Monday, September 30, 2013

Action and Reaction

Newton's Third Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

It is perhaps fortuitous that storm which surrounded Pope Francis' Interview should have preceded his meeting with the Council of Eight Cardinals, Benedict rather notoriously didn't care for his 'image', his successor does, or at least he cares for how it affects the Church. Following the impression that he is 'lite' on marriage, life, doctrine, and that he has disconcerted a large number of active committed lay people and younger clergy as well as those who count those seeds Ratzinger planted as something precious and important, we can expect some kind of reaction.

It is interesting that the announcement of the Canonisation of JPII and John XXIII is being spun as an 'act of reconciliation', the trumpet, fan loving, Tridentine Mass saying John is being presented as the Liberal whilst the Koran kissing John-Paul is being portrayed as Conservative.

I am intrigued by the letter of Pope Benedict to the mathematician Odifreddi, why now has he chosen to remind the Church he can still write, and although it was a very small part of the letter, defend his reputation.
It is presumably an indication that despite his obedience to Francis, he still has his personal autonomy.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Alexander Borgia wasn't that bad

Rorate tells us Alexander VI was not such a bad thing, or at least they did, now it has disappeared!

 I have not exactly admired him but given him just a little respect for suppressing devotion to Our Lady of the Swoon, which was an extension of Our Lady Sorrows, but taught that the Mother of God collapsed, overcome in her grief. Borgia said, 'No, the Gospels clearly say, she stood at the foot of the Cross'.
The other good thing he did was to attempt to bring peace between Spain and Portugal by 'giving' Spain the Americas and Portugal the East, it forestalled a war that would have engulfed Europe and laid her open to Islamic invasion.
The point Rorate is making is that for despite all his personal excesses and sinful actions Alexander Borgia, as Pope, was doctrinally orthodox and unambiguous. In a sense as ghastly as he was, he was subsumed by his office.

Horror of horrors

Marini to be named Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

If that is true then that is a repudiation of all Pope Benedict stood for and a return to something rather unpleasant in the corridors of the Vatican. It is not just an indication that the liturgical Reform of the Reform is ended but also the moral reform of the Curia is questionable too.

For many this is indisputably the most insensitive appointment Pope Francis could make, this is deliberately divisive and the biggest sign, so far, of where Pope Francis intends to take the Church.

If it is true.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The London Oratory: An Infestation of Fleas

Fr Wilfrid Faber once said: ‘I walk down the street in my habit and I feel I dispel invincible ignorance wherever I go'
I was very touched by the plight of a homeless lady from London who thought she would be on the streets until she was given help by one of the Father's of the Oratory.
Even so, according to their Provost, Fr Julian Large, fleas and stench are not unknown to the Fathers.

Disconcerted by Francis #4

I think of myself in old style politically left-wing terms, as a young man I became a Catholic by being a Communist first. I believed in the brotherhood of man and through that learnt a need for the Fatherhood of God and the Motherhood of the Church. I have a soft aging hippy notion of the openness of borders, the welcoming of immigrants. I am pro-life but I realise that there are economic implications to being open to Life. I have no problem with a Pope who at least in Western and North American terms presents himself as being towards the left, or as both he and I would like to say 'on the side of the poor'. When pushed I suspect both the Pope and I would readily admit there is as much poverty, spiritual poverty at least, in Mayfair as there is on the seafront in Brighton.

There are priests and laypeople who because of their Christian principles strongly disagree with my own interpretation of the Church's teaching, the Church is large enough. We hold to the same doctrines but have received different inspiration, as Pope Benedict kept saying the Christian Faith is "both and not either or"

There is problem when the Church identifies itself with the poor, Jesus does 'go to the peripheries' and speak about the poor but he seems much more concerned about God's generosity. Ches writes on the experience of the Spanish writer  Juan Manuel de Prada, who I suppose could be described as politically right of centre, who has spent a great deal of ink defending Christian thinking, especially on what are those touch button issues such as marriage, the family, the rights of the unborn, he feels betrayed by the recent Francis interview.

Abp Chaput from the USA has said, "I heard from a mother of four children – one adopted, another disabled from birth -- who’d spent years counseling pregnant girls and opening prolife clinics. She wanted to know why the Pope seemed to dismiss her sacrifices. A priest said the Pope “has implicitly accused brother priests who are serious about moral issues of being small minded,” and that “[if you’re a priest,] being morally serious is now likely to get you publicly cast as a problem.” Another priest wrote that “the problem is that [the Holy Father] makes all of the wrong people happy, people who will never believe in the Gospel and who will continue to persecute the Church.”

