When the political philosopher Edmund Burke wrote: “These things are unspeakable, but I cannot remain silent,” he could well have been speaking about the terrible sexual scandals that have taken place in our Church. Correction – that are taking place in our Church here and now from the very top to the bottom. I have almost completed my final book, my autobiography called Injured Innocence that describes, amongst other things, my personal experience of what has been happening over the last sixty years and more of my life to desecrate our Church. I knew these scandals would eventually come out into the public domain so before I published this book I wanted to have a clear and positive spiritual teaching in place which would help support those who would be scandalized by these unspeakable happenings. That is why I first wrote, Wisdom from the Western Isles and that is why I have just published, Wisdom from the Christian Mystics.
Back to the Future
This last book has taken me ten years to write because it entailed going back to the very beginnings of our Church to see and understand the very nature of the profound spirituality that Jesus Christ, Our Lord lived himself before bequeathing it to his first followers in the early Church. This book was launched at The Athenaeum, Pall Mall, London earlier this year. It was only by doing this first and so giving my readers a positive God-given spirituality to support and guide them into the future that I felt justified in showing what has been going wrong in the Church for so long. However, before I could do it myself, in a way that would simultaneously enable me to support my readers with hope, and with a practical daily spirituality, events have overtaken me. I would like to make it quite clear then, that I am not just an old reactionary, an ostrich with his head in the sand, churning out pious articles and books, oblivious of the terrible events that have been, and are, still tearing our Church apart. One of the reasons why so many just turn off when they hear someone, most usually a cleric, prattling on about prayer and the spiritual life, is because they quite rightly argue that – if it has done nothing for them then how can it possibly do anything for me. Increasingly then people are simply turning off when ‘the powers that be’ churn out pious platitudes to keep the masses on side. There are very many good bishops, priests and laypeople in the Church, who try to write about authentic spirituality, but they have been undermined by so many who use what Karl Marx once called ‘the opium of the people’ to keep them happy with a dubious piety so they do not see what is going on amongst the poppy growers.
Our Lady warned us
If, in these desperate times that Our Lady warned us about many years ago, we are to raise our hearts and minds to heaven for help, then authentic spirituality is the only thing we have to help us. On the first Pentecost day Mary’s son, Jesus, sent out the love of God which can alone transform us and our Church into what it is meant to be. However, love of its very nature has to be freely sought and freely received. Furthermore, this love of God that raised Jesus from the dead and who can raise all who receive it from the dead, is not actually an ‘it’, a ‘thing’, but a living person called the Holy Spirit. The authentic spirituality that Jesus gave to the early Church and through the early Church to us is specifically designed to do in our lives what was done in Jesus’ life, namely to show us how we must continually raise our hearts and minds to receive God’s ever available love. That is why whenever Our Lady appears it is always to call us all back to prayer.
Nobody can be changed without love
No one can be changed without love, nor can any person or any group of persons, like the Church for instance. Authentic spirituality is just the word used to describe how we change our lives in such a way that we are open daily to receive God’s love, the Holy Spirit. That is why it is called spirituality. Jesus prayed relentlessly every day of his life, as he was taught to pray by Mary and Joseph, because prayer is how he continually opened himself to receive his Father’s love to enable him to do his will and to do it to the end. Prayer was the heart and soul then, of the profound spirituality that Jesus gave to his first disciples, and then through them to us. This was precisely because it is through genuine prayer alone that we can receive the same love that he received, to change us and to change the Church that he founded to change the world. That is why I have spent my whole life trying to pray and studying the whole Christian mystical tradition to help me to help others.
