Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Beyond Amoris Laetitia

There are some diocese in the UK where even a liberal reading of  the Pope's letter to the Argentinian bishops on Amoris Laetitia's opening up of the reception of Holy Communion would be regarded as oppressively conservative.
In one UK diocese if an annulment procedure fails the couple or the Catholic party are sent to see a priest who has been given the 'faculty' not only to 'accompany' them but with a meeting or two, then to admit them to the reception of Holy Communion. This has been going on in  one instance I know of for thirty years. 

Does this happen elsewhere?

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Pastoral Letters and Sermons


Having celebrated the Octave of Christmas, now we come to the season of the Pastoral Letters from bishops. It is a venerable tradition, that demands a high standard, the Pastoral Letters of  Apostles form part of scripture, the letters of early bishops form an important part of the Tradition. Bishop's letters are meant, as much as sermons, to change lives, probably more so because they come from a successor of the Apostles.

A correct Catholic understanding of the Liturgy of the Word sees the readings and most especially the Proclamation of the Gospel, not as a teaching moment but as theophany, a revelation of God himself. What follows the Gospel is analogous to what follows the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice; the distribution of Holy Communion. The Sermon or Pastoral Letter is an action, like Communion, which makes the Lord available to God's people, in a sense 'distributing' him or inserting him into the lives of his people. Sermons and Pastoral Letters are not about information but about Salvation, about feeding with God himself.


I heard of one US diocese where it is customary for a television to be placed on the Altar, sometimes in front of Tabernacle and for bishop to speak directly - well through the electrical machinery - to the people. There seems to be a lot of theological muddle here, not least that the whole point of having priests is that they are ordained to stand in the place of the bishop, celebrating the sacraments in communion with him and speaking in his name, and on the joyous occasion that the bishop should consider is important enough to write to his clergy and people they actually speak his words because the priest (or deacon) on these occasions is the bishop's logothete. He is the sign, not only of Christ but of the Bishop.

It is 'reprobate' to use recorded music in the Sacred Liturgy, even more so is it reprobate to use recorded speech or film, even a bishop's speech. Few would ever dream of playing a recording of even the Pope's or someone else's most brilliant words in the Liturgy. Though I did hear of an Italian priest who at his daily Mass used a video of the Pope's Casa S Marta sermons until his bishop stopped him. In Argentina, apparently, a priest had Communion Services in which he recorded himself preaching and saying the prayers until the moment of Communion when a lay person went to the tabernacle, having been put on pause he was switched on to conclude with the post Communion and blessing, all on the TV.

One bishop who eventually resigned in disgrace issued an outrageously heretical Pastoral Letter on the Sacrament of Penance, following complaints from a few clergy and a greater number of laity the Nuncio, Abp Mennini, made him write again and because this was not much better, he was made to do it, a third letter, this time with a bit of help, the Archbishop gave after that.

Pastoral Letters, like sermons can do a great deal of good, although many people tend to suffer from fatigue listening to Father week by week Pastoral Letter are supposed to be heard. An elderly priest said it was a Pastoral Letter from his Archbishop, '... on those young men who stop their ears to a call from God' it made him listen to God, and eventually offer his life to work on the Missions. He said, 'when I eventually told Archbishop Amigo, he called me a 'traitor' as he had written the letter to promote vocations for his diocese, not for the missionaries'.


One of my parishioners is a student from Portsmouth, whenever bishop Egan writes, he is delighted and presents me with a copy. He writes powerfully, not just to inform but to change minds and soften hearts, to increase the faith of his people, to share is own faith and ultimately to save. It is very sad when the faithful find their own bishops' Letters so faithless and shallow, so lacking in learning and so uninspiring that there is a groan when it is announced.

Unfortunately we clergy, bishops and priests, are often boring people out of the Church or undermining faith through sheer tediousness! We can easily demonstrate how sterile our own faith is.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The wealth of Cardinals


I am glad Cardinal Maradiaga has responded to his critics.

