Sunday, 30 November 2008

We are Catholic. Welcome home.

H/T to Auntie Joanna for this great video.

Immaculata Conceptio blog

Have a look at Fr George's Immaculata Conceptio blog. Fr Geoprge is a permanent chaplain in the Sanctuaries of Our Lady of Lourdes in France and his blog is especially devoted to an "in-your-face historical critical scientific exegesis of Genesis 2,4–3,24" and other scriptural texts relating to the Immaculate Conception. Fr George is highly competent in ancient languages and exegesis so do go over to see his contribution to this fascinating area of study.

TLM for children

I must tell you of two forthcoming Masses for children in the Classical Roman Rite.

At Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, at 4.30pm on the feast of the Immaculate Conception (8 December) we will have a Low Mass with hymns and some catechesis for children during the Mass. All are welcome, including children of all ages.

At the Little Oratory, next to the London Oratoryin Brompton Road, on Sunday 7 December, there sill be a Traditional Sunday Mass for children at the usual time of 11.15 am. (Children who like to sing are invited to a practice before Mass at 10.40am to rehearse the Communion hymn upstairs in St Wilfrid's Hall (it will be simple - no experience necessary).

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Induamur arma lucis

"Let us put on the armour of light." (Rom 13.12) Advent has now begun and the Holy Father has celebrated Pontifical Vespers in St Peter's. Thanks to the NLM for this picture captured from the CTV coverage. At Mass tomorrow, we hear St Paul's "wake up call", his brusque admonitions against sin, and the challenge to clothe ourselves in Christ.

Belmont Abbey

I am very grateful to Fr Thomas Regan OSB for this fascinating information about Belmont Abbey which he sent me in response to my mentioning that Bishop Fulton Sheen was the titular Bishop of Newport:
My monastery, Belmont Abbey, was the Pro-Cathedral for that Benedictine diocese, until 1916. Then Benedict XV raised Belmont to the rank of Abbey in 1920, and the Cathedral was transferred to Cardiff and the Secular Clergy. BUT... In his Bull 'Praeclara Gesta' he stated "The Holy See will gladly take care that there is never lacking among the Bishops of England and Wales one of the sons of St Benedict, as in former times, and to adorn it with his learning and virtue."

From 1859 to 1916, Belmont was the Common House of Studies for the English Benedictine Congregation. Monks from Douai, Downside and Ampleforth were sent there. The monasteries provided 'professors' who became Canons of the Diocesan Chapter - so they were both monks and canons!

At Belmont the habit was worn, hair was shorn, and Gregorian Chant sung. When Abbot Prosper Guéranger visited Belmont, he described it as 'the most observant monastery in Europe', being amazed by its full Choir of young monks observing the full round of monastic life. Once trained, the 'youngsters' then returned to their own monasteries to invigorate observance. This arrangement ended in 1916, and Belmont began to grow as an independent community.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen visited Belmont and preached at the centenary celebrations in 1959.

Last Wednesday, the monks re-elected Abbot Paul Stonham for a further eight year term.
I am looking forward to my first visit to Belmont Abbey in a couple of weeks' time for a clergy retreat to be given by Fr Ignatius Harrison.

Public money for humanist propaganda

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is funding a series of events organised by the British Humanist Association on the topic "'Religion or belief' and equality and human rights". Here is a link to the flyer for the series.

£35,000 of your money is being used to fund events in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Cardiff with speakers such as:
  • Evan Harris MP, vice-President of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association and an honorary associate of the National Secular Society
  • Angela Mason, who was director of Stonewall from 1992-2002
  • A C Grayling - another honorary associate of the National Secular Society
(The fourth keynote speaker is Brian Gibbons, the Welsh Assembly Government Minister for Social Justice and Local Government.)

Teresa Higginson biography republished

The 1927 biography of Teresa Helena Higginson by Lady Cecil Kerr has been republished by Gracewing with an introduction by Fr Paul Haffner. (404 pages £17.99) There is a dedicated website for Teresa Higginson; this is the introduction from there:
Teresa Higginson (1844-1905) was a saintly Catholic schoolteacher. She was born in North Wales, lived most of her life in North West England and Edinburgh, Scotland and died in Chudleigh, Devon. It seems she received many supernatural gifts from God, such as healing, prophecy, bilocation and the stigmata. It is claimed that she was chosen by Christ to make known the devotion to his Sacred Head as the Seat of Divine Wisdom. This would be a remedy for a time of extraordinary intellectual pride and falling-away from faith. It would not only be the completion of the devotion to the Sacred Heart, but the crowning of all devotions. In fact it was prophesied as the one great means for the conversion of England.
I remember many years ago looking at some of the original correspondence which was, at that time, at St Augustine's Abbey, Ramsgate. I also read through a lengthy correspondence in the Tablet in the late 1930s. This was brought to an abrupt end when the paper received a hint from the Holy Office that her cause was not to be proceeded with. How times change!

If I remember rightly, the reason for hesitation was some fear that there might be a confusion with some aspects of devotion to the Holy Face that were under suspicion. The devotion to the Sacred Head is , in fact, quite a different thing and very much a devotion for our time. The Sacred Head of Jesus is venerated as the seat of Divine Wisdom, just as his Sacred Heart is venerated as the seat of Divine Love.

Certainly there is intellectual pride and a widespread falling away from the faith. I must have another read of the biography (I have a first edition). It is great that Fr Haffner has done the introduction to the new edition - he is a fine scholar and teacher, especially interested in the relationship between science and religion. He has written several theology text books published by Gracewing.

Friday, 28 November 2008

St Ralph Sherwin and Companions

On Monday at 12noon, there will be a solemn High Mass in the usus antiquior for the feast of SS Ralph Sherwin and Companions (martyrs of the Venerable English College, Rome) at St Joseph's in Montem Road, New Malden.

Fr Nicholas Schofield will be celebrant, I will be Deacon and Fr Charles Briggs will be Subdeacon. Fr Dominic Allain will preach and Fr Richard Whinder will be MC.

All are, of course, welcome for the Mass.

A cautionary video

H/T to Pellegrinaggio for this video which, as he wrote to me, offers "one of the best arguments for removing baptismal fonts (especially the total immersion variety) from the sanctuary and re-instating them in the baptistery"

More from the LMS Requiem

Above is a rather good photo of the consecration at the Annual Requiem organised by the Latin Mass Society at Westminster Cathedral last Saturday.

And this photo, kindly taken by John Medlin in the sacristy after Mass, shows the servers from Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, who assisted at the Mass:

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Latin Mass Liturgicals

For traditionalists suffering from the credit crunch, Latin Mass Liturgicals could be just the ticket. Based in the States, their prices are still very reasonable by UK standards. They sell missals, other books, cassocks and surplices, and mantillas.
Run by a group of traditional Catholics, for traditional Catholics. We strive to provide the best service, and honest prices for the love of God.


Phil, as well as owning and running a hotel, has a blog called Pellegrinaggio. Crossing the Ponte Sisto which I have just added to the blogroll.

Something I found out from the blog today: Bishop Howard Tripp, Emeritus Auxiliary Bishop in Southwark, has the titular see of Newport in Wales. The first titluar Bishop of the see was ... The Rt Rev Fulton J Sheen.

