The Holy Father has waved his last goodbye and the visit is over. The Dawkinsites are busy licking their wounds, having failed to disrupt the visit or to garner much attention for themselves outside the economically illiterate newspapers.
Protesting against this visit, making some real media noise should have been easy for the secularists: they had, in theory, a large constituency of people to draw on – church attendance has plummeted over the last forty years and young people are emerging from years of education fundamentally unchurched and unaware of the Christian underpinnings of their culture.
Why has the Holy Father received such an enthusiastic welcome in the UK and why have his detractors not done better?
There are many reasons behind the apparent lack of enthusiasm for “prostesting the Pope” not least of which is that the “anti-Pope” faction in English society is made up of two entirely inimical groups: hard-line protestants in the Ian Paisley/Chipfat mould; and the essentially middle-class metropolitan alliance of militant secularists, gay rights activists and, of course, the usual suspects; needless to say, there is not much common ground between them.
But part of the reason for the lack of visible protest is something that is less visible and is almost drowned out by society: many people, by no means all, have an appetite that cannot be satisfied by swiping a credit card, by turning on the TV or any of the other methods that people use to distract themselves from their lives. This hunger is visible in many places and finds many different forms of expression, from the common expression that people are interested in “spirituality” (usually without knowing what the word really signifies) to the popularity of the “wonderful” books by Mr Dan Brown.
If one looks out at our society, we see a gnawing hunger and a sense of alienation, which takes many forms, but seems terribly visible:
The Holy Father recognised this in his visit to Britain and commands us, the Catholic Church in these Isles, to be part of the new evangelisation of Britain and, indeed, Europe.
It is important to remember that we, as laity, have a role to play in this, but that we are right to look to our clergy and episcopate to play a major role; after all, the founder of our Church mandated our shepherds to watch over and nurture His flock:
But part of the problem that we face is that, instead of a true exposure to the Catholic Faith, we give our children and young people this:
For the last forty years adults have tried to spread the Faith by patronising children, giving them an adult’s idea of what a child wants, instead of recognising that most children and young people want to be treated as adults. This is very visible in the contrast between so-called “Family Masses”, which seem to be attended exclusively by grandparents and children too young to object, and the Extraordinary Form, which attracts, in my experience, people from a wide range of age groups (and some of the most enthusiastic attendees at the Extraordinary Form Masses seem to be small children and twenty-somethings).
As Catholicism has dumbed down, other things have filled the gap and it is instructive to see what people are replacing culturally illiterate Christianity with: many of the “New Age” cults and groups have a number of emphases: their worship is often conducted in “sacred languages” (either real or made up on the spot), it often has a strong element of mystery and it does not make space for the “congregation” to “do things” (in other words, it rudely apes the forms of the Extraordinary Form). In essence, people are trying to sate their hunger with something that apes the forms and modes of the classical Roman Rite: people do not seem inclined to mimic the sort of religion exemplified in the mushy pap of the Ordinary Form as it is said in most parishes.
The Church is mandated by the Son of Man to feed his sheep, let us hope our Bishops heed His words:
“And which of you, if he ask his father bread, will he give him a stone? or a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?”