Friday, February 29, 2008

The Gospel Terrifies Me




I have just be rereading Spe Salvi, "The Gospel terrifies me", is a quote the Pope makes from Augustine. Something is a bit "off" if it doesn't, along with the comfort we need to be challenged. Well I do!

Rome: Baptism Invalid





CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH

RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS PROPOSED
on the validity of Baptism conferred with the formulas
«I baptize you in the name of the Creator,
and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier»
and «I baptize you in the name of the Creator,
and of the Liberator, and of the Sustainer»

QUESTIONS

First question: Whether the Baptism conferred with the formulas «I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier» and «I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator, and of the Sustainer» is valid?

Second question: Whether the persons baptized with those formulas have to be baptized in forma absoluta?

RESPONSES

To the first question: Negative.

To the second question: Affirmative.

The Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved these Responses, adopted in the Ordinary Session of the Congregation, and ordered their publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, February 1, 2008.

William Cardinal Levada
Prefect

+ Angelo Amato, S.D.B.
Titular Archbishop of Sila


Thanks to Rorate Caeli, there was a very worrying trend a few years ago, particularly in the US were certain priests were denying the the plain words of Christ in the scriptures and inventing there own formulae for baptism, The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has no0w ruled that not only are these baptisms illicit but also invalid, and those who have received such baptism should be baptised properly.

Course for Priests and Seminarians at Merton


Residential Training Conference for Priests Wishing to Learn the Traditional Latin Rite at Merton College, Oxford, Monday 28 July to Friday 1 August 2008


The Latin Mass Society’s August 2007 training conference for priests was a great success with 47 priests attending. (It was opened by Archbishop Vincent Nichols and attended by Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa, Oklahoma). Many of these priests are now offering the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (Traditional Rite) or are far advanced in their preparations to do so.

The LMS now announces its second Priests’ Training Conference at Merton College, Oxford, which this year will accommodate over 60 priests and seminarians and will last for a full week. This reflects feedback from priests last year who asked for more ‘hands on’ training time.

The main features of this year’s conference will be:

● two training streams, one for complete beginners
● small training groups of about 5 students to ensure one-to-one tuition
● training in the Low Mass and the Missa Cantata
● training in all the Traditional Sacraments from baptism to funerals, and including Vespers and Benediction
● lectures in Traditional spirituality and the Usus Antiquior in a parish setting; Latin, and the Traditional Calendar
● Daily Mass, Lauds and Vespers – all in the Traditional Rite
● opportunity for all priests to offer their private Masses in the Traditional Rite with a priest ‘guide’
● More accommodation for seminarians.

To provide such intense practical training in the Traditional Mass and Sacraments and to ensure a daily high standard of liturgy, the LMS will have a large training, liturgical and music staff of about 25 – all knowledgeable in their fields. Priests will be charged a low fee of £150 to cover all tuition, board and accommodation. The LMS membership is generously paying the rest of the conference costs.

Julian Chadwick, LMS Chairman, said: “We know from the highest levels in the Vatican that our training conference last year greatly impressed the Roman authorities. It is with their approval that we are organising this second conference. We hope to make this an annual event which will roll out ever increasing numbers of priests briefed in the Traditional Rite and able to take it back to their parishes.

“The LMS’s aim is to ensure that the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite is freely available in all the dioceses. To this end we will step up our training of priests, seminarians, choirs and servers. We will liaise closely with the bishops and seminary rectors to ensure that all who wish to learn and worship in the Traditional Rite are able to do so.”

I think I am going to go.

The Fragility of the Church


Fr Schofield has some interesting stuff the Vicars Apostolic, those bishops who ruled the Church, not just in Britain but throughout the Empire, before the restoration of the hierarchy in 1850. For the most part they lived rather low key lives. The clergy that worked with were often difficult, and even apostatized on occasion.

Despite their fragile position and limited resources, their jurisdiction was technically vast and included the colonies, though they never visited these distant lands and simply resolved disputes, granted faculties and (whenever they could) sent out priests. Sometimes the colonies proved to be a useful 'dumping ground' for troublesome priests. A striking example was William Simpson, who had held four appointments in the Northern District but ‘made havoc of every one of them’ and, after Bishop Giffard paid off his debts, squandered the money on women and married in an Anglican church. After imprisonment for debt, he seemed to be repentant and was commissioned by Giffard for work in the West Indies. He soon apostasised from the Faith and was presented to an Anglican living on Nevis, although he seems to have been reconciled to the Church at his death in September 1735.

Those outside the Church often think that it is a power based institution, Fr Schofield’s short piece illustrates what the Church really is; something which is incredible fragile, held together by charity rather force, limping on from age, dragging itself from generation to generation. It works because men and women are willing to give up their own freedom, choosing to submit to it.
When one looks at its history what amazes me is that it has survived, and remains true to its founder. Those great episodes of sin, those times when it hung on by its fingertips, and seemed almost to be extinguished, are for me, signs of the power of Divine Grace.

Iraqi Christians


There is a new website about Iraqi Christians - check it out http://www.icin.org.uk/

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Coming Home


Brighton is place where people change lifestyles, it is mainly the young but this Lent I have had a spate of older people who have wanted to change. I had a call about man in his eighties who has decided that he wants to become a Catholic, it is not quite in extremis but he is housebound and I am trying to think what is the minimum of catechesis he needs. I have a letter from another priest who told me of a lady who wants to go to confession after 50 years.

It is not quite unusual for people to return but invariably those who have been away for a long time just don't know what to do when they come back. "It has all changed", is not an unusual reaction.

Nostalgia brings them back and the same nostalgia causes them dis-ease when they return. It is as someone once said to me, "I was the prodigal son who was away from my Father's house for a long time, and when I returned it was a bit like my father had moved house and had plastic surgery. I couldn't recognise anything".
One of the advantages our forefathers had was that the Church offered a more-or-less standad "product", if you left it, it was still the same when you returned 40/50 years later, whether it was in England, Ireland or anywhere. I think here in the city centre we pick up alot of returners, who just happen to wander into the Church, they don't want to go through "a process" which might well work well in more stable community, here they just seem to want to pick up where they have left off. After a period, they might well get themselves along to confession. Having a liturgy that deliberately tries to look back helps.
Nostalgia is a useful pastoral tool.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Vatican newspaper rips Hollywood's "hopeless" vision


(CWNews.com) - An essay in the official Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano argues that this year's Oscar awards went to films that portray America as a society "without hope."
The signed column by Gaetano Vallini was critical of Oscar-winning films such as No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood. These movies and others nominated for Academy Awards are "sinister, filled with violence, and above all, without hope," the writer said.
Vallini found fault especially with No Country for Old Men, saying that the film by Joel and Ethan Coen-- which garner 4 Oscars including the coveted "Best Picture" award-- was marred by "absurd and mindless acts of violence." While praising the craftsmanship of the Coen brothers, he said that their picture showed a "lack of moral conscience." The message of the movie, he said, seemed to "obliterate the American dream."
Worse, the L'Osservatore Romano critic continued, "this clearly pessimistic view that the United States offers of itself through movies" was confirmed by the Oscar awards, in which the film industry honored the pictures that offered this grim vision.
Vallini pointed that the independent filmmakers, working outside the orbit of Hollywood, chose to honor movies with a more positive message, such as Juno, the story of a young woman coping with an unexpected pregnancy. He also praised The Diving Bell and the Butterfly as a film that, "going against the prevailing trend, portrays the beauty of life."

Sarum Rite: The Traditional English Rite

Father Sean Finnegan having recently returned to the blogosphere is posting some videos of the Sarum Rite Mass he celebrated some years ago in Oxford.

The Sarum Usage was the very elaborate English way of celebrating the Sacred Mysteries, here for example rather than the Roman, one processional Cross there are three, there are two thurifers, cantors in copes. The music is very beautiful too.

