Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Being Locked Out

Today's Gospel OF
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door,
then will you stand outside knocking and saying,
‘Lord, open the door for us.’
He will say to you in reply,
‘I do not know where you are from.’

I have locked myself out of my house from time to time, once I was a curate, the PP was sick, it was too late so I ended up by sleeping in the garden, fortunately I had a gold High Mass set with me, I put it all on, cloth of gold doesn't keep you warm! The other time it cost me a bomb to stay in a hotel.
I always have just a twinge of panic when the door goes click shut.

Perhaps the most often used Gospel illustration of eternal separation from God is the closed door, the being thrown out of the wedding party, outside of the sheepfold. As in the story of the wise and foolish virgins salvation is on offer but it passes, just the same as it is brought to Gallilean or Judean villages for so long as Jesus is there.

The post-Fall state of humanity is separation from God. Jesus alone brings us into Communion with the Father if we enter into Communion with Him, the Church is indeed His Body. Being outside the Church we remain separated from him. At one point the door will be locked either behind us or in our faces. We are either inside at the feast or outside in the cold where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Being locked out, or excluded is the great fear of mankind today.

Today's Epistle:
For those he foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son,
so that he might be the firstborn
among many brothers. 
And those he predestined he also called;
and those he called he also justified;
and those he justified he also glorified.

We have been called and predestined to be conformed into the image of the Son within His Church.

Catholic Bling: Il Tesoro di Napoli

There is a major exhibition in Rome of the treasures from Naples associated with St Janarius, most of them are normally kept in the cathedral treasury or locked away in a strong room.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Faithful Departed and the Dead

Many of the funerals I celebrate are for those who are not exactly 'faithful', many are lapsed, some have at least informally separated themselves from the Church. They would not themselves, in their life have termed themselves 'servants' or 'handmaids of God', as the texts of the funeral liturgies invariably describe them. Some are actually not Christians at all but their Catholic spouse or other relative deeply desires a Catholic funeral. Like all the priests I know I tend to work on the basis that God is infinitely merciful in his judgements, that his healing even after death is there for all who even implicitly desire it, even if that desire is expressed simply in a 'good life', whatever that means, human beings are flawed in their desire for God and often make mistaken judgements, that, God can sort out even after death. Ultimately, I suppose, I am saying, 'who am I too judge?'

The problem is that the categories, for funerals in the liturgical books don't always fit, there are prayers for children whose parents would have had them baptised but didn't but there are no prayers for adults who were not baptised, or for those were baptised as infants but did explicitly excluded Confirmation and Communion, and who though out their adult life, certainly before death have showed no sign of faith. In these cases, like most priests, especially as there is not normally a Requiem Mass I tend to 'tweak' the prayers at the crematorium or graveside, to offer comfort to the relatives. I do believe in that that period between death and Final Judgement the departed meets and is consumed by God's ineffable mercy, that God sorts out the messes we make.

Do I believe in Judgement, Heaven and Hell? Yes, and Purgatory too, as a place of mercy and healing, post mortem there is a veil, who is Heaven, who is Hell is known only to the merciful God. 
The problem is that here my 'pastoral' praxis, and that of most Catholic priests does not exactly follow the rule of lex credendi lex orandi. Peter Kwasniewski has, I think, an important short article on NLM in which he points out the distinction between the Faithful Departed and the simply 'dead', he shows that the Church does not pray for those who have not either actively desired baptism or actually been baptised. There is, he points out, a limit to the Church's prayer. He says this has deep implications and needs to be corrected by catechesis.

What he doesn't point out is that there is a certain messiness about the Church's lived teaching about death, Rhanner's anonymous Christians have crept in everywhere. The truth is that we have all but destroyed scriptures clear teaching about the Last Things, and consequently about the necessity of evangelisation, it is however preserved in the liturgical texts. Kwasniewski points out the texts confront us with hard doctrine to question our fudging of  extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

The problem is I think that our doctrine of 'Hell' is to contemporary man unconvincing and doesn't match our contemporary understanding of the love of God. The image of the medieval torture chamber doesn't ring true. Perhaps we need to speak of it terms that can be understood for today's man the eternal sense of loss of God, exclusion from his presence forever, with all the pain that comes with that, by our own free choices might make more sense.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Prayer does work

Brian was in the church during a baptism I've just done. Apparently he had wandered in last night during the Trad Mass and I am told made a bit of a disturbance. Well Matthew who spent a little while chatting to him told him rather gently to kneel down quietly and pray, " I was skint, Father, so I prayed that I might get some food".
God provided! Brian went off home and on the street there was a twenty pound note, then he found a tenner, so today he was back to give thanks. Now Brian is asking about Holy Communion.
Pray for him (and the person who lost 30 quid).

