Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tradition: A theology from below

A few quick thoughts on Cardinal Sarah and mutual enrichment. I think the Cardinal is perhaps one of the most impressive spiritual writers of today, he is brave when others are craven – but he seems not to understand the nature of ‘Tradition’.

‘Tradition’ will always be regarded as dangerous, especially in an increasingly monarchical Church. It is not a movement, it is something below a movement, it is grass roots thing. Those who have respect for ‘Tradition’ should also have respect for the hierarchical structure of the Church but ‘Tradition’ is something beyond that. It might well be signified by a love for the Old Mass but it is more than that, after all what is the ‘Old Mass’? It is something which in the end ended a process of an organic development which ended with Missal of Blessed John XXIII in 1962, hence the attachment to that Missal but it is more than that.

‘Traditionalists’ are unhappy about the Cardinals suggestions for mutual enrichment, fine to introduce elements of the Old Rite into the New Rite but to do things the other way round is unacceptable. ‘Traditionalist’, many of whom have difficulty with certain aspects of Vatican II that are out of keeping with let’s say Newman’s theory of the development doctrine look to another age and another type of ecclesiology, something which arises from below, from forgive me for returning yet to him, St Vincent of Lerrins’, "Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus, creditum est." Or in English, "That which has been believed everywhere, always, by all people."

There is a tension coming to the fore in this Pontificate, amplified in part by Amoris Laetitia but its strong centralism too, and imposition of doctrine from above, with something far more pneumatological, the slow gentle movement of the faith amongst the grassroots of the faithful which is the real ‘theology from below’. It is something which Catholics have always understood from scripture about the working of the Holy Spirit, that he leads the Church into deeper understanding of the faith as he does through popular movements as much as he does through Papal or Episcopal interventions, indeed he does this in the reception by the faithful of Papal or Episcopal doctrine.

It might be necessary at times for Pope’s to interfere in the day to day running of individual diocese, or in the life of the whole Church but this is as Vatican I’s  Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus indicates, something to be exercised when the unity of the Church is threatened, not the normal function of the Sovereign Pontiff. It obviously demands that the Pope is indeed a servant and bishops see themselves as sharing in his apostolic office, essentially being faithful bearers of the Tradition, they too are given authority to bind and loose, the difference is Peter’s role in maintaining unity amongst his Apostolic brothers, at no time except in the hundred years or so has he been an innovator.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Reception of Pope Francis

I am not sure, like most Catholic clergy nowadays, that the Orthodox are not Catholic or part of the Catholic Church, as one might say the churches founded in the sixteenth century are not, or those without valid sacraments are not. Of course those who receive baptism are always in some sense part of the Catholic Church, even if after baptism they go into schism. With the 'two lung' theory one might suggest that the Catholic Church itself is deficient without a unity of East and West and the Orthodox would say the same, hence the reaching out of East and West.

In practice one could even suggest that the Great Schism of 1054 only came into effect in 1870 with Vatican I. Until then there seemed to a fair degree of inter-communion, even the acceptance of mutual jurisdiction, Orthodox nuns sought out Jesuit confessors, even Orthodox declarations of marriage dissolution/divorce* were often accepted in most parts of Italy and most of parts of the Catholic world east of Italy. And although as in the Eucharist we might have expressed our theology very differently that these expressions were actually cultural rather than actually an expression of different beliefs, ultimately we could both say, "this is Jesus".

Yesterday I was listening to Austin Ivereigh on the BBC, the self appointed Papal apologist, who was speaking about the 'reception or non-reception' of Amoris Laetitia and the Holy Father's teaching or even reign and in Saturday's L'Osservatore there was this fascinating article which speaks of the Italian clergy, high and low opposing Francis. The inference being the Pope was a goody the clergy baddies and ignorant too. Historically that is not how the Church works and this article will probably only serve to highlight the isolation of the Pope and encourage others to speak about it.

I rarely agree with Ivereigh, I often wonder if the Pope does but I think that his reference to'reception' is important. In the West we have a very feudal and increasingly from the US a presidential attitude to authority, which sees it coming down from above and is imposed on those below. The Orthodox approach is I suspect a little more 'Catholic', certainly patristic, it is that Councils and Bishops teach but this is their teaching not the Church's belief until it is accepted by the whole Church (St Vincent of Lerrins, Catholic faith is that believed always, everywhere and by all).

Thus 'The Faith' is the belief of the whole Church and certainly not a few of its hierarchy. Indeed a Pope or Bishop cannot identify themselves as the Church they are ultimately as significant or insignificant as anyone else. Newman interestingly wrote after Vatican I that what the non placet party did and what happened to them was of great importance, obviously he was interested in the long term reception of the teaching Vatican I, post Vatican II we might be thinking not of Old Catholics but of the East too.

In the early days of this Pope's reign when he so often described himself not as Pope but as Bishop of Rome I thought that we might move to an understanding papacy acceptable to the lungs of both East and West, in line with Patristic teaching, and what I would say was in line with truly Catholic sentiment. A bishop has authority only because he acts in communion with his diocese and with the Church Catholic (the Church in Heaven and on Earth). The Bishop of Rome is no different, indeed than being President of the Church or even its monarch he is the servant of the servants, a title little used nowadays.

