Thursday, 28 February 2013

Thank you Papa

Thank you, Your Holiness Benedict XVI, Pope-Emeritus, for:

  • Your example of the Ars Celebrandi
  • Your measured, calm, kindly and professorial teaching
  • Your transparent love for Christ and the Church
  • Summorum Pontificum
  • Anglicanorum Coetibus
  • The new ICEL translation
  • Your appointment of Bishop Davies and Bishop Egan
  • ... and many other blessings you have brought to us
My God grant you a peaceful retirement in contemplation of Christ whom you have served as His Vicar

TLM news for Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire

Our Lady's Church, Chesham Bois

A reader wanted to let people know that there have are some changes to the provision of the usus antiquior in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. I'm happy to pass on this information for the convenience of those who live in the area:
Chesham Bois, Church of Our Lady, Amersham Road, Bucks: Sunday 10am
From the LMS Beds Hertfordshire Area & Northampton Diocese current newsletter)
“The Mass at Chesham Bois is continuing, on a week by week basis, but, owing to the death of the parish priest (Fr Davenport), the future of this Sunday Mass is a little uncertain.
Please contact Eric Caudle (01582 585169) for up-to-date information” (extract 

Flitwick, Sacred Heart Church, Pope Close, Beds: Sunday 5pm
Though the FSSP are moving their Mass from Flitwick, Canon Denis McSwiney, the parish priest, has generously agreed to continue the 5pm Mass at Flitwick, which he will celebrate in the Extraordinary Form.

Luton, Sacred Heart Church, Ashcroft Road, Stopsley, Luton: Sunday 5pm
The FSSP have moved their Mass from Flitwick to Luton and will celebrate Mass there at 5pm on Sundays.

St Albans, St Bartholomew’s Church, St. Albans, Herts: Sunday pm (time tba)
From the parish newsletter
“We have had the honour of being asked by Bishop Alan Hopes, on behalf of the Diocese, to be the host Parish in this part of Hertfordshire for a regular celebration of Mass in the Extraordinary Form, (or usus antiquior or Traditional Latin Mass), to commence some time after Easter. The current Sunday Mass times will remain the same. The Traditional Latin Mass will not replace any of these, but will be in addition to these on Sunday evenings at a time still to be decided"

Cardinal Piacenza spells out three points for authentic mission

This video shows Archbishop Mauro Piacenza in Brazil in 2008. The interview is in Italian - those studying in Rome, who are used to hearing the language mangled by non-native speakers, will enjoy his elegant use of his mother-tongue. At the time, he was Secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy. In 2010 he became its prefect and was shortly afterwards created Cardinal.

He gave a short, off-the-cuff interview, first of all praising the Brazilian Cardinal Hummes who had recently been appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy. Asked about the Holy Father's affirmation that there is great hope in Latin America, he said that Brazil is one of the most representative countries in this regard, both because of its clear Catholic foundation and because of the good activity and energy, which, he says,
"... can flower at the level of mission and the new evangelisation; with this great impetus, under the movement of the Spirit and at the same time profoundly rooted in three essential points - which always guarantee that mission should be mission and not an adventure in a human sense - namely: the Eucharist, Our Lady, and the Pope."

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Pope bearing the burden of belief

Fr Z has posted some pictures of the candlelight vigil under the Holy Father's window tonight. Pope Benedict's last General Audience Address was delivered to a vast crowd. I am amazed at how many friends of mine have managed to fly out to Rome at short notice to be there.

In the meantime, there is a note of craziness around in the Church. We have had our fair share in Britain over the past week or so. A teacher said to me that it was rather like when a teacher leaves the classroom. Some pupils will carry on with their work, while others throw things at each other or start climbing the walls.

Recently the "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster has become popular with many parodies being produced. We forget that there was a real possibility of England being invaded and subjected to Nazi rule. There was no guarantee of victory: many feared the worst and some tried to do secret deals with Hitler. If everyone had panicked, the country would have become ungovernable and the war effort compromised. It was important for people to keep calm and carry on.

On Sunday I said three Masses, celebrated two baptisms and then drove round to Wonersh so as to be able to teach there at 9am on Monday. In the evening I said Low Mass and then took the class for non-Catholics. Yesterday I celebrated a Mass for a year group in the Church, gave some spiritual direction, did some music practice and catechesis at the school and later spoke to the Confirmation class. Today I met with the other local Deans and the area Bishop, caught up on some paperwork (not enough) and gave some marriage preparation. Tomorrow I'll be celebrating the morning Mass (Pro Papa), blessing a grave, marking some essays, visiting another Confirmation class, then doing Rosary, Benediction and Novena with confessions afterwards. In the meantime the Holy See will have become vacant - but all the other things must carry on and I have to keep calm.

A fundamental reason why people gather in St Peter's Square and pour out their hearts in prayer and cheering is that the Pope bears the burden of belief for the whole Church. If it were not for Pope Benedict, many Bishops around the world (and some close to home) would long ago have spoken out in favour of women priests, gay marriage, artificial contraception and a host of other aberrant doctrines. What has prevented this from happening is the Holy Father, the successor of Peter who has confirmed his brethren in the faith. An interregnum brings with it a note of disturbing chaos. The announcement Habemus Papam will be applauded with relief and joy even before the name is given.

