Tuesday 31 December 2013

Decorating For Christmas

We have never posted photographs of our little Church before, so I thought I’d upload these which show how we have decorated this same little Church for this holy season. We are a former mining village in quite a rural setting, outside the Cities of our Diocese. In fact, our former parish priest described this area as the ‘back-end of beyond’! Still, we like the place and we are very proud of our little Church which was built in 1900. As you can see, we celebrate all our Masses towards the altar. Father did this unexpectedly in his first Easter with us nine years ago, and asked for responses via the Bulletin: approve/disapprove/no preference. There was an almost 50/50 split between approve and disapprove, so Father took the opportunity to change all Masses to ad orientem, spurred on by comments that “it felt more holy” and “I felt as though we are all walking to God together”. I hope you like the pictures –and sorry about the quality. The camera we used is rather inexpensive and not too brilliant! I might be able to persuade Father to let us take a better photogrpah during the Mass of the Epiphany...

PS The final picture is a Solemn High Mass two years ago. The celebrant is Father Dickson with Father Philips as Deacon and Father Brown as Subdeacon.

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Christmas Homily

Today's Feast speaks its own Word, the Word-made-Flesh, so little needs to be said. But I cannot allow that to become an excuse for saying nothing at all, so here are my few Christmas words, posted as my sister prepares the Christmas lunch...

Christmas: for some people Christmas is “about the children”; for others it is about “family”. In reality, Christmas is about one child –the Christ child, and about one family –the Holy Family.

Christmas is a remembrance of the great day when the love of God for sinful man became visible in the Word-made-Flesh, Jesus Christ; the only-begotten Son of the Father, who came at the Father’s will to suffer and die with and for sinful man then rise again destroy death and restore life to all who seek Him. Such folk have their sins forgiven; they are renewed in spirit, and follow Him to heaven.

The Mass we celebrate on Christmas Day and every day is always the same Mass; here on the altar is made Present the Body of Christ that was born for us in Bethlehem and given up for us in Sacrifice outside Jerusalem, with the same Blood that was poured out on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. This is the measure of how much God loves us; it is an unfathomable love; a love we cannot even hope to comprehend.

Since Christ is truly Present at Mass, so too is the Father and the Holy Spirit  -with all the angels and saints who surround the Blessed and undivided Trinity in eternity. Truly, at Mass, Heaven is made present on earth. Indeed, we come to Mass to come to heaven; we come to Mass to have Christmas, Easter and Heaven made present to us; to show God that we want heaven to be our home. Since The Mass is truly heaven on earth, to be absent from Mass is to be absent from heaven; and that is a sad situation in which to place our soul. Parents: do take seriously the duty to keep your children devoted to the Mass before all else; to place Mass -Heaven- before all else. It’s our only true and lasting home.

Making present Christmas, Easter and Heaven, every Mass is a demonstration of God’s love for us; and where we demonstrate our love for Him by responding; by coming to Mass and receiving the Lord in Holy Communion whenever we are in a state of grace and therefore able to make Him welcome. Christmas and Easter, made present to us in the Mass, are the greatest acts of giving and receiving of love -Divine love, unfathomable love, to which we must do our very best to respond.

May the Divine love be with you and your families tonight and throughout your lives.

Monday 23 December 2013

A Problem for Pope Francis –In His Own Words

When Pope Francis was elected and appeared on the balcony without the papal regalia, a number of people had an uncomfortable feeling that he was more conscious of himself than the office to which he had been elected, and that he was making a negative comment on the humility of his predecessors. I admit that I could not see what TV reporters claimed to see: that the new Pope was “radiating the humility of his name-sake, St Francis”, I couldn’t see it because St. Francis never abandoned his religious dress, the thing for which the new Pope was being praised. Sadly, taking a photographer into the pope-mobile has not helped Francis demolish the impression that he is over-conscious of himself. Rather, it has affirmed it for many.

I have no doubt that Francis is far more humble and holy than I am; and without doubt he is a man who genuinely cares for those who suffer poverty or illness. But he is giving signals to both sides of the ecclesiological divide which may widen the divisions in the Church rather than heal them. If there was a way of Francis ensuring healing it was to answer questions on morality by quoting the Catechism given us by John-Paul II, and affirming that the Traditional Mass is a right for all priests of the Latin Rite as declared by Benedict XVI; Francis would thus have shown there is a universal doctrine to hold, and prevented flag waving by those who accept only one Form of the Mass. My own hope when he was elected was that, with John-Paul having given us a sure norm of doctrinal teaching (the Catechism) and Benedict having re-set the liturgy in continuity with our past, Francis would show us how to deepen the spiritual life by drawing upon the works of St Ignatius. Sadly, remarks such as “who am I to judge?” on homosexuality and “we are speaking too much about abortion” have galvanised those who seek doctrinal change; while by affirming the “no” to women priests and speaking about the devil he has assuaged Traditionalists. Yet it is impossible to walk in both camps, and if the situation with the Franciscans of the Immaculate is any indication, it will be on the liberal side of the fence that Francis will most likely come down in the end, since he has said of himself, “I have never been a right-winger” and admitted to having an “authoritarian” manner:

