Thursday, January 31, 2008

Life unworthy of life

from the Great Herme
John Smeaton has an shocking example of the depths to which debate is sinking on pro-life matters in the UK. Do we live in a civilised country? Draw your own conclusions
Baroness Meacher spoke in Parliament the other day to suggest that for two children she knew with cerebral palsy "It would be in their best interests to have been aborted." Baroness Tonge, clearly aware that it is not politically acceptable to call for the killing of disabled people, attempted to redefine the terms in a way that is eerily familiar:
"... we were not talking here about disabled human beings, but about some grossly abnormal human beings; many of those whom I have seen bear little resemblance to human beings."

Could be Germany in thr 1930s - Terrifying

Cardinal and Bishop in Zimbabwe

As part of their visit to Southern Africa, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Bishop Crispian Hollis are visiting Zimbabwe in fraternal support and solidarity with the Bishops and people of Zimbabwe as guests of the Zimbabwean Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

Guide lines say no to Mum and Dad

Government guidelines for training school officials to be more sensitive to homosexuality, instruct teachers not to use the terms "mum and dad" when referring to students' parents, and to treat "even casual" use of terms like "gay" as equal to racism.
The guidedance was commissioned by the Labour government directly from the homosexual lobby group Stonewall. The document was launched today at a Stonewall conference by Schools Secretary Ed Balls.
Ed Balls said, "Homophobic insults should be viewed as seriously as racism."
"Even casual use of homophobic language in schools can create an atmosphere that isolates young people and can be the forerunner of more serious forms of bullying."
The guidelines say that the word "parents" must replace "mum and dad", and that teachers should educate pupils about civil partnerships and gay adoption rights.
see the rest here: UK Government Education Guidelines: Don't use terms "Mom" and "Dad"

Oh dear, Poor Pope!

Look whst I found here! I love Americans but I dread the idea of what an American "production commpany" might do Marini Uno couold be pretty bad

Just when some thought recent papal liturgies couldn't get any more spectacular, a Maryland-based event firm has been selected "to produce" B16's 17 April Mass at Washington's Nationals Park...
Showcall, Inc. will provide stage and set design and layout, audio visual production, and overall show direction of the public Mass. Showcall will utilize its unique skill set in producing high-profile, high-threat level events and will coordinate with the Washington Nationals to host the first major event in its new baseball stadium. Showcall will work closely with GEP Washington, the overall DMC firm for the visit."We are deeply honored to participate in Pope Benedict's visit and of course, we are delighted that the planning committee has agreed that Showcall's resume of large scale special events and lighting, audio and video equipment inventory are the right fit for executing a Papal celebration of this significance and magnitude." said Ajay R. Patil, co-founder and senior partner of Showcall, Inc.Showcall Inc. was founded in 2001 by Ajay R. Patil and A. Blayne Candy. Since that time, Showcall has provided turnkey production services on an international basis for Summits, White House Conferences, Fortune 100 companies, associations, and national entertainment.

Pope to CDF

from Rorate Caeli
Excerpts of Pope Benedict's impressive address this morning to the Plenary Session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

..the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published in the past year two important Documents, which offered some doctrinal details on essential aspects of the doctrine on the Church and on Evangelization. They are necessary details for the correct development of the ecumenical dialogue and of the dialogue with the religions and cultures of the world.

The first Document carries the title "Responses to some questions regarding certain aspects of the doctrine on the Church" and also reproposes, in the formulations and in the language, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, in full continuity with the doctrine of Catholic Tradition. It is thus confirmed that the one and only Church of Christ has its subsistence, its permanence and its stability in the Catholic Church and that, therefore, the unity, indivisibility, and indestructibility of the Church of Christ are not invalidated by the separations and divisions of Christians.

Besides these fundamental doctrinal specifications, the Document reproposed the correct linguistic use of certain ecclesiological expressions, which risk being misunderstood, and calls to attention to that end the difference which still remains, among the diverse Christian Confessions, in the understanding of being Church, in a properly theological sense.


The affirmation of the Second Vatican Council that the true Church of Christ "subsists in the Catholic Church" (Dogm. Const. Lumen gentium), does not refer solely to the relations with Christian Churches and ecclesial communities, but it extends also to the definition of the relations with the religions and cultures of the world. The same Second Vatican Council, in the Dignitatis humanae humanae on religious liberty, affirms that "this one true religion subsists in the Catholic Church [sic], to which the Lord Jesus committed the duty of spreading it abroad among all men".

Inflation and the bitterness of the Reformation

During a quick skim through the blogs this morning i came on this ion Roman Catholicism:

The best work on the subject is that of Hilaire Belloc entitled Charles I.

He shows how the monarchy was financially squeezed by the massive inflation that was created by the English Protestant Reformation of King Henry VIII - 300% running inflation year after year.

The traditional revenues of the Crown, such as Ship Money and Poundage and Tunnage, were so tightly squeezed that the King did not have enough to run the state, let alone defend the state.

The Puritan peers, MPs, lawyers and the new men, enriched from the plunder of the monasteries, saw their chance and seized, squeezing the King tighter and tighter so as to demand more and more concessions against the Church of England, the Crown and the Royal prerogative.

The King sought to govern for the whole people and not just for the rich new men.

The Parliamentary Puritans sought to govern for their own benefit and the benefit of the rich, all the time disguising their rapacity as religious Reformation.

This is made crystal clear by the Protestant Anglican author and MP, William Cobbett, in his famous book The Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland in which he flays utterly the rapacious rich new men who profited from the spoliation of the monasteries and ground the face of the poor so utterly as to create a whole new class of paupers, the like of which had never befopre been seen in Merrie England of old when Englishmen were all Catholic.

