Thursday, 30 May 2013

Corpus Christi Treat

Today, whatever you may hear to the contrary, is the feast of Corpus Christi. (This year, it is also the feast of St Joan of Arc).

We have the feast of Corpus Christi because the obvious time to celebrate this - Maundy Thursday - is hardly appropriate for the great high holiday the Institution of the Blessed Sacrament deserves.

The liturgical celebration of this Feast in our country has been moved, legitimately but in my view extremely unwisely, by our bishops to the nearest Sunday.

That does not, of course, mean that we cannot celebrate the feast today, in solidarity with Rome and many other parts of the world, not to mention our forefathers.

I am taking the day off work, and we are spending the day with friends.

In the meantime, here's your treat, the stunningly beautiful Ave Verum Corpus by William Byrd. Listen all the way through, to have your breath taken away.



Ave verum corpus, natum de Maria Virgine,
vere passum, immolatum in cruce pro homine,
cuius latus perforatum unda fluxit sanguine:
esto nobis praegustatum in mortis examine. 
O dulcis, O pie, O Iesu, fili Mariae: miserere mei. 
Amen.

Hail, true Body, born of the Virgin Mary,
who having truly suffered, was sacrificed on the cross for mankind,
from whose pierced side flowed his blood:
May it be for us a foretaste in the trial of death.
O sweet, O pious, O Jesus, son of Mary: have mercy on me. 
Amen.

(If you enjoyed this, last year I linked to Tallis' O Sacrum Convivium, which is also wonderful!)

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Explanatory Catechism - Online

Thanks to @HughofAvalon for pointing out that the Explanatory Catechism, about which I blogged earlier, is available online here, branded as the Complete Catholic Handbook (for reasons which are opaque to me).

I haven't checked every detail, but this looks to be a faithful reproduction of the book I mentioned.

However, it does not include the extensive (and very useful) appendices; these cover a huge range of things, from the principle heresies to morning and night prayers.

But what is here is very good: the Penny Catechism with explanatory notes: worth a bookmark, I'd suggest.

The Explanatory Catechism

I mentioned The Explanatory Catechism on Twitter today, and promised to blog some examples, as people (or the one person who commented, to be precise) hadn't heard of it.

It was published (according to the imprimatur) in 1921, though my copy includes updates referring to 1960, so clearly dates from after that time.

It is essentially the Penny Catechism, of fond memory, but with lots of notes added to give a fuller understanding.

For example:
2. Q Why did God make you? A. God made me to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in the next.
To know God.  By hearing instructions, reading good books, knowing what He is, and what He has done for us.
To love and serve God. By keeping His commandments and doing all we can to please Him.
5. Q. How is your soul like to God? A. My soul is like to God because it is a spirit and is immortal.
Spirit. An immaterial being, having free-will and understanding, as God, the Angels and our souls. We cannot touch or see a spirit.
Immortal. Not mortal, can never die. The soul has a two-fold life - (1) natural, which it receives at its creation, and never loses; (2) supernatural, or the grace of God, received in Baptism, lost by mortal sin, but regained by a worthy reception of the Sacrament of Penance, or by an act of perfect contrition. 
Amongst other things, that seems to me to give the lie to the claims that the Penny Catechism was all about rote learning without understanding.

What is clear is that the Q & A format is remarkably helpful. Off the top of my head, I can think of several successful examples of its use very recently: YouCat, Did Adam and Eve Have Belly Buttons? and Faith in the Family.  So concerns that the format may be out-of-date seem groundless.

The Penny Catechism also benefits from clarity, simplicity and comprehensiveness.  This version adds depth to those virtues.  Perhaps the CTS should re-publish it.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

How to do it...

Nic blogged the other day about the patterns of unpleasantness sometimes witnessed on the Catholic Blogosphere.

I saw an interesting counter-example recently.  Someone who really should have known better tweeted an extremely offensive and defamatory comment about someone else, including their twitter handle in the tweet to make sure it was seen.

It struck me as particularly odd, as a similar (incorrect) conclusion could have been reached, from an analogous situation, about the originator of the defamatory tweet.

But what impressed me was how the subject of the tweet responded: and that was simply by ignoring it. 

No rebuttal, no counter-accusation, no ad hom... nothing.

It would have been easy to refute, easy to threaten an action for defamation come to that, and certainly easy to accuse the accuser of double standards and worse.

But silence.

How dignified!

And as a result, there has been no brouhaha, no fuss, no gathering of gangs and mutual recriminations.

