Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Anthony McCarthy on the condom debate

Anthony McCarthy has written an important article regarding the Holy Father's recent comments on condoms. He has had some trouble getting it published elsewhere so I am happy to post it here as a Scribd file which you can view, download, or print as convenient.

I think that this is an important and helpful contribution to the debate that the Holy Father has instigated and I agree with Anthony.

Pope Condoms (McCarthy)

33 Martyrs of Yang Kia Ping

Theresa Marie Moreau at Veritas Est Libertas writes of the story of the 33 martyrs of the Trappist Monastery of Yang Kia Ping.

The photo to the right is of Father Chrysostomus. Theresa tells of his fortitude at the final ludicrously unjust people's trial before he was shot with several of his brothers. Here is just a small section:
Father Chrysostomus Chang plumbed the depths of his human will for a supernatural strength. With only a few minutes remaining of his life in the material world, he lifted his thoughts to the spiritual. Through screams from the mob, he addressed his confreres at his side one last time, to prepare them not for death, but for life, everlasting life.

“We’re going to die for God. Let us lift our hearts one more time, in offering our total beings,” he said.
After being shot, the bodies of the holy monks were thrown into a sewage ditch where wild dogs came to lick their blood.

The whole account tells of unspeakable active cruelty combined with the deliberate neglect of basic human needs. To make people walk around in soiled clothes because they have not been allowed to relieve themselves seems to me a particularly diabolical aspect of persecution from the French revolution onwards. It is designed to degrade the humanity of a person and break their spirit. It did not succeed with these holy monks.

On the other hand, Theresa tells a tale of heroism, and the spiritual life lived with perfect fidelity even under the pressure of cruel physical and mental torture.

Do read the whole story. These men should be canonised.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Changing vocabulary instead of saving lives

In the USA, the term "mental retardation" has now been replaced by "intellectual disability". Good: but it would be more convincing if children with trisomy were actually allowed to live.

Leticia Velasquez is a co-founder of Keep Infants with Down Syndrome, has written for MercatorNet, pointing out that drawing a new word from the thesaurus, while welcome in itself, is a hollow gesture if we continue to abort most children with trisomy. She says:
My point is this; if an entire class of people, those with three sets of the 21st chromosome, are routinely targeted for destruction -- at a scandalous rate of 90 per cent -- can merely changing the term we use to describe those 10 per cent who escape the net increase respect for their human dignity and intrinsic value to society in a meaningful way? Isn’t a more fundamental change required before having a child with Down syndrome goes from being the greatest fear of pregnant women to being widely accepted by society?
She also reports the puzzlement of a psychiatrist who travelled to Ireland and noticed far more people with Downs syndrome than he was used to. Eventually he realised that this was because abortion is not allowed in Ireland and so children with trisomy are by and large casually accepted in everyday life.

See: No more “mental retardation”. So?

Winter stable at Papa Stronsay

Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and the Sacred Heart of Jesus are watching over the cattle, sheep and donkeys at Papa Stronsay. The Sons of the Most Holy Redeemeer, also known as the Transalpine Redemptorists, have posted photos of preparing the winter stables and getting the animals in safely, with the bull segregated into the Nazareth stable away from the cows. See: The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib....

The Holy Island of Papa Stronsay calendar is still available to purchase on ebay.

Papal ninjas build snowman

You never know when the Papal ninjas will strike. A correspondent had just gone round the corner for some shopping. By the time he returned, the ninjas had stolen into his back garden, scaled the wall of his house to retrieve the St Ninian tartan scarf and made a pastoral staff with other handy objects lying around.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Rare footage of St Pio

This charming video of St Pio of Pietrelcina shows some rare footage of the saintly Franciscan with his brothers. At times there is an atmosphere of playfulness redolent of the Fioretti of St Francis. At the end, they are obviously teasing him about the camera and he hits the cameraman with his cincture. We see him in the refectory and in the Church, and there are scenes of his brothers dealing with the massive postbag which he generated. Starting at 4'23" there is some footage of Padre Pio as celebrant at High Mass.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Danger of censorship under the guise of crime prevention

Are we seeing the beginning of attempts to control the internet if material embarrasses the government? Guido Fawkes' runs a massively influential English political blog. Today he has posted an article regarding an agreement by Nominet ("which controls the .uk part of the internet") to allow the police to take down any website without recourse to the courts.

Guido refers to Richard Baron's article Internet censorship on his blog Analysis and Synthesis. The post includes a well-argued letter that he has written in response to Nominet's request for feedback.

Of course we all want sites that run scams, show child porn, or facilitate terrorism to be taken down. The question at issue is whether this is simply a decision to be made by the police or whether some kind of due process (such as obtaining a court order) should be observed in order to ensure that such censorship is not inflicted arbitrarily. I agree with Richard Baron that sites should not be closed down simply because they express "extreme" views.

The danger for Catholic blogs is that "equality" legislation is increasingly opposed to the free expression of Catholic doctrine. Pope Benedict reflected on this in some of the less controversial parts of his recent interview "Light of the World" and in his excellent book "Truth and Tolerance". If law enforcement agencies are allowed to decide motu proprio that a site must be closed down, we have then moved another step nearer to a police state.

Guido has some good advice in his post about spreading one's internet footprint around in various legal jurisdictions.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Praying for the dead

Many thanks to the Mulier Fortis for composing this slideshow of photos from our Mass for All Souls and the blessing of graves the Sunday after. In the last few days of November, don't forget to pray for your deceased relatives and friends and for all the forgotten souls in purgatory - and indeed nowadays, those who have never been prayed for.

Talking about the English Martyrs

At the John Fisher School in Purley today, I gave the boys at the Faith Group a talk about the English Martyrs. I made a rather dismissive comment about the teaching of history nowadays and then proceeded to be thoroughly corrected by their impressive knowledge of the monarchs of the period between 1535 and 1681 (and the "Commonwealth") and many details of the history of the period.

That was actually a great help since I could leave aside all that and speak about some of the martyrs, their sufferings, their character, and the dirty tricks that were played on them in an attempt to discredit them. The questions were intelligent and it was my initiative to call things to a close after about an hour, rather than having to throw in the towel (as sometimes happens with talks to youngsters) when restlessness sets in. It was relatively easy because there are so many stirring stories associated with our glorious martyrs.

After the talk, there is tea and buttered toast - a long-standing tradition of the Faith Group at the Fisher School - along with pool playing and, for me, a chance to have a chat with the Headmaster who kindly found the time to call in. Afterwards I went with Sir Dan of the blogosphere (right) to a restaurant at Tattenham Corner, overlooking the Epsom Downs racecourse, for a session of plotting and scheming the reform of the Church, opposing all bogginess.