Now the Pope has "freed" the "Traditional Roman Rite", maybe we should start thinking about the use of this "Traditional English Rite".

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

This is Catholic

thanks to Roman Catholic Vocations, unfortunately the website he links to seems only accessible to Americans

Brighton Funeral Director's Wicked Deceit


I was out visiting this afternoon. I went to see a Asian family, what I hadn't realised was that the middle-aged son of the family had died about six months ago. Being Asian they had taken photographs of everything, including the celebrant of the funeral. I asked why as they were Catholics they hadn't had a Catholic funeral, "But we did, Father. We made sure that he had a Catholic priest". It was at the cemetery, just a burial, no Mass. The photograph showed a fey middle aged man wearing a biretta, a stole, a cotta and those silly shoulder capes worn by high church Anglican vicars.

There had been a protestant minister, who I am told was the boyfriend of one of the local undertakers, who had been feigning to be a Catholic priest two or three years ago, but I thought we had stopped that. If they couldn't get the real thing, not that they tried hard, he impersonated a priest.

Although no sacraments were celebrated, the funeral is itself a sacramental, in exceptional circumstances a Catholic layperson may celebrate a funeral, but passing someone off as priest to a grieving family is not only a serious sacrilege but it strikes me as being the most wicked act of deception against the bereaved. When I find our which firm of undertakers perpetrated this vile act I will ensure that they are banned from this Church and if possible every other Catholic Church in Brighton.

Pope asks for Death Leave


Pope Benedict XVI Monday called for those caring for the dying to be granted "death leave" even as he reaffirmed the Catholic church's strong opposition to active euthanasia.
Like maternity leave for couples having children, "similar rights should be accorded to close family members at the moment the illness of their loved ones is at a terminal phase," Pope Benedict said at a Vatican gathering on incurable illnesses.
He called on society to support families caring for the sick, arguing "a humane and interdependent society" could not do otherwise.
"A greater respect of individual human lives inevitably comes from real interdependence of everyone," the pontiff said, saying this was one of the greatest challenges of the moment.
Pope Benedict at the same time reiterated the "firm and consistent ethical condemnation for all forms of direct euthanasia."

Monday, February 25, 2008

Facing the Lord

Fr Fessio on celebrating Mass "facing the Lord". Here on of America's leading Jesuits sums up the Pope's teaching on "ad Orientem" celebration.

Thanks to Forest Murmurs

Shroud retest



The Oxford laboratory that declared the Turin Shroud to be a medieval fake 20 years ago is investigating claims that its findings were wrong.
The head of the world-renowned laboratory has admitted that carbon dating tests it carried out on Christendom's most famous relic may be inaccurate.

Professor Christopher Ramsey, the director of the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, said he was treating seriously a new theory suggesting that contamination had skewed the results.Though he stressed that he would be surprised if the supposedly definitive 1988 tests were shown to be far out - especially "a thousand years wrong" - he insisted that he was keeping an open mind.The development will re-ignite speculation about the four-metre linen sheet, which many believe bears the miraculous image of the crucified Christ.
The original carbon dating was carried out on a sample by researchers working separately in laboratories in Zurich and Arizona as well as Oxford.
To the dismay of Christians, the researchers concluded that the shroud was created between 1260 and 1390, and was therefore likely to be a forgery devised in the Middle Ages.
Even Anastasio Alberto Ballestrero, the then Cardinal of Turin, conceded that the relic was probably a hoax.

There have been numerous theories purporting to explain how the tests could have produced false results, but so far they have all been rejected by the scientific establishment.
Many people remain convinced that the shroud is genuine.
Prof Ramsey, an expert in the use of carbon dating in archeological research, is conducting fresh experiments that could explain how a genuinely old linen could produce "younger" dates.
The results, which are due next month, will form part of a documentary on the Turin Shroud that is being broadcast on BBC 2 on Easter Saturday.
David Rolfe, the director of the documentary, said it was hugely significant that Prof Ramsey had thought it necessary to carry out further tests that could challenge the original dating.
He said that previous hypotheses, put forward to explain how the cloth could be older than the 1988 results suggested, had been "rejected out of hand".
"The main reason is that the contamination levels on the cloth that would have been needed to distort the results would have to be equivalent to the actual sample itself," he said.
"But this new theory only requires two per cent contamination to skew the results by 1,500 years. Moreover, it springs from published data about the behaviour of carbon-14 in the atmosphere which was unknown when the original tests were carried out 20 years ago."
Mr Rolfe added that the documentary, presented by Rageh Omaar, the former BBC correspondent, would also contain new archeological and historical evidence supporting claims that the shroud was a genuine burial cloth.
The film will focus on two other recorded relics, the Shroud of Constantinople, which is said to have been stolen by Crusaders in 1204, and the Shroud of Jerusalem that wrapped Jesus's body and which, according to John's Gospel, had such a profound effect when it was discovered.
According to Mr Rolfe, the documentary will produce convincing evidence that these are one and the same as the Shroud of Turin, adding credence to the belief that it dates back to Christ's death.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Westminster Succession


The Muniment Room has the latest Paddy Power book on the Westminster succession, the Archbishop of Birmingham is still no 1, but the Abbot of Puscarden has got into no 2.


Rt Rev Vincent Nichols 2-1 (7-2)
Dom Hugh Gilbert 4-1
Rt Rev Kevin McDonald 6-1 (5-1) (7-2)
Rt Rev Alan Hopes 6-1 (11-2)
Fr Timothy Radcliffe 6-1 (10-1) (6-1)
Bishop William Kenney 8-1 (15-2) (6-1)
Cardinal Pell 12-1 (10-1)
Fr Aidan Nichols 12-1 (11-1) (5-1) (6-1)
Rt Rev Arthur Roche 12-1 (10-1) (12-1)
Rt Rev Peter Smith 12-1
Archbishop Michael Louis Fitzgerald 14-1 (12-1) (10-1) (12-1)
Rt Rev Patrick Kelly 14-1 (12-1) (10-1) (12-1)
Rt Rev Bernard Longley 14-1 (12-1)
Rt Rev Michael Evans 20-1 (16-1)
Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue 20-1 (16-1)
Bishop George Stack 20-1 (16-1)
Fr Christopher Jamison 20-1
Bishop John Rawsthorne 25-1 (20-1)
Bishop John Patrick Crowley Non-runner (33-1)

Mother kills herself after abortion.


There is a very sad story in yesterdays Telegraph, a young artist killed herself after an abortion. This story underlines the terrible effect abortion can often have on women. It also shows the poverty of the help that women receive; in this case a phone number.



The inquest at Truro City Hall heard that Miss Beck had split up with her boyfriend, referred to as "Ben" after he "reacted badly" to the pregnancy.

She saw her GP before the termination, but missed an appointment at a hospital in Penzance. She then cancelled, but later turned up to an appointment at a clinic at Royal Cornwall Hospital in Treliske. The counsellor was on holiday so a doctor referred Miss Beck to a pregnancy counselling telephone service eight days before carrying out the abortion when she was eight weeks pregnant, the inquest heard.

The coroner, Dr Emma Carlyon, ordered that the identities of the doctor who performed the abortion and her lead consultant be kept secret.

The inquest heard that Sylvia Beck, the victim's mother, wrote to the hospital after her daughter's death, saying: "I want to know why she was not given the opportunity to see a counsellor.

"She was only going ahead with the abortion because her boyfriend did not want the twins.

"I believe this is what led Emma to take her own life - she could not live with what she had done."

The doctor said: "I discussed Emma's situation with her, and wrote on the form, 'Unsupported, lives alone, ex-partner aware'.

"It is normal practice to give a woman the number for telephone counselling when a counsellor is not available.

"I am satisfied that everything was done to make sure that Emma consented to the operation.

