Saturday, October 31, 2015

Doctors of the Law and the Spirit of Trent

The Holy Father and the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr Adolfo Nicolas SJ

Thinking about the Holy Father's use of the phrase, 'Doctors of the Law', I have been wondering who they are. It is not unrelated to the growing thought that one of the most significant changes post Vatican II is the disenfranchisement of parents or the broader family in teaching the faith to children. It goes back to an experience I had over thirty years ago, when as a young deacon I was given the task of preparing for Holy a group of Irish traveller children.

The children did occasionally attend school but it tended to be a dozen or so different schools within a year, their parents were more or less illiterate, and of the children the girls tended to read better than the boys, who as soon as they were strong enough ended up working with their fathers. Religion seemed to be a matriarchal, there was family Rosary, which men joined in but it was led by the grandmother. Grandmother too was the chief catechist, she had taught herself to read, but had committed most of the Penny Catechism to memory. The children she catechised, knew or rather had committed to memory most of the catechism. Her catechetical method was simply, the children sat around her and were interrogated. 'Who made you?' the right answer, the child got a sweet from the bowl on her lap, the wrong answer a not very heavy tap on the arm from the wooden spoon also in her lap.

My role was not so much to teach the faith but to teach them how to behave in church. Though they understood the importance of attending Mass, it was boring and their itinerant lifestyle made weekly attendance difficult and prejudice made them feel unwelcomed. They were good at praying but pretty bad at sitting still and listening. I have occasionally come across this family since, the last time was a few months ago when some of them turned to Mass on the twentieth anniversary of their grandfathers death. There was a different matriarch, the earlier grandmother had I presumed died, the new one came with a gang of sons and a few daughters, none received Holy Communion, all lit candles at Communion time, and after Mass all were waiting outside the confessional.

The way they lived they lived and understood the faith, seemed to be how Catholics had passed on the faith for centuries. It was part of an oral tradition handed down in a matriarchal non-literate society. Church buildings were important as places to pray, priests were important as givers of grace but it was the family that was the most important factor in both worship and catechesis. Somehow I think that they were spared much by not being literate, by having little contact with schools or churches.

The interesting phenomena of American academics complaining in a letter to the New York Times about Ross Douthat writing on theological or ecclesiological issues seems emblematic of an ecclesial life that has become, and seems to be coming increasingly top down, It is faith which is handed down by experts or specialists rather than bubbles up, which I would suggest is profoundly un-Catholic. It is as far from St Vincent of Lerrins' understanding of the Catholic faith as having 'been believed everywhere, always, by all'. It is elitist, not at all like the inverted pyramid that the Pope has described.

Just as we each have a guardian angel and perhaps a guardian devil, so each Council seems to have one. Vatican Two the spirit of Relativism, Vatican One the spirit of Ultramontanism, perhaps Trent had the spirit of Didacticism. Some have suggested that Councils do more damage than good, it certainly seems that a Council attempts to clear up the house and expel the demon that occupied it only to discover that the demon returns with seven more.

Jesuit general congregation at the Vatican
Is it noteworthy that the anti-Douthat letter was signed by a significant number of Jesuits? Was it not the Jesuits who changed the Church from a place of worship into a schoolroom? I would never argue that Catholics should not know the faith but the encounter with God, though it involves the whole person, is chiefly about a heart to heart encounter, an experience of Grace, where God himself is the foremost teacher. Trent was a response to the polemicism of the Protestant Reformers, and the Reformation itself was about faith being taken out of the home or the parish church and taken into the hands of the specialists, the Doctors of the Law such as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and Cranmer. It moved from the heart to the printed page, from, something gained from books rather than something past on within the culture itself.
I wonder when the definition of a theologian moved from the patristic 'one who prays is a theologian, a theologian is one who prays', to a theologian is one with a degree in theology. with a certificate on his wall. It marks a radical change, a movement from theology as the fruit of a relationship to one in which God becomes something to be spoken about rather than spoken with, a mere phenonemon, an academic discipline cut free of  a personal relationship. Jesuitism has always had poor regard for liturgy from it foundation, the first order not to celebrate the Office in choir. The great influence of the Jesuits on the liturgy was to remove choir stalls from our churches and replace them with pulpits. The focus becoming not the prayer of the brethren but the words of the specialist, the trained preacher. As necessary as this might of been it was a disenfranchisement of ordinary Catholics.

The wise Fr Mark Kirby gives an illustration of the development of this didacticism in this article about the Rosary facing the people. I was bemused recently by a layman showing a fragment of a Saxon altar who said something about a saint 'preaching from that altar'. The truth is that at that period preaching would have taken place rarely and probably less likely in the liturgy than the chapter house or the back of church  or the market square but never from the altar, The phrase shows what we have come to, no-one can be trusted to pray without the intervention of a 'Doctor of the Law', the liturgy itself is not of value for its real purpose, to worship but as a setting for teaching.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Age of Parrhesia

I hate going to London, I had to cross it to get to Ware for the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy Colloquium, nice pictures on Fr Tim's blog and an account on Fr Eds.

