Thursday, 22 April 2010

Imagine there's no heaven... the staggeringly unoriginal title of an article by journalist Johan Hari in the Independent this week. Like most aggressive atheists, Hari does not trouble himself to do research into his subject which might contradict his overall aim. Indeed, in this article he even contradicts himself!
He expresses amazement that people should believe in life after death. Well, fair enough. If you don't believe it I suppose it is hard to understand why other people do. I suppose that it is understandable, in a dog-in-the-manger way, that if you do not have the comfort of any belief then you don't want other people to have it either. Why should they not be as unhappy as you are?
Strangely Hari begins his argument by saying that heaven is only a 'recent' invention anyway - dating it to the 2nd century BC. Later in his article he contradicts himself by saying that heaven is discussed in the ancient epic of Gil Gamesh. It would be strange if the poet had indeed being discussing an idea nobody took seriously anyway. Surely, it is more likely that even if the poet didn't believe it, he knew there were many people who did - rather like Hari himself.
Then (predictably) he starts on the tack that the idea of heaven was invented so as the Church would be able to control people's lives and exercise domination etc. etc. All the tired old calumnies. None of really deserves refuting.
Or course, most societies have had a belief in some sort of life after death. Such a belief was at least partly behind ancestor worship. An ancient Greek might have hoped to come to the Elysian Fields and a Nordic Warrior might have looked forward to the Halls of Asgard. Belief in life seems something that is part of our psyche - perhaps part of our instinct.
No, the thing that is new in many people's idea of heaven today is the one thing Hari doesn't mention. The thing that is really new is that so many people think they will get to heaven without making the slightest effort to do so. This has never happened before. If a society believed that heaven was for those favoured by the Gods, then they might seek to be favoured or become worthy of such favour themselves. In our egalitarian age heaven is seen more and more as a right, along with all the other benefits we might be eligible for, and one which will be offered to us irrespective of our conduct or morals.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Stand up for....

There is a meeting scheduled for later this month to mark the launch of an organisation calling itself 'Stand up 4 Vatican 2'. I suppose it is considered to be really trendy and clever to use '4' for 'for' - and it saves two letters which is doubtless good for the environment!
It sounds inoffensive enough, to want to mark this anniversary of the Council and to look at how its ideas have been implemented.

However, the site is in fact very far from being inoffensive. On the very first page we find an item written by the dubious Catholic Nicholas Lash in which he has a dig at the Holy Father, pretending not to be able to understand why the Bishop of Rome does not retire at 75 like other bishops.
Then there is an item regarding fund-raising for Haiti - not a controversial issue you might think. This site makes it so. They begin by suggesting that orthodox and Traditionalist Catholics simply do not care about the plight of people suffering in Haiti. While some of us, they say, are concerned about whether we should worship in Latin, our brothers and sisters are suffering beyond belief.
This is simply an outrageous lie and makes it really unneccesary to read further to discover what sort of people are responsible for this evil site and this evil movement.

It would be good to look at the documents of the council and place them within the context of the Church's tradition (as Matthew Lamb & Matthew Levering attempt to do in the book they have edited on the Council). It would be good to look at them not simply on a high of enthusiasm but in the light of faith and reason and see what we have got right, what we have got wrong and where to go from here.
But those standing up 4 Vatican 2 are so carried away by a conviction of the need to change anything and everything that they are unlikely to undertake this work. Before we can reform the Church we need to LOVE the Church - and that means we must love the traddies, the charismatics, the orthodox, those with much enthusiasm and little understanding - and those with much understanding, but little enthusiasm! If we are simply carried away by a desire for change; if we are carried away by the feeling that we need to be empowered then we are following a false path. Our faith is not about taking control of things. It wasn't for Abraham, it wasn't for Moses, it wasn't for Our Lady or any of the saints, and it wasn't for Our Blessed Lord who came to live an example of humility, obedience, service and sacrifice to the end.
It is by following Him and the teaching of His Church; by loving His teaching and that of His Church that we will be able to begin (by the Grace of the Holy Spirit) to rebuild the tottering house of God.