Monday 31 October 2011

All Saints and All Souls

The High Altar at St Catherine's set for Mass

A busy time for celebrating feast days this week! Christ the King in the old calendar last Sunday and then on Tuesday for the Feast of All Saints we have Missa Cantata at 7pm in the evening (one of the few remaining Holydays of Obligation here in England).

On All Souls Day - Solemn High Mass at 7pm (being offered particularly for the repose of the soul of Fr Michael Williams - a priest of this diocese who died suddenly in September only seven years ordained).

To celebrate the Traditional Mass in a solemn way means a great deal of active and actual participation on the part of a goodly number of laity and clergy, so as ever, so I'm hoping that there will be likewise a goodly number in the congregation for both Masses of people from both far and near.

Saints of God - come to our aid!

Saturday 29 October 2011

Nothing was broken in the liturgy before Vatican II

Bishop Edward Slattery on how to say Mass in conformity with the teaching of Vatican II

A friend sent me a link to an interview with Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa, Oklahoma in The National Catholic Register. It's well worth reading - particularly for what he says about the liturgy and to note that ONCE AGAIN an orthodox bishop who encourages a love for the liturgy in line with the Church's teaching seems to attract more vocations to the priesthood. It seems we are still waiting for Vatican II to be properly implemented - not the fantasy island version of disruption and discontinuity that we have experienced but the real version faithful to the documents and in continuity with the teaching, Councils, Popes and liturgy of our God-given and God-guided Tradition.


I would like to see the liturgy become what Vatican II intended it to be. That’s not something that can happen overnight. The bishops who were the fathers of the council from the United States came home and made changes too quickly. They shouldn’t have viewed the old liturgy, what we call the Tridentine Mass or Missal of Pope John XXIII, as something that needed to be fixed. Nothing was broken. There was an attitude that we had to implement Vatican II in a way that radically affects the liturgy.

What we lost in a short period of time was continuity. The new liturgy should be clearly identifiable as the liturgy of the pre-Vatican II Church. Changes, like turning the altar around, were too sudden and too radical. There is nothing in the Vatican II documents that justifies such changes. We’ve always had Mass facing the people as well as Mass ad orientem [“to the east,” with priest and people facing the same direction]. However, Mass ad orientem was the norm. These changes did not come from Vatican II.

Also, it was not a wise decision to do away with Latin in the Mass. How that happened, I don’t know; but the fathers of the Council never intended us to drop Latin. They wanted us to hold on to it and, at the same time, to make room for the vernacular, primarily so that the people could understand the Scriptures.

Q: You yourself have begun celebrating Mass ad orientem.

Yes, in our cathedral and a few parishes where the priests ask me to. Most of the time, I say Mass facing the people when I travel around the diocese or when I have a large number of priests concelebrating, because it works better that way.

A few priests have followed my example and celebrate ad orientem as well. I have not requested they change. I prefer to lead by example and let the priests think about it, pray about it, study it, and then look at their churches and see if it’s feasible to do.


Q: How has your Diocese of Tulsa changed since you first arrived nearly 18 years ago?

We’ve also gone from having one of the older clergy populations in the country to one of the youngest. In the last 18 years, most of our priests who were on active duty have died or retired. I’ve ordained about 30 since I’ve arrived, and we have about 50 active priests total. Our average age now is about 45 or 46.

Confraternity of Catholic Clergy Colloquium

Priests at the Colloquium

The Chapel

I have just returned from an excellent two days with the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy Colloquium at the Oratory School in Reading. The School (founded by Blessed John Henry Newman) is a lovely setting and was most hospitable to the fifty or so priests who gathered in fidelity for formation and fraternity - to borrow the confraternities motto. Well done to Frs Peter Edwards, Richard Whinder and Marcus Holden for organising the Colloquium. It’s not often that one can come away from a clergy gathering and say how sweet it is when brothers dwell in charity - and unity - and mean it! The Confraternity has only recently been founded in this country and this was my first contact with it at one of its events. would encourage all priests to consider joining. It's only in its infancy but already has over 200 members. We were joined by Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury and Bishop Geoffrey Jarret of Lismore, Australia, who celebrated Mass for the brethren and preached rather well on Christ the High Priest, revealing that whenever Thursday was taken taken up with a feast, he offered a votive Mass under that title for his priests. A thoughtful and meaningful way of a bishop showing care for those under his fatherly care.

Bishop Geoffrey Jarret with some of the brethren

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury gave the first Conference. His address was greeted with nearing on rapturous applause from the brethren. A priest of some distinction sitting next to me said that he had never heard the like from an English Bishop! I probably won’t be able to capture the atmosphere but Bishop Mark spoke from the heart about his own priesthood and wasn’t afraid to challenge us in ours. His words spoke of a love for the Priesthood and for the Church but in a way that addressed the real situation most priests there recognised as their own - sadly, not a frequent occurrence for many of us. And he made us laugh as well - a rare talent indeed!

He thinks that the crisis in vocation is partly due to many priests (and people?) failing to recognise the gift that the Priesthood really is and following the Holy Father, pointed to St John Mary Vianney as the reference point and unsurpassed example for our priesthood. Bishop Mark has sent his new seminarians to train for a year at the seminary in Árs set up by Venerable Pope John Paul II - in an attempt to give them the opportunity to pick up something of the Curé’s spirit.

Bishop Mark asked what it is that the Priest brings to the world and answered that it is love for God that he brings, to the most abandoned places of the world. I noted that he said love for God, not just human love, our own love, or practical help, or love for each other but love for God.

Quoting St Paul writing to the Ephesians he asked us if the love with which we were first called and brought us to the Priesthood had been abandoned in many priestly hearts, asking us to recapture that first enthusiasm.

Recognising that we can often struggle, he recalled the story of St John Vianney whose parishioners were getting up a petition to his bishop to say that he wasn’t fit to be their priest - the Curé asked to sign it himself!

In a refreshing insight that hopefully reflects the direction of travel in his own diocese, Bishop Mark pointed out that when John Vianney first went to Árs the church building itself was in a state of very poor repair with most of the people lapsed and a virtually non-existent congregation would have been very high on any diocesan list of places to close!

