Monday, March 30, 2015

New Arians

When there is a problem in the Church I always blame the Arians, I think they were at the root of  of the sixteenth century schism, other people might well blame others; lizards or Masons, for my part I blame those Arians.

Maybe they are not formal Arians but there is always a tendency to strip Christ of some of his divinity, to make him a little less than God, to further empty him of his divinity, to take away from his dignity, to wash our hands of him.

It is man's nature to destroy God, that is what is is played out in Holy Week. It is as if we cannot bear to have him live amongst us. It is our fallen nature, we prefer darkness to light, being lost to being found, perdition to salvation. God for His part shows himself willing to put himself into our hands and endure the dreadful consequences.

Orthodox Catholicism is essentially about a correct Trinitarian belief. I have a suspicion that deep down the real problem with the Synod is one of the Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and His place within the Church, and how seriously we take him.
If Jesus is not truly God then he's guarantees about being with his Church until the end of time need not be taken too seriously. The idea of the Church being the very Body of Christ raised to life by the Father by being imbued with the Spirit gives way to a body that in some way adheres to him. Similarly if he is not 'God amongst us' then the power of the Holy Spirit has not been poured out on those who receive the sacraments, we are un-graced, and only have ourselves to rely on. Pelagianism is the next step on from Arianism.

Arianism was not just an academic heresy, in fact it was much more a pastoral one. Arians tend to see what is there and what is human rather than what is divine and can be accomplished by grace.
I have never found it in his writings but I remember told Athanasius said, 'You can tell an Arian by the way he treats the poor'. If we looking for signs of this heresy we should look for its simple 'cash value', how it causes us to treat the poor. The last great Arian Crisis, the Reformation, resulted very quickly in Germany, in the war against the peasants and in this country the poor being whipped from parish to parish.

Orthodoxy speaks of intimacy, Arianism of distance and the first to be distanced are always 'the little ones', on the poor, the unborn, the poor at the bottom of society, on children and those dependant on stable homes and marriages.

The effect on the liturgy of Arianism is that it makes the presence of Christ more distant. Abbot Paul Delatte in his commentary on the Rule of St Benedict says that the saint introduced the Gloria Patri in order to stop his monks praying with Arians. Today words tend to be ignored, so actions often tend to speak louder, there is a liturgical style that seems to indicate that the Mass far from being the Saving Sacrifice is merely a community gathering or a praise service and the Eucharist itself though not quite ordinary bread is far from the body, blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Some might indeed argue that the stripping of the liturgy of many of its physical actions tends to Arianism.

In marriage itself the sacramental action of the Church creates the marriage, orthodox Christianity has the expectation that God en-graces the couple to be faithful and fruitful in grace, an Arian tendency would see little difference in sacramental act and non-sacramental co-habitation, that although God might indeed bless the marriage, he is not incarnate within it, he might be a benign watcher but he is not incarnate with in it.

Friday, March 27, 2015

To what degree should a priest speak out?

Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols receives congratulations from cardinals as he attends the Consistory at St Peter's Basilica
To what degree should a priest speak out? That is the question raised by HE Vincent Cardinal Nichols in the latest of his interventions in the media on the issues to be covered by the Synod, this time concerning, what has become known as, 'the Letter of the 500 Priests'

The Rite of Ordination nowadays tells us the that a priest exists to 'preach the Gospel'. The author of the Epistle to Timothy say "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine." 

I have tried to be faithful to solemn promise I made at my ordination to the priesthood to 'uphold everything that the Catholic Church teaches' consequently I felt obliged to be a signatory of that letter in the Catholic Herald asking for clarity over marriage and affirming the Church's teaching on marriage.

For none of the signatories I know who signed it was it in any sense a 'political' act but rather a credal statement of our belief in the sanctity of marriage as the Church has always taught it. For my part doing everything I can to promote the Church's teaching, including signing this letter is part of my priestly office. I know that one day I stand before God and be judged on how I exercised or failed to exercise my sacred  ministry.

