Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Cardinal Dew on 'Intrinsically Disordered'

Dear Cardinal Dew here, not speaking about the family but the favourite of many senior clergy: homosexuality. No wonder Cardinal Dolan says the traditional family is today an excluded minority, even in the Church. Anyhow Dew is uncomfortable with the phrase 'intrinsically disordered', he wants us to find a new way of expressing something which 'even if there is something which is against Church teaching we put it in such a way that is friendly to them...'.

The problem is the Cardinal is confused, the Church is not speaking about homosexual persons but genital acts, which is Church politely, trying not to mention anal intercourse for example,  it is these acts that are intrinsically disordered.

'Intrinsic' meaning 'by its very nature', 'disordered' meaning, 'disrupt the normal functioning of' something'. The normative function of the sexual act is, its purpose, is to ensure the human race continues, there is no other way for it to do so. Thus describing homosexual sexual activity as 'intrinsically disordered' is the Church trying to do what the Venerable Cardinal is asking for, finding a language in which the Church is trying to respect those with a 'deep seated' same sex attraction, without getting into highly descriptive language to describe same sex genital acts, if you have the stomach for it you could visit the Terrence Higgins Trust, and view the material they recommend for schools. Affection, love, admiration are not 'intrinsically disordered' but sexual acts are.

What the catechism actually says is 
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
The problem is that this two word phrase says precisely what the Church means, it is also what homosexual people object to most strongly, either because they assume the Church is is speaking about them as being 'intrinsically disordered', which it is not or because they find any discussion of the proper ordering of human sexuality offensive, as some might find even the definition of family .

What the Cardinal is asking seems to be that we do not speak about 'sin' at all, which seems to be one of the great problems of the Church today. The obvious example is to speak about 'second marriages', when what we are actually talking about is something which is directly against Jesus' teaching on marriage, we dare not to use Jesus' language, Jesus is not afraid to say to the woman at the well: For you have had five husbands; and he whom you now have is not your husband. I tend to be a bit afraid of saying that, even when it is more than obvious.

For Cardinal Dew whose thinking, even in this short clip, is decidedly fuzzy, the problem is that for many homosexuals and certainly for the Gay Movement any criticism of homosexual acts will be deeply offensive, even if it is expressed in the mildest terms possible.

Perhaps His Eminence should read this article in Pink News, in which the Pope despite his welcoming of homosexual activists, even kissing and embracing Gay couples or having tea with transsexuals, is still a hate figure. He will be until the Church backs the Gay agenda 100%, and of course rejects anything Divine Revelation might ever had said.

Monday, October 12, 2015

..... in a Vatican Brewery

Those leprous courtiers, as the Pope himself calls them, seem unable to organise a ------- in the Vatican brewery. Everything about the Synod seems to be chaotic, from the working document, to the uncertainty of the process, from the exceedingly odd choice of the papally appointed members of the Synod (one needs only mention but one name, Daneels), to the lack of coordination between language groups, to say nothing of the secrecy - if a bishop speaks he does so not as a conspirator or as a private person but as the the head of a local Church, a successor of the Apostles, the Church has a right to know precisely what he has said.

I am sure some of the Fathers must be asking, "Why the hell are we here?" There is obviously outrageous manipulation going on but who is manipulating who? The Holy Father's intervention about the 'hermeneutic of conspiracy' in the wake of the letter of concern sent to him by thirteen prominent Cardinals, published here by Magister, has only heightened the sense of confusion. Here is Damian Thompson's take on it. His Holiness has certainly produced a mess, a rather expensive one, not just financially expensive either but expensive to the Church's credibility, but the question is can he produce order of his mess. It increasingly seems unlikely.
I can't help thinking of the Pope's plea that every Catholic parish in Europe should welcome a refugee family, and yet with all the wealth and resources of the Vatican State over which he rules, only two families have been welcomed, temporarily, there. One is left with the idea of sheer ineffectuality, of words but no action. Mgr Gilby said of a certain knightly order, "they make a great deal of fuss to do comparatively very little good". In a Church where dialogue has taken the place of evangelisation we must expect only chatter.

