Friday, 30 December 2011

Cardinal Ranjith calls for return of Vetus Ordo

NLM has published the text of a letter written by Cardinal Ranjith to the General Assembly of the International Federation Una Voce in which His Eminence invites us to encourage the return of the older form of the Roman Rite as a part of the renewal of the Church desired by the Fathers of Vatican II:
Liturgy for this reason can never be what man creates. For if we worship the way we want and fix the rules ourselves, then we run the risk of recreating Aaron's golden calf. We ought to constantly insist on worship as participation in what God Himself does, else we run the risk of engaging in idolatry. Liturgical symbolism helps us to rise above what is human to what is divine. In this, it is my firm conviction that the Vetus Ordo represents to a great extent and in the most fulfilling way that mystical and transcendent call to an encounter with God in the liturgy. Hence the time has come for us to not only renew through radical changes the content of the new Liturgy, but also to encourage more and more a return of the Vetus Ordo, as a way for a true renewal of the Church, which was what the Fathers of the Church seated in the Second Vatican Council so desired.
I heartily agree that the old Roman rite represents the most fulfilling way in which we can encounter God in the liturgy. It is good to hear a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church affirm this so straightforwardly.

I wish our beloved Pope Benedict XVI many years and even more years; but when God eventually calls him home, it would be a fitting counterpoint to the jubilation of his own election if it were announced from the balcony of St Peter's "... Habemus Papam! Eminentissimum ac reverendissimum Dominum, Dominum Malcolm, Sanctæ Romanæ Ecclesiæ Cardinalem RANJITH! ..."

Responsible drinking advice Fail

At a restaurant I visited recently, the above card was on the table. I was amused by the advice to "Enjoy Alcohol Responsibly" after the offer of an extra free bottle of wine if you purchase four.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

A milestone in the decline in Latin?

Perhaps readers may be able to help with this query from Hughie in the combox of my previous post:
I understand that in view of the concerns expressed by the Council Fathers, Pope Paul VI set up a commission of three cardinals to examine the question of whether the particular Churches should be allowed to communicate with the dicasteries of the Roman Curia in languages other than Latin. It is my understanding that Scotland’s William Theodore Cardinal Heard was one of the three. I believe that Cardinal Roberti MAY have been one of the others.

The problem is, I have never been able to locate anything about the report of the commission or anything about what Pope Paul VI decided, although it is obvious that they recommended, and the Pope accepted, that it was unreasonable/unadvisable (sic) to insist on the local Churches communicating in Latin. 

I wondered if, bearing in mind your expertise in the Latin, you knew anything about this.
I am afraid that I don't know anything about this commission. If you do, and especially if you have any links to put in the combox, that would be very helpful. It is interesting to hear about such a commission. If it existed as described, it would be typical of its time.

In the process of extirpating Latin from the life of the Church, it was often competent latinists who were most in favour of the vernacular. The attitude was to look condescendingly on students and priests who did not have good Latin and argue that it was pointless requiring them to say the breviary in Latin. In support of this attitude there were plenty of jokes told about ignorant priests who made mistakes in Latin. In those days, such attitudes were fashionable to the point that people were ridiculed routinely if they expressed a contrary opinion.

The stereotype of the ignorant parish clergy was always unfair. While the Latin of some was rudimentary, many priests had reasonably good Latin, and many improved over time through the conscientious recitation of the breviary.

There is a postscript to Hughie's comment concerning Cardinal Heard. There were many stories about him still doing the rounds when I was in Rome. They were not edifying - though again they were fashionable in an iconoclastic way. He and Cardinal Roberti may have been good latinists: there were still plenty around in Rome in the early 1960s. However I think that Cardinal Bacci was considered the doyen of latinists in the 1950s and, after him, Cardinal Felici. Reggie Foster spoke of Felici with awe: one tale he told us was that he could, ex tempore, compose hexameters in perfect metre .

In my time at Rome (1980-1985) Canon Law was still taught in Latin. Reggie told us of one lecturer who was particularly respected for his use of Latin. On one occasion I went with another student to his class in Canon Law: he beamed when we told him that we were not canonists but wished to hear his Latin.

It always irritated me that the theology lectures were given in Italian. The Italian of many of the teachers would have been no better than the Latin of some in previous years. Most students in Rome have to learn Italian from scratch: it would be far more use to them to learn Latin. What then happens is that a culture builds in which at least some take a pride in learning the language well. Others won't bother; but then there were always students who spent five or six years in Rome without being to speak Italian fluently. If Latin were part of the culture, some would learn Latin and Italian fluently while others wouldn't bother too much: but at least there would be an opportunity.