I asked a friend who is involved with the Curia, why some Cardinals seem to be so wealthy, some still seem to have palaces, some occupy whole floors of prestigious buildings or have huge appartments within the Vatican. Some like Ratzinger rather shockingly for others took no fees whatsoever, except the money which came in through his writings and his official salary, I am told Cardinal Burke acts similarly, others like Cardinal Marx and the Germans receive what is in effect a government salary and have their often large expenses paid by their dioceses. Some are immensely wealthy in their own right or like Cardinal Count von Schönborn are from still wealthy princely or aristocratic families.

I asked my friend, who is away from Rome and therefore felt able to speak without being overheard, why a Cardinal might need such great wealth.  His answer, "Nephews were alway expensive". He meant not necessarily gay friends or even real nephews, (though a former Secretaty of State's nehew got huge sums for restoring buildings and erecting the crip in St Peter's Square) but that in Italy there is a lot of nepotism and Cardinals are still expected to act as patron and ease the way of families or individuals dependant on them.

He went on to say. "Papal elections cost; pre-election parties cost; fulfilling pre-election promises cost!" He wasn't quite alluding to the mule trains of Cardinal Borgia being so long and laden with so much silver that his election inevitable.

Things are less blatant now but there are lots of costs such as visiting fellow Cardinals, entertaining in Rome or abroad, after an Election a Cardinal's main role is to look for the next Pope, this means travel and comparing notes with the brethren. I don't know if US Cardinals and Bishops still stay in London's Dorchester or the Savoy or if they still travel 1st Class everywhere, I know they and others still eat in Rome more exclusive restaurants but many are elderly and have health needs.

In the frenetic time after a Papal death or resignation there are formal meetings, the Congrgations, but then there are informal meetings, receptions and dinners to sound people out or for the more politically minded to encourage votes for one's favourite, these tend to be more than a glass of wine and rubber chicken.

All is done within the rules, I am sure, but Rome is founded on promises and obligations, so it is not unlikely for a more politically astute Cardinal to say to a brother, if you can  help get X elected Pope then I will be Prefect of the Congregation for ... or President for the Commission for ... and we will be able to help with your project for a seminary, university, hospital, school, cathedral, clergy pensions or even your favourite charity.

I don't know many details but many of those around Pope John Paul II and various Cardinals welcomed the visits of Marcel Maciel, not because he distributed wads of cash but on at least one occassion there was a van that unloaded a consignment of  laptops with the Papal stemma on them which were distributed Vatican employees, favourites and even favoured seminarians.

The merk of Rome isn't blatant corruption or suitcases of money changing hands, though it is there, as is money laundering, drug trafficking and prostitution, it is much more about, "I know a man who can do this for you, if you will do this for a friend of mine to whom I owe a favour because he has done that for me or my another friend's dear sick aunt". It is an open door to organised crime and other evils. Perhaps it is the vice of often men who want to good and yet easily get drawn into a world that is full of evil, churchmen are particularly easily drawn into its filth.

Unfortunately such corruption is not limited to Rome.

One of the few who remained friends with Cardinal Law said of him before his death. "He was a good and kindly man who really loved and cared for his priests and his diocese in an exemplary, even saintly way, the problem was he loved them more than he loved the victims of abuse".

Friday, December 22, 2017

Maradiaga: some questions



So Cardinal Maradiaga the Pope's friend and advisor has been accused of financial corruption in a report sent to the Pontiff six months ago.

There are lots of questions raised by these allegations, apart from what happened to the money:

  1. Who leaked the report?
  2. Why leak the report?
  3. Why now?
  4. Who would gain from its leaking?
  5. What influence did Maradiaga have on the Pope?
  6. Was his corruption limited to Honduras, or did it touch on his Presidency of Caritas Internationalis?
  7. Did he as Co-ordinator of C9 influence the failure of Vatican financial reforms?
  8. Did the Cardinal act alone or were other Curial officials and bishops involved?
  9. Are other friends and advisors of the Pope equally corrupt?
  10. What does this say about the Pope's judgement of friends and advisors?
  11. Have we moved into the lame-duck period of this Papacy which will end in further damaging leaks?
  12. Will the Pope gradually become more isolated as others are exposed?
  13. Will journalist decide to turn against Francis?
  14. What will be the next scandal in the Papal court?
  15. What will or what can the Pope do?
  16. Is it possible for the Pope to remain untouched by this scandal?
It is too simple to think some lowly official decided that yesterday, on Pope's day to address the Vatican staff on what has become 'bash the Curia day' would be a good day to embarass the Pope. One would like to think that this together with the publication of The Dictator Pope is an attempt to ensure that cirruption is brought to account. That too would be simplistic. Nothing is as it appears in Rome. The sad thing is that one's confidence in Rome and in those who surround the Pope is further eroded and it becomes easier to dismiss both the Church and her Lord