Thoughts on the Cogman case

It seems that quite a lot of reaction is building up concerning the case of PC Cogman who has been sacked from Norfolk Police for using the internal email system to express his Christian belief that homosexual acts are sinful.

This is clearly a case of one right being allowed to "trump" another. Some observers have said that he should not be allowed to use his employer's email system to express his views; but the occasion for him doing so was the use of his employer's facilities in order to express a strong pro-gay view by heavily promoting "Gay History Month" and putting pressure on officers to wear a pink ribbon.

According to the law as it now stands, it is an offence to discriminate against homosexual people by refusing to provide goods and services. While it is only to be expected that the Police Service will enforce this, the law does not require the Police Service to issue pink ribbons and "Gay History Month" literature any more than it requires the distribution of bibles or prayer cards.

Since the facilities of the Police Service have been given over to promoting pink ribbons and "Gay History Month", PC Cogman was entirely within his rights to use the internal email system to promote the alternative, Christian, view of the matter: that one should hate the sin but love the sinner, and that homosexual acts are sinful. Indeed, it can reasonably be presumed that as a someone holding to traditional Christian morality, PC Cogman believes that all sexual acts outside of marriage are sinful.

Some have characterised one of his communications as sending material about "curing" homosexuality. In fact, there are many Christian groups who take the view that homosexuality is not necessarily a fixed condition but that with prayer, friendship and sympathetic counselling, a person may be able to change. Whatever one thinks of this view, it should not be ruled out a priori as "discriminatory" or even as harrassment.

Some Police Officers will have strongly pro-gay views, others will have traditional Christian views. In the former case, you are not only allowed to express your views freely, but you will be given liaison officers and part of the police budget will be made available for the promotion of your views. In the latter case you are not only not allowed to express your views freely but you will be sacked if you do.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Policing standards

PC Cogman, whom I wrote about yesterday (A policeman's lot is not an 'appy one) has now been sacked by Norfolk Police.

Cogman was found guilty of two charges: one of failing to comply with a lawful order over the use of police computers and another of failing to treat a colleague with politeness and tolerance. The truth, as both the BBC and Pink News agree in their reports, is that he was sacked for suggesting that gay sex was sinful.

I would like to award the "laugh or cry" to the remark of Deputy Chief Constable Ian Learmonth, who said: "This officer's behaviour fell well below what we expect of our people."

Traditional Priests' Support Trust

The Traditional Priests' Support Trust supports Roman Catholic priests, clergy and religious, who are in need, and who are exclusively committed to celebrating the sacred liturgy in the traditional form.

I commend it both to those who may need it and those who may be able to support the charity.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Nourishing the faith

A couple of weeks ago, I received a wonderful parcel from Papa Stronsay Redemptorists - a copy of the newspaper "Catholic" and a number of books that the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer send out. the paper is 28 pages, A3 sized, and packed full of good articles.

The books are amazing - 170 pages, printed slightly smaller than A4 size, on newspaper so that they can be printed and sent out with minimum cost. The latest is "Trench Priest", about Fr William Doyle (I wrote about him recently). They also sent me:

"Silent Night", the Transalpine Redemptorist Christmas book with carols in Latin, English and various other languages

"Good Philip", the life of St Philip Neri by Alfonso Cardinal Capecelatro di Castelpagano

"Mid Snow and Ice", about the apostles of Northwest America by Fr Pierre Douchassous OMI

"The Sign of the Cross", a series of letters from Mgr Jean-Joseph Gaume about the Sign of the Cross to a student who had been ridiculed for making it. The book occasioned the granting of an indulgence by Blessed Pope Pius IX for making the Sign of the Cross.

"Catechism of Perseverance" by the same author.

"The Year of Our Lord Jesus Christ 2008", an extensive liturgical calendar with a translation of the Roman Martyrology for each day,

The postman delivered the parcel just as I was on my way to the parish hall for a social and fundraising event in the parish. I was so delighted by these lovely books that I took them over to the hall to show parishioners. I will be ordering some copies of "Catholic" for my parishioners to buy, together with some of the books. (The paper is £10 per year - 4 issues, and the books are £3.50 each. You can order at the blog or download an order form.)

The latest post on the Papa Stronsay blog is Submission to Peter is the right way to go and offers an invitation:
We invite any priest who wants to consider being reconciled to the Holy See, to stay on Papa Stronsay for as long as he wants, anonymously and with no strings attached.

Reason #4378 for trying to get the SSPX back on board

They're building new Churches. In France!

See this post on Rorate Caeli and this French post with more details.

A policeman's lot is not an 'appy one

I have only just heard about the story of PC Graham Cogman who has taken Norfolk Police to an employment tribunal on grounds of harassment because of his traditional Christian values. During Gay History Month, gay liaison officers at the Great Yarmouth HQ put pressure on colleagues to wear a pink ribbon. PC Cogman sent an email round to state his Christian views and remind other officers that Christians, and other members of society, whom they serve as officers, believed homosexual acts to be wrong in God’s eyes.

For this, he was banned from using the internal email system. When the same thing happened a year later, he was summoned to a disciplinary hearing. Advised by his lawyers, and fearing to lose his job, he pleaded guilty to a breach of the police code of practice and was fined the maximum, £1,200.

After putting a christian text on his computer screen saver, he was questioned again and now faces the possibility of losing his job. Hence his action for harrassment.

Thanks to the Christian Legal Centre. See: Police officer discriminated against for traditional beliefs

"I may have Down’s Syndrome but I am a person first"

Many thanks to Pat Buckley of the European Life Network for an excellent follow-up to my post Downs Syndrome - not a reason for extermination. The following is from an SPUC paper on abortion:

In May 2003, the International Down Syndrome Screening Conference was held in London. A group of people with Down’s Syndrome had asked if they could speak at the conference but were not allowed to. They turned up anyway and one of them, Anya Souza, was finally allowed to say something about her own condition. She said:
“I can’t get rid of my Down’s Syndrome, but you can’t get rid of my happiness. You can’t get rid of the happiness I give others either. It’s doctors like you that want to test pregnant women and stop people like me being born. Together with my family and friends I have fought to prevent my separation from normal society. I have fought for my rights… I may have Down’s Syndrome but I am a person first.”

Monday, 24 November 2008

Downs Syndrome - not a reason for extermination

There is an interesting Press Association article today about the recent news that more babies are being born with Downs Syndrome. In 2006, 749 babies who were born had Downs Syndrome. It is certainly good news that more babies with Downs Syndrome are being allowed to live. However, there is some obfuscation here.

The Government's National Statistics website reports that there were 669,801 live births in 2006. They say that one in a thousand babies born have Downs Syndrome. This is a misleading statistic in that a large percentage of babies conceived with Downs Syndrome are aborted before birth. (In 2006 there were over 200,000 abortions in the UK according to the Government's statistics.) What we need to know is how many babies are conceived with Downs Syndrome and how many are actually allowed to live despite the pressure of prenatal tests and the ready availability of the "termination of pregnancy" (i.e. the killing of the Downs Syndrome baby.)

The AP report puts it clearly enough:
"A blood test or ultrasound scan is used to tell if a pregnant woman is at risk of having a child with Down's. This can be followed by more invasive tests which take samples of fluid from the womb or placental tissue to show definitively if a child has the syndrome. At either stage a decision may be taken whether or not to continue with the pregnancy."
"Continue with the pregnancy... or ... What?"