If that culture is present, then you also have a foundation for the cultivation of Latin at a higher level. At one time, People like Cardinals Bacci were admired for their Latin; it was seen as an accomplishment to be respected. I lived through the time when that admiration gave way to scorn and derision. Please God the process can be reversed as a younger generation begins again to treasure the wisdom of the ancients and the knowledge of their languages.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Finally listening to Blessed John XXIII?

Blessed Pope John XXIII, in the Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia of 1962, strongly mandated the study and use of Latin in ecclesiastical studies, theology, the Liturgy, and as a prerequisite for priestly formation. This February, there is to be an International Convention in Rome to mark the 50th anniversary of Veterum Sapientia. I can't help thinking that after 50 years we are perhaps finally prepared to take the document of the Blessed Pope seriously.

Here is one passage from the standard translation that you can find in various places on the internet:
Of its very nature Latin is most suitable for promoting every form of culture among peoples. It gives rise to no jealousies. It does not favor any one nation, but presents itself with equal impartiality to all and is equally acceptable to all.
And here is the Latin original:
Suae enim sponte naturae lingua Latina ad provehendum apud populos quoslibet omnem humanitatis cultum est peraccommodata: cum invidiam non commoveat, singulis gentibus se aequabilem praestet, nullius partibus faveat, omnibus postremo sit grata et amica.
The translators didn't want to say that Latin was pleasing and friendly to all, only that it was "acceptable." Hmmph! You can see that Veterum Sapientia was going to become a dead letter quite quickly. 

It is true that Optatam Totius, Vatican II's Decree on Priestly Training (1965) said that before beginning specifically ecclesiastical subjects, seminarians should acquire a knowledge of Latin (n.13) but that was largely ignored too. In fact, the current code of canon law says that students for the priesthood should understand Latin well (canon 249) and Pope Benedict said: 
Speaking more generally, I ask that future priests, from their time in the seminary, receive the preparation needed to understand and to celebrate Mass in Latin, and also to use Latin texts and execute Gregorian chant; (Sacramentum Caritatis n.62)
Pope Benedict also spoke to the German Bishops on their 2006 Ad Limina visit, of the classical languages in the context of the introductory course before beginning study at the seminary;
"In this regard, Vatican Council II, in its decree ‘Optatam Totius’, established important norms that, unfortunately, have not yet been completely implemented. This is particularly true of the institution of what is called the introductory course before the beginning of real and proper study. This should not only transmit a solid understanding of the classical languages, which is expressly required for the study of philosophy and theology, but also familiarity with the catechism, together with the religious, liturgical, and sacramental practice of the Church. In the face of the growing number of interested persons and candidates who no longer come from a traditional Catholic formation, such an introductory year is urgently needed. Furthermore, during this year the student can attain greater clarity on the vocation to the priesthood. Besides this, the persons responsible for priestly formation have the possibility of getting an idea of the candidate, of his human maturity and his faith life. But the so-called role-playing games with a group dynamic, the groups of self-exploration, and other psychological experiments are less adapted for this purpose, and can create confusion and uncertainty instead." 
Here is the Programme for the Convention on Veterum Sapientia.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas to all of you. Thank you for your witness to the faith, thank you for making the world a better place by raising your families, by being priests, by living the evangelical counsels, by being an apostolic single people in the world, and by all the other things that you do for the glory of God. And thank you for reading my blog. May God bless you and all your loved ones on this glorious feast.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Christ the embryo recognised

Youth Defence, the upbeat Irish pro-life group, produced this video to help promote the pro-life message for Christmas. In recent years we have come to know more than our forbears about the process of life in the womb; it is right that we apply this to the growth of Jesus Christ from a single-celled embryo.

Remember that after Our Lady conceived Our Lord in her womb, she went with haste to the hill country of Judea to visit St Elizabeth who asked why she should be honoured with a visit from the mother of her Lord. The twenty-four week foetus, St John the Baptist leapt in the womb in recognition of Christ. Both of them recognised their Saviour when he was perhaps a five day old embryo.

Help for parish website designers

The Church and New Media is a good site for you if you are starting out on producing (or updating) a parish website. The Resources page has some good "five things..." type articles.