I don't know what the originator of the defamatory tweet makes of it all; whether it is perceived as having been unanswerable or (with hindsight) stupid (or worse); but the wonderful thing is that the recipient doesn't seem to care.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Bugnini on the Lectionary (3)

This is the final post* in my series, which began here, looking at the Gospel passages missing from the new Lectionary.  In the most recent post, I summarised what Bugnini said he (and the Consilium) were doing, and promised a final post assessing what they actually did against those claims.

It feels as though the series, which has taken some months (and many hours of work) to publish should reach a great climax here.

However (and perhaps this is appropriate) it is not going to.  By and large, Bugnini's intentions were so large and imprecise that it is hard to evaluate his achievements against them.

In fairness, he did deploy more reading from holy Scripture... more varied, though whether more apposite is up for discussion.

On the other hand, one could make a strong case for saying that he failed in making clear:  that the entire Old Testament is presupposed in the Lord’s preaching, his actions and his passion; by the omission of so much of the story of St John the Baptist, who is surely the great bridge between the Old and the New.

But for the rest...

However,  I think what one can say is that he did more than he claims.  Whether deliberately or not, he (or the process he ran) was selective in what was included in ways that are not laid out in Sacrosanctum Concilium, nor described in his apologia.

As noted here, there are several themes that seem to have been deemed appropriate to omit (or substantially under-present) in the Lectionary, and none of these are explained in the rationale given for the revision.

Bugnini also did something else: he put into effect (though certainly did not invent) a particular interpretation of the purpose of Scripture reading in the Mass.

That is, he treats the readings as solely there for the education of the Faithful.

It may seem obvious to us today that that is precisely why the readings are there; but it may be obvious because we have been used to the approach Bugnini championed for so long.

I am not saying the readings are not there for our edification; but I dispute that that is their only function, and I think the assumption that it is typifies the rather thin, logical way of viewing liturgy that Bugnini exemplified.


I see the liturgy primarily as prayer, not schooling.  If we read God's word, we are, at least in part, reading it to Him.  It is as though my kids come rushing up to me, asking some favour, or for the honouring of some promise, and pull out their phones and read back a text I'd sent to me: 'But Father, you said:...' They are reminding me of promises, not refreshing their own memory or understanding, though it may be doing that too.  

This may be poor theology, and is almost certainly laughable in the eyes of liturgists, but I think that it has some merit as an analogy.  We are children approaching our Father, imploring and entreating Him for forgiveness, for mercy, for graces; and thanking Him, too for all these; and offering Him, as He has commanded, the supreme Sacrifice.  The Mass is not a community gathering, so much as a family one.

But I think such pious sentimentality, and such multi-stranded (and not always schematic) understanding,  is very much what the reformers had in their sights; and it was accompanied  both with that contempt for popular piety and tradition that is so evident in Bugnini's writing, and a tremendous sense of their own worthiness for the task they were undertaking.  That applies to their approach to the whole of the liturgy, not just the Lectionary.

And we continue to pay the price for that.

--

*Post Script: actually, almost certainly not the last. I continue to think about this and feel at least one more post brewing...


Friday, 24 May 2013

The Architecture of Civil Society

I have mentioned before, in another context (Liturgical change) a very wise architect with whom I once spoke. He pointed out that if, in renovating an ancient building, he comes across some part of the structure that he does not understand, he proceeds with great caution.  If there is something ugly, or apparently pointless, or random, then it is foolhardy to pull it out. It is almost certainly there for a reason, and until you have understood that reason, you risk causing great damage by simply removing it.

It seems to me that, as a society, we have been removing structural elements without fully understanding their purpose for some time; and that the structure of society is substantially weakened as a result.

An obvious example is marriage.  The debate about the re-definition of marriage has been so superficial and unthinking, that it can scarcely be dignified with the name of debate.  There has been no understanding shown by those imposing this change that they have any understanding of the structural role of the institution of marriage in society. It is as though they are saying: 'Hmm, don't like the look of that old-fashioned pillar in the middle of the room, and it's a real inconvenience to many: let's pull it out.' And because the ceiling doesn't look as thought it's coming down immediately, they imagine they are doing no harm.

But that is only the latest in a long line of such changes.

I am not only talking about the obvious moral issues, such as the de-stigmatisation of divorce, contraception, promiscuity and abortion; but also about other social habits and taboos: respect and deference for the elderly, mothers staying at home to raise children, stigmatisation of 'the undeserving poor,' and so on... and on.

