31 August 2009

Welcome To A New Blogger

Any new blog whose first post begins:

"It is an honour and a responsibility to have been given the Catholic Faith of the Church that was founded by Christ on Peter the Rock"

feels like one worth following. Have a look here and say hello to Dorothy.

29 August 2009

Seven Things

Mac tagged me for a meme: "What are the seven things that we, as Catholics, want or would like to see happen?"

1. The abolition of all Education departments in the diocesan curiae in England and Wales. The quality of teachers can be handled by headteachers; fabric can be sorted out by people who understand it, and RE becomes part of the catechetical department: because

2. Children are (normally - there will always be exceptions) prepared for Confession, First Communion, and Confirmation in their Catholic schools. Where there are Catholic schools, and Catholic parents choose not to send their children to them, the parents can face the consequences. (Some people will be surprised to know that at the moment children are prepared for none of these three sacraments in Catholic schools.)

3. The Bishop in each diocese appoints a Director of Liturgy who takes responsibility for the Liturgy in the diocese (responsibility here is a big word: it means doing things, rather than having a new paragraph in the CV, and it means doing them according to the book, in this case the Rubrics, and it means ensuring, with however big a stick necessary, that things are done according to the book throughout).

4. Any hymn book with hymns written or bowdlerised after 1970 is temporarily withdrawn so that they can be sorted out. We don't need hymn books for Mass. For the occasions we need hymns, the PP can print out a few sheets for the people attending.

5. Any parish which offers the EF also offers Vespers (at least in the simplest form) at least once a week.

6. Black vestments, unbleached candles and pleading for the soul of the departed are an option anybody can insist on for the funeral they are arranging.

7. The Church in England and Wales stops trying to be part of the Establishment, stops trying to be anything other than (and proudly!) the outpost of the Church of Rome in England and Wales, a challenge to everybody who is outside the fold of Peter.

25 August 2009

Ad Limina: A Powerful Weapon

Is this a summer cold or swine flu? I've no idea. Pray for me, please.

A Roman correspondent has sent me a fascinating message about the results of the last Ad Limina visit. There is a story, that you either know or you don't, about the Bishop who was sure he was going to get Southwark: so sure that he'd packed his Library.

Now, the reason he didn't was that in the lead up to the visit, one of his flock had sent to the Congregation for Bishops evidence that the Bishop had done something wrong, and this was enough to stop his translation.

Because what the Congregation responds to is evidence, not assertion: if the Bishop has written to a person or group saying (for example) "you can only have an EF Mass if there are 50 parishioners", then you've got him; if you say "I know the Bishop isn't in favour of EF Mass" then you haven't. If you can show that a Diocese has sent £250K to an organisation that supports anti-Catholicsm, then you've got it; if you assert that "My Bishop doesn't support Catholic teaching on sex education" then you haven't.

This is the way to do it.

So let's do it.

19 August 2009

Ad Limina: How We Might Influence It

I have been in correspondence recently with someone about our chances of influencing the Vatican before the Ad Limina visit. We have disagreed gently about the possibility of starting a petition about the way "relationships" are taught in Primary School. The disagreement was about tactics: I think that any attempt to draft a petition about sex education will end up causing more divisions and attracting less signatures; he, less cynical than me, thinks that wording expressing exactly what we all agree on can be found; I don't think many people will get involved; he does.

I suggested, however, that something in last week's Catholic Herald had left me really angry: "tamping mad" as my mother-in-law might say. Only Catholic Action seems to have noticed it online.

It's about Marriage Care, and its Director, Terry Prendergast, and the fact that the A of W is its patron, and the English dioceses fund it. The story is awful - this is just a bit:

The manual, called Foundations for a Good Life, is designed to help to teach pupils at Key Stage 3 and 4 - the last two years of secondary school - and college students about relationships, marriage, the family and sexuality.

The final two modules are aimed at young people over the age of 16 and deals with methods of contraception.

There is no discussion of the morality of the methods with the focus on function and effectiveness. The manual hails condoms as 98 per cent effective in avoiding pregnancy, and the Pill, the coil and hormonal injections as 99 per cent effective, but says that NFP methods are far less reliable.


