Friday, July 31, 2015

Crocodiles, Snakes and Lice and Fleas

Gradualism: the heresy that says God's Grace is not sufficient for our conversion; it is modern Pelagianism of course, seems to dominate contemporary German theology. It is what is behind those terrible words of Cardinal Kasper that ordinary Christians aren't meant to be heroes. It suggests that Christianity is not about conversion, or radical commitment, and worse, that grace is not continually poured out on us.

One of the problems is loss of the distinction between mortal and venial sins. Ages ago I heard a missionary priest in Paris celebrating Mass for some English speaking Africans, this is his half remembered sermon.

Some sins are like crocodiles, the devour us, after tearing us limb from limb. The Church understood that Murder, Apostasy and Adultery were sins beyond all other that destroyed our relationship with God - they are deadly, instantly!
There are other deadly sins, these are like snakes that sliver into our lives, when they bite us they their poison infects us and we will die.
Then there are other sins, which are like lice and fleas, all of us have some of these, if we allow them to grow, they too can make us seriously ill because they carry viruses and we become like some sick buffalo, that falls prey easily to snakes and crocodiles or simply can't keep with the rest of the herd. 
The crocodiles are easily avoided, we avoid going to the places they live, and in fact unless we go into the long grass were we loose sight of Christ or start wading in muddy water we can see them coming and we get away from them. If we can get to the Confessional even if we have lost part of our arm or leg and can only crawl we must get there, and if we see someone who has been mangled by a crocodile, carry them there!
Snakes are a bit more difficult but if we keep the commandments, if we are faithful to God, to our religious obligations, if we honour our mother and father, the faith that has been past on to us, if we keep our marriage vows and make sure the family is sacred place, if we keep our hearts pure of wrong desires. We can see the snakes coming, and either kill them or run from them, and if we are bitten, we must run to the Confession before the poison kills us.
These are mortal sins! 
Venial sins, lice and fleas, we get rid of these by soap and water, by being close to Christ, through Holy Communion - soap, through water - prayer, doing good, following Jesus, by keeping ourselves clean. 
The problem with lice and fleas is that we know we have an itch but we are not sure where it is or what has caused it, it just stops us from being what God wants us to be. If we can identify it, take to Confession, that is why it is good to go to Confession frequently, to expose our itching skin and our rashes to Christ for him to heal them and to stop us getting worst. Have you ever seen lion or another animal with mange? Well that is like us, we all have a bit of disease, a few lice and fleas, some of us have lots, that is why we need to visit the Heavenly Physician regularly.

 Crocodiles and snakes can be easily avoided, when the have attacked us it is obvious, lice and fleas are a little more difficult to deal with, we catch them more easily. Crocodiles, perhaps we never encounter, snakes sliver into our lives especially in our youth, as we get older we tend to become aprey to lots of lice and fleas, we very easily become immune to their presence, even comfortable with them, sometimes when the grow fat on sucking our life-blood we pets of them, and feed them so they become even plumper, and end by considering them a virtue! (or at least I do - mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!).

Thursday, July 30, 2015


A few weeks ago I was walking down the main street here in the city in front of me was a heavily veiled Muslim women with two small children, a little further on were a  couple of chubby short haired women gazing into one another's eyes, they began kiss, the mother immediately  gathered her children to her side and covered their faces with her coat.

In Brighton there are two very obvious groups,  the LGBT community and the Muslim community, even in  the Labour Party here they don't seem to mix, though in the last General Election Labour did put up an Asian candidate, probably in attempt to gain the Islamic vote. I don't hear of much tension between the two communities, in the rather Brightonish way they seem to co-exist.

The world seems to be destined to split along pro and anti LGBT lines. Africa, the Islamic world, Russia and the Orthodox world against, whilst the US and its hegemony are pro, Cameron for example wants to export Gay marriage around the world. Increasingly it seems that issues of sexual equality will polarise the world. Western (or rather US) materialism and culture in the past was something which people wanted, or at least it crept in through Coca cola and McDonalds but as Mr Kenyatta said we don't want homosexuality, nor will every nation want gay Google or Hollywood. In many ways it seems the LGBT agenda will become the main symbol of Western culture and will be seen by the rest of the world as a mark of its decadence. Will rainbowed boots on the ground be welcomed in the Middle-East or 'aid' with a significant agenda in Africa?