I have been bashed by a notorious sedevacantist recently; no rational person would question the election of Francis, he is Pope, despite the manipulations of the St Gallen group. What is a much more a Catholic concern is the acceptance of Francis' teaching, ultimately how the Church will remember him, indeed if it will remember him at all or as little more than a brief historical throwback or curio. Remembering or not remembering is how the Western Church really deals teaching from above, from Councils, Popes and Bishops.

If the L'Osservatore article is correct, and there is no reason to imagine that it is not, or that it is just reserved to Rome or Italy, it would seem that despite popular acclaim of journalists and those outside or the edge of the Church that the clergy as it says 'high and low' -and presumably the committed laity- will quickly forget Francis, most of them of course will still continue when Francis moulders silently in his tomb amongst his predecessors.

 'In the end the Lord wins'.

 *On the Orthodox divorce practice, I had a discussion with an Orthodox priest who said, it was practice of Orthodoxy but not its belief because it was plainly contrary to scripture and contrary to Orthodox practice, generally, of lifelong loving Orthodox marriages and therefore it could not be deemed 'accepted or received Orthodox teaching'.

Friday, July 21, 2017


Some argue it is not possible for us to be free, it is the argument that 1970’s Jesuits put forward to argue that mortal sin was impossible.  The argument would run that an adulterer was not entirely free because of an inner compulsion, or because “she tempted me”, when he committed adultery. 

Another example would be to say a woman was not “free” when she made a decision to abort her baby because she couldn’t cope financially or couldn’t have time out from her career or she simply had a dislike of baby poo or didn’t want her figure spoilt. I am sure that most women have stronger reasons than these for making such a terrible decision but a catholic would argue that these reasons mitigated her culpability but could not say that she did not make a free decision to have the child in her womb killed, even if the alternative was her own death.

The same situation would exist behind the decision of someone whose wife and children were being tortured until he rejected Christ and accepted some Satanic or pagan cult. The Church would still judge him to be free. Our faith indeed sets us free, “for freedom, Christ has set us free” Gal 5:1 because for us freedom is always orientated towards God, even for unbelievers it is orientated to God via the natural law, we know by our nature what is right or wrong and are orientated, despite the external pressures, to act accordingly.

I am still contending with the “2+2=5” sedevacantist. He argues as many of his kind do that: Canon 332§2: If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone, would suggest that Pope Benedict's resignation was not free and therefore not valid.

He has a very modernist, uncatholic understanding of “freely”. It does not mean there is no pressure, that rarely happens with any human decision, it means simply that the decision is made “freely”, that is 'in Christ'.

One could argue that Pius XII’s resignation letter, that he wrote to come into effect if he was taken prisoner by Germans, would not have been a ‘free’ decision but this was of a very different character to Benedict XVI’s resignation, Pius’ hand was forced by the threat of his capture, possible drugging and manipulation. Benedict’s decision was made, as he himself has said and repeated frequently, freely, in conformity with Canon 332§2.

What is worrying here is a self appointed judge of Popes, should be so lacking in basic Catholic principles, which a few decades ago a child making his First Confession would be expected to understand.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Francis is Pope

Image result for 2+2=5Some, supply your own adjective, here, quotes me and then suggests I am suggesting that Pope Benedict did not resign ‘freely’ with the implication, presumably therefore that Francis is not a validly elected Pope, that is nonsense.

It is the type of logic coming from Roman courtiers who can make 2+2=5. Let me be quite clear Benedict was Pope, he is not now; Francis is Pope both de facto and also de jure, it is Francis I pray for at Mass, not Benedict or anyone else.

This 2+2=5er suggests I am suggesting Benedict did not resign ‘freely’ that is blatant lie. Very few of us act with absolute freedom; age, advice or pressure from others, fear or even threats might well influence our decisions but unless someone was physically forcing Benedict’s hand to write his name at the foot of his resignation, and pressed his seal to it amidst squeals of protestation, he did indeed act ‘freely’.

There is a great deal of nonsense written by these sort of sedevacantists or quasi- sedevacantists. The truth is that the Pope is the one who sits on the cathedra of Peter, possibly there might be doubt if there is a squabble over at the inaugural Mass or in the past the Coronation, no such thing happened with Francis, there is no anti-Pope and no alternative. Benedict’s resignation was followed by his filial acceptance of Francis’ election. Though one might regret he is no longer Pope, that does not mean anything: Francis is Pope, there is no other.

A great deal is said by some about JPII’s rules for a Papal Election, they do not alter the fact that Francis is also the Supreme Lawgiver, having been acknowledge as Pope by the College of Electors, the clergy and people of Rome, and the bishops, clergy and laity of the world, he alone has the ability to judge the validity of his election and whether it fulfilled JPII’s rules. Obviously he judges his election to be valid and Benedict’s resignation to be valid and legitimate.

I suppose Traditionalists might prefer older forms of election, there are plenty of good examples from history of the electors being coerced: an army bearing down on Rome happened from time to time, bribing the electors happened, the imprisonment or deaths of opposing cardinal electors happened, none of which invalidated any Papal election. Indeed even when there were three popes it seems at least in here in England all three were included in the Canon of the Mass.

Forgive me if this sounds angry but whilst I am happy to be quoted by anyone, even if the disagree with me, I think I have the right to be quoted accurately and not have my words deliberately misinterpreted - it is called 'honesty' and 'having integrity'.

