Friday, November 30, 2012

Online Advent Retreat



I had an email from that very sweet lady at Gloria TV, with a bright idea.
The international Catholic web-page Gloria.TV is holding a special on-line retreat this Advent concentrated on the O-antiphons .
The retreat will be given by Gloria.TV's own Father Reto Nay.
One of the most familiar of the Advent hymns is "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," with the seven traditional "O Antiphons" being more than a thousand years old. They are used at the very end of Advent (Dec. 17-23) in the liturgical prayer of the Church and are sung or recited during Vespers (the Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours).

Here you will find the link to the promo video: http://en.gloria.tv/?media=365112 

By way of introduction, Gloria.TV is an international and interactive Catholic website. Our users upload videos, audios, texts and pictures. Gloria.TV is available in 21 languages whereby we gather people throughout the world who are searching for Catholic content. We also produce and feature our own spiritual talks, news articles, homilies, catechism Q & A, reports, interviews and music.
If you are searching for materials to develop and strengthen your own faith or if you would like to exchange your spiritual experience with other Catholics from around the world, we cordially invite you to visit Gloria.TV and perhaps even become a member.

Was Incarnate of the Virgin Mary



I was struck by the report on the Nuncio's visit to Feltham, the west London young offenders institution. It was good to see His Grace getting out and meeting "ordinary" Catholics, he is rapidly becoming one of my heroes, along with his Irish counterpart, the delightfully named Charlie Brown, I hope there is a dog in the Nuntiature.

What I found interesting were the pictures; first of all the card with a picture of Our Lady on it, and then there were pictures of young men themselves with their hands joined palm to palm and or wearing a Rosary. I suspect that most of these young men or "boys" as they describe themselves, are probably, when out of Feltham, not the most avid of Mass attenders or that well formed in Catholic doctrine and moral teaching. It was the choice of those things which these young men chose to identify themselves as Catholic. They are certainly quite different from the things which for example the website of the Bishop's Conference would feel happy about presenting as being contemporary Catholic "logoes". In fact they would have pushed aside long before these young men, under 18, were born. Perhaps the hand joining may go back to Primary School, with Miss saying, "Hands together, eyes closed...", but the rest seems to be more about things that run deep into secular culture's perception of Catholicism rather the normal iconography of contemporary Catholicism.

One of our great problems today in communicating our Faith which is highly complex. St Dominic trying to find an easy way to convert the Albingensians was inspired to summarise the faith by the fifteen Mysteries of the Holy Rosary. The Fathers didn't give new converts the Gospels, or even let them read it without an explanation, what they did was to give and teach them, was the Creeds, a dogmatic summary of the faith. In case the Creeds were too complex the key phrase  in the creed was marked by getting people to bow or genuflect at "and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man" or simply the phrase "et incarnatus est". This is the basic mystery, the seed from which our whole faith grows, it is the Incarnation, this makes the Christian God different from the God or gods the of pagans, Moslems and even Jews.

 Judaism and Islam do not deny God's concern with the material but for them he does it through angels, whether pure Spirits or (human angels) the prophets or through some mighty, a work a miracle. But the central mystery of Christianity is more than that, it is about God "taking on" matter, without co-mixture but with total co[mm]union.

How do we communicate that to a group of under 18 year old men, many of whom because of a troubled past have missed out on education. Protestants in the past might have considered lengthy sermons or highly theological hymns, Catholics have done that but we much prefer encouraging the imagination through such things as the Rosary and images of the Blessed Virgin. The very things which the young men have chosen to mark their identity, and which our more sophisticated brothers and sisters are less than comfortable with.

Next Saturday (8th Dec) we are trying a bit of street evangelism by having a procession, it starts at 7pm from the Church (it will be finished by 8pm) in honour of the Immaculate Conception. A good way to mark the central Mystery of the Year of Faith and Advent.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Loss of the Supernatural


One of the worst aspects of the Spirit of Vatican II, not the Council itself, is that it tends to breed horizantalism, it stresses a "theology from below" and downplays the supernatural.
What Gaudium et Spes calls the "modern world" tends by its very nature to want to shake of the supernatural. 
I think it is significant that the various Protestant superstitions that sprang up in the 16th century all seemed to want to seperate God from Man, they are a form of Arianism. They all deny the significance of the Blessed Virgin, deny, or at least minmise the Real Presence, the play down the importance of miracles, the intercession of the Saints and the Church Militant. They deny the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church (until somehow we have his outpouring on Luther, Calvin, Zwingli et al). It is no surprise that by early  20th century so many Protestants denied even the veracity of scripture and began suggesting that it was not God who created Man in his image and likeness but Man created God.

To be honest it is what I love about the Mass of Ages, it emphasises the supernatural. To conteract the various Protestant heresies the Counter Reformation emphasised its more Catholic elements: that human beings could approach God in prayer, that God did come and change our lives in the regular use of the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance. Devotions like the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts took the place of Christ the Terrible Judge, which dominated pre-Reformation Catholic church decor, I find it fascinating that that dissappeared almost over night despite being the major western iconography for almost 500 hundred years.

Protestantism emphasised scripture read in one's "personal lights" whilst Catholicism emphasised an intimate relationship with Christ and his mother understood whilst "submitting all to our Mother the Church. 

If one reads publications such as The Tablet or listens to their Rome Corespondent or reads the demands of various "Priests Initiatives" from Austria, Ireland or even this country, Catholics like me are left wondering whether there is any sense of the supernatural behind their thought. Do these people really believe that God has been made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary and that Christ rose on the third day in the flesh and that we too will rise again and be judged by God and go to Heaven or Hell? Do they really believe God rests in the hands of a priest under the form of bread at Mass? Are they left in open mouthed wonder at the sight of the Lord in a monstrance?

It strikes me that at the heart of Pope Benedict's Papacy is an attempt to restore the supernatural, that's the purpose Summorum Pontificum and everything else he has written on the liturgy, of his writings, especially his Jesus of Nazareth trilogy (there is a good review by William Oddie), as well as both the Year for Priests and the Year of Faith. Past Popes have condemned Modernism and Liberalism, Pope John called a Council to address it. John Paul wrote encyclical after encyclical against it, but it strikes me it is Benedict (and the John Paul/Benedict generation of young priests) who is making the most impact.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Faith and Reason



In the Year of Faith it is worth realising that "Faith" has at least two meanings.

The first, is seeing faith as a simple binding force, hence old Liberals underline their "Faith" commitment by telling us they were an ex-nun/priest/seminarian, where they studied theology or Church music and about their Irish/Polish/Hungarian granny's faith. Faith here is distinct from what they actually believe, it is a phenomena, it is something objective, with an ethos, which may or may not have moral consequences. It is a set of beliefs or a system of belief built on a series of "myths", to which in part, and on a certain level there is a degree of assent. It is uncomfortable with the supernatural and the miraculous.

The second is about trust, the type of faith that saves. Having faith in God means that we accept God intervenes in our lives, and that we are dependant on him. In this sense faith is beyond reason and against reason. It is the submission of the mind and heart to something beyond our comprehension, it having our heart resting in the supernatural.

In the first sense of Faith a priest can hold up the Sacred Host, and indeed affirm everything St Thomas has said  about the Real Presence but fail to be moved by the awesome mystery he holds in his hands, or fail to expect that God will intervene in his life and the lives of those who receive him. In short, he might preach about the Real Presence but will have difficulty in falling on his knees to adore before the tabernacle.

Faith as presented in the scriptures, the faith of the Gospels and Epistles is life changing, it expects God to intervene. Ultimately it is about miracles, it is not necessarily rational on the contrary it begins in the irrational.. In fact although held by rational beings it begins by  "trust". When a number of Jesus' disciples find his discourse on the Bread of Life impossible to take, Jesus asks the twelve whether they will go away as well, Peter seems to convey they have difficulties too, but responds, "Lord to whom shall we go to, you have the message of Eternal Life". Peter doesn't understand, he simply trusts, he actually believes and trusts in the person of Jesus before he believes the propositions Jesus puts forward, or rather it is belief in him that is foundation for belief in the propositions he puts forward. Though faith always seeks to understand and must understand, it always start by an act of submission, this is true even of modern "faiths" or religions such as Atheism, which starts from the faith premise that there is no God or god, or Scientificism, which believes science has all the answers, scientific theories are just that, "theories", to which a consensus gives credence. Both Atheism and Scientificism depend on something irrational and unprovable, therefore a positive act of faith.

