Friday 30 October 2015

Praying for the Holy Father's Intentions

The other day, as we were about to pray #twitterangelus for the intentions of @Pontifex, Dominie Stemp tweeted: 'What if his intentions aren't holy, though?'

I didn't have much time, as we were approaching noon - Angelus time - so I tweeted back: 'All Catholic prayer, finally, is 'Thy will be done!' God will find the good in anyone's intentions and pursue that.'

I think that's fine as an answer, but also think that there is more we could, and perhaps should, say about this.

The first is the general point. I always think that praying for someone's intentions is analagous to praying for the dead. Tradition has it that if we pray for the repose of someone's soul, and that person is already in Heaven, God will apply those prayers to another soul in need. That makes sense to me.  Likewise, I assume that if we pray for someone's intentions, God will apply that prayer in the best way.

The second thing to consider is this: of course, a Pope, like anyone else, may have unholy - or even evil - intentions. It is a very strong ultramontism that regards a Pope as impeccable! 

But I think that it is not our place to judge that. It seems to me that judging someone else's intentions is perilously close to judging the state of their soul, which we are forbidden from doing.

I may think a particular Pontiff's policies are wrong, harmful or even disastrous. I may have the right, and even the duty to judge such policies and share that judgement publicly; even to oppose them. Yet I have no right to judge the person of the Pontiff, any more than I have the right to judge anyone else. We cannot see another's soul. I think judging intentions is, as I say, perilously close to that. 

Moreover, I have a duty to pray for the Holy Father: a filial duty and a duty in charity.  For one thing I do know is that the triple crown is a heavy one; that anyone elevated to that office is ipso facto one of the major targets of Satan and his servants.

So pray for our Holy Father and his intentions, whether you think him wise or foolish; and beware of any temptation to think him a saint or a sinner, for "Judgement is mine, saith the Lord."

Thursday 29 October 2015

A Happy Death

I have just started reading Abbot (of Worth) Christopher Jamison's Finding Happiness.

Although I have only read the introductory chapter, The History of Happiness, I am already finding it a rich read. The summary of the philosophy of happiness, finding the origins of monastic  happiness in Platonic Contemplation and Aristotelian Virtue, was a good starting point, but it was the section on A Happy Death that really gave me pause for thought.

Abbot Jamison starts by recalling the happy death of one of Worth's great monks, Fr Michael Smith. This clearly had a profound impact on the Abbot and the rest of the community. He then considers what might be the constituent elements of a happy death.
Apart from the usual features of daily care and nourishment, a happy death might involve: the absence of mind-numbing pain (but the total absence of pain is not essential), the absence of anger, either because it has been passed through to acceptance, or because it never occurred; a sense of communion with loved ones and with God. Ideally, it also involves a conscious awareness of what is happening, so that there can be a letting go - no greedy clinging or demanding things of others. It may include a grateful looking back at life and expressions of gratitude to loved ones.
Written for a secular world, it is perhaps unsurprising that he does not unpack the 'sense of communion with God', but I would certainly want to be in a State of Grace, and strengthened by the Sacraments.

However Abbot Jamison is surely right to insist on the importance of each of us giving serious thought to what would make our own deaths happy. For if we live our lives in a way that will lead to a happy death, then we are likely to lead happy, and blessed lives. 

Wednesday 28 October 2015


I was reminded of this the other day.  There was a time when I could recite it word perfect.  I stumble a bit now, but think I can get it back in the repertoire soon.

Anyway, it is a fine piece of verse, and it seems timely to remind people of it. The battle of Lepanto (1571) was between a Christian fleet and the Ottoman fleet. The Christian victory - attributed to Our Lady, through the Rosary - stopped the further incursions of the Ottoman Empire on Christendom. Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, fought in the battle.

Read it out loud (and I mean loud) -  especially to your children and to your children's children!

Lepanto -  by G. K. Chesterton

White founts falling in the courts of the sun,
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard,
It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips,
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross,
The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,
Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall,
The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
That once went singing southward when all the world was young,
In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.
Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far,
Don John of Austria is going to the war,
Stiff flags straining in the night-blasts cold
In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold,
Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums,
Then the tuckets, then the trumpets, then the cannon, and he comes.
Don John laughing in the brave beard curled,
Spurning of his stirrups like the thrones of all the world,
Holding his head up for a flag of all the free.
Love-light of Spain—hurrah!
Death-light of Africa!
Don John of Austria
Is riding to the sea.