For what it's worth, my own advice to people at the moment is to get a good domain name that people can spell correctly when they hear it on the phone. Mine is now "blackfencatholic dot org" When it included the word "rosary", a lot of people not familiar with the faith (and some who are) spelt it "rosemary" - I do get letters addressed to "Our Lady of the Rosemary" from time to time.

If you host the website with a US firm, not only will you save some pennies in present economic circumstances, you also get a top-level domain (.org rather than with less fuss and expense than from an English company.

Then get Wordpress installed and have the posts on the homepage so that your site is easily updated. Wordpress also makes it easy to update your static pages too. It can be worth spending a few pennies (actually not much more than that) on a professionally produced template which can save you a bit of time: most of them are quite customisable.

Above you can see the homepage of my own parish website for my parish of Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen. Not difficult to do. (Feel free to fire away with your suggestions for improvement!)

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Chen Guangchen and further shame on the Chinese government

 In 2006, 2009 and earlier this year I posted on the courageous blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng who exposed and spoke out against the policy of forced abortion and sterilisation in the Shandong Province in China. Thanks to Batman star Christian Bale, his case has been given worldwide publicity via CNN.

LifeSite News has the story; it was also reported in the Daily Telegraph, the Sun, and many other news outlets throughout the world; though both the Telegraph and the Sun fail to mention just exactly what human rights Chen was campaigning for - namely the right of women not to be subject to forced sterilisation and the right of women and babies not to be subjected to the process of forced abortion.

John Smeaton has highlighted a campaign which originated as a gesture of support for Chen on his 40th birthday on 12 November - but I'm sure further contributions would be welcome (they do say that the campaign will only end when Chen is free.) Chen is blind and the idea is that you send in a photo of yourself wearing sunglasses. Details are at Women's Rights Without Frontiers. There are various suggestions - you can hold a banner saying "Free Chen Guangcheng" in English and Chinese (a banner is provided at the website.)

I thought it would be good to hold a picture of Our Lady of China. Our Lady's compassion and love for the Chinese people is in stark contrast to the repression and cruelty towards women and children shown by the Chinese government. (I have uploaded the graphic in full resolution so that you can use it if you want - apologies if this makes the blog load slowly.)

According to the Telegraph report, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin, when asked if publicity has been embarrassing for the Chinese government, said he thought Christian Bale should feel embarrassed not China. This is a typical repressive government's inversion of the truth. The Chinese government should indeed feel embarrassed - by its treatment of Christian Bale, by its torture of Chen Guangcheng and his wife for expressing the legitimate views of so many of the Chinese people, and by its appalling policy of forced abortion and sterilisation.

The Chinese people are noble and upright, they can be proud of a culture that could enrich discourse in the world, they have a thriving Christian Church, and they deserve better than a government which kills babies, degrades women, and fails to show the most elementary courtesy of an apology when treating a distinguished visitor with contempt merely for trying to visit and show support to one of their most respected citizens. Their government should bow its head in shame and free Chen Guangcheng.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

CCC meetings forthcoming

Just picked up from the feed of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy that there are meetings for the Western Chapter on 23 January and 6 March, and there is a meeting for the Southern Chapter at St Patrick's, Soho Square on Thursday 9 February. Details at the CCC website.

I should be able to make the February meeting in London so look forward to seeing some confreres there.

Taking it on the chin

In his book "The Stripping of the Altars", Eamonn Duffy tells of how the priest would quiz parishioners at their Easter shriving on whether they had carried out the works of mercy. One of those works is to visit people in prison. The other day, our Holy Father did this, going to see the prisoners at Rebbibia in Rome. He did a Q&A session in which one exchange went:
Q. My name is Federico. ... What can sick and HIV-positive prisoners ask of the Pope? ... We are barely mentioned, but, when we are, in aggressive terms, as if seeking to have us eliminated from society. This makes us feel subhuman.

A. "We have to endure the fact that people speak about us 'aggressively'. They also speak 'aggressively' about the Pope, yet nonetheless we move on. I think it is important to encourage everyone to think positively, to understand your sufferings, to understand the need to help you rise again. I will do my part, inviting everyone to think in the right way, not abusively but humanly, understanding that anyone can fall, but God wants everyone to reach Him. We must cooperate in a spirit of fraternity recognising our own fragility so that people can truly so that they can truly rise up and move forward with dignity, so that they may grow and thus find happiness in life, because life is granted to us by the Lord ... . The Lord will help you and we are close to you."
Rather moving, I thought. It reminded me of an old story from the CDF which I report as I remember it. One week, Cardinal Ratzinger was shown a copy of an Italian newspaper which had a hatchet piece about him. The junior official was nervous, thinking that the Cardinal would be angry. He read the piece through, then said "If I did not read something like that about myself each week, I would know that I was not doing my job."

