

'And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.'

Now I know that the meaning of this has been argued over for more than 1000 years, but to ascribe any other meaning to this text demands mental gymnastics, and for what?

If one does not hold to the authority of the magisterium of the church, then what authority do you go to? One cannot work these things out for oneself - there just is not enough time in an individual's lifetime. The Catholic church has built up a body of tradition over 2000 years during which time everything that could possibly be argued over has been debated and discussed to the minutest degree.

One consequence is that all the arguments have been thoroughly tested in all conceivable circumstances and the orthodox line can be relied upon. When at times it has seen unfashionably restrictive, events have had a habit of proving it right.

And so I regard the Catholic church as giving good guidance and helping me to maintain what is, I hope, a reasonably balanced view and understanding of the world and what goes on in it. The price is that I am told I cannot, or should do all sorts of things I would rather enjoy doing, which I think is what really puts most people off.

I make no apologies for posting a picture of the Pope as someone who is steadfast in maintaining what was entrusted to Peter in the event described in Matthew 18.

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