30 December 2012

Bring On 2013

There's a bit of a something in the air at the moment: some of the Bishops have chosen their Christmas pastoral letters to attack the Government on the subject of same sex "marriage" and, while some of their brother Bishops carry on sending "What I did on my holidays" or "Home is where you learn table manners" letters, it's interesting that some, at least, have stirred.  Richard, at Linen on the Hedgerow, thinks that the Bishops' Conference should have spoken as one, but on balance I'm glad to see this lack of a single statement as evidence of a growing split between those leaders of the local churches who can read MENE MENE TELE UPHARSIN and react, and those who can't or won't.  And anyway, you can imagine what the Eccleston Square staffers would have produced: a sort of Tablet-lite attempt to explain the Church's teaching in a way that won't offend their friends in Millbank and Palace Street, written by somebody with a post-graduate certificate in sociological waffle, and which certainly wouldn't rouse the lumpencatholics to anything like action.

By a happy coincidence, a new Archbishop of Canterbury is about to take office and we will finally have a chance for some real ecumenism: there is no earthly prospect of structural Christian unity any more, and this ABC, an evangelical, is unlikely to rate coming up with agreed statements as particularly important on his to-do list.  This means that we should stop trying to find lowest common denominator ways of working with other Christians - in effect apologising for being Catholics - and working with them only where we can and it makes sense to do so, rather than trying to do so everywhere.

And this means that Catholic opposition to same sex "marriage" can be based on a Catholic sacramental understanding of marriage, instead of trying to argue backwards from a hypothetical "harm to the family unit" future; similarly, our discussion of proposals about Sundays can be based on a Catholic understanding of how the Sabbath can be kept holy, rather than on some sort of heretical Sabbatarian wish to keep it glum and enjoyment-free.  Lowest common denominator ecumenism has led us to soft pedal our opposition: let's put our foot down!

It means that the effective monopoly of the Bishops' Conference Conference over Catholic life can be broken, and that Bishops can regain control of their dioceses.  Can we expect five or six dioceses to announce that they are restoring the obligation to observe Holy Days on their proper date from Advent 2013 on, for example?  Might dioceses run their own education policies?  Might we try to push more and more Catholics into the medical profession to make anti-life policies unworkable?

The one thing we haven't got in place and ready is a coordinated communications policy: Catholic Voices seemed like a good idea at the time but seems to have disappeared.  It is possibly too identified with Eccleston Square anyway.  But we need something, both at diocesan and national level, which will form and put forward Catholics able to argue Catholicsm as an integral whole, as a challenge to the secular world, and as our opposition to the policies being pushed by the government. The model has to be the Catholic Evidence Guild of the 1920s, but where is our Frank Sheed?

Something is in the air, and I suspect the Nuncio has a lot to do with it, and I'm really glad.  2013 could be an exciting year.

25 December 2012

Sartre, Of All People


This amazed me: an extract from a letter sent home by Jean Paul Sartre from a POW camp at Christmas in 1940. 

But today is Christmas, you have the right to demand to see the crib. Here it is. Here is the Virgin and here is Joseph and here is the Christ Child. The artist has put all his love into this ensemble but you might find it a bit naive. See, the figures are dressed up but they are stiff: they look like puppets. They certainly were not like that. If you were like me whose eyes are closed ... But listen: you only have to close your eyes to hear me and I'll tell you how I see them within me. The Virgin is pale and she looks at the child. What should be painted on her face is an anxious wonder that has only appeared once on a human face. Because Christ is her child, flesh of her flesh and the fruit of her womb. She carried him for nine months and gave him her breast and her milk became the blood of God. And at times, the temptation is so strong that she forgets that he is God. She hugs him and says “my boy!”  But at other times she is still and she thinks God is here - and she feels a religious awe for this silent God, for this terrifying child. Because all mothers are from time to time brought short before this rebellious fragment of flesh which is their child and they feel exiled from, even though close to, this new life which has been made from their lives and are occupied by alien thoughts. But no child was ever so cruelly and quickly snatched from his mother, because he is God and he exceeds all that can be imagined. And it is a hard trial for a mother to be ashamed of herself and her humanity before her son. But I think there are also other fast and fleeting moments when she feels both that Christ is her son, and that her little son is God. She looks at him and thinks: "This God is my child. This divine flesh is my flesh. It is made of me, he has my eyes and the shape of his mouth is the shape of mine. He looks like me. He is God and he looks like me." And no other woman has had her God to herself. A little God she can hug and cover in kisses, a little warm God, all smiles and breaths, a God who lives and can be touched. And it is in these moments that I would paint Mary, if I was a painter, and I would try to capture the tender air of boldness and timidity with which she moves her finger to touch the sweet skin of this God child whose warm weight she feels on her knees and who smiles at her. That’s Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

And Joseph? I wouldn’t paint Joseph. I would just show a shadow at the bottom of the stable and two bright eyes. Because I do not know what to say about Joseph and Joseph does not know what to say about himself. He adores and is happy to adore, and feels a little like an exile. I think he suffers without admitting it. He suffers because he sees how the woman he loves looks like God, how much she is already at God’s side. Because God has burst like a bomb into the intimacy of this family. Joseph and Mary are separated forever by the exlosion of clarity. And Joseph’s life, I imagine, will be about learning to accept.

15 December 2012

Mr Inwood's Survey

On behalf of the Portsmouth Diocese, Paul Inwood has interpreted the results of a survey about the new translation of the Mass.

Rather than question the statistical validity of the survey, let's take take the figures he provides as absolutely representative of Catholic opinion in Portsmouth and what do they tell us?  I think they are saying three things:

First, that after only four months of a new translation and new Mass settings, fewer than half of those surveyed had negative attituides towards the new translation.  I wonder what the equivalent figures would have looked like in April 1971.  (By the way, why has it taken so long to publish this survey, which seems only to have been uploaded on 12 December?)

Second, that there was a major failure by the previous Bishop, his Vicars General when he was ill, and by the diocesan clergy, to ensure that the faithful were prepared to welcome the new translation enthusiastically.  Given the reasons for adapting the translation, and the years of work that have gone into it, isn't it insulting both to question the need for it, and to suggest that the faithful of Portsmouth could have knocked something better up themselves.  (Should there be signs saying "Welcome to Portsmouth, the Home of Good Translation" in the same way as there are signs saying "Welcome to Oldham, the Home of the Tubular Bandage".)

And third, what tolerance of a sort of congregationalist pervision of Catholicsm has led all of these people surveyed to think that, in this case, their views count as though they are votes, and that because they have opined, the Church should "listen" (ie do what they want)? What sort of leadership has characterised this diocese for so many years if this is a fruit?

12 December 2012

The Bishops, Again


In a discussion about the farewell address by Bishop McMahon on Brentwood reported here I said that part of the problem with the Church in England and Wales was that the Bishops were trying hard, not to be part of the Establishment, but to be part of the mainstream and I promised to try to illustrate what I meant.

Well, think about this. 

This is how modern Catholic Cathedral building was thought of in England and Wales the 1930s.

 By the 1960s, it had become modern.

In the 1970s, it even flirted with a sort of muscular feminist style.

But in 1990 it has become Anglican.

Brentwood is less a Catholic Cathedral than a homage to the Anglican churches built by Wren.  How has the English baroque become an appropriate point of reference for Catholics?

The answer is that after Vatican II the Church in England and Wales ditched the alliance between prelatial clericalism and working-class Irishness which marked the first hundred years after the Restoration of the Hierarchy in 1850, but replaced it by an alliance of two middle-class Bishops, Hume and Worlock, and an activist middle-class laity empowered by the 1980 National Pastoral Congress, with ecumenism as the highest pursuit.  As Clifford Longley put it just before Cardinal Hume’s death:

 As a Benedictine monk, Hume represented a way of being Catholic that set off deep resonances in the English psyche entirely different from those associated with working-class Irish Catholicism.

This home-grownness was precisely what English Catholicism needed at that point in its history. Many of its lay members had themselves joined the ranks of the English middle classes in previous 50 years, not least as a result of the success of Catholic secondary education since the 1944 Education Act. (Two individuals who symbolize this success are Cherie Booth QC, wife of the Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Bishop Vincent Nichols, Bishop in North London and undoubtedly Cardinal Hume’s favourite Bishop of that younger generation. John Birt, Director General of the BBC, went the same school as Nichols. All three are products of the post-1944 Education act Catholic grammar school system in South Lancashire.)