Our beloved Holy Father has continuously emphasised the need for frankness and openness parrhesia in conversation over this matter, it is part of the lio or mess that he invited the youth to make in Rio, when they returned to their dioceses

As far as the Synod is concerned bishops do not go as individuals but as heads of local churches, in that sense they are answerable to their clergy and people, they also have to reflect, not the opinions but the faith of their local Church. The Cardinal suggests that clergy should restrict their comments to the 'discussion process in their dioceses'. Well in my diocese our bishop who resigned after fifteen years said, "I have been careful not to make sexual morality a priority", the problem is that 'care' shows and I am afraid I fear those 15 years will be reflected in the consultation process. The process in my diocese is a one day discussion on a document which begins by suggesting those who do uphold the Church's teaching are comparable to Donatists. The rumours are that the document which merely identifies itself as being from the Bishop's Conference and bears no author's name was actually written by the Cardinal himself who has made his position clear on numerous occasions.
The Westminster priests I know are sceptical of the consultation process in their diocese, it is sad that their Archbishop has now added intimidation to that scepticism, which in a diocese which has always had a reputation for being 'fatherless' only adds to its deep wounds.

His Eminence is not a Primate and therefore his remarks should be seen as being addressed solely to his own clergy, which would seem to suggest that they should not even mention marriage, lest their discussions become public. He puts priest in a very difficult position. We are supposed preach and teach and uphold the Catholic faith but not, according to him, in the media, presumably he means the public forum. and yet Cardinals, including himself, do so. What is 'in the media' in this sense? I have always regarded this blog as being an extension of my pulpit, friends regard pamphlet writing or articles in the same sense. Unless the doors are sealed and one's people sworn to silence the pulpit is a public forum. Does His Eminence really expect clergy to remain silent about the very thing many Catholics are deeply concerned about? If talk of marriage is ruled out what else does he wish to censor?

I think it is worth noting that Westminster Diocese seems happy to welcome all kinds of eccentric speakers who deviate from the faith but His Eminence puts the boot into orthodox clergy expressing orthodox beliefs in the discreet forum of the Catholic Herald.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Rite of Prémontré

The Rite of Prémontré which was celebrated by Fr Stephen Morrison O. Praem. during our parish retreat. It raised lots of interest amongst our younger parishioners and was beautifully and very correctly celebrated, unlike my own rather workman-like celebration of the Roman Rite.

For a short time four years this was a dependant priory of the Premonstratensian Priory at Storrington, I don't think their own Rite figured very highly.You can also see the veiling (£1.25 a meter), this year the MC also decided we would veil the altars, I think to match the chasuble..

You can also see the veiling (£1.25 a meter), this year the MC also decided we would veil the altars, I think to match the chasuble.

The photographs were taken by one of my parishioners - such an important parish ministry in the internet age.


Fr Stephen blessing with the relic of the True Cross
Yesterday during our sung Mass I was struck by the thought that I really am fortunate, we were coming to the end of our short parish retreat given by Fr Stephen Morrison, who was ordained four months ago and Brother Gregory Davies, they are part of the vibrant youthful Norbertine community in Chelmsford, both of them were born after I was ordained. Any other Parish Priest looking for some sound young Religious, with zeal and enthusiasm, I can't recommend them highly enough and my parishioners were impressed too.

 Exposition during our Passion-tide Retreat

The retreat was rigorous, in the sense of lots of things happening, challenging but also tiring. I mean plenty of time for prayer, intelligent but accessible conferences by Fr Stephen, beautiful and very carefully crafted devotional exercises by Br Gregory and a good turn out by our parishioners. The red light outside of the confessional was on practically all of the time.
Br Gregory leading the Stations of the Cross
The church was veiled for Passiontide, which always shocks me, that familiar sight of the church is no longer quite so familiar, reminding us of the immanence of Holy Week. We left the ivory Lenten altar crucifix uncovered until Passion Sunday
Fr Stephen preaching
The music, our choir just seems to get better and better, they sang the Palestrina Missa Brevis, it was breathtaking, and the chant, everyone sang together and the polyphonic bits were very competently sang, I really do value what they do. They are certainly better than some cathedral choirs.