Being a soft liberal I am not the greatest fan of Michael Vorris but I think he has a very important point in this video, that the "change in tone" the Pope calls for actually turns out be a way of undermining those heroic priests and laypeople who do speak out on moral issues.

In the Church St Paul tells us there are 'a variety of gifts', a local bishop or archbishop can understand and address the problems that beset his particular diocese, as Pope Francis is speaking to the whole Church, he has a duty not to 'stifle the Holy Spirit'. Narrowing the Church's message only serves the enemies of the Church and pours cold water the flame of faith.
I am sure if the Holy Father realised how this interview would be used would be mortified, perhaps in the next few weeks we might see him strengthening the position of Christ's friends rather than allowing his words to be a comfort to those who hate the faith.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Disconcerted by Francis #3

I know from recent personal experience how the media can destroy or at least badly one's reputation. Whatever Pope Benedict did from the moment he stood on the balcony of St Peter's wearing his black jumper under the Papal cassock with his black plastic watch on his wrist the media hated him. The build up to the Papal visit here in the UK indicated a flop, the media spread stories of massed anti-Pope demonstrations, even the prospect of arrest, every interview tried to suggest he personally was responsible for clerically child abuse rather than the one who chose to deal with it, then he arrived and his gentle courteous humility seemed to change hearts.

Cardinal Suenens visited the seminary I was in after the election of Pope John Paul II, I met him in the corridor and in brief conversation asked what Cardinals did after electing a Pope, his answer was, 'prepare for the next Conclave'. The speed of Pope Francis' election would suggest that he had already secured the block vote of the Curia, and probably a proportion of the Italian electors before he even entered the Conclave. As runner-up to Ratzinger in the previous Conclave his election was probably not such a surprise to him, and those who had taken part in the previous Conclave, as it was to most of us. It would be foolish to think that likely candidates for the Papacy do not think through, and even discuss with others, the first few months of their tenure if the are elected.

Considering the negative media coverage of his predecessor it would be not unnatural for Pope Francis to have considered, and received advice about his image before his election, nor would it have been foolish or cynical for this to have been discussed during the Conclave and in an image conscious age one of the things Cardinal-electors would have been concerned about a new Pope's ability to project a positive image.

'Spin' is a fact of life, being thought well of is in many ways a Christian virtue. Cardinal Hume used tell his novices when Abbot of Ampleforth, 'The Community is commanded by Christ to love you, you therefore have a duty to make yourselves lovable', as with novice monks, so with Popes. Building up support for himself within his diocese and Italy is a wise and prudent thing to do, and for Pope Francis doing the things Italians love, kissing every baby, hugging every granny obviously comes easily. The large black camera that has appeared on the back of the Popemobile ensures that every kiss every embrace is seen by thousands. Popes should be seen as lovable. Being the son of Italian parents is almost as good as actually being Italian and probably the best Italians can hope for in any future Pope and is certainly not a hindrance to filling St Peter's Piazza.

Certainly Francis' message is simple: show mercy and humility, love the poor, be good, don't gossip etc. it is a message even a cynical journalist can understand without it needing to be interpreted, he says the things one might expect any parish priest to say. In a culture where it is quite possible to be a good Catholic and anti-clerical, the slightly subversive Pope plays well, complaining about priest's cars and wanting to fight against Vatican corruption plays well.

The press are always going to do the 'compare and contrast' bit between Francis and Benedict, it is natural and it is also obviously a concern for those inside the Vatican. To some the comparison is disconcerting, it highlights shifting sands, to others to others it is a source of hope or more likely wishful thinking but behind the obvious public image of Francis there is something quite enigmatic, we see him through the media which having been given a certain lead then builds up its own momentum. The reason for expressing these thoughts is that a couple of days ago El Pais came out with the headline: Pope Francis contemplates appointing a female cardinal which has as much substance behind it as so many other speculative pieces about the Pope or his plans for the future but it is emblematic of many of the headlines that appear in the popular media.

As far as Francis' plans for the future are concerned, we know he wants to reform the way in which the Curia operates, we know he wants the Church to be more concerned about mission, there is little more that we know. The amazing thing is that six months into his Papacy for most of us he is still enigmatic, one day saying we say too much about abortion, the next day addressing that very issue, or another talking about freedom from laws, the next excommunicating an unrepentant dissident. For me Francis remains a disconcerting enigma, the problem is separating the spin from the reality.

