Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Green birettas

Fr Ray Blake has a most environmentally friendly post concerning the wearing of birettas. A priest friend has turned down the heating in his presbytery in order to reduce his carbon footprint. He has consequently taken to wearing a cassock and biretta to offset the effects of the lower ambient temperature.

Fr Ray speculates on the possibility of our Justice and Peace groups encouraging priests to wear birettas in order to enhance their green credentials. Perhaps I should raise this at the Deanery Meeting next Tuesday?

Holy Father's donation to Cambridge chaplaincy

If I wanted to be really churlish and follow the current English fashion for "equality", I could have headed this "Pope Discriminates against Oxford" :-)

What a very interesting gesture! Clearly the Holy Father is taking a keen interest in England.
The Pope has made an unprecedented personal donation of £2,000 to the Roman Catholic chaplaincy at the University of Cambridge to help it and the faith survive at one of Britain’s main centres of academic excellence.Pope Benedict XVI, who was a university teacher for many years, intended the donation to signal his “encouragement and support”.The two priests and the Dominican nun who work at the chaplaincy were stunned by the donation, which they believe is the first of its kind to come direct from the Pope. The Fisher House chaplaincy is appealing for £2 million to set up a foundation to ensure its survival. The Catholic academic community in Cambridge is dependent on the chaplaincy for its community life, and about 450 people attend Mass on Sundays.The chaplaincy, in the centre of Cambridge in a former public house, has two choirs who sing in English and Latin and averages eight conversions a year. There have been ten vocations to the priesthood coming out of Fisher House.

From The Times
H/T to The Cafeteria is Closed

Honouring Our Lady

The Church of Our Lady of the Rosary in Blackfen was founded in 1936 and was a chapel of ease, served by Welling parish. In 1945, it became a parish in its own right. Our beautiful resin statue of Our Lady of the Rosary was provided for the Church by Fr Adolph Koch, the first parish priest of Blackfen on the occasion of the silver jubilee of his ordination to the sacred priesthood. It is now housed in a side chapel that I erected, using the marble from a neighbouring parish that was no longer required after the re-ordering of their sanctuary. I have the good fortune to have a stonemason in the parish who carried out the work.

Maria, one of my parishioners, is an expert seamstress and has made several very fine altar cloths. Some time ago, I suggested to her that it would be a good thing if we could decorate the statue for feast days. Today, I was able to view the magnificent result of her efforts, just in time for the Day with Mary on Saturday. The picture below shows the statue flanked by Maria (left) and our indefatigable sacristan, Hilda (right).

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Scots Catholics and SORs

This week's Scotland on Sunday carries an article titled: Church: we'll make gay rights martyrs. The report tells of a "spokesman" for the Catholic Church in Scotland who has said that they will not close down the Catholic adoption agencies as a result of the Sexual Orientation Regulations...
Instead, they will deliberately break the law in order to bring a case to court. The Church believes it could then challenge a guilty verdict through Article 9 of the Human Rights Act, which upholds the freedom of religious expression.
However, the article reports that Scottish legislation allows for the "sign-posting" compromise (cf. A Deal on SORs?) and they are hoping that the same will apply when the SORs come into force (they will apply in Scotland too.)

This "sign-posting" deal is a compromise in more ways than one. It is now compromising a possible fight-back.

Monday, 29 January 2007

FSSP in Urbe blog

The Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP) in Rome have started a new blog to keep their friends and benefactors abreast of liturgical happenings in Rome. This is great news! It is good to see that the restoration of the facade of the Church has now been completed.

If you want to find out more about the FSSP, here is a link to the main FSSP site. And here is a link to the FSSP Rome site.

UPDATE: I should also have spotted that there is a site for FSSP UK.

"KGB plotted to discredit Pius XII"

There is a most interesting article in National Review Online by Ion Mihai Pacepa, (Wikipedia article) the "highest ranking intelligence officer ever to have defected from the Soviet bloc." Entitled Moscow’s Assault on the Vatican, he tells the story of how the KGB set out to discredit Pope Pius XII and were behind the play The Deputy.

Amy Wellborn's post Is this for real? has a discussion in the combox. One point is worth mentioning - have you seen anything about this in the news? No, I didn't think so.

Compassion and sensitivity

A commenter "Just a confused Catholic" asked about Archbishop Vincent Nichols' admission on Newsnight that Catholic agencies were happy to place children with single gay people, but not couples. He suggested that this undermined any argument about gay adoption and lost credibility for the church's position

As I understand it, some agencies say that from their experience, some older children who have had long experience of dysfunctional families do better in long-term care of a single person. (I am not qualified to comment on whether this is the case or not.)

In such a situation, it might be that a Catholic agency would place a child or teenager with someone whom they knew (through confidential assessment procedures, perhaps) to have some homosexual temptations but who accepted the teaching of the Church and lived chastely.

However, I cannot see how it would be possible for a Catholic agency to place a child with someone who defined themseves publicly as "gay", was regularly part of the gay "scene", was involved in sexually active gay relationships, or opposed the teaching of the Church.

One of the ambiguities in the recent public debate is that everyone is ignoring the statement in the Catechism that the homosexual inclination is "objectively disordered." (n.2358) This means that it cannot be accepted by Catholics as a "good" or as just another way of being normal.

Without recognising this teaching, we are going to be trapped in a dialogue of the deaf because a person who regards being "gay" as "the way God made me" or as just another acceptable way of life will not be in the least bit placated by the Catechism's talk of "compassion and sensitivity" or of uniting their difficulties with the Lord's cross. Such talk will simply make them angry because they will see no need for anybody to be compassionate.

It seems to me that the way things are in England now, the "compassion and sensitivity" talk may not be as helpful as it is intended to be. Given the success of the gay movement in obtaining widespread acceptance in England, we are really in the position where we disagree about something fundamental to human nature. We might as well recognise that and debate it: there is no sense causing needless offence.

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Tablet attacks Rome. Pope Catholic. Bears etc.

In the midst of perhaps the most significant crisis in relations between the Catholic Church and the British Government in the past 100 years, the Tablet has, true to form, attacked the teaching of the Church on the central issue.

Its leader "Need for Compromise" refers to the document regarding homosexual civil unions issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2003 and signed by Cardinal Ratzinger as "ill-judged" and speaks of "the intemperate language of Rome."

Part of the argument runs as follows:
The Catholic Catechism says that Scripture describes homosexual acts as "grave depravity". This is far removed from the temper of the times, and probably no longer even reflects what a majority of practising Catholics believe about homosexuals. Many of them have gay friends and gay relatives; Catholic mothers have gay sons. Some of the most devout are gay themselves.
I am trying hard to imagine what it would be like to belong to a Church that tried to follow the "temper of the times" as perceived in a highly secularised country in the affluent West. The assertion about the "majority of practising Catholics" is, of course, dubious in the extreme. Those Catholics who practise their faith tend to do so because they believe the teaching of the Church. If they don't, there are plenty of alternative denominations, faiths and "philosophies".

Many of us, of course do have gay friends and relatives. I also have friends and relatives who are Muslims, members of the Socialist Worker Party, and the Freemasons - it doesn't make me the least bit embarrassed or offended by the Church's teaching as it applies to them and am happy for any chance to engage in a "frank and open exchange of views." Knowing me to be Catholic, they tend not to be overly surprised or upset to find that I believe the teaching of the Church in which I publicly profess my faith.

