Monday 7 November 2016

Sede vacante?

It is becoming increasingly difficult to defend Pope Francis, since although he has not tried to officially teach anything contrary to the Doctrine of the Faith and cannot therefore be accused of formal heresy, his homilies and talks do seem to include questionable statements, and his acts do seem to lack prudence and consistency with our doctrine. Someone said to me recently that they think the ‘sede vacante’ folk may be right; that there is no Pope on the throne of Peter.  I have never held that position, but yes, I can see where they are coming from. Indeed a lady said to me last week that Paul VI spoke of the smoke of Satan entering the Church, and that she sees it in Francis; that she is very disturbed by Pope Francis, having returned to the full practice of her Faith only 14 years ago during the papacy of John-Paul II.

Looking at things as they stand today, Francis can be said to have followed a programme that is anything but Catholic. As the New York Times recently reminded us:

Francis is a Jesuit, and like many members of Catholic religious orders, he tends to view the institutional church, with its parishes and dioceses and settled ways, as an obstacle to reform. He describes parish priests as “little monsters” who “throw stones” at poor sinners. He has given curial officials a diagnosis of “spiritual Alzheimer’s.” He scolds pro-life activists for their “obsession” with abortion. He has said that Catholics who place an emphasis on attending Mass, frequenting confession, and saying traditional prayers are “Pelagians” — people who believe, heretically, that they can be saved by their own works.

Such denunciations demoralize faithful Catholics without giving the disaffected any reason to return. Why join a church whose priests are little monsters and whose members like to throw stones? When the pope himself stresses internal spiritual states over ritual observance, there is little reason to line up for confession or wake up for Mass.

We cannot overlook the fact that Francis has permitted, according to Schonborn and Kasper (even if in only a few circumstances) for those in objectively grave sin (adulterers) to receive our Lord in Holy Communion, and said that seeking to convert others are is grave sin -see Lifesite News (that is., those who actually follow the command of the Lord to ‘Go, teach all nations’ are grave sinners). When he hear that Francis’ heart is in the right place we cannot help but agree but also hear the voices that cry out ‘yes but to ease their temporal pain his is endangering their immortal souls;. his thinking seems stuck (fossilised) in the theories of the 1960’s and 1970’s’ (that being, of course, the time of such confused teaching it brought the Bishops of the Extraordinary Synod to call for a Catechism of Vatican II.)

In discussion with those who think the sedevacantists may be right, a dreadful possibility arises: that Francis has accepted the authority of the papacy, but not its responsibility of defending the Faith, which papal authority exists only to serve. I cannot help but think of St Paul here: that  epsicopal authority is given ‘unto edification, and not unto destruction’ (2 Corinthians 10:8). By undermining the Church’s previous stance on conversions; by celebrating heretics and by allowing those who are objectively speaking in grave sin to receive Holy Communion, Francis cannot be surprised to find himself accused by many of destroying rather than edifying; of abusing papal authority to remake the Church to his own liking. Where does one go with this? Does one see Francis as a wilful subversive, or as a good man making imprudent remarks and setting up imprudent pastoral approaches? For many, only the former fits in the light of his appointments to the College of Cardinals, which he appears to be filling with men who are not known for their fidelity to our Sacred Tradition.

Since Christ is in charge of His Church and has already defeated Satan the Father of Lies, faithful Catholics should take heart that a future pope will correct the oddities of Francis. After all, if Francis can turn 2000 years of teaching and practice on its head, a future pope can turn the teaching and pastoral programme of Francis on its head.  No Pope -including Francis- can, as he and his admirers might like, set a course for the Church that is unchangeable, no matter how slowly he goes so as to achieve that end, since his papacy must be seen in the context of 2000 years of teaching and practice -and where he deviates, be can be and ought to be rebuked.  Sadly, most bishops are not doing as St Paul did and ‘confronting him face to face’ (Gal.2v11); they too seem to think ‘pastoral care’ means alleviating temporal pain to the loss of eternal peace. 

Whether one wants to say Francis is a good man who makes imprudent judgements, or a man who is deliberately subversive, one cannot easily say that Francis has shown himself clearly and unquestionably loyal to the previous 2000 years of teaching and pastoral practice; indeed the very reason he is lauded by many is that he is leaving the more difficult bits of the Faith behind.  It is not insignificant that Cardinals such as Burke and Sarah (‘Either God or Nothing’, Fayard publishing, France) and the hierarchyof Poland through the President of their Episcopal Conference, appear at odds with Francis simply because they are holding to that 2000 years -as must we all if we want to remain faithful to the teaching of Christ and His Apostles. We cannot be ultramontanists who tie themselves to whoever happens to inhabit the See of Peter; we must be tied rather to the Deposit of Faith.

Friday 21 October 2016

Amoris Latitiae: Catholicism or Francisism?

Francis has named to the College of Cardinals men who are not known for their loyalty to the Doctrine of the Faith. Some folk have asked troubling questions about Francis; others are just severely critical. I have always tried to respond in defence of Francis, but folk now ask such serious questions as:

[1] Is this a deliberate stacking the cards in favour of a Church where the Doctrine is abandoned in practice?
[2] Is such a stacking of the cards an abuse of papal power?
[3] If Francis is changing pastoral practice so that it no longer fits with the doctrine, is he not a subversive; a ‘quisling’?

It is difficult to know how to answer these questions, but we must try.

[1] If Francis is stacking the college without a deliberate intention to favour a private opinion, then he simply needs our prayers to make better choices so that the Deposit of Faith given us by Christ may be protected and promoted not only in word but in application to life (pastoral care). We cannot state definitively that Francis is deliberately stacking the cards since some of his appointments to the College of Cardinals have been O.K., but there are many folk who would add up the good and the bad and decide that Francis is weighting the College in the direction of Francisism rather than Catholicism.

