Sunday, 31 July 2011

Not so psychic

Why I am Catholic had a fun post of Friday Funnies. This one was my favourite:

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Bishop defends man-boy sex (Oops no! Not a Bishop)

Revelations of an Irish Bishop's remarks on man-boy sex, made in 2002, have shocked the world. He justified such activity by referring to ancient Greece:
"In terms of Classic paedophilia, as practiced by the Greeks for example, where it is an older man introducing a younger man or boy to adult life, I think there can be something to be said for it. And in terms of North African experience this is endemic."
His Lordship also helped exonerate predatory molesters by saying that he felt that it would have been a nice thing for himself if he had been groomed by an older man:
"Now again, this is not something that appeals to me, although when I was younger it would most certainly have appealed to me in the sense that I would have greatly relished the prospect of an older, attractive, mature man taking me under his wing, lovingly introducing me to sexual realities, and treating me with affection and teaching me about life — yes, I think that would be lovely; I would have enjoyed that."
The Bishop tried to justify his comments by making a spurious distinction between supposedly innocent fumbling and child rape, protesting that there were important differences, and that investigations could do more harm than good:
"In my opinion, the teacher or Christian Brother who puts his hand into a boy’s pocket during a history lesson, that is one end of the spectrum. But then there is another, there is the person who attacks children of either sex, rapes them, brutalises them, and then murders them. But the way things are presented here it’s almost as if they were all exactly the same and I don’t think they are. And I have to tell you this — I think that the children in some instances are more damaged by the condemnation than by the actual experience."
Criticised for these remarks, the Bishop protested that they were from ten years ago and it was so unfair to bring them up now, especially since his other remarks on equality issues and human rights were ignored. He felt that people just didn't appreciate all his other good work and the fact that this was just an academic conversation.

David Norris politician[UPDATE] Oops! Sorry! This wasn't actually a Bishop attempting to justify man-boy sex romps by characterising them as loving, enjoyable and affectionate. It was David Norris, candidate for the Presidential election in Ireland. (See: Irish Examiner: Norris: References to boys and sexual activity taken out of context)

So we must accept that this was just an academic discussion about classical Greece, it was all said ten years ago, and it is so unfair to bring it all up now. As the Irish Times says, it is really all just an implied slur against gay people. And as the Irish Independent says, bringing up this ten year old indiscretion is a case of people seizing an opportunity in a way that is "neither Christian, fair or in the true spirit of any republic."

Good to see the Irish press is keeping an even-handed and impartial view of things as ever.

Family and Youth Concern latest bulletin

The Family and Youth Concern bulletin for Summer 2011 is now online. This always has a valuable collection of articles relevant to the upholding of family life and family values. Often the material has not been picked up on the Catholic blogs' radar, probably because there is no rss feed to hook up to. Perhaps someone at FYC might redo the website and set up a news feed with the articles to make this excellent material more widely known? I am sure there are Catholic bloggers who would be glad to help with this.

Do join Family and Youth Concern; they have done great work for decades and their contribution to debates in political policy, social work and healthcare are of great importance.

Bring plastic bags


In a timely post for families in the summer holidays, Simcha Fisher gives Ten Tips for Actually Having Fun at the Fair. Just understand that this may be part of the "two nations divided by a common language." In England, going to the Fair would be where you got locally produced honey, had a go on the coconut shy, and took children to the lucky dip before having tea and home made cakes. The Fair in this post sounds like what we would call a Theme Park (probably itself a borrowing from American.) I must confess that experience of taking groups of teenagers to these places makes me hate them intensely. The poor kids get ripped off soundly and get to go on about three rides unless they pay even more to jump the queue (cf. above photo from 2003.) I must join the Old Gits Society or something :-)

Still, I do understand that families have to suffer these places from time to time and I enjoyed reading Simcha's tips. I laughed at the advice:
Bring plastic bags. Trust me on this. Sooner or later, you will find yourself holding something that desperately needs to be wrapped up in a plastic bag.

Friday, 29 July 2011

The confessional seal: a matter of divine, not merely human, law

In times gone by, if you wanted to ensure that a confidential letter was not tampered with before it reached its recipient, you would put some molten sealing wax on it and then mark it with your crest, creating a seal such that tampering would be evident.

When a penitent confesses sins to a priest or bishop, the confession is directed towards God Himself. The confessor has no right to tamper with the seal which binds this communication but only, as a minister of Christ to give counsel, and, if appropriate to give absolution so that the person can return to Holy Communion with a good conscience.

There is a good treatment of this subject in Volume II of Felix Cappello’s Tractatus Canonico-Moralis De Sacramentis in which he deals with the Sacrament of Penance. He points out that the preservation of the seal of confession is a grave obligation upon the confessor, both from the virtue of justice and from the virtue of religion.

The motive of justice is present because in hearing confessions, the priest has already entered into a binding contract in which he must remain silent concerning any sin that is confessed. However Cappello insists that the motive of religion is a greater consideration. If it were thought that priests would violate the seal of confession, it would prevent people from using the sacrament which brings one who is dead in sin back to the life of grace.

