31 March 2014

A Thought From 2007

Looking for something else serendipity struck and I saw a comment made by Anagnostis in 2007:

"It is this more than anything which accounts for the grotesque, topsy-turvy, parallel-universe quality of TabletWorld (whose Rome correspondent recently sneered that the Pope was not, after all, "a trained liturgist"). What looks like comical, mind-bending hypocrisy and intellectual perversity is merely an indication of people struggling desperately to make reality fit their theories and foundational myths: it's cognitive dissonance on public display. They need our prayers, but they will also benefit enormously in the long run from unrelenting ridicule."

This is remarkably prescient: it is as true today in the reign of Pope Francis as it was in Pope Benedict's.  The precision with which Anagnostis diagnoses the problem and prescribes a solution leaves me wishing I could be as pithy.

The inhabitants of TabletWorld are fighting on two fronts: their once fierce grip on the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales is getting steadily weaker; and Pope Francis is not delivering what they want: he is not nor ever will be the caricature version of Pope John XXIII they are portraying him as.

So let's not be too despondent: they will not prevail.  And remember to pray for them whether or not you ridicule them.

27 March 2014

Feast Of The Five Sacred Wounds Of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Tomorrow would once have been the Feast of the Five Sacred Wounds of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Collect of the Feast would have been:

O God, who by the passion of thine only-begotten Son, and the shedding of his blood through his five wounds, hast renewed the nature of man that was ruined through sin; grant to us, we beseech thee, that as we venerate on earth the wounds that he received, so we may deserve to obtain the fruit of the same precious blood in heaven.
The Gospel of the Mass would have been John 19 28-35, and the Last Gospel would have been the proper for the Friday in the third week of Lent: John 4 5-41, the woman at the well which we heard in the OF last Sunday.
The propers for the third Friday of Lent would have been said after the propers of the Feast.

25 March 2014

Collect for Feast of The Good Thief

The Collect for tomorrow's former Feast of The Good Thief is:

O almighty and merciful God, who justifies the wicked, we humbly beseech thee that thou wouldst draw us to a proper repentance with that loving regard with which thy only-begotten Son attracted the goof thief, and wouldst grant us that everlasting glory which was promised to him.

23 March 2014

Yet Another Missing Feast: St Dismas, The Good Thief

Although 25 March, traditionally the date of the Crucifixion would be the proper date, the Feast of St Dismas, the Good Thief, was celebrated on the next day, 26 March, because of the need to celebrate the Annunciation on that day.

I think the loss of the Feast of the Good Thief is one of the saddest of all of the twentieth century losses.  There are two reasons: first, he was the only person canonised by Jesus.  Even on the Cross Jesus was teaching his Church how to do things after His death and resurrection.  Second, because if any of the Saints in Heaven can be said to stand for Everyman, it is the Good Thief.  He was like the rest of us: a sinner. But at the end he recognised Jesus for what He was, when his fellow criminal could do nothing but mock.

"And one of those robbers who were hanged, blasphemed him, saying: If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.  But the other answering, rebuked him, saying: Neither dost thou fear God, seeing thou art condemned under the same condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done no evil.  And he said to Jesus: Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom.  And Jesus said to him: Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise."

The coincidence of this Feast's coming just after the Annunciation obviously isn't a coincidence.  Mary's assent to Gabriel's message contrasts with the Bad Thief's refusal to accept Jesus.  And in between them comes Dismas, who, as one of us, has fallen away, but who recognises Jesus even as he is being crucified, criticises his companion for his impiety, confesses his misdeeds and the justice of the punishment he is incurring and asks Jesus for His mercy.

Here is a saint for all of us.  he is the patron saint of thieves and those in prison, and there is one devotion to St Dismas which asks him to intercede with God to open the eyes of mass murderers and war criminals: he is a saint for the worst of us.  Yet this Feast had to go. 

I do not understand liturgical reformers: I am less and less convinced by the idea that "pruning" the liturgy - actively removing, rather than letting those accretions which can not stand the test of time wither away - can have enough positive fruits to outweigh the negatives.  I'll post the propers for the Feast on Tuesday and, while obediently not celebrating the Feast, we will nevertheless have a chance to meditate on the Good Thief.

21 March 2014

Abp (des) McMahon: 2.913 Cheers

In the circumstances, I can't see how the translation of Bishop McMahon to Liverpool can be seen as anything other than good news.  Not very great news, because there has obviously been a decision to translate within England and Wales rather than find somebody completely new: but of those available, we, and Liverpool (remember this matters to the archdiocese more than it matters to the rest of us) should be glad that the Pope, on the advice of the Nuncio and of the Cardinal, has chosen a Bishop who is not part of the Magic Circle, the apparatus whose stranglehold on the Church in England and Wales I believe the Cardinal has been weakening since he arrived at Westminster.

