Monday, October 20, 2014

Was that why he was elected?

 (Photo: Getty)

I must admit I still don't understand Francis. Is he the greatest thing since unsliced bread, a cunning old Jesuit, a conservative, a trad, a prophet, a fool or even the anti-Christ; a breath of fresh-air or the stench from the tomb of those rather detestable men who surrounded the Blessed Paul VI and added to his suffering?

I have never done the Benedict through Francis thing at least, but neither am I convinced of the Francis against Benedict thing entirely. I am still perplexed and confused by him. Perhaps it is in Francis who rather than being an Emperor who is wearing no clothes we actually have clothes with no Emperor. I mean those morning homilies that come out of the marble halls of Sta Martha that are full of barbs but actually teach nothing. Perhaps we should expect nothing!

It is worth remembering that what many of the Cardinals were calling for before the Conclave was a de-centralised Church and greater Collegiality. The BBC, foolish people, have been talking about progressive Francis against the conservative Synod and how he failed to move the Church forward, as if the Synod was solely about the divorced and remarried, or practicing homosexuals. What seems to go under the radar is that for the first time in modern times Cardinals and Bishops have stood up to the Pope and very publicly defied him, some like the Raymond Lion of the Synod Burke have even dared to demand he do his job and defend the faith, like Paul rebuking Peter.

What has happened is that in Synod those of us who would hope that the successor of the Apostle Peter should defend the faith from other Bishops, have turned our gaze from the successor of Peter to the successors of other the Apostles. This I think was the defining action of the Synod, for the first time most Catholics looked to Bishops not the Pope to defend the Faith.


A priest friend of mine said, 'I have no problem with collegiality only with those who might exercise it'. For many Catholics the really problem in the Church has not been Rome but their local bishops, in England we complain about the 'magic circle' nut actually compared to France or Germany or Ireland or the US until the the last decade or so our bishops on the whole have been paradigms of Apostolic zeal and faithful bearers of the Tradition. French bishops until recently have done their best to empty their Churches and seem to have more in common with deconstructionalists and existentialist than Christ, German's are really concerned with nothing but holding on to their Church tax (anything goes providing you pay), the Irish exemplify total failure and America has brought forth such luminaries as Bernardin, Weakland and Mahoney, and one coulde come up with at least a score of other names who ruled the Church like some Wild West bandit chieftain.

The failure of the Church has been a failure of leadership at least on a local level. It is worth remembering that we are in Communion with Rome because we are in Communion first of all with our local Bishop who is Communion with Rome and the entire Church. In England and elsewhere we have looked to Rome to protect us from our Bishops. The problem is most Catholics simply do not trust their own Bishop, and look at him as being of little importance, as if between them and the Pope there is no intermediary, especially if one doesn't like one's Parish Priest or simply doesn't want to be involved with him and his community. In a way the internet has exacerbated this to the point where the 'e-church' is more real than the actual Church, everyone looks to the Pope but no-one to their Bishop.

The great concern of Francis has been that so many Bishops are actually of poor quality, if there is one thing that is clear in Francis' confusing teaching, it is that many Bishops are simply not up to their role defined in the documents of VII. At the Synod it was the Bishops who shone not the Pope. Does the Pope intend this? I don't know, but was that why he was elected?
Maybe I'm clinging at straws.

Britain's best source of Catholic commentary has a good summary of some the most exciting things some of the Bishops came up with.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Roman Breakfast


I don't know what the conversation around the Apostolic breakfast table in Sta Marta was about this morning, probably relief that the Synod is more or less over and had gone more or less the Pope's way, a memo to someone to get out Edward Pentin's file, relief that Burke is off to the Knights of Malta, maybe a sense that it will be regrettable if he has too much spare time on his hands. There might even be some wondering about the best disguise for Kasper if ever he is to visit Sta Marta again, perhaps a burqa? But perhaps he has become too toxic, ever to be seen in the Pope's company again, Lord Patton and Greg Burke will have to advise.
 
Cardinal Burke will be contemplating what to do with all that free time and wondering who will avoid his gaze or pretend not to know him, and who greets him emphatically once the Pope has left the room. He might also be thinking about setting up 'Leo TV' or writing, or how best to develop those moribund but frightfully well connected Knights of Malta, or just gently thinking that his skill as a lawyer might have some useful focus; maybe defending the FFIs, or deposed Bishops?

Elsewhere in Rome I suppose bishops are either congratulating themselves or licking their wounds, some are presumably just glad it is over, some might even be vowing never to come to another Synod ever again, others are plotting. In fact most are probably looking to the future, to the year between the two Synods but beyond. Some will be reflecting on the Synod, on the divisions between the two factions, on who spoke well, who had courage, who captured the mood, who might be capable of uniting the two factions.