My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative. I lived a time of great interior crisis when I was in Cordova. To be sure, I have never been like Blessed Imelda [a goody-goody], but I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.” [emphasis added] cf. http://www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview

An interested party might therefore ask, “Can Francis overcome these traits easily?” If the answer is ‘no’, the follow-up question is, “Then how safe is the Church in his hands?” Taking Francis at his own word, it is important that he not only overcomes his quick-fire and authoritarianism manner -his quote indicates he believes he is- but also that he is seen to be overcoming them, since a “quick manner of making decisions” indicates an impulsiveness which can mitigate against wise action, while authoritarian attitudes do not sit well with humility or compassion but can, taken with an “I am right” attitude, be tyrannical in expression. Note that I am not saying Francis is proud and tyrannical, but these are dangers to which those who are quick-fire and authoritarian in their decision-making can fall prey. How Francis allows the situation with the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate to be handled -and it is a handling which so far appears to be one of partisanship and oppression- may end up being the measure of this papacy in history. It may also be detrimental to souls scandalised by what they see, and unhelpful to the unity of the Church.

Sunday 22 December 2013

Authentic expression of the Faith in the Novus Ordo...again...

I related here those aspects of the Missa Normativa (Novus Ordo or so-called ‘New Mass’) which leave me unsatisfied with it as an expression of our Faith. I stated in that post that “I may be alone in saying the New Missal can be seen as an authentic expression of the Faith, but I find it hard to believe that sincere and holy Popes such as John-Paul II and Benedict XVI did not find the Novus Ordo poor enough to warrant significant alteration”. I have been asked how I can still see an authenticity when there are significant differences, such as “the direction the priest faces; the use of readers, extraordinary ministers, reception of Holy Communion in the hand while standing and the use of English all give a very different feel to the New Form of Mass”. Since these are significant differences in the experience of the Mass, I attempt a reply...

On the Orientation of the priest:
I find the orientation of facing of the people difficult to accept because it makes the priest the focus of the people and the people the focus of the priest, with God getting somewhat overlooked. The argument that people should see the liturgical action is, I suggest, nonsense, since there is no change in the elements to be seen and no difference in the elevation. In that several genuflections and many signs of the cross over the elements have been removed in the Novus Ordo there is in fact, less to see than there was before: “let them see what you are doing, but do significantly less”.

On the Use of Lay Readers:
Though it has no place in the liturgical tradition of the Church I can accept this since, if the people have the task of proclaiming the word in the world, it can be given expression in the liturgy. That said, Sacrosanctum Concilium sought to improve our reverence for the Scriptures and I think this was better achieved by reserving it to clerics.

On the Use of Extraordinary Ministers:
I find this very difficult to accept. The priest enables Christ to carry out through him the four-fold action Christ performed at the institution of the Holy Eucharist: i.e., to take, bless, break and give. To situate the ‘giving’ elsewhere (the extraordinary Minister) is to divorce one element of the four-fold action from the rest.

On Holy Communion in the hand:
I find this difficult to accept because it [a] amounts to communicating oneself and [b] is reminiscent of receiving a ticket on a bus. Further, it is not clear that Our Lord gave the Holy Eucharist even to His Apostles on the hand (He dipped the bread into the chalice before giving it to Judas (John 13v26), and one does not place soggy food in a guest’s hand. Indeed, it has been noted that the custom at the time and place of the Last Supper was to feed honoured guests directly into the mouth, I support Communion on the tongue because it shows [a] that we are receiving something at Mass which is unique; [b] our dependence upon God in that we are receptive to His grace; and is [c] reminiscent of lovers placing a portion in their loved one’s mouth as a loving or romantic gesture. On an ecclesial note, Communion in the hand as we have it today was initiated by the Reformers as a denial of the Real Presence, and is therefore not something we should be imitating.

On the use of English (i.e., the vernacular):
I find this acceptable and perhaps even laudable for the readings, which are instruction for the people of God, and the Intercessions, but I find it a poor choice for the Ordinary of the Mass. Like Vatican II (Sacrosanctum Concilium 54), I expect “the people be able to say or sing in Latin those parts of the Mass that pertain to them”: The Confiteor, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Pater Noster, Agnus Dei, Domine non sum dignus. If we take seriously the Church’s unity in universality, then we require a universal language to express that unity. Further, the experience of that unity by a common language is a psychological (and therefore a pastoral) benefit to the people.

I can still say the Novus Ordo can be seen as an authentic expression of the Faith however, because none of the above are intrinsic to the Novus Ordo: the vernacular was determined by Vatican II for the readings and General Intercessions; the orientation of the priest in the GI and rubrics is toward the altar, and neither Extraordinary Ministers or Communion in the hand are even mentioned (the latter was introduced illegally, and on consultation with the whole episcopate by Pope Paul, was rejected by of the world’s Bishops -the same Bishops who four years earlier had sat at Vatican II cf. Memoriale Domini (1969):

1. Do you think that attention should be paid to the desire that, over and above the traditional manner, the rite of receiving Holy Communion on the hand should be admitted?
Yes: 597
No: 1,233
Yes, but with reservations: 315
Invalid votes: 20

2. Is it your wish that this new rite be first tried in small communities, with the consent of the bishop?
Yes: 751
No: 1,215
Invalid votes, 70.

