31 May 2009

What Happens When A Church Loses Its Faith?

You see words like "postchristian", and you find people who "are Church", and you meet people who attend religious services on Sundays that are as unlike the religion we are used to as it is possible to be.

I can cope with fundamentalist Protestants; in fact, I sometimes like them: they have gone out looking for God's Will, and even if their discernment is shot to pieces, they have started from the right place and are aiming for the right place.

But what happens when the Church you belong to stops believing that its function is to bring people to a knowledge and love of God, and to his service?

This happens.

I came across this while trying to find out something about ekkklesia, a think tank Damian Thompson regularly (and, I now find, quite rightly) lambasts. I saw that one of its employees was a member of the Moot Community (although they seem to eschew the capital letter themselves as on a point of principle) and went out to find more about it.

"moot is a developing community of spiritual travellers who are seeking to find a means of living a life that is honest to god and honest to now. moot seeks to make connections and find inspirations in the meeting of faith, life and culture.

moot looks to the christian call for justice, equity and balance as a means of living politically and ethically. we recognise the inspiration of saints, mystics, philosophers and artists throughout the centuries.

moot seeks to live a christian spiritual rhythm of life through practicising presence, acceptance, creativity, balance, accountability and hospitality."

The politest thing that I can say is that this is the manifesto of the hermeneutic of rupture. If anybody cares enough to wade through the website to find out what these people do, be warned that you are in for a fairly boring experience: deep down, these people worship themselves.

I found this a couple of days ago and have been bothered ever since. (Mithered, to be absolutely accurate, but there's a few of you wouldn't get it.)

I think, somewhat tentatively, but with increasing assurance, that I'd rather somebody took up Free Presbyterianism than this. And this is far from being the rudest thing I could say.

30 May 2009

Trying To Understand God's Will

"What if" history is not a thing for Catholics: we have to learn to accept that God knows what's what better than we do. This is a really hard lesson to learn.

I wrote about Professor Duffy's latest book a couple of days ago. Having finished it, the thing that haunts me about the (wonderful, phenomenally well-researched, beautifully written) book is one specific point: that if only Cranmer had been left to live as a snivelling, apologetic, self-confessed heretic who had returned to God's Church, then the chances are that the Marian Reform, the Herald of the Counter-Reformation, would have taken root in the country in which it was developed. Well, (and as City fans have enjoyed saying over the last couple of days) "Deal with it!": he wasn't; it didn't. History happened. It didn't work then. And it didn't work in the next reign. And then it was too late.

But what if ...

29 May 2009

Durufle's Tantum Ergo

Yes, I know this is a concert, and the film work and sound quality aren't very good, but this is a piece I really love:


27 May 2009

All Eyes On Rome

North Korea is letting off atom boms and missiles; Parliament heads towards meltdown, but for the rest of today, the world can disappear off in a handbasket as long as the TV works from quarter to eight until the end.

And not penalties again.

Our Lady of Victories, pray for us;
Our Lady of Defeats, pray for them.

26 May 2009

He's Back!


Professor Duffy's latest work rewriting the false history of the English Reformation is published at Pentecost. Order your copy now!

"The reign of Mary Tudor has been remembered as an era of sterile repression, when a reactionary monarch launched a doomed attempt to reimpose Catholicism on an unwilling nation. Above all, the burning alive of more than 280 men and women for their religious beliefs seared the rule of 'Bloody Mary' into the protestant imagination, as an alien aberration in the onward and upward march of the English-speaking peoples.In this controversial reassessment, a leading reformation historian argues that Mary's regime was neither inept nor backward-looking. Led by the Queen's cousin, Cardinal Reginald Pole, Mary's church dramatically reversed the religious revolution imposed under the child king Edward VI. Inspired by the values of the European Counter-Reformation, the cardinal and the queen reinstated the papacy and launched an effective propaganda campaign through pulpit and press.Even the most notorious aspect of the regime, the burnings, proved devastatingly effective. Only the death of the childless queen and her cardinal on the same day in November 1558 brought the protestant Elizabeth to the throne, and thereby changed the course of English history."

25 May 2009

Abbeys And Convents

Pray for them so they can pray for us.