Play any game with this much sportsmanship, both teams win

A very well-made video account, with dramatic turns, showing genuine Christian charity at work in the context of competitive sport. This is an ideal I try to get across to young people in catechesis when talking about sin and virtue. Not only did the lad do something good, he was able to explain his motives. A powerful example from the young.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Some notes on clerical celibacy

In the synoptic gospels we hear of how Our Lord cured Simon Peter's mother-in-law from fever. In the discussion of clerical celibacy, this text is routinely brought out as a knock-down argument. The apostles were married so why can't priests marry? Oddly, though, we never hear anything of St Peter's wife, or indeed of any of the wives of the other apostles.
Then Peter said: Behold, we have left all things, and have followed thee. Who said to them: Amen, I say to you, there is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, who shall not receive much more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting. (Lk 18.28-30)
This suggests the possibility that St Peter had in fact left his family to follow the Lord. Such a course of action would be unacceptable in our time, but in the culture of Palestine in the time of Our Lord, the extended family would mean that it was possible.

Then we come to St Paul's injunction in 1 Timothy 3.2 that the Bishop should be the husband of only one wife. It would be improbable to suggest that St Paul was dealing with a problem of polygamy. Much more likely he was saying that the Bishop should not be someone who had married a second wife after his first wife had died.

These indications from scripture are tantalising but need further illumination. Fortunately, there have been a number of studies that have cast light on the historical practice of the Church, arguing that the discipline of clerical celibacy is of apostolic origin.

Christian Cochini presented the historic debate between Bickell and Funk over certain key texts from the Council of Nicea, the Council of Elvira and others. He also exhaustively examined all of the cases from the first seven centuries of the Church’s history which were relevant to the issue of clerical marriage. His work supported the thesis that there was an apostolic rule of continence for those clerics who were married and that the legislation of the Church against the clerical use of marriage is witness to this ancient tradition.

Roman Cholij examined in particular the Council in Trullo of 691, concluding that the Council’s permission for the clerical use of marriage was an innovation, giving rise to the legislative anomaly in the East (and occasionally in the West) whereby married men may be ordained but ordained men may not marry. This law, which is still a part of modern codes of canon law, makes little sense apart from the historic rule of continence.

Stefan Heid’s work continues this school of thought, adding further research on the legend of Paphnutius which had long been used to justify the conclusion that clerical continence was not of apostolic origin. He shows that the likely origin of the legend was to further the interest of the Novatians who had not practised continence. He also adds further material on the injunction of Paul in 1 Timothy that the bishop must be the husband of only one wife.

Cardinal Stickler’s brief account is a most useful summary of the case for clerical celibacy. He notes that there have been a number of important recent studies devoted to the history of celibacy in both the East and the West, and that,
These studies have either not yet penetrated the general consciousness or they have been hushed up if they were capable of influencing that consciousness in undesirable ways.
This unfortunately remains the case as articles continue to appear without finding it necessary even to address the research of these scholars.

The later imposition of a rule that clerics should be unmarried was a recognition of the growing impracticality, with the development of marriage, and the problems of inheritance, of ordaining men who had been previously married, even if there were a rule of continence. It obviously makes sense today when people would find it hard to understand a system in which men who are married would be expected to change and live a life of continence.

We should also remember in any discussion of clerical celibacy, that the Council of Trent, in its 24th session in 1563, duly defined in the canons on the sacrament of matrimony (canon 10) that
If any one says, that the marriage state is to be placed above the state of virginity, or of celibacy, and that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity, or in celibacy, than to be united in matrimony; let him be anathema.
Of course, we do today reflect on the holiness of the vocation of marriage, but the above is the defined doctrine of the Church to which we are bound to give the assent of faith.

Throughout the history of the Church, the discipline of clerical continence or celibacy has been transgressed by some clerics. The Church has consistently fought to reform the life of clerics in the face of immorality which has been greater at some times than others. Today we live in a time when reform is needed again. We should remember that when St Charles Borrommeo went to Milan, the vast majority of his priests were living in concubinage - and he reformed his diocese. The Council of Trent was largely successful in reforming the clergy.

At the present time, we should give thanks for the faithfulness and purity of most students and young priests. They have been formed at a time when appallingly bad example has been given by some of their senior brethren. They have reckoned the cost and turned into the storm with courage and resolution. Let us pray that they become the vanguard of the new reform of the clergy, following in the footsteps of their forbears in the counter-reformation and at many other times in the history of the holy Roman Church.

Cholij, R. Clerical Celibacy in East and West Gracewing. Herefordshire. 1989
Cochini, C. The apostolic origins of priestly celibacy Ignatius. San Francisco. 1990
Heid, S. Celibacy in the Early Church. Ignatius. San Francisco. 2000
Stickler, A. The case for clerical celibacy Ignatius. San Francisco. 1995

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Cardinal Arinze on the fundamental option

Many thanks to EF Pastor Emeritus for posting this video of Cardinal Arinze answering a question about the theology of fundamental option and moral sin. I found it most enjoyable and full of common sense.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Whiskey Catholic's review of Ardbeg

Whiskey Catholic is a blog devoted to whiskey which scores different whiskeys according to levels in Dante's Paradiso. The authors say:
Whiskey Catholic is the product of three friends’ long-held passion for the only three objects worth pursuing: Catholicism, culture, and whiskey.
This is a counterpoint to the preferences of some of the men in my parish who count the three objects worth pursuing as "The traditional Mass, county cricket and real ale".

