31 October 2007

It's That Man Again ...

Cardinal Pell, that is.

(Zenit) Cardinal Pell on Peace and War

"The Battle for Public Opinion"

SYDNEY, Australia, OCT. 30, 2007

Here is an excerpt from the address delivered Monday by Cardinal George Pell before the Sydney Institute, a nonprofit current-affairs forum. The cardinal, who is the archbishop of Sydney, spoke on "Prospects for Peace and Rumors of War: Religion and Democracy in the Years Ahead." The event marked the launch of Cardinal Pell’s book "God and Caesar: Selected Essays on Religion, Politics and Society," published by Connor Court and Catholic University of America Press.

A large battle is likely to open up over human rights and anti-discrimination legislation. Last week English papers carried reports that a couple with an unblemished record as foster parents to 28 vulnerable children have been forced to give up this work. As committed nonconformist Christians they were unable to teach the children they are fostering that homosexual relationships are just as acceptable as heterosexual marriages.

This requirement was imposed under the Sexual Orientation Regulations, the same laws which forced Catholic agencies out of adoption services earlier this year. The British government refused to grant church agencies an exemption from the laws, even though it meant that the country would lose one of its most successful adoption services.

In Australia, the concept of exemptions to anti-discrimination laws to allow church agencies to go about their work in a manner consistent with their beliefs continues to survive. But it was subject to sustained attack during the debate in the United Kingdom over the Sexual Orientation Regulations. These laws prohibit any discrimination against homosexuals by anyone providing "goods, facilities and services". This makes them practically all-encompassing, with exceptions only for a small number of narrowly defined religious activities, primarily services held in churches. Church adoption services were therefore confronted with the prospect of being forced to place children with homosexual couples, contrary to their beliefs.

When the Catholic bishops petitioned the government for an exemption for church agencies a member of the Scottish parliament said it would make "a mockery" of society’s decision "to end discrimination" if exemptions were granted "to those groups most likely to discriminate". The English philosopher AC Grayling said the Catholic bishops’ request posed "the threat of a possible return to the dark ages. We are trying to keep a pluralistic society, and elements in the Christian church and other religions are trying to destroy it".

The American academic lawyer Ronald Dworkin said the laws were "necessary to prevent injustice", and argued that respect for religious freedom does not mean accommodating any "preference” designated as religious. Even though supportive of an exemption for church agencies on adoptions, Dworkin claimed that, as a matter of general principle, allowances should be made only for the "central convictions" of religious believers, and must not extend to the state allegedly taking the side of religion on questions such as abortion or same-sex marriage, by restricting or prohibiting them.

At the heart of this attack on the concept of exemptions for faith-based agencies lies a false analogy drawn between alleged discrimination against homosexuals and racial discrimination, and this is already beginning to appear in Australia.

This analogy allows opponents of exemptions to dismiss the objection that the law makes exceptions all the time - for example, for halal abattoirs, or for Sikhs to wear turbans, or for pacifists to avoid military service - by pointing to the legitimate absence of exceptions in laws against racial discrimination. Opposition to same-sex marriage is therefore likened to support for laws against inter-racial marriage (which continued in some US states until the 1960s), and opposition to homosexual adoptions is likened to refusing to adopt children to black parents.

The analogy is false because allowing blacks and whites to marry did not require changing the whole concept of marriage; and allowing black parents to adopt white children, or vice versa, did not require changing the whole concept of family, or for that matter, the whole concept of childhood. Same-sex marriage and adoption changes the meaning of marriage, family, parenting and childhood for everyone, not just for homosexual couples. And whatever issues of basic justice remain to be addressed, I am not sure that it is at all true to say that homosexuals today suffer the same sort of legal and civil disadvantages which blacks in the United States and elsewhere suffered forty years ago, and to some extent still suffer.

All the same, the race analogy has been very effective in casting the churches as persecutors. So, in the United Kingdom, and also in Massachusetts where a similar issue arose in 2006, warnings that the Catholic Church would be forced to close its adoption services if exemptions were not granted were described as blackmail.

* * *

English precedents remain powerful in a cultural and legal sense, especially throughout the Anglophone world, but the religious situation in Australia is somewhat closer to that of the United States rather than post-Christian Britain. Both our Prime Minister and his challenger are serious Christians. Neither the British Prime Minister nor his alternative are in this mould, and the Catholic community here is larger and with a much longer and stronger tradition of contributions to public political life than in Britain, whose history and traditions are still residually anti-Catholic.