 The 'signs of the times' of that transitional period included the appointment of Basil Hume to Westminster and Derek Worlock to Liverpool (both in 1976 and 1975), the consolidation of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, the programme of Consultation and renewal that led up to the National Pastoral Congress in 1980, the visit of John Paul II to Great Britain in 1982, and the impact of the early years of that papacy on the Church generally.  It would also include the remarkable convergence of doctrine under the auspices of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International commission, and the unprecedented change in ecumenical relations in Great Britain that followed.


Give or take the sort of minor rebuffs already mentioned, the Hume-Worlock approach to Church leadership has tacitly been endorsed by Rome in a whole series of episcopal appointments to the English Catholic hierarchy which gradually replaced the contemporaries of Heenan with those of Hume and Worlock; men of the temperament of Heenan with men of the temperament of the latter two.

It is reflected in the quasi-Synod, the imitation House of Bishops that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference has come to be: not just the uncanonical pooling of Episcopal authority, but the more insidious search for compromise, as though it is a virtue as important as truth; not just the growth of an ecclesiastical civil service in Eccleston Square, but the parallelism of the diocesan structures which have been built in its imitation.  Worst of all is the striving for what they seem to perceive as an analogous place in society to the CofE’s: getting “one of ours” on Thought for the Day, for example; or the pursuit of regular meetings with junior ministers in DFID: what I described in an earlier post as the desire to be part of Society instead of being a Society apart.

The worst part of this has been the cost: for if, as seemed to be the regularly proclaimed thesis in the 1980s, there is no fundamental difference between Catholic and Anglican, then there is no longer any need to do the things which previously marked us out as different.  Out went Friday abstinence, not because it was a bad thing in itself, but because it made us stand out.  So did going to Mass every Sunday.  Catholic schools stopped being schools in which Catholicism was taught and became schools for Catholics and anybody else who wanted a place: sacramental preparation became the preserve of lay volunteers in parishes.  (But weren’t we all pleased when HM the Queen talked about “My Cardinal”, and attended Vespers at the Cathedral and appointed Cardinal Hume to the Order of Merit.)

The only good thing I can think of to say about the compulsory presentation of a Bishop’s resignation letter when he reaches 75 is that it hastens what Fr Z calls the biological solution; that it brings closer the time when the generation of Bishops nominated by Hume and Worlock gives way to a newer generation.  But a new generation of Bishops is not the solution to the problems caused by their predecessors: it is only the point at which what looks like a sisiphean task of reclaiming the Church might begin. 


06 December 2012

Patronised By The BBC Again

Encouraged by the argument in Caroline Farrow's blog here, I complained to the BBC about their commission of a comedy series about three men who set up an assisted suicide business.  My point was that there is something depraved (I didn't put it as baldly to people who wouldn't understand) about wanting to choose the most shocking subject possible in which you can claim to find humour: that the search for the "laugh at any cost" is fundamentally not a search for humour but solely for subjects not previously laughed at, and usually for a good reason.  Veterans of BBC Complaints will appreciate that I didn't do this expecting to change minds (ho ho ho!) or even to make the BBC think there might be a problem: I knew that what would come back would be a patronising spew of liberal establishment value-inspired drivel which would patiently explain to me why I was wrong, and allow the author to snigger behind my back about the sort of fossilised Daily Express reader he no doubt takes me for.  (That "he" should maybe be "s/he" but in my experience women aren't are seldom anywhere near as good at plonking patronising as men.)

So the reply came and didn't disappoint any more than I knew it would anyway, but as part of its clever-clever attempt to put me down, it claimed that the comedy about assisted suicide would treat its subject seriously in the same way that Arsenic and Old Lace dealt with the subject of old lady poisoners, or Kind Hearts and Coronets dealt with aristocratic murders.

It's hard to plumb the depths of the contempt that the person who wrote that feels for the person he imagines to be complaining about an assisted suicide comedy.  It's also hard to number all of the ways in which he is completely and utterly wrong (starting from the fact that both films can be comedies because everybody, absolutely everybody, from writers to actors to production team to directors to film distributors to projectionists to usherettes to filmgoers knows that murder is uniquely evil).  Worst of all, is the moral relativism that produces the clinching (in his mind) argument, put as a mild suggestion, that "we do appreciate that the programme may not be to everyone’s taste but hope that if you do decide to watch it, you’ll reserve judgement until then".

I've thought of the license fee as iniquitous for many years because it forces me to subsidise programmes like this, and forces other people to pay for things like Radio 3 which I listen to.  A compulsory tax on televisions would be one thing: a compulsory tax which then funds a series of TV and radio stations which push a specific point of view is another. 

What I've never thought of before today is how much I resent the fact that apart from paying for the programmes I don't watch, I'm paying for moral illiterates to snigger at my beliefs and to patronise me for it. 

01 December 2012

In Which Somebody Gets Under My Skin

Ben Trovato tipped us off to an effusion from Grima Wormtongue Paul Inwood which got me really annoyed yesterday and has remained as a sort of mind worm all day (a bit of a problem as I have had to work today and have been out and about all over the place).  Inwood has concluded that His Holiness the Pope has been a fool rather than a knave in expressing his (HH the P's) belief that the EF of the Mass was not abrogated by Pope Paul.

The whole question of the precise status of the Traditional Mass: whether it could have been abrogated; how that could have happened; whether those conditions were met; whether an Indult could restore something abrogated; all these questions were the stuff of argument and discussion for most of the period between the introduction of the OF and the publication of Summorum Pontificum.  There were different views, and canon lawyers managed to come to conclusions that (coincidentally) exactly matched their view of whether or not the EF should or shouldn't be celebrated.

But then along came the Supreme Legislator and settled the question with Summorum Pontificum.  The earlier status - between the promulgation of the 1st edition of the OF and the publication of the Motu Proprio - has been decided retrospectively and definitively: the EF wasn't abrogated, and its use is now regulated by two new instructions.

I'm not aware of any issue of Canon Law in this country in which non-trained Catholics seem to feel that they are completely free to make their own minds up and tell trained Canon lawyers that they are wrong, but that is what Inwood has felt free to do in this context.  Canon Law must have been ambiguous, or perhaps there was just no precedent to decide a question of such magnitude as how a valid and licit form of Mass is made invalid and illicit, but that's one of the reasons we have a Pope: to settle this sort of question.  And settled it is.

So why does Inwood engage in this particular battle long after the argument has been settled?  How does he feel qualified to judge the Pope's decision?  On what basis does he feel able to state patronisingly that the Pope must at best have been badly advised?

I have said several times, that a great battle has been joined between those who would conform the Church to the spirit of the age and those who would see it proclaim a timeless message in spite of the spirit of the age.  In England and Wales, the battle is acute because the leadership in the Church - both its Hierarchy and the senior lay people identified as Catholics - seem to be taking a different line from Rome's.  It is perhaps inevitable that the ground for much of the battle is about sex: that's why Man fell after all, the Devil's greatest triumph.

Inwood's foray isn't really about the EF at all, though it suits proponents of the status quo in England and Wales to portray the EF as a Roman imposition on E&W and its proponents as a cross between crazed albino monks and nostalgic 1950s-lovers.  This is part of an existential struggle to define where the Church is.  (Imagine, if you need to know what I'm getting at, that people self-identifying as Catholic can have problems with priests wearing cassocks!)

Antipapalism and anticlericalism have no place in the Church: it should be axiomatic that they are manifestations of views opposed to the Church and intent on bringing it down.  Why those of us who worry about this sort of thing should be concerned, however, is that Inwood isn't some rogue commenter: he is someone whom the Church in England and Wales has placed on a pedestal.  He is paid (and how!) by a Catholic diocese; he is one of the main arbiters of liturgical music for England and Wales; his is a respected voice to which the majority of Catholic national publications listen with respect.

But he is utterly wrong, and I think we should be asking the diocese which pays his wages to invite him to consider his position.

20 November 2012

Sing As We Go - To Communion?