I took the above picture four years ago in the Chapter House at Parkminster where the monks are reminded of the sufferings of their heavenly companions. Since that time, the paintings have been cleaned. I would love to take some new photos some time. You can read a little about the Carthusian Martyrs at my post Pictures of the Carthusian Martyrs in the Chapter House.

bonum ex integra causa malum ex quocumque defectu

There are two helpful and thoughtful articles today on the Great Condom Debate. At Joseph Shaw's Casuistry blog, there is a discussion very much in the style of articles that I read as an undergraduate (Joseph is Fellow and Tutor in philosophy at St Benet's Hall). It is rigorously and methodically argued: The Pope on condoms: some conclusions

Then K Gurries at Opuscula has a look at the question using the traditional Catholic analysis of the moral act in terms of object, intention and circumstances: The sources of morality.

I found the latter article very helpful because I spent some time the other day reading Noldin (a standard Latin manual of moral theology) on this very subject, as well as H J Davis - a similar book but written in English. I was reminded of a Latin tag:
bonum ex integra causa malum ex quocumque defectu
Literally this means "good (thing) from an integral cause, bad (thing) from any defect whatever" which isn't terribly helpful. A more Ronald Knox-friendly translation into good English (used in the article Good in the Catholic Encyclopaedia) would be "An action is good when good in every respect; it is wrong when wrong in any respect."

Neither of the articles will solve the problem of the Pope's comments for you but both of them will help you with some moral theology. I certainly found them good because I am not a moral theologian; I'm a dogmatist. But you knew that already ;-)

Meanwhile, John Smeaton has been looking at the claim that "the Church has never spoken out against the use of condoms outside of marriage" and has a very useful series of quotations.

Superb issue of Catholic Herald

The Catholic Herald is the best Catholic paper in Britain but this week I felt that it had excelled itself. The banner headline "Benedict XVI: the inside story" was exactly right with an excellent summary article by Anna Arco who confessed on Facebook on Tuesday "Grrrrrr. Press day = stress day" I imagine it must have been particularly stressful this week since as well as the front page article, she has several others on pages 2-3 on which she and and colleagues provide good, accurate and concise summary and comments on Light of the World. Following the Herald on Twitter, I learned that Anna had also got hold of a copy of the German edition. This illustrates the kind of attention to accuracy and detail which puts the Herald out in front.

Ronald Knox once quipped that a typical headline in the Catholic papers was "Nun stung by bee on way to Benediction". I remember once at Oxford when this quote was doing the rounds, that a Catholic paper had the headline "Vicar sends Pope a pair of socks." Therefore it is perhaps in the genre for the front page to include "Pope give £85,000 truffle to homeless" (to avoid any silly outrage on this matter, let me hasten to add that the truffle in question had been donated to the Pope by an Italian businessman who paid 100,000 euro for it at a charity auction.)

Of course there is "other news" this week and the paper covers the Bishops' Conference, focussing particularly on the setting up of the Ordinariate, it has two good articles on the consistory, and covers the illicit episcopal ordination of Fr Joseph Guo Jincai in China.

The feature articles complement this week's issue with a piece on Dorothy Day and a fascinating article by Sister Janet Fearns with testimonies from the five seminarians at the Phnom Penh seminary in Cambodia. Verbum Domini has not been forgotten: Fr Adrian Graffy has a piece in the prime slot on the Comment page. Opposite that, the letters page this week is particularly good: opening slot is given to the great Fr Hunwicke who gives a fascinating account of the background to Graham Leonard's conditional ordination and the Anglo-Catholic reaction to Apostolicae Curae.

The Catholic Life section is sometimes referred to whimsically as the herald's "Hello" page but I think it has served a good purpose in highlighting local events without becoming ludicrously parochial. For example this week as well as the Passage "Night Under the Stars" concert with various celebrities pictured, there is a photo of the Pilgrimage from Ryde to Quarr and a spendid photo of pupils from the Oratory School on the occasion of their annual Requiem.

The Reviews in the Herald are always of good quality. Although some of them on music and theatre go above my head, when I do know a little about the subject, I normally find them well informed. For instance this week there is an intelligent review by John Jolliffe of Laszlo Dobszay's The Restoration and Organic Development of the Roman Rite. That is a fascinating book, by the way: a real contribution to the debate on the Liturgy.

When reading the Herald, I always look forward to some light-hearted banter from Stuart Reid on the back page. If someone else is doing the column I am a little disappointed. However Robin Baird-Smith's piece this week, "Running from silence" is very good indeed, combining personal experience and humour while making a serious point about the abhorrence of silence in today's society.

Quite a bit of the paper's content can be read at the Catholic Herald website and you can get some good snippets as things are being prepared on the @catholicherald Twitter feed, but editor, Luke Coppen, reminds us regularly on Twitter that you need to get the paper to read it all. My own business model would be to put the whole lot on the internet and take a bit more advertising online to boost both revenue and circulation; but then I am a priest and not a businessman.

Someone may of course say "You reptile - you are puffing the Catholic Herald because you write for it and you have a financial interest!" Well it is true that I write a small column (350 words) called "Catholic Dilemmas" but, frankly, it is not a massively significant part of the paper and whether it is accepted or not, my motive in writing in this way on the blog is simply to give credit where credit is due. Bloggers (myself included) are quick to lay into the "dead tree media" so I think that something as good as this week's Herald deserves recognition. We often feel compelled to say negative things on blogs and it is nice to be able to write something positive.

(By the way, the image above is not this week but an old image. I found it on google and thought it was fun.)

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Celebrating San Clemente (and St Catherine)

A firework waterfall, relic of St Clement, and a procession through the street with people milling around randomly. All very Roman and it does look fun. (H/T Orbis Catholicus for the video)

When people from the parish tell me that they are going to Rome and ask what to visit, I always recommend that they visit the Basilica of San Clemente. It is near the Colosseum which they want to see anyway, and it gives a good introduction to Rome. The basilica is 12th century and has a cosmatesque paving, choir, and basilica altar. As so often in such Churches in Rome, the beautiful Paschal candlestick and Ambo were not, in my time in Rome, actually used for the Liturgy, as was the case at the basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le mura when I visited a couple of years ago. (See: Bl Pio Nono and the new liturgy)

Underneath the 12th century basilica, there are the remains of a fourth century which has several frescoes such as this 8th century Madonna and child. Below that, there are remains of a first century Roman street complete with a Mithraic temple.

The website for the Basilica of San Clemente has lots of pictures, including those 360 degree ones that make you feel you are on a fairground ride. Important to remember today, on her feast day, is the chapel of St Catherine with its 15th century frescoes depicting the famous wheel which was chopped by an angel when she touched it, and the scene of St Catherine converting the philosophers of Alexandria. On google, I found a post by Samantha Simpson at Monkey Fur which has some great photos.

BBC to show Nativity series

This is just a heads-up for the series to be broadcast by the BBC in December dramatising the story of the Nativity. My first reaction was to groan and wonder what on earth they were going to come up with this year. Looking at one or two notices for it, I have now suspended judgement.