Michel Houellebecq has written a book, Soumission, which in France seems to have caught the popular imagination, and everyone seems to be reading it. It is due to be published in English soon. It is about the rise of a popularly elected Islamic government in France and the gradual imposition of Sharia law and take over of French institutions by Islamists, the Sourbonne for example is bought by the Saudis.

In Brighton I wonder what will happen in a few years time when Islam becomes a political force in our city, which it seems it is bound to become. Interestingly one Jewish business near me was forced to close, not because of anti-Semitism, obviously, but by continuous pro-Palestinian demonstrations. However, Jews are leaving Brighton and Hove, a traditional Jewish centre, as a Jewish student said to a parishioner, "Brighton and Hove is becoming increasingly unwelcoming to Jews".
Brighton Middle Street Synagogue consecrated 1875

Monday, July 27, 2015

I am what I decide I am

I am a little concerned, and a little amused, some of my parishioners have been paying their three quid to join in the Labour leadership election and all of them are voting for Jeremy Corbyn. It amuses me that Labour could be so daft as to open up their leadership to all and sundry, and that they are so naive about human nature. It concerns me, just a little, that some of my parishioners are taking advantage of this naivete, their own politics are either darker blue Tory or even UKIP! Taking advantage of someone's stupidity seems to be a movement to sinfulness. Yet Labour are following the Left Wing trend, it is their on the Right too, that we are not what we are but what we decide to be.
It suspect it is all those teachers telling children, 'You can be whatever you want to be'.

'I am what I decide I am', seems to be a growing strain in society. 'Gender theory' at its most extreme says despite having male genitalia, if I so decide, I can be a woman this afternoon, and a man again by tea-time. Feminists (and Catholics) might object strongly and ask how that is possible; as I have never had a period in my life, or suffered discrimination because of my sex, nor have I experienced the longings and disappointments that women do nor do the experience my masculine ones. They would say that even if I had longed to be a woman all my life, even if I mutilated myself and had plastic surgery, even if I spent the rest of my life being continually pumped with female hormones, I could still not be a woman, just a man with problems. Gender theorists would simply respond, 'I can be whatever I want to be!' and the argument stops,

The same kind of madness exists in the Church and is coming to the fore as we approach the Synod. See today's Vatican Monday post. What is really being said is that there is no objective truth, everything is relative. 'I am what I decide I am' sounds painfully close to 'I am who I am' the normal translation of YHWH, the name of God, which belongs to God alone.

 Bolivia 2015;Mass celebrated by His Holiness in the Nunciature
L'Osservatore Romano
For traditional Christians the universe takes its meaning from God himself, summed up in the simple kerygmatic statement 'Kyrios Iesus', 'Jesus is Lord', Those present at the German bishop's shadow Synod actually want to, "change their glory into the likeness of a calf that eateth grass." (Ps 105:20), a God fashioned in our image and likeness, a false God, who is not revealed Truth but human experience. This is a God not heaven, not the God of the Nicene Creed but of human experience, and even then not the God of heroic Christians but unrepentant sinners, sinners who reject Jesus' teaching.

It is this, the very nature of God himself, that is up for grabs at the Synod. It is not just marriage, it is not only the Holy Eucharist, or even Divine Revelation but God that is under attack. What it is about is the apostasy of the Church and who is at the centre of the Church; God or Man?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Gain and Loss

I was supposed to go to Rome last year for the diaconate ordination of Matthew O'Gorman at the English College Villa, I couldn't make it but I was absolutely delighted to be able to be at Southwark Cathedral for his ordination to the priesthood, he was ordained together with Mark Higgins, who I don't know but I think I would like to get to know. Fr Matthew I have known ever since he was studying in Brighton, and with heroic valour set up a 'Life Group'  in the University here.

Both seem to be excellent young priests, both were educated at the famous John Fisher School and were influenced by the 'Faith Movement' and the very good priest involved with it, both a rich source of vocations. Whilst Matthew and Mark were giving first blessings I enjoyed meeting the young clergy who are always present at an ordination, they always renew my youth. At this ordination there was a good number of them.

What I find impressive about our young priests is the confidence they have. The publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church seems to have marked the most significant change. Before it any old arcane nonsense could be passed off as the Catholic faith in seminaries, after it any seminarian could simply refer to the Catechism and say, 'But Father article ### of the CCC says quite clearly ####, so how do justify saying ...'. It is interesting that several seminary Rectors were the most vociferous opposers of the Catechism. The other important cause of change was the very priestly pontificate of Benedict XVI, with its renewal of the liturgy, the liberation of the Old Rite and continuous affirmation of the priesthood and its celebration of that most priestly of saints the Cure d'Ars during the Year for Priests.