Antonio Socci said over the weekend speaking of the Synod as a war machine, “One knows, in these times, that the German engines need to be scrapped and the Argentinian coachwork is junk mixed with Peronism and rusty liberation theology.”  and “They want to apply their disastrous recipes to the whole Church, with devastating effects on a global scale.” Socci refers to the ineffectuallity of the Church in South-America and in Germany. Why has the Pope with great deliberation chosen that the Synod should be led by bishops of failing, even dying Churches? Why are the voices of fecund growing Churches almost ignored?
Socci perhaps should be read in an Italian context, along with Magister and de Mattei that seems to growing in its criticism of Francis, which should be worrying for Francis, especially with increasingly falling numbers at Papal audiences but even John Allen says:
In other words, Francis is basically shock therapy for the Church.
Such therapy is notoriously painful and unsettling, often causing patients to experience confusion and disorientation — both of which are palpably present in some circles of Catholicism these days. Yet there are times when it’s the only way to jolt the patient out of a funk.
Psychiatrists will tell you that shock therapy should be used only as a last resort, and it doesn’t always work. It’s effective only about half the time, and even when it does succeed, its effects often wear off over time.
Sometimes shock therapy can kill the patient, especially in the hands of a incompetent unproven practitioners.

For English followers of the Synod our problem is the machinations of the pro-gay Fr Rosica, the English speaking presenter of the Vatican's not too competent press corps, has meant that a very partisan presentation of proceedings has come through to us.

What seems now to be the the main concern of the Synod Fathers is not the Kasper proposal or the homosexual agenda but the Synod itself or rather Pope Francis as the Synod's architect in chief. In the long run what being exposed is the manipulation of the Church by the one whose real function is to act as as a point of unity and order in the Church.
Our problem is if one pope can be forced to resign by one cabal, what can another cabal do?

Friday, October 09, 2015

"Meet people where they are at"

Having been brought up in the "Meet people where they are at", school of moral theology, liturgy etc, I was rather pleased when I heard about this 'tweet' from Card Napier. Until I saw it on Fr Z's blog I didn't realise it was also a jab at the Fr Rosica, who seems to be manipulating the English language press coverage of the Synod on behalf of his own particular lobby group.
"Meet people where they are at", strikes me as being the most un-Christian idea ever! Christ keeps saying, 'Come follow me', he calls us out of the place we are at, out of our old life. He gives us hope, more importantly he gives us grace, power, to move away from sin. 
"Meet people where they are at", has all the problems of introspection Cardinal Ratzinger spoke about when he wrote about introspective worship leading to introspective ecclesiology.
"Meet people where they are at", tends to mean that the Church or Christians end up by moving in with them. This phrase I am sure is one of the reasons the Church has lost a sense of Mission and is unable to call to conversion and therefore to evangelise effectively.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Gradualism and Mortal Sin

I met the former Anglican bishop of Gloucester Peter Ball once when he was the Bishop of Lewes, I thought he was a faux. He is now 82 and was sentenced to prison today, it is quite possible that he will die in prison.

He was rather pleasant man, beguiling, even giving the impression of being holy and ascetic, he was certainly not unlearned, he gave the impression of goodness, to many. I also, all those years ago, knew a young man, a gardener, who was actually rather beautiful and blond muscular, his physical beauty was enhanced by spiritual beauty, he loved God, he wanted to spend his life serving God, he wasn't unintelligent but there was a childlike simplicity about him. Though it is vague in my memory, I remember him telling me about becoming a member of the Bishop's 'community' which was basically about him stripping of the old man and being naked in the bishop's chapel, as he was prayed over and embraced before being clothed in a habit. I don't know if this type of thing is what constituted the charges, the young man was certainly vulnerable and I suppose could easily have been taken advantage of, and I don't know if this particular young man was one of the complainants.

According to contemporary Catholic teaching, the theory of 'Gradualism', would suggest that we looked at the good that Peter Ball did, at his pleasant nature, his beguiling qualities, his holiness, his learning. Classical Catholic theology, which perhaps is less 'merciful' would say he was a pervert, and in fact what appeared good merely added to his sinfulness, and made him even more of a danger, more attractive, more of a source of corruption, that in fact his 'virtue' rather than being in any sense a mitigation of his vice only added it, by making him more dangerous.

It is significant that St Paul in his lists of sinners doesn't ever introduce mitigating factors, neither does the Lord. A sinner is simply a sinner, the Pharisees might be white washed but they are still 'tombs full of dead men's bones', a source of corruption. (Matt 23:27). Someone in serious sin is sinner, which is what the classic doctrine on Mortal Sin teaches. God always extends his mercy but it is necessary for a man to accept it, and to accept it when it is offered, lest like the foolish virgins the door is slammed closed behind them or like the towns the disciples were sent to, the time of mercy ended when or if the dust was shaken from their feet.

