Philip Trower Home Page
Introduction to Articles
The majority of the articles in the following list have the same purpose as my two books, Turmoil and Truth (Ignatius Press 2003) and The Catholic Church and the Counter Faith (Family Publications). They attempt to explain or throw light on the events leading up to and following the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965); that is to say, what in God’s providence it was meant to achieve and succeeded in achieving, and what has gone amiss and continues to trouble the Church together with why it has gone amiss. These are the articles in sections I and II of the list: Vatican II: the Why and the Wherefore , and Implementation and Disruption.
The titles of the following two sections more or less speak for themselves: Theology and Spirituality and The Church and the World. But here too none of the articles are without bearings of some kind on the events of the last fifty years.
The final section I have called Miscellaneous because although all the articles in it have to do with the Catholic faith, they didn’t seem to fit into any of the other sections. The Portrait of St Paul is part of the Introduction to an anthology of passages from epistles of St Paul which I have been working on for some years. It has already been published in a US Catholic paper as has the Portrait of St Peter which was written, as it were, to match it.
The first section opens with an article on The Church and the Enlightenment because, as everyone with some degree of education knows, the movement of ideas we know as the 18th century enlightenment has, together with modern science and the industrial revolution, been one of the three main determining influences in modern history.
All the main socio-political movements which aim, or have aimed, at transforming society so as to produce some kind of earthly paradise have or have had their roots in the enlightenment; liberalism, socialism, anarchism, communism, and now secularism or secular humanism, with the last three explicitly involving the rejection of belief in God.
To some extent Vatican Two can be seen as an attempted peace treaty with the children of the enlightenment under its varying 20th century forms, in so far as that is possible, while at the same time explaining how much of the enlightenment legacy is or is not compatible with Catholic belief. Similarly many of the Church’s post-conciliar initiatives have been devoted to ‘re-inculturating’ her pastoral practices as much as possible in accord with late 20th-21st century western ways of life. The meaning and significance of ‘inculturation’ are explained in Article 4. Briefly it means presenting the Church’s teaching and practice in a way that enables the faithful to live their lives as Catholics without unnecessary clashes with the surrounding culture.
One of the earliest examples we have of the Church applying the principle of ‘inculturation’ is Pope St Gregory the Great’s famous letter to St Augustine of Canterbury explaining which aspects of 7th century Anglo-Saxon culture were acceptable or allowable. 20th century examples are Bl. Paul VI giving up the papal tiara, and bishops and cardinals abandoning the cappa magna or cassocks with trains so as to be more in keeping with the easy-going life style of western democracies.
Another conciliar initiative I take account of is the Church’s recognition, as possible allies, of those she now calls ‘people of good will’. (Article 9) These are non-Christians with whom she sees the possibility of collaborating in the overall pursuit of global justice and peace, or building a better world on a global scale. ‘People of good will’ could be described as non-Christians in a state of mind and heart pleasing to God. The problems as well as possibilities of this undertaking are discussed in (Article 8.)
A final point which it is important to keep in mind is that in some respects the enlightenment can be classified as a ‘Christian heresy’. It came to birth in a Christian civilisation and because of this many of its key ideas and aspirations have Christian roots. (Article 1) Human rights for instance and the importance of promoting them. Hence, the change of policy mentioned in the previous paragraph. But as Bl. Pope Paul VI warned, severed from their roots, many of these good things will wither and die. Only a Creator can refer rights. A blind cosmic process can’t. And apart from Christianity, no other religion provides as powerful a basis for believing that every human being matters to God to a degree almost surpassing belief.
List of Articles
Vatican II. The why, and wherefore
Implementation and Disruption
Theology and Spirituality
The Church and the World
Some of the articles above originally were published in The Wanderer newspaper and are reproduced with the publisher's kind permission
When Less can Mean More
Religious Orders and Religious Life