Monday, 30 April 2007

Rome rammo!

Driving from the airport today we passed the queue for the Vatican Museums. It goes right round the Aurelian Wall as far back as the Porta Sant' Anna. The queue for the security before going into St Peter's went right to the end of the colonnade and stayed that long all afternoon. All the restaurants in the Borgo Pio were full at lunchtime. Fr Charles and I sate next to some visitors from Williamsburg in Virginia. They were not Catholics but had very kind things to say about the Catholic schools and the Sisters of Mercy. Apparently the Queen is going to visit Williamsburg in May because it is the 4th centenary of its foundation and it was the first English settlement in America.

So why is Rome so full? Any special event, holiday, gathering? No, just an ordinary weekday in the Eternal City. It was never this full when I was a student here: Pope John Paul made an enormous impact and the number of visitors has increased since the election of Pope Benedict. It is wonderful to see. "The Church is alive, the Church is young!"

So what have we planned? Lunch tomorrow with Fr Paul Haffner who has been teaching here for many years. Mass and dinner at the English College on Wednesday. One or two other friends to catch up with, Gammarellis to visit, photos to take, bloggers meeting to arrange...

Fr Paul Haffner

Fr Paul Haffner has been teaching here in Rome for many years. He is tenured at the Regina Apostolorum University (Legionaries of Christ) and also gives some courses at the Gregorian University (Jesuits). Fr Haffner is a priest of the Diocese of Portsmouth but has spent nearly all his priestly life teaching in Rome. He has published some excellent books in recent years on the sacraments, mariology, creation, faith and reason, and his latest, New Testament theology.

It was good to catch up over lunch today and have fun speculating over various appointments. I must put up a post about this before I meet any friends who are working in the Curia. Those guys are reallyt keen not to give anything away so I'll have to make it clear it is merely outsider speculation.

Greetings from the Eternal City

Writing to you today from my favourite internet cafe in Rome at the top of the Borgo Pio. Fr Charles Briggs and I are spending a few days at the Domus Romana Sacerdotalis. I got caught earlier. When we arrived at Fiumicino Airport, we waited for 20 minutes watching other people's baggage going round the carousel. It dawned on Fr Charles first that the sign saying that the baggage from the BA flight from Gatwick was on carousel 5/6 might not be true. It wasn't, of course: other people had been vainly watching our baggage going round a carousel somewhere else for 20 minutes.

Benvenuti a Roma!

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Discerning a priestly vocation

The Archdiocese of Westminster's Vocations website has a collection of four good articles by Fr Stephen Wang:
  1. How do I know if God is calling me to be a Priest?
  2. What can I do to become clearer about my Vocation?
  3. Vocation: Different calls in the New Testament
  4. Things to read about Priesthood and Vocation
I saw these articles over at Fr Stephen Langridge's Southwark Vocations blog. He has recently posted a useful summary of the process that is gone through before someone is accepted to study at the Seminary (Applying for Priesthood: Timetable.)

In another post (Vocations Activities in Southwark) he explains the various activities that are undertaken in Southwark to support men (and boys) who express an interest in a priestly vocation.

Gregorian chant resources

Musica Sacra has recently announced an online (free) collection of Communion psalms. For each Sunday, the antiphon from the Graduale Romanum is given together with the psalm, as recommended in the General Instruction.

Look in the sidebar for the heading "Chant Resources". There are two editions of the Kyriale (Solesmes and Vatican), and the complete old rite Missale Romanum. The files are very clear and printable pdfs. I'll be using the site to print off copies of the Missa cum Iubilo which we are soon introducing in the parish.

The cause of Oscar Romero

Recently, along with other clergy, I received a publicity notice for the Archbishop Romero Memorial Lecture, organised by the Archbishop Romero Trust whose first aim is:
"To promote knowledge and awareness of the life and work of Archbishop Romero."
Archbishop Romero is, of course, an inspiring figure. Shot dead while celebrating Mass, he will always be remembered as a champion of the poor and perhaps one day soon he may be elevated to the altars of the Church.

Fr John Boyle has a post today (Romero and Filochowski) questioning the involvement of Julian Filochowski as a Trustee of the Romero Trust - he is listed as such on the flyer giving publicity to the Memorial Lecture.

Fr John refers to my post Civil Partnerships and the Church II. Practice in which I drew attention to the public celebration of Mr Filochowski's Civil Partnership with his long-standing partner Martin Pendergast. (In Civil Partnerships and the Church I. Theory, I referred to an article by Mgr Gordon Read looking at the canonical implications of the public act of entering a Civil Partnership.) It does seem odd that a high-profile public repudiation of the Church's teaching can be treated by the Church as if it simply did not matter. One of our Bishops is a fellow Trustee so presumably nobody thinks there is a problem.

The satisfactory completion of the Diocesan process for the canonisation of Archbishop Romero was accepted by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 1998. An investigation was undertaken by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (under Cardinal Ratzinger) and the nihil obstat was granted in March 2005. At that point the postulator speculated that he could be beatified within six months. A few weeks later, Pope John Paul died and Pope Benedict was elected.

He has since made a clear distinction between the processes of beatification and canonisation, (cf. his letter to Cardinal Martins and the Cardinal's subsequent communiqué). The principal effect of this will be the celebration of the beatification will normally be carried out by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the diocese that has promoted the cause. This has been characterised as a "tightening up" but it seems rather more like a clarifying of the process. It is unlikely that Romero's cause has been held up unduly and perhaps we will see his beatification before too long.

Benedict XVI TV

Take a look at the Benedict XVI TV site. Lots of videos of the Pope for download.

Friday, 27 April 2007

Trip to Oscott

Virgin's Pendolino took me up to Birmingham today for a flying visit to Oscott College where I was invited to give a lecture on the priesthood and Pro-Life work. I focussed particularly on the question of pro-life preaching, using some very useful material from Priests for Life as well as some of the discussions that I have had with pro-Life priests in the UK. I'm very grateful to the students for inviting me. Please pray for those who are soon to be ordained.

There was some forceful and intelligent discussion afterwards, especially concerning the relationship between pro-life preaching and social justice. This is an important topic and one which I hope to address on this blog in due course.

The chapel at Oscott is beautiful. At one time, a new "people's altar" (as the Germans would call it) was placed halfway up the nave. This has now moved back to the sanctuary so that the chapel can be seen in all its glory:

The students also showed me their wonderful statue of Our Blessed Lady:

It was great to see some of my colleagues from the English College in Rome. Fr Phil Egan is soon to be taking up a fellowhip at Boston College. Fr Harry Curtis is now the Academic Dean and Fr Mark Crisp is doing a great job as Rector of the College. It is all very hopeful for the future of the Church.

This week has been quite busy and I was glad to be able to do most of the parish newsletter on the train while travelling back down to London. Tomorrow we have a Family Day in the parish and I want to be available for that as much as possible.

ICEL and the Pill

Fr Sean Finnegan over at Valle Adurni has a remark about something that has apparently been published by the Tablet this week about the ICEL translations and us. The Pill has not made the article available online. Och well, who cares? I'm happy to take Fr Sean's comment on it until I get round to seeing the thing at Wonersh or somewhere:
Incidentally, you will find some silly exaggerations in this weekend's Tablet about the translation formerly posted here. I should clarify that at no point was I threatened in any way; a polite request was made to Fr Tim and me to remove the text, and we politely complied. End of story.
Moving on ...