Sunday, October 20, 2013


From the outside the Catholic Church used to look like fortress: one faith, one baptism, one Lord; and in the West one liturgy in one language. Today there is perhaps a more diverse view from the outside, still perhaps there is a sense that the Church is monolithic and yet those outside perhaps have friends who were once Catholic and now distance themselves from the Church, its worship and its doctrines.

From inside the Church there actually seems to be little that holds us together, Marie Meaney has an article in the Herald asking, Is Schism Inevitable in Germany? in which she speaks of the archdiocese of Freiburg's document proposing communion for the divorced and remarried.  In the Holy See's ill fated negotiations with the SSPX the "S" word was very carefully avoided, the same could be said about those German speaking groups Marie mentions. Heresy, the Church can cope with but schism is another altogether graver matter. Ordaining bishops not only without the mandate of the Holy See, has historically sometimes been necessary, even Pope Benedict seems to have been understanding of their position but it was in direct opposition to the expressed will of the Supreme Pontiff and therefore the most significant act of disunity, nevertheless in the 'spirit of Vatican II' it was not described as 'schismatic' but 'tending towards schism'.

Article 2089 of The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the wilful refusal to assent to it. "Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him."
For us, therefore, schism is about communion with the Pope.

JPII's encyclical Ut in Unum Sint, in which, it is suggested he collaborated heavily with the Prefect of the CDF, Joseph Ratzinger, he recognises the Papacy though of Dominical origin is both the fount of unity for Catholics but also the source of division for non-Catholics. He says:
89. It is nonetheless significant and encouraging that the question of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome has now become a subject of study which is already under way or will be in the near future. It is likewise significant and encouraging that this question appears as an essential theme not only in the theological dialogues in which the Catholic Church is engaging with other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, but also more generally in the ecumenical movement as a whole. Recently the delegates to the Fifth World Assembly of the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches, held in Santiago de Compostela, recommended that the Commission "begin a new study of the question of a universal ministry of Christian unity". After centuries of bitter controversies, the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities are more and more taking a fresh look at this ministry of unity.
If anyone has re-formed, or better, re-moulded the Papacy, it has been Benedict XVI, the ultimate act was his resignation, but other acts were simply writing as one author amongst many in his Jesus of Nazareth trilogy, which suggested one could happily disagree with a reigning Pope, and yes, in his discussions with Marcel Lefebrve's followers that you could still be Catholic but express difficulties with Papal teaching, in a sense too by his founding of the Ordinariates, there was a recognition that 'Catholicism' can exist outside the Catholic Church, in the words of VII in 'impaired communion'.

'Diversity' is a part of contemporary Catholicism. Pope Francis oft repeated phrase, 'Go out to the peripheries' has deep implications but there is difference between going out to gather in and going simply to be amongst. One fear about Pope Francis' Papacy is, as one of my parishioners suggested, that the Pope could end by becoming a like the chairman of the World Council of Churches, the president of an assembly of local and theologically diverse churches. The question that is half asked by many and reinforced by Francis recent sermon in which he criticised 'specialist of the Logos' would suggest that the content of belief will not be an issue in this Papacy.

Except for the most obdurate Neo-Con everyone agrees that only the Papacy needs re-forming but that the Church itself  cannot continue as it has been going, Benedict reformed the Papacy rather discreetly, breaking away from the ultramontanism of the mid-twentieth century but emphasising Catholic belief and consequently looking envisaging a smaller more committed Church. Francis seems to be doing something quite different.

