Monday, November 24, 2014


I remember a brief conversation with Cardinal Suenens soon after the election of S John Paul II. As a gauche seminarian I asked, "So what do Cardinals do after electing a Pope?" His curt answer, "Look for a successor".

Fr Henry reports Austen Ivereigh has a new book on Pope Francis out soon. Father reports Ivereigh's book as saying
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the former leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, helped to orchestrate a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign which led to the election of Pope Francis. 
Disclosing that: 
... there had been a discreet, but highly organised, campaign by a small group of European cardinals in support of Cardinal Bergoglio... Writer Austen Ivereigh, nicknames the group “Team Bergoglio” and says members toured private dinners and other gatherings of cardinals in the days before the conclave, quietly putting their case.
I can understand Pope Francis irritation with 'leprous courtiers', but then there was that Monsignor Pedacchio at the Congregation for Bishops who was supposed to have been faxing vast numbers of document to Cdl Bergoglio, or "Team Bergoglio", He is now the Pope's secretary.

As Ivereigh was Cormac's press officer, presumably  he relies a great deal on the Cardinal's inside information. His Eminence has frequently spoken of his closeness and friendship with His Holiness.

One of the stories which may or not be true but was told widely by several English College students, the college was of course Cardinal Murphy O'Connors Roman base, he has/had a suite of room there. Apparently during the Conclave that elected Pope Benedict there was a reception for the European liberal Cardinals and their political friends, apparently Cardinal Pell wasn't invited so he positioned himself in the window of a restaurant opposite the College and rather conspicuously recorded who went in.

Some people hate the idea of intrigue, because of course it is terribly human, and yes, open to corruption and all sorts of evil, they naively assume the Cardinals enter the Conclave as blank sheets of paper and await the Holy Spirit to move them to vote for particularly Holy candidate. If only it did happen that way, if only that was how bishops were chosen, or priests were selected for some office in that way but it always seems to be about he advancing of a faction rather the God's Kingdom.
Messy thing the Church, I am sure Ivereigh's book will reveal more mess and is itself part of the intrigue!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

What does the Pope mean by 'mean'

 There is a curious little video of the Pope's audience in which he starts his Christmas catechesis, I am not sure if something is lost in translation but he gets people to shout out in response to his question 'What does the name of Jesus mean?" they respond "God with us!"

"Jesus" means, Saviour or Liberator, Emmanuel means "God with us".
Matthew 1: 22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emman′u-el” (which means, God with us).
Obviously this is a problem with our interpretation of what the Holy Father means by 'means'. Possibly if I didn't need to rely on translators I might not see this as a problem.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Most Pastoral of Popes

Sacraments I am sure are supposed to be life changing events, rather than a simple reward for turning up. From very early on until that old modernist Pope St Pius X changed things - those people who are anxious about Francis would have been  apoplectic about Pio. He not merely  changing the Apostolic order of the sacraments - Confirmation after Communion - but wanting to introduce not merely frequent but even daily Communion. Communion not just for Holy monks and hermits who had proved themselves in ascetical discipline, in long vigils and depth of prayer but on a regular basis for those who had only recently attained the age of reason and probably hadn't yet learnt to use it. It was madness!

For almost 1,800 years, ever since Paul had written to the Corinthian suggesting that the Holy Eucharist kills, and is dangerous, and indeed can both give Salvation but also Condemnation and death, Communion was something which most sane people took part in rarely, to the point where the Council of the Lateran made annual reception a precept of the Church, even then pastorally minded bishops seemed not to insist too strongly, except in the case of imminent death.

One of the nonsenses spread abroad by those 1970s liturgists is that in that mythical period ‘the early Church’ people were receiving not merely regularly but frequently, in all probability every Sunday, I think the evidence for that is very flimsy!

The point is of course that the sacraments are Life Giving Events including, maybe especially so, Holy Communion, Pius’ reforms made them mundane and lead to the abuses we have today where just because you are whatever years old or in Miss X’s class, or at Mass you receive the Communion, Confession or Comfirmation, So now the Sacraments are received frequently they have come to mean very little in the life of the Church or the spiritual development of its members, their power to impart Grace or Salvation hardly figures in contemporary catechesis, the liturgy has become not so much a mystical meeting with Heaven but 'a celebration of the community'.

So many of the ills of today’s Church can be laid directly at the door of this most interfering of Popes, the most important being that Sacraments do not change lives. Of course in the teeth of all that his predecessors had upheld down the ages, he thought he was being 'pastoral' - God preserve us!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Oxford Universities Shame

It was announce last night the debate between Tim Stanley and Brendan O'Neil in Oxford University, about the effects of "abortion culture" has been cancelled. From what I understand the pretext was the venue, which is not in use tonight for any other function, was not booked properly.

