Thursday 29 July 2010

Rot sets in at the Seminary

In the 1980's I did most of my seminary formation at St Cuthbert's College, Ushaw in Durham. By then the Junior Seminary had been closed for some years and was at that time being used as a training facility for some sort of youth opportunities programme. Only once did I manage to gain entrance in there and was more than a little surprised to see how much had been left intact - altar cloths still on side altars, for example, while the main chapel was being used for brick-laying practice. It is actually physically joined to the Senior Seminary buildings. I came across these photos at this link:

taken by someone who had simply gained access to what is now a derelict building. What a shocker it is! This fine chapel with its decoration, statues and many other items used for the devotion and prayers of hundreds of seminarians just left to rot. A seminary in the latter stages of decay - how apt a metaphor!
As Venerable Pope Pius XII once said:
"I hear all around me innovators who wish to dismantle the Sacred Chapel, destroy the universal flame of the Church, reject her ornaments, and make her feel remorse for her historical past."

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Bishop Athanasius Schneider & Communion in the hand

Bishop Athanasius Schneider ORC, Auxiliary Bishop of Karaganga in Kazakhstan, will be attending the forthcoming priests’ training conference to be held at Downside Abbey from Tuesday 10th to Friday 13th August. Bishop Schneider will celebrate a Solemn Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form in the Abbey Church at Downside on Thursday 12th August at 11.00am. He will also deliver a lecture as part of the conference.

I spent a lovely week on retreat at Downside, a magnificent Abbey Church and last time I was there, offered Mass at Sir Ninian Comper's beautiful Lady Altar:

Bishop Schneider is also the author of "Dominus Est - It is the Lord!" a book of reflections on Holy Communion. (Newman House Press).
Here at St Catherine's we have replaced the Altar Rail and actively encourage the faithful to receive the Lord kneeling and on the tongue. Bishop Scheider explains powerfully why this should be so in all our churches. The following is a review of his interesting little book, which I heartily recommend.

Drawing from the Treasures of the Church.A plea of Bishop Athanasius Schneider for the worthy administration of Holy Communion
by Manfred Hauke

In his Apostolic Letter on the Eucharist Pope Benedict XVI recalls the words of St. Augustine: “But no one eats that flesh without first adoring It; we should sin were we not to adore It” (Enarrationes in Psalmos 98:9: Sacramentum Caritatis 66). Indeed the adoration of the eucharistic Christ belongs to the core of the Catholic Faith, and it must also be expressed in the liturgy. A small book by auxiliary bishop Athanasius Schneider of Karaganda (Kazakhstan) is dedicated to this wish, a book which has already aroused great notice in the Italian original edition that appeared last year from the Libreria Editrice Vaticana. The cover image shows Pope Benedict XVI as he brings Holy Communion to the mouth of a girl making her first Communion, kneeling in recollection and with hands folded. This practice is common now in papal Masses, at least for the faithful who receive Communion from the Holy Father personally. It is a reminder that Communion by mouth remains the universal norm of the Church, even in the reformed liturgy of Pope Paul VI, and that Communion in the hand has only been allowed additionally on a regional basis, with specific conditions. In view of the spread of Communion in the hand, almost worldwide by now, the stance of Pope Benedict XVI and the publication of the work which lies before us is almost a sort of liturgical revolution, as Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, the present secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, states in an extensive foreword (pp. 7-12) [preface, pp. 13-17]

This small but content-rich book does not present any argument that would reject the current practice of Communion in the hand on principle, but impressively shows important historical, liturgical, dogmatic, and pastoral reasons for the kneeling reception of Communion by mouth. The present-day practice of Communion in the hand is different from the usage of the early centuries of Christianity: according to the exemplary witness of Cyril of Jerusalem, the Eucharist was received with the right hand and then taken up by mouth (pp. 36ff) [pp. 34ff]. This was to ensure that no particles would be lost (pp. 36-42) [pp. 34-38]. Besides this circumspection, adoration is also important: if the faithful are to kneel at the eucharistic consecration as a sign of adoration, the author asks, how fitting is it to recommend the standing reception of Communion in the hand? (p. 63) [p. 50] It is admittedly not quite correct, as Schneider points out, that the Church “prescribes” kneeling at the consecration, but at least the latest 2002 edition of the Roman Missal recommends this posture, as does the post-synodal Apostolic Letter on the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis (2007, n. 65).

