Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Coalition for Marriage - useful summary

If you signed the Coalition for Marriage petition and asked to be kept informed, you should have received an email today: Talking Points on Same-Sex Marriage. I reproduce it here because I think that it gives a good summary of what has happened in our country and it may be useful to refer to when campaigning begins for next the General Election in May next year.


Dear marriage supporter,

The democratic deficit

With the first same-sex weddings set to take place this weekend to much media fanfare, it’s important to remember how undemocratic and illiberal the redefinition of marriage is:
  • Marriage was redefined over the heads of the 24 million married people in this country.
  • None of the three main political parties at Westminster made redefining marriage part of their election manifesto. It was not even in the coalition agreement.
  • Three days before the 2010 General Election, David Cameron told Sky News he had no plans to change the law of marriage.
  • There was no green paper or white paper. The only consultation was on 'how' to redefine marriage, not 'whether' to.
  • The Government ignored the 500,000 names and addresses of UK residents on our C4M petition. They weren’t accepted as responses to the consultation.
  • Since the Government’s online response form was anonymous, anyone anywhere in the world could submit a response, as many times as they liked.
  • The consultation ruled out religious same-sex weddings. But when the Bill was published religious ceremonies were included.
  • This exposed religious organisations to the threat of hostile legal action, with one gay couple already publicising their intention to go to court to get a C of E wedding.
  • Though he still backs gay marriage, David Cameron has admitted he would never have gone ahead had he known the level of opposition that would be stirred up.
  • Parliamentary scrutiny was wholly inadequate. At Second Reading, backbench MPs were limited to four minute speeches.

Inadequate safeguards

The implications of redefining marriage have not been thought through. The Government agrees that people’s careers shouldn’t be damaged just because they believe in traditional marriage – yet the protections in place are completely insufficient.

A parent complained to her school that her six year old daughter had had two lessons on same-sex marriage in a week.

A teacher was threatened with disciplinary proceedings because she said in the staff room that she believed in traditional marriage.

A couple wanting to adopt children were told they were unsuitable because they supported traditional marriage.

Thankfully all these cases have been resolved, but they should never have arisen at all.

Further redefinitions

If marriage is redefined once, what is to stop it being redefined again? Some campaigners are now calling for polygamy to be legalised.

Just recently the Government stripped familiar words like husband, wife and widow from a raft of our laws simply because these words don't line up with the Government's new definition of marriage.

For another example of what could happen, you have to look no further than the recent comments of a Justice of the Supreme Court.

Lord Wilson, in a speech he gave supporting gay marriage, suggested that marriage to the dead was an option. He said “if it really helps the broken-hearted, we have at least to ask: why not?”

No nation on earth had legalised same-sex marriage until 13 years ago. Only 16 out of 193 nations have done so.

The truth is that same-sex marriage is a social construct, a social experiment. Parliament can change the law, but it cannot change the reality that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Marriage – between a man and a woman – is the greatest partnership in history. It reflects the complementary natures of men and women.

Time and time again the evidence has shown that children do best with a married mother and a father.

So let’s keep standing up for marriage.

Yours sincerely,

Colin Hart

Campaign Director
Coalition for Marriage

Flavigny Benedictines Retreat for men at Pantasaph

The Benedictine Fathers of Flavigny regularly conduct spiritual retreats for men, according to the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola, usually at their own abbey. However, some of the Fathers are travelling to the Pantasaph Retreat Centre in North Wales to give a men's retreat (minimum age 17) from Sunday 24 to Friday 29 August 2014. You can register online.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Greg Murphy interviews Bishop McMahon on usus antiquior


Gregory Murphy, Editor of the Latin Mass Society's Mass of Ages, interviewed Archbishop McMahon yesterday in Liverpool Cathedral about the usus antiquior. he kindly sent round an email with the text of the interview which I have pasted below. To be honest, I don't think there was any need for anyone to feel "anxious" or "nervous" given +Malcolm's generosity in the past. However it is, of course, great to hear such good-humoured comments from a newly-appointed Archbishop.

Apologies for illustrating this post with another ill-fitting mitre photo (credit: Fr Lawrence Lew OP - Flickr photoset.) The Catholic blogosphere being what it is, a google image search did not throw up any pictures of the esteemed Bishop celebrating the Novus Ordo, though I must allay any anxiety or nervousness among my my reform-of-the-reform friends by affirming that he does so regularly and with great reverence. Perhaps the LMS or another group might club together to present a gift to the new Archbishop of a set of bespoke mitres for use at usus antiquior Pontifical Masses.