Mortal sin, classically, is easily recognised and easily avoided, either because it is directly contrary to the Natural Law or because it is positively condemned in scripture. I think introduction of an intermediate category of 'Grave Sin' is actually helpful. Mortal Sin does what the label says on the tin, it kills our relationship with God. Venial sin is more difficult to shake off, it leaves us damaged and weakened but it does not separate us from God, though it damages that relationship.

Ultimately Sin is not the main concern of scripture but Conversion or Repentance is, hence the woman caught in adultery is merely sent away to sin no more.  The terrible problem with the Gradualist approach, which seems to be adopted by many of the Synod Fathers blinds us, the Church to the terrible nature and consequences of sin. It also blinds the Church to the importance of mission, because one important aspect of it is to point out sin, especially if we are to avoid hypocrisy within the Church, we can't purify the Church of sin if are blind to it, if we refuse to judge.

I wonder if Gradualism itself was the cause of the cover-up of child abuse, we tried to see the good and ignored the evil men did. We overlooked heresy because we saw niceness.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

After the 'lio'

I have been pondering the connection between 'trust' and 'faith'. Because Christ gave us a Church founded on the Apostles rather than a book in order for people to believe in Christ they must first of all trust the Apostles, the bishops are the successors of the Apostles. Perhaps the saddest development in the Church has been the break down in trust between the faithful and their bishops and maybe equally important the paralleled break down in the trust between the world and the Church, to the point, in the West at least, where the idea of the Church was on the verge of becoming toxic.

The child abuse crisis was certainly one important contributor contributor to this toxicity. It is interesting to compare the two ways in which Francis and Benedict dealt with it. Benedict, with a truly pastoral heart, dealt personally with cases brought to him. It was his Friday penance to weep over and deal with the dossiers, and every pastoral visit had with it a meeting with the abused and a public apology. Francis, a more political Pope, or perhaps just a more skilled administrator, has set up a commission to deal with the matter, has had a few meetings with abused but still feels able to console the US bishops on the suffering they endured over the issue and is confident enough to invite Cardinal Daneels, who has a well documented history of cover-up to the Synod, and the media seem quite disinterested.

One of things we might admire Francis for is taking the poison out of the relationship between the Church and the world. In many ways he is less revolutionary than his predecessor, he says and does the things the world expects the Pope to say and do. One of the problems is perhaps that he appeals more to those outside the Church than those inside it. Benedict carefully chose to conceal the Papacy under signs and symbols, Francis has got rid of most of those and placed his personality front and centre. The world seems more comfortable with that, it can deal with 'personalities' especially political ones. One of things that fascinates me is that, listening to the Pope, I never quite know what he is saying or I think he is saying one thing, only to have it readjusted a few days later, if it has caused a little storm in the media, by Fr Lombardi, who carefully explains what His Holiness had really meant.
The change in the relationship of the Church and the media is the most significant but within the Church Francis seems to be much more divisive figure. 'Cardinals are fighting like ferrets in a sack', as one commentator said recently. The bishops arriving at the Synod can easily be divided into 'innovators' and those who oppose them, even Cardinal Prefects speak openly of the possibility of schism. There is a sense of suspicion alive in the Church, an open mistrust of certain bishops and some even dare to suggest that the Pope himself is not to be trusted, though more loyal Catholics are likely to criticise the Pope's ministers rather than the Pope himself. There seems in some instances a visceral hatred of Francis on some internet sites.

Again, as one recent commentator said, 'No-one disputes Pope Francis can make a mess (lio), now he must bring order out of the mess'. Perhaps Cardinal Erdo's opening speech to the Synod yesterday was the beginnings of that. The Papacy as portrayed by both Vatican Councils is hardly the vision most Catholics have. Pastor Aeternus seems a closed book to many Catholics and certainly to the worldly media (Dr DeVille has a very good article on the limits of Papal authority). Jesus Christ, not the Pope, is after all the head of the Church, though many Catholics, even some bishops might go along with the rather iffy Mgr Pinto of the, Dean of the Rota saying,  "The Jubilee Year of Mercy expects this sign of humble obedience (on the part of the Church's shepherds) to the Spirit who speaks to them through Francis". That is just Ultramontane heresy, with friends like that who needs enemies?

