Monday, December 31, 2012

Bishop Egan's Pastoal Letter: Humanae Vitae

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth had a brilliant Pastoral Letter for yesterdays Feast of the Holy Family, starting with the Trinity and the Incarnation he then goes onto speak about the family and human sexuality. He pulls no punches, read the whole text at Deacon Augustines blog, then drop a line to the Nuncio to thank him for the appointment of such a Bishop, and ask for more like him.

In 1968, at the height of the Sixties, Pope Paul VI wrote an Encyclical Letter that then and now many Catholics find difficult. He repeated the traditional teaching of the Church, based on the natural law and confirmed by revelation, that sexual intercourse is an integral act for love and for life, and that these two aspects of sexuality – love and life - cannot be divorced[viii]. Humanae Vitae was a prophetic document. Pope Paul spoke of catastrophic consequences for society and culture if these two ends of marriage were split. 45 years on, we can see what he meant in such things as the reduction of sex to a leisure activity, the trafficking of people for prostitution and pornography, broken family relationships, and the explosion of addictive behaviours leading to despair, shame and guilt[ix].

As Catholics, we believe in the natural way of life. We believe that the purpose of sexual intercourse is to express the love between a man and a woman, a love which, within the permanent commitment of marriage, is open to being fruitful to life.[x] This is the way to lasting happiness and fulfilment, even if to become chaste - that is, to develop a mature and fully integrated sexuality, as a single person or a married couple - involves a life-long struggle and “apprenticeship in self-mastery”[xi]. To help us, Jesus calls us to be his disciples, and offers us the healing balm and the strength we need, above all in confession and Holy Communion.

Jesus Christ is the way to personal happiness and authentic humanism. Sadly, the teaching of Humanae Vitae about sexual morality and family values has become something of an ‘elephant in the room’ that no-one seems to mention. In this Year of Faith then, I would like to invite everyone to discover again the Church's wonderful vision of love and life, as expounded in the Catechism. I would also like to ask all families, whatever their form or circumstances, to think about developing a deeper and richer Catholic ethos in the home, so as to give a clearer witness to contemporary culture. For instance, why not spend an evening together as a family, occasionally switch off the computer, make the Sign of the Cross on entering the house, adopt a communal work of justice and charity, or keep special the fast-days and feast-days? I am sure you will think of many other ways of preserving our Catholic distinctiveness.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Let's forget niceness, let's be Catholic!

I am glad that our Archbishops at least are speaking out loud and clear about the redefinition of marriage, I find it depressing that all they can suggest is dropping a letter to your MP.
There are alternatives.
One of the big problems we have in England is Bishops who are just too nice, when what we need are radically orthodox ones. Niceness means being all things to all men, being willing to burn incense before a pagan god, gathering into the big Catholic tent people whose lifestyle choices and whose theology in any other age would exclude them.
Radical orthodoxy would suggest that we proclaim teaching loud and clear wherever we can. That has not happened since the Warlock/Hume remodelling of the Church into something particularly English, more comfortable with the CofE than Rome. They had a particularly local interpretation of VII.

Let's risk making ourselves unpopular! Let's forget niceness, let's be Catholic!

These are some rough notes for a Catholic Pro-family Manifesto

Rather than being embarrassed by it we should dare to talk about what the Church understands by being "human", which involves human sexuality. It is radical, we should accept that it is counter-cultural, it overthrows the politics of left and right by simply saying the family is the most important element in society not wealth creation or even self determination and self-fulfilment.

We could start by trying to get people to discuss marriage, how about large banners on every Catholic building saying something like "Marriage = Man + Woman: discuss"?
We could spend money on a poster campaign.
We should have done it ages ago but what about every diocese in the country producing study material on Humanae Vitae and Evangelium Vitae?
Is it too late to organise symposia in amongst orthodox Christian academics on Marriage?
In the capital at the very least we should be organising public meetings to talk about marriage, and demonstrations to show what we mean by marriage.

In the institutions we still control, our schools most especially, we should be promoting the family. The state, for the last century or two, has been promoting the view that we are here primarily to serve the economy, and that we have value and status in our production of wealth but as Catholic we should be educating people to understand we have value in our relationships with one another, ultimately in our family relationships. Just as the state promotes Sports or Performing Arts Academies we Catholics should be making every school or  college an Academy for the Family. With epidemic marital breakdown we need to teach people how to be married, especially boys, for too long Catholics have done so very little to really educate our young for either eternal or marital life.

We should recognise most women have abortions because of economic reasons, that controlling the size of families through contraception for most people is an economic decision.
We need to promote an authentic feminism (and masculinism) that is based on relationships, we need to promote the real rights of women to be parents, simply to be able to have children without the constant anxiety to find childcare and to be able to afford it.
We need to promote affordable family housing.
We need promote Sunday, the Lord's Day, a day of re-creation, as a day for building family.

Every Catholic social justice organisation should be deeply involved in promoting an economic model that sees the family, rather than the creation of personal wealth, as priority.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Prayer for St Thomas' for turbulent priests

Pour out your Spirit O Lord on the clergy of England and Wales, O Lord,
Inspire them, as You inspired St Thomas to rise up and oppose all that is contrary to Your Will.