The Churches Together in England carries and enthusiastic endorsement from Peter Greystone of the Church Army, an evangelistic organisation which operates within the Church of England. The BBC have issed a . Press Release where you can find which TV programmes the various actors have been in: I have absolutely no clue about any of them except "Eastenders" whose script writer has written the series. it will be shown as four 30 minute episodes in December though unfortunately the press release doesn't say when these will be.

I very much hope that this will be as good as Peter Greystone says:
Basically the serial tells the stories as they have been handed down to us with straightforward acceptance of them as true. It fills out the back-story with motivations and emotions in order to make it entirely credible. Admittedly, it does incorporate two thousand years of tradition that has gathered around the story (for example, there is a donkey, Mary ends up in blue, all the characters end up squashed in a stable, and so on). But the fact that it declares that this baby is going to save humankind from its sins is so overpowering that all the embellishments become part of the credibility, not distracting.
If you know any more about this series, please put in a comment.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Warmest good wishes to all readers from the USA for Thanksgiving Day. God bless your families and God bless America! (And enjoy the turkey!)

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Molotov cocktail of planetary magnitude

A Vaticanista looks at the background to the publication of extracts from Light of the World by L'Osservatore Romano.

On his blog Sacro e Profano, Andrés Beltramo has a fascinating article Benedicto XVI no es un ingenuo ("Benedict XVI is not naive"). He says that a few hours before the worldwide launch of the Light of the World, Fr Federico Lombardi expressed his fears to Pope Benedict about the impact of his having agreed to do a book length interview with Peter Seewald:
"Holiness, in the current media environment, would you not think a book like this is a huge risk?"
Perhaps a "dynamic equivalence" translation would be Sergeant Wilson's "Do you think that's wise, Sir?"

Apparently, Lombardi's concern was met with the "knowing smile of a Pope who knew what he was doing"; he knew that his words could be misinterpreted and that he was going to talk about condoms anyway. Beltramo feels that the great value of the Light of the World is its humanity and candour, and that nobody needs to worry about danger to the papal magisterium because Pope Benedict has given the Church a particular gift, that of affirming that Popes have an opinion outside of the magisterial office and that in such matters they can be wrong.

Later in the article, Beltramo comments on the publication of extracts from the interview on Saturday by L'Osservatore Romano. Apparently there is no editorial work on L'Osservatore done on Sunday and the editor, Giovanni Maria Vian, did not want to be lagging behind the Italian papers who would be publishing stories on the Monday. In addition, supposedly, the Liberia Editrice Vaticana did not have a co-ordinated publishing strategy, and excerpts from the book had been given out all over the place. Beltramo describes what happened next in media terms as,
"a molotov cocktail of planetary magnitude, the worst Vatican communications gaffe for a long time."
Beltramo is convinced that there was no conspiracy in the Vatican related to the leaked extracts, just the desire of Vian to get the story out before the Italian papers. Perhaps that is so - but remember that part of the Vatican culture is that whether it is a molotov cocktail of planetary magnitude or just a little embarrassing mistake in the office, the tendency is to look quickly for someone else (more junior) to blame.

In fact, comment on media gaffes is not absent from the Pope's answers in the interview itself. Speaking of the lifting of the excommunications of the SSPX bishops, the Holy Father says that people did not understand the canonical issues involved and that "in this matter our public relations work was a failure." (p.22) In chapter 12, the question of Bishop Williamson is raised by Peter Seewald. There, Pope Benedict continues the theme:
Unfortunately, the public relations work was not done well from our side, so that the real, canonical substance and the limits of this process were never made clear. Then, to top it all off, there was the total meltdown with Williamson, which we had unfortunately not foreseen, and that is a particularly distressing circumstance. (p.121)
Peter Seewald then asked the Holy Father whether he would have signed the decree lifting the excommunications if he had known that among the four bishops there was a person who denied the existence of the Nazi gas chambers. The Pope replied:
No. If I had known, the first step would have been to separate the Williamson case from the others. Unfortunately, though, none of us went on the Internet to find out what sort of person we were dealing with. (p.121)
Regarding the Regensburg address, the Holy Father's comment on the media reaction is also of interest.
I had conceived and delivered the lecture as a strictly academic address, without realizing that people don’t read papal lectures as academic presentations, but as political statements. The political reading ignored the fine web of the argument, ripping the passage out of its context and turning it into a political statement, which it wasn’t.
Quite a few Catholics fail to understand the distinction between the private opinions of a Pope (with which we may disagree), his authentic, non-infallible magisterium (to which we should give the religious submission of mind and will), and his extraordinary infallible magisterium in which he enjoys that infallibility which Christ willed His Church to enjoy in defining matters of faith and morals. It is true that people do not read papal lectures as academic presentations. Unfortunately, it is also true that people do not read unprepared remarks to a journalist as informal comments.

"Light of the World" published in UK by CTS

With all the furore over "Light of the World", I forgot to give details of the publisher. The book is published in the UK by the Catholic Truth Society by agreement with Ignatius Press who are the publishers for the USA.

The book is beautifully produced and typset. There is a foreword from George Weigel and and introduction by Peter Seewald. I am glad that CTS got the rights to publish such a prestigious title and I hope that the sales of this book will assist their many other good works.

Currently Light of the World is available from the CTS at the special offer price of £11.21. (240 pages. Hardback)

Bicycle handlebar Rosary attachment

There are many apps for saying the Rosary on your smartphone. Michael Guglielmo, a Catholic and a keen cyclist wrote with an idea that he has come up with for a bicycle handlebar Rosary attachment. Unlike smartphone apps, this is one you make and install manually. Here are the instructions:
There's not much to making it. Two decorative pipe cleaners, two light brackets, two longer screws to replace the short ones that came with the brackets and one or two old rosaries which I hope would carry their former blessings with them. You can also use craft store beads and with the intent of bring the completed project to church for a blessing. The beauty of this is that the pipe cleaners hold the beads in place so they stay in place when moved. In addition, if it breaks, the beads don't scatter and its an easy fix.
Michael does add the caveat that it should only be used in safe areas. Probably not wise to use it when weaving through traffic in central London.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Pope praises "Heralds of the Gospel"

CTS sent me a copy of Light of the World this morning. Let me begin by congratulating the "Heralds of the Gospel" who are singled out for praise by the Holy Father in the chapter on the Dictatorship of Relativism. Asked by Peter Seewald whether Christianity has played itself out as other civilisations have in the past, Pope Benedict replies that his meetings with Bishops around the world help him to look beyond the Western world. He adds:
In Brazil, for example, there is, on the one hand, strong growth among the sects, which are often very dubious because, for the most part, they promise only prosperity, external success. There are also, however, new Catholic awakenings, a dynamic of new movements, for instance, the “Heralds of the Gospel”, young people who are seized by the enthusiasm of having acknowledged Christ as the Son of God and of bringing him into the world. As the Archbishop of São Paolo tells me, new movements are being formed there constantly. And so there is a force of new life and awakening there. (p.58)
Having read the pdf of the book under embargo, I have a few other good passages to highlight, but I thought it would be good first of all to give a heads-up to this endorsement of a fine group of people. The video above shows some of the women members in the favelas of São Paulo.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Pope/condoms IV - "Do you think that's wise, Sir?"

