Wednesday 29 February 2012

Hard cases make bad law...

It is very clear that a large number of Catholics, particularly in the US, have divorced and then ‘re-married.’  I use the inverted commas, as if their previous spouse is still alive, and unless their previous marriage has been declared null, they are still married, and not actually free to contract a new marriage.

Civil divorce is permitted, in extremis, by the Church in order to safeguard certain rights when a marriage is in severe problems.  It does not, however, end the marriage in the eyes of the Church.
Clearly, someone in this position, divorced and ‘re-married’ is in a difficult position.  On the Deacon’s Bench blog, there are many sad tales of people who feel excluded as they cannot receive Holy Communion, despite being in loving, stable relationships; and further that they have only failed to get an annulment because the process is long, arduous and uncertain.  In their own consciences, they are clear that their first marriage was not valid.

They are now seeking a relaxation in the Church’s discipline so that they can be readmitted to Holy Communion.

It is all very sad: but the maxim hard cases make bad law could well apply here.

Let us consider a few things:

Firstly, marriage is currently under severe attack; the Church has a duty to defend the indissolubility of the sacrament robustly, for the good of all, and following the clear mandate of Our Lord.

Secondly, the Church must make a strong assumption in favour of the validity of a marriage, as a default position: any other position is clearly disastrous, leaving people wondering about the validity of their marriage, and thus weakening all marriages.

Thirdly, many people who have been in disastrous marriages have soldiered on, either remaining with a dreadful spouse, or if they have had to move out, honouring their marriage vows by living a celibate life: we owe them a huge amount of respect.

Fourthly, if the divorced and ‘re-married’ are so desperate to receive Our Lord, all they have to do (and it is a big ‘all’) is come to confession, with a real purpose of amendment.  But that of course is the sticking point.  What they want is to continue their illicit relationship and be told that it is all right to do so.  But it is not all right.  It is all wrong.  It may be a heavy cross to bear, but if their original spouse is still alive, and that marriage has not been declared null, they are living in adultery.  The solution is to stop living in adultery.  If there are children of the newer relationship, they may need to share a house for the sake of the children: but they may not share a bed.  They ignore this truth at their peril, quite literally.  If 'exclusion' from Holy Communion makes them confront this reality, it could be their salvation.

As I say, that is a heavy cross; but that is what they meant when they made their original vows, and promised, in the sight of God and the Church, that they would stay faithful for better or for worse.
I do have more sympathy for them than may appear from this post.  I believe that the recent praxis of the Church may well have contributed to the problem by granting too many annulments too easily, creating a sense of entitlement to nullity in some quarters.

Reading the comments on the Deacon’s Bench blog, it is also clear that teaching has been woefully deficient, with people imagining they can get an annulment, for example, on grounds of a spouse’s adultery.  Sorry, but no: that’s part of the ‘worse’ you signed up for...  And that's one of the reasons why leaving it to individuals' consciences (the so-called internal forum) is not the right solution.  We may be too ignorant, and are almost certainly too biased, to be judges of our own case in this regard.

But my real concern is that these hard cases - and some really are hard - are being used by the enemies of marriage, and above all by The Enemy, to launch another attack on this sacrament, which is at the heart of civilisation.

Pray for all who find themselves in such a situation, that the love of Christ and His healing may reach them, and they can be fully reconciled to Him and His Church - on His terms.

Killing Babies

There has been a lot of noise on the blogosphere about the article in the Journal of Medical Ethics arguing that we should be allowed to kill new-born babies.  There has been more noise about the Journal editors' apologia justifying the publication of the article.

Personally, I am glad it has been published, for a few reasons.

One is that if Medical Ethicists are really thinking this, we should know about it.  The second is, it exposes both the paucity and the inhumanity of their arguments; let us hope that other and better academics get published exposing both. The third is that it may just provoke a moral awakening in people of good will: the one point on which the authors are clearly correct is that the unborn child and the newly born child are of the same moral worth.  My prayer is that people will draw the correct conclusion from that premiss: that abortion is therefore absolutely wrong.

The apologia was interesting, though.  Whilst claiming a position of academic moral neutrality, it also assumed a tone of indignant outrage that some criticism had been couched in terms it deemed 'racist.'  As so often, the neutrality disappears when something we really believe in (in this case the inherent evil of racism) is at issue.  From which I can only conclude that their 'neutrality' on infanticide is a neutrality that condones the notion - or they would be similarly outraged.

Bored with the gay issue...

I am completely bored with the whole militant gay issue, and the Soho Masses debacle.  I keep resolving to write no more on the topic, and then something happens, such as Archbishop Nichols' statement and I feel it is too important to ignore.

Now on the comments section of that same Herald article, Terence Weldon has written:
Hooray for the sanity, pastoral wisdom of Archbishop Nichols, ever mindful of the whole of Catholic teaching on the subject - including clause 2358, which the orthotoxic Catholics, using pseudo-religion as a cover for bigotry and homophobia, too frequently ignore.
This is, frankly, a bit rich.  For someone who campaigns for tolerance and understanding, 'orthotoxic... pseudo-religion... bigotry...homophobia...' is pretty judgemental stuff. (Terence Weldon, in case the name means nothing to you, is the author of the unpleasant Queering the Church blog, and one of the co-ordinators of the Soho Gay Mass)

By 'clause 2358' he presumable means §2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  The language is revealing: 'clause' is the language of political campaigning, and in particular in this context we remember the fuss over 'clause 28' - more correctly Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, which was designed to prohibit the active promotion of homosexuality in schools etc.

His argument seems to be that by promoting a Catholic understanding of homosexuality, people like me are orthotoxic pedlars of pseudo-religion indulging in bigotry and homophobia, and specifically that we are ignoring §2358 of the Catechism.

So let us look at §2358, and place it in its context by looking also at §2357 and §2359, and the relevant section headers:

You shall not commit adultery.113 
You have heard that it was said, "You shall not commit adultery." But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.114
Chastity and homosexuality 
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. 
2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. 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.
That is all pretty clear, I think; and it is also clear that Terence Weldon, in claiming that proclaiming the truth about homosexuality is an assault on the respect, compassion, and sensitivity owed to people with homosexual desires or practices, is wrenching the paragraph out of context.

