Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Bad Breath of Corruption

So tightly did things appear to be controlled, so lacking in clarity during the Synod, I had a dream that chained and dressed in their blue-grey habits emaciated and pale from their months in prison would be brought into the Synod Hall singing Nebucco a coffle of Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Immaculate. They were an example of justice in the Church to anyone who might have the temerity to go against the predetermined plan. Their crime after all these months has not been disclosed, either to the the Church at large or to them themselves. Their suffering appear to be that they have simply 'displeased'. The refusal to disclose the 'how' and 'who' of the Friars offense is one of the looming injustices of the Church today.

Justice and Truth cannot be separated, they are objective realities and there is a connection between Justice and Truth, and Transparency. Justice must not only be done but be seen to be done, and it must be done honestly and by men who are themselves Just. The Holy Father recently in an address to representatives of the International Association of Criminal Law said 'The corrupt person is a person who takes the “short-cuts of opportunism” that lead him to think of himself as a “winner” who insults and persecutes whoever contradicts him. “Corruption is a greater evil than sin”, and more than “be forgiven, must be cured”.  For myself I had always thought corruption was the result of sinful men who like the 'unjust judge had neither fear of God, nor regard for men' Lk 18:2.

Canonists like Suarez liked to define the Church as a 'just society', I presume he presumed that its leaders believed in the Just God who they would eventually face on the Last Day, and that they prized honesty and forthrightness before everything. If that was so then, it is far from the impression given nowadays. The world simply sees the Church and Churchmen as dishonest and therefore untruthful, we are mistrusted in small things, like finances or telling the truth about ourselves, and consequently untrustworthy in the big things, like speaking of God and Salvation, of Sin and Virtue. Cardinal Kasper's denial of the Pentin interview, seems to have been ignored by the Holy See, there has been no suggestion that any action will be taken against him, or even any excuse, that he has for example, 'gone senile' and is receiving medical or psychological help. It's just ignored, shrugged off, as if such an exalted Cardinal's very public fault, lying, is just part of the cut and thrust of Church life. And yet we follow a Master who said, "Let your 'yes' mean yes and your 'no' mean no!" Yet, he lied and threatened a journalists career and good name: he bore false witness and broke a commandment.

Blind-justiceThroughout the world the Church is seen as lacking integrity, covering up sins, denying and adding to the sufferings of victims of its institution from Dublin to Sydney, from Los Angeles to Poltz. Millions of pounds are spent on protecting the very fragile and as far as the world is concerned already tarnished reputations of some not very nice but very powerful  men.

The removal of Cardinal Burke, 'the Incorruptible', as one Italian journalist has described him, does little for the Church which in so many ways is being seen as really very corrupt. The Pope described corruption as 'bad breath', well the smell of bad breath is very much to the fore. The Synod highlighted the power of the wealthy German bishops, guarding their share of Church tax and using it to bully or buy the support of other bishops, whilst their Churches though economically wealthy are spiritually amongst the poorest in the world. At the same time as their attempted manipulation of the Synod it was revealed that the German car manufacture Porsche was able to buy its way into the Vatican to use the Sistine Chapel for corporate entertainment. Then of course this isn't just a German problem, during the canonisation of the two Popes there was that party arranged by the powerful Immacolata Chaouqui, the woman who tweeted against Pope Benedict, for certain wealthy invited guests on the Vatican roof with Mgr Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda distributing Holy Communion from a whiskey tumbler. Maybe it is not corruption but it sure has the foul breath of it. Then again its interesting to see so many of the favourites of those who once favoured Marcel Maciel are now in strategic positions, even one or two of his personal favourites are now back in favour and influence.