Further in the article, we read:
"The Down's Syndrome Association, in conjunction with the BBC, conducted a survey and the findings show that while religious or pro-life beliefs counted in around a third of cases, many parents felt that life and society had improved for people affected by Down's. Others said their decision was influenced by the fact that they knew people with Down's or other disabilities."
Now wait a minute! Religious and pro-life beliefs do in fact encourage society to improve life for the disabled, including those with Downs Syndrome. This is not a case of "either-or".

Bernadette in the combox has mentioned a radio interview in which a woman expressed incredulity that women could continue with a pregnancy where a Downs Syndrome child was involved since prenatal testing is now so good - i.e. we can get rid of them if we want.

Lourdes is the place where I see more Downs Syndrome children than anywhere else. The pro-life attitude of Catholics has placed them at the forefront of caring for the disabled, whether born or not.

The bottom line is: we do not have any right to exterminate Downs Syndrome children.

See also:
Jerome Lejeune
Down's syndrome and the dark forces
Down's syndrome - declaration of interest

FSSP Northampton Mass moved to Flitwick

The FSSP-served Sunday Mass in the Northampton diocese will move from Bedford 4pm to Flitwick 5pm as of the first Sunday of Advent 2008. The new parish church is five minutes from junction 12 of the M1 motorway.

The Sacred Heart Church Flitwick has a hall with kitchen and a car park, which will enable people to meet after Mass (and possibly before) for social gathering and catechism according to the needs. The Parish Priest, Canon Denis McSweeney is supportive of the traditional Mass and will kindly provide matching vestments, vessels and liturgical items for a dignified offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The Bishop of Northampton, Rt Rev Peter Doyle, has kindly approved of the FSSP’s request to relocate its regular ministry in his diocese to Flitwick. Canon Denis McSweeney and his parishioners have given a friendly welcome to the FSSP.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church
Pope Close
MK45 1JP

View Larger Map

PS Paul writes to say that the Church is only ten minutes walk from Flitwick railway station which has trains to Bedford, Luton, St Albans and London every 15 minutes (Thameslink). The journey time from St Pancras is just under an hour.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

A window through the universe

Ronald Knox once used the metaphor of a wall to describe the barrier that we put between ourselves and God by our pride and disobedience. He spoke of the Sacred Host as a window in that wall. St Paul said that blood of Christ broke down the "dividing wall" (Eph 2.14) just as the veil of the Temple was torn in two at the crucifixion. Knox reflected that the "glittering disc of whiteness", the Blessed Sacrament, is
"penetrated witha light of its own, a light not of this world, shining throughit from behind, as if through a window, outdazzling gold and candle-flame with a more intense radiance."
When pondering the feast of Christ the King which is celebrated today in the new calendar, I thought about the affirmation that Christ, the Eternal Word made flesh, is the "master-key" to the meaning of the universe, the eternal wisdom through which the whole universe is framed. "He is before all things and in Him all things hold together." (Col 1.17)

Christ is the Rex Universorum, the King of all things, or as we could say, the King of the Universe. The awesome power of the "big bang" and the formation of the galaxies were created through the one, simple, unchanging wisdom of Almighty God.

In that "glittering disc of whiteness", He is before us in the Sacred Liturgy, ever to be adored.

LMS Annual Requiem

Yesterday afternoon, the Latin Mass Society held its annual Requiem Mass. Fr Conlon was celebrant, I was deacon and Fr Hayward was subdeacon. The Cathedral choir's rendition of the familiar chants filled the Cathedral with a sense of the numinous as we prayed for the holy souls.

I was particularly pleased that five of the servers were from my own parish (thurifer, acolytes, holy water bearer, and second MC). Mass was preceded by the laying of a wreath on at the grave of Cardinal Heenan who, in 1971, obtained the indult from Pope Paul VI to allow the older form of the Mass in England and Wales. The petition requesting this was signed by, among others, Agatha Christia, Graham Greene, Rober Graves, F R Leavis, Yehudi Menuin, and Iris Murdoch. At the Latin Mass Society website, you can read an interesting "Recollection of the 1971 Indult" by Alfred Marnau whom I knew when I was a young student at Oxford.

Of course, Pope Benedict has now said that the usus antiquior "was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted." How times change!

Many thanks to Mac (Mulier Fortis) for taking my camera and getting some photographs of the Mass.


Ecce agnus Dei:

Procession to the catafalque:

Procession to the sacristy:

Friday, 21 November 2008

"Going the Distance for Life"

H/T to Fr Z for the link to this video concerning the challenge to pro-lifers in the USA especially from Obama's promise to sign the "Freedom of Choice Act" which will have the effect of compelling doctors to perform abortions or lose their job.

See Fr Z's post The future and our choices for further comment.

CPS incitement to disorder?

Baltic Flour Mills Visual Arts Trust put up a statue of Our Blessed Lord with an erect penis. The statue is a modified traditional statue of the Sacred Heart as I discover from the Guardian website which sees fit to include a picture of it. 

Emily Mapfuwa, a Christian from Essex, took out a private prosecution on the grounds that the statue outraged public decency. The Baltic Flour Mills people were bracing themselves for a trial by jury but then the Crown Prosecution Service intervened and ruled that there was no case to answer. Their statement included the following:
"We have taken into account all the circumstances, including the fact that there was no public disorder relating to the exhibition and that there was a warning at the entrance to the gallery about the nature of the work on display. The case has therefore been discontinued."
The CPS press release includes a statement from the Chief Crown Prosecutor Nicola Reasbeck, in which she says,
"Under the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985, which set up the CPS, we have the right to take over a private prosecution and prosecute it ourselves, take it over and stop the case, or allow the private prosecution to continue."
 Neil Addison of the Thomas More Legal centre is quoted in this week's Catholic Herald as pointing out that the CPS is only supposed to take this sort of action in cases which are "oppressive" or "perverse" - neither of which applies in this case.

Many commentators have observed that the reference to the lack of violence is almost an incitement to Christians to go to such exhibitions and wreck them. If you are tempted to do this, do bear in mind that anti-terrorism legislation may very well be invoked and you could be slammed up for ages with vastly reduced rights.

It is worth noting that this judgement discriminates particularly against Christians. We do not generally resort to violence. Around the world at the moment, Christians are subjected to violence in many countries but do not retaliate with terrorism. I am sure that many secularists would love to see Christians goaded into violent action so that the secularist portrayal of religious "fundamentalism" can be supported by news articles about enthusiastic Christians smashing statues. The pictures won't show evidence of the blasphemous and obscene nature of the displays.

I rather feel like repeating my encouragement to people to read Michael O'Brien's "Father Elijah". (This combox has a couple of suggestions for how to obtain the book apart from my link to Amazon UK.)

LMS Requiem tomorrow

Tomorrow the Latin Mass Society has its annual Requiem Mass for deceased members at Westminster Cathedral at 2pm. I will be assisting as Deacon and I am very pleased that some of my servers from Blackfen have been chosen to assist at the ceremonies. Please pray that I manage to sing the Gospel with due gravitas.

After Mass, several of us will be meeting up in the Buckingham Arms in Petty France, five minutes walk from the Cathedral (google map). If you are attending the Requiem, do come and join us afterwards. (We held the London blognic there in September.)

