Here is the text of a letter that appeared in the official bi-monthly publication of the Diocese of Portsmouth, The Portsmouth People:
In 1984 the Church decided, after consultation, to encourage Catholics to become more autonomous and to take greater responsibility for the practice of their faith. This resulted in an individual, personal choice with regard to a Friday sacrifice and there is now a plethora of good practice that is positive and far more meaningful than the old meat abstention, for example the practice of partaking in a smaller meal with the savings going to Cafod's work with the hungry poor. I now understand that there is about to be a revival of the prescriptive meat-free Fridays. This is a retrograde step, a return to introverted pre-occupation rather than the healthier looking-outward to make our sacrifice helpful to others, whether on a Friday or another day of the week.
Many people wonder why the Church in this country is now trying to reestablish a practice that has long since been dead and buried - and walking backwards is always fraught with danger. People surely will no longer respond to a one-size-fits-all negative practice that the Church saw fit to abandon 27 years ago. Has there been any consultation with lay people this time? If so, I certainly missed it. Do the authorities remember that one of the reasons for abandoning this practice was the difficulty it could cause in inter-denominational or inter-faith marriages?
Catholics no longer want to put up with being treated as wayward infants in need of rules and regulations imposed from on high, a kind of ecclesiastical ‘elf and safety’. We are quite capable of finding ways to witness to our faith, depending on our own individual circumstances, be they within schools, parishes or other faith (and non-faith) communities.
Over the past 27 years we have been enriched by joining with other Christians so that together we can bear witness to our Christian identity. To our great benefit, we have become less defensive and much more proactive in going out to the world, as Jesus asked us to do: ‘Go out and bear fruit’.
The days are surely gone when we can in any way justify those small egocentric ‘holy huddles’ and esoteric practices whereby Catholics tried to defend themselves against the wicked world.
If we are not careful, we will be in danger of isolating and alienating ourselves once again under the doubtful notion of re-establishing ‘Catholic identity’. Let's think again because, at the end of the day, most of us won't take a blind bit of notice of such senseless and backward thinking.
The writer gives her name but I won't put that up here.
There is so much that is wrong in this letter there is no point in "fisking" it. A good riposte though is, I think, to call to mind the words of Pope Benedict in his address to the Bishops of England and Wales during their 2010 ad limina visit when he said:
In a social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, it is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free.
Pity our bishops. How can they lead us towards a revitalised Catholic identity when we have a bossy laity with a "grown up" attitude like this?
PS: If there was one word you knew would be in this letter it is surely "Cafod"