What is man, that thou art mindful of him? * and the son of man, that thou visitest him? Psalm 8:4 (Book of Common Prayer)
What are human beings that you spare a thought for them, or the child of Adam that you care for him? (NJB)
As the life of the Ordinariate unfolds, so it becomes a little clearer what the ‘Anglican Patrimony’ might be; what it is that we bring from our Anglican heritage into the fullness of Catholic Communion. In this post I want to suggest that we have had some remarkable theologians, including those of recent times. Indeed, I think Fr Aidan Nichols OP has actually called Dr Eric Mascall a ‘separated Doctor of the Church’.
In 1940 Eric Mascall contributed to a series of paperbacks entitled ‘Signposts’. The purpose was described thus:
” This series consists of twelve books, written by young theologians and philosophers of the Church of England. It is the common conviction of the writers that only the authentic Christian tradition has the answer to the problems which beset the present age, and that only by a return to that tradition can disaster be avoided. Such a return is no mere reaction but rather the necessary prelude to progress, for Christian Theology is a signpost warning Homo Sapiens of the precipice that lies ahead and directing him back to the high road of human fulfilment. There is a widespread notion that Theology is irrelevant and out of date. In actual fact, Theology answers those very relevant questions about the origin and purpose of the world in which we live that come naturally to the lips of every child, and for lack of an answer to which modern civilisation stands today on the brink of suicide. What is out of date is not traditional Christian Theology, but the multitude of present-day attemts to ‘bring it up to date’. The reader of this series will find himself in regions beyond a Modernism which has already become outmoded. He will also find himself in the congenial and bracing climate of an ancient Faith. ”
Dr Mascall writes:
“At a time such as this it falls to the Christian Church to proclaim that man is made for God and for nothing less than God, and that, in consequence, because a man must pass through this earth on the way to heaven, all th things of this life, if they are used in accordance with the will of God, can play their part in getting him there. The words which a great Florentine Archbishop wrote 500 years ago still stand as the true expression of the place that the things of this world hold in the life of man: ‘The object of gain is that by its means man may provide for himself and others according to their state. The object of providing for himself and others is that they may be able to live virtuously. The object of a virtuous life is the attainment of everlasting glory.’ (St Antonino of Florence, Summa Moralis, I,i,3,iii.) And this everlasting glory is nothing less than the Vision of God. ” (Man, his Origin and Destiny p.40)
Dr Mascall is no less clear about the implications of the Doctrine of Man for modern life:
“It is perhaps in the realms of economics and international politics that the frustration of our civilisation is most clearly to be seen…. The purpose of the economic and financial organisation of a community – the thing that economics and finance are for – is to facilitate the production of the material goods that men and women need and to distribute them where they are wanted; and this without damage to the higher values of human life. It includes, for example, such things as getting potatoes grown and seeing that we are given them to eat. Now capitalism – by which is meant the economic order under which most of the world lives today and under which the primary purpose of any business concern is to produce money for the people who have invested in it – has never succeeded in doing this; ever since the Industrial Revolution, and even in the palmiest days of Victorianism, there have been vast masses of people who were producing things which, however much they needed them, they were not allowed to consume, and on the other hand a few captains of industry and finance who had things they did not really need…. Captitalism therefore never succeeded in fulfilling the proper function of an economic order, namely the production and distribution of goods (and, as it never set out to do so, we need hardly be surprised at this, though many people seem to be … for, whether capitalism is right or wrong the plain fact about it is that it simply is not working. ” ( Ibid. p.13 )
Is it too much to hope that the Ordinariate might raise up from among its priests and from its laity – both men and women – a group of young theologians and philosophers who might speak again with clarity of the origin and destiny of Man (Humanity, if you prefer)? Sucn theological underpinning is desperately needed, for without it we have no basis on which to discuss such pressing concerns as genetic research, the preservation and prolongation of life through medical intervention, and a host of other ethical imperatives.
What used to be the fertile European root of culture and progress appears to
have been forgotten …. Pope Benedict XVI