Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Eating tomatoes and the problem of avoiding crosses

Tomatoes are up there among my favourite foods. Now there is a new reason to like them: apparently they are so Christian that one Muslim group has ordered its followers not to eat them. You can see why from the picture above with the blatant Maltese Cross staring out at us. H/T to William Oddie for this completely bizarre story.

Actually I'm not brilliant at eating vegetables and fruit but I do like tomatoes, whether sliced into a salad with oil and vinegar, spread in paste upon a pizza base (preferably without rubbery mozzarella) or taken from a tin to make spaghetti amatriciana or something similar. (BTW I did Biology A-level and I do know that the tomato is a fruit, so no pedantic comments on that subject please.) They are also very good sliced up in a sandwich with Wiltshire ham from the Sainsbury's deli counter. I am delighted to know that my tomato consumption now counts as an act of Christian witness.
The Lord is good to me. Da Dum DUM
His light will shine on me. Da Dum DUM 
When city lights dim my eyes...
(I have a good memory and will never forget the songs we used to sing at Mass at the Seminary.)

This new development launches Bara Brith into the Crusades. Her entirely peaceful posts on gardening take on a whole new politico-religious significance. Behold! She is launching tomatoes on an unsuspecting world:

Mind you, the poor Salafists are going to be hard put to avoid crosses in everyday objects. Look at that door panel! Aaaargh, don't drive through that X-roads! "Home Sweet Home"? - Are you crazy? What do you think those stitches represent? We must also be ready for an internecine conflict between English and American anti-tomatoists: "You say infidel tomARto, I say infidel tomAYto." Where will it end?

Monday, 27 August 2012

Clear line of sight to the High Altar

Fr Perrone, the Rector of the Assumption Grotto has taken away the forward-facing altar that disrupted the line of sight to their magnificent High Altar (at which Mass is normally said anyway.) Te Deum Laudamus has the story: Assumption Grotto's Sanctuary: Low Altar Removed.

Interestingly, there will be a moveable altar available for priests who want to celebrate Mass versus populum. It seems to me that this is a good arrangement for the time being: have the High Altar as the norm and the Volksaltar available to be wheeled on if needed. This would be much easier than setting up the High Altar as we have to do several times a week at Blackfen.

The proper High Altar, as you can see from the photo of Assumption Grotto, leaves a proper space in the sanctuary for the various functions that happen at High Mass, Vespers, Benediction and other services. In very many Churches, the removal of the forward-facing altar will restore the architects original vision for the Church.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Pray for Irish farmers - and remember an anniversary

Portrait of Micheál Ó CoileáinSir Dan of the blogosphere left me a message earlier asking for prayers for Irish farmers. He is currently on holiday in Cork and has spoken to farmers who are really down about the weather this summer which has threatened their livelihood. Here is a prayer you could say, taken from the Roman Missal:
To avert storms
A domo tua, quǽsumus Dómine, spiritáles nequítiæ repellántur: et aëriárum discédat malígnitas tempestátum.

Lord we pray thee that evil spirits may be driven away from thy house and that the fury of the tempest may cease.
or alternatively:
For fine weather
Ad te nos, Dómine, clamántes exáudi: et áëris serenitátem nobis tríbue supplicántibus; ut, qui juste pro peccátis nostris afflígimur, misericórdia tua præveniénte, cleméntiam sentiámus.

Lord hear and heed our cry and grant our petition for fine weather, so that through they compassion which forestalls our need, we who are justly punished for our sins may feel thy clemency.
Thinking of Irish matters, and especially County Cork, I saw a post by Pro Ecclesia, Pro Familia, Pro Civitate In Memory of "The Big Fella", Michael Collins who died 90 years ago last Wednesday. Lots of good pictures and links there there but I was particularly pleased to find a link to buy a DVD of the RTE/BBC film "The Treaty" which, in my view, is much better than the more recent film "Michael Collins." I have an old videotape of it but was glad to be able to order a fresh DVD copy.

What is it with the Brazilian Church and Freemasons?

Earlier this year, Rorate Caeli ran a report on Bishop Luiz Demétrio Valentini, Bishop of the Diocese of Jales in Brazil giving an address at the 53rd anniversary of the Masonic Lodge "Colonel Balthazar" in Jales. (In the picture below, he is the one not wearing a tie.)

Yesterday, again from Brazil, Rorate Caeli reports on an equally bizarre event, a Masonic Memorial Mass for the "Day of the Freemason", celebrated by Father Geraldo de Magela Silva, of the Diocese of Pesqueira (state of Pernambuco, Brazil.) Here is one of the photos.

One of the commenters wittily observed that the aprons bear a striking resemblance to the Google Mail logo but I am not going to enter into any conspiracy theories on that score.

Here, thanks to EWTN, is the text of the 1983 Declaration from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding membership in Masonic associations:
Declaration on Masonic Associations
Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

It has been asked whether there has been any change in the Church's decision in regard to Masonic associations since the new Code of Canon Law does not mention them expressly, unlike the previous code.

This sacred congregation is in a position to reply that this circumstance is due to an editorial criterion which was followed also in the case of other associations likewise unmentioned inasmuch as they are contained in wider categories.

Therefore, the Church's negative judgment in regard to Masonic associations remains unchanged since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and, therefore, membership in them remains forbidden. The faithful, who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.

It is not within the competence of local ecclesiastical authorities to give a judgment on the nature of Masonic associations which would imply a derogation from what has been decided above, and this in line with the declaration of this sacred congregation issued Feb. 17,1981. [1]

In an audience granted to the undersigned cardinal prefect, the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II approved and ordered the publication of this declaration which had been decided in an ordinary meeting of this sacred congregation.