And you Holy Archbishop, make our clergy troublesome and turbulent, give us courage to risk all, in the opposition to the evil which stalks our land. With your most powerful intercession arm us with the power which comes from on High. Help us in our weakness, turn our impotence into strength, turn infidelity into sure faith, turn our short sightedness into hope of the bright vision God has for our country and our lukewarmness into burning and ardent charity and love for the will of God.
Be our champion and our leader in the battle before us, let us not fear those who come to seek our destruction in the moral darkness of the winter night that has fallen upon us. Take from us the terrors and phantasms of the night. Like you we have only with the Cross of Christ, while those who are arrayed against us are armed with all the force of the State.
Be our good father and protect your family the Church, defend the clergy and intercede for all the people of this Kingdom.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Mass attendance: wounds and broken relationships

Most Primary School teachers say the can tell whether a child has both parents or has an absent father. Happy families tend to produce happy children, broken families tend to produce broken children. There seems to be a plethora of material that shows that divorce isn't just about breaking the marital bond but actually breaking the hearts and lives of children. Tim Stanley has story that a British consumer agency released a survey that showed that the tenth most requested gift from Father Christmas was “a dad”.

According to the census figures Brighton is the second "most atheistic" city in the UK, which probably actually reflects a lack of any shared or binding idea, atheism is not itself a shared belief but a rejection of a unifying belief, even so I am told that most of the parishes around the city were crowded with people this Christmas, especially in the leafier parishes of the city; lapsed children, non-Catholic spouses turned up in droves. Here, numbers were certainly up but we don't have many families. Housing here doesn't encourage families, most of my people live on their own, so a large number of people were away for Christmas or had no one to bring to Mass. So, I think we did quite well, considering a large number of our parishioners are students who returned home for the vacation, by having an increase of about 30%.

Loneliness seems to be a root problem for my parishioners. Loneliness leads to sin, "it is not good for man to be alone". Living alone tends to produce a soliptic spirituality and world view. Narcissism and self centred sexuality are easy vices, as are other forms of eccentricity. In that sense "the centre does not hold". Growing old on ones own, living on ones own, for many is a fearful prospect.  Fear touches the lives of so many, the experience of broken marriages and families produces a fear of any settled relationship. Older people often have a series of discarded relations, younger people have a fear of commitment, which makes the lasting commitment of marriage and family difficult.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

10 Ways of Damaging Civil Liberties

A Happy and Blessed Christmas to you all.
And a Happy St Stephen's Day

Today the Church wisely teaches us that the message of Christmas has to be seen through the lens of the blood of the Martyrs. Same sex "marriage" will test many people's fidelity to the Catholic faith.

Thank God for some good strong support from some of our Archbishops and Bishops over Christmas, some sadly seem have had nothing to say at all, either over Christmas or in the Pasroral Letters that many Bishops issue for the Feast of the Holy Family.

C4M lists 10 ways redefining marriage would damage civil liberty, (my comments in red). As our local Conservative MP Mr Weatherly has called for Churches that will not marry same sex couples, to not be allowed to marry anyone, these issues should be taken seriously.
1. Teachers in state schools will be forced to endorse the new definition of marriage. Those that refuse could be disciplined or even dismissed. Such action would be legal. As Catholics were forced out of offering adoption services, so we are likely to be forced out of education entirely, or any charitable work that envolves Government funding, or resources of any kind. 
Will the Government also get rid of school governors who disagree with redefinition. 
2. Parents will ultimately have no legal right to withdraw their children from lessons which endorse the new definition of marriage across the curriculum. As there has been in Canada and Spain were SS "Marriage" has been introduced there has also been legislation introduced to remove the terms "Mother" and "Father" and replace them with "Parent #1" and "Parent #2". 
3. NHS/University/Armed forces chaplains could be lawfully fired by their employers if they express, even outside work time, the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. It is not only chaplains but other government/local government employees whose jobs could be at risk.
4. Foster carers and prospective adopting parents could be legally rejected by local authorities on the basis that they fail to embrace the new definition of marriage. 
5. Public sector workers could be demoted or dismissed for expressing support for marriage between one man and one woman. Will we also start banning texts that promote 
 marriage between one man and one woman from public libraries and public places?
6. Registrars who have a conscientious objection to the new definition of marriage will be dismissed unless they are prepared to act against their beliefs. And what about psychiatists and counsellors employed by the NHS?
7. Churches/mosques/synagogues could ultimately be forced to perform same-sex weddings if a Government ban on such weddings in religious premises is overturned by the European courts. Despite the Cameron's talk of "triple locks" the scenario of a member of the clergy taking his/her religious institution to court for forbidding him/her to "marry" ss couples is highly likely.
8. The Church of England may have to disestablish or face the prospect of court action because, as the established church, it must provide a wedding to any person who is legally eligible to get married. It is inconceivable that the State Church will be allowed to continue to be opposed to redefined "marriage", increasingly pro-ss "marriage" bishops will be appointed. As we have seen with the ordination of female bishops the Cof E will be increasingly urged to "get with the programme". The CofE is a fairweather friend on this matter, unfortunately.

