Saturday 29 March 2014

A failure of understanding

Tina Beattie, in the Grauniad 'Comment is Free' has written a remarkable piece, under the heading:
Should Catholics accept gay marriage?
Austen Ivereigh and Tina Beattie debate the morality and legitimacy of proposals to legalise same-sex marriage in the UK
Her part of the argument is headed: Tina Beattie: 'Yes, society will benefit from same sex-marriage'
I recognise that the headlines may well have been written subsequently by a sub-editor, so will not comment on those. However, I will comment on the rest of the piece, which, I assume, is the work of her own hand (and mind...)

I have never been able to understand the argument that same-sex marriage threatens marriage as we know it. (Well that is a startling admission. To enter a public debate without having understood the opposing point of view is an odd thing for an academic to do.  Let me summarise: Catholics believe that Marriage is ordained by God as the union of one man and one woman, exclusively for life, for the procreation of children and mutual love and support in their upbringing.   We further believe that Christ raised Christian marriage to be a sacrament. We believe that sex is sacred, and reserved for a man and a wife. 'Same-sex marriage' requires a re-defining of marriage to be solely about love and commitment: it thus weakens societal understanding of marriage and therefore anybody's ability to contract a valid marriage, and also legitimises and makes respectable actions which are, according to the Church, gravely sinful, and therefore spiritually damaging to those who engage in them.) Marriage is far more threatened by a consumerist culture in which the demand for instant gratification is worth the sacrifice of any relationship or responsibility which involves commitment and struggle, and by an ethos of sexual libertarianism which so easily mutates into predatory and exploitative relationships involving young and vulnerable people, and which fosters unrealistically high expectations of sexual performance among adults who ought to know better. (This may be true: however, it is completely irrelevant. To say something else is a worse threat is not to say that the original subject is not a threat. This is almost Belloc's 'Always keep a-hold of Nurse, for fear of finding something worse!')
In this context, society stands to benefit from any move towards a deeper understanding of the value of "lifelong fidelity and commitment" between two people, whether of the same sex or of different sexes, as a basic building block for community and family life. (Err... no. If the Church which she professes to belong to is right, society cannot benefit from legitimising and giving a veneer of respectability to a pseudo-marriage which sanctions sinful behaviour.)  And let's be honest – the gay subculture is such that there may be relatively few men in particular who want to agree to "forsake all others" and opt for lifelong monogamy, which is implicit in the understanding of marriage informing the current debate. (Another 'Always keep a-hold of Nurse' argument.)
When evangelical preacher Steve Chalke recently argued in favour of same-sex Christian marriage, one gay person complained about the "enforced monogamy" that this entailed. This is only one of many complex and messy issues that surrounds the proposed change, but life is complex and messy. Christianity recognises that, and at its best it seeks to nurture the most favourable social conditions for human flourishing and for care for the vulnerable within the muddle and mess of our human fallibility. (No. Christianity seeks to lead people to the redeeming love of Christ. Christ bestows the grace of personal repentance and renewal, and these result in the most favourable social conditions for human flourishing; but unless we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, we will not gain those other blessings.)
Religions are organic and slow-growing worlds of meaning. (No, they are not. Notice how the habit of re-definition spreads...)   They are not progressive, democratic organisations, and a truly democratic and free society must respect their internal dynamics and values, even if from a secular, rights-based perspective these are at odds with prevailing cultural norms. So it is right that religious communities and institutions are guaranteed protection from any attempt to use the law to impose same-sex marriage upon them. (Well, that's a relief: finally something we can agree about.)
Reading the government response to last year's consultation published in 2012, every possible endeavour has been made to take account of religious and other objections, and to ensure legal protection for religious communities, only allowing them to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies if their official governing bodies authorise this. (Whilst we are on the subject of the Government's consultation, it is worth noting that the procedure by which this legislation was introduced was quite abnormal and lacking in due process: nothing in any manifesto, no green or white papers. Funny how she gives the government a free pass on this, when she is so hostile to it in other respects [see below]...) Fears have been expressed about whether faith schools will be forced to teach that same-sex marriage is equal to heterosexual marriage, but on a wide range of sexual and reproductive issues, Catholic schools already promote the church's teachings which challenge existing legal and social norms in wider society, for example with regard to remarriage after divorce, contraception, abortion and extra-marital sex. It is not clear why same-sex marriage should be any different. (I think she is wrong here [and note in passing that she dissents on some of these issues too, so is perhaps not best placed to say how well schools are actually discharging their mandate in this regard], but we will have to wait and see. However, absence of coercion of our schools does not make this legislation acceptable to Catholics.)
In the government's response to the consultation, marriage is defined in terms that are deeply rooted in traditional Christian values, such as the claim that "marriage in the 21st century is an inclusive, not exclusive, institution. It is available to all those over 16 who are prepared to make vows of lifelong fidelity and commitment." (Deeply rooted in Christian values? I find no reference to 'Male and female he created them' or 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh' or openness to life, or 'a symbol of Christ's love for His Church'...) At a time when the Christian understanding of marriage is being undermined, not by same-sex relationships but by heterosexual relationships which often fall far short of these ideals, I believe the government is trying to make a public affirmation of the ways in which the dignity and commitment of the Christian understanding of marriage (but it is not!) offers a model for human love and fidelity that is still the best society can aspire to. (Always keep a-hold of Nurse...)
I have now spent many months reading and reflecting on the arguments and discussing this with gay and straight friends, with those opposed and with those in favour. I have come to believe that same-sex marriage would be good for society and for the individuals involved. (Because?... There is simply no argument given for this assertion.  All she has said is that despite these months of reading, reflection and discussing, she has still failed to understand, let alone refute, the argument.)
And I'd like us to get that out of the way and hold this profoundly inegalitarian government to account for its much greater abuses and violations with regard to the destruction of the welfare state and the fabric of care and social responsibility upon which every family – gay or straight – depends for its wellbeing. (Hang on to Nurse!)
• Tina Beattie is professor of Catholic Studies at Roehampton University (But why?)

