Sunday, July 31, 2016

Secular France's inability to cope

An Anglican clergyman friend complained that I had posted an Aleteia picture of Fr Jaques Hamel, with the words 'martyr de France' on it. He is right of course France was born out of the Terror, the guillotine cut through the necks of far more priests and religious than oppressive aristocrats. The new Republic was born in the blood of Christ's faithful, precisely because they were faithful. The soil of the Vendee is rich in the blood of Catholic martyrs, the victims of the republic which chose the battle cry of "liberté, égalité, fraternité".

It neither surprised nor shocked any when a French left-wing politician issued the tweet below, and President Hollande, himself, could barely acknowledge that Father Jacques was a priest and was slain before his altar in a church as he offered the sacrifice of Christ.

France is secular, it is incapable of understanding religion, either Catholicism or Islam. I suspect this has been the reason for France's foreign policy failure. Once North Africa and the Middle East was Francophile, it benefited from the French Church's missionary endeavour, it never produced many converts but it did educate and and westernise. Fr Hamel's own involvement in 'dialogue' with Islam is perhaps an illustration of French Catholicism's of the years around the Vatican Council's involvement with Islam. We can see it the life of the Blessed Charles de Foucauld and in the killing of the martyred monks of the Atlas Mountains.

The Bush-Blair wars in the Middle East have caused the destruction of states, untold misery and instability throughout the region. The unfortunate result is that we have to pay for their mistakes - France has chosen to follow the lead of her NATO partners rather than the lead of the French Catholicism.

Closing European borders is no answer, certainly not if Europe (and the US) is to maintain its population. Contracepting and aborting Europe has created a vacuum that sucks in immigrants, the only alternative is a drastic economic and social change, founded on something other than economic power.

French left wing politicians have been going round the TV studios suggesting Fr Jacques murderers, like those in Nice or Paris had psychological problems, or that they were not 'real' Muslims. The Left refuses to even think that there is a Muslim problem. One might be willing to accept that to some degree but the question has to be asked is why are immigrants or the sons of immigrants so alienated from European society? Why should they become deranged, or deeply unsettled by and alienated by our contemporary?

I heard of a group trad -SSPX- nuns in a Paris veiled and wimpled dressed from head to foot in black who are welcomed and respected by the local Muslim community but are often jeered at by the local secularists and Front National. The veil and wimple have now become so un-French. The morality of Catholicism and moderate Islam at least are not that distant, but but there is a huge gulf between it and secularism.

For a barely educated Afghan or Middle Eastern peasant transported to France, or Germany, living in poverty in a Paris suburb, the West is a confusing place, especially if he is living in a lawless ghetto and unable to access to comprehend Western values. In Brighton there was a project, which fortunately fell through, of locating a refugee centre in the centre of Brighton's 'gay village'. In secular France one might expect that it might be a deliberate policy to do this, to expose new immigrants to 'French values', to expect the recently arrived to be immersed in secular culture.

À Brest, le FN réclame la démission d'une élue ex-EELV après "une blague de mauvais goût" sur l'assassinat du prêtre Jacques HamelOne of my parishioners recently asked whether English 'Equality' laws would still exist in 20 years time, it is unlikely with current levels of immigration. Cardinal Vingt-Trois has recently suggested a similar thing, are immigrants going to be comfortable with the secularist agenda: with economic driven feminism, with abortion, with euthanasia, with the gay agenda, with relationships closed to children or with the sexualisation of our children, to say nothing of our drink and drugs culture?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Pere Jaques Hamel

If you want know
This is what the priesthood is about
This is what the Mass is about
This is what the Catholic Church is about

Kyrie eleison
Christe eleison
Kyrie eleison

Monday, July 18, 2016

Orientation: The crucial question is what is the Mass?

The crucial question is what is the Mass?

St Paul gives the answer, "When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory" 1Cor 11:26.
The Church, from its very beginning until the 1960's, zealously defended this understanding of the Mass over the 'fraternal meal' as its core teaching and consequently its understanding of the Church's life and mission.

Christ's death and return, and our place in it, is at the very heart of Catholic (and Orthodox) belief, it is this after all that is the essential part of the kerygma. It is this that page for page is the substantial part of the Gospels. It is this rather than Jesus' teaching or life that concerns the writing of the Apostles, and the writers of the sub-Apostolic age.

