Friday, April 13, 2007

The Rights of People

There is a pastoral letter from our Bishop, Kieran Conry, this weekend, apparently some priests haven’t been reading them. Not an open revolt or even disobedience, I think, but maybe because they haven’t always had much to do with the liturgy, some have been notices for our Diocesan Catechetical Centre, his first few seemed almost deliberately not to mention God or religion.

We have a sound system of course but we do not have machine for playing music or pastoral letters, it had broken down under the previous regime and I haven’t replaced it. An unnecessary expense, as there is no a place for recorded music in the Liturgy and Pastoral Letters should be read, the Priest (or Deacon) is the Bishop’s logothete, not a recording a machine. There should be nothing virtual about the Sacred Liturgy.
I have tried to read his letters. Unfortunately, because the bishop uses a very conversational style, I think the recorded version precedes the written, I do not do them justice, so I have been photocopying them so people can read them at their leisure. We normally have a small group or two who then listen to them on disc and discuss them. References to films he has seen either leave people blank or shocked, I think the reference to the homosexual cowboy film Broken Back Mountain, in this one, might cause shock and leave people as confused as me as to what he is really saying. Not the type of thing I would choose to watch myself, nor suggest anyone went to see.

In his letter the Bishop says that people have a right to hear or to read his pastoral letters. I am glad he said, “read”, it quietens my conscience. Personally I would be too afraid of St Ignatius of Antioch on judgement day acting for the prosecution if I didn’t read them or make them available in some form.

However I am interested in the Rights of God’s People.

When I was a first ordained I was told by a Parish Priest that the only right I had as a Curate was the right to a Christian burial! Not the happiest time in my life.
American friends claim the right to have “open government” by their bishops, not surprising in the light of the cover-ups a large number of bishops over the abuse crisis.
Pope John Paul II said that the faithful have the right to the faith preached to them in all its fullness.
The present Pope has frequently spoken of the rights of the faithful to have the Liturgy celebrated strictly according to the rites of the Church, rather than the personal interpretation of a bishop or priest or community.

People do have a rights, one right is not to be shocked or scandalised or have their faith undermined.

People have the right to know that their priests and bishops share their faith; there used to be that silly adolescent 70s thing where bishops and priests and diocesan employees gave the impression that their faith was lean and sophisticated, and held in contempt, as being superstitious, the faith that asked for devotion and reverence and roots in tradition, which was of course the faith of those paying their salaries.


jane-mary said...

A Bishop SAW Broke Back Mountain and WROTE about it in his PASTORAL letter!

Francis said...

Fr Ray, greetings from Canada. Great blog, by the way.

I often wonder how much bishops—and those responsible for their appointment—understand that a bishop’s personal level of holiness has a direct impact on the spiritual vitality of his diocese. This goes far beyond the externalities of setting a good example, appointing priests wisely to various parishes, or indeed writing good pastoral letters. There is a hidden, mystical dimension to this as well.

At the parish level, a devout priest will amplify the power of the sacraments he administers—and attract extra graces for his parishoners generally—through his own personal holiness. In like manner, an unholy priest—rebellious, malformed or worldly—will diminish the overall level of graces available to the people of his parish.

This same hidden and mystical dynamic also works at the episcopal level. A holy bishop makes for a holier diocese. But a spiritually confused bishop makes for a spiritually diminished diocese. This will manifest itself in many ways, including (and perhaps especially) in the number of vocations to the priesthood.

So a maverick bishop isn’t just a nuisance and an embarrassment to the Catholic Church and a source of concern to the faithful. He also puts a real dampener on the entire array of graces otherwise available to the people of his diocese.

This is why the selection of new bishops is so important. It’s not just about appointing men who are good “pastorally” in the semi-secularized way that this word has come to be understood—picking men with good organizational, presentational and people-management skills. Still less is it about trying to find “good ecumenists,” or stirring the pot of “renewal” by promoting men with off-beat ideas. It’s about saving souls.

Let’s all pray for Bishop Conry.

