Friday, November 29, 2013

One for you and one to evangelise with

I haven't finished reading Evangelii gaudium, I must admit, I found the Pope Emeritus easier to read, some bits of the Exhortation I find incomprehensible, the stuff on 'not spheres' 'but polyhedrons' seems as arcane as Pythagoras, what does it mean? Then other bits and pieces seem to be a rehash of twentieth century speculative theology, like the bit about atheist salvation. I am sure at the end there will be a bit on Mary the Evangelist, maybe I am being Promethean.

Here, at 7pm on 7th December, next Saturday, we are having our annual -we did it last year- procession in honour of the Immaculate Conception, we are going from the Church to the Clocktower in the centre of town, there we are going to say Pope Francis' prayer for the Consecration of the World.

Last year we had just under a hundred people, this year I am sure Our Lady will increase the numbers. What was so noticeable last year was the degree of enthusiasm with which the procession was met, Chinese and Pakistani waiters left their restaurants just to watch the procession pass, a few Spanish students joined the procession. Last year we handed out those cheap plastic Rosaries along with how say the Rosary cards, this year it is Miraculous Medals and a thing the Copts Orthodox here in Brighton do, so 'people will remember the sweetness of Christ' we are going to hand out sweets. Evangelisation should be about 'sweetness', I hate those sour 'marches for Jesus'.

We got hold of a thousand Miraculous Medals, I gave out about 300 hundred at Mass last week, on the basis of 'one for you and one to evangelise with' I could have given out lots more, people wanted them, not just for themselves but yes, to evangelise with.

The Church's sacramentals are a good thing to be generous with, I like to encourage people take palms and blessed candles home for the sick or lapsed, every year I keep meaning to get hundreds of little plastic bottles for Paschal Water for the same purpose and I have looked at getting quantities of bambini for distribution at Christmas, I haven't yet found a cheap supply. Books and pamphlets are useful but 'things' I suspect are a more useful way for people to begin a conversation about faith or prayer and their experience of the mercy of Jesus.

In the great days of Catholic evangelism the 'model' was invariably a Marian, one of simply showing Jesus, in Gospels it happens in the Visitation, with the Shepherds, with the Wise Men. The great shrines of Lourdes and Fatima are also great centres of evangelisation, she introduces people to the mystery of Christ.
Having just peeked at the end of E.G. the Pope doesn't exactly say that, but it works.

Mary is always lavish in her giving!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Self-absorbed Promethean Neo-pelagianism

What does "self-absorbed promethean neo-pelagianism" mean?
It is phrase Pope Francis has used elsewhere but it appears again in Evangelii Gaudium
94. This worldliness can be fuelled in two deeply interrelated ways. One is the attraction of gnosticism, a purely subjective faith whose only interest is a certain experience or a set of ideas and bits of information which are meant to console and enlighten, but which ultimately keep one imprisoned in his or her own thoughts and feelings. The other is the self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism of those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying. In neither case is one really concerned about Jesus Christ or others. These are manifestations of an anthropocentric immanentism. It is impossible to think that a genuine evangelizing thrust could emerge from these adulterated forms of Christianity.
Notice first he uses the them as the other extreme to gnosticism, those "whose only interest is a certain experience or a set of ideas and bits of information which are meant to console and enlighten, but which ultimately keep one imprisoned in his or her own thoughts and feelings." I presume here he is speaking about 'cafeteria' or 'pic n mix' or 'feel good' Catholicism, a Catholicism without traction, that simply gives comfort or backs up one's own worldly ideas.

On the other extreme then is the "self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism".

'Self-absorbtion' is obviously contrary to the Gospel, it is as remote from the teaching of Jesus as masturbation is from the loving, life-giving, self giving encounter between husband and wife, it is a denial of the Great Commandment to love God and our neighbour.

'Promethean' is slightly more difficult. Prometheus was a Greek demigod who created man from clay and gifted him with fire, for which he was punished by Zeus who chained Prometheus to a rock where a vulture came and daily fed on his liver.