The reality is that Christ Church JCR really wanted to curtail freedom of speech, the debate wasn't even about abortion but its effects on society. It is truly shameful that in one of the greatest universities of the world should be afraid of debating even, “This House believes that abortion culture harms us all”.

 What a shameful reflection on what has become of a great University, once a bastion of freedom of speech and expression! How perverse, frightened and cowardly are the JCR committee!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Church Investing Her Talents

 Christ the Pantocrator and the Last Judgment, 1300. Mosaic in the baptistry of San Giovanni, Florence, Itary.
The Church holds it better for sun and moon to drop from Heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in the most extreme agony... than that one soul... should commit one single venial sin, should tell one willful untruth or should steal one poor farthing...
What I meant to say was if the Church starts encouraging sin then it isn't the Church, it would go against its very nature as Church, just the same as even liberal Jewish synagogues do not encourage ham sandwich eating, at least on the premises!

The Gospel for this Sunday is about using the talents God has given us. It could be that, it could also be about producing fruit. I am sure many American Protestants would see that Gospel passage as being about the glories of Capitalism, we Catholics would look deeper.
Reading it in the light of the New Evangelism Holy Church has been imbued with so many riches and one day the master will return and want the profit on his investment. He has pored out riches on us and will return one day, until he does he expects to make disciple and to Evangelise. For most of us, priests and people, Evangelism is what precisely? Most have never done it, most don't how to do it, most don't know what its purpose is and most are not even convinced it is necessary at all.

As a priest I think I am going to be like the man who dug a hole and buried the wondrous gift my master had given me, The problem is that most of us regard not merely proselytism but evangelisation as solemn nonsense. We see little difference between Evangelical Protestantism, Anglicanism, Orthodoxism and Catholicism, or for that matter Paganism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity. We are hardly convinced  that attending Mass on Sunday is more important than doing a good work, some other form of prayer, a round of golf, shopping or staying in bed. Indeed many of us priests turn it into some kind of teaching experience or group hug. Most of us regard what we teach as no truer than any other truth. Most of us tend not to believe sacraments are life changing experiences.

We dig a hole and we put God in it, we bury him and walk away. It is not the nature of God to stay buried just as it is not the nature of the Church to teach sin. The first reading from Proverbs speaks of a perfect wife, well, Holy Church is the Bride of Christ, the real Perfected Wife. "Her husband has confidence in her, from her he will derive no little profit"

I do believe Jesus when he says, "By there fruit you will know them". Here is the picture of a particularly fruitless part of the Church that is fast loosing itself not just to secularism but Protestantism.

There are exceptions, one believing bishop can make all the difference, it is sad that often those who are proclaiming the faith most clearly seem to grow wheat and tares together, or bring to shore both good and bad fish, even Jesus had Judas among his proto-clergy!

Good trees bring forth good fruit. The Church has a lot to proclaim, it strikes me that doctrinal confusion is not just bad for the Church but mankind because in hinders his salvation. So if the Church's ministers confuse or appear to be encouraging sin, 'a willful untruth' or the theft of 'one poor farthing', or if she is ambiguous about things condemned by the Lord himself and His Apostles, like divorce and remarriage or sinful sexual practices, it has done a terrible thing because it must always proclaim God's intention for Man: union with Him. The Church's function is to show the face of Jesus, to repeat again in every age Jesus' teaching, to offer a vision of the truth, of the reality of transforming sacramental grace, of the holiness of the saints, of the liberation of Jesus' teaching.

Any priest any bishop, can easily become despondent, we need to search out 'Apostle' who will help us proclaim the beauty of the Christian life; of our glorious final end, certainly, but also the beauty of Christian living, of marriage and chastity, of the Holy Eucharist and of prayer, of vocation in all its forms, and most especially the glory of serving Christ in the priesthood.