All the same, this case shows what can happen when bills of rights are interpreted from the premises of a minority secularist mindset, especially when it is sharpened, as in Europe, by fear of home-grown Islam. Reading freedom of religion as a limited right to be offensive to which only a limited toleration is extended is not acceptable in a democracy where many more than a majority belong to the great religious traditions - even more so when it is claimed that this is “necessary for democracy”. Democracy does not need to be secular. The secularist reading of religious freedom places Christians (at least) in the position of a barely tolerated minority (even when they are the majority) whose rights must always yield to the secular agenda, although I don’t think other religious minorities will be treated the same way.

28 October 2007

Those Jesuits ...

Courtesy of La cigüeña de la torre, I find a picture of a crucifix in a Jesuit Church in Cochabamba, Bolivia. How low can these people sink?

I bet that Catholics from Eastern Europe are really, really, impressed by this.

A hammer and a sickle.

You can just hear the "artists" congratulating one another.

The first time the Jesuits were supressed, those responsible were scheming freemasons and freethinkers. Perhaps the next time, those responsible will be Catholics.

Am I alone in finding this unutterably sick?

The Abortion Act: Reform versus Repeal

There is no way that the Abortion Act is going to be repealed in the foreseeable future, so let's support campaigns which at least reduce the number of weeks during which abortion is legal, says one side, supported by the two Cardinals: Damian Thompson convinced me this was the right course to take.

Then, via Fr Boyle, I read a book review by Colin Harte which turned me the other way: "when we exclude 'the last and the least' from proposed abortion legislative reform we thereby exclude Christ himself. Restrictive abortion legislation, he emphasises, 'always excludes from protection some unborn children equally entitled to protection'."

Then Fr Mildew reminded me that "Politics is the art of the possible" and made me think that there has to be some realism.

It was, however, reading an Anglican blog that turned me back to an absolutist position. Do not click on the link that follows if pictures of the results of abortions are likely to disturb you - at least disturb you any more than pictures of such atrocities really should. The poster - Cranmer - writes a witty and incisive blog on political and religious matters. He is a mainstream member of a disappearing denomination with fairly conservative views, among which are that the Church in England and Wales is a foreign mission to these shores, but every now and then he is spot on.

I'll repeat the warning: in fact, I'll copy the author's own warning: "this article contains images which some may find disturbing. Cranmer makes absolutely no apology for publishing in all its ugliness the barbaric and depraved depths to which the United Kingdom has sunk. May the Lord have mercy."

This post convinces me.

26 October 2007

Succumbing ...

I dropped my wife and daughter in town. My son was at home doing coursework. I went to PC World to look for inspiration for presents.

I came out 15 minutes later with a laptop. You know, 2 GHz of memory, an Intel Core 2 Duo T5300 processor, the Manager's special.
I went to pick wife and daughter up. "Did you get much?" I asked. I was told about winter tops and coats. "How about you?" they asked. "Oh, just a toy" I answered. "But one that you can all play with as well."
So now I have to learn Vista: it didn't come in XP.

22 October 2007

Cardinal Pell, Again

An example of why the Cardinal Pell might be just what Westminster needs. (By the way, I'm in trouble now for being on the computer instead of packing a suitcase.)

The good Cardinal has published a book "God and Caesar: Selected Essays on Religion, Politics, and Society". The Amazon blurb reads as follows:

"Many of the great questions of our day once again revolve around religion. The secular era of the past two centuries is ending in incomprehension and denial, overwhelmed by the cultural uncertainty and political conflict that have dominated the first years of the new millennium. In the face of developments such as the fall in birth rates and the rise of neo-paganism, secularism has little to say. What does remain in the United States and Europe is a vociferous hostility to religion, especially to the role it plays in public life.

The ensuing conflict continues to play itself out in politics, culture, science and the universities. New phenomena such as multiculturalism and significant Muslim minorities have both arisen in the West. But the focus of suspicion has remained squarely on Christianity and its relationship to democracy, human rights, and secular society.

Cardinal George Pell, one of the Catholic Church's leading spokesmen, has played a significant part in this drama. God and Caesar brings together a selection of his writings on Christianity, politics, and society from the last ten years. Drawing on a deep knowledge of history and human affairs, the essays pinpoint the key issues facing Christians and non-believers in determining the future of modern democratic life.

Cardinal Pell considers questions such as: Is democracy only secular? What role can the Catholic Church and its moral vision play, and have they played, in strengthening democracy? How does "religious capital" strengthen political society? What is the bishop's critical role in building a culture of life? And why is belief in God important to the health of a democratic society?
Christ's instructions to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21) remain the starting point for any reflections on Christianity and political life. God and Caesar is an indispensable text that helps illuminate what Christ's teaching means today."

