Monday, September 28, 2015

Walsingham in Colombia









Yesterday we had Fr Peter Walters here, who I met, and was impressed by, at a meeting of the Conference of Catholic Clergy. He came here to make an appeal for the street children he works with in Medellin, Colombia. What he was doing was imaginative and rather inspiring. Fr Peter worked in Walsingham and has a great devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham, the house he established in Medillin is called Casa Walsingham, which is so wonderfully English, it reflects his Anglo-Catholic origins 'the smell of carbolic soap and incense', Catholic spirituality and reaching out to the needy, caring for body and soul. For him welcome and hospitality are part of the Walsingham spirituality, "I can't imagine Jesus, even as child, not going out into the streets and taking home to his mother anyone who was in need, and I can't imagine his mother not being absolutely delighted to have them come", he said.





Chapel of Casa Walsingham


He spoke about the children being the victims of Columbian drug gangs and the problem starting in the drug culture of the cities of the world like Brighton. Privately he spoke the violence and gang culture, of "hit men" going to shrines before killing people and coming back to give thanks afterwards, of children who aspire to become "hit men", of child prostitution and abuse, of child rubbish pickers, of violence and child killers and of corruption and apathy.

He spoke of the chronic need for money, of the possibilities that just a few thousand pounds or dollars could open up for the 500 plus children he cares for directly, of the children he wants to help, of starting a school, of having somewhere safe outside the city, but all that needs money and more staff - he brought with him Jairo who is a child psychologist whose English Father jokingly said extended to 'gift aid' and 'banker's order'. Even in Columbia any organisation which cares for children with such problems needs trained, expert and loving staff. Fr Peter wants the best for his children.

Fr Peter spends his time between working with the children and visiting parishes like mine to raise funds. If you are Parish Priest either in the UK or USA why not invite Fr Peter? If you are a lay person please consider donating by visiting to Let the Children Live.


Our choir, Cor Videns, in the chapel at Casa Walsingham


The choir at Casa Walsingham's Christmas service



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Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Cup of "Americanism"?


A chalice made by a friend of the Pope, or here, 'the personal Argentinian silversmith, of the Holy Father' and given to him by the US Catholic Church.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Daneels remarks are nothing new



Nothing Cardinal Daneels does or says shocks me anymore, he has a whole history behind him. So his recent remarks about belonging to the St Gallen group and being a member of a 'Mafia' opposed to Pope Benedict, which worked for the election Jorge Bergoglio is not a surprise, nor should it disturb any intelligent Catholic. Popes have never been elected by innocent unworldly old men, oblivious to anything other than prayer and desiring nothing but to do the will of God. Men like Daneels, and so many western Cardinals have presided over the disintegration of their own Churches, why should we not expect them to the same for the Church Universal.

How wise the Holy Father was to remind people that he is not a 'Renaissance Prince', then thuggery and simony and bullying were more visible. Human nature does not change, unfortunately neither does the Church. Very few Cardinals who have power impress anyone with their holiness or Christ-centredness. very few seem to look for holiness in those they promote. As with the Popes of the Renaissance the choice of their Emminences is not who will serve Christ best but who will serve my faction best.

Sunday's Gospel Mark 9:30-37 demonstrated what we see today, the Lord speaks about his Passion and Death, the Apostles, our first bishops find that incomprehensible, 'they did not understand and were afraid to ask him' and ' they had been arguing amongst themselves which of them was the greatest'. This incomprehension about Jesus, the inability to open their minds to him is nothing new, it is there in every age, as is the fear of actually asking Jesus of going directly to him, as is grotesque power politics, the factionalism.

Austin Ivereigh, who of course was Cardinal Murphy O'Connor's press  secretary, when his book was published caused one or two Catholics to suggest that the factionalism that surrounded the Pope's election might have invalidated the election, that is just plain daft, if we were dependant on valid elections then those statistics in that sermon (what did he mean?) of Cardinal Pell gave of valid and invalid Popes would have an entirely different balance: 266th Pope and history has seen 37 false or anti-Popes. If we just took simony into account, which mediaeval or renaissance Pope was validly elected? For Catholics it is not so much the election of a Pope but the Church's acceptance of the election, urbi et orbi, that matters.

