29 January 2013

The Emetic 26 January Edition

I shall just point out the things that are worth further investigation.  Articles like Sir S Wall's, attacking the Cameron position of the EU, are not really what I think we're on about.  We might wonder why they are in The Tablet:  did the Staggers turn it down?  But anyway, not what we're here for.

Interview with Sarah Teather: all politics, and how Catholic social teaching informs her voting.  One teaser:

'“The pressure points are often the points that provoke because they make you think more deeply. I was going to Mass a bit erratically around the time I was elected and I only had one framework to engage with, with the daily challenges and the ethical challenges of being an MP – and they are multiple, such as how to vote –and that was with my faith. Over the time of being an MP I would say my faith has become more important rather than less important.”
Her commitment to church teaching and the promptings of conscience will be tested again, probably at the end of February, when she will have to decide whether to support legislation that will introduce same-sex marriage.'

I think the problem here is The Tablet's, not Sarah Teather's.  Why is she not being challenged about how she will vote?

For its Lenten lecture series for the Year of Faith, Brentford Cathedral has invited Bishop Stephen Cottrell, Anglican Bishop of Chelmsford on Wednesday 27 February 2013, to speak on "Accompanying people on the journey of faith: Catechesis and evangelism for a church in mission": leaving aside the vagaries of Brentford capitalisation, why invite somebody from another c/Church (ecclesial communuion) to preach in the Cathedral?  Why choose The Tablet to advertise it?

The only opinion given in the article about the new Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh is given to the Association of Catholic Priests, rather than, say, to Iain Paisley, whose views might be no ,ore relevant but who, I bet, knows that "dialogue" isn't a verb, and wouldn't be intransitive even if it were!  (Are heresy and solecism related?)

'A spokesman for the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) in Ireland, Fr P.J. Madden, suggests that political considerations were apparent in his appointment. He points out that the Vatican opted for someone from Northern Ireland rather than a bishop or auxiliary with broader experience in dealing with the pastoral needs of the Church across the island of Ireland. Another ACP spokesman, Fr Sean McDonagh, hoped that Mgr Martin would be “willing to dialogue with every group in the Church and wider society”. In his own statement last Friday, the coadjutor archbishop called for “a mature relationship between Church and society, in both parts of this island” and emphasised that people of faith have a vital role to play in Irish society’s public debates.'
Cardinal Scola's article on Dignitatis Humanae is worth serious study: a Catholic and modern interpretation of a Vatican II document that leaves me cold, but that doesn't feel spirit-of-VIIist.  What The Tablet could be?  Similarly, Fr Timothy Radcliffe's short piece on VII and collegiality is not one I agree with, but is worth engaging with. 

Clifford Longley, on Obama, isn't:

"Obama is the embodiment of the nation in his person. That is powerful magic"

He wouldn't dare say ju-ju.

It is probably my fault that I found Fr Daniel O'Leary's article, nominally about "the journey of the soul", so much drivel: inchoate drivel.

"...we had been taken to the place of the soul, to that land where our deepest spirit lives – a land we are slow to enter. The urgent, daily context of our lives mitigates against such profound awareness. Too much work, anxiety and a relentless stress are filling our days and nights.
It takes great courage to set about regaining the lost rhythm of the soul. We generally postpone the work of self-realisation, of the inner journey, of the ultimate questions. We forget that if we do not live our lives abundantly now, we never will. And as death approaches, we bitterly regret the greatest tragedy of all – our unlived lives."

Fr Jim Fleming reckons that in contemporary Britain, the first step in evangelisation must be to provide a welcome for all comers.He paints a picture of a parish where parish property is used to cater for the destitute, aslyum seekers, the down and out: good!  He has perhaps been edited somewhat severely, because he seems to contrast "doing" with "teaching" or "learning" to the former's advantage, but he is certainly pointed in the right direction.

