Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775‑1851)
Fishmarket on the Sands - Hastings (?)
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 910 x 1206 mm
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
James Fitton, (1899‑1982)
Frying Tonight 1954
Oil paint on board
Support: 775 x 1041 mm
Tate Britain, London
In an island country like Britain, fish is popular
But there`s nothing worse than a fish past its sell by date
A 17th Century English proverb posed the question: "Does ever any man cry stinking fish to be sold?"
When you are walking on the beach you can come across a dead and rotten fish or marine mammal that has been washed up. Some might poke it with a stick. But nobody wants to get too close.
Everyone hopes that the tide will carry the carcass back out to sea so that nobody or anybody but you has to deal with it. Eventually the stink becomes too much and someone has to.
Recent disclosures in Scotland have that quality of dead fish
They have undermined the confidence of Catholics not only in Scotland but throughout the United Kingdom
In many ways the situation in Scotland comprises not just the difficulties caused by one man and a small coterie about him but rather a symptom of a number of greater problems
Perhaps the recent problems will be the catalyst of reform and renewal
Before he was made Cardinal, Blessed John Henry Newman gave a Sermon at the opening of St Bernard`s Seminary on 2nd October 1873 entitled "The Infidelity of the Future"
It is worth while reading in full as he seems to accurately anticipate all of the difficulties now faced by a Catholic Church once illegal and then and now free to enter into its mission in a wider society
Perhaps at the moment one paragraph stands out:
"[W]hen Catholics are a small body in a country, they cannot easily become a mark for their enemies, but our prospect in this time before us is that we shall be so large that our concerns cannot be hid, and at the same time so unprotected that we cannot but suffer.
No large body can be free from scandals from the misconduct of its members.
In medieval times the Church had its courts in which it investigated and set right what was wrong, and that without the world knowing much about it. Now the state of things is the very reverse.
With a whole population able to read, with cheap newspapers day by day conveying the news of every court, great and small to every home or even cottage, it is plain that we are at the mercy of even one unworthy member or false brother.
It is true that the laws of libel are a great protection to us as to others. But the last few years have shown us what harm can be done us by the mere infirmities, not so much as the sins, of one or two weak minds.
There is an immense store of curiosity directed upon us in this country, and in great measure an unkind, a malicious curiosity. If there ever was a time when one priest will be a spectacle to men and angels it is in the age now opening upon us."He pithily set out why such scandalous conduct is a very serious issue. Further on he said:
"And hence the popular antipathy to Catholicism seems, and will seem more and more, to be based upon reason, or common sense, so that first the charge will seem to all classes of men true that the Church stifles the reason of man, and next that, since it is impossible for educated men, such as her priests, to believe what is so opposite to reason, they must be hypocrites, professing what in their hearts they reject."Misconduct brings down on the miscreant and by extension on the Church the charge of hypocrisy.
By necessity the faith publicly advocated by the miscreant (and the Church) is undermined
Newman described the forthcoming age which he saw coming as "the Age of Infidelity":
"The elementary proposition of this new philosophy [in the Age of Infidelity] which is now so threatening is this—that in all things we must go by reason, in nothing by faith, that things are known and are to be received so far as they can be proved.
Its advocates say, all other knowledge has proof—why should religion be an exception?
And the mode of proof is to advance from what we know to what we do not know, from sensible and tangible facts to sound conclusions ...
You will say that their theories have been in the world and are no new thing. No.
Individuals have put them forth, but they have not been current and popular ideas.
Christianity has never yet had experience of a world simply irreligious. Perhaps China may be an exception.
We do not know enough about it to speak, but consider what the Roman and Greek world was when Christianity appeared. It was full of superstition, not of infidelity.
There was much unbelief in all as regards their mythology, and in every educated man, as to eternal punishment.
But there was no casting off the idea of religion, and of unseen powers who governed the world. When they spoke of Fate, even here they considered that there was a great moral governance of the world carried on by fated laws.
Their first principles were the same as ours. Even among the sceptics of Athens, St. Paul could appeal to the Unknown God. Even to the ignorant populace of Lystra he could speak of the living God who did them good from heaven.
And so when the northern barbarians came down at a later age, they, amid all their superstitions, were believers in an unseen Providence and in the moral law.
But we are now coming to a time when the world does not acknowledge our first principles.
Of course I do not deny that, as in the revolted kingdom of Israel, there will be a remnant. .... But I speak first of the educated world, scientific, literary, political, professional, artistic—and next of the mass of town population, the two great classes on which the fortunes of England are turning: the thinking, speaking and acting England.
My Brethren, you are coming into a world, if present appearances do not deceive, such as priests never came into before, that is, so far forth as you do go into it, so far as you go beyond your flocks, and so far as those flocks may be in great danger as under the influence of the prevailing epidemic."
What did he see as possible remedies ? The reform of the seminary to inculcate and foster "the ecclesiastical spirit". And "a sound, accurate, complete knowledge of Catholic theology."
"1. A seminary is the only true guarantee for the creation of the ecclesiastical spirit.
And this is the primary and true weapon for meeting the age, not controversy.
Of course every Catholic should have an intelligent appreciation of his religion, as St. Peter says, but still controversy is not the instrument by which the world is to be resisted and overcome. ...
In this ecclesiastical spirit, I will but mention a spirit of seriousness or recollection.
We must gain the habit of feeling that we are in God's presence, that He sees what we are doing; and a liking that He does so, a love of knowing it, a delight in the reflection, "Thou, God, seest me."
A priest who feels this deeply will never misbehave himself in mixed society.
It will keep him from over-familiarity with any of his people; it will keep him from too many words, from imprudent or unwise speaking; it will teach him to rule his thoughts.
It will be a principle of detachment between him and even his own people; for he who is accustomed to lean on the Unseen God, will never be able really to attach himself to any of His creatures.
And thus an elevation of mind will be created, which is the true weapon which he must use against the infidelity of the world. (Hence, what St. Peter says: 1, ii, 12, 15; iii, 16.)
Now this I consider to be the true weapon by which the infidelity of the world is to be met.
2. And next, most important in the same warfare, and here too you will see how it is connected with a Seminary, is a sound, accurate, complete knowledge of Catholic theology.
This, though it is not controversial, is the best weapon (after a good life) in controversy.
Any child, well instructed in the catechism, is, without intending it, a real missioner.
And why? Because the world is full of doubtings and uncertainty, and of inconsistent doctrine—a clear consistent idea of revealed truth, on the contrary, cannot be found outside of the Catholic Church.
Consistency, completeness, is a persuasive argument for a system being true.
Certainly if it be inconsistent, it is not truth."