Friday, September 23, 2016


Pope Francis attends an interfaith peace gathering outside the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, Italy (CNS photo/Paul Haring)Assisi: as Fr Lucie Smith says needs revamping, it is a bit like any ecumenical event, it becomes self-referential, a bit 'same old' a bit dull. I have always justified it to those Catholics who disapprove of 'Assisi', as being the Pope being recognised in some sense as 'leader' of all 'faith communities', I admit its not necessarily good theology.

I don't know who draws up the guest list, or more significantly the veto list, presumably for the more important it is the Pope. This year the dear old Dalai Lama being struck from the guest list, that is not insignificant - presumable a more acceptable (to the Chinese and therefore Rome) patriotic Lama was found as a substitute for Chinese approved Tibetan Buddhism. I don't know if the there were other Chinese 'faith communities', most probably not Falun-gong. China and its treatment of Christians is deeply worrying, read this from First Things or the Catholic Herald on organ harvesting. It is pretty harrowing stuff but it is these are people, the Chinese government, Holy See plans to allow to choose Catholic bishops.
Image result for Assisi

Patriarch Bartholomew was also there behind and obviously junior to the Bishop of Rome but then to be honest he is always in need of friends (and money) being starved of both not only by Moscow and Athens but also the increasingly hostile Turkish state, which under Erdogan is taking a significant turn against the countries tiny Orthodox community, there have been accusations the Phanar was involved in the coup against him. As things are it is quite possible next year depending on how things develop with Moscow, or whether the Holy See wants a closer relationship with Turkey, he too could be on the way out, or being even more junior.

There were of course Sikhs and Bahá'ís who are always glad of an invitation: reaching out to other religions is part of their creed. This time round from the photographs there seemed to be a lack of pagans, animist and spirit worshippers. I don't know if the Vatican prohibits Voodooists, Spiritualists and Satanists, there didn't seem to be many in the photographs.

Image result for AssisiThere were various Jewish and Islamic leaders who were more 'ecumenical' than most of their brethren who frankly would not be seen dead at such an event or even in the company of those who would attend such an event. Many of course are what Catholics might consider 'Liberal'

What should not be forgotten is that Assisi is much more a political event than a religious one, increasingly it seems like event to show favour to political friends and disfavour to those who might compromise the Holy Sees global ambitions, as a peace maker of course, and at the table of peace-makers.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Drinking to Conscience?

I haven't seen the inside but the outside of this week's Catholic Herald reminds me of the words in the document on Christian Unity about the terrible scandal of disunity. "Leaks, intimidation, claims of heresy". indeed seem to be a mark of today's Church, indeed they seem to be more obvious marks of the Church than 'One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic', and increasingly so, there is a brutality and anti-intellectualism in today's Church, based on ambiguity, confusion and incoherence

It is an irony that the the Pope, himself, 'the minister of unity' should become the focus and source of disunity. Perhaps that is precisely what the Conclave of 2013 desired when it elected Jorge Bergoglio, he was already known as a divisive figure in both the Society of Jesus and his home diocese of Buenos Aires. In Et in Unum Sint John Paul had recognised the Papacy. among Christians in general, was a source of division and invited a discussion on the role of the Pope in the Church of the future. After Francis the Church will need to clarify, again, for its own adherents what is the role of the Pope, in what way is Universal Pastor, in what way should he exercise his jurisdiction, or even voice his personal preferences.

We all speak infallibly when recite creed or when we speak the truth of the Gospel. With the the Orthodox I suspect Pastor aeternus, with its hedging round of and very narrow definition of Papal powers is perhaps less divisive than the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, which most (all?) Orthodox would consider as unnecessary novelties. One could argue that the Great Schism only gathered theological significance with the promulgation of Ineffabilis Deus  in 1854 until then in practice Orthodox and Catholics believed that which was 'held always, everywhere and by all'.

