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Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Eye letters on Catholic adoption

On the letters page of Private Eye No. 1178, Paul Webster referred sarcastically to a previous writer's "gallant and Christian acceptance of my sexuality." He went on to say,
"May I now assume that all I need to do is become celibate, then I can marry my partner of 10 years in a church and adopt some of those spare children that you heterosexuals don't seem to want?

No, thought not.

What a waste of ink."
Issue 1179 which arrived on the mat this morning, carries a reply from Peter Heaney of Northamptonshire. He writes to reassure Webster that his letter was not a waste of ink. He says:
"I retired recently after serving for many years on a Catholic Adoption agency panel. Applications to adopt were received and accepted from homosexuals as well as heterosexuals. Children were placed irrespective of the applicant's sexual orientation or for that matter, their marital status. Homosexual and single applicants had children placed with them whilst I was a panel member.

I am starting to wonder if the Catholic priest on the panel was keeping secrets from the bishop. If so, he ought to be told!"
Indeed he ought. Obviously, Catholics also need to be told whether Peter Heaney is telling the truth or not. If he is, there needs to be some explaining given that parish priests have just organised collections for the various Catholic Children's Societies at Sunday Mass. Do keep an eye out for any response on this matter.

National Catholic Prayer breakfast

It's over in the USA, I'm afraid. (Sigh!) The "Prayer Breakfast" starts the night before with Mass at the Cathedral in Washington DC. Then the "breakfast" goes on all day. The various speakers include Bishop Wuerl, Scott Hahn and Richard John Neuhaus, talks in the afternoon on bioethics, marriage and public policy. On the following day, there is a tour of Catholic sites in Washington DC.

Oh, and bacon and eggs are served at some point.

Here is the dedicated site for the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Fr Z's 20 tips for a good confession

Fr John Zuhlsdorf has a helpful list of 20 tips for making a good confession which I recommend.

A couple of things I added in the combox in response to others:

If the priest is harsh
Don't waste energy being cross with him or feeling sorry for yourself. God is infinitely good and everything that he allows to happen to us can work to our good by his grace. In the past, I have found that it has challenged me on some sin that I have become a bit blasé about and it has done me good.

But also, pray for the priest. He is running a great risk here. If souls are lost because of his harshness, he is going to have a lot of explaining to do to Our Lord when he meets him.

If the priest doesn't give a penance
(Apparently this happened quite a bit in San Diego.) First of all, ask him "Father, would you please give me a penance." He may just have forgotten. If he refuses to do so, you could first of all accept this refusal as a penance in itself (these things are annoying, aren't they?) Then you could voluntarily impose a penance on yourself, perhaps a decade of the rosary. These would be pious acts, not necessary to the validity of the sacrament.

I just checked Cappello and he says that although the imposition of a penance is necessary for the integral celebration of the sacrament, omitting it does not make the absolution invalid. So you can rest assured, go to communion, it is the priest's sin, not yours.

Again, pray for the priest because he is obliged by the teaching of the Council of Trent and required by canon law to impose a salutary penance if you have actually sinned. He may well have to do the all these penances himself in purgatory. Added to which, it was always considered grave matter to omit giving a penance unless there is an excusing cause.

Traditional Day of Recollection

I received notice of this by email today. Recipients were encouraged to invite any interested persons. So if you are interested, consider yourself invited!

There will be a Day of Recollection in preparation for Easter, preached by the priests of the Fraternity of Saint Peter will preach a Day of Recollection at Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory, Warwick Street on Saturday 17th March, 2007.

Programme

10.30 Sung Mass in the traditional Roman Rite
Lunch (please bring a packed lunch)
1pm First talk
2pm Second talk

The second talk will be followed by Confessions. The day will end at about 4.30 pm with Benediction.

Monday, 26 February 2007

Holy Father to Academy for Life

On Saturday, Pope Benedict addressed the members of the 13th Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life. This morning, he addressed them again, together with participants who gathered for the International "Conference on Christian conscience in support of the right to life" which took place last Friday and Saturday.

The address on Saturday morning referred to pressure for the legalisation of abortion in South American countries, biotechnical research and the "new wave of eugenic discrimination as well as pressure for "the legalisation of forms of cohabitation alternative to marriage and closed to natural procreation." Here is a link to the Vatican Information Service report and, for readers of Italian, the full text.

This morning's address focussed on the right to life of the embryo, reflecting on various scriptural and patristic indications. I was delighted to see that he mentioned the Visitation and the recognition of Christ by St John the Baptist. This is a theme I have sometimes preached on to illustrate the sanctity of the human embryo. No VIS report on this speech as yet but here is a link to the full text in Italian.

I expect that the texts may appear in English translation on Zenit over the next few days.

Cardinal Schoenborn and facing eastwards

Gerald Augustinus has a translation of comments made by Cardinal Schoenborn on the question of orientation at Mass. He recently gave permission for the parish of St Rochus in Vienna to use the baroque, eastward-facing altar instead of the movable "people's altar." Some people have complained about this and called for a boycott of the (hugely popular) Church.

You can read the Cardinal's comments here: Cardinal Schoenborn on "ad orientem" & "versus populum".

St Rochus is the Church of the Vienna Oratory. Here is a picture of the altar. Can't you just hear all the "people" crying out "No, give us back our portable table!"

Middlesbrough LMS

There is a recently started blog for The Latin Mass Society RC Diocese of Middlesbrough.

Sunday, 25 February 2007

100K

(Click to enlarge)

One day ...

In the comments box on Fr John Zuhlsdorf's post Caption Opportunity, Vincenzo posted a link to this picture he has doctored:

Gummer on preventing discrimination against Catholics

Catholic MP, John Gummer has introduced a 10 minute rule bill: "Catholics (Prevention of Discrimination)." Here is the text of Gummer's speech. (Before you ask, here is a Wikipedia article explaining the term "10 minute rule bill".)