Thursday, 26 April 2007

A Carthusian on St John Vianney

I have just resumed reading Trochu's "The Curé d'Ars" at breakfast. At the end of the chapter on his heroic patience and mortification, there is this moving conclusion:
If, in order to appraise the penance of M.Vianney, it is necessary to appeal to a specialist in the matter, let us hear the humble admission of a Father of the Grande-Chartreuse: "We confess, we solitaries, hermits, monks, penitents of every description, that we only dare follow the holy Curé d'Ars with wondering eyes, that we are not worthy to kiss his footprints, the dust of his shoes!"
The footnote informs us that the quotation is from a letter written September 15, 1865, to M.Toccanier by R. P. Maurice Marie Borel, monk of the Grande Chartreuse.

New "Priests in training"

Edward L, author of the blog To Jesus through Mary has just been accepted by his Bishop as a student for the seminary (he lives in Wisconsin.) His kind Bishop was very encouraging in his words, too.

There is one nice touch from his Diocese which I recommend to ours:
With this knowledge, I have been officially accepted by the Diocese, I received the seminarian shirt, with the Diocesan motto and crest and on the back it says, "Priest in Training."
Another new "Priest in training" is Matthew, author of the A Catholic Life blog. He has been accepted for the diocese of Minnesota - the one with the fantastic seminary which helped out at the protest against The Pope and the Witch at Minnesota university (See Seminary gives witness)

H/T Mulier Fortis. Why not follow her suggestion and go over to their blogs to offer congratulations?

Archbishop Ranjith interview

Fr Z reports with commentary and highlights on an interview with Archbishop Ranjith. (See his post Interview with Archbp. Ranjith on the Exhortation) The interview was given to Gerard O'Connell, the special correspondent in Rome for the Union of Catholic Asian News. (The link to the interview is at the bottom of the main page and the site does not seem to have an easy way of permalinking to the particular story so it is best to get it from Fr Z's blog.)

As Father points out, the remarks on inculturation are particularly interesting. He says that Asia is deeply mystical and conscious of the value of the Sacred. Consequently, he says that the tenor of Sacramentum Caritatis is good for Asia. He goes on to say that
People in Asia are a worshipping people, with worship forms that are centuries old and not inventions of any single individual.

Adherence to rubrics in the other religious traditions in Asia is strict. Besides, their rubrics are profoundly reflective of the special role of the Sacred. Thus, the seriousness recommended by the Supreme Pontiff is very much in consonance with Asian ways of worship.
He speaks of arbitrariness and inconsistency in attempts at inculturation. One of his examples is amusing in a way but also tragic:
I once was listening to a radio talk given by a Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka who ridiculed Christians for allowing local drum beating in their churches without knowing that those beats in fact were chants of praise for the Buddha. This could be just one instance of unstudied absorption of local traditions that are per se incompatible with what we celebrate.
To illustrate what he means by inconsistency, the Archbishop points out that receiving Holy Communion in the hand, while standing, is "far below levels of consideration given to the Sacred in Asia".

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

A letter from ICEL

I have just read an email that was sent to me yesterday by Peter Finn, the Associate Executive Director of ICEL:
ICEL2006 text of the Order of Mass
"Peter Finn" <>
Tue, 24 Apr 2007 16:27:05 -0400

"Bruce Harbert" <>, "Bishop Arthur Roche" <>

Dear Father Finigan:

It has come to our attention that the proposed translation (Gray Book) of the Order of Mass circulated in January 2006 by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy has been included on your blogspot (the-hermeneutic-of This translation has been produced without the Commission's permission and in violation of the ICEL copyright. We ask therefore that the text be removed immediately from the site.

This proposed translation has been sent to the Conferences for their canonical vote and prepared after consideration of comments from Conferences of Bishops, the Vox clara Committee, and the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments on the ICEL February 2005 draft translation (Green Book).

The Bishops of the Commission are concerned that these texts not be released to the general public until the requisite votes have been taken and after the preparation of any additional revisions that may follow upon their vote and the recognitio issued by the Congregation to the Conferences. The Bishops of the Commission are especially concerned that these texts be introduced with sufficient catechetical materials intended to aid the reception of the new translation.

In light of these and other concerns, we ask for your kind cooperation in this matter and look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Finn
Associate Executive Director
International Commission on English in the Liturgy
1522 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005-1202
Phone: 202-347-0800
FAX: 202-347-1839
I have replied as follows:
Dear Mr Finn

Thank you for your email of yesterday evening (“ICEL2006 text of the Order of Mass”) which I have just read.

I obtained the text of the “Gray Book” draft of the new ICEL translation from the internet and I understand that it is widely available in South Africa. However, I note that ICEL wish to insist that my mirroring of this text is a violation of their copyright and I have removed the translation from my blog.

I am, of course aware that the text which I published is not the final version and I hope that I made this sufficiently clear. Several readers have made intelligent comments on my blog and elsewhere on the internet regarding the translation and I wish that ICEL were able to see the value of involving a wider group of people in consultation. The internet used with discernment is a most effective medium for obtaining fruitful discussion and it seems a pity that the process of producing a translation should exclude the many faithful English-speaking Catholics across the globe who would be glad to contribute their time and expertise free of charge in order to help in establishing the best translation possible for the texts of the Mass.

You say that the Bishops are “especially concerned” that the texts should not be introduced without sufficient catechetical materials that would aid the reception of the new translations. As a priest who has worked in parishes for 21 years, I find it difficult to understand this concern. The existing translations which Catholics are obliged to use every day present such severe shortcomings that they are in themselves a significant barrier to effective catechesis. I cannot see that any harm could come from publishing the draft texts. They have been a great encouragement to many faithful Catholics who have endured inaccurate, theologically impoverished translations of the texts of the Sacred Liturgy for over 30 years. Most Catholics will be immediately delighted with the new translation and amazed that the full richness of the texts of the Mass has been hidden from them for so long.

On the matter of copyright, I know that many good priests and lay people share my concern that the enforcement of copyright by ICEL over the past decades has not served the Church well. The restriction of publishing rights to one or two publishers has given rise to a monopoly with the result that only poorly produced books are available for priests to use in their parishes. The most recent Missal that I purchased for my parish needed to be reinforced with tape after only six weeks of use. The “deluxe” leather-bound “Book of the Chair” fell apart at the seams after a year or so of normal use.

There are many Catholics who would be willing to finance the production of good quality, beautifully produced Missals were it only possible to do so without falling foul of copyright restrictions. When the final text is given recognitio by the Congregation for Divine Worship, I sincerely hope that it will be made freely available on the internet in order that faithful Catholics can foster the production of worthy and dignified books for use in the Sacred Liturgy without unnecessary obstacles being placed in their way. Copyright for ecclesiastical texts is properly used if it prevents profiteering or the production of inaccurate copies. It is an abuse, surely, if it prevents good Catholics from providing excellent materials for our Liturgy.

Yours sincerely in Christ

Fr Timothy Finigan

Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship
Vox Clara
I have sent off the one to the CDW - does anyone have a postal address for Vox Clara or, failing that, an email address for Cardinal Pell?

Your comments on this post are, of course, welcome. (May I take this opportunity to remind readers of my advice on putting links in the combox.)

UPDATE - I have received a further message from Peter Finn in reply. Although it would not be sensible, I think, to continue posting our correspondence on this blog, I think it is important to say that his reply is a courteous and respectful response to the points that I raised. There are some issues which I would like to write about on this blog in due course.

Into Great Silence English DVD release

Luke Gormally kindly let us know that a 2 DVD set (with extras) of the English subtitled film "Into Great Silence" is due for release. It is available for pre-order on Amazon which gives the release date as 14 May. Just ordered mine!

