Beautiful blog entry on the Holy Post blog (motto: “get down on your knees and blog”) about the Papal visit.
Instead of (excessively) focusing on the popularity of the Pontiff and the unexpected (and the more remarkable) success of the visit the post’s author, Father R.J. de Souza, points out to the fact that in the end it is not about what the press calls “success”, at all.
On the aeroplane to England, Pope Benedict was asked what he could do to make the Church more attractive. The Pontiff answered:
“One might say that a church which seeks above all to be attractive would already be on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for itself, does not work to increase its numbers so as to have more power” […]. The Church does not seek to be attractive, but rather to make herself transparent for Jesus Christ.”
Father de Souza wonders how many pastors – Catholic as well – take these words to heart and everyone living in England knows how right he is. “Attractiveness” and “popularity” are the main drivers of the British clergy’s actions and are what has emptied not only the pews, but the people’s minds after the systematic destruction of proper catechesis.
Father de Souza again:
“Consider the relentless pressure on all churches to trim ancient doctrine or adapt moral teaching to something more in tune with — well, what exactly? The latest shifting sands of public opinion? There have been churches that have changed wholesale their teaching in such efforts, now celebrating as holy what they previously taught was sinful. Should they be considered more or less successful for making themselves attractive?”
And are they really? Or are they not dying, all of them? I’d very much like to see how many English Anglicans or Methodist would call their churches “successful”. “Terminally ill”, more like.
Further, one might ask attractive to whom? The British visit occasioned many people who wish the Catholic Church nothing but ill to advise her on how to conduct herself. Why should Catholics measure their own success on the criteria of their enemies? Or consider the judgment of mass culture; should the Church seek to appeal more to the same people who choose, for entertainment purposes, to watch in large numbers people embarrass and degrade themselves on reality television?
I admit that I loathe reality television, so I liked this in a special way; I also notice the use of the small “c” in “churches”, always a welcome token or orthodoxy. But what I liked the most is that Fr de Souza points out to the fact that people who hate the Church must never be allowed to influence it. Not when it is about defining “success” nor, I hasten to add, when it is about their sensitive “feelings”.
Success is not about how many people were there. Nor about whether one had flowers or stones thrown at him. Success is about why the stones (or the flowers) were thrown.
Pope Benedict has put the right accents on his visit and struck the right cords. He has been diplomatic, but not accommodating and has shown a clarity of thought and decisiveness of action that Brits had forgotten a long time ago.
This is the real measure of his success.