What seems to be a growing worry is that Francis has raised expectations, it is not just in the diocese of Freiburg where there is an expectation of a dramatic break with the past but throughout the world; US nuns, German and Irish priests, gays, the divorced and remarried, those who want everything from married or female priests, to a Church which is no longer 'obsessed' with abortion, homosexuality or condoms. The problem is Francis has created high expectations, which he is unlikely to be able to satisfy. and if he even moves marginally to satisfy their agenda, then what about the younger generation of those priests and lay people who believe the catechism who have come to celebrate the Mass carefully according to the rites of the Church, who accept JPII's Theology of the Body, who have taken on Benedict's liturgical reforms?

We are in the same situation as we were in the early years of Paul VI, when most of Pope Francis's new Papal courtiers, as opposed to the old leprous ons, were enthusiastic for the new order and expecting great changes, only to be disappointed by Pope Paul's publication of Humanae Vitae in 1968, which led to a huge degree of disappointment of those on the left and the exeunt of huge numbers of priests and lay people from the Church. They were joined only little later by those who left gradually as the liturgical changes bit deeper. For those who stayed there was confusion and virtual schism.

Already one hears of clergy in the Curia who are demoralised and uncertain or just unconvinced of the direction, they believe the Pope intends to take the Church, intellectuals who are complaining about a lack of depth and convincing argument, and others who fear we are into a last Ultramontane fling.

The Pope, Ut in Unum Sint reminds us, is the 'servant of  unity', 'leading them towards peaceful pastures' in order to be that he needs not been seen pushing forward his own agenda but being the true servant of the Church:
94. This service of unity, rooted in the action of divine mercy, is entrusted within the College of Bishops to one among those who have received from the Spirit the task, not of exercising power over the people—as the rulers of the Gentiles and their great men do (cf. Mt 20:25; Mk 10:42)—but of leading them towards peaceful pastures. This task can require the offering of one's own life (cf. Jn 10:11-18). Saint Augustine, after showing that Christ is "the one Shepherd, in whose unity all are one", goes on to exhort: "May all shepherds thus be one in the one Shepherd; may they let the one voice of the Shepherd be heard; may the sheep hear this voice and follow their Shepherd, not this shepherd or that, but the only one; in him may they all let one voice be heard and not a babble of voices ... the voice free of all division, purified of all heresy, that the sheep hear". The mission of the Bishop of Rome within the College of all the Pastors consists precisely in "keeping watch" (episkopein), like a sentinel, so that, through the efforts of the Pastors, the true voice of Christ the Shepherd may be heard in all the particular Churches. In this way, in each of the particular Churches entrusted to those Pastors, the una, sancta, catholica et apostolica Ecclesia is made present. All the Churches are in full and visible communion, because all the Pastors are in communion with Peter and therefore united in Christ.
With the power and the authority without which such an office would be illusory, the Bishop of Rome must ensure the communion of all the Churches. For this reason, he is the first servant of unity. This primacy is exercised on various levels, including vigilance over the handing down of the Word, the celebration of the Liturgy and the Sacraments, the Church's mission, discipline and the Christian life. It is the responsibility of the Successor of Peter to recall the requirements of the common good of the Church, should anyone be tempted to overlook it in the pursuit of personal interests. He has the duty to admonish, to caution and to declare at times that this or that opinion being circulated is irreconcilable with the unity of faith. When circumstances require it, he speaks in the name of all the Pastors in communion with him. He can also—under very specific conditions clearly laid down by the First Vatican Council— declare ex cathedra that a certain doctrine belongs to the deposit of faith. By thus bearing witness to the truth, he serves unity.
Is Francis able to deliver, to be both 'reformer' and 'unifier'?
What is he going to deliver?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pope's Advisers

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor meets Pope Francis with the College of Cardinals in the Clementine HallMarco Tosatti has interesting little piece on who advises the Pope. The names seem to be of very particular outlook, they include Cardinals Murphy O'Connor, Madariaga  and Hummes, as well as Abp Pierro Marini and  Francesca Immacolata Chaoqui of Twitter and facebook fame.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Benediction last night, someone took a few photographs, these are the best of them, with no flash everything is drained of colour and takes on sepia hue.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Limits of Mercy

One of the things I am beginning to like about Francis is that he challenges me, he makes me ask questions, especially about mercy. "Am I merciful? How far mercy should be extended? Is there a limit to it? Where does it end?"