I'm not too worried about the new Archbishop's willingness to celebrate Tridentine Masses, though it will be an encouragement to a lot of people whose priests have implacably opposed it, or his politics, because for a Dominican of his generation he is probably as untarnished by the 80s as it is possible to be.  I'm really pleased that he is Catholic, intellectually capable, not afraid of engagement with the public sphere; a Bishop, rather than the manager of a diocese, and one who appreciates the importance of the Liturgy.

He isn't perfect: neither am I, nor, I dare to venture, are you.  But let us offer our prayers for his ministry, and hope that for Merseyside, the Isle of Man, South Lancs, and Salford irredenta, and by extension, for the rest of us, he can turn his cathedra into a Northern powerhouse of Catholic regeneration.

20 March 2014

Feast Of The Holy Winding Sheet Of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Tomorrow would once have been the Feast of the Holy Winding Sheet of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Collect of the Feast would have been:

O God, who in the holy winding-sheet in which thy most sacred body was wrapped by Joseph when it was taken down from the cross, hast left us a memorial of thy passion, mercifully grant that, by thy death and burial, we may be brought to the glory of thy resurrection.
The Gospel of the Mass would have been Mark 15 42-46, and the Last Gospel would have been the proper for the Friday in the second week of Lent: Matthew 21 33-46.
The propers for the second Friday of Lent would have been said after the propers of the Feast.

17 March 2014

Missing Feast: St Gabriel

Tomorrow would once have been the Feast of St Gabriel.  before the separate Feasts of the three Archangels were wrapped up into one general Feast for Angels, we would have celebrated, one day before the Feast of St Joseph,eight days before the Feast of the Annunciation, the Feast of the Archangel who brought the news to Mary. 

Archangelic commemoration flitted about a bit: by 1962 St Gabriel was celebrated as a sort of Vigil of the Annunciation.  But it took Bugnini to tidy up all of the Angels into one Feast.

15 March 2014

Bishops and Bloggers

We have had some really welcome appointments to the episcopate in England and Wales, with another announcement today about a third, but we have also had the Bishop of Lancaster asking Protect the Pope to stop posting on his blog, and Bishop Burns appearing to suggest that "re-marriages" can be good.

What is a Bishop for?  Canon law gives us a clue:

Can. 384 With special solicitude, a diocesan bishop is to attend to presbyters and listen to them as assistants and counsellors. He is to protect their rights and take care that they correctly fulfil the obligations proper to their state and that the means and institutions which they need to foster spiritual and intellectual life are available to them.

He also is to take care that provision is made for their decent support and social assistance, according to the norm of law.

Can. 385 As much as possible, a diocesan bishop is to foster vocations to different ministries and to consecrated life, with special care shown for priestly and missionary vocations.

Can. 386 §1. A diocesan bishop, frequently preaching in person, is bound to propose and explain to the faithful the truths of the faith which are to be believed and applied to morals. He is also to take care that the prescripts of the canons on the ministry of the word, especially those on the homily and catechetical instruction, are carefully observed so that the whole Christian doctrine is handed on to all.

§2. Through more suitable means, he is firmly to protect the integrity and unity of the faith to be believed, while nonetheless acknowledging a just freedom in further investigating its truths.

Can. 387 Since the diocesan bishop is mindful of his obligation to show an example of holiness in charity, humility, and simplicity of life, he is to strive to promote in every way the holiness of the Christian faithful according to the proper vocation of each. Since he is the principal dispenser of the mysteries of God, he is to endeavour constantly that the Christian faithful entrusted to his care grow in grace through the celebration of the sacraments and that they understand and live the paschal mystery.

We could assume that Bishop Campbell has decided that he, and only he, is going to exercise the mission of  proposing and explaining to the faithful the truths of the faith which are to be believed and applied to morals, and taking care that the prescripts of the canons on the ministry of the word, especially those on the homily and catechetical instruction, are carefully observed so that the whole Christian doctrine is handed on to all. 

That's fine: I'm not absolutely convinced that the clergy should have as free a hand as us lay people when it comes to engagement in the public square. I'm a lot happier when they use the space for homiletics and exegesis, but if Bishop Campbell is saying that he will call out the heretics, heterodox and ill-willed, and that the mission shouldn't be just left to a Deacon, then fair enough.

He's not saying that though, is he.  And Bishop Burns doesn't mean widows and widowers remarrying.  We know what they are up to.  Can. 386 §2 cited above tells us what Bishops should be saying, and we know from what Pope Benedict said to the Bishops of England and Wales about dissent what the second sentence means: not permission to advance any old heretical idea in the name of honest speculation.