Bishop Mark didn’t exclude himself and his fellow bishops from challenge either - recounting the story of the founder of the Neo-Catechumenate who would often approach bishops with the question, “My Lord, do you believe in God?”

He also told us of a recent conference for bishops on the New Evangelisation where some of the bishops were rather put out to discover that the first session was not about evangelising others but evangelising - starting with an invitation to go to Confession immediately after the talk! (He didn’t say how many availed themselves of the opportunity.)

Another of the talks was given by Mgr Andrew Wadsworth, who has been intimately involved with the new translationof the Roman Missal. He gave us some excellent insights into the new translation and the aim to be faithful to the Latin original under the prescriptions of Liturgiam Authenticam, which included the faithful translation of the rubrics - particularly those that indicate the norm of offering the Mass ad orientem, which are sprinkled throughout the canon (in both the Latin and English Missal) which some had asked to be removed. As the Monsignor explained, he could only translate - not add or subtract to the text!

There are other accounts of the event by other blogging priests who were there and you can see plenty of photographs at Fr Sam's Flickr page.

At dinner in "The Black Room"

The little Newman Altar where I offered early morning Mass

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Solemn Mass on All Soul's Day for Fr Michael Williams

I am planning Solemn Mass for All Souls Day at 7pm this coming Wednesday. It will be offered for the repose of the soul of Fr Michael Williams.

Father Michael, who was Chaplain to Broadgreen Hospital and only 42 years old, died suddenly on the evening of Thursday 29 September, the Feast Day of the Archangels. After studying at Ushaw College he was ordained in 2004, so had been just seven years a priest. Michael was a gentle and spiritual man with a deep love for the Church.

Some of those who knew him and worked with him will be assisting at the Mass on Wednesday. Michael was appreciative of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Indeed he expressed a desire to learn it but had the disadvantage of having been taught no Latin at all in the seminary and the Lord called him home before that particular ministry could be fulfilled - just one of many gifts that he would no doubt have given to the Church.

If any other priests would like to attend in choir, could they please let me know.

Please pray for Michael's family.

May he rest in peace.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

What makes priests unhappy

Priests sometims need a thick skin to cope these days!

Fr Trigillio over at the Black Biretta has an excellent post on "Why priests are happy and sometimes not". It reflects many aspects of my own experience - of being happy and not! It's a long article but well worth reading to gain an insight into how certainly many priests of my acquaintance often feel. Here are some tasters from it:

"clerical sycophants are what discourage priests. When their bishops do not treat them as sons of the church but as lower level managers whose task is to be a company man at all times, then you get some unhappy priests on your hands."

"What deflates priests, is not celibacy or Magisterium, but subterfuge, duplicity and deceit from their own ordained brethren."

"What makes us unhappy is being treated like we’re guilty before we even know what the accusation is. "

"when priests are admonished for enforcing canon law and requiring sponsors for baptism and confirmation to be Catholics in good standing; when priests are reprimanded for exercising their legitimate liturgical options as stated in universal law; when pastors spend sleepless nights over meeting diocesan assessments; when assignments and transfers are arbitrary and haphazard rather than based on experience, history and qualifications; then zeal begins to erode and evaporate."

Sunday 23 October 2011

How to subvert the rule of law

I posted about this French play some time ago and now it has moved to Paris where peaceful demonstrations outside the theatre by Catholic students led to their heavy-handed arrest. Another group protested on the stage, as shown by Gloria TV in the video footage above. Yet another group tried to get an injunction against the play through anti-hate crime legislation which makes it an offense to dishonor and ridicule believers through the most sacred aspects of their faith - amazingly, the judge rejected this.

It does seem that the law in many parts of the Western world is now interpreted in a way that penalises the Christian Faith. Where other religions can rely on the law to be interpreted generously to defend them, Christians seem to experience it going in the other direction.

Having laws is obviously a good idea but a skewed interpretation or ignoring them altogether is a recognised Orwellian nightmare. Of course, we have this within the Church. The "laws" (rulings and norms and canon law) that are issued in Rome by the Vatican and the Holy Father are routinely ignored, while legislation that is meant for elsewhere in the world is applied here when it suits. To take one example - the possibility of Services of the Word with Holy Communion for Sundays that are envisaged in missionary countries where there is no possibility of a priest have been perverted in the West to take place regularly on weekdays when attending holy Mass (let alone the receiving of Holy Communion) is not obligatory. I presume this has come about as an opportunity to force lay people into "presiding" up on the sanctuary.

I have direct experience of this type of Orwellian re-interpretation here in my own diocese where the diocesan guidelines and Church law don't seem to apply - at least that is, they don't always apply to me whenever they are perceived as re-enforcing anything that looks like Traditional Catholicism. At the moment, I'm not even being allowed to nominate the governors to the parish school - that is, not when I nominate myself or anyone that might challenge the liberal status quo.

Anyway - here is the article below.

French police brutality against Catholic demonstrators.

PARIS, France. ( - A group of Parisian Catholic students was beaten by riot police during a protest in front of a theater during the premiere of a blasphemous play by Italian playwright Romeo Castellicci, on Thursday evening.

On the Concept of the Face of the Son of God is a scatological representation of an old man wracked with diarrhea whose son wipes and cleans him repeatedly on stage under a large reproduction of a Face of Christ by Antonello da Messina. Brown feces fill the stage - synthetic odor included -, the two actors leave the stage, then a dozen children carrying schoolbags make their appearance and throw plastic grenades at the image of Christ. The image later appears to crack up and a dark liquid similar to the feces seen earlier invades the face which is then covered with the words, “You are not my shepherd”.

For the first night at the publicly subsidized “Théatre de la Ville” in Paris on Thursday, several unrelated groups organized public protests. One group had bought tickets and disrupted the show with stink bombs before climbing on the sage with banners proclaiming “Cathophobia : we’ve had enough”. Riot police entered the theatre to move out the protesters, some of whom were arrested.