The train and Victoria station was packed. I had vague sinful thoughts of forbidding half terms. I actually have a scratch on my leg caused by a Muslim lady pushing a big push chair, not because I was a priest just that she wasn't looking and was distracted by another child and dragging a suitcase. Just to get a breath of fresh air I walked along Buckingham Palace Road to get to the underground, just to get some air, it was as bad. Because of my earlier experience, I became aware of the number of women in ha-jibs. In the anonymity of the mass of people in the city what identified people was the outward religious signs, women veils, and me in my roman collar. I felt a little intimidated, a Christian among Muslims it was the blood, not much, trickling down my leg, and then walking towards me there was an Christian woman, wearing a mantilla over her hair but with a large and elaborate Eritraen cross tattooed on her forehead. The Islamic veil both hides and reveals identity, subsuming it under a religious symbol but she revealed who she was, she was unable to avoid its proclamation. She was well past her youth but she seemed like the embodiment of the Church sent into the world to proclaim the faith indelibly and eternally marked on her smiling face.

One of things I admire about Pope Francis is his call for parrhesia, open and fearless speech. Perhaps the saddest thing about the Synod is that when certain Cardinals did exercise parrhesia those who presented themselves as Pope Francis' allies both in the Synod and outside immediately railed against them as the disloyal enemies of the Pope. In the mad world of any court it is not those who communicate unpleasant truths but those sycophants who drizzle honey into a rulers ear that are the most dangerous, they drag him into their own rather unpleasant world. In the Church they are the one's who protect their backs, the one's who are more committed to their ecclesiastical careers rather than service either to the teaching of Jesus Christ or his people. These are the one's who the Pope should be lambasting as 'Pharisees' or 'Doctor's of the Law', these are the true 'leprous courtiers'.

 See full-sized image  The Synod having produced such an ambiguous final document, now should be the age of Parrhesia, of openly standing up for Christ and the truths of the faith. We have seen the great damage done by men like Cardinal Danneels who covered up sexual abuse to the point of urging a victim to keep quiet, presumably, "for the sake of the Church" but of course in doing so he damaged even further the credibility of the Belgium Church. The Pope is supporting Bishop Juan Barros Madrid which seems to be destroying both his and the Church's credibility in Chile. The institution of the Church was called into being by Christ for one purpose, to be a witness to the truth. 'The Church ceases to be the Church when it preaches the Church', when its looses its true purpose and becomes concerned more with its own protection and careers of its clergy.

Vertical shot of a male priest holding finger on lips : Stock Photo
Christian children are today being butchered and crucified because they will not renounce the name of Jesus, they die with it on their lips. It seems to me to be terrible thing that whilst they are dying clergy, bishops and priests, are afraid to raise their voices and hide behind the Church or institutions in the Church. The blood of children which pours out into the dust and their dispossessed parents will condemn the cowardice of clergy who are afraid of their bishops disapproval or the frostiness of their peers or even papal displeasure if the raise their voices.

That splendid letter of the 500 priest of which I was so pleased to be signatory, I am told that many clergy who shared our hopes and intention were afraid to sign it because of fear of their bishop or their brother clergy. Maybe I am mad but a priest is supposed to be a proclaimer of the truth not a whispering conspirator hiding in the shadows. It is sad when the greatest skill a seminarian learns and often considered the best advice that is given him is, 'keep your head down'.

What was that about perfect love casts out fear in 1 John, if we afraid what is wrong with our love?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Victory Ball

I am at St Edmund's College, Ware, formerly the diocese of Westminster's seminary, now a rather good school. I am here for the any colloquium of the Confraternity of Catholic Cergy, though one my presume it was a meeting for clergy bloggers, for some reason most of us seem to be here.

One of the masters here told me his son was recently at Mass in my church following a renactment of Waterloo Victory Ball in the Royal Pavillion. We always have a rather nice dinner, the eighty or so of us here, didn't quite have a ball but there was certainly a sense of celebration and optimism for Catholicism, following the Synod. As most of us would happily want to be buried with Newman's Biglietto Speech clasped in our hands to my mind there was a sense of first victory, a sense that despite everything done to determine otherwise the Church is still Catholic, still eternal, still truthful. There might be a few skirmishes to ensure that whatever comes out of the Synod is interpretted according to Catholic principles, but that as all of those very bright theologians, historians and canonists in our ranks say is the way in which it can be interpretted by anyone, including the Bishop of Rome.

One of the clergyhere ddid suggest that if only His Holinness had thought to invite Cardinal Burke to join the drafting committee of the final document any ambiguity might have been avoided. I am sure the Pope shares this regret.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Michael Voris the American Polemicist

Don't you find Michael Voris 'STB', the most irritating man? I do, but all the same I find him almost compulsive viewing. Whenever I do it is important to remember he is an American polemicist. Some of his broadcasts on the Synod were really very good. In his latest video he suggests that the crisis with our bishops goes back to Pope St John Paul and Benedict, myself I think it goes back much, much further.