The Bill deals with such matters as the prohibition against the heir to the throne marrying a Catholic, and the law that a Catholic diocese may not be given the same name as an Anglican diocese (Whereas a new Anglican diocese may be given the name of an existing Catholic diocese; for example Southwark and Liverpool)

Gummer made a good point about liberal totalitarianism. His speech concluded:
My Bill would get rid of historical discrimination and guard against the insidious future discrimination that arises from political correctness, which is itself a kind of fascism.
Well amen to that! Unfortunately, in the course of his argument, he expressed support for homosexual adoption (while arguing for toleration of those who oppose it.) In saying so, he told the House "I happen to disagree with my Church." Which does rather bring this image to mind:

John Allen on the British press

John Allen, a widely respected reporter who writes for the National Catholic Reporter, has devoted his weekly "All things Catholic" column to a critique of the way in which the British press reports on religious matters. The article is entitled Irresponsible reporting on religion is dangerous. He begins:
Normally I love writing this column, but this week I need to say something that gives me no pleasure at all. Here it is in a nutshell: Reporting on religion in the mainstream British press is not only sometimes dreadful, it's dangerous, and something needs to be done about it.
Allen is particularly moved to write because of Ruth Gledhill's article in last Monday's Times "Churches back plan to unite under Pope."

To be honest, when I heard of this article, I didn't really bother to take much notice. Over here we are so wearily accustomed to stupid sensationalist reporting on religious matters that I have come to the point that I only read such articles when it is necessary because someone has been foolish enough to take them seriously.

However, this particular piece in the Times seems to have had the effect of waking up people elsewhere in the world to the staple diet of religious reporting that we have to endure.

Jimmy Akin has also commented on Gledhill's reporting (not as politely as Allen) in his post She's Baaaaa-aaaack!!!. From there he links to a withering attack on a previous article which was headed "Catholic Church no longer swears by truth of the Bible."

Saturday, 24 February 2007

Pope in curtain fabric

Having rejoiced in the choice of rochet for the blessing of the sick, I have to say that I am saddened by the revenge of the papal caeremoniere illustrated by this ghastly chasuble:

I think it is made from the same material as the jacket Fr Ted wore when singing "My lovely horse."

Something fishy in South Staffs vote

Soem further news on the Sir Patrick Cormack deselection story. The vote to deselect the strongly pro-life MP for South Staffordshire has suffered from a "clerical error." Sir Patrick diplomatically said that a party investigation had established that "the attendance record did not appear to reflect an accurate record of those entitled to vote." Or, to put it another way, there were more ballot papers cast than people present.

That's always the danger with "vote early vote often" tactics - if you overdo it, you get rumbled.

Catholic Oxford blog

Great news in my inbox today - there is a Catholic Oxford blog which started earlier this month. Apparently it started following discussion at a meeting of the Newman Society - of which I was President in Hilary Term 1979.

Funny sig

I was just browsing for some non-standard synchronising software for my new MDA when I came across this sig belonging to "Silkstone" at the Digital Darkroom.
Before you criticise someone, walk a mile in their shoes.
Then, when you do criticise them, you're a mile away and have their shoes.

Friday, 23 February 2007

Milestone coming up

Today, the stats show that the number of visitors to this blog have tipped over 99,000. (The "hits" figure is over 180,000.) Barring disasters, the 100,000 landmark will be reached sometime on Sunday.

One commenter suggested that I should offer a prize of a crate of lager for the 100,000th visitor. Now that's could be a problem if the visitor in question happened to be from China, Newfoundland or Adelaide (among the visitors today.)

So I hope that you will accept in grateful thanks for your interest that I will offer my Mass at Wonersh on Monday for the intentions of all visitors to this blog, asking God to bless you and your loved ones. Thank you for your support.

Linacre Centre Conference

This July, there is to be an international conference to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Linacre Centre’s foundation. The theme of the conference is:

Moral Problems in Healthcare and Research

The conference will be looking at how it is morally permissible for doctors and health staff, and others, to treat those with limited or no capacity to give consent. The morality (or lack of it) of e.g. euthanasia, sterilisation, and of the use of patients for non-therapeutic research will all be discussed. A central point of attention will be the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and what the application of that Act might lead to.

The Conference will be held at St Mary’s University College, Strawberry Hill (near London Heathrow) from 5-7 July 2007.

The Conference is organised by the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics
London, with sponsorship from the Ave Maria School of Law, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

Catholic Mom of 10 blog

Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ, a regular commenter on this blog, has started here own blog called Catholic Mom of 10. Her children range in age from 6 to 20. The "MJ" indicates that Mrs Parkes is a member of Miles Jesu.

e-petition for Christians in Iraq

Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo of Barnabas Fund has set up a petition at the 10 Downing Street e-petitions site. It reads:
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to protect the Christians of Iraq.
Further information:
Iraqi Christians are being targeted for violence by both Sunni and Shia insurgents and are having to flee to safety, losing everything they had or knew. We want the Prime Minster to ensure that Iraqi Christians are not overlooked in this conflict, are acknowledged as valued Iraqi citizens and are given aid and refuge. In particular, we want the Prime Minister to discuss with other coalition countries the position of Iraqi Christians, look at providing a safe haven in northern Iraq, grant additional aid for the Iraqi Christian refugees both in Iraq and surrounding countries and grant asylum in coalition countries where necessary. The Christians should also be consulted as part of any reconciliation process and provided for in any future plans in Iraq.
There are 2257 signatures at the time of posting. Do add your name if you are eligible (you must be a British Citizen or resident to sign the petition.)

Sign the petition here

Welcome Catholic Times readers

Joanna Bogle (known to bloggers as Auntie Joanna) has written a feature about me that has been published in this weekend's Catholic Times (The article is not available online as far as I can tell.) The piece is illustrated by the photo that I have recently put on the sidebar.

If you have come to this blog after reading the article, welcome! If you find it interesting, you can browse around by using the labels at the bottom of each post, the archives in the sidebar or the search box at the top of the screen. Comments to the blog are moderated and I have written about comments on blogs in general and comments on this blog.

If you are new to Catholic blogs, have a look at some of the excellent blogs listed in the sidebar under "Blogroll."

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Mary Elizabeth

As a parish priest, I often encourage parents to pray with their children - you can never start too soon :-)

Warmest congratulations to Ma, Pa and J. (See more at the Ward Wide Web)

Disco hit generates pro-life funds

There is a fascinating story from Scotland on Sunday: Reverend's disco hit funds electoral bid. The Reverend George Hargreaves has publicly repudiated his former sinful way of life and decided to plough the profits from the song he wrote called "So Macho" into his party Operation Christian Vote. The song was a hit in 1985 and still generates about £10K per month. His party opposes abortion, human embryo research and euthanasia and will be contesting every Scottish seat in the European elections.