I was taking part in a discussion on the aptness or otherwise of hymns being sung and mentioned that I had always thought that this was a very "spirit of Vatican 2" thing to do, and that along with the need to process (to receive Communion standing) and the notion of our "sharing" Communion, here were three things wrong with the way the distribution of the Eucharist at Mass was messing up things which had worked perfectly well unupmessed.

Looking at the GIRM, however, I find that the problem isn't due to a few unruly priests: this is the way Communion is supposed to happen!

"86. While the priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion chant is begun.  Its purpose is to express the communicants’ union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices,  to show joy of heart, and to highlight more clearly the ‘communitarian’ nature of the procession to receive Communion.  The singing is continued for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful.  If, however, there is to be a hymn after Communion, the Communion chant should be ended in a timely manner. 

Care should be taken that singers, too, can receive Communion with ease.

87. In the dioceses of the (sic) England and Wales the options for the Communion chant are as follows: (1) the antiphon from the Graduale Romanum either with or without the psalm; (2) the antiphon with the psalm from the Graduale Simplex; (3) a song from another collection of psalms and antiphons, approved by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.  It is sung either by the choir alone or by the choir or cantor with the people.

If there is no singing, however, the Communion antiphon found in the Misdsal may be recited either by the faithful, or by some of them, or by a lector.  Otherwise the priest himself says it after he has received Communion and before he distributes Communion to the faithful.

88. When the distribution of Communion is finished, as circumstances suggest, the priest and the faithful spend some time praying quietly.  If desired, a psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may also be sung by the entire congregation."

This really feels wrong to me: there shouldn't be a procession to receive Communion, precisely because the reception of Communion shouldn't be communitarian.  That, to me at least, gives off a strong whiff of the necessity of congregational participation in the action of the priest.  Our attitude, going to Communion, shouldn't be (or, at least, shouldn't solely be) one of "joy of heart": why Our Lord allowed himself to be the ultimate sacrifice, and what our individual responsibility for this, and our unworthy gratitude are surely as relevant as we approach the altar.  And silence, rather than some banal arrangement of the relevant proper (though "proper" scarcely seems the right word for something casually  disposable) feels to me a more adequate approach by a fallen human to the Transcendent.

But this is what the GIRM says, and, just in case you hoped it was some E&W spirit of Vatican II thing, its foornote refers to an Instruction of the Sacred Congregation of Rites of 1980.  This is the way we should be doing things.

I'm not very happy about this, but I can't see any easy way round it.  Help!

18 November 2012

Women "Bishops": Catholic Dissenters

It seems likely that the C of E will vote to allow women to be made ("ordained"? "consecrated"?) "bishops" shortly (and why not, since they have been ordainable as "deacons" and "priests" for some time).  I use quotation marks simply to mark the fact that they aren't deacons, priests and won't be bishops: Ben Trovato has been explaining why here.

You'd think, wouldn't you, that in the same way that the Ordinariate is the end of a process in which sincere Anglicans finally realised that unity between Canterbury and Rome had been made impossible by the ordination of women, that Catholic dissenters (here, the people who won't accept the Magisterium, particularly with regard to issues of gender and sexuality, and who seem to have a problem with Authority (the new translation, for example), especially when it derives from Rome) would be moving en bloc, or even en masse to join the C of E.  But they aren't.  I have come across a priest who moved to the C of E and am aware of the cases of a couple of laypeople, as well as a couple more who were baptised as Catholics, had no religion in their childhood, but who came to Christianity in the C of E, but i still have fingers left over to count.  There is no movement.

This feels like good and bad news.  Good news, because whatever their problems with the Magisterium (either as an objective corpus of truth or with some of the details it contains) they still believe that the Catholic Church is where God is, with valid sacraments, and through which we can approach God  who died to save us.  However much they might believe that salvation may be attainable by other people through other paths, however much they believe that the Church should "move with the times" - trim before the spirit of the age - it is their Church and while they want it to change, they want to stay part of it.  That, I suggest, is a cause for hope.

The bad news is that their fight will continue until they either win or they lose.  Those of us who are quite happy with the Reform of the Reform, with the idea of Continuity, cannot relax.  Deacon Nick's chronicle of dissent shows just how entrenched they are.  But as long as we keep on challenging them, as long as we continue to pray for holy bishops and priests to preach God's Truth, the Truth shall prevail.

Magna est veritas et prevalebit!

10 November 2012

Professor Beattie: Keep Digging!

Professor Beattie has returned to the fray, here.  I'll leave others better qualified to discuss her views on academic freedom and what she deems the "official magisterium" (as though it is but one among many) and talk instead about the worldview she hints at in this paragraph:

"It is clear from the fine investigative journalism journalism which supports her undertaken by Joshua J. McElwee of the National Catholic Reporter that there is a very murky world of Catholic politics and power underlying the decision to cancel my visit. It seems that the President of the University of San Diego may have been pressurised or supported (I'm not sure which) by influential conservative Catholic benefactors and watchdog groups with links to the local Catholic hierarchy and the Vatican imagine that Catholic groups have links to their Bishop and their Pope! Professor Beattie should be pleased that any excess or over-exuberance in their conservatism will be tempered by an appeal from their Bishop or Pope to Catholic social teaching, thanks to those links. Some students and faculty at the University are making connections between this and a wider attempt by conservative American media barons to virtually take control of civic life in San Diego not only have they bought the San Diego Union Tribune, but they are allowing it to pass comment on what is happening in San Diego, the city whose paper it is. Douglas Manchester and John Lynch, who recently bought the San Diego Union Tribune, have allied themselves to a highly conservative and militaristic agenda they are conservative and support the US military. Being supportive of the military - wearing a poppy, for example - and even supporting the government's deployment of military forces does not make me militaristic. In an interview with Associated Press, Lynch is reported to have said that they 'bought the newspaper in part to promote their views in editorials. He called those views pro-family, pro-military and pro-America, and said "anybody who isn't shouldn't be living here"'. Once again then, conservative Catholicism presumably means not the liberal Catholicsm Prof Beattie professes (Human Flourishing, as they call it in Roehampton) but her argument is with some Catholics who are conservative: I can't see that they are trying to force the City of San Diego to institute Corpus Christi processions, for example risks forming an unholy alliance (cliche) with a far-right (as in "not left") American (they're in America - would she prefer Paraguayan?) political agenda which flies in the face of so much that is enshrined in Catholic social teaching and the Christian ethos (she can't mean abortion or accelerated death as they are opposed to both of those). Barack Obama's victory might temporarily take the sting out of this situation and the lethal politics it engenders, but these are not people who give up easily." The greatest sin of all: they don't merely disagree with Pres Obama - they actively oppose him!

Elsewhere, she recounts events of the last fortnight as follows:

"For a lay theologian employed by a British university, it is unheard of to find oneself bullied and silenced by dark magisterial forces working invisibly through various masked intermediaries."

Really, Professor Beattie?  "Dark magisterial forces" (is magisterial here a reference to the Magisterium, or to some preeminently intellectual opponents?) and "masked intermediaries"?  Has she been reading Dan Brown?  Pray God there are no albino monks wandering around the Borough of Wandsworth!

There is no plot.  The tide has turned, and the haughty intellectualism which places the liberal academic's view on a level with the Magisterium is being challenged by Catholics - not by the Hierarchy, unfortunately - who, while not as intellectually gifted as the haughty intellectuals, at least know the difference between black and white and who can tell a wrong 'un even if they can't tell why.

They are fighting back because for the first time in more than thirty years they are under challenge: the two new Bishops (for whom please pray) are under unremitting attack and ordinary Catholics with a view are being denigrated for having the wrong view.  To steal a phrase from somebody who would hate our hijacking it and which will be widely understood in San Diego: ¡hasta la victoria siempre! - ever onwards to victory!

02 November 2012

Clifford Longley, Again

There's an odd thing happens when you're travelling: things that belong in one time of day happen in another.  So you might find yourself in an airport lounge one evening and have the radio playing through your laptop playing Thought For The Day. That might make it hard to believe your ears.

If that ever happens, come back to the Radio 4 website and download the piece, and you might find that your ears didn't deceive you, and that Clifford Longley appears to be saying that Jimmy Saville has gone to Hell http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/radio4/thought/thought_20121030-1310a.mp3.