The sad note was that in the week when Southwark Archdiocese ordained two priests, it also lost two priests. One who has given up the priesthood to teach maths and another who apostatised to become an Anglican clergyman. There was a time when it was not unusual for young priests who were ordained just a little later than me to decide within the first few years of ordination that the priesthood was not for them. The situation is certainly better now, simply because, for the most part, seminaries are much better nowadays, and younger priests seem to be formed to be disciples rather than mere functionaries, and I think the support network younger priests form is stronger.

The Australian Fr Paul McGavin gives an interesting list of some requirements for future Bishops, what he doesn't list is the need for a bishop to care for his priest. The Gospel of course would require him not merely to care but to exhibit Christ-like love for his priests, especially for the weak and frail. Peter is given the task of strengthening the brethren, this is the role of a bishop with his presbyters. Invariably priests are treated not as brothers or as the Rite of Ordination says 'co-workers' and 'collaborators' with the order of bishops.

Cardinal Burke used to visit his seminary weekly and made time to build a relationship with his seminarians and continued that relationship after ordination but he seems to be an exception. Many bishops seem to treat their clergy as a possible source of problems, who are best avoided. Considering the enormous expense to train a priest and their rarity nowadays, one would expect a bishop to spend most of their time 'strengthening' their priests. In some dioceses the opposite can happen, bishops undermine their clergy.

We clergy too, are often very poor at supporting one another. Clergy can be sick, depressed or even dying and be ignored by their brethren, they can lose their faith or begin preaching heresy or fall into serious sin or addiction and be left to themselves. It is certainly one of my faults, we tend to imagine greater resilience in our brothers than there actually is or simply not want to bothered by their problems. It is the Dives and Lazarus syndrome, it probably reflects our care for our parishioners as well. The problem if a priest feels uncared for by his father and brothers he is likely to treat the faithful in  a similar way.

As for younger clergy, it seems rare nowadays for them to sent to bullying curate-breakers but there is often a deep sense of frustration for them, little seems to be done, still, to develop their talents and skills, it seems not much attention is given to career development, and often their talents, skills and enthusiasm is left to stagnate or wither. In the old days it was often once this had happened would the be appointed as Parish Priest somewhere. The Church should not be a less caring employer than business or industry.

For the two priests who have left I hope that their bishops and their brother clergy, (and even their former parishioners) do not simply wash their hands of them but continue their pastoral support. The model is the good shepherd who leaves ninety-nine sheep on the hillside to go in search of the one which was lost.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Priests going

I used to know lots of priests in the Roman dicasteries but they have been queuing up at Rome's airports and leaving for their home dioceses with the intention of never returning. The problem is the Pope bullies their bosses and their bosses bully them, so they go. Even the most thick skinned and dedicated can only put up with a certain degree of insults and contempt. That, and an increasing degree of "South Americanisation" makes the Holy See more and more difficult a working environment. For the thin skinned and sensitive, as the Pope's world inevitably narrows, every morning in Sta Martha brings more insults.

The Roman exuent is based on a simple choice, 'Do I stay or do I go?' Going is easier than staying.

Last night I discovered a priest with whom I overlapped with at the seminary, who I heard had left, is actually an Anglican clergyman and is also now the head of that strange virulently anti-Catholic group, the Protestant Truth Society.

In the last week or so on Catholic social media the story of a priest who has resigned and apparently embraced a gay lifestyle or simply has come out as a homosexual, seems to have captured people's prurience and some pretty unpleasant speculation. And yes, in my diocese my bishop was forced to resign.

Whenever a priest or a bishop leaves the ministry it is very easy simply to blame them and fail to question what lies behind their leaving. Priests are unhappy with bullying and are leaving Rome. It is the unhappiness and bullying that has forced them out. A good employer might ask if something can be done to end that situation, like telling the Pope to lay off, or simply making him aware of the unhappiness his actions are causing.