Bishops are human beings and get things wrong.  We probably all know of priests getting a very raw deal, of decisions about diocesan property which could have been much better thought through: but we should be able to trust them to safeguard the deposit of the Faith and to act in Justice.

What happens when, as a layman, I begin to wonder if they haven't in fact begun to err on matters that matter?

13 March 2014

Collect for Feast of the Spear and Nails of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Tomorrow would once have been the Feast of the Spear and Nails of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Collect of the Feast would have been:
O God, who in the weakness of that flesh which thou hadst taken, wast pleased to be pierced with nails, and with a spear to be wounded for the salvation of the world; mercifully grant that we, who keep the solemnity of the same spear and nails on earth, may rejoice in the glorious triumph of thy victory in heaven.
The Gospel of the Mass would have been John 19 28-35, and the Last Gospel would have been the proper for the Friday - Ember Friday - in the first week of Lent: John 5 1-13.
The Collect and Postcommunion for Ember Friday would have been said as second Collect and second Postcommunion.

11 March 2014

Women In The Church, Feminisation, Etc: Some Background

This all started as a result of a discussion on Twitter provoked by this post by Men Are Like Wine. It being Twitter, the discussion was too curtailed to get anywhere, but I somehow ended up tasked with finding out how far the National Pastoral Congress in Liverpool had been a catalyst in changing the role of women within the Church.

It was.

But before we go down what has become to me a drearily familiar track, let us reflect on two things: first, that the woman who said that the role of lay women in the Church was catering and domestic work was probably reflecting a truth which it would be difficult to spin into anything positive; and second, that when some 100,000 Catholics were given a list of 13 topics and were asked to pick the six they thought of greatest moment in the Church in England and Wales early in 1979, "The Role of Women in the Church and in the World" came 13th, only 20% of those opining choosing to put the subject on their list.  Are these two things related?

We have discussed previously the way that attendees at the Congress were largely self-selecting, and were representative of the vocal and interested activist.  There's no easy way round this.  If I form the League of Catholic Lepidopterists, make a lot of noise claiming to be the authentic voice of Catholic lepidopterists in England and Wales and start petitioning Rome on the League's behalf, sending plentiful press releases to the Catholic and lepidopterist press, blogging freely and putting myself in the public eye, by default I will become the Voice of Catholic Lepidopterists, indeed, of Catholic Lepidopterism, even though I only represent myself, and anybody sufficiently weak-willed or gullible to follow my lead.  Yet if the CBCEW suddenly finds itself one lepidopterist policy short of an environmental strategy, to whom will it turn?  The hard answer, of course, is that it shouldn't be where it is in the first place: Bishops don't need lepidopterist policies and should be offering paternal correction to the deluded person who thinks they should, but we have noted previously that he two most senior prelates in E&W were out for change, and this change fitted their agenda.  So the last subject on the list managed to fond its way onto the agenda.

I mentioned above that women with real gifts to offer the Church had been sidelined, but at the Congress, their sidelining was not what the delegates wanted to highlight. There was no mention that some women might be uniquely place to advise on the suitability of men proposing themselves for the priesthood: instead they wanted a woman on every selection panel. They wanted two things: a place in the administration of the Church and a place in the Ministry of the Church.

The discussion was summarised as follows:


The Gospels and the Second Vatican Council, plus more recent detailed statements from the 1970 Synod of Bishops and Pope Paul's address to the International Women’s Year, make it quite clear that women and men are equal and both should have the opportunity to offer their distinctive gifts in the service of the Church and the world to build up the kingdom of God. All are agreed that there is an imbalance as the Church is led, organised and largely planned by celibate men. Though condemned by Gaudium et spes, there is still obvious discrimination against women in the Church - which, while itself preaching freedom and justice, has a clear duty to set its own house in order.

Women have so much to offer to the total Church their gifts and abilities are rarely being used at the national, diocesan and parish levels, particularly in planning and decision making. Many priests fail to use the variety of skills which women can offer.

Women are an integral part of the laity, not shadow men. But it does appear that they do need definite encouragement, e.g. discrimination in their favour until the effects of years of adverse cultural conditioning which has limited their role are eliminated. Single women and nuns suffer from the same difficulties of being in many cases assigned to fixed or inferior roles by the Church authorities and by laymen at the parish level. We feel that the work of women in religious orders in particular has not been given due recognition in the Church.

The whole question of human relationships between men and women concerns us, and we feel that from childhood women are conditioned to adapt these roles. We are concerned about the training of priests, as we feel that many of the difficulties stern from their inability to relate honestly and openly to women as people. It is felt that a large number of priests would be more open to lay partnership and the gifts of women particularly, if continuing education were a normal part of priestly life.