There is an interesting report on religious education by Nigel Fancourt in which he says:
... that a lesson on Jesus feeding the 5,000 could become an exhortation to share your picnic rather than a discussion of whether miracles really happen or what significance they have for Christians today: for example those who say they have been miraculously healed or pray for healing”.
The first kind of faith looks at the consequences of "faith", in a rational way but does not want to look at the first cause, at the direct intervention of God, hence we can have a Department of Catholic Studies at Roehampton which really has nothing to do with building faith, just simply trying to understan it. During the Year for Priests most bishops encouraged their clergy to reflect on various documents on Priesthood, the wise Bishop of Shrewsbury brought the Cure d'Ars heart to his diocese. The first approach touched the mind and the rational, the second touched the heart and really was irrational, the first was looking at faith the second engaging in faith. I was quite struck by the reaction of Bishop Hollis, who without meaning to criticise him, spent most of his episcopate making Catholicism reasonable and intelligible but was overwhelmed by the visit of the relics of St Therese to his Cathedral, it was pieces of bone not reason that had such a profound effect on him and in his diocese. It was faith not reason that filled his cathedral throughout the night.

During the Year of Faith we can study the various documents of Vatican II and the Catechism which will increase our knowledge of the Church's teaching and our understanding of the Faith but it will not necessarily increase our faith. It is living by faith that increases faith: acts of trust in the supernatiural, prayer, intercession, trusting in the miraculous. We can children about Jesus and that increases their knowledge but it is when we teach them to pray and worship that they begin to grow in faith.

A friend summarised the Gospel of John by saying, "the disciples need their faith increasing so Jesus works another miracle". John's "signs and wonders" are indeed Jesus' way of increasing faith, they point to another level being, which super-natural. In order to engage unbelievers, we need to introduce them to our world which is above or beyond nature, reason alone does nothing for unbelievers.

From my Old Parish


From Fiona Cullen-Skowronski. Please help Hastings and Rye by reading an online open letter to our MP, who is reported in the local rag as simply wanting to help girls and women through education, but who is actually strongly and unequivocally pro-abortion up to 24 weeks (see the links in the letter to Abortion Rights and The Guardian). Please consider signing the letter and liking it on facebook so it goes viral. You don't have to be a Hastings and Rye voter to do so. It is not enough to give your views to those who are already pro-life. May God give you the courage to put your name online for the unborn babies at http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/openlettertompamberr and pray that our MP will allow God to transform her heart

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Few Observations on a speech by the Tablet's Rome Correspondent


thanks to the Bones for the video

This is a very tedious, not very intelligent or nuanced speech, by Bobby Mickens, the Tablet's Rome correspondent, to The Cleveland City Club (they are the "Under 40s Division" but that must have been many years ago, there appears to be no-one under 40 in the video, many seem to be about the Pope's age). He says nothing for the first six minutes, except to speak about his Catholic heritage.

He speaks about a Vatican or Catholic "implosion", for which he blames the Pope. His main thrust seems to be that Vatican-leaks is caused by squabbling amongst Vatican factions, he is right, the Pope seems actually at pains to allow diverse voices in the Curia.

He illustrates the "implosion" on Cleveland's own experience of closing parishes.
He speaks about the Pope speaking strongly about condemning abuse and removing clergy who abuse but not disciplining Bishops who covered up abuse. Here I agree with him. The problem is that the poor Pope would have to get rid of a large number of Bishops but I think the reason is that a Bishop once ordained is given by God to his Church, though the Pope has "ordinary authority", unless you have an Ultra-Ultramontane, he can't go firing and hiring at will. But I am convinced that most "Liberals" tend to see Pope in that light, they actually do not realise the vision of Vatican II is that Christ rules His Church not the Pope, that seems to be the VII vision, that so many refuse to take on; we are in the twenty-first century, not the 1930s or 1950s.

He says that Monarchical bishops were not scriptural, not even the Bishop of Rome, yes, a single bishop in a local Church was not the norm until as late as 130! I suspect the Holy Spirit did it. However he seems to forget or is unaware of Matthew 16:18, "You are Peter...".

He speaks about the unaccountability of Bishops. I really think he has a point here, the Church is frighteningly feudal but the alternative until recently has been an oligarchy of people like Mickens himself, the first is frightening the second quite terrifying. He talks of the need for democracy in the Church, and increased lay participation, he compares the Catholic Church to other Churches including the Orthodox. He complains about "Clericalism" but what he fails to understand is that Clericalism comes about by taking the Faith away from from the people. The great strength of Orthodoxy is that there is common understanding the "Faith", that comes from a common Tradition and Orthodox identity. In the chaos following Vatican II, what he describes as "the  encounter with modern world", we have lost a sense of both Tradition and identity. In the Orthodox Church men like Mickens and his audience  would simply have no place and no voice.

He criticises the Pope's negotiations with the SSPX and various "Tridentine trends", I would suggest that this is necessary before any "serious structural reform" takes place. It is necessary for the Church to be at peace with itself and with its history in order to move forward. Again he complains that the Pope ignores structural reform but just calls for interior conversion. Both of these things surely are necessary for any real and lasting reform of structures within the Church unless it is merely something imposed from above, which has been the model since the Council and one both favoured and hated by The Tablet.

He seems to want quick fix solutions, for example for Catholics in irregular marriages, he is concious of the immense damage done to their children, fewer Catholics like him with a Catholic heritage, what he fails to realise is that upholding the teaching of the Gospel is also impotant.

Bobby Mickens like so many people of his ilk, seems to both criticise the Pope as an absolute Monarch and yet wants to see him as a Stalinist dictator, it is an Ultra-Ultramontane view. Almost everything the Pope seems to be concerned about is encouraging grassroots movements which are firm in faith, which come from the bottom up. These are the groups that produce vocations and are dynamic and which people want to join. Will the The Tablet and The Cleveland City Club: Under 40s Division still exist in a decade's time?

Mickens, like The Tablet, promotes the various "Priest's Initiatiives" and criticises the Pope and others for ignoring such groups, even he then points out they are "older priests" "younger priests are different" he says. He fails to realise these dissidents are not the voice of the future, the death rattle of the past. Again he doesn't realise how rapidly the Church under Benedict or the 21st century is indeed changing, society is changing, social communiocations are changing, even attitudes to democracy are changing. We are coming to the end of "the Church in flux",  younger people are indeed walking away from the Church but it is precisely the Church of men like Mickens, and his audience, that is so unattractive to the young.

A Preference for Roman Vestments




"You are fat", a small child said to me recently, she wasn't quite telling the truth, and it was quite unprovoked, I was a little insulted. I wanted to respond, "You are ugly", but I thought she would be scarred for life and sue me in ten or twenty years for psychological damage. So I merely told her she was the nicest child I had met in the last ten minutes but I suspect any irony was lost on her.

Most of our Masses here are celebrated ad orientem, I leave the choice up to the sacristan. Those who have read the General Instruction of the Roman Missal are keen on it, those who have also read Sacrosantum Concillium strongly prefer it and those who have read Joseph Ratzinger's Spirit of the Liturgy tend to insist on it. Apart from the occasional visitor who has only ever read that liberal fanzine sold at the back of Westminster Cathedral (for the time being) no-one tends to object. It could be most Catholic laity are just relieved I don't wear a clown mask or come in on a scooter.

In fact most of our visitors, and we have lots, are happily surprised. One American visitor who had previous been to Mass at Brompton Oratory and one parish in South London, asked if anyone in England ever faced the people "like we do in the States", I told him that a lot of older priests and practically all Jesuits did.

