Friday, 30 November 2007

New encyclical and appointments

Someone just reminded me that Spe Salvi, the Holy Father's new encyclical on Christian hope was published today. So that's my lunchtime reading settled, then.

The Vatican does seem to be unusually busy. Today's Bollettino has six new appointments:

Rev Alfonso Carrasco Rouco, from the Mondoñedo-Ferrol diocese, currently professor of dogmatic theology a the theological faculty "San Dámaso" in Madrid has been appointed Bishop of Lugo in Spain, following the resignation Bishop José Higinio Gómez González OFM

Fr John Corriveau, O.F.M. Cap., until recently Minister General of the Capuchins, has been appointed bishop of Nelson (Canada), following the resignation of Bishop Eugene Jerome Cooney.

Bishop Óscar Urbina Ortega, formerly bishop of Cúcuta (Colombia), has been appointed Metropolitan Archbishop of Villavicencio (Colombia).

Mgr Vittorio Lupi, Vicar-General of the diocese of Ventimiglia–Sanremo, has been appointed bishop of Savona–Noli (Italia)

Bishop Reinhard Marx, formerly Vescovo of Trier, has been appointed Metropolitan Archbishop of Munich and Freising in Germany. This was a post once occupied by Joseph Ratzinger.

Mgr Paul Tighe, director of the Diocesan Office for Public Affairs of the Archdiocese of Dublin has been appointed Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

Oxfam's Christmas Condoms

The British relief charity Oxfam currently has an advertising campaign running with the slogan "Say 'No' to Rubbish Presents!" I don't really like this way of speaking. I was brought up to understand that it is good manners always to show appreciation for a gift that is genuinely given as an act of love and friendship. The idea of dismissing gifts as "rubbish" seems to me an indication of the coarse selfishness that has overtaken modern Britain.

The point of Oxfam's campaign is to advertise their "Oxfam Unwrapped" initiative. Instead of buying a present for someone, you buy something that will help the poor and then send your friend a card and a fridge magnet instead. One of the "fabulously funusual gifts" that you can order from the "positive pressies" section is condoms. Certainly the most rubbish Christmas idea so far this year.

Of course it is good idea give to charity at Christmas. Here's an idea: select some good charities and send them each a cheque for as much as you can afford. That leaves you free to buy some thoughtful gifts for your friends and family to show your love for them.

For further information on the condoms and AIDS debate, see the article by Cardinal Trujillo "Family Values versus Safe Sex" which is published on the Vatican website. This excellent and informative study has been published as a booklet by Human Life International together with a study by Brian Clowes. Cardinal Trujillo's position was caricatured by the BBC programme "Sex and the Holy City". Although the programme actually helped to provide cover for a child rapist and has been thoroughly discredited in Robin Aitken's book "Can we Trust the BBC?" many people still think that it was Cardinal Trujillo who was discredited. His article is well worth reading.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Spectator speculation on Westminster

Fr Ray Blake (The Westminster Succession) reports on an article by Fraser Nelson in the Spectator: Will Blair become a true Catholic? The article is a very good summary of the concerns that many Catholics have raised.

Towards the end, there is an interesting section concerning the appointment of the next Archbishop of Westminster. Nelson says:
I am told the Pope is sceptical about choosing anyone from England’s ‘magic circle’ of metropolitan bishops and is actively considering monastic candidates to succeed Cardinal Murphy- O’Connor — just as Basil Hume was plucked from the monastic seclusion of Ampleforth Abbey in 1976.
This rather rang a bell because when I was talking recently to some priests who had been out on a visit to Rome, they also said that the Urbs is buzzing with rumours about Dom Hugh Gilbert, the Abbot of Pluscarden.

Dom Hugh could not really be labelled as a "traditionalist": Pluscarden has resolutely retained the Novus Ordo for Mass and has adhered straightforwardly to the minor reforms of the office made by Solesmes. Not long ago, Dom Hugh wrote in the journal of Pluscarden Abbey explaining why the community would not be changing over to the traditional Roman rite. At the same time, under his kindly and sensible leadership, the flourishing community of the Abbey is faithful to the monastic tradition, using Latin and Gregorian Chant for Mass and the Office, and living the rule of St Benedict with simplicity. Dom Hugh could well fit the bill as a candidate acceptable to a wide range of ecclesiastical opinion. I am sure that the community would be very sorry if they had to lose him.

The pro-life power of prayer

From the Sisters of the Gospel of Life:
Please remember a young woman called Becky in your prayers. She’s in the early stages of pregnancy and seriously considering abortion due to very difficult circumstances.
I visited the premises of the Good Counsel Network in London yesterday to celebrate Mass. Afterwards over tea and sandwiches, Stuart McCullogh was telling me of some of their experiences of the power of prayer. Sometimes, women will change their minds about abortion suddenly and unexpectedly, perhaps when the counsellor has become convinced that they are just going to go elsewhere and arrange for an abortion. Very often, Stuart of one of the others will discover that just at that time, someone had offered up a particular prayer, perhaps deciding to say the Rosary, or to call into the chapel to adore the Blessed Sacrament.

Pro-life prayer is not just a pious thought when we have run out of other ideas. It is an indispensable and powerful part of our pro-life activity. So say a prayer for Becky and remember the work of the Sisters and the Good Counsel Network every day in your prayers.

Faith Council meeting

I am not sure what was happening in the picture above but it does look to me as though Fr Luiz Ruscillo has cracked an unfortunate joke and been told to eat his lunch kneeling as a penance.

Priests and laity from the Faith Movement got together today at Willesden Green to look at matters of policy and forthcoming publications and events. Before the business meeting, Fr Hugh MacKenzie gave a lecture on the open letter of Islamic scholars and possible Catholic approach to dialogue with Muslims. The discussion afterwards was good, exploring some of the theological issues raised especially by Pope Benedict in his Regensburg lecture.

Fr Hugh is editor of Faith Magazine and also spoke to us later of some plans for a redesign of the Magazine. We talked about arrangements for the forthcoming Winter Conference for students and young people (details at the Faith website.) Our webmaster, Brian O'Gorman was there with some new ideas for the website and we heard about the various events going on around the country.

Over lunch, Sr Roseann Reddy of the Sisters of the Gospel of Life was introduced to Fiorella and Edmund Nash's baby, Francesca:

I later managed to catch just the right moment in the middle of a great smile from Francesca:

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Sung Latin Mass in Glasgow

There will be a Sung Mass, ad orientem, with Gregorian propers and ordinary (sung by Fr Gerry Byrne's Schola Glasguensis) for the Solemnity of St Andrew in the Glasgow University Memorial Chapel at 6pm on Friday 30th November.

(I presume that this is in the "ordinary form")

Hope in the Heart of Soho

Yesterday, I visited the St Patrick's School of Evangelisation (SPES) at Soho Square to speak about the evangelisation of those who are rich in material things. We were not thinking particularly of the super wealthy but of the average person in Britain who is comfortably off in terms of essentials and has surplus money to spend on such things as leisure, entertainment and holidays.

The students spend a year at the school. During this time, they go through the Catechism of the Catholic Church systematically as well as receiving practical training in street evangelisation and in the kind of skills that would be useful in helping in various ways in their own parish.

In their work on the streets, they are often joined by one or two of the Missionaries of Charity. I found the whole thing most encouraging - I am sure these good people will make a difference wherever they go after their year at SPES.

