Thursday, 30 April 2009

And now the advertisement!

After all the negative items I've reported on today, here is a nice positive one, an ad for Wangaratta's upcoming confirmations on youtube:

Towards a pandemic plan for the Church?

The WHO have upgraded the threat assessment associated with swine flu to imminent pandemic, and the first US death (of a small child) has been reported.

Reader Peter has alerted me to a story from the Catholic News Service showing that US bishops have started giving guidance on how to deal with the situation, including things like:
  • ceasing to offer communion in the form of the Precious Blood for the moment;
  • bowing instead of shaking hands etc at the sign of peace;
  • encouraging the ill to stay at home rather than infect others by going to mass;
  • making sure Extraordinary Ministers and priests wash their hands before distributing the hosts, with instructions "to use an alcohol-based anti-bacterial solution before and after distributing holy Communion."

Presumably our own bishops will shortly provide some formal guidance on this subject too.

Brisbane continued***updated

Those of you were were entertained or interested in my debate with Alan Austin from Eureka Street over the inevitability or otherwise of the St Mary's affair may be interested in taking a look at and possibly commenting on his latest attack piece over at Online Opinion. Those who are sick of the whole Brisbane affair can just ignore it!

I should warn you though that after I closed off debate when he clearly espoused modernism in its most full on form, he did send me another comment which I didn't publish. I can only describe it as a rant about about how the Church has always been evil and destructive, and it is the duty of writers to expose it! Just why someone holding such views is permitted to write for an official organ of the Jesuits is the interesting question...

***Fr Kennedy: when is amputation warranted?

And on Fr Kennedy, Cath News, drawing on an article in The Catholic Leader reports that he is likely to have his faculties as a priest revoked 'sooner rather than later', but that his excommunication (and presumably laicization) is not imminent because, according to Brisbane's chancellor Fr Farrelly:

"We certainly don't leap to excommunication as a first response, that would be like opting for amputation in the case of a small infection."

As far as it goes that is obviously correct. But is it true in this situation? Archbishop Bathesby indicated months ago that Fr Kennedy and his community were not in communion with the Church. And when he terminated Fr Kennedy's appointment back in January he said:

"...Peter you have already claimed in the media that you may lead people who desire to follow you into a breakaway Christian community elsewhere in South Brisbane. I cannot stop you from doing so. However those who follow you should realise that they will not be in communion with the Roman Catholic Church or the Archdiocese of Brisbane."

He has started a breakaway group in defiance of his Ordinary...

Archbishop Wilson's Pastoral Letter**

Archbishop Wilson of Adelaide's Easter Pastoral letter is now available online (thanks to a reader for the link). It deals with three basic issues:

  • the tetragammaton;
  • anti-semitism and Jewish jokes; and
  • reverence for the book of the Bible.
The name of God

The first section is a long explanation of why the term 'Yahweh' should be abandoned. The hand wringing on this going on over at Cath News notwithstanding, by itself it would all be very straightforward and unproblematic if it weren't for the context it is put in. I'm not sure why it warrants such prominence as an issue given that I don't really think this is an issue most catholics deal with on a day to day basis unless they use a Jerusalem Bible or are addicted to 1970s tacky hymns, but perhaps these are still de rigeur in Adelaide.

Catholicism, anti-semitism and the Holocaust

I found the section on anti-semitism rather disturbing however, as it buys into the 'black armband' view of history which the Vatican is attempting to counter in the context of the debate on Pope Pius XII:

"I raise this matter as we prepare to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ in Holy Week, out of deep respect for the Jewish people. Since the terrible crimes committed against the Jewish people in the twentieth century, Catholics must continue to search their hearts. In preparation for the new millennium, the Vatican’s International Theological Commission asked whether the terrible persecution of the Shoah “was not made easier by the anti-Jewish prejudices imbedded in some Christian minds and hearts…Did Christians give every possible assistance to those being persecuted, and in particular to the persecuted Jews?”
(Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Faults of the Past, 64).

[Undoubtedly a few catholics were and are anti-semites - we are a church of sinners as well as saints. But overall the evidence is that Catholics resoundingly voted against Hitler in Germany when they still could, were the main leaders of the resistance to him, did their best to save Jews, and were persecuted and killed for their efforts. Thousands of priests and religious died at the hands of the Nazis and Pope John Paul II canonised a number of martyrs exactly to recognise this. ]

I also ask you to be conscious of attitudes that are expressed through jokes and comments. While I know most of you would not tolerate the improper nature and offense caused by Jewish jokes, I sadly note that this has happened in our Church in the past. I know you will agree with me that this is unacceptable. Just as we desire respect for our faith, we will also be noted for our capacity to show the same respect for the faith of others."

The Word of God

While on the theme of respect and reverence, I would also like to draw to the attention of all
people in the Archdiocese a need to remind ourselves about the sacred character of the Bible as the printed Word of God.

[This comes out of the Synod on the Bible I suspect, and there is some Western tradition on this - just as icons are reverenced in the East as pointing us to a higher reality, so in the West beautifully ornate Bibles often served a similar function.]

In the Moslem tradition, great respect is shown for the printed word of the Holy Koran. In some cultures the Koran is held up by the mother of the house so that departing guests pass under it, as a form of blessing.

[I have a few problems with this line of argument. Catholics assert that our religion holds the fullness of truth, others only have parts of it, mixed in with errors. On the face of it therefore, an argument that religion x does something so therefore we should appears highly problematic. Moreover, there are, as I understand it, very significant differences in our beliefs about the nature of our sacred texts. Muslims believe that the Koran is holy because it was literally dictated to the Prophet by an angel - catholics cannot possibly accept such a claim (unless we think that the angel concerned was perhaps a dark coloured one, in which case it sure isn't holy!). The Catechism of the Catholic Church also teaches that Catholicism is specifically NOT a religion 'of the book' as Islam is. Ours is rather a religion of the living Word.]

In some of the Protestant traditions, considerable respect is shown for the printed Bible, [because they assert Sola Scriptura?] so that it is put in a special position in the house. People do not throw other books or papers on the Bible but treat it with reverence for what it is, the revelation of God’s love for us. I commend such a reverential practice to our Catholic families also, that the Word of God in its printed form be situated in a place of honour in a house, and never treated like any other book, because of its sacred character.
[There may well be an argument for such practices, but Protestants reverence the Bible in this way because they don't have what catholics do, namely the eucharistic presence of Our Lord which trumps all other forms of God's presence in this world.] The same reverence should be accorded to the Lectionary and the book of the Gospels in liturgical celebrations. Seeing the reverence for the printed Word, will also be a positive example for our young people, so that they may be helped to cherish and study the Word."

Let me clear that I am not necessarily arguing against the Archbishop's recommendations in terms of practice - the traditional rite does reverence the Gospel books in various ways, and some reflection of that in our homes may well send a useful signal. But if there is a case, it must surely be in keeping with our own tradition, not those of others.

**This post has been substantially revised to focus more clearly on the substantive issues raised in the letter. Comments relating to earlier versions of it have therefore been deleted.

If St Catherine were alive today, she would surely be a blogger....

Well, that's my theory anyway and I'm sticking to it!

I once heard it argued on this feast day that we should forget about St Catherine's engagement in the world and promotion of reform of the Church lest it result in an undesirable feminism, and focus instead on imitating her heroic and extreme asceticism, practical charity and great devotion instead.

Her virtues are certainly extremely important, and what make her a saint! But actually, it strikes me that all of the dimensions of this Doctor of the Church's life - including charitable works, contemplation, intellectual work and active engagement in the issues of the day - are perhaps worth reflecting on. They can be seen as providing something of a model for the active engagement of the laity in the public square that the Pope has been promoting (provided of course that we don't get carried away, and remain docile to the guidance of the Holy Ghost and our pastors as far as this is proper).

And I have to say that St Teresa of Avila's advice on thinking twice about attempting to emulate the extremes of asceticism of the saints, in the absence of a specific call (her formidable looking discipline can still be viewed in Siena), seems pertinent here.

Here is what the Wiki has to say:

"She was born Catherine Benin in Siena, Italy, to Giacomo di Benincasa, a clothdyer, and Lapa Piagenti, possibly daughter of a local poet. Born in 1347, she was the last of 25 children. She took the habit of the Dominican Tertiaries....

