Sunday, December 08, 2013
Saturday, December 07, 2013
I am sure it is not by accident that we have two Saints who fought to defend the divinity of Christ in the first week of Advent. St Nicholas's legend tells us he tore the beards of Arians at the Council of Nicea and Ambrose confronted an Arian Emperor and an Arian court.
Arianism says that the Son is less than the Father, he was not born before time began, that hence the Nicean Creed proclaims
... one Lord Jesus Christ,Pope Francis speaks of Pelagianism or neo-Pelagianism but Pelagianism is the fruit of Arianism. If Jesus is less than God then his example rather than his Divine power becomes more important, it is our response to him rather than his Grace that becomes stressed, our response to him becomes more important than he is. His teaching becomes a memory of the Church rather than the dynamic power that remains with the Church until the end of time. He becomes a historic event rather than present Presence.
the only begotten Son of God,
begotten of his Father before all worlds,
God of God, Light of Light,
very God of very God,
begotten, not made,
being of one substance with the Father;
by whom all things were made;
who for us men and for our salvation
came down from heaven ...
So have the Arians won? Is Christ now more a moral example rather than a living Presence.
If we believe sacraments are empty of Power that they are tokens of Christ, then we are probably Arians.
If we believe God is distant that our prayers are not heard, that there is a great gulf between us and God, then we are probably Arian.
If we believe that the Word of God is about giving a moral example which only a few can fulfil rather than something which is life changing with ease if we are open to Grace, then we are probably Arian.
If we see the liturgy it terms of giving us comfort, bringing us closer to the memory of Christ rather than the act in which we participate in the life of the Father through the Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit we are probably Arian.
If we see the Church not as a Mystical Communion but as something human we are probably Arian.
If we reduce the Mass to a meal or to community celebration, we are probably Arian.
If Confession is really just prayerful counselling, or therapy, we are probably Arian.
If we think prayer is just being still, we are probably Arian.
If we lack hope, we are probably Arian.
If we lack faith, we are probably Arian.
Above all if we lack charity, we are probably Arian.
Anything which tends to reduce Jesus, is Arian. Part of our fallen human nature is to dethrone God, to trample him in the dust, to crucify him. In the West, especially, we have a tendency to chip away at Christ's divinity, to reduce to our level rather than accepting he takes us to raise us up to his level. to being Sons. As he is by nature we are made by adoption, but because he is God-Man.
Friday, December 06, 2013
In 1543 the Council of Trent met and Wednesday marked the 450th anniversary of its closure. It is worth noting that the background to the Council is quite similar to the condition of the Church today, there where sexual scandals exemplified by the Borgia, there was partisan careerism exemplified by the Rovera pope, the fearsome warrior Julius II, there were financial scandals, the selling of indulgences by the same pope, there was even a 'gay lobby' on the part of many Curial officials - remember half a century before 'the Greek vice' had been a particular target of Savonarola,
To regard the period before Trent as being a time of doctrinal clarity is to demonstrate both an ignorance of history and to underestimate the importance of the great Council. In England Lollardy had existed since the mid-fourteenth century as an undercurrent, the same in Northern Italy and Switzerland with Waldensians, the great European heresiarchs of the 16th century built on an already established foundation.
Popes, bishops, priests, abbots, monks along with Emperors, kings and other magnates exploited the faith for their own personal and political advantage. Spurious doctrines tinged with superstition were as common as spurious relics. When heresy reared its head as a new intellectual fashion, the clergy, for the most part, either took it up or because of ignorance were ill equipped to combat it. In Northern Europe principality after principality fell away from the true faith leaving the definitions the Catholic belief ragged and the clergy and faithful demoralised.