Acceptance goes further, it defines a Pope's Magisterium, God blesses the Church with both the ability to remember but also to forget a Pope's teaching. Eastern Christians have always said that it is not so much the meeting of a Council that matters but rather its acceptance by the Church, thus everyone had a merry time in 1438 at the Council of Florence, we Latins welcomed it as a great moment of oecumenical dialogue, a huge step forward in ending the Great Schism, whilst the Byzantines dismissed it as yet another 'robber' or false Council. When assessing any Pope's Magisterium it is what is remembered and what is forgotten that is important, that is what preserved in the Church's collective memory. If Popes or Cardinals throw themselves into politicking some of their contempories might be hurt, as might the Church herself but it is God and history that ultimately judges us all.

As for Cardinal Daneels, as my old gran used to say, 'you can tell a man by the friends he keeps'.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pope in his own words

Pope Francis aboard the papal flight from Cuba to Washington, D.C., Sept. 22, 2015. Credit: Alan Holdren/CNA.
I was amused and bemused by the Holy Father's plane interview on his way to the US, especially his reply to the question on why he hadn't met with dissidents:
Pope Francis: Look, I don’t have any news that that has happened. I don’t have any news. Some yes, yes, no, I don’t know. I don’t know, directly. The two questions are about reading the future. Would I like this to happen? … I like to meet with all people. I consider that all people are children of God and the law. And secondly, a relationship with another person always enriches. Even though it was soothsaying, that’s my reply. I would like to meet with everyone. If you want me to speak more about the dissidents, you can ask me something more concrete. For the nunciature, first, it was very clear that I was not going to give audiences because not only the dissidents asked for audiences, but also audiences (were requested) from other sectors, including from the chief of state. And, no, I am on a visit to a nation, and just that. I know that I hadn’t planned any audience with the dissidents or the others. And secondly from the nunciature, some people made some calls to some people who are in these groups of dissidents, where the responsibility was given to the nuncio to call them and tell them that I would greet them with pleasure outside the catedral for the meeting with the consecrated (religious). I would greet them when I was there, no? That did exist. Now, as no one identified themselves in their greetings, I don’t know if they were there. I said hello to the sick who were in wheelchairs. … Oops, I’m speaking Spanish. I greeted those who were in wheelchairs, but no one identified themselves as dissidents; but from the nunciature calls were made by some for a quick greeting.
I am told this is a fairly accurate translation. then there was this answer too:
Pope Francis: A cardinal friend of mine told me that a very concerned woman, very Catholic, went to him. A bit rigid, but Catholic. And she asked him if it was true that in the Bible, they spoke of an antichrist, and she explained it to him. And also in the Apocalypse, no? And, then, if it was true that an anti-pope, who is the antichrist, the anti-Pope. But why is she asking me this question, this cardinal asked me? “Because I’m sure that Pope Francis is the anti-pope,” she said. And why does she ask this, why does she have this idea? “It’s because he doesn’t wear red shoes.” The reason for thinking if one is communist or isn’t communist. I’m sure that I haven't said anything more than what’s written in the social doctrine of the Church. On another flight, a colleague asked me if I had reached out a hand to the popular movements and asked me, “But is the Church going to follow you?” I told him, “I’m the one following the Church.” And in this it seems that I’m not wrong. I believe that I never said a thing that wasn’t the social doctrine of the Church. Things can be explained, possibly an explanation gave an impression of being a little “to the left”, but it would be an error of explanation. No, my doctrine on this, in Laudato si', on economic imperialism, all of this, is the social doctrine of the Church. And it if necessary, I’ll recite the creed. I am available to do that, eh.

I think with Pope Francis, what you see is what you get.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Preferential Option for Christians



I am increasingly hearing stories of Christians suffering persecution in the refugee camps  of Syria, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon and even in the 'Jungle' in Calais, one can perhaps understand that these camps are pretty lawless and are filled with angry desperate people, the focus of the anger seems to be Christians and other minorities. Rape and torture are not uncommon and coercion to convert seems to be pretty common.The disinterest of Western governments has led in many places to the cut of rations and the general deterioration of sanitation and healthcare. For Christians these camps are not good places and many avoid them and remain destitute on the streets of the Middle East.

The low priority that many feel even the Holy See has given to plight of Christians has left many of our bothers and sister feel lost and rejected, The help given by Catholic charities is tiny compared to the need and for many it is non-existent, perhaps our modern sense of inclusiveness for all religions blunts our ability to focus on the needs of Christians but it is Christians who are, next to groups like the Yazidis in the greatest need.