In about 1366, St Catherine experienced what she described in her letters as a "Mystical Marriage" with Jesus. Her biographer Raymond of Capua also records that she was told by Christ to leave her withdrawn life and enter the public life of the world. Catherine dedicated much of her life to helping the ill and the poor, where she took care of them in hospitals or homes.

Her early pious activities in Siena attracted a group of followers, both women and men, while they also brought her to the attention of the Dominican Order, which called her to Florence in 1374 to interrogate her for possible heresy. After this visit, in which she was deemed sufficiently orthodox, she began travelling with her followers throughout northern and central Italy advocating reform of the clergy and the launch of a new crusade and advising people that repentance and renewal could be done through "the total love for God."

Physical travel was not the only way in which Catherine made her views known. In the early 1370s, she began writing letters to men and women of her circle, increasingly widening her audience to include figures in authority as she begged for peace between the republics and principalities of Italy and for the return of the Papacy from Avignon to Rome. She carried on a long correspondence with Pope Gregory XI, also asking him to reform the clergy and the administration of the Papal States.

In June of 1376 Catherine went to Avignon herself as ambassador of Florence to make peace with the Papal States, but was unsuccessful. She also tried to convince Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome. She impressed the Pope so much that he returned his administration to Rome in January, 1377. Following Gregory's death and during the Western Schism of 1378 she was an adherent of Pope Urban VI, who summoned her to Rome, and stayed at Pope Urban VI's court and tried to convince nobles and cardinals of his legitimacy. She lived in Rome until her death in 1380. The problems of the Western Schism would trouble her until the end of her life.

St Catherine's letters are considered one of the great works of early Tuscan literature. More than 300 letters have survived. In her letters to the Pope, she often referred to him affectionately as "Papa" or "Daddy" ("Babbo" in Italian)....

Her other major work is "The Dialogue of Divine Providence," a dialogue between a soul who "rises up" to God and God himself, and recorded between 1377 and 1378 by members of her circle. Often assumed to be illiterate, Catherine is acknowledged by Raymond in his life of her as capable of reading both Latin and Italian, and another hagiographer, Tommaso Caffarini, claimed that she could write.

St Catherine died of a stroke in Rome, the spring of 1380, at the age of thirty-three...."

The Wiki rather quaintly avoids much mention of her asceticism, but here is what the Catholic Encyclopedia has to say:

"From her earliest childhood Catherine began to see visions and to practise extreme austerities.

At the age of seven she consecrated her virginity to Christ; in her sixteenth year she took the habit of the Dominican Tertiaries, and renewed the life of the anchorites of the desert in a little room in her father's house. After three years of celestial visitations and familiar conversation with Christ, she underwent the mystical experience known as the "spiritual espousals", probably during the carnival of 1366.

She now rejoined her family, began to tend the sick, especially those afflicted with the most repulsive diseases, to serve the poor, and to labour for the conversion of sinners.

Though always suffering terrible physical pain, living for long intervals on practically no food save the Blessed Sacrament, she was ever radiantly happy and full of practical wisdom no less than the highest spiritual insight.

All her contemporaries bear witness to her extraordinary personal charm, which prevailed over the continual persecution to which she was subjected even by the friars of her own order and by her sisters in religion."

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Swine fever revisited

No telling how things will pan out, but I thought it was perhaps worth updating the swine fever state of play. First, the most recent information is somewhat more positive than previously:
  • according to the World Health Organization, there are only seven confirmed deaths, not over 150;
  • it seems to be spread by droplets, no evidence that it is airborne;
  • all of the cases outside Mexico so far are of people who recently visited that country, not onward transmissions.

Now all of that could change, and we should keep praying, but clearly the panic is a little overblown.

All the same, it is clearly better that the authorities take appropriate precautions early than under-react only to have people die unnecessarily as happened in some past disease situations!

Conspiracy theories inc

But I have to say I'm rather bemused by some of the wild and woolly comments on this over at Rorate Caeli, which practically parody extreme traditionalism. So let me make a few more key points:

  • the Church and public authorities in Mexico and elsewhere are taking precautionary measures. There is nothing in our religion that requires us to take undue risks to our health unless there is a very good reason to do so, such as saving someone else's life (in fact, wouldn't recklessly endangering ourselves be sinful?). Devotion to the mass is salutary. And wanting to go to mass at a difficult time is a natural reaction. But putting all catholics at special risk of dying out of devotion to the mass doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to me when we could be praying the rosary or saying the Office at home. Not as efficacious? Possibly, although I don't know that this is clearcut theologically - think of all those saints who performed miracles directly through their prayers;
  • Holy Mass does not provide a magical barrier against the transmission of disease. There can be occasions when the eucharist does perform miracles of this kind, but be careful of presumption!;
  • I agree this would be a very good time to ban communion under both kinds, I've always thought it shocking from a health perspective (as well as being problematic by requiring the laity to take hold of the chalice). But a claim that 'Communicating via both species' in some ways dilutes the fact we receive Our Lord in either species' is clearly erroneous - after all, the priest has to communicate under both kinds for at least liciety (and some would argue validity)!

As for some of the conspiracy theorists over there - give me a break!

I'm removing Rorate from my blog list.

Comments by anon!

A couple of people have let me know that they have been deterred for making comments by the requirement to have some kind of online identity - yes, it was a deliberate move, I was getting sick of rejecting comments from people without any name attached.

The requirement for an identity is easily solved - just sign up with blogger, live journal, wordpress or any of the other 'open id' services, all you need is an email address. Failing that, you can email your comment to me and I will post it on your behalf as I've already done once.

However, given that two of my regular commenters appear to have been affected, I've returned the setting to allow anyone to comment for the moment for a trial period while they obtain an identity at the very least! But please, provide a name or pseudonym with your comment.

Why Mass should be celebrated ad orientem....

Thanks to Cooees Priory for posting this great 'Papal masses before and after shot' from the Sistine Chapel, which I think perfectly explains why Mass should be celebrated with the priest(s) worshipping ad orientem...

Fr Z has a useful post up on links to material setting out the rationale for ad orientem.

Swine flu and catholics

Panic over swine flu seems to be spreading the airwaves, and so I thought I would blog on it.

So here are my suggestions. But note that I'm not an expert, just someone reading what the health authorities are saying, so don't take it as gospel! On the other hand, I've already started receiving the inevitable conspiracy theory emails with all sorts of weird and wonderful advice on this subject, so I think it is important!

The medical threat: public health authorities are saying don't panic!

The first and most obvious point to make is: don't panic! It clearly is spreading rapidly. But the evidence on whether or not it is worse than any other type of flu is at best ambivalent - there have been a possible 150 or so deaths in Mexico. But all of the cases in the US at the time of writing seem to have proved mild and those infected have recovered.

Things can change quickly though. So from a public health perspective, Governments are working on the precautionary principle (ie better to be safe than sorry) - but it may turn out not to be as big a deal as some are suggesting. All the same, the flu (of any variety) can and does kill, and there isn't a vaccine yet for those particularly at risk. And the possibility of a flu pandemic has been the nightmare of health officials for years now, so it is sensible to take precautions.

Spiritual precautions

The first thing to note is that threats like this are timely reminders to get our own house in order - including going to confession if necessary!

And we should be considering praying and fasting to avert this threat, for the souls of those who have died in Mexico, and for the return to the Church of those who may be affected by it.

Don't infect others!

Over at Fr Z there has been an interesting discussion going on about communion in times of epidemic, and I thought I'd summarise a few key points that I've drawn out of it.

The first seems to me obvious, but I know not everyone agrees (including or perhaps especially priests from past experience!) - but my view is that if you are sick with something that may be the flu (or anything else infectious for that matter), don't go to mass and infect everyone else. You might be able to struggle on, but other people with weaker immune systems may suffer more severely if they catch it from you. And even if it's not flu you are passing on, people weakened by other illnesses are always a high risk group when flu does hit.

Illness (and especially being infectious) is generally a sufficient cause not to attend mass. If you want to receive or make your confession, call your priest and see what he advises or can arrange. And if your priest can't say mass for a few days, be understanding!

Indeed, we may yet get to the point, as in Mexico, where public gatherings have to be prohibited, and all masses cancelled.