If one wishes to understand what was wrong before, or where the Church and it teaching was weak and under attack, it is well worth looking at what Trent saw as important. Its major concern seems to have been the reform of the clergy, not just their intellectual development but their spiritual and moral formation, concubinage, simony, empty benefices, lack of pastoral care, the lack of an evangelical example, seem to have been as much a problem as shaky theology. The new technology of movable type meant that for the first time not only could the Church's theology be made widely available but also its Rites could be standardised with greater ease than with costly manuscripts - it is worth noting that pre-Trent Pontificals were more or less rites peculiar to each diocese. Trent spent a great of time on Justification and Grace because the Medieval theology was imprecise, ultimately giving an imprecise image of God, before moving on to re-write the Rites. The development of the 'Tridentine Mass' is interesting, other Rites were permitted providing they had a 200 year pedigree, which presumably would suggest providing that they were free from nascent Protestantism or exaggerated local preference.
What Trent does with great force is to introduce Thomism into the centre of Catholicism as a unifying force rather than as a possible option, a school of theology amongst other schools. At the most obvious level Trent makes Thomas' definition of Transubstantiation de fidei because previous teaching on the Real Presence was imprecise and open to misreading.
I see liberalism and confusion as being the 'spirit' of Vatican II, Ultramontanism as the 'spirit' of Vatican I. The 'spirit' of Trent is perhaps seeing too harsh a break between the theologies that united East and West before the Great Schism. Trent in many ways marks a Westernisation of Catholicism, as the decline and fall of Constantinople a century before mark the Orientalisation of Orthodoxy. For Catholicism the fruit of the Reformation, because of the Fathers of Trent, was the Glorious Counter-Reformation.
Stephen Beale has a very worthwhile article: Lessons from the Council of Trent:
The achievements of the Counter-Reformation are breathtaking: It gave rise to great religious orders like the Discalced Carmelites, the Capuchins, and the Jesuits, who, in turn launched the great missions to South America, Africa, China and Japan. It gave birth to great saints like St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Philip Neri, and St. Francis de Sales and inspired a new era of devotional fervor, as exemplified in books written by many of those saints, like The Spiritual Exercises and An Introduction to the Devout Life. And it created the form of Catholicism that withstood centuries of social strife and political turmoil, from the French Revolution to the emergence of communism...
Thursday, December 05, 2013
I tend not to lift entire pieces from other people publications, I make an exception here, it is the Catholic Herald's obituary by Francis Phillips for Alison Davis:
Alison Davis was born with spina bifida. She later developed conditions including osteoporosis, arthritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Coping with these permanently disabling and painful conditions dominated but did not define her life. Indeed, they led her to champion the rights of the vulnerable, the disabled and the unborn, first as an atheist and then as a Catholic.
Her early adult life was marked by a determination to live as normal a life as possible, despite having to use a wheelchair. She studied sociology at university, where she stopped believing in God. Writing about this period of her life in a paper she delivered to a New Zealand Family Life International Conference in 2009 she was honest: “It was largely because I wanted to live a lifestyle I knew was incompatible with the Christian faith.” She married young, in 1975, but after ten years in which she “tried very hard to find happiness without God”, the marriage failed.
At university Alison had strongly supported a woman’s right to choose abortion but her attitude changed after she read of the case of a baby girl, Louise, born in 1979 with the same disabilities as hers, who had been deliberately starved and dehydrated to death by Dr Donald Garrow of the High Wycombe Hospital. The case, which received wide publicity at the time, shocked her to the core.
In 1981 the Guardian published a letter in which she criticised the killing of newborn disabled babies. The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) contacted her and argued that killing the newborn disabled was a consequence of killing the unborn. Alison was reluctant to give weight to SPUC’s arguments but within a couple of years she accepted them and became pro-life. From 1983 Alison worked full-time for SPUC’s newly developed Handicap Division (its name was later changed to No Less Human), for disabled people as well as their families and carers, and became a major commentator on anti-life policies which discriminated against disabled people.
John Smeaton, chief executive of SPUC, writes that “In spite of serious illness [Alison] continued to write, publish and broadcast on the eugenic nature of the Abortion Act and on healthcare and government policies, including major interviews on BBC’s Newsnight, the World Service’s Heart and Soul: Choosing Life series and leading letters in the national newspapers.”
