Tuesday 29 October 2013

Holy Souls: Who Are They?

We begin a month of intercession for the Holy Souls this weekend. But just who are the Holy Souls? In today’s Ordinary Form reading at Mass St Paul reminded us, “We must hope to be saved, for we are not saved yet” (Roman 8v25). Many Catholics do not seem to know this; many seem to fail in making the distinction between the fact that we have been redeemed by the Passion of Christ, but that we are not yet saved, the attitude of many being that we’ll all go to heaven. Even regular Mass attendees say “they’ve gone to a better place” about those who have died in a civil marriage and those who have never crossed the door of the Church for years and never taken up the invitation to return. At every death I attend and someone says “They’ve gone to a better place” or “They’re out of their suffering now” my reply is always the same: “That’s our hope for everyone; God is good”. I cannot say “Yes, you’re right” –because I do not know that is the case. Further, in every funeral I celebrate I ensure our intercessions pray “that all those who died in God’s grace will, aided by our prayers, have a speedy journey through purgatory; an assured entry into heaven”. This may seem pedantic, but I cannot presume the deceased is in heaven, nor glibly affirm the mourners in that assumption.

In my opinion we have given a distorted picture of the love and mercy of God to the people since Vatican II, and to the detriment of their souls in that God is now seen as so loving and merciful that everyone will go to heaven; that no response to God’s grace is necessary in order to enter heaven at the last. And in this, a kind of universalism is being promoted. God is indeed infinite in love and mercy; there is no sin repented of that is too bad or too big to be forgiven, and the greatest sinner saved will be the greatest evidence of God’s love and mercy. But therein lies the rub: no sin repented of is beyond God’s mercy. But can we say the sin of hard-heartedness is repented of when there is a continuing refusal to help the oppressed and the poor? That contraception is repented of when it is a continuing practice? That adultery is repented of by those who continue in irregular relationships? That abandoning the sacraments is repented of when people die lapsed? We must admit that none of us can say where the soul of a particular person will be in eternity since God alone judges the human soul, but we can say that those living a life contrary to the law of God are likely on the wide road that leads to perdition, which many are taking (Matt. 7:13 -I don’t say that easily since my sisters and a number of my nephews and nieces are in irregular relationships). I once remarked that a deceased person had been described as ‘devoted to his family’ and was rebuked by “Which family, Father? This one, his previous one, or the one that might have come after?”

In that we cannot know who is saved and who is lost, I make it my business to ensure the parish remembers to pray “that the faithful may be strengthened; the lapsed return and the sinner be converted”. Indeed I pray as much for these as I do for the Holy Souls so that they may indeed be, when they leave this world, among the holy souls; that die turned towards God even in some small measure so that having walked a mile toward Him, He will walk two miles to them (to us?)

So, to answer our question: the Holy Souls are all those (and only those) who have died even in some small way in a state of grace and who are being purified in Purgatory before their entry into God’s presence. Our prayers can assist their journey.

Sunday 20 October 2013

James: I am taking my cue from St Thomas More...

The comment copied below has been sent to the blog in response to my previous post, and has been dutifully published. But I want to reply in the form of this new post...

The Comment:
Father, I have read your post and am unsure as to where you stand; I cannot make out whether you yourself are happy or unhappy with Pope Francis. Do you see in him Christ the Good Shepherd, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing?  Many of us see a man who is proud of his humility and pleased to see it publicised; a man who is presiding over the Church as though it were his own property with its teaching up for grabs by any and every generation and by which he makes the Church a disciple of the world rather than teacher of the world. We see a man who implies that all other Popes and Councils have been wrong on matters of sexuality and ecclesiology; which means infallibility had been absent from the Church until he inherited St Peters’ Chair, bringing with him right knowledge about the Church, sin and salvation. Are you then, happy or unhappy with Pope Francis?

My Reply:
The great man St Thomas More remained silent on whether or not he supported King Henry VIII making himself Head of the Church in England (though Henry only succeeding only in creating a protestant body: the Church of England). You are asking me to say whether I think Pope Francis is a sound and dependable pastor or danger to the faithful, but I will follow the example of St Thomas More and stay silent other than to say I believe the man has a good heart, well-intentioned will and not planning a coup over established doctrine. I suspect a number of clergy, including Bishops, are taking the same line of prudent silence so as to avoid drawing lines between the ranks of the faithful, and between the faithful and their Pope.