Now, I have strong opinions on lots of things, but accusing others of having committed mortal sin feels to me like a step too far, not least because I have no Godlike insight into anybody else's mind.  Clifford, though, knows that JS committed mortal sin, and thinks nothing of telling the world what the sinner's penance will have consisted off (including, in this case, psychiatric counselling) and then telling us that JS wasn't penitent and that his Catholicsm was a charade.

Two things strike me: are the Tabletistas finally (if over-exuberantly) rediscovering Sin, and can we expect a similarly robust attitude to some of the Life issues some of us feel they are a bit, well, soft on?

And does "Judge not, that you may not be judged" (Mat 7:1) not count when a sinner has committed what seems to be the gravest sin of all, that of embarrassing the BBC? 

01 November 2012

Professor Beattie

I have to feel a certain feeling of guilt that I am not one of the Catholic bloggers Professor Beattie is railing against after the withdrawal of her invitation to San Diego*.  I salute those bloggers, clerical and lay, whom she blames.

She has constructed a wonderful structure in which she is a theologian who is catholic rather than a Catholic theologian, at a College with a catholic foundation in which she teaches theology, rather than a theology prof at a Catholic institution, and then points out (repeatedly? obsessively?) that as a teacher in an English University, nobody can get rid of her just because she is teaching tosh they disagree with her. 

Part of me feels desperately sorry for her: she has been feted and lauded, and has gradually begun to think of her magisterium as being the equivalent of anybody else's, and the intellectual-formationally challenged Hierarchy has encouraged her because she is challenging, and they have come to believe in a Guardianista view of the world in which "challenging" is an absolute virtue.  She makes me think of Tracey Emin, who has lost the power to shock, and whose efforts to shock induce pity rather than anger, and whose genuine talent was lost behind her status as enfant terrible

But then I wake up and remember that, irrespective of the adolescent enthusiasm for her of people who are responsible for knowing better, she is bright enough, ferociously clever enough indeed, to know exactly what she is doing and to understand exactly what the value is of her construction.  Read Deacon Nick to find out just what this "theologian who is a catholic" has been preaching.

I'm glad that she blames the bloggers, and complains that the Vatican is paying attention to them, though.  It shows that the Church in E&W as an Establishment is under threat from within through the power of the Internet, in the same way that it was taken over from within by the spirit-of-Vatican2istas - I note that she appeals directly to the "spirit of Vatican II" as though it is a positive - and that against the Truth they have no alternative but to whinge.  They are losing; they will lose.

* (O/T SD is where to go to experience nice CA if you want to miss PC SF, or (UGH!) LA, BTW.)

23 October 2012

The Jimmy Savile Affair: Remember The Predatory Priests

It is hard to fight off the schadenfreude as the BBC tries to come to terms with the fact that one of its stars was a sexual predator, exactly the same sort of "paedophile" as all of those wicked Catholic priests it has spent years condemning and using as pretexts for knocking the whole Catholic Church which had nurtured and protected them.  It's even harder when the first hint appears that it wasn't just Savile, but that there were others; and that a culture existed in which that seemed like the sort of behaviour to expect from people like that.  It's hardest of all when the sneering, soppingly wet, liberal elite who have spent the last fortnight trying to say that it was just Savile, and that they had never liked him, start to face up to the fact that the institution of the BBC was not structured to protect the innocent, but rather to protect the guilty.

But fight it we must, because the priests who abused children were filth even worse than Jimmy Savile, and while the BBC might be (is likely to be?) in hock to the spirit of the age, the Catholic Church should never be.

Priests are called to a much harder vocation that other men: the immense privilege of bringing God to the altar, of being another Christ, brings with it the responsibility of not behaving like any other man.  That's why the rest of us should support priests, pray for priests, look after priests, watch out for priests as well as giving thanks for them: they aren't some abstract Mass machine in dark clothes, but men with a burden that isn't humanly bearable.  But as high as God helps them climb, the Devil will lead them into deeper pits than any of the rest of us if he gets a chance to help them defile the hands consecrated to God.

And however pompous the BBC, however much Malcolm Muggeridge could compare it to the CofE, even suggesting that Controllers should sign documents in the name of their Controllerate: George Light, James Third and so on; however the BBC tries to have the best of being a state-funded part of the Establishment while both offering daring critiques of all of society's best values on one hand and feeding society's basest values on the other: it's in our gift to turn our backs on it, and even, if we organise and campaign, to change it.

Not so the institutional Church: from among those priests whose burden is already heavy, some are selected for even greater burdens: to head the local Church, to create new priests of those men called by God, to teach the Faith in its orthodoxy, and to create and maintain the structures to support all of these functions, and fill them with good people and maintain their goodness.  This is an even greater burden, and the Bishops need even more prayers and support than their priests.

However bad the scandal in the BBC, however the Beeboids squirm and try to blame their failings on wider society, however much they try to claim that there were a small number of bad people and nothing else: it is as nothing compared to the shameful evil willfully brought into the Church by the priests who preyed sexually on young people.

Let's not pretend; let's not look for an excuse to hide behind somebody else's scandal.

13 October 2012

The Tabletistas Strike Back!

Hear Clifford Longley's description of what Vatican II was about on Thought for the Day this morning here.

If you keep saying the same thing, and nobody challenges you, it might not become the truth, but everyone will believe that it's true.

10 October 2012

Is "Marriage Care" Catholic?

James has posted on the retirement of Terry Prendergast as head of Marriage Care, what in happier days was a Catholic marriage advisory service and has looked at the job description being advertised.  Paul has posted on just how uncatholic Terry Prendergast's view of marriage is.

James lists a series of questions Marriage Care asks itself, beginning with "How can we best manage within Marriage Care to maintain contact with our Catholic roots whilst being open to a wider volunteer workforce, so that this is understood within the Church community?" and concludes (after the list) that a paraphrase of the questions might be "For anybody not listening at the back, that's a long winded way of saying "we need to figure out a way to extract money from Catholics without actually doing anything to promote a Catholic vision of Marriage".

Just to put it into perspective, here is a (very long) list of Marriage Care centres which I believe to be based in Catholic premises.  If James and Paul are right, the courses they offer they might be better treated as "spiritual yoga" classes.  (NB: I have left out the places which look definitely not to be Catholic and have italicised the "don't knows".)

If you know the priest or religious responsible for any of these premises, it might be worth drawing their attention to what's going on within, privately, at first.

