Sunday 30 March 2014

The Wrong Remedy

Divorce is a terribly painful experience for many people. However, given the consistent teaching of the Church that “He who divorces and marries again commits adultery”, we need to remember that we cannot eradicate the objective sinfulness of a situation by giving approval via reception of Holy Communion.

Supporters seek to be pastoral to the divorced and civilly re-married by admitting them to Holy Communion, but there are some harmful pastoral effects to be considered if we do, such as insensitivity toward the abandoned spouse and the example given to the children. Consider how the abandoned woman might feel if her husband –who divorced her to civilly ‘re-marry’ the lady who used to sit three rows in front of them at Mass- were to be publicly ‘affirmed’ with Holy Communion every Sunday. Consider too the example of commitment given to young men and women; how dependable or secure can they be in entering marriage when the example before them is that the home and children can be abandoned without spiritual consequence? Also to be considered is the scandal and example given to the parish, not to mention what it would say about the Church as a trustworthy guide in the spiritual life if She were to simply accept sins we have difficulty avoiding. Too many dangers are opened up in the rush to be [inauthentically] ‘pastoral’.

The idea that we can admit those in non-sacramental ‘re-marriages’ to Holy Communion reminds me of the priest who publicly advised a young person on an internet forum that instead of struggling and praying for the graces to overcome masturbation, the questioner should just thank God for the pleasure it brought. We wouldn't advise someone with a persistent cough to simply thank God for having the reflex and ignore the problem, so why fail in charity in care of the soul?  True love (Christian charity) puts the salvation of souls before all else; before being applauded as a politically correct community; before being liked personally. In the interests of safeguarding all that is holy (the Sacraments and our children’s souls) we need to be clear that what is not in accord with the Gospel is to be avoided rather than ways sought to accommodate it. The Sacrament needed by those in objectively sinful situations is not Holy Communion but Confession, with a supportive community helping them to remain faithful to the Gospel. If a person feels too lonely to continue after a divorce, we Catholics have some culpability for failing them. God's treatment for weakness is grace; for loneliness it's us - we are to live the Works of Mercy.  

Thursday 27 March 2014

Random Thoughts on the Church Sex Scandals and Wider Society

Having recently watched a TV programme in which the sex scandals in the Church were once again discussed I was left with a question: why are the child sex abuse scandal and homosexual acts by clergy being discussed in the same programme? Certainly both shatter the integrity of the individual priest and are gravely sinful acts, but the abuse of children is a heinous, criminal abuse of power over the most innocent and vulnerable in our society; taking a male (or female) lover or fathering illegitimate children are not criminal acts and actually sit well with the morality of today’s secular culture which is, on the whole, supportive of men and women taking lovers of either sex.

We must be ever vigilant against abuse by clergy (for perspective see here and here), but I think it is time abuse itself be seen and presented as the problem rather than the organisation in which it occurs, be that the Church, the BBC or any other institution, otherwise it is too easy to see abuse as a failure of the institution when in fact abuse is a massive problem throughout society: the NSPCC reported that in 2011-2012 there were 29,837 offenders on the Sex Offender Register for sexual offences against children (see here).

Having been brought to consider the need for abuse to be seen and reported as a social problem, I found myself irritated by the fact that abuse of the child is considered worse than the killing of the child as occurs in abortion. Further, research indicates abortion harms the woman too, studies indicating that in women who have had abortions there is increased risk of mental health problems, of premature birth with subsequent children, of cervical cancer and breast cancer, to say nothing of the risks associated with the procedure itself such as perforation of the uterus, infection, even death –see here and here.
N.B. Any Post-abortive women who are suffering can seek help through the Silent No More Awareness Campaign (see here) or via Rachel’s Vineyard (see here).

No matter how expert and clinical we make abortion, its true nature as the deliberate killing of the child is not easily dismissed by these mothers: women’s maternal instincts cannot be completely fooled by sterile equipment in clean operating rooms; they instinctively know they are engaging in the killing of their child since it is the child they are seeking to eliminate, not pregnancy. How many more women have to be harmed and unborn children killed before society begins again to value human life from the womb to the tomb? Indeed, following recent revelations by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, it is almost possible to say that in our “civilised society” the crematoria of the Nazi concentration camps have been replaced by hospital incinerators where babies are not simply cremated as waste but burned as fuel to heat the building in which other babies will have their lives ended. And we call our society ‘civilised’...

Sunday 23 March 2014

Have Some Priests Lost Their Faith?

Too many people (including priests of both Presbyteral and Episcopal rank) seem to have an image of Christ that is a kind of cross between Freud and Marx; a Christ for whom pastoral care means little more than alleviating emotional pain and removing social oppression. Does this constitute a loss of the Faith? Doesn’t Christ want us to have peace and social freedom? It seems to me that it at least suggests a loss of faith, because while such priests demonstrate natural goodness they decline to emulate Our Lord in His encounter with the woman caught in adultery by saying “Go and sin no more”. Yes Christ wants us to have peace and emancipation from unjust oppression, but the peace He wants us to have is Gospel peace, which inhabits the soul rather than the emotions; the emancipation He desires is from personal sin (in both the oppressed and the oppressor, since it is only by the conversion of the oppressor that social injustice can be overcome).

Surely most priests are full of faith and loyal to the Church and her enduring Magisterium, but priests unwilling to emulate Our Lord in His encounter with the woman caught in adultery fail both the Lord and souls: Our Lord showed the woman His love and mercy in forgiving her adultery, not by sanctioning it, yet for some Christ’s love and mercy are, it seems, to be shown by sanctioning adultery; they want to say, “Go, do penance, then return to your sin”. This is the spiritual reality they propose. If a Pope were to allow such a proposal to go through, one might find it hard not to say he had lost faith too.

The error here is that if one kind of infidelity to the sacrament of marriage can be tolerated (civil ‘remarriage’ after divorce), the door is opened to all lifestyles inconsistent with the spiritual realities of marriage: cohabitation, extra-marital sex and same-sex pairings. Yes these are more frequent than ever, and accepted by the secular culture, but for Catholics to accept them would be to choose secularity over the Gospel; to overthrow the whole of the Church’s teaching on human sexuality, to eliminate her claim to infallible authority –and to eliminate the call to holiness: penance prior to sin being enough to save.