The problem is being Pope you can't be in control of everything, you are not the US president, I think unfortunately this is how Michael, like many Americans sees his role. What frames the politics of the Church as much as any government is 'events'. As for bishops a pope can only select from the candidates presented to him, unless he has special knowledge of a particular Church, or the qualities of particular people. Even so the Pope is not the chief executive of the Church, as Benedict said rather sadly to Bp Fellay for the most part his authority stops at the door of his study. In theory the Pope has limitless authority, in practce because he has to act through others and with the co-operation of others, by them can be seriously and severely limited - to the point of impotency.

There is the story that Pope John Paul when presented the with names of Lehman and Kasper to be made Cardinals, at first refused but then was told if he did not give them the red hat, there would be no German money for the reconstruction of the Polish Church. The problem for John Paul was that the Secretariate of State had under Cardinal Casaroli from 1979 -1990 had continued the embrace real-politik, the policy that meant that Vatican II made not a single mention of Communism. Though John Paul had taken control of the Secretariate's relations with the States, it still remained in control of presenting the Pope with the names of future bishops. The saint notoriously, I think, put episcopal appointments low on his list of priorities.

Voris, I think in his black and white way, is not entirely fair to Pope Benedict either, many of those who were created Cardinal by Benedict were actually already in Cardinalatial Sees. One has to remember of course the terrible feuding andd factonalising that broke out during John Paul's long illness, for Benedict this was the time of the wolves, Voris forgets that for much of Benedict's reign the Secretariate of State was in open rebellion. He forgets the difficulty of simply getting Sodano, Casaroli's successor, out of the Cardinal Secretaries apartments, which give access to the Pope's apartments - one reason for Francis' move. He forgets the refusal of many of Sodano's appointees to even speak to Bertone, let alone work with him, which I am sure in part consequently led to Bertone's own ineffectuality. By the way Bertone's memoirs were supposed to be due out this summer, they should have been an explosive reading, has anyone heard anything of them? Is he waiting for an appropriate time?

Benedict might well be as guilty as Voris suggests but one has to remember, Benedict's fundamental idea, that truth always is eventually victorious,  he believed in the Tradition. As for his resignation history will tell whether it was good or bad. Voris as an American conservative sees it as bad. I as a European trad am open to wait and see. Conservatives see things in the short term, trads look at the Tradition, I think we tend to be more flexible and more radical. As I keep saying Vatican One's idea of the Papacy is far from the inflated Ultramontanism we have today, or certainly distant from the teaching of Vatican I. Benedict's resignation is a way, I hope, of rethinking the papacy, and returning it to its more traditional purpose.

Incdently Voris earlier in the year was attacking Cardinal Dolan for his support of the New York St Patrick's day parade. A priest of Dolan's diocese, not a great supporter of his Archbishop, told me that the Catholic organisers of the parade were very concerned that it was becoming secularised - hence the inclusion of an LGBT group - they wanted Dolan to take part as Grand Marshall to reassert the Catholicism of the parade and the more orthodox party on the committee. It wasn't as Voris played it, that Dolan was (necessarily) supportive of the agenda of those who took part, on the contrary he was supportive of the Catholic party.

I admire Cardinal Pell

I admire Cardinal Pell. During the Synod he acted with great courage. For many of us he acts as a sign that people like him still have a place in the Church, Here, he gives an orthodox reading of the Synod's final document's more contentious passages, of course not everyone will understand them as Pell does, and probably they are not meant to be read in this light.

Rome can be pretty vindictive place, especially nowadays. I suspect that grubbing around in the vaults of Vatican banking, he has discovered enough to ensure that his back is well protected.
All of my parishioners are pretty unique and I had a long telephone call from one yesterday who had been following Synod, she read the documents in Italian, and came up with the opposite reading of Cardinal Pell. Her concern was whether she could in conscience remain in the Church, she seemed to have Archbishop's Cupich's understanding of conscience. Like this writer she too was fed up with nagging and felt it was all aimed at her.

Considering that he had stuffed the Synod with members who would hate all that Pell stood for, this will be the understanding Pope Francis will eventually take. It is precisely because of the Pope's own packing of the Synod with his liberal nominees that I think the Synod was a victory for Catholics and a defeat for Liberalism, especially as Catholics, bishops especially, by instinct want to be in the Pope's party.

Practically all of those delegates elected by Episcopal Conferences seemed to hold a more or less Catholic position, whilst many of the Papal nominees did not. Having followed the Synod reasonably closely, I am beginning to have an increased respect for world's bishops, many might be badly formed but I am an old 'traddie', I believe the sacraments have an effect, which can be resisted, but once a man is ordained bishop, he tends to act as one.