The last time I looked this mischief maker or is it just a fool had not put up my correction or removed or corrected the post.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Benedict XVI's resignation: my theory

Mr Gibson, the mad Scots maths teacher used to drag boys around his classroom by their ears or their hair until they fell to the floor, causing as much pain as possible or slammed their foreheads against their desks. Miss Streeter, who became Mrs Holland, the fat French teacher would make boys put their heads in their desks and then sit on the desk. Mr Shin, the lunatic Games teacher was not adverse to having a whole class bend over in the gym and hitting them on their thin cotton shorts with an old gym shoe. Mrs Barter who taught pottery and design was happy to slash boys across the hand with the edge of a steel ruler. Both the headmaster and his deputy regularly caned boys. I suppose it could be a reason I have avoided maths and French and games and pots and had difficulty with institutions.

This happened in the 1970’s, schools were places of violence, fear and humiliation. There were good teachers but I suspect they avoided even thinking about the teaching methods of their violent and bullying colleagues, but we boys never spoke of these things, certainly not to adults. I suspect this was the case with George Ratzinger at Regensburger Domspatzen, he has already admitted to using violence on boys. I would find it difficult to imagine that German schools were much better than 
English schools. My school experiences compared to those of friends who attended the better public schools like Eton or Downside and Ampleforth was pretty moderate, for the time.

My theory about Benedict XVI’s resignation is that one key factor was the threat that his brother George might be implicated not only in the physical abuse but also in the sexual abuse of school pupils. Even if it was untrue, a Pope who had made it his work to deal with the cases of sexual abuse and the dismissal of abusers from the clerical state would be placed in an untenable situation if his beloved brother was caught up sex abuse scandal. Mud would have stuck and clung more deeply to the Church, he would have become the Pope with the abusing brother.

If one adds papers and objects being removed from Benedict’s own study, his blindness in one eye and increasing lameness, the pressure from groups like St Gallen mafia and Cardinal Martini, as well as his own desire to move away from Papacy of his larger than life immediate predecessors and return it to the restrictive fences laid around it by the First Vatican Council, his resignation would seem entirely reasonable.

High Ground

I haven’t read anything positive about Fr Spadaro’s little piece on Catholicism in America, there might be something somewhere. Perhaps the best response is Archbishop Chaput’s which can be read here.

Adjectives describe Spadaro as naïve, stuck in the 1970’s, intellectually weak or just plain ignorant. What is alarming is that Spadaro seems to be emerging as the Holy Father’s principle adviser.  There is an anti- intellectualism abroad in the Church, a failure to analyse or question or to take into account scholarship of any sort, ‘peer-review’ seems out of the question, it was one of the problems of a self-opinionated autocracy.

It reduces the Church to something that lacks rationality. The paedophilia crisis demonstrated, for many, the Church has little moral credibility, silly statements from the likes of Spadaro seem to demonstrate the Church has no intellectual authority either. How long until it is finally revealed that the emperor is completely naked?

In telling the truth, in morality, in the intellectual world it is important that Catholics occupy the high ground.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Sin of Silence

One of the worst evils is keeping silent in the face of evil, the Church seems full of men who are too weak, too effete to condemn what is wrong. This was the great scandal of child abuse, men who turned a blind eye to the immorality of others, who covered their eyes and refused to see the abuse around them, who covered their ears to pleas for justice and gagged themselves and refused to speak either to denounce grave sin or to protect the innocent.

Silence signifies acquiescence. When it hides serious sins or crimes it makes us accomplices and equally damnable with the perpetrator. The silence of so many bishops and priests in the face of the teaching of error is grave wound on the Body of Christ.

It is true sometimes silence can be an act of prudence, especially if one doesn't know the facts. It might have been prudent for the Holy Father to have kept silent when he accused the government of a South American country of being complicit in the kidnapping and possible murder of someone who was actually a government soldier kidnapped by a rebel faction.

In the case of St Thomas More's silence on Royal Supremacy, though he refused to sign, but then even with More his silence, unlike Fisher's outspokenness, gave rise to some finding an excuse to accept Royal Supremacy. Perhaps here we see the difference between the prudence a married man with dependants should exercise over following God's will, and the freedom celibacy gives. Though ultimately both More and Fisher ended on the executioner's block, and contemporaries said, 'said his silence echoed like thunder throughout Europe'.

I came in for a little criticism recently, when I wrote, "I certainly don't trust Monsignori or anyone who is not willing to back up a damaging statement about the Pope without being willing to put his name to it". Some people suggested the climate of fear in the Vatican at the moment justified anonymity for fear of losing one's career or pension or the esteem of superiors or colleagues. These are not the arguments of those who trust in God.

It is certainly praiseworthy to bear one's own suffering in silence but to be silent when others suffer is not a Christian option, it is sinful.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

It is the soil - today's sermon

Image result for soil
"You will listen and listen again, but not understand, 
see and see again, but not perceive. 
For the heart of this nation has grown coarse, 
their ears are dull of hearing, and they have shut their eyes, 
for fear they should see with their eyes, 
hear with their ears, understand with their heart, 
and be converted and be healed by me."