I am full of compassion for people so afflicted, and pray for them.  However I do believe that they are afflicted, and it is that which Weldon and fellow gay activists cannot tolerate.  They deny the truths of §2357 and §2359 believing instead that gay sex is not only acceptable but a positive good. It is their using the Mass, and even more the collusion of some Catholic clerics with that, to proclaim that anti-Catholic worldview that I and others find so... well, blasphemous is not overstating it.

If, as seems to be the case, Archbishop Nichols has finally become aware of what is really going on, and is prepared to address it, then he too will need our prayers, as he will be in the eye of the storm.

Tuesday 28 February 2012

A new attack on marriage?

Hold it right there.  ‘Divorced and remarried Catholics’ already strays into error.  Catholics cannot re-marry (unless their previous spouse is dead).  Catholics who obtain a civil divorce (which may sometimes be necessary to safeguard themselves and their children) are still married, and are not free to contract another marriage.

Reading this post, and the comments under it, made me think that we have here another attack on marriage; and why should we be surprised? The Devil knows his business.

I intend to blog further on this over the next day or two, as time permits...

More on the Soho Masses

The Soho Mass scandal has rumbled on and on.

Today the Catholic Herald runs a story under the headline Archbishop Vincent Nichols ‘reaffirms’ Soho Masses  However, the story actually says something rather different.

I visited the Westminster Diocese website, but could find no trace of the story there (though that may be simply because I got lost in its somewhat labyrinthine structure...) so I am reliant on the Herald's reporting.

It seems to me that the important paragraph of the Archbishop's quoted remarks is this one:
At the present time consideration is being given to the circumstances in which these Masses are celebrated to ensure that their purpose is respected and that they are not occasions for confusion or opposition concerning the positive teaching of the Church on the meaning of human sexuality or the moral imperatives that flow from that teaching, which we uphold and towards which we all strive.
This seems to me to suggest that he is looking seriously at doing something about this scandal.

As far as reaffirming goes, what he is actually quoted as saying is: 
As we approach the fifth anniversary of the establishment of a pastoral provision for Catholics of a same-sex orientation at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, I would like reaffirm the intention and purpose of this outreach.
Reaffirming the intention and purpose is very different to reaffirming current practice and abuse.  Further, he referred to:
...three essential foundations: the dignity of all persons created by God, the moral principles concerning chastity and the Church’s teaching on sexual activity, and the pastoral care of Catholics who are of same-sex orientation. All who participate in the Mass are called to live the church’s teaching through an ongoing conversion of life.
So let us hope and pray that this is really what it looks like: the start of a process to put this scandal behind us.; and may God strengthen and protect him if he does so, because it will not be pretty...

Monday 27 February 2012

God Bless Our Bishop

At yesterday's EF Mass at Lancaster Cathedral (as indeed at all Masses in the Diocese yesterday) a pastoral letter from our bishop was read out.  You can download it here.

He started by placing Lent in the context of the imitation of Christ, who fasted for forty days in the desert, where he was tempted and tried by the devil (yes, our bishop mentioned the devil, God bless him - the bishop, I mean of course...).

But the thrust of the letter was a call to confession: 

My dear people, as you will know, in every parish church in the Diocese of Lancaster on each Wednesday evening of Lent there will be the opportunity for Confession and Sacramental Reconciliation. We have called this initiative The Light is On for You because the light of God’s grace will shine for each person who avail themselves of this wonderful sacrament. I recognise that for many people the sacrament of Confession has long been missing from their lives, but I now urge and encourage you to enter into your own hearts, as Christ did in the wilderness, and there encounter in joy the Father of mercies in this sacramental moment of Reconciliation. And your own experience of healing and peace will enable you to point others in the direction of this truly unique sacrament. Let nothing hold you back!

 I have blogged before about his Light is On initiative: this pastoral letter is further evidence of a bishop leading his flock back to Christ.  We are blessed indeed, so please pray for him!

Sunday 26 February 2012

On being a bigot

When someone calls me a bigot, before I jump up and down and get upset, I need to think.
In particular, I need to think about two things: what did he intend, and what did he mean?
His intention may be benign (eg it is humourous joshing); or while his intention may be to offend, his actual meaning may be positive (eg he regards as a bigot anyone who defends historic Christianity). Only when I have ascertained both of these, to the best of my ability, will I know how to respond.

Before I go any further, I should make it clear that I am not condoning the intention to offend, nor the online bullying which I have observed recently in some quarters, nor condemning people who get understandably upset when on the receiving end of such bullying - I am going somewhere else with this.

Let us consider the case of someone who is upset, angry, outraged and so on, when they learn that the Catholic Church refers to homosexual orientation as objectively disordered.
Whilst their initial reaction of upset, anger and outrage may be understandable, it may not be reasonable.  To reach an informed response they need to understand both what the Church means by this statement, and what it intends by it.  Only then are they in a position to pass intelligent comment on it.

That, of course, takes both a degree of good will, and some intellectual work (including at least temporary suspension of prejudice).  These are not always present, in the current climate.
So what does the Church mean? What does she intend?

To understand her meaning, we need to understand the context within which she is talking about human sexuality at all, her overall understanding of human sexuality, and the precise meaning she attaches to the words quoted.

To understand her intention, we have to examine what she claims to intend, and decide whether we believe that claim, or whether we discern a different intention, and if so on what evidence we base that discernment.

I will try to explain these things as clearly as I can: I am not a trained theologian or philosopher so if anyone finds fault with my reasoning or my expression of it, please feel free to correct or clarify as appropriate.

Taking the meaning first: the Church understands human beings as created good by God, endowed with both natural and supernatural gifts, but damaged by that primeval catastrophe known as the Fall.

One of the results of the Fall is that all humanity is disordered: instead of being inclined towards what is ultimately good - both objectively good and good for us individually and collectively - we are inclined towards secondary goods, which, when pursued at the expense of the ultimate good, become evil: something that diverts us from the good.

One particular example of that is human sexuality: it was created as a good by God, the very means by which we can express love, which is union with Him as well as with another human, and also the means by which we can share in His creative act, by procreating.  Its correct context is matrimony: the union of a man and a woman, indissoluble, faithful, and open to children.  In this context, sex is not only good, but holy.  Any other use of sex, in thought or deed, is disordered.  That includes, but is not limited to, pornography, masturbation, fornication, attraction to children, attraction to people of the same sex, and so on. 