Rome, from the Office of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Nov. 26, 1983

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Prefect
Father Jerome Hamer, O. P. Titular Archbishop of Lorium. Secretary

1. Cf. AAS 73 (1981) pp. 240-241.
"... may not receive Holy Communion." Therefore perhaps the most damning photograph is this one:

What really puzzles me is that this blatant public co-operation with and promotion of Freemasonry is somehow seen as socialist.

La Cucina in Blackfen

Zephyrinus and I took lunch today at La Cucina di Antonio in Halfway Street, Blackfen. This refurbished restaurant is becoming one of the hotspots locally but it was my first visit. The warm and friendly welcome from all at La Cucina prompted me to promise an advert here on the blog.

There is a very reasonably priced Sunday menu which was fine for us. I had the grilled sardines followed by the veal; Zephyrinus (to whom I wished a happy feast day) had the spaghetti bolognese followed by roast beef. The ordinary list Valpolicella was good - though there is an impressive list of special wines if you want to spend more. All most acceptable in a relaxed atmosphere ideal for some strategic pastoral planning over Sunday lunch.

The restaurant is closed Sunday evening and Monday lunchtime to allow for family  time off - another recommendation in my book.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Photos of Fr Thwaites and details of Masses

The other day, I asked for photos of Fr Thwaites since he was not the sort to have photos of himself all over the internet, like some of us. Many thanks to the Windsors for the one above, and to Greg Clovis for those below.

I cropped out this one as a head shot if you want a small portrait to illustrate blogposts, for example. (You can use the other photos as well if you want, of course.)

The Funeral Mass for Fr Thwaites will be at 12 noon on Friday 31 August at the Corpus Christi Jesuit Community, 757 Christchurch Road, Boscombe, Bournemouth, Dorset BH7 6AN. (Mass in the Ordinary Form.)

At 12noon on Saturday 29 September 2012 at St Bede's, Clapham Park, 58 Thornton Road, London SW12 0LF, there will be a Solemn Requiem Mass celebrated according to the usus antiquior. Fr Linus Clovis will preach.

New blog: Teresa Higginson and the Sacred Head

Teresa Higginson was an English mystic who promoted devotion to the Sacred Head of Jesus as the seat of human and divine wisdom. The devotion is a complement to the devotion to the Sacred Heart which celebrate's the human and divine love of Our Lord.

The devotion to the Sacred Heart flourished in response to Jansenism which undermined the love and mercy of Our Lord. It is fitting in our own time to celebrate the Sacred Head of Our Lord, crowned with thorns, because Our Lord is again crowned with thorns through the denial of dogmatic and moral truth.

I am pleased to hear that there is a new blog on Teresa Higginson and the Sacred Head.

"Turn the Tide" - Ooberfüse sing in support of Rimsha Masih

On Sunday I wrote about the 11 year old girl who had been arrested in Pakistan for blasphemy. The British Pakistani Christian Association held a demonstration on Wednesday outside the Pakistani Embassy demanding her release. See a full report at their blog where they quote the 1947 inaugural speech of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali, the founding father of Pakistan:
"You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State."
As the BPCA rightly say,
He would be turning in his grave right now if he knew how the apparatus of the Pakistan State is being cynically used against defenceless minority faiths.
Thanks be to God, the blogs have generated media interest in this outrage and the Pakistani Government has had to take notice.

The band Ooberfüse which I have mentioned before on this blog released a new song "Turn the Tide" which they performed live outside the Pakistan Embassy.

As they sang: SET HER FREE!

Looking forward to WYD 2013

Thanks to Brandon Vogt's ever excellent blog for the link to this video promotion for World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro.

Friday, 24 August 2012

A little celebration

We had a little celebration after morning Mass at Blackfen today. There was champagne and chocolate cake (as well as tea and fruit juice.) See Mulier Fortis for more details.

Fine Church saved by the Institute of Christ the King

Back in 2007 I wrote about the prospect of the fine Church of the Sacred Heart in Limerick being turned into a spa and leisure centre. In 2011 I followed up with the Heartbreaking reportage of the death of the developer, and the possible suggested uses of the building (Library / Museum /Leisure Centre / Bar / Restaurant.) I expressed the hope that the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest might be able to raise the funds to buy the Church.

Praise and glory to God, this hope has been fulfilled. St Conleth's Catholic Heritage reports today that the Institute has been able to purchase the Church with the help of friends in Ireland, Europe and the United States. See the aptly titled post REJOICE! REJOICE! REJOICE! for a full report.

Naturally, the Institute is acting in full co-operation with the Diocese to revive this much-loved Church that was in danger of falling into ruin. This development is a sure sign of the future of the Church. In every age the Church is in need of reform - ecclesia semper reformanda. Today it is congregations such as the Institute of Christ the King who are able to go beyond the despairing vision of so many who feel that it is necessary to write off our heritage because of clergy scandals, loss of faith and encroaching secularism.

To see a much-loved Church rescued and restored to sacred worship is a joy indeed. May the Lord prosper and protect the work of the Institute of Christ the King in the restoration of the Catholic faith in Ireland!

Public Profession of the Transalpine Redemptorists

On Wednesday this week, the Octave Day of the Assumption and (in the older calendar) the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer made their profession, incorporating them into the canonically erected Clerical Institute of Diocesan Right. The admirable Bishop Hugh Gilbert first received the profession of the superior, Fr Michael Mary. I found it moving to see him kneeling before his Ordinary making this humble act of ecclesial communion.

There are more photos of the cermony at the Translapine Redemptorist blog: Our Public Religious Profession and here is a video of the whole ceremony. (Bishop Gilbert's sermon is at 32:15 and the public profession of vows starts at 58:15.)