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Black pro-lifers on Obama

The US Catholic paper, the Catholic Register, has an important article on Black Pro-Lifers' Joy and Pain.

Arnold Culbreath, urban outreach director for Protecting Black Life in Cincinnati pointed out that
"abortion remains the leading cause of death in the black community. With President-elect Obama being as aggressively pro-abortion as he is, that makes our work more urgent and necessary."
Culbreath continued,
"People don't realize that abortion has killed more blacks than the Ku Klux Klan ever lynched."
Culbreath noted that blacks have traditionally supported the Democratic Party, but that by doing so, they’ve been forced to go along with a host of other issues that they don't agree with, such as abortion and the redefinition of marriage.
"They've had to take the bitter with the sweet, not realizing the Pandora's box that has been opened,"
In the UK, the mainstream media have been cheerleaders for Obama and many good people have been carried along with the wave of enthusiasm. Now would be a good time to read Michael O'Brien's Father Elijah.

Stamps for Christmas

Many thanks to a correspondent who has observed that the Royal Mail have made available the Christmas stamps from 2007 which have an image of the Our Lady with the child Jesus. There are designs for first and second class stamps. Go to the Stamp Sheets page in the online shop and scroll to the foot of the page.

I think that this is a very good idea. Nowadays, a company like the Royal Mail can offer "print on demand" via the internet and people can vote with their plastic for the stamps that they would like to use to send Christmas cards. (The 2008 stamps feature pantomime characters.)

There is another interesting feature that I have not seen before. You can now make up your own custom stamps with a feature called "Smilers" They are a bit pricey but would be quite fun to do. Here is an example I made as a preview:

"Stop swearing on TV" petition

John Beyer of mediawatch-uk is organising a petition to 10 Downing Street to call for swearing on TV to be curbed. It reads:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to make urgent representation to the Broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, the broadcasting institutions operating in the UK and film regulators, asking them to stop the use of unnecessary swearing and bad language in their productions (including those available for downloading from websites) and to urge providers of user-generated content to take similar action.
Further information:
Concern about the volume and nature of swearing on television made headlines when in November 2008 Michael Grade, the Executive Chairman of ITV, observed that swearing had become “unrestrained” and “indiscriminate”. He also stated that people do not want to hear those words.

In May 2008 the Radio Times conducted an opinion poll, which found that 69% of people believed there is too much swearing on TV. In November 2008 the Sunday Express launched a Clean Up TV Crusade focusing on the excessive use of swearing and the Sunday Telegraph conducted a poll which found that 56% of people thought the f*** word should never be used on TV.

The Office of Communications (Ofcom) in its Communications Market reports for 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 found that the majority of people believe there is too much swearing on TV.

mediawatch-uk believes that swearing on TV has reached such proportions that it is threatening the English language, that it is undermining the Government’s policies on Education to improve communication skills and hindering initiatives to restore respect and civility to our society.
Sign the petition

(Deadline 20 May 2009. You have to be a British citizen or resident to sign.)

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Norms for clerical dress in Rome

A correspondent recently found the text of this letter from Cardinal Ugo Poletti which was published in 1982. It promulgates norms approved by Pope John Paul II regarding the wearing of clerical dress in the Diocese of Rome. The most striking provision was his requirement that those who had received "candidacy" should wear clerical dress. In many seminaries, including my own, this was actually forbidden.

I remember the afternoon that the news appeared in the Italian edition of L'Osservatore Romano which a priest studying canon law gleefully showed to myself and a good friend who had been made "candidates" earlier in the year. The following morning, we came down to chapel in clerical dress. It may not seem much in hindsight but it was a very controversial matter at the time.

My correspondent kindly typed out the letter and suggested that I should post it so that others would not have to undertake the lengthy search that he did. I am very happy to oblige.

Sources: (in case any students need chapter and verse)
The English version was reported in L'Osservatore Romano (English edition) n.756, 25 October 1982. The text is also in the Canon Law Digest, 10; p.13-15
Letter of the Vicar of Rome to Clergy and Religious

Dear Brothers in the priesthood, diocesan and religious, in Rome, in communion with the bishops of the Diocesan Episcopal Council, I gladly fulfil the duty of presenting to you the esteemed letter of our Bishop and Pastor, Pope John Paul II, concerning the use of ecclesiastical dress in the Diocese of Rome.

You, too, will welcome it with filial and sincere support in that ecclesial communion with the bishop which embraces also the disciplinary order by appreciating the wealth of spiritual, ecclesial and pastoral values which it contains. Of special importance are the values of witness, of priestly identity, and of the sign to be offered to the world, so that it may recognize us clearly as disciples of the Shepherd.

One could ask: why does the Pope address himself to the Diocese of Rome and not to the whole Church? As he states in the letter he sent to me, he feels the duty of addressing himself as Bishop of Rome, especially to the sons and brothers who are nearer and directly engaged with him in a mission of evangelization which is nurtured and expressed in love.

Everything is easy for one who loves.

Before expressing in the concrete the precise norms for you, brothers of Rome, in accordance with the directives of the Holy Father, I entered into accord with the cardinals in charge of the various Sacred Congregations of the Clergy, for Religious and for Secular Institutes, and for Catholic Education, so that with their authority and in the areas of their competence, they might confirm the opportune dispositions.

In fact, the very numerous and varied presence of priests, religious and ecclesiastical students, resident in this diocese, constitutes without doubt an immense reservoir of spiritual energies and also a visible witness of Christian vitality of the highest value which must, as far as possible, be fostered as an example for our sister churches.

Therefore, by joint agreement with the responsible authorities in the sectors of respective competence, it seemed necessary that in this beloved Diocese, the dispositions concerning ecclesiastical dress should again have full force with the following characteristics:

1. From now on the obligation of ecclesiastical and religious dress for priests, whether diocesan or religious, resident in the Diocese of Rome is confirmed in all its force.
2. For secular priests, whether diocesan or permanently domiciled in Rome, this dress may be either the soutane or the "clergyman" according to Italian usage, black or dark grey, or even dark blue, with the Roman collar.
3. This disposition is also valid for non-diocesan priests who intend to reside in Rome only temporarily.
4. Religious, under the vigilance of their lawful superiors, shall wear the habit of their own institute, a sign of their special consecration, or at least – in accordance with their own law – the "clergyman."
5. The soutane or the religious habit is of obligation in liturgical celebrations, in the administration of the sacraments, and in preaching. It is strongly advised in the ambient of one's own pastoral ministry.
6. As from the beginning of the current scholastic year the use of ecclesiastical or religious dress shall be resumed also in the period of formation in seminaries and colleges beginning with the rite of admission of candidates for the priesthood and, in religious houses of studies from their first profession.

I deem it my duty to recognize the good will shown for some time by the clergy and religious, especially the young, in resuming spontaneously and in wearing with propriety ecclesiastical or religious dress as a manifest sign of love and responsibility. I trust very much in the understanding and collaboration of the young.

There is present here in Rome, as a consolation and hope for the whole Church, a really magnificent representation of youth, coming from every part of the world.

It is the fervent hope and desire of the Holy Father and of the bishops, his collaborators, that with the reconfirmation of ecclesiastical and religious dress, the witness of these young people consecrated to the Lord, and unknown to many, may be ever more manifested to all in an open, joyous and courageous manner. The example of so many young people in the service of the Church and of souls, will certainly be for many other young people an effective call to the consecrated life and it will be for all an incentive to a courageous and open Christian life.

