Saturday 16 March 2013

Reaction to Pope Francis

There are a number of negative reactions to the election of Pope Francis. From the Traditional point of view one might well have read the fact that he appeared at the Balcony without the rochet and mozzetta, along with the absence of Traditional Masses in Buenos Aires, as signifying an aversion to Tradition. Really, such an aversion remains to be seen since he has been Pope less than a week. To be honest, I find it hard to imagine that anyone moving to high office in the Church would do so in contempt for the Church’s past and the right of the faithful to their heritage, so I expect to see the trajectory in the recovery of doctrine and liturgy put in place by John Paul II and Benedict XVI respectively, continued. Indeed, to try to remodel the Church by obstructing or abandoning her heritage would be to try to remodel the Church in one’s own image. Not a sign of holiness, I venture to say, so I do not expect to see such a remodelling.

What is of note is that on each of the first two days of his pontificate Pope Francis has spoken of the devil, indicating an awareness that we are in battle against the forces of darkness. This may be good news for Traditional Catholics who hold a great place in their spiritual lives for the prayer of St Michael, but a worry for liberals who would rather leave behind the idea that there is a personal devil who is engaging in a warfare against the Church of Christ. There is also the report that as Cardinal, Pope Francis criticised liberation ‘theology’ and was a voice against homosexual marriage, contraception and abortion as part of the human rights agenda.

We are told that Pope Francis is very much a man of collegiality. I do worry that if this is true he will disempower himself as Pope, but he cannot easily dispempower the Papacy if he takes the teaching of Vatican II seriously, for eventually a succeeding Pope will take to heart the Council’s teaching that

the body or college of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope's power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power. The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head.(27*) This power can be exercised only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff. 
The individual bishops, who are placed in charge of particular churches, exercise their pastoral government over the portion of the People of God committed to their care, and not over other churches nor over the universal Church. (Lumen gentium 22, 23, emphasis added).

In regard to the liturgy of the Church –which is a most important aspect of the Popes responsibility since it is in the liturgy that God is worshipped, the people formed and sanctified, and Catholic identity individually assimilated and publicly expressed, surely there is little to fear? The damage was done by Bugnini and his cohorts and the wild implementation they fostered and allowed in the early days of the reform. What we can hope for from Francis is that he does nothing to derail the reform of the reform. I am not so concerned that he will suppress Summorum Pontificum since he must surely be aware that the traditional liturgy is a heritage of the Catholic people to which they have a right, that rights are not to be suppressed, and that his authority is “to build and not to destroy” (2 Cor,13v10). So there is hope for the future. I hope.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Pope Francis -Called To Re-build But Likely To Re-Design?

We all, of course, promise respect and obedience to the new Pope, Francis. But there is already much talk about the man as being no friend of Tradition. Can this really be so, when Vatican II reminded us is part of the Deposit of Faith on a par with Sacred Scripture? Surely no one who accepts the Papal Office does so with the desire to change what has been received from the Apostles and its legitimate development down the centuries? Who would have such arrogance or absence of faith to act in such a manner? At any rate, my hope is that the people of God will realise that Francis is Vicar of Christ and as such, owed our obedience and respect. That said, if the fears expressed by others are justified, then I hope that Francis will, in his turn, give his faithful obedience to the Tradition of the Church.  

Unfortunately, for many Catholics today Tradition is regarded simply as custom, and therefore easily abandoned. We must then, as always, trust in the Holy Spirit and offer filial prayers for Pope Francis -not only for his person, but for his Pontificate, that he may demonstrate his firm adherence to the Deposit of Faith in Scripture and Tradition, and thereby serve as both a rallying point for the faithful and firm rebuke to the secular world.

We trust God will use Pope Francis to re-build the Church as he did with his name-sake from Assisi, and pray that he will not try to remodel what does not belong to him. A Pope is not, after all, all-powerful, and the new man surely knows this. Rather, he is caretaker of the Lord’s Body and not its master. One trusts, as all must do, that Francis is indeed aware that Our Lord “is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb.13v8) and as such does not speak doctrine or guide liturgical development with forked tongue: what was sacred before is sacred now -be that in doctrine or in liturgy. I feel sure Francis has the humility and wisdom to lead the Church authentically and remains open to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, faithful to the Tradition we have received. And who could suggest he does not..?

Monday 11 March 2013

Disappointed with EWTN...