For the good of the Church, I have two hopes for the next few months, first that the Pope looks to the unity of the Church, which has been seriously damaged recently, and secondly, that he finds an alternative to his negative carping and condemnatory style - anyone want to start a petition?

Pope Francis delivers his speech during a special audience he held for members of Catholic medical associations

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Synod Not of Liberalism

I've had a few emails, many expressing fear as to what the Synod will comer up with this afternoon. I know who is drafting the final document, which doesn't fill me with much hope, I am a bit concerned that people like Cardinal Garcia is saying that a lot of the decisions will be left up to the Pope, and what says will be determined by which corner he has been painted into, and how much flexibility he actually has, in fact to put it crudely, what he can get away with.

I am still perplexed by Francis, he is typical of his generation, and especially of that most idiosyncratic of religious orders. the Jesuits, he seems a divided soul, mistrusting that which gave him birth. I think that he will be anxious about unity, and anxious to be ambiguous or inclusive. For someone who has a limited pastoral experience, who seems hide-bound by his experience of the Church in Argentina and briefly in Germany, who is seriously handicapped linguistically to Spanish and Italian I can understand him being cautious, even frightened to come out with clarity, besides that is not his way. I can understand his concern up until now has been to keep the Teutons and the more liberal exponents of South American theology in the Church. I think he might have been surprised at how Catholic many of the bishops actually are, and what they want.

I have been struck by how inarticulate liberals are, but then the thing is that there is no liberal consensus. Liberalism is essentially a critique of orthodoxy and as such it has no  substance whilst the orthodox arguments are well rooted and honed, are tested and are not an untried experiment. The nagging S Martha sermons, so often criticising orthodoxy and the orthodox, are certainly in that critical sense liberal. So often liberals are surprisingly not liberal, that often manifests itself in tyranny and the promotion personal and eccentric notions. However that is not always so, one example: in England and Wales the move to re-introduce Friday abstinence was pushed by the most liberal of our bishops. From what I know of him, he was my bishop, it wasn't to promote orthodoxy or for a spiritual reason, but rather it made 'sociological' sense, but what matters is not what he intended but what God does through fasting and penance.  Basing theology on sociology rather than Revelation, is certainly a characteristic of liberalism. The strange think is Catholicism makes sense, Liberalism ultimately doesn't, it is empty fruitless and destructive, it has nothing to say to the world, the young actually find it off putting, patronising and destructive.

For those who are feeling despondent -WAIT the Church has a long history and probably a longer future! Councils, Synods, Popes might say a lot but not much is heard, and even less is accepted, and even less implemented. Wait because what was clear Africa is the ascendant. At the Counter-reformation it was Spain and Italy, before VII it was Germany and France, after it South America, now it is Africa. Dare I suggest it, it was that Archbishop, that Apostolic Delegate for French speaking Africa, who was so keen on promoting native clergy, so keen on promoting sound seminaries and sound catechesis, that he managed to set fire to Africa, and the flame still burns brightly. I suspect this was not yet the triumph of orthodoxy but it was a defeat for Liberalism - but wait, be patient.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Synod of Neuralgic Introspection

I have sympathy for those who perturbed by what the Synod might come up with, and what the Pope might say or do. I can understand those who ask what the purpose of the Synod was, I don't know what the Pope really wanted, that is a closed book, and likely to be closed forever. It is easier to speculate what God wants, we have more clues.

The Synod has revealed the mess that already exists in the Church, the diversity of pastoral practice, the diversity of opinions, the diversity of orthodoxies, and heterodoxies too. Many will argue why not just leave these swept under the carpet and pretend we are united.

From what I know about God he is not into dumb-shows or pretending anything. Before he is the God of surprises he is the God of truth and transparency, of honesty and integrity. One of the things that surprises me is how little the Synod Fathers have spoken about God himself, about grace, about salvation, about the supernatural, or even conversion. That is at least honest, today's Church is not that concerned about these things either, so no wonder we are obsessed by being "where we are at" rather than the more hope filled, "where God desires us to be" and "where God empowers us to be". In our characteristic, neo-Jansenist Western way, we are obsessed with wounds and blood and individuals suffering or sentimentality rather than the blinding light of the Transfiguration or the Resurrection, or the transforming fire of Pentecost. We concentrate on our sin rather than his grace, on what is below rather than what is from above. The Synod reflected perfectly the neuralgic introspection of the Church of 20th century Europe, so many interventions echoed its death rattle, scratching the itch of its own indisposition.

The two noted highlights of the Synod came from the other lung of the Church from the East, one was from Dr. Anca-Maria Cernea, from Romania and the other from the Russian Orthodox Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, both were critical of the place where the Church is at, both called the Church to be faithful, prophetic and counter cultural. I do doubt that we are capable in the Church's present situation of responding to them or even hearing them.

