Monday, 31 December 2012

On the seventh day of Christmas: Te Deum Laudamus!

Should you be able to take part in a public recitation in a Church or oratory of the Te Deum today in thanksgiving for the gifts of the year, you can earn a plenary indulgence.

But even if you can't make it, a partial one is still available:

Te Deum laudamus:
te Dominum confitemur.
Te aeternum Patrem
omnis terra veneratur.
Tibi omnes Angeli;
tibi caeli et universae Potestates;
Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim
incessabili voce proclamant:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra
maiestatis gloriae tuae.
Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus,
Te Prophetarum laudabilis numerus,
Te Martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus.
Te per orbem terrarum
sancta confitetur Ecclesia,
Patrem immensae maiestatis:
Venerandum tuum verum et unicum Filium;
Sanctum quoque Paraclitum Spiritum.
Tu Rex gloriae, Christe.
Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius.
Tu ad liberandum suscepturus hominem,
non horruisti Virginis uterum.
Tu, devicto mortis aculeo,
aperuisti credentibus regna caelorum.
Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes, in gloria Patris.
Iudex crederis esse venturus.
Te ergo quaesumus, tuis famulis subveni:
quos pretioso sanguine redemisti.
Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari.
Salvum fac populum tuum,
Domine, et benedic hereditati tuae.
Et rege eos, et extolle illos usque in aeternum.
Per singulos dies benedicimus te;
Et laudamus Nomen tuum in saeculum, et in saeculum saeculi.
Dignare, Domine, die isto sine peccato nos custodire.
Miserere nostri Domine, miserere nostri.
Fiat misericordia tua,
Domine, super nos, quemadmodum speravimus in te.
In te, Domine, speravi:
non confundar in aeternum.

O God, we praise Thee, and acknowledge Thee to be the supreme Lord.
Everlasting Father, all the earth worships Thee.
All the Angels, the heavens and all angelic powers,
All the Cherubim and Seraphim, continuously cry to Thee:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts!
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of Thy glory.
The glorious choir of the Apostles,
The wonderful company of Prophets,
The white-robed army of Martyrs, praise Thee.
Holy Church throughout the world acknowledges Thee:
The Father of infinite Majesty;
Thy adorable, true and only Son;
Also the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.
O Christ, Thou art the King of glory!
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
When Thou tookest it upon Thyself to deliver man,
Thou didst not disdain the Virgin's womb.
Having overcome the sting of death, Thou opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all
Thou sitest at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father.
We believe that Thou willst come to be our Judge.
We, therefore, beg Thee to help Thy servants whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy
Precious Blood.
Let them be numbered with Thy Saints in everlasting glory.
Save Thy people, O Lord, and bless Thy inheritance!
Govern them, and raise them up forever.
Every day we thank Thee.
And we praise Thy Name forever, yes, forever and ever.
O Lord, deign to keep us from sin this day.
Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.
Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, for we have hoped in Thee.
O Lord, in Thee I have put my trust; let me never be put to shame.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

The Sixth Day of Christmas: on the evils of Christmas trees!

A friend suggested I posted on when you should take down your Christmas tree - twelfth night or the end of Epiphanytide?  I have to admit I don't have a strong view on this subject (but see below).

But I did receive one of those wacky extreme fundamentalist emails (perhaps sicced onto me by my brother?!) suggesting that the whole Christmas tree thing was a bit of left over Baal worship, so perhaps its good to reflect on the whole tradition for a moment!

A pagan sacrifice?

According to 'GEOgram', Christmas trees are a bit of syncretism of the kind condemned by Our Lord:

"Having survived the end of the age as predicted by the heathen false prophets of the human-sacrificing Mayan culture, we still face the “Christianized” finale of the season of Baal – that hideous annual event wherein a singular member of the ancient groves was sacrificed to Tammuz. I am, of course, referencing the Spiritual Sustenance annually derived through imbibing in the Spirit associated with “things offered to idols” (Acts 21:25).

For those who can’t see the forest for the trees, this is yet another assault on the now universal practice of killing a “green tree” (II Kings 16:4), dragging it into your home, and labeling it “Christian.”"

Could it be true?  Well no.

The tradition of decorating trees for Christmas is actually quite modern - dating back no further than the Renaissance at best, and taking its current form in eighteenth century Germany.

And it actually seems to commemorate St Boniface's very un-pc missionary strategy of cutting down a sacred tree dedicated to Thor, and daring the false god to strike him down for the sacrilege if he really existed.  The saint survived; those present converted forthwith to Christianity!

The only alternative explanation I've found with any credibility for the tradition with any credibility is that the tree represents the tree of paradise (those red shiny balls symbolise the apples).

When syncretism isn't!

Moreover, even if a custom like this did have pagan origins, there is a big difference between Christianizing something and stripping it of its original connotations and outright syncretism.