And on top of all that we have a new bishop, who at the very least has a fear of God and believes that prayer is important.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Pray for Richard, our Bishop

I am very pleased that we have a new Bishop of our diocese, and even more pleased that it is  Mgr Richard Moth, the Bishop of the Forces.
"So let bells be wrung and a solemn Te Deum sung'

Pray for Richard, our Bishop, there is a great deal of work to be done

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Believing is Doing

The Holy Eucharist: this is what I firmly and truly believe!
It is the opening of 40 Hours at the London Oratory, the majesty, the drama, the beauty says eloquent not just what I can express with words but what gets my heart racing, what opens up my heart to God. Words fail but the Liturgy expresses something deeper than words. Words define and confine but liturgical actions enable Cor ad Cor Loquitur, heart speaking to heart, or 'actual participation'. Words are cheap and easy but what we do shows what is our heart, what makes it pulse.
This is 'living Tradition', this where we find the Church's faith presented, it goes deeper than some theology manual or even some service book, it is the doing, and this case the lavish doing.

What we do demonstrates what we believe.
I was told of 40 Hours being conducted in a parish where Sister went to the tabernacle took out the Blessed Sacrament from the tabernacle and placed it on the altar between two oil lamps, 'because they don't make a mess like candles', not genuflecting because it wasn't the custom, somehow I don't believe that, it affronts and diminishes my faith.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Roberto de Mattei has been suggesting that a schism may occur if things continue as they are, I am told that it is buzzword going around some Italian journalists. Poles mindful of the alienation of JPII's magisterium at the last session, I am told are also using the 's' word.

For me, I am not sure what 'schism' means today, in fact is it a term that can be used any longer? The much Patristic principle of 'unity in diversity' or Vatican II's 'subsidiarity' and 'localisation' or 'enculturation' would suggest that they obvious shift in the Church was from the centre to the peripheries. Good theology would agree with Cardinal Marx when he said the German Bishops are not a subsidiary of Rome. The problem is that so often bishops have been seen as 'delegates' of the Bishop of Rome, appointed or dismissed at will. It is worth comparing the laborious process of the CDF's discussions with Bishop Morris of Toowoomba under Pope Benedict compared wit the overnight 'resignations' of the various 'trad' bishops under Francis. Toowoomba was much more in line with VII than Francis' no nonsense approach, which probably might appeal to conservatives. I would be very interesting to see what would happen if those bishops sacked by Francis simply said, 'No'.

What would a more diverse Church, a less Rome centred Church, look like? Why should Rome appoint Bishops, should they not be chosen locally by diocesan presbyterates, with the other local bishops join in their ordination, if they recognised and approved of their election? And if bishops are appointed locally, why should doctrine not be defined locally, whilst holding on to principles praxis can vary to accommodate local situations. The German bishops hold to the dogmatic principles 'life is sacred' and 'life begins at conception', but the seem to have their own particular pastoral praxis to safeguard these principles. It is interesting that not paying Church Tax in Germany cuts one off from Communion but holding onto heresy or living in lifestyle contrary to the Gospel doesn't.

Under such circumstances we could all hold the same doctrines but legitimately have totally different pastoral approaches.

One can see this diversity already exists in the liturgy, compare  these photgraphs
Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI in Los Angeles with Cdl Mahoney

Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI at Brompton Oratory and elsewhere

In all the pictures the celebrant would regard themselves as being 'faithful' to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal: same Mass but a different praxis.

The problem is that the Catholics attending these Masses and the priests too, already have difficulty in recognising, not the 'validity' of the sacrament confected, they just don't have much in common in their understanding of priesthood, of Church, even possibly of Revelation and of the Incarnation. Praxis forms theology, we might indeed be able to agree a common set of words on the Holy Eucharist, for example, but is the actual belief the same?

What is there in common? Presumably all can recite the Creed, all look to the Pope as the touchstone of Communion. but what does that mean? Converts are required to say "I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God." Again what does that mean in a diverse Church? I remember the notorious occasion when one of our Bishops was required to write a pastoral letter correcting his error on Confession in a previous pastoral letter and then had to write another letter correcting the errors in the correction, in a more diverse Church  if his own presbyterate failed to do so, no-one would be there to correct him.

I remember Bishop Fellay suggesting that his priests accepted 95+% of all that VII put forward but then their communion is 'impaired', whilst many who would score much, much lower are in full communion, like the bishop who couldn't get his head round round Sacramental Confession.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Obedience and Parrhesia

The Crown was made by B Pius IX himself

I remember being told of one of the Welsh bishops being with the rest of the Bishop's Conference at the English College, they all went out to dinner in small groups but left him in the College alone, they were side-lining him. One of my friends, then a student, now long since ordained, felt so sorry for him, he gathered a small group of his fellows and took him out for a drink. Clergy, even Bishops can be unpleasant, just like little children in their excluding of someone with whom they disagree, especially if they are being called to obedience in Christ and to a more rigorous path.

