Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Liverpool Vacant

File:Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.jpg

One of the last acts of his Pontificate; from the Vatican Information Service
The Holy Father accepted today: - the resignation to the pastoral government of the Archbishop of Liverpool, Patrick Altham Kelly, according to can. 401 § 2 of the Code of Canon Law.
Could one consider it as a sign of special concern for the UK that in the last few days of his Pontificate that Pope Benedict has dismissed one Archbishop and accepted the resignation of another?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Worth Reading

Two articles worth reading

I am so bored of sex scandals: Brendan O'Neil
Accused Priest and Rabbis: Bill O'Donahue

Portsmouth Restructured

Bishop Egan has announced Portsmouth diocese are to undergo a major restructuring based on creating Vicariates, for Vocation, Education and Evangelisation.
The "Head of Department for Pastoral Formation, Director of Music and Liturgy, Advisor for Stewardship and Collaborative Ministry, Advisor for Youth Ministry and Advisor for Catechesis and Adult Formation will be made redundant."
The Director of Music is of course Mr Paul Inwood.

Monday, February 25, 2013


When will the spotless virginal bride of Christ, who I love, be seen in all her radiant beauty? Why does she continually present herself as filthy diseased harlot that is both corrupt herself and corrupts all who come in contact with her? I hate her and I am ashamed of her and I am embarrassed to be associated with her.

Yes, I know it is Original Sin. Yes, I know the Church is made up sinners. Yes, I know she will be both until the end of time and has been from the very beginning.

Today's news about Cardinal O'Brien is just the latest sign of the Church's sickness. I don't know, no-one seems to know exactly what "inappropriate behaviour" the Cardinal is accused of  and despite his sacking - he has been sacked by the Pope, his resignation was due to take effect next month on his 75th birthday- he is of course contesting the allegations. However, it would seem to suggest that corruption is far from merely a Roman or Curial phenomena but embraces the whole Church. We have seen it all over the world, the Lavender episcopal palaces of Cardinal Bernardin and Weakland, the cover-ups by Law and Mahony and many other American bishops, the major sexual scandals in Poland, in Austria, in Ireland, in Belgium and a score of other places.
These are priests and bishops in a very grave state of sin, who seem to count it as nothing. These are men who are content to live in the sewer whilst ascending to the atar of God. There is not just the sin they are involved in, it is also the hypocrisy, the lies, the deceit, everything that runs contrary to the integrity of the Gospel, the betrayal of brother priests of laity, all contribute to the undermining of faith of "the little ones", "better millstone be tied around his neck ...".

Fr Eamon and various priest bloggers have posted the video below of Cardinal Arinze speaking about mortal sin. It strikes me that a restoration basic catechesis would be a good first step. An old priest friend of mine, sighs occasionally and says of priests and bishops, "In my youth they wouldn't have been allowed to make their First Holy Communion, let alone be ordained".
The Cardinal talks about effects of David's sin, one single act which destroys his empire. The sin of our first parents is trivial but its effects have huge ramifications for mankind. The "filth" of the clergy, their mortal sins, even the ancient ones, really do corrode and destroy the credibility of individuals but more importantly of the whole Church. Even after Confession though the sinner is absolved the wounds of mortal sin continue to disfigure the face of Christ's Bride.

Not unconnected my friend Fr Zhulsdorf recently published a little passage by Henri de Lubac on Heresy
“If heretics no longer horrify us today, as they once did our forefathers, is it certain that it is because there is more charity in our hearts? Or would it not too often be, perhaps, without our daring to say so, because the bone of contention, that is to say, the very substance of our faith, no longer interests us? Men of too familiar and too passive a faith, perhaps for us dogmas are no longer the Mystery on which we live, the Mystery which is to be accomplished in us. Consequently then, heresy no longer shocks us; at least, it no longer convulses us like something trying to tear the soul of our souls away from us…. And that is why we have no trouble in being kind to heretics, and no repugnance in rubbing shoulders with them… It is not always charity, alas, which has grown greater, or which has become more enlightened: it is often faith, the taste for the things of eternity, which has grown less…”
We have the Catechism of the Catholic Church and various learned documents, perhaps the next Pope might produce a simple syllabus for First Confession and Communion, dealing with the basics which every Catholic child or bishop or Papal-Elector ought to know.

2003 Ratzinger Interview

Thanks to John Sonnen for this English interview with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from 2003

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cardinal O'Brien's remarks

Is Cardinal O'Brien ignorant?
“There was a time when priests got married, and of course we know at the present time in some branches of the Church – in some branches of the Catholic Church – priests can get married, so that is obviously not of divine origin and it could get discussed again.
“In my time there was no choice and you didn’t really consider it too much, it was part of being a priest. When I was a young boy, the priest didn’t get married and that was it.
“I would be very happy if others had the opportunity of considering whether or not they could or should get married.”

or is he simply breaking that oath?
Remember it was strongly rumoured, with some strong evidence afterwards from the Cardinal O'Brien's own remarks, that when he was named a Cardinal that the then Cardinal Ratzinger insisted he take the following oath, the rumour was given credence by the Cardinals own words afterward when he remarked on his surprise at Cardinal Ratzinger's presence at his reception after the Consistory and the warmness of his welcome to the College of Cardinals.
I further state that I accept and intend to defend the law on ecclesiastical celibacy as it is proposed by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church; I accept and promise to defend the ecclesiastical teaching about the immorality of the homosexual act; I accept and promise to promulgate always and everywhere what the Church's Magisterium teaches on contraception. So help me God and these Holy Scriptures which I touch with my hand."
My surprise is the ignorance of the Cardinal's remarks, Catholic priests, as well as Orthodox priests and Catholic priests of Oriental Rites, and now Ordinariate priests, do not marry. Married men may be ordained priests, there is a very important difference.

Even then the important works on celibacy in the early Church by Roman Cholij, and by Cardinal Stickler indicate that from very early on that celibacy was expected after Ordination from married men. Jesus' own remarks about "eunuch's for the Kingdom" is an indication of the Dominical origins of celibacy.