Syncretism means incorporating actual pagan elements into our worship - it means illicit practices such as putting a Buddha in a Church in a position near the tabernacle (as happened in South Brisbane in days of old!), or incorporating elements of Aboriginal spirit worship into the Mass (as I'm told happens all too frequently in certain dioceses!).  

By contrast, genuine 'inculturation' occurred when the Church substituted a Christian feast for a previous pagan one celebrated on the same day, or destroyed a pagan temple, and built a Christan Church on the site.

So how long should your tree stay up?

The point of my friends question was that the season of Christmas doesn't end with Christmas Day, the Octave, or even after twelfth night.  In fact it extends up until the end of Epiphanytide on January 13.

So when should you take down that tree?  My view is when its starting to fade and look a bit dead, or the end of Epiphanytide, whichever comes sooner, but I'm sure others have different views!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

The fifth day of Christmas: some gifts to give thanks for...

In many ways this hasn't been a great year for the Church in Australia, but are some positives to remember and things to give thanks for.  Please feel free to add to my list!

Fr Gregory Jordan SJ: fifty years of faithful service

First, the big one - tomorrow marks the fiftieth anniversary of the ordination of Fr Gregory Jordan SJ, chaplain to Brisbane's thriving Latin Mass community.  Please remember him in your prayers!

The Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross

The Ordinariate for former Anglicans was finally established this year, and saw ordinations in Perth, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, as wonderful grace for the Church as unity becomes a reality.

Religious orders

We can also be thankful for the gift of vocations to at least some of the religious orders in this country.  Earlier this month I'm told three men made their solemn vows as Capuchin Friars, and are scheduled to be ordained as priests in February 2013.

And some of the other faithful religious orders, such as the Sisters of St Paul ChartresNashville Dominican Sisters, and the Launceston Carmel continue to gain ground.


As well as the Ordinariate ordinations, there have been a good number of other ordinations to the priesthood and diaconate across the country this year, as well as growing numbers in the seminaries.  These men must be our hope!

Friday, 28 December 2012

The fourth day of Christmas: the Holy Innocents

Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents, slaughtered by Herod out of fear at the perceived threat posed the Christ-child to his throne.  It serves as a reminder that evil is not rational, and innocence is no protection from the wicked!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

On the third day of Christmas: the duty to evangelise

Today is the feast of St John the Evangelist, and the placement of the feast on this third day of Christmas perhaps serves to remind us that the Church should always be missionary in character.

Remaining outwardly focused is always a challenge in a society that is no longer inherently Christian.  But it will be particularly challenging over the next year, I suspect, with the Royal Commission and all the bad news stories that will entail.

Yet that makes it all the more imperative that we do make an extra effort to present the faith and the good works we and the Church do in all their truth and beauty.

Traditionalists and the missionary imperative

I've commented on many occasions in the past that traditionalists seem too often to be content if they can have their own Mass, without being intent on reaching out and converting others.

There is of course a challenge in doing this: being able to celebrate the TLM requires access to a Church and priest, and thus depends to a greater or lesser extent on the good will of the dioceses in which we reside.

Nonetheless, Christ did not instruct the Apostles to go out and create ghettos, or walled off enclaves where we can focus just on cultivating our own holiness!  Rather he instructed us to go out into the world and make all men disciples.

Becoming holy ourselves

Becoming holy ourselves is of course always the first imperative.  And that requires ready access to the Mass and sacraments.

Accordingly, I was somewhat bemused to find that the daily TLM Masses (and presumably associated confession times) in my own town in the week before Christmas were, bar one, scheduled for 5am in the morning (although perhaps in compensation, this week mass is at 10am).  I'm sure there was some good reason for it, but the bottom line, it seems to me, is that if we truly believe we will surely want to share our faith and worship, to communicate its truth and beauty to others.

At least here it was actually possible to go to the net and actually find out when the Mass times were - certainly a step up from the FSSP's Parramatta chaplaincy, where the website previously maintained by a friend of the community there has apparently been "discontinued due to lack of interest by FSSP Paramatta Diocese". Nor is the FSSP's Southern Cross region website any more help, since its 'latest news' entry is over a year old.  Perhaps something the new FSSP superior, Fr Christopher Blust, might see about getting fixed (and to whom a big welcome is due; please keep him in your prayers as he adjusts to Australia)!

There are some good things happening around the country though.

It is nice to see exciting things happen like the scheduling of Mozart's Coronation Mass on Christmas day by Adelaide's FSSP community.

And Summorum Pontificum Wangaratta also continues to thrive, putting on a sung Midnight Mass at Glenrowan this year.

Against heresy and heteropraxis

Rorate Caeli is currently featuring a post on modernism in the Church.

As so often with that blog it goes more than a step or two too far in my view, citing examples of what it views as heresy in the presentation of various church teachings by the Magisterium, which seem in reality to be no more than legitimate differences of emphasis.

Nonetheless, there is a core of truth in its assertions, particularly in noting that too many teachings - such as the existence of hell, and the evils of co-habitation - are passed over in silence these days, leading to their de facto rejection.

