Friday, December 19, 2014

Orthodoxy: a 'But...'

I found this video on Facebook, I presume it is happening in Moldava. It shows Moldavan Orthodox Christians taking down a menorah and erecting a cross. Note the 'jEWISH' in the title of the video.

I have many Orthodox friends, I am am an Orthodoxphile, my retirement fund consists of Russian icons. I have gained a great deal from my Orthodox friends, they question hyper-Latinism, I pray regularly for the end of the Great Schism and re-union, I believe in 'two-lung' Christianity.

I am aware that many Orthodox, not those I meet, hate us Latins. There is an unpleasant nationalism in Orthodoxy. There is anti-Semiticism in Orthodoxy, in some Orthodox church's one might find material no Catholic would dream of touching, let alone reading. There is an Erastianism within Orthodoxy that even the most whiggish Anglicanism would baulk at.

Much is talked about nowadays regarding Orthodox second or third marriages, more liberal friends often ask me how it works. I tell them, in most Greek parishes you just turn up with you civilly issued divorce certificate and arrange your next wedding, only if the priest is a bit of a stickler will there be any difference between the first and second or subsequent marriages. Crowns and processions, nuptial blessing, though technically disallowed, are practically always used, the idea of a penitential wedding has all but disappeared along with any sense of spiritual direction for the divorced and remarried.

I welcome Mr Putin's use of the idea of 'Holy Mother Russia' as a narrative to replace corrupt 'Soviet Russia' but it is important to remember Orthodoxy has often been used to support a Nationalism that Catholicism, because of it pan-national nature is incapable of supporting.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

1 Corinthians 11:2

I love old photographs of liturgy, I saw this video and meant to put it up, I notice Mgr Pope also was impressed by it and has it on his Washington Diocesan blog.

I have a fear nowadays about being labelled with abusive terms like "restorationist" or "crypto..." or "promethean",In the not to distant past I thought of myself as 'in continuity', or just a student of history or, even Catholic.

Ah, times and seasons!

Monday, December 08, 2014

The Immaculate on the streets of Brighton.

I was hoping to share the video of our procession of reparation of the Immaculate Conception, in order to see it go here
More pictures here
The week before we handed out almost 1000 Miraculous Medals, not for our parishioners but for them to give to other people, to evangelise.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Punch a Heretic Day or the Feast of St Nicholas

I like this. 

I know you will say to me we can't do this today, we have to find the odd Arian and embrace him. We can't call people Pelagians, 'Porridge eating scumbags' or pultibus Scottorum praegravatus, which is too racist for modern sensibilities to be translated into the vernacular.

St Nicholas is another of those Advent saints who insist on being faithful to the Trinity and Incarnation.

I love the old European custom of St Nicholas going around bishops houses disguised as a small child and demanding to know if they have been good in the past year and if they have giving them presents and they haven't giving them a good thrashing. In the case of bishops 'good' means loyal and faithful and true.
Patron Saint of travelers and Seafarers
The St Nicholas legends of course unite theology and morality, the Eternal Word becomes flesh so we might hear the Logos speaking directly to us, revealing the Will of the Father to us. That arch villain, the heresiarch Arius wanted to deny to deprive small children of Christmas, to steal their tangerines and toffees. The great and glorious orthodox Bishop Nicholas by defending the doctrine of (ὁμοούσιος) consubstantiation saved children from being butchered and virgins being sold into prostitution. We see this extra-ordinary change happening with the laws enacted by Constantine after Nicea, children and young women, even slaves are given a new dignity in the Imperial Code.

How right the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation of Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, is to say 'the separation of theory and practice of the faith would be the manifestation of a subtle Christological heresy in principle'. Wrong believing leads to wrong living, just the same as wrong living leads to wrong believing. A bishop or priest in mortal sin will always tailor what he preaches to fit his sin.

A Christian cannot live rightly if he doesn't believe rightly, 'show me someone in mortal sin and I will show you an heretic' or as I think Ullathorne or one of his contempories said, 'show me a sinner and I'll show you someone who hasn't learnt his catechism'.

Holy Nicholas keep us orthodox!

Happy St John Damascene Day

St. John Damascene Priest and Doctor of the ChurchHappy St John Damascene day!
I don't know if it is by accident or design that he is celebrated during Advent, but he is one of the great defenders of the Incarnation.

I thought I would have fun this morning, w3e had a class of 9/10 year olds in for Mass this morning, so I tried explaining iconoclasm and iconophilia to them.
St John of course was a resident of Damascus, in Syria which until 636 had been a Christian city, John was born 10 years after it conquest by Islam. It is worth noting that the Koran says more about Jesus than Mohamed, it is Jesus, not Mohamed who will come as judge at the end of time. Islam denies the idea that God could ever become Man and could suffer and die on the cross.