"In mediaeval traditions, abbeys and convents were always considered to be inexpugnable centres of revolt against infernal domination on earth. They became, accordingly, especial targets. Satan, issuing orders at nightfall to his foul precurrers, was rumoured to dispatch to capital cities only one junior fiend. This solitary demon, the legend continues, sleeps at his post. There is no work for him; the battle was long ago won. But monasteries, those scattered danger points, become the chief objectives of nocturnal flight; the sky fills with the beat of sable wings as phalanx after phalanx streams to the attack, and the darkness crepitates with the splintering of a myriad lances against the masonry of asceticsm. piety has always been singled out for the hardest onslaught of hellish agression."

Patrick Leigh Fermor. A Time To Keep Silence. 1957

24 May 2009

A Tentative Thought About A Translation

What does actuosa participatio mean? If it is the battleground on which part of the fight about what Vatican II and what followed it actually means, wouldn't it be a good idea to agree on what the words mean?

Musing on something written by Pope St Pius X on "How to hear Mass", I thought I caught a glimpse of what liturgical reform was trying to lead to, and the way in which we are caught in a trap, constructed by people who aren't translators, who are trying to translate.

What the Pope was saying, and what the liturgical reforms from the middle of the 19th Century onwards seem to be aiming at until they were hijacked by people with a different agenda, was that Mass wasn't a point in time at which the faithful were obliged to be present in Church, but the greatest of prayers, which they were enjoined to follow as near as possible word by word, praying the same prayers as the priest was saying to be as close as possible to Christ the Priest and Victim as he became Man on the altar.

Even as late as the 1950s "communion" could often mean going to an altar after Mass and receiving Communion in a separate ceremony, from hosts consecrated at a different Mass: only the priest communicated during Mass itself. The liturgical reform meant everybody focusing on the Mass as a unity.

The problem with the Latin expression "actuosa participatio" comes because people try to translate it in English words, one of which begins with "act" and the other which becomes "participation". It is a poor way to go about translating anything.

What the expression really seems to mean in this context is something like "conscious engagement": "I am uniting myself with the action of the priest at the altar"; not a prescription about what anybody, other than the priest and the server, each of whom has things to do, should be doing. I am here because I am at Mass, not because I have to be at Church.

Just a thought.

23 May 2009

CAFOD And Ministerial Sleaze

According to today's Daily Telegraph, Paul Goggins, the Northern Ireland Minister, shares his London flat, for which he claims £600 per month, with Chris Bain, a friend of his, who happens to be the Director of CAFOD.

According to CAFOD's latest accounts for the year up to 31 March 2008:

"In the year, the Director of CAFOD received remuneration of £71,258 plus an employer's contribution towards a money purchase pension scheme of £7,125." So he might be able to stretch to something a bit better than a bedsit in Catford out of his own pocket.

The story points out that Mr Bain used to pay rent from 1998 to 2003 - until Mr Goggins started to claim for the flat. In other words, once the taxpayer could take care of the rent, the Director of CAFOD lived rent free. Now that this has been discovered, they have decided that it is "inappropriate", and that they will repay a large amount.

If you can be bothered to read it, the story gets even messier but ends with a wonderful statement from the Minister:

“I do not have an extravagant lifestyle but I do have reasonable standards”, he said.

If anybody sees how the Tablet reports this, can they let us all know.

22 May 2009

Thoughts About The Installation

Archbishop Nichols is in charge, isn't he! His authority was stamped all over the liturgical action. Agressively Ordinary Form, aggressively rubrically accurate. Not much cheer for Hans Kung, and precious little for the SSPX either; does anyone know if Cardinal Mahony enjoyed it? Whose idea was the odd arrangement of candles: big six plus a pontifical seventh, but all behind the altar? And wasn't the music good!

This wasn't farewell and thank-you to Cormac; nor was it the inauguration of some great ecumenical initiative; Archbishop Nichols became Archbishop of Westmister and, whatever Canon Law might say, head Catholic honcho in England and Wales.

I was only seriously irritated by one thing: why were the Orthodox guests seated among the rest of the congregation while the Anglicans and what I assume was a Salvation Army woman got to sit in choro?


Excellent comment from Fr Greg. Perhaps the Orthodox guests had been invited but didn't want to join in. Thanks, Father.

20 May 2009

May Feelings

You may remember "50 reasons for saying the Rosary" which I put up here last year and do so again.

Well, hat tip to HJMW, here's this year's offering.

17 May 2009

Prayers Please

The mother of a friend died yesterday. Born in New Zealand in 1919, she had come to the UK to study, and, when war broke out, joined the RAF. She stayed in this country and has lived to a great age.

