Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Foot washing: Charity Begins at Home

Comment on the Pope's foot washing seems to go and on. I suspect never has this aspect of the Gospel's been discussed so much. Fr Hunwicke has done a good analyses, that is well worth reading.
He says,
The Lord did not, as people sometimes carelessly assert, "wash the feet of his disciples", who were many; He washed the feet of a much more limited group, the Twelve. He did not wash the feet of the people who flocked to hear Him teach in the fields or on the Mountain or beside the Lake or in the village square, or even the feet of the Seventy He sent forth or of the women who ministered to Him; when He washed the feet of the Twelve, it was behind the closed doors of an exclusive Meeting arranged in almost 007-style secrecy. And the implication of  S Peter's words was that this had not been the Lord's regular custom.
If one takes the Tradition seriously, then the Twelve were clergy at this moment, it is Christ the High Priest washing the feet of  his bishops. It is as Fr Hunwicke points out an intimate act with intimates. In the liturgy it happened rarely before the Bugnini reforms but I suspect the the most perfect parallel would have been the Bishop washing the feet of the Canons of his diocese, it would have happened in the intimacy of the Chapter House, during Prime, well away from the popular gaze.

The clergy of the diocese of Rome are not a happy bunch, three years ago they lost their bishop in events surrounded by mystery, there are hints of intrigue, 'mafia' involvement, a curia 'out of control' and of course 'the lobby' with its enormous power. I think I would feel rather like child of a father who finds it easier to show kindness in the pub or to strangers rather than at home to his wife and children.

Closer to home I met with a gang of Westminster clergy recently, most anticipate their own bishop to resign in the next few months. Because of his significance the Archbishop of Westminster has always been a distant figure to his clergy and fear who his replacement might be. Being a Cardinal he tends to only have half an eye on his diocese, unlike other bishops he is forced to rule by diktat or through others. Rarely do his priests sit in the intimacy of his apartment and just chat, nor would a priest with anxieties feel free to ring him up and spend time chatting late at night. None would expect him to drop round for a cuppa and a chat. This is not a criticism of the present incumbent it applies to practically all of Westminster's Archbishops.

Neither is Westminster an exception, most bishops are not on 'foot washing' terms with their clergy. The humble service of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples is the model of charity of a bishop towards his priests and amongst themselves. Bishops who get into trouble are invariably treated as non-persons by their brothers, and more likely to receive a cold shoulder rather than Christ-like charity.

A friend, a student of the Venerable English College at the time, told how the students themselves took pity on a former Archbishop of Cardiff and took him out for a drink when he was ostracised by his brother bishops a few months before his resignation.

The act of foot washing is a reminder that charity that binds the Church together, it goes with Jesus' own words to the Apostles, "I give you a new commandment: Love one another. In the same way that I have loved you, you are also to keep on loving each other". It is charity expressed in the seclusion of the Upper Room that is the basis of Communion within the Catholic Church, it really is an illustration that charity begins at home and then sets the world on fire, A good bishop is one who cares above all for his clergy and his brother bishops with Christ-like compassion.

The morale of many clergy, especially the elderly is very low. Many priest suffer from the festering wounds and are travel sore. Child abuse and the other clerical scandals that have hit the Church have their obvious victims but the more hidden victims are the innocent clergy. Many of us have a sense that our life work will simply vanish, that no-one will be left to continue it, that we will leave nothing behind us. A bishop is not a chief executive, or an administer, he is above all the washer of feet in his diocese, and the feet he is called are the feet of his brothers and sons, the clergy.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Happy and Blessed Easter to you all

Our Easter Vigil

A Foot Note: Vestment changing

Fr Hunwicke, with his usual clarity of mind and humour has written on the Pope's new rite of pedilavium. As footnote I was interested to note that in the pictures of the rite His Holiness vests as a deacon, wearing his stole upon his shoulder. Priests in the Old Rite often vest and exercise their ministry as Deacon or Sub-Deacon, in New Rite this is less common. In fact many would suggest that this should not happen, even that in the New Rite it is positively forbidden. The Pope has answered this.