Why Holy Communion?

I blogged recently about the proposals to admit the divorced and 'remarried' to Holy Communion.  I focused on why sanctioning such relationships was not, as it might appear, an act of charity, but rather the opposite.

Here I want to turn my attention to the other half of the issue: why is Holy Communion the focal point for this debate?

On the one hand, it is easy to see why those who find themselves in irregular relationships may want to receive Holy Communion.  There are several reasons, many of which may obtain in any individual case:
  • The desire for union with Christ
  • The desire for union with the Church, the Body of Christ
  • The desire to obey Christ's command to take and eat
  • The desire to participate in the same way as everybody else at Mass
  • The knowledge that many others who receive are not following the Church's teaching
  • The belief that the second union is a genuine marriage (and a wish to have that validated)
  • The belief that a merciful God would not wish to exclude them from Communion
  • An uneasy feeling of guilt, and a wish to have that removed
  • The belief that the Church is going to change its teaching on this, so the teaching must be wrong.
... and so on. 

Whilst any or all of these may be genuine, they are all, of course, founded in error.  The fault lies at least in part with those charged with teaching the Faith who have allowed such error to become so common.

But given the possible sincerity of someone in such a situation, why does the Church, rightly, exclude them from Communion?

There are several reasons, all inter-related, that are centred on the reality of what Holy Communion is, and the truth of what it means to receive Holy Communion.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is quite clear on this:
§1355 In the communion, preceded by the Lord's prayer and the breaking of the bread, the faithful receive "the bread of heaven" and "the cup of salvation," the body and blood of Christ who offered himself "for the life of the world":
Because this bread and wine have been made Eucharist ("eucharisted," according to an ancient expression), "we call this food Eucharist, and no one may take part in it unless he believes that what we teach is true, has received baptism for the forgiveness of sins and new birth, and lives in keeping with what Christ taught." (St. Justin, Apol. 1, 66,1-2: PG 6, 428)
§1385 To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself." (1 Cor 11:27-29.) Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion.
And again, in summary:
§1415 Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in the state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance.
What we conclude then is that to receive Holy Communion without the right dispositions is highly dangerous (spiritually) as St Paul makes clear.  

The right dispositions include believing, and living in keeping with, what the Church teaches, as St Justin makes clear; and availing ourselves of Confession with a resolution to amend our lives each time we fall short of that high standard.

The strong desire of those in irregular situations to receive Holy Communion is (at its best) actually a desire to be reconciled to the Church: to repent and believe the Gospel.   Indeed, the very pain they experience is a motive force towards true reconciliation, as the Catechism makes clear in the context of those Christians separated from the Church:
§1398 (...) The more painful the experience of the divisions in the Church which break the common participation in the table of the Lord, the more urgent are our prayers to the Lord that the time of complete unity among all who believe in him may return.
The last consideration I wish to address is the feeling of people who are 're-married' that they are being unjustly singled out. I have huge sympathy with this objection.

But the remedy lies in our bishops and priests teaching their congregations about the implications of the Catechism as quoted above. Those living in any state that is at odds with the Church should repent and amend their lives before receiving Holy Communion: those who promote or facilitate abortions, or 'same-sex marriage;' those who use contraception in violation of their marriage vows; those who fail to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, and so on.  It is hugely unjust that only one category should be admonished: but the answer is not to fail in the duty of admonishment.