St Cecilia's Abbey Church centenary

This year, St Cecilia's Abbey, Ryde, celebrates the centenary of the Consecration of the Abbey Church on 12 October 2007 by Bishop Cahill. Expelled from France in the persecutions at the turn of the century, the sisters took refuge on the Isle of Wight and soon settled there for good.

They were originally at Solesmes and the community still cherish their link with the great Gueranger. The Abbey is thriving: the "Chronicle" records a 50th and a 70th jubilee as well as a forthcoming perpetual profession. I say Mass there about once a year on a visit to the Island and stay afterwards to talk to one of the sisters who was a contemporary at Oxford. She was professed in the same year that I was ordained to the priesthood.

The sisters chant Mass every day and all the office in Latin according to the Novus Ordo. As I mentioned before (Mass at St Cecilia's), celebrating Mass there is daunting because their singing is so perfect, but immensely uplifting because of the full choir with postulants, novices, simply professed and perpetually professed all gathered around with Mother Abbess at the centre.

In addition to short pieces of interest particularly to friends of the community, the "Chronicle" always features several articles on patristic or liturgical subjects which show a depth of scholarship combined with a solid spiritual life nourished by the liturgy of the Church.

The image above is my own photo of the interior of the Abbey Church. On the back cover of the Eastertide 2007 "Chronicle" there is this wonderful photo of the workmen on the scaffolding just after the Church had been completed:

Welcome to "Spirit Daily" readers

I have been rather occupied with moderating essays, the Deanery meeting and other tasks over the past couple of days so blogging has not exactly been intensive. I took a look at the site meter just now expecting it to be down a bit

To my surprise, there is an enormous hit spike for Sunday and Monday. Checking further, I see that there have been loads of visitors from Spirit Daily. Having missed this, I had to look in their archives to see what they had publicised. They linked to the post Preparing for Lourdes with the photos.

So welcome to you if you have come here from Spirit Daily. Hope you like the blog.

Priestly vocations up

Zenit reports on an increase in vocations in England and Wales in the article U.K. Vocations Appear to Be on the Rise. The number of those entering the seminary has risen from 28 in 2003 to 44 this year.

Father Paul Embery, director of the National Office for Vocations, is quoted as saying
"After several decades of decline in the number of those training for the priesthood, we have seen four consecutive years of growth, which is good news; however we have no guarantee that this growth will continue,"
Now wait a minute! We have had documents for years now predicting that we'll have to close parishes because the Church will run out of priests by 2020 or whenever.

Let's do the same sort of meaningless linear prediction. The rise from 2003 to 2006 is a 57% rise so we'll assume naively that things carry on in the same way over the next five three-year periods. By 2021 we will have 419 seminarians wanting to enter the seminary. So instead of closing Churches, we should be building new seminaries!

Of course I don't believe that the statistics "show" this. But I am skeptical about the predictions of disaster. Growth of a quarter of that rate would be very healthy indeed.

(By the way, someone needs to explain to Zenit that England and Wales is not "The UK".)

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Blogger awards - moving up

I mentioned before the Bloggers Choice Awards for best religious blog. Fr Stephanos alerted me that I was catching up on the atheist blog. I see that I have now passed him together with the New Liturgical Movement - we are in joint 6th place this evening.

More votes for the Catholic blogs would be good to knock the atheist blog further down the rankings - you can vote for several Catholic blogs at the same time. You have to register but it is free and quite simple. Take a look at the Atheist Blog if you need convincing - it's not just a discussion of the existence of God but vehemently opposed to pro-life and pro-family initiatives in the public square - some of it is very nasty stuff.

Original thoughts on sacrifice

Michael McGuckian's The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is quite a short book at 137 pages but the length is deceptive: there is a great deal of high quality discussion and many insights into the theology of sacrifice that had me checking references and re-reading sections.

I will not attempt to summarise his thesis: he does that very well himself and if I were to attempt to condense it further, I would have to spend a lot of time correcting misunderstandings resulting from my omission of crucial details that he explains carefully in his book. I may write a review of this book for Faith Magazine but in the meantime, I would suggest that any serious student of theology would benefit from reading the book.

In the course of his argument, he gives a valuable account of the debate at the Council of Trent, a controversial analysis of the offertory of the Mass, and a brilliant proposal for understanding how the Mass is a sacrifice.

Do I agree with him? I'm not sure - but I will certainly be incorporating some of his observations and insights into my sacramental theology notes. His theory certainly deserves to be considered alongside De La Taille and Vonier.

Sunday, 22 April 2007


Just rememnbered it was the London Marathon today. My window cleaner, Stevie, came to the evening Mass last night because he was running today. There are usually several priests running - anyone know of any who were in it this year?

Apparently, one problem with the London one is that it starts too late. Several other cities start theirs at 6am so you can be finished mid-morning if you are actually running. The London one starts at 9am so you get to the last bit in the heat of the day. And today it was up in the low 20s. Liz McColgan apparently "took it easy" today because of the heat - she still ran the distance in 2 hours 50 minutes!

Another Lourdes Pligrimage

Jackie (Catholic mom of 10) has details of a Pilgrimage/Holiday to Lourdes 2007 at the end of August. It was particularly set up to take sick, disabled & deprived children to Lourdes but all are welcome anyway. They also need donations if you have some spare cash.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Preparing for Lourdes

We had our meeting this evening to prepare for the parish Pilgrimage to Lourdes at the end of May. I showed some pictures to illustrate the talk. You might appreciate some of them.

Through the trees, a view of the Immaculate Conception Basilica:

The river Gave and he complex of Churches:

The crown at the top of the Rosary Basilica:

Towards the end of the torchlight procession:

A view of the grotto where Our Lady appeared to St Bernadette:

One of my favourite images in Lourdes: in the Rosary Basilica, a mosaic of a young Mary with the legend "Par Marie a Jesus" - "Through Mary to Jesus"

I can't wait to be there again!

Friday, 20 April 2007

Catholic Herald on ICEL leak

The Catholic Herald this weekend runs a banner front page headline: Widespread praise for 'dignified and joyful' new Mass translation The article reports on the leaking of the new ICEL translation by Fr Sean Finnegan (Valle Adurni). One passage that jumped out was:
Martin Foster, assistant secretary to the Department of Christian Life and Worship of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, described the text’s release into the public domain as “unfortunate”. “It does not allow bishops to make their decisions in the best atmosphere,” he said.
What "atmosphere" is that, then? An atmosphere of immunity from criticism, freedom from scrutiny, insulation from the many learned Catholics who would be glad to give their time free of charge to see the best translation possible?

Depressingly, an official from the Congregation for Divine Worship predicted that the text of the entire Missal might be ready by early 2009. The article continues:
The release of the text is likely to upset the bishops of England and Wales, who may prefer to introduce the new translation only when the entire Roman Missal has been approved.
What we need then is something from Vox Clara or the CDW authorising the use of the texts of the Ordinary in the meantime - even without the new people's responses if anyone really thinks that is such a big problem. Lord knows! I remember the 70s when there was a new leaflet on the altar every other week. We're not asking for that. Can we not just use a decent translation of the text of the Roman Canon which has been denied to the People of God for thirty years?

John Allen on the Motu Proprio

After reading Amy Wellborn's post Motu Mania cont'd, I was going to bash out a light-hearted post about John Allen being caught in the undertow and carried off to Motumanialand.

However, reading his post Hold your breath for the next media frenzy: The Latin Mass document is coming I saw that he made some serious points and thought it would be a good idea to respond in kind.