There is nothing more destructive than what someone recently called 'the bell-bottomed' theology of the 1970s, which seems to have had a resuscitation of late. Let us bury that and instead find ways to use the many gifts and talents, the jewels with which Christ has bedecked his bride, Our Moter the Church.
"... it is not as if you live in the dark, my brothers, for that Day to overtake you like a thief. No, you are all sons of light and sons of the day: we do not belong to the night or to darkness, so we should not go on sleeping, as everyone else does, but stay wide awake and sober." 1Thess 5:1-6
 File:The Ladder of Divine Ascent.jpg

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Ham Sandwich Test

Those Oxford chaps, like that glorious erudite and dazzling ornament of the Ordinariate, might indeed climb the stairs of the Ashmole in order to converse with the stony face of Benedict XIV Lambertini, who reminds him of Newman's teaching:
The Church holds it better for sun and moon to drop from Heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in the most extreme agony... than that one soul... should commit one single venial sin, should tell one willful untruth or should steal one poor farthing...
I tend to meet  Soli Zuckerman on the No 1 bus, when I visit someone in the hospital, he's a tailor who now works for Homebase or something like that. Tonight he was returning home for family Shabbat he is delightfully loquacious, I asked him about liberal Judaism "Rab", he said, "It is all about ham sandwiches and Quiche Lorraine, that's the key. Bacon, they stop at that".

He was telling me about a friend of his who is a member of the Liberal Synagogue at the end of my road, I thought it was being demolished, the last time I passed by the doors were open and everything was stripped out. One of Soli's friends married a third time, this time "he married out" and embraced "liberalism". "They might use English, they might have services in which women form a quorum along with men or even on there own, they might happily have a Lesbian Rabbi but they won't have a ham sandwich or pork pie for their shared lunches". I checked and Soli was right.

There is a bottom line for every religion, for Soli and even Liberal Jews it is pork, at least not in the synagogue. For Catholics, at one time the bottom line was Friday meat eating, now it is a bit more difficult but I suppose what the marble lips of Benedict XIV were saying is that for the hierarchy the promotion of sin is impossible, the Church cannot accept it.

As I have just seen one blog put it we end up in an Orwellian world, quite different from Christ's if we say,

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Josophat: the Saint of Christian Unity

When saying Mass in St Peters for some reason I often got shown to the altar of St Josophat, today is his feast and there is an extract from Pius XI Ecclesiam Dei in the Office of Readings. Pius XI speaks of him as the Saint of Christian Unity, who gave his life for the unity of the Church.

13. He was convinced that he would be martyred, and often spoke of the possibility of such an event occurring. In one of his famous sermons he expressed a desire to be martyred; he prayed ardently to God for martyrdom as if it would be for him a singularly blessed gift. A few days before his death when he was warned of plots that were being laid against him, he said: "Lord, grant me the grace to shed my blood for the unity of the church and in behalf of obedience to the Holy See." On Sunday, November 13, 1623, his desire was realized. Surrounded by enemies who had gone in search of the Apostle of Unity, he went forth smiling and gladly to meet his fate. He asked them, following the example of his Lord and Master, not to harm the members of his household, and then gave himself into their hands. He was set upon and killed in a most barbarous fashion. Despite his wounds he did not cease till his dying breath to implore God's pardon for his murderers.
14. Great indeed were the fruits of this glorious martyrdom, especially among the Ruthenian bishops who knew how to draw from his death a living example of firmness and courage, as they themselves testified two months later in a letter sent to the Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda: "We too are ready, as one of our number has already done, to offer our life's blood for the Catholic religion." As a result of and almost immediately after this martyrdom, a great number of people, among whom were the very murderers of the Saint, returned to the bosom of the unity of the Church of Christ.
15. The blood of St. Josaphat even today, as it was three hundred years ago, is a very special pledge of peace, the seal of unity. We call it a very special pledge for the present times because those unhappy Slavic provinces, torn by disturbances of all kinds and by insurrections, have been empurpled with the blood spilt in the terrible and inhuman wars of our own days. In truth, it seems to us that We hear the voice of that blood "which speaketh better than that of Abel" (Hebrews xii, 24), that We behold Our martyr turning to his Slav brothers and calling out to them in the words of Jesus: "The sheep are without a shepherd. I have compassion on the multitude." Verily, sad is their condition, terrible their distress! Alas, the great number of exiles from their native land, what an awful carnage, what great loss of souls! Looking now as We do at the calamities which have fallen upon the Slavs, certainly greater than those which Our Saint wept over in his time, it is extremely difficult for Us to keep back the tears which well up from Our fatherly heart.
I must say I have a sneaking admiration for Pius XI, not an easy man but in many ways an outstanding one, a bit more of a warrior than his successors. Though Pius XII might well have been its author, he was the guiding force behind Mit brennender Sorge. Most people will know Ad Mortalium Annos, again concerned with Christian Unity:
10. So, Venerable Brethren, it is clear why this Apostolic See has never allowed its subjects to take part in the assemblies of non-Catholics: for the union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it. To the one true Church of Christ, we say, which is visible to all, and which is to remain, according to the will of its Author, exactly the same as He instituted it. During the lapse of centuries, the mystical Spouse of Christ has never been contaminated, nor can she ever in the future be contaminated, as Cyprian bears witness: "The Bride of Christ cannot be made false to her Spouse: she is incorrupt and modest. She knows but one dwelling, she guards the sanctity of the nuptial chamber chastely and modestly."[20] The same holy Martyr with good reason marveled exceedingly that anyone could believe that "this unity in the Church which arises from a divine foundation, and which is knit together by heavenly sacraments, could be rent and torn asunder by the force of contrary wills."[21] For since the mystical body of Christ, in the same manner as His physical body, is one,[22] compacted and fitly joined together,[23] it were foolish and out of place to say that the mystical body is made up of members which are disunited and scattered abroad: whosoever therefore is not united with the body is no member of it, neither is he in communion with Christ its head.[24]
 Different times!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fr Hatton speaks