Eventually, like all revolutions, one brood of rebels began to declare war on others and t swallow them up so that a strong man was soon to emerge and so provide the model for future Fascist dictators

It reminded me of passage in Dr Daniel Rock's famous Heirurgia, he details some of the consequences of the Protestant Reformation. The closure of the monasteries he claims led directly to the change in status of the poor: no monasteries meant no one to care for the poor, therefore the poor are left to wander the streets with no support, hence the introduction of the draconian Elizabethan Poor Laws.
What he does concentrate on was its effect on beekeeping, Catholic devoption consumed vast quantities of beeswax. Wax was the important thing, honey the by-product. Paschal Candles in the great cathedrals were huge, weighed in hundredweights and stones, they were kept burning from Easter to Pentecost, and often reached from the sanctuary floor to the clerestory -hence the lighting of the triple taper in the old form of the Paschal Vigil. Money was often left in wills for lights to be kept burning perpetually before the Blessed Sacrament or a sacred image. With the Protestant Reformation all this was swept away, tallow replaced wax for lighting and beekeepers were thrown out of work.
Rock doesn't say that the other consequence was that the cost of honey, the normal sweetner at the time went through the roof, ale replaced mead as the normal drink in England, the search for a replacement then lead to the farming of sugar cane in the Indies and England's involvement in the slave trade, and attempt to do something about the bitter taste left in the mouths of the people of England by Protestantism after those sweet Catholic centuries.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Innocent III: I want!

I Googled "Innocent III" looking for the origins of the picture of him in the post below, for Dr Peter Wright, I couldn't find it, in few minutes I had spare but I did find the Innocent III action toy armed a with a bull of Excomunication.
It is only $4.99 for a set of two "with removable Pope hat!"
If the website suddenly sees a rise in sales through advertising here, maybe they could send me one.
I would love it, though it lacks the ears of the original, every Catholic home schooled child should have one.
Here is what the advertisng says is says:
Introduce this Pope Innocent III Action Figure to your other figures and watch the spiritual sparks fly! Armed with his formidable power of excommunication and an intimidating scroll inscribed with Latin text, this 6″ tall, hard plastic model of the 176th Pope will soon have all your other action figures lining up for confession. Read the back of the illustrated blistercard and you’ll find that Pope Innocent III was a good guy in all respects. He was a patron of the arts, cared about orphans, built a hospital and reunified the Papal States! Comes with removable fancy Pope hat.

Pope Innocent III Action Figure
item 11147
Set of 2 $4.99
The site also has a "Lord's prayer singing alarm clock"!


During the reign of King John the whole of England was placed under Interdict by Innocent III in 1204.

I had a priest visit me whose Bishop has a reputation in Rome for issuing Interdicts regularly. I am not going to identify where he is from but Interdict is a pretty harsh punishment. It means that only the first and last sacraments are celebrated, cemeteries are closed or the dead are buried without the Rites of the Church, Mass is not celebrated, nothing maybe blessed, marriages are not celebrated.
My visitor works in a pretty lawless part of the world. One reason for an Interdict being issued was that someone had been killed in a cemetery during a funeral, in this part of the world vendettas are pretty common, the good Bishop was making a stand and demanded repentance from those who perpetrated the crime. His intention was for the community to understand that the Church was totally opposed to such crimes.

On another occasion a foreign priest who had been working in his diocese refused to return to his home diocese and vacate the presbytery and church he been working in, the bishop suspended him from celebrating the sacraments publicly, the priest continued to do so, when the people had been notified of the Bishop's action most ignored him and continued to attend Mass celebrated by the priest so he placed the whole parish under Interdict until they accepted his replacement.

Keeping Vigil with Vietnam

Rocco Palmo runs a story this morning about Catholics in Hanoi demonstrating against the Government sequestration of Church property, the police have been making false reports and beating demonstrators.

Coptic Liturgy

Hallowed Ground has these amzing pictures of clergy at the Coptic Orthodox liturgy. Note the postration which was taken up Moslems

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cat herding

I found this on Ironic Catholic

Pope: Lenten Almsgiving

Pope Benedict XVI urged the faithful not to idolize material goods and to give alms to the poor in his annual Lenten message issued today.

Benedict reminded Roman Catholics that Lent - which starts Wednesday, February 6 and is the period of penance ahead of Easter - also requires them to pray and fast.
But the pontiff this time placed the emphasis on alms-giving which he described as a "specific way to assist those in need" and "an exercise in self-denial to free us from attachment to worldly goods."
"We are not owners but rather administrators of what we posses," Benedict citing the Gospel, said in his message which was issued in the form of an eight-page booklet.
Christians are called to share their material richeswith the poor since to "come to their aid is a duty of justice even prior to being an act of charity," the pontiff said.
However, in "today's world of images" flaunting one's generosity to "make ourselves the centre of attention" was a temptation that must be avoided since it ran against the Gospel teachings, Benedict said.
"Do not let your left hand knowwhat your righthand is doing so that your alms may be done in secret," Benedict said quoting Jesus' words as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew.
The pontiff also said alms-giving was not necessarily about sharing material goods, but also showing others love and charity as exemplified by Jesus who died on the cross to save mankind.
I have just notice Fr Z has what appears to be the complete text of the message, it should upset those who think God is a Capitalist!

Book Me Me

Mulier Fortis tagged me for a meme:

1) Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?

War and Peace, can't remember those Russian names and diminutives.

2) If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?

Tea with Frs Brown, Camillo and Percy Franklin (from Benson’s Lord of the World)

3) (Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for a while, eventually you realise it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?

Any Geoffrey Archer

4) Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?

I often think I have read books which when I reread them I find I have misread them or haven’t actually read the whole thing.

5) You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (If you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead and personalise the VIP).