In the seal of confession, we are dealing not with a Church law that could be modified, nor are we promoting the privilege of the clergy: we are upholding a sacred trust given to the priest or bishop who hears confessions. Nor can the Church change this. As Cappello says when speaking of how the seal binds iure divino (by divine law):
The practice of the Church shows this in not acknowledging any power, even that of the Roman Pontiff, on any occasion or from any motive, of dispensing from this law.
This obligation under divine law derives from the very nature of the sacrament itself in which a person confesses to God, by means of the priest, the sins which he has committed. The priest may refuse absolution to someone who is not sufficiently contrite or who does not have a firm purpose of amendment. He can require the penitent to take concrete means to eliminate any future occurrence of the evil that he has done and to make reparation as far as possible. In cases where serious harm has been done to others, the confessor should indeed insist on this. What he cannot do is to violate the seal by which he is bound in hearing the confession of such a sinner. If a priest were to presume that he had the right to reveal sins confessed to him in the sacrament, it would be the most extreme form of "clericalism" since he would actually be attempting to exercise a divine prerogative, rather than submitting to the ministerial role that he has been given on trust.

In the case of grave sins which harm others, Cappello says this:
Where the priest, through confession, knows an evil which threatens another or the state, he can only urge the penitent, under the penalty of denying absolution, that he should either make the matter known himself, or give the power to the confessor to speak.
This would be the correct way for a confessor to proceed in the (very rare) event that someone were to confess to abusing children. We do not normally have murderers and child molesters in the queue for confession; the supposition that we do is a common fantasy of people who don't normally go to Church very much. But it is possible that a child molester might be so deluded as to think that he could go to confession and get three Hail Marys and absolution.

This is an area where the Holy See could act. It does rather seem that, at least for clergy, the time has now come to make such crimes reserved sins, and imposing stringent conditions for absolution. This would mean that a simple confessor would not have the jurisdiction to absolve such a penitent and would have to refer the case to the Holy See (preserving the anonymity of the penitent, and therefore safeguarding the seal.) Such a procedure is already provided for in canon law for certain crimes. If the Holy See were to do this, it might go some small way towards an honest recognition of the anger that people feel towards the Church.

Getting back to the question of ius divinum, Cappello cites evidence from Origen, Aphraates, Asterius Amasenus, Paulinus, and Augustine speaking of the duty of silence regarding sins confessed and not known to others. St Leo the Great, in his letter to the Bishops of Campania refers to this as an apostolic rule. From this time, canons were issued against those who broke the seal of confession: Gratian records the penalty of deposition for anyone who violated the seal; the 4th Lateran Council imposed a further sanction:
For if anyone presumes to reveal a sin disclosed to him in confession, we decree that he is not only to be deposed from his priestly office but also to be confined to a strict monastery to do perpetual penance. (4th Lateran Council. canon 21)
According to Cappello, this law (excluding confinement to a monastery) was regarded speculatively as remaining in force until the 1917 Code of Canon Law (canon 2639.1) which imposed the penalty of automatic excommunication reserved to the Holy See for a direct violation of the seal of confession. The 1983 Code which is currently in force imposes the same penalty.

There is simply no option for a priest – he must observe the seal of confession and, if necessary, go to prison or even to his death for the sake of this obligation which is binding by divine law. “We must obey God rather than men.”

The next question to address is what the priest should say and do if asked about matter that is under the seal? That is for another post, I hope sooner rather than later.

How should we respond to threats from the State to make the seal of confession a criminal offence?

In response to threats from the State to make preserving the seal of confession a criminal offence, I think that we should answer carefully. Most importantly we should avoid conceding in any way the erroneous proposition that the seal is somehow a “privilege” of the priest. Here, unfortunately I beg to differ from some of the things that Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti, of the Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary has said. (See: Paolo Rodari. There is a report in English report at Irish Central.)

First of all, from the point of view of diplomacy, with the deepest respect to the His Grace, I think that it is a mistake to refer to the proposal from Irish Prime Minister Enda Kelly and others as “absurd and out of the question” (“E’ assurda. E’ una proposta irricevibile” ) In Ireland, there is fury about the appalling failure of the Church to protect children and we should acknowledge that people will propose solutions that are as extreme as the violation of the seal of confession. What we need to do is to acknowledge the justified anger that is now at boiling point, and calmly explain why we cannot allow the violation of the seal of confession. If prelates from other countries want to know the mood in Ireland, it would be a sobering reality-check if they would take a flight to Dublin and walk around the city in a clerical collar for an hour or so.

Archbishop Girotti goes on to say:
Ireland can approve all the laws that it wants but it must always know that the Church will never submit to the obligation of the confessor to denounce to the civil authority. Confession is a private question which allows the penitent to be corrected and purified. The secret is a necessary condition. This does not mean that the bishops should not be vigilant regarding paedophiles and, if the appropriate evidence is there, to require such people to pay for their crimes. But if anyone wants to violate the confession, the response of the Church will always be “No”.
Again, with the deepest respect to the His Grace, I think that this is unhelpful. What we need to convey is that the Church simply does not have the competence to dispense confessors from the seal of confession because the binding nature of the seal is a matter of divine law, not ecclesiastical law. The Church can change the penalties relating to the violation of the seal but it has no authority to release a confessor from the obligation of the seal. It is not a matter of saying “No” but of saying “We are not allowed to do this.”