Sir Patrick Cormack deselection

A correspondent has drawn my attention to the story in the Telegraph about the deselection of Sir Patrick Cormack, MP for South Stafforshire. He is a widely respected parliamentarian who was first elected in 1970 and won his seat at the last election with a 9.4% swing to the Conservatives - the largest in the country. Phil Woolas, the local government minister, said:
"This is an outrage. If there's no room for people like Sir Patrick in the modern Conservative Party, then Middle England really should be worried"
There is more information at the blog of Oliver Kamm: Tory ructions.

Sir Patrick is an independent minded "one nation" Tory who was a frequent rebel under Margaret Thatcher and under John Major voted against his party in a 1992 division condemning action in Bosnia as "too little, too late."

He will now have to win the support of the local party in a secret ballot. He has indicated that if he loses, he will stand as an independent candidate. Martin Bell has indicated that he will support him in this eventuality.

Why do I care? He has consistently voted pro-life over the years and I wonder whether his deselection has anything to do with this in the new climate of "modern conservatism." Here is a link to his voting record on various matters of interest.

Here is a link to Ian Dale's diary which is running a Save Sir Patrick Campaign

Guard Duty

Guard Duty is an interesting Wordpress blog that carries a helpful collection of articles and links related to various faith issues.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Faith Syposium: the human person and bioethics

The last lecture of the Symposium was given by Fr Dylan James who has recently been awarded his doctorate in Rome for his comparison of Catholic and secular approaches to the definition of the human person in the context of bioethics.

The Catholic approach is not without controversy. Taking Boethius' definition "An individual substance of a rational nature", Fr Dylan looked at the question of the human embryo and particularly the different approaches that have been suggested within (orthodox) Catholic thought to the problem raised by the potential for twinning. Lest you should be worried by this discussion or by the picture above, let me reassure you that our new Doctor proposed a strong case that the embryo is a person from the moment of conception.

Listening to the lecture, I found myself regretting that I had not brought with me my notes on the lecture by Fr Fleming which I reported on in the post Body plan defined at conception. The differentiation that has been found in recent research, even in a single-celled embryo, is fascinating.

As part of his research into secular approaches, Fr Dylan interviewed the Baroness Warnock whose influence has been a major factor in the legal changes that have led to embryo experimentation.

There was much discussion afterwards on the question of "brain death". Fr Dylan proposed the view that the "brain dead" person indeed continued to be a person. Death requires a more definitive disintegration of the unitary whole that is the personal self.

Google docs

This new Google docs thing looks interesting. I have been pondering the idea of sharing my Sacramental Theology notes with all and sundry and was thinking of using some kind of "Wiki". It looks as though Google may have made that unnecessary.

The service enables you to upload documents, invite people to edit them, publish them (to the world or to a select few) and, of course ... post documents to your blog.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Bishop Sgreccia on Equality Act

There was a press conference today to present the forthcoming conference on "Conscience in Support of the Right to Life" which will take place on Friday and Saturday this week on the occasion of the 13th General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The Vatican news service carried the prepared speeches given at the press conference (two in English, two in Italian.) Today's Zenit News has an article entitled British Bill Violates Liberty, Says Bishop with quotations from Bishop Sgreccia, the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, in response to a journalist's request for him to comment on the Equality Act. He said:
"I think that conscientious objection is fully justified and I would be surprised if a nation, such as Great Britain, usually considered as the homeland of fundamental liberties, would deny at least on one occasion recognition of this objection,"

[...]

"I hope this won't take place, or that, in any case, it will trigger an appeal before the Court of Human Rights, an agency of international justice before which appeals can be presented against a state that violates the rights guaranteed by the convention that safeguards the rights of man."

Hope and Love

Hope in the Heart of Soho is a blog from the School of Evangelisation based at St Patrick's Soho where the parish priest is Fr Alexander Sherbrooke. I was last over there for the visit of Cardinal Pell last year. Archbishop Fulton Sheen often said Mass at the Church and described himself as the parish's unappointed curate.

A heads-up too for another UK Catholic blog: Catholic and Loving It by Ella and James Preece. Say a prayer for their baby who is soon to be born. There is a recent post about Whitby Abbey with some great photos.

"I hear what you say"

American Catholic bloggers sometimes refer to the major political blogs over there. Here in Blighty, it seems that the most successful one is Guy Fawkes which offers trenchant and irreverent comment. It is often highly amusing but I should insert a profanity warning here. Double it for the comments (often also very entertaining.) Have a look at his impressive list of readers from the January stats (404,427 page views Jan 2007) which includes over1000 hits from gsi.gov.uk, where the gsi stands for Government Secure Intranet.

Yesterday he had a post on e-petitions: Blair: I'm not listening. A petition calling for the Prime Minister to scrap the proposed introduction of ID cards got 28,000 signatures. Here is a the picture of the response from the Prime Minister:

Then there is the road pricing petition which got a 1.6 million signatories and crashed the website. Apparently, Blair intends to spam an email to all the signatories of that petition as well, to explain why he is right and they are all wrong.

As some commenters have observed, this is itself an warning of a further erosion of privacy. By signing an e-petition, you give your email address (and indeed your home address) to Number 10.

... and the ID card scheme will put the whole population onto the Police suspect list by allowing the fingerprint data to be used by the Police (cf. Collar the lot of us!.)

... and we are the world leaders in CCTV surveillance of the general public

... and your Oyster card can be monitored to check where you are going in London

... and your car's number plates

... etc. etc. etc.

For lots more on this theme, see Spy Blog.

Monday, 19 February 2007

John Smeaton on Zenit

I had heard that John Smeaton, National Director of SPUC was to be interviewed for Zenit but have only just found out via Fr John Boyle (South Ashford Priest) that the interview was published in last Friday's edition. That will teach me to leave Zenit emails unread!

In the interview, John points up the major problems with the Blair Government, the bias of the mainstream media, and the loss of moral compass that prevents morally rational thinking on moral and bioethical issues.

Of particular interest to bloggers will be this section:
Q: Christian leaders in Britain in recent years have lamented the state of religion, as witnessed in low church attendance. Has that affected culture-of-life issues?
Smeaton: Whatever the fundamental cause of low church attendance, the situation is worsened by the lack of clear teaching on culture of life issues.