He cannot change dogma, he can change its expression and presentation, the more he is presented as being likely to change fundamentals of discipline and the way in which ordinary Christian live their faith, the more disconcerting he becomes. The more the media present him as subversive, the sooner he will be forced to show himself as the stable Rock on which the Church is built. A Pope can't base his Papacy on subversion, we know from scripture what happened to house built on sand.

I would put forward one speculation of my own, perhaps in the reform of the Curia Francis himself doesn't yet quite know what he can do, beyond a few small steps and if I am right in my suggestion that he was elected by the Curia's block vote, he doesn't know himself what the Curia will allow him to do either, they of course are the real masters of spin, and illusion too!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Non nobis, Domine

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam.
Not to us O Lord, not to us, but to your name give the glory
When I preach, when I celebrate the Sacred Liturgy, when I appear in public as priest, I am more than a little afraid, I know that what I say has impact for good or ill. Often what I think is good does ill, I am a servant and an unprofitable one at that. There are couple of interesting post from an American women here and here, she speaks about losing her faith, she compares what she hears at Mass on Sunday and the Popes interview and in the dichotomy wants to run from the Church.

All priests are more conscious of their failures rather than their successes, of the family who comes to Mass for a while and gives up the day their child is baptised. of the child who makes their first Communion and Confession but never their second, or those who treat Confirmation as a graduation ceremony that marks the beginning of their lapsation, in the Confessional one is left wondering if one is asking too little or sometimes too much from a penitent, or whether the penitent will return.

The lady in who writes these two posts is right to be dissatisfied with her priest, she is actually has a duty to expect him to be a saint, a duty to be frustrated that he is not Christ but rather than running from the church she needs to have the spiritual maturity to show the poor devil a bit of compassion. It isn't the priest but Christ who comes to save the world, if he is fortunate on a few occasions in his priesthood, when he doesn't get in the way, he might be the occasion of Grace, even a great outpouring of God's Grace.

This is the reason I love the old Rite, why I celebrate Mass facing the same direction as my people, why I think vestments are important, why I prefer hearing Confessions behind a grill, why, if there is a choice between the words of the Church and mine or others, I prefer the Church's words. This is why I question my practice of preaching at every OF Mass I celebrate.

It is Jesus who brings Salvation, not the priest, bishop or pope. A priest's spiritual maturity comes when he realises he is an unprofitable servant. I have sympathy with this woman but something seems to have gone awry when flawed, sinful human beings are given a place where they can become a barrier rather than a bridge between God and his people. A mature Catholic is one who realises the Church is God's not ours, and everything depends on him, not us.

The problem comes when we cannot perceive the supernatural and its importance.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Disconcerted by Francis #2

Following on from the previous post, I understand that not a few African bishops have been disconcerted Pope Francis' interview, mainly by his words on homosexuality. As archbishop of Buenos Aires he could tailor his words for his own audience, knowing the reaction of the faithful and to some extent of the local media, as Pope his words are thrown to the four winds and in many places reinterpreted in way to cause the maximum damage the Church.

The proper role of the Pope is to teach and safeguard fundamental Christian principles, it is the role of local bishops to safeguard and to enculturate these principles in the context of the culture in which they are missioning. Fifty years ago it might be possible to make assumptions that western, indeed European culture, with its strong Christian underpinning was superior. In the nineteenth century, and before the Church had flourished in the wake of European colonisation, first of all the Spanish and Portugeuse, then the French and British, and finally the tremendous influence of Americanisation, today there is perhaps much greater cultural diversity and European and Western culture sees itself at enmity with its Christian roots. Just as the age of of monarchy and colonialisation has past, so the age of a strongly centralised Church has past. The centre is not holding.

Pope Francis points us the Orthodox or Byzantine model, presumably because it is also a Catholic model which pre-existed the 19th century Ultramontane doctrine. I have no problem with the doctrines of  Vatican I, I do have problems with how these doctrines became so quickly corrupted by the middle of the 20th century. I remember asking an Orthodox priest historian after an ouzo filled discussion on pre-Great Schism on Church discipline, why he didn't become a Catholic. With a degree of fury he slammed down his glass and said, 'How could I become a subject of the Pope of Rome when he personally can sign a document which abandons two millennia of Tradition'. He was speaking of Paul VI's act of 'abrogation' of the Traditional Liturgy. He saw that act as the fruition of Ultramonatanism: a pen stroke made in Rome that changed the nature of the entire Catholic Church throughout the world.