Christ the King Church, Peace Close, Bramley Road, Oakwood, London, N14 4HE
St Thomas More RC Church, 9 Henry Road, Finsbury Park,
Dwyer House, 37 Victoria Road, Acock's Green, Birmingham, B27 7XZ
Cresswell Park, St Mary's, 5 Cresswell Park, Blackheath, London, SE3 9RD
85 Abingdon Street, Blackpool, FY1 1PP
St Joseph's Catholic Church, 67 Purewell, Christchurch, Dorset, BH23 1EH
Cassidy Centre, St Mary's Church, 5 Surrenden Road, Preston Park, Brighton, BN1 6PA
141 Whiteladies Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 2QB
St Francis LSU Pastoral & Brook Centre, 33/34 Pultenay Road, Bath, BA2 4EZ
The Presbytery of St Mary's, 67 Talbot Street, Canton, Cardiff, CF11 9BX
St Joseph's RC Church, Crown Street, Cockermouth, CA13 0EJ
St Catherine's RC Church, Drover's Lane, Penrith, CA11 9EL
Our Lady & St Joseph's RC Church, Warwick Square, Carlisle, CA1 1LB
St John Payne RC School, Patching Hall Lane, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 4BS
178 New London Road, Chelmsford, Essex, CM2 0AR
5-7 Baron Road, South Woodham Ferrers, Essex, CM3 5XQ
Park Drive, Maldon, Essex, CM9 5UR
The Fletcher Centre, 2 Crescent Road, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 2EX
44 East Stockwell Street, Colchester, Essex, CO1 1SR
13 Stoney Road, Coventry, West Midlands, CV1 2
St Bernadette Presbytery, Tilgate Way, Crawley, W Sussex, RH10 5BS
Our Lady of Reparation, 70 Wellesley Road, Croydon, Surrey, CR0 2AR
St Mary Help of Christians, 372 Coulsdon Rd, Old Coulsdon, Croydon, CR5 1EF
Christ the King, 3 Prince's Road, Langney, Eastbourne, East Sussex, BN23 6HT
39 Rodney Road, Cheltenham, Glos, GL50 1HXSt Andrew & St George's Day Centre, St George's Road, Bolton, BL1 2BZ
Clitherow House, Lower Chatham Street, Manchester, M15 6BY
CAB Office, Fairfax Road, Prestwich, M25 1AS
The Parish Centre, Church of Most Holy Trinity, New Street, Ledbury, HR8 2EE
St. Bede's, Bishop's Avenue, Chadwell Heath, Romford, Essex, RM6 5RS
St Augustine's Presbytery, Cranbrook Rd North, Barkingside, Ilford, Essex, IG6 1AU
Kenwood Gardens, Ilford, Essex, IG2 6YG
1 Wragely House, Valley Road, Hebden Bridge, W Yorkshire, HX7 7BNSt Bede's Pastoral Centre, 21-23 Blossom St, York, North Yorkshire, YO24 1AQ
16 Wragby Rd, Lincoln, Lincolnshire, LN2 5SLSt. Pius X Presbytery, Chelmsford Avenue, Grimsby, Lincolnshire, DN34 5DD
St. Hugh's Church, 34 Broadgate, Lincoln, Lincolnshire, LN2 5AQ
St. Bernadettes Parish Centre, Ashby Rd, Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, DN16 2RS
St Mary's Presbytery, 12 Barnard Avenue, Brigg, Lincolnshire, DN20 8AS
Our Lady of Lincoln, Laungton Way, Lincoln, Lincolnshire, LN2 2HE
St John's Presbytery, 128 Bebington Road, New Ferry, Wirral, CH62 5BJ
Crossbarn Lane, Ince Blundell, Nr. Crosby, L38 6JD
Conference Centre at LACE, Croxteth Drive, Sefton Park, Liverpool, L17 1AA
46 Notting Hill Gate, London, W11 3HZ
Notre Dame de France, 5 Leicester Place, London, WC2 7HB
Immaculate Heart of Mary, Botwell House, Botwell Lane, Hayes, Middx, UB3 2AB
2 Chiswick Lane, Chiswick, London, W4 2JF
Clitherow House, 1 Blythe Mews, Blythe Road, London, W14 0NW
Richard Reynolds Room, Church of the Blessed Sacrament, 29 Fore Street, Exeter, Devon, EX1 2QJ
The Courtenay Centre, Kingsteignton Road, Newton Abbot, Devon, TQ12 2QAChurch of St Peter, 15 Boniface Lane, Crownhill, Plymouth, Devon, PL5 3AX
St Augustine's Presbytery, Woodland Road, St Austell, Cornwall, PL25 4RA
St Austin's Priory, Cadleigh, Ivybridge, Devon, PL21 9HW
St Mary's Parish Centre, St Mary's Road, Bodmin, Cornwall, PL31 1NF
Church of Mount Carmel, 71 Stott Close, Efford, Plymouth, Devon, PL3 6HA
Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, 76 Abbey Road, Torquay, Devon, TQ2 5NJ
Dock Road, Chatham, Kent, ME4 4SL Milton Keynes
St Etheldreda, Egremont Street, Ely, Cambridgeshire, CB6 1AE
Our Lady & St Etheldreda RC Church, 14 Exeter Road, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 8LT
St Mary's, 9 Stow Hill, Newport, Gwent, NP20 1TP
Cathedral House, Unthank Road, Norwich, Norfolk, NR2 2PA
Doddridge Centre, Northampton, Northamptonshire, NN5 5LD
Ward Street, Guildford, Hampshire, GU1 4LH
St Joseph's Church Hall, Queens Road, Aldershot, Hampshire, GU11 3JB
St Augustine's, 146 Sandon Road, Meir, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs, ST3 7DF
278-290 Huntingdon Street, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, NG1 3LY Christ the King, Prince Charles Avenue, Mackworth Estate, Derby, Derbyshire, DE22 4BG
The Priory Annexe, 85 Old High Street, Headington, Oxford, OX3 9HT
St Luke's Church, 26 Benyon Grove, Orton Malborne, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, PE2 5XS
St John's Catholic Cathedral, Edinburgh Road, Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO1 3HQ
218a Tulketh Road, Preston, Lancashire, PR2 1ES
St Mary's Presbytery, Matthias Street, Morecambe, Lancashire, LA4 5LA
Cathedral House, Balmoral Road, Lancaster, Lancashire , LA1 3BT
St Wilfrid's Centre, 524 Queen's Road, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S2 4DT
St Edmunds Parish Office, The Avenue, Southampton, Hampshire, SO15 2EQ
Newbridge House, 28 Tamworth Street, Stockport, Greater Manchester, SK1 2PB
112b Marlborough Road, Bryn Mill, Swansea, Wales, SA2 0DY

St Aidan's Centre, 238 Wythenshawe Rd, Northern Moor, South Manchester, M23 0PH
305 Manchester Road, West Timperley, Altrincham, Greater Manchester, WA14 5PH St Mary's Presbytery, 2 Major Street, Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham, TS18 2DD
3rd Floor, Mea House, Ellison Place, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear, NE1 8XS
St Joseph's Family Centre, 9 Museum Street, Warrington, Cheshire, WA1 1JA

The Presentation Convent, Marlowe Avenue, Swindon, Wiltshire, SN3 2TP
St Mary's Convent, 34 Groundwell Road, Swindon, Wiltshire, SN1 2LU
Sacred Heart Presbytery, Edge Hill, Wimbledon, London, SW19 4LU
Guild House, 30-32 Worple Road, Wimbledon, London, SW19 4EF St Mary's The Mount Parish Hall, 15 Glebe Street, Walsall, West Midlands, WS1 3NX
Cathedral of St Mary the Crowned, 215 Main Street, Gibraltar
Little Wheatley Chase, Rayleigh, Essex, SS6 9EH WrexhamW
Church of St Anne, Prince Charles Road, Wrexham, Clywd, LL13 8TH

08 October 2012

A Rough Beast, Slouching ...

I've got the start of an idea buzzing around in my mind and I can't present it polished and finished, but think it worth throwing out as is, so that either someone else can turn it into something useful or I can be told that I'm wasting my time.

I got distracted while thinking about Veritatis Splendor for the Catholic Reading Group by the young man who asked Jesus “what good shall I do that I might have life everlasting?” I started to meditate on the difference between a morality based on "Do Good" and one based on "Don't do Evil" and started to wander down a rabbit hole influenced by a recurrent memory of my father changing how he did his Examination of Conscience from measuring himself against the ten Commandments to asking whether he had clothed the naked, fed the hungry etc.  (Being a simple, literal, sort of man he joined the SVP so he could do all, and fretted because he couldn't be a prison visitor, but that's a digression.)

Another influencing thread in what was going on (bear in mind I have been travelling a lot and was tired and disorientated) was thinking about a "spirit of Vatican IIism" that all vocations are equal, and that the priest was merely the member of the community who turned the bread and wine into God's Body and Blood, and was neither more or less important than somebody called to carpentry.

Anyway, musing about all of these things I started to think about a Catholic England and Wales that started pointing children towards jobs/careers/professions which are currently held by anti-life to convert them.  Make Catholic schools centres for STEM subjects and make them a fertile source of medics - doctors and nurses - who will proclaim Life by specialising in gynaecology and the end of life; encourage vocations to teaching; replace Connections with a Catholic alternative full of Catholic youth-focused professionals; you get the drift: squeezing anti-Life out of the picture.

There it is, for what it's worth.  Could it fly?

19 September 2012

Liverpool (2012), Liverpool (1980)

At the 1980 National Pastoral Congress in Liverpool, Sector B, Topic 3, under the chairmanship of Mr David Hobman proposed:

"...adaptations must be made in anticipation of the growing shortage of priests.  Domestic litugies must be encouraged and lay people must be trained to offer leadership in those liturgies where the priest's presence is not essential and which do not involve the celebration of the Mass.  These celebrations have the advantage of encouraging joint Christian worshop and what we can do together should be done on an ecumenical basis."

It's all there.  They've wanted to do this for ages.