The test came with the celebration of a Requiem Mass for the murderer and war criminal  Erich Priebke, who was responsible for the deaths 335 Italian civilians and who himself admitted to personally shooting two people. Pope Francis' Vicar for Rome, Cardinal  Agostino Vallini, had forbidden every priest in the diocese to offer a Requiem for him. From what I understand this was a blanket ban with no exceptions, it wasn't possible for example to offer a Requiem at an obscure and tiny church early in the morning, with no music, with a limited number of participants, or even with just a priest and server, behind locked doors.

Personally, I have no sympathy for murderers, anti-Semites and Nazis, as a priest I have a duty to be merciful to sinners even if I am revolted by what they have done. I would not want to celebrate Priebke's funeral rites and certainly  not in public but in his life Priebke was not excommunicated and according to his lawyer he died having been to Confession and therefore we presume was reconciled to God and his Church. Excommunicating someone post mortem which seems in effect to to be what happened to Priebke seems a terrible and unmerciful thing to do, something which belongs to the Church from a previous century. As Francis himself asked in the case of Mgsr Ricci, "Who am I to judge?" In the case of someone who has just died, who now stands before God's throne Catholics are indeed not called to judge but to implore God's mercy, the unfaithful become 'the faithful departed'.

Certainly, Cardinal Vallini was right to take in account the opprobrium of the faithful and even of the secular world but in this case it seems 'the right-wing Catholic cult, that has split from Rome', the SSPX, has been more merciful than the Pope's Cardinal Vicar. Though we might be suspicious of their motives, they have been willing to accept the inevitable condemnation that comes with being merciful to those society vilifies.

It could be that we are dealing with two different understandings of funeral here. In the rite which was offered for Priebke, whether he had killed millions or was eventually raised to the altar as canonised saint, it would have been the same, it would have implored God's mercy, recognising that 'all have fallen short of the Glory of God'. Perhaps Cardinal Vallini understood a funeral to be 'a celebration of the life of'' Priebke, with readings, music and even the colour of the vestments chosen by loving friends and relatives and a sermon full of platitudes preached by a sympathetic priest.

The question remains, who showed mercy, the diocese of Rome or the priest who said Mass for him carried out the final obsequies? Who showed the mercy of God and questioned the values of the world?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Alison Davis

Pray for Alison Davis, pictured here on her last visit this year to Lourdes with Colin Harte who cares for and assists her, she has become increasingly frail of late, and I think would be very appreciative of your prayers at the moment.

Her story is remarkable, she tells a little of it here, it is from a 2009 talk she gave at a pro-Life conference in New Zealand.
The most compelling argument I can present is my own experience. I have suffered a lot of pain throughout my life, and now need increasing doses of morphine, but even that doesn't always alleviate the pain. In addition to spina bifida and hydrocephalus, and using a wheelchair full time, I also have emphysema, a breathing problem that makes me susceptible to chest infections, arthritis, lordosis and kyphoscoliosis - causing my spine to twist out of shape in every possible direction, and osteoporosis - brittle bones, which has caused my spine to collapse and trap nerves. When the pain is at its worst I can't move or think or speak.
She has been a remarkable campaigner for disability rights and through her own suffering has come to understand the beauty and preciousness of life.
Since every human being is made in the image of God, each is of infinite value and Jesus would have paid the same price for one as for all, the same price for the same -infinite -value.
Because of this infinite human value, one minute of life is as precious as a hundred years
(how could a hundred years be precious but not the individual minutes and hours and days
which comprised it?) A short life is as valuable as a long one and a profoundly disabled life
as precious as one labelled "perfectly healthy.” 


I was told of a priest, who happens to write for one of those Catholic papers which no-one reads. He re-ordered his church according to his own whim. In the process he destroyed an altar and various statues and objects that were given by past parishioners, of course there were complaints. The priests reaction was to get a friend, a solicitor, to send those who objected letters suggesting that if they continued to make their concerns public they risked being sued for defamation. With one particular family, not content with one letter, for several years afterwards, just before Christmas, his solicitor friend would send a reminder.

Pope Francis talks a lot about 'clericalism', this story is about clericalism of the worst sort but it is typical of much that went on after Vatican II, a clerical elite -both priest and lay- forcing something on a people who didn't want it or didn't understand it. That whole ghastly 'Spirit of Vatican II' is nothing other than spirit of 'clericalism', where an elite impose something unsanctioned on the rest of the Church. It involves a negation of the Law, of the plainly written text, of teaching that has been passed on.