It amazes me, but it is part of the mystery of the Church, that God entrusts her to ignorant and foolish men.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Embarassment in the Conclave

The last Conclave
Elsewhere there has been lots of speculation over the contents of the Vatileaks investigation by the three retired Cardinals. The suggestion have been that it is somehow connected to a "lavender mafia" and power struggles between senior Cardinals and Prelates. Apparently all will revealed to the Cardinals gathered for the Conclave and produce more than a little embarrassment for some.
The Vatileaks dossier contains information about the power struggles and conflicts that went on among the Church hierarchies, but it does not – the Holy See wished to stress – condemn any scandals or sex-abuse related blackmail. Cardinal electors will therefore go into the Conclave knowing the real version of the Vatileaks story, after months of assumptions, resentment and suspicions.
I am not entirely sure if it happens before the Conclave the Cardinal are bound to secrecy, as we seen many old men are rather garrulous.

Hired Men

I am feeling a little despondent, the German bishop are stirring up the waters of the Rhine, by teaching the acceptability of the "morning after" pill even some of our own sillier bishops lapsing into that political nonsense of left and right, conservative and liberal. Part of this is political manoevering, part is silliness and part is a deliberate and diabolic attack on the Church's unity.
On the Feast of the Chair of Peter, it is worth remembering that not only is the Petrine charism giving to the Bishop of Rome but it is something given to the whole Church. Being Catholic means that we accept that Peter speaks not only to us but for us, this is not a "bolt on" to the Church but something of its very essence, and certainly something given to it by Jesus Christ, for those not in visible and recognisable communion with Peter there is something deficient in their Christianity.
In order for Peter to exercise his charism it is necessary for the members of the Church to excercise a certain docility, not merely to Peter but through Peter to Christ. In order for Peter to feed Christ's lambs and sheep it is necessary the should be willing to accept the food they are offered.
Disunity is a scandal, it takes away the credibility of the Church which is wicked, but more importantly it destroys credibility in Christ himself.
During this time of confusion, the last week before the See of Rome becomes vacant  it is perhaps easy to identify the hired men rather than the true shepherds.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dome of Home: the Video

I like the idea of there being a "New" Brighton on the Wirrall, I feel a spiritual affinity to it and so I am more than happy to post this video on the blog belonging to a priest in "old" Brighton.
What I find amazing is energy and vitality that is being rekindled in this once failing Church.
Is there something the rest of us could learn from this audacious experiment?

Summarising Pope Benedict's Theology

Fr Wang has a summary of the Pope's theology in 263 words, the BBC asked for a 150 word summary which is presumably the attention span of the average BBC commentator. Father Stephen didn't succeed but Ttony did a bit of editing and came up with this, which is 156:

Benedict’s theology seeks ‘connection’ or ‘continuity’, preserving connections between faith and reason, past and present, human and divine, avoiding a rupture that would betray the Christian vision.
His first encyclical letter was surprisingly a meditation on love. The joy of human love leads us to a sacrificial love fulfilled in Jesus’ love on the Cross. Human and Divine connect; they are not opposed.
The Church’s worship must connect with its history. Its moral values must be rooted in the Bible and Christian tradition’s wisdom. Catholic teaching, which always develops, should never betray the faith handed down.
He believed in renewal and reform, but always in continuity with the past.
He wanted Catholics to deepen their faith through the Catechism. He encouraged the West not to become trapped in a ‘dictatorship of relativism’.
His Christianity is revealed, not something we create, surprising and startling: so his last book was about discovering God in the child of Bethlehem.

My friend Dom Alcuin Read whose book The Organic Development of the Liturgy was highly praised by the then Cardinal Ratzinger has written an appreciation of Pope Benedict's liturgical theology.
It ends:

The conclusion of Pope Benedict’s final public Mass was yet another lesson about the liturgy. Not unnaturally, there was sustained applause. But even on that occasion Pope Benedict the liturgist could not allow personal adulation to take priority. “Thank you,” he said. Then, with five words which may well serve as his liturgical testament, he brought it firmly to an end: “Let us return to prayer.” Thank you, Holy Father. Ad multos annos!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Can anyone be Pope?

In theory it is possible any male Catholic can be elected Pope, really I wonder if it is possible for anyone to be Pope, it is an impossible job. I find I am tired after celebrating four Sunday Masses, hearing a few confessions and doing a couple of baptisms, and I am quarter of a century younger than Pope Benedict, and I haven't had a week reading boxes of documents, meeting heads of state, bishops, cardinal etc. and frankly my decisions do not affect millions.

The Italians have a saying, "Fat Pope, thin Pope", the problem is each successive Pope has to fit into the Papacy created by his predecessor. Benedict is not JPII, what Benedict hates JPII loved.
There is a very interesting short article here about the various problems faced by Pope Benedict, some are external, like the ridiculous Vatican press office and its mishandling various issues, including the sex abuse crisis, others come from Benedict's own gentleness, shyness and reserve. I am sure that the author is right about what he says Pope Benedicts isolation, those who work in the Curia often complain about the Pope's meticulous examination of document and his caution. Yet all that he says about Benedict speaks of the immense weight of the Cross he bears and of his great sanctity. It also makes me wonder if anyone can actually be Pope and if it is possible for a good man to be a good Pope.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Successors of the Apostles

"Justin" just posted this comment, it is interesting because I am told a few years ago a leading liberal Jesuit theologian suggested, in private and possibly in his cups, the same thing. It is Ultramontanism gone mad, the Spirit of Vatican One ad absurdum:
Can someone tell me, in this day and age, with the internet and communication so quick and evident, what is the point of having multiple dioceses and the local Church?
I can understand the necessity of it back when communications were difficult and it was important for one person, on the ground, to hold fast to the deposit of faith, and have immediate and personal authority - a local ordinary.
But given the speed at which things can be communicated now, and the ease of access to information of the faithful - as the media keep telling us we are a 'global' church (universal is the more accurate word but I digress).
What is to stop the suppression of every single Latin diocese except Rome, and bring us all into one big mega-Diocese of Rome. The current ordinaries can become titular bishops of Arundel, etc. and act as Vicars General to a particular "area" within the mega-Diocese of Rome with no personal authority but carrying out the orders of the Roman Pontiff. If we truly believe in Papal Infallibility, that surely should not be a problem?
It is contrary to the very nature of the Church as Jesus Christ founded it. It springs from an idea of Bishops as being delegates of the Pope rather than successors of the Apostles in their own right. Christ founded a Church on twelve Apostles not one.