What I have noticed is that it is our celebration is more prayerful. I have been talking a lot about our common priesthood recently: that an important part of our presence at Mass is that we are present to intercede for the living and the dead and for ourselves too of course. There is something very definite about a priest standing the same side of the altar as the people which says with Augustine, "with you I am a Christian, for you I am a priest". I cannot help feeling the priest standing barricaded behind the altar makes him look and feel like a man behind a desk, a teacher, a bank manager or someone at the social benefits office. It emphasises clericalism and that infantalises the people and the altar, which should be the great sign of Christ, becomes something which rather than uniting the baptised divides them. The rubric about the altar being separated from the wall (and presumably any other architectural feature) was not so that Mass might be celebrated facing the people but to emphasise its sacred and symbolic character, the focus of our worship.

There is something strange and unnatural about just seeing someone's torso above the altar, which I suppose might be the reason for altars that consist of a mensa on legs, or even as I have seen in Italy a glass or perspex altar.

Though there is an obvious danger in that post-Vatican II theology of the priest coming from the congregation, as being a delegate of the people, as being their representative but there is also a basic truth in it. The priest offers Mass for and behalf of the Church and  for and behalf of every member of his congregation. Standing with them emphasises this.

Though I tend to leave the choice of vestments to our sacristans, I have noticed to that since saying Mass on the same side of the altar as the people I have a preference for vestment that are less rather than more. I commissioned a couple of rather ample JPII chasubles from Watts and Co a few years ago, they are rather beautiful but they make me feel "big", which on reflection might have been what the little girl really meant, that just feels wrong, nowadays. I much prefer vestments which tend to make me smaller: Roman rather than Gothic. Standing with the people tends to remind the priest that he must diminish and Christ must increase. That seems to be at the very heart of Pope Benedict's teaching about priesthood. Liturgical gestures too I feel should become smaller less, about dominating the assembly and drawing attention to myself, and more about gestures that aid prayer and are physical acts of prayer, more for God than as dramatic acts for the people.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Two Kingdoms Stand Face to Face



Two Kingdoms stand face to face, two rulers stand before one another.
Pilate is surrounded by his bodyguard, because he is dependant on them to preserve his life and to impose his will. He is dressed in a way that speaks of power, he lives in building that speaks of power, he is powerful he has power to take the life anyone he chooses, he has power to give great wealth or reduce someone to slavery. Yet he is a delegate of the Emperor, his power comes from his Imperial appointment and he remains in power providing he can subjugate the people over who he rules. Insurrection, another letter of complaint from the High Priest or a visitor to Rome, a change of Emperor, or just Imperial whim or even a few bad harvests or a natural disaster could remove him from office.

Before him stands "the King of the Jews". Pilate simply doesn't understand Him or his Kingdom. He is powerless, already he has been abused and spat upon; rejected by his own people. He stands in alien place, out side (lest they be defiled by entering the Praetorium) are priest and the mob beying for his blood. In a few short minutes Pilate will have him stripped and flogged, he will stand before Pilate less than human, dripping blood onto the floor in front of Pilate. The soldiers have overheard the conversation, they mock him clothe him with purple and crown him with thorns.

Two Kingdoms stand face to face, two rulers stand before one another.
Pilate's kingdom depends on earthly power, wealth, force of arms, oppression and suppression. Jesus the Alpha and the Omega depends on who he is the Son of God, God made Flesh. The world will divide, "I come to bring division", he has said. Pilate, the Emperor, the High Priests, the mob, because his kingdom ios based on a relationship with him. The world belongs to one Kingdom; the Crucified will gather another kingdom, "when I am lifted up", Mary, his Mother, the other women, John the Apostle, will assemble around Him, together with the whole court of Heaven, the Apostle too will re-gather. They will go through out the world calling all mankind to gather with Christ, to come into His Kingdom. Most will choose the Kingdom of this World; like Pilate they find the Kingdom of Heaven absurd, or simply incomprehensible, because it is Faith, his Fathers gift which draws us to Christ.

Two Kingdoms stand face to face, two rulers stand before one another.
And so it will be down the ages, two Kingdoms stand face to face, two rulers stand before one another. Last week we celebrated the feasts of Clement the fourth Pope, who like St Cecilia was killed under a Roman Emperor, we celebrated the martyrs of Vietnam, a different Emperor but still two Kingdoms standing face to face, two rulers standing before one another.

This feast is not old, established in 1925, at the dawn of the age of dictators. In Mexico there was a rebellion, the Masonic secularist government had all but outlawed Christianity, the rebels battle cry, the name on the lips of so many hundreds of martyrs, was "Cristo Rey", Christ the King.

Two Kingdoms stand face to face, two rulers stand before one another.
This is what has happened with Christians since the encounter between Christ and Pilate and will happen until  the end of time. The powerless, the rejected, the powers of Heaven forever crushed by the powerful, the status quo, the powers of Hell; governments and governors have always wanted the Church to be subservient, to accept, to promote its agenda, sometimes it has but at its best, when it relies solely on Christ then it is crushed, bruised, derided in a diabolic attempt to destroy it.

We have seen this in the outrage of government over the Anglican's vote on women bishops, we have seen it with Sts Thomas Becket, Thomas Moore, during the English Reformation; HenryVIII destroyed the Church of Christ poring out the blood of His Saints before the altar of a God made the King's image. Always two Kingdoms stand face to face, two rulers stand before one another.
The two rulers are God and His Kingdom is the Kingdom of Heaven and Satan and his Kingdom of Hell; Life and Death struggle until the end of time.
And Jesus Christ has come sift mankind, to divide sheep and goats, the weeds from the good grain, good fish from the bad.
Two Kingdoms stand face to face, two rulers stand before one another: choose which you belong to.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Rotherham Fiasco



It has been suggested the children ay the centre of the Rotherham UKIP fiasco are Polish, I suppose their "ethnic needs" would at least in part be met by a Catholic adoption agency. It is a pity that same totalitarianism exhibited by the social workers in this case closed them all down, isn't it?

The outrage caused by this, I suspect is going to be repeated again and again as increasingly authoritarian governments and increasingly authoritarian government employees try to impose a very narrow spectrum of government approved thinking on us Proles. 

It is all to do with Natural Law.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Difficulties with "Catholic" and "Priest"


I am always a bit anxious about describing Anglkcan clergy as "priests", it is not just Apostolicae Curiae saying their orders as being "absolutely null and void" because in the late 1920s many Anglican bishops introduced "the dutch touch", Old Catholic bishops laying on hands, to confuse matters, so now Apostolicae Curiae is perhaps less secure than it was when it promulgated in the nineteenth century.

The problem is more the intention with which orders are giving and received in the CofE. Most Anglican bishops would say they intend to create "Catholic Priests" when they ordain but the problem, as we have seen over the last few days, is what Anglicans mean by both "Catholic" and "Priests".

We Catholics understand "Catholic" to mean those in communion with, and recognised as being so by the Bishop of Rome, the geographical adjective such as Roman, Greek or Ukrainian designating which Rite these particular Catholics use. Personally, I prefer (Latin or)  Roman Rite Catholic, to Roman Catholic. Anglican seem to use "Catholic" in the sense of "universal". The ordination of female presbyters made it difficult for them to use the term to mean what Anglo-Catholics had understood by it: an Anglican who in some sense is faithful to "Catholic" tradition, in the same sense that we might understand the Orthodox or other ancient Churches to be "Catholic". The ordination of women, in fact did so much to damage to the notion that Anglicanism has anything in common with the ancient Churches that although Anglicans might use "catholic" in the Creed it as void of meaning as it is in the mouth of any other member of a Protestant sect. The presence of female "priests" rather undermines the argument the CofE is "both Catholic and Reformed".

The word "Priest" too is so vague, there has been no mention of Bishops as being "High Priests" in any of the discussions before or after the Synod debate. Administrators, senior management, chief executives, pastoral workers, carers have all figured but nothing that is specifically "priestly". Being a priest is even necessarily about "presiding" over the liturgy both deacons and lay women can do that. Priesthood is about offering sacrifice, a propitiatory sacrifice. Despite the Oxford Movement's attempt to reconcile the 39 Articles with Catholic doctrine Article 31 in its plain meaning will always present difficulties for Anglicanism.
Article xxxi.—"The sacrifices (sacrificia) of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the priest did offer CHRIST for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits (perniciosae imposturae)."
Anglicanism is built on the repudiation of priesthood and sacrifice. With the severe weakening of the Anglo-Catholic faction in Anglicanism, few in today's CofE will speak of "priests", male or female, in terms of offering Christ for the "quick and dead". The most sacral argument might suggest that a CofE "priest" is a preacher, or teacher, a pastoral worker or even a head of a local Church. Catholics will have no real problem with these functions. Women have done these things in the Church down the ages, just think of medieval abbesses.