It has been put forward that there has been clamp-down on corruption, some notable dismissals like the 'Bishop of Bling', Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst. Yes, but the expenditure of Cdl Reinhard Marx has gone unnoted, there has been no investigation but he is spending 51 million euros for the beautification of the Archdiocesan Campus and not an eyebrow is raised in the Holy See. In Italy the reputation of the Bishop Albenga-Imperia, Bishop Mario Oliveri is being trashed. In part it appears he has welcomed some FFIs and also because some of his priests have been 'moon-lighting as barmen, stealing parish funds and getting tattooed'. I don't know if his response might be, 'Who am I to judge' but their behaviour seems no worst than members of the Papal circle, lifts and Swiss army officers come to mind or some of the clergy of the diocese of Rome who reputed spend time in cities gay enclaves. Indeed, who will investigate Rome where so much seems to be swept under the carpet. Remember the 'Vatileaks', what has happened to that? What about the diocese of Linz or the Archdiocese of Vienna where according to reports from We are the Church type groups, a considerable number of the clergy are living in either homosexual or heterosexual relationships.

The impression that is given is that Justice in the Church is itself corrupted, indeed, that it is actually about settling scores and has nothing to do with truthfulness which was once considered a Christian virtue. Rather than being consoled by accounts of these investigations I become increasingly alarmed, it seems as if some religious orders or diocese that seem to produce fruit and are orthodox are subject to investigation whilst others which are barren and often highly unorthodox carry on in their own sweet way, especially if the have powerful or wealthy friends at court. The problem is that Justice appears to used as a robber baron or some New World dictator might use it, as a means of intimidation and threat, not to bring the Salvific Light of Christ to bear on dark and hidden corners. It is as if some are above the Law and others crushed by it.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Graduality and the Terror of the Field Hospital

"Graduality" was one of the controversial ideas introduced in the Synod. I must admit I am a 'gradualist', I believe conversion is a gradual process, getting to Heaven is a gradual process. My thinking is based on such VII ideas as 'the pilgrim people of God', I believe we are a 'becoming' people. I even think we are 'becoming' Catholic.
It is interesting that the name of God can be understood both as 'I am who I am' but also 'I am becoming who I am becoming'. I like Newman's "To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often." Being a Catholic is about growth, like the Holy Vine, it grows and it is pruned and grows and bears fruit. The problem is avoiding the sense that progress is always about positive, sometimes growth can be in the wrong direction, sometimes it can be fruitless.
With 'Graduality' the problem is that we set the bar too low, similarly when we rule out 'Graduality' we can end up in process where there is no growth. 

A layman told me story about  a friend of his who was daily communicant, who was addicted to using prostitutes, having spent the night in his vice, he used go around London churches for Confession, having confessed and done his penance, he would receive Holy Communion and that evening return to his habitual vice. This continued for years. Confessors took his stated sorrow as a 'firm purpose of amendment', which it might well have been but he lacked the will to change. Even if he willed it, he didn't do it. Indeed he might well have desired it, he might well have detested his sin, been cover in guilt and anxiety, been torn in two for his genuine love for and desire for Christ, often with sexual sins there is loathing both of self and of the sin, but for all of that this man was making no progress but returning like a dog to his vomit. In fact those priests who handed out absolution, often because it is easier to do so than to confront someone with their sin, did this man more harm than good, and compounded his sacrilege and re-enforced his weakness. Yes, in strictly canonical terms he fulfilled what is required for absolution, he expressed sorrow for his sin but there was no growth, instead a hardening of irresolution.

Though personally I fear it because I am such a poor confessor, what I hope the pro-Graduality Synod Fathers were calling for wasn't about simply saying, 'It is alright come to Holy Communion' but what Pope Francis himself has used in the metaphor of a field hospital, indicating that a priest has to be like a doctor in a field hospital. It is easy to be sentimental about such a place, I think one of the good things about the Holy Father he is not sentimental but quite realistic. Sometimes a doctor in a field hospital must amputate a diseased limb, must operate without anesthetic or cause pain in order to reset fractured bones, have to sometimes apply a burning ointment to a festering wound or to give a bitter medicine, and sometimes force those who would prefer to lay in bed to get up and walk on tender stumps. A field hospital is a terrible place for both patients and doctors, it is full of smells and screams and often disorder. Sometimes one has decide a patient is too sick to be treated, or simply there is isn't space or time or medicine for a particular patient, or even that they are so diseased, so contagious they will infect other patients and even the staff that their very presence is a danger.