Cardinal Burke since his sacking from the Signatura has apparently lost his smallish salary but more significantly his office and secretarial help but I suspect the thing that really hurts isn't that, or the public humiliation in front of the whole Church but it is the realisation that former friends and colleagues are no longer that friendly, and others just ignore you. Being 'excluded' is my idea of hell.

'Exclusion' is the Church's way of disciplining people, properly after just trial, if the situation merits it. I know of a Greek bishop whose brother is a little more than slightly mad but also a bishop, every so often they fall out and strike one another from the diptychs. The Patriarch of Constantinople was 'struck' a few years ago from the diptychs of the Metropolitan of Athens over some dispute. How that effected the reception of Communion by the average Greek Orthodox I don't know but formally it meant that if you were in Communion with a bishop who was not mentioned in the reading of the diptychs before Mass, you were not welcomed to communion. Such 'strikings', as in the Athenian case and the case of the two brothers seem easily repaired, often they are a bargaining tool in an ongoing internecine spat.

It would be wonderful if Christians always got on together but we care deeply about things and most especially we care about the truth, like many a married couple we will always bicker, Like some married couples we might even throw the crockery about, we have to speak with parrhesia, openly, frankly, as His Holiness reminds us.

Thinking about the email from Fr Anonymous, published by the Remnant, I continue to find it deeply disturbing, more so today than when I first read it. Priests and bishops are married to the Church, we cannot simply, 'leave the ministry' give up. We can do that no more than a married couple can give up. That is disturbing but it is also the anonymity of the priest that is worrying. Conscience should compel this priest not to be anonymous, the Holy Spirit demands we risk all for Christ's sake, even being excluded, the Gospel demands it. I have had that icon of the new Coptic martyrs on my desk, priest's should have the same courage to speak out, we are supposed to prophetically denounce sin and evil, especially if the cost is often simply human respect if do, but we are continually told it could cost heaven if we don't.

Being a bishop should be like herding cats. Love unites us in obedience to our Bishop and to the Pope but first we are servants of Christ and his Gospel, if we don't defend him and his teaching we are no more than hirelings. As the Holy Father reminds us we should speak frankly with our Father's in God, we are supposed to be son not cowering surfs, that might be a positive quality of an employee of a multi-national corporation but not in a member of the Church, for a Christian it is a sin. In the same way religious obedience, the promise we priest's take demands that we do not allow our superiors to risk their souls and the souls they are entrusted with by Christ, they are supposed to lead their flock to Heaven not to Hell. What son would watch his father fall into sin and do nothing, what priest would do it? The terrifying answer is, many would.

Cardinal Burke last Tuesday called us priests to use every means we can to safeguard the teaching of the Church, I urge any reader to do the same, even if it risks getting our heads cut off or being crowned with thorns.

Parish Retreat

Parish Retreat 20th-22nd March
St Mary Magdalen, Brighton

Fr Stephen Morrison O.Praem. and Br Gregory Davies O.Praem.
Friday 20th March   9am  Morning Prayers and Devotions

                                                10am Mass (with confessions until 11am)
                                                11am Stations of the Cross
                                                Noon – Soup lunch (Presbytery)
                                                3pm Divine Mercy Devotions and Chaplet
                                                6pm FIRST CONFERENCE
                                                7pm Mass (Traditional Latin Mass – Premonstratensian Rite )
                                                7:30pm- 8:30pm Holy Hour and Confessions
                                                8:30pm Rosary and Benediction

Saturday 21st March               9am Morning Prayers and Devotions
                                                10am Mass (with confessions until 11am)
                                                11am Via Matris/7 Sorrows of Our Lady Devotion

                                                3pm Divine Mercy Devotions and Chaplet
                                                6pm SECOND CONFERENCE
                                                7pm-8pm Holy Hour and Confessions
                                                8pm Rosary and Benediction

Sunday 22nd March 9am Morning Prayers and Devotions (Confessions until Mass)
                                                10am Rosary
                                                10:30am Solemn Mass
                                                3pm Divine Mercy Devotions and Chaplet
                                                3:20pm THIRD CONFERENCE
4:30pm Closing Prayers before Blessed Sacrament exposed
4:45pm Benediction
                                                5pm Mass (Ordinary Form)
6:30pm Mass (Traditional Latin Mass – Premonstratensian Rite )     

Confessions will be heard throughout the Retreat

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Great Divide

karllorenessays.comI think I really am beginning to understand what Pope Francis is trying to do, he recognises the Church is already deeply divided and there are two ways of healing it. The first, is what Cardinal Burke spoke about to the CCC on Tuesday, he recognises the Church is divided but insists he is 'calling the Church to unity' around what has been revealed and what has been the Tradition.