I must note that I am unhappy with the loss of the silent Canon, the silence conveying a sacredness the spoken word cannot (‘silence speaks volumes’, as the saying goes), and the reduction in the number of genuflections seems a clear diminishment of adoration. Hardest to accept it is the replacement of the Offertory with a grace before meals, since this gives a Protestant slant to the Eucharist in that it corresponds to their understanding of the Eucharist as a remembrance of the Last Supper; it does not correspond with Catholic understanding of the Eucharist as Sacrifice. We now rely upon expressions of the Sacrifice in the Canons themselves, with the Preparation of the Gifts relating more to the distribution of the Sacrificial Lamb in Holy Communion than to the whole Eucharistic movement.

Thursday 19 December 2013

Traditional Believers: Beware!

In a recent post I said (slightly revised here for clarity):

Truly, since Tradition is a vehicle of Divine Revelation it is not Traditionalists in the FFI, FSSP, ICKSP, the Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney, the Institute of the Good Shepherd or the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer et al, who are a problem; nor is it the Diocesan priest who preaches the whole of Vatican II and sometimes celebrates with the Usus Antiquior, nor is it the laity of Una VoceFoederatio Internationalis. All of these accept Vatican II and happily co-exist with those who favour the Novus Ordo. It is liberals, clerical and lay, who focus only on the new and refuse the old who are problematic. Why? Bbecause they are in danger of erecting a new Church by cutting us off from our liturgical and doctrinal foundations. 

I am becoming more and more concerned that Traditional Catholics are under unjust attack by such liberals, and increasingly concerned that Pope Francis is not coming to our aid. Indeed (and though we cannot state that the Pope has actively instigated such persecution) he appears to stimulate the persecution with his comments about neo-pelagians and gnosticism. All the Traditional folk I personally know, and all the Orders/Fraternities that have happily existed in complete union with Rome under the two previous Popes, must now feel under threat because of the actions taken against the Franciscans of the Immaculate, and here’s why:

if I were to reject Vatican II and preached against it; and if I were to become so adverse to the Missa Normativa that I refused to use it, then I would expect to be placed under sanctions. I would not however, expect every priest of the Diocese who upholds Vatican II and celebrates in the Usus Antiquior yet happily co-exists with the Missa Normativa to have the same sanctions placed on them: one does not punish a whole family because of the crimes of the one or even the few. That is what has been done in the FFI: all the priests of the FFI have had been refused permission to live by Summorum Pontificum in that they must now apply to their superior to celebrate in the Usus Antiquior. I cannot help but think that if a whole Order/Fraternity can be placed under sanctions because of the actions/words of a few, then Rome could extend the sanctions to all Orders/Fraternities because of failures in one Order/Fraternity, the principle of extending sanctions to all because of the failures of the few having been established.

We must all pray hard that the situation with the FFI and Rome is resolved swiftly and justly, for the sake of us all and for ‘reconciliation in the heart of the Church’ (Pope Benedict XVI).

Tuesday 17 December 2013

The Novus Ordo: An Authentic Expression of the Faith?

Leaving aside the altar-facing orientation of the priest; use of Latin/Gregorian chant and Communion on the tongue (which are the norms of the Novus Ordo; the people-facing orientation, the vernacular and Communion in the hand all being the legitimate options), could I take an oath to say the New Missal is an authentic expression of the Catholic Faith? I have to say I could, but I could not take one to say it is the best expression of the Faith. To be honest, the Novus Ordo leaves me feeling very unsatisfied by...

  1. by omitting the prayers at the foot of the altar, since by omitting them we now walk onto the sanctuary as though we are there by right and not by grace
  1. by a Confiteor that has me confess my sinfulness to other sinners but not to the saints who, being intimately united to God, are indirectly offended by my sins (it seeks their intercession at the end without having allowed me to make any confession to them)
  1. by a Kyrie reduced to a three-fold repetition that gives many the idea that it is addressed to Father, Son and Holy Spirit respectively when in fact it is one of the few prayers in the Mass addressed to Christ alone
  1. by so much scripture reading that one gets over-loaded and the force of each reading gets lost
  1. by a ‘preparation of the gifts’ that does not prepare them for sacrifice but is a grace before meals (the Mass being a sacred banquet as well as the Sacrifice notwithstanding, since participation in the banquet depends upon the Sacrifice having been offered)
  1. by an acclamation (the Mystery of Faith) interrupting the Canon in which the Lord is addressing the Father in His Church
  1. by the out-loud Canon which makes it seem the prayers are said for the edification of the people rather than as an interceding of the Divine Son with the Divine Father for our salvation (we do not have a right to hear what passes between the Father and the Son)
  1. by the frequent use of the phrase ‘sacrifice of praise’ which gives the impression that the sacrifice of the Mass is that of our time and effort given in order to honour God
  1. by the lack of a genuflection before the elevations of the Host and Chalice and after the per ipsum
  1. by the fact that Canons 2,3 and 4 make no distinction between the mode of offering in the ordained and lay states
  1. by the Pater Noster having no ‘Amen’, which gives the impression that the doxology is part of the prayer as given to us by Our Lord
  1. by the single proclamation of the Domine non sum dignus which diminishes its psychological force by the many options permitted: one goes to a Mass not knowing with what one will be presented. This destroys the unity of the Church’s worship in its concrete celebrations.