It is with Protestant worship in the sixteenth century where the idea of  the 'fraternal meal' takes over from the proclamation of the Lord's death and return in glory. Protestantism has a supreme discomfort with the notion that the Mass is a supernatural event. In the Catholic Church the 1960's brings in an understanding of the Mass that is essentially one of the 'meal'. It would obviously be foolish to suggest that the Eucharist is not set within a meal but for the New Testament and the Fathers, in fact everyone up to VII, this meal is the sacred act of the Pasch,  a communion  sacrifice with him the Lamb and Victim Priest.

The loss of a sense of the Mass as being about Christ's death and coming again has been the most significant change in both the Church's understanding of herself and her mission. It would be ridiculous to suggest that this change is not signified by the 1960s re-orientation of the Mass and it is for that reason that Cardinal Sarah speaks about the return to the ancient (and correct) orientation of the Mass as being both 'urgent' and 'necessary'.

To suggest that ad orientem and, errr..., contra populum worship are equal I would suggest is without foundation, certainly ecumenically and historically. The Temple was orientated to the East, there are countless reference Salvation coming from the East or with the dawn, the archaeological evidence, the Tradition of all the Eastern Churches all point to the norm of eastward facing as being normative for Christian prayer both liturgical and private,  Msgr Pope in a useful article here reminds us of the care for proper orientation in the Didiscalia written around 250 A.D.
Now, in your gatherings, in the holy Church, convene yourselves modestly in places of the brethren, as you will, in a manner pleasing and ordered with care. Let the place of the priests be separated in a part of the house that faces east. In the midst of them is placed the bishop’s chair, and with him let the priests be seated. Likewise, and in another section let the laymen be seated facing east. For thus it is proper: that the priests sit with the bishop in a part of the house to the east and after them the lay men and the lay women…Now, you ought to face east to pray, for, as you know, scripture has it, Give praise to God who ascends above the highest heavens to the east…
What is significant is that the correct orientation of worship was important for our forefathers. It was not arbitrary, one orientation or another was not a matter of choice, as it is still not in the Churches of the East today. One of my Orthodox friends seriously regards the Catholic Church as being protestant simply in regard of abandoning the the ancient orientation. For the Eastern Churches it is a serious issue, and not one of mere preference.

Westward or  contra populum worship can best be seen by its fruits, the first and foremost is to diminish the crucial question of what the Mass is about: the proclamation of Jesus' death and return in glory, that is unlikely to be the answer coming from most Catholics today, despite mouthing it in the 'Mystery of Faith' after the consecration.
If we get that wrong then our ecclesiology is bound to collapse, because of course the question raised by lay participants is, "what are we doing here?" If the answer is that we are guests at a fraternal meal, then that in itself raises questions, when there are far more fraternal fraternal meals around than a Catholic church on a Sunday morning. Of course what it marks is a departure from Scripture and Catholic Tradition

For the priest too there is more than a little danger, certainly he has always been seen as alter Christus but he has always seen in this role (literally) on the side of worshippers, like them in all things but ontology, rather than a stand in, or even replacement, for Christ the host of the meal. With the magnification of the priestly role comes also the exultation of congregationalism. Cdl Nichols warns against "personal preference" and yet the whole notion of forgetting the Pauline understanding of the Mass and raising the role of the priest means that individual congregations develop their own style of worship, their own musical tradition, their style of ministry, their own set of preferences, and ultimately their own theology.
Some priests reject the celebration of ad orientem worship based simply on the fact that their congregation would re-act against it. Could it actually be that they have already developed their own congregational theology that is at odds with the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church also includes the Eastern Rites and has a history that goes back through the centuries to Jesus Christ and the apostles. Not understanding the significant fracture that non- ad orientem worship introduces is itself a sign of seriousness of our break with the past and the depth of the hermeneutic of rupture.

Friday, July 15, 2016

No 'Personal Preferences'

