03 November 2011

The Last Post

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Not just that there has been another virulent attack on my computer, and, this time, on two different accounts on it, and a laptop which seems to have been infected as well.

But also, courtesy of Ches and James an insight into where things are and where I probably shouldn't be.

Imagine a fleet of ships commanded by an Admiral who says all the ships under his authority have to tie fast to a particular rocky isle.  Imagine that many do, but you gradually realise that on yours, the Captain, the senior officers, and those of the crew who deal with the officers have decided that rather than tie fast they will remain close to the rocky isle, but not tied to it.  They will give all the appearance of being obedient to the Admiral except in the most fundamental of obediences. 

The Admiral gave the order because he, better than anyone, is in a position to see just how rough the sea is, but the Captain, Officers and senior rates on our ship reckon that they know better, especially about the place where they are and think that their own ways of dealing with what might come will be perfectly adequate.

Most of the crew will remain oblivious about what's going on, but a few are aware not just of the Admiral's orders but of the senior officers' agreement to ignore them.

What should they do?  Mutiny?  If not, what should they do?  Acquiesce?  In which case what should they answer when at some point in the future the Admiral, or his leader, asks why they disobeyed?

If this is all nonsense, then I should stop blogging because this is all nonsense.

If this isn't all nonsense, then I should stop blogging because I shouldn't be leading crewmen against their officers: there is no justification for Mutiny.

I suppose that the revelation that  Kiko Argüello greets Bishops with the question "Do you believe?" left me wondering how the public statements and public praxis of some our ours could produce an answer "Yes!" without a degree of mental reservation that would make such a "Yes" valueless.  And it was realising that thinking like that about our Bishops was making me the wrong person to write about Catholicism in England and Wales.  I will not criticise our Bishops for what they seem to believe.

So I'd better not blog here any more for a good while.  I'm sure I shall be back eventually, and if I have anything uncontroversial to say (Alan B take note) I can say it over at the Guild.  And a way of getting in touch will always be to comment on any old post from the last few years, all of which comments go to a totally separate e-mail account. 

God Bless you all; God Help us all.
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01 November 2011

The Magic Circle: And There's More!

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Ches defined the Collaborationist Catholic far better than I could have done, but as he went for it at the individual level, I'd like to suggest how it works at the national level.

At least one Bishop made a bit of a name for himself within the Circle when he said he was one who spoke truth to Power: he articulated what much of the Bishops' Conference and its staff, and the diocesan staffs, have been about for ages, but missed out the fact of the complete self-delusion that accompanied the self-image.  (His, if not he, were a bit slow to admit that it was a quote and not his own bon mot, as well.)

Anybody who heard somebody involved in Catholic education saying that s/he had "been talking to Andrew Adonis" either bought into the fact that here was someone who had dealt with Lord Adonis, when he was Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and had talked truth to Power; or, and in my opinion, more likely, saw someone who was so sucked into the fact that s/he was talking to almost a Minister that s/he would gladly negotiate away the Catholicity implicit in whatever proposition being debated at the time, just to be able to say that s/he had communed with those at the centre.

The truth is that the Catholic Church in England and Wales was turned inside out by Tony Blair: we got absolutely nothing in return for embarrassingly unctuous fawning.  Even worse: now Blair and his party have been stripped of all power, the usual suspects are still spouting the same rubbish that was rubbish even when Power pretended to listen when the rubbish masqueraded as Truth, but to exactly the same people.  We're being patronised by the Opposition; the Government is simply ignoring us.

The line is always the same: you have to be at the centre to influence what's going on; you won't get everything, but you can safeguard your core interests.  You can't, of course, because you're dealing with people who are much better than you are at this sort of thing, and who aren't going to compromise the way that you are, because they aren't amateurs like you are.  The end result is that you end up with nothing except "access", if you're lucky, and nothing except "access" for your new agents who are ideologically compromised with their interlocutors, if you're unlucky.  We're really, really, unlucky.

One thing about the current Cruddas/OP issue is odd, though: this is an internal-to-the-Magic-Circle issue which seems somehow to have leaked out, and which has grown legs.  This isn't because of the five or six bloggers involved: I don't think we count for that much in the Catholic blogosphere in E&W, never mind further beyond ("Ringo isn't even the best drummer in the Beatles").  How has it gathered such traction?

31 October 2011

The Magic Circle: A Definition

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Francis Davis, whom I cited in my last post as a member of the Magic Circle, seems to have become shy about what that means.

"Oh, and for reader’s of the Muniment Room if you read on across this blog the idea that I may be part of the ‘magic circle’, I must admit, did bring light relief in my house and a few others on a rainy weekend!"

Leaving aside the grammar and punctuation, the fact is that his self definition as a member of one committe of the (Catholic) Archdiocese of Southwark and of another in the (CofE - multiply Brownie points by two for ecumenism) Diocese of Oxford (never mind the presumably secular Higher Education Funding Council Panel)  makes him part of the Magic Circle.

Damian, who popularised the phrase, has never got round to defining "Magic Circle" (mainly because it is blindingly obvious what it means, even if you're part of it and want to pretend you aren't) but, just to help poor Francis, who seems to have even lost his CV from his website, I have adopted Henry Fairlie's original definintion of the "Establishment", which fits the bill squarely:

"By the 'Magic Circle', I do not only mean Eccleston Square - though it is certainly part of it - but rather the whole matrix of official and social relations within which power is exercised. The exercise of power in the Catholic Church in England and Wales, both at diocesan level and within the structures of the Catholic Bishops' Conference, cannot be understood unless it is recognised that it is exercised socially."

We know who they are; they know who they are.  I named a whole bunch of them earlier this year, here

The point, though, isn't who they are, but what they are doing?  We've seen a couple of examples in the last few weeks involving Cruddas (the Catholic Intern programme, the speech at Blackfriars), but there's an awful lot more.
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30 October 2011

Blackfriars, Cruddas, Dominicans ...

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What on earth is going on in the Order of Preachers? 

And who is Francis Davis (other than a Magic Circle insider) to stir the, errr, pot so avidly here?

If there is any question about what life's going to be like if the powers-that-be feel threatened, then this story, and this man's posts about this story, might give an idea.

Prayers for Fr Pereira.
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28 October 2011

Liturgical Particpation, Again

During discussion on a recent post, about how the new translation might end up bringing in its wake as many problems as it might resolve, I quoted and said:

'"Assisting at Holy Mass you should have the four-fold intention of: Adoration, by which we acknowledge our dependence on God as the Ruler over life and death; of Praise and Thanksgiving for the benefits conferred on us; of Reparation for our sins and negligences; of Impenetration, to implore of Him the grace necessary for our salvation. If you desire to implore other benefits from God, through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, very well, but do not forget the main intention."

This is how we "participate" in Mass, and if we do so by praying the Rosary, then fine, but always remember that the four-fold intention is a way of describing how we become part of the sacred action which is taking place in Church for us.'

Anagnostis replied from an Orthodox point of view and made some telling points which, while not relevant to what I'm writing about here, are none the less of great interest.  The bits I'm interested in here are:

"A couple of years ago, an RC poster asked me to provide a diagrammatic description of the Orthodox Church, equivalent to the familiar "pyramid" provided by himself: Pope at the apex, then a narrow tier of Card. Metropolitans, a larger one of diocesan bishops, then presbyters and deacons, with the mass of laity forming the base. I provided, to his bafflement, a diagram of the Divine Liturgy: the bishop on his cathedra, the presbyters in the altar, the deacons running between altar and nave (i.e. "ship"/Ark)where the laity, the readers and monastics together with the Mother of God, the Angels and Saints stand to unite themselves with the death, resurrection and glorification of the Lord."
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"Anyway - the purpose of the Eucharistic liturgy is to make present the Body of Christ in both senses: in the Eucharistic gifts and simultaneously in the people - the WHOLE people, the Mystical Body of Christ. The "Mystery of Christ" is the Eucharistic Mystery which "generates" the Mystical Body. This is how the Church is constituted/made/realised - by, in function of, the Eucharistic Liturgy."

(I stress that I am extracting only part of something Anagnostis was writing for a different purpose.)

The Catholic who is properly at home with the scholastic explanation of what actuosa participatio really means in the context of the Mass will also be sympathetic to the Orthodox mystagogical explanation of the same event, even if he takes a few goes to begin to get his mind around some breathtakingly differently ways of thinking about the Liturgy and the Church. 