Cardinal Pell's Mass in Sydney

A video of the classical Roman Rite Mass celebrated by Cardinal George Pell in St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, 3rd November 2007.

Incidentally, for more Catholic videos, have a look at Gloria TV "The more Catholic the better"

Prayers for Fr Wang Zhong

Fr Wang Zhong, from the diocese of Xiwanze (Hebei), was sentenced to three years in prison for organising the celebrations of the consecration of a church in Guyuan.

The story is quite fascinating. He was arrested and kept in isolation with no visiting rights (I wonder how many days they are allowed to do that?) He was charged with organising an unlawful meeting (the consecration of the Church) despite having had a permit for the Church to be built. The permit was produced as evidence as was his parish seal which was made with the permission of the civil affairs bureau.

Prosecution evidence was given by a policeman who said that the consecration caused travel problems (7000 people attended). However, the Church is in an isolated area, far from the main road, and has a large car park.

The trial was interrupted while the judge consulted the political commissar and representatives of the United Front and the Religious Affairs Bureau. It seems that they could not conclude what would be the just decision so he went higher. That obviously did the trick because the judge was now cofident enough of the truth and justice of the matter that he only needed 10 minutes to finish the trial, sentencing Fr Wang Zhong to 3 years in prison.

Source: Asia News: Chinese priest sentenced to three years for inaugurating a state-sanctioned church

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

The interior "East" of faith

That crucifix is not there in the middle of the altar by accident:
"Facing toward the East, as we heard, was linked with the "sign of the Son of Man", with the Cross, which announces Our Lord's Second Coming. That is why, very early on, the East was linked with the sign of the cross. Where a direct common turning toward the East is not possible, the cross can serve as the interior "East" of faith. It should stand in the middle of the altar and be the common point of focus for both priest and praying community.

"In this way we obey the ancient call to prayer: Conversi ad Dominum, "Turn to the Lord!" In this way we look together at the One whose Death tore the veil of the Temple -- the One who stands before the Father for us and encloses us in His arms in order to make us the new and living Temple.

"Moving the altar cross to the side to give an uninterrupted view of the priest is something I regard as one of the truly absurd phenomena of recent decades. Is the cross disruptive during Mass? Is the priest more important than Our Lord?

"This mistake should be corrected as quickly as possible; it can be done without further rebuilding. The Lord is the point of reference. He is the rising sun of history."

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger "The Spirit of the Liturgy"
H/T New Liturgical Movement

And for aficionados of Papal vesture, here is a photo which shows one of the Cardinal Deacons and the Holy Father's pontifical dalmatic:

Ranjith interview translation published

The full English translation of the interview given by Archbishop Ranjith that I mentioned the other day (... a certain loss of faith) has now been published at Agenzia Fides

A lonely moment

Fr Z has quoted an article written for America magazine by a liberal-minded priest who has generously celebrated the TLM for a group that has asked for it. His experience of the Canon is recounted in this paragraph:
"The act of praying the Roman Canon slowly and in low voice accented my own smallness and mere instrumentality more than anything else. Plodding through the first 50 or so words of the Canon, I felt intense loneliness. As I moved along, however, I also heard the absolute silence behind me, 450 people of all ages praying, all bound mysteriously to the words I uttered and to the ritual actions I haltingly and clumsily performed. Following the consecration, I fell into a paradoxical experience of intense solitude as I gazed at the Sacrament and an inexplicable feeling of solidarity with the multitude behind me."
Father has asked for comments, especially from priests. Fr Ray Blake has chipped in and I have just added my own tupp'orth. See From another entry: during the Roman Canon “I felt intense loneliness”

For another excellent combox discussion, see Help me work through this: Since the TLM is now back, why bother with the Novus Ordo in Latin? (199 comments so far!)

Memoriale Domini - a reminder

There has been some controversy regarding Archbishop Ranjith's remarks on Communion in the Hand. It is worth re-reading Memoriale Domini, an "Instruction on the Manner of Distributing Holy Communion" from the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship issued in 1969. The instruction noted that there was a desire in some places to return to the ancient practice of communion in the hand and that,
"Indeed, in certain communities and in certain places this practice has been introduced without prior approval having been requested of the Holy See"
The Instruction admitted that this was an ancient practice but underlined the reverence that was always shown to the Eucharist. It also recognised that at one time, people had taken communion home for those who were sick. It then summarised the historical development that took place:
"Soon the task of taking the Blessed Eucharist to those absent was confided to the sacred ministers alone, so as the better to ensure the respect due to the sacrament and to meet the needs of the faithful. Later, with a deepening understanding of the truth of the eucharistic mystery, of its power and of the presence of Christ in it, there came a greater feeling of reverence towards this sacrament and a deeper humility was felt to be demanded when receiving it. Thus the custom was established of the minister placing a particle of consecrated bread on the tongue of the communicant."
Then comes the principal conclusion of the document:
"This method of distributing holy communion must be retained, taking the present situation of the Church in the entire world into account, not merely because it has many centuries of-tradition behind it, but especially because it expresses the faithful's reverence for the Eucharist. The custom does not detract in any way from the personal dignity of those who approach this great sacrament: it is part of that preparation that is needed for the most fruitful reception of the Body of the Lord."
The point is made that this reverence shows that it is not bread and wine that is being shared but the body and blood of Christ, and underlines the effectiveness of the practice of communion on the tongue:
"Further, the practice which must be considered traditional ensures, more effectively, that holy communion is distributed with the proper respect, decorum and dignity. It removes the danger of profanation of the sacred species, in which "in a unique way, Christ, God and man, is present whole and entire, substantially and continually." Lastly, it ensures that diligent carefulness about the fragments of consecrated bread which the Church has always recommended"
Because "a small number" of episcopal conferences had asked for communion in the hand, Pope Paul VI thought that it would be good to consult all of the Bishops. A large majority were opposed to the introduction of communion in the hand; the document gives the figures and then says:
"From the returns it is clear that the vast majority of bishops believe that the present discipline should not be changed, and that if it were, the change would be offensive to the sentiments and the spiritual culture of these bishops and of many of the faithful.

Therefore, taking into account the remarks and the advice of those whom "the Holy Spirit has placed to rule over" the Churches, in view of the gravity of the matter and the force of the arguments put forward, the Holy Father has decided not to change the existing way of administering holy communion to the faithful.

The Apostolic See therefore emphatically urges bishops, priests and laity to obey carefully the law which is still valid and which has again been confirmed. It urges them to take account of the judgment given by the majority of Catholic bishops, of the rite now in use in the liturgy, of the common good of the Church."
It would have been fine if the document had ended there. Unfortunately, the concession was granted that if communion in the hand had come to prevail in a particular country (illegally, as the document had already noted), the bishops should weigh matters carefully
"taking care to avoid any risk of lack of respect or of false opinions with regard to the Blessed Eucharist, and to avoid any other ill effects that may follow."
If they then reached a two-thirds majority, they could apply to the Holy See which would "examine each case carefully etc" for permission.

Bishop Ranjith is not therefore contradicting anything of Memoriale Domini when he says that the outcome of allowing communion in the hand has led to "a certain loss of faith in the real presence" and reduced the "sense of profound adoration". Indeed it was the risk of this happening which led Pope Paul VI to determine that "the present discipline should not be changed".

