The Naval Chaplin, Fr. Desmond Campion spoke recently about church attendance and personal faith (iWitness).
Over the years I have seen quite a change. For example church attendance would be down but then again you have to put it in the context of the days that we’re living in and to me church attendance is important but what I think is more important is the fact that they have personal faith.
I got to know Fr. Campion during my navy days because of my strong objections at being marched down to his church and forced to participate in a religious ceremony in which I did not believe.
On one occasion when I refused to enter his church I was ordered to stand to attention, in the rain, outside the church until the ceremony was over.
I later put the following question to Fr. Campion.
Surely your god would be better pleased if he had just one genuine believer (with a genuine personal faith) attending the ceremony rather than having a hundred disbelievers who are forced to attend?
He agreed with my argument but never acted on the matter.
The key words in Fr. Campion’s quote are:
In the context of the days that we’re living in.
At the time (70s/80s/90s) he was happy to go along with ‘the context of those days’ (forced attendance) but now that his church (and the naval authorities) has lost the power of enforcement, he has fallen back on the ‘importance’ of the personal faith argument.
Fr. Campion’s thinking is a mirror reflection of the church he serves – when available, power is to be used to its fullest extent for the benefit of the organisation even if that means trampling on the rights of individuals.
I should say that Fr. Campion is, personally, a gentleman but unfortunately he never saw the necessity to challenge his religious/military overlords.