H/T Rorate Caeli

Christmas at Blackfen

For a couple of years, we were the only place in England to have solemn High Mass at midnight for Christmas. Now, I think there are one or two others but it is still quite a rarity. So if you want to join us, you would be most welcome. The Church is open from 11pm, there are some carols before Mass, blessing of the crib and Mass at midnight.

We also have 9am and 10.30am masses sung in English with the tones given in the new (corrected) translation of the Missal. For New Year's Eve, we have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from 11pm, with the Te Deum and Benediction at midnight (accompanied by fireworks, set off by our neighbours.)

You can see the full list of our Christmas and New Year services at the parish website.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Congratulations to new Deacons for Southwark

Wonersh 006

St John's Seminary at Wonersh was in festive mood today as Rev Oladele Craig and Rev Kurt Barragan were ordained as Deacons. God willing, they will be ordained to the sacred priesthood this coming summer.

The celebration of the Liturgy was dignified and reverent, co-ordinated with discreet expertise by the Seminary MC, Simon Dray. The music was unmistakeably sacred music: the Missa Orbis Factor was used for the ordinary, and the English chants for Mass drew on both Eastern and Western traditions. The Schola gave a fine rendition of Tallis's If ye love me. An impressive number of clergy from the diocese participated, so it was a good opportunity to catch up with friends afterwards over lunch.

 The ordinati both went through my Sacramental Theology class last academic year. I am beginning to wonder whether it is a kind of hurdle before ordination (i.e. if you can survive that, you can survive anything!)

Here is a photo of myself with Rev Oladele Craig:

And here, from left to right, Fr Frank Calduch of Opus Dei, Fr Chris Basden, parish priest of Clapham Park, Rev Kurt Barragan and myself:

Please remember our new deacons in your prayers

Pray for Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens crop

We learnt yesterday that Christopher Hitchens has died. Our Catholic response is in charity to pray for the repose of his soul. We believe that he has gone to meet his maker. He did not believe in Christianity or in religion in general. We are not to judge him; we may allow that he was not culpable for his lack of faith. Only God can judge him, and we believe that God is infinitely merciful. Therefore we pray that the Father will allow him to be purified and to enter the kingdom of heaven - perhaps after a few sessions with St Thomas Aquinas and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta who will show him the love that they had for the truth.

Requiescat in pace.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Archbishop Mennini not attacked

Mass with Archbishop Antonio Mennini Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain

Recently I wondered whether it was now open season on Bishop Davies since he had been publicly criticised by a fellow Bishop and by a Heythrop theologian because of his remarks in a pastoral sermon to young people. One of the objections pointed to the cultural obstacles in the way of young Catholics today. This was described as a persecution complex.

After reading the homily of Bishop Davies, I found a report of a homily from Archbishop Mennini, delivered at Stonyhurst a few days earlier, on the feast of St Edmund Campion. (See Professing the Faith in our Country is not likely to become easier – UK Papal Nuncio.) In the course of his excellent homily, which demonstrated a familiarity with, and admiration of, the life of St Edmund Campion, he said:
We do well to reflect on the call to fidelity and constancy exemplified by Saint Edmund Campion and the many martyrs of England and Wales, and as we give thanks, we cannot fail to realise too, that professing the Faith in our Country is not likely to become easier for us.
Yet no English bishop or professional theologian seems to have criticised him for having a "persecution complex." Funny that. In any case, thanks be to God for a Nuncio who recognises what is going on.

Thank you

Many thanks to FM who kindly sent me the Politically Incorrect Guide to the British Empire from my Amazon Wishlist. I shall enjoy reading it.

Cat videos will rule the world

Hilarious. Some quotes:
"Everything is moving towards cat videos; and the agencies that don't realise that - get left behind."

"Cat videos are an unbelievably effective new business tool."

"Our goal is to integrate cat videos into every stage of the customer experience."
H/T Orwell's Picnic

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Recording of responses for Low Mass

2011 08 11_0010
[Photo credit: Mulier Fortis]

I was intending to record the responses for Low Mass to help out altar boys who wish to learn them. Thankfully, this has already been done (thanks to Fr Zuhlsdorf for the link.) This recording was made in the 1950s by the Catholic University in Washington D.C. It was originally made for an LP record.

