31 May 2014

World Communications Day - What You'll Be Giving To

Tomorrow, in England and Wales at least, we mark World Communications Day and there will be a second collection for the Catholic Communications Network which serves the Bishops' Conference.

Ascension Sunday ... Ascension Sunday!  The media office for the Catholic Church in England and Wales thinks that tomorrow is Ascension Sunday!

The barbarians aren't just within the gates: the barbarians have seized control of the printing presses and have worked out how to use them.

If the CBCEW really doesn't understand how appallingly awful this is, we are in for interesting times indeed.

26 May 2014

Communion And The Remarried: We Have Been Here Before (Pt 2)

Dicebamus hesterna die that Cardinal Hume and Archbishop Worlock were facing a new threat.  I have written before about the ecclesial polity they had devised for the Church in England and Wales: a collegial House of Bishops Bishops' Conference, with the Cardinal, of course, as Archbishop of Westminster, as perpetual Head, and a House of Laity nexus of lay people, bound to the progressive world view of Hume and Worlock.  There was no room for a House of Clergy powerful voice for diocesan clergy: given that for most of the laity, most of the time, a Bishop was someone seen every two or three years when he came round for confirmations, the diocesan priest tended to be the bridge between the average lay person and the Pope, who, in the excitement first of the Year of the Three Popes and then of the election of a young, dynamic, Polish Pope, had become a fixture on the nation's TV screens. This was not to be encouraged. The clergy was to be marginalised, in the same way as the more reluctant Bishops would be marginalised, though the clergy would be marginalised in the name of rejecting clericalism, where Bishop Holland would be dismissed as a mere reactionary.

The plan called for what Clifford Longley described as the sentimentalisation of the Papacy for the lumpencatholic masses while the project, dear to the editors of the Catholic press who were part of the nexus of lay people, could be established and take root without anything ruffling the surface, and forcing the Vatican to take note.  The Papal Visit to England in 1982 was to cement this new view: the laity would turn out, and the Hierarchy would take the credit for being good pastors.  But things became urgent, for while Hume and Worlock were at the 1980 Rome Synod they had begun to realise just how hard the Vatican was cracking down on some of the dissenting hierarchies (such as in The Netherlands or Switzerland), and they needed to ensure that the focus of the Roman dicasteries did not turn towards England and Wales.

Unfortunately, the priests hadn't yet been told that they weren't part of the plan.  In the seventies, and particularly in the lead up to the Liverpool National Pastoral Congress, the National Conference of Priests had been an active and vocal participant in charting the new direction of the Church.  They had noted that The Easter People, the Bishops' response to the final report of the Congress, had watered down some of its recommendations.  So, on the return of the Cardinal and the Archbishop from the Synod in Rome, the Committee of the NCP asked to meet them.  They did, and the Secretary of the Bishops' Conference wrote a note of the meeting to be circulated to the Bishops.

The note shows first, just how much Hume and Worlock feared that Rome might intervene in England and Wales, and second, just how much they felt they needed to control the agenda.  Hume and Worlock were shown a copy of the note just before it was sent to the Bishops, at which point, to use an inappropriate secular expression, all hell broke loose.


Present: The Cardinal and Archbishop Worlock, Frs R. Spence, J. Carter, Mgr J. Buckley, Frs J. Breen and D. Forrester. Mgr D. Norris (Secretary).

A. Declaration from NCP

(1) General

The Declaration accepted wholeheartedly the findings of the National Pastoral Congress and welcomed the bishops' message The Easter People. However, the National Conference had some problems with the bishops’ message for they felt that the bishops had moved away from some of the resolutions of the Congress. The bishops appeared to give up their right as a local Church and to be too willing to give way to the Roman Curia.

The Cardinal replied that he considered that conservatism was succeeding in many parts of the world and was also rising in Rome. We had to remember that western Europe was now a minority in the church and places like Africa and South America were very conservative. Our local church has to find its way in the present circumstances and it is not always clear how it should proceed.

The Cardinal was sure that it would not help to have public calls on our bishops to act by themselves. There were some conservatives in this country who were already attacking what had already been done by himself and Archbishop Worlock.