My point is that the number of people in the group "Catholics who will understand Liturgy in this way" is very limited and doesn't include anybody at all (as far as I can tell) in the Magic Circle.  This in turn means that the Benedict-inspired moves towards a restoration of the baby to the bath water are being met with opposition born of incomprehension.  This is not language and these are not concepts with which (for example) the average member of the Catholic Education Service can ever have engaged.

I tread lightly here, because I just begin to wonder how far a local Church which doesn't or can't engage with things like this at the conceptual level can in fact be Catholic.  If "being Church" is in fact a result of participation with the Sacred Liturgy on its terms rather than on ours, of being absorbed into the eternal Mystery of Atonement and Salvation rather than drinking Fairtrade coffee and collecting for CAFOD, then what is actually happening weekend after weekeend in our churches?

24 October 2011

Who Needs The Skibbereen Eagle?

Who needs the Skibbereen eagle, when we have the CBCEWDIA?  (And "Muslim fellows", surely, rather than "fellow Muslims", or even "Muslim fellow citizens"?)

Bishop Lang expresses sorrow at violence in Cairo
BISHOP Declan Lang of Clifton, chairman of the bishops' department for international affairs, has spoken of his "great sadness" at the violence  that left 26 people dead in Cairo earlier this month.  The bishop said: "It be hoped that the Egyptian political authorities will spare no effort in addressing at long last the festering problems that have affected  the Coptic faithful in Egypt so that they can become equal citizens alongside their fellow Muslims." He said his prayers were with Catholic and Orthodox leaders in Egypt.

A peaceful protest by Copts on Sunday evening was attacked by crowds armed with rifles, sticks and swords. A military vehicle later sped into a group of Copts.

H/t to the Catholic Herald.

17 October 2011

New Translation: Two Cheers And Two Concerns

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Of course it's better.  It didn't have to be any good to be better, and it's actually good, so it's much better than what it's replaced.  So let's consign what we've just lost to the dustbin of history, and raise our first cheer for formal sacral language in our worship (even if at least one priest has already worked out where he can introduce paraphrases and ad-libs).

Second cheer: perhaps you need to have had some training in the art of translation to understand just how bankrupt a "philosophy of translation" dynamic equivalence actually is, and how corrupt (or, if not corrupt, ignorant) the people who pushed it for the 1970 "translation" were.  The idea that we could "hear" the Mass in the same way that first century Christians "heard" the Mass is risible: what happens is that ideologues impose their own version of ecclesiology and retrofit a "translation" which just happens to confirm the premises on which their ecclesiology is based. 

Simple example: actuosa participatio is translated as "active participation" in the sense of everybody doing stuff all the way through Mass and joining the priest in what he is doing instead of being translated as "conscious participation" in the sense of everybody at Mass uniting themselves with the action of the priest at the altar to unite at the re-presentation of Christ's Sacrifice at Calvary, because those pushing the New Church way believed (completely without foundation but with lots iof wishful thinking) that that is what the early Church was like. 

A more complex example would be the imposition of Eucharistic Prayer 2: the belief that an ancient prayer must be an ancient anaphora, the deformation of the ancient prayer to conform with 1960s notions of what a second century anaphora should look like, and the collapse of the stout parties when it was proved that the ancient prayer a) wasn't an ancient anaphora, and b) was a couple of centuries younger than the Roman Canon.  (Except, of course, they didn't collapse, and we still have EP 2.)

My first concern, is that more and more we are being straightjacketed into a single option for our actuosa participatio: told when to stand, when to sit, when to kneel; what to say, what to sing; when to do, when to watch the priest (and his many helpers) do.  When, at the elevation of the chalice there is a mass turning round of the faithful and a scrabble for the leaflet with the new words for the proclamtion of the mystery of faith to make sure that we all say the right new words, it becomes clear to me that something that was lost when the New Rite of Mass came in is just not going to be repaired by the new translation: indeed, the new translation, peversely, might engrain the worst effects of the lex orandi lex credendi disasters of the last forty years.  Two dimensional participation might be here for the long term.

My second concern is actually one Anagnostis first tipped me off to.  When not roaming the web calling me a Pharisee (and he was probably not far from the mark) he has some penetrating insights, one of which haunts me more and more: there is something very wrong with the Church when everybody is a liturgiologist.  The Liturgy isn't something for most of us to study, discuss, or dissect: we are not called to Missolatry.  We should be worshipping God at Mass, not watching the priest.  (Of course, there shouldn't be anything to watch: just the priest doing what every priest everywhere does every time.)

I feel more an more like somebody who believes in the spiritual value of icons during the reign of Constantine V.  Perhaps the best thing to do is to withdraw and not discuss the subject.
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15 October 2011

The Vaughan

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I haven't written about the continuing issue of the Cardinal Vaughan school, and the dispute between its parents and governors on the one side, and the Archdiocese of Westminster on the other, because, frankly, I haven't got time to care about everything.  I did my bit in respect of CES by resigning as parent foundation governor of a Catholic school and entrustred the remainder of my childrens' education to the state, rather than to bodies which take their marching order from the staff working for the Catholic Bishops' Conference for England and Wales.

It was nevertheless interesting to read here that the Archdiocese was forced to give up its struggle to decatholicise change the nature of the school because of the pressure brought  by parents and governors.

'Tis a mad world, my masters
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14 October 2011

Friday Abstinence

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Am I the only person who is finding the period between 2359 on Thursday and 0001 on Saturday a serious trial?  How much meat there is out there!  Why is cooked breakfast the thing everyone goes to on Friday? 

This isn't to complain, but for me at least not eating meat on Friday isn't a simple flick between two pages in a recipe book, but a fairly brutal instruction to give something up regularly in a way that two days a year could never hope to manage.  I hope in a way that it doesn't become less challenging, and that it keeps on being so hard, because it will make me better.

I still haven't had a dinner invitation, but I had one to go out for breakfast: I said "No thanks - I don't eat meat on Fridays" and was rewarded with a tremendous laugh, as if I 'd told the best joke ever.  They still expected me to turn up though, and were petulant with me for not doing so.  It's certainly not martyrdom, but I catch myself wishing that if I have to make a Catholic fool of myself it could be because of my brilliant defence of Scholasticism, or my brilliant new insight into the procession of the Holy Spirit, not for turning down a couple of sausages, some rashers and a bit of black pudding.

Did I mention that I've not eaten meat today?

I suppose black pudding is meat.  Did the Fathers say anything about it?
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09 October 2011

Battlelines Being Drawn Up

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The Archdiocese of Westminster won't answer Ches's questions about Quest booking a diocesan venue for a Conference, and now Mass is to be celebrated publicly for Quest.

The dioceses of England and Wales are asked by a blogger how many exorcists there each have and the Communications Officer for the Diocese of Middlesborough not only refuses to asnswer him but tells him that blogging should be made a serious criminal offence.

The Catholic Truth Society has issued an instruction which accompanies just about every copy of the new translation available to Catholics in parishes that says that Holy Communion is to be received standing.

Add to this the ongoing Catholic Voices brouhaha (a good Humptydumptyish word), some remarkable examples of secular priests being moved about, and you don't need to see albino monks to think that something might be afoot.

In Austria and Ireland, the rebellion is being led by priests inn parishes.  In this country it seems to be being led by apparatchiks in Eccleston Square and diocesan curiae.

We are in for some interesting times, and the longer the Pope lives, the more interesting.  Imagine all what will be let loose if the SSPX manages to stay reasonably united and sign anagreement with Rome!
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05 October 2011

"My Song: 'Tantum Ergo'"

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Try to guess who wrote this.  A clue: he is alive, aged 54, and has been published just in the last month in at least the Daily Mail, the Guardian and Private Eye.

"We had two Masses a week, on Wednesdays and Sundays, and two Benedictions, on Tuesdays and Fridays. Every Benediction, we would sing a hymn called "Tantum Ergo". "Tantum ergo/ Sacramentum/ Veneremur cernui/ Et antiquo/ Documentum..." We sang it twice a week for five years. We never asked what it meant, and I still don't know. Sacraments, venerate, antique, documents ... but its meaning didn't matter. Its sound was its meaning; its absence of meaning was its meaning. Latin was God's first language, its meaning floating direct to heaven on a cloud of incense pouring out of a thurible swung with such vigour by the seniors that the new boys in the front row would often disappear, coughing and splutter­ing, in an unholy fog.

