Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Archbishop Backs Equality

The Archbisop of Westminster said at a recent press following the Bishop bi-annual meeting:
We would want to emphasise that civil partnerships actually provide a structure in which people of the same sex who want a lifelong relationship [and] a lifelong partnership can find their place and protection and legal provision,
As a Church we are very committed to the notion of equality so that people are treated the same across all the activities of life. The Church holds great store by the value of commitment in relationships and undertakings that people give. Stability in society depends upon the reliability of commitments that people give. That might be in offering to do a job but especially in their relationships with one another. Equality and commitment are both very important and we fully support them.
He did go on to say, "equality and commitment do not amount to marriage".

As is pointed out here, "The bishops conference position on civil partnerships appears to have shifted from 2003 when it told the Government that civil unions would not promote the common good and we therefore strongly oppose them".
It appears that the 2003 CDF document Legal Recognition of Homosexual Unions only applies to Marriage, itself not "civil partnerships. I had obviously misunderstood as the bishops once did.

Ostrov - The Island

I like Russian cinema, Ostrov The Island is one of my favourite films. It is beautifully filmed.
It is about a holy fool, with a past, There is a lot about prayer and penance, faith and dying, and the tensions and joys of monastic life, human weakness and divine strength.

Most importantly it is about holiness.
It can be found here, sorry it is on You tube.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hitler's Law Still Persecutes

We have an organisation, Brighton Voices in Exile which works for asylum seekers and exiles working out of my presbytery's basement. I am amused at times by the shock of Afghani or Sudanese exiles who get the wrong door and meet a cassocked Catholic priest.

Recently a family that is a little different from most has started coming here to Mass. They are in exile from their native home country because they want to educate their child themselves, they are German. If they stayed at home, the parents would be put in prison and their child probably separated from them forever. The cause is the law introduced by Hitler, and still persecuting parents, which placed the eduction of children in the hands of the state, taking away from parents the right and duty to be the "primary educators" of their children.

Last year a US court granted asylum to a German family who wanted to "home school".

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bishop Davies on the Holocaust

The wise Bishop Mark Davies recently spoke in a synagogue on Holocaust Memorial Day. I am not going to quote from it, it is all worth reading.
He reminds his hearers of Pope Benedict's words about learning frrom history and about ideologies that seek to destroy and eradicate God himself.

Friday, November 25, 2011

More Work

Over the las few weeks we have been celebrating Mass and everything else in the nave. The altar has been moved so the new sanctuary floor can be laid. The pulpit has been dismantled and has been cleaned of its grey paint and a massive tower has been next to the altar so more paint can be cleaned from upper walls.

Here is a picture looking down the work which has been done during the week.

Look at what was done to the altar in the 70s, it was simply hacked away from the wall the decorative front was put against wall - badly and the end of the mensa was lopped off and placed under the tabernacle. The mensa was placed on some ghastly legs and place on the old communion step, just behind where it is in the first picture and between the two pillars at the bottom of the second picture.

Traditionally an altar should be rooted to the rock, now, a permanent altar is simply one that is for some reason unmoveable. When it is finally put back in place, it will be unmovable solely by its weight and the fact it is fixed to the floor, which is less than ideal but is the best that can be done.

The last picture is Rado who has been paint removing with a passing angel on top of the tower - too high for me, I don't do heights well.
The last picture is Rado with angels - on top of the tower.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


AW Pugin produced a manifesto "Contrasts" he compared his modern and industrial age with that of the "age of faith" and found the former decidedly lacking.

This morning one of my parishioners said he didn't believe in "human rights", I think it was a bit of a throw away remark but I am beginning to wonder whether a culture that promotes our "rights" make us selfish, the "age of faith", which is really feudalism, placed everyone under an obligation and imposed duties on them, to serve and to ensure harmony within society.

With the elderly being left in their own filth or to go hungry, with a winter of strikes looming, with economic meltdown we are facing, it seems the strong and the wealthy can indeed exercise their rights whilst the weak are trampled upon. 

