Wednesday, January 02, 2013

More letters on the Egans

The Christmas issue of the Catholic Herald published my letter in reply to Martin Elsworth, on Br Egan's criticism of Bishop Egan. Round 1 is here. It was published beneath a second letter from Br Egan. My reply to Elsworth worked well as a reply to this new letter rom Br Egan, so this is a neat conclusion to this exchange.

Mr Elsworth (Letters, 14th December) defends the peculiar phrase ‘John’s last Supper model of the servant Church’, despite St John not giving us a narrative of the Last Supper, on the basis that the mandatum took place ‘at supper’.  Alternatively, the phrase might point to the ‘Farewell Discourses’ which follow. I think we can agree that the phrase is misleading, and that anyone familiar with the Fourth Gospel would more naturally refer specifically to the mandatumor the Farewell Discourses, or whatever he actually meant, if he wished to be understood.

And what do we read in the Farewell Discourses? ‘If you love Me you will keep my commandments.’ (John 14.45) There is no tension between keeping the commandments and loving Our Lord and our fellows. Doing what God commands is the necessary precondition for helping others and attaining holiness, because it is nothing other than uniting our wills with God’s. As the Penny Catechism expresses it so pithily (123), ‘Mortal sin kills the soul by depriving it of sanctifying grace, which is the supernatural life of the soul.’

In the ‘liberal’ society praised by Br Edward Egan, whom Mr Elsworth defends, living according to God’s commands, according to Natural Law, is first allowed as a private eccentricity, then persecuted, and finally—as we can see with legislation before Parliament as I write—simply outlawed. We have already been told that teachers will be sacked for teaching about marriage in accordance with Natural Law. For how long will parents be allowed to do the same thing?

Our bishops have rightly alerted us to the danger. We should listen to them, not to Br Egan’s selective reading of the Gospels.

It is of course true, as Br Egan claims, that there is an historical connection between Christianity and liberalism, but it is not that liberalism emerged out of a Christian concern for toleration and freedom to pursue evils ways of life without hindrance. Rather, it emerged out of he failure of Protestantism to remain united as a national religion in England and places like Prussia and America, leading to people like Locke saying that toleration of religious dissent (not, of course, of Catholicism), was necessary if we were to get on with the serious business of making money from the slave-trade and the like. But that, as they say, is history...

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