In 1985 her marriage ended and in the following years a number of serious personal difficulties resulted in her making several suicide attempts. Yet paradoxically, she also started to search for religious belief. Having studied other world faiths, she turned to the Bible. “I began to think it could just be true,” she wrote. In 1986 she went to Scotland to stay with the prominent pro-life priest, Fr James Morrow of Humanae Vitae House in Braemar. He taught her to say the Rosary and she attended Mass in his chapel.
Yet the road to the Church was not easy and Alison still struggled to find meaning in life. Joining a pilgrimage to Lourdes she began to understand that she and the other sick people there were very much loved by God in their suffering. In 1987 she met Colin Harte who was working for SPUC. From 1989 he was her devoted companion and carer for the rest of her life; indeed, it was Alison’s conviction that pro-lifers should not compromise and exclude disabled babies in attempts to lower the abortion upper limit (as happened with David Alton’s 1987-88 Bill) that led Harte to question the whole basis of incremental legislation and to write his own book on the subject, Changing Unjust Laws Justly; Pro-Life Solidarity with the Last and the Least (2005).
During a second pilgrimage to Lourdes Alison learned for the first time that suffering need not be wasted; it can be offered up to God on behalf of others. She became increasingly drawn to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Finally, on Easter Sunday, 31 March 1991, she was received into the Church.
Although Alison knew she had “come home”, being a Catholic brought its own difficulties. She discovered some churches couldn’t accommodate wheelchair users and she sometimes experienced an acute sense of rejection. She learnt that her Faith would not remove the sorrows of life but that it does provide the grace and strength necessary to live with them. A visit to Calcutta over Christmas in 1991, and witnessing the love a pavement-dwelling family had for their tiny baby, brought home to her the infinite value of each human being created by God.
In 1995, with Colin’s help, she set up a charity for disabled children in South India. It gave her a sense of purpose in life that radically transformed the ensuing years. This changed perspective taught her the danger of euthanasia, which encourages people to make ultimate choices at a low point in their lives, on the assumption that it will never change for the better.
As someone who lived a life of considerable suffering, Alison often spoke of the opportunity to share in the sufferings of Christ, not merely as a privilege but as “the greatest privilege in the world.” Shortly before her death Colin Harte wrote, “Alison frequently heard it said after someone had died, ‘At least his (or her) suffering is now over.’ She asked me several times not to let anyone say that after she died, because she felt it diminished the particular gift she had to offer God. The Church provides a beautiful and profound teaching on suffering, but for many Catholics there is little understanding or appreciation of it. Alison’s life of intense suffering – physical, social, emotional, mental and spiritual – is an exceptional witness to the privilege and dignity of suffering in union with Christ.”
May she rest in peace
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Is there a new Franciscan Ecclesiology? It seems as if orthodoxy is now no longer a requirement in the Catholic Church that we should recognise 'what is' rather than insist on 'what should be'. Pastoral realism seems to be what Pope Francis is insisting on. Every bishop, every priest, every informed lay person knows that there is great gulf between 'what is' and 'what should be'.
The Pope talks about not refusing baptism to the children of those who are not married or divorced and remarried, this might be an issue in Argentina but I know of no priest in England and Wales who would refuse baptism on that issue. The vast majority of those I marry are living together before marriage, some chastely but most, I assume, not. Contraception, or even early stage 'contraceptive' abortion are as normal amongst Catholics as non-Catholics according to various surveys. Those in 'irregular unions' or 'same sex unions' seem not to understand the Church's teaching, or have rejected it. Many priests who might want to adopt a position on these issues know that they would not be backed up by their bishop and that their brother priests are happy to turn a blind eye, it is difficult to be the odd one out, and effectively put people in 'bad faith' or in a state of simple confusion if most bishops and priests are 'pastoral'. The Church is after all about Communion, we are not Presbyterians, where individual priests do their own thing without reference to the head of the local Church. We are 'in Communion' with Christ and his Church because of our Communion with our Bishop, every Mass is an act of Communion with the local Bishop.