Another group of young activists of the historic French royalist movement, l’Action française, chose to organize a peaceful demonstration in front of the theatre. A few dozen young French Catholics chained themselves to the railings of the theater under the noses of three vanloads of riot police (“CRS”) who quickly closed in to dislodge them. Heavy-handedly using their bats and teargas, the armored police forces beat up the young people, handcuffed them and forced many of them flat on the ground.
Demonstrators make it onto the stage

One young man who was lying handcuffed, with part of his body on the street, unable to move, was injured at this point when a police van backed into him, riding over his foot. The injury appeared to be severe as he was in great pain, and he was quickly evacuated by emergency services to the nearby “Hôtel-Dieu”, the historic Parisian hospital near Notre-Dame. As it turned out there was only a severe flesh wound. A complaint is being lodged against the police force responsible for this brutality.

Seventeen other young demonstrators were arrested and kept in police custody for 24 hours, at the end of which three of them were charged with “rebellion”. One of the young men has also been charged with “theft” as one of the police force’s caps was missing…

At the beginning of the week the rights defense group AGRIF (Alliance against racism and for the respect of French and Christian Identity) used an emergency procedure to obtain an order to block the showing of On the Concept of the Face of God. The request was rejected on the ground that some scenes were undoubtedly offensive and violent, but that they were susceptible to many contradictory interpretations.
The defiled image after the children throw objects at the image

The judge, Emmanuel Binoche, made clear that there is no anti-blaspheme law in France. Although the judge was correct, anti-hate-crime laws nevertheless make it an offense to dishonor and ridicule believers through the most sacred aspects of their faith. Still Binoch ruled that AGRIF must pay the “Théâtre de la Ville” 1,200 euros in costs.

The judge’s stance aided by the fact that a few priests have been applauding Castellucci’s play for its thoughtfulness and insight.

On the other hand, a growing number of French bishops have publicly voiced their dismay at the rising number of anti-Catholic shows and plays: cardinal André Vingt-Trois of Paris and the spokesman of the French bishops’ conference, Mgr Bernard Podvin, both called on French Catholics to make their indignation public and to question public funding of the shows.

In December, Paris will be hosting a Hispano-Argentinian play called Golgota Picnic which outraged Spanish Catholics when it opened in January this year in Madrid. Like Castellucci’s work, it is obsessed with the image of Christ and heaps insults and accusations on the Church. Typically, it accuses the traditional representations of the Crucifixion of planting the seeds of pedophilia within the priesthood.

Another Catholic group which launched a petition ( against these plays, “Civitas”, received support from a French bishops including Mgr Aillet of Bayonne and Mgr Aumonier of Versailles who encouraged Catholics to react against these “insults to our faith”.


In reparation:

O Sacred Head

O Sacred Head surrounded
By crown of piercing thorn!
O bleeding Head, so wounded,
Reviled and put to scorn!
Death's pallid hue comes o'er Thee,
The glow of life decays,
Yet angel hosts adore Thee
And tremble as they gaze.

I see Thy strength and vigor
All fading in the strife,
And death, with cruel vigor,
Bereaving Thee of life;
O agony and dying!
O love to sinners free!
Jesus, all grace supplying,
O turn Thy face on me!

In this Thy bitter Passion,
Good Shepherd, think. of me,
With Thy most sweet compassion,
Unworthy though I be;
Beneath Thy Cross abiding,
'Forever would I rest,
In Thy dear love confiding,
And wilth Thy presence blest.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux [1090-1153]

Saturday 15 October 2011

Petition to Review the Second Vatican Council

The Second Vatican Pastoral Council.

Rorate Caeli carries a report picked up from several European sites and with the full text now in English at DICI about a petition to the Holy Father "that he might be willing to promote a more in-depth examination of the pastoral council, Vatican II."

It's interesting that there are more and more voices calling for a way of placing the Second Vatican Council in some sort of historical, traditional and theological context instead of seeing it as the only foundation document / event of the modern Church. This overarching way of seeing Vatican II as the prism through which everything else must be judged was certainly the dominant zeitgeist when I was at seminary. The Holy Father himself, in calling for a hermeneutic of continuity, is very much part of this movement - not to disown the Council but to reclaim it for the mainstream Church from the aggressive liberal mindset that has been dominant in misinterpreting it for the past fifty years.

As a friend of mine was saying recently, when priests quote Pope Benedict and documents from Rome from the last ten years, they are often criticised as being "old-fashioned" and out of touch. "After all, we've had Vatican II." But Vatican II is now a part of history to many of us. We were not even born when it began! When it speaks of the modern means of communication, they were relying on Telstar and the Home Service as the only national radio station in this country. "Z Cars" was just starting on the only TV channel we had and Sandie Shaw was winning the European Song Contest for us five years into the Council with "Puppet on a String" - not exactly what we think of when we say "modern"! However, Pope Benedict and Summorum Pontificum are right up to date - contemporary with the Internet and with people under 20 years of age, rather than over 60, which you would have to be to even remember the Council, so it probably is time to set it in some proper context.

There are excellent questions asked in this petition organised by Monsignor Brunero Gherardini, a priest of the Diocese of Prato and Canon of Saint Peter’s Basilica, who is well known as a former professor of Ecclesiology at the Pontifical Lateran University and dean of Italian theologians. Here are some of them:

1) What is the true nature of Vatican II?

2) What is the relation between its pastoral character (a notion that will have to be explained authoritatively) and its dogmatic character, if any? Can the pastoral character be reconciled with the dogmatic character? Does it assume the latter? Does it contradict it? Does it ignore it?

3) Is it really possible to define the Second Vatican Council as ‘dogmatic’? And therefore to refer to it as dogmatic? To use it as the basis of new theological assertions? In what sense? Within what limits?

4) Is Vatican II an “event” as the Bologna School understands it, in other words, one that cuts all ties with the past and inaugurates a new era in all respects? Or does it relive in itself the whole past eodem sensu eademque sententia [in the same sense and with the same purpose]?

“It is plain that the hermeneutic of rupture and the hermeneutic of continuity depend on the answers that one gives to these questions. But if the scientific conclusion of the examination concludes by allowing the hermeneutic of continuity as the only acceptable, only possible one, then it will be necessary to prove (beyond any declaration) that this continuity is real, that is manifested in the underlying dogmatic identity.

