Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sylvester against Arianism

Today is the feast of Pope St Sylvester, during his pontificate the Council of Nicea met and the great Symbol of Nicea was proclaimed. I believe in God the Father Almighty
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,

the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit
was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
The Council of Nicea exalted the true doctrine of the Incarnation, the consubstantiality of Son and Father, thus Sylvester becomes in a sense the father of Christmas.
Most significantly it was the first major act in the defeat of Arian heresy, that vile deviation of Christianity which denied the full Divinity of Christ and therefore the full salvation of man. Christmas is the great anti-Arian feast it is not simply about what God has become but what man might become. All those Christmas aspirations, for the poor and needy, for peace, reconcilliation and goodwill on earth, are part of orthodox catholic belief. Scrooge was an Arian - discuss!

Sylvester also engineered the Epithany of the Church under the Emperor Constantine, while he was Pope the Church leapt out of the catacombs, the great basilicas of St John Lateran, of St Peter and of Holy Cross were built in Rome, again the building of these huge churches, lavish places for lavish worship, were I suspect anti-Arian.
His reign marked a radical change in both Empire and Church, the beginning of the age of  the evangelisation of western Europe.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Why is it that those who love the liturgy don't have fleas anymore?

I used to admire those old fashion Anglo-Catholics who were strictly orthodox in their theology of the Trinity and Incarnation and were as comfortable sipping a cinzano with the Queen Mother in St James’, ancient port in an Oxford College and tea from a chipped cup in a flea infested in slum in Deptford. They had more than a mild interest in Brussels’ lace and cut Venetian velvet and might have been able to turn their own hand to some obscure form of tapestry or embroidery. They could equally well have spent part of the winter in Niece or a South African township.

However they invariably chose the poorest parishes for their apostolate, filled the churches with as much beauty as the could and drew in the poor, the broken, the needy, not just for the sake of some religious spectacle but because these clergy were able to communicate the love of God. When they died the poor turned out to throng the streets to see their passing, these same streets would often be named in their honour.

When not at prayer or visiting their parishioners, they would normally be found, if not in a soup kitchen, then shocking their more wealthy followers, by radical politics. Many of these men ended up following Newman and Manning into the Catholic Church.

Today radical orthodoxy, a deep love of the liturgy and the things appertaining to it and a profound love of the poor and radical politics have become seperated.

It is all about the Incarnation, I know, but the question remains: Why is it that those who love the liturgy don't have fleas anymore? Why aren't the new religious congregations who are founded purely for the liturgy not running soup kitchens as well?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mike Richey rip

Mike Richey the trans-Atlantic sailor has died, he was one of our parishioners, he was a gentle contemplative man, devout without any showiness, quietly confident in God. In his youth he had tried his vocation at Caldey, then joined the Ditchling community as one of Eric Gill's apprentices.
I like these two little extracts from his Times obituary.

He did not consider himself brave: just an expert, purposeful navigator. He once observed that he took care at sea because if he fell overboard people in yacht clubs would say: “It’s the way he’d have wanted to go.” “Bloody well isn’t! I want clean sheets, a whisky and a priest.”
Religion, understated, lay at the core of his life. When his battered 2CV broke down and he was quoted £65 for a callout he related that “I sat by the road, said a prayer, and the thing started again”. When he had the ’flu, he cured himself by sleeping on the floor, monastic on bare boards. His characteristic expressions were an amused “Well, I’ll be damned!” at some weird modern development, an emphatic “No fear!” when asked whether he ever went to wartime reunions.

Keep him in your prayers. I am a little fearful, he wanted to be burried at sea!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Westminster Cathedral's Holy Family: heretical?

I find this "icon" executed in mosaic in the apse of a side chapel of Westminster quite troubling. It certainly isn't Orthodox according to the canons of iconography, neither as a Catholic do I think it is quite orthodox theologically.
I don't understand why coloured haloes are given.
  • Why is St Joseph given the colour of fecundity -and of the Holy Spirit- when he is merely the chaste foster father?
  • Why does the chaste St Joseph hold the Virgin in an embrace?
  • Why is he larger than the Virgin?
  • Why does he lay his left hand on Christ as if he is conferring something?
  • Why does he look out of the picture with the same majesty as Christ as if he is sharing in his imperium in some manner?

I have a feeling Orthodox readers might actually find this family portrait ,executed in a pastiche of a pseudo byzantine style, heretical. There is no sense of the Theotokos being "full of grace", the parity or even superiority given Joseph is worrying, so is this images placement over an altar.
As highly honoured as he is, St Joseph is not an equal of either the Son or of the Mother of God. St Joseph is a man like us in all things, including sin, he did not have the beatific vision before him always.
I would have less of a problem with this as a pious sentimental western oil painting but as something meant to be an icon, I scurry past it whenever I am in the cathedral, trying to avoid eye contact with it. Where is she looking?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Glazes of Christmas

I love these Christmas feasts, like today's, the proto-martyr following immediately the birth of Christ. His blood and sweat amidst the Palestine stones, echoes the blood and water of Christ's birth amidst the Bethlehem straw. His birth, the birth of the Church, the suffering of the Christian are thrust into our minds. There is more blood with the Holy Innocence, slain children, innocence defiled, cruel kings, exile. There is  St John who raises the mind to sublime heights in holy purity glimpsing the essense of God himself. There are popes and bishops whose blood was slain between the altar and sanctuary acknowledging the fragility of Christian faith, its pastors being crushed by emperor and king, throwing their flocks into turmoil.

The Feast of the Holy Family, introduced by Leo xiii disrupts these glazes laid over the centuries, its post concilliar movement into the Christmas octave really does a violence to the liturgical rhythm and interplay of feasts, but it too reminds us of the fragility human nature, of lost children, of exile.