Now the Supreme Pontiff has clearly shown that it is something to be positively encouraged. Another Old Rite practice, that follows on from this, that he has obviously restored is 'vestment changing'. In the absence of a deacon at the Easter Vigil it would seem that it is more than legitimate for a priest to bless the fire and the Paschal Candle wearing, according to the current rite, his white chasuble and then to remove his chasuble, re-adjust his stole and change into a dalmatic for the Lumen Christi procession and the singing of the Exultet. Similarly, if a bishop should visit a one horse parish, it seem more than legitimate for the parish priest to assist him vested as a deacon, and if it is a two horse parish, for the assistant to wear a tunicle and act as Sub-Deacon.
"Roma locuta; causa finita est,"

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Gifts from Rome

And just in time for the Mass of the Lord's Supper and thanks to Steffano atMessrs Gamerelli.
The green lined grey will be very nice  in a few weeks time but the white for tonight, it has just the hint of Passiontide with the violet flowers.

And here are a couple of pictures of our Altar of Repose

Good Stuff

I don't know if you see Facebook entries if you are not a member but try and see this page. It is from a friend's parish, Fr Sean Finnegan's Church of the Sacred Heart in Caterham. He is still comparatively new in the parish but he has started renovating his nice but on first sight not outstanding church but the Pippet (a Hardman contractor)  wall paintings are outstandingly beautiful.

The years were not kind to them, they had become discoloured and faint, damp had got to them. One parish priest had people with scrubbing brushes attacking them, part of them had been painting out but this Easter as the lights come on at the Vigil the restoration so far will revealed

We can come up with lots of reason why such a treasure was, let's say neglected, but what is significant, it is not just here but in so many places there has been a restoration. I think one of the chief contributory factors is Pope Benedict's theology of Liturgy and Beauty. Again and and again there are church restorations that put aside the confused, ugly, theologically illiterate 'wreckovations' of the 1970s.

Here, we have done our best with restoring the church, now thanks to our director of music we are trying to do something with the our music, the smaller works of Monteverdi or Lassus, Byrd or Palestrina, as well as the chant of the Graduale of course, are part of our normal liturgical life. Ten years ago Catholic music was ghastly, now little by little there is a gradual resurgence. Our sacristan is away in Dublin for the Triduum (I will eventually forgive him), he is most probably going to the services at here but I was amazed by the music at the Pro-Cathedral - Mozart, Palestrina, who would have thought this five years ago?

 So, maybe during the Triduum, share some good stuff, preferable with pictures or links.
Another renewal I have been following is what is happening at Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane under Fr Alan Robinson, very beautiful

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

'Realities' more important than ideas

Andrea Gagliarducci writes a very interesting piece here on Pope Benedict's recent interview, it highlights the great breach between the Pontiffs, it is not, as Gagliarducci points out, a significant doctrinal breech between the two but rather one of approach but it is this which is vital.

Some people accuse the present Holy Father of all sorts of heresies. I simply don't understand what he says, nor actually am I that interested in searching his long speeches and even longer documents to discover a heresy. What is more I don't have the Spanish to understand him and taking what he says in the media, seems to me be just spin, form but no substance.

The real difference is, as Gagliarducci points out, the lack of intellectual substance in the present Pontificate, the principle that 'realities' are more important than ideas, is as Benedict points out ultimately bankrupt.
Benedict XVI’s recent words also challenge the principle that realities are more than ideas, which Pope Francis states as one of the four pillars of his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium.” This notion is quite widespread in Latin America, and can be considered a relic of liberation theology. Practiced Marxism has become a pragmatic Marxism, close to common thinking and tailored to foster the social development of peoples.
Gagliarducci is right this idea of that 'realities are more important than ideas' seems to underscore the thought of many of Francis' placemen, Cardinal Parolin and Rodriguez Maradiaga are prime examples, so too is Cardinal João Braz de Aviz of the Congregation for Religious, whose merciless pogrom against of the Franciscans of the the Immaculate, started under the guise of a financial investigation by Fr Volpi but has been increasingly revealed as an attack on their intellectual exploration of the  of the Vatican Council and significantly in the light of Benedicts interview their questioning of Rhanner's 'anonymous Christianity'. In rather terrifying Marxist terms Braz has even spoken of the need for their 're-education'. On the part of the present men of power in the Church there seems to be a real contempt even hatred of the intellect.