Fr David said...

The Bishop's reference to "relationships" against "ideologies", when place in the context of "that film" would seem to indicate that he favours homosexual partnerships over catholic ideology. I cannot see any other possible interpretation.
I regret that he forces his priests to side with his opinions by reading his letter.
In conscience I will not do that.

Moretben said...

Fr Timothy Radcliffe preached on Homo on the Range too; if, as many suggest, he's to succeed Cormac, perhaps we'd better prepare ourselves for more of the same.

I vividly remember the bishop's first pastoral letter. I've heard/read none of them since.

Michael Petek said...

Fr Ray, what do you think about Francis' comment that "a devout priest will amplify the power of the sacraments he administers"?

The adage that, if you sanctify a priest, you sanctify a parish, has its value - but the power of a sacrament is ex opere operato and not from the worthiness of the minister.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Things that are not of the essense of the sacrament, including the the holiness of the priest, create an environment in which the sacrament maybe received more fruitfully.
Receiving absolution is as valid from a decadent worldly priest as from a saint, but I suspect, a saint may well change a life.

Anonymous said...

Saint bishop thinks about Rights of GOD.Where God is first place, there all other have its proper place.

Anonymous said...

I have just heard the Pastoral Letter. I am afraid, I think Fr David was right.

I am surprised by his choice of film Borat last time, Broke Back Mountain this time, I don't really expect a bishop to go and see this type of thing. What will it be next time Swedish Orgies II?

KATRIONA said...


eddie said...

What is Broke Back Mountain? You say you haven't seen it Father, so is anyone able to give me a brief run down?

Peter said...

BBM is a cult gay film, with simulate anal sex and sprinkling of "slap an tickle". In many ways it is rather a gentle and beautiful film, in England it had a 15 certificate, it was quite seductive in its way.

Anonymous said...

Reading this yesterday evening I was depressed to think that such banality is so-called 'preaching' by a Bishop - thank fully I was able to take refuge this afternoon at beautiful Divine Mercy devotions in my parish (not in A & B) with a wonderful sermon about the revelations to Saint Faustina and also about the Real Presence. I am not some poor soul who just can't reach the intellectual heights of these Bishop's - I'm from an academic background - but neither are my soul or mind fed by the ridiculous witterings of some of these pastoral letters.

Anonymous said...

This post is from Mervyn and unlike many others I think that it is a very welcome letter. The church always seems so intolerant and homophobicbut the approving reference to Brokeback Mountain makes me think that I must be wrong.

gareth said...

I am not sure which world Mervyn is from, however perhaps he is right, if the Lord Bishop had wanted to say something about homosexual lifestyles, why not simply come out with it, instead of tinkering with the closet door.
It is the lack of clarity, the intellectual fuddle, that annoys me. Frankly it is a real turn off for anyone wit more than two brain cells.
Why can bishops not say what they mean?

claire said...

Dear Father, I'm sorry. Perhaps he needs a long sabbatical?

Please consider scanning in and posting a copy of this letter on your blog, as it has been transcribed.

English Catholic said...

"People have the right to know that their priests and bishops share their faith... the faith that asked for devotion and reverence and roots in tradition, which was of course the faith of those paying their salaries."

YES I have been doing research for my dissertation and have been astonished at how many years the people of Liverpool were raising money for a cathedral... do we think that the monstrosity they got is what the working class people of Liverpool considered a Catholic cathedral?

I have been surprised again and again by how deep the devotion and how great the knowledge, of the Lancashire Catholics was. The priests who systematically destroyed it will have an unpleasant surprise on judgement day.

Philip said...

I must agree with Gareth. it is the lack of clarity and fuddle that is so annoying. The Bishop talks about rights; I think that we have the right to expect something better than this.

Fr Charles said...

At some point one must draw a line and say enough is enough. It really pains me that the Gospel reading with the encounter of Christ and Thomas which could be illuminated to encourage the faithful has been subsituted by scandal and unintelligent claptrap.

The Emperor has no clothes