To counter these problems, traditional Catholics need themselves to be well catechized.  But more they need to be active in finding ways to teach truth.

On the last Sunday of Advent I heard an excellent sermon from departing FSSP superior Fr Define (to whom we owe thanks for his service here; please keep him in your prayers as he departs to take up his new posting in Tulsa, Oklahoma), who pointed out that St John the Baptist, the great precursor of Our Lord, preached not in the Temple and Synagogues  but in the desert that symbolizes the world.

Today we particularly remember the other St John, the beloved Apostle, and author of one of the Gospels, the book of Revelation, as well as three letters preserved in the New Testament.

The lives of both these great saints should constantly remind us of our own specific charisms and callings; the ways, big or small, in which we are specifically called to mission, whether to the wider community, or in the constant call to the reform and conversion of the Catholic community itself. 

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

On the second day of Christmas: remembering our (white) martyrs

Today , on the second day of Christmas, the Church places before us the feast of St Stephen, the protomartyr, to remind us that the life of a Christian is not just about earthly joy.

God and Caesar in Australia

In Australia today we are fortunate that no one has (yet) suffered the martyrdom of blood for their faith.  In this we stand in stark contrast to many other countries around the world, including some of the near neighbours our Governments are seeking to cosy up to.

Nonetheless, we do live in a country that has more than a few immoral laws in place, such as those permitting abortion, which Catholics are bound to disobey, and where aggressive secularism and extremist Islam have long since made Christmas more about self-indulgent consumerism and cricket than anything to do with Christianity.

It is fitting then, that today we might particularly remember those in our midst undergoing the white martyrdoms of persecution, of opposition that come from opposing those committed to immoral agendas such as homosexual marriage, abortion, euthanasia or integrity in the political process.

There are many in this country who have campaigned hard over the last year on these issues and more, and many have incurred a high cost for their beliefs.

Within the Church...

Yet persecution is I think, always much harder to bear when it comes from those who we see as our won, from those who should be our friends, our brothers in faith.

I'm thinking here firstly of those who have suffered from being whistleblowers in the abuse crisis.

But we should also remember all those who have suffered simply for attempting to uphold orthodoxy and orthopraxis.

There are many priests in this country who have been persecuted for their desire to say the Traditional Latin Mass.  Many who have been sidelined or worse for attempting to uphold faith and morality in the face of bishops and others who have pursued error and immorality.

There are seminarians, religious and laypeople who continue to suffer at the hands of authorities who are actually duty bound to support them.

Are things on the improve?  I hate to be a pessimist, but I'm not seeing much evidence of it at the moment!  Rather people keep sending me stories of some of our newer bishops being pressured to toe the party line by the 'liberal' thugs of certain dioceses; of long standing injustices that no one will take action to fix.

So let's give thanks for the willingness of our brothers and sisters in faith to suffer for what is right.  Let's give thanks for the merits they are earning that benefit the rest of us.  Let's pray that they may yet see justice in this world; but if not, be rewarded in the next.  And let's pray for strength for ourselves to emulate them if we are called to do so.

Christmas messages....

Many of our bishops have, as usual, released Christmas messages, and you can find some of them over at the ACBC media blog (I expect more will go up after the public holiday period is over).

The Pope

The Pope's urbi et orbi message focuses on the hope of peace, particularly in places like Syria and the Middle East.

Perhaps more interesting is his Christmas article for the UK Financial Times, which talks about the relationship between Church and State, pointing out that our Christian faith should both inspire us to engage actively in the political arena in order to shape a better, more equitable world, but also remind us to render to Caesar only what belongs to him, and no more:

"Because these goals are shared by so many, much fruitful cooperation is possible between Christians and others. Yet Christians render to Caesar only what belongs to Caesar, not what belongs to God. Christians have at times throughout history been unable to comply with demands made by Caesar. From the Emperor cult of ancient Rome to the totalitarian regimes of the last century, Caesar has tried to take the place of God. When Christians refuse to bow down before the false gods proposed today, it is not because of an antiquated world-view. Rather, it is because they are free from the constraints of ideology and inspired by such a noble vision of human destiny that they cannot collude with anything that undermines it...From the manger, Christ calls us to live as citizens of his heavenly kingdom, a kingdom that all people of good will can help to build here on earth"."

Cardinal Pell over at the Vatican website

Cardinal Pell's piece isn't for some reason up at the ACBC blog (yet?).

But it is getting a rather wider audience, not least by dint of being featured on the Vatican website.  His apology for the abuse crisis is being applauded (at least by some victims groups) not least for its contrast to some of his previous, rather less sensitive comments!

The Queen

The Queen's annual message reflects on her Jubilee, and stresses the importance of service of others in Christ's coming.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

May you have a happy and holy Christmas!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Today's O Antiphon: O Emmanuel (Dec 23)

Today's O antiphon:

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,
exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

Sydney Muslims: Saying Happy Christmas is a sin!

Sydney's Muslims have, according to the Fairfax media, been prohibited from celebrating Christmas in any way, even down to saying 'Merry Christmas' to someone.