So let us pray for all those in such situations, and also for our bishops that they may faithfully preserve and teach the Faith handed down from the Apostles whose successors they are. 

Friday 28 March 2014

Prayers while vesting for Mass

I have just been re-reading the prayers that used to be said by the priest while vesting for Mass.  

They speak beautifully of the significance of the liturgical vestments.

I do wonder how many priests retain any of these prayers - or indeed any sense that the vestments have any real meaning.

I found these here, which is another site with the complete texts of the Mass: it opens to today's Mass every time you visit, which is helpful; and it has Masses for all weekdays and feasts (I understand: I haven't checked).


Cum lavat manus: 
Da, Dómine, virtútem mánibus meis ad abstergéndam omnem máculam; ut sine pollutióne mentis et córporis váleam tibi servíre.

Ad Amictum:
Impóne, Dómine, cápiti meo gáleam salútis, ad expugnándos diabólicos incúrsus.

Ad Albam: 
Deálba me, Dómine, et munda cor meum; ut, in Sánguine Agni dealbátus, gáudiis pérfruar sempitérnis.

Ad Cingulum: 
Præcínge me, Dómine, cíngulo puritátis, et exstíngue in lumbis meis humórem libídinis; ut máneat in me virtus continéntiæ et castitátis.

Ad Manipulum: 
Mérear, Dómine, portáre manípulum fletus et dolóris; ut cum exsultatióne recípiam mercédem labóris.

Ad Stolam:
Redde mihi, Dómine, stolam immortalitátis, quam pérdidi in prævaricatióne primi paréntis: et, quamvis indígnus accédo ad tuum sacrum mystérium, mérear tamen gáudium sempitérnum.

Ad Casulam: 
Dómine, qui dixísti: Jugum meum suáve est et onus meum leve: fac, ut istud portáre sic váleam, quod cónsequar tuam grátiam. Amen.


While he washes his hands:

Give strength to my hands, Lord, to wipe away all stain, so that I may be able to serve Thee in purity of mind and body.

For the amice:
Lord, set the helmet of salvation on my head to fend off all the assaults of the devil.

For the alb:
Purify me, Lord, and cleanse my heart so that, washed in the Blood of the Lamb, I may enjoy eternal bliss.

For the cincture:
Lord, gird me with the cincture of purity and extinguish my fleshly desires, that the virtue of continence and chastity may abide within me.

For the maniple:
Lord, may I worthily bear the maniple of tears and sorrow so as to receive the reward of my labour with rejoicing.

For the stole:
Lord, restore the stole of immortality, which I lost through the collusion of our first parents, and, unworthy as I am to approach Thy sacred mysteries, may I yet gain eternal joy.

For the chasuble:
O Lord, Who hast said, "My yoke is sweet and My burden light," grant that I may so carry it as to merit Thy grace. Amen.

Saturday 22 March 2014

Admitting the divorced and 're-married' to Holy Communion

The issue of divorced and 're-married' Catholics being admitted to Holy Communion has become very noisy of late, thanks in particular to Cardinal Kasper.

Clearly, the people in this situation are in a difficult position. On the one hand, their natural affections and their sense of loyalty to the new partner in their life are a very strong pull in one direction, and their attachment to the Church, and desire to receive Holy Communion is a strong pull in the other.

It does not take very much imagination to understand how difficult and painful that must be.

Moreover, many, I am sure, genuinely believe that their first marriage was in fact null, for a variety of reasons, and so find the ban on their receiving Holy Communion to be particularly unjust - especially when so many others who are perpetrating worse sins, seem to get a free pass (one thinks of those who promote abortion, for example).

Why is it a sin for them to love their new partners?  How can love possibly be something that bars them from Holy Communion?

These are real and pressing questions, and for large numbers of people; one can understand why Cardinal Kasper and others think that addressing them is an urgent priority.

Unfortunately, Cardinal Kasper is doing more to hurt these people than anyone else.  His concern, because it is based on a superficial and limited understanding, raises hopes and expectations that cannot be met. (Incidentally, I am not alone in thinking this: see, for example, Cardinal Burke, here, from 10' in)

Our Faith is founded on Christ; and Christ has created the Church as His Mystical Body, animated by the Holy Spirit, to continue to present His saving Truth to us.

Whilst on earth Himself, and through His Church unceasingly thereafter, Christ clearly taught that marriage is indissoluble; and further that anyone who attempts to marry someone who is divorced, is in fact committing adultery.

This is a difficult teaching, perhaps; but we are not at liberty to change it.

However, it does help us to understand how to address some of those difficult questions. 'Why is it a sin for them to love their new partners?  How can love possibly be something that bars them from Holy Communion?' 