The centrality of Peter is essential to the Church, it is Dr DeVille points out at the service of 'unity'. After the lio Pope Francis has to re-establish trust not just in himself but in but in the bishops in the Church as he has done outside it in his Papacy, because trust is an essential to faith and mistrust of the Pope and Bishops is seriously damaging to the Church's integrity and ultimately to individuals' faith. Unitatis Redintegratio is clear that not only is disunity a scandal but it is also detrimental to faith. Speaking for myself the shifting sands of the build up to the Synod has hardly strengthened my faith.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

As the Synod begins

Father Krzystof Charamsa, who held a post in the Vatican's branch for protecting Catholic dogma, urged the Catholic church to change its 'backwards' attitude to homosexuality
Monsignors with their lovers is nothing new, often bishops are quite happy for problem priests to go off to Rome or somewhere else and to take their problems with them. I suspect this was the case with Msgr. Krzysztof Charamsa. It is worth noticing that he has been sacked not for his 'gayness' but for embarrassing or compromising the Synod, read Lombardi's press release.
The Monsignor seems to be acting out a stereotype of "me, me, me" gay behaviour, it shows immaturity. Pope Benedict's prohibition of those with a 'deep seated homosexual tendencies' being ordained would apply to this man, I don't think it applies to everyone. It is after all a prohibition on a 'deep seated' tendencies.

One of the things I find sad about the majority of those who leave the priest nowadays is that they invariably leave not just the priesthood but the Church too. It indicates a lack of faith, a shallowness of faith. I really do not have a problem with a priest with same sex attraction, I have a problem with priests who do not have enough faith to overcome it, to prefer God rather than their own will, this applies to everyone, heterosexuals as well.
Christ taught us to say, 'Thy will be done', Our Lady says, 'Be it done to me according to thy word' and, 'Do whatever he tells you'. If those phrases mean nothing

As the Synod assembles in Rome, especially in the light of last years machinations and manipulations, what I am looking for are signs of faith, signs that they believe in the power grace. As Fr Tomlinson says:

...what is really under debate is the role of grace and sin, the nature of revelation and the way authority and fidelity are to be understood in the present age. The modernists want to overthrow traditional Catholic teaching and methodology to conform to the Spirit of the age. And with the Synod deck stacked in their favour, and with it now being a matter of public record that they have control of the Vatican and have been manipulating the process for years, we stand at a moment of genuine crisis for those whose desire is to be faithful to Christ.
Or as a priest said on the radio this morning, "No-one doubts Francis' ability to make a mess, what matters is his ability to bring order out of the chaos".

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Change a Culture, Keep the Doctrine

There is a little reference to Gramasci in a rather interesting interview with Fr Fessio on Rorate. Gramasci is an important Italian Communist thinker. He was imprisoned by Mussolini for the last eleven years of his life he is perhaps underestimated outside of Italy but his ideas have become very much part of the culture or management of change,

In a world where class war has moved from economic control to control of culture, from worker's rights to minority rights, Marxist ideologues are now rarely found on soap boxes or the barricades but in university senior common rooms, or more often in the arts and media. Gramasci was concerned with revolution but rather than the 'hard' revolution of an armed uprising against a despot with 'soft' revolution of changing culture, in ecclesiastical terms of keeping doctrine the same but changing pastoral practice. Obviously if you change practice you then either do not to change doctrine because they way in which we understand it changes and then eventually our way of speaking about doctrine in the future changes and we then introduce a situation in which the original doctrine becomes meaningless and is 'organically' changed. That is changed from below, change from below brings about  change from above and eventually overthrows the existing order.

The important thing for Gramasci was to create a certain confusion a mess, a "lio", but based on what was reasonable and from there to increase demands by increments, for example, the change with the general acceptance of the Gay movement, 'loving relationships' everyone can relate to, 'people suffering because they love' makes a rather attractive narrative identity, in a heterosexual context it is part of our cultural narrative and is much more attractive than discussing anal sex, which I suppose a few people still have qualms about. Thus in a few short years we move from a criminal act, to legalising consensual homosexual acts to recognising homosexual unions to marriage equality,  and children being taught about such things in school and we can well imagine the eventual removal every other sexual taboo, not just those that once merely surrounded homosexuality. In moral terms it is Marxist perpetual revolution.

Students of the Council might well  see Bugnini using Gramascian methodology in first disrupting the calender, creating confusion between Paul VI and the Liturgical Concillium, then going beyond anything the Council Fathers mandated but who but a knave or a fool would dare to suggest that the Church has for one single instant changed her teaching on the Holy Eucharist from what Aquinas or Trent taught.

Perhaps doctrines are not important but rubrics and pastoral practice are because they create a culture of belief, hence they are much more important than dry words in some tome.