Having given some background in the previous posts, I must offer a reaction of my own to the Holy Father's comments on AIDS and condoms. It would be along the lines of Sergeant Wilson in Dad's Army: "Do you think that's wise, Sir?"

On the one hand, we know that the widespread distribution of condoms to tackle the problem of HIV/AIDS has not worked in practice: the Holy Father affirms that and it has been the subject of much comment around the internet over the years. On the other hand, secularists and militant gays use the condom issue to attack the Church as heartless and out of touch since in some individual sexual acts, a condom will reduce the risk of infection. (There are, of course, acts in which condoms do not apply, so to speak.)

The Holy Father uses the example of a male prostitute (Prostituierter in the original German), saying that the use of a condom can be:
"a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants."
I think that this is an unfortunate example. Many male prostitutes are not doing whatever they want to do, on account of being controlled by a pimp and compelled to meet the standard requests of their "client". If he is required to be the passive partner in a sexual encounter, wearing a condom will not do him much good - he would need the "client" to wear one. If he is required to be active, he might want to wear a condom out of an instinct for self-preservation but probably would not see it as a step in the direction of moralization. Surely the only proper response of a good Catholic wishing to help someone caught up in male prostitution is "Is there anything we can do to help you get the hell out of this?"

In Africa, the more common situation is that of men who go away to work, consorting with female prostitutes, and then, on returning home, infecting their wives or girlfriends. Again, the poor prostitute may well have little choice in the matter of whether a condom is used or not. In an individual encounter, if the man agrees to wear one, a condom will reduce the risk of infection but in the process of "risk compensation" may encourage him that his dangerous and immoral behaviour can be undertaken with an acceptable rate of risk to himself and his family. This seems the most likely explanation for the increase in infection rates when condoms are promoted aggressively.

One article I read today said that programmes promoting abstinence were irrelevant in some cases because of the incidence of rape. That is a fair point but it should also be borne in mind that condoms are also irrelevant here unless we are trying to persuade rapists to practise "safer sex". (If we did, would that be a step in the direction of moralization?)

I'm sorry. I love the Holy Father very much; he is a deeply holy man and has done a great deal for the Church. On this particular issue, I disagree with him and I hope that my having sufficient "initial goodwill" is not in question (cf. Pope/condoms I). I have read an embargoed copy of the whole of the interview with Peter Seewald and there is a great deal there to ponder and learn from. I'll now be moving on to that and other topics.

Pope/condoms III - division at the Vatican

An important background story related to the Holy Father's remarks on AIDS and condoms is that of a longstanding division between Cardinals and Vatican officials on the question. Austen Ivereigh, one of the co-ordinators of Catholic Voices, and now acting on behalf of the Catholic Truth Society in relation to the release of the Pope's interview with Peter Seewald, "Light of the World" to be officially launched tomorrow, has written for America magazine on the background to the Pope's words.

He puts forward the argument that it is not condoms themselves that are intrinsically evil but contraception, and that therefore the use of condoms as a prophylactic against HIV/AIDs can be justified. As he rightly points out, this has been an argument proposed for some time by some Catholic moral theologians. (I am not sure that is can be rightly described as the "consensus".) Back in 2004, Austen Ivereigh commissioned Fr Martin Rhonheimer, a priest of Opus Dei (and by that very fact trusted by many orthodox Catholics) to write an article for the Tablet in which he argued that the use of condoms by people with HIV/AIDS would help them to keep a sense of responsibility and that the use of condoms by a man with HIV when he has intercourse with his wife may be permissible since the contraceptive effect would be an unintended side-effect. I presume that the argumentation of this article and that of similar moral theologians underpinned Jack Valero's comments on television at the time of the Papal Visit that "the Church is not against condoms" in the sense that the Church does not oppose condoms per se but promiscuity and contraception.

Luke Gormally replied to Fr Ronheimer's argument concerning the use of condoms in marriage where the husband is HIV positive in Faith Magazine: Marriage and the Prophylactic use of Condoms

Austen Ivereigh remarks that he had to deal with the "fallout" from Cardinal Lopez Trujillo's remarks on the BBC Panorama programme to the effect that condoms were ineffective in Africa. In fact, as we know, on a national scale, this is true. Those countries which have strongly promoted condom use have experienced a higher rate of HIV infection whereas those who have promoted changed in behaviour have significantly reduced rates of infection. It should also be noted that the BBC programme "Sex and the Holy City" was one of the most notoriously biased programmes made by the BBC and was the subject of a chapter in Robin Aiken's book Can We Trust the BBC? which was supported by the scholarly critique by David Kerr. (Both Kerr and Aiken were long-time BBC employees.)

Some Cardinals, though accepting the large-scale picture, were concerned with the casuistry of individual cases and the public perception of the Church as inhumane and heartless. Austen Ivereigh lists among these, Cardinals Murphy-O'Connor, Danneels, and Barragan; and notes that other Cardinals (presumably including Cardinal Trujillo) disagreed. This disagreement was in 2005-2006; a commission of moral theologians was set up to look into the question but nothing was decided. In 2008, Austen Ivereigh spoke to a "senior official" at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who told him that he agreed with "clarifying" the teaching but that they feared the headlines that would result.

In other words, the story is one of division within the ranks of officials at the Holy See with factions both for and against a "clarification" that condoms could be morally permissible as a prophylactic against HIV infection. It could reasonably be assumed, I think, that the current direction of L'Osservatore Romano would be on the side of the clarifying faction and this helps to explain why the paper broke the embargo of the Holy Father's interview, publishing various extracts including his comments on condoms and HIV, thus ensuring that this would be the principal story in the world's media.

For the sake of further "clarity", let me say that the opposing faction would not necessarily have disagreed that in theory, in an individual case, the use of a condom by a homosexual man in order to reduce the risk of HIV infection would not ipso facto contradict the teaching of Humanae Vitae which was concerned with contraception. They would have been concerned that any signal to the effect that condoms were the answer to HIV/AIDS would exacerbate the problem in Africa and elsewhere - a claim that all parties accepted was "backed up by the evidence."

Pope/condoms II - some Catholic reactions

All over the Catholic blogosphere you will find Catholics defending the Holy Father's remarks regarding condoms and HIV/AIDS. It is rightly pointed out that the Holy Father reiterated his position, stated on the plane on the way to Cameroon, that "we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms". He also said that "the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality", that the condom "is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection", and that the Church does not regard the use of condoms as "a real or moral solution"

However, he also said that the use of a condom by a male prostitute may be "a first step in the direction of a moralisation" and that in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, there may be "a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality."