The leader makes the interesting point that if all homosexual acts are depraved, it would not be licit to refer homosexual couples to other agencies. They attempt to enlist the Cardinal onside by saying that "the implication is" that he does not believe in using this argument. As readers of this blog have pointed out, there is no small evidence to support this implication. A change of emphasis would be wise at this stage. Given the Cabinet's determination to rub the Church's nose in it, there seems little point in accepting any legal requirement to refer or "sign-post." It was always a questionable practice when done voluntarily.

The final paragraph has a classic Tablet attack on Rome and, by implication, Pope Benedict:
The higher up the hierarchical ladder of the Church one goes, the less responsive it is to movements in grass roots opinion.
(Those particular grass roots flourish especially in the manicured lawns of our leafier suburbs.) The article concludes by encouraging the Catholic Church in England and Wales to make more "progress" in the opposite direction from Rome.

In the same issue: "A love found wanting" by Martin Reynolds:
A gay Anglican priest, describes how he and his Catholic partner took on a child and why they wish to do so again.

Catholic Dilemmas

This week, I have become a columnist for the Catholic Herald. It is a short piece under the Leader called "Catholic Dilemmas." (People ask questions and I try to answer them.) The first one is about relics and what to do with them.

The Editor, Luke Coppen has given me a very kind notice in the Editor's Blog.

Belated Australia Day Greetings

I am sorry that I missed sending out a greeting to the southern blogosphere for yesterday which was Australia Day. I hope you all had a good time.

On YouTube I found the annual broadcast from Sam Kekovich of the Australian Lamb marketing board. As ever, he uses the opportunity to fire a broadside against tofu and other forms of un-Australianism.

This year, he launches the Australia Day Party, suggesting that tax cuts be taken off the table and lamb cuts be put on it instead. His answer to global warming is to use uranium as a green alternative for powering the barbie. He concludes:
I have a dream: - that lamb can unite Australians of all colours and creeds - even sandal-wearing hairy-legged lentil-eaters.

Married couples' tax allowance petition

Michael Wonham has set up a petition at the 10 Downing Street e-petitions site. It reads:
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Reinstate the Married Couples Tax Allowance.
Further information:
It's agreed by many that one of the causes of 'problems' in our youth community is the difficulties that parents have on surviving on one income - forcing both parents to gain paid employment, leading to childcare difficulties. By reinstating the married couples of allowance, the couple can benefit from both tax allowances, even though only one is getting paid, increasing the possibility that mothers (or fathers) may be able to engage in more part-time work suitable for balancing income and childcare.

There are 275 signatures at the time of posting. Do add your name if you are eligible (you must be a British Citizen or resident to sign the petition.)
Sign the petition here.

Friday, 26 January 2007

Hymn to St John Fisher

Above the entrance to the John Fisher School Chapel, there is a new statue of the patron. He carries in his hand the Cardinal's hat which he never received. Pope Paul III thought that Henry VIII would not dare to execute a Cardinal. The King's reaction to the news is well known:
"Yea, is he yet so lusty? Let the Pope send him a hat when he will, but I shall provide that whensoever it cometh, he shall wear it on his shoulders, for head he shall have none to set it on."
St John Fisher is the only Cardinal Martyr.

Dan Cooper gave me a copy of the school hymn which was composed by the founder, Canon Byrne. I don't have a copy of the music but will try to get hold of it.
Sharing Christ’s Priesthood, high honour, dread burden,
Steadfast amid all its manifold cares,
Friend of the poor, of the aged, the dying,
Saint of the Priesthood, give ear to our prayers,
And pray for us now.

Patron of learning, enriching, ennobling,
The home of the scholar, inspirer of youth;
Through thy far vision, athwart the late ages,
The lamp of true wisdom, the torchlight of truth.
Illumine us now.

Counsellor of State, ever tireless in service,
Dauntless defender of faith without stain;
Alone thou didst see and rebuke the first heralds
Of heresy, liberty’s cloak – and its bane:
O counsel us now.

Alone of thy peers thou didst brook the displeasure
Of King and his court, God’s law to proclaim;
Loyal to England and Christ’s earthly vicar.
Death found thee fearless, despising the shame.
O strengthen us now.

Gentle yet stern, like John the beloved,
Aflame with the fire of the Baptist’s zeal;
England’s own Chrysostom, Saint of the Priesthood,
St John of England, before thee we kneel:
O plead for us now.
Yes, now would be a good time.

John Fisher Faith Group

I realised today that it is thirty years since I left the John Fisher School at 18. The school was founded by Canon Byrne in 1929, before the canonisation of Sts John Fisher and Thomas More. It has always retained its original name, without the "Saint."

I was there today to speak to the school's Faith Society. This is where the Faith Movement began. The Society was founded by Fr Roger Nesbitt who was then a teacher at the school, with guidance from Fr Edward Holloway. It still meets in what used to be Fr Nesbitt's study - I think it was Andrew Nash who coined the nicknamed "The Nesbitry." The room is in a house called "Takapuna." In the 70s, it was the home of several priests who taught at the school.

Inside, it is not at all as tidy as it was when Fr Nesbitt lived there - generations of boys have taken their toll on the paintwork and furnishings. However, the spirit of the place is clear enough from the walls:

I was invited by Dan Cooper ("Sir Dan of the Nesbitry") who retired from teaching several years ago but continues to run the Faith Society in the school.

The subject he gave me to speak on was "Blood of the Martyrs, seed of Christians." There were about 20 boys there, mainly from the lower forms although two sixth-formers came, including the School Captain. They all stay voluntarily after school on a Friday evening. I tried to give a quick rundown of the way that the Church grew in the first three centuries, the heroism and of the martyrs and the inspiration they gave to the Christians under persecution. Including a few gory details was also very much appreciated, of course.

These gatherings are always lively and good fun. The boys carry on asking questions afterwards over tea and toast. An innovation since my time is a pool table and chess board for those who don't go out to play football after the talk.

The Faith Society has been the seedbed of many priestly vocations over the past thirty years since mine was nurtured there. The picture at the top of the post shows the school chapel where we used to attend daily Mass. There is still Mass before school two days a week and there is always a good attendance of boys. Dan told me that they have fifteen servers for the weekly lunchtime Benediction, with one boy arranging rotas for all the different "jobs" that they have been able to give out. With that number, there must be competition for "spoon holder" or something.

Fr Michael Crowdy RIP

This from Fr Rupert McHardy of the London Oratory:
Fr Michael Crowdy was for many years a priest of the London Oratory & in some ways, juridically at least, stayed one all his life. He he kept in touch with a number of the fathers and remained devoted to St Philip. He died on 8 December 2006 aged 92 after many years of devoted work to further the cause of Tradition in this country.

The Provost of the Oratory, Fr Ignatius Harrison will offer a Requiem Mass (Missa Cantata) for the repose of his soul on Friday February 16 at 7pm. The Mass will be in the Little Oratory and served by the Brothers. This is particularly appropriate as Fr Crowdy was for a number of years Fr Prefect of the Brothers.

Cardinal's forthcoming interviews

This today from the Catholic Communications Network:
The Cardinal has been interviewed for the Sunday Times News Review section this Sunday.

He will also be interviewed for the Sunday Programme and then on a.m. Sunday (Andrew Marr show) at 9.05am.

In these interviews, he is talking more widely about Church and State; individual rights v the common good; legislation and freedom of conscience.