[2] If it could be proved that any pope was ‘stacking the cards’ (deliberately constructing a college whose members are known to disregard The Deposit of Faith) it would be a serious abuse of papal power, and a treachery worthy of the devil himself.

[3] Such a Pope could not avoid being called a subversive, since rather than defend Christ’s Deposit he would be setting himself (and the Church) against it -and therefore setting himself against Christ.

It cannot be a surprise -even to those who think Francis is wonderful- that in the wake of Amoris Latitiae he is seen by many as someone who has no regard for the Deposit of Faith in application to pastoral care.  Francis cannot be surprised if he is thus accused of throwing out Catholicism in favour of Francisism (or Bergoglianism).

The problems in today’s Church run very deep but in truth, responsibility for the problem does not lie with so much with Francis but with the Bishops. How so? Well, few Bishops have followed the example of St Paul who tells us: “When Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he had clearly done wrong” (Gal.2v11). While Protestants have long pointed to this verse as showing the Apostolic Church did not believe in Papal Infallibility, Catholics have always pointed out that what Peter was confronted about was not denying The Faith but failing to live by it. Isn’t this exactly what Francis is saying the Church should do in Amoris Laetitia?  

Sadly, too many Bishops and priests are of the same mind as Francis and therefore failing to imitate St Paul, and Francis could not act if the Bishops resisted -and resist they should, because what Francis is proposing is in conflict with the entire pastoral history of the Church. Pastoral care is not an invention of the Church post Vatican II. (A number of the Bishops and Cardinals have sort to correct what Francis says in A.L., but they are in a minority as yet).

Scripture warns us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange doctrines”. Hebrews 13v8-9. Many of the Bishops are carried away with the alien doctrines of the world, and are seeking to placate the world by trying to fit in with its morality (perhaps in order to look intellectually enlightened or pastorally caring)? 

We need to pray for our Bishops and for the world around us; pray that they see the beauty of Truth, seek it out, and live by it, so that they may be one with Christ “The Way (to live), The Truth (to be believed) and The Life (to inherit)” (Jn.14v6). Above all we must pray especially for Francis, who is to lead the Bishops in The Truth which, coming from God, is never opposed to Charity (Caritas/love): for God IS Truth (Jn.14v6) and God IS Charity (1.Jn.4v8). To think of pastoral care as not applying the Truth on marriage, sexuality and human life (while claiming that those who apply Doctrine and Canon Law are Pharisees), is to put God is in opposition to Himself, wherein His Truth and His Charity are in conflict with one another. Yet following the Gospel correctly means to do the Truth in Charity (Eph.4v15). If we are not applying the Truth to daily living we are not applying charity either; we are not acting according to the mind and nature of God. And if we are not acting in accord with the mind of God, we are endangering souls.

Tuesday 11 October 2016



[a] What is Truth? Truth is reality: that which ‘is’. Many people today say “It’s true that there’s no such thing as Truth, since what is true for you may not be true for me.” But to say “it’s true that nothing is true”; it is a contradiction in logic: it cannot be true that ‘nothing is true’ if there is no truth. Even honesty is not the same as Truth: honesty is to act and speak without deceit; Truth equates with ‘reality’, and it only comes from God, the one Living Reality upon which all else depends. Why is God the only Reality? Because nothing has two starting points; there can only be one beginning to anything. Since the universe has existence we know there is something called ‘existence’; and since the universe has life there has to a living life force, yet since there can be only one starting point of the universe, that one starting point must be ‘living existence’, which for want of a better word we call ‘God’ (while we can say ‘I have life; I have existence’, we cannot say ‘I am life; I am existence’ –only God can say that: “tell them, ‘I AM’ has sent you to them” Ex.3v14).

 [b] It is only by living in accord with truth and not with changing opinion that we can ever have a stable society; stable families, and stable people. Changing opinions make for an unstable society where rules and norms constantly fluctuate, like faults in the earth’s crust. Change is not always a progression toward the good; like the cancerous change in cells, societal changes can be malignant to the good of society and the on-going existence of humankind.

[c] Catholic morality is thus based on God’s Ten Commandments so that they are Truth; not rules by which we prove our loyalty to Him, but instructions on how to form our character to be like His so that we fit-in with Him when we die. Important when discussing Catholic morality is the fact that Catholicism is inherently non-judgemental; we may only judge acts, never people (judgment of people belongs to God alone). Yet we have a duty to proclaim the Commandments so that people can make lifestyle choices which form their characters to ‘fit-in’ with God when they die -and thereby avoid hell.

The Commandments are in fact about preserving positive values:

1.    You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve means ‘Trust God alone: shun all forms of superstition, horoscopes, fortune telling, luck, karma, spiritualism etc.’

2.    Do not take the Name of the Lord in vain means ‘Respect God and His Holy Name which we must never use as a swear word or take a false oath by’.

3.    Remember to keep holy the Sabbath means ‘Attend Mass and avoid non-essential work on Sundays and Holy Days. Bring your earthly family to be part of the family of God.’

4.    Honour (glorify) your father and mother means ‘Be a credit to those responsible for you. Be respectful and obedient to parents and superiors in all that is not sinful.’