When a priest or bishop leaves it is easy for members of the Church to simply be angry rather than examining their conscience. If a priest chooses a libidinous lifestyle surely we should be asking why a community which professes brotherly love, compassion, mercy is so bad at offering to its ministers. Why is it that a priest should feel he is more likely to find the help and support he feels he needs outside the Church rather than within it. Why does he become disillusioned with the Gospel and, err..., illusioned by a gay life style? Why is the love of his people, but more importantly, the pastoral care of his brother priests and his bishop, his Father-in-God so lacking? 'The Church is a field hospital', if that is so then why are so many people dying in it rather that being restored to health?

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Good News Story

Having just written something which I find quite depressing, here courtesy of NLM is something I find quite exciting, more importantly it is an Irish story, one that is full of hope.
In contrast, in January a Dominican vocations retreat in Cork was oversubscribed at St. Mary’s Priory and two more were added in March and April. The early events drew a total of 20 men to whom the idea of a simple lifestyle and a clear identity appealed at a time of uncertainty in the lives of many.
In the fall, the Dublin-based order enrolled five men, joining 20 other Dominican theology students. They will become part of a community of 175 priests in 18 priories or communal houses across Ireland.
Their rising numbers in Ireland have made the Dominicans the envy of other orders, which have sought to copy their recruitment methods.
“They’re the most successful to the degree that they were online and on the Internet at an early age, and had a blog before the other orders were catching up,” said Terence Harrington, a vocations director for the Capuchin order in Ireland, which has taken to Facebook and Twitter. The Irish diocese now has an iPad app for people considering the priesthood.
Typically, it takes eight months to two years for prospective candidates to decide whether to join the order while working with a Dominican mentor, like Father Dunne. With that period to reflect, the attrition rate for new entrants has dropped to 15 percent, Father Dunne said.
Maurice Colgan, 41, a former social worker for drug addicts who was ordained as a Dominican priest in 2011, said he was still adapting to his lifestyle.
“My hat goes off to diocesan priests, but I don’t know how they do it without community life,” he said. “Today, you need the support of your brothers. Now, of course they may annoy you and you annoy them, but that’s natural in a community.”
At one recent retreat, prospective recruits were invited to imagine themselves as black friars, as the Dominicans are nicknamed, gathering for evening prayer at the 19th-century St. Mary’s Church in Cork, where the order first arrived in 1229.
The guests included a university student, a government lawyer and a schoolteacher drawn by the order’s Web site, which is stocked with videos, among them one of a friar snowball fight set to the song “Eye of the Tiger.” Later, the group crowded at a long wooden table for a traditional Irish fry dinner of potatoes and sausages.
Some of the Irish candidates said they were impressed by the order’s rising numbers and openness to newcomers.
Matthew Farrell, 38, a former bartender from County Offaly and a novice, said he had sampled other orders, like the Carmelites. “I’ve been searching a long time for a vocation,” he said. “I wanted to get married or wanted to do something else. I tried to visualize myself as a priest.”
But in the end, he said, the Dominicans won out. “The Dominicans have a lot of enthusiasm and energy,” he said, “and I liked the fact that they wore habits.”
I have much respect for the Irish Dominicans who in a society and a national Church which is fast losing any vesture of Catholicism are strongly and joyfully orthodox and Catholic. May they go from strength to strength.

Fasting Did It

I think Ramadam ends tomorrow. A couple of years ago a rather distraught Italian lady came to see me, she was upset, she didn't come to Mass here or anywhere else in England, though, "I go the time in Napoli", "... but I sent my boys to Catholic school, they went to Mass and Confession there, now they have both becoming Muslims and they are telling me I should become Muslim and Maria my daughter should become a Muslim and cover her hair!"

To listen to her it would seem that everyone at our local Catholic secondary was becoming Muslim, certainly it is not just her sons but one or two other lads I know, who come from not exactly 'sacrament hungry' families have embraced Islam.

I was a bit shocked a few months ago when amongst the crowd coming out of the local mosque a bearded figure greeted me with 'Hello, Father, you gave me my First Holy Communion'. I think he was another lad with Italian, Portuguese or Spanish ancestory, who had received First Communion but probably not his second, the interesting thing he was with three or four other rather western looking young Muslim men in their teens, who didn't really want to be seen talking to me but didn't seem too ill at ease in calling me 'Father'.

The Italian lady told me about how her boys became Muslims. They had been teasing a Muslim friend about his Ramadam fasting, so he challenged them to fast with him, they did and after a few days they had started breaking the daily fast with a group Muslim men and discussing the Koran with them, and a little later they were praying with them and going to the mosque with them.

The mother was convinced it was the fasting that did it!