She added: "We have since appointed more counsellors so there is more holiday cover."

Katie Gibbs, Miss Beck's GP, told the hearing: "She was extremely distressed by the abortion procedure, and I didn't think she ever came to terms with it.

"She had a long history of anxiety and depression. Despite my best efforts, she was not willing to see a counsellor after the termination."

Her boss at the clinic, said: "The time that can be given to a woman by a counsellor is limited in a busy hospital.

"I am satisfied everything was done to make sure Emma was consenting to surgery. I don't feel there was any gap in the counselling service.

"There were lots of individuals who would be alert to any doubts. The comments made by Emma's mother are not about a doctor I recognise."

Mrs Beck told the court: "Emma was considered a talented artist, and sold a number of paintings.

"She was pleased when she became pregnant, but Ben reacted badly to the news."

Recording a verdict of suicide, Dr Carlyon said: "It is clear that a termination can have a profound effect on a woman's life.

"But I am reassured by the evidence of the doctors here."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Brighton Vicar Scandal


One of the local Anglican clergy, Alan Sharpe, has got into a bit a of scrape. He was filmed going to a cash machine and giving money to a man who then went off to buy heroine.
Fr Sharpe has built up a ministry serving the poorest of the poor in Brighton. He has truned part of his Church into a hostel for the homeless. For doing that, some in our city hate him. I don't know the ins and the outs of the case, apparently there was a t.v. documentary on him last night.



There was a bit in the local paper:


"Brighton and Hove City Council has begun an investigation."
Andy Winter, from Brighton Housing Trust, said it was inappropriate for people working with the homeless to have personal friendships with their clients".
Well, that might be appropriate for a social worker but it is a little bit different for a priest. I am proud that some of my friends are junkies, they move in out of being "clients" to being friends and back to being "clients", that is the nature of being a priest, it only really works on the level of being a friend, that's what Jesus did. Social workers tend to be "hired men".

"It's inconceivable that you would move someone into your home," he said. Maybe, but not if you are a Christian, I have had the occassional homeless person living here. What social workers don't understand is that Christians by nature (Christ's nature) are called to take risks with people, at times to be wreckless in their loving.

And after claims he gave cash donations to a drug addict, Det Ch Insp Ian Pollard said: "It's irresponsible because it will mean that they will go and purchase heroin and in some cases it may actually lead to them overdosing. All too true, but it is very often difficult to tell the difference between a good story and the truth. The odd twenty pounds can make all the difference, a night in a guest house rather than on the beach, can make the difference between a job the following morning and a descent into the culture of dependency. On rare occassions I have done the same thing, I am sure I have been duped, but better to be foolish than turn away anyone in real need.


I don't know much about the case but I support Alan, and ask for your prayers for him.
A journalist friend says that she thinks this is just another of those malicious, "let's dig the dirt" stories. The problem is that Christians we are called to be irresponsible for the sake of the Gospel, we don't follow social workers "best practice" models.

We had to put up one Brother in the bathroom

There is a nice little piece in the Catholic Herald on the growing Manchester Premonstratensions.

Against Liberalism

Cardinal Newman's Biglietto Speech
Rome, May 12, 1879



For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of Liberalism in religion. Never did Holy Church need champions against it more sorely than now, when, alas! it is an error overspreading, as a snare, the whole earth; and on this great occasion, when it is natural for one who is in my place to look out upon the world, and upon Holy Church as in it, and upon her future, it will not, I hope, be considered out of place, if I renew the protest against it which I have made so often.
Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion, as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are matters of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy. Devotion is not necessarily founded on faith. Men may go to Protestant Churches and to Catholic, may get good from both and belong to neither. They may fraternise together in spiritual thoughts and feelings, without having any views at all of doctrines in common, or seeing the need of them. Since, then, religion is so personal a peculiarity and so private a possession, we must of necessity ignore it in the intercourse of man with man. If a man puts on a new religion every morning, what is that to you? It is as impertinent to think about a man's religion as about his sources of income or his management of his family. Religion is in no sense the bond of society.

Hitherto the civil power has been Christian. Even in countries separated from the Church, as in my own, the dictum was in force, when I was young, that 'Christianity was the law of the land.' Now, everywhere that goodly framework of society, which is the creation of Christianity, is throwing off Christianity. The dictum to which I have referred, with a hundred others which followed upon it, is gone, or is going everywhere; and, by the end of the century, unless the Almighty interferes, it will be forgotten. Hitherto, it has been considered that religion alone, with its supernatural sanctions, was strong enough to secure submission of the masses of our population to law and order; now the Philosophers and Politicians are bent on satisfying this problem without the aid of Christianity. Instead of the Church's authority and teaching, they would substitute first of all a universal and thoroughly secular education, calculated to bring home to every individual that to be orderly, industrious, and sober is his personal interest. Then, for great working principles to take the place of religion, for the use of the masses thus carefully educated, it provides the broad fundamental ethical truths, of justice, benevolence, veracity, and the like, proved experience, and those natural laws which exist and act spontaneously in society, and in social matters, whether physical or psychological - for instance, in government, trade, finance, sanitary experiments, and the intercourse of nations. As to Religion, it is a private luxury, which a man may have if he will; but which of course he must pay for, and which he must not obtrude upon others, or indulge in to their annoyance.

The general nature of this great apostasia is one and the same everywhere; but in detail, and in character, it varies in different countries. For myself, I would rather speak of it in my own country, which I know. There, I think it threatens to have a formidable success; though it is not easy to see what will be its ultimate issue.

At first sight it might be thought that Englishmen are too religious for a movement which, on the continent, seems to be founded on infidelity; but the misfortune with us is, that, though it ends in infidelity as in other places, it does not necessarily arise out of infidelity. It must be recollected that the religious sects, which sprang up in England three centuries ago, and which are so powerful now, have ever been fiercely opposed to the Union of Church and State, and would advocate the unChristianising of the monarchy and all that belongs to it, under the notion that such a catastrophe would make Christianity much more pure and much more powerful. Next the liberal principle is forced on us from the necessity of the case. Consider what follows from the very fact of these many sects. They constitute the religion, it is supposed, of half the population; and recollect, our mode of government is popular. Every dozen men taken at random whom you meet in the streets have a share in political power — when you inquire into their forms of belief, perhaps they represent one or other of as many as seven religions; how can they possibly act together in municipal or in national matters, if each insists on the recognition of his own religious denomination? All action would be at a deadlock unless the subject of religion was ignored. We cannot help ourselves. And, thirdly, it must be borne in mind, that there is much in the liberalistic theory which is good and true; for example, not to say more, the precepts of justice, truthfulness, sobriety, self-command, benevolence, which, as I have already noted, are among its avowed principles, and the natural laws of society. It is not till we find that this array of principles is intended to supersede, to block out, religion, that we pronounce it to be evil. There never was a device of the Enemy so cleverly framed and with such promise of success. And already it has answered to the expectations which have been formed of it. It is sweeping into its own ranks great numbers of able, earnest, virtuous men, elderly men of approved antecedents, young men with a career before them.

Such is the state of things in England, and it is well that it should be realised by all of us; but it must not be supposed for a moment that I am afraid of it. I lament it deeply, because I foresee that it may be the ruin of many souls; but I have no fear at all that it really can do aught of serious harm to the Word of God, to Holy Church, to our Almighty King, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Faithful and True, or to His Vicar on earth.

Christianity has been too often in what seemed deadly peril, that we should fear for it any new trial now. So far is certain; on the other hand, what is uncertain, and in these great contests commonly is uncertain, and what is commonly a great surprise, when it is witnessed, is the particular mode by which, in the event, Providence rescues and saves His elect inheritance. Sometimes our enemy is turned into a friend; sometimes he is despoiled of that special virulence of evil which was so threatening; sometimes he falls to pieces of himself; sometimes he does just so much as is beneficial, and then is removed. Commonly the Church has nothing more to do than to go on in her own proper duties, in confidence and peace; to stand still and to see the salvation of God.



