Friday, July 31, 2009

Suicide and Euthanasia

The decision of the Law Lord's yesterday, the decision of the Royal College of Nurses earlier this week presumably means that suicide and euthanasia are on there way in this country.

I am old fashioned enough to think of nurses and doctors having a vocation, a calling to being on the side of life, on alleviating suffering. Now of course we speak of them as being "medical professionals" the term "professional" has the sense of proficiency about it but it has connotations of "doing a job", of a certain ruthless functionalism too.

I have a terrifying image of those to whom we turn to for medical assistance replacing the smell of carbolic with the smell of death.

At the moment the media are concerned with heart tugging hard cases, I actually believe hard cases make good laws, but soon the hard cases will become softer and softer. The Nazi eugenics policy began with hard cases at the beginning of the twentieth century, within thirty years it divided Jews, Gypsies, Slavs and other groups, including homosexuals, from the rest of mankind into those not worthy to live. Of course that followed a period of economic decline, I am sure Germans in 1900 could not have dreamt it would happen in their country. It won't happen here will it? Our politicians are far too responsible.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia cause our medical professional to make a distinction between those who will live and those who will die. What will happen in our current economic climate when financial restrictions are placed on care of the sick? What will happen to the HIV patient whose drugs might well cost of tens of thousands of pounds over their lifetime, what about the elderly person when there are serious financial constraints. What will happen when social services cutback on things that make life tolerable and death is a genuine alternative to care in the community. What will happen when the falling birthrate means an elderly retired person is supported by two or three working adults. Is euthanasia not an easy answer?
And what will happen when there is a climate of euthanasia or assisted suicide in our families and society?

English Heritage Cowboys don't do religion

English Heritage has restored the interior of Dover Castle to what they consider it looked like in the time of Henry 11, here is the article from the Independant.
I know nothing about throne rooms but the chapel seems more like a set from Cadfael or Disney than what I would expect to see in a 12th Century Chapel.
The set up of altar and lectern certainly lacks authenticity.
  • Where are the wall paintings?
  • Where are the sumptuous hangings?
  • Where is the pyx?
  • Where is the ciborium over the altar?
  • Where is the predella?
  • Where are the lamps?
  • Where is rich embroidered or painted frontal?
  • Where is the great rood above the altar?
  • Where is the image of the Holy Virgin?
  • Where are the relics?
  • Where are the images of the Royal Patron Saints?
  • Where are the decorated Missals and Gospel Books?
This is so lacklustre isn't it? An altar covered with a sheet arranged as a 16th century Laudian fall, is frankly a ridiculous anachronism. It makes one question the whole authenticity of the project, it also causes me a little anxiety about whether English Heritage grasps the significance of faith within the 12th century, I get the impression "they don't do religion".
There may be little documentation about throne rooms or castle kitchens of this period but there are no lack of sources and scholarship about chapels of this period, why has English Heritage not used it?
I often wonder if English Heritage are a gang of cowboys at times, it calls into question their seriousness and academic quality and whether they should be involved in bodies such august as the Historic Churches Committee. Possibly they have sold their souls to the "tourist industry".
The chapel would have been one of the central rooms in any castle, a place where both wealth and piety would be displayed, but not at Dover.
Looking at the other photographs in this series religion seems to figure pretty low on English Heritages ideas of historic reconstruction. On Radio 4's Today Programme the chapel featured, apparently the have piped chant, I hope they got the music for the right period, easy to do right but I bet they didn't.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Oh, just noticed the hits

I have just noticed I have been hit a million times, sometime the week before last, trouble is I can't remember when I put the site meter gadget on. I think it was a couple of years ago.

I must take these things more seriously.

Henry W Allingham 1896 - 2009

The funeral of Henry Allingham is taking place at the pre-Rormation Church of St Nicholas at the end of the road here, a few hundred yards away. The world's media are there. I was given a service booklet by a young woman.
Amusingly on the front rather "born" and "died" it has "entered" and "departed". The Duchess of Gloucester, as patron of WWI Veterans Association will be there, I hope Henry and Harry Patch who also died in the past week enjoyed having a Duchess looking after just the two of them!
It is a nice C of E funeral service, nothing too extraordinary. Henry's body is going be cremated afterwards.
On the back page are Henry's own words:

With me I carried a Bible given to me by Dorothy; it was a translation of the Old and New Testaments. On the flyleaf she wrote: "May the Lord watch between thee and me while we are absent from one another".

