THE main thrust of Fr Kevin Ryan’s article (CL 16/4/00) seemed to be that the real obstacle to living Christian lives today is “rules and regulations”.
His claim that “correctness is almost a mania in our world” had me scratching my head, but I nearly choked on his assertion that the Church of today is “far more difficult” than the pre-Vatican II Church when people simply obeyed the rules.
Isn’t that precisely what they, and we, were called to do by Christ’s own words: “Whoever loves me will keep my commandments?”
Looking around me at a Church devastated by mass defections of religious and laity, empty seminaries and broken homes, it takes a massive dose of Christian charity, together with heavily rose-tinted glasses, to believe that Catholics are actually experiencing greater difficulties today Ð except, perhaps, the difficulties they bring on themselves by wilfully living outside the laws of the Church. But that wasn’t Fr Ryan’s point. If he believes today’s Catholics are living lives more faithful to Christ’s commands, that point would be more convincingly made by citing evidence, rather than merely deriding those who obey the rules and are presumed, by that fact, to be lacking in Christian love.
I challenge the modern fallacy that there is a fundamental conflict between the letter and the spirit of the law, and that we must violate one in order to honour the other. How can the spirit be expressed except in the words of human language?
I find it insulting to Catholics of my parents’ generation to imply that they simply lived by a set of rules without thought, sacrifice or Christian love. The sacrifices they made in bringing up large families on small incomes contrast starkly with today’s self-indulgent materialism.
What Fr Ryan dismisses as merely following rules, I saw as stoic perseverance and sense of duty Ð the very virtues which carry us through when faith is tested and human weakness looks for an easy way out. Fr Ryan is of course right that Catholics have abandoned “rules and regulations” – Sunday Mass, confession, fasting and abstinence, reverence for the Blessed Sacrament Ð but what have they put in their place?
His claim that social justice is an innovation of the past 30 years again has me puzzled. Wasn’t Rerum Rovarum one of the most significant social justice encyclicals written in 1891?
On the most pressing social justice issue of our times – the daily, pitiless slaughter of the unborn – I see little evidence to support Fr Ryan’s claim, and those who take this issue seriously would not easily fit his image of new enlightenment.
The real crisis in the Church today is not caused by a handful of people who uphold the letter of the law, but by the vast number who have abandoned the law in its entirety – letter and spirit.
PETER DAVIDSON Ashgrove, Qld