The introduction in the sound file is good and boys would do well to listen to it. They may then wish simply to go back to the prayers at the foot of the altar to learn them thoroughly. The prayers of the Mass begin at about three minutes in. The other more difficult response which boys may need to listen to several times is the Suscipiat. This can be found at 09.22.

To download a copy of the file for your mp3 player, iPod, smartphone or other device, go to the Internet Archive page or simply right-click on this link and choose "save link as" or "save target as", depending on your browser. (You will need to unzip the file once you have saved it.) Then you can put it on your mobile device and listen to it from time to time on a journey.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A courtesy towards those who want to pray

Bishop Gilbert of Aberdeen recently devoted a Pastoral Letter to the theme of silence. Quoting Kierkegaard, he began by explaining why silence is important, and then moved on to offer some practical advice:
A wise elderly priest of the diocese said recently, ‘Two people talking stop forty people praying.’

‘Create silence!’ I don’t want to be misunderstood. We all understand about babies. Nor are we meant to come and go from church as cold isolated individuals, uninterested in one another. We want our parishes to be warm and welcoming places. We want to meet and greet and speak with one another. There are arrangements to be made, items of news to be shared, messages to be passed. A good word is above the best gift, says the Bible. But it is a question of where and when. Better in the porch than at the back of the church. Better after the Mass in a hall or a room. There is a time and place for speaking and a time and place for silence. In the church itself, so far as possible, silence should prevail. It should be the norm before and after Mass, and at other times as well. When there is a real need to say something, let it be done as quietly as can be. At the very least, such silence is a courtesy towards those who want to pray. It signals our reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. It respects the longing of the Holy Spirit to prepare us to celebrate the sacred mysteries. And then the Mass, with its words and music and movement and its own moments of silence, will become more real. It will unite us at a deeper level, and those who visit our churches will sense the Holy One amongst us.
I was heartened to read the good Bishop's letter because it says something that I have tried to convey in my own parish. If people talk loudly in conversation after Mass, they prevent other people from praying. There are plenty of places to talk - in England you don't even have to be quiet in the public library nowadays - but there are few places where people can bring their joys and sorrows in silence before the Lord.

Poll on assisted suicide

Sky news has a story about a lady going to the Dignitas "clinic" (for the reason for the inverted commas, see here.) She complains that politicians denied her the dignity of ending her life in her own home. There is a token balancing element in the story with CNK saying rightly that vulnerable people could feel obliged to die if they feel that they are a burden on others.

There is a poll on the page which is currently strongly in favour of assisted suicide. I encourage you to go and cast your vote:

Monday, 12 December 2011

Is it open season on Bishop Davies?

A couple of weeks ago, Bishop Mark Davies preached at a Diocesan Day of Recollection for young people in his diocese of Shrewsbury. He spoke about being distracted and not finding our way, about being diverted from the Lord because we are looking in the wrong direction. He said that
... a generation before you so often failed to pass on those directions, the fullness of our Catholic faith which in Isaiah’s words at every crucial turn of our lives tells us, “this is the way, follow it!”
Bishop Davies went on to meditate on the meaning of Sunday and the real presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist, and offered encouragement to Youth 2000. He quoted the words of Pope Benedict at Marienfeld in for the 2005 World Youth Day: not be deterred from taking part in Sunday Mass, and help others to discover it too … Let us pledge ourselves to do this – it is worth the effort!”
Then Bishop Davies continued:
For never since the days of persecution have so many obstacles been put in front of a generation to prevent you finding your way to Him. And it isn’t so much Sunday working, Sunday shopping, social lives which block out Saturday nights and Sunday mornings but losing sight of Jesus Himself which eclipses Sunday, not knowing where He is found which leaves it empty. It isn’t the incidentals of music or style which draws or deters you from finding your way to Him. Those things may help or hinder us but they’re not why we’re ever here. We are here because we know in the words of St. John Vianney that “He is here, the One who loves us so much He is here.” May we find our way to Him where we know He will always be found.
A jolly good sermon for young people, you might think. Not as far as the Tablet is concerned, it seems. In the print edition, the report of his sermon. Bishop Davies is criticised (by a fellow Bishop) for saying that we are “privileged” to have the biggest challenge ever. I don’t think that is quite what he said – he pointed to great obstacles, especially losing sight of Jesus himself. As though it were a contradiction of Bishop Davies, we are told that our society is indifferent rather than hostile. In fact, the good Bishop was contrasting persecution with “losing sight of Jesus.” Apparently previous generations
“learned their ‘faith’ in terms of catechism content, but can we say that they ever really understood and therefore were in a position to pass on their ‘faith’?”
Actually, I remember being taught the formulae of the penny catechism and what they meant. The process managed to pass on quite a bit more of the faith than the RE approach which is widely sanctioned today (though not in Shrewsbury) with its meandering stroll from the experience of birthdays and special places in the pious hope that sooner or later something transcendent will emerge.