So there is absolutely no reason to fear that the Synod will change one iota of doctrine.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Walsingham in Colombia

Yesterday we had Fr Peter Walters here, who I met, and was impressed by, at a meeting of the Conference of Catholic Clergy. He came here to make an appeal for the street children he works with in Medellin, Colombia. What he was doing was imaginative and rather inspiring. Fr Peter worked in Walsingham and has a great devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham, the house he established in Medillin is called Casa Walsingham, which is so wonderfully English, it reflects his Anglo-Catholic origins 'the smell of carbolic soap and incense', Catholic spirituality and reaching out to the needy, caring for body and soul. For him welcome and hospitality are part of the Walsingham spirituality, "I can't imagine Jesus, even as child, not going out into the streets and taking home to his mother anyone who was in need, and I can't imagine his mother not being absolutely delighted to have them come", he said.

Chapel of Casa Walsingham

He spoke about the children being the victims of Columbian drug gangs and the problem starting in the drug culture of the cities of the world like Brighton. Privately he spoke the violence and gang culture, of "hit men" going to shrines before killing people and coming back to give thanks afterwards, of children who aspire to become "hit men", of child prostitution and abuse, of child rubbish pickers, of violence and child killers and of corruption and apathy.

He spoke of the chronic need for money, of the possibilities that just a few thousand pounds or dollars could open up for the 500 plus children he cares for directly, of the children he wants to help, of starting a school, of having somewhere safe outside the city, but all that needs money and more staff - he brought with him Jairo who is a child psychologist whose English Father jokingly said extended to 'gift aid' and 'banker's order'. Even in Columbia any organisation which cares for children with such problems needs trained, expert and loving staff. Fr Peter wants the best for his children.

Fr Peter spends his time between working with the children and visiting parishes like mine to raise funds. If you are Parish Priest either in the UK or USA why not invite Fr Peter? If you are a lay person please consider donating by visiting to Let the Children Live.

Our choir, Cor Videns, in the chapel at Casa Walsingham

The choir at Casa Walsingham's Christmas service


Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Cup of "Americanism"?

A chalice made by a friend of the Pope, or here, 'the personal Argentinian silversmith, of the Holy Father' and given to him by the US Catholic Church.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Daneels remarks are nothing new

Nothing Cardinal Daneels does or says shocks me anymore, he has a whole history behind him. So his recent remarks about belonging to the St Gallen group and being a member of a 'Mafia' opposed to Pope Benedict, which worked for the election Jorge Bergoglio is not a surprise, nor should it disturb any intelligent Catholic. Popes have never been elected by innocent unworldly old men, oblivious to anything other than prayer and desiring nothing but to do the will of God. Men like Daneels, and so many western Cardinals have presided over the disintegration of their own Churches, why should we not expect them to the same for the Church Universal.

How wise the Holy Father was to remind people that he is not a 'Renaissance Prince', then thuggery and simony and bullying were more visible. Human nature does not change, unfortunately neither does the Church. Very few Cardinals who have power impress anyone with their holiness or Christ-centredness. very few seem to look for holiness in those they promote. As with the Popes of the Renaissance the choice of their Emminences is not who will serve Christ best but who will serve my faction best.

Sunday's Gospel Mark 9:30-37 demonstrated what we see today, the Lord speaks about his Passion and Death, the Apostles, our first bishops find that incomprehensible, 'they did not understand and were afraid to ask him' and ' they had been arguing amongst themselves which of them was the greatest'. This incomprehension about Jesus, the inability to open their minds to him is nothing new, it is there in every age, as is the fear of actually asking Jesus of going directly to him, as is grotesque power politics, the factionalism.

Austin Ivereigh, who of course was Cardinal Murphy O'Connor's press  secretary, when his book was published caused one or two Catholics to suggest that the factionalism that surrounded the Pope's election might have invalidated the election, that is just plain daft, if we were dependant on valid elections then those statistics in that sermon (what did he mean?) of Cardinal Pell gave of valid and invalid Popes would have an entirely different balance: 266th Pope and history has seen 37 false or anti-Popes. If we just took simony into account, which mediaeval or renaissance Pope was validly elected? For Catholics it is not so much the election of a Pope but the Church's acceptance of the election, urbi et orbi, that matters.

Acceptance goes further, it defines a Pope's Magisterium, God blesses the Church with both the ability to remember but also to forget a Pope's teaching. Eastern Christians have always said that it is not so much the meeting of a Council that matters but rather its acceptance by the Church, thus everyone had a merry time in 1438 at the Council of Florence, we Latins welcomed it as a great moment of oecumenical dialogue, a huge step forward in ending the Great Schism, whilst the Byzantines dismissed it as yet another 'robber' or false Council. When assessing any Pope's Magisterium it is what is remembered and what is forgotten that is important, that is what preserved in the Church's collective memory. If Popes or Cardinals throw themselves into politicking some of their contempories might be hurt, as might the Church herself but it is God and history that ultimately judges us all.