People ask me how I've done it [lived so long] and I just say that I look forward to another tomorrow.

Of your charity pray for his soul, and those of all who have died in war.

Also there were Jane and Clare, some Catholic ladies who obviously like dressing as chaps! What would the monks of Solesmes say Clare? Oh well it is Brighton!

Another holiday picture

Why is that bishop hiding behind that tree?

Pope Benedict XVI with Aosta Bishop Giuseppe Anfossi prior to leavinPope Benedict XVI, right, shares a word with Aosta Bishop Giuseppe Anfossi prior to leaving Les Combes d'Introd, near Aosta, northern Italy, Wednesday, July 29, 2009. Benedict XVI said Wednesday that his 'guardian angel'' let him down when he fell and broke his wrist earlier this month, but that the angel was clearly acting 'on superior orders.'' The pope thanked law enforcement officials for being 'like angels,'' as he prepared to depart Les Combes, the Alpine resort where he tripped and injured his wrist about 10 days ago while on vacation, for his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo on the outskirts of Rome
g Les Combes d'Introd, near Aosta, northern Italy on Wednesday.

The Pope joked on Wednesday that his 'guardian angel'' let him down when he fell and broke his wrist earlier this month, but that the angel was clearly acting 'on superior orders.'' The pope thanked law enforcement officials for being 'like angels,'' as he prepared to depart Les Combes, the Alpine resort where he tripped and injured his wrist about 10 days ago while on vacation, for his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo on the outskirts of Rome.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Do

Mulier Fortis, the chronicler of Blackfen, has the complete story on Fr Tim's Jubilee do.

Everyone who was anyone was there.
All I can add is the food was absolutely brilliant. Glorious catering team, if I had time I would compose an Ode to them, no wonder Fr Tim loves Blackfen.

Not meant to offend Christians BUT IT DOES!

It is not meant to offend but it does, but it does deeply.
Brighton's Jubilee Library is selling sweets that are clearly aimed at ridiculing and mocking the Saviour, not only that but also trivialising the believes of thousand of the inhabitants of its citizens. Brighton Jubilee Library is of course paid for by local Council Tax Payers like me and you. We are paying to be insulted!

Here's that Jesus fella again – and this time he's spreading minty freshness into the mouths of the masses.

He can’t feed the 5,000 with this cute little tin of peppermints, but you’ll feel a whole lot better after your hearty banquet of fish and loaves!

If you find this objectionable contact Sally McMahon by Simply supply a link to this story and ask, "Is it true?"
Unleash the power of the blog!
Maybe othe bloggers could put up a link.

By the same token if you google" "Brighton Messiah Mints" you get the story of the library refusing to advertise to advertise a children's workshop held at a local Church, in the interests of "fairness" of course.

You could also contact any or all of the city's councilors by clicking here. I contacted all of them, possibly they will comment here. Councillor David Smith is responsible for libraries:

