30 March 2007

Sacramentum Caritatis: England and Wales are fine!

His Eminence Cardinal Murphy O'Connor has replied to an article published last week by Piers Paul Read. From today's Spectator:

"Sir: I am sorry that Piers Paul Read ('The Pope's anti-liberal revolution', 24 March) assumes that the English and Welsh bishops have not welcomed the Papal Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis. It is not always customary for bishops to issue immediate comments on Papal documents. I was, in fact, part of the drafting committee and thus closely involved in its preparation. My own statement expressed my admiration for the document and my wish for it to be promulgated widely among the Catholics of this country. I have no doubt my fellow bishops will be doing the same."

(Paragraph about ecumenism snipped)

No problems for England and Wales then: given that the Cardinal was "part of the drafting committee and thus closely involved in its preparation"; given that he "expressed (his) admiration for the document"; given his "wish for it to be promulgated widely among the Catholics of this country"; we can have no doubt that it will become a seminal text for the Church in England and Wales. No doubt the seminary classes in Latin have begun already, and the Latin classes for priests (whether starter classes or top-up classes) are already scheduled. No doubt this weekend Masses ad orientem will be essayed in all of our parishes. No doubt the Bishops (as "Celebrants par excellence", as Sacramentum Caritatis calls them) will be off the blocks to reintroduce Gregorian Chant as the principal music of our celebration.

How lucky we are!

27 March 2007

Helping Fr John Boyle spread the Gospel of Life

Fr John Boyle writes about a prayer vigil outside an Abortarium and says:

"By the way, the main reason for posting this is so that when people search on e.g. "marie stopes maidstone" they might be led to this sort of post."

The best way to ensure that is to have as many people as possible link to his post.

Go to it, bloggers!

24 March 2007

Between a Rock and a hard place

The American Minister in Ireland in 1942 is famously reported (perhaps apocryphally) as having interrupted a harangue by President De Valera on the rights of small nations: "Mr President, the only right we have is to die for our faith; anything else we have to fight for."

It would be nice to think that the Catholic Hierarchy in England and Wales was musing in a similar vein this morning. The SORS regulations have imposed the values of the Enlightenment definitively on our country: over the forty years since the 1967 Abortion Act, legislation has undermined any sense that there can be two conflicting rights, if one of those rights has to do with how an individual behaves sexually, because the individual's sexual rights take absolute priority over all other rights.

The secular agenda has won: there are a few mopping up actions to be completed, such as removing the right to charitable status of the contemplative orders, on the grounds that they don't do anything for society (for what good is prayer?) and no doubt an attack on the right of Faith schools to teach a single religious point of view.

We don't know what advice the Hierarchy has received about how to fight back. The Catholic Union says that "its purpose is to promote Christian standpoint in public affairs, through the intervention of its members who belong to the two Houses of Parliament, and through the formation of expert opinions which are presented to Government as Submissions"; well, it has failed. The Bishops' intervention on adoption was disastrous: however good the intention, however subtle the line the Church was trying to tread, they have been sidelined very effectively and portrayed (however unjustifiably) as hypocritical.

The Hierarchy seems to have rejected the "hard place" of encouraging vocal opposition to the Government's plans. Wednesday's demonstrations were organised by Evangelical christians, and were not publicised or encouraged by the Catholic Church, while the Cathedral played host to Jeffrey Archer. This contrasts with 1944: the Hierarchy organised demonstrations against the Education Bill which killed off the Bill's initial opposition to Faith Schools.

The alternative to the hard place is usually portrayed as the rock: we are fortunate in that we have a Rock to which we can cling: Rome; Peter. Now is the time to stop trying to accomodate our beliefs and practices to the secular country in which we live, and, once again, to become, proudly, Roman Catholics. If we have to retreat into a ghetto for a few years, fine: what has forty years of engagement brought us?

23 March 2007


A recent post by Moretben led to a debate about Romantic Music (say, Beethoven to Richard Strauss, give or take). It was instructive that those of a traditional disposition in matters of the Liturgy see Romantic Music as a childish thing to be be put away - except at those moments when we feel a need to luxuriate in self-indulgent emotion. (I both paraphrase and cariacature.)