I do not want to make a judgement about the man; like all faithful clergy I take what he gives us and read it through the lens of the teaching of the Church as given down through the centuries, knowing that no matter what Francis says in his off-the-cuff remarks, his interviews or his Wednesday Audiences; no matter what aspersions he seems to cast in the way of Traditional Catholics from the standpoint of his own ideology; no matter what ideas he has about abandoning the Dominical Command to ‘Go, teach all nations’, and no matter what sweeteners he throws out to homosexuals or civilly-remarried divorcees, we need not worry. Yes we can get frustrated and disappointed with Francis’ style; we might even get irritated by him. But we do not worry. At the end of the day we must presume that Francis is aware that he cannot promulgate any teaching that contradicts what previous Popes have taught without obliterating the authority of his own teaching; we must also presume that he knows he cannot sanction pastoral practices that split the lex vivendi from the lex credendi and remain a Catholic of integrity. I think respecting the office of Pope and trusting the Holy Ghost is the only position I can take at this time...

P.S.  Many in the Church today hold opinions inconsistent with the faith of the centuries, and claim that this is consistent with the ‘new vision’ given by ‘the spirit’ of Vatican II. They are wrong, and their error will eventually die out, as will the off-the-cuff remarks of Pope Francis or any other Pope.

Saturday 19 October 2013

Interpretations of Pope Francis

Those intrepid bloggers at Rorate Caeli have noted several reports regarding Pope Francis; reports which are worth looking at for their interpretations of him, and which can be found here.

RC first notes that

“Sandro Magister, journalist at L'Espresso, a star among Vaticanists, releases in his blog Chiesa, every week, and at times every day, severe criticisms of Pope Francis”.

Many blogs express concerns over Francis: his ‘humility’ is questioned as he brings photographers into the pope-mobile, thereby ensuring good photographs of his person-centeredness; his comment that “I have the humility to...” might remind English-speaking people of the quip, “There’s no one as humble as I am”. Additionally, his renunciation of liturgical tradition at the Mandatum of Holy Thursday left many with the impression that he has little or no understanding of liturgy and doctrine as having a ‘lex orandi, lex credendi’ union. Further, his “who am I to judge?” response when asked about homosexuals left many completely disorientated: if the Vicar of Christ cannot judge what is and is not sin for the guidance of God’s flock, we are at great risk of being led astray –and makes the doctrine of infallibility a nonsense.

RC also notes Mattia Rossi, II Foglio, October 11, saying that

"Francis is in the process of founding a new religion opposed to Catholic magisterium"

and Rino Cammilleri, saying in Il Giornale, October 10:

"Flock before doctrine? We risk losing both".

One wonders what can be said in regard to Pope Francis -and who am I to judge? I shall let history do the judging. What I can say is that Francis appears to me a man of deep concern for folk who suffer, and that cannot be criticised. It is one mark of a saint. But that does not mean he could not be advised to do some reflecting on his off-the-cuff style if he wants to go down in history as having been orthodox in Doctrine and practice since his non-magisterial remarks are disorientating many and getting too much publicity from liberal catholics and the Main Stream Media. Even the promotion of Francis  by the MSM and the liberal catholic press as a humble pope appears questionable when they also report his public claim to be humble. As one of my parishioners commented,

“by abandoning Papal regalia for coming onto the balcony the night he was elected he suggested that his predecessors lacked humility because they wore them, while his claim to ‘have the humility’ suggests he is proud of his humility -which is a contradiction giving lie to his humility. The man needs to learn how to distinguish between himself and the office he holds, not disempower the office because he is so wrapped up in it he sees himself as a religious CEO who wants to look good to those he obviously views as his inferiors in that he ditched papal regalia ‘to be one of them’”. 

