'Gospel-values' without Christ?
There is much in this book that is interesting and enriching. I can certainly see how some of it can be encouraging for other contemporary British Catholics. However, some essays in the book can also be rather depressing reading... the Church is viewed almost entirely as a human-made institution, little reference is made to the entirety of the Scriptures and relativism pervades. Consequently, such people say that they are drawn to Catholicism because of its social action, its compassion, forgiveness etc - mere humane values - but they do not see the need to evangelise, nor is the attractiveness of Jesus Christ mentioned. What this evinces is a complete emaciation of the Gospel, reducing it to a social message, a good way to live but ultimately it's not (in the minds of some such people) the Truth! Indeed, like collective Pilates, some such Catholics turn around and challenge the Magisterium, asking the Church that cynical and faithless question: "What is Truth"? There is clearly, as Pope Benedict XVI has said, a crisis of Christology, Ecclesiology and Revelation.
What's more is that the bulk of those who have such views come from Catholic families and attended Catholic schools in Britain... The result is not encouraging. Yes, they are still Catholic, but they come across as people who are full of (unhealthy) doubt, they cite family and up-bringing as prime factors for being Catholic and ultimately, they do not wish to stand out in society and witness to Christ. Oh yes, they want to witness to Gospel values (like love, compassion, forgiveness, reconciliation etc) but none of these is an explicit (or even implicit) witness to Jesus Christ; it is merely humanism. When the Church is reduced to a mere instrument of social change, a supra-national charitable organization, a community that makes us feel better as people, we're really clutching at straws. There is no commitment to Christ as "the Way, the Truth and the Life."
For such a church relies on human effort, it does not have spiritual strength and fails to rely on the Holy Spirit, who is the "Lord and Giver of life" nor is there obedience to Christ, who alone is Head of the Church. Hence, any teaching of the Church that is disliked is viewed as an inconveniece, an anachronism that needs changing, a tradition that is unenlightened by modernity and reason. Such arrogance is staggering to behold! Indeed, the words of Pope Benedict at Marienfeld in Cologne, speaks clearly of their situation and predicament:
"But to tell the truth, religion often becomes almost a consumer product. People choose what they like, and some are even able to make a profit from it. But religion sought on a "do-it-yourself" basis cannot ultimately help us. It may be comfortable, but at times of crisis we are left to ourselves.
Help people to discover the true star which points out the way to us: Jesus Christ! Let us seek to know him better and better, so as to be able to guide others to him with conviction.
This is why love for Sacred Scripture is so important, and in consequence, it is important to know the faith of the Church which opens up for us the meaning of Scripture. It is the Holy Spirit who guides the Church as her faith grows, causing her to enter ever more deeply into the truth (cf. Jn 16: 13)."
There the Holy Father not alone points out the flaws in relativistic, luke-warm, humanistic Catholicism but he also highlights the way to overcome this malady: To know Jesus Christ in Word and Sacrament by the grace of the Holy Spirit and the ministry of His Church. And to truly seek God and to find Him is to come to Him knowing that we need Him, that we need to change our lives so that it conforms to His plans, trusting that He wills what is best for us. Everything else about Catholicism flows from this... all its 'Gospel values' are the actions of a person, Jesus Christ. Thus, the Church and every baptised Christian lives to make Jesus known, to incarnate the Gospel values in Christ-like action and thereby to preach His salvation to the world, with conviction that it is True.If the Gospel is separated from Jesus Christ, His Church and His Spirit, it becomes sapped of any power to convince because it becomes just a proposition, a theory for living well, but it does not have the inner conviction of Truth that propels the mission of evangelization and gives the Church its life. As such, without a belief in the Truth of the Gospel and a deep love for Jesus Christ, "the apostles would have proclaimed the Gospel no longer, the martyrs would have shed their blood no more..." (St Therese of Lisieux). Based on the vision of Catholicism some of the people in this book have, the Church would eventually cease to exist.
But thankfully that will not be so and such views will fade away, lifeless and Spirit-less, for the Spirit continues to abide in the Church, and her Lord and Master, Jesus Christ continues to raise up Shepherds, like Pope Benedict, after His own heart who will exhort the faithful to proclaim with conviction the love and salvation of Christ. Then, as St Therese (left) said, "I knew that one love drove the members of the Church to action... I saw and realised that love sets off the bounds of all vocations, that love is everything, that this same love embraces every time and every place. In one word, that love is everlasting."
Do we love Jesus, His actions and His Gospel and His Church enough to make Him known?