Archbishop-Elect Malcolm McMahon, of Liverpool, on the Extraordinary Form of Mass -
Press Conference, March 21st, 2014

To selected persons (bottom) who have an attachment to the Extraordinary Form of Mass, or have an interest:

I had the pleasure, today, of interviewing His Lordship at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool. I discussed only the matter of the Extraordinary Form of Mass. I faithfully reproduce here - verbatim - the Archbishop-Elect’s quotes which are illuminating - although I stress that it was necessary for him to speak whilst walking and needing to attend to passing and ongoing briefings whilst developing his responses. Although conscious that, due to circumstances, he couldn’t devote full concentration to the subject, the Archbishop-Elect said he was nonetheless happy for me to convey his thoughts publicly. Please, therefore, feel completely free to disseminate these quotes with confidence if - and however - you wish to, and to whomever (beyond the recipients at the foot). I ask only that, where possible and/or practical, I am credited.
No reply required.

+Malcolm on whether those attached to the Extraordinary Form of Mass in the Archdiocese of Liverpool need have any concerns:

"There is no need (for anyone) to feel nervous."

+Malcolm on how much he foresees that the Extraordinary Form may in time become a general and unremarkable part of the liturgical life of the archdiocese:

"I think it’s hard to predict. I will certainly be open to any requests that come my way. I’ve always listened to what people have wanted, and tried to do my utmost to satisfy their needs - and that applies to liturgy, forms of liturgy, as well as other aspects of my ministry."

+Malcolm on whether he foresees himself personally celebrating the Extraordinary Form:

"It depends how it is used. I mean, I’ve celebrated Mass in the Extraordinary Form when required and when I’ve been asked to. But the Mass always has to be a source of unity in the Church, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be used, and the Extraordinary Form to be used, to divide the Church. That would be my (only) concern. But there are plenty of pictures of me on the Internet (celebrating the Extraordinary Form)...with (laughing) mitres that don’t fit me and all that!"
"But yes, of course I would be agreeable. How can you not be when the Mass has been such a … well some like to call it the ‘Traditional Rite’ … but (when) the Extraordinary Form has been a source of holiness to people for hundreds of years. So how on earth can you say no?"
A senior third party, with authority to speak for the Bishop, later said (unprompted) that he fully understood why those attached to the Extraordinary Form are perhaps prone to being anxious on such occasions. But he wished to stress - and also for it to be conveyed - that Archbishop-Elect McMahon’s appointment in Liverpool should certainly not give rise to any apprehension whatsoever. In fact, quite the opposite, I was assured. He said: “There really, really, should be no concerns for anyone at all - and I emphasise that.”

The general tenor of both the Archbishop-Elect’s, and later his spokesman’s, message concerning the Extraordinary Form, was one of complete reassurance and positivity.


freelance editor and journalist

(among previous posts: Catholic TIMES - editor; Mass of Ages [Latin Mass Society] - editor; Catholic Pictorial [Liverpool] - deputy editor)

[List of recipients follows]

Friday, 21 March 2014

Congratulations to Bishop McMahon

Bishop McMahon OP has been appointed as the new Archbishop of Liverpool. (See the report in the Catholic Herald.) Damian Thompson has sometimes been ribbed for getting predictions wrong, so it is only fair to point out that this time, he was right.

Five years ago, I wrote about bishop McMahon's visit to the Latin Mass Society Conference at Merton College, Oxford. (See: English bishop receives standing ovation at traditional liturgy conference) In view of the the current interest in the relationship between Bishops and bloggers, it was interesting to be reminded that on that occasion, Bishop McMahon joked with me about my blog at the evening convivium, told me to keep blogging and said light-heartedly "I want my picture on your blog." (The photos in this post and the previous one are from the Flickr set of Fr Lawrence Lew OP.)


Congratulations to Bishop McMahon. Please keep him in your prayers.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Bishop Drainey using social media to make his case

The other day, writing of The pitfalls of censoring Catholic bloggers, I referred to an article in the Tablet to which the Lancaster Diocesan website had linked. I also quoted the Tablet's report of Bishop Drainey's comment calling for a "radical re-examination of human sexuality."