Pope Francis arrives for a plenary session at the Synod on the Family - ANSAThe crisis is one of unity, there have been calls for 'regionalisation' or 'decentralisation' but that is precisely what we have. It strikes me the Pope, in rather Jesuitical way, merely wants to codify or legislate for something that actually already exists. The alternative is to let things continue as they are, to let the dirt, as it were, to continue to be swept under the carpet. By lifting the carpet the floor can either be swept or more dirt added. possibly with additional bits of debris, I like many fear the latter.

The role of the Bishop of Rome is to be the chief floor sweeper, to say 'no', to say which Churches or doctrines are so far beyond the pale that they have broken communion with him or are heretical. The next crisis, possibly the next Synod ought to be on his role. It strikes me that the Ultramontane spirit of Vatican One, is both far from what has been Catholic Tradition or what that Council actually defined. The Pope is not an innovator or an introducer of novelties, nor is his personal whim, as Cardinal Wuerl, would have it, is the touchstone of orthodoxy.

I wonder if the Church was better off, when presumably in the first few centuries no-one outside of Rome knew his name, or if he had been martyred and replaced, or sent to the mines, or as in the pornocracy one was uncertain of who the Pope was but knew he must be either having a relationship with, or was related to, the harlot Morazia. I think of Moore and Fisher defending the Papacy, yet being scandalised by the Pope or during the modern period knowing the Pope was either pawn of either the Spanish, the French, or an appointee of the Austro-Hungarians. The post Vatican II papacy seems unworkable. The liturgical reforms were not the work of the Council but of the Papam vult of the post-Concilliar Liturgical Concilliam, with all the shady dealing Bouyer reveals. The Presidential style of 'fat pope, thin pope' seems to shake the Church's unity not guarantee it..

I am beginning to feel the great legacy Benedict left us with was his resignation, the idea that the Papacy was not actually linked to a particular man, and certainly not to his preferences or to his whims, but to an institution, ultimately to Church of Rome. With the dismantling of so much, especially the Liturgical Tradition itself, one is left asking 'what is it that makes us Catholic'. Cardinal Wuerl says that those who disagree with 'reform' don't like the Pope. I love him, I pray for him, I try to understand him but liking him has never been the touchstone of Catholicism. Will Wuerl "like" the next Pope, (even if he were Cardinal Burke), or will he cease to be a Catholic? Closet liberal that I am, I am beginning to wonder if the Papacy could maintained but actually exercised a group of Roman Presbyters, maybe it could be a requirement that only the senile ever sat on the Papal throne, or maybe an individual elected for a brief time, say six months, then replaced, or some stylite who comes of his pillar a only few times a year. Absurd ideas, I admit it... but...,.

Image result for kittens
Look at these kittens - would you deny them the Eucharist? I couldn't, would you?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Synod of Mistrust

Very different kind of Pope Francis comforts a child last week AP

I had a long conversation with a priest friend who told me his former boss now acts as a spiritual director amongst the Roman diocesan clergy and is deeply worried about their low morale. I can well imagine that those Sta Martha sermons, which have been published in a huge volume, tend to be critical and finger pointing rather than up building, even in their modified Vatican Radio form.

 See full-sized image  Meanwhile, in a move reminiscent of Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui's tweet that Pope Benedict had cancer, Fr Lombardi has been forced to deny that Francis has a brain rumour. Reminders of mortality upset rulers and undermine their collaborators. Chaouqui's remark about Benedict seemed to be the first step in the winding down the Ratzinger Papacy, though Chaouqui herself still continues as an influential Vatican consultant under Francis.

Papacies are by nature short and limited and for all the Pope's discomfort with it he is a prisoner of the Vatican. He communicates to the world through others and hears about the world through others. For a Pope who has allowed himself to be allied to the German cause, its reported failure at the Synod is a failure for the Papacy of Francis.

What seems to have been at the heart of the Synod and its point of crisis is nothing to do with the issues on the table, nothing to do with family or homosexuals or communion, it is trust. Trust has broken down, no-one trusts the people who report the Synod's discussions. Fr Lombardi and his crew seem more about obfuscation than clarity. Fr Rosica, his English speaking side-kick, has become a twitter by-word for bullying and is seen as presenting of his own pro-gay agenda. Both are seen as presenting the 'spirit' of the Synod, not the Synod itself. In the same way most, if not all of  those who are entrusted with responsibility by the Pope, like Cardinal Baldissieri and Archbishop Forte and other papal appointees, are regarded either as being corrupt or part of the 'gay-lobby'. They are simply not trusted.

The great divide between the Germans and most of the rest of the Synod again underlines a break-down in trust, it is unfortunate that the Pope has allowed himself to be seen as allied to the German cause.

