Friday, 28 September 2012

Superb documentary on St Augustine

St Anthony Communications have produced a short film about St Augustine of Canterbury. It is well arranged in the style of modern historical documentaries: walking across windswept landscapes while shouting to camera, that sort of thing; and makes important points about English history while showing where it all started.

Fr Marcus Holden, the parish priest of Ramsgate which includes in its boundaries the place where Saint Augustine landed, narrates the arrival of St Augustine, the conversion of King Ethelbert, the origin of Canterbury Cathedral and the destruction wrought by King Henry VIII. We also hear of the revival initiated by Augustus Welby Pugin who built the Church of St Augustine's, Ramsgate, now a national shrine.

The start of the film summarises the vision of St Gregory the Great. At a time of crisis, he did not opt for consolidation and capitulation but for evangelisation and the expansion of the Church to the bleak northern territory of the Angles. The film ends with the vision of Pugin who understood England as something spiritual, not simply a place for material prosperity. From start to finish, the film subtly prompts the viewer to consider where we are now.

You can see a trailer of the 26 minute DVD at Saint Anthony Communications and order a copy from there. (£9.95)

Sexual health advice compromises child safeguarding

A generally ignored aspect of the Rochdale case is the damage caused by our society's current focus on giving "sexual health advice" to the detriment of the safety of children under the age of consent.

The Rochdale case, in which nine men have been convicted of various offences related to the sexual abuse of young girls, including rape, has prompted comment on the question of certain "communities" who have been in denial, having to face up to the issue of sexual abuse. The Telegraph headline reads: Muslim community in 'denial' about grooming rings, says Jack Straw, though the Home Secretary himself is quoted as saying that it is "an issue which has to be faced and addressed within the Asian community about what’s going on there." The Network of Sikh Organisations is not happy about it being characterised as an "Asian" matter and have said that it is "something that the leaders of the Muslim community, the Pakistani community, need to address." There is a comprehensive summary with references at the Wikipedia page Rochdale sex trafficking gang.

If you want to read an extensive and heated discussion of the ethnic aspects of this case, see the talk page. That is a discussion worth having. As Catholics, I think we might be in a good position to point out that sexual abuse is not confined to one religious group and that it is dangerous to assume that there are any religious communities, professions or indeed any identifiable sectors of society which are immune from the problem.

My concern is that in the UK there is an important issue that is being overshadowed by the debate about ethnic or religious questions. The Telegraph report speaks of failures on the part of Social Services and the Police to share information and take effective action. Tucked away in the article is a brief mention of what might well be an endemic failure in the system.
"The report centres on the case of one girl called “Suzie” who was given sexual health advice rather than being treated as a child at risk.
The Review published by the Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board (p.15) mentions that Barnardo's acknowledged the mistake of focussing on the neglect and abuse of babies at the hands of their parent or carers (because of recent high-profile cases) and failing to recognise child sexual exploitation as a mainstream child protection issue.
"Social work practitioners and managers wholly over estimated the extent to which Suzie could legally or psychologically consent to the sexual violence being perpetrated against her." (p.19)
A team was involved in Suzie's case which "provides one‐to‐one advice to vulnerable young people in respect of their sexual health." Were they suggesting that the children try to persuade the rapists to wear a condom? We also hear that:
When it was reported that Suzie was pregnant, children’s social care’s focus shifted to the welfare of her unborn child. (p.12)
Really? I would be surprised if none of the social and healthcare agencies involved suggested that the life of the unborn child should be "terminated."

After Suzie disclosed further abuse to the police, the social care agency focussed on the safety of her baby (p.6) and child protection procedures were initiated in respect of the baby. This is consistent with the emphasis, acknowledged in the report, on abuse within the home to the detriment of the investigation of serious abuse of girls under the age of consent.

While admitting the importance of the recommendations made by the report: for more training, for inter-agency co-operation and awareness-raising, we should not go along with the report's failure to address the matter of the age of consent, and its blithe handling of the matter of advice on "sexual health."

The age of consent is routinely undermined in sex education given in schools, in the availability of contraception for young people under 16 and in the provision of the morning after pill without the knowledge of parents. This, together with a light-touch approach to prosecution, leads to the discussion of whether or not a young person under 16 has consented to sexual activity, a discussion that the age of consent was brought in to prevent: and brought in precisely as a result of the trafficking, prostitution and rape of young people.

The offering of "sexual health advice" to Suzie (and presumably others among the victims of these sordid crimes) to the neglect of effective criminal investigation should be a key focus in the aftermath of the prosecutions.

We should not let this case pass by without asking serious questions about the routine ignoring of the age of consent and the provision of "values free" sexual health advice which is complicit in the exploitation of the young, and in this case their continuing to suffer as victims of serious crimes without adequate being given protection from their assailants.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

The call to overcome fear and silence

The Knights of St Columba have organised a Chain of Prayer with a pro-life and pro-family intention. Yesterday, the feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian I celebrated a sung English Mass at Blackfen in response to a request for Mass from the local Council of the KSC. Here is my sermon:

Every one therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven. (Matt 10.32)

In God’s providence, the day for our Mass for the Knights of St Columba chain of Prayer is the feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian. They are the patron saints of doctors, who are also involved with promoting the sanctity of human life so ask them this evening to divert their prayers also to politicians for whom we are praying.