Thirty or more years on, I make my living from parody, nudging sense into nonsense, translating the words of others back into their original gibberish. I find "Tantum Ergo" has lodged in my head, a dissident group of my brain cells forming a chapel choir, singing it at full blast in impromptu moments. And my imagination keeps returning to Farleigh House, Farleigh Wallop, Basingstoke, Hants. Or perhaps it has always been stranded there, the boarder that never came home.
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Craig Brown

03 October 2011

From My Sickbed

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Well, metaphorically, at least.

I was supposed to be travelling again but instead was felled by a dose of flu which, if it is this season's, might as well be called Elephant Flu for the force with which it strikes.  Bad throat, becomes "Help! I must have swallowed some acid!" in just a few hours, and once the Tyrozets won't touch the sore throat, the temperature rockets skywards.

After 24 hours of this I decided to break through the fever: a chicken biryani and a very large brandy, followed by a large dose of Night Nurse, left me dripping wet, but I slept for 10 hours and have since "only" had sides which ache as though I'm in a straightjacket and a hacking cough as though I were back smoking 30 a day.

I have little energy for movement and ended up so bored I even set up a Twitter account, but could not think of anything to say in 140 characters or less so have left it unchristened.  The nearest I have got to going out has been to foray around some blogs.

The serious point in all of this parading of self pity is to suggest that if this is this season's flu, my very strong advice is to have the jab if you're offered one.

And to show you a chaffinch in the garden:


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27 September 2011

Pope Has Great Insight - (Water Remains Wet)

The ever more youthful Pope included this in his address to German seminarians:

"We all know that Saint Peter said: “Always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15). Our world today is a rationalist and thoroughly scientific world, albeit often somewhat pseudo-scientific. But this scientific spirit, this spirit of understanding, explaining, know-how, rejection of the irrational, is dominant in our time. There is a good side to this, even if it often conceals much arrogance and nonsense. The faith is not a parallel world of feelings that we can still afford to hold on to, rather it is the key that encompasses everything, gives it meaning, interprets it and also provides its inner ethical orientation: making clear that it is to be understood and lived as tending towards God and proceeding from God. Therefore it is important to be informed and to understand, to have an open mind, to learn. Naturally in twenty years’ time, some quite different philosophical theories will be fashionable from those of today: when I think what counted as the highest, most modern philosophical fashion in our day, and how totally forgotten it is now ... still, learning these things is not in vain, for there will be some enduring insights among them. And most of all, this is how we learn to judge, to think through an idea – and to do so critically – and to ensure that in this thinking the light of God will serve to enlighten us and will not be extinguished. Studying is essential: only thus can we stand firm in these times and proclaim within them the reason for our faith. And it is essential that we study critically – because we know that tomorrow someone else will have something else to say – while being alert, open and humble as we study, so that our studying is always with the Lord, before the Lord, and for him."

Imagine being 23 or 24 and being given this as your marching orders!

26 September 2011

Language, Truth, And ... Logic?

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It's odd how Catholic Hierarchies all over the English-speaking world are hitting out hard to proclaim that "marriage means the union of a man with a woman": not odd because there is some problem with the proposition, but odd because there is another linguistic battle in which they rolled over.

"Priest" only has one meaning: it is a man who is ordained to offer sacrifice.  In the Christian Church, "priest" is used to describe the man who, called by God, is ordained to be able to re-present Christ's sacrifice on Calvary.

"Priest" describes a big ask: it's limited to men; few are called, and fewer answer the call.  Those who do so are changed irrevocably; they're not just men any more: they're priests, men who are more than men, men who are set apart from other men.

So why has the term "women priests" been accepted as the premise on which the debate about the ministerial role of women should be conducted?  Women in other denominations can be ministers, vicars, clergy, reverends, but they can't be priests.  (My guess, by the way, is that few of the women who are in orders would actually believe that they have been ordained to offer a sacrifice anyway.)  Opposition to the idea of "women priests" isn't about being "anti-woman", any more than opposition to the idea of male mothers is about being "anti-man".  But the pass has been sold.

I animadvert from time to time on the subject of the education of the members of our Hierarchy: whether they have been intellectually formed to take on the secular opposition to what we believe in.  I wonder if they have also been taken in by counsellors: by people who are far more aware than they are about what words mean, and where they lead.
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25 September 2011

Brief Foray Into Politics

Is Herman van Rompuy serious?  
In his speech as "President of Europe" (or whatever he actually is) to the United Nations General Assembly he said:

"Because last year, something important happened in a part of the world very close to us, in Northern Africa and the Arab world. Peoples of the Arab world are looking for democracy, for freedom, for justice. In some countries they achieved it, in other countries they are involved in reform processes. So this is really something astonishing. The world is more and more moving in the direction of democracy. And we are the fatherland, or the motherland of democracy. So the EU is very glad with that kind of evolution. And where we can, we help, as we did in Libya. We did it via our Member States, via the EU as the EU, even militarily. We helped to bring Kadhafi down, and give full support to the democratic forces in Libya."




15 September 2011

Back Up - And Backed Up

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In a house where there are more laptops than people (never mind the PCs) the various means by which and states in which IT systems die become more familiar.

My sympathy for Fr Blake is the greater because I had to learn the hard way why backing up is so important: in my case it was losing four years' worth of photos.

Buy memory!  It is the muggle equivalent of the Pensieve.

It took less than an hour to remove the old PC and install this new PC, all the peripherals, and a decent anti-virus system.  Within two days I had reloaded all of the software as well.  How different the world is from the 1990s!
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10 September 2011

Temporarily Off Net

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The PC was badly messed up by the hackers: open ports, a botnet driver installed in the recovery partition, and a new email account whose password I couldn't access.

I got to the point where I decided that trying to lock down a five year old XP Media Professional PC was probably going to be more trouble than it's worth, and as I don't want to make my laptop my prime means of accessing the internet, I've bought a new desktop and will begin the installation process tomorrow, assuming that I can complete all of the backup processes tonight.

What did we do before computers?
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09 September 2011

Get The Tablet That's Right For You!

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That was the title of the e-mail waiting in the queue.

I thought: a few years after the Oldmeadow affair, once things had settled down a bit: Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh both in their pomp; Douglas Woodruf adding a bit of editorial tone.  Orthodox Dominicans dazzling us with theology; Jesuits providing a home for Fr Martindale; Ronnie Knox showing what an Ordinariate might aspire to, given that the mainstream Romans can't.

Before the war or after?  Hard to decide.  Before the Holy Week reforms, but probably during the Pontificate of Pius XII is my best bet, so say 1947 to about 1952.

Fantasy of course: the e-mail was from The Carphone Warehouse, and the Tablet on offer is a tablet.

At least it wasn't The Suppository.
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08 September 2011

Tiaras, Etc

(Here's one I posted over at the Guild)

It's taken me quite a while to shake off my wish for a Papal Coronation, or at least for the Pope to wear a tiara. There is something about the triple crown that speaks of a more muscular Catholicism: a Catholicism which faces up to the world, at least, but looks as though if the flesh and the Devil want a go, then we're ready.


The fact of JPs I and II doing without Coronations, and settling merely for Inaugurations felt a bit wet. It was a though a dimension of the Pontificate had been sacrificed merely to give a good impression; as though the "temporal rule" bit was being somehow downplayed, merely to act in harmony with the spirit of the age.

Benedict XVI's decision to remove the tiara from his arms and to replace them "merely" with a mitre is actually a much richer and more symbolic gesture, and one which situates the Church in the new Millennium. The Church needed to develop its independence through the Papal States in the Middle Ages so that the Papacy and the Church did not become prisoner or vassal of the Emperor or some lesser monarch. But the independence became an end in itself, and the revenues accruing to the States became an end in themselves to a succession of Popes. Their capture by Garibaldi in 1870, and the "imprisonment" of the Pope until the time of the Lateran Treaty in 1929 seemed like a disaster, but was in fact the start of an era of liberation. The Vatican City State might look odd, but showed how the Papacy could maintain its independence during the Second World War. In more recent years, it has ceded many of the trappings of statehood - such as a completely independent police force - because its independence is guaranteed.
Thus the logic of the abolition of the tiara: the Pope doesn't need the trappings of authority any more. He is the Bishop of Rome, and his curia can work independently of Italian civil authority, as long as it behaves honestly.

And this leads me on to the title of Patriarch of the West. I must admit to having been mystified when the Pope stopped using the title, but in the light of his renunciation of the tiara, things become clearer. The Petrine Ministry is exercised by the Bishop of Rome, and any title which appears to outrank, rather than complement, the title of Bishop of Rome has to go. His Primacy goes with his See and nothing else. To use the title of Patriarch might in some way detract from or dilute the fact that as Bishop of Rome, he has all the title and authority he needs.