I liked a comment on one of the essays:

"In one essay which was delivered as a talk to the Linicare Conference in the UK in 2000, under the title "The Role of the Bishop in Promoting the Gospel of Life", the Cardinal warns that the Catholic Church would not grow unless the full teaching of the Church on life issues was promoted. "Tactical silence", as practised by many bishops, would in fact stifle growth, he suggested.

Cardinal George Pell, said a “common heresy of our times” is believing that Catholics can accept and practice contraception, using the “primacy of conscience” as a justification.Taking a metaphor from Oxford professor Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, the Cardinal called this belief that has spread among Catholics the “Donald Duck heresy,” referring to the Disney character who "knows it all", and "has an unshakeable conviction of self-righteousness." The self-indulgent duck, explains Pell is well-meaning but "his activity is often disastrous for himself and others." "

More of Ttony's children's inheritance being converted into book capital.

Another Affecting Story

I'm about to go away for a couple of days. I wanted to make sure an expected e-mail had arrived, and succumbed to looking up a few favourite blogs. How lucky I was to read this from Cathcon.

I feel blessed. I even feel ready for the Diocese of Portsmouth.

21 October 2007

The Feast of Bl Charles of Austria


A King, Emperor, and Saint.

Read about this holy man at The Remnant.

20 October 2007

Not Quite Fr Ray's Meme

Fr Ray asked me to do his meme: "If I were Archbishop of Westminster I would ..."; but I can't. I don't know enough about the mechanics of running a diocese and I don't know enough about how a Bishop should nurture his clergy. However, I can do a different one:

"How Will We Know the Vatican Has Got The Right Man?"

The Church in England and Wales will have a Leader who will inspire Catholics to a deeper Catholicsm, because he will be a theologically sound man of prayer and Catholic Action.

We will be distinct from the other Christian Communities in E&W, and we will be proud of it.

The Archbishop of Westminster's regular public pronouncements will always be newsworthy, even in the secular press.

The number of priests and religious will rise.

The number of conversions will rise dramatically.

Politicians will court the "Catholic vote".

Participation in Corporal Works of Mercy will be a natural mark of being a Catholic.

The Liturgy, in whichever Use, will always be celebrated reverently.

Guilds, Societies and Sodalities will become part of parish life.

Parish life will become part of everyday life for Catholics.

Catholic education will mean more than just orthodox RE lessons: where there is a Catholic school, homeschooling, or non-Catholic education would become unthinkable for Catholics.

We will happily put what we are paid for an hour's work into the plate on Sundays because we will know the good use to which it is put.

Non-Catholics will look at us and see that we have something they haven't.

And we will be the King's good servants, but God's first.

19 October 2007

Another One of Jeffrey's Quizzes

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

17 October 2007

Offerring Advice on the Next Archbishop of Westminster

I have spent what seems an inordinate amount of time recently ploughing my way through "The Worlock Archive" and Archbishop Bugnini's history of the reform of the Liturgy. The direness of the latter will become apparent in some future post (though I think I am amassing evidence to prove my point that the man was wrong-headed and out of his depth rather than malevolent).

Reading the former was like bathing in something unpleasant: good for the soul but bad for the senses. But one startlingly good thing shines out like a light.

Cardinal Heenan did not like Worlock: in fact, I think that it is not stretching the point to say that he loathed him. Worlock was the apparatchik that Heenan never was, and the Cardinal hated the fact that Worlock saw the See of Westminster and the Red Hat as his manifest destiny.

So Cardinal Heenan put a spoke in the irresistible rise of Derek Worlock: a couple of years before his death he invited the priests and people of his Archdiocese to think about who they might want as his successor; what qualities should the Archbishop of Westminster have? And he asked them to let the Apostolic Delegate know.

Liberated from the complaisant acquiescent stereotype in which English Catholics had allowed themselves to be understood from within and without the Church, the people spoke and wrote, and eventually the Abbot of Ampleforth rather than the Bishop of Portsmouth was appointed to the See. ("The best man did not win", Worlock said.)

Cardinal Murphy O'Connor has not invited the people to express an opinion. It is unlikely that he loathes any member of the Bishops' Conference, after all, and he is probably pretty sanguine about his successor: it will be one of the boys.