Sandro Magister speaks of 'a Federal Church' and draws on two issues raised by Francis' Exhortation, a) Synodalism and local bishops meeting in their Episcopal Conferences and exercising doctrinal autonomy, b) Enculturation and the de-Westernisation or de-Helenisation of Catholicism, both of which were opposed by rigorously by Benedict XVI.
Benedict represents the tidy centralised Church, Francis the messy decentralised Church, 'Go back to your dioceses and make a mess'. The great problem is that the we Catholics have no experience of a decentralised Church, like David Cameron's 'equal marriage' it is an untried experiment. Already, as Magister points out, priests are being sent home from the Roman dicasteries, heads of certain formerly powerful dicasteries have not been appointed. The CDW is one example, in a decentralised Church, presumably the local bishops will decide on how liturgy is celebrated in their local Churches, and dare I suggest, following the principle of lex credendi lex orandi, what doctrines are celebrated.
As Catholics we believe that no Bishop even the Bishop of Rome can change doctrine but any Bishop can choose to ignore certain doctrines or simply downplay them.
I am not sure what is going on in the tussle between Mueller and Zollitsch both sides claim to have the Pope on their side, perhaps both do, perhaps the Pope just wants them to sort things out between themselves. It is interesting that no pressure, as far as we know, has been put on the German Bishops to change their permission to issue abortiofacients in German Catholic hospitals. Our experience over the last 50 years is that what starts in Germany spreads to the rest of the Church.
I am anxious about the phrase 'genuine doctrinal authority' Pope Francis hasn't explained it. Could it mean that German bishops might decide to establish a rite for the ordering (rather than ordaining) of deaconesses on their 'genuine doctrinal authority', can it be kept in Germany? What will stop them from allowing inter-communion with Lutherans, or for that matter Concelebration with them, which already happens in some places in Germany, why should it not spread to other national Churches?
The problem is that doctrinally in many parts of the world doctrinally the Church is in a mess, unlike the Orthodox Church we Catholics do not have a strong sense of being part of an ancient Tradition or even much sense of Unity, indeed our 'Tradition' has been to throw out babies with bath water.
At the the meeting of the Guild of the Blessed Titus Brandsma on Saturday I asked for prayers for Alison Davis, the leader of No Less Human, this morning Alison died. Pray for her.
Those who cared for her and knew her in recent years believe her be great saint, in that she wished conform her life to Cross of Christ, embracing it, loving it, finding meaning and hope in it - pray for her and for those who loved her, especially Colin Harte who is the picture with her on her last visit to her beloved Lourdes.
See John Smeaton
Those who cared for her and knew her in recent years believe her be great saint, in that she wished conform her life to Cross of Christ, embracing it, loving it, finding meaning and hope in it - pray for her and for those who loved her, especially Colin Harte who is the picture with her on her last visit to her beloved Lourdes.
See John Smeaton
Monday, December 02, 2013
Jes·u·it·i·calOr as the say you can take the Jesuit out of the Jesuits but not the Jesuit out of the Jesuit.
of or pertaining to Jesuits or Jesuitism.
( often lowercase ) practicing casuistry or equivocation; using subtle or oversubtle reasoning; crafty; sly; intriguing.
On Saturday Radio Vatican said, Pope Francis had said,
“In the Gospel, Jesus does not become angry, but pretends to when the disciples do not understand him,”The ancient Fathers would baulk at such a suggestion, I can't think of one who would be be comfortable with the idea that the Gospels did not reveal the plain meaning of what Jesus said and did, it is only the Jesuits of the 17th century who would begin to suggest otherwise.
There is no suggestion in the Gospels that Jesus feigns, or pretends anything, on the contrary he is the 'Truth', he says, "Let you 'yes' mean 'yes' and you 'no' mean 'no'". His Kingdom stands in contradistinction to that of the kingdom of the Father of Lies.
If Jesus really does 'pretend' to be angry but isn't really what else does he pretend? Is he really just 'acting' in other emotional responses, when he sighs, when he weeps, when he rails against the Pharisees. Is he really grinning broadly when he calls Simon Peter, 'Satan'?
I do not agree with Pope Francis on this, we do not need smiley or angry face marks to interpret the Gospels.