I said recently that one of the important things that Pope Benedict did was to restore the title of "Bishop of Rome" certainly as first amongst equals, which follows from his being successor of the Apostle Peter but nevertheless it is important he identifies himself as a bishop amongst many rather than the singular Pope.

However as Justin says the world in which the Church exists has changed, technology means most Catholics can find out the Pope's shoe size more easily than what their own bishop teaches on the Incarnation. Indeed most Catholics would identify themselves not so much with their own diocese, which Lumen Gentium describes as, "the Church in much fullness", or their province or their national episcopal conference. For good or ill this is where we would diverge from the Orthodox. For Catholics their identity is stretched between their parish and Rome.

The diocesan identity for most Catholics is minimal. For most, even priests, the relationship with their diocese is really of an administrative, functional nature. As Vatican I is known as the Council of the Pope, Vatican II is known as the Council of Bishops, a great deal of Lumen Gentium is spent defining the Bishops role, it speaks of collegiality and subsidiarity, its presumption is that bishops are in a deep and profound communion with the Church, and are faithful bearers of the Tradition. The fact that both subsidiarity and collegiality are still minimal is for some a reflection of the failure either of the implementation of Vatican II or the impossible optimism of the Council.

An Orthodox correspondent reminded me that in Orthodoxy the Metropolitan has a duty of oversight over bishops in his Province and Metropolitans are answerable to the structures which govern national Churches and in theory the Patriarch has oversight of National Churches. In the Catholic Church there is no structure between the diocese and Rome. The lack of accountability and oversight (management structure?) for bishops has lead to rogue, even heretical bishops. One can ask whether the lack of accountability has lead to child abuse crisis. I am not sure that Orthodoxy is entirely without problems, certainly one would be the eirenical relationship with the Church and state.

One of the main issues many suggest Benedict's successor needs to address are the problems within the Curia, since Vatican II the Church's management structure has become larger and larger, and more and more under strain. It is worth comparing the administration of the Vatican and the Phanar.

Monday, February 18, 2013

"The Great Explosion"?

I am pretty certain that Pope Benedict has chosen to resign/retire/abdicate because he has done the work he feels he is capable of doing and now feels someone else can do what needs to be done with more better by someone else.
I am much taken by the story that an artist, a little annoyed that he seemed a little less than keen about sitting for a portrait, said, "A picture is worth a thousand words". Pope Benedict replied, "Ah yes, but a concept is worth a thousand pictures".
I think he has left us we several "concepts", briefly:
  • the idea that there is a correct and incorrect interpretation of Vatican II, 
  • he has gone along way to reconciling the Church's present to its past, Summorum Pontificum is an important part of this
  • he has gone along to dismantling the political notions of left and right, liberal and conservative (the media hasn't caught on to this yet) and restoring the notion of Catholic orthodoxy. 
  • he has re-presented the idea that Pope is the Bishop of Rome - certainly first amongst equals - (I'll explore this at a later stage but I think this important).
  • that "Unity" in terms of ecumenism is about looking to those who share (substantially) the catholic faith - hence Ordinariates and looking towards the Orthodox
I am sure this list could be extended, this is my myopic view.

Cardinal Murphy O'Connor gave an off the cuff interview last week in which he said, “This [the next Pontificate] is going to be another conservative Pope – perhaps the last before a great explosion in the Church.” A lot of the interview was off the cuff and therefore not thought through, even the term "conservative" presents the Cardinal as someone who hadn't managed to get with the Benedictine "programme", indeed CMOC saw himself as being one of the "kingmakers" at the last Conclave but today most of those he gathered around him in those pre-Conclave soirees, presumably in support of the "Martini faction" are either dead like Martini himself or past voting age like Cormac himself or in disgrace like Cardinals Mahony and Daneels. If anything Pope Benedict's going at a time of his choosing means he has decided on the timing of the Conclave.

It is worth considering the "great explosion" of which Cormac spoke. For people of his stance the presumption is that the pressures in and on the Church are going to become uncontainable. Pope Benedict would simply suggest we turn to "the roots", to Christ, (is this why for his going he called for the "Year of Faith"?) this can be compared to the destructive influence of the "non-Conservatives" who would suggest we need clever schemes to deal with problems, or even change the faith which has been passed on to us.

Movements like We are the Church and the Austrian Priest Initiative the Irish Association of Catholic Priests are not going to gather strength, they are simply going to grow even older and die out. Younger people are simply not interested in that kind of churchiness, nor the hippy obsession with "changing the system".

The Conclave of 2005 was full of Cardinals like Cormac who were excited by vision of VII, many like Cormac were young priests or seminarians when in it was in progress, the Cardinals who will now occupy the electors seats are those who had to deal with the excesses and  problems it raised, the false optimism and  false pessimism, as the Pope said in his address to the Seminarians of Rome -remember the Pope's addresses are as much to the Curia as to those he actually addresses,
Of course, there is a false optimism and a false pessimism. A false pessimism tells us that the epoch of Christianity is over. No: it is beginning again! The false optimism was the post-Council optimism, when convents closed, seminaries closed and they said “but... nothing, everything is fine!”.... No! Everything is not fine. There are also serious, dangerous omissions and we have to recognize with healthy realism that in this way things are not all right, it is not all right when errors are made.
Opinionated Catholic has just published some extracts from some 1969 radio talks by the then Professor Ratzinger on the the "great explosion", or less dramatically the time of a new beginning for the Church, when we are stripped of everything but Christ.

As fond as I am of the Bishop who ordained me, I just wish those of Cormacs generation had been more concened by "turning to the Lord" and "seeking the face of Christ", two of the Pope's favourite phrases, rather than cunning schemes that in retrospect seemed like deck chair moving.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

De-Centralising the Church

Some of the leadership of the heretical Irish ACP and their fellow travellers elsewhere in the Church have been banging on about the Church becoming more centralised under Pope Benedict, thus moving away from one of the core visions of VII. In many ways this is a dog-whistle issue for dissenters and needs serious unpacking.