Since the Fall, humans have struggled with all these, and other, problems with sexuality; sometimes introducing selfishness, or the assertion of power, or the separation of the unitive from the procreative; or finding that their inclinations are not aligned with the purpose of procreation and love.  In all these cases, it is correct to speak of an objective disorder: our passions are not ordered as they should be, to the final purpose and intrinsic meaning of sexual love.

This is not a label that is used as a hate term for people who are attracted to those of the same sex.  In fact the Church has 'harsher' language, if you will, for heterosexual couples who separate the unitive from the procreative by the use of artificial methods of birth control: contraception is described as 'shameful and intrinsically vicious' in Casti Conubii.

To return to 'objectively disordered,' it is worth considering the Church's intention in using this phrase.  The first thing to notice is that it is not an attack on the dignity of individuals who experience homosexual attraction. Look at the very next words in the Catechism, immediately after the famous 'objectively disordered' phrase: 
This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
(CCC § 2358)
This is scarcely the language of hate.

The Church's intention, in teaching thus, is to proclaim the truth, in order that all may be saved.  It may be that one believes it to be wrong, but to claim it is bigoted is to impute either meaning or intention to it other than those claimed by the Church; and to do that, one should really bring some evidence to bear.

In fine, if my believing and proclaiming what the Church has always believed and proclaimed means some people wish to call me a bigot, that is a label I will take as a compliment - and a reflection more on them than on me.


Forgotten Beachcomber?  How could you, Left Footer?

For those who have no clue what I am on about this time, go here.

Saturday 25 February 2012

Of Your Charity...

Of your charity, please pray for the repose of the soul of Christine Ackers, who died today.

Christine was the Latin Mass Society's Diocesan Representative in Lancaster, until she retired from the role recently.  Her tireless work resulted in numerous Masses around the diocese, including the regular Sunday Mass in the Cathedral (4th Sunday, 12.15).

She was fortified by the rites of the Church and received Our Lord from Canon Shield immediately before her death.

Requiem aeternam dona ei Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.

Requiescat in pace.


H/t Andrew at CTS Reviews

Too nuanced by half...?

In 2003, when Civil Partnerships were on the horizon, the bishops were against them:
 We believe the government’s proposals to create civil partnerships for same sex couples would not promote the common good, and we therefore strongly oppose them. 
In a press conference in November 2011 (as reported by The Tablet), Archbishop Nichols reportedly said:
We would want to emphasise that civil partnerships actually provide a structure in which people of the same sex who want a lifelong relationship [and] a lifelong partnership can find their place and protection and legal provision.” 
The Tablet crowed, and Catholic Voices duly leaped in to explain (though they didn't manage to explain it to me) how that was not a complete volte face.

Yesterday, following a piece in the Guardian, the relevant part of the 2003 statement was posted afresh on the Catholic Bishops' Website as a clarification:
Following a Guardian report today, 23 February 2012, it is important to clarify the position taken by the Bishops' Conference in 2003 in response to theGovernment Consultation on "Civil partnership – A framework for the legal recognition of same–sex couples”. Civil Partnerships are now part of the framework of British law. The current debate is about the specific nature of the institution of marriage and its distinctive place in the fabric of society.
23. We believe the government’s proposals to create civil partnerships for same sex couples would not promote the common good, and we therefore strongly oppose them. They would in the long term serve to undermine marriage and the family for the reasons set out in paragraphs 9-12 above. They are not needed to defend fundamental human rights or remedy significant injustices for same-sex couples, as these have either already been substantially addressed or can largely be addressed by the couple entering into contractual arrangements privately. Moreover, the government’s proposals do nothing to tackle what is in fact a very much bigger issue, namely the lack of rights enjoyed by cohabiting heterosexual couples and their children, many of whom wrongly believe they are protected by ‘common law marriage.’ The government needs to publicise their lack of rights, and strongly advocate the obvious solution, which is marriage.
I welcome this clarification and the reiteration that our bishops are strongly opposed to civil partnerships.  But with the best will in the world, I cannot reconcile the Archbishops remarks at the press conference with this statement. Is it me? Am I dense? Can anyone explain?

However, let us not overlook the good point in all this: that the bishops stand where they should in this latest reiteration, and despite what the Tablet, and even Catholic Voices, seem to think, they are not now pro Civil Partnerships, even as codified...

Friday 24 February 2012

Stations of the Cross

We are just back from Stations of the Cross: a fabulous devotion for the Fridays of Lent (pretty good for any Friday, or indeed any day, come to that.)

'Giving things up'  is only part of our Lenten observance.  As well as such penance, we are also to give alms (eg donations to charity etc) and pray more.  The Stations make an excellent extra prayer for this time of the year: very good for children, too.

A commenter on Fr Z's blog has posted a link to an Angelus Press .pdf containing St Alphonsus' stations and St Francis', complete with illustrations.  Well worth a visit: here.

Thursday 23 February 2012

False Gods

It seems to me that modern Western societies have made false Gods out of (inter alia):
  • Equality
  • Autonomy
  • Democracy
  • Choice
  • Tolerance

That is not to say that these are not goods, but that they are not ultimate goods.  When they are elevated to absolute status, they are not only destructive, they are self-destructive.

C S Lewis (of course) identified the problem accurately in First and Second Things
The woman who makes a dog the centre of her life loses, in the end, not only her human usefulness and dignity but even the proper pleasure of dog-keeping. 
The man who makes alcohol his chief good loses not only his job but his palate and all power of enjoying the earlier (and only pleasurable) levels of intoxication. 
It is a glorious thing to feel for a moment or two that the whole meaning of the universe is summed up in one woman—glorious so long as other duties and pleasures keep tearing you away from her. But clear the decks and so arrange your life (it is sometimes feasible) that you will have nothing to do but contemplate her, and what happens? 
Of course this law has been discovered before, but it will stand re-discovery. It may be stated as follows: every preference of a small good to a great, or partial good to a total good, involves the loss of the small or partial good for which the sacrifice is made. 
. . . You can’t get second things by putting them first. You get second things only by putting first things first.