It is not, of course, a sin to love anybody. What is a sin is to love, as a spouse, someone who is not your spouse. Indeed, if one truly loves someone else, entering into an adulterous relationship with him or her should be unthinkable: our love for the other should be oriented to their true well-being - and that is not found in sin.

That is at the heart of why it is wrong for Cardinal Kasper and others to seek to find some way to accommodate the divorced and 're-married.' It is not good for them: they are mistaken to think that it is; and in their own best interests they need to be led to the truth, and helped to put their lives in good order.  The solution in such cases is to cease to live together as man and wife.

There are many other reasons why Cardinal Kasper's approach is disastrous, of course.

One is the injustice to those who honour their marriage vows, even when abandoned. I know people who have been left by a spouse, and who soldier on, carrying the cross of their abandonment. To tell these both that their spouse is quite right in his or her new adulterous relationship, and that they have been mugs for honouring their vows and refusing to find a new partner for their bed, would be frankly shameful (as well as untrue).

Another is the injustice to children. Such an accommodation would inevitably further weaken marriage, leading to an ever-increasing number of children dealing with the trauma of parental estrangement.

A third is the injustice to those entering matrimony: everything which, culturally, weakens the marriage bond makes it still harder for them either fully to understand the nature of marriage, or to live this difficult vocation faithfully.

But the fundamental reason is that Cardinal Kasper's approach is founded on a lie: the lie that one can validly contract a second marriage whilst one is already validly married.  Finally, there can be no conflict between Caritas and Veritas.  Therefore, any such accommodation would be vastly damaging to the Church and the Faithful - and indeed many outside the Church who still recognise her steadfastness as a sign of true witness.

But what of those who sincerely believe that their previous marriage was, in fact, null?

They are required to submit themselves to the judgement of the Church (and not to rely on the so-called 'internal forum.')

There are (at least) two good reasons for this.  One is that the Church has the duty of safeguarding marriage and souls.  The second is that we are rarely the best judges in our own case.

One of the many things I lament in the change from the Traditional to the New Rite of Mass is the loss of the wonderful prayer from Psalm 140 (said at the incensing of the altar): Pone, Dómine, custódiam ori meo, et óstium circumstántiæ lábiis meis: ut non declínet cor meum in verba malítiæ, ad excusándas excusatiónes in peccátis. (Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth: and a door round about my lips.  Incline not my heart to evil words; to make excuses in sins.)

Every time that I pray it, I am brought up short: how easily we make excuses for our sins...

So of course we should be compassionate and merciful to those who are in irregular relationships.  But compassion and mercy do not demand that we lie to them, or collude with their ignorance and self-deception.

Rather we should seek to build a relationship of true charity with them, whereby they may eventually find the strength to re-engage with the Sacraments on Christ's terms, not theirs; and that means starting with the Sacrament of Confession, where they will find Christ's love, peace and strength available to them.

In the meantime, whilst they remain in an irregular situation, we should extend the hand of friendship; it is the Church's job (and possibly their close friends' job, too) to say to them 'Sin no more;' but we must always be mindful that we do not have the qualification to cast the first stone...

Episcopal Appointments

It has been quite a week.

First we had the news that Fr Robert Byrne, founder of theOxford Oratory, has been raised to the episcopacy, and then that Bishop Malcolm McMahon has been appointed to Liverpool.

This is very good news.

First, Fr Byrne is an outstanding priest.  I know him a little as my mother lived in St Aloysius' parish from 1980 (long before it became an Oratory) until her death in 1997.

The transformation of the parish has been quite astonishing. It was moribund: it is now flourishing.  And in large part that is due to Fr Robert's quiet leadership.

I can personally attest that he is a very good confessor and spiritual advisor: indeed he has said things to me in private which have had a profound effect on my understanding and live with me many years later.

He was very solicitous when my mother was dying of cancer, and he or one of the other  priests of the Oratory visited her every day. Her Requiem Mass at the Oratory was magnificent and moving. It was a sung (chant) Requiem in the Traditional Rite, with a Church packed with friends and relations; many were not Catholic, many were lapsed - and all who mentioned it said how profoundly moving they had found the timeless Latin and Chant.

I am hugely heartened by this appointment and wish him every blessing.

Then we learned that Bishop McMahon is to be the next Archbishop of Liverpool. Again, this is a very promising appointment.  I have long bewailed the way in which many bishops in England and Wales seem to be hamstrung by the collectivity of the Conference, rather than exercising personal leadership and taking personal responsibility.  Bishop McMahon seems to me to be one of the honourable exceptions, standing firmly on his own two feet. 

I am, of course, delighted that he is not pathologically averse to the Traditional Mass. As a result, he has celebrated it himself on several occasions, and I hear that he takes liturgy seriously in the Ordinary Form, too, recognising the importance of reverence in worship.