In the “Chain of Prayer”, our intention is:
“that our politicians heed the message of faith to uphold human life from conception to the grave and defend the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.”
Unlike the early Christians of the time of St Cosmas and Damian, we are free to express our views in the public square. In our own time, in Pakistan, North Korea and many other states, Christians are persecuted for professing their faith. We must not only cherish our freedom, we must use it. The intention of the chain of prayer identifies two crucial questions on which we have the duty to speak out.

Perhaps the sanctity of life seems an obvious truth. We have no right to kill an unborn child, or to experiment on, and then kill human embryos, or to discard them as by-products in the laboratory production of children.

Still, we need to examine our own consciences. The penny catechism gives a good summary of the ways in which we might cause or share in the guild of another’s sin:
1. By counsel.
2. By command.
3. By consent.
4. By provocation.
5. By praise or flattery.
6. By concealment.
7. By being a partner in the sin.
8. By silence.
9. By defending the ill done.
Many of these may not apply to us, but Catholics have certainly in some cases consented to the sin of others in taking human life, or remained silent, or defended the ill done because it is a “special case.” Some of the bitterest opposition to Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life comes from those who are part of a “condoning generation” who have in the past co-operated in one way or another with abortion or euthanasia, thinking that it was all right in a particular case.

Blessed Pope John Paul’s invitation to women who have had an abortion applies equally to those who have in some way condoned abortion:
Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.[1]
The Holy Father went on to invite such women to become promoters of a new way of looking at life. That applies to anyone who has compromised in the past, and indeed to all of us who have failed to speak out with sufficient courage. We are all called to conversion in recognising the absolute and inviolable sanctity of the life of the smallest and weakest members of our society.

We also face today the redefinition of marriage. The teaching of the Church, affirming the natural law, was set out clearly by Pope Paul VI in his famous encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968. Quoting the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes, the Pope said:
“Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents’ welfare.”[2]
In consequence, he reaffirmed the constant teaching of the Catholic Church, shared by most other Christians until early in the 20th century, that contraception, sterilisation and abortion were unlawful means of birth control.

Pope Paul’s teaching was widely rejecting by people within the Church, both in principle and in practice. Today we can see the wisdom of his warning of the consequences of the widespread availability of contraception. It would, he said:
"open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law."[3]
In 1968 it would have been considered extremist scaremongering if you had said that another consequence of breaking the link between the use of the marriage act and procreation would be that countries across the West would within fifty years be proposing legislation for same sex marriage.

In this matter it is now perilous for us even to speak. I therefore like to quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church so that if I am arrested, it will be for giving the teaching of the Church and not my personal opinion:
"The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfil God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition."[4]
The Catechism teaches us to act with compassion and sensitivity towards people with same sex attraction. In other words, it recognises that this inclination is itself problematic; it uses the expression “objectively disordered” carefully to avoid the implication that an inclination to same sex attraction is itself the fault of the individual, whilst at the same time indicating clearly that it is not a good.

Politically, in the public square, we need to focus on the damage that the redefinition of marriage will do to society as well as the probably consequence of further coercion of Christians to act against their conscience.

Fear and silence now stalk the UK on this matter. People are afraid even to speak. Politicians and the press who only a few years ago would have derided the idea of same sex marriage in terms that we would regard as lacking in compassion and sensitivity, now fall over each other to support the idea. In such a moral climate we must uphold the teaching of the natural law, of St Paul, of the Catholic Church, and of all Christians until recently that marriage is a sacred union between a man and a woman created by God for the purpose of mutual love and the procreation of children.

I have one criticism of the wording of the “Chain of Prayer.” We are not asking politicians only to heed a “message of faith” but in fact a message of the natural moral order for the good of society.

We must ask Our Blessed Lady to pray for us, especially that we have the wisdom to act in the way that will best convince people of the truth. But we must, as men, stand up with courage for the sake of those who are corrupted by the “general lowering of moral standards” of which Pope Paul spoke. For this we need to ask the Holy Spirit once more for that gift He gave us at the sacrament of Confirmation, the gratia ad robur, grace for strengthening us to bear witness to the truth. Saints Cosmas and Damian did so at the cost of their lives. It was the same grace of the Holy Spirit that strengthened them.

Come O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful.