Yesterday, Michael, Andrew and Nicholas reviewed Ardbeg, an Islay Malt which has a deliciously peaty flavour. They give it a rating as 8th level of Paradiso.

CD 268: Going to baptism of a child conceived by IVF

Non-Catholic friends of mine have had a child by IVF and have invited me to the Baptism. I am in two minds whether to go or not.

The 1987 instruction Donum Vitae sets out the ethical problems with IVF. In summary, the procedure normally involves the destruction of “spare” embryos which is the killing of human life. The instruction also points out that the child has the right to be conceived through an act of love of his parents and not as an object of technology. Naturally, even though the means of conception may be morally wrong, “every child brought comes into the world must [...] be accepted as a living gift of the divine Goodness and must be brought up with love.”

These considerations make for a dilemma in the case of the celebration of the Baptism. You rightly want to show a loving respect for the child but do not wish to co-operate with or be seen to approve of IVF. Your decision has to involve an assessment of how your attendance would be perceived. If your friends are aware of Catholic teaching on IVF and actively disagree with it, they might want you to give your stamp of approval. If they have no real knowledge of the moral problems with IVF it might be possible to attend for the sake of praying for, and supporting, the Christian upbringing of the child. It would be important – at the right time, and with sensitivity and charity – to explain why IVF is unethical.

This kind of dilemma is increasingly faced by Catholics today. It is vital to be well informed on the teaching of the Church in matters of bioethics that come up frequently. The CTS does an excellent service by providing short and comprehensible pamphlets on many such issues. In the case of IVF we can offer a compassionate and more effective alternative (which incidentally costs much less) in the use of expert knowledge of natural fertility, and ethical medical means by which the likelihood of conception is greatly increased. NaPro is an organisation that has a proven track record in this area.

Catholic Dilemmas column published in the Catholic Herald
Suggestions for Catholic Dilemmas are always welcome in the combox.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Cardinal Piacenza's fine pastoral leadership

The Congregation for the Clergy has for a long time been one of the most pro-active of the dicasteries of the Holy See in providing online resources for those in its care. As a result, the website is not as slick as some of the more recently developed initiatives, but it is well worth surfing round for excellent articles that support priests in their ministry. You can subscribe to the Congregation's emails. I regularly delete subscriptions to various news services that clog up my inbox, but I have always found that the Congregation for the Clergy have a sensible volume of output and that it is worth reading.

The Cardinal Prefect, HE Mauro Piacenza regularly sends letters to priests with instruction and encouragement. In this he offers a fine example of how a curial Cardinal need not be restricted to his office and his paperwork but can reach out to give genuine pastoral leadership. His Letter to Priests for the beginning of Lent is a good example. (There is also a Letter for Seminarians.) I particularly liked the point that the priest is "not just a clerk dealing with spiritual matters" and the focus on the celebration of Mass as central to the priesthood. The Cardinal says:
Some may think it is wrongly reductive to say that what characterizes the priest above all other things is the fact that he celebrates Holy Mass. That is surely not his sole activity but we can certainly say that it is the only one by means of which the mystery of the priest - alter Christus, who at once sacrifices and sacrifices himself, acquires meaning and is accomplished in the highest and most effective way.
We have been through a period when almost every homily about the priest emphasised that he is a minister of the word, and that he is called to service. These things are true but it is good to hear such a clear emphasis on the heart of priestly ministry which is the celebration of Mass.

We cannot predict whom the Cardinals will elect in the forthcoming Conclave but I am consoling myself with the thought that it is at least possible that they might choose Cardinal Piacenza.

A Day of Faith organised by the Faith Movement

The Faith Movement has conferences for young people every year. As it has been doing this for several decades, there are plenty of not-so-young people who have benefitted from the work of Faith. Also, those who have never come into contact with Faith might well appreciate meeting some of those involved, so we decided that a day should be organised to which there is an open invitation. Auntie Joanna has been busy and has organised a splendid programme. Here are the details:

A Day of Faith

For the Year of Faith, the Faith Movement invites you to a Day of Faith at St Patrick’s Church, Soho Square, London W1. June 18th 2013, starts 11 am

Special guest speakers:
Rt Rev Philip Egan, Bishop of Portsmouth 3pm
George Weigel, Papal biographer 7.30pm

Other speakers include Canon Luiz Ruscillo, Director of Education, Diocese of Lancaster. The Day will include Mass, lunch, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, opportunity for confession. Tickets : £20, includes lunch and supper. (Daytime only: £10 includes lunch. Evening only: £10 includes supper.)

Book your place now! Send a cheque payable to "Faith-Keyway Trust" to: St Peter’s Church, Bishop’s Rise, Hatfield, Herts AL10 9HN. Please give your name, postal address and email and enclose an addressed envelope.