The Notebook is direr than dire.  Imagine finding a Comment Is Free commenter and giving him her a pulpit.  Here are two of the items:

"AS A Catholic who carries a rosary in his pocket it was appropriate for Joseph Biden, Vice President of the United States, to have Mass said before he took the oath of office last Sunday. Biden invited friends and family to the Vice President’s residence, in the grounds of the United States Naval Observatory, Washington DC, for the liturgy celebrated by Fr Kevin O’Brien SJ, vice president for mission and ministry at Jesuit-run Georgetown University. Following the Mass, Biden took the oath of office, for which he used a large family Bible with a Celtic cross on the cover, that has been in his family since the late nineteenth century. The oath of office was administered by another Catholic, Associate Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The United States Constitution requires the oath of office to take place on 20 January. If this day falls on a Sunday, the oath is taken privately by the President and Vice President and the public ceremony is celebrated the following day."

"HOW CATHOLICS reacted to the sexual revolution in the 1960s and 1970s is famously set out in David Lodge’s satiric novel, How Far Can You Go? Now it is to be the subject of a dissertation at Sussex University, supported by funding from the Arts and Humanities Council. The research is being conducted by David Geiringer, whose grandfather, Professor John Marshall, a neurologist and contributor to The Tablet, was one of the original members of the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control set up by Pope John XXIII. Geiringer wants to speak to 35 practising Catholic women about their experiences of the sexual revolution in the 1960s. He hopes to challenge the argument, put forward by scholars such as Professor Callum Brown, that the sexual revolution shattered the link between femininity and piousness. Geiringer is suggesting that Catholic faith is not “incompatible with a modern idea of sexuality”. Interviews are anonymous with questions submitted in advance. Email: xxx@yyy.zzz"

Robert Mickens isn't on form, only offering one real sneer:

'“Perhaps there are cases of illegal trade in ivory that is used in some parts of the world for Christian religious images used by Catholics,” he wrote in a long letter. “If such cases are identified they must clearly be condemned by the competent authorities – civil or religious – but there is no reason to attribute responsibility that it does not have to the ‘Vatican’,” he said. Indeed, being Catholic is not the same as representing the “Vatican”.'


And finally, why on earth is St George's Anglican Cathedral in Perth (Australia) advertising in The Tablet for a Dean?  Is this a sort of post-modern take on Trollope?

21 January 2013

The Emetic

I suggested on twitter that an online antidote to any bad results of The Tablet might be called The Emetic.  This isn't it, but it gives an idea of the ground The Emetic might have to cover.  In my last post I highlighted something unCatholic in an editorial.  From the same issue, here are a few more highlights.

(For the record, no Tablets were purchased to make this blog post.)

An advert for a course at an Anglican Retreat Centre leads to a link which contains the following:

Your human love is God’s love incarnate. Your human forgiveness is divine forgiveness. Grace is everywhere. God loves us unconditionally – and cannot remember our sins!
But we have forgotten all about this real meaning of the Incarnation. We still keep God ‘out there’ and build huge walls between the sacred and the secular. We need to remember, that simply to live as best we can, is to be full of God, no matter what.

Daniel is a priest in the diocese of Leeds and has published widely on aspects of Spirituality and Ministry.
With many years’ experience as a Parish Priest, he was also Episcopal Vicar for Formation in the diocese for five years. Prior to that he was Head of the Religious Studies Department at St Mary’s College of Education, Strawberry Hill (University of Surrey).

A former teacher, Margaret has been involved in collaborative ministry and spirituality at parish and diocesan levels. She is a member of Leeds Justice and Peace Commission, a worker for CAFOD, dedicated to promoting local and global justice."

If God can't remember our sin, reconciliation becomes a bit automatic, doesn't it.

Sarah Maitland writes:

"One problem I find with the new translation of the liturgy is that it uses so much insider jargon. “Consubstantial”, “chalice”, “dewfall”, “we may merit to be co-heirs”: none of this language is going to play well in our daily lives, at work, in the pub, in our own homes."

Should someone with such an impoverished idea of daily life be writing about prayer?