I have some questions about his chairing of CES, during a time when it has failed to promote  a strong Catholic line; but he was also chair when the leadership changed, and it may be that he is starting to put the house in order there.  Let us hope and pray that is the case.

So I think that this has been a very good week in the life of the Church in this country, and would remind all my readers of the importance of prayerful support of these two men as they take up their new responsibilities.  

Monday 17 March 2014

Over Reactions

I have refrained from joining in the conversation about the Protect The Pope furore until now, as I wanted to reflect further on it.

I have followed Deacon Nick's posts for a long time, and as I said here, I think he is doing an important job, even if I don't always agree with him, or with the tone of some of his posts.

However, I do think that the reaction to the story by many of his supporters has been an over-reaction.

Many are talking as though he is 'being silenced' for his defence of orthodoxy. 

However, he is not 'being silenced.' Rather he has been asked to take a break from his blog, voluntarily, to reflect and pray about his work.

We do not know the context, in terms of any previous conversations, nor the reasons for the bishop's request. It seems at least as likely, to me, that the bishop is concerned about the tone, as much as the content, of some posts.  

Whilst Nick is doughty in his defence of Orthodoxy, for which I admire him greatly, he does also seem to me sometimes to interpret things in a particular way that is not necessarily the most obvious or likely, and also sometimes to be intemperate and over-personal in his criticisms.

It does not seem unreasonable to me to expect bloggers in Holy Orders to be held to particularly high standards when they blog.  Indeed, I would like to see more bishops taking more steps to maintain the high standards of public pronouncement by those under their authority.

But the reaction has been extraordinarily strong, and the criticisms of the bishop very wide-ranging.  He is the bishop of my diocese, and I think much of the criticism is unfair. His remains, for example, the only Cathedral (addendum: other than Portsmouth - see below) in the country with a Traditional Mass said in it every Sunday - hardly the mark of the raving anti-traditional liberal some paint him as.

As I say, I think much of the wider criticism is unfair and uncharitable.

For example, people are citing as evidence of the bishop's 'inconsistency' the fact that the diocesan blog linked to a particularly Tabletish Tablet article. I would dare wager the bishop did not know about that. It was, I understand, an automated feed, and indeed has now been removed.

I worried myself that the ACTA crowd were allowed to hold a meeting in Bishop's House. However, on reflection, it seems more likely that was a decision by a secretary rather than the bishop himself.

Another charge laid at the door of +Campbell seems to be that he hasn't taken action against those undermining Church teaching, such as the Tablet. But that really is outside his jurisdiction.  I have blogged before about what I see as the problems of collegiality amongst our bishops, but that is a problem that any one bishop would be hard-pressed to sort on his own.

My point is this: whilst (as Deacon Nick has often pointed out, just as I have myself) there are real causes for concern in the Church in this country at the moment, it helps nobody if people who want to uphold orthodoxy take up any stick to beat any bishop.

Our first instinct should be loyalty to our bishops, and respect for their office.  That does not mean blind obedience, or obsequious acquiescence if they are on the wrong track.  But it does mean we should pause, at least, before we criticise (and Heaven knows, I am talking as much to myself here, as to anyone else...)

And in this particular case, I think such a pause, and some sober reflection (and even prayer) might have led people to view this a little differently - or indeed to recognise they did not really have enough information to form a fair view at all.

The alternative may be very gratifying, but we risk making things worse rather than better.  +Campbell's predecessor, +O'Donoghue took a remarkable course towards the end of his time as active Diocesan Bishop.  But if he had been harried by the well-meaning but mis-guided, I wonder if he would have done so.  Attacking +Campbell unjustly is hardly likely to win him over to the views of those who attack him.

I think a period of prayer and reflection all round would be a good idea.


I am informed that there is also a weekly Usus Antiquior Mass in Portsmouth Cathedral. My researches suggest that this is a Low Mass at 8.00 am every Sunday. Deo gratias.

Support Women in China

I received this from the Population Research Institute. I thought readers might be interested.  The evils of China's population policies are doubles well-known to all of us: here are some ideas about what you can actually do (and a starting point is learning more, distressing though that will be).

