It seemed unfathomable, even a few short years ago; an aging German pope arriving in Britain to the cheers and rapt attention of many, all this while his detractors were dismissed as everything that is wrong with Britain and the modern world. Saint Thomas More, Bishop John Fisher and the rest of the English martyrs must be smiling in heaven. The English martyrs, like the well known (like Sir Thomas) and the unsung Saint Margaret Clitherow found their views more often than not supported by the rank and file. However, the same rank and file didn’t have the courage to make the stand as did these courageous men and women who were martyred. Though Catholicism was widely practiced, the fear of blood thirsty king, left many too weak to fight the good fight. (If you don’t believe this, read Eamon Duffy’s The Stripping of the Altars.)
Yet, the truth will either set you free or convict you of false witness. It was the brutal King Henry VIII, who left Catholicism because Pope Innocent III wouldn’t give him a divorce. The king later had two of his wives beheaded, a rather odd sort of person to start a church, but start a church he did. Starting in 1534 Catholics would be killed and a legal Catholic Mass wasn’t allowed to be celebrated in Britain, or conquered Ireland, for nearly 300 years. The creation of King Henry the Anglican Church would reach the far flung corners of the mighty British Empire. As recent as fifty years ago, the Anglican Church in Britain had one of the highest rates of church attendance in the western world. Her teachings were mirrored by the life of those CS Lewis. Fifty years later, her teachings are mirrored by the likes of Elton John. However, to be fair to Sir Elton, even he is to the right of the Anglican Church on matters like welcoming Islamic Sharia Law to Britain as the spiritual leader of the Anglicans, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams recently did.
The Catholic Church has been derided and mocked by the mainstream media for some time. One might think that with all of this and the horrible Abuse Scandal within the Church; it would be the Catholic Church that would be withering and not the liberal Anglican Church, who is modeling the whims of the modern world. Yet, the Catholic Church continues to grow and even rapidly so in Africa and Asia (Christ told us this would be so Matthew 16:15-20.) The faithful aren’t as ignorant as the militant secularists would like to believe. The religious faithful of all stripes are beginning to clearly understand what Pope Benedict XVI is saying about the dangers of the Dictatorship of Relativism. It cannot work, as Jesus reminded us; we cannot serve two masters. Sadly that is what modern Anglicanism and liberal Christianity has tried to do. The results have been disastrous.
Perhaps this is why, as Damian Thompson notes, that even in the liberal Guardian newspaper a story entitled; The Pope In Parliament & Westminster Abbey, the Day That Shook The Foundations of Britain’s Protestant Myth was published. In addition from the tabloid Sun, the newspaper notorious for gossip and infamous Page 3 Girls came this; Pope Tells London Not To Let PC Brigade Wreck Christmas. The world is looking for answers and it can’t be found in the lyrics of Lady Gaga, or even the thoughtful Irish band U2. I say U2 because the Anglican Church, especially in the US (called the Episcopal Church) is very proud of their U2Charist celebrations. This is where one can receive the Eucharist while U2 songs are used is the Communion meditation. While Bono, the Edge and the rest of the band are great humanitarians, they would hardly consider their lyrics divine. (For more on this check out these links from my interview with the openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson, Canon Kendall Harmon and others at the Episcopal General Convention held in Columbus in 2006.
Yet this is what liberal Christianity has become. They somehow think this will woo the thougtful unbeliever. Perhaps the unbeliever may check out one of these services, but as the numbers indicate they move on to something else, a Lady Gaga concert, or perhaps an edgy movie. In other words, they want to tune out from the truth and reality. The Gospel message is the last thing they want to hear, and try as liberal Christianity might to make it appealing, the Gospel message can never be dressed up to appease the rebellious. They must first come to terms with their rebellion and submit to the love and teachings of Christ, which is hard for those who have humility in such short supply. (If this last paragraph intrigues you, please read If You Want The Political Left To Run Governments, Look At What The Religious Left Had Done To Religion (Left It In Tatters.) along with The Coming Open Rebellion Against God and finally The Jesus the Professional Left Chose To Ignore.