He suggested that having fruited, the plant had died, because for him as an Orthodox the essential constituents that held the Church, were adherence to the Ecumenical Councils and their Symbols, adherence to to the teachings of the eastern synods, adherence to the writings of the holy Fathers and most importantly adherence to the Sacred Liturgy. In summary it was holding on to that which was passed on, faithfulness to Tradition, that marked the Church and for Orthodoxy guaranteed unity. For him, the West was in a state of disunity; little, except the  historic label seems to mark the Catholic Church's unity and he wondered how long that would last. In many ways he was obviously a little partisan but the observation was interesting.

The problem for Pope Francis' reforms is that the unity that the Liturgy once gave the Church has been severely damaged, it is after all the Liturgy that is the main mark of communion for the billion Catholics throughout the world. The 20th century anti-Traditionalism, which some see as a 'movement', that marked much of the implementation of Vat II could actually be seen as being encapsulated in the Bergoglio Papacy.

What holds Orthodoxy's together is its 'Traditionalism' something which is held in common by bishops, priests and laity. Survey after survey in the Catholic Church seems to suggest there is gulf between the faith of the heirarchy and that of the rest of the billion plus. There is crisis of trust, therefore of unity between people bishops, the upheavals from the Council, the abuse crisis have seriously damaged the trust of both priests and people in their bishops.

Some might well be fearful that the Church can withstand yet another shake up.

I would wonder whether many of our bishops are capable of taking  responsibility for the local Church. The insistence on Catholic doctrine has since the rise of Modernism not been a strong point of Catholic bishops. Local bishops covered up the abuse crisis, it was Rome or rather Pope Benedict who stepped in to cut out the disease. Local bishops dither not knowing how to deal with Catholic politicians who enact laws contrary to the faith, local bishops seem to want to cosy up to the governments or political parties.

The great weakness of taking the Orthodox as a model is that the Church easily becomes a nationalist Church, supporting either the Emperor, or the Sultan or the Czar or even Stalin or as we have seem in Serbia in recent years to its shame was involved in the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Disconcerted by Francis?

I was a little disturbed by a comment on a post yesterday.
James said,
I abandoned the SSPX under Pope Benedict XVI but now I wonder if I made the right decision - could they be right? Pope Francis I believe is causing untold damage with his off-the-cuff remarks and style and worse is sowing confusion. Does he realise or even care that his words have been, are and will be misinterpreted and used to justify every error, abuse or heresy? I feel so disconcerted. The Pope seems to imply Catholic doctrine is unimportant really. Some of us try at great sacrifice to adhere to church teaching on issues such as those highlighted. Now we look rather silly. Perhaps I should give it all up. Maybe that's what this Pope wants. Is it wrong to want a Pontificate to end before it destroys ones faith?

I don't think James is alone, I have had similar emails from a few people who are disconcerted by the events in the Church over the last six months. It is not only those who have left the SSPX or thinking about it following the overtures made by Pope Benedict but former Anglicans too. I have had emails from people who are considering changing rites or even joining the Orthodox. But for the most part I get emails from people who are just confused about the direction the Church Francis is taking the Church in. I must be honest and admit I too have problems with him.
My advice, to myself, as much as everyone else is always, pray, remember Christ's promises to Peter, meditate on what the Church teaches about herself, be patient and wait on the Lord, the Master and Bridegroom of the Church who promises to be her us unto the end of time.

As I said in the post James commented on, many younger priest seem equally disconcerted, not on the point of leaving, just at sea. I think some of the statements from one or two of our bishops recently; the push by ACTA and Queering the Church have reflected the confusion Pope Francis has brought to many. Groups like ACTA who don't seem to have a particular agenda just a vague support for that illusive poltergeist, the Spirit of Vatican II, seem to be given strength by things the Pope has said and done. One suspects some bishops are saying things today they would have remained silent about under Benedict, Francis is being used to justify their own disorderly thinking.

The real fear that many have is that if the Church is 'lite' on doctrine and its prayerful expression in the Sacred Liturgy -lex credendi lex orandi- there is a serious danger in Catholicism fragmenting into, not so much a Communion but a loose federation of national Churches, each with their own liturgical styles but more worryingly with their own pick 'n' mix set of beliefs, with little to hold it together and ultimately become something like the Anglicans, with nothing but the label to hold it together. The truth is that this already exists in many dioceses, the orthodox and the extreme liberal  are left to get along as best they can. Outsiders, even many of the faithful, like to see the Catholic Church as being monolithic but the truth is it is already deeply divided, the unity we presume is a long distant memory.