This is not to detract from the title of Patriarch as used in the East - I think that in taking this decision the Pope's mind, for once, was not on the East. It was more on liberating Catholics from thinking of the Papacy in terms of temporal authority so they could concentrate on what the Petrine Ministry has to offer the twenty-first century.

03 September 2011

Outnumbered: Very Funny, But ...

The new series of Outnumbered began last night and didn't disappoint, or at least not us: the anarchic fantasy of a boy which ends up with specially trained badgers whose job it is to make sure that people who are buried actually are dead; or a girl (pictured left) who wants to wear a party frock to a funeral because she has been told that the "celebration of his life" is fundamentally a happy occasion.  It is the funniest thing on, at the moment.

At its heart, however, is the great vacuum produced when God is replaced by relativism.  The writers pick out perfectly a world in which everybody defines and constantly redefines the world and relationships in terms of what suits them at the time, and in which social obligations are thought of in terms of what others owe us instead of what we owe them.

A perfect picture of what the urbanised part of this country is, to a large extent, like: pagan, rather than godless; capable of casting bread on the waters, but not necessarily disinterestedly; "dementors in Per Una" as Rita so perfectly described them.

Rita, at least, has found somewhere this tide hasn't reached, at least not yet.  But I must admit that where I am it feels like a tsunami, and there doesn't seem to be much high ground left.

28 August 2011

8-2: But Stuffing Still Knocked Out

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I think that, on balance, I have a pretty good supply of saeva indignatio: as a rule, when something turns up to bother me, I react, and, in the cant of management consultants, I react assertively.  It is very rare that I am left winded, floundering, and ready to throw in the towel.

But in the same week that my Parish Priest has said that he will not have the new translation in his parish before he has to: i.e. not next week; I read the far more dispiriting news from Fr Brown that seminarians are being hounded to discover if any of them are secret biformalists: if you are attached to the EF, there is at best a question mark about you.

Imagine the resource that is being applied to achieve this: imagine the web of control which seeps out from Eccleston Square to ensure that the Eccleston Square vision of Church is not (in its view) sullied.  Worse still, imagine that this is not a panic reaction from a clique which is losing influence, but a refocusing of effort by a bureaucracy which decides for itself what "on message" means, and has decided that Benedict XVI is not on message for the Church in England and Wales, and that we are better off without priests who wish to conform to his vision of Catholic priesthood.

And I just feel that the game is up: they will win, they are winning: perhaps they have won, here and now.  They won't prevail, because we have been promised that they won't prevail, but the enemy is within and it feels that the battle is probably lost.  The difficult mind game of remaining faithful to Peter at the same time as remaining faithful to the Head of our local Church is being strained to breaking point.

Even if the gates of Hell are already gaping wide to receive the agents - and count the weight of every child lost to the Faith because of the actions of the agencies of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales to guess what the balance might look like - we have to face the fact that, temporally, we may have lost already: if they stand four square against the Pope, how can they, or anybody who pays for them, describe themselves as Catholic.

There are about ten people who will read this and understands what 8-2 means in this context.  It means being able constantly to renew by being faithful to the past, and by understanding that we are all individuals and not just types.

21 August 2011

Thought For The Day

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A commenter in Fr Blake's combox asks:

What is it about this magnificent Pope that many bishops and priests feel unable to follow him? In a Church where there has been widespread division and too many episodes of quite dreadful behaviour, we should all be rallying under his example and leadership. He is a beacon of light, of truth, and of inherent goodness, that should inspire all our clergy to become like him. What a transformation this would bring to the Church and what great benefits would follow.


I'm sure I can't be the only one who has had the same thought, even if I haven't articulated it so well.  The good thing is that there are so many good priests who are inspired by him, and who are bringing great things to the Church, and we must continue to pray for them.

We need to pray for the others as well.
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14 August 2011

"New" Hymn Book

The latest edition of Catholic,  the quarterly published by the Transalpine Redemptorists has arrived.

As ever feeling slightly guilty, I look first to see what this edition's supplement is going to be, before addressing myself to what the editor probably thinks is rather more important material in the paper itself.

This time it is a copy of Faith of our Fathers, the Papa Stronsay hymn book.  Guess what: no Bind Us Together; no Gathering Mass; no Kumbayah; but a (slightly more eclectic than I would have guessed) anthology of Catholic hymns.

Click on the contents page to read the list of hymns - and then subscribe!

13 August 2011

Robert Robinson RIP

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Yes, he did Ask The Family and Call My Bluff, but he was a radio man, and even more, a man of written words.

Not just Stop The Week and Round Britain Quiz either - though they would be enough to make anybody who thinks that Stephen Fry is is any sense "clever" realise that Stephen Fry is merely meretricious.

It is in his essays in The Sunday Times and The Listener that he showed just how talented he was, even if his was a sufficently self-effacing character that he didn't push himself to the fore; just the same way that he invented the hostile political interview (and in which Jeremy Paxman now plays the Stephen Fry meretricious role), and allowed his rolw to become forgotten.

The fact is that Robert Robinson was not just clever and witty, but just a tad shy of making his listeners or readers think that he thought that he knew it all - because he knew that he didn't.

If you get a chance, look out for an anthology of his called Prescriptions of a Pox Doctor's Clerk: you'll read some very clever stuff, but also some articles in which the humanity, the fellow feeling, will bring you to tears.
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10 August 2011

Did You Hear About The Thick Rioter ...

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Did you hear about the thick rioter who was arrested by police for stealing 30 chicken tikka masalas?

It turned out he'd misunderstood his mates when they said they were going out to rob Currys.

Aye thang yow!
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09 August 2011

Dickens, Riots, Barnaby Rudge

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Rioting and clearing up afterwards used to be so much simpler.  The protestors gathered and after airing their grievances began to cause trouble; rioters attached to the protestors fell upon the town and began to destroy things and people, and to loot.  Magistrates read the Riot Act and the militia advanced and began to open fire on rioters and arrest those whom they did not kill.  Riot being a crime attracting the death penalty, all those arrested were hanged after being found guilty, within the month.  They were executed as close as possible to where they had been arrested, special gallows being erected at the scene.

Barnaby Rudge has been excellent reading these last few days!

No: of course I'm not saying that we should bring back the death penalty for riot.  But it is interesting to speculate on the difference between what happens when there is a clear consequence for being convicted of riot, and the possibility of 40 hours community service when nobody seems to want to spell out in black and white exactly what the criminal has done.

08 August 2011

It is always odd to see something familiar and realise that there's something about it that's not right.  It's unsettling.  But because of the familiarity of the thing you thought you were going to see, the unfamiliar change is pushed away to one side, ignored or even forgotten.

I wonder if that's why the article Damian Thompson published about the Clifton Diocese's invitation to Tina Beattie to lecture inside the Cathedral about Vatican II seemed almost to pass me by when I read it.  In the universe I live in, no Catholic Cathedral would allow a (i) woman (ii) feminist (iii) to speak inside the Cathedral (iv) on a matter pertaining to the Faith. 

The Diocese might sponsor a public lecture in a seat of learning or some central hall, though not if the subject were to be to reject core teachings of the Church, or if aspersions were to be cast on the person of the Pope; but the Cathedral would be retained purely for liturgical functions.

Increasingly the moral universe in which I live feels like one parallel to the one in which my spiritual fathers live.  This in Clifton; secular concerts in Westminster Cathedral; CAFOD parading anti-Catholics at its conference; the list goes on.

I wonder whether concentrating on matters liturgical has become a sort of displacement therapy, whether it has become a tree for us to focus on while the wood goes to rack and ruin.

The problem is that if the starling has red eyes, it's no longer sturnis vulgaris: it is something else.

05 August 2011

Back And Hacked!

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I've been away again and came back to find that while I was away, the e-mail account associated with this blog was hacked: somebody managed to get access to the address book and was spamming addressees.  As far as I know, it hadn't yet got beyond little blue pills, but my apologies if you were on the receiving end.

That e-mail address has been closed down and has been replaced by another.  If you received anything and haven't received an apology from the new address, please let me know in the combox, but don't include your e-mail address as I should already have it.

Normal service will hopefully be resumed very shortly.
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21 July 2011

How Really To Do Hypocrisy

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The Prime Minister of Ireland, Enda Kenny, has decided that everything wrong in Ireland is the Church's fault.

He has attacked an institution that was already terribly weakened by what has already been revealed, and just as the institution has been revealed as being run by fairly mediocre people. 

He has gone for the jugular of an animal that won't fight back.