 The above said, how then could I take an oath saying the New Missal is an authentic expression of the Faith? Well, in addition to the affirmations of these in the General Instruction which I spoke of briefly here, within the Rite itself there are elements which even those who say it is not fully expressive of the core Doctrines of the Mass have to say it is at least consistent with those doctrines:

The Real Presence:
“that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ” (EP II)
“make holy these gifts we have brought to you for consecration that they may become the Body and Blood of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ” (EP III)
“recognising the sacrificial Victim by whose death you willed to reconcile us to yourself, grant that we, who are nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son...” (EP III)

A re-present-ing of the Sacrifice of Calvary:
... “as we celebrate the memorial of His death and resurrection we offer you the Bread of life and the Chalice of salvation...” (EP II)
...“recognising the sacrificial Victim by whose death you reconcile us to yourself, grant...” (EP III)
... “as we now celebrate the memorial of our redemption....we offer you His body and blood, the acceptable Sacrifice which brings salvation to the whole world...look upon the Sacrifice which you yourself have provided for your church...” (EP IV)

The propitiatory value of the Mass:
... “may this sacrifice of our reconciliation we pray O Lord, advance the peace and salvation of all the world...” (EP III)
... “that they may become the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ for the celebration of this great mystery which He left us as an eternal covenant” (EP IV)

The distinction between the ministerial priesthood and the lay state:
We must grant that other than in EP I (The Roman Canon) where this is made clear (“we, your people and your ministers”) this is found in the Orate fratres: “that my sacrifice and yours”.

There is a criticism made by some that while the new Eucharistic Prayers may be consistent with the Faith they are not fully expressive of it, and that what gives these prayers a sense of orthodoxy for such folk is a bolting-on to these texts their belief in the Real Presence and the Sacrifice. I have to say that is my own experience too, for while nothing in them contradicts our Faith but it seems quite muted in them. It seems very odd -even inconsistent with the Second Vatican Council (which recognised that liturgy also instructs cf. SC.33) that anyone should have to bolt-on to the texts they hear/proclaim their underlying understanding of the Faith: it would indicate some measure of failure in the lex ornadi/lex credendi of the New Missal.

I may be alone in saying the New Missal can be seen as an authentic expression of the Faith, but I find it hard to believe that sincere and holy Popes such as John-Paul II and Benedict XVI did not find the Novus Ordo poor enough to warrant significant alteration. Given the chance I would of course, use the Usus Antiquior far more often than I would use the Novus Ordo: I not only find it richer in its texts, but it gives me a far better experience of my union with the Church of the past.

Monday 16 December 2013


Putting aside the difficulty surrounding the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate and the criticism Fr Volpi has received for his handling of the situation (a full and fair assessment of which can only be made after the investigatory process is completed and all is revealed) I cannot help but wonder what he means by "crypto-lefebvrian". We know the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre refuse to accept [a] the texts of Vatican II and [b] the Novus Ordo Missae; we also know some folk have some sympathy with the SSPX, so is this what he means by “cryto-lefebvrianism”? Indeed, many folk are problematic in their reading of Vatican II and in their choice of Missal, but I suggest that this is the liberals, not the Traditionalists, for Traditionalists happily exist in the Church of Vatican II and its Novus Ordo, while liberals reject the use of the Traditional Missal and manipulate Vatican II by emphasising certain phrases of the Council at the expense of the whole.

For example, liberals seem to pay lip-service to the text stating that the Saviour “instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of His Body and Blood...in order to perpetuate the Sacrifice of the Cross throughout the ages” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 47); preferring instead to present the Mass as a perpetuation of the Last Supper so as to promote Mass as a cheerful, affirming and fraternal gathering. They also ignore the text which says “the faithful should also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them” (ibidem, 54) and that which says “Gregorian chant is to have pride of place” (ibidem 116) when they refuse to use Latin and criticise those who do.

Further, they seem to play down the text which says “the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head” (Lumen gentium 23); speaking of collegiality in such a way as to imply that a majority vote among the Bishops can impose an obligation upon the Bishop of Rome to acquiesce.

Still further, they seem to focus on the text which says “significant elements and endowments which build up and give life to the Church can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church” while playing down the rest of that text which goes on to say “All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ”; that non-Catholic communities “derive their efficacy from the fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church (Unitatis redintegratio 3) and that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth, to which all who belong in any way to the people of God should be fully incorporated (ibidem). Rather, they appear to tolerate conversion but not to see it as the best thing possible. It is not rare to hear that someone had been told “Just be a good Methodist...Presbyterian...Jew....Muslim”.

Liberals also ignore or play down the text which says “Religious freedom...which men demand as necessary to fulfil their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society...” omitting the rest of the sentence which states that this “leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ” (Dignitatis Humanae 1). They speak of religious liberty in such a way that they give the impression all religions have an equal right to exist and/or to adherence.