But it doesn't have to be. Fr Ray, here, has said exactly what has gone wrong in the role of the laity in the Church, and, more jocularly, in response to a couple of blog posts, said here what he would do were he to be appointed Archbishop (elevated Gloucester Old Spots noted).

This can be the start of the mass consultation that Cardinal MO'C has not asked for. Let's all start writing to the Apostolic Nuncio now, and tell him what we think the big issues facing our Church are, and how they can be resolved, and, if we have any idea, who might be the right person to resolve them.

Blogging is fun; letting Rome know what the Church in England and Wales know is rather more important.

15 October 2007

A Poem by Robert Frost

One of the delights of having a son who has started AS Level English Literature is the voyage of discovery which comes from finding new poetry, especially as my son, who has never learned explication de texte as we were taught it, faced having to analyse from scratch a poem by Robert Frost. He asked for help!

For my sins, I was only aware of two poems by Frost: "The Road Not Taken" and the one about snow falling in the woods in winter which ends "and miles to go before I sleep"

So to be faced with a poem which was as new to me as to him meant unleashing intellectual muscles which I feared might have atrophied with time, only to discover that not only could I get excited by a new poem, I could convey the enthusiasm and help somebody who (to be honest) started out without much interest to get enthused not just by the ideas in the poem but by the structure and the techniques Frost uses to carry the poem along.

I enjoyed it so much I have even left in the American spelling! The wall which the narrator feels as a division is an artefact which his neighbour feels unites them. At the same time they are making wall, and the wall is making them.

Mr Amazon will be pleased that more money will be winging his way shortly, but this has cleansed me from the excess of Worlock and Bugnini I have been undergoing.

Making Wall

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
He is all pine and I am apple-orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down!" I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there,
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

12 October 2007

Reflections on the Charismatic Renewal

David Palmer has posted about his experience of a charismatic service. It set me to thinking about my experience of "the Renewal".

I should preface my comments by pointing out that I was never much of a rebel: my rebellion against doing the Oxbridge scholarship exams was to fearlessly insist on doing A Levels and going to a (venerable) Redbrick University instead. Similarly, while contemporaries denied God and took to chemical substances, I took to the Charismatic Renewal. For much of the period between 1974-1979, I would be found at "Days of Renewal", arms outstretched, "speaking in tongues" and praising God.

One of the curses of middle age is looking back at one's youth and experiencing the embarrassment one should have felt at the time: the elaborate pursuit of some girl who, you realise with hindsight, was as attainable as the Koh-i-Noor, and as contemptuous of you as you were moonstruck by her; the brilliant essay one wrote as an 18 year old which, you informed your Professor, was the final answer to the subject in question; your insistence that, drunk as you were, you could still perform in front of a crowd of some hundreds.

I add to this list my belief, proclaimed to so many people, that the Charismatic Renewal was the fruit of the Holy Spirit: that we were the first generation since Apostolic times to be able to receive God's Spirit as he had always intended us to do.

I was that knowall. How I appreciate with hindsight the kindness and love of so many priests and nuns who seemed to pay me attention and to meditate on what I was telling them: not one of them ever laughed. My parents "didn't understand"; they mocked: I know now that they did understand, really understand; they understood their son, and they understood the Church.

Now I am older I understand a lot better what was really happening: somebody who was not really a rebel had to find a safe rebellion, one that wouldn't threaten anything too serious. If I was to embarrass my family, then a surfeit of religious enthusiasm (and a beard) was better than an absence of religion (with or without a beard).

I knew instinctively what I have only recently found demonstrated by phonologists: that the "gift of tongues" is rarely, if ever, a new Pentecost, and is rather an emotional reaction to what is going on.

However, I received a real gift: I learned how to praise God. I learned to praise God just for being God; to praise Him for His Creation; to stand before Him in awe at His Magnificence; to praise Him for the Greatness which, I perceived for the first time, wasn't remote, but could be experienced here and now, even if through a glass, however darkly. The absolute Wonder of God was everywhere, and was so Great that He could contain himself temporally in a host which He would allow me to receive. That gift has not left me, even if it is rarely as vivid now; but I used at the same time to go to confession far, far more frequently than now (another fruit of the Renewal), and I am left concluding that the two are connected.

I wonder if two different trends were in operation in the Charismatic Renewal in that period: on the one hand, the "ultras" of Vatican II aggressively pushed an agenda of "new, "modern", "different". On the other, lots of individuals reached out for a sense of actuosa participatio which they were being denied in their parishes: that of individual participation in Christ amongst their community. It was better than nothing: it was much, much, better than nothing.