The Archbishop was more optimistic - he compared the Synod with the last council - then the minority had proposed renewal and had managed to become the majority by the end of the council. Now there had been a change during the four weeks of the synod, though perhaps not a full acceptance of the minority view. The pope, too, had attended all the plenary sessions and had made no attempt to interfere with the freedom of those taking part. In his closing speech, the Pope had not closed the door and had in fact welcomed the propositions. Nor had he rejected the famous law of gradualness; what he had condemned was a graded law.

(The law of gradualness meant that people who were not complying with the Church’s teaching but who were of good will could eventually be brought towards compliance with the rules by catechesis, prayer and example.  A ‘graded law’ meant that there were people who would never comply with the teaching of the Church but could be allowed to settle for less.  This latter sounds familiar.)

When Hume and Worlock saw the draft they determined immediately that it must be suppressed: not just the front page, copied here, but the entire document even though the rest was uncontentious.  If it got to the Bishops, it would get to Rome, and if it got to Rome, then Rome might want to look more closely at what was going on.
(It is worth noting too that Mgr Norris' minute is probably a lot more temperate than what was actually said: notes of meetings usually reflect light rather than heat.)
Worlock wrote to Norris on receipt of the draft:
I hope you will understand when I say that I think it would be disastrous if this report were circulated to the Bishops. Indeed I must confess I am most unhappy about the whole of the first page and I doubt very much whether the cardinal would want his remarks reported. The reference to the attacks upon himself and myself could throw our meeting of the Conference later this month into all kinds of chaos ...
He copied his letter to Norris to the Cardinal, with a covering note:
I enclose a copy of a letter I have written to David Norris on the subject of his report of the meeting with the standing committee of the NCP. I think the report would be disastrous if it goes to the NCP. It would be even more disastrous if it is sent out with the papers for the Bishops' meeting. It will probably be best if I prepare a single sheet.
To which the Cardinal replied:
I am in full agreement with what you say about the report concerning the NCP.
So the report was suppressed.
The final part of the jigsaw, the Pope's visit, was played well: the English Hierarchy convinced the Vatican that it should play a major role in drafting the Pope's public statements if he were not to trample all over national, ecumenical and historical sensitivities.  In truth, they didn't want a visit of a Pope who would focus on issues like contraception and abortion, but curial diplomats, aware of the importance and sensitivity of this visit, simply accepted the offer of help at face value, and the visit was a tremendous success, the Pope saying what the CBCEW wanted the laity to hear.
Anybody who has been paying attention will have noted an interesting line in the note of the NCP meeting: "the Bishops appeared to give up their right as a local Church and to be too willing to give way to the Roman Curia".  The ultimate end of the plans adopted by Hume and Worlock aimed at turning the Church in England and Wales into a semi-detached federal unit of the Catholic Church: like one of the Greek Catholic Churches though less insistent on orthodoxy or loyalty to the Pope.  It would be hard to argue that over 30 years later, things were on a better course.
There is one footnote which doesn't reflect fantastically well on anyone, but which is a moment to raise the heart slightly at the end of such a depressing story.  During the Papal visit it was agreed that there would be one day in the North West of England with one Mass.  The Mass would be at Heaton Park in North Manchester, in the diocese of Salford, so there would be no Mass in Liverpool, which the Pope would visit after Manchester.  It was common knowledge at the time that Archbishop Worlock had informed Bishop Holland that, as Metropolitan, he would be the principal co-concelebrant with the Pope.  Bishop Holland, who had won a DSC as a naval chaplain during the Normandy Campaign, Bishop Holland who was privy to what Hume and Worlock were trying to do, Bishop Holland who would confound his successor, Bishop Kelly, by receiving Chief Constable James Anderton into the Church behind Kelly's back and against his wishes, was having none of it.  "Bugger off!" he said to Worlock.


25 May 2014

Communion And The Remarried: We Have Been Here Before (Pt 1)

I have written extensively about the National Pastoral Congress which took place in Liverpool in 1980, and which, in my opinion, led the Church in England and Wales in the wrong direction.  What happened next is equally depressing.  Cardinal Hume told later how he and Archbishop Worlock had visited Pope John Paul II in Rome and had handed him a copy of the Conference's report, The Easter People, provocatively open at the section on birth control, and drew his attention to that page.  The Pope dismissively waved it aside.