As the headline says, "The Communion row gets nasty", I fear for many Catholics that rather than as Newman says, "I shall drink to the Pope, if you please, still, to Conscience first", we must make a conscious choice between Conscience and the Pope, and that choice will have very uncomfortable consequences for those who feel compelled to follow conscience. The Kasper doctrine which the Pope has signified he favour is for many of us a sign of the distancing of the Church from Revelation and the person of Jesus Christ, that is not what the Church is for. When we ask for clarification from the Cardinals of the Church, as we are bound to do, we are met with either silence or told, as we were in England, by many of our superiors that Cardinal Nichols 'was displeased' that we should even voice such a concern in a private communication to him and his fellow Cardinals, that is the absolute moral low ground, though maybe a not entirely unexpected response. It is certainly not what the Pope himself calls for, 'open fearless debate' nor is it inline with a Catholic search for truth and is certainly not 'pastoral' to leave Christ's faithful in a state of uncertainty and confusion. Recently someone asked, "Having divorced sixteen years ago in the light of the Pope's new rules, can I look for a new wife?
Another man was just angry that he thought his forty-five years of continence since his own marriage broke down was now considers by the Church as unnecessary.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Mutual Enrichment Goes Both Ways

This is a video of President Kennedy's funeral in 1963, amazingly it is 'Low Mass of a Bishop' with music, as opposed to a sung Mass or Missa Solemnis.
It is pretty apparent when the Old Rite influences the New, since Summorum Pontificum, that has been quite considerable, which I suspect was the main reason for it promulgation but people often ask to what extent the New Rite has had an influence on the Old. I don't think that today a prominent Catholic figure would be buried today with such a perfunctory Rite celebrated in such perfunctory way, even though Low Mass in the Old Rite without music is normal. Apart from a Mass with a Bishop I have never attended Low Mass with music, before the Council it seems to have been quite usual, in Germany first, then elsewhere there was Mass with hymns, before Veterum Sapientia hymns in the vernacular were widespread, hence the large repertoire of Catholic hymns. In Frances there were those pretty organ Masses.

Cardinal Cushing's manner of celebration today would be regarded as unusual even shocking to a Catholic who normally attends the Traditional Mass, it certainly seems to be light on prayerful recollection, possibly even in 1963 prelates were getting used to the use of not always reliable microphones.

Of course what we might do with Old Rite today might well regarded by our forefathers as a bit prissey

Monday, September 19, 2016

Mass Yesterday

I thought you might like this, it is our choir singing at Mass yesterday, with some pictures of the Mass. We ended with the traditional blessing for those departing on journey and a good  dousing with Holy Water for the Sisters and gave them a few souvenirs of Brighton, an even balloons (the balloons play no part in the Mass!) Poor Servant of the Mother of God don't get them often.

I shall miss the Sisters, they are good, holy, sensible women, who are much loved here.

p.s. the recording was done on a portable telephone, so the sound of our choir is not the best, though I thing they sound pretty good.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Garden of Allah

It is nothing about Islam. It is a 1936 film with Marlene Dietrich. It is about two people finding themselves. One is Dietrich, a devout Catholic, the other is a Trappist monk who has lost his faith and run away.
It gives an insight into spirituality of duty and the power of vows that we seem to have lost. It doesn't quite end happily but it does show the power of sacrificial love and self denial and placing God first.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Destruction of the Order of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate

Image result for "Franciscans of the Immaculate" benedict
Nothing seems to sum up the new brutality of Church life than what has happened to the Franciscans of the Immaculate. To his discredit Fr Volpi, the now deceased Papal Commissioner, brought various spurious legal actions against them all of which were thrown out by the Italian courts. Now gossip, innuendo and intimidation are the weapons used against them.

The reason for all this according to Franciscans of the Immaculate is not merely their support of 'Tradition', though all of them seem happy to celebrate both forms of the Roman Rite but their opposition to the speculative doctrines of Karl Rahner, the Jesuit.