The term "Prometheism" was suggested by the Greek myth of Prometheus, whose gift of fire to mankind, in defiance of Zeus, came to symbolize enlightenment and resistance to despotic authority, it was the name of an early 20th century slightly anarchic Polish political movement but it drew its inspiration from the enlightenment which is perhaps significant here. Perhaps what the Pope is suggesting is something individualistic, something which is actually contrary to Catholic Tradition. It is the self-righteous or as the Pope would say, 'self-referential', pretentious Phariseeism that quotes documents and texts to condemn others but actually refuses to be converted by them.

"Neopelagianism" is an easier term, it excludes the necessity of Grace for salvation, again it is individualistic, again it excludes a dependence on God, which is at the heart of Francis' preaching on 'mercy'.
He links the whole phrase to those who, 'observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past'. He has used 'neopelagian' previously to describe certain traditional Catholics, well actually the SSPX. I think what he is saying, which the whole of Evangelii Gaudium seems to be saying is that we have be absorbed into the wondrous life-changing joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ rather than being curators of a museum or experimenters in a laboratory.

The whole of the document seems to be a call to the centre, not as we would like it to be but as it actually is. Whenever I read Francis I feel like a schoolboy in privileged Jesuit school being given a pep talk by the headmaster, in which I am being told of the importance of everyone pulling together not so much for  the good of the school but ultimately for the greater glory of God, Ad maiorem Dei gloriam.

There is always the sense that we are not doing well enough. A friend of mine reminded me that at the heart of Jesuit spirituality was the twice daily examen of conscience, on how prayer and everything else affects our living the Gospel.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Bishop Anthanasius Schneider in Cork

Bishop Anthanasius Schneider will offer Mass in the Old Rite at the historic Honan Chapel in University College Cork this Saturday at 11.00am, everyone is welcome.

This is significant for several reasons:
  • It is the first Traditional Rite Mass there in forty years.
  • He will launch a new book, "Corpus Christi - Holy Communion and the Renewal of the Church
  • Perhaps most important, it is a deliberate policy statement by the newly appointed Dean and Chaplain about the future direction of the Catholic mission in the University College Cork and the use and purpose of this beautiful chapel.
Since September the recently ordained Dominican Fr :David Barrins has been Dean and Chaplain.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Will Francis have the courage to stop German aggression?

Will Pope Francis stop the German tanks?
According to Reuters the German bishops intend to introduce plans to admit divorced and 'remarried' Catholics to Holy Communion, this is the first serious crisis in the Franciscan Papacy. The German bishop have spent the last 60 years bullying the Church. They introduced Communion in the hand they introduced female altar servers, they have continually turned a blind eye to dissenting theologians, recently they voted to allow the morning after pill to be dispensed in hospitals under their control.

They are powerful in Church terms because of their great wealth through Church Tax, which is also their weakness, because it means they are always beholden to the State, and to those who pay the tax and have little or no faith. It is the German church that has spawned such dissident groups as call for female ordination, priests living in concubinage, far from being healthy the German Church is a source of disease and corruption. The Rhine has been flowing into the Tiber for too long, it must stop.

Unlike Communion in the hand or female servers the admission of those in second marriages seems to be a direct attack on the clear teaching of the Gospels,
Matthew 19:3-9 — The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ ? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for  [porneia] sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
Adultery along with post baptismal murder and apostasy was  always regarded as one of the sins that separated someone Christ.

This is truly a sad move, and many might suggest it has been encouraged by the Pope's own talk on 'liberalisation' earlier in his Papacy, though of course through Abp Mueller there has been a great deal of back peddling.
From the time of Bismark, well before the Vatican Council, the German bishops have shown contempt and arrogance towards Communion with the rest of the Church, will Francis have the courage to stop German aggression?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pius XII, the Reformer

I have a certain feeling of sympathy towards Pius XII, his obvious antipathy towards Hitler, his personal desire to help the Jews in Rome, the huge moral dilemma he lived with constantly, of the temptation to make an outright condemnation of Nazism but fearing the consequences, even his ambiguous relationship with Italian Facism, it makes him human. At the dawn of the age of mass communication he strode the world stage as the embodiment of Catholicism, a counter-weight to those other huge men who strode the world stage and embodied Russia or Germany. It was an age of men who were in a sense 'manufactured' and projected onto the cinema screen in huge images or whose words for the first time could be heard not by at most a few thousand but by millions.