The important nugget that Allen has found is a letter from Cardinal Kasper, responding to concerns raised by the International Council of Christians and Jews (see Impact on Interreligious Relations of the Potential Wider Use of the Latin 1962 Catholic Missal.) The Council said
"The theology and spirituality of the Missa Tridentina, in particular regarding the doctrine of the Church, also contradicts much that was theological [sic] central to the Second Vatican Council."
In his letter, the Cardinal said:
"While I do not know what the pope intends to state in his final text, it is clear that the decision that has been made cannot now be changed."
Cardinal Kasper's admission further confirms the existence of the Motu Proprio and, perhaps, its imminent release: although on that question, I do not think Allen is necessarily any better informed than the rest of us.

Allen goes on to make some whimsical remarks about the "frenzy" in the blogosphere. He mentions the top-ten signs of being in the grip of motu-mania, quoting one of the Curt Jester's list. Jeff is amused at being described as a wag and has some fun with that (Wag the blog).

Further on, though, Allen suggests that the Motu Proprio will not have the impact that many bloggers expect. He says
"For one thing, more than 40 years after the council, many priests are unfamiliar with the pre-Vatican II rite and may not rush to celebrate it even if authorized to do so -- if not for theological reasons, simply because they're already stretched too thin."
He then says that the Bishops, pastors and liturgical experts that he has polled all believe that the normal experience of most Catholics will continue to be the "post-Vatican II Mass in the vernacular language."

The important point here is that the Bishops, pastors and liturgical experts are generally from the generation that grew up with Vatican II or its immediate aftermath, the euphoria of change and "openness" and a steely opposition to the incomprehensible traditionalists who inexplicably wanted to retain the old Mass.

The situation has changed dramatically during the past ten years. Allen would do well to poll the current seminarians at the North American College and young clergy who have been ordained in the past ten years, as well as those laity who have kept their Catholic faith and got married in recent years, determined to live in fidelity to the Church's magisterium. He would find a very different picture.

By no means all of this group would be enthusiastic about the Classical Roman Rite (though a surprising proportion would be) but few would be found who regarded it in such a negative light as those of a previous generation. They might say "It's not my thing" or "It won't solve our problems" but they would much less likely to say "It's going back" or "It's against Vatican II."

Regarding the experience in the average parish, I think that the impact will be to shift the "centre of gravity" in the liturgy. (I have posted before on the question of "How would the Old Mass help?" - see post I, post II and post III.) The very fact of permitting the Classical Roman Rite would call into question some of the dogma that has dominated liturgical committees during the past 30 years.

Allen later says:
Further, the motu proprio is unlikely to do much, at least in the short term, to end the break between Rome and the followers of the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.
Whether the break will be ended in the short term or not, Cardinal Ratzinger among others recognised that the liberalisation of the Classical Rite was a sine qua non for the ending of the break. The Motu Proprio will at least give the signal that this demand was justified: Ratzinger himself commented on the unprecedented "abolition" of an ancient rite.

Allen's article is helpful in highlighting one of key questions raised by the Motu Proprio. If the Bishops, pastors and liturgical experts are right, everyone can carry on much as they have for decades. In this case, the more important questions will be those such as have been raised by the International Council of Christians and Jews over particular texts. If they are wrong and out of touch, however, the Motu Proprio will be an important step towards the goal of the recovery of the sacred in the liturgy (old rite or new rite) that has not been achieved by numerous documents condemning abuses; documents that have been largely ignored.

See also posts from:
New Liturgical Movement:
What does the prayer really say?


The Cristeros Rebellion took place in Mexico between 1926 and 1929 in response to increasing persecution of the Church by the government of Plutarco Elias Calles. You can read more about it at the Wikipedia article Cristero War.

I came across this fascinating video via Hallowed Ground. It includes interviews with those who were involved at the time.

The video highlights some of the many atrocities of the Government forces and the execution of innocent civilians. I am aware also of the conduct of the Cristeros in some instances, for example the burning of a train carrying civilians. However, there are some inspiring stories of the genuine martyrs of this period, including Fr Miguel Pro (left)and the 14 year old Jose Sanchez del Rio.

Pre-order Pope Benedict's new book

You can pre-order Pope Benedict's new book "Jesus of Nazareth" from Amazon UK. It is scheduled for release on 15 May in English.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Pope wears precious mitre

At the Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday, the Holy Father wore a precious mitre. Orbis Catholicus suggests that this was last seen on a Pope in 1978.

I know that some people get a bit shirty when I post anything about liturgical garb. So let me repeat: I am not concerned exclusively with liturgical garb neither will I be intimidated because some people think it is a bit, well, precious.

It is a good thing that the Holy Father is using liturgical items that only a few years ago would have been considered "abolished" by Vatican II. This ties in well with the title of the blog emphasising that we should retain continuity with the past. A priest friend once suggested to me that I should propose a motion at the National Conference of Priests stating "Conference affirms that the maniple was not abolished by Vatican II, only made no longer compulsory." When I mentioned this to Bishop Charles Henderson over dinner, he nodded vigorously and said "Yes, he's right." To my shame I did not introduce the motion. But I do wear a maniple every day for Mass now.

Visit to South Ashford

St Simon Stock parish is the smaller of the two parishes in Ashford and home to Fr John Boyle, South Ashford Priest. I was there this evening to give a talk about Pope Benedict, Truth and Tolerance. (Sorry - it was from notes so no copy available to put online.)

I focussed especially on the question of truth and reason in religion, drawing from the book Truth and Tolerance and the Regensburg lecture. But I also made sure to speak about the hermeneutic of continuity and the Holy Father's teaching about the liturgy. That also is a question of truth and tolerance.

Using Powerpoint for a talk like this is fun because it gave me the chance to share some of the photos of the Holy Father that I have collected from the internet.

The Flying Padre

Great video - H/T Fr Stephanos

Pope Benedict vs Manchester United

This week, the Vatican published statistics for the attendance of the faithful at audiences, the Angelus, and liturgical celebrations during the past year. 3,368,220 people participated in one or other of these events during the past year.

Comparing this to the gate for football matches in the UK, the Pope has had far more people attending events than any of our Premiership teams. However, a better comparison might be to take the average "gate". Dividing 3,368,220 by 52 gives an average weekly attendance of 64,773. This is higher than any Premiership team except Manchester United which averaged 68,674 in the 2005-2006 season.

Life Week

There is a "Life Week" in central London next week at Guy's Campus, Kings College. The event is supported by both SPUC and Life who will be providing speakers. Details as follows:

Monday, April 23, 2007 at 9:00am to Friday, April 27, 2007 at 5:00pm
At Guy's Campus, King's College London.
Talks and stalls are in New Hunt's House (NHH).

Contact Info: Phone 07886 924 671, email​k

There will be a talk on an important matter, which medics face at 5pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and a stall is available all day for people to come and ask questions and pick up leaflets, which are free. EVERYONE IS WELCOME.

Talks 5pm, NHH:
Mon: G4 (class 1) Abortion.
Tue: G8 (class 3) Euthanasia.
Thur: G3 (class 2) Contraception.
Fri: G4 (class 1) Embryo Research.

General Map
Detailed map

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Which Pope are you?

Try the quiz and see which 20th century Pope you are. I am Pope John Paul II. Rats! I wanted to be Pope Benedict :-)

Which Twentieth Century Pope Are You?

You are Pope John Paul II. You are a force to be reckoned with.
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

¼ million hits

I was ready to look at site meter today because I knew that the ¼ million hit mark would be passed (i.e. page views, not visitors which is the real blogging statistic.)