Apparently, in the light of Cardinal Nichols recent email members of the Brigade of George for Defence Against Liturgical Abuse (and Preferences) are being sent into his diocese to make sure there is absolutely no 'personal preference' used in celebrations of the Sacred Liturgy.
Each of these 'surveyors' has been highly trained and will answer a detailed questionnaire regarding the rubrics of the Mass. Of the over 1000 questions some of these might well be on the list.
Did the priest wear the correct vestments? Was the stole worn under or over the chasuble? Was his neck-wear completely conceal by an amice or the alb, especially in the case of religious with hoods? If he were a bishop was his pectoral Cross worn correctly? Was it suspended on a cord or chain? Did he wear the correct cassock? Where was the Blessed Sacrament reserved. Were the correct chants sung? If hymns were used did these correspond to the text of the Missal. Where hymns from a list approved by the Bishop's Conference? Was anything placed before the altar, chairs, flowers to obscure its significance? Did the priest extend his hands when performing the functions of a deacon eg at the Gospel? Were the correct Offertory prayers used? Were auxiliary bishops prayed for in the Eucharistic Prayer? Was EPII used on a Sunday? Was the correct voice used for various prayers? Were additional devotions inserted into Mass? Was the liturgy interrupted by any unauthorised rite, such as praise of small children bringing pictures into church? Were the correct translations of the Mass used? Did the blessing of  'communicants' take place during the distribution of Holy Communion? Was there any dancing before, during or immediately after Mass? Were there puppets?

It is expected that once the questionnaires have been answered it will take His Eminence several months to deal with each 'personal preference'. Some of course are personal preferences, some are congregational preferences and some the people in the choir gallery's preference, but some of course are downright abuses, were these take place, and are ongoing, they will be reported to the Cardinal Prefect of the CDW.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

When did facing the people become normal?

Just asking: where in the Missal or elsewhere is the priest directed to say Mass facing the people?
What document of the Church makes it normative?
The earliest CDW document I can find is from 2000, which simply suggests it as an option, 'to facilitate communication', but by then practically every priest in the Latin Rite was doing it, and zillions were spent to facilitate it, but who said do it and where?
The Missal clearly implies the priest faces the 'apse', and says when the priest faces the people.
Cardinal Nichols assumes it to be normative but gives no reference for such an assumption.

Even the Tridentine Missal allowed for those peculiarities, mainly Roman Papal altars, where the altar is built over a Confessio of a martyr so it was impossible to stand in front of the altar -with the people- but this was an exception. Indeed in the Michaelangelo re-ordering of St Peter's the people that mattered, the Papal Court, knelt behind the Pope between the Altar of the Chair and the High Altar.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Cdl Sarah: Fallout and the Real Battle

I posted this comment on Fr Hugh's excellent blog, and on a thought provoking piece he published today entitled: The Fallout and Propaganda: Cardinal Sarah and Sacra Liturgia 2016. Fr Hugh speaks of the enthusiastic reception of the Cardinal's invitation to begin ad orientem celebration in Advent, I remember being at another conference when another CDW official made a similar statement, with a similar reaction from the floor, a few of us actually did re-orientate our worship. In recent years, after Pope Benedict's papacy, the urgency of the situation has gathered momentum.
Thank you again Fr Hugh, your accounts have been invaluable for those us unable to the conference.

The real issue here, with the Missal, is the same as with the Council itself: how should it be read?
It is either in the hermeneutic of 'rupture': meaning forget what the documents themselves actually say, forget what scholarship says, forget what the competent authorities say, or else it is 'continuity', which means a return to a strict reading of the text, listening to what scholars are saying, and listening to competent authorities.
In this skirmish the whole battle of the VII is being played out, including the rather shameful and not quite truthful bullying by the advocates the hermaneutic rupture of those who uphold the hermeneutic of continuity.
My personal fear is that despite what the texts clearly say and is open to everyone to read, that some 'experts' really hold an arcane truth revealed only to them, it is really about de-democratising the Church, and placing control into the hands of an elite and arcane oligarchy, who despite clear evidence insist they alone have authority to make a 'correct' interpretation.
This is not just about the preference of the priest as Cdl Nichols suggests, it is about how we read and implement the Church's teaching. In the case of Cdl Nichols email to his clergy it also seems about arrogating a power to himself that properly belongs to priests.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Far be it for me to correct Cardinal Nichols but...

Image result for vincent nichols
Far be it for me to correct Cardinal Nichols but it does strike me their Eminences are often badly informed or confused nowadays, he has sent an email to his clergy warning them off of follow Cardinal Sarah's call for offering Mass ad orientem.

There is a paragraph here:
Following Cardinal Robert Sarah’s appeal last week during the the Sacra Liturgia conference in London, Cardinal Nichols who is Archbishop of Westminster, wrote to priests reminding them that, “the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, approved by the highest authority in the Church, states in paragraph 299 that ‘The altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible. The altar should, moreover, be so placed as to be truly the centre toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns. The altar is usually fixed and is dedicated.’”