Tragically, in Britain, induced abortion and birth control drugs and devices are provided to children at school, including Catholic schools, under the age of 16 without parental knowledge or consent.

Last year, a teacher at a mixed Catholic school in Kent, in England, spoke out publicly about the sex education given to her class of 13- to 14-year-old children. The teacher, a Miss McLernon, said: "I think people should be aware of what is going on in schools. I witnessed the nurse using a plastic model to show these children how to put on what she said was a chocolate flavored condom."

Miss McLernon said: "Every child in the class was given a card explaining where you could get free contraceptives and the abortion-inducing morning-after pill. The card also gave details of a website for young people explaining how a surgical abortion could be arranged. This is a Catholic school where you would expect children to be protected from this sort of thing."

Sadly, more and more Catholic parents are approaching the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children with terrible experiences in Catholic schools, both at the secondary and primary school level. Protests on the part of Catholic parents and teachers seeking to protect young people do not appear to be heard.
The "Miss McLernon" in that quote is otherwise known as Mulier Fortis.

Contraceptives and chocolate

Jeff Miller had a post a couple of days ago called Contraception and Chocolate. It tells of a campaign to hand out Hershey Bars with condoms on college campuses. Depressing though it is, the story headline reminded me of an amusing incident from my days at Oxford.

The Corpus Christi College JCR had a motion posted "That a machine for the purveyance of contraceptives be installed in the Plummer."
(Translations - JCR = Junior Common Room, i.e. undergraduate members of the College. Plummer = basement area with washing machines etc.)

Paul Haffner (left) was there at the time so it must have been my first year (1977-8). He lobbied the Catholics at the College to turn out to support an amendment he was intending to propose. There were not all that many of us but a couple of hearties from the Officer Training Corps ensured that we were not entirely overwhelmed.

Paul's moment came and he announced with his very careful and laboured enunciation "I should like to propose an amendment." This was duly noted and he was invited to make his proposition. With similar dramatic effect, he said "That the motion should be amended by replacing the word 'contraceptives' with the word 'chocolate'." This brought the house down and his amendment (and the amended motion) were carried on a wave of enthusiasm.

I subsequently joined Paul at the English College in Rome, together with another contemporary Corpuscle, Paul Hendricks. Paul Haffner is now teaching theology in Rome and Paul Hendricks is now auxiliary Bishop in Southwark.

Faith Symposium - evolution and intelligent design

The lecture on Wednesday evening was given by Edmund Nash, a PhD student at the Molecular Evolution laboratory at the Department of Biochemistry in Cambridge University. Edmund is a recently married Catholic and a very active pro-lifer. The first part of his lecture was a critical evaluation of Intelligent Design theory. For those not familiar with this debate, I should make it clear that he was referring particularly to the work of Michael Behe; Edmund, along with all of us, believes that the universe was intelligently designed.

He took issue with the idea that certain organelles (for example the bacterial flagellum) are examples of "irreducible complexity" - that is to say that they cannot be produced by gradual evolution because the precursor would be non-functional. He outlined how in fact the individual parts of the flagellum do in fact have other functions. He also examined the old saw "evolution is a theory, not a fact."

The second part of the lecture took us through an overview of the study of evolution as it is carried on today, especially in his own field which involves the analysis of genetic sequence data. He particularly focussed on genetic polymorphisms - small changes in genes between individuals of same species which can have major implications for the organism. Although the lecture was a model of lucidity and good presentation, it was quite challenging and perhaps beyond those who had not studied the natural sciences at advanced level.

Overall, it reinforced the essential importance of genuine scientific research for the Christian. The modern study of the natural sciences grew naturally from a Christian world view and the foundation of the universities in the Christian middle ages. My own worry is that our post-Christian society will move away from the study of science as an objective discipline as our culture loses sight of the fundamental importance of rationality in its view of the world.

For further reading, Edmund recommended Ken Miller's Evolution page

Eugenics Watch

Just a quick notice of this site: Eugenics Watch. Some interesting articles there.

Thanks to Fr Paul Harrison of Thoughts from the Lune Valley.

Rethink on Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow

In the car from Blackfen to Wonersh yesterday and from Wonersh to Parkminster, from Parkminster to Blackfen today, I have listened to two lectures from the new downloads available from Keep the Faith. They were both very moderate and balanced treatments of controversial topics.

The first was "The Seven Storied Thomas Merton" by Dr Robert Royal. A Trappist Monk, Merton became a celebrity with the publication of "The Seven Storey Mountain." Later in his life, he became very interested in Eastern Mysticism as well as promoting various "right on" causes in the 60s and 70s which have led to him being dismissed by many. Dr Royal is quite frank in his criticism of some of Merton's views but retains a respect for him as an outstanding writer and, with caution, a guide to mysticism.

The second lecture was by William Coulson, entitled "Full Hearts, Empty Heads." Coulson worked with the influential psychologist Carl Rogers in the 1960s and has since repented of the enormous damage that was done within the Church by their introduction of psychotherapeutic techniques in sensitivity groups for healthy individuals. The influence of their thinking has been pervasive in Catholic circles, together with the thought of Abraham Maslow. Coulson has some harrowing accounts of the harm that was done by the promotion of "values clarification" in the classroom.

Coulson is fair and balanced in his assessment of Rogers and Maslow as people, and in the motives of the various projects in which they engaged. Nevertheless, his critique, coming from a "convert" is devastating. The promotion of self-esteem, self-actualisation, values clarification, and sensitivity groups is still quite widespread in centres of learning within the Church so I recommend the lecture if you can afford $1 to download it (priests can register to get all materials free.) If you don't have the opportunity to listen to a lecture, you could try the following articles:

Carl Rogers and the IHM Nuns: Sensitivity Training, Psychological Warfare and the "Catholic Problem" (Culture Wars)

We overcame their traditions, we overcame their faith (1994 interview)

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Catholic Blog Awards

I just took a look at the Catholic Blog Awards results and discovered that this blog came 5th in "Best Blog by Clergy/Religious/Seminarian", 5th in "Best Political/Social Commentary Catholic Blog", and 20th in "Best Overall Catholic Blog."