The same liberals stand up against the use of the Traditional Form of Mass, waving the flag of the Novus Ordo as a rallying banner by which Vatican II stands or falls. Truly, since Tradition is a vehicle of Divine Revelation it is not Traditionalists in the FFI, FSSP, ICKSP, the Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney, the Institute of the Good Shepherd or the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer et al who are a problem; nor is it the Diocesan priest who preaches the whole of Vatican II and sometimes celebrates with the Usus Antiquior or the laity of Una Voce Foederatio Internationalis who are a problem, since all the above accept Vatican II and happily co-exist with those who favour the Novus Ordo. It is liberals, clerical and lay, who focus only on the new and refuse the old who are problematic, because they are in danger of erecting a new Church by cutting us off from our liturgical and doctrinal foundations. 

Saturday 14 December 2013

On Fr Lombardi’s Defence of Fr Volpi

I feel I have to disagree with Fr Lombardi on what the letter calling for the ousting of Fr Volpi demonstrates. According to The News Tribune, Fr Lomardi has stated that,

"While the situation seems difficult and painful, it appears the letter is yet another demonstration that the naming of a commissioner was necessary and that he knows what to do with the powers he has.” 

With all due respect for Fr Lombardi, the letter (and the associations of lay Catholics collecting signatures to ask for the dismissal of Fr Volpi) can be equally seen as showing that there are concerns beyond the FI Order about the actions taken by Rome against the FI; that people perceive an overly punitive (and therefore destructive) attitude towards a fast-growing Order of younger people who are in fact living in full communion with the Holy Father and the Church’s Sacred Magisterium. That being so, unless the FI was to state as an Order (as do the SSPX) that they reject the Novus Ordo as a faithful expression of the Catholic Faith and that they do not accept the documents of Vatican II, no action needed to be taken in the arenas of liturgy, ordinations etc., but only in regard to (any) financial irregularities.

Further, any scandal goes beyond what is actually being done to the FI to the reasons behind it; reasons which may easily be seen by some as demonstrating two things; first, an aversion to Tradition (which is problematic since Tradition is a vehicle of Divine Revelation as Vatican II reminded us); second of all, a fearful, irrational over-protectiveness of the Novus Ordo.  Why may the actions be seen as demonstrating a fearful, over-defensive, irrational attitude? Because the Novus Ordo was not being criticised or rejected by the FI; rather, the Order was happily living in union with those who celebrate according to the Novus Ordo; was not denying its celebration to members of the Order, and was not writing or speaking against the Novus Ordo. Even if a majority of their priests were to celebrate using the Usus Antiquior it would not suggest anything other than a preference for the said Form. I prefer it, and I know many who do. We do not reject the legitimacy or validity of the Novus Ordo; we do not call for it to be banned; we simply enjoy the depth of the prayers, the expressive ritual and historical pedigree of the Usus Antiquior. What is wrong with that?

I repeat again what I have said before: those who, for whatever reason and whatever authority in the Church, would like to see the Usus Antiquior banned or re-restricted ought first to heed the Word of God in scripture: “Do not interfere with these men but let them go. If this movement of theirs is of human origin it will break up of its own accord, but if it is from God you will not only be unable to stop them, you might find yourselves fighting God." cf Acts 5.

A Comment Received...(copied and pasted as received) on the previous Post:

Reading the life and trajectory of Francis and his followers, the First Franciscans, I discovered a lot of detail and historical facts that lead to the conclusion that the Franciscan order since its early beginnings was full of contradictions and internal power struggles. And this has led to the formation few variations of the Franciscan order. 
Recently I read that there is a petition in support of this Franciscans that is being circulated in few blogs. A letter of petition in support of a particular order of the Catholic Church is perhaps not the best approach in this case. If the Pope decided to intervene is probably because there is a serious problem of internal fight among these Franciscans. If some Catholic Bloggers think they can use letters of petition in support of this Franciscans/, they are challenging Pope Francis. I am wondering to what extent it is the right thing to do? The issues of the Catholic Church cannot be dealt as if there were matters of Local government. The same approach has been advocated by those Relativists who demand abortions or women's rights to the priesthood. These are the same people who claim that the Church is old fashioned and should be reformed. The Dogma of Christ is clear on one thing: There is truth and the rest is error.

...and a Response:
I agree that the Franciscan Order has fallen into several variations since the time of St Francis. This may have arisen from internal divisions, but it is also possible that it arose being blessed with several charisms. 
A petitioning letter may or not be the best way to voice concerns, but it is very difficult to find another mode in which several (or numerous) persons can seek the same end on the same issue at the same time.  I personally cannot see this as a challenge to Pope Francis himself. If there are things which need to be sorted out in the FI --which would include the mishandling of temporal goods of the Order-- then it is clear someone had to be appointed by Francis to rectify the problems. However, Fr Volpi’s actions as they are currently being related to us might well be called 'draconian' by some, and as such, unhelpful to the overall situation. I have to add that if it is Tradition that is truly the bug-bear here, then the FSSP, ICKSP et al are all in danger of the same kind of intervention, to say nothing of Diocesan priests such as myself who faithfully celebrate both forms of Mass and preach according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

I agree that the Church does not work as though things were a matter of local government alone, which is why talk of extending powers to Episcopal Conferences is worrying. That said, centralised power (as the summit and model of authority?) ought to be clear, firm and charitable. We can only wait to see if this charitable manner is indeed the case here; that Fr Volpi has acted and is still acting in sound charity. While the issue/situation is still in play, it is impossible to say.