As for Cardinal Daneels, as my old gran used to say, 'you can tell a man by the friends he keeps'.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pope in his own words

Pope Francis aboard the papal flight from Cuba to Washington, D.C., Sept. 22, 2015. Credit: Alan Holdren/CNA.
I was amused and bemused by the Holy Father's plane interview on his way to the US, especially his reply to the question on why he hadn't met with dissidents:
Pope Francis: Look, I don’t have any news that that has happened. I don’t have any news. Some yes, yes, no, I don’t know. I don’t know, directly. The two questions are about reading the future. Would I like this to happen? … I like to meet with all people. I consider that all people are children of God and the law. And secondly, a relationship with another person always enriches. Even though it was soothsaying, that’s my reply. I would like to meet with everyone. If you want me to speak more about the dissidents, you can ask me something more concrete. For the nunciature, first, it was very clear that I was not going to give audiences because not only the dissidents asked for audiences, but also audiences (were requested) from other sectors, including from the chief of state. And, no, I am on a visit to a nation, and just that. I know that I hadn’t planned any audience with the dissidents or the others. And secondly from the nunciature, some people made some calls to some people who are in these groups of dissidents, where the responsibility was given to the nuncio to call them and tell them that I would greet them with pleasure outside the catedral for the meeting with the consecrated (religious). I would greet them when I was there, no? That did exist. Now, as no one identified themselves in their greetings, I don’t know if they were there. I said hello to the sick who were in wheelchairs. … Oops, I’m speaking Spanish. I greeted those who were in wheelchairs, but no one identified themselves as dissidents; but from the nunciature calls were made by some for a quick greeting.
I am told this is a fairly accurate translation. then there was this answer too:
Pope Francis: A cardinal friend of mine told me that a very concerned woman, very Catholic, went to him. A bit rigid, but Catholic. And she asked him if it was true that in the Bible, they spoke of an antichrist, and she explained it to him. And also in the Apocalypse, no? And, then, if it was true that an anti-pope, who is the antichrist, the anti-Pope. But why is she asking me this question, this cardinal asked me? “Because I’m sure that Pope Francis is the anti-pope,” she said. And why does she ask this, why does she have this idea? “It’s because he doesn’t wear red shoes.” The reason for thinking if one is communist or isn’t communist. I’m sure that I haven't said anything more than what’s written in the social doctrine of the Church. On another flight, a colleague asked me if I had reached out a hand to the popular movements and asked me, “But is the Church going to follow you?” I told him, “I’m the one following the Church.” And in this it seems that I’m not wrong. I believe that I never said a thing that wasn’t the social doctrine of the Church. Things can be explained, possibly an explanation gave an impression of being a little “to the left”, but it would be an error of explanation. No, my doctrine on this, in Laudato si', on economic imperialism, all of this, is the social doctrine of the Church. And it if necessary, I’ll recite the creed. I am available to do that, eh.

I think with Pope Francis, what you see is what you get.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Preferential Option for Christians

I am increasingly hearing stories of Christians suffering persecution in the refugee camps  of Syria, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon and even in the 'Jungle' in Calais, one can perhaps understand that these camps are pretty lawless and are filled with angry desperate people, the focus of the anger seems to be Christians and other minorities. Rape and torture are not uncommon and coercion to convert seems to be pretty common.The disinterest of Western governments has led in many places to the cut of rations and the general deterioration of sanitation and healthcare. For Christians these camps are not good places and many avoid them and remain destitute on the streets of the Middle East.

The low priority that many feel even the Holy See has given to plight of Christians has left many of our bothers and sister feel lost and rejected, The help given by Catholic charities is tiny compared to the need and for many it is non-existent, perhaps our modern sense of inclusiveness for all religions blunts our ability to focus on the needs of Christians but it is Christians who are, next to groups like the Yazidis in the greatest need.

The refusal of Europe's politicians to acknowledge the specific place of Christianity in Europe has caused a lumping together of all refugees, It is true all are in need but Christian's needs are greater. The huge throngs that are now making there way through Croatia or in the fields of Calais are obviously from all over the world Pakistanis and Afghanis are there with Syrians and Iraqi, Egyptians and Sudanese, others from Ethiopia and Eritrea. When your children are starving or members of your community have been killed or tortured or you live under the results of the break down in law and order are you a refugee or an economic migrant; the distinction seems rather old fashioned and arbitrary. The world is in turmoil, so many Islamic states seem ungovernable or with past Western interference and growing Islamic militancy on the verge of it, there is a fragility in the Islamic world. Like Iraq bombed by the West 'into the stone age' and with a shrinking oil market elsewhere much of the Islamic world is declining economically - poverty on our borders is not a good recipe for security within our borders.