Marriage without love = Disaster
Jesus insists that this love binds us to himself just as married love binds us to our husband or wife in marriage. But, take love out of any marriage and that marriage disintegrates. Take love out of the marriage between God and his people in the Old Testament, and that marriage disintegrates to be followed by disaster. That is why Jesus came to put love back where it belonged, but when his old religion rejected him he founded a new religion to do what his own people had refused to do. We belong to that new religion and in it we have been married to him through the love of God sent for that purpose. However, take that love out and as always, disaster follows, because so many of our leaders, from top to bottom, have stopped trying to love God, and so cannot receive his love in return. They have turned instead to counterfeit love sometimes of the most hideous and degrading sort to satisfy their evil perverted love or rather lust, and in some places on an industrial scale. I will not detail here what other newspapers and news outlets will no doubt love to detail, because despite everything I have another point to make, which despite the horrors that we have to hear about in the media is a message of hope.
Fear not there is Hope
It is not the hope manufactured by an old ostrich with his head in the sand, blind to the terrible realities that confront the modern Church, but the hope that Christ himself gave us. The gates of hell will not prevail against his Church – the marriage that has been consummated with his people. Despite these happenings that are indeed unspeakable, love, as I know by personal experience, will never be totally lost, at least amongst a remnant, perhaps a small minority to begin with. But as promised, the mustard seed will gradually grow again to restore what has been lost. In my book Wisdom from the Christian Mystics I have tried to do two things for my brothers and sisters in the Church. I have tried to detail the profound mystical spirituality as lived by Jesus himself before it was handed on to us through his disciples. I have done this so that it can be our rock amidst the hurricane force storms that surround us. Secondly, I have tried to show how the love upon which all else depends to keep us and our Church bound to Christ was heinously extracted from Christian spirituality. I show how this happened in a most particularly and ruthless way for priests and religious in the aftermath of the condemnation of a heresy called Quietism four hundred years ago (1687). Gradually what happened to them effected the sheep who were deprived of good shepherds. I showed how God’s love must be welcomed back, not just to bind us back into the mystery of our mystical marriage with Christ, but there to fill us with the truth, the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Only he can lead us back to the true way with the God-given knowledge that can lead us into the future where, as promised, what was sowed in tears can be reaped in joy.
The celebration of family life in Ireland
That the celebration of family life in Ireland should be the backdrop to the ongoing and terrible accusations of sexual depravity from top to bottom in the Church leadership is perhaps fortuitous, although the word fortuitous is perhaps not the right word to use in these sad circumstances. I have used it however, because as a spiritual theologian and historian, I can assure you that the love of God that has renewed the Church so many times in the past in adversity, has been rekindled by the love of God generated in and through human loving in married life. This would take yet one more book to be written. If I am given the help and strength perhaps I will write it for it is of the utmost importance. The Love of God, the Holy Spirit, can only enter into us through love. Marriage, and the love that is generated there, not only enables God to enter into the lovers with his love but with his wisdom too – the Holy Spirit.
The ‘sensus fidei’
What Theologians call the ‘sensus fidei’ is the Holy Spirit positively guiding the Church. It does not only come from the top down but, and more often, from the bottom up as the Holy Spirit guides his people through those who generate and develop sufficient love to allow him in. The Magisterium, or teaching authority of the Church is there to guide, regulate, teach and judge when necessary, but holy inspiration comes through love, the love that we generate to allow the Holy Spirit in, and the place where this all begins is the family. When you read my columns in future you are not reading the words of an ostrich blind to what is destroying the church, but to a spiritual theologian trying to show how to welcome into our lives and our Church the only love that can save us. In the months ahead opportunists from the extreme right and the extreme left will be trying to exploit the present moral malaise in the Church to forward their own ill-gotten and ill-conceived little heresies. At the same time the intelligentsia will be bombarding us with their rational solutions born of their faith in pure reason that comes from the enlightenment. But, like St Paul I will continue to preach Christ and Christ crucified (1 Cor 1:22-25). It will only be through the dying to self that is learnt through learning to love that we will rise, that the Church will rise as Christ rose, to bring his Kingdom of love to a world that is in such desperate need of it.
David Torkington’s three book mentioned above are Wisdom from the Western Isles, Wisdom from Franciscan Italy and Wisdom from the Christian mystics. All are available from Amazon.co.uk , Amazon.com or from any bookshop.