Even so, I think they are right to be concerned, and before his election, as Professor Ratzinger, the Pope would seem agree too. Even as Prefect of the CDF Cardinal Ratzinger would have agreed. On several occassions he has said that dissenting priests or religious should have been dealt with either by diocesan bishops or by episcopal conferences, rather than Rome ever becoming involved. Even as Pope he said to our own Bishops, "It is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate." But actually they have done little, the Tablet is still at the back of Westminster Cathedral!.

The whole child abuse issue highlights how ineffective local bishops and even episcopal conferences are. The disasters, both of repeat offending and of episcopal cover-up were not dealt with on a local level but Rome, actually by Cardinal Ratzinger coming down heavily on abusers.

The Bishop Morrison affair in Australia demonstrates well how soon the local Church can depart from Catholic tradition, again, as in the St Mary's Community, Brisbane with Fr Peter Kennedy baptising with his own invented formula, it was Rome that acted whilst the local espiscopate did nothing. Similarly with US nuns who have "moved beyond Jesus" are unchecked, uncorrected by the local heirarchs. It is Rome that holds communion, whilst local bishops are either tolerant of heresy or blind to it.

Even with the liturgical translation, for years people were expressing dissatisfaction; "for many" "of one being" are serious corruptions of the actual Latin text, and actually tend to heresy or at least misunderstanding, the bishops dithered, Rome acted. thank God.

Without the intervention of Rome most local Churches will fall into loosely semi-humanist communities. The personal interpretion of the faith by a local bishop is not something I find either attractive or compelling, it is certainly not evangelical.

The model of a strong and effective local government of the Church might be desirable but at the moment it seems beyond our the ability of Catholic bishops. It exists in Orthodoxy but not in Catholicism. Why?

Orthodoxy seems to have a variety of theological expressions but appears united. It has an unchanging liturgy, and a sense that the faith is timeless but also that despite the fact the outward lives of many eastern Christians are unlikely to be much different from their western counterparts, bishops and laity including theologians and other specialists (liturgists, teachers etc),  seem to agree on the basis of Orthodoxy is. It seems to be that liturgy and devotions hold it together, rather like the pre-VII Catholic Church, before it became the perrogative of "Spirit of VII" specialists.

It strikes me that one can't have a de-centralised Church and Vatican II, or at least not until such time as we have regained a common understanding and presentation of the Liturgy and an agreed understanding of the Faith, and maybe most importantly of all, replanted this into the culture of the faithful. It strikes me that this was at the heart of the Ratzinger Papacy

Friday, February 15, 2013

Former Server on the Media and the Pope

I have a great deal of respect for my servers, invariably they learn wisdom from the liturgy. I like to think of them friends, after all we ascend to the altar of the living God together. Here is a piece from  one of my former servers, who I much admire for his insight, cleverness and learning, as well as his faith, it is on the media and the Pope.

The Last Sign of Pope Benedict

I hate those journalists who commenting on Catholic affairs, speak about Pope Benedict as being a "Conservative".
I think there are "Conservatives" in the Church, they want to do the things they have always done, or not do the things they should have done. "Conservatives" battle cry is "No change" or "Leave us alone, we are quite alright as we are". In Judaism the Pharisees were the Conservative party at prayer, they clung to "human traditions", they defended and lived by human institutions.
"Conservatism" is the enemy of the Gospel. The Irish bishops in their cover-up of abuse were "Conservative", protecting and defending there own position and the institution they had created in their own image.
Pope Benedict is not "Conservative", his move to abicate/resign/retire is actually radical. His constant refrain of "turn to the Lord", "seek the face of Christ", is a call to return to the source, to the root of our faith Jesus Christ. His Jesus of Nazareth trilogy was his great popular call to individual beleivers to know and love the person of Jesus.
 I can cope without tiaras but I would like the restoration of the Capuchin with the flaxen taper crying out "Sic transit gloria mundi" at the Papal Inauguration. The sign of the Pope announcing at the beginning of Lent that he is going into the desert to spend the remaining years of his life in prayer and study is a radical sign of union with Christ and abandonment to Christ. It is what Lent is about, the abandonment of the vanities of the world and deepening our search for God.
It is radical and it is within the great spiritual tradition of the Church. It is a call to us to abandon the comfortable of every day life and to enter the desert. Pope Benedict's last and most profound sign and gesture is a reminder that all Christians must enter the desert, stripping themselves of trivialities to turn to the Lord and to seek his face.
"Conservatism" is about the comforts of this life the radicalism of Pope Benedict is "to prefer nothing to the love of Christ" Rule of St Benedict lxxii. Going into desert is Benedict's call to radical Christian living, let it be sign that revives radical monasticism and radical Christian living. This will be a fitting memorial to one of the greatest and most radical Popes in the history of the Church.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

For better or worse, in sickness and health...

I am a Catholic, I tend to think everything the Pope does is good, and I suppose theologically I would describe myself as a Ratzingerian, so I do not normally criticise the Pope and I trust his judgement but at the heart of the Pope's theology is "both and" rather than "either or". So having suggested some very good reasons for the Pope to resign rather than die in office let me present a few contrary arguments.

The Pope's resignation sets a precedent, it presumably means his successors are now likely to resign when they feel unable to continue. If future generations are likely to live to over a 100 we could end up with a small gang of past Popes living in the Vatican gardens. What is the collective noun for a group of Popes?

The precedent also means that other bishops are more likely to resign if they feel they are declining before they reach retirement age. In the case of those bishops who hate being a bishop and tell everyone it could be a good thing but it is not always the case.

If Popes are expected to retire rather than die there will be an increased pressure on future Popes by factions in the Curia to go, not so much when they want but when they are pressured to do so. Anti-Pope factions are likely to think it worth building up pressure on a Pope or his household to force him out, so too is the world's media..