Certainly we must note the human touch of Francis when he meets the crowds, but this is no different to the human touch displayed by the likes of Pius X, Pius XII, John XXIII, John-Paul II and Benedict XVI. It is not new. What is new and disturbing is a Pope’s apparent unwillingness to judge sin. It might be that Francis was simply refusing (as must all of us) to judge persons while leaving intact the Church’s teaching on homosexual acts as  objectively disordered and sinful. If so, he ought to have been clearer.

One cannot help but wonder why the Pope’s advisors are not advising more prudence when it is clear his off-the-cuff remarks are disorientating the faithful and perhaps leading souls astray (such as those who are active homosexuals and divorced/civilly-remarried who think he will validate their lifestyle choices by declaring them compatible with the teaching of Christ). Francis will know he cannot change established teaching of the Church without falling into heresy, but he may not be aware that he is allowing himself to be seen as doing so; that he is being presented as someone oblivious to the fact that orthodoxy in doctrine must be expressed in orthopraxy; and as oblivious to the fact that true and charitable pastoral care of the sinner cannot in any way endorse their sin. Sadly, the impression that Francis is seeking to provide a pastoral care not in keeping with orthodox doctrine does not appear to be lacking, either among solid Catholics who are disorientated by him, or among liberal catholics and the MSM who praise him. I suggest to readers that the latter praise him because they think he will do what in fact he cannot do: change Church teaching on the hot-button issues of homosexuality; divorce, contraception, abortion and women priests. Pope Francis’s off-the-cuff remarks are not going to be -and actually cannot be- elevated to the status of magisterial teaching. What they can do –and are doing- is misleading the weak into false hope; disorientating the faithful, and angering the strong. As a result, a person might be forgiven for thinking that all he or she is getting in this period of Bergoglio’s papacy is the promotion of Bergoglio, and a challenge to the Church. Neither the Pope’s own advisors, the liberal catholic press or the MSM are doing anything good for Jorge Bergoglio -or the people of God.

Thursday 17 October 2013

Hopes for Hillsborough et al

I remember watching the Hillsborough Tragedy live on TV. It was a gut-wrenching sight when it became clear that what was taking place was not a pitch invasion but a desperate attempt to live.

In recent months there has been a review of this tragedy. To my knowledge this report noted that despite obvious signs of distress the Police did not react quickly enough, and that the structure of the pens; the placement of crush barriers; access to the central pens via a tunnel descending at a 1 in 6 gradient, with emergency exit from the pens being via small gates in the perimeter fence, all added to the situation. It also appears to have been noted that the mind-set of police and stewards was geared towards public order rather than safety, and that rescue and recovery efforts were lacking in leadership, co-ordination and prioritisation of casualties. Whether or not -as some who can only think of ‘football hooliganism’ might have it- some football supporters like a drink before a match (as I do) and may get involved in some violence, the fact remains that alcohol was not a contributing factor and that children, young people, middle-aged and more elderly persons, all lost their lives in what was, in light of the experience one year before, an avoidable horror.  I believe the families must now get a full and complete explanation for what happened and apologies from those responsible. Sadly, any sackings and loss of pension that might have followed in the period immediately after the tragedy now seem no longer possible.

I have two hopes for the Hillsborough families, who have my sincere condolences and fullest support. The first is that the full and honest facts of the event, which will demonstrate where any responsibilities lie, are made known in order that responsibility for the tragedy is removed from those who actually died –it seems sickening that the victims of Hillsborough could be seen as perpetrators of their own demise, and/or portrayed as badly as they were in the Sun Newspaper just days after the event. Indeed I have never once bought The Sun since that day, so disgusted was I at the portrayal it gave of the fans who did all they could to aid the injured. One can only watch film of those events to see in the compassion of those who tore down advertising boards to use as stretchers and those who gave First Aid to their injured fellows, the compassion and hand of God in the midst of a tragedy wrought by the devil.