I am not sure it was ever true, but Pugin's vision was one where man was conscious of his intimate connection with the sacred. At its heart was man as as worshipping God or as we might say today "as a liturgical person". For him that was a radical alternative to his society. It was also a Christian alternative to the visions of Bentham or Marx and Engels or any of the other constructors of new worlds of the 19th century. It raised man up from meanness conveying an idea of "Glory" rather mere utilitarianism - see the last of these illustrations, "The Public Conduit" both serve the same purpose of conveying water to the thirsty but the East Cheap Conduit is a celebration of so much more than merely making water available.

A friend hates the Fr Z catch phrase, "save the liturgy, save the world" but actually the liturgy, learning to acknowledge God and our obligation to him, is salvific, it places us in context, it changes the whole balance of society, it makes us human.

Pushkin the Oratory Cat

Cats: I know people who are besotted but me: they make me sneeze. However Pushkin the Birmingham Oratory cat has, apparently, produced a book: Pushkin the Pontifical Puss: Tails of an Oratory Cat.

For insights, from a cats point of view, into Birmingham Oratory life, extracts can be read here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thoughts on Music

Happy St Cecelia's Day
A few thoughts on music.
We Catholics, we use music differently than Protestants or at least we should. For us music is supposed to soothe and quieten the soul to contemplate God; for Protestants it supposed to rouse the emotions. Catholic music, at least within the Sacred Liturgy is about prayer and communion with God: Protestant music is much more allied to preaching and the proclamation of faith.
Catholic music is, as the General Instruction tells us, above all Gregorian Chant and Polyphony, other music isn't proscribed but the model is music to quieten the soul rather than excite it.
Some of our choir have become pretty proficient at chant; Clare our Director of Music goes off to St Cecelia's, Ryde with a little group of women to do a master classes  with their choirmistress, she's been invited to teach a few other parishes about chant. In a world where trivial candyfloss is regarded as the equivalent of chant, the trouble is that we are regarded as odd, "You do things differently at St Mary Magdalen". As far as I know we are one of the few parishes for miles around that use chant: so much for the General Instruction!
At our one sung Mass (Ordinary Form) we try to avoid the hymn sandwich, we do have a hymn to begin with, then the Introit during the incensation, we alternate the Responsorial Psalm with the Gradual, at the Offertory we can have the chant from the Graduale, a motet or a hymn, at Commununion we always tend to have Proper chant but also a devotional hymn, or motet. The recessional is often a hymn, a bit of community singing.
I am not sure that most of our congregation understand why we use chant, despite the occassional bit of catechesis, in the inner city our congregation changes so quickly. For most people chant is just a bit of peace and contemplation whilst something else is going on or a musical lacoona. We have tried the English chant, written for the new Missal translations, to me they sound faux and are difficult to sing. Latin is easier though understanding the text, despite producing handouts, is difficult.
As one of my priest neighbours says, "Sunday Mass tends to be a bit of a bear garden", at least compared to quiet weekday Mass. The problem is of course prayer, though I am not quite sure how you teach two, three, four or five year olds about prayer and worship, perhaps  in "Children's Liturgy" rather than "colouring in" they ought to be listening to recordings of chant and taught to pray.

Just asking

The Christian Institute carries a report on the lobbying campaign of the Scottish bishops against the redefinition of marriage. 14,000 cards have been sent to the Scottish Government, so far and I suppose that Scottish Catholics have had the concerns of their Pastors made clear to them.

Umm, what is being done England and Wales? I don't want to cause trouble, I am just asking, I thought it might be important for children, for the family, for society, that sort of thing.

Monday, November 21, 2011

At the House of Lords

It is not every day off I spend taking wine with the great and good in the Palace of Westminster, today was an exception. My name tag, which I think was produced by the House of Lords, said that I was a "Catholic Affairs Commentator"; posh name for a blogger.
The occasion was a reception for the Friend's of St Augustine s Church, Ramsgate. A.W. Pugin's wonderful church and home, he paid for himself, it is place he chose to buried, it was supposed to be a show place for his vision of the Neo-Gothic. It fittingly took place in one of the Pugin decorated rooms of the House of Lords.

