Thursday, 31 March 2011

A wonderful day in York

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For the first time since the reign of Mary Tudor, the traditional Latin Mass was celebrated at York Minster last Saturday. About 800 people attended the Mass celebrated in honour of St Margaret Clitherow. Afterwards, there was a procession through the streets of York, including The Shambles where the Saint lived, across the Ouse and on to the English Martyrs' Church.

2006 03 19_8638The Mass was organised by the Latin Mass Society and you can read more about the occasion at the LMS blog. The celebrant was Fr Stephen Maughan (left); his sermon is also available. The singers were the indomitable Rudgate Singers, sometimes now referred to as the Rudgate Ramblers after Mike Forbester's blog. In addition to the proper texts of the Mass, they sang the Byrd five part Mass. I hear that the rendering was sublime.

2006 03 19_8655LMS chairman Joseph Shaw has his own report and a fine flickr set of photos (from which those posted here are taken.) James Preece was there (right) and has written enthusiastically about the day, as has Fr Michael Brown at Forest Murmurs. Fr Brown notes that "looking around the parish newsletters of the York [Catholic] parishes on the internet none of them mentioned the event." (Though in fact two parishes in York did advertise it locally.) The occasion was, of course, widely covered by TV, radio and local press; one of my parishioners who travelled to attend the Mass brought back the newsletter from York Minster which also mentioned it, billing it straightforwardly as "Roman Catholic Mass."

2011 03 26_8548The Dean and Chapter of York Minster were generous in allowing the Minster to be used. Not only that, but Canon Chancellor Glyn Webster, and the Precentor, Canon Peter Moger, sat in choir during the Mass (left). From all accounts, the Minster staff were most welcoming and helpful. The large numbers attending meant that the Quire (which is itself larger than a normal parish Church) became full; the staff of the Minster rushed to put out extra chairs in the nave.

There have been one or two comments about the desirability of celebrating Mass in an Anglican Cathedral. I would have no worries about that. Firstly it was a Catholic Church for many centuries and secondly it is often easier to arrange the traditional Mass in an Anglican Cathedral than in a Catholic Church. The Latin Mass Society in fact report that they originally hoped to arrange the Mass at the Catholic Church of St Wilfrid which is only a few yards away from the Minster. The Church was "unavailable" apparently.

If you don't know about St Margaret Clitherow, you can read about her at the Catholic Encyclopaedia, or on Wikipedia. This would be an emergency measure to remedy an important gap in your knowledge. There is a longer article by Daniel F. McSheffery St Margaret: Mother and Martyr at the EWTN website. In fact, you can go further because there is a new book by Peter Lake and Michael Questier called The Trials of Margaret Clitherow: Persecution, Martyrdom and the Politics of Sanctity in Elizabethan England which I have had recommended to me.

York Minster, like Westminster Abbey, is dedicated to St Peter. You can find out more information about it at the official website and there is a decent article on Wikipedia.

Anyone can learn Latin and chant

St. Cecilia's Abbey in Ryde have had their website redone. There is information about the life and work of the Abbey with photos from the cloister and the garden which are within the enclosure, to which visitors and guests do not have access. At the Chapter House tab, you will be able to read the fine addresses of Mother Abbess.

Although the website has changed, the sister who wrote to me said that the life of the community has not markedly changed since the old website first went live in 2000. I was glad to hear that. For many years, St Cecilia's has bucked the downward trend in religious vocations. Currently they have a novice and two juniors in their twenties.

The Sacred Liturgy at the Abbey is celebrated in Latin according to the newer form, with the Divine Office chanted using the books produced by Solesmes. The Question and Answer page inevitably has the question "Why do you still have your liturgy in Latin?" - to which a good and sensible answer is given. I found the last part of the answer delightful in its simple and down to earth common sense:
If girls don't know Latin when they enter - and they usually don't know any - they learn it in the novitiate. It is astonishing how quickly you pick it up with one-to-one teaching and singing it in the liturgy several times a day. The same is true of Gregorian Chant. Most of us are not "musical", but our choir mistress says she has found that anyone can learn to sing the Chant. People nowadays often use discipline in posture and breathing as aids to prayer, or learn to discern the promptings of the Spirit through their memory or imagination or emotions. Learning Latin and music for the sake of praying through the Chant is just another discipline which centuries of experience have shown to be a way to deeper union with God.
To think that some people are complaining because we will soon have an English translation that is more challenging to read out loud!

You can buy CDs of the community's Gregorian chant, and the Abbey Scribes website shows some of the calligraphy which has been a part of the work of the nuns for 60 years, and information on how to commission an individual manuscript.

Celebrations at The John Fisher School

Archbishop Smith reminded boys at my old school of Pope Benedict's call for them to be saints, and of the importance of St John Fisher, the patron of the school.

Each year, the school celebrates Founder's Day with an invited guest speaker and sung Mass with the school's fine choir. This year, the celebrations included the formal induction of Fr James Clark and Deacon Tony Flavin as chaplains for the school. Fr James Clark is an old boy himself and discerned his vocation especially through the Faith Movement which was founded at the school. I remember visiting there some years ago when he was in the upper sixth form and he was able to boast that he had taught every boy in the school how to serve Mass.

Another highlight of the day was the blessing of the Music Centre which was renamed 'The Fawssett Centre' in memory of the late Fr Richard Fawssett who played a significant role in the development of music at the school. He taught me at the school (and I had occasion to visit his office from time to time in his role as Senior Discipline Master.) On retiring from teaching, he devoted the remaining years of his life to the pastoral and spiritual care of the boys, giving over fifty years of service to the school in total.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Rejoicing at the CTS office today

New English translation of the Mass – introduction date confirmed - so reads the CTS Catholic Compass blog today.

The final text has now been checked, so the files have gone to the printers for turning into proofs. This is a milestone in the production process: the sober prose of the CTS blog post is complemented by the more emotional tweet earlier today:
Roman Missal new translation - much rejoicing at CTS office as the files for the text are FINALLY sent to the printer!!! :-)
Congratulations to all at the CTS. I'm eagerly awaiting an order form!

Holy Father on Saint Alphonsus

"A gentle and mild goodness which was born from an intense relationship with God, who is infinite Goodness" - Pope Benedict's summary of the particular virtue of St Alphonsus Liguori.

I usually have a quick read of the Holy Father's General Audience address each Wednesday but was unable to do so today since I was at Parkminster for my fortnightly visit to teach theology. Therefore I was glad to discover from the Transalpine Redemptorists blog that St Alphonsus was the subject of today's discourse.

Pope Benedict gave a brief summary of the life of St Alphonsus and then mentioned a particular apostolate of the Saint:
Although the social and religious context of the time of St. Alphonsus was very different from ours, the "Evening Chapels" appear a model of missionary activity that we can be inspired by today for a "new evangelization", particularly of those most poor, and to build a human society characterised by greater justice, fraternity and solidarity.
We have something a little like that perhaps, in the Evenings of Recollection in the parish for different categories of people. The Holy Father's discourse made me think today about possible ways of developing this activity.