No idea

6) A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?

Russian: I want to understand those nineteenth century Russian theologians.

7) A mischievous fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?

Like Fr Z, Brevarium Romanum, it is part of the job

8) I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)?

I love reading
Way of the Fathers, I don't have enough time to read the Patrtistic stuff I would like to, so I allow Mike to filter and prece it. He also introduces me to patristic archaeology which I read little about.

9) That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leather bound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free.

Joseph Ratzinger’s library, I would love to read all those careful annotations, even the piano scores.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Human beings beyond science

(CNA).- A joyful Pope Benedict spoke this morning with academics gathered at the Vatican to study the human person. While applauding their efforts, he also told them that science is not capable of fully understanding the mystery of human beings.

The inter-academic conference entitled "The changeable identity of the individual", is the collaborative effort of the "Academie des Sciences de Paris" and by the Pontifical Academy of Science.


The knowledge of human beings is then, the most important of all forms of knowledge".

"Human beings always stand beyond what can be scientifically seen or perceived", the Pope affirmed. This failure manifests itself today in “an incapacity to recognize the foundation upon which human dignity rests, from the embryo until natural death," said the Pope.

"Starting from the question of the new being, who is produced by a fusion of cells and who bears a new and specific genetic heritage", the Holy Father told his audience, "you have highlighted certain essential elements in the mystery of man". Man, said the Pope is "characterized by his otherness. He is a being created by God, a being in the image of God, a being who is loved and is made to love. As a human he is never closed within himself. He is always a bearer of otherness and, from his origins, is in interaction with other human beings".

Contrary to the Darwinian concept of man, Pope Benedict said that “man is not the result of mere chance, of converging circumstances, of determinism, of chemical inter-reactions.”

Man is a being who enjoys a freedom which ... transcends his nature and is a sign of the mystery of otherness that dwells within him. ... This freedom, which is characteristic of human beings, means they can guide their lives to a goal" and "highlights how man's existence has a meaning. In the exercise of his authentic freedom, the individual realizes his vocation, he is fulfilled and gives form to his deepest identity".

Closing his talk, the Pope told the academics, "Human beings have the specific ability of discerning what is good". "In our own time, when the progress of the sciences attracts and seduces for the possibilities it offers, it is more necessary than ever to educate the consciences of our contemporaries to ensure that science does not become the criterion of good, that man is still respected as the centre of creation, and that he does not become the object of ideological manipulation, arbitrary decisions, or abuses".

Receiving Holy Communion

Archbishop Ranjith's intervention into the debate about recieving Holy Communion can only be helpful.

I am trying to train myself to always say "Holy Communion" rather than just "Communion".

I think being able to receive under both kinds is a good thing.

My problems with it are:

  1. The multiplication of vessels, the ideal is the biblical, "one bread and one cup", it is an important sign of unity. Even in the ancient Papal Masses there seems to have been only one ciborium and one chalice.
  2. Where there is no deacon the priest vested and standing in the centre of the church distributes the Sacred Host and an Extrordinary Minister of Holy Communion dressed in lay clothes or as an altar server distributes the Precious Blood to one side, this seems to say the Blood of Christ is less than the Body of Christ.
  3. The use of Extraordinary Ministers, though valuable, is hardly a good idea, even though in this parish it means the sick can receive weekly rather than monthly, the fact they are used diminishes the role of the priest (or deacon) and their connection to the Eucharist and introduces a heirarchy into reception of Communion and into the Church. Being "Extraordinary" means that they are not normal, and the church craves normality: more priests.
  4. Despite having allowed, and encouraged it in our diocese for twenty-five years the reception under both kinds is very patchy, I was at a Confirmation Mass at which less than a third received from the chalice. Most people ignored the Sacred Species under the form of wine which seemed to suggest it was less than that received the form of bread
Receiving Holy Communion in a procession, which is what it should be; though when I said this to an elderly nun some years ago she said it was really a queue (American - line), seems to minimise the horizontal/vertical nature of Holy Communion. There is something very beautiful about families receiving together as opposed to one after another. On Friday evenings we receive Holy Communion at the altar step, it was a pleasure a few weeks ago to see a young married couple receiving the Lord on the tongue whilst they held hands.

People ask me to restore the altar rails, not as a means of separating the sanctuary from the nave but simply so that the elderly might have something to hold onto whilst receiving.

One good thing, so many of our younger people genuflect before receiving, younger people seem to want to receive on the tongue according to the Church's norm rather than in the hand according to the special indult, this could be because here in Brighton we are a multi-cultural parish.

For our Polish community the problem is that so many people simply do not recieve Holy Communion for the rest of us the problem is the other way round.

Ad Orientem: "No go areas" and legitimate debate

I introduced Mass ad orientem this morning, I intend to celebrate this way on Mondays, which happens to be my day off, many priest tend not to say Mass in their parishes on their day off, so if there is any real objection I can say that it is an additional Mass.

Today, being the feast of St Thomas, I said in my short homily that having grown up in the period of the Vatican Council and Humanae Vitae I often heard St Thomas being quoted. I was fascinated by his method in the Summa, even as child of twelve. I loved the fact that he would present a thesis, arguments against it, then arguments in favour. It struck me that this was genuine intellectual enquiry.

When I went to the seminary I was shocked by the fact that at so many levels, most especially with regard to liturgy there were vast "no go areas". We would happily celebrate mass sitting on sofas around a coffee table using a pottery chalice and even sliced leaven bread, with the priest making up his own texts. What was absolutely forbidden was the celebration of the Mass of John XXIII, or discussion of Mass ad orientem, an over stated interest in these was likely to be met with dismissal.