5.    You shall not kill means ‘Respect and protect human life from the womb to the tomb, so that every person has their dignity safeguarded’(for once we say a particcular section of humanity can be terminated, there is no way to delineate who shall live and die but arbitrarily drawn lives -which one day may not include you if it is decided blue-eyes folk are less intelligent; physically weak, etc, or if it is decided that since homosexuals cannot contribute to the procreation of the human species they are a drain on resources). Fundamentally, since we must be alive to access any and all of our human rights (to freedom, health care, adequate housing, education etc,) our fundamental human right is the right to life. Catholics consequently reject today’s anti-life Culture of Death which takes life (abortion, euthanasia), prevents life (contraception) and ‘risks life and limb’ by violence and by intoxication (which leave us vulnerable to accident and attack).

6.    You shall not commit adultery means ‘Enjoy the faithfulness of one sexual partnership in life for the sake of your health (avoiding STD’s cancer), your emotional security (avoiding sexual objectification), and the stability of any offspring (avoiding broken homes)’ –offspring having the right to be nurtured and protected by those responsible for their life. Commandment 6 simply says ‘Live a life of purity before marriage and fidelity within marriage, neither of which are impossible.

7.    You shall not steal means ‘Respect the right of others to hold on to their property and good name, and have yours respected.’ Employers are to provide a fair wage and good working conditions; employees are not to time-waste, Governments must build a fair society.

8.    You shall not bear false witness means ‘Be an honest person: no gossip, lies, cheating or fraud in any sphere of life.’

9.    You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife means ‘Foster pure and wholesome thoughts; avoid lustful thoughts.’

10. You shall not covet your neighbour’s goods means ‘hanker after spiritual goods’. Do not dwell on what your neighbour has but on what you have’.

To live by the Ten Commandments is not to live by a list of prohibitions but of a list of positive values. It is to live according to Truth; to form ourselves by Truth, to form a stable society for stable lives, and to be compatible with Truth (God) when we leave this world so that we fit into heaven.

Saturday 8 October 2016

What could liturgically deviant priests be implying?

At a parish I attended for Mass one day this week the priest preached about following Our Lady’s lead and pondering the life of the Lord in order to better recognise His hand at work and discern what is and is not of God. He warned that, just as the Pharisees not only failed to recognise Our Lord but even called His works demonic, so we can fail in discerning what is of His hand, and even call things of God ‘demonic’.

I couldn’t help but think how Catholics faithful to the rubrics and traditional catechesis are often vilified as Pharisees, even by Pope Francis. One priest defended his ignoring of liturgical norms by saying, “It’s because I think it’s more important to care for people than follow cold rules written by some priests in Rome who have never had parishes of their own”. He thus unwittingly accused faithful priests–lauded by the housebound, the bereaved and those in crisis for having been a rock and a balm in their suffering– as being completely unpastoral and heedlessly following ways detrimental to persons. And here lies another insult liturgically deviant clerics lodge: that it’s not simply that Traditional priests don’t care about people, but that Rome doesn’t either! It also supposes that the Roman Church is without insight and competency regarding the good of the faithful.

In the widespread liturgical deviancy that we encounter on an almost daily basis, the reason for their deviancy is that Rome issues offensive liturgical texts –there is a clear indication that some clergy think the Bible is politically incorrect or even misogynist in that they insist on saying ‘Sisters and brothers’ rather than ‘Brothers and sisters’ or even the inclusive ‘Brethren’.  I have even heard the Beatitudes changed to ‘Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called daughters and sons of God” (Matt.5v9). Are women really so easily offended? Is Rome really misogynist? Are today’s Catholics so banal in their language that they need a Jackanory text? It irritates me every Holy Thursday when the Gospel says (when speaking of the Apostles) that when the soldiers came to arrest our Lord “and they all ran away”. I much prefer to hear good English: “And they fled”.  I feel like fleeing from many a Novus Ordo celebration when norms are ignored and I am confronted (and I use that word deliberately) by a ‘performing priest’. Fathers, please just say the black and do the red. We of the laity don't need theatrics to help us to pray: please stop getting your personality in the way.

Saturday 1 October 2016

The Novus Ordo Mess

Liturgy well done can lift the mind and heart to the contemplation of God, and inspire a deeper prayer life and a more active charitable life outside of Mass. Good and clear proclamation of the word and sound preaching at Mass provide us with tools for evangelisation in our day to day life. Surely Vatican II rightly called the Holy Eucharist the ‘source and summit’ of the Christian life. Sadly, not every celebration of Mass lifts the mind and heart to God, because the priest gets in the way.

Now that we no longer have daily Mass in our parish I have experienced Mass in a dozen different places with a dozen different priests (good and sincere men all of them), but I have to say I have found all but one celebration of the Novus Ordo to be irritating; some more than others, but all primarily because each celebrant seems to think his inflection and gestures are responsible for engaging the congregation in the celebration of Mass.  Yet the gestures properly carried out rather than exaggerated, with a simple recitation of the words printed in the Missal would allow me to pray; the exaggerated gestures and inflected modulation demand that I hear the emphasis the celebrant wants me to hear rather the emphasis the Holy Spirit wants me to hear.  So what are the things that disturb?

The first is that on entering the Church one is confronted by noise: our places of worship are given no more respect than meeting rooms or bingo halls.  One priest defended this with, ‘Well they only see each other at Mass so they like to meet and greet’.  But surely they can talk outside?  We don’t pray in a club or a bingo hall; why should we chatter in a Church?  Another priest’s defence was: ‘We’re a community and this is where the community meets.  If I tell them to stop talking they’ll be offended and I’m not going to do that’.  Permitting noise is thus more important than passing on spiritual values, reverence for the Blessed Sacrament and respect for those who wish to pray.  And these are our priests?  If we don’t reverence the Blessed Sacrament and respect others at prayer in Church, where are we going to respect them?