I have encouraged Father to purchase several DVD sets and books from EWTN, and he himself has encouraged our parish, via our weekly newsletter, to watch EWTN. We agree that many of its programmes are of superb formative value, and would like to see EWTN viewed in every Catholic home –and more besides. But EWTN does have its problems. Here in the UK programme schedules can be wrong several times in a week, and there are oddities in the liturgy of their daily Mass (motets to the Blessed Virgin during Holy Communion when we ought to be directing our attention to the Lord, for example. But that is for another post...) What disturbs me the most is the network’s obsession with John-Paul II. Throughout the entire papacy of Benedict XVI they seemed unable to refer to the reigning Pontiff without referring also to John-Paul II.

Now I, like Father, am very grateful to JP II for his oversight of the Catechism for the tying down of the Faith which had been so distorted by influential theologians after Vatican II. We are, I think I can safely say, also grateful for Inaestimabile Donum (1980) and especially for Redemptionis sacramentum (2005) by which he addressed abuses in the liturgy, though I do wish he had applied these to his own liturgies. But I think that, having began life as an actor early in his adult life, and having retained a charismatic personality, he became a Pope we went to see rather than hear, and since a Pope is primarily a teacher, not a performer, JP II’s charismatic character may have hindered the reception of his teaching.

Being such a charismatic personality one can see why he had such an effect upon EWTN.  In that many of the presenters appear to have had him as their only Pope since they converted or reverted to The Faith, their connection to him as their spiritual father is to be expected, but the network’s obsession with JP seems to me quite marked, with frequent references to JP II as ‘The Great’. Personally, I cannot refer to a Pope who kissed the Koran as ‘Great’; I think the message he conveyed in that gesture is to be regretted since this is an act we reserve for the Word of God in the Sacred Scriptures.

Well, we now have EWTN’s The World Over Live programme suggesting Cardinal Dolan is a likely Pope. I do hope Cardinal Dolan does not become another EWTN obsession, though I suspect he already is, since his jolly character is quite intense (I cannot help but think of Mr Tickle when I see him)! But like JP II, such an external characteristic can get in the way of the message, which is unhelpful.  If Cardinal Dolan is elected Pope we might get some respite from EWTN’s obsession with JP II, though I suspect it will be a case of saying how well he embodies the spirit and style of JP II. That may be true in more ways than one, for while JP II kissed the Koran, we have the much regretted memory of Cardinal Dolan being ever-so chummy with Obama at the Al Smith Dinner last year. An interesting note on this can be found here on LifeSiteNews.

So come on EWTN; let the Holy Ghost get on with the may just get the man you seem to favour. 

Thursday 7 March 2013

Praying The Cardinals Will be Wise Enough And Humble Enough

The Cardinals preparing for the Conclave will surely take seriously the fact that they are being called to elect a successor of Peter as Vicar of Christ. I hope they also take seriously the need to elect a man who can strengthen Holy Mother Church’s realignment on the rails in the hermeneutic of continuity. It is, after all, undeniable that she has wobbled on those rails for the last fifty years in both her doctrine and her worship. John-Paul II began the recovery of doctrine by publishing the Catechism; Benedict XVI began the recovery of the Liturgy. We need a man who can consolidate these recoveries -and prevent Episcopal Conferences and the Roman Curia from stifling the emergence of the real Vatican II.

Sadly, many clergy formed in the liberal days of the 1960’s and 70’s, together with the progeny these folk formed, raise their voices against the Church’s teaching on contraception, same-gender marriage, the hierarchical Church etc. They don’t seem to realise (or else they refuse to acknowledge) that that the Faith, delivered once and for all, cannot change: “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 1v3). Even when the Faith is applied in new ways to new situations it cannot change: what was true before is true now; what was error before is error now: “Christ is the same yesterday today and forever” (Heb.13v8).

As for liturgy this has, in my estimation, become a community gathering for fraternal affirmation rather than the worship of God. While the latter is not deliberately excluded by celebrants, it is surely down-graded: ask what motivates a celebrant to celebrate Mass as he does (facing the people; Communion in the nave rather than from the sanctuary; wandering around for the sign of peace and the use of ‘hip’ hymns etc) and he will likely say “it is good for the folks”. He thereby has the effect upon the congregation his primary concern, yet the primary object of liturgy is not the affirmation of the people but the worship of God by adoration, thanksgiving, propitiation and supplication, with its unseen impact on souls ("Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets, and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!" Rev.22v9). To think we give God adoration and propitiation by making the people our focus is to miss the mark of genuine liturgy.

My hope for the up-coming Conclave then is that the Cardinals will be wise enough and humble enough to choose the man the Holy Spirit points out rather than the man who embodies their own political Churchmanship; a man of deep prayer and commitment to things eternal who will consolidate what the Holy Ghost seems to have clearly begun by the Catechism of John-Paul II and the Liturgical Reform of Benedict XVI.