One of things that I welcome during the Pontificate of Pope Benedict is the ability to question honestly the dogmatism of the 70s and 80s. Legitimate experimentation, within the bounds of the rubrics, church teaching and the Tradition seems only to add to the legitimate debate that there should be within the Church.

The questions of Archbishop Ranjith about the way in which Holy Communion is received can only be good thing.

Ranjith on Kneeling for Communion during the liturgy and Communion on the Tongue

New Liturgical Movements quotes in full the preface of a book, Dominus Est by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, where that Bishop analyzes the question of communion recieved kneeling and on the tongue.
The interest thing is the author of the Preface is Archbishop Ranjith of the Congregation for Divine Worship and it is published by the Vatican publishers Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Now I think it is high time to review and re-evaluate such good practices and, if necessary, to abandon the current practice that was not called for by Sacrosanctum Concilium, nor by Fathers, but was only accepted after its illegitimate introduction in some countries. Now, more than ever, we must help the faithful to renew a deep faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in order to strengthen the life of the Church and defend it in the midst of dangerous distortions of the faith that this situation continues to cause.
The whole may be read here

Sunday, January 27, 2008

On Euangellion

The “Good News” that Jesus came to announce mean that “God, in Him, is at hand, that he already rules amongst us as demonstrated by the miracles and healing he performs.” “Where Jesus arrives, the creative Spirit brings life and heals men from the illnesses of the body and of the spirit. God’s lordship manifests itself through man’s complete healing.”
“My dear young friends,” he added, “I know that you are committed to those of your age you who are suffering from war and poverty. Continue on the path that Jesus has shown us to build true peace!”
Before the Marian prayer, the Pope mentioned that at the time of Jesus the “term Gospel” (Euangellion) was used to proclaim Roman emperors. Whatever the content, these proclamations were seen as “good news,” news of salvation because the emperor was seen as the lord of the world and his edict were seen as heralding something good.”
“Applying this word to Jesus’ preaching,” the Pope said, “was heavily charged with criticism. It was like saying that God, not the emperor, was Lord of the world and that the true Gospel was that of Jesus Christ. The ‘Good News’ that Jesus proclaimed is best encapsulated by these words: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt, 4:17; Mk, 1:15). What does this expression mean? It certainly does not mean an earthly kingdom, one found in space and time; instead, it announces that it is God who rules, that God is Lord and this Lordship is present, current and in the process of being realised. The newness of Christ’s message is thus that in Him God is at hand, that he already rules amongst us as demonstrated by the miracles and healing he performs. God rules through his Son made man and the power of the Holy Spirit, called the “the finger of God” (cf Lk, 11:20). Where Jesus arrives, the creative Spirit brings life and heals men from the illnesses of the body and of the spirit. God’s lordship manifests itself through man’s complete healing. This way Jesus shows God’s true face, God at hand; full of mercy for every human being; the God that gives us the gift of life in abundance, his own life. The Kingdom of God is therefore life that asserts itself over death, the light of truth that dissipates the darkness of ignorance and lies.”
“Let us pray the Holiest Mary,” the Pope said, “that She may always obtain for the Church the same passion for the Kingdom of God that moved the mission of Jesus Christ: passion for God; for his lordship over love and life; passion for man encountered in truth with the desire of giving him his most precious treasure, the love of God, his Creator and Father.”
After the Angelus, the Pope talked about today’s celebration of World Leprosy Day launched 55 years ago by Raoul Follereau.
“To all those who suffer from this disease I offer my warmest greetings and a special prayer, which I extent to all those who, by various means, work on their behalf, especially the volunteers who belong to the Association of friends of Raoul Follereau”.

They come back, sometimes.

Two young people from Rome’s Azione Cattolica at the Pope's side at his Audience this morning. They released two doves in what has become a traditional gesture. Taking advantage of the situation the Pope cracked a joke that elicited shouts and applause among the 50,000 people in St Peter. “Sometimes they come back,” he said referring to the fact that occasionally the birds flow back into his studio.

Foetus at London Exhibition

Amy Welbourne says:
Marc Quinn last amazed the public by placing a giant pregnant disabled woman on the Fourth Plinth of Trafalgar Square.
Now he is looking at pregnancy from the inside with nine large sculptures depicting the development of a foetus from 22 days to just before birth.
They have been carved in a pink marble whose mottling conveys the fine veins below the growing child’s skin. They go on display at the White Cube Mason’s Yard gallery, St James’s, tomorrow in Quinn’s first exhibition in the capital since 2005.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Maybe 2011

According to Fr Z the long awaited translation of the Missal into adequate English will not be available until 2011!

I was told in December by Card. Arinze and by Archbp. Ranjith that the new translation probably won’t be ready and released for use for a few more years. Yes, years. Maybe 2011.

I know, some of you will say do it in Latin. Tempting.

Eternal Worship in the Trinity

I am a bit concerned about some of the comments I have received since announcing that I intend to celebrate Mass ad orientem, especially on the blog, many seem to show a rather foreshortened theology of the Mass.

There seems to be undue sense that the Mass is about the Last Supper, and that is what is about primarily, well any Catholic should be aware that the Mass is the re-presentation -emphasis or "re"- of the Sacrifice of Calvary, in an unbloody manner. Yes it is that, but it is more than that, it is also the Worship of Heaven itself.

Calvary is important, not because of Christ's suffering, but because of Christ's total self giving. Killing and blood in "sacrifice" is incidental, the important thing is the offering. On the Cross we glimpse in this brief three hour period the Eternal offering of the Son to the Father. At the heart of the Trinity itself is this act of total self offering. This is the nature of Heavenly Worship: participation in this Eternal Sacrifice, this is the sacrifice which will be offered in "Spirit and in Truth" that Jesus refers to when he speaks to the Samaritan woman at the well. This is why God can say, "I do not want your sacrifices, but a humble and contrite heart, this is what is acceptable to the Lord". It is the humble and contrite heart that the Lord himself offers, as an act of total self-giving.