It was served by the Benedictines but two years ago they handed it back to the diocese. It seems as if it was possibly likely to become derelict, there were leaks in the roof, the electricity supply was condemned, the heating system had stopped working. A lot seems to have been put right but the architect was talking about rot in the timbers, the roof needs to be taken of to treat it, ironwork is rusting and damaging the stone, placing in jeopardy the glorious stained glass. There is tremendous amount of work to be done which should cost in the region of a million pounds.
Have a look at the Friends of St Augustine's website, we are in need and many of you have been generous to St Mary Magdalen's but St Augustine's is so important to Catholic architecture throughout the world I really do urge you to go the donate button.
The parish site is interesting too, they offer both forms of the Roman Rite.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pope to Children on the Holy Eucharist

Pope Benedict would have been a wonderful Grandfather, today he spoke very simply to a group of young children in Benin.
God our Father has gathered us around his Son and our brother, Jesus Christ, who is present in the host consecrated during the Mass. This is a great mystery before which we worship and we believe. Jesus, who loves us very much, is truly present in the tabernacles of all the churches around the world, in the tabernacles of the churches in your neighbourhoods and in your parishes. I ask you to visit him often to tell him of your love for him.
Some of you have already made your First Holy Communion, and others are preparing for it. The day of my First Holy Communion was one of the most beautiful days of my life. It is the same for you, isn’t it? And why is that? It’s not only because of our nice clothes or the gifts we receive, nor even because of the parties! It is above all because, that day, we receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time! When I receive Communion, Jesus comes to live in me. I should welcome him with love and listen closely to him. In the depths of my heart, I can tell him, for example: “Jesus, I know that you love me. Give me your love so that I can love you in return and love others with your love. I give you all my joys, my troubles and my future.” Do not hesitate, dear children, to speak of Jesus to others. He is a treasure whom you should share generously. Throughout the history of the Church, the love of Jesus has filled countless Christians, and even young people like yourselves, with courage and strength. In this way, Saint Kizito, a Ugandan boy, was put to death because he wanted to live according to the baptism which he had just received. Kizito prayed. He realized that God is not only important, but that he is everything.
What, then, is prayer? It is a cry of love directed to God our Father, with the will to imitate Jesus our brother. Jesus often went off by himself to pray. Like Jesus, I too can find a calm place to pray where I can quietly stand before a Cross or a holy picture in order to speak to Jesus and to listen to him. I can also use the Gospels. That way, I keep within my heart a passage which has touched me and which will guide me throughout the day. To stay with Jesus like this for a little while lets him fill me with his love, light and life! This love, which I receive in prayer, calls me in turn to give it to my parents, to my friends, to everyone with whom I live, even with those who do not like me, and those whom I do not appreciate enough. Dear young people, Jesus loves you. Ask your parents to pray with you! Sometimes you may even have to push them a little. But do not hesitate to do so. God is that important!
May the Virgin Mary, his Mother, teach you to love more and more through prayer, forgiveness and charity. I entrust you to her, together with your families and teachers. Look! I have this rosary in my pocket. The rosary is like a tool that we can use to pray. It is easy to pray the rosary. Maybe you know how already; if not, ask your parents to help you to learn how. At the end of this meeting, each one of you will receive a rosary. When you hold it in your hands, you can pray for the Pope, for the Church and for every important intention. And now, before I bless you all with great affection, let us pray together a Hail Mary for children throughout the world, especially for those who are sick, who are hungry and in places of war.
Let us pray together: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Some more

One of my parishioners has written a song. I don't know if it will be heard on Chant Cafe or appear  on New Liturgical Movements or even Rorate Caeli.
It raises lots of questions, why do intelligent young men, even with guitars, love the "Mass of Ages"? Why do they sit round a talk about vocations to the priesthood or living according to the Church's teaching? Why are they eager to share their faith?
What does the Traditional Mass do to them?

New Translations and Ecumenism

There is a rather interesting extract from Dr Chartres the Anglican Bishop of London on the new translations of the Roman Missal, for those of us who know of many Anglicans who use both the Roman Missal and Lectionary, his words may seem a little hard, especially for those who have claimed they are "Catholics" but in the CofE.
The great Peter Amigo, Archbishop of Southwark for the first half of the 20th Century met a  High Anglican on a street who said, "I am an Anglican but I consider myself a validly ordained Catholic priest and I accept you as my real and legitimate  bishop". The Bishop replied, "In that case I suspend you. Good day!"