I used to like everything: I saw Black Sabbath and Deep Purple live in separate concerts within a couple of months of each other; I used to listen to Radio One; I used to go to folk clubs; I used to go to see the Halle Orchestra live; I used to sing Victorian parlour ballads to my Grandmother; I used to know lots of old music hall songs. I used to think that eclectism was a sign of maturity. "But when I became a man I put away the things of a child." (1 Cor 13)

Pop went first, and rock soon after. (Read the Pope's put down of both forms of music in "The Spirit of the Liturgy", by the way.) "Old songs" were enjoyable enough, but mainly entertained people born at the end of the nineteenth century: my grandparents' generation; and while it was nice to entertain them, I couldn't imagine singing "Believe me if all those endearing young charms" to somebody I loved while meaning it. They're lovely as a piece of nostalgia, but don't really say anything else to me now.

Folk music lasted longer until the realisation that even with really good folk music it only says what it has to say once, no matter with what force it says it. I can still feel an echo of that force when I listen to, say, the Chieftains, now; but it's an echo. (And I will run a mile to avoid the "come-all-ye" that I would have once run a mile to join in with.)

So, I was left with classical music - a universe in itself. I have some formal musical training and could spot the meretricious a mile off from an early age. But the developing taste gradually constricted, and even in the ocean of classical music, great swathes closed themselves off. Opera, once a passion, has retreated, leaving in its wake a litter of CDs which I will probably never listen to again: the voice is an instrument, not a protagonist. Modern classical music was fine to annoy parents with when I was seventeen, but my father's asking whether another cat had been thrown into the cellar sounds more like percipient criticsm to me today than the expression of philistinism that I liked to think it was then. The Baroque was wonderful until I realised that there were about ten tunes that mattered, each played in about four ways. And the seas continued to retreat, to the extent that there was no longer an ocean, but a few deep lakes.

I'm left with a few things, but the waters are no longer retreating. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries ring truest; chant, of course, and not just Gregorian, but Ambrosian or Mozarabic; almost anything Orthodox; and some things I've rescued from the general retreat: late Beethoven; Bruckner; Sibelius; bits of Vaughan Williams; bits of lots and lots of things, really, but with little consistency, other their striking the same chord inside me that Tallis and Byrd strike all the time.

Music as a pleasant noise is fine: it surrounds me from when I wake to when I sleep; it's good to hear. But there is much less music to listen to and concentrate on nowadays, yet I find myself penetrating deeper and deeper into it.

20 March 2007

My new toy

My new toy is an Internet radio. As long as you have Wifi access, all you need to do is plug it in, turn it on, enter the encryption key, and hey presto! more than 5,000 radio broadcasts from all over the world are available to you - or rather, in this case, to me!

I love listening to the radio, but I am hampered by only having AM, FM and DAB portables in the house. As I use a PC and not a laptop, I could until this afternoon, only access Internet radio stations from the back room, where the computer lives. Now I can listen to them from anywhere in the house.

There is a Swiss radio station which plays classical music: a man tells you in German what you are going to hear; you hear it, and then a woman tells you in French what you have just heard: there are no other interruptions. You can listen to Tango from Buenos Aires. The travel news on Classic FM South Africa tells me that the temperature this afternoon in Joburg was 28 degrees and there were queues on the M2 eastbound. (There are more than 200 classical music stations!)

I could now become more antisocial than ever, but my daughter has realised that there are more pop music stations in the world than anything else ...

18 March 2007

The Westminster Stakes - an Interlude

Paddy Power seems to be receiving no bets at the moment on the succession to Cardinal Murphy O'Connor: the odds are as they were the last time I posted on the Westminster Stakes. I had thought of doing a post giving some of the in-depth form analysis punters aspiring to a serious investment on this particular book might like to take advantage of, but decided to put that off for a while, and instead do a snapshot of the reactions to Sacramentum Caritatis, given that its author (The Man in White) will be the judge and jury on the winner of this particular race.

