Sunday, 28 February 2010

Congregation for Clergy videos

The Congregation for the Clergy has been one of the movers and shakers in terms of using the internet to get the message across. Cardinal Claudio Hummes regularly writes to priest on the email list and Archbishop Piacenze also gives great encouragement. Now there is a trio of videos on YouTube about the priest Alter Christus.

I'm just posting before leaving for Wonersh so I haven't had time to watch them all yet but look forward to doing so. I recognise the French priest who, when I met him, was working at the Congregation for Divine Worship. He is from Caen so I was pleased to tell him that my father was involved in the liberation of the town (though I expect that there must be some frustration at how little of it was left after the battle.)

Friday, 26 February 2010

Apologia - great booklet

The Catholic Truth Society recently launched its latest batch of pamphlets; as ever, an excellent collection. I hope to write some more about some of the publications but I would like to single out first of all the new booklet by Fr Marcus Holden and Fr Andrew Pinsent, authors of Evangelium.

Their new booklet is called Apologia: Catholic answers to today's Questions.Traditionally, apologetics focussed largely on the refutation of protestant errors. This is still needed but a more urgent task facing us now is to give a positive answer to the various challenges posed by secularists and atheists. Apologia addresses such questions concisely and effectively, following the structure of Catholic catechesis under the headings of Creed, Sacraments, Morals and Prayer - without neglecting those points raised by protestants or unformed Catholics such as "Why do I need to confess my sins to a priest?" or "Why can't we have women priests or married priests?"

The very first question is "Can I ask difficult questions on issues regarding the Catholic faith?" To some people, that may sound a daft question since one of the main tasks of priests and catechists when teaching people is exactly that of answering difficult questions about the faith. Nevertheless, the question is one that I have often been asked because the black propaganda that so many people have imbibed from various sources presents a caricature of the teaching of doctrine in the Catholic Church according to which nobody is allowed to question anything.

Apologia is a most welcome contribution to Catholic apologetics and evangelisation and I warmly recommend it. Enquirers will find much to assist their growth in faith, and priests and catechists will be greatly helped by such a comprehensive but handy resource.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

An evening with James MacMillan

The Thomas More Institute exists to promote a more informed ethical engagement in public and professional life. Last evening, James MacMillan addressed the institute on the subject of "The Musical Search for the Sacred in Modernity". Here is the summary from the STI website:
When John Paul II wrote his Letter To Artists in 1999 he said: ‘Even beyond its typically religious expressions, true art has a close affinity with the world of faith, so that, even in situations where culture and the Church are far apart, art remains a kind of bridge to religious experience’. Art music in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has seen an astonishing resistance to the anti-religious consensus found elsewhere in the modern art world. The search for the sacred still seems to be central to the work of composers, even in unexpected ways.
On the way home, I had the satisfied feeling that this had been an evening very well spent. To my lasting dissatisfaction, I have never continued the study of music which began with some signs of hope in my childhood but terminated with the retirement of my piano teacher and the turmoil of moving to secondary school. Therefore attending a fairly highbrow lecture on musical modernity was a welcome challenge. I am sure that with many other speakers I would have been lost fairly quickly, but James MacMillan, as well as being an internationally praised composer and conductor, is also an excellent communicator.

He spoke amusingly of the influential French composer Pierre Boulez and his drive to control how twentieth century music is remembered, the subordination of everything to instrumentation, and the sidelining of artists who do not fit in (some of whom MacMillan has championed.) Within this orthodoxy, nostalgia is the greatest crime - at one festival, any work with a major chord was booed. MacMillan pointed out that despite this, and thanks to the greater freedom of culture that there is in Britain, teh question of aesthetics has remained important and the search for the sacred is still part of the work of modern composers.

It was interesting during the discussion afterwards, to hear references to Roger Scruton, whose work MacMillan admires: both of them are taking part in a Festival of Philosophy to be held next month at the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs at St Andrews University. Roger Scruton has also just published an article in this month's American Spectator on Roger Scruton Music and Morality. The article is interesting in its own right, of course, but this passage did jump out at me:
Faced with youth culture we are encouraged to be nonjudgmental. But to be nonjudgmental is already to make a kind of judgment: it is to suggest that it really doesn’t matter what you listen to or dance to, and that there is no moral distinction between the various listening habits that have emerged in our time. That is a morally charged position, and one that flies in the face of common sense.
The same applies, mutatis mutandis, to a nonjudgmental approach to abortion.

As well as having the benefit of an informative and stimulating lecture, the Seminar yesterday gave me an opportunity to catch up with some old friends and meet some new ones. The Director of the STI is Andrew Hegarty: our paths have only crossed occasionally since we were up at Oxford together many years ago; it was good to catch up on the activities of Ciel UK with Michael Woolgar, and to hear from Jack Valero all about the Catholic Voices project to select and train people to speak on the media in interviews and debates on Catholic issues, especially in the run-up to the Papal visit - although the project will be able to continue afterwards with well-primed speakers. Most of all, it was good finally to meet James MacMillan and to be led to think a little more deeply about music, modernity and the sacred.

CES-Government-PSHE roundup

James Preece has a roundup of posts on the Government-CES-PSHE affair: see Ed Balls: Catholic Schools "must explain how to access an abortion". This morning two other good posts were published that are worthy to be added to the list:

Cranmer in his post Teaching abortion in an ‘enlightened’ and ‘non-judgmental’ way gives a good analysis of the way in which terms like "non-judgemental" are being used to erode the freedoms for Catholics and others that developed over three centuries. As he rightly says:
One cannot be ‘neutral’ about sex, sexuality or the sanctity of life without being indifferent.
Joanna Bogle gets to the key point that many clergy and laity now have no confidence in the CES and that a fresh start is needed.

Linacre Forum on virtue ethics

Linacre Ethics Forum Presents a chance for junior healthcare professionals and students (medics, nurses, pharmacists and those interested inethics are welcome!) to explore and discuss Catholic healthcare ethics:

Recovering a virtue ethics in bioethics
Rev Nicanor Austriaco OP

Tuesday 2nd March 2010 - 6.30pm for 7

The Forum is held at Vaughan House, SW1P 1QN (Just behind Westminster Cathedral)

Rev Nicanor Austriaco OP is on a short visit to the UK and is a highly recommended speaker.

See the Linacre website for information about the International Conference on Fertility, Infertility & Gender, to be held at Maynooth (near Dublin) from 16-18 June, and for details of the latest Linacre publication: Incapacity and Care, by Helen Watt

PICTURE - researching priests' use of the internet

PICTURE stands for "Priests’ ICT Use in their Religious Experience" and studies the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), and of the internet in particular, by the priests of Christian Catholic Church. The project has been endorsed by the Congregation for the Clergy. It is run by NewMinE (New Media in Education) at the the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI, Lugano, Switzerland - pictured) in collaboration with the School of Institutional Social Communications of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.