The modern sanitisation of St Joseph is opposed to ancient imagery. He was portrayed, somewhat as a modern man, tempted to doubt and rationality. The little old man, clothed in skins, leaning on his stick, is "a worldly wiseman", an image of his doubts as he cogitates on the mysteries he has encountered. The old man is the direct contradiction of infant which the Virgin conrmplates in her heart with tender love. Joseph needs God's direct intervention to overcome his confusion.
It is all part of the glorious confusion and mess the God-man steps into in the Incarnation.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Word Became Flesh

The attack on our beloved Holy Father, (didn't a similar thing happen last year?) brings to mind one of the central mysteries of faith, the vulnerability of the Incarnate God, the Word who became Flesh.

As Word and Son He knew all things but experienced nothing. Through the womb of the virgin God experiences dependancy and vulnerability, and ultimately suffering and death. In His Body, the Church, in his priests and in His people, unfortunately sometimes through them, he continues to experience and to suffer.

Of course in the past flanked by the Swiss Guard and carried aloft the Pope was relatively free from mad women.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Nuncio: Rome More Interested in the Net Than His Terna

Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz, the Apostolic Nuncio has given an interview to The Tablet, apparently. Why a faithful servant of the Church should not choose a mainstream Catholic journal or newspaper but prefer to give cudos to a fanzine which sets itself the task of opposing every thought, word and deed of the Holy Father, whilst pushing its own relativistic liberal agenda, I am not sure. Apparently in the interview he says Rome, now, seems to take more interest in the internet than in a "Ternas" submitted by him.

Obviously Rome has learnt from the Williamson debacle but also learnt that the news and views of epicopabili are online, and readily available to the various Roman dicasteries but also to the media, and actually to individual members of the faithful, a whiff of scandal once on-line is there forever. Recent episcopal appointments in the States indicate Rome tends to appoint priests who have a positive and strong, paper and internet trail behind them, for the most part they have either worked in Rome or have been military chaplains, where their careers are heavily documented.

I don't think Rome takes much interest in priest bloggers, (except Fr Zed of course, I notice he has copied this story) though we all have regular Vatican visitors, we tend not to get involved in personal criticism but I am sure it is fascinated by what on-line newspapers have to say and I am sure someone trawls through pastoral letters on diocesan websites. One blog that does have influence is Damian Thompson's, though I feel for anyone who is thrown into the bear pit of his readers. There is a rumour that Damian's unrelenting ridicule of his pastoral ineptitude cost one ecclesiastic preferment to a high position. Today he has a very beautiful post about the meeting of faith and beauty at the Oratory Carol service. He always writes beautifully about music.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Not Just for Christmas

Over the last week I must have had 50 people ring up and ask if they can come and help on our soup run, it operates 7/52, as our American cousins would say. It is lovely they want to help, dissappointing when they don't want to do it the rest of the year. Who do they want to help: themselves or those in need?

The RSPCA used to run a Christmas campaign, with the slogan, "A dog is not just for Christmas", well neither are the poor, they are with us always!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

ARCIC III - moral issues

I yawned when ARCIC III, the 'Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission' was announced during Dr Williams' visit to the Holy Father last month.
What is its purpose, what good does it do? The commision comes out with a nice little statement, saying basically there is barely a fag paper of difference between us, then you yawn through the document and realise they've only looked at easy questions, and the vast majority of Anglicans you know really wouldn't agree with what has been said, and the Catholics have applied the most liberal interpretation to the Church's teaching possible, the participents and ecumaniacs grin ear to ear with self satisfaction. Then the dear old C of E does something, normally of a moral nature, which makes unity even more impossible. After this process, in the past, that nice reasonable Cardinal Ratzinger puts lots of question marks in the margin and writes at the bottom of the paper "D+, probably couldn't do much better".

Fr Hunwicke, our Anglican brother in cumudgeon writes
... if Rome had any sense, she would require ARCIC, instead of picking over sixteenth century disagreements that comparatively few people care about, to engage with the newly emerging areas of disagreement, particularly 'life' issues and sexual matters.
He then points out the this is what is actually going to happen!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Four, only four, in St Peter's

The sacristy of St Peter's, Rome, I mean the basillica, not some little church in suburbs, have acquired four, that is 4, Missals of the Blessed John XXIII  for the use of clergy who might want to celebrate Mass in Usus Antiquor.
Now, when I am in Rome in January with Fr F and we will require half of their supply. I am sure we will have to bring our own altar cards. For a year or so after the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum the only place the Traditional Mass was permitted was the Hungarian Chapel, changing that took the Pope's personal intervention.
Last time I was in Sr Peter's early in the morning, about 18months ago, I counted at least four priests, all young of course, offering the traditional Latin Mass.
You might suggest the Pope's Basillica was still in the hands of the reactionary old guard, I couldn't possibly comment.
Despite what Redemptoris Sacramentum says has anyone ever seen a communion plate there?

One Refugee in Brighton

You won't enjoy this, Momo is on one of the asylum seekers who visits my house from time to time, to be helped by BVI.
The video was made by Amelia Shepherd a friend of St Mary Magdalen.
There are many more people like Momo here, pray for them.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Trees

Speaking of the Christmas Tree in St Peter's Square the Holy Father said:
The Christmas tree -- with its journey from a dark forest to the brilliance of decorative lights -- represents every Christian, called to share the message that the Light of the world has become man.
This was a comparison made by Benedict XVI today when he addressed a delegation from Belgium, which provided the Christmas tree for St. Peter's Square this year.
"In the forest," the Holy Father said, "the trees are close together and each one of them contributes to making the forest a shadowy, sometimes dark, place."
"But here," he continued, "chosen from among this multitude, the majestic tree that you offered us is today lit up and covered with brilliant decorations that are like so many marvelous fruits."
"Leaving aside its dark garments for a brilliant explosion, it has been transfigured, becoming a beacon of light that is not its own, but rather gives testimony to the true Light that comes to this world," the Pope suggested.
He compared the tree's destiny with that of the shepherds, who "keeping watch in the darkness of the night, are illumined by the message of the angels."
"The luck of this tree is also comparable to our own, we who are called to give good fruits to manifest that the world has truly been visited and rescued by the Lord," the Pontiff continued.
Christians have always sanctified pagan signs and symbols, the evergreen tree is an obvious one.