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

End of the Commission for the Protection of Minors


The Commission for the Protection of Minors set up by Pope Francis for a term of four years effectively came to the end of its mandated term on Sunday which has not yet been renewed.

Two of the victims of abuse appointed to the Commission, Marie Collins from Ireland resigned sometime ago and  Peter Saunders from Britain announced he was stepping down from membership because they considered the Commission was ineffective window dressing.

Sir Humphrey, in the BBC programme 'Yes Prime Minister' suggests the best way to deflect criticism from the government was to set up an independent Commission, which would signal something was being done but actually do nothing, perhaps I am being cynical but this seems to have been precisely what this Commission was set up to do.

Pope Benedict rested responsibility for dealing with sexual abuse from the Secretariate of State to the CDF when he was Prefect, because the Secretariate was not merely doing nothing but was actually sheltering and even promoting sexual abusers such as Marcel Maciel, and defending those who abused like Cardinal Daneels and finding sinecures for those like Cardinal Law of Boston who died this morning. One of Benedict's first moves as Pope was to dismiss Maciel from the Legionnaries of Christ and to set in place their reform and investigate the depths of his abuse.

As his Friday penance even after he became Pope, Benedict, apparently often in tears, would deal with abuse charges against priests, a huge number he laicised, a large number where no prosecution was possible he sent to end their days in prayer and penance, far away from public ministry.

Pope Francis' hagan lio papacy has sent out very mixed messages on the Protection of Minors which seems to have been signified by the closeness of Cdl Daneels to him on the Loggia after his election and his prominence at the Synod on the Family

The restoration of Fr Inzoli to ministry following requests for intervention by Cdl Coccopalmerio and Abp Pinto became a major scandal in Italy after he was brought to trial and convicted. Francis appointed Bishop Juan Barros to the Diocese of Osorno, Chile despite widespread accusation of covering up abuse by a close friend, Francis accused those who compained about his appoitment as anti-Church leftists!

Apart from Cdl Daneels, Cdl Rodríguez Maradiaga, the head of the Pope's advisory Council of Nine Cardinals for Vatican reform, simply dismissed the abuse crisis as an international Jewish media conspiracy.

Although I personally I think he has been set-up, Cdl Pell's proximity to the Pope while he is being accused of covering up abuse in Australia hardly does the Pope's record much good in many parts of the world, Italy especially and Oceania.

Even Paul Vallely Pope Francis biography "Untying the Knots" which lauded the Pope, wrote this early last year:
At its first meeting in May 2014, the commission’s president, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston – the man who cleaned up the mess exposed by Spotlight – startled its members by revealing that establishing the group had run into more opposition inside the Vatican than any other papal reforms, apart from the overhaul of Vatican finances.
Over the following two years the anti-abuse commission has seen attempt after attempt to undermine it. Key Vatican departments vied to take control of the body. Its decision to set up offices outside the Vatican was countermanded. Bureaucrats tried to subvert its attempt to write its own statutes. It was starved of finance.
Its press releases were doctored and diluted ....

 Does the Pope really care about the abuse of minors?

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A More Frightening Thesis

I have always avoided direct criticism of Pope Francis preferring to use terms like 'this present Papacy', it is a Catholic thing about the profound deference owed to the Vicar of Christ on Earth, American friends are often more strident, so maybe it is a European thing too; never criticising the King, only his ministers. The other thing is we know what comes out of the Vatican but not its actual source.