Image result for "Franciscans of the Immaculate" volpi
How far has the destruction of the Order of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate progressed? This is the updating of a chapter that is like a dark shadow on the pontificate of Pope Francis.
In 1969 two Fathers Minor, Stefano Maria Manelli and Gabriele Maria Pellettieri, asked the Father General of the Order, after a thorough study of Fontes Franciscani, to be allowed to start a "new experience of Franciscan life" back to its original rigor. In 1970 an abandoned monastery of the Order was made ​​available to them where they gathered more men over time, and with the establishment of a female branch, women also joined. In 1990, the Community was canonically recognized as a separate order.
read more here

Friday, September 16, 2016

Irish Catholic's Response to Pope's letter

So here is response of the Catholic press to the Holy Father's letter to the Argentinian bishops, explaining, what bishop described as "a subtle document". Yes the sub heading is 'in strict circumstances", but this is not how it will be read, it is the head-line that matters.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Holy Cross, not like the corpse of a saint!

Image result for fragment "Holy Cross"I always feel uncomfortable coming across a piece of the True Cross in a museum I never know what to do, to gawp or fall on my knees.

Those who are thinking about 'doing something' on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross should remember that a fragment of the Holy Cross has more in common with the Blessed Sacrament than a bit of bone or the corpse of a dead saint.
All the prayers and rites surrounding the True Cross presumed the wood of the Cross was drenched in the life giving blood of Jesus - it was never treated as a merely relic. The Good Friday veneration of the Cross has its origins in the veneration of the Cross in Jerusalem, it seems fitting that a fragment of the True Cross should be used rather than an image of it but, however that is not what the Rite calls for.
Nevertheless when not exhibited for public adoration a fragment of the True Cross should be kept veiled in red, when it is exposed we are supposed to genuflect to it, in the same way as we do when the image is exposed on Good Friday, when it is carried in procession a red canopy or umbrellino is used and when a blessing is given with it, as with the Blessed Sacrament, a humeral veil is used, symbolising the blessing is not the priest's but come directly from God.
NLM has some nice photographs from the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Austria.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Canon 212 is IMPORTANT

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Canon 212 is important:
"Christ's faithful have the right, and, indeed, sometimes the duty, according to their knowledge, competence, and dignity, to manifest to Sacred Shepherds their judgement about those things which pertain to the good of the Church".

This is one of the chief roles of members of the Sacred College of Cardinal with regards to the Pope. It is often the onerous duty of bishops, presbyters and deacons and the lay faithful too. For priests it is one of the images of Lumen Gentium, them gathering as co-workers with the bishop, not in the sense of a bishop lording it over his priests but working with them, for deacons there are all those patristic texts about being the bishops eyes and ears. What we are not supposed to do is be silent. A silent Church is either dead or fearful.

The good Fr Hunwicke has an important post about an important issue here. I too have heard about pressure being put on individuals to shut up and stop asking embarrassing questions. This kind of bullying is not good for Christ's Church. Telling people to hold their tongues, whether it is about the debate Cardinal Sarah tried to start (in fact started by Joseph Ratzinger) about the orientation of worship, or that letter of 13 Cardinals to the Pope during the Synod, or the book Remaining in the Truth by 10 Cardinals which Cardinal Baldissieri intercepted rather allowing it reach Synod participants or the 500 priests supporting the Church's traditional view on marriage, or the issue Fr John raises, now about intimidation of the 45 theologians and pastors who wrote the letter to Cardinals and Patriarchs asking for clarification of certain aspects of the otherwise beautiful Amoris Laetitia.

Intimidation can work on several levels from the Mafia boss who sends messages saying, "I know where you live", to someone threatening to deprive someone of their living or home, all too easy in the Church. It is especially worrying when the downright heretical are give free range and those who defend what has always, and everywhere and at all times been held as being the Catholic faith are treated with violence. This is not mercy, this is violence in action, so very much at odds with the doctrine of our Holy Father.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Need for Judgement

Just to prove I am still alive, thanks for the enquiries, Mgr Pope, always a good read, makes a point about fraternal correction and how essential it is to the life of the Church.

Nowadays those loathe to make a judgement about the moral behaviour of an individual quote the Pope's, 'Who am I to judge' remark, they forget the second part of what he said which qualified the first part, which is itself a very clear judgement, 'if they are seeking God'. In this particular case His Holiness has the individual is seeking God, even if it is in a rather chaotic lifestyle.