Influence of the New on the Old

Photograph Fr Tim's Jubilee h/t Fr Z

There have been a couple of articles on the prestigious New Liturgical Movements site here and here on what I said here.
My concern was that the Pope's understanding of mutual enrichment of both usages of the Roman Rite expressed in Summorum Pontificum should take place.
It is pretty obvious the effects that the usus antiquior should have on the usus recentior, it has been widely discussed elsewhere, most especially on NLM.
But what effects should the Paul VI on that of John XXIII?
I read on someone's blog the comment by an elderly French priest, the statement about traditionalist clergy, "What they are now, we never were". I do not remember pre-concilliar liturgy but I was struck by a priest who, speaking of his first Mass 50 years ago, in my Church said, "I didn't understand a word of what I was saying or what I was doing", or again another priest in the 70's saying, "I would hate to go back to it, we were only allowed half an hour from amice to amice, it meant we had to leave a lot out". Again in this parish the old Polish chaplain could say a Requiem including the obsequies in less than 20 minutes, low Mass for him was 15 minutes. The prayers at the foot of the altar rather than a dialogue, were said simultaneously with the server each saying their own part. The first words of a liturgical action were said whilst the rest was simply garbled from memory with as much speed as possible. Whether there were three or three hundred people in the congregation the style of celebration seems to have been the same. It seems there was little attempt to even announce the lections in a manner in which they might be heard, even by those who had sufficient Latin to understand. I remember an old priest saying, "Liturgy in my day was taught under two headings, Canon Law and Moral Theology".
The overriding emphasis of the celebration of the past seems to have been "doing the action" an emphasis on the minimum required for validity and the minimum required for staying within the bounds of what was licit.
Obviously there were exceptions produced by the liturgical movement, but what was happening in the great monasteries seems not to have touched most parishes or one suspects most seminaries. The moves by Blessed John XXIII to restore Latin in seminaries seems more to have been an act of desperation rather than a celebration of what was happening in practice.
The experience of the Traditional Liturgy nowadays seems far from what our pre-concilliar grandparents experienced. I know nothing of the SSPX, but my experience of the FSSP and of ordinary parish clergy celebrating the older form is that they actually love the liturgy they are celebrating, they want to do it as beautifully as possible, they understand its history, they are enthused by it and want their people to understand the richness of it. It is at the centre of their spiritual lives. Although there might be mixed feelings about the "dialogue Mass", there is a real feeling that the people should participate as deeply and fervently as possible.
It is important to remember that Sacrosanctum Concillium is directed to the Mass of the Council formerly called the Tridentine Mass, rather than the post concilliar Mass of Paul VI.
There are superficial effects that the new could have on the old such as inclusion of propers for new feasts, thoughts about revising the Lectionary, possibly a blurring of the distinction between Low Mass and the Missa Cantata but the real influence has already occurred, it is the influence of attitudes.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ad multos annos, Pater.

Congratulations to Fr Tim on his Silver Jubilee. I look forward to being at his Jubillee celebrations this evening.

I can't help reflecting on how much poorer the Church would be this country without this exceptional priest.
Too me he seems to have extraordinary energy, his involvement in the Faith Movement, his founding of the Association of Priests for the Gospel of Life, his teaching at the seminary and Charterhouse, his excellent blog, the conferences and lectures he gives, all that and running a parish and being dean and what I value, being kind and supportive to his fellow priests, and the compassion I know he shows his parishioners.
All that and still he can nip into Westminster Cathedral to catch up on The Tablet.
Ad multos annos, Pater.

Purebloods and Muggles

I am a Muggle.
I had a visitor the other day who was very concerned about a worrying trend amongst those who are attached to to the Traditional Latin Mass. His claim was that there is an increasing trend for certain leading traddies to make a point of never attending Masses in the Usus Antiquor of priests who celebrate the Ordinary Form of the Mass. Not only that but they even refuse to attend churches where it is celebrated. He described it terms of "Purebloods" and "Muggles", the "Purebloods" refusing to mix with a Usus Utroque "Muggle" like me.

If this is so, it seems a direct contradiction of the Holy Father's thinking that is put forward in Summorum Pontificum. The Roman Rite now has two Forms, which are supposed to be mutually enriching.

Personally, I just love The Mass, I am growing increasingly attached to the usus antiquor but it is The Mass that matters. I am quite ignorant of the politics that surround the TLM but I am interested in the opinions of those who are more familiar with the byzantine politicking that surrounds it.

To be truly Catholic, in the Roman Rite means to be at home and comfortable in both forms of the Roman Rite. We are now in the third year since the publication of Summorum Pontificum at the end of this year the bishops of the world are supposed to report on the effects of the Motu Proprio to Rome, it would be sad if the had to report that this work of the Pope for unity and continuity within the Church was divisive.

All that being, said the "Pureblood" and "Muggle" thing works both ways, how many Catholics including priests and bishops refuse to have anything to do with Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite? Of the French bishops 25% of them have celebrated or presided at the Usus Antiquior, I suspect elsewhere in the world the figure would be considerably less. No bishop or priest should categorically refuse to celebrate, let alone attend, Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

Today in the Latin Church there is no room for "Purebloods" we are all "Muggles" now.