Congrats Matt, Wendy & Madeleine

Via Lacrimarum Valle:

Madeleine Jane Doyle was born at 2341hrs on Thursday, January 25th 2007 weighing in at 6lb 15oz!!!

Go over to Matt's blog for photos and details. Here's one of the proud father!

(Thank you for your wonderful response to the Spiritual Bouquet.)

How to greet a Bishop

An American student asked me how he should greet the Bishop when he visits.

Most Bishops nowadays are happy to be greeted as "Bishop "John" (or whatever his name is.) A more formal greeting which is still quite acceptable is "My Lord." For an Archbishop, this would be "Your Grace".

Many Bishops are a little embarrassed at you kissing their ring. However, they shouldn't be. This gesture is not meant to be some kind of fawning sycophancy. It is a recognition of his office as successor to the Apostles. Having said that, it is probably better not to kiss his ring if it makes him feel uncomfortable - unless you particularly want to make a point.

Occasionally, people from Catholic countries kiss my hand when they greet me after Mass. I don't try to stop them. It is not me they are respecting but the sacred priesthood. I'm not worthy of it and their reverence is a reminder to me of the need to try to live up to the grace of the priesthood.

My favourite example of the meaning of such reverence is in the film "Going My Way" - or it may have been "The Bells of St Mary's." Fr Chuck O'Malley (Bing Crosby) goes into the Bishop's study, kneels down and very formally kisses his ring. He then gets up and shakes his hand familiarly, saying something like "How are you John". He shows his reverence for the office first, then his personal friendship for the man.

By the Way, Bing Crosby got the Oscar for best actor for his performance in "Going My Way". The film got 7 Oscars all together. "The Bells of St Mary's" is also great - Ingrid Bergman stars in it too. Double DVD with both films £7.97 from Amazon.

Thursday, 25 January 2007

News values

Hilary reports a most interesting media "non-event" in her post A Hypothetical Prize Fight. She sums it up thus:
Let me be clear: a famous leftist politician and a famous conservative expert debate on a subject that is interesting because people are getting killed over it around the world, in one of the most important cities in the western world; all the media is present and after it is over, there is no coverage.
It was Ken Livingstone and Daniel Pipes, debating "A World Civilisation or Clash of Civilisations?" Since there is no coverage elsewhere, let me help you out (courtesy of Hilary) just in case you want to supplement the rich diet of balanced and impartial information that is supplied by our mainstream media.

Adloyada: Daniel Pipes survives Livingstone's Lions' Den

Sharon Chadha: Clash of Civilisations?

David Pryce-Jones: Debating Clash

Oliver Kamm: Livingstone's Follies

Harry's Place: A very civilised clash

And someone who has a distaste for the politics of Pipes and thinks Livingstone the best of a bunch of bad choices:

Pickled Politics: The mayor, Daniel Pipes, Salma Yaqoob and others
(This guy has a button on his sidebar saying "I believe in the BBC"!)

As Hilary says,
If the media shows up prepared for a fight and at the end of it shrugs and goes home, who won the fight?

The wrong contender, obviously.

Well, we'll never know because if a thing has not been reported by the BBC, it never really happened anyway.
Be informed - ditch the telly! (Did I say that before somewhere?)

Yet another BBC anti-Catholic slander

Not having a TV (as you probably realise by now) I learned of this one via Bashing Secularism. Apparently, in the programme "Waking the Dead", a member of Opus Dei shoots dead a man and a woman while they are having sex.

The portrayal of Opus Dei is obviously derived from the Da Vinci Code. The Work have sent in a complaint that the programme contravenes the BBC’s Religion Editorial Guidelines which say the cooperation
“will ensure the religious views and beliefs of an individual, a religion or religious denomination are not misrepresented, abused or discriminated against, as judged against generally accepted standards.”

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Youth Vigil

Just cleared up after the Youth Vigil. After exposing the Blessed Sacrament, I went into the Confessional while the young people led the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, and an impressive collection of various Catholic Prayers.

After Benediction, we watched The Scarlet and the Black starring Gregory Peck as Mgr O'Flaherty, running a network to assist Jews and allied servicemen on the run. It is very enjoyable and suitable for the whole family. The film is quite closely based on the true story of Mgr O'Flaherty's life. (The picture shows the real O'Flaherty.)

I was glad that I tried to over-estimate the amount of Pizza & extras needed from Domino's. Quite phenomenal amounts got consumed!

Amazon is currently selling the film on DVD for £3.97. (It is in stock. For some reason, it comes via "Amazon Jersey.")

Questions about Humanae Vitae

In the combox of the post "Family exasperated at Tablet & condoms, Seamus asked the following:
I always thought the Church taught that THE purpose of sexual intercourse was procreation? If one practices NFP the intention is not to reproduce, but to express one's love for one's partner. Is the problem of contraception not that it 'reduces' (big inverted commas here for emphasis) sexual intercourse to pleasure, or is it that it prevents the creation of human life?And another thing. What does one do about communion when one's partner who is not a Catholic uses contraception. Does this condemn the Catholic partner to never being able to take holy communion?
I will try to answer the two questions in turn.

1. The Church teaches that the two ends of the marriage act are the procreation of children and the unity of the couple, and that neither of these should be deliberately frustrated. With the use of artificial contraception, both the act itself and the intention are ordered to making procreation impossible. (As a matter of fact, those working in maternity wards and those who care for women in crisis pregnancies, offering alternatives to abortion, witness to the fact that a considerable proportion of pregnancies occur when the couple are using one or other method of contraception.)

The use of Natural Family Planning involves periodic abstinence from the marriage act. The Church teaches that this may be done if there are serious reasons for limiting the number of children. However, the act itself is exactly the same. The intention is indeed to limit the number of children but the Church's teaching does not require couples to intend to have children if there are serious reasons for them not wanting to have any more children for the time being.

Aside from this rather theoretical way of stating the matter, couples who use Natural Family Planning speak warmly of the benefits it brings to their marriage. As a matter of fact, the rate of breakdown of marriages in which the couple uses NFP is estimated at around a tenth of the normal figure.

One of the best writers on Humanae Vitae is Janet Smith. There are several articles by her on the internet; Sacred Heart Seminary, Detroit, has a long list. (Some of them argue complex issues with other moralists.) The one Humanae Vitae: The Church's Best Kept Secret? has some personal testimonies.

2. If a non-Catholic spouse insists on using contraception, the Pontifical Council for the Family's Vademecum for Confessors allows that the co-operation of the Catholic spouse may be licit if the following three conditions are all met:
1. when the action of the cooperating spouse is not already illicit in itself;
2. when proportionally grave reasons exist for cooperating in the sin of the other spouse;
3. when one is seeking to help the other spouse to desist from such conduct (patiently, with prayer, charity and dialogue; although not necessarily in that moment, nor on every single occasion).
The first would be met if the Catholic spouse is not themselves using a condom or some other contraceptive. The second would be met if it was a matter of avoiding serious damage to the marriage. The third is the most important in practice and the qualifications set out seem to me to be very compassionate and pastoral.

However, the Vademecum continues:
Furthermore, it is necessary to carefully evaluate the question of cooperation in evil when recourse is made to means which can have an abortifacient effect.
This refers to the "Contraceptive Pill." The makers of this drug include in their notes to physicians, a statement that the action of the drug may be to prevent implantation of the fertilised ovum. This would mean that an action had been taken which might kill an embryo and therefore a more serious moral problem exists with regard to co-operation.

I hope that those are reasonable answers. Seamus raised these questions politely and in good faith so any comments should be in the same spirit, please.