The majority of Anglican's might not actually share this Anglican clergyman's disbelief which appears on James Preece's blog, but it seems to be growing part of Anglicanism. Don Cuppitt's "Sea of Faith" movement and similar groups are able grow unhindered. There was a rather staggering survey of Anglican clergy, such a large proportion denied the Virgin Birth, the Divinity of Christ, the veracity of scripture, the Resurrection of Christ and of the dead that one really is forced ask quite what being a Christian means in today's CofE, the survey showed women clergy are weaker in their belief than their male counterparts. One is almost forced to say there are deeply committed Christians within Anglicanism but left wondering about whether Anglicanism is actually Christian or merely springs from a once "Christian ethos".

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Her Majesty's Ministry for Religion


Hopes dashed: Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, comforts a colleague. He had also campaigned for legislation approving women bishops

''I am a little surprised by the reaction of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Synod vote yesterday, he is really very angry, any facade of niceness seems to dissappear. His anger seems to be that the dear old CofE seems out of touch. Dave Cameron says he is 'very sad' and a 'sharp prod' is need to keep national institutions are relevant in modern Britain. Another MP called for law to be changed to force church to accept women. The Bishop of Chelmsford said 'Church in danger of being national embarrassment'. A clergywoman: 'We have made ourselves an irrelevance'. And other female clergy are considering leaving 'the ministry'.

It all seems really as if the CofE is nothing other than a branch of government which has failed in promoting its liberal agenda. Rowan Williams warned the church looks out of touch and has 'a lot of explaining to do', some other official had said something like "What does this say to young people?" My answer is, it says  nothing, apart from a very small minority, even of its members is really interested in what the Cof E has to say, because in fact, it and maybe all Christian groups, including our own, have become totally irrelevant in forming opinion in the UK Primarily because we all seem to be parroting the same old liberal message of: be nice, rather than speaking with the authority of the Gospel.

The vote yesterday according to the arcane system of the CofE was democratic, and yet that seems to be unacceptable. Those who know about these things say that it was the voice of the under represented bible believing Evangelical laity. The very people who Eton educated but Holy Trinity Brompton - Alpha Course formed Justin Welby was brought in to control. If the idea of female bishops is going to be re-introduced in 5 years time, after all these ladies have left ministry and some of the old liberals have died off and the growing, only growing bit, the Evangelicals, have grown a bit more, the CofE will be a little different.

It is the anger and the frustration that carefully laid plans have just not come off, that really the plebs just haven't done what they should have done, is what seems to be the dominant the reaction today. There is some talk of disestablismentarianism because the CofE doesn't reflect the prevailing social mores. It is that very English thing of making God a subject of the King or latterly parliament, or now more importantly the media, it spattered the brains of St Thomas over the floor of his cathedral. It is the whole problem with being "established" and "establishment" really being Her Majesty's Ministry for Religion.

There was a rather worrying interview with Frank Field on the radio a few minutes saying he intended to introduce a bill to exempt "the Church" from the exemption to the equalities legislation, he said it wouldn't apply to the Catholic Church, "yet", very worrying.



Modern Ultramontanism: a Jesuit Problem


Parishioners received a letter from the Provincial last weekend telling them the Jesuits are pulling out of their flagship parish of the Sacred Heart, Wimbledon. With far more deaths than professions this is perhaps inevitable. A friend refers to Heythrop College as the "London School of Heresy", Fordham and Georgetown once bastions of orthodoxy are now in the vanguard of dissent.

It is perhaps worth pondering the Jesuits rise and fall from their reconstitution after their suppression in 1814 to the present day. The First Vatican Council, could be described as the "Jesuit Council", their half century of preaching throughout Europe and the Americas on the unique role of the Pope in the Church, inspired by their special fourth vow of undying loyalty to the person of the Sovereign Roman Pontiff had borne fruit. They were the intellectual and devotional power force behind the 19th century Ultramontane movement.

From their beginning the Jesuits were never "liturgical", Ignatius' innovation was that his religious order even when living in community would say the office in private, on their own. In that sense they were detached from the liturgical tradition of the Church, whilst at the same time they promoted devotion to the person of Jesus, primarilly through the Sacred Heart. Their prayer method, tended to emphasise personal biblical interpretation, almost Protestant but with the safeguard that within the strong orthodoxy of submitting everything to the mind of the Church.

How then did they move from strong loyalty before VI, to what many might describe as being the initiators of dissent after VII?
I think the answer is that it is based on the issue of personal loyalty to the Pope, rather than to Tradition as a constituant part of Revelation. The loyalty to the Pope after VII meant fierce loyalty to a Spirit of Reform, to what was understood as the Pope's Council. The absence of a reverence for the Tradition of the church was no problem when the Pope himself was seen as the "custodian of Tradition". However when the Pope is perceived  as wanting to break from Tradition, what is left is a loyalty to the imagined agenda of the Pope. The problem comes when an Ultramontane, or at least a Pope who sees his role as different in some sense from his predecessors.

No longer prisoners of the Vatican, and in Church lacking the past certainties, Pope Paul and Pope John Paul II were quite different from their predecessors; the ease of travel, the nature of modern media transformed their role. They are Popes as no other Pope has been in the entire history of the Church. Now the Papacy is as much about personality as much as doctrine, doctrine might is about continuity but personality is about rupture. Paul VI and John Paul II were entirely different personalities, as Benedict. So the Jesuit problem is what does it mean to be loyal to the Pope after VII?

It seems "to be loyal" means to be loyal to what you either imagine the Pope to be, or would like the Pope to be.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Women bishops?


  Another fine mess for the CofE!
If they have female priests, then what is the problem with bishops? It just seems to shout theological and intellectual dishonesty, pure relativism.
Now there are two ways forward; either Parliament overules the Synod, result chaos Dave speaking for God. Otherwise there is growing war until Synod is reconstituted and the measure is reintroduced.
There are a few wise things I did as a young man: leaving Old Mother ******** was one of them. Nevertheless I feel for those who stay and know they should leave, and feel for those women feel their ministry is undervalued.
I shall try not gloat, I am just glad that as a Catholic this is not my problem.


Never call her Mother



The Bones has this up on his blog.
I saw it myself at Victoria today for a while I thought it was pro-Life but it is not, but then a woman who aborts will never hear her child call her, "mother", she will never be able to speak of her child as "daughter", if she has other children they will never call her aborted child "sister" and no child of her generation will ever call her, "friend".

Monday, November 19, 2012

Dancing or Drilling are they the same.
























I think it is one of my parishioners who asks a question on NLM about a group of lads at an American military school who are performing ceremonial drill during a Traditional Mass for "Veteran's Day" ( I presume it was on a martyr's feast hence the red vestments). The question is: what is the difference between this and liturgical dance? 
I am no fan of such dancing, prancing around during Mass seems be an unnecessary distraction but then so does drawing swords, dipping or not dipping flags, clicking heals and making command signals. Presumably even liturgical dance can be reverent, happen outside of the sanctuary, and maybe say something quite profound.
In the Ordinary Form, for funerals there is an explicit instruction that flags (even national flags) and secular symbols are not displayed  during funerals, presumably this does not apply to the Extraordinary Form or the US. I understand in fact they should be removed before the body is brought into Church. 
On Armistice Day I say a Requiem Mass, I must admit I am never quite sure which Requiem texts to choose, they all talk about the "faithful departed", so presumably exclude from our prayers card carrying atheists, like one of my great uncles, whpo was definitely unfaithful, as well as Jews and Muslims.
This year I had an email from someone complaining that we didn't introduce a minutes silence to remember the dead "with the nation". Apart from it being impossible to organise Mass to come to a halt at the 11th of the 11th, I replied that this would be an unapproved addition to the Mass which was not allowed and besides we Catholics believed our prayers for the dead, especially the prayer of the Mass, was  much more effective for the dead than the Protestant Anglican custom of merely "remembering" them. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Vin on Marriage Redefinition