Damian Thompson, Editor-in-Chief of the Catholic Herald, noted the fact that the Apostolic Exhortation was effectively ignored by the Hierarchy on its publication. Now that they have had a few days to reflect, what do they say?

The Bishops' Conference of England and Wales has noted the publication and provides links to the document itself, and to a summary (curiously contained on the "Year of the Eucharist" page).

However, if you are the sort of Catholic who expects that your Bishop's diocesan homepage will give you some information about the Pope's Exhortation, then you are in for a surprise.

Hexham and Newcastle thinks that the document is about globalisation and environmentalism. Northampton thinks it's about Latin. Nottingham just links to the Vatican website. Westminster gives a reasonable (if very short) summary. And that's it: none of the other dioceses mention it. Even bearing in mind that the dioceses of Wrexham and Shrewsbury do not have functioning websites, the response is - well, poor.

I have learned about the Wakefield Rhubarb Festival, and about the new Catholic Assistant Chaplain General of the Armed Forces. But don't look to the diocesan websites in England and Wales to find out what the Pope thinks about the Eucharist.

17 March 2007

Phoenix Nights Catholicsm

Fr Ray Blake has highlighted a couple of YouTube videos. One is of the Halloween Mass in Orange County, California, notorious for, amongst other things, an extraordinary minister costumed as the Devil; the other is of a recent Mass celebrated by the egregious Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles (also California) at the end of a recent RE Congress.

Reading Fr Ray's post, it struck me that we have no simple expression (other than "sacreligious" or "heretical", of course) to describe the sort of thing that isn't just one-off wild and wacky, but is a head-on confrontation with the Universal Church. "Cafeteria Catholicsm" describes a pick-and-mix approach that offers a choice: what about the sort of Catholicsm where no choice other than a liberal-two-fingers-to-Rome is on offer?

I'd like to propose "Phoenix Nights Catholicsm". The Phoenix Club, owned by Brian Potter is a simulacrum of a normal club: it has no licence; it is a dangerous fire hazard; it is corrupt and dishonest; it is meretricious; its music is abysmally poor. The poor club-goers of TV's parallel Bolton have no real choice: the Banana Grove is equally awful, and the man in charge, Den Perry, is as criminal as Potter.

Phoenix Nights Catholicsm is not yet common in England and Wales, but we have our Brians and our Dens, and, given half the chance, they will impose their version of the practice of our religion on the rest of us.

Let's not give them their half chance. Let's do the thing they most dislike: laugh at them, laugh as much as I laught at Phoenix Nights. They are on the "Road to Nowhere": let's hasten them on their way.

15 March 2007

"For God and King": a warning

If any of you have a link to the "For God and King" blog, then delete it immediately without clicking on the link. The site owner has let it lapse, and the sitename has been reallocated. It has been taken over by a pornographer who first redirects you to an explicit set of photos and then flashes up an invitation (seemingly coming from Microsoft) to download some software to clean the filth from your computer. It's a Trojan, of course (WinFixer). Any decent up-to-date anti-virus software will sort the subsequent problem out for you, but least downloaded, soonest mended.

Where we nearly got married ...

The Catholic Caveman's blog is headed by a picture of Mass at Covadonga. The shrine commemorates the apparition of Our Lady to the local King, Pelayo, who in 722 fought and defeated the Moors in the valley below the cave. Pelayo's victory meant that the invading Arab armies were never able to conquer the whole of Spain: Catholicsm, and the rule of the post-Visigothic Monarchy was preserved. After the Moorish defeat at Poitiers in 732 by Charles Martel, the Reconquest of Spain could begin: it was slow, but in 1492 Granada fell, and the Moors were expelled from Spain forever.

We should have been married there; we wanted to be married there. We were engaged when we lived in the same province and came to love the shrine which, as the picture shows, is in a cave. There are bears in the mountains, and eagles overhead. On a spring morning there is no more beautiful place to go to Mass.