None of us is worthy of Holy Communion: I receive not because I am good but because I seek to be good, since I sin on a daily basis (who doesn’t?)  But falling into sins on a daily basis is not the same as publicly setting oneself in formal opposition to Gospel teaching. At present the Annulment process is the just and honest way of ending distress in those whose marriages were truly invalid; the change needed is not an over-riding of the Tribunals by ‘pastoral arrangements’, but the snail-paced time the Tribunals are taking.

We have to pray for the blessing and courage of Pope Francis; to pray that he has a ‘Paul VI moment’ and not allow pressure from the world and priests of all ranks to persuade him to overturn the teaching of all his predecessors (and Christ Himself) by allowing teaching of Christ to be circumvented. We need Francis to stand strong, as did Paul VI with Humanae Vitae. Yes it brought Paul VI a heavy cross to carry, and it will bring Francis a cross too. But the cross is the only way to salvation; it cannot be achieved by submission to secular culture and formal (or at least material) sin.

Thursday 20 March 2014

‘Pastoral Considerations’ -The Devil’s Work?

There is no doubt that we need to find ways of encouraging those who struggle in irregular situations; that we need to show them as much warmth and valuing as we can. We need to find the kind of pastoral care that puts souls first; one that is done in Truth, since we are always to “do the truth in charity” (Eph.4v15). Any ‘Pastoral Considerations’ ('arrangements') which are inconsistent with Truth but rather enable a life to be lived in concrete (practical) opposition to Truth (Christ) are not good pastoral care. They may, no matter how well intentioned, be described as the work of the father of lies, who is ever seeking to lure souls from Christ. Satan can achieve his aim if he is able to have us put a person’s feelings, their emotional pain, before their souls; he can do it if he can influence minds into thinking we can hold to defined teaching on marriage while making ‘Pastoral Arrangements’ which circumvent that doctrine. Such arrangements only aid people in avoiding the practical application of the Ten Commandments to their lives, placing them in a situation which lacks in spiritual integrity: believing one thing, doing another. We need then, to be be discerning and find ways of helping that show the pastoral care of Christ rather than simple 'pastoral considerations' inspired by the enemy. 

To claim Vatican II’s “pastoral orientation” as the basis for making pastoral changes regarding admission to Holy Communion for those in irregular situations is to accuse the Bishops and priests of the pre-Vatican II Church of lacking in pastoral care. Not so; they simply modelled themselves on the Lord. When He, the Supreme Pastor of souls, was confronted with the woman caught in adultery He was not afraid to end their encounter with the injunction “Go, and sin no more”.Sadly -alarmingly- many clergy cannot emulate Him; their call for ‘pastoral considerations’ amount to a ‘pastoral escape clause’ being added to His injunction “Go and sin no more”. That clause is “unless it is too difficult or too painful for you, at which time we will fashion a way around the Commandment for you”. It is a clause which inherently seeks to dispense from Divine Law (which is beyond all authority in the Church no matter what colour cassock one wears) and transforms the Ten Commandments into ‘Ten Ideals’: “You shall not commit adultery unless your situation is too difficult/painful for you...”; “You shall not kill unless your situation is too difficult/painful for you....”. The first of these allows for all kinds of sexual irregularity; the second for the mass slaughter of unborn babies and the terminally ill. These two Commandments form the bedrock of Christ’s Culture of Life; dispensations from them would positively provide for Satan’s Culture of Death.

Those who call for ‘Pastoral Considerations’ do not seem to realise that they are in danger of abandoning the very Council they claim to be implementing, since to abandon moral disciplines in the living of the Christian life is to abandon the Council’s call to holiness, replacing it with a call to compromise. There is a tremendous need today for re-learning true pastoral care; the kind of care where souls are shepherded without enabling them to abandon the Truth (Christ) in their concrete, daily lives.

So while we must find ways which help those in irregular situations to live in hope, we must do so in accord with Truth. Such folk need the warm support of the community; they need to be assured that they can (and should) still plead for grace with the rest of us at the foot of the Cross in Mass; should still seek Pastoral Counselling from their priest that they might live out the fullness of the Faith; should still take their place on the roster for Eucharistic Adoration; still engage in charitable works, attend parish social events and take their part in the care of parish property. Even membership of the Finance Committee can be open to them since this is not a ministerial or catechetical task (such tasks oblige them to teach one thing while living another). All in all, a great deal is open to those in irregular situations, and pastors at all levels must help them to see, value and access what is open to them, rather than erroneously concretise a lifestyle which is in opposition to Truth and which cannot, therefore, be the work of the Holy Spirit, who is not a spirit of contradiction.

Tuesday 18 March 2014

An Interview with Our Parish Priest

Since I take part in several activities within the parish and work closely with Father in the office, it is often to me that people make their remarks and bring their questions. I brought this to Father’s attention and asked if I could do a mock interview in which I asked him those questions that I most commonly hear. He agreed, and decided to make the text available to the parish last weekend. I thought it might give readers of the blog an insight into our parish too, so here it is...with an added question I hadn't noticed I had omitted (I wondered why we did not have the whole 20 Questions)!

1.   Are we making good use of the laity in the running of the parish, especially in light of your health concerns?
We are trying, though we are a village parish with many elderly parishioners. Still, we have laity acting as Readers, Extra-ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHC); forming the Finance Committee, leading Children’s Liturgy, engaged as the Vulnerable Persons Link, in  Bookkeeping, Gift-Aid organising, Baptism Catechesis, housebound visiting, managing the piety shop, doing coffee-mornings, prize bingos, assisting at Mass, doing repairs, gardening etc. My health is like everyone’s: up and own. Sadly the COPD does prevent me doing some things, but as the Bishop has said, in that I am saying daily Mass, doing school Masses, Funerals, housebound visits and meetings, all is doable (at present...)