We should not turn any away but our capacity for help is limited and the numbers of those in need of help will grow but from a very practical point of view we must have a preferential option for Christians - it should be a priority for the Pope and the Holy See. For politicians, as politically incorrect as it might be to raise Christians tend not to be a security threat, Christians tend to integrate much more easily than Muslims, they tend not to have violent opposition to even to those things which mark current Western culture. Christians from the Middle East tend not to look for support from, or have allegiances to foreign governments, I am worried about the Saudi money Islam in Britain today. Christians are more easily identified as a group that are free from radical tendencies.

The great problem is that Europe is unable to cope with such a great influx of refugees. Britain's solution of taking people directly from the camps, though of course so many Christians are afraid to enter them, avoids the madness of Mrs Merkel's welcome to 800,000 which has been the main reason for many to make the great trek into Europe. Though I am happy to welcome anyone, even in my house, I want to be pretty certain they are no threat to me and no threat to our society. I am certainly willing to welcome anyone but if I can express a preference it will always be for brother sister Christians.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Sacraments and Sacramentals

Most priests, like me, don't bless thinks as much we should, we celebrate sacraments but not sacramentals, indeed we seem to have lost the sense of what a sacramental is. This not our Tradition, we are a sacramental Church. The pre-Concilliar rite of blessing was in a sense Eucharistic, it took the mundane and raised it to the holy, it became sacramental, intrinsically different, the post-Concilliar understanding takes the mundane and thanks God for it, and dare I say it, leaves it unchanged. I am not sure what the effect on priesthood and sacramental economy of the Church has been.

'The Tradition' is perhaps best seen in the the pre-Concillior Rite or better still 'Rites' of ordination, or even 'process' or ordination. After admission to the clerical state at tonsure the would be priest (or bishop) would go through various sacramental stages until arriving finally being ordained priest or even bishop. Even after Trent it was not unusual for some men to remain in minor orders all their lives, even some Cardinal Secretaries of State were sub-deacons- it was Vatican II that abolished this ancient process and merely 'institute' to the 'minisitries' of lector and accolyte those preparing for ordination to the major orders - some diocese allow certain men not destined for ordination to receive these ministries.

The important thing was that there was a 'process' of ordination, moving from the sacramental to the sacrament. Generally all orders were conferred by a bishop but in certain circumstances the minor orders could be conferred by a simple priest, for the most part an abbot or prior. There was a sense of gradual unfolding and sharing in the fullness of the sacrament, of the priest or episcopate being approached by steps.

The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults was an attempt to restore this process to baptism, beginning with being an 'inquirer' and ending with Baptism, Confirmation and Communion.

In the times before the Church defined that there were 7 Sacraments there seems to have been a certain fluidity about what was a sacraments and when it occurred. Penance is an example, often it was process. In the East (some parts still) it is possible to go and confess to holy man or even woman, noted for their powers of spiritual direction, to do a penance they impose, to then receive a certificate which can be presented to priest or bishop who then gives sacramental absolution. In the Celtic scheme of things I get the impression that many monks were penitents who simply stayed doing penance with their spiritual master, a penance agreed by bishops at some synod, hence the Irish tariff penitential system.

There was a not very interesting discussion on one of those liturgical forum about deacons anointing the sick. According to the Epistle of St James it is presbyters, not deacons, who are to be sent for to anoint the sick, of course. However there does seem to be evidence at some period and in some places deacons prayed over and anointed the sick with oil. This might well have been sacramental anointing but not necessarily the sacrament of anointing, of course this was before the Church defined the number of sacraments. At this time of course there is lots more evidence of lay people anointing than deacons anointing but even with a less precise sense sacrament I cannot help thinking that the local priest anointing a sick person with Holy Oil hallowed by the bishop and the proper rites was regarded as higher mystery than granny rubbing a wound with oil from the sanctuary lamp or even oil the priest had blessed or goose fat collected after the Martinmas feast.

With the sick today, though now only a priest is supposed to anoint, before he is summoned the faithful should have been praying and bringing and using sacramentals: water and medals from shrines, thankfully are still normal.