The second way of healing division, is what I believe Pope Francis is recognising what has been happening in the Church for the past century, maybe since before the Reformation rather than being doctinally united we doctinally divided or diverse. He is recognising that we are disunited, the difference is that he is the first Pope (ever?) to seem to accept the status quo as a given rather than call to obedience and call into communion.

At the heart of everything is the question "Who is Catholic?" For Cardinal Burke, it is those who believe the entire Catholic faith, for the Pope, it seems to be anyone of goodwill who identifies themselves as such. One could caricature the Cardinal's position as one which excommunicates those who neither believe or act according to the Church's teaching, whereas the Pope position could be caractured by the stance of the German bishops: we accept any and everybody, the only people who are beyond the pale are those who don't pay Church Tax.

Cardinal Burke might be a idealist and Francis might indeed might be a realist, but the role of a Pope as any cleric is to set before us the ideal of faith, sociology is not a substitute for Jesus. The Successor of Peter, is "the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity" (Lumen Gentium, 23) but it is not unity for unity's sake but for Christ's sake.

Rome braced for austerity protests The Petrine Ministry, excercised primarily by the Pope but by all those who have a role of service in the Church, including all bishops, priests and deacons, is not something low down on that fragile integrated structure, the 'hierarchy of doctrines' but a safeguard of the most fundamental doctrines, essentially it is about announcing the Incarnation, Resurrection and Redemption.

What is at the heart of next October's Synod is not merely divorce, marriage and the Eucharist but something touching the very nature of Christianity, can the Church be trusted to teach. What I find deeply worrying is that if the Church cannot be trusted, can Christ? Can Revelation?

The gloomy Remnant isn't one of my favourite reads but I was sent a link to this, an email it published. I think I could easily find a dozen similar ones from concerned clergy.
All over the world we’re seeing cardinals, archbishops and bishops affirming behaviors which are unequivocally condemned by Popes and Councils in previous centuries. As I listen and watch these events, in my mind, over and over, I hear the phrase, “the smoke of Satan has entered the sanctuary.” Could it be that all that is happening is truly the work of Satan? I’m not ready to affirm that it is, but in my heart I fear that it may be true. If it is then it may also be true that many members of our hierarchy do not belong to Christ. I’ve had conversations with priest friends about all of this. We are all fearful for what is to come. None of us feels as if we’re standing on doctrinally solid grounds any longer. We all cringe every time Pope Francis steps in front of a group of journalists. What will he say next? How will he berate those who are faithfully serving Christ? How will he beat up on us this time? One of my priest friends asked me during a conversation what I would do if the Church does formally approve what it previously formally condemned. I had to confess in all honesty that I’d probably have to leave priestly ministry. He admitted that he’d probably have no choice but to do the same. My deepest fear is that if Pope Francis continues to push the Church toward heresy that we may experience a war among the faithful that would make Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s opposition after Vatican II appear like a simple objection! I know you’ll understand why I’m not signing my name to this email. May God preserve His Holy Church from the forces, visible and invisible, within and without, who seek to destroy it. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners!
Father Anonymous
I have enormous sympathy for the anonymous priestly author. He is not alone in his anxieties, though 'to leave priestly ministry' is not something most priests would consider but there is a problem, a very serious problem. The Church approving what it previously formally condemned, is a serious problem, no-one with integrity can go along with that, without a  crisis of faith. In the past this was not an issue, now suddenly it is very real.