In theological terms, Matrimony is unique in that it is the only Sacrament adminstered by those participating in it themselves. In human terms it is more complex: it is the only Sacrament in which the mother and the mother-in-law have at least as big a say as the participants. There is a social dimension around Matrimony which no other Sacrament has. This is right and proper: the other six Sacraments are essentially individual, while Matrimony unites two individuals to create a new family, a new opportunity for life. Matrimony is the Sacrament on which human society is (was? should be?) founded. Stable civil society depends on married couples bringing up families. That is why Matrimony is the only Sacrament for which parallel civil legislation exists - I once had to adminster the vows to a Spanish couple marrying in England as the Priest-Registrar did not speak Spanish and had both a ecclesiastical and a civil legal obligation to ensure that the vows had been understood and had been undertaken willingly.

When the mothers decided, therefore, that we were not to marry in Covadonga, but in the UK, we didn't really have any choice. We could have had a perfectly licit Sacrament in front of a priest and another witness, but it would have felt hole-in-corner. So we did as we were told, and had a wonderful ceremony. And even if there's a little bit of both of us that still wishes that things might have been different, Our Lady of Covadonga is as near here as She is there.

14 March 2007

16 reasons for unhappy trads to read Sacramentum Caritatis carefully

Many trads in the Blogosphere have been disappointed in the Pope's Apostolic Exhortation, mainly because it didn't say what they wanted it to say. I'd prefer to see it as the next correction, after the Address to the Roman Curia of 22 December 2005, to the course of the Petrine Barque.

My thesis is that the Holy Father a) wants evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, change; b) is boxing liberal Bishops into a corner they have made for themselves, because this document is a response to what the Synod of Bishops said it wanted him to say; and c) has a deliberate agenda of carrying out what Vatican II said, rather than accepting what has been done "in the spirit of Vatican II".

In this light, try the following extracts from Sacramentum Caritatis:

(Para 3) Concretely, the changes which the Council called for need to be understood within the overall unity of the historical development of the rite itself, without the introduction of artificial discontinuities. (From the footnote: I am referring here to the need for a hermeneutic of continuity also with regard to the correct interpretation of the liturgical development which followed the Second Vatican Council.)

(Para 21) Finally, a balanced and sound practice of gaining indulgences, whether for oneself or for the dead, can be helpful for a renewed appreciation of the relationship between the Eucharist and Reconciliation.

(Para 23) Priests should be conscious of the fact that in their ministry they must never put themselves or their personal opinions in first place, but Jesus Christ. Any attempt to make themselves the centre of the liturgical action contradicts their very identity as priests. This is seen particularly in his humility in leading the liturgical assembly, in obedience to the rite, uniting himself to it in mind and heart, and avoiding anything that might give the impression of an inordinate emphasis on his own personality.

(Para 35) Beauty, then, is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation. These considerations should make us realize the care which is needed, if the liturgical action is to reflect its innate splendour.

(Para 38) The ars celebrandi is the best way to ensure their actuosa participatio. The ars celebrandi is the fruit of faithful adherence to the liturgical norms in all their richness; indeed, for two thousand years this way of celebrating has sustained the faith life of all believers, called to take part in the celebration as the People of God, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.

(Para 39) It is his responsibility to ensure unity and harmony in the celebrations taking place in his territory. Consequently the Bishop must be "determined that the priests, the deacons, and the lay Christian faithful grasp ever more deeply the genuine meaning of the rites and liturgical texts, and thereby be led to an active and fruitful celebration of the Eucharist". I would ask that every effort be made to ensure that the liturgies which the Bishop celebrates in his Cathedral are carried out with complete respect for the ars celebrandi, so that they can be considered an example for the entire Diocese.

(Para 40) The ars celebrandi should foster a sense of the sacred and the use of outward signs which help to cultivate this sense, such as, for example, the harmony of the rite, the liturgical vestments, the furnishings and the sacred space. The eucharistic celebration is enhanced when priests and liturgical leaders are committed to making known the current liturgical texts and norms, making available the great riches found in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and the Order of Readings for Mass. Perhaps we take it for granted that our ecclesial communities already know and appreciate these resources, but this is not always the case.

(Para 41) Everything related to the Eucharist should be marked by beauty. Special respect and care must also be given to the vestments, the furnishings and the sacred vessels, so that by their harmonious and orderly arrangement they will foster awe for the mystery of God, manifest the unity of the faith and strengthen devotion

(Para 42) Certainly as far as the liturgy is concerned, we cannot say that one song is as good as another. Generic improvisation or the introduction of musical genres which fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy should be avoided.