Perhaps this says more about the Pope than it does about Jesus. Rather than Jesus pretending, is Pope Francis 'pretending'? After all if one believes the Son of God can and does 'pretend', why shouldn't the Pope? and if the Pope can 'pretend', why not the Church?
I really do think this is a very big issue, the ramifications run very deep, the implication is that the plain meaning of scripture is not readily available to the ordinary reader or hearer, it also means that for ordinary Catholics it is alright to 'pretend' for affect or for some other reason. If Jesus did it, why is shouldn't the Vatican Bank in its accounts or a Bishop defending his diocese against accusation of sexual abuse of minors, or why not a divorced and remarried Catholic 'pretend' and receive Communion anyhow. If 'pretending' is alright, why not hypocrisy, or downright lying?
Friday, November 29, 2013
I haven't finished reading Evangelii gaudium, I must admit, I found the Pope Emeritus easier to read, some bits of the Exhortation I find incomprehensible, the stuff on 'not spheres' 'but polyhedrons' seems as arcane as Pythagoras, what does it mean? Then other bits and pieces seem to be a rehash of twentieth century speculative theology, like the bit about atheist salvation. I am sure at the end there will be a bit on Mary the Evangelist, maybe I am being Promethean.
Here, at 7pm on 7th December, next Saturday, we are having our annual -we did it last year- procession in honour of the Immaculate Conception, we are going from the Church to the Clocktower in the centre of town, there we are going to say Pope Francis' prayer for the Consecration of the World.
Last year we had just under a hundred people, this year I am sure Our Lady will increase the numbers. What was so noticeable last year was the degree of enthusiasm with which the procession was met, Chinese and Pakistani waiters left their restaurants just to watch the procession pass, a few Spanish students joined the procession. Last year we handed out those cheap plastic Rosaries along with how say the Rosary cards, this year it is Miraculous Medals and a thing the Copts Orthodox here in Brighton do, so 'people will remember the sweetness of Christ' we are going to hand out sweets. Evangelisation should be about 'sweetness', I hate those sour 'marches for Jesus'.
We got hold of a thousand Miraculous Medals, I gave out about 300 hundred at Mass last week, on the basis of 'one for you and one to evangelise with' I could have given out lots more, people wanted them, not just for themselves but yes, to evangelise with.
The Church's sacramentals are a good thing to be generous with, I like to encourage people take palms and blessed candles home for the sick or lapsed, every year I keep meaning to get hundreds of little plastic bottles for Paschal Water for the same purpose and I have looked at getting quantities of bambini for distribution at Christmas, I haven't yet found a cheap supply. Books and pamphlets are useful but 'things' I suspect are a more useful way for people to begin a conversation about faith or prayer and their experience of the mercy of Jesus.
In the great days of Catholic evangelism the 'model' was invariably a Marian, one of simply showing Jesus, in Gospels it happens in the Visitation, with the Shepherds, with the Wise Men. The great shrines of Lourdes and Fatima are also great centres of evangelisation, she introduces people to the mystery of Christ.
Having just peeked at the end of E.G. the Pope doesn't exactly say that, but it works.
Mary is always lavish in her giving!
Thursday, November 28, 2013
What does "self-absorbed promethean neo-pelagianism" mean?
It is phrase Pope Francis has used elsewhere but it appears again in Evangelii Gaudium
94. This worldliness can be fuelled in two deeply interrelated ways. One is the attraction of gnosticism, a purely subjective faith whose only interest is a certain experience or a set of ideas and bits of information which are meant to console and enlighten, but which ultimately keep one imprisoned in his or her own thoughts and feelings. The other is the self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism of those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying. In neither case is one really concerned about Jesus Christ or others. These are manifestations of an anthropocentric immanentism. It is impossible to think that a genuine evangelizing thrust could emerge from these adulterated forms of Christianity.Notice first he uses the them as the other extreme to gnosticism, those "whose only interest is a certain experience or a set of ideas and bits of information which are meant to console and enlighten, but which ultimately keep one imprisoned in his or her own thoughts and feelings." I presume here he is speaking about 'cafeteria' or 'pic n mix' or 'feel good' Catholicism, a Catholicism without traction, that simply gives comfort or backs up one's own worldly ideas.