Second, there are irritations during the liturgy itself, where the flouting of liturgical norms is manifold.  This means I rarely (if ever) get the New Rite of Mass as the Church intends me to have it.  What are some of the norms flouted?

Well, I have seen the lectern (reserved for the proclamation of the Word) used as a podium for appeals, talks and even the long-forbidden eulogies at funerals; I have seen Extraordinary Ministers performing the purifications while the priest sits down; I have seen (presumably so the people don’t feel excluded) every word of the Missal being read aloud, including the priest’s private prayers (‘With humble and contrite Heart…’; ‘Lord wash away my iniquity…’).  I have also heard the opening and closing Collects, Eucharistic Prayer, and even the words of consecration, changed. 

And there is more.  I have seen the Sunday Gospel extended so as to include the line the celebrant wanted to preach on; I have seen the consecration ‘acted out’; the priest extending his hands and offering the gifts to the congregation rather than to the Lord as he waves them from side to side saying ‘Take this, all of you, and eat of it’ –as though Mass were a play performed for the congregation.

I have seen priests leave the sanctuary to distribute Holy Communion from the front of the Church.  I am told (by Fr Dickson) that this comes from ‘Incarnational Theology’, an emphasis on God coming to earth as man.  But did He not come so as to die and rise again and thus draw us to Heaven?  Priests leaving the sanctuary to offer the sign of peace is also very irritating: he has already offered it to the whole community at the Pax, by wandering into the congregation he singles some out for special attention –and encourages a flippant Pax wherein the congregation not only stretch over benches but cross from one side of the Church to the other to greet family and friends, thereby using the sign of peace for a purpose for which it is not intended.  Meanwhile the Blessed Sacrament is ignored.  It is a complete departure from the purpose of the liturgy.

All in all, the clergy are trying to make us feel valued and loved, but in the process have forgotten that we come to Mass to worship God, not to be affirmed.  The place for our affirmation is in our team meetings and at social occasions.  Our clergy have lost sight of the core purpose of the Mass; they have turned it into a celebration of the community; a time of upliftment and affirmation of man rather than an offering to God in adoration, impetration and propitiation (GIRM #2).

Truly, it is impossible to attend the Mass Paul VI gave us because each celebrant gives the texts and gestures his own emphasis and slant, with norms flouted.  They may say they are loyal to, supportive of, and happy with the Novus Ordo, but are they, when they feel the need to constantly ‘improve’ upon it at their own volition?  Perhaps what supporters of the Novus Ordo are happy with is the fact that they slant the liturgy to embody their favoured theological ideology.

I have not mentioned the fact that Mass is always said facing the people but I won’t omit to say that this orientation means we are plagued by seeing the priest perform for us, blow his nose, fiddle with his spectacles, lose his place in the Missal and make idiosyncratic facial grimaces.

Sorry Fathers, I have no doubt that each of you has a good heart and are well intentioned; but you truly are a distraction from the Lord as you stage-manage the liturgy to your own taste.  How long must we put up with such a priest-centred, man-focused liturgy?  Our Bishops are allowing all of this to continue, and must therefore take responsibility for denying us the Mass as the Church gives it to us.  The Bishops’ own publication, ‘Celebrating the Mass’ is ignored by all and sundry –even by the Bishops themselves who see such antics as I have described in their parish visitations and do nothing to call a halt to them.  Yet should a priest celebrate Mass with Latin for the people’s parts (as Vatican II decreed; Sacrosanctum concilium #36, 116) or facing the altar from the Offertory onwards as the Missal directs (rubrics #127, 132, 133), you can be sure his Bishop will put pressure on him to make the options of the vernacular and facing the people things to be set in stone.  The stone is really in the hearts of those who refuse to provide liturgy that is God-centred in order to satisfy the folk who have rejected Vatican II with its insistence upon Latin, and who have rejected the Novus Ordo’s directive to face the altar.  I think we no longer have a Novus Ordo Mass but a Novus Ordo Mess.

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Why Be Catholic? (4)


[a] Though our devotion to God must include prayer, fasting and charitable works, Catholic worship (also called ‘liturgy’), is centred on the Seven Sacraments. These were given to us by Christ and by them He gives His grace to our souls (since it is in His person that the priest acts in celebrating the sacraments, it is He –Who-Is that gives them).

The Sacraments being Actions of Christ worshipping the Father in His people for the salvation of souls, the liturgy should be reverent and transcendent, not ‘entertaining’ –entertainment being a man-focused act.

[b] Further, it is 'perfect' in that just as Christ entered the world in a physical body, so in the Sacraments He uses physical things as signs of grace entering the soul, e.g. water in Baptism (Jn.3v5); oil in anointing (Mk.6v13). In each Sacrament, God unites us to Himself in specific ways:

[1] By Baptism He adopts us as His Children; makes us new creatures in the Risen Christ (2.Cor.5v17) and, by sharing the Risen life of Christ in our souls, makes  us members of Christ’s Mystical Body (1.Cor.12v27). In essence, Baptism gives us a share in Christ’s resurrected life so that death has no hold over us, and initiates us into the Community of the Saved.

[2] By Confirmation He deepens our union in the Holy Spirit and gives us a share in the Church’s mission (Acts 8v16-17; 19v5-7);

[3] By Matrimony He takes human love up into Divine Love (MK.6v1-12; Eph.5v21-33) which is eternal (indissoluble), faithful (exclusive) and life-giving (creative in God, pro-creative in man); it is an image of the Holy Trinity: a union of persons in one reality: “The two shall become one” (Mark 10v18).

