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.