Mahound is in his paradise above the evening star,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
He moves a mighty turban on the timeless houri’s knees,
His turban that is woven of the sunset and the seas.
He shakes the peacock gardens as he rises from his ease,
And he strides among the tree-tops and is taller than the trees,
And his voice through all the garden is a thunder sent to bring
Black Azrael and Ariel and Ammon on the wing.
Giants and the Genii,
Multiplex of wing and eye,
Whose strong obedience broke the sky
When Solomon was king.

They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn,
From temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn;
They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea
Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be;
On them the sea-valves cluster and the grey sea-forests curl,
Splashed with a splendid sickness, the sickness of the pearl;
They swell in sapphire smoke out of the blue cracks of the ground,—
They gather and they wonder and give worship to Mahound.
And he saith, “Break up the mountains where the hermit-folk can hide,
And sift the red and silver sands lest bone of saint abide,
And chase the Giaours flying night and day, not giving rest,
For that which was our trouble comes again out of the west.
We have set the seal of Solomon on all things under sun,
Of knowledge and of sorrow and endurance of things done,
But a noise is in the mountains, in the mountains, and I know
The voice that shook our palaces—four hundred years ago:
It is he that saith not ‘Kismet’; it is he that knows not Fate ;
It is Richard, it is Raymond, it is Godfrey in the gate!
It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth,
Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth.”
For he heard drums groaning and he heard guns jar,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
Sudden and still—hurrah!
Bolt from Iberia!
Don John of Austria
Is gone by Alcalar.

St. Michael’s on his mountain in the sea-roads of the north
(Don John of Austria is girt and going forth.)
Where the grey seas glitter and the sharp tides shift
And the sea folk labour and the red sails lift.
He shakes his lance of iron and he claps his wings of stone;
The noise is gone through Normandy; the noise is gone alone;
The North is full of tangled things and texts and aching eyes
And dead is all the innocence of anger and surprise,
And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room,
And Christian dreadeth Christ that hath a newer face of doom,
And Christian hateth Mary that God kissed in Galilee,
But Don John of Austria is riding to the sea.
Don John calling through the blast and the eclipse
Crying with the trumpet, with the trumpet of his lips,
Trumpet that sayeth ha!
      Domino gloria!
Don John of Austria
Is shouting to the ships.

King Philip’s in his closet with the Fleece about his neck
(Don John of Austria is armed upon the deck.)
The walls are hung with velvet that, is black and soft as sin,
And little dwarfs creep out of it and little dwarfs creep in.
He holds a crystal phial that has colours like the moon,
He touches, and it tingles, and he trembles very soon,
And his face is as a fungus of a leprous white and grey
Like plants in the high houses that are shuttered from the day,
And death is in the phial, and the end of noble work,
But Don John of Austria has fired upon the Turk.
Don John’s hunting, and his hounds have bayed—
Booms away past Italy the rumour of his raid
Gun upon gun, ha! ha!
Gun upon gun, hurrah!
Don John of Austria
Has loosed the cannonade.

The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
(Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
The hidden room in man’s house where God sits all the year,
The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.
He sees as in a mirror on the monstrous twilight sea
The crescent of his cruel ships whose name is mystery;
They fling great shadows foe-wards, making Cross and Castle dark,
They veil the plumèd lions on the galleys of St. Mark;
And above the ships are palaces of brown, black-bearded chiefs,
And below the ships are prisons, where with multitudinous griefs,
Christian captives sick and sunless, all a labouring race repines
Like a race in sunken cities, like a nation in the mines.
They are lost like slaves that sweat, and in the skies of morning hung
The stair-ways of the tallest gods when tyranny was young.
They are countless, voiceless, hopeless as those fallen or fleeing on
Before the high Kings’ horses in the granite of Babylon.
And many a one grows witless in his quiet room in hell
Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell,
And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign—
(But Don John of Austria has burst the battle-line!)
Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop,
Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate’s sloop,
Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea
White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.
Vivat Hispania!
Domino Gloria!
Don John of Austria
Has set his people free!

Cervantes on his galley sets the sword back in the sheath
(Don John of Austria rides homeward with a wreath.)
And he sees across a weary land a straggling road in Spain,
Up which a lean and foolish knight forever rides in vain,
And he smiles, but not as Sultans smile, and settles back the blade....
(But Don John of Austria rides home from the Crusade.)

G. K. Chesterton

The Collected Poems of G. K. Chesterton (1927)

Tuesday 27 October 2015

What Does Mercy Look Like?