Blair "conversion" comments

Speculation seems to have increased recently that Tony Blair may be about to be received into the Catholic Church. I was left a message saying that someone was looking for a quote on this. I'll be up in town today to speak at the School of Evangelisation so I hope some of the following might be of help...

If Tony Blair were to convert to Catholicism, I would welcome that warmly. But conversion involves the acceptance of Catholic teaching such as the teaching that abortion and embryo experimentation are evil because all human life is sacred from the moment of conception, and that laws introducing homosexual civil unions are wrong and should be opposed by Catholic legislators.

In public office, Mr Blair has supported abortion, embryo experimentation and homosexual civil unions. Conversion to the Catholic faith would imply that he now accepts Catholic teaching and is willing to witness publicly to it.

I pray for Mr Blair's conversion to the Catholic faith. It would be wonderful if he were to be a public supporter of the pro-life cause in reparation for the damage done to human life under his government. But simply going through a ceremony will be of little value if he remains committed to the anti-life legislation that he and his government supported.

Previous relevant posts:

Blair & Pope: "frank exchange"
Tony Blair at the English College
Tony Blair's "little skip" at first gay marriage
More "Blair to become Catholic" news
Blair to promote Britain as ESCR world capital

Monday, 26 November 2007

Newman Society Mass

I am happy to post the press release from the Oxford University Newman Society regarding the recent termly Mass of the Society. Sadly I could not get to the Mass because of my trip to Durham University. Perhaps I will be able to participate on a future similar occasion.

PRESS RELEASE: 22 November 2007
Catholics of Oxford University celebrate Pope’s restoration of Traditional Latin Mass

Oxford University Newman Society, a society existing for Catholic members of Oxford University, marked the centenary of the death of it’s co-founder, Hartwell de la Garde Grissell, by holding a High Mass according to the Traditional form of the Roman Rite.

Mass in what is now known as the "Extraordinary form" is celebrated in Latin with the priest and people facing east (the traditional direction of the Resurrection) together; many of its rituals date back to the earliest days of the Christian Church. It fell into decline in the 1960s, with the introduction of a simplified form of Mass by Pope Paul VI. However, recent years have witnessed a growth of interest in the "old rite," or "usus antiquor" as it is more properly known. Added impetus has been received following the election of Pope Benedict XVI and his "motu proprio" document encouraging a greater appreciation of the Roman Church’s ancient liturgy.

The Mass, which was held in response to the request of both University dons and students, was held on 19 November in the chapel of Brasenose College, which was filled to capacity. Newman Society President, Michael Ryan, an undergraduate at Brasenose College commented:
"In his recent document the Holy Father said ‘young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist.’ This is certainly true of a large number of students here at Oxford. We were delighted to be able to hold this Mass and are praying that God give us many blessings through it."
The Mass was held with the special permission of the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev. Vincent Nichols, and was attended by the Senior University Chaplain, Fr. John Moffatt, SJ. The celebrant of the Mass was Fr. Dominic Jacob of the Oxford Oratory and other clergy were also in attendance. Members of Oxford University’s newly formed Gregorian Chant Society sung plainchant propers and an ensemble of professional singers, violinists, and organist sung Antonio Caldara’s Mass in G, together with other polyphonic motets.

Hartwell de la Garde Grissell, MA, FSA, for whom the Mass was offered, died in 1907. He had been a commoner (student) of Brasenose College and had afterwards gone on to serve as a Chamberlain of Honour to Popes Pius IX, Leo XIII, and St. Pius X. Among many other events, he witnessed the last days of the Papal monarchy under Pius IX and the fall of Rome to the Italian army in 1870. He was a great collector of relics of saints and a noted numismatician. He was influential in persuading Leo XIII to allow Catholics permission to enter the English Universities and was one of the co-founders of the Newman Society, which was established in 1878.

The Newman Society held a dinner after the Mass, which was addressed by Julian Chadwick, Chairman of the Latin Mass Society, a society existing for the promotion of the traditional Mass. In his remarks Mr. Chadwick spoke of the Pope’s personal endorsement of the traditional Latin Mass and stressed that it should never become a cause of discord or division.

The new manichaeism

This from the Daily Mail: Meet the women who won't have babies - because they're not eco friendly
Had Toni Vernelli gone ahead with her pregnancy ten years ago, she would know at first hand what it is like to cradle her own baby, to have a pair of innocent eyes gazing up at her with unconditional love, to feel a little hand slipping into hers - and a voice calling her Mummy.

But the very thought makes her shudder with horror.

Because when Toni terminated her pregnancy, she did so in the firm belief she was helping to save the planet.
The philosophy is made clear in Toni's words:
Every person who is born uses more food, more water, more land, more fossil fuels, more trees and produces more rubbish, more pollution, more greenhouse gases, and adds to the problem of over-population.
Her doctor would not allow her to be sterilised (more than one of these strangely counter-cultural doctors appear in the story) so her husband had a vasectomy. Then, when she was 23 they divorced.

At the age of 25, she fell pregnant ("disaster struck"). Toni continues the story:
I didn't like having a termination, but it would have been immoral to give birth to a child that I felt strongly would only be a burden to the world.
Finally, she was sterlisised and her future husband sent her a congratulations note.

Perhaps the saddest quote of all is:
She excelled at her Roman Catholic school
There is a further story of Sarah and Mark who says:
"Sarah and I live as green a life a possible. We don't have a car, cycle everywhere instead, and we never fly.

"We recycle, use low-energy light bulbs and eat only organic, locally produced food.

"In short, we do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint. But all this would be undone if we had a child.

"That's why I had a vasectomy. It would be morally wrong for me to add to climate change and the destruction of Earth.

"Sarah and I don't need children to feel complete. What makes us happy is knowing that we are doing our bit to save our precious planet."
This is indeed a new form of Manichaeism: humans in the flesh are evil and some higher good is to be preferred. In this case it is the "precious" planet and the ecosphere that takes pride of place - a sad step down from the early gnostics who at least aspired to some sort of higher spiritual state. We must pray that those who hold to this philosophy do not take the logical route followed by their forbears, the Cathars, and commit ritual suicide.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Today's consistory

This morning saw the public consistory in St Peter's basilica at which Pope Benedict created 23 new cardinals. Here are some photos from Fotografia Felici, gathered by the ever-reliable collectors of papal photographs at the Papa Ratzinger Forum. First, an overview of the "assembly."

I wonder if they are singing a "Gathering Song"? You could try setting something like "Ree-ed hat of love/Giv'n to us for WIT-ness" - OK, perhaps not.

Here is a shot in which you can see the mitre which belonged to Pope Pius IX, and the cope, with 16th century orphrey, last worn by Pope Paul VI:

And here is the throne used for today's ceremony (I think I read that it was from the time of Pope Leo XIII):

It could be said that all of these items have been seen in the relatively recent past so there is nothing essentially new going on here. I'm not so sure and would agree with Zadok the Roman who suggests in his excellent post Consistory Notes that this is Mgr Marini making his mark in terms of the style of celebration. The Curt Jester puts it bluntly with his amusing juxtaposition of two photographs: Liturgical Jeckyll and Hyde or Bishop Marini and Mons. Marini.

Fr Z has a list of the Roman Titles of the new Cardinals.

"Smoke in the Sanctuary" launch

Yesterday evening I was in Oxford for the launch of the new edition of Smoke in the Sanctuary. It was a pleasure to meet the author, Stephen Oliver, the illustrator, Jack Fieldhouse, and Mike and Mary Lord of Southwell Books (the excellent catalogue is well worth browsing.) Lots of books were sold, I think, and I got my own copy signed by the author.