[4] By Confession, also known as Penance and Reconciliation, He applies to our souls the forgiving power of the Cross so as to restore our union with Him when we have lost it by sin (Jn.20v22-23). On our part we are to be serious about amending our way of life (about making ‘life-style choices’ consistent with God's moral law). Confession is a consoling, healing sacrament because it restore our relationship with God by applying the saving power of the Lord's death on the Cross (the blood shed for the remission of sin) to our souls ('those whose sins you forgive they are forgiven').

[5] By Anointing of the Sick He restores health to souls (and sometimes the body, Mk.6v13; Jas.5v14-17) so it is crucial as death approaches.  Administered at such a time, Anointing is called Extreme Unction; the highest consolation for the soul as death approaches.

[6] By Holy Orders the Catholic Priesthood (which has an unbroken succession from the 12 Apostles to today by the laying on of hands) God channels all the Sacraments to us (Jn.21v15-18). It is by Holy Orders that Christ remains with us as our Good Shepherd (1.Pet.5v1-4).

[7] The Holy Eucharist (Holy Mass and Holy Communion) the Bread of Heaven that we can receive daily for our union with God and the gaining of strength from God, is the Supreme Sacrament for three main reasons:  

[7i] It is God Himself, from whom alone salvation flows. Jesus said: “I am the Living Bread which has come down from Heaven...” (Jn.6; Matt.26v26). Since the Holy Eucharist is God Himself, it is the power-source of all the other Sacraments -and the source and goal of our entire existence. 

 [7ii] It is Christ’s Saving Sacrifice on the Cross made present to us: “This is My Body given up for you...My Blood, shed for you and for many for the remission of sins” (Matt.26v28); “When you eat this Bread and drink this Cup you are proclaiming the Lord’s death” (1.Cor.11v26).

[7iii] It brings the Paschal banquet of Heaven to earth since it brings Christ Our God onto the altar, and wherever the God is, Heaven is.
We thus come to Sunday Mass to meet with God Himself in the Holy Eucharist; we come to love and be loved by God.

Since Mass is Heaven on earth we do not need to die to go to Heaven and be with God and those we have loved; we only need to come to Mass. Indeed, since Mass makes God and heaven present on earth, to come to Mass is to come to Heaven, and to absent ourselves from Mass is to absent ourselves from heaven –and who wants that? It is because we desire God and heaven that we meet with God in heaven at Holy Mass.

Sunday 18 September 2016

A New Faith? Update Catechism #1735

I have heard some harsh remarks about Pope Francis, especially since the publication of Amoris Laetitia (following which I actually heard him described as ‘evil’). But the real culprit is Satan, with whom it is characteristic to take a truth and distort it so as to achieve a bad end. He did this in the Garden of Eden when he distorted the truth of man made in the image and likeness of God so as to turn man from God to self: “God knows that in the day you eat it, your eyes shall be opened and you shall be like gods, knowing good from evil” (Gen.3v4-5). This is also his tactic today: to mix the light of truth with the darkness of lies in such a way as to achieve the colour grey: the grey fog of relativism in which souls literally lose their way to heaven. In seminary there were a number of students who could be heard to say ‘grey is the devil’s favourite colour’. Today Satan distorts ‘do not judge’ (which concerns not judging people) into not judging actions and situations; a distortion for which Pope Francis might be said to have fallen. Sadly, this distortion advances the work of the father of lies, rather than the work of the Holy Spirit.

Pope Francis has often spoken of the God of Surprises, wherein we are asked to be surprised by new ideas and new ways; ways which take us out of the certainties of The Faith into the enemy’s ‘grey areas’. One can only echo St Paul who said, “I fear that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes preaching a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you are all too willing to listen” (2 Cor.11:3, 4).

Has Pope Francis has fallen for the devil’s tactic? Many might say yes, because while he obviously cares for those in difficult circumstances and seeks to help them while seeking to leave doctrine intact, he has also indicated that we can at times ignore Doctrine by admitting to Holy Communion those who are objectively in grave sin (adultery). Such a practice [1] exposes the Blessed Sacrament to sacrilege, [2] exposes souls to the possibility of dying in mortal sin, and [3] brings the Church to a state of self-contradiction wherein practice runs contrary to belief. Catholics see this as a dangerous situation, for it allows pastoral practice to be divorced from the truths of The Faith (no pun intended). Pope Francis, by referring to a ‘God of Surprises’ and ‘grey areas’, has left himself open to being described dangerous to souls, for by placing his pastoral directives over and above the words the Lord in Scripture and Tradition, we are led away from Catholicism to a new faith which might be called ‘Francisism’. 

We will need a strong Pope after Francis; one who is unafraid to see the good in what Francis has achieved as well as the errors he has made, so that he may affirm the former and anathematise the latter. Many admit to being disorientated and disturbed by Pope Francis, but we have to remember that Francis cannot re-write 2,000 years of doctrine and practice: a pope is infallible only in defending the known truth; he is not divinely inspired so as to add to it, abandon it or in any way alter it. We should remember that at the end of the day, if Francis can go against 2,000 years of Catholicism, a successor can go against (#) years of ‘Francisism’.

I have been asked, do we ignore #1735 of the Catechism by refusing Holy Communion to those in adulterous situations? The answer is no; article #1735 says "Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors",  and refers to ones culpability before God; it does not mean the Church can support an on-going situation that objectively contravenes Divine Truth/Divine Law. The Church cannot put herself in opposition to such Laws/Truths as found in the 6th Commandment and Matthew 19v9.  It is scandalous for anyone to attempt to overrule or even simply ignore the teaching of God-made-man.