2.   What is expected of a priest?
A priest’s primary task is to pray, celebrate the sacraments and teach. He should attend those in crisis events, visit the housebound and the school, attend Deanery meetings, prepare funerals, visit the bereaved; see those who ask for a private talk, take over-all responsibility for supervising parish groups and oversee the admin of the parish.

3.   How are our housebound parishioners cared for?
The Housebound receive Holy Communion every week from their EMHC; are visited monthly by the priest on the week of the First Friday (only impeded by a funeral or by the priest being ill) and are visited by the Legion of Mary. There are also parishioners who make private visits to the elderly who they know need a little help or some company. 

4.   What links do we have with our school?
Several of our parishioners are on the Governing Body (along with the Parish Priest); several help voluntarily with the Breakfast Club and classroom work, there is a sharing of one another’s Bulletins, and there are School Masses and classroom visits from the priest. We have also had the school in Church for Carol Concerts in Advent (proceeds from which went to the Street Children of Columbia) and Children’s Stations of the Cross during Lent.

5.   What are we doing about Justice & Peace issues?
Our Coffee mornings raise funds for such as Aid to the Church in Need, The Little Way Association; SPUC etc (information on these groups is on the parish Notice Board) and we have prayers offered every week at Mass for troubled places and international needs. We also do practical things such as buying only fair-trade wine for use at Mass. Our Red Boxes are a great support to the Missions.

6.   What is the collection money spent on?
Money from the collections goes on the heating, lighting and insurances for the Church. Repairs too have to be paid for from the collections, as do copyright licenses, Council Tax and water rates. Candle oil, wine and altar breads also have to be paid for, as do our office supplies (from account ledgers to paper and ink for the Bulletins) and renewals of such as altar cloths and vestments. The tea, coffee, biscuits etc, used by parish groups also comes from parish funds, as does the priest’s monthly allowance (£298 per month). As a parish, we survive on about £1,300 per month –much less than the average household.

7.   Why do we use Application Forms for Baptism & First Holy Communion?
These allow the parish office to access the essential information (names, date of birth, address, contact number etc) and give basic information on the Faith to the parents as preparation for their time with the catechist/priest. One section encourages the parents to think about ways of forming their child/children in the Faith, asking who will bring the child to Mass; what they will do to form the child (holy pictures, pilgrimages) etc. If we ask people to fill out Enquiry Forms for Marriage we can do the same for baptism, since this is the foundational sacrament; the gateway to all the others.

8.   What is the extent of our Ecumenical Involvement?
Very limited since there is no non-Catholic community here with a resident minister, but we can join ecumenical services arranged for Advent/Lent. We also advertise Thornley’s Fete days arranged by the local Council and should not forget that our Prize Bingo has supported non-Catholic schools & the local Community Centre for the elderly, which is also ecumenical activity. Diocesan events are also advertised within the parish.

9.   Are there any ways we can make more use of young people at Mass?
We try to involve young people by encouraging them to serve Mass, and it is always a young person who leads the intercessions, and the Offertory Procession always done by the Children’s Liturgy. Further, we make provision for two people from the age of 16-25 to sit on the Pastoral Action Care Team (formerly called The Pastoral Council) so as to bring younger views into our deliberations. Suggestions from people are willing to take responsibility for running them, are always welcome.

10.What are we doing to support families?
This is a difficult aspect of parish life to support. The priest offers support by making himself available for pastoral counselling, and we try to have family days during the summer such as Parade of the Saints Day and the Summer BBQ. We asked families to come together for a meeting to say what they needed but only two families came and it all fell through. It is important for families to come together to give mutual support in their common vocation.

11.Why don’t our Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion distribute Hosts?
Because it isn’t necessary. If a lay person assists with Hosts the queues for reception from the chalice build up, distribution of the Host being so much quicker. On a spiritual note, the chalice, paten and priests hands are all consecrated to touch the sacred Host, which EMHC’s are not. It was Pope John Paul II who made this point in Dominicae cenae (1980): saying “one must not forget the primary office of priests, who have been consecrated by their ordination to represent Christ the Priest:...How eloquent therefore, even if not of ancient custom, is the rite of the anointing of the hands in our Latin ordination, as though precisely for these hands a special grace and power of the Holy Spirit is necessary! To touch the sacred species and to distribute them with their own hands is a privilege of the ordained, one which indicates an active participation in the ministry of the Eucharist.” (emphasis added).

12.Why do we have the Old Mass on Sunday mornings?
We have the Extraordinary Form because it reminds us that the Church before and after Vatican II is the same Church, and because it reminds us of the dignity and reverence with which the Holy Sacrifice must be offered. Not only that but, as Pope Benedict pointed out, “what was sacred before remains sacred today”; it should not be seen as bad but as precious and greatly valued. I also think it is important as a matter of justice to provide young people with the heritage that is rightfully theirs.

13.Have we lost numbers since moving from a Vigil to a Sunday evening Mass?
I think a few have chosen to go elsewhere, but we can be pleased in that when I arrived here nine years ago the Mass count was 130 and remains around 130. Remember, this change was necessary because we could not get supplies for Saturday, and because the Deanery had no local Sunday Evening Mass. The change was supported by the clergy of the Deanery and was approved by the Bishop because it means we priests can supply more easily for one another in times of illness, retreats, conferences, holidays etc.

14.Why have we had Mass facing the altar for the last nine years?
When we used this for Easter nine years ago, consultation slips post-Easter showed that 1/3 preferred it; 1/3 disliked it and 1/3 expressed no preference. We adopted it from that time because it [1] is the position given in the Missal; [2] symbolises our facing the sanctifying waters flowing from the East of the Heavenly Jerusalem, [3] symbolises our waiting and looking East together for the return of Christ on the last day.

15.Why do we use sung Latin for the Sanctus, Pater Noster and Agnus Dei?
We use it because it retains continuity with our past and because it was given pride of place by Vatican II. It should be used not only for the above but the Creed and Gloria too.