Funeral for Fr Thwaites SJ

The Funeral Mass for Fr Hugh Thwaites SJ will take place on Friday 31 August at 12noon at the Church of Corpus Christi, 757 Christchurch Road, Boscome, Dorset. I expect that there will be some other Requiem Masses for him, so please let me know of any that are being planned and I will publicise them here.

The above photo is from a good post about Fr Thwaites at Ecumenical Diablog. Fr Thwaites was not like some of us who have photos all over the internet - if anyone has a good photo that can be shared, do please email it to me so that I can post it for others to used.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Old rite Baptism


Rorate Caeli recently mentioned that while videos of old rite Masses are commonplace, videos of the other sacraments are rare. I haven't got a video, but here is a nice picture from an old rite Baptism at Blackfen. Say a prayer for young Luca and his family.

Fr Hugh Thwaites RIP

A correspondent just sent me news of the death of Fr Hugh Thwaites SJ earlier today. I had the privilege of meeting Fr Thwaites when I was a young student and from time to time since then. He converted to the Catholic faith as a result of his experience as a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II. He never bore resentment for his treatment, reasoning that the Japanese guards did not have the benefit of the Christian faith. His approach to evangelisation was direct and simple because he understood the truth and beauty of the Christian faith and wished others to benefit from it.

Fr Thwaites always spoke in a kindly and gentle manner while firing off spiritual advice that could blow you off your feet; he was a priest who made many converts almost instantly by his sincerity and holiness, and converted countless lukewarm Catholics to a deeper following of Christ. He was passionately devoted to the Rosary, loved the older form of the Mass, and remained faithful to the traditional Jesuit daily spiritual exercises.

May the Lord have mercy on his soul, forgive any sins he committed through human frailty, and bring him speedily into the presence of Our Lord, in the company of Our Lady whom he loved so faithfully and St Ignatius whose way of life he followed with fidelity. Requiescat in pace.

Some beautiful gothic, and some books for sale

The English Martyrs Church, Whalley Range, Manchester is a beautiful English gothic revival Church. It was opened in 1896, but the mosaics of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More on either side of the High Altar were added in the 1930s, in memory of the first parish priest, Father Rowan.

The parish priest Fr Geoffrey Marlor (a fellow-student back in the 1980s at the Venerable English College in Rome) offers Mass according to the usus antiquior at the fine altars in honour of Our Lady and St Joseph.

Last year, one of the former parish priests died, and Fr Marlor is the executor of his estate. There are some items that might be of interest to readers:
  • 1961 Breviary (Pius XII psalter) in good condition - SOLD
  • Liber Usualis
  • HJ Davies Pastoral and Moral Theology Vols 1, 3, and 4
A reasonable offer for any of these items (consonant with proper management of the estate) would be acceptable. If you are interested, please ring Fr Marlor on 0161 226 1980 (leave a message if there is no answer.)

Monday, 20 August 2012

Luther's support for Humanae Vitae

Martin Luther by Cranach-restoration400 years after Luther, Humanae Vitae confirmed the teaching on marriage that he vigorously upheld. has published an article by a Lutheran scholar, Dr Allan Carlson PhD, the founder and president of the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society (See: Be fruitful and multiply and have 1.7 kids ... and a dog? The article was previously published in the journal Family Policy in June 1999.)

The essay raises some fascinating questions regarding Humanae Vitae. As Dr Carlson rightly points out, one of Luther's complaints about the Catholic Church was its teaching that vowed chastity or celibacy was in principle a superior state to marriage. In response, the 24th session of the Council of Trent, in 1563, duly defined in the canons on the sacrament of matrimony (canon 10) that
If any one says, that the marriage state is to be placed above the state of virginity, or of celibacy, and that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity, or in celibacy, than to be united in matrimony; let him be anathema.
(Remember that this is de fide teaching which we are bound to believe with the assent of faith. If we find it surprising today, it is our job to ponder how to reconcile our thinking with the teaching of the Church, not to adjust the teaching of the Church to our thinking.)

What is especially relevant today is that Luther's reason for opposing celibacy was not simply his outrage at clerical concubinage and the scandal given, but more fundamentally his enthusiastic support for marriage and the family, and particularly for the procreation of children.

Although as Catholics we would hold that Luther's opposition to celibacy and virginity was misguided, it is interesting to note that he agreed entirely with the doctrine that the primary end of marriage is procreation - something denied by the acceptance of contraception in many protestant communities (who would take their stand on the reformation of Luther and Calvin) and indeed by many Catholics who might think it "an ecumenical matter" to deny Humanae Vitae.

In case there is any doubt, consider this quotation from Luther which is included in the article:
How great, therefore, the wickedness of [fallen] human nature is! How many girls there are who prevent conception and kill and expel tender fetuses, although procreation is the work of God! Indeed, some spouses who marry and live together… have various ends in mind, but rarely children.
(I would be interested to have a source for that quotation - not because I would in any way doubt its authenticity, but because it would be useful to quote it in the future.)

When speaking in friendship to our evangelical protestant brothers and sisters, it would be worthwhile asking why they do not affirm Luther's position on contraception which was essentially the same as that taught in Casti Connubii and Humanae Vitae.

Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes at ICKSP pilgrimage

Bishop Nicolas Brouwet, the new Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, celebrated Mass at Rocamadour according to the usus antiquior for the annual Pilgrimage of St Louis made by the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest.

In the above photo (for which, many thanks to a correspondent) Bishop Brouwet is flanked by ICKSP canons and Mgr Wach in the courtyard at Rocamadour outside the basilica. The rector of Rocamadour, diocesan priest Father Ronan de Gouvello, welcomed Mgr Brouwet and presented him with a sportelle (pilgrim's badge) and a copy of the book of the Miracles of Rocamadour.