What will be very apparent is that there are definitely two factions, let's not be over dramatic, there is not a schism but there is a very visible split. And splits tend to multiply. The highly significant Kasper interview identifies it as a North South, black white split but there is also, significantly, a demographic split. Burke will be voting in the next Conclave or two after Francis is laid to rest, and possibly on his way to Beatification. There is recognition too that Francis is partisan and really against collegiality, as much as any renaissance pope. I suspect that many Cardinals who voted for him are being forced to have serious second thoughts. His high-handed approach is more reminiscent of Vatican I, than Vatican II.

I think the big hitters will be thinking long term, possibly many African bishops are indeed looking to the next Conclave, to a Pope of non-European origins, thanks to Kasper, they might well be joined by Eastern Europeans, by those living alongside Muslims in the Middle East. Some of the Eastern Rite Catholics might well be thinking that Rome is actually not as effective a centre of unity as Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch or Moscow, especially in times of persecution, especially with a Papacy that has so little sense of 'the Tradition' and that is so Eurocentric and so Liberal. I know of one Eastern Rite priest who has been thinking along these lines ever since the first 'Bona Serra'.


صور وظائف, وظائف أخرىOne of the troubles with Rome is that everyone who works in the Vatican considers themselves a 'courtier', 'leprous' or otherwise. I think it is worth remembering it was a servant, a valet, who was a prime player in bringing down Benedict, just by making public a few secret documents. There is a surprising amount of power held in the Vatican, which like any court or tiny state is a trust based society, by people who overhear, who dispose of paper, who serve lunch, who connect telephones, service computers or even do the dusting. Each one of them by now has a partisan position on the Synod, each one has allegiances to a particular party or person. The tendency is they tend to be of a conservative disposition, the Synod I suspect has given many of them a scent of blood, highlighting that internal Vatican tittle-tattle is actually global. Journalist too have shown their colours. So if I were Pope I would want to ensure I had on my side the cleaning woman, with the silicone polish spray when walking on those shiny marble floors in Sta Marta.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Guarding the Guards, a duty


Blue Thursday?
Yesterday's events in the aula of the Synod were certainly remarkable, the bishops rose up cried 'No' to their manipulation, Kasper disappeared as in a puff of smoke, and the Pope appoints an African.
The triumph of orthodoxy? No, just one battle won, the first maybe in a long war.

What gave me joy was that the media, both Catholic and secular, followed the Kasper line that very few of the Bishops favoured 'Tradition' and yet yesterday's events showed that most Bishop are actually orthodox. I mistrusted the Synod and I was right to do so, yesterday's events show that the majority of the Synod Fathers, including some of the Cardinals shared my mistrust.

Yesterday I asked, 'who will guard the guardians' and in a way yesterday's events gave an answer: Truth and openness will guard the guards. I have a friend who worked in the Balkans who talks of saintly bishops who are constantly challenged by crotchety parish priests, he has also worked in southern Italy where he says it is not unusual for Parish Priests to be challenged by irate parishioners, sometimes even whilst preaching. I think this what we should mean by collegiality.

I am the son of Liberalism and of the 1980's but I find the 'Via Traddie' incredibly attractive, it is not just liturgy but the 'style'. I mean the egalitarianism of it all. Nothing is hidden, a child or an elderly woman can challenge my preaching simply by saying, 'How does that square with the Catechism which says, .....?', I was quite delighted when a child after the Traditional Mass asked if my sermon was 'a bit Patriapassionist' (obviously it wasn't, I was right she was wrong, but it made me think), in the same way that someone can say after Mass, 'Father, the rubrics say quite specifically that ..., why didn't you  do it, can't you read, are you a fool?' Traddiness has none of the arcana of Liberalism, the type of thing which led Kasper to suggest that poor Africans just don't understand. If you pressed Kasper about what they don't understand I suspect that he would have come some 'spirit of ...' nonsense, or they hadn't read some fashionable theologian or they hadn't grasped the meaning of 'mercy' or 'love' or 'the human condition'; basically what he would have been talking about would have been some Gnostic kind of secret language known only to the elite. It is the same in a parish, question what a priest says in sermon or why he does something odd at Mass and you get a lot of obscure b... ...t, which simply places the priest beyond question.

Who will guard the guardians? It should be all of us. If a Bishop (or a priest or even a Pope) is unclear in his teaching, we have a duty to demand clarity. If he is not preaching the Gospel, if he never mentions sex, or marriage, or seems unconcerned about pro-life issues, or Eternity, if he rarely mentions God in his Pastoral Letters, if his views on the family or homosexuality, or money or whatever are singular or odd, he ought to be asked to explain himself. If he invites into his diocese speakers or groups who are obviously destructive of the faith, his priests or his people should ask, 'Why?'. In the same way if at a Confirmation or First Communion he suggests that it is acceptable for those who have just received the sacrament to lapse, he needs to be questioned by the clergy and the faithful. If he decides to sell his predecessors' house and get rid of the community that lived with him and live on his own, he needs to be questioned about his motives or similarly if he decides to cancel every Mass in his diocese on a particular day.