Andre Rublev shows this in the "Old Testament Trinity", the Son - in blue and brown, points to the offering of the lamb, as he looks in love to the Father clothed in robes of light. The Holy Spirit looks to us the viewer and invites us into his embrace so that we can enter into this circle of Heavenly Worship by entering ourselves into the Sacrifice of the Lamb.

In order to rediscover the true meaning of Christian worship, I think it is absolutely imperative to re-orientate our worship.

Happy Birthday: Code of Canon Law

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the promulgation of the Code of Canon Law. A friend Fr "JM" asked me write a birthday appreciation of the Code, I suggested he should write an ode in praise of the Code, nothing has been forthcoming, so here is an extract from the Holy Father's speech on the subject.

"The law of the Church is, first of all, 'lex libertatis': the law that makes us free to follow Jesus," he concluded. "Hence it is important we know how to show the people of God, the new generations and all those called to follow canon law, the real bond [that law] has with the life of the Church." This must be done in order "to defend the delicate interests of the things of God and to protect the rights of the weakest, [...] but also in order to defend that delicate 'good' which each of the faithful has gratuitously received -- the gift of faith, of the grace of God -- which in the Church cannot remain without adequate legal protection."

I know a priest who prides himself on never having opened the Code of Canon Law, I can't help thinking that without it even the Church can end up as a band of brigands, the law guarantees a just society.
Anyone, especially Canon lawyers, want to offer an ode or sonnet, even a few couplets in praise of the Code?

Friday, January 25, 2008

I escaped it this year

I know the Holy Father would dissapprove of this thought, but I am so glad that I have not been to a single ecumenical service during the whole of the week of prayer for Christian Unity.
I have sympathy with Fr Michael Seed who writes in this weeks Catholic Herald:

....The 100th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ends today. The week was established in 1908 by the founder of my order, the Rev Paul Wattson (an Anglican who became a Catholic a year later). It worked pretty well for the first 60 years, but over the last 40 years it has become ever more complex and problematic. We often say: “Oh, it’s the turn of the Methodists this year” or “It’s the turn of the Anglicans.” It’s their turn to organise “the thing”, whatever the thing is. The week now is an exercise in “forced ecumenism”. It’s dominated by thousands of ecumaniacs. These are people in the grip of a terrible disease called ecumania. There is no cure at the moment. The disease leads to a living death, and it is a very painful one. The week needs to be totally rethought. The emphasis of the next 100 years, I hope, will be on prayer and a deep spirituality.

The greatest joy I had in 2007 was when I was invited to address an
ecumenical clergy meeting in a certain London borough. At the end of my address,
they decided to abolish their pointless meetings. They wanted to wait upon the
Holy Spirit to guide them to a new level of ecumenical life. I suspect that when
they went back and told their congregations the meetings were over there were a
few scarcely suppressed cheers from the pews.

I hate the tedium of these events. Here in Brighton the main thrust of ecumenism seems to be high Anglican vicars who want to prove they are Catholics. A recent converation went as follows, "... well of course we have parishes that are more or less staffed entirely by former Roman clergy". I am afraid that replied, "I would take that seriously if these men woke up one morning and decided they simply couldn't accept the claims of the Catholic Church but instead those who leave the Church tend to do so not because of any theological urge by rather an urge of the loins".

Died at Mass

I heard this on the radio just before I finally got to bed at three this morning, it has been on various news reports:
Pio Lieta, 86, suffered a fatal heart attack during an early-morning service at the Church of the White Madonna last Sunday.
An ambulance was called, and Mr Lieta, whose name means "pious" in Italian, was pronounced dead at the scene.
However, instead of halting the Mass, Father Mario Peron asked for the body to be covered with a white cloth and left Mr Lieta in the nave of the church while he finished the service.
It is against Italian law to move a body without the authorisation of a local magistrate.
"What could I have done?" said Fr Peron afterwards. "The Holy Mass has to be celebrated. It is not right to make an exception for one individual. Only people who do not understand the point of Mass would not understand the logic of my decision. We could not stop. We were united together in church and we prayed for him."
Only a handful of parishioners were present for the early-morning service, and some expressed their surprise at the priest’s decision to L’Adige, the local newspaper. "We should have stopped as a sign of respect," said one unnamed worshipper.
Mr Lieta’s funeral took place at the same church today, and his family said they were not upset by what had happened.
Father Angelo Lieta, his son and a missionary in Chile, said: "My father would have agreed with the continuation of the Mass. I am only sorry I could not have been there myself."

It reminds me of a something one of my predecessors said about a woman who had died at Mass, "one moment she was looking at her Lord under sacramental form, the next she was looking at Him face to face".
The Law of the Church is that once the sacrifice of the Mass has begun it must be completed, so alot depends on at what point of the Mass this man died; before or after the consecration, the reports don't say.

Say a prayer

Say a prayer for one of my parishioners who phoned me yesterday to say that she had, "set fire to her arm". This is the latest in a history 0f self harm.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Pope's Private Mass to Pelerin who supplied the reference for this.

Pope John Paul II was often shown saying his private mass this is only the second time I have seen a video of Benedict XVI, both Pope's of course celebrate facing ad Deum.

Turn to the Lord

Today the Holy Father at his general audience spoke about the week of prayer for Christian unity, see here, in the text that was published the past tense was used, those who heard it, including the venerable Fr Z say he used the present tense, thus:

In the liturgy of the ancient Church, after the sermon the main celebrant -- the bishop or the president of the celebration -- used to say: "Conversi ad Dominum" (turn to the Lord). Then he and everybody else stand up and turn themselves toward the East. All want to look toward Christ. Only if converted, only through this conversion to Christ, in this common look at Christ, can we find the gift of unity.