On the other extreme then is the "self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism".
'Self-absorbtion' is obviously contrary to the Gospel, it is as remote from the teaching of Jesus as masturbation is from the loving, life-giving, self giving encounter between husband and wife, it is a denial of the Great Commandment to love God and our neighbour.
'Promethean' is slightly more difficult. Prometheus was a Greek demigod who created man from clay and gifted him with fire, for which he was punished by Zeus who chained Prometheus to a rock where a vulture came and daily fed on his liver.
The term "Prometheism" was suggested by the Greek myth of Prometheus, whose gift of fire to mankind, in defiance of Zeus, came to symbolize enlightenment and resistance to despotic authority, it was the name of an early 20th century slightly anarchic Polish political movement but it drew its inspiration from the enlightenment which is perhaps significant here. Perhaps what the Pope is suggesting is something individualistic, something which is actually contrary to Catholic Tradition. It is the self-righteous or as the Pope would say, 'self-referential', pretentious Phariseeism that quotes documents and texts to condemn others but actually refuses to be converted by them.
"Neopelagianism" is an easier term, it excludes the necessity of Grace for salvation, again it is individualistic, again it excludes a dependence on God, which is at the heart of Francis' preaching on 'mercy'.
He links the whole phrase to those who, 'observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past'. He has used 'neopelagian' previously to describe certain traditional Catholics, well actually the SSPX. I think what he is saying, which the whole of Evangelii Gaudium seems to be saying is that we have be absorbed into the wondrous life-changing joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ rather than being curators of a museum or experimenters in a laboratory.
The whole of the document seems to be a call to the centre, not as we would like it to be but as it actually is. Whenever I read Francis I feel like a schoolboy in privileged Jesuit school being given a pep talk by the headmaster, in which I am being told of the importance of everyone pulling together not so much for the good of the school but ultimately for the greater glory of God, Ad maiorem Dei gloriam.
There is always the sense that we are not doing well enough. A friend of mine reminded me that at the heart of Jesuit spirituality was the twice daily examen of conscience, on how prayer and everything else affects our living the Gospel.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
This is significant for several reasons:
- It is the first Traditional Rite Mass there in forty years.
- He will launch a new book, "Corpus Christi - Holy Communion and the Renewal of the Church
- Perhaps most important, it is a deliberate policy statement by the newly appointed Dean and Chaplain about the future direction of the Catholic mission in the University College Cork and the use and purpose of this beautiful chapel.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Will Pope Francis stop the German tanks?
According to Reuters the German bishops intend to introduce plans to admit divorced and 'remarried' Catholics to Holy Communion, this is the first serious crisis in the Franciscan Papacy. The German bishop have spent the last 60 years bullying the Church. They introduced Communion in the hand they introduced female altar servers, they have continually turned a blind eye to dissenting theologians, recently they voted to allow the morning after pill to be dispensed in hospitals under their control.
They are powerful in Church terms because of their great wealth through Church Tax, which is also their weakness, because it means they are always beholden to the State, and to those who pay the tax and have little or no faith. It is the German church that has spawned such dissident groups as call for female ordination, priests living in concubinage, far from being healthy the German Church is a source of disease and corruption. The Rhine has been flowing into the Tiber for too long, it must stop.
Unlike Communion in the hand or female servers the admission of those in second marriages seems to be a direct attack on the clear teaching of the Gospels,
Matthew 19:3-9 — The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ ? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for [porneia] sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”Adultery along with post baptismal murder and apostasy was always regarded as one of the sins that separated someone Christ.
This is truly a sad move, and many might suggest it has been encouraged by the Pope's own talk on 'liberalisation' earlier in his Papacy, though of course through Abp Mueller there has been a great deal of back peddling.
From the time of Bismark, well before the Vatican Council, the German bishops have shown contempt and arrogance towards Communion with the rest of the Church, will Francis have the courage to stop German aggression?