16 September 2012

Some Less Good News

Countercultural Father has posted here about plans for the Archdiocese of Liverpool to have lay-led funerals.  Mac had posted about it earlier, but I'm afraid it slipped me by.  Ben also pointed out that courtesy of Part Time Pilgrim, he had found a copy of the Archdiocese's leaflet on how to plan a Catholic funeral here.

It's this last that worries me.  I get all of Ben's points about why a lay-led service is always going to be second best, but what surprised me was that the Archdiocese seems not just to be unaware of, but directly in opposition to a Catholic idea about how to bury somebody.  My source is the GIRM: the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which is the Catholic Church's book about how to celebrate the Mass.

The GIRM has a section on Masses of the Dead.  It contains the following:

"The Church offers the Eucharistic Sacrifice of Christ's Passover for the dead so that, since all members of the Church are in communion with each other, the petition for spiritual help on behalf of some may bring comforting hope to others.  Among the Masses for the Dead, the Funeral Mass holds first place.


Pastors should, moreover, take into special account those who are present at a liturgical celebration or who hear the Gospel on the occasion of the funeral and who may be non-Catholics or Catholics who never or rarely participate in the Eucharist or who seem to have lost the faith.  For priests are ministers of Christ's Gospel for all."

While Liverpool has:

"The Funeral.  This is the community's main celebration and prayer for the deceased person.  This could be a Funeral Mass, but if the majority of the mourners would not be able to participate fully in a Mass, or if no Priest is available, it may be a Funeral Service led by a Lay Funeral Minister or a Deacon.  It cannot be guaranteed that all the deceased's wishes will be fulfilled, even where a pre-paid funeral plan has been arranged."

(NB, by the way, the use of capitalisation, and the order in which "Lay Funeral Minister or a Deacon" is set out.)

Another contrast comes between the GIRM:

"At the Funeral Mass there should, as a rule, be a short Homily, but never a eulogy of any kind"

and the Liverpool Rite:

"The family and friends of the deceased can be involved, if they feel able, in a variety of ways:


Speaking briefly in memory of the deceased person."

The leaflet is, it seems to me, scandalously heterodox, and I commend it to you all for meditation and reparation. 

Given, however, where it comes from and what it proclaims, it is worth highlighting something that I found hilarious.  It says that "the use of music in the various stages of the funeral is important, and carefully selected hymns and music will enhance the service, bring back memories of a loved one and provide consolation for the bereaved."  It points out that "some music (or words) which would not be appropriate for use in church may be better suited to the crematorium or cemetery" - not that Robbie Williams' "Angels" should not be banished from any religious celebration whatsoever, but just from the Church (or rather, church) part, if there is one.  But buried between those two quotes comes:

"It should be borne in mind that the Catholic Church has a vast library of music to suit all needs."

Indeed it has, and it is one of the great scandals of the Age that the people who wrote this leaflet have condemned Catholics of the last two generations never to have access to this Library, and have done their utmost to destroy it, and the context for which it was written, as completely as possible.  The irony that this has issued from the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King - Paddy's Wigwam; the Mersey Funnel - will not escape some of us.

09 September 2012

A Window Closes - Some Good News

It turns out that the lecture by the well known tabletista gay-marriage supporting Catholic theology lecturer Tina Beattie, who had been asked to speak in Clifton Cathedral to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican II, has been cancelled.

This is very good news.  H/t to Countercultural father who spotted it first.

Might we dare to hope that by adequately publicising, and well in advance, goings-on of this sort we might see at worse more cancellations, and at best a reduction in invitations to heterodox Catholics to preach as though their beliefs were mainstream and Catholic.

I think a bottle of the Taylors '83 would be in order.

23 August 2012

Straws, Blowing, In Search Of Bricks

Jon Cruddas was invited to speak at a Las Casas Foundation conference at Blackfriars at Oxford last autumn, but the threat of a SPUC-led prayer vigil outside led to this Catholic pro-abortion MP withdrawing from the conference.

He was also to have spoken at a Justice and Peace do in the Brentwood Diocese, but has pulled out of this too, after various protests. Some e-mails sent protesting about the invitation were met by curt and rude replies from what appear to have been officials of the Brentwood Diocese.

The Bishop of Brentwood has celebrated his 75th birthday.

Paul Inwood, the well known Catholic musician who is in receipt of significant emoluments from the Diocese of Portsmouth, has launched an attack on what might be called the "Reform of the Reform" position on Gregorian Chant, attracting support from musicians in diocesan music groups E&W-wide.

A new Bishop for Portsmouth has been appointed and will be consecrated soon.

The well known tabletista gay-marriage supporting Catholic theology lecturer Tina Beattie has been asked to speak in Clifton Cathedral to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican II.

The Bishop of Clifton is about to withdraw for some months.

All around, the lay groups which have been in the driving seat for many years seem to be trying to take, consolidate, or hold on to power, and claim leadership of Catholic England and Wales as though their position is under threat.

Watch out for a CAFOD initiative or drive in the next couple of months, and look to see what is happening in the dioceses whose Bishops are approaching 75 or who have already passed that milestone.

Bishop McMahon of Brentwood was 75 in June 2011.
Bishop Rawsthorne of Hallam was 75 in November 2011.
Bishop Budd of Plymouth was 75 in May 2012.
Bishop Hine, Auxiliary in Southwark will be 75 in July 2013.
Archbishop Kelly of Liverpool will be 75 in November 2013.
Bishop Brain of Salford will be 75 in December 2013.

18 August 2012

The Pussy Riot Affair And Catholics In England And Wales

Once again, it seems to me, the Pussy Riot affair has shown just how compromised Catholicsm in England and Wales has become.  All of the discussion of the sentencing of the demonstrators has focused on them: on why they did what they did, on how an attack on President Putin and the servile Patriarch is "right" even if we would have preferred it not to have happened in a Church; and that two year sentences are outrageous.  All of this is, I think, to miss the point as badly as a recent Catholic Herald article which advocated separating public opposition to abortion from public opposition to euthanasia.

There can be no justification for desacration: it can never be right to profane a sacred space, to remove that which is sacred from a sacred place, to attack the holy in its home.  Yet every description of what the Russian women did, every attempt to explain why they did it moves the focus away from the profanation and on to the women themselves.  This is the approach of the worldly.  Surely any Catholic's starting point should be the utter and appalling wrongness of anything happening in that place other than the sacred Liturgy itself, the end for which is was created, the Action which has sanctified the place and has turned it from mere bricks and mortar to a liminal place on the border between heaven and earth.  This is the place in which angels bow down to cry "Holy! Holy Holy!" and yet there are Catholics who are joining the world in worrying about whether a suspended sentence after the time already served would have been better than two years in prison.

How many English and Welsh Catholics have called for or have made public acts of reparation?   And how many, bravely vocal about the relationship of another country's President with another Church's Patriarch, are as vocal about matters a lot nearer home, about the compromised relationship of their own Hierarchy with the concerns and interests of the secular state.

(I actually wonder how many English and Welsh Catholics have the first idea about the dynamics of modern Russian politics and the relationship between the Orthodox Church and the State in 2012 Russia: none if they rely on the British press for their information; and possibly no more should they have until they have attended to the rather large piece of wood in their eyes.)

The Catholic Church here seems to have lost its role of mediating God to Man in favour of becoming part of a sort of Religious and Moral Affairs Directorate of the Cabinet Office, at a time when radical secularism has taken hold of the British Establishment.  The Hierarchy cannot change the state from the inside; by participating in it they have become compromised in it.

I have said before: the battle line in the Catholic Church in England and Wales isn't about the language of the Mass: it is about whether the Church is a part of society, or a Society apart.

01 August 2012

Some Thoughts For Catholic Bloggers

Reading, as one does, James Byrne's thoughts in 1922 on the future of the Catholic Evidence Guild, I was struck by the fact that in the absence of a culture of street corner speaking, it is bloggers, rather than debaters who have inherited the mantle of the Guild.  This isn't to knock those who go onto TV or radio to be answer for Catholicism on some issue of the day; but the issue of the day is rarely Catholicism and such catholicism as can be expressed is mediated through the secular prism being employed on the relevant subject matter.  We need people prepared to go onto the Today programme to defend a Catholic position on gay marriage; but we also need people who are preaching the Faith to those whom it will not reach unless we engage them on our terms in their space.