The Presbyterate of a diocese really do have a function not just towards their parishioners but towards their Father in God, and to one another, ultimately to get their Bishop to heaven but more immediately to ensure he has acts in a Christlike way, if the Bishop turns out to be sinful or falls, it is not merely his failure but the failure of his priests too, in the same way if a priest isn't saintly, it is failure of his people as well as his own. The sheep have a duty to make known their needs, this is surely what our obscurantist Pope means by' 'smelling of the sheep'.

The real problem is the Liberal gnosticism that was introduced following the Council removed the plain clear sense of the faith from ordinary men women, to the point where 'the Council' seemed to have more weight than the Gospels or the creed. How many of the faithful called to study those turgid documents have a grasp of the Gospels or the Creeds? Liberal gnosticism placed a liberal elite above the masses and gave a sense that they were not to be questioned, not to be held to account, which is exactly what happened until yesterday in the Synod. I remember an old PP after reading the 1983 Code of Canon Law and regretting that it failed to hold bishops to account as former Code did, his description 'between the anvil of Rome and the hammer of the diocesan Chapter'. This is precisely why Cdl Mueller was so right in deploring the anonymity of the Synod, the people (and most especially the clergy) of a diocese have a right to know what their Bishop has said. I would say they have a duty to question what their Bishop has to say, if they don't they fail him and Christ!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Bishop revolt!


I don't know what the outcome of the Synod will be, I don't know if the Holy Father is playing a subtle hand allowing those who have moved beyond Jesus and the the Church's teaching to reveal themselves and then confronting with the full clarity of the Gospel, I like to hope but I don't think my hope is based on much, more wishful thinking than hope.

What is apparent is the divergence between the failing contaminated Churches with nothing but, as in Germany, money in the bank, and other parts of the world and where the Churches are rich in martyrs, young people, vocations and committed lay people and zealous pastors. In fact the fault-lines are precisely those that Kasper identified, the strong Churches are those of Africa and the East, those he doesn't want to listen to.

What fills me with dread is the feeling that really what Pope Francis wants is for the Church to get into a civil partnership with contemporary society to the point where it looses sight of the one to whom it supposed to be 'the bride'. It is adultery in its broadest sense that worries me.
Rather than the Gospel challenging 'this adulterous generation' the leaders of the Church seem to be dancing the tango with Salome and calling out for John the Baptist's head with Herodias.

Coming from a diocese where, rather than being thought a hypocrite, the ex-bishop tailored his preaching and teaching, and ultimately the direction of the diocese to fit his own flawed 'life-style choices'. I am wary of the Church's leadership, if it isn't deeply rooted in what the Second Vatican Council demanded: Scripture and Tradition. The 'gay lobby' appears to have taken control of the Church and until the Pope himself comes out with clear teaching, as Cdl Burke demands, to all appearances he seems to be at the very centre of that lobby.
barefeet14
I was speaking to a convert recently who said, 'this isn't the Church I joined', I had to tell her she was wrong, this is the Church as it has always been, the only difference is that for the first time in her history the Pope has allowed himself to be seen to be on the side of those who wish to dismantle everything we have known to be true. Apparently Cdl Marx has been going round the Synod expressing regret that the Synod Fathers appear to be too attached to Tradition than the will of the Pope but then someone else said but this is exactly as it was in the time of Paul VI, who was deceived by Abp Buginini, who went into the aula crying, Papa vult!

The revelations that Cdl Erdo didn't write the relatio,  to which he signed his name, which Cdl Mueller had described as 'unworthy, scandalous and totally false' and that actually the 'gay lobbyist' Abp Forte did write the most controversial portion or at least he inserted it for a friend, show that the very secrecy means that the guardians of the guards have no part to play. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?  Bishops are indeed accountable to God, even if they don't believe in him (which I suspect could be true in not a few instance), they are also supposed to be accountable to the Apostolic See more immediately but more importantly to their people and clergy. A Synod before the modern era was always a prayerful 'liturgical' gathering, and consequently was public, as Cdl Mueller says people have a right to hear or read what their Bishop has said and they have a grave duty to hold them to account.

As I finish writing this, the Bishops, God bless them, have revolted, Marco Tosatti:

Erdo took the floor, implicitly distancing himself from the report that bore his name, and saying that if that “disceptatio” had been made public, then the others of the Circulo Minores ought to be made public.
His speech was followed by an avalanche from many others along the same line, underscored by thunderous applause.
The Secretary of the Synod, Card. Balidisseri, was watching the Pope, as if in search of advice and lights, and the Pope remained silent and very serious.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Kasper, A German of the 1940s?