Monday, July 27, 2009


This is Clare Bowskill's account and photographs of last weeks Solesmes Chant Course, Clare runs our music:

The first thing you notice when you arrive in Solesmes is the silence. The streets are deserted, the shops (all two of them) are closed. We hover outside the only restaurant looking at the menu. An American woman stops to talk to us, she is excited to hear an English accent after three weeks staying in the nearby Convent. She informs us the restaurant hasn’t been open for months.

As the bell of the nearby church hidden behind twelve feet high stones walls permeates through the solitude of the village, it becomes quickly apparent that there is only one thing to do in Solesmes. So off we dutifully go to Vespers.

Lessons begin straight after mass on the Monday morning. The group has traveled from the far-flung corners of the globe. From Singapore, Japan, America, Poland, the Netherlands and even Kent. All to learn from the great chant master Dom Daniel Saunier.

Nothing could have prepared me for the incredible experience of learning with Dom Saunier, he can recite the entire Graduale Romanum from memory and thinks nothing of expecting his students to do the same. In his thick French accent, he announces to the group that “you can only know ze chant when you have committed it to memory.” He tells us that the music is not what is written on the page. Those are just printed notes. “The music is what happens beyond the text.” True to his word, task number one is to have the Introit of the week Ecce Deus learnt by lunch. Yikes.

When we are not learning in the classroom, we are sat in the awesome splendour of the church listening to the monks as they chant the Liturgy of the Hours. The beautiful daily Mass is a reminder that the chant must be an integral part of the Novus Ordo. Here the chant is constantly evolving. Dom Saunier shows us the Introit for The Assumption. ‘It was written in 1950,” he declares, “ by a monk here at Solesmes.” He smiles, “he is still alive, you can see him, he is 85.”

As the lessons continue, Dom Saunier repeats the same point over and over again. To know the chant you must have an intimate understanding of the text. “Ze chant was born of zheeese words,’ he announces with a knowing look. I feel ashamed that my Latin is so appalling.

As l sit with my new Graduale Triplex on my lap, unsuccessfully trying to remember the Introit for Hebdomada XVI wondering how l am ever going to get the hang of it, the opening line couldn’t be more apt. ‘Ecce Deus adiuvat me.” “Behold the Lord is my helper.”

Work begins

One of the blog readers was kind enough to send me a cheque for five hundred pounds - many thanks. It was enough to be able to pay Radic, a Slovakian parishioner and professional carpenter to sand and revarnish more than half of our benches, the picture below is typical of them.
The next job is to repair our west window before the organ console is returned to the gallery.
I'll put up a picture later.

Medjogorje priest defrocked

Simon Caldwell reports that the Holy See has "defrocked" Tomislav Vladic a former Franciscan. Simon says:

In the midst of a spat with the local bishop and the Vatican, he had earlier made a prophecy that the Virgin Mary would appear in Bosnia.
Months later, six local children said they had seen the Virgin on a nearby hillside. Soon after Father Vlasic announced he was 'spiritual adviser' to the 'visionaries' who now claim that Our Lady has visited them 40,000 times over the last 28 years.
An estimated 30million pilgrims have visited the shrine since 1981, including many from Britain and Ireland.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, issued a ban on pilgrimages to the site but this has been widely ignored.
Father Vlasic was suspended last year by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith amid an inquiry into his conduct after three commissions failed to find evidence to support the visionaries' claims.

This seems to be yet another sign of the Church's disaproval of Medjugorje. Some people ask why doesn't the Church just close it down, the problem is that so many otherwise good Catholics place their trust in visions and seeings rather than the authority of Peter. Many people testify to how their lives have been changed by a visit to Medjogorje, many have a sincere devotion to the place. God does have ability to draw good out of ill, never the less the Church, first of all in the person of the local bishop has a duty to verify such visions. There is always a tension between the heirachic and charismatic authority in the Church, but unless we are to end in chaos wise heirarchic authority must prevail.
Priests and even bishops visit Medjogorje claiming to do so in a "private capacity", I have never quite understood how a priest and most especially can do that especially when he celebrates the sacraments or preaches.