His Eminence is wrong in his interpretation of this rubric that "which is desirable whenever possible", is not Mass facing the people, but that the "altar should be built apart from the altar from the wall". Perhaps the Cardinal should read Fr Lang's excellent Turning towards the Lord. Fr Lang is actually resident in his diocese.

This is how the CDW interprets it:
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has been asked whether the expression in n. 299 of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani constitutes a norm according to which the position of the priest versus absidem [facing the apse] is to be excluded. 
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, after mature
reflection and in light of liturgical precedents, responds: 
Negatively, and in accordance with the following explanation.
The explanation includes different elements which must be taken into account. First, the word expedit does not constitute a strict obligation but a suggestion that refers to the
construction of the altar a pariete sejunctum (detached from the wall). It does not require, for example, that existing altars be pulled away from the wall. The phrase ubi possibile sit (where it is possible) refers to, for example, the topography of the place, the availability of space, the artistic value of the existing altar, the sensibility of the people participating in the celebrations in a particular church, etc.
I have the protocol number for this letter somewhere, I can't find it at the moment perhaps someone might help out with it.

The pre-Vatican II  Sacred Congregation of Rites, had always recommended the separation of altar and walls and also the building of gradines behind altars so that candles and relics might be placed on them and not the consecrated mensa which was reserved for things which were truly necessary for Mass.

Mass in his cathedral is always more beautiful when celebrated according the rubrics, perhaps they should be read by HE, particularly those parts which talk about turning towards the people, which assume at other time he is not.

Petrus tells me 
"Prot. No 2086/00/L is the one in question"

And see here too

Friday, July 08, 2016

Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited

Radio 4 has had Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited by Philip Eade much of it is about his relationship with the Church. It should be available on iplayer for awhile.
Waugh is fascinating, more fascinating than any of his characters, he wasn't by nature a very nice person, and not a very good person. He says somewhere that if it wasn't for the Church he would be much worst, what shines through is his faith, his fidelity. There is something very beautiful about his life. His biggest cross seems to be being Evelyn Waugh with all the dross he picked up in life and the burden of his personality, and the recognition of his need for Christ is there, even when after the Council the Mass became 'terrible burden'.

We don't seem to attract people like Waugh today, he was very much a low Mass and Confessional Catholic but then so many of those towering converts, the artists and writers, of the inter-war years were. 

Why don't we?

Fr Lawrence Lew, OP on Photography and Beauty

There are a couple of rather nice short video by Fr Lawrence Lew OP, he was the photographer at the Sacra Liturgia conference. There is something very Thomistic about his approach to beauty, whether it is in the liturgy or the life of his community or in ecclesiastical subjects like stain glass.

The re-enchantment of the liturgy, and the rediscovery of beauty is ultimately about encountering God. Fr Lew speaks rather simply in these videos but says some rather profound things.    
from Blackfriars Media on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Towards the Lord: Important, Urgent and Necessary

I've not been able to get away, I have felt really deprived by not being able to get Sacra Liturgia  Conference in London. especially as people I admire are either speaking or organising the Conference and lots of friends are there, plus many who I would very much like to be friends.

The opening speaker, the Prefect of the CDW, Cardinal Sarah presented a barn-storming address, rich in wisdom and insight, perhaps the central message was what everyone has commented on: ad orientem celebration of the Mass.

It has been the present prefects preoccupation for some time, but it was also something that concerned Cardinal Canizares before him and Cardinal Arinze before him, and even Cardinal Medina Estévez before him.

What is new is the Cardinal Sarah challenge to priests to simply get on and do it. What is new to is the sense of urgency and necessity that he sees in ad orientem worship. Perhaps this is part of his character, perhaps it is the development of popular scholarship that has really turned its back on any defence of widespread use of ad populam worship in the Patristic age, except possibly in papal churches.

For Cardinal Sarah, actually does ask, "were have the people gone?" he suggests that endless experiment has actually driven people out of Church, that rather than helping people to grow in faith, Father's little liturgical experiments have destroyed faith, and although in some cases they might have endeared a priest to a particular set of people they have for many been a real turn off.

Liturgical experimentation always tends to diminish the communication of the faith, and raises the position of the priest. the problem is of course most us priests are not up to communicating the faith, let alone providing some new insight into it.

But what is the urgency, he spoken recently, saying, "it is very important that as soon as possible we return to a common orientation of priest and people eastwards in those parts of the liturgy where we are addressing God. This is a very important step to ensure that, in our celebration of the sacred liturgy, God rather than man is at the centre of it."