Damian Thompson's blog Holy Smoke carries a podcast with him, Dan Hitchens and Ed Condon discussing 'The Dictator Pope', its here. Though they agree with many of the author's "dots", they join them together differently and therefore dismiss his conclusion.

Condon in particular suggests that Pope Francis rather than being the instigator of violence and corruption is the victim of corrupt Vatican officials, because of his naivete, his inability to be clear and articulate, his isolation from reality and from any who might offer any criticism. The villain-in-chief is the Secretary of State, now Cardinal Parolin.

The thesis of the Dictator Pope is shocking, what is expressed in this little podcast with its image of a weak and out of touch Pope manipulated by bureaucrats in the Vatican and the broader (wealthier) Church and the world is absolutely terrifying.  The Dictator Pope offers a far more comforting analysis than the more complex one of Condon and his companions.

After listening to the podcast, I will be interested in your opinions

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Crib Controversy



I can't see what the problem some people have with the crib in St Peter's Square. The first image I saw of it was someone complaining that it contained an autopsy scene, actually just a little thought or a slightly more open look at the crib immediately show its really about burying the dead, indeed the whole thing is about the corporal works of mercy.

To feed the hungry.
To give water to the thirsty.
To clothe the naked.
To shelter the homeless.
To visit the sick.
To visit the imprisoned, or ransom the captive.
To bury the dead.

The broken dome set against the dome of St Peter's seems to offer an unfortunate ambiguity but the image of the destruction or degeneration of the pagan world or the Jerusalem Temple is part of the standard imagery of the crib scene.

My concern is that it is rather cluttered, and the Lord is lost in the confusion but in many of the huge permanent cribs, especially of Naples, one has to search for the Christ child.

A more real concern, which one blogger highlighted was the 'clothing the naked' scene, he highlighted it with the caption, "I was at Cocco's (Cardinal Cocopalmero) place partying and the next thing I woke up here", The naked figure does indeed look more like someone from a gay gym or party, rather than an emaciated beggar forced to sell even his clothing, which is unfortunate in the Roman Church which is torn by gay scandals and homo-eroticism.

What is interesting is that some people are scandalised by this crib. That perhaps highlights the fact that anything which comes from Rome today, or anythying touching the current Pope seems to be open to scandalising some people. I hope that being scandalised is actually genuine rather than forced.

I have genuine concerns about the present Papacy, and especially with the corrupt and decadent men that the Pope seems to want to surround himself with, as are obviously many. The only weapon we have is truth and objective judgement; lies and falsehood, petty quibbles and rash judgements are not our allies but our ememy, they are the weapons of those who reject the Truth that is Christ

How significant it is in the light of the publication of The Dictator Pope that yet another member of the Commission set up to deal with sex abuse scandals has signalled his resignation because he considers it a waste of time, and not a serious attempt at anything. This is a real cause for anxiety.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Pater Noster: a problem with the Son of God himself



So, the Sovereign Pontiff suggests the Pater Noster needs a rewrite, well we know from the Superior General of the Jesuits no-one had a tape recorder, so it is not possible to know what Jesus actually said, in the same way we don't haver a video of his life, so we have to rely on the Church's collective memory, guided by the Holy Sprit to lead us into all truth.

The Gospels though they give slightly different versions of this prayer, they concur with the ancient liturgical form of the prayer which ends, "Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo." in Greek, "καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν, ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ." So it is not just the translation the Pope has problems with but the actual text itself. His problem therefore is not with ICEL or some other body but with the Son of God himself.

The Greek means “to bring into” or “to lead into”: it’s in the active voice not the passive therefore it certainly does not mean “do not let”, the Pope's preferred translation. There is an important truth here, God does not merely permit temptation as though we live in a world where Satan is as powerful God and good and evil struggle together, and mankind is pulled hither and thither.

The new French translation uses the passive voice, "let us not fall into temptation", is far from accurate, it suggests that falling into temptation is some kind of unfortunate accident. For a Christian, that is those empowered by the Holy Spirit, to "cry out, "Abba, Father"", a new relationship has been formed, in whichthrough Grace we are empowered by God and no longer in sway of the Tempter, in short, we can resist sin and temptation, even the temptation in the Last Days to defect from the faith.