The Church did forbid any visit at all to Garabandal, it very quickly became a focus of division, setting the Blessed Virgin against against the Pope. It is significant the Bishop Richard Williamson in a recent interview used this pseudo-vision as yet another way of attacking or undermining the hierarchic authority of the Church.

These sort of visions demand belief not so much in Our Lady but in the visionary or visionaries. Ultimately the question is not whether there is a miraculous appearance but whether the visionary is credible. We believe in a vision because we believe in the visionary. Lourdes and Fatima are credible because of the holiness of those who did the seeing. The first fruit of any true vision is holiness of the visionary. Good trees bring forth good fruit.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pray for Grannies

Even on holiday at Les Combes the crowds follow the Pope.
Pray for “all the grandparents of the world” who are witnesses to fundamental values and play an important educational role for young people, especially in today’s world. Pope Benedict XVI gave the advice as he spoke to a crowd of a few thousands who had joyfully gathered in front of the cottage in Les Combes, where the Holy Father is staying until next Wednesday, 29 July, for a short period of rest. more here


As a young Protestant child taught "Divinity", as my school pretentiously called "RE", by a Methodist minister, I was taught that one of the main differences between the Protestant communion service and that "Romish fable" the Mass was the elevation. We weren't taught in a bitter polemical way but merely presented with historical facts. Indeed, I became intrigued by the tremendously high, and difficult to comprehend Catholic notion of transubstantiation.

So, the first time I went to Mass I was fascinated by the elevation and what it signified: notions of being "lifted up", being "between heaven and earth"; ideas of the exaltion on the Cross or Ascension, the lowering of the host too evoked ideas of Incarnation, kinosis, descent into hell. I remember being a little shocked by reading the rubric in the GIRM, which merely said, "the priest shows the host to the people". What was the cause of so much division between Catholic and Protestant for centuries, seemed to be about merely saying "look". All that talk about the "gaze that saves", those recussant cries at illegal, secret Masses of "hold, sir priest" became reduced to a merely practical showing of the consecrated elements.

Obviously any reading of the connection between the "elevation" and "Corpus Christi" devotion would indicate our forefathers understood a deeper connection, the Protestant hatred and elimination of the "elevation" too, indicates more than a utilitarian presentation for viewing.

The Bugnini rubric allows a great deal of interpretation of "shows the people", from the casual one-handed elevation, an elevation just a few inches above the corporal, the elevation of the pale host against the equally pale face of the celebrant, so actually nothing is seen, to the abrogation by simple priests of the papal prerogative of elevation to the cardinal points of the compass.

Pope Benedict has spoken a lot about the ars celebrandi, it will be interesting to see what he does with his broken wrist. As with the Reformation period, nothing seems to indicate what a priest understands by the Real Presence than the way in which he elevates the Body and Blood.

Newman: when and where?

ICN The beatification ceremony of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890) will be held in the Archdiocese of Birmingham during 2010, on a date and at a venue yet to be decided.

There has been much speculation in the Catholic Press, on websites and on blogs about the date and venue of the ceremony since Pope Benedict XVI authorised the proclamation of a Decree on Friday 3 July, that recognised the authenticity of a miracle obtained through the intercession of Cardinal Newman.

The miraculous healing took place on 15 August 2001, the Feast of the Assumption, when a permanent Deacon of the Archdiocese of Boston, USA, named Jack Sullivan, now aged 70, was cured of a crippling disease of the spine.

A story put out on the wires by the American Catholic News Service on Wednesday 15 July stated categorically: "Cardinal John Henry Newman will be beatified in Birmingham, England, 2 May, a Catholic Church source told Catholic News Service on condition of anonymity."

The anonymous source added: "Cardinal Newman will be beatified in the Birmingham Oratory".

Bishop William Kenney, CP, Diocesan Administrator in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, said: "We will suggest dates for the beatification ceremony of Cardinal Newman to officials in Rome. No official announcement will be made until a date and venue has been approved by the Holy See."