One of our great post-Concilliar lacks, is fasting and abstinence. One of the things we in England and Wales should be grateful to Bishop Kieran Conry for, was his pressing the restoration Friday abstinence amongst their Lordships. Amongst the teaching of the Fathers prayer is always accompanied by fasting and abstinence. A friend staying here for a few days respite from Greece, told me of Greek monks sermon which contained the memorable line, 'For a life of prayer, three things are necessary, control of the tongue, control of the genitals, control of the stomach'.

Fasting, sexual continence and silence are all much easier than real prayer but they are necessary adjuncts to prayer. They are also very attractive to competitive young men.

Jesus fasted, he encouraged his disciples to fast, "some demons are only driven by prayer and fasting", he said that his disciples would fast when he, the bridegroom, was taken away. Throughout Europe under the encouragement of Pius XII, fasting before feasts and during Lent were relaxed to the point where they were more or less abolished. He had very early on in his reign reduced the ancient Eucharistic fast from midnight to a three hours before reception. In most religious communities the lent from Holy Cross to the Nativity had long been more or less forgotten. The liturgical reforms removed the Ember Day fasts, and following Pius' lead the Eucharistic was reduced to what we have today.

I was recently shown the penitential instruments of a Russian hermit in France used, he died in the 1950s and offered up his penance for his brothers in the Gulags and for an end to Communism. There were heavy spiked chains to go over the shoulders, a rough spiked wooden boards for the chest and back and another spiked chain to go round waist, these would have weighed 30/40 pounds, and there was a chained discipline, like the Capuchins once used.

There was a time when practically every serious Catholic practiced some form of penitential discipline.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Indigenous Art in Paraguay

Though shocked by the hammer and sickle crucifix received by the Pope in Bolivia, I was a delighted by the altarpiece in Paraguay made out of corn, pumpkins and gourds. I haven't seen any comment on it, but such an interesting contrast.

And all edible, or at least recyclable.
One of my parishioners has allotment, I suggested he too could grow a baroque high altar.

The Holy Father also was entertained by a concert of music of the Jesuit Reductions

Saturday, July 11, 2015

de Mattei's Lecture

I was sorry that I missed Roberto de Mattei's Lecture last night, it was sponsored by the LMS, and was a memorial lecture to honour Michael Davies and the title was 'From the Second Vatican Council to the Synod: The Teaching of Michael Davies'.

Fortunately Rorate have put it online, it is worth making the effort to read.
If you need persuasion, here is just one little section to whet your appetite:
Reading M. Davies’ work can help us understand the present crisis. We are now faced with a Synod of Bishops on the Family that seems to be questioning the indissolubility of marriage and opening the door to homosexual couples.  If Michael Davies were alive, he would perhaps see its origins in the abandonment of the original schema on Marriage and the Family at Vatican II, substituted by a few ambiguous passages in Gaudium et Spes.  M. Davies individuated immediately the dangers lurking in GS on the inversion of the ends of marriage. Indeed, by placing procreation after conjugal love, all of Catholic morality was altered.  Davies reports the Master General of the Dominicans, Cardinal Browne’s warning   – during a conciliar session –  he rose to his feet and said in a loud voice: “Caveatis, caveatis! If we accept this definition we are going against the whole tradition of the Church and we shall pervert the whole meaning of marriage”41. 
      If the first end of marriage is not procreation, it has its highest expression in conjugal love - but the love of the spouses comes from an act of the will and an act of the will can decree its end. If morality is not rooted in nature, but in the person, the relationship of the couple prevails over the objective good of the family.  And if the primacy of inter-personal relations is established, this principle is condemned to extend to extra-marital relations and then, from heterosexual to homosexual relations. 
     According to M. Davies, the eternal enmity between the Augustinian City of God and the City of Man, appears to be extinct in GS. “While there are statements in GS which insist that the heavenly kingdom is still the primary goal of the Church, it is beyond dispute that the document displays a pervasive and obsessive preoccupation with the earthly Kingdom. If the amount of print devoted to the former and the latter is compared, the contrast is both startling and depressing. It is replete with the spirit of Integral Humanism and Sillonism”

Friday, July 10, 2015

Dialogue made tangible

Why is everyone getting so excited?