As a member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and as Pontifical Council for the Laity and Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Sarah has stressed a God or Nothing -the title of his latest book- approach. For him the direct connection of the Church with the person of Jesus Christ cannot be compromised, Catholic ethos, Catholic values or Catholic influence are no substitute for being Catholic, and being connected to the person of Christ.

The urgency with which he expresses himself seems to increase the more certain elements within the Church seem to want to distance the Church from Christ.  More and more priests are bewildered by the Pope or his PR people, or his psychological inability to speak or think clearly, of his often confused interpretation of Sacred Scripture. The attacks on the family prior to and during the Synod, the ambiguous messages that are coming from many bishops, appointed by Francis, regarding gender theory and homosexuality, the ambiguity regarding ecumenism and non-Christian religions, the praise of amorality and of all sorts of irregularities do serious damage. The confusion comes from the top, not just from  the Pope but from the men who are closest to him, it spreads down. Bishops and priests are at the best confused but confusion leads to division and depression, a sense of isolation and consequently becomes an attack on faith. Even Fox News expresses concern.

I think for Cardinal Sarah the urgency of re-orientating is about recapturing amongst priests and bishops a sense of proximity to Christ, it is about heightening the sense of an encounter with Christ in mystery. In his previous job he was concerned that Catholic charities could become simple NGOs, in his present position I think the Cardinal is concerned that the liturgy itself, and therefore the Church can become emptied of Christ. Turning towards the Lord, therefore is seen by him as one remedy for the Church's present situation, and the worst it gets the more important and urgent it is to turn towards the Lord.

What is perhaps significant is the Pope's support for the Cardinal.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Catholicism without borders

The post-war generation of intellectuals, especially in Germany and occupied Europe were traumatised by their experience, I suspect the German bishops still are, there is fear, 'we must not go back'.

The European Project and Vatican II, or at least Aggiornamento project are stablemates, many of the ideas behind the rebuilding of Europe after two disastrous World Wars, were behind the idea of rebuilding the Church, which had for many simply failed. The Imperial Age before World War I and the rise of nationalism under the guise of Fascism and Communism which had preceded World War II were obviously a calamity.

For Catholic thinkers especially, the post war period was a time for the re-examination of consciences, to what extent had Catholic culture contributed to war and the holocaust. One can see the scars of this in the thinking of JPII and Benedict XVI on the mission to the Jews.

There is a fascinating article on Spiked about multiculturalism and national identity, it is worthwhile reading it terms of theological borders, and Catholic identity. In the confusion of the Franciscan Papacy, heavily influenced by German theological thinking, dogma and theological certainties are akin to borders and definitions of identity, the big theological question at the moment is the same as in politics today, are these of the past or the future? The problems is that without defining itself (setting up borders) the Church has no identity or purpose.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Subsidiarity is Personal Autonomy

During the referendum campaign, not only Catholics but many others referred to the principle of Subsidiarity and giving it as a reason to 'repatriate' powers from Brussels to London. Some people quote subsidiarity as a principle for democracy, with a preference for national or local democracy.

This is a misunderstanding, that much under-rated pope, Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo anno, (79) says:
It [Subsidiarity] is a fundamental principle of social philosophy, fixed and unchangeable, that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry. 
Thus it is about personal autonomy and empowerment, and about the respect that is due to the individual and his rights and dignity.

This very Catholic principle of subsidiarity, based on our very Catholic understanding of human nature, which is neither Capitalist or Socialist, just Catholic, is based on the gospel idea of fraternity, and caring for one's neighbour. The loss of it diminishes us.

Taking away autonomy from individuals seems to be one of our major social ills, it is perhaps one of the reasons young people are likely to take to the streets rather than the ballot box or the hustings. Dare I suggest that one of the reasons many British Muslims, who also seemed to vote Brexit, in the Midlands and North East feel alienated and are prone to radicalisation is the lack of subsidiarity.

Dis-empowerment seems to be an important factor in mental and social health of our country, The referendum showed a country divided. There is gulf between the elite and the masses, the powerful and the powerless, the fat-cat banker and the family that queue at the food bank, the comfortably housed and the young couple who will never own a house and can barely afford to rent one, or the parent who has to send their child to a school where he or she will be introduced to a gang sex and drugs culture because they lack the autonomy to escape their environment, or as in the picture the mega-rich Bob Geldorf (and the late Jo Cox) yelling insults at out of work fishermen.

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...