Joe Mannion, the charity's director of relationship support, said he unaware that the information was inaccurate. He said that Marriage Care would be prepared to change the text of the manual if "it's shown to be different" by new evidence.

Terry Prendergast, the chief executive of Marriage Care, recently caused an outcry when he said marriage is no better for children than other family set-ups.

The charity has an annual income in the region of £900,000, about 10 per cent of which comes from diocesan grants. Its president is Archbishop Vincent Nichols.

It strikes me that this is our petition to the Vatican. This is a call to arms. This isn't about the precise detail in which aspects of the National Curriculum should be taught in primary education: this is about the Catholic Church allowing its teachings to be subverted by people claiming to speak for her.

Does Rome know about this? Have they read this article? Do they know what our Bishops support? Is the lay structure in the Diocesan curias and at Eccleston Square responsible for undermining the Church in E&W from within? Big questions. But unless Rome is invited to think about them, and turn them onto the Bishops of England and Wales, then not only will there be no challenge, but the fact of no challenge will be adduced by Eccleston Square as Vatican support.

I wonder whether this is one chance to stick it to the structures which have so corrupted catholic life in England and Wales for so many years ...

18 August 2009

Tagged For Ches's Meme

For the person who had that very day received a couple of boxed sets framing the Classical Era: Haydn: The Six Late Masses; and Telemann: Brockes Passion; to be told that he has a pound in his pocket and three jukebox songs to choose might prove difficult. Very little music I listen to would ever find its way near a jukebox, but here's three that might.

Leonard Cohen, who, I realised one day, just did it for me.

Men At Work Down Under: I've never listened to the words: indeed, I'd never seen the video until I found this; but the noise it makes, a cheery reggae inspired celebration, always makes me think of Oz, a place I always enjoy going to.

And Ana Belén: she could sing "Matchstick Men" and "There's noone quite like Grandma" and still fell me.

16 August 2009

Nice Day

We can't all afford Italy, but England will do sometimes.

13 August 2009

Ad Limina: Another Staffer's Proposal

One proposal that was doing the rounds was that of showing the variety of diocesan educational curricula as a way of demonstrating the vibrancy of Catholic education: indeed, Catholicsm in Education.

The covering letter would go something along the lines of:

"You've seen and approved of PO'D's curriculum just because he happened to send it to you. All of our dioceses have curricula which respond in a Catholic manner to the National Curriculum, though most of us are modest enough not to burden you with every example of support to Catholic education we have been responsible for in the last six years."

12 August 2009

Ad Limina: The Bishops Strike Out

At least, Eccleston Square wants to!

Damian, here, asked earlier:

Is the Holy Father aware that traditionalist Catholics in this country do not have a single bishop who shares his own understanding of the place of the traditional liturgy in the life of the Church?

Whether he does or not, I understand that one of the drafts prepared for the Ad Limina visit by a staffer at Eccleston Square (which might well have gone to and therefore have so excited The Suppository) insinuates that the troubles caused by Summorum Pontificum might actually have been caused by the uncollegial way in which it was implemented. Indeed, one wag apparently suggested adding a comment that the reason that the new translation of the Mass into English would eventually be so welcome was that there had been collegial discussion on the subject since 1994, thus guaranteeing that when final consensus was reached, everybody would be happy.

The interesting thing is that the Eccleston Square attitude to the Pope reminds me of The Guardian's attitude towards Middle England: they despise him, snigger at him behind their hands, ignore him whenever possible, and use such defiance as a shibboleth of belonging.

Archbishop Nichols needs to take on the mantle of Cardinal Pole.

10 August 2009

Ad Limina: A Bishop's Examination Of Conscience

(Yes: I am going to get pretty boring on this subject. If you have anything you want to make public, themunimentroom@hotmail.co.uk is one place to think of sending it to.)

According to Francisco José Fernández de la Cigoña, here, a Bishop should ask himself the following:

"When the wolf gets into the fold, the shepherd neither sleeps nor rests; he works day and night to get rid of the wolf to save the lives of his sheep. If, through lack of care, of vigilance or of effort, we should lose lives, how would we answer Jesus Christ when he calls us to account for the souls he entrusted to us?"