Programme for the day:
11 am Arrival. Coffee and pastries.
11.25 Introduction and welcome
11.30 Speaker: Canon Luiz Ruscillo, Director of Education, Diocese of Lancaster "The Year of Faith: teaching and celebrating the faith"
12.30 Break. Opportunity for confession
12.45 Mass In St Patrick’s Church.
1.15pm Buffet Lunch
2.30pm Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in St Patrick’s Church.
3.OO pm Guest speaker: Rt Rev Philip Egan, Bishop of Portsmouth "The Year of Faith: challenge and opportunity"
4.00pm Tea
4.30pm Benediction in St Patrick’s Church
Break. (Optional History Walk around the local area, led by Joanna Bogle)
6.30pm Drinks and Buffet
7.30pm Guest speaker: George Weigel: "The Year of Faith: our evangelical moment"
Unfortunately I won't be able to be there myself (I will be in Australia speaking to the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy) but I do warmly recommend it to you.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Cardinal Arinze's sure-fire prediction concerning the next Pope

Fr Zuhlsdorf has suggested that a good thing to do at this time is to listen to Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A (K. 622). This strikes me as eminently sensible: obviously something in addition to praying for the Church but it can help us along at the present time.

There is good sense too, in the address by Fr Julian Large, Provost of the London Oratory. (H/T Bara Brith) Father Provost warns against punditry, saying:
It is enough that the next successor of St Peter should be Catholic, holy, wise and strong. We should put all of our energies into praying for a candidate who has been endowed with these qualities and leave the rest to God.
At a time like this, parish priests need to reassure people that much of what is written in the newspapers or broadcast on TV is uninformed tosh. Thanks be to God, Tim Stanley has an excellent light-hearted article which saves the rest of us having to explain the matter at length:Pope Benedict XVI resigns: the mainstream media just doesn't get God or Catholicism.

For a pithy rejoinder to everyone's instant expertise on who the Cardinals are likely to choose, I like to use the expression of Cardinal Arinze: "All Popes will not have the same face." We can be sure of that - the next Pope will have a different face. We know that for sure - and not much else.

But we can pray that the Cardinals elect a man who is "Catholic, holy, wise and strong." We can also have our own favourites. Such as Cardinal Mauro Piacenza for example.

Magdalene Laundries and the "Noble Lie"

The kind of article Catholics dare not write: Catholic-bashers have embellished the truth about abuse in Catholic institutions. It's time to put the record straight. Brendan O'Neill in the Telegraph points up the fact that no evidence of sexual or violent abuse was found in the Magdalene Laundries and that the authors were taken about by the number of women who spoke positively about the nuns.

Yet the Noble Lie defence is brought out in justification of downright inaccurate reporting because it might help to highlight abuse. This is morally unjustifiable not only because of the breach of truth and justice for those who are defamed, but also because in the long run, telling lies will hinder the important struggle to safeguard children. It is important to expose child abuse - and important not to give anyone the excuse of inaccurate reporting to hide behind.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Shut it!

This graphic is doing the rounds on Facebook and Twitter. I heartily agree.

Monday, 11 February 2013

God bless Pope Benedict

That's more or less all I have to say at the moment. Except to add: let us pray earnestly to the Holy Spirit for the Church generally, and in particular that a good Pope will be chosen to succeed Pope Benedict.

Unusually today was a day off for me (half-term at Wonersh) so I went to Calais with a priest friend to do a little shopping and have lunch (Sole Meunière if you are interested - and it was delicious.) During the drive back on the M20 from Folkestone we switched on the news at 4pm which was when we heard the announcement. When I got back, I said an evening Mass at which I was thankfully free to make my own intention - pro felici statu sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae. In the class for non-Catholics afterwards, I had to slip a little behind on the sacraments to talk about the Petrine office, the process of electing a successor, and to dispel some of the msm myths already gaining traction.

It is all still sinking in. Prayer. Lots of prayer.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Convalidation and sanation and the civil law

Some more information as a service to readers. If a Catholic marries without the canonical form being observed, the marriage can be "put right" as it is commonly said, in two ways.

Let's first of all be clear about canonical form. A Catholic is normally obliged to celebrate their marriage before a priest and two witnesses, according to the rites of the Church. There are exceptions and dispensations. If a Catholic wishes to marry in a non-Catholic Christian Church, a dispensation from canonical form can be granted. In such a case, the non-Catholic minister solemnises the wedding. A Catholic priest may be present and say a prayer or whatever, but the wedding cannot be a joint celebration with two ministers solemnising it. (There is also provision for exceptions: when there is no priest available, a lay person can be deputed to solemnise marriage, and under certain conditions, if a Catholic cannot have recourse to an appointed minister, the marriage can be contracted before witnesses alone. These cases would not normally occur in England.)

Now if a Catholic marries without observing the canonical form, without a dispensation, and without it being one of the (rare) cases of necessity, the marriage is invalid in the eyes of the Church, according to current canon law. (Remember that it is the defined teaching of the Council of Trent that the Church can impose diriment (invalidating) impediments to marriage.) The most common cases of invalid marriages happen when a Catholic has married in a Register Office and not solemnised the marriage according to the rites of the Church. People in such cases often ask the priest "Can I have a blessing for my marriage?" The answer is "No, but we can put the marriage right." (though see my caveat at the end of the post.)