I remember reading somewhere that in the middle ages in Germany at Christmastide evergreen trees were brought into churches and hung with apples as a sign of the Tree of Life, later the apples were gilded and later still replaced by gilded glass balls. I like that symbolism.

I remember as a child visiting an old German women who decorated her Christmas tree with glass balls painted with the images of the figures from the Jesse tree, it was surmounted, not by an angel but an image of Our Lady

Saturday, December 19, 2009

We have waited long enough

America Magazine organised a petition trying to delay the introduction of the new English translations of the Missal under the heading, "What if we just said wait?" I am not sure what they want to wait for: the death of the Holy Father, or the end of the world?
As a response, there is another petition saying, "We have waited lomg enough!" Do sign it!

p.s. Ignore the request for a donation, it isn't necessary!!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Snow on snow and snow on snow

Brighton came to halt today, it snowed last night and everything stopped. If you are reading from abroad we in England are never prepared for it. Our school closed a day earlier, so no carol service this year in Church, our sisters abandoned their car outside the Church this morning and walked home. Mass attendance was down to a dozen this morning. As the day progressed the snow melted and then the slush froze so the pavements are like sheets of ice. This evening we had only two young men for the Traditional Latin Mass, the elderly and families with children wisely stayed at home.

However we still had a party in our hall for Brighton Voices in Exile, the organization which works from our Church for asylum seekers. Somehow people managed to get here from Worthing, Crawley, Peacehaven. There were Afghanis, Zimbabwians, Algierians, Iraqis some with horrendous stories of torture, rape, imprisonment, discrimination. Most are actually genuine, some in reality have stories far worst than they tell the immigration authorities. Gatherings like this are so important to them, our draconian laws mean that they are forbidden to work, even voluntarily. They subsist on £30 of vouchers a week, many are homeless, a few sleep in the open, others on friends floors. Loneliness and depression, living in constant fear of deportation are common amongst them.

Bishop Kieran Conry manage to drive down for the party, in places managing 1 or 2 miles an hour, just to spend time with them, in many ways he really is an exemplary pastor, who loves the poor.

The Red Cross supplied us with cosmetics like soap, toothpaste which most can't afford and the parish poor fund gave most of our last collection towards trying to buy gloves and scarves for everyone's Christmas stocking. What with our soup run which operates every day of the year it hads taken a bit of battering but the more we give, the more God provides through his people.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Abuse and Rape in Ireland

I found the following in a comment on Damian Thompson's blog by Shane O'Neill:
The scale of sexual abuse and rape in Irish society is shocking, as revealed in a report by the organisation that undertook the survey of clerical abuse for the Irish Catholic Bishops.

Only a tiny fraction of abusers are members of the clergy and only a miniscule proportion of these sexual crimes are reported to the gardai or, indeed, to anyone else. It is an epidemic of enormous proportions, one largely ignored or diminished by the state, politicians and commentators.

The startling facts of abuse are:

* One in five women (20.4 per cent) reported experiencing contact sexual abuse in childhood and a further one in ten reporting non-contact sexual abuse. (That is 30 per cent of all women being sexually abused as children.)

* More than one in 20 women (5.6 per cent), over 110,000 in all,were raped as children.

* One in five women reported experiencing contact sexual assault as adults with 6.1 per cent of women experiencing unwanted penetrative sex (ie rape). That is over 76,000 women raped during their adulthood.

* One in six men (16.2 per cent) reported experiencing sexual abuse in childhood, with a further one in 14 reporting non-contact abuse.

* 2.7 per cent of all men were subjected to penetrative sex (anal or oral sex) in childhood. That is around 12,000 men raped as children.

* One in ten men (9.7 per cent) experienced contact sexual assault as adults and 0.9 per cent of men were subjected to unwanted penetrative sex as adults.

* Most of the perpetrators of child sexual abuse were men (89 per cent) acting alone.

* In the case of those who abused girls, a quarter were family members, half were nonfa m ily but known to the abused girl and a quarter were strangers.

* In the case of the abuse of boys, only one in seven (14 per cent) was a family member, two-thirds were non-family but known to the abused boy and only one in five were strangers.

* Only a small fraction of child sex abusers (3.7 per cent) were members of the clergy and a smaller fraction (2.5 per cent) were fathers.

* In the case of sexual violence against adult women, one-quarter of the perpetrators were partners or ex-partners.

These startling revelations are in a report, Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland (SAVI), undertaken by the Health Services Research Centre at the Department of Psychology, Royal College of Surgeons, the body that conducted the recently published report on clerical abuse.

The report was commissioned by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. Over 3,000 people, randomly selected, were interviewed anonymously by telephone.

This information was published a year ago, but caused little fuss. Remarkably, only 47 per cent of those who disclosed information to the interviewers for this survey said they had reported the abuse to anybody else. The remainder had never previously disclosed it.A tiny fraction (1 per cent) of men who had been abused as an adult, and only 7.8 per cent of women had reported their experiences to the gardai. In the case of child sex abuse, only about 10 per cent of victims reported their abuse to the gardai.

The phenomenon of sexual crime is by far the most startling of all criminality in the state andyetalmostno attention is focused on it, apart from clerical sex abuse, which is a minor, almost incidental, part of the problem, although, obviously neither minor nor incidental for the victims of clerical abuse.

What to buy your Parish Priest for Christmas

What to buy your Parish Priest for Christmas? How about a scaffolding tower? There are actually three of four packs of it behind me. It is wonderful, light weight, easily assembled 5 meters high, wheels, everything. I ordered it last week so we can more easily carry out repairs, at least at a low level. Our main concern at the moment is getting the ghastly grey paint off our walls to stop the stone corroding.