The refusal of Europe's politicians to acknowledge the specific place of Christianity in Europe has caused a lumping together of all refugees, It is true all are in need but Christian's needs are greater. The huge throngs that are now making there way through Croatia or in the fields of Calais are obviously from all over the world Pakistanis and Afghanis are there with Syrians and Iraqi, Egyptians and Sudanese, others from Ethiopia and Eritrea. When your children are starving or members of your community have been killed or tortured or you live under the results of the break down in law and order are you a refugee or an economic migrant; the distinction seems rather old fashioned and arbitrary. The world is in turmoil, so many Islamic states seem ungovernable or with past Western interference and growing Islamic militancy on the verge of it, there is a fragility in the Islamic world. Like Iraq bombed by the West 'into the stone age' and with a shrinking oil market elsewhere much of the Islamic world is declining economically - poverty on our borders is not a good recipe for security within our borders.

We should not turn any away but our capacity for help is limited and the numbers of those in need of help will grow but from a very practical point of view we must have a preferential option for Christians - it should be a priority for the Pope and the Holy See. For politicians, as politically incorrect as it might be to raise Christians tend not to be a security threat, Christians tend to integrate much more easily than Muslims, they tend not to have violent opposition to even to those things which mark current Western culture. Christians from the Middle East tend not to look for support from, or have allegiances to foreign governments, I am worried about the Saudi money Islam in Britain today. Christians are more easily identified as a group that are free from radical tendencies.


The great problem is that Europe is unable to cope with such a great influx of refugees. Britain's solution of taking people directly from the camps, though of course so many Christians are afraid to enter them, avoids the madness of Mrs Merkel's welcome to 800,000 which has been the main reason for many to make the great trek into Europe. Though I am happy to welcome anyone, even in my house, I want to be pretty certain they are no threat to me and no threat to our society. I am certainly willing to welcome anyone but if I can express a preference it will always be for brother sister Christians.


Friday, September 18, 2015

Sacraments and Sacramentals



Most priests, like me, don't bless thinks as much we should, we celebrate sacraments but not sacramentals, indeed we seem to have lost the sense of what a sacramental is. This not our Tradition, we are a sacramental Church. The pre-Concilliar rite of blessing was in a sense Eucharistic, it took the mundane and raised it to the holy, it became sacramental, intrinsically different, the post-Concilliar understanding takes the mundane and thanks God for it, and dare I say it, leaves it unchanged. I am not sure what the effect on priesthood and sacramental economy of the Church has been.

'The Tradition' is perhaps best seen in the the pre-Concillior Rite or better still 'Rites' of ordination, or even 'process' or ordination. After admission to the clerical state at tonsure the would be priest (or bishop) would go through various sacramental stages until arriving finally being ordained priest or even bishop. Even after Trent it was not unusual for some men to remain in minor orders all their lives, even some Cardinal Secretaries of State were sub-deacons- it was Vatican II that abolished this ancient process and merely 'institute' to the 'minisitries' of lector and accolyte those preparing for ordination to the major orders - some diocese allow certain men not destined for ordination to receive these ministries.

The important thing was that there was a 'process' of ordination, moving from the sacramental to the sacrament. Generally all orders were conferred by a bishop but in certain circumstances the minor orders could be conferred by a simple priest, for the most part an abbot or prior. There was a sense of gradual unfolding and sharing in the fullness of the sacrament, of the priest or episcopate being approached by steps.

The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults was an attempt to restore this process to baptism, beginning with being an 'inquirer' and ending with Baptism, Confirmation and Communion.


In the times before the Church defined that there were 7 Sacraments there seems to have been a certain fluidity about what was a sacraments and when it occurred. Penance is an example, often it was process. In the East (some parts still) it is possible to go and confess to holy man or even woman, noted for their powers of spiritual direction, to do a penance they impose, to then receive a certificate which can be presented to priest or bishop who then gives sacramental absolution. In the Celtic scheme of things I get the impression that many monks were penitents who simply stayed doing penance with their spiritual master, a penance agreed by bishops at some synod, hence the Irish tariff penitential system.