The culture that covered up the sin and crime of sexual abuse certainly has its root in 'clericalism'. 'Clericalism' is certainly a 'leprosy', 'a virus', it is marked by a lack of transparency, a failure to be a servant and to consider that the rest of the Church. It sees the clergy as a caste apart the laity is there to serve rather than to be served. It is akin to Pharisaism in the Gospels.
It strikes me that 'clericalism' springs not from a strong priestly identity but from a weak one, and a weak sense of the nature of the Church. Teaching the Catholic faith isn't clericalism, celebrating its Mysteries decently and reverently according to the Law isn't clericalism, but imposing one's personal interpretation of the faith is clericalism of the most dangerous type, as is substituting rites of one's devising for those given by the Church.

The priest or bishop whose personal beliefs are out of 'synch' with the Church is really dangerous because ultimately he is not seeking to deepen the union of his people with God within the Church but with himself. It is a form of idolatry, in which the priest usurps a place the place of God.

Pope Francis recently speaking of the devil said:
There are some priests who, when they read this Gospel passage, this and others, say: ‘But, Jesus healed a person with a mental illness’. They do not read this, no? It is true that at that time, they could confuse epilepsy with demonic possession; but it is also true that there was the devil! And we do not have the right to simplify the matter, as if to say: ‘All of these (people) were not possessed; they were mentally ill’. No! The presence of the devil is on the first page of the Bible, and the Bible ends as well with the presence of the devil, with the victory of God over the devil.”
Pope Francis warns that such an approach seeks to relativize the truth about Jesus and leads to half-measures in our battle with the Devil ....
But what in fact is happening is that such priests are negating revealed Truth with a message of their own, they are given a role within the Church that they abuse. Here the Pope speaks of the devil and demons but he could equally well have substituted conscience or contraception, sin and confession, heaven and hell, death and judgement, or any foreshortening of the Faith.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Joseph Shaw on Pope Francis

I must say this is one of the best things I have read on Pope Francis over the last few weeks and I have read a lot.

Dr Joseph Shaw, the philosopher, who also happens to be the Chairman of the Latin Mass Society, has written a five part article on the Holy Father's remark that Ignatius of Loyola was a 'mystical not aesetic'.
He makes the argument that Traditional Catholics have much less to fear from the Pope than Neo-Conservatives and Liberals.

The final part, Part 5 Mystical not aesetic: a response to Pope Francis, is here.
Part 1: what his disctinction 'Mystical' vs. 'Asectic' means
Part 2: why traditional Catholics can better accomodate this perspective than 'Neo-Conservatives'
Part 3: why liberal Catholics shouldn't feel too comfortable with it
Part 4: what is going on with the reference to the life and family issues.
Joe gives interesting insights into the spirituality of Traditional Catholicism as being open to many of the things the Holy Father seems to favour such, as pluralism, de-centralisation, a loathing of ultramontanism, of papal or legal positivism. The second part especially where he deals with the evil -my word, not his- of neo-conservatism is particular worth reading, especially if you have neo-con tendencies.

Of all the documents issued by Benedict XVI I am convinced that Summorum Pontificum is the most important, it is a sort of constitution for the Traditionalist Movement, a piece of grit placed in the heart of the Church, especially amongst the young, that will slowly grow as a grass-roots movement to produce a pearl of great price. It is about the liturgy, but is more than that, it is about creating as Joe suggests, a truly Catholic spirituality and a critical intellectual counter-culture within the Church.

At The Holy Name of 'Lesus'?

Proof reading, checking texts seems to be 'the' problem with Vatican at the moment, if they can't get the Son of God's name right on the medal issued to commemorate the new Papacy, is there any hope?

I am told this banner appears on a Vatican website, I can only find it on the site of one of the parishes the Pope has visited. I think I remember seeing it on film at a Papal audience, again you would think someone might suggest it is 'inappropriate', some in the crowd should have suggested it should be taken down.

There is something quite concerning going on, it worries me that there on the altar of Santa Marta rather than a crucifix dominating the altar and framed by candlesticks, it is so tiny that its absence would not be noticed, the floral decoration seems to be as important.