9. Faith-based charities could be banned from hiring public facilities if they refuse to endorse the new definition of marriage. Faith based charities and Churches are likely to lose their charitable status.
10. Clergy who disagree with same-sex marriage, but who are in a denomination which has no such objection, could be taken to court if the Government allows religious same sex weddings. Such clergy are likely to be forced out, anyway.
What the "shambolic" and shallow Mr Cameron has shown is that this Government cannot be trusted on any promise it makes regarding marriage or the family. The relationship between male and female is hardwired into nature itself not just human beings, the Government wants to alter this, my great anxiety is if this goes ahead what else will a future government decide it can legislate on: abolish death, or turn back the sea?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Spirit

We strive for perfection, we don't usually achieve it at Christmas

The Turkey is overcooked and burnt
The potatoes are like bullets
Uncle Fred gets drunk
Mum has just had a minor row with her new daughter-in-law,
they are both tight lipped - she has just announced she is a veggie!
Granny doesn't like her presents
Gran-Pa is annoyed with her and has just kicked the cat
The dog knocked over the Christmas tree
There is a power-cut
Dad has put too much brandy on the pudding, its catches the curtains alight
Auntie Molly broke her dentures on a mince pie
Great Uncle Bob shouldn't have eaten the sprouts
The children all eat too many sweets, so they are either sick or hyper
The neighbours are having a row
etc, etc, etc

This is the Spirit of Christmas and Jesus wants to be part of it, to become one with it all. in all the nonsense of it and with all the imperfection of most people's Christmas. It is never going to be as perfect as we want it to be. Human beings are not perfect, there are always flaws, always something going wrong.

In the muck and filth of a Bethlehem stable He is Emmanuel, 'God with us', He wants to be amongst us, that is all. He doesn't make the stable perfect, there is no tinsel, the smell and stench is there before, during and after his birth. It is as it is, the best they can find but far from perfect. There is no tinsel. The angels sing away in the fields. The shepherds come, and they aren't CRB checked, some are downright shady, so are the neighbours. God doesn't change the stable, he simply comes to be present.

Actually Christmas, the real one is ghastly, no preparations, the midwife a stranger, no family around. It happens amongst strangers.
Jesus' message is "Come to me ..." He wants to be with us, we are called to choose, either we gather with him and learn to love Him and come into an ever closer union with Him or we are deaf to his call and remain outside of presence.

The choice given to us is either to say "Yes" to Him or remain strangers.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Venerable Paul VI

Well what can you say?
He looks at me and I look at him.

As one old Vatian Monsignor said, "He just had such appalling taste!"
Even so he did write some good Encyclicals.

I am told he really liked this picture which he gave to Casa del Clero Paulo VI in the Via della Scrofa.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Landfillharmonic: making music out of rubbish

Young people making music out of improvised instruments made of recycled material.

Just think of what God does with what he finds on the rubbish tip, or on what is rejected by the world.
He makes Saints and they are just recycled rubbish!

Pope Writes in the Financial Times

Following on from my last post on "Contrasts" the Pope has actually written a piece fot he Financial Times, that in itself is a "contrast", I suppose, the meeting two different worlds and world views.
The whole article can be found here

The birth of Christ challenges us to reassess our priorities, our values, our very way of life. While Christmas is undoubtedly a time of great joy, it is also an occasion for deep reflection, even an examination of conscience. At the end of a year that has meant economic hardship for many, what can we learn from the humility, the poverty, the simplicity of the crib scene? 
Christmas can be the time in which we learn to read the Gospel, to get to know Jesus not only as the Child in the manger, but as the one in whom we recognize God made Man.
It is in the Gospel that Christians find inspiration for their daily lives and their involvement in worldly affairs – be it in the Houses of Parliament or the Stock Exchange. Christians shouldn’t shun the world; they should engage with it. But their involvement in politics and economics should transcend every form of ideology. 
Christians fight poverty out of a recognition of the supreme dignity of every human being, created in God’s image and destined for eternal life. Christians work for more equitable sharing of the earth’s resources out of a belief that, as stewards of God’s creation, we have a duty to care for the weakest and most vulnerable. Christians oppose greed and exploitation out of a conviction that generosity and selfless love, as taught and lived by Jesus of Nazareth, are the way that leads to fullness of life. Christian belief in the transcendent destiny of every human being gives urgency to the task of promoting peace and justice for all. 
Because these goals are shared by so many, much fruitful cooperation is possible between Christians and others. Yet Christians render to Caesar only what belongs to Caesar, not what belongs to God. Christians have at times throughout history been unable to comply with demands made by Caesar. From the Emperor cult of ancient Rome to the totalitarian regimes of the last century, Caesar has tried to take the place of God. When Christians refuse to bow down before the false gods proposed today, it is not because of an antiquated world-view. Rather, it is because they are free from the constraints of ideology and inspired by such a noble vision of human destiny that they cannot collude with anything that undermines it. 
In Italy, many crib scenes feature the ruins of ancient Roman buildings in the background. This shows that the birth of the child Jesus marks the end of the old order, the pagan world, in which Caesar’s claims went virtually unchallenged. Now there is a new king, who relies not on the force of arms, but on the power of love. He brings hope to all those who, like himself, live on the margins of society. He brings hope to all who are vulnerable to the changing fortunes of a precarious world. From the manger, Christ calls us to live as citizens of his heavenly kingdom, a kingdom that all people of good will can help to build here on earth.


I  have just started reading the Pope's new little book on the Infancy Narratives, he makes an interesting point about the the contrast in the annunciation of Jesus and John the Baptist. John's is public in the Temple at the heart of Jewish political, public and liturgical life at the hour of the evening sacrifice, it recalls the annunciations of Isaac, Samson and Samuel. Jesus' birth however is announced in the secret chamber of an obscure maiden in an obscure village, indeed we are left wondering whether the angel actually appears before her eyes or in the yet more secret chamber of Mary's heart.