The retirement of a Pope seriously undermines the ancient notion of the mystical marriage of a bishop to his Church, which contains in it the idea of the esse of a bishops relationship being more important than agere. What he is in relationship to his diocese until VII was considered to be more important than what he did, it seems to come from deep in the heart of Catholic/Orthodox Tradition, it could be argued it goes back to the Apostles, hence the Orthodox hatred of "desiring other Thrones", which in the East is seen as kind of simony. Thus I have a little sympathy for Cardinal Dziwisz' remarks about Pope John Paul not choosing to get down off the cross. Putting up with a bishop for better or worse, in sickness and health, until death do us part is or at least was of the marriage. The relationship with a bishop and his diocese is about a relationship of mutual cherishing, not one of pure functionalism.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Pope of Christian Unity leaves

I wept with joy when Pope Benedict first appeared on the balcony of St Peters and now I am moved with sorrow as he leaves St Peter's at his last Mass there.
Because everything he does is full of signs, it is significant it is Ash Wednesday. Perhaps we need to reflect on that portion of his homily where he said:
“Spare your people, Lord! Do not let your heritage become a disgrace, a byword among the nations! Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’"(V.17). This prayer leads us to reflect on the importance of witnessing to faith and Christian life, for each of us and our community, so that we can reveal the face of the Church and how this face is, at times, disfigured. I am thinking in particular of the sins against the unity of the Church, of the divisions in the body of the Church. Living Lent in a more intense and evident ecclesial communion, overcoming individualism and rivalry is a humble and precious sign for those who have distanced themselves from the faith or who are indifferent.
The Pope of Unity, who has striven against heresy and schism the great sins of disunity; may his last words to us spur us on to work for the unity of Christ's Church.

Arinze, Brother Georg and the Conservatives

Sensible old Cardinal Arinze shares his surprise at the Pope's abdication.

The Pope's brother, who is often almost indiscreet, has also been sharing his thoughts too.

It seems as if he is blaming the butler and the lack of reconcilliation with the SSPX as being reasons for his brother's departure. I think the betrayal by a close servant must have been deeply hurtful to the Pope but it is more that this was the result of the factionalism in the Vatican that has been problematical, the strife between the camps of the present Secretary of State and his predecessor Cardinal Sodano which has acted as a drag anchor on Pope Benedict's Papacy.

Again, I suspect the reference to the SSPX is more what is symbolised by the failure to reconcile them, rather than the actual failure itself. For Benedict their reconciliation symbolised the success of his programme to reconcile the post-VII Church with the pre-VII Church, the idea of "hermeneutic of continuity".

There isn't really an obvious "Liberal" faction in the Curia, what there is are the Conservatives, those who had great influence under JPII, who certainly see VII as both a break with the past and yet continuity - which they themselves defined - in many ways they are the authors of the Spirit of VII. They certainly would not want reconciliation with the SSPX, if of course the SSPX actually want it themselves, it seems increasingly as if they want to remain exactly where they are, not quite in or out of Communion.

I really do not think we should regard the Pope's abdication as a failure but rather an honest admission that he has done a great deal but now it is time for a younger man, he has planted, someone else will reap. I am sure that Pope Benedict will remain silent and retire to his cloister but I am intrigued by what the Pope's brother will do and say, will he be tempted to nudge the media a little?

I am told that there is great deal of flurry in the Vatican at the moment, John XXIII when asked how many people worked in the Vatican, replied, "About half", well it seems as if that half are trying to get things that should have happened year ago done in the next few days.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Most Popes reign for 1-5 years

length of papacies by Anura Guruge

Most Popes reign for 1-5 years, so eight years is perhaps no too short a reign. For a Pope who values continuity living in a Vatican granny-flat might ensure that Pope Benedict's successor continues much what has been done. I rather like the idea of Pope Callistus or Leo popping round for tea and buns and a little advice with his predecessor.

I think that occasionally Pope Benedict uses the idea of "stampede", to get things going, he did this with Summorum Pontificum, and Regensburg speech, this is his last stampede.
There are things that are impossible for a Pope in his eighties to do, like reforming the Vatican, which presumably any future Conclave will see as a priority, and which will mandate our next Pope to carry out.

Some of the things he set in place that are not going to be changed but need another hand to move them forward, such directing ecumenism towards the East, seeing Vatican II in terms of continuity, recognising the need to reconcile the Church's present with its past, both Liturgically anf theologically.

Pope Benedict has appointed most of the Cardinals in the Conclave, he has appointed all the leading members of the Curia, and he himself will be alive, so continuity is to some extant guaranteed.

What hasn't happened in this Papacy, is the factionalising and jockeying for position which was such a feature of John Paul's dying years, when the See of Peter was effectively vacant for years, the remnants of which have blighted the reign of Pope Benedict and manifested themselves in "Vatileaks".

So, apart from my initial shock, I think this a wise move by a wise Pope.
As my old aunt used to say, "Knowing when and how to leave is the sign of a gentleman"..

Pope resigns: now say some prayers

I am really saddened by the Pope's resignation. I love and admire him, at the moment I am a bit angry and yet I trust his judgement.

There have been rumours that he has been ill for some time, possibly the beginnings of Parkinson's disease. I am sure that the leaks in the Papal household haven't helped but then I trust his judgement. I am sure that he made the decision to resign coolly and without emotion, considering what is best for the Church and the See of Rome.

Now, I am going to say some prayers, for him and the Church, and commend all this to the Lord and the intercession of the Holy Mother of God and I suggest you do the same.

Pope to Resign

BBC have just anounced that Pope Benedict is to resign later this year - I hope this is a hoax

Apparently Fr. Lombardi said: "The pope announced that he will leave his ministry at 8:00pm (7pm UK time) on February 28."

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Is Liturgical Renewal Possible?