Well, as someone who is neither Irish, a priest or a child abuser, I don't have to keep cringing, and I must say that it looks to me as though the Irish political class is trying to lay all of the ills of Ireland on the one institution that it can get away with portraying as worse than itself.

Was it the Church which brought Ireland to bankruptcy?  Is it the Church which runs the most crony-ridden political system in Europe outside the Eastern Mediterranean?  Is it the Church which is putting people out of work, and cutting the salaries of those fortunate enough to stay in?

Has every abused child in Ireland been abused by a religious?  Has every crime covered up in Ireland been covered up by a religious?

And if you enumerated all of the corruption and hypocrisy in Irish public life, would the Church or its religious be responsible for all of it?

"Filth" was the word the Pope used to describe those who abused children, and I agree with him, and would probably be much more intemperate in language and in action were one ever to come into range.

But the idea that an Irish politician - especially one who has climbed to the top of his country's greasy pole - can blame the Church for the corruption of his country would be a joke, were it not such a nauseatingly cynical example of naked self-interest identifying a scapegoat.
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15 July 2011

Catholic Truth Society

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First the new rubrics, then the attack on traditionalism.

Has it been reconquered?
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13 July 2011

++Vin on Kneeling

I get the impression sometimes that pairs of blokes with sunglasses, tight, high-lapelled suits, and spiky gelled hair wander round Eccleston Square waiting for the opportunity to turn up at somebody's door and say: "The Archbishop doesn't like it".

It's not just enforcement of the rules - it's the in-your-face creation of rules that are "Vin rules" rather than "rules" in any other meaning of the word.

Just as the new translation of the Mass invites Catholics all over the English-speaking world to think again about what is happening when the priest takes hold of bread and wine on the altar; just at the time that the rules about music at Mass are (re)stated for the first time in 40 years; just at the time when the Pope reintroduces communion kneeling as the ideal; Archbishop Nicholls, ++Vin to his online friends, decides: "not here".

Whatever the Church Universal might think about the honour due by those receiving Him to Our Lord, in England and Wales the rubrics have been rewritten to say "queueing and standing is normal".

Now this is a rubric created by some people in the Bishops' Conference in England and Wales.  The Bishops are too timid to rule their local Churches any more.  Although each of them has the right to resist this sort of nonsense, none of them ever does.  They have bought into an idea that the Episcopal Conference "pools sovereignty" and makes them more collegiately stronger - instead of realising that by surrendering their own authority they will have to answer not just for how their diocese was run, but for how the decisions they agreed to affected other dioceses as well.

So when ++Vin tells us that all the Bishops have agreed that the holy queue is normative, not just he but all the Bishops of England and Wales have to share responsibility for the conseuqnces of that decision, not least their agreement to tell the Holy Father that he has got it wrong.

Tell me I'm wrong, but isn't this a rather big deal?  ++Vin and the E&W Bishops have declared that the holy queue and communion standing is "right", and that an insight unknown to the first 1950 years of Catholicsm is mandatory because they say so.  Even worse, there is no appeal to some spurious 2nd Century text to pretend that this is a practice of the "Early Church".  We have to do it because ++Vin and the Bishops say it's right.

And before, and probably since, the Pope has said it's wrong.

I struggle to say the right words, but it seems to me that this is a (literally) cataclysmic attempt to wash something the Chrch has taught as orthoprax away.  If ++Vin is really so ready to say that what the Church has always taught is wrong, in spite of what the Pope is teaching now, in respect of the way we receive Holy Communion, what else might we look forward to?

11 July 2011

J F Powers


Ever since I read Fr Longenecker's views on J F Powers' Morte d'Urban, I had resolved to read a bit of this, to me unknown, novelist who seemed to inhabit a space most of us would love to explore: a Catholic author writing novels set in a Catholic world.  Graham Greene without the sex, hypocrisy, heresy, tendentious posturing, and adolescent showoff mannerisms which made him a houseld word in EngLit but a sorry advertisement for the Faith.  (You imagine elderly female Tabletistas still enjoying a frisson when they reach down the well-thumbed paperback of The Heart of the Matter from the shelf in the study and remember how dear Fr H*****t had explained how the artist was so very close to God, so close that what we saw as bad or harmful was just our reflection in the beauty of the artist's creation ... but I digress.)

I read Morte d'Urban and came to a similar conclusion to Fr L, namely that the author had picked on the story of a soul: how a priest had stopped trying to be what he wanted God to want him to be, and had chosen to be what God wanted him to be instead, even if it did disappoint some people.  There was a particularly deft touch in making me at least feel for the period I was reading that I had some feel for what living in places like Illinois in the 1950s really was like - the Catholicsm that was at the heart of the story wasn't particularly the overt theme of the narrative, and that meant that I had time to think about point in time when America was outsrtipping the rest of the world without having the technological ability to be conscious of where the rest of the world was; a point where the car (more likely the automobile) was finally winning and driving the train and the coach towards oblivion; while all the time ubiquitous air conditioning was not even a figment of the imagination and the climate was to be endured, not vanquished.

I ordered a couple more books: this time of Powers' short stories, and when faced a week and a bit ago with suddenly having to decamp for work, chose them to take as being new and different.  And they really were.

I had to read most of the stories twice: once to understand the world in which they were set, and only the second time to try to understand the story. 

We think we understand America (the USA, that is) but in fact what we understand is what the social media tell us America is.  For the period in which Powers is writing, America, for any European, is the gritty East Coast or the laid back West Coast.  there was also the West - the Wild West - but an urban world which doesn't reference even the east and west coasts, never mind a wider world, is something very new, to me at least.

I have no point of reference when dealing with this world: urban life in a mid-West town in the 1950s, where the Catholicsm has come neither from ireland nor from the Latin world, but from Germany is foreign.  But so is the America of some people using public transport because not everyone has cars; or travelling by train rather than plane; or the non-existence of air conditioning.

Powers describes this world so well that I found myself lost at times just in trying to imagine living in the world, instead of following him where he was leading.  But as an author he is very forgiving: going back to stories a second time, there was always a detail to trip me up which I had missed the first time round.  Like Jane Austen, or P G Wodehouse, he creates a world so perfectly that it becomes a real backdrop and the stories painted on it acquire some of their truth purely because he has written them there.

You are beginning to get the idea that I think I'm on to something - well, you're right.  I don't want to compare J F Powers with anybody else - "the Kingsley Amis of Illinois" on the fromt cover would be enough blurb to stop me from even reading the back cover - but just suggest that here is a writer whose skill with words, matched to an understanding of an environment to describe using them, might have ended up in something very special indeed.


10 July 2011

Like An SSN

I feel not unlike an SSN at the moment - "Run Silent, Run Deep".

I'm back again for a few days before probably having to disappear off for another fortnight or so: meanwhile little or no access to the Interblog.

But here's a thought to be going on with: are any of the Bishops in England and Wales engaging in any way with any of the issues which predominate in the E&W Catholic blogosphere?  And why not?

I began to wonder whether it might be interesting to look at the way News International was forced to mend its ways (and how!) and see whether they might not be lessons for us to identify and learn.

26 June 2011

Further Thought On The Eucharistic Flashmob

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Most of the comments on the various which have posted the You Tube film of the Eucharistic Flashmob fall roughly into two areas: that it would have been preferable for public veneration of the Eucharist to have been part of a more traditional Eucharistic procession; and second, that if the friars were going to do what they did, there should have been some protective security.  Both of these comments are laudable and seem to be born out of a desire to ensure that Our Blessed Lord should always be treated with all due respect.

I've no quarrel with either point of view, but I think something else was going on on Ascension Thursday in Preston.  (NB: Ascension Thursday, not Ascension Thursday Sunday.)

I started thinking about whether I would have stopped and got down on my knees if I was walking past somewhere where public exposition was taking place, and moved on to think of the radical simplicity of the trust the two friars had in God.  Nothing could happen to them, or to the Eucharistic Lord, simply because He was with them, and they trusted Him and knew that He would ensure that everything went well.  I wish my faith were that strong.

I really hope we don't have lots of priests doing copycat expositions: it isn't right to make a stunt out of Our Lord.  What the friars did, though, wasn't a stunt: it was a very public demonstration of faith (in several senses) and a clear sign that they have embodied the charism of their Order and their Founder.
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23 June 2011

Praying For Priests

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Although she is far too polite to say it in these words, Anita has suggested that instead of just going on about the need to pray for priests, I should join her 54 day Novena for the Pope, bishops and priests.

I think I will.