[1] Evangelium Vitae n.99
[2] Humanae Vitae n.9. Gaudium et Spes n.50
[3] Humanae Vitae n.17
[4] Catechism of the Catholic Church n.2358

"Casual Vacancy" - pass the sick bag

If you want to find out about JK Rowling's new book "Casual Vacancy", Allison Pearson at the Telegraph has a comprehensive plot summary. This is useful because it has convinced me that it is one of those books I would throw angrily into the wastepaper basket part way through reading it. This passage in the article illustrates the attitude of the author:
When an interviewer from The New Yorker put it to Rowling that there might be strong objections to the idea of young Harry Potter readers being drawn into such material she replied coolly: "There is no part of me that feels that I represented myself as your children’s babysitter or their teacher… I’m a writer and I will write what I want to write."
There you have it. Essentially "I can do what the hell I want." Children will indeed read this horrible book, and be disturbed and confused by it. Perhaps the good that will come out of it is that some of the more intelligent child readers will begin to question what sort of world view was really working in the mind of the author of the Harry Potter books and the "spell" might be broken.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Bara Brith launches off from an Introit question

The Blessed John Henry Newman Institute of Liturgical Music had their conference last weekend and a jolly good conference was too by all reports. You can read one report at Bara Brith and another at St Mary Magdalen Choir, Brighton.

Apparently one of the speakers asked "When did you last hear an introit?" At most Liturgical music days you could expect a proportion of the audience to ask "What is an introit?" At the JHNILM day  there was a less common response with several of the audience mouthing to each other "last Sunday." At Blackfen, I'm proud to say, you could hear two sung introits on any given Sunday, one at the English sung Mass and one at the usus antiquior. We start the Mass as we mean to go on.

Bara Brith has launched from this question into a heartfelt and strongly expressed article (I did not say rant) on the whole question of hymns and actually singing the texts of the Mass. Most enjoyable.

May he indeed be a humble and holy, orthodox, creative and courageous Bishop

Episcopal Ordination of Right Reverend Philip Egan Eighth Bishop of Portsmouth
Photo: © Mazur/

The buzz after Bishop Egan's ordination seems to be continuing around the blogosphere with everyone posting links to his outstanding address. The "quotation" I posted the other day was truncated a bit. Here is the full text of Bishop Egan's final sentence:
Please pray for me to the Lord Jesus, whose Heart yearns for us in the Blessed Sacrament, that I might be a humble and holy, orthodox, creative and courageous, Bishop of Portsmouth, one fashioned after the Lord's own.
I understand that at Bishop Egan's request, there was an hour of adoration concluding with Benediction for the famiglia at Archbishop's House the evening before the ceremony. The bunfight after the ceremony itself was cut short by the celebration of sung Vespers in the Cathedral after which Bishop Egan consecrated himself and his diocese to the Sacred Heart. Please join your prayers to Bishop Egan's.

You can read the full address, via the Portsmouth Diocesan website as either a pdf or a doc

There are lots of good photos now online at the Mazur photostream.

Monday, 24 September 2012

"I want to be a courageous orthodox bishop"

In the booklet for the Mass at Portsmouth today, at which Philip Egan was consecrated eighth Bishop of Portsmouth, there is an introduction by Bishop Egan (a musically educated man himself) explaining, among other things, the choice of music for the Mass.

There were some "old favourite" Catholic hymns at appropriate points (O purest of creatures, Soul of my Saviour, Sweet Sacrament Divine) and some elements from "A Community Mass" by Richard Proulx, as well as Gregorian chant. It was good to see that after various motets, songs, organ pieces and the hymn Praise to the Holiest, which were sung before Mass, the introit Salve Sancta Parens was sung while the altar was incensed. Also from the (modern) gradual was the Alleluia and verse.

Here is what Bishop Egan had to say about chant:
I have tried to incorporate some of the plainsong chants for the feastday. Gregorian chant is always the 'native' music of the Roman Rite and the Church encourages us to give it pride of place in the liturgy (General Instruction of the Roman Missal 41), along with the use of the Latin language, especially in large-scale celebrations (Sacramentum Caritatis 62). I hope that we will all rediscover the beautiful treasury of chant. With its changing moods and lilting meoldies, it expresses so eloquently the prayer and affectivities of the human spirit in the presence of the Transcendent God.
I did not see the ceremony as I was driving round the M25 at the time and it would have been lacking in the virtue of prudence to prop the iPad on the steering wheel. Thanks to John Kearney for an encouraging line from the new bishop's address:
"I want to be a courageous orthodox bishop"
Pray for Bishop Egan that God generously gives him the grace to be such for many years.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Looking forward to the Hobbit film

Along with probably millions of others I just loaded The Hobbit onto my Kindle (not sure what J R R Tolkien would think of that) and it is my bedtime reading. I'm trying to limit myself to a chapter a day because I read too quickly and want to chew it over. There are many devotees of Tolkien who will, no doubt, be disappointed by the film because of inaccuracies and omissions that are inevitable in transferring a book to the screen, especially one like this.

Although it may make me a philistine among keen Hobbit fans, I am looking forward to the film. Unfortunately the release date seems to be 14 December in the UK which means that I will have to be quick off the mark to book a seat at Bluewater after the opening rush and before the schools break up.

Poor Tolkien lived to see his beloved traditional Mass eclipsed, and dying in 1973 he did not live to see its revival. NLM records how he used to make the responses loudly in Latin, and on one occasion made three low bows while walking out in the middle of Mass. For a man of his culture it must have been painful to see what passed for "renewal" in the sixties and early seventies.