16.Why is there no ‘peace’ exchanged?
The ‘Peace’ is exchanged in that the celebrant offers it to the people and they respond. Sharing a sign of peace is not offered (but not forbidden) because it disrupts our focus on the Lord present on the altar, and because it is wrongly used as a sign of affection between family and friends which is not its purpose -it makes it a non-liturgical, man-centred act; an attitude highlighted when we seek the optional Sign of Peace yet refuse the required acts of humility before God (bowing during the Creed; striking the breast in the I Confess).

17.Why encourage receiving Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue?
First because it symbolises our subordination to God; second because it helps us to grow in humility before Him and third, because it is still the official way to receive (reception in the hand is only allowed by special indult to the Bishops of a country by Rome and can be revoked at any time. A number of Bishops around the world are beginning to make this revocation.) The Jewish people do not have the Lord in their tabernacles, they have the scripture, yet speaking in synagogue meets with removal. We need to give the Lord who is Truly and Substantially Present in our Tabernacles even greater reverence.

18.What is the reason for silence in Church before and after Mass?
It respects the Presence of God in the tabernacle and the right of others for the silence in which to pray. As St John of the Cross said, “One Word spoke the Father; and that Word is His Son He speaks that Word in eternal silence, and in silence it must be heard by the soul”. The Church is where we talk to God (pray); The hall is where we talk to one another.

19.Why do we not get a “Good morning” or a “Thank you” at Mass?
Because these are replaced at Mass with the liturgical greeting “The Lord be with you”. Good morning”/“thank you” are non-liturgical; foreign to the liturgy and officially disapproved by Rome.

20.What is your hope for the Synod on the family later this year?
I hope that it will clarify the Church’s teaching on the dignity of marriage, and provide encouragement to those in irregular situations to do all they can to live a life of grace (this would include the life of prayer, charity, taking part in pilgrimages, attending prayer meetings, seeking counselling from their pastor etc.) A helpful thing for the Synod to do would be to remind such folk that although they have chosen to remove themselves from the reception of Holy Communion by their attempt to enter a second (civil) marriage, they have not removed themselves from attending Mass where they, like all of us, stand at the foot of the Cross to ask that the Blood which flowed from Christ’s wounds may wash away our sins so that we may be filled with the grace that flowed from His pierced side. I hope to see specific guidance for pastors on what those in irregular situations can and cannot do in line with the Truth and the avoidance of scandal. 

Obviously not everything about our parish has been covered here, but I hope you have found this an interesting read.

Monday 17 March 2014

Catholic Blogs: My Thoughts

I have not written this post in defence of any particular blog that has closed, or address it to any particular Bishop who asks that a blog be closed. Rather, I am writing it because blogs do close at the request of their Bishop, and that brings me to ask what I, as a blogger, am about, and how long I think I should continue to blog.

For me, blogs are a way of communicating ones thoughts, feelings, reactions etc. Running a blog brings one both affirmation and challenge and as such, can be very growth-producing. However, writing a Catholic blog in order “to contend for the faith that was once and for all entrusted to God's holy people” (Jude.1v3) has an added reality which brings with it an ever-present danger. The reality is that Catholic blogging can be a holy work if it does the truth in charity (Eph.4v15); the ever-present danger is that if blogging is not done with charity it can become a work of the enemy (though harsh words may be required to halt a train in its tracks: doing the truth in charity does not equate with being a sparrow when an eagle is needed...). Surely bloggers must always seek to do a holy work; to defend and proclaim the Truth in charity? I think this is certainly true of clerical bloggers who tend to measure their words carefully and avoid detraction of any persons whose words or deeds they consider inconsistent with the Faith.

Now the Faith has been “delivered once for all”. Nothing may be removed from the Sacred Deposit; nothing can be added to it or altered within it, and development of it must never veer into distortion so that what was once held is no longer held or what was once repudiated is now accepted. Further, the Faith is “delivered to the saints”; it belongs to the whole people of God, right back to those alive in Apostolic times. It is not the property of one generation to do with as they please -much less is it the property of Popes and Bishops who serve God (and the saints) by guarding the Sacred Deposit.

If Popes, Bishops, Priests (or prominent Catholic laypersons) compromise by word or deed the Faith delivered to the saints, they must be prepared to be challenged; to be called to account by ‘saints’ loyal to the Sacred Deposit (not to those who share their compromise in word or in deed). But bloggers who provide the challenge must do so in charity if they are to do a holy work; they must be careful to criticise positions and acts, not persons. Yet persons -be they Pope, Bishop, Priest or prominent lay Catholic- must not take offence when they are identified with their words or deeds, because holding a sacred office cannot exclude one from criticism of the way that office is discharged: public office inherently leaves one open to public refute. Indeed, we are obliged to challenge (Lumen gentium, 37) for the sake of the Truth.

Similarly, Traditional Catholic bloggers must also be open to challenge, but they should not be assailed if they are “doing the truth in charity”, because to assail Truth is to assail Christ. That said, clerical bloggers who lack charity in their posts or allow uncharitable comments to go unedited, may require suppression by ecclesiastical authority for the sake of Charity, and to defend a person’s good name. Such use of authority could be called a holy act. However, when a blog avoids criticism of persons to question and condemn only positions and acts, suppression of that blog by ecclesiastical authority becomes a work of the Father of Lies, who is always behind any attempt to suppress Truth.

I think all bloggers must take care to do the truth in charity; to criticise positions and acts but never persons. Similarly, I think ecclesiastical authorities must take care not to suppress blogs simply because they do not like to see themselves or others called to account. Such suppression would be an abuse of authority which is “given unto edification and not unto destruction” (2.Cor.10v8; 13v10). At the end of the day, blog-writing is not about freedom of speech, it is about the defence and promulgation of the Truth, even by charitable challenge. 

PS While we have to be very respectful in challenging Popes, and certainly respectful of their person, we have every right to follow the example of St Catherine of Sienna and challenge a Pope whose words or deeds seem to us to be off-side.