I went to Rocamadour on pilgrimage in 2004 and took photos. I have uploaded some to a new Rocamadour Flickr set. Here are a couple of examples:

View from the bottom

View from the top

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Bishop Egan to speak at Confraternity of Catholic Clergy Colloquium

The 2012 Autumn Colloquium of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy (British Province of St Gregory the Great) will take place on Tuesday 23 and Thursday 24 October at the Oratory School in Reading.

It is great to hear that among the confirmed speakers are Bishop Philip Egan who will by then be Bishop of Portsmouth, Mgr Keith Newton, the  Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham, and the Rev Dr Andrew Pinsent.

These gatherings are enjoyable not only for the great speakers but also for the company of good like-minded priests. Along with the theological discussion, there is a great deal of swapping of pastoral ideas along with that solidarity which comes from similar ups and downs of experience in parishes. Hard-bitten footsloggers like me can do our best to encourage and support (and sometimes even advise) the younger clergy, and there is much that we can learn from their enthusiasm and dedication.

Nowadays it is increasingly common for me to meet up with former students of my Sacramental Theology course doing sterling work in the Lord's vineyard. Any teacher of anything will know what a consolation that is.

11 year old Christian girl with Downs Syndrome charged with blasphemy in Pakistan

The British Pakistani Christian Association brings regular news of the plight of persecuted Christians in Pakistan and the solidarity of British Pakistani Christians with their brothers and sisters at home. Many of the stories are quite disturbing and should be more widely known. Yesterday there was a report of what the blog rightly calls a "new low": the arrest of a Downs Syndrome girl for blasphemy.

Muslims in a Christian area of Islamabad found copy of the Quran was found with some of its pages burned. The BPCA points out that such burnings nearly always turn out to have been done by Muslims, or by mentally unstable people. In this case, Rimsha Masih, an 11 year old Christian girl with downs syndrome was been arrested and charged with the crime last Friday.
The police have rejected approaches by human rights workers and are presuming the guilt of this little girl. They have no regard for that fact that she is a minor or that she has Downs Syndrome.

There are some news reports to be found on Indian and Pakistani news services but this outrage seems to have escaped the notice of our media. It is up to bloggers to make a fuss, so do pass on this news if you can.

Hold very tight please! Ding ding.

Fr Tim Moyle's Where the Rubber Hits the Road is a blog worth following for its variety of posts on spiritual, theological, and social issues as well as the occasional item of wider interest. The other day I picked up on his link to the world's fastest bus, designed by engineers in the Netherlands.

The bus looks more like the kind of stretch limousine that parents of little girls hire for their primary school leaving party but it has a cruising speed of 155mph. Suggested routes have been Amsterdam to Groningen (ditched by the Dutch government) and Dubai to Abu Dhabi which more feasible in financial terms and less hindered by obstacles on the route. I don't suppose it would fall within the Oystercard zone.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Mustard, jealousy, and hope for the minor basilica

The title of the new blog thank you for the mustard is based on an example used by Chesterton to illustrate the problem of determinism:
[...] you may say, if you like, that the bold determinist speculator is free to disbelieve in the reality of the will. But it is a much more massive and important fact that he is not free to raise, to curse, to thank, to justify, to urge, to punish, to resist temptations, to incite mobs, to make New Year resolutions, to pardon sinners, to rebuke tyrants, or even to say “thank you” for the mustard.
There is no name or even pseudonym for the writer, so he is probably going to have to get used to being called "Mustard" just as Laurence England is often called "Bones".

In the second post on the blog, Mustard speculates on what he would have done with the £148 million if he had won the Euro Lottery last week. I am in sympathy with him in his longing to travel on the Orient Express, and on gentle railway journeys through Spain and England but I venture to suggest that this would scarcely knock the froth off £148 million. I wonder whether he would be prepared to take, say £10-£20 million to take care of railways journeys around the world and never having to work again, and consider another cause for the remainder.

Here at Blackfen, as regular readers will know, the winning of the Euro Lottery is a serious aspiration in order that we might build a new Church and apply for it to be given the status of a minor basilica. We have a sketch, though as I have expressed a preference for baroque, I have submitted possible designs for the interior. This is a project which has involved the young people of the parish who made the above architectonic model in structural gingerbread.

Zephyrinus, one of the many bloggers of the parish, regularly brings us news of his winnings - usually in the region of £4.50 which he converts into the number of bricks that would be bought with the sum. Mulier Fortis and Leutgeb are holding him to this by keeping a spreadsheet to record progress so that the winnings do not all go on rounds of the very drinkable Canterbury Jack that the Parish Club has on tap at the moment. As a regular beneficiary of the generosity of Zephyrinus in buying rounds, I would feel it churlish to complain, but the ladies are more hard-headed and have in mind something along the lines of separating the investment and retail arms of our major banks.

Given the intense and heart-rending roller-coaster of waiting each week for the results of the lottery, imagine my envy at hearing the news that a parish in Ohio has been named the United States’ 74th minor basilica. St John the Baptist Church, Canton, describes the basilica as “the oldest Catholic parish in northeastern Ohio since 1823.” Well we are the oldest Catholic parish in Blackfen since 1945, so there! And fancy the USA having 74 minor basilicas. That's almost one and a half for every State - couldn't we have just half a basilica for every county of Ye Olde England?