 Walter Kasper
Fr Z has this up, an interview with Cardinal Kasper, it is shocking, worthy of a German of the 1940's!
It has been said that [Pope Francis] added five special rapporteurs on Friday to help the general rapporteur, Cardinal Peter Erdo. Is that because he’s trying to push things through according to his wishes?
I do not see this going on in the Pope’s head. But I think the majority of these five people are open people who want to go on with this. The problem, as well, is that there are different problems of different continents and different cultures. Africa is totally different from the West. Also Asian and Muslim countries, they’re very different, especially about gays. You can’t speak about this with Africans and people of Muslim countries. It’s not possible. It’s a taboo. For us, we say we ought not to discriminate, we don’t want to discriminate in certain respects.
But are African participants listened to in this regard?
No, the majority of them [who hold these views won’t speak about them].
They’re not listened to?
In Africa of course [their views are listened to], where it’s a taboo.
What has changed for you, regarding the methodology of this synod?
I think in the end there must be a general line in the Church, general criteria, but then the questions of Africa we cannot solve. There must be space also for the local bishops’ conferences to solve their problems but I’d say with Africa it’s impossible [for us to solve]. But they should not tell us too much what we have to do. 
Kasper has been, or at least claims to be the Pope's mouthpiece, does this reflect the Holy Father's thoughts? Let us pray it doesn't. If it does, we have very serious problems.

I am really am quite disgusted. It seems to indicate two Churches, not One that Christ established.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Its not me, its the 'System"


Trying to follow the 'secret' Synod through Vatican press releases is not too easy but it strikes me that those Bishops from failing Churches want change or rupture, those Bishops from strong vigorous Churches want continuity.
Could it perhaps be that the Bishops themselves are the fault, and rather like young students of the 1970s many of them once were they are blaming the 'system' rather than themselves for their failure to teach the faith.

The German Bishops, the leaders of the putsch and those who seem to be following them to change pastoral practice are hardly shining beacons of evangelical zeal, whereas the African Bishops and those from Easter Europe, the Middle and Far East are often are.

...and if you haven't watched Cardinal Burke's recent interview you can do so now.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Wobbly Church: what does it mean to be Catholic today?



I suspect Paul VI was the last Italian Pope, if we discount the short reign of JPI; it strikes me he had Italian virtues and vices, a touch of 'Futurism" and a bit too prone to trust those who would betray him and not a very good organiser.
St John Paul II was Polish philosopher, so Polish in fact some suggest his encyclical are in part only decipherable to someone with an understanding of his brand of philosophy.
Benedict XVI was a German, a Bavarian, so anxious to avoid dictatorship that he appointed his enemies to key positions, to the point that his Papacy fell apart.
Francis is an Argentinian who has witnessed so much bad government, he is conscious of the dangers and seems to want to avoid the failure of his predecessor with a neuralgic fervour .
I am sure this poor summary but my point is that the Church in the last 50 years has wobbled from one point to another reflecting particular the concerns of Popes. Presumably when we have an African or an Asian Pope it going to wobble even more. Nowadays I meet priests who supported Benedict's liturgical initiatives and now have no time for them. They were Benedictines, they have become Franciscans. In a sense they are 'loyal Catholics', but with each Papacy they change, and will continue to change. Under Benedict they fought Relativism, under Francis they tolerate it.  We see that in parishes, a change of priest, often a drastic change of direction, the result is rarely growth, and often serious confusion, a loss of faith that results in lapsation. In the past the Pope was distant figure, who had no impact on the lives of the faithful but when the Papacy is writ large, in fact huge as this Papacy seems to be, and if the next Pope and the one after that are equally huge, and if the contrast between Popes is so great, can merely being 'in Communion' with Pope be the guarantor of Catholicism? For some already being in Communion with Francis means no longer being in Communion with Benedict, or Pius or Leo. The Petrine ministry belongs to the See of Peter, presumably, rather than to the individual who occupies that See. Teaching might not change but its presentation seems to be moving with revolutionary violence, that risks shaking the Church to pieces. The most affected are those who could be termed 'Conservative Catholics'. Trads hold on to Tradition, Liberals to Liberalism but when the tree is shaken so violently what do the Conservatives hold onto, are they going to be swept away in the tsunami?

Even for  Liberals there is problem, what holds them in the Church? Is it that the Church somehow does good, gives aid and education, produces an environment where 'human flourishing'', to use a catch phrase, takes place? We are really talking about 'cultural Catholics', united to the Church by 'works' rather than faith in Jesus Christ and his teaching? That might work for a generation or two, but in the Church there aren't many young liberals, they have all joined Greenpeace or become Feminists or are campaigning against fracking or for LGBTetc rights. The cultural ties and folk memory that bound their grandparents to the Church do not bind them.

