Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Honey & syrup

Fr PF quite rightly points out that in my encounter with the young Irish doctor who regards himself as a recovering Catholic, I was perhaps guilty of offering him vinegar rather than honey. I think he's probably got me there. I become more curmudgeonly as the years go by, but perhaps my jolt (quipping that I thought the Holy Father a bit relaxed and accomodating about things) by the grace of God, might get the young doctor to question his assumptions. I hope so.

I am bemused when I encounter virulently anti-religious types who will portray the Catholic Church as purveyors of a cross between the Magdalene Sisters and Angela's Ashes. I grew up in the aftermath of the end of the Second Vatican Council and I can say hand on heart I have never heard a Catholic priest utter a condemnatory phrase towards anyone - indivdual or group. Seriously, I have never heard a Catholic priest preach about anything other than the love of God made manifest in one way or another. I have heard exhortations to charity, to chastity, to prayer and deeper discipleship - but to hatred or condemnation of anyone, never, nor the propagation of narrow-mindedness or bigotry. I was taught in primary school by nuns who were kindly and gentle. The priests who taught me at grammar school were thoughtful and meek academic types.

My experience of Irish Catholicism, in the parish where I grwe up in the North of England whch was served by a missionary order of (largely) Irish priests, in Ireland itself and when in Lourdes over the course of 10 years was one of a joyous, if rather ill-defined faith. There was a lot of lurrrve there, but in many ways (especially liturgically) I found it cloying and I wonder if in turning away from the vinegar of a bitter past, as it was perceived, the JP2 generation plumped for syrup rather than honey, which as Fr Aidan Nichols OP pointed out, is a big mistake.

“Cardinal Ratzinger’s image in the secular media, and even or especially sections of the Catholic press, was almost entirely negative. Could it be redeemed by pouring over us a warm, fragrant, bubbly cascade of “luv”? That would be an understandable strategy. It would also be a mistake. At least in the Western world, the Church is drowning in syrup already.

Perusal of the document largely sets these fears to rest. Part the First shows that the Petrine charism has not extinguished the cardinal’s forceful philosophical and theological mind. Part the Second which was, it seems, in preparation under his predecessor shows a willingness to leave (temporarily) the exalted heights of doctrine for more hands-on involvement with possibly malfunctioning elements in present-day ecclesial culture.”
-The Pope Throws A Lifebelt To A Church Drowning In Syrup.
The Catholic Herald
3rd February 2006 .

Comments and discussion very welcome.


Anonymous shane said...

You're right. Since it's 1960s Catholicism in Ireland - like Catholicism in most of the west - has been very (if excessively) easy going. The media bias in Ireland is unbelievable.

7:41 PM  
Blogger Ttony said...

At the risk of being thought trite, vinegar might sometimes be more approriate than honey: when faced with a bag of chips for example (or with a "rocket salad" whatever that may be).

We are not pacifists, and have the duty to defend ourselves and our Faith.

If a curt and witty one liner will shut the young man up, at least in your presence, at least until he thinks up a "witty" retort, how many people will be spared his misrepresentation of the Faith?

"A time to destroy and a time to build" Ecclesiastes 3:3

So there's four ways in which, in the particular case, you did fine.

8:45 PM  
Anonymous Rita said...

Best not to do anything that will promote the growth of Candida albicans.

8:22 PM  
Anonymous Roger Buck said...


If a curt and witty one liner will shut the young man up, at least in your presence, at least until he thinks up a "witty" retort, how many people will be spared his misrepresentation of the Faith?

Some perhaps - but what if instead of "curt", one were to aspire to the most sincere, morally serious way of speaking of such things.

One might then have neither vinegar nor syrup, but something that generated respect.

For such communication one must both

a) refuse the temptation (understandable) to lash out ...

b) refuse the opposite temptation of doing nothing in the name of syrupy niceness ...

Interesting blog - as I turn my attention to the north of England I wonder where you came from ...

10:01 PM  
Blogger Paulinus said...


I'll turn my attention to what's happened to Ireland in due course


Thanks for that.


Unsure of the evidence base for syrup/honey and candida albicans. we use medical grade honey in smelly necrotic wounds.


Very impressive blog you have there

11:10 AM  

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