John's birth is followed by "expectation" amongst the people and Jesus' by Mary "pondering" these things in her heart. I am sure this is all true but I think it says as much about the Pope's own theology as it does about the birth of the Lord.

It says something about the Popes attitude to Liturgy and prayer, and to the life of the Church. Is there perhaps even a contrast between the present Papacy and that of his predecessor here? John Paul II strode the world as a colossus, announcing salvation modelling himself on St John the Baptist and St Paul, whilst Benedict modelling himself on St Benedict seems to be, as far as the office of a modern Pontiff allows, a quiet, diffident contemplative. JPII created a sense of "expectancy amongst the people", whilst Benedict "ponders these things in [his] heart" and invites us to do the same.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Muslim Council of Britain opposes Marriage Change

The Muslim Council of Britain of course is opposed to the Government's proposed redefinition of marriage. Successive governments happily ignore the squeals of various Christian groups, experience has taught them that if we don't "get with the programme", we eventually learn to live with it. Some blogs have suggested that if we refuse to teach about same sex "marriage" in our schools we might lose them, that isn't going to happen, we will find a way of accommodating Government policy, as we have with contraception.

Indeed we tend to be able to accommodate most behaviour that is directly contrary to the Gospel or Church teaching to the point where for many Catholics, morality and religious belief are lived out in separate boxes. We have a tendency never to make condemnations of individuals, to be non-judgemental, not to attach sinful behaviour to individuals even if they are happy to wallow in sin.

I suspect that the Government is more likely to listen to the MCB rather than to any number of Bishops or Archbishops. I presume that the main reason the Labour Party now intends to give its MPs a free vote is because it fears a loss of the Muslim vote over this issue. For most Muslims politics, morality and religious belief are not separated, in the way they have become for most Christians. Politicians whose public policies or personal morality contradicts Islamic values are likely to lose votes. Outraged Muslim opinion in Britain is unlikely to bring hordes out onto the streets but is likely to lose a candidate or political party both votes and allegiance.

Christian clergy are unlikely to denounce politicians by name or to look closely at a particular politicians voting record or to question him about his personal morality. Perhaps the feminization of the Church has seperated faith and politics, Muslims in Britain seem to have a healthier attitude. I am told in some Mosques Imans actually talk about how friendly or not particular local politicians are towards Islam, and whether Muslims should vote for them or not, and whether young Muslims should be willing or not to volunteer to work for a particular political party, or not. In fact they are very much like Catholics once were.

There was once a Catholic vote, probably there is no more, except in Scotland, but there is a Muslim vote and being pro gay "marriage" is likely to loose it.

MCB opposes the discriminatory gay marriage law

The Muslim Council of Britain is appalled to see the utterly discriminatory provision of the new gay marriage legislation proposed by the government. Farooq Murad, the Secretary General of the MCB said, “We find it incredible that while introducing the bill in the House, culture secretary Maria Miller could keep a straight face when offering exemption for the established Church while in the same breath claiming, ‘fairness to be at the heart of her proposals’.

The government announced that, the Church of England and Church in Wales will be banned in law from offering same-sex marriages, with other religious organisations able to opt in to holding ceremonies.

Mr. Murad added, “ It is not just the ‘Church of England and Church in Wales’ who "explicitly" stated strong opposition’ as Mrs. Miller says, the Muslim Council of Britain along with most other faith groups also made equally strong representation”. He said “no one in their right mind should accept such a discriminatory law. It should be amended to give exactly the same exemption to all the religions." The MCB is seeking an urgent meeting with the Culture Secretary to express the concerns of the Muslim community on the proposed legislation.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Where was God?

These are a couple of American reactions to the Connetict murders, both asking the same question: Where was God? both come up with same answer.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking. In light of recent events... terrorists attack, school shootings, etc.. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school... The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about.. And we said okay..
Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.' Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.
Are you laughing yet?
Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.
Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.
Pass it on if you think it has merit.
If not, then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.
My Best Regards, Honestly and respectfully,
Ben Stein

New Papal Knight Seeks People in Same Sex Relationships

From the Archdiocese of Southwark's website:
On Thursday, 13th December 2012, during a reception at Archbishop's House, Archbishop Peter presented Terry Connor with a certificate from the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, granting him the rank of Knight of the Order of Saint Gregory. This Papal honour was granted in recognition of the many years of dedicated work and service Terry has given to the Church, especially for young people during his over thirty years at the Cabrini Children’s Society (formerly the Catholic Children’s Society, which served the dioceses of Southwark, Portsmouth and Arundel and Brighton).

...... And the problem?

This is from the Cabrini Society's website:
We welcome people of all ages, cultures and faiths. You could be single or a couple, in a same sex or heterosexual relationship. It is not necessary to own your own home, as long as you can provide enough space for a growing child. However, you must be resident in the UK and not have any criminal convictions against children.

And of course in the dioceses of Southwark, Portsmouth and Arundel and Brighton in order to fund adoptions by people who "could be single or a couple, in a same sex or heterosexual relationship" parishes are asked take a collection at their crib.

So apart from the source of the money, coming from Catholic parishes and historic gifts given to further the ends of the Catholic Church, and the giving of a Papal Knighthood given to Mr Connor by Archbishop Smith, in what sense is the  Cabrini Children’s Society "Catholic"?

