Position Papers – June/July 2020

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June/July 2020 Issue 540 €3· £2.50· $4

Preparing for the post-Covid19 Church D. VINCENT TWOMEY SVD

The voice of the Good Shepherd BISHOP ALPHONSUS CULLINAN

Books: Is Europe Christian? JAMES BRADSHAW

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Editorial 2 by Rev. Gavan Jennings In Passing: The Great Challenge of our Time 3 by Michael Kirke The voice of the Good Shepherd 7 by Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan Preparing for the post-Covid19 Church 10 by D. Vincent Twomey SVD Three lessons about the Church 14 by Bishop Robert Barron Learning from Church History 17 by Tim O’Sullivan At home with the Blessed Trinity 20 by Rev. Donncha Ó hAodha Books: Normal People 24 By Margaret Hickey Books: Western Culture Today and Tomorrow 28 by Carson Holloway Books: Is Europe Christian? 33 by James Bradshaw Films: Trolls World Tour 39 by John Mulderig


Rev. Gavan Jennings

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Michael Kirke, Pat Hanratty, Brenda McGann

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he end of the long Covid19 lockdown appears to be in sight and most of us are making plans for when full freedom of movement is finally restored. It would be a lost opportunity if we were to return to “business as usual” with nothing learnt from these three unique months of our lives. The pandemic has caused for some the greatest of moral and physical sufferings, for others immense workloads and financial reverses, and for all at least significant upset to personal plans. And yet it has also brought blessings with it: the recognition of the importance of time spent with family, delight in simpler forms of entertainment, time for deep study and reflection, the discovery of the feasibility of working from home, etc. Perhaps we should see the providential design of God at work in all this; has not God been teaching us lessons which could never have been learnt outside of such an extraordinary scenario? Briefly our lives have emerged from a frenzy well identified by Josef Pieper: The more the absolute claim of the merely utilitarian threatens to coat all of existence with a film, the more man needs every once in a while, for the sake of a truly human life, this chance to be able to emerge from the frenzy of sights and sounds (buy this, drink that, eat this, amuse yourself here, demonstrate for or against) that incessantly cries out to him and to step into a space in which silence reigns and thus true listening becomes possible, listening to the reality on which our existence is based and by which it is constantly nourished and renewed (Problems of Modern Faith). The word frenzy goes back to the Latin phreneticus “delirious”. It is an apt description of the kind of madness manifested in a craving for the incessant stimulation of new products and new experiences. For a while divine providence has done us the great favour of halting our merry-goround, allowing us to glimpse the possibility of an interior life: A change! You say you need a change!... opening your eyes wide so as to take in better the images of things, or almost closing them because you are short-sighted. Close them altogether! Have interior life, and you will see, in undreamt-of colour and relief, the wonders of a better world, of a new world: and you will draw close to God ..., and know your weakness ..., and be deified ... with a deification which, by bringing you nearer to your Father, will make you more a brother of your fellow-men (St Josemaria Escriva, The Way, 283). 2


In Passing: The Great Challenge of our Time by Michael Kirke


recently watched a conversation between Richard Dawkins and the redoubtable Cardinal George Pell. As you might expect, given that dramatis personae, it revolved around the “God question”. It was not a recent encounter. It dated back about a decade or so, but already within it there were signals of what was to come in terms of the unjust persecution of George Pell which was to unfold over the years since then. It was hosted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The abysmal dereliction of ABC’s media responsibilities in the saga of that prosecution could already be sensed in the uneven-handed role of their chosen moderator for this encounter. That, however, is a topic for another time.

our existence mean. The protagonists in that little drama represented in a real way the two choices which mankind as a whole is faced with – that of choosing between the two paths on offer to us in our passage through this world – revealing the hopeless and tragic nature of one as opposed to the hopeful and joy-filled prospect opened up by the other.

The contrast between the two men was striking indeed. The easily agitated Dawkins, while not quite his usual arrogant self, but bordering on it, did not seem as comfortable in his skin as the calm and assured Pell. The latter was unruffled and quietly confident with his vision of the divine and the divinely balanced harmony of the natural and Just now what is of interest is the supernatural worlds. His vision was discussion itself between these two grounded in his grasp of that one and the the lights which it throws thing which Dawkins found on our world, our faith and the incomprehensible – that there might enduring struggles of our race to see be, paraphrasing Hamlet, more and understand what our lives and things in heaven and earth than are 3


dreamt of in his philosophy. Any man for whom Aristotelian metaphysics is little more than gobbledygook is a man lost at sea in the world occupied by a man like George Pell.

itself. As Guardini put it,

Christ, by his incarnation, was the like of which had never been seen before – he was, is, “the beginning” of something utterly new and as such made an astounding demand on those who would choose to follow him. It was a choice to be made in full freedom but a freedom which if exercised wrongly, deprived the denier of all access to the Truth

declares on him a war the like of which is unknown. Perhaps the only clearly defined lesson of history is to the effect that this cleavage becomes more and more pronounced. More and more obviously the world is becoming divided into those who believe in Christ and those who find him a scandal. (The Humanity of Christ, pp 125-6).

The possibility that people would be scandalised by him was part of his nature, for the very reason that he is the beginning. He expected men to give up the certainties of this world It can only be with sadness that we and risk everything for his sake. If a contemplate the limited vision of man was able to accept these terms, our fellow men and women of then the new relationship of grace whom Dawkins is a type. He is the and of faith emerged and a new life type of the “scandalised” man began. But if the man shut up his explained to us by Romano heart and refused, then he rebelled Guardini in his book, The Humanity against the notion that Christ was of Christ, when he speaks to us of the expecting this of him; and this tragedy of the “antithesis of faith”. constitutes being scandalised. He recalls the words of Christ when Faith or scandal: these are the only he responded to John the Baptist’s real attitudes caused in man by question addressed to him through Christ. Faith sees him as the his disciples, “Art thou he that is to beginning and takes its stance there. come that is to come, or look we for It is prepared to think and live as another?” At the end of his answer to from Christ, to submit to his the Baptist, Christ adds, “And judgement and appeal to his grace. blessed is he that shall not be Scandal affirms that he is the enemy scandalised in me” (Mat. 11. 3, 6). of life, the world’s adversary, and



This is the tragedy – and the challenge – of our time. It is not new. It is indeed both triumph and tragedy, just as the events on Golgotha two thousand years ago were, and still are, both triumph and tragedy. Similarly, the story of each man’s salvation or otherwise is triumph or tragedy, every day. And for each man and woman seeking salvation herein lies the challenge, a challenge which was playing out before our eyes as George Pell sought to dialogue with Richard Dawkins in that hostile television studio ten years ago. It is also the challenge foreseen by Karl Adam when he wrote in his book “The Son of God”, many decades ago, of the immense danger facing European Christians of his time. Then, he said, – and the danger is even more acute in our time – “not only individual thinkers but thought itself has consciously turned from God and become atheistical; and this is even true of Christian thought in Europe. All our thoughts and opinions move in ruts which only have a meaning on purely naturalistic presuppositions, in as much as they are deliberately and on principle limited to sensual experience.” G. K. Chesterton, he

recalled, said, “The natural can be the most unnatural of all things to a man.” A vision of the world, the great apologist was arguing, which deliberately confines itself to natural occurrences is actually unnatural, for it takes the smallest section of reality to be the whole reality, and ignores or denies the ultimate roots of this reality, its profoundest relations, its connection with the invisible, the super-terrestrial, the divine. Adam described how our thought is now divorced from the totality of being, from the wealth of all the possibilities, since it has isolated itself from the creative thought of God. Modern man, in his view, in breaking away from faith, thought he could emancipate all human thought from the creative thought of God; he artificially mapped out a particular field of reality and called it Nature, encouraging “the evil illusion” that the other reality, the supernatural, was a more or less secondary reality – or worse, a delusion. The consequence was that nature was secularised by being released from its actual union with the supernatural, and the fiction was favoured that Nature was a thing per 5


se capable of complete independent explanation.