'snow rest for the wicked

This is the sight that greeted me outside my window this morning:

Our outside statue of Our Lady of the Rosary became Our Lady of the Snows:

All very beautiful, of course but I am afraid snow is not really good news for me. Here is the front of the Church at first light:

We have a number of elderly people who walk to morning Mass so it is quite important that a few paths should be cleared. I think once again "I must go and get one of those broom-type snow-plough thingies as soon as the shops are re-stocked." I will probably forget again this year. Never mind - it didn't take too long with a broom; and a bit of manual work is surely a good thing now and again.

Then there is the salt and grit to put down. I took a crowbar to break up the compacted material and I found that the container had been used as a convenient rubbish bin: beer bottles, coke cans, confetti packets etc. (Memo to self: Get some rubbish bins for outside.) My Deacon arrived at this point and kindly got rid of the rubbish while I put down the grit. I expect this is all pretty small beer for those of you living with snow for several months each year. The trouble is that it is relatively uncommon here and always takes us by surprise. Anyway, here we are - strategically swept and gritted paths:

You could make up some chav jokes about this -

Salted! Safe!

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Fr Charles Briggs - non blogging priest

The new non-blogging priestly guest of English Catholic blogs is Fr Charles Briggs, pictured above at one of our regular Sunday lunch meetings at the Chislehurst Golf Club of which he is an honorary member. He is given this honour on account of the Club House being the former home of Napoleon III and the Empress Eugénie, and his being the parish priest of St Mary's, Chislehurst. In the background, you can see a painting of the Empress and the young Prince Imperial.

Below, he is pictured outside his not unpleasant Chislehurst presbytery.

Fr Briggs regularly writes for Living Liturgy in the Modern World magazine, expounding the thesis "Latin is a Barrier to Participation." He has a fine collection of hand-thrown pottery chalices, and Javan batik stoles in primary colours. He is a 9 on the enneagram.

Oh all right, then - Fr Briggs is a Church Historian, expert on Mgr Talbot, Jansenism, and Blessed Pius IX, and regularly celebrates the Classical Roman Rite. His living room features in pride of place a picture of Mere Angélique Arnauld, the Abbess of Port Royal:

Chislehurst graves and tombs

As I had my camera with me when I visited St Mary's, Chislehurst on Sunday, Fr Briggs made sure that I got photographs of some of the more significant monuments at his Church. First, there was the grave of Charles West, the Founder of the Great Ormond Street Hospital for children:

Nearby is the grave of Claude Sophie O'Shea who was born on 15 February 1882 and died on 21 April 1882. The inscription says "In memory of our lost darling [...] erected by her Mother and Father" Her father was Charles Stewart Parnell, described by Gladstone as the most remarkable person he had ever met. Parnell was an Irish MP for the Home Rule League. He organised the Irish Parliamentary Party, making it highly efficient. In the process, he invented the party whip system, enabling the party to work as a bloc in Parliament and hold the balance of power.

His Parliamentary career began to fall apart when he was cited as co-respondent in the divorce proceedings that Captain William O'Shea started against his wife Katherine O'Shea (Parnell used the nickname "Kitty" and this was seized on by his opponents: the name being not only a diminutive of Katherine but also a contemporary slang word for a prostitute.) The relationship began when Parnell started visiting the O'Shea's at Wonersh Lodge in Eltham.

Parnell refused to resign as leader of the party, and consequently, the party split into factions, eventually leading to his downfall. Joyce wrote an essay "the Shade of Parnell" which concluded:
In his final desperate appeal to his countrymen, he begged them not to throw him as a sop to the English wolves howling around them. It redounds to their honour that they did not fail this appeal. They did not throw him to the English wolves; they tore him to pieces themselves.
Apparently Charles and Kitty could be seen regularly on Sundays in Chislehurst, holding hands as they walked to place flowers on little Claude Sophie's grave which they had marked with a Celtic Cross.

Inside the Church, there is a monument to the Prince Imperial Eugène Louis John Joseph. He was the only child of Napoleon III and the empress Eugénie: the family fled to Chislehurst during the Franco-Prussian war. The Prince Imperial died fighting for the British in Zululand.

Napoleon III was himself buried for a time at Chislehurst but his remains were later moved to the new Abbey of Farnborough when the Empress could not realise her wish to extend St Mary's to provide an adequate mausoleum. Here is the monument in the side chapel of the Church:

And finally, a grave that is of great interest to Catholics today. Michael Davies, the author of Cranmer's Godly Order and several other books criticising the liturgical reforms carried out in the wake of Vatican II. As well as being a prolific author, Michael was a popular and effective primary school teacher. He was a great friend of my father and they used to campaign together in the 1970s against the "new catechetics" which was destroying the faith of teachers and children.

They campaigned successfully against the infamous "Corpus Christi College of Education" in London which disseminated the new catechetics among priests, sisters and RE teachers. Opened by the Bishops in 1967, the College was closed by Cardinal Heenan in 1972 after my father and Michael Davies went to see him to complain about the College, showing him the leaflet the College had produced, entitled "Never say Jesus is God full stop!"

I had the privilege of assisting as subdeacon at Michael's Requiem Mass at St Mary's.

Pray for Matt, Wendy and Madeleine

Matt Doyle (Lacrimarum Valle) and his wife Wendy are expecting their first baby (already named Madeleine) - like anytime now! Wendy has to go into hospital tomorrow for labour to be induced if it doesn't start properly tonight.

OK - an experiment. The combox for this post is a Spiritual Bouquet. Post a short comment to say what prayers you are going to say for them - like 1 Rosary, 1 holy Communion (i.e. offered for them), 10 Hail Mary's ... you get the picture. You can be anonymous if you like.

UPDATE: Thank you for your wonderful response to this request for prayers. Madeleine has now been born.

(Combox now closed - but that doesn't stop you adding prayers!)

A "deal" on SORs?

A student yesterday drew my attention to an article in the Daily Telegraph: Falconer refuses to exempt Catholics from new gay laws. Lord Falconer refuses to acknowledge the obvious conflict of "rights" that is at the heart of the widespread Christian opposition to these regulations. His approach seems to be deliberately confrontational and, if pursued, will place good and upright members of society on the wrong side of the law. All quite predictable so far.

However, I have just realised that there is a "deal" being brokered. The Telegraph reports:
"Downing Street has proposed a possible compromise under which Catholic agencies could refuse to accept gay couples but would have a duty to refer them to agencies that would accept them."
Yesterday, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor sent a letter to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. Here is the text of the letter. The Cardinal says that the Church is opposed to any unjust discrimination, summarises the relevant Catholic teaching on marriage, and says that it would be "unreasonable, unnecessary and unjust discrimination against Catholics" if Catholic adoption agencies were required to place children with homosexual couples. Then comes the crucial paragraph:
"Catholic adoption agencies have readily accepted their responsibility to provide an informative, sympathetic and helpful service to all those who enquire about adoption, whether or not they meet the agency's criteria for acceptance for assessment. Catholic adoption agencies welcome adoptive applicants from any or no religious background. Homosexual couples are referred to other agencies where their adoption application may be considered. This "sign-posting" responsibility is taken very seriously by all Catholic adoption agencies."
I have grave misgivings about the Church accepting this utterly unnecessary and pointless compromise. If Catholic adoption agencies are exempted from the Regulations, and it is publicly known that they do not place children with homosexual couples, that is a clear enough "sign-post" and no homosexual couple would bother with them. They will know of other adoption agencies without having to be "sign-posted" by the Catholic Children's Society.