So if we pursue equality, say, as an ultimate good, we end up not just doing a great deal of harm, but also undermining equality itself.

How does that work?  Well, consider the issue of equality for women: a laudable aim, in many ways.  But when pushed to the extreme, we find that it includes the right of women to kill their unborn children - for being female.  See the comments under Madeleine Teahan’s Guardian Online article for a very stark demonstration of that simple truth.

With very little effort one can see the same principle at work when any of these other secondary goods is elevated to the status of an absolute good.

What we are called to do, of course, is to acknowledge that God is the top of the hierarchy.  These secondary goods (equality and the rest) are often useful indicators of where something has gone wrong; if they are being abused, it is a clue, worthy of investigation.  Even democracy (eg when operated in a corrupted society) is not sovereign.  It is (normally) a safeguard; it is not an absolute good.

Even in terms of a scale of values, these principles are not ultimate.  According to Catholic tradition, we should always start with Faith, Hope and Charity, and then consider Justice, Fortitude, Temperance and Prudence.  Apply those to the abortion debate and, not surprisingly, you get a completely different, and far more humane, set of priorities for both mother and child.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Ash Wednesday

About to go off to evening Mass and get my ashes, so I just looked in my new Missal, and thought we're bound to get Repent and believe in the Gospel, rather than Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return; a shame, really. (It was better still in the old version: Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.)

Which made me look in my Old Missal: and what a great set of prayers we used to have at the blessing of the ashes!  Here is just one of them (why has the Angel been banished from the new prayers?)
Almighty and everlasting God, spare the penitent sinner, have pity on thy suppliant people, and in loving kindness, send down from heaven thy holy Angel to bless and sanctify these ashes.  Thus hallowed, may they be a saving remedy to all who, humbly calling upon thy holy name, reproach themselves with the sins of which their conscience accuses them, and who, grieving over their evil deeds, make pitiful recourse to thee for mercy and pardon.  Grant, in fine, that they over whom, in token of sorrow for their sin, these ashes are sprinkled, may be blessed by thee with lasting well-bing of soul and body.  Through Christ our Lord.
Now that's what I call a prayer! And it was just one of the four ancient prayers at the blessing of the ashes. Sic transit gloria mundi and all that.

On Marriage

I would urge everyone to sign the petition in defence of marriage; however, some of the arguments put forward are somewhat flakey.  So I would also urge everyone to read Joseph Shaw's comments on them, on his LMS Chairman blog.

For a considered account of marriage, have a look at James Preece's latest: a very good summary indeed.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

The Fame of Blessed Thomas More

I have just started to read The Fame of Blessed Thomas More.

It is a collection of talks given on the occasion of the More Memorial Exhibition organised in his honour at Chelsea in July 1929.  The talks are by Fr (later Mons) Ronald Knox, Hilaire Belloc, G K Chesterton, Lord Justice Russell, Henry Browne SJ, Reginald Blunt and Bede Jarrett OP.

It also features, as an appendix, the catalogue of the exhibition: the first item is St Thomas' hair shirt and there are a further 16 relics; there are also portraits, first editions, statues and so forth: it must have been magnificent.

As you can imagine, I am looking forward to getting stuck into the book.  However, I have read none of the talks yet, only the introduction.  That is by Professor R W Chambers (later, in 1935, More's biographer).

I found his introductory essay fascinating.  I had not realised that for centuries (from his own time until the early 19th Century) More was widely regarded as one of the greatest writers of English prose.  Certainly in my education, his name was never mentioned in that context, nor was it ever suggested that I - or anyone -should read him.  Yet Chambers points out, succeeding generations held to the view, expressed by More's nephew William Rastell: his works [are] worthy to be had and read of every Englishman that is studious or desirous to know and learn [...] the eloquence and property of the English tongue.

Chambers also quotes a colleague, Professor A W Reed, who makes the fascinating observation: It may seem incongruous to associate More's hair-shirt with his prose style; but both, I believe, derived from his early days of prayer, reading, recollection and discipline beside the monks of the London Charterhouse.

Irony, of course abounds: it was only when imprisoned by Henry Vlll in the Tower of London that More had time to write at his leisure; up till then his time had not been his own, and though he wrote plentifully, both in Latin and English, the quality of his writing in the Tower is unsurpassed;  and from the Tower, of course, he watched those same monks of the Charterhouse being dragged to their executions, in the knowledge that his fate was likely to be similar.

Pilgrimage to York in honour of St Margaret Clitherow

I thought readers might be interested in this pilgrimage to York.  My correspondent informs me:

Music to include:

The Gregorian Chant proper of the Mass of a Holy Woman Martyr

Missa "Summi et Aeterni Sacerdoti" - Jeffrey Ostrowski

Motets by:

Victoria, Scarlatti, Bruckner, De Wael, Gombert, Perosi and Allegri.

You can be assured of a very warm welcome!

Monday 20 February 2012

More on the Offertory

I was delighted when Ttony started to blog again at the Muniment Room - and particularly given the topic, scope and interest of his initial posts.

He has now gone to the trouble of scanning in Bugnini's account of the replacement of the traditional Offertory, to further the discussion initiated here recently.  You can read Bugnini's account over at Ttony's.

Great News or Not?

A couple of posts ago, I told of a life being saved.  Commenters greeted this as 'Great News,' except one, Unknown, who wrote:
This is not great news. Great news would be this Catholic agency also raised heaven and earth to arrange baptism and a Catholic education to this child. Our pro-life work is rotten without that.
I responded that I profoundly disagreed, and have been thinking about why.

Clearly, nobody could argue with the notion that baptism and a Catholic education for the child would be great news.

However, the contention that without them, our pro-life work is rotten strikes me as profoundly wrong.  I think that is betrays a monolinear and utilitarian approach, at odds with Catholic culture, tradition and belief.

The Corporal Works of Mercy are inherently good. Our Lord makes this clear: when I was hungry, you fed me etc.  Likewise the Church has always held that to be the case.

It is not a condition of their goodness that they are accompanied by evangelisation; sometimes they are pre-evangelisation - and sometimes that only in the larger context: see what good these Catholics do - maybe there is something in it after all...

Good works also serve many purposes, not just the good of the recipient.  They may restore right order to a damaged world; they may be good example to third parties; they may well contribute to the sanctification of the person doing them, and so on and so on.  In fact, with God's grace, their effect can be completely transformative.  And if done with love, they glorify God.