(Para 46) Given the importance of the word of God, the quality of homilies needs to be improved. Hence ordained ministers must "prepare the homily carefully, based on an adequate knowledge of Sacred Scripture". Generic and abstract homilies should be avoided.

(Para 53) The active participation of the laity does not benefit from the confusion arising from an inability to distinguish, within the Church's communion, the different functions proper to each one. There is a particular need for clarity with regard to the specific functions of the priest. He alone, and no other, as the tradition of the Church attests, presides over the entire eucharistic celebration, from the initial greeting to the final blessing. In virtue of his reception of Holy Orders, he represents Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, and, in a specific way, also the Church herself.

(Para 56) We hold that eucharistic communion and ecclesial communion are so linked as to make it generally impossible for non-Catholic Christians to receive the former without enjoying the latter. There would be even less sense in actually concelebrating with ministers of Churches or ecclesial communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church.

(Para 62) Speaking more generally, I ask that future priests, from their time in the seminary, receive the preparation needed to understand and to celebrate Mass in Latin, and also to use Latin texts and execute Gregorian chant; nor should we forget that the faithful can be taught to recite the more common prayers in Latin, and also to sing parts of the liturgy to Gregorian chant.

(Para 64) A mystagogical catechesis must also be concerned with presenting the meaning of the signs contained in the rites. This is particularly important in a highly technological age like our own, which risks losing the ability to appreciate signs and symbols. More than simply conveying information, a mystagogical catechesis should be capable of making the faithful more sensitive to the language of signs and gestures which, together with the word, make up the rite.

(Para 66) During the early phases of the reform, the inherent relationship between Mass and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was not always perceived with sufficient clarity. For example, an objection that was widespread at the time argued that the eucharistic bread was given to us not to be looked at, but to be eaten. In the light of the Church's experience of prayer, however, this was seen to be a false dichotomy.

(Para 73) For the sake of these important values – while recognizing that Saturday evening, beginning with First Vespers, is already a part of Sunday and a time when the Sunday obligation can be fulfilled – we need to remember that it is Sunday itself that is meant to be kept holy, lest it end up as a day "empty of God.

12 March 2007

Pray for Spain

Yesterday, as the photo shows, two million Spaniards took to the streets of Madrid to protest about the government's negotiations with the Basque terrorist group ETA. This might not be the worst thing happening in Spain at the moment.

A posting in La cigüeña de la torre alerts us to a case being brought in Spain by a Catholic organisation against (inter alia) a leading Spanish socialist politician for the publication of a series of extremely pornographic satires on Christian images of Our Lord and Our Lady. The cigüeña does not post a link to these photos and I have hopefully given no clues as to where they can be found - please do not seek them out: they are profoundly disturbing; there must have been a morbid as well as a blasphemous mind behind them.

Unfortunately, this is par for the course in Spain, a country which is being polarised by a government which is determined to carry through a radical anti-Catholic agenda. Spain needs our prayers. Indeed, Europe needs our prayers.

10 March 2007

A reflexion for Lent

Hat tip to Lactente nutris ubere who quotes the LMS's site. One sentence leapt off the screen at me:

"The empty womb stripped of its child by an abortionist is analogous to the empty altar stripped of its God by the theological abortionist - the man who either denies, or, what is more frequent, ignores or plays down the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Sacrifice of the Mass and in the Blessed sacrament of the Altar." ('Empty Womb, Empty Altar', Prof. Frederick Wilhelmsen, Latin Mass Magazine, March/April 1993).

Things could be worse

I have just read a post at Wanton Popery about the consecration of an Episcopalian Bishop in Florida's being transferred to the local Catholic Cathedral because of the number of people expected. I had earlier read Fr Zuhlsdorf o{]:¬) quoting an interview with the egregious Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles about the Tridentine Mass. I read in V for Victory about a scandalous gathering in California purportedly about Catholic RE.