Bishop Drainey has written to the Tablet, and posted the text of his letter on the Middlesbrough Diocesan Website. In it, he speaks of the many responses that his diocese received to the Synod Questionnaire and then goes on to say:
I was therefore saddened that your article appeared to demean the honest offerings of these good people by framing them in a sensationalistic style. All of these statements were published in the Middlesbrough Catholic Voice, our diocesan newspaper, in January, and while I would not expect the London-based Tablet to look so far north, to add insult to injury, we send you a complimentary copy every month. So much for the Tablet’s hot pursuit of the truth! I suppose the question I am left with is simply does the Tablet try to report and respect the truth or does it just massage facts to support its own agenda?
The Middlesbrough website page also gives the original response that Bishop Drainey gave to questions from the Tablet.

This response does include the "radical re-examination" paragraph that the Tablet reported, and I guess that the Tablet will argue that they did not misrepresent the Bishop or "massage the facts." There is reasonable ground for debate about the matter, but the important thing to my mind is that Bishop Drainey has shown that it is perfectly possible for Bishops to use the new media to present their side of a case in the public square. Using his own diocesan website rather than relying on the Tablet to publish his letter is also a wise tactic.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The pitfalls of censoring Catholic bloggers

Pope Benedict's message for the 44th World Communications Day (2010) had the title "The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word." In it, he said
[...] priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different "voices" provided by the digital marketplace. Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.
I quoted this in my post Holy Father encourages us to blog - with a priestly heart: Pope Benedict also gave the wise advice that priests should be "less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart." He concluded the message by offering an invitation:
To my dear brother priests, then, I renew the invitation to make astute use of the unique possibilities offered by modern communications. May the Lord make all of you enthusiastic heralds of the Gospel in the new "agorà" which the current media are opening up.
By way of contrast to Pope Benedict's frequent encouragement of the new media, Cardinal Müller recently gave a warning at the meeting of the leaders of the Ordinariates. The report on Zenit says:
The Prefect went on to issue a word of warning about the potential problems caused by the "new media", particularly through blogs. He said that some of the ordinariate clergy and faithful wrote blogs, which, while being a helpful tool of evangelisation, could also "express un-reflected speech lacking in charity". The image of the ordinariate was not helped by this, he said, and it fell to the ordinaries to exercise vigilance over these blogs and, if necessary, to intervene.
Over the past week, bloggers have been responding to the news that the Bishop of Lancaster has "requested Deacon Nick Donnelly to voluntarily pause from placing new posts on the Protect the Pope site." (See: Diocese of Lancaster’s statement about Deacon Nick Donnelly)

Fr Zuhlsdorf surmises that "a lot of pressure was exerted on the Bishop of Lancaster to have gone to such an extreme." I think that it is no great secret that Catholic blogs are indeed a frequent topic of conversation at the meetings of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

Rorate Caeli voices the concern of many that there is a double-standard when orthodox bloggers are silenced while defenders of heterodoxy and moral relativism are unbothered or even promoted. (See: The Sound of Silence) Linen on the Hedgerow makes a similar point (see: Protect the Pope on hold.) There are now hundreds of other posts about the silencing of Rev Nick Donnelly on blogs in England and throughout the world.

Reaction is not limited to blogs. There is much comment on Facebook and Twitter. It was on the latter that I saw a link to this item on the Lancaster Diocesan website:

The link goes to an article reporting that:
The Bishop of Middlesbrough, Terence Drainey, called for a “radical re-examination of human sexuality” that could lead to a development in church teaching in areas such as contraception, homosexuality, divorce and remarriage and cohabitation and the role of women in the Church.
Tweeps wonder how this is OK when Deacon Nick Donnelly is prevented from offering any critical comment. Are Bishops to be immune from criticism when making controversial statements?

I do wonder about the practical wisdom of attempting to censor the blogosphere. Protect the Pope now carries posts by Mrs Donnelly, and she has offered an invitation to others to contribute material - which several writers have already taken up. Other censored bloggers can also simply start up a new blog under a pseudonym, or use alternative social media platforms - Facebook and Twitter are well-known but the possibilities are endless. As activists on the internet pointed out years ago, censorship is just another bug for which you find a hack or a workaround. The danger is that a previously censored commenter will be probably not be inclined to moderation in a new social media incarnation.

Bishops also have on their side the great respect of most Catholics for Bishops. Quite often a blog will criticise a Bishop severely, only to find that another blog tells a different side to the story, or the Bishop issues a statement clarifying things - and then receives a lot of support from Catholic bloggers. The discussion will continue, but the Bishop is not exactly powerless to defend himself.