There is an online questionnaire - it doesn't take too long to fill in, so I recommend it to brother priests. This is a sensible project aiming to find out useful information, not an attempt to generate silly headlines about confession on the internet and suchlike..

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Can Catholic schools co-operate in killing babies or not?

People have been emailing me all day about the Radio 4 Today programme this morning. A liberal rabbi, Jonathon Romain went into bat first, berating the (actually worthless) amendment to the CSF Bill, purporting to allow faith schools to teach Personal Social and Health Education "in a way that reflects the school’s religious character." As I pointed out the other day, the amendment is indeed worthless since all schools, including Catholic schools, will still be required to give information about contraception, abortion, and homosexual partnerships: and they must teach a "range of views." In other words, whatever they do in terms of presenting teaching in a way that reflects the religious character of the school, they are not allowed to teach that Catholic doctrine is true.

The Today piece was bizarre. Rabbi Romain was complaining that the reference to the school's religious character was unacceptable. Ed Balls was cast as the enemy, defending the rights of faith schools while insisting that he was not transgressing against secularist orthodoxy because Catholic schools will still be required to give information about contraception and abortion. (See also Richard Marsden's excellent summary with quotations from the programme.) Nobody was there to point out that Catholic schools cannot give information about how to access the local abortion clinic since this would be formal co-operation in a grave evil.

As Damian Thompson reports, everyone official on the Catholic side was conveniently unavailable. If you think that it is OK for a Catholic school to give information about abortion services, I suppose you might as well let Ed Balls give the reassurances rather than allow yourself to be quoted on the subject.

Earlier this month, Pope Benedict said to the bishops of England and Wales:
I urge you as Pastors to ensure that the Church’s moral teaching be always presented in its entirety and convincingly defended. Fidelity to the Gospel in no way restricts the freedom of others – on the contrary, it serves their freedom by offering them the truth.
So would it be too much to ask for a clear statement that Catholic schools may not refer pupils to "services" that will kill unborn babies?

Oxford pro-life witness on Saturday

This coming Saturday, 27th February, from 3pm -4pm, pro-lifers will meet at the Church of St Anthony of Padua, Headley Way, Oxford which is right on the corner of the John Radcliffe Hospital entrance. There is Exposition inside the Church for the hour. There are then prayers along the road side of the entrance to the hospital where. Prayers will be led by Fr John Saward. Refreshments are available in the Church hall afterwards.

Discovering Priesthood day at Ealing Abbey

Ealing Abbey are holding a "Discovering Priesthood" day next month. This initiative involves the Benedictine Community, Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and the diocesan vocation director. Fr Stephen Langridge, Fr Stephen Wang (Allen Hall), Fr Francis Selman (Allen Hall), Fr Richard Nesbit (Westminster Vocations) will be coming as well as some young priests who were ordained at the Abbey and seminarians who work with us in catechetics. Everyone who is coming has been involved in the parish catechesis in some way. Here are the details:
A day for young men

We invite young men to join us at a ‘Discovering Priesthood Day’ on Saturday 13th March, 10.00am - 4.00pm

The day offers young men a chance to meet priests and seminarians from the diocese and religious communities to learn more about the life and ministry of a priest.

To book a place or for further information contact:
Deacon Gordon Nunn, at the Parish Office, Ealing Abbey, 2, Marchwood Crescent, London W5 2DZ
Tel. 020 8862 2162 e-mail
Booking forms and further information also downloadavble at the Ealing Abbey website

A limited number of weekend residential places are available in the Monastery or the guesthouse for those who wish to experience community life or stay over the weekend.

Facebook Liturgical Swop Shop

Eamonn Manning has set up a group on Facebook to assist in redistributing liturgical items. See Liturgical Swop Shop. Here is the blurb:
Need a liturgical artifact/book/item? Then leave a post on the wall!

If you have some liturgical items you would like to go to a suitable home, either free of charge or in exchange for something, then leave a post on the wall!

The more people know about this the better the success at finding the Tenebrae Hearse, Pax, Reliquary, Hanging Pyx, Inflateable Reredos or Missal you need!

Please detail what the item is, how much or what you are willing to exchange for it and where its location is...

Monday, 22 February 2010

Don't forget the widget poll

This post is scheduled for publication on Monday morning when I will be lecturing on sacramental theology at Wonersh. Do take a moment to vote in the poll on the sidebar about whether the LinkWithin widget should stay. I am heartened by the healthy showing of votes for "I don't care - but I like clicking polls."

I think this must be an option for any future polls on the blog.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

"Mercy killing? Never."

Photo: Daily Mail
The Daily Mail the other day reported on the story of James Shepherd and his mother, Elisabeth. At the age of eight, James was knocked over by a car which had mounted the pavement; he was left in a coma from which doctors advised that he had virtually no chance of recovery. He did recover consciousness and some use of speech but has no controlled use of his limbs.

Elisabeth Sheppard contacted the Daily Mail in order to provide an alternative to the widespread support for Kay Gilderdale who helped her daughter Lynn, who suffered from ME, to commit suicide. The story of the Sheppards is all the more powerful because of the genuine difficulties and temptations that Mrs Sheppard admits to facing. Her marriage broke up, she was in mental chaos for some time and did herself consider helping her son to die. From these experiences, she draws the conclusion that she was at times an unreliable carer in need of effective support, and that:
It's this close involvement in his care that convinces me that we must maintain the protection of the courts for people like my son, even from me, his mother'.
Mrs Sheppard's courageous honesty makes this story a most powerful witness to the sanctity of human life. Let us remember her and James in our prayers.

Full Story in the Daily Mail: Mercy killing? Never. I'll always fight like a lioness for my darling boy...

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Catholic schools: have we reached the endgame?

Photo: Mazur/

Recently, the Government introduced an amendment to the Children, Schools and Families Bill, allowing Faith schools to teach Personal Social and Health Education (PSHE) "in a way that reflects the school’s religious character." The Catholic Education Service (CES) claimed credit for this, citing its "extensive lobbying." As we have now come to expect, according to a wearily familiar pattern, the purported concession is worthless, allowing the Government to be seen to appease Catholics, and then reassure the secularists and gays who protest loudly.

Under pressure from humanist and homosexual activists (e.g. NSS and Pink News) but focussed particularly as a response to the Accord Coalition, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) has issued a response. In a "Let's be absolutely clear" statement, the DCSF specifies that faith schools will not be able to opt of statutory PSHE and SRE (sex and relationships education) lessons, and that they will be required to teach the lessons "in line with the principles outlined in the Bill including promoting equality and encouraging acceptance of diversity."

Perhaps the most important part is the following:
Schools with a religious character will be free, as they are now, to express the views of their faith and reflect the ethos of their school, but what they cannot do is suggest that their views are the only ones.
This is woolly language designed to hide a totalitarian agenda. The DCSF is obviously not suggesting that Catholic schools simply make their pupils aware that others disagree with Catholic doctrine. We could easily do that in a course of apologetics which demonstrates that Catholic doctrine is true. That is not what the Department has in mind. Schools are being told that they have to present Catholic doctrine as one of a range of views, any of which would be a valid choice.

