A parishioner who is new to the parish gave me quite a few back copies of the magazine "Catholic Life" last week, including the latest issue for April. Whenever I've seen this publication in the past it appeared innocuous enough - full of pictures and articles (usually linked to advertisements) of all things picturesque: colourful processions, historical churches and buildings, great Christian art of the past. "History, Culture, the Arts" as it says on the cover. But sit down to read it and amidst the outward appearance of reverence for Catholic history, culture and art you will find among some of the articles an agenda- driven modernism of the worst kind. Ignorant of the Church's teaching and biased to a liberal agenda.
To take a few examples from the April issue.
"Question Corner" by a Fr Kenneth Doyle answers a question from a reader who is uncomfortable with shaking hands at the Sign of Peace. The good Father explains that the Sign of Peace is "an ordinary and expected part of the Mass". The exchange of the Peace between priest and people verbally is indeed so, but the invitation to exchange a gesture among the congregation is not so - the Missal says "pro opportunitate" - when it is appropriate. Further clarification from Rome has said that it is "always optional"( cf. 2004 lineamenta for the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist No.42: 'The kiss of peace is not obligatory; it is done as opportunity presents itself.' ) . The advice goes further from Fr Doyle to say that if you feel uncomfortable with shaking hands or perhaps have a cold, that the person should "take care to greet those surrounding you with a warm smile and a wave." I have searched in vain to find this directive either in the Missal or even among the more local directives from the Bishops' Conference. It's clear that the advice is attempting to mislead the reader into believing that the exchange of the sign of Peace is always to be included in the Mass. This is NOT what the rubrics say.
In an article on "Innocent XI" which is meant to expound the generosity of the Pope from his family's wealth, the first paragraph is an out and out attack on the policy of the present government. "One of the most disturbing aspects of British politics in recent years has been the way the government has preached austerity while several of its more wealthy members have clearly continued to enjoy the good life themselves. While bankers have seen profits return, a rather nasty clampdown on welfare measures available to poorer members of society has been embarked upon." I wouldn't expect an uncritical endorsement of government policy but this is just unadorned Opposition rhetoric, without any acknowledgement that there might be other legitimate and Christian views of the matter.
Another article on relics is titled, "Just a bundle of bones for fools to admire?" The question mark might lead you to suspect that the article will answer such hostile criticism by laying out the Church's understanding of relics and their part in our veneration of the saints; in linking us in a personal way to the holiness of their lives and giving glory to God. But nooooo. After filling the pages with pictures of the beautiful reliquaries, it concludes with this:
"For many people in our increasingly secular society a belief in relics is indicative of a flat-earth mentality; a myopic and dim view of a diminishing and desperate ancient regime. They might be right..."
"They might be right" !!! Actually, they might be wrong - and indeed are wrong. The Catechism (#1674) lists the veneration of relics as a form of piety on a par with visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross and the rosary. The Code of Canon Law (#1237) insists that "the ancient tradition of keeping the relics of martyrs and other saints under a fixed altar is to be preserved." Perhaps these forms of piety are also considered by the "Catholic" writers in "Catholic Life" to be indicative of a flat-earth mentality as well.
There is also a fawning article championing the views of Cardinal Walter Kasper about the desirability of the admittance of the divorced and re-married to Holy Communion. His opinion seems to me to be nothing less than a fudge simply ignoring the Church's understanding and the Dominical teaching. The article compares his view to that of Cardinal Muller who says that the traditional teaching "represents the words of Jesus Christ, which is very clear. I cannot change Church doctrine." The gist is that Cardinal Kapser can sort this out this often sad and delicate problem with a "new" pastoral solution - "Love" (yes, it actually says this!) Implication: anyone who doesn't agree is neither loving nor pastoral. What the article doesn't highlight is that Cardinal Muller has rather more weight to bring to the argument. He is the current Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Cardinal Kasper is not.
All in all, it would seem that much of the "life" in this particular "Catholic Life" is not very Catholic. So, don't be taken in by the glossy, pretty pictures. The pictures may be Catholic but take a closer look at the text.
By the way, it's published by the Universe Media Group.