St John saw Islam as being a Christian heresy, a re-capitulation and extension of Arianism, which ends up by denying God's ability to transcend himself and become one with his creation. The doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation affirm God becomes one with us, he descends to us, becoming Man, and raises us up so the we might become Divinised. For Islam at best man may become a servant or slave of God, but never a Son.

Iconoclasm is more than denying that God can be portrayed, on its simplest level it is about the destruction of icons but underlying that thought is a dis-ease with the notion that God can become one with us, that he can be seen in flesh and blood, the next stage of course is to deny that Holy Eucharist or the Sacraments can be a meeting with the Divine, and beyond that, that we cannot encounter sanctifying Grace.

The Protestantism of the 16th Century was the Wests Iconoclastic crisis, the Counter Reformation the triumph the Iconophiles. Perhaps our problem is that in the West we have never quite taken Second Council of Nicaea seriously enough and so the period after the Vatican II becomes another period of Iconoclasm. It can be seen literally in the purposeful destruction of imagery in churches.

 More than that, it has lead to the profanation of the Sacred Liturgy, to reducing the sacraments to something self referential, to seeing the Church as something quite human rather than of Divine origin and end, and of God's presence in the world. It sees the priesthood and episcopate as mere jobs that even someone in serious sin can do.

Vatican PopeIn many ways the Extra-ordinary Synod on the Family was a battle between iconoclasts and iconophiles, those who believe marriage is an image of the unbreakable union of Christ and his Church and those who don't.

There is an iconophile mindset that always wants to see the image of God and experience his presence, just as there is an iconoclastic mindset wants to move away from God and to shut him out. Iconoclasm is dangerous. |Euthanasia and abortion become so easy if we do not see in the vulnerable the image of God.

I am concerned by a iconoclastic mindset in the Church, not only does it 'wreckovate buildings' but it excludes images of Christ and ultimately the person of Christ from the Church's life, I was given some posters recently to be distributed advertising a Catholic event, lots of pictures of bishops, none of Christ: that is an iconoclastic mindset.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Dinner with Orthodox

I had beer at dinner last night, it is easy to forget Advent is a penitential season. I had dinner with some Orthodox friends. What Francis does in ἡ Πόλις, I did in North London. One of my friends joked 'I think one of the reasons your Pope looked so miserable, and turned up late for Vespers was that he discovered that despite it being the Feast of St Andrew it is also the fast of St Philip'. My friends have been fasting since the day after St Philip's day in mid-November and will continue until the Epiphany. So last night, no wine but beer and no fish as it wasn't a Sunday but delicious prawns grilled with garlic and dipped in good vinegar, especially as they had 'a Latin guest, so unused to the discipline of fasting!' As it was a 'joyful' fast there were lots of dates, nuts and fruit at thend of the meal.

We didn't talk much about the Pope's visit but my friends wife thought the Pope a bit sneaky about asking for a blessing for himself, which wasn't too bad but 'for the Church of Rome', that she said 'would be a bit like you blessing a homosexual couple or twice-married people, you can't bless something which all Orthodox regard as sinful'. There was an amusingly frosty look between husband wife, I laughed and said the Pope doesn't 'do' signs and symbols and that I thought that Patriarch Bartholomew's peck on the skull cap, like a father with a child who didn't understand the implications of what he was asking had dealt perfectly with an embarrassing situation that would have had not a few other Orthodox bishops, not to mention those monks of Athos, up in arms. A Cypriot guest recited the times his own bishop had had his own brother, also a bishop, 'struck from the dyptichs'; and then it was time to tune the tambouras and for coffee and music, very good music too and beautiful singing!

Monday, November 24, 2014


I remember a brief conversation with Cardinal Suenens soon after the election of S John Paul II. As a gauche seminarian I asked, "So what do Cardinals do after electing a Pope?" His curt answer, "Look for a successor".

Fr Henry reports Austen Ivereigh has a new book on Pope Francis out soon. Father reports Ivereigh's book as saying
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the former leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, helped to orchestrate a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign which led to the election of Pope Francis. 
Disclosing that: 
... there had been a discreet, but highly organised, campaign by a small group of European cardinals in support of Cardinal Bergoglio... Writer Austen Ivereigh, nicknames the group “Team Bergoglio” and says members toured private dinners and other gatherings of cardinals in the days before the conclave, quietly putting their case.
I can understand Pope Francis irritation with 'leprous courtiers', but then there was that Monsignor Pedacchio at the Congregation for Bishops who was supposed to have been faxing vast numbers of document to Cdl Bergoglio, or "Team Bergoglio", He is now the Pope's secretary.