The question of the seal being binding under divine law is obviously something that needs to be explored further and therefore I will write another post to deal with this subject specifically. (See: The confessional seal: a matter of divine, not merely human, law) We'll also need to consider what the priest should say and do if asked about matter that is under the seal.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Chinese Government tries passive aggressive response to excommunications

In a Reuters report from Beijing yesterday, we read that the State Bureau for Religious Affairs is "greatly concerned" about the excommunication of Joseph Huang Bingzhang and Lei Shiyin who were recently ordained Bishops without the mandate of the Holy See. The State news agency Xinhua quoted a spokesman for the bureau as saying that the
"threats of excommunication" are "extremely unreasonable and rude, which has severely hurt the feelings of Chinese Catholics and made its members feel sad."
Maybe the Chinese Government does not realise that this kind of passive aggressive attempt at emotional manipulation is now discredited thanks to the internet which they censor in their own country.

I vote that in response, the Holy See should employ Alitalia to arrange an airdrop of crates of tissues over Beijing.

Anti-traditionalist violence

Chiesa di San Michele a Ronta 1

Il Sito di Firenze has the story of Father Hernán García Pardo, ministering in Tuscany who was sent threatening letters for celebrating the usus antiquior and was recently beaten up and hospitalised. (H/T Fr Z and Rorate Caeli for the English translation of the story.)

Our first priority is to pray for Father Hernán García Pardo: such an attack must be traumatic and we ask the Lord to give him strength. We also pray for his attacker who is probably mentally ill, and possibly under the influence of the adversary (he signed himself "Satan".)

Secondly, I think it is important to highlight this story because the hysterical anti-clericalism in some parts of the world is sure to lead some unbalanced people to attack priests, pro-lifers, or anyone else doing good in the name of the Lord. Anti-Christian demagogues may need to be reminded of the possible consequences of their rhetoric.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Thoughts on Ireland

Commenting on the troubles of another community is always perilous and I tiptoe into this subject with some trepidation, begging my Irish readers for indulgence if I misunderstand their situation in any way. Still, the recalling of the Apostolic Nuncio makes this a matter of international significance and I hope that the thoughts of Timothy Joseph Patrick Finigan whose family settled in east London after the famine will not be entirely useless.

Back in 1992, when I was an assistant priest at Our Lady and St Philip Neri in Sydenham, I used to take Holy Communion each week to an elderly, devout and kindly Irish lady who always insisted that I stay for a cup of tea and a piece of cake. One week when I visited, she had the newspaper on the table with the recently broken story of Bishop Casey. I thought that I should gently broach the subject with her to offer some consolation. I will never forget the confusion, sadness, and sheer incomprehension on her face. She loved Christ, she loved her faith and she loved the Church. She just could not cope with the scandal.

Nineteen years on, the Casey affair has all but been forgotten as wave after wave of far more ghastly revelations have humiliated the Catholic Church in Ireland and given rise to a torrent of anti-clericalism of such ferocity that the Holy See has now felt it necessary to recall the Apostolic Nuncio. My goodness! I wonder what either Michael Collins or Éamon de Valera would have thought if you ever suggested that would happen.

As my dear mother used to drum into us: “two wrongs don’t make a right.” The anger at priests who have abused their sacred trust to harm children, and the proper indignation and contempt for the failure of Bishops to protect children does not justify the threat to criminalise priests for keeping the seal of confession (more about that here soon) or for the Prime Minister to engage in opportunistic grandstanding, lazily dragging in the Holy Father’s words, ripped cynically out of context to support an insulting attack on the Holy See.

It must be awful being a priest in Ireland at the moment. This week I will have the chance to talk to a young Irish priest on vacation in England and get his perspective. It is ironic to think that it must be a relief for him to be in the territory of the Crown for a couple of weeks. Fr Ray Blake and Fr Sean Finnegan (500 and 500b) have posted their own reflections on the situation which are well worth reading.

Against the background of the anti-Catholic hysteria that has greeted the Cloyne Report, the statement of Fr Lombardi is sober and statesmanlike. We do not excuse the abuse of little ones, nor the complicity of Bishops in failing to prevent it. It is quite proper that complacency, status-seeking, or cover-up should be a thing of the past. But it will not help children if the good work of so many Irish priests and nuns in the care of children over the years, the efforts of parish youth workers, and the Church’s support of the family should be ground into the dust in the name of protecting children.

My dear readers, let us pray for the Church in Ireland: first of all for the victims of abuse. But let us also pray for her priests. I know that some of them have gone for the silly, modernistic reaction that has failed dismally everywhere else, and is itself a part of the problem. (Fr Sean Finnegan puts it well in his 500b post.) Nevertheless, as Fr Sean acknowledges, on the whole these are surely good men trying to rescue the mission of the Church to bring Christ to a suffering people. At their hour of need, they should be sure of the love and support of Catholics around the world.