Friday 16 September 2016



[a] While philosophical systems, sociological/psychological theories and religions such as Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism and Islam might claim to have been inspired by God, none actually claim to be established by God. Carl Rogers might claim Person-centred psychology followed from the fact that all God created was good, but it still originated with Rogers and not with God, just as Buddhism originated with Buddha Shakyamuni; Sikhism with Guru Nanak Dev; Islam with Mohamed. Uniquely, Catholicism originated with God Himself while on earth as Jesus Christ. Catholics are not only the the one Faith that can claim to have been established by God in person, but the only Christian established by God in person, since Catholics alone can trace their line of Pastors (Bishops and Priests) back in unbroken succession to Jesus Christ, who claimed to be God and proved it by rising from the dead. This makes Catholicism unique.

[b] Protestants are Christians who left the Catholic Church in the 1500’s under Martin Luther, John Calvin, Urich Zwingli and Henry VIII. They are still Christians and our brethren in Christ, but are akin to children who left home after a disagreement. They have taken a few family treasures with them (the scriptures, baptism and marriage), treasures which belong to Catholicism and it is by these that Protestants might be saved, since “it is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone that salvation can be gained”. These Protestant ecclesial communities are indeed “used by God as means of salvation, their power deriving from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church”. Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, Vatican Council II teaches that “the Church is necessary for salvation... Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.” (Catechism, #819; 846)

[c] Protestantism and non-Christian religions, since they were not established by God Himself, do not carry the authority and guarantee God gave to the Catholic Church that “He who hears you, hears Me” (Luke 10v16). And yes, Protestants may be saved by the Catholic ‘property’ (the family treasures) they took with them at the Reformation (Scripture, Baptism and Marriage); while non-Christians may be saved (John 10v16; Acts 17v26-28) by their sincere search for Truth (which is Christ: John.14v6). However, Protestantism and non-Christian religions, since they are not established by God and not promised His protection or given His authority, are constantly liable to teach errors -yet God is Truth (John.14v6). Thus, Protestantism and non-Christian religions can lead souls away from God –so the only safe path to Heaven is a well-lived Catholicism. 

N.B. Child abuse by Catholic clergy is appalling because it is abuse of the most innocent by those established by Christ as good shepherds in his stead (1.Pet.5v2), but just as we cannot judge the NHS by a Dr Shipman or Nurse Allit, so we cannot judge the Catholic Church by traitorous priests.

Friday 9 September 2016

Palliative Care Conference

In July, the Catholic Medical Association held a Conference on Palliative Care, in Twickenham. Despite having such a great distance to travel, I decided that since End of Life Care can be described as a stumbling block to conscientious Christians, I wanted to ‘know my stuff’ and would attend in the hope of gaining practical advice and techniques of both delivering exceptional care, and surviving amidst tunnel-visioned, protocol-driven healthcare settings. To this end, I was most grateful to find that I was both offered accommodation on the nights I needed, and a student rate. I stayed on campus in the student halls and was generally pleased with my room and meals – despite joking about the compactness of the shower:  “I wasn’t sure whether it was a shower, or a walk-in sink!”

In fitting manner, the Chaplain made the first address, alluding to the importance of the life of grace: we can remedy many conditions, but ultimately all our input is transient since both we and every patient will ultimately leave this world. We might well ask ourselves, ‘Has my practice and evangelisation (as regrettably subtle as the times demand) been focused on the life of grace for life in Heaven, or on this world, which will pass away?’

Whilst I didn’t feel I received the wealth of practical strategies I’d hoped to find (such as, “If you are confronted with ‘A’, say this...” or advice on how to query/challenge over-use of opioids or anxiolytics), I did receive numerous references to studies of interest, and felt buoyed up by knowing there were so many others in practice who shared my concerns. It is my hope that the CMA will continue to hold conferences to share knowledge and skills, and in both increasing frequency and varying areas –especially some further north, where Catholics often feel neglected by many groups.

The conference utilised speakers from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, offering testimony and demonstrating expertise as carers, nurses and physicians. Along with attendee contributions they highlighted both the successes and the inherent flaws in contemporary healthcare training, and offered an insight into raising it to the heights. Further conferences could build on this.

Monday 5 September 2016

Why Be Catholic (2)


None of us is free of suffering in this world. Whether we believe in a loving God or not we all have trials and tribulations in life, and all of us will ultimately die. Catholicism may not make these tribulations and death easier to get through, but it does provide an understanding of them and give a purpose to them beyond the random chance with which the atheist must content Himself.

[a] Catholics believe suffering and death came into the world by the hand of the devil who, by tempting man to self-rule, turned man away from God who alone is life, happiness and peace. It was by turning us to self and away from God and His life, happiness and peace that the devil brought us all the opposites to God: sorrow, suffering and death (Gen.3v1-19); with all the sickness, suffering and tragedies that now invade our lives. Christ entered suffering and death with us so as to rise again for us, and make of them a new path to eternal life, happiness and peace through Him.

[b] We believe that when people suffer serious illness no effort is to be spared to bring about relief from anxiety and pain -but without killing the person (we are to eliminate problems, not people). Those who suffer in any way, health or social oppression, are seen as sharing in the cross of Christ and as such, bringing great graces into the world that help and sustain us all. As St Paul says, we make up in our flesh that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions (Col.1v24). What lacks is nothing intrinsic to His sufferings, but our participation in them, so that by sharing His Good Friday we can also share His Easter Sunday.

[c] On the Person of God, while Hollywood says “The Force be with you”, Catholics say “The Lord be with you”, for we know the living life-force of the universe to be the Living God. Further, the Living Life-Force (whom we call ‘God’ for want of a better word) has told us He is a Trinity: one God in three equal Persons; God the Father; God the Son and God the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28v19). Each of these Persons is fully God, a bit like an equilateral triangle has three equal sides -only in God each Person is the complete God whereas in the triangle each side is not the whole triangle.