As always, this kind of relativism is only going to go so far. I doubt whether you would get Healthy Schools Status if you taught that there was a range of views on the advantages of smoking tobacco; and I don't suppose there is meant to be a valid range of views on the pros and cons of nazism as a system of government. The relativism of Ed Balls and his friends who are setting the agenda for secular Britain is actually only applied to the "views" they disagree with, such as Catholic moral teaching on the sanctity of life, marriage, and the procreation of children.

Even more disturbing is the Question and Answer section of the response which gives the example of St Thomas More School in Bedford as a model. The school's approach is described as follows:
The school has developed a very successful balance of providing students with accurate information within the faith ethos of the school. For example, sex within marriage is promoted as the ideal of the Catholic faith, but the school explicitly recognises the reality that some young people may choose to be sexually active and, if that is the case, they need the knowledge and confidence to make an informed choice to protect themselves from pregnancy and STIs.

The school nurse provides students with clear accurate information about the full range of contraception and STIs and details of local services. Chlamydia screening is also offered to students in Years 11 to 13. Pregnancy options, including abortion, are also discussed in a non-judgemental way with the RE syllabus requiring students to understand the spectrum of views in favour of and against abortion. By combining the pastoral and RE teaching, the essential knowledge component of SRE is provided to students but within the context of relationships and the school's values.
It may be that the DCSF has misrepresented St Thomas More school and if that is so, I am sure we all look forward to the school's robust denial. Nevertheless, the model as given is, sadly, not surprising. Many Catholics today regard the Church's teaching as only an "ideal", and accept that young people, some of whom will have "chosen to be sexually active" must be taught about contraception to avoid pregnancy and STIs. Such Catholics think that contraception will achieve these goals because that is what the propaganda tells them. They look suspicious when pro-lifers point out that despite decades of intrusive sex education the teenage pregnancy rate has continued to rise, as has the incidence of STIs - and perhaps explain the mechanism of risk compensation, and the actual failure rates to show why both statistics have risen.

Once contraception has been accepted, abortion then comes into play: if you have been led to believe that contraception will infallibly prevent pregnancy, it just seems so shockingly unfair when it fails to do so. The Good Counsel Network report that the vast majority of their clients give contraceptive failure as the reason for wanting an abortion. It is also instructive to talk to a friendly midwife about the proportion of women who give birth despite using one or more methods of contraception.

Faced with a "contraceptive failure" in the form of an inexorably developing human embryo, the average liberal Catholic will want to be "non-judgemental". This is actually a cowardly get-out. It means that you don't have to risk the professional consequences of saying that you really think that abortion might be the most sensible thing - you present the range of options and then leave a poor, frightened 16 year old girl to make her own choice from among the "spectrum of views". When she has come to the conclusion, against all her natural instincts, that abortion is the only way out of the mess she is in, you can feel terribly virtuous because you haven't been dogmatic.

Ed Balls and the DCSF have expertly exploited the weakness of the Catholic Church in England and Wales in its witness to the teaching of the magisterium. The constant support of the CES for its legislation, and the availability of examples such as the school described, enable the Government to take credit for preserving Catholic schools while effectively outlawing Catholic moral teaching in those schools. The bit that HMG possibly fails to understand is that the Holy See might intervene and say that, actually, abortion may not be presented as one of a range of options in a Catholic school, and Catholic schools may not invite the nurse in to promote contraception and abortion services. Which is where the secular-liberal government-compliant Catholic school ideal hits the buffers.

Many dioceses are engaged in planning processes to cope with a Church with fewer priests. Perhaps the plans need to be extended to include the possibility of a Church without maintained Catholic schools?

Damian Thompson: Government praises Catholic school for 'non-judgmental' approach to abortion

John Smeaton: Catholic teaching forbids schools from implementing government's sex education plans

LinkWithin widget

I just came across the LinkWithin widget. This adds boxes to the foot of each post, linking to other posts (from this blog) that might be of interest. It has to take a few hours to crawl the blog and is then supposed to throw up relevant posts. It struck me that it might actually be useful to readers but let me know what you think by voting in the poll on the sidebar.

Altar surfers?

Berenike in the combox suggested this as an activity for altar servers:

I'm cool with that - provided they remember to carry the acolyte candle in the outside hand.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

A great day for priests with SPUC

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) today put on a Study Day for clergy on the problems of sex education in Britain with particular reference to the Children, Schools and Families Bill.

Fr John Fleming gave a lucid and concise presentation of the problems with the proposed legislation. Extensive research carried out in Australia has shown that although there is widespread support for sex education programmes, the majority of people are actually not familiar with the content of those programmes. The same is true in Britain where the DCSF cite a study showing that although parents report being in favour of schools providing factual information, 57% know little or nothing of the content of the sex education courses. The vast majority report that no consultation has taken place about the courses.

Fr Fleming highlighted the fact that despite the intention of sex education being to reduce STIs and teenage pregnancies, the evidence shows that not only have these aims not been achieved, quite the reverse has happened.

At the same time, the right to life of the unborn, the right of children not to be sexualised, the right of parents to be the primary educators of their children,the right of parents to expect their values to be respected by the state and the right to freedom of speech, have all been undermined and contradicted.

Fr Fleming drew attention to the contradictions inherent in the "reassurances" of Ed Balls who asserts that "faith schools" have the right to teach their "beliefs" but must at the same time give information about various practices that are at odds with their beliefs.

I suggested that the various materials from the Study Day should be made available on the internet and this suggestion was favourably received so I hope to provide links soon. John Smeaton, the National Director of SPUC spoke powerfully about the need for priests to witness to the sanctity of life in this area. He was also uncompromising in his criticism of the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales which has welcomed the government's proposed legislation.

in addition to the informative lectures, SPUC provided the clergy with a good opportunity to meet with each other and with lay people who are active in the pro-life apostolate.

Novena for modernist innovations?

A priest friend of mine today made an amusing point. He referred to the various groups campaigning for women priests, the abolition of celibacy, opposing Summorum Pontificum, delaying the accurate translation of the Mass and so on. He wondered why they were not holding novenas, rosaries, and all-night vigils of adoration for these intentions.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Have a lugubrious Lent

"Have a lugubrious Lent" was a greeting invented by a boy at my school in a whimsical moment. More seriously, may the good Lord assist you with his divine grace in the penances that you undertake.

I celebrated three Masses at Blackfen today, one of them according to the usus antiquior. There was a good number of young families at Mass today, but quite a few people seem not to bother with Ash Wednesday nowadays. Perhaps this is partly down to the fact that since the Holydays of precept have been moved to Sunday, it is harder to imagine coming to Mass during the week voluntarily, even when a popular sacramental is on offer.