The Pope has recently issued an invitation to Anglicans to move into full communion with the See of Rome in the Ordinariate where it is possible to enjoy the “Anglican patrimony” as full members of the Roman Catholic Church. Three priests in the Diocese have taken this step. They have followed their consciences.

For those who remain there can be no logic in the claim to be offering the Eucharist in communion with the Roman Church which the adoption of the new rites would imply. In these rites there is not only a prayer for the Pope but the expression of a communion with him; a communion Pope Benedict XVI would certainly repudiate.

At the same time rather than building on the hard won convergence of liturgical texts, the new Roman rite varies considerably from its predecessor and thus from Common Worship as well. The rationale for the changes is that the revised texts represent a more faithful translation of the Latin originals and are a return to more traditional language.

Priests and parishes which do adopt the new rites – with their marked divergences from the ELLC texts and in the altered circumstances created by the Pope’s invitation to Anglicans to join the Ordinariate – are making a clear statement of their disassociation not only from the Church of England but from the Roman Communion as well. This is a pastoral unkindness to the laity and a serious canonical matter. The clergy involved have sworn oaths of canonical obedience as well as making their Declaration of Assent. I urge them not to create further disunity by adopting the new rites.

There will be no persecution and no creation of ritual martyrs but at the same time there will be no opportunity to claim that the Bishop’s directions have been unclear. All the bishops of the Diocese when visiting parishes will celebrate according to the rites of the Church of England allowing for permitted local variations under Canon B5.

The Pope on His Friend

The Pope on his friendship with Cardinal Gantin in Benin, first on the plane.
I saw Cardinal Gantin for the first time at my ordination as Archbishop of Munich in 1976 [sic -- it was 1977]. He had come become one of his former students was a disciple of mine. That had been the beginning of a friendship between us, without our having met. On that important day of my episcopal ordination, it was beautiful for me to meet this young African bishop full of faith, full of joy and courage. Then, we worked together a great deal, above all when he was the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and then in the College of Cardinals. I always marveled at his deep and practical intelligence, his sense of discernment, to not trip over beautiful ideological phrases but to grasp what’s essential and what doesn’t make sense. He also had a true sense of humor which was very beautiful. Above all, he was a man of deep faith and prayer. All this made Cardinal Gantin not just a friend, but an example. He was a great African Catholic bishop, and I’m truly happy now that I’m able to pray at his tomb and to feel his closeness, his great faith, which will always make him an example for me and a friend.

Then during the welcoming ceremony.
There exists a third reason [I have come here] which is more personal and more emotive. I have long held in high esteem a son of this country, His Eminence Cardinal Bernardin Gantin. For many years, we both worked, each according to his proper competence, labouring in the same vineyard. We both happily assisted my predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, in the exercise of his Petrine ministry. We had many occasions to meet, to engage in profound discussions and to pray together. Cardinal Gantin won the respect and the affection of many. So it seemed right that I should come to his country of origin, to pray before his tomb, and to thank Benin for having given the Church such a distinguished son.
John Allen also has speaks about another great Benin bishop Archbishop Isidore de Sousa

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ratzinger and Gantin

One of the things that the Pope will do in the visit to Benin is to visit the grave of Bernardin Cardinal Gantin. Rocco Palmo has an interesting account of their collaboration.

An Experiment - Sunday EF Mass at 9am

I have been celebrating a Sunday Mass in the Extraordinary form on the third Sunday at 7pm, after Ordinary Form Mass at 6pm. Following "requests from the faithful", for an experimental period, initially, from the first Sunday of Advent until the Sunday before the beginning of Lent, I will celebrate the Extraordinary Form of Mass  at 9am every Sunday (it will be Low Mass - maybe some Catholic family might come and sing polyphony which would be very nice if God could arrange that).

The problem is if I am ill or on holiday there will be no-one in the local area to say Mass in my place.

In marketing terms it is another of our USPs, (unique selling points).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Death of Catholic England

This day is the anniversary of the death of Reginald Cardinal Pole, the last of the Plantagenets, the last of the line of Augustine, the last Archbishop of Canterbury.
On same day Queen Mary died and thus died Catholic England!