I am not saying these are all good things to which we should return; rather I am saying that they were there because they served a purpose; to remove them without understanding the purpose they served is folly.  To return to the architectural analogy: that rusty bit of corrugated iron in the corner may be very ugly, and even a hazard.  However, unless we determine why it was placed there (to keep rats out of the larder?...) it is unwise simply to remove it; and it is arrogant and idiotic to declare ourselves more enlightened than our forebears, when we do so without making other provision for the good end it once served.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Which Church (Counter Cultural) Father am I?

Apparently...

You’re St. Melito of Sardis!
You have a great love of history and liturgy. You’re attached to the traditions of the ancients, yet you recognize that the old world — great as it was — is passing away. You are loyal to the customs of your family, though you do not hesitate to call family members to account for their sins.


Which makes me rather wish I had heard of him before today.

But his feast day (April 1) seems most apposite for me!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Gregorian Chant Workshop

I mentioned that I had attended, and enjoyed, the Gregorian Chant Workshop at the Oratory School just after Easter. Indeed, I posted some notes about the modality of Chant which I learned there, here and here.  I followed those up (on request) with a series of posts 'An Introduction to Chant' which starts here.

I have just received an email from the LMS with a link to a video about the chant which I thought might be of interest.

 

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

New Blog on the Lectionary

Matthew Hazell has just launched a new blog : Lectionary Study Aids.  The clue is in the name.  The  first aid he has produced is a comprehensive table of the Biblical texts used in the 1962 Propers of the Mass: not only the Epistle and Gospel, but the Introit, Gradual, Offertory and Communion; and not only on Sundays, but on weekdays, feast days, votive Masses - the lot.

Here's a taster:




Do go over and have a look - and maybe leave him a note of encouragement: this is a rich resource indeed!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Bugnini on Lectionary (2)


For anyone who has not been assiduously following  my series of posts on the revision of the Lectionary (shame on you), the journey started here, and may be followed by clicking on the tag Lectionary.

Over the last week, I have been reading (thanks to Thirsty Gargoyle and Ttony) the chapter on The Lectionary from Bugnini’s triumphant apologia.  

I had intended to summarise what he said, than compare what he said with what he did, and see what conclusions one might draw.

That is still the plan, but I realise now that it will take longer than one afternoon, and longer than one post.  So this is part one (somewhat confusingly, it is labelled (2) as I have already posted on this topic a while back: link later in this post).

Despite his book being rather like (as Ttony eloquently put it) a guide to the Cathedral of Hell, a few things struck me as interesting.

One is that the new Lectionary did not spring from Vatican 2.  Experiments were underway before the Council: in Germany, for example, ‘it had become the custom at Mass that while the celebrant was reading the appointed pericopes in Latin, a lector read in German other pericopes on which the homily was then preached.‘  (pp 406 - 407)  These were based on multi-year cycles. Similar practices were in place in Switzerland and Holland. It is clear from Bugnini that these experiments, pre-dating the Council’s deliberations, were foundational in the preparation of the New Lectionary.

So when the text for Sacrosanctum Concilium (hereafter SC) was prepared, some bishops had a much better insight than others into what was really intended.  I suspect (though I have more research to do here) that the same was true of a lot of the texts of the Council.  Hence, I think, what Michael Davies referred to as Liturgical Time Bombs were only surprising to some, but by no means all, of the Council Fathers, when they were later detonated.

Moving on to what Bugnini said about reforming the Lectionary, he starts by stating the goal of the Consilium (the committee established to revise the Liturgy in the wake of SC)

He quotes  SC: ‘more reading from holy Scripture... more varied and more apposite’ (SC 35.1) ‘a more representative portion’ (SC 51)   From this, he concludes that the goal is: ‘A new system of readings had therefore to be designed that would take into account the existing cycle, the findings of comparative liturgy, and the needs of today’s faithful.’ (p410)  

Where those three criteria came from, he does not say. But the second and third were very much of their time.

He then goes onto list the Principles which the Consilium would adopt. The basic principle is that:

the mystery of Christ and the history of salvation’ must be presented in the readings.  Therefore the new system of readings must contain the whole nucleus of the apostolic preaching about Jesus as ‘Lord and Christ’ (Acts 2:36) who fulfilled the scriptures by his life, his preaching and above all his paschal mystery and who gives life to the Church until his glorious return.