I am not exactly sure the Pope's remarks are always wise but here they remind us that the search for God itself 'justifies' us sinners, we are not after all Gradualists. The problem of scandal remains, we cannot lose souls simply because we are afraid to correct one another.

Perhaps the big problem in the Church today is that Christians are so tolerant that we have almost become amoral, or at least so tolerant of sin that we have nothing to say to sinners.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Ark was seen in the Temple

I love this image from  the Beatus Facundus, it is a simple theological statement as bold as the colour scheme of this extraordinary theological work. It simply says Mary is in heaven clothed with the sun, standing on the moon and adorned by the stars.

The woman with the moon under her feet and the dragon has more significance in the Iberian peninsula that was struggling with the liberation of Spain during the lengthy reconquest period, which was fueled in part by the expectation of the second coming as the end of the first millennium drew near.

It comes from that period when East and West had a common theology.
The double page illustration adds depth: God has rescued her. Though the dragon seeks her destruction it is held at bay by angels, who will eventually subdue Satan.

Looking at these illustrations there is sense that they are concerned about theological fact: Mary, the Woman is in Heaven. They are not concerned with the mode of her transferal but with the statement of what scripture states, In comparison the artistic depictions of the Assumption from Trent onwards and even Munificentissimus Deus seem a little effeminate, even prissy, little wonder another priest can speak of the definition of Pius XII as 'radical austerity, the innovative agnosticism'.

Although the story of an Apostolic Funeral following Our Lady's passing is charming, and illustrates well Our Blessed Lady's death, it is obviously an illustration of and not root of the doctrine of the Assumption. This comes from the New Testament Apocalypse 11:19, where John says, 'Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the Ark of his Covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm'. He then speaks immediately aftewards of, "the Woman", who is obviously Mary, and yet is also the summation of all the women of the Old Testament. Mary is the ark who contains not the symbols of the Old Covenant; the manna, the tablets of the Law and Moses' staff but the bread come down from heaven, the Law writ on a heart of flesh and not the symbol of Moses' authority but the source of it.

If we are to have a truly Christian faith, we must learn to love Mary as did Christ and the Apostles, and give her the same honour she is given in the New Testament.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Towards a Fourth Edition

I am fascinated by Joseph Ratzinger's liturgical writings, he says the Bugnini created the post-concilliar liturgy 'ex nihil' and yet he performs elaborate gymnastics to graft roots onto it.  Ratzinger's life work was see the hermeneutic of the Church in terms of 'continuity', simply because, although it is possible to understand it in terms of aggiornamento, it is impossible to see it in terms of  'rupture'. Rupture is simply not Catholic. Ratzinger pushed forward the idea of reading the Council its documents being understood in the continuity with all that had gone before but he actually spoke little directly about liturgy, the fons et origo of the Church's life and theology, in these terms. Yet of course his liturgical style, his choice of liturgical ornament spoke of 'continuity' but the greatest act of 'continuity' was of course the recognition of what scholars had been saying for decades the the ancient was not abrogated and what was good for past generations is still good and has value for us today.

One of the things that Ratzinger's resignation brought about was quietening of rumours about a fourth edition of the Roman Missal. It was expected to be issued possibly in 2015 or 2016, other events took over so presumably it is awaiting different times. It has apparently long been in preparation by what one or two Italian Vaticanistas refer to as 'the hidden Vatican', those academics and experts who carry on their work no matter who sits on the Apostolic throne. As real academics they are concerned about truth and academic rigour and resolving apparent ambiguity.

The last three CDW Prefects have hinted at the contents of such a Missal, suggestion that a future new edition of the Missal could contain more Latin, even be bi-lingual, has been suggested, the optional use of the ancient offertory prayers, increasing options to include many of the prayers of the 1962 Missal, even the possibility of the preparatory or prayers at the foot of the altar being included. Cardinal Sarah's recent intervention about the orientation of the celebration of the Mass is obviously very much in tune with the thinking behind such a Missal. His idea of the Liturgy of the Word being celebrated facing the people whilst the Liturgy of the Eucharist being celebrated facing the apse seems to be a very sensible implementation of Ratzinger's 'mutual enrichment'.