In a first section, Bishop Schneider tells of the “eucharistic women” in Kazakhstan, who, while the Church was under persecution, maintained the adoration of the Sacrament of the Altar at the cost of great personal sacrifice (pp. 13-22) [19-26]. The faith and reverence of these faithful, which so impressed the author, are indeed exemplary. The second part of the work presents “some historical-liturgical observations on Holy Communion” (pp. 23-60) [pp. 26-48] with a diligently prepared collection of texts from Church Fathers who are also highly regarded in the Orthodox Church. The author does not go into all the points of view discussed in liturgics regarding the reception of Communion, but still sets forth a convincing plea to rediscover the adoration of the eucharistic Lord and childlike reverence for the Sacrament of the Altar by means of Communion by mouth, received kneeling. The title of the work, “Dominus Est” -- “It is the Lord”, is a quotation from the Gospel of St. John: with these words the beloved disciple John points out to St. Peter the risen Christ, who appears to His own (Jn 21:7). Whoever believes in the bodily presence of the resurrected Lord in Holy Communion will be happy to share the author's conclusion: the house of God, the Church, can only be renewed when she places the eucharistic Jesus at the center, and acts “so that in the moment of Holy Communion a sign of reverence and adoration is also included.” (p. 64) [p. 51]

Bishop Scheider distributing Holy Communion at the Altar Rail of the Assumption Grotto in Detroit in July 2008.

Monday 26 July 2010

I thought I'd post this timely article about Cardinal Newman by my friend John Beaumont. John is a lawyer by training and was formerly Head of the School of Law at Leeds Metropolitan University. He is now working as a legal consultant and freelance writer on Catholic issues. He has written for leading Catholic journals in both the United States and Great Britain . His new book on converts is Roads to Rome: A Guide to Notable Converts from Britain and Ireland from the Reformation to the Present Day (2010). It is published by St. Augustine’s Press ( John can be contacted at


by John Beaumont

John Henry Cardinal Newman was undoubtedly the greatest convert of the nineteenth century. He also has much to say to us today. In the context of conversion to the Catholic faith it is a very fruitful exercise to examine the last few days of Newman’s life as a Protestant and his preparation for his reception into the Catholic Church. This can be done primarily by reading Volumes X and XI of his Letters and Diaries and by reading that classic text, written some twenty years later, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, in which he gave an account of his conversion.

Newman was received into the Church over the period of the 8th and 9th October 1845. He began to make his confession to Fr. Dominic Barberi on the evening of the 8th, continued the next day and was received that same day. In the Apologia Newman explains how this came about:

“One of my friends at Littlemore [J. D. Dalgairns] had been received into the Church on Michaelmas Day, at the Passionist house at Aston, near Stone, by Father Dominic, the Superior. At the beginning of October, the latter was passing through London to Belgium; and, as I was in some perplexity what steps to take for being received myself, I assented to the proposition made to me that the good priest should take Littlemore in his way, with a view to his doing for me the same charitable service as he had done to my friend.”

On 3rd October, Newman resigned his fellowship at Oriel College, Oxford. From then until 5th October he wrote to four persons, indicating what he might do, but only in terms of what was “possible”, “likely”, or “probable”. The 5th October, a Sunday, he spent preparing for a general confession. Then, during the period from 7th October to the morning of 9th October, Newman wrote no fewer than twenty-nine letters to relatives and close friends, nineteen of which still survive, letters that were “not to go till all was over.” In these letters he announced definitively that he was about to be received into the Church. There is in fact a thirtieth letter, also surviving, as he wrote twice during this time to his sister, Jemima (Mrs. John Mozley), having received a letter from her after sending the first one.