So much for their alleged creed of 'respect' for other religions.

And so much for their attempt to present Jesus as a prophet of Islam in a billboard campaign last year.

The Islamic war on Christmas

The Report states that:

"SYDNEY'S Lakemba Mosque has issued a fatwa against Christmas, warning followers it is a ''sin'' to even wish people a Merry Christmas.

The ruling, which followed a similar lecture during Friday prayers at Australia's biggest mosque, was posted on its Facebook site on Saturday.

The head imam at Lakemba, Sheikh Yahya Safi, told the congregation during prayers they should not have anything to do with Christmas.

The fatwa, sparking widespread debate and condemnation, warns: ''Disbelievers are trying to draw Muslims away from the straight path.'"

Some are trying to paint this view as an aberration, notwithstanding that Lakemba is Australia's largest mosque.  But there is plenty of evidence on the internet (not to mention from the past behaviour of Lakemba Mosque attendees in the riots a few months back) to suggest that it is anything but.

No common cause?

There has long been a school in the Church that has attempted to find common cause with Muslims against the secularist assault.  They argue we can work together to defend the right to defend religious freedoms such as the right to celebrate our various religious festivals in public.

That was the reason why Cardinal Pell hosted an Iftar dinner this year and Archbishop Wilson of Adelaide promoted a Christmas video a couple of years back that celebrated Australia's religious and cultural diversity instead of Christmas as such.

Perhaps it is time for everyone to take stock, and notice that Islam has become increasingly fervent in their practice, and increasingly radicalized.  No doubt those who believe in a softer, kinder Islam still exist, but they are increasingly becoming marginalized and pressured to conform.

When Australia's largest mosque declares war on Christmas, there can be no common ground.


Apparently the Mosque has taken down the message from facebook following protests from other Muslims.

So, was it really just a case of one extremist preacher at Friday prayers and his over eager helpers, as other Muslim groups are trying to claim?

Keep in mind that Lakemba is Australia's largest Mosque, and the preacher concerned was the chief Imam there.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

O antiphon of the day: O Rex gentium (Dec 22)

Today's O antiphon:

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.

O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.

Friday, 21 December 2012

O antiphon of the day: O Oriens (Dec 21)

O Oriens,
splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

O antiphon of the day: O clavis David (Dec 20)

Today's O antiphon:

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel;
qui aperis, et nemo claudit;
claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

And today a Charpentier setting (stop the video after today's!):

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

O antiphon of the day: O radix Iesse (Dec 19)

Today's O antiphon for Vespers is O root of Jesse:

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer

And today a setting by the modern Polish composer, Paweł Łukaszewski:

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

O antiphon of the day: O Adonai (Dec 18)

Today's O antiphon for Vespers is O Adonai:

O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel,
qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

Here it is in Arvo Part's darkly shimmering setting of the German translation:

Monday, 17 December 2012

O antiphon of the day: O sapientia (Dec 17)

Today's Magnificat antiphon (at Vespers) is O Sapientia:

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem,
fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to the other, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.

And here is a spectacular flash mob polyphonic version of it!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Latin prayer(s) of the week: the O antiphons

Rather than focus on one prayer this week, I want to provide one for each day, in the form of the great O antiphons, sung with the Magnificat each day in the lead up to Christmas.

Tomorrow I will come...

The O antiphons appear to be very ancient indeed, and have been arranged so that if you work backwards, the first letter of each one together forms two words, viz Ero Cras, or tomorrow I will come, viz:

(December 23) O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.

(December 22) O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

(December 21) O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

(December 20) O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

(December 19) O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem Gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

(December 18) O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

(December 17) O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

I will give the translation of each verse each day over the next week, with a recording of it, but you will find it extremely familiar indeed, since the hymn O Come O Come Emmanuel is a paraphrase of it.

Truly, I will come...

But there is also a very nice piece of the Anglican patrimony we can recover here, since in medieval England an eighth antiphon was added by starting the set a day early and adding one at the end, thus making the acrostic Vero cras.

I've put it at the beginnng of the series rather than the end, in order to preserve the ordering of the antiphons used in the 1962 brevaries.

Here is the traditional text, preserved in the liturgy of the Church of England:

O Virgo virginum, quomodo fiet istud?
Quia nec primam similem visa es nec habere sequentem.
Filiae Jerusalem, quid me admiramini?
Divinum est mysterium hoc quod cernitis.


O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be?
For neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after.
Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me?
The thing which ye behold is a divine mystery.

Gaudete Sunday: This is the record of John...

In the traditional calendar, the Gospel this week is John 1:19-28, which is set in one of my all time favourite examples of the Anglican patrimony, Orlando Gibbons' This is the record of John.

Life and wisdom of St Benedict 26/ Not to forsake charity

The twenty-sixth of the tools of good work in Chapter Four of St Benedict's Rule is not to forsake charity.