That Oath to be Imposed upon the Franciscans of the Immaculate regarding the Novus Ordo

To take up the issue of the Franciscans of the Immaculate again, I’m sure they will have no problem in taking the oath recognising the Novus Ordois as an authentic expression of the Catholic Faith; after all (and despite the fact that the new Canons make no distinction between the role taken by the priest and the people and the distressing supplanting of the offertory prayers with a grace before meals) the Institutio Generalis contains statements that affirm the hierarchical nature of the Church (#16); the uniqueness of the ordained priesthood (#4, 72) and the propitiatory nature of the Mass as the renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary (#2, 72) the efficacy and dignity of the Mass even when celebrated without a congregation (#19) while the Rite itself contains a Confiteor which implores the intercession of the Blessed Virgin and of all the angels and saints and, above all, the ancient and venerable Roman Canon. The FI will have no problem affirming all of this –who would? They are not, when all is said and done, being asked to affirm their agreement with the way it has been manipulated in a myriad of ways in its concrete forms of celebration. Nor are they being asked to say it is the best expression of the Faith –indeed clergy who will only celebrate the Novus Ordo yet illicitly ad-lib (GI #24); who consistently refuse to follow the IG and rubrics which direct the Mass be celebrated versum apsidem (IG #157/8; rubrics 133/4), and who likewise consistently refuse to give pride of place to Gregorian Chant (#41) are those who are demonstrating that they do not think it is the best expression of the Faith. Why are not such priests being called to account?

Let us be clear: the oath should not be necessary at all in that the FI are happily existing in the Church and giving loyalty to Pope and bishops who celebrate the Novus Ordo. It is the so-called ‘Novus Ordo Church’ with which they are in union. Hence, the oath is meaningless and imposing it says more about those doing the imposing than it does about those upon whom it is imposed.

But an issue of justice and orthodoxy arises here: if the oath is being imposed because those who impose it believe the Traditional Form is being used as a flag waved against Vatican II, what about imposing a similar oath upon those who refuse the Traditional Rite and thereby wave the flag of the Novus Ordo against the whole of the Church’s past? Such an action would be more in tune with Catholic Faith since it would ensure that clergy do not deny the validity of the Church pre or post-Vatican II. After all, it is such folk who would therefore be setting up a new Church with new worship, new doctrine and new disciplines.

Why not simply add to the Profession of Faith taken before ordination and appointments that one accepts both forms of the Roman Rite? This will ensure equal treatment of all, liberty for all in the celebration of Mass and thereby retain fraternity within the Church. One may say (tongue in cheek) that the liberal, progressive Catholics will thus have a wonderful way of providing for liberty, equality and freedom  in the Church... 

Virginity, Chastity, and Celibacy –Gifts to the Consecrated but a burden in the Lay State?

I recently received an email from ‘Joe’ asking questions about the Church’s teaching on sexuality. Here is the central thrust of his email:

In his Apostolic Exhortation “Familiaris Consortio” Pope John-Paul II teaches, “Virginity or celibacy...bears witness that the Kingdom of God and His justice is that pearl of great price which is preferred to every other value no matter how great, and hence must be sought as the only definitive value“..."the Church, throughout her history, has always defended the superiority of this charism to that of marriage...”  I take that to mean that men who feel called to the Roman Catholic priesthood knowingly forgo any prospect of sexual intimacy. And it is likewise true that unmarried Catholic woman or men, gay or straight, are enjoined to live a lifetime of chastity, unfaltering in their resistance to libidinous temptations.

Single Catholics do not take a vow of chastity but they are held to its dictates with no warning or discernment as to whether or not they are have any talent or charism for a permanently virginal lifestyle. If total abstinence is so challenging for priests and nuns and religious men, unmarried Catholics might fittingly inquire why it is so automatically prescribed for their lives, especially in the cases where there is no “gift” and where, since there is no parvity of matter concerning sins against the Sixth Commandment, the consequence for any lapse is “grievous,” “grave,” mortal sin? 

I hope the writer will allow me to respond in a blog post since he asks questions of interest to many. While I’m happy to respond I’m not claiming to give ‘answers’, there are priests more theologically astute and more spiritually profound who can do that  far better than I. To the writer of the email I therefore respond with the following.

Joe, I think we must remember first of all that the ‘pearl of great price’ referred to by the Pope is the Kingdom of heaven, not celibacy; celibacy is that self-offering of a man or woman to God which bears witness to the fact that entering the Kingdom --where we do not marry cf. Mark 12v25-- is our ultimate goal and achievement. Our human relationships are an important aspect of life in this world; we are all made for relationship (ultimately with God for all eternity and in Him, to one another) and as such we should not be surprised by the experience of needing relationships with one another too.