Saturday 15 March 2014

Tradition & Liberalism: the Wheat and the Tares Post Vatican II

Since Vatican II we have a phenomenon in the Church which sees it divided down the middle; divided between Tradition Catholics and Liberal Catholics. There are dangers to being a Traditional Catholic and a Liberal Catholic. Traditional Catholics court the danger of seeing Doctrine and practice as somewhat fossilised; rather static and devoid of growth. Perhaps they have been forced into this position by seeing the Faith whittled away bit by bit and chunk by chunk. They may go on to defend the Faith so devotedly that they criticise the liberal person rather than the liberal position. Liberals on the other hand, court the greater danger of losing their Faith by seeking ways to adapt Christ’s Church to the modern world as though the world as teacher of Christ rather than Christ Teacher of the world; they may go on to oppress all things Traditional which confronts their desire for change (as distinguished from growth).

I have (but rarely) seen any of the courted dangers present in the Traditional Catholics I know, but we are seeing a real loss of faith in Liberal Catholics: the desire to adapt to the world is everywhere and has influenced even sincere Catholics, to the point where there seems to be a noticeable intolerance of Tradition. While we do not yet know the full facts of the FFI saga, or of the case at St Thomas More College, these are examples of the oppression of Tradition. It is of a kind such as we have not seen since the 1970’s and the formation of the SSPX.  As such, I find within me a resonance with today’s post at Rorate Caeli (seehere), and a question arising for me: why are so many Catholics -from Rome down to the man in the pew- hostile to their own Tradition?

I believe what we are seeing is a Church whose members are afraid of being labelled ‘uncompassionate’ and ‘backward’ by the secular world which focuses on feelings; a Church membership so caught up with caring for a person’s feelings rather than their soul that they adapt the Faith to gain credibility fin the world and feel themselves to be ‘compassionate’. That indicates not only a fear, but a loss of Faith. Unfortunately, since all things Traditional threaten their adaptation of the Faith, the Liberal Catholic will always persecute Tradition wherever it is found. But what have they to fear from their own Tradition; from their own foundations? Nothing. It is our Tradition upon which we stand or fall. As such, all things Tradition should be allowed to grow unchecked. If it is from not God it will wither and die; if it is of God -as we believe it is- then liberals who oppress it will find themselves answering to God for fighting against Him. At the end of the day, only the devil can have fooled souls into viewing as a tare to be rooted out that which the Church has always regarded as her finest wheat.

The Silence of the Whispered Roman Canon

The Latin Mass Society recently produced a video on the silence of the Roman Canon in the Traditional Roman Form of the Mass. The Canon is a moment of great solemnity since by that prayer, the Risen Lord descends to earth escorted by His angels and saints in order to plead on our altars His Sacrifice on the Cross for our salvation. The ineffability of that moment is better conveyed by the whispered voice than the flamboyant voice, the silence not being an empty silence but a silence filled with the glory, love and utter kenosis of God, the awareness of which can be lost or cheapened by the out-loud ‘community’ voice. On our part the whispered Canon it is a moment that is filled with anticipation, humility, awe, adoration and thanksgiving; it encourages a movement of the heart in which we unite our self-offering to that of the Lord, which is active participation is at its peak.

In contrast, the Novus Ordo has the Canon spoken aloud and celebrants are often so caught up with ‘making it meaningful for the people’ that even the words “take this, all of you...” are accompanied by the gesture of holding the gifts toward the people (facilitated by the innovation of facing them across the altar). When we see this kind of gesture we are all-but seeing the words of consecration addressed to the people, not prayed to God, and that makes the prayer akin to an address by a leader to his party conference. One wonders how far one can be inclined toward this ‘performing’ of the Canon before the prayer becomes a ‘gig’ and quite unable to confect the sacrifice. After all, these are not magical words; they are sacramental words; words of prayer, not of performance. Also, and whether one wants to admit it or not, reciting the Canon out loud gives the impression that the purpose of the Canon is edification of the people. It is not; it is the priestly prayer of Christ to His Father for the sanctification of His people. It can edify; but it can edify just as easily through reading it home in preparation or Mass as it can by hearing it spoken aloud in Church; perhaps more so in that we read it with our own emphasis.

Some justify the out-loud Canon by rightly noting that the whole Church is offering and praying in Christ, but the mode of offering by the congregation (clergy in choir as well as laity in the pews) is different from that of the celebrant; it consists in their personal self-offering in union with Christ. They do not need to hear the Canon in order to completely fulfil this office, which is the supreme and perfect means of actively participating in the Sacrifice. Indeed the silent Canon is the perfect place to pour out the wounds of the soul in our one-to-one relationship with the Lord. On contrary, a spoken Canon hampers personal prayer by the barrage of words coming from someone in the front.

As for the Mystery of Faith acclamation, this seems to me to be a terribly artificial moment. Not only does it interrupt the prayer of the Son to the Father for the sake of giving the people something to say, but there is no warrant for it in Sacrosnactum Concilium which asked for a simplification of the liturgy and removal of unnecessary duplications; not for innovations.

Ought we not to honour the Risen Lord in His Real Presence in our Churches, especially at that moment when He comes down onto the altar to plead His Sacrifice on the Cross for our salvation? As Scripture tells us “God is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him” (Mal.2v20). Sadly, the out-loud Canon reflects (and perhaps promotes) the sacred space as nothing more than a community centre in which we meet, greet and affirm one another. How could it be otherwise when the most sacred moment is interrupted for the sake of an acclamation and when we then turn from the Lord truly and Substantially Present to His mystical presence in one another at the sign of peace? The import of the ‘silent’ Canon is much greater than one might imagine. Bring back the silent Canon! 

Friday 14 March 2014

More Curious Words but from another Cardinal...

Rorate Caeli notes that Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor is quoted in ‘Vatican Insider’ as saying

“...the doctrine of the Church develops by going out in a different direction.  That is to say, it changes in an indirect way. And it could develop in the question of the divorced and remarried.”

This phrase that will make progressive Catholics jump up and down in glee, but will have orthodox Catholics shaking their head in confusion and disbelief. What on earth is development that is indirect; meandering? Development that meanders this way and that; development which goes off in an indirect way, is not development but distortion. Development of doctrine must be consistent with what has gone before, just as an acorn must develop into oak, not a rosebush.