Thank you to those who nominated this blog and/or voted for it. That is very kind of you. God bless.

Congratulations to Fr John Zuhlsdorf whose blog What Does the Prayer Really Say deservedly came first in the category "Best Blog by Clergy/Religious/Seminarian."

The results page is well worth a look. I found some blogs there that I hadn't seen before.

Another non-blogging priestly guest


Mulier Fortis mentions Fr Stephen Boyle in her post on the Faith Symposium. He wished to appear on various blogs without having to go to the bother of writing his own. Here he is, casting a critical eye over the contents of Catholic Today.

Mac has some good photos of the Symposium, including one of me saying Mass in the Crypt. Devotees of the Old Mass will notice that there was no chalice veil - well you can't have everything. I did bring a travelling Missal and my personally designed travelling altar cards. If you want a set of these, I have just uploaded them to my parish website: you can get them from the downloads page (go to the bottom of that page.)

Bishop Hollis urges fidelity to the Church’s discipline

Earlier this month, Bishop Crispian Hollis wrote to all the priests of the Portsmouth Diocese to make it clear that the conditions do not exist in this country for a licit celebration of “Rite 3” of the Sacrament of Penance (i.e General Absolution.) He urged priests to find ways in which individual confession could be made available to the people.

In the same letter, he re-iterated the norms regarding the admission to Eucharistic Communion of those who are not in communion with the Catholic Church. The Ordinary may grant permission for a particular person to receive Communion on a particular occasion according to conditions laid out in “One Bread One Body.” After referring to this restricted exception, he made it clear that “general invitations to all and sundry to receive Communion should never be offered.”

He also emphasised the importance of being faithful to the discipline of the Church:
In the matter of General Absolution and Sacramental sharing with other Christians, I ask you, therefore, to be faithful of the norms of the Church which govern these celebrations.
Since I have not always been in complete agreement with Bishop Hollis, I feel that it is only fair to draw attention to this excellent letter to clergy which, as I understand him to have affirmed, has been sent on his own initiative and without any pressure from Rome.

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Not quite what we had in mind

Looking around on Google for an image to illustrate the previous post, I found this book which would surely merit a prize if we ran a "Most Spectacularly Missing the Point" competition:

Hey! I think I'll give up brussels sprouts for Lent.

Tough love (of God)

Dom Guillerand, in The Prayer of Love and Silence, has a chapter entitled "Practice Almsgiving and Humility." I was pleased to find this just in advance of Lent. Characteristically, he has some powerful things to say.

On fasting:
Fasting is an alms given directly to God. It is for his sake that we fast. It is in order that we may become more strongly attached to Him that we deprive ourselves of that food which comes from Him, and of which we can partake only for His sake. To offer Him the sacrifice of what is not absolutely indispensable for our physical well being is thus to raise ourselves from our level to His. This is itself a prayer: it raises us up to His level, to His presence, and is the prelude to many intimate colloquies of the highest form of prayer.
Now that is some motivation for Lenten penance! He continues on the subject of humility:
The thought of our own misery, and of the unfathomable divine mercy, also lifts us up to the same heights. They are, as it were, two oceans, spreading beyond the narrowness of or individual selves and meeting in the infinite. For we can see our nothingness only in the light of the divine greatness. Otherwise we see only a very superficial part of it, and this is more than we can bear, In the light of this immense love, which stoops down to it in order to raise it up and enfold i with His greatness, our misery becomes the greatest of all realities. That reality opens to the soul the horizons of love, where He who is truth and love awaits us and says to the soul, "Come and stay here forever."
I love the writing of this Carthusian master of ascetical and mystical theology. He speaks ardently and invitingly, from experience, of mystical union with God. At the same time, he is as far as it is possible to be from that "put your feet up and have a mug of cocoa" school of "spirituality" which accommodates itself to whatever makes us feel warm, fuzzy and comfortable.

(I have started a label for "Guillerand" to make it easier to find other posts where I have written about this book.)

image credit

Faith Symposium - Psalms

After Fr Hugh MacKenzie had led us through the question of realism in Catholic philosophy, Wednesday morning saw us taken in a different direction by the paper of Fr Dominic Rolls, part time lecturer in scripture at St John's Seminary, Wonersh and parish priest at Dorking.

Fr Rolls spoke of the Psalms, and particularly how they show the "quickening touch of the Living God upon man as a wise and loving relationship continuing into eternity." The lecture focussed on the nature of revelation as the work of God in his wisdom and love upon the soul of the human person, teaching and drawing us to himself in the truth. The written word of the Bible is inspired by God as the authoritative communication of his living wisdom, always looking toward "the one who is to come." Fr Rolls used psalms 8 and 135 to illustrate the dignity of the human person and the revelation of God through the history of his people.

The discussion raised questions about the nature of inspiration, the teaching of Dei Verbum and the papal encyclicals which addressed the question of biblical studies. True to form, I raised the question of the use of the psalms in the Mass, comparing the old and new rites in this regard.

Cardinals' badge of honour

Sir Dan of the Nesbitry has sent me the quotation from Pope John Paul II's first address to the Cardinals on 18 October 1978:
I remember, at this moment, the figure of a great Bishop, St John Fisher, created Cardinal when he was imprisoned for his faithfulness to the Pope. On the morning of the 22nd June 1535, while he was preparing to offer his head to the executioner's axe, he exclaimed facing the crowd: "Christian people, I am about to die for faith in the Holy Catholic Church of Christ." May this unshakeable faithfulness to the Bride of Jesus be always the badge of honour and the pre-eminent boast of the College of Cardinals.

Friday, 16 February 2007

A new/old Vatican style?

It seems that the Sorgente-inspired "Vatican style" off-white, box-pleat cottas with understated three lines of knotted lacework and matching crosses (see left) may be reaching their sell-by date. When I was a seminarian, they were all the rage: the possession of such an article was a mark of discernment in liturgical apparel, showing the wearer to be a man at the sweet spot of moderate aggiornamento, able to wear white choir on suitable (strictly circumscribed) occasions whilst meshing in perfectly with the acceptable V2 style of the caeremonieri who worked under Virgilio Noe.