It is easy for a preacher to forget these verses from Isiah that Our Lord quotes, and to concentrate on sowers and seeds but before we get there we have remember the effort a first century farmer would have to put into the land before it could be cultivated. 

Even if his forefathers had cleared the land of vegetation it was an annual struggle to clear it of weeds, to dig out the rocks and stones that just keep coming up, to ensure the irrigation ditches are clear, to repair the fences to keep out his or his neighbour's livestock.

Before tractors it was not too difficult if you were rich and had an ox or donkey but if you had to rely on your wife and children to pull the plough or simply had to dig it yourself it was back-breaking work. Seed too was expensive, what you sowed you didn't eat, at least not until the new harvest, and you sowed in the hungry times when what you stored for the winter was coming to an end - you didn't want to waste it - it was seed taken from your children's mouths.

Therefore before we consider anything else let us consider the soil - soil of the soul.
How can we listen and understand?
See and perceive?
How do we stop our hearts growing course?
Make our hearing less dull, open our eyes?
Indeed, how do we hear with our ears, understand with our hearts so that we are converted and healed by him?

We are supposed take as much care over the care of our souls as a farmer of Jesus' time took over the care of his soil.
First we need to stay close to Jesus, to irrigate our souls with the Sacraments and the Word of God, to stay close to the Church's constant teaching.
We need to get rid of the rocks, those hard places in our lives where the Gospel can't grow, the deep seated, heavy sins - that really can be backbreaking work.
We need to uproot the weeds, the evils in lives, the gossip, the hatred, the keeping silent in the face of evils done to others.
We need to fertilize the soil with good works, yes prayer again, frequent confession, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, acts of charity and generosity.

We are not doing this work alone, God is with us in this strenuous work, so is the great Mother of God, as too the angels and saints -read the lives of the saints- they prepared the soil in their own fields, they were experts in clearing the soil of the soul. 

God wants us to be successful. He is the sower scattering the precious seed of his grace into our hearts, he wants it to grow producing a rich harvest in our lives.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Nasty Courtiers

Did you believe the story about the Pope submitting his five dubia to Cardinal Mueller? No nor did I, I just don't believe the stories that begin Monsignor A told Bishop B that Cardinal C had said the Pope has said or done Y. I do my best not to listen to gossip, and not to report it. If we can't try to speak the truth we are unlikely to be faithful witnesses to Christ, we have an obligation to speak the truth even if it costs us dearly in order to be credible.

I certainly don't trust Monsignori or anyone who is not willing to back up a damaging statement about the Pope without being willing to put his name to it, especially as in this case it was also about someone like Cardinal Mueller who is quite able to state frankly his own case and has a certain reputation of being honourable. Passing on this kind of 'fake news' is trading in filth, I find it as scandalous as stories about sexual deviants having parties in the Vatican.

Poor Pope Francis has to battle as much against with his friends as against his enemies, many of the more vociferous on both side are pretty unpleasant, they contaminate with their filthy lies those who listen to them and pass on in all innocence what they have heard. Simply, the Gospel allow it and threatens judgement against those who do it!

There is a very good podcast by Damien Thompson and Fr Ed Conlon at the end of this piece in the Spectator. Fr Ed hits the nail by saying that invariably liberal commentators misinterpret the Pope, it is not just journalists but as is discussed even revamped the Academy for Life came out with a statement regarding not keeping little Charlie Gard alive by extending his treatment, whilst the Pope, the very next day invited the family to Rome for further treatment.

One of the great problems with every court is that courtiers tend to fail to understand the thinking of the Prince, which means of course one moment you can be by his side giving advice and the next in a cage on the roof Castel Sant'Angelo exposed to the elements. The other thing about courtiers is they are often very nasty people, they put their trust in princes and not in the Lord. To see this today one only has to look at Twitter to see the abusive or gloating comments of those who claim to be close to the Pope today. If they judge a man to be an enemy of Francis there is no end to the vilification and bile.

The more unpredictable or incoherent a prince becomes the more violent and malevolent become those who surround him, of course they wish to control him, in the case of the current Pope this probably impossible, in the words of Cardinal Pell, 'he is unique'.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

New Saints

Just seen the motu proprio about the  new criteria for a certain category of martyrs, those who give their lives for others. Maybe I am hyper-critical, or get a little to anxious about anything coming from Rome where ambiguity seems deliberately written into documents and where 2+2 can actually equal 5. I get anxious about anything that distracts us from Christ. On a quick reading it seems that it could be possible to be beatified for a love of humanity rather than for love of Jesus Christ.
Do feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

I suppose I have a certain growing concern about the canonisation/beatification of so many, once for Christians in both East and West a person's sanctity was judged on their ability to intercede and work miracles, their post-mortem activity was often much more important than their lives. St Thomas Becket, for example, was raised to the altar not so much for his legal disputes with the King but for the stream of healing miracles after his death.

There is a danger too in the beatification or canonisation of an ideology or a faction rather than a truly holy person who is now in Heaven and enjoying the Beatific vision, interceding for the Church and its members. It would regrettable if canonisation/beatification became a posthumous ecclesiastical decoration for merely the great and the good.

A Coptic Orthodox friend says their criteria for canonisation is the need to be dead for 70 years and for numerous miracles or supernatural occurrences at their intercession or at the place of their burial.