"Mansueti hereditabunt terram,
Et delectabuntur in multitudine pacis."
[Psalm 36:"The meek shall inherit the earth,
and shall delight in the abundance of peace"]

Friday, February 22, 2008

Hospital Board: sacked


The Guardian reports that the Cardinal has, at last, sacked the entire board of the Hospital of St Elizabeth and St John.


Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, head of the Catholic church in England and Wales, intervened in the affairs of the hospital of St John & St Elizabeth in London, where he is patron, after protracted rows over the adoption of a tighter ethical code banning non-Catholic practices such as abortions, contraception and sex-change operations.

Scalps from Tuesday evening's decision include Aida Hersham, a Persian heiress and socialite, and Jacob Rees-Mogg, son of former Times editor William Rees-Mogg.

The cardinal's office confirmed the appointment of a new chairman, Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank. The former army chief of staff will select new directors, who will meet on Monday. A spokesman for the cardinal said: "In light of recent difficulties and challenges the cardinal asked the board to resign their office. This was to enable a new chairman to begin his office with the freedom to go about ensuring the future wellbeing of this Catholic hospital. The cardinal offered his sincere thanks to the old board and all they had done."

The hospital's deputy chief executive, Claire Hornick, said in a press statement that there was no intention to issue further details about the resignations. It also aimed to allay fears about the future of the hospital: "Lord Guthrie, supported by Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, has stated that under his chairmanship there is no desire that the hospital be sold and that the committed plan remains to continue the objects of the charity, which, guided by its Catholic ethos, is to serve the local community."...

The GP practice, which has 9,000 patients, has scandalised staunch Catholics, who believe its activities undermine the religious ethos of the hospital....

The cardinal's primary objective has always been for St John & St Elizabeth to remain a Catholic hospital and several issues were jeopardising that aim, including GPs prescribing the morning-after pill and referring patients for abortions.

In 2005 he wrote to the then chairman, Lord Bridgman, and said: "There must be clarity that the hospital, being a Catholic hospital with a distinct vision of what is truly in the interests of human persons, cannot offer its patients, non-Catholic or Catholic, the whole range of services routinely accepted by many in modern secular society as being in a patient's best interest."

The Right Rev George Stack, an auxiliary bishop of Westminster, was appointed to the hospital's ethics committee to ensure Catholic teaching was upheld in the new code. Its introduction, however, led to a boardroom revolt in December, with two directors resigning in protest, arguing that the cardinal placed Catholic values above patient care. Bridgman stepped down a week later.

Communion in the hand: the future


Archbishop Malcom Ranjith, the Sri Lankan number two at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, is expected to take over from Cardinaal Arinze as the head of the Congregation later this year, so what he has to say is of tremendous interest. This is from NLM:
Bruno Volpe, of Petrus, has interviewed Msgr. Albert Malcom Ranjith, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Here is my translation:


B. Volpe: Your Excellency, unfortunately Holy Mass, in Italy and in various other parts of the World, continues not to be celebrated as it should be, with priests putting themselves at the centre of attention and inventing impromptu texts and rites that are absolutely not loyal to the Magisterium.

Msgr. Ranjith: It is true, and I think it is really sad that some priests, fortunately not all, continue to abuse, with inexplicable extravagancies, the liturgy which, it should be remembered, is not their property but belongs to the Church.

Volpe: Would you like to make a public appeal?

Ranjith: I remind these priests that they must, and I stress must, respect the official liturgy of the Catholic Church. Enough with the abuses and the personal interpretations: Mass is not a spectacle, but sacrifice, gift and mystery. Not coincidentally the Holy Father Benedict XVI continually reminds us to celebrate the Eucharist with dignity and decorum.

Volpe: We come to a practical case. Some priests indulge in homilies excessively long and not always attuned to the readings of the day.

Ranjith: First of all I think that a good and healthy homily should never exceed 8-10 minutes; having said that it is necessary that the celebrant studies in depth the Gospel of the day and always stick to it, without flourishes or unnecessary turns of words. The homily is an integral and complementary part of the Eucharistic sacrifice, but must absolutely not dominate it.

Volpe: Your Excellency, let us come to the question of Communion in the hand: What do you think about it?

Ranjith: I 'simply' believe that this practice needs to be reviewed. How to do it? To begin with, a good catechesis. You know, unfortunately, many are not even aware of Whom they receive in the Communion, that is Christ, and so approach the Eucharistic banquet with scarce concentration and very little respect.

Volpe: Specifically, what needs to be done?

Ranjith: We need to recover the sense of the sacred. I speak only for myself, but I am convinced of the urgency of reviewing the practice of Communion given in the hand, returning to giving the particle to the faithful directly in the mouth, without them touching it, reinforcing thereby that in the Eucharist there is really Jesus and that everyone must receive Him with devotion, love and respect.

Volpe: Would it not be appropriate to return to kneeling at the moment of Communion?

Ranjith: I think so. This gesture would represent a true act of respect towards the gift and the mystery of the Eucharist.

Volpe: But some, even inside the Church, seem to express “embarrassment” only at the idea of seeing restored kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament.

Ranjith: Beyond the office I occupy in the Vatican, as a Catholic I ask myself and wonder: why be ashamed of God? Kneeling at Communion would be an act of humility and recognition of our nature as children of God.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Surrexit!


Like Lazarus, Vale Adurni, Fr Sean Finnegan's blog has re-emerged onto the blogosphere. He was talking to me about it's resurgence, I didn't think it would happen so soon.

Welcome Father!

Maureen and Theresa


I was wandering along the street yesterday and saw two elderly sister with a gang of young lads. Theresa was patting one of them on the shoulder and evidently praising him and telling the rest how splendid he was, he looked highly embarassed, his friends a little bemused. Eventually they walked on looking back at the sisters with a bit of perplexity.


What was going on there I asked when I caught up with them, Maureen, said, "Theresa was just praising that young lad for standing up for his faith, by wearing a "Jesus Rocks" belt". It had the legend in studs around it. "Yes, she was saying how good it was that a young man was willing to proclaim the Holy Name amongst his friends and to the world."

"That's right, Father, I said that as he was proud of proclaiming the Holy Name he ought to think about a vocation to the priesthood", said Theresa.

I suggested to both of them that the belt might just be a post-Christian fashion accessory, "Ah, no Father, that would just be too cynical." she said grinning. "If it was, well in future, everytime he puts it on, he is going to remember that two old ladies saw it as a great sign of his faith," then after a pause she added, "It could of course be that he never wears it again".


I knew another woman who used to prowl the shopping centre with leaflets on the Rosary, and give them to people she saw wearing one.
Having just tried to find a picture, I have just discovered they are available from All Saints, a clothing chain which rather cynically decorates its shops with Catholic iconograpy, they cost £60 or US $120!
Personal names have been changed by the way.

India's Two Plagues: The "Missing Women" and Violence Against Christians


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Story of Claude Newman's Conversion

Mississippi 1944 :Claude Newman was a black man who worked the fields for a landowner. He had married when he was 17 years old to a woman of the same age. One day, two years later, he was out plowing the fields. Another worker ran to tell Claude that his wife was screaming from the house. Immediately Claude ran into his house and found a man attacking his wife. Claude saw red, grabbed an axe and split the man's head open. When they rolled the man over, they discovered that it was the favorite employee of the landowner for whom Claude worked. Claude was arrested. He was later sentenced for murder and condemned to die in the electric chair.

Mssage from the Cardinal: Human Embriology


Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ,

As you will know, there is a Bill currently in Parliament which touches on profound questions of human life and dignity. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill has just completed its passage through the House of Lords and will be debated in the House of Commons in the next few weeks.