Fr Gerrard Hatton is one of the younger priests of our diocese, he was ordained in 2011. here he speaks at A Day with Mary in Golders Green on Our Lady and the Holy Souls.
It is priests like Fr Gerrard who give me great hope for the future.

Pray for Holy Priests and even Holier Bishops!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Red Rags and the Order of Malta

Cardinal Burke has been criticized for doing his job as a canon lawyer, which is to obey canon law. Being obedient to the Church's law is presumably the very minimum we should expect from any priest or prelate. Not being able to criticise him for holding fast to the teaching of Jesus Christ most of the criticism from the vindictive lunatic fringe seems to be about the soft furnishings of his office, which as he is doing what he is supposed to do, is plain churlish.

I am not sure that a EF cappa magna would fit in my Church, two right angle turns from the sacristy to the sanctuary and narrow gangways would present health and safety issues for both the wearer and the congregation. The old cappa is quite a few yards longer than the one in Paul VI's post-concilliar clothing regulations that are in force for Bishops and Cardinals in the Ordinary Form.

Blood red, not white, is the proper papal colour, it symbolises the martyrs, most especially Ss Peter and Paul. The fact you need an attendant or minder to hold the other end of the cappa indicates the dependency of a Cardinal on others, it symbolises the burden of office, the stream of blood behind a Prince of the Church. It is actually street dress, or at least processional dress. It is supposed to make a spectacle, a witness,  of the Cardinal. Blood red silk flowing from his shoulders, is supposed to be a statement signifying 'that you are ready to act with fortitude, even to the point of spilling your blood for the increase of the Christian faith, for peace and harmony among the people of God, for freedom and the spread of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.' which is what Pope says at the imposition of the red hat.

The Church has always recognised the Cappa is worn as a sign of the external vanities of the world, I like the prayer that is said when it is removed.'Take off of me, Lord, the old man with his manners and deeds: and put on me the new man, who according to God is created in justice, and the holiness of truth.' It's removal is actually more important than ts wearing because after its removal the Cardinal or Bishop ends up being clothed in the casuala, the little house, the Chucrh of charity. I suspect the phrase, 'created in justice, and the holiness of truth' resonates with Cardinal Burke.

I received a few rather gracious emails suggesting I was unkind for describing the Order as 'moribund' a week or so ago; this morning I received a charming phone call from a member of the Order of Malta explaining quite how un-moribund they actually are. I am apologise unreservedly. My intention was simply to suggest that the Sovereign Order would be very fortunate to have Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke as its Patron but I also suggested that the Order was Vatican library to go onlinein a place that would give the Cardinal a very influential place in the Church. I think to make reparation it might be worth suggesting that the Cardinal might well be fortunate to be associated with the Order. In fact, if we discount any malice on the Pope's part, and let us presume that the Pope is not extra-ordinarily stupid, then he has deliberately appointed one of the most outspoken, intellectually able, hard working, guileless Cardinals, and those who know him describe him as quite saintly, to what is probably a dream job. Yes, lots of lex orandi, most of the members of the Order of Malta I know are strongly attached to the Old Rite, but actually lots of lex vivendi going on as well.

I don't quite know how to describe the Order of Malta, it is actually a religious order, with a celibate core. It is also the other independent  sovereign state in Rome, though its territory is even smaller, it parallels the Vatican, it has its own Sovereign and clergy, even ambassadors. It is also a social support community, for the great and the good. On the ground it is an aid agency, it runs hospital, nursing homes, refugee camps, it is even in Lampedusa.

It is this that Pope Francis has made Cardinal Burke the Patron, as I have said elsewhere I expect fission to take place. At least twice before the Order has saved Europe and consequently the Church, will there be a third time?