I was a bit anxious about paying for it, money is a bit tight with our repair schedule. After signing for it I went and did the post and in the wonders of Divine Providence there was a cheque in a Christmas card from blog reader for £1,000, enough to pay for it, there was no address, so thank you Mrs O'Brien, it was very kind of you. Thank you to everyone else who has helped us too.

Now what else to do with a scaffolding tower? It does actually form a very useful platform, as work has stopped until Epiphany, I think we might use it for the base of the crib. I am just wondering how easily it will be to manouevre on its wheels, just we haven't had an out door procession for ages, I am thinking of those Spanish Holy Week floats. We shalll see.

Bishop of Limerick resigns

Bishop Donal Murray has resigned from the See of Limerick, there are cries for more resignations.

Just one question that has been troubling me: what were the parents of the abused children doing, were they advocates for their children or where they complicit in the cover up?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Court decides on Jewish school admissions

...And now the Supreme Court defines who is Jewish.

To be Jewish according to Judaism on has to be born of a Jewish mother, today the new Supreme Court decided that was racist, that the school had to accept "practice". That has never been Jewish custom, thus 3,500 years of rabbinic tradition was overthrown.

This interference in faith, strikes me as being the thin end of a very dangerous wedge. What is next? Telling a Catholic priest who he may marry, forbidding him to discriminate on grounds of gender? Maybe that is someway off ...but just wait, after all service providers can't descriminate.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Father and Mother

Ultimately God is unknowable, all we say about God is meaningless. God is mystery. I suspect it is one of the attractions for people, especially young men in my parish, in the Traditional Latin Mass.

Christianity is about Revelation, God revealing Himself in His Son and in His Church.

The language of Revelation is “gender specific”. God becomes Man, specifically male. He reveals the first person of the Trinity as “Father”. In a recent email discussion with an Orthodox bishop friend this gender specific revelation was the significant reason for the ordination of men alone, the clergy are an icon of God.

For Catholics too, this is not an insignificant argument, maybe it needs to be taken more seriously.

Today it is tempting for liberals to downplay the masculinity of what has been revealed and to androgenise God. When that happens there is also a downplaying of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the imagery of the Church as Bride, Mother as Mistress. Traditionally the dominant image of the Catholic and Orthodox Church is the icon of the Mother of God. It is interesting too that the groups of women religious that grow are those which delight in speaking of themselves as “brides of Christ”.

Father and Mother are part of the language of Revelation, I think they are also part of the language of Redemption. “God the Father” and “Mother Church” are complimentary, they are not replaceable by the simple notion of “parent”.

I suspect that much of the success of the early Church’s missionary work was dependant on being able to identify God as Father. For a community consisting of women married off at young age, of slaves, whose bodies could be misused by their owners at will, sold off as children, whose fathers were likely to be their mother’s masters, or simply bred, as an animal might be, the notion of a loving Father must have been deeply healing.

In an age as abusive to children as that of the first centuries of Christianity the proclamation of God’s Fatherhood and the Church’s Motherhood is absolutely necessary.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

On the Accountability of Bishops #2

In the previous post I should have asked for what and to who are bishops accountable.

For what?

Traditionally, and according to the Vatican Council bishops are responsible for teaching, for sanctifying and for governing their dioceses together with their co-workers the priests. The toleration of such serious sin, cover up and therefore complicity in the sin would indicate the Irish bishops failed miserably in all three of these areas, as well as in simple morality. In both England and Ireland, and maybe the rest of Europe, maintenance seems to have a higher priority than mission, yet without a sense of mission there is nothing to maintain and there is no purpose in the Church therefore its structures are fossilized and meaningless, preserved and defended like ancient monuments. I suspect this lack of purpose is responsible for the paucity of vocations, for a loss of morale, of spirituality, of hope in so many clergy.
To who?

The obvious answer is to Christ, the traditional model was that bishops were accountable to their diocese, to their people and their clergy, who were defenders of their people's, or at least their parish’s, rights and to Rome which ensured their obedience to the Faith and the Law of the Church.

Since the rise of the Episcopal Conference bishops see themselves as accountable, above all, to their brother bishop and to the faceless and multifarious committees of the Conference. This accountability far from being about fraternal correction and developing a sense of zeal seems to be about loyalty to the conference and developing a culture of committees and mediocrity, hiding behind collective structures.

The National Conference of Priests in England and Wales decided to close down, in part, because of the frustration of getting any response from the bishops, because every decision has to be made by the Conference, a process which in practice took years. Of course the NCP was formed as a priestly response to the Bishop’s Conference.

Bishop O’Donoghue when he dared to break ranks with the Conference by issuing “Fit for Mission?” was shunned by the Conference.

The Bishops Conferences, certainly in England, and probably in Ireland, removes bishops from a sense of direct responsibility to the diocese.

Friday, December 11, 2009

On the Accountability of Bishops

The Holy Father's Friday penitential exercise as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith was to deal with cases of sex abuse of children by clergy, this Friday he has met with members of the Irish Bishops Conference to discuss the Murphy Report. Apparently changes in Ireland are afoot.

I am no radical but whatever the "changes" are they need to be more than early retirement of a few bishops.
Reading the Irish press, apart from horror at the acts of abuse, the real objects of criticism are the bishops named in the report but there has also be criticism of other bishops, of the Nuncio, there have been calls for his expulsion and criticism of the Pope himself.
Superficial changes will not be good enough, there needs to be changes in the government of the Church itself. Readers might be surprised to hear me say that the feudal structures where inadequate men are raised to the purple and rule a diocese, accountability only to God, must go.

