Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Makeovers: 'Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine...'

The recently retired Bishop of Monmouth, the Rt Revd Dominic Walker OGS,  has said in a BBC Wales interview [link here] that he attributes at least part of the decline of Christianity in Wales to its Calvinistic and 'life- denying' image with the general public.
As you might imagine, I have a certain degree of sympathy with his comments - although I'm not sure that it has been wholly accurate to describe Welsh Christianity in precisely those terms for several generations or more. The Church in Wales, at disestablishment in the 1920s, became a distinctly non-protestant, even Prayer Book Catholic, Province until the efforts of the present generation of our leaders - something reflected in the Prayer Book of 1984, still thankfully, despite its flaws, the province's doctrinal and liturgical standard - even if some would prefer it were not.

Equally, of course, it could be said that as a Celtic people the Welsh require a certain passion and mystery in order to engage their interest in the practice of the faith - something which both revivalist Protestantism (even Calvinism?)  and traditional forms of Catholicism (whether 'Roman' or Anglo-Catholic) tend to possess in their very different ways.

This, of course, also raises the uncomfortable question of why, if Bishop Walker's analysis is even partially correct, the Welsh Anglican Bishops have been presiding over a period in which their province has become progressively more 'protestant'  - both in theology (the neo-puritanism of 'liberal inclusivity') and in the outward expression of its worship - and during which the 'permissible' boundaries of Anglicanism have markedly shrunk, and will shrink further if they get their way.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it is contemporary 'bureaucratic' liberal protestant blandness and its accompanying lack of clear and passionate conviction and teaching, and also the absence of mystery in our modern 'horizontal'  liturgies which at least partly explains (there are many other factors) the faith's decline in the Principality.

As for Christianity in Wales being seen as life-denying:

"Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, 

There's always laughter and good red wine. 

At least I've always found it so. 

Benedicamus Domino! "

1 comment:

  1. Thomas Cahill's book How the Irish Saved Civilization could have been titled more strongly. By preserving and nurturing the earthy and pagan elements of Celtic culture, the Irish improved civilization and the Catholic Church. It's true that the illiterate Irish also fell in love with books when the Church arrived; books were arriving by the crateload; and fortunately they escaped an destruction from the so-called Barbarian Invasion. In turn, the Irish monks went to continental Europe and helped re-Christianize the continent, insofar as that was needed, and Christianized the "barbarians."


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