The three Sacred Congregations for the Clergy, for Religious and for Secular Institutes, and for Catholic Education, confirm with me the norms set out above, committing themselves to put them into effect in the seminaries, in the houses of formation, in religious institutes and colleges, willingly assisted by the local superiors. Likewise, the pontifical universities, the athenaea, and the academies of Rome will do honor through the decorum of the discipline of dress to their authentic and indispensable work of cultural and pastoral formation, according to the noblest traditions of their history.

The Supreme Pontiff, in the audience granted to me on 27 September, 1982, deigned to approve the norms set out above and authorized their publication.

Dear brothers, our Father and Bishop asks us for an act of love and collaboration: also in this there is measured the generosity of evangelical witness. Imparting to us his apostolic blessing, he entrusts it to the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin "Comforter of the Roman People" so that our response may be easy and prompt.

With fraternal affection, ever united with you in your ministry and in your priestly life, I greet you.

Ugo Cardinal Poletti
Cardinal Vicar of the Diocese of Rome, letter, 27 September, 1982
In Italian, there are various pseudo-English expressions such as "Lo smoking" (a dinner jacket) "Il golf" (a cardigan). "Il clergyman" is another such expression, meaning a clerical suit, as opposed to the soutane.

"Is it possible to live this way?"

The UK launch of the book “Is it possible to live this way?” by Mgr Luigi Giussani will take place on Thursday 27th of November in Westminster Cathedral Hall at 6.30pm. The book is a compilation of Giussani's conversations with young people who have chosen the path of the consecrated life in the Church - that is, have chosen to live their lives in the world according to the "evangelical counsels" of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

The speakers will be Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor and Fr Julian Carron (president of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation). For more information, see the Communion and Liberation website.

Journeying through Southern England

Quite a long day today with a trip down to Eastbourne in the morning to meet Jane of Thoughts from an Oasis in French Catholicism and her mother-in-law Kathleen who treated myself and Fr Ray Blake of St Mary Magdalen, Brighton to a lovely lunch at the Hydro. Above you can see Fr Ray after we had taken a little air after lunch and a look at the sea under a threatening sky that did not rain on us for a little while.

Then up to Gatwick Airport Station and a short ride out to a meeting of the Faith Movement where we were discussing the best way to promote the faith through the theology that we share. It was good to have a long chat with many brother priests and some lay people who came.

Last night, after returning from teaching at Wonersh, I said a private Mass. At the prompting of one of my parishioners, I said a Requiem Mass for the 400th anniversary of Cardinal Pole.

Internet access out here is only GPRS so other posts will have to wait until my return to home and 3G tomorrow evening.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Traditional Confirmations

Forty children and five adults were confirmed at St James' Church, Spanish Place, last Saturday by Bishop George Stack according to the usus antiquior.

Over 500 family and friends joined the choir in singing the Veni Creator Spiritus and other traditional hymns. (During the anointing, the choir sang polyphony and plain chant.) After the confirmations, Bishop Stack conferred Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Bishop Stack met the candidates informally in the Lady Chapel before the ceremony and gave an address, speaking of the grace of God.

a glitch in the day was that there was a power cut so the choir, having no light or organ in the choir loft, had to sing from the nave with a piano accompaniment. One of my servers who was present for the occasion said that he thought the Church looked magnificent in candlelight.

Assumption Grotto Pro-Life Vigil

Diane at Te Deum Laudamus! reports on a pro-life prayer vigil organised by the Helpers of God's Precious Infants the day after our Maidstone vigil. The vigil was led by Mgr Jeffrey M. Montforton, the Rector of the Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. there was 7.30am Mass at Assumption Grotto, then a Rosary procession from St Veronica's Church with a procession to say the Rosary opposite two abortion clinics. Afterwards there was Benediction back at Assumption Grotto and a talk in the hall by Dan Goodnow, president of HGPI in Michigan.

The photo above shows part of the Rosary Procession in the icy rain. Diane reports that there were 200 people there. Here in England, we can only dream of that kind of attendance at our pro-life vigils. But as I said to her, our relatively small numbers help us to feel that we are at calvary, as Mgr O'Reilly, founder of HGPI would say.

For more photos, see: Helpers of God's Precious Infants Prayer Vigil

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Lancaster Vocations Day

I am happy to pass on this notice from the Lancaster Diocese.

If you have considered or are open to the possibility of serving God in the Priesthood then please come to a day on vocations entitled 'Quo Vadis?'. This will take place at Lancaster Cathedral on Saturday 6th December, 10.30am - 4pm and will provide an opportunity to meet some of our seminarians, to ask questions and to pray together. The minimum age is 17 years and we will do all we can to help you in your discernment of God's will. Be assured that we will respect your freedom absolutely. Interested? Please contact Fr. Manny Gribben on 01946 810324 or email him.

See also the Lancaster Vocations blog.

Of course, if your are in Southwark, you need to look at the Southwark Vocations blog and be in touch with Fr Stephen Langridge ;-)

Friday, 14 November 2008

Fighting death in Maidstone

Today, I joined a faithful band of crusaders who fight against the culture of death. No swords or clubs, just the Rosary and a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We went from the Church of St Francis just a short walk round the corner to the Marie Stopes abortion clinic (abortions £420-£1600 depending on the age of the baby)

We said the fifteen decades of the Rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet while Carole gave out prayer cards and information leaflets to young women passing by or going into the clinic.

It was good to chat afterwards over a cup of coffee in the Christian bookshop and meet some stalwart pro-life campaigners.

Bishop O'Donoghue on Zenit

There is a good interview with Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue on Zenit. (See Change and Continuity.) I especially liked his last paragraph:
I am convinced that we will only have a Catholic renewal in this country if clergy and laity, including the bishops, wholeheartedly accept obedience to the fullness of doctrinal, moral and liturgical truth as entrusted to, and protected by, the Successor of St. Peter.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Happy feast day, San Diego

Today I said the Mass and Office Saint Didacus of Alcalá who is more popularly known as San Diego.

The saintly Franciscan lay brother died in 1463 and was canonised by Pope Sixtus V in 1588. in 1602, Sebastián Vizcaíno claimed the Mission Bay and gave the area the name of San Diego. Happy Feast Day to any readers from San Diego!

Next ICEL section approved by USCCB

In August, I reported on the Havoc wrought in process of ICEL approval whereby the US Bishops failed to approve the new ICEL texts for the Proper of Seasons.

Thankfully now the texts have been approved (see: Bishops approve section of missal translation) and we may hope that this is a step forward in the painful process towards an English Missal that presents with a degree of accuracy the texts that we are actually supposed to pray during the Mass.

LMS Lourdes pilgrimage report

The blog of the traditional Catholic Family Alliance has a report with photographs of the recent Latin Mass Society Pilgrimage to Lourdes, led by Fr Andrew Southwell. An interesting detail is that although it proved difficult to make arrangements at the shrine for the usus antiquior, the parish Church was more welcoming and the Missa Cantata was sung in the crypt of the Church on several days of the Pilgrimage.

Carol singing for the Good Counsel Network

Conor sends me this notice from the Good Counsel Network which I am happy to pass on with my warm recommendation:

The Guild of Our Lady of Good Counsel is organising carol singing in London Tube Stations, where we can also take up a collection, on several days during December.

