Friday, April 29, 2016

Ken Livingstone's Blind Spot

Labour MP John Mann confronts Ken Livingstone outside TV studios in Westminster today
I can't help thinking Jeremy Corbyn is rather like Pope Francis, trying hold things together but in reality is presiding over its fragmentation, God promises the survival of the Catholic Church but not the Labour party. Corbyn's election like the Pope's was a harking back to a time that many had thought had past, an attempt at popularism. The problem for both is the political environment they now face is not that of their youth.

Watching Ken Livingstone being confronted by John Mann seems to demonstrate how the 'Left' cannot hold. Limestone's defence too is bizarre, "Hitler was a Zionist", he says. It is half remembered and reinterpreted history, seen through a certain lens. Yes, Hitler certainly wanted Jews to have some kind of homeland, many politicians of the time did, suggestion ranged from Palestine, to a bit of Australia, to Madagascar and eventually to 'the East', and history reveals the atrocities that happened there. Hitler's 'Zionism' was borne out of a deep hatred for Jews, and a desire to enslave, and ultimately to destroy them.

I really do not think that Livingstone wants to apply any sanction to 'the Jews', the problem is one of modern intellectuals inability to understand that someone's religious identity, might actually have a social and political dimension. Livingstone's 'anti-Semiticism' is on the same level as his anti-Christianism, more specifically his anti-Catholicism, it is shared by the rest of the Guardian reading establishment. It stems from an inability to realise that a religion has a certain cultural impact that overreaches ordinary politics and claims an affiliation beyond national borders. Religion, politicians on both the left and right fail to understand, binds people together, it has a super-social dimension, it unites people to a history beyond a merely national one, it has a political vision beyond the narrowness of contemporary politics.

For post holocaust Jews the State of Israel has replaced an international Jewish fraternity that followed the diaspora caused of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Jews were a distinct group marked not only by belief but by a distinct culture: kosha food and dress, the need to live together and separated from those they lived amongst, and their internationalism and their shared history of persecution make them distinct. The problem is that politicians like Livingstone underestimate the importance of this. In the same way they are incapable of realising the distinctiveness of other groups, like Catholics, whose vision incorporates the social Kingship of Christ.

The blind spot for people like Livingstone is their failure to understand the social, cultural and political significance of Islam. For them Islam merely represents potential Labour votes. Naz Shah whose unguarded pre-election comments started this brush fire for Labour probably do not represent the views of most Muslims but they do represent of some and I would suggest not an insignificant 'some'.

There is an inability of the 'Left' to recognise how distinct the culture of the Judaism makes Jews and also fails to understand how the culture  Islam makes Moslem distinct. Livingstone and his ilk believe in assimilation, they cannot recognise that religion makes people distinct. Jews look to Israel, Christians to the Kingdom of Christ and Muslims to the Ummah. The failure to bother to understand and to take seriously the significance of the theology which underlies religious groups at the moment is a catastrophe for the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn.

In France, in Belgium, in Germany and through out Europe I am sure that most politicians believe that assimilation will eventually change immigrants but the truth is that religion is actually a much stronger bond than passing political parties, religions endure politics and politicians pass.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Dragon is tamed not slain

Dragons exist, do not be deceived!

In the legend of St George the dragon is not slain but wounded and the fair maid once terrified of him ties a cord or a ribbon around his neck and leads him captive into the city.

This is a profound truth in the spiritual life, the dragon is still a dragon, the fair maid, the Christian soul, with the help of the victorious warrior, who is a type of Christ gives us power to subdue something which unchecked can be destructive.