The two ways of putting the marriage right are convalidation and sanation. Convalidation, canonically the ordinary route, is where the couple come to the Church, and take their vows anew in the form required by the Church. Beforehand, the priest has to prepare the usual paperwork for marriage and obtain permission from the Bishop. The service can be a quiet and discreet one - there simply need to be two witnesses present in addition to the priest. With convalidation, the couple must make a new act of consent to the marriage.

Often it happens that one spouse (in practice, usually the husband) says that they do not want to go through such a ceremony. I such a case, an application may be made for a sanation - sanatio in radice ("healing in the root"). What happens is that the various details and documents are obtained and an application is made to the Bishop for him to validate retrospectively the consent that was already given. Even though it was given without the proper canonical form, the Church can retrospectively validate that consent. This reminds us of the principle that it is consent that makes the marriage, not the priestly blessing.

So is the priest acting contrary to the civil law when he does a convalidation? Relying particularly on the guidance given by Neil Addison, I would argue that he is not. In the combox of the post Luther, Trent and getting out of state marriage, Neil highlighted a legal problem with my suggestion of having the wedding in Church first, and then going to the Register Office if desired. He advised that this would contravene the Marriage Act (1949) and then added:
If however the Church were to say that the couple can only have a Church marriage after they have been through a Civil Marriage ceremony in the Registry Office then that would be legal because the ceremony would be regarded in law as simply a private religious blessing.
Now it is not my point here to argue concerning the rightness of such an arrangement - simply to observe that it seems to be a fairly clear reassurance that the celebration of a convalidation is not contrary to English law as is often suggested. (In the case of a sanation, it is certainly not against the provisions of the Marriage Act because there is no additional ceremony.)

In pastoral practice, the convalidation or sanation of marriage is increasingly important. I often find, when booking the baptism of a baby, that the parents have married in a Register Office, on a hotel, on a beach in America or whatever. I gently point out to the Catholic party that the marriage is not valid in the eyes of the Church and that it is important to have he marriage put right because they they can return to Holy Communion. It is very often a surprise to the Catholic spouse to discover that they are not actually allowed to receive Holy Communion. The convalidation can often be fixed on the occasion of the anniversary of the wedding - this is a help in persuading non-Catholic spouses to co-operate.

(A pastoral note for priests - which most experienced priests will already be well aware of - is that before giving any encouragement about convalidation, it is essential to enquire whether either spouse was married before. If that is the case, then of course the second marriage cannot be convalidated except in the case that the first marriage is investigated by a tribunal and a decree of nullity is granted.)

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Marriages - created and sacramental

Jan Steen: Marriage of Tobias and Sarah
Reading lots of well-intentioned comments on marriage over the past few weeks, I have for a while meant to offer some guidance on one or two points that have often been missed.

Edward Schillebeeckx in his book "Marriage. Human Reality and Saving Mystery" makes the point that considered in relation to the marriage customs of the ancient near east and Phoenicia in particular,
"[…] it immediately becomes apparent that faith in Yahweh in effect “desacralised” or secularised marriage – took it out of a purely religious sphere and set it squarely in the human secular sphere."
Historically, the restriction of the sacramental nature of marriage to the religious rite has the consequence that the state may then presume to exercise absolute control over the civil contract. However, Peter Elliot in his book "What God Has Joined" made an important and helpful distinction in response to Schillebeeckx, saying that we should:
"give a respectful regard to Marriage before Christ as a created reality, rather than a 'secular reality'."
This applies also to marriages of non-Catholics (Christian or not) which are recognised by the Church if the couple have exchanged vows. The principle in Roman law was nuptias non concubitus sed consensus facit. (Consent, not sexual intercourse makes marriage.) Similarly, in the Church, it has always been recognised that it is the consent which is the matter and form of the sacrament of matrimony and not the priestly blessing, and that the spouses minister the sacrament to each other. (Among the Orthodox, a different view has prevailed, especially since the 19th century, making the blessing the actual form of the rite, but there is evidence of many earlier Orthodox theologians accepting the older view that it is the consent which is essential.)

In the Catholic Church today, it is common for couples to be married even though one spouse is not baptised. In such a case, the priest applies to the Bishop for a dispensation from the (invalidating) impediment of "Disparity of Cult." This is routinely given when the Catholic has signed a form saying that they will do all in their power within the unity of their marriage, to have the children baptised and brought up as Catholics. They can then be married according to the rites of the Church. However, what is often forgotten (for example in the choice of prayers) is that this is not a sacramental marriage.

A non-baptised person is not capable of receiving any other sacrament. Nor are they able to minister the sacrament of matrimony. The sacrament cannot therefore be received by the Catholic party. This fact is recognised by the Church's legislation in that there are certain circumstances when such a marriage can be dissolved, whereas a valid (and consummated) sacramental marriage can never be dissolved. Nevertheless, a non-sacramental marriage is recognised as a valid union, a reality created by God at the beginning of the human race, natural and good.

(In the case of a mixed marriage between a Catholic and a validly baptised Christian who is not in communion with Rome, there is no invalidating impediment. The Parish Priest is required to obtain the same undertaking about the upbringing of the children and then formally give permission for the marriage to take place, but if he were to forget, it would not invalidate the marriage. The Catholic and the non-Catholic but baptised spouse would contract a valid and sacramental marriage.)