In the case of Pope  Pius there is something endearing about his neurotic belief in monkey glands and quack medicine and that strange nun that governed the papal apartments. What I have never been able to understand is the reverence those who style themselves 'trad' Catholics have for him, he was after all the patron of those ant-heroes of the traddie world like Bugnini et al.

The good Fr Hunwicke is back, he makes the suggestion that Vatican II was really not that important, that Pius XII had already laid the foundations for radical liturgical reform.
The fontal point is this: The process of change was already firmly in place. I do not think that the Council, in fact, made any real difference whatsoever. My train of thought was started by reading some words which Annibale Bugnini wrote in the Preface to his 1956 Commentary on the new Holy Week liturgy. I give my own translation of his Latin:
"When the Easter Vigil had been restored, a certain keen liturgist did not hesitate to assert: Pope Pius XII, in the history of Liturgy through the ages, will be 'The Restorer of the Easter Vigil'. Now, indeed, by the help of God's grace he is to be called 'The Restorer of Holy Week'; while in the secret of our hearts we do not doubt that still greater things await this indefatigable Labourer, and it is very likely (nec veritatis specie caret) that He will be 'The Restorer of the entire Sacred Liturgy'".
Fr Hunwicke's point is that previous Pope's had seen themselves as 'guardians' of Tradition, whilst Pius XII saw himself as the Pope could do anything. Personally. I can't help but see him as another of those Colossi of the 20th century who thought they could do anything.

I concur with wise Fr Hunwicke's conclusion.
I think it will be very interesting to see, over the medium term, how Pope Francis understands his Ministry. It can be easy for a good man with admirable motives and who is facing real problems to use the power which his position gives him to take short cuts. It takes a very learned and a very truly humble Pontiff - such as a Benedict XIV or a Benedict XVI - to understand, and to internalise his perception of, what  he ought not to do (and I'm not only talking about Liturgy). Pope Francis's two recent utterances which bear upon the Hermeneutic of Continuity make me cautiously optimistic. If this man can consolidate the gains made by our beloved Pope Benedict XVI and at the same time prudently develop the teaching of the Magisterium about the Preferential Option for the Poor, he could turn out to be a great Pontiff.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Female Servers?

One of my parishioners told another of my parishioners she wants to serve, we have men serving but not women.

Until recently we had sufficient men to serve, illness and age have taken their toll, and a couple of years ago two of our men went off to begin studying for the priesthood. Being a city centre parish there are not hundreds of children who want to be on the sanctuary and frankly I am glad of that, I am not comfortable being surrounded by children whilst I celebrate Mass, children belong with their parents at Mass. I can do childcare and I can say Mass, I can't do both at the same time. Jesus loved small children but they do not appear to be present either at the Cross or at the Passover. Should those who have not received the Sacrament of Confirmation and therefore not fully initiated be performing a ministerial role in Church?

I can't help feeling that having girls or women serving, apart from being a significant break with tradition, is a first step towards women clergy, 'stealth priestesses'. The function of a server is obviously to assist the priest, a good server will ensure the priest follows the rubrics correctly and enable the priest to be recollected, and if necessary remind him if he forgets anything, like the consecration or the final blessing. No priest should be trusted to go the altar alone. Ideally the server and especially the Master of Ceremonies should have thorough understanding not just of rubrics but of the liturgy itself.

In the Ordinary Form there is no restriction on the number of servers, and although the server doesn't answer on behalf of the congregation, his role is to assist the priest but also to lead the congregation in prayer. He should at least be an example of prayerful deportment and reverence. He should have a deep prayer life and be devout, otherwise what he does is a sham, just play acting.

As Catholics we do not believe women can be priests, or in VII speak, "presidents of the assembly". It is not only that the Church has no authority to ordain women, as Ordinatio Sacerdotalis says but also there is the argument from 'headship', a favourite of some Protestants. The leaders of Christian prayer should be male, the proper leader of prayer in a family should be the father of the family, he stands as an icon of God the Father. His role as a Christian father is to direct family worship, as the head of the family. Ephesians 5 reminds us too that he also stands in the place of Christ the Head and Bridegroom. It is not illogical to assume that a priests immediate assistants, the servers should properly also be male, and leaders or potential leaders of prayer within their own families..

