Thursday, 9 September 2010

Catholicism "you can kind of pick and choose" - or not

On the feast of the Assumption, Mark Dowd came to Blackfen with producer, Helen Grady to record our Mass at Blackfen and talk to some parishioners in the Social Club afterwards. I had a session with them some days later, talking particularly about the Mass and about Pope Benedict.

This was all in preparation for the programme "The Pope's British Divisions" which was broadcast on Radio 4 this morning (it is available on iPlayer for a few days). I was at the seminary at Wonersh for a "Staff Review and Planning Day" and, unusually, found myself listening to the radio after breakfast.

Naturally, only a small portion of the recorded material was actually used in the programme; it is part of the art of producing such a piece that a judicious selection is made. As any producer would expect, I would have one or two quibbles but from a media point of view, it is fascinating to see how much work is put into such projects. There were pieces from Pluscarden, Aberdeen, a school in Derby, Soho, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Oscott seminary, and Blackfen.

The 45 minute programme aimed to show how Catholic life in England has changed since the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1982. It looked at immigration, secularism, what it is to be a Catholic, the Soho Masses, the revival of the usus antiquior (which is where Blackfen came in), and how priests of the future see their ministry in Britain today. The seminarians at Oscott who provided the material for the last part gave a very creditable performance.

The treatment of Blackfen was basically even-handed with time given to both sides of the argument - though as is customary and perhaps understandable in media terms the equal time did not reflect the massively unequal weight of opinion. Jonathan Hague, our MC, and the Mulier Fortis both got time. (25'56")

It was hilarious to hear the "Alle-alle-alle - looo - ooo - yah" (27'52") used to illustrate liturgy "a world away from the old rite". I was disappointed that our young people who were interviewed did not get into the final version - but that's life. (My bit is just after the Alle-alle. Make of it what you will: nemo iudex in causa sua)

I would highlight two segments from the programme which I think are significant. The first is a section where students from St Benedict's School, Derby are interviewed on the day that they have gone to find out their A-level results. Here is, I hope, an accurate transcript of part of the section:
[Mark Dowd] If you had a few words in his [viz. Pope Benedict's] ear and you could give him some advice, what would you say to him?

[Student 1] I don’t know, I don’t think he understands that we’re quite in the 21st century yet, and I think some of his views are still quite outdated: things that he’s said about, like, abortion, and like, same-sex marriages

[Mark Dowd] It’s quite hard to see the Pope changing his mind on abortion and same sex marriage isn’t it?

[Student 1] I know. I don’t think he ever will despite how many people write letters to him.

[Mark Dowd] Do you think it’s possible to be a Catholic and be pro-abortion and in favour of same sex marriage.

[Student 1] Erm Yeah. I think it is. I know I certainly am and I don’t have like a problem admitting that and being a Catholic.

[Student 2] I think that yeah, the community aspects of the religion, are fantastic, the stuff that’s more “help thy neighbour” and more social is definitely right, correct to believe in; but I think some of the stuff that’s a bit restricting, things almost like chastity and things like that but I think the best thing about being a Catholic is the fact that you can kind of pick and choose which bits you'd like to believe in as long as you kind of – worship God – really.
I'm glad that the editorial decision was taken not to identify the students since it would be invidious to blame them for illustrating the utter failure of the Church via her schools to convey to them the importance of truth in religion in general and in Catholicism in particular - or indeed anything whatsoever of the incisive teaching of Pope Benedict on the subject of truth and tolerance. My youngsters here are banging their heads on the wall at not being able to answer - perhaps we should give them a chance on YouTube...

There was a section on the Soho Masses, "at which LGBT Catholics are particularly welcomed". Catholics have gathered reams of documentation on those involved with organising these Masses who openly dissent from the teaching of the Church. The programme included a fascinating exchange (20'17") with Fr Seamus O'Boyle, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Westminster:
[Mark Dowd] So did the parish priest, Mgr Seamus O’Boyle, get the all-clear from Rome for this controversial service?

[Fr O’Boyle] Well obviously, when you do something like this, some Catholics don’t like the idea; some priests wouldn’t like the idea of it, so, inevitably, Rome is aware: and the guidelines that we prepared were actually sent for comment to Rome so that Rome was aware, also able to say “Yea” or “Nay” and I have to say that at the time and certainly continually that Rome has been very supportive

[Mark Dowd] Is this at just some junior level or pretty high up?

[Fr O’Boyle] No that would be quite high up, and particularly because at the time it was Cardinal Murphy O’Connor who was the Archbishop and he could talk cardinal to cardinal as it were and he was talking to Cardinal Levada who in a previous life had been the Archbishop of San Francisco, had an understanding...

[Mark Dowd] Is it likely that the Pope knows about this Mass?

[Fr O’Boyle] It wouldn’t surprise me, he knows Cardinal Levada very well. It could be that it has been mentioned; but I’m afraid I’m not privy to that kind of information.
The claim of "approval from Rome" was used in subsequent questions put to those who say the Rosary outside the Church on the occasion of these Masses. I have to say that I doubt whether the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would want it to be said that he has given his approval to the Soho Masses.

Other articles (and comments)
John Smeaton
St Mary Magdalen, Brighton
Mac McLernon
The Sensible Bond
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