Looking at the picture below, from the Pope's recent meeting with the sick, it is clear that Bishops' MCs around the world will need to go a-shopping soon if they are to keep up with the confusing and fast-moving pace of liturgical "reform of the reform" as it gathers momentum in the current decade. They may find that most of the better antique examples of the classical cotta have already been snapped up at bargain prices (or free of charge) by trad clergy who were in when the market was all but dead. I shudder to think what it would cost to get one of these things made up to order. Such is the price of failing to read the signs of the times.

That really is a serious amount of lace. (click to enlarge) Will we see the return of the Roman chasuble for a Papal Mass some day soon, I wonder?

H/T Paparatzifan at Papa Ratzinger Forum (more photos there.)

Thursday, 15 February 2007

The nature of the Faith Symposium

In answer to questions such as "Can I go?" and "Can we read the papers?" I should say a word or two about the nature of this event. The Symposium grew out of discussions between priests and theology graduates at the various events organised by the Faith Movement for students and by seminarians during their studies. We have two major events for students each year and a number of series of talks in various places to give a coherent presentation of Catholic doctrinal, moral and spiritual teaching. At these events, there was an obvious need for those who had studied theology to go into matters rather more deeply. The Symposium is designed to meet this need.

It is a relatively small group: we were just under 30 participants and that is about right for a lively discussion. The presentations assume the ability to discuss theology at graduate level and a reasonable familiarity with what might be called the Faith "School" of theology. It would probably be right to say that participation is generally by invitation from among those who have been at Faith events for some time. The majority of the participants are priests. There are also a number of laymen and women (including Sr Andrea Fraile of the Sisters of the Gospel of Life).

The papers from the Symposium are not published as "proceedings" but make their way into the Faith Magazine after some fairly rigorous peer review and editing. The discussions generate a lot of new ideas for papers which eventually get written subject to the demands of pastoral and other work. The priests are mostly working in parishes and the laity are in full time work and/or have family responsibilities.

Perhaps the most important thing to say is that we value Catholic philosophy and theology very highly. At the heart of the crisis in the Church today is a crisis in philosophy and theology provoked by the growing "dictatorship of relativism" so eloquently highlighted by Pope Benedict. We are trying to respond positively and determinedly to this crisis with complete loyalty to the Magisterium and, by God's grace, with personal holiness of life as an absolute first priority for priests, religious and laity.

Faith Symposium II

Fr Hugh MacKenzie introduced the next theme with a lecture on the subject "Why do we need a new Catholic realism?" This dealt particularly with the age-old problem of universals, discussing the origins of the question in Plato and Aristotle and the approaches of St Thomas, Duns Scotus and the nominalists. Essentially, the problem for us today is that the scientific account of material things leaves us with a number of possible levels at which a thing can be a universal in one respect and a particular in respect to something that is organised at a "higher" level. An important concept which helps to avoid a modern form of nominalism is the analogy of being according to which things participate in being to a greater of lesser degree.

We are also faced, I think, with the question of the relationship between language and concepts. Here, it would be helpful to address some of the questions raised in modern philosophy, particularly by Wittgenstein. The important thing is that language is the means by which we communicate our knowledge in relationship with each other; and language has also developed in sophistication as the need to express philosophical concepts has itself developed.

This session was perhaps the most difficult of the week in terms of pure philosophy. However, we were also challenged by presentations from two quite different areas of doctoral research. More about that tomorrow.

Faith Symposium Ia

To catch up on my previous post at the beginning of the Symposium: Fr Nesbitt's second lecture discussed the question of the mission of Christ as a struggle against the kingdom of Satan, a New Testament theme that is often neglected. The discussion focussed particularly on the question of the relationship of angels and demons to the order of material creation and the place of the created spirits in the overall economy of God.

I mentioned also that it was Fr David Standen's 50th birthday. Cakes and champagne all round to fete the man who arranged all the practical details for us and helped us to eat at various points rather than continue discussing philosophy and theology ad infinitum. Below, Fr Dylan James is kneeling at a coffee table and breaking cake to share. It might appear as though he has become enamoured of creative liturgy during his time in Rome but I hope that you can see that this is all harmless in the context of the celebrations for Fr Standen.

Views from Ampleforth

Now back from Ampleforth after a relatively traffic-free journey with two othe bloggers, Mulier Fortis and Bashing Secularism, I have selected and edited a few photos to share with you. First of all some shots from Ampleforth Abbey itself. Above you can see the Abbey Church with a sculpture of St Benedict in front. Below is the view over the southern edge of the North Yorkshire Moors.

Most of us were accommodated in the Grange, a comfortable guest house with a meeting room that was just the right size for the assembled company.

I was unsure of the subject of this sculpture until I saw it from this angle and realised that it is a modern interpretation of the Pieta. Not my cup of tea but I suppose it is easy to be negative. Can anyone explain it to me?
Update: I was wrong - the sculpture depicts the Good Samaritan (himself an image of Christ) bearing the wounded man in his arms. See the very helpful comment on this post from Ben Whitworth, author of "The Sculpture of Leon Underwood."

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

"Fighting the War on Terror"

Just before I left for Ampleforth on Monday, a packet from Amazon dropped through the letter box. it was the new book by my friend Jim Corum "Fighting the War on Terror. A counterinsurgency strategy." I came to know Jim at Oxford in the late 1970s when he was there studying medieval history. He had been commissioned in the Intel Corps in 1976. On returning to the States, he went back into the military. His was on active service in Iraq in 2004. I last saw him when he was in England as a visiting fellow at All Souls College doing the research for this book. He is an associate professor a the US Army Command and General Staff College in the Department of Joint and Multinational Operations at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and used to teach at the Air University, giving the course on "Terrorism and Small Wars."

Jim is a very engaging writer, making military doctrine accessible to the general reader. He has a great admiration for the British operation against the insurgents in Malaya and draws much from the lessons learnt there. This book also has chapters on the reform of the "dysfunctional culture" of the Intelligence services and on the use of the media in the battle for hearts and minds.

The book is timely given the problems that have arisen in the aftermath of the Iraq war and the failure to follow the doctrine of Clausewitz that "war has to be treated as part of some other whole; the name of which is policy." Sir Michael Howard has written a foreword for the book, outlining various lessons that the US should have learnt from the past. He says:
"It might have been expected that the United States would have learned all these lessons a generation ago in Vietnam, but apparently it did not. Now that it is having to start all over again, this book is a very good place to begin."