In its article on Vatican II Fifty Years On, the Rev Dominic Mulroy OSB opines:

"The ghosts at the feast of Vatican II were Pius IX’s “Syllabus of Errors” and Pius X’s condemnation of Modernism. The legacy of these was a perception that the Church had allied itself definitively with a dogmatic tradition that was hostile not only to everything that could be dubbed “liberal” but also to the multiple facets of modernity.
The successive battles over the texts of Vatican II’s doctrinal and pastoral constitutions represented a very significant confrontation between two powerful currents of thought within the Church. The first (which was presumed by many to be the dominant one) was a way of thinking that would now be regarded as “fundamentalist”; the second was the new spirit of open and eirenic enquiry that had been quietly developed, in many fields, during the pontificate of Pius XII and that had inspired John XXIII to summon the council.
In the event, Vatican II came to represent a decisive rejection of the “fundamentalist” option. The term is appropriate in this context for several reasons. The fundamentalist cast of mind, whether in religion or in other areas of discourse, is one that prefers clarity to complexity. It likes to claim “ownership of the truth”, is distrustful of dialogue, and prefers the safety of known tradition to the risks of innovation.
When the council opened, many took it for granted that this was the way the Catholic Church did its business, and were amazed when the proposed drafts were, one after the other, thrown out. A new question was being asked: was the Church’s traditional way of formulating doctrine and making decisions a religious necessity or a cultural accident of history?"

I love the idea that somebody who disagrees with the condemnation of Modernism asks whether the Church's way of deciding things might be a cultural accident of history.  Meanwhile a Jesuit, Fr Gregory Baum proclaims:

"The council summoned forth faith, hope and love in people’s hearts, making them yearn for freedom,justice and universal solidarity"

Ah, THAT's what is was all about.

Fr Luke Bell OSB has an excellent article about "internships" at Quarr Abbey. A lady who lives in Austria writes an article about the Church in Germany's investigation of clerical abuse which seems to take for granted that the Church is trying some sort of cover up.  Lawrence Freeman (a third OSB) writes about a Hindu monastery.

Mr Paul Billington writes about spiritual mentoring in the parish and says:

"Moving on from the strict confines of behavioural science to parish life, but holding the notion of it in mind, we can learn to focus more broadly than the ritual aspects of church practice. Essentially, being Church is about being a community. It is about how we live together, how we share a fundamental and faith perspective of life that shapes everything we do and say. In other words, it is about how we incarnate our faith in the flesh of living and of life. This is based on a raw behavioural science principle that states simply that our behaviour demonstrates our priorities. In this sense, through our everyday behaviour, we tell the world, even without conscious intention, about what motivates us. The X Factor must be one of the greatest money-spinners on television. It displays the
nervous, self-conscious and sometimes remarkable talent of new blood for huge audiences. During the course of two months, the contestants are mentored fabulously into becoming stars. Mentoring is a powerful personal-development and empowerment tool which helps people progress. It is becoming increasingly popular as its potential is realised."

I'll just point out "being Church" and leave the rest to you.

The letters page contains what probably reflects the breadth of view of those who read The Tablet: they represent readers' reaction rather than editorial policy so I won't comment on them.  Neither will I comment on the Arts and Books sections, which could come from any weekly or Sunday - though it's rejection of the new Fr Brown series - "It's a stinker" - makes you realise that all is not lost!

The Church In The World seems uncontentious and covers more or less what one would expect any Catholic weekly to cover. 

Robert Mickens writes from Rome.  You need to read the whole column to get the picture, but here's one bit so you get the flavour:

"He said this was because homosexuality undervalued the importance of male female differences and because same-sex relationships were “de facto, self-referential”. Professor Pessina heads the bioethics
department at the Catholic University in Milan and is a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. His article came just days after Italy’s highest appellate court ruled that a woman currently in a same-sex relationship could retain custody of the child she had while in a previous relationship with a man.
The court rejected the father’s argument that his son would suffer “negative repercussions” for his development if the two women raised him, saying that claim was based on “mere prejudice” unsupported by scientific data. The judge obviously failed to use her reason and consult the Vatican."

Ho ho ho, Robert.

News from Britain and Ireland has a large article about Bishop Brain forbidding Catholic schools in the Salford diocese from applying for Academy status (can he) though it points out that he will be offering his resignation this year.