Mind you, I'm grateful to St John the Baptist for giving us some inside track on the process. From their website:
Four years ago, our Bishop, the Most Reverend George V. Murry, SJ, asked each parish in the Diocese of Youngstown to think outside the box in regards to its viability to the community, city, county and diocese. The question of applying for basilica status had been on the table several times. Once we examined the criteria for being elevated to a minor basilica, we realized we met each condition, and with Bishop Murry’s approval and blessing, we made application through the Diocese of Youngstown, The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Holy See. The original application was in Latin and had to be translated into English. A document containing six pages of questions became a testament to our parish of over fifty plus pages. We had a local historian offer some insight into our past, we hired (through the generosity of a parishioner) a professional photographer to thoroughly document our beautiful church building both inside and out, and we spent months finishing the basilica application. The process took three years to gain approval.
Right! First of all I need to "think outside the box" and get the minor basilica question "on the table". I think I could do those with the help of a mentor or facilitator or something. Since we will be constructing the basilica from scratch, we can ensure that it meets the criteria. Translating Latin into English is covered (obviously) and I can call in a friendly historian such as Fr Briggs of Chislehurst. Professional photographer: no problemo. We may also need to set aside a trivial amount from the £120 million or so to have a fact-finding trip to Ohio. (I think that goes along with taking things out of the box and putting them on the table.)

The whole thing is looking more hopeful by the day. We'll need to have an earnest "bringing up to speed" session after Rosary and Benediction this evening. I must remember to bring my iPad.

Seriously though, warmest congratulations to St John the Baptist, Canton, Ohio.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer receive canonical recognition from the Bishop of Aberdeen

The community of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer have been erected as a Religious Institute of Diocesan Right by the Rt Rev Hugh Gilbert, Bishop of Aberdeen. At the Transalpine Redemptorist blog, you can read the Decree of Erection given today on the Feast of the Assumption.

You can also read the official statement of the Congregation. There will be a public profession of vows on the Octave day, the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, 22 August, celebrated by Bishop Gilbert.

Deo Gratias! Congratulations to the Congregation of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer and may God bless Bishop Gilbert.

No support for this dissenting letter in Cardinal Hume's teaching

A letter to the Times from Catholics, including some priests, dissents not only from the teaching of the Holy See but also from the teaching of the late Cardinal Hume whom they quote in their support.

The Letter was published on Monday with 27 signatories, some of whom are familiar contributors to the Tablet, others part of the Soho Masses Pastoral Council and others part of Catholics for a Changing Church (and related organisations.) You have to pay to read the Times online but the letter is published by Bondings 2.0, the blog of New Ways Ministry.

The principal argument of the letter hinges on a Note published by Cardinal Hume in 1997 which can be found at the website of the Archdiocese of Westminster as part of the justification for continuing with the provision of the Diocesan approved Mass for people with same-sex orientation at the Church of the Assumption, Warwick Street, Soho.

The letter in the Times refers to Cardinal Hume's affirmation that "love between two persons, whether of the same sex, or of a different sex, is to be treasured and respected" and to his three criteria for considering issues of social policy:
  • are there reasonable grounds for judging that the institution of marriage and the family could, and would, be undermined by a change in the law?
  • would society's rejection of a proposed change in the law be more harmful to the common good than the acceptance of such a change?
  • does a person's sexual orientation or activity constitute, in specific circumstances, a sufficient and relevant reason for treating that person in any way differently from other citizens?
Making the assumption that the answer to these three questions is "No", the letter concludes
We suggest that it is perfectly proper for Catholics, using fully informed consciences, to support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.
Writers who wish to quote Cardinal Hume in their support would do well to read the whole of the document they are quoting. Although I would personally argue that Cardinal Hume's Note leaves much to be desired, it is worth observing that he does in fact affirm the teaching of the magisterium when he says:
First, the Church has always taught that the sexual (genital) expression of love is intended by God's plan of creation to find its place exclusively within marriage between a man and a woman. The Church therefore cannot in any way equate a homosexual partnership with a heterosexual marriage.
Reading this, it is hard to see how the signatories of the letter to the Times could think it was honest to quote another section of the same Note by Cardinal Hume to back up their support of the legal extension of marriage to same-sex couples.

Cardinal Hume went on to say:
Secondly, the sexual (genital) expression of love must be open to the possible transmission of new life. For these two reasons the Church does not approve of homosexual genital acts. When the Church describes such acts as 'intrinsically disordered' (PC para.3), it means that these acts are not consistent with the two fundamental principles mentioned above. It is in this sense that the Church teaches that there can be no moral right to homosexual acts, even though they are no longer held to be criminal in many secular legal systems. No individual, bishop, priest or layperson, is in a position to change the teaching of the Church which she considers to be God-given.
I wonder how the signatories would apply this teaching of Cardinal Hume to the living-out of same-sex marriages.

Since Cardinal Hume's 1997 Note, the Holy See has issued further clarification on the matter. In 2003 (on the feast of Saint Charles Lwanga and his Companions) the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the Instruction Considerations Regarding Proposals To Give Legal Recognition To Unions Between Homosexual Persons. This document, which is worth reading in its entirety, says: 
In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection. (n.5)
Note that the Congregation is referring to any legal recognition of same-sex civil unions. We are not to co-operate with civil partnerships, let alone same-sex "marriage."

As Fr Ray Blake reminds us, Pope Benedict, speaking to the Bishops of England and Wales at their ad limina visit in 2010, said:
In a social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, it is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Boxer Manny Pacquiao supports Catholic Bishops in Philippines against reproductive health bill

Last year I wrote about the good example given by the Phillipino boxer Manny Pacquiao. Manny is now a congressman representing the Philippines district of Sarangani. Phillipine President, Benigno Aquino is pushing a "reproductive health" bill to subsidise contraception.

The bill is opposed by the Bishops of the predominantly Catholic country and by Manny Pacquiao. This has been picked up by news outlets all over the world; see for example the Wall Street Journal Manny Pacquiao Hits Out Against Contraception.