We see this constantly in the conversion of the saints, they don't become different people but virtue takes on a courage and sin is tamed. Saint Peter is an obvious example, I doubt its historic truth but I love the quo vadis legend about Peter, Peter decides to leave Rome during the persecution, meets Christ on the Appian Way and immediately turns back to go to his death., it is so Peter, rash and impetuous always, until the end. It is same with St Francis or Ignatius of the Loyal or countless others, Christ tames the dragon, he is not slain.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Victim Souls a Voris Video from 2010

I thought it was pretty obvious that Michael Voris had struggled with what he has revealed recently, He has made no bones about his distance from God, and hinted that part his problem, like many people's was sexual, this video reveals something rather beautiful that seems to be the experience of some of my parishioners.
... but moving on the real question every Catholic who has viewed the Votex has is about the hair,, err, is it a toupee? Will Cardinal Dolan's New York Archdiocese dirty tricks department reveal that? Apart from that, I don't think there is much to see here, the Church is full of repentant sinners - thank God!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Secular clergy are unattractive to the young

I am told by a priest of the diocese that in Westminster diocese there are no ordinations to the diocesan priesthood this year but apparently -according to the com-box there are seven however in Buenos Aires, this year has only three, my own diocese has only two seminarians spread over the whole six year course, some diocese have no seminarians, some diocese have far more bishops (active and retired) than seminarians..
But my own rather odd little parish, 'least of the cities of Judah', prays regularly for three men who came here to Mass and were very much part of our parish. One is at one of our English Oratories, another has joined one of the Traditional priestly societies and yet another has joined the most ascetic monasteries in Britain.

One of the things that attracted these young men here is Old Mass, all three came to it, all three had a great love for it. It does seem to be a source of vocations. As one teen age lad said, "I don't understand a word of it but at least it gives you a chance to pray". Prayer, communion with Christ is the source of vocation.

Personally I found it easier to speak to young men about priesthood when Pope Benedict so often spoke about the great value and the significance of the priesthood and the Sacred Liturgy. Now, there seems to so many warnings to young priests, so much criticism of young priests, even suggestion they might be mentally ill, it makes it far less attractive, perhaps there is sense that maybe young men considering the priesthood might be better off being tender hearted social workers, rather than servants of the altar.

One of the things that is at the back of mind is that young men are certainly not choosing the secular or diocesan priesthood though some religious orders aren't doing too badly, especially those with something of traditional about them. The traditional Mass priestly societies are flourishing, and some religious orders are making steady progress, this year the Irish Dominican province had more ordinations than all the Irish diocese put together. I think as we grow older, we secular clergy become increasingly unattractive to young men, there is something of the smell of the geriatric ward about us. Like attracts like. In fifteen years time half the present diocesan clergy of England and Wales will be incapable of saying Mass, most of us will dead or in a home! In France, for most people it will be easier in ten years time to get to the Traditional Mass than the Novus Ordo. I think many of us secular priests have a sense failure about them, whilst young religious communities have a sense of mission and growth, a hopefulness about them. I was speaking to a young SSPX priest some time ago, he was full of hope and spoke about the development of their mission about rising numbers, he had an almost charismatic sense of excitement about him.

For all the rather sad holding on to the 1970s of some of the most senior clergy this is not where the Church will be in ten years time.

photographs from here

Monday, April 18, 2016

Trads are a little more flexible

The poor old Pope seems to be getting bashed by various Italian journalist Magister and Socci for example. I have always said that he is essentially an Argentinian Peronist, left of centre, yes but more a populist, so no wonder those within the Church, especially actively involved tend to be critical, whilst the masses, especially the media and even the secularly powerful adore him. Gagliaducci talks about his popularism in his column this week.

 When I bounded up to a couple of Argentinians from Buenos Aires to congratulate them on his election the day after, they met me with tight lips and stony faces and told me that they had always hated Jorge Bergoglio. Just after his election, when newspapers like the Guardian were trying to lay on him support for the Government against dissidents in the 'Dirty War', that proved baseless but what did emerge was his own rather tortured relationship with his own Jesuit Order. He had certainly brought division to the Argentinian Province, which they are still suffering from when he was Provincial, half loved him and half hated him. His own relationship with the Superior General Peter Hans Kolvenbach was so bad that it was not until he was Pope that he was allowed to enter a Jesuit house.