The above photo is a screen grab posted by Fr Z from the CTV coverage of the Holy Father's Mass at Santa Sabina today. He has lots more and there are plenty of encouraging liturgical details: pontifical dalmatic, Cardinals in dalmatics, no concelebration, "Philip cut" Roman vestments... all as we are now becoming accustomed to.

Fees for Humanist Ceremonies

While surfing around the British Humanist Association website, I was amused to find the page giving Fees for Humanist Ceremonies. The fee ranges are given as follows:
  • Funerals/Memorials - £130-£175
  • Weddings/Partnerships - £320-£700
  • Namings - £130-£250
Currently, the corresponding amounts for me would be:
  • Funerals - £119 under the same arrangements (payable to funeral director as part of charges for disbursements) although this fee is not in any way insisted on.
  • Weddings - voluntary donation. I am normally given something like £100-£150. £300 would be exceptional.
  • Baptisms - voluntary donation. I am normally given something like £20-£50. £100 would be exceptional.
I'll remember this next time someone says to me that they don't want to get married in Church because it is too expensive. Bear in mind also that we do not charge for the use of the Church whereas presumably the couple have to pay for a venue at which to hold the humanist partnership or naming ceremony in addition to the fee for the humanist "celebrant".

Curious to find out what happens at a naming ceremony, I had a quick google. There is one with Richard Dawkins taking part as a celebrity humanist (but not the "celebrant") and here is a sample ceremony. The humanist ceremonies are not at all unlike the kind of creative liturgy you get offered at some Catholic retreat centres. They made me revise my opinion of the humanist fees: I don't think £250 would be enough to make it worth sitting through something like that, let alone presiding at it.

"NO VAT" demonstration against the Pope

Last Sunday, a group gathered outside Westminster Cathedral to protest against the visit of the Holy Father to Britain. They walked to the Italian embassy in Grosvenor Square and had a rally there. The British Humanist Association website gives some information about the event and there is a page at (The organisers give a figure of 200 attending so there are unlikely to have been more than that.)

The demo was set up to co-ordinate with a similar one organised in Rome by the Facciamo Breccia Coalition. Speakers came from the BHA, the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association, the Protest the Pope coalition, the European Humanist Federation, the National Secular Society, Outrage and others.

The various groups report on the event focus on their own concerns. The humanists emphasise the secular Europe agenda while the gay groups claim that the demo was mostly LGBT. I expect it was a mixture of both. We can expect from of the same in the run-up to the Holy Father's visit, perhaps co-ordinated under the banner of the "Protest the Pope Coalition" (or something similar) - but it will be mostly the same people.

A new course at Mundelein seminary

Fr Christensen writes the blog White Around The Collar. He recently reported on a new class that will be offered at the Mundelein Seminary next quarter. He will be taking the course on preparation for celebrating Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Gregorian Chant Network

The Gregorian Chant Network has been launched to promote the use of Gregorian chant in the Sacred Liturgy. The initiative is supported by the Latin Mass Society, Una Voce Scotland, the Association for Latin Liturgy and the Schola Gregoriana.

There will be a three-day course at the Oratory School, Reading, from 9-11 April, directed by Nick Gale, the Director of Music at Southwark Cathedral. The course will cater for beginners and more advanced singers alike. Details at the GCN website.

Family Education Trust latest bulletin

I warmly recommend the Family Education Trust (Family & Youth Concern) which campaigns tirelessly on pro-life and pro-family issues. The latest bulletin is now available online. This issue has several articles related to the Children Schools and Families Bill, sex education, homeschooling and the rights of families.

Mary's Dowry Productions: St Anne Line trailer

Mary's Dowry Productions have been busy preparing their next film: on the life of St Anne Line. Here is the trailer:

The film about St Margaret Clitherow is now out. I haven't had a chance to watch it yet but will post on it when I do.

New media and the priest

Today I have set myself the task of giving a short presentation to the priests of the Bexley Deanery on the subject of "New media and the priest" with reference to Pope Benedict's message for World Communications Day.

The Holy Father mentioned in particular "images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites" so I will select just a few examples of these.

For images, there is the collection at The Work of God's Children's Educational Project that I mentioned the other day, and L'Osservatore Romano's photo site which give resources for priests. The use of images is also well implemented in such videos as "Why I am a Catholic"

This video is by by Katerina Marie Cabello whose blog is Evangelical Catholicism. The video slideshow gives six reasons for being Catholic: 1) the Eucharist, 2) the Church, 3) the Sacraments, 4) Mary, 5) Marriage (actual and spiritual), and 6) Communion of Saints. The song for the video is "Jesus Christ You are my Life," the theme song from the 2005 World Youth Day.

For videos there is also the Vatican's YouTube channel. I was going to show the "Catholics come home" video but it has been pulled from YouTube because of a copyright claim by Catholics Come Home. So now it is an example to show how copyright enforcement gets in the way of the apostolate. As an antidote, there is the excellent Gloria TV for Catholic video sharing.

Blogs? Well I think we know plenty of them...

Websites? Catechetics Online is a favourite of mine which I use regularly to find texts for students in English as well as the incomparable New Advent. The Lenten Reading Plans site I mentioned the other day is a good example of a priest using the internet in the apostolate.

I hope that there will be some enquiries about various possibilities and that the internet connection is robust enough to allow the reasonably speedy display of examples for illustration. I hope to have time to show something of Twitter if only because most people just wonder what on earth it is all about...

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Dominican Sisters on Oprah

Another video for you: the Dominican Sisters of Mary from Ann Arbor, Michigan, appearing on Oprah. The treatment of the religious life is positive, respectful and informative; the sisters are interviewed sensibly, allowing them to explain their way of life. This is an amazing community: there are just under 100 sisters. Average age is 26.

The above video is the first in a series: you can get the others from YouTube.

Summary of Pope Benedict's pontificate

Fr Dwight Longenecker picked up this amusing video, a parody of Downfall (2004) in which Adolf Hitler learns of Pope Benedict's popularity and blows his top. It is better if, like me, you don't know too much German but the subtitles are hilariously matched to the emotional content.

Kudos to: Devin Rose of St. Joseph’s Vanguard And Our Lady’s Train

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Lourdes calendrical coincidence

An observant clerical correspondent informs me that this year the dates of Lent and Easter correspond exactly with those of 1858, the year Our Lady appeared to St Bernadette in Lourdes. The first apparition on 11 Feb 1858 was a Thursday - the same this year; and Easter Sunday was April 4th - the same in 2010.

The photo above is the group from my parish in 2008, the 150th anniversary of the apparitions. This year, we are combining with St Mary's Chislehurst.

BBC series "Our Man in the Vatican"

The BBC has produced a series of three programmes on the life and work of Francis Campbell, the British ambassador to the Holy See. The series is to be shown on BBC 1 in Northern Ireland only, starting this Wednesday 17 February. There is a short trailer at Our Man in the Vatican, and there is a programme information brochure.