It is worth reading this from the Order of Malta's Grand Chancello, Baron Albrecht von Boeselager:
“We are active now in 120 countries with bigger and smaller operations. We have between 80,000 and 100,000 volunteers, and 30,000 or so employees. It has become a big operation whereby the huge proportion of activities is not emergency relief. It involves activities such as our Homes Trust here in England, hospitals in Germany, volunteer organisations, social aid, first aid and care for the elderly, the homeless, the handicapped, but the limelight is always on conflicts and disasters.”
That said, one should not underestimate the order’s achievements in conflict and disaster zones. Take Iran: “The last time we were there was after the severe earthquake. We were surprised how well they were organised and how unideological. In the aftermath of the earthquake when the first phase of aid was over we were asked by the local government to coordinate all the NGOs and to train new local NGOs. We were astonished.”
There are many other examples. “In one African country our ambassador discovered in the central prison there was no separation between men and women. You can imagine what happened. And on one side, the government did not care and, on the other side, they were ashamed so they did not let anybody in to see it. But they trusted our ambassador and allowed him to build a wall just across the middle of the prison to separate men and women and, in addition, to build a small clinic. And this was only possible because he had direct contact to the prime minister and they saw he was not a dependent of anybody and did not have to report to any other national or international body.”
One last example. “In the last Lebanon war our ambassador negotiated the release of more than 1,000 hostages. The European papers were full of the stories of the western hostages but not of the Lebanese hostages. And he went with his diplomatic car into the battlefield in the Beqaa Valley to take the injured out and he was not attacked by either side.” All these examples are small pieces, says the order’s Grand Chancellor in his understated way, “but they underline how we work”.

Sunday, November 09, 2014


I've changed my header picture from that grey view of one of the piers in my parish. It is really the inspiration of the Book of Maccabees in the OF Office of Readings we have been having this week, as much as anything else.

But then there has been plenty of war talk going on in the Church at the moment, I don't know if it has been going on outside of England. Perhaps it is the centenary of the First World War and Remembrance Sunday coming up. There has also been talk of schism too, its all a bit daft, for Catholics or should we say, as I think we must nowadays 'orthodox Catholics', there is no place to go, not even Malta!

The new spirit of Relativism is as Pope Benedict says 'lethal' for the Church and for faith, just look at this little extract from Eponymous Flower:
In France, there are only 14,000 diocesan priests. About half of them are older than 75. This means that the situation is dramatic. To conduct but one parish is already a big job. In France it has become "normal" that a pastor has to take care of a dozen parishes. A regular celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is impossible. In most parishes it is celebrated only occasionally. In the diocese of Langres, each priest must take care for an average of 50 parishes. In short, it is almost resigned to a spiritual catastrophe. The numbers of priestly ordinations is also discouraging. In 2009, only 89 diocesan priests were ordained in France. Far too little to compensate for the decrease due to death. These numbers seem like reports coming from the front with the losses to an army. You could cry.
Fortunately, there is good and encouraging news coming from the seminaries of tradition. The traditional communities and dioceses have offspring. More, their seminars are full. It is therefore to be hoped that more old rite seminaries will be opened. There is no danger that they remain empty, since there is a strong interest in tradition by young believers.
France embraced the whole relativistic 'Spirit of ...' agenda as much as anywhere, except maybe Germany. The French Church however didn't have the money to turn the community of faith into an efficient business where bishops have become highly paid Chief Executives. There are some bright spots in France like the rather traditional diocese of Frejus-Toulon which has as many vocations as every other French diocese outside Paris put together. The other hope for France is its monasteries, these too are often great bastions of orthodoxy, those which aren't have died out. The highly non-Relativist 'La manif pour tous' movement has shaken the French establishment and given new hope, it is itself heavily influenced by traditional Christianity.

What is happening in France will happen elsewhere, perhaps not quite so quickly or with such a violence but in ten years time if we follow the Relativist line, Europe and the Americas will follow.  New York, for example, this week announced the closure/merger of over 100 parishes. This is going to happen all over the place, simply because Relativism is lethal, it is unattractive and hopeless, it is attractive to people of a certain generation but repells the young.

For any General involved in a Church war, my advice is to wait, maybe pray 'santo subito', because the 'biological solution' will sort most of our problems out, and much quicker than natural law will sort natural breakers out. In the interim, lest the troops become complacent let us all redouble our efforts and use all the means we have at our disposal to 'convince, rebuke and exhort', for as the Apostle says to Timothy:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Faith Departed?