I really am beginning to think that the Papacy, which Vatican II saw as the unitative, if it becomes innovative becomes self-destructive. The very purpose of the Papacy is to conserve that which was handed on to it. In the first millennium the faith of the City of the Two Apostles stood still whilst the world revolved, its lack of innovation made it the touchstone of orthodoxy during the Arian and Iconoclastic crisis and enabled it to be the memory of the Tradition of the whole Church. If the Church of Rome becomes the source of innovation can it also be the touchstone of unity? If not where can we find that unity, which after all was promised us by Christ? Can it exist outside of unity with Rome? The answer Orthodoxy and 'ultra-Catholics' come up with is that it exists within the Tradition itself, are ordinary Catholics going to come up with the same answer?

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Obsessed by clarity?


One Eastern, Orthodox friend wrote to me recently and said, "You Latins are so obsessed with clarity you lose sight of God". It is what I feel about the Synod, we are trying to clarify what might be best left unclear. Providing we have clarity about what we believe, how we put that into practice is best left to local pastors, adapting practice to local needs. It is our scholastic Aristotelian heritage that draws us to carefully categorise everything we do.

Yes, it is important we address the great gulf between the Magisterium and what is actually taught in diocese and believed and practiced by the people. Reflecting on the words of the Australian couple who spoke of welcoming their homosexual son and his companion for Christmas dinner, I am sure Pope Francis would be proud of me, I've never turned anyone away, nor actually do I know any priest who would, I think this is one of those straw-priests 'Fr Nasty' who the Pope so often presents who doesn't baptise some one who doesn't fit certain rigid categories. In fact the only place I know where this happens is Germany, where if you don't pay Church tax, your children are not baptised and your body is left unburied. What I find difficult is warning a son that certain sexual practices might endanger not only his and his friend's spiritual health but their physical health too. Like many parents today we want to avoid conflict, even if in a real loving family, truth and frankness is necessary and welcome.
http://wdtprs.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/12_04_02_confession_line.jpg
The more I hear from the Synod, the more anxious I become, I was interested in what Father Hunwicke had to say about secrecy and the Synod. Are we in the midst of a great act of Romanisation? I do fear we are stoking up two opposing factions that will never be reconciled. Are we heading to a civil war?

Every act of the Church is though not necessarily 'a sacrament' it is 'sacramental'. The old priest who taught Church history at my seminary, occassionally would say things like, "for all his brilliance St Thomas was the great curse of the Western Church", what he meant, I think, was that by defining and clarifying St Thomas moved the focus of the Church. In that sense he marks the separation of East and West. By tightly defining the sacraments, limiting them to seven we lost sense of other sacramental acts, for example we focus on the sacrament of Marriage and ignore the once sacramental acts leading to it and following from it, for example the rites that once surrounded betrothal, or the exchange of dowry and marriage contract, the blessing of the newly married or yet to be married's bed or hearth, or the grace said at the wedding breakfast or the blessing of the cake. St Thomas focused us on the moon and made us forget the stars.

ashwednesday e1266250568930 Ash Wednesday Service from the Use of SarumThe Church today stresses Mass and Communion, rather than Liturgy as a whole. The 1972 Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in a way was an attempt to redress the balance, and to move the Church to regaining a sense of mission rather than simply serving it existing members. I am not overly fond of 1970's arguements, they are tedious and 'churchy' but one that possibly we should return to is the question of Mission and/or Maintainence. If you are going to evangelise, processions, devotions, discussions, eating and drinking, or education might well preceed any thought of Mass, in the same way in most countries building a school often preceeded building a Church.

RCIA, which I never tire of arguing is a series of Rites, not a course, reflects the situation of the first half of the first millennium where the Church consisted of people who belonged to it by degree, from those who are friendly towards it or receive help, to those who actively sought membership and were enquirers, hearers and catechumens, who were the majority, to those were actually communicating members, through to those who had a ministerial role or hieratic role through to the bishop who is the locus of Communion. Significantly it also contained penitents, who had lost and hoped to regain their place within the community. It was a Church of 'gradualism', a Church of those who gradually approached Communion with Christ, expressed in Holy Communion but ultimately expressed in the Communion of Saints and the Communion of the Church throughout the world, the Communion of Bishops.
liturgy-of-the-mass


ADDED LATER
I have just had a lady ring my door bell and ask, if her memorial service could take place here, She wants to  write her will. She has not been baptised, she doesn't want anything contrary to the faith, quite what her relatives might want I don't know. She has goodwill but her real reason is her mother had her Requiem here thirteen years ago.
I wasn't quite sure what to say to her, especially as she reads this blog!

