Whose A La Carte Menu? Exploring Catholic themes in context.

Angela Hanley, Athlone based theologian, has just published a new book, which will be launched on Sunday, February 1st, in the Shamrock Lodge Hotel, Athlone at 5.00pm.

This is a wonderful, and much needed, book. Those of us in the reform movement in the Church are often accused of being ‘a la carte catholics’. Angela points out that everyone, no matter what ideological position they come from, tend to pick and choose from the multi-faceted teaching of the Gospel. That is the meaning of the title.

In my speaking tour of the U.S. last Autumn I was constantly impressed by how knowledgeable the reform minded people are over there. A great many of them have studied theology. But even those who haven’t seem to read widely. They are familiar with the National Catholic Reporter, the Tablet, America magazine, Crux, and many others.

They are interested in what is happening in the Vatican, and it is no bother to them to have a learned discussion on exactly what Pope Francis is about, and what the chances are that he will bring about real reform. Everywhere I went I met ordinary catholics who wanted to discuss with me the latest theology book they had read.

We are not nearly as well educated in the faith in Ireland, even those of us who are working for reform. And this is why Angela’s book is so valuable. It gives a clear, easily understood, analysis of the major areas that are causing concern in the Church today. She has put a great deal of research into it, and the historical background on each topic is enormously informative and important.

The first chapter is entitled ‘In the Beginning’; she takes us through from the early days of the Church, and how it gradually developed. She explains the importance of tradition in our Church, but tradition is not a static, but a constantly developing concept. Then she goes through the development of doctrine and dogma, and how they differ. Three great chapters deal with the Papacy, Church Councils and Infallibility, leading up to an account of the Second Vatican Council. I learned a lot about the origins of Canon Law, and how it became such a central and controlling part of the life of the Church. A topic that Pope Francis is talking a great deal about these days, contraception, is analysed. I have read many accounts of the background to the encyclical Humanae Vitae, but this is by far the most revealing and interesting. And of course she has important things to say about the priesthood, and the dreadful problem of clerical sexual abuse.

Angela ends her book with some challenges to all of us, especially those of us who are working for reform. She questions those who, while recognising the failure, and even corruption, of the system, remain within it and work at local level in their parishes. Would it not be better, she asks, if all who feel like this would stand back “with love”, and in that way cease to continue upholding the system?

Even if you have no familiarity with theology you will find this book very accessible. It will help to deepen and broaden your understanding of what is happening in the Church at present, why Benedict may have retired, and why the cardinals voted in somebody who seems to have the vision and the courage to attempt some serious reform.

I have the privilege of launching this book, in the Shamrock Lodge Hotel in Athlone on Sunday, February 1st, at 5.00pm. If you can come to support Angela in her very important work, please do.

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  1. Soline Humbert says:

    Looking forward to the launch on 1st February: A great way to celebrate the feast of St Brigid and the arrival of springtime…

  2. Maureen Mulvaney says:

    Yes, indeed, I am looking forward to the launch too and as Soline said “a great way to celebrate the arrival of spring. May it also lead to a new springtime in our Church.

  3. The book “The Catholic Church – A Short History” by Hans Kung could be very useful in throwing some light on how ‘The Church’ developed historically.
    No wonder that Fr.Kung was removed from his role as a teaching theologian?

  4. Sadly, I cannot be in Athlone a week on Sunday, but I will be buying, and looking forward to reading, Angela Hanley’s new book and recommending it to my friends.

  5. Pól Ó Duibhir says:

    Are we allowed to ask if Veritas will be stocking it?