 Catholic Bishops and Anglican Bishops
It is easy to cast stones at dear old Mother Damnable but we tend to think we Catholics are a bit different. There was an article last month that claimed 2% of Anglican clergy didn't believe in God and 16% are agnostic, it went on to say
Clergy were significantly more likely to hold unorthodox beliefs the older they were and the longer they had been in the ministry. Nearly 90 per cent of those ordained since 2011 believe in God compared with  only 72 per cent of those who became priests in the 1960s, the research discovered.
I think actually more older clergy tend not to believe or have lost their faith.

Perhaps the fiasco  at the Synod has challenged such a one sided view, it is worth remembering the substantial agreement that ARCIC has reached (until the CDF got hold of the documents) to realise that between the CofE and many Catholics there is hardly the difference of a cigarette paper's depth.

A friend of mine has taken over a parish which was run for a decade or so by a priest who had lost his faith and last year those splendid young Irish Domicans expelled an ancient biblical scholar who had for years gone around saying he didn't believe in God and trying to undermine the faith of others. Many younger clergy had speculated that a recently retired bishop was really an atheist or at best agnostic. During the abuse crisis it struck many as odd that abusing priests could ascend to the altar or pulpit and offer the most Holy Sacrifice or preach as if nothing had happened, not believing could be the only excuse.
I loathe clergy meetings, after a bit of praying at the beginning God tends not to get a look in when we make plans for his Church and his people. I had somehow hoped that meetings of Bishops might be different, and Synods in the Holy See would be even more different but as it turns out ..., well look at the mid-term document of the Synod: God was decidedly absent, deliberately excluded.

There are some pretty obvious signs of non-belief; being content to remain in mortal sin is pretty obvious, never speaking of God might be another, perhaps having cob-webs in the episcopal chapel or not having one another might be another, never praying unless there are others there to be led is another, finding people with faith tedious or not being able engage with them presumably is another sign. The surest sign of a priest or a bishop without faith is the fruitless of his parish or diocese, no vocations, emptying churches, a lack of love or concern for the liturgy and most of all for the reverent celebration of Mass, a lack of concern for souls and morality, and above all a lack of growth, a lack of holiness. 'By there fruits you shall know them'.

I am told if you want to be a priest nowadays psychologists have devised some pretty tough tests, just to make sure you are telling the truth, and not a pederast or mad, surely it would not be too difficult to devise some test for faith. I would love to make it a rule that only priests with faith could become Pastors of a parish and certainly only priests with burning faith, that catches others alight could become bishops. I don't know how you ensure that, any ideas?
Lord, give us holy priests and even holier bishops!

Faithful Departed?

HM The Queen lays a wreath on behalf of the Nation at the Annual Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in Whitehall London 9th Nov 2008.I am preparing my Remembrance Sunday sermon. It is always a bit trickey, there is no option to offer a Requiem Mass for any else but the 'Faithful Departed' in the Missal. So I am manifestly not praying for all those Jews, Muslims, Hindus, agnostics and atheists who died in the great conflicts of the twentieth century.

The rather frightening truth is that we Christians though trusting in the abundant mercy and love of God actually know little about the fate of the unbaptised or those who were not faithful, and it isn't our tradition to pray aimlessly. There is no prayer for all the dead as a lumpen mass in our Tradition, some priests might do a bit of tweaking or intellectual/spiritual gymnastics. We can speculate that after death those of goodwill might embrace faith in Jesus Christ, or we can speculate that a commitment to or belief in 'goodness' might be the equivalent to being one of the faithful departed, or even come out with an an 'anonymous Christian' theory a la Rahner but this isn't what the prayers say, and though it is comforting, it is a bit like Limbo, it is speculation or a clever idea.

To be numbered amongst the 'faithful departed', would seem to suggest not merely being 'departed' but actually having had faith, and having lived or at least having died in it.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

St Charles Borromeo's Century

My sense of history is based on wigs, it moves from codpieces to doublets to full bottomed wigs, shorter wigs to no wigs. I fit people into the timeline by what they wear in their portraits, it helps to associate one group of people with another. It is a bit more difficult with the Church where there is a marked absence of codpieces, doublets or wigs.

To help others who are similarly historically illiterate, I have put a wiki timeline of the Church in the 16th century, it is far from complete but it is helpful to see people like St Charles Borromeo, whose feast day it is today, not as a lone Saint but in his time 1538–1584, as part of an historical movement.