How will those who have lost tens of thousands answer? What about those who barely have a flock left? Which believe in Jesus Christ? How do you follow a shepherd who doesn't care about his sheep? Is there a wolf? Are there sheep? Is there a shepherd?"

Just something to think about.

09 August 2009

More On Ad Limina Visits

According to the Vatican website, here, the procedure for ad limina visits is as follows:

Art. 28 — In keeping with a venerable tradition and the prescriptions of law, bishops presiding over particular Churches visit the tombs of the Apostles at predetermined times and on that occasion present to the Roman Pontiff a report on the state of their diocese.

Art. 29 — These kinds of visits have a special importance in the life of the Church, marking as they do the summit of the relationship of the pastors of each particular Church with the Roman Pontiff. For he meets his brother bishops, and discusses with them matters concerning the good of the Churches and the bishops’ role as shepherds, and he confirms and supports them in faith and charity. This strengthens the bonds of hierarchical communion and openly manifests the catholicity of the Church and the unity of the episcopal college.

Art. 30 — The ad limina visits also concern the dicasteries of the Roman Curia. For through these visits a helpful dialogue between the bishops and the Apostolic See is increased and deepened, information is shared, advice and timely suggestions are brought forward for the greater good and progress of the Churches and for the observance of the common discipline of the Church.

Art. 31 — These visits are to be prepared very carefully and appropriately so that they proceed well and enjoy a successful outcome in their three principal stages — namely, the pilgrimage to the tombs of the Princes of the Apostles and their veneration, the meeting with the Supreme Pontiff, and the meetings at the dicasteries of the Roman Curia.

Art. 32 — For this purpose, the report on the state of the diocese should be sent to the Holy See six months before the time set for the visit. It is to be examined with all diligence by the competent dicasteries, and their remarks are to be shared with a special committee convened for this purpose so that a brief synthesis of these may be drawn up and be readily at hand in the meetings.

The organising body is the Congregation for Bishops, and that is, I imagine, the Dicastery to be addressed if we have points we would wish to be considered during the visit.

Its address is: Palazzo della Congregazioni, Piazza Pio XII, 10, 00193 Roma and its phone number is: so we have no excuses.

Caught In My Tracks

Not quite what you expect to see in the middle of a Georgian streetscape on a sunny English Sunday afternoon!

08 August 2009


When even a repeat makes it worth watching TV on Saturday evening!


07 August 2009

Ad Limina Visit From England And Wales

Fr Ray Blake has scooped the world by announcing that the somewhat overdue Ad Limina visit by the Bishops of England and Wales is now scheduled for January.

What I know of the mechanics of these visits is a bit limited: I know that the Bishops' Conference has to send in a report; I know that each Bishop has a private one-to-one with the Pope; I know that a final statement which can include what in secular terms might be called an "Action Plan" is published by the Vatican at the end of the visit.

What I don't know is how the Vatican carries out its own preparation for the visit: presumably the Nuncio has a significant input, but who else has? Can anybody write in? To whom? And if the answer is "yes", will anybody at the Vatican end actually bother to read what is sent?

My experience suggests that October and November will be when the preparatory work for a January visit will be carried out, leaving December for the Holy Father and his advisors to take their position and raise any last minute queries.

That gives us seven or eight weeks.

Great as is my admiration for Archbishop Nichols, I can't believe that he is yet in a position to achieve authoritative editorial control over what the staff at the Bishops' Conference will produce: it will be full of self-congratulatory guff about this or that pastoral initiative, and will give an impression of a Church in E&W in which clergy and laity (I nearly wrote workers by hand or brain) are well on the way to achieving the Kingdom through support to the third world and a drive for carbon neutrality or even negativity.

If anybody knows how we can counter this, will they please speak up.