Pray for their souls

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Strong Families Equal Strong Economies

When the 7 billionth child was born at the beginning of the month the BBC actually allowed a few people to say that in Europe we were facing a demographic winter, and that in Africa and Asia the numbers surviving childhood are quickly sinking to below replacement level.
Francis Phillips in the Herald argues Bishops should stop worrying about decline and start encouraging couples to be open to life.
In the threatened coming economic Apocalypse, if pensions and other forms of social support fail won't ther family grow in importance?

(Romereports.com) Solutions to the world's economic worries are being presented in all shapes and sizes. But one area which is often overlooked and plays a critical role in development is the family. An economic forum was held in Rome to examine the role of the family on the economy. Brad Wilcox is the director of the National Marriage Project. He says that societies and economies will flourish if children are raised in a healthy family setting.

Bradley Wilcox
Director, “National Marriage Project” (USA)
“We know that kids are more likely to get the human and the social capital that they need to flourish both in life and the market when they're raised by intact, married parents.”

Groups like the National Marriage Project study different ways in which governments associate with the family.

Some countries have public policies that specifically promote family life. Finland for instance offers a 'child credit' that families can spend in ways they see best fit to raise their children. This often means one parent is able to take more time to spend at home with their children.

Policies like those in Finland is something the National Marriage Project is trying to promote everywhere.

Bradley Wilcox
Director, “National Marriage Project” (USA)
“What we've talked about today really is that the family plays a crucial role in providing and sort of cultivating the future workers, consumers, and tax payers of the modern world. And the family is often neglected in the consideration of the economy of the welfare of business.”

The studies presented at this “Meeting on the Family” suggest it's in a country's long term interest to promote the family unit.

The group is not only suggesting public policy. They also promote steps that can be taken by private businesses such as maternity leave and benefits associated with raising a family.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Unique for a Reason

The US Bishops have produce a website Marriage: Unique for a Reason, check it out.
Any honest consideration of marriage must think about children, the hope of our future. For millennia, people of every generation and of every culture have understood that the marriage of a man and a woman is the central pro-child social institution and the rock of the natural family. Marriage has never been about the relationship of just any two adults. Marriage brings together a man and a woman who unite as husband and wife to form a unique relationship open to welcoming and caring for new life. As the union of husband and wife, marriage is a union open from within to the blessing of fruitfulness. Children are born “from the very heart” of marriage, from the mutual self-giving between husband and wife (CCC, no. 2366). They are the “supreme gift” of marriage and its “ultimate crown” (GS, nos. 50, 48).

There is new video Made for Each Other: Sexual difference is essential to marriage

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Living Justly

All Christians should be concerned about Justice, about living justly, about doing what is right. It is truly scandalous when the Church of the Living God is seen to be less than just.

Recently I was shown a ranting mad letter from a Bishop to one of his priests, which basically said, "I cannot be bothered to read what you have written or to listen to what you have to say or to investigate what you are accused of but whatever it was it was wrong and hate filled", it actually wasn't, it was a gentle argument trying to explain the faith.

I rather welcome the recent judgement that the relationship of priests to their bishops is like that of employer to employee, simply because it might bring some justice into a situation which is often quiet unjust and sometimes, as an American friend suggested, more akin to master and helot.

Those with power in the Church are often a law unto themselves, especially when they turn their back on the Church's Canon Law and basic Christian principles. In Germany a scandal broke revealing the Bishops own a publishing house which sold pornography, lay people had been questioning it for years and getting no satisfaction.

In Ireland physical and sexual abuse of minors and the vulnerable were bad enough but the Church being seen as bullying, lying and self serving has really damaged its credibility in society and amongst its members. The same vices were seen in the fiasco over the Cardinal Vaughan school in which again the Church was seen as bullying, cruel and not exactly truthful: it took the intervention of Secretary of State for Education to end the farce in favour of the Vaughan parents.

Fr Tim comments on a another school situation, in which the Church, in this case under the guise of the Head Teacher and Governors seem to be again using bullying tactics against a group of parents who are criticising the Religious Education of their children. The parents seem to be taking seriously their role as the "first and best of teachers" of their children in the ways of faith. The parents handed out leaflets some distance from the school, the Head Teacher had the police harass them, someone at the school apparently making an allegation of assault, which the police later decided not to pursue. The parents put up a website, the Head Teacher wrote to parents saying logging on to it would infect their computers.