The Holy Father recalled that St Alphonsus was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by the Blessed Pope Pius IX and was named Patron of all confessors and moralists by Pope Pius XII in 1950. He then spoke of his major works - in moral theology, but especially his ascetical works which still prove inspiring today.

The article by Harold Castle in the Catholic Encyclopaedia has an amusing story about St Alphonsus which is offered in rebuttal of the (essentially anti-Catholic) claim that he was the patron of lying, because of his careful discussion of what does or does not constitute a lie:
When, in 1776, the regalist, Mgr. Filingeri, was made Archbishop of Naples, the Saint would not write to congratulate the new primate, even at the risk of making another powerful enemy for his persecuted Congregation, because he thought he could not honestly say he "was glad to hear of the appointment."
For my morning meditation at the moment I am using the book "Attaining Salvation. Devout meditations and reflections." by the holy founder of the Redemptorists. This was one of the books I picked up at the Day With Mary a few weeks ago. It was translated into English in 1901 by Fr Edmund Vaughan CSSR who was then at St Mary's Clapham, the Redemptorist house in the Archdiocese of Southwark. It was republished by TAN Books (naturally) in 1982. I warmly recommend it to you.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

A new tractarian movement?

Fr Aidan Nichols OP spoke today to a gathering of the newly-founded British Confraternity of Catholic Clergy at St Joseph's, New Malden. His paper was followed by a thoughtful discussion after which we looked at one or two practical questions regarding the structure of the Confraternity. Fr Marcus Holden (Parish Priest of Ramsgate) then gave Benediction in the beautiful and well-kept Church, assisted by Fr Peter Edwards (Parish Priest of New Malden) and Fr Richard Whinder (Parish Priest of Mortlake) before the parishioners provided us with a delicious lamb hotpot.

Fr Nichols' address was filled with original and provocative ideas. As priests forming a new confraternity, he encouraged us to consider what Newman and his friends were trying to achieve through the Tractarian movement. In the Apologia Pro Vita Sua (chapter 2) Newman explained that his first principle as a tractarian was the battle against liberalism or the anti-dogmatic principle. He protested that although he had changed some of his religious opinions in his journey to the Catholic Church, he had never changed on that principle. On returning home, I checked his Biglietto speech of 1879 (upon being created Cardinal), in which Newman returned to the theme of this fundamental struggle of his life, saying:
For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion.
Liberalism, he explained as follows:
Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion, as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are matters of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy.
A major theme Fr Nichols urged upon us was the importance of evangelisation for the life of the Church. He suggested that the decline of Catholic life in England according to every measurable criterion, was directly attributable to loss of the imperative for the conversion of England. He compared the failure to be missionary to that obex or obstacle which may be placed by the recipient of a sacrament, preventing its fruitfulness. Just as the removal of the obstacle will enable the reviviscence of grace, so the removal of the obstacle of the lack of missionary activity will enable the revival of the Church - for those within the Church as well as by the reception of those to whom this missionary activity is directed. In other words, people who evangelise will find that their own faith is strengthened by the very fact of doing so.

The theme of the Liturgy was not neglected. Fr Nichols cited the example of St Augustine who was moved by the sacred chant of the Cathedral at Milan. People need the sacrality of the Liturgy to move them to an active faith which recognises the necessity of evangelisation. There was much else of value that I would like to re-read when the address is published. I have not by any means done the paper justice in this brief write-up of some of my notes.

The new Confraternity of Catholic Clergy has started not only in the London area but also in the North of England. It is likely to grow rapidly since there is a crying need for such a body in Britain. Today's was a small gathering, but the foundation of the Confraternity is now publicised and I expect that many priests who agree with the objects will join up both to benefit from, and contribute to, the work of fidelity, formation and fraternity. There is scope for a regional structure and local cells as well as a national meeting.

Here are the priests who met today, with two rogues on the right of the second row who write those interweb blog thingies:

In response to enquiries, I can confirm from the discussion today, that there will be provision made for lay people who wish to do so, to be associated as Friends of the Confraternity, to offer their prayerful, financial and practical support according to their means.

Norma Jean Coon excommunication lifted

The lifting of an excommunication is good news to anyone who believes in the importance of the sacraments and therefore can understand what a great joy it is for someone to come to Holy Communion again in good standing with the Church.

Norma Jean Coon was excommunicated for being the subject of an attempted ordination as a Deacon in 2007. She has now had her excommunication lifted after renouncing the alleged ordination, confessing to the truth of the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, accepting the authority of the Holy Father, and recognising that Christ instituted the sacrament of Holy Orders only for men. At her website you can read the statement of renunciation.

Since renouncing the attempted ordination, Norma Jean has started attending the FSSP parish in San Diego. She attends the traditional Mass and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament daily. Laus Deo semper and God bless you, Norma Jean. Though we in England are separated by an ocean, we are still part of the one Catholic Church and can presume, in the mystical body of Christ, as fellow-sinners, to say "Great to have you back!"

FSSP house canonically established in Amsterdam

The FSSP has been given permission by the Bishop for the canonical establishment of a new house in Amsterdam.

The blog Vox in Rama audita est has the happy news. Author Cazienza Puellae happened to be in the St Agneskerk (Church of St Agnes) and picked up a copy of the newsletter in which Fr Knudsen FSSP, administrator of the parish, announced that on 3 March 2011, in accordance with Canon Law and with the permission of the Bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam, a religious house was now established in Amsterdam for the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. The house, which will be named after St. Boniface, will be recognised as a 'convent' ('Klooster') by the diocese. The house falls under the jurisdiction of the Superior General of the FSSP.

In my youth, the Netherlands were known as the epicentre of post-conciliar modernism. A joke used to be told as follows: in Holland before the Council nothing changed except the bread and wine at Mass; after the Council everything changed except the bread and wine at Mass. It must have been a heartbreaking time for faithful Dutch Catholics. Having seen for myself the new life of the Church in some of the young people there, I am delighted to hear of this development whereby the FSSP have a stable and permanent home in Amsterdam to assist in the ever-growing revival of the Church of the Netherlands.

Here is a video of High Mass at the Agneskerk:

If you are visiting the Netherlands, the St Agneskerk is at Amstelveenseweg 163, near the Haarlemmermeerstation. It can be reached by a 10 minute tram ride from the Central Railway station (tram 16).

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Handmade rosaries from the Ordinariate Sisters

A handmade rosary in support of the work of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham can now be ordered from the religious Sisters who have joined the Ordinariate. (Report in the Ordinariate Newsletter)

The purpose of this initiative is to support the apostolic work of the Sisters and to increase prayers for the establishment of the Ordinariate. The rosaries are made to order and can be wire-wrapped or cord, with 5, 15, or 20 decades. For more details, please contact Sister Carolyne Joseph or c/o Poor Clare Monastery, Galley Lane, Arkley, Barnet, Herts, EN5 4AN.