The journey there was pretty awful. Rather stupidly, I took the bus at 5pm, subjecting myself to an extra hour on top of the customary 90 minutes. I had brought my laptop, knowing that these buses now have free wifi, but it was not the most comfortable thing working on the blog in such a cramped bus.

Three of the students from the Newman Society came along as soon as they could after dinner. Among other things, they told me about the society's termly Mass at Brasenose College. I'll post something on that tomorrow. There is so much going on in Oxford's Catholic life at the moment that I am determined to find time to spend a day or two there when I can get the chance.

Also at the launch was Joseph Shaw, fellow and tutor in philosophy for St Benet's Hall as well as being the Latin Mass Society representative for Oxford. (See the Oxford LMS blog and the Oxford Events blog.) He has also created a blog called Catholic Oxford, which is an excellent resource for Catholic history of Oxford, drawn from the work of Mgr Laurence Goulder who was Master of the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom.

Oxford pro-life witness

There is a monthly Pro-Life prayer vigil in Oxford, outside the main entrance to John Radcliffe Hospital. These are the initiative of Mrs Amada Lewin who started them in March this year. This afternoon, there were twenty-five people standing in the cold, led by Fr John Saward, the author of Redeemer in the Womb. They prayed fifteen decades of the Rosary in reparation for abortion and for all unborn babies and their mothers and fathers.

Others remained in the Church of St Anthony of Padua before the Blessed Sacrament exposed. After the Rosary, everyone went to the Church where Benediction was given by Fr John Saward.

H/T & photo credit Oxford Events: Pro-Life Witness

If you have the chance to join a similar vigil in your part of the world, I do encourage you to take the opportunity. Mgr Reilly, the founder of the Helpers of God's Precious Infants compares these vigils to standing with Christ at Calvary. Many people find that it requires a little courage to stand in such a witness; it is possible to meet with real hatred occasionally on these occasions. However, I believe that many graces are given to those who offer this witness in union with Christ crucified. There are also many graces given to those who encounter the witness and sometimes people change their minds. Here is a poster Calvary Today (1Mb pdf) which offers a short reflection on the theme.

Friday, 23 November 2007

BBC helped to cover up child molester

There was a story on LifeSite News on Wednesday Man Behind Effort to Legalize Abortion in Nicaragua Gets 30 Years for Step-Daughter's Rape. A correspondent has kindly pointed out to me that this is the same man who was cast as a pro-choice hero on the notorious BBC programme "Sex in the Holy City", broadcast in 2003 (BBC transcript ) I mentioned David Kerr's study of this programme earlier this year (Can we trust the BBC - 1). SPUC attacked the BBC's misleading reporting and bias and Fiorella Sultana de Maria (now Nash) - pictured left - delivered a copy of their report Bias and the BBC.

In one part of the programme, Steve Bradshaw looks at Nicaragua where abortion is illegal, and casts Cardinal Miguel Obando Y Bravo as the baddie who is influencing the government to retain the law. Then the underdogs are introduced:
But earlier this year one family took the cardinal on, provoking a national row that split Nicaragua and capture the headlines for months. Maria and Francisco's daughter, Rosa, not her real name, had been raped and was pregnant. At the time she was just 8. When we met in the capital Managua, Francisco and Maria, both Catholics, told me why they decided to seek an abortion for Rosa, despite the opposition of the church.
Then the girl's "father" (in fact her step-father) is given a chance to speak for himself:
Rosa's father
Well I did feel very bad about what the church was thinking, and then I said to hell with the church. I don’t want to have anything to do with the ministers or priests in the church, I don’t want to know.
Bradshaw adds an editorial voice in case we have not got the message fully.
"BRADSHAW: Defeat, this time, for the Cardinal. For many in Nicaragua Rosa's parents have become heroes, an ordinary couple defying the church and making a stand for women's rights. Others in Nicaragua are also defying the ban on abortion."
Unfortunately for the BBC's portrayal of Rosa's father, Francisco Fletes Sanchez, as the pro-choice hero, it now turns out that he was in fact the man who raped her. He has been convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for his crimes. He was in fact on the run at the time, having escaped from Costa Rica to Nicaragua.

The parents did arrange a clandestine abortion in Nicaragua for their daughter with the help of the Women's Network Against Violence, a pro-abortion network of feminist groups. The abortion prevented the authorities from identifying Fletes as the father of the baby. It is certainly no mystery why he was such a passionate advocate of abortion. He continued to rape his step-daughter and finally confessed to his crimes when she had another baby who was not aborted.

Several members of the Network have now had charges filed against them for their role in procuring the abortion. One of these is Marta Maria Blandon, the Director for Central America of the international pro-abortion agency Ipas. Blandon admitted publicly in an interview in 2003 that she knew Fletes was being investigated by Costa Rican authorities when she helped him to escape to Nicaragua.

This aspect of abortion is one that is not given much publicity. (Do let me know if there is any public response to this from the BBC, for example.) Here in England, we have clandestine abortions for schoolgirls and contraceptive advice given without parents being allowed to know. How many cases of rape and incest are being covered up? And how much comfort is given to the perpetrators by the BBC's portrayal of the Catholic Church?

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Memories of St Cecilia's

The basilica of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere was built in the 5th century, then rebuilt by Pope Paschal I around 820 and again by Cardinal Sfondrati in 1599. The statue of St Cecilia is by Carlo Maderna. Her exposed neck shows the cuts made by the unsuccessful axeman who struck her three times. Her hands show three fingers and one in witness to the Christian faith in the Trinity and unity of God. A copy of the statue was placed in her sarcophagus in the catacombs of St Callixtus.

This was one of my favourite places as a student in Rome. The gregorian chant sung by the community of sisters was quite rare in Rome at that time. Their chaplain was a rather serious but kindly Monsignore who was always pleased when clerical students assisted at the Mass.

Another St Cecilia's is, of course, the Benedictine community in Ryde which has also resolutely kept up the tradition of Gregorian Chant. Please remember both communities in your prayers.

Advertising opportunity

If you are outside the UK, this week's big story here is that Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs have mislaid two discs with the personal details of all the members of families in the UK with a child under 16 - about 25 million people's information, including:
  • National insurance number
  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Partner's details
  • Names, sex and age of children
  • Bank/savings account details
I just saw this advert on Guido Fawkes blog. The gentleman in the photo is Alistair Darling, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose future is currently the subject of heated discussion in the mainstream press.

Naturally, the following spoof was not long in showing up on ebay (it has been removed now):

H/T UK Commentators

Happy Thanksgiving!

And thank God for the blogosphere since I now get reminded when Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving. Hope you all have a great feast of turkey and pumpkin pie.

God bless your families and God bless America!

Studying Dominus Iesus

At Parkminster, we have nearly got to the end of the course on Revelation and I am going through a section on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions and to non-believers. This week, I thought it would be good to go carefully through the Declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dominus Iesus "On the unicity and salvific universality of Jesus Christ and the Church."

This is a most helpful document and something of a model of what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is there for. It gives a clear exposition of what must be "firmly believed", a phrase that is used several times to highlight key doctrines. It also highlights errors concerning the faith and points out various areas where further theological discussion would be helpful, for example, exploring the manner in which those elements of other faiths which are positive may fall within the divine plan of salvation by a participation in the unique and universal mediation of Christ.