I headed up this post with a video of the hymn Hail Glorious St Patrick since his intercession is much needed. The third verse (not in the video) chimes in with the Holy Father's Letter to the Catholics of Ireland:
In the war against sin, in the fight for the faith,
Dear saint, may thy children resist unto death;
May their strength be in meekness, in penance, in prayer,
Their banner the cross which they glory to bear.

NUI Maynooth involved with pro-abortion "masterclass"

The Irish Crisis Pregnancy Agency, part of the Health Service Executive, is holding Masterclasses for 'Supporting an Unplanned Pregnancy'. The first of the presentations has the title: "Termination of pregnancy: A lawful choice." Abortion is not a lawful choice in Ireland, so this can only be seen as part of a campaign to change the law.

The Masterclasses are advertised as being held "in conjunction with the Department of Adult and Community Education, National University of Ireland, Maynooth."

Hilary White on LifeSite News and Pat Buckley of the European Life Network have written further on this story. Precious Life Action Alert gives information on action to be taken in Ireland, and there is a petition to be sent to various people.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Somme memorial to Clapton Orient players

During the first World War, 41 players and staff from Clapton Orient Football Club (later Leyton Orient) enlisted into the 17th Middlesex to serve King and country. They were the first club to join up en masse and gave an example to others. The 17th became known a the Footballers' Battalion.

Three players were killed in the battle of the Somme: Richard McFadden, George Scott and William Jonas. Earlier this month, the Leyton Orient Supporters Club travelled to the Somme to erect a fine six-foot high memorial. The club's website has a report of the visit. David Hurley made the above photo-video with a fine recording of Allegri's Miserere (used with permission.)

Family values in "Cathy Come Home"

A few days ago, rather tired in the evening, I watched the classic film “Cathy Come Home” by Ken Loach. As with many of his films, it was designed to bring about social change, and to some degree succeeded. It is a message about homelessness, unemployment, and the right of parents to have a family life and to keep their children; the heartbreaking final scene shows Cathy having her children forcibly taken from her. (It is in the "gritty and realistic" genre.)

Of course, the message about homelessness is still relevant (see That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill passim.) What caught my attention, though, was the message concerning family life that is an important part of the film’s social comment. At the beginning of the film, Cathy and Reg meet and fall in love with each other. At one point, Reg asks "Have some babies, Cath?" She answers "Yeah, I'd like that." The next scene is their wedding reception. They do then have children.

After Reg gets injured, everything falls apart financially, they have to move on from various places and eventually Cathy goes in desperation to a hostel which does not allow husbands; she protests that the children need their father to be with them. Later she complains that her husband is becoming (unwillingly) distant from her because of the breakup of the family that they have to endure.

The film was made in 1966, just before these values began to be relentlessly attacked and purged from the culture. In those days, it was a gritty, hard-hitting, left wing docudrama. (Abortion was legalised in England in 1967.)

You can watch the whole film (77 min) on YouTube (embedding is disabled.)

Thursday, 21 July 2011

New priests

The ordination season is now well underway. Four of the students who suffered my lectures a couple of years ago have been ordained this year: Fr Gerard Hatton was ordained for Arundel and Brighton a few months ago: Fr John Chandler for Portsmouth, Fr David King for Arundel and Brighton, and Fr Jonathon Routh for Southwark were all ordained in recent weeks. The fifth, Rev Daniel Kelly, will be ordained a priest for the Diocese of Brentwood in September.

Ordinations tend to happen on Saturdays: this makes it difficult for me to get to most of them, so I was glad to be able to get down to Our Lady, Help of Christians the other week for Fr Routh's ordination. The Archbishop announced that he had been appointed to the parish of St Joseph's, New Malden, where the parish priest is Fr Peter Edwards, one of the founding members of the British Province of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy.

An ordination is always an occasion for brother priests to rejoice, especially if the candidate is for their own diocese. Playing even a small part in the formation of priests gives an extra dimension to the occasion: I was glad to be able to receive Fr Chandler's blessing as well, since he came to concelebrate at the ordination of his classmate.

The photo above shows an important part of the ordination rite, the "tradition of the instruments." There are more photos at the RCSouthwark flickr set and at Mulier Fortis.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

A proposed Catholic university college for the liberal arts

The Benedictus Trust has been set up to found a Catholic university college in Britain, offering a traditional Liberal Arts programme of undergraduate study. Such courses can be found in the United States but as yet there is nothing similar in England. The Benedictus Trust is proposing to set up this new Catholic university college on the principles set out by Blessed John Henry Newman in The Idea of a University.

Nowadays in Britain, you can get degrees in all sorts of subjects. There doesn't seem to be any reason why it should not be possible to get one in the liberal arts. I do hope that this project succeeds.

Bringing light to the poor

"What is your good news?" is a good question that Fr Zuhlsdorf asks from time to time on his blog. Via New Advent, this video has some news of a simple invention which was an idea of students at MIT and put into practice in the Philippines.

