The costly failure of our Faith’s leaders leaves a dire legacy

The costly failure of our Faith’s leaders leaves a dire legacy Michael Merrick

Catholic blogging is, in many ways, a thing of the past. My own site was last updated a year and a half ago, for instance, with just two posts from the previous 12 months,  while it’s been almost four years since the ‘Lux Occulta’ blog of the pseudonymous ‘Shane’ at saw any new content.

Luckily, however, the content of such blogs still remains accessible, with Lux Occulta remaining an indispensable treasure trove for anyone interested in the genuine riches that sparkled in pre-Vatican II Irish Catholicism. One post, for instance, links to a PDF of the 1951 Maynooth Catechism, while another links to a curious booklet from the same era on The Integral Irish Tradition.

Of special interest for today’s Catholics is a 1962 Doctrine and Life article by Desmond Fennell asking ‘Will the Irish stay Christian?’ Posted on the blog in March 2011, the article begins by observing that over the previous 150 years, the majority of people in Europe had abandoned Christian belief and declaring “there is no reason why the same should not happen here”.

Arguing that a rise in wealth had underpinned the abandoning of Christianity across Europe in favour of a vague popular idolatry, Dr Fennell argued that it wasn’t increasing knowledge or literacy or even wealth itself that had driven Christianity out. Rather, he said, the problem was an inadequate response to these things.

“Primarily, it was caused by the failure of the Christian leaders to understand the new developments Christianly, to make Christian deductions from them and to convey these in a living manner to the believers,” he observed. “This failure to ‘know the times’ and to lead them was a joint failure of charity and of intellect.”

With Christian leadership failing, he continued, the way was left clear for rival social leaders to make plausible anti-Christian deducations and claims, and to push their ideas. They were pushing, he implies, against open doors, if not actually rotten ones.

In the new world, he warned, man is “systematically prevented from gaining knowledge of himself and encouraged to gain knowledge of countless things”. The essay, with its analysis of Irish Catholicism on the eve of the Council, is fascinating – by no means perfect, it nonetheless contains an awful lot that explains how we have ended up where we are.


The decline of blogging is especially felt whenever confronted on Twitter by lengthy tweet-threads such as from the Chicago-based Michael Bayer, who tweets from @mbayer1248.

Mr Bayer’s threads always provide food for thought, and testify diverse experience, assiduous observation and careful thought about American Catholicism and the Church more generally.

Unfortunately, it’s hard not to wonder about the wisdom of writing 18 successive tweets about how the Church thinks about homosexuality or 32 tweets in a row on how it’s not good enough for bishops to talk about tackling abuse through interior conversion if they’re not serious about real ecclesiastical reform too.

Blogging may be unfashionable, but at least it would enable these long threads to be live on without being blown to nothingness by Twitter’s amnesiac winds.


A hard thinker worth following

It seems somehow appropriate to see one of Catholic Twitter’s die-hard thinkers, Cumbrian teacher Michael Merrick [pictured] who tweets from @michael_merrick, even now refuses to abandon his blog wholesale, and just last week tweeted a list of links to a series of related posts there.

December had seen hosting the text of a talk given in Cheshire’s Thornycroft Hall in November on the subject of ‘The Catholic Curriculum’, asking serious questions about what curricula are for and pointing out that “the opposite to a Catholic curriculum is not a neutral curriculum – it is merely that of another faith”. It’s the kind of analysis of what Catholic schools should be trying to do that we desperately need in Ireland now.

Other posts consider topics as diverse – but linked – as ‘The challenge of traditionalism’, ‘Forming the curriculum’, ‘Contesting the canon’, and ‘Hirsch, secularism, and the Catholic curriculum’. They’re all worth pondering.

The blogs may be down, but they’re not out.