I think that today we have lost a sense of 'Graduality', I admit I am part of the 'Church of Nice', I like to say 'yes', I bend-over backwards to look for the good, like most modern priests, in fact all the priests I know. Yet this is something new. Constantine was baptised only on his death bed, not at the first sign of faith. In the days when the Church had to make it a rule that people received Holy Communion once a year (at Easter or thereabouts) it was only after a strict period of penance; -prayer, fasting and almsgiving, and meditation on the Passion, and of course Confession, and indeed a penitent rather than skipping from Confessor to Confessor was expected to go to their parish priest, who knew them and there own situation and was expected to 'examine' them, like a doctor in a field hospital and to prescribe, as the Council of Trent demanded, 'suitable medicine'.

'Gradualism' is about 'process', one of the great faults of the Church before VII was a loss of a sense of process, and of progress in the spiritual life, sacraments were given almost on demand, without any sense of the Church interacting with the recipient or expectation of growth. We do indeed need to welcome everyone, whatever their condition but we can't leave them in the same condition they entered the field hospital. The Pope used that metaphor, not that of a hospice, where we simply care for the dying, making them as comfortable as possible with increased doses of morphine until they eventually die!

Pray for Pastors to be courageous, especially in the Confessional.

In Praise of Pedantry

 Captain Mainwaring offers some advice to Private Pike in the BBC comedy series Dad’s Army
After Pope S John Paul and Pope Benedict I was hoping for a pope who really resembled Captain Mainwaring, Dad's Army's bean-counting bank manager of Walmington-on-Sea, someone with absolutely no imagination, its what I think a pope should be: as dull as possible.

It is this that is being described by that wise old, he would love the adjective, pedant of the Ordinariate Fr Hunwicke, he quotes Professor Roberto de Mattei, "perhaps the greatest Church historian of our time". De Mattei points out that no Bishop of Rome was a innovator, "[I]t is one of the reproaches urged against the Church of Rome, that it has originated nothing, and has only served as a sort of remora or break in the development of doctrine. And it is an objection which I embrace as a truth; for such I conceive to be the main purpose of its extraordinary gift. ".

Fr Hunwicke goes on to point out: This is the selfsame Papacy, acting in precisely the same way, which gave Marcion the brush-off when he turned up in Rome in the 140s with his proto-Nazi claptrap. The condemnation of Marcionism is not weakened by the fact that it rested on no "Conciliar Mandate", or by the complete absence of any brilliant teaching document issued by some wonderfully clever Roman Pontiff. 

He ends up saying, "Very occasionally, a Pope is, in addition to being Pope, also an important Teacher. One thinks of Innocent III, Benedict XIV, Benedict XVI. Thank God for such rare and glorious exceptions, such uncovenanted coincidences. But they are not what the Papacy is about. At base, the Pope is just the man who goes around sticking into the ground the notices which say BEWARE OF MINES."

Enjoy! but the apposite section starts at 25:00

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pope Benedict speaks: on that which is "lethal to faith"


In the light of the movement of the Church to a position of dialogue, or maybe chatter, in the last 18 months these words of the Pope Emeritus have particularly poignant relevance.

They were made on Tuesday to faculty members and students at Rome's Pontifical Urbanian University, which belongs to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household and personal secretary to retired Pope Benedict, read the 1,800-word message aloud at a ceremony dedicating the university's renovated main lecture hall to the retired pope.
The risen Lord instructed his apostles, and through them his disciples in all ages, to take his word to the ends of the earth and to make disciples of all people," retired Pope Benedict wrote. " 'But does that still apply?' many inside and outside the church ask themselves today. 'Is mission still something for today? Would it not be more appropriate to meet in dialogue among religions and serve together the cause of world peace?' The counter-question is: 'Can dialogue substitute for mission?'