Bishop Kenney, added: "The long Roman summer holidays have now begun and an official announcement is unlikely before late September or early October 2009 at the earliest."

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, Bishop William Kenney, and Fr Paul Chavasse, Actor of the Newman Cause and Provost of the Birmingham Oratory, met on Tuesday 21 July at Archbishop's House, Westminster, and are in favour of the beatification ceremony being on a Sunday during late May or early June 2010, in the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

The norm for beatifications during the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI is that they should take place in the diocese where the Servant of God lived and died - Cardinal Newman died in his room at the Oratory House in Birmingham on Monday 11 August 1890. There have been a few exceptions when, for good reason, the beatification ceremony was held in Rome.

The Cardinal Newman Memorial Church in Edgbaston, situated next to the Oratory House, opened by Fr Newman in February 1852, is not sufficiently large to host the beatification ceremony that will attract people from across the world.

Pope Benedict XVI has not officiated at a beatification ceremony and it has emerged from Rome that he will not make an exception for Newman, whom he first studied as a young seminarian in January 1946. That honour is likely to fall to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Archbishop Angelo Amato.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Blair to speak at Communion and Liberation meeting

Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, is amongst the speakers at next month’s Rimini meeting on “knowledge and faith” organized by the Communion and Liberation movement.

Bishop Moth

I heard this as a rumour a few days ago.
Monsignor Richard Moth, currently the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Southwark, is to be the next Bishop of the Forces, the Vatican announced at 1100 BST on Saturday 25 July.

The provisional date for his ordination and installation is 29 September 2009.
It is good when I hear of students who were with me at the seminary being made bishop. He was straight down the line as a student, as Mgr Jim McConon, our Rector used to say, "Show me the student and I will show you the priest".
Congratulations to Mgr Moth.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Abbaye de Solesmes

I was looking for something on the Solesmes Chant Summerschool where our "music minister" was this week. I couldn't find anything but I thought some of you might enoy this video. Actually you might see more here than Clare does, being a woman, more a Directrix of the Schola than a minister of music, she has had to stay outside the monastic enclosure in some eighteen star hotel rather than being admitted to the hard beds and meagre food of the monastic guest house.
She is there with Bara Brith, a Blackfen parishioner.

Papal Holiday Pictures

Today Pope Benedict XVI greeted children after celebrating Vespers withe clergy religious in the cathedral in Aosta.

In his daily update, Vatican Press Office Director Fr Federico Lombardi gave a glimpse of one of the more intimate moments of the Pope’s vacation period, describing one of the rare and un-programmed encounters between the Pope and families from the local community.

He described how last night during his usual evening walk, near the village of Les Combes Pope Benedict came upon a group of five children, accompanied by their mothers, with whom he stopped to share a few words. During the course of the conversation one of the children described to the Pope how in winter-time his home in the Rhemes Valley, is covered by snow reaching up to 6 metres in depth, at which the Holy Father expressed his surprise and wonder....

An informal meeting with Secretary of State.

John Ryan dies

How sad John Ryan has died. Not only was he the creator of Captain Pugwash but also Cardinal Grotti who made the Catholic Herald fun.
Maybe the Herald might reprint some of his cartoons as a tribute.

Magdalen in Marble

Elizabeth Lev has an interesting piece on portrayals of St Mary Magdalen,
here she is on Bernini's carving:
In 1661, the greatest of the Baroque artists, GianLorenzo Bernini, turned his considerable talents to the subject of Mary Magdalene. His was a papal commission, a gift of Pope Alexander VII for the cathedral of his hometown of Siena. Bernini, 63 years old at the time, was personally absorbed with the idea of repentance. He attended Mass daily and practiced the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius. With this kind of spiritual preparation, Bernini was more than up to this task.

His Mary Magdalene has little of the earthy solidity of either Caravaggio or Guido Reni. In the hands of this master sculptor, Mary has become an elongated figure. Stripped of ornament and costly fabrics, her body twists and turns, drawing the eye upward like the serpentine flames of a votive candle. She stands upon her jar of ointment, but her face turns toward the heavens, and her hands are fervently clasped in prayer. Her deeply pleated robe falls from her like a discarded shroud, as her highly polished body seems to blend into the light pouring in from the overhead windows. Bernini's Magdalene has reached the end of her earthy struggles and becomes a beacon to Paradise for the rest of us.