As Fr Tim says, it isn't just this school, "I have heard many similar stories from other Catholic schools and colleges though usually those who complain do not wish to be in the public eye". I would suggest it is broader than educational establishments. It touches religious houses, pastoral organisations, dioceses. A careful reading of the Carlile Report on the Ealing Abbey scandals would seem to suggest that the Abbey placed itself beyond scrutiny and criticism living in its own self created bubble.

 Fr Tim quotes some one commenting or pro-euthanasia and pornography shown to children by the Bonus Pastor school, who says, "I am a Catholic and teacher in a secular school within a 5 mile radius of Bonus Pastor. We would not countenance showing this material in school - no school with Muslim pupils would allow it, without at least warning the parents and allowing them to opt out. Ironic, isn't it?" Injustices or simply bad behaviour tolerated in the Church and its institutions are not tolerated in wider society, the closed shop mentality, the obfuscation, the lack of scrutiny of the Church can tend to damage it seriously, placing the institutions members above the sacred message, to the point where institution appears to exist disjointed from Christ and his Gospel.

It is very easy for the Church to exist solely to cling to power, to become yet another corporation or institution, perhaps particularly in age of relativism and particularly now when we are forced to employ so many "professionals" there is an even greater danger.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Death to the World

During a telephone call tonight I told an Orthodox friend one of my predecessors used to mutter, "they cry out for bread and we give them candy-floss". He told me about this rather radical Orthodox monastic evangelical initiative which I remember hearing about in the 1990s, here is Wiki link: a "zine" is a "fanzine" by the way.
Death to the World was started by monks and nuns from the St Herman of Alaska Monastery in Platina, California, as a medium of evangelism to teens involved in the punk subculture by monastics who were ex-punks. A founding member was Justin Marler who, soon after recording Volume One with seminal doom metal band Sleep in 1991, left for seven years of monastic life while Sleep went on to become metal icons.
Originally, the monastics planned to submit an article about Fr. Seraphim Rose to the magazine Maximum RocknRoll. They later decided to try to place an ad for their monastery, but were only rudely rejected, being told that the magazine "only [ran] ads for music and zines". This inspired them to begin a zine.
The first issue was printed in the December of ’94 featuring a monk holding a skull on cover. The hand-drawn bold letters across the top read “DEATH TO THE WORLD, The Last True Rebellion” and the back cover held the caption: “they hated me without a cause.” ... The first issue, decorated with ancient icons and lives of martyrs inside, was advertised in Maximum RocknRoll and brought letters from all around the world.
The 'zine continued to be published and distributed at punks shows and underground hangouts. It was estimated that at one time, there were 50,000 in circulation. The monastics put out 12 issues in all, after which they continued distributing the 'zine but didn't publish new issues.
Eight years later, the zine was revived by convert members of Saint Barnabas Antiochian Orthodox Church in Costa Mesa, California. New issues are submitted to the St Herman monks for editing and revision, and are released quarterly.
The zine had a considerable impact on counter culture youth during the mid to late 90s, which caught the attention of mainstream press, and quickly led to the release of Justin Marler's first book in 1997, Youth of the Apocalypse, (co-authored with a fellow monastic).
I wonder if something similar is needed today?
I just read there are major cutbacks in once Catholic Preston.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Possible Presents

My birthday is coming up and here are a few things I would be quite pleased to have.
Yes you are right, I am not quite serious but there is a sale coming up in Paris of works from the collection the Marquet de Vasselot, some are breathtakingly beautiful, with astronomical estimates.

Deus Providebit

What has happened to all those wonderful stories about nuns throwing a handful of miraculous medals over a wall and a week later finding someone had left the property to the convent in will?
Are children no longer rescued whilst hanging from a tree root over a precipice by a mysterious stranger who reminds them to thank their guardian angels then disappears?
Are scapular wearing soldiers still less likely to be killed by the enemy?
Do poor families who give their last six penny piece to St Anthony for the even poorer no longer get postal orders from an long lost aunt in the last post?
As it is the feast of St Leo, do cities under threat from the Hun no longer gather for prayer whilst their bishop sets out on his ass to speak to the enemy, no longer find them gone in the morning?