Although those called to Catholic consecrated life knowingly forgo any prospect of physical intimacy and are gifted in grace by God so as to live the celibate life, this does not remove the struggle to remain celibate: grace allows us to enter into the struggle, but it is not magic and does not eliminate struggle. 

It is true that this gift is not seen as being given to those who are living their faith outside the consecrated life, but we need to note that there are many folk who live unmarried, chaste lives without religion as part of their world-view and who are not psychologically or emotionally disturbed by their chastity; they simply accept that they have not found a suitable life-partner. Such chastity is probably less common in today’s over-sexualised western culture but it is not absent from our history or from other cultures. As such, even though single Catholics are bound to chastity outside of marriage (as married folk are bound to fidelity within marriage) they are not thereby bound to something that is either entirely unnatural or impossible.

Since all human beings are share the flaw of a weak will, there will be failures in virginity before marriage; failures in fidelity within marriage and failures in celibacy by those in the consecrated life. These are more likely today in our over-sexualised culture.

It is from this the influence of this over-sexualised cultural that questions about the ability to live out chastity, celibacy etc arise. We should not underestimate the pervasive and powerful influence of this culture: it is one where physical intimacy for the sake of pleasure alone has been elevated to a status incongruent with the very nature of sex: its reproductive purpose of sex has been eliminated by contraception so that it becomes mere recreation, and its natural requirements for reproduction (male/female copulation) ignored to facilitate misdirected sexual urges (homosexual activity).

Failures to remain chaste outside of marriage and faithful within marriage do indeed constitute grave sin, but there are many ways in which we can fall into grave sin besides the sexual arena, and the wonder of our Faith is that we have a God who has loved us so much He has saved us from sin by His Passion, Death and resurrection, offering the forgiveness of sin to all who sincerely seek to leave sin behind and live in union with Him by the help of His grace.

Thursday 12 December 2013

The Situation of the Franciscans of the Immaculate

The saga of the Franciscans of the Immaculate continues, and the latest developments (which I’m sure all will have seen on the ever-vigilant and well-informed Rorate Caeli).

Upon reading the latest developments one cannot help but ask but what is happening in Rome since the election of Pope Francis: are those with an aversion to Tradition taking advantage of his liberal public image to attack and destroy Tradition? One may legitimately ask from where such aversion to Tradition arises: is it from lack of love for the Church; from a fear of (or an actual abhorrence of) Tradition, or from a disordered loyalty to Vatican II in which there is a simple inability to read the said Council in the light of all previous Councils?

Whatever the cause, anyone seeking to suppress Tradition is by that very fact seeking to establish a new Church cut off from Her past; a Church with its own (new) form of worship, its own (new) doctrine and its own (new) disciplines. Such folk may think they are developing ancient worship and doctrine, but they can only make such a claim if the said developments are in harmony with what has gone before. If they are not in harmony with what has gone before they are not developments but distortions; they are errors inspired by the father of lies.

Certainly it might be good to know the names of anyone directing, facilitating and approving attacks against Tradition, but names or no names I feel sure Rome will want to found bearing in mind the words spoken by Gamaliel and which can be profitably applied by Rome to her relationship with all the Traditional Communities:

"...take care what you do to these men. Some time ago, there was a rebellion under Theudas who became notorious. He claimed to be someone important, and even collected about four hundred followers; but when he was killed all his followers dispersed. And then there was Judas the Galilean at the time of the census. He also attracted crowds of supporters, but he too was killed, and all his followers dispersed. What I suggest therefore is this: that you not to interfere with these men but let them go. If this movement of theirs is of human origin it will break up of its own accord, but if it is from God you will not only be unable to stop them, you might find yourselves fighting God." cf Acts 5v34-39.

At the end of the day, since the Traditional communities are doing and teaching nothing that the Church has not done and taught for centuries they are doing what has always been regarded as holy, and the Church has no authority to suppress what is holy. Indeed those with authority will surely be taking into account the words of St Paul too: “Maybe I have taken rather too much pride in our authority, but the Lord gave us that authority for building you up, not for knocking you down” (2 Cor,10v8) and “That is why I am writing this while still far away, when I am with you I shall not have to be harsh, with the authority that the Lord has given me, an authority that is for building up and not for breaking down” (2 Cor, 13v10).

Wednesday 13 November 2013

That Survey, Pastoral Sensitivity & Fear of Hell

Andrew’s last posting on the Mass, which was taken from our forthcoming Christmas Bulletin, received a comment basically saying we were trying to get youngsters to Mass by using the fear of hell. Well, no. We were hoping to inspire pre-teen children to value Holy Mass by expounding its wonders. That said...

When I was a child our home was heated by coal fires. I was warned about the dangers of fire by my parents and given a smack on the bum if I did not heed the warnings. This was not mum and dad being cruel; rather, it was mum and dad being very caring and very loving: they sought to prevent me being burned. In the Church of today many clergy -Bishops included- fail to be caring and loving because they are afraid to warn people about the danger of hell fire.