Every year The Good Counsel Network helps to save the lives of hundreds of unborn babies. The Guild of Our Lady of Good Counsel is a charity which supports this work and can only continue this work through fundraising events like this.

If you can sing or if you just wish to help with the collecting please reply(indicating whether you are a singer or collector) with your availability for any of the following dates:
  • 1st December at Oxford Circus
  • 3rd December at Piccadilly Circus
  • 16th December at Paddington(tube)
  • 22nd December at Bond Street.
We will be there from 12 noon until 8pm so if you can come and help with some time it would be very much appreciated.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

London Oratory Children's Mass

This coming Sunday, 16 November, the 11.15am Mass at the Little Oratory, next to the main London Oratory Church this Sunday is a children's Mass. Don't worry, Fr Large is not going to appear in a Barney the Bear outfit! This will be a Traditional Latin Mass but with some hymns and other helps for children to participate spiritually.

Fr Large and Elizabeth Forrester will be helping children to rehearse the Communion Hymn upstairs in St Wilfrid's Hall on Sunday from 10.40am and they ask parents to bring their children of 6/7 years and upwards. The singing will be simple and no experience is necessary.

"Trench Priest"

The other day, I mentioned that I was reading the biography of Fr William Doyle by Alfred O'Rahilly. Umblepie has drawn my attention to a post on Transalpine Redemptorists at Home: Don't miss this Issue. The "Issue" is the latest issue of their newspaper "Catholic" - but they also mention a book called "Trench Priest" which is an edited version of the full biography.

I got the above photo from the excellent Irish blog, Catholic Perspective, which has a short summary of Fr Doyle's life by Sean Conolly of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association. See: Father Doyle: the Trenches Priest.

The biography of Fr Doyle by O'Rahilly really falls into two parts. In the first, his spiritual life is examined in meticulous detail from papers that he left behind, with strict instructions that they were to be destroyed on his death. His superiors decided that it was better for his papers to be used for his biography and we are much the richer. The last part of the book describes his life as a military chaplain in which his rigorously faithful observance of the traditional Jesuit training flowered in action.

Many favours have been reported through his intercession and perhaps it is a good time to encourage popular devotion to him in the hope that one day he may be raised to the altars.

MCA paves way for euthanasia

The Mental Capacity Act allows people the right to refuse food and water (included in the Act as "treatment") either at the time or by an advance directive. It also allows patients to give someone else an enduring power of attorney relating to their "welfare" and this person also can direct that food and water is not to be given.

In the discussion before the passing of the MCA, many of us pointed to the danger that this already serious erosion of respect for life would lead to demands for further legalisation of euthanasia. The next step is assisted suicide. In an important article today, John Smeaton has shown how the leading secularlist, Evan Harris, has explicitly made the connection. (See: Mental Capacity Act creates impetus for lethal dose assisted suicide).

Harris said of patients who wish to die:
"They use their ability to refuse treatment because the fairest and most humane way of exercising control is not available to them ... I do not have time to go into the case of people who refuse food and water, but again it means a more protracted death than the painless one that is available through assisted dying."
This shows the truth of the prophecy made in 1984 by Helga Kuhse, who was at that time President of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies:
"If we can get people to accept the removal of all treatment and care -especially the removal of food and fluids - they will see what a painful way this is to die and then, in the patient's best interests, they will accept the lethal injection".
Now where are those pundits who poured scorn on the "slippery slope" argument?

Chant workshop at Lancaster Cathedral

There will be a Chant Workshop at Lancaster Cathedral on the afternoon of Saturday 15 November from 2-5pm. After an introduction to Chant, participants will work at learning the Mass for the Dead, which will be sung on Sunday 23 November in the Cathedral at 12.15 (Celebrant: Canon Stephen Shield).

Anyone interested in attending the workshop should contact Andrew Plasom-Scott to book a
place (and confirm details of location etc.)

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Iste Confessor

Today is the feast of St Martin of Tours - a most influential saint in the history of Europe. I recently read the book about him by the excellent historian Regine Pernoud, published by Ignatius Press. From that book, I learnt that the hymn "Iste Confessor" normally used in the office for Confessors was originally composed for St Martin. The chant for this hymn has stayed in my mind since I nervously intoned it at the Merton conference in the summer.

Fr Mark at Vultus Christi has a good post about St Martin who cut his cloak in half to provide for a beggar and later saw Christ saying that he had clothed him. The antiphons in the office today constantly remind us that St Martin, when dying, said that if it was necessary for his flock, he would not refuse the Lord's work.

Psallite Sapienter provides the information that Luther, being baptised today, was given the name of this saint.

It is also Remembrance Day today. I have been reading the life of Fr William Doyle, the Jesuit priest who was killed by a shell burst at Ypres while in no-man's-land, to give the sacraments to a wounded soldier. His biography, by Alfred O'Rahilly, is available for download at the Internet Archive.

Sex-ed gauleiters coming to a home near you

I have often wondered how long it would take for official bodies to start their inevitable attack on homeschoolers. Teaching children at home is the antithesis of the total control over children that the Government has gradually built up through the National Curriculum, "extended schools", and the "Every Child Matters" agenda. Even though in Britain, homeschoolers are a tiny minority, they cannot be comfortably accommodated with the kind of centralised control over education that the state has built up - a control that Stalin would have envied.

Now, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (acronmyn: NICE - how Orwellian is that!) has issued its "Final Scope" document for "Public health Programme Guidance". Apparently, NICE (or "the Institute") has been asked by the Department of Health to develop
guidance on a public health programme aimed at promoting school, college and community-based personal, social and health education, including health literacy1, with particular reference to sexual health behaviour and alcohol.
The Guidance will "support a number of related policy documents" such as (you guessed it):
• ‘Every child matters: change for children programme’ (Department for Education and Skills 2004a)
• ‘Extended schools and health services – working together for better outcomes for children and families’ (Department for Education and Skills 2006a)
• ‘Extended schools: improving access to sexual health advice services’ (Department for Education and Skills 2007a)
• ‘Healthy living blueprint for schools’ (Department for Education and Skills 2004b)
• ‘National healthy school status – a guide for schools’ (DH 2005)
• ‘PSHE at key stages 1–4: guidance on assessment, recording and reporting’ (Qualification and Curriculum Authority 2005)
• ‘Youth matters: next steps’ (Department for Education and Skills 2006b)
• ‘Improving access to sexual health advice services for young people in further education settings’ (Department for Education and Skills 2007b)
• ‘Sex and relationship education guidance’ (Department for Education and Employment 2000)
• ‘Teenage pregnancy: accelerating the strategy to 2010’ (Department for Education and Skills 2006c)
• ‘Safe, sensible, social. The next steps in the alcohol harm reduction strategy’ (DH 2007)
• ‘Drugs: guidance for schools’ (Department for Education and Skills 2004c)
Section 4.1.1 details "Groups that will be covered". These include the various categories of schools and ...
education other than at school, including home education and pupil referral units.
This is very sinister.