So there is no question of the Church retreating to "religious marriage" as opposed to "civil marriage." We simply don't accept that there is any such thing as a "purely civil marriage." Any valid marriage - whether sacramental or not - is a union created by God and subject to the jurisdiction of the Church as the Council of Trent teaches. (See: Luther, Trent and getting out of state marriage.)

This might sound an outlandish claim and indeed, for prudential reasons, the Church nowadays does not attempt to intervene in the civil jurisdiction which is exercised over marriage. However, there are common examples of where the Church does exercise her jurisdiction. For example, if  Caius, an Anglican, wishes to marry Livia, a Catholic, but was previously married to Claudia, another Anglican, he can apply to the matrimonial tribunal of the Diocese for the first marriage to be investigated and the Church will often grant a decree of nullity. If Caius and Claudia were both non-baptised people married in the Register Office, a similar process might take place, or a case brought for dissolution of the marriage on the grounds of the Pauline privilege. In such cases, the Church is exercising her jurisdiction over civil marriage without reference to the state.

It is true that currently, in these cases, the tribunals insist that a civil divorce be obtained. Again, this is a purely prudential decision on the part of the Church to prevent the tribunal being drawn into any subsequent civil litigation. The point is that the Church recognises sacramental marriages between non-Catholic Christians as well as natural, non-sacramental marriages where one or both spouses is not baptised - and exercises jurisdiction in relation to such marriages.

Paul Priest (On the Side of the Angels) has raised the question of whether it is now right for us to co-operate with the civil arrangements for marriage, since marriage likely to be re-defined in such a way that it would give scandal etc. if we were to to co-operate with it. It would not be formal co-operation, and I am of the view that it would be legitimate material co-operation, especially if we are given no option in civil law to conduct marriages without couples previously or subsequently going through the civil arrangements for marriage. In fact, we have for some time co-operated with civil arrangements for marriage that allow for "no-fault" divorce through mutual consent. That is clean contrary to the teaching of the Church but we accept that couples can register their marriages civilly, having completed the Catholic pre-nuptial enquiry and assented to the indissolubility of marriage. If the SSM Bill is passed, couples going through the civil registration would also have to assent, at least implicitly, to the truth that marriage is a union between a man and a woman.

Neil Addison (Religion Law Blog) helpfully pointed out that under s75 of the Marriage Act (1949) it is a criminal offence for anyone to solemnise a Marriage otherwise than in accordance with the Act. Paul Priest suggests that the (fairly common) process of convalidating invalid marriages (when the couples take the vows again in the canonical form) would therefore be illegal - though in fact no effort has been made to prosecute priests for solemnising such marriages. Perhaps this could be got round by saying that the state has already recognised the marriage. However, as Neil Addison pointed out even more pertinently, Muslims routinely solemnise marriages without the marriage being registered under the civil law. (See for example: Muslim Marriages (Again)). Neil is keen to insist that Muslims should conduct their marriages within the terms of the Marriage Act (1949), something that they could do without much inconvenience and without contravening the Islamic faith.

Now that marriage is being re-defined before our eyes, I think that the whole question is up in the air again. I would like to see a situation where a couple could celebrate their marriage (not "religious marriage", just marriage - for the reasons I have already given) and then afterwards sign the civil partnership schedule if they wish to benefit from the civil benefits that the state may make available from time to time. But this would require a change to the Marriage Act (1949) and to the Civil Partnerships Act (2004). The compromise I will probably have to put up with is de-registering the Church and having the Registrar come to do the civil registration - as happened before 1949.

A note for commenters
I am sorry that this is rather a long and complex post, but I thought is would be good to have something for people to refer to. Do by all means correct me if I am mistaken in civil or canon law, and add your own thoughts. However on this post especially, forgive me if I do ask that you read the post carefully before commenting. Marriage is a pitfall for the unwary theologian or canon lawyer. (And as ever, I insist proudly: I am not a canonist, I am a dogmatist.)

New website for Missio

Missio is best known to many Catholics from the Red Box which is kept at home and emptied periodically by the local Missio organiser. We used to refer mainly to the Association for the Propagation of the Faith or APF but now Missio combines the APF, the Society of St Peter the Apostle, Mission Together, and the Pontifical Missionary Union. These are Pontifical Mission Aid Societies under the jurirical oversight of the Holy See.

The founder of the APF was the Venerable Pauline Jaricot. Some readers will know her also from her founding of the Universal Living Rosary Association of St Philomena.

I was alerted to Missio's new website: you can visit there to see the various activities that are undertaken for the spread of the gospel. I remember putting some of my pocket money in the Red Box at home when I was a child and I am glad to continue to support it today in my parish.

Luther, Trent and getting out of state marriage

Luther, in his commentary on Matthew ( said:
“How are we to deal with matrimonial affairs and with questions of divorce, I have already explained, viz., that they should be left to those skilled in the law, and should be put into the hands of the secular rulers. For marriage is a secular and external matter, just as wife and child, house and property and the rest, and so is subject to the jurisdiction of the civil ruler, which in its turn is subject to the law of reason.”
In the Calvinist territories jurisdiction was handed over to the civil power more promptly, though with the proviso that the civil courts should deal with marriage according to the teaching of the scriptures.