The way out of our impasse, he maintained was to again take seriously the truth that the possibilities of modern man do not exhaust God’s possibilities, and that our thought is conditioned and bounded in time and therefore in no sense comparable with the absolute thought of God. To do this we must again become little before God and abandon our arrogant autonomy and autocracy, our narrow-minded rationalism and “sickly enlightenment”. He wrote that we must again return to ourselves, to our true nature, to the child in us. “Never in the whole history of the West was the word of Jesus so full of significance, so charged with fate as it is today, that word which he spoke to his own disciples: Unless you … become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3)

modern man is at core of the heartbreaking tragedy unfolding itself in the lives of Richard Dawkins and all campaigning atheists and their fellow travellers. It is as a virus in the soul, more deadly than any in the physiological order, deadly for us as persons and deadly for our civilisation which has never looked more decadent than it does today. This scandalising and blinding virus calls for a response from all those with the vision of truth which Cardinal George Pell, by the grace of God, has. They also can do as he does: calmly, and with clarity and affection, try to bring them to a vision of the truth – but all the time realising also that in this endeavour, without the grace of God accompanying them, all the words in the world are as so much hot air. For those now living among the fragments of what we call Western Civilisation, this is the great challenge of our time.

And this huge gap in the vision of ...the author Michael Kirke is a freelance writer, a regular contributor to Position Papers, and a widely read blogger at Garvan Hill (www.garvan.wordpress.com). His views can be responded to at mjgkirke@gmail.com 6


The voice of the Good Shepherd by Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan


e don’t have shepherds as such in Ireland any more. We do of course, thank God, have sheep farmers but we do not have shepherds now as in some countries where the shepherd spends day and night with the sheep outdoors.

and had specific whistle calls to get them to move on, go right, go left, stop, etc.

Permit me to be a little personal for a minute. You see this Gospel about the Good Shepherd I just read reminds me of a homily preached by a friend of mine some seventeen years ago.

Once when they were grazing Ragheed tried to get the sheep to move by mimicking the whistle call of the shepherd, but they didn’t budge. They knew it was not their shepherd’s call. At night the sheep went into a fold made of wood or stone or branches and the shepherd would sleep at the entrance or gate, to protect them, literally lying across the entrance.

His name was Ragheed Ganni – a priest from Iraq. We were students together in Rome. Ragheed was joyful, clever, hard-working and he spoke several languages, including a few words of Irish. During his homily that day in Rome he told the story of how he had spent a day with a shepherd in pasturing sheep in the countryside in his native Northern Iraq around the city of Mosul. He watched him tend his flock, he had a name for each sheep

Ragheed learnt a lot that day about caring for sheep. It was a lesson he was to live out in a dramatic way. Because just like Jesus Christ, Ragheed Ganni was to give his life for his flock. When the unfortunate invasion of Iraq took place in 2003, Rahgeed was faced with a choice – would he stay in Rome or go back to his own country with all its danger. What was God saying to him? That was what he asked himself. 7


Father Ragheed’s decision was: “Iraq is where I belong. It is my place”

willing to give it all up for him? Do I listen to his voice and follow him as he desires?

He returned to Iraq, he lived among his people, he celebrated the sacraments, he consoled families, and remained in spite of the danger. I sent him Mass stipends. He sent me photos of his bombed out church. He said, “Without their pastor the flock would be lost”.

Jesus loves us, you and me. He is not looking at our sins and condemning us. He is loving us. He sees that you and I can do great things. We can change ourselves and then change the world. Is this not obvious that he loves us from looking at the cross?

On 3rd June 2007, Pentecost Sunday in his parish church he gave the Body and Blood of Christ to his people and then gave his blood for his flock. After Mass several Islamist extremist gunmen were waiting for him and three deacons of the parish and all were killed. I hasten to add these extremists do not represent all Muslims. Ragheed is a hero for me, an example, an inspiration. We all need heroes. He in turn was inspired by Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd. Ragheed knew Jesus. Jesus knew him. Jesus asked him to live his vocation of priesthood in a particular way.

Look at your finger tip. The print of those circles on your finger are unique to you. Isn’t that amazing – that each one of us is unique to God, who is head over heels in love, who wants us to be close to Him, to love Him and others as ourselves. And to do great things for which we do not have to go to the ends of the earth but live His will at home, with our families, right where we live, at work, etc. That is the call for all of us. To be good, to be holy and to tell others about him. To allow the Holy Spirit to take over our lives.

Within that general call – there is a particular call for each person – marriage, the single life, religious life or the priesthood. To give it Jesus knows each one of us by 100%. This Sunday we concentrate name. He is calling us. He is on vocations to the priesthood. calling you to be great – to lose God is calling men to the your life to him, to trust him. And priesthood. Are we listening? Can I ask myself – do I trust him? Am I we hear the voice of the Good 8


Shepherd who knows us each by name, who knows where we will find a safe place, green pasture, refreshment, love, joy, peace. And who wants us to serve God’s people. It can be difficult to hear God’s voice. We can listen to other voices too. Sure. Voices from all sorts of sources. The culture around us today is shouting at us, “You can do anything you like and be happy. Seek pleasure, power, success”…Do you really believe that? Jesus warns us about bad shepherds who will destroy the flock and run away. They don’t care about people. So out of all the voices . .. can we listen to the right one? The voice of the Shepherd who truly loves us. Maybe in this pandemic we are discovering what really matters. Remember – Someone died for you and me. Did he die in vain? Is God asking some of you men listening to me now to follow Jesus in priesthood? He is looking for men to follow

him – to rescue his people, to shepherd his people, so many of whom are downcast, lonely, lost in lives of drugs, in messed-up relationships, lost without purpose. Who will tell them where to find healing and peace and mercy and love and joy? Will you? As a bishop I can tell you priesthood is great, not easy. Oh no, often tough, but great. If you want an easy life…. what good is that! Many of my heroes in life were, and are priests. Jesus wants to act through priests – first to listen, then to follow Him: to preach the Word of God, to gather his people, to celebrate the sacraments, to offer sacrifice, to teach, to serve – to love with all your heart. And in that way to show God’s people God’s, real mercy and love and truth. I ask the Holy Spirit to give me the courage to follow Him, to give everything and not hold anything back and I ask the same for you. And may Father Ragheed who gave everything, pray for us.