This might be quite significant since HMG will obviously have an interest in giving a certain spin to relations between the UK and the Holy See. The series includes an interview with Tony Blair.

UPDATE: BBC1 Northern Ireland is available on Sky channel 973.

Pontifical ceremonies for Holy Week in Melbourne

Fr Glen Tattersall and Fr John McDaniels look after St Aloysius Church in Melbourne, providing for the community attached to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. The website Latin Mass Melbourne shows a thriving Church with plenty of activities. Here is a (slightly distorted) photo of the Church which I grabbed from Google's street view:

This year, Most Rev Basil Meeking, Bishop Emeritus of Christchurch, New Zealand, will be at St Aloysius for Holy Week to celebrate all of the ceremonies according to the usus antiquior. There is a programme at the website so if you are lucky enough to be in reach of Melbourne you have the opportunity to participate in some glorious liturgy with Gregorian chant and polyphony. Visitors would be most welcome at St Aloysius.

I met Frs Tattersall and McDaniels in Rome last month at the Clergy Conference. Fr Tattersall was Assistant Priest, and Fr McDaniels was Deacon at the Pontifical Mass celebrated by Cardinal Cañizares Llovera at St John Lateran at which I was Subdeacon. It is great to hear news of their apostolate in Melbourne.

Having looked up the Church on Google maps, I thought I'd check the distance from Blackfen. Sadly, at 10,512.06 miles (as the crow flies) it's just not going to be practical to nip over for Tenebrae.

View Blackfen to Melbourne in a larger map

Friday, 12 February 2010

Lenten Reading Plans

Many thanks to Fr Jerabek of Huntsville, Alabama for collecting together various resources for Lenten meditation. Lenten Reading Plans has four collections of readings for every day in Lent.

The Church Fathers plan has substantial readings taken from the Fathers. For this, you would need to set aside a significant (though not unreasonable) amount of time. There is also a "Lite" version with shorter readings.

The readings in the Lives of the Saints plan are taken from the Wednesday General Audience addresses of Pope Benedict. There is a plan for the Year of the Priest with readings from St John Vianney, and a plan with readings from Father Faber and Cardinal Newman. The collections are made available in pdf files, except the Saints plan which links to the texts on the Vatican website.

What I particularly like about the whole project is that it is a very simple use of the internet for an apostolic purpose that could have a significant effect on the life of any ordinary member of the faithful who conscientiously takes advantage of it. Simple as it is in conception, a considerable amount of work has been undertaken to gather the texts together in a convenient form for others. Fr Jerabek has certainly given a good example of following the Holy Father's encouragement to use the new media in the service of the Gospel.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Another good Catholic project

I just stumbled across The Work of God's Children's Educational Project, a co-operative online venture that is developing a free public domain curriculum for home-educators. I came across it because of the collection of public domain images. This includes several hundred black and white images that are useful for newsletters, as well as a good collection of images of saints.

The main project is an excellent idea with a lot of potential to become a resource for families, whether homeschooling or not. The site uses wiki software to enable people to edit the pages and improve them.

Dominican essay on equality and the natural law

A few days ago I meant to put up a link to this excellent article by Fra Lawrence Lew OP on Natural Law and the Government's Laws in response to the media reaction against Pope Benedict's Address to the Bishops of England and Wales.

H/T Anna Arco

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Important post by John Smeaton on Government Sex-Ed guidance and CES

Not much time to blog up here on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors (and it is snowing as I write...) but in a quick burst transmission of emails I got a note from John Smeaton about his latest post: Catholic Education Service has helped draft the government's anti-life/anti-family sex ed draft guidance. John has been through the draft guidance document and details some of the more important problems that it presents.

You may also like to see the post by James Preece on his correspondence with the CES: Talking to Catholic Education Services

Fr Manfred Hauke on Medjugorje

The renowned German theologian Manfred Hauke has given an interview on the subject of the alleged supernatural phenomena at Medjugorje. (Mariologist Hauke on Medjugorje: "Don't let the devotees fall into the void") The article is particularly valuable because of Fr Hauke’s sound theological judgement, something apparent illustrated in his introduction to the theology of Marian apparitions in general. After explaining the prophetic nature of such revelations, he takes issue with Rahner’s explanation of all such phenomena as “imaginative visions”, saying that such a subjective approach does not account for phenomena such as the apparitions at Knock where the place in which Our Lady and the saints stood remained dry despite the pouring rain. Having rejected this reductionism, he draws some useful distinctions highlighting the relative role of subjective influence and the intervention of God or of the saints.

On the question of Medjugorje, he highlights the difference between the phenomena there, and those at Gaudeloupe, Lourdes and Fatima, and makes the point that good fruits do not necessarily prove a supernatural origin. He mentions also negative fruits, saying:
One of those is the encouragement given to two Franciscan friars, who were urged by the seer Vicka in the name of the "Gospa" to set themselves against the canonically legitimate directives of the local bishop regarding their pastoral activity. At the repeated exhortations of the "Gospa" to disobedience (13 times), the ordinary at the time, Bishop Zanic, who had been originally inclined favorably to the Medjugorje phenomenon, reacted with very understandable rejection.
He continues with a number of other instances of disobedience.

The concluding remarks in the interview are especially worthy of note:
If a new investigative commission reaches a recognition that certain characteristics indissolubly connected with the phenomenon of the apparitions speak against their authenticity, then the love of truth demands that this be made known with all clarity and that Catholic Christians be warned expressly against "pilgrimages". The principle is valid here: "bonum ex integra causa; malum ex quovis defectu" ("Good comes from an undamaged cause; bad from some kind of defect"). If a drink is mixed with rat poison, it's not sufficient to point out that it contains only two percent strychnine with 98 percent water: the whole drink has to be poured out. If the Church does not, herself, finally lance the boil that is connected with Medjugorje, then anti-Catholic groups will do the job and with pleasure. And then the patience extended to the enthusiasm of Medjugorje could become a boomerang that attacks the Church from inside, if the groups previously connected with the Bosnian "place of pilgrimage", finally disillusioned, should turn against the Faith and the Church. And that could also explain that the devil takes "good fruits" as part of doing his business in Medjugorje: if he can bring forth a vastly greater harm to the Church in the end. Pastoral love must not be separated from the love of truth.
It is interesting to be able to discuss this with other priests at the theological symposium. There is a variety of views, one being that we should apply the Gamaliel approach.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Symposium underway

The Faith Theological Symposium at Ampleforth got underway last evening with a talk from Fr Stephen Dingley on the incarnation and the Church, followed after supper by Fr Chris Findlay-Wilson's talk on Teresa Higginson and devotion to the Sacred Head of Jesus. Teresa was an English mystic whose cause was introduced at Rome. It came to a halt because of a "non expedit" from the Holy Office, related to the devotion to the Sacred Head. Given the fact that the Divine Mercy devotion has been rehabilitated, it would be possible to get the cause going again if there is enough interest. To find out more about her, see the Teresa Higginson website.