It is part of a group of wisdom sayings that relate to our behaviour when under attack: being charitable is relatively easy when people are behaving well towards you, but giving way to anger, nursing a grudge or dissembling becomes a more serious temptation when we are under pressure.

In these circumstances, St Benedict instructs that the first stage of our response must be to carefully cultivate and maintain our interior peace and sense of charity towards those who upset, attack or even persecute us.

That's not easy.   Indeed, there have been a few prominent incidents where those who should be an example to us have had very bad public fails in this regard .

So how to achieve that inner charity?  We must ask for the necessary grace in prayer.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

No Fr Rolheiser, paedophilia is not a disease: it's a crime!

I haven't looked at aCatholica for some time, but happened to have a look following up something else, and found them today lauding a piece by liberal favourite Fr Ron Rolheiser CMI on coping the with the abuse crisis.

The dangerous cult of psychology

Unfortunately, a large part of Fr Rolheiser's piece is an argument for acceptance of the implications of the medical model of sexual abuse.  This medical model portrays paedophilia as a disease, with the implication that the perpetrator is somehow not to blame:

"A comparison can be made to alcoholism: If we could roll the clock back 60 or 70 years, we would see that society then had no understanding of alcoholism as a disease. It naively thought that the problem was simply a failure of willpower: "Why don't they just stop drinking?" Now we recognize that it's a sickness and must be understood and treated as such."

I'm not disputing that addiction can have a physical component, and might require more than just an awareness of the seriousness of the problem and will power to treat.

But I do think there are serious dangers to the adoption of the 'disease' model for things that really just need to be recognized as serious sins for which the perpetrator is actually capable of being held responsible.

Indeed, in my view it was the bishops' adoption of the disease model of paedophilia - with the implication sold to them by the pseudo-scientist high priests of the cult of psychology that it can be 'treated' and perhaps eventually 'cured' - that got the Church into this mess in the first place.

Ditching the concept of personal responsibility

No doubt there are a small proportion of sexual abusers who are indeed sociopaths without conscience or compassion.  Quite how they ever made it into the priesthood or into jobs such as teaching is a key question that has yet to be answered.

Yet surely the evidence is that the great majority of abusers know what they were doing, but rationalise their behaviour away as 'not really a sin' - as sinners typically do.

They act as King David did in his sinful pursuit of Bethsheba, even to the point of having her husband killed; even to the point having to be told that they are the sinner in the parable told to them.

But the real horror of the abuse crisis is that rather than being confronted by a prophetic figure like Nathan, to call them to repentance and to acceptance of their punishment, they were met with appeasers who did not view their crimes as particularly serious and seem incapable of feeling genuine empathy with the victims.

Fr Rolheiser advocates that we find compassion for the perpetrators.  Frankly, there has been far too much of that; far to much concern for 'preserving the priesthood', or the reputation of the Church.  What is needed when it comes to the perpetrators is less compassion, and a great deal more 'tough love'.

Virtue and self-control

Part of this tough love is the recovery of more traditional approaches to the training of priests, including a fresh appreciation of the value of 'willpower'.

It is true that psychology went through a phase in the 70s of discounting the value of will-power.

It is true that many in the Church went through a phase of rejecting that quaint old-fashioned Thomist notion that our ability to control ourselves is built up by training in asceticism.

Yet the traditional idea that the control of vice (self-control, impulse control) depends on the practice of virtue and asceticism is increasingly making a comeback even amongst psychologists.

Indeed, a recent official anti-smoking campaign in Australia actually referred to building up your willpower through attempts to quit smoking.

The recovery of this traditional notion (backed by a millenia of experience and rejected under the influence of poorly conducted experiments in the 70s) is one of the key reasons why the Church needs to bring back traditional practices such as a longer Eucharistic fast, and Friday abstinence.

Carrying the scandal 'biblically'

Fr Rolheiser claims to draw some lessons from Scripture on how to carry the scandal biblically.  Yet he seems to omit a number of the more obvious ones.

If we truly want to 'carry a scandal biblically' we need to recover the Biblical concepts of traditional morality; of acceptance of the idea that crimes have consequences, and deserve punishment and penance, not just instant absolution; and that fasting and penitential practices should be part of the ordinary life of all Catholics, but most especially of priests and religious.

Most importantly, we need all of those concerned to take responsibility for their actions, both individually and collectively, and face up to the consequences of doing so.

Friday, 14 December 2012

It's trendy to be traditionalist!

The Economist magazine this week features an article titled 'Catholic Conservatives: A traditionalist avant-garde', and subtitled 'It's trendy to be a traditionalist in the Catholic Church'.

In fact the story is mainly a statement of the obvious: even as the 'mainstream Church'  - or rather that small and ever declining part of it that didn't walk out the door after Vatican II  - fades into dust, traditionalist numbers are rising, spurred by Pope Benedict XVI's legitimization of the traditional Mass, and aided by the Ordinariate.

The article also makes the point that most traditionalists are young people, who weren't even born when Vatican II took place.