Secondly, if you are sick, the best advice seems to be to go to a doctor early and get the drug to fight it - the drugs are only effective if taken early enough, and it is not clear that deaths will be restricted to the standard 'at risk' groups. And the medication does seem to reduce infectiousness.

Thirdly use tissues or a handkerchief to cover your mouth if you do cough. Not every cough is infectious - it may be asthma or hayfever for example. But do everyone a favour and don't feed our paranoia, just in case you have misdiagnosed the cause of your cough! And if you can't help being around others (such as your family) try and avoid everyone catching it...

Fourthly, practice good hygiene, especially washing of hands after you've been anywhere that other people might have touched.

Fifthly, and this is the subject of some considerable debate over at Fr Z, we may get to the point where people should refrain from communicating (and if those with colds etc do insist on going to mass anyway, they should definitely think about this). One imagines and hopes that priests will be being extra careful at the moment, but there is a reality that transmission via saliva or hand contact is a risk. But remember that a spiritual communion is always fine - and that many saints went for months and even years without access to the Mass or sacraments!

Looking out for others

If an epidemic does hit, we should probably also be extra vigilant in noting absences from mass, and checking whether the sick need any help!

And on that, Pope Benedict XVI beatified a saint particularly appropriate for such times a few days ago, St Bernardo Tolomei, founder of the Olivetan branch of the Benedictines in the fourteenth century. The saint died after contracting the plague as a result of helping the sick.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Feast of St Peter Chanel, Patron and first Martyr of Oceania

From Wiki:

"Pierre Louis Marie Chanel was born on July 12, 1803 in La Potière near Cuet in the area of Belley, France.

After some schooling at Cras his piety and intelligence attracted the attention of a local priest, Fr Trompier, and he was put into Church-sponsored education. He followed this with seminary training in 1819 at the minor seminary at Meximieux and Belley in 1823, and then in 1824 at the major seminary at Brou.

He was ordained priest along with 24 others on 15 July 1827 by Bishop Devie and spent a brief time as an assistant priest at Ambérieu. There he again met Claude Bret who was to become his friend and also one of the first Marist Missionaries.

From an early age Chanel had been thinking about going on the foreign missions and his intention was strengthened by the letters that arrived at Ambérieu from a former curate, then a missionary in India.

The following year Chanel applied to the bishop of Belley for permission to go to the missions. His application was not accepted and instead he was appointed for the next three years as parish priest of the run down parish of Crozet, which he revitalized in that short time.

His zeal was widely respected and his care, particularly of those in the parish that were sick, won the hearts of the locals who began again to practice their faith. During this time Chanel heard of a group of Diocesan Priests who were hopeful of starting a religious order to be dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Missionary and martyr

In 1831, he joined the forming Society of Mary (Marists), who would concentrate on local missions and foreign missionary work. Instead of being selected as a missionary, however, the Marists used his talents as the spiritual director at the Seminary of Belley, where he stayed for five years. In 1833 he accompanied Fr Jean-Claude Colin to Rome to seek approval of the nascent Society. In 1836, the Marists, finally formally approved by Pope Gregory XVI, were asked to send missionaries to the territory of the South West Pacific. Chanel, professed a Marist on 24 September 1836 was made the superior of a band of Marist missionaries that set out on 24 December from Le Havre. They were accompanied by Bishop Jean Baptiste Pompallier who was to become the first Bishop of New Zealand. Pompallier had been appointed by Gregory XVI to care for the Vicariate Apostolic of Western Oceania. Pompallier based himself in New Zealand from 1838 and became the first Bishop of Auckland, New Zealand in 1848.

Travelling via the Canary Islands (8 Jan 1837) where Fr Claude Bret (Chanel's friend) caught a flu-like virus which led to his death at sea (20 Mar 1837) and then Valparaiso (28 June) (where the French Picpus Fathers who had care of the Vicariate of Eastern Oceania had their base) and Gambier (13 Sept) then Tahiti (21 Sept) where the group transferred to the Raiatea and set sail for Tonga (23 Oct) before first dropping two missionaries at ʻUvea (still named Wallis by the French), the mainseat of the mission. Pierre Chanel went to neighbouring Futuna Island, accompanied by a French laybrother Marie-Nizier Delorme. They arrived on 8 November 1837 with a Protestant layman named Thomas Boag who had been resident on the island and had joined them at Tonga seeking passage to Futuna.


The group was initially well received by the island's king, Niuliki. Once the missionaries learned the local language and began preaching directly to the people, the king grew restive. He believed that Christianity would take away his prerogatives as high priest and king. When the king's son, Meitala sought to be baptized, the king sent a favoured warrior his son-in-law, Musumusu to "do whatever was necessary" to resolve the problem. Musumusu initially went to Meitala and the two fought. Musumusu, injured in the fracas went to Chanel feigning need of medical attention. While Chanel tended him a group of others ransacked his house. Musumusu took an axe and clubbed Chanel on the head. Pierre died that day, April 28, 1841...."

A new Dominican...

Joshua over at Psallite Sapienter reports that the Australian Dominicans will shortly receive the solemn vows of another friar, Br Paul Rouse, in June. The Australian and New Zealand Province of Dominicans also have four postulants this year, who you can read about here. It is good to see the Dominicans reviving downunder! Please keep Br Paul in your prayers.

And on things Dominican I've added a link to the English Dominican students' blog, Godzdogz. They have a nice post up at the moment on the wonderful fourteenth century work, The Cloud of Unknowing. The Cloud has become very popular of late, its teaching virtually twisted out of recognition in my view, by those promoting 'Centering Prayer' and the like. But, as Godzdogz point out, although insisting that contemplation is a distinct call, it does contain a lot of instruction suitable for everyone, so do go and have a read.

And as for the bear, couldn't resist I'm afraid, it is from Godzdogz!

Monday, 27 April 2009

A better translation of the Mass is coming like it or not!

A reader alerted me to a piece by Paul Collins attacking the new translation of the Novus Ordo Mass before it is even implemented.

Good ICEL vs evil Rome!

Paul Collins, for my non-Australian readers, is an ex-priest who left the priesthood in the wake of a CDF investigation, a former Australian Broadcasting Commission journalist, and author of numerous books. He is the favoured commentator on matters catholic for several media organisations in Australia.

And what he has written is a (very long) curious piece indeed.

Strange partly because a lot of the things he invites us to be shocked and horrified by are actually things that one can only applaud! Like sacralising and formalizing the text of the Mass. Bringing the liturgy under tighter control. And having a penitential rite that actually emphasizes...sin!

And although he condemns traditionalists for character assassination (of Fr Bugnini and friends), he engages in lots of it himself! The slant is almost a parody of the liberal view at times, with its evil Rome vs nice ordinary Catholics/good ICEL as represented by the Bitter Pill (aka The Tablet) storyline.

Yet from my admittedly limited knowledge, discounting the slant, and character assassination aside, it isn't too far off the mark in terms of the detail of history of the machinations over the translation (though I'd be happy to be corrected by those more up on this subject), and is quite interesting on this. There are some good observations on the musical horrors of the 1970s. Not to mention a few tantalising rumours, such as AB Coleridge of Canberra (Collins' ordinary) to replace AB Ranjith.

Two key messages

His main thrust, though, is that this is another PR disaster in the making. Why? His case rests on the South African experience, but that was a situation where the bishops jumped the gun and used the texts prematurely, and failed to do any of the preliminary catechesis required.

And really, US Bishop Trautman's views of the inability of the laity to understand words like ineffable aside, it is hard to see what is so bad about formal language for ritual purposes!

His other point is that the new translation is all the fault of evil traditionalists. Mr Collins doesn't seem to have realised that most traditionalists don't actually care much about the translation - they've put their energies into the Extraordinary Form instead! Sure, we'd all like it to be better, for those times we have to attend a baptism, wedding or confirmation, or just can't get to an EF mass. But the real enemy from his perspective is surely not really traddies, but mainstream (and much more numerous) Cardinal Pell, Archbishop Coleridge and bloggers like Fr Z. But I'm afraid traddies are an easier target....