I cannot see that the compromise is anything other than an attempt by the Government to humiliate the Church by forcing it to be involved in material co-operation with homosexual adoption. If the argument is made that homosexual couples would in some cases not be able to find an adoption agency without the help of the Catholic Children's Society, then it would be formal co-operation and illicit in any case.

Sex-ed study in the BMJ

There is an editorial article by Trevor Stammers in the current issue of the British Medical Journal entitled "Sexual Health in Adolescents". This link gives you the first 150 words of the article. (A reader kindly sent me the whole article.)
UPDATE: Joee has the whole article on his blog.

Stammers comments on a research report (available free online), published in the same issue by Henderson et al., looking at the impact of a sex-ed programme on "registered conceptions and terminations." The study found that the sex-ed had no measurable impact on these outcomes. Stammers comments:
Henderson and colleagues stress the need for more comprehensive approaches that incorporate the influence of parents on sexual experience in teenagers, and to improve the future life opportunities for vulnerable young people. The false assumption that “young teens will have sex anyway” is an insult to many young people who have the capacity to rise to a far more effective challenge than just “use a condom every time.”
He also makes the pertinent observation:

Blanket assertions that abstinence programmes “don’t work” abound.w10 Ironically, however, the only randomised trial of school sex education identified by the SHARE team to use clinical data on pregnancies was of an abstinence only programme that resulted in a significant reduction of pregnancies.

(Reference: Cabezon C, Vigil P, Rojas I, Leiva ME, Riquelme R, Aranda W, et al. Adolescent pregnancy prevention: an abstinence-centred randomized controlled intervention in a Chilean public high school. J Adolesc Health 2005;36:64-9.)

The statement of "competing interests", tells us that Stammers is a trustee of Family Education Trust and Challenge Teams UK; charities that provide abstinence centred sex education packages to secondary schools in the UK. He is also a (volunteer) web doctor for Love for Life, the largest provider of abstinence centred sex education to schools in Northern Ireland.

What a great bloke!

1549 BCP on Holy Communion

I am very grateful to an Australian correspondent who sent me this quotation from the 1549 Book of Common Prayer; the first edition to be produced by Cranmer. Concerning the distribution of Holy Communion, it says:
And although it bee redde in aunciente writers, that the people many yeares past received at the priestes handes the Sacrament of the body of Christ in theyr owne handes, and no commaundement of Christ to the contrary: Yet forasmuche as they many tymes conveyghed the same secretelye awaye, kept it with them, and diversly abused it to supersticion and wickednes: lest any suche thynge hereafter should be attempted, and that an uniformitie might be used, throughoute the whole Realme: it is thought convenient the people commonly receive the Sacrament of Christes body, in their mouthes, at the Priestes hande.
The history of the Book of Common Prayer illustrates in a fascinating way the changes of doctrine that took place in the Church of England from the reign of Henry VIII to that of Charles II. The various texts can be found at this Book of Common Prayer page. It also has a page on the Sarum Missal, giving the texts in Latin and English.

Monday, 22 January 2007

St Mary's Chislehurst

Yesterday, in between duties, I called over to Chislehurst for lunch with Fr Charles Briggs. He is parish priest of St Mary's:

Usually in England, a Church looking like this would be an Anglican Church. This one is an early (1852) foundation of the diocese of Southwark after the restoration of the hierarchy in 1850. Here is a view from the north:

Fr Charles Briggs is set to become the new priestly non-blogging guest of English Catholic blogs. He has alread appeared on Forest Murmurs. Expect some more sightings here soon!

Old Mass responses in mp3

I have two boys in my parish learning to serve the Classical Roman Rite of Mass. I was thinking that I should get round to using my little memo recorder to make an mp3 file for them to listen to the responses on their ipod or whatever.

Thankfully, the Latin Mass Society in Ireland has already done the jog. On their page Text of the Mass - Audio Download, you can download parts of the Mass or the whole lot.

Biretta tip to the ever excellent New Liturgical Movement.

Excellent "Ditch the TV" rant

Fr Julian Green has posted an excellent rant entitled "Be Radical: Ditch the Telly"

Your home will be destroyed and your cows taken away if you don't abort

After my post about the Pope's forthcoming letter to Chinese Catholics, a reader sent me an email with a link to the Laogai Research Foundation. The site itself is worth a browse but the particular page that I was alerted to was a disturbing display of photographs of slogans painted on walls in China, supporting the "One Child Policy." The photos show some of the more horrific slogans, e.g.
- Better blood flowing like a river than one extra birth.
- Abort whether early or late, abort using any method!
- Your home will be destroyed and your cows taken away if you don't abort.
There is a list of others such as:
- One sterilization honors the whole family! (Shandong Province)
- One excess birth, whole village sterilized! (Chuxiong, Yunnan Province)
- Sterilization dodgers wanted! (Sichuan Province)
The site gives information about the word "Laogai":
The Laogai was created by the Chinese Communist Party under Mao Zedong, yet it still serves the one-party dictatorship as the primary instrument for detaining political dissidents and penal criminals. The two major aims of the Laogai are to use all prisoners as a source of cheap labor for the communist regime and to "reform criminals" through hard labor and compulsory political indoctrination.
Please pray earnestly for the Catholics in China and for all people of goodwill in that wonderful country.

Priestly work

I have not been able to post yesterday and most of today because of saying the three Sunday Masses, going to Chislehurst for lunch with my good friend Fr Briggs (more later), marking a couple of essays from my students, driving round to Wonersh, lecturing on the Sacrament of Penance, checking over the marking of several essays with Fr Dingley, attending the beginning of the Board of Studies meeting, seeing a student for Spiritual Direction, finishing an article for the Catholic Herald, and visiting my sister to celebrate her son Joe's eleventh birthday.

This week, I have to conduct the funeral of a baby who was stillborn (please pray for the parents), start off the Confirmation classes, give a talk at the John Fisher School Faith Group and lead a wonderful initiative of one of the sixth formers in my parish who asked spontaneously if we could have a Youth Vigil with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Confessions. Naturally, I agreed to this wholeheartedly. I offered to lay on a film and a pizza afterwards as well - last time we watched Molokai (about Fr Damien and his work with lepers); this time, I think "The Scarlet and the Black" would be a good choice.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Papal letter to be sent to Chinese Catholics

Thanks to Amy Wellborn for posting on this very interesting prospect: the Holy Father will send a letter to the Catholics in China. This will be the most wonderful news for the Chinese Church. Our Lady of China. Pray for us.

Yesterday and today, at the Apostolic Palace, there was a meeting of various Bishops and others concerned with the situation of the Church in China. The Vatican press office communique included the following (my translation):
In the light of the troubled history of the Church in China and of the principal events of recent years, the more serious and urgent ecclesial problems were examined, problems which await adequate solutions in relation to fundamental principles of the divine constitution of the church and of religious freedom. Note was taken of the shining witness, offered by Bishops, priests and faithful who, without giving in to compromises, have maintained their fidelity to the See of Peter, sometimes at the price of grave suffering. It was further established, with great joy, that today almost the totality of the Bishops and of the priests are in communion with the Supreme Pontiff.
There is also an informative article on Asia News.

Looking around for information about the Church in China, I came across the website of the pro-Government People's Daily and the article Chinese Catholics Denounce Vatican's Planned Canonization of "Saints". I hope I am not being too unkind here but I really did have the impression that I was reading something produced by the BBC.