Monday, November 25, 2013
I have a certain feeling of sympathy towards Pius XII, his obvious antipathy towards Hitler, his personal desire to help the Jews in Rome, the huge moral dilemma he lived with constantly, of the temptation to make an outright condemnation of Nazism but fearing the consequences, even his ambiguous relationship with Italian Facism, it makes him human. At the dawn of the age of mass communication he strode the world stage as the embodiment of Catholicism, a counter-weight to those other huge men who strode the world stage and embodied Russia or Germany. It was an age of men who were in a sense 'manufactured' and projected onto the cinema screen in huge images or whose words for the first time could be heard not by at most a few thousand but by millions.
In the case of Pope Pius there is something endearing about his neurotic belief in monkey glands and quack medicine and that strange nun that governed the papal apartments. What I have never been able to understand is the reverence those who style themselves 'trad' Catholics have for him, he was after all the patron of those ant-heroes of the traddie world like Bugnini et al.
The good Fr Hunwicke is back, he makes the suggestion that Vatican II was really not that important, that Pius XII had already laid the foundations for radical liturgical reform.
The fontal point is this: The process of change was already firmly in place. I do not think that the Council, in fact, made any real difference whatsoever. My train of thought was started by reading some words which Annibale Bugnini wrote in the Preface to his 1956 Commentary on the new Holy Week liturgy. I give my own translation of his Latin:Fr Hunwicke's point is that previous Pope's had seen themselves as 'guardians' of Tradition, whilst Pius XII saw himself as the Pope could do anything. Personally. I can't help but see him as another of those Colossi of the 20th century who thought they could do anything.
"When the Easter Vigil had been restored, a certain keen liturgist did not hesitate to assert: Pope Pius XII, in the history of Liturgy through the ages, will be 'The Restorer of the Easter Vigil'. Now, indeed, by the help of God's grace he is to be called 'The Restorer of Holy Week'; while in the secret of our hearts we do not doubt that still greater things await this indefatigable Labourer, and it is very likely (nec veritatis specie caret) that He will be 'The Restorer of the entire Sacred Liturgy'".
I concur with wise Fr Hunwicke's conclusion.
I think it will be very interesting to see, over the medium term, how Pope Francis understands his Ministry. It can be easy for a good man with admirable motives and who is facing real problems to use the power which his position gives him to take short cuts. It takes a very learned and a very truly humble Pontiff - such as a Benedict XIV or a Benedict XVI - to understand, and to internalise his perception of, what he ought not to do (and I'm not only talking about Liturgy). Pope Francis's two recent utterances which bear upon the Hermeneutic of Continuity make me cautiously optimistic. If this man can consolidate the gains made by our beloved Pope Benedict XVI and at the same time prudently develop the teaching of the Magisterium about the Preferential Option for the Poor, he could turn out to be a great Pontiff.
Friday, November 22, 2013
One of my parishioners told another of my parishioners she wants to serve, we have men serving but not women.
Until recently we had sufficient men to serve, illness and age have taken their toll, and a couple of years ago two of our men went off to begin studying for the priesthood. Being a city centre parish there are not hundreds of children who want to be on the sanctuary and frankly I am glad of that, I am not comfortable being surrounded by children whilst I celebrate Mass, children belong with their parents at Mass. I can do childcare and I can say Mass, I can't do both at the same time. Jesus loved small children but they do not appear to be present either at the Cross or at the Passover. Should those who have not received the Sacrament of Confirmation and therefore not fully initiated be performing a ministerial role in Church?
I can't help feeling that having girls or women serving, apart from being a significant break with tradition, is a first step towards women clergy, 'stealth priestesses'. The function of a server is obviously to assist the priest, a good server will ensure the priest follows the rubrics correctly and enable the priest to be recollected, and if necessary remind him if he forgets anything, like the consecration or the final blessing. No priest should be trusted to go the altar alone. Ideally the server and especially the Master of Ceremonies should have thorough understanding not just of rubrics but of the liturgy itself.