The new Lectionary must make clear:

- that the Church is today living out the mystery of salvation in its entirety, the mystery that found its complete form in Christ and that must also be completed in us;
- the mysteries of faith and the principles governing Christian life, which are then to be explained in the homily;
- that the entire Old Testament is presupposed in the Lord’s preaching, his actions and his passion;
- that attention to the central theme, the Lord’s Pasch, must not lead to forgetfulness of other themes, for example the coming of God’s reign;
- finally that the liturgical year provides the ideal setting for proclaiming the message of salvation to the faithful in an organized way.’ (pp410 - 411)

Again, how they arrived at these principles is not explained. They are, I suppose, fairly unexceptionable in a bland kind of way: how they could be used to inform any decisions is not clear to me, though that was presumably their purpose.  I am mildly surprised to see no reference to the other Persons of the Trinity.

To undertake this project, they seem to have done four things:

1 make ‘a systematic collection of the biblical passages used in the various liturgies, ancient and modern, Western and Eastern, both in the Catholic Church and in the non-Catholic ecclesial communities’... ‘to show how the Bible had been used in the Eucharistic celebration over the course of eighteen centuries... to identify constants and variants,  and thus point(ed) out a sure path that the new organization of readings might follow.’

2 Thirty-one Bible scholars were given the tasks of selecting from all the books of the Old and new Testaments the passages that they regarded as best suited for liturgical use.’ But the footnote makes clear that in fact, either one or two people were asked to look at each book of the Bible. The list they produced was sent to 100 other experts for comment.

3 Individual members of the Commissio  were asked to lead studies and draw up plans for different parts of the Lectionary, or notes on (eg) the Byzantine, Anglican Lectionaries etc.

4 Finally four members were asked to draw up schemas for seven sub-divisions of the Lectionary (eg Sundays of Advent etc).

This seems to me a process devised by a bureaucrat. The first step is interesting: the effect, of course, is to dilute consideration of the existing liturgical practice by making it one of very many practices studied, some of them Protestant (!)  Looking to Protestanism to inform Catholic Liturgy was certainly a novelty, to say the least. But the sixties were heady days. 

Steps two to four then bow to the cult of the expert: and their results will of course depend on which experts are chosen. But again, that was typical of the time: the Holy Father, cardinals and bishops were devolving responsibilities in a rather drastic fashion.  And the experts seem to have been those who had an interest in reforming the liturgy, so...  It is also odd how few experts were consulted and involved.

Of particular interest (to me at any rate) in the subsequent discussions is Bugnini’s account of the question: should the present (ie the traditional) cycle be kept or abandoned?  He writes: ‘Some members suggested that the Lectionary presently in use be kept intact and serve as one of the cycles, out of respect for tradition and for ecumenical reasons, since most of the Churches (sic) issuing from the Reformation use the traditional Lectionary.’  Referring to the Protestant denominations as ‘Churches’ is indicative, too... 

He continues: ‘the ecumenical argument was given great weight in the discussion,’ and relates something of that discussion in depth. He then deals with the argument for tradition (which, I infer, was not ‘given great weight’). He writes:  ‘The members of the group and the relators are of the opinion that the Consilium must not without good reason consider itself bound to the old Lectionary.’  Clearly, centuries of use and the weight of tradition do not constitute ‘good reason.’

He continues: ‘(a) this is the first time in the history of the Church that the opportunity has arisen of revising it, and this in hitherto unparalleled favourable circumstances and with hitherto unavailable tools.’  That is an extraordinary statement. It acknowledges the fact that they are doing something never before attempted, but instead of that reflection causing them to approach the task with some humility, it is followed by an enormously confident, one might say brash, statement of their readines for the task.

He goes on: ‘(b) if the old Lectionary, whose defects everyone knows, is retained as one of the annual cycles, there will be major differences between that cycle and the others;’  I find this very revealing of Bugnini’s attitude and presumably that of his colleagues.  We can do this job, because we are wiser than our forefathers who left us this legacy: a legacy whose defects we don’t need to articulate, but can merely assert to be agreed by everyone...

This mixture of (as I see it) arrogance and disdain for tradition is evident again in his concluding paragraph of this section : ‘The result was that the faithful could recover an understanding and taste for the word of God, after centuries of neglect and abandonment had caused the fresh and authentic stream of that word to be lost in rivulets and ravines.’ (p 417)

I find it hard to reconcile my knowledge of the saints of yore with that amazing metaphor; and I think it betrays an extraordinary prejudice, or even, one might say, ideology.

There was then a report to the Holy Father, which I have already quoted in full here, along with the Holy Father’s astonishing note authorising the changes.