It is most enlightening (and, of course, moving) to read the texts of the nineteen extant letters. One of the most interesting aspects is the phraseology that Newman uses in order to express what was about to happen to him. In three of the letters he refers to his prospective “admission into the Catholic Church” and in one to admission into the “bosom of the Catholic Church.” One of these letters refers also to his being “received,” a term used on its own in three others. More significant, however, is the fact that in five of the other twelve letters (including those to luminaries such as Manning, Faber, and Henry Wilberforce) he uses the term “one true fold of Christ” or “one true fold of the Redeemer.” In another three (including that to Pusey) the reference is to the “one and only fold of Christ” or the “one and only fold of the Redeemer.” On one occasion it is the “one Church and one Communion of Saints”; and three times (notably to Jemima and to Newman’s great friend, R. W. Church) he uses the term “one fold of Christ” or “one fold of the Redeemer”.

It is interesting to note that after Newman’s death, R. W. Church claimed that Newman had become a Catholic because only the Catholic Church preserved in full strength the spirit of “devotion and sacrifice” of the Church of the Apostles. This evades the true issue by falling back on subjective phenomena (devotion and sacrifice) when Newman was interested above all, as can be seen in the last paragraph, in the evidence of objective truth (the One True Fold).

Now let us move on another 146 years and consider the following. In 1991 Dr. William Oddie was received into the Catholic Church. He was an Anglican clergyman and fellow of St. Cross College, Oxford. He had, of course, written to the Anglican Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, to explain his position. The bishop then issued a press statement, which was widely publicised at the time, in which he stated that Oddie was merely “moving into another room in the same house.” What is less well-known is Oddie’s response to this, which reads as follows:

“When I went to see him, I told him that was simply untrue. The truth was that I had been camping out in a garden shed, some distance from the main house, and one night when the rain was pouring in and the roof leaking, I went to the main house and begged for some shelter. And they opened the door and said ‘But of course! A room has always been ready and prepared for you. Welcome home!’ That was the reality.”
There is a world of difference between the approach of John Henry Newman and that of Dr. Richard Harries. Does this mean that the Catholic Church’s teaching has changed on this most important issue?
Well, it is certainly clear what Newman would have thought about Richard Harries’ press release in 1991. We know this because of a remarkably similar event. In a letter written by Newman, two months after his conversion, to Dalgairns, Newman describes a meeting with Dr. Pusey, who never of course converted, and states that Pusey expected them to act like vinedressers who had merely “transferred to another part of the vineyard.”
Equally trenchant would have been Newman’s attitude to those who today look forward to the eventual fusion of Rome and Canterbury. He had correspondence with such people, notably G. Dawson, an Anglican clergyman, in his own time and left no doubt as to what was the authentic Catholic attitude. In a letter written in 1848 Newman expressed clearly and directly why there could be no fusion: “The Anglican and the Catholic are two religions. I have professed both, and must know better than those who have professed one only. It is not a case, then, that one believes a little more, and the other a little less; and therefore that they could unite. The religions never could unite; they never could be reconciled together.” He goes on to expound on this by listing a large number of points where the two religions crucially differ, for example in respect to a living authority, one centre of jurisdiction, the sacraments, and the question of ordination, concluding as follows:
“It is a dream then to think of uniting the two religions; I speak from experience of both. And, in finding this to be the case, I am recording no disappointment on my part. I joined the Catholic Church to save my soul; I said so at the time. No inferior motive would have drawn me from the Anglican. And I came to it to learn, to receive what I should find, whatever it was. Never for an instant have I had since any misgiving I was right in doing so – never any misgiving that the Catholic religion was not the religion of the Apostles.”
It is because Newman held that conversion was a vitally important matter and, as he put it to Mrs. Lucy Agnes Phillips, the widow of an evangelical clergyman, “the Catholic Church claims absolute submission to her in matters of faith,” that he insisted that a decision must be made. On the one hand, as he wrote to many correspondents, and to Mrs. Phillips herself in 1851, “unless you believe her doctrines, as the word of God revealed to you through her, you can gain no good by professing to be a Catholic – you are not one really.”
On the other hand, Newman emphasised the seriousness and urgency involved, and the danger of delaying beyond a certain point. As he wrote in 1873 to another prospective convert, Mrs. Newdigate, “If your mind has been clear for some time that the Church we call Catholic is the one true fold of Christ, and if you can acknowledge all her teaching, what she teaches and shall teach, it is your simple duty to ask for admittance into her communion, and you cannot delay your actual reconciliation, except the priest to whom you go tells you to delay.” Newman kept preaching, especially to converts, that there was only One True Fold, that to belong to it was the key to one’s eternal salvation, whereas to postpone endlessly one’s conversion might inure one into the treacherous habit of living in sin, the sin of schism. As he wrote to Lord Charles Thynne, another prospective convert, “Two different bodies cannot form a single body: one or other is not the Church, or, to use your language, one or the other is in schism…The question is, whether, were you dying, you would be satisfied in your not having joined Rome.”
So, to return to the question put earlier, has the Church changed its teaching on this issue? Not at all. One only needs to look at the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, especially the Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) and the Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio), together with a number of important post-conciliar documents. These would include, in particular, the following texts issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Mysterium Ecclesiae (1973); Notification on the Book of Father Leonardo Boff, “The Church: Charism and Power” (1985); Dominus Jesus (2000).
The latest summary and clarification of all of this is contained in the same Congregation’s document, Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church, issued on 29th June 2007. The crucial passage is the following:
“Christ ‘established here on earth’ only one Church and instituted it as a ‘visible and spiritual community,’ that from its beginning and throughout the centuries has always existed and will always exist, and in which alone are found all the elements that Christ himself instituted. ‘This one Church of Christ, which we confess in the Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic... This Church, constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him’
In number 8 of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium ‘subsistence’ means this perduring, historical continuity and the permanence of all the elements instituted by Christ in the Catholic Church, in which the Church of Christ is concretely found on this earth.
It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them. Nevertheless, the word ‘subsists’ can only be attributed to the Catholic Church alone precisely because it refers to the mark of unity that we profess in the symbols of the faith (I believe... in the ‘one’ Church); and this ‘one’ Church subsists in the Catholic Church.”
In addition, in the Notification on Leonardo Boff, referred to above, the essential points are made very clearly indeed. In response to Boff’s assertion that the one Church of Christ “is able to subsist in other Christian Churches,” the Notification states that “the Council chose the word ‘subsistit’ specifically to clarify that the true Church has only one ‘subsistence,’ while outside her visible boundaries there are only ‘elementa Ecclesiae’ which – being elements of the same Church – tend and lead to the Catholic Church.” This is all part of the connection between Christ and his Church. The real reason the Church is One is because Christ is One. The voice of Christ is not preserved by Churches that contradict one another.
In addition to all of the above teaching, there is now the Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 6th October 2007 and dealing with the implications for mission. This is completely in line with the documents referred to above.
So, when we look at Newman’s reflections on conversion and its nature we can be confident that we are looking at the truth. In addition to the teaching of the Church on this question there is, of course, the force of logic. As that expert on Newman, Fr. Stanley Jaki, writes, “Newman’s words were so many reminders that the Son of God, in whom alone there is salvation, established only One Fold, which therefore had to be the sole True Fold. After all, if God was one, and the Son was Only begotten and took flesh in only one specific moment in space and time, then the uniqueness of that Fold had to appear a matter of elementary logic.”
Finally, there is no better way to express the Catholic faith on this issue than was done by Newman himself in 1851 in a letter to an unnamed woman:

“Dear Madam, Of course, my only answer to you can be that the Catholic Church is the true fold of Christ, and that it is your duty to submit to it. You cannot do this without God’s grace and therefore you ought to pray Him continually for it. All is well if God on our side.”