But it is the article's concluding paragraph that is pure gold:

"The return of the old rite causes quiet consternation among more modernist Catholics. Timothy Radcliffe, once head of Britain’s Dominicans, sees in it “a sort of ‘Brideshead Revisited’ nostalgia”. The traditionalist revival, he thinks, is a reaction against the “trendy liberalism” of his generation. Some swings of pendulums may be inevitable. But for a church hierarchy in Western countries beset by scandal and decline, the rise of a traditionalist avant-garde is unsettling. Is it merely an outcrop of eccentricity, or a sign that the church took a wrong turn 50 years ago?"

Yes, well, the answer you give to the final question probably defines whether or not you are a  traditionalist...

Do go and read the whole thing.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Slipper vindicated!

News just in - the Federal Court has dismissed the sexual harassment case against former House of Representatives speaker Peter Slipper MP as an abuse of the court process.

Mr Slipper, you will recall, a priest of the Traditional Anglican Communion, resigned after one of his staffers accused him of sexual harassment.

The unpleasant, offensive and highly inappropriate tone of some of his text messages (and other behaviour) notwithstanding, the suspicion of a set-up occurred, after it emerged that the staffer in question remained in close contact with Mr Slipper's liberal rival for his seat, Mal Brough (who has since been endorsed as the candidate there).

The ABC Reports that the Federal Court judge involved agreed that it was a politically motivated attack:

"Federal Court Justice Steve Rares ruled that the case brought against Mr Slipper by one of his staff members was an "abuse of process", declaring that its "predominant purpose" was to politically damage the speaker."

The ABC reports that: 

"In his written judgement, Justice Rares said he believed that Mr Ashby and fellow staff member Karen Doane had been working with former Howard government minister Mal Brough "to cause Mr Slipper as much political and public damage as they could inflict on him".

He described the pair's behaviour as "acts of calculated disloyalty".

"Once they had decided on their course of action, Mr Ashby and Ms Doane did not go straight to see a lawyer to air any concerns about any legal wrongs that either may have suffered," Justice Rares wrote in his judgement.

"Instead, Mr Ashby or Ms Doane contacted Mr Brough and they began working with him and [News Limited journalist] Steve Lewis."

And of course, removing Mr Slipper from the Speaker's job pushed the Labor Minority Government a step closer to the early election Mr Abbott has been so desperately pushing for.

Yet more evidence of just what an awful state politics in this country have sunk to.

***And just what a terrible state the media in this country is in!  I normally draw attention to the outrageous anti-Catholicism of the the Fairfax media, and the ditzy eco-trendy leftyism of the ABC.

But for sheer outrageous gall it is hard to go past The Australian's treatment of this story which headlines former liberal  Minister Mal Brough as the 'victim' in the affair.

Victim?!  Well actually, the Federal Court judge named Mr Brough as one of the active conspirators in the affair, who has benefited immensely from an action that has unjustly destroyed another man's career through the misuse of the legal system for political purposes.

The Australian makes a big play on the fact that the judge didn't make a call on the merits of the case, and attempts to imply that Mr Slipper might indeed be guilty as charged.  Given what the judge said about the credibility and utter lack of professionalism of the accusers and the lawyers in this case, frankly, that's a stretch.

The judge pointed out for example that the complainants made serious criminal claims against Mr Slipper and went public with them - but then withdrew the claim for lack of evidence.  He also noted that far from appearing distressed, upset or harassed by anything Mr Slipper said, Mr Ashby immediately saw the various texts as a political opportunity to be exploited.

There will no doubt be appeals.

All the same, Mr Abbott needs to move to have Mr Brough dis-endorsed as an LNP candidate forthwith (it's really no great loss to the party; in my view he was a poor performing junior Minister whose inflexibility and intransigence over the design of the Northern Territory Intervention did more harm than good, and the voters accordingly voted him out!).

Australia has a new nuncio...

The Vatican has announced the appointment of an Englishman, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, previously apostolic nuncio in Guatemala, as apostolic nuncio in Australia.

This is good news in as much as it means we might expect to see some of those vacancies that we've all been waiting for filled at last!

As for the track record of the Nuncio himself, I'd be interested if anyone knows him or of him.  Here is what the wikipedia has to say on his background:

"Paul Richard Gallagher (b 23 January 1954) is the Papal Nuncio to Australia. He was born in Liverpool and educated at St. Francis Xavier’s College in Woolton. Ordained by Archbishop Derek Worlock on 31 July 1977 for the Archdiocese of Liverpool, he served in Fazakerley, before taking courses at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. He later earned a doctorate in canon law, becoming a member of the Holy See's diplomatic service on 1 May 1984.

He held posts in Tanzania, Uruguay, the Philippines, the Vatican Secretariat of State and at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. He was appointed Counselor, First Class on 1 May 1997, when working at the Nunciature in Burundi. The Vatican announced his appointment as Apostolic Nuncio to Burundi in January 2004. His residence in that country was bombed in 2008.