Fr Z has some interesting reflections and a fascinating story about an aerogramme from J R R Tolkien.

High Mass for our forthcoming feast day

Our Parish patronal feast day at Blackfen is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, 7 October which falls on a Sunday this year.

At the 10.30am Mass, the group Cantores Missae, a consort group of singers comprising some of the UK’s leading soloists will be singing for this Mass which will be a High Mass with Fr James Bradley of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham as celebrant and preacher, Fr Bernard McNally as Deacon and Fr Timothy Finigan (parish priest) as Subdeacon.

Music for the Mass:
Andrea Gabrieli Missa Brevis
Victoria Ave Maris Stella; Elgar Ave Verum; Gounod Domine Salvum Fac; Schubert Salve Regina

Here is a link to the website of Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen which has directions for getting to the Church. (Check the TFL website for weekend engineering works if you are travelling by public transport.)

Friday, 21 September 2012

Strawberry Hill - shaken or stirred?

Dr Philip Esler (Principal) and Bishop Richard Moth (Chair of Governors)

News has emerged that Professor Eamon Duffy has resigned as an honorary fellow of St Mary's University College, Twickenham, as has Dr Robin Gibbons, a long-serving theology lecturer. Professor Gavin D'Costa has withdrawn as a keynote speaker at a theological conference planned by SMUC. All three cited the proposed merger of the School of Theology, Philosophy and History, and the School of Communication, Culture and Creative Arts, into a school of Arts and Humanities, as the reason for their action.

Professor Duffy spoke of the recent incident in which Dr Towey was escorted from the building by security as showing that things had gone badly amiss with the Christian and Catholic ethos of St Mary’s. At an academic board meeting recently, a motion of no confidence in the Principal was proposed - but ruled out of order by the Principal.

Last night, the Governors of the College met for four hours, and today a statement has been issued by Bishop Richard Moth who is the Chair of Governors. It is published on the College website but I include it in full here in the interests of fairness:
At a meeting of St Mary's University College Governors last evening it was decided to go ahead with the establishment of a Centre for the Study of Catholic Theology and to implement the merger of the Schools of Communication, Culture and Creative Arts and Theology, Philosophy and History into a new School of Arts and Humanities.

The Governors expressed regret over the actions of certain individuals, both those associated with this institution and those whose identity remains unknown, who have been maintaining a campaign of misinformation leading to a distorted picture of recent events.

St Mary’s continues to be committed to providing research-based high quality teaching in theology and religious studies. This is reflected in buoyant student recruitment in this area and across St Mary's. Our relationships with collaborative partners are very important to the life of St Mary’s and our long tradition of service to the Church will continue to be at the heart of all we do.

Our new Centre for the Study of Catholic Theology, which will be led by a Research Professor, will prove an exciting context for deep understanding of Catholic thought and its application in our world and will provide a focus for our treasured Catholic ethos across St Mary's.

St Mary’s is blessed to have a committed and highly effective staff. Our academic record speaks for itself and we are all proud of the unique environment we are able to offer to all our students in a truly stunning location.

The Governors have total confidence in the Senior Management Team who have worked diligently and in accordance with our constitution, due process and our Catholic ethos in what has been a difficult time as we continue to strive to gain our university title.

This is a time of great opportunity for St Mary’s and I am confident that the University College will continue to develop and move forward as a centre of excellence.

+Bishop Richard Moth
Chair of Governors
Yesterday, ICN published the email sent by Dr Anthony Towey on 31 August, which allegedly resulted in his suspension for what was described in the statement issued on Tuesday as "a very serious disciplinary matter and a grave breach of his professional duties at the University College", in his being escorted from the College premises by security personnel across the Campus Piazza in front of students, and then being escorted home so that his Blackberry could be confiscated. Again, in the interest of fairness, I publish the text of the email here:
Dear TPH Student,

As some of you will have heard either through announcements on the SMUC portal, rumours or in the latest edition of the Tablet (out today), a sudden decision by the Principal in July, ratified in a private meeting by a sub-set of Governors, has authorized the closure of the School of Theology, Philosophy and History. The future proposed structure is for TPH programmes to run from within an amalgamated Arts and Humanities School with over 1700 students on roll.

Despite overwhelming and reasoned opposition to the proposal across some 60 academic and administrative staff (see documents attached) the Principal has decided to press ahead with his idea. Although the process by which this decision has both been taken and progressed runs clean contrary to normal St. Mary’s procedures, the direct result is that one of the Heads of Schools will no longer be in post from September 4th, (Tuesday of next week).

Indeed though clarification has also been sought from the Human Resources department as to what repercussions this might have for the many and varied obligations that Professor Pettitt and myself have over the forthcoming months (such as lecturing, programme direction, doctoral supervision etc.) no advice has been given. We are completely in the dark. And while the most direct impact is likely to be on Theology programmes, there remains residual uncertainty in relation to staffing in Philosophy.