Clifford Longley describes Archbishop Worlock's retelling of this story:

Worlock tended to follow Heenan's custom of sentimentalizing the papacy for public consumption, always giving the impression that everything was for the best in the best of all possible worlds. Thus in a speech on the work of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission in Croydon in 1982, he does not repeat Hume's account of them visiting the Pope to hand over a copy of The Easter People, deliberately drawing the section on contraception to the Pope's attention and seeing him wave it aside dismissively. Instead: 'With Cardinal Basil Hume I flew to Rome and we handed the first copy to Peter’s successor, John Paul II, the symbol of unity. To him we said: "Here is our church in England and Wales. Now will you come to visit us?"' etc.

Nevertheless, Hume and Worlock went to the subsequent Synod of Bishops which took place in Rome in 1980 empowered, as they felt, by having been requested by the Congress to deliver a particular message, one which the Bishops' Conference had endorsed.

It was clear that the election of John Paul II had changed the mood (or had been a reflection of the change of mood) of the Church.  The high tide of the Spirit of Vatican II at the heart of the Church was receding, and it was already much less likely that the direction the leaders of the Church in E&W wanted to follow would be the direction the Synod would discern as correct. 

Archbishop Worlock nevertheless spoke to the Synod in terms that would seem familiar (and just as wrong) today:

Personal factors increasingly today include the desire for genuine interpersonal communication and relationships in marriage and in the family, the ability of couples to control fertility, and the changed status of women, and therefore also of men, in society and the family.

External, or social, factors which endanger the family today are frequently cited as including a spirit of materialism, hedonism and other secular values. It would, however, be more accurate, and perhaps more just to many Christian couples, to point also to lack of adequate housing, poverty, unemployment and enforced leisure arising for many from economic recession or from the micro-electronic revolution. These social factors are the more damaging to families insofar as they condemn them to living conditions which are unworthy of their dignity, increase the pressures on the family from within, and prevent it from giving positive Christian witness to love, fidelity and security, and from resisting materialistic values ...

But the church cannot turn a blind eye to the many family tragedies which are increasing in society, and no less in the Church itself.  To these victims of misfortune, not necessarily of personal sin, or of sin which has not been forgiven, the church, both universal and local, must have a special healing mission of consolation. Nor can the church neglect those Catholics whose first marriage has perished and who now find themselves in a second more stable and perhaps more mature union which might have many of the desirable qualities of the Christian family. Many acknowledge that their union is irregular in the eyes of the Church, and yet nevertheless feel, even if inarticulately, that they are not living in a state of sin, that they love God and may in some mysterious way be living according to his will, even if against, or outside,  the Church's legislation. The number of such members of the Church is growing daily, and very many long for full Eucharistic communion with the Church and its Lord.

As is well known, many pastors, and many theologians are of the view that such Catholics may be admitted to Holy Communion, under certain conditions, notwithstanding the danger of scandal, namely that other Catholics, either about to marry or living in a weakened marriage, may disregard the Church’s teaching on the fidelity and indissolubility of Christian marriage, with ruinous results. But what is most interesting and calling for close consideration, is that many married laity, moved by pastoral compassion, are of the same opinion, and do not fear that Christian marriage will be destroyed by such a practice. They seem to consider that fidelity and indissolubility are human and Christian values on their own account, and do not derive their force from being regarded as necessary dispositions for receiving Holy Communion. In this, as in every other aspect of marriage and the family, it would be desirable to listen to the voice, experience and Christian wisdom of married couples themselves.
It is breathtaking to hear such sophistry from a Bishop: the range of economic reasons for remarriage, the seeming fact that if people discern that "living in sin" they are possibly living God's will, and the fact that some married lay people wouldn't mind if these remarried people received Communion: it is as shocking to read these words 34 years later as it is to read Cardinal Kasper's today.

He got nowhere of course, though it amusing that the arch-fixer of the CBCEW was so out-fixed by Synod officials in the drafting of its recommendations to the Pope that he complained, but was ruled out of order.  He and Cardinal Hume had become exposed, and two Bishops, Lindsay of Hexham and Newcastle and Holland of Salford, complained in an article in The Universe that Hume and Worlock appeared to have departed from the line agreed by the Bishops' Conference.  And another threat was appearing from the other side ...

But that will have to wait for Part 2.

24 May 2014

The Calendar And Our Identity

One lost feast, and two feasts tragically reduced in significance show how we have ruptured our relationship with the past, how the changes pre-Vatican II paved the way for what was to follow. 