...the author Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan is Bishop of Waterford & Lismore. This is the text of a homily given by Bishop Cullinan on Vocations Sunday, 2020. 9


Preparing for the post-Covid19 Church by D. Vincent Twomey SVD

This is part of the text of an online talk given by Prof Twomey to a group of priests in May, 2020.


y means of the coronavirus pandemic, God has granted us clerics above all a time of rest, a time to reflect, a time to enjoy the silence, to see it as an opportunity to have more time for the Lord, but also a time for some real re-creation in mind, spirit and body. But also, He has given us an opportunity to ponder on how best we as clerics can respond to the situation after the pandemic is no longer such an immediate threat – something, admittedly, that may be months or even years ahead – but it will still be a situation marked by considerable psychological, economic and other fallout. In a word, we must ask ourselves, how 10

can we engender hope, a hope that is not deceptive, namely a hope that only God can grant. The long-term question is: how should we best respond to the newly awakened sense of God, of the fragility of life, of the anxiety about the future, engendered by the deadly virus. How should we best respond to the reawakened outpouring of humanitas we witness every day, to the apparent adjustment that seems to be under way re one’s priorities re family, work, ambition and recreation. But also, how can we best respond to what seems to be a new awareness of the need to pray, to repent, to worship in


private and in a congregation. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, it is said, but also fonder for God – while the enforced “eucharistic fast” has for many people deepened their hunger for the Bread of Life.

opportunity to sit back and reflect and see what can we do to respond to the huge challenges – better, the great opportunities – which the present crisis offers us to draw people closer to God, to discover the source of all joy: the encounter with our Crucified and But also, in the face of what seems Risen Lord. All I can offer at this to be a very uncertain future, and stage are pointers: the possible occurrence of a second wave of the coronavirus 1) We can best respond, if we even more deadly than this one, ourselves are mentally how can we help the faithful face prepared though prayer to a depression that might far and study and recreation. exceed the Great Depression of With regard to study, I the 1930s? In a word, how can we would suggest taking one engender hope? Or better, how of the Gospels and can we help people rediscover meditating on it verse for authentic Hope, that divine verse – but also using a virtue which is needed to face the commentary, such as one future? Fr Michael Mullins’s fine commentaries. Listening The immediate question to be to His Word and asked at this stage is: what should encountering his Real priests do when the enforced presence in adoration is isolation and lockdown is the first step. gradually relaxed and more leeway be given to the celebration 2) I think that real thought of the sacraments? There is a must be given as to how to danger that a real time of deal sensitively, but opportunity created by the Covid prudently with the huge 19 pandemic might be lost demand for Masses for the through our being unprepared. dead after restrictions have Priests will, for example, be swept been lifted in addition to away by the demand for Masses Baptisms, First Holy for those who died during the Communions, visits to lockdown. God is giving us an sick, etc. Here, it seems to 11


me, priests must know the limits of their time and energy – and the faithful must respect these limits, which they will, if they are properly informed. 3) Each priest must decide how he is going to respond in a creative way that goes beyond the customary priestly duties. This, I suggest, he can best do by allowing himself be stimulated by good theology. Two works I would suggest are Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Spe Salvi and his trilogy, Jesus of Nazareth, but also by reading up on what is happening in other countries at the pastoral level. 4) The future will call for creative initiatives, not just solo-runs but as team efforts, with fellow clerics at the deanery or diocesan level and with dedicated and trained laity at parish level. Here the focus should be on training laity to undertake pastoral and evangelising initiatives. This may demand a radically new mindset that 12

will allow the laity real leeway for their own creativity. 5) Among the initiatives, I would suggest above all a greater emphasis on thanksgiving and festivity. Indeed, this should be the main emphasis: May Devotions, Advent Devotions, Pattern Days, walking pilgrimages to Holy Wells and ancient sacred sites as well as to the Cathedral. The celebration of the Liturgy – all the Sacraments – has to become truly celebratory as befits their sacred solemnity, with the emphasis on beauty, fine choral singing, etc. More thought might be given to creating an annual major festival for one’s own parish – the patronal feast perhaps – that would not be confined to Church ceremonies but would spill over into a street festival or a family feast that would include sport, games, music, dancing, food and drink. 6) Some consideration of how to reach out to those


who had drifted away from – or even consciously turned their backs on – Church practice but have been “brought to their knees” – to quote a young woman I was told about – by the present pandemic. How about training young parishioners to go from door to door (like the politicians when they are canvassing for election) to welcome people to Sunday Mass or to a special Devotion? Another suggestion I read about in a German Catholic newspaper was setting up stands in the local supermarket to hand-out information about the faith, prayer cards, bottles of holy water, etc. I think that we must become more aggressively missionary – as Pope Francis and his predecessors have constantly urged us to do,

namely engage in reevangelisation. I am impressed by what is being done here by such movements as NET Ministries, Focolare, Communion and Liberation, the Maryvale Course in the New Catechism, and the Grandparents Association. 7) The cocooning of families could be an opportunity to develop more what Vatican II calls the domestic Church, with the emphasis on family prayers, including the Rosary or other prayers, and setting up shines at home with the Crucifix or Icon or other sacred image plus a lighted candle, with the emphasis on the father as the one who should take the lead, as St Joseph presumably did in the Holy Family.

...the author Fr. D. Vincent Twomey, S.V.D. holds a Ph.D. in Theology and is Professor Emeritus of Moral Theology at the Pontifical University of St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, Ireland. A former doctoral student under Joseph Ratzinger, Twomey is the author of several books, including The End of Irish Catholicism?, Pope Benedict XVI: The Conscience of Our Age (A Theological Portrait), and Moral Theology after Humanae Vitae. 13


Three lessons about the Church by Bishop Robert Barron


ne silver lining for me during this weird coronavirus shutdown has been the opportunity to return to some writing projects that I had left on the back-burner. One of these is a book on the Nicene Creed, which I had commenced many months ago and on which I was making only very slow progress, given my various pastoral and administrative responsibilities. The last several weeks, I have been working in a rather concentrated way on the Creed book, and I find myself currently in the midst of the section on the Church: “I believe in one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church.” I will confess that the peculiar way that we have been forced to express the life of the Church during this quarantine period has influenced my 14

ecclesiological reflection. A first insight is this: we are an intensely, inescapably Eucharistic church. One of the most difficult moments that I’ve had as a bishop was participating in the decision to close our churches and to shut down the celebration of Mass with a community. Mind you, it was the right decision. I emphatically disagree with those who argue that the bishops caved in to the pressure of the secular state in making this determination. That’s nonsense. There are some very real tensions between Church and state and sometimes we have to make a stand – a good example being our vigorous opposition here in California to the legislature’s attempt to violate the seal of confession. But this is not one of


those cases. Instead, we bishops agreed with the secular authorities that the churches should be closed, precisely for the well-being of our people. Having said that, the suspension of public Mass has been painful for everyone – and the principal reason for that pain is the forced fasting from the Eucharist. Sensing this, innumerable priests and bishops all over the country – indeed, around the world – commenced to live-stream or film the liturgy, broadcasting it over Facebook, YouTube, or on television. The reaction to these representations of the Mass has been overwhelming. To give just one example, at Word on Fire, we started filming daily Mass on St Patrick’s Day, and we’ve continued to the present, acquiring in the process well over five million views from over two hundred countries. Some priests have, furthermore, processed through the quiet streets with the Blessed Sacrament, while Catholics look on from their homes; others have placed the monstrance with the consecrated host in the windows of their residences and rectories so that people can venerate the Sacrament as they walk or drive by. And wasn’t the whole Catholic world fascinated by Pope Francis, standing in the rain and facing an

empty St Peter’s Square, as he blessed us, via television and social media, with the Eucharist? To be sure, none of these mitigated encounters with the Eucharistic Lord is a substitute for the real thing – and that’s the point. The abstention from the Eucharist – which began, fittingly enough, during Lent – has awakened a profound hunger for what Vatican II called “the source and summit of the Christian life.” Perhaps too many Catholics had grown indifferent to the Blessed Sacrament, even, as a recent Pew Forum study indicated, ignorant of its deepest significance; and perhaps this forced starvation will have a salutary effect. A second ecclesiological insight is this: priests are in an intensely symbiotic relationship with their people. Everyone knows that priests have been passing through a difficult period, practically without precedent in the history of the Church. The scandals of the past twenty-five years, culminating in the McCarrick outrage, have soured many against priests and have made priests extremely vulnerable to the charge of clericalism. Without denying for a moment that these reactions and impressions are, to a degree, legitimate, I want to insist once 15


again that the vast, vast majority of priests are decent, prayerful men, who want nothing more than to bring Christ to their people. And this coronavirus quarantine has powerfully confirmed this for me. During the course of the shutdown, I have personally reached out by phone or by Skype or Zoom to all the priests of my region. Like everybody else, they’re a little antsy and bored, and their routines have been interrupted. But time and again, they tell me that their greatest frustration is not being able to have steady contact with their people. Priests indeed bring Christ to their parishioners through preaching, presence, and sacrament, but the people also give life to the priests, sustaining them with prayer and friendship. Keeping the people away from their priests is just bad for both people and priests, for they are, in the Mystical Body, ordered toward one another.