Jamie Carragher

The Torch of Faith blog quotes a passage from the book by Jamie Carragher, Liverpool FC Vice-Captain and European Cup Winner (H/T Southwark Vocations):
My book of Revelations begins with the most dramatic:
if my mum hadn't been a Roman Catholic,
I might have been aborted.
Paula Carragher was given the option of a termination
due to complications halfway through her pregnancy.
She was told I had spina-bifida- a birth defect that affects
the spinal cord. She was too religious to consider abortion,
no matter how disabled I'd be.
'Our Lord told me to have the baby', she still claims.
She's the rock on which my family is built.
I owe everything to that decision
she took thirty years ago'.
God bless Jamie's mum for having the courage to ignore the pressure to terminate her pregnancy and thank God for the reward of being able to take pride in her son as a world class footballer.

Many mother have told me that they were given a horrendous diagnosis for their child only to find out later that this was entirely spurious. I wonder how many babies have been killed because of this kind of mistake?

Of course, even if a child is disabled, that is no reason to kill the baby. To begin with, it is a difficult thing to face but disabled children bring much joy to their parents, brothers, sisters and the wider community. Prenatal Partners for Life offer great support and encouragement.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Reclaiming the sacristy

The New Liturgical Movement has an excellent post on Reclaiming the Sacristy as a Place of Prayer and Preparation I am glad to say that we already follow several of the suggestions in my sacristy. There has to be some talking with the sacristans and servers in preparation for Mass but it is understood that when I begin vesting, the servers line up and there is silence while I say the vesting prayers and the prayer of intention before offering Mass.

I remember the Silentium sign in the sacristy of St Mary's in West Croydon when I was a small boy but I have not yet put one up in my sacristy. I'll have to look for some nice parchment to print it on and then frame it.

Here is an inscription that I photographed in a Church some years ago when I was visiting Granada.

The inscription reads:

Vestibus hic sacris locus est
depone sacerdos
exuvias hominis veteres
atq(e) indue Christum

This is the place for sacred vestments. Put off the old coverings of the man, priest, and put on Christ.

Thomas Aquinas Day

Another conference coming up this weekend:

St Thomas Aquinas on theology

A Day at Blackfriars Cambridge

Fr Aidan Nichols O.P
Sr Valery Walker O.P

Saturday 15 November 2008
10am - 5pm
£5.00 (Bring a packed lunch)

More events for 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae

I received information today of two more events to mark the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae and I am happy to pass this on:

London Oratory
This year is the 40th anniversary of the publication of Humanae Vitae, in which Pope Paul VI addressed "the whole Catholic World, and all men of good will" on the subject of birth regulation.

No other papal encyclical has ever received such a turbulent reception from within the Church. Many laity and priests left the Church in protest, and in much of the Catholic world it was greeted with open dissent, or at best dead silence. But there are also those who hail Humanae Vitae as a work of inspiration, which accurately prophesied the disastrous effects that contraception would have on society in the decades following its promulgation. Many young Catholics today are embracing Humanae Vitae as part of their charter for married love.

On Thursday 27th November, John Finnis will talk to our Young Catholics on the subject "Retranslating Humanae Vitae". Dr Finnis is Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy at Oxford University, and will address the issues raised by Pope Paul VI's encyclical from the viewpoint of a philosopher.

We hope you will be able to attend what promises to be a fascinating and thought-provoking discussion. The talk will take place at the London Oratory, in St Wilfrid's Hall at 8pm, and is followed by refreshments. For further details, please contact Father Julian Large

University of Manchester Catholic Chaplaincy
1968 - 2008 'On Human Life' - Humanae Vitae 40 years on

The students at the Catholic Chaplaincy to the University of Manchester invite you to join them for a weekend conference to celebrate Pope Paul VI's prophetic Encyclical

14th - 16th November Friday evening to Sunday evening

£45 (£25 for students) including hot meal on arrival, coffee, lunch and
afternoon tea on Saturday and Sunday

Holy Mass and Rosary on Saturday,
concluding with Solemn sung Mass on Sunday Evening

Speakers: Bishop Donal Murray, Prof Luke Gormally, Fr Philip Egan,
Dr John McClean, Dr Anne Carus, Dr Pravin Thevathasan,
Edmund Adamus and Helena Turska.

Enquiries, bookings and payments (by IOth Nov) to:
Catholic Chaplaincy to the University of Manchester
335-339 Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PG Tel: 0161 273 1456

My blog crashing your computer?

I have had several reports that when people open my blog their computer crashes. This is obviously not something I want to happen... Does anyone have any idea what causes this? The sidebar uses javascript from bloglines, paypal and site meter. It could be one of these. I'll try removing the code from paypal first. Let me know if there is any change for the better.

If you have had problems, please could you let me know which browser you are using (Internet Explorer, AOL, Firefox ...)

Ecclesia Dei ruling on Holydays

Some very good news in my inbox this afternoon. Earlier this year, there was a bit of a storm in a teacup over the celebration of the usus antiquior in England and Wales on Holydays that have been transferred by the Bishops to the nearest Sunday. (See Coverage of Holydays fiasco). On his visit in June, Cardinal Hoyos made some comments relevant to the question. (See: Cardinal Castrillon clarifies Holyday question.)

Now the Latin Mass Society has obtained a formal response from the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. The New Liturgical Movement has posted the full text of the reply and the LMS press release. The PCED points out that the matter is still under study and that the present response should be taken without prejudice to further clarification to be issued by the Commission.

The key points of the response are:
1. The legitimate use of the liturgical books in use in 1962 includes the right to the use of the calendar intrinsic to those liturgical books.

2. While in accordance with Canon 1246 §2 of the Code of Canon Law the Episcopal Conference can legitimately transfer Holydays of obligation with the approbation of the Holy See, it is also legitimate to celebrate the Mass and Office of those feasts on the days prescribed in the calendar of the liturgical books in use in 1962 with the clear understanding that, in accordance with the legitimate decision of the Episcopal Conference, there is no obligation to attend Mass on those days.

3. Thus, in accordance with nn. 356-361 of the Rubricae Generales Missalis Romani of 1962, it is appropriate to celebrate the external solemnity of Holy Days on the Sunday to which they have been transferred by the Episcopal Conference, as has been customary in many other countries hitherto.
This is a welcome clarification which will set some people's minds at rest. It is perfectly all right to celebrate the Epiphany and Ascension, for example, according to the usus antiquior on the traditional days, as many parishes have chosen to do. This is in fact a good introduction for many people to the Traditional Latin Mass.

It should be noted that the celebration of the feast again on the Sunday as an external solemnity is "appropriate" and therefore not obligatory.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Liturgy Office and facing eastward

Jackie Parkes (Catholic Mom of 10) sent me the link to the Autumn 2008 issue of Spirit of the Season from the Liturgy Office of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales.

Jackie has (quite reasonably) questioned the assumption that "liturgical dance" is part of the liturgy but it is worth considering other aspects of the article. The front page article "The direction of worship" begins:
Taking the Church’s tradition and its understanding of the Mass, it is known for the priest to celebrate Mass facing the people or facing East, which is the priest facing the same way as the people. Aside from the politics that often accompanies this matter, it is good to consider ‘our’ focus during the celebration of Mass.
This is a very welcome injection of sensible comment on liturgical orientation. The article also makes the pertinent comment:
It is important for musicians to lead by being audible to the assembly, but there is not the same need for them to be visible, as though a part of the focus on the Altar.
The same reasoning is applied to the case where a group of children sing something. They are not singing to the congregation but to the Lord and therefore there is no need for them to be facing the congregation.