My last post was about a Cruel Mercy.

I think it important to balance that with something more positive.

So what should Mercy look like (apart from the face of our Lord and his Blessed Mother)?

Here are some clues from the Penny Catechism

321. Which are the seven Corporal Works of Mercy?

The seven Corporal Works of Mercy are:
1. To feed the hungry. 
2. To give drink to the thirsty.
3. To clothe the naked. 
4. To harbour the harbourless.
5. To visit the sick. 
6. To visit the imprisoned.
7. To bury the dead. (Matt. 25; Tobias 12)

322. Which are the Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy?

The seven Spiritual Works of Mercy are:
1. To convert the sinner.
2. To instruct the ignorant.
3. To counsel the doubtful.
4. To comfort the sorrowful.
5. To bear wrongs patiently. 
6. To forgive injustice,  
7. To pray for the living and the dead. 

Now, for a technical exercise: how many of these do you find expressed in the comments emanating from those who attended the famous Synod of Mercy?

Which of these do you think are actually contradicted by the liberal 'champions of Mercy'?

Answers on a banknote, please, to Cardinals Marx and Kasper...

Further Reflections: This Cruel Mercy

It is still too soon for any definitive comment on the recent Synod: I have yet to read the final text; and even that is relatively trivial until we see what the Holy Father says and does.

However, I have been thinking a lot, as I am sure many readers have, about the noises emerging, and I find that there are are various troublesome questions arising.

My first and in some ways greatest concern does concern the text, and that is the selective quotation from Familiaris Consortio which many have already commented on. I am worried about the apparent dishonesty of this, and about setting a precedent for the selective reading of, and thus practical reinterpretation of, previous teaching documents.

I also have many questions about the much-vaunted but ill-defined Pathway. The first is: is this pathway open to paedophile priests? Are they to be journeyed with, so that they can discern for themselves whether they can resume their priestly ministry? I suspect not. And if not, why not? Could it be because the Bishops really do believe that what they have done is sinful? Come to that, do all our bishops still believe in mortal sin? That is, sin so fundamental that it fractures our relationship with  the Blessed Trinity, so that, as the Church, led by St Paul, teaches us: it is perilous to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion until that damage is mended by God's grace in sacramental confession. Or is it the fear of scandal alone that makes the paedophile the modern untouchable, the leper of our days? For if the mercy of the Synod does not reach these despised men, what kind of mercy is it? And if the mercy is to take another form in their case (as I would suggest it should) why is that form not also suitable for other public sinners who are not able to amend their life?

And this discerning pathway: what is it trying to help people to discern? For most of us, damaged as we are by sin - Original and Actual - the tendency will be to excuse ourselves. Others, of course, are more temperamentally inclined to take too much guilt upon themselves. How is walking alongside people preferable to teaching them the Truth? For it is the Truth that will set them free. And Truth Himself entrusted that mission to the Church.

And then there were the very odd comments from our own ++Nichols, who reveals he has already been down this Pathway, and some have decided for themselves that they should not receive. That is troubling for many reasons. One is that it implies that some have decided for themselves that they may receive. Even if one were to cede that the Synod allows that (which I do not, as it happens)  ++Nichols was clearly jumping the gun and breaking with the law, tradition and discipline of the Church if he was allowing that practice.

But also consider what a cruel mercy that is. Imagine the effects on those few wise ones who pursue that path and conclude they should not receive whilst in an objectively irregular situation,  and who then see others blithely reaching a more 'merciful' conclusion about their own (quite possibly worse) case. 

That approach seems to me most Un-Christ-like. Nowhere do we see Him throwing people on their own resources: indeed the hallmark of His teaching is that He taught with authority,  unlike the legalistic Scribes of His day, who could find all sorts of excuses to bend the law to suit the outcome they wanted.  No, this is a modern liberal paradigm: that we are all fully functioning adults now. This has more to do with Jung and Carl Rogers than Christ and St Paul. I do not discern the wisdom and authority of Christ and His Church in such an approach. It seems, above all, to ignore the fact of Original Sin, which means (inter alia) that we are really not the best judges in our own case.

The other problem is the age-old one that hard cases make bad law. Because the real cruelty in endorsing adultery, or even seeming to do so, is the impact on the abandoned spouses, on the damaged children, and on all those who marry in the future, whose prospects of a stable marriage are thereby damaged.