As a result, and without wanting to raise needless alarm, I would ask your forbearance over the coming weeks should there be delays and confusion in regard to your dealings with St. Mary’s in general, and any obligations related to myself in particular. All TPH staff are keenly aware that students have not been consulted in this process – a matter that you might appropriately raise with your Student Union ( or your Programme leader. Indeed since the Principal specifically invites comment in his graduation letter (see attached), it may be appropriate to raise any concerns with him or with Bishop Richard Moth, the Chair of Governors. As an inter-disciplinary team, no School has worked harder to create a sense of learning camaraderie where staff and students ‘know each other by name.’ It is a tremendous sadness that this sense of community is being dismantled.
Last night, students of the College held a four hour silent vigil in the corridor outside the room in which the Governors were meeting. (See: report from Independent Catholic News) They also have an online petition for students to sign, opposing the merger of the School of Theology, Philosophy and History, and the School of Communication, Culture and Creative Arts, into a school of Arts and Humanities.

Dr Towey was one of the most vocally Catholic members of staff at SMUC; many staff and students are in shock at what has happened, especially considering the manner of his removal (though I am told that he is not the first to be escorted off the premises by security.) The official statement speaks of misinformation and a distorted picture given by unnamed individuals but there is enough solid information from named individuals and strong concern expressed by such highly-respected individuals as Professor Duffy to indicate that simply trying to brazen it out is not sufficient.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Popish nick-nackets or icon of freedom?

Peter Howson's portrait of St John Ogilvie

Kevin McKenna in the Observer dismissed Peter Howson's portrait of St John Ogilvie as another trinket in a gaudy cathedral that was a monument to vanity. In the Scottish Catholic Observer, David Kerr responds with an appreciation of the portrait and uses the opportunity to point to the significance of St John Ogilvie's martyrdom today, listing various ways in which an increasingly intolerant state is squeezing our freedoms. (See: Monument to a martyr reminds us to fight for our religious freedoms)

Kevin McKenna suggests that he might be being churlish and unduly rebarbative. He should read his Walter Scott for a good example of how to do this with style. In a quotation I have used before, here is how Andrew Fairservice speaks of the Kirk in in Rob Roy:
Ah! it's a brave kirk — nane o' yere whig-maleeries and curliewurlies and opensteek hems about it — a' solid, weel-jointed mason-wark, that will stand as lang as the warld, keep hands and gunpowther aff it. It had amaist a douncome lang syne at the Reformation, when they pu'd doun the kirks of St. Andrews and Perth, and thereawa', to cleanse them o' Papery, and idolatry, and image worship, and surplices, and sic like rags o' the muckle hure that sitteth on seven hills, as if ane wasna braid eneugh for her auld hinder end. Sae the commons o' Renfrew, and o' the Barony, and the Gorbals and a' about, they behoved to come into Glasgow no fair morning, to try their hand on purging the High Kirk o' Popish nick-nackets.

Safety with less regulation?

At Portishead, near Bristol, the traffic lights were removed at a congested junction in an experiment to see whether traffic flow would improve. It seems that the experiment worked, bringing about a significant reduction in journey times without any compromise in road safety. The lights were removed permanently early last year. (See the story in This is Bristol.)

Some would see this as an example of how things can be better with less regulation and government interference. Not sure how well the abolition of traffic lights would work in some parts of London but perhaps that is too sceptical.

H/T A Tangled Web

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Students misbehaving

The students at Strawberry Hill are not behaving themselves. Don't they realise that the security staff have enough to do escorting lecturers off the premises without having to chase around removing unauthorised posters. Young people nowadays! Tsk!

CCC Colloquium update

Fr Richard Whinder has written today to tell members of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy that Father Stephen Langridge, Chairman of the Vocations Directors of England and Wales, will make a brief presentation on Tuesday evening, adding to the outstanding line-up of speakers.

As Fr Whinder says, Fr Langridge is currently setting up the first dedicated centre for nourishing a culture of discipleship and vocations promotion at Whitstable in Kent, building on his successful work as Vocations Director for the Archdiocese of Southwark. This is one of the many positive moves which are taking place in the Church today, 'faithful to the inspirations, initiatives and example of the Holy Father', which is among the objects of the Confraternity.

There is still time to book for the Colloquium which runs from Tuesday 23 to Wednesday 24 October. Full details are available at the Confraternity website together with a booking form to download and print off. I warmly commend this to my brother priests. The programme does not include picking pebbles from a bowl, whale music, cathartic dance, or wordy, made-up paraliturgies of commitment. It does include some first class speakers, dignified celebration of the Sacred Liturgy and some excellent company. We need to get together as priests from time to time and this is a great opportunity. If you need further motivation, remember that the Tablet doesn't like it.

Eccles esplanes 'isself

The other day I linked to the funny blog Eccles and Bosco is saved. I had a troubled email about it from a priest who had followed a link on the sidebar, and several others were a bit iffy. During the blognic at the Coal Hole last night, after saying goodbye to a friendly journalist from the Economist who wanted to talk to myself and Fr Z about the growing popularity of the usus antiquior, I suggested that Dillydaydream, the highly proficient commenter and internet sleuth, would be able to shed light on the matter of Eccles and Bosco if we could contact her some time.