Catholic sensibility is the conviction that God became flesh in Jesus Christ. And Catholicism teaches that the presence of the risen Jesus is made known through words to be sure, but also through physical signs – water, oil, bread, wine, etc. – delivered by human hands and accompanied by bodily gestures. At the liturgy, we are meant to come together in close proximity so that we can pray in unison, sing in unison, process together, embrace one another, gesture in harmony with each other. In all of this, the incarnational quality of the Church becomes concretely expressed. And this is what has made the last six weeks so particularly difficult for Catholics. Our faith is not primarily an internal business, something negotiated between the individual and the invisible Lord. Rather, it shows up physically and publicly, through bodies. Once again, I would hope that our fasting from A third and final insight is that the togetherness will heighten our Church is stubbornly appreciation for this incarnational incarnational. At the heart of the density of our faith. ...the author This article first appeared at: www.wordonfire.org. Bishop Robert Barron is an author, speaker, theologian, and founder of Word on Fire, a global media ministry. This article has been reprinted with the kind permission of the editors. 16


Learning from Church History by Tim O’Sullivan


he coronavirus pandemic, with its various restrictions, has had some positive results, like the visible growth in family groups sharing together in little walks or cycles. In my own case, it prompted some reading that I might not otherwise have undertaken. Perhaps it was a sense of being in uncharted waters that directed me towards the history of the Church. A Popular History of the Catholic Church, by Msgr. Philip Hughes (Universe Books, 1958) was a well-known publication several decades ago but had slumbered peacefully on my bookshelf for many a year until it was suddenly called into action during the lockdown!

Much more recent histories have been mentioned in these pages, including the publications of Diane Moczar, but the Hughes book was my port in a storm. I must acknowledge that I am by no means an expert on Church history and that my working assumption, before reading the book, was that there had been various Golden Ages in Church history, interspersed with moments of great crisis. A somewhat surprising lesson I drew from this book, however, is that the barque of Peter seems almost always to have been in rocky waters over these last two millenia. The Church has faced an apparently never-ending series of crises, from the heresies of the 17


early centuries, like the hugely influential Arian movement, to the divisions between Latins and Byzantines, to the Reformation, to the arrogance of absolutist kings, to the deep traumas following on the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, and to contemporary challenges associated with Nazism, Communism and secularism.

here to the work of St Thomas Aquinas and to his integration of the writings of Aristotle into Catholic thinking. But even in this chapter, one also encounters great crises, such as the conflict between the Pope and the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, the Cathar movement in France and the “fiasco of the Second Crusade” in the twelfth century.

Of course there have also been many periods of great construction and development like the modern missionary movement or the building of the wonderful medieval Cathedrals. Msgr Hughes devotes a chapter to “Christendom Triumphant in the West” (from 1123 to 1270). This was a period, he writes, of a renewed reverence for marriage, its indissolubility and its sanctity – a reverence which had grown in response to huge challenges for marriage in the previous era.

The author also shows how God can bring good out of evil. Although the French Revolution after 1789 was in many ways a disaster for the Church and produced many martyrs, one of its effects was “to destroy forever the unquestioned reign of absolutism” (p. 202). In the period before the Revolution, the absolutist kings had been greatly limiting the freedom of the Church and had moved, example, to suppress the Jesuits in various countries.

This period also saw a multiplication of new parishes, abbeys and cathedrals such as Notre Dame, the work of the Cistercians, and of the Norbertine Friars, the development of hospitals, orphanages and leperhouses and the emergence of the Dominicans and Franciscans. The author devotes some attention

As the US philosopher Russell Hittinger has noted, the French Revolution’s radically new claims for the State also obliged the Church to develop its thinking on what came to be called the principle of subsidiarity, which highlighted the claims of nonState bodies, including Church organizations, in opposition to



the excessive claims of the State. Msgr. Hughes’s book also highlights the importance of the Pope across the ages – or certainly of the many good Popes – as a centre of unity and an instigator of reform. He highlights, for example, the substantial contribution of Leo XIII, whose encyclical Rerum Novarum, on the situation of the workingclasses, “is the foundation of all that Catholic action in social matters which had been increasingly, since 1891, the characteristic of twentieth century Catholicism” (p. 237). This encyclical represented a decisive break with any nostalgic looking back to preRevolutionary regimes. The French Jesuit, Joseph Joblin, has suggested, for example, that Rerum Novarum had a liberating role in France and elsewhere because it detached social Catholicism from the memory of past political models and allowed it to put down roots in the democratic system.

When Leo became Pope in 1878, the Papal States in central Italy had already disappeared and the Papacy seemed to be in terminal decline but, in losing temporal power and influence, the Church and the Pope paradoxically acquired a new freedom to speak beyond governments and monarchies to the mass of the people. Clearly, the Church faces enormous challenges in our own era, including the recent huge decline in religious practice across Western Europe. No one should underestimate these challenges or adopt a passive attitude towards them. Reading Church history nevertheless increases one’s awareness that the Church has always been facing waves of great change, such as those that will certainly be faced in the postCovid world, and this nourishes a certain sense of serenity. It strengthens one’s faith, in other words, in the promise of Jesus: “I am with you always, yes, to the end of time” (Mt. 28:20).

...the author Tim O’Sullivan has degrees in history and social policy and completed a PhD on the principle of subsidiarity. He is a regular contributor to Position Papers. 19


At home with the Blessed Trinity by Rev. Donncha Ó hAodha

At home in the Faith There is perhaps a danger we might consider the Blessed Trinity to be such a vast and sublime mystery that we would fail to engage with it to our fullest. While the reality of the triune God is of course well beyond our understanding, it is however natural for us to delve into this mystery to the best of our ability and to savour its richness. In fact it might be said that the Blessed Trinity is our true “home”, the place where we belong and find our ultimate rest. The Trinity can be seen as “home” from different perspectives.

Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the hierarchy of the truths of faith. The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 234).

The mysteries of the Incarnation Firstly this mystery is the “home” and the Redemption, of the Church of all other mysteries of the Faith. and the sacraments, of the origin “The mystery of the Most Holy and end of Creation all have their 20


source “at home”, in the Trinity. At home with our identity Being made in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:27) means being made in the image of the Blessed Trinity. Every human person bears the image of the Trinity in his or her very being. St Augustine gave expression to the so-called “psychological analogy”. God knows himself perfectly and this knowledge is the second divine Person, the eternal Word. God loves himself perfectly and this love is the third Person, the Holy Spirit. In the human person the faculties of intellect (knowing), and will (loving), mirror the divine Persons in the one God. In his very being each human person reflects the Trinity in whose image and likeness he or she is made, while the Trinity is the “home” of the true understanding of human identity. The social nature of human beings, our need to be loved and to love, and the desire to communicate and socialise are also a reflection of life “at home” in the communion of love which is the Trinity. God is eternal love and communication between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Moreover through the