Because we know that marriage, and indeed chastity in any vocation, is difficult. Separation and divorce should be unthinkable. A society that normalises them, increases them dramatically - at huge human (and societal) cost. The Church used not be such a society, but is rapidly becoming one, and these proposals accelerate that. The integrity of marriage needs all the cultural/structural support we can offer it: why did the Synod not focus on that?

These bishops think they can teach the Church about Mercy? A cruel mercy indeed!

Monday 26 October 2015

Our Progressive Bishop

I mentioned recently that our Bishop,  the Right Reverend Michael Campbell, OSA, is to celebrate Low Mass in the Extraordinary Form on November 8th, for Remembrance Sunday, for the souls of the War Dead. (6.00pm at Our Lady and St Joseph's,  Carlisle).

I learned yesterday that this is not the first public Mass in the Extraordinary Form that our Bishop will have celebrated.

Apparently, he was taught to say the traditional Mass by the priests of the Institute of Christ the King, and said two low Masses at their seminary.

He also confirmed candidates at the iconic St Walburge's Church in Preston (which he has has entrusted to the Institute) and immediately afterwards, celebrated a low Mass there.

Indeed, I have been told that one of the reasons he wishes to say Mass at OLSJ, as well as demonstrating his support for the traditional rite there, is that he wants to keep practicing, so as to ensure he does not forget how to celebrate the Usus Antiquior.

So he is truly a progressive bishop: progressing more deeply into the life of the Church. For we cannot forget or abandon our past and remain true to the traditions that have been handed on to us.  Those who label themselves as progressive (or are seen as such by the popular mind) would be hard put to answer to what they are progressing. But our Bishop makes good progress: keep him in your prayers.

Christus Vincit!

At the Traditional Mass we sang yesterday, Fr Millar preached an excellent sermon (as he always does).

He started by reminding us of the shift in emphasis on the Feast of Christ the King, that was part of the changes when the date was changed.

In the new Calendar and new Lectionary, it is principally an eschatalogical feast: looking forward to Christ's reign at the end of time: hence its position at the end of the Church's year. 

However, in the traditional calendar and lectionary, in line with the intentions of Pope Pius XI who instituted it, the focus is on the kingship of Christ now: and what we should do to be part of bringing that about. Read Quas Primas for details: 'When once men recognise, both in private and public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony.'  The feast was therefore, appropriately, placed on the Sunday before the Feast of All Saints.

Father Millar went on to quote St John Paul II on the implications of this, and to recommend to us what we should do, as he generally does. As I say, his sermons are good: always instructive in both senses of the word.

So celebrating this great feast set a few thoughts going for me: one was simply how relevant a theme that was; and how curious it was that the modernisers, in their apparent pursuit of relevance, managed to make it less immediate.

The second was prompted by the Gospel, and the character of Pilate, who famously asked 'What is truth?' How much is he the spirit of our age! An age which proclaims that the humanity of an unborn child depends on whether its mother (or anyone putting pressure on her) 'wants' it; an age which proclaims a man can decide that he is really a woman, and thereby become one; an age in which even some in the Church seem to think that adultery is only a sin if you feel guilty about it, that contraception is a sin unless used 'in good conscience' and that homosexual acts can be a true and good sign of love between two people of the same sex.

Against all this stands Christ the King who declares the primacy of Truth: that is Himself.

And in the light of the Synod it is worth reminding ourselves that His Teaching and His Mercy are both facets of that Truth, which is ultimately Love Incarnate; and therefore that anyone who pursues doctrine without mercy has parted company from Christ - as has anyone who tries to separate mercy from doctrine.

Saturday 24 October 2015

First reflections on the Synod

It is too early to reflect on the outcome of the Synod. I need time to read the Holy Father's closing speech again, and the final report in full, and to reflect on all that, and already people on both sides are spinning like crazy...

But what I can reflect on, is what did not happen, for good or ill.

It has been noted by a number of commentators that very little was said about children, and that some of the key challenges facing parents were hardly mentioned (one thinks of pornography, and the ubiquitous contraceptive mentality).

It is clear that there has been no explicit change of doctrine - indeed how could there be? But also that there has been little explicit reaffirmation of doctrine.

Indeed, clarity is another thing one may think was missing (pending a thorough reading of the final report).

So my tentative, initial, conclusion is that the Synod was a wasted opportunity; beyond that, we must wait a little longer before we reach a verdict. 