This little passage is very significant in the light of the ad orientem celebration in the Sistine chapel

read the whole text here

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Do you do excorcisms?

So began a telephone conversation the other evening. It is not unusual to get such telephone calls here in Brighton. One of my predecessors was appointed our diocesan Exorcist. Five years into the job he claimed he had never done an exorcism. Indeed the requests I get are never, well hardly ever, from practicing Catholics, they are always from people who are on the margins of faith or spirituality. They tend to increase when a popular horror film has hit the large or small screen.

Brighton is full of shops selling tarot cards, pentangle jewelry, stuff with goats heads on it, the spirituality section of our bookshops have more on "Magic" or the occult than on Christianity. Often those involved in this type of thing use their "mystical powers" or at least talk of it to frighten their neighbours, or people who have been on the fringes of it grow in a fear that speaks to something visceral, or maybe more often childhood fears, sometimes abuse. There are covens, there are witches, both white and black around. Some people with psychiatric history and glazed eyes and dilated pupils, talk about babies being sacrificed. Someone suggested to me that the number of cats who disappear in the dead of night fall victim to these people, personally I put it down to urban foxes.

Catholics seem to be able to deal with these fears. They know that good is stronger than evil, God stronger than the Devil. The truth of the matter is that Catholics are in my experience more skeptical about the supernatural that many of Brighton's citizens.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The General

Diogenes has a typically picquant piece of the new Jesuit General, do see the photographs of the "murmuration".

Becoming a person

I thought you might be interested in this by the Patristics scholar Mike Acquilla:

It wouldn’t take long for the Fathers — if they were miraculously transported to our time — to recognize America’s moral and political landscape for what it is. Our world is not so different from the world where they lived — the world they converted and healed.

But who belongs to our society? Who belongs to our world? For the last generation, Americans have tried to place certain classes of humans beyond the protection of the law, outside the definition of personhood. It began with the fetus, the preborn child. Court decisions placed arbitrary limits — at the first trimester, or second, or birth. But does anyone take these seriously? What is it about a day of development — or a week or two weeks — that changes the baby so radically as to make her a different sort of being? Which is the event that confers personhood?

Again, different ethicists propose different answers: self-consciousness, the ability to feel pain, sensitivity to light and sound, and so on. But these, too, fail. The most honest pro-choice thinkers put the matter baldly: what confers personhood is the will of the mother.

The Church Fathers were familiar with this line of thinking. In pagan Rome, a child did not achieve personhood until recognized by the head of the family, the father. When the mother had given birth, a midwife placed the child on the floor and summoned the father. He examined the child with his criteria of selection in mind.

Was the child his? If the man suspected his wife of adultery — ancient Rome’s favorite pastime — he might reject the child without so much as a glance.

If the child was an “odious daughter” (the common Roman phrase for female offspring), he would likely turn on his heel and leave the room.

If the child was “defective” in any way, he would do the same. As the philosopher Seneca said: “What is good must be set apart from what is good for nothing.”

Life or death? It all depended upon the will of a man. Human life began when the child was accepted into society. A man did not “have a child.” He “took a child.” The father “raised up” the child by picking it up from the floor.

Those non-persons who were left on the floor — while their mothers watched from a birthing chair — would be drowned immediately, or exposed to scavenging animals at the town dump.

Against these customs, the Church consistently taught that life begins at conception and should continue till natural death. In such matters, Christianity contradicted pagan mores on almost every point. What were virtuous acts to the Romans and Greeks — contraception, abortion, infanticide, suicide, euthanasia — were abominations to the Christians.

The papyrus trail is especially extensive for abortion, which is condemned by the Didache, the so-called Epistle of Barnabas, the apocryphal Apocalypse of Peter; by Clement of Alexandria, Athenagoras, Justin, Tertullian, Minucius Felix, Hippolytus, Origen, and Cyprian. And that partial list takes us only to the middle of the third century.

The earliest extrabiblical document, the Didache, begins with these words: “Two Ways there are, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the Two Ways.” The Fathers converted their world from one Way to the other, and they were judged righteous.

Our last generations have perverted our world from one Way to another, and we too will be judged. But we can still do something, as our earliest Christian ancestors did, and we must.

That’s why tens of thousands of people are thronging the streets of Washington, D.C., today, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that protected the practice of child-murder from any possible legal sanction — while leaving children without any protection at all.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Turning towards the Lord, on Mondays

I put a note on the newsletter that as the Holy Father had done so last Sunday, I want to offer one of the regular weekday Masses "ad orientem", I already do so on a Friday evening but this an addtional Mass. I will most probably do so on my day off, which is supposed to be Monday.

I put the obvious reasons down,

  • wanting to say Mass facing the same direction aas the people,

  • in the ancient orientation for Christian prayer,

  • disliking a barrier between me and the people

I have so far three pwoplw have commented two saying they were in favour and one person who said she hoped it wasn't a move backwards away from the principles of Vatican II. I haven't yet had the opportunity to ask what exactly these principles are. I suspect it be about lay involvement.

The truth of the matter is I think that the last of my reasons is acrtually the most important for me. I dislike the barrier the altar creates. I fully recognise that I am as the Church teaches, "ontologically different", "not only in degree but in nature". That said when I go to the altar I am also a suppliant who stands before the living God. I want to be number amongst Christ's faithful, I don't want to be the "centre" of worship. I don't really want to lead it, I want to lead people to Christ. I am quite happy to be the instrument of the Church in celebrating the liturgy but it is Christ who is the High Priest. I am told I am an adequate preacher, what I do not have much skill at is doing the, "these or similar words", which appears at various places in the current English version of the Missal, I always use the "these".