Whether there will be room in such a Missal for the non-Roman oriental-style Eucharistic Prayers II,III and IV, is another matter, perhaps they might go the way of the various Eucharistic Prayers, which are no longer in current Missal, perhaps they might be included in a supplement? One of the big problems will of course be the two calendars currently in use in the Latin Rite and of course the ancient one year Lectionary as opposed to the three year expanded one.

In this vein there is an interesting article: A Call for the Silent Canon which deserves some thought. In Low Mass the Canon was said in a low mutter, which reflects the origins of Low Mass's monastic origins; multiple priests offering multiple Masses at the altars in relatively close proximity but in High Mass the normal voice used was the un-projected ordinary speaking voice, loud enough for at least the circumstantes to hear and understand. I am told this is how Cardinal Piacenza, who at least was a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, he is the Apostolic Penitentiary at the Vatican, so presumably has some grasp of the Church's liturgical law. I like the idea the article presents that the Eucharistic Prayer is not a 'Presidential' prayer. Perhaps liturgically informed friends might comment here or privately.

At this time, it is perhaps important that those who believe in 'continuity' hold firm to this teaching and celebrate in the liturgy.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The Archbishop is not pleased!

To be told, "John Charles [Archbishop McQuaid] is not pleased!" was enough to quell not only the clergy of his own diocese of Dublin but the rest of clergy Ireland. Archbishop McQuaid was the worst kind of ecclesiastical bully and did much to reduce the clergy of Ireland to quivering 'yes men'. I am sure one of the reasons behind the Holy Father's call for parrhesia, is the realisation that without open and fearless speech on the part of the clergy, a culture of cover-up and bullying results, in which clergy are simply afraid to speak out, to ask questions and above all to demand answers and clarification. As members of the Presbyterate this is a key priestly function.

This is precisely what did not happen in the Irish child abuse scandal and in the even greater scandal, the episcopal cover-up that followed it, Except possibly in the most deformed form of Ultramontanism bishops, even the Bishop of Rome, are not above question or ever admonishment, No bishop is called to act alone but always with his 'co-workers' his priests. The great beauty of the Catholic Church is that between priest and bishop, despite the titles we might invent and the various bodies we put in place, there is actually no intermediary, the same with bishops and the Pope. 

McQuaid was not alone but some fifty years after his death. it is easy to make him emblematic of a style of episcopacy that today should be regarded as deeply sinister, that replaced the father-son relationship of bishop and priest based on a communion of charity with fear and intimidation, making the bishop more like a mafia boss than a humble disciple of Christ, and making priests into cowed and silent prisoners than disciples. In this country, we actually used to speak of the 'Irish Mafia', which was often a very real power of intimidation within dioceses, it often took the Dublin model of episcopal authority. I remember a young priest being told by episcopal favourite, a leading member of our Mafia, 'I can tell you I have the bishop's ear in this matter'. The young priest replied, 'Really? Then give it back to him Monsignor before he notices'. It was a throw away remark which quickly went round the diocese, and rather quickly led to this particular Monsignor's fall from credibility and power.
For years there have been questions about the theological and consequently moral formation of students for the priesthood at Maynooth, Various bodies have been set up to answer, or as is the way of the Church, not answer questions. There is an interesting article here which shows the rather interesting structures that are set in place to assess student's complaints, which seem more about deflecting and delaying them and ensuring the President is distanced from those who complain, rather than answering them.

The rather ridiculous press statement from Fr Hoban's Association of Catholic Priests reflects that frightening concern of priests of a certain vintage for the institution, rather than a concern for victims of abuse, or a desire for truth. It begins with, "The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) regrets that the seminary at Maynooth College has become a focus of unfair and unwarranted attention," The jury, from what has come to public attention, isd still out on whether the atention is either 'unfair' or 'unwarranted'. It ends with words so reminiscent of the bishops and others over child abuse scandals, "The damage this controversy will do to Maynooth is not in the best interest of the Irish Church."