Archbishop Nichols criticised George Osbourne last night in speech and spoke of the deep unease he felt existed over the redefinition of marriage. He pressed for the full disclosure of the Governments "consultation"
.
But speaking in London, after a four-day meeting of Catholic bishops, the Archbishop said: “He is the politician not I – I just think it is too important to be made simply as a political football.
“This is not simply a redefining of marriage to accommodate a few, it is a redefining of marriage for everyone and therefore all marriages, if this bill is introduced, will be different.
“It is a different reality for everybody and that is a very serious matter and one to which we are very strongly opposed and will remain strongly opposed. He said that while it was for politicians to try to judge the political mood the Church would continue to argue for the traditional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
“It is a very important building block in society and it is very foolish to alter that when as far as we can see there is not a specific identified problem that that change is supposed to be addressing,” he said. “My own sense is that many people feel deeply uneasy about this move, it was not in any election manifesto, it has not in that sense been put to the country.
“That is why the strength of opinion expressed in the consultation ought not to be hidden and that’s why we want the full disclosure of the results of that consultation.”
 At its gathering in Leeds this week, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference agreed a resolution insisting that all political parties allow their MPs a free vote on the issue and the results of the Government’s consultation on “equal marriage” be published in full. The consultation document made clear earlier this year that the different views expressed would be taken into account but “not the number of responses received”.
Perhaps pressing for the disclosure of the consultation document is something that even the most militant pro gay marriage MP is something might agree to, if that happens then perhaps those who are just afraid of being called "bigot" or "homophobe" might take courage.

Perhaps.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Is it possible to start any reform of the liturgy?



Just a short thought: is it possible to start any reform of the liturgy without paying attention to the quality of personal prayer?
Liturgical prayer, the liturgy, isn't independent of personal prayer nor is personal prayer independent of the liturgy. The liturgy cannot be celebrated by people who aren't prayerful. There is a problem when we make them two entirely different things.

There is an interesting post on Rorate ominously entitled: The Church of Vatican II: the lamps are going out all over Europe, it is about some significant European religious houses closing. I really don't it is right to blame such things on the Council, I do think it is possible to blame the end of European religious life in our monasteries and convents on a loss of prayerfulness in our liturgy, primarily in our parishes.

Either form of Mass can be celebrated prayerfully but only if those taking part are prayerful themselves but being realistic the older form tends to teach appreciation of silence and the longer Office emphasises this, with the reformed liturgy it is perhaps more difficult, especially when it is celebrated in a way that is loosed from the mind of the Church, in a spirit of performance rather than profound reverence and fear of the Lord.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The New Ultramontanes



William Oddies's article reminded me of a story I was told about a conversation with a distinguished academic, a supporter of La Beattie. Now, theology wasn't his field but he was certainly a "liberal", his claim was that the Pope could do anything he wanted to do.
If he chose the Pope could merely sign a document saying women could be ordained priest or bishop before breakfast and after breakfast ordain as many as he wished. In the same way he could change the Church's teaching birth control or abortion, or even the matter for the Eucharist: substituting coke and crisps if he so wished. By the same reasoning, taken to its ultimate extreme, he could add or subtract Persons to the doctrine of the Trinity itself.

Orthodox Catholics are often shocked at the hatred the heterodox have for the person of the Pope, both Pope Benedict and his Blessed predecessor. They seem to have the idea that anything they object to is the personal responsibility of the Pope, that he alone is the brake, holding back their own vision of the Church.
This is the terrifying Spirit of Vatican I that really sees the Church as Pope's personal fiefdom and he as its master rather than its servant and makes his fellow bishops his lackeys or at best or at best merely consultors who may be dispensed with at will, rather than co-workers with the Pope and inheritors with him of Apostolic authority.

If you add a bit of cottage Marxism you can then can start speaking, as Ms Beattie does, of an "official" Magisterium and other legitimate Magisterii which are acceptable alternatives or could at some stage take the place of the official one. Then of course the whole Church is seem as a battleground of acceptable opposing ideologies.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Archbishop Mennini urges our Bishops to action



The Catholic Herald carries report about Archbishop Minnini's speech to the Bishop's Conference in Leeds this week, from its report it is difficult to tell quite what are the Archbishops words and what is journalistic comment. These paragraphs at least are attributable to him:

“Thinking about the poor and most vulnerable, it is not inappropriate to mention that an attempt is to be made by Lord Falconer in January next year to bring back to the House of Lords yet another Bill to legalise assisted suicide. We know well that we have a duty in love to emphasise yet again the rights and dignity of every human person, from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death.” 
Archbishop Mennini also called on the bishops to fight Government attempts to change the definition of marriage by following the example of the hierarchy in France. He said: “We find that we are placed in a similar situation to the Church in France, where Cardinal [André] Vingt-Trois and the French bishops have issued a spirited appeal to the faithful asking them to do all in their power to resist so-called ‘same-sex marriage’. We surely can do no less and I thank all of you for your strong testimony.”
This seems to be a bit disjointed
“In that same homily, addressed to the Synod Fathers, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI affirmed: ‘That matrimony is a Gospel in itself, a Good News for the world of today, especially the dechristianised world… There is a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage. And, as the Church has said and witnessed for a long time now, marriage is called to be not only an object but a subject of the new evangelisation. This is already being seen in the many experiences of communities and movements, but its realisation is also growing in dioceses and parishes, as shown in the recent World Meeting of Families.’
“Why this insistence? We don’t want to quarrel and we know that it is not easy to obtain changes in the direction of governmental policies about the family or about life. We all know that we are swimming against the tide,” the nuncio said.
“But we must not be afraid because we are confident that Our Lord continues to love and support his Church. Our people need us to witness to a new way of judging the situations of our world.
“One of our first tasks is to educate our Christian people in a new way of judging the matters of this world, even when our witness may not be wholly accepted or completely successful.”
Would it be wrong to suggest a degree of frustration in His Grace's words? It is perhaps diplomatically tactful to compare the initiative of the French bishops to our own rather than their Scottish brothers but it seems very evident that he is urging them to some action. For most dioceses there has been nothing since the joint pastoral letter by the four Archbishops. I have been trying to find it on their website, I can't, but it was issued just after Easter wasn't it?
It will be interesting to see if there is any change, or action from the Bishop's Conference after Archbishop Nichols, its President, visits the CDF, which is coming up soon, presumably to discuss "gay issues" Waewick Street and presumably the marriage question. Will Archbishop Mueller be as diplomatic as the Nuncio?

Starting Mass




"Ministers enter, pursued by Priest", could describe the beginning of Mass. Normally in the UK the congregation are shuffling about in silence or have their noses in a hymnbook, in my parish many have not yet arrived.
What is supposed to happen, at Sunday Mass at least, is the people, with a deep hunger, that has built up over the whole week, eagerly come to Mass, and having assembled prayerfully reminding themselves of all their spiritual and temporal needs, of all the graces they have received during the week and for which they will give thanks at the Great Thanksgiving.

The people, the Body of Christ, still praying, make a transition from their private prayer to public prayer as they joined by the priest who represents Christ the head of his body the Church. There should be a frisson of joy and expectation as Head and Body are united to become truly the Body of Christ. Now at last they can bein the the Liturgy, meaning, the work of the people. The should do this in prayerful recollection.
In the Novus Ordo, the music that accompanies this entrance should enhance, not disturb or disrupt, the prayerful recollection of the congregation. The preferred the Church sets forth is the plainsong Introit, the music is a deliberate choice to illustrate the quotation from Sacred Scripture which sets the theme of the Mass.
The purpose of the Introit is to mark not only the assembling of the Church, the priest joining with the people people but also to highlight what is happening when the priest and ministers ascend to the altar, first worshipping the Blessed Sacrament by genuflecting, or venerating the crucifix, the image of Christ, then kissing and incensing the altar, the symbol of Christ himself and his sacrifice. This is supposed to be a momentous act that people participate in with deep and profound spiritual joy.
The trouble is "Ministers enter, pursued by Priest", and prayer is dirupted by a crass metrical hymn and the people don't even notice the mystery being expounded because they are not paying attention at all, they are reading a book!