My usual analogy for development is usually that of the kitten inevitably growing into a full-grown cat and not into a dog. The latter analogy is probably better since many Catholics are making a dog’s dinner of the Faith in their desire to free people from the emotional pain they suffer as a consequence of someone choosing sin; pain which is perhaps a grace calling them back to the Gospel but a grace denied to souls so that they may have peace in this world yet -very possibly- pain in the next. It really does seem that all we care about now in pastoral care is feelings, feelings, feelings... Too many Catholics “will not tolerate sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Tim.4v3).

Thursday 13 March 2014

The Synod -Is The Cat out Of The Bag?

Little more can be said about the forthcoming Synod if Cardinal Kasper’s reported words are correct, i.e., that if the Synod does not change things there is no point in having it. Such words indicate a predetermined outcome on the horizon, which does not leave much room for the Holy Spirit to guide the proceedings and may even extend to a resistance of the Holy Spirit. We can only pray that His presence and guidance is irresistible to the participants.

We have perhaps all have occasion to suspect a Parish Pastor or Diocesan Bishop of calling a meeting simply to tick the box of consultation, but such consultation and the programmes which follow are local and not geared towards alteration of the Doctrine and/or discipline of the Universal Church. If a Roman Synod is being called simply to tick the box of consultation, that is disreputable and dangerous; disreputable because we are not talking about a pastoral or administrative programme within a locality but of the universal discipline of the most holy things on earth: the Sacraments; it is dangerous because it exposes souls to the flaws of a human, emotion-led agenda.

If there are participants coming to the Synod who are consciously seeking to alter the constant practice of the Church and her teaching on the unacceptability of re-marriage, they are going to bring the Synod dangerously close to putting souls in jeopardy by seeking to allow them to live in conflict with Christ Who is Truth. Such participants would be rightfully taking note of the emotional pain suffered by many and seeking to alleviate that pain, but alleviate it by giving primacy in pastoral care to care of the emotions rather than to care of the soul, and it is souls we must save.

I hope directives that hold together both Truth believed and Truth lived can be discerned under the guidance of the Holy Ghost; it is not impossible. But I suspect it could only be done by reference to Internal Forum solutions where the invalidity of a marriage is morally certain but cannot be publicly proven. Unfortunately, such solutions are open to abuse by unscrupulous souls (people and pastors) which puts their souls in danger, and in any case cannot be applied to same-sex pairings.

Good people are indeed suffering much pain at being unable to receive the sacraments, a pain which cannot leave any priest unmoved, but any directives must hold together Truth believed and Truth lived; we cannot be allowed to live contrary to the Truth. While we must not pre-judge what the Holy Ghost can do at the Synod, or indeed the openness of the participants to hearing Him, that they may come to the Synod with a predetermined outcome is disturbing since it is the Ten Commandments, the pronouncement of Christ in the Gospel and the constant teaching of the Church they will have to over-ride to facilitate an outcome that is incompatible with the integrity of the most holy things on earth -the sacraments. The eternal good of souls is at stake here, not simply their happiness on earth.

Tuesday 11 March 2014

My Hope for Francis and The Synod -short update

The hard-hitting, down-the-line blogger Mundabor has a piece on Pope Francis in which he says we should remind Pope Francis of his words:

“There has been, throughout history of the people, this temptation: to chop a piece off the Faith”, the temptation to be a bit “like everyone else does”, the temptation “not to be so very rigid”. “But when we start to cut down the Faith, to negotiate Faith, a little like selling it to the highest bidder”, he stressed, “we take the path of apostasy, of disloyalty to the Lord.”

Those words of Francis are sound and give one hope for the outcome of the Synod, but in light of recent statements by Francis on civil unions which do not provide absolute clarity, and in light of the clarifications by Fr Roscia which clarify nothing for me, Mundabors advice would be well taken those who advise Francis. Personally, my hope is that Francis will repeat these words at the Synod in order to prevent it drifting from pastoral care of the immortal soul to the devil-inspired focus on the emotional life; the kind of ‘pastoral care’ that says “We don’t want to see people in pain, so let’s find a way around their problem”, rather than “We don’t want to see people in pain, but we must keep them from eternal pains by solving their problem in line with the Truth”. The former attitude puts souls into lived conflict with the Christ (Who is Truth); the latter attitude seeks to help souls live in union with Christ through whatever cross we must carry. Conflict with Christ will not save souls; carrying the cross will.

The Abuse of Pope Francis

In a recent interview with Corriere della Sera as translated by Zenit, Pope Francis was asked, “Half a century after Paul VI’s encyclical ‘Humanae Vitae,’ can the Church take up again the topic of birth control?...” Francis’ reply is given as,

“It all depends on how the text of Humanae Vitae is interpreted. Paul VI himself, towards the end, recommended to confessors much mercy and attention to concrete situations. But his genius was prophetic, as he had the courage to go against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to apply a cultural brake, to oppose present and future neo-Malthusianism. The object is not to change the doctrine, but it is a matter of going into the issue in depth and to ensure that the pastoral ministry takes into account the situations of each person and what that person can do. This will also be discussed on the path to the Synod”.

This response will, I fear, be abused by those who profess they are orthodox but whose deeds do not match their words. In their liberal, culture-of-death ideology, they will interpret Francis as basically saying (as italicised in the parenthesis):

“The object is not to change the doctrine [since doctrine cannot change], but it is a matter of going into the issue in depth and to ensure that the pastoral ministry takes into account the situations of each person and what that person can do [and what they can’t; where they can be let off the hook]. This will also be discussed on the path to the Synod [so that we can give people a pass from living according to our moral doctrine].  

I suggest we read Francis as saying

“The object is not to change the doctrine [since doctrine cannot change], but it is a matter of going into the issue in depth and to ensure that the pastoral ministry takes into account the situations of each person and what that person can do [to remain faithful to moral doctrine in their deeds, and avoid living in violation of Truth]. This will also be discussed on the path to the Synod so that we can hold both together [Truth believed and Truth lived].