The film shows this giving real help to people who are living in poverty and it is really good to see it used for that purpose first of all. But the idea is so simple that it could presumably be developed in many other ways. None of us wants to pay for energy if we don't have to.

Fr Ian Vane's Silver Jubilee

Ian Vane Jubilee 003

I have known Fr Ian Vane since before we both went off to the seminary, he to Valladolid and me to Wonersh and then later Rome. We benefited from the kindness and wisdom of Fr Edward Holloway and have been involved with the Faith Movement since it was founded. It was a delight to join Father at his parish of the English Martyrs in Horley this evening for the celebration of his silver jubilee of ordination.

A good number of priests joined the celebration, mainly from the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton although some of us Southwark interlopers were also on the sanctuary. Fr Roger Nesbitt preached with great sincerity and warmth on the priesthood, especially emphasising the priest as the disciple of Christ and one who loves Christ and desires to draw others to Him. You had to be there really: it was so obvious that he meant it.

The parishioners of Horley put on a lovely spread for all the visitors, who included people from Father's previous appointments. It was good to see Bishop Kieran Conry there: Bishops do not always have time to attend all the priestly jubilee celebrations and it was kind of him to take the time to be there. In fact the anniversary of his own priestly ordination falls on the same day. Here is Fr Vane pictured with Bishop Conry, cutting one of the several cakes made by the parishioners.

Ian Vane Jubilee 017

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Congratulations Philadelphia!

Archbishop Chaput of Denver has been appointed to Philadelphia to succeed Cardinal Rigali. Congratulations to the priests and people of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia! The Denver website carries his biography and curriculum vitae.

Archbishop Chaput showed his media skill by giving John Allen an extended exclusive interview with the only condition that it be embargoed until the appointment was officially announced.

When he was Bishop in the Diocese of Rapid City Archbishop Chaput welcomed the FSSP there, and he had an FSSP parish in Denver. He has been outspoken on the question of pro-abortion politicians not receiving Holy Communion, he opposed the visit of President Obama to Notre Dame and has spoken against the legalisation of gay marriage. His many publicised addresses have been inspiring for Catholics seeking clear teaching.

He is also a kindly, pastoral man who has given true fatherly leadership in the spirit of St Francis (he is a Capuchin.) Here is the last of the questions in John Allen's interview:
What about your role as a spiritual leader for the archdiocese? Is there any particular devotion or practice of prayer, for example, that you want to promote?

I'm firmly convinced by a lifetime of being in the church that the traditional practices of the church are the ones we need to follow, and if we follow them, we really will be able to engage in all these issues in an appropriate way. The first thing is regular prayer, and for priests that means the divine office and the daily celebration of the Mass. Beyond that, we should embrace the sacramental life, which means personal confession as well as encouraging others to enter the sacrament of confession. There's also fasting … Jesus tells us that 'some devils can't be driven out without fasting.' We need to find time for spiritual reading, especially the reading of the scriptures. I don't think adding new devotions to the traditional practices of the church is necessary, and sometimes it's confusing and end up sapping away time.
Many people find praying the rosary daily to be a very important thing. Certainly devotion to the Blessed Mother is an intrinsically necessary part of Catholic life, because Mary is the mother of the church and our mother personally. Christ gave us Mary as our mother, and we should take that seriously. If we believe these things and faithfully apply them to our lives, we'll work our way through this.

I think devotion to the saints is also an important part of this. As a bishop, I have a huge devotion to St. Augustine and to St. Charles Borromeo. I've been blessed to have Charles Borromeo as my personal patron. His feast day is my name day. I really do depend on them a lot in the Communion of Saints. Also, St. Francis is in some sense the foundation of my spirituality.
Diane at Te Deum Laudamus has a helpful most with lots of links: Archbishop Chaput leaves the Rocky Mountains for Philly

Friday, 15 July 2011

Politely telling someone that he has lied

Short clip of a wonderful exchange between Sir Humphrey and the Prime Minister. In case you want to memorise it for a suitable occasion:
Yes. Unfortunately, although the answer was indeed clear, simple and straightforward, there is some difficulty in justifiably assigning to it the fourth of the epithets you applied to the statement, inasmuch as the precise correlation between the information you communicated, and the facts insofar they can be determined and demonstrated, is such as to cause epistemological problems of sufficient magnitude as to lay upon the logical and semantic resources of the English language a heavier burden than they can reasonably be expected to bear.
I found this clip after playing the one about Modernism in the Church of England which was posted by Mundabor.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Fostering the revival of sacred music

The Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory have set up the Blessed John Henry Newman Institute for Liturgical Music in association with the Maryvale Institute. The Patrons of the new Institute are Archbishop Longley and James MacMillan.

The idea is to provide formation in liturgical music that can benefit the ordinary Sunday Liturgy celebrated in parishes. The launch date is 17 September: the first anniversary of the beatification of Blessed John Henry Newman. During the first term, there study mornings on Saturdays. As well as giving practical instruction on singing the Mass, there will be formation in the theological and historical background to Church Music. On Saturdays at the Oratory there is the Blessed John Henry Newman Pilgrim Mass which will be sung as part of the programme.