The three Sisters were formerly members of the Priory of Our Lady of Walsingham and made a considerable personal sacrifice to join the Ordinariate. Please remember them in your prayers.

Do also take a look at the website of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

EF Mass at Mortlake followed by talk on Newman

St Mary Magdalen, Mortlake, now has an Mass celebrated according to the usus antiquior every First Friday of the month at 7pm.

This Friday, 2 April, the Mass will be followed by an illustrated talk given by Newman Scholar Dr Andrew Nash, entitled 'Who was John Henry Newman?' Dr Nash has been speaking about Newman at various venues as part of the extended celebration of his beatification and priests have spoken to me enthusiastically about his presentation of the new Beatus.

The talk will be accompanied by tea, coffee and Victorian marmalade cake. A donation of £3 is suggested: all proceeds will go to support the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham. The founder of Mortlake parish, Father John Wenham, was a friend and disciple of Cardinal Newman, so the setting for the talk is very appropriate.

The parish priest, Fr Richard Whinder, was ordained in 2001 and is one of the younger parish priests of the Archdiocese of Southwark. He wrote a fine book on "The Forty Four The Martyrs of the Venerable English College Rome."

Saturday, 26 March 2011

What if we just said pray?

Louie Verrecchio, a columnist for the Catholic News Agency has just launched a response for faithful Catholics to the "What if we just said wait?" campaign of dissent against the new (corrected) translation of the Roman Missal. Here is a link where you can sign up to the Statement of Concern.

Louie explains the background in an article for CNA. I agree with him that it is possible for priests who are opposed to the new translations to "infect the faithful with their personal biases against the forthcoming translation." It is also true that those priests who welcome the new translations will be able to encourage their people to rejoice in the greater richness of the language of our prayer now that we will be able to pray the texts of the Missal in an accurate translation.

A priest commented to me the other day that it is easy for us to imagine that people will see things as we do, and attach the same importance to them as we do. I have now had some experience of using parts of the new translation. Having heard much passionate argument on either side, I was amused to find that most lay people have shown little or no reaction at all.

That is why the new (corrected) translation is an opportunity for catechesis. We can forget the scaremongering of some groups of clergy and the leftist agitation that alleges that it is an imposition on the people from the evil empire of the "Institutional Church." Our task is rather to inform people that something good has happened, to explain why it was necessary, to show how much the English texts have improved, and to point the way to a richer life of prayer.

Basically the new translation is necessary because the old one was so bad; but we can put that more tactfully and emphasise the wealth that is contained in the prayers. More important catechetically, is to show how the new translation helps us to understand our faith better, draws us closer to the true context of the scriptures which is the Sacred Liturgy, and provides richer food for praying the liturgy itself.

British Confraternity of Catholic Clergy

A Confraternity for Priests with one of its objects being fidelity to the Magisterium has been founded in Britain. The British Province of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy is dedicated to St Gregory the Great.

I am lagging behind others in posting about this, but I was very glad to read about the new website at several blogs mentioning it enthusiastically yesterday. At the meeting in Rome of the Confraternities of Catholic Clergy from Australia and the USA, those of us from Britain were keen that a similar Confraternity should be started over here. Many thanks to those who have been doing the hard work of setting it all up.

The website has a built-in news section which you can subscribe to in your RSS feed. It is also now on the blogroll here (CCC British Province.)

If you are a Catholic cleric and agree with the objects of the Confraternity you can join now. I will be joining myself and look forward to benefiting from the support of good priests committed to fidelity, formation and fraternity.

There is always a reason to live

The video for the Spanish Bishops' Conference Campaign for Life 2011. At first I wondered what it was getting at, but ended up being moved by the simple and wholly positive message that it gets across. This is a good example of presenting the pro-life message positively in a secular society. Congratulations to the Spanish Bishops for their canny and professional approach to communication.

Friday, 25 March 2011

New English Missal to have fine illustrations

The CTS Catholic Compass blog has released the above a sample spread from the Missal which will have the new (corrected) translation of the Mass. I was hoping that the Missal would have such images. In previous editions of the Missal the images have been disappointing - and this includes the Latin Editio Typica. As a priest who uses Missals for both the older and newer forms of the Mass, I have been struck by the way that good religious art enhances the Missal used at the altar.

Looking at various hand missals for the faithful, on can see the value of good illustrations even in the line drawings that are used. They have been copied in various places on the internet and are now used in the production of many leaflets and handouts for the people for various purposes. I use them myself, for example, to illustrate the orders of service produced for Confirmation and first Holy Communion. For free images of this kind, see the Musica Sacra Flickr set and the CMAA Picasa collection.

In 2005, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote, in the Introduction the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, on the use of artistic images in the book:
The centuries-old conciliar tradition teaches us that images are also a preaching of the Gospel. Artists in every age have offered the principal facts of the mystery of salvation to the contemplation and wonder of believers by presenting them in the splendour of colour and in the perfection of beauty. It is an indication of how today more than ever, in a culture of images, a sacred image can express much more than what can be said in words, and be an extremely effective and dynamic way of communicating the Gospel message.
It is a joy to see that such fine images will be once again part of the Missal to be used at the altar.

Can we tell someone not to become a Catholic?

Anna Arco of the Catholic Herald has interviewed Archbishop Mennini, the new Apostolic Nuncio for the UK. There is much of interest concerning the relationship of the Holy See and the Russian Orthodox Church. Archbishop Mennini served as Nuncio to the Russian Federation and therefore had much experience of relations with the Orthodox.

The Nuncio had the difficult task of trying to persuade the Orthodox that the Holy Father had great esteem and love for them. He worked hard to establish good relations between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox, using especially the approach of friendly visiting and conversation. He was particularly involved in an initiative which enabled Russian Orthodox students to study in Rome.

In such delicate diplomacy it is important to dispel the impression that the Catholic Church is engaged in an aggressive plan of domination which would undervalue or attempt to obliterate legitimate cultural and spiritual traditions of a people who have professed orthodox Christianity and preserved the heritage of the Fathers in many respects in doctrine and liturgy.

Nevertheless, it is surprising and, I must say with the deepest respect, disconcerting to read His Grace's advice to an Orthodox seminarian working with him:
[...] at the nunciature there was also a young [Orthodox] seminarian who had stopped studying in order to make some money. I would tell him quite often: “You must not become a Catholic. You have to keep your faith in order to better serve your Church. Now you know us you can dream about going to Rome. You can go to Rome one day in order to study but you should remain a Russian Orthodox.”
Surely we can never say to someone that they must not become a Catholic?

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Latest buzz on the PECD Instruction

The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei will issue the much discussed Instruction on Summorum Pontificum in April, according to John Allen.

Significant worries that the forthcoming instruction might water down some of the provisions of Summorum Pontificum, have led to the Motu Proprio Appeal which has, at the time of writing, been signed by 12,442 people. John Allen's article is reassuring to a degree. He has been speaking to some Vatican officials who have said off the record that the worries are unfounded.