Monday, December 17, 2012

An Equality Too Far?

Am I the only one who is uneasy about this picture?
It is from a recent joint celebration of Vespers with the Archbishops of Westminster and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, in Westminster Cathedral at which Dr Williams preached.

It was kind thing to do for Archbishop Nichols to invite the Archbishop of Canterbury to Westminster Cathedral shortly before his retirement. However at the back of Westminster is that plaque which shows Vincent, by the Grace of God and favour of the Apostolic See, not Rowan, is the successor St Augustine.

Today we Catholics are not too uncomfortable with using the title "Archbishop" or "Bishop" by Anglicans, we accept the state given legality of the title. We accept that Anglican clergy are de facto heads of particular Anglican diocese. Today, we would certainly not be churlish and deny someone we have invited to an event the title he has chosen, and which is commonly used to refer him.

That being said, we Catholics actually do not believe that Dr Williams is a Bishop, yes he has leadership, episcope, over  a huge "Ecclesial Community", but we do not believe he is Bishop in the sense that Vincent Nichols or any other Catholic is a Bishop, we don't have problems with Orthodox either but we do have problems with Anglican orders.

The baseline is we do not believe that the sacraments he celebrates are valid, we do not believe that he has Apostolic Succession, we do not believe he has valid Orders. For all our fraternal affection we might have for him, we do actually believe that he, and his Ecclesial Community are separated, in old parlance, "in schism", with the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and actually, as uncomfortable with the word as we are today, despite so much we have in common with the Anglican Communion, we do do believe that he is actually a heretic.

The normal attire for a non-Catholic religious leader to attend a Catholic Liturgical Service is "choir dress". inviting Dr Williams to dress in the liturgical vesture of a Catholic Bishop in a Catholic Cathedral suggests a parity that does not exist. There are many things that a the Catholic Church and non-Catholic Christian can and must do together but pretending we have parity of Orders is not of them.

Permitting a non-Catholic to vest in cope and mitre in a Catholic Cathedral, or for a Catholic to do so in an Anglican is an equality too far, it might be "nice" but it is about, confusion, thelogical inaccurracy, fudge. Indeed it is about removing the meaning from words in the same way our Government have decided to strip marriage from anything other than empty signs and symbols.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Brits follow the Pope on Twitter

The majority of the Pope's Twitter followers are Brits, followed by the Spanish and the Italians. It is true that there are not many German followers but we were shocked to see so many Arab followers.

I am fascinated by the implications of this: Brits, not Yanks, eh!
Is this right or has he made a mistake?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Well done, Ma Pepinster

The first U.S. Open Championship was won by Horace Rawlins in 1895.

I have never done this before, in fact I have always urged people not to read, so it is rather embarassing to suggest it, here but there is a very good editorial in The Tablet this week on "Cameron's colossal muddle" there is a pale reflection on the website.

Who said I was prejudiced old .....?

Alright, so I am questioning why, but whatever the motivation, it is good and well thought out.

The Paul Inwood Survey

There seem to be a plethora of surveys on the translations of the Mass introduced by ICEL last Advent, the Tablet put up several versions, until the got answers they approved of, apparently Paul Inwood, who was appointed to charge of liturgy in Portsmout diocese by Bishop Crispin Hollis also had a survey.

I am rather amused by the comment by Eccles and Bosco "[It has] severely affected the sales of my music".

Inwood has been a rather notorious critic of all of the liturgical reforms of this pontificate, from the new translations, to the use of new Graduale Romanum, to the freedom to celebrate Mass according to the Missal of the Blessed John XXIII, that is the Mass of the Council.

There is an agressive reactionary nostalgia that wants to hold back any forward movement of the Church, it really must be resisted.

UK Ambassador on the family

The UK Ambassador to the Holy See, Nigel Baker, referred to the building firm of R. Durtnell and Sons, a family business located near his home in Kent. Founded in 1591, it is the oldest firm in the country. The picture above is one of their oldest projects.
The Ambassador was speaking at a conference organised by the Pontifical Council of the Family yesterday, on the theme of family businesses and values.

according to Zenit
Ambassador Baker noted the role of the family as the root of society's moral center. "You do not have to be religious to recognize that the family is at the heart of our social and moral structure. And also to accept that law, regulation and the free operation of the market can never be a substitute for morality."
"In business, as in the rest of life, the family can help to provide that underpinning of an essential value system that may be missing elsewhere." Turning back to the examples provided by his own country, he continued: "It is clear that many of Britain's most famous business names were forged on the rock of family, very often also reflecting values derived from a strong religious sense of responsibility to the workforce, to society, and to family well-being."
The ambassador concluded: "If, as I do, you believe that the family is the repository of the best of the values that society can deploy, you will also believe in the family business."
This from the Ambassador of a country where the crackpot cavalier wrecking attitude of the Prime Minister is incapable of realising that "the Family" is an institution that is essentially heterosexual. Like the Durtnell family every family, up until now, is dependant on the bond of marriage, it has an historical context that spams the generations. It is heterosexuality of its members that ensures that!

Friday, December 14, 2012

I am glad a Catholic Bishop did write this letter.