One can see that 'realities' will be important to the massive German church corporation, which though it is haemorrhaging members, still seeks public support from an increasingly secularised membership who look to the Church not for its proclamation of Christ but for its schools, hospitals, child and nursing home care. It is one of the biggest German employers, and therefore feels obliged to deal in 'realities'. To be quite unkind, what seems the bottom line 'reality' for the Germans is what fills its coffers and its place at whatever table it can get its snout into. One can see how this search for 'realities' has formed Kasper's theology, especially his theology of  'Mercy'.

The great problem is that in the world 'realities' change, Germany's realities today are radically different from what they were 18 months ago. The men who choose the Church's 'realities' perhaps have a certain blindness, the (rumoured) movers and shakers behind Francis' election, Kasper, Daneels, Marx, Murphy O'Oonnor even, are men of certain age, experience and ecclesiology, they reflect a very narrow perspective. Fewer younger bishops, even among their own appointed successors would share their 'realities', society and the Church has moved on. Frankly, if the Church followed their trajectory it would collapse, even for the most factionalist supporters, mission or death stares them in the face. Those very carefully chosen 'realities' that have been  the focus of the Pope's generation and seen in the life work of many of those Cardinals who have retired in the last ten years, have been very narrow, and myopic. Their chosen 'realities' have often been about power and faction within the Church rather than about its Dominical Mission to teach the nations but they have failed to reflect the 'signs of the times'.

The signs of times are different, even beyond the European or North American experience: migration, climate change, economic disenchantment and injustice, shifting power bases, the rise of aggressive secularism, the rise of even more aggressive Islam, the rise of nationalism or regionalism and terrorism are creating a world far different than what might have been understood even three years ago. In the Church the signs of the times are different too, old men simply have nothing to say to the young; three ordinations in the almost 3 million strong diocese of Buenos Aires sums up how much a generation has failed in its proclamation of the Gospel and how unattractive they have made following Christ.

No-one today is interested in the Church that merely mouths what any other NGO can say more articulately. Indeed as the Church enters into partisan politics rather than gathering the faithful it divides them. Younger clergy and even new bishops are a distinct from the previous generation, their values and formation have occurred under vastly different conditions to the previous generation in training during the turmoil of the Council.

The great problem with a Church focussed on 'realities' is all it can do is to do what any other NGO does and feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned - not an unimportant part of Christ's teaching - but it is the sum of it. Christ raises the dead to life, opens heaven, reconciles mankind to his Father. Christ changes man in the depth of his being from sinner to saint, he not only comes alongside of man in solidarity but raises him up, even to the point of enthusing him with divinity. Such a Church is incapable offering hope, especially if cuts itself off from the supernatural.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Kasper isn't credible

Cardinal Kasper speaking of the document Pope Francis will sign following the Extraordinary and Ordinary Synod on the Family said, “This will be the first step of a reform that will make the Church turn a page after 1700 years.”

I find this terribly troubling. If I took him seriously I would be starting to pack, I simply do not recognise what Kasper implies as being consistent with the Catholic faith; it stinks of  Protestant rupture rather than Catholic continuity.

I don't take this seriously because even in a Church that seems increasingly dominated by careerist clergy and spin doctors and media manipulation, to say nothing of the influence of wealthy and powerful lobyists, a notorious racist liar like Kasper is simply not a credible witness.

The unfortunate thing is that his incredulity poisons the credibility of the Church.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Are Englishmen Wimps?

For those of you with a smattering of Polish, this is a little video of the Polish Men;s Group along the coast from us in Eastboune doing the Stations of the Cross. We have hosted the Polish Community in Brighton for thhe last 70 years and Eastbourne is part of the Brighton Polish parish. The priest giving Benediction is the excellent and hard working Oratorian Fr Tadeusz Bialas. Last year he was in Church hearing Confession until 2 in the morning having started at 9pm.
These men, 150 of them, did this Stations on 25 kilometer night walk in honour of Lord' Passion, over the Eastbourne cliffs - scary! I am impresseed, I want them to do the same in Brighton.
What is interesting is the local clergy invited English men to join them, there were no -or few- takers. Are Englishmen wimps?
The video above is from last year the one below this year's, the celebrant is Fr Neil Chatfield of the Ordinariate, who I think is not a Polish speaker.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Congratulations to Alex

Congratulations to Alex who was ordained deacon, one of seven ordinations. Alex has been to Mass here on a few occasions, he has/had a family connection with Brighton, his splendid mum goes to Mass in New Brighton at the Dome of Home, congratulations to her too.