Shortly afterwards, she walked into the pub, generously shared a bottle of red wine (for those not drinking Brains) and explained everything. You can never predict what is going to happen at a Catholic blognic.

Now we have an authoritative account from Eccles himself: New readers start here. It is a very helpful explanation but does lead me to worry that people who already find English satire difficult to follow will start self-harming.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Strange goings on at Strawberry Hill

St Mary's University College, Twickenham, often still known by the delightful name of its more specific location of Strawberry Hill, but nowadays more often by its ugly new acronym SMUC, took the decision over the summer holidays to merge the School of Theology, Philosophy and History and the School of Communication, Culture and Creative Arts into a new School of Arts and Humanities. This rather left Anthony Towey, the head of Theology, Philosophy and History in limbo and I was wondering how things might develop.

EF Pastor Emeritus wrote this morning of the astonishing news that Dr Towey was escorted off the premises by security in the middle of a lecture he was giving on Christology. (I wonder if he had got as far as the Latrocinium?) This news has now also been published by ICN. There is a meeting of the College's Board of Governors on Thursday.

Meanwhile the undergraduate degree in hypnosis has recently been judged inadequate by the QAA and the college has offered to give the budding hypnotists their money back. Alternative courses still include an ITEC in Aromatherapy or Reflexology but the Holistic Indian Head Massage seems to have been discontinued.

18 September 2012. 12:52
A spokesperson for the University College said today:

We can confirm that Dr Anthony Towey, Head of the School of Theology, Philosophy and History, was suspended yesterday (17th September 2012) pending investigations into a very serious disciplinary matter and a grave breach of his professional duties at the University College.

This action was taken fully in accordance with our internal human resource procedures and with written, external legal advice. Arrangements are being put in place to ensure that all programmes and teaching will be fully covered.

For further information please contact Rob Marshall on 07766 952 113 or

Monday, 17 September 2012

Maiden Lane and the Coal Hole

Fr Z has mentioned that I am celebrating the Mass tonight at Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane (6.30pm.) Afterwards, we usually gather in the Coal Hole on the Strand so, as Fr Z puts it, we can have an extemp blognic.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Imagining saints as bloggers

Dylan's report on the third meeting of the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma includes a summary of the talk given by Fr Rupert McHardy of the London Oratory. I was sorry to have missed this (parish schedule) but glad to read some of the points that he made.

I do like the idea of imagining St Jerome and St Philip Neri as bloggers, as well as the more obvious candidates such as St Maximilian Kolbe and our patron Blessed Titus Brandsma. As with the blogosphere today, they would all have had their own style. St Jerome would probably have been one of those "vitriolic bloggers" that people proudly profess not to read, while St Philip Neri would perhaps have been tolerated for his kindness (though he could be quite devastating in the jokes that he played on those he thought in need of a bit of humility.)

Dylan's post has a list of blogs, some of which are not yet on the blogroll here. I recommend you go over and have a click on them. I'll do so as soon as I have a chance.

Eccles and Bosco

Thanks to Bara Brith, I have discovered Eccles and Bosco is saved which is quite funny if a bit edgy. It is now on the blogroll.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Routine bricklaying

2012-09-14 21.33.54It really doesn't feel like five years since the implementation of Summorum Pontificum. It must be my age.

Last night at Blackfen we had Missa Cantata for the Sodality of the Five Holy Wounds with the sublime Byrd three part Mass sung by three people. Mass was followed by the En ego, the daily prayer of the Sodality, and the Te Deum in thanksgiving for Summorum Pontificum. A shared supper convivium rounded things off nicely. My contribution was a couple of bottles of shampoo. People sometimes give me bottles of this stuff (always appreciated) and I save it for a suitable occasion - such as this anniversary.

The youngest member of the gathering was Gregory who is ten days old. Actually he is now eleven days old. For him, five years is a long time. It occurred to me that he will never know a world in which the usus antiquior is not a part of the Church's liturgical life, and he will grow up in an English Catholic environment where there is growing confidence, increased fidelity to the magisterium, and perhaps a new fighting spirit in the face of the secularist onslaught.

This morning we had another Missa Cantata for the feast of the seven sorrows of Our Lady, with Benediction and the solemn Salve. Now, having got the newsletter, notices, Bidding Prayers, notices for the board, Mass intentions for the week, and sermon all done, it's time for me to join fellow-bloggers at the Hour Glass in Kensington. (If you are reading this on your smartphone/ipad in the pub, see you in an hour or so. Tell Fr Z we have laid a couple more bricks.)

Thursday, 13 September 2012

A mother with her lovely baby - who also has Downs syndrome

Cassie Fiano at PJ Lifestyle gives 9 Reasons Down Syndrome Won’t Ruin Your Life. This is a great post in which Cassie admits with humility and honesty the uncertainties that she had, uncertainties that might be shared by many mothers. Coming straight from the heart, this would be a good post to keep bookmarked somewhere for when you meet someone who is worried about having a Downs syndrome child, especially if they are under pressure to "terminate" that child's life.