The Holy Father, or at the very least his advisers, I am sure knew exactly what they were getting into. After all the whole Papal entourage stopped to pray and reverence the very spot where the Jesuit Father Luis Espinal who introduced this 'fusion' crucifix into Bolivia was shot down. One can hardly blame the President for giving the Holy Father a symbol so closely united to Fr Espinal whom the Holy Father had so publicly embraced on his Bolivian visit.

Another point is this crucifix so obviously symbolises the post-Concillior view of 'dialogue', maybe not from the point of view of eminent clergy and theologians, who would defend every dot and stroke of Catholic doctrine with rogour but certainly from those who are dialogued with and haven't been trained in its arcane subtleties,  and maybe also those who Catholics who simply overhear the dialogue - who haven't been trained either.
Bringing Christianity and Marxism together is obviously what many assume dialogue to be in parts of South America. The Holy Father too, is he not always urging the necessity of dialogue and also saying we must allow ourselves to be changed by it.

This crucifix is dialogue made tangible. Why be shocked by the outcome of dialogue? Next people will start complaining about about the fusion of German Catholicism and Protestantism, when they are presented with its tangible results: the Church of Marx and Kasper and when that itself enters into dialogue with the rest of the Church at the Synod.

This too is dialogue made tangible!

added later
It is worth reading this account
By the way, this image by Espinal was very much around in the 1970s, I remember seeing it various places. Fr Lombardi's intimation that it was unknown needs caeful examination

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Catholic Establishment

One of things some people find surprising in Cardinal Murphy O'Connor's An English Spring is his continued support of Tony Blair, members of the Labour Party now shuffle embarrassedly when his name is mentioned, the harder left might talk about indicting him for war crimes, and the rest of us are just perplexed by the vast fortune the man has amassed since he was Prime Minister - but Cormac can only see good in him.

That says a great deal deal about my former Bishop and the retired Archbishop of Westminster, he is loyal, though this is his great fault, his inability to judge character, despite the evidence. Friendship once given is only grudgingly withdrawn, it is a virtue but like all virtues it also a vice. It can cloud judgement. Many of us asked why when His Eminence received the former Prime Minister into the Catholic Church there was no public statement of repentance or conversion, no repudiation of Blair's voting record on abortion or on the introduction of same-sex partnerships, to say nothing of his part in what in Catholic terms was an unjust war in Iraq in which tens of thousands died and was one the chief contributors to the present situation in the Middle East. Blair's reception for many Catholics was a grave scandal for many reasons but went ahead because of the Cardinal's personal and private pastoral judgement, presumably based on Blair's personal piety, his attendance at Mass, his support of his children's Catholic education, and his own personal desire to be in Communion with the Catholic Church.

A public pastoral judgement might have been more concerned for the effect of Blair's 'conversion' on the Church in England and Wales, what seemed to be said was that whatever Blair believed previously, however he acted, was alright, despite the fact that so many of his action were in direct contradiction of Catholic teaching.

Today the government to which Ian Duncan Smith belongs will introduced a budget with swinging reforms to social welfare, amongst other things it is expected to remove benefits for children after the second child, both natural children, step children and adopted children, this is a policy put forward by IDS himself. In effect families which are 'open' to children will be penalised and destined to lives of poverty. This seems to be a profoundly anti-family policy, if one places this alongside  other measures Mr Duncan Smith's party have introduced in the past, same-sex 'marriage' is one example, and the proposed demineralisation of Sunday trading will affect tens of thousands of poor mothers who work in retail. Again and again IDS's party attack those things which are at the heart of Catholicism.

As with Blair, so with Duncan Smith, no action will taken against him. it as if the Church simply doesn't take its message seriously. A friend tried to take a 'selfie' with a senior bishop at a party, actually he was more interested in those in the background Stourton, Dowd, Walsh, Radcliffe, Pepinster a number of other members of the Catholic establishment, despite suggesting he had one or two with the Pope, he was refused.

Some people suggest there are conspiracies; lizards or Masons, I have never believed that, it is too complicated, human beings just can't keep secrets that well. I do believe there are a few influential people in London, the 'Islington chattering classes', perhaps from a few dozen or more families who are if not related are at least friends or acquaintances, who went to the same schools, studied at the same universities, who write for the same magazines or newspapers, who tend to inhabit the same social circles and therefore tend to influence one another. As with wider society, so too, maybe even more so with the Catholic Church. It is a group that protects its own above and beyond the Catholic faith, and within this group has its own version of Catholicism which perhaps might have had its roots in the Ampleforth or Stoneyhurst of the 1970s, or the soon to be defunct Heythrop of the 80s and 90s.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

A&B Vocations

A nice little video put together by the vocations team in our diocese. The are some nice shots of Mass from one or two parishes, I thought I was the only one here in A&B to do that! Those younger chaps!