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Immigration/Emigration

 Jews cross the Red Sea pursued by the Pharaoh. Fresco from Dura Europos synagogue (244-256 CE).
I was reading Tim Stanley writing about the Clacton by-election, I was struck by his comments on immigration. I hope both immigration and emigration are are discussed by the Synod, I am sure both issues are close to the Pope's heart, both touch on Catholic social teaching, both go back to the ancient stories of the Bible. The ancient creed of Israel begins, 'My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there...'.

One of our present day truths is that without immigration Europe will collapse. I welcome the kind generous support I see from Filipinos and eastern Europeans who work in our geriatric wards and nursing homes, most have faith and their faith brings a humanity to what can be a barren environment. More than half of those who come to Mass here are Polish immigrants and there is a large proportion of Slovakians and of the Europeans as well. If ever we implement 'devolution max' and Brighton becomes a city-state I suspect we will be be a Muslim controlled city, rather than a Gay city, as most of the immigrants are from the middle east, not a few are Coptic Christians, and we beginning to see Syrians and the other victims of ISIS beginning to arrive. I am pleased that Brighton Voices In Exile, operates out of my house and uses our parish premises. Incidentally they need money!


Am I pro-immigration? Well I am pro-immigrant but every story of immigration is also one of emigration, of the break up of families, of the search for work and in many cases the age old search for food and peace. One of the consequences in Europe of contraception is that we simply aren't reproducing ourselves, we are dependent on immigration. An Italian or Spanish child will inevitably end up by having to pay taxes to support at least six elderly relatives: his two parents and his two grandparents children, if he doesn't  someone else will, often the immigrant who is willing to take the job he is unable or unwilling to take. Immigrants are a comparatively flexible workforce, having left their homeland they are willing to move to wherever work can be found. If they are poor enough or desperate enough, they have left spouses and children behind, like so many Filipino immigrants, in order to send money home. Here, often is another story of broken families, or at least of families without mother and father.

One of the other factors about an immigrant workforce is that we can choose the best from those educated in the first place by a struggling societies, we can harvest a third world country for their graduates and leave without. I remember being told that in one African country there were less than 20 psychiatric professional, at funeral a few days later, I met several working in this country for the NHS. Obviously here they had the facilities to work effectively, and here they received the training they wanted and needed but there is sense in which we mine the third world and poorer European countries for the brightest and best educated, as some multi-national corporation might mine them for bauxite or iron ore, consequently these countries are left the poorer.

Catholic social teaching reminds us that we are our brother's keeper, that our common humanity is actually more important than our national borders, that we have a duty to come to the aid of all our brothers and sisters. The bodies of those floating in the sea off of Lampedusa or immigrants flooding into Southern Europe is something that has to be dealt with. National governments might well be tempted to increase border security or to deal harshly with immigrants in order to discourage others but the Christian response has always been to improve the environment from which they come, to educate, to deepen justice, to strengthen the family. Document like Populorum Progressio or Gaudium et Spes, though in some senses problematic and often treated with contempt by those of a certain political hue nevertheless are an authentic part of the Church's Magisterium.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Not Cowards but English


I was asked to take part in a radio programme which was broadcast on Thursday night on Radio 4 about the Synod. I spent a pleasant quarter of an hour talking to the producer/researcher (?) 'off the record'. I think he said he had spoken to thirty or so clergy who like me had misgivings about the whole thing, as well trends within the Church but none of us were willing to speak 'on the record'.

My initial reaction was, 'aren't we a lot of cowards' but on reflection I think we are just English. We are used to muddling through, we like muddling through, it iis a cultural thing, that is why we don't even have something as vulgar as a Constitution. The only cleric who did speak, not that I actually listened that closely, was that quintessential Irish Cardinal, Cormac Murphy O'Connor, who I love but who like the horse trader he is set out his usual string of elderly windy nags.

What I really am beginning to resent are men with 'ideas' (Francis' ideologues?) but who never seem concerned about Christ or the Gospel or holiness or ultimately Eternal Life, who turn the Church into a debating chamber. I hate their squabbles, I detest their clever solutions. The spiritual life is about muddling through, the muddle is the wound of concupiscence, I just wish we had men who recognise the muddle for what it is and point to Christ as our hope but no, it is about clever schemes to deal with the previous clever schemes that have got us into the mess we are already in. Why do so many of our Bishops and senior clergy sound like Enda Kenny or Nick Clegg rather than Christ? Why the strong reek of the politician?