He has always been divisive, it is his nature. Reading the blogosphere recently, this division seems to still be there, in fact it is intensifying. The two Synods on the family were deeply divided and brought to the surface many divisions in the Church, the Church after Beroglio will be more divided than the Church was before him.
Cardinal Burke has been saying Amoris Laetitia changes nothing, it is interesting how his failure to condemn or at least to side with those who are deeply disturbed by this document have vented their anger against him.

Trads, rather than Neo-Cons, are always a little more flexible, a little less alarmists. If you are still faithful after have seen what appeared to be the total destruction of everything you had loved: the Mass of Ages, which you had always been told was unchangeable swept away and, although mistakenly, were told it was now illicit or forbidden, if countless churches stripped of their furnishings, altars replaced by a cheap wooden table, if you had seen priests dancing up the aisle or the Bread of Life treated with irreverence. If it seems to be the Pope rather than some lunatic priest or renegade bishop that is at the back of all this, then perhaps one is less likely to see all as catastrophic and place one's trust in Jesus Christ, the Lord of history, and not in Princes, even in the most exalted of the princes of the Church.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Avoiding the Rupturists Agenda on Amoris laetitia

Liberals are getting angry about Amoris laetitia, according to Joanna Redman, (Tablet and Guardian) who the BBC got to voice the progressive, rupture, conflict stance: good Pope Francis was held back by evil old men in the Vatican, who want to oppress women, gays, the divorced and remarried. It is not position any sensible or orthodox Catholic would want to get into.

Amoris Laetitia, has its problems, but let's not follow the liberal agenda and talk up either its problems or its importance.
Any sensible reading of this not very important and non-magisterial document must stress the importance of placing it in the light of the Church's tradition, of its Magisterium and of documents of greater weight, but most of all in a Spirit of Continuity not of Rupture. Having praised its stance on gay marriage, on transgenderism, on its support for life-long monogamous marriage, on the rights of parents, on its openness to life, etc etc, and that the Holy Father is Catholic and not some crazed lunatic who wants to ally himself with the anti-Christ, only then should we point out that Pope Francis is perhaps not one of the greatest Thomist scholars and might actually have misunderstood the Church's teaching, perhaps that he seems to be a bit deaf to advice and that Catholics certainly should treat his teaching with respect but it is not infallible, and is in the words of the Holy Father himself not in any sense binding.

One might then point out that the Holy Father, in the words of Ms Redman, is a like a kindly, old, much loved parish priest, but whose heart tends to rule his head. What we should never do is take up the agenda of the Rupturists, a more precise and less 'soft' name for Liberals, that this document changes everything, that is simply not Catholic.

God Bless Our Pope (his successors and predecessors).

Friday, April 08, 2016

Amoris Laetitia‬ and truth

I know I shouldn't read emails before Mattins but I do. This morning I was a bit surprised to find I had been sent from three sources, not people I actually know, a PDF of the embargoed Papal Exhortation, all three were the English translation, which would indicate a common source. Later, when I had finished Lauds, a friend, and then journalist also wanted to discuss the document, they too had received the document, so much for Papal secrets.

It doesn't strike me as being a terribly interesting document, perhaps the difference with this exhortation, is the way in which it has been given to the press, and most especially the way in which the press has been prepared for it before hand. Most papal exhortations have already been forgotten, I think I am the only priest in my diocese to take seriously Pope Benedict's exhorting us to retain the use of the communion plate, for example. The very length of this document is a source of confusion, search and you will find what you will, oh for the day when papal documents were brief and clear, rather than of manifesto proportions. Whilst dictators speeches dragged on for page after page, Popes could say something revolutionary in a brief address.

Others will provide an analysis but I fear that as Fr Zuhlsdorf points out people will interpret it according to their preferences, either positively or negatively, but for many it will make no difference, who will wade through its two hundred pages? The bottom line is that those who shouldn't receive communion will still come up and do so, it is the pastoral reality of Catholic life today. And yet the document itself tells us that doctrine and pastoral practice are to be interpreted according to culture. This, if Cardinal Kasper was right, is revolutionary character of Amoris Laetitia‬; since Nicea the Church has sought to bring into unity, now that seems to be reversed, time will tell.