Incarnation of the second divine Person, we too share in that life and love of God one and three. The human person needs family and the Blessed Trinity is the original family (cf. Eph 3:14). In these unusual times we are urged to practice “social distancing” precisely because “we are in this together”. The fundamentally relational nature of each human being is a reflection of life “at home” in the God who “is one but not solitary” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 254). At home with our family It could be said that our gateway into the Trinity is Jesus Christ, true God and true man. As the “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” leads us to the Father by the Holy Spirit (1 Tim 2:5). In Christ we are daughters and sons of the Father, who we can truly address God as Father. This we do by the working of the Holy Spirit as St Paul teaches: “When we cry ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:16). The term “Abba” is one of untold confidence and intimacy. The Aramaic for father was ab, to which little ones tended to add “a” much as their 21


counterparts now add “y” to intimately united family which is Mam and Dad in English. the Church, the mystical Body of Christ. “For all who are in Christ, Through and in Christ we are having His Spirit, form one made truly “partakers of the Church and cleave together in divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4) and Him” (Lumen Gentium 49). interlocutors with God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The What is the Church then if not a Christian life is a matter of participation in the life of the coming to know and love the Trinity? Indeed as the Second divine Persons with their unique Vatican Council states, citing personalities, through the words of St Cyprian of Carthage sacraments, prayer, and (+258), “the Church has been contemplation in daily life and seen as a people made one with ordinary work. In his homily the unity of the Father, the Son “Towards Holiness”, St Josemaría and the Holy Spirit” (Lumen speaks of the dynamism of Gentium 4). The communion of Christian prayer in these terms: the Church is not just a symbol or “Our heart needs to distinguish a reflection of Trinitarian and adore each one of the divine communion, but rather its Persons. The soul is, as it were, presence here and now. For the making a discovery in the baptised, the Church is mother supernatural life, like a child and home, and this home is a opening his eyes to the world sharing in the ultimate home about him. The soul spends time which is God; Father, Son and lovingly with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Son and the Holy Spirit, and readily submits to the work of the The Liturgy describes the life-giving Paraclete, who gives Trinitarian nature of the Church himself to us with no merit on in Preface VIII of the Sundays in our part, bestowing his gifts and Ordinary Time. Here the Church the supernatural virtues” (Friends at prayer addresses God the Father: of God 306). At home in the Church We participate in the Trinity not only as individuals but also as an 22

“For when your children were scattered afar by sin, through the Blood of your Son and the power of the



came to us by becoming man at the Incarnation, and the mission you gathered them again to of the Spirit at Pentecost and yourself, continuously now, are made present and as it were constitute that a people, formed as the life of the Church. one by the unity of the Trinity, The apostolic or evangelising activity of the Church and of each made the body of Christ member of the faithful is nothing and the temple of the Holy other than the continuation Spirit, through history of the mission of might, to the praise of your the Son and the Holy Spirit. The “home” from which we apostles manifold wisdom, are sent and to which we return, be manifest as the Church.” hopefully in the company of many others, is the holy Trinity. Inviting everyone home Indeed the Trinity is the home The evangelising mission of the from which we all come and to Church is nothing other than the which we are all called to return, invitation to all people to come when Christ will restore all to the and share in the life of the Trinity. Father, by the working of the As the Council teaches: “The Holy Spirit, when “God may be pilgrim Church is missionary by everything to everyone” (1 Cor her very nature, since it is from 15:28). the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit that The Blessed Trinity. Not an she draws her origin, in abstraction, but home to our accordance with the decree of identity, our family, our destiny. God the Father” (Ad Gentes 2). The mission of the Son, who Home sweet home. ...the author Rev. Donncha Ó hAodha is the Regional Vicar of the Opus Dei Prelature in Ireland, author of several CTS booklets and a regular contributor to Position Papers. 23


Books: Normal People by Margaret Hickey


ormal People, the serialisation of the book by Sally Rooney, is billed as the great lockdown escape that has galvanised the country. According to RTE, that is scarcely open to argument and indeed many TV critics have gone along with the creators” own assessment. According to the hype, it is a beautifully told, “coming of age” story about young love. The production and acting are as good as the compelling story deserves, apparently. No mention of dialogue however, which goes to show even starry-eyed delusionists can't find anything positive to say about that. The dialogue is terse and truncated right across the cast of characters and probably most strikingly in the male lead, the unlikely literature scholar, Connell. The absurd thing about 24

Author: Sally Rooney Pages: 266 Genre: Novel

this production is its claim to artistic merit, but it does raise interesting issues about contemporary sex culture. In many ways it could be described as a coming of age drama about the sexual revolution rather than of a couple of young but life weary lovers. There are no stars in their eyes, just insecurity, hesitancy, vulnerability and of course the ebbs and flows of lust and estrangement. These qualities are not evenly divided between the pair. It is Marianne, the female lead who reflects most emotion. It is clear throughout that she is the more emotionally engaged and the needier one of the pair. He controls the relationship. He was the popular, sporty, bright lad she became besotted with at school. Unlike him, she was not


“cool” and it did not help that his mother was “the help” in her house. He insisted they keep their liaison secret. Hanging out together alone was out. She accepted his demeaning terms without demur but was devastated when he asked someone else to their graduation dance.

direct question – using a word usually spelt with several asterisks. Marianne blurts out that yes they are “together”. When the other student asks if they are an actual couple and Marianne repeats “couple” with some unease, the other girl asks if they would include her in a threesome then. Connell twitches and it is left to Marianne to bat away the suggestion, after apologising to Connell for giving away their secret. She tells the girl that she would be uncomfortable because she basically finds herself “unappealing”. Later she tells Connell she would have gone ahead with the proposal if she thought he wanted it. He upbraids her by saying she should never do anything she was uncomfortable with. Sexual consent is never far from Connell’s mind. The author uses him at every opportunity to make a teaching point.

They drift apart and into new affairs over the ensuing summer but re-connect and quickly hook up again as college freshers in Dublin. Connell seems to be hot property on campus as well. When Marianne asks him about a particular girl she has seen him with, he tells her it is only “casual'. She says that was the word the girl used to describe the relationship too. She puts it to him that they have agreed together to give that account of whatever was between them. From what we know of Connell, it was most likely him setting terms and conditions again and the girl being compliant. He is At times, it seems as if a whole non committal and she allows scene is contrived with just that the subject to be dropped. in mind. Even though he sees her as often as the fancy takes him, Still maintaining social he asks her to post him a photo distancing in public, the of herself unclothed. He chemistry between them is immediately assures her he will somehow picked up by another of course delete it for her student who asks them a very “privacy and assurance”. She 25


then asks him, to his great surprise, for one of himself. He is non-committal just continues to express amazement that she would want a picture of his “dick”. She says if she had such a photo she would look at it “every day” and “never delete it”. What a long way we have come from cameo portraits and locks of hair as lovers” mementos? Apart from labouring the safety and consent message, the scene sums up the disparity of power in the relationship. While it is all about sex and talking about sex for them both, there is a difference. It is a category difference, something more than the incidental differences that arise between individual personalities, irrespective of gender. The difference is gender itself. The equality pursued by feminism has hit a massive road block here. Women may buy into the sexually liberated culture as much as men but it costs them more. They invest emotionally in relationships from the outset. They idealise. They look to a future beyond the bedroom. Marianne’s obsession with the flawed Connell is mirrored in the reaction of female fans of the 26

series. There is an Instagram account named after the silver chain that Connell wears around his neck with almost 100,000 followers. He has cult status, among female viewers, in a way the more telegenic Marianne does not. The difference again is gender, pure and simple. Women used to be the custodians of sexual morals because they were expected to see sex as part of a bigger picture. The new sexual ethics that reduces the moral dimension to consent places more responsibility on men. It is a very reductionist view of sexual relationships. A view that dismisses the human capacity for love and loyalty, commitment and self-giving. It does a disservice to both sexes but especially women. In a way this sexual culture is a dimension of a wider social culture that emphasises safety and personal autonomy as a primary good rather than living a meaningful, morally coherent life. The world of Normal People is fraught with discontent, jealousy and sexual competitiveness. But according to contemporary mores that is all just part of growing up into the real world.