Simply, I get worried about the removal of the clearly supernatural elements in our faith.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Language: The Great Divider

Tower Of Babel tower of babel on pinterest towers , language and ...Phone calls on Saturday or Sunday mornings are normally about Mass times. This Sunday I had a phone call asking, “Where is there Mass at midday in Brighton?” I replied, “There is one here at 12.30, it is in Polish”. The response, “Is there one in Vietnamese? If not we can do English but not Polish”.

Language is of course the great divider, I would have got, I suspect a similar response if I said Mass was in Latin. It is amazing to think most of the world was evangelised when the Church used sacral Latin.

Brighton is a veritable Babel of different languages, Polish amongst the Catholic community is certainly in the majority, and the Polish bishops ensure that for Poles there is a good system of chaplains, having a separate Mass perhaps makes it difficult for the children of Poles who are more comfortable with English to integrate, especially when the move from home. Until the last ten years Portuguese would have been the next biggest language group, there is as far as I know only one Portuguese speaking priest in the country, the result is that hardly any Portuguese seem to come to Mass, though when they return home they might well be devout.

Language for us is a problem, it is of its nature divisive, in the way it isn’t for Islam whose ‘liturgy’ is in classical Arabic, it is of course the sermon that becomes the problem for them as it was for us.

Though we say Latin in the past was the great unifier of Western Catholicism, until just before the Council silence in the liturgy amidst coughs and shuffling of the congregation was the norm, because of course microphones on the altar were forbidden, 'amplification' on the sanctuary was done by the clergy singing, this didn't happen at low Mass which is what most people attended, so in point of fact most people were evangelised by encouraging a strong devotional life based as much on the domestic and school as it was on the parish or mission church. He was merely responsible for celebrating the sacrament properly, praying and possibly preaching a half good sermon and not much else, the Church survived and prospered.


As an addenda: I thought this from NLM was interesting, in the world of the Traditional though priests as a species were important, as individuals, at least in church, they were not that important, I remember a friend who left who said he couldn't cope 'with the weight, the responsibility'. He wasn't the type of priest who could "say the black and do the red".

The Novus Ordo Missae has horizontal and vertical dimensions, but what it lacks is precisely depth. The depth has to be brought to it from the outside — from the interior spirit of the celebrant, from the accidents of place and time, from the luck of options well-chosen and well-executed.[1] As it stands, the modern liturgy does not supply that depth in and of itself. It is utterly at the mercy of the ars celebrandi, the community, the authorities, the prevailing mores of society. Even as contemporary society is living off of the fumes of traditional morality, so too the contemporary liturgy, to the extent that it is sanctifying of men and glorifying of God, is living off of the fumes of traditional liturgy.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Abrogation of Summorum Pontificum?

A French newspaper has reported Pope Francis, once Benedict dies, will abrogate Summorum Pontificum and handover Old Rite's celebration solely to the SSPX. Apart from saying that the Traditional Mass was not and could not be abrogated, he gave the right to every Western Catholic priest to say which ever form of the Roman Rite they chose; pretty logical considering the non-abrogation of the Ancient Mass.

Will Francis abrogate it? That is anyone's guess, but there are lots of questions that arise in my mind
  • Will the SSPX be reconciled Rome? I would suspect not but then all Francis needs to do is say they are reconciled and there are few problems, except possibly the appointment of successors to Bp Fellay et al.
  • Would the members of Traditional Institutes like the Society of St Peter or the Institute of Christ the King join the reconciled SSPX? I doubt it, there are lots of wounds in what some might like term the Traditional Movement, so many sacrifices and humiliations undergone to remain faithful to union with Rome and distant from the SSPX.
  • Would the SSPX want these other Institutes? I doubt it they have their own structures and spirituality. As charming as the three remaining SSPX might be, it is significant that Abp Lefebrve chose them for anything other than a leadership role, he wanted leadership of his priestly society to be priests, not a bishop.
  • There are many diocesan priests, there are Dominican's and members of other religious institutes like Oratorians who have developed a deep love of the Usus Antiquior, will heads of these orders like to lose, often the younger and the brighter of their priests? Very unlikely, Figaro recently reported a quarter of priest ordained in France this year are what it calls 'traditional priests', ordained in the traditional rite but one suspects that a significant number of younger priests 'have sympathies' and with Pope pushing his own agenda on the Church these sympathies are likely to grow.
  • What about the Bishop? Most would not want the SSPX involved in their diocese in a significant way or looking after significant numbers of 'their' faithful, or gathering vocations from 'their' young men (even, especially, if they can't gather them themselves). Yesterday, Bishop Campbell handed over English Martyrs, Preston. to the Institute of Christ the King, another big Preston Church to a traditional institute, one presumes such an action followed by several of our bishops is not done because they consider these priests museum curators but effective evangelists, where others have failed, but within, not outside, of their diocese and their personal oversight.
What I can see happening is Pope Francis, possibly, refusing bishops the right to celebrate ordinations in the Old Rite but I don't think that will work either. It might be seen as sniping at one or two Cardinals

Sunday, July 09, 2017

The Child

At that time Jesus exclaimed, 'I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children.  Matthew 11:25 

In this context, if we wish to understand what it means to become children we must look at Jesus, he is the Son, who was totally at one with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, It, and "Unless you become like little children ...", should be, can only be, understood in a Christology sense: seeing Jesus as THE child.