Chartres sonne, Chartres t'appelle...

It is time to start planning for this year's Chartres pilgrimage, at Pentecost.  The kids are busy trying to extract exam timetables from school and University to see which of them will be blessed with the possibility of going this year.  I have already opened negotiations with Mrs T. for my exeat.

For those who have never been, it is hard to describe the wonder of the event.  We start from Notre Dame de Paris early on Saturday morning, walk through the day, through sunshine or rain (normally lots of one or the other), stopping for a lunchtime Mass (EF) in the woods, and covering around 30 miles.

On the way we sing, pray, say the rosary, have our confessions heard, listen to meditations, and have convivial Catholic chat.  We camp overnight, and then repeat the same schedule the next day, with a magnificent outdoors Pentecost Mass (EF) at a temporary (but duly resplendent) altar in an open field.

On the final day, we walk the remaining miles to Chartres, process into the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres (if we are lucky) or onto the square outside for the final Mass (EF - you get the picture).

Notre Dame de Chartres is one of the architectural wonders of Christendom: the 13th century glass alone is worth the walk; and of course it is home to Our Lady's shawl, the Sancta Camisa.

Thousands (I can't remember how many thousands, but a very impressive number) do the pilgrimage; mainly young French people, but a large number from all around Christendom, including British Chapters and American ones - so not speaking French is no excuse!

The walking is tough, but the blessings are abundant.  You will find a further description here , and more if you follow my tag 'Chartres;' and more information and photos, and how to book, here.  If you join us, you will be made very welcome, and despite your blisters, exhaustion and limp, will be keen to come again... and again...

Oh, you will also learn some wonderful French hymns, such as Chez nous, and Chartres sonne, Chartres t'appelle.

Sunday 19 February 2012

Whatever happened to the Offertory?

In the immemorial form of Mass (now known as the Extraordinary Form) we used to have the Offertory.  The re-writing of this, replacing the time-honoured prayers with some newly composed prayers based, I gather, on a Jewish Grace, was one of the most startling changes introduced in the wake of the Second Vatican Council (and nowhere mandated by the Council document Sacrosanctum Concilium, which said that nothing should be changed unless the good of the Church certainly required it, or words to that effect...)

Let us first compare, and then comment

The priest now says the Offertory for the Mass being offered.  He then uncovers the Chalice and in a lower voice says:                          

P:  Suscipe sancte Pater omnipotens aeterne Deus,  hanc immaculatam hostiam,  quam ego indignus famulus tuus offero  tibi Deo meo vivo et vero, pro innumerabilibus peccatis et offensionibus et negligentiis meis,  et pro omnibus circumstantibus,  sed et pro omnibus fidelibus Christianis vivis atque defunctis:  ut mihi et illis proficiat ad salutem in vitam aeternam.  Amen.

(P:  Receive,  O Holy Father, almighty and eternal God, this spotless host,  which I, Thine unworthy servant,  offer unto Thee,  my living and true God, for my countless sins, trespasses, and omissions; likewise for all here present, and for all faithful Christians,  whether living or dead,  that it may avail both me and them to salvation, unto life everlasting.  Amen)

The priest goes to the Epistle side and pours wine and water into the Chalice.     
P:  Deus,  qui humanae  substantiae dignitatem mirabiliter condidisti,  et  mirabilius reformasti:  da  nobis per hujus aquae et vini mysterium,  ejus divinitatis esse consortes,  qui humanitatis nostrae fieri dignatus est particeps,  Jesus Christus,  Filius tuus, Dominus noster:  Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti,  Deus;  per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

(P:  O God,  Who in creating  man didst exalt his nature  very wonderfully and yet more  wonderfully didst establish it anew:  by the mystery signified in the mingling of this water and wine,  grant us to have part in the Godhead of Him Who hath vouchsafed to share our manhood,  Jesus Christ,  Thy Son,  Our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost,  God;  world without end.  Amen.)


At the middle of the altar, the priest says:                  

P:  Offerimus tibi Domine, calicem salutaris,  tuam deprecantes clementiam:  ut in conspectu divinae majestatis tuae,  pro nostra et totius mundi salute cum odore suavitatis ascendat.  Amen.

(P:  We offer unto Thee,  O Lord, the chalice of salvation, beseeching Thy clemency that it may ascend as a sweet odour before Thy divine majesty,  for our own salvation, and for that of the whole world.  Amen.)

P:  In spiritu humilitatis,  et in animo contrito   suscipiamur a te Domine:  et sic fiat sacrificium nostrum in conspectu tuo hodie,  ut placeat tibi Domine Deus.
(P:  Humbled in mind,  and contrite of heart,  may we find favor with Thee,  O Lord; and may the sacrifice we this day offer up be well pleasing to Thee, Who art our Lord and our God.)

P:  Veni sanctificator  omnipotens aeterne Deus,  et  (+) benedic hoc sacrificium  tuo sancto nomini praeparatum.

(P:  Come,  Thou,  the  Sanctifier, God,  almighty and everlasting: bless (+) this sacrifice which is prepared for the glory of Thy holy name.)

THE LAVABO                        

Going to the Epistle side, the priest washes his fingers and says:   
P:  Lavabo inter innocentes  manus meas:  et circumdabo  altare tuum Domine.  Ut audiam vocem laudis:  et enarrem universa mirabilia tua. Domine dilexi decorem domus tuae,  et locum habitationis gloriae tuae.  Ne perdas cum impiis Deus animam meam:  et cum viris sanguinum vitam meam.  In quorum manibus iniquitates sunt:  dextera eorum repleta est muneribus.  Ego autem in innocentia mea ingressus sum:  redime me,  et miserere mei.  Pes meus stetit in directo:  in ecclesiis benedicam te Domine.  Gloria, etc.

(P:  I will wash my hands among the innocent,  and will compass Thine altar,  O Lord. That I may hear the voice of praise,  and tell of all Thy wondrous works.  I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of Thy house,  and the place where Thy glory dwelleth.  Take not away my soul,  O God,  with the wicked;  nor my life with men of blood.  In whose hands are iniquities:  their right hand is filled with gifts.  But as for me,  I have walked in my innocence;  redeem me, and have mercy on me.  My foot hath stood in the right way; in the churches I will bless Thee,  O Lord.  Glory be to  the Father, and to the Son,  and to the Holy Ghost.  As it was in the beginning,  is now, and ever shall be;  world without end. Amen.)