According to his sources, the instruction will make it clear that Summorum Pontificum is part of the universal law of the Church and that therefore the Bishops must do what it requires them to do, such as make the usus antiquior available when groups of the faithful request it. Apparently the Instruction will also stipulate that seminarians should be taught the older form of the rite "so they will know how to execute it faithfully and understand what’s being said."

On the question of priestly ordination, the Instruction will apparently "probably not" give a diocesan seminarian the right to be ordained according to the older form. As Fr Z points out, the reasoning for this, given by John Allen's Roman interlocutors, is important: it concerns the question of minor orders. For those who are ordained in the older form, the presumption is that they have received the minor orders and the subdiaconate which were suppressed by Pope Paul VI in the 1972  Motu Proprio Ministeria Quaedam (here is an English translation.)

A senior ecclesiastic once said to me firmly that the minor orders had been abolished. I replied "Not any more" since seminarians in such bodies as the Fraternity of St Peter and the Institute of Christ the King are tonsured and ordained to the minor orders with the full approval of the Holy See. Fr Z puts the matter succinctly:
QUAERITUR: If there are no minor orders anymore, then why does the Holy See allow groups to pretend there are and go through fake ceremonies?
QUAERITUR: If there are still minor orders, then why can’t they be extended to all seminarians?
The questions raised make me wonder whether some seminarians will be tearing their own hair out instead of having it cut ceremonially.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Visit to Douai

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Douai Abbey in Berkshire traces its origin to 1615 when it was founded in Paris as the third house of the re-established English Benedictine Congregation. In 1818 the monastery moved to Douai and finally, in 1903, the laws relating to associations forced most religious orders to leave France in order to avoid suppression. Douai Abbey moved to its present home at Woolhampton in Berkshire.

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The Abbey Church was finally completed in 1993, and a major building project has transformed the architectural character of the monastery in recent years. While on a visit there the other day, I was given a detailed tour of the new library and housing for the Abbey's important archive. The energy for the library is obtained by means of a borehole heat exchanger.

I was there to join the community for the celebration of the Feast of St Benedict. As well as benefiting from warm and generous Benedictine hospitality, I was able to participate in choir at Pontifical Vespers and, the following morning, at Vigils and Lauds which was at the relatively benign time of 6.30am. Brother Anselm who joined the community last year served Mass for me in the Abbot's chapel. He was in my parish and is remembered with affection there. Please say a prayer for him as he and the community test his vocation to follow the Rule of St Benedict.

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The Douai Abbey website has a wealth of information about the Abbey and many photos, including the the progress of various building works.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Vatican affirms the importance of metaphysics

Aristotle Altemps Inv8575There was a most interesting press conference today at the Vatican on a new decree that has been published by the Congregation for Catholic Education concerning the reform of philosophical studies. You can read an English summary at the Vatican Information Service. Cardinal Grocholewski said that the Decree was occasioned by the problems of philosophy in the secular world and within the Church where, as Pope Benedict said, "The crisis of the post-Vatican II theology is largely a crisis of its philosophical foundations."

Essentially, the Decree tightens up on philosophical studies, adding a year to the requirements for the Bachelor of Philosophy degree at Pontifical universities. This in fact also accords with the Bologna process which requires three years of study for a Bachelor level degree. According to Mgr Brugues, the Decree also places a particular emphasis on the role of metaphysics. In the case of ecclesiastical faculties of theology, and seminaries associated with them, 60% of the first two years' course should be in philosophy. Mgr Brugues emphasised the importance of systematic philosophy as opposed to the study simply of the history of philosophy or currents of thought. As he said, "information is not formation."

Fr. Charles Morerod OP, Rector the Angelicum, spoke particularly about the importance of metaphysics, quoting St Thomas to the effect that error concerning created things can lead to error concerning the things of God. He focussed especially on the importance of affirming the ability of the human mind to know the truth and to state it. In a striking comment, he said:
"Above all, our words need to be able to say something true about reality, otherwise the very Bible itself would not affirm anything."
As St Thomas wrote in the Summa Contra Gentiles: "agere sequitur ad esse in actu" often shortened to agere sequitur esse or "action follows being". Applied to a press conference about a new Decree, it could perhaps be stretched to say that the existence of a new Decree about which various important people are speaking, should be followed (that is, in principle, not with any necessary interval of time) by the action of making the Decree available for people to read.

It has in fact been published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana and is available by post from the usual distributor Paxbook at a price of 3 euro. I haven't been able to identify whether it is also available by carrier pigeon or whether you could listen to it using cocoa tins tied together with a piece of string.

"There Be Dragons" trailer

This Friday in Spain sees the opening of the film There Be Dragons, a drama set during the Spanish Civil War, which includes the story of the early life of St Josemaria Escriva. The film is directed by Roland Joffé who also directed The Mission and The Killing Fields.

The other day, there was a showing at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. Remarkably, Roland Joffé compared St Josemaria to Nelson Mandela which, to be honest, was not the first thing that would have jumped into my mind. It is interesting, though, that he was speaking particularly of the work of St Josemaria for reconciliation in Spain. Mgr Clavell told the story of the saint being insulted by a taxi driver after the civil war: he said that he should have been killed along with the other priests. St Josemaria gave him an extra large tip to spend on a gift for his children.

John Allen wrote about the film a couple of weeks ago, saying:
Depending on how things break, “There Be Dragons” could stir the same sort of ferment as Mel Gibson’s “The Passion” – fierce devotion in some quarters, and strong backlash in others.
As with "The Passion", I expect to find myself on the "fierce devotion" side of the auditorium.

The film has been a sell-out in Spain and will be opening in the US in May. No date has been set for Britain yet. There is further information at the official website for the film.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

A Day full of grace


Ave Maria! is the greeting that is exchanged with the Day with Mary team. Today at Blackfen, we were blessed with a Day with Mary, supported by the lay people who form the team, Fr Agnellus FI who travelled down from his parish in Stoke, and the dear Sisters who sang for Mass.

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The Day with Mary is a whirlwind of devotions, including a procession of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, Mass, adoration and procession of the Blessed Sacrament, meditation on the Passion of Christ, prayers for the dead, Benediction, enrolment in the brown scapular and the miraculous medal, and various hymns and prayers from Fatima. It's a Catholic day.

At lunchtime, I get to eat some lovely Philippino food and then jostle with others at the bookstall which is always a great attraction. The team always insist that the priest is allowed to take any books he likes free of charge: I always come away with two or three lovely volumes. Today, I have the life of Blessed Margaret Castello which several people recommended to me, some meditations by St Alphonsus (you can never have enough of those) and an intriguing book "AA-1025" which is about Communist infiltration in the Church. I don't feel right just taking these for free, so a pro-life charity will benefit from the generosity of the DWM team.

