Monday, 14 March 2011

Cappas and symbolism - closer Mr Mullins, but no banana!

Over at Cath News, Australia's daily Catholic news alert service, each Monday Mr Michael Mullins writes a 'blog watch' column, purporting to give a roundup of what is being said on the blogs, with a strong Australian focus.

And it is becoming something of a weekly ritual for me to have to correct here whatever he says about my blog, since Cath News have consistently refused to correct things properly over there, either refusing outright, or putting up 'corrected' pieces that in fact create more errors!

Cardinal Burke: symbols pointing us to heaven

So herewith today's clarification, on Cardinal Burke's visit and the discussion of the use of the Cappa Magna.

Mr Mullins selectively quotes me (yet again) to imply that I suggested that wearing the Cappa is akin to wearing a crown of thorns.  That is not what I either said or implied! 

My point was actually that vestments such as the cappa, together with all the other special attention given in the solemn liturgy are about giving honour to God and help orient us to heaven.  The exact quote in the comment box, of which Mr Mullins gives only the first half, was:

"And in terms of the symbols of the kingship of Christ, the point is to make visible to the world what was invisible at [sic: should be 'to'] those at the time: indeed that is the whole point of the Church's mission: the world gave Our Lord a crown of thorns; Christians replace it with a crown of gold and precious stones!"

I did make the point that wearing a cappa involved some effort - I could also have mentioned that I don't imagine it is all that comfortable wearing all that gear in Sydney at the moment  - eight layers of vestments and a temperature on Saturday morning of around *36C/95F.

The point was just that there is some ascetic discipline involved in following these kind of practices that were mandatory until recent decades.  That wearing the proper vestments represents the humility of a person willing to subjugate themselves to the traditions of the Church, willing to stand up for Christ, willing to help point us to heaven, even though he knows that he will cop some flak for it.

It is in fact that same message so many of our priests - and even bishops (take a look at Bishop Morris' shirt and tie on that official video of Lenten reflections) - refuse to make by declining to wear clericals, lest they be identifiable to the public.

Symbols in my view, are just as important, if not more so, than words.

They can be effective - as the nice article in The Australian attests in relation to Cardinal Burke's success in promoting priestly vocations prior to his move to the Vatican, in a backgrounder on his visit to Sydney.

How long oh Lord!

I suppose it is not really a surprise that Mr Mullins continues to misrepresent what I say.

I do after all, strive to promote orthodoxy, and the recovery of orthodoxy and orthopraxis.

By contrast, Mr Mullins, aside from his interestingly creative work for Cath News' blog, is also editor of Eureka Street, a Jesuit publication that continues to spread and celebrate dissent.

Over the last few days alone for example, it has featured an article by Fr Frank Brennan advocating recognition of same-sex relationships (quite how Fr Brennan can remain an approved teacher in the Australian Catholic University as his bio notes claims...), and today a eulogy praising Anglican Patricia Brennan's efforts in the support of the Movement for the Ordination of Women.

Still, at least Mr Mullins finally got my name correct!

Usquequo Domine!


A Canberra Observer said...

CathNews Delenda Est !!

That site is a travesty, espousing 'free expression' but in fact being a bastion of self-serving censorship.

But I fear that a goodly number of the Bishop's Conference actually like this fifth columnist dissenting approach so nothing is going to change. I wonder how often Bishop ['Father Pat'] Power visits the establishment in person ...

However, I did muse that emphasis on the Cappa Magna provided the liberals with a screaming big target to shoot at ... ;-)

Kate said...

Yes indeedy on both counts.

So far as Cath News goes, it seems to me that the bishops might better spend their money on subscribing to one of the professional media monitering services for their own use.

So far as letting the rest of us know what is happening, Xt3 continues to become more comprehensive (though still has a way to go), and it is certainly much more effectively focused.

So far as waving the red cappa goes - evangelization can happen via example, immersion...or dialectical engagement!

R. J. said...

Kate writes: "the bishops might better spend their money on subscribing to one of the professional media monitering services for their own use."

Unfortunately decades have passed in Australia since the time when the words "bishops" and "professional" could fittingly appear in the same sentence. Most of our prelates live in an alternative, non-Euclidean universe where amateurism is a badge of "pastoral" honour, where incompetence is actively rewarded, and where (as my father used to say about the more obviously simian, pampered undergraduates he had to teach) "the challenge is to fail." How long would the average episcopal invertebrate last in the private sector which most of us have to cope with? You know, the sector where no-hopers can be punished and even dismissed? 24 hours? Five minutes?

In the old days Eureka Street would run the very occasional article of consequence by someone who conspicuously had brains, such as James Franklin or Peter Steele. Then the zombies took over, and have remained in charge ever since, despite such trifles as the enforced closing-down of the magazine's print version.

Kate said...

While I understand the sentiment and occasionally share it in frustration, that's surely considerably exagerrated RJ!

There is I think a genuine problem in that whereas private and public sector workers actually receive ongoing training in leadership, management and administration as well as training in their subject matter/technical speciality, that's rarely the case for priests or bishops.

Now personally I think that is a mistake. A few basic survival skills (accounting, file keeping, cooking, IT basics etc) should be a required courses. And how to lead a parish and make good decisions explicitly taught (maybe it is in some places, but certainly not in the traditionalist seminaries from what I've seen?!).

R. J. said...

If I had referred in my earlier post to all bishops rather than to most bishops, then the charge of exaggeration would be a fair cop, but as matters stand I'm not convinced that it is.

Survival skills of the sort Kate mentions would undoubtedly be useful. Yet surely the most important single change that could be made is to cut episcopal bureaucracies down to size. Their present elephantiasis is entirely a postconciliar phenomenon, as is the consequent episcopal abdication of personal responsibility.

A Daniel Mannix and a Sir Norman Gilroy, who after all were in charge of archdioceses at least as large as they are today, did not see themselves as somehow morally obligated to cram their payrolls with "marketing directors" and "marriage education publicists", let alone "grief support therapists" (I wish I could say I was making these up). Such jacks- and jills-in-office would merely have been an impediment to these archbishops in carrying out one of their most important duties: namely, to ensure that when they smacked an errant Catholic, that errant Catholic stayed smacked. Under a Gilroy or a Mannix, Mullins would be lucky to get a job working night-shifts at palliative care in Broken Hill.

Richard Collins said...

You always know you are on target when you start receiving flak!

Anonymous said...

hahahhaha. I nearly fell off my seat at the computer reading about episcopal nincompoops and Mannix and Gilroy. Of course we ought remember that Mannix was something of a hero when he 'emigrated' to Melbourne to take over that See in the early 1900s and ended up being bishop till 100. But whilst he did have an incredible following and he did walk from Raheen to the cathedral every day, he was living in an era when the Church was fighting for its position, the Irish were in the ascendency and Catholicism did have more time to spend on itself, its seminarians etc etc.
Different era, different means, and of course no Tv for the vast majority of his time as bish.
But I think there is a core point here - what is the calibre of the episcipacy today.
I can reveal, although no names or anything, that a bishop friend of mine in Australia told me that a priest in his diocese threatened to leave that diocese if he was moved to a certain parish area. The priest then ended up as a bishop himself. Some loyalty, some priest. Of course no names here. But there are all types in the episcopacy and I'M sure many of them could not run a corner store. Then again they are not meant to. They are meant to lead the people of God. And many of them have trouble doing that. They need to be men of the Gospel, faithful and holy.
Michael J