I don't know if there is a gay culture at Maynooth others can comment on that, what I am concerned about is the abusive culture which seeks to silence questioning and close down debate and place certain people in the Church above intelligent and charitable questioning. This is real sickness within the Church, as far as Maynooth is concerned from the very beginning of a seminarians life there seems to be an attempt to enculturate them into something even more unpleasant and dehumanising than 'gay culture', a culture where obedience to an institution is supposed to take the place of honesty and truth. It is this terrible obedience that opens the door to every kind evil.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Secular France's inability to cope

An Anglican clergyman friend complained that I had posted an Aleteia picture of Fr Jaques Hamel, with the words 'martyr de France' on it. He is right of course France was born out of the Terror, the guillotine cut through the necks of far more priests and religious than oppressive aristocrats. The new Republic was born in the blood of Christ's faithful, precisely because they were faithful. The soil of the Vendee is rich in the blood of Catholic martyrs, the victims of the republic which chose the battle cry of "liberté, égalité, fraternité".

It neither surprised nor shocked any when a French left-wing politician issued the tweet below, and President Hollande, himself, could barely acknowledge that Father Jacques was a priest and was slain before his altar in a church as he offered the sacrifice of Christ.

France is secular, it is incapable of understanding religion, either Catholicism or Islam. I suspect this has been the reason for France's foreign policy failure. Once North Africa and the Middle East was Francophile, it benefited from the French Church's missionary endeavour, it never produced many converts but it did educate and and westernise. Fr Hamel's own involvement in 'dialogue' with Islam is perhaps an illustration of French Catholicism's of the years around the Vatican Council's involvement with Islam. We can see it the life of the Blessed Charles de Foucauld and in the killing of the martyred monks of the Atlas Mountains.

The Bush-Blair wars in the Middle East have caused the destruction of states, untold misery and instability throughout the region. The unfortunate result is that we have to pay for their mistakes - France has chosen to follow the lead of her NATO partners rather than the lead of the French Catholicism.

Closing European borders is no answer, certainly not if Europe (and the US) is to maintain its population. Contracepting and aborting Europe has created a vacuum that sucks in immigrants, the only alternative is a drastic economic and social change, founded on something other than economic power.

French left wing politicians have been going round the TV studios suggesting Fr Jacques murderers, like those in Nice or Paris had psychological problems, or that they were not 'real' Muslims. The Left refuses to even think that there is a Muslim problem. One might be willing to accept that to some degree but the question has to be asked is why are immigrants or the sons of immigrants so alienated from European society? Why should they become deranged, or deeply unsettled by and alienated by our contemporary?

I heard of a group trad -SSPX- nuns in a Paris veiled and wimpled dressed from head to foot in black who are welcomed and respected by the local Muslim community but are often jeered at by the local secularists and Front National. The veil and wimple have now become so un-French. The morality of Catholicism and moderate Islam at least are not that distant, but but there is a huge gulf between it and secularism.

For a barely educated Afghan or Middle Eastern peasant transported to France, or Germany, living in poverty in a Paris suburb, the West is a confusing place, especially if he is living in a lawless ghetto and unable to access to comprehend Western values. In Brighton there was a project, which fortunately fell through, of locating a refugee centre in the centre of Brighton's 'gay village'. In secular France one might expect that it might be a deliberate policy to do this, to expose new immigrants to 'French values', to expect the recently arrived to be immersed in secular culture.

À Brest, le FN réclame la démission d'une élue ex-EELV après "une blague de mauvais goût" sur l'assassinat du prêtre Jacques HamelOne of my parishioners recently asked whether English 'Equality' laws would still exist in 20 years time, it is unlikely with current levels of immigration. Cardinal Vingt-Trois has recently suggested a similar thing, are immigrants going to be comfortable with the secularist agenda: with economic driven feminism, with abortion, with euthanasia, with the gay agenda, with relationships closed to children or with the sexualisation of our children, to say nothing of our drink and drugs culture?