The Bill extends the scope of scientific research on human embryos and even allows the creation of animal and human hybrid embryos for research. It removes a provision to have regard for the child's need for a father when IVF methods are used. And there is every chance that there will be attempts in the House of Commons to use this Bill as a vehicle to liberalise the abortion law still further.

Many people of all faiths and none are deeply concerned by the moral questions raised by this Bill. These concerns were set out in Parish briefings sent to every parish from the Bishops' Conference to all our parishes over the last few weeks. Now is the time for our voices to be heard. This needs as many people as possible to write to - and better still ­ to go and see their MP and to register their deep concern about this Bill. Please urge your MP to support amendments to the Bill which would limit embryo research, recognize the need for children to have knowledge of their biological father, and which would reduce rather than increase the numbers of abortions. MPs should also request and be granted a free vote on those parts of this Bill which deals with fundamental issues of personal conscience.

During this time of Lent we are encouraged to reflect on our own lives and to rededicate ourselves as Christians to serving the Gospel in our world. Taking action on this pressing issue now helps to remind us that our Christian witness can never just be personal but involves us too as citizens committed to serving the common good of society and to upholding the human dignity of all.

With my prayers,


Archbishop of Westminster
on behalf of the Bishops of England and Wales

Sign the Petition

(You have to be a British citizen or resident to sign.)

Islamic criticism and support for the first Catholic church in Qatar


Doha (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Catholic church of St. Mary, constructed as planned without a bell tower or cross, is close to inauguration. In spite of the great modesty of the Catholic community, there is no lack of disagreement on the part of a Muslim intellectuals who are firmly opposing the new church, maintaining that a popular referendum is necessary.
The pages of the newspaper Al-Arab read, "the cross should not be raised in the sky of Qatar, nor should bells toll in Doha". In a letter to Al-Watan, the engineer Rashed al-Subaie maintains that the Christians have the right to practice their faith, but should not have permission to build places of worship. The lawyer and former justice minister Najib al-Nuaimi expresses himself as along the same lines. Nuaimi stresses that Qatar is a Muslim country, not a secular one, and maintains that a referendum is the only way to ensure that the church is socially acceptable.
Moderate comments of support come from Abdul Hamid al-Ansari, a former head of the faculty of Islamic law (sharia) at the University of Qatar, who has published articles in various newspapers welcoming the Catholic church in Doha: "places of worship for various religions is a fundamental human right guaranteed by Islam".
St Mary's will ultimately become a gathering place for the community of Catholics, who number about 100,000 faithful from Southeast Asia and from the West. "It will be merely a place for collective prayer", says St. Mary's parish priest, Father Tomasito Veneracion. "It will not have crosses outside the building or serve as a platform for proselytising". A simple inauguration ceremony will be provided over by Cardinal Ivan Dias and Bishop Paul Hinder on March 14. Five other churches are planned for the same property where St Mary stands, including Anglican, Coptic, and Greek Orthodox churches.
Once St Mary's open its doors to the faithful, Saudi Arabia will be the only Gulf country that still prohibits the building of churches within its borders

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Isn't it unlike him?


Children kneel down and touch the crucifix of the wax version of Pope Benedict XVI in the Madame Tussauds Museum in Amsterdam February 18, 2008. The figure of Pope Benedict XVI, the first to be made of the reigning Pope, was made at the Tussauds Studios in London over a period of three months. The figure was created on the basis of research material and with the knowledge of the Vatican. At the end of April the figure will be transported to its definitive destination, the Berlin branch of Madame Tussauds which has yet to open.
But why is it so unlife-like?

Prayer Ministry


At one time I used to meet rather sad men who seemed not very talented at anything who would tell me that their prayer group had prayed and it seemed as if God had chosen them to have "a music ministry". Invariably this menat that the poor individual would then sing with great gusto and strum his guitar's three chords on every occassion, never improving.


Lately I have met a few people who tell me they have "a prayer ministry" and on occassion I have met people who received the services of someone's "prayer ministry". Now, all Christians are called to pray and to pray for others. I would delight in someone saying rosaries and the psalter, especially the penitential psalms for me or offer the Holy Communion for me and devote a couple of hours before the Blessed Sacrament for me, if they were to offer up sufferings and undertake various other acts of penance, I would be thrilled. That would be a real prayer ministry.


But terms like "prayer ministry" seem to be about a power relationship, where someone who claims a certain charismatic power excercises it over someone who seems to be in need or simply someone they determine is in need.

To me it seems profoundly un-Catholic. I am not sure what happened in the dim and distant past. I don't know how the ancient ministry of exorcist operated. The Catholic Church has always stressed that the prime actor in its rites is always Christ, never the individual minister, hence the insistance on "doing the red and saying the black". This is actually an important theological isssue that the Church has safeguarded down the centuries. The priest or other minister is God's servant, God is certainly not his.


There is a real pastoral danger, of spiritual abuse, in what is often spoken of as "prayer ministry" or as it often becomes "deliverance ministry".

"I just want to bring before you, Lord, X who is suffering from the spirit of Z", has so many tightly packed theological, spiritual, psychological and emotional implications. For its Sacred Ministers at least within its rites the Church forbids ancd condemns this type of thing, yet it is very prevalent amongst many charismatic lay people, religious, hospital, even school chaplains, extra-ordinary ministers of Holy Communion.
I heard recently of a female religious with "prayer ministry" who seemed to be using her own version of the Rite of Exorcism, forbidden to anyone but the diocesan exorcist. I don't know what effect it had on her subjects but she seemed rather damaged by what she had been doing. This stuff doesn't come from the Catholic Church, it is entirely Protestant and very dangerous.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Priests becoming too bourgeois, Vatican prelate says


(CWNews.com) - The prefect of the Congregation for Religious has lamented that many Catholic priests are neglecting their duties under the pressure of conforming to secular culture.
In a February 14 interview with the Italian ANSA news agency, Cardinal Franc Rode said that priests today tend to be less obedient to the Church and more responsive to the world. He cited reluctance to wear clerical dress as a symptom of this trend.
“A drift towards bourgeois values and moral relativism are the two great dangers that weaken religious life," said the Slovenian cardinal. "The biggest problem today is the climate of secularization-- present not only in Western society but also within the Church itself.”
Cardinal Rode said that young people continue to hear God's call to a vocation in the priesthood or religious life. But he suggested that a lax model of priestly or religious life is not likely to encourage vocations. As evidence the cardinal pointed to the young Catholics who are attracted to contemplative life in highly disciplined religious orders. "They are attracted because it is a radical life choice," he said.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A sign



from the Cafeteria

... and perchance, if one should tresspass, just a little, would one be forgiven?

China repents and seeks to woo Pope


TEMPTED by the prize of a historic visit to China by Pope Benedict XVI, the nation’s leaders have authorised a renewed effort in confidential discussions with the Vatican to heal their rift and inaugurate diplomatic ties.
The talks have intensified over recent months, leading some diplomatic observers in Beijing to believe the Chinese may be seeking to announce a deal before the Olympic Games in August.
Liu Bainian, the de facto head of Beijing’s official Patriotic Church, has said on several occasions that he would like to welcome the Pope to China once an agreement has been reached.
While the Vatican says it has received no formal invitation, observers say Liu’s words would have been uttered only with approval from the highest levels.

The announcement of mutual recognition and a papal visit would be a propaganda coup for China. It would counter the negative publicity that has stunned Beijing recently, culminating in the decision by Steven Spiel-berg, the film director, to end his involvement with the Olympics over China’s policies in Sudan.
“The contacts are going ahead and we are somewhat optimistic,” a senior Vatican official said.
Both sides have maintained the utmost discretion, but sources close to the discussions, held in government buildings in Beijing, said they had reached a detailed and businesslike stage.