In the next post in this series, I will try to look at how what Bugnini’s team actually did relates to what he wrote. But this feels quite long enough for one post!

Pentecost Gospel

Today is an interesting day, for those who have been following my analysis of the treatment of the Gospels in the New Lectioanry.

On the one hand, the Gospel for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, which would have been read on this day at every Sunday Mass, every year, closes with a pair of verses which is not read on any Sunday under the new arrangements.

It is St John, 14: 30 - 31: "I shall not talk to you any longer, because the prince of this world is on his way. He has no power over me, but the world must be brought to know that I love the Father, and that I am doing exactly what the Father told me."

Quite why that is no longer an important text is unclear to me, but clearly Bugnini and his team made that decision.  Oddly, they don't seem keen on verses that describe Our Lord's relationship with His Father, nor those that mention the Devil.

The second reason today is interesting in this context is because it also features a Gospel reading with a passage cut out from the middle of it.  The Gospel we heard was St John, 14:15-16, 23-26. So verses 17 - 22 were cut.  

It is true that 17 - 21 are read on the sixth Sunday after Easter in Year A, so they have not disappeared altogether, except verse 22 itself. But it still strikes me as odd: the reading was not particularly long today. So why were these verses deemed inappropriate?  Here they are in the Knox translation, with verse 22 (the one that is never read, even on 6th Sunday after Easter (Year A)) in bold:

 It is the truth-giving Spirit, for whom the world can find no room, because it cannot see him, cannot recognize him. But you are to recognize him; he will be continually at your side, nay, he will be in you.  I will not leave you friendless; I am coming to you.  It is only a little while now, before the world is to see me no more; but you can see me, because I live on, and you too will have life.  When that day comes, you will learn for yourselves that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. The man who loves me is the man who keeps the commandments he has from me; and he who loves me will win my Father’s love, and I too will love him, and will reveal myself to him.  Here Judas, not the Iscariot, said to him, Lord, how comes it that thou wilt only reveal thyself to us, and not to the world?

Any idea why these weren't appropriate for today?

Pentecost Sequence

This is the wonderful Sequence for Pentecost, with Latin and English text below:



Veni, Sancte Spiritus,
et emitte caelitus
lucis tuae radium.

Veni, pater pauperum,
veni, dator munerum,
veni, lumen cordium.

Consolator optime,
dulcis hospes animae,
dulce refrigerium.

In labore requies,
in aestu temperies,
in fletu solatium.

O lux beatissima,
reple cordis intima
tuorum fidelium.

Sine tuo numine,
nihil est in homine,
nihil est innoxium.

Lava quod est sordidum,
riga quod est aridum,
sana quod est saucium.

Flecte quod est rigidum,
fove quod est frigidum,
rege quod est devium.

Da tuis fidelibus,
in te confidentibus,
sacrum septenarium.

Da virtutis meritum,
da salutis exitum,

da perenne gaudium.

Amen. Alleluia!

Come, Holy Spirit,
send forth the heavenly
radiance of your light.
Come, father of the poor,
come, giver of gifts,
come, light of the heart.
Greatest comforter,
sweet guest of the soul,
sweet consolation.
In labor, rest,
in heat, temperance,
in tears, solace.
O most blessed light,
fill the inmost heart
of your faithful.
Without your grace,
there is nothing in us,
nothing that is not harmful.
Cleanse that which is unclean,
water that which is dry,
heal that which is wounded.
Bend that which is inflexible,
fire that which is chilled,
correct what goes astray.
Give to your faithful,
those who trust in you,
the sevenfold gifts.
Grant the reward of virtue,
grant the deliverance of salvation,
grant eternal joy.

Amen. Alleluia!


A happy and blessed Feast to all my readers.


Saturday, 18 May 2013

On Choosing to be Gay


The other day on Twitter, someone said; People should not bury their heads in sand. Kids do not learn to be gay; and then asked me: Honest curiosity, how would a Catholic standpoint address a pupils issues coming to terms with being gay?

This seems to me to be full of assumptions. Further they are assumptions that are being promoted as truths, not just by the gay lobby, but by the government, with its legislation, and by opinion formers, such as the ever-wonderful BBC and the rest of the media, the entertainment industry, academia and so on.

So I think it important to pause and examine them, not least because I believe them to be wrong.

An old friend who self-identifies as gay sent me a link to a video. It poses the question, to various people who do not self-identify as gay: when did you choose to be straight?