I was sent a copy of a letter to the Catholic Herald from a few weeks ago in which the writer, the father of a friend of mine, made the observation that among the movements in the Church which attract the young - not least those encouraged by Blessed John Paul II - the message of life was sufficiently strong that families in the movements were producing more children, and that those children were growing in an environment in which discerning a vocation to the priesthood would be less difficult than for those of the same age growing up outside that protection.

Part of the deal has to be that the rest of us will pray for the priests who answer their calling as often as we pray that those called will answer.  Many of us who love and reverence our priests take them for granted: a bit like dearly loved grandparents, they're simply always on the scene, giving gladness. 

They need us to pray for them as much as we need them to pray for us: in fact, the best way of making sure that will be around to pray for us is to pray for them.

So join me and join Anita!

22 June 2011

20 June 2011

Two Moments: Two Worlds

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Here, courtesy of Pathe News, are two moments.

One from 1918 shows Cardinal Bourne blessing an outdoor crucifix in Poplar in the East End.  (Did it survive the Blitz?)  The film could have been taken anywhere in the Catholic world in 1918.  Here it is.

The other shows the Consecration of Liverpool Cathedral in 1967.  Cardinal Heenan is the Papal Legate, the people sing Christus Vincit!, but the Auxiliary Bishop (where was the Metropolitan?) consecrates the altar in English, and although nobody realises it, everything is about to change for ever - in fact everything has changed, but nobody there has realised.  Here it is.
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19 June 2011

Private Passions

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You can still listen to this morning's Private Passions on the iPlayer - it will be there until next Sunday.  Today it featured David Bintley, Director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet.  About three quarters of the way through he selects part of James MacMillan's Seven Last Words from the Cross and explains simply and lucidly how a Catholic responds to sacred music.

We (or at least I) complain often enough about the BBC.  Well, for once a Catholic was allowed to explain something Catholic to non-Catholics in a Catholic way.

It's a good start.

18 June 2011

Fr Z's Take On Fr Corapi - Another Evelyn Waugh Moment For Me

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I'd never heard of Fr Corapi until a few days ago, and I'm little the wiser today about what may or may not have happened and how toys have been separated from prams, but for reasons either good or bad, an American priest who is popular with some and unpopular with others, either has or hasn't abandoned the sacred ministry to tackle or not tackle what is going on around him.

It's just like the tabloids in the UK: somebody you've never heard but other people have is suddenly thrust into the limelight and lots of other people you've never heard of have cast iron, black and white opinions about whether the person is good or bad.

Fr Z has written a magisterial piece about how we should react to the case in point - by praying for Fr Corapi - and about why Satan and all wicked spirits are wandering through the world looking for bishops' and .priests' souls to ruin.

"But now, splendidly, everything had become clear.  The enemy at last was plain in view, huge and hateful, all disguise cast off.  It was the Modern Age in arms.  Whatever the outcome there was a place for him in that battle."

I was wondering earlier why I felt as though I'd had the stuffing knocked out of me this year: "Gay Masses" and the reported opinions of an Archbishop; the views of the Hierarchy about decline in the Church as reported by a convert they had refused to ordain; the debacle at the Cardinal Vaughan school; the arrogance of those who "run" music in the Church in E&W; the Catholic Education Service of the Bishops' Conference; the treatment of an Ordinariate candidate for ordination; the Church caving in before the State's attack on adoption charities; the Methodist "ordinations" which were planned for Liverpool Cathedral; and have realised, thanks to Fr Z, that something rather wonderful must be going on for the Prince of this worls to be dedicating so much energy to thwarting us.

As Father says, pray especially for Bishops and Priests: their privileges are awesome, as are their responsibilities, but they are the same weak, post-lapsarian, flesh and blood as the rest of us, and are the particular prey of the Devil.

Pray for them.

14 June 2011

Catholic Instincts ... Again!

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I banged on about Catholic instincts recently, and Fr Tim's post about the CBCEW trying to get Rome to make queueing in a line for standing Communion, and the Archdiocese of Westminster trying to unmake altar rails even a historical part of Catholic worship, makes me realise just how spot on CCFather was when he identified the lack of a Catholic instinct as being the mark of our Bishops today.

I'm afraid, however, that I'm becoming radicalised by this discovery: radicalised towards what Vatican II taught us, and not what those who preach in VII's name teach us.  VII is about resourcissement, the return to our roots, and aggiornamento, the unambiguous making clear today to people of today what we have always believed. 

Kneeling in adoration is our vocation, and has been since the foundation of the Church; and the separation of Sanctuary from the world, marked off by a railing that nevertless permits the Faithful to approach and receive their Saviour, allows us to mark and symbolise both the reality of Christ present at the Altar, and His willingness to see his creatures approach the Holy of Holies - sounds Catholic to me!

So: No to the CBCEW!  No to Westminster!  They don't understand, and because they don't understand they've got it wrong.  And the thing they've got wrong really matter, even if they don't understand why.

What do we do?  Well here's a start.  Next Sunday, try to catch your Priest after Mass and say that while you don't want to make trouble, the CBCEW has said that communion kneeling down is our inalienable right, so from the feast of the Assumption on, you (we!) will be kneeling for Communion, and while we don't want to make a big thing of it, we'd like him to be aware that it's on its way.

What do you think?

10 June 2011

Death Of Patrick Leigh Fermor - Αἰωνία ἡ μνήμη!

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The death of Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor has been announced.

He was one of the great writers of the post-war period, and what a life he had to describe.

We are still waiting for the third volume describing his walk from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople in 1933 - I wrote to the Spectator some years ago begging them not to commission anything new - no articles or reviews - from PLF until vol 3 had been published.

A Time To Keep Silence is Lenten reading for me: his meditation on the effect of traditional monasticsm - Eastern and Western - on a hard-living war veteran tells also of the way in which God's hook, once swallowed, is there forever.

But I also think of his legendary heroism - his time in Crete as a member of SOE, his love for Greece and the Greek people, and the inspitring way in which they took to their hearts the young men who had dedicated themselves to the cause of Greek freedom.

Requiescat in pacem!  Αἰωνία ἡ μνήμη!
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09 June 2011

Bully

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"You can't do that because I say you can't."

"You look a bit cocky: I'll stop you."

"Don't think I won't get you sooner or later."

"Too clever by half, you."

"And don't think I'm frightened of you just because you know more than I do."

"People are listening to you instead of me."

"Are you taking the mickey?"

(Off) "Lads!  I've found a way to stop him!"
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07 June 2011

"The So Called Extraordinary Form"

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If Damian is right, then Archbishop Conti has said lots of dispiriting things about the EF.  Strangest of all, though, is his description of it as "the so called Extraordinary Form" (I wonder if the initial capitals are his or Damian's), as though whoever had thus named it had swiped an honourable title for a dishonourable act.

Not my Hierarchy, luckily, though James Preece has pointed out that ours can support fatuity of a similar scale when it wants.

What surprises me is the sheer brass neck of the Archbishop: he has examined what the Pope has said about the Liturgy of the Roman Church, and has found it wanting in respect of what the Glaswegian Church already knows.  Although the recent instruction (note the word: "instruction", not "vague suggestion") said that Bishops had to act according to the mens of the Holy Father, this Bishop has decided that Glaswegian Catholics have no need for such things.

As I've said: not my Hierarchy; otherwise I might have to investigate the supposition that he only has the time to make such comments about the Mass because he has managed to rid his local Church of any connection at all to the anti-English, anti-Union, anti-Protestant sentiment that used to be considered to be a hallmark of some of its members.

04 June 2011

Little Owl

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The little owl was waiting for the hare to leave her leverets when all of a sudden it realised I was there.  I managed one photo before it flew off.

















It found a post fifty yards away and glared at me.  I turned away momentarily to see where a sound had come from and when I turned back it had gone.
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03 June 2011

Catholic Instincts

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A post by Ben Trovato here gives a really important (it seems to me) pointer to why some things in the Church in England and Wales are so out of kilter.

He discusses the debacle of the Methodist ordinations at Liverpool Cathedral - how Archbishop Kelly at first allowed them and then, coincidentally after the story had become public, had decided that he didn't think that they were a good thing after all - and wondered why if he (Ben) had realised instinctively that this was a bad thing to do, the Archbishop hadn't had the same instinctive reaction.

"So the worrying question is: why do we have bishops in this country whose instincts are contrary to those of the Catholic faithful of the past, (and indeed many of the present generations too) and contrary to Rome? And what can be done about it?"