He was appointed nuncio to Guatemala in 2009. Ruth Gledhill, the religious affairs correspondent of the London Times, mentioned him as a possible candidate for the position of Archbishop of Westminster in succession to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.  However, the successor, announced on 3 April 2009, was Archbishop Vincent Nichols. On 11 December 2012, he was appointed nuncio to Australia.

Archbishop Gallagher speaks Italian, French and Spanish."

Monday, 10 December 2012

Redfern Revisited

Today is the 20th anniversary of then Prime Minister Paul Keating's famous Redfern Speech.

It is has long been judged Australia's greatest speech, and its sentiments remain all too pertinent to Australia's treatment of its Indigenous population.

The Redfern speech

Here are some  extracts:

"...we have committed ourselves to succeeding in the test which so far we have always failed.

Because, in truth, we cannot confidently say that we have succeeded as we would like to have succeeded if we have not managed to extend opportunity and care, dignity and hope to the indigenous people of Australia - the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people.

This is a fundamental test of our social goals and our national will: our ability to say to ourselves and the rest of the world that Australia is a first rate social democracy, that we are what we should be - truly the land of the fair go and the better chance.

There is no more basic test of how seriously we mean these things.

It is a test of our self-knowledge. Of how well we know the land we live in. How well we know our history. How well we recognise the fact that, complex as our contemporary identity is, it cannot be separated from Aboriginal Australia. How well we know what Aboriginal Australians know about Australia....

We non-Aboriginal Australians should perhaps remind ourselves that Australia once reached out for us. Didn't Australia provide opportunity and care for the dispossessed Irish? The poor of Britain? The refugees from war and famine and persecution in the countries of Europe and Asia? Isn't it reasonable to say that if we can build a prosperous and remarkably harmonious multicultural society in Australia, surely we can find just solutions to the problems which beset the first Australians - the people to whom the most injustice has been done.

And, as I say, the starting point might be to recognise that the problem starts with us non-Aboriginal Australians.

It begins, I think, with an act of recognition. Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the diseases and the alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion.

It was our ignorance and our prejudice. And our failure to imagine these things being done to us. With some noble exceptions, we failed to make the most basic human response and enter into their hearts and minds. We failed to ask - how would I feel if this were done to me?...

For all this, I do not believe that the Report should fill us with guilt. Down the years, there has been no shortage of guilt, but it has not produced the responses we need. Guilt is not a very constructive emotion.

I think what we need to do is to open our hearts a bit.

All of us.

Perhaps when we recognise what we have in common, we will see the things which must be done - the practical things."

You can read the whole thing here, or listen to it online.

Twenty years ago, Mr Keating saw grounds for optimism.  

Today, the problems seem as intractable  as ever.  But we can't as a nation afford to give up trying.

Sermons: when a little plagiarism can be a good thing!

Cath News' blog watcher this week highlights a post by Ozheretic blogger David Timbs on the problem of poor sermons.  And for once there are actually are some things we can agree on.  But perhaps not on the solution to the problem!

The sermon problem...

There is a fair amount of evidence that sermons actually are very important.

The survey work done for the ACBC on Church attendance suggests sermon quality is an important factor in whether or not people to go to Mass (although you would hope more on whether they go to a particular Mass but...).

And for many (if not most) Catholics, they are their only regular source of catechesis.

Yet all too often they are very poor indeed.  Let me suggest some classifications...

Five types of sermons...

1.  The Ramble

Mr Timbs describes this all too common type of sermon very nicely indeed: "a droning series of clichés, non-sequiturs and free association."  He puts it down to poor preparation and failure to study the actual texts of Scripture.  I'd add poor original ecclesial education to that diagnosis.

2.  The Rant

An all too often encountered genre at many traditionalist masses, but certainly not unique to them.  Rants can sometimes be much needed, an appropriate reaction to something outrageous that has happened.

Too often though, they don't actually help the hearer by providing solid arguments as to why should we do something or be outraged about something; instead they are too often ill-judged, often ill-timed eccentric and emotive spouting about personal hobby-horses.

3.  The pseudo-academic modernist

One of personal pet hates, though, is the type of sermon I rather suspect Mr Timbs would actually advocate, namely the priest who insists on giving us a historico-critical analysis of the text of the day (usually replete with an erroneous rationalist slant).

You know the kind of thing I mean - this prophesy was clearly written down after the fall of Jerusalem (since prophesying the future is impossible; we need to pay attention to the cultural context of Jesus' words so we can discount the actual words and rewrite them as saying what the speaker would like him to have said on the grounds that it is more appropriate for 'our times'; and I could go on...).

Mr Timbs argues that the quality of what is coming from some younger priests coming out of the reformed 'JPII' seminaries is questionable.  I'm not sure I've really heard enough of a sample to make a judgment, but it wouldn't be surprising: the so-called 'reformed seminaries' generally feed their students a diet of second rate twentieth century theologians (including but by no means limited to Congar, Balthasar, Radner and the like) whose work is work is gradually being exposed for the erroneous tripe that it is.  Not, I have to say, that the theological formation offered by the traditionalist seminaries appears to be much better as far as I can see...