The e-mail I received asked for prayers for her and for all the Holy Souls, and included this:

"Departed this life this day 16th May 2009 fortified by the Sacraments of Holy Mother Church. At home, surrounded by family, and amidst prayers, psalms, hymns, fully compos mentis throughout after decline in hospital following her latest stroke on 18th April."

O si sic omnes.

15 May 2009

Is It Just Me?

Courtesy largely of Rorate Caeli, I follow the Pope and read the speeches he makes, and am becoming increasing spellbound by the wondrous three dimensional exposition of Catholicsm he makes.

This is my religion, and, for the first time in many years, this man is expounding it to me.

13 May 2009

The Archbishop's New Vestments

Damian has blogged here about the new vestments commissioned for Archbishop Nichols' installation at Westminster.

They look really good. They also look really Byzantine.

That's good, as Westminster Cathedral is Byzantine in inspiration, so the new vestments will "go", in a way that new vestments have probably not "gone" in any Catholic Cathedral in England and Wales these many years.

There is also, however, a gentle hint from the Archbishop that he is aligning himself with the Pope's version of ecumenism: that our closeness to the Orthodox, whatever the snipings and shoutings of the last thousand years or so, is so much more real than any possible description of any sort of relationship with any of the Protestant churches.

It is very unlikely that anybody will like everything that Archbishop Nichols does, but this is a good sign. On behalf of "The Catholic Association of Catholic Catholics for Catholic Catholicsm", I renew my request for plentiful prayers for His Grace as he takes on this charge, and offer as the toast the motto of The Catholic Association of Catholic Catholics for Catholic Catholicsm: "more power to his elbow".

(Dull rumour of chairs scraping along the floor as men stand. Just about pick out: "The Queen"; "The Duke of Lancaster"; "More Power to his Elbow"; "Gentlemen, you may now smoke"; dull rumour of chairs scraping along the floor as men sit.)

12 May 2009

Retreat For Young Catholic Adults

I don't know how young "young Catholic adults" are, but I guess they are much younger than me.

In spite of the fact that I don't like the fact that everything, from the Daily Telegraph to Radio 2 is aimed at the young these days, I have been asked to advertise a retreat for them..

The retreat will take place at Douai Abbey during the weekend of the 18-20 September 2009. Young Catholic Adults was founded in February 2004 at Oxford in the UK. It is a national lay movement that actively engages in rebuilding the Church and restoring all things in Christ. YCA are loyal to the Magisterium and faithful to John Paul II's teaching with regard to Ecclesia Dei (1988). In 2007 YCA joined the international Juventutem Federation http://www.juventutem.org/pages/en/home.php
I could make a point about learning how to link using a tag, or of putting two spaces after a full stop, but what do I know?

11 May 2009

The Bishops' Conference: How It Spends Our Money

I have had a go at the accounts of the Bishops' Conference and it makes interesting reading.

Six dioceses pay more than £100K towards its work: Hexham and Newcastle £107K; Salford £123K; Liverpool £125K; Birmingham £142K; Southwark £152K; and Westminster £265K. Special thanks to our friends in Greater London for bearing this burden. And congratulations to the chief accountant of the Diocese of Menevia who has contrived things so that he pays a total of £350. Not £350K; £350.

Some of the grants are fascinating: £22K to the National Board of Catholic Women; "£11K to the National Council of Priests; and under £3K to the Union of Catholic Mothers. Ho ho ho.

At least ecumenism is alive and well: £159K to fund ecumenical organisations, and £96K to support the Bishops' own ecumenical activity.

International Catholic activity: £7.5K to the Council of European Bishops' Conferences, and £6.7K to the Commission od the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union.

And £212K on the Catholic Communications Network. That's why the Church's message is ringing so clearly through the highways and byways of this great country of ours.

They spent nearly £4M, and this is on top of anything our Dioceses spent: none of this has gone on Churches or Cathedrals or Schools.

10 May 2009

Dioceses, Emoluments, Prudence

Damian Thompson set a hare running about the sort of expense claims that are signed off for Magic Circlists and wondered what diocesan accounts might show. So I had a look at the latest diocesan accounts as posted by the Charities Commission on its website. It is quite interesting. Most dioceses seem to be trying to store up surpluses, presumably against difficult times ahead. Trying to separate out what individual dioceses allow or don't allow as an expense was beyond me, though there is a clear statement for each diocese saying whether trustees are or aren't paid an allowance.