An advert for the "Westminster Faith Debates" should have been rejected:

"What does faith, in its diversity, have to contribute to our understanding of a good life and a good death? And what does the contemporary climate of opinion have to say to faith?

Stem cell research, abortion and the ‘soul of the embryo’? Speakers include Prof David Albert Jones and Dr Abdul Majid Katme. Wednesday 13 February.
Too much sex these days – the sexualisation of society? Speakers include Donna Freitas and Jenny Taylor. Wednesday 27 February.
Is it right for religions to treat men and women differently? Speakers include Rabbi Harvey Belovski and Mary Ann Sieghart. Thursday 14 March.
What’s a traditional family and do we need it? Speakers include Prof Rosalind Edwards and Polly Toynbee. Wednesday 27 March.
Do Christians really oppose gay marriage? Speakers include Prof John Milbank and Prof Tina Beattie. Thursday 18 April.
Should we legislate to permit assisted dying? Speakers include Lord Charles Falconer and Dr Giles Fraser. Thursday 2 May."

Oh dear!

I learned of the death of Fr Chris Dyckhoff SJ, one of the priests to whom, under God, I owe the fact that I did not lose my faith at University: however wrongheaded I may have come to think him, and he me, subsequently, there are some debts which cannot be repaid in this life, and they were all owed in one direction.  Requiescat in pace.

So there it is.  Not as uniformly bad as it could be, but imbued with a sort of right-on trendiness as though Tony Blair had just become PM and it was 1997 all over again.  But where it is bad, it is very, very, bad.  Its instinct isn't grounded where I think a Catholic weekly's instinct ought to be grounded. 

A moderate, non-AngloCatholic, non-Evangelical, Anglican would find nothing to upset him in this edition of The Tablet.  I don't mean that as a compliment.

19 January 2013

The Tablet On The Priests' Letter

I was a bit taken aback - shocked, actually - by the editorial in The Tablet criticising the priests who wrote about the Government's proposals regarding same sex "marriage". If you want to read the whole article it is here, but the bit I'd like to highlight is this:

"Rights do sometimes conflict, and as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference sensibly said in a statement afterwards, “The Church would strongly encourage disputes of this kind to be settled without recourse to the courts. In many cases, applying common sense would enable a reasonable accommodation between competing rights to be found.” But an atmosphere of paranoia would make such accommodation more difficult, and that is the danger of the priests’ letter to the Telegraph. Nor is it right to regard human rights as somehow a secular challenge to religious freedoms. Their origins are the same – in respect due to everyone for their God-given personal dignity, regardless of race, creed, orientation or any other factor. The European Convention on Human Rights was largely drafted by English lawyers, and the origins of the common law are deeply embedded in Christian thinking, including medieval canon law. Over 60 years, the human-rights convention has made Europe a far better place. In 1963 John XXIII’s encyclical, Pacem in Terris, incorporated human rights fully into the teaching of the Magisterium, where they remain. Christians should fight in favour of human rights, not against them."

The Tabletfulness of this is terrific.  It starts from the reasonable point that where rights collide, common sense is preferable to litigation.  It then says that the priests' letter would make a common sense solution harder to reach (as though this by definition makes the priests' letter wrong).

It then suddenly raises Human Rights to be suprema lex: and because the European Convention was largely drafted by English lawyers (chapter? verse?) and incorporates (presumably English) Common Law and mediaeval Canon Law it is a wonderful thing and has made Europe a better place (though it doesn't explain either how that would work or how it has worked).

But then, it plays what it thinks is its ace: "(1) John XXIII's encyclical (2) Pacem in Terris (3) incorporated human rights fully into the teaching of the Magisterium, where they remain".  1-2-3: the Catholic liberals' idea of the bit of the Magisterium that matters!  So self evident is it to the Tabletista that a reference to Pacem in Terris is the end of the argument, that it is clear that the author has never read it.  If s/he had, s/he might have noticed the following:

"51. Governmental authority, therefore, is a postulate of the moral order and derives from God. Consequently, laws and decrees passed in contravention of the moral order, and hence of the divine will, can have no binding force in conscience, since "it is right to obey God rather than men "(34).