A few stories, I've been told:
"I made sure the novices were outside the door saying the Litany of Loretto whilst I rang round trying to get a few planes to bring food to the refugees, each litany yielded yet another aeroplane, we stopped after six, it was time for Vespers".

"I made a Novena to get into Oxford, on the eighth I had a refusal, and on the ninth I got an acceptance from Exeter, the first day there I met Claire we have been happily married for forty years, I knew God had a plan."

"We ran out of food, we prayed that God would provide and didn't a fishmongers van breakdown right opposite the convent, and didn't the man ask if we wouldn't mind filling our freezer, we eat salmon all that Lent".

"We began a Mission, people were praying before the Blessed Sacrament, I went to visit a house, the woman who answered the door said, "But Father we decided not call you, who told you John was dying? No-one had, either it was co-incidence or the Lord sent me".

We no longer tell these stories, is it we find them all a little superstitious or is it we longer believe God intervenes directly in our lives or have we just lost faith and trust?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Not Shepherds but Employees

Yesterday the High Court has ruled the Roman Catholic Church can be held liable for the wrongdoings of its priests. In  effect it says priests are employed by a diocese.

Fr Mildew says
Status of the clergy in civil law BBC Radio 4 carried an announcement of a court that effectively considers that all clergy in a diocese are counted as employees of the diocese. In canon law this is not the case, the clergy are self employed (or employed by God ?) The case refers to a lady claiming abuse by a priest now dead, who (presumably) failing to get compensation, applied for a ruling on whether she could sue the diocese as the person responsible for the actions of that priest and received an affirmative reply. This would of course open the door for other similar cases to apply if insufficient compensation was offered. What I would like to know however is whether such a judgement making us employees, would mean we could at least in theory sue the diocese in the case of possible wrongful dismissal, (or even receiving insufficient remuneration !) At present in some but not all dioceses, priests obtain an income from Christmas and Easter Offerings plus Mass stipends and stole fees for marriages, funerals etc. All that is of course taxable. If we were to be employed persons, presumably the diocese would in all cases have to pay a salary ? Perhaps some canonist might like to respond ?
There are lots of other implications of being an employee: pensions, trade unions, minimum wages, working hours, legislation regarding promotion, discrimination... the mind boggles.
But then is every Catholic an employee of the Church?

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Dying Breed

I had lunch with a priest sometime ago, he had been ordained almost 50 years. I asked him if he had enjoyed being a priest, he replied, "I did, I don't now", he moaned about all the administration he had to do. I asked if he would encourage a young man to become a priest, "Certainly not", was his abrupt answer. Fr X is a good priest, he teaches the faith, he is loved by his parishioners and loves them, he is wise and much respected by his fellow priests. He is not a liberal, nor is he a conservative.

I think in many ways he is like many priests, conscious of being a dying breed, likely not to be replaced when he finally retires or dies. What he has built up in his parish over twenty years is likely to be swept away when he dies or retires. I am not sure if he is depressed but like many priests he seemed to lack hope, or a vision for the future. Many priests are conscious of having the baton handed on to them but are not sure whether they will pass it on to anyone.

I think Fr X is not an exception. One of the things that impressed me about Bishop Davies at the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy Colloquium, some had asked a question that should have resulted in criticism of some priests, the Bishop began by saying, "All priests are good!" Obviously he wasn't oblivious to the fact that some priests are plainly not so, there are some priests in prison, some who are great sinners, or heretics, or whatever but it was a delight to hear a bishop suggest it was good just being a priest and all priests are fundamentally good.

So often one gets the impression that bishops see priests a potential problems. One older sick priest said to me of his own bishop, "he sees me as problem and looks forward to me being dead" or another priest, "he is happy to forget I exist until I am dead, then I'll be problem until he replaces me". Death seems to be on the mind many older priests. The relationship between bishops and priests is often far from the vision of Vatican II; that of father and son or Chief Shepherd and Co-workers.