Here are some extracts with my comments:

This time with the liturgy

"Over the last twelve months the Vatican has made a series of disastrous mistakes. There was the pope's faux pas when he quoted a Byzantine Emperor talking about Mohammed's violence in the now famous lecture in Regensburg. [Was it a faux pas, given that firstly it points to an important dimension of this religion, and secondly has prompted some serious interreligous dialogue that no-one had previously succeeded in generating?] Then there was the attempted 'reconciliation' with the bishops of the schismatic Lefebvrist movement, including the Holocaust-denying Richard Williamson. [And seeking to reconcile those outside full communion is a bad thing?] This was followed by Benedict XVI's comment about AIDS and condoms in Africa. [Which not only reflect catholic moral principles but are backed up hard evidence on what does and doesn't work in practice.] And not forgetting, of course, the aborted episcopal appointment of the Austrian priest who believed that Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for gays in New Orleans. [After a campaign led by priests living in sin with women, and a diocese whose practices seem to have little relationship to catholicism as such - go take a look at Cathcon!] At the very least the pope has been badly advised by a seemingly Curia.

But these and other debacles may well fade into insignificance with the kind of conflict that will hit English-speaking Catholicism within the next eighteen or so months. For it is then that the new translation of the liturgy will be foisted [!] on Mass-going Catholics in the pews of countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the US and the UK. In fact, there has been a rather arcane process going-on since 1998 which has understandably tended to slip under the radar of most Catholics, but which will certainly impact on all of us who still go to Mass.

To get some perspective we need to backtrack a bit.

One of the first and greatest achievements of Vatican II was the vernacular liturgy [Except the Sacrosanctum Concilium did not actually call for or authorise an entirely vernacular liturgy!]. After the Constitution on the Liturgy was finally passed by the bishops on 4 December 1963, the Latin texts needed to be translated quickly. [Why? What was the great urgency? If things had been taken a bit more slowly and carefully, the fallout from VII might have been substantially reduced.] The English-speaking bishops immediately set up a commission to carry out the work of translation, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), representing eleven national bishops' conferences: Australia, Canada, England and Wales, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Scotland, South Africa and the United States. While based in Washington, DC, its responsibility its responsibility was to the whole English-speaking world.

Here it is important to emphasize that ICEL's line of responsibility was explicitly to the English-speaking bishops' conferences, not to Rome and the Vatican. This was later to become a real bone of contention. Also the translator's task was to find a 'faithful but not literal' English equivalent of the Latin and that 'the unit of meaning [was] not the individual word, but the whole passage.' [And Fr Z's, and others, series on the prayers of the mass demonstrate just how unfaithful those translations are.] Further 'the prayer of the Church is always the prayer of some actual community assembling here and now. It is not sufficient that a formula handed down from some other time or region should be translated verbatim, even if accurately, for liturgical use. The formula must become the genuine prayer of the congregation [! No wonder congregationalism has become so rife!] and in it each of its members should be able to find and express themselves' (All quotations in this paragraph come from the General Instruction on the Roman Missal, 3 April 1969, paragraph 4).....

But right from the beginning there was a tiny minority who, for whatever reason, refused to accept the new translation. They accused it of being 'banal', 'untrue to the original', insufficiently 'sacred'. The model for these reactionaries was the so-called 'Tridentine Mass', more accurately the 'Mass of Pius V' because it comes from the missal this pope issued in 1570; the Council of Trent had concluded in 1563. [!] The followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre were the most extreme of these reactionaries, but after they went into schism there were always others who remained within mainstream Catholicism but who fought tooth and nail to retain the Latin liturgy and to oppose the ICEL translation. They always claimed that they were trying to preserve the sacred character of worship and that they were horrified at what they described as an uninspired and dull English text. Some of them went in for the most outrageous character assassination attacking those they considered to be 'responsible' for all that had happened.

Part of the problem was that the musical accompaniment produced for the English liturgy was poor. The folk idiom predominated and very little music of quality was written in the decades after the Council. In a genuine attempt to move away from the sentimentality of the words of the Victorian-era hymns that dominated Catholicism before Vatican II, there was a strong emphasis on wording that reflected biblical themes. The problem was that some of the accompanying melodies were almost unsingable as the music was strained to fit the words. The basic principle that good music can take the most banal of words and give them flight was forgotten. Most operas, for instance, have complicated and often prosaic, badly written plots, but great music lifts them up and gives them an impact that the words on their own completely lack....

I've already mentioned the tiny minority of Catholics (and they are a tiny group - less than one per cent of all English-speaking Catholics) continued to reject the new liturgy. Nevertheless they have had an influence that far transcends their numbers. As older reactionaries died, they have been replaced by younger people, particularly men, who are attracted to 'bells and smells' and an extravagant, dressing-up style of worship. Many of these are technologically literate and have elaborate web-pages that reflect their point of view. [Unlike the Tablista's who have to be told what a blog is!] They are also politically very savvy in that they know how to influence Rome... Austen Ivereigh has pointed out that 'To traditionalists, ICEL had become the symbol of the Church's sell-out to fallen modernity, the target of wealthy American traditionalists who had the ear of Rome' (The Tablet, 17 January 2004). Medina was supported by the-then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who 'had long held', says Ivereigh, 'that vernacular Masses were to blame for the drop in church attendance and vocations' to the priesthood. Ratzinger has long been concerned about the loss of a 'vertical' dimension to the liturgy. He says that much contemporary liturgy has lost a sense of reverence and a deep consciousness of the presence of God. He feels that nowadays we are far too concerned with the community and human relationships. As he said at the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday 2005 just before he was elected pope: 'How often do we celebrate only ourselves without even realizing that Jesus is there.' Understandably, then, the reactionaries who got through to Medina and Ratzinger have had undue influence.

But Medina didn't need convincing. As soon as he got to the CDW he set about systematically dismantling the whole liturgical renewal. Essentially he is nothing more than an old-style fascist and liturgical reactionary who had strategically decided that if he could bring the English-speaking bishops to heel, the largest linguistic group in the Catholic world, he would have no trouble bringing other linguistic groups under Roman control, including his own Spanish-speaking world....

In 2002 a complete revision of all ICEL's translation work began in secret. 'ICEL was no longer to seek the advice of poets and other writers, but only of patristic scholars. The language is to be distinctively Catholic, sacral, Roman; as the mind and heart are raised to God, they should be sure to stop off in Saint Peter's' (Austen Ivereigh, The Tablet, 17 January 2004). ICEL was now to be assisted and guided by Vox Clara, a committee appointed by the CDW of generally conservative-minded English-speaking cardinals and bishops ('Clear Voice'), (a couple of 'moderates' like Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster were thrown in to give the appearance of 'balance'), chaired by Cardinal George Pell of Sydney. Its precise function was never really clarified, but it seems to have been a kind of reference group who could assess the translation work of the reconstituted ICEL. It was well-known that Pell was unhappy with ICEL's work under John Page and his colleagues.....

Ranjith has often said publicly that there needs to be 'a reform of the reform'. What he means is that the reforms of Vatican II 'went too far' and they need to be further 'reformed' along more conservative lines. For him the liturgy is the natural staring point in reforming the reform.

And just when you thought it could not get any worse, in December 2008 after the retirement of Arinze, Benedict XVI appointed Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera (he of the cappa magna in the previous two news items on our web page) as Prefect of the CDW [how the liberals hate that cappa magna, pictured above!]. Ranjith stays on as the CDW Secretary, although there are rumours that he will soon replace the present Archbishop of Colombo in Sri Lanka who is already 77, two years over retirement age. There is another rumour that Ranjith will be replaced by Archbishop Mark Coleridge, the Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn.
The new English text of the Ordinary of the Mass was gradually approved by the English-speaking bishops' conferences, with the US conference being the last to pass it. On 23 June 2008 the CDW gave the new text an immediate recognitio. The text only includes the Ordinary of the Mass: the penitential rite, the Gloria, creed, offertory, Eucharistic prayers, acclamations and other prayers and responses used in the daily and Sunday celebration of Mass. The rest of the missal remains to be translated and approved. The CDW wants bishops' conferences to begin a 'pastoral preparation' for an introduction in late-2010 or 2011. (A copy of the translated text of the Ordinary of the Mass is available on the web page of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

A foretaste of what might happen pastorally was provided when, in a misunderstanding, some South African parishes started using the new text in late-November 2008. It was met with widespread rejection by Mass-going Catholics. Thomas Reese, SJ of Woodstock Theological Center in Washington, DC said 'I think the Church has been very lucky the South Africans jumped the gun because it's showing the Vatican there is going to be a worldwide problem when these new translations are put into effect. Once again the Vatican isn't listening to the critics, and we're going to have another major embarrassment … when these translations … are forced on people in the pews.' One of the major shocks experienced by the South Africans was the shift from a more conversational style of English to a sacral, more formal form of address...[Because the last thing we'd want in liturgy is a sense of the sacred, right?!]...