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Faith Symposium I

Fr Roger Nesbitt began the Symposium last night with the first half of his presentation on "Jesus and the struggle against evil." He spoke particularly of the angels and opened up a good theological discussion on the place of angels in creation. today, he will be dealing more particularly with the fall and the battle against evil.

It was Fr David Standen's 50th birthday yesterday. Cakes appeared from various people together with some champagne to toast him after dinner.

Benedictine hospitality

The journey up to Ampleforth went exactly to plan and we arrived in good time after a pleasant lunch in Thirsk. Most of us are accommodated in the Grange, the purpose-built house for guests. It is comfortable and warm, and the meeting room is ideal for the numbers (there are just under 30 of us at the Conference.)

The information said that it would be possible to arrange facilites for a private Mass in the crypt. I duly went to see the sacristan who arranged to set things up for me between Matins and Lauds so that I can say Mass at 7am each day. I have the chapel dedicated to St George and the English Saints.

The guest information directed me to the "Hospitality Office" which has a computer for the use of guests. I have brought my laptop so I can work on one or two things in my room. Annoyingly, I forgot to bring one of those memory stick pen-drive thingies so I'll have to pick on up this morning. That way, I can edit some photos, prepare a couple of posts and then just upload them here.

The weather was miserable and grey yesterday but today there is bright sunshine and some cloud so I am hoping for some good photographs.

Sunday, 11 February 2007

Comments - patience

I will moderate comments if I can get to a live internet connection at Ampleforth. If not, you'll have to wait until Thursday evening or possible Friday afternoon (I have an important funeral in the morning.)

Where I will be tomorrow

Tomorrow morning I will be saying Mass at 7am (Classical Rite) before driving up to Ampleforth Abbey on the North Yorkshire moors for the annual Theological Symposium of the Faith Movement. This is a gathering of priests and lay people who can discuss theology at graduate level.

The programme of lectures looks very interesting. I am particularly looking forward to Fr Hugh MacKenzie on "Why do we need a new Catholic Realism" and Edmund Nash on evolution and intelligent design. Fr Dylan James who has recently finished his doctorate in Rome will also be there to speak about the definition of the human person in bioethics.

Although the lectures are quite challenging, this is a genuine holiday for me. No phone or doorbell to answer, the opportunity to chat at length about theology and the quiet of the monastic cloister all make for a refreshing break with a constructive purpose.

I have done some advance lobbying for a computer terminal to blog from but I can't guarantee this so don't hold your breath for posts. I'm taking the big camera, of course, and I should get some good pictures in the clear northern air. Here's an example at sunrise on a previous visit:

Pour on petrol - fire burns faster

Life Style Extra reports that Marie Stopes International, a major abortion provider, carried out a (Record Number' Of UK Abortions In January). The figures:
Marie Stopes International (MSI) provided nearly 6,000 abortions to women at its nine UK centres last month - the most in its 32-year history, and 13 per cent more than January last year.
Liz Davies, the "director of UK operations at MSI" ("operations" - killing babies etc.)
said that the clinics always prepared themselves for a rise in January as women realised they had slipped up over the Christmas period, but that they had been surprised by the extent of the rise this year.
("slipped up"?! - "Whoops! Oh dear! Was that me?" I have heard sex described using various euphemisms but this takes the biscuit!)
Davies speculates coyly on the causes - too much alcohol, loss of inhibitions over Christmas, not stocking up on morning after pills etc.

Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's political secretary got it right:
Marie Stopes should stop trying to fool the public by feigning innocence and bewilderment about the rise in abortions. There is overwhelming evidence that easier access to birth control drugs and devices, which Marie Stopes promotes and provides, has failed to contain the rising number of abortions. Marie Stopes also spends significant resources promoting and providing abortion. Unborn children are being killed and vulnerable women are suffering post-abortion trauma as a result of Marie Stopes' work.

Informal SJC rulebook

Ma Beck has an amusing list of hints for people attending St John Cantius Church in Chicago.

Example:
2) No, we don't shake hands. Or kiss. Or high-five. We just move on to the Agnus Dei.
I've just got to find an opportunity to go and visit this parish...

There now, it's all right, your carer will be here soon

I remember once Harry Enfield and chums doing a skit taking the mickey out of Conservatives who kept saying "It's political correctness gone mad." Well try this one for size. Stonewall have been funded by the National Health Service in Scotland to produce a guide Fair For All - The Wider Challenge Good LGBT Practice in the NHS (pdf)

On page 7, we read:
Partners and “next of kin”
Using the terms “husband”, “wife” and “marriage” assumes opposite sex relationships only and will automatically exclude all LGB people. Using the term “partner” and “they/them” to refer to the partner will avoid this problem. This is also inclusive of all heterosexual couples, regardless of their marital status.
And further down the page:
Parenting
LGBT people can and do have children, sexual orientation or gender identity has nothing to do with good parenting or good child care. According to a Scottish wide survey11, one fifth of LGBT people have children. Some children will have been born or adopted into heterosexual relationships before a parent had ‘come out’ and some are born into samesex relationships or adopted by an LGB individual. Individual circumstances lead to varied family structures and parenting arrangements. It is important to be aware of this. When talking to children, consider using “parents”, “carers” or “guardians” rather than “mother” or “father”.
Be clear: these people will never be satisfied. This is not about avoiding nasty name-calling or "gay-bashing." They want to stop you talking to sick children about their mothers.

H/T Catholic Action UK

Saturday, 10 February 2007

Two new CDF documents on morals forthcoming

Sandro Magister reports on Two New Documents in the Works: On Bioethics, and on Natural Law. The first is referred to by Archbishop Angelo Amato as "Donum Vitae II." He says:
This Donum Vitae II is not intended to abolish the previous one, but to confront the various questions of bioethics and biotechnology that are posed today, and that were still unthinkable back then.
He points out that although Donum Vitae has been around for twenty years, it is scarcely known.

Magister highlights Archbishop Amato's comment referring to the authority of the documents:
The study of such delicate topics is the competency of our congregation, which then submits its work to the pope. And therefore the opinions on these topics that come from other ecclesiastical institutions or personalities – as respectable as these may be – cannot have the authoritativeness that the mass media sometimes seem to want to attribute to them.
Magister points out that the "opinions of ecclesiastical persons" include in particular the comments of Cardinal Martini on bioethical questions in the April 2006 L'Espresso and his comments in Il Sole 24 Ore last month on euthanasia.