Rather than healing divisions, I fear that the Synod will introduce deeper rifts in the Church, to the  point where true Communion becomes a real fiction and we end up in the same doctrinal mess as the CofE, or any other Protestant sect and our Bishops will be left with more and more difficulty wallpaper over the cracks, with less and less success.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

RLB blesses RLB

Displaying 20150310_131553.jpgIt was a great pleasure to meet Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke at a meeting of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy in St Patrick's, Soho today. I last met him two or three years ago, he appears to have aged and seems burdened. He spoke about the Priesthood, the Eucharist and the Sacred Heart, Though he answered questions on the Synod his talk stayed away from that in his talk, though he did echo the Holy Father's words about a priest not being a social worker but a man rooted in Christ. What I suppose did touch on concerning the Synod, but indirectly  was the loss of Eucharist faith, which he blamed for a loss of priests from their ministry and a loss of vocations.

Later in response to a question he spoke about the book he had contributed to, 'Remaining in the Truth of Christ', he expressed his concern that those who present Catholic teaching are now regarded as 'divisive' or even dissident. I really felt for him, this seemed to be a cause of real pain for him not so much that he should be regarded as a dissident but that Catholic doctrine should be regarded in such a way by senior clergy, even Cardinals. Apparently some Bishops found our statement on Marriage divisive (see below). So much for the Holy Father's request for parrhesia, open fearless speech.

Displaying 20150310_131536.jpgHe spoke a little about 'rationalising' the annulment process. It might have been him or one of the countries most celebrate Canon Lawyers who I sat with at lunch who said, that one party at the Synod had wanted a bishop to sit down with a couple and decide whether a marriage was valid or invalid, on his private subjective unscrutinised judgement, not of course that would be a problem in the UK but in parts of the world where Bishops might themselves not be continent or even corrupt.
There were about fifty of us at the meeting, I understand more wanted to come, and I am sure a great number of lay people would have wanted to be present too. I came away feeling incredibly sad for the Cardinal and the burden he carries, especially the vicious personal attacks made on him, solely for his fidelity but also like most of those present very worried for the Church. As one priest sad, 'if the Church has been so wrong about marriage and the Eucharist for so long can she be trusted on anything she says', as Cardinal Mueller said 'Catholic doctrine and discipline is a whole'.

What impressed me about was that he spent time with priests, he wanted to be with us, he shared our concern, he listened, he likes priests. I could quite understand why he is sought out as spiritual director
Pray for him.

Statement of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy on Marriage
Marriage was instituted by God, not invented by man (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n.1603). The Creator has built it into human nature, even into the human body, in its two complementary forms, male and female. ‘Male and female He created them’ (Gen.1: 27): man for woman, and woman for man, united in marriage as ‘one flesh’ for the procreation of new life: ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ (Gen. 1: 28).
God has given marriage its essential characteristics and proper laws: unity (one man married to one woman); indissolubility (nothing but death can end a marriage); and openness to procreation (in every act of physical love). No president or religious leader, no senate or synod, nor any government, has the authority to re-define marriage.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, raised marriage to the dignity of a Sacrament. The marriage of a Christian man and woman is a sacramental sign of His union with His Church (cf. Eph. 5: 32). Since the union of Christ with the Church, His Bride, cannot be dissolved, no power on earth, not even the Pope himself, can dissolve the valid sacramental marriage, once consummated, of a Christian man and woman.
‘Those whom God has joined together let no man put asunder’ (Mt. 19: 6).
The Church’s discipline is built upon the doctrine of the faith, and gives practical expression to it. To introduce a discipline at odds with a doctrine thus implicitly undermines the doctrine. The discipline of not admitting to the Sacraments divorcees who have entered a subsequent civil ‘marriage’ follows directly from the doctrine of Marriage and the Eucharist as the Church has received it from Christ and His Apostles.
Unless an annulment has recognized the invalidity of the original marriage, then the state of life of divorced and ‘remarried’ Catholics ‘objectively contradicts the union of love between Christ and the Church signified and effected by the Eucharist’ (Pope St John Paul II, Familiaris consortio, n. 180). However sorrowful for their sins they may be, the divorced and ‘remarried’ remain ‘one flesh’ (cf. Gen. 2: 24; Mt. 19:5) with their original and only spouses. Therefore, their second ‘marriages’ cannot participate in the one flesh union of Christ and His Church that is signified and effected by the Eucharist.
In the absence of a clear appreciation of marriage and the true meaning of human sexuality, a number of associated moral challenges have arisen. Amongst these is the growth of widespread homosexual activity and the promotion of such behaviour. The Church teaches, as she has always taught, that homosexual activity is gravely sinful, as it distorts one of the most sacred and fundamental dimensions of human life. Even the inclination to homosexual activity is ‘objectively disordered’ (CDF, 1986) in the sense that such a sexual inclination, with its associated tendencies, feelings and expressions, is not properly directed to spousal union, marriage, and procreation. The Church, of course, welcomes all human beings created in God’s image, who by His grace have the power to renounce their sins, live a chaste life and become saints. But the Church cannot bless, or tolerate, sin in any form, nor structures and lifestyles that encourage or promote sin, disorder, and temptation.
The Church in so many ways reaches out to those broken and hurt by the breakdown of marriage in our society and by the widespread confusion of what it means to be male and female. No-one is turned away. The first mercy and true compassion is offering to sinners the truth of Christ as the light by which to live. The greatest help for those who struggle is to point out with charity the way of Christ, the only way conducive to virtue and true joy.
The Church has nothing, can do nothing, is nothing, without Christ, her Head and Bridegroom. She is the servant of the Word of God (cf. Dei verbum, n. 10). Her pastors therefore have no power whatever to change what He taught about the nature and goods of marriage and have the duty to promote and defend that truth for the good of every person and society.