Bloggers work in an environment which is open to everyone. One of the healthy things about such open communication is precisely that you cannot rely on personal standing to squash disagreement. As Fr Zuhlsdorf put it so well, the internet operates a "Reverse Gresham's Law" whereby good information drives out bad. You can say something inaccurate or unfair if you want, but you can be sure that you will be corrected - within minutes if you have any personal standing - and the more you ignore correction, the more you will be attacked, and the lower your reputation will sink.

The converse is also true. Bloggers who dare to speak honestly and truthfully even when it is risky to do so, especially when they are courteous, even when expressing strong opinions, gain great respect from others. In my opinion, Deacon Nick Donnelly is one such blogger and I was unhappy to hear that he had been silenced. Now that "pastoral solutions" and "imaginative ways forward" are so much in vogue in another context, I hope that this faithful Deacon can be "welcomed and included."

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Family Education Trust Bulletin on failure to safeguard teenage girls in Rochdale

Once again I recommend to you the Family Education Trust Bulletin.

The latest Bulletin has an important article on failure to safeguard teenage girls in Rochdale. To refresh your memory, in Rochdale a gang preyed on under-age teenage girls and were convicted of sex trafficking on 8 May 2012; other offences included rape, trafficking girls for sex and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child. 47 girls were identified as victims of child sexual exploitation during the police investigation.

Drawing from the official report prepared on behalf of the Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board, the Family Education Trust article highlights the way in which professionals had become complacent about underage sexual activity to the point that real risks were ignored. As the Report itself states:
‘The drive to reduce teenage pregnancy, whilst commendable in itself, is believed to have contributed to a culture whereby professionals may have become inured to early sexual activity in young teenagers. The culture from the top of organisations concerned with teenage pregnancy focused on meeting targets for the reduction of teenage conception and sexually transmitted diseases sometimes to the detriment of an alternative focus - the possibility that a young person has been or is at risk of harm and action other than clinical responses are required.’
It is fascinating to compare the Family Education Trust article and the report from the BBC which manages to omit any mention of the problem of focussing on the reduction of pregnancy (i.e. on the provision of contraception and abortion) to the detriment of a proper focus on safeguarding.

Congratulations to Bishop-elect Robert Byrne

Congratulations to Fr Robert Byrne, former Provost of the Oxford Oratory, who has been appointed an auxiliary Bishop in Birmingham. Fr Byrne was a member of the Birmingham Oratory before moving to Oxford in 1993 with two others to found the now flourishing Oratory at Oxford.

Fr Byrne is the first Oratorian bishop to be appointed in England since Fr Edward Bagshawe in 1874.

Friday, 14 March 2014

A Retreat for young women, with the Dominican Sisters in Scotland

The Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia in Scotland have been busy at many apostolic activities since they set up last year at Elgin, in the Diocese of Aberdeen. One of their activities is to run retreats for young women:
Encountering Christ Retreats for young single women, ages 18-35 who desire to grow in their relationship with Jesus and holiness. This semester we will respond to Pope Francis’s call to Gospel Simplicity: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit.
The next retreat is from 4-6 April 2014 (Friday – Sunday.) Young women who are interested can register at the Retreats and Vocations page.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Roman Forum Summer Symposium - this year with Fr Hunwicke

Ten days by Lake Garda, stimulating lectures from orthodox scholars, sung Mass according to the usus antiquior every day - the annual Symposium of The Roman Forum is a treat that one year I will take advantage of. This year it is from June 30 to July 11 with the theme 1914-2014: Have We Learned Anything From This ‘Hundred Years’ War’?

The Roman Forum website carries full information, including the news that the team this year includes Fr John Hunwicke of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, whose erudite blog Fr Hunwicke's Mutual Enrichment deserves attentive reading.

Questioning the Orthodox solution on divorce and remarriage

In the current debate on divorce and remarriage, the practice of the Orthodox Church is often cited as an option. In fact, it is usually referred to in vague terms as part of a way forward or of openness to new solutions, a more flexible pastoral approach or some other means of hinting, without saying definitely, that perhaps there will be a change in Catholic teaching.

This vagueness itself is damaging, and reminiscent of the period before Humanae Vitae, during which moral theologians hinted at various possibilities for a change in moral teaching. The result was great anger and disappointment when Pope Paul VI reaffirmed Catholic teaching in no uncertain terms.