The second forthcoming document is on Natural Law which has not been addressed previously as the subject of a document in its own right. On this subject, the Archbishop says:
A Catholic, for example, cannot consent to legislation that introduces marriage between two persons of the same sex; this is contrary to biblical revelation and to the natural law itself. [...] The pope often cites natural law in his catecheses. Our congregation is preparing something on this topic, and to that end has already consulted all of the Catholic universities. Everyone’s responses are very encouraging, even those from the professors considered the most ‘difficult’.
The full text of the interview with Archbishop Amato (in Italian) was published in the Catholic newspaper Avvenire on 28 January 2007.

Chartreuse de la Valsainte

A reader emailed me with this link to a website with beautiful photographs of the Chartreuse de la Valsainte.

A suitable message for Gordon Brown?

There is an interesting juxtaposition of items on yesterday's Zenit News. First we hear of Gordon Brown's visit to the Holy Father to launch a fund worth £750m which will enable pharmaceutical companies to develop vaccines for pneumococcal disease. All jolly good, of course, and it won't do Gordon Brown any harm in positioning himself for the leadership role.

The next item on Zenit reports on the Holy Father's address on receiving the letters of credence of the new ambassador of Colombia to the Holy See, Juan Gómez Martínez. (Vatican Information Service report) The Holy Father expressed concern
"[...] over laws involving such delicate questions as the transmission and defense of life, illness, the identity of the family and respect for marriage. On these themes, ... the Catholic Church will ceaselessly continue to proclaim the inalienable greatness of human dignity. It is also necessary to appeal to the sense of responsibility of lay people in legislative bodies ... to ensure that laws always reflect principles and values in keeping with natural law, and that they promote the genuine common good."
Now that would have been quite appropriate as a message to Gordon Brown as well.

Portugal abortion referendum

Prayers are needed tomorrow for Portugal as a referendum is held on abortion. Currently, abortion is only allowed up to 12 weeks in the case of rape, danger of death to the mother or if the child has what the BBC chooses to call "serious abnormalities." (And there was me thinking that we weren't supposed to allow anyone to use discriminatory language in modern Britain.)

Prime Minister Jose Socrates uses the hackneyed argument about "back street abortions." In fact, in countries where abortion is illegal or severely limited, the illegal abortions tend to be carried out by doctors earning a fast buck. The proposed legalisation of abortion up to 10 weeks simply offers the opportunity for the same doctors to make more money without the risk of prosecution.

The Portuguese Bishops will be gathering tomorrow at Fatima to pray for the defeat of the proposal to legalise abortion. Join your prayers to theirs. You could especially invoke the intercession of the Angel of Portugal who appeared to the children of Fatima. Why not offer your Holy Communion tomorrow for this intention, bearing in mind the words of the Angel at the third apparition?
Eat and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ terribly outraged by the ingratitude of men. Offer reparation for their sakes and console God.

Friday, 9 February 2007

New statue of Our Lady for Tintern Abbey

The Cistercian Abbey of Tintern in Monmouthshire was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1536 after over 400 years of monastic life. Above is a public domain photograph I found at the Wikipedia article on Tintern Abbey which shows the interior of the ruined Abbey Church.

The 13th century statue of Our Lady (left) is damaged beyond repair but the Friends of Tintern Abbey have begun a project for a new statue to recreate the original as nearly as possible. The sculptor, Philip Chatfield has been studying medieval statues in France and has also researched into the form statues of Our Lady would have taken in the late 13th century, especially bearing in mind the remnants of the medieval statue at Tintern Abbey.

There is a dedicated Our Lady of Tintern website for the project with drawings and photographs.

The Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary have asked to be associated with this undertaking. The Society has worked for many years to promote a genuine and constructive ecumenism focussed on devotion to Our Blessed Lady.

Philip Chatfield has been invited to give a lecture at the 2007 AGM of the Society which will be on 3 March 2007 at 11.30am in the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey. To join the society, email membership@esbvm.org.uk.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

"Into Great Silence" US screening dates

It is not often that we get to see a film in England before it is shown in America. We have been unusually favoured with "Into Great Silence" (Die Grosse Stille), a film showing the life of the original Carthusian Monastery La Grande Chartreuse.

It is now making its way across the pond and here is the list of US screening dates for the film.

If you are not sure what this is all about, here are my thoughts on the DVD; and here are my reactions after seeing it at the cinema.

H/T American Papist

US Navy does "Hey Ya"

This one came through from a friend in the US military by email headed "Bored Sailors = Creative Sailors (UNCLASSIFIED)" The video is a pretty good team effort. Apparently all ranks have a role in the film.

1 day of snow: Britain grinds to halt

It snowed again last night and this morning. I was out a-sweeping and a-gritting before breakfast - all good manual work for me. Our Lady of the Rosary school was open - the Headteacher is against shutting the school for relatively trivial reasons. Apparently lots of schools in Bexley were closed. ("Why?)

Paul, a regular commenter, sent me this picture of himself, children, and completed snowman. Children in southern England don't often get the chance to build a snowman. I once took some 17 year olds to the Faith Conference at Stonyhurst when it snowed oop North. They had never built a snowman before in their lives.

Date of permission for Classical Rite

Gillibrand has a funny post about the date of the indult with a pig flying over St Peter's Square. He also has the Curt Jester's Motu Proprio random date generator.

Then it dawned on me. I know the date of the universal permission to celebrate the Classical Roman Rite...

14 July 1570
(Bull Quo primum tempore of Pope St Pius V).

In fact, a Commission of Cardinals, including Cardinal Ratzinger, appointed by Pope John Paul II, unanimously agreed that Pope Paul VI never gave the bishops the authority to forbid priests from celebrating the traditional rite of Mass and that priests cannot be obliged to celebrate the new rite of Mass. The rumour of this conclusion became widespread. It was publicly confirmed in 1995 by Cardinal Stickler (a member of the commission) at the Christi Fidelis conference in Fort Lee, New Jersey. The Cardinals wished to draw up a document affirming the universal right of priests to celebrate the Classical Rite but opposition from some episcopal conferences led Pope John Paul to decide not to publish such a decree.
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