I am told on few occasions this Pope's predecessor after crowds chanted his name would look embarrassed and point to the crucifix. The message always has to be 'Jesus', there is no substitute, there is no room for error or mistake.

Getting the name and place of Jesus right is more important than getting the Curia or the Vatican Bank right, failure to do so indicates a lack of seriousness about him.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Extraordinary Synod on the Family

No Pastor is going to deny that the teaching of the Church on the family and sexuality is in a mess.

We have beautiful teaching but it is just not taught, we have a wonderful understanding of the complementarity between man and woman but it is not understood. We can eloquently argue that man and women within the bond of marriage, together, are more perfectly the image of God. We can present arguments that divorce and remarriage harms children. We can speak about the need for sex to take place only within the bond of marriage and to be open to life but it is disregarded.

All the evils that afflict modern society from pornography, premarital sex, contraception, adultery, divorce and marital break-up, single parent families, the exclusion of fathers, the uncertainty of sexual identity could and should be addressed by the Extraordinary Synod. It could go even further and address the assault on Life, the fragmentation of society, its economic breakdown, youth unemployment, the alienation of the elderly.

The Church's teaching is glorious and multi-dimensional, and when presented coherently it is life changing but even among bishops and clergy, and 'professional', it is actually not only misunderstood but treated as an embarrassment to be best ignored or excused away.

To a world that has few big ideas what the Catholic Church actually has to say should to truly revolutionary.

I was talking to our diocesan vocations director recently he was saying how young men see celibacy as something dynamic, that is about spiritual fatherhood and potency and yet so often it is presented in terms of loneliness and negation. Marriage and family can easily portrayed in terms of negativity. I think, I hope, that when Pope Francis speaks about Catholics being obsessed by homosexuality, contraception, abortion, what he really means is that we often present our message in negative terms, whereas we should be presenting the beauty of continent brotherly love, the wonder of being a life-giving parenthood and the dignity and value of life from its beginning to its natural end.

We desperately need a new moral theology. The moral theology, especially around sex and the family, that followed the Second Vatican Council rather than rejoicing in goodness, tended to be a way of finding people excuses to be immoral. Rather than embracing a new way of life and the radical dynamic conversion Benedict and Francis have been calling people to, so much of Catholic moral theology is still expressed in terms of the niggardly 'How far can I go?' It is the meanness and minimalism that seems to dominate the tickbox thinking of dissidents rather than the glorious adventure of discipleship.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

A Greek Practice

Latins often criticise Greeks for being lax on celibacy and lax on remarriage, as far as celibacy is concerned. although Greeks do not allow priests to marry after ordination, they do ordain married men and yet married men may not be ordained to the episcopacy and in parish setting married clergy tend to be expected to give way to their celibate brothers. They have exactly same rules as we have for Anglican converts in general and applied to the Ordinariate in particular who although some may be married before ordination may not marry afterwards and were married men are not ordained bishop, a bit of Grecianisation through the back door?

As far as remarriage is concerned, I remember being given a paper which suggested all Orthodox marriages were invalid because the Orthodox recognise 'remarriage' within the lifetime of a divorced spouse, so therefore the writer suggested there was no sense of lifelong, exclusive commitment among Orthodox, QED: No Orthodox marriage is valid because of a lack of commitment to a lifelong exclusive union.

That is bit simplistic. It is worth remembering that in the West we recognise two levels of marriage; sacramental marriage between two baptised Christians and non-sacramental marriage between a Christian who has been baptised and someone not baptised. In the past such marriages were very much frowned upon and according to local custom were done without much ceremony, sometimes even in the sacristy, without music and just witnesses being present, still today the bishop or his delegate (normally the Parish Priest) has to give explicit permission for such a marriage to take place. In theory such marriages can be dissolved 'in favour of the faith', in favour of a sacramental marriage, should the Catholic party meet and to desire to marry a 'good Catholic' boy or girl. Nowadays no real liturgical distinction is made, except the obvious one of it being inappropriate to have a nuptial Mass, as the non-Christian, non-baptised cannot receive Holy Communion. The Rite speaks in terms of a sacrament even if no sacrament is being confected. Historically, I understand in some places, at a time when Holy Communion was rarely received, there were restrictions on when a person in such a union was permitted to receive Holy Communion.