Today should have been the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, a feast of thanksgiving, instituted by Pius VII in 1815 to commemorate the end of the Popes' exile from Rome because of the French Revolution.  As an annual reminder of the threat to Christian religion from the powers of secularism, it should have been raised in importance rather than abolished!

Monday should be the feast of St Augustine of Canterbury.  Before Pius X, this feast was a double of the first class in England, as important a feast as could be with its own octave.  This commemorated the fact that St Augustine was the Apostle of the English.  Of course there were already Christians in England, but, sent from Rome, he organised the Church in England in dioceses, evangelised the English, and, most importantly, brought the Roman Mass with him so that the Church in England never had its own rite but always used the Roman. 

Tuesday should be the feast of St Bede, a Doctor of the Church: not quite as important as St Augustine, but his feast, which has been celebrated in the eleventh and twelfth centuries on 26 May, was moved to 27 May simply so that the two great English saints could be commemorated on consecutive days.

By the time of the 1962 Missal, the two feasts had been reduced to the third class (although in Hexham and Newcastle St Bede could be celebrated as a second class feast).  In the new calendar and with the dates subtly messed about, St Bede is simply an optional memorial while St Augustine, although still classified as a feast (though only in England), isn't so important that a priest can't substitute his Mass for the Mass of a weekday in Eastertime (and, anyway, neither feast can come before "Saint Sunday" any more).

This is yet another example of how the calendar has been flattened and cut off from its roots, and, as a result, how we have been separated, not just from our history, but from the contextualisation that showed our forebears how everything was linked together.  It is another example of the contempt for tradition which started at the beginning of the twentieth century and grew in pace along with the century.

17 May 2014

Unity Before Truth?

Mark Lambert, @sitsio, linked to a wonderful diocese-by-diocese round-up by ACTA which contains many gems, but none quite as good as this.  Portsmouth Diocese ACTA had a meeting with the new Bishop (I get the impression this was somewhat to their surprise)

"Other areas of concern (some of which were raised with the bishop) included ... the translation of the Missal (the bishop favours letting it bed down – we said attendance would continue to haemorrhage)"

It seems surreal that a group of people most representative of those who have presided over the decimation of Church attendance since the mid-1960s should imagine that they have just noticed that the churches suddenly seem emptier, and that it is all down to the new translation.

I can imagine that the Bishop was extremely polite and let this go, but should he have?

Dr Shaw has argued, here, here and here, that the Bishops' putting up with significant dissent in order that those dissenting should not leave the Church, is a fundamentally flawed argument:

"The underlying misjudgment, in my view, is a failure to understand how much damage dissent does. The Faith is passed on, the life of grace is developed, nearly always in the context of institutions: the home, the school, the parish. This is logical because Catholic institutions manifest the community of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, in a tangible way, to us as individuals. These institutions can be turned into a nightmare of conflict, or just rendered completely useless, by a minority of dissidents, if they are given a free hand."

In a tweet yesterday evening, Mark said that this sort of thing happens when you consider that unity has priority over truth.  I think this is a profoundly accurate insight into one of the ways in which things have gone wrong.

I'm sure that "unity before truth" is not the way any of the Bishops would characterise their actions: they will think that they are tolerating legitimate freedom of divergence; they will think that they are being charitable; they may secretly agree with the dissenters; they may simply be hoping that they die off before they can do any damage.  But I think that they are more frightened by disunity. 

Disunity is to Catholicism what anarchy is to civil society: it removes the foundation on which the edifice stands.  The Bishops are right to fear it, but they won't protect the Church from disunity by moving the boundaries to accommodate dissent, or by gagging those who call dissent for what it is: they will protect the Church from disunity by facing up to those who wish to disunite it, just as society has to stand up to anarchists.

The truth is the best weapon that there is against dissenters because it preserves our unity.  We may lose the odd dissenter, but the unity shared not just by those who don't dissent with each other, but with all of the generations who have gone before us as well, comes from the truth. 

Unity can't produce the truth, but the truth guarantees unity.