Benedict tried to restore that unity, on one level his resignation was an admission of his failure, Francis is trying another experiment based synodality and collegiality and rather than trying to gloss over the fragmentation, perhaps he is facing it head on. Benedict from the late 1950s onwards predicted a smaller more deeply committed Church, Francis seems to be wanting a larger or at least broader and therefore possibly, less committed Church, but one like Benedict which is seeking Christ.

Could it just be that Francis is being more realistic and more imaginative? Dr Adam DeVille argues as I would argue that the centralised bureaucracy of the late 19th and 20th century which supported a Ultramontane Papacy is an aberration. He quotes Francis:
We must walk together: the people, the bishops and the pope. Synodality should be lived at various levels. Maybe it is time to change the methods of the Synod of Bishops, because it seems to me that the current method is not dynamic. This will also have ecumenical value, especially with our Orthodox brethren. From them we can learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and the tradition of synodality. The joint effort of reflection, looking at how the church was governed in the early centuries, before the breakup between East and West, will bear fruit in due time…. We must continue on this path.
Francis is realistic enough to recognise that there is actually a problem with unorthodoxy but though Rome can help, its function is not actually to act as policeman but to assist local bishops who should deal with it, he sees orthodoxy as being an issue of concern for local bishops, not something which they ignore:
It is amazing to see the denunciations for lack of orthodoxy that come to Rome. I think the cases should be investigated by the local bishops’ conferences, which can get valuable assistance from Rome. These cases, in fact, are much better dealt with locally.
The problem is useless bishops, as a wise Irish priest I know says, 'Ah, in my day they wouldn't have even been allowed to make their first Holy Communion let alone be made a bishop'. Are our bishops capable of working 'collegiately'? It presumes they share a common faith, and having a sense of the Church.

It is worth noting that again and again Francis criticises careerist bishops, bishops that seek promotion to better Sees, bishops that are airport bishops, bishops that fail to be true fathers to their priests, bishops who spend time out of their dioceses, bishops who don't smell of the sheep, bishops who aren't a sign of asceticism. The major task of Nuncios, for him, is to find good bishops.

He certainly has a different vision of the Church to Benedict but it isn't one in which all the poisons in the mud are left to hatch out.
After reading the interview I am much more impressed with Francis than before, it is easy to see him just as a chatterbox, a popularist, even as a rough gaucho, even at times a buffoon, but read this:
Among musicians I love Mozart, of course. The ‘Et incarnatus est’ from his Mass in C minor is matchless; it lifts you to God! I love Mozart performed by Clara Haskil. Mozart fulfills me. But I cannot think about his music; I have to listen to it. I like listening to Beethoven, but in a Promethean way, and the most Promethean interpreter for me is Furtwängler. And then Bach’s Passions. The piece by Bach that I love so much is the ‘Erbarme Dich,’ the tears of Peter in the ‘St. Matthew Passion.’ Sublime. Then, at a different level, not intimate in the same way, I love Wagner. I like to listen to him, but not all the time. The performance of Wagner’s ‘Ring’ by Furtwängler at La Scala in Milan in 1950 is for me the best. But also the ‘Parsifal’ by Knappertsbusch in 1962.
Those aren't the words of a gaucho but of a deeply sensitive intelligent reflective thinking man who should not be underestimated.

My advice is always, pray, remember Christ's promises to Peter, meditate on what the Church teaches about herself, be patient and wait on the Lord, the Master and Bridegroom of the Church who promises to be her us unto the end of time, and pray for the Pope.

Friday, September 20, 2013

McBride now works for Cafod

I am a bit sensitive to reporting in the media at the moment. I was a little disconcerted by the revelations about Damian McBride, Gordon Brown's spin doctor who by his own admission spread poison about his colleagues.

What I cannot understand is that he now works for Cafod.

Don't we consider calumny a serious sin anymore or is it just too much to expect people who work for that 'Catholic' organisation that deals with social justice to actually be just, to have clean hands and a pure heart?

Again what worries me is the connection between the Labour Party and Cafod, its head at one time shared a house with a Labour minister. Shouldn't someone from the Bishop's Conference ask a few question.
Cafod's image is becoming increasingly tarnished!