It is Bishop Egan's letter to Dave Cameron, in which he sets forward part of the Catholic arguement against "gay marriage", he does so clearly and logically dismisses Camerons fallacious argements.
Thank you Deacon Augustine.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fr John Edwards SJ has died

Pray for the soul of Fr John Edwards SJ, he concelebrated [correction: see Delia' comment] community Mass at Farm Street yesterday and died in the evening. In his last circular letter to family and friends he wrote that his impending death brought him immense happiness. 
His last public Mass was offered for his friend and brother Fr Hugh Thwaites SJ, the first time a traditional Mass was offered at Farm Street since the 1970s. I am told that he regarded the process of dying as "a very busy affair". 
I am sure there are many anecdotes that those who knew Fr John would like share, please use the comments box, or email them to me if you can't work com system.
I know he had a great knack of teaching people to pray and to go to confession, he was such a good confessor, he could lift weights that had ground people down for years. He actually used to say that it would be woth being a priest if it was only to absolve one mortal sin, and he believed it and lived it.
He was one of the last great Mission giving Jesuits, I remember him saying to me, "You know you tell if a Mission has been really successful by whether or not the collection goes up, because the last and most difficult thing to convert is somebody's pocket."

Here are a couple of anecdotes told me by Delia:
Father was staying at a convent and was given some inedible mutton to eat. He didn't want appear bad mannered and leave it uneaten so he climbed out of the window and buried it in the garden using a table spoon!
A story he used to tell: an old Jesuit was dying and in floods of tears and obviously agitated, his Superior tried calm him by telling him of the goodness of the Lord, the old Jesuit said, "It is not meeting the Lord I am worried about, it is meeting St Ignatius Loyola." 


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12 Nuns a Praying

Good news from the Ordinariate, 12 sisters from that great Anglo-Catholic powerhouse of Wantage are soon to be received into full Communion (can we still say "Reconciled to"?) with Our Holy Mother the Church, and then to found a new congregation within the Ordinariate.
Now when those nun's get praying, who knows the still financially poor ol' Ordinariate might get a central church of its own. Yes, I know there are ecumenical problems with diocese of London's fierce opposition and I know many have almost given up on the idea but some still consider it crucial as a sign that the Pope's initiative of an English Ordinariate being truly wanted and supported in the English Catholic Church.

Marriage is about more than "two people"

My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

I wish one of our Archbishops or Bishops had written this:
The most striking thing about the government’s consultation report on gay marriage, published yesterday, is how casually and cockily it redefines the institution of marriage. The Tories now decree that marriage is simply and definitively “about two people who love each other making a formal commitment to each other”. That’s it. It’s about you and your lover, nobody else. It isn’t about having children or raising a family or binding yourself into the broader community through taking on responsibility for creating and socialising the next generation; it is simply about “two people”, ensconced in a loving bubble, making a “commitment to each other”. 
To that end, the report makes absolutely no mention of creating a family. It uses the word “children” only eight times, and its every use of that word is merely part of a response to (and criticism of) those groups that petitioned the government to recognise the importance of marriage as a means of raising and socialising children. It doesn’t mention procreation, or family bonds, or communities (except when it refers to the needs and aspirations of the “transgender community”). Marriage is depicted as something which takes place in a vacuum, between two people wrenched from any broader notion of social or generational responsibilities, where the aim is merely to satisfy an individual’s own needs. Marriage, the government decrees, is about allowing “two people” to “express their love and happiness”. 
Of course, marriage, at root, brings together two people, and it is, one would hope, an occasion of love and happiness. But what this report overlooks is that for great numbers of people marriage is about more than “two people” – it is about entering into a union for the purpose of creating a family and assuming a social, even historic responsibility for raising the next generation. For many people, marriage is something which not only binds them to the person they love but which also binds them to the broader community, making them a key cog in a social process of having, educating, caring for and imbuing with goodness children who will go on to become the future guardians of society. That none of this is even mentioned in the government’s report – that family, children, community are all glaringly absent from this government decree on “what marriage means” – suggests that an alarmingly narrow conception of marriage is being pushed to the forefront of British political and social life.
Instead it is Brendan O'Neill, now why can''t we get someone of his calibre at Eccleston Square, or at least advice from people like him?

Controversial Nativity Play

Brighton is a bit light on Christianity according to the census figures and likes its Christmas stories "lite"and heavily spinkled with glitter. I had a telephone call from a local journalist from The Argos, the local paper, a little while ago asking for a reaction to a local production by a group called Soul by the Sea, it is happening in a huge Anglican Church, St Mary's in Kemp Town, Brighton's Gay village.

I have not seen it or heard much about the production but the journalist said there had been "a strong local reaction against it". Apparently Herod's soldiers stamp on babies and there is a debate on whether the Blessed Virgin Mary should have an abortion, both things the journalist seemed to think shocking, he told me he wasn't "that familiar with story" himself. I got the impression he thought I should be outraged. I am not I am glad these issues are being presented in a Nativity play.

I am always bit anxious about evangelical Protestants portraying the Theotokos, prejudice against the orthodox Catholic Tradition tends to blind them against what scripture is actually saying and they also tend to have a shallow theology of the Incarnation, however, as Itold the journalist, I am glad that this group are stripping away the saccharine fairy tale aspects of the story. I pointed out the story of God becoming man was an adult story and not to be regarded as on a par with Father Christmas and the camper, tinselly portrayal of Christmas.