As a husband and father a man has liturgical role that we need to explore, who knows it might be done in the Synod on the Family. At the Extraordinary Form Mass we have no problem finding servers, it is not quite so easy at the Ordinary Form. In the EF traditionally practically every man knew how to serve, it meant that boys and men could receive some formation in the liturgy and prayer. Prayer was seen as manly. Now the priest and servers are often the only men in the church. As someone once said, not too seriously, 'one good reason for only ordaining men is that it ensures there is at least one man at Mass', well with men servers there are likely to be at least two. However there is crisis in the relationship of men and the Church, not many come and not many get involved and consequently feel the call of vocation either to priesthood or fatherhood. Ignoring the role given them by scripture and the t/Tradition does not help, it certainly does not help foster future priests or men in leadership roles within the Church.

I understand that many priests, even though they have gut instinct against it, feel in a spirit of equality obliged to go along with inclusivity and have both male and female servers but there seems to be a denial of an important element of the faith: men and women are equal, yes, but different. To apply this only to the priesthood and not other areas of Church life seems to be dishonest, if understandable.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ordained One: Buried One Hundred and Twenty

The Archbishop of Sens-Auxerre says,
In almost twenty years of episcopate, I have buried one hundred and twenty priests, and I have ordained only one in the dioceses of Yonne and the Jura.
If you go to the source, the Archbishop, Monseigneur Yves Patenôtre, chatters on about lay involvement and all that one might expect from a French bureaucrat, basically, 'It ain't my fault'.
I once went to his Cathedral to see the relics of St Thomas Becket, confession was offered on one or two days of the week the rest of the time counselling was offered in the same slot by Mademoiselle ...... .
It is very easy to say, "If I were Pope, I would ...." Well, I hope Pope Francis would get rid of Bishops who allow their diocese to die and rather than donning sack cloth and ashes and cry out to heaven for help, excuse themselves, finding some cunning pastoral plan to cover up their failure.

There was a rather silly myth going around among some English bishops a decade or so ago that the absence of priests was the way God was showing the Church that it needed to empower the laity. So rather than a priest bringing Viaticum to the dying or Communion to the sick, or presiding over non-sacramental prayer the laity took his place, and invariably lay women. In France it is quite normal for lay led funerals, as women 'tend to be more compassionate than men', they tend to do it. I am not sure if it is happening in parts of France yet but there are certain parts of the world where the usual minister of baptism or marriage is not a priest but a catechist, male or female, more likely female. In many places it is a way of introducing female priests by stealth.

Sens-Auxerre is one of those diocese in France where practice has always been a little poor but presumably this Bishop's predecessors managed to attract the 120 priests which this bishop has buried. The problem is that the absence of priests, though bad in itself and a source of great evils, indicates a lack of health in the Church. In France things are certainly not all bad, Paris is doing comparatively well, Frejus-Toulon has as many ordination as the rest of France -excluding Paris- as the rest of France put together. The absence of priests indicates a deep disease, a loss of faith.

Perhaps Monseigneur Patenôtre needs to examine his conscience: has he actually been teaching the Catholic faith over the last twenty years, has he demanded his priests do the same? In France more than anywhere else ideology or theological speculation replaces faith.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


My Aunt Grace when I was a child was a Congregationalist, she lived down the street opposite us just above us was the her church, it was really just a corrugated iron hut which she used to clean every Saturday. Occasionally I would go with her but there was picture a bit like the one above, it was Jesus surrounded by children of different nationalities, even then, I couldn't have been more that six, probably younger, it seemed a bit creepy and not very convincing, in fact I remember very consciously looking at it and deciding I rejected it and what went with it.

It was a piece of anti-evangelism, to me as a small child it was obviously fake the tin hut has long gone and the Protestant sect to which it belonged has almost disappeared. Separating the real Jesus of scripture from his Church is the best way of destroying the Church and make the Catholic Church disappear. 

All the doctrines that 'Catholics' of a certain hue seem to want to disregard or are embarrassed by are actually 'of the Lord': Hell, judgement, eternal life come from Him, so do the condemnation of divorce and remarriage, the promotion of celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom. It is Jesus who speaks about these things and Christians who are so often embarrassed by them.