03 August 2009

Archbishop Nichols - Hope For Us All

There was a fascinating article in the Herald this weekend (actually there were several, but bear with me).
"Archbishop Vincent Nichols celebrated a Mass to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of St Vincent de Paul primary school in Victoria, London on Friday July 17.
The opening of the school was marked by a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Wiseman in an attic in the building where the school was founded. One hundred and fifty years on the current Archbishop of Westminster, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, followed in the footsteps of his predecessor by celebrating Mass for the school. The Mass was attended by pupils, staff, parents and Sisters of Charity. In his homily Archbishop Nichols described the symbolism of his bishop's mitre, which represents the Bible, upon which his ministry is based. He said the two points of the mitre symbolised the Old and New Testaments, a reminder of his ordination as a bishop, when the Bible was held over his head. Archbishop Nichols also said that the crozier represented a shepherd's crook, to show everyone that, as Archbishop, he is the shepherd of Westminster."
There are several things here: the Bishop exercising his teaching mission, as well as his pastoral mission; his respect and fidelity for tradition and the past, both in repeating what his predecessor did 150 years ago and in having a mitre held properly; and knowing how to talk to (rather than down to) children.
Unlike some Catholics who seem to think that Archbishop Nichols is an unCatholic failure, purely because he doesn't seem to want to do what they want him to do, I think he is building up to being a Catholic success, precisely because he isn't doing everything I want him to do.
The full story of how Archbishop Nichols came to be selected will never be known, but there are three phases: first ++MO'C offered his resignation to the Pope, and a terna selected by the magic circle (presumably with ++Vincent's name on) was presented to Rome; after a while in which it seemed that the magic circle would have its way, a campaign began to debate the sort of man the Church in England and Wales would need to succeed ++MO'C and the Cardinal was asked to stay on for a while longer; a new terna selected by the magic circle (presumably with ++Vincent's name on) was presented to Rome and ++Vincent was named for Westminster.
The second phase is interesting, because, I believe, it marks a decisive shift in the Church in this country. Just as Cardinal Heenan, intent on ensuring that whatever else happened, he would not be succeeded by ++Worlock, asked the people of his Diocese to tell the Nuncio what sort of priest should succeed him, a group of (mainly) lay people opened a debate about how the succession should happen. Damian Thompson and his blog played a key part in ensuring that there was a focus for the exchange of information, not just about the archiepiscopal possibles, but about the fruit of their parish and diocesan work. And at least one high profile prelate, Cardinal Pell, who was never ever realistically a candidate for Westminster was nevertheless proclaimed to be one, in order to provoke discussion and thought.
What was happening? This is the first time in which candidates for high office in the Church in this country were measured publicly against the Pope's criteria. Not, this time, nudges and winks in Eccleston Square, and a library packed and ready to be moved before an announcement was made: instead we learned about candidates by watching them at work and then discussing them.
What gives me hope that the Pope has chosen splendidly well is the very fact that it is unlikely that we will see ++Vincent celebrate Mass in the EF. He obviously doesn't want to, but has both an Auxiliary Bishop and priests in his diocese who are prepared to do so (a situation not without parallel in the Diocese of Rome, though we might assume its Ordinary to be a bit keener) and he is encouraging them to. Like the Pope he is keen to avoid the EF becoming a shibboleth for disunity.
My point is that we have witnessed a lot of ++Vincent's journey from Fr Trendy to ++Seriously Catholic. He is a not a turn-the-clock-back Traditionalist - far from it! - but understands and appreciates the need to be faithful to Tradition, and to allow those more traditionally disposed than he is to feel welcome. Above all, he understands the direction in which the Pope is leading us and is prepared to lead in the same direction.
There seems to be a lot of faux-ingénus about at the moment who profess to believe that they stand for a sort of labeless Catholicsm: there's no such thing. Why I think ++Vincent is a good thing is that the label he has embraced seems to be "Benedictine".
Somebody said recently: "much better than his predecessor; not as good as his successor". That'll do me; and it will do a lot of very good Catholics who will never voluntarily go to an EF Mass as well. In fact, that would be a pretty good epitaph for any of us.
(By the way, if you've got this far: what was Cardinal Mahony doing at ++Vincent's installation?)

01 August 2009

Typical Summer Day


You don't have to be some demented eco-nut to see that the climate is changing. You just note that this is the third summer on the trot that the jet stream has not behaved as it should and contrast what is happening here to what is happening all across the Mediterranean.