Naturally I am jaded by the recent events in my own diocese but after only a week I detect attitudes have changed, hurt has moved from our ex-bishop, let me simply say he should not have been appointed, pray for him. I blame the good old magic circle, which in reality is more like a web and it is the spider in the middle who will I suspect will be the ultimate recipient of anger. What stinks is that it is about all power, and factions and so very little about Christ. In future I hope the Nuncio actually makes sure he asks such simple questions as: do you believe? and, are you willing to follow the discipline of the Church? A question I suspect which was of little concern in the Venerable English College and  other seminaries, and amongst senior prelates for decades. The preferred question was: do you belong to my faction? As Pope Francis might say it is about 'careerism', that is on the days on which he doesn't show favour to yet another careerist, but it is so endemic in the Church, the poor man can't avoid it. Incidentally, yes, we all knew about the rumours but consoled ourselves that they were only rumours. We trusted those who appointed him, we trusted Cormac our former bishop, the then Nuncio, Archbishop Puente and Rome.

I think we English actually find politics, including Church politics, rather distasteful - which is why we have had so many foreign (Scottish) Prime Ministers: Cameron, Brown, Blair, Hume, MacMillan, even why we have tended to import foreign monarchs Germans, Scots, Welsh. Yes, yes I am being frivolous, my tongue is definitely in my cheek but I think there is something very English in despising public controversy and thinking those who take part in it as being just short of beneath contempt, which is why we eventually dismiss and despise our Prime Ministers like inept servants.

The politicking and partisanship of the Synod seems distasteful to my sensibilities, public squabbles are for foreigners not for the English. South Americans might well have revolutions, North Americans their powerful capitalit barons with unlimited political influence, Germans their putsches, Italians vendettas, but we English just like to muddle through.There is something grossly unpleasant about dirty washing being seen in public or Cardinals behaving like fish wives and washer women or worse still, bragging about their influence and whose ear they have in their back pocket - that is the ultimate crime for us English which some have never learnt - but that is the nature of a Synod and of most clerical gatherings.

Standby for a great deal more of wrangling, daftness, and horse dealing but ultimately in the final document the Kasperite and anti-Kasperite faction will have reach some kind of agreed statement in the final Synod document. In some cases the medicine can be worse than cure and the big question is can the Church's leadership hold it together or will unity be so damaged that we end up as some kind of federated Church, much like it looks as the once United Kingdom will become under the Cameroons or the Milibanders.

Fragmentation is in the air!
And while mud wrestling goes on in public what really matters is going on in back rooms with sleight of hand by worldly men.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Eucharistic Elephant


Just a passing thought: there is a gulf between pastoral practice and Church teaching. There always has been; remember St Augustine commenting on people reverencing the sun before entering the Church? He was willing to tolerate it, believing that it was his responsibility to persuade them to turn to Christ.

Well I suppose, I suspect I do not know, that many of those who come to Holy Communion are receiving unworthily, it is priests and the Christian community's responsibility to change behaviour, to 'sell' holiness to those disinclined to it. "I teach men to be good but still they are bad", is an ageless cry of any pedagogue. In most parishes men and women are receiving Holy Communion who are contracepting, or living in civil partnerships, concubinage, committing acts of sodomy, oppressing the poor, stealing from their employers, ignoring or mistreating their aging parents, addicted to pornography, dealing or using drugs, leaving their neighbour bleeding and beaten by the roadside, or simply denying Christ.

The big difference between our age and that of St Augustine is that most people receive Holy Communion without any thought, bishops and priests celebrate as if it is merely part of the job, some of us even dare to offer it daily or even more often, whether we are in state of Grace or not, unknown of until the modern era! And all really because of the personal Eucharistic piety of Popes since Pius X and since the Council we have lost the sense of conversion, and frankly of calling a spade a spade, a sin a sin.

One of things that makes me anxious about the Synod is that some might be inclined to reduce the gap between practice and teaching, and attempt to square the circle, without addressing the huge elephant in the room which is the Eucharist itself.

Pray for Mary Byrne


I have just come back from the hospital, after Anointing and given the Apostolic Indulgence to Mary one of our parishioners.
Mary is both deaf and dumb, she is dying and I am not quite sure is able to see much, or focus at the moment. She has her carer with her, who is a lovely women but it must be a terribly confusing time.

Pray for her and invoke the Holy Guardian Angels to pray for her and comfort her.

I was told this morning Mary died a few hours after being fortified by the Sacraments of Our holy Mother the Church.

Eternal grant to her O Lord
And let perpetual light shine upon her.
May her Soul and the Souls of all the Faithful Departed rest in peace.
Amen

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Investigatons


I have nothing to say about events in my own diocese at the moment, what is interesting in the Church is what John Allen calls a zero tolerance of child abuse in the Church. The problem that Pope Francis seems to be launching investigations into bishops who tend to go against the "spirit of collegiality" using covering up abuse as of minors as an excuse. In the US Bishop Finn is in the firing line but as Nueva Primavera points out there are even better candidates in the US, and he hasn't even touched on Ireland or Belgium or the UK.
It seems as if these inquisitions are being used to strengthen, rather than diminish the various 'magic circles' and careerism in the Episcopate, and unless Pope Francis has a hit list, which I doubt, this is being used by various senior clergy to settle old scores.