Here's what PRI have to say:
Population Research Institute has launched a new “activism page” in conjunction with the publication of the second edition of Steven Mosher’s book, A Mother’s Ordeal. A modern classic, the book is a biography of a young one-child-policy enforcer in China. It provides a raw and unflinching glimpse into life—and death—at the hands of a Chinese government bent on curbing births in the most populous country on earth. “Brutally truthful," said Elise Hilton in a new review.
Anne Morse, PRI’s media coordinator, created the new page. She explains: “When I first read A Mother’s Ordeal, I frequently had to pause and take a deep breath. The atrocities told within its pages made my stomach churn. It made me want to do something, and I knew that other readers would be motivated to take action too. That’s why we created the activism page.” 
The activism page includes three sections—each carefully chosen to help people become effective activists for human rights in China. The page includes petitions, volunteer pages, speakers, and social media pages from all across the web. It also lists several organizations that fight coercive population control, and tells how to help these organizations. Finally, the page offers a series of quick facts about the one-child policy and its effects, and includes educational resources to help people become articulate defenders of human life in China. 
As Elise Hilton of the Acton Institute wrote in her review, A Mother’s Ordeal tells a reality that is “callous and brutal,” but goes on to say that, “as difficult as this book is to read, it is important to do so.” 
PRI hopes people will not only read A Mother’s Ordeal, but also visit the corresponding activism page and help put an end to the horrors recounted in the book. 
You can visit the activism page at 
For more information about A Mother's Ordeal, you can visit the book's homepage at
PRI was co-founded by Steven Mosher (after he had spent time in China witnessing the atrocities recorded in A Mother's ordeal) and the late Fr Paul Marx OSB, of Human Life International fame.

Sunday 16 March 2014

First dip of the year...

After Mass today, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the dog was desperate for a walk.

So we went down the bridle path to the river.

That took us past the field where the first lambs in the village are. There mother is still very cautious with them, and walked them away as she saw us coming down the path.  So they are very tiny in the photo (but then they are very tiny in real life).

Which reminds me of a story about Picasso.  Apparently someone criticised one of his paintings: 'Why do you not paint things they way they really look?' 'I honestly don't understand what you mean,' he replied.  The critic pulled out his wallet and produced a photo of his wife: 'Look, like this: that's what my wife really looks like!' Picasso looked at the small square of photographic paper with an image on it. 'She is very small, isn't she. And very flat!'

But I digress.

So we wandered on, down to the river and Goldie retrieved a few sticks and fished a few stones from the bottom, as is her wont.

Then Ant and Bernie went for the first dip of the season. They assure me it was very cold, and I have no reason to doubt them.  But as a spectator sport, I highly recommend it.

Saturday 15 March 2014

Not This Man!

The Tablet, that august organ, reports Bishop Burns talking about the recent questionnaire on marriage and family life thus:
the Questionnaire on Marriage and Family Life was constructed in such an obfuscating manner that it could have been a deliberate ruse to deter responses and halt the roaring train. [Respondents] have a right to know the strength of uniformity in what they said. The views belong to the people who made them. It’s called transparency. Let’s be among the first to re-build the Church – with good marriages, good families – and good re-marriages too!
There is much here that I find worrisome: in particular the comment about re-marriages. From the context, it seems abundantly clear that the bishop is not talking about widows and widowers re-marrying. 

Therefore he can only mean that people who are already validly married, and entering a second (or subsequent) union are capable of contracting, not only valid, but 'good' marriages.  Maybe it was poorly worded (or misquoted); I certainly hope so, for otherwise, the Bishop, in this statement, has stepped outside orthodoxy, which is a very serious problem indeed.

However, I want to pick up on something else. He seems to be calling for the views of respondents to be made public, and seems to be doing so because he feels that their 'strength and uniformity' lend them some validity.

I would agree that the views could usefully be made public, but not in the name of 'transparency' (a rather vogue and often weasel word) but because of the Church's commitment to truth.  Truth does not necessarily require such transparency: but what it does require is for widespread error to be corrected.  Acknowledging the scale of the problem might be a good first step in that process.

But, as I say, Bishop Burns, it would seem, does not approach it from that point of view at all. Instead, he seems to subscribe, as far as one can tell, to a rather naive version of Vox populi vox Dei.

Interlude: meditate on the third of the Luminous Mysteries.

To resume. There were once two men, One proclaimed a Gospel of Love; but not the simplistic love that says 'don't upset people' - rather the love that says Sin no more!  Whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery, and other rather unpopular things.

The other was a murderer.

But when asked whether the first should be spared execution, the people, (with strength and uniformity, no doubt), cried out: Not this Man, but Barrabas!

Vox populi is really not a sure guide to truth or virtue.  Of course, if people practice contraception, and have divorced their spouses, they will ask for these to be declared good (particularly if they have some residual sense of guilt).  'Whom will you follow: Jesus of Nazareth, who teaches that you must repent your sins?'

'Not this Man!'

But it is really not the job of a Catholic Bishop to oblige.

Saturday 8 March 2014


I have been looking at the Propers for Passion Sunday in the Extraordinary Form: the fifth Sunday of Lent and the start of what we used to call Passiontide (remember that?)