The inauguration of the Institute is timely in view of the introduction of the new translation of the Missal which provides a good opportunity for parishes to review the music that is used at English Masses; perhaps in many places the important move will be made to singing the texts of the Mass itself (including the Propers) rather than singing hymns at the Mass. The institute is also offering evening sessions for the clergy so that they can learn to sing their parts of the Mass in Latin and English.

The Oratory is also setting up a new choir for children to sing at the 12noon Mass for families. I’m guessing here, but I expect the clap-clap Gloria won’t be featuring ;-)

Congratulations to the Fathers, and especially to Fr Guy Nicholls who is the Director of the Institute. Fr Nicholls is a highly competent musician with a comprehensive knowledge of the theology and history of Church music. You can read his extended introduction Music and the Oratory, in which he also talks about the important project of the Graduale Parvum which is the work of László Dobszay, Liturgist, Musicologist, and Fellow of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The work is available in Latin already. A full translation into English is being prepared and an introductory volume is soon to be released, which will provide chants suitable for any celebration of Mass in English.

We are at an important moment for resacralising liturgical music. Many good young priests are keen to revive genuine sacred music. It will be something of a battle to get over the entrenched practice of having music based on beat rhythm and emotional crooning but it is beginning to dawn on people that the justification for this of attracting the young simply does not work, and that reviving a sense of the sacred at sung Masses should be given a fair chance even on those grounds. The Blessed John Henry Newman Institute for Liturgical Music is another brick in the wall as part of the “brick by brick” process.

I know that Fr Nicholls will smile at my quoting from the Pink Floyd song which features the line “We don’t need no education”: we used to quote it frequently when we were in Rome together and collapse in fits of laughter. Here is the full, live version, which goes to show that there is no telling what you can work into a blog post about sacred music (go to 1:40 if you want to miss the extended build-up):

New CTS pamphlets on child abuse and AIDS

Continuing with the latest pamphlets added to the CTS’s list, two in the CTS Explanations series deal with controversial topics concerning which the Church continues to be attacked both from within and without.

Dr Pravin Thevathasan’s The Catholic Church & the Sex Abuse Crisis has attracted attention already. It is notoriously difficult to write anything on this highly-charged subject without being attacked in one way or another, so it is not surprising that he should be misquoted and misrepresented. In fact, the pamphlet is a fair and balanced presentation of various aspects of this gross evil and the Church’s response to it.

As a psychiatrist, Dr Prevathasan competently assesses research on the harm caused, the profile of the offender and what actually happened in the USA, Ireland and Europe. He looks at the causes, and in one chapter singles out, rightly in my view, the “therapeutic culture” which led to a climate of permissiveness in some seminaries, and an inadequate response on the part of the Church. He quotes one of the most glaring examples of this: when the serial molester Fr John Geoghan was told by his Archbishop “Yours has been an effective ministry impaired by illness.” The more recent measures taken by the Church are set out, and the conclusion looks soberly at some of the statements of Pope Benedict, and the Irish Bishops commitment to prayer, fasting and reparation.

For anyone confused by media reports and wondering how to get information that would help them to answer some of the now routine slanders and sneers against the Church and all her priests, this pamphlet summarises an unpleasant subject with competence and fairness.

Matthew Hanley’s name has been on the blog several times before, and the CTS have chosen wisely to engage him to write on The Catholic Church and the Global AIDS Crisis. Again, many ordinary Catholics will be confronted with this question and will welcome a good summary of the evidence, facts and arguments which can help people to think more clearly about the question.

Hanley looks at the competing approaches to HIV prevention, the ideas that determine policy and, most importantly, what has worked and what has not. Importantly, he highlights the success stories in Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Haiti and gives proper recognition to the people in the Church who get on with the work of caring for those living with HIV/AIDS, regardless of race, religion or personal convictions, noting that the Church is the largest provider of AIDS-related care in the world.

The CTS Explanations series has provided Catholics with serious and reliable pamphlets on moral and social issues that are accessible to the ordinary Mass-goer. The latest two titles are worthy additions to this fine apostolate. The pamphlets can all be ordered at the CTS website. There are other reviews and more at the CTS Compass blog.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Ghentish candlesticks in quiet revolt and other nice things to see

Ghent 013

The other day I stopped off at Ghent which is halfway between Bruges and Brussels. I had booked an early evening Eurostar to Ebbsfleet so I had time for lunch and reasonably unhurried visits to three of the Churches in the City. The first was the Cathedral of St Bavo. Here is the stunning High Altar, facing towards the East:

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Turn around, face towards the West, and you can see where Holy Mass is said now:

Bruges 031

At the Church of St Michael, there is again a very fine High Altar:

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But the banqueting chairs, and the table with pot plant and nylon candlesticks are still obviously bringing in the crowds:

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Something I have observed before in Belgian Churches is that some of the candlesticks are in rebellion. While the priests are away, they creep stealthily towards the people's altar, hoping to make enough (Gh)ent-like progress until they have formed a Benedictine arrangement.