Monday, March 09, 2015

A Pastoral Solution?

A pastoral problem:
'A' is from a South American country, she married 'B', the marriage was not that good from the beginning but she has been refused an annulment on the grounds of 'lack of due discretion'. 'B' was a political activist and was imprisoned by the then regime, many people were killed but there is no evidence 'B' was, indeed he might well have informed on his friends, which resulted in 'A's' two brothers being killed, he might well have gone into hiding and changed his identity. 'A' came to Britain 25 years ago, she tried to find 'B'. Reports said he had been killed, whilst other said he had fled to Germany and had changed his name and had started a new life, afraid of 'A's family. 'A' has 'married' again but has not been to Holy Communion since, though she goes to Mass more or less weekly.
Simply because of the lack of hard and fast evidence it is impossible to come to a judgement that 'B' is dead and 'A' is free to marry. For those Christian women kidnapped women in Syria and Iraq, after the trauma  of rape and shame and forced conversion and forced marriage it is possible in the Middle East that there will be many men, who are uncertain whether their wives are alive or dead. What is the pastoral solution, indeed what is the theological solution?
Presumably here the local Bishop or even parish priest has to make a decision, either that 'B' is dead and 'A' can marry or else he is alive and she cannot but actually there are more nuanced solutions which some might take, that 'B' though he might not actually be dead, is effectively dead as far 'A' and the marriage are concerned.
The problem is the lack of formal evidence, and of course, being blunt, 'A' could be lying her head off.

It seems that this type of situation: lost, possibly dead or enslaved wives and husbands, that lead the Eastern Orthodox Churches to find ways to relax Jesus' teaching on marriage and consequently on the reception of the Holy Eucharist in the seventh and eighth centuries. A thousand and more years on and the standard practice in many Orthodox dioceses is that re-marriage is almost automatic on presentation of a civil certificate of divorce and most priests can be persuaded to forgo the once customary gradation of rites for second or third marriages.
A friend, a Greek Canonist suggests that it was the wars that marked the rise of Islam that brought about the change in the Orthodox understanding of marriage, together with a rather Eastern approach to marriage as a 'sacramental act' of the Church rather than the Western rather tighter understanding of seven distinctive sacraments of which marriage is one.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Can Retired Popes Judge

One of the meanders that seemed to fascinate Canon Lawyers was: who can depose a Pope, if he felll into heresy?
I was sent this article by Jacob Wood, it gives a brief summary of Suarez's and Bellarmine's arguments, Basically Canonists after Trent say that it is possible but there is no power to do it, either God removes him or 'the bishops' somehow do it. In previous age it might have been suggested, at least by certain schools of theology, that emperor could do it or I suppose the Roman mob. The problem was that although the Pope de jure if he fell into heresy might lose the Papacy de facto he remained Pope.

The problem is of course no-one is able to judge the Pope, except the Pope, Up until the last Conclave that meant that only a successor who judge his predecessor. The arguments of the 16th century Canonists never of course envisioned the idea of a retired Pope, does this change the situation?