This saint, so approachable in her passionate impetuousness, was held up for particular devotion by the Church in the 17th century. Adapting to many forms and personalities, she managed to make sacrifice and repentance chic, a miracle in and of itself.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

BBC's non-level playing field

I am addicted to Radio 4, most of the time it is really very good.

There has been a debate, I think amongst the Trustees recently about whether "Thought for the Day" which is a shorts sermon during the prestigious "Today Programme" should have a secularist or humanist "Thought". I haven't heard the outcome.

Those who say there shouldn't be any non-religious input argue that there is little enough religious representation on the BBC.

Those who argue for the inclusion of non-religious input, say that there are already on Radio 4 an early morning "Prayer for the Day" on Sunday "Morning Service" preceded by the "Sunday Programme" of religious news report. In addition on Radio 3 most days there is "Evensong".

I agree there lots of anodyne, prissy, dull religious programmes stuck in their own little ghetto. What there is not is any rampant preaching of any religious message, be it by Christians, Jews, Muslims or any other group. No Christian, Jew or Muslim is allowed to proselytise on the BBC and yet for half an hour I have just heard Shappi Khorsandi mock religions and religious practice. and yes, proselytise for secularism. I am sure many of you could give other examples, apart from the pushing of the dull arguements of Dawkins, the broadcasting of the overt secularism of Pullman.

In fact Dawkins and Pullman don't worry me as much the BBC's policy of allowing ridicule and mockery, which has much more impact than dreary "Thought for the Day".

Where are the Christian commedians? BBC doesn't employ any.

Come on BBC let's have some fairness in this.

Our Debt and Caritas in Veritate

Just in case I upset anyone in any particular curial office, I am merely being provocative, I am not denouncing anyone, or criticising any particular body etc etc etc....

I have been reading Caritas in Veritate, I have done it twice and I still think I need to reread it again and again. The articles I have read on it don't quite seem to encapsulate the closely woven arguements of theology and economics. Frankly it makes the Pope's previous two encyclicals seem like gentle holiday reads, and Paul VI's Populorum Progressio which it quotes from heavily and developes look like a primary school text.

As a parish priest on the edge of getting my parish into what for us will be a huge debt, £50,000, for the initial phase, more subsequently, at a time when many of my parishioners will be suffering more seriously than others from the effects of the economic crisis, the poor always suffer more than the rich in such a situation, I can't help but read Caritas in Veritate in the light of our situation.

We have and expensive plant, a beautiful Victorian Church, a big priest's house, which doubles as a pastoral centre, a Victorian school building which we run as a centre for the local community, making a small profit. The people who use it are "Voices in Exile", group run from my house for exiles and asylum seekers, along with various "Anonymous" groups Alcholics Anonymous, Cochaine Addicts Anonymous etc. Our buildings are excessively tall, buffetted constantly by the wind and rain coming directly from the English Channel, we are under strict legal obligations to preserve them.

I had an estimate to repair a window in the church for almost £10,000 yesterday, like every bill I have for minor repair work, because of the height of the church, 10% of it is for the cost of scaffolding. Of the money that comes in in the Offertory, which is really our only source of income, the diocese takes an 11% levy, it would be more if we were wealthier. Our parishioners who are mainly immigrants give approximately 60-80 pence per person, about 5o of them register to giftaid, which meeans we get 28p in the pound back from Inland Revenue. As a rough sample of our choir, only 25% are in employment, so the vast majority are on a minimum and very restricted income.

When Cardinal Murphy O'Connor was our Bishop he used to describe Arundel & Brighton as the "Gin and Jag Diocese", which is how other bishops described us. Surrey and Sussex are two of the wealthiest counties in the country but that is certainly not our parish profile, we are definitely inner city. There are certainly very wealthy parishes in our diocese, parishes with property or other endowments, parishes were legacies and large donations trickle in regularly. This is not our parish, a substantial amount of our income and energy goes on literally feeding the poor, if we had more money we could spend even more.