President Aquino meanwhile has powerful support from the BBC as you can see from this blatantly one-sided propaganda piece. Nowadays, of course, everybody knows that the BBC is discredited as a balanced commentator on such issues. If you want a reasoned presentation of both sides of the argument, you are better off with Wikipedia.

In praise of the other modern

The Adoration of the Magi, Franklin Carmichael

When I grew up in Croydon in the 1960s ("What a cultural paradise!" I hear you say) the fashion of the time was to regard "modern" as an adjective which invariably conveyed a compliment. Whether it was the Nestles building (nobody ever referred to it as Nestlé), the underpass or the new flyover or whether it was the replacement of the delicious current buns we were given at playtime by a Peek Freen wafer biscuit, or the static-charged polyester vestments that came into vogue a little later, anything modern was good, and to decry something it was a discourse-ending assertion to say that it was old fashioned. Without blushing, theologians would justify almost any departure from traditional teaching by saying that it was more relevant to modern man (feminism had not yet made its mark.)

An obvious danger for us today is to follow the pendulum blindly and decry anything that is modern. The New Liturgical Movement does a great service in correcting this reflex with its posts on the Other Modern. There was a good example the other day with Shawn Tribe's post on the Murals in St. Anne's Anglican Church, Toronto - an example is shown above.

Personally I very much like the Rosary Basilica at Lourdes (apart from the rearranaged sanctuary) and the Basilica of St Thérèse at Lisieux:

Normandie Calvados Lisieux2 tango7174

Here is a google search on the NLM site for Other Modern from which you can browse some of the previous NLM posts on the subject.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Free Maria Ta Phong Tan!

Maria Ta Phong Tan was a Communist policewoman in Vietnam. She became a dissident, a blogger and a Catholic. She is part of the Free Vietnamese Journalists' Club. On 5 September last year, like fellow bloggers Nguyen Van Hai and Phan Thanh Hai, she was arrested for posting articles that supposedly distorted and opposed the Communist government. Her trial was supposed to have taken place on 7 August but we await further news of that: the trial has been delayed before with no information given to family members of the reason for delay.

In a letter to new converts, Maria Tan spoke of her childhood and adolescence when she was brainwashed by the communist youth organizations to believe that Catholicism was against Vietnamese culture and family values. She went to law school and joined the firm owned by attorney Vu Tran Luat who defended eight Catholic parishioners from Thai Ha parish who were on trial for protecting their parish’s properties back in 2008. She realised that Vietnamese Catholics had been misrepresented, and severely mistreated, and became drawn to the Catholic Church and its teaching. She became a Catholic and committed herself to the cause of the Church. She was baptized by a Redemptorist priest and attended Mass regularly until she was arrested.

After her arrest, Maria Tan said:
“I have never panicked when faced with dishonesty and deceitfulness. I always see God smiling, calling me to walk by him. Let us give thanks to God, to the Mother of God, and to the Church which has given us faith and life.”
Maria Tan regularly contributed to the Công Lý Và Sự Thật (Truth and Justice) blog which you can see via Multiply: She also contributed to the Redemptorist website Truyền Thông Chúa Cứu (Christian Communication - Wordpress blog with RSS feed here). Substantial articles with news and comment (and photos) are also available at the Dân Làm Báo (People Reporting) Blog which is hosted outside Vietnam.

Obviously all of these blogs are in Vietnamese but Google translate makes a passable job of translating them. (I have put them on the blogroll.) Truyền Thông Chúa Cứu also has a good background article in English describing the violent harrassment of the church in Hanoi. Imprisoned Catholic blogger’s mother sets herself on fire to protest kangaroo court.

Sadly, Dang Thi Kim Lieng, 64, Maria Tan's mother, set fire to herself in protest and died on her way to the hospital in in Ho Chi Minh City. This ritual form of protest has been unknown in Vietnam since the 1970s. We know, of course, that self-immolation is morally wrong, but given the extreme psychological distress of mind of Dang Thi Kim Lieng (who is not a Catholic herself) we should pray for the repose of her soul, as well as praying for Maria Tan in the sadness that this incident will bring to her.

Western news outlets have picked up on the story but the Guardian report is typical in its careful omission of Maria Tan's Catholicity. Vietnamese names can be given in various ways - Ta Phong Tan is one variant. I use Maria Tan, following the Redemptorist report since the baptismal name "Maria" seems to be invisible in many Western articles.

Even so, it is clear that the Communist government in Vietnam should be cowering in embarrassment now that the world's media has found out about this woeful episode of weak and corrupt leadership. What disgrace has been brought to the good Vietnamese people by the abuse of power and the cowardly fear of free speech! Politicians should be able to answer with reason if they think someone has distorted what they say; they should be able to cope with opposition. Hang your heads in shame and allow the good citizens of Vietnam to speak the truth in freedom! Free Maria Ta Phong Tan!

H/T for the original lead to the print edition of the Catholic Herald

Instructions Bishops have to issue nowadays

With his keen sense of the absurd, Jeff Miller, the Curt Jester has picked up on an instruction that Archbishop Cordileone has had to issue to the new parish priest at Most Holy Redeemer Parish in San Francisco. (See: Sentences that only make sense in context) As the priest put it:
I am the new pastor. There is a new archbishop. The archdiocese told me straight out, ‘No drag queens.’
Jeff suggests that another pertinent instruction might be "No sex toy bingo", just to make things clear, since that has also happened in the parish.

Bishops used to issue detailed instructions about domestic arrangements for housekeepers, the proper care of tabernacles, and the requirement for the curate to have his own telephone. I hope that those concerns are not forgotten amid the newer imperatives of forbidding drag queens and sex toy bingo.