In theory bishops are accountable to the College of Consultors, the Council of Priests and on financial matters the Trustees of the Diocese, and ultimately to Rome. As far as Rome is concerned, one Irish bishop claims to throw anything that comes from their unopened into the bin, so one can imagine other organs of accountability are treated in the same way. It is all too easy for a bishop to suborn both the College of Conultors and Council of Priests, he can pack these with his cronies, he can intimidate its members, he chooses the agenda, he chairs the meetings.
The vision of the 2nd Vatican Council, was one of "collegiality" and "communion", not of monarchy. If there is a problem with a bishop, there is also a problem with the priests around him. In Ireland the Murphy Report indicates there are many problems, though Ireland is not alone. Whether the issue is bishops covering up criminal activity of their clergy, living immorally, preaching heresy or failing in their pastoral duties to their priests and people, it is not their responsibility alone, the presbyterate also has a responsibility. I would hope that Rome might strengthen the role the other hierarchs might exercise, priests are also hierarchs and have a responsibility, to call to account their bishops. There needs to be some type of structure to facilitate this.

As one old priest said to me, when I was first ordained, "You have a duty of obedience to your bishop as his subject but a greater duty as priest to save his soul".

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Sacred Made Real

I went to the The Sacred Made Real Exhibition at the National Gallery, I know people have raving about it, very beautiful polychrome sculpture, including a wonderful Magdalen which I saw years ago in Vallodolid, and some paintings by Velázquez and de Zurbarán including an amazing picture of St Serapion.
If you haven't been, go, there are only six rooms but it is well worth a trip up to town.

You might like to see this video on how these amazing sculptures were or are produced, which I have posted before.

Cardinal Hummes letter to priests on prayer

There is a rather beautiful letter of Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy,

written to priests on the value of prayer.

It is short, it is all worth reading but I was particularly struck by this passage.
It is for this reason that the priest, if he is to remain faithful to Christ and faithful to the community, must be a man of prayer, a man who lives close to the Lord. Moreover, he needs to be strengthened by the prayer of the Church and of every Christian. Let the sheep pray for their shepherd! When the shepherd becomes aware that his life of prayer is weakening, it is time for him to turn to the Holy Spirit and to beseech like the poor of heart. The Spirit will rekindle the fire in his heart. He will rekindle the passion and the enchantment of the Lord, who is ever present and wishes to eat with him.

I was rather touched to learn "the Congregation for the Clergy celebrates a Eucharistic-Marian Hour for and with priests, at 4 p.m. in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, Rome, each first Thursday of the month during the Year for Priests. Many people joyfully come to pray with us." So if you are in Rome join the congregation for prayer.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Guilt and Admiration

click to enlarge
I was sent this poster for Christmas from Fr William Charlton's parish in Middlesbrough and was overcome by a sense of admiration and guilt. Admiration for the beauty of the poster, certainly, but also for the extent of the liturgical celebrations. Apart from the Holy Sacrifice there is also sung Lauds and Vespers, and in a one man parish, in both forms of the Roman Rite! The guilt comes from the fact that I have normally fallen asleep on Christmas day by the time Father will celebrate Vespers.
Apparently all he is missing are few servers, contact him if you can help.

Pictures of the Installation of Archbishop Longley

Few appointments have given me as much hope for the future wellbeing of the Church in this country as that of the ninth Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Bernard Longley whose installation took place yesterday.
Photographs can be seen here.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Pope's words on the Immaculate Conception

Photograph of the flowers laid at the foot of the statue of the Immaculate Conception in the Piazza di Spagna by the Pope today - from a source "close to the throne".

from CNS
"The mother of God teaches us to open ourselves to the action of God, to see others as he sees them -- starting from the heart. And to look upon them with mercy, with love (and) with infinite tenderness, especially those who are most alone, despised and exploited," the pope said.

Rome, like any big city, is filled with people who are invisible until some scandal lands them on the front page of the newspaper or the television news where they are "exploited to the very end, as long as the news and images attract attention," the pope said.

"It is a perverse mechanism, which unfortunately is hard to resist," he said. "The city first hides people, then exposes them to the public -- without piety, or with false piety."

But within each person, the pope said, there lies a strong desire "to be accepted as a person and considered a sacred reality because every human story is a sacred story and requires the utmost respect."

Pope Benedict said that with so many stories of evil and scandal filling the news, it's easy for people to think those things only happen to others. But the little good or little evil that everyone does has an influence on others and contributes to the overall tenor of society, he said.

"Often we lament the pollution of the air, which in certain parts of the city is impossible to breathe. It's true, the commitment of everyone is necessary to make the city cleaner," he said.

"But there is another kind of pollution, less perceptible to the senses, but just as dangerous. It is the pollution of the spirit; it makes our faces less smiling, darker, and stops us from greeting each other and looking each other in the eyes," Pope Benedict said.

The pope said that on the day dedicated to remembering how Mary was preserved from sin, he wanted to honor the many citizens "who have understood that it is useless to condemn, complain and recriminate, but better to respond to evil with good."

"This changes things; or better, it changes people and, consequently, improves society," he said.

Tota Pulchra Es, Maria

Tota pulchra es, Maria.
Et macula originalis non est in te.
Tu gloria Ierusalem.
Tu laetitia Israel.
Tu honorificentia populi nostri.
Tu advocata peccatorum.
O Maria.
Virgo prudentissima.
Mater clementissima.
Ora pro nobis.
Intercede pro nobis ad Dominum Iesum Christum.
In conceptione tua, Immaculata fuisti.
Ora pro nobis Patrem cuius Filium peperisti.
Domina, protege orationem meam.
Et clamor meus ad te veniat.

Monday, December 07, 2009

LMS Ushaw

Paul Waddington is organising another training session on the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite at Ushaw
LMS press release

LMS Residential Training Conference for Priests Wishing to Learn the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (Traditional Latin Mass) at Ushaw College, Durham.

The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales (LMS) is organising a residential training conference for priests wishing to learn the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (Traditional Latin Mass) at Ushaw College, Durham, one of England’s most prestigious seminaries.

The conference will run from Monday 12 April to Friday 16 April 2010 (i.e. Low Week) and will feature Traditional liturgies in Ushaw’s magnificent neo-Gothic St Cuthbert’s Chapel together with a Gregorian Chant schola and polyphonic choir.