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As Parish Priest, I was able to dedicate my parish once again to Our Lady Immaculate, asking her intercession for all our families and parish groups. Thanks be to God, the Church was packed (we ran out of hosts at Mass and I had to start breaking hosts towards the end) and there was a good number of young families with their children. People come from far and wide to these days and it was good to talk to people from various countries in Africa, from Asia, especially the Philippines, and, closer to home, some great people from the Traveller community. Nowadays I feel more and more affinity with the Travellers since, in their independence from the mores of society, they have preserved the traditional family as a part of their culture.

As the statue of Our Blessed Lady was taken in procession at the end of the day, I had a little problem with my eyes: I think it must have been the incense.

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The last photo is from Mulier Fortis. You can see more at her Flickr set.

On murder and a high court ruling

Last week's newsletter from the Birmingham Oratory has a good article with the intriguing title A Murder and a High Court Ruling. The article looks at the murder or Shahbaz Bhatti and the case of Eunice and Owen Johns, making the observation:
Three hundred and fifty-eight British troops have lost their lives in Afghanistan so that Afghanistan, and by extension, Pakistan, might live free from religious extremism in the kind of society that Shabbaz Bhatti also died trying to bring about. This is ironic, fighting for freedoms abroad that we are starting to deny at home.

Equalities and Conscience Petition from Christian Concern

Christian Concern has an Equalities and Conscience Petition following on the case of Eunice and Owen Johns. The petition reads as follows:
Recent Equalities legislation and its interpretation in the courts has led to several individuals who hold to mainstream Christian teaching being barred from different areas of public life and employment, running counter to our country’s long heritage of Freedom of Conscience, and creating a serious obstacle to the Christian community's full and active involvement in the Big Society initiative.

We call on the Prime Minister to act decisively to address this situation, securing the change necessary to ensure that the law provides a basis for widespread involvement in serving society whilst properly upholding the dignity of every individual, including those who seek to live with integrity to Christian conscience and teaching.
There is also a pdf petition form that could be passed around friends or put at the back of the Church. (Please do ask the parish priest's permission first.)

Friday, 11 March 2011

There'll be a big party when we land

H/T Creative Minority Report

I did enjoy this video of the the people of Papua New Guinea welcoming cases of bibles being delivered to them from Trinity Church, Redlands, CA. The first pack of bibles was received by the elders and then a lady said that the younger people should receive the bibles to pass on God's word to the next generation. The American lady who gives some of the narrative for the video points out that we have taken the word of God for granted but these people welcome it as something great.

Of course we could say that we also need the Fathers and the magisterium to know truly the message of the word of God in the bible but I think that should not obscure our joy in seeing people accept the word with such sincere and enthusiastic delight. It reminded me of the rejoicing of the people when they returned to Jerusalem after the exile: "For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law." (Neh 8.9)

My thoughts turned to the forthcoming reception of the new (corrected) translation of the Roman Missal. I wonder how we might celebrate this occasion. Perhaps a display of Morris Men might be the appropriate thing in England.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

British PM acquiesces in the dictatorship of relativism

When Pope Benedict was leaving our country to return to Rome last September, David Cameron said:
You have really challenged the whole country to sit up and think
It seems that the Prime Minister has now had time to slouch back and stop thinking. In an interview with the Derby Telegraph the other day, he was asked about the case of Eunice and Owen Johns who were prevented by a decision in the High Court from becoming foster parents after telling a social worker they would not tell a child that homosexuality was acceptable.

Although the couple are considering an appeal, the Prime Minister said that we should "rest with the judgement that was made." Asked whether Christian views were compatible with an acceptance of homosexuality, he said:
I think Christians should be tolerant and welcoming and broad minded.
This fatuous remark simply underlines the fact that in modern Britain, whether coloured red, blue or yellow politically, Christians are supposed to be tolerant, welcoming and open-minded to any fad of moral relativism, while those who enjoy the current fashion of political support need not trouble themselves to be tolerant, welcoming or open-minded towards Christianity. When addressing the Holy Father, David Cameron chose to quote the Blessed John Henry Newman. Let me therefore respond directly to him in the words of Newman:
"it is more tolerable to be called narrow-minded by man, than to be pronounced self-wise and self-sufficient by God" (Parochial and Plain Sermons vol 3. Sermon 14)
At Westminster Hall, the Holy Father recalled the fundamental questions posed by the trial of St Thomas More which took place there. He spoke of co-operation between religion and made the pertinent observation:
And there are those who argue – paradoxically with the intention of eliminating discrimination – that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience. These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square.
In his address at Heathrow Airport, David Cameron recalled the words of the Holy Father
As you, your Holiness, have said faith is not a problem for legislators to solve but rather a vital part of our national conversation.

And we are proud of that.
Not any more, it seems.

H/T Protect the Pope

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Lenten Reading Plans

Fr Bryan Jerabek has updated the pages of his Lenten Reading Plans to give this year's dates. These reading plans are provided to assist people with their daily meditation. (I wrote a short piece about them last year.) There are four plans with readings from the Fathers, Lives of the Saints, Newman/Faber, and St John Vianney.

Many thanks to Fr Jerabek and those who have assisted him in this act of charity.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The meaning of Lenten penance

This is the sermon that I gave on Sunday at Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen on the 9th Sunday of Year A, or Quinquagesima Sunday (usus antiquior). After reading James Preece's post Do we no longer believe in the spiritual? I thought it might be worth posting here.

"Mercifully hear our prayers O Lord we pray, and, absolved from the bonds of our sins, guard us from every adversity" (Collect)

As Lent begins this week, we consider what penances we might do as part of our traditional preparation for Easter. First of all we should understand why we do penance.

Obviously we don’t fast in order to lose weight, or give up things in order to lead a (physically healthy) lifestyle. Those results may come about incidentally and that would all be jolly good, but the Lenten penance is a spiritual exercise.

Even here, there can be a reluctance to face up to what Lent is really about. We can talk of being open to God, taking stock of the spiritual life, re-charging the batteries or becoming more rounded human beings: these are all good things but they miss the main point of penance.

The primary purpose of doing penance during Lent, or at any other time, is to make reparation for our sins. Let us even use the dreaded word “punishment.” In human affairs, punishment can be inflicted unfairly, it can be merciless, given to satisfy someone’s anger or in various other disordered ways. We tend therefore to think that all punishment is bad, and to think that it doesn’t fit in with our idea of a nice God.

Sometimes indeed, people think of God’s punishment in a pagan way, as though God inflicted arbitrary suffering out of all proportion to a person’s sin. If we suffer a tragic loss or there is some natural disaster, it is wrong to seek around for a “reason” beyond natural causes and think of God as inflicting it deliberately to make us suffer.

A good punishment is one that is salutary, that saves a person and leads them to a better life. So a father might punish his son for stealing because he wants to prevent him from embarking on a life of crime, so that he grows instead to become a good and upright man. As adults, we may be punished for committing a crime (or even a speeding offence) in order to protect others as well as to modify our own behaviour. Sadly we do not succeed very well in our penal system but that is another question.