There have indeed been some silly headlines and interpretations in the media but there have also been plenty of reports that have accurately made the distinction between the contraceptive use of condoms and the remarks of the Holy Father concerning the use of condoms as a prophylactic against HIV/AIDS. So I don't think this is really a story about media misrepresentation but about the essential point that the Holy Father was making in his interview with a journalist. To that extent, I agree with some of what Damian Thompson says in his post: Conservative Catholics blame media for condoms story – but are they secretly cross with the Pope?.

(Incidentally, some have raised the question of context - you can see the whole context here in the complete extract from the book "Light of the World". If you are suspicious about the translation, you can check the German text at Sandro Magister's Chiesa blog: The Pope on the Pope. A Preview.)

In my previous post, I put forward the case that we are allowed to disagree with the Pope here. Fr John Boyle has done so with great respect but also with courage and honesty in his post: Did the Pope say it's okay to use condoms?. Having pondered this question for more or less the whole of the last two days, I have to say that I am largely in agreement with Fr Boyle. Before I comment on that further with my own thoughts, I think we need to look at some of the background in another post.

Pope/condoms I - Can we disagree?

Certainly we can. In his book "Jesus of Nazareth", Pope Benedict himself spoke clearly on this matter. He said:
It goes without saying that this book is in no way an exercise of the magisterium, but is solely an expression of my personal search "for the face of the Lord" (cf. Ps 27:8). Everyone is free, then, to contradict me. I would only ask my readers for that initial goodwill without which there can be no understanding.
It is reasonable to assume that the same applies to an interview given to a journalist.

Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium (n.25)speaks of a religious submission of mind and will which should be shown to the bishops teaching on matters of faith and morals in communion with the Roman Pontiff and says:
This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra.
This religious submission of mind and will is not required when the Pope is engaging in a "personal search" or answering questions in an interview - since this is not an exercise of the magisterium.

Nevertheless, Catholic theology has the concept of a "probable opinion" and the Pope is a theologian in his own right. Therefore his opinion on a moral matter must be regarded as a probable one which it is legitimate for a person to follow. Other theologians may disagree and present a different opinion which may also be a probable opinion.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

L'Osservatore's unhelpful leak

The National Catholic Register carries an important article by Jimmy Akin in response to the leaked bits of Pope Benedict's interview with Peter Seewald "Light of the World". Jimmy Akin comments:
The controversy erupted Saturday morning when L’Osservatore Romano unilaterally violated the embargo on the book by publishing Italian-language extracts of various papal statements, much to the chagrin of publishers around the world, who had been working on a carefully orchestrated launch for the book on Tuesday.
Here is a link to the full text of the question and answer on condoms and Africa as published by Catholic World Report. Janet Smith has also written a good piece for CWR.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer in London tomorrow

I just picked up from Facebook the great news that the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer (aka Translapine Redemptorists") will be in London tomorrow for the traditional confirmations at Spanish Place. One of their postulants is being confirmed and he will be accompanied by Fr Anthony Mary F.SS.R. and some brothers. I'll be there as I have a recently-baptised adult who is being confirmed so it will be great to meet the FSSR guys.

After the confirmations, Fr Anthony will say a private Mass at Spanish Place and will then be available to meet people at the Cafe Caldesi, 118 Marylebone Lane, just a couple of minutes' walk from Spanish Place. For details, see the Facebook note or the blogpost by Joseph Shaw, LMS Chairman.

And you can get your Papa Stronsay calendar for 2011 via the Translapine Redemptorist blog.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Analysis of Archbishop Dolan's election

Not being American I rather hesitated to get involved in comment about the election of Archbishop Dolan as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I liked his book "Priests for the Third Millennium" and recommend it to students and young priests. I think I am right in saying that he turned the Pontifical North American College round so that it was on track to become the excellent institution that it is today. Some of my American friends, however, come across decidedly lukewarm, hence my reticence to step in.

John Allen has an article that can help us in blighty to understand some of the issues. (See: Three keys to reading the Dolan win at the USCCB) Allen suggests that first of all, Archbishop Dolan is a good man in terms of PR: the "most gifted natural communicator" of the US Bishops. Mmm Kay. Secondly, although the Archbishop is considered as conservative, he is good at building up relationships. Ho hum. Thirdly, he is likely to be made a Cardinal at the next consistory and so he will be able to "go toe-to-toe with the heavyweights of the Roman Curia as a full equal." All of this makes me understand Fr Zuhlsdorf's less than enthusiastic post.

More interestingly, Allen says that his election is "an endorsement of the “affirmative orthodoxy” wing of the conference’s conservative majority over its harder ideological edge." Now that is intriguing. Allen seems to be saying that the less conservative conservative got the job as a kind of compromise. Lucky USA is what I say.

Meanwhile in other news: Damian Thompson and William Oddie write concerning the forthcoming appointment of a new Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain.

How smartphone users see themselves and each other

Sometimes in the Parish Club there are arguments about the merits and demerits of various smartphones. The graphic above seems to be a fair distribution of insults. (I'm an Android user btw.)

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Pope Benedict recalls adoration in Hyde Park

The Holy Father devoted his General Audience address today to the figure of Saint Juliana of Liege who was instrumental in promoting the feast of Corpus Christi which was instituted by Pope Urban IV in 1264. The address is well worth reading. Here is a link to the google translation which is not bad. I expect Zenit will carry the text soon. The Holy Father also mentions the miracle of Bolsena in which drops of blood dripped from the host onto the corporal which is preserved in a chapel in the Cathderal of Orvieto. I had the privilege of celebrating Mass at the altar of the corporal (above) during my first year as a priest.

Pope Benedict spoke of a "springtime of the Eucharist" especially among the young, and said:
It is consoling to know that many groups of young people have rediscovered the beauty of praying in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. I think, for example, of our adoration in Hyde Park, London. I pray that this "springtime" of the Eucharist will continue to spread in all parishes, particularly in Belgium, the birthplace of Saint Juliana.

Iraqi Christians - the world must act

Asia News reports that the Archbishop of Mosul, Mgr George Basile Casmoussahas (right) warned of a change of strategy in the attacks on Christians by Iraqi muslims. In response to the question whether there was a surge in attacks against the Christian minority in Iraq, he said:
Yes and a new, dangerous growth: the novelty is that the terrorists are attacking people directly in their homes. There is a change in strategy.
Two days ago in Mosul, Iraqi Christians Nabil Ghanem and Nashwan Khoder were murdered by terrorists who broke into their homes and gunned them down with automatic weapons. This is in accord with the statement of Al Qaeda that Christians are "legitimate targets".

The Archbishop also made an appeal to the United Nations:
We are asking the United Nations to seriously discuss the issue of Iraqi Christians. To send a real commission for an inquiry. To put pressure on the Iraqi government to ensure attention and the highest security to churches and Christian villages. And to pursue the murderers, to the very end.
It was good to see the following announcement today from the Vatican Press Office:
COMMUNIQUÉ: Eucharistic Celebration in memory of victims of the tragedy in the Cathedral of Baghdad

On Thursday, November 25, 2010, at 5pm, at the Altar of the Chair of St. Peter's Basilica, at the initiative of the Office of the Syrian Catholic Church of Rome, Holy Mass will be celebrated by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, for the souls of the priests and faithful who were victims of the massacre on 31 October in the Cathedral of Baghdad.