I can't help but think that turning towards the Lord my answer some of my own needs in worship, well in fact I know it does.

have a look at Fr Martin Fox's reasons for celebrating ad orientem.

Feast of St Agnes

It is the tradition today, the feast of St Agnes, for the Pope to bless lambs. They become part of the little flock that are shawn in order to be woven into palliums. These are placed on the tomb of the Apostle Peter and then given by the Pope to new Metropolitan Archbishops, as a sign of their communion with the See of Peter.

Over the Pope's shoulder

I though you might like this picture of yesterdays "manifestation" in support of the Holy Father.

Why do they do that?

The new Jesuit Superior General Father Adolfo Nicolas celebrates a mass at the Gesu after his election as the Black Pope. I am not really knocking him, and yes this is another of those things of mine, and yes John Paul II started doing it after he has shot and couldn't raise both arms. But why when both arms seem to work do they elevated the Sacred Host one handed?

I know the General Instruction of the Roman Missal merely says, He shows the host to the people, but this one handed elevation seems to trivialise the elevation, likle most people who do it, when it comes to the elevation of the chalice they use both hands.

When I was 15 and had a Saturday job selling posh pens, I was ticked off by the manager for just grabbing one of the more expensive ones and putting it on the velvet for the customers inspection. "If it's over 15 quid use both hands, lad, it shows it has value", I was told.
I can't help thinking that both chalice host should be handled with the same dignity and as today's GIRM is so vague about it then we must rely on the best of general custom or that which was done in the previious ritual.
But I press the point, why do they do it?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Rome comes to support Pope

(AsiaNews) - Tens of thousands of young people and adults - more than 200,000, if the television linkups with other cities are counted - streamed into Saint Peter's Square from all over Italy to express their solidarity with Benedict XVI. It was a response to the invitation from Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar of Rome, after the violent controversy that had arisen at the La Sapienza university, leading the Holy See to decline the invitation for the pontiff to give the opening address for the university's academic year. Without any stridency, the pontiff exhorted all to work in a climate of "fraternity" and to "seek truth and freedom, in a shared commitment to a fraternal and tolerant society".
When Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study for the recitation of the Angelus, an ovation came from the square full of people and banners. "You did not come to us; we come to you!".
The pope greeted the crowds, but moved on immediately to his reflection, dedicated to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
Benedict XVI recalled that "today the spiritual sons and daughters of Father Wattson, the Brothers and Sisters of the Atonement, are present in Saint Peter's Square". This is the religious community that began the tradition of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
He then commented briefly on the theme chosen for the Week this year, "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). "With this appeal, [Saint Paul] . . . wants to make it known that the new life in Christ and in the Holy Spirit brings the ability to rise above every form of egoism, to live together in peace and fraternal union, to bear each other's burdens and sufferings willingly. We must never grow weary of praying for Christian unity!".
The pope then invited everyone to participate in the solemn Vespers that he will lead on January 25 at the basilica of Saint Paul's Outside the Walls, "to invoke from God the precious gift of reconciliation among all the baptised".
It was only after the prayer of the Angelus that the pontiff turned to address the crowd that had gathered in Saint Peter's Square "to express your solidarity" after the incident at La Sapienza. Amid the applause and the fluttering banners, Benedict XVI thanked everyone "from my heart", and thanked Cardinal Ruini, "who promoted this encounter".
Without argumentative tones, the pontiff recalled what had happened: "As you know," he said, "I had very willingly accepted the courteous invitation extended to me to speak last Thursday at the inauguration of the academic year at 'La Sapienza – Università di Roma'. I know this university very well; I respect it and I am fond of the students who attend it: every year, on various occasions, many of them come to meet me at the Vatican, together with their peers from the other universities. Unfortunately, as is well known, the atmosphere that was created made my presence at the ceremony inadvisable. I cancelled the visit unwillingly, but in any case I wanted to send the text that I had prepared for the occasion".
And as he had done in the written speech that he sent to the university, he explained what the university should be in this way: "I am bound to the university environment, which was my world for many years, by the love for the search for truth, for debate, for the frank and respectful dialogue of the positions in question"
The pontiff emphasised that this attitude is part of "the mission of the Church, which strives to follow faithfully Christ, the Teacher of life, truth, and love".
Finally, the pontiff called upon all the people present, among whom were a large number of university students, to live the university as a "search for truth" and as "respect for the opinions of others". "As a professor 'emeritus', so to speak, who have met so many students in my life, I encourage all, dear university students, to be always respectful of the opinions of others and to seek truth and goodness in a spirit of freedom and responsibility. To all and to each I renew my expression of gratitude, assuring you of my affection and prayers".
After the greetings in the various languages, the crowd burst into applause and chants of "Viva il papa" and "Freedom". The pope smiled and, waving goodbye, added: "Let us continue to live in this climate of fraternity, in the search for truth and freedom, in a shared commitment to a fraternal and tolerant society". In short, a lesson on authentic secularism from the head of the Catholic Church.

Is Benedict divisive?

"Unlike his predecessor", according to an Italian commentator, "Pope Benedict is divisive". He was talking about outrages at Sapienza Universtiy.

As I much as love Pope Benedict, I am afraid I have to agree, he is divisive.

Is he less divisive than his predecessor? I don't think this quite true, but I think that is what easily perceived. This partly because Pope John Paul II tended to speak on so many issues, the family, the death penalty, capitalism, communism, sexuality, contraception, sexual orientation etc. etc. He tended to speak as a Polish philosopher, and I suspect that much of what he had to say was lost on his listeners in his philosophic language. The very length of Pope John Paul's discourses tended to obscure his meaning. Also there was the, "well, he would say that, wouldn't he" factor too.