"In fact, many today think religions should respect each other and, in their dialogue, become a common force for peace. According to this way of thinking, it is usually taken for granted that different religions are variants of one and the same reality," the retired pope wrote. "The question of truth, that which originally motivated Christians more than any other, is here put inside parentheses. It is assumed that the authentic truth about God is in the last analysis unreachable and that at best one can represent the ineffable with a variety of symbols. This renunciation of truth seems realistic and useful for peace among religions in the world.
"It is nevertheless lethal to faith. In fact, faith loses its binding character and its seriousness, everything is reduced to interchangeable symbols, capable of referring only distantly to the inaccessible mystery of the divine," he wrote.
Pope Benedict wrote that some religions, particularly "tribal religions," are "waiting for the encounter with Jesus Christ," but that this "encounter is always reciprocal. Christ is waiting for their history, their wisdom, their vision of the things." This encounter can also give new life to Christianity, which has grown tired in its historical heartlands, he wrote.
"We proclaim Jesus Christ not to procure as many members as possible for our community, and still less in order to gain power," the retired pope wrote. "We speak of him because we feel the duty to transmit that joy which has been given to us."

Unfortunatelt the whole speech has not yet appeared anywhere on-line.
Oh, for the days of clear thought and clear words!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kasper makes more threats

There are wicked journalists who for a few pence will lie there heads off and distort the truth, who like the unscrupulous Bill Gardner, who after his time in Brighton got a job working for the Daily Telegraph - though I did hear he might be sacked. Fortunately there are also brave courageous journalists like Edward Pentin who hearing a Cardinal make statements which are horrendous publishes them. If journalism is not to be left to the plain wicked, journalist like theologians, and bishops and priests have to be on the side of truth. Sometimes reporting the truth they have to embrace the Cross.

In the Kasper affair it is a Cardinal lies his head off and distorts the truth, then goes on to utter threats and menaces, There is that bit in the Gospels about rotten trees producing rotten fruit, grace after all works on nature, or doesn't. Catholics have a right to good and holy Bishops, who tell the truth.

Pentin heard something incredibly important from Kasper's own lips that revealed how the Synod was being manipulated. He did his duty, he reported it. Kaspar revealed himself as unscrupulous scoundrel and denied it accusing, Pentin of having made it up, in fact of having lied and invented the story. Pentin then released the recording. Kasper was forced to admit they were his words and apologized, not to Pentin but in one one of those meaningless apologies. not for the offense, but only IF people took offense at his words about African Bishops. His meaning that obviously it was their fault if they were offended.

Now he talks about a “deliberate dirty trick”, presumably on Pentin's part. He goes on, "The fact that Catholic media (and unfortunately a cardinal in person) should participate in it, in order to tear down another position morally, is shameful,” Kasper opined. When asked as a follow-up question who that cardinal was, Kasper unfortunately gave no answer. The retired Curial Cardinal announced, however, that “other journalists” are going to take action against such “undignified machinations”.

It is the "other journalists" who are going to take action that sounds truly worrying. Are these the same two journalists who were happy to listen to Kasper's "the only good African is silent African" soliloquy but did not themselves think it worth publicising, or are they other house-trained journalists of his party, remember the German Bishops don't just publish pornography, the are major holders in other publishing ventures. Whoever these journalists are Kasper's tone is meant to be menacing.

There is a very dark side to the present Papal Court, which was so evident in the Synod, some are calling it the 'Robber Synod', one of my parishioners referred to it as the 'Dark Synod' because of the way in the Bishops and the outcome were manipulated. We were promised transparency and we got opaiquism, light but received darkness: bread but instead stones.

The previous Papacy treated journalists with great reserve, in this one there is a great reliance on them; all those odd interviews with elderly atheists, allowing private phone calls to trickle out, the giving of Synod documents to journalist before the Bishops. Many people even journalists themselves can be forgiven for assuming that this is a Papacy, like the Blair or Obama administrations, that is primarily aimed at the media and like Blair and Obama will come crashing down leaving many disillusioned, and as my old gran used to say, "you can tell a man by the company he keeps.

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.
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.
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.

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


 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.