The invitation is extended to the celebration of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See.
The attacks directed against Iraqi Christians are an outrage and should indeed be condemned by the civilised world. The Christians in Iraq live peaceably and wish to maintain the ancient tradition of their rites and their presence in the land where Abraham wandered.

CTS announces publication of "Verbum Domini" and "Light of the World"

The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini was first published by the Vatican as a 208 page pdf which was inconvenient. It is now on the Vatican website in the usual html format: Verbum Domini. This is useful if you want to copy and paste quotations but such a lengthy document is easier to read in printed form. This is where the CTS step in. They have it available to pre-order now (publication date 23 Nov) at £3.95 / $6.28. It is an A5 paperback of 144 pages.

Reading various blogs, I have felt a little as though someone is poking my arm with a cocktail stick as there have been comments about how blogs have not taken any notice of Verbum Domini. I take the point but really want to read this document carefully in full. There is a good section on the approach of Lectio Divina and much on the relationship of the Word of God and the magisterium, including the following:
[...] it is important to read and experience sacred Scripture in communion with the Church, that is, with all the great witnesses to this word, beginning with the earliest Fathers up to the saints of our own day, up to the present-day magisterium.
You can also order from the CTS Peter Seewald's interview with Pope Benedict Light of the World (publication date 24 Nov) at £14.95 / $23.77 - 240 page hardback. This interview promises to be of great interest and I look forward to reading it.

Family Day photos

We had a Family Day at Blackfen last Saturday with the theme "Angels, Saints and Nations sing 'Praised be Jesus Christ Our King'." Above you can see a picture which was printed up and tiled together by one of the dads so that the younger ones could work on it.

There were prayers at various points during the day

Lunch was shared enthusiastically with the various families bringing food

A Tug-o-War in the presbytery garden expended some energy

And as always, there was a blessing for the children at the end

Family days bring a lot of good to the parish and to the families who take part. I heartily recommend them.

Floreat Cantus - Advent Music in aid of Little Sisters' work

On 18 December, from 7.30-9pm, Floreat Cantus, a choir of talented young people directed by Wilfrid Jones, will be presenting a programme of Christmas and Advent music in support of St Anne's House in Stoke Newington, a care home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor. The evening includes old favourites but also some lesser known works from across the centuries and the first performance of a Christmas piece by the conductor, Wilfrid Jones. There will be refreshments sold before the concert and during the interval with wine and mince pies afterwards. The evening promises to be very enjoyable, the programme is intended to appeal to all.

O ADONÁŸ (Gregorian Chant, c. 1300)
ANGELUS AD VIRGINEM (14th century Irish melody)
COVENTRY CAROL (Trad, arr Martin Shaw)


IN DULCI JUBILO (Trad arr P L Pearsall)
ONCE AS I REMEMBER (Wilfrid Jones)
DING DONG! MERILLY ON HIGH (16th century melody)
THE LAMB (John Tavener)

Venue: The Concert Hall of St Anne’s House, Stoke Newington, 77 Manor Road, London N16 5BL
Entrance: Adults: £7; Concessions: £4
Facebook Event: Music for Advent 2010

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Keeping the "Benedict bounce" going

Twenty priests gathered today at St Bede's, Clapham Park for "Ratzinger Fest No. 2" to go over the Papal Visit and highlight the great blessing which God gave to us in the few days when the Holy Father came to our country. Fr Basden, "Monsieur le Curé" led the proceedings, referring to many of the great moments of the visit and emphasising the way in which the Holy Father changed the terms of discourse in our secular society. My brief was to speak about the media coverage of the visit - I focussed on the remarkable change from the vitriol in the weeks leading up to it, to the positive coverage once Pope Benedict's plane landed in Scotland. I also took the opportunity to speak a little about the contribution of Catholic blogs. Fr Zuhlsdorf of What does the Prayer Really Say gave an interesting reflection from a US perspective, comparing and contrasting the way in which Pope Benedict made an impact in the US and the UK. Fr Andrew Southwell took us through some of the principal themes in the teaching of Pope Benedict, especially concerning the revival of the sacred in the Church's liturgy.

We also discussed some practical ways of keeping up the momentum of Pope Benedict's visit. One of the priests present reminded us that the Holy Father issued two invitations to young people to join him for the World Youth Day in Madrid. It would indeed be good if the contingent from England and Wales could be a substantial number.

As usual at these gatherings, after the discussion there was Benediction, with a period of silent adoration, in the Church, followed by a convivial lunch, courtesy of the great team at St Bede's.

I was interested in the cope that Fr Southwell wore for Benediction. Apparently it is part of a High Mass set of vestments on loan from the nearby Redemptorist Church at Clapham. Here is a closer look:

Juventutem London - next meeting

I heard good reports of the Juventutem London meeting last week. If you missed that one, there will be another gathering on Friday 10 December for Mass (EF) at 6.30pm at Corpus Christi Church, Maiden Lane (organised by the Good Counsel Network) at 6.30pm, followed by a meal somewhere nearby. (Juventutem is for people aged 18-35 - but everyone can go the Mass, of course.)

Here's the Facebook Event to sign up.

Garrigou-Lagrange Colloquium at Oxford

The Dominicans at Oxford are organising a colloqium dedicated to one of the great 20th century thinkers and writers of their Order, Fr Garrigou-Lagrange.

The Colloquium will be taking up the relationship of Garrigou-Lagrange's thinking to some other influential 20th century thinkers. I would be fascinated to attend this day but unfortunately my parish commitments prevent me - but I will be most interested to read the papers if, as I expect, they are subsequently published. If you are a student of Catholic theology, this would be a day well spent. Here is the information:
The Aquinas Institute, Blackfriars, Oxford


Saturday 27th November 2010
10.00 - 17.00

"Philosophical Adequacy: Garrigou-Lagrange on the Thought of Bergson and Blondel"
Richard Peddicord OP
Aquinas Institute of Theology, St Louis, Missouri

"Garrigou and de Lubac on Divine Revelation"
Aidan Nichols OP
Blackfriars, Cambridge

"Garrigou-Lagrange after Chenu on the Nature of Theology: a Critical Disciple of his Disciple"
Henry Donneaud OP
Institut Catholique de Toulouse

To be followed by responses and a general discussion featuring

Thomas Crean OP (Holy Cross, Leicester), John Sullivan (Liverpool Hope University), and Philip Endean SJ (Campion Hall, Oxford)
Here is a link to a pdf of the above information about the colloquium

To register for the Colloquium, email Francis Murphy

If you want to find out a bit about Garrigou-Lagrange, Fr Richard Peddicord OP wrote "The Sacred Monster of Thomism: An Introduction to the Life and Legacy of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange", published in 2004 by St. Augustine's Press and Fr Aidan Nichols wrote "Reason with Piety, Garrigou-Lagrange in the Service of Catholic Thought", published by Sapientia Press of Ave Maria University in 2008. EWTN has The Trinity and God the Creator, Christian has The Three Ages of the Interior Life. The illustrious son of St Dominic does also have a Facebook page.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

FSSP - Vocation discernment weekend

There will be a Vocation discernment weekend at St John Fisher House in Reading (the residence of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter in England & Wales) from 17-19 December. This is for men aged 18 to 35 years of age. The weekend will start on Friday 17 December at 6pm and end mid-afternoon on Sunday 19 December.