More Muck at SMUC




Jo Siedlecka, who runs Independant Catholic News in her spare time, published an anonymous letter on October 3 concerning goings on at SMUC.

Lawyers for the principal of St Mary's University College, Twickenham, Professor Philip Esler, and two other members of the college's senior management say it defamed their clients and are demanding to know the name of the author: Jo Siedlecka refuses to reveal her sources.


Esler, always concerned about his reputation, describes himself as "a, if not the, leading Roman Catholic biblical theologian in the UK". He is the author of  such tomes as Sex, Wives and Warriors: Reading Biblical Narratives with Its Ancient Audience  and the co-authorship of Dirt, Greed and Sex.

The letter must have been pretty damning because under Esler's Principalship the College was rescued from its obscurity and raised to public notoriety when Professor Anthony Towey was forcibly removed from a Christology class he was teaching by security guards. Bishop Richard Moth, Chair of Governors, seemed to back that action and so presumably has been consulted these latest threats against Ms Siedlecka.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Healing: For Victims of Sexual Abuse


Grief to Grace

Dr Theresa Burke, founder of "Rachel's Vineyard," the worldwide retreat programme for those seeking healing after abortion, will be in England at the end of the month to lead another of her programmes, "Grief to Grace - reclaiming the Gift of Sexual Dignity."  Grief to Grace is a four-day, residential retreat for those who have suffered sexual abuse or any other kind of traumatic violation of any kind in childhood, or adolescence or as an adult, including clergy abuse.   A consulter for the Pontifical Academy of Life and a world-reknowned expert on the treatment of trauma, Dr Burke is adamant that whilst "Grief to Grace" is based on sound therapeutic principles, its real power lies in allowing the Holy Spirit to act on the deep wounds left by abuse. As well as the tools of psychology, the retreat integrates the sacraments and specially designed meditations on Scripture to allow victims to face what they have suffered  as they unite it to the passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord.   The wounds left by abuse are not cured by talking therapies alone.  The Catechism speaks of the human heart as a place "deeper than our psychic drives," and often abuse leaves wounds so deep that only the Divine Physician, Jesus Christ can heal them.  Grief to Grace is not a campaigning organisation; it exists only to help victims find the healing that the Gospel promises.  It is authentically Catholic in its view of the human person and what constitutes his or her dignity.

There are still places available in the Grief to Grace retreat from 25th- 30th November which will be held at the Kairos Centre, Roehampton, south west London.  There are more details on the website:www.grieftograce.org, or contact us by email: g2guk@yahoo.co.uk or call 020 8947 6420 or 07740 687536 in confidence for information. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

More on Ed Stourton's Support of Dissidents



Where does BBC corruption end? I sent a message to the BBC Sunday Programme when I blogged this piece about Ed Stourton's croneyism. I haven't yet received even an acknowledgement. Next, I suppose I'll write a letter to the Secretary of State for Media, Culture and Sport, because even if it is not, on the face of it, it appears to be very corrupt indeed, an explanation is very much needed.
In the meantime, James MacMillan tells how he was interviewed by Stourton on the Sunday Programme and how it was the "edited".

Anyway, I brought up Stourton's friendly chat with Ms Stroud [of Catholics for a Changing Church] at the end of my interview with him, drawing attention to the fact that she had let slip that her organisation was getting marvellous and helpful support from within the media. Stourton thanked me at the end of our conversation – I was doing the interview down the line from Glasgow – and after we had finished, I was slow in taking my headphones off. I'm glad I was, because I would have missed the conversation between Stourton and his producer, both obviously miffed at my final point. Eventually Stourton said: "Well it's OK, we can obviously cut that bit out of the broadcast." And, of course, they did.


Valerie Stroud: is one of these, she is "grateful for media support".
And a reader sent a link to a photograph Ms Stroud in, irony of ironies, Demolition News

Catholic Medical Quarterly


LogoThe new Catholic Medical  Quarterly is on-line, there are some interesting article on Humanae Vitae related issues,

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Mass Unlocks




"Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine" So begins the Mass of the Dead.

No Christian living after the 20th century can claim to be a man or women of prayer unless he contenplates the battlefields of the Somme or the winter roads leading back from Russian to Germany or the concentration camps or the massacres of Serbia or the rape of Nangkin or the devastation of Hiroshima or Nagasaki or the burnt-out tanks and mass graves of Iraq.

It wasn't that the 20th century was more violent than other centuries, in the battles between Emperors in China in earlier centuries million died but it is that killing in 20th and 21st century has become more and more industrialised. Looking at these horrors reminds us of what we are capable as human beings.

Previous generations contemplated death by meditating on a grave or a skull we do so by contemplating mass graves or vast killing fields. In that the Christian realises what he himself is capable of: torture, cruelty, child killing, mass rape, mass murder, genocide. We are capable of all that human beings have done, in our souls is the possbility of betrayal of mass murder and destruction, we might despise those who commit such acts of wickedness but the message of the Gospel is not is he our brother but he is us. We are capable of such extraordinary and vastly sweeping evil.
 


In the face of evil we are capable of, our prayer seem to count for nothing. We see our weakness in the face of untold evils.

And yet the Mass, which doesn't seem to advert such horrors, is the key. It unlocks us from the prison of self were so many die. It opens the gate of hope, it helps us to recognise that left to ourselves evil upon evil will grow, drowning us and the human race.

The Mass opens up to us a new reality where mankind is united to God, where man who locks God out of human affairs has his heat unlocked so God can enter. It tells us we are no longer chained to distruction and ultimately death. The Mass is the key the opens the rusted gate of our other humanness, the humanity that resists evil, that creates rather than destroys, that heals rather than wounds, that prefers forgiveness and reconcilliation rather than never ending hatred. The Mass unlocks to us the mercy of God. Here we stand with the Eternal Victim, here we stand by the blood drenched Cross, the tortured and despised body of the ManGod, who himself is the key opening up to us the mercy of the Father and reveals not the grave and the downward spiral to our own damnation but the bright light of Eternal Life.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Chickens Coming Home to Roost


Chatting to a journalist this morning, I got some of the back story on the paedophile allegations against "top Conservatives", it seems as if the witch-hunt is beginning against "top people" generally, perhaps especially against those who publicly identify themselves with a certain sexual licence. I wasn't quite surprised by some of the names mentioned, many have been involved in minor scandals in the past, but it put a fresh gloss on the, "I am for gay marriage because I am a Conservative" statement of David Cameron.

Amongst Tories, and indeed all of our political and media elite, there has always been the socially conservative, the Tufton Bufton's and blue rinsed with middle-class or respectable working-class moral stance but there has also been a strong strand of Libertarianism, where anything goes. It seems from what I was told that Libertarian chickens are coming home to roost. In part it is a reaction against the amorality of a generation ago.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Justin Welby: "careful and prayerful" thinking


The newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the present Bishop of Durham, pledged to examine his own thinking on homosexual marriage "carefully and prayerfully" and spoke out against "exclusion".
If he were a Catholic of course he would know what the Magisterium says. The Magisterium, the teaching authority of the Church, that is the voice of the prayerful meditation of the Church down the ages. As an Anglican Archbishop "careful and prayerful" thinking must always have one of its many ears firmly on the keyhole of the Cabinet Room of No 10, who in turn are plugged into the opinion polls and whatever corner Stonewall and Dave have painted them into.

I remember being given an essay title as a seminarian by our history teacher the great Dr Freddy Broomfield, "The CofE is more a system of ecclesial government than a Church:  discuss". Anglican "prayerful thinking" is always going to be different from that of Catholics and the other ancient Churches.