Don't have these songs at your wedding

Wedding arrangements can be difficult when couples ask for inappropriate songs. Mgr Charles Pope looks at this question on his excellent blog for the Archdiocese of Washington. Mercifully, I don't face this too often; couples who have taken the decision to get married in Church can usually sense that there are things that might be rather tacky in that context even if they don't completely get the idea of sacred music. (This summer I am blessed to be celebrating a wedding for a practising Catholic couple who do get it, and have chosen some fine sacred music. Please remember them in your prayers.)

The dialogue in Mgr Pope's post Wedding music and other difficulties brings me out in a cold sweat. Unlike the "smart or lucky" priests in the US who have a paid music director, most English parish priests do not have the financial resources for that, and so it would be me trying to persuade Bridezilla that "Baby It's You" would really be better for the reception than the Church.

Mgr Pope closes his post with this funny video of Tim Hawkins speculating on some inappropriate wedding songs.


Sunday, 12 August 2012

Meseret Defar "obviously a message in there somewhere"

The is some amusement to be had looking up film with commentators trying to make sense of the displays of Christian prayer at the Olympics. Meseret Defar (Orthodox) carried an icon of Our Lady and the child Jesus with her on the 5000m race that she won. After the finish, she took it out, knelt down and prayed, then kissed it and showed it to the cameras several times.

The commentary was like a clip from Alan Partridge
Commentator 1 [as if she were kissing a teddy bear] Look! Aaah!
[on seeing that it is an icon] There's obviously a message in there somewhere isn't there?
Commentator 2 Well there's a strong Christian community in Ethiopia.
Commentator 1 [haltingly] Yes.. Yes.. and I think that was the ... err ... what we saw there. [livening up again] 15.04 25 Meseret Defar...
You can watch it on the video at this page at 1.49.

God bless Meseret Defar! Congratulations on winning the gold medal! Thank you for your witness to our Christian faith.

Caution about excluding all possible future electronic devices from Liturgy

The Catholic News Agency has a confusing (inaccurate) headline: Priest says iPads, tablets no substitute for missalettes. The priest in question, Fr Antonio Spadaro SJ who blogs at CyberTeologia (Italian) in fact argued that iPads were no substitute for Missals. So far, so uncontroversial, I think. He quotes in full the letter of the New Zealand Bishops' conference ruling that electronic devices should not be used in place of the Missal by the priest at the Liturgy.

Fr Spadaro examines the reason why we should not use such devices (see: Si può celebrare la messa con l’iPad?) The New Zealand Bishops' Conference argues that faiths have sacred books and that the physical form of the Missal is an indicator of its special role in our worship. That is a good point, especially now that we have much more worthy books produced for the new ICEL translation. Fr Spadaro extends this to make a point in linguistic philosophy which I think might be on rather shakier ground. He says that with electronic devices, the text becomes a fluid object, the exact opposite of the "tablets of the law" and of "scripta manent".

I'm not so sure about that. As the saying goes "an email is for ever": what is posted on the internet can be very permanent. On the internet, the authenticity of texts is also guaranteed more firmly because of the enormous number of people available to correct mistakes, either informally by commenting in the social media, or formally by taking part in crowd-sourced projects. I remember many years ago, the learned Fr Orbe speaking to us of some of the texts of the Fathers in a new edition. He said in his soft and high-pitched Spanish-accented Italian "There are errors; typographical errors; but still they are errors." He pointed out that they were the modern equivalent of copyists' errors in manuscripts. Those were the days before the availability of electronic tools that enable vast amounts of text to be compared and corrected much more rapidly than before.

Fr Spadaro continues:
The Liturgy is therefore a bastion of "resistance" of the text-page relationship against the violation of the text, disincarnated from the ink on the page, the context in which the page remains the "body" of a text.
Again I am not sure I would go along with him there. After all, as he acknowledges, the Council of Trent embraced the modern technology of its time which was the printing press and used it precisely in order to standardise the text. For most of the centuries of Christianity we have not had printed books. Let me be clear, I do not think that priests should use iPads to celebrate Mass, they should use proper Missals. However tablet and e-reader technology is in its infancy and we simply don't know how it will develop within the next five years, let alone the next fifty. The process by which books are printed has changed radically since the Council of Trent; the manner in which a text is placed before us has changed before many times and will change. Our present tablets and e-readers will be laughed at as primitive early devices in the not too distant future. It may well be that something more suitable for sacred worship could emerge.

As for missalettes - I'm not sure that many liturgists would mourn their passing. When I was at the seminary there was an old joke that in 300 years' time, people would rustle bits of paper just after the "Mystery of Faith" acclamation in Eucharistic Prayer II. They would not know why they did it but scholars would point out that there used to be a page turn in the missalette at that point. (One might wonder nowadays whether Eucharistic Prayer II will survive anything like 300 years in the Roman Rite.)

If you are personally wondering whether it is good to use a smartphone or tablet to follow Mass, I'd advise some caution. The screen as a light source in itself can be distracting to others so it would be good to be as discreet as possible, (though I know that the Liber app is a boon for singers.) E-book readers are probably much more suitable: which itself illustrates the way that things can change.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Measure and transcribe a papyrus from your desktop

It used to be a great aspiration to have ancient papyri and codices on view to all by being photographed and displayed on the internet. That aspiration has been superseded by the The Oxyrhynchus Project: Desktop Papyrology which is trying to get transcriptions available for papyri which were discovered over a century ago, and, in many cases, remain unedited.

One of the powerful elements of the project (to be found at the Ancient Lives website) is crowd-sourcing. You may not be able to recognise all of the letters and you might get some wrong, but with enough people working on the project, the combined work could be a great way of making transcriptions available far more quickly than by individual labour.

Some may pooh-pooh the idea, insisting on the necessity of individual scholars checking the work of all these amateur enthusiasts. The great thing is - the two are not mutually exclusive. You can have amateurs do the donkey work and experts check it.