Francis Interview

After reading the Vicar of Christ's interview, if I understand him rightly, he is not saying anything new but the interview is highly problematic.

There is a particularly Jesuit flavour to what he is saying, which boils down to bringing people to know and experience Jesus' mercy, then they will want to know the finer details of our faith. The details, the dogma serve to fine tune our knowledge of him.

At the heart of Jesuit spirituality is this encounter with the mercy of God, met in his Son on the Cross, which is life changing. Hence his motto: Miserando Atque Eligendo. There is a problem of course for those who don't believe in this mercy, for Francis God's mercy flowers in the Sacrament of Penance, that is problematic for those who have a muddled understanding of the nature of this sacrament, especially for those who would want limit it to forgiveness of major sins only or turn it into a counselling session, rather than primarily Christ's forgiveness of the tedious oft repeated lists of sins most of us come out with. There is also a problem for those who do not believe that the Gospel demands choice.

Francis' teaching can certainly be interpreted in Relativistic terms and it certainly will be but Francis is not a Relativist, he understands the principle of the hierarchy of doctrine. Not the mistaken idea that some doctrines are disposable or ignorable but that they are all subservient to the fundamental doctrine that God has Revealed His Mercy in His Son Jesus Christ. For fringe group Catholics who are obsessed with reorganisation of Church structures, superficially there might appear crumbs of comfort but actually Francis is calling us back to the centre, which is the person of Jesus Christ and to a radical following of the person of Christ. In Francis' theology a true encounter with Jesus always results in conversion.

Francis is a breath of fresh air to those on the fringes or even outside of the Church but for many inside especially  many younger priests and theologians, especially those formed under JPII and Benedict, he is disconcerting. In his attempt to get the Church to turn away from the obsession with itself that has haunted it since Vatican II -see the agendas of geriatric organisations like ACTA that stink of churchiness- his message is to focus on the Church's mission, the movement to the messiness of the poor at the peripheries. For him this is more important than even pro-life lobbying, or opposition to experiments with marriage or anything else.

The problem Francis presents us with is that he presents himself as being almost a war with the institution of which he is the visible head, there is something in scripture about the dangers of a kingdom divided. The Telegraph amused me recently with a pod-cast entitled 'Can Francis save the Catholic Church?', well, only Jesus Christ can save anything, but the Church's leaders, especially the Pope, have a duty to make themselves lovable,

There are dangers for a Peronist  in the Vatican, especially in a Church that still has not learnt the principle of subsidiarity and is still sees the Petrine office in Ultramontane terms. There are serious dangers too in a Pope who seems to have scant regard for both Tradition and tradition(s). There dangers too in much talked about concepts of Collegiality when one forgets that such a concept embraces not just the horizantal dimension of being in communion with the bishops throughout the world but also the vertical dimension of being in Commuion with ages past.

The answer: Pray for our Pope

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Trip to the Cinema

My parishioners have been very kind to me lately, to cheer me up a bit I was taken to the cinema to see La Grande Bellezza, it has had rave reviews, it is beautifully filmed in Rome. I think they might have thought it was travelogue - it wasn't. I stayed for about 15 minutes and then left. It was decadent, hedonistic, self referential etc, etc. It wasn't really the type of film a priest should see, even one who is well acquainted with the more unpleasant side of life here Brighton and its casualties.

It was obviously a critique of the state that Italian and in particular Roman culture has been brought to by men like Berlusconi, in fact I suppose it could have been set in any major European city but it was so obviously an Italian film and about a particular echelon of artistic literary society. What was interesting was that it was obviously a critique not a celebration of that culture.

In a way it explains the Francis effect. In Italy the Berlusconi years are being seen as the vacuous, debauched time they were, maybe even by those who once attended his parties. Francis coming to the Roman Cathedra at the end of the Berlusconi era was opportune, there is hunger for a more serious attitude to life, for spiritual rather than material values. The problem is the Italians do like big, popular men - for a time.

The search for new values and maybe looking at least in part to the Church for those seemed to mark the French Manif Pour Tous movement. I can't yet see an equivalent in the UK

Honk, honk!