But the present generation is more critical and independent apparently. Given the promotion of right-on mantras about climate change and pollution, and the restriction of history to a looped recording of the rise and fall of the Third Reich without any mention of Stalin, Mao or Pol Pot, I suppose young people might learn to be critical of the foundation of Western civilisation and independent of any classical influence that might promote original thought. Unless they are fortunate enough to come into contact with someone like Bishop Davies who could broaden their horizons beyond the OFSTED-enforced mental straightjacket.

The Tablet blog follows up the attack on Bishop Davies with a post (the Tablet calls it a “a blog” – one day they will catch up) with the heading A persecution complex certainly won't help. Bishop Davies has a persecution complex, apparently. Reading his homily with a critical and independent approach, it does rather seem to me that he is simply giving encouragement to young people who, I am sure, found much to inspire them in his words.

Bishop Davies said to the young people that a previous generation failed to pass on the fullness of the faith. So we are treated to the observation that "No generation ever alive has passed on the fullness of faith to the next. The fullness of faith is beyond us all." So let us distinguish. The kindly Bishop was not criticising a previous generation for failing to provide an immediate experience of the beatific vision. He was pointing out what is obvious to anyone willing to be honest about the life of the Church in the past few decades. Children, parents and young grandparents have grown up without clear teaching on the divinity of Christ, the infallibility of the Church, the real presence, the Sunday Mass obligation, the wrongfulness of artificial contraception, the existence of purgatory... to list but a few of the doctrines that have been considered too hard. That is what he means by the failure to pass on the fullness of the faith. He is unquestionably right and it is a grave injustice to the People of God if we pretend that it has not happened; and more so if we fail to rectify the situation with urgency.

If just one young Bishop can provoke this kind of opposition with a homily to young people, I wonder how things will be when there are one or two other like-minded Bishops appointed in due course to fill a couple of the many sees that are vacant or becoming so.

Ceterum autem censeo tabulam esse delendam

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Jetpack news

A couple of weeks back, I posted the important news of Jet Pack Man flying alongside two jets and suggested that street-friendly jet packs could not be far off. A kindly commenter pointed me to the The Martin Jetpack ("Fly the Dream") from New Zealand which is near to commercial production.

I have added this to my new (mainly fanciful) Amazon Wishlist.

Fine CTS books for children

The Beautiful Story of Mary is the latest in a lovely collection of books for children from the Catholic Truth Society. As with several others, it is written and illustrated by Maïte Roche. They are suitable for a mother or father to read to a young child, with lively pictures that would, I think, be attractive to the little ones.

Also by Maïte Roche are My Little Christmas Prayer Book and The Beautiful Story of the Bible. A really good book for children who are preparing for their first Holy Communion is Friendship with Jesus, which gives the English translation of the question and answer session which Pope Benedict held with children in 2005 (edited by Amy Welborn and illustrated by Ann Kissane Engelhart.)

If you have young nephews or nieces and want to get them a little present for Christmas, the CTS has some good things for your shopping list.

Friday, 9 December 2011

A dog post

I'm not particularly a dog lover. In fact, I don't like dogs very much; I prefer cats but don't go in for cat posts. Nevertheless, this is too bizarre not to post. In the words of Jennifer (of the "favourite links"):
"In case you were looking for a video of a dog in a tutu dancing the merengue... Here you go."

Easy version for Scottish same sex marriage consultation. Today.

Laodicea has the quick and easy instructions for responding to the Scottish same-sex marriage consultation. If you haven't time to follow the link, just go to the Christian Institute and fill in the blanks. Five minutes - but must be done by midnight tonight.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The real problem with Archbishop Nichols...

... is that he is too closely aligned with Rome on the question of same-sex unions, according to an Italian newspaper.