He is one of 12 deacons ordained for the FSSP in Denton USA, all twelve should be ordained priest next year. I can't but help making a comparison with the diocese of Buenos Aires where with a Catholic population of almost 3 million only 3 priests will be ordained this year.

If vocations to the priesthood are a sign of 'good fruit' in the Church, there are inevitable questions we cannot avoid asking:
Where is the Church healthy?
Where is the Church producing fruit?
Where is the Church attracting the young?
Where is the Church making disciples?
Where is the Church undergoing true renewal?

Where has the Church a future?
What is the Church's future?

more pictures here

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Conscientious Objection

Of note is Fr Simon Henry's post on Holy Thursday foot washing. Father Henry quotes Fr. Joseph Fessio's concerns 'that now the practice is allowed, it will be imposed by some bishops Bishop', a not uncommon phenomena in today's Church. He also quotes Bishop Athanasius Schneider, who says that in conscience he could not wash the feet of women as it would alter Christ's intention of washing the feet of his Apostles rather than anyone's. What the Bishop is concerned about, I suspect is not so much the washing of women's feet but the blurring of a connection with Christ, who chose to wash the feet of those closest to him and who at the Last Supper were entrusted with celebrating the Eucharist and along with it episkope of the Church. I share the Bishop's conscientious objection, others might not, including the Pope, I do,

I interpret St John's language, all that taking off and putting on of vestments as a priestly act meant by the Apostle to remind his readers of the institution of the Aaronic priesthood. I used to wash any foot that turned up but now in conscience I think it would be a denial of what Christ intended and I can't do that. I am grateful I have the freedom to express my conscience. Before the invention of Pius XII the rite happen outside of Mass, and anyone could be involved, within Mass it takes on a Eucharistic meaning.

I have been fortunate, there are many things I do or don't do because of conscience. Though I have used it I really feel uncomfortable about using that trattoria-written-back-of-a menu Eucharistic Prayer (EPII), in fact I have a problem with using one other than the Roman Canon. I don't consider them invalid, just not of the Latin Rite which since the time of St Gregory used this text. They are part of the hermeneutic of rupture, in conscience I don't believe it is possible to be Catholic and to be part of the rupture.
I know it is a bit of a convoluted conscience but it is mine.
I think it is very interesting that Cardinal Sarah felt it necessary to 'clarify' this issue, and to underline my right to be a conscientious objector, Will other Cardinals suggest that there is a conscience clause with regard the issuing of the Holy Father's post - Synod document?
As much as I might welcome conscientious objection I can't help pushing people to the point of making such an objection is the beginning of schism. Yet if bishops and priests do not have a sensitive conscience have they anything to offer?


An interesting video on the liturgy by CNS in which the scholar Father Jeremy Driscoll OSB, corrects some contemporary liturgical errors.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Yesterday was the anniversary Mit brennender Sorge written by Pius XI and smuggled into Germany and read at all Masses in 1937, this letter is anti-Nazi and anti-Hitler.

It calls the German episcopate and Church to oppose Hitler and Nazism, even at the cost of martyrdom.

It is worth reading for what it says to us today when other ideologies that would dethrone Christ, it is also significant as an historical reflection on the ills of Christianity in Germany and its tendency to depart from Christianity and to replace central doctrines with something incredibly dangerous.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Now we have Mercy

Truth is of the mind, Mercy of the heart.
Truth is an aspiration, Mercy a condescension.
Truth is 'above', Mercy is 'below'.
Truth is narrow, Mercy is broad.
Truth unites, Mercy divides.
Truth is fixed, Mercy is arbitrary.

I have been reading the new revelations from the USA about another bishop and his successor covering up the ongoing abuse of adolescent boys, and elsewhere the present day promotion of clergy that are far from the chaste ideal and steal from their parishes to support a deviant lifestyle. Trying not to be judgemental, trying to see the case for the bishops concerned when they stand before God, I suspect they will plead, "I was being merciful", only to met by the voices of the abused who will cry out to condemn them, "Yes, you were, but not to us".