Friday 23 October 2015

The Graduale Project

I have just discovered The Graduale Project. (When I say discovered, I did not hack through the undergrowth of YouTube and stumble across this wondrous site. Rather, I was directed there by the NLM WWW Site)

As the front page to which I linked above describes, this is a project to put recordings of the whole Graduale on YouTube. When completed, this will be a superb resource for Scholas (or Scholae?) and for anyone else interested in the musical patrimony of the Church.

The videos often show the early (pre-square-note) notation of neumes which is fascinating for those wanting to learn how to use the Graduale Triplex.

Here is the first video they posted (there are already many more):

Thursday 22 October 2015

For A Child Expected

Here is a poem by Anne Ridler (1912 - 2001):

For A Child Expected

Lovers whose lifted hands are candles in winter,
Whose gentle ways like streams in the easy summer,
Lying together
For secret setting of a child, love what they do,
Thinking they make that candle immortal, those streams forever flow,
And yet do better than they know.

So the first flutter of a baby felt in the womb,
Its little signal and promise of riches to come,
Is taken in its father's name;
Its life is the body of his love, like his caress,
First delicate and strange, that daily use
Makes dearer and priceless.

Our baby was to be the living sign of our joy,
Restore to each the other's lost infancy;
To a painter's pillaging eye
Poet's coiled hearing, add the heart we might earn
By the help of love; all that our passion would yield
We put to planning our child.

The world flowed in; whatever we liked we took:
For its hair, the gold curls of the November oak
We saw on our walk;
Snowberries that make a Milky Way in the wood
For its tender hands; calm screen of the frozen flood
For our care of its childhood.

But the birth of a child is an uncontrollable glory;
Cat's cradle of hopes will hold no living baby,
Long though it lay quietly.
And when our baby stirs and struggles to be born
It compels humility: what we began
Is now its own.

For as the sun that shines through glass
So Jesus in His Mother was.
Therefore every human creature,
Since it shares in His nature,
In candle gold passion or white
Sharp star should show its own way of light.
May no parental dread or dream
Darken our darling's early beam:
May she grow to her right powers

Unperturbed by passion of ours.

Anne Ridler

From New and Selected Poems, Faber and Faber (of which illustrious publisher, she was an editor.)

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Irregular Situations

Fr Hugh OSB commented on a previous post of mine about those in irregular situations.  He wrote: But if we are being boldly honest, we have to admit that "irregular" equals "objectively sinful", and they need to repent. The good thing is that by attending Mass yet not receiving Communion (which would be poison to their souls if in mortal sin) they open themselves to hear the Word of God and its encouragement to repent.

He is of course quite correct. However, 'objectively sinful' does not necessarily mean 'in a state of mortal sin.'

So if one is divorced and 'remarried', and having marital relations in the new relationship, one is certainly in a situation that is objectively sinful. However, if one is subject to duress, for example (and that might be the duress of a partner threatening to abandon oneself and one's children - or even to harm them) then one might well not be in a state of mortal sin, for which free consent is a condition.

In which case, the damage to one's soul is less; and perseverance in attending Mass (and humility and obedience in not presenting for Holy Communion) are surely likely to be of significant spiritual benefit.

It also means, of course, that we should not assume that because someone is in an irregular situation, he or she is in a state of mortal sin. Indeed, we are expressly forbidden from making such a judgement.

Nonetheless, the Church is correct in her requirement that those living in such an irregular state of life do not present for Holy Communion, not least because of the risk of grave scandal (and there are other reasons, too, such as the problems of being judge in one's own case...)

But as I have blogged before, we should not underestimate the love and compassion of God.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

The Desperate Need for Approval (ii)

I have been reflecting a little more on the desperate need for approval, about which I commented in my previous post. So this is a thinking-aloud post of half-formed thoughts.

It seems to me that large numbers of people cannot distinguish between approval and love. Time and again, people take disagreement as a sign of enmity.

Likewise, I see many parents who think that to be a good loving parent, they must never upset or disagree with, still less discipline, their child.

The result, of course, is spoilt children. (Not least because the attempt to avoid upsetting and disagreeing is futile, and therefore leads to erratic veering between over-indulgence and irritability).

And I think the longer term result is adults who have a desperate desire for approval.

And that, perhaps, is why the not-so-difficult concept of 'Hate the sin, but love the sinner' seems incomprehensible to many today. If you loved me, of course you would approve of whatever I do! What else could love mean?

So perhaps that is the challenge that we face: to help people to understand - more, to experience - what love really means: and that it is not the same as constant and unconditional approval.