Marriage too seems to have been a sacramental process, often confused and with very local Rites. In England it was only with Ne Temere, promulgated in 1907, that a Catholic marriage had to be conducted according to our Rites and before a Catholic priest. In some places marriage could be as simple as presenting one's wife to the priest in the High Street, or it could be a whole series of sacramentals beginning at an exchange of contracts, but also including betrothal, exchange of vows, nuptial Mass and blessing, with ancillary rites, the blessing of houses or beds, or sheets (and there seem to have been a variety of types marriages too) but each step was more binding and more sacred and each blessing added to the sacredness of the marriage.

Against the rather confusing idea of sacramental marriage one should not forget the Church's place in witnessing, other contracts, vows and treaties, and the reconciliation of enemies and ending feuds, by giving them its blessing, and raising to a sacramental level. Depending on the culture many of these social or civic actions had their own rites and rituals, even their own guilds to safeguard them. There are interesting accounts for example of crusaders vowing to support one another, to share their resources, to fight for one another. to be bound to one other, even to death. It is not a marriage, though like religious vow, it would have been binding, sacramentally

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Cardinals Mud Wrestling

I try to avoid criticism of Popes, some Catholics would find excuses for Alexander VI, once that string of mules had left the Lateran and the silver they had carried had been distributed to the Cardinal electors, and the tiara was placed upon the Borgia brow. Even the Popes of the Pornocracy could be excused - troubled childhoods. Pius XII employing Bugnini - care for the unemployable.

The Church is rough inside - serenity is a fiction. Bishop Barron before his elevation spoke of the Synod as being like the contents of sausage, though you might want to eat it you don't want to know what goes into it. Nevertheless the Holy Father has called for 'parrhesia' and already there has been a lot of that around, whoever thought they would see Cardinals mud wrestling or publicly denouncing journalists for lying about racist comments only to have a video published that revealed the journo to be correct and the Cardinal revealed as a liar or Archbishops fictionalising paragraphs in the a Synod Relatio.

I fear the approaching Synod. I'm not sure what will emerge, something unpleasant most probably. I am not sure if human inefficiency or Pope Francis or the Holy Spirit is behind the mess but there seem to be numerous agendas and it isn't just the obvious things that most commentators have picked up on.

1) The role of the Pope: After Benedict's resignation it has been impossible for any serious Catholic to continue thinking of the Papacy in the same way we have for the past 150 years. Though we might have denied it, I think many Catholics thought of the Pope in semi-divine terms, at least in a terms 'office' rather than fallible human being with strengths and failings. I think I would have denied the Pope was merely a part of a faction, but that becomes increasingly difficult as one sees many of Francis' of nominees for the Synod - Cardinal Daneels? Yet though the Pope speaks of decentralisation and synodality this is imposed by the most monarchical papacy ever. I am sure that after this Papacy, even Francis collaborators will be looking for a completely different style, away from the idea of the Church as the Papal fiefdom, or as the Pope being its President, collegiality demands better.
2) One of the things that was very important in Pope Benedict's Regensburg speech was the idea of Christianity being based on Greco-Roman thought. The New Testament and the ancient Fathers are after all, full of Aristotelian philosophy and ideas and this has dominated Western theology up until the 19th century. Although Hegelian ideas are there within the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the notion of 'subsists', for instance, when describing the Catholic Church, they are easily overlooked. The Synod in many ways seems to be a battle between Germany and the rest of the World. Vatican II's call to return to the Scripture and the Fathers is being extended by Cardinal Kasper and his allies to include the thought of those 19th century German school philosophers who have been so influential on them.
3) In many ways, it is the 'hermeneutic of continuity' versus 'the hermeneutic of rupture' is at the very forefront of what some Italian journalists are referring to as "adapters" and "upholders". The big question is: is the Church recreated in each new age? Are we free to turn out back on the thought of previous generations? Can we remake history at the stroke of a pen or as part the action of a Synod? In the past, change was organic, from the bottom up. Now, change is from the top down, the whim of a Pontiff or the whim of a Council or the whim of a Synod. It's the entry of a new reality for the Church - a reality where everything is "relative".
4) 'Adapters' and 'upholders' have been very much the feature of contemporary Protestantism and Anglicanism and the adapters have won. One of things I admire (is that the right word) Francis for is admitting that this is and has been part of Catholicism since at least the Enlightenment, St Pius X tried to crush it but in fact drove it underground, it seems as if the Synod will be the first round in a battle in which side or the other will eventually triumph, or 'adapters' and 'upholder' will learn to compromise. 
5) I have before suggested that one of my concerns is the relationship of the Church to God that will be played out at the Synod, who is the dominant partner - is it scripture and the Word of God or is it human experiernce?