There was a not very interesting discussion on one of those liturgical forum about deacons anointing the sick. According to the Epistle of St James it is presbyters, not deacons, who are to be sent for to anoint the sick, of course. However there does seem to be evidence at some period and in some places deacons prayed over and anointed the sick with oil. This might well have been sacramental anointing but not necessarily the sacrament of anointing, of course this was before the Church defined the number of sacraments. At this time of course there is lots more evidence of lay people anointing than deacons anointing but even with a less precise sense sacrament I cannot help thinking that the local priest anointing a sick person with Holy Oil hallowed by the bishop and the proper rites was regarded as higher mystery than granny rubbing a wound with oil from the sanctuary lamp or even oil the priest had blessed or goose fat collected after the Martinmas feast.

With the sick today, though now only a priest is supposed to anoint, before he is summoned the faithful should have been praying and bringing and using sacramentals: water and medals from shrines, thankfully are still normal.

Marriage too seems to have been a sacramental process, often confused and with very local Rites. In England it was only with Ne Temere, promulgated in 1907, that a Catholic marriage had to be conducted according to our Rites and before a Catholic priest. In some places marriage could be as simple as presenting one's wife to the priest in the High Street, or it could be a whole series of sacramentals beginning at an exchange of contracts, but also including betrothal, exchange of vows, nuptial Mass and blessing, with ancillary rites, the blessing of houses or beds, or sheets (and there seem to have been a variety of types marriages too) but each step was more binding and more sacred and each blessing added to the sacredness of the marriage.


Against the rather confusing idea of sacramental marriage one should not forget the Church's place in witnessing, other contracts, vows and treaties, and the reconciliation of enemies and ending feuds, by giving them its blessing, and raising to a sacramental level. Depending on the culture many of these social or civic actions had their own rites and rituals, even their own guilds to safeguard them. There are interesting accounts for example of crusaders vowing to support one another, to share their resources, to fight for one another. to be bound to one other, even to death. It is not a marriage, though like religious vow, it would have been binding, sacramentally




Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Cardinals Mud Wrestling




I try to avoid criticism of Popes, some Catholics would find excuses for Alexander VI, once that string of mules had left the Lateran and the silver they had carried had been distributed to the Cardinal electors, and the tiara was placed upon the Borgia brow. Even the Popes of the Pornocracy could be excused - troubled childhoods. Pius XII employing Bugnini - care for the unemployable.

The Church is rough inside - serenity is a fiction. Bishop Barron before his elevation spoke of the Synod as being like the contents of sausage, though you might want to eat it you don't want to know what goes into it. Nevertheless the Holy Father has called for 'parrhesia' and already there has been a lot of that around, whoever thought they would see Cardinals mud wrestling or publicly denouncing journalists for lying about racist comments only to have a video published that revealed the journo to be correct and the Cardinal revealed as a liar or Archbishops fictionalising paragraphs in the a Synod Relatio.

I fear the approaching Synod. I'm not sure what will emerge, something unpleasant most probably. I am not sure if human inefficiency or Pope Francis or the Holy Spirit is behind the mess but there seem to be numerous agendas and it isn't just the obvious things that most commentators have picked up on.

1) The role of the Pope: After Benedict's resignation it has been impossible for any serious Catholic to continue thinking of the Papacy in the same way we have for the past 150 years. Though we might have denied it, I think many Catholics thought of the Pope in semi-divine terms, at least in a terms 'office' rather than fallible human being with strengths and failings. I think I would have denied the Pope was merely a part of a faction, but that becomes increasingly difficult as one sees many of Francis' of nominees for the Synod - Cardinal Daneels? Yet though the Pope speaks of decentralisation and synodality this is imposed by the most monarchical papacy ever. I am sure that after this Papacy, even Francis collaborators will be looking for a completely different style, away from the idea of the Church as the Papal fiefdom, or as the Pope being its President, collegiality demands better.
2) One of the things that was very important in Pope Benedict's Regensburg speech was the idea of Christianity being based on Greco-Roman thought. The New Testament and the ancient Fathers are after all, full of Aristotelian philosophy and ideas and this has dominated Western theology up until the 19th century. Although Hegelian ideas are there within the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the notion of 'subsists', for instance, when describing the Catholic Church, they are easily overlooked. The Synod in many ways seems to be a battle between Germany and the rest of the World. Vatican II's call to return to the Scripture and the Fathers is being extended by Cardinal Kasper and his allies to include the thought of those 19th century German school philosophers who have been so influential on them.
3) In many ways, it is the 'hermeneutic of continuity' versus 'the hermeneutic of rupture' is at the very forefront of what some Italian journalists are referring to as "adapters" and "upholders". The big question is: is the Church recreated in each new age? Are we free to turn out back on the thought of previous generations? Can we remake history at the stroke of a pen or as part the action of a Synod? In the past, change was organic, from the bottom up. Now, change is from the top down, the whim of a Pontiff or the whim of a Council or the whim of a Synod. It's the entry of a new reality for the Church - a reality where everything is "relative".
4) 'Adapters' and 'upholders' have been very much the feature of contemporary Protestantism and Anglicanism and the adapters have won. One of things I admire (is that the right word) Francis for is admitting that this is and has been part of Catholicism since at least the Enlightenment, St Pius X tried to crush it but in fact drove it underground, it seems as if the Synod will be the first round in a battle in which side or the other will eventually triumph, or 'adapters' and 'upholder' will learn to compromise. 
5) I have before suggested that one of my concerns is the relationship of the Church to God that will be played out at the Synod, who is the dominant partner - is it scripture and the Word of God or is it human experiernce?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Refugees: a Trad response