The sixteenth began and the Church was in turmoil, it reflected the state of Europe at the time. Wicked Alexander VI is followed after the brief reign of the poisoned (?) Pius III by Papa Terribilis, the bellicous Julius II, the Papacy was more concerned with secular power politics than religion.

In Germany Luther was preaching against Papal vices and much of Northern Europe would be lost to the Church. In Florence Savonorola 1452–1498 had condemned the vices and licentiousness of the Renaissance; with Greek learning came the Greek vices. Sodomy was one of the main vices he had in his cross-hairs. The gay lobby were not entirely guiltless of his burning.

Savonorola's reform movement was something that was carried to Rome, despite his own Greek vices, Michaelangelo had a great devotion to him, as did Philip Neri 1515 – 1595, often called the Second Apostle to Rome. Savonorola the preacher failed, whereas Philip retreated to the catacombs to pray, emerging to gather around him a youth movement, of young aristocrats, seeking holiness. At the same time Camillus de Lellis 1452–1498 was founding his hospital and order of praying nursing brothers.

There was a new spirit in decadent Rome, St Ignatius and Francis Xavier and the early Jesuits had arrived and were given churches, Young Catholic intellectuals were coming from all over Europe. Like St Edmund Campion 1540 -1581, they were praying and studying in Rome. Campion was amongst that great procession of young men who trudged from Rome through Milan to meet St Charles Borromeo, then often going through Geneva to be encouraged by Francis de Sales 1567 – 1622, they were going to their death in England and Northern Europe.

At no time had there been such a flowering of holy men in the city that was until recently known for its sin and corruption. In the young the Communion of Saints was made visible on the very streets and in the Churches of the Eternal City and through them in the rest of Italy and Europe.

What I am trying to say is that from the traincrash of all that led up to the Reformation of the 16th century, of the misery that faithful Catholics endured at the hands of sinful and wicked Popes and Prelates God brought about the sublime holiness of the Glorious Counter-Reformation.

Monday, November 03, 2014

The 'S' word

 Paintings Reproductions Vibert, Jehan Georges The Schism

Fr Zed has this little quote from Marco Tosatti,

“Two observations to close. Newspapers are saying that this Synod has broken the Catholic Church. False: it brought into the light an old split, perhaps as old as the Church herself. Without going too far back, decades ago now the Catholic philosopher Pietro Prini had written about a submerged schism, invisible, on the part of many (bishops, priests and theologians included) in respect to the official Magisterium. In this split, it is instinctive to find oneself in sympathy with the progressives, but, and I have to add this out of love for sincerity, not without some discomfort. Between some of the current “progressives” and the immovable “conservatives”, my esteem goes to the latter, faithful to their own line of thought even when it is inconvenient to sustain it. In just a few months the change of wind has seen many bishops and pastors, who for decades accused the “reformers” of heresy, now showing themselves to be “open” and “sensitive”. This kind of thing disgusts me. These careerist conformists are too skilled in jumping onto the banged wagon of the powers-that-be-of-the-moment to merit our trust as fellow travelers.”
 Not all of us have had bishops who have been forced to resign and whose activities will eventually be investigated by the Holy See. One of my brother priests said he felt that for thirteen years our local Church was lead by a lapsed Catholic, I don't know if I agree but I am glad that I was never forced to attend many diocesan functions during that time. There seemed to be a great deal of whittling away at the Gospel with a pen knife. It was not a good time, and a few like me kept our heads down, it at least made us more dependent on faith and helped us realise prayer, and when that became difficult, penance and fasting have great value.

The real problem in the Church, as ever, is leadership, who if they are not serving themselves are serving their faction, flip flopping from one position to another. GOD give us bishops who believe in YOU, if not all, then some or at least one or two.

It is interesting that a few American and Italian journalist are openly talking about the 'S' word: schism. Real schism is impossible in today's Catholic Church, there are some apocalyptic nuts on the internet claiming this or that Pope are imposters, but they are nuts. The real problem is a internal schism, or as said above submerged schism, a Church where few take any notice of the leadership, where the leadership instead of smelling of the sheep smell of the marble halls of Santa Martha. The problem is the Church becomes even less fruitful, with less vocations, with tired clergy. The old men ordained like me in the early years of JPII and before, for the most part are quite comfortable, it is the younger clergy who are often in agony. I really do think many will suffer a great deal and some will have a serious loss of faith.

What does one do when the centre does not hold? Past Popes have endeavoured to pass on a slightly less damaged Church than they inherited, perhaps Francis, Cardinal Pell's 'more unusual' Pope, will pass on a Church where the wounds are fully exposed so his successors over the next century or two might heal them.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Cans of Worms

I am confused about the whole Synod business, the reactions to it, the Pope's intentions, the role of the Bishops. I am intrigued by Benedict's reaction too.