11 May 2014

Pope Benedict XIII

From Duffy's History of the Popes:

"Unworldliness, however, was no better protection for the papacy. The saintly Dominican Benedict XIII (1724-30) had resigned a dukedom to become a friar. He was elected Pope in the stalemated Conclave of 1724 because everybody knew he was unworldly, and would preserve neutrality between France, Spain and the Austrian Habsburgs. He was unworldly and he did try to be neutral. But he also refused to behave like a pope, instead behaving like a simple parish priest, living in a whitewashed room, visiting hospitals, hearing Confessions and teaching children their catechism. Meanwhile, he put all the affairs of the papacy into the hands of his secretary, Niccolo Coscia. Coscia was totally corrupt, and surrounded himself with a disreputable parcel of cronies and profiteers. The administration of the Papal States became a public scandal. Nepotism had been formally abolished by Pope Clement XI, but now the Church had all the evils of nepotism without the nephew.

In 1728 Benedict provided more evidence that unworldliness can be a bad thing in a pope. He commanded the compulsory celebration of the Feast of St Gregory VII, formerly a local Italian observance, by the universal Church. The breviary lesson prescribed for the Feast was tactless in the extreme, and praised Gregory's courage in excommunicating and deposing Henry IV. The states of Europe set up a howl of anger.

Venice protested to the Pope, Sicily (and Protestant Holland) forbade the celebration of the Feast at all, Belgium banned the offending lesson, the Parisian police prevented the breviary containing the service being printed. The ancient claim of the Pope to temporal power was no longer acceptable in 1728."

10 May 2014

Two Lost Feasts Of Our Lady

Once upon a time, when my grandparents were young, they would have been celebrating two Marian feasts next week: on Monday they would have had the feast of the Humility of the BVM, and on Thursday, Our Lady of Grace.

Their collects were, respectively:

O God, who lookest down on the humble and regardest the proud from afar, grant to thy servants to imitate with pure hearts the humility of the blessed Mary, ever virgin, who in her virginity pleased, and in her humility conceived our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son.

O God, who, by the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary, hast conferred the grace of redemption on the human race; grant that, as we call her on earth the Mother of Grace, so may we for ever enjoy her happy company in heaven.

There really is nothing to add, is there!

05 May 2014

Why Would Anyone Want To Suppress Protect The Pope?

One of the more interesting things I've read recently came in a comment on James Preece's blog here. "Anon" makes some interesting comments about the decline in the influence Catholic blogs have at Eccleston Square, the HQs of the CBCEW.  It is instructive to reflect on the fact that the authorities were exercised once about how much influence bloggers might have (remember the hatchet job The Suppository tried on Fr Tim?) but had realised that the Cathosphere was having no significant effect on life in the Church in E&W.

"Anon" helpfully suggested Alexa as a way of getting a feel for the relative influence of different websites, and a quick look reveals quite a lot.  Here are some websites and their rankings:

Fr Z 88,328

Rorate 205,095
Protect the Pope 735,871
Mundabor 753,038

Fr Tim 1,568,178
Catholic and Loving It 1,905,622
Fr Ray 2,228,042
LMS Chairman 2,364,124
Fr Hunwicke 2,636,220
Catholic Voices 3,461,259
Eccles and Bosco 5,345,139
Countercultural Father 8,366,107

Due diligence: this blog doesn't even register, it gets so few views!

There are two points to be made about using Alexa as an analytical tool in this context: first, ignore the numbers and think of orders of magnitude: 1 to 10; 10 to 100; 100 to 1,000; 1,000 to 10,000; 10,000 to 100,000; 100,000 to 1,000,000; 1,000,000 to 10,000,000; the rest.  The second is that however accurate Alexa is or isn't, it is the counter of choice at Eccleston Square.

I chose a few UK sites which reflect what I thought would be their relative popularity and sure enough Frs Tim and Ray are up there, with James Preece loving it in their company.  Eccles and Countercultural Father both occupy a respectable position: not up with the world's opinion formers, but in a respectable spot.

But look at Deacon Nick: not in the preeminent world class of Fr Z, but far and away the highest ranking E&W blogger.  I put Rorate and Mundabor's  figures in NOT to compare him with them, but to give some idea of his reach.  If there are more popular UK sites, or sites in the same general area, let me know.

I've said before that what goes on between Deacon Nick and his Ordinary is between them: but you can see why warning bells might have begun to sound in Eccleston Square as his blog began to climb so high up the rankings.

If this is right, we know what we have to do: find somebody who is completely orthodox to the Magisterium, who has the time to devote to ferreting things out, and whose job, livelihood, or pension is unthreatenable by the people who want to control the narrative of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.