The priest returns to the middle of the altar and bowing slightly,  says:                  

P:  Suscipe sancta Trinitas hanc oblationem,  quam tibi    offerimus ob memoriam passionis resurrectionis et  ascensionis Jesu Christi   Domini nostri:  et in honorem beatae Mariae semper virginis, et beati Joannis Baptistae, et sanctorum Apostolorum Petri et Pauli,  et istorum,  et omnium Sanctorum:  ut illis proficiat ad honorem,  nobis autem ad salutem:  et illi pro nobis intercedere dignentur in coelis,  quorum memoriam agimus in terris.  Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum.  Amen.

(P:  Receive, O holy Trinity, this oblation offered up by us to Thee in memory of the ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ,  and in honor of blessed Mary, ever a virgin,  of blessed John the Baptist, of the holy apostles Peter and Paul,  of these, and of all the saints,  that it may be available to their honor and  to our salvation; and may  they whose memory we celebrate on earth vouchsafe to intercede for us in heaven. Through the same Christ our Lord.  Amen.)
The Ordinary Form (current English translation)


P. Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.

R. Blessed be God for ever.

P. By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

P. Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you, fruit of the vine and work of human hands: it will become our spiritual drink.

R. Blessed be God for ever.

P. With humble spirit and contrite heart may we be accepted by you, O Lord, and may our sacrifice to you this day  be pleasing in your sight, Lord God.

P. Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.


For some reason, this really hit home today at Mass.  I frequently go to the Extraordinary Form (normally twice a month, as that is when it is available), and have always been fond of the Offertory prayers.  Today, I noticed not only that they have been changed, but that the whole idea of the Offertory has been expunged: it is now the ‘Preparation of the Gifts.’

Luther, apparently, said: From this point (the offertory) almost everything stinks of oblation!  

That charge could scarcely be levelled at the new Preparation of the Gifts.

One explanation for the change is that the reformers did not like the fact that in the Offertory, the bread and wine, as yet unconsecrated, were referred to as though already consecrated.

Yet, if they thought they were the first to notice this, they were ignorant.  There is a great deal of scholarship exploring and explaining this ancient part of the Mass.

Another explanation is that the resulting rites were a lot closer to Protestant services, and thus less of a barrier to ecumenism.  In the heady days of the 60s and 70s, it was possible to imagine (if one was optimistic by nature and naive intellectually and historically) the corporate reunion of some of our separated brethren.

For whatever reason, the Offertory was jettisoned, and replaced by the Preparation of the Gifts. All the sacrificial language was gone: when used with Eucharistic Prayer 2 (especially in the version before the recent corrections to the translation) it was quite easy to miss that a sacrifice was taking place at all.  Is it a coincidence that understanding of the true nature of the Mass is so poor.  Lex orandi and all that...

Yet our current Holy Father is keen, not only to free the Extraordinary Form from the shackles placed on it by so many bishops, but also to emphasise that whatever has been cherished as good by the Church for centuries cannot suddenly be declared bad. 

So the Offertory must be held to be a good: and I long for its restoration.

Thinking about all this has made me realise I need to read Michael Davies’ magnificent survey of the Changes: Liturgical Revolution.  It consists of three volumes: Cranmer’s Godly Order, Pope John’s Council and Pope Paul’s New Mass.  If you have not read it yet, you should assuredly so so.


Sacrosanctum Concilium §

Finally, there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.

I cannot see how the new Preparation of the Gifts fulfills this mandate.

It is interesting, re-reading SC, to see that the first priority was not changing the Liturgy, but educating priests and people about it.  Perhaps that is where we have gone so wrong...


Thanks to the Part-time Pilgrim, for pointing out that I had misquoted the new prayers.  They have been amended.

Hate crime or thought crime

I was listening to a piece on the Sunday programme this morning about hate crime.  There were some horrendous stories about the kinds of vicious things people say and do to others.

Nonetheless, I am profoundly uneasy at the notion of hate crime.  Why would it have been worse of John Terry to have called another footballer a black buffoon (or whatever he is alleged to have said) than, say, a ginger buffoon or a bald buffoon?

Why is racially aggravated assault worse than assault for other reasons?

It seems to me that we have entered dangerous territory here.  The State has a reasonable and legitimate interest in circumscribing my behaviour when it infringes the liberties of others.  It has no reasonable or legitimate interest in dictating how I am to think: for that is the path to totalitarianism.

A friend of mine is a police officer.  Apparently all around the back offices of the Police Station are posters proclaiming that if a person claims an offence to have been racially motivated, then it was racially motivated and must be recorded as such.

So once again, an extraordinary degree of subjectivity is introduced into our legal and criminal processes. I could claim, for example, that when Mrs T. beaned me with a frying pan for forgetting Valentine's day once again (a purely fictitious example, you understand) that it was because in her heart of hearts she'd always wanted to marry an Asian, and it was because I'm white (as she is) that she hit me.  The police would be obliged to record that as an allegation of racially aggravated assault, and treat it accordingly.

Let me be quite clear: I am not saying it is ok for footballers, or anyone else, to abuse people because of their race, skin colour etc.  But then I don't think it is any better for them to abuse people for any other reason.  I believe the law should stick to what actually happened, not to what attitudes others believe may sit behind it - which are in any case usually the fruit of ignorance.

Saturday 18 February 2012

Another life quietly saved

Anna founded the local pro-life group a few years ago.  It is small, but hard working.  Among other things, they have established a baby store, where they collect donated items like prams, high chairs etc and distribute them to mothers in need of support.

They have used this practical support to build bridges with the local midwives and Connexions people.  Recently (and not for the first time) one of these contacts approached them about a young woman who was 22 weeks pregnant and in need of support.  They put her in touch with a Life counsellor, and it became clear that she wanted to keep her baby, but was in a state of some distress for a variety of reasons.

Soon afterwards, her parents got in touch to say that she had changed her mind and was now booked in for an abortion in a few days' time.  They were devastated.