The problem is 'Mercy' is a rather vague and ambiguous term, we so often hear people speak of 'mercy-killing'. There is always a quality of arbitrariness, even partiality, about it. The concentration camp guard might well claim he was being merciful by beating a prisoner to death with a shovel rather than watching him starve to death. Similarly it might be claimed to be merciful to choose someone to change Vatican light bulbs who charged more and did the job less efficiently, and had a cocaine habit and a depressed wife, who happened to be related to Cardinal S, and therefore their plight was known understood, rather than someone unknown who would do the job more cheaply and efficiently. Under these circumstances Mercy seems likely to be a rather dangerous thing,

Psalm 85 has the beautiful verse:
Mercy and truth have met on the way
Righteousness and peace have embraced.
Mercy when it does not meet truth, really does seem to be  a source of corruption, something to make even a child cry out, 'Its not fair', Without a conscience honed by truth mercy can so easily become an instrument of oppression. Cardinal Kasper sees mercy as the chief attribute of God. For him Jesus Christ is God's Mercy made flesh. Man's redemption comes from God's mercy, not his justice. Of course he is right but Man is not God. Meister Eckhart said, "if we say God is good then we cannot say that man is good, if we say that man is good then we cannot say that God is good", he might well have gone onto say the same about mercy, God's mercy comes from his perfection, in his imperfection man cannot imitate it.
Mercy is a divine attribute, in God's hands it is always arbitrary but it is always good but when it is exercised by fallen human it always tends to corruption.

Back to child abuse: I almost understand that parents might not want to prosecute an abuser of their child, but if they claim they are being merciful, but who are they being merciful to. They are not being merciful to the next victim when the offender goes on to abuse again and again. They are not being merciful even to the abuser if he (or she) then goes on to perform even more serious acts of abuse that might lead to their eternal damnation or even a life spent in prison.

Whilst we might be hard wired to have an understanding of truth, mercy is a little more problematic. It is certainly merciful to feed the hungry, clothe the naked etc,, we can understand that. Scripture tells us that it is an act of mercy to correct the sinner and to teach the ignorant and counsel the doubtful but I do not think that sits well with our current non-judgemental understanding of mercy in the Church.

Mercy tends to confuse. When we talk of truth we tend to have a consensus of what we mean, Mercy however as we saw in the Synod tends to be divisive.

A year ago Bishop Egan said not giving Holy Communion to the pro-abortion politicians was act of mercy, the rest of the Bishop's Conference did not agree and when the Pope praises pro-abortion politicians we might presume he too would oppose the good bishop.

We may either cause or share the guilt of another's sin by praise or flattery, or even silence or by corrupted or even deviant sense of Mercy.

Friday, March 11, 2016

When we had Truth

I have been trying to write something about the nature of  Truth for sometime, I've written hundreds of words and yet failed to be precise, or else it has ended up as a bit of an uncharitable rant.

When Pope Benedict resigned his coat of arms with its motto "Cooperatores Veritatis" was taken down and it seemed that there was a sea-change in the the Church, many seemed to have come to the conclusion being "co-workers of truth" was no longer very important, Nominalism with all the Relativism that Benedict had turned his back on suddenly returned.

Truth was front and centre of the Benedictine pontificate, and along with it a certain intellectual precision and a desire to define precisely what we mean and what the Church believes. This type of precision was always at the heart of Ratzinger's ministry, it was there in his time of Prefect of the CDF. I think a great turning point occurred with his commissioning of Cardinal Schönborn to produce the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I remember speaking to a seminarian who said, "Until the Catechism was published in 1994 we were told any old rubbish was Catholic teaching, then we were able to check for ourselves. It was amazing the effect a copy of it in a seminary class room on even the most way out lecturer". Therefore 1994 became a significant turning point, when 'the faith' was placed in the hands of ordinary Catholics, rather than something which was claimed by 'specialists'. Another great turning point was Dominus Jesus in 2000 which brought precision to our christology and ecclesiology.