The Desperate Need for Approval

We all seek approval from those whose views we value. And it strikes me that that is a large part of the problem with the whole re-married and LGBT desire to be admitted to Holy Communion. It is, in many cases, less about wanting to receive their Saviour, than about wanting to feel affirmed by the community.

That is why the language is all about 'exclusion,' and a 'club for the virtuous' and so on. Many see the Mass primarily as a social occasion that is about who is 'in' and who is 'out' rather than a journey to and through Calvary with Our Lord.

And the bishops sold the pass on this back in the 1960s when they did not hold the line on Humanae Vitae, and with the concurrent collapse of the practice of confession. 

The reduction of the Eucharistic Fast to (effectively) don't eat during Mass did not help either: it means that it is normative for everyone to receive; and people do so with an incredibly casual attitude (being in practice forbidden from kneeling, and bullied/educated into receiving in the hand and from the ubiquitous EMHCs have also contributed to this).

And yet, still, in my own parish, there are heroic people in irregular situations who attend Mass regularly, but do not present themselves for Holy Communion. I cannot, of course, know the state of their consciences, but I am sure that such fidelity and humility will not go unrewarded.

My own experience, for what it's worth, is that when I do not receive Holy Communion, for whatever reason (not having got to confession, having absent-mindedly eaten a mint on the way to Mass, or whatever...) and I make a Spiritual Communion - those Masses are often those at which I pray the most fervently, and am the most contrite.

But +Kasper and his allies risk teaching all and sundry that whatever they do, that's all right.  All sin will be approved and all sinners affirmed without any requirement to recognise, let alone repent of and try to amend a sinful way of life. As long as they can square it with their own conscience. And again, speaking from my own experience, (and reflecting on the huge numbers of contracepting Catholics who go to Communion regularly) I know how easy that is...

Monday 19 October 2015

Cupich's Folly

Of course, ++ Cupich doesn't really believe this: “If people come to a decision in good conscience then our job is to help them move forward and to respect that. The conscience is inviolable and we have to respect that when they make decisions, and I’ve always done that.

If, for example, someone arrived at a decision 'in good conscience' to start a branch of the Ku Klux Klan in his diocese, and start lynching black people, and still presented for Holy Communion, I suspect he would have something to say about the matter. Or if I, in good conscience, were to seize the microphone from him in his Cathedral, and declare that I believed he was in grave error, and further made it clear that my conscience compelled me to do so every time he celebrated Mass publicly, then again, I suspect he would struggle to respect that decision and help me to move forward with it. 

One could push the argument further (and indeed many have done so); what about the paedophile or the rapist who has convinced himself that his behaviour is allowable in good conscience?  For the capacity for human self-deception is enormous, not least when one's mind and judgement are corrupted by habitual serious sin.

His argument, I imagine would be that one could not arrive at such decisions 'in good conscience.'  Which is reasonable enough. But that then begs the question about how one discerns (and who discerns) what decisions are made in good conscience - not least ones that fly in the face of the teaching of the Church which he has devoted his life (one assumes) to proclaiming and upholding.

What this kind of statement really means, in practice, is that the speaker respects decisions with which he does not fundamentally disagree. And it is a sorry story if an Archbishop does not fundamentally disagree with decisions to continue in sin.

Sunday 4 October 2015

Exciting News

I have learned that our Bishop, the Right Reverend Michael Campbell, OSA, is to celebrate Low Mass in the Extraordinary Form on November 8th, for Remembrance Sunday, for the souls of the War Dead.

The Mass will be the 6.00pm Mass at Warwick Square in Carlisle.

This is a very exciting development for those of us attached to the Usus Antiquior.  Bishop Campbell has already shown that he is much more sympathetic to the Traditional Rite than some of his confreres: there is a regular EF Mass in his Cathedral (and he has taken care to ensure its continuity through difficult times) and he famously invited the Institute of Christ the King to run the landmark church of St Wallburge's in Preston.

Please remember him in your prayers. Ad multos annos!

Poor, deluded man

My comments on the interview with Monsignor Charamsa published in Corriere della Serra, and translated by Simon Tanner ( )

“I want the Church and my community to know who I am: a gay priest who is happy, and proud of his identity. I’m prepared to pay the consequences, but it’s time the Church opened its eyes, and realised that offering gay believers total abstinence from a life of love is inhuman”. 

