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.