The teaching of the early Church, which though not explicitly taught by Jesus in the canonical Gospel is so ancient and so obviously shared by ancient Jewish communities, it was obviously teaching Jesus would have no problem with because it fits the rigour of the Gospels, it is not mentioned by him simply because no-one around him would have questioned it. I mean the prohibition on contraception and openness to life, the detestation of same sex relations, the abhorrence of abortion.

I can't help but get annoyed when people say: the Church doesn't allow divorce etc., because it is not the Church, it Jesus himself who teaches such things.

It is interesting those Christian communities who we have always judged to have validly ordained Bishops: the ancient Churches, who hold fast to authentic Christian teaching, whilst those whose orders we would say are invalid, that have itching ears and seek to bend with every wind who seemed incapable of fidelity.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Redford and Murphy O'Connor RIP

Last week Canon John Redford died he taught me scripture at the seminary, Fr Jerome Murphy O'Connor a more famous scripture scholar also died. Canon John once amazed me by saying, "Uh, I can read Ugaritic cuniform, there aren't many people in the world who can". Probably Fr Jerome Murphy O'Connor was one of the other few interpreters of the script of the Ugarites.

I owe a lot to Canon John but I shan't praise him here, merely to contrast to Fr Jerome Murphy O'Connor, who being a clan member of my former bishop was invited to give a clergy in service training course. JR could be described as a 'pastoral' scripture scholar and JMO'C an academic one, both loved scripture. Both were drenched in it, it was their life's blood, the air they breathed.

Canon John spent his life using scripture to reveal the glory of the mystery of salvation. He believed Jesus Christ and his promises to the Church, he saw his mission to build up faith, he certainly did not dismiss difficulties proposed by various texts.

JMO'C probably saw himself as a scientist rather than a pastor, I remember in his short course he dealt with the Transfiguration and Resurrection narratives which he dissected, speculating they owed more to the post-Pentecost 'experience' of the early Church rather than to the accurate remembering of the disciples. I remember some of our diocesan clergy being rather shocked and others delighted that they were somehow liberated from belief in an 'over-literal' interpretation of scripture.

I use these two men as a metaphor on the way in scripture or any other subjects can be taught. Moral theology, for example, can be taught, as it was taught me as a way of minimising morality, in style of David Lodge's  'How far can you go' but contrast the magnanimity of Pope John Paul II's teaching on love and sexuality compared to the meanness of say Charles Curran or many other academic 'Catholic' Moral theologians.

Comparing and contrasting Murphy O'Connor and Redford, one seems to address scripture as a phenomena to be studied, as one might study a virus whilst the other saw it as being the source of life.

May they both be given a merciful judgement and see God face to face.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Public Spat and a Papal Correction

I am intrigued Abp Mueller has written to Abp Robert Zollitsch, the letter was date 11 November, about the guidelines for the pastoral care of separated, divorced and civilly remarried people, the letter is interesting in itself but more intriguing is that there is a tension between the Prefect of the CDF and Cardinal Reinhard Marx of the Pope's Council of Eight who said a few days earlier. “The Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith cannot stop the discussions” about the issue of remarried divorcees – as well as other questions relating to the family – which will be addressed at the Extraordinary Synod in 2014.

In the past such spats would have been dealt with in an Italian way, by discreet notes, or rather delicately expressed courtly meetings over between secretaries over lunch, now they are made public.

Speaking of things being made public one of these people has read or been informed of the Ceremonial of Bishops art. 107, the other has obviously not!

CE 107 says: “Hands joined” means: “Holding the palms sideward and before the breast, with the right thumb crossed over the left”” The server is correct the Pope is wrong, unless this change has been made Pope as Supreme Legislator, 'everywhere and for all time'.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

O'Toole to Plymouth and Burke as VG in Edinburgh

Everyone has been taken up with the excellent news that Mgr Mark O'Toole has been appointed as Bishop of Plymouth they have overlooked the fact that it seems the extremely able Mgr Patrick Burke at present at CDF is returning to these islands to become Archbishop Cushley's Vicar General in his own diocese of Edinburgh and St Andrews. Obviously his talents are going to be used to heal and cleanse after the Cardinal O'Brien fiasco but it also means that he will be able to use his considerable talents to address other issues in Britain.
Mgr Burke was a key figure working discreetly behind the scenes with the former Anglican bishops and Pope Benedict to set up the Ordinariate. He was the editor 'Faith Magazine". He is a committed evangelist and as can be seen from the video doesn't put up with nonsense.