In England, spiritual courts were retained but in accord with the Act of Supremacy, the source of all jurisdiction, including the spiritual courts, was the Crown. So article 37 of the 39 articles of religion in the 1562 version reads:
“The King’s Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England, and other his Dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign Jurisdiction.”
Marriage cases in England remained under the ecclesiastical courts until 1567 when a secular court was established to deal with them.

The reformation in England is a special case, but the Council of Trent condemned the protestant subjection of marriage cases to the civil courts in Canon 12 on the Sacrament of Matrimony in Session 24:
“If any one says, that matrimonial causes do not belong to ecclesiastical judges; let him be anathema.”
Being familiar with all this, I was most interested to read the article by Steve Baker, MP for Wycombe: Why I voted against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. He argues that the state should get out of marriage altogether. I hope he will not be disturbed to discover that he is agreeing with the Council of Trent against Luther and Calvin.

We could argue that if the SSM Bill completes the rest of its passage through Parliament, the state will have effectively got out of marriage since the institution which results will not actually be marriage at all.

I agree with those (including Bishop Egan) who are suggesting that we should withdraw from the civil registration of marriage. If Catholics want to get married, they can come to the Church and be married. If they then want to register their union with the state (to enjoy such legal, civil or financial benefits as might be available) they could do so afterwards. I think we should be careful to insist on keeping this order, rather than submit to a French style arrangement where the Town Hall “marriage” has to be done first. There is no reason now for the state to impose that.

Given our present arrangements, and especially given the discussion on widening civil partnerships, I would argue that the best option would be for Catholics to get married in Church and then, if they consider it beneficial, to go and register their “partnership” at the register office. This would be preferable since you can register a civil partnership without any ceremonies, simply by signing the civil partnerships schedule. In order for this to be possible, the registration of a civil partnership would need to be extended to heterosexual couples. With all the talk of equality, it seems difficult to find a justification to retain the rule that they can only be for couples of the same sex.

When in the past, I have suggested that we might de-register our Churches and conduct weddings according to the form of the Church and leave couples free to go to the Register Office or not as they choose, canon lawyers have come up with various objections. One that used to be brought forward was the possibility of a suit for “alienation of affection.” Consulting a barrister about this, I was assured that unless you live in Mississippi or Carolina, this is not possible. Another argument put to me was that we might be in trouble for conducting a “simulated marriage.” I would be interested to hear from lawyers whether this is a well-grounded fear. If it is, and since the whole law concerning marriage is now up for grabs and we in the Catholic Church have made a creditable nuisance of ourselves over same-sex “marriage”, our legislators might be fairly glad to get us off their backs in at least one respect by altering the law so that marriages according to the form of the Catholic Church can take place without fear of prosecution with civil registration left as an option.

It would be good for us to return to the situation envisaged by the Council of Trent. There is no good reason why we should be encumbered by the fiasco that is now likely to become the law on marriage in our country.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

First reactions on SSM Bill

A sad day for civilisation. This afternoon and evening, in between various duties, I was able to watch the debate on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill for snatches of a few minutes at a time. Tweets from @spucprolife and other good tweeps were also very helpful. Every time I got a chance to look at Parliament TV, I heard excellent speeches from MPs opposed to same-sex "marriage" and it is clear that the general pattern of their correspondence was to receive a sackload of mail against the bill and only a few letters in favour, some of those characterised by abuse.

Edward Leigh has been a staunch opponent of the bill and his speech was very good. MPs were limited to four minutes: although it was wrong of the Government to bypass pre-legislative scrutiny and to push through the timetable motion, the time-limit for speeches meant that they gave an opportunity for a succinct case to be made - or in some instances, for a pointless but mercifully short ramble about equality, failing to address any of the key issues in the debate.

Here is just a part of Edward Leigh's speech, together with an intervention from Chris Bryant, and a pertinent riposte from Mr Leigh:
Mr Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con):
We should indeed treat one another with tolerance and treat everybody’s sexuality with understanding, but the fundamental question we are deciding today is whether English law should declare for the first time that two people of the same sex can marry.

Parliament is sovereign—we can vote for what we want—but we must be very careful that law and reality do not conflict. In 1648, the Earl of Pembroke, in seeking to make the point that Parliament is sovereign, said that Parliament can do anything but make a man a woman or a woman a man. Of course, in 2004, we did exactly that with the Gender Recognition Act. We are now proposing to make equally stark changes to the essence of marriage. During the civil partnership debates, I was given solemn assurances on the Floor of the House, including by some sitting on the Opposition Benches now, that the Civil Partnership Act would not lead to full same-sex marriage.

Chris Bryant

Mr Leigh:
I am happy to give way to the hon. Gentleman who gave those assurances to me.

Chris Bryant:
Assurances from me do not necessarily determine what happens in Parliament in future. Several hon. Members have raised what I said in that debate. At that time, I believed that civil partnership was the be-all and end-all of the story. I have since entered a civil partnership and believe that the world has moved on. Many Conservative Members who voted against civil partnerships know that Britain’s mind has changed and want to reflect that in a change of the law.