Straight away, one can see the false philosophy to which this poor man has fallen prey: that his identity is centred on his romantic and erotic emotions and desires.  Note in particular the use of the word 'love' when what he means is 'romantic and erotic love.' To equate a life of celibacy with a 'total abstinence from a life of love' is to say that Our Lord, our Lady, and many of our greatest and dearest saints, great beacons of love thoughout the ages, live a life without love. How could a Catholic priest get so lost? Well, there are clues later in the interview. 

Why did you decide to come out?

“There comes a day when something inside you snaps, and you can’t go on. If I had been alone I would have lived the nightmare of a denied homosexuality, but God never leaves us alone. And I think He has helped me take this important existential step. It’s important because of its consequences, but it’s also the premise for living honestly, which should be natural for every homosexual. The Church is already behind in tackling the issue, and we can't wait another 50 years, which is why I've decided to tell the Church who I am. I'm doing it for myself, for my community, and for the Church. It is also my duty towards the community of sexual minorities”. 

Here again, the confused philosophy is evident. Once you have decided that your identity is centred on a perceived sexual identity (ie romantic and erotic emotions and desires) then celibacy becomes a denial of that identity. Yet many celibates have a different philosophy, and find in their celibacy a truer expression both of their identity and of their desire to love.

He uses both the words 'natural' and 'homosexual' in ways that beg many questions. Natural can mean in accordance with our nature as created by God, which God saw was good, and calls us to supernaturalise; or it can mean in accordance with our fallen nature, damaged by original sin, which corrupts our wills and our intellects. Once one accepts this fallen nature as a good, one can indeed convince oneself that God is calling one to act accordingly: man's capacity for self-deception in pursuit of his desires is almost limitless.

'Homosexual' again can mean many things: it can mean someone subject to homosexual temptations (romantic and/or erotic); or it can mean someone who believes that such desires are foundational to his identity, that a 'homosexual' is some separate category of man, and that the natural (qv) expression of these desires is the only way to be honest...

This poor man has fallen for these secular assumptions, and seems to think that in declaring these banal and flawed ideas he has something to teach the Church.

What do you think you will achieve?
“It seems to me that in the Church we are ignorant about homosexuality because we don't really know any homosexuals. We have them all around us, of course, but we never look them in the eye, because they seldom say who they are. I hope that my personal experience will help stir the Church’s consciousness in some way. I will personally reveal my identity to the Holy Father in a letter. And I will tell the universities in Rome where I teach who I am; to my great sorrow I will probably no longer be allowed to work in Catholic education”. 

This is an extraordinary set of ideas. I am sure that many of my readers, like me, will have friends who identify as homosexuals; many of us will have debated with them, argued with them, got drunk with them, gone to concerts, cinemas and parties with them; they are friends like other friends. Many of us, too, will have other friends who are subject to homosexual desires but do not accept the homosexual identity. Many of us will have friends who are or were confused about their romantic and erotic emotions and desires at various stages of their life.  Many priests, of course, will have confessed and counselled people in all these states. 

As for 'no longer be(ing) allowed to work in Catholic education,' I should think not. He has clearly lost a Catholic understanding of reality (of which more below).

You are making this announcement on the eve of the Synod on the Family, which begins tomorrow at the Vatican. 
“Yes, I would like to tell the Synod that homosexual love is a kind of family love, a love that needs the family. Everyone – gays, lesbians and transsexuals included – foster in their hearts a desire for love and family. Everyone has the right to love, and that love must be protected by society and law. But above all it must be nourished by the Church. Christianity is the religion of love, and love is central to the figure of Jesus we bring to the world. A lesbian or gay couple should be able to openly say to their Church: ‘we love each other according to our nature, and offer this gift of our love to others, because it is a public matter, not just a private one; we are not merely engaged in some extreme pursuit of pleasure’”. 

Here again, we see the confusion in his mind about the concepts of 'love' and 'nature' and the reification of notions such as 'gays, lesbians and transsexuals', to which I referred previously.

But this is not how the Church sees things.
“No, this is not the position of current Church doctrine, but similar views have been aired in theological scholarship. Above all in Protestant scholarship, but we also have excellent Catholic theologians who have given important contributions in the field”.

Here, I think, we start to see how the poor man's intellectual confusion has arisen. He has been reading heretical theologians... Note in particular 'current Church doctrine' as though doctrine is some changing human idea, not the teaching of God-made-man, Christ.