Benedict's pontificate was a search for truth that animated countless Catholics, I suspect this was one of the reasons for the rise in numerous Catholic citizen journalists and the flourishing of the Catholic blogosphere. More importantly I believe that it gave rise to a culture for transparency, openness and accountability in the Church. Benedict made it possible for us to ask the simple question, "Is this true?" and to expect an answer, He gave us a point of reference to understand that there were not many truths but one Truth and that this Truth is the Incarnate Word, the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ himself an objective and real presence that should be at the heart of the Church. For Benedict a denial of Truth was a denial of Christ himself, an obfuscation of it an obfuscation of Christ, a lack of clarity about it, a lack of clarity about Christ.

Truth for Benedict  was the disinfecting sun-light, it was the answer to corruption and self-seeking within the Church, as much as it was to false teaching or to obfuscation or a lack of transparency or on a more mundane level bishops covering up child abuse, financial corruption or lobby groups, gay or otherwise, or plain heresy.

The search for Truth seems to have stimulated vocations to the priesthood, it certainly gave an impetus to Catholic intellectual life and the desire of Catholic intellectuals to teach and give ordinary Catholics an intellectual underpinning to their faith.

The idea of Truth being at the heart of the Church or of a Papacy was perhaps incomprehensible to the media as much as it was to Pontius Pilate.
Jesus answered, "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is on side of the truth hears My voice." Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?" .... John 1: 37-38
Truth is important to the Church, because above all we are called to be convincing witnesses. Liars do not make good witnesses. If in any sense we are found to be untruthful then obviously we lose credibility and so does Christ. To have absolute truth as an aspiration places the Church on a different level to the politician who though he may not exactly tell untruths, manipulates and shades the truth and uses it as tool rather than worshipping it as an icon of God himself.

It is worth reflecting on what Andrea Gagliarducci has written recently and its impact on Truth. What is the point of the Church if we merely have a place at the table and fail to bring the Truth which is Christ?

Monday, March 07, 2016

Fr Montgomery Wright

There is a Newman letter which basically says that the secret of the spiritual life is is getting to bed on time and getting up on time, I know it is true but I don't do it. It has been  my Lenten project.
Last night I saw on Facebook (and I then couldn't find it again there, so sorry for the absence of an accreditation) this rather amazing video about Fr Montgomery Wright.

I've known several people who loved him dearly and experienced his kindness personally. What I think is interesting are the glimpses into his celebration of the Old Rite, he had done it continuously. His celebrations lack the prissiness we have come, post VII, to attach to to it. He adapted it pretty freely to pastoral needs: no choir, he sings, if people didn't know Latin hymns then he let them sing it French.
Well, having seen that this next video came up, it is about a community of Carmelite nuns in their then new convent, it must be at least 60 years old.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Fr Serafino Lanzetta: Spiritual Combat

Here are two talks by the noted Franciscan theologian Fr Serafino Lanzetta which were given here last Saturday. Our studio's equipment is pretty basic so the sound quality isn't that good but the quality of both talks is, so it is worth making the effort to listen.
Fr Serafino said he wanted to talk about Spiritual Combat but most of the first talk is about Truth and Nominalism, which brings 'Spiritual Combat' down to the most basic theological and philosophical level: Truth must always be exalted and sought, Nominalism must always be opposed!

If you listen to the talks, you will understand why Bishop Egan was so enthusiastic in inviting Fr Serafino into his diocese.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Things were different then

I have been keeping half an eye on Cardinal Pell's appearances before  Australia’s royal commission into institutional responses into child sexual abuse, after 20 hours of questioning it has now ended. I haven't been watching the on-line video streaming, I have been reading the press reports.

There is an assumption, not just in Australia but elsewhere, including here, that we can judge the past by today's standards and with that there is a an assumption that our attitudes to children has always been what it is today.

Thirty years ago women who were raped simply didn't report it. I remember one woman who did and told me that her experience with the police in the UK was a like second rape. They interrogated her as if she herself was guilty. They wanted to know about her sexual history. They wanted to know the ways in which she might have provoked her assailant, how she was dressed, they even wanted to see her underwear and enquired about why she should want 'sexy' (their word) underwear rather than anything else.

If she had pursued her claim, and the assault had come to trial, in those days she would have had to make her claim in open court, without any reporting restrictions. Her assailant's lawyer would have been able to interrogate her, again revealing her sexual history. In this situation lawyers were aggressive and always shifted the guilt from the man to the women. Newspapers delighted in sexual revelations. For most women rather society than offering sympathy, there was the assumption 'that there is no smoke without fire'. For a 'respectable women' reputations still mattered and a reputation could be easily lost and mark her and her family for the rest of her life. Simply, respectable women did not get raped and respectable people did not know women who were raped,
Now, perhaps the law has changed and many suggest that now an assailant has to prove his innocence but it changed because the law was previously so unfavourable to women.