Two articles concerning this theme were posted yesterday on the website of La Stampa. The first, entitled Storm on the Thames: No same-sex unions in churches, says that Archbishop Nichols has been attacked for his excessive alignment with Rome on the question of same sex unions. It describes Archbishop Nichols as a “bona fide Ratzingerian.”

The second article (for which there is not yet an English translation – but you can use google translate) is headed L'arcivescovo di Westminster su unioni gay accusato di non rispettare la posizione vaticana (i.e. "The Archbishop of Westminster on gay unions accused of not respecting the Vatican position.")

This article links to David Kerr’s piece on CNA giving Archbishop Nichols’ response to his critics and refers to William Oddie’s article in the Catholic Herald (here) and to the follow-up article (here.)

In fact, the Tablet also thought that the Archbishop praised civil partnerships (cf. the 26 November headline “Archbishop praises civil partnerships”) Their journalist, Chris Lamb commented that
His comments mark the clearest support that a Catholic bishop has given in favour of civil unions.
This was presumably because the Archbishop said at the press conference (official audio file at 9'36")
We would want to emphasise that civil partnerships actually provide a structure in which people of the same sex who want a lifelong relationship, a lifelong partnership, can find their place and protection and legal provision.
Some support for the Tablet's view could be taken from the response of Archbishop Nichols as reported by CNA:
When Archbishop Nichols was asked by CNA if the bishops of England were contradicting the Vatican's guidelines, he said that the bishops have tried "to recognize the reality of the legal provision in our country of an agreement, a partnership, with many of the same legal safeguards as in marriage." He further explained that while the bishops recognize the existence of civil partnerships, they also "believe that that is sufficient," and that they should not be placed on par with marriage.
The extent to which La Stampa understands the issues at stake can be gleaned from the following paragraph (with my comments in red):
On the other hand, if same-sex civil unions were to be made legal, [Err. They have been made legal in the UK] this would mean the approval of a deviant form of behaviour, turning it into a model for society, blurring basic values such as marriage and the family. [What about the "finding their place, protection and legal provision?"] The concept of marriage would undergo radical change, seriously damaging the common good: it would lose its essential characteristics, tied to heterosexuality as a procreative and educational duty. [i.e. legalising civil partnerships would do this.] In as far as gay relationships are concerned, the Catholic Church – in Great Britain as in the rest of the world – is simply asking the state not to proceed with the legalisation on same-sex unions [Again - they have been legalised in the UK. The Bishops are saying that they recognise and respect this.] and to avoid making their legal status equal to that of marriage, with access to those rights that belong to marriage. Thus Mgr. Nichols has only repeated what is a common approach of the universal Church, with the full consent of his colleagues, the bishops of the United Kingdom and Rome.
With this paragraph exhibiting a spectacular ability to miss the point, La Stampa concludes an article denying the obvious - something agreed on by both the Catholic Herald and the Tablet - that the Bishops have supported same sex civil unions.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Former ACCC Chairman appointed Bishop

Cathedral Armidale
Photo credit: Amos T Fairchild

Father Michael Kennedy of the Diocese of Wagga Wagga in Australia, has been appointed as Bishop of the Diocese of Armidale. For some years, Fr Kennedy was the Chairman of the Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy. He succeeds Bishop Luc Matthys whom I met at the Confraternity meeting in Rome in January 2010 which he attended.

I expect that there will be some very happy priests and people in the Diocese of Armidale.

A model response to a parent's justified complaint

Recently, Ben Trovato, the (Countercultural Father) wrote to the Head of RE at the non-Catholic secondary school which his children attend. He had followed the case of Bonus Pastor School with interest only to find out one day that his own son had been watching Keeping Mum in RE.

The Head of RE phoned up promptly after receiving the letter, to say that he would look into the matter. A few weeks later, Ben received a letter from the teacher to say that he had reviewed the film, agreed it was inappropriate and withdrawn it from the syllabus.

It would be unjust to avoid making the observation that Ben's treatment by the non-Catholic school is markedly different from the response that the Clovis family received from a Catholic School.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011


The latest sensation on the Catholic blogosphere is the rapidly expanding collection of trad Catholic protest songs by Laurence England (That the Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill.) At Blackfen we were delighted to welcome Laurence last Saturday for a gig (see his report) in between the Missa Cantata and solemn Vespers. After a late breakfast of sausages, eggs, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, beans and fried bread, accompanied by a pint or twain of Late Red, the company were treated to various compositions, including a premiere of Pyjamahadeen, a derogatory term, recently applied to traddy Catholic bloggers, which Laurence had fun with.