Father Likes It




I don't like plainchant much, I like singing the psalms, I like the Salve, I like the Kyrie from Orbis Factor but truthfully I just can't remember chant unless I have the notes in front of me. If it is done well it is a pleasant sound that meditates on the words, if you hear them but for me it is a sound to be pray with, a sort of tuneful silence. I love baroque music, sagbutts and cornetti, viola d'amori etc but as clever as it is I find polyphony, again useful to pray with, it quietens the soul but I don't actually like it. So therefore when my parishioners mutter, "We sing Missa di Angelis because Father likes it" I want to bash them over the head with a candlestick. We sing what we do because the Church tells us to do it, or at least to sing chant and this late, decadent, almost hymn tuney stuff is about the best we can manage, if the majority of the congregation are going to take part, but I don't like it.
It is a sad reflection that doing what the Church instructs, is put down by good Catholics to Father's preference.
The problem is that it is not just liturgy, it is devotions too: we say the Rosary because Father likes Our Lady, we have Exposition because Father likes Blessed Sacrament, well he does actually and he loves Benediction but that is not why we do it.
It is the ghastly problem of today and the victory of a wicked strand in modern theology that everything is put down to personal preference: Father preaches about Papal Infallibility, openness to Life in marriage, frequent   Confession, going to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day, the Last Things because its Traditional and Father likes Traditional things.
"We go to Father's Church because we like what what Father likes", has become the mark of the Cafeteria Church which is really another name for a Broad Church, which used to be associated with the CofE, now is very much part of The Church, we have been infected by "Churchmanship".

I beat my head against the wall wondering how we get over the idea that it might well be your way, or even Father's, way but we are after is the Church's Way, the Right Way, which in Greek is Ortho Dox. I am glad that at least a few Bishops: Portsmouth and Shrewsbury, are at least using the word from time to time, without smirking, or suggesting there are other legitimate ways that aren't orthodox.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

A New Vision




Reading a few Amereican blogs, it strikes me that the US Church has rather painted itself into a corner,  what is inevitable the Church  will continue to wrestle with the Obama regime. I have to admit here, I would have struggled if I was an American voter. I certainly could not have voted for someone as funndamentally toxic towards Family and Life issues as Obama but then Romney was no friend to the poor, to immigrants, to those on the edge of society.

What has happen in the US is also happening everywhere else in the West: the willful destruction of the family, the promotion of a contraceptive based libertine culture, the great growing gulf between rich and poor and the real plight of the poor, of families who are working, if they have employment, and still not maintaining a minimal lifestyle, and then there is massive unemployment too, Spain has 45% youth unemployment, 25% of the population are without work. A Greek friend was telling me that the Orthodox Church feeds a 10,000 people a day in Athens; that children are being abandoned, families breaking up, married women seeking abortions, because the simply can't afford another mouth to feed.  Alcoholism, drug taking, crime, prostitution, suicide are all on the increase. Greece is at the extreme edge but many other western nations are following, even parts of the US. The infra structure of so many cities is falling apart.

The Pope speaks of hope in the present financial situation; it strikes me that many people have giving up on a sense that the future will be good place, that their children will be better off than they themselves. In Italy and Spain in particular but in the rest of Europe and maybe in the US too, we have become dependant on immigration to maintain tax revenues to afford, not only old age pensions but also the social support structures we have at least in Europe expected the state to supply. The centre is not and will not hold, Capitalism, at least as we know it, is crumbling. Not only is it crumbling but we are increasingly becoming disillusioned with it.

It is easy for the Church to adopt a harsh hectoring tone criticising new social initiatives, such as Cameron's redefinition marriage or Obama's healthcare initiative based on abortion and contraception, I do it myself because it is easy but how effective it is, I wonder. For those in the Church, as the voting statistics in the States seem to suggest, the devout take notice but most simply ignore the bishops and clergy, as they do everywhere, presumably shrugging their shoulders saying that they would say that wouldn't they.

 What is needed is a new vision of what society could be and the Church really should be able to make that vision visible. Perhaps we should have had a national campaign before "equalities legislation" robbed us of our adoption agencies to get Catholics, and maybe others, involved in adoption and fostering. Maybe we ought to have combatted "civil partnership" by pressing the right of adult siblings who live together having the same rights as homosexual couples. Perhaps we should be championing a "fair wage" rather than minimum wages, or even a cap on extreme wages, the Church could begin by ensuring its own employees could raise and house a family on one persons wage, and that it is always a fair and just employer. I wonder if the Church ought to be demanding people like me who live in huge houses should be taking in lodgers, or even the homeless. Shouldn't every parish have some kind of social care project for the poorest in their area? A friend of mine has a vision of one London church that specialises in the spiritual care of people in Debrett's starting to serve consomme and canapes to the homeless by cassocked clergy, assisted by Dowagers in furs. To start with shouldn't we insist that all Catholics give away 10% of their income to those less well off than themselves, and give at least 10% of their time and skills?

Humanae Vitae has social and economic consequences. We can't expect people to implement unless we change the structures of society and make a society that welcomes and supports the family. We cannot treat it as stick to beat individuals with, we should treat it as a visionary document that is a cornerstone of our social teaching.

There was a commendable initiative by our own Bishops to share something of Catholic social teaching too businessmen and politicians recently; could we not ensure that our social teaching was actually taught in all its Christological sharpness in our schools? Should we not be promoting rights of women with a feminism that sprang from an orthodox Catholic perspective, with emphasis on a woman's right to have a financially socially secure family.

One last thing, I could never imagine an English bishop being photographed and filmed at dinner, even with the Prime Minister at the Ritz, is it really appropriate for Cardinal Dolan to give dinner to the presidential candidates at the Waldorf Astoria, especially in the present economic situation, aren't there soup runs they could have gone to? It just gives the impression of a smug, wealthy Church, the stands alongside the powerful. A picture is worth a thousand words, what did the picture say to the worlds poor?

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Freedom

British India 2
I am not quite sure why Americans take religious liberty so incredibly seriously and see it as a "home" issue, whilst we Brits don't take it terribly seriously and see it as something that concerns the former colonies and foreign bits that were never pink on the map.

The brave Scottish bishops had two contenders for that accolade of accolades the homofacist Stonewall's award of "Bigot of the Year", one even won it, whereas no English cleric was epven up for an award, I suppose we all thought it was part of a war we couldn't win.

But apart from a giggle at the Waldorf Astoria with the source of the infringement of religious liberty, which might well have convinced a few Yanks that it was alright to let the chad hang for Obama, all that about a picture and a thousand words, their Lordships across the water do appear to take their liberty seriously, they even have a new website about it. Though there is nothing about Syria, Egypt, Iraq or even America's close friends and allies like Pakistan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Britain
Religious freedom is our first American freedom. It is a founding principle of our country, protected by the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights. It’s a fundamental human right, rooted in the dignity of every human person—people of any faith or no faith at all. It’s not a Catholic, Jewish, Orthodox, Mormon or Muslim issue—it’s an American issue, a civil rights issue.

PRAY FOR FREEDOM 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Theology is for Fishermen and Barbers, and the Unemployed




Call me an "old liberal" if you must but I think theology is too important to be left to theologians, at least academic theologians. I am one of those people who rather admire the theological schools of Alexandria that made theology such a popular subject that fishermen ranted theological sea shanties and barbers discussed Homoiousios and Homoousios whilst applying a sharpened razor to their clients throat. I happen to go along with "A theologian is one who prays, and one who prays is a theologian." I believe in theology for all.

The problem for all theologians can be they often appear be "straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel". Both for those outside the Church and those inside what most theologians have to say is irrelevant.

One of the disappointing post-Concilliar developments is a type of destructive elitist academic theology that seems to want to exclude the fisherman and barber from theology. I say this because one of my parishioners, who does pray and therefore is a theologian, was called theologically illiterate by a priest. When theology is no longer there for fishermen and barbers, and the unemployed too, it becomes a type of self serving masturbatory activity that belongs an in-group. It is contemptuous of the the faith of the ordinary man or woman in the pew. Rather than building their relationship with Christ and His Church it tends to destroy it. It places itself in opposition to the vast swathe of Tradition. Rather than being about faith seeking understanding, it becomes personal opinion seeking a platform.

Since the time of the Apostles there has always been a tension between the charismatic gifts and hierarchic gifts, the obvious example is St Paul trying to regulate those speaking in tongues. In the Didache (if it is really from the early 2nd cent) there are the prescriptions regulating prophets, and then a little later Ignatius of Antioch demanding all is to be regulated by the Bishop. Various early heresies especially Montanism and Marcionism but also Gnosticism seemed to establish a charismatic elite, with their particular and special knowledge, that broke away from the Church, the faith of fishermen and barbers, and the unemployed.