My guess would be that the story of the Church in E&W in the 70s and 80s has a lot to do with this: a mixture of not wanting to look and sound and feel different from everybody else on the one hand, and on the other, a feeling that "We are the Easter People" meant that "we" could re-create the Church to reflect the way in which "we" perceived that it would be relevant in contemporary E&W.

Both of these could only be articulated (never mind achieved) by people who could consciously turn off the instincts they had imbibed from birth.  How could you be the fruit of 1900 years of organic development and not realise that abandoning Friday abstinence so that Catholics didn't stand out from the crowd (one of the reasons cited by the Bishops' Conference, don't forget) was to break with the past?  You couldn't, but once you start ignoring your instincts in favour of the new set of beliefs you profess, you have created a new Church (a Nuchurch, as OTSOTA might say) in which change and variety and experimentation might as well be virtues as vices, and in which fidelity to received tradition becomes an odd minority option, to be tolerated and patronised.

My guess is that you can't restore suppressed instincts, but I hope I'm wrong.  Much more important, however - at least for the moment - is that those who retain that instinctive understanding of what being a Catholic means in terms of ordinary practice should inculcate the right instincts in those whom they can influence. 

Ben is on to something here.
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30 May 2011

Organic Pest Control



A blue tit rids the rose bush of greenfly ...



... and feeds them to her young.

Oblivious, a dunnock looks for anything that might be on offer at ground level.

29 May 2011

Scott-King's Modern Europe

Anagnostis reminded me of something Evelyn Waugh wrote, "Scott-King's Modern Europe", which contains one of his profound insights, which condenses into a few lines the world view which dominated his thinking after the Second World War.

“You know,” [the headmaster] said, “we are starting this year with fifteen fewer classical specialists than we had last term?”

“I thought that would be about the number.”

“As you know I’m an old Greats man myself. I deplore it as much as you do. But what are we to do? Parents are not interested in producing the ‘complete man’ any more. They want to qualify their boys for jobs in the modern world. You can hardly blame them, can you?”

“Oh yes,” said Scott-King. “I can and do.”

“I always say you are a much more important man here than I am. One couldn’t conceive of Granchester without Scott-King. But has it ever occurred to you that a time may come when there will be no more classical boys at all?”

“Oh yes. Often.”

“What I was going to suggest was—I wonder if you will consider taking some other subject as well as the classics? History, for example, preferably economic history?”

“No, headmaster.”

“But, you know, there may be something of a crisis ahead.”

“Yes, headmaster.”

“Then what do you intend to do?”

“If you approve, headmaster, I will stay as I am here as long as any boy wants to read the classics. I think it would be very wicked indeed to do anything to fit a boy for the modern world.”

“It’s a short-sighted view, Scott-King.”

“There, headmaster, with all respect, I differ from you profoundly. I think it the most long-sighted view it is possible to take.”

28 May 2011

Temporary Refugee From Terminal Three

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I have spent too much time recently in Terminal 3 at Heathrow.  (To be fair, any time spent at Terminal 3 is too much time if Terminal 5 is on offer, but it hasn't been.)

Do you remember the Curial Bishop who was supposed to accompany the Pope here who had suddenly to fall ill and withdraw after he was quoted saying that arriving in Britain was like arriving in the Third World?  Well he was right.  British citizen, valid pasport, hand luggage only: how long should it take from stepping off the plane to stepping out of the Terminal?  I'd have said fifteen minutes plus another five for Immigration, but recently planes have been parking up in what feels to be as far away as Hertfordshire and then gradually disgorging passengers into tiny buses, and Immigration seems woefully undermanned, with long snaking queues of hundreds of people in front of you in the queue.  And the grime is inescapable.  It takes forever.

And departing!  You can play the system, or at least gamble on successfully playing the system: hand luggage only, check in before leaving home, eat and drink at a pitstop off the motorway and within 10 minutes of the terminal, arrive exactly one hour before scheduled departure, and keep moving through security and straight on to the gate which will have been announced by the time you arrive.  But that requires a journey that involves somebody with time to indulge you agreeing to drop you off.  The alternative is jostling vast crowds for somewhere to sit and paying outrageous prices even to replace the bottle of water confiscated from you on the way in.

And no time to think; no time to find anywhere quiet to stop and reflect; no fresh air ...

Normal service will hopefully resume soon.
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16 May 2011

Some Writing On The Wall?

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The write-ups of the Low Week Meeting of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales is no laughing matter.  "The Bishops’ Conference asks the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis to coordinate the process of consultation on the Synod of Bishops’ 2012 Lineamenta and to supervise the production of a response on behalf of the Conference" is the sort of thing they run off, or rather, that their staffs run off.  This is an NGO like so many other NGOs in this fair land whose bureaucracy substitutes turgid officialese for clear words.  But some interesting stuff has seeped through: interesting enough to make me wonder if the supertanker might be preparing to turn.

Among the Plenary Resolutions listed here, comes this:

"The Bishops’ Conference reviewed their aims and objectives for the next three to five years. The source of these aims and objectives are the vision and priorities found in the teaching which His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI set forth during his visit to the United Kingdom in 2010. They are also rooted in the requirement of the core work of Episcopal Conferences set out by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church."

(Note the use of capital letters, by the way.)

Now, there's nothing on view as helpful as a list of the new or revised aims and objectives, but there is a contextualisation here of where the new aims and objectives come from that leave me at least hopeful that real change might be on the way.  Yes, they are insisting on Episocopalconferencism as a foundation of their "right" to set their aims and objectives: but the Pope's vision and priorities should be enough to set that "right" in perspective and keep it pointed in the right direction.

I found their document on Social Action (here) even more interesting.  It says that the Bishops' Conference has two subordinate organisations involved in social action, both of which are subordinate to Caritas Internationalis: CAFOD and CSAN: Caritas Social Action Network.  It then says that while everybody at the Conference is very pleased with what CAFOD is up to, it's about time we started to put more emphasis into what CSAN is, can, and should be doing at home, and some serious work is going to be put into identifying what that might mean over the next year.

Two thoughts spring to my mind, both positive: first, that the ludicrous identification of Catholic social action with an organisation indistinguishable from its non-Catholic peers except for its right to the first-fruits of Catholic charitable giving in England and Wales might be beginning to be weakened, and in favour of an organisation which will have to match up to Catholic social teaching in that very difficult area - right in front of its donors' eyes - and which might be about to reach some level of maturity.

Second, that this might be a straw in the wind: that if the reported Vatican crack down on Caritas Internationalis organisations which want to self identify as Catholic, without actually having to behave as Catholic, leads to CAFOD (for example) breaking away from Caritas Internationalis, then the Bishops' Conference has a manageable substitute in the wings.  This, of course,  puts the Conference into a win-win situation with regards to CAFOD's future direction.

Maybe I'm misreading this completely, but maybe I'm not: maybe this is the way Archbishop Nichols is asserting control, while not losing his left flank. 

(There is some other interesting stuff about looking at the structures of the Conference itself, but I reckon that's there just to keep the staff under control!)

Interesting times ...
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14 May 2011

Three Cheers For What The Guild Is Starting

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When I first read what the Bones had to say about the initial meeting of what might or might not become a Guild of Catholic Bloggers, I must admit to a certain disappointment:

"So, the idea came about to see if we can form some kind of a shared blog in which we can pool our talents, knowledge and reflections on the Catholic Faith.
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All in all, this is a project that could bring into 'one fold' several different blogging sheep, united in the common bond of the Catholic Faith, all determined to defend the Magisterium and the Supreme Pontiff. It was suggested that the blog would be simple in as much as it will simply teach the Catholic Faith - an evangelical mission using the internet to propagate the Faith.
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The shared blog would be an independent mission seeking only to raise awareness and educate those within and without the Church in the Faith. This blog would steer clear of some of the more controversial disputes within the Church, steer clear of polemics even, and simply reflect that Deposit of Faith guarded by Pope Benedict XVI and taught by Bishops loyal to him. It's great strength is that it is a grassroots blogging movement, that membership is free, that nobody is paid, but that we are all contributing to a new and exciting blog that will reflect the array of Catholic blogging talent that exists in the Church in the United Kingdom."

When I re-read it, I started to get a lot more enthusiastic.  A focused, didactic blog about the Faith (especially if Paul Priest can be persuaded to write about philosophy and not just comment over at Damian's) is something we don't have at the moment, and for those of us who have pretty well given up hope about learning about our Faith (as opposed to learning about the Third World) from the pulpit, something devoutly to be desired.