There is a different measure of preudence I decided to chase up: the number of employees who are paid more than £60,000 a year. It is a condition of a charity's having its accounts accepted that it lists the number of people to whom it pays more than £60K, more than £70K, more than £80K, and no doubt, decades beyond that. The good news is that no diocese pays anyone more than £80K. The odd news is that there is such a variation between dioceses which employ nobody at this sort of rate, and those which do.

Diocese £60-70K £70-80K
Arundel & Brighton 5 0
Birmingham 0 0
Brentwood 1 0
Cardiff 0 0
Clifton 0 0
East Anglia 0 0
Hallam 0 0
Hexham and Newcastle 0 0
Lancaster 0 0
Liverpool 1 0
Menevia 0 0
Middlesborough 0 0
Northampton 0 0
Nottingham 1 0
Plymouth 1 1
Portsmouth 0 1
Salford 1 2
Shrewsbury 2 0
Southwark 0 1
Westminster 1 0
Wrexham 0 0

I have to say that for a large diocese, especially in the south-east of England, to employ a senior administrator at a rate of £60-£70K a year does not seem excessive to me. To manage without doing so seems to be very well done indeed. One or two dioceses catch the eye, however.

But let's finish off with some good news: Eccleston Square - I assume the Catholic Trust for England and Wales is Eccleston Square - has gone from having one employee earning £80K-£90K, and one earning beteen £60K-£70K, to having just one earning £70K-£80K. It only employs 38 FTEs, who only cost us £1.3M per year. These accounts might get a closer look!

09 May 2009

Greedy Politicians And New Vestments

According to his installation blog, Archbishop Nichols will be wearing new vestments which will become the normal ones for his use at Westminster on high days and holy days.

That's good news. It's odd, though, that none of the big guns in the Catholic blogosphere seems to have noticed it or thought it worthy of comment.

Even odder, though, is that nobody seems to think that the mire of filth in which the Palace of Westminster is engulfed seems worthy of comment. Perhaps the mire is beginning to drown out any other thought.

I have thought for a long time - since May 1997 as it happens - that the great "gift" of NuLabour to the United Kingdom would be the promotion of meretriciousness: the showily flashy: to the greatest of virtues, and I think I'm right.

The particular story being unveiled by the Telegraph comes from the fact that Whips seem to have told MPs since 1997 that salaries could not be seen to rise, but that "legitimate expenses" (nudge, nude, wink, wink) could be exploited to compensate. And, our MPs, who are our representatives, and who share the moral compass of the immense majority of those whom they represent, have engaged in claiming expenses purely because the money is available "within the rules".

I said "meretricious" above, because I get the feeling that those who have been set in authority over us couldn't give a toss. How come Mandelson got yet another chance, except for the fact that Brown guessed rightly that the number of people capable of being morally outraged in the UK these days has diminished sufficiently to let him do what he wants, and then claim the moral high ground for doing it.

Another metaphor: perhaps we ought to stay beneath our stones, and hope that nobody lifts them, and leave the vile, monstrous, slimy, inhabitants of the depths to wander through the world for the ruin of souls, leaving St Michael to deal with them.

I cannot remember ever feeling such a foreigner in my own country.

03 May 2009

Reformation And Iconoclasm In An English Village

The village church sits outside the village, in the place where a church has sat for over a thousand years.

It has witnessed the destruction of the castle, which was built next to it, in 1322.

And, of course, it witnessed the Reformation, and the terrible iconoclasm of the Commonwealth.




During the Commonwealth, the altar of this church was ripped out, and was replaced by a table. The other fittings of the church which had survived the Tudor Reformation here, as in so many other places, were ripped out. But for the altar there was nothing but scorn. The mensa was dragged out and was used as part of a stile, so that anybody who wanted to use a particular path had to trample on the altar.


The mensa was identified for what it was less that forty years ago, and was replaced in the church. The then vicar constructed what he called a "chantry chapel" in the crossing (just at the left in the picture above), with a squint from which the high altar (high table?) can be seen.



If you look carefully, you can see two of the crosses carved into the altar at its consecration.

Never underestimate just how much some people hate us, and the lengths they will go to to humiliate us and destroy the things we care about.