A friend who runs a European opera company was putting on a Rameau opera in a Balkan city, he wanted a series of talks or even workshop to accompany it. I offered to speak about string technology from the 16th to the 18th century, I even offered to do some workshops, making linen or horse or human hair strings for the earlier period, then gut strings out of lambs intestines and loading them with lead or plaiting them to illustrate the development, then finally ending with the great innovation after the loosely wound-on string of the tightly wound on string. We could have explored the different tonal qualities of gold, silver and brass, all of course annealed to different levels, I must admit I am somewhat weak on the use of alloys, as my main interest is those strings made by family industries around Freising rather than Northern Italy.
It wouldn't have just been about cleaning and stretching intestines but making gold and silver wire and the whole art of 'winding on', as well as explaining catgut is caterpillar gut or silk, not moggy. [Factoid: their intestines are irregular and therefore unsuitable for strings of any real length, it is a carnivore thing, I have a paper by Robert Spencer on it somewhere.] I would have read up on bandora stings at the court of Philip II, which is a very interesting subject in itself,

Despite my enormous knowledge of the subject and our friendship he didn't think it would draw great crowds, especially in translation, hence I share a little with you now. 

If you are still with me, it is just a way of saying there are some things we men can get obsessed about. Most chaps know a great deal about cars and nothing about the stringing of bowed and plucked instruments before the middle classical period, I am afraid I am different. I am not quite as bad as a friend of mine who whenever a barber asks, 'See last nights match? replies, 'Gosh yes, Argentina got a terrible trouncing in the third chukka didn't they'. He gets a peaceful, prayerful haircut.

Well cars: the Pope seems to have a thing about them. There were reports of him checking out the Vatican car parks to see which official was driving what, now a friend says some Roman priests are a bit disgruntled over the Pope's remarks to the assembly of young people in which he castigated priests with new cars, they see it as playing to the gallery and into the hands of that insidious Italian anti-clericalism. I am told that scratching priests cars has become a bit of a game in some parts of Italy, probably with a small 'F', for Francesco and if you want to embarrass any cleric you just ask him about his car, now it can never be old or tatty or dirty enough.

I knew a priest who is dead now, pray for him, he drove a rather ordinary car around the parish and a very splendid large shiny one whenever he was out of the parish he changed it every year and used to claim he had been lent it by a parishioner. It turned out he was a bit of crook and might well have gone to prison had he not died.
I can only imagine what the dread around the City State when that little newly restored little white Fiat, which is going to be cosseted by the Vatican mechanics, honks its way around the Palazzi on surprise visits or inspections or transferring His Holiness from his apartment in the Casa Sta Marta to his appointments in the unslept in but still used for work Apostolic Apartments. One or two members of the Curia have been arguing for a fleet of eco-friendly electric golf buggies for everyone to use to get from office to office for ages.

A classic refurbished Fiat is a plaything for a wealthy man who has everything else, the kind of man who still has his shoes repaired in Argentina, few priests I know wear shoes that are worth repairing these are for princes not for poor shepherds who smell of the flock, their cars are necessity not a luxury.

Big question: is the Pope going to car share?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Before Turning to Other Things

Before turning to other things, one last word on the Argus smear attacks, before I turn to other things; we bent over backwards to give them an easy and cheap way out of the difficulties they got themselves into, they have neither agreed to a settlement nor proposed anything themselves.

That is life!

I am very pleased the highly acclaimed Dr Colin Harte has been acting for me in this matter. I just want to get back to being a priest, who happens to write a blog. Colin is best known for his book Changing Unjust Laws Justly. Here is Francis Philips review of it.
Someone said of him to me recently,
'THE Colin Harte of 'Changing Unjust Laws Justly' - probably the most important pro-life book of our generation? '
'I cannot over-emphasise just how important that man is for the future of ethics and morality in the very Church itself...he just doesn't realise it yet - his book could potentially save us from disaster.'
So if you want to support him buy the book which 'could potentially save us from disaster', having bought it, read it.

I am very grateful to God for this exceptional man and I also want to express my thanks to everyone else who has supported me, mostly especially my brother priests. Continue to pray for me, please and pray that this unpleasant affair will be brought to a just and proper conclusion.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Brighton Argus smear: parish reactions - fightback

Still no response from the Argus certainly no apology, or even an acknowledgement of fault, nothing. Ironically I am told the unscrupulous journalist Bill Gardner was on the BBC speaking about bullying, of all things.

Numbers at Mass were down noticeably, probably the weather, it could be the effect of the Argus' misrepresentation. One disturbing thing, I didn't hear it myself, but there was group of lads outside the church yesterday evening, probably a bit drunk, one shouted out, 'chuck a petrol bomb in there'. This was a first time we had something like this, drunks normally want to come in and light candles not make threatening remarks, no, nobody took it serious enough to ring the the police. It could be a result of the Argus' article, more probably just the madness of Brighton but it is perhaps an illustration of Brighton's anti-religious bullying culture, the same stable Bill Gardner and Michael Beard his editor inhabit.