"The trouble is the refugees, they are flooding in, they will take over here soon,"

One of my Old Rite parishioners has signed up with the Refugee Council to open her house to refugees. She said, 'because I will soon be a refugee myself, seeking asylum in Heaven, if I don't welcome refugees here, I might not be welcomed there'.
That is traditional Catholic spirituality, tomorrow I will join the scheme the diocese is setting up, when I am dead I want asylum too.

Holy Cross is the Eucharist



Unlike other relics the relic of the True Cross is supposed to be kept veiled when it isn't exposed for veneration. One is supposed to genuflect to it when it is exposed. The priest is supposed to carry it either veiled or with a humeral veil.
The idea is the relic is Eucharistic. If it is the the Cross then it is drenched in the blood of Christ and treated as Blessed Sacrament, the Rite of Exposition is similar to Benediction.

In the light of the great debate: may the divorced and remarried venerate it?

Rugby: Pray for Samoa


I was delighted to have the Somoan Rugby team at Mass yesterday. 
They sang after Mass, It was impressive to see so many devout young men, who think worshipping God on a Sunday morning is just a normal manly thing to do.
God bless them

Friday, September 11, 2015

I want a ....


I have always said, "The Old Rite is a machine for praying in".
Obviously there are health and safety issues and how many bishops will trust the their clergy winching them up 42 meters? Obviously here, I trust all the gentleman who assist at the altar*.


*Except for one, he recently left me to choke, whilst he looked on gleefully he refused to pour in the water for the second ablution, waiting for me to turn purple - it was the look of sheer delight on his face that haunts me.
Then there is the other one who emptied the thurible on me as I knelt at Benediction, the rest are fine, ....I think.
Just now, another of them turned to serve the 'traddie' Mass up with table he had 'borrowed' 5 years ago from the Church.

But of course I would trust them with my life.

Hiding Behind the Law



Just imagine this scenario:
A local politician goes to the bishop and tells him his daughter needs an annulment so she can have a great big wedding, a time of civic rejoicing. The bishop, a timid man, not exactly faith filled, however having looked into the matter is doubtful and says that it should follow the ordinary course. The politician, a bit of a bully, says he will go to the secularised press and insure they put up yet another story of the 'un-pastoral' style of the bishop, and he will certainly complain about him to his powerful friends in Rome. The bishop thinks about it and within 45 days the politician's daughter is organising a second wedding in the Cathedral with the bishop assisting a presiding Cardinal.
The great thing about the 'unreformed' annulment procedure is that having collected the evidence for an annulment a judgement was made by the diocesan tribunal and then the papers were passed to second tribunal for an independent verdict, if it was different in the second instance from the first it was sent to the Rota. The great advantage was that the diocesan tribunal's work was scrutinised by the second tribunal, and occasionally by Rome. This meant that Bishops had to act according to the law, in fact they were protected by the law, they could hide behind the law and one of the purposes of the law is for the weak to hide behind it.

There are certainly problems with the annulment procedure, it is slow and invariably under funded, in some parts of the world it simply does not exist, some diocese do not have any canonists who can run a marriage tribunal, which means people are denied justice. However we saw the madness in the 1970s where US canonists seemed to merely rubber stamp any requests for a declaration of nullity.