One point to which I had not previously paid sufficient attention was the critique of "kingdom centred" theology as it is sometimes called. The declaration points out that such conceptions are "theocentrically based", leaving out Christ on the grounds that non-Christians may relate better to one divine reality called by various names. It also criticises the emphasis on creation to the exclusion of redemption and the reaction against a presumed "ecclesiocentrism". The section ends by saying:
These theses are contrary to Catholic faith because they deny the unicity of the relationship which Christ and the Church have with the kingdom of God.
Looking at the document with the class of Carthusians made for a lively and positive discussion.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

A reform which still "challenges"

The Liturgical Press has published A Challenging Reform. Realizing the Vision of the Liturgical Renewal by Archbishop Piero Marini who has recently been replaced as Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations. From the the first chapter, it seems as though this is a companion volume to Archbishop Bugnini's La Riforma Liturgica (English translation also published by the Liturgical Press), giving details of the process of the reform and the complex bureaucratic stages by which it was implemented. As such, it will probably be a useful reference work.

The publishers' blurb runs as follows:
In these pages Archbishop Piero Marini reveals the vision, courage, and faith of the pastors and scholars who struggled to implement the Second Vatican Council’s teachings on the liturgy. While in some circles it is fashionable to propose “a reform of the liturgical reform,” any such revision needs to take into account the history of the consilium—the organism established by the Holy See to carry out the initial liturgical changes. This story of the work of the consilium offers a fascinating glimpse into the struggles and tensions that accompanied the realization of the council's dream to promote the "full, conscious and active participation" of the faithful in Roman Catholic worship.
Shawn Tribe (NLM: Liturgical Press and Piero Marini) pertinently observes:
But what is of particular interest is the reference to the reform of the reform. While it is intended as a subtle critique of course, that the movement should be so mentioned is really quite complementary for it seems demonstrative of how much the movement to re-assess the liturgical reforms is recognized as being influential -- or put another way, how much it is understood as a being a real threat.
The book is to be launched at an "invitation only reception" (pdf 241kb) on 14 December in the Throne Room of Archbishop's House, Westminster. Damien Thompson has commented entertainingly on this event, pointing out the subtext ("sticking up two fingers to Pope Benedict’s liturgical renewal.")

Blackfen does not have a Throne Room at the moment. If I am to be brutally realistic, it is unlikely to have one in the foreseeable future. However there must surely be an some attractive Victorian premises somewhere with a community that could host a visit from, say, Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith. Just an idea...

... a certain loss of faith

Last week, Agenzia Fides, the news service of Propaganda Fide, ran an interview with Archbishop Ranjith (Italian). I mentioned this on Saturday but did not read the interview carefully enough and missed a significant point.

Looking at my blog feeds the other day, I saw that Andrea Tornielli, and Luigi Accattoli picked up his reference to communion in the hand. Here is my translation of the relevant section:
Let us distinguish carefully. The post-conciliar reform was not entirely negative; on the contrary, there are many positive aspects in what has been realised. But there are also changes introduced without authorisation which continue to be carried forward despite their harmful effects on the faith and liturgical life of the Church.

I speak for example of a change that was brought about in the reform which was not proposed either by the Council Fathers or by Sacrosanctum Concilium, that is, communion in the hand. This contributed in a way to a certain loss of faith in the real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This practice, and the abolition of the altar rails, of kneelers in churches, and the introduction of practices which obliged the faithful to remain seated or standing during the elevation of the Most Holy Sacrament reduced the genuine meaning of the Eucharist and the sense of profound adoration which the Church should direct towards the Lord, the Only-begotten Son of God.
I am relieved that we can now speak openly of "a certain loss of faith" that has resulted from communion in the hand.

Archbishop Ranjith spoke of communion in the hand back in February in an interview with "Inside the Vatican" (text at CWN), when he said:
For example, Communion in the hand had not been something that was first properly studied and reflected upon before its acceptance by the Holy See. It had been haphazardly introduced in some countries of Northern Europe and later become accepted practice, eventually spreading into many other places. Now that is a situation that should have been avoided. The Second Vatican Council never advocated such an approach to liturgical reform.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Archbishop Ranjith in L'Osservatore

Many thanks to Fr Z for alerting us to an interview with Archbishop Ranjith in L'Osservatore Romano for 19-20 November. (WDTPRS: Archbp. Ranjith interview in L’Osservatore Romano on liturgy) Titled "Fedeltà al Concilio" ("Faithfulness to the Council"), the interview was taken by Maurizio Fontana for the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the encyclical Mediator Dei. Father pastes the full Italian text of the article which can be sourced at the relevant webpage of L'Osservatore. The weekly English edition is due tomorrow, I think, and so there will perhaps be an English translation of the whole article. Fr Z translates one representative excerpt. Here is another in my own translation:
Is there an appeal also to those who form priests?

I would say yes. After all, faced by certain arbitrary and less serious conceptions of the liturgy, it must be asked what is taught in some seminaries.

We cannot approach the liturgy with a superficial and less than scientific attitude. This applies to those who adopt a “creative” interpretation of the liturgy but also for those who presume to establish too easily what the liturgy was like at the origins of the Church. A careful exegesis is always needed; we cannot throw out naive interpretations.

Above all, in some liturgical circles, there is a certain tendency to undervalue how much the Church matured in the second millennium of its history. They speak of the impoverishment of the rite but this conclusion is too banal and simplistic: we believe rather that the tradition of the Church is shown in a continuous development. We cannot say that one part is better than another: that which matters is the action of the Spirit in continuous growth, both in the high and low points of history. We must be faithful to the continuity of the tradition.

The liturgy is central for the life of the Church: lex orandi, lex credendi, but also lex vivendi. For a true renewal of the Church – so much desired by the Council – it is necessary that the liturgy is not limited to a solely academic study: it must also become an absolute priority in the local Churches. Therefore it is important that the proper importance should be given at the local level to liturgical formation according to the mind of the Church. In the final analysis the priestly life is strictly bound to what the priest celebrates and how he celebrates it. If a priest celebrates the Eucharist well, he is challenged to be consistent and to become part of the sacrifice of Christ. The liturgy thus becomes fundamental for the formation of holy priests. This is a great responsibility for the Bishops who can thus do so much for a true renewal of the Church.
The newspaper of the Holy See has recently seen the arrival of a new Editor-in-Chief, Signor Giovanni Maria Vian. Sandro Magister had a story on the appointment. Vian, 55, is a professor of the philology of ancient Christian literature at Rome's "La Sapienza" university and a member of the pontifical committee for historical sciences. Magister's post has the text of an article by Vian on the history of the newspaper and, interestingly, an article by Giovanni Battista Montini (the future Pope Paul VI) on 'The difficulties of "L'Osservatore Romano"'. Montini worked as supervisor for the paper during his time at the Secretariat of State before he was made Archbishop of Milan.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Another encouraging trip

Photo: Parish website photo gallery

The talk at Durham last night was well attended and I enjoyed both the question session and the informal gathering afterwards. As at both Oxford and St Andrews, there was a good number of interested students who are committed to their faith and will, I am sure, take an active part in the life of the Church in whatever turns out to be their future path in life. I find these visits to university Catholic societies very encouraging.