Though I think the arguments put forward by some Italian authors that Benedict has retained something of the Papacy are more than cranky, the idea that a retired Pope might at some stage intervene in a crisis is an interesting idea.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Giving up Sermons for Lent?

Dr Joseph Shaw, has a very wise little piece on children at the Traditional Mass, I know the Holy Father has be speaking a lot about the art of preaching, indeed it takes up a great deal of his encyclical, and the CDW have just issued some guidelines about preaching. Nevertheless every year I think I should give up preaching for Lent. I never have but I think I should.

In the days when we had so many people here, and so many priests too, Mass on Sunday was on the hour and half hour it seems that the only Mass that had more than perfunctory sermon was the last Mass of the day advertised as "High Mass with Sermon", even then it must have been by Protestant standards of the time rather short because the High Mass had to be within an hour and quarter, because there was then a Polish Mass which did indeed have notoriously long sermons, the Polish chaplain preached everywhere and whenever he could, even at gravesides in blinding blizzards. It seems that sermons here really took place for those who chose to go to them in the evening at Rosary Vespers, Benediction and Sermon.

In the Old Rite the sermon wasn't until the Pius XII (that great moderniser) considered part of the Liturgy, purist even now will remove their maniple and possibly even the chasuble whilst preaching.
I must say I feel less need to preach at the Old Rite, than the new. The simplicity of the Traditional Mass seems to be sermon enough, the New Rite as Joseph points out seems to need further interpolation.
In the immortal words of a working-class Catholic in Newcastle, interviewed by the sociologist Anthony Archer, on the New Mass:It’s just like a lecture, man. It goes on and on. Not because it is actually longer, but because it comes across as a long stream of verbiage. Archer's argument is that the New Mass is appreciated most by intellectually-minded, educated, articulate, middle class Catholics.

One might add that it is often said that women are more oriented to verbal communication than men. It is also said that spoken, as opposed to written, words, are less easily taken in by modern people, an argument frequently made against the use of lectures in education today. Pope Paul VI remarked 'modern man is sated with words'. These observations, taken together, would explain a lot about the typical size and composition of the Novus Ordo congregation, but that would take me off the point.
I was struck on Friday evening at the Taditional Mass, on Fridays we have Mass in the morning too in the New Rite, that of the total congregation a fifth were women, four fifths were men. It was almost the reverse of congregation in the morning where most were women, at both Masses there were about 25 people each and at the Traditional there were even a few children. I joked with server afterwards that I should tell women present that this was the men's Mass theirs was in the morning. I think is interesting and worth making the point is that in the past, sermonising was not how most people were catechised or formed in the faith. One of my reasons for considering giving up preaching in Lent is a vague feeling that it makes us priests lazy. Rather than getting the faithful to experience something we simply throw more words at them, it is just too easy to do, and actually put people off.  The problem is that words add to complexity. In many ways they are the antithesis of worship and real 'active participation'. They tend to get us to relate to the priest rather than to God. If they haven't caused the mind to glaze over, they stimulate it rather than cause it to be lost in awe and wonder. Like most priests I have to remind myself none of it is about me, all is about God.

I remember as a young convert struggling with the idea of the Real Presence and Transubstantiation, I read what Trent had said about it, what St Thomas had said, what the Gospels and St Paul had said about it but actually it was a group of Irish labourers kneeling and bowing at Benediction that really gave me an understanding of what we believe. In the same way a server observing the corporal scraping, the joined fingers, the careful checking of the vessels for fragments, the double ablution, which I now tend to do at both forms and also other servers occassionally not receiving Holy Communion, that caused him to say 'Now I understand why I should kneel and receive on the tongue'.

Another reason for not preaching is that after years and years of preaching I am not convinced my sermons have lead to the salvation or repentance of a single soul, not even mine yet I am convinced that the beauty and 'awesomeness of the mysteries' I have celebrated have changed the lives of many.

Interesting: I've just put the phone down, it was a retired permanent deacon who was arranging his funeral, he wanted Mass in the old rite. "Why?" I asked, he then told me as a young man he thought how beautiful the Mass was, how he would lost in silent adoration and prayer how he was able to enter into the stillness of God. I think really what he was saying is that he experienced God in the Mass. Wordiness is no substitute for the experience of God, indeed they often get in the way.

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...