Spiritual Reading - a great find!

Browsing in the CTS bookshop the other day, I found "The Spiritual Combat" by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli published by the most excellent TAN books.

In this edition (a reprint of the 1945 edition), the preface is by Fr B F Marcetteau, SS, the spiritual director of the theological college of the Catholic University of America. He tells us that the authorship of the book is in fact disputed; there were several 17th century editions published under the name of John of Castanzia, a Spanish Benedictine. Some Jesuits claimed that it was written by one of their own, Achilles Gagliardi. However, "most critics" now consider the book to have been written by Scupoli who was a Theatine.

This is significant since the Jesuits were modelled to some degree on the Theatines who came to regard the Jesuits as a rival group. One of their co-founders was Giovanni Pietro Carafa. When Carafa became Pope Paul IV, St Ignatius was distraught and went to spend his famous 15 minutes before the Blessed Sacrament to reconcile himself to what he thought was the certain suppression of the Company of Jesus.

I am mortified that I have never heard of this book before. It is a practical, down to earth, and uncompromising manual for the spiritual life and was the favourite book of St Francis de Sales who carried a copy in his pocket for 18 years. It was this recommendation on the back cover which made me decide to buy it. I heartily recommend it.

In fact, I am so taken with the book that I have interrupted my re-reading of Trochu's life of the Curé D'Ars (also published by TAN). St Ignatius (and doubtless Scupoli, would probably regard this as a fault.

Another book I picked up at the CTS was "The Prayer of Love and Silence" by that most prolific contemplative "A Carthusian." It was first published in French in 1948 and in English translation in 1951. The slim volume (145 pages) comprises three parts: the work "An Introduction to the Interior Life", a collection of sermons delivered in chapter, and a work called "The Blessed Trinity and the Supernatural Life". This one will have to wait until I have finished Dom Guillerand. (There is also a quote in this post.)

Cicero and Genghis Khan

For light reading, I enjoy historical novels. I found Robert Harris's Pompeii a good read, so his latest title Imperium caught my eye in Waterstones a week or two ago. When I read the blurb and found that it told the story of Cicero's rise to become Consul, I could not resist it. The narrative is put in the mouth of Tiro, Cicero's amanuensis. I recommend it if you like this sort of thing.

One I have just started is Conn Iggulden's Wolf of the Plains. Apparently this is the first in what is to be a series of books about Temujin, better known as Genghis Khan. My detractors might want to suggest that I would find the protagonist a bit left-wing for my tastes - in return I upbraid them for their lack of due cultural relativism. (I was amused to discover that in addition to his historical novels, Iggulden is the co-author of the best-selling "Dangerous Book for Boys.")

One niggle about Imperium: as with most best-selling hardbacks, the pages are glued rather than sewn. Hutchinson have managed to produce a real turkey with this one - the pages fall out all over the place.

Harper Collins, the publisher of Iggulden's book have done a better job. It is not properly bound but the pages do not drop into your soup when you try to to read and eat your lunch at the same time.

Friday, 19 January 2007

BBC experiments on children

I just found this story on the blog Against All Heresies (which is a good read, by the way.)

Mary has picked up on the news of a reality-TV show which the BBC recently broadcast, in which five "couples" aged between 16 and 19 were filmed attempting to look after children who were loaned to them for a few days.

Here is the BBC3 information about the programme. They tell us:
Britain's teenagers are breeding like rabbits - can they be convinced to wait? We tool up five teenage couples for the toughest job of all - parenting.

Our series is packed with tears and tantrums as the teens get to grips with the reality of being 'grown-ups'. How will they cope with childcare and, more importantly, each other? Will they take to parenthood and adult life like a duck to water or run home to mum? Find out, when you meet the 'parents' in this unique social experiment.
The Daily Mail reports on the story in an article titled Fury as TV teenagers play house with REAL babies. They point out:
Local authority officials were so concerned about the 'very real risk' of physical and psychological damage to the children that they urged the BBC to cancel the series.
In her excellent post on this experiment, Talk is cheap and so is life, Mary asks,
Relationship? What kind of a "relationship" do children aged 16-19 have anyway? Certainly it is devoid of commitment which is supposed to be the basis of a relationship. And why ever didn't law enforcement get involved and charge the parents and production company with child labor, or neglect or something?
In the Catholic Church in England and Wales, current practice for safeguarding children means that grandmothers who have worked in the parish for decades will be run through Criminal Record Bureau checks, interviewed, and have references taken up. We're planning some more training to make sure everyone knows and agrees to some common basics of good practice for keeping children safe.

I am more than happy to get all this done if it means that we close all the loopholes we can, and make sure that our work with children and young people is of the best possible quality. My parishioners take a generous and responsible attitude to the personal inconvenience involved, and I have had help from some excellent people (retired Headteacher, police officer with experience in child protection, social workers etc.) who have given their time to this important work.

But it is increasingly obvious that where safeguarding children is concerned, there is one rule for the Church and another for the media.

Cambridge Faith Forum

This term's series examines

What Catholics believe about...

Fr David Standen, 22nd January

The Eucharist
Fr Stephen Dingley, 5th February

Fr Scott Deeley, 19th February

Fr Roger Nesbitt, 5th March

All talks begin at 8pm and take place in the Buckingham Room, Magdalene College.

For more information, contact Fiorella at

Above are the College Arms. The College website informs us that the motto means "Keep your faith", not as it is sometimes misconstrued, "Watch your Liver."

The College was re-founded in 1542 by Lord Audley who had presided over the trials of St John Fisher and St Thomas More and obtained the property as part of the dissolution of the monasteries. (More information) It is rather good to think of the Faith talks taking place there now.

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Enforcement ministers

A thought-provoking post from Tim, the Lapped Catholic the other day speculated on the question of lay ministry. He was taking up the suggestion of Fr Erich Richtsteig that we should reintroduce the ministry of Beadle:
... a minor official in medieval and some Protestant churches. His badge of office was a good, long stick used to smack people misbehaving in church. Not only could he take care of the clappers, but also unrepentant cellphone users.
This reminds me of a story from my elder sister's parish one Christmas Midnight Mass. Some local Jack-the-Lad had a bit too much lemonade and thought he would come along and disrupt the Catholic Mass. He encountered two of my nephews in the porch:

Austin (medical student) who was then in full training as a boxer. (He had to give it up when the consultant told him he couldn't do ward rounds with a black eye.)

Declan - a short, unassuming, mild-mannered sort of chap who happened to be in the British National Judo Squad, gave it up to study but was persuaded to join the team at Oxford, earning himself a blue. (He now teaches philosophy in Ohio.)

Awww! How was the poor guy to know? (They did help him back up onto his feet.) Shouldn't they have had had a sash or a badge or something. What about the Ministry of "Come back tomorrow when you've slept it off, Son"?

Photos of Pluscarden

There are some great pictures of Pluscarden over at Joee Blogs.

Jesse's prayers

This week,
Oi 'aave been mostly prayin' fer
Christian Unity.

If you are not familiar with the Fast Show, here is a sample of "Jesse's Diets":

"If she were a dog ..."

The media today is full of one of those sad stories that are used to confuse everyone, muddy the waters and promote euthanasia.