Fr Gary Dickson asks some poignamt questions in a post, which asks the poignant of all: Liturgical Renewal – is it possible?
I am beginning to think every priest is a law unto himself. Before any real Liturgical Renewal is to take place, we need to agree on what the purpose of the Liturgy is. Some might suggest the various doctrinal statements of the Church down the centuries, that Sacrosanctum Concillium of VII and subsequent documents spent a great deal of printers ink making this clear but the truth is in a city of a couple of dozen parishes there are a couple of dozen different ways in which is Mass is celebrated, with the implication that there are a couple of dozen different theologies behind it.
The Traditional Mass didn't guarantee theological orthodoxy, otherwise there wouldn't have been the rise of either Protestantism or Modernism but it did suggest a certain essential unity in Catholicism, the various options of the Novus Ordo, where "choice" is central, actually serve to destroy unity. One of the key problems is that those rubrics which do exist are really considered to be pious suggestions rather than have the force of Law.
I hope he does not mind but reproduce Fr Dickson's post here:
We are told a new handbook on how to celebrate Holy Mass will be published this summer. While Redemptionis Sacramentum was dead on arrival, I suspect the proposed handbook will be still-born. The only thing that can resuscitate our liturgy is clear positive legislation backed up by action.

We have spent fifty years ‘advising and encouraging’ clergy at all levels -from Cardinals down to associate pastors and deacons- to follow liturgical norms, but we have had very little success with such exhortations. Why? I think because if we were to follow even the norms that are in place now for the Missanormativa of Paul VI, we would have a very different kind of liturgy than we currently have in most parishes. Some questions we can ask ourselves about the liturgy in our own parish to see if we are following norms or not are the following. All of these questions should be responded to with a ‘Yes’ if we are following norms; a negative response means we are not following the norms (according to the General Instruction and Redemptionis Sacramentum).

  • Do we ever use Latin for the Ordinary of the Mass? (cf. RS #112; GIRM #41)
  • Do we retain use of the Communion Plate? (cf. RS #93)
  • Do we use Extraordinary Ministers only in exceptional circumstances? (cf. RS #151)
  • Does the celebrant stay within the sanctuary at the Sign of Peace? (cf. RS #72)
  • Do we omit the chalice if the greater proportion of the congregation does not receive from it? (cf. RS #102)
  • Do we allow/encourage Communion kneeling and on the tongue? (cf. RS #92)
  • Do we keep the Church and adjoining rooms quiet before and after Mass? (cf. GIRM #45)
  • Do we omit hymn singing to have an organ voluntary at the end of Mass? (cf. Celebrating the Mass, Bishops Conference of England & Wales, #225) 
These may seem paltry things to some, but if they are so paltry, why refuse to follow them? It takes so little to put them into place, other than a sense of humility and obedience.
My personal reasons for taking liturgical norms seriously are two-fold. My first reason, in all honesty, is that I am not able to successfully subordinate my self-will to the will of God in all situations (i.e., I still sin), making liturgy the one area of my life where by the following norms I can subordinate myself with a measurable amount of success. Second (and this is a requirement of justice) because the people have a right to the liturgy with which the Church seeks to provide them. Justice is, after all, more widely applicable than just to issues of social poverty and/or oppression.
I return to a long-stated opinion here: if the Novus Ordo were celebrated exactly in accord with the Missal as provided by Pope Paul VI in 1970 in accord with liturgical continuity and the actual decrees of Vatican II, ie., altar-facing (rubric 133) with Latin (Sacrosactum concilium of Vatican II #54,116) and Communion on the tongue while kneeling (1970 GIRM 247) we would see significantly less hostility to the Church’s ancient form of Mass.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Priest's Voices

I was told that an English religious community wrote to the CDW asking for permission to say the Canon of the Mass silently in the Ordinary Form. The CDW replied with a firm, "No", as one might expect. Pope Benedict suggested the return to the more ancient practice in "Spirit of the Liturgy", it was one of his solutions to what others had described as a "crisis in the Eucharistic Prayer".

Presumably they would have received an affirmative response, if they thought it necessary to ask, to say it quietly. In the Extraordinary Form it is not actually said "silently", if it were it would not be necessary for the deacon or MC to stand aside so they cannot hear the names at the momentoes. The current OF rubrics speak about a "clear and distinct voice" being used for the words of consecration, this presumably indicates a different voice for the rest of the prayer, one that is at least less clear and less distinct, quite what this voice is isn't specified. Nothing is said about its volume and more importantly nothing is said about whether the voice should or for that matter should not be microphoned.

Outside of the Latin rite the voice used for the Canon seems to be that it is audible to the immediate bystanders, in Eastern Rites, to concelebrants.

Now, we realise the "Spirit of Vatican" stuff was pure folly, and indeed contrary to the actual documents, isn't it about time to look again at the rubrics of the Mass. Cardinal Arinze, when Prefect of the CDW famously offered turkeys to those who could tell him where sanctuaries were to be modified, or Latin and chant was to be ditched, or altars were to be turned around, maybe we do need clarity about the various voice levels.

If it is permissable to say the Canon in a low voice, as Cardinal Piacenzo Prefect for the Congregation of the Clergy apparently does, is it permissable for any form of communal prayer to be sung by the people to ensure the actively participating whilst this is happening. I always wonder what is supposed to happen in vast cathedrals when the mics fail or are simply not present or switched off.

The of course there is always the issue of "What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful" and "mutual enrichment".

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Marriage Minutes: Impact on schools

Subsidiary Legislation

The Big Pulpit has an interesting collection of stories on SSM.
Now, I think we ought to look to the future, Maggy Thatcher was not for turning but Cameron's government is about U-turns, this morning the English Baccalaureate was dropped, House of Lords reform has been dropped, I am not suggesting SSM will be dropped but much of the subsidiary legislation might well prove just too complicated.
It seems that behind the legislation is really an attempt to be so equal that the intention is to abolish gender, which the Pope spoke about on 21 December 2012, we can expect a whole raft of legislation to do just that.

In Brighton there was a rather crude attempt to render us all gender neutral late last year. Although gender seems to be an affront in ou brave new world, sexual orientation is not, I am told that job applicants and even "service users" are generally asked if they heterosexual, homosexual, transgender, bi-sexual, etc., etc. There seems something quite odd in all this.

In Spain the terms "Father" and "Mother" are being replaced by "Parent 1" and "Parent 2". Hollande, in France, is sneaking in an extension of laws regarding surrogacy and IVF, on the basis that equal marriage, if it is going to be truly equal is going to demand equal rights to children, that is of course going to demand a third party, either a woman willing to rent her womb or a man to donate his sperm. It seems likely subsidiary legislation will focus on transgenderism and bi-sexuality.