Here is the Introit:

Judica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta: ab homine iniquo et doloso eripe me : quia tu es Deus meus, et fortitudo mea. Emitte lucem tuam, et verita- tem tuam : ipsa me deduxerunt, et adduxerunt in montem sanctum tuum, et in tabernacula tua.

If you are at all familiar with the Traditional Mass, you will instantly recognise these verses from Psalm 42, because they are recited by the priest and server at the start of every Mass (except from Passion Sunday to Maundy Thursday).

So when one comes across them on Passion Sunday, one instantly notices that. Which means that subsequently (at least for the first few Sundays after Easter, until one forgets) at the start of each Mass we are reminded of the start of Passiontide.

That is an example of what I call resonance, and relates to what I blogged about here, regarding a symphonic analogy for liturgy. There is a richness and a depth to traditional liturgy, in the same way there is a richness and a depth to family customs and rituals around birthdays and Christmas.  The way the Mass had developed, organically, over the years led to many such felicities.

The writing of a new Mass by committee, and particularly a committee that took such a reductionist and mono linear approach, stripped all these away. They seem to have been actively hostile to popular piety, and to anything that did not conform to a rigid, and simplistic, analysis of the structure of the ideal Mass. The analogy with architecture is also relevant (cf my extended metaphor here).

Part of the problem is the three year cycle of the Lectionary. With a yearly cycle, one can get used to the Mass for Passion Sunday.  But if they change every year, and recur only every three, we don't develop that instinctive familiarity.

Another impoverishment: and we are the poorer for it.


In the interests of accuracy, I should note that the Judica me is used as the Introit for the 5th Sunday of Lent (no longer Passion Sunday, it would seem) in all three years. However, the resonance of which I speak is lost entirely, as it is no longer said at the foot of the altar at the start of Lent, and (at least according to my missal) Passiontide (along with the season of Septuagesima, qv) has been abolished.

The larger point about the three-year cycle still stands.

Friday 7 March 2014

Learning Liturgical Latin: Resources

As my loyal reader will remember, I posted a series of posts on learning Liturgical Latin a while back. They start here, and the rest (19 in all) can be found by following the tag 'Latin Class.'

However, since then, I have come across a number of other resources online that may be of interest. So in this post, I give a selection of links which will help anyone striving to learn Latin for the Liturgy.

For a dictionary, there is  Lewis and Short, which is excellent.

Then there is the Vulgate (St Jerome's masterly Latin translation of the Bible, used by the Church in the West for centuries as the authoritative and liturgical text for Holy Scripture).  This is online, with parallel English translation here

For the Mass in the Traditional Form, there is this which is very beautifully laid out, for the Ordinary of the Mass.  For the Propers (and a less decorated, but in some easy more helpful version of the Ordinary) this is excellent.

For Mass in the New Rite, I have yet to see a parallel Latin and (corrected) English translation of the Ordinary online: I am sure that there is one out there, so if a kind reader could point it out, I would be grateful.

For the Lectionary of the New Rite, there is this (US version, but for the purposes of learning Latin, should be OK: I haven't read it.) 

For the Divine Office, this seems a very comprehensive site.

If anyone knows of any other useful online resources for the learning of Liturgical Latin, I'd be very grateful.

Thursday 6 March 2014

Ash Wednesday then and now...

Every year I am struck by the contrast between the prayers over the Ashes in the Traditional and the New Roman Rite.

In the Traditional Rite, the Blessing and Imposition of Ashes takes place before the Mass begins, with the following solemn prayers of intercession and blessing:

Let us pray.   O almighty and everlasting God, spare those who are penitent, be merciful to those who implore Thee; and vouchsafe to send Thy holy Angel from heaven, to bless † and hal†low these ashes, that they may be a wholesome remedy to all who humbly implore Thy holy Name, and who accuse themselves, conscious of their sins, deploring their crimes before Thy divine mercy, or humbly and earnestly beseeching Thy sovereign goodness: and grant through the invocation of Thy most holy Name that whosoever shall be sprinkled with them for the remission of their sins may receive both health of body and safety of soul. Through Christ our Lord.
 R.: Amen.

Let us pray. O God, who desirest not the death, but the repentance of sinners, look down most graciously upon the frailty of human nature; and in Thy goodness vouchsafe to bless † these ashes which we purpose to put opon our heads in token of our lowliness and to obtain forgiveness: so that we who know that we are but ashes, and for the demerits of our wickedness are to return to dust, may deserve to obtain of Thy mercy, the pardon of all our sins, and the rewards promised to the penitent. Through Christ our Lord.  
R.: Amen.