In the Ordinary Form there is no restriction on the number of servers, and although the server doesn't answer on behalf of the congregation, his role is to assist the priest but also to lead the congregation in prayer. He should at least be an example of prayerful deportment and reverence. He should have a deep prayer life and be devout, otherwise what he does is a sham, just play acting.
As Catholics we do not believe women can be priests, or in VII speak, "presidents of the assembly". It is not only that the Church has no authority to ordain women, as Ordinatio Sacerdotalis says but also there is the argument from 'headship', a favourite of some Protestants. The leaders of Christian prayer should be male, the proper leader of prayer in a family should be the father of the family, he stands as an icon of God the Father. His role as a Christian father is to direct family worship, as the head of the family. Ephesians 5 reminds us too that he also stands in the place of Christ the Head and Bridegroom. It is not illogical to assume that a priests immediate assistants, the servers should properly also be male, and leaders or potential leaders of prayer within their own families..
As a husband and father a man has liturgical role that we need to explore, who knows it might be done in the Synod on the Family. At the Extraordinary Form Mass we have no problem finding servers, it is not quite so easy at the Ordinary Form. In the EF traditionally practically every man knew how to serve, it meant that boys and men could receive some formation in the liturgy and prayer. Prayer was seen as manly. Now the priest and servers are often the only men in the church. As someone once said, not too seriously, 'one good reason for only ordaining men is that it ensures there is at least one man at Mass', well with men servers there are likely to be at least two. However there is crisis in the relationship of men and the Church, not many come and not many get involved and consequently feel the call of vocation either to priesthood or fatherhood. Ignoring the role given them by scripture and the t/Tradition does not help, it certainly does not help foster future priests or men in leadership roles within the Church.
I understand that many priests, even though they have gut instinct against it, feel in a spirit of equality obliged to go along with inclusivity and have both male and female servers but there seems to be a denial of an important element of the faith: men and women are equal, yes, but different. To apply this only to the priesthood and not other areas of Church life seems to be dishonest, if understandable.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
The Archbishop of Sens-Auxerre says,
In almost twenty years of episcopate, I have buried one hundred and twenty priests, and I have ordained only one in the dioceses of Yonne and the Jura.If you go to the source, the Archbishop, Monseigneur Yves Patenôtre, chatters on about lay involvement and all that one might expect from a French bureaucrat, basically, 'It ain't my fault'.
I once went to his Cathedral to see the relics of St Thomas Becket, confession was offered on one or two days of the week the rest of the time counselling was offered in the same slot by Mademoiselle ...... .
It is very easy to say, "If I were Pope, I would ...." Well, I hope Pope Francis would get rid of Bishops who allow their diocese to die and rather than donning sack cloth and ashes and cry out to heaven for help, excuse themselves, finding some cunning pastoral plan to cover up their failure.
There was a rather silly myth going around among some English bishops a decade or so ago that the absence of priests was the way God was showing the Church that it needed to empower the laity. So rather than a priest bringing Viaticum to the dying or Communion to the sick, or presiding over non-sacramental prayer the laity took his place, and invariably lay women. In France it is quite normal for lay led funerals, as women 'tend to be more compassionate than men', they tend to do it. I am not sure if it is happening in parts of France yet but there are certain parts of the world where the usual minister of baptism or marriage is not a priest but a catechist, male or female, more likely female. In many places it is a way of introducing female priests by stealth.
Sens-Auxerre is one of those diocese in France where practice has always been a little poor but presumably this Bishop's predecessors managed to attract the 120 priests which this bishop has buried. The problem is that the absence of priests, though bad in itself and a source of great evils, indicates a lack of health in the Church. In France things are certainly not all bad, Paris is doing comparatively well, Frejus-Toulon has as many ordination as the rest of France -excluding Paris- as the rest of France put together. The absence of priests indicates a deep disease, a loss of faith.
Perhaps Monseigneur Patenôtre needs to examine his conscience: has he actually been teaching the Catholic faith over the last twenty years, has he demanded his priests do the same? In France more than anywhere else ideology or theological speculation replaces faith.