Ghent 020

Perhaps future years will see them gain confidence and vault onto the High Altar. At one of the side altars, I noticed that the altar cards were joining in the conspiracy, though sadly if you look very closely, you'll see that it is so long since they were used that they have forgotten which sides to go on:

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A few other points of interest: the Church of St Nicholas:

Ghent 005

The pulpit of St Michael's:

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The extraordinary baptismal font at the same Church:

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And finally, a picture of Cornelius Jansen:


I overheard a tour guide say the name Jansenius and so made sure that I took a photo. (Sorry about the quality: it was quite high up on the wall.) I was eager to tell Fr Briggs about this discovery but felt I should check the facts first, since I know that the famous author of the Augustinus was Bishop of Ypres but didn't know he had anything to do with Ghent. Fortunately the internet saved my embarrassment - this was Cornelius Jansen the Elder who was the first Bishop of Ghent: he died a few years before the other Cornelius Jansen was born.

Sorry, I forgot to mention that I did go in and see the famous altarpiece at St Bavo's. (That was actually the principal purpose of my stopping there on the way home from Bruges.) It is always thrilling to see something like this for real when reproductions of it are so familiar. Here is one from the Wikimedia Commons.

Lamgods open

The Ghent Altarpiece article on Wikipedia has a summary of the painting's travels and return. Here is a link to a site with close-up pictures of all the different panels.

New CTS pamphlets: the new translation, and science & religion

The CTS has a bumper crop of new pamphlets just out. I have read several of them and would recommend them highly. Today, I’ll have a look just three, hoping to write about some of the others tomorrow.

On the new translation of the Mass, Mgr Bruce Harbert has written a Companion to the Order of Mass which focuses on the scriptural allusions in the texts, many of which were obscured by the old translation. His experience as Executive Secretary of ICEL shows in the 96 page booklet which obviously benefits from the in-depth discussions that took place over details of the text. Dom Cuthbert Johnson has also written on booklet on the new translation. Understanding the Roman Missal “is designed to be more prayerful than technical” and will help people to understand the different elements of the Mass as well as the text of the prayers themselves.

Science and Religion. The myth of conflict, by Professor Stephen Barr covers the claims of historical, philosophical and scientific conflict between the natural sciences and the Catholic faith. He deals well with the origins of modern science within the Christian context of the middle ages, debunks various myths of conflict between the Church and the study of science, and gives a good, sensible account of the Galileo case. Along the way, he gives numerous examples of scientific advances made by priest scientists over the centuries. The chapter God, the laws of physics and the design of the universe sets out the ground well for the philosophical section; he goes on to look at the question of purpose in nature, the Big Bang, and the spiritual soul. For the kind of apologetics that is needed in Britain today, this is a most useful introduction.

All of the above can be ordered at the CTS website. There are other reviews and more at the CTS Compass blog.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Happy birthday South Sudan

Congratulations to the people of South Sudan who yesterday celebrated the birth of a new nation. The Holy See sent a special delegation for the occasion to offer their best wishes for peace and prosperity. The Holy See has also indicated that it will give due consideration to any request from the new Government for diplomatic representation.

A few years ago, when staying at the Domus Romana in Rome, I met Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako of Khartoum in the lift after breakfast. Having read some of his powerful and hope-filled addresses, thanks to Aid to the Church in Need, I considered it a great privilege to be able even briefly to offer an expression of esteem for his apostolic witness. He was on Vatican Radio yesterday speaking about the birth of the new nation

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Population control - getting rid of girls

Luke de Pulford, who works for a homelessness charity in the East End of London, asks How much are we paying for girls to be aborted and women to be forcibly sterilised? In 2009-2010 £55 million was spent on international population control programmes such as the abortion of 12 million girls in India, leading to a skewed ratio of males to females in that country (117 boys to every 100 girls.)

Child abuse point-scoring - Tabula delenda

Recently, the Tablet's website carried an article a guest contributor, Melanie Lately, in which striking the breast during the Confiteor was equated with child abuse. Fr Zuhlsdorf said what needed to be said about this nasty attempt to attack the new, corrected ICEL translation of the Mass.
Liberals intend now to vilify what they don’t like by linking it to clerical sexual abuse of children. It doesn’t matter what it is that they don’t like, if they don’t like it, it must have something to do with child abuse. So, you sometimes have to look beyond the facile – though sometimes admittedly agile – introduction of their new blunt instrument, for their real points.
His article also contains a comprehensive fisk of the article itself.

If you follow the link given on Fr Z's blog, you will find that the article has now been removed from the Tablet website. Bless! Such touching naiveté concerning the interweb thingy.

I agree with Fr Z's analysis from the point of view of the Liturgy, but would add an observation from the point of view of our response to child abuse. The present tendency of liberal Catholics to play the child abuse card at every possible opportunity (attacking celibacy, promoting women priests, and ludicrously attacking the new translation etc.) is an insult to those who have suffered harm from priests or others.