Expert tuition in the celebration of Mass in the Usus Antiquior will be provided on a small group basis. There will be tuition in Low Mass, Missa Cantata and Missa Solemnis and there will be streams for beginners and more advanced students. There will be a keynote lecture and 1962 Missals and altar cards will be available.

There will be opening and closing High Masses, daily Mass and Devotions, and Rosary. There will also be a closing Conference dinner with guest speaker.

The subsidised fee to participants is only £115.00 which includes all accommodation, meals and training materials. There are limited places and priests are asked to register as soon as possible.

Further details and registration forms can be obtained from the LMS office (Tel: 020 7404 7284, e mail: or from the conference organiser, Mr Paul Waddington (Tel: 01757 638027, e mail:

Paul Waddington said, “This is the second time the LMS has organised such a training conference at Ushaw College and we are delighted to be going back. I hope the laity will tell their priests about this wonderful opportunity to learn the Usus Antiquior in the setting of one of England’s finest Catholic seminaries.”

Latin Mass Society, 11-13 Macklin Street, London WC2B 5NH
Tel: 020 7404 7284
E mail:

Lesbian Bishops

In the Lesbian bishop stakes Swedish Lutherans beat US Anglicans by just a few days. As far as Anglicans worldwide are concerned, according to the Porvoo agreement Lutheran bishop/briest = Anglican bishop/priest, they are interchangable.
From what I can see there was no comment from the Dr Williams on the action of his Lutheran ecumenical bedfellows, certainly nothing compared to his Rome lecture. His reaction to the ECUSA decision was a thunderous, "This has serious implication", which I bet that has made them think twice.

For me it just underlines the problem with labelling clergy. Celibacy means priests are simply priests, maybe with their own particular quirks but they are ultimately priests. I feel for these poor women forever labelled "... the lesbian Bishop". Lesbian, or in the case of Gene Robinson "Gay", seems to outweigh any other adjective, even Christian. I have to admit I am with St Paul, I believe these issues should not really "even be spoken of amongst you". It is the pushing of sexuality that concerns me, I have few problems with deep even passionate friendships between people but the Lesbian and Gay definition indicates sexuality is actually the most important thing, more important than dedication to Christ.

In an age where people define themselves by their sexuality, we need a few saints who were known for their chastity and for the depth of their friendships, Newman would be an obvious example.

Cormac says no to Lords

After consultation with the Holy See and the Bishops of England Wales Cardinal Murphy O'Connor has turned down Gordon Brown's offer to join Anglican bishops and Lord Sacks on the red benches of the House of Lords, according to the Telegraph.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Coveting other thrones

“Coveting other thrones”, wanting another diocese, amongst our eastern brethren was always a good reason for dismissing a bishop from office and sending him back to his monastery to tend the goats.

A bishop moving from diocese to diocese, except a synodal decision, was seen as a form of adultery, the bishop is Christ the bridegroom, the Church the bride. The relationship between a bishop and his diocese is a bond of marriage, symbolised by the bishop’s ring, hence the traditional veneration of the ring in the west. It was because of this marital union that Augustine remained in the one horse town of Hypo all his life. This marital union, at least in part lies behind the Orthodox understanding of Episcopal celibacy.

A similar permanence has traditionally underlined the relationship between parish priest and his parish, a relationship that used to end in death, usually of the parish priest. My reading of the Code of Canon Law is that it foresees moves as being a rarity and something that only takes place for a good reason. In places where studies have been done, the movement of a parish priest invariably results in lapsation, only in exceptional circumstances in an increase of a congregation.

Often frequent moves, in some Indian dioceses priests are moved every two years, are used by a bishop to impose his personal ecclesiology, and to elevate his status to that of an unquestioned monarch, rather than that of father of loved and trusted sons, or in the collegiate language of Vatican II, of first amongst equals.

Fr Michael Brown has lpost on the Canonical Status of Clergy

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Anglicanorum Coetibus: a break with immigrant status?

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with a convert priest, I haven’t had time to think this through yet, so I would welcome comments.

The gist of it is that the Holy Father is concerned that Catholicism has never really “taken” in England, that it has always been seen as an immigrant Church: Italian, Irish, latterly Polish or eastern European.

The Papal Visit seems to be about “English” Catholicism, central to it, the beatification of the very English Newman, but also the context, a state visit, carriages up the Mall, Buckingham Palace, the Queen etc.

Anglicanorum Coetibus, which I assumed was really aimed mainly at the “Southern Cone” Anglicans, where bishops, clergy and laity would be reconciled, my friend suggested it was about remaking the English hierarchy, providing it with new “native” hierarchs. One of the problems potential clerical converts have is not so much union with Rome but union with local bishops.

His reading too of A/C, which isn’t mine, is that all convert clergy, including those already received, will be eligible to join the Ordinariate - a possibility of alternative episcopal oversight.


Friday, December 04, 2009

Farewell Archbishop McDonald

There is noticeable sadness on some blogs about the retirement of the Archbishop of Southwark, Kevin McDonald, though possibly to some people not a total surprise, he has been suffering from ill health and it effects for some time. I was speaking to a priest recently who was telling me how kind the archbishop had been over the death of one his parents.
His early retirement means that three of our four Archbishops will have been replaced under this pontificate and as significantly under this nunciature. It is inevitable that bishops are chosen from a tiny of number of clergy who are brought to the Nuncio’s attention and the Nuncios we get tend to be awaiting their own retirement. I remember one old priest referred to the then Pro-Nuncio as “the prisoner of Wimbledon Common”.
Archbishop Faustino Sainz Munoz did outstanding work in his previous appointment in the Congo, opening up the Nunciature to Rwandan refugees during the civil war. Let us pray for him during this time of discernment.