Immediately flowing this is the Penitential Rite (which ICEL now calls the 'Penitential Act' because the Latin uses the word actus). The text of the 'I confess' will change with the insertion of the word 'greatly' for it to read 'I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned …'. In case that was not enough emphasis on sinfulness, ICEL have added 'through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault' to the text. This kind of overly dramatic repetition is inappropriate, even embarrassing in contemporary English. [Yes, sin is embarrassing - especially to those who consider themselves to be sinless, 'perfect just as we are' to steal a phrase from Gaius Baltar on Battlestar Galactica!]. It may work in an operatic, romance kind of language; it doesn't in more phlegmatic, matter-of-fact forms of speech used by ordinary English speakers. The other optional penitential formulas have been changed, again with a strong emphasis on sinfulness.....

I won't go through all this analysis of the texts - suffice it to say that in a supreme irony, he accuses the CDW of promoting heretical texts!

...My own view is that this exercise will be a disaster, the last nail in the coffin of the credibility of the leadership of the Church. The history shows that this whole process has been ideologically driven by a tiny, unrepresentative minority who are insensitive to the real pastoral needs of the Catholic community and who, at heart, reject the Second Vatican Council. Worse, they don't care about what happens, they are not interested in how many more people are driven out of the Church by the pomposity of what is essentially mid-Victorian English rather than some type of 'sacred' language. [What is this thing about it being 'mid-Victorian langugage? Ans who are we talking about being upset - the ageing liberals whose antics have seem millions of catholics cease practicing and fail to transmit the faith to their children?]

PS If you do go to his website, do take a look at the 'The pictures tell you everything' item. Some lovely eye candy!

Adelaidians avert your eyes: Jewish joke alert!

I keep hearing about Archbishop Wilson of Adelaide's most recent pastoral letter.

Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be on the net, so if anyone has a copy please do send it to me...

What is in it?

The first I read of it was over at the Priory, with a complaint about something inappropriate to Good Friday being read out during the liturgy, and leading to a joke debate about what should replace the word 'Yahweh' in assorted trashy hymns.

The second was someone upset at what appeared to be me on the face of it at least (based on the report only, I haven't seen the document itself) to be skating dangerously close to syncretism, with injunctions to give appropriate reverence to Scripture in the same way that various other (named) religions do.

The third person who told me about it had never even heard the word Yahweh before (having clearly fled the guitars of the 1970s where hymns using the tetragammaton reigned free). She thought that a ban on Jewish jokes was, well a bad joke, and was upset because, predictably, the injunction was having the opposite effect to that intended on the talkback shows....

Jewish joke ban?

And now Cath News has alerted us all to the story on the ABC :

"The Archbishop of Adelaide has told Catholics they should not tell Jewish jokes or use the Jewish name Yahweh in readings and songs.

In a pastoral letter to priests, Archbishop Philip Wilson has asked for a substitute word such as Lord to be used instead of the Jewish sacred name.

Archbishop Wilson says Catholics must be respectful and sensitive towards Jewish people.

"In the letter it says that what will happen is people who are involved as experts in these areas will make changes so there will be appropriate words that can be used," he said.

"It won't be confusing if you use the word Lord as a substitute or another word as a substitute, then that will work really well.

"My sense about this is we have to be especially careful about the way that we talk about the Jewish people because of the way that they've been persecuted and treated for over a thousand years, and especially during the Holocaust in the Second World War," he said."

Now as I haven't actually seen the text, it is difficult to make any comments. But on the face of it, no problem in banning 'Y...h' - traditionally it has never been used by Catholics, and if it gets rid of of some of those 70s classics, all the better! But as for the rest...

Warning: Jewish joke...

So for everyone outside the Archdiocese of Adelaide, I googled Catholic Jewish jokes, and the first site that came up was Fisheaters, the first one listed was this:

"A rabbi, a priest and a minister walk into a bar. The bartender looks up and says, "What is this, a joke?"

Are jokes of this kind really a threat to interreligious relations?

ANZAC Day Requiem in Canberra

Thanks to Peter for these photos of the Canberra Latin Mass Community's ANZAC Day requiem.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Le Barroux

Thanks to NLM for featuring this beautiful clip of the nuns of Le Barroux, put together by hermit without a permit. Ex-Adelaidian Sr Mechtild is a novice at Le Barroux (and is that her in it???)

News briefs

Oz news:

  • The Adelaide Latin Mass community has a new website,;

  • The Priests - three parish priests who do a three tenors number on the sacred repertoire - arrive in Sydney next week, performing on May 5. You can read more about them on the Sydney Archdiocese website. Or listen to them above (the music starts around 2 mins 44);
  • The traddie priest (and I imagine laity) caravan is headed to Sydney this week for some ordinations to the priesthood for the Sydney Archdiocese scheduled to be held this Wednesday. Please keep the Revs James McCarthy, Andrew Benton and Julian Belich in your prayers. The Rev. James McCarthy, who was one of the deacons at the WYD Papal Mass, has been studying in Rome, and is scheduled to say a mass of thanksgiving at Lewisham on 7 May at 7pm. Please keep all of the ordinands in your prayers.

    Around the blogs:

    • Do go take a look at the annual Cannonball blog awards, aiming to recognise the smaller blogs. It has categories like 'best blog by a religious who is not Father Z' and 'best blog by a heretic'!;

    • St Anselm redux - make sure you go read Psallite Sapienter's piece on St Anselm, with extensive - and very pertinent to our times - quotes from Pius X's encyclical on the saint talking about state persecution of Catholicism. Then take a look at Sandro Magister on the latest discussion on the significance of the saint from Rome;

    • On the sung mass as the norm - do have a read of the great post by Fr Mark over at Vultus Christi. It is written in the context of the debate over hymns at novus ordo masses going on in places like the New Liturgical Movement, but much of what he says on the priority of the sung over the low mass, and 'of dialogues, antiphons, psalmody, and acclamations' over hymns is equally applicable to the TLM. And he has some important things to say about the training of priests;

    • New Liturgical Movement also has the results of an interesting quizz on the use of vernacular readings at the TLM. I'm not sure it is really a debate we have to have, but...

    • the debate on the reform of the reform seems to be stepping up a notch with some real engagement by the old guard of entrenched novus ordoists according to a book review by Alcuin Reid over at New Liturgical Movement;

    • Athanasius has a challenging post on gnosticism amongst traditionalists - the idea that we have some secret, superior knowledge - and its effects on discouraging recruitment in attendance at the TLM. And those interested in the question of additional prefaces can also go and argue with him on this topic in his latest post! Here's a quote from his post on the problems of traditionalism for us all to ponder:

    "Our goal should be to recover the whole Tradition for the Church, and bring everyone into it. That is where we find the problem. Most Traditionalists don't know the tradition, all they understand is they have a Mass they like and it will be here next Sunday when they come back....

    One of the chief arguments against the Novus Ordo is that its feel, the mundane way in which it is celebrated, and the original Latin texts are watered down, and lend themselves to a feel of the religion of man, and often you find people who believe in a superiority of progressivism over tradition, elevating the priest to a presiders chair in the middle up high while relegating our Blessed Lord to a broom closet, and then you find trads acting in the same way.

    The fact that God gives us the grace to see the problems in the Church is a sign of His mercy, we are so blind we would not see it without that. It is the case that He wants to exact from us a certain level of humility and prayer to make reparation for the disastrous state of the Church. It is not given merely for our benefit. We are not entitled to it. Without that realization we will not bring forth good fruit, and without fasting and prayer we will not endure on the way. Becoming gnostic about our status and what we have is simply becoming that which we are fighting."

  • Islam watch continued: Camden and more!