Devotion to the Sacred Head is a complement to the Sacred Heart devotion. Just as jansenism was countered by devotion to the human and divine love of Christ, so the intellectual assault of modernism is countered by devotion to the human and divine wisdom of Christ.

Not much time to blog, obviously, though the IT Dept at Ampleforth this afternoon gave me a guest account to access the internet via their network via wifi which is most helpful. Here are a few photos...

Fr Stephen Brown

Fr David Standen

Canon Luiz Ruscillo

Aquinas study weekend for young adults

Sr Valery Walker is organising another Study Weekend for young adults from Friday evening 12 March to midday on Sunday 14 March. This will be a reflective study on the subject of Calvary and the Mass, with special reference to the work of St Thomas Aquinas. Talks will be given by Fr Thomas Crean OP and discussion with Sr Valery Walker OP.

The weekend will be held at St Dominic's Convent, Station Road, Stone, Stafforshire, ST15 8EN. The
suggested donation is £25. To book a place, email Sr Valery Walker.

(There will be a similar weekend after Easter, April 16th-18th. Priest and topic to be arranged.)

Monday, 8 February 2010

On the way to Ampleforth

This week, the seminary has a half-term break so I am not required to lecture today. Instead, I am on my way up to North Yorkshire, to the Abbey of Ampleforth, for the Faith Movement's annual theological symposium. This year, the papers are focussed mainly on topics in ecclesiology and the theology of the Eucharist. An exception is the paper this evening in which Fr Chris Findlay-Wilson will speak about Theresa Higginson and Devotion to the Sacred Head. (The papers are usually published separately as articles in Faith Magazine.)

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Cameron tells us what Jesus would do

The gay magazine Attitude has recently published an interview with David Cameron in which he has tried to convince the gays that he has converted from being a diehard supporter of Section 28 to being a right-on "it's normal and harmless" guy. For what it's worth, they don't trust him: the magazine invites readers to make up their own minds about "whether his pro gay conversion is simply to win votes."

The text of the interview is not available online and there is no way I am going to scandalise my devout and hard-working Hindu neighbours by buying a copy in their shop, so I am relying on quotations. Ruth Gledhill has helpfully focussed on his remarks on Christianity. (See: Cameron tells Rowan: Make your Church pro-gay)

Cameron effectively confirms that if a Conservative Government is elected there will be no change in the current drive to prevent "faith schools" from teaching Christian doctrine. In response to the loaded question
'Do you think that the right of gay children to have a safe education trumps the right of faith schools to teach that homosexuality is a sin?'
Cameron replies:
Basically yes - that's the short answer to that, without getting into a long religious exegesis. I mean, I think, yes. I think..... [long pause]
Well at least we were spared Dave's attempts at a long religious exegesis. We do get a short one, though. Quoting the wisdom of his PPS ("someone of deep religious faith"), he says:
That if our Lord Jesus was around today he would very much be backing a strong agenda on equality and equal rights, and not judging people on their sexuality.
That surely has to rank as one of the more adventurous attempts at a "What Would Jesus Do?" exercise: but there is more. Cameron has some unusual advice for Dioceses drawing up the umpteenth recension of their Pastoral Plan "From Closure to Brightness" (or whatever):
I don’t want to get into a huge row with the Archbishop here, but the Church has to do some of the things that the Conservative Party has been through. Sorting this issue out and recognising that full equality is a bottom-line, full essential.
Well I suppose that suggesting to the elderly swingers in the local "We are the Future" Fairtrade Coffee Morning that the solution to the problems of the Church is to follow the Conservative Party would certainly give them something to ponder while enjoying the organic oatmeal and marmalade flapjacks. It might even be a reassuring prospect, all things considered, to wear a blue rosette with pride after all.

Sadly, Dave has jumped on the bandwagon just a little too late. Apparently the Spaniards have already left us behind on radical Spartist moral liberalism.

Faith Magazine latest issue online

The January-February issue of Faith Magazine is now online with lots of goodies for you. The editorial is a post-mortem on the Intelligence Squared debate in which the motion "The Catholic Church is a force for good" was roundly defeated. See: The London Debate: Why We Lost and What We Must Learn William Oddie, the author of "The Roman Option", a critique of the lukewarm response in some quarters, to the converts who were looking for a home after the 1992 decision of the Church of England to ordain women priests, writes the column Comment on the Comments. Not surprisingly, he feels strongly about the opposition to Anglicanorum Coetibus. Other topics studied in this issue are the divinity and humanity of Christ, environmentalism and the personhood of the human embryo.

You might also want to take a look at the editorial essay in the previous issue: Time to Proclaim the Primacy of Jesus Christ in Creation

As ever, all the content of Faith Magazine is available free online. The printed version is very attractive and you can subscribe via the website. There is a special offer for new subscribers from the USA.

New translation of Ignatius and Polycarp

St Ignatius of Antioch was martyred at Rome under the Emperor Trajan. His letters were therefore written between 98 and 117 AD. (If Eusebius was correct, he was martyred in 108 AD.) St Polycarp was martyred around 156 AD: as a boy, he knew St John, and in later life, he was an influence on St Irenaeus. Consequently these two Fathers form a most important witness to the faith and life of the Church in the immediate post-apostolic period.

Kenneth J Howell, Director and Senior Fellow of the St John Institute of Catholic Thought, has made a fresh translation of the letters of St Ignatius and Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians, together with the later work The Martyrdom of Polycarp. A sensible and helpful note on the translation explains his interaction with existing translations and the occasional differences of interpretation.

Throughout the text, there are notes on both the language and the interpretation, making this a most useful text for the student. Also of great value are the introductory essays which deal with both historical and theological questions. St Ignatius is often quoted piecemeal in support of Catholic doctrine; while such selectivity is understandable, it is a pity if students are thereby deprived of an overview of how the theology of St Ignatius relates to and develops some of the themes from the new testament epistles which were written less than a lifetime before him. This book would make an excellent introduction to the study of the Apostolic Fathers and would assist the interested seminarian or theology student to get behind the proof texts.

The writings of Ignatius and Polycarp had a profound effect on Marcus Grodi, helping him to find his way into the Catholic Church. It is fitting that this new translation of their works is published by Grodi's Coming Home Network as the first in their Early Christian Fathers Series. I hope that the series continues in the same vein, producing editions of the Fathers that will open up their treasures in an accessible way.

Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna. A new Translation and Theological Commentary. (Revised and Expanded Edition) Kenneth J Howell. CH Resources (2009) viii+200 pages $11.95.