My gay friend, and I think many others, seem to think this a killer argument, as the interviewees struggle to answer the question.  If all straight people answered this question honestly, they proclaim, homophobia would be wiped out tomorrow.

The thinking is that because people struggle to answer when they chose to be straight, they will realise that being straight or gay is not a choice.  Therefore it is inherent, and therefore morally irreprehensible.

I think the logic of that argument falls at every stage.

So where do we start? Perhaps here: 'Kids do not learn to be gay.'

That was asserted as a self-evident truth: and presumably for similar reasons to the reasoning behind:  'when did you choose to be straight?'

In fact, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church rightly points out, when discussing homosexuality (§2357 ff) 'Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained.'

As with so many other aspects of the development of the human, it seems to be a mixture of (in their broadest senses) both nature and nurture.

That is, some people may, for natural reasons, be more likely to be subject to same sex attraction than others; and the circumstances of their lives will incline some of those more than others to develop such characteristics further.

At that stage, of course, it is largely out of the awareness, let alone control, of the individual, and is therefore entirely blameless.  Nonetheless it is, objectively, a disorder; that is both self-evident from biology, and clear from the teaching of the Church (§2360: 'Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of a man and a woman' and §2357 'Homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered'). People suffering from this disorder must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity (§2358).

Nonetheless, I think that there is a step, and a significant one, from being involuntarily subject to same-sex attraction (SSA), and declaring oneself to be gay (either to oneself or to others.)

I know many people who are subject to SSA; some of them recognise the truth and wisdom of the Church's teaching and live lives of heroic struggle.  Others declare themselves to be gay, and the Church to be wrong.

The latter declare that their 'sexual identity' is not a choice; but in fact it is: they could have chosen to respond as the former group have done.

When is that choice made? They declare, and I imagine sincerely, that they never made such a choice.  But that, along with the question  'when did you choose to be straight?' misunderstands how we develop as human beings.

Consider the case of a brave fireman, who risks his life to save someone from a burning building.  Afterwards someone asks him how he came to be so brave. Typically, he cannot answer the question. He may deny that he is brave, or say that he had no choice; and his colleagues may testify that he has always been that way. 

But the truth is, such a characteristic is built over years of small choices: choosing to act bravely rather than in a cowardly fashion, time after time, until it is a part of his character. So by the time of this incident he is not, perhaps, making a choice for bravery. But over time, he has done so, and consistently at that.

Bravery, like any moral quality can be learned; even though we may have different pre-dispositions for it.  

That is why the Catechism goes on to say that the correct response to homosexual inclinations lies in 'the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom.' (§2359)

Another leap of illogic is the assumption that if 'being gay' is not a choice, it is therefore a good thing. At one level this is understandable: if it is not a choice, then nobody can be culpable: no guilt attaches where there is no choice.  But the lack of guilt does not mean it is a good state. Consider the man born blind: Our Lord assures us that it was through no fault of his or his parents: yet it is still a disorder, a falling away from the perfection of God's design and plan.  

How do such disorders come about?  Gay Christians are fond of saying that they accept the way God has created them.  But that is to ignore this problem: that creation is not the way God created it. Something has happened in between: that primeval catastrophe known as the Fall.

So while one is not culpable of being subject to SSA, it is nonetheless a bad thing.  And where moral responsibility, and therefore the possibility of either virtue or sin, does arise is in how one responds to that condition.

So: 'how would a Catholic standpoint address a pupils issues coming to terms with being gay?'  

Firstly, by not accepting the assumptions of the question as framed. 'Being gay' is not something that simply happens to one.  One may be subject to SSA, and to temptations in that direction, but we would not collude with the Orwellian use of language that is designed to make this seem normative, morally good, and inevitable, as none of that is the case.

I know many of my gay friends would assert that my analysis is not true to their experience.  However, we cannot give primacy to experience in that way, as we know that it is unreliable.  

For example, another friend of mine has left his wife and children.  He argues that he has a better relationship with his children now that he has left than when he lived at home with them in an atmosphere of quarrelling and resentment.  His wife and children (and indeed I, as an outside observer) see a very different reality.  But he has convinced himself, sincerely, that this is the case: because that is something we human beings are very adept at doing.  We know that our intentions are, by and large, good, and so we justify our behaviour, above all to ourselves, by interpreting the evidence in ways that allow us to seem good.  Our old friend confirmation bias has a lot to contribute here.  

We are really not the best judges in our own cases, as we have too much of a vested interest in the outcome!

