To ask what really matters is difficult. We find it easier to ask what really matters to me. Even then, the answers we give tend to change with age and experience. For example, at five I desperately wanted a train set; at fifty, the sum of my ambition was to be able to breathe normally. Again, personal involvement in something or other often colours our concern. Parents tend to be passionately interested in education while their child is at school or university but become noticeably less so later on unless they are themselves teachers or lecturers. So, what really matters to the Church?
Judging by what we read in the press and online, there seems to be something of a gap between the clerical and lay parts of the Church. We saw it in the badly-handled sex abuse cases of recent years, where some bishops seemed genuinely mystified by the depth of revulsion and hostility evinced by ordinary Catholics. In the recent presidential election, American Catholics did not vote en masse as their leaders had effectively suggested, presumably because they thought other issues trumped those of concern to the clerics. No doubt, the expectations Anglicans have of their soon-to-be-announced archbishop of Canterbury will vary according to their stance on the various decisions facing them, but some of them will touch the clergy more nearly than the laity.
I don’t want to exaggerate the gap between the clerical and lay views of the Church, but we need to acknowledge its existence because together we determine what the Church takes on and what it doesn’t. There are times when we can seem obsessed by things of small importance, arguing with one another in ever smaller goldfish bowls. At such times I take encouragement from the fact that the big things the Church urges — holiness, charity — will always be there. How we work them out in our individual circumstances will necessarily vary. Those who say the Church shouldn’t meddle in politics forget one very important aspect of the Church’s social teaching: that human beings are political by their very nature. Perhaps, therefore, I can answer my own question by saying that whatever matters to anyone is of concern to the Church. Quidquid agunt homines . . . yes, but that ought, surely, to transcend narrowly selfish interests if we are to be truly Christian?