“If it should happen that this continuity cannot be proved scientifically, as a whole or in part, it would be necessary to say so calmly and candidly, in response to the demand for clarity that has been awaited for almost a half a century.”

In his recent, well-documented History of Vatican II, Professor de Mattei offered the public a precise, realistic picture of the tormented, dramatic unfolding of that Council, and he concluded:

“At the end of this volume, allow me to address reverently His Holiness Benedict XVI, whom I acknowledge to be the successor of Peter to whom I feel inseparably bound, expressing my deep thanks to him for having opened the doors to a serious debate about the Second Vatican Council. I repeat that I wanted to make a contribution to this debate, not as a theologian, but as an historian, joining however in the petition of those theologians who are respectfully and filially asking the Vicar of Christ on earth to promote an in-depth examination of Vatican II, in all its complexity and its full extent, to verify its continuity with the twenty preceding councils and to dispel the shadows and doubts which for almost a half a century have caused the Church to suffer, with the certainty that the gates of hell will never prevail against Her (Mt 16:18).”

5) What is the exact meaning given to the concept of “living tradition” that appeared in the Constitution Dei Verbum on Divine Revelation? In his recent study on the fundamental concept of Catholic tradition, Msgr. Gherardini maintained that during Vatican II a “Copernican revolution” took place in its way of understanding the Tradition of the Church, since the Council did not clearly define the dogmatic value of Tradition (DV 8); contrary to custom, the document reduces to one (ad unum) the two sources of Divine Revelation (Scripture and Tradition) that have always been admitted in the Church and have been confirmed by the dogmatic Councils of Trent and Vatican I (DV 9). The document even appears to oppose the dogma of the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture (DV 11.2), for why, “after declaring that everything affirmed by the inspired authors comes from the Holy Spirit, is the privilege of inerrancy attributed only to the ‘salutary’ or ‘salvific truths’, as a part of the whole (veritatem, quam Deus nostrae salutis causae Litteris sacris consignari voluit)? If the Holy Spirit inspired everything that the biblical authors wrote, inerrancy should apply to everything, and not just to salvific truths. The text therefore appears to be illogical.”[3]

6) What is the exact meaning to be given to the new definition of the Catholic Church contained in the Dogmatic Constitution (which nevertheless does not define any dogma) Lumen gentium on the Church? If it coincides with the perennial definition, namely that only the Catholic Church is the one true Church of Christ because it is the only one to have maintained over the centuries the deposit of faith handed down by Our Lord and the apostles under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, then why did they try to change it, by writing in a way that is not easily understood by a simple believer and is never clearly explained (we must say), that the “one” Church of Christ “subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him. Nevertheless many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines. Since these are gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces impelling towards Catholic unity” [LG 8]? In this formulation, does it not seem that the Church appears to be merely a part of the Church of Christ? A mere part because the Church of Christ is said to include also—besides the Catholic Church—“many elements of sanctification and of truth” located “outside” the Catholic Church? It would follow that the “one true religion [that] continues to exist in the Catholic Church” (Declaration Dignitatis humanae on religious liberty, 1.2) was the religion of a “Church of Christ” that possesses “elements” outside of the Catholic Church. Which can also be understood, if you want, as “the one true religion” that subsists, according to the Council, likewise in the non-Catholic “elements” of “the Church of Christ”?

7) What is the true significance to be given to the notion of the Church understood in its totality as “People of God” (Lumen gentium 9-17), a notion which in the past referred only to a part of the whole, whereas the whole constituted the “Mystical Body of Christ”?

8) What significance is to be given to the omission of the terms “supernatural” and “transubstantiation” from the Council documents? Does this omission also modify the substance of these concepts, as come claim?

9) By establishing a sort of collective responsibility, doesn’t collegiality cause the individual bishops to lose authority?

What is the exact significance of the new notion of collegiality? In light of the constant teaching of the Church, what are we to think of the interpretation in the Nota explicativa praevia, the “preliminary explanatory note” placed at the start of Lumen gentium (a note that was put there to nullify the debate among the Council Fathers)? We cite the doubts clearly presented by Romano Amerio:

“The ‘preliminary note’ (Nota praevia) rejects the classic interpretation of collegiality, according to which the subject of supreme power in the Church is the Pope alone, who shares it when he wants with the totality of the bishops convened in council by him. The supreme power becomes collegial only when communicated by the Pope, at his pleasure (ad nutum). The ‘preliminary note’ likewise rejects the opinion of the innovators, according to which the subject of supreme power in the Church is the episcopal college united to the Pope and not without the Pope, who is the head of it, but in such fashion that when the Pope exercises the supreme power, even by himself, he does so precisely as the head of said college, and therefore as a representative of this college, which he is obliged to consult so as to express their judgment. This is a theory modeled on the one that claims that all authority owes its power to the multitude: a theory that is difficult to reconcile with the divine constitution of the Church (which is hierarchical and of divine, not popular, origin). In refuting these two theories, the Nota praevia insists that the supreme power belongs to the college of bishops united to their head, but that the head can exercise it independently of the college, whereas the college cannot exercise it independently of the head (and this is supposedly a concession to Tradition).”[4]

Is it accurate to maintain that assigning juridical powers—those of a real college, properly speaking—to the institution of Bishops’ Conferences has in fact depreciated and distorted the role of the bishop? Indeed, in the Church today the bishops, taken individually, seem not to matter at all, practically speaking (Your Holiness will forgive our frankness). On this point, here is Amerio again:

“The novelty that has stood out most in the post-conciliar Church is the opportunity now for participation [in decision-making] by all Church authorities that are juridically defined organs, such as diocesan and national Synods, parish and presbyteral Councils, etc…. The establishment of Episcopal Conferences has produced two effects: it has deformed the organic structure of the Church, and it has resulted in the loss of authority by the [individual] bishops. According to the canon law in force before the Council, the bishops are successors of the Apostles, and each one governs in his diocese with ordinary power in spiritual and temporal matters, exercising there a legislative, judiciary and executive power (canons 329 and 335). This authority was precise, individual, and except for the institution of the vicar general, not capable of being delegated (whereas the vicar general depended on the willingness of the bishop—ad nutum)…. The Decree Christus Dominus attributes collegiality to the body of bishops in virtue of its “supreme, full power over the universal Church”, which would be in all respects equal to that of the Pope if it could be exercised without his consent. This supreme power has always been acknowledged in the case of the assembly of bishops convened in an ecumenical council by the Pope. But the question arises, whether an authority that can be put into effect only by a superior authority can be considered supreme and does not amount to a purely virtual object, a thing existing only in the mind (ens rationis). Now according to the spirit of Vatican II, the exercise of episcopal authority in which collegiality is actualized is that of the Bishops’ Conferences.