Other ways we can help the hypothetical child in the question above include sound formation before this issue even raises its head.  We need to teach children that their impulses are not always good (ie Original Sin) and that they can be controlled (personal responsibility).  We do that both by word and by example, and also by helping children make good decisions in small matters (such as not bullying, not reacting angrily to provocation and so on) so that as they confront more difficult challenges (the various temptations of the teenage years) they have some character to draw on, and a good grasp of what is at stake.

Further, we need to teach them the good news of the human vocation; and the truths of the Church's noble vision of chastity; and again we need to set an example: we should ourselves avoid watching inappropriate TV programmes or films, reading indecent books or magazines and so on.

We should teach and exemplify specific disciplines, such as custody of the eyes: a habitual response of avoiding looking at anything or anyone who may provoke lust in us.

Also, however, we do well not to dwell too much on these things. A growing child who is kept busy with education and healthy recreational activities will have less time to dwell on such matter - particularly if responsible adults steer him or her away from inappropriate TV etc.  Allowing teenagers to brood on sex is very bad for them: it takes on a disproportionate part of their thinking and identity.

Moreover, we must teach, and exemplify, heroic courage, so that should one of our children or pupils turn out (despite all we can do to minimise the risk) to be one of those of whom the Catechism speaks 'who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies' they may be able 'to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.' (§2358).

That is done: By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.' (§2359)

Above all, of course, we must love them, and give them the security of knowing that we will love them no matter what, just as God does; but that we love them too much to lie to them or to collude with the world in saying that homosexual acts are anything other than intrinsically disordered.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Fascinating Statistics

The Latin Mass Society has just compiled and published some fascinating statistics about the state of the Church in England and Wales over the last 100 years or so.

Presumably this is a reaction to the dodgy ordination stats that were being touted recently to prove that the Church was stronger now than in the 50s, or whatever the rather dubious claim was.

These stats certainly suggest something different: and the Catholic Herald has picked up the story.

Joseph Shaw, on his blog, focuses on the conversion stats: the extraordinarily high rates in the first half of the last century, and the collapse in the second half.

There is a comprehensive set of graphs on flickr showing baptisms, marriages, ordinations, conversions., and also a downloadable spreadsheet of all the data, complete with the graphs, here.

Here is just one example, to whet your appetite:





All in all, this is a wealth of information, and I am very grateful to Mike Lord of the LMS for sending it to me, and to the Latin Mass Society itself, of course, for compiling and publishing it.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Stonewall in a Catholic Junior School

I was shocked to read that a Catholic Junior School had invited Stonewall, the homosexual lobbying organisation, to train teachers how to deal with homophobic bullying.

There are several grounds for objection.

One is that I think it is wrong to treat bullying for different reasons separately.  All bullying is bad, not just homophobic or racist or whatever bullying.  The evidence suggests that what kids get bullied for is primarily 'difference' - which can be anything. Why privilege bullying for some differences as more problematic than others?  That leads to all manner of unfortunate consequences.  So training teachers how to deal with homophobic bullying as though that is worse than, or different from, any other kind strikes me as misguided.

The Catholic answer to bullying is good moral character formation, based on the virtues, and grown above all through prayer and the sacraments

Inviting Stonewall into a Catholic School to do such training is worse. Stonewall has an understanding of the human being, and in particular of human sexuality, that is entirely opposed to the much-vaunted Catholic Ethos which Catholic Schools strive to establish.

Even if they say nothing (when visiting the school) about their advocacy of Gay Marriage (for example) Stonewall's whole approach is founded on a set of assumptions about 'being gay' which, because it is also so dominant now in our culture, and in particular propagated with great intensity and frequency by our news and entertainment media, may easily supplant a Catholic understanding in the minds of teachers, with potentially lifelong impacts on the children in their care.

So what are the assumptions that I question, and how do they compare with the teaching of the Catholic Church?

Here are a few of the assumptions that underpin the whole notion of 'some people are gay.'

1 That we all have a 'sexual identity' which is innate and fundamental to us as individuals;

2 That discovering and being honest about our sexual identity is the way to integrity and happiness;

3 That we are able to discover our sexuality at an early age, and should be supported in doing so;

4 That living our sexuality is freedom and maturity;

5 That all sexual identities and orientations are of equal worth and goodness;

6 That questioning any of the above assumptions is homophobic and hateful.

It is worthy of note that there is no scientific consensus on any of those assertions (though there are whole swathes of academia dedicated to promoting them - but that's another story.)