Death of Liberalism





















from Good Jesuit

"Liberal Christianity will not survive long and political correctness within the Christian environment is destined to die, I would like to warn you about the perils of liberal Christianity.

Today we can't talk about Christian morality because the standards of 'traditional' and 'liberal' Christians are dramatically different and the abyss between these two branches of Christianity is growing,


we are hearing from some Christian leaders that marriage between a woman and a man is not the only possible option for the creation of a Christian family, that there can be other type of couples and that the Church should be 'inclusive' by recognizing such lifestyles and grant them a solemn blessing. We have heard that the human life is a negotiable value, to the point that it can be aborted in the mother's womb. What has happened with Christianity? In a confused and disoriented world, where is the prophetic voice of Christians?

It is not our duty to defend sharia, promote alternative lifestyles or secularized values.
Our mission is to announce what Christ himself announced".

Russian Orthodox bishop Hilarion Alfeyev said during a conference addressing the Ecumenical Council of Churches at Geneva, Switzerland.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I've got flu


I've got flu, a lady in the parish pointed out that we men suffer more with it than women because our sinuses are bigger, I am sure she is right.
I blame communion under both kinds, people will insist on receiving even if the have some infectious desease.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Papal Spiritual Excercises


(CNA).- As Pope Benedict XVI and the members of the Roman Curia take part in Lenten Spiritual Exercises under the direction of Cardinal Albert Vanhoye, the L’Osservatore Romano published an article explaining the origin of this practice at the Vatican.
According to the article, the practice of conducting the Spiritual Exercises during Lent has its roots in the traditional Advent and Lenten preaching presented by the Preacher of the Papal Household, traditionally a post held by a Capuchin friar—currently, Father Raniero Cantalamessa.
However, it was Pope Pius XI who began the practice of the Spiritual Exercises.
In fact, a few months after his election to the papacy, on July 25, 1922, Pius XI proclaimed St. Ignatius of Loyola patron of the Spiritual Exercises, and on December 20, 1929, the day of his priestly jubilee, he published an encyclical on the Spiritual Exercises, “Mens Nostra”, in which he explained his decision to carry on the practice annually.
According to the Vatican daily, “since 1929, with only a few exceptions, the Spiritual Exercises have taken place each year in the first week of Advent. Paul VI moved them to the first week of Lent.”
They were suspended in 1950 because Pius XII did not want to interrupt the celebrations of the Holy Year, in 1962 when Blessed John XXIII preferred to have a personal retreat, and in 1963 when Paul VI did not want to interrupt the second session of Vatican II. It was then that he decided to move them from Advent to Lent.
“The preacher of the Spiritual Exercises is received in a private audience with the Pope at the beginning and at the end, and the preaching generally does not last longer than half an hour,” the article indicated, revealing an interesting anecdote. Once, a Jesuit preacher continued on for several minutes past the allotted time, getting the attention of a friendly Pius XII, who not only asked him to finish but also told him that brevity was important in order not to compromise the efficacy of the discourse, in accord with the recommendations by St. Ignatius himself.
The Exercises are always held in the chapel on the second floor of the Apostolic Palace. Until 1988, it was called the “Matilde” chapel, but during the Marian Year of 1987-1988, Pope John Paul II re-named it the “Redemptoris Mater” chapel.
Between 1997 and 1999, the retreats took place in the Clementine Hall while the chapel was being renovated. L’Osservatore Romano explained that in Redemptoris Mater, “on the right side of the altar is the small San Lorenzo oratory, which is accessible from the Pope’s apartment. The Pope attends the Exercises seated in the oratory and out of view from the rest of the participants, for reasons of discretion and to simplify the ceremonials.”
Only at the conclusion of the Exercises does the Pontiff enter the chapel and address a few words to those present.

Thinner Vatican Phone Book

CNS
An updated Vatican phone book was finally released this month. Strangely enough, it looked thinner than the last one.

In fact, the 2008 elenco telefonico lost 61 pages, almost 30 percent, from its previous edition. What did they cut out? The answer was apparent to anyone who opened it: most of the names were gone from the listing of Roman Curia offices.
Instead, the phone book now provides names and numbers only for the top three officials of each department. The rest of the Curia did a disappearing act.

Naturally, journalists were upset. We spend a lot of time thumbing through the phone book when we need to contact potential sources, and this seemed to be saying: Don’t bother.

And what about Vatican employees who need to exchange information with other departments? In a world not known for cross-communication, the change made it even harder to navigate the labyrinthine Vatican bureaucracy.

It also meant the six nuns at the Vatican switchboard are going to be busier, as more and more callers go through the Vatican’s main +39.06.6982 telephone number.

I phoned the head of the Vatican telephone office, Brother Andrea Mellini (who is listed in the new book) and asked him why the change. He said it was a decision of superiors who wanted the phone book to be “more anonymous.”

Brother Mellini pointed out that numbers for most Vatican personnel continue to be listed in an alphabetical name-only section. So if you know precisely who you’re looking for, it’s still possible to reach him or her. But the phone book will no longer serve as a workforce directory for the Roman Curia.

If there are a lot of complaints, maybe they’ll return to the old format, Brother Mellini said. But he thinks the simplification could be a good thing, because it will make it easier to produce a new phone book each year.

That would be nice. Before this year’s edition, the last time a Vatican phone book came out was in 2004.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Vienna 1683

This is the first of a series of videos which form a documentary on Cathcon about the repulsion the Muslim Turkish attack on Vienna in 1683, and consequently saving the west from invasion.

Pope waives 5 year period for Sister Lucia

From Zenit
Benedict XVI announced he will dispense with the five-year waiting period established by Canon Law to open the cause of beatification of Sister Lucia, one of the three Fatima visionaries.

The news was announced today in the cathedral of Coimbra, Portugal, by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, on the third anniversary of the Carmelite’s death.
The Holy Father dispensed with the established waiting period once before for the cause of Pope John Paul II. Benedict XVI made the announcement on May 13, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, some 42 days after the Pontiff’s death in 2005.
...

Apparitions

Lucia de Jesus dos Santos was 10 years old when she said she saw for the first time, on May 13, 1917, a lady whom she later identified as the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the Cova de Iria.

She saw the vision with her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, who were beatified by John Paul II in Fatima, in 2000.

In a pastoral letter dated Oct. 13, 1930, the bishop of Leiria-Fatima, José Alves Correia da Silva, declared the apparitions of Fatima worthy of faith and allowed public devotion. Since then, the shrine has become a center of spirituality and pilgrimage of international scope.

Born in Aljustrel in 1907, Lucia moved to Oporto in 1921, and at 14 was admitted as a boarder in the School of the Sisters of St. Dorothy in Vilar, on the city’s outskirts.

On Oct. 24, 1925, she entered the Institute of the Sisters of St. Dorothy and at the same time was admitted as a postulant in the congregation’s convent in Tuy, Spain, near the Portuguese border. She made her first vows on Oct. 3, 1928, and her perpetual vows on Oct. 3, 1934, receiving the name Sister Mary of the Sorrowful Mother.

She returned to Portugal in 1946 and two years later entered the Carmelite convent of St. Teresa in Coimbra, where she made her profession as a Discalced Carmelite on May 31, 1949, taking the name Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart.

She wrote two volumes, one entitled "Memories" and the other "Appeals of the Fatima Message." In her writings, she recounts how the Virgin Mary and Child Jesus appeared to her on other occasions, years after the initial apparitions.

The mortal remains of the Carmelite were moved in 2006 to the Shrine of Fatima. The body of the nun, who died at age 97, is buried next to Jacinta. Francisco is buried in the same basilica.

Little Joseph Ratzinger

From American Papist

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Gregoian Chant


Universal Music, the record company whose artists include Amy Winehouse, Eminem and 50 Cent, is looking for monks to sign to its books.

The music giant has placed adverts in religious publications like The Tablet, The Church Times and The Catholic Times to find monks, men of the cloth or sacred singers to record an album of Gregorian chant.