“Here is an oddity: the Decree (in section 37) finds the reason for the existence of this new institution in the need for the bishops of a country to take concerted action; it does not see this new tie of cooperation, which henceforth has a juridical configuration, as a change in the structure of the Church that would replace a bishop with a body of bishops and personal responsibility with a collective responsibility that is therefore fragmented…. By the institution of Bishops’ Conferences the Church has become a multi-centered body…. The first consequence of this new organization is therefore the loosening of the tie of unity [with the Pope]; this has been manifested by enormous dissensions on the most serious points [for example on the teaching of the Encyclical Humanae vitae dated July 25, 1968, which prohibited the use of contraceptives]. The second consequence of the new organization is the loss of the authority of each bishop considered separately as such. They are no longer responsible to their own people nor to the Holy See, because their personal responsibility has been replaced by a collegial responsibility which, belonging to the whole body, can no longer be imputed to the different elements making up that body.”[5]

Is the priest today reduced to the role of an organizer and presider over the assembly of the People of God?

10) What exact significance is to be given today to the priesthood, an authentic institution of the Church? Is it true that since the Council the priest has been demoted from “sacerdos Dei” [“a priest of God”] to being “sacerdos populi Dei” [“a priest of the people of God”] and has been reduced mainly to the role of “organizer” and “presider over the assembly” of the “People of God” and to the role of a “social worker”? In this regard the following should be critiqued: Lumen gentium 10.2, which seems to try to put at the same level the “ministerial” or “hierarchical” priesthood and the so-called “common priesthood of the faithful”—which formerly was considered as a mere honorific title—by its statement that the two “are none the less ordered one to another, ad invicem tamen ordinantur” (see also LG 62.2); LG 13.3, which seems to describe the priesthood as a simple “duty” or office of the “People of God”; the fact that preaching the Gospel is listed as the first priestly “duty” (Decree Presbytorum Ordinis on the ministry and life of priests, 4: “it is the first task of priests as co-workers of the bishops to preach the Gospel of God”), whereas on the contrary the Council of Trent recalled that what characterizes the priest’s mission is in the first place “the power to consecrate, offer, and administer the Body of Blood of the Lord” and in second place the power “of forgiving or retaining sins” (DS 957/1764). Is it true that Vatican II devalues the fact of ecclesiastical celibacy by stating that “Perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven was recommended by Christ… and has always been highly esteemed in a special way by the Church as a feature of priestly life [even though] it is not demanded of the priesthood by its nature” (PO 16); might this last statement be justified by a false interpretation of 1 Tim 3:2-5 and Tit 1:6?

11) What is the exact significance of the principle of “creativity” in the Liturgy, which without any doubt results from the fact of having granted to the Bishops’ Conference a broad competence in this matter, including the option of experimenting with new forms of worship so as to adapt them to the characters and the traditions of the people and so as to simplify them as much as possible? All this is proposed in the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium on the liturgy: art. 22.2 on the new competencies of the Bishops’ Conferences; 37, 39 and 40 on adaptation to the characters and traditions of the peoples and on the criteria for liturgical adaptation in general; articles 21 and 34 on liturgical simplification. Were not similar options for innovating in liturgical matters condemned in all ages by the Magisterium of the Church? It is true that the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium still calls for the supervision of the Holy See over the liturgy and innovations in it (SC 22.1, 40.1-2), but this supervision has proved incapable of preventing the widespread devastation of the liturgy, which has driven the faithful out of the churches, and this devastation continues to be unleashed even today, despite disciplinary action and the intention of Your Holiness to eliminate abuses. Could not competent studies bring to light the reasons for this failure?

What difference is there between conciliar religious liberty and secular freedom of conscience?

Obviously we cannot formulate all the questions that the documents of the Council raise and that are related to the present situation of the Church. On this subject we venture to add only the following:

12) The principle of religious freedom, proclaimed by the Council for the first time in the history of the Church as a “natural” or “human right” of the person, whatever his religion, and thus a right superior to the right of the one Revealed Truth (our Catholic religion) to be professed as the true religion, in preference to the others that are not revealed and therefore do not come from God; this principle of religious liberty is based on the presupposition that all religions are equal, and consequently its application promotes indifferentism, agnosticism and eventually atheism; as it is understood by the Council, how is this principle distinguished really from the secular freedom of conscience that is honored among “the rights of man” that were professed by the anti-Christian French Revolution?

13) Doesn’t present-day ecumenism also seem to lead to a similar result (indifferentism and the loss of faith), given that its principal aim seems to be not so much the conversion (as much as possible) of the human race to Christ as its unity and even its unification in a sort of new world Church or religion that is capable of ushering in a messianic era of peace and fraternity among all peoples? If those are the aims of present-day ecumenism—and they are already found in part in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes on the Church and the modern world—then doesn’t this ecumenical dialogue seem to drift dangerously toward a certain “agreement between Christ and Belial” [cf. 2 Cor 6:15]?[6] Shouldn’t the whole dialogue of the post-conciliar Church with the contemporary world be reconsidered?

And here is Sandie Shaw, reminding us just how "modern" things were at the time of the Council!

Friday 14 October 2011

Logic of "New Church" would have us abandon EVERY Christian Teaching!

Stephansdom in Vienna: among Austria's church buildings that do not belong to dissenting clergy.