As long as there is consent nobody can be faulted no matter how many relationships they have or the emotional debris they leave in their wake. The really ironic thing is that these young people demand “safe spaces” in the academic environment and “trigger warnings” before hearing anything that could offend their beliefs and values in the lecture hall. Yet, their private lives are the most unsafe places of all.

she picks up the threads with him again. Normal People may yet shade further towards this genre of harder, more overtly pornographic content. The way is paved. With consent in place, why ever not? It sells. Fifty Shades of Grey has shown how well, and that the readership once again is predominantly female. Toxic masculinity culture?



There is surely much to explore in this dichotomy. The contrast between the brittle, “snowflake” sensitivity in the sphere of views and opinions and the toughness and resilience their morally uncharted private lives demand. While Normal People is a tale of heteronormative sex, it does look over the fence at threesomes and sado-masochism. Marianne confesses she has already ventured into the latter territory during one of several interludes in her affair with Connell. She gives him and the audience some idea of what this involves when ...the author Margaret Hickey has written articles on social, cultural and faith issues for The Irish Examiner, Human Life Review (US), The Irish Times, The Furrow and The Irish Catholic. She is a mother of three and lives with her husband in Blarney. 27


Books: Western Culture Today and Tomorrow by Carson Holloway


hat will become of Europe? This question must occur to every thoughtful and informed observer of world affairs. One of the most prominent European nations, the United Kingdom, has left the European Union. A successful Brexit raises the possibility that other nations will wish to depart as well. Suddenly the viability of Europe as a politically integrated whole, the dream and the life work of two or three generations of European statesmen, is in doubt. The question of Europe’s fate points to the deeper question of Europe’s identity. When we ask “what will become of Europe?” we cannot help but wonder “what is Europe?” What, in other words, does Europe stand for? What does it aspire to be? These questions arise because, as Joseph Ratzinger observes, Europe is properly understood not merely as a geographical concept but as a cultural and historical one. Europe, he notes, has always thought of itself as having some universal mission, as having something precious to offer the world. Perhaps, then, Europe cannot remain united politically because its various peoples no longer 28

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger Ignatius 2019

agree on what it means to be European. These questions – about what Europe is and what it should be – are addressed by Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) in Western Culture: Today and Tomorrow. One could hardly hope for a more judicious guide in such an inquiry. Ratzinger’s treatment of these issues is not and does not claim to be systematic. The book is based on various invited talks that he gave over the years as a cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church. Nevertheless, one cannot read his meditations without an awareness of being in the presence of a learned, penetrating, sober, and earnest mind. His judgments here are unsurprising in some ways, surprising in others, and in every case thoughtful, provocative (in the best sense), and worthy of serious consideration. Europe Adrift It is surely not surprising that Ratzinger thinks that contemporary Europe has lost its way. Europe wishes to achieve respect for human rights, for human dignity, for the


rule of law in the service of the common good. According to Ratzinger, these moral commitments depend on a belief in the intelligibility of the universe, which in turn depends on a belief in God as the intelligible and loving cause of the universe – the creator of a reasonable order that tends toward man’s good. Europe, however, has lost this understanding of the cosmos, which once supported its ethical aspirations. As Ratzinger astutely notes, European elites have recognized the economic failure of Marxism without perceiving its moral and philosophic failings. Nobody wants to return to a stateplanned economy. But today’s proponents of European enlightenment (so-called) share “with Marxism the evolutionary idea of a universe brought forth by an irrational event” and accordingly unable to provide any “ethical direction” for human beings. For too many European intellectuals, the world of meaning and justice must be created by human beings. Ratzinger, in contrast, contends that a just public order depends on a morality that precedes politics. If the moral order is merely created by human beings, the majority (or whoever is most powerful in society) is left free to impose whatever policies it chooses on the weak. This diagnosis is similar to that

offered by Ratzinger’s great predecessor in the papacy, John Paul II. It is unsurprising that it would be held as well by John Paul II’s most trusted collaborator. Ratzinger will probably surprise at least some readers, however, with the remedy that he recommends. Influenced by superficial journalism and cultural commentary, the contemporary West’s intellectual landscape is stalked by a caricature of Ratzinger as almost the ideal form of the reactionary Catholic prelate. His arguments in Western Culture utterly belie this parody of the man and the thinker. Ratzinger does not want to turn the clock back to the Middle Ages. He seeks no restoration of the Medieval Church’s dominance of political and social life. He instead emphasizes the secular and limited character of the state as it is understood even by Christianity. For Ratzinger, the state can be said to have a divine basis in the sense that God expects Christians (and all people) to obey the just commands of the established authorities. But the state does not have a sacred mission. Its aim is not the salvation of souls or the imposition of the Christian faith on society but the establishment of peace and a just moral order. Ratzinger supports this view by referring to the earliest and most authoritative Christian sources, 29


such as the first apostles and Jesus himself, who advised their followers to obey the political authorities, even though the then-existing state, the Roman Empire, was certainly not a Christian one. Europe is trying to maintain and even increase its political unity while at the same time neglecting and even disdaining the historic basis of its cultural and moral unity. If Ratzinger thinks that modern Europe has lost its way, but he does not seek a return to Medieval Christendom, then to what does he recommend that Europe return? Ratzinger harks back to an earlier (but not very distant) stage of European history, a time in which European liberalism understood politics largely in secular terms, but nevertheless understood itself – understood Europe – to be a manifestation of Christian culture. According to Ratzinger, the leading statesmen responsible for rebuilding a just peace in the aftermath of the Second World War – men like Winston Churchill, Konrad Adenauer, Robert Schuman, and Alcide De Gasperi – were guided by the moral demands that they had learned from the “Christian faith.” In seeking to move beyond the ideological insanity that had devastated Europe, they sought to establish not a Christian 30

“denominational State” but rather a “State informed by” the “ethical reasoning” that Christian faith supports – a moral reason that rises above mere calculation of consequences and recognizes the dignity and rights of human beings as human beings. Ratzinger well remembers what most contemporary readers have forgotten or never knew: that the leading western statesmen of that time understood and publicly characterized the Second World War as a struggle to preserve “Christian civilization.” Looked at in this way, it is perhaps unsurprising that Ratzinger – a man of modern but conservative sensibilities – would call for a return to the political and cultural arrangements that prevailed in his youth and young manhood. Nevertheless, one cannot reasonably dismiss his argument as mere nostalgia. After all, as Ratzinger points out, and as anyone can see, there are signs that contemporary Europe is in trouble, signs that the contemporary European selfunderstanding is unsustainable. Preserving European Culture Leaving aside the question of whether Europe can maintain itself as a legal and political unit, one might also wonder whether it even possesses the ability to preserve and


transmit itself as a culture. Europe, Ratzinger observes, “seems to have become hollowed out” even in the “hour of its greatest success.” Europeans no longer want to have enough children to sustain the life of their own nations over time. This unwillingness perhaps results from their declining belief in God and hence in the goodness of creation. All things being equal, parents are more likely to welcome into existence children that they believe are the gift of a benevolent God than children they believe are mere products of chance and necessity. Parents are more likely to have the moral confidence to call new lives into existence if they believe those lives are entering into a realm of being and goodness governed by a benevolent God than if they believe the universe is purely the product of forces that are indifferent to human life. In any case, surely a culture that is reluctant to generate children is a culture that cannot long survive. No doubt the defenders of contemporary Europe will respond that the cultural transmission does not necessarily depend on biological reproduction. Europe can transmit its values to new arrivals, to immigrants who will carry on the European project after the ethnic Europeans have disappeared. This is indeed possible, but it would seem to require a moral and cultural self-

