There seems to be endless controversy about this group. This seems a shame as it is pretty much impossible for it to do the job ostensibly envisaged for it in that context. In saying that I am not saying ‘the knockers should shut up’. I am not entering into the question of whether the criticism is legitimate at all. It merely seems that the purpose of the organisation was to give a non-official but orthodox answer to the media when the Church is criticised or misrepresented. If CV is seen as a party with opinions of its own differing from the uncontested teaching of the Church (uncontested by those who profess loyalty to the Holy See) then it is pretty much useless. Such opinions may differ without being censured or wrong. Merely to stray into the region of speculation or private theological opinion or even just too far into the region of contingent prudential judgement destroys CV’s claim to represent mere Catholicism. It seems that, in their decision not to be seen to dissent from the prudential judgment of the English Bishops, CV have put themselves in a position where such prudential judgements as are seen to imply conflict with Catholic doctrine by many of the faithful are now attributed to CV along with the errors they are taken to imply. This would be unwise regardless of whether the bishops are right or wrong. It is the Bishops’ job to make prudential judgements and their responsibility to get them right and to avoid any prudential judgments (right or wrong) that might imply or entail dissent from Catholic doctrine. It is not the responsibility of the laity (and so of CV) to make the same prudential judgements as the bishops, nor are they obliged to agree with them although (if they do not think the decision incompatible with the Gospel) the laity ought to exercise prudence in how and where they express disagreement. But by the same logic it is not the responsibility of a ‘mere-Catholicism’ lay PR organisation to trumpet the Bishops’ judgements either (even if they are right) and it is incompatible with their purported effort to represent mere Catholicism.

There seems to be another, serious but not insurmountable, problem with Catholic Voices. The purpose of PR is to win favour with the world. The purpose of the Gospel may not be to offend the world, but offending the world is an unavoidable side-effect of fidelity to the Gospel. The best a Catholic PR outfit can really hope or aim to achieve is therefore to make sure that the massa damnata are offended for the right reasons thereby clearing the way for grace. It is said that CV were founded in reaction to the poor performance of some Catholic speakers in a debate in which they defended the motion ‘the Catholic Church is a force for good in the world’. The real lesson to take from that is that you should not defend false propositions in the name of the Catholic Church. If the Catholic Faith is true (and it is) then the Catholic Church is the only force for good in the world. Catholics should not expect any favours from the world and if they receive them they should examine their consciences. Newman’s warning echoes down to us,

 

Nature is one with nature, grace with grace; the world then witnesses against you by being good friends with you; you could not have got on with the world so well, without surrendering something which was precious and sacred. The world likes you, all but your professed creed; distinguishes you from your creed in its judgment of you, and would fain separate you from it in fact. Men say, “These persons are better than their Church; we have not a word to say for their Church; but Catholics are not what they were, they are very much like other men now. Their Creed certainly is bigoted and cruel, but what would you have of them? You cannot expect them to confess this; let them change quietly, no one changes in public,—be satisfied that they are changed. They are as fond of the world as we are; they take up political objects as warmly; they like their own way just as well; they do not like strictness a whit better; they hate spiritual thraldom, and they are half ashamed of the Pope and his Councils. They hardly believe any miracles now, and are annoyed when their own brethren confess that there are such; they never speak of purgatory; they are sore about images; they avoid the subject of Indulgences; and they will not commit themselves to the doctrine of exclusive salvation. The Catholic doctrines are now mere badges of party. Catholics think for themselves and judge for themselves, just as we do; they are kept in their Church by a point of honour, and a reluctance at seeming to abandon a fallen cause.”

Such is the judgment of the world, and you, my brethren, are shocked to hear it;—but may it not be, that the world knows more about you than you know about yourselves? “If ye had been of the world,” says Christ, “the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” So speaks Christ of His Apostles. How run His words when applied to you? “If ye be of the world, the world will love its own; therefore ye are of the world, and I have not chosen you out of the world, because the world doth love you.” Do not complain of the world’s imputing to you more than is true; those who live as the world lives give countenance to those who think them of the world, and seem to form but one party with them. In proportion as you put off the yoke of Christ, so does the world by a sort of instinct recognise you, and think well of you accordingly.

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