(Especially recommended on Newman’s guidance to prospective converts is Professor Stanley L. Jaki’s Newman to Converts: An Existential Ecclesiology (2001), published by Real View Books and available from the publishers at

Saturday 24 July 2010

The Maniple
Originally the maniple was a piece of linen which clerics used to wipe their faces and hands akin to a handkerchief. It appears to have been used in the Roman liturgy since at least the 6th century. It has been symbolically linked to the rope by which our Lord was led and the chains which bound his hands. It has also become known as an emblem of the tears of penance, the burden of sin, and the fatigue of the priestly office. This understanding is reflected in the vesting prayers said while putting on the maniple before Holy Mass:
As he places the maniple over his left arm the priest prays:

Merear, Domine, portare manipulum fletus et doloris: ut cum exultatione recipiam mercedem laboris.

Lord, may I worthily bear the maniple of tears and sorrow so as to receive the reward of my labour with rejoicing.

Every priest should rejoice at such a prayer!

Friday 23 July 2010

Balanced coverage of Papal visit?

For those who think my views on many things are unique - this article from Zenit (read at gives some indication of a wariness about the BBC and its attitude towards Catholicism. I highly recommend Zenit as a source for news coverage of the Church.

BBC Prepares "Balanced" Coverage of Papal Visit
Reality Betrays the Rhetoric

By Edward PentinROME, JULY 22, 2010 (

When Mark Thompson, the director general of the British Broadcasting Corporation, came to Rome in February to prepare coverage of the upcoming papal visit to Britain, he denied the BBC had an innate bias against the Catholic Church. He and other BBC managers believe that coverage, like much of its programming, is respectful and balanced, and that programs on the Church are of a high standard. But as the papal visit nears, how true is this? Judging by programs already aired and rumors of those planned, sadly not very true at all. According to a number of news sources, the BBC is expected to upset many Catholics when it broadcasts a program timed to coincide with the Pope's Sept. 16-19 visit. The contents of the program remain under wraps, but some news sources say it will be a 90-minute drama that puts the Pope on trial, accused of covering up sex abuse perpetrated by priests. The BBC is being very coy about the rumor. A spokeswoman told me July 21 that programs are being made to coincide with the state visit, but couldn't give details -- even regarding possible content -- for "scheduling reasons." She was also unable to give information about any papal visit-related programs which had already been broadcast. The most prominent program the corporation has aired so far in connection with the visit has been a BBC Radio 4 drama on Cardinal John Henry Newman, whom the Holy Father will beatify in Birmingham on Sept. 19. Called "Gerontius," Newman was played by the respected actor Derek Jacobi. But the play had nothing to do with the soul's progress toward purgatory, nor did it bring out the relevance to people's lives of Newman's great theological works. Instead, it focused on his close friendship with Fr. Ambrose St. John -- a friendship gay rights campaigners say was of a homosexual nature, but which Newman scholars stress was simply one of close, fraternal affection. Reviewing the play in The Catholic Herald, author Francis Phillips wrote: "Halfway through [a] breathless, melodramatic dialogue between Newman and his guardian angel, a young male voice declares: 'The Roman Catholic Church is homophobic!' It is further inferred that Newman's motto, 'From shadows into the truth,' could be a disguised code for his wanting to come out of the closet." Phillips proposed reading the foremost Newman scholar, Father Ian Ker, instead. Aside from programs directly related to the papal visit, the BBC has produced some praiseworthy output. In March, Radio 4 broadcast "Heart and Soul," an excellent documentary on suffering and how it can lead to a personal understanding of Christ's resurrection. That same month, BBC News Online carried a very balanced article by Vatican correspondent Gerry O'Connell on the Vatican's media handling of the sexual abuse crisis.
Thinly veiled