  6. John Quinn says:

    John Quinn…
    we tend to forget that the churches to whom Paul wrote were all very different apart from the “Jesus thing”…there was no single a la carte menu. Rosemary Haughton in her book “The Catholic Thing” (1979) described it thus, “A Catholic Church must…include people of all kinds. If it includes a number of saints and sages, it will also include a number of hypocrites and cynics….It must reach people where they are, in their own cultural milieu, whether that be an Austrian village or an American city, and in the process the message will be restricted, scaled down to meet their level of love and understanding. If it were not, they could never realize that it was for them, let alone have a chance to respond. That is what ‘Catholic’ has to mean…”
    One reviewer wrote,” Ms. Haughton firmly believes that Catholicism is not restricted to Catholicism or even Christianity. It is a completely human and divine enterprise that official Christianity – particularly in its Roman form – often subverts, corrupts, or destroys…”
    As James Joyce wrote in Finnegans Wake, Catholic means “Here comes everybody. ”
    Some time back I proudly proclaimed “I am a Cafeteria Catholic” (http://www.scouserquinn.com/?p=4647) and in History of Cafeteria Catholicism (http://www.scouserquinn.com/?p=4649) looked at many of my heroes.
    But if I am a Cafeteria Catholic so too are those Catholics who accuse me. These Cafeteria Catholics demand that if I don’t eat from their buffet table I am not “really a Catholic”. Like Rome they believe in “magic words”. Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer are heretical, Father, Son and Spirit are salvific. For them what the Pope, or the bishop, or the priest who has not cracked a book since his ordination says is “gospel truth” whereas what the gospel says is God knows what.
    These Cafeteria Catholics decide what will be on the table from which they eat because, “they know the mind of God” but refuse to recognise that they too are setting up a Cafeteria. The Cafeteria that demands you believe in “transubstantiation” but refuses communion if you only believe in the real presence of Jesus at Eucharist, is not a place where I want to eat. But it is a Cafeteria, just “their cafeteria“.
    I struggle with a Cafeteria that offers only men as priests, because the Jew Jesus who didn’t appoint any priests, had a dozen or so male Jewish companions. That same Cafeteria is appalled by the suggestion that such statements should logically conclude, only Jewish men can be Catholic priests. That Cafeteria cannot nourish me. So I choose to be nourished elsewhere.
    Everyone is a Cafeteria Catholic. Those who proclaim it proudly and joyfully have moved on from the pablum of infant years, may still be eating the apple sauce of childhood, have moved to the hamburger and fries of adolescence or even the shrimp cocktail of adulthood or are even back to the more easily chewable and easily digestible repasts of later years. We were originally fed by our mothers and fathers in faith but moved out and chose that which sustained us for our life’s journey. A person may survive on pablum but will not flourish.
    The table that is laid with such food as, El Papa is always right – don’t disagree with the bishop – sexuality and sexual orientation are problems to be dealt with not gifts to be celebrated – my country right or wrong – 7 sacraments for men, 6 sacraments for women – pay, pray and obey – is not sufficient to encourage healthy growth. Such food will keep you a child, will be fed to you by persons determined to keep you dependent and submissive.
    I am a Cafeteria Catholic. I am proud to be a Cafeteria Catholic, more I am called to be a Cafeteria Catholic. Pope Benedict XVI is a Cafeteria Catholic, Pope John Paul II was a Cafeteria Catholic, Pope Paul VI was a Cafeteria Catholic, in a family different members eat different foods. Some flourish, some just survive. But they are all part of the family.
    There is only one group that says their cafeteria – actually an a la carte fixe price one choice(?) for all menu is the only cafeteria. They are the only ones who think that everyone has no choice but to eat at their cafeteria table if they want to go to heaven. If they are correct then I will take solace in the words of the Irish playwright Brendan Behan who when asked where he would like to go after death, heaven or hell responded, “Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.”
    John Quinn is a Cafeteria Catholic, who is beyond his biblical three-score and ten but is still awaiting wisdom. He was born in Bootle, now living in Canada, married to (Nora O’Malley) for 44+ years, with four children and two incredible granddaughters, who expects to die a Catholic but knows he will die a Liverpool supporter.