The theology of the Catholic Church is clear and accessible to all, it is not the babble of Babel, nor the squealing and hysterical self justification of those who present their own magisterium as being on a par with that of the Church. It is ultimately about such basics as salvation and evangelisation.  It is the servant of the Church not its master. The esoteric nature of much contemporary theology is a sad reflection on so many of the elite and effete within the Church who see their role as being about destruction of faith rather than building it.

There should be no uncertainty in our understanding of Catholic orthodoxy, it is a certain path not a meandering marginal musing, it is something that belongs to us all, including fishermen and barbers, and the unemployed, the only theological illiterates are those who are untouched by the Spirit that reverses Babel and stop their ears to the voice that calls us into communion with Peter.

Monday, November 05, 2012

BBC Promotes the Tablet: Statistics


There is very interesting article here, I tend to be saying my prayers during the BBC's Sunday Programme, on the occassions when I have listened to it is evident that Ed Stourton and the programme has its own particular vision of Catholicism that is odds with mine, but more importantly with that of the Successor of St Peter. Ed Stourton and his programme seem to want to redefine Catholicism according to their own particular views.

Why should public money, licence payer money be used to subsidise the Tablet?

Edward Stourton is indeed a trustee of The Tablet, along with the likes of Lord Chris Patten, Baroness Shirley Williams and Baroness Helena Kennedy (as fine a collection of the liberal 'great and the good' as you could hope to gather together on a board). The Tablet is a liberal Catholic magazine, broadly centre-left politically, liable to be critical of conservative trends within the Church - and of Pope Benedict XVI's Vatican in particular. I'm painting in fairly broad strokes but not, I think, inaccurately, by comparing it to the Guardiannewspaper. Its rival is The Catholic Herald, rather more conservative, somewhat more right-leaning politically, less regularly critical of the Vatican, more akin to the Daily Telegraph. A read of Damian Thompson's blog, with its occasional digs at 'Tabletistas' (think 'Sandinistas' and 'Guardianistas'), shows that there's a fair gulf of attitude between them.
Here's the first evidence of bias. I think it is quite revealing that, throughout the 22 months of my survey (Jan 2011-now), Sunday has not featured Damian Thompson, former editor ofThe Catholic Herald, or Luke Coppen, its present editorNor has it interviewed any of the other regulars at The Catholic Herald. Indeed, and this might strike you as remarkable, I have not heard a single mention of The Catholic Herald on the programme throughout that time - and I have listened very closely to every episode.What though of The Tablet? How has it fared on the show whose main presenter is one of its trustees? Have their been any guests from The Tablet appearing on Sunday? 

Yes.
Its editor, Catherine Pepinster, has appeared on three editions during the time-frame of my survey (25/3/2012, 15/1/2012, 28/8/2011). You may know her from her frequent appearances on Today's Thought For The Day. [She is the second most regular of the Catholic speakers on TFTD, behind fellow Tabletista Clifford Longley]. Fans (like me) of thePlatitude Of The Day website will know that she is the holder of the prestigious Platitude Of The Year award 2011
Even more conspicuous has been Robert Mickens, Vatican correspondent of The Tablet. Robert is immediately recognisable by the ironic tone he uses to dish the dirt on the Vatican. He has appeared on six edition of the programme during my survey period (16/9/2012, 9/9/2012, 3/6/2012, 12/2/2012, 5/2/2012, 1/5/2011). As I shall expand upon later, the irony-tinted Mr. Mickens was treated as if he were a friendly BBC colleague on the occasions Ed Stourton chatted with him (supporting Damian Thompson's characterisation of Sunday as quoted above).
On these occasions, whichever presenter was hosting Sunday [usually Edward] made sure to mention The Tablet. Sometimes this was not the case. To introduce my next Tabletista, here's the former editor of The Catholic Herald again (see earlier link):
"Stourton was chatting with one of the Sunday programme's favourite Catholic commentators, Dr Tina Beattie, a straight-from-central-casting 1970s feminist (and director of the Tablet, according to the website of Roehampton University)."
Tina Beattie is, indeed, a regular Tablet columnist. She's been invited on four times over the period in question (14/10/2012, 9/9/2012, 1/5/2011, 30/1/2011).
And on it goes...The man who, as editor, steered The Tablet leftwards, John Wilkins, has also been invited onto Sunday over this period. He was there for two of the big Sundayspecials - those (alongside Tina Beattie) for the 50th anniversary of Vatican II (14/10/2012) and (also alongside Tina Beattie and Robert Mickens) for the beatification of Pope John Paul II (1/5/2011).

The article goes on...

Why not ask the Sunday Programme about these statistics about Mr Stourton's involvement in choosing contributors and why a public broadcaster has this bias?


Ocean to Ocean: Icon in England Today

From Ocean to Ocean in Britain

It is really good the see the Russian Orthodox Church joining with the Catholic Church under the patronage of Our Lady of Czestochowa on this extraordinary pilgrimage for Life.

Click here for UK timetable

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Bigot of the Year Award



A statement from the Scottish Catholic Media Office
"Stonewall’s decision to award their “Bigot of the year” award to Cardinal O'Brien reveals the depth of their intolerance and their willingness to attack and demean those who don’t share their views.
 Stonewall and others have promoted terms like ‘bigot’ and ‘homophobe’ relentlessly, in order to intimidate and vilify anyone who dares oppose their agenda. It is an agenda which the wider public does not endorse and which their excessive language has undermined.
 Numerous public bodies give sizeable financial donations to Stonewall including the Scottish Government, these intolerant and intimidatory tactics should mean that this funding is now questioned and examined as a matter of urgency.”
Well, Scottish Catholics are used to suffering from prejudice, intimidation, ostracism, villification, and oppression from powerful anti-Catholic organisations, today there are few more powerful organisations in the UK than Stonewall.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Difficulties with Prayer'

In the Gospels prayer is either 1) Jesus spending long periods in the presence of his Father, or 2) Jesus telling people to ask for things or Jesus himself for praying for healings or asking for things.
It is easy to see intercessory prayer as being a little unsophisticated or even superstitious, after all God knows what we want before we even ask for it. It is easy then to slip into simply not seeing any value in any intercession whatsoever and to simply see prayer as a rather Quietist act of resignation to God's will, which like acid eats the heart out of prayer and really destroys the relationship of son/daughter to the Father.

Children are continually asking their Father for things: everything from a cuddle or food or drink to a sports car, if they don't get one thing, they ask for another and children confident in relationship with their Father are willing to pour out their soul and ask for even embarrassing things: protection, forgiveness, help. Not asking tends to lead to a self centredness, and Independence that can eventually lead to a destruction of that fillial relationship which Jesus came to announce.


The great spiritual classics promote a gentle contemplation of God, often an imageless silence. One of the problems for us in the West is that our "contemplation" has become almost Buddhist, a stillness, an emptiness, a being in touch with "the universal energy". It is not Christian at all, and its object is the God of the Christians, it is something else. I have sympathy with that Southampton priest who banned Yoga in his hall.

I can't help wondering if our modern liturgical tendencies push rather than "active participation" a certain passivity, I mean most people at Mass join in the vocal prayers and hymnody but actually really are there to listen or witness what the priest does. The meaning of  "active participation" has been much debated, but presumably on one level at least it means we are actually praying ourselves not merely witnessing someone else's prayer.

There was lots of talk about the "priesthood of the faithful" after Vatican II, which so often degenerates into the laity doing things Father used to do, but from the Old Testament the priesthood was essentially intercessory and propitiatory, as is Jesus' priesthood. Surely the clearest way in which the faithful exercise their priesthood is by interceding, asking God for things.

At one time Catholic prayer was marked by praying "for" rather than "with" by novenas, by petitions, votive offerings, candles and money offerings. It was in that sense intercessory and propitiatory, and therefore priestly, it seems to be one of the things which we have lost. With it we have lost a sense of the power of prayer and the sense that the Mass is a time and place of miracles. It has also removed our sense that we are a people of power, that the battles of the Church are necessarily won in a Court of Law but before the Court of Heaven.