This is how Byrne puts it, and uses rather more of a piece by Cardinal Newman than is normally used:

Such then the C.E.G. has been in its short history and such it is to-day ; and now, what of the future ?

The work done by the Guild is based upon a series of discoveries; that the work is no degradation for the educated Catholic but a great honour and privilege, as well as a grace from God; that, caeteris paribus, the mere fact of being a Catholic gives an enormous intellectual advantage over other religionists, and that this is recognised by the crowds ; that the capacity of the average Catholic for the exposition of his religion is far greater than has hitherto been supposed, when he is care­fully prepared along certain lines, and well supported and led; that the crowds will take our best and be grateful for it and ask for more; that, as Catholics are compelled to give an account of the faith that is in them, it is better to take the initiative than to remain permanently on the defensive; these are some few of the discoveries already made in connection with the work, and it is clear that many others have yet to be made, for the work is still young, is highly experimental throughout and is pushing ahead rapidly.

The question then is, will the Catholic laity rise to the height of their great opportunity?

“There is a time for silence and a time to speak; the time for speaking has come. What I desiderate in Catholics is the gift of bringing out what their religion is; it is one of those ‘better gifts’ of which the apostle bids you be 'zealous’.  You must not hide your talent in a napkin, or your light under a bushel. I want a laity not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold, and what they do not, who know their creed so well, that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it.  I want an intelligent, well instructed laity.  I am not denying you are such already, but I mean to be severe and, as some would say, exorbitant in my demands.  I wish you to enlarge your knowledge, to cultivate your reason, to get an insight into the relation of truth to truth, to learn to view things as they are, to understand how faith and reason stand to each other, what are the bases and truths of Catholicism and where lie the main inconsistencies and absurdities of the Protestant theory … You ought to be able to bring out what you mean, as well as to feel and mean it; to expose to the comprehension of others the fictions and fallacies of your opponents and to explain the charges brought against the Church to the satisfaction, not indeed of bigots, but of men of sense of whatever opinion ... He who can realise the law of moral conflicts, and the incoherence of falsehood, and the issue of perplexities, and the end of all things, and the presence of the judge, becomes, from the very necessity of the case, philosophical, long suffering, and magnanimous."

So the great master of us all, Cardinal Newman, wrote seventy years ago, and it rests with the present generation of the Catholics of this country to give his words an extension that even his eagle glance could not reach.

The work done to date is little more than a pre­liminary survey of the gigantic task before us or (changing the metaphor), the first trickling of a stream which later, with God's help, will become a mighty torrent. The demand of our non-Catholic fellows for our best must be met. The actual religious needs of the day, shifting as well as permanent, must be supplied from the storehouse of Catholic truth. Our work is essentially that of adaptation of the old; of that which was in the beginning, which we have heard and seen and our hands have handled of the Word of Life. "Non nova sed nove.”  We must show the modern man what it is that he lacks to become a perfect man.

13 July 2012

One Last One ...

The final part of Tallis' Tunes for Archbishop Parker's Psalter.

Come Holy Ghost, Eternal God,
Which dost from God proceed.
The Father first, and eke the Son,
One God as we do read.


18 June 2012

If I Had My Own Church

Anyone who likes Church-crawling, like me, will constantly come up against the power that the owner of the benefice had over the Church he (or she) possessed if she (or he) had a compliant vicar.

This struck me as a step too far, though.

A stained glass picture of a saint, as I thought, worshipping the Precious Blood, turned out to be ...

Sir Galahad!

Wonderful as his part in the Grail legend is, I don't think he should be in a church window!

12 June 2012

Priests And Laity: Whose Role Is It Anyway (Part 3 And Final)

The response of the Bishops' Conference to all of this was much as one might have expected: it endorsed all that the Congress had asked for but dressed up in language the Vatican would accept.  The relevant section of the Bishops' response - The Easter People - was called Different Ministries But Shared Responsibility: just how the Congress report back had characterised the relationship!

Here are some extracts:

In the light of what we have been considering about the Church we now wish to add something about the various forms of ministry, or service, in the Church, some ordained and some not ordained, but each in its own way sharing responsibility. In the Congress in Liverpool the maturity, strength and apostolic courage of the lay delegates were clearly to be recognised, together with their desire for a more responsible role in the future. We should like to see the lay members of our Church, men and women, young and old, become steadily more aware of their true dignity as the people of God and of their daily calling as baptised Christians to evangelise the society in which they live and work. Their role brings out an essential dimension of the work of the Church, an extension of Christ's kingdom to wherever they are in God's creation. For they are not simply delegates of the bishops and clergy, they are gospel-inspired lay-people, members of the laos (or people) of God, and in their own right missionaries of Christ to the world.  In many ways the lay contribution to the Congress was its most striking feature. We desire to see its development, not in a spirit of take-over from one ministry or another - any more than was the case in the Congress - but as a proper, fully recognised and responsible extension of the Christian mission of our Sharing Church.

We should like to see our religious, both men and women, as outstanding and up-to-date examples of single-minded fidelity to Christ and his Church in all their apostolates, whether contemplative or active, reminding us all by their lives and dedication of the supreme values of God's kingdom. We have the impression that, so natural and easy was their relationship with the other delegates in the various sectors of the Congress, perhaps inadequate attention was drawn to the role religious men and women are already playing in the post-conciliar Church, where their specialised vocation is gradually becoming more integrated within the life of the local dioceses and parishes and in Catholic lay organisations.

Elsewhere we shall develop the indispensable role of the priest in calling, helping to form and to sustain his lay brothers and sisters in the Church's apostolate to today's society. A recent pamphlet of the National Conference of Priests says: ‘No longer can we be in charge of everything. The priest must be for lay apostles, small groups, communities within his care, the one who gives new life, enabling people to work by themselves' (Set Priests Free to Preach and Pray, n. 12). But we are convinced that it is in their very collaboration with fully active lay men and women that priests will discover the depth of spirituality in their ministry. Priests are not required of necessity to be expert in all the secular concerns which are the primary sphere of the apostolate of the laity. But lay men and women will expect a priest to help them to set the problems which challenge our lives today within the light of the gospel.

If you haven't already given up, the phrase "the role religious men and women are already playing in the post-conciliar Church" might have rung a new bell in all of this.

And so the new role of the new laity was defined in this New Church, and the old role of the old priest was diminished.  This was the starting gun for all of the dreary apparatus we have today, run by a semi-professional Catholic laity who belong to a caste which parallels the Hierarchy: Catholic Brahmins at whose head are the Directors of the big Charities and the Trustees of The Tablet and the rest of the Magic Circle, and in which the poor struggling priest is pestered from all sides as the demands of the inflated bureaucracy of the dioceses are matched by the demands of self-important lesser Brahmins in the parish who demand their right to play what they have defined as their part.
The really depressing part of this has only really dawned on me as I have been writing these pieces.  I have wondered for a while, and have expressed the thought once or twice, that I don't understand why these people have remained in the Catholic Church: aren't there more congenial places for them elsewhere?

The answer is a resounding "No!"  The point of Liverpool 1980 was to give the Church in England and Wales to them.  They believe, because they have been taught that it is true, that their view of the polity of the Church is correct, and that their belief system is the Catholic belief system; that Pope Benedict is a reactionary throwback. 

And they probably wonder why people like me are still in their Church causing trouble: they probably wonder why I didn't go off to join the Lefebvrists.  How many of us have faced the incomprehension of people who cannot understand why any normal person (especially one who regularly attends a normal Sunday Mass in E&W) could possibly want to attend an EF Mass - in fact who view any attempt to have an EF Mass in "their" parish (especially if the Parish Pastoral Council is not consulted) as something personally insulting.

Summorum Pontificum, the reconciliation (DV) of the SSPX: these are big deals on the world stage: but not in England and Wales, where "our way of doing things", which is already ensnaring a second generation, is gradually cutting us off from Rome.

11 June 2012

Priests And Laity: Whose Role Is It Anyway (Part 2)

The delegates to the Congress discussed the role of priests, religious and the laity and we are lucky that we have two records: the summary of the input from those who followed the discussion outlined yesterday and the formal report back.  The notes of the local discussions are, shall we say, less nuanced than the formal report.