At Durham, the chaplaincy is based at St Cuthbert's, one of the parish Churches. During term time, the evening Mass on Sunday is particularly for the students. The Church was impressively full. St Cuthbert's was built just before the 1829 Catholic Emancipation Act and is from that period when Churches were a little more discreet in external appearance.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

To Durham

This evening, I will be speaking at the Catholic Society of the University of Durham. Originally, I was going to speak about hell (well, the four last things, anyway) but then they heard that I had spoken about Richard Dawkins at St Andrews and asked me to change the subject.

I am beginning to feel about Richard Dawkins rather as I began to feel about the Da Vinci Code after a while. I wonder if Richard Dawkins will soon become as passé. I very much hope so because "The God Delusion" was not at all as interesting as books like "The Selfish Gene" or "River Out of Eden". I now begin my talks by saying that I used to begin my talks by saying that I had a great respect for the writing of Richard Dawkins. After reading "The God Delusion" in which he majors in subject areas where he is very weak and prejudiced, that respect has diminished quite a bit.

This version of the talk will benefit from my having now read Fr Tom Crean OP's book "A Catholic Replies to Professor Dawkins" which I thought was excellent and much better than Alistair McGrath who has written some good replies to Dawkins.

Not having been to Durham before, I am looking forward to meeting the students. It is already dark so I will not see much of Durham until tomorrow morning.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Hilarious - but with a serious point

From the About this Video text from YouTube:
"In the UK Walter Wolfgang was famously removed from a Labour Party Conference for daring to shout "Nonsense" during Jack Straw's speech. I always thought heckling was part of the political hustings. Not any longer. Three laws - Terrorism Act, Public Order Act and Harassment Act - can be used against hecklers..."
This is how journalist Sam Delaney and friends got around the various laws when Mr Straw was speaking in Oxford...

H/T to The Muniment Room via Mulier Fortis

A circular to seminarians?

The Italian News Agency Androkronos reports today:
"[...] According to what has been learned from authoritative sources, the dicastery presided by Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos (among the main supporters of the return of the Mass according to the pre-Conciliar rite) would be considering a circular addressed to seminarians which, in practice, is aimed directly to those bishops who, 'disobeying' the Pope's motu proprio, do not want them to know how to celebrate Mass according to the rite of St Pius V."
Now I wonder if that is true?

H/T Rorate Caeli

Archbishop Ranjith and Fr Lang

Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, recently gave an interview to Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Here is a taster:
Your Excellency, what is in your opinion the deep significance of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum?

I see in this decision not only the solicitude of the Holy Father to open the road for the reentry into the full communion of the Church of the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre, but also a sign for all the Church on some theological-disciplinary principles [which must] be safeguarded for its deep renewal, so much desired by the Council.

It seems to me that there is a strong desire by the Pope to correct those temptations [which are] visible in some circles which see the Council as a moment of rupture with the past and of a new beginning. It is enough to recall his speech to the Roman Curia on December 22, 2005.
Oh yes! We know all about that speech on this blog, don't we readers? :-)

There is also a sting in the tail as we are coming to expect from the venerable Archbishop:
It is felt that in some nations or dioceses rules have been handed by the Bishops which practically nullify or deform the intention of the Pope. This behavior is not appropriate to the dignity and nobility of the vocation of a Shepherd of the Church.
There are extracts from the interview at Rorate Caeli and other extracts at Fr Z. The full interview (in Italian) is at Agenzia Fides and Rorate Caeli points to the English Fides Service where the official translation will be published soon.

Archbishop Ranjith is pictured above with Fr Uwe Michael Lang, author of "Turning Towards the Lord" and many excellent articles, the most recent of which was published in L'Osservatore Romano "Latin, a bond of unity between peoples and cultures." You can read the full text of a translation of the article on The Byzantine Forum. The article concludes:
The linguistic fragmentation of Catholic worship in the post-conciliar period has been pushed so far that the majority of the faithful today can only with difficulty recite a Pater noster together with one another, as can be noted in the international reunions in Rome or Lourdes. In an epoch marked by great mobility and globalization, a common liturgical language could serve as a vehicle of unity between peoples and cultures, besides the fact that liturgical Latin is an unique spiritual treasure that has nourished the life of the Church for many centuries. Finally, it is necessary to preserve the sacred character of the liturgical language in the vernacular translation, as the instruction of the Holy See Liturgiam authenticam noted in 2001.

Discovering Michael O'Brien

I am not sure it was wise of me to read Michael O'Brien's Father Elijah. An apocalypse (Ignatius Press) just after reading "The Cube and the Cathedral". O'Brien paints out in fiction what Weigel describes in principle. In the opening chapters of the book, when Fr Elijah is summoned to Rome, I found the description of his harrassment by officialdom and the impact of notched-up secularism disturbing. The novel describes the rise of the Antichrist in a way that is at times like an update of Robert Hugh Benson's Lord of the World.

A priest friend recommended O'Brien to me, expressing surprise that I had not come across him. I am grateful for the pointer and will be reading my way through his books on train journeys and waiting rooms during the coming months.

On his own website studiObrien, the author states that in all his work (painting, novels and essays), he seeks to contribute to the restoration of Christian culture. As well as links to information about his work, the homepage of the site has a number of essays addressing, for example Philip Pullman, Harry Potter and Pope Benedict's Regensburg address.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

"The Cube and the Cathedral"

The Grande Arche de la Fraternité in Paris, otherwise known as the Arche de la Défense was the initiative of François Mitterrand. It was designed as a monument to humanity and humanitarian ideals: it was nevertheless inaugurated on the bicentenary of the French Revolution.

A visit to the "Cube" and the clichéd observation that the cathedral of Notre Dame would fit comfortably inside it, inspired George Weigel to ask: "Which culture would more firmly secure the moral foundations of democracy?", a question which he addresses in his book "The Cube and the Cathedral." He looks at various odd features of the current cultural climate in Europe. Among them, he raises the failure of Europeans after 1989 to condemn communism as a moral and political monstrosity, instead allowing only the politically correct and anodyne observation that it "didn't work"; he questions Europe's retreat from democracy into the bureaucracy of Brussels, and the routine defamation of Christianity which is allowed in a way that would not be tolerated against other world faiths. He concludes the chapter setting out these and other questions by asking:
'Above all, and most urgently of all, why is Europe committing demographic suicide, systematically depopulating itself in what British historian Niall Ferguson calls he greatest "sustained reduction in European population since the Black Death of the 14th century?"'
Weigel discusses in depth the ferocious opposition to any mention of Christianity in the European constitutional treaty. There is, of course, a positive mention of the "enlightenment" in the treaty; this prompts the observation,
'... if the mere mention of a Christian contribution to European civilisation "excludes" Jews, Muslims and non-believers, why doesn't the celebration of the Enlightenment "exclude" Aristotelians, Thomists, and indeed postmodernists who think Immanuel Kant and other exponents of enlightenment rationalism got it wrong?'
In the section "Two Ideas of Freedom", there is a lucid comparison between St Thomas's notion of freedom as the capacity to choose wisely and act well (Weigel chooses the phrase "freedom for excellence" to summarise this); and freedom as a neutral faculty of choice. Weigel rightly traces this to the destructive influence of William of Ockham and the denial of universals, through to Nietzsche's "will to power" and its expression in the horrors of the twentieth century, not least through the carnage of the Great War.