UPDATE: Contact Family Publications to order this and any other CH Resources books in the UK.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Don't compromise on pro-life teaching - even slightly

Today, the Holy Father addressed the Bishops of Scotland. One of the points that he made was to distinguish between lay ministry and lay apostolate:
Hand in hand with a proper appreciation of the priest’s role is a correct understanding of the specific vocation of the laity. Sometimes a tendency to confuse lay apostolate with lay ministry has led to an inward-looking concept of their ecclesial role. Yet the Second Vatican Council’s vision is that wherever the lay faithful live out their baptismal vocation – in the family, at home, at work – they are actively participating in the Church’s mission to sanctify the world. A renewed focus on lay apostolate will help to clarify the roles of clergy and laity and so give a strong impetus to the task of evangelizing society.
This struck a particular chord with me, and at the back of my mind, I knew that I had written something on the subject some years ago. Looking back through the list of editorials that I wrote when I was editor of Faith Magazine, I found the article: Lay Apostolate: the forgotten concern of Vatican II, written back in November 1992. I hope that it might provide a suitable reflection on the Pope's words.

From the point of view of the pro-life movement, the best part of the address is the paragraph where the Holy Father encourages the Bishops to defend the fullness of Catholic doctrine:
Support for euthanasia strikes at the very heart of the Christian understanding of the dignity of human life. Recent developments in medical ethics and some of the practices advocated in the field of embryology give cause for great concern. If the Church’s teaching is compromised, even slightly, in one such area, then it becomes hard to defend the fullness of Catholic doctrine in an integral manner. Pastors of the Church, therefore, must continually call the faithful to complete fidelity to the Church’s Magisterium, while at the same time upholding and defending the Church’s right to live freely in society according to her beliefs.
Pope Benedict also emphasises that the "positive and inspiring vision" of the Church on human life, the beauty of marriage and the joy of parenthood is a positive message of hope: not a series of prohibitions and retrograde positions, but a message directed to "the fullest possible realization of the great potential for good and for happiness that God has implanted within every one of us."

We have been blessed this week with two excellent addresses of the Holy Father, directed specifically at the needs of the Church and society in Britain. Reading them this evening, I had the frivolous thought that if he were in a philosophical darts match with secular Britain and dissenting Catholics, the Pope's latest salvoes would merit the acclamation "One hundred and eighty!"

The reaction of the mainstream media, of secularists, and of militant gay groups has only underlined just how well he has focussed on the key issues to which the Church must bear witness in Britain today. There will be protests and manufactured fury when he comes to visit, but we should surely recall the words of Our Lord:
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth; [...] You are the light of the world. (Matt 5.11-14)
(May I remind you to add your name to the Petition in support of the Pope.)

Annual Mass for Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester

The Duke Humphrey Society announces that the annual Requiem Mass for Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, will be celebrated in Blackfriars Priory Church at Oxford, on Saturday 20 February 2010 at 2pm in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. All welcome.

Duke Humphrey was the youngest son of King Henry IV, brother of Henry V and uncle to Henry VI. He was a patron of learning and of the arts, he enclosed Greenwich Park, and is remembered at Oxford where the Sir Thomas Bodley restored the library founded by Duke Humphrey in 1602, and added to it, creating the beginnings of the University's Bodleian Library.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Oratory answers Clifford Longley on miracles

In the Tablet of 9 January, Clifford Longley wrote a piece in which he questioned the idea of "canonisation miracles." He wrote:
The idea that God would demonstrate that a saint is truly in heaven by instantly healing someone’s fatal illness because he has been asked to by the said saint – who is in turn responding to the prayers of the victim or those near to him – seems to me so simplistic, so credulous, so presumptuous, so mechanical and so manipulative, that it brings no credit to the Catholic religion and indeed confirms the worst prejudices of its enemies. Is that really the kind of God we believe in? Don’t millions of people offer prayers every day for the recovery of a loved one – some of which are answered, some not? Doesn’t the very idea of canonisation miracles – in effect miraculous prayers as part of a PR exercise – mock them cruelly?
The blog for the cause for the canonisation of John Henry Cardinal Newman has responded with an article Who needs a miracle? Not surprisingly, the article draws on the writings of Newman himself.

Double-think on equality

Over the past couple of days, Stephen Hughes, Member of the European Parliament for the North East of England, has hit the headlines as a Catholic who has expressed indignant opposition to the Holy Father's comments on Equality legislation. Speaking at a meeting of socialists and democrats, Hughes said that he was appalled by what the Pope had said, and pointed to the duty of religious leaders to eradicate inequality. He protested that "Inequality is at the root of many social problems."

One social problem for women in one part of the world has been that when they wanted to have a second baby, they have been forced to have an abortion. Other women in the same country have been subjected to forced sterilisation. The USA declined to continue funding programmes in countries which did this sort of thing. In 2001, the EU stepped in to make up the 33 million shortfall.

In 2008, Amendment 134 to the EU budget was proposed:
Community assistance shall not be given to any government or organisation or programme which supports or participates in the managment of a programme which involves human rights abuses such as coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization or infanticide.
Sadly, the amendment failed by 335 votes to 222. Twenty British MEPs helped to vote the amendment down. Among them was none other than Stephen Hughes MEP.

Dave's Part supports the Pope

Well I suppose not quite, but interesting nevertheless. David Osler ("Ex-punk. Ex-Trot. Unchanged attitude problem.") writes a thought-provoking piece on his blog Dave's Part, about Pope Benedict XVI and UK Equality Law. Reading this, you need to exercise indulgence in ignoring some of the de rigeur socialist inverted snootiness about the Catholic Church and enjoy the fact that he highlights the inconsistency of the hated New Labour revisionism, as in:
Well, New Labour in office has been adamant about its wish for ‘dialogue’ with ‘faith communities’, so it can hardly feign surprise when a religion with over 4m adherents takes it up on the idea.
Again, leaving aside some of the bits we would all take issue with, just consider this from a left-wing commentator:
Common sense alone dictates that the League Against Cruel Sports has no duty to be an equal opportunities employer in respect of illegal cock fighting aficionados. If you apply to be a Conservative parliamentary candidate and then inform the selection meeting that you are an anarcho-syndicalist, you do not have grounds subsequently to bring a discrimination case.

Peter Tatchell – a man with whom I usually agree on much – has been widely quoted taking the Pope to task on this one. But my guess is that he wouldn’t hire an overt homophobe for an admin job at OutRage!

By the same token, if you want to work for the Catholic Church, your potential bosses might reasonably expect you to uphold the teachings of Catholicism. If you are gay, it will presumably not have escaped your notice that the Vatican has a longstanding downer on hot man-on-man legover action.