My congratulations to both Mgr O'Toole and Burke on their new crosses and my congratulations to the two dioceses on their good fortune too.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Pope's Iron Fist defining the Peripheries?

I was disconcerted by Pope Francis, now I am beginning to thing that maybe, just maybe, he might be an iron fist in a velvet glove. For many of us Abp Mueller's clarification on the issue of divorced remarried receiving Holy Communion became a turning point, it seemed to be an illustration of how a future Vatican might work: the Pope speaks in rather imprecise terms, tells us to go to the 'peripheries', then one of his staff tells us precisely where those 'peripheries' are.

The role of the Pope is above all one of gathering, unifying, being a (holy) 'father' to all, being 'pastoral', it is his role to present the loving face of the Church, to say 'yes' rather than 'no', to present mercy and forgiveness. I have to admit I still find his raising of questions and not supplying answers still disconcerting, Jesuitical, it is not what any Pope has done in the past but Jesus raised question and rarely supplied clear answers, 'he spoke to them in parables', making people go away and think. It is the Apostles who clarify what Jesus taught, the Gospels alone, without the Epistles and the vast corpus of the writings of the Fathers, do not make sense.

Francis speaks of 'the devil' without going into much detail but the mere mention of the devil raises the whole question of hell and the division of mankind into those who are faithful and destined for salvation and those who are not. He speaks of God's 'mercy', with its implication of the necessity of being in the Church and receiving the sacraments. Others are left to speak of the limits, 'the peripheries', of that mercy. Yet even in Francis' teaching this mercy he is highly critical, it is not accepting of careerist clergy for example, or of even more esoteric and so far unidentified groups such as 'Pelagians' or 'specialist of the Logos', or a dozen or so other categories that have received the sharp edge of Francis tongue.

Mueller's document on the 'peripheries' of marriage, probably would have been written under Ratzinger's Prefecture but probably not under Levada's. After his meeting with the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious Men and Women - Confederación Latinoamericana y Caribeña de Religiosos y Religiosas - might have suggested side lining of the CDF but evidently this is not happening, the CDF is becoming a major player, even if it serves to clarify what Francis is saying, it would be absurd not to believe it acts at the Pope's behest.

The iron fist of the CDF has reappeared again with the publication in the US of the letter concerning Medjugorje, that directs that bishops are advised that, “clerics and the faithful are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such ‘apparitions’ would be taken for granted.” We all knew that but still those so inclined just ignored the ruling. Now, Rome seems to be insistent that they actually obey.

I have been struggling to fill in the questionnaire for the Synod on the family, I almost agree with Joseph Shaw that it is the worst survey in the world but then I suspect that the answers, despite what the media say. are not that important, this seems to be a questionnaire that is really meant to teach, a sort of overview of what should have been happening. The important thing is that the peripheries are again being defined; bishops are being told that they ought to have been teaching on the Catholic understanding of family and marriage, on the natural law, on why cohabitation, extra-marital sex are bad. In England and Wales our battle against the redefinition went off like a damp squib precisely because practical nothing has been done by our bishops to teach about family and marriage over the years. Humanae Vitae and so many other documents on the family and sexuality have been treated as an embarrassment. The questionnaire hammers home how ineffectual most pastors have been on these issues.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Marching up and down

A priest friend of mine suggests most priests are somewhere on the autistic spectrum, most of us are fairly 'functioning' but really we share a great number of autistic characteristics. He suggests that most of us tend to see things in black and white - maybe with a few shades of grey, that we tend to enjoy repetitive regime and shy away from the spontaneous, that we are not good at multi-tasking, that we tend to resent change, that we tend to be 'intellectual' rather than 'feeling', that we prefer to monologue rather than dialogue.
I must admit I have been inclined to agree with him, or simply to admit that living on one's own as a celibate, without a wife and family there is no-one to challenge one's behaviour and the nature of priesthood encourages introspection and solitude.