Chen Guangcheng's pro-life appeal to Apple

Chen Guangcheng is a name familiar to regular readers of this blog since 2006. Usually described in the secular media as a human rights activist, his activism has been particularly focussed on forced abortion and sterilisation as a result of China's one child policy.

After dramatically taking refuge in the US embassy earlier this year, Chen was offered a fellowship to study at New York University. From the US he is now appealing to Apple to exercise social responsibility, as LifeSite News reports. Chen and others want to meet with Apple CEO Tim Cook to ask him to prohibit access to factories for government family-planning officials and to refuse to report women who are pregnant without birth permits.

With the condescending proposal of Melinda Gates to flood Africa with condoms still causing reaction this would be a good opportunity for Apple to show how large corporations could do some good in the realm of social justice.

Response to my paper and photos of Durham

Durham 003

Joe at Catholic Commentary has kindly posted a considered response to my paper on New Movements and New Media. Joe has a comprehensive and sympathetic knowledge of new movements and his comments are well worth reading.

My half-hearted assertion that the Catholic blogosphere was a special case of new movement is certainly open to criticism. However I'm not sure that the Catholic blogosphere could be described as a "party" in Newman's sense either. While it is true that many Catholic blogs do assume that the Extraordinary Form is "the only show in town" there are plenty which do not. The rich variety of Catholic blogging defies either my attempt to shoehorn it into the category of new movement or the description of it as a party.

I have now uploaded some photos of Durham to flickr. Here are some I was pleased with:

Durham 004
Durham Castle entrance

Durham 051
 Tomb of St Bede

Durham 036
 The Cathedral from Prebends' Bridge

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

New movements John Paul II, new media Benedict XVI: discuss.

Here is a link to the talk that I gave this morning at the conference of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain here in Durham: New Movements and New Media.

I am probably going to regret making the generalisation which I used to try to give some structure to the talk since it can be shot down easily. We had half an hour for questions and discussion which proved challenging and thought-provoking. Putting it tactfully without using labels, CTA members are drawn from a wide range of theological viewpoints so there was some disagreement about some of the major points of the talk.

Since some questions were raised that deserve a more considered answer, I have made some notes so that they can be raised here in due course.

The programme includes an optional tour to "Bede's World" which I declined in favour of having a look around Durham. It was therefore disappointing that it started drizzling, raining and drizzling again shortly before lunch. Looking out of my window at St Chad's College, I see that the sun is fighting back so I am off to the Cathedral and the Castle to see whether I can get some good photographs.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

An African woman's letter to Melinda Gates

One not to miss. Obianuju Ekeocha Is working as a biomedical scientist in Canterbury. Most of her family are in Nigeria. She has written an open letter to Melinda Gates in response to her plan to inject 4.6 billion dollars' worth of contraception into her homeland.

The letter was published at Catholic Online but I link to it at Little Catholic Bubble which is where I found it.

Here is a taster:
Unlike what we see in the developed Western world, there is actually very high compliance with Pope Paul VI's "Humanae Vitae." For these African women, in all humility, have heard, understood and accepted the precious words of the prophetic pope. Funny how people with a much lower literacy level could clearly understand that which the average Vogue- and Cosmo-reading-high-class woman has refused to understand. I guess humility makes all the difference.
Obianuju offers an excellent analysis of why contraception is not what her African sisters need from the West, and gives an intelligent list of what they do need.

Do go and read the letter.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Now approaching Northallerton

... and very nice countryside too. I am on my way to Durham for the annual conference of the Catholic Theological Association. Tomorrow morning I am to speak on the subject of new movements and new media. These are difficult subjects to merge. I'm going to say that new movements flourished especially under Blessed Pope John Paul and blogging under Pope Benedict. If that generalisation doesn't get you too hot under the collar, I'm going to suggest that the blogosphere is a special kind of "new movement."
Not sure whether it will be safe for me at Saturday's blognic after saying that!

It is a gloriously sunny day so I hope that the weather holds for tomorrow afternoon when I should have time to take some photos of the Castle, the Cathedral and suchlike.

Now approaching Darlington...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sodality Mass this Friday

The Sodality of the Five Holy Wounds will have Missa Cantata this Friday 14 September at Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen at 8pm. It is the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and the fifth anniversary of Summorum Pontificum.

The Mass will be followed by a shared supper which means that you are supposed to bring some food if you want to join in that bit. Remember that it is a Friday, so no meat.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, 6 September 2012

EF Requiem for Fr Thwaites at Farm Street next week

An email correspondent sent me news of a Requiem Mass for Fr Hugh Thwaites at Farm Street next week (sorry for not posting sooner) and EF Pastor Emeritus reports on it, quoting a message from Fr Dermot Preston SJ, the British Provincial of the Society of Jesus:
I have had an enormous number of messages of appreciation of Fr Hugh Thwaites in the last week; he has touched the lives of many… through his example, his preaching, his presence and his cheerfulness. Hopefully now he will continue to touch even more lives through his prayers.