Pope John Paul's Ecclesia in Europa is a document that I have not yet read. Weigel has shamed me into the resolution to read it and pay careful attention to it as an analysis of Europe's current cultural malaise.

The book was written in 2005. Some parts seem to hang ominously in the light of present circumstances. I was troubled by Weigel's remarks about Poland:
No one knows what will happen in Poland when John Paul II is no longer on the scene, reminding his countrymen of who they are and from whence they came. On the other hand, the vitality of Polish Catholicism - a vitality mirrored, if not quite so exuberantly, in some other central and eastern European countries - could reenergize the often somnambulant local churches of western Europe.
It seems to me that this is still a nail-biting contest. The Catholicism of Poland could well "do an Ireland", either by sending highly effective and loyal missionaries across the western world, or by reproducing the Irish Church's more recent implosion.

The book often echoes the concerns of Cardinal Ratzinger about the "dictatorship of relativism". Although quite short at well under 200 pages, there are plenty of pithy observations to keep you entertained and just enough contentious assertions to keep you on your guard.

Faith Magazine Nov-Dec 2007

The Faith Magazine for November-December 2007 is now online. (The September-October issue went up a while back and I forgot to mention it.)

As ever, you can read or download the whole content free of charge from the Faith website. If you want a printed copy, you can subscribe at the website too: £19 UK, £22 Europe. £26 airmail. There is a £15 student rate.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Calling Mel Gibson!

Dear Mr Gibson,

Please make a brilliant film about St Edmund Campion.

Yours Sincerely,

Catholics in England

The graphic to the left is from the Facebook group of the same name. (For those on Facebook, here is a link to the group.) More than one person has suggested to me in the past that it would be a great thing if Mel Gibson were to make a film about the life of St Edmund Campion. This was always a good idea; after the new Elizabeth film, it is a must.

So the campaign starts here. Someone reading this blog must know someone who knows Mel Gibson. 1. Encourage him to read Evelyn Waugh's stirring account of St Edmund Campion (if indeed he has not already read it); 2. Challenge him to find a good reason not to make a thrilling, spectacular and emotionally-charged blockbuster movie about the Saint which would inspire anyone with an open mind; 3. Emphasise that this will counter the black legend, whig history propaganda of "Elizabeth. The Golden Age".

Fellow bloggers: I don't often make blatant requests of this sort so I hope you will excuse me on this occasion. If you agree with this idea, please post something about it. Let's get the word out and...

Unleash the power of the Blog!

Nicean Blues

It is ages since we had any videos on this blog. Here is one that is doing the rounds:

It is published on Love to be Catholic which is worth browsing.

Cardinal Pell's sermon

Cardinal George Pell celebrated a Solemn Pontifical Mass in the traditional Roman Rite at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney on 3 November, the first time that a Cardinal has celebrated the old Latin Mass at St Mary's Cathedral in over 40 years. His homily has been published on the website of the Archdiocese of Sydney.

The first part of the homily is a reflection on Catholic devotion to Our Lady. Towards the end, the Cardinal addresses the question of the traditional Roman rite:
With the frenetic pace of modern life and the somewhat dangerous times in which we live, we are fulfilling the explicit desire of the Church by coming together this morning for this Holy Mass in honour of the Mother of God.

Let me add that we are also fulfilling the desire of the Church, and the wish of the Holy Father as expressed in his recent Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum by offering the Sacrifice of the Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal.

This rite nourished my own childhood and young adulthood, as it has nourished the lives of many here today. I was raised in a cathedral parish, and grew up with this rite. Countless saints gave worship to God by using the same words and singing the same melodies that echo in Our Lady’s Cathedral this morning.

Of course, the 1962 Missal was the result of centuries of liturgical evolution. It is a direct descendant of the Roman Missal of Pope St Pius V, published in 1570. That, in turn, was a revision and renewal of the liturgy found in the Sacramentary of Pope St Gregory the Great, which dates back to the 6th century. Those Mass texts, in turn, found their origin in a variety of liturgies and prayer forms that came from Syria and Egypt, Greece and Rome – particularly Rome -- and all points in between, and in all the languages of those peoples.

Today we find ourselves still on the journey of liturgical development and renewal. The dignity and beauty of today’s celebration, with its timeless Latin and uplifting music, remains a vital part of our Catholic tradition. It is celebrated with regularity in several places in the Archdiocese, and I am especially pleased to celebrate it here today.
(Looking at the picture (from CNA), I wonder why Cardinal Pell has the globe with England slap bang in the middle?)

Marchetto attacks Bologna school

Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, the Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Migrants and Tourists, recently gave a speech at Ancona which was reported by the Catholic News Agency (CNA: Vatican II not open to free interpretations, says Vatican official)

Here is a part of the article:
“Vatican II was a great event, a synthesis between tradition and renewal that is not a break with the past in the creation of a new Church,” the archbishop said during a speech on the Catholic Church in the 20th century in the city of Ancona.

He said the members of the School of Bologna have been very successful in “monopolizing and imposing one interpretation” of Vatican II that goes beyond what John XXIII and Paul VI imagined, even so far as to propose “a Copernican revolution, the passing to…another Catholicism.”
Coming from a senior curial official, this is a significant public criticism of the Bologna school.

Archbishop Marchetto (67) has been secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Migrants and Tourists since 2001. Before that, he was pro-nuncio in Madagascar, Mauritius and Tanzania and, more recently, Nuncio in Belarus. In February 2000, writing in L'Osservatore Romano, he argued against calls for Pope John Paul to resign from the papacy when he reached his 75th birthday. He was astute enough to quote Cardinal Suenens who spoke at the second Vatican Council that the Pope should be excluded from any requirement to resign at a particular age.

H/T New Liturgical Movement

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Where the priest should look during Mass

In response to the post Facing the Crucifix, Gem of the Ocean said:
H' the pope wants me to look at the cross on the altar, rather than the REAL PRESENCE in his own hands?
I think that it is worth explaining a little more about the question because obviously it would be wrong for the priest to look at the crucifix in preference to the consecrated host. This is a good example of how the rubrics of the old rite can help us to celebrate the new rite better.

In the old rite, the priest learns to look up at the crucifix and then down at the host during the offertory prayer for the bread (Suscipe sancte Pater). Thus his attention is drawn to God, to whom he offers the sacrifice, and to the host which is offered. At the same time, he is reminded to offer himself. Offering the chalice, (Offerimus tibi Domine) he looks only at the crucifix, asking God's clemency for our salvation and that of the whole world.

When "looking up to heaven" in the Canon in union with Christ (elevatis oculis in caelum), the crucifix serves as a focal point if it is suitably elevated. The altars in St Peter's are a good example of construction that is ideal for the Mass. Then he looks at the host intently as it is consecrated. At the elevation of the host and chalice, the priest can look both at the body and blood of Christ now truly present, and at the crucifix which reminds him of the sacrifice Christ offered of his own body and blood, the sacrifice that is made present here and now. Thereafter, he does not look up to the crucifix again until the blessing (when the elements have been consumed). Rather, he looks at the host when saying the Memento of the Dead, the Pater Noster, and the preparatory prayers for Communion.

Unless you take the "wearing your alb back to front" view of the rubrics of the Novus Ordo, there is no reason why a priest could not observe all of these traditional customs when saying the new Mass. The examples that I have given do not constitute an exhaustive list - priests could consult J B O'Connell's "The Celebration of Mass" for more details.