Instead, many seek out ways of accommodating or excusing those who contracept; who cohabit, who have contracted civil marriages or are in same-sex pairings etc. Dressed up as pastoral sensitivity, this accommodation is to fail in charity, and to fail badly, since if we truly care for our neighbour we should want to warn them that their actions are harmful to their relationship with Jesus Christ. Clergy in particular should note and perhaps tremble when we read the scripture, If I say to a wicked man, ‘You are to die’, and you do not speak to him and warn him to renounce his evil ways and live, then he shall die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death” (Ez. 3:18). “Teach them to observe all the commands I gave you” is a duty placed upon us all. Yes the world has moved on and found ways of justifying its ‘new morality’ which is antithetical to the Judeo-Christian Revelation, but the Church must be faithful to her perennial doctrine, for “Jesus Christ is the same today as He was yesterday, and will be forever. Do not let yourselves be led astray by all kinds of strange doctrine(Hebrews 13v8,9).

That so many reject the Church’s teaching on marriage and family life makes the survey we have been asked to complete on Pastoral Challenges and the Family very dangerous; such a survey gives the impression that we can change teaching to fit with today’s society, and may lead to the hostility of those who use it to solicit such change when they realise they cannot get it. It also gives the impression that Church teaching relies upon acceptance by the majority of those surveyed to be deemed authentic teaching, since too many restrict the sensus fidelium to reception by Catholics living now and fail to see it is the belief of the whole Church, including Catholics of the last 2000 years who would not hold to today’s social constructions and modern innovations in morality and pastoral care.

Genuine Pastoral Care has for a long time been inhibited by pastoral sentimentality; by not saying anything that might offend or hurt. Those who practice it forget that God loves us too much to let us get burned by the fire of hell without warning us of the danger. Good (genuine) Pastoral Care is about listening to where a person is in life; it is about understanding their pain while helping them to see the error and danger of their ways; the beauty of the truth, and giving them the support they need to live the truth. Anything other than that is just not Christian.

Yes hell is a fearful thing, and I wish we were able to inspire people to live the Gospel from love of the all-loving God, but we are damaged by original sin and prone to concupiscence, which means encouraging souls to fear hell must remain part of our teaching. I can tell you, I would rather have my family, friends and parishioners saved from hell by the fear of hell, than see them go to hell because they were consoled by the Church in following the ‘life-style choices’ the secular, so-called inclusive world promotes (though it excludes that life-style choice of being pro-life, pro-family and Catholic...)

Sunday 10 November 2013

Why Come To Holy Mass?

Father has placed this notice in the extended Bulletin he is preparing piece by piece for Christmas. I thought it might be useful for parents to print off for their pre-teen children who might ask, “Why should we come to Mass? Is it really important and does it do us any good?”. I hope you find it useful.

When we are at Mass we hear God speaking to us in the readings, and meet Him in His Mystical Body, His people.

When we are at Mass we are truly standing with Our Lady at the foot of the Cross as Our Blessed Lord, Jesus Christ, offers the Sacrifice of His life for our Salvation: “This is My Body, given up for you...This is My Blood, which is shed for you....” (Matt 26v26-28).  

When we are at Mass we are present at the tomb of the Resurrection, because Our Crucified and Risen Lord is Truly Present in the Blessed Sacrament: “I am the Living Bread come down from heaven. He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood lives in Me, and I in Him...whoever eats Me will draw life from Me” (John 6v51-57). It is because He is truly Present in the Blessed Sacrament that in accord with scripture, which says “every knee shall bow before Him” (Rom.14v11; Phil.2v10); and which calls “let us kneel before the God who made us” (Ps.95v6) that we receive Holy Communion kneeling. Pagans refused to kneel because they saw it as beneath them; we kneel to show we are willing to humble ourselves before God.

When we are at Mass we are literally in heaven, because wherever God is, heaven is, and Jesus our Lord and God is Truly Present in the Blessed Sacrament, surrounded by His angels and saints -thus it is with all the angels and saints we sing Holy, Holy, Holy (Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus” Rev.4v8). Indeed, the reason we have statues of angels and saints in Church is to remind us that when we step into a Catholic Church for Mass we step into heaven. Truly, we don’t need to die to go to heaven; we only need to come to Mass! In fact we come to Mass to show God we want to go to heaven, which is why missing Mass is a grave sin and why we cannot receive Holy Communion again if we miss Mass until we have been to Confession. We value Mass and never omit to come to Mass not because the Church commands us to come, but because by choosing to come to Mass we are choosing to come to heaven, and by choosing not to come to Mass we are choosing not to come to heaven...and who wants to miss out on heaven?  

Is there a way of being sure we will go to heaven when we die? Yes, there is; we can know that if we are good enough to go to Holy Communion we are good enough to go to heaven, because Holy Mass and Holy Communion are heaven on earth. Does that mean those who cannot receive Holy Communion cannot go to heaven? No; but it does mean their salvation is in jeopardy, since they are excluded from receiving the Holy Eucharist, the source of all grace. And being in a state of grace is the one guarantee of going to heaven. Those who cannot receive Holy Communion should still come to Mass so as to enact their desire to come to heaven.