When I did, I saw that it was way over because there were hundreds of hits via Amy Wellborn's Open Book - she linked to my post Abortion? Not over dinner, please.

St Anicetus Mass - gospel

My camera was set up on the tripod and focussed onto the altar in order to get the best lighting. Jonathan saw to it that the Gospel Procession went outside the sanctuary (to preach the Gospel to the barbarians of the North) so that got missed from my photos. However, Mac got a couple of photos on her mobile phone. (See her blog Mulier Fortis for others.)

Bloggers Choice Awards

In an attempt to be humble, I generally don't mention award sites. However, this one is worth our making our voice heard. In the Bloggers Choice Awards, religion category, there is an atheist blog competing for "Best Religion Blog". So that's got to be stopped.

I've got 60 votes as of today - equal to Cardinal O'Malley but way below the real leaders of the Catholic blogosphere, Cafeteria is Closed, Jimmy Akin and Amy Wellborn's Open Book.

You have to register (free) to vote but I think it is worth the time. You can vote for this blog to push it above the atheist one, or you can vote for one of the biggies to give them even more of a lead. I don't mind which.

Opus Dei FAQ

Thanks to Sharon in the combox for this link to Matt's Opus Dei FAQ. It is very sensible and answers questions that people genuinely ask about The Work.

High Mass slideshow

Before the Mass yesterday, I set up my camera on a tripod in the Church. Mac was deputed to click the cable release during the Mass. I put some of the pictures together with Windows Movie Maker and added Bach's 1st Brandenburg concerto as theme music. This was chosen to emphasise our theme of Baroque Ressourcement. I clipped the file size down to 10Mb so the picture quality is for viewing in the standard small box rather than full screen. Enjoy!

UPDATE - new version with the typos corrected. I uploaded the full version as it in fact only goes to 16.4Mb. Pictures slightly better but not great quality. It doesn't look too bad in full screen.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Mass of St Anicetus

Yesterday at Blackfen we celebrated the feast of St Anicetus with a solemn High Mass. First of all we did a little version of "Metamorphose d'un Autel"

St Anicetus was a Pope who was martyred in 161. He and St Polycarp disagreed over the date on which to celebrate Easter. However, St Anicetus allowed St Polycarp to continue celebrating Easter on 14 Nisan because it was a tradition in the Church of Smyrna.

The MC for the Mass was Jonathan Hague who marshalled clergy and servers with unobtrusive confidence. The singing was unaccompanied Gregorian Chant. Afterwards, Trisha & Pip served the clergy an excellent lunch.

I had acquired a number of linen albs and cottas. The local laundry washed and pressed them and I was able to offer them to the priests who came to the Mass, so after lunch there was a session of alb-fitting.

Fr Chris Basden of St Bede's, Clapham Park came to the Mass. At his parish, Mass is offered every day in both the classical Roman rite and the Novus Ordo.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Abortion? Not at dinner, please.

Today's Independent carries and article Abortion crisis as doctors refuse to perform surgery. Apparently there is a crisis in providing abortions because more doctors are conscientiously objecting to killing babies.

We are told that
A key factor is what specialists call "the dinner party test". Gynaecologists who specialise in fertility treatment creating babies for childless couples are almost universally revered - but no one boasts of being an abortionist.
I'd like to know how you qualify as a "specialist" in anecdotal evidence like this. Be that as it may, there is obviously some way to go in raising consciousness about the destruction of embryos. Nevertheless it is a cause for seeing a tinge of grey in an otherwise black moral cloud over our country if at least abortionists can't actually boast about their work over the rocket and shaved parmesan.

One result is that since 1997, the proportion of abortions carried out in the private or charitable sector has gone up from 20% to 40%. That would be under the new Charities Act which questions whether religious charities offer a public benefit. (See Charities Act and Secularist Agenda.)

A follow-up feature contrasts Britain and the USA. The article Issue that goes to the heart of our differences with America talks about the fault line in American society between freedom and authority but rightly points out the importance of religion:
Many British people probably have no concept of just how religious American society is, and how distinct that makes Americans from us. We speak the same language, eat the same food, take part in the same wars; but on Sundays, we do things differently. According to Gallup, 98 per cent of Americans believe in God, and 73 per cent believe in life after death (compared to 38 per cent in Britain); even more strikingly, 40 per cent are regular churchgoers. Every Sunday, 120 million Americans make the effort to worship in Christian churches, the wealthy, the middle-class, the poor.
Expect further efforts to erode the right of conscientious objection for doctors and further efforts to discredit, vilify and undermine the Christian Churches in Britain.

One important lesson from the Independent article is that we are more likely to change the terrible situation of abortion provision in Britain by changing hearts and minds than by changing the law. Also, of course, by providing positive alternatives for women in crisis pregnancies - I make no apology for once again drawing your attention to the Sisters of the Gospel of Life and the Good Counsel Network. They need funds for their work. It's Eastertide: spread they joy of the risen Lord!

Vive Jesus! blog

Ali ("Roman Catholic Mexican") has just started a blog called Vive Jesus! which is dedicated to the spirituality of St Francis de Sales - one of my favourite spiritual writers.

Escriva - links

Thanks to two commenters for these:

Sam Schmitt pointed to the website with the writings of St Josemaria.

Steven McEvoy (of McEvoy's musings) drew attention to R. B. Media which has CDs and mp3 files of some of St Josemaria's writings.

Online Petition about Holydays

A correspondent emailed me today about an online petition to restore the Holydays. The link takes you to the text of the covering letter and you can sign it from there.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

St Josemaria on politics

Friends of God is a collection of homilies by St Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei. He is a particular favourite of mine ever since I read the classic The Way when I was a teenager. The other day, I came across this passage which is striking when you recall how much St Josemaria is criticised for being involved in politics:
I have never asked anyone who has come to me, about his politics. I am just not interested! My attitude here demonstrates a fundamental fact about Opus Dei, to which by the grace and mercy of God, I have dedicated myself completely, in order to serve our holy Church. I am not interested in the subject because, as Christians, you enjoy the fullest freedom, with the consequent personal responsibility, to take part as you see fit in political, social or cultural affairs, with no restrictions other than those set by the Church's Magisterium.
(The phrase "restrictions set by the Church's magisterium" refers particularly to the social teaching of the Catholic Church.)

Friends of God was one book I got at the CTS - it is available on Amazon UK but the wait is 4-6 weeks. The Way is sold by Amazon and currently in stock.

CTS Bookshop

Westminster Cathedral is a popular haunt of Catholics in and around London. It is a good place to meet (several places to eat nearby) and, being near Victoria Station, it is easy to make a detour there when visiting London.

There are two bookshops accessible from the Piazza in front of the Cathedral: St Pauls Bookshop and the CTS. St Pauls occupies a cavernous area below ground and has plenty of space to walk around the bookshelves and browse.

The CTS has far less shelf space and is quite poky. It is the kind of shop where you have to negotiate past people and there is little elbow room.

Despite the different sizes of the shops, I find that I can spend an hour browsing St Pauls and come out empty-handed whereas in the CTS I have to get out after five or ten minutes in order not to have bought too many books to carry home comfortably on the train. I rarely seem to visit there without coming out with at least three books and making mental notes to look up others on Amazon later.

I don't mean to be unkind to St Pauls - I don't normally buy books in shops nowadays in any case. But somehow the constantly updated stock at the CTS proves irresistible - they have the kind of books that I buy just in case they prove unobtainable on the internet.