I was talking to a recently retired army officer about this recently, he was talking about marriage break up amongst the young officers he was training, what I described as some of the character traits of a celibate priest he saw as being present in army officers and soldiers generally adding, 'that is why they actually like marching up and down or a barracks full of correctly laid out kit'. Last night he phoned me to say he been talking to his brother a lawyer about our conversation, he recognised these things are present amongst male lawyers too, 'especially the bit about things being black and white, legal or illegal, some lawyers have an obsession with the abstract conception of truth'.

Talking to one of my parishioners who has been suffering with a long term minor illness, which causes him irritation rather than pain, I urge him to go to the doctor, he has been refusing, the bottom line seems to be that he can't be bothered with the 'fuss' of getting a doctor, making an appointment, talking about his lifestyle etc., I think my priest friend might suggest this was autistic behaviour. Thinking about it, it seems to be pretty characteristic of so many of the men who are homeless, for many there is help but they simply can't get it together to jump through the various hoops to get it.

One of my concerns in Brighton is the high rate of young men who commit suicide, without statistics to prove anything, just the accounts of family and friends, young men tend to kill themselves without discussing it whilst women tend to self harm are willing to get counselling or some kind of help. Invariably friends and family have said that they didn't think anything was seriously wrong when a young man is found dead but then men even if they have fallen apart inside tend to wash their faces brush their hair and carry on regardless until they can't any more.

Psychologists suggest that young men tend to be more prone to taking risks, I don't see that many young women skateboarding in the traffic on Brighton's main roads. We are attracted to danger, to risk, to the big idea. What I am trying to say is that what my priest friend describes as 'autistic' is actually just being a man. It is significant that what he regards it as being aberrant and he is not alone many educationalists, counsellors or psychologists would agree with him. Men like things simple and clear, we like things ordered and disciplined, we respond well to risk, complexity and subtlety tend to scare us.

I think that this is why the Traditional Mass and Traditional Catholicism appeal to men, it is not touchy feely, it involves discipline order, I say that as an aside, what I find concerning is that as society becomes more complex and there are more hoops to jump through more and more young men will find difficulty in coping.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Implications of 'Mercy'

I am sure I am alone but Pope Francis high profiling of  'mercy' has caused me to think about my own being merciful and the extent of God's mercy. It is infinite but it is not unconditional, if we accept his mercy then heaven is ours. That has been the extent of much of our preaching for the last few years, except of course we have not not used the word 'mercy', we have spoken just of 'love'. 'Mercy' is different, God's 'love' tends to be interpreted through a rather human lens, we are familiar with love, we see it in our own relationships or yearn for it in our hearts. When we think of God's love we tend to empty God of his divinity, we are no longer able to distinguish or understand the of a superior for an inferior, the difference in the love of a Father for a child, or of a Lord for his people.

Love tends to suggest something between equals, mercy however is something given by someone who is powerful to someone who acknowledges their weakness. Love which more often than not tends to be seen in passive terms - as a state of being, mercy however is about inequality, it is something which is given but may be withheld.

Asking for mercy is risky, it involves the risk of rejection, it involves a response from the supplicant, 'if you show me mercy then I will ...'. Mercy has consequences, either we accept it and change or we live without and that has consequences too.

It is interesting that Pope Francis rarely speaks of God's love. Mercy implies an offence, a need for forgiveness, an escape from the consequences of not accepting that 'mercy'. The other thing Francis speaks of, though generally separately from mercy is 'the devil'.  For Christians the non acceptance of God's mercy hell.

One of my parishioners sent me a link to this article, 'Why are we so afraid of Hell' in which the author says:
As I’ve taught classes and given talks on the “New Evangelization,” I’ve been struck at how both Jesus and the apostles make a regular part of their message not only the positive proclamation of the Good News that Christ has, by his sacrifice, won redemption for the whole world, but also the terrible consequences of neglecting such an offer: namely, hell.
Any talk of 'mercy' in a Christian context implies that the failure to accept God's mercy are pretty dire. Speaking of 'love' with its present 'hippy' ramifications makes 'hell' the four letter word which causes most preachers to do more than hesitate.