We have never been wealthy, in our history we have had parish priests who have been so overcome by the enormity of the task of keeping our buildings standing that they have done nothing and with crumbling stones falling around their ears they have taken to the bottle and died.

A previous generation built our plant and left it to us and our posterity. We are Christians, not mueum keepers, not custodians of Catholic heritage; the church, our own diocese and the law of the state place enormous burdens on us which we can't really bear. I delight in what Providence has given us but I am sure that a Polish or Slovakian worker who is desperate to gather enough money to return home or a Filipino immigrant desperately holding down two or three jobs to support a family at home, cares nothing at all for our heritage, all they want is the sacraments, a place to go to Mass. The building, its past, its future is of no concern to them, poverty causes one to live in the present and so many are poor. Indeed paying for its restoration merely means diverting already scarce resources from the proclamation of the Gospel.

So what does Caritas in Veritate have to say to us? At its heart is the basic gospel message of "Caritas", of the rich helping the poor. It is not that it is worthy thing to do, but rather is absolute necessity springing from the very notion of justice itself. Pope Benedict does not quote St Ambrose, where he says "If a rich man gives to the poor, he is not giving anything at all, he is merely returning that which he has falsely abrogated to himself, it is only when he gives of his necessities, that he is truly being charitable", as does Populorium Progressio, but it is that notion that lies behind Caritas in Veritate. It is about generosity, sharing, taking responsibility for those in need the details of the document are complicated but the broad sweep is very simple: it is the Gospel message of coming to the help of those in need. Someone yesterday suggested we should stop feeding the hungry because of our restoration project or start charging "Voices in Exile" rent, both would be a rejection of the Gospel.

Lest the Church is accused of hypocrisy, heaven forefend, it strikes me if we are to expect others to implement Caritas in Veritate's teaching, then first of all bishops and diocesan trustees, and their financial staff should take time studying it, and setting their own houses in order, according to its teaching. There must be implications for the redistribution of wealth and resources within the Church whilst still maintaining the principle of subsidiarity. The problem will always be, within the Church, the building of empires, but that seems to be contrary to the spirit of Caritas in Veritate. As it strikes me, the Pope is saying is the obligation is on the rich, "to give", the poor become their means of salvation.

It certainly means that parishes like mine should be given help by those who are wealthier.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

St Mary Magdalen Day

Happy St Mary Magdalen Day!

Chill the Krug grand cru, let the Chateau Lafite breath, garnish the sturgeon with beluga, stuff your swans with truffles, fetch the ancient port from the most neglected part of you cellar, for today is Great Maudlin's day.
If she could pour out the most costly unction over the Lord's body, then we should spare no expense to keep her feast.

More oppression of Catholics in Vietnam

All that remains of the historic church of Tam Toa (pictured), built at the end of 1800 and hit by American bombing in 1968, has become grounds for confrontation between Catholics and the government. Yesterday, police charged and beat hundreds of Catholics from the Diocese of Vinh (334 km south of Hanoi), who had erected a cross and an altar on the grounds of the church.

"The Police - tells father Thanh Hong, pastor of the parish - launched tear gas bombs on people, before kicking and beating them with sticks and stun guns. Many priests and faithful were injured”. "Some – he adds - were forced to lie on the ground, where they were again beaten by groups of young thugs hired by the police. Dozens more were loaded onto police vans and we still do not know where they have been brought”.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


A visit today Frs Tim Finigan and Charles Briggs, as Lawrence and Damien were free they said Mass simultaneously.
After dashing around the parish, saying the end of the school year Mass, a bit of visiting, I'm joining them for dinner with the great Fr Z.

More Catacomb discoveries

Following on from the discovery of a wall painting of an early image of St Paul Zenit covers the appointment of Monsignor Giovanni Carrù to the role of secretary to the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology.
There is a reference to the discovery 100 paintings in 10 years of in the Via Dino Compagni, it is one of the Roman Catacombs I know nothing about, but this is an interesting link to the International Catacomb Society.

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...