Apart from a bishop who believes in God, and the teaching of the Church I pray the diocese of Southwark is given someone who not only wants to know his clergy but will also care for them and  love them, then the work of God can be done in a diocese.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Cardinal's Condemnation

The retired Mexican Cardinal Javier Barragan has not made life easy for us with his statement about gays and transexuals not entering the Kingdom of Heaven.
I haven't got any Spanish so it is a little to know exactly what he said, and even more difficult to know precisely what he meant. However, it plays into the hands of those who hate the Church because of its perceived stance on this issue.
Even Pink News, not my regular reading, acknowledges the "Vatican" has distanced itself from this statement, and also acknowledges he also says that we cannot judge.
In the UK and elsewhere, where governments and the chattering classes have few big ideas except for "equality", this just feeds prejudice.
The use of the phrase "Kingdom of Heaven" from Matthew's Gospel, and the rest he says suggest His Emminence was a little more nuanced than the beying hounds understand. The use of the word "gay" which might suggest an anti-family political movement, rather than people struggling with a "same sex attraction". It is not the word or the thought that is the problem but the interpretation.
Stephen Fry's problems with the Church, echoed by many, seems to stem from our teaching that "homosexuality acts are intrinsically disordered". They can't understand that it is the acts, not the person that is condemned, that is obviously their problem. In "gay" Brighton I often speak of gossip as being intrinsically disordered.
Our problem, like the Cardinal's, is a lack of clarity, not using words that people understand, unlike Jesus, not using words and concepts his hearers will understand.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Preparing for Advent 2010

It is good to be able to think that I am now reading the tired old inaccurately translated prayers of the Missal for what I hope is the last time, the new translation of the Missal is supposed to be out on the first Sunday of Advent next year. I am resisting the temptation of tearing out the pages of the Missal as each day passes, just in case it doesn’t happen. The change is going to be significant, people will be crying out, “Give us back our old Missal”.

The big problem is the catechesis that is necessary is in the hands of Ecclescake Square, to the best of my knowledge nothing has been done, it would be wrong to suggest there might be a lack of enthusiasm for any change on the part of those responsible for the nation’s public worship.

Next year we are going to be busy preparing for the Newman beatification, there has been no catechetical material for that either, continuing the Year for Priests, not much material for that either, and then there is the Papal visit, have I heard anything official on that, or is it still a rumour?

I know priests who are quite unaware that any change is happening, how they are going to catechise their people, I have no idea. I would have thought that it would have been sensible to have priests familiar with the new texts they are going to use, a year before their people were going to have to get used to saying, “And with your Spirit”. It took me as month or two to feel comfortable saying, “Benedict” rather than “John Paul our Pope”. It would be act of contempt for priests and the liturgy to leave us fumbling too long with unfamiliar translations.
See Fr Sean on the subject

One appeal: please, please, please could we have a Missal that is not going to fall apart, please. Compare the Missal of 1746 with that of 1976.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Climate Change

A lot of silliness is talked by people about climate change. Little children go home from school as freshly indoctrinated eco-nazis fearing the end of world is about to be brought about by their parents profligate ways. We are bringing them up with a nightmarish Apocalyptic fear which far outweighs the loony “end is nigh” message of any fundamentalist sect. Every carrier bag will certainly kill a turtle, every non-earth friendly light bulb kills a tree, a petrol guzzling 4x4 reduces the ozone layer by x%, the need to recycle the weekend's wine bottle is self evident, though of course it has become too expensive to recycle, so it is back to the landfill site.

On the other hand there are the change deniers, for whom any evidence whatsoever would draw a skeptical sneer. Amongst them there are lot of conspiracy theorists who at best see climate change as a reason to raise taxes, at worse a UN conspiracy of masonic lizards seeking a new world order.

I don't understand too much of the science, I would like to ignore what is presented, more for the hectoring manner of the delivery than for anything else. Their religious zeal is as disturbing and as off putting as any Protestant fundamentalists.

Christians tend to listen to prophets of doom with a healthy skepticism: gaps are minded, phones switched off on take-off, and who doesn’t apply butter to bread without a sense of the immanence of a heart attack.

Yet when all is said and done for us Christians we have accept we have neighbours, the pile of supermarket packaging in the kitchen bin is going to be weighed against our soul simply because it reflects our wealth, it marks us out as the rich man in hell rather than poor Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom. There is a real need to apply the Church’s social teaching in all its richness, and there is hunger for it.

If a poor Bangladeshi farmer is fearing for his life and the lives of his family, charity demands we not only listen but also come to his aid. If there is a possibility that filling up the car is going to harm our neighbour, even our yet to be born neighbour, we have to take the risk seriously. We have to start being concerned about our “global neighbour” and insist on our governments being concerned, just as any good Catholic demands his government is concerned about beginning and end of life issues. These issues are so important because the affect the very dignity of the human person and society. In our clamour about these issues it is easy to forget or be blasé about other life issues that affect our neighbour’s dignity.

What is the thinking behind protecting a child’s right to be born, if poverty is going to rob that child of life shortly after birth, especially if poverty is linked to the extraordinary wealth of us in the West?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Abuse: a Post Concilliar Problem?

One of the things that has always shocked me about the whole sexual abuse by priests issue, is how could a priest saying Mass daily, going to Confession weekly or at least fortnightly, having been brought up with the clear cut moral theology of the pre-Concilliar era, knowing that any mortal sin would place his soul in jeopardy of Divine judgement, well, how could he do it?

One of my correspondants highlighted, Bryan, cited one telling instance:
In another case in a Deaf School for Girls, pupils complained that the priest was kissings them after hearing their confessions. The Sister-Headmistress asked him not to do that and the priest agreed if it was troubling the girls. The Sister explained she had thought this was part of the new way of hearing confessions after VII.
 He asks whether it was stupidity, well actually I think it was naivety, remember the first serious academic study on paedorasty was only published in the late 70s. Anecdotally the pre-Concilliar era was one of sexual repression, of "bath-smocks" and talc on the water, just to avoid seeing yourself, let alone anyone else.