The abuse of children is a serious matter which should be addressed with determination, objectivity, and real concern for those who have been harmed. To drag it in as a convenient, point-scoring jibe trivialises a tragedy for people who have been wounded by a real evil that should be recognised as such, not dragged up for the purposes of furthering an agenda in ecclesiastical politics.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Successful Rally for Life in Dublin

Last Saturday, 7000 people marched in Dublin on the annual Rally for Life. congratulations to all who took part in another successful event. Speakers at the Rally called on an Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, to keep the pro-life promise he made during the Election, when he said that Fine Gael in government would be 'opposed to the legalisation of abortion.'

Pat Buckley of the European Life Network has the low-down on the media bias in reporting the event, something that we are now wearily familiar with.

Treasures of Heaven


The above photo looks as though it was taken in a shrine gift shop. In fact it is from the gift shop at the British Museum - there are medals of St George, Eamon Duffy's "The Stripping of the Altars", and various other books, pictures, medals and artefacts related to the Our Lord, Our Lady and the saints.

The British Museum is currently holding the Treasures of Heaven exhibition which was organised with the Cleveland Art Museum and the Walters Art Museum. It was sponsored by John Studzinski, a Catholic who is a wealthy investment banker. He has supported many good works such as the Passage for the homeless, and established the Genesis Foundation which encourages young composers, especially in sacred music. The British Museum website has a video introducing the exhibition as well as an impressive list of events. Their blog has a post about installing the exhibition.

The exhibition includes many precious reliquaries as well as other related objects (the BBC's History Extra has some photographs.) The various commentaries and notes show respect and, indeed a certain reverence. It is worth Catholic visitors remembering that these are indeed sacred objects and that it is appropriate to pray as well as admire the beauty of the displays.

One item that brought me up short was the sarcophagus a large chi-rho emblem in the centre. I felt sure that it was familiar. The small print on the card next to it confirmed this: it was on loan from the Pio Christian Museum (part of the Vatican Museums) and probably featured in the course on Christian iconography by Fr Martinez Fazio which most of us took at some time during our stay in Rome in the early 1980s.

As I am fortunate enough to live within easy reach of London, I will probably visit the exhibition again before it closes in October, and spend a little more time at it.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

New catechetical blog

When I was young, the "new catechetics" meant the Dutch Catechism, not telling children about angels or grace, and demythologising the infancy narratives and the miracles of Christ. So let me make it clear that Transformed in Christ is not a new catechetical blog in that sense! Instead, it carries theologically well-grounded articles by a young woman who is the director of catechesis in a thriving South London parish.

If you have a look at the latest post: Confirmation Catechesis you will see what I mean.

1st grade Latin and Gregorian chant

The video shows some of the children at St Theresa's Catholic School in Sugar Land, Texas, in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. They range in age from 5-7. All comments were unrehearsed and unscripted. I liked this one:
You should try to learn the chant because it honours God and it worships Him; and I think He deserves to be treated like that. He gives all He can to us, and we should give all we can to Him.
but the best one is the last voice-to-camera at 1:22.

(A few years back, we saw the re-ordering of St Theresa's Catholic Church in Sugar Land, Texas.)

Monday, 4 July 2011

Holiness for priests

At the Catholic Tradition's directory, there is a Holiness for Priests page, provided to foster the dignity and duties of the priesthood. Many thanks to an Oratorian friend for passing this on.

God bless America!

Every good wish and blessing to all of you across the pond in the land of the free and the home of the brave. I hope the fireworks and barbecue don't get mixed up and you have a great day. I think we've got over the separation of the thirteen colonies now :-)

For this year's video, let's have Martina McBride:

New young blogger

Twelve year old Charlie J has started a blog called Chalices and Chasubles. The introduction tells us that there is himself, Mom and Dad, his 4 sisters and a few animals. Charlie serves at the Birmingham Oratory and has some photos from there, including the one above.

I think he is the youngest blogger on the sidebar.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

For priests - and those who pray for us

Fr Mark at Vultus Christi has posted a meditation for priests taken from In Sinu Iesu. If you search on that tag, you can find other meditations. This one, The Secret of Priestly Holiness, focusses on the person of St John and his relationship with Our Lady.

Many thanks to all readers who pray for priests - your kindness is very much appreciated.

ACN petition for persecuted Christians in Pakistan

I am happy to pass on this request from Aid to the Church in Need to sign their petition in support of Christians in Pakistan. Here is the information:
Aid to the Church in Need asks you to add your voice to the British Pakistani Christian Association's call for peace, justice and human rights for all people of Pakistan.

Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien has added his voice and support to our campaign by signing our petition – read more

Please show your solidarity with Pakistan's suffering faithful by adding your name to the petition. And don't forget to ask friends and family to sign up too.

Or you can collect signatures in your parish or workplace using this petition form.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Jennifer's link

Jennifer's links is a blog I recently added to the sidebar. She does come up with some good ones. I laughed at this graphic she posted yesterday:

All together now: "Problems of life, you 'elp us to face..."

Stantes iam sunt pedes nostri

Fr Zuhlsdorf has spotted the above photo from the Invocation weekend which is puzzling. I could not help but look up this video on YouTube:

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