    I've been covering the Camden Islamic school debate over the last few days, because the arguments seem to me at the root of some vital questions for our society. In particular, what is the correct balance between prompting religious liberty, at risk from the assault of secularism, and defending the Christian heritage of our nation?

    Islamic intolerance

    The primary assault on religious liberty in Australia comes from secular society rather than other religions. But we shouldn't forget that Islam shares an objective of Christianity, namely the establishment of a confessional state. It is just what our conceptions of what that looks like differs sharply. Take a few interesting examples from just the last week:
    • two women imprisoned in Iran for the crime of converting to Christianity - more here;
    • the Islamic chaplain to Harvard University (!) sees 'great wisdom' in the death penalty for Muslim apostates -see the Washington Times ;
    • Malaysia continues to fight the right of a Catholic newspaper to use the Arabic word for God (Allah) in a christian context (so much for 'people of the Book'!) - read more here;
    • Somalia and the Northern Pakistan (Makaland) introduce sharia law in response to terrorist demands - see here on Pakistan and here on Somalia.
    Preserving Christian culture

    And on the tolerance issue on our own shores, Saturday's installment in the Sydney Morning Herald lays out the issues very nicely. Nadia Jamal, a Herald journalist, offers a commentary from the Islamic perspective basically arguing for tolerance. The 'school for terrorism' is just a stereotype she argues, that is insulting and needs to be fought. Of course Muslims don't separate religion from public affairs - and neither do catholics.

    But her basic message is, why should the Christian perspective be privileged in Australia:

    "Personally, I'm not offended by the mention of God. As a person of faith, I can't help asking myself if some religion, regardless of whether it is coming from the Christian doctrine, is better than none at all. But I am torn about issues such as the Lord's Prayer: what happens if a Muslim is elected to Parliament? What about those who don't believe in a God?"

    Christendom Awake!

    Saturday, 25 April 2009

    ANZAC Day - Remembering our war dead

    ANZAC Day formally remembers the landing of the troops of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps at Gallipolli in Turkey during World War I.

    Over 8,000 Australian and 2,700 New Zealand soldiers died in a campaign that failed in its objective of taking Turkey out of the war. It is Australia's most significant national day, on which we remember the sacrifice of those who have served, and especially those who have died in war and other military operations on behalf of our country.

    Lest we forget.

    Feast of St Mark

    Friday, 24 April 2009

    Restoring traditional ascetical practices

    American Papist reports that Bishop Conlon of Steubenville has restored Friday abstinence. He reports:

    "Okay, technically, Catholics in the US are only allowed to dispense from the year-round Friday abstinence from meat if they substitute a comparable penance for it ... but in practice, the vast majority of Catholics have forgotten to even do this. Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, however, has dispensed with the substituting ... and has instead brought back the simple Friday abstinence from meat in his diocese.

    I especially respect that he ties this sacrificial abstinence to witnessing for the unborn and providing them with concrete assistance:

    "I am inviting the Catholic people of the Diocese of Steubenville to resume the practice of abstaining from meat on all Fridays throughout the year, but with a twist. I am asking that this be not only a penitential practice but also an experience of prayer and service. This can happen by connecting abstinence with our witness to the sacredness of human life. (In another section he says: Abstinence can also be service if we eat simple meatless food and donate the financial savings to the poor or to pro-life efforts.)

    ... The resumption of year-round abstinence in the Diocese of Steubenville will begin after this coming Easter, one week after Good Friday (April 17). Although the practice will not be a requirement of law, and failing to keep it will not constitute a sin, I hope every one who is old enough to receive Holy Communion and well enough to come to church will take it seriously. Our parishes, schools and organizations should provide meatless food at their Friday activities.

    ... the present challenge to the people in our diocese is not really radical. It is a call to what many if not most of us have put aside. And it is a way for us, like the apostles, to give up a little food and help Jesus feed the world."

    Bishop Conlon, of course, placed the above mandate within a very well-crafted pastoral letter, which he had read before or at the end of all the Masses in his diocese on the weekend of March 28/29. His catechetical office has also followed-through and provided education materials for school-age children."


    Perhaps you could consider asking your own bishop (very politely and respectfully) to consider doing this too. And really, would it be too terrible to make it obligatory again?

    PS Now that I've gotten past my email and onto the blogs, I see that I'm on the same page on this as Fr Z , who also advocates going back to the three hour eucharistic fast (which I strongly support). Presumably there is nothing stopping a local bishop from encouraging such a practice. And making Friday abstinence compulsory again is as simple (!) as a decision of our Bishop's Conference...

    And by the way, doing some form of penance today (being a Friday in Oz) is still obligatory, so why not start abstaining forthwith!

    Fourth anniversary of the installation of Pope Benedict XVI

    Oremus pro Pontifice nostro Benedicto.

    Dominus conservet eum, et vivificet eum, et beatum faciat eum in terra, et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius. Deus, omnium fidelium pastor et rector, famulum tuum Benedictum, quem pastorem Ecclesiae tuae praeesse voluisti, propitius respice: da ei, quaesumus, verbo et exemplo, quibus praeest, proficere: ut ad vitam, una cum grege sibi credito, perveniat sempiternam. Per Christum, Dominum nostrum. Amen.

    Let us pray for Benedict, our Pope.

    May the Lord preserve him, and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies.O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look mercifully upon Thy servant Benedict, whom Thou hast chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

    The tensions in practical ecumenism: the Ambrose Institute and the proposed Islamic school in Camden

    The Sydney Morning Herald of 23 April carried two different stories that highlight some of the real tensions inherent in ecumenism and interreligious alliances. The first story was the continuing appeal hearing relating to a proposed Islamic School in Camden. The second was about the foundation of a new group, led by Catholic, Anglican, Jewish, Islamic and other leaders, to fight against vilification laws and religious intolerance.


    Today's installment in this saga is about different perspectives of the various Christian groups in the area. The moderator of the Presbyterian Church in NSW, the Right Reverend Bruce Meller, summarised what seems to me to be the orthodox, catholic position quite well. He said that:

    "...the charter of his church opposed "persecuting and intolerant principles" directed at Muslims. "But we are a Christian organisation and we want to see the teachings of Jesus being pre-eminent."

    Others however took a view not infrequently heard from Catholic lips:

    "The Reverend Glenda Blakefield, the associate general secretary of the Uniting Church's national assembly, said Christians, Muslims and Jews were all "people of the book" who shared a common heritage descended from Abraham."

    In fact the Catholic view is that Christianity is not a 'religion of the book' (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 108), but of the Word of God, incarnate and living. And while we recognise in other religions the search for God 'among shadows and images', we also have to keep in mind that 'Very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasonings, and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and served the creature rather than the Creator..' (CCC844).

    All of which suggests that opposition to such schools is perfectly legitimate given their history elsewhere!

    The Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty

    It is perhaps still possible - though juggling the tension involved in practice can't be easy - to maintain the pre-eminence of Christianity even while finding areas of common cause with other religions, and that's the second news item of interest.

    The Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty was being launched at NSW Parliament House last night, and brings together a very diverse group of religious leaders indeed, all of whom are worried that religious vilification laws might be introduced nationally. Its 'what we do statement' is very carefully crafted:

    "The Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty has been established to defend religious freedom as one of the foundations of human rights and a strong, democratic and pluralistic society. It does not believe that every individual, group, cult, sect and organisation is right, or that their beliefs are equally valid or true. But it does believe that we all have a right to our own answers, even if others think they are wrong."

    The Board of the Centre includes Cardinal Pell; Archbishop Hickey of Perth; the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen; former Nationals leader and deputy prime minister John Anderson; the senior rabbi of Sydney's Great Synagogue, Jeremy Lawrence; Haset Sali, a Brisbane lawyer and member of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils; the Adelaide academic My-Van Tran, a prominent Buddhist leader; and the Hindu leader Gambhir Watts. It has ties with the US Acton Foundation.

    It also has a website, which you can find here, but be warned, a lot of it is still under construction. And its 'latest news' from around the world section isn't going to be of much use unless it includes dates! Still, its emphasis on practical advocacy looks like a much needed service. So do consider signing up to their newsletter and supporting it.