Of course we Latins have always allowed a certain laxity towards even those in a sacramental union by allowing a declaration of annulment, our rather legalised approach to a pastoral situation of marital breakdown and the desire to remarry. Protestants used to be horrified at our allowance of such a practice and most Catholics really don't understand it. We require proofs of invalidity rather than the word of the person requesting an annulment. The problem is that the proof normally involves the co-operation of the estranged party or their friends - which is often not forthcoming. For some an annulment can be a healing experience, for others it is bruising and uncertain.  It is a legal solution not one designed for spiritual growth.

For Greeks, historically less legalised than us Latins, for a pastoral problem there is the pastoral solution of “oikonomia”, where someone might be married a second or even third time at the discretion of the local bishop and his advisers. Subsequent marriages are always marked by a much lesser degree of liturgical solemnity and often restrictions are placed on the couple's ability to receive Holy Communion, sometimes it is forbidden if sexual intimacy is taking place, that is until the couple can live as brother and sister, penitential disciplines can be placed on the couple it all depends on the Bishop or custom of the local Church but such a concession to permit an act contrary to the plain sense of scripture is a concession to human weakness and frailty, in much the same way as in the West we once regarded a non-sacramental marriage.

Friday, October 04, 2013

In Assisi some clear teaching

I have been rather impressed by some of the things the Holy Father has been saying in Assisi today, I just wonder if someone has been pointing that ambiguity and confusion are destructive, I think others are impressed a bit too and here as well.

Maybe the Mueller interview was a turning point.
See fasting and prayer work.

Oh and isn't that toddler crawling around in front of the throne sweet, no cynicism about Papal casting.

And then there was this interesting post a few days ago from the great Zee about Medge. Interesting, eh?

The answer: Jesus Christ, fasting and prayer

Listening to the news this morning, the accounts of the deaths of those immigrants off the coast of Lampedusa, the death Hamzah Khan, the little boy who was starved to death by his addicted mother in Bradford, on a lesser level the sheer nastiness of the Mail on Sunday's reporting on Miliband's dad, there is something serious wrong at the heart of our society.
As with everything else I know the answer is 'Jesus Christ', what the question is I am not sure, nor how we lead people find the answer.
It is the same with the Church, the confusion, the hurt that so many feel as Pope Francis changes the gearing in the engine of the Church; what the questions are, we are not sure, we know the the answer is 'Jesus Christ'.
Join me in a day of prayer and fasting for the Pope's intention. When Christians see confusion, or are frightened or can't see a way forward then is a time for more prayer and more fasting, to come closer to the crucified.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

And now the Mueller Interview

After the chatter and confusion of recent days there is a short, rather refreshing interview with Archbishop Mueller on the (future) role of the CDF, he returns to some Ratzinger themes, for example the relationship of bishop to the pope and the place of Bishops Conferences, the primacy of doctrine, doctrine and pastoring.
Obviously it is a corrective to some of the speculations resulting from the various pronouncements.

a few excerpts
It's not as if other bishops or Pope Benedict had constantly spoken about abortion, sexual morals or euthanasia. And pastoral work is not a therapeutic game. It wants to serve people with the Word of God. That is why juxtaposing doctrinal and moral teaching against pastoral work is not in the mind of the inventor. The former is the source of the latter.
 If Jesus Christ is not the Son of God who became Man, then he cannot be the Good Shepherd. Pope Francis has that special charism of being able to translate the Church's doctrine of the faith, which he adheres to unconditionally as he never tires of emphasising, into a personal encounter with people. As Pope he behaves like a local pastor.
The CDF is responsible for the whole world in the interests of the papal Magisterium. Bishops lead local Churches. The papal and the episcopal office are legitimised by divine law. That is something that bishops' conferences are not. They are work groups but do not have a competence to teach of their own over and above that of an individual bishop's mandate. So they are not a third authority between the Pope and bishops. I don't think, therefore, that we'll see a sort of federalist reform similar to that in the Federal Republic [of Germany] where key competences are relayed from the central state to the individual [German] states. That is not how the Church is constituted. According to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, the Church consists in and of the local Churches.

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...