God our Father gives us, through the Church, an entirely wholesome punishment. When we go to Confession, we are usually asked to say some prayers – not a difficult thing and an exercise that will help us to be better.

The season of Lent was once the time when public sinners prepared to be readmitted to Holy Communion at Easter after completing a lengthy penance for a serious sin. The exercise of Lenten penance is given to us so that we impose our own punishment for sin. Our heavenly Father accepts our efforts with great love. By analogy, we might think of how a good earthly father who loves his son would be delighted if the son repented and voluntarily chose in various ways to make up for his misdeeds.

A common mistake when talking about Lent is to say that we should do something positive rather than give things up for Lent. In fact, both are important. Positively we should attend to our life of prayer, remedying any lack that we are aware of. We are also called to almsgiving. This may be in the form of giving money to charity or of making acts of charity in daily life.

The practice of giving something up for Lent is in continuity with the ancient discipline of penance in which we fast, or otherwise renounce something good (and created by God) in order to participate in the sacrifice of Christ who takes our sins away. The Stations of the Cross during Lent are an excellent way to prepare for the great ceremonies of Holy Week and Easter. We should also make sure to celebrate the sacrament of Penance during Lent, especially if it is some time since we last went.

Lent is a time when we have a strong sense of common life as Catholics. We join together to repent of our sins, to do penance, and to engage in the spiritual battle anew. As a result, we pray that we may not only be more “open to God” but actually increase in grace and holiness.

Monday, 7 March 2011

1965 texts and 2010 texts for the Mass

Lux Occulta has uploaded a scan of the texts of the people's parts of the Mass which were approved for use in Ireland from the first Sunday of Lent 1965. ( I remember when this text (or at least something very similar) was introduced in England but I think it was in 1964 over here. At our brand new Church in Addiscombe, we were given a neat little beige leaflet. I was only 6 at the time and it was all very exciting but I think I wondered even then where all the prayers at the beginning of Mass had gone. Many people would consider the translation of the 1960s to be superior to the one we are soon to introduce. Be that as it may, it would certainly have saved a lot of time and work.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a Roman Missal section which has the Ordinary ("Order of Mass") and the proper texts for Advent and Christmas for the new (corrected) translation of the Missal. (Look under the "Sample texts" tab.) The annotated version of the Order of Mass has footnotes with scriptural references related to various parts of the text.

If you want the rest of the new (corrected) texts that have been approved, there are four pdfs posted on Wikispooks. You can't download them directly by right clicking on the link and choosing the "save link as" option - that gets you a corrupt file. Just left-click the link to open it. The right-click on the body of the page and you can "save as."

The pdfs are digital text rather than being page images and so you can select and copy chunks of text. If you have Acrobat (or something like the much cheaper NitroPDF which I use) then you can convert the pdfs to a Word document. (If you are ever faced with a pdf with a watermark, just convert the pdf to an rtf file and then you lose the watermark but keep the formatting. You can then convert the rtf file to a Word file if you want.)

The Wikispooks pdfs have some odd codes here and there, and are in plain black text, including the rubrics. The texts from the USCCB are cleaner and have red text for the rubrics so you can more easily distinguish between what you have to say and what you have to do ;-)

Facing the real problems


Fr Reginald Foster once told the story (he used to tell lots of these, indiscreetly) of how he was hauled over the coals by his superior in the Pontifical Office of Papal Briefs (cue: silly jokes) for not wearing his habit to work. He took the guy over to the window, looking out over Rome, and said. "Look out there! That's your problem! I am not your problem."

Now we may think that Fr Foster should have worn his Carmelite habit instead of the cotton worker's overalls that he used to sport, but that is another question. I have always remembered his justified assertion that we should be more concerned about the impact of the gospel in the world than in our own internal squabbles. Of course, we need to be concerned about problems internally but sometimes it is screamingly obvious that we need to look further afield.

Hence I was stirred by Fr Zuhlsdorf's fisk of the article in the Irish Times about the "forthright criticisms of priests who are complaining about the new translations. (See: Ireland: obsessing over the wrong problem) Here's a taster:
Fr Pádraig McCarthy of the Dublin archdiocese suggested the bishops suspend publication of the new translation immediately. ['Cause they have nothing more important to worry about in Ireland.] A leaflet highlighting its pros and cons should be circulated, after which priests and parish liturgical groups should make their views known to the local bishop and the National Centre for Liturgy at Maynooth, he said. [Let me picture this for a moment: The local bishop is opening his mail. He hefts the envelope from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about the little dust-up over Fr. Just-Call-Me-Seamus. Then he spots the missive from the angry parish liturgical group at St. Brigit's in Inisfree. He drops the CDF's latest and opts for St. Brigit's because he is dying to read their insights into inclusive language.]
The new, corrected, translation is not actually going to cause any great problems - in fact probably far fewer than the rapidly-imposed old ICEL translations for which there was no preparation at all. The ordinary people who come to Mass will just pick up the leaflets and learn the new responses off by heart over the course of a few weeks or months.

To make a big issue of this in a country which is currently suffering Catholic meltdown does indeed seem to be an exercise in displacement activity. New translation: like it or loathe it, just say the prayers and get on with facing the real problems that bear down upon us.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

One Billion Stories

Can the Eucharist change Hearts?

Thanks to a reader for the link to One Billion Stories, a project of EWTN. Here is the Mission Statement:
The mission of is to promote the life of Jesus Christ, by collecting and sharing the personal human stories of those faithful to the magisterium of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, through modern communication mediums. This mission will focus on three steps:

1. Attract everyday Internet users with engaging stories and captivating content

2. Cultivate reflection on the stories with questions, comments, vlogs, and dialogue

3. Propose action on those reflections by making available, authentic Catholic apostolates and resources faithful to the magisterium.
These are great videos; but to continue a theme, we could do with something like this in England with stories of young people who have come to the Church after being converted from relativism, secularism, and agnosticism.

Feliciter discrevit

Last November, Monsignor Furretti was set the task of choosing between Mgr Basil Loftus in the Catholic Times, and that bastion of tradition, the Remnant. I followed up with an article about the discerning cat.

Now, the Monsignora, together with her companion, has shown her discernment further in what has to be the classic test for British Catholic papers: a showdown between The Tablet and the Catholic Herald (Britains finest Catholic weekly.) The results are clear for all to see at the latest post on Mulier Fortis: Felix Fidei Defensor (Part II) ... (more photos there.)

Cute little kittens though they may be, when they see something that is "needing to be destroyed" (delenda) they do not hesitate, but set about the task with gusto.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

A little accident

Bara Brith has a funny story about a stern music teacher and a timid student who is hazy about his accidentals. See: Accidentals - oops and imagine an old-school, "Colonel Blimp" type of teacher.