    Thursday, 23 April 2009

    New traditional Carmel

    Some really excellent news to share (thanks to Phatmass) - the Traditional Carmel of Valparaiso is making a new foundation. Here is the story:

    "Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg announced Friday that a second community of Discalced Carmelite nuns will be established in the diocese in the monastery in Elysburg.The new community will be founded from the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph of Valparaiso, Neb.

    They come to the Diocese of Harrisburg because of a constant increase of vocations to their monastery that has caused crowding. Their community is currently at 33. The maximum number of nuns in a Carmelite monastery is about 21.

    The Valparaiso, Nebraska Carmelites join the Danville Carmelites and the Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Rosary in Lancaster as the third contemplative community of nuns in the 15 counties of the Diocese of Harrisburg. Bishop Rhoades said, “I feel incredibly blessed that we will now have three contemplative communities of nuns in our diocese. We welcome the Carmelite nuns from Nebraska whose lives of prayer and asceticism in the cloister remind all of us of our call to holiness.

    “To these Sisters, I extend my deep gratitude for their coming to our diocese and for their prayers for all of us. Their presence and prayers are a gift to us from the Lord! May God the Father bless these, His daughters, consecrated for the glory of His Name,” the bishop said.

    Mother Teresa of Jesus, Prioress of the Valparaiso, Nebraska Carmelite community expressed these thoughts, “We are very excited and grateful to make a foundation in the Diocese of Harrisburg.“True to our Carmelite vocation our main work is our prayer life. We are praying for Bishop Rhoades, the clergy and all the faithful of the Diocese of Harrisburg, and we will do even more so upon our arrival.

    ...The new foundation of Carmelite nuns comes from the Diocese of Lincoln.They came there in 1999, with roots reaching back to Las Vegas, San Francisco in the United States, Guadalajara and Puebla in Mexico, and Caravaca in Spain. The monastery in Caravaca was one of the original foundations of St. Teresa of Avila. When they arrive, the nuns will be living temporarily in St. Peter Convent on West Avenue in Mount Carmel while they work to ready the monastery for habitation...."

    Remember, ladies that there is already one Australian in this community (please do keep her in your prayers). A few more and maybe their next foundation could be in Oz....

    Traddie picture of the occasional day: TLM at the Lateran

    The new Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, celebrated in the Extraordinary Form, assisted by members of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, a few days ago. Last week the founder of this group of Franciscans also celebrated an EF mass there.

    Feast of St George

    St George is one of those saints who has rather fallen victim to the distaste for good miracle stories and oral traditions. But there isn't really any good reason to doubt the tradition that he was a solider under Diocletian, martyred for his refusal to offer sacrifice to pagan gods. The dragon story is of rather more questionable provenance however!

    His cult took off early in England - St Bede mentions him, as did King Alfred in his will. It was really only after the story of St George and the dragon, where he rescues the princess to be sacrificed to the beast, was bought back from the crusades, that it really took off though. He is patron saint of England amongst many other places, and one of the fourteen holy helpers.

    Sure sounds like an appropriate saint to pray for help for English bloggers in their battle with the Pill.

    Wednesday, 22 April 2009

    Protecting our borders or persecuting the persecuted?

    I've hesitated to write on the terrible tragedy of the death of five would-be refugees and horrific injuries suffered by 29 more last week, the result of a desperate desire to get to Australia, for various reasons.

    It is a complex issue. On the one hand, based on past history, most of these people are almost certainly genuine refugees, fleeing horrific situations. On the other, most of them come via third countries such as Indonesia where they are not being persecuted - but where the standard of living is not what they aspire to. Refugee status is supposed to be based on political or racial persecution, not economics, and accepted by the first country you reach - the only reason these asylum seekers have a claim on Australia if they manage to reach our shores is that Indonesia has not accepted its own international obligations in this regard, and acceded to the relevant UN treaties.

    One can legitimately argue that Australia shouldn't be held hostage to extreme behaviour and threats, or blamed when those threats become reality. But all I can say is that the cost of maintaining Australia's border integrity is too high in its effect on human lives, as the tragedy last week, the loss at sea of 'SIEV X' , and the psychological effects on those detained in various places on behalf of Australia graphically illustrate.

    And we keep making it worse. According to the SMH today, the "29 badly wounded survivors of the explosion will not be allowed to apply for immediate refugee status because they were taken to an oil rig in territory which is excised from Australia. But 13 of the less seriously injured - transferred directly to Darwin by sea - can apply for refugee status and appeal if their application is rejected."

    Surely given the horrific injuries these people have suffered a special exemption should be made for them - they could for example be accepted under Australia's Humanitarian programme!

    It has been evident throughout this affair that the Rudd Government learnt the wrong lesson from the Children Overboard Affair. In my view, Howard and his Ministers seized on a piece of news that could be milked politically (in the process reversing their whole media strategy of saying as little as possible about the boats arriving, and avoiding putting a human face on their desperation), then refused to correct the story when it became evident that it wasn't true. Rudd seems intent on not telling us anything, so he can't be called on what he does say. But the net impact of his approach amounts to a rerun of the mushroom principle.

    We can only hope that the Rudd Government doesn't have to deal with a major public health epidemic, or some other major disaster. Because the best approach to managing events of this kind is almost always to tell what you do know - but make it clear what degree of uncertainty lies around the information, and quickly correct the story as things become clearer. If you don't tell, rumour and falsehoods rise up to fill the gap, and that is rarely healthy.

    In the meantime, Australia needs to find some compassion, and work on serious solutions, not just politically expedient ones.

    Christians schools stand up against Islam

    Remember the Islamic school that wanted to set up in Camden in Sydney, but whose application was rejected? Well, they are now appealing the decision.

    Cardinal Pell, you might recall, supported the right of the Islamic school to be established, seeing a parallel in attempts to exclude catholic schools in Australia's past. Protestants in the area, however, have taken a tougher stance, and the Sydney Morning Herald reports today:

    CAMDEN'S Christian leaders have united to condemn the Quranic Society, which wants to build an Islamic school in Camden, for espousing views which are "incompatible with the Australian way of life".

    The leaders of the St John's Anglican, Camden Presbyterian and Camden Baptist churches and the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary signed a letter to Camden Council arguing that the proposal was not in the public interest.

    "Camden is increasingly becoming a multicultural community, but when one part of the community seeks to dominate the public space, as we have seen in Auburn, Bankstown, Lakemba and more recently Liverpool, the social impact is unacceptable," says the letter, which was read at the Quranic Society's appeal to the Land and Environment Court yesterday.

    "Our concern is the Quranic Society inevitably advocates a political ideological position that is incompatible with the Australian way of life. This includes promoting Quranic law as being superior to national laws and regarding followers of any rival religion as inevitably at enmity with it."

    The school proposal has split the Camden community.

    The council voted unanimously to reject the original application for a 1200-pupil school "on planning grounds alone" last May.

    After reducing its proposal to a school catering for 900 students, the Quranic Society took its case to the Land and Environment Court..."

    The strange case of the UN racism summit...

    You may or may not be aware that a UN Summit on racism is currently in session.

    Australia - and a number of other countries including the US - is boycotting it, largely on the basis of lobbying from Israel as far as can be gathered, on the basis that it is primarily about giving a platform to anti-semitic rants by the President of Iran. And there have indeed been anti-Israeli rants at the Conference.

    According to the Catholic News Service, President "Ahmadinejad told conference participants in Geneva April 20 that Israel had "resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering" and had established a "totally racist government in the occupied Palestine." His comments prompted a temporary walkout by dozens of diplomats in attendance."

    The Pope, on the other hand, has been promoting participation in the conference, arguing for the need to tackle racism and discrimination head-on.

    The Vatican issued a statement condemning President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's remarks: “Statements like those of the Iranian president do not go in the right direction, because even if he did not deny the Holocaust or the right of Israel to exist, he expressed extremist and unacceptable positions,” said Father Lombardi.

    CNS reports that the following day, the Vatican spokesman issued a broader statement, saying that "the Holy See deplores the use of this United Nations forum for the adoption of political positions of an extremist and offensive nature against any state."

    "This does not contribute to dialogue and it provokes an unacceptable atmosphere of conflict," it said. Father Lombardi said the conference was an important opportunity to take new steps toward "effectively combating the racism and intolerance that still today affect children, women, those of African descent, migrants and indigenous peoples ... in every part of the world."