Editing the video, I added effects to give a retro look with scratches. Lyrics for the song are supplied in the info box at the YouTube page for the video. Mulier Fortis has Ecclesia Dei and I referred before to Summorum Pontificum which was the finale song on Saturday.

Derogatory expressions can be fun if you take them in the right spirit. Huffpost recently referred to those who support the new corrected translation of the Mass as "lockstep sheep and papist throwbacks." Fr Z has now produced a mug with this slogan. Proudly accepting Fr Z's description of us as "mind-numbed robots, incapable of thinking for yourselves and merely longing for the past out of irrational nostalgia" I have bought one as a Christmas present.

(This being the internet, I must give an irony alert here: Fr Z didn't really mean it. He was joking. Please don't get angry and send in comments attacking him.)

This also reminds me that I must get into the business of producing coffee mugs. Is the CafePress UK site working properly yet? Is Zazzle better? Is there another site that would be better than those? And can you still get mug trees of the sort that were in fashion when I was a student many years ago?

Where to buy "It is the Lord"

The other day, my students asked where they could obtain the book by Bishop Athanasius Schneider "It is the Lord." Mistakenly I said that it was available from the Libreria Editrice Vaticana via PaxBooks (that's the version in Italian which I bought first of all.) In fact the English translation is sold in England by Gracewing for £5.99.

Since I won't be lecturing again until after Christmas, I thought that I would put the information here. If you have not read this book, I do heartily recommend it.

I mentioned the It is the Lord after referring to Origen, St Ephraem and St Cyril of Jerusalem who all emphasised strongly the reverence that is due to the holy Eucharist, and particularly the presence of Christ in each fragment. Here, for example, is a passage from St Ephraem, a fourth century Syriac Father:
I have given this to you now lest you should think it to be bread, take, eat this bread and do not crumble the particles of it; what I have called my body, this it truly is. One particle from its crumbs has power to sanctify a thousand thousands and is enough to give life to all who eat it. (Sermones in hebdomadam sanctam 4.4)

Catholicism series being offered in Southwark Archdiocese

Fr Robert Barron has developed a highly successful internet apostolate with his talks available on YouTube. Catholicism is a professionally produced DVD series exploring the Catholic faith. The Centre for Catholic Formation in the Archdiocese of Southwark is putting on this programme, starting in January. This programme would be especially suited to catechists (or those who want to become catechists) and teachers who would like the opportunity to deepen their faith.

Here are the details from the CCF:
New Adult Formation Programme: Catholicism
You are warmly invited to a new adult study programme based on the highly-acclaimed DVD series by Fr Robert Barron, Catholicism, at the Centre for Catholic Formation in Tooting on Thursday evenings, beginning 12th January (Northern Line - Tooting Bec).

A trailer for the series is shown above. It is a beautifully produced series and has been called "the most vivid catechism ever created" (Brad Milner, The Catholic Thing blog).

Catholicism is intended to be a celebration of our Catholic Faith, immersing viewers in the art, architecture, literature, beliefs and practices of our Catholic tradition.

Who is it for?
All adult Catholics who would like a deeper understanding of their Faith. Especially recommended to catechists, parents, teachers, and those who would like to become catechists in the parish. Non-Catholic adult enquirers also welcome.

When does it start?
The programme runs for 11 sessions on Thursday evenings from 12 January 2012, 7.30-9.00pm.

How much does it cost?
The registration fee is £30. This covers the study binder that each participant will receive.

How do I book?
Email Julia Olesiuk at

Friday, 2 December 2011

Abortion? There's an app for that...

... but the agents of the culture of death are cross that it doesn't work properly for finding abortion mills. Siri - a popular feature of the new iPhone 4S is a voice-activated, electronic personal assistant designed to 'help you do the things you do every day.' Things people do every day:  have a chinese meal, go to the library, get an abortion, you know the sort of thing.

Siri has annoyed the pro-aborts by not instantly serving up information about where to get your baby done away with. One feminist was particularly annoyed that she got directed to a pro-life crisis centre in Washington.

I wonder whether the spirit of the late, great Cardinal of Genoa is having an influence on the app. Has anyone tried to use it to search for a place to buy trousers for women? (Cf. his 1960 Notification Concerning Men's Dress Worn By Women.)
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