Benedict the theologian on the other hand says similar things, but he tends to be more focused, whilst as equally nuanced it tends to be clearer, more Christocentric, and whilst he never uses the "sound bite" it is shorter and more immediately comprehensible. Invariably rather than introducing some "new" teaching he merely tends to deepen the existing knowledge of his hearers or readers. Benedict is uncompromising, unlike his predecessor he is unlikely to kiss a Koran or allow himself to be exorcised by pagan priestess, he demands clarity and intellectual -therefore liturgical and theological- honesty.

What is the difference then? I think it is the environment in which Benedict and John Paul are heard. John Paul was in his prime as the Communist world fell about his feet. Communism was his main enemy, it was easier for him to oppose, half the world was already united with him in his struggle. For Benedict the enemy is secularism and relativism, an enemy much more part western society, he has no allies, it is him and the Church against the world. In fact the situation is a little dire than this, because a large part of the Church is unwilling to join in the fight.

So is Benedict divisive? Yes.

Was Christ divisive? Yes. "A household shall be divided..." "I come not to bring peace but a sword..." "If a man prefers father or mother to me he is not worthy of me..." "in the world but not of it".

Should Benedict is divisive? Yes.

Is it a good thing that Benedict is divisive? Yes, because it is the nature of Christ and his Church to be divisive, the consequences of course are persecution.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

No to Popery, Yes to Cowboy hats

It seems that some people are concerned about our new habit of wearing cowboy hats during academic ceremonies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The complaint is that wearing a cowboy hat is somehow undignified and inappropriate.
Please realize that the mortarboard that most modern academics wear as a hat actually derives from the medieval Roman Catholic priesthood. You see, in the Middle Ages, every university student was also a cleric, in the lower orders of the Roman priesthood. The biretta/mortarboard identified one as part of the lower Roman clergy, and the birettas became more colorful as one rose higher in ecclesiastical rank (for instance, purple for bishops, scarlet for cardinals).

New Black Pope

(Reuters) - Spaniard Adolfo Nicolas was elected the Jesuits' "black pope", as the head of the largest and perhaps most influential, controversial and prestigious Catholic order is known, in a secret conclave on Saturday.
Nicolas, 71, has run Jesuit operations in east Asia and Oceania since 2004 and spent most of his career in the Far East after being ordained in Tokyo in 1967.
The order said in a statement that Nicolas had been elected to succeed Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, who received permission from Pope Benedict to retire as head of the order formally known as the Society of Jesus at the age of 79.


(CNA).- Pope Benedict XVI gave his consent on Saturday to the election of the Spanish Jesuit Adolfo Nicolás as the new Superior General of the Society of Jesus.

The 217 delegates gathered since January 7 for the 35th General Congregation, chose Fr. Nicolás in the second round of voting. Nicolás hails from Palencia (Spain) and was born on April 29, 1936.

The New Superior General of the Jesuits has lived for the past 43 years in Asia, especially in Japan, where he studied and worked as professor of Theology at Tokyo’s “Sophia University”, founded by the Jesuits in 1913.

Nicolás was present at the General Congregation as the delegate for Eastern Asia and Oceania.

The successor of Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach joined the Jesuits at Aranjuez (Spain) in 1953, received his degree in philosophy in Madrid and was then moved to Tokyo. Upon his arrival in Tokyo, he completed his study of theology and was then ordained priest on March 17, 1967.

Between 1968 and 1971 he studied Dogmatic Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and from 1978 to 1984 became Director of the Pastoral Institute of Manila (Philippines).

The new Superior General was also Rector of the Novitiate in Tokyo (1991-1993,) Provincial of the Jesuits in Japan (1993-1999) and from 2004 to 2007 served as moderator of the Jesuit Conference for Eastern Asia and Oceania.

Fr. Adolfo Nicolás S.J. becomes the 29th successor of St. Ignatius of Loyola and the leader of the Society of Jesus, which, according to their latest figures has 19,126 members.


See Good Jesuit, Bad Jesuit

Practice doesn't makes perfect

I have been trying to play this piece, I don't have a splendid archlute that can poke your eye out, David Taylor's here, is a bit on the short side. I have a liuto attiorbato, which is about two thirds the size, which became possible when string technology developed, and the long strings could be made thicker, by winding them with wire. My instrument is based on the one in the photograph but without any of the decoration, nice sound though. The longer strings are not fretted, they are played like a harp and also vibrate in sympathy to the plucked six courses on the fret board, it takes me a good ten minutes to tune the instrument.

I have been struggling with this Bach Prelude in D minor for a few days, and it sounds nothing like the video, the occassional bar, maybe. I have never been a great lute player, I just like the sound. I used to delight in finding pieces in ancient books that hadn't been played for years, and trying to transcribe them and then play them.

I tell anyone with any musical knowledge that I make it a rule never to play in front of anyone. I know that however much I practice I will never be perfect, my fingers are the wrong shape, my hands a bit stiff, my ear imperfect. At times it is tempting just to give up, hang the lute up on the wall and just appreciate its craftsmanship, but its maker, Stephen Haddock, made it to be played.

Moral: In the Christian life we know we are never going to be a great saint but it is important to practice and also to have a vision of what could or should be. God doesn't mind if we get things wrong. He does mind if we just leave our instrument hanging on the wall.

St Theresa of Avilla says, "He doesn't judge our actions, he judges our intentions".

Friday, January 18, 2008


Cardinal Angelo Comastri blesses roosters and other animals in Saint Peter's square at the annual animal blessing on the feast of St Anthony of Egypt.

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...