Mr Leigh:
The worry some of us have is that the world, in the hon. Gentleman’s mind, could move on again, and that many of the assurances we are being given may not count for very much.
Quite so.

You can read the debate now at Hansard (it is not all there as of the time of posting, but I am impressed by the speed with which they have posted so much already.) The upshot is that the second reading was passed by 400-175, but commenters have immediately picked up on the fact that more than half of the conservative MPs who voted were in the Noes lobby. There were significant rebellions against the the whipped programme motion, as well as the money resolution and the carry-over motion. Political commentators are seeing this as a sign of a deep-seated rebellion and disaffection with David Cameron.

Yes, David Cameron, the architect of all this; where was he? Not in the chamber: he was very busy with some meetings, apparently.

There will still be much to do in the coming days, so be alert for guidance on how we can continue the campaign - we'll need to be writing to some peers soon enough.

Monday, 4 February 2013

40 Days for Life starting soon

40 Days for Life is starting on 13 February and will continue to 24 March. Here is a message from the organisers:
On 12 February, we will have the Kick Off Rally: please email if you would like to register for this event at Bedford Square.

On Monday 18 February 2013, 7pm we are having a BOOK LAUNCH of the new 40 days for life book @ Pimlico Parish Hall, 47 Cumberland Street, SW1V 4LY. This is an UNMISSABLE EVENT. See the book on Amazon here - Author David Bereit will be with us! Amazing!

On Sunday March 10 there will be a March for Life in Birmingham. A coach will be going from London and details will be available shortly.

Whitfield Street and Ealing Campaigns:

With this in mind I would like to invite you to our Cast the Vision meeting on Tuesday 5th February at 7pm at 211 Old Marylebone Road, Marylebone, NW1 5QT (nearest stations are Marylebone and Edgeware Road) and/or come to our Cast the Vision meeting on Wednesday 6th February at Ealing Abbey, Marchwood Crescent, W5 2DZ at 8pm (nearest station is Ealing Broadway).

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Holy See extends its resources by digital publication

The Vatican Library has many manuscripts that are priceless for scholars researching in various fields. It is great to hear via the New Liturgical Movement that another tranche of manuscripts has been put into the public domain. 256 digitalised manuscripts are now available online to anyone  in the world. These include the Sacramentarium Gregorianum and the Ordines Romani.

From an apologetic point of view, these initiatives are important in showing what the "Vatican" does with its "riches". Certainly there are many valuable resources held in the Vatican. If they were in private hands, they would probably not be made available to the public.

One good turn deserves another

@workhubs "The ultimate in flexible workspace" came to my rescue on Friday. I got to Euston Station having forgotten to bring the printouts of my tickets for Virgin Trains to Birmingham. On the way up to London, I looked up various internet cafés on the internet but found on arrival that the nearest one was now a clothes shop or something. Resigned to spending loads of dosh on buying a new ticket, I found @workhubs and called in asking to use a computer to print out my ticket.

The guys there were most helpful, allowing me to use a terminal and print out the tickets. They did not charge me anything so I promised to give them a heads-up on my blog. Michael O'Leary would say I was stupid; I agree it was a stupid thing to forget the printouts: but @workhubs helped me out. I'd use @workhubs but would not be particularly enthusiastic to use Ryanair. Virtue is good for business.

I am not encouraging anyone to trespass on their generosity but if you need an office by the hour or the day, @workhubs is a very good idea and my experience tells me that the chaps there will be very helpful and considerate. Do look them up if you are in need of a flexible workspace.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Congratulations Fr Richard Duncan

A most glorious ceremony this evening for the ordination of Fr Richard Duncan of the Birmingham Oratory. Mozart's Missa Solemnis in C was accompanied by Vivaldi's Juravit Dominus at the Offertory and a splendid rendition of Handel's "Let the bright Seraphim" at Communion. There was even some Anglican Patrimony with Parry's Psalm 84 "O how amiable are thy dwellings" at the Kiss of Peace.

Arcbishop Bernard Longley was celebrant, assisted by Bishop Richard Moth in choro. Several Fathers of the English Oratories concelebrated and there were many priests and seminarians in choir, inluding a good representation from the Archdiocese of Southwark.

It was a lovely occasion to catch up with old friends: priests, bloggers, blog readers and good apostolic laity. Fr Duncan was in the first cohort to whom I taught Sacramental Theology at Wonersh in 2004. It was great to see him ordained to the sacred priesthood to minister those sacraments. Please remember him in your prayers.

Cameron said he would not redefine marriage

Just three days before the last election, David Cameron said that he was not planning to redefine marriage. It has often been pointed out, quite rightly, that plans to redefine marriage were not part of the Conservative manifesto. Many, like me, will not realise that on the eve of the election, David Cameron gave electors to believe that he would not change the definition of marriage.

Coalition for Marriage has the details.

Conference on sex-ed hosted by Diocese of Shrewsbury

Alive to the World is a good programme for children offering education in chastity and in the other virtues. I'm on the road today, so this is just a quick note to publicise a forthcoing conference to be hosted by the Diocese of Shrewsbury

Called “Educating Children in Sexuality: Complementary Role of Parents and Teachers”, the event will take place at Aquinas College, Stockport, late in the afternoon of Friday March 1.
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