I cannot help thinking the Holy Father, out of pastoral zeal, has acted unwisely and is placing the whole Church in the American 1970's situation. Already in my parish a couple of people with less than perfect marriages have been asking if possibly they might not be married after all; doubts have been sown. According to Cardinal Kasper the Holy Father has said he believes 50% marriages could be or are invalid, which seems a rather pessimistic attitude to the sacraments. Of course if one suggests 50% of marriages are invalid, could one not apply the same criteria to ordinations, if bad catechises could be criteria for invalidity, as some are suggesting, could not bad theological formation (or moral formation) be a good reason to suggest one's priest or bishop's ordination was null and void and the same for the sacraments he has celebrated?

That way of course lays theological madness and sees a return to a new Donatist Crisis, which actually one does see amongst certain uber-Catholics of an ultra-'traditional' stripe. The Church has always understood that Christ is greater than the Church, than the sacraments, and certainly greater than the weak and limited people who receive the sacraments, by his Grace he makes up for our sins and deficiencies.

The problem here is the same as lies behind the Synod: do we rely on God's grace or are we merely bound by human weakness?

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Calix in Brighton

Last night I attended my first Calix meeting, though I am not a recovering alcoholic, I am a happy fellow traveller. I am so pleased to be involved in setting up a Brighton or Sussex group.
The Calix Society is an association of Catholic alcoholics who are maintaining their sobriety through affiliation with and participation in the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. Our first concern is to interest Catholics with an alcoholic problem in the virtue of total abstinence. Our second stated purpose is to promote the spiritual development of our membership. Our gathering today is an effort in this direction. Our conversation and our association together should be a source of inspiration and encouragement to each other, geared to our growth toward spiritual maturity. Our participation in all other spiritual activities of Calix, such as the frequent celebration of the Liturgy, reception of the Sacraments, personal prayer and meditation, Holy Hours, Days of Recollection and retreats, aid us in our third objective, namely, to strive for the sanctification of the whole personality of each member. We welcome other alcoholics, not members of our faith, or any others, non-alcoholics, who are concerned with the illness of alcoholism and wish to join with us in prayer for our stated purposes.
I was pleased a couple of our Polish parishioners came along, next time I hope we will have more people turning up at our next meeting next month.
There is always something impressive about Catholics who have overcome addiction, they have experienced God's mercy, they are able to speak about and celebrate it. There is something about listening to someone who has been battered and bruised, who is scarred by life talking about his or her experiences. These are people who know first hand about being lost and being found, they know about conversion, and the love and power of God.
Pray for the success of our Brighton group, if you want more information contact Sue at calixsussex@btinternet.com

Tonight we are setting up a men's group too, so pray for that as well.


Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Presents for Our Lady


A High Church Anglican Brighton clergyman, who was a little eccentric, he used to do tarot readings at parish does, apparently said, "For Our Lady's birthday, it is the tradition of this parish to give her a present, now she doesn't like Black Magic chocolates but she does like a drop of gin of an evening after she has said Vesper".

I know PPs who gather  children around the crib on Christmas day to sing, 'Happy birthday dear Jesus', and would do the same on His Mother's birhday. This morning I was pleased someone turned up with flowers for Our Lady; present's, votive offerings are important, they teach us generosity. Of course what we are after is spiritual generosity, the softening and opening of the heart. Giving or doing tangible things leads to giving and doing something deeper. Symbolically giving a gift can lead to actually giving ourselves.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Responding to the Pope

I know my own bishop, God bless him, is already making plans to deal with the Pope's request that every parish in Europe should welcome at least one refugee family, I am sure many others are planning how not to do it. Insurance, safeguarding are real issues. I understand the two Vatican parishes are planing to take one each. I find that disappointing, I was hoping Francis might follow Pope Pius XII and have refugee women giving birth in his bed, that there might actually be twelve families in the former Apostolic apartments, he said there was room for them when he first was shown them. I hoped that the papal holiday home Castel Gandolfo might also be used, I certainly welcomed the idea of St Marta being overrun by refugee toddlers, it would give a whole new perspective to the Synod on the Family. Cdl Kasper on the floor playing with bricks, Baldissieri playing hide and seek, Bishop Forte changing nappies ... my imagination runs away with me - but you get my drift.

+++

Mass population movement. like famine, disease and terror, is a weapon of war, it is the opposite of siege, it is meant to destabilise. The obvious targets are those states surrounding IS territory, Lebanon has taken in a million people, its own population is 4 million. Turkey too has taken in vast numbers, Jordan too, these states are experiencing a degree of instability because of their generosity, in every way it is costing them.