I was directed to this article which I copy below on The Catholic Thing by Randall Smith. I particularly like the logic of highlighting the ridiculous notion that just because many Christians don't live up to a particular teaching , we should jettison it - followed through that would mean we would have to reject every teaching of Our Lord, the Church and the Scriptures!

The Austrian Priests’ Initiative

By Randall Smith

I was glancing at the British journal The Tablet the other day and came across an editorial on something called “The Austrian Priests’ Initiative.” “That’s nice,” I thought. “Priests taking initiative.” It quickly became clear, however, that these aren’t exactly priests eager to take on more. Indeed, as far as I can tell, they seem eager to shed the really challenging part of their job: namely, dealing with sin.

According to The Tablet: “The Church has been in turmoil since more than 300 priests led by Mgr. Helmut Schüller called for disobedience on matters such as priestly celibacy and Communion for re-married divorcees.” By “the Church,” I take it they mean the “Austrian Church,” since the whole business hasn’t really rocked my world. Where I live, Mass is still being celebrated and confessions are still being heard.

Be that as it may, The Tablet goes on to add that: “The priests are drawing attention to the wide and growing disconnection between the norms of official church teaching, and everyday Catholic life as lived by many of the clergy and laity. Issues raised include birth control, Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried, priestly celibacy, and the treatment of homosexuals.”

Why always the same old list: birth control, celibacy, homosexuality, divorce, and remarriage (a.k.a, “how to replace your old, annoying, unsexy wife with a newer, sexier model”)? Is there nothing these priests can think about other than sex? How about greater support for Catholic parents who are struggling to raise six kids? How about better civic values and concern for the common good? How about better pay for teachers in Catholic schools and nothing less than a first-rate education for all Catholic school children? Nope. Just sex.

These priests must imagine that all of us who are married are getting sex all the time. I hate to disappoint them, but modern women tend to take a rather dim view of husbands who think of their wives as regular sex machines. If you’re not ready for celibacy, guys, you’re probably not ready for marriage.

“What Catholics hunger for,” says The Tablet, “and not just in Austria, is a Church of integrity, without hypocrisy, doublespeak or pathological denial.” If by that they mean people should practice what they preach, then absolutely. If they mean people should stop preaching what’s hard to practice, well then, that’s just silly. Nobody ever said Christianity was going to be easy.

When surveys come out trumpeting that such-and-such a percentage of Catholics don’t practice what the Church teaches on, say, contraception, I feel like pointing out to them that 100 percent of Catholics don’t practice what the Church preaches about loving their neighbor as themselves, forgiving as they have been forgiven, not stealing, and not coveting their neighbor’s possessions. (Once you throw “coveting” in there, things get really dicey, don’t they?) In addition, 100 percent of Catholics don’t consistently care for the poor or live up to the demands of the Beatitudes. So should the Church “bow to reality” and dump those things too, because they’re hard? Look, if only 40 percent of Catholics are failing to live up to the Church’s teaching on contraception and conjugal union, then I’d say we’re still about 60 percent ahead.

What exactly are these priests thinking? I assume nearly everyone is going to be stuck in the rut of sin pretty much every day. That’s why I find accusations of “hypocrisy” a bit odd. If going into a Catholic church were a public proclamation of being sinless, then, yes, we’d all be hypocrites. But since I take it that going to church implies: “I’m a sinner who wants to do better, in need of the forgiveness of Jesus Christ,” then charges of “hypocrisy” are simply misplaced. Catholics don’t claim to be perfect. People who aren’t sick don’t need a doctor.

As for the “disconnection between the norms of official church teaching and everyday Catholic life” the Tablet is worried about, let me be the first to admit to a pretty healthy distance in my life between theory and practice. I call the gap between the two: “sin.” The theory is: “love my neighbor as myself.” But I act like a selfish jerk. That’s precisely why I need a priest who’s willing to go through that struggle with me, not one who finds the messy business of dealing with sin just too. . .what?. . .unsophisticated?

This business in Austria seems pretty serious. One headline called it “Austria’s Moment of Truth.” Another talked of “schism.” Wow. Schism. Really? Over what? In centuries past, people argued over deep theological issues such as the nature of Christ, the Trinity, and the sacraments. These priests seem willing to walk away from a two-thousand-year-old Church because it teaches that a married couple shouldn’t turn fertility into a pathology that needs to be treated with drugs or sterilized with the sexual equivalent of a latex surgical glove.

But look, if these priests feel they have to walk away, God go with them. Being a priest and dealing with sin is admittedly hard. No one can force you to do it. Just one thing, though: If you leave the Church, guys, leave the church. Schismatics somehow think they get to keep the beautiful buildings. Gentlemen, the places where you live and work were built over centuries by generations of faithful men and women dedicated to principles you now reject.

The buildings don’t belong to you just because you’ve lived in them for a precious few years. You were merely holding them in trust for the next generation. If you no longer wish to carry on the tradition handed down to you, fine. Walk away if you must. But please, go build your own churches. We’d like ours back.

Randall Smith is associate professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas, Houston.

Thursday 13 October 2011

Anniversary Mass

Introibo ad altare Dei.
We had a lovely Mass here last night for my twentieth anniversary of Ordination. It's amazing how smoothly the seemingly complicated High Mass can be accomplished when everyone knows what they are doing! (Reading the descriptions in Fortesque can make it seem impossibly complicated but the reality can, in fact, flow very smoothly and beautifully.) My thanks to Anthony Dickinson for arranging the music with his usual aplomb. Thank you as well to all those who came - both parishioners and friends from further afield and for all the messages sent by those who couldn't be there. You can't see the chauble very well but it's the one I was ordained in

The celebrations continue this evening as the parishioners are taking me out for a meal after Devotions - so some unsuspecting local hostelry is in for a raucous surprise!

A couple more images from the Mass and varia from the Reception afterwards in the Pope John Paul Room.

Saturday 8 October 2011

Sad reflections on the Priesthood as expereinced by many

The decisive moment twenty years ago with
the Archbishop of Liverpool, Derek Worlock
in the Church of the English Martyrs,
Litherland, Liverpool.