I may be wrong: but the Charismatic Renewal carried me through a period in which I could have gone wrong in so many ways. It has nothing to say to me today, except in my memories, which, as I say, are not mellow. But I can't condemn it: not the Renewal I experienced.

I still have the beard.

07 October 2007

The Westminster Stakes - an Update

The lists went quiet when Cardinal Murphy O'Connor was asked to stay on, but the latest betting on the succession shows that things are beginning to stir. (The betting had remained pretty well unchanged through most of 2007 until the last couple of weeks. Here's how they stand (Name, current betting, (earlier betting)):

Rt Rev Vincent Nichols 2-1 (7-2)
Rt Rev Kevin McDonald 5-1 (7-2)
Rt Rev Alan Hopes 11-2
Fr Timothy Radcliffe 6-1 (10-1) (6-1)
Bishop William Kenney 15-2 (6-1)
Cardinal Pell 10-1
Archbishop Michael Louis Fitzgerald 10-1 (12-1)
Fr Aidan Nichols 11-1 (5-1) (6-1)
Rt Rev Patrick Kelly 12-1 (10-1) (12-1)
Rt Rev Arthur Roche 12-1 (10-1) (12-1)
Rt Rev Bernard Longley 12-1
Rt Rev Peter Smith 12-1
Rt Rev Michael Evans 16-1
Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue 16-1
Fr Christopher Jamison 20-1
Bishop John Rawsthorne 20-1
Bishop John Patrick Crowley Non-runner (33-1)

What does this say? First, that Abp Nichols is now a clear favourite, ahead of Abp McDonald.

Second, that Dominican fanciers have put their money on Fr Radcliffe (who is surely too liberal for the Pope's taste) ahead of the Pope's friend, Fr Nicols (an unlikely outsider, but the doubling of his odds is, well: odd).

Third, that an Outsider has become an outsider: were Cardinal Pell to follow Cardinal MO'C in Westminster, the Pope's most powerful English-speaking ally would come to Europe while still exercising a pastoral ministry (not least over the episcopacy of England and Wales). The Catholic Herald mentions the Abbot of Pluscarden and the Dominican Rector of Oxford as two other outsiders under consideration, even if no odds have been quoted for them.

Does anybody else get a sense that the succession in Westminster is going to be founded on serious change? What sort of a message does it send that two non-English or Welsmen are candidates?

04 October 2007

Liturgical Reform - Liturgical Change

In private correspondence, Moretben reminded me of a posting of his which, I realise, has been gnawing away at me for just under a year, and which was the source of an increasing concern: why should anything in the Church change?

I understand the need for aggiornamiento: the Church must always be able to proclaim the Faith in a way in which people of each Age can respond to; a nineteenth century priest reading out an eighteenth century court sermon of Bourdaloue to a bunch of working class men and women is, to say the least, inappropriate.

I understand the need for resourcissement: we can't understand the Tradition unless we constantly seek to understand where it has come from. Pius IX said "La tradizione sono io": "I am Tradition"; and he was completely and utterly wrong.

But (and here's a big but) why does either of these principles mean that, for example, the Easter Vigil has to take place at Midnight, when over the course of 1500 years the sense of the Church had gradually moved the time of the celebration?

These are deep waters, and I am not a confident swimmer: but if the Extraordinary Use is to be recognised again, and the anti-traditionalism of the post-Vatican II era is finally to be challenged; and if the 1965 revision of the Missal is to be ignored; and if the idea of "change by Papal Fiat" has gone away; why has the 1962 Missal been selected as a high water of orthodoxy?

01 October 2007

Annunciation, Visitation

For a dear friend who is finally going to have to go to hospital. Please pray for him.

Elizabeth and Zechariah
Walk into the house of fire
Where the angels wreath the spire
And one old man alone
In the temple finds desire
Like a dog his bone.

Gabriel, Elizabeth
Is shaken with your burning breath,
meanwhile in humble Nazareth
The virgin in the house
Attends upon a birth and death
And trembles like a mouse.

Look at her, unwind your scroll,
Let the heavenly message roll
Like thunder through her pale white soul
As ghostly as her room,
Trample like an angry bull
About her seedless womb.

Hail Elizabeth! our meeting
Sees our children leap in greeting,
Hear their fists and foreheads beating
Hard against the wall,
While the lambs in flocks are bleating,
Come one, come two, come all.

Come one, come two, come all to feast,
Come to the lesser and the least,
Come to us out of the East,
While one old man alone
Becomes as dumb as any beast
And still as any stone.

George Szirtes - Annuciation, Visitation