The counsellor got back in touch with the young woman and had a further conversation.  The day after that she received a text to say that she was keeping the baby.

There is an old story about two people walking along a beach, who came across a vast number of jelly fish, which had been left above the tideline by the receding sea, and which were starting to dry up and die.  One was overcome by the scale of the tragedy, but his friend picked one jellyfish up and threw it into the sea.  The first turned to him in frustration and, indicating with his arm the huge number of dying jellyfish on the beach, said 'What's the point: we can't make any difference!'  His friend picked up another jellyfish and threw it into the sea: 'I made a difference to that one,' he replied.

It can be easy, faced with the enormity of the abortion crisis in this country and the world, to fling up our hands in horror.  Or we can get on with saving lives, one at a time, whilst also trying to solve the crisis on the larger scale.

Please pray for the mother and her baby whose futures have just been saved, for all in similar circumstances, and for all who seek to help them.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

On Being ‘Ben Trovato’

At the weekend, I was pushed quite hard on Twitter by Stuart of eChurch Blog, about pseudonymous blogging.

He was suggesting that I should man up and reveal my identity; that my blogging would have more authority if I was public about who I really am, and that being open about my real identity would make me more accountable, and force me to take responsibility for what I write.

It was an interesting and thought-provoking conversation, about which I have been reflecting.

I can see his point.  However, I also have reasons for remaining pseudonymous.  The original reason for it being a pseudonymous blog was to respect the privacy of my family.  For example, I recently posted Charlie’s essay, as I thought it would entertain; but I could scarcely have done so if Charlie's schoolfriends  could identify him.

Likewise, I have had occasion to criticise and sometimes commend the various schools the children have been at over the years, concerning sex education, religious education, inappropriate films etc.  I think that this is best done, at least in the first instance, without naming and shaming, and I think the results have borne that out.

A more recent reason for pseudonymity has been the realisation that the selective quotation and misrepresentation of my comments could easily cause me to lose my job.  I actually work on a freelance basis, on short term contracts.  It would be very easy for a trouble-maker to make it embarrassing for a client to re-hire me.  There would be no question of dismissal or employment rights: I would simply cease to be offered work or to win contracts.

Stuart rightly pointed out that we are called to suffer for the truth; but I don’t think we are to seek out martyrdom, and suffering for our family.  I’m with St Thomas More: I will seek every escape route!  Not perhaps a purist approach, but one we all take (unless you are reading this in a UK prison cell where you have been incarcerated for refusing to pay taxes which support the NHS - and thus the provision of abortions.)  

I think that there are some other benefits to pseudonymous blogging.  Although it would seem axiomatic that someone blogging or tweeting over his own name will take more responsibility for his comments, I don’t think an objective observer of the recent spats would say it was the pseudonymous bloggers who were solely responsible for the more-heat-than-light contributions.

I think there’s a reason for that.  Ben Trovato is a fiction.  Scratch him, and he doesn’t bleed.  It is easy for me both to expose myself (as Ben) as an idiot (see blog, passim - I recently added a tag: Ben gets it wrong, and realised it would be a mammoth task to go back through all the posts and apply it wherever it would fit...) and to accept correction.  My ego is less invested in the debate.

I am of course, happy to reveal my real identity (in confidence) to anyone who has a legitimate interest in it; and with regard to the ‘taking responsibility’ point, I always write in the knowledge that plenty of people whom I respect know precisely who writes the blog (as does my Guardian Angel, my patron saint and the whole company of the heavenly host; though I think most of them have better things to do than read it).

So I think I'll stick with Ben: if you disagree, feel free to tell me.

PS Please pray for Stuart who has subsequently been admitted to hospital.  May Our Lord speed his recovery.  (And no post hoc, propter hoc assumptions, please!)


Re-reading this now, I think I was perhaps a little over-sensitive with regard to my work.  I do not think that anything I have written would trouble those who employ me; only a mis-representation of it. And I am confident that they would look at the facts, not rely on a misrepresentation.  But I still think my family could be embarrassed...

Monday 13 February 2012

Mac's meme

Ttony has tagged me for Mac's  meme: which three books (apart from the Bible, Missal, Breviary, Simple Prayer Book etc and Shakespeare) should she have on her Kindle.

"You post the rules and a link back to the person who tagged you. You also tell them that they've been tagged on their own blog, rather than just hoping they'll discover it for themselves. Then you decide what three books are essential reading for anyone with a Kindle. Reasons would be good, but not essential. Then you tag five people."

But that rotter Ttony has already suggested:

 - the complete OED;
 - the complete Dickens;
 - the complete P G Wodehouse.

The third of those would definitely have been one of my three, and the first might have been.

So here are my eclectic suggestions (and bear in mind I've never met Mac, of course):

1 The complete Chesterton (verse, journalism and novels - I'm sure Kindle can cope...)
2 The collected poems of Elizabeth Jennings
3 The complete novels of Evelyn Waugh

Sunday 12 February 2012

He's at it again!

Bad parenting award number... errr....  (no, I've lost count...)

That Ben has been allowing his kids to skate on thin ice again!

Doesn't he know that every year, hundreds of people fall through ice and... (cont on p 67).

Friday 10 February 2012

That Bideford Case

An extraordinary judgement today in the case of Bideford Council and its time-honoured practice of praying before a council meeting. This was the case that even Trevor Phillips thought was 'nonsense on stilts' and about which I originally blogged here.

On a small technical point, rather than the main points of principle placed before the court, the High Court has held that it is illegal for the Council to continue the practice.  It has also given the Council leave to appeal.

For an informed, if incredulous, view, read Neil Addison's blog.  Actually, you should always read Neil Addison's Religion Law Blog...

Update: I have just seen an interesting take on this at Heresy Corner, suggesting it is a Pyrrhic victory for the NSS.

(H/t Echurch blog)

How These Catholics Love Each Other So (especially in the Blogosphere)

I find the to-and-fro on the Catholic blogosphere unedifying at times, and have been wondering two things.  One is why it is so prone to descend into an acrimonious tone, and the second is whether there is anything I can do (or write really) to decrease the likelihood of that.

On the first I have a few ideas.  My only idea on the second is that by raising awareness, and possibly understanding, with my Catholic co-bloggers and co-twitterers, I may be helping a bit.