I think the crisis in the Church is one of integrity. Benedict interpreted it as a crisis of the disintegration of the liturgy, following the idea that we believe what we say and do in the liturgy, lex credendi lex orandi. It stems of course from the 2nd Commandment,  that if we keep Holy the name of God, nothing we do in the name of God should be trivial or false, that our "yes means yes and no means no". The ending of our  prayers, "Through Our Lord Jesus Christ ..." turns them into a sacred oath. Lies and obfuscation have no place in the Christian life. There must be something very different in way Christians speak, most especially bishops and priests, Christ after all spoke with authority, unlike the religious and political leaders of his day. His words were witnessed to by God himself, the Father and the Spirit witness to Him as the Truth. It is as the Truth that Pilate is incapable of recognising Him, and therefore as the Truth that He is condemned and crucified. Those who are on the side of Truth listen to His voice, because He is the Word of God, the Son of the Father, full of Grace and Truth.

The child abuse crisis and consequent episcopal cover-ups revealed the Church or rather its leaders as being without integrity, as being far from the truth, in fact many were shown to be downright liars. If we are to witness to the truth of Christ we need to be men and women of total integrity, the knotty wood of the Cross is the great sign of integrity, it is through our trustworthiness as witnesses to the resurrection that others are called to believe, if the Church cannot be trusted we cannot be faithful witnesses.

Perhaps it is not just in the Church but in society in general that there is a problem with the truth, manipulation by politicians, journalists, spin-doctors, political correctness, language manipulation all in one way or another create an environment of mistrust in which communion/communication between human beings breaks down. Its the tower of Babel situation there are so many voices crying out but no-one can hear what is being said. The Church is supposed to be different, making out of many nations one people, with one certain truth, down the centuries the Church has sought truth, the One Truth, now it seems to me that the Church is following the world, that bishops are emulating politicians, that we are not so much concerned with truth as its application or spin, that we no longer see truth as person but a commodity.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

An Angry Nun - God send us more!

I have never watched EWTN, I don't do television, I have seen some clips of Mother Angelica. I don't know if she is a saint, as some have suggested. She just strikes me as being one of those feisty, even angry nuns we used to have, the type of nuns that set up hospitals and schools, orphanages and nursing homes, who were part of the first wave of women in Universities, who sought academic excellence, who weren't afraid to stand up to dictators, both secular and religious, who would be as unabashed by troop of Imperial or Nazi soldiers as they would by a class of third form girls.

Some people talk about emasculation of men in today's Church, I ask what about the women, where are they today? Why aren't they as feisty as they were? Why are they not like St Claire demanding their right to live in poverty, or St Catherine demanding the Holy See clean up its act? Where are the great founders who had the vision of sanctifying the poorest parts of our cities or like Theresa of Kolkata, as we call it now, the poorest parts of the world? 

What has happened to these women? My suggestion is that the old pre-Concilliar Church might well have been a stifling airless place waiting for John XXIII to open up a window or two but actually one man's stifling airless place is another's hothouse, a hot house that produced outstanding people with a deep a spiritual life and deep roots growing into the possibly foetid but rich compost. In order for any plant to bear fruit it needs to have stable roots.

Mother Angelica's legacy is her daring to speak out, to stand up and confront misused authority to demand her Church is given back to her. Mother speaks from a position of the common authority and common ownership that belongs to all Catholics. Her's is a simple faith, the faith of the Baltimore Catechism, the faith of everyman (and woman). She does what all Catholics should do, she demands to be given back her Church. I love that early video (see below) where she condemns 'the Liberal Church of America'. She is hopping angry and God used her anger, just the same as so often he uses the stubbornness of martyrs.