Regrettably, there seems to be trait in much of His Holinesses theology, where human beings do not receive sufficient grace to overcome sin or live Christian lives: the Blessed Virgin cries out to God that she has been decieved or Jesus has to beg forgiveness from Mary, and the Grace of marriage does not give the strength to live according to Jesus' teaching.

An alteration will obviously add to a sense of change within the Church. Protestant churches seem to have their own translation but what His Holinesses seems to want to do is to change, not merely change words but the very theology, the words, of Christ.

The problem is that the Orthodox Churches will continue with what has been given and the un-Churched will continue with what has always been but the cavalier attitude of the Pope to the explicit teaching of Jesus Christ will wound the Catholic Church for generations and set precedents for further rejection and sidelining of Christ.



If we can't have a Pope fluent in the major liturgical languages, God grant us one who knows when to keep silent!

Friday, December 08, 2017

Dictator Pope - some thoughts



I finished that book, 'The Dictator Pope', a few days ago. There was very little that was new in it but it is shocking when scandals are brought together in a catalogue of vice. This is certainly not a book I would recommend most people reading, especially those who are easily shocked.

It portrays a picture of an arbitrary self-seeking princeling with few virtues and practically every vice. For those who hear confessions regularly it gives an insight into the cup which is clean on the outside but full of corruption on the inside.

It gives an insight into the contemporary Church, certainly into the psychology of many of its leading clergy and perhaps into the heresy of Mercy. In the abuse crisis so many of our leaders like Cardinal Daneels, who comes in for much criticism, not only defended abusers, telling their victim they needed to repent but they simply pretended there was no problem. Maybe they were not as bad as Cardinal Maradiaga who chairs Francis' Council of Nine, he dismissed the whole matter as a construction of the 'Jewish media'.

A false, heretical understanding of Mercy reduces God to being tolerant of everything, to the point where sin disappears and black becomes white, the foolish are regarded as wise, the corrupt become virtuous. A tolerant God means mankind has no need of Redemption or Salvation, the whole Christological drama becomes unnecessary and humanity has no need of a moral compass, because whatever is done, so long as it doesn't undermine the Enlightenment virtues, is fine.

An excess of Mercy has a tendency to remove any critical faculty. God becomes the watchmaker who having finished his work, sets it in place to run by itself, he is not as scripture portrays him concerned by our every action, nor is he the one who will come to judge between sheep and goats, and certainly not the one who is concerned about our personal integrity, our truth telling, our sexual or financial morality and our craving for power. It works well for a dictator, in that any criticism or expression of doubts or any questioning about this new god (the god of theological speculation, rather than God revealed by Jesus Christ in scripture and Tradition) becomes a sign of sickness, rigidity, even heresy but worst of all of the unforgivable sins of divisiveness and disloyalty.

What I find so shocking in this book, which hardly reveals any new secrets, just adds a few details, is that such corruption as it reveals causes dis-ease in so few. Indeed, those who do raise concerns are hussled to the margins and vilified. Colonna gives us insight into a court that seems to be hotbed of neurotic revenge, nepotism, financial corruption, homosexual practice and where surveillance and gossip are rife and where image is all. A quote from the book, a priest said, "It is not who or what you know, it is now about what you know about who you know", he was talking about a culture of blackmail.
Why is it tolerated? Why is it so easily accepted? Why do so few denounce it?

Perhaps it is that Catholicism in particular has seen so many changes in recent years that there are so few points of stability from which bearings can be taken. Even the Gospels, the actual revealed words of Jesus are pushed to the background and replaced by 'the sublime theology' of some German Cardinal. The author makes the point that what has been lost in the last few years is Jesus's 'Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no',

Being anxious that some fragment of the Lord's body might be lost or desecrated should be important to priests, nowadays being deeply concerned that a word, a comma of Lord's being lost should be a deep, deep concern of every Christian because where sin and vice abounds Christ cannot be tolerated

But then many bishops and religious superiors simply turned a blind eve to sexual abuse and abusers.....