Very dangerous and damaging!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Family Synod thoughts

Sous le slogan : « Un papa, une maman, on ne ment pas aux enfants », l’association Alliance Vita...I was on the bus today on the seat in front of me was a Muslim women in a headscarf with three young boys and a baby, she was gently telling one of the boys to stop sulking, whilst feeding the baby and chatting and laughing with the  others. On the sideways on row of seats was another mother dressed in western clothes chatting on her phone and  rather noisily telling off her daughter for making a mess with the chocolate she was eating. In fact she was more interested in fixing up a date for this evening a friend. I know I shouldn't have been listening but it was impossible not to. Her shopping seemed to be mainly bottles. The first mother was relaxed with her children and seemed to enjoy them, the other seemed to find her daughter a bit of trial.

I've been thinking about that phrase in the marriage ceremony about 'welcoming children'. It is interesting that so many of the early Fathers speak of hospitality as an important virtue for Bishops, it seems to be one of the virtues our Holy Father wants in bishops and priests, being welcoming.

I went to Bishop Schneider's Mass at Ramsgate some months ago, I was made very welcome by the Parish Priest, as usual and by the other clergy attending and I had several invitations to lunch, which as I had some parishioners with me and lunch was in restaurants I refused because I some couldn't afford it. My last invitation was from Dominic, the director of music, he invited me back to his parents house, I explained I had five parishioners with me, so I couldn't. His reply, "Oh bring them along, I'm taking the choir anyhow, my mother is used to catering for large numbers!" I think there are thirteen in the family, they are one of those large Catholic families that not only welcome the children God gave them but also their children's friends, and anyone else God sends them. They have certainly had a priest or two staying with them for extended periods. What I love about families like that is the sense of abandonment to God's will, which I am convinced is really behind the Church's teaching, not just on marriage and celibacy but on the spiritual life.

Another of my parishioners met a very nice French girl, who was just different, she took him home to meet her family, her parents and ten younger brothers and sisters, immediately he wanted what they had. He been thinking about becoming a Catholic but it was the encounter with her family that seems to have been main reason for his conversion. They had their wedding a few weeks ago in Paray le Monial, celebrated in the Old Rite by an Archbishop a family friend. In fact both these families are attached to the Old Rite. A real Catholic family is a great evangelical sign when it is truly the 'domestic Church'.

The interesting thing is of course that most Catholics have the national average number of children and practically all of the responses to the pre-Synod questionnaire demonstrate that Catholics are really unaffected by Catholic teaching on marriage and sexuality etc, in fact many, including sadly bishops and priests identify, themselves by their opposition tothis very teaching.

Having more than the average, 1.7 or 1.8 children, is often the preserve of the wealthy today, the cost for many is prohibitive, or at least frightening. The choice for children is counter-cultural, a choice against many of the values of what has become mainstream western culture. It needs a stable marriage for a start, it also has serious financial implications, it involves the mother choosing not to work, accepting different roles in the family.

For most Muslims, unlike Catholics, it is not a difficult choice, and yet 'welcoming children' has serious political and economic implications. Not welcoming children has meant the necessity of immigration, simply because we are not replacing our population or producing the number of people we need for industry. In fact we tend to treat poorer nations as a source of trained, educated workers in the same way as we might treat the as a source of other raw materials. Not welcoming children has been the cause of gender confusion, the commodification of sexuality, a trivialisation and narrowing of our understanding of the family, and a cruder and rougher society.


I get the impression children are part of our society on sufferance, that they are seen not as the natural result of the love of two people but 'chosen' and 'planned'. Now we can speak of children 'being wanted', as if there is a possibility in God's plan of a child being anything other than a gift or a result of God's good providence. If in our society children were a natural result of the committed love of a man and women, children themselves mioght grow up with the understanding that they will naturally themselves become parents sooner rather than later. In reality parenthood itself is not now normative, rather than being something which happens in the late teens or early twenties and being the reason for home and family and labour, it is often now the last significant thing that happens before retirement.
Human loving has changed, it is not seen in terms of protecting and nurturing but in terms of personal satisfaction or even personal happiness. Protecting and nurturing is the mark of unselfish adult love. 'Love' in the Gospel is about moving from self to the other, to God and one's neighbour. The family, is or should be the school of loving and a place of human maturing and flourishing.

My hope for the Synod is that it is really about is welcoming children, as important as other issues are, fundamental to everything is children. The fact they they have not figured greatly so far in pre-Synod discussions indicates how the Church has itself become as contracepting as the average Catholic family or the rest of society.