It believes the bestselling computer game phenomenon Halo has sparked a resurgence of interest in plainchant, which has traditionally been sung by choirs of men and boys in churches.

Gregorian chant-like music forms the main soundtrack of the space age XBox games, which have sold more than 16 million copies worldwide.

It is hoped that male or female singers, "outside the X Factor generation", will respond to the full-page adverts, which also appear in The Universe and The Catholic Herald.

The record company wants liturgical singers to send in audition tapes to Universal Classics, which intends to record an album of Gregorian chant, one of the earliest known forms of music, dating from the early Middle Ages.

Universal Classics and Jazz managing director Dickon Stainer said: "We want people that are genuine, who can sing it as it should be sung. That's not that easy. It's going to be a challenge. You can't open the Yellow Pages and call a monastery.

"Ever since the last Halo game we've had so many inquiries about plainchant.

"It seems to be that younger people have some awareness of what a Gregorian chant is, even though it is not something that you come across in everyday life.

"We've even been asked by festival organisers if we've got nuns or monks on our roster. We've had to say 'no, we haven't signed up any monks yet'. It made us think that there's something in it. It's quite unusual. We want to reach singers outside the X Factor generation."

Worst Places to be a Christian


From the Christian Post
If you are a Christian, the worst place to live in the world is North Korea, according to Open Doors’ 2008 World Watch List released Monday.
The annual country persecution list ranked North Korea in the No. 1 spot for the sixth year in a row. There were more arrests of Christians in the country in 2007 than in 2006, according to Open Doors.

In North Korea, considered by many the most repressive regime, citizens are strictly banned from worshipping any other gods beside those enforced in the state religion – a personality cult revolving around current dictator Kim Jong Il, and his deceased father, Kim Il Sung.

Moreover, Christianity is considered a serious threat to the regime’s power and there are many reports of Christians being publicly executed, tortured or imprisoned indefinitely simply because of the discovery of their faith.

It is estimated that there are at least 200,000 underground Christians and up to 400,000 to 500,000 believers secretly practicing their faith in North Korea. At least a quarter of the Christians are imprisoned for their faith in political prison camps, from which people rarely get out alive, according to an Open Doors local source.

“It is certainly not a shock that North Korea is No. 1 on the shame list for the sixth year in a row,” said Carl Moeller, President/CEO of Open Doors USA. “There is no other country in the world where Christians are being persecuted in such a horrible and systematic manner.”

In second place behind North Korea is the kingdom of Saudi Arabia where fundamentalist Wahabbi Islam dominates society and oppresses believers. Under the kingdom’s strict interpretation of Islamic law, apostasy (conversion to another religion) is punishable by death if the accused does not recant.

Following close behind in third is Mideast neighbor Iran. Although Christians are officially recognized as a religious minority, believers regularly face discrimination and persecution.

Islam is the predominant religion in six of the top 10 countries: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Maldives, Afghanistan, Yemen and Uzbekistan.

This year, several countries moved up in the list including Bhutan (No. 5, up from No. 7), but mainly due to Somalia and Yemen’s decrease in persecution.

Afghanistan also rose from No. 10 to No. 7 due to the South Korean Christian hostage drama last summer as well as other events that contributed to its worsening persecution status.

Two new countries were added to the 2008 list: Uzbekistan at No. 9, up from No. 11, and China at No. 10, up from No. 12 last year.

Three of the top 10 countries – North Korea, Laos and China – have communist governments. Bhutan is the only Buddhist country on the list.

Improvement in human rights occurred in Somalia (from No. 4 to 12), Vietnam (from No. 8 to 17), Burma (from No. 19 to 25), Ethiopia (from No. 37 to 43) and Colombia (from No. 43 to 50).

The World Watch List ranks countries based on the intensity of persecution Christians face for actively pursuing their faith. The list is compiled based on answers to 50 questions covering various aspects of religious freedom from Open Doors’ indigenous contacts, field workers and persecuted believers.

Open Doors encourages Christians to join its prayer campaign for North Korea and participate in North Korea Freedom Week, April 27 - May 3.

2008 World Watch List

1. North Korea
2. Saudi Arabia
3. Iran
4. Maldives
5. Bhutan
6. Yemen
7. Afghanistan
8. Laos
9. Uzbekistan
10. China

Co-adjutor for Lancaster



FEB. 12, 2008 (Zenit.org).-
Benedict XVI appointed Augustinian Father Michael Campbell as the coadjutor
bishop of Lancaster.
With this appointment he will be the eventual successor of Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue. Bishop O'Donoghue turns 75 -- the retirement age for bishops stipulated in canon law -- in 2009.
Michael Campbell was born in Larne, Northern Ireland, in 1941 and ordained a priest in 1971.
Lancaster's population of about 1.2 million has some 124,256 Catholics, served by 179 priests, 50 permanent deacons and 178 religious.


The Catholic Church in England and Wales revamped website doesn't carry any news about the report, though the Lancaster Diocesan website does. I don't know many journalists but the ones I do meet always complain that getting information about what was happening in the Church in the UK was like getting blood out of a stone.

The Church is in the communications business, if only we could supply the facts, answer questions intelligently, we might end up with less antagonism from journalists.

I remember speaking to one young woman who said, "If you have a deadline, and you spend a half hour on the net and the same amount of time trying to get something on the phone, and you come up with nothing or are just passed from pillar to post, your writing tends to show your irritation, or even your hostility. "Blood" and "stone" often mirror "information" and "Catholic Church"." The problem there is no central, and effective, information service.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Every Priest continues being a deacon

Pope assisted by Cardinal Deacons - who are actually bishops at Santa Sabina on Ash Wednesday.

On Saturday the Pope had another of those question and answer sessions with with the clergy of Rome, this time permanent deacons were also present.
In the Extra Form of the Roman Rite it was customary for a priest or even a bishop to vest and fulfil the functions of deacon, nowadays that seem very much frowned upon, as if the priesthood removes the previously received order of the diaconate , which all priests receive before being ordained priest. It looks as though there is a response to that here.




I should say that when I was archbishop of Munich, I didn't find perhaps more than three or four deacons, and I very much favored this ministry because it seemed to me to belong to the richness of the sacramental ministry in the Church. At the same time, it can equally be the link between the lay world, the professional world, and the world of the priestly ministry -- given that many deacons continue carrying out their professions and maintain their positions -- important or those of a simple life -- while on Saturday and Sunday they work in the Church. In this way, you give witness in the world of today, as well as in the working world, of the presence of faith, of the sacramental ministry and the diaconal dimension of the sacrament of Orders. This seems very important to me: the visibility of the diaconal dimension.

Naturally as well, every priest continues being a deacon, and should always think of this dimension, because the Lord himself made himself our minister, our deacon. We can think of the gesture of the washing of the feet, with which he explicitly shows that the master, the Lord, acts as a deacon and wants those who follow him to be deacons, that they fulfill this role for humanity, to the point that they also help to wash the dirtied feet of the men entrusted to us. This dimension seems very important to me.

On this occasion, I bring to mind -- though it is perhaps not immediately inherent to the theme -- a simple experience that Paul VI noted. Each day of the Council, the Gospel was enthroned. And the Pontiff told those in charge of the ceremony that he would like one time to be the one who enthrones the Gospel. They told him no, this is the job of the deacons, not of the Pope. He wrote in his diary: But I am also a deacon, I continue being a deacon, and I would like to also exercise this ministry of the diaconate placing the word of God on its throne. Thus, this concerns all of us. Priests continue being deacons, and the deacons make explicit in the Church and in the world this diaconal dimension of our ministry. This liturgical enthroning of the word of God each day during the Council was always for us a gesture of great importance: It told us who was the true Lord of that assembly; it told us that the word of God was on the throne and that we exercise our ministry to listen and to interpret, to offer to the others this word. It is broadly significant for all that we do: enthroning in the world the word of God, the living word, Christ. May it really be him who governs our personal life and our life in the parishes....