Gerald Warner suggests convincingly, that sexual abuse, was a post-Concilliar problem, something from "the let it all hang out era", when everything was up for grabs including celibacy and moral theology, when asceticism and penance had beome dirty words and old certainties had given way to uncertainties.

Uganda: Death Penalty for Gays

St Charles Lwanga along with his companions suffered martyrdom for resisting the homosexual advances of the king, in the same persecution, stemming from the same reasons the Anglican Bishop Hannington, from a Brighton family, was killed along with a large number of Anglican converts,

John Allen reports:
In October, a Ugandan parliamentarian named David Bahati, a member of the ruling National Resistance Movement and an Evangelical Christian, introduced the “Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009.” In a nutshell, the measure would establish life in prison as the penalty for even a single instance of homosexual behavior (which the bill defines in graphic detail). It also creates a new category of “aggravated homosexuality” subject to the death penalty. Examples include:

•Homosexual relations with a minor or a disabled person;
•Cases where the “offender” (the person initiating the homosexual encounter) has HIV, uses drugs or intoxicants to procure sex, or wields authority over the “victim”;
•Repeated homosexual acts.
Anyone who fails to report homosexuals to the police would face a prison term of three years. The bill also bars the “promotion” of homosexuality, in language that would essentially outlaw pro-gay support or advocacy groups.
 Allen says homosexuality is seen as a western white vice, so the proposed bill is seen as anti-colonialist but also as in most former British colonies Anglicanism is the major Christian body, the acceptance of homosexuality generally within international Anglicanism has been used as a weapon by Moslems to attack Christianity generally. As a reaction against this, other Protestant groups have become more intense in the anti-gay activity, this part of that reaction.
Allen points out the Catholic Church is keeping a low profile, caught in a cleft stick, having more problems with the death penalty, imprisonment for failing to report homosexuals, which presumably would have implications for the confessional.
For us it raises interesting issues about what we expect the state should do about issue we consider to be seriously sinful, like adultery, homosexual acts, abortion, euthanasia, shuld there be a judicial penalty?

Healed Deacon Snubs Cherie

The American deacon Jack Sullivan who was healed at the intercession of Cardinal Newman, has repudiated a visit he made to Mrs Blair:

As soon as he was made aware of Mrs Blair’s record of public dissent from the Church’s teaching, Jack requested that all reference to meeting her be removed from the published recollections of his visit. The article on Times Online was duly amended yesterday (November 26th), but unfortunately Jack’s request came too late to remove the reference to Mrs Blair from the print version of the Herald.

The conjunction of Mrs Blair’s ‘conscientious’ dissent from the teaching of the Church with Jack Sullivan’s apparent endorsement of her could do harm to Newman’s reputation, and that is our reason for posting this clarification. Newman is indeed the great teacher of the rights and duties of conscience. It is of the greatest importance that his teaching is not used to make him the patron of Catholics, like Cherie Blair and others, who in the name of conscience practice dissent from the Church’s teaching.
The decision to arrange Jack’s visit to Mrs Blair, and then to publicise it under Jack’s name, has not contributed to upholding a true interpretation either of Newman, or of Cherie Blair. We hope that making public Jack’s desire, as far as possible, to reverse that decision, however, will do something to draw attention to the truth that is in danger of being obscured.
Read the original

The Apostleship of the Sea used Mrs Blair to front its appeal  this year, a few weeks ago they rang around chasing up the money, that has not happened before. When I told them I would not be sending any because of Ms Blair's involvement and I had refused to display the poster displaying lest it scandalise the faithful, I got a silly snotty letter from the Development Manager Sheila Bailey, saying they didn't make judgements.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dublin Scandal

As an Englishman I write this with trepidation.

When I was first ordained all Irish people in England seemed to practice.
Nowadays, I presume that most aren’t. At one time for the most part the priest was welcomed into Irish homes, nowadays there is a tension.

On several occasions over the last few years before a death or following a funeral of a respected member of the community, a son or daughter has turned up, unknown to anyone else, who had been up for adoption years ago. They had been “forgotten”, their appearance unwelcome by their parent, their presence glossed over by friends and other relatives. There are things which are secret and things which are not spoken about, there is always insistence on a eulogy that reflects what appeared to be rather than what actually was.
It was against these experiences I read the reports of the sexual predation and abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese, the revelations are actually truly shameful. The big scandal was secrecy and cover-up, keeping up appearances, hypocrisy, it was these things that damned the Church and damned the State too in slightly more muted terms. It strikes me that this report and the Ryan report too only scrape the surface, the Irish media knocks the Church off its privileged pedestal, it reacts against Catholic Ireland; government ministers posture, suggesting Ireland has moved on, inferring they are as distant from it as they are from absentee landlords, the famine, the emigrations, the civil war. What will never be addressed is the level of cover-up in other areas of Irish society, nor the levels of sexual abuse or violence against the vulnerable outside of the Church and institutions related to it.
There is something Joycian in all of this. It is convenient in post-Catholic Ireland to use the Church as a scapegoat, loading the sins of the nation onto it and driving it into the wilderness, perhaps that is where it belongs, if it is indeed the unworthy bearer of Christ’s message rather than being a metaphor for Irish society, in which case it merely becomes another form of cover-up .

Valueless Children

The message on the British Humanist Association poster

Oh the hypocrisy! What is missing here is of course is the label "valueless child".

The biggest threat to children in today’s society is the absence of values, or in Gordon Brown’s words, the absence of a “moral compass”.
The British Humanist Association wants parents to be absent from children’s moral growth. This poster identifies the core values of BHA as a direct attack on the family, the distancing of children from parents. Study after study relates children’s unhappiness, failure in education, high pregnancy and sexual decease rates, failure in forming relationships, crime, alcohol, drug use, psychological problems, etc, etc to a failure in parents to pass on values.
h/t In Hoc

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...