I have resolved to try and not talk about God's 'love' but to speak of his 'mercy', I suspect Francis has made the same resolution, whether he will start using the 'four letter word' as often he uses 'mercy', I doubt it, the media are too likely to supply image from some horror film but the implications are pretty obvious.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

God's Love

I rather like Eckhart's, "If we say man is 'good', then we must say God is 'not good', if we say God is 'good' then we cannot say man is 'good'. There is always a danger of making God in our own image and likeness, of seeing him as just a super human being or making him into a golden calf.
There some modern fallacies about God which seem more the construction of a 'valueless' society than Christian Revelation.

God's love is infinite but what it certainly isn't is "unconditional".

God is long suffering but he is not tolerant.

God is merciful but he is also just.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

The End of Christianity

I was a bit disappointed by attendance at Mass this morning, Saturday is not normally that good but I thought for the Holy Souls it might be better.
It strikes me there is a lot of confusion about our end, and consequently about the 'ends' of the Church and of Jesus Christ himself. What I mean is simply; why did Jesus come, what did he achieve? His Death and Resurrection according to survey after survey are a source of confusion. One well known Prelate who writes regularly for a Catholic newspaper seems to deny the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ without correction from any Bishop. It is is a not uncommon minimisation of what scripture and Tradition reveals. So many organisation within the Church seem more concerned with changing Church structures, discipline and doctrine. The Vatican Council above all was concerned about the return to kerygma, the central proclamation of Christianity: that Christ has come to Redeem us (see 1 Corintians 15 below). Christianity is about redemption and salvation above all. If we fail to see that then the Church really has no purpose, and we are left directionless as Christians.
Christ's death and resurrection opens Heaven for us, it is an act by God of recreation, it is essential that we understand it in the way it is presented in Revelation together with the subsequent doctrines of Judgement, Heaven and Hell, the Communion of Saints etc. To minimise or to substitute that for some modern speculative theology, for example Fr Robert Baron's 'hell exists but it could be empty', or Chardin's 'cosmic Christ' or Rhanner's 'anonymous Christians' does serious damage to Christianity at its very core.  Ultimate what is being said is Christ has done nothing and he and his mission are unimportant.

" I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." If we loose sight of that we lose sight of everything.

[1] Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received, and wherein you stand; [2] By which also you are saved, if you hold fast after what manner I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain. [3] For I delivered unto you first of all, which I also received: how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures: [4] And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures: [5] And that he was seen by Cephas; and after that by the eleven.
[6] Then he was seen by more than five hundred brethren at once: of whom many remain until this present, and some are fallen asleep. [7] After that, he was seen by James, then by all the apostles. [8] And last of all, he was seen also by me, as by one born out of due time. [9] For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. [10] But by the grace of God, I am what I am; and his grace in me hath not been void, but I have laboured more abundantly than all they: yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
[11] For whether I, or they, so we preach, and so you have believed. [12] Now if Christ be preached, that he arose again from the dead, how do some among you say, that there is no resurrection of the dead? [13] But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen again. [14] And if Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. [15] Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God: because we have given testimony against God, that he hath raised up Christ; whom he hath not raised up, if the dead rise not again.
[16] For if the dead rise not again, neither is Christ risen again. [17] And if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain, for you are yet in your sins. [18] Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ, are perished. [19] If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. [20] But now Christ is risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that sleep:
[21] For by a man came death, and by a man the resurrection of the dead. [22] And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.

Pope's new "Resurrexifix"

Pope Francis has a new ferula according to Rorate, it was donated to the Pope last month by Goldlake, a mining corporation that is part of major Italian cement holding Gruppo Financo, with mining concessions in Argentina and Honduras (from which came the metals used for this staff).

Personally, I preferred the one he used at Lampedusa, there is something about using the image of Christ as an ornament which is not quite Catholic. I know I'm just an ol' liberal who thinks at Mass there should be just one image of Christ rather than a multiplicity, and then there is the question of the theology pf the image of the risen Christ super-imposed on the Cross, to say nothing of morality of Gruppo Financo and Goldlake. With Francis too there is the question of 'bling'.

Friday, November 01, 2013

E&W Bishops Survey on the Family

In preparation for the Synod on the Family the Holy See has asked for Bishop's Conferences to conduct a survey of the depth of understanding of the Church's teaching.

Our Bishops have produced an on-line survey, it can be found here.

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...