Congratulations to the Australian Nuncio

Congratulations to Mgr Paul Gallaher, a Liverpool priest, who has been named as the new Nuncio to Australia. I am sure Archbishop Gallagher will be one of the "new" Nuncii.
It is a long time since he has been a guest my roof but I remember being very impressed by him and I have kept him my prayers since.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Mill and the Cross

Pieter Bruegel the Elder c. 1525 – 9 September 1569 The Procession to Calvary.
Terry Prest has a link to this wonderful film of the painting, it is wonderful, do look.

The Archbishops Speak

Better late than never, here is a statement from our two London Archbishops

Statement on the government response to the same sex marriage consultation

Bishops Conference of England and Wales 

'The meaning of marriage matters. It derives that meaning from its function as the foundation of the family. The union of one man and one woman for love and mutual support and open to procreation has over the centuries formed a stable unit we call the family.
Marriage is the enduring public recognition of this commitment and has been rightly recognised as unique and worthy of legal protection. The government has chosen to ignore the views of over 600,000 people who signed a petition calling for the current definition of marriage to stay, and we are told legislation to change the definition of marriage will now come to Parliament. We strongly oppose such a Bill.
Furthermore, the process by which this has happened can only be described as shambolic. There was no electoral mandate in any manifesto; no mention in the Queen’s speech; no serious or thorough consultation through a Green or White paper, and a constant shifting of policy before even the government response to the consultation was published today.
We urge everyone who cares about upholding the meaning of marriage in civil law to make their views known to their MPs clearly, calmly and forcefully, and without impugning the motives of others. We urge all parties to ensure their Members have a free vote. It is not too late to stop this Bill.'

Our MPs are disinclined to listen to arguements made "clearly, calmly and forcefully, and without impugning the motives of others". Their Graces are right the consultation  has been shambolic, our Prime Minister and MPs have ignored a petition over 600,000 signatures, so why would they bother with another round of letters?

I am glad to see Their Graces are so optimistic I look forward to seeing over the next few days the unveiling of their plans on just how the Bill can be stopped.

Civil Disobedience?

Thanks to Bishop Egan of Portsmouth for this "Statement" on his diocesan website on Gay Marriage.

I was involved today in a discussion with some young men and women about civil disobedience, it wasn't a terribly serious conversation. We thought of the great examples of the saints like St Edmund Campion putting printed copies his "brag" on the seats of Bloody Bess's Privy Council when they met in Oxford. I favoured the spirit of St Lawrence presenting the wealth of the Church of Rome to the Emperor and feeding the hungry in front of the Town Hall on Saturdays during the wedding season, someone else suggested doing so outside our our Brighton MP's houses. We thought that blowing trumpets or vuvuzelas outside the local Conservative Party Offices like Joshua at Jericho but then we were rather anxious about the health and safety aspects, just in case the building did actually fall down.
The problem with being Christians and civil disobedience is that we don't really want to break the law, or even inconvenience anyone, so we settled on saying the Holy Rosary and asking Our Lady to get Mr Cameron to learn to tell the truth instead.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Thoughts on Ancient Roadways

File:Mid-nineteenth century reconstruction of Alexander's catafalque based on the description by Diodorus.jpg

A voice of one crying out in the desert: 
"Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. 
Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. 
The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, 
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God."

I don't know if there was still a memory of Alexander the Great's funeral procession at the time of John the Baptist's preaching. Alexander died in Persia and his body was placed in a huge funerary temple and dragged through the Holy Land ]down to Alexandria to be entombed. It would have been much simpler to have put the body on a ship but instead it went by land, but the land journey of the corpse with a huge retinue meant that Alexander's glory was seen.
The transfer of his body was a huge engineering feat, it meant a road way had to built, literally mountains or at least hills had to be laid low and valley raised up, twisted tracks had to be made straight. A Way suitable for camels, or even a vast army was not suitable for Alexander's juggernaut, a paved way would have to be constructed and built by local labour.
Alexander's funeral was the most spectacular of the ancient world but it would seem was not an exception. It would seem paved roads were very much associated with Kings, Empires, Armies and Gods. Those ancient Roman roads were not for moving herds or crops or merchandise around but for armies and Imperial messengers, to even use the road invariably involved applying for permission or a licence and was restricted to particular "chosen" people.

Johns call therefore for making a "Way for the Lord" is for a Divine Way, a road that involves effort to build and maintain, it is sacred processional route not a winding goat track.

Today's reading from Isaiah says the following:
A highway will be there, called the holy way; No one unclean may pass over it, nor fools go astray on it. No lion will be there, nor beast of prey go up to be met upon it. It is for those with a journey to make, and on it the redeemed will walk. Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; They will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.

Even to have access to it one has to be in a state of Grace, "No one unclean may pass over it". Nor is it a place for the dissident, "nor fools go astray on it".

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Bishop Devine Criticises Cameron

Bishop Joseph Devine has written, according to Scotland on Sunday "an intemperate letter" to Mr Cameron, the Prime Minister, I can't find a copy of it but what is reported is exactly what I would want to say to the man.

I was talking to someone after Mass this moring who said she was likely to meet Cameron over Christmas, "if I get the chance," she said, "I'd like to give him a good prodding with my umbrella," Not that I would encourage violence but so would I.