However irritated we might get, from time to time, with the behaviour of some of our hierarchy, we should recognise that they come nowhere near the line some of their American colleagues appear to have crossed.

09 March 2007

Sailing to Byzantium

"Sailing to Byzantium" by W B Yeats. Verse III.

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

I grew up in an area where there was a large number of Ukranian families. They came to the local Catholic schools, but we never saw them at Mass, for there were several towns locally where the Ukranians had their own churches. The Salford Almanac had every year a Ukranian supplement which listed their calendar and a long section from Canon Law about what had to happen if anybody wanted to change Rite - this was mainly assumed only to happen when Ukranian married Roman.

The first flush of aggiornamento I experienced in the early seventies was an encouragement for a small group of us (I think we were in Lower 6th) to visit each others' churches on successive Sundays. They came to ours first then we went to theirs.

Thirty-five years later I can still remember the impression that an Eastern Liturgy had on me. I wasn't overwhelmed by a sense of theatricality: I had learned to serve Mass in the traditional Roman Rite, after all. What I found was a heady if suffocating mix of the numinous, the Liturgy as Eikon, music which penetrated to the heart, community and solidarity in Faith, and incense as surely God intended.

Even after all this time, I can still catch myself thinking about finding a house more than four miles away from a Catholic church but less than four miles from a Ukranian one. I realise, though, even while fantasising, that I am seeking to miss the point. The Eastern Churches, whether schismatic or not, are local Churches, however widely the diaspora of their faithful has spread their worship. Each one is an incredibly rich cul-de-sac.

I belong to Rome: not Kiyiv, or Constantinople, or Moscow. My belonging is not a matter of choice: I can't pretend that I'm not from Manchester, even if I have now lived away from Manchester longer than I ever lived there. And Rome is not limited: Rome's ambit is universal and orthodox, not local and orthodox.

We are a ragged family: cousins who shout at each other, brothers and sisters who quarrel and argue; big brothers who lay the law down. Amidst all the clamour we sometimes wish that everything could be as nice at home as it is at a favourite Aunt's house. But, for better or worse, we belong to our own family and make our home there.

"For better or worse": we have to hang on to that.

07 March 2007

For Carthusian fans

A short piece from YouTube in Portuguese is available from the Casa de Sarto. As I post this, it's the second article down, beneath one about the plot to defame Pope Pius XII.

The short text says "The Charterhouse of Évora: expelled in 1834 by Jacobin revolutionarism, the Carthusians returned to their Portuguese home in 1960."

04 March 2007

The King over the water

Is the return of Moretben imminent? Are the insistent rumours of his release from Midland exile correct? Can those of us who have kept burning a small candle, lit from the tremendous fire of his saeva indignatio, proudly proclaim the return of our Chief? Are heretics quaking? Are liberals desperately recanting yesterday's received opinion? Are traditionalist apologists looking to the acres once walked by Belloc to catch sight of their leader?

We wait, and we hope.

03 March 2007

What the Pope's Lenten preacher actually said

Fr Ray Blake copies part of the CWNews report on Cardinal Biffi's Lenten Retreat. It is fascinating, not least because in publicising Biffi's meditation CWNews seems to have been a bit coy about repeating one part of what he said. According to Zenit he said:

' Quoting the work "Three Dialogues on War, Progress and the End of History," Cardinal Biffi told his listeners that "the Antichrist presents himself as pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist."

"He will convoke an ecumenical council and will seek the consensus of all the Christian confessions, granting something to each one. The masses will follow him, with the exception of small groups of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants," he said.

The cardinal added that Solovyov says in that work: "Days will come in Christianity in which they will try to reduce the salvific event to a mere series of values." '

CWNews must be worried that people will be daft enough to believe that Cardinal Biffi thinks that Bl Pope John XXIII was the Antichrist. That would be to misunderstand both Biffi and Solovyov (and John XXIII come to that). But things have come to a pretty pass when a major Catholic news agency thinks that a Lenten meditation preached before the Pope has to be censored in case less astute Catholics get the wrong end of the stick.

What next? Church leaders telling us that the faithful aren't clever enough to cope with two different rites being available at the same time in the Western Church?