confidence that contemporary Europe lacks. Europeans, Ratzinger observes, have turned away from belief in God because they view God as a limit on individual freedom. Belief in God, however, dominated much of Europe’s history. Therefore, contemporary Europeans have to view their own past as one of oppression. Hence the “self-hatred in the Western world that is strange and that can be considered pathological.” This is a culture that “no longer loves itself,” about which one can wonder whether it even “wants to survive.” How can such a culture transmit to newcomers a heritage that it despises? Again, the defender of contemporary Europe might reply that this is all beside the point. Contemporary Europe does not want to preserve and transmit its ancient moral and cultural heritage. It only wants to transmit its modern values – that is, a secular, rationalistic, universal conception of human rights divorced from any particular religious inheritance. Here, Ratzinger suggests, contemporary Europeans are deceiving themselves. Purely secular rationality, he observes, seems obvious to westerners because it was developed in the West. It is “linked to specific cultural contexts” and “cannot as such be reproduced in 31


the whole of mankind.” A purely secular rationalism – reason uninformed by inherited religious beliefs – is alien to most peoples, and there is little reason to think that they will embrace it simply by taking up residence in Europe. Contemporary Europeans seem to believe that these problems will be overcome by progress. Belief in progress is the contemporary European’s substitute for belief in God. Ratzinger’s meditations, however, point to the ways in which this confidence in progress is untethered from reality and even incoherent. It is detached from reality because, as Ratzinger reminds us, human nature “starts over from the beginning in every human being.” The next generation does not necessarily acquire more just and humane beliefs and habits than its predecessor. The kind of moral progress that Europeans expect would require attention to and transmission of the historic, Christian roots of belief in human dignity in the West, an undertaking to which today’s European is indifferent or hostile. The

European’s belief in progress is incoherent because there is no reason to think that reliable progress would arise in a universe that is fundamentally governed by no intelligent and benevolent principle. At present, Europe is attempting a remarkable experiment. It is trying to maintain and even increase its political unity while at the same time neglecting and even disdaining the historic basis of its cultural and moral unity. Brexit may be just the first example of the problems that such an experiment is likely to encounter. In such doubtful circumstances, it would be reasonable to seek advice from voices Europe is accustomed to ignoring and perhaps even despising. A troubled Europe could do worse than to begin its necessary self-examination by listening to the voice of Joseph Ratzinger. Such listening, Ratzinger reminds his readers, does not require submission to the spiritual authority of the Catholic Church, only a respectful and sympathetic engagement with the moral and religious history that made Europe in the first place.

...the author Carson Holloway is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. This review first appeared in Law & Liberty and is reprinted with the kind permission of the editor. See https://lawliberty.org/book-review/what-willbecome-of-europe/ 32


Books: Is Europe Christian? by James Bradshaw


s Europe Christian? will strike some as being a provocative book title. This short (112 pages) work by the French political scientist Olivier Roy came out last year, and the hardcover Englishversion was recently published. Roy’s main expertise is in the area of Islam, and he has written extensively about religion, culture and radicalism. In this book, Roy addresses the topic of modern Europe’s relationship with Christianity in light of the growing tendency of both centreright and populist politicians to point to Europe’s supposed Christian identity, amidst growing Muslim immigration and ever-more contentious public debate about what this will mean.

Author: Olivier Roy Publishing house: Hurst Pages: 192

The relationship between modern European society and the Christian religion became very topical in 2004 during the debate over whether or not to include a reference to Europe’s Christian roots in the proposed EU Constitution. The proposed reference was not included ultimately, even though the European project had originally been driven by devout Catholics such as Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer and Alcide De Gasperi. As Roy describes, two crucial social shifts between the formation of the EEC in the 1950s and the debate over the proposed Constitution fundamentally altered Europe’s relationship with Christianity. 33


Firstly, there was the large-scale secularisation of Europe, in terms of religious participation and belief. Secondly, the arrival of large numbers of Muslim immigrants in countries such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom, a process which put an end to the virtual religious monopoly which Christianity had enjoyed. That second development has been followed by fiercely-fought debates about national cohesion and cultural values across Europe. Even though rates of church attendance remain low, a new generation of populist firebrands are now emphasising the role which Christianity plays in shaping Europe’s character. Often, the tactics are not subtle: in Italy, the Lega Nord leader Matteo Salvini is well-known for his habit of kissing his rosary beads in public, and invoking the Virgin Mary’s support during political speeches. Conservative nationalist figures in Central and Eastern Europe such as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán are quick to insist that large-scale Islamic settlement in their countries would violate their Christian identity.

are making these arguments. Germany’s Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer – a crucial ally of Angela Merkel – has firmly refuted the idea that Islam as part of Germany’s culture. “No, Islam is not part of Germany,” Seehofer said in 2018. “Christianity has shaped Germany, including Sunday as a day of rest, church holidays, and rituals such as Easter, Pentecost and Christmas.” Such statements, Roy argues, are at the very least greatly misleading, given the scale of the collapse in European religiosity in recent decades. Though some vague attachment to Christianity is still important to most Europeans’ sense of themselves, Christianity as a belief system has collapsed. The data he cites is compelling: while 59% of the French population describe themselves as Catholic, only 38% claim to believe “in some sort of God,” and though 76% of Danes profess allegiance to the (still established) Lutheran Church, only 25% say they believe Jesus is God’s Son.

Aside from the issue of belief and disbelief, Roy suggests that to speak of a Christian culture in It is not just politicians on the modern day Europe is misleading. fringes of European politics who Although the legislative 34


framework varies across Europe, there are certain common features – for instance, the legalisation of abortion – which show how far removed modern societies are from traditional Church teaching. Even without any noticeable signs of a religious revival however, it is easy to see why politicians are increasingly genuflecting towards the continent’s past piety. “Culture war” struggles over religious symbols and practices (such as recurring controversies over Nativity scenes in public places) often occur. As examples, Roy mentions the famous Lautsi case about whether crucifixes could be displayed in Italian classrooms, as well the decision in 2018 by the German state of Bavaria to require that a cross be displayed in every public building.

with faith, as in Bavaria where the ruling CSU party brought in the requirement for the display of crosses to ward off accusations by the surging far-right AfD party that Merkel’s government is soft on immigration. “[T]he meaning of these Christian symbols has changed. They have become signs of activism, a way of bearing witness, rather than cultural or professional symbols,” Roy writes. “Instead of being the expression of a traditional culture deeply infused with Christianity, these symbols today seem to indicate a desire for reconquest, or to display identity markers in the face of Islam.” Roy notes with great perceptiveness that in successfully defending the presence of the crucifix in classrooms, the Italian government had said that the crucifix was “simply a national symbol of Italian culture, arguing that it could not be construed as representing proselytism since it had nothing to do with faith.” Bavarian politicians adopted a similar line of argument when defending the new requirement to display crosses.

Theological or philosophical arguments aside, it is easy to see why an ordinary voter would resent the removal of a symbol of their faith (even where that faith is faint or muddled) by distant politicians or unelected judges – particularly those based in a foreign jurisdiction. But Roy sees a real risk in focusing too much on symbols, particularly when they are being embraced for reasons which have nothing to do In a similar manner, irreligious 35


populists and nationalists have recently embraced Christian symbolism on the most shallow and superficial level, as a means of reinforcing European culture against “the other”, without engaging with the religious meaning of the Cross, a meaning which was obvious to most Europeans over the last 2,000 years but which is increasingly alien to the religiously illiterate masses of today. Though he does not write from the perspective of a Christian polemicist, Roy sees a real risk for believing Christians in the removal of religious meaning from the symbols which they hold dear. The blurring of the lines between the Christian religion and the broader culture which is involved when proposing the idea of a Christian Europe is also problematic, and does nothing to revive the faith. “Seeing the return of Christian cultural symbols to public space as the starting point to win back souls is absurd,” Roy explains. “Those who promote it care little for the teachings of the Church; their intentions pertain more to folklore, entertainment, spectacle and exploitation. Paradoxically, bringing back Christian symbols 36

actually helps religion.”