"Jesus of Nazareth II" extracts at CTS Catholic Compass

Pope Benedict's new book Jesus of Nazareth - Holy Week. From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection will be published next Thursday 10 March. In England, the book will be published by the Catholic Truth Society.

On the CTS Catholic Compass over the past few days, there have been a number of extracts published in advance with the approval of the Holy See, as well as comments from various figures.

Old Mass for primary school children in West Heath

School Mass

The LMS Birmingham and Black Country reports on a Mass celebrated according to the usus antiquior for St John Fisher Primary School at West Heath, Birmingham last Thursday. The parish priest, Fr George Grynowski said a Votive Low Mass for the Blessed Sacrament for the school children aged 8-11. Fr Grynowski described how the Mass came about:
The Mass started out as a casual comment from myself to Melanie Bullivant. I said something like "wouldn't it be great if the school had the opportunity of experiencing the Extraordinary Form so that they can appreciate something about the richness of the Church's traditional liturgy, which is after all part of their heritage". This would have been as recently as about December last year. I didn't expect much to come from it, certainly not in the immediate future. Melanie mentioned it to the headteacher, and to my great joy I was told that she was quite happy for one of the regular scheduled school Masses to be in the Extraordinary Form. We decided on today, 3 March, to give time to prepare for it.
In his parish newsletter the previous Sunday, Father wrote:
School Mass: will be in Church on Thursday, and will be different from usual. As part of their education in their Catholic heritage the children will be experiencing the traditional form Latin Mass. They will be taking an active part with hymns and a scripture reading and presenting an explanatory commentary on what is happening. It is important that all Catholics (and especially children) are aware of their heritage and the diversity which exists in the Church. All are welcome. Later in the year they will be visiting places associated with other Christian groups and other religions. These experiences help to promote understanding and prevent prejudice and bigotry, which can exist even among people who think of themselves as liberal or progressive in their thought. (St John Fisher Parish Newsletter 27 February 2011)
That is a good point to make. Children are accustomed nowadays to visiting all sorts of places of worship and experiencing many different things. It is not really a "progressive" attitude to deny them access to their own heritage simply because they may not be used to it.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Beatrix to have her hair cut off for Mary's Meals (and the Little Princess Trust)

Beatrix, one of my young parishioners at Blackfen, heard of The Little Princess Trust, a charity that makes wigs for children who have suffered hair loss due to cancer treatment. For her 7th birthday, Beatrix wants to have her hair cut off so that she can "give it to the charity that helps sick children who lose their hair" (her words). She has been waiting for a long time for her hair to be long enough to donate.

Beatrix was also influenced by the intrepid trio of young parishioners who raised money for Mary's Meals last year by cycling to Rome (see Via Romea) and wants to raise money for the same cause. So she gets to help two charities in one go.

Mary’s Meals provides daily meals to chronically hungry children in the Third World. They provide the meals in the children's local school. In this way the hungry child is encouraged to attend school and, through education, gain a better future for himself and his community. Mary's Meals feeds over half a million children every school day.

The hair is being cut on 26 March (Beatrix's birthday) so there are three weeks to donate. Initially Beatrix wondered if it might be possible to raise £20. The amount raised so far is £349 with a target of £1000 so do pop over to the Charity Giving page if you have some spare cash.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Fr Fleming on eugenics and euthanasia

"Eugenics - an enduring part of fallen human nature." This was the title of Fr John Fleming's talk today at the SPUC Clergy Information Day at Victoria. Fr Fleming's talks are always well-researched and highly informative and today's was no exception.

I had to rush off after my morning Mass to get there in time - nearly thwarted by a jam in the Blackwall Tunnel which kept me waiting for 15 minutes before I could turn off to park at North Greenwich. It was well worth it, though. One of my basic criteria for a good teaching session is that you know more when you leave than when you came in: not always achieved, especially if you have to waste most of the time in "Buzz Groups." There was none of that today, but there was a good opportunity to meet with friends - Fr Basden, Fr Southwell, Fr Young, and Fr Sherbrooke among many others. Since this is a general London event, it is good also to get together with priests from Westminster and other dioceses whom I would not normally meet.

Fr Fleming took us through the history of the eugenics movement with quotations from various "respectable" figures. I did like his quotation from G K Chesterton who responded to Herbert Spencer's expression "survival of the fittest" with "survival of the nastiest." Quite rightly, the distinction was drawn between the Nazi holocaust and the origin of euthanasia. Euthanasia was already well established before Hitler rose to power. A German pioneer of euthanasia, Karl Binding, even coined the phrase "death with dignity" to describe the killing of those whose life is deemed to be devoid of value. Hitler used an already existing moral decay as a basis for his even more evil programme. (See my posts from 2008: "The life thou gavest, Lord, we've ended" and What the nazis built on.)

We were also taken through the temporary lull in eugenic enthusiasm after the horror of the holocaust became known, and its revival after an indecently short interval. We have now reached the point where someone such as James Lachs will say that "The only way to treat hydrocephalic children "humanely" is to "mercifully" put them to death.

SPUC website has a copy of the slides from Fr Fleming's powerpoint presentation. Many thanks to SPUC for an educative and worthwhile day.

Practical apologetics in the English context

Is the Catholic Church a force for good in the world? We lost that debate at a widely publicised event in England last November. Fr Marcus Holden and Fr Andrew Pinsent, authors of Evangelium, have lit a candle rather than curse the darkness.

CTS have recently published Lumen. The Catholic Gift to Civilisation which offers a factual answer by setting out numerous factual and historical examples of just how the Catholic Church has been a force for good in the world. As the publisher's information states:
To set the record straight, this booklet summarises the extraordinary fruitfulness of the faith, noting that our university system, art, music, legal tradition, charity and even much of our science arises from Catholic civilisation and Catholic minds. This booklet is a great source of encouragement for Catholics and is ideal for those engaged in apologetics, evangelism and teaching today, and for anyone wishing to investigate further.
This is an excellent example of practical apologetics for the English context. To be sure, secularism is encroaching in the USA but it is still important there to focus on apologetics in answer to evangelical Protestants, showing that Catholicism is genuinely biblical. We may need to do that from time to time over here but it is now something of a sideshow compared to the need to counter the prejudices that have been ingrained in our culture by the secularists.

Many ordinary young people will genuinely doubt whether the Catholic Church has been a force for good in the world. They have never heard of the contribution of the Church to science and education, healthcare, the arts, music, language and literature. I warmly commend this booklet to readers in England - and in the US where it will probably soon be needed much more urgently.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Helping out the poor, puzzled, BBC

The poor Beeb is puzzled, wondering What motives led to Shahbaz Bhatti's murder in Pakistan?

Let's step cautiously here and suggest that maybe - just mabye - it could have had something to do with the fact that he was the only Catholic minister in the Pakistani government? (The BBC article does not seem to have spotted this possibly relevant fact.)

H/T @lukecoppen

Books, books and more books online


The Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer at Papa Stronsay have begun online the Golgotha Monastery Library. Like the splendid collection of scanned books at Ite ad Thomam that I mentioned recently, these are essentially page images but are quite readable.

