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.