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

When we lose faith



I don't fear atheism or aggressive secularism as much as I fear Catholics who have lost their faith bur remain in professional roles within the Church,  There seem to be a awful lot of them on the right and left who contribute nothing to the life of the Church, in fact they suck it dry or damage its Christocentricity, they are interested in church politics and factions or they use the Church to satisfy and further their own needs. People like this can be found in every Catholic school and parish, in diocesan curial offices, in choir galleries and music groups, in theological faculties, in fact they are everywhere and they are legion.

Increasingly there is a strong division between the episcopacy and the people, in recent weeks young men have been forcibly removed from churches in Belgium and France over Reformation celebrations, in Belgium, as in Germany and Austria protests over art installation, the latest being a crucified cow in a Belgium church. It seems really odd that any bishop or priest would allow such things and that they would not realise how appalled the faithful might be. On the continent it could be that the local civic authority rather than the clergy have control over what is put into churches but one might expect senior clergy to be more shocked not less shocked than the laity.

When lay people lose faith, unless they are Church employees or gain some satisfaction like performing, they simply stop practicing and supporting the Church and its activities and in effect they disappear. When clergy, especially those of a certain age, stop believing they carry on, either with a lack of enthusiasm or actively undermining the faith of those who still believe and pushing their own particular agenda, in many cases they become even more concerned about developing their own careers.

It is important to remember when faith goes, so too do the other theological virtues, hope and charity. The result is people who are depressed and bitter or cruel or those who are aggressively destructive of faith and those things that speak of faith, they become practically and supernaturally anti-Christ. We Catholics understand faith as the foundational virtue which if it is present always produces fruit. If the fruit is rotten, then faith is likely to be dead and the tree unsound or dead. I remember a prelate who gutted his church and threatened to sue parishioners who objected, he used to send one particular couple a Christmas each year renewing the threat.

This article appeared a few days ago, which, if as I suspect it is true, it explains Pope Benedict's reference to "the wolves". A great deal of the confusion and pain in the Church today and the divide between those who have faith in Jesus, and those who use Christianity for their own agenda; amongst the laity using Christianity is about a backdrop for weddings or funeral, amongst the clergy it can be about career development or exerting power over others, which as we have seen all too vividly can be expressed in sexual terms.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The third man


The third man or servant, the one with one talent is worth considering. Why did he not do anything with that one talent, except bury it?

The answer is given us,  "Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid ..." (RSV translation). It is pretty obvious that his fear has blinded him to know that what the master wanted was a profit. so it seems as if he didn't know his master very well, the other two servants obviously knew him better. Perhaps the fact he buries the talent indicates that whilst his master is away, for 'a long while', he is happy to have him out of his mind and house and life, his memory buried with talent amongst the dead things in the earth. One is left to wonder too what he is doing whilst not burdened by his master's affairs, is he mistreating his fellow servants or perhaps found another master to serve.

Scripture tells us, "perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love" (1Jn 4:18). We don't kinow about the other two servants but presumably they knew the master better than the third one, perhaps they loved him too because the knew him "We cannot love what we do not know", says St Thomas Aquinas. The third servant certainly does not love, he is merely afraid, too afraid to either know or do his masters will, yet he knows it perfectly, because he says that his master reaps where he has sown and gathers where he has not winnowed.

Jesus says, "If you love me, keep my commandments". John 14:15. There are lots of themes here, first of all love gives us an insight into what his commandments are, then proof of love is by action, not necessarily by emotions or sentiment.

What is not forgiven the third servant is that he is paralysed by 'his' fears and is unable to see or act beyond them to produce any fruit, he is fixed on himself rather than his master. He has built his life, his house, on the sand, of his feelings and fears, rather than the rock-like hardness of the masters will who invites his servants to follow "the hard and narrow path".


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Confusion


Image result for gender confusionA parishioner who works in social care has been told she is a "bigot" and a lot of other rather unpleasant things, the reason is that she refuses to go along with her department's gender policy. She deals with confused young people who often cut themselves or are anorexic or are suicidal. often drug or alcohol dependant and aggressive to others, lately to this mix has been added confusion over gender identity.