Over the next few years in many dioceses in Europe, the Church is going to see a substantial reduction in the number of priests, most bishops see this as a management problem; managing decline as well as possible. Some have even got in experts to help people "cope with change". It might be common sense to some but to me it seems to be a lack of hope.

Vatican II is often called the Council of the Bishop. It saw a dramatic shift in the understanding of the theology of ministry from "priesthood" to "episkope" oversight. In its crudest interpretation it is a shift from grace to management. One of the reasons for the Year for Priests was about renewing a theology of priesthood, again and again Pope Benedict speaks of the priesthood as belonging and being centred on Christ, serving Christ. Individual priests might be bad, sad or mad but being a priest is good, celebrating the sacraments is good, preaching the Catholic Faith is good.

The sadness that many priests, including Fr X seem to have a loss of hope, it can only be restored when we realise Christ is the answer rather than clever strategies. I don't know what Christ would have done about the crisis that the lack of priests is going to bring about but the Cure D'Ars would have thrown himself on his knees before the Lord, Charles Borromeo would have ordered penance, fasts and processions. Prayer, penance, fasting; child like dependence on Christ have always been the Saints answer to Church's problems. Problems seem to start when we see the Church as ours rather than His.

Of course some bishops and priests would see the reduced number of clergy as an opportunity for lay leadership.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Ambrosian Evangelium Illustrations

These are illustrations for the new controversial Ambrosian Evangelium (thanks - is that the right word - to Rorate).
Is this Catholic or post-Catholic art?

Saturday, November 05, 2011


Guy Fawkes was obviously a politically motivated extremist who wanted to bring about carnage, like all Englishmen I am horrified by him but I also have a certain admiration for him. Every Englishman has a secret wish to blow up Parliament, obviously without hurting anyone. Fawkes is both hero and villain. He symbolises direct action for an oppressed minority, no wonder so many protesters were wearing Guy Fawkes masks outside St Paul's.
The authors of the Gunpowder plot would have seen themselves as tyranicides, seeing King James as both a usurper and an oppressor. Though most Catholic theologians were of the grin and bear it school as far as tyrants are concerned, the Council of Constance (1415) had taught:
"Any vassal or subject can lawfully and meritoriously kill, and ought to kill, any tyrant. He may even, for this purpose, avail himself of ambushes, and wily expressions of affection or of adulation, notwithstanding any oath or pact imposed upon him by the tyrant, and without waiting for the sentence or order of any judge." (Session XV)
At a time when so many Catholics throughout Europe were oppressed or even outlawed the perennial Catholic question, "how far can you go?" had come to the fore. A small number of Jesuits at the time of the plot, like Juan Mariana defended, though with many restrictions and precautions, the disposition and killing of a tyrant. In 1610, five years after the Gunpowder Plot, the Jesuit General forbade any teaching or counsel in private or public, that tyranicide was acceptable.

Today the same question, how far can you go? is to the fore again, perhaps influenced by South American Liberation Theologians. It is not the assassination of a tyrant but questions as to whether it legitimate to destroy an offensive work of art or to disrupt a theatre performance.

Stupid me! thanks to those who made comments, what I put forward as the teaching of Constance, was actually condemned by it!!!

On the Barricades

The Irish government have "for economic reasons" closed its embassy to the Holy See, of course the Blair government proposed to do the same thing, substituting a Vatican desk in the Embassy to Italy. Fr John Corrigan suggests that many other governments might well follow Ireland's lead and that the Church's real authority comes from the voter in the pew.
Fr John is right of course but the problem is that in Europe after 40 years of the liberal ascendancy most Catholics are unsure of what the Church teaches, and what of it they accept, most especially on moral issues. Even amongst the clergy not only is there ignorance but out and out descent, a quarter of the Irish clergy have signed up to the agenda of Association of Catholic Priests, these are hardly the men who would run to the barricades to defend marriage, or the place of the child in society, or even the person of Jesus Christ, or even the poor, at least not under the Church's banner.
The weakness of the faith in the pew means that at an international level the Church is weak but it is not just in weakness the parish, it appears that on a national level we have substituted access for influence. Catholic leaders hobnobbing with ministers is never a good substitute fo the real threat of a loss of votes or much better voters understanding what the Church teaches and being able and willing to articulate it.

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...