[d] Catholics believe the God the Son became one of us -became Jesus Christ- (Jn 1v1-4; 11) so that by dying with us then rising for us, He could make death the door to Heaven for all who will follow Him (Jn1v12).

[e] We believe Jesus Christ is God because He claimed to be God (John.5v23 & 10v30) and proved it by rising from the dead. We believe in His Resurrection from the dead because those who witnessed it (His disciples) died torturous deaths rather than deny it.
We believe that Christians on earth, the holy souls in Purgatory and the saints in Heaven (Rev.7v9;14) form the ‘Mystical Body of Christ’ (Rom,12v4-5), those in heaven being ‘a great cloud of witnesses’ spurring us on (Heb.11v39-12v1) and praying for us (Rev.7v14).

[f] We believe the Supreme Saint is the Blessed Virgin Mary, for she is
the enemy of the devil (Gen.3v15);
the Mother God in His Human Incarnation (Lk.1v43);
sinless (Immaculate) from her conception in her mother’s womb: full of grace (Lk.1v28);
the spiritual mother of Christ’s disciples (Jn.19v27; Rev.12v17)
our intercessor (Jn.2v3);
blessed above all women (Lk.1v41)
and Queen of Heaven (Rev.12v1 -it was always the mother of Israel’s kings who reigned as their Queen, 1 Kings 2:10-25, not one of their [many!] wives).

[g] We believe in Heaven and Hell because Christ spoke of them (Matt.25v46), and because there has to be a place in eternity for those who have chosen God and for those who have rejected God.

[h] Heaven is the enjoyment of God’s eternal life, love, happiness and peace; hell is all opposites: a situation of eternal hatred, turmoil and despair. That said, we believe God does not ‘send anyone to hell’; those who go to Hell are those who reject God by choosing to live contrary to His Ten Commandments. God’s judgement is the ratification of a decision they made by their ‘lifestyle choices’  -their refusal to conform their character to His.

[i] We believe grace is the indwelling of God in the human soul (1,Jn.2v24); that it is an intimate, spiritual union with Him. Grace is built by the Sacraments, prayer, purity and good deeds; sin is built by self-direction and by ungodly entertainments which feed the mind on promiscuity, vulgarity, violence, the occult etc. Prayer is essential because it is our conversation with God: we cannot be on good terms with someone to whom we do not speak. 

Sunday 4 September 2016

Oh What A Mess...

Since the heart attack, minor stroke, Atrial Fibrillation and COPD made me useless to the people of the parish and forced me to move into a warden-assisted flat for retired folk, I have been trying Novus Ordo (N.O.) parishes in the locality for a decent act of worship. Unfortunately all I have found is acts of community celebration: affirmation of the people; applause for children after their separate liturgy of the word, and homilies focused on social justice rather than on God lovingly calling sinners to individual repentance and conversion of life. The Masses I have attended have anything but prayerful; more a community get-together than the adoration and propitiation of God which the General Instruction of the Missal sets before us. Indeed the ethos of every N.O. I have attended recently has been one in which the Mass is presented as something to be enjoyed and the folk are to be affirmed. Further, I have found in conversations at such Masses a common rejection of long-standing Catholic dogma (for some the Mass is about attending the Last Supper, not the making present of the sacrifice of the Cross; for some there is a questioning of the Church as the One True faith, leading to religious indifferentism, and for others there is a serious questioning of ordaining males exclusively). As a result I feel many who attend the N.O. are in a state of material heresy. Truly, every N.O. Mass I have attended has left me desperate for a celebration of Mass in the Traditional Form.

Sadly, if those who attend the N.O. veer towards heresy and self-adulation, among those who attend the Traditional Form (Usus Antiquior) there are some who seem to suffer from pride and a lack of charity (wherein Popes, Bishops and priests are judged as lacking and even wicked because “they deliberately ignore defined articles of faith and turn the liturgy from the adoration of God to the affirmation of man”). While N.O. folk are happy seeing more and more jollity in the Mass, hard-core Traditional folk become more and more entrenched in their narrow doctrinal understandings.

The Church, I submit, is in a mess in all facets of its life today: doctrinally, liturgically and pastorally. I am more and more convinced that what is required is a return to the Traditional Catechism in schools, colleges and seminaries, and a liturgy that is solemn and directed towards the Lord (with ad orientem posture, the use of Latin for the Ordinary of the Mass, and reception of Holy Communion on the tongue from the hand of the priest), be that Mass celebrated in the N.O or the Usus Antiquior. Unless we get back to upholding defined teaching and liturgy that is God focused, the Church will never be ‘Fit for Purpose’: the saving of souls. 

Why would the Church ‘Not Fit For Purpose?’ Because ignoring defined teaching is ignoring Christ the Truth (the enemy of whom is the father of lies) and because liturgy that is focused on the affirming and jollying-up of the folk is thereby man-centred and thus, idolatrous. Lies and idolatry do not lead to heaven. Nor does a narrow interpretation of doctrine held in uncharitable manner. For the sake of souls, let us get back to teaching the Catechism, worship that is God-centred, and charity in all things.

Friday 2 September 2016

Why Be Catholic? (1)

One of my young nephews asked me “Why I do you go to Church when we don’t?”  I responded simply: “Because I’m a Catholic”. He came back with, “Well, why are you Catholic and we aren’t?”  I gave the simple reply that “It’s the only Church that Christ started, and so I trust it to teach the truth.” But his question started me thinking: how did my conversion to Catholicism come about? I was eight years old when I first asked to become a Catholic, and several factors were responsible for this desire.
The first was noticing that the family across the street went to Church every Sunday. When I asked the same question as my nephew, “Why don’t we?” and I received the same answer: “Well, we aren’t Catholics so we don’t have to”. I instinctively realised that “Well, if God is GOD, then we should have to”.