A friend of a friend said...

Just to keep all of us motumaniacs happy, the Lord in his providence arranged for me to receive an email from a priest friend today.

He has a lawyer friend who knows a lawyer in New York who was recently speaking to a famous person (I won't put the name in case this is all complete tosh.) She said that she had a private audience with the Pope who told her that the Motu Proprio was definitely coming out in May.

I'll laugh if this turns out to be the true rumour!

Saturday, 14 April 2007

OFSTED - turning the screw

As I have said before, OFSTED is the enforcement agency for Government policy, especially in the area of social engineering. For non-Brits, the acronym stands for "Office for Standards in Education". Introduced under John Major, following the educational reforms of Margaret Thatcher, the original idea was to provide an objective measure of school standards that was publicly available to parents and other interested parties.

The fatal flaw in the system is that OFSTED is not independent of Government. It acts to implement the policy of the DfES (Department for Education and Science). A policy that is introduced can be made part of the focus of a school inspection. The results of the inspection are published on the internet and therefore routinely blown up in the local newspapers. Therefore if a school decides to go against the policy of the DfES, it risks being classed as "requires significant improvement" or "requires special measures". These are the worst judgements that can be made but a school can still suffer greatly even if areas of its provision are judged to be "adequate" rather than "good". A good OFSTED report is essential if a school is to recruit pupils actively. Areas judged to be "inadequate" or merely "adequate" can be highlighted by anyone with an axe to grind.

In a disturbing but entirely predictable development, OFSTED has now begun to turn the screw on the provision of Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE). A recent report entitled Time for change? Personal, social and health education has some disturbing indications amid the soporific language of bureaucratic policy.

We find a determined opposition to any deviation from the "informed choices" (=values clarification) and "safe sex" (=wear a condom) message:
Just as with drugs, young people need to be equipped to make informed choices about relationships and to be able to resist pressures to have sex, but a minority response to Ofsted’s last report on SRE was a call to consider introducing ‘abstinence-only’ programmes as the only option for unmarried people of any age. There is no evidence, however, that ‘abstinence only’ education reduces teenage pregnancy or improves sexual health. There is also no evidence to support claims that teaching about contraception leads to increased sexual activity. Research suggests that education and strategies that promote abstinence but withhold information about contraception can place young people at a higher risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). (n.14)
Were OFSTED to put this on Wikipedia, the "research suggests" phrase would be flagged up immediately as an unsupported assertion. A quick search on the internet would show anyone who was interested that there is considerable debate on the findings of various research projects into abstinence education and condom promotion. To use OFSTED-speak, the "outcomes" of sex education in Britain have not exactly been encouraging. We have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe and a the incidence of STIs is spiralling out of control. (See England stats on STIs)

As for there being "no evidence" that abstinence education works, try this from Georgia, or this from the US Department of Health and Human Services or this from the UK Family Education Trust. For a discussion of the statistics, see from the George Mason University - or indeed, have a browse around and see for yourself how breathtakingly partisan the purportedly independent OFSTED is.

The school nurse is an important figure in implementing OFSTED's concern for the "sexual health" of the nation's children:
Along with the PSHE coordinator, school nurses can arrange visits from their colleagues in the community and work with them to promote health and improve young people’s access to health services.(n.19)
We are left in no doubt about what is considered as promoting "health":
School nurses can also provide a valuable service, particularly in terms of providing emergency hormonal contraception and advising on other forms of contraception. Progress towards establishing such centres has been modest, but many extended schools are now providing a good range of services.
Notice how they are careful to avoid mentioning abortion. In fact, part of the overall provision of "sexual health" in this situation is to make sure that young girls can have an abortion secretly without their parents being informed.

But then, parents are stupid. We know that, because "Young people report that many parents and teachers are not very good at talking to them about sensitive issues, such as sexuality." Never fear: help is at hand... from teenage magazines:
...the ‘problem pages’ in magazines remain a very positive source of advice and reassurance for many young people
... always provided you can keep the stupid parents out of the way:
As well as failing to provide the information themselves, some parents express concern about the suitability of information that young people receive from other sources, such as magazines, even when these could be useful. For example, the increase in the number of magazines aimed at young men, while at times reinforcing sexist attitudes, has helped to redress the balance of advice available to young people. (n.21)
The Daily Telegraph (Ofsted praises teen mags for teaching sex) has a useful summary of some of the magazines OFSTED is talking about.

The sort of thing about which the stupid parents might express their concern would perhaps be the Cosmo Girl's "step by step guide to getting a condom on your boyfriend's penis."

Notice how OFSTED is rather torn between the sex-ed imperative and political correctness when it comes to the lad mags. Perhaps they are thinking of the "Nuts" magazine offer of "real girls stripping to their undies" or Zoo magazine's "sexiest new girls this nation has to offer".

It is good that the Telegraph has headlined the most outrageous recommendation of this Government enforcement agency but I believe that the underlying message is more sinister. The paper is entitled "Time for change?" The message is clear: schools will have to put this kind of sex education in place if they are to get good marks for their response to the "Every Child Matters" agenda. Having defined what "sexual health" is, schools are open to public shame if they fail to comply in providing it. Nobody will put this in terms of the school's failing to teach children how to put on a condom, or slacking on the provision of secret abortions for teeenage girls: it will just be said that the school has failed to help its pupils stay "healthy" and "safe."

ICEL lecture

Fumare has an interesting post about a lecture given by Archbishop Coleridge of Canberra (Benedict’s first Australian appointment) and Monsignor Bruce Harbert, Executive Director of the ICEL Secretariat.

See The Next Great Threshold of the Liturgical Renewal.

Friday, 13 April 2007

New ICEL - first reactions

Only this morning at Mass, while I was speaking the words of the Roman Canon in the current English translation, I was feeling sad that the people were deprived of the richness of the prayer. I know it by heart in Latin: it is a burden to be constantly aware of the poverty of the English rendering. Seeing the new translation is therefore a great joy to me and I look forward eagerly to introducing it in the parish. I presume that we will not be kept longer than the first Sunday of Advent.

In some places, it is worse than just poverty of translation: whole phrases are missed out. For example, the words "sanctum sacrificium, immaculatam hostiam" at the end of the the "Supra quae" are currently missing. Here are the texts for comparison:
Latin text
Supra quae propitio ac sereno vultu respicere digneris; et accepta habere, sicuti accepta habere dignatus es munera pueri tui justi Abel, et sacrificium patriarchae nostri Abrahae, et quod tibi obtulit summus sacerdos tuus Melchisedech, sanctum sacrificium, immaculatam hostiam.

Look with favor on these offerings and accept them as once you accepted the gifts of your servant Abel, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, and the bread and wine offered by your priest Melchizedek.

Be pleased to look upon them, with a serene and kindly gaze, and to accept them as you were pleased to accept the gifts of your just servant Abel, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, and the offering of your high priest Melchizedek, a holy sacrifice, a spotless victim.
The new text of this prayer brings to mind another important point. Some people made fun of the text because you might think of "serene and kindly gays" (snigger snigger). Actually, I don't think it will occur to the average Catholic to think about homosexuals at this point - only those who are particularly preoccupied with the matter. A similar lame argument was made in the seventies against translating the "Beati qui ad cenam agni vocati sunt" as "Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the lamb." People would think of lamb suppers, you see, hahaha. The new ICEL has shown how it ought to have been translated if that was really the problem (it wasn't): "Blessed are those called to the banquet of the Lamb."