And therein lies my second hope; that the families of the Hillsborough victims do not lose their faith in God who Himself suffered a torturous death in order to restore life to a damaged world. Sadly, many will have lost their faith, and for this the Church has to bear blame, since for a period of 20-30 years before the tragic event in Sheffield in April 1989 we focused on a ‘God of Alleluias’ and not our God-on-the-Cross, portraying His benevolence in such a way that what was perceivable by the man, woman and child in the pew was all but a Santa Claus, grandfather god. The reality of the Faith as centred on a Cross of Pain and Sorrow which would lead to resurrection had been lost. We still have those who want to sing the ‘Alleluia of the Easter People’ and by-pass the Passion and the Cross; it is perceivable in their hand-clapping, exuberant liturgies. They must not damage more souls than have already been damaged. The families of Hillsborough needed a God who suffered with them yet held out hope for a resurrection to come. They, like the families of those involved in school shootings; air, train and boat disasters, the Twin Tower or London train bombing horrors et al, through no fault of their own, could not and cannot find the Suffering Servant in Santa Claus or granddad.  I pray that with the uncovering of the truth behind Hillsborough and all other tragedies, the faith of the survivors and of the families of the victims be recovered. If it is not, it may well be our fault rather than theirs by our failure to present the truth of the Faith: that this world stands under the dark shadow of the Cross, with the peace of the Resurrection finally found only in the next world. 

Saturday 12 October 2013


I would not be surprised to discover that my family think I and other religious people are narrow-mined; perhaps even brainwashed. Indeed, one family member has told a parishioner he should be more open-minded and think for himself rather than simply listen to me, his mother and his family... Though well-meaning, such folk take their cue from person-centred theory (a kind of gentle narcissism) which dominates today's world and from the liberal mainstream media, which present the Catholic Church as The Church of ‘No’: ‘no’ to sex; ‘no’ to divorce; ‘no’ to contraception; ‘no’ to cohabitation; ‘no’ to abortion; ‘no’ to euthanasia. Yet the truth is the Church is the Church of “Yes”, offering the world a culture of Life:

‘Yes’ to natural sex with all its life-giving powers intact
‘Yes’ to every human right by defending that right without which we cannot access any other right: the right to life
‘Yes’ to the permanence and exclusivity of marriage to forestall the pain of broken marriages too easily entered
‘Yes’ to the permanence of family life for the stability of children and adults
‘Yes’ to the compassion that cares for the life of the disabled and the terminally ill
‘Yes’ to holy, chaste friendships that enable us to bond with our own sex.

On the other hand, the liberal and secular mainstream offers only the Culture of death:

the death of social cohesion by promoting the “what is right for me” attitude
the death of children by abortion
the death of those in chronic pain by euthanasia
the death of the disabled by euthanasia
the death of natural sex by contraception and homosexual acts
the death of marriage and family life by divorce and cohabitation

In reality, the Catholic lifestyle is inclusive, not exclusive: 
we can drink, just not get drunk (we enjoy life without recklessness); 
we can have sex, but in the context of marriage (to avoid frequent broken relationships and sexual diseases); 
we can seek career success and material comfort, but not at the expense of our religious duties. 

The Catholic enjoys life without making the things of this life his goal. Those who live without The Faith live in what has been called “a salt-water world”: the more we drink, the more we need: the more successful we are, the more success we seek. Thus the world’s most successful singers want more hits; the most successful sportsmen want more trophies. If today’s world does not allow the Church’s common sense into the public arena it is because the world does not seek sense, it seeks sensuality. The Catholic Church speaks up for the natural, common-sense order of things in regard to sex; for the use of our reason and will to control our base desires and passionate cravings so that our cravings do not control us.

I get the distinct feeling that today's society sees religious people as ‘brainwashed’, and where having commitment to the moral code of religion is seen as religious fanaticism. Perhaps the truth is that it is those in the secular world who have been ‘brainwashed’ by person-centred theory, and who have become fanatical about the "what is right for me" ideology. When one looks around one cannot help but note that in obedience to this ideology, all the morality which held society together (the stability of the natural family and the protection of human life from the womb to the tomb) has been washed from their minds to be replaced with “anything goes as long as it is right for you/me done safely”. Hence, to have things 'right for me' we kill the child in the womb and the terminally ill; we engage in sex as ‘friends with benefits’ -and thus seen the rise of STD’s from around 5 strains in the 1950’s to  around 50 strains today. We permit men to have sex with men and women to have sex with women simply on the strength of their passions -though this is not true sex but merely mutual masturbation. 