The Church has always understood these statements in the context of embracing the Evangelical Counsels, of casting off other dependencies until there is only the relationship of the soul and the Father, without any other affections and yet as we grow in the spiritual life gives us the capacity to love all that is created and all that belongs the Father.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Orgies and scandals

From the news it would seem that Vatican City is awash with gay orgies, but actually apart from the name of the cleric involved and the fact that Cardinal Cocopalmiero was the tenant of the flat in the Palace of the Holy Office and had been the close friend and patron of the prelate who seems not to have been arrested but take to hospital for a drug overdose, little seems to have been disclosed not even an estimate of the numbers involved. However it does seem as if there is a certain lack of a moral compass in the Vatican.

I am shocked by orgies happening in the Vatican, if indeed they are. I was shocked by news of a CDF employee who has left the priesthood to form a liaison with his homosexual lover but though these things are very sad, they happen.

What I find more shocking is the way in which Cardinal Mueller has been treated. It makes me think of a parishioner who was kind to everyone outside of his family but at home scarcely spoke to his wife and neglected his children, As the years progressed it became apparent that the neglect developed into sexual abuse and the silence towards the wife evolved into serious physical/psycho-sexual abuse of her.

In the Vatican I don't know what is going on but it seems very strange, if Cardinal Mueller is to be believed that he was told of his dismissal at the very last moment of his term of office and in the most perfunctory way - from the reports, "[the Pope] communicated his decision", it is unclear that the Cardinal even had an audience with the Pope, it might have been a message or even an email was sent from a third person. Mueller's account of his sacking seems to lack even the warmth of his account of his audience with the Pope a few months ago when he asked for reasons why he should sack three priests from the CDF, he wasn't given a reason, Francis merely ended the audience, according to Mueller, by saying, "I am the Pope". Mueller could of course be mistaken or deliberately lying but if not it would seem to suggest that there is a serious problem at the head of the Church.

Similarly Pope Francis failure to meet with the Cardinals before the last Consistory seems a little strange, presumably they had come to Rome from all parts of the world to speak to the Pope and not just to add a splash of scarlet to photographs of the ceremony. Even if other Popes have done the same, Francis is after all the Pope of de-centralisation, of accompaniment, of synodality, of collaboration, of parrhesia. I am left wondering if the Holy Father's excessively heavy workload, lack of holidays and time off, at his age has left him and the Church with mental health concerns. In the past of course he has often spoken of his psychological needs.

Pray for him.

According to Italian media reports, Pope Francis has started isolating himself in the refectory of the Casa Santa Marta where he is living. Until now, the table, where he was eating, was in the center of the refectory. Now it is in a corner. Francis is eating with his back toward the others surrounding himself with a few selected table companions.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Summorum Pontificum Day

Image result for ratzinger ordination fssp
I was at the Verona Opera Festival when Summorum Pontificum was published but it wasn't until All Souls Day that I first attempted to say the Old Rite for the first time, it was a 'mystical' experience, I entered a world that had been closed to me. I offered Mass for my deceased family, there was something wonderful in using the very words and rites of the Mass that would have been used for the funerals for most of them since the time of St Gregory.

I am not sure that Benedict expected that ten years on this "Gregorian Rite" in every parish, or even every diocese of the world. I suspect he intended to create something at grassroots, certainly not a movement but an attitude or an awareness of the history and origins of the Mass and the Church.

Benedict often writes quite scathingly about the Novus Ordo, "it was a rite created ex nihil  ..." or "a rite that contradicts Sacrosanctum Concillium [the VII document on the liturgy]" his aim I think was not a return to the past but as he actually says, an attempt to establish two rites within the Church that were mutually enriching and to remind the Latin Church of its roots, its recent history and to see the present Church in continuity with its past.

One gets more than the impression from his writings that he was dismayed by how post-concilliar liturgy had developed as a celebration of the hermenuitic of rupture, much that he tried to do was stitching the head back on to the body, or giving the Novus Ordo, as it had developed by his Pontificate, historic, dare I say, Catholic roots.

Anyhow, happy Summorum Pontificum day, especially to those young priests who love the ancient Rite, and most especially to those who have some connection with this parish who have discovered a vocation through it. God bless you!

Thursday, July 06, 2017

An Ecumenical Problem

I get increasingly shocked by news which comes from Rome, some of the more assiduous followers of such news seem to have their faith severely damaged whilst others deepen the faith but seem to be less committed the institution of the Church,

One of my former parishioners and an American who is an occasional correspondent fall into this category, both are thinking very seriously of joining the Orthodox church, I know three of four others who have followed the same route in the past.

Both had been satisfied that being 'Catholic' meant being in communion with Pope but over the last few years especially both have been thinking more deeply. In Orthodox literature and websites they have come across the more ancient definition of 'Catholic' by St Vincent of Lerins, the fifth century western theologian who said, 'Quod Ubique, Quod Semper, Quod ab Omnibus' being Catholic one needs to believe that which is believed everywhere, always and by all.

For one of them Amoris Laetitia, with the interpretation which the Pope seems to put on it, with the footnote which he had apparently forgotten has been the last straw and has led him  to question other things about the Catholic Church's claim to be catholic.