Indeed, the passing of such laws undermines the very nature of authority and results in shameful abuse. As St. Thomas teaches, "In regard to the second proposition, we maintain that human law has the rationale of law in so far as it is in accordance with right reason, and as such it obviously derives from eternal law. A law which is at variance with reason is to that extent unjust and has no longer the rationale of law. It is rather an act of violence."(35)

(34) Acts 5:29.

(35) Summa Theol. Ia-IIae, q. 93., a.3 ad 2um; cf. Pius XII's broadcast message, Christmas 1945, AAS 37 (1945) 5-23."
Who is defending The Tablet?  Why?  This example shows poor journalism and appalling theology, but, dressed as Catholic, and licensed by the Hierarchy, it is showing two fingers to the thousand priest and the Pope in particular, and to the whole Magisterium in general.  If the Faith is being reduced to what a few journalists and their pals in the Hierarchy want it to be on a weekly basis, are we not entitled to know cui bono?

13 January 2013

Ecclesia Ad Portam

Outside the gate of every Abbey was the Ecclesia ad Portam - the Church at the Gate - where Mass was provided for local people.  After the Reformation, many of these disappeared, or were converted into parish churches.  This one remains in fairly isolated countryside.  It isn't in a centre of population.  Evensong is celebrated there on the fifth Sunday of the month except in summer.
The first thing you see is that this is a Church on which nothing but the minimum has ever been spent.
But when you look closer you realise that the church was once exuberantly decorated:


and that a tiny bit of the glass in the original Abbey had been saved, and was incorporated into a window at the same time that the murals were uncovered.

You could say Mass here tomorrow.  You could keep the sacred oils in the aumbry and use the piscina on the south wall.  But it won't happen.

There wasn't really very much persecution of the Church in very much of the country.  From the 1520s on, the State gradually took over and as long as people minded their own business and didn't cause trouble, for example by professing their Catholicsm openly or by becoming or harbouring priests, they were left alone, either to be a very Catholic sort of Anglican or, in the north of the country, to be Catholic, but discreet.  (Catholics were opening their own cemetery in Little Crosby as early as 1611.)  This lack of hard persecution was itself a successful form of soft persecution: untutored in the Faith, unnourished by the Sacraments, most of the faithful fell away, except for those who heroically persevered.
In the nineteenth century, people began to uncover what had been lost.  In the twentieth (and the events of the twentieth century no doubt enlightened the minds of historians) the great con trick played on the English people became clear.  The State had taken their Faith from them, and most of their leaders hadn't actually fought back.  The lay people who had tried to fight back had been crushed, and the few who remained retreated into the discreet non-conformism which at least kept a spark of faith alive.
Move along please! Nothing to be seen here!

03 January 2013

Is Damian A Saved Pusson? Are The Rest Of Us?


A couple of days ago Damian wrote about Archbishop Nichols' comments about same sex "marriage", reacting to an intemperate attack on the Archbishop by a different Daily Telegraph blogger. It was classic Damian: witty, full of insider knowledge, strong on opinion, despairing of the Hierarchy's ability to affect the national mood, and not traditionally respectful in the way that (say) The Universe still is. Damian is unpopular with the liberals in the Catholic establishment precisely because he writes about what they would prefer to do without any sort of negative publicity. In a world where the Catholic press is either docile and never says anything to embarrass the Hierarchy, or is pushing a secularised agenda in which Catholicsm is a sort of Roman reflection of how the bien pensant want society to look - Polly Toynbee with modern hymns - Damian is unique. There has never been a Catholic journalist who has exposed failures within the Hierarchy as Damian has, and there hasn't been one who has attacked the Hierarchy's politics from the right with such swagger. And to crown it all, he has done it from the vantage point of the Daily Telegraph, where he is out of the Hierarchy's reach (though exactly what ++Cormac said to the Barclay brothers on his visits to the Channel Islands would be interesting to know).