One big issue will be the future of the Cof E. One interesting are question which we as Brits will have to address, because we are Brits, is Royal succession. I am sure the Queen is worrying about what will happen about surrogacy and the Royal Family, what title should be given to the overtly lesbian lover of a future Queen.

A little later, not immediately, I think pressure will be brought to ensure Churches "get with programme". It will probably happen not through Parliament but through the Courts. Can an organisation that promotes a "phobic" message really continue to be allowed have control of such a large portion of the education sector? Will we not have to have a representative transgender person on our governing boards? Will we be allowed to continue to be allowed charitable status. Are we going to be allowed to forbid the use of church premises to organisations which promote legal lifestyles which are repugnant to us. Will such reactionary groups be allowed control of some of the more important cultural and historic buildings? Will any organisations that are not with the programme receive government funding in its care for youth, the old, immigrants, the homeless, exiles, the sick?

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Not Something in Conscience I Recognise as Marriage

I watched some of the debate yesterday, I was quite impressed by a few of the Christian MPs contributions, I was a little shocked by most of the Catholics who seemed to side with the Redefiners. I felt quite sympathetic towards all those homosexual MPs who wanted to get married, the Redefiners seemed to argue for the most part from touchy feeliness.
I have no problem with the Cranmerian Book of Common Prayer definition of Marriage, with its presumption that it was between a man and woman, which until yesterday was what formed the basis of Marriage in English Law
  • First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.
  • Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ's body. 
  • Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.
Yesterday that was swept aside and has been replaced by something vague and ill defined, described as "loving committment" between two people.
Whatever most of the MPs in yesterday's debate were speaking about and what won the debate is something quite contrary to what the Catholic Church and the Christian tradition understands by "Marriage".

I am with Fr Tim, lets get out of that thing which the State now defines as "Marriage", the State can do whatever it likes but it is not something I in conscience recognise as Marriage and I want nothing to do with this thing that is now touted as "Marriage". It is contrary to God, to the Naural Law and my conscience, I want a divorce!

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Congratulations to Fr Richard Duncan Cong. Orat.

Haha! is that who I think it is serving Fr Richard Duncan's Mass at the London Oratory?
My congratulations to Fr Richard on his ordination on Friday which seems to have been a truly splendid affair at Birmingham Oratory.
I have a soft spot for Birmingham Oratory, though I haven't yet got myself on a train to go there, my daily prayer is for an increase in vocations there.

Virgin and Martyr

On the feast of St Agatha Holy Church celebrates the triumph of Christ centred chastity. In the heat of the current battle it is easy to forget the Church is blind to people sexual orientation, it sees all humanity, and human action, including especially our sexuality, as flawed and damaged and yet, in Christ, all is redeemable.
These youthful martyrs like Agatha remind us that there was a time when the Church to exhort chastity in a world as sexualised as our own. The various accounts of these early virgin martyrs torture and sufferings are sexual, Agatha had her breasts cut off, Agnes was exposed in a brothel, their martyrdoms were focused on their sexuality. Even if we attempt to strip away later exaggeration of their various passion narratives behind everything seems to be an attack on their virginity, and the early Church exalted their chastity and virginity.

20th Century Catholicism seems deeply uncomfortable with speaking about sex ans sexuality, in England and Wales, though the Church is often caricatured as being sex obsessed, the truth is that in many parishes it is something that is never ever mentioned. It is significant that many priests, and not a few bishops, have been silent on the gay "marriage" issue.

We can expect no action to be taken against politicians who publicly proclaim their Catholicism and yet  break communion with the Magisterium. Even after making a very public stance against Catholic teaching it seems very unlikely prominent Catholics will be moved to the Archbishop of Westminster's "garden parties only" list. Indeed the legendary Tina Beattie, professor of Catholic Studies at Roehampton University, theological advisor to Cafod, trustee of The Tablet, the international Catholic weekly, the welcomed speaker at the Westmiinster diocesan justice and Peace events, is in the Guardian today offering her own Magisterial views.

There is a serious danger of us as Catholics, not simply being seen but seeing ourselves, in opposition to what has become the status quo. Our faith is not merely about condemning but offering a new vision of a Kingdom of God. Condemnation of what is bad is only the first step, it is the message of John the Baptist. Jesus not merely invites us to turn away from something but to turn to something.

The Christian vision of sex and sexuality, of marriage and the family, of chastity, of brotherly (and sisterly) love, we have more to say than just a negation of the current world view. Even so our condemnation of the view of what is being put forward in today's debate is just the tip of something that should be much deeper, something which goes to the very heart of the Gospel and our view of mankind.

"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind", is at the very heart of all that we are. Its implications are that our very beings are consumed by God, this is surely why masturbation and pornography are highly problematic and why in our Catholic tradition we have exalted consecrated chastity.

The sacrifice of Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia and countless others, not just women, comes from a radical attachment to Jesus Christ and world view in contradistinction to "the world".

St Agnes pray for us
Holy Virgin Martyrs pray fir us

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Redefinition and Equality

It is worth reading Liam Fox's letter about the redefinition of marriage over on Cranmer's blog. What Fox seems to be saying is that for the sake of a small minority a serious lack of equality is being introduced into British law.
I wonder if we should in the interest of equality introduce quotas to ensure that such organs as the BBC, Parliament etc are indeed "equal".

Cameron after being forced to confront the prospect of rebellion may be tempted to a U-turn but that appears impossible. What he has already done is redefine the meaning of "homophobia", which now is applied to anyone who is against Cameron's redefinition. I am sure that very few MPs will, despite their personal convictions, want such a vote losing accolade.

The word "homophobic" until recently was rightly applied to instances of violence or at least active discrimination, what is new is it is now applied to passive opposition and not simply to homosexual people but to homosexual sexual activity. I don't what kind of detail Parliament is going to go into, I suspect most MPs would rather not go into the details of people's sexual activities, though doing so might bring with it a degree of legal clarity. Sexual taboos probably mean the 90-95% of citizens who are heterosexual never actually think about what happens in private with less than 5-10% of a sexual minority. Redefining "homophobia" means that those who have a revulsion of homosexual activity are actually judged "homophobes".

