Tuesday 22 April 2008

Liberal Catholic Manifesto

Liberal Catholic is meant here in a general not denominational sense, although if there is an overlap then all to the good.

A Liberal Catholic approach recognises the difference between:

Liturgy as a spiritual path
Theology as an explanation of spiritual and religious confession and perspective on the world

Following on from this a Liberal Catholic approach recognises:

The importance of a disciplined and yet moderate practice
The importance of free thinking

Then a Liberal Catholic approach recognises the difference between:

Narrative and story as a means of re-enchantment in religion connecting a created past and a creative present
History as an attempt through sources to establish what people of the time thought of the situation of the time

Following on from this,the Liberal Catholic approach sees that:

A narrative can be fictional, factual or a combination, and one can be aware of this and ought to be able to declare how it seems to be
A history in the past may be inaccessible in part or whole, either through an absence of primary sources and/ or such a shift in culture that translation, sympathy and empathy is almost impossible

By necessity liturgy or practice is narrower than theology. It is liturgy that is the carrier of ritual and it is exchange and gift ritual that connects individuals and groups into binding purposes along with expressions of the divine.

Theology may be narrowed by liturgical practice, but it can also lead to the widest possible connections.

Both liturgy and theology are linked to narrative; liturgy need not be linked to historical method although it can be; at some point theology should connect with historical method when it discusses matters of historical importance (even to find them lacking). It can declare even central liturgical events as historically unavailable but can continue to theologise on wider meanings of liturgical practice.

The Church practises liturgy and draws in theology in the task of describing its faith. The Church has the right to maintain and to change its faith and to associate with other philosophies and beliefs in the pursuit of some definition, as it has in the past, as it inherits from past cultures and changes with new cultures and plausibility paradigms, but it also should respect the intelligence and speciality of individuals and groups within to theologise themselves and give their own expression of faith. The Church may wish to propose the least possible practical definition to give more space to members, or simply propose itself as an arena for plurality of understandings, as it oversees liturgical activities.

The Church may seek connections of legitimacy and authority through shared methods of recognition of authority and inheritance, in order that it is an entity, although it may then wish to subvert the more traditional implications of such authority structures in terms of operating in a self-limiting manner. The Church should decide freely with which other Churches it wishes to associate, if any. It should not be afraid to adopt and adapt insights from other Churches.

What makes this Liberal is the commitment to freedom and breadth; what makes this Catholic is the importance of a liturgical approach.


Anonymous said...

Mr Worsfold, thanks for the great post! There is a lot of great stuff here. I just have one question: would it not be better described as "Liberal Liturgical" instead of "Liberal Catholic"?

I ask this because it seems that there is an underlying assumption being made about the word "Catholic." The word is generally utilized to denote the entire breadth of the Christian tradition and more specifically, the parts of the Christian tradition that trace their roots, through succession, to the Apostles.

It seems, based on what you have written here, that "liturgical" would be a better fit. After all, there are liturgical approaches which are not Catholic, e.g. Presbyterianism, which follows a strict liturgy in their form of worship. Using this alternate word would also seem to better highlight the points you make in this post.

Regardless, thanks for the post.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

It could be so described. I associate the more Protestant side with freer worship and by liturgical I would want to see some effort towards the use of the arts. The Unitarians who pushed the liturgical further than anyone else became Free Catholic, the Anglicans who stress liturgy are even moderately Anglo-Catholic. So it is usage.