So many European countries are suffering the results of mass contraception, the wholesale demolition of the family and abortion have left a huge population vacuum. Politicians, like Angela Merkel, realise that in the medium term Germany will not be able to care for its elderly or maintain the standard of living its citizens have been used to without fresh workers, as they are not being bred they have to be imported. The Middle Eastern refugee crisis is in part an answer to Europe's demographic crisis. The great advantage of bringing people in, is that you have a 'human resource' immediately and cheaply; no waiting twenty or so years for a worker to reach maturity and what is more there is no expensive education, that is borne by the country of his birth. There is also a certain 'natural selection': someone willing to leave his homeland and pass through the various hurdles to get to somewhere else is likely to have a certain entrepreneurial ability, he is unlikely to be a couch potato.

Those who have suffered tend to be resilient and have a determination but they are often also traumatised and hardened and even radicalised. Christian and Yazidis might have suffered terribly under IS but the real enemy of these Sunni Muslim are Shi'ite Muslims, whether European countries are ready to face Sunni Shi'ite clashes  is doubtful, both have been made militant by the experience of victory or defeat. A radical change in the balance in the relatively peaceful European Islamic communities is likely to change.

Europe has been talking about welcoming 120,000, that is presumably likely to increase. It would be tempting to go down the line of Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic and just admit or make a priority the admission of Christians but Europe has constantly insisted that Christianity is not part of the European narrative, maybe this might begin to change, as Europe itself will change.

At the moment there is banging upstairs a friendly joiner is getting rid of some unwanted junk and making my house ready to invite whoever God sends us. When someone has been beaten up on the Jerusalem Jericho road one sees to his wounds and spends whatever is necessary, when someone comes knocking on the door at midnight wanting bread you get up and give it give it. You know it is going to cost eventually, that it is likely to tun your life upside down but I really do fear being told, 'In as much as you failed to do it to the least of these ...'. The wonderful thing about being a celibate Catholic priest is that I can be reckless.

I am not sure what this all going to entail and how to get the parish involved, I had become quite comfortable in my own little rut but as I say every night, 'In manus tuas Domine ...'. 

Deus providebat

Friday, September 04, 2015

Growth in Reading



Picture: members of the St William of York, Reading congregation served by the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter, commemorating their 10th Anniversary

It is worth taking a look at the picture, what is so noticeable is the number of children, and although there are a few grey heads, they are in the minority, there aren't any at all amongst the clergy, which is most probably the most significant of all.

But as I say it is the presence of children that is most noticeable, which indicates that the congregation is either very wealthy and afford children or more likely that they are willing to make sacrifices for them. It is also an indication that the families here are stable, and committed enough to the Gospel to be open to the Church's teaching.

From the little I know, the Reading congregation started with just few families and has grown and grown. Its growth has been by 'supernatural' generation, a few people being received into the Church but more being attracted by what they find there; the Traditional Mass and clear Catholic teaching. However the real growth has been through 'natural' generation; Catholic parents having children.

We Catholics of course believe 'grace works on nature', we seem to have forgotten the importance, and the duty, of begetting children. 'Trad' Mass communities seem always to create an environment that says 'children are welcome', they are open to nature. They also create an environment that is open to what the Church the 'education' of children. By 'education' we understand it to mean more than what is learnt at school, we mean the sacraments and the moral and spiritual education of children, helping them to become spiritual adults. In 'Traditional' communities, though this is obviously the primary work of parents, networks and supports form naturally.

Here in Brighton our own Traditional Mass congregation is growing, at times it seem to have more babies and younger children than all our other Sunday Masses, despite the centre of the city not being the best or easiest place to bring up children.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

So many and for so long

The image of a little child dead on a beach is sickening but so is the image of crucified children or beheaded children, or homeless starving refugee children, maybe it is that we can bear to look at this little child and imagine his story and the tragedy that lies behind it, whereas more gory images, like dismembered foetus', all but the slightly sick avoid or hurry past. There are tens of thousands of children like this poor child, and the pictures have been around for a long time.