Anyhow, most of my parishioners were sympathetic, some were extremely angry with Argus, one or two are getting together to approach some of the Argus advertisers, apparently there was a full colour page ad from a local private school, I think some of our people into 'social justice' intend to contact the head or bursar about the ethics of advertising with the Argus, the thing in Brighton everyone knows everyone.

A few others intend to go around the local newsagents who are mainly Coptic Christians and try an persuade them to stop stocking the Argus, it probably won't be that effective but many are sufficiently aware of Christian persecution abroad, some apparently have said they are willing to make available an issue of a little journal called 'The Eye of the Needle' produced by one of my parishioners and talks about my original post, its real purpose is to defend the homeless.

I have had some journalist ringing up, having been bitten I am shy. I did speak to one from a 'Catholic' paper which I and right thinking priests do not allow in their churches, to ask about my possibly closing my blog, when I insisted the story was not about that but about bad, unethical journalism and when I asked him to do a story on that he muttered something about 'libel laws' and was uninterested. I am afraid I got a little angry and suggest that it was precisely because Christian journalists are unwilling to to put their heads above the parapet that we have even after Leveson and the revelations about other unscrupulous and unethical journalists, journalists who are unwilling even to discuss, let alone report, the failings of their own industry.

On the fourth day of his Pontificate Pope Benedict spoke of the importance of "clear references of the ethical responsibilities" and to engage in a "sincere search for the truth and the safeguarding of the centrality and the dignity of the person." If only Catholic journalists would do that, if only they had a love for 'the indestructible truth and its eternal beauty', if only other journalists would even think about following the Editors Code of Practice of the Press Complaints Commission then Journalists might actually be regarded as champions of truth, with a holy vocation to search for truth, rather than something only marginally above pond life.

Journalists should have a noble role in society, uncovering 'lies and falsehood', my concern is when journalists  and the media are the source of such lies and falsehood. Some people making comments here suggest that I should ignore a gross distortion of the truth, that is merely 'co-operation with evil', giving into playground bullies.

People ask have I forgiven the Argus. The answer is I haven't any choice. I feel sorry for Bill and Mike working for a failing provincial paper, which few under 70 read, they get a pittance for their work and have to spice up their stories to get them in the National to make a living, otherwise they have to supplement their pay by working, as at least one does, as a chorus boys in the local theatre. It's Brighton!

Forgiveness is not too difficult, most victims forgive bullies but to simply allow a bully to continue without bringing him to repentance is condoning his evil. The only answer to bullying is to fight back. No good father will allow a naughty child to simply carry on his self destructive naughtiness.

Please continue with your help, even just clicking onto the blog means it moves up the Google page the Argus appears on and leave a comment on my blog, it helps. I think I might be getting a few more readers at the moment than they are, there are lots from Brighton, thanks.

I am happy to give an interview on this to any serious journalist, I said no last week, this week I am more open to sensible suggestions.

A montage prepared by one of my parishioners: Bill hasn't resigned, I don't want that, I just want him to be incredibly successful but I also what him to be a good ethical journalist first.
God can do that - pray!


This is what St Francis de Sales - the patron saint of ... ahem ... journalists, says about slander in the Introduction to the Devout Life:

"He who unjustly takes away his neighbour's good name is guilty of sin, and is bound to make reparation, according to the nature of his evil speaking; since no man can enter into Heaven cumbered with stolen goods, and of all worldly possessions the most precious is a good name. Slander is a kind of murder; for we all have three lives--a spiritual life, which depends upon the Grace of God; a bodily life, depending on the soul; and a civil life, consisting in a good reputation. Sin deprives us of the first, death of the second, and slander of the third. But the slanderer commits three several murders with his idle tongue: he destroys his own soul and that of him who hearkens, as well as causing civil death to the object of his slander; for, as Saint Bernard says, the Devil has possession both of the slanderer and of those who listen to him, of the tongue of the one, the ear of the other. And David says of slanderers, "They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders' poison is under their lips." Aristotle says that, like the forked, two-edged tongue of the serpent, so is that of the slanderer, who at one dart pricks and poisons the ear of those who hear him, and the reputation of him who is slandered."

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...