Catholic Catechism based on the Bible defines homosexuality as an “intrinsically disordered” tendency... 
“The Bible says nothing on the subject of homosexuality. It instead speaks of acts that I would call “homogenital”. Even heterosexual people may perform such acts, as happens in many prisons, but in that case they are acting against their nature and therefore committing a sin. When a gay person engages in those same acts, they are instead expressing their nature. The biblical sodomite has nothing to do with two gays that love each other in modern-day Italy and want to marry. I am unable to find a single passage, even in St Paul, that may be seen as referring to homosexual persons asking to be respected as such, since at the time the concept was unknown”. 

Here he displays the influence of Protestant theology. No Catholic priest should start an argument against Church doctrine from an implicit Sola Scriptura premise. (In fact, No Catholic priest should start an argument against Church doctrine at all, of course...)

Again, we have the secular idea of 'a gay person' as some kind of separate category of being, reified - treated as though it were a reality.  And again, an appeal to 'nature' with no attempt to discern between 'nature as created' and 'fallen nature.' 

Catholic doctrine excludes gays from the priesthood: how did you manage to become a priest?
“The rule was introduced in 2005 when I was already a priest, and only applies to new ordinations. For me it was a shock. It didn't use to be like this, and I think this is a mistake that needs to be corrected”. Have you always known you are gay? “Yes, but at first I didn't accept the fact; I submitted zealously to the teaching of the Church and to the life it forced upon me, according to the principle that ‘homosexuality does not exist (and if it does, it needs to be destroyed)’”. 

Again, his muddled thinking is clear: and reveals itself as very prejudicial. His statement of Catholic 'principle' as being ‘homosexuality does not exist (and if it does, it needs to be destroyed)’ does not in any way describe Catholic teaching. 

How did you go from denial to being happy about being gay? 
“Through study, prayer and reflection. A dialogue with God and the study of theology, philosophy and science were crucial. Moreover, I now have a partner who has helped me transform my fears into the power of love”. 

And there we have it...

A partner? Is that not even more irreconcilable with being a Catholic priest?
“I know that the Church will see me as someone who has failed to keep a promise, who has lost his way, and what’s worse, not with a woman, but a man! I also know that I will have to give up the ministry, even though it is my whole life. But I'm not doing this so that I can live with my partner. The reasons are much wider-ranging and based on a reflection on Church doctrine”.

'It is my whole life' - but if it is, where does that leave his 'partner'? He is self-deluding.

Could you explain?
“If I failed to be open, if I didn't accept myself, I couldn't be a good priest in any case, because I couldn't act as an intermediary for the joy of God. Humanity has made great progress in its understanding of these issues, but the Church is lagging behind. This is not the first time, of course, but when you are slow to understand astronomy the consequences are not as serious as when the delay regards people's most intimate being. The Church needs to realise that it is failing to rise to the challenge of our times”. 

He is completely self-deluding. 

Please pray for this poor lost man.

Friday 2 October 2015

EF Masses in October in Lancs Diocese

Mass times for October

Sunday October 4th Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
St Walburge, Preston 10.30 am, Sung Mass 
St Mary Magdalene, Leyland Road, Penwortham 8.30 am 
St Catherine Labouré, Stanifield Lane, Leyland 11.30 am
Our Lady & St Joseph, Carlisle 6.00 pm 

Sunday October 11th Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
St Walburge, Preston 10.30 am, Sung Mass
St Mary Magdalene, Leyland Road, Penwortham 8.30 am 
St Catherine Labouré, Stanifield Lane, Leyland 11.30 am
Our Lady & St Joseph, Carlisle 6.00 pm 

Sunday October 18th  Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost
St Peter's Cathedral, Lancaster 3.00 pm
St Walburge, Preston 10.30 am, Sung Mass
St Mary Magdalene, Leyland Road, Penwortham 8.30 am 
St Catherine Labouré, Stanifield Lane, Leyland 11.30 am
Our Lady & St Joseph, Carlisle 6.00 pm 

Sunday October 25th  Feast of Christ the King
St Walburge, Preston 10.30 am, Sung Mass for the Institute's Titular Feast, with Act of Consecration of the Human Race and Plenary Indulgence
St Mary Magdalene, Leyland Road, Penwortham 8.30 am 
St Catherine Labouré, Stanifield Lane, Leyland 11.30 am
Our Lady & St Joseph, Carlisle 6.00 pm (Sung)
Shrine Church of St Walburge, Preston 
Please note new time of weekday Mass
Sundays: 10.30 am, Sung Mass
Mondays – Fridays: 8.30 am, Low Mass (except First Friday 7.00 pm) 
Saturdays: 10.30 am, Low Mass