There is one example of poverty in the old ICEL which I have quoted before. I always found it a useful illustration when anyone tried to say that the translation wasn't really that bad. Here are the texts for comparison:
Latin text
accipens et hunc praeclarum calicem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas

he took the cup

he took this precious chalice into his holy and venerable hands,
Doubtless there will be quibbles about some of the details. For example, I am not convinced that "Orate fratres ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium..." has to be translated "Pray, brothers and sisters, that the sacrifice which is mine and yours ..." rather than "Pray... that my sacrifice and yours..." Nevertheless it can be so translated without any question of inaccuracy or of theological fault. Fr McGuckian's excellent book "The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass" demonstrates that the question of exactly how the Mass is a sacrifice was controversial at the Council of Trent and has remained so ever since.

Text of the new ICEL translation

The text of the new ICEL translation of the Ordinary of the Mass, courtesy of Fr Sean Finnegan and friends. I will get working on producing some nicer versions in Word and pdf unless someone else can do that little job and let me know in the combox.

UPDATE Fr Sean has sent me a rough and ready pdf which you can download [Ed: link removed.]

(Please note that this is not from an official source, and is not the final text, and there may still be quibbles about a word here or there.)

[text removed at the request of ICEL]
See the post "Letter from ICEL" for explanation.

A translation at last!

Fr Sean Finnegan at Valle Adurni has scooped us all by posting a copy of the new ICEL translation of the Mass on his blog. Apparently it is widely available in South Africa and some places have already begun using it. Expect it to be approved for use on the first Sunday of Advent.

I think it is important to mirror this text widely in the best interests of the People of God so my next post will copy the text.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Grande Chartreuse in 1964

A five minute clip showing the Grande Charteuse in 1964. Most of the film shows a monk in cell. The opening sequence gives a better sense of the dramatic scenery around the Monastery than is given in "Die Grosse Stille."

H/T New Liturgical Movement. They linked to the video at EJVideo-place Catholic which is well worth a visit and is no on the blogroll.

The necessity of prayer

Earlier, I was reading St Alphonsus' treatise "On Prayer". He speaks of the necessity of prayer. That sounds obvious enough: we all know that it is essential to pray if we are to lead a devout life.

But St Alphonsus is saying something more specific about petitionary prayer, and, as often, his teaching is life-changing.
It is true, says St Augustine, that man, because of his weakness, is unable to fulfil some of God's commands with his present strength and the ordinary grace given to all men. But he can easily, by prayer, obtain such further aid aas he requires for his salvation: "God commands not impossibilities; but by commanding he suggests to you to do what you can, to ask for what is beyond your strength; and he helps you, that you may be able."
Then, just as you are puzzling over whether this is theologially sound, Alphonsus puts you in your place by pointing out that
This is a celebrated text, which was afterwards adopted and made a doctrine of faith by the Council of Trent.
Earlier the saint quoted a text of Gennadius to sum up his teaching on the necessity of prayer:
We believe that no one approaches to be saved except at the invitation of God; that no one who is invited works out his own salvation except by the help of God; that no one merits this help unless he prays.
This teaching provides a perfect balance between our utter dependence on God and the absolute necessity of our co-operation.

Drivers and settings

Well its all gone a little happier this morning. After Mass, the wireless modem & router obviously thought a little about its behaviour and with some tweaking agreed to connect to the internet.

That gave me the opportunity to download drivers from the aforesaid global network to replace the ones supplied, precious few of which work with Vista. Mouse and keyboard are now working happily apart from the verticall scroll. So at least I can quick scroll those designer CSS websites that go off the screen sideways for 100 yards.

More happily, I got all my settings transferred to newly-downloaded versions of Firefox and Thunderbird so I can open your blogs in tabs and read the email that I should have replied to days ago. Next joyful task is to install Office Pro and see whether all my databases work for the Mass intentions, forthcoming weddings, contacts and correspondence etc.

Then there is still the mobile device. Vista has a whole new bit in it called "Sync Centre." Boy does that sound ominous! After all this, I think I'll get one of these T-shirts:

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Metamorphosis of an altar

To makeup for my inability to post today, here is one of the most entertaining videos I have seen for a long time. There are so many good ideas here...

Watch it to the end to see the "before" and "after" stills.

H/T New Liturgical Movement

New computer - aaaargh!

It really was time I got a new laptop. But this was something I was dreading. And even worse I was just in time to get Windows Vista - as with all things Windows, this is the mug-punters' beta version. My dread was well founded. The brand new (Microsoft) wireless laser keyboard and mouse wouldn't even install with it. I had to use the old computer to connect to the internet for updated drivers. The wireless networking modem didn't work so I installed the old modem with a relatively recent driver which gave a repeated "blue screen of death" until I uninstalled it. And so on and so on per omnia saecula saeculorum. So much valuable time wasted.

And it was only after a few hours of this that I remembered to offer it up. How many years could I have got off purgatory if I had remembered earlier! I can make up for that when I try again to set up wireless networking and then connect the printers and mobile device. Oh joy!

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Yet more motumania

Fr Z has a translation of an article from Il Tempo Motu Proprio next Monday. In addition to Fr Z, this story has already been published by the New Liturgical Movement and Mulier Fortis. So remember - you read it here fourth! In fact, the article says that it will be after next Monday which doesn't really help as much as it might.

But hey! Let's not let that get in the way of another Irresponsible Motu Proprio Speculation Alert. I'm waiting for the brickbat to fly from somewhere in Canada but I think the time difference means that I'm going to get whacked on the back of the head sometime yesterday afternoon.

(Seriously though, Fr Z. makes some important points in his post - as ever, well worth reading.)

Letter to a young atheist

Anonymous wrote a comment on the post Channel 4 sex propaganda and pleaded with me not to delete it. Unfortunately, I could not post it as written but am happy to post it with the expletives edited out and offer a considered reply.
this world is [expletive deleted - "messed" up would be better, really] i mean come on a new age is here u ppl need to c that. god is dieing, want to know y?
cuz it is a dumb superstition. there 100s of reasons y "god" cant b real and only "ur god" thinks sex is a bad thing unless under "conditions". get over ur selfs i was raised atheist and i don't do drugs,i don't have a STD and i go 2 every class that i have even if i don't want to, u don't need god to b a good person. the [abbreviated expletive deleted - perhaps "rubbish"] that comes out of the mouths like those u ppl have [expletive deleted - perhaps "hacks"] me off. (administrator plz don't delete my message i read and respected the opinions of the other ppl and i hope u do the same.)
Dear anonymous

Thank you for taking the trouble to post a comment. First of all, you probably know that you cannot at the same time say that God is dying and that he does not exist. But I take it that you mean that belief in God and organised religion is dying out. That is true in England but false in many other parts of the world. As regards our own Catholic faith, the number of Catholics worldwide, and indeed, the number of priests and religious sisters, is growing all the time.

More important, though, is the claim that God cannot be real. I would reply to that by saying that nothing else can be real if God is not. We need to enquire where things came from in the very beginning. It is no good saying that it is all "just there", that the big bang "just happened." To posit the existence of a first cause makes sense of the universe. The alternative, espoused by Richard Dawkins in his most recent book is to posit the existence of a multiverse or many universes. This gets us nowhere because you still need an explanation for those other universes - or you are left with saying that they are "just there."

I am glad to hear that you don't do drugs - in my experience, many young people do nowadays: far more than when I was offered cannabis some 30 years ago (I did refuse it!) Your desire to be "good" is most commendable in the society in which we live where many young people see no good reason to be good. However, there is still a debate to be had about what constitutes "being good."