The bishop [then] asks that with the “contradiction” between Cameron’s support for the right to wear a cross and his opposition to ECHR appeals “on what basis can you expect anyone – Christians in particular – to trust or respect you?”
Devine then complains about how Catholic groups, such as adoption agencies, have been made to feel “not welcome”. He continues: “That feeling… is the legacy of the last Labour government. Sadly, many of your government’s policies show no sign of reversing that, despite your plausible public relations exercises. “Which brings me to your regrettable reproach of the Church of England.”
Cameron, he recalled, had used “your customary linguistic aplomb” to urge the Church to “get with the programme” by allowing women bishops. “Disagree with decisions by all means, but such graceless comments were indelicate to the point of being offensive. And this from a Prime Minister belittling the nation’s established church. Hardly an example to set for society in general and especially for the youth of this country.”
 He goes on, sarcastically: “So where next for David Cameron’s spiritual mission? … While I cannot speak for other creeds, let me be quite frank with you. So far as the Roman Catholic Church… is concerned, you are out of your depth.
We will take no finger-prodding lectures from anyone or any group devoid of moral competence. “I suspect it is only a matter of time before you go one step further and outlaw the teaching of Christian doctrine on sexual morality on the grounds of discrimination.”

Saturday, December 08, 2012

The Silence Continues

I cannot help but feel very angry that since the letter from the Archbishops of the four Provinces of England and Wales we have heard nothing officially from the Bishops or the Bishop's Conference on "gay-marriage". In the last few days I have received communications from several individual priests urging me to write to my MP or to the Prime Minister, I have also received emails from a few non-Catholic Ministers of Religion and a local Rabbi, and as it is Brighton from a group of Gay Christians who recognise the redefinition of marriage as an attack on the stability of the family but from the hierarchy there is only continuous silence.

Many of our Bishops are holy and all are good men but I am convinced it is the Episcopal Conference structure that keeps them from giving any leadership to the Church and the country. However if the problem is not the Conference then we do need to ask serious questions of our Bishops but they are not questions I can ask publicly as a priest.

A Curial Bishop once told me that a few Episcopal Conferences in the world give leadership but most frustrate it. In our case the Bishop's Conference certainly frustrates the accountability of individual Bishops to their Presbyterates and their people, an accountability which was in the vision of Vatican II, in its strengthening of the bond between a Bishop and his diocese. The principle of subsidiarity meant that Bishops spoke collectively only when really necessary and for "pastoral good". However what we have is that every action or more often inaction is based on collective responsibility, which means no Bishop takes responsibility for much more than minor administrative tasks in his own diocese. Little is their responsibility, all is the collective responsibility of the Bishops Conference or particular Commissions of the Bishops Conference. The Pope spoke about this in the past particularly in the 80s in the Ratzinger Report.
The decisive new emphasis on the role of the bishops is in reality restrained or actually risks being smothered by the insertion of bishops into episcopal conferences that are ever more organized, often with burdensome bureaucratic structures. We must not forget that the episcopal conferences have no theological basis, they do not belong to the structure of the Church, as willed by Christ, that cannot be eliminated; they have only a practical, concrete function. (The Ratzinger Report, 59-61)
For years there have been mutterings about a rift been our Bishops Conference and various Dicasteries in Rome, this perhaps is an inevitable part of the life of the post-Concilliar Church, individual bishops are successors of the Apostles in their own right and not merely delegates of Peter. However the rift is more likely to come from the reliance on a process which seems designed to frustrate decision making.

Recently Archbishop Mennini suggested our Bishops should look at France for a model of action and leadership on the defence of Marriage. Sandro Magister gives a brief description of what is happening in there under Cardinal Vingt-Trois leadership.

No one would have bet on it. But after decades of invisibility and torpor, the French Catholic Church has returned vigorously to the public scene. It was a minority and a minority it remains, in a country where less than 5 percent of the population goes to Sunday Mass, and where baptisms of children are increasingly rare. But it is one thing to give up, to and another to be creative. That of "creative minority" is the future that pope Joseph Ratzinger himself has assigned to Catholicism in secularized regions. The Church of France is putting this to the test. The turnaround came all of a sudden. One sign of foreshadowing was, in mid-August, the prayer that the archbishop of Paris, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois..., had raised to Our Lady of the Assumption: "May children and young people cease to be the object of the desires and conflicts of adults, in order to enjoy fully the love of a father and mother." A furious controversy exploded, in a France on the path to legalizing marriage between persons of the same sex, with the possibility of adopting.
Whether or not there will be the type of mass demonstration in our country as in France is uncertain, we tend not take to the barricades quite so easily but there seems to be a growing degree of unease about this issue as even the secular media begin to understand the implications of any new law that might be forced on the country by Mt Cameron. Few of the professional political class are willing to be stand out from the pack and risk being called "bigot" or "homophobe" or to be seen as out of step with the sacred cow of "equalities legislation", there is void that is crying out to be filled. Even in Ireland the poor beleaguered discredited Irish Bishops are taking to the streets and giving a lead in the current aborttion debate, they too are an example to our own Bishops.

There is a point when failure to act or to speak becomes a scandal to the faithful, I think we have reached this point. The silence seems to indicate tolerance of the impending change in the Law or even assent, which is obviously not the position at odds with the Catholic Church. What can we do? The answer is sadly most probably nothing, because any decision to act depends on a collective decision.

Perhaps one might suggest that the Conference is negotiating quietly behind the scenes but again and again this seems to be inaffective, access doesn't not necessarily give influence, and indeed under the last Labour Government or this one, the Church's influence has gradually grown less and less.

Let us heed the words of our Nuncio and learn from the French Bishops

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...