She does what monks and nuns and lay people have always done when bishops and priests - the experts - have tried to steal the faith, she rose up, she shouted in the streets, she denounced, she shouted aloud, she demanded her Pastors fed the sheep not on their own theological or pastoral experiments but on the Catholic faith. The terrible thought I have is that instead of shouting aloud far too many Catholics now remain silent and leave by the back door. Mother Angelica formed a mob, at least in the media, and demanded the faith. The faith is too important to be left to the heirarchy it needs charismatics like Mother Angelica and the angry people in the Church to create a necessary tension.

What Mother Angelica did is intensely traditional, it is very much part of the prophetic monastic tradition, it is what St Anthony and the monks of Egypt and Palestine did, emerging from the desert 1700 years ago, to denounce Arianism, so happily embraced by the bishops and the higher clergy.

In these new times of madness, may the dear Lord send us thousand angry Mother Angelicas.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Looking back


I discovered this old picture on the net, it is Mass here five years or so ago, when we  had no sanctuary floor for a couple of months. Because of lack of space the only possibility was to push the altar as far back as possible, even then there was only a couple of meters between the front pew and the chasm that was the sanctuary, 'ad orientem' was the only possibility for Mass. Before that we had used the so called 'Benedictine arrangement', which really is odd, with a small altar especially, people criticised it as "the priest hidden behind bars [candlesticks]", it seems odd to me to have a crucifix for the priest in front of him, with the corpus facing him and one behind him facing the people (two different Christs), which do you incense?  In a big church like Westminster Cathedral, as improved as the present arrangement might be, but where the sheer size of the building renders the priests anonymous, it always seem strange to see only the priests torso and head behind the altar, rather than a whole priest in front of the altar. It such a huge building it seems a little comic, it is not after all as if one might see his facial expressions, even his voice is a little out of sync with his his lip movements, if you can see them.

At the same time there was a study group in the parish who read Ratzinger's Spirit of the Liturgy and Michael Lang's Turning towards the Lord, about the same time I attended a conference of about a hundred priests, at which Archbishop Di Noia spoke and the consensus was that the liturgy and consequently the life of the whole Church would benefit by a return of ad orientem worship.

When eventually we restored the church and there was a sanctuary floor the altar was designed for Mass to be celebrate both ways, initially I celebrated all the Masses, except in the Old Rite facing the people but it was they, certainly the servers, and those involved in the liturgy who urged facing east. I left it up to them and the sacristy staff to decide, I would celebrate Mass in either direction but found that generally it was arranged ad orientem.

There was no serious outcry, for most people it just seemed natural, even now visitors might tell me my preaching is shocking, or complain about the absence of guitars or rhythmic beat in our music but rarely, if ever, about the orientation of our worship. Our bishop at the time expressed some concern in one his friendly letters but when I cited a letter from the CDW, with its protocol number, which pointed out that the choice of orientation was entirely up to the priest I heard no more about it.

During the last days of Benedict there was a rumour that the CDW were preparing a document, perhaps even a new edition of the Missal that would promote ad orientem celebration. With the recent remarks of Cardinal Sarah regarding foot-washing and calling for ad orientem worship it seems that work still continues and awaits better times.

There is a nice little piece on the Christian significance of the East by St John of Damascus, which Fr Henry has posted. As Ratzinger points out whether we actually face East in our worship or not, we should at least be orientated towards the spiritual East: the Cross and the direction of the Resurrection and the Second Coming.

It is part of the "poorer Church for the poor", the recognition that "gold and silver have we none but in the Name of Jesus ...". For me it is the recognition that I have little to offer but Christ has everything. That it doesn't matter if I am happy, a good communicator, wise or stupid, etc. all that matters is I offer Christ in his sacraments. It seems entirely natural after a short homily to say, "... and so let us turn to the Lord".

I rather bore my penitents by saying the most important thing to remember is that you are not the Lord: Jesus alone is Lord. all we can do is rely on Him, and turn to Him in our need and point to Him, if we take attempt to take His place it is beyond us, we will become neurotic, frustrated and are doomed to fail, all we can do is turn to him in faith, hope and trust.

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...