Thursday, 17 April 2014

ACTA on the Today prgoramme

On Radio 4's Today programme this morning (here around 1:50 in) there was a discussion of the recent survey of opinions by the bishops.  Mons. Marcus Stock was on first, to explain why the findings are not being published at this stage. To be honest, I don't think that his explanation was as clear as it could have been.  But radio interviews are not easy.  However, I think he could have been better briefed and better prepared with regard to his key messages and the tack the interviewer was likely to take.

But what followed was fascinating. Jean Riordan, of ACTA was interviewed.  She wants a Listening Church; one in which the laity are more enabled to have more input around 'matters to do with sexuality and family life'.  The Church would benefit from openness to 'thoughts and theories about how teachings can be modified and err or reassessed in the light of modern psychology and the needs of the world now.'

The openness for which Pope Francis is calling could be helped if groups like ACTA had a more prominent role in informing the discussion.

She explained: 'We are not a pressure group, we are not a dissident group. We're not actually disputing the... err... much of Church teaching. What we're saying is that Church teaching should be formed by consulting.'

In my unkind way I enjoyed the fact that she stumbled between what (it seemed to me) she meant and what she thought it politic to say.  So we had the stumble after 'how teachings can be modified' and again we had: 'We're not actually disputing the... err... much of Church teaching.'

I thought she was trying strike a rather uneasy balance between the fact that ACTA really wants to modify Church teaching, and does dispute much of it, and the tendentious claim that they have to make for political purposes that 'we are not a dissident group.'

But her last line was a giveaway (it often happens thus under pressure: once the end is in sight, or the tricky question evaded, we relax a shade and the mask slips): 'What we're saying is that Church teaching should be formed by consulting.' 

That strikes me as being a long way from any Catholic understanding of how Church teaching is received from Christ and the Apostles, and handed on by the Church as a treasure of inestimable worth.

I have blogged before about ACTA (and Mons. Stock, come to that), and opined that they are pretty irrelevant.  But they do seem to be in the ascendant at present, so perhaps I dismissed them too easily.

However, one thing is clear: whatever their protestations to the contrary, they are, by their own account, a dissident group.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

More on Passiontide

Following my recent lament about the suppression of Passiontide, I have had some interesting correspondence with Fr Francis Coveney, who emailed me as he did not know how to post a comment. He has confirmed he is happy for me to post anything he has written that might be of interest, so I am posting all the relevant parts of both his emails (with gratitude for an interesting contribution - I love this stuff, learning as I go...)

 In his first email, he wrote, (inter alia):
The Preface in the Missal to be used during the 5th week of Lent is described as “Preface I of the Passion of the Lord”.

Before the 5th Sunday of Lent, the prefaces used are either one of the four general Prefaces for Lent – or one of the special Sunday Prefaces (with references to the Year A gospels).

So I think we can still legitimately refer to the Fifth Sunday of Lent as being the First Sunday in Passiontide.

Preface I of the Passion of the Lord” states: “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation......For through the saving Passion of your Son the whole world has received a heart to confess the infinite power of your majesty since by the wondrous power of the Cross your judgement on the world is now revealed and the authority of Christ crucified....”

And in “Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year” (ISBN 0-89870-829-x) Bishop Peter J Elliot  writes:

“As is already noted, the First Preface of the Passion is used during the Fifth Week of Lent, marking the beginning of the last phase of Lent, traditionally known as Passiontide. The custom of veiling crosses and images in these last two weeks of Lent has much to commend it in terms of religious psychology, because it helps us to concentrate on the great essentials of Christ’s work of Redemption. The Episcopal conference decides whether this should be obligatory within its territory  (33) but any pastor may choose to restore or maintain this wise practise in his own parish. The violet veils should preferably be made of a plain light fabric, without any decoration. The Stations of the Cross and images in stained-glass windows are never veiled. Crosses and images are veiled before the First Vespers or vigil Mass of the Fifth Sunday of Lent. Crosses are unveiled after the Good Friday ceremonies. All other images are unveiled, without any ceremony, just before the Easter Vigil begins.”  Page 67-68

(33) Cf. Missale Romanum, Fifth Sunday of Lent; Circular Letter concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts, no. 26