Although the article does not address the question of the orientation of the priest when he is praying to the Father on behalf of the assembled congregation, I think that it is a welcome indication that the teaching of Pope Benedict on the Liturgy is being assimilated in the newer form of the Mass.

I don't agree that liturgical dance is a suitable part of the celebration of Mass but it is interesting that even here the question of orientation is considered.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Suicide post - feedback

i have just read two powerful and inspiring testimonies in response to my post Suicide - make it safe?. Look in the combox for joannab's comment, and see Jackie Parkes' The Agony & the Ecstasy! A journey through depression & suicide.

"In the Heart of God"

The Passionists in Scotland have kindly sent me a little devotional book published by Ovada books in Glasgow. "In the Heart of God" is a selection of short quotations from the spiritual teaching of St Paul of the Cross, translated into English by Martin Coffey CP and Paul Francis Spencer OP.

The 96 page booklet has a thoughtful introduction to the spiritual teaching of St Paul of the Cross and is illustrated with colour photographs. This is a good book for priests to have in the confessional. It reminded me of the collections of sayings of St Josemaria Escriva in that you can read them in between penitents or on the train or whatever. As you might expect, the principal focus of the writings is on the passion of Christ and our union with Him. Here is one example that I highlighted in my copy:
"If you can learn to see God's will as a source of strength, taking every difficulty you go through as something which comes not just from circumstances but from the loving hand of God your creator, you will soon be speeding along the short road to holiness."
The Ovada Books website is "under construction" but you can order the book (£2.95) from

St Mungo's Retreat
52 Parson Street
G4 0RX
0141 552 5523

Friday, 7 November 2008

Martini attacks the Church

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, Emeritus Archbishop of Milan, has long been a respected figure among liberal theologians. His comments have usually been of a kind that hint at deeper issues, rather than openly dissenting from the teaching of the magisterium. For example, his calls for greater collegiality, for further theological enquiry on questions of sexuality, and for the Church to speak in a way that people understand, can all be given a perfectly proper interpretation. Nevertheless, in ecclesiastical circles, they are coded language hinting at opposition to Pope Benedict and to various doctrines of the Church.

I remember having to endure the gushing enthusiasm of some for Martini when I was a student in Rome and he was the Grand Chancellor of the Gregorian University. His reputation as a biblical scholar, specialising in the gospels, was such that it was unthinkable to challenge his authority. This has continued, as Diogenes remarks:
Martini's truly extraordinary composure and personal gravitas have earned him liberty from censure enjoyed by few ecclesiastics anywhere.
This composure now seems to have left him. Recently, Martini co-authored with Fr Georg Sporschill SJ a book called "Jerusalemer Nachtgespräche" (Nocturnal Talks in Jerusalem) in which he asks the Church to consider ordaining married men - and women.

In the 1994 letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II said:
I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.
In the following year, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a "Responsum ad Dubium":
Dubium: Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.
Responsum: In the affirmative.
An ordinary theologian who called this doctrine into question publicly would risk losing his licence.

Martini also attacks Pope Paul VI and Humanae Vitae. He accuses Pope Paul VI of concealing the truth, and calls for the Church to admit its mistakes in this area as a sign of "greatness of soul". Thus he flatly contradicts Pope Benedict who, earlier this year, said of Humanae Vitae:
...forty years after its publication this teaching not only expresses its unchanged truth but also reveals the farsightedness with which the problem is treated."
There is a report of a recent interview with Martini at Sandro Magister's Chiesa and the text of one of his interviews is to be found at Catholics for Ministry, (an Australian website that supports the ordination of married men, and women.)

What bothers me almost more than Martini's now open dissent from the magisterium is the offensive implications of his purple passages. Did you notice above that he implies that the Popes continuing to teach the doctrine of the Church on the unlawfulness of contraception is down to a lack of "greatness of soul." At the conclusion of his interview, he says:
There was a time when I dreamed of a church in poverty and humility, one that does not depend on the powers of this world. A church that gives space to people who think outside the box. A church that transmits courage and worth, especially to those who feel belittled or like sinners. A young Church. Today I no longer have those dreams. After 75 years I have decided to pray for the Church.
That is what Martini thinks of the Church today - cowardly, fat, rich, unable to help sinners, old and conventional.

My own experience confirms Pope Benedict's positive and loving appraisal that contrasts so starkly with Martini's: "The Church is alive... the Church is young." From the viewpoint of a parish priest in a country that has just legalised the creation of hybrid embryos, introduced legislation that has outlawed the work of Catholic adoption agencies, and looks set to introduce sex education for five year olds and compel the Church to go along with it, I can't recognise Martini's Church that depends on the powers of the world.

As for transmitting courage and worth, and thinking outside the box, the participants at the recent Faith and Family Conference could explain to the venerable Cardinal that the Catholic Church's teaching on love, marriage and the family is courageous, counter-cultural and transmits real worth to the family that is denigrated and despised by precisely those secularist values that Martini would have the Church ape.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

More black madonnas

My friends in the Netherlands have been quick to refer me to the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows at Warfhuizen (above) where I stayed this August for the catechetical bootcamp. (See various posts in late August.)

Brother Hugo points out that the custom is originally Spanish and that in Spain, the Madonna is traditionally dressed in black for the whole of November. Here is a link to various pictures of Maria Vestida de Luto.

Mgr Stephen di Giovanni, the Pastor of St John the Evangelist Church in Stamford, Connecticut has sent me this picture of "Mama" (as Fr. Faber referred to her). She appears so each Good Friday, Our Lady of Sorrows and All Souls'. Mgr gratefully acknowledges the good influence of the London Oratory.

Suicide - make it safe?

The Scotsman reported the other day that Margo McDonald MSP has announced that she intends to bring a Member's Bill to the Scottish Parliament to change the law on assisted suicide. (See: Margo MacDonald bids to change law on aiding suicide) Currently, attempted suicide is not a crime but it is a crime in England to assist someone in an attempted or successful suicide. In Scotland, the law is apparently unclear.

McDonald suffers from Parkinsons Disease and I pray that she never gets to the point of feeling suicidal, or that if she does, there are those around to support her rather than help her to hasten her death. There are various reasons that people commit suicide and I have carried out funerals for many such people on the assumption that they were of unsound mind and not giving full consent to taking their own lives.

Often families feel that they are somehow to blame and question whether they could have done more. People are naturally horrified that any of their friends or relatives would reach such a state that they take their own lives. We naturally want to be able to reassure such families that there was nothing they could do and that it was not their fault. It is a horrifying prospect to think that families could be encouraged to help their own relatives commit suicide and think that they were doing something good.

The assumption of any move to legalise assisted suicide is that some people would be "better off dead". Legalising assisted suicide would also be a very large foot in the door to euthanasia which would soon become non-voluntary in the case of mentally incapacitated people. Intolerable pressure would also be brought to bear on those who feel themselves to be a "burden", especially with the likes of Baroness Warnock suggesting that they ought to be assisted to die.

There is a tellingly bizarre comment from Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Health Secretary. (See: Assisted suicide law 'uncertain') Although she applauded McDonald for taking on this "difficult, emotive debate", she said that she was not sure that sufficient safeguards were in place to prevent the system being abused.

"Safeguards"? What will the slogan be? "Suicide - make it legal, make it safe"?
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