As Ivereigh was Cormac's press officer, presumably  he relies a great deal on the Cardinal's inside information. His Eminence has frequently spoken of his closeness and friendship with His Holiness.

One of the stories which may or not be true but was told widely by several English College students, the college was of course Cardinal Murphy O'Connors Roman base, he has/had a suite of room there. Apparently during the Conclave that elected Pope Benedict there was a reception for the European liberal Cardinals and their political friends, apparently Cardinal Pell wasn't invited so he positioned himself in the window of a restaurant opposite the College and rather conspicuously recorded who went in.

Some people hate the idea of intrigue, because of course it is terribly human, and yes, open to corruption and all sorts of evil, they naively assume the Cardinals enter the Conclave as blank sheets of paper and await the Holy Spirit to move them to vote for particularly Holy candidate. If only it did happen that way, if only that was how bishops were chosen, or priests were selected for some office in that way but it always seems to be about he advancing of a faction rather the God's Kingdom.
Messy thing the Church, I am sure Ivereigh's book will reveal more mess and is itself part of the intrigue!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

What does the Pope mean by 'mean'

 There is a curious little video of the Pope's audience in which he starts his Christmas catechesis, I am not sure if something is lost in translation but he gets people to shout out in response to his question 'What does the name of Jesus mean?" they respond "God with us!"

"Jesus" means, Saviour or Liberator, Emmanuel means "God with us".
Matthew 1: 22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emman′u-el” (which means, God with us).
Obviously this is a problem with our interpretation of what the Holy Father means by 'means'. Possibly if I didn't need to rely on translators I might not see this as a problem.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Most Pastoral of Popes

Sacraments I am sure are supposed to be life changing events, rather than a simple reward for turning up. From very early on until that old modernist Pope St Pius X changed things - those people who are anxious about Francis would have been  apoplectic about Pio. He not merely  changing the Apostolic order of the sacraments - Confirmation after Communion - but wanting to introduce not merely frequent but even daily Communion. Communion not just for Holy monks and hermits who had proved themselves in ascetical discipline, in long vigils and depth of prayer but on a regular basis for those who had only recently attained the age of reason and probably hadn't yet learnt to use it. It was madness!

For almost 1,800 years, ever since Paul had written to the Corinthian suggesting that the Holy Eucharist kills, and is dangerous, and indeed can both give Salvation but also Condemnation and death, Communion was something which most sane people took part in rarely, to the point where the Council of the Lateran made annual reception a precept of the Church, even then pastorally minded bishops seemed not to insist too strongly, except in the case of imminent death.

One of the nonsenses spread abroad by those 1970s liturgists is that in that mythical period ‘the early Church’ people were receiving not merely regularly but frequently, in all probability every Sunday, I think the evidence for that is very flimsy!

The point is of course that the sacraments are Life Giving Events including, maybe especially so, Holy Communion, Pius’ reforms made them mundane and lead to the abuses we have today where just because you are whatever years old or in Miss X’s class, or at Mass you receive the Communion, Confession or Comfirmation, So now the Sacraments are received frequently they have come to mean very little in the life of the Church or the spiritual development of its members, their power to impart Grace or Salvation hardly figures in contemporary catechesis, the liturgy has become not so much a mystical meeting with Heaven but 'a celebration of the community'.

So many of the ills of today’s Church can be laid directly at the door of this most interfering of Popes, the most important being that Sacraments do not change lives. Of course in the teeth of all that his predecessors had upheld down the ages, he thought he was being 'pastoral' - God preserve us!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Oxford Universities Shame

It was announce last night the debate between Tim Stanley and Brendan O'Neil in Oxford University, about the effects of "abortion culture" has been cancelled. From what I understand the pretext was the venue, which is not in use tonight for any other function, was not booked properly.

The reality is that Christ Church JCR really wanted to curtail freedom of speech, the debate wasn't even about abortion but its effects on society. It is truly shameful that in one of the greatest universities of the world should be afraid of debating even, “This House believes that abortion culture harms us all”.

 What a shameful reflection on what has become of a great University, once a bastion of freedom of speech and expression! How perverse, frightened and cowardly are the JCR committee!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Church Investing Her Talents

 Christ the Pantocrator and the Last Judgment, 1300. Mosaic in the baptistry of San Giovanni, Florence, Itary.
The Church holds it better for sun and moon to drop from Heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in the most extreme agony... than that one soul... should commit one single venial sin, should tell one willful untruth or should steal one poor farthing...
What I meant to say was if the Church starts encouraging sin then it isn't the Church, it would go against its very nature as Church, just the same as even liberal Jewish synagogues do not encourage ham sandwich eating, at least on the premises!