That second idea I propose with something less than confidence, for reasons which my explication of the first may shed some light on.  But I am by temperament and faith more pre-disposed to hope than despair, so I will try anyway.   Just for the record, this post is not aimed at anyone in particular: if you think it is about you personally, you may wish to consider why you have reached that conclusion (and see below)...

So why does it descend to acrimony?

I think there are several reasons:
  • the nature of the media
  • the different analyses of the situation in which we find ourselves
  • substantial differences of view, 
  • differences of weight attached to issues by different people
  • friendships and loyalties
  • differing rhetorical styles
  • original sin

...and doubtless there are more.

I am going to unpick those in a little more detail.

The nature of the media is itself problematic.  Both Blogging and Tweeting have particular limitations, and each some peculiar to itself.  Neither is a particularly good tool for subtle or difficult communications between people who feel strongly about an issue.  One reason for that is that when using the written word alone we are lacking some basic things which help make communications effective when we are chatting in the pub, or even lecturing.  Tone of voice is one of the most important of these, and another is facial expression. These things moderate both how we are heard and inform us in live time about how others are responding, allowing us quickly and sensitively to moderate our communication. 

In their absence, people will tend to fill in the gaps with their imagination.  Thus my gentle joke may be read as a provocative insult, because you do not hear the lightness of tone, nor see the twinkle in my eye.  Your warning shot back, that I have over-stepped the mark, may be read by me as your joining in the banter, and I respond in kind.  You are rightly outraged and yell at me or withdraw; I am rightly outraged: it was all such fun and then you had a hissy fit.

Add to that the potential for anonymity, the fact that we may well never have met, and, in the case of Twitter, the whole thing being played out in live time in front of an audience (we know not who until they jump into the conversation) and limited to 140 characters at a time, and the risks are clear.

Sitting behind that, and providing a context within which misunderstanding is more likely, is the fact that we may start from a very different understanding of the situation in which Catholics in this country find themselves.

I, for example, may believe the Church in this country to be in grave crisis.  Having been around a while; having written to, and met, bishops and got short shrift, to say the least; having witnessed scandal after scandal unfold and be met by silence or worse from the bishops responsible for the relevant areas of activity; I may believe that we are nearing, or actually in, de facto schism with the Holy See, and that given such a crisis my loyalty is with the Holy Father and the Faith of my fathers; and my clear duty is to warn others of the crisis, and try to pre-empt new manifestations of it by galvanising the remaining faithful.  Having been kicked, and seen others be kicked, so many times, I tend to constant vigilance.

You, on the other hand, know that the Church is the Ark of Salvation, the bishops are the spiritual descendants of the apostles, and worthy not just of the benefit of the doubt, but of positive respect, love and support.  Sure, things go wrong occasionally, because we are none of us perfect, but to see conspiracies in those things is, frankly, a bit nutty, and to look for conspiracies is actually uncharitable.  You, reasonably enough, see my constant vigilance as paranoia and spiritually harmful to myself and others.

Then of course, there may be substantial, and legitimate, differences of view. I may believe that incrementalism in the approach to the sin of abortion is the wrong strategy.  There are strong moral and practical considerations that support that view.

You may believe that incremental reductions are the only realistic way of reducing the carnage. There are strong moral and practical considerations that support that view.

Such differences are compounded if we also attach different amounts of weight to that difference of views.  I may think this is fundamental: until you have grasped that incrementalism is the wrong approach, your efforts are not only misguided but dangerous: it carries numerous risks, which you seem to ignore, deny, or trivialise.

You may believe this is a relatively trivial difference: we are both clearly on the same side on this, and should be pulling together, not arguing over minutiae.  You are therefore astounded at how much of a meal I make over this, and how the pro-life effort is riven by in-fighting: with my adding fuel to that fire instead of finding common ground in the fight against the greatest evil of our day.

And then friendships and loyalties come into play.  I know that, however nutty X is, his heart is in the right place; or that Y has spent forty years fighting the good fight, and yes, she can be an irritating old whatsit, but we are none of us perfect.  So when X or Y is attacked, I leap to their defense.

You likewise have loyalties and friendships: when I defend X or Y against what I perceive as unjust criticism from your friends A or B, naturally you leap to A or B’s defence: how could I be so uncharitable...?

Add to this rich mix differing rhetorical styles: I quite like bombast, stirring language, of the St Thomas More and Hilaire Belloc variety.  I would rather overstate a case for clarity and dramatic effect than sound too clinical and dispassionate as though I were a BBC reporter pretending a disinterest that would be wholly bogus. I move in a social milieu in which calling people by lighthearted soubriquets is a common and accepted part of the discourse, and ‘political correctness' is abhored and ridiculed.

You may prefer the civilised discourse of rational debate, and find the heightened language over the top, and the name calling patronising and, frankly, offensive.  I, of course, find your dispassionate tone either bland, or supercilious and patronising...

So for all these reasons, I think that it is not surprising that communications mis-carry when we are discussing important things.

But when things do go awry, it opens the door for Satan, and the playing out of Original Sin.

So pride, anger, and all those other sins to which we are prey can slip in.  We find ourselves shifting from judging actions to judging people, attacking or condemning people rather than ideas, using language more suitable for the bully or the coward than the apostle, and so on.

Right back in the Garden, when God asked Adam what had gone wrong, he said: it wasn’t me, it was the wife!, and she said don’t blame me, it was that serpent....

Just so on the blogosphere, pride cuts in again: we judge ourself by our good intentions rather than our bad behaviour, and others by their bad behaviour, to which we attribute bad intentions.  We take offense where none was intended, and we see no need to apologise ourselves.  Time and again we hear: you/they were attacking me,  and well you/he/she started it, instead of Sorry.  And such is our pride that even when someone does say sorry (and I have witnessed that more than once), it is often not heard.

And yet... I still think it is worth doing: I have learned a lot through the Catholic blogosphere, and I like to think I have made some virtual friends.  I may even have helped one or two people, and caused one or two things to happen or not happen...

So may God grant us the grace to continue these conversations in truth and love, and in particular the grace of humility, both to be able to apologise when we have offended whether deliberately or unwittingly, and to accept apologies when they are offered; and, if it’s not asking too much, the grace to learn a little from the whole experience.