By contrast, the Catholic Church teaches (inter alia) that:

1 Human sexuality is a gift from God, ordered to love and procreation;

2 As a result of the Fall, we are all damaged: how we are is not necessarily how God wants us to be;

3 The only correct use of sexual love is in faithful marriage, open to life;

4 All other sexual inclinations are disordered, and all other sexual activities are sinful, and therefore harmful;

5 True happiness and wellbeing - and the common good - are to be found in subordinating our sexual inclinations and desires to the Divine Plan;

6 We all have a vocation to discover and to live out; and for all of us that includes chastity;

7 True education includes education in the moral virtues: both understanding and practice;

8 We must love our neighbour as ourself; all are subject to disordered inclinations; all are children of God worthy of dignity, respect and love.


Clearly these two sets of assumptions do not sit easily together, which is why Stonewall has no place in a Catholic School.  Its agenda is to normalise a worldview that is at odds with, and indeed in large part hostile to, a Catholic worldview.

Thinking that children at the age of 13 or 14, those turbulent adolescent years, can and should assume a sexual identity, is misguided.  It is also a contributory factor in such shocking cases as the Oxford sex ring, when people charged with looking after girls believed it to be normal and acceptable for 13 year olds to be sexually active.  The culture of sexual liberalism that Stonewall, inter alia, cultivates has real - and devastating - consequences for real people and society at large.  Lending it any credibility at all is another reason that the School is guilty of a grave error of judgement.

In this case, Stonewall were invited into a junior school.  Those promoting a 'liberal' sexual agenda are always trying to target children at an earlier age, whether directly or by re-educating their educators. It is shameful that a Catholic school was complicit in this.

Maria purissima - ora pro nobis.


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Introduction to Chant (vii)

I think the time has come to look at the notation of the chant.

To do this, let us first consider once again the Sanctus from the Mass for the Dead:

(It seems my embedded link was not working, so please click here to listen).

Here is the notation with some features highlighted:



1 The Do clef, indicating the line on which Do is found. All pitch is relative to this.

2 The basic note, the punctum, which takes one beat.

3 The quarter bar line, normally indicates a minor hiatus in the music, often coinciding with the end of a phrase or sentence in the words. 

4 These two notes, joined together, are sung as you would expect: the left-hand note first, then the right.  The dots indicate a lengthening of the duration of each note: typically interpreted as a doubling (unlike in modern notation).

5 The custos at the end of the line is not a note (it is not sung): it is a courtesy to the reader, indicating the first note of the following line.


6 The punctum with a dot is a single note, lengthened as noted above at 4.

7 The full bar line indicates a more significant hiatus in the music, at the end of a phrase or sentence in the words.

8 The smaller note above the larger one is called a liquescent note.  The lower note is sung first. The liquescent note is sung lightly, with the voice half-closing onto the consonant (n in this case, and l a few notes later). 

9 Where one note is directly above another, as here, the lower note is always sung first.


Now let's look at another piece we have heard before, which has some more features of interest in its notation, the second Alleluia for Pentecost:






1 The number at the start indicates which mode the piece is in (mode 2 in this case) See my earlier posts about modality here and here.

2 This piece has the Fa clef, indicating which line Fa falls on. All pitch is relative to this.

3 These small diamond notes are treated in just the same way as the basic punctum. The shape is decorative penmanship, rather than conveying a different meaning.

4 A half bar line: more significant than a quarter, and less than a full, bar line.

5 The middle note of these three (which in a clearer copy would be seen to have jagged top and bottom edges), is a quilisma.  There are different ways of interpreting this. Most commonly, the preceding note is lengthened, and the quilisma sung lightly.  More recently some scholas (including mine, on the advice of Nick Gale of Southwark Cathedral) have taken to lengthening the following note, rather than the preceding note; musically, that often seems to make more sense.

6 This figure is three notes: the first on Fa, the second on Re (the bottom of the diagonal line) and the third on Mi.  It is called a porrectus: the diagonal line is again penmanship: the writer not lifting the quill from the page.  It does not indicate any kind of sliding sound!

7 The small line above this note is a horizontal episema, which is interpreted as lengthening the note, typically about doubling it.

8 The flat is only used on Ti, the seventh note of the scale, and as in modern notation, flattens it by a semitone.

9 The vertical line under this (and many other) notes is a vertical episema; introduced by Solesmes to help interpret according to their method, it is ignored by many modern scholas (including mine).

Feel free to ask any questions: but first, do listen to the chants while following the written music closely!