Saturday, 16 February 2008


Magari is a good Italian word; it means 'if only it were true', or something like that. I wanted to say magari when I read on Catholic News Agency about one Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, who looks to be a young man, (that's his picture on the left; does his crown look rather like an upended fancy flowerpot to anyone else?) who courageously addressed a major ecumenical gathering in Switzerland on the subject of the drawbacks of liberal Christianity. Hoping that CNA does not mind, I'll quote the short article in full.

Russian Orthodox bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, the Moscow Patriarchate’s delegate for international relationships, said on February 15 that liberal Christianity is on its way to extinction.
"Liberal Christianity will not survive long and political correctness within the Christian environment is destined to die," said during a conference addressing the Ecumenical Council of Churches at Geneva, Switzerland.
The Orthodox bishop also criticized the words of the Anglican primate, Rowan Williams, regarding the "inevitability" of introducing the "sharia" (Muslim Law) in England.
"I would like to warn you about the perils of liberal Christianity," a trend, he said, that has sharply divided the Christian community in the last decades.
"Today we can't talk about Christian morality because the standards of 'traditional' and 'liberal' Christians are dramatically different and the abyss between these two branches of Christianity is growing," he added.
"We are hearing from some Christian leaders that marriage between a woman and a man is not the only possible option for the creation of a Christian family, that there can be other type of couples and that the Church should be 'inclusive' by recognizing such lifestyles and grant them a solemn blessing," Hilarion also said.
The Orthodox bishop also said that "we have heard that the human life is a negotiable value, to the point that it can be aborted in the mother's womb." "What has happened with Christianity? In a confused and disoriented world, “Where is the prophetic voice of Christians?" he asked.
Finally in a veiled criticism to the Anglican primate, Hilarion said that "it is not our duty to defend sharia, promote alternative lifestyles or secularized values. Our mission is to announce what Christ himself announced".
I think that it is certainly true that liberalism is sterile; I have very rarely found somebody converted to liberal Christianity; usually they have slid there from a more orthodox position. What I fear is that the liberals currently in charge would rather pull the house down around them than permit a more orthodox position to prevail.
We have a new Dean (=Vicar Forane) locally, and I have heard him speak perhaps half a dozen times during the last few months. On each occasion, whether preaching at a 'Penitential Service' or simply speaking to fellow clergy, the burden of his talk has invariably been about how universally awful everything was before Vatican II, and the only problem since is that we haven't wiped out the pre-V.II mentality nearly thoroughly enough. He's a kind man—he has even celebrated the Extraordinary Form, which he detests, for people who have requested it, and I've got to credit him for that. In fact on a personal level I quite like him (I don't think the compliment is returned, though). But I really would not want to live in a Church according to his design.
Certainly Pope Benedict has done wonderfully well to reverse the trend, but I suspect that the liberals are simply doing what I fear; they know that they are, for the most part, younger than the Holy Father, and that all that they have to do is wait……
Will Pope Benedict have safeguarded his most welcome reforms for the future? I pray and hope so. It has been so wonderful in these last couple of years finally to have hope and see things coming alive once more.


Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

Come on, Father Justin!

How can you say: "but I suspect that the liberals are simply doing what I fear;..."?

Certainly, they are doing what you expect them to, but we must surely believe that the renaissance we see around us, and most particularly in Rome, is not just a 'blip', but the Divine Will.

If we are not seen to believe this, how can we convince others?

This was a very good article by Bishop Hilarion. At the most mundane level, his argument can be reduced to: "Liberalism (and liberals) will die out, as they cannot inspire a second generation."

Let's take heart from that!

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

The drawbacks of liberal Christianity !

Apart from Pope Benedict himself, who could preach urbanely but devastatingly on the subject, I wonder how many bishops would relish speaking on this topic !

"Liberal Christianity is on its way to extinction."
I hope Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev is right.
It seems a pity the Russian Orthodox are not in communion with Rome.
We could do with this bishop here in England.

As to the legacy of Pope Benedict, and the Benedictine reform, I don't doubt it's safe.

Little by little, the false spirit of Vatican II is being exorcised.

Pope Benedict has acted astutely.
He has won over the hearts and minds of many, many people.

The liberals will be with us for a long time yet, I think, and will not give up power willingly.

But their quasi secularist philosophy, their whole mindset, which is a sort of mental dry rot, cannot possibly compete with the rich heritage of the Church's teaching reaching back over two millenia to the words of Christ himself.

This, I am sure, is the thinking behind Pope Benedict's policy of resourcement.

It cannot fail, and liberalism cannot win.

All will be well (eventually).

the owl of the remove said...

Father - some of the liberals may be younger than Pope Benedict, but they are still a dying breed - the younger clergy are not liberal. Re: Conversions - the great Father Rutler once wrote that not too may people ask to be received into the Methodist Conference on their deathbed!

WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

I want to believe it too. I am growing utterly exhausted trying to figure out how to be orthodox and keep my kids orthodox while surrounded by ... God alone knows what beliefs!
It's frustrating, it's lonely and at times it scares the hell out of me.

Gregor Kollmorgen said...


just to let you know: I have put up a post at The New Liturgical Movement" concerning papal thoughts about the problem of "mass Masses" and large numbers of concelebrants, which we discussed on your blog some time ago; I have also taken the liberty to link to those posts of yours. You can find my post here.

On the side of the angels said...

Maybe it took this long for 'all the poisons that lurked in the mud'
to hatch out ?
'Be Still and know that I am God'
The dagger of malice has a sharp handle Father; the major consequence of this is we're the ones who will have to pick up the pieces of these poor sinful misguided fools ultimately shattered lives....