Monday, July 06, 2015


If I lend to some who is unable or unwillling to repay me, who is culpable? I surely am culpable for placing temptation in his way and for being foolish enough to give to be pared from my money.

I have a great sympathy for the Greeks who thought they had found a never ending source of wealth, which they took and redistributed and now find they, their children and grandchildren are being harassed for what is now been termed as the profligacy.

It seems as if it was the wicked Protestant John Calvin who was first to make a distinction between 'usury' and 'interest', until him all the Fathers and Scholastic Masters made no distinction, taking any interest on loan was considered offensive to the laws of God and Man, this was a view heard in both East and West..
Nowadays it is almost impossible for us to understand the detestation Christians of an earlier age had for usury. For us, it is if anything, a theological curiosity. However, if the payback the EU is demanding from Greece is going to cripple her for several generations. If it is going to reduce pensions, seriously damage education and healthcare, undermine policing and justice, and bring about misery and serious damage the family, then the effects surely are the same as usury.

Perhaps we need to look again at Usury and rediscover why we had such problems with it for 1,500 years. Perhaps as a Church we need to examine our consciences about our use of money, most of us would be considered excommunicate by Bonaventurre or Aquinas. Are we just too happy to play the bankers game?

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Ship of Fools, tired, joyless and dull

the mystery worshipper'The Ship of Fools' have now changed significantly their review of Mass here, they have removed the downright untruths, the inventions of their reviewer, they have however left in the untruth that 'G' the lady with the phone simply left the church, with the implication that she did not return, which is untrue and disrespectful to her, she returned within 30 seconds she told me. However despite the significant change no-one from the 'Ship of Fools' has contacted me to apologise or even offer any explanation for their original mendacious posting.

However a few people whose Churches were trashed by this website have been in contact, they have told me that their complaints have just been shrugged off or treated with contempt. I realise that the only reason why this Ship of Fools bothered to change our review in our case was because I have the ability to punch back on this blog, most of their other victims do not have this ability.

There is something very sinister not just in the image of Ship of Fools mystery shopper, a grinning bandit but seeing liturgy as a consumer product is sinister, rather than the source and summit of a Church's life. Liturgy is debased if it is just seen as show which is how these Fools present it.

It is from our liturgy that vocations spring, currently from us more than any other parish in our diocese, from our liturgy that we care for the poor and the homeless: over seven thousand five hundred people fed last year and from our liturgy we are able to offer help through Brighton Voices in Exile to hundreds of asylum seekers and victims of torture each year and from our liturgy that the deep prayer life and sanctity of many of our parishioners grows. To simply treat liturgy as an entertainment, with a 'cast' of performers is a blasphemous affront. Using an anonymous correspondent to do this seems to be the worst kind of misuse of the internet, it is simply trolling.

We are certainly happy to have casual visitors but we expect them to come to worship, that is not what the Ship of Fools representative did. I know nothing of this organisation, the reviewer, I suspect like all their other reviewers, seems to be of a certain age, I bet there is no-one under thirty on their staff. Their website is messy, I think it is supposed to be humorous but it its humour is tired, it has nothing to say about the Church today. Tiredness seems to be a mark of this website, it was founded in 1997 and probably hasn't changed much. Hardly surprising that their correspondent with a stage Irish name, "Bunbury O'Remus", which I find offensive, is concerned about maniples, or lighting fittings rather than those sleeping rough or going hungry on our Brighton streets or having nightmares because of their torture in Syria or Zimbabwe. As one of my parishioners who was outraged by the mendacity of the original review said, "Their review seemed like a one night stand rather than a member of a family". Well if Ship of Fools is about one night stands, it is hardly a night of passion, more the mechanical acts of a tired old prostitute, that hawks her unwanted wares from parish to parish each week in the expectation someone might give her a handful of small change.