For both the changes in the post Vatican II liturgy, for one primarily the changes in the ancient lectionary, he claims the new one gives a very different picture of Christ than does old lectionary, or the Orthodox lectionary or even the lectionary of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

For the other it is loss of fasting and other ascetical practices, he says that in the Catholic Church we have mitigated almost out of existence a tradition that goes back to Jesus and the Apostles, or at least to the ancient Councils. For both the post Concilliar attitude to religious liberty and to the other monotheistic faiths is a serious break with the Tradition. A major stumbling block for one is the change introduced by S Pius X in the order of the Sacraments (allowing Communion before Confirmation/Chrismation). Though he believe in them, for one has serious problems, though he believes in them in our Western way, with the papal definitions of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption.

In this Ecumenical Age I am not sure how to offer convincing arguments I might once have put forward especially as some of our leading Prelates see no distinction between the Catholic faith and any other.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Mueller out of the Tent

Related imageThe Church never was a regiment of soldiers, or even of Jesuits marching in step, if it is faithful to Christ it is by nature diverse. To paraphrase St Paul: there are many gifts but only one giver.
The Church is a big tent as Benedict appreciated, he had a long difference with Cardinal Kasper but still kept him place, Benedict appointed non-Benedictines, recognising that this meant a healthy Church.

The dismissal and replacement of Cardinal Mueller represents a narrowing of the curial tent.
I rather admired Mueller's interpretation of Amoris Laetitia - whist Cardinal Burke, and others, were 'bigging-up' the document as a possible significant departure from Catholic  believe, Mueller was quietly signifying: this is not that important, it can only be interpreted in the light of the Tradition. In effect he was saying if we interpret it as Catholics it will, like many papal documents, disappear quickly from the Church's memory.

Now Mueller is no longer in the Papal tent, though it is not his temperament to criticise directly, he is is in Fr Z's phrase, "off the leash", with time and at his relatively young age with the energy to teach and write and do what all Cardinals do, lobby for the next Conclave.

Papal tents by their nature get smaller and smaller and with the Pope's statement to Mueller about Prefects of dicasteries being limited to five years this one is going to get wetter. I am sure one of the factors in Benedict's resignation was the thefts from his desk, and obvious lack of confidentiality that surrounded his office. His tent had shrunk considerably only to those who occupied the Apostolic Appartments with him, and even those couldn't be trusted fully. In effect his tent was reduced to him and Archbishop Ganswein. With JPII he had seen the damaging effect of a Pope literally unable to communicate to anyone and therefore unable to govern. JPII was totally dependant on Archbishop Stanisław Dziwisz who interpreted the Church to him and him to everyone else, when his speech had gone Dziwisz was the only one who understand him.

Pope Francis like most autocrats surrounds himself with men who will not oppose him, the more he does it means that more and more are outside the tent, which does bode well for his legacy or his succession.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Pastoring Pastors

I know this is mainly from ACP and therefore should treated with at least a bit of caution, it is an ACN report suicide among clergy in Ireland. It is based on eight suicides in ten years, though the number could be much, I suspect Irish coroners might be concerned for relatives and only record those deaths as suicides if there is no possibility of a priest's death being interpreted in other way.

What it does indicate is the low morale of the Irish clergy, as it is the ACP it is presumably especially acute among their members the more liberal and more elderly clergy. The picture is of old exhausted men doing their best to cope and at the same time coping with loneliness an isolation.

Ireland because of its recent history might be a little extreme but I suspect it reflects the situation in the rest of Europe and maybe the Americas too. One of my predecessors ended by losing his faith, in practice leaving the priesthood and the Church, he died in very suspicious circumstances, he left instruction that there should be no religious rites at his funeral, at least two other priests I know have left the same instruction.

Bishop Egan has spoken of his concern about the spiritual lives of retired priests who move out of their parish give up wearing clerical dress and often saying Mass. While I was ill I thought I might well have to retire it was a depressing prospect, my parishioners give me practical support, their demands for the sacraments: daily Mass and confession give structure to my life, and most importantly they give me friendship and pray for me. Retirement meant either a little house somewhere, with none of those supports  for someone becoming less and less able or a nursing home, I think I would have preferred death to both. Many priests,. I think put off retirement, simply because the prospect can be so lonely.

I have a young priest friend in what some might describe as a not very nice diocese, I suppose he is bit immature at times but he has no support at all from any priestly friends, there are few young clergy in his diocese, his seminary classmates are all different parts of the country, his parish priest is out of sympathy with him theologically, liturgically and just about every other, in the old days he would have been described as a 'curate breaker'. His bishop telephones him from time to time but never to encourage, or just to talk, always to complain or criticise or to reprimand.

During my illness I was so grateful to priests who phoned or visited and texted me. I am ashamed that I am not very good at doing that myself. In most diocese there is very little 'pastoring' of pastors. In Ireland as in England after the abuse crisis or other serious scandal very few bishops offered support to those priests who were often deeply wounded by the crimes of their brothers or their subsequently deposed bishops. I remember an old priest on his deathbed saying, "Ah, sure this might get the bishop out to see me but only when I am in my coffin". It was true the bishop hadn't seen him or contacted him in the five years since he retired but he did turn up for his funeral.