Tomorrow (Wednesday 12th October) will be the twentieth anniversary of my Ordination to the Sacred Priesthood. I will offer Mass at 7.30pm (EF) followed by a glass of something fizzy and canapés. Anyone who can make it is welcome to come along.

At this twentieth anniversary I have found myself in reflective mood.

In those twenty years I have been a curate, returned to study, spent three years as a school chaplain, spent nine years in my first parish as parish priest, and attempted Religious Life - among other things. I can honestly say that I have not experienced it as easy - in my personal struggles and in the context of a Church that is shrinking and seemingly failing in many ways. The members of the Church, including its clergy, are much divided. However, I have also been the privileged conduit of God's grace by bringing the Sacraments into people's lives at both precious and difficult times. If I had not been ordained I would never have experienced the care and friendship of many that I hold dear.

But there is a great sadness that seems to pervade the years. The longer I have been in the Priesthood and the more priests I have encountered, I have come to realise that there is a swathe of priests who have experienced the institutional Church as harsh, uncaring and even hurtful where they looked for a family and where they looked to serve the Lord. Some of these have disappeared, finding the struggle too much. Many others have given up in different ways. Many others struggle on quietly, disengaged from their brother priests, sometimes bullied by those in authority (this usually dressed up as righteousness), disengaged from their diocese but trying to minister in some little corner where they have been left to get on with as best they can.

All these different categories arise from different causes - perhaps they had a fall or a difficulty, a human frailty that let them down. Others just don't fit in with the prevailing regime - too outspoken, too Trad, too sensitive, too idealistic, even too holy. You will see that none of these is wicked or evil and yet those who fall into these categories are much sidelined and often mocked. What shocks me, on reflection, is just how many priests like this I meet.

Of course the Church is a human institution as well as a Divine one and yet somehow I feel that the Divine has been abandoned too readily. In the malaise the Church finds herself in in the recent past, so many seem to be busy not reaching for the divine, the holy, the Other but rather re-making the Church as a human institution - useful and acceptable but not an instrument of redemption, of wonder, or of beauty.

This is not a happy reflection and we shy away from it for it does not speak of success and growth and joy and yet it is the elephant in the room that everyone sees but no-one wants to mention. A shrinking Church and a Church in which so many people only half believe is indeed sad because it means fewer people who are on the way to the all-fulfilling life that is sharing in the redemption the Lord offers us or having so frail a grasp on it that they let it slip away.

We are bidden to pray for our priests and they certainly need it but let us pray for every member of the Church that the whole Church regains the confidence to shout its message from the rooftops.

It may just be that these priests are those who act in persona Christi not just at the altar where they make manifest the Risen Lord but also in their lives where they manifest the crucified Lord. May God bless and sustainus all wherever we may be.

Merear, Domine,

portare manipulum fletus et doloris;

ut cum exsultatione recipiam mercedem laboris.

May I deserve, O Lord, to bear the maniple of weeping and sorrow
in order that I may joyfully reap the reward of my labors.

Vesting prayers: putting on the maniple.

How Our Lady granted victory at Lepanto

Battle of <span class=
The Battle of Lepanto, October 7, 1571.

Jeremias Wells at TPF Student Action writes the following. A story worth hearing again, perhaps particularly following on from the last post, which is really about the need for Christan values to human life.

In times of acute danger and hardship, we must always fly into the arms of the most powerful Mother of God and turn to the recitation of the Rosary. The Battle of Lepanto is a great lesson of confidence for us today.

When Saint Pius V ascended to Saint Peter’s throne, Christendom faced perils perhaps unequaled in its history of continual conflict, not the least of which came from the agitated and violent followers of Mohammed.

All the information and intelligence that Pope Pius V had been gathering indicated that the Ottoman juggernaut was about to roll across the Mediterranean and adjacent lands, spearheaded by the Turkish fleet, with Italy and Rome as one of its targets. No nation could stand up to the marauding infidels and the candidates for an alliance were few.

Northern Europe had risen up in armed rebellion against the Church with France deeply involved in the conflict, while much of Europe felt that neutrality was the best policy to follow after the Turks occupied a large chunk of its land in the Danube River Valley.

Only Spain and Venice had the resources to resist, and they hated each other along with deep mistrust. Yet Saint Pius — calling down divine grace as only a man of prayer could — forged an alliance with them as the core of an organized fleet of over 200 galleys. With his considerable tact and diplomatic skills, he not only kept them unified, but he convinced them to attack the enveloping menace.

Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The Archbishop of Mexico had an exact copy of the Holy Image of Guadalupe sent to King Philip II, who in turn gave it to Andrea Doria, one of the three principal admirals of the fleet, who placed it in his cabin. When the Armada went from file to line abreast and attacked on the morning of October 7, 1571 the blue standard of Our Lady of Guadalupe was also flying from the masthead of Don Juan’s flagship. But Our Lady’s presence that day was more acutely felt through the Holy Rosary.

Our Lady of the Rosary

Pope Pius V, a Dominican prelate before his elevation, did what Catholics have always done in times of acute danger: fly into the arms of the most powerful Mother of God. As a follower of Saint Dominic, he knew the most effective means of imploring her help was through the recitation of the Holy Rosary. He ordered all monasteries and convents in Rome to increase their prayers for the impending battle and organized rosary processions in which he, as sick as he was, participated.

As the Christian fleet sailed toward the great clash of cultures, Mass was celebrated and the rosary recited daily on each vessel. This heartfelt request for divine assistance resulted in a crushing defeat of the Ottomans at Lepanto that ended their dominance in the Mediterranean.

To celebrate Our Lady’s intercession, the Church has designated October 7 as the Feast of the Holy Rosary and Saint Pius V added Help of Christians (Auxilium Christianorum) to the Litany of Our Lady (Loreto). Similar acknowledgement to the Blessed Virgin’s intercession through the rosary were made when John Sobieski forced the Turks to lift the Siege of Vienna in 1683 and after the victory of Prince Eugene of Savoy at Temesvar in his successful campaign to remove the Ottomans from Europe in the next century.