To which I replied (inter alia):
I am always happy to be corrected when I get things wrong: in fact one of the best things about blogging is that many well-informed people pick me up on things, and so I have learned a lot (I introduced a tag 'Ben gets it wrong again' recently, but have not tagged nearly as many posts with that as perhaps I should.)
However, I remain confused as regards Passiontide. 
On the one hand, there are the points you have made, which were new to me; on the other, hand, we have Bugnini's statement, the official Bishops' calendar, and at least my Sunday (CTS) Missal. The preface for the Fifth Sunday (as opposed to the weekdays) is the one referring to the Samaritan Woman (Year A) or Preface 1 or 2 of Lent (other years). Also, today seems now to be called Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord, which would be odd if last Sunday were still Passion Sunday.
To which he kindly replied (inter alia) 
I am not an expert on Liturgy - and I have not read Bugnini - but........ 
1. It is definitely permitted - i would say recommended but not compulsory -  to veil images and crucifixes from the 5th Sunday of Lent 
A priest in another diocese, who has a License in Liturgy, once told me that if something was not forbidden in the Liturgy changes following the Second Vatican Council then it is still permitted and encouraged. 
He was referring to the use of bells at the Consecration. 
Some minimalists (including Bugnini?) tried to abolish the use of bells because they are not (as far as I know) specifically mentioned in the General Instruction to the Roman Missal. 
But my informant says they are still permitted - and encouraged. 
But veiling of Statues and Crucifixes during Passiontide is specifically mentioned. 
Sometimes Sunday and Weekday Missals produced by the CTS and others can make mistakes (even with an Imprimatur!). They are of course only extracts from the Roman Missal used on the altar. 
And it is of course the Roman Missal that is the definitive text - which definitely mentions the veiling of crosses and images to begin from the Fifth Sunday of Lent.  
Of course each diocese is supposed to produce an Ordo to guide priests in the celebration of Mass and the Divine Office. 
In the Ordo for Westminster (and for Brentwood - my own diocese) it reminds us immediately before the Fifth Sunday of Lent: 
"The practice of covering crosses and images in the church may be observed. Crosses remain covered until the end of the celebration of the Lord's Passion on Good Friday; images until the beginning of the Easter Vigil." 
2. Does Passiontide begin on the 5th Sunday of Lent or on Palm Sunday? 
In my late father's Daily Missal (given to him ironically by my Grandmother for Christmas 1960 - just before the changes!) it states that the Preface to be used from Passion Sunday until Maundy Thursday (except on feasts having a proper Preface) is the Preface of the Passion and the Holy Cross. 
The present Roman Missal has MANY more Prefaces than the Extraordinary Form Missal. 
As you rightly mention, particular Prefaces are to be used for the Sundays in Lent
1A/B/C - The Temptation of the Lord
2A/B/C - The Transfiguration of the Lord
3A - The Samaritan Woman
4A - The Man Born Blind
5A - Lazarus 
But on the 5th Sunday of Lent for Years B & C, we still use Preface I or II of Lent - rather than "Preface I of the Passion of the Lord". 
I find this rather confusing! 
But as I mentioned before - the Preface in the Missal to be used during the weekdays of the 5th week of Lent is described as “Preface I of the Passion of the Lord”.  
The subheading to this Preface reads "The power of the Cross". A rubric then adds: "The following Preface is said during the Fifth Week of Lent and in Masses of the mysteries of the Cross and Passion of the Lord". 
And from today we are instructed  to use "Preface II of the Passion of the Lord" - "the victory of the Passion" on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week. 
So for the last two weeks of Lent, we use "Preface I of the Passion of the Lord" and "Preface II of the Passion of the Lord" - but we start using these Prefaces of the Passion of the Lord only on the Monday following the 5th Sunday of Lent. 
"today seems now to be called Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord, which would be odd if last Sunday were still Passion Sunday." 
But in the old Daily Missals I have from 1960, they referred to:  
So Palm Sunday was referred to in 1960 as being the Second Sunday in Passiontide.
Therefore I think that combining the rubrics in the current Roman Missal about the veiling of crosses and images for the last two weeks of Lent and the mandatory use of "Preface I & II of the Passion of the Lord" for the last two weeks of Lent, it is legitimate to still refer to these last two weeks as the two weeks of Passiontide. 
But I don't understand why we don't use “Preface I of the Passion of the Lord”" on the 5th Sunday of Lent in Years B and C.