The Gospel for this Sunday is about using the talents God has given us. It could be that, it could also be about producing fruit. I am sure many American Protestants would see that Gospel passage as being about the glories of Capitalism, we Catholics would look deeper.
Reading it in the light of the New Evangelism Holy Church has been imbued with so many riches and one day the master will return and want the profit on his investment. He has pored out riches on us and will return one day, until he does he expects to make disciple and to Evangelise. For most of us, priests and people, Evangelism is what precisely? Most have never done it, most don't how to do it, most don't know what its purpose is and most are not even convinced it is necessary at all.

As a priest I think I am going to be like the man who dug a hole and buried the wondrous gift my master had given me, The problem is that most of us regard not merely proselytism but evangelisation as solemn nonsense. We see little difference between Evangelical Protestantism, Anglicanism, Orthodoxism and Catholicism, or for that matter Paganism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity. We are hardly convinced  that attending Mass on Sunday is more important than doing a good work, some other form of prayer, a round of golf, shopping or staying in bed. Indeed many of us priests turn it into some kind of teaching experience or group hug. Most of us regard what we teach as no truer than any other truth. Most of us tend not to believe sacraments are life changing experiences.

We dig a hole and we put God in it, we bury him and walk away. It is not the nature of God to stay buried just as it is not the nature of the Church to teach sin. The first reading from Proverbs speaks of a perfect wife, well, Holy Church is the Bride of Christ, the real Perfected Wife. "Her husband has confidence in her, from her he will derive no little profit"

I do believe Jesus when he says, "By there fruit you will know them". Here is the picture of a particularly fruitless part of the Church that is fast loosing itself not just to secularism but Protestantism.

There are exceptions, one believing bishop can make all the difference, it is sad that often those who are proclaiming the faith most clearly seem to grow wheat and tares together, or bring to shore both good and bad fish, even Jesus had Judas among his proto-clergy!

Good trees bring forth good fruit. The Church has a lot to proclaim, it strikes me that doctrinal confusion is not just bad for the Church but mankind because in hinders his salvation. So if the Church's ministers confuse or appear to be encouraging sin, 'a willful untruth' or the theft of 'one poor farthing', or if she is ambiguous about things condemned by the Lord himself and His Apostles, like divorce and remarriage or sinful sexual practices, it has done a terrible thing because it must always proclaim God's intention for Man: union with Him. The Church's function is to show the face of Jesus, to repeat again in every age Jesus' teaching, to offer a vision of the truth, of the reality of transforming sacramental grace, of the holiness of the saints, of the liberation of Jesus' teaching.

Any priest any bishop, can easily become despondent, we need to search out 'Apostle' who will help us proclaim the beauty of the Christian life; of our glorious final end, certainly, but also the beauty of Christian living, of marriage and chastity, of the Holy Eucharist and of prayer, of vocation in all its forms, and most especially the glory of serving Christ in the priesthood.

There is nothing more destructive than what someone recently called 'the bell-bottomed' theology of the 1970s, which seems to have had a resuscitation of late. Let us bury that and instead find ways to use the many gifts and talents, the jewels with which Christ has bedecked his bride, Our Moter the Church.
"... it is not as if you live in the dark, my brothers, for that Day to overtake you like a thief. No, you are all sons of light and sons of the day: we do not belong to the night or to darkness, so we should not go on sleeping, as everyone else does, but stay wide awake and sober." 1Thess 5:1-6
 File:The Ladder of Divine Ascent.jpg

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Ham Sandwich Test

Those Oxford chaps, like that glorious erudite and dazzling ornament of the Ordinariate, might indeed climb the stairs of the Ashmole in order to converse with the stony face of Benedict XIV Lambertini, who reminds him of Newman's teaching:
The Church holds it better for sun and moon to drop from Heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in the most extreme agony... than that one soul... should commit one single venial sin, should tell one willful untruth or should steal one poor farthing...
I tend to meet  Soli Zuckerman on the No 1 bus, when I visit someone in the hospital, he's a tailor who now works for Homebase or something like that. Tonight he was returning home for family Shabbat he is delightfully loquacious, I asked him about liberal Judaism "Rab", he said, "It is all about ham sandwiches and Quiche Lorraine, that's the key. Bacon, they stop at that".