Cardinal-BaldisseriTo an observer, mistrust seems to be at the heart of the Synod. There is a great contrast between those of a 'liberal' perspective and those who oppose them. The trouble is that the 'liberals' are incredibly inarticulate, rather like poor old Cardinal Dew or Cardinal Wuerl or even our own Bishop Doyle, who has never struck me as being in the avant guard of revolutionary, or even contemporary, thought. What are they saying? The truth is no-one knows, which means they inspire and capture no-one's imagination, no-one will die for what they have to say, no-one will commit themselves to what they have to say, because ultimately they have nothing to say. It is merely vacuous prattle, which breeds confusion and becomes like the Holy Father's, which tend to be nagging rather than edifying.

Contrast these men with the voices that come from Africa, the growing, vital, faith-filled Churches, of which Cardinals Napier and Sarah are obvious examples, Like it not, they call people, including the Synod Fathers to something authentic, the voice of Christ. We've looked towards France and the Low Countries at the beginning of the 20th century and then towards Germany and then towards Latin America. Are we now going to look towards sub-Saharan Africa for a new and relevant way to understand our Faith.

 See full-sized image  I recently attended a diocesan seminar on 'Mercy'. It was remarkably good and three of our diocesan priests spoke. It's background - but not its source, was Cardinal Kasper's book on 'Mercy'. What struck me with my own reading of the book was that the Cardinal treats mercy as a phenomena. He calls it the 'key hermeneutic of God' and regards it as being the major attribute of God.  His weakness, I feel, is that he deals with it as a divine attribute, rather than the Incarnate Word of God.

The visceral or tender God glimpsed in the Old Testament is actually a Person, not a phenomena. It is Jesus Christ. We Christians are called not to have a relationship with a philosophical, or even a theological, idea but with a Person, we aspire to or think about a phenomena, we love a person and have a relationship with him.  This, I think, is a great weakness of Kasperism as opposed to the great Ratzingerian concept of a return to the Person of Jesus Christ. It is this Person of Jesus Christ of course that the African Bishops are actually pushing forward and that seems to be winning at the Synod - not an attribute or a phenomena, but a Person.  It is the Person of Jesus who saves.

In an age where people seem to be starved of relationships, perhaps the way forward for the Church is not to talk in terms of theological concepts, or of phenomena, but of the very Person of Jesus Christ, not even to speculate on what He might have said, but on what He actually said. This seems to be the dividing point in the Synod.  Those who stand for Christ are for those who stand for something appertaining to Christ.

In a Church where confusion and disorder and inexactitude and even chaos seem to be present, where leadership in recent years has had a history of being untrustworthy - for this seems to be the great problem with out bishops over recent years - and the Church is weakened and seems entirely without hope to many bishops and clergy, it is to the Person of Jesus that we must return to, which was the concept that Ratzinger based his papacy on. Christ is our only hope. there is no hope for us but Christ. This is what the African bishops and the powerful voices at the Synod seem to be saying. This is possibly not what observers see in Pope Francis. Francis articulates well the call to mercy, a call that is heard among the peripheries, but in the heart of the Church what people seem to be searching for is the Person of Jesus Christ, not a simple phenomena like mercy, but the Mercy of Jesus in His Incarnation and the power of His grace to transform.

Nigerian Cardinal John Onaiyekan has said he would not be surprised to see an African pope in his lifetime.Confusion ('hagan lio') tends to destroy trust rather than build it up. Faith is dependent on trust. People believed the Apostles because they found them trustworthy witnesses. They were called not to have faith in the Apostles but Jesus Christ.

Is one of the problems of the Francis papacy that we are called to trust him, rather than his Master. Is one of the problems with the Francis papacy that will inevitably lead it to its doom, that he has surrounded himself with men who prove themselves to be untrustworthy. A dreadful truth is you can tell a man by his friends.

Will we be able trust the Papacy after it all?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Two Thoughts for the Synod

Just a couple of thoughts for the Synod Fathers that seem to be forgotten
Austrian priest with the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar
Doctrine and pastoral practice are both expressions of the Faith, by changing pastoral practice one can change the faith but retain the outward expression of the doctrine. We can sing the Hymns of Corpus Christi without believing a word of them, many do. Who would suggest the daughters of Ss Louis and Marie-Zelie Guerin Martin believed the same on their first Communion day as the South American child who broke the sacred Host in half to give to his twice married father, the story according the Vatican press office had the Synod Fathers in tears.

We can recite the Creed for example, when we as Catholics say we 'believe in one, holy catholic and apostolic Church', we believe something different from Anglicans or Lutherans, doctrine might remains the same but faith depends on living out that doctrine in the Liturgy, our spiritual lives and our pastoral practice.

by the hand of Sarkis Bidzag 14th cent.

We are saved or justified according to Trent "by faith fruitful in good works".

We are given faith in Jesus Christ, the Son,
as a free gift of the Father
and by the action of the Holy Spirit this faith bears fruit in 'good works' so that we might live out the Gospel.
We are not saved by faith, a personal relationship, alone, nor by 'good works' going good, being nice but 'by grace fruitful in good works'. God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved but by the name of Jesus.
Have some of the Synod Father's forgotten this basic tenet of Catholicism? Grace gives us the strength to resist and overcome sin. Grace gives us the strength to live holy lives as Jesus taught. If we cannot live according to the Gospel, do we really have faith? Faith calls us from death to life.