A further musing made me start to think that there needs to be three axes to the E&W Catholic blogosphere: one didactic, a sort of Catholic Evidence Guild; one about the world of today as seen through the prism of Faith (the sort of thing the E&W priest bloggers tend to be rather good at); and one more inward looking, looking at the Church itself and its hierarchy and organisation.  (This last axis is where I often find myself and it is probably a good idea to be able to distinguish it from the other two, as things can get heated at times.)

And thinking about all of that, I, who am emphatically not a joiner, started to think that a loose confederation of bloggers who could sign up to "united in the common bond of the Catholic Faith, all determined to defend the Magisterium and the Supreme Pontiff" and "simply reflect that Deposit of Faith guarded by Pope Benedict XVI and taught by Bishops loyal to him" might be something I'd be keen to associate myself with, especially as yesterday's Instruction was so clear (while addressing itself specifically to Bishops) about their doing what was in the Pope's mind.

Who knows - a series of different people able to cover the waterfront, able to enunciate different aspects of Catholic Life exactly in conformity with the will and intentions of the Holy Father: we could even call the project "Catholic Voices".
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Of Your Charity

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Please pray for the repose of the soul of Paul, Rita's husband, whose death she announces here.
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01 May 2011

To See Ourselves As Others See Us

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I had hoped to be able to report gleefully on the Catholic men of Blackfen and Brighton tarring and feathering those who have calumnied one of "our" priests, but they must still be working off the monster hangovers from the Royal Wedding celebrations.  Still: it will wait.

What follows is quite long but worth reading for the light it sheds on why we are in the mess were in, and what we look like to outsiders.  It comes from the judgement in the appeal by the Diocese of Leeds against the ruling by the Charity Commission that Catholic Care, the diocesan adoption agency, should allow gay couples to put themselves forward as potential adoptive parents.  The full judgement is here, but I have copied a section of it.

This isn't about the case itself: it's about Bishop Roche and his curia.  I bet it could be about almost any of our Dioceses.

"24. The Tribunal also heard oral evidence from the Right Reverend Arthur Roche, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds, who was called by the Charity. He is the ex-officio Chairman of the Charity and in his witness statement he explained that, as the Bishop of the Diocese in which the Charity is based, he is responsible for ensuring that its activities are within the tenets of the Church: “in effect I am the arbiter of faith in respect of the activities of the Charity”. The Bishop told the Tribunal that the Church’s teaching is that a full sexual union without marriage is unacceptable, so that adoption services could not be offered by the Charity to unmarried heterosexual couples or to same sex couples. He did not think it generally acceptable for a single person to adopt, although he was aware that the Charity had in the past placed a child for adoption with a single adopter. He said he could not explain why the Charity’s website apparently suggested that single adopters were able to use the Charity’s services and said that whilst he was involved in setting the Charity’s policies, he did not necessarily know what went onto its website.



25. The Charity’s proposed objects (as currently drafted) did not seek to discriminate against same sex foster carers. The Commission had been informed by the Charity during the internal review process that the Charity did not object to placing children with same sex foster carers because this did not involve the creation of a family. When asked about this, the Bishop disagreed with this statement of the Charity’s policies and said he did not know why the proposed objects had been drafted in that way. He did not think the Charity had ever placed a child for fostering with a same sex couple and did not think it should. He thought that if a same sex couple who were already fostering a child applied to the Charity for assistance to adopt it, they would be referred to another voluntary adoption agency.


26. The Bishop explained that, as he had taken the view that adoption services could not, consistently with the tenets of the Church, be offered to same sex couples then (unless permission were to be given to amend the objects to allow discrimination) the Charity would close its adoption service completely. He said there was no “Plan B” in this regard, although he told the Tribunal he was aware of various re-structuring arrangements which had been adopted by other Catholic adoption agencies. These included instances of de-merger with the Church or making a gift of their assets to another agency on a restricted basis. He did not think that the Charity could re-structure so as to be able to continue its adoption work because he said the necessary financial backing from its supporters would not be available. He said that “the people who provide us with funds have clear views on these matters”. The Bishop told the Tribunal that he did not know how many Catholics supported same sex adoptions, he just knew that the stance the Charity had adopted in this matter had attracted much support. When asked if a change of stance might not in fact attract new supporters who did not oppose same sex adoptions, he responded that this was untested water. He told the Tribunal that since the suspension of the Charity’s adoption service it had received over 100 enquiries from potential adopters. These people had been referred to Barnardo’s and the NSPCC, which both operate voluntary adoption services in the same geographic region as the Charity.


27. The Bishop explained that the Charity had provided a service of real benefit to the community and enjoyed a high reputation for its adoption work, especially its post-adoption support services. He considered that this accounted for the low number of the Charity’s placements which had subsequently broken down (5%, as against a figure of 6% for voluntary adoption agencies generally and about 20% for local authority adoption placements). When asked to describe how the ability to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation would assist the Charity in its work, he explained that charities want their income to be applied to their own vision of what is in the best interests of the child. He thought that voluntary income had dropped off in areas such as Birmingham and Cardiff when there had been de-mergers of voluntary adoption agencies from the Church. The Bishop told the Tribunal that he agreed with the principle that a child should have the widest possible pool of potential adopters. He said he had heard that same sex couples rarely adopt hard to place children, although when directed to the evidence before the Tribunal which contradicted that view (see paragraph 51) he was prepared to accept that he might be mistaken on that point. (Mr McCall helpfully conceded on behalf of his client that the suggestion that same sex couples did not adopt hard to place children was no part of the Charity’s case).


28. The Bishop described the Charity’s approach to fund-raising, which he said was often conducted through appeals at Masses and in schools. The Bishop was asked how he knew that the Charity’s donors would end their financial support for the Charity if it offered adoption services to same sex adopters. He explained that the Charity has always been very clear about the family structure it promoted (the “Nazarene family”) and that this gives people confidence in the Charity. He said that he had written pastoral letters to the Diocese about this case and was surprised by the many letters of support he had received. He told the Tribunal he did not consider that the Charity’s adoption services would be viable without funding from members of the Catholic Church. He thought that the receipt of donations and the promotion of a Nazarene family structure went hand in hand. He commented that the law does not require the Catholic Church to bless civil partnerships and he thought that the law should allow the Church to act in accordance with its conscience in relation to same sex adoptions also.

There are two separate things going on here.  First, the Bishop has gone to one of the most important meetings he will ever attend as a Bishop and is completely unprepared.  His performance is woeful.  "He did not think it generally acceptable for a single person to adopt, although he was aware that the Charity had in the past placed a child for adoption with a single adopter. He said he could not explain why the Charity’s website apparently suggested that single adopters were able to use the Charity’s services and said that whilst he was involved in setting the Charity’s policies, he did not necessarily know what went onto its website."  This from the Bishop who says that “in effect I am the arbiter of faith in respect of the activities of the Charity”.  There are three possibilities: one, that he just didn't bother to prepare; two, that he assumes that his staff will make sure that he is adequately prepared for important meetings which are outside his area of main competence and they hadn't; three, that he wasn't expecting to be questioned (in the sense that his authority as Head of the local Church would be a given to the Tribunal which would not correct him). 

One of his interventions is embarrassing: "He said he had heard that same sex couples rarely adopt hard to place children, although when directed to the evidence before the Tribunal which contradicted that view (see paragraph 51) he was prepared to accept that he might be mistaken on that point. (Mr McCall helpfully conceded on behalf of his client that the suggestion that same sex couples did not adopt hard to place children was no part of the Charity’s case)."  Bear in mind that Mr McCall is acting for the Bishop: his own barrister is telling the Tribunal to ignore what his client has just come out with.

Some while ago, I blogged about the fact that few of the Catholic Bishops had experienced the same sort of tertiary education as many of their contemporaries in public life: this is perhaps an example of the consequences of that lack of experience.

I said there were two concerns: my other is about what is going on in the Diocese behind the Bishop's back.  I complain enough about the influence of the employees of the Bishops' Conference: here's an example of the same thing in microcosm.  In spite of the Bishop being pretty clear on the Catholic view of hoew an adoption agency should work, and into what sort of family structure children should be placed, his own adoption agency was doing exactly what it wanted: happily referring gay couples to other agencies, placing at least one child with a single parent, and allowing gay couples to foster.  Whatever Bishop Roche's expectation of Catholic policies from his organisation, they were being ignored, by people who are happily taking the diocesan shilling.

Of course, the poor old Catholic faithful of the Diocese of Leeds have paid good money for all of this, and are expected to keep on paying. 
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