On Tuesday, Fr Dylan James gave a helpful lecture for the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy (British Province of St Gregory the Great.) He spoke about the Orthodox practice, the concepts of oikonomia, economy or dispensation, sunkatabasis, condescension, and the problems involved with a second, penitential marriage. (There can be a third marriage, but never a fourth - well, not exactly never ...) Pastorally, those who wish to be married for a second time probably don't want to have their divorce and second marriage regarded as sinful and something granted out of condescension. Certainly they would not want the prayers referring to the mercy shown to the prostitute Rahab. Fr James has posted a text for his lecture if you would like to read it.

As ever, it was a great opportunity to meet with other clergy, including several friends from the Ordinariate, including Mgr Keith Newton. The Confraternity has another meeting scheduled in London on Wednesday 21 May when Bishop Athanasius Schneider will be speaking. This will be an evening meeting at 6pm, followed by a light supper. Members will receive further details by email and these will be posted on the Confraternity website. In the meantime, you could join the Confraternity.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

IBP seminarians at Blackfen

It was a great pleasure to welcome to Blackfen six seminarians from the Institut du Bon Pasteur last Sunday. The students were all from Brazil - the French students at the seminary naturally go home to their families for the holidays but that is not really an option for the Brazilians, so they drove over for a few days in London and called in at Blackfen.

Some of the students joined the choir, adding a couple of beautiful polyphonic motets as well as supporting the chant. Others helped on the sanctuary so that we had a full complement of servers. Of course one of the advantages of the usus antiquior is that the ceremonies are the same everywhere, so everything went smoothly.

After lunch, the students drove off down the A2 to see Canterbury Cathedral, hoping also to stop off at Leeds Castle.

Please remember these fine young men in your prayers, that the Lord will bring to fulfilment the work that He has begun in them.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

New School of the Annunciation at Buckfast

It is encouraging to see news of the new School of the Annunciation which is based at Buckfast Abbey in Devon. The aim of the school is to offer formation for the three ‘moments’ of evangelisation:
  • formation for initial witness and proclamation;
  • formation for systematic and comprehensive catechesis, apologetics;
  • formation in sacred theology as a deeper appreciation of the mysteries of the faith.
Fidelity and orthodoxy are promised in the statement of Vision and Mission of the School:
Courses and events delivered by the School will seek to promote among students and staff the passion, insight and creativity that only comes from the obedience of faith to God’s revelation safeguarded, explained and taught by the Magisterium of the Church.
Welcoming the foundation of the School of the Annunciation, the Rt Rev Mark O’Toole, Bishop of Plymouth, said:
“I am delighted to welcome this new initiative for the New Evangelisation at Buckfast Abbey, and I am grateful for the generosity shown by Abbot David and the Monastic community in providing it a home and direction. The Diocese of Plymouth looks forward to working with the School of the Annunciation so that the Gospel may more effectively be preached in our society.”
The academic faculty of the School of the Annunciation includes: Dr Andrew Beards, Academic Director; Dr Caroline Farey, Director of Studies; Dr Petroc Willey, Reader in the New Evangelisation, and Rev Nick Donnelly, Director of Formation.

Allegri's Miserere - but not as we know it

The version of Allegri's Miserere that we are accustomed to hearing was the creation of a 19th century musicologist according to Graham O'Reilly in a book to be published this year (See:  Allegri’s real Miserere revealed!)

Graham O'Reilly is the director of the Ensemble William Byrd which is responsible for the recording in the above YouTube video. The Product Description on Amazon says:
Those for whom the Allegri Miserere stands as a choral music icon will find this recording something of a shock. Getting on for a century after Gregorio Allegri penned his masterpiece in Rome in 1638, his work was emulated by Tommaso Bai, maestro of the St Peter's Basilica choir. To cut the story short, Bai's and Allegri's Misereres were eventually melded into a composite work for performance in the Sistine Chapel. A copy of this extraordinary hybrid was preserved in the Vatican archive after the papal choir was dissolved in 1870. From this, Hugh Keyte produced the performing edition heard here, incorporating the dramatic style and expression known to have been employed--including seemingly bizarre portamenti which at first seem like a joke.
The Description goes on to suggest that some may feel queasiness at this performance while others will be fascinated. I confess to being fascinated, indeed enchanted.

Archiv Music has a longer review by David Vernier. Thanks to Fr James Bradley on Facebook for posting the video. Fr Bradley blogs at Thine Own Service.

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