Here is the BBC version: Vegetative State Drug Review Call

And here is an example from the print media (Daily Telegraph) 'Lazarus' husband demands drug inquiry

The basic story: "Jessica" (not her real name) was a PVS patient. Her family, in the words of the Telegraph, "asked for her feeding to be withdrawn so that she could be allowed to die." The Official Solicitor obtained a High Court order that she should be treated with the anti-insomnia drug Zolpiden which has, in some cases, led to PVS patients recoving some consciousness. It didn't work. The family are angry and demanding an enquiry.

It would be morally acceptable for the family to refuse the drug on behalf of an incapacitated relative if it was agreed that the drug was an "extraordinary means" - as it may well be if the drug is still unproven. (Medics feel free to chip in on this question.)

But notice how the withdrawal of food has been slipped in quietly. The reporting of the case seems to be taking this practice as normal nowadays. Feeding is not an extraordinary means of keeping someone alive. To withdraw food is to withdraw basic care - and the intent of hastening death is clear enough in this case. The obvious inhumanity of this process of starving someone to death is not lost on "Jessica"'s husband. The BBC reports:
After his wife's nutritional support was withdrawn, it took 14 days for her to die, which he said was not a dignified death.

"If she was a dog and we said it was incurable and we said I'm going to lock it in its kennel and not feed it, I think the RSPCA would be knocking at your door."
As we said in the first newsletter of the Association of Priests for the Gospel of Life when the debate was raging over the Mental Capacity Bill (passed into law in April 2005 and coming into effect this year.)
It must be remembered that the euthanasia movement regards the legalisation of euthanasia by neglect as a crucial step in the campaign to legalise active euthanasia. In 1984, Dr Helgha Kuhse, president of the World Federation of Right-to-Die Societies, said: “If we can get people to accept the removal of all treatment and care – especially the removal of food and fluids – they will see what a painful way this is to die and then, in the patient’s best interests, they will accept the lethal injection.”
After this widely publicised case, expect more calls for lethal injections, and much justifying of the Mental Capacity Act.

And very importantly: say a prayer for the happy repose of the soul of "Jessica."

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Visit to Good Counsel Network

After my parish Mass today and a few bits of paperwork, I took the Jubilee Line from North Greenwich (I have found a new place to park near there) to Baker Street and then a short hop on to the "Women's Centre" of the Good Counsel Network." They invite me in to say Mass from time to time and it is always great to swap pro-life news with Clare and Stuart and the others there.

The GCN advertises in the same places as Abortion providers and Pregnancy Testing Services. Their work involves giving accurate information about abortion and offering practical alternatives. They have saved very many babies.

They told me a good story today. After the Panorama programme about condoms and AIDS, attacking the Catholic Church in general and Cardinal Trujillo in particular, the GCN sent a letter to all the Bishops of England and Wales, accompanied with a picture of 300 babies that they had helped to survive. All of these were conceived in cases where the man had used a condom.

I also had the chance to chat with Araceli about the film Guadalupe. She is from Mexico herself and was quite pleased with the film. Anyone know when (if ever) it will be shown in England? Is there a DVD available?

Family exasperated at Tablet & condoms

The other day, Daphne McLeod forwarded me a letter a couple recently wrote to the Cardinal. I am happy to publish it here (with permission) because I believe that it reflects the concerns of many parents - especially those who have "more children than is usual in England and Wales today."

Dear Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor,

We are a Catholic married couple who feel concerned that in recent weeks the letters page of the Tablet has been running a campaign in favour of artificial contraception following a letter from Terry Prendagast of Marriage Care. Examples include:

Contraception and Marriage
Elizabeth Price (2 Dec 2006)

Laity's Instinct for Doctrinal Truth
Brendan Farrow (9 Dec 2006)

Laity's Instinct for Truth
Fr Sean Fagan (16/23 Dec 2006)

Where the Truth Leads
Shane Reese (6/1/07)

Instincts for Truth
Kevin Deane (13/1/07)

The authors are from an organisation called Catholics for a Changing Church but the titles are provided by the editor of the Tablet who is clearly suggesting that the Church is in error in its current teaching. We are greatly disappointed that not a single Bishop, priest or pastoral leader concerned with Catholic family life has replied in support of the teachings of the Church. Unless the Tablet is refusing to publish such replies.

Some of these letters have referred to the fact that many married Catholics ignore the teaching of the Church on contraception. This is only true because the teaching of the Church is rarely promoted at parish level and many Catholics believe that the use of contraception is subject to personal circumstances and therefore optional. This situation can only be rectified by strong leadership.

The belief by Catholics that use of contraception is an acceptable option has an immediate impact on Catholic couples who are following the teachings of the Church; these couples are often ridiculed by other Catholics for having more children than is usual in England and Wales today. Furthermore, since contraception is not seen to be seriously sinful, there is no urgency to provide pastoral care in the form of aid and advice on the practice of natural methods of family planning.

It may well be that the teaching is not promoted because few priests have sufficient grasp of the rich theology of Catholic marriage which justifies the teaching on contraception and clearly demonstrates its use to be seriously sinful. Furthermore, for many priests and pastoral leaders the Tablet is their main source of information. Its bias in favour of artificial contraception inclines many priests to disregard their calling to inspire married Catholics to embrace the teachings of the Church and lead holy lives.

The situation for Faithful Catholics is made worse by the fact that very few parents of children attending Catholic schools are Catholic or even Christian and they openly mock parents who unexpectedly conceive. We are currently expecting our 7th child and following the experience of carrying the 6th, less than two years ago, were filled with dread at the prospect of having to face the derision shown in our local Catholic community again.

We ask you and all Bishops and priest to voice your opposition to the views of the Tablet and withdraw it from circulation until it shows less biased reporting.

With our family prayers for your ministry,

Steve and Catriona

Going to another parish

Fr Edward McNamara made an interesting point yesterday in his regular column for Zenit. The question was about Attending Sunday Mass at Other Parishes. Apparently, the new code (can 1247 & 1248) does not specify that people should attend Mass in their own parishes as the old code did.

Father goes on to make as much of a case as possible for going to one's own parish (it emphasises communion, promotes the growth of the Church, enables one to support one's pastors...) but he admits that there may be circumstances where defective practice and doctrine meant that a person could have no alternative. He says,
If the objective defects constitute a danger to the Christian's faith, or to that of his or her children, or cause serious spiritual turbulence, then the person would be more than justified in worshipping somewhere else.
Personally, I would not be as cautious as Fr Edward. If people are going to Mass, that is fine. Sometimes the objection is made that this will make us like the Anglican Church with "High" and "Low" parishes. Of course this should not be so, but in fact good Catholics can be tortured in some places because of what goes on at Sunday Mass. If they are able to pray better, to be more recollected, to offer themselves in union with the divine victim without being distracted by "Good morning everyone!" and all that follows, so much the better.

In places like Blackfen, and even more with inner city parishes like Camberwell (my first appointment) the boundaries do not necessarily reflect where people feel they belong. I'm quite happy if people want to go next door and my neighbouring parish priest and I have always had a standing agreement that we can baptise each others' parishioners without worrying about obtaining permission for each other.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Distractions and sacrifice

A very common worry among people who try to pray regularly and live a devout life is that of being distracted at prayer.