The second factor was seeing the film, “The Song of Bernadette”. I developed a great love for the Lady of Massabielle; a love that continues to this day, and always hoped that one day I would to have the opportunity of visiting the Lady’s chosen grotto.

The third was doing history in school when I discovered that the Church of England to which our whole family nominally belonged, had been started by Henry VIII so he could get a divorce –that did not sit well with me; I wanted to be part of the Church Christ started, not one Henry VIIII started.

A fourth factor was noticing that there was a lot of bullying in our school and a lot of what we now call ‘dysfunctional” families in our area. It occurred to me that unless people had a higher authority to account to (God) then we would stay bullies and family life would always be disrupted by alcohol and violence.

The fifth factor was the desire to become a priest. Knowing that few people took God, heaven and hell seriously, I stood in our garden one day contemplating how I could bring people to consider them. I wanted to erect a huge cross in the garden but knew that was out of the question -and at that moment that Father Smith passed our garden and I thought, “That’s it! I’ll be a priest, then when people see me they will have to think about God!”  My family advised me to “be a Vicar because then you can be a priest and get married”, but I remember saying, “No. I want to be a proper in priest”. I was 8 years old when seeing Father Smith stirred my vocation that day, but I did not become a Catholic until I was 20 and my mother booked me and her on a pilgrimage to Lourdes with the local Catholic parish: I simply decided that if I was going to Lourdes I was going as a Catholic, which I did. I am very grateful that I was instructed by the local priest using an abbreviated version of the Penny Catechism, wherein Catholic teaching was clear and precise. It spurred me on to buying F J Sheed’s Theology and Sanity and Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, both of which stood me in good stead for discerning good and bad teaching in the seminary. 

At any rate, having been asked the question by my nephew, I thought a short series of posts on ‘Why Be Catholic’ might be a good idea. Part 1 follows.



[a] I am a Catholic because Catholicism alone has unbroken lineage of pastors and teaching back to Christ, and thus hands on to me (to us) the self-revelation of God: Who He is, and what His plans are for humanity. It gives mankind an understanding of the world, ourselves and our destiny; an understanding that surpasses man’s intellectual explorations of the world, ourselves and the meaning of life.

[b] God is the Supreme Being in whom life and existence originate. While we can say “I have life; I have existence, we cannot say “I am life; I am existence” -only God can say that, because life and existence are His nature: He does not ‘have’ life and existence; He IS life and existence. Existence and life can have only one point of origin (there are not two origins to the universe). Existence and life thus arise together in the same ultimate cause of all that exists: God. I might encapsulate this by saying ‘God is Living Existence’.

 [c] Everyone has an in-built instinct for God; it is an instinct meant to propel us toward union with Him and with His life, happiness and peace. Some express this instinct in overtly religious ways, as do Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims etc., others express it in misdirected ways by believing in such things as fate, luck, karma, superstition, astrology or the occult, all of which are belief in ‘unseen forces’ -and therefore substitutes for God. Without connection to God as the source of our being we can never be truly content, because the foundation of our being is absent. Depressions can only be worse without connection to our foundation; anxieties more intense without connection to our foundation.

[d] The human person instinctively seeks perfect life, happiness and peace, but we can never find it in this imperfect world. Yet the drive to find it is powerful. What religion brings is knowledge of and a hearing of the call to seek God. It also calls us to be the best we can be; the kind of person who, when we die, will have people saying “the world is poorer without”. What the chasing of pleasure (via alcohol, drug use and sexual license and easy money through criminal activity) brings, will be people saying “the world is better off without him”.

[e] I am Catholic because it is the home of science. Science being the enquiry into what creation consists of and how it works, goes hand in hand with Catholicism -which has pursued scientific enquiry for centuries: the scientific method being formalised by Rev. Roger Bacon; the Big Bang discovered by Rev. George Lemaitre; the Mercalli scale for measuring earthquakes (still used today) developed by and named after Rev. Mercarlli. In medical science the laws of genetics were discovered by Rev. Gregor Mendel; cell cytology pioneered by Rev. J. B. Carnoy; chemical digestion in human physiology first described by Rev. Lazzaro Spallanzani; the fallopian tubes named after the anatomist Rev. Falloppio; the glandular-lymphatic system first described by Rev. Niels Stensen (who also founded the science of geology by developing the correct theory of sedimentary rock, geological strata and the origin of fossils).

Although many assume there is a conflict between science and religion this isn’t the case: science tells us how the world works; religion tells us why we are here –and how to live in the world and make use of its resources in moral ways that lead to God. Conflict only occurs between religious bodies and scientists when the scientist says “Because we can do A, B or C, we should”, making no reference to God’s revelation of what is right and wrong.

N.B. the ‘Big Bang’ so clearly points to God that when first discovered it is reported that the Quantum Physicist David Bohm said its discoverers had “turned traitor to science to find answers convenient to the Catholic Church” (cf. Why Does the World Exist?: One Man's Quest for the Big Answer By Jim Holt, American philosopher, author and essayist). Further, while the Big Bang describes how the universe was created, the (unproved) theory of Evolution simply posits how creation developed over time (akin to the Bible’s poetical ‘seven days’ which simply describe huge amounts of time for, “To you Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day” (ps.90v4; 2.Pet.3v8). So neither the Big Bang nor Evolution contradict the Bible.