Her description of most of those she deals with suggests gender identity is just one of many confusions these young people have to deal with. Many appear to be from homes where there is no father, where the mother has a succession of 'partners' and is uncertain about her role, where the family is sexualised by the presence of various forms of pornography and where the children are prematurely sexualised by the actions of those around them.

Confusion over gender seems to occur where there is confusion on many other levels. The confused are left asking who they are, where do they fit in. Gender confusion would seem to be merely a symptom of general confusion, that ends up by disrupting relationships and ultimately questioning one's very identity as a person.

Religion is about identity; our ability to understand what we mean by "I am ...". it is about knowing one's place in the universe and history in relationship to God and others.

The present confusion in the Church, especially amongst bishops, is not unrelated to gender confusion, it is about having lost sight of who God himself is. Confusion especially confusion about right and wrong, good and evil is always from the Devil, as is confusion -heresy- about who Jesus Christ is.

Monday, November 13, 2017

"Has it worked?" the question we dare not ask



In this centenary year of the Soviet Revolution, it is worth reflecting that after 70 years the Russian people actually asked the question, "Has it worked?" It is the question an efficient business asks regularly, I suspect parents in a healthy family ask that question. it should be the fundamental question of the spiritual life.

Fifty years after the implementation of the liturgical changes, it is the question the Church should be asking itself, any business would have product tested before a change of brand. I suppose that Summorum Pontificum was Benedict's way of doing this retrospectively.

Vatican II's liturgical reforms were introduced en masse everywhere and within a few years of the Council, unlike the gradually introduced liturgical reforms of Pius V that percolated gradually as old books were slowly replaced but even then only where the Roman Rite was used, the Milanese, Lyonese, Bragans, Dominicans, Carthusian, for example, continued using their own Rites, and acted as a kind of quality control or reference point for the reformed Roman Rite.


There are two areas where, 'has it worked?' should be asked, the first is liturgical reform, the second is the modern use of the papal fiat that introduced them, it was an unprecedented use of papal power. The second of these, Pope Francis is dealing with very effectively by forcing even the most conservative to ask about the modern use of papal power, "has it worked?". I half think that it is a deliberate policy, a reductio ad absurdum, that the Pope is raising with allies like Fr Spadaro and Dr Ivereigh and other cheerleaders. Are they cooperators who will heroically sacrifice their careers in a successive papacy. Dare one suggest that Magnum Principium might actually be a return of the Church to local Rites and Usages that are mutually enriching? I suspect not but it is a possibility. The Ordinariate Rite after all seems to have this effect where it is celebrated.

Apparently a large number of French Seminaries are closing, as are a whole lot of ancient monasteries and practically every convent has become a retirement home. I am not sure what the number is this year, but last year, in our diocese we had only 3 seminarians. Whilst I was at the seminary we had in this city of Brighton and Hove almost 30 priests, in 17 years time by the year 2030 we will be lucky to have 2 under 65, they will age prematurely out of exhaustion.

The thing is that there isn't an absence of vocations, from my little parish we have three men, two preparing for the priesthood and one in a rather rigorous contemplative monastery but they were very much involved in the Old Rite and have gone to communities outside of the diocese. It isn't even that there is an absence of contemplative religious, there are new convents opening in the Channel Islands and in the Diocese of Lancaster but again the sisters will worship according to Old Rite. The only monastery flourishing, without scandal, in Italy (despite episcopal opposition) is Old Rite, at Norcia. The same in France, where a quarter of this years ordinations were of priests attached to the Old Rite, and where monastic life is retracting but Old Rite monasteries like Fontgombault are actually making new foundations. I am quite willing to accept that it is not necessarily the Rite itself but if it is not then it is the theology that goes with the Rite, or the 'ecclesiological experience' that goes with it. On a practical level the Old Rite seems to work.

Why are we incapable of asking, "Has it worked?", presumably it is because of an ideological attachment, rather like the politburo of the Soviet Union that will not allow itself to question givens until long after they had collapsed.