I suggest this because to allow persons to live contrary to the Truth would be to allow them to live at odds with Christ Who is Truth itself. Liberals who cite ‘pastoral considerations’ as the door to Holy Communion for those in objectively wrong moral situations only nullify every moral doctrine in practice; all such doctrine being left without any meaning other than “ideals we can minimise for you”. What liberals are in fact advocating is pseudo-pastoral care; care that is divided from the whole Christ: united to His Mercy certainly, but divided from His Truth and His Justice. As a result of such pseudo-pastoral care serial marriage, cohabitation, contraception, IVF, abortion, euthanasia, embryonic research, homosexual acts et al, will flourish, and Holy Mother Church will be left in a state of hypocrisy, like a physician who at the behest of her patients allows the taking of illegal drugs which make one feel good but are ultimately harmful.

Let us be honest: pastoral care in Christ does not -because it cannot- equate with putting people in permanent, practical conflict to Christ. Certainly pseudo-pastoral care will help us feel good, but will objectively leave us in lived-opposition to Truth who said, “Go, and sin no more”.

As a means of supporting those in irregular situations we can encourage them to value their personal self-offering at Mass, their  life of prayer, their readings of scripture, their works of charity, their consultation of a spiritual director, and their participation in the life of the parish as bookkeepers, secretaries, events committees, singers, gardeners, cleaners etc (ministry at the altar and Catechesis being incongruent with their situation). As Cardinal Nichols said, reception of Holy Communion “is the high point” –or it ought to be.

While I feel for couples whose situations are such that they see their choices as not only good but necessary, what enables support for Humanae Vitae is not simply the constant teaching of the Church but the witness of couples who practice natural family planning; couples who state that their use of NFP has brought them together more profoundly, enhancing both their communication and their mutual respect. Low divorce rates among those who practice NFP might be cited as objective evidence of their subjective experience –and of the Church’s perennial wisdom.

While we will always have sinners in the Church, if we are going to have a Church without actual hypocrites it is not those who follow the rules that we need to watch but those who publicly affirm doctrine yet seek by stealth to erode that doctrine by establishing contrary practice; practice from which they can build a ‘new theology’; a new ‘doctrine’ –a new Gospel.  It is worth pointing out that so-called ‘rule-bound folk’ are not lacking in pastoral awareness. They know for example, that while the 3rd Commandment to “keep holy the Sabbath” can be waived in order to be caregiver to sick person, allowing someone to violate the 6th Commandment by giving them life-long permission to abandon the permanency, fidelity or life-giving elements of marriage, is not the same. In the former case we have a passing, unwilled event; in the latter we have a chosen, life-long violation.

We pray for Pope Francis and the Synod, that they are not derailed from orthodoxy for the sake of ‘pastoral considerations’ which play false to the Truth. In the end it is treachery, not mercy, which allows souls to live in ways opposed to Truth (Christ). 

Monday 10 March 2014

The Nuts & Bolts of Marriage Today

I truly believe there ought to have been a law protecting persons in same-sex situations from having their Last Will & Testament over-ridden by family if they objected to the named beneficiary; it is appalling that someone’s dying wishes be over-ruled (though one must ask why a will, legally signed, not sufficient in law). It should have legally possible to protect those dying wishes without resorting to calling the living arrangement of the deceased and the beneficiary ‘marriage’. This only made marriage the recognition of a mere romantic attachment and not the establishing of a family for the building up of society. Now, it seems, we are seeing the idea of romantic attachment extended to other situations just as incongruent with nature: marriage to the dead.

A number of blogs have reported that a lady has been given the right to marry her dead fiancé (see here). It is beyond my comprehension that a person can be given the right to marry a dead person, since there is absolutely no possibility of the deceased giving their consent. The promise made in engagement is insufficient to supply that consent, because the promise of a possible future cannot at the same time be the concrete realisation of that future; it is either a promise or the event made concrete, it cannot be both.

I suspect many will see the illogicality of marrying the dead, but how many people who find the idea illogical yet give their support to same-sex ‘marriage’, which is also out of synch with nature? It is no less odd to ‘marry’ a man to a man or a woman to a woman because, even though consent can be given, it is consent to a union that cannot exist. Excuse this rather crude analogy, but attempting to unite two men or two women in a unity is like trying to achieve the union of two bolts or two nuts: no such union can be achieved.

Today’s world is simply using the word ‘marriage’ to mean any relationship in which there is emotional import, to give the word another meaning entirely, as was done with the word ‘gay’ (which I refuse to use since it seems this was coined in order to label homosexuality in an asexual, non-offensive, even joyful manner). Perhaps what we will see next, if emotional import is all that is needed for marriage, will be someone ‘marrying’ their cat so that the cat has a right of inheritance, or ‘marrying’ their childhood home because of the romantic associations it has for them (would this mean that if the house was sold or repossessed there would also have to be divorce proceedings?)

The world is showing the idiocy of atheistic thinking by registering as true the impossible union of the living and the dead, of male to male and female to female. It is idiocy because it is out of synch with our biological nature. As such, society cannot be relied upon as an authority for right living; cannot be relied upon for sound teaching or legislation on any moral issue, be that marriage, contraception, abortion, embryonic research, euthanasia et al.  Though we might construct some theory or other in order to justify diverse ‘marriages’, this is merely a use of the intellect to justify submission to our passions rather than use of reason for the control of our passions. Is there no end to this abuse of intellect and the abandoning of natural law?

Commentators: please, no saucy jokes about nuts or comments derogatory to the human person.

Sunday 9 March 2014

A Readers Experience of PCT/NDC

I have chosen (with the writers permission -thank you!) to use as a post, a comment I received on my previous posting in which I spoke of Person-Centred Therapy/Non-Directive Counselling. The comment received illustrates what I have been trying to say. I don't believe the writer or myself are saying nothing good is to be found in PCT/NDC, only that many in the Church are not seeing its dangers.