Their site does not show much joy at the Ship of Fools; it is tired, joyless and desperately dull! My score 1 out of 10, and I am being generous. It tags itself as being "self-critical" and "Christian", maybe once it was, now it is formulaic and dull, and not a little self-referential. Possibly once it might have made Christians think, those days are long gone. Perhaps as some of you have suggested, I should not waste my time discussing this website, and giving it space here only gives it publicity but as I say it is mendacious, that always needs addressing.

see Eccles on The Ship of Liars.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Mendacious Ship

I don't know what you do when someone's phone goes off, normally I ignore it, if it goes on for an extended period I make some comment, I tend to scowl if it happens during an exquisite piece of music that others have spent a great deal of time preparing, it is just contemptuous. I have been to the opera where this has happened and the conductor has stopped the orchestra and demanded the owner leave. I am told that at the theatre, it is not unusual for the action to stop until the phone is turned off to the glares of the cast.

Here recently after 30 seconds of ringing, I finally had to turn round and ask for a phone to be turned off, and I suggest they drowned the instrument. Its owner, a sweet lady, thought it was someone else's. That morning we had reviewer from some on-line site in the congregation who obviously hated our style of worship, who mendaciously, presumably for the sake of making copy, said he/she had heard me saying sotto voce, 'and drown yourself too', out Master of Ceremonies drew my attention to the on-line piece, he was standing next to me and heard no such thing, he was shocked by the untruth, in fact he pointed out I was smiling at the time. It is sad that people who obviously 'have issues' tell lies that are placed in a public forum. The lady went into the porch and turned her phone off then came back in, and apologised on her way out at the end of Mass, she did not as the reviewer says 'leave the Church never to return', that again is mendacious, perhaps the editor might like to explain?

I find something cheap about reviewing worship, as some consumer product, as one might review a restaurant or a vacuum cleaner, that is not what we are about. There is obviously some agenda behind the 'review' and it is obviously not a very Catholic one.

There is assumption that Mass or any other service begins not with prayer, spiritual preparation and recollection but chatter. We used to have people handing out newsletters and Mass sheets but people complained, as they seemed to disturb people preparing for Mass, and seemed the main source of pre-Mass chatter, we decided to discontinue the practice, leaving the necessary bits of paper for people to collect at the back of the church for people to help themselves, much as they do at most Catholic church's, for example St Peter's in Rome. I might be biased but like most men I don't want to be engaged in conservation when I enter a Church, in a shop I stop browsing and  leave when someone asks, 'Can I help you?'

It is more than indicative in the review that Mass, or I as I would prefer it 'the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass', is referred to simply as 'mass', and although the author is obviously familiar with the vesting prayers, (which would suggest either a former priest or a High Anglican). He/she is disturbed by the presence of a maniple, which perhaps is an indicator of a certain age. I tend to wear what my sacristan lays out, and most young people simply don't know the names of most bits of liturgical haberdashery.

He/she obviously didn't like my sermon, it was about prayer and its effects, especially taking fear away, it was loosely based on Cassian, the Gospel was Jesus asleep in the ship, and yes I did encourage people to take part in 40 Hours, but only as a minor part of what I was saying. I am not sure I 'scold and frighten' anyone but obviously that is what the reviewer felt, perhaps they should listen to Pope Francis' sermons from Sta Marta. I was pleased that although the he/she obviously hated what I said, a handful of people were quite complimentary, one visitor was even kind enough to say she thought it was best sermon on prayer she had ever heard. It was 'dogmatic' but the Catholic faith is dogmatic, 'fluffy' can be got elsewhere.

I suspect the reviewer had an aversion to prayer, I am not sure they actually did stay to the very end of Mass, as they claim. It is my custom I stay at the back of the church to say good-bye, there is only one door, and the mystery visitor, let us not call them a worshipper because the plainly weren't here to do what everyone else is here to do, did not see me when they left and were unable to see the very clear signs identifying our 'Parish Centre' where coffee was served.

From where or what denomination does the term 'pew letter' come from, it is not a term I have ever heard before, certainly not a Catholic term in this part of the world. Anyhow, I am glad he/she enjoyed the music and our lighting fittings, and I am glad we 'scored', according to our MC, the same score as most Catholic churches he and I would choose to attend if I wasn't here.

Perhaps the Ship of Fools might review their reviewers, I don't object to people who disagree with me, or even people who hate everything I stand for but I despise lying, and I am not a great fan of anonymous criticism on the internet, I always put my name to things I write, it is the Christian way. Perhaps too they might review the questions they ask, I would be more concerned that a celebration of the Mass moved me to fall in wonder and worship before the Triune God and whether it caused me to pray for myself and the intercede for the world.

There is a kinder review here, but then Amy came to worship.

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...