You speak particularly about sexual morality so let's take that as an example. Every person who has sexual desire (and that is most of the human race) will, at some time or another have to decide that sex with this person will be a bad thing. It may be because the person is drunk and it would be taking advantage of them. It may be because the person is attached to someone else. It may be that you have no genuine love for them, only an urge to have sex with them and you know that would be using them. Any reasonable person would agree that you cannot have sex just whenever you want to, regardless of whether they have any religious faith.

The strength of our sexual drive has led to every society having certain rules and restrictions on sexual behaviour. Our society pretends that there should be no restriction except that you should only have sex if you want to. This makes a very powerful statement about the meaning of sex - trivialising it as something merely recreational. Traditional Christian, Jewish and Islamic morality and indeed the traditional morality of many societies outside of those faiths has recognised that the sexual act is something important, not trivial, and that it has a built-in procreative meaning. That is why in Catholic teaching sex is "restricted" to marriage - not because it is bad but because it is good.

I am glad to hear that you have not been diagnosed with an STI. However, do be realistic about this. The transmission rate of STIs has rocketed in recent years, despite the widespread availability and use of condoms. (See England stats on STIs where I look at some UK Government statistics.) I fear that many young people just have not been told the truth about this. I recommend Pam Stenzel's DVD Sex has a price tag. It's down to earth, no-nonsense, and she doesn't talk down to her audience. She has a "public school" version which you might prefer to the "faith-based" version.

You say that you have read and respected the opinions of other people and I'm happy to take that as genuine. But just to help out here: calling someone's faith a "dumb superstition" and saying that rubbish (you used another expression) comes out of our mouths is not a good way of showing respect for people's beliefs. I accept that if you were "raised atheist" and your parents brought you up to be a good person, you will always treasure the values that they passed on to you. Finding out more about the Catholic faith, and understanding it more will not compromise any of that love and respect that you have for them - it would actually put it in a whole new light.

One result of my posting your comment so prominently will be that many people round the world will now be praying for you. Now since you don't believe in God, I presume you don't believe in prayer as such. Nevertheless, you can take it that there are many people around who are wishing you well and hoping that you prosper in the wisdom and strength of character and that you will need to continue being a good person. They will also be praying that God changes your heart, you experience a conversion and embrace the Catholic faith - but if God doesn't exist, you've nothing to worry about on that score :-)

BTW, going to classes is a real smart move. You'll not regret that - and any of your friends who skip classes will.

Monday, 9 April 2007

FLI Conference

I thought this was a great graphic for the forthcoming Conference of Family Life International UK.

The Conference is on Saturday 28 April in Hammersmith. You can get full details on the Conference Poster.

The Times and the retreat from reason

While I'm on the subject of the Times newspaper, take a look at this rant from Matthew Parris: Did John Paul II perform a miracle? Am I Mother Teresa?.

As we all know, Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre has claimed that she has been cured of Parkinsons Disease through the intercession of Pope John Paul II. Her condition was such that she could hardly move her left side, she was unable to write legibly, she could not drive, had severely limited mobility and her pain kept her from sleeping.

After praying to Pope John Paul II one evening, she claims that she found she was able to write and woke up the next morning completely cured of her condition.

As is customary in any claim of a miracle, medical experts have been interviewed to verify that the condition had actually been diagnosed, that it is no longer present and that there is no medical explanation for the cure.

So what does Parris say to those who would cite these facts and ask him how he can be sure that the miracle did not happen?
“But how can you be sure?” Oh boy, am I sure. Oh great quivering mountains of pious mumbo-jumbo, am I sure. Oh fathomless oceans of sanctified babble, am I sure. Words cannot express my confidence in the answer to the question whether God cured a nun because she wrote a Pope’s name down. He didn’t.
Now I think I understand why Richard Dawkins speaks of faith as he does:
Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and to evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of the lack of evidence… Faith is not allowed to justify itself by argument.
This is a notoriously inaccurate description of religious faith in the Christian tradition as Alistair McGrath and many others have pointed out. But it is an excellent description of the kind of secularist blind faith exemplified by Matthew Parris in his article. If he were at all interested in any rational discussion or evidence, Parris would have a number of possible avenues to explore. The claim of a cure is, after all, a falsifiable claim. He could try any of the following:
  • Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre did not have Parkinsons to start with.
  • Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre has not been cured - she still has Parkinsons.
  • Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre has been cured but there is a medical or other non-miraculous explanation for the cure.
Instead, he has the blind, unquestioning faith of the modern secularist that he is right. Of course "words cannot express" how sure he is - his certainty is not open to challenge from the evidence or from rational argument.

"Ridiculous and ignorant" Times article

Amy Wellborn has a very good post on a recent article in the Times: As JA was saying... The "JA" refers to John Allen who recently wrote about the poor quality of religious reporting in the British Press. (See John Allen on the British Press.)

At the Stations on Good Friday, the Holy Father used a biblical scheme that differs considerably from the Stations that are erected in most Churches. (These are not actually very ancient in any case but most people would want to stay with them.)

This year's meditations included a quotation from the diary of Etty Hillesum, a Dutch Jewish intellectual who died in the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz in 1943:
"each new horror or crime, we must oppose with a new fragment of truth and goodness which we have gained in ourselves. We can suffer, but we must not surrender."
Young women from Chile, South Korea, China, Angola and the Republic of Congo carried the cross at five of the Stations.

The meditation for the 9th Station recalled the suffering of women in particular:
Jesus, to his final hour, is thus surrounded by a world of mothers, daughters and sisters. Standing at his side we now can also imagine all those women who have been abused and raped, ostracized and submitted to shameful tribal practices, anxious women left to raise their children alone, Jewish and Palestinian mothers, and those from all countries at war, widows and the elderly forgotten by their children… a long line of women who bear witness before an arid and pitiless world to the gift of tenderness and compassion, even as they did for the Son of Mary on that late morning in Jerusalem. They teach us the beauty of emotions: that we should not be ashamed when our heart is moved by compassion, when tears sometimes come to our eyes, when we feel the need of a caress and comforting words.
Do we hear anything about this at all from the Times? No. The article starts off with a stupid and disrespectful title Way of Sorrows to call at new stations (snigger snigger, haw haw)

It then gives the impression that the biblical schema is a "revision" of the Stations of the Cross by Pope Benedict. As Amy points out:
The particular structure of the Stations used last night were first used in 1991 by Pope John Paul II and were used 1994, 1995, 1997, in 2002 and 2004 as well.

And I'd say that the existence of JPII's Biblical stations has not exactly been a state secret over the past 16 years, either. There are several published versions of them, you know.
In addition, anyone reading the Times article without being aware of the background would imagine that Pope Benedict had decreed that all the Stations of the Cross in the world had to now to be changed and to omit Veronica, not that he was using a set of Stations for a particular occasion in Rome.

Silly sensationalism is obviously the only way in which the Times can exercise itself to take any interest in the Good Friday Stations of the Cross, the texts of which were published in advance as a service to journalists.

Amy's conclusion is as follows:
So for the major Vatican writer of a major international paper to frame this story in this way, claiming that this is a)new and something b) Benedict did when c)he neither framed the structure of these Stations or even wrote the amazingly irresponsible. Amazing, as such things always are, but not surprising.
Actually, I would go further. In England, ignorance of religious affairs and media-driven prejudice ensure that religious affairs reporters now have such a free and clear field that they can put in the paper any old rubbish they like, safe in the knowledge that they will probably not be contradicted.

Except on the blogs, of course ...
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