It is true that the Churches teaching on matters sexual is confused and in tatters, it is so obvious that for all the rich teaching of Popes from the last century, very few Bishops or priests take a blind bit of notice. Some bishops and priests have good reason not to raise their personal heads above the parapet. Some priests, in some parts of the world, are living concubinage with either a female or male partner without censure from people or bishops.

Even good honest bishops  belong to families, like the Pope himself, which are broken by marital break up or where family members have 'come out'. The sexual abuse crisis which has touched all bishops through out the world has made them aware that it is impossible to merely brush human sexuality under the carpet. In a world where human sexuality seems to have evolved and the old constraints have gone there is a need to face it full on, if that is possible.

The problem is the way it which it is faced. Perhaps a Pope who boasts to have 'the humility  and the ambition' can make a difference, whereas it was something which his lesser predecessors from the time of Pius XI have shied away from.

I have to admit that I am a bit bewildered as to what the Synod was really about. In the final document there is plenty of good stuff, but was it about that or something else. There was certainly an interest in greater collegiality expressed by the Bishops but from the luxurious floor of rooms in the marble halls of the poshest 'guest house' in Rome there seems to have been the kind of renaissance princely interference that only the most Ultramontane of Popes would dare to inflict on the gathered Bishops of the Synod. It wasn't a listen exercise but a gagging one, where a few brave souls spoke out against the various lobbies that many had hoped this Papacy would control rather than fuel have been disappointed. Collegiality seems to be off the agenda.

Those who were empowered to spin the Synod focused on homosexuality and the divorced and remarried. In the popular mind, as well as the Bishops of the world this is what the Synod was about. The focus on 'where people are at' dominated whereas those who might want to focus on the vision of St John Paul for example were deliberately excluded.

The truth is whatever happened at this Synod or any further Synod will do little to change the behaviour of the priest or bishop living with his boyfriend or mistress or the sacramental welcome given by a 'merciful' cleric to those living in a second marriage, or any other strange or irregular situation. Let's face it, this already happens, any movement on the part of the Synod will merely mean it happens more often.

I have a fear, and I suppose this is the fear of many, that really what has happened was a trial, a real opening of the can of worms, which again lesser Popes have not dared to touch. What was being tried was the authenticity of the Word of God itself. Atheists and Secularists accuse us following 'bronze age goatherds' rather living in the real world, it seems to be this that was being tried. To put it simply the question seems to be can we still live according to teaching laid down some two millennia ago or should it be updated: does the word of scripture still bind Catholics or not?

It is an hermeneutic problem: how to interpret scripture. Most Protestants today enshrine the Word of God and read it reverently but actually it is dead thing, belonging to another age with teaching for a people of another world, a reference point in time which must be distilled in order to apply to our own age. They will suggest nothing has changed, the Word of God is still the Word of God but in reality it has been emptied of any meaning or traction in the real world.

The talk of changing pastoral practice but keeping doctrine is nonsensical, the Word is Alive precisely because of the pastoral practice that gives it traction. There is rather intelligent illustration here of how we have changed the Doctrine of Suppression of the Old Covenant by the New Covenant,  of the difference between doctrine, sort of, remaining the same whilst practice and words change until no-one actually believes what the doctrine actually defined.

Yes, we still believe in what Jesus says but we simply don't talk about it or use it as a way of life. Perhaps other examples could be the place of Marialogy in the lives of Catholics today compared to how it had developed from the age of the Apostles up until the 1960s, or the place of those eschatological themes like Judgement, Purgatory and Hell (has any generation ever seriously proposed that either Hell did not exist, or though Hell might exist, probably no-one goes there who were not condemned as heretical?).

It is perhaps dangerous to continue this examination too closely, but it seems that doctrines do change, not by hacking the Gospels with an axe but by changing pastoral practice. Bishop are after all Pastors not theologians, they lead people by pastoral practice. If they treat the Holy Eucharist with awe and reverence, that is how their clergy and people respond. If is treated as mere bread, surrounded by a few special beliefs, then that is how it will be responded to. Ordinary people and even the majority of clergy have never embraced the sublime theology of the Summa on the Eucharist except in the Rites and customs that the Church invites them to participate in.

The argument that all this follows Newman's theory of 'development of doctrine' - acorns to oaks - is somewhat tenuous. Remember, the Orthodox continually state 'doctrine does not change', that it is simply built up by the action of the Spirit

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...