Priesthood: What is the role of the priest?

There is a significant agreement on how people see the role and task of the priest:

He is to serve God's people, particularly by meeting their spiritual needs through celebrating the Eucharist, leading prayer, praying and counselling.

He is to give leadership: ‘to inspire and animate the laity to fulfil their role in the life of the Church'.

He is to visit, make contact, build living relationships with the people; this is particularly important for families and youngsters.

What a dispiriting vision of the man consecrated to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass!  But remember that the people at the Congress are not a representation of Catholics in England and Wales: they are drawn from a narrow, ideologically-focused, group which is in alliance with the more progressive Bishops, led by Hume and Worlock, to implement their vision of Vatican II.  They criticised the quality of preaching, but their suggestions for change start to give the ideological game away:

Weekly parish discussions on the Sunday readings and an openness on the part of priests to accept comment and criticism from parishioners. A distinct feeling exists that priests should give greater encouragement to lay people to use their talents more. Many stress the importance of fostering the right sort of relationships within parishes.

Some see a need for a change of attitude on the part of clergy so that they become more sensitive, open to new ideas and above all willing to listen and to share responsibility with lay people. A few expressed concern that the life style of clergy should not be middle class or remote, but open and challenging.

I was thrown at first by discussion of Permanent Deacons and Nuns:

Some reports state clearly that there is little point in having deacons except where there is acute shortage of priests. Others acknowledge that the number of deacons is likely to increase in the future, but do not find this an exciting prospect.

Some see the role of the deacons positively. They see their main role as pastoral work: ministry to the housebound, the elderly, catechesis and marriage preparation, witness in secular situations. Worker deacons are seen as an alternative to industrial chaplains.

Not many saw a significant liturgical role for deacons, preferring to see a larger role for lay people.

Since Vatican II religious orders have extensively reviewed their way of life and redefined their particular apostolates. A considerable change of outlook has resulted.

They have gradually reinterpreted their role in the life of the Church and many communities have explored new possibilities for their work.

The new potential offered by religious communities is not widely understood in parishes.

The work of sisters in parishes

Where sisters have worked in parish ministry, a much more positive response is often found, urging their involvement in all aspects of parish life.

Many sisters now live in small open communities within the parishes and this seems to be very welcome. They contribute to the life of the parish in many ways, for example:
• Preparing liturgy, especially with children and young people.
• Preparing children for the sacraments.
• Working with the mentally handicapped.
• Marriage preparation and family support groups.

It is felt by a number of people that religious can help the parish to deepen its own sense of community by the witness of their life and involvement. They can also do this by stimulating and leading small groups such as prayer groups, house groups or study groups.

It all feels a bit lukewarm, but of course, the answer is ataring me in the face:

Lay People In The Church

Lay people appear to be more aware than they have ever been of their right and duty to make a full contribution to the life and mission of the Church. The enthusiastic way in which many have participated in the Congress and found it to be valuable is a measure of this awareness.

Many do not see why they should not share responsibility for meeting each other's spiritual needs and act upon this by organising and leading prayer groups, retreats, vigils, pilgrimages, and similar activities.

In this they see themselves as working in close cooperation with their priests whose role of leadership and presiding at the celebration remains central.

And, of course:


Opinions vary on this issue. Parish and diocesan reports on the whole show a comparative lack of interest in it; but reports from special groups and organisations submit firm proposals and strong comment.

There is one central theme in the few reports received on the question: that the ministry of women should have ‘full and open discussion'. ‘The Church must find ways to accept and to use to the full the gifts and talents of women; without this, the ministry of the Church is incomplete'.

At present many women feel they are only called upon to do catering and domestic work in the Church. They want to participate fully in decision making in parish life.

Their ability to care for people should be channelled into a pastoral ministry with the elderly, the handicapped, the sick.

They should exercise a ‘rightful role in the worship of the Church' by being allowed to serve at the altar, encouraged to read, to preach, and to act as special ministers of Holy Communion.

Women and the Ministries

Some feminist groups feel that the Church's attitude to women is unjust. They wish to see some form of ordained ministry open to women.

The groups propose the diaconate as an appropriate ministry for which there is scriptural and historical precedent.

With regard to the ordained priesthood, the same minority groups feel that the Church does not have the right to deny women the possibility of a vocation, and feel that potential vocations should at least be tested.

At least it is honest: dioceses and parishes have shown little interest; special interest groups have special interests.  But it is the special interest groups, the groups who want their role to increase and the priest's to decrease who are on the front foot.  Deacons are a potential threat to their vision, because they are lay men (or maybe women?) who have become clericalised; nuns will be accepted if they become declericalised.

Ironically, it was a nun, Sr Imelda Marie O'Hara LSU, who was responsible for the report back.  Just the title gives an idea of how things have developed: "The People of God - Ministry, Vocation, Apostolate".  It begins with a ringing statement that puts the laity in an empowered central position, Baptism having endowed each of us with rights in respect of the Church's ministries:

OUR baptism gives us both the right and the duty to participate in the various ministries of the Church. We recognise the unique role of ordained ministers with regard to sacrament and word, but we believe that all other responsibilities should be shared fully with all the people of God, and shared rather than delegated.

What about priests and deacons?

The priest should be free to pray, to celebrate the sacraments well and to preach. Mindful of the spiritual needs of his parishioners he should foster the development of prayer-groups and house Masses in his parish, both of which enable priest and people to listen and to talk to each other.

We see it as a top priority that every priest should accept regular inservice training and spiritual renewal as a normal part of his priestly life. So highly do we rate this need that it leads most of us to accept that some parishes might even be deprived of Sunday Mass at these times. Where teams of lay people, sisters, deacons and priests could operate more effectively than one priest working alone in a parish, we urge that this be done.

The inestimable value of celibacy was unanimously accepted, but we ask that careful consideration be given to the question whether it be God's will that married men should at this time be called to the priesthood. A more detailed exploration of the possibility of admitting women to the ordained 'ministries was also felt to be necessary. It was urged that particular attention be given to fostering the personal and spiritual maturity of those to be ordained.

In considering the diaconate we felt the need for the Church in England and Wales to be led to a clearer understanding of this ministry and to the way in which it operates in our countries. Lay ministries should not be stifled by establishing the ministry of deacons.

In general the delegates were looking for more positive encouragement and energetic leadership from bishops and from priests.

Nuns come between the Role of the Laity and the Role of Women: the sisters seemed not to have much time for the Sisters; but it is in the report's peroration, entitled Different Ministries But Shared Responsibility that we get what is wanted, the rebalancing between priest and laity.  There is more than this, but this will do:

In the light of what we have been considering about the Church we now wish to add something about the various forms of ministry, or service, in the Church, some ordained and some not ordained, but each in its own way sharing responsibility. In the Congress in Liverpool the maturity, strength and apostolic courage of the lay delegates were clearly to be recognised, together with their desire for a more responsible role in the future. We should like to see the lay members of our Church, men and women, young and old, become steadily more aware of their true dignity as the people of God and of their daily calling as baptised Christians to evangelise the society in which they live and work. Their role brings out an essential dimension of the work of the Church, an extension of Christ's kingdom to wherever they are in God's creation. For they are not simply delegates of the bishops and clergy, they are gospel-inspired lay-people, members of the laos (or people) of God, and in their own right missionaries of Christ to the world. 'The primary and immediate task of lay people is to put to use every Christian and evangelical possibility latent but already present and active in the affairs of the world. The more gospel-inspired lay-people there are engaged in these realities, clearly involved in them, competent to promote them and conscious that they must exercise to the full their Christian powers which are often buried and suffocated, the more these realities will be at the service of the kingdom of God and therefore of salvation in Jesus Christ' (Evangelii nuntiandi, n. 70). In many ways the lay contribution to the Congress was its most striking feature. We desire to see its development, not in a spirit of take-over from one ministry or another - any more than was the case in the Congress - but as a proper, fully recognised and responsible extension of the Christian mission of our Sharing Church.

In the final part, we will see how this was transmuted into the CBCEW's concerted plan for the post-conciliar Church in England and Wales and I will draw some uncomfortable conclusions.