What seems to be part of LGBT (though other letters are often now added to be more inclusive and equal) agenda seems to be to normalise, remove the taboos, about such activity. There is a rather shocking piece of Terrence Higgins Trust material here, be warned, it is about anal sex, it revolts me and therefore presumably just by that fact makes me and anyone with a similar reaction a homophobe. The worrying thing is that many, if not most people's reaction to this will be "homophobic", so Fox is right this is indeed socially divisive. If a child comes home with a copy this THT booklet, I suspect many parents, who previously saw themselves as liberal and fair minded, will identify themselves as "homophobes" and begin to ask their own questions about whether they are treated "equally".

Defining oneself by what used to happen in the privacy of ones home, or bedroom, is indeed worrying and deeply damaging, perhaps we are are safer ground just simply accepting people as people each with their own set of quirks and idiosyncrasies rather than defining them by their quirks and idiosyncrasie.

A need for Jesus

Save us, O Lord our God

These are words that should begin this weekend's Masses, we Catholics are not that good at speaking about the Lord as Saviour.  Being English probably makes us more reticent.

It demands not only admitting we were lost but also that we have a need for the Lord, a continuing need. Without him we are nothing. "What good would life have been to us had Christ not come as great Redeemer".

I am pretty useless at bringing back the lapsed, it probably isn't
my fault, to give up the faith has as its bottom of the line saying Jesus and his Church have nothing to offer me and I do not need him. It is probably easier to convert an atheist than to restore to full communion someone who has known God and rejected him, thankfully God himself doesn't want to lose anyone and so some do return.

Reading bits and pieces about Cardinal Mahoney and his successor distancing of himself from him after revelations of a massive cover-up of sexual abuse, though I feel sorry for Mahoney, I am rather glad that the age of men like him is passing. Apart from the cover-up, Mahoney created a Church following his own lights and insights. As an outside observer it seems  as if in Los Angeles one was called, in some sense, to believe in Mahoney rather than Christ. He was nicknamed, "the Pharoah", and the notorious annual Religious Education Conferences he fronted seemed to celebrate him and his vision rather than Christ. For me, he summed up the worst 'Americanism' and Modernism, ultimately it seemed to be about pride.

Pride pushes out our need for Christ, effective evangelism must have something to do with humility and speaking about our own personal need for Christ. In the same way growth in faith only comes through understanding our deep need for Christ. In today's gospel his fellow citizens wanted to destroy Jesus because they saw no need for him.

As Christians we need to ask if we ourselves actually do we need him. Regular Confession teaches us humility and to recognise our need for him.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Cameron has a mandate NOT to redefine marriage

Cameron has a mandate NOT to redefine marriage, well that is why I voted for him. He also promised to strengthen marriage by tax concessions.

Thanks to C4M for reminding us
As the big vote in the House of Commons approaches (Tue. 5 Feb), it’s easy to forget that on 3 May 2010 – just three days before the last general election – David Cameron said on TV that he was “not planning” to change the definition of marriage. He was being interviewed by Adam Boulton on Sky News, and was asked a direct question about whether he would introduce gay marriage. He said: “I am not planning that.” Gay marriage campaigners were furious, as this article shows. It is outrageous that Mr Cameron went on TV just three days before a general election and told voters one thing, but did the exact opposite once inside Downing Street. His manifesto at the election was silent, so he has no mandate to redefine marriage. His only mandate is to defend traditional marriage. Please read our latest briefing on the issue, and please share it with all your family and friends.

Mengele was a scientist

Reading about the Cambridge Union debate last night, "Dawkins has no place in the 21st Century", I was amused by the thought that the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams has taken the title Lord Williams of Oystermouth, I don't know if it it is a glancing comparison to St John Chrysostom, meaning Golden mouthed, so Rowan Ostreostom, has wormed its way into my brain.

But enough frivolity; Dawkins appeared defending himself in the debate and lost.

For Dawkins it is is either science or religion, he can't deal with both, this is not the position any religious person ever adopts. It is worth considering what the great scientists of the past would have been like without faith, is it conceivable to think of Copernicas or Galileo without the Catholic faith, even Newton with his odd breed of Anglicanism and what about Gregor Mendel and Georges Lemaître, wasn't their faith behind their science?

The more I read about Dawkins, the more I feel he is not a very nice man, it is because hatred of religion seems to fuel him and most religions seem to teach hatred diminishes a man and is an indulgence to be overcome.

Sciences in the hands of a man who hates is very dangerous. I am sure who ever first dis covered how to make fire would, if he was approaching it scientifically, have used it to burn out his neighbour, the man who discovered flint knapping would have used a nice sharp spear to kill an enemy. As a Jewish friend says, "Dr Josef Mengele was a scientist". "

Science in the hands of scientists is truly dangerous, it has given us the Atom Bomb, better armaments, better torture methods. Scientific theories have justified slavery, racism, lobotomies, chemical castration of homosexuals, selective abortion of female foetuses. Weird scientific theories have moved in out of fashion, Mussolini's fascism was supported by scientists in the futurist movement. Hitler's racism, like apartheid South Africa was backed up by claims of scientific theory. The devilish Communist regimes claimed to be "scientific" and ripped the soul out of their people.

Dawkins arguments against religion seem essentially to be that religion claims to be right; the lived experience of most religious people is that it causes them to wonder and to ask about the ethics of an action. For someone with a religious sense, "God" is the unknown, the factor "X". In Aquinas' "Five Ways", he ends up by saying at the end of each  by saying this is what we call God. It is not God but what we call God, God is the great unknown. In fact to say there is no God, seems to demand as much faith as to to say there is God. For believers religion acts as the grit in the oyster.

Expecting science to be able to give all the answers is so, err..., unscientific.

A few months ago, when Dawkins had said we "Catholics are vile" one of my parishioners suggested a campaign, of sending sweets to Dawkins, with a tag "from a vile Catholic", I don't think it will take off, would it?
If you want to try his address is New College, Holywell Street, Oxford OX1 3BN

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...