It is loss of this of doctrine Grace and its replacement by the heresy of 'Gradualism' that has damaged Catholic theology most seriously.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A National Church #1

I suppose that we might continue to sing, "Unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam" but as 'diversity' increases as the new fashion, then possibly we should be singing about believing in "multas ecclesias". This argument about 'one' and 'many' has been going on since I was a seminarian, it was the urs-argument between Ratzinger and Kasper, and although Ratzinger's raising to the Apostolic throne seemed to show the triumph of the 'one' camp, yesterdays speech by the present incumbent shows that there is victory for Kasper and Germany, who follow the 'many' camp. Apparently there have been rather grand banquets in Cdn Marx's grand Rome palatio, whether these are to scheme or celebrate the victory, no-one knows.

So here we are back in the 1970s arguing about the position of deckchairs and looking 'ad intra', returning to the 'safe' squabbles that distract from the Church's teaching and mission, and will be consumed for many years by the churches policies. Rather than having one leprous court in Rome, each Episcopal Conference, each Metropolitan will have their own leprous court, with their own highly paid leprous courtiers, and if they can't afford them then priests will be called in from celebrating the sacraments and preaching to assume the duties of leprous court officials. Powerful or rich Churches of course will have their own quasi-embassies in Rome, to put their position to the Pope and to influence the other Churches. Rather than removing bureaucracy we will layer upon layer to it.

The obvious area for national Churches to be given increasing influence is in the nomination of bishops, and possibly the deposition of heretical or troublesome bishops. There are obvious advantages, they can act as 'brothers, dwelling in harmony', but for us England and elsewhere it means a return to an excluding 'Magic Circle', with all the dangers of nepotism or patronage: both Cormac and Vin are the political progeny  of Archbishop Warlock, they were both his secretaries.

If the CDF is diminished presumably national Churches will be free to develop their own local theologies, with no appeal to Rome against heresy - God help us - it will be a free for all.

If CDW is abolished or diminished, then Liturgy will develop along national lines - there will be no need to ask if lay people can preach. No need to restrict the role of odd or extraordinary ministers or of who might or might not receive the Sacraments, we will just refer to the local bishop or bishops.In the same way we in the English speaking world, if it wasn't for Rome would still be stuck with those dreadful post-Concilliar translations.

What I fear as a priest is there will be no appeal to Rome if my bishop is heretical or just plain cruel, just an appeal to the Bishop's Conference, who may or may not be his mates rather than mine and may or may not share his cruelty or moral turpitude.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Synod of Madness

The more I read from the Synod, the madder it all seems Who let Archbishop Cupich make his first Holy Communion, let alone ordained him, have you read him on individual conscience? I can't recogise it as being Catholic. Substitute pederast or necrophile or bestiophiles, along with mass murderers, Klu Klux Klan members, people traffickers and members of the Mafia  for the categories of people he would 'accompany' (what does that really mean?) and admit to Holy Communion and see where his thesis leads, "the individuals conscience is supreme" - lunacy!. I thought the inarticulate and unchatechised Cardinal Dew was bad enough. Who appoints these men? Oh!

Now if I had a choice I would brand them both as heretics and not be in Communion with either, I am in Commnion with them because I am in Communion with my Bishop and we are both in Communion with the Bishop of Rome. Now there has been some talk of the Pope dissolving the Catholic Church into national Churches, or Churches based Bishops Conferences. It seems pretty obvious that if all the bishops of he USA were like Cupich or those of New Zealand like Dew some National Churches would simply not be Communion with either. If such local Churches were left to go their own way, how long before the German Church and the Polish Church were excommunicating one another? And even within National Churches could Chaput and Cupich really survive in Communion for long.

This really is madness, take the Polish German situation, imagine if all the Marxian-Kasperite proposals were followed to their logical conclusion and across the border Poland followed the course the Polish bishops laid down at the Synod. Would Polish bishops accept German annulments? Would they accept German marriages? How long before they refused to acknowledge German orders or admit Germans to Communion? Would the Poles not say the that they were not only not in Communion with the German Church but also not in Communion with those who maintained Communion with Germans? Wouldn't the Poles set up parishes and even dioceses in Germany where their own people living in Germany could safely receive valid sacraments?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Sower of Doubts

Francis effect: In the last couple of weeks, since the publication of "Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus" I have had five people asking me about the validity of their marriage, it very occasionally happened before. My concern is these are good practising Catholics, and the marriages are perfectly valid. This isn't a large parish and there are far fewer families than in most parishes.
Is this the experience of other priests?