Another priest friend visited a retired priest and was a little horrified that said he hadn't be to Confession for five months because he hadn't seen a priest for that amount of time.

This is repeated in many diocese, perhaps some have a priest who might be appointed to care for the sick and elderly but it is not regarded as important.

In Ireland the suicide amongst clergy might be amount to less than one a year but amongst many spiritual suicide is not quite so rare, there seem to be a steady stream of younger priests leaving and perhaps equally worrying older priests staying despite having lost either faith because they have nowhere to go. For any bishop care of his spiritual sons, his co-workers should be a priority - for the majority it far down the list.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Without Faith

Feeling a lot better I hope I might return to this blog, apart from saying Mass and sleeping I haven't had the energy for the last six months even to type or think clearly.

However when the Son of Man returns will he find any faith on earth? Luke 18:8

I have always thought our greatest problem in the Church today is a lack of faith. I mean, for example, bishops and other ecclesiastic being appointed or promoted not because they had a fervent belief but because they belonged to a particular faction.

In Italy in diocese from North to South, even, possibly more so in Rome, the papers seem to contain news of clergy involved in orgies and other sexual scandals, which might be reason why there seems to be growing call for an end to celibacy.

In dioceses and parishes, in colleges and schools and other Church affiliated organisation professional competence, especially amongst lay Church employees outweigh a commitment to the Gospel and the person of Jesus Christ. Some people might be committed to externals, it is problem for both left and right, an enthusiasm for the cappa magna an other ecclesiastical ornaments on the one hand might be matched on the other hand by someone's enthusiasm for a particular pilgrimage site or branch of the Church's social teaching, or increasingly being a 'gay' or 'feminist' Catholic. There is no problem with any of these things in themselves, they add to the richness of the Church which because it is made up of individuals is always going to be diverse, the problem is that without faith in Jesus first and foremost all can become dangerous.

I hope I have a proper devotion to Our Lady, and in this centenary year to Our Lady of Fatima but I really get worried when someone is more concerned by the third secret, than the words of Holy Scripture.

As Pope Benedict said the new Cardinals, "In the end Christ will win", the problem is that without the centrality of Jesus everything goes out of balance most especially charity and mutual respect, without faith in him the Church becomes weak, powerless and will eventually disappear as is increasingly happening in its once European heartlands but where the Gospel is taken seriously like parts of Africa and South East Asia it grows and prospers.

Someone told me a story of Thomas Wilkes the Protestant composer, who seems to have lost his faith and taken to the bottle towards the end of his life, he became so disaffected he peed on the bishop of from the organ loft.

Without charity we are nothing but without faith charity itself becomes disordered to the point where killing someone or destroying their reputation becomes a sign of love.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Damien Ashby rip

Friday 14th July at 12 noon should be the Requiem Mass for my friend and parishioner Damien Ashby.

It will be the first time I have been able to celebrate in the Old Rite for almost six months, for me it is bit more of a strain, physically and mentally, more demanding than the Novus Ordo. I feel I will be fit enough to get through it without being propped up by servers.

Damien helped me to learn the Old Rite, and to love Low Mass. Like many of those who were attached to the Older form of Mass Damien suffered for it. For years he was alienated from his own parish Church which was just down the hill from his home, he went to Mass where he could find it either in the Old Rite in London or in the SSPX chapel here in Brighton or in an emergency some place where it was likely to be less of a problem than somewhere else., For him Summorum Pontificum was a liberating document and it was great joy when we were able to offer the Old Mass here, rather than being an oddity or even a threat he was able to be an ordinary parishioner and to become part of our parish, which was important to him and to me. When I was fit enough to offer an evening weekday Latin Mass he always came into the house afterwards for a drink and to eat my bananas, I never quite worked out why he never seemed to have his own.

When he was teaching me he would rather gently would make comments like, "I could be wrong, which I invariable am, your Reverence, [then would follow a longish story of him being wrong in the past] but most priests tend to say that prayer silently, but I could be wrong".

Though he long given up a bowler hat and a tightly furled umbrella of a post-war Civil Servant at the pensions department of the Ministry of Health, he always retained and rejoiced in his attention to detail, some might call it pedantry. Having dinner in his home was an experience, he would first boil the potatoes, and when they were done move on the next task and then the next, then the next, every thing done one at a time, and he would worry that it was done properly. For some years he had been secretary of the Latin Mass Society during its more turbulent times, after the excommunication of Lefebrvian bishops where careful and meticulous letters to bishops and members Damien's sense of order and detail were very important, it was a time when everything had to be kept in its proper place, the ancient Rite was one thing, the SSPX and their followers another.

His love of low Mass, probably was part of his sense of order, like his dinner preparations liturgy has its parts The Mass, then music and ceremonial but separate and with The Mass stripped to its bones taking priority. As with the Mass so with the rest of life, everything had its place, but separate, filed away in its proper place.

It will be interesting at his Requiem seeing how the various strands of his life come together, some meeting for the first time.

Pray for Damien who has moved on from one part of existence, his life on earth ended, now he stands before God himself pleading for a merciful judgement.

I am glad that he had in his meticulous way had instructed his cleaner on what to do in the event of death: call the priest to anoint him on his deathbed, I am glad I was that priest and was able to give the final absolution to one who I had nourished at the altar, and who had nourished me and given me joy in many ways.

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