So I am heartened that the veiling of statues is explicitly permitted, rather than a pious hangover that some diligent liturgist could legitimately stamp on.

But I remain confused about Passiontide itself.

All in all, I still think Bugnini's mission to simplify, simplify.... was applied here too.

But I am grateful to Fr Coveney for taking the time to contribute his knowledge and thoughts to the discussion.

The Gay Identity

I really don't want to write another post about homosexuality.  It is not a topic that interests me greatly.

However, it does seem to be at the forefront of the attack on Christianity at the moment, so it has to be addressed.

Today saw the first 'marriage' of a 'gay' C of E vicar to his partner.Mark Lambert has posted an interesting reflection on that here.

I want to step back from the immediacy of this, and reflect on the muddled thinking that underpins this whole movement.

The argument for 'gay marriage' was probably finally won the day someone coined the slogan Equal Marriage.

Who could vote against equality? Certainly several Catholic MPs felt that they couldn't.

And that is because of the conflation of a tendency to same sex attraction, with the notion of 'being gay'.

Same sex attraction is clearly a natural phenomenon (albeit only because we live in a Fallen World).  We do not know its genesis as the Catechism makes clear; it may be something people are born with, or it may be environmental, or (most probably) a mix of the two.  Likewise, for some it may be a temporary phase, but for others it may be deep-seated and unchangeable.

Whilst same sex attraction is clearly disordered (that is, not ordered to the proper meaning and functioning of human sexuality) it is also not sinful.  Indeed, many who suffer from it struggle heroically and are only to be admired.

It is also worth noting two further points. One is that homosexual temptations seem to be as old as recorded history.  The other is that they are by no means unique.  We are all damaged by the Fall, and this damage includes disordered sexual desires for many, if not all, of us.

However, the gay identity is something quite different.  This is a modern construct; a modern fiction, in fact.

The 'gay identity' makes several leaps of assumption that slip under the radar, not least because nobody wants to be unkind, still less homophobic.

Some of these assumptions are:

1 It is meaningful to adopt an identity based on one characteristic (sexual attraction)

2 Someone who experiences only (or predominantly) same sex attraction is 'gay.'
2a Some people are born gay;
2b Because some people are born gay, it must be normal;
2c Because it is normal it must be morally acceptable.

3 Consensual sexual behaviour is morally acceptable.

4 Sexual behaviour is only the concern of those engaged in it, with no consequences for others.

5 Because of 1, 2, 3, 4 above anyone who thinks differently about this topic is irrational.  Their different thinking is the result either of ignorance or bigotry.

6 Because of centuries of such bigotry, it is important to obtain societal blessing for same sex relationships, to help with the eradication of bigotry.

I don't think it is necessary to say much more, except that none of the assumptions from 1 - 6 are self-evident, and none are above dispute, to say the least. Clearly, orthodox Christians (and many others from other religions, or many who have a sense of history, philosophy or intellectual rigour) do not accept these assumptions.

But if one believes the whole package, then one can only conclude, as the vicar who thinks he has got married today must have concluded, that traditional Christianity is quite wrong about this, and must either be changed or vanquished.

The challenge we face is to discover how to teach the life affirming, love-affirming truths of Christ's Gospel, with clarity and charity, in a society that has largely bought the myth of the Gay Identity.

This path is fraught with difficulty: not least because the notion of love has also been corrupted.  But it is the path we must tread, not least out of love for all those who self-identify as gay. If, as we believe, they are on a path that will lead not to happiness, but to hurt and harm, and ultimately may risk their perdition, we cannot stand idly by.

But I foresee that we will be attacked; for the intelligence behind this lie is the author of all lies. 

Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio, 
contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium. 
Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur: 
tuque, Princeps militiae caelestis, 
Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos, 
qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo, 
divina virtute, in infernum detrude. 

Easter Sunday EF Masses in Lancs Diocese

I realise that I had forgotten to post this month's EF Mass details to the blog.  The Masses for Passion Sunday are in the past now, but the Easter ones may be of interest to local readers:

Sunday April 20th at 6.00 pm
Easter Sunday
Our Lady & St Wilfrid,Warwick Bridge, Carlisle

Saturday April 26th at 10.00 am
Easter Saturday
Our Lady & St Wilfrid,Warwick Bridge, Carlisle

Mass is also celebrated every Sunday at 9.00 am
at St Mary Magdalene, Leyland Road, Penwortham.