Tanquerey gives some wise advice. He says that
We must [...] strive seriously to repel promptly the distractions that present themselves to our mind;
He also says:
We must, likewise reduce the number of such distractions by a vigorous fight against their causes: habitual dissipation of mind, the habit of day-dreaming, the preoccupations and attachments that absorb the mind and the heart."
It is important to bear these things in mind first because such faults are easy to fall into and very common. Channel-hopping through useless things on television, or surfing idly and without purpose on the internet are examples of what he means by "dissipation." However, once we have seriously tried to take the steps that he recommends, he says,
[...] there is no cause for worry concerning such involuntary distractions as run through our minds or disturb our imagination. These are but trials, not faults, and once we have learned to profit by them, they but increase our merit and the value of our prayers.
The principal means of "profiting" from such distractions is to understand them as a cross and to embrace the cross humbly in union with Our Lord, recognising our unworthiness to be speaking to him, and thanking him for purifying us in this way.

I think that also we can offer the time that we give in our prayers as a sacrifice. It is of the nature of the holocaust sacrifice of the scriptures. We take some time that is ours: we can spend it in various ways. Rather than waste it on something useless ("dissipation") we make it over to God without reserve. It becomes His time to do with as he pleases. We may then be sure that he will act in our soul in the way that He sees fit, to draw us closer to Him. This will be true even if our prayers do not seem to us to be very devout - sometimes even because we do not feel very pious. "Our Lord does not ask us to be successful, he asks us to be faithful."

St Thomas Aquinas Study Weekend

Just received notice of this by email.

St Thomas Aquinas Study Weekend
January 26 -28 2007
at St.Dominic’s Convent,
Station Rd, Stone, Staffordshire ST15 8EN

An opportunity for study and discussion concerning God, goodness and evil, with Fr Peter Hunter OP, Sr Valery Walker OP, and Sr Ann Catherine Swailes OP

Email: Sr Valery Walker

Arrivals Friday from 6.30 pm

by rail to Stafford, Stoke-on-Trent or Stone
by coach to Stafford (railway station)
buses run from outside the stations to Stone

Departures from Sunday 1 pm (after lunch)

ICEL example

The other day, I posted a parody, poking fun at the old-style ICEL way of translating. Fr Sean Finnegan has posted Translations: an analysis of the real life example we had last Sunday.

Pro-Life call to African-Americans

Priests for Life has published an article about the pro-life witness of Alveda King. Quote:
"It’s amazing how the African-American community can know what’s right" and not speak out, King said. "Abortion is socially and spiritually irresponsible. A baby has the same civil rights we all do. African-Americans should be more sensitive to the plight of a person."
Who is Alveda King to be speaking like this to African-Americans? She is the niece of Martin Luther King.

H/T to Ma Beck at the Ward Wide Web.

ePilgrimage Newsletter for WYD08

The website for World Youth Day 2008 has published its January 2007 newsletter. It begins with an excellent introduction from Bishop Anthony Fisher and is devoted to Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body.

The Evil Attack Squirrel of Death

Funny story passed on by Drell's Descants. True? Who knows? It's a good story anyway :-)

From the same source:

Moral: Don't be caught out preaching in a Protestant Church at the second coming!

Monday, 15 January 2007

On the threshold of heaven

Today was the day for my fortnightly visit to Parkminster. One of the community gave me a couple of photos from the entirely unusual (once a year) Party at Parkminster. (I did check with him that it was OK to put them on the Internet.) The quality is reduced because they are scans of the prints that he gave me. He offered to give me better quality ones but I did not want to trouble him.

(L-R) A Carthusian, Fr Finigan, A Carthusian, A Carthusian
(Photo credit: A Carthusian)

(L-R) A Carthusian, Fr Finigan, A Carthusian
(Photo credit: A Carthusian)

Now we are back to normal with the class on Sacramental Theology after which I stay for Vespers. In the Choir, I am given a place next to the Prior: I have discovered that this is a great honour. I can now usually set up the books with the markers in the correct places and arranged according to the custom of the Order. Increasingly I thirst for this 45 minute sojourn on the threshold of heaven. It struck me today how much I have come love their austere version of the Lucis Creator Optime and the beautiful Salve Regina with its slight differences even in wording from the one used in the Roman Rite.

A commenter on this blog very kindly sent me a copy of "An Infinity of Little Hours" which I have found compulsive reading. I mentioned today that I was reading it and it caused a frisson of excitement. The book is about Parkminster and is quite controversial - "it has caused some discussion" was the way the Novice Master put it. I'll probably find time to finish it tomorrow. On my next visit to the Charterhouse, I'll share my thoughts on it with the Novice Master and let you know what I think after reflecting on his comments.

Confession Lite

The Curt Jester discusses an important question today in his post Pick a sin, any sin. The title is a good parody of "Confession Lite" where a priest invites the congregation at a Communal Penance service to go to an individual priest but says that people only need to confess one sin.

The website of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops gave a good short answer to this one. The text reads:
[Question] When the Reconciliation of Several Penitents is celebrated, is it allowable for each penitent to confess just one sin?

[Answer] No. In recent years the practice has grown in which, in consideration of a large number of penitents, each penitent is asked to approach a priest and confess only one sin. Such a practice does not allow for an integral confession as required by the Rite of Penance. In order for a valid confession to take place, a full and integral confession must be provided for in every instance. Canon 988 §1 refers to the obligation to confess all serious sins in “kind and in number.”
Jeff also mentions the question of General Absolution. In this connection, it is worth recalling that it is the defined doctrine of the Council of Trent that the three acts of the penitent: confession, contrition and satisfaction are essential to the sacrament. The Church simply does not have the power to dispense from one of these. In the case of General Absolution, the obligation to confess any mortal sins remains. This is made quite clear in the preamble to the new rite of Penance:
Those for whom grave sins are remitted by general absolution should go to auricular confession before they receive another absolution of this sort unless they are impeded by a just cause. Unless impeded by a moral impossibility, they are entirely obliged to go to confession within the year. For the precept is also in force for them, by which all the Christian faithful must confess alone, to the priest, once a year, all their sins (that is, grave sins) which have not yet been singly confessed. (Ordo Paenitentiae 1974 Praenotanda n.34)
The easiest way to understand what is going on in General Absolution is to think of it as an alteration in the order in which the essential parts of the sacrament are celebrated. In the ancient celebration of public Penance, the order was
Confession (and contrition)
Penance (or "satisfaction")
In private confession which developed from the missionary activity of the Celtic monks, the order was (and still is)
Confession (and contrition)
In General Absolution, the order is
(contrition and) Absolution
then - when possible - Confession
General Absolution was given by chaplains during the first World War before a battle in which it was very likely that a large number would be killed. That was appropriate. The occasion of a Penance Service and "Oh my, aren't there a lot of you today!" is not. Rome has spoken on this. The case should be finished. Sadly it is not.

Tour of the Apostolic Palace

How do you get to take a photo of St Peter's Square from this angle?

Only if you get to go on a tour of parts of the Apostolic Palace that ordinary tourguides cannot reach. Have a look at the series of illustrated posts by Fr Nicholas Schofield on Roman Miscellany.

Stem cells from amniotic fluid - a question

A short while ago, Mac wrote a post New Source of Stem Cells? raising some doubts over the widely welcomed prospect of obtaining stem cells from amniotic fluid without harming either mother or baby. She said:
Hmmn. If it's true, then that sounds very encouraging. But I worry that the fluid will be obtained from the amniotic sacs around aborted foetuses, and because everyone's heard that "it's alright, it's not foetal tissue" then distinctions wil be blurred and people won't differentiate. And abortions will be carried out as a way of harvesting the amniotic fluid...
You might also be interested in the article Foetal Tissue Transplantation which she wrote for Faith Magazine in July 1996.
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