The main thrust of the anti-Damian argument (which only lasted for a brief period before the announcement of the suppression of the "Gay Masses" at Warwick St moved commenters on) was that the need for a unified stand by Catholics behind Archbishop Nichols as he was being howled down by the liberal media for upholding Catholic teaching outweighed any value that criticsm of him from his right flank (as it were) might bring; that he had a duty to be more measured in his words and not give aid and succour to his opponents in the non-Catholic world.

Given Damian's influence, this is an argument worth addressing, but I'd say from the outset that what goes for Damian goes for any of us who comment on the activities of the leaders of the Church: we might not be as popular, as well-connected, as good with words, as full of insight, though some of us might think we are and many might wish they were, but we are in the same boat.

In this regard, three separate trains of thought have struck me: one is about the collective responsibility of Catholics in England and Wales; the second about the completely changed relationship between the Hierarchy and the Faithful; and a third about Rome.

From the time when the relative stability of the eighteenth century led to a grudging tolerance of Catholics to when the Church left its self-sought ghetto in the 70s and 80s, Catholics accepted they they should keep a fairly low profile as a community. Even if persecution had disappeared, low level discrimination hadn't, and the easiest way to avoid trouble was discretion. This is a very broad subject, but one aspect of it was the collective responsibility of all Catholics not to rock the boat of their own accord but instead to obey the Captain's orders. In a society where hierarchy and deference were part of the norm, it became second nature. The Catholic head only appeared above the parapet when the Hierarchy said that it was appropriate to do so: the demonstrations ahead of the 1944 Education Act are an obvious example. The fractures within the community caused by those opposed to Humanae Vitae, a first and shocking example of individual Catholics not only attacking the Hierarchy and the Magisterium, but doing so in public and in the secular media, didn't destroy the instinct towards discretion when speaking about Catholic matters in a secular environment, but while the instinct remains, well, instinctive, the fact that it could be challenged has also been noted. We tend to seek discretion and pulling together around policies we agree with, but are no longer concerned about being vociferous about those with which we don't. Yesterday's spat was an example of the clash between the two.

The new relationship between Hierarchy and Faithful which I have traced (ad nauseam?) to the Liverpool Pastoral Congress of 1980 did not affect the broad relationship between the senior Bishops and the senior Laity as it was a contract which entrenched the position of each in relation to their fellows. The Bishops who counted counted a little bit more than before, and the laity who mattered mattered quite a lot more. But the biological factor has intervened and those who led from 1980 into the new millennium have now moved on to their reward, and the fruit of their stewardship is first, a very new sort of laity: a much smaller constituency which still has a large majority of people who no interest in opining about the Church whatsoever, a declining number of 1980 Liverpool liberals, and an increasing number of people attached to some of the new JP2- and B16-inspired movements within the Church which are best characterised by being definitely not 1980 Liverpool liberal; and second an episcopal conference in which a significant proportion of Bishops are close to retirement and the first new appointments suggest a radical U-turn in episcopal selection.

And the Internet has opened up a new relationship between Catholics and their HQ in Rome. If the establishment of Episcopal Conferences weakened the authority of Bishops, Heads of their Local Churches, the Internet has removed the ability of the Bishops' Conference to mediatise what is coming out the Roman Dicasteries. We know what the Pope wants because we can hear him telling us ourselves. It must seem to some of the older Bishops that the Vatican has selected a new laity in England and Wales, faithful to Rome instead of Eccleston Square.

This is the context in which our reactions to Archbishop Nichols have caused so much internal friction. We have followed the Hierarchy's engagement with Life issues in their broadest sense, and with those who are not totally on message with the Bishops' Conference, and we have found our tongues. When our leaders haven't led, or when they have led badly or in a wrong direction, we have felt empowered to say so.  Where the lay groups they sponsor have said or done things we have felt was unauthentically Catholic, we have said so.

I said before that the main thrust of the anti-Damian argument yesterday was that he, and, I argue, by extension we "had a duty to be more measured in his words and not give aid and succour to (the Archbishop's) opponents in the non-Catholic world". I might have signed up to that ten, maybe five, years ago. I don't think I do any more.

What interesting times!