There are, of course, lots of books by St Alphonsus. I have downloaded "Dignities and Duties of the Priest" which will be good spiritual reading for Lent. There are also a few liturgical books and some lives of the saints. I think that we can expect this library to grow steadily.

Another superb collection online is Documenta Catholica Omnia. These are mainly Latin texts. Some of them have been digitized and so are searchable, others are page images. Sadly, the site seems to have hit some restrictions since I first consulted it. In the case of Migne's patrologia you have to email the site to get permission to use the file and agree to the terms and conditions. The site is the work of the Cooperatorum Veritas Societas (Society of Co-workers of the Truth).

For those who do not read Latin, a good compendium of useful texts can be found in the "Resources" section of Catechetics Online. Some of these can be found elsewhere but the Ecumenical Councils files are very useful, giving as they do all the texts in English of all the Councils of the Church. Another one that I first found here is "The Sources of Catholic Dogma" which is an English translation of the old edition of Denzinger.

We should not forget the grandaddy of all such services, New Advent. The organisation of the English edition of the Summa Theologica is the most helpful I have seen. Most people will have found the English texts of the Fathers and the Catholic Encyclopaedia. I remember that project when it was first launched. It seemed at that time impossible that by a collaborative effort every page would be scanned or typed and corrected by volunteers.

A few other links that I currently find useful are:
Guéranger's L'Année Liturgique (in French)
Denzinger's Enchiridion with newer numbering (in Latin)
St Thomas Aquinas Opera Omnia (in Latin)

One thing that I have long craved is an electronic version of the Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, that magnificent work of reference. I am fortunate enough to own a bound copy but it would be great to be able to put articles on the Kindle, to search for words, and (let me admit it) to bump up the font size. The original publishers Letouzey & Ané will sell you a DVD of it for 226 euro (£192 or $312) which is a rather lower price than when I last looked. I just checked around and found that Google have grabbed the text from the volumes in Harvard College Library (it is long out of copyright) and it is now at the Internet Archive. I looked at one site for downloads but that may be a scam site (see Patruus in the combox.) Will have another look later.

The availability of texts on the internet has been, for me, one of the great wonders of this medium. I understand that Google's modest aim is to digitize all the books in the world. The way things are going, that idea seems ever less ridiculous. SocInfo has an interesting article from just over a year ago discussing this and the similar project of the Internet Archive.

Of course I still love real libraries and musty old books that have been there for centuries. I enjoy it when I am able to spend some time in the Wonersh library and I have fond memories of reading books and writing essays in the Radcliffe Camera. The finest library I have had the privilege to visit is that of the Carthusians at Parkminster (pictured above). I might suggest to them that they get in touch with Google: you would be surprised to find how open the Carthusians are to sharing their heritage.

So yes, real books are great, but only a few years ago, I would have had to travel to one of these libraries or pay out vast sums of money to consult some of the books now freely available on the internet. I don't think it is a case of either real books or electronic books. One of the good things about the internet is the way that it can make otherwise inaccessible resources available to all of us easily.

Perhaps you know of some other great texts or collections that are now online. Please do put them in the comments box. (Extra Brownie points if you put the link in properly!)

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Looking more closely at the Johns judgement

It was quite late when I wrote my post yesterday so I took the trouble this morning to read through the Judgement that was handed down by Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson. (Case No: CO/4594/2010 in the High Court of Justice, Queen's Bench Division Administrative Court.) The case was between Eunice and Owen Johns as claimants, and Derby City Council as defendant, with the Equality and Human Rights Commission intervening on the side of the defendant.

The Johns had been deemed by Derby City Council to be unsuitable as foster parents essentially because of their beliefs. These are summarised in the Facts section of the judgement as: "they believe that sexual relations other than those within marriage between one man and one woman are morally wrong." (n.4) They were appealing the decision at the High Court - the appeal failed.

One of the crucial paragraphs is n.93 which has been fairly summarised by various newspapers as indicating that laws protecting people from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation should take precedence over laws protecting people from discrimination on the grounds of their religious belief. The reasoning behind this is that if the foster child is homosexual, their "sexual health", and therefore more generally their welfare, may not be protected by a foster carer who has christian views concerning homosexuality.

The judges claimed that there is no "hierarchy of rights" but that Standard 7 of the National Minimum Standards for Fostering and the Statutory Guidance meant that the equality provisions for sexual orientation should take precedence. Earlier in the judgement, a social worker's report was quoted which put things clearly:
Mr and Mrs Johns’ views on same sex relationships, which are not in line with the current requirements of the National Standards, and which are not susceptible to change, will need to be considered when panel reaches it’s [sic] conclusion.
These Standards are a matter of regulation, issued by the Secretary of State, and not therefore debated in Parliament. So the hierarchy of rights has been established effectively by diktat.

An obvious corollary of the reasoning contanied in n.93 of the judgement would be that a Catholic child's welfare would not be protected by those whose ethical beliefs were strongly opposed to Catholic belief. For quite some time now, local authorities have given up any real commitment to placing Catholic children with Catholic foster parents. Don't expect any regulations in the near future to put that right.

n.11 has an interesting nugget from the process in which the Johns were assessed for their suitability to act as foster parents. One of the "main issues" identified by the Fostering Panel was as follows:
The department needs to be careful not to appear to discriminate against them on religious grounds. The issue has not arisen just because of their religion as there are homophobic people that are non-Christian.
Obviously there is some sensitivity around - the Council did not want to be seen to ban the Johns as foster parents because of their religious beliefs, so had to brand them homophobic instead, and to try to drive a wedge between their Christianity and their ethical beliefs - a wedge that the judges happily accepted. further on, it is made clear what kind of Christian you have to be to get approval as a foster carer. In n.22, we read:
Thus the defendant [Derby County Council] says that it has approved foster carers who are very committed Christians who hold to orthodox beliefs – whatever that means – and devout Muslim carers who are similarly committed to their religion, but who in both instances are able to value diversity notwithstanding their strongly held religious beliefs.
Well might the judges make the acerbic observation "whatever that means". Clearly the "devout Muslims" and "orthodox Christians" who can be approved for fostering are precisely those who do not feel the need to believe that "sexual relations other than those within marriage between one man and one woman are morally wrong."

In what I referred to yesterday as "the weird and twisted world of modern British equality law", you can be protected against discrimination only if you are a certain type of Christian - one who is prepared to jettison traditional Christian moral teaching.

The Telegraph has today followed up on the story of Eunice and Owen Johns with a leader article Foster parents defeated by the new Inquisition. I thought that the conclusion was particularly good:
Perhaps there is a historical irony here, because we are witnessing a modern, secular Inquisition – a determined effort to force everyone to accept a new set of orthodoxies or face damnation as social heretics if they refuse. Parliament and the courts should protect people like Mr and Mrs Johns, but have thrown them to the wolves. It is a disgrace. 
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