The crucifix needs to be a reasonably tall one and the corpus should face the priest. There is some debate about this on the grounds that it might "exclude" the people. (It would be a good idea to read Fr Z's post on this before commenting on this particular issue.) On following this debate, it becomes obvious, as Cardinal Ratzinger hinted in "The Spirit of the Liturgy" that the only sensible solution is for us all to face eastward together.

The authors of spiritual books for priests also used to emphasise the priest's custody of the eyes. He was not to look beyond the altar rails when saying the Orate Fratres, for example. This might sound odd to modern ears until you consider the effect of the constant "eye contact" that seems to be de rigeur in some celebrations of the new Mass. The priest's personality can dominate the whole celebration of the Mass with unfortunate consequences for the laity who are distracted from the action of God which takes place, and for the priest who can be tempted to pride.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Rosmini to be beatified

Sandro Magister reports today on the forthcoming beatification of Antonio Rosmini on Sunday 18 November in Novara, Northern Italy. (Chiesa: Blessed Liberty: The Posthumous Miracle of Antonio Rosmini) Magister observes:
Of his books, the one still most widely read and translated is "Delle cinque piaghe della santa Chiesa [Of the Five Wounds of the Holy Church]." One of the wounds that he denounced was the ignorance of the clergy and the people in celebrating the liturgy. But it is a mistake to view him as a standard bearer for the abandonment of the use of Latin. He wrote, instead, that "reducing the sacred rites to the vernacular languages would mean resorting to a remedy worse than the disease."
Magister also points out that Rosmini was condemned by the Holy Office in 1887 and this condemnation was only finally rescinded by Cardinal Ratzinger in 2001. He therefore refers to the forthcoming beatification as a miracle. Perhaps it is, but not such an unusual one in the history of the Church. Many saints have been rejected during their lives and subsequently rehabilitated. Contrary to popular assumptions, the Church is not only able to forgive but also to admit mistakes.

It is significant that he is to be beatified during the reign of Pope Benedict who is an admirer of his work and a theologian of note in his own right. This is not an unmitigated advantage for a Pope but Pope Benedict shows an awareness of the humility required in such a combination of roles.

Facing the crucifix

In "The Spirit of the Liturgy", Cardinal Ratzinger argued that whenever the priest was saying Mass versus populum, it would be good for the crucifix to be placed in the centre to form the focus of the liturgical action. It is good to see this photograph from a recent Papal Mass at the Altar of the Chair:

H/T New Liturgical Movement

Saturday, 10 November 2007

"Summa Theoblogica"?

Hilary White was in town today, that author of The Devout Life and, more recently, Orwell's picnic. She also writes regularly for the excellent LifeSite News. She was able to get out to visit Blackfen for our Classical Rite Mass this morning so I suggested that we have a bloggers' lunch, accompanied by Mac of Mulier Fortis (to whom credit for the photo.) Pizza and Pasta at Zizzis was not favoured so we opted for the buffet at the Laughing Buddha. As it was lunchtime, we were not favoured either with a customer Karaoke session or with the proprietor doing his star turn as the Chinese Elvis impersonator. But it's an ill wind... the absence of entertainments meant that we could talk.

We inevitably got onto the question of the remarks of Bishop Hollis on the legalisation of brothels. Discussing the views of St Thomas Aquinas, I found myself saying that St Thomas "posted" on the subject. After protesting that I did know that in those days, people wrote things down in other ways, it struck us that the structure of the Summa is not so very different from a blog - admittedly a very well-ordered one. The objections and replies form a sort of medieval combox discussion. I suppose the Commentary on the Sentences could be thought of as a kind of fisk, too. [That's enough silly medieval comparisons. Ed.]

Fr Z on Tablet editorial

Fr Z has fisked the dreadful editorial that appeared in this week's Tablet undermining Summorum Pontificum and attacking the good Archbishop Ranjith. See Unsigned editorial in The Tablet: craven prejudice against those who want the older Mass.

Personally I have always refused to read the Tablet except on rare occasions. It went the wrong way in 1968 (when I was 10) in response to Humanae Vitae and since then, including all my adult life it has been the voice of dissent from the Magisterium. It has long been given a respectful hearing in England far beyond it merits.

However, I am most grateful to Fr Z for his occasional sallies against its "craven prejudice" and what seems to be an increasingly bitter tone since the election of Pope Benedict.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Should brothels be legalised?

My Firefox homepage is a personalised iGoogle page with useful bits and pieces. Among them are the Daily Telegraph and Google News feeds - and a feed from Reuters "oddly enough" section. This has items like "Man forgets car at gas station", "Cow plunges off cliff onto moving minivan", you know the sort of thing. Yesterday's selection had "Bishop backs brothel regulation" with the story that Bishop Hollis of Portsmouth has supported the local branch of the Women's Institute in calling for the licensing and regulation of brothels.

It was perhaps unfair of Reuters to list it with randomly falling cows and absent-minded drivers since Bishop Hollis was offering a serious and well-intentioned argument. However, it is one with which I respectfully but strongly disagree. The legalisation of an evil seldom has the hoped-for consequences and inevitably leads to a greater social acceptance of the particular evil that is legalised.

Bishop Hollis is quoted as saying:
"If you are going to take a pragmatic view and say prostitution happens, I think there is a need to make sure it's as well regulated as possible for the health of people involved and for the safety of the ladies themselves,"
This is one of many arguments for the legalisation of brothels. Women who oppose legalised prostitution point out that it is the women who are tested for STIs, not their customers, and that the law is therefore only of use to protect the men, not the women. They also point to the experience of prostitutes who continue to suffer routine violence in legalised brothels.

Other suggestions are, for example, that licensed brothels will cut down on organised crime and street prostitution. However, the international consensus seems to be moving sharply against the idea of legalised prostitution both for practical reasons (it doesn't help) and for reasons of principle (it assists the exploitation of women). Recently, the International Herald Tribune, in the article Bulgaria moves away from legalizing prostitution made the point:
Bulgaria is only the latest European country to shift its approach to prostitution. Finland changed its law last year and Norway is on the verge of following suit. Even in Amsterdam, the city government has proposed shutting down more than a quarter of the famed storefront brothels in the city's red-light district. And in the Czech Republic and the three Baltic republics, pushes for legalization similar to the Bulgarian one have also been turned back.
The article also observes pertinently that the fight against legalising prostitution has been led by "an unusual coalition of allies, including the Bush administration, feminist groups and the Swedish government."

Janice Raymond of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women International wrote an article some years ago giving 10 Reasons for Not Legalizing Prostitution. The article gives arguments under the following headings:
  1. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution is a gift to pimps, traffickers and the sex industry.
  2. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution and the sex industry promotes sex trafficking.
  3. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not control the sex industry.It expands it.
  4. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution increases clandestine, hidden, illegal and street prostitution.
  5. Legalization of prostitution and decriminalization of the sex Industry increases child prostitution.
  6. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not protect the women in prostitution.
  7. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution increases the demand for prostitution. It boosts the motivation of men to buy women for sex in a much wider and more permissible range of socially acceptable settings.
  8. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not promote women's health.
  9. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not enhance women's choice.
  10. Women in systems of Prostitution do not want the sex industry legalized or decriminalized.
Another article arguing along similar lines is one by Sheila Jeffreys: The Legalisation of Prostitution : A failed social experiment. The Coalition Against Violence Against Women has a range of further recent articles opposing legalisation.
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