Despite what might be claimed by some, today’s ways are not a modernisation of morality; they are a return to the morality of the ancient Greek and Roman civilisations where divorce, abortion, active euthanasia (and orthothanasia or 'passive death') and homosexuality were socially acceptable; a morality of societies that did not last -nor could they: an anti-life culture coupled with the instability of family life cannot generate a stable society. 

Unless our society returns to natural sex, stability of family life and the protection and promotion of human life, today’s culture will die as did those of ancient Greece and Rome. We Catholics need only hold to our Gospel morality and wait for the time (perhaps in a few centuries) when secular society has fallen into such distress and chaos that it will seek us out to restore life and stability to a very broken and unstable world.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

A Question on Holy Mass...

Father has agreed that I may reproduce here an article from this weeks parish Newsletter. I hope readers find it useful (we have updated it today).

A Question asked:
Can we move the New Form of Mass to Sunday Morning
and the Ancient Form to Sunday Evening?

Since Mass is central to parish life I’ll try to answer this as fully as possible -hopefully without offending- by giving some background information that places the Ancient Form in a positive context while recognising the legitimacy and validity of both Forms of Mass, the new and the ancient.I know the Ancient Form of Mass requires more from us; that it stretches (and develops) us:
*its silences require we pray with mind and heart rather than simply respond on cue;
*it provides for humility by subjugating our dignity to the Lord’s by receiving Him on the tongue (still the universal norm [world-wide rule] in the New Form of Mass);
*Latin provides us with a sacred language for the most sacred act on earth, moving us from understanding at the superficial level of word recognition to perceiving the Mass as Mystery.
The part of Mass addressed to the congregation is the readings, which is why here in Thornley we always proclaim them in English, leaving only those parts addressed to God in Latin. It seems erroneous to think we understand the Mass simply because we recognise the English words:
*few can give the correct meaning of the word ‘memory’ in the consecration (it is not ‘remembering’);
*few understand that the Kyrie is addressed only to Christ and not to Father, Son & Holy Spirit,
*fewer still understand that that the Kyrie is an ancient litany of praise, not a request for mercy (even uninformed priests have been heard to say “Father, for the times we have...
Lord Jesus for the times we have...Holy Spirit, for the times we have...”)

Can we be frank and go deeper? To deplore what was venerated by the saints has a haughty ring to it, while antipathy toward the Ancient Form is really antipathy to our own roots -and to cut away the root means the plant dies. Let us look at this from a secular standpoint: if the CEO of a multi-national business claimed the business was experiencing a great renewal while it was losing its customer base, closing its stores, had staff openly criticising its product, and had to divide management tasks between shop-floor workers because it was failing to attract senior staff) that CEO would be seen as at least delusional, if not deceitful. A demographer might look at the Church and say that the Church is undergoing a similar dying process, evidenced by falling Mass attendances, the closing of parishes, seminaries, convents and schools, and the increase of doctrinal rejection by use of contraception, cohabitation; support of same-sex relationships etc. If we call this renewal we too might be seen as delusional.

Remember Vatican II gave protection to the Ancient Form of Mass, it didn’t ban it, and the Popes since Vatican II have overseen the Ancient Form’s organic growth, from Paul VI’s (Heenan Indult, Prot. N. 1897/71)  through John-Paul’s Quattuor abhinc annos (1984) & Ecclesia Dei Afflicta (1988) to Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum (2007).  

Finally, we cannot honestly say that either adults or children today are less able to enter into the Ancient Form than the adults/children of the previous 15 centuries. To say that would be to say we are either less intelligent, less humble or less spiritual than our forebears, and we surely don’t want to make such a negative indictment about oneself or others.

So, to answer the question posed:  after discussion with the Pastoral Care Team; consultation of the parish about times, and consultation with deanery priests, we moved the New Form of Mass from Saturday to Sunday so as to enable other priests, who have their own Mass on Sunday mornings, to say Mass here on Sunday evening if the need arises. So no, we cannot move the Mass. Please don’t say the time interferes with family life: Catholic families are to put God and Mass at the centre of family life, not see God and Holy Mass as being an inconvenience.