But most programs continue to betray the BBC's dominant secularist leanings. Although it has made an effort to ask a few orthodox-thinking Catholics to appear on its news programs, the majority still tend to be dissenting Catholics. Those faithful believers who do get on are usually harangued, as was the case on April 5 when an Italian Catholic philosopher and politician, Rocco Buttiglione, appeared on Radio 4's Today program to discuss the sexual abuse crisis. Buttiglione gave a spirited and balanced defense, but was constantly interrupted by presenter John Humphrys.English priest blogger Father Tim Finigan summed up the problem when in May he wrote about an internal BBC e-mail he had been sent. "The BBC are hosting a staff discussion on Christianity," he wrote on his blog The Hermeneutic of Continuity. "Who do they get to do it? A history professor and campaigner for gay rights who describes his own current religious position as that of an agnostic or atheist with a background in Anglicanism, and a Muslim academic. […] As my correspondent comments, 'How very BBC.'" And if evidence were needed that the BBC is unable to take the faith with the seriousness it deserves, Cristina Odone, a former editor of The Catholic Herald, wrote April 29 in the Telegraph how angered she was when the BBC sent a comedian to interview her about the clerical sex abuse scandal -- and spent much of the time mocking the faith. "Would the BBC do this to a Muslim? A Jew? A Hindu?" she asked. "Of course not. They haven't got the guts. But when it comes to the Catholics, send in the clowns." When I wrote here about the BBC's bias in February, I concluded that among BBC management, there wasn't so much a dominant anti-Catholic animus -- though that undoubtedly exists in some quarters -- as an inability among its predominantly secularist staff to take the faith seriously. The Church of England tends to agree. Earlier this year, it criticized the BBC's coverage of religion in general as "not good enough" and expressed concern that religious affairs broadcasting is being sidelined. Even one of the BBC's erstwhile religious affairs presenters, Roger Bolton, complained in a speech in March that a religious perspective on the news is "so bafflingly absent, both on air and behind the scenes in internal editorial discussions." But criticizing the BBC is easy to do, and often done. A friend who works for the corporation recently lamented that knocking the "Beeb" is rather like "shooting fish in a barrel -- though fish barrel shooting isn't as popular a sport." Indeed, public broadcasters the world over come in for similar accusations of bias. In his Rome speech in February, Thompson referred to a few typical jibes: "'Just what is the license-fee for anyway?' 'Abolish it.' 'Why not put a bomb under them,'" he said, adding: "These aren't quotes from the British press. They're from Bild, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Flemish paper De Standaard, Il Giornale and Spiegel. Nor are they about the BBC -- they're about ARD/ZDF, VRT and RAI."
Culture of death
But it could be argued that the BBC's bias against the Catholic Church has more serious and sinister undertones than simply the ordinary flaws of a public broadcaster, ones related not only to a malaise in the corporation but more generally among the country's media elites and perhaps within British culture as a whole. The BBC, after all, is not the only UK broadcaster to knock the Church: with remarkable though unsurprising chutzpah, Channel 4 has asked gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell to front a documentary on Benedict XVI. But the BBC is said to particularly suffer from a pervading secular mindset, one that embraces, or is sympathetic to, the culture of death, whether it be abortion, radical feminism, the homosexual agenda, contraception, euthanasia, or unethical science such as embryonic stem cell research. Drug-taking among employees is also said to be widespread.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

From the parish newsletter this week.


A few more stills!

Monday 19 July 2010

St. Catherine's - Votive Mass of the Blessed Trinity on 6th July 2010

Solemn High Mass was offered on the occasion of a fiftieth Wedding Anniversary. The Missal allows for Mass in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary or in honour of the Blessed Trinity (the latter was chosen). Mass was followed by the moving blessing provided in the Ritual for a Golden Jubilee.

St Catherine's here in Farington, Leyland, is a small church and only once before in recent times have we been able to offer Solemn Mass (on major feasts we usually offer a Missa Cantata) so great care had to be taken in making sure we could offer the Mass in a fitting and dignified way with all the Sacred Ministers and servers that Solemn Mass involves. It was a great occasion and much appreciated by a congregation that filled the church for the occasion (including the vocal support of a baby's voice which can be heard on the video clips at various times!) My thanks, not only to the baby but especially to those who provided the rest of the music, raising our hearts and minds to God and helping to provide an atmosphere of prayer. It is one of the beauties of the Mass, when celebrated in the manner which the Church prescribes, that it gives so much space for ALL those who are there, whether they come in joy or sadness at that particular moment, that it allows each individual (in the presence of the believing community) to bring their needs and worship to Almighty God.