If you are Catholic, think of the Catholic Encyclopaedia that we now take for granted as a reliable source on the internet. I remember when New Advent put out its invitation to people to scan or type in pages. If you use it, bear in mind that you are benefiting from crowd-sourcing.

H/T Big Pulpit

Aylesford blog

Our Lady giving the brown scapular to Saint Simon Stock

Aylesford is the beautiful shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the Archdiocese of Southwark, home to the Carmelites who provide superb hospitality to pilgrims and guests. I didn't realise that they have a blog - A Prayer in Stone. Members of the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma will be interested in their short account of the life of Titus Brandsma Carmelite Martyr.

The Carmelites host many pilgrimages during the year, including the Latin Mass Society Pilgrimage which will on Saturday 13 October this year. (See LMS Southwark North for details.) They also supplement the income of the Priory (necessary for the maintenance of the buildings etc. by hiring facilities to other groups, from mundane local council training sessions to things such as Vintage Motor Cycle shows.

Aylesford is much overlooked as a pilgrimage site. It is the home of Saint Simon Stock and the brown scapular. People should be making their way to Aylesford from all over the world. Perhaps we ought to have a Guild pilgrimage to Aylesford some time?

While writing this post I realised that I had not uploaded any of my Aylesford photos to my Flickr photostream. That's remedied now - here is a link to the Aylesford Flickr Set and here are a few samples:




Fr Simon Henry in Mass of Ages

The latest edition of Mass of Ages has arrived in time to be available in the parish this weekend. In the last issue, there was an article about me. This issue has an article about Fr Simon Henry who blogs at Offerimus tibi Domine. Both articles focussed on the implementation of Summorum Pontificum in the parish, and on the use of the blogosphere as a priestly apostolate.

It was interesting to read of how Fr Henry had to cope with arriving in a parish with a reputation already established (not necessarily accurately) and easily found on Google. An online reputation does not replace the experience of meeting a person, and this is particularly important for a pastoral priest. Things seem to have settled down now (as indeed they have in Blackfen) and Fr Henry is able to minister in his parish in relative peace.

Mass of Ages is a very well produced magazine which does credit to the Latin Mass Society. Unfortunately it is not available online. You can buy a copy at the Latin Mass Society website (£3.50 UK; £5 Europe; £6.50 outside Europe)

Friday, 10 August 2012

A very clever spoof video

Here's a cool video of a six* year old child singing the Salve Regina at my Church, rather drowning out some of the adults. His elder sister had just made her first Holy Communion. (H/T Mulier Fortis.)

*UPDATE: Actually I was guessing his age. His parents reliably inform me that he's actually only three years old.

It must be a photoshopped, dubbed, cgi spoof, because Latin and Gregorian chant put children off and they all hate it.

BBC Censorship of Usain Bolt's Christian faith

Blogger "Cranmer" asks Why does the BBC ignore Usain Bolt's God? It is a good question. Usain Bolt always makes the sign of the cross before each race, offers a prayer and then openly gives thanks to God after he has won. As Cranmer says:
The BBC have known for more than four years what Usain Bolt always does, before and after each race, without fail: how he chooses the moment the camera is on him to make the act of humble worship, as a very public witness that it is the Creator who made him fast. They have been briefed to bits by Bolt's PR team and by members of his family: Usain Bolt is a Bible-believing, God-honouring, Jesus-worshipping Christian. But not a whisper from the BBC; not a word of explanation of the real significance of these 'moments to himself'.
Thanks to the censorship of Bolt's Christian identity, many people might simply assume that because his name is a bit like "Hussein", he must be Muslim.

There may well have been some talk on the radio about his faith, but it is excluded from the multi-billion viewer coverage.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross an inspiration for today

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross is one of my favourite saints because of the many different ways in which she speaks to our culture.

Her intellectual prowess and campaigning for the recognition of women at German universities makes a genuine contribution to the discussion of the role of women in society. Her conversion was an act of great moral courage when faced by the truth. Her continued love for her Jewish heritage while being true to the Catholic faith pre-empted the Church's friendship to the Jews during and after the horrors of the second world war. Her serene acceptance of martyrdom is simply inspiring.

It is also important to remember and to remind others that the Dutch Bishops protested against the treatment of the Jews. This resulted in the round-up of Jewish Catholics, followed swiftly by their being gassed at Auschwitz. This turn of events convinced Pope Pius XII that practical assistance would make more sense than issuing statements - his view of Nazism was no secret to the Party who hated him.

Let us ask for the prayers of St Teresa Benedicta in the moral and social confusion of our own times, and especially for the protection of human life.

(Here is a link to a sermon I preached a few years ago.)

Old rite Masses for the Assumption

Carracci-Assumption of the Virgin Mary

The New Liturgical Movement has a post to advertise Assumption Day Masses in the combox. Here in England, we are well served by the Latin Mass Society listing at its website.

Here at Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, in addition to our English Masses at 10am and 4.15pm, we will have Missa Cantata at 8pm. We will sing Mass IX (Cum iubilo) and the Gregorian chant propers will be sung by the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate.

If anyone has been missed from the LMS listing, please feel free to add details in the combox or to email me.

Fr Geoffrey Marlor reports: I will be offering Mass here at English Martyrs, Whalley Range, Manchester (Low Mass) at 7am. English Martyrs is a fine historic church, blessed with two beautiful side altars (one of Our Lady and one of Saint Joseph, both untouched by reordering) at which I regularly offer Mass in the extraordinary form.

Fr Anthony Logan reports: High Mass at St Mary Moorfields 6-30 pm.

Birmingham Oratory. Low Mass 5.45pm

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