Karl Marx told the workers of the world to throw off their chains. He also stated religion was really the opiate of the masses. Marx and Engels along with their followers from Trotsky to Alinsky ignored the obvious chains of sin and concentrated on the means of production. However, what they were producing was an alternative message to the New Testament. How ironic that some in the Christian world tried to dress up Marxism and incorporate into various liberal Christian denominations. They even found elites with guilty consciences to come their way. Who would have thought that in the United States Presidential Election of 2008 the very wealthy and trust funders would vote for the most liberal ticket ever to be elected President and Vice President. Yet the world, who so eagerly embraced this ticket has seen what the US voters have seen, the oceans haven’t listened to the pleas of the elites, the poor are still among us, and hostile nations haven’t beaten their swords into plowshares.
The liberals attempt at creating a parallel faith has failed, which is why Britain so eagerly listened to the words of an aging heavily accented German pontiff, while all but ignoring the melodious tones of their own Anglican leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. A humanitarian he may be, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s churches are empty. More Britons are seen in their respective mosques on Friday afternoon than in Anglican churches on Sunday morning.
What went wrong many Britons are asking? In addition to saying we cannot serve two masters, the whims of the world and God, Christ also spoke of building His Church on the Rock. The Catholic Church was founded by Christ who gave the proverbial keys to Saint Peter and his successors. There was only one set of keys, not 40,000+ different sets, the number of denominations and non denominational churches that exists today (just in the US.) This is hardly what Jesus had in mind when he stated there should only be One Church (John 10:16.) Jesus also said those who will not listen to his successors are not listening to Him, in essence they are rejecting Him (Luke 10:16.) Perhaps now many of the faithful are beginning internalize these words..
Recently while on a business matter, a man asked if I could meet with him in his office. I had no idea that it would concern religion. Though currently Episcopalian, he came with several books, Steve Ray’s Upon This Rock, Scott Hahn’s Signs of Life, Mike Aquilina’s The Fathers of the Church and my own The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism. I sat there dumb founded as he quoted from Steve Ray’s book concerning Apostolic Succession, from Scott Hahn’s book concerning the role of the sacrements, and From Mike Aquilina’s book concerning The Early Church. He even quoted from my own book concerning the rise in vocations from the more orthodox or more conservative Catholic dioceses, as well as the shallowness exhibited by the many entertainment style mega churches that dot the US landscape.
He stated that for some time he has been exploring Catholicism. At first he said his wife was rather hostile to the Church. She cited the Abuse Scandal and the rules associated with Catholicism. However, this man gave an amazing witness of why the Church suffered through the Abuse Scandal. He viewed it as the Church paying the price for allowing those the world said should be allowed into the priesthood. Fortunately, though many of these abusers tried to change the Church, they could not. Whereas much of the liberal Protestant churches did change and though they had their own form of clergy abuse, it was barely reported.
His openness to Catholicism is far more than an intellectual exercise. He mentioned something that Spirit Daily’s Michael Brown eluded to several days ago, the power of miracles and healings associated with the Church. John Cardinal Newman’s beatification came as do all beatifications and subsequent canonizations, because of a miracle. The miraculous healing of an individual due to the intercessory help of someone in this case Cardinal Newman, or in other cases in Britain say Saint Thomas More, Saint John Fisher, Blessed David Gunston, or any of the multitude of British martyrs killed for their refusal to renounce the Catholic Church. The miraculous tells us this is of God. Miracles have to stand the scrutiny of non believers and medical science, all the more reason why the Catholic Church’s legitimacy as the Church Jesus Christ founded stands the test of time. When the faithful and even not so faithful, but at least open-minded understand this, the Church flourishes.
Britain saw this in the witness of an 83 year old German man who came to their shores much derided, but he left victorious. He was victorious not because of any amazing personal feats that he performed, but in reminding those who were listening of the amazing things God has in store for us all. The instructions for this lifelong exercise can be found in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, the problem is our modern world wants to either omit or add addendums to the sacred texts and traditions that God has given us. Perhaps St Thomas More said it best; though he knew these words would cost him his life Sir Thomas More said; “I am the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”