While the din of battle gradually diminished at the bloody waters off Lepanto, Saint Pius V was going over accounts in the papal apartments with Bartolo Busotti, his treasurer. Suddenly, he arose with his face radiant with joy and announced, “Let us go and thank God, for this moment our fleet has defeated the Turks.” Human agency brought news to Rome two weeks later.

Our Lady of Fatima
The message of Our Lady of Fatima is a call to conversion. But will the world listen?
“Finally my Immaculate Heart will triumph!”

Some may object to the historical paradigm, not that it is inappropriate, but that it happened a long time ago. Yet, the Blessed Virgin made another historical visit to earth just ninety years ago, bringing roughly the same message to a larger distressed population. As Our Lady of the Rosary, she appeared six times at Fatima in Portugal to three related children, two of whom have been beatified.

In essence, she warned that God was terribly offended by the sins of mankind and unless that sinfulness subsided the world as a consequence would face horrible chastisements. Immediately following, we had a bloody conclusion to World War I, then six years of the most depraved slaughter of World War II and continual wars, atrocities and mutilations ever since instigated by two of the enemies of Western Civilization: Communism (as Our Lady predicted) and Islam. Sinfulness has not abated, but only increased, especially in the areas of family life, immoral fashions and lewd entertainment.

Our Lady will intervene once again in history, either to help her suffering children who have recourse to her or to bring down the wrath of God on those who refuse to pray, make sacrifices and stop offending Him. During the third apparition she announced the ultimate result, “Finally my Immaculate Heart will triumph!”

Friday 7 October 2011

Iran to execute Christian Pastor

Please pray for Iranian pastor Yusuf Nadarkhani, who is facing a death sentence for the "crime" of apostasy.

The UK director of Aid to the Church in Need is appealing for prayer and action to spare the life of an Iranian pastor who faces execution for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.

Neville Kyrke-Smith called for Christians to “speak up and pray out loud” as a decision is awaited following the retrial of Yusuf Nadarkhani.

Mr Nadarkhani, 35, who is married with two children, was sentenced to death in September 2010 when he was found guilty of apostasy.

An appeal was subsequently lodged and, despite upholding the original sentence, the Supreme Court agreed that the case be re-opened.

A verdict is expected imminently after last week’s four-day trial.

Mr Kyrke-Smith said: “There needs to be a voice for the silent and suffering Church – and for over 60 years Aid to the Church in Need has spoken out when others have feared to do so.

“Now is the time to speak up and pray out loud for Christians placed in a stranglehold by oppression.

“The decision to execute Pastor Nadarkhani is not justifiable in the name of any religion, it is a totalitarian act – one man’s life being ended to dissuade others from opposing the political regime.

“All who love God – whatever their faith – must join in prayer that this decision be overturned.

“The Catholic community must not be struck dumb as such suffering goes on.”

Please read his story at Aid to the Church in Need HERE.

The best way to evangelise this country is through Mary

The Zenit news agency carries the pice below about the re-establishment of the Marian procession in Manchester. The Catholic News Agency carries the report in the video above.
The procession in Manchester used to be one of the great annual Catholic events in the city, so it's great to see it re-established with so much initial success. Congratulations to the Marian Community of Reconciliation for organising it. One of their aims is evangelisation of our culture and it seems that honouring Our Lady in this manner is one good way of going about it in a multi-cultural area where a procession (including participants from the Indian Kerela community) is something other religions and cultures recognise and understand and can relate to. England as the Dowry of Mary is certainly ready for Her help again, if only we would call on it more often in this way.

Congratulations as well to the Catholic police men and women who volunteered their time to marshal the procession - surely a an active lay involvement that really is in the spirit of what Vatican II meant by active participation - the laity helping to evangelise the world (rather than taking over the priest's duties on the sanctuary).

Sadly, I've not had as much success here in my little parish with getting people out for Marian processions which has been a great disappointment to me as in my previous parish we would fill the church with 500 people for the crowning of the statue after the procession. Perhaps I need to be bolder and trust that Our Lady will see it through.

Marian Procession Unites Faithful in Manchester.
Participants Welcome Chance to Show Pride in Their Faith

The Marian Community of Reconciliation and the Christian Life Movement have brought a traditional Marian pilgrimage back to the streets of Manchester.

Last Sunday's event brought some 1,000 people to the predominantly Muslim neighborhood of Rusholme for a procession with Our Lady of Reconciliation.

"It's been fantastic," reported one participant, Damian O'Reilly of Greater Manchester Police. "I remember the old days and it's nice to get something going again and show that we're proud of our faith.

"This is just going to get bigger and bigger. This year we've had 1,000 participants, but next year we'll have 5,000."

Local school children, teachers, parishioners of different ethnicities and eight priests came together to pray the rosary and sing songs.

Joseph Martin McDonagh, one of the volunteers who helped carry the platform, decided to go barefoot.

"Today has been the most fulfilling day of my life," he said. "I regret the way I used to live and I'm so happy I was allowed to do this."

"I wish I was still carrying her now," said the 37-year-old. "I've always had a soft spot for Mary. My mother had problems when she was pregnant with me and promised Our Lady to entrust me to her if I was born safe."

Evangelizing through Mary

Mary Patricia Fehily, 75, from Hale, is one of the many who remembered her childhood years.

"I had tears in my eyes when they lifted Our Lady and it all began," she said. "I was walking in the love of Jesus and Mary.

"It brings back so many memories of my youth because in Ireland we used to process three times a year. Hopefully this will make people think of our Creator."

Bagpipes were played during the walk and 12 drummers from India performed in traditional Kerala dress in the park.

"In India we have many more processions and Hindus and Christians celebrate them in a similar style. Our processions last many hours and we play our drums during a very long time," said Binson Konickal Baby. "There are approximately 2,000 Catholic families from Kerala in Greater Manchester. This is one way of integrating in the European community and we feel very welcomed."

The superior of the Marian Community of Reconciliation, Andrea Velarde, said it surpassed all their expectations.

"We realized that the best way to evangelize in this country is through Mary so that's what has happened," she said. "It was very moving to see people's piety. The volunteers didn't even want to stop carrying her to switch turns as they were supposed to."