That being said, is it permissable for me to fulfil the ministry of a deacon, vested as such: the Pope's answer is obviously "yes".

Monday, February 11, 2008

Song of Bernadette

This my favourite part of the film, the conversion of the skeptic and Bernadette's death.

Lent and Lourdes


Translation of Yesterdays Angelus:


Dear brothers and sisters!

Last Wednesday, with fasting and the rite of Ashes, we've entered into Lent. But what does it mean to "enter into Lent"? It means to begin a time of particular commitment in the spiritual combat that places us against the evil present in the world, in each one of us and around us. It's, so to say, looking evil in the face and fighting against its effects, above all against its causes, against its ultimate cause, Satan. It means not unloading the problem of evil onto others, on society or on God, but recognizing our own responsibilities and keeping that awareness about us. A resolution resonating especially urgently for us Christians is the call of Jesus to each take up our own "cross" and follow him with humility and trust (cf Mt 16:24). The "cross," however much it might weigh, is not synonymous with misfortune, a disgrace to be avoided whenever possible, but an opportunity to bring oneself to the following of Jesus and so to gain strength in the fight against sin and evil. To enter into Lent means above all renewing the personal and communitarian decision to confront evil together with Christ. The way of the Cross is, in fact, the only thing that leads to the victory of love over hate, of conversion over egotism, of peace over violence. Seen as such, Lent is truly an occasion of strong contemplative commitment and spirituality drawn from the grace of Christ.

This year the beginning of Lent providentially coincides with the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of Lourdes. Four years after the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Bl Pius IX, Mary first showed herself on 11 February 1858 to St Bernadette Soubirous in the grotto of Massabielle. Other apparitions followed accompanied by extraordinary events, and at their end the Holy Virgin bade her farewell to the young visionary, saying in the local dialect: "I am the Immaculate Conception." The message that the Madonna continues to spread at Lourdes recalls the words of Jesus at the beginning of his public mission, words which we hear anew many times in these Lenten days: "Repent and believe in the Gospel," pray and do penance. Let us welcome the call of Mary, echoing that of Christ, and ask her to obtain for us an "entrance" with faith into Lent, that we might live this time of grace with interior joy and generous commitment.

To the Virgin we entrust, too, the sick and the many who seek her loving care. Tomorrow, the memorial of the Madonna of Lourdes, is the celebration of the World Day of the Sick. I greet with all my heart the pilgrims who will come to St Peter's Basilica, led by Cardinal [Javier] Lozano Barragan, President of the Pontifical Council for Health. Although I won't be able to meet with them then given tonight's beginning of the Spiritual Exercises, in its silence and intensity I will pray for them and for all the needs of the church and the world. And to those who will remember me to the Lord, for now I say my sincere thanks.

Fra Andrew Bertie rip


Pray for the soul Fra Andrew Bertie, the Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta. The former school teacher at Worth Abbey, which is quite near here (he was educated by Benedictines at Ampleforth) was elected Prince and Grand Master in 1988. He was the first Englishman elected to the position.
Shouts in the Piazza has several posts on his death.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Spin, Spin, Spin


The Archbishop of Canterbury's words on Sharia have caused a stir, actually I don't think it is the words, it is the idea. There is something very malevolent going on here, most of the commentators don't seem to have read what he actually said. There is an extrordinary degree of sensationalisation going on.
The Cardinal did an interview basically saying, that religious groups must be recognised by the law, but emphasising, like Williams, that none of us is above and all must obey it. I saw one headline which took that as "Cardinal's stinging attack". For those of us who know him it is pretty obvious Cormac does not "do" stinging.
What the Cardinal has increasingly said is that he is against multi-culturism, which he would define as a type of secularism which produces a religious blandness whilst imposing secular rather than religious values.
Knee jerk reactions are possibly to be expected from certain groups, mention Sharia and there is a tumult. What amazes me is that even intelligent commentators have got involved in the dog-pack.

What was Williams saying, was simply that the law and legislators must recognise that for many people in this country there is a morality and way of living which is above and beyond legislation. It seems to me he is actually calling for the law to acknowledge conscience.

For Catholics life in this country will become intollerable if we are forced to obey the Queen before conscience. Legislation has always accomodated our consciences, until the gay adoption issue, which the Archbishop cited, at least since the time we Catholics stopped being outlaws. The law has recognised our marriages, permitted us to use part of our taxation to finace our schools, it has made accomodation for other groups too. It permits Seikhs not to wear a motorcycle crash helmet, when Sunday trading was not allowed it permitted Jews to close their shops on Saturdays instead and gave authority to the Beth Din to enforce this. What the Archbishop seemed to be saying is that this type of accomodation should be extended to Muslims, the ability to govern marking products as Hallal would be one area.
There is something quite wrong when the law permits me to marry a Catholic, even to a Muslim in my Church, but does not permit the local Iman from marrying a couple in the local mosque.

Personally I think the Archbishop has foolishly played into the secularist hands by setting his comments into the context of Islam. He should have come out with it and said that Britain is increasingly intollerant of both religion and conscience. His remarks regarding Sharia of course were about the eventual triumph not necessarily of Islam but of the opinions of men and women of conscience. Religion outlasts the philosophies of the age.
On this issue we should regard Islam as an ally not a threat, the dear old C of E is hardly able to challenge the secularist on the issue of conscience, Islam can and so can the Catholic Church in Europe, if not in the UK.

The Ambrosian Faro

h/t NLM

The Ambrosian Rite, used in Milan seems to be an altar boys delight. On some of the greater feasts of martyrs a great ball, made out of cotton waste is set on fire. This Youtube video seems to be less spectacular than some of the photographs I have seen. Obviously 'elf and safety" have made a visit. Must get a nice marble floor in.

Up until the nineteenth century during Lent the whole of the sanctuary in Duomo of Milan was veiled. On Wednesday of Holy Week the Passion according to St Luke was sung, when the words about the veil of the Temple being torn in two, at Jesus' death were sung the great veil in the Church was torn apart. Spectacular, but not too uncommon in various places, but in Milan it was accompanied by the repeated firing of a canon. Which in the rather oppresive gloom of the Duomo meant great flashes of fire, and great clouds acrid spoke.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Inlay, ebony and fasting






Trying to spend some time in meditation yesterday images of European Spruce (figured), bone inlay, ebony, rosewood, black walnut, darkwood pegs with ebony pips, ebony fingerboards, perhaps with holly lozenges set in it, fill my mind. The sound of Mrs Hudson's Toy and Paul Odette's playing of Rosa just would not go.
You see, I have been thinking about commissioning a new Lute, I have been think about that for about month, but yesterday it just became obsessive. The reason I am sure is because I was fasting. For some people fasting brings on desires for bacon sandwiches. For me it is whatever is floating about in the back of my mind. For many of my penitents distractions in prayer are a serious matter, my feeling is that unless they are willfully sought we just have to do our best to put up with them.

The problem with fasting is that it actually throws up a great amount of distractions. It is the purpose of fasting as far as I can see. The very thing that many people think should bring us closer to God actually throws up a whole lot of dross. St Anthony in the tomb for twenty years is confronted by all those demons, well no wonder. The same with the Lord, fasting brings on the struggle with Satan. Fasting weakens us a bit, it creates space, nature abhors a vacuum, so do destractions. Fasting does of course tell us what we find more important than than God.
The next stage is trying, prayerfully, to find why we place these things before God. When the distractions are one's sins there is not much of a problem. When it is lutes, I am not sure... I think I have to think about how use my money and whether "things" are actually more important to me than God.

Now, has anyone out there heard of the Sao Paulo luthier Luciano Faria?