  7. I’m familiar with Angela’s work but am somewhat taken aback by the idea of standing back in love. I suppose to let that die. That is happening anyhow. Even Down & Connor records deep losses.
    I don’t honestly see as a priest at the coalface how my refusing to baptise, celebrate Eucharist, bury the dead will advance anything. It is the logical conclusion of that proposal. Surely one can reform from within and strive to live a life with as much integrity as possible. Didn’t Jesus sit with sinners rather than stay disdainfully a distance away. Last night I had a meeting with 16 wonderful young people. The topic setting out our 2015 schedule of Monthly Eucharistic Hours. I’d describe them more as prayerful conversations and lots of space for the Lord to speak. They’ve no agenda, accept everyone and treat all as equals- including priests. Not all things are bad. Bless what is good please.

  8. Father Tom Cox has identified an enormous, on-going issue and debate about what should the person’s response be, who desires reform in the Church? I dare say, thousands and thousands of Catholics deal with that question regularly. It’s not that we can ever come to an error-free RC Church organization….simply because….as the scripture says….our thoughts are not God’s thoughts…and our ways…are not God’s ways…Given, the nature of divine wisdom vs. human wisdom…there is always going to be a margin of error on the part of the Church Institution. Each of us, concerned about the integrity of the Church, needs to research, and contemplate what is ultimately effective, useful, and compassionate in terms of our response to the desire and need for Church reform. Some people stay and try to renew from within, some people stand out in love, some people walk away, and some people are very vocal and active in challenging the Church. Are any ways better than others?

  9. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    Darlene, @8, the Church, or shall we say hierarchy, is better off backed into a corner where they not only have to contemplate what affects the Church but also make a decision regarding it. I’ve raised this point several times before but the quickest advancement I see is having Canon law scrutinized to whether or not it adheres to Natural law.
    Where it doesn’t adhere (which essentially makes up key points of the ACP platform), the Vatican must do a better job at explaining how it is that Canon law can not pass the rigours of Aquinas’s Natural Law. Without explanation, does this mean that whoever occupies the Vatican is now in ultimate control of the theology of the Church above St. Thomas?
    What the members of the ACP and the USACP and the PI and the like are essentially asking for is that Canon Law should adhere to Natural Law.
    St. Thomas Aquinas, no matter what he states about “celibacy”, has always been on your side. Remember, the interpretation of Jesus allowing only celibate men join the Apostles is simply that, interpretation. Divine and Natural Laws are immutable – positive laws are conditioned based on circumstances. The fact that “celibacy” has made its way into the Canons is proof that it is positive law and any positive law that does not adhere to either Natural or Divine law has no business in the Canons.
    That isn’t my opinion, that’s Thomas Aquinas’s.

  10. Neil Bray says:

    I would like to contact Fr Tom Cox on a matter of pastoral provision – Eucharistic adoration. Can he facilitate me?

    1. Association of Catholic Priests says:

      This website is not in a position to facilitate contacts between those who post comments.
      It is not recommended that people post personal email addresses because these will be spammed.
      Secondly, we cannot vouch for the email addresses used by posters as some post under a pseudonym and some post under multiple identities .. but such practices may be an issue for another discussion.

  11. Neil Bray says:

    Neil Bray
    Co Limerick
    – should Fr Cox be willing to contact me about his Eucharistic adoration initiative with young people.

  12. Soline Humbert says:

    Angela Hanley,author of Whose A La Carte Menu? will be speaking at the We Are Church Ireland meeting on Monday 9th February in the Milltown Institute,Dublin 6 at 7:30 pm. ALL ARE VERY WELCOME.

  13. William O'Brien says:

    I was intrigued by the discussion and find it very thoughtful. As I was reading it however, I began to think that perhaps we are using the wrong image. In a cafeteria, one’s choices are limited by one’s means, as well as one’s appetite and desire.
    I would choose therefore the image of a buffet. It is not limited to what one can afford but to what one can enjoy, or even overindulge in. It also allows for a return to check other choices and perhaps enjoy something new and different at the same time. If we begin to think of the image of the buffet, we can then also taste perhaps some bits of what our partners have on their plates, without refusing to recognize that it too is good.
    Yes I too make choice, but still see other things that appeal, and am willing to taste something new.

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