As with women even more so with children; victims were simply not believed, and sexual abuse was simply not understood. In the Church especially, there was certainly a culture of 'cover-up' this has come under scrutiny but there was also a great deal of sexual naivete on the part of clergy. Many clerics I suspect dealt with their own celibacy by simply trying not to think about sex, by being a-sexual. It was a virtue the result of a spirituality of sexual purity

In the new age of 1960's sexuality Catholic clergy were encountering a new world totally beyond their experience and in many ways at odds with all they believed and were trained in, they were like rabbits in headlights. There was practically no study and very little was written about sexual abuse before the tsunami of accusations that broke in the 1980s in the Catholic Church. The Church had always dealt with such failings by dealing with the perpetrator, it was treated, as everyone says, like alcoholism, as a moral disorder, a spiritual weakness, a breaking of vows. There was a sense that if a period of prayer and reflection didn't work, then often a period as military (or industrial) chaplain might.

In the case of Cardinal Pell surprise was expressed that although he was a Consultor in his home diocese of Ballarat he was oblivious to child abuse in the diocese, I can understand this, I can well imagine that Fr X was discussed but not as a child abuser but in terms of upsetting people and 'various' complaints being received, of being someone who had difficulties with celibacy, even as a malevolent influence on the young but without actually describing what he was doing with children. If the issue was broached at all, like theology manuals of the time it would be couched in the most oblique of terms. The Church of a generation ago tended to see itself as a 'just society' where even the worst of sinners had the right to protection, and where he had the right to have his reputation protected be protected from scandal and certainly if protecting the reputation of the Church was also served.

The Church of course always saw itself as 'merciful', and like every other group in society failed to acknowledge the victims of the pervert's sin. The Church had the problem of not knowing how to deal with its own who had fallen. One consequence has been that bishops in the past saw themselves as fathers of errant sons, now they see themselves as managers with insurance and PR liabilities. I suspect too that there was more than a certain discretion about a matter that was deemed to be more properly dealt with in the internal forum.

What amazes me with the accusations against the Cardinal, and others, is that victims expected the Church to act when they themselves chose not to go the either the police or social services. There was an assumption that somehow the Church had the power to deal with someone that was above or beyond the law. The truth is of course that the social services of the time would have acted in an even less sympathetic way than the Church and the police most probably would have taken no action or treated a child in the same way as they treated women who were raped.

We find it easy to forget that children were treated with what we consider today extraordinary violence. George Ratzinger admitted 'abusing' children in his choir school, he gave them a 'clip round the ear', my music teacher thought little of doing the same. In my own school boys visited the headmaster rarely, few came away without receiving a few strokes of the cane. In the gym there was scarcely a lesson in which a boy was not 'slippered'. It was part of the culture. At Eton at the time, as in most of our more exclusive schools, not only did masters beat but so did senior boys.  In working class families, if a child was beaten at school it would not be unusual for the father to apply the same punishment, "because you must have deserved it". In universities, as in the military, 'hazing' freshman with beatings or even sexual humiliations was part of the culture. Physical and sexual abuse, are obviously not the same but they do tend to go hand in hand, as too of course does psychological abuse. The culture was abusive, and far from child centred. Even in medicine procedures in which an adult might receive anaesthetic children often given to children without it. There was a sense that children get over these things quickly, they have a different pain threshold or they forget quickly.

Cardinal Sodano famously dismissed the clerical sex abuse as media fabrication, perhaps there is some truth in this, perhaps the most politically astute act of Pope Francis was to distance the Papacy by appointing a Commission to deal with it for him, rather than take it on himself. Australian abuse victims are asking for a meeting with him, whether he will grant their request is unlikely, he hasn't met with those who have complained about Cardinal Daneels or the countless victims from Los Angeles who complained about Cardinal Mahony's cover-up and he has been positively dismissive about case brought against the Chilean Bishop Juan Barros who he himself appointed as bishop of Osorno. At best they will be met by Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, head of the papal commission.

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...