This is an exceptionally absorbing book. The quality of Roy’s analysis and the breath of his historical and political knowledge is highly impressive. Far from being anti-clerical, Roy freely acknowledges the crucial role that Christianity has played in shaping the landscape and character of modern Europe, and he laments the lack of religious understanding among France’s recent political leaders. Throughout the book, Roy raises interesting questions and makes incisive points which few others would think of. He is predominantly focused on Catholicism: not just because of his French background, but because of the way in which the Catholic Church views the battle over Europe’s historical character. Even though conservative Protestants often share moral beliefs with Catholics, their approach to Europe’s past and future are completely distinct. Evangelical Protestantism, Roy avers, are comparatively “uninterested in the past.” The role of the state churches of northern Europe in this debate – the Anglican church in England,


the Lutheran churches in amidst rapid (and destructive) Scandinavia – is not addressed at social change can be defined as any length, but there is a good “radicalization” is anyone’s guess. reason for this. Chapter 6 is titled ‘The Religious “[I]f I seem to grant the Catholic Secession: The Encyclical Church a virtual monopoly on Humanae Vitae (July 1968),’ and Christian expression, it is because focuses on how the rejection of the major Protestant churches in artificial contraception Europe have been self-secularized, represented a turning point in as we have seen, and have how Europeans viewed the attempted to integrate new Church. paradigms into their theology, such as the ordination of gay “Where did this bombshell come ministers or religious services for from?” Roy asks incredulously. gay marriages, which dilute them “Many Christians were expecting even more in secularized society.” the Church to adapt to the tide of sexual liberation, but instead, just The near-total irrelevance of this when birth control pills appeared type of ersatz Christianity should on the European market, hence answer the question of what proposing an alternative to would happen to the Catholic abortion, the Pope issued an Church if it followed the same encyclical taking a stance against path of accommodating itself to the changing mores.” the whims of Caesar and the commentariat. Yet Roy seems The “bombshell” came from the strangely critical of the Church same source as all the existing teachings up until that point, and for not doing just this. for the same reasons. And the soWhile noting the growing called “alternative to abortion” cleavage between contemporary did nothing to prevent a social European society and traditional revolution which saw the killing Christian beliefs, he criticises of unwanted or imperfect human what he calls “Christian beings made legal across a radicalization over the issues of continent which had not abortion and same-sex marriage.” embraced such thinking since How steadfastness in adhering to pre-Catholic times. 2,000 years of Church teaching There is one further difficulty 37


with Roy’s case (which is one that Christians would do well to read and engage with) and that lies in the language he uses when referring to how Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI – along with other Catholics – had aspirations of “reconquest” when it came to Europe. This is hardly fair, given the Church’s formative role in European/Western civilisation.

Is the Europe which exists today Christian? Hardly. But the European house is built on Christian foundations, and laid out according to Christian designs. At each step of the construction process, the influence of Christianity was felt as the building was lovingly added to. While the current tenants may have forgotten the past, they should still count themselves fortunate that others have constructed this home for them, even if each new floor they add is gaudier and more structurally unsound than the last. Europe’s prodigal sons are prone to forgetfulness, but it is not wrong to hope that they will return in time, and appreciate the inheritance that has been foolishly squandered heretofore.

Of course, the Church’s mission is not a Eurocentric one. Christ’s injunction “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” does not place special emphasis on one continent at the expense of any other. But given the role which Europeans have played in building the Church, and given the Church’s role in building Europe, it is hardly surprising that Christians would ask searching questions about what If they do, they will find that the values are at the continent’s heart. solid foundations remain in place, It follows on from this that and ready to be built on again. European Christians would play a role in advancing those values through the political process. ...the author James Bradshaw works for an international consulting firm based in Dublin, and has a background in journalism and public policy. Outside of work, he writes for a number of publications, on topics including politics, history, culture, film and literature. 38


Films: Trolls World Tour by John Mulderig


ith its psychedelic palette, upbeat energy and fun interludes of song, director Walt Dohrn’s animated musical sequel Trolls World Tour (Universal) is a delightful diversion, one especially well calculated to reduce stress amid the present trying – and, for many, tragic – global circumstances. The film is currently streaming on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, YouTube and other outlets. In following up on his 2016 original, Dohrn and the ensemble of no fewer than five screenwriters keep the focus on the pair at the center of the first story: the everoptimistic Poppy (voice of Anna Kendrick), who became queen of the trolls at the end of the last

Country: USA Language: English 2020

movie, and her more fearful best friend, Branch (voice of Justin Timberlake). This time out, the two discover that there are whole new realms to be explored. Poppy’s kingdom of popularmusic-addicted trolls, they learn, is just one of several such nations, each dedicated to a particular genre of melody. The bad news is that Queen Barb (voice of Rachel Bloom), the malicious sovereign of the hard-rock tribe, is out to conquer or destroy all the restAs Poppy and Branch embark on a quest to unite everyone in resistance to this move, Branch tries to work up the courage to tell Poppy that he loves her. Along the way, the script delivers amusing 39


barbs about topics like the perniciously hypnotic nature of smooth jazz (Chaz, the character embodying it, voiced by Jamie Dornan). Real-life celebrities like Kelly Clarkson, George Clinton and Mary J. Blige provide the voices of characters representative of their varied genres of music. Underlying the plot are lessons about tolerance, respect for differing identities and the power of self-sacrificing love. Sometimes by challenging her, but ultimately by offering her support, Branch helps Poppy to develop the qualities of a good leader, offering viewers another positive insight as he does so. While the potty humor that never seems to be absent from Hollywood pictures aimed at kids appears in its mildest form, the other potentially bothersome element for parents is more peculiar. Returning character Guy Diamond (voice of Kunal Nayyar) spontaneously gives birth to a baby

son, Tiny (voice of Thompson), via his hair.

What questions about real-life reproduction this odd occurrence might raise in the minds of tots is anyone’s guess. Older children could, perhaps, be referred to the birth of Athena from the head of Zeus in ancient mythology – or not. The moment comes and goes and so may, in the end, fall safely under the radar anyway. Then it’s swiftly on to more toe-tapping exuberance. For a list of – and links to – all streaming platforms, go to www.universalpictures.com/ movies/trolls-world-tour/watchnow. The film contains an unusual birth and a brief scatological sight gag. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

...the author John Mulderig is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service. Copyright (c) 2020 Catholic News Service. Reprinted with permission from CNS. www.catholicnews.com



Kwetu Home of Peace: Street children in need of a Chapel

Request for Funding and/or Building Material By helping us build this Chapel, you will not only be doing a big favour towards our street children, but will also be helping the entire Kwetu Home of Peace. This is because the Chapel will also be used for many other things, other than Sunday school, like all meetings, band practices, fundraising events and much more. So please help us out!

Location Next to Strathmore University Madaraka Estate P.O Box 60311-00200 NAIROBI - KENYA Cell Phone: +254722516776 Email: kwetuhoms@gmail.com Website: www.kwetuhome.org

Bank Account Details Bank: NIC BANK Bank Branch: BUNYALA Name: KWETU HOME OF PEACE Account Number: 1000421894 Bank Code: 411020

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