Dear Father,
About 10 years ago I was working as a PR/Education Officer for a pro-life charity and my wife and I were asked to go through the counselling training. We were disturbed to learn that they were using the Rogerian Non-Directive approach based on the ideas of Carl Rogers.The Rogerian model allowed no space for Catholic understandings of Original Sin, Concupiscence, Redemption, Grace, or the Thomistic principles for giving good guidance and wise counsel.As such the non-directive approach aimed only to give 'information' to make an 'informed choice' through so-called 'self-actualization.' We realized that such an approach could actually facilitate a woman towards having an abortion! Also, the Catholic counsellors were required to leave their Faith at the door when it came to helping people in such a serious situation. Another amazing thing that we noticed, was that those most committed to the non-directive approach became remarkably directive when we questioned their approach. They preferred it to the Catholic teaching.
This led us to do further research. We learned that Rogerian group therapy sessions had been used on the IHM nuns in Southern California in the 1960's. When Rogers and his team arrived there were 615 religious in the community. One year later, 300 of them petitioned Rome to be released from their vows. The nuns ran 60 schools at the outset and ended up with just 1 school. So we researched further and came across William Coulson. He had been a 'disciple' of Rogers in the early days, but had been converted and spent years warning people of the corrosive effects of the Rogerian approach. Coulson explained that Rogers had influenced the New Age Esalen Centre in California and that his principles had migrated into education and have taken root in much of the 'Values-Clarification' education which has evolved into the educational systems around today. These are, of course, explicitly warned against in the 1993 document The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality from the Pontifical Congregation for the Family. As an Education Officer, I was horrified to realize that the very relativistic forces we were fighting against in education had been influenced by the man behind the charity's counselling system. These techniques are at times used in schools today - in the Orwellian-sounding Citizenship Education for example.
In the end we had to leave that charity because they would not listen to us, but we were glad to have learned so much about our present cultural milieu from the experience. Hopefully the Trinitarian-Christocentric approach can replace this selfism. Paul VI wrote a helpful book about all this called Psychology as Religion- The Cult of Self-Worship. He has a lot of helpful material in there.
In Christ

Friday 7 March 2014

Cracks by which the Smoke of Satan entered the Church

I was shocked when I first came across the words of Pope Paul VI that “through some crack the smoke of Satan has entered the Church” (1972, Feast of Sts. Peter & Paul). He had already stated, five years earlier, that

“we looked forward to a flowering, a serene expansion of conceptions which matured in the great sessions of the Council. But one must notice above all the sorrowful aspect. It is as if the Church were destroying herself.” (Address to the Lombard Seminary at Rome, December 1968)

These were prophetic statements in the sense of seeing the signs of the times. Unfortunately nothing was done for far too long. It took until the 1990’s to get a post-Vatican II Catechism -though this is ignored by many folk who call themselves Catholic yet call for a democratic Church, women priests and the toleration of contraception, serial marriage, homosexual relationships etc. We can understand that Bishops refrain from correcting such doctrinal irregularity for fear of scandal and division, but not to make the correction is also scandalous and divisive. They prefer, it seems an approach which favours “dialogue seeking retraction” rather than correction. This approach is, I suggest,  one of the cracks through which the smoke of Satan has entered the Church, since it allows error and confusion to grow; it allows weeds to choke the word of God.  

A second crack by which the smoke of Satan entered the Church is mishandling of the liturgy. Sadly, Divine worship has been allowed to become a battleground of disagreement between those who prefer the Traditional Form and those who prefer the ‘Reformed Form’. Sadly, those with authority in the Church have tried to force those who have difficulty receiving the Novus Ordo to make exclusive use of it. This use of force waned somewhat after John Paul II’s Ecclessia Dei (1988), and was put to rest (we thought) by Summorum pontificum (2007). But the division remains, as does an occasional misuse of force. Such hostility towards our Liturgical Tradition and patrimony only encourages division within the Church. Yet this division need not exist. As I once wrote in a letter to a Catholic Newspaper (which they chose not to publish),  

“we must have the courage to let both forms of Mass be celebrated without any restriction of law or any interference from Bishops or Popes (or their appointed commissioners). Only then will we be able to see which Form of Mass the Holy Spirit wishes to foster and which He allows to die out naturally, since if either form is restricted by law or obstructed by local ‘prudential judgement’, those making the laws or providing the obstruction will be forcing His hand. It is worth remembering the counsel of scripture: “if the undertaking is from God, you will not only be unable to stop it, but you may find yourselves fighting against God”. (Acts 5v38,39).

I continue to contend that both forms of Mass be celebrated freely, without obstruction by universal law or local ‘prudential judgement’. By this we will avoid hardening our hearts against the Holy Spirit. After all, the authority given to Popes and Bishops in their rightful measure, is “unto edification, and not unto destruction” (2 Cor. 13v10): they have all authority to denounce false doctrine and halt liturgical abuses, but no authority to forbid what is holy. Simply put, the Church cannot forbid what is holy without opposing God, since He is Holiness Itself.

The primary crack by which the smoke of Satan has entered the Church and from which the cracks in doctrine and liturgy arise is, I suggest, the adherence to non-directive, Person-centred Theory (PCT) in pastoral care, since this theory abandons the Lord’s command to His Church to actively direct souls: “Go teach all nations...teach them to observe all the commands I have given you...”(Matth. 28v19.20). PCT is a theory which sees the individual as good at the core; as directed toward the good, and therefore able to determine their own way forward. This facilitates subjective, relativist decision-making, from which flow all the sexual irregularities of our time: sex outside of marriage; serial marriage; contraception; homosexual activity, etc., as well as such ins as abortion. Non-directive therapy has been given erroneous credibility by hanging it on the hook of “Do not judge”, fooling many a sincere Christian into accepting it as a sound pastoral tool when in fact it is a supreme danger to souls, replicating in itself the pattern seen in the commission of original sin (original sin being a turning from God’s law to one’s own law) in that each person is self-directed. The acceptance of non-directive theory into pastoral care is, I suggest, the primary crack by which the smoke of Satan entered the Church -and the reason why dogma is discarded and liturgy anthropocentric. The fight against relativism must therefore be central to the work of the up-coming Synod on the family.