He was telling me about a friend of his who is a member of the Liberal Synagogue at the end of my road, I thought it was being demolished, the last time I passed by the doors were open and everything was stripped out. One of Soli's friends married a third time, this time "he married out" and embraced "liberalism". "They might use English, they might have services in which women form a quorum along with men or even on there own, they might happily have a Lesbian Rabbi but they won't have a ham sandwich or pork pie for their shared lunches". I checked and Soli was right.

There is a bottom line for every religion, for Soli and even Liberal Jews it is pork, at least not in the synagogue. For Catholics, at one time the bottom line was Friday meat eating, now it is a bit more difficult but I suppose what the marble lips of Benedict XIV were saying is that for the hierarchy the promotion of sin is impossible, the Church cannot accept it.

As I have just seen one blog put it we end up in an Orwellian world, quite different from Christ's if we say,

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Josophat: the Saint of Christian Unity

When saying Mass in St Peters for some reason I often got shown to the altar of St Josophat, today is his feast and there is an extract from Pius XI Ecclesiam Dei in the Office of Readings. Pius XI speaks of him as the Saint of Christian Unity, who gave his life for the unity of the Church.

13. He was convinced that he would be martyred, and often spoke of the possibility of such an event occurring. In one of his famous sermons he expressed a desire to be martyred; he prayed ardently to God for martyrdom as if it would be for him a singularly blessed gift. A few days before his death when he was warned of plots that were being laid against him, he said: "Lord, grant me the grace to shed my blood for the unity of the church and in behalf of obedience to the Holy See." On Sunday, November 13, 1623, his desire was realized. Surrounded by enemies who had gone in search of the Apostle of Unity, he went forth smiling and gladly to meet his fate. He asked them, following the example of his Lord and Master, not to harm the members of his household, and then gave himself into their hands. He was set upon and killed in a most barbarous fashion. Despite his wounds he did not cease till his dying breath to implore God's pardon for his murderers.
14. Great indeed were the fruits of this glorious martyrdom, especially among the Ruthenian bishops who knew how to draw from his death a living example of firmness and courage, as they themselves testified two months later in a letter sent to the Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda: "We too are ready, as one of our number has already done, to offer our life's blood for the Catholic religion." As a result of and almost immediately after this martyrdom, a great number of people, among whom were the very murderers of the Saint, returned to the bosom of the unity of the Church of Christ.
15. The blood of St. Josaphat even today, as it was three hundred years ago, is a very special pledge of peace, the seal of unity. We call it a very special pledge for the present times because those unhappy Slavic provinces, torn by disturbances of all kinds and by insurrections, have been empurpled with the blood spilt in the terrible and inhuman wars of our own days. In truth, it seems to us that We hear the voice of that blood "which speaketh better than that of Abel" (Hebrews xii, 24), that We behold Our martyr turning to his Slav brothers and calling out to them in the words of Jesus: "The sheep are without a shepherd. I have compassion on the multitude." Verily, sad is their condition, terrible their distress! Alas, the great number of exiles from their native land, what an awful carnage, what great loss of souls! Looking now as We do at the calamities which have fallen upon the Slavs, certainly greater than those which Our Saint wept over in his time, it is extremely difficult for Us to keep back the tears which well up from Our fatherly heart.
I must say I have a sneaking admiration for Pius XI, not an easy man but in many ways an outstanding one, a bit more of a warrior than his successors. Though Pius XII might well have been its author, he was the guiding force behind Mit brennender Sorge. Most people will know Ad Mortalium Annos, again concerned with Christian Unity:
10. So, Venerable Brethren, it is clear why this Apostolic See has never allowed its subjects to take part in the assemblies of non-Catholics: for the union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it. To the one true Church of Christ, we say, which is visible to all, and which is to remain, according to the will of its Author, exactly the same as He instituted it. During the lapse of centuries, the mystical Spouse of Christ has never been contaminated, nor can she ever in the future be contaminated, as Cyprian bears witness: "The Bride of Christ cannot be made false to her Spouse: she is incorrupt and modest. She knows but one dwelling, she guards the sanctity of the nuptial chamber chastely and modestly."[20] The same holy Martyr with good reason marveled exceedingly that anyone could believe that "this unity in the Church which arises from a divine foundation, and which is knit together by heavenly sacraments, could be rent and torn asunder by the force of contrary wills."[21] For since the mystical body of Christ, in the same manner as His physical body, is one,[22] compacted and fitly joined together,[23] it were foolish and out of place to say that the mystical body is made up of members which are disunited and scattered abroad: whosoever therefore is not united with the body is no member of it, neither is he in communion with Christ its head.[24]
 Different times!