And why would a self-respecting gay man or woman want to be a member of an organisation that teaches them that same-sex personal relationships are sinful, anyway? There are plenty of wussy denominations that take a more inclusive line, not least the Church of England.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Book: Catholic Priest, Image of Christ

Gracewing, together with a number of other European publishers, is marking the Year of the Priest with a number of titles. On Saturday 13 February at St Wilfrid's Hall (London Oratory) the most prestigious of these will be launched: Catholic Priest, Image of Christ. Through Fifteen Centuries of Art. The Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest collaborated in the book, and Mgr Wach, the Founder and Prior General, will celebrate Mass in the Little Oratory before the book launch, at 11.30am

Here is the publisher's information about the book:
The editor of The Catholic Priest, Image of Christ, Steen Heidemann presents 560 images of the priesthood, from masterpieces of art across fifteen centuries, which vividly illustrate the vocation, call to sanctity, apostolic work, spirituality and liturgical activity of priests. Accompanying the illustrations are profound expositions of the priestly life from major figures of the Church: His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estévez, Archbishop Raymond Burke, Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, Bishop Basile Mvé Engone, Bishop John Basil Meeking, Bishop Juan Rodolfo Laise; the Abbots of Notre-Dame de Fontgombault, Notre-Dame de Randol, Notre-Dame de Triors, Sainte-Madeleine du Barroux, Sainte-Marie de Lagrasse; a range of other distinguished priests including Fathers of the Oratory and of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. The book also explores the question of what art is worthy to be used in the Church (the illustrations include many paintings and stained glass designs from the 21st century), and provides a gazetteer of significant contemporary artists working for the Church today.
Catholic Priest, Image of Christ. Through Fifteen Centuries of Art. is available from Gracewing, price £40

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

"You don't pick and choose traditions"

Nadine Dorries is annoyed that the Speaker of the House of Commons no longer wears the traditional dress. This used to include a wig, knee breeches, silk stockings and buckled shoes. John Bercow wears a plain black gown over his lounge suit ("business" suit if you must.)

Despite the simplifying of dress, it seems that MPs are still expected to observe the tradition of standing still with their backs to the wall and their eyes diverted when the Speaker walks down the corridor. Nadine Dorries has rebelled against this tradition, causing great annoyance to the Speaker by doing so. She writes:
My response: if you want to drop the tradition of wearing the Speaker’s dress, then don’t expect me to honour the tradition of standing still in the corridor when you move along it. You don’t pick and choose traditions. If you do you begin to erode away at what brings millions of pounds into this country each year via our tourism economy. You erode the authority of the Speaker’s chair and, by doing so, erode the authority of Parliament itself.
Something doesn't seem entirely right here: I am not sure that flouting one tradition is a good protest against the loss of another. Nevertheless it is interesting to read an MP on the importance of tradition; and she is right that you can't just pick the ones you are "comfortable" with.

A question I would ask is "Why bother with the gown?" Plain and simple it may be, but if you are not going to wear the proper stuff, what on earth is the point of wearing anything distinctive at all? It rather reminds me of priests saying Mass in jeans and a t-shirt with a stole thrown over. Why do they wear a stole?

Petition in support of the Pope

Chris Gillibrand, author of Catholic Church Conservation, has set up an online petition in support of Pope Benedict. It reads:
We, the undersigned, welcome, with all our hearts and souls, the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom, for the liberty and well-being of the church in our country and most especially for the spiritual benefits and pastoral care to be offered to all, whatever their beliefs.
Sign the petition here

Monday, 1 February 2010

Pope Benedict: "Recognise dissent for what it is"

The Holy Father spoke of several key issues during his Address to the Bishops of England and Wales today. The MSM (e.g. TimesTelegraphIndependentDaily MailMirror, BBC) have zoomed in on his remarks about equality legislation:
Your country is well known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society. Yet as you have rightly pointed out, the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs. In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed. I urge you as Pastors to ensure that the Church’s moral teaching be always presented in its entirety and convincingly defended. Fidelity to the Gospel in no way restricts the freedom of others – on the contrary, it serves their freedom by offering them the truth.
Damian Thompson has a good analysis piece on this part of the Pope's Address: Has the Pope declared war on Labour? Predictably, the National Secular Society and Peter Tatchell's militant gay group Outrage have signalled their intention to protest at the visit.

The bit that had people cheering at the Lyceum pub this evening was:
In a social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, it is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free.
Andrew Brown is suitably enraged by this. His article is headed "Papal aggression", making it sound like something from Punch of around 1850. His article makes the rather bold claim that "English atheism descends very clearly from protestantism" although here, he is in fact confirming the prophecy of Newman some time ago in his Apologia Pro Vita Sua. Eventually, Brown admits that the Pope was speaking in this Address to bishops, and lay Catholics after them, and observes:
In that context "dissent" has a technical meaning which makes his remarks a little less outrageous. What he is in fact trying to say is that the bishops should crack down on liberalism within their own church. "The Catholic community in your country needs to speak with a united voice."

This is important because the Catholic church in Britain has never been as divided, as it is now. Not only is it shrinking in numbers, with an ageing priesthood, but there is now a vociferous right-wing party which blames all its troubles on liberalism, wet bishops, and the lack of Latin masses. The division lies roughly between the Catholic Herald, on the right, and the Tablet on the left.
(Apropos, a correspondent directed me to a recently-started website set up to respond to one group of dissenting Catholics: Reclaiming Vatican II - Our Council, Our Church. They are not on the Tablet side of the division, you understand.)

At the website of the Bishops' Conference, you can also read the Address to the Holy Father given by Archbishop Vincent Nichols In the course of this address, Archbishop Nichols says:
At this time we appreciate your concern for the dignity and reverence with which the Mass is celebrated. This is a central part of the life of every priest and bishop and we are committed to constant effort in this regard. In particular the new translations of the Roman Missal offer us an opportune moment to deepen our appreciation of the Mass. Through catechesis we can renew our reception of the richness of the Church’s faith through the ages which, in faithfulness, is now handed on to us in these texts.
He also speaks of the human person and says that the important truths should shape economic and social policy, adding:
First among these are, of course, the respect for life from its beginnings and the crucial role of marriage and family for the well-being not only of children but also for the good of society.
Concerning the person of the Holy Father, the Archbishop says:
We are proud of the strong tradition of profound loyalty to the Holy Father which is part of our heritage in England and Wales. It is very much a feature of our Catholic life.
I am not going to go into the question of how much these statements are actually reflected in the life of the local Church; let me simply observe that Archbishop Nichols was addressing the Holy Father formally on behalf of the bishops of England and Wales, representing the Catholic Church in our countries. Therefore, to express profound loyalty to the Holy Father, to give the pro-life and pro-family cause first priority, to want the Sacred Liturgy celebrated with dignity and reverence, and to welcome the new translations: these are not the marks of right wingers, conservatives, or fundamentalists; they are not a rejection of Vatican II, a retreat to the past, or an obstruction to progress. They are not confined to the readers of the Catholic Herald or to the writers of Catholic blogs. They are the policy of the Bishops' Conference and, as such, should be considered as mainstream for Catholics in England and Wales. It's official.
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