St John Fisher House
17 Eastern Avenue

There is limited overnight accommodation: please book now. Here is some further information from Fr De Malleray concerning the weekend:
Programme: Spiritual conferences, socials, Holy Mass each of the three days (Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite), silent prayer, private talk with Fr de Malleray, FSSP. Fr de Malleray will explain what is a vocation in general and to the priesthood in particular. Read here the Holy Father’s recent Letter to seminarians. Extract: “The proper celebration of the Eucharist involves knowing, understanding and loving the Church’s liturgy in its concrete form. In the liturgy we pray with the faithful of every age – the past, the present and the future are joined in one great chorus of prayer. As I can state from personal experience, it is inspiring to learn how it all developed, what a great experience of faith is reflected in the structure of the Mass, and how it has been shaped by the prayer of many generations.”

Cost: no set price for students or unemployed – any donation welcome; others: £50 suggested.
This year, the Fraternity of St Peter has welcomed the 48 first year seminarians, the largest number since the foundation of the FSSP.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Backbone award: Bishop Morlino

It is important for us pesky Catholic bloggers to give credit where it is due. Today I would like to highlight the excellent witness given by Bishop Morlino of the Diocese of Madison in Wisconsin USA. Bishop Morlino has been outspoken in his defence of human life and of the family. For this and for his support of Pope Benedict, he has been attacked in the press by non-Catholics and, as so often today, some of his most bitter opponents have been liberal Catholics. "Call to Action" even took out a newspaper advert to attack him.

One firestorm has been his appointment of priests of the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest to the parish of St Mary's in Platteville. A group of parishioners presented a petition to the Bishop asking him to remove the priests. Bishop Morlino sent back a cracking response to the whingeing complaints, offering a point-by-point answer to the petition. Here is point 1:
Allegation: Introduction of faith doctrine that is pre-Vatican II in format and content – Response: First of all, it is necessary for us to appreciate the eloquent teaching of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI regarding the false dichotomy between the pre-Vatican II and post-Vatican II Church. While the Council introduced much renewal, this dichotomy is not healthy in the Church. It is what the Holy Father described as the “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture.” We must rather adopt the “hermeneutic of reform,” which recognizes continuity in the Church’s life from before the Council to the present day. The hermeneutic of reform rejoices in the renewed presentation of the Church’s self-understanding without attempting to divorce itself from our rich Catholic heritage. The Holy Father taught this in his Christmas Greeting to the Roman Curia (December 22, 2005); I earnestly recommend that all the faithful prayerfully study this speech.

Catholic bloggers joining the battle for libel law reform

London 054

Both Dolphinarium: Catholic bloggers for Libel Reform - Fight for Free Speech and James Preece: Catholics for Libel Reform have highlighted a petition for libel law reform. I agree with it and have signed it.

It is important to have a libel law. If someone writes seriously damaging things about you that are false, you should have some redress against them. To obtain a retraction, an apology, and some reasonable financial compensation is fair enough if your reputation has been seriously damaged. Unfortunately in England at the moment, the libel law can be used to stifle debate, even to prevent scientists from publishing their research freely, and to intimidate people instead of engaging in rational discussion. It is a matter of balance between free speech and the prevention of calumny. We have not got that balance right and therefore I support the reform of the libel law.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

500 Crosses for Life - this Saturday

Click picture to enlarge

This Saturday, 13 November, there is a Pro-Life Prayer Procession in London. Here are the details
500 Crosses for Life
Prayer Procession
Saturday, 13 November

13:30 Start at Westminster Cathedral
Peaceful Prayer Procession with a Mourning Ceremony at Westminster Bridge
End at Westminster Abbey at about 16:00

"500 Crosses for Life" is an European, ecumenical initiative of "European Voice of the Unborn
Children: Protect Our Life" (EuroProLife, Westendstr.78, D-80339 Munich) and partners.
Contact in London: Joe Clovis (0208) 690 8314, Email:

Join the united prayer forces of European and British prolife groups for our unborn brothers and
sisters, their parents, doctors and all other children of God, who are involved in abortion.
Do go along if you can.

Just the beginning - from Barcelona

Video from Barcelona:

H/T Bara Brith

A discerning cat

It seems that the blessing received by Monsignora Mastai Furretti has taken. I write "Monsignora" since she seems, as far as I can tell, to be a traddy womyn-prelate. Since she doesn't have a spiritual and immortal soul and therefore cannot have a sacramental character, perhaps there is some way of justifying this theologically, though I shall resist the temptation to include it as a scholion in my (sometime) forthcoming book on Sacramental Theology.

The Mulier Fortis who is carer to the feline Prelatess has posted photographs showing that the Monsignora who claims family links with the Blessed Pius IX was presented with the article of Mgr Basil Loftus in which he said that Christ "was not physically present when he appeared to the disciples after the resurrection" and a copy of The Remnant. The result are incontrovertible. Here is but one of the photos:

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The dangers of "Woman's Weekly" spirichooaliddy