We live in a rapidly changing world and there is a great need for the total church to listen, reflect and adapt to new needs and new situations. The Second Vatican Council gave us the ideals, but the Church's normal structures at all levels do not favour a partnership or shared vision of responsibility and so tensions have arisen ever since the Council on how to carry out these new ideals at the local level. To adopt a gospel image, it seems to have been a case of new wine in old wineskins. Now we feel we need some new wineskins if the old ones are not to burst and the precious new wine be lost.



1.  We recommend that the ability of women to play a full role in the Church should be fully recognised and assisted by a policy of continuing religious adult-education in parishes, deaneries and dioceses, using existing colleges of education and seminaries so that priests and lay people may study together. Such training should include that of interpersonal skills and group leadership, also community-building. This would help priests to work with and communicate with women more easily.

2. The changed attitudes called for by the Second Vatican Council and subsequent statements should be fostered from childhood upwards, particularly in Catholic schools, in order to avoid the trap of role-assignment or acceptance by women. Both girls and boys should be prepared for an active and varied service to the Church and the wider community.


3. We recommend that parishes in suitable areas be organised on a team basis which would include lay parish assistants as well as parish sisters working with priests to promote such areas as adult formation, catechetics, visiting, and to act as catalysts for real community building, and in particular to develop the ministry and potential of laywomen.

4. We also recommend that the establishment of some form of parish council open to both men and women should now be mandatory in every parish.


5. Girls and women should be involved in, and commissioned for, all ministries now open to lay people, such as reader, acolyte, and special ministers of the eucharist.

6. We ask the bishops to continue to press for girls and women to be allowed to act as altar servers (as takes place already in many countries).

7.  We recommend the wider use of women as liturgy animators locally and on diocesan bodies.


8. We ask the bishops on their parish visitations to' enquire closely as to the ways in which lay women are involved in all levels of the life and mission of the local parish.

9. We ask that diocesan commissions on the Christian family might be set up to supplement the work of the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council. They should be concerned with family policy and special needs such as those of one parent families, the handicapped or elderly people.

10. It is recommended (if this has not already been done) that married people should attend' as 'periti' at the forthcoming Synod on Marriage and the Family, as it is they who have the practical experience.

11. We propose that women should be admitted to the permanent diaconate as there is considerable scriptural and historical support for this step.

Carried: 38 for, 26 against, 3 abstained.

12. We ask that there should be continued study and consideration of the nature of priesthood to see if in time it might be possible for women to share in this great vocation. We need to explore more fully the model of priesthood down the ages to see if it is the only one possible, and whether it ignores the feminine gifts and potential for leadership in the Christian community.

Carried: 30 for, 21 against, 3 abstained.

(We ask the bishops to note that the majority of members of our topic group desired the eventual admission of women to the priesthood. In particular two areas of urgent need were mentioned: (a) that of women religious and secular institutes whose way of life requires the availability of a priest; (b) women religious who are chaplains or parish workers and are seriously impeded in their work by being unable to celebrate the eucharist in the groups with which they are working,  and are also unable to absolve those whom they serve.)"

There is a mix of the totally acceptable, the totally unacceptable, and the things that will be slipped in as a stepping stone towards making the unacceptable seem a little less unacceptable next time.  Of course women should have the same access to training as men so that they can act as catechists within the parish; of course women can't be deacons or priests, but to make up for having to say "No" to something you are so keen on, we'll let girls be altar servers and women "special ministers of communion" (can you see what they did there?) for now.  (By the way, have you ever seen non sequiturs lake those in the parenthesis at the end?)

What this is all about is another aspect of the entryism of the activists into ecclesial structures in England and Wales.  It's not about all women: it's about some women, and about how they fitted into the plans Cardinal Hume and Archbishop Worlock had for the Church.  I've missed out some of the patronising guff the Congress documents contain about priests: poor deluded misogynist men who need to be re-educated; but it is interesting that this was another field on which the Bishops enlisted the laity to marginalise priests.

None of this proves anything about what happens in your parish church each Sunday.  But it is another reflection of the insidious effect that the Congress had on the Catholic Church in England and Wales: the middle classes elected themselves as the laity's representatives and made a contemporary middle class social agenda theirs, and the Church's.

06 March 2014

Collect for Feast of Holy Crown of Thorns

Tomorrow would once have been the Feast of the Holy Crown of Thorns of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Collect would have been:
Grant, we beseech thee, O almighty God, that we who, in memory of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, venerate his crown of thorns here upon earth, may deserve to be crowned by him with glory and honour in the heavens.