I am concerned that this particular image has unleashed 'compassion' almost as fashion accessory, first from journalists, then newsdesks and the media and now even from politicians, at least opposition politicians and backbenchers. This little child makes the statistics of Mr Cameron's 'swarms' into an individual tragedy, Stalin had said, 'a million deaths is a statistic, one death is a tragedy'. I am concerned, but I am glad that at last the media can focus on the death of children rather than the destruction of a temple ruined in Palmyra.

The feeling of 'compassion' is one thing, it is likely to disappear as soon as it flares up, it is actually doing something that matters, and that has to be a deeper interior change rather than a signature on an e-petition or drawing out a handful of loose change. A world that ignores the plight of so many over so many years is essentially hard hearted, if it is manipulated by a single image that 'goes viral', rather than human need is essentially massaging its own 'feel good' self indulgence, tomorrow it will be back to kittens or donkeys.

It might be possible for an atheist but for a Christian, not caring for the poor, not welcoming the stranger is not possible if we hope for heaven.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Non-Changing Church? #2

A lot of people seem deeply worried by October's Synod, the Pope's call in Rio for the youth to make a lio, a mess, has been taken up by many. I was talking to a priest recently who said, 'I just can't see why we can't just do whatever the Holy Father wants'. That is one view going around, and for all its un-Catholicity it is probably the prevailing one, because although a lot of people might be worried, most are actually not.

During these two years of Francis' Papacy ideas that most of us considered dying have been revived and been argued over afresh in new ways. Cardinal Kasper's thesis which many in German speaking dioceses have quietly supported and even put into practice not only was it met with stony silence when presented to the Consistory of Cardinals, but it has been opposed in writing by first five Cardinals, then eleven and now by a number of African bishops who to represent the majority of African Cardinals and bishops.

I believe in St Vincent of Lerins' dictum that the Catholic Faith is that which is believed in 'always, everywhere and at all times'.  The great problem is that for the last 50 years or more, most Catholics have not believed in the Church's teaching, or just given it lip service, especially on the family aand sexuality.

What we have seen in recent times, most especially during Pope Francis's papacy is that all the poisons that lurk in the mud are hatching out, because the Catholic Church has actually not been Catholic, the stripping away of papal pomp has revealed a more than ambiguous papacy than we have been used to. We have pretended andtried to maintain an image of a great monolithic Church that does not exist.

One of my parishioners said that for the first time in his life he has started to ask, 'is the Pope a Catholic?' The real question should be, 'is the Catholic Church Catholic?' As the centre of communion the Pope reflects the Church, which is often confused and ambiguous, it contains Catholics as well as uber and unter Catholics. A good Irish friend of mine said of a bishop, 'In my day he wouldn't have been allowed to make his Holy Communion let alone be made a bishop'. The Catholic Church is not even in its hierarchical structure supposed to be like a secular monarchy or presidency, with the Pope at the top, below him 'his' bishops, 'their' clergy and then the laity, bishops are also successors of the Apostles and priests are not bishops servants but according to the rite of ordination, 'co-workers with the order of bishops'. The Church is a Communion, and we hold the faith together, there are tensions and different emphasises, different pastoral practices, different needs, different interests, 'together we form the body of Christ'. 'The faith' is given to us in baptism and held 'by all, everywhere and always', within the the Communion the bishops together with the Pope have a particular role in safeguarding the faith, and the Pope has a unique role as the bishop of Rome in recognising the authenticity of those in Communion with the Church of Rome, and therefore in Communion with the rest of the Church, throughout history it held the moderate position, the via media.


Bishop Schneider suggested that we should have a post-Vatican II set of anathemas issued by the Pope, somehow I think this is not going to happen, but the Synod will bring about some kind of agreement, some kind of statement of Catholic faith, I suspect afterwards the Pope will use often, 'they said', it will become a stock Papal phrase. Of course it will be a fudge, some will suggest it is not even Catholic, it will be an attempt to find a consensus. Most probably it will give to local bishops the duty of making particular 'pastoral' decisions, which will itself be considered divisive, it will actually be the starting point for further debate on what is meant by Catholic, but it will be the beginning of a long process to re-Catholicise the Church. It will be a painful process for many but Christ promises to be with his Church until the end of time.

In many ways we are in time of repairing the damage done to the Church after the Vatican Council, interpreted through the most extreme interpretations of the spirit of Vatican I, which is most clearly seen with Mgr Bugnini's Liturgical Consillium, the bishops in Council decided one thing and Rome, exceeding anything known in history, imposed something else on the Church.