    So just what are the proper limits of dialogue? And does the UN really perform a useful function these days?

    Tuesday, 21 April 2009

    The Vatican fights back!

    The Vatican is marking the fourth anniversary of the Pope's election this week (Friday is the day for the official commemoration of his installation) with something of a fightback against recent attacks. It is good to see!

    And the picture above reflects another notable anniversary worth celebrating - 800 years since the Franciscan Rule was formally approved.


    In terms of the fightback, first came a blistering response to a motion by the Belgium Parliament on the Pope's African comments. Catholic World News reports:

    "The Vatican response "deplores the fact that a Parliamentary Assembly should have thought it appropriate to criticize the Holy Father on the basis of an isolated extract from an interview, separated from its context, and used by some groups with a clear intent to intimidate, as if to dissuade the Pope from expressing himself on certain themes of obvious moral relevance and from teaching the Church’s doctrine."

    Reiterating the fundamental message that the Pope had intended to convey, the Vatican said that efforts to curb the AIDS epidemic must include clear moral guidance, and without that guidance "the battle against AIDS will not be won." The statement pointed out that the Catholic Church has also been in the vanguard of efforts to help AIDS victims, showing "true friendship and willingness to help persons who are suffering."

    United Kingdom

    And now Damian Thompson is reporting a demand that the Times print a retraction of a 'completely untrue story' about a purported gift to Charles and Camilla of 'a "luxury facsimile" of the 1530 appeal by English peers to Pope Clement VII asking for the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon'. Hmm, I quite like the idea - the hoaxer certainly has a nice sense of humour!

    New archbishops

    A couple of recent appointments also seem to be proving positive choices (so far at least!), with Archbishop Dollan of New York garnered a standing ovation last week at his installation mass for some strong pro-life statements. American Papist reports:

    "... the Resurrection goes on, as His Church continues to embrace and protect the dignity of every human person, the sanctity of human life, from the tiny baby in the womb...
    [here a deafening applause interrupted his delivery, lasting for perhaps 30-45 seconds, and eventually included almost the entire assembly standing]

    ... to the last moment of natural passing into eternal life. As the Servant of God Terrence Cardinal Cooke wrote, “Human life is no less sacred or worthy of respect because it is tiny, pre-born, poor, sick, fragile, or handicapped.” [note that, in the eyes of the Church, all these conditions are simply unique challenges to protecting human dignity.]

    Yes, the Church is a loving mother who has a zest for life and serves life everywhere, but she can become a protective “mamma bear” when the life of her innocent, helpless cubs is threatened...
    [here, for a second time, strong sustained applause]

    ... Everyone in this mega-community is a somebody with an extraordinary destiny. Everyone is a somebody in whom God has invested an infinite love. That is why the Church reaches out to the unborn, the suffering, the poor, our elders, the physically and emotionally challenged, those caught in the web of addictions..." "

    And Archbishop Nichols, newly appointed to Westminster, has garnered cautious approval so far for his initial forays into the media in his new role from British bloggers.

    It's war!

    All of this is sorely needed - as the remarkable Bishop Finn of Kansas City has said, 'we are at war'.

    And there are lots of collaborators with the enemy, most notably at the moment many of the 'catholic' universities, which in the US are busily covering up the symbols of our religion in order to accommodate presidential sensibilities (Georgetown) or even proposing to confer honorary law degrees (Notre Dame) on a President who is busily implementing the culture of death, even to the point of abolishing conscious objection clauses relating to performing abortions. And then there is our very own school for heresy, the Australian Catholic University, which seems to be the prime source for Acatholica commentators...

    Feast of St Anselm

    I have to say that St Anselm is one of my favourite saints - anyone who can keep philosophers arguing for almost a thousand years about the validity of his proof of the existence of God has something going for him (even if St Thomas is rather dismissive of it!). And he was right in the middle of the debate on the proper relationship between Church and State! The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has this to say about him:

    "Anselm was born in 1033 near Aosta, in those days a Burgundian town on the frontier with Lombardy. Little is known of his early life. He left home at twenty-three, and after three years of apparently aimless travelling through Burgundy and France, he came to Normandy in 1059. Once he was in Normandy, Anselm's interest was captured by the Benedictine abbey at Bec, whose famous school was under the direction of Lanfranc, the abbey's prior. Lanfranc was a scholar and teacher of wide reputation, and under his leadership the school at Bec had become an important center of learning, especially in dialectic. In 1060 Anselm entered the abbey as a novice. His intellectual and spiritual gifts brought him rapid advancement, and when Lanfranc was appointed abbot of Caen in 1063, Anselm was elected to succeed him as prior. He was elected abbot in 1078 upon the death of Herluin, the founder and first abbot of Bec.

    Under Anselm's leadership the reputation of Bec as an intellectual center grew, and Anselm managed to write a good deal of philosophy and theology in addition to his teaching, administrative duties, and extensive correspondence as an adviser and counsellor to rulers and nobles all over Europe and beyond. His works while at Bec include the Monologion (1075-76), the Proslogion (1077-78), and his four philosophical dialogues: De grammatico (1059-60), De veritate, and De libertate arbitrii, and De casu diaboli (1080-86).

    In 1093 Anselm was enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury. The previous Archbishop, Anselm's old master Lanfranc, had died four years earlier, but the King, William Rufus, had left the see vacant in order to plunder the archiepiscopal revenues. Anselm was understandably reluctant to undertake the primacy of the Church of England under a ruler as ruthless and venal as William, and his tenure as Archbishop proved to be as turbulent and vexatious as he must have feared. William was intent on maintaining royal authority over ecclesiastical affairs and would not be dictated to by Archbishop or Pope or anyone else. So, for example, when Anselm went to Rome in 1097 without the King's permission, William would not allow him to return.

    When William was killed in 1100, his successor, Henry I, invited Anselm to return to his see. But Henry was as intent as William had been on maintaining royal jurisdiction over the Church, and Anselm found himself in exile again from 1103 to 1107. Despite these distractions and troubles, Anselm continued to write. His works as Archbishop of Canterbury include the Epistola de Incarnatione Verbi (1094), Cur Deus Homo (1095-98), De conceptu virginali (1099), De processione Spiritus Sancti (1102), the Epistola de sacrificio azymi et fermentati (1106-7), De sacramentis ecclesiae (1106-7), and De concordia (1107-8). Anselm died on 21 April 1109. He was canonized in 1494 and named a Doctor of the Church in 1720."

    It is his prayers and meditations, though, that I find particularly attractive. Here is an extract from a prayer before receiving the Blessed Sacrament by him:

    "Lord Jesus Christ
    by the Father's plan and by the working of the Holy Ghost of your own free will you died and mercifully redeemed the world from sin and everlasting death.
    I adore and venerate you as much as ever I can, though mu love is so cold, my devotion so poor.
    Thank you for the good gift of this your holy Body and Blood, which I desire to receive, as cleansing from sin, and for a defence against it..."

    The Year of St Paul - what did you do to celebrate it?

    The Year of St Paul is almost over, and a reader wrote to me wondering how various communities had celebrated it (or were planning to do so)? Seems like a timely question, especially since its not quite too late to arrange something if you haven't already!

    So do share what you have done personally, or what your community has done. Has anyone organised a pilgrimage to one of the Churches or shrines with an indulgence attached to it? Done some special Scriptural reading? Something aimed at the modern day Gentiles out there ? Or was it all just a big yawn?!

    Just to start the ball rolling, my personal commitment has been to reread all the Pauline letters as part of my lectio, as well as working my way through Pope Benedict XVI's wonderful series of General Audiences on the saint. My community has been talking about a pilgrimage, and hopefully that is still doable if we get our act together all ends June 29!

    Monday, 20 April 2009

    Is this the newest phase of the liturgical movement? Or just the last blast of a certain generation!

    Now although I detest rock music, I don't necessarily subscribe to the view that it is all diabolic (tempting though such a view is when one's ears are being assaulted by it).

    But one can only be horrified - from several points of view - at the three clips featuring the Abbot President of the Benedictine Confederation playing in a rock band posted by Gellibrand over at CathCon. Here's a sample, with Deep Purple!

    Seriously weird, no?