Let us pray. O God, who art moved by humiliation, and appeased by penance: incline the ear of Thy goodness to our prayers and mercifully pour forth upon the heads of Thy servants sprinkled with these ashes the grace of Thy blessing: that Thou mayest both fill them with the spirit of compunction, and effectually grant what they have justly prayed for: and ordain that what Thou hast granted may be permanently established and remain unchanged. Through Christ our Lord.
R.: Amen.

Let us pray. O almighty and everlasting God, who didst vouchsafe Thy healing pardon to the Ninivites doing penance in sackcloth and ashes, mercifully grant that we may so imitate them in our outward attitude as to follow them in obtaining forgiveness. Through Christ our Lord.
R.: Amen.

 When all have received the ashes, the priest says:

V.: The Lord be with you.
R.: And with thy spirit.

Let us pray.  Grant us, O Lord, to begin with holy fasts the campaign of our Christian warfare: that, as we do battle with the spirits of evil, we may be protected by the help of self-denial. Through Christ our Lord.
R.: Amen.


In the New Rite, the blessing and imposition of ashes takes place after the Homily.  There is an invitation to prayer, followed by only one prayer over the ashes (though, as so often, a choice is offered):

Dear brethren (brothers and sisters), let us humbly ask God our Father
that he be pleased to bless with the abundance of his grace
these ashes, which we will put on our heads in penitence.

After a brief prayer in silence, and, with hands extended, he continues:

O God, who are moved by acts of humility
and respond with forgiveness to works of penance,
lend your merciful ear to our prayers
and in your kindness pour out the grace of your blessing
on your servants who are marked with these ashes,
that, as they follow the Lenten observances,
they may be worthy to come with minds made pure
to celebrate the Paschal Mystery of your Son.
Through Christ our Lord
R. Amen.

O God, who desire not the death of sinners,
but their conversion,
mercifully hear our prayers
and in your kindness be pleased to bless + these ashes,
which we intend to receive upon our heads,
that we, who acknowledge we are but ashes
and shall return to dust,
may, through a steadfast observance of Lent,
gain pardon for sins and newness of life
after the likeness of your Risen Son.
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

R. Amen.


Is it me, or is that an impoverishment?


Lazarus has pointed out that I missed another telling difference. In the traditional Mass, the ashes are imposed with the words:

Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

Remember man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.

In the New Rite, there are (of course!) options:

Repent, and believe in the Gospel.
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Many parishes, it seems, use the first option: another break with tradition. Our PP, for some reason, alternated.

Wednesday 5 March 2014

Remember, Man, that thou art dust...

Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

Remember man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent in the Western Church.  We are called to repent of our sins and believe the Gospel, to dedicate ourselves anew to prayer and works of charity, and to restrain our misguided subjection to our passions (the result of Original Sin) by mortification and good deeds.

Humility and obedience are little valued by the World, which teaches self-esteem and autonomy as the highest human values.  We are called to be a sign of contradiction.

The ashes which we receive are a sign of this (note that we receive them humbly, not take them...)  Here is one of the prayers over the ashes from the Extraordinary Form of the Mass:

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-being of soul and body.  Through Christ our Lord.

And here is the Lenten Hymn: Attende Domine (English translation below the Latin text)

(NB: The Marian Antiphon for the season, of course, is the Ave Regina Caelorum.)

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.
Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Ad te Rex summe,
omnium Redemptor,
oculos nostros
sublevamus flentes:
exaudi, Christe,
supplicantum preces.

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Dextera Patris,
lapis angularis,
via salutis,
ianua caelestis,
ablue nostri
maculas delicti.

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Rogamus, Deus,
tuam maiestatem:
auribus sacris
gemitus exaudi:
crimina nostra
placidus indulge.

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Tibi fatemur
crimina admissa:
contrito corde
pandimus occulta:
tua, Redemptor,
pietas ignoscat.

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Innocens captus,
nec repugnans ductus;
testibus falsis
pro impiis damnatus
quos redemisti,
tu conserva, Christe.

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.
Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

To Thee, highest King,
Redeemer of all,
do we lift up our eyes
in weeping:
Hear, O Christ, the prayers
of your servants.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

Right hand of the Father,
way of salvation,
gate of heaven,
wash away our 
stains of sin.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

We beseech Thee, God,
in Thy great majesty:
Hear our groans
with Thy holy ears:
calmly forgive
our crimes.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

To Thee we confess
our sins admitted
with a contrite heart
We reveal the things hidden:
By Thy kindness, O Redeemer,
overlook them.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

The Innocent, seized,
not refusing to be led;
condemned by false witnesses
because of impious men
O Christ, keep safe those
whom Thou hast redeemed.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

On a lighter note, though still on track with the season, there's always the Dogma Dogs: Lent, Lent, time to repent!