Local Representatives: Bob & Jane Latin
Telephone: 01524 412987


It is worth saying that Our Lady and St Wilfrid, Warwick Bridge is a gem of a Church: designed by Pugin, and still with its rood screen in place, it is a lovely setting for the traditional Mass: and it has a very flattering acoustic (Easter Sunday's Mass will be sung; the one the following Saturday is likely to be a Low Mass).

Monday, 7 April 2014

Of Your Charity...

Of your charity, pray for the repose of the soul of Fr Frans Van der Lugt.

Here is what Aid to the Church in Need have posted today:

Aid to the Church in Need is appealing for prayers after Fr Frans Van der Lugt SJ, who was overseeing the charity’s aid for Christians in Homs Old City, Syria was shot dead. Fr Frans had been looking after 89 Christians trapped in the Old City who were sheltering in an old monastery – but the number dropped to 20 in February 2014 after a three-day truce between warring sides allowed people to leave the city. First reports stated that the priest was beaten and shot in the head twice. Please pray for the repose of the soul of Fr Frans, and remember in your prayers all those caught up in the Syrian conflict.
Requiescat in pace.  Amen.

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine,

et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Te decet hymnus Deus, in Sion,

et tibi reddetur votum in Ierusalem.

Exaudi orationem meam;

ad te omnis caro veniet.

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine,

et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,

and let perpetual light shine upon them.

A hymn becomes you, O God, in Zion,

and to you shall a vow be repaid in Jerusalem.

Hear my prayer;

to you shall all flesh come.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,

and let perpetual light shine upon them. 

Sunday, 6 April 2014


There was some discussion in the combox under a recent post about whether Passiontide had been suppressed in the New Calendar.

Since then, I have got my copy of Bugnini, and here is what he has to say:
The Septuagesima season is suppressed, and the three Sundays making it up become Sundays of Ordinary Time.
Also suppressed, as a title, is "Passiontide." The whole of it now becomes, even externally, part of Lent.
So it seems I was right, and that is why in my new Missal today is simply listed as the Fifth Sunday in Lent. Moreover, the veiling of statues and crucifixes is merely a pious tradition and should not be done (if that is what 'even externally' means, which I think it must).

This seems to my to typify much of the impoverishment of Bugnini's changes. Instead of the emotional crescendo of Septuagesima - Lent - Passiontide - the Triduum, we know have a binary system: Ordinary time to Lent.  Likewise with the suppression of the Octave of Pentecost, we have Pentecost, then Ordinary time.

It is all very logical and all very much poorer.

I am pleased that I managed to get to an Extraordinary Form Mass, where we celebrated Passion Sunday with dignity and solemnity.

For Passiontide, then, here is a recording of the four different settings of the Passion Chorale in Bach's St Matthew Passion. The harmonies get richer and more plangent each time.  Magnificent stuff!

(Though I cannot resist quoting Beecham on Bach: Too much counterpoint - and what's worse, Protestant counterpoint! But that does not apply here.)

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Further Musings

I have been thinking more about the Bishops' Conference's reluctance to back +Egan (see my previous post, here).

I have a hunch. It is no more than that, but it is my current working hypothesis about what is going on.

The Bishops do not wish to be clear that those who are out of step with Catholic teaching on SSM should not present for communion for a reason.

That reason, I suspect, is that it might raise a question they really don't want to face. That is: should those who don't follow the Church's teaching on artificial contraception also refrain from receiving?

That, I suspect, is the Elephant in the Conference.

It seems to me that there are some in the Conference who are uncomfortable with Humanae Vitae; and there are more who fear the consequences of preaching on it. Due to their, and their predecessors', failure to teach this, and also to instil any sense of obedience and teachability in the Faithful, they know that huge numbers will rebel against any such teaching.

So it is much easier and safer to keep everything nice and ill-defined, and not rock the boat.

Who was it who said that the first act of episcopal collegiality was the one recorded in St Matthew's Gospel, 26:56?

I may be quite wrong: indeed I hope I am: someone please give me a more plausible explanation...