Vatican Chess

I think it must be a dreadful burden being Pope, after a few months it must become like being a prisoner, this used to be vivid demonstrated by the Papal vestments that were so restrictive that the Pope couldn't even move without a gaggle of monsignorial assistants. When he was dressed up properly it was easier to pop him in a chair and carry him around. It was a ceremonial sign of the nature of the Petrine Office, he can do nothing on his own, he looses his individuality, even his name, which is subsumed into his office. Fr Hunwicke, as usual, makes a good point about that today.

Being Pope is restrictive, like the king in Chess, there are many things you simply cannot do, like go out for a pizza, as our beloved Pontiff has said on one or two occasions, to making up doctrines. Everything depends on things being filtered through a voice like Fr Lombardi or the various dicasteries. The Pope might well say, "X" but "X" has to be interpreted. It is interesting that the most controversial parts of the Pope's Motu Proprio on Annulments, which let us say has not received overwhelming support from Canon Lawyers or bishops, will be interpreted by various dicasteries and already Monsignori are blunting its impact.

People talk about Pope Benedict's resignation and invent various intriguing theories, mine is simply the Papacy ended because no-one could trust any form of communication with the Pope that wasn't personal and face to face, letters, emails, even telephone calls could be leaked or stolen. Francis' move from the Apostolic Palace to Sta Martha, might well have been as he says for his own 'psychological needs' but it was necessary because it was impossible for anyone to get to Pope Benedict without the entire Papal Court knowing about it. No-one could drop in for a quiet chat. In a sense the Benedictine Papacy died of suffocation, anything important like Summorum Pontificum or the setting up of Ordinariate had to be a cloak and dagger operation,

I think that one of the worries about the Synod on Francis' part must be that it those Cardinals and Bishops coming together are certainly looking at marriage and the family but also how whatever Francis' summary of it, in whatever form that takes will be received by bishops at home, and the Curia in Rome. These after all are the people who will or will not implement it. The other serious concern that Francis has is that any gathering of Cardinals, especially over an extended period becomes a Pre-Conclave meeting, in which not only Francis' running of the Church will be judged but also who his successor could be. That is the one who will ensure that his Magisterium is either exalted and continued, or quietly consigned to the compost heap of history,

After Benedict's resignation any Pope should be vary of who might work for his resignation, or to move him into a position where he is impotent and can be checkmated. In many ways the Pope ends up by being played, yes by those leprous courtiers, rather than being a player. Though the most important piece on the board, without others he is impotent he simply has very few spaces to go, unless of course he decides to not play by the rules.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

From Dissolubility of Marriage to the Dissolubility of the Church

It is perhaps significant that as the Synod meets in Rome Archbishop Longley of Birmingham, joint chairman of ARCIC, has rejected the idea of non-Catholic spouses being able to receive Holy Communion, three years ago he was open to considering the possibility. In a similar move Archbishop John Myers of Newark has underlined the Church's teaching on the reception of Holy Communion.
As confusion is loosed in the Church I suspect we will see many priests and bishops stiffening what the Church has always believed, [quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est] whilst others move with spirit of the age and the agenda put forward by the purveyors of novelty. If the centre cannot hold then the peripheries will. The Church is like a cartwheel held in tension by the hub, the Bishop of Rome with the rim being that which is believed everywhere, always and by everyone.

It seems that the debate in the Synod Hall has moved from debate over the unity and dissolubility of marriage to the unity to the dissolubility of the Church. It is natural that it should. We believe in a heirarchy of doctrine, not that one doctrine is more important than another but that each is interconnected, remove or weaken one and the whole edifice will begin to collapse. We are watching the collapse!

As Deacon Nick Donnelly says:
The Breakup of the Catholic Church
Father Rosica also indicated that some synod fathers proposed devolving the question of allowing the divorced and civilly remarried to receive communion from Rome to the national level:
“What is needed is not necessarily a universal solution to complex problems, but discussions in small groups and discussions in regional, national and continental groupings to talk about the solutions to the different areas, the different problems, which are not necessarily the same throughout the world.”
But if they succeed in doing this, they change the nature of the Church so that she is no longer one, holy, catholic and apostolic. For example, proposals to devolve decisionmaking powers over allowing the divorced and remarried to receive holy Communion to national bishops’ conferences will break the communion of the Catholic Church. If enacted, we may well see the Church in most parts of Europe abandoning the doctrine of indissolubility by allowing couples in a permanent state of adultery to receive Communion and the Church in Africa upholding the doctrine of indissolubility by maintaining the prohibition of people committing adultery from receiving holy Communion. If this situation were to happen, the Catholic Church would no longer exist in Europe, having finally fallen to liberal Protestantism.
Observing the synod on the family, I know that God upholds the indissolubility of marriage, and so he remains faithful to us and will work his action to purify his Church, the Bride of Christ. We are not left hopeless, but strengthened to defend his truth.
As Pope Benedict frequently prophesied the Church of the future will be smaller and more fervent, Few of us thought that would come about through the action of his immediate successor.

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...