We had the requiem Mass at the Jesuit parish in Boscombe, on the south coast on Friday last week, with the burial of his mortal remains in the Jesuit portion of the graveyard. There will be a Memorial Mass in the Extraordinary Form for him, celebrated by Fr John Edwards SJ, at 2.00 pm on Tuesday 11th September at Farm Street Church.

Blessings and prayers to you and all your families.

Fr. Dermot Preston SJ
That is a kind message from Fr Preston and it is lovely to hear that the Jesuits have arranged an usus antiquior Mass for Fr Thwaites at Farm Street.

(Don't forget that there will also be a Mass at 12noon on Saturday 29 September 2012 at St Bede's, Clapham Park.This will be a Solemn Requiem Mass celebrated according to the usus antiquior. Fr Linus Clovis will preach.)

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

New Catholic secondary school in Cornwall responds to prejudice

Catholics in Cornwall have responded with imagination to the Government's new provision for "Free Schools", that is, schools which are fully-funded by the Government but not under Local Authority Control. St Michael's in Camborne has just opened, with a capacity of 300, making it a small secondary school capable of maintaining small class sizes and giving close attention to children. 

Naturally, various branches of the anti-Catholic brigade have taken a dislike to the idea. Some activists in one of the teaching unions have got upset, the Humanists are obviously foaming at the mouth, and the militant gay lobby were given a bit of a gift by some intemperate remarks by a grandparent at a recent meeting. Hence there was a protest today outside the school at which a whole twelve people turned up.

It all stinks of a stitch-up, using any excuse to have a go at a new school which aims to be family friendly; they accuse the school of prejudice but it seems to me that the main prejudice here is anti-Catholicism. The Headteacher and Governors have sensibly responded to this whipped-up storm in a teacup.  Here is a link to the video of a fair-minded report on ITV Cornwall.

All this must be a trial to the Headteacher and staff as they get a new school off the ground. The local parish priest, Fr Chris Findlay-Wilson has consecrated the school to Our Blessed Lady. Do join him with your prayers for the staff, and for the children who will undoubtedly benefit from this excellent initiative.

Dreadful Church teaching defender Bishop to address Catholic priests

The forthcoming Colloquium of the British Province of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy will take place from 23-24 October. I mentioned before that my good friend Bishop Philip Egan will be there. He is celebrating Mass on the first day and preaching. The talk on the first evening will be given by Fr Uwe Michael Lang, on the subject of the 50th anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium, "Towards a New Liturgical Movement"

The second conference, on the New Evangelisation, will be given by Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, the recently-appointed Vice-President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. He will be celebrating Mass at which Mgr Keith Newton, the Ordinary of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham will preach.

Finally, Fr Andrew Pinsent, Research Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Religion and Science at Oxford University will be speaking on "Science, Grace and Catholic Enlightenment."

Vatican II, the New Evangelisation, Science and Religion - for any moderate, Church-loving priest who wants to engage in the Year of Faith, what's not to like?

For the Tablet, quite a bit, it seems. The Notebook observes that Bishop Egan's appointment was seen as "part of a trend to appoint outspoken defenders of Church teaching to dioceses in England and Wales." How dreadful! Fancy appointing Bishops who are outspoken defenders of the teaching of the Church! Most of us might see the defence of the teaching of the Church as an uncontroversial requirement of Canon Law for the appointment of Bishops. In Tablet-speak it makes him a "rising star for the conservative wing of the Church in England and Wales." Can they really mean that the other Bishops are generally not outspoken defenders of the teaching of the Church? Perish the thought!

In classic Tablet style, the Notebook piece was used as a dolly-up for a thunderous letter the following week (everyone I know who has ever written or tried to write to the Tablet has told me of the close editorial control of the letters page.) Mr Angry refers to Bishop Egan's nefarious role as Church teaching defender, along with his guilt by association with Bishop Mark Davies. He reckons that
The plans and purposes of this confraternity should be made known as widely as possible, openly debated and wherever necessary vigorously opposed.
You can see the full text of the letter in the comment from Richard Duncan at Fr Ray Blake's post CCC Colloquium: 2012. I refer priests to it especially because you may find that it motivates you to attend the Colloquium. Here is a link to the Booking form.

And here is another graphic that has been too long absent from the blog:

Being friends to the oppressed

Christian man shot dead after leaving a worship service

It is important that the world knows about the persecution of Christians in Pakistan. Atrocities are happening regularly as can be seen at the blog Friends of the Oppressed. There is also fresh news on a daily basis at the British Pakistani Christian Association blog.

Recent events in the case of Rimsha Masih seem to show that the Pakistani government will respond in some way (though by no means adequately) to pressure from international expressions of disgust at these outrages, and I believe that bloggers can play their part in publicising them. Do take a look at the blogs linked above and add your own voice to those exposing the gross and violent oppression of the innocent.
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