I feel that Mr. McChesney's critics have totally failed to understand the deep intellectual convictions upon which he bases his criticism of current preaching. What is needed now is not merely an intellectual understanding of the fundamental dogmas of our Faith, but also an existential grasp of their inner meaning.
Without this deep insight which springs from psychological and spiritual wholeness, it is impossible to adequately express doctrine in terms of life and of our common human experience.
Preaching. generally speaking, tends to adopt an horizontal or purely intellectual approach to the deep mysteries of our Faith, and to he lacking in thc vertical dimension -an understanding in depth which springs from our own personal dialogical struggle to make the truths of religion come If preaching is to be truly dynamic and effective the preacher must first himself have plumbed that secret place in the depths of the psyche where the horizontal and the vertical, the intellectual and the intuitional intersect, and a great light is born.
This cot:jun(1in of head and heart is the precise meaning of the eternal mystery of the Cross and the ultimate aim of the whole cosmic process.
All this. as I see it, is what Mr. McChesney is endeavouring to express and it badly needs saying. Fr. Henry St. John. 0.P. has said much the same thing in Search (Vol. II, No. I): The dichotomy between head and heart, intellect and will. knowledge and character bedevils our education. the whole of it, religious and secular: it has reduced preaching. broadly speaking, to frustrating ineptitude."
Would anyone seriously accuse Fr. St. John of arrogance and lack of humility? I think not! Neither should your correspondent lightly bring the same charge against Mr. McChesney. who is only con cerned to deepen and make more effecatial our Christian witness in the world through the ministry of the word.
Would that others were as deeply concerned as he is to bring to birth a truly living thenlogy in the Church!
G. F. Pollard I have read Mr. McC:heeney's letter several times. The more I read it the more I am convinced of the basic truth which lies behind his assertions. It seems that although he is outspoken the characteristic tone of his letter is that of someone who has been driven by events to saying what he had to say.
Since the Church is a human as well as a divine institution, it is inevitable that human weaknesses will often get in the way of basic doctrine.
What Mr. Mc(•hesney was cornplaining about aas not the Faith but the way the Faith is distorted --the way emphasis is put on the wrong things. I have long laboured under the impression that a good deal of what was going on at the Council was criticism.
1 thought that" Hans Kung had already clarified the concept of "criticism". I also believed that Pope Paul had suggested Reform as one of the aims of the Council. How do you reform something which is perfect?
Mr. Burrough and Miss Cunningham appear to imagine that everything in the Church is Perfect. Miss Cunningham seems to want us to accept a package deal at Baptism.
1 was very young at the time I was baptized but 1 can assure Miss Cunningham that when I was given the Faith I did not expect to be given. for example, miraculous medals, recitation of the Rosary during Maas, meaningless jargon or a denial of free speech.
Granted that the Church is not perfect then it is that very "protesting spirit". which Miss Cunningham denies Mr. McChesnee's right to, which will help us bring about the agglarnamento which the Council intends.
In many ways Mr. McChesney has been moderate. A very long list could be drawn up of distortions in the Church. I am sure we aren't supposed to suffer them quietly. h one expected to leave one's critical faculties at home on Sunday mornings?
Although preachers doubtless receive a special grace. this does not mean that they can neglect the normal arts of clear communication. If one analyses the things which have upset Mr. McChesnee, it will be seen that they are common to many of us.
Perhaps there is a tendency for "progressives" to lack charity, but there can be no excuse for the cheap sneers of your two correspondents nor for their gratuitous clericalism. How well do they know. for example, the clergy of Rochdale and how do they know that Mr. McChesney hasn't just moved there and was criticising other parishes he has known?
Bernard Tucker M iddleton.
I wonder if I may be allowed to clarify what I said two weeks ago about pulpit jargon. To use jargon is to use. in normal discourse, the technical terms of specialist study and to render one's meaning unnecessarily obscure. There is nothing wrong with jargon in itself: it is merely out of place in normal communication when plain English could be used.
It seems to me that the proclamation of the Christian good news can be done in plain language without the use of scholastic theological terms, which may have place in a seminary but not outside.
The news of the risen Christ was powerfully rendered to the world after Pentecost in plain words, without abstract terms. and thousands were moved to change their lives.
The word of God was preached not in terms of abstract definition
but in terms of -salvation history", starting from the Fall and culminating in the life, death and resurrection of the Saviour.
St. Paul explicity stated (1. Cor. 2.2) that he preached without any attempts at philosophy. and had no thought of bringing "any other knowledge than that of Jesus Christ and of him as crucified". Obviously the Church is not bound to follow his methods, but he did move half the known world to the faith.
Theological terms may give accuracy and definition to the expression of the Christian mysteries, but they do not move the will to love Christ, which surely must be the aim of pulpit preaching To try to exhort the faithful to their Christian duties by any other way — by moral threats of any sort. by mere injunctions to be dutiful, by recommending peripheral devotions — seems also unfruitful, because it sets duty before faith, mere action before motive for action.
If we do not first know and love Christ then there is no motive for living the Christian life with its obligations. Faith must come tirst, and it can only come, to quote St. Paul again, through hearing the good news of what has been done in Christ.
Possibly my letter was too vehement. but only because I thought the matter important. Perhaps the art of preaching does not matter so much in the Catholic Church as it does in the Presbyterian, where there is not much else to nourish faith.
1 think that both your correspondents of last week have not taken the trouble to read my letter properly — especially Mr. Borroughs who puts all his private opinions into the mouth of Our Lord and seems to think that whatever does not meet with his agn-oval should not be published.
D. McChesney Rochdale.