A priest friend sent me a copy of his diocesan newspaper in which he had highlighted a particular article concerning a Mass celebrated by the Bishop for catechists. After Holy Communion there was a quiet reading of the following meditation. Put on your best soothing voice...
It could be said that the bits and pieces of each day’s jigsaw puzzle are put together at the altar; [well, it could, I suppose] that the separate, often discordant notes of a day in our life are fused into one flowing symphony; [this is the "Woman's Weekly" spirituality that goes some way to explain the absence of young male Catholics in the Church, something James Preece rightly points out regularly] that the hurts, fears and betrayals of our lives are all held and embraced [yes, that "holding and embracing God" who hugs you and rubs your back, buys you flowers, goes clothes shopping with you and will chat for hours on the phone sympathising with all your complaints about the men in your life] in this ritual of bread and wine; [Nooo! These people are catechists?] that the Eucharist creates stories and poems out of the mixed-up alphabet of the lies, the promises, the failures that happen during life; [one good poem related to our lies and failures is the "Dies Irae". There is a good running commentary going at the moment at Libera Me] that the scattered beads of our broken vows are again refashioned into a new rosary of pearls; [Just like that?] that, at Mass we are astonished at the nearness of a God who comes to us disguised as our emotions, our bodies and our needy lives. [And there was I, foolishly thinking that it was going to say that God was disguised under the appearances of bread and wine] The Eucharist guarantees that every relationship is sacred; [Seriously - every relationship? Adulterous ones? Child abusing ones?] that no bitter tear or heartfelt wish is ever wasted; that nothing is ‘merely’ human any more; [That's the key - Rahner-lite - "everything is grace"] that no sin is ever left unredeemed; [Yep, more of the same - "all sin is forgiven". Except it's not - until you repent] that nothing is lost; [God does not will anyone to be lost. But Jesus did seem to say quite often that some would be] that everything, in the end, is harvest. [In fact, Jesus does tell us that everything will be harvested. But the tares will be thrown in the fire.]
But Father! You are being horrible and facetious about a booootiful meditation. Well no, actually, I'm deadly serious here. The reference to child abuse was not just a gratuitous swipe. One question that tormented Cardinal Ratzinger when the files came streaming across his desk was how these men could do such things and then go out and say Mass next day as if they were in a state of grace. The answer lies at least in part in this kind of spirichooaliddy in which God loves us all unconditionally, we are all weak and broken wounded healers, everything is grace, all sin is forgiven; and don't you dare mention mortal sin or the possibility of eternal damnation. For a comprehensive study of the link between the clergy scandals and the loss of traditional ascetical theology and practice, see the book After Asceticism which I reviewed for Faith Magazine a couple of years ago.

A headteacher, imbued with this spirichooaliddy once challenged me at a meeting, saying "Jesus did not impose conditions on his followers". I pointed out that according to the gospel accounts he did ("If anyone would be a follower of mine, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me", "If you love me, keep my commandments", "Unless a man is born again by water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" etc.) It seems to be a nice, child-friendly way to present the faith to remove all the difficult bits about sin and hell, and present a God who is a big fluffy teddy bear who magically transforms our broken vows into strings of pearls. The consequences on the ground are not so pretty. A while back, I wrote a little about an alternative approach: Defending St Alphonsus.

The failure to grasp Catholic doctrine on the real presence in a meditation after communion is the icing on the cake. Only this morning in his address to the Italian Bishops' Conference Pope Benedict quoted the definition of Lateran IV
"His body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the forms of bread and wine, the bread and wine having been transubstantiated, by God's power, into his body and blood."
I'm not going to name the Diocese whose newspaper this appeared in or the Bishop (and please don't try to put either in the comment box) because this kind of thing is endemic in many dioceses and picking on one diocese would distract from the point I want to make, that in addition to the liturgical and doctrinal life of the Church, the hermeneutic of continuity applies also to our teaching on the spiritual life.

Celebrating Blessed John Duns Scotus

I was pleased to see that there were many celebrations yesterday for the feast of the Blessed John Duns Scotus, the Subtle Doctor, son of Scotland, Oxford Alumnus, defender of the Franciscan thesis on the Incarnation and champion of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. In the video above, Fr Maximilian Mary Dean FI gives an introduction to the key idea of the Franciscan thesis, namely the absolute primacy of Christ. (search result for other videos on the Primacy of Christ)

Pope Benedict spoke about Scotus at the General Audience of 7 July 2010. The Holy Father summarised one of the Subtle Doctor's great contributions to theological debate:
First of all he meditated on the Mystery of the Incarnation and, unlike many Christian thinkers of the time, held that the Son of God would have been made man even if humanity had not sinned. He says in his "Reportatio Parisiensis": "To think that God would have given up such a task had Adam not sinned would be quite unreasonable! I say, therefore, that the fall was not the cause of Christ's predestination and that if no one had fallen, neither the angel nor man in this hypothesis Christ would still have been predestined in the same way" (in III Sent., d. 7, 4). This perhaps somewhat surprising thought crystallized because, in the opinion of Duns Scotus the Incarnation of the Son of God, planned from all eternity by God the Father at the level of love is the fulfilment of creation and enables every creature, in Christ and through Christ, to be filled with grace and to praise and glorify God in eternity. Although Duns Scotus was aware that in fact, because of original sin, Christ redeemed us with his Passion, Death and Resurrection, he reaffirmed that the Incarnation is the greatest and most beautiful work of the entire history of salvation, that it is not conditioned by any contingent fact but is God's original idea of ultimately uniting with himself the whole of creation, in the Person and Flesh of the Son.
Most websites which mention Bl John Duns Scotus focus on his defence of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception which was finally vindicated in the definition of Blessed Pius IX in 1854.

Some links of Scotistic interest:
Pope Benedict XVI Apostolic Letter to Cardinal Meisner and participants in the International Congress marking the 7th centenary of the death of Bl John Duns Scotus
Franciscan archive on Bl John Duns Scotus
Air Maria is having a Month of Scotus from the feast day until the feast of the Immaculate Conception
EWTN has a short Life of Bl John Duns Scotus
St Mungo music even has a hymn to John Duns Scotus, son of Scotland

Monday, 8 November 2010

LMS Requiem - more photos

2010 11 06_8074

There are many more photographs of Saturday's Requiem Mass at the flickr page of Joseph Shaw, the LMS Chairman. Do also take a look at the shiny new website of the Latin Mass Society.

Blackfen was well represented both in the congregation and on the sanctuary. Four of the servers in this photo server regularly at Our Lady of the Rosary.

2010 11 06_8045

Ordinariate picking up steam


The big news today is of course the announcement that five Anglican bishops have tendered their resignation to the Archbishop of Canterbury with the intention of joining the Ordinariate envisaged by Anglicanorum Coetibus as soon as it is established. They are Bishops Andrew Burnham, Keith Newton, John Broadhurst, Edwin Barnes and David Silk.

Anna Arco has a good report on the Catholic Herald's website today. The report includes the full statement of the five Bishops and the statement of Bishop Alan Hopes who is the Catholic bishop responsible for liaison regarding the Ordinariate. The Catholic News Service has a couple of brief quotations from Fr Lombardi, Director of the Vatican Press Office confirming the announcement.

Speaking to the BBC, Bishop Andrew Burnham explained the important point that it is not simply a question of the ordination of women bishops:
Women bishops is a presenting issue, but it’s the question of whether the Anglican church is, as it says it is, is part of the universal church going back to the time of Jesus or whether it is going off in its own way and making its own rules. We think it is going off in its own way and making up its own rules and we therefore need to belong to the older body.
Spin it how you like, this is a truly momentous and unprecedented event. I have been rather more optimistic than some about the prospects for the Ordinariate but I did not imagine that five Bishops would together announce their resignations and their intention to come into full communion with the Holy See.

Today's announcement is an act of genuine and courageous leadership on their part. It will, I am sure, be of great encouragement to other Anglican clergy and people who have been pondering the question over the past few months. Congratulations to all those who have been working hard to bring about the Ordinariate. Please pray for all those who are involved in the continued preparations to establish it.
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