4.  The Joker

My other pet hate is the endless collection of anecdotes presented as humour.  Nothing wrong with a story or bit of humour to grab attention in the course of a sermon of course.  But some priests don't know where to draw the line, or worse, having spent most of a sermon on some story, fail to draw the actual point of it out.

5.  Solid, engaging and orthodox

The ideal sermon of course, is solid, engaging and orthodox.  A good sermon, I think, tries to teach us or remind us of a few key principles.  And it gives them a practical application for the here and now.


Mr Timbs decries what he claims is a rising trend towards plagiarism in sermons.  I disagree that this is a problem.

If the priest can produce a great sermon through his own original work that is wonderful.

But, let's face it, most can't.

So personally, I see nothing wrong with priests engaging in a little plagiarism and using sermon notes (though an acknowledgment on where they are getting the material from would be appropriate!).

No one has any problem with us using other people's words to express sentiments   captured in poems, plays, great speeches (such as Paul Keating's Redfern speech, being remembered and reread on its 20th anniversary today) or great pieces of literature.

Sermon notes

We can speak others people's words in away that is just as heartfelt and fervent as if they were our own; originality is not required to move hearts.  So what is the problem with sermons that are mainly rehashes of the Fathers, or other well-considered writers?

It isn't surprising then, that the Congregation for the Clergy, for example, regularly sends out sermon notes to help priests, and many other organisations do likewise (mostly for a price).  Indeed, I seem to recall that AB Coleridge (now of Brisbane) suggested at the Synod on Scripture that some kind of sermon handbook to guide priests through the texts be put together...

The only problem arises when the sermon notes being used are less than orthodox or engaging, and unfortunately that too is an all too common problem.  Please, forget Fr Rollheiser and his ilk and find something solid and orthodox...

Hmm, maybe I should go into the sermon notes business!

Catholic teaching is not determined by opinion polls...

Pope Benedict XVI made an important defense of tradition on Friday, in a speech that denounced the fake versions of the 'sensus fidelium' (sense of the faithful) so often claimed as the justification for their views by liberals.

The apostolic tradition

One of the more insidious of the liberal assaults on the Church is the claim that the Church should listen to public opinion in determining its practice and beliefs.

The traditional view, repeated over and over again by the current Pope, is that neither the Pope nor anyone else in the Church has the authority to change or 'update' its teachings, certain aspects of the liturgy, and certain practices.

There are, of course, some things that can be changed - but not those divinely instituted traditions that were entrusted to the Apostles and have been handed down through their successors.

Up until Vatican II, the Church clearly differentiated between those things that couldn't be changed, namely the divinely instituted commands of Our Lord (such as the ban on divorce) and divine commands made known to us through the Apostles, on the one hand; and ecclesial traditions (some of which can be traced back to the Apostles) ,which in theory at least, can be changed.  The current Catechisms distinction between big 'T' Traditions (which can't be changed), and small t traditions that can, rather blurs over and makes fuzzier the careful categories previously used, but can (with some effort) be construed to mean essentially the same thing.

The protections accorded to tradition

What protects those divinely mandated Traditions?

First and foremost the Magisterium.

But also of course, the 'sensus fidelium' that causes the people to cry out when those in authority become infected by heresy, such as the layman Eusebius who yelled out objecting to the assertion that Our Lady was not the Mother of God in the middle of a sermon given by the Patriarch Nestorius of Constantinople around 420 (yep I always loved that particular example, tempted as I've been on occasion to yell out in the middle of certain sermons!).

The liberals seem to view the sensus fidelium as working like a kind of opinion poll.  Indeed, Cath Blog not very long ago even ran a piece recently urging 'catholics' to embrace the cafeteria!

So its good to see Pope Benedict XVI come out with a strong, corrective statement on just what constitutes the genuine 'sensus fidelium' in a speech to the International Theological Commission.  Here is the key section:

"Among the criteria of Catholic theology, the document mentions the attention that theologians must pay to sensus fidelium. It is very useful that your Commission has also focused on this issue which is of particular importance for the reflection on the faith and life of the Church. The Second Vatican Council, while confirming the specific and irreplaceable role of Magisterium, stressed, however, that the whole People of God participates in Christ's prophetic office, thus fulfilling the inspired desire expressed by Moses, " If only all the people of the LORD were prophets! If only the LORD would bestow his spirit on them! "(Num 11:29). 

The Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium thus teaches us on the subject: “The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One,(111) cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples' supernatural discernment in matters of faith when "from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful" they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. "(n. 12). This gift, the sensus fidei, constitutes in the believer a kind of supernatural instinct that has a connatural life with the same object of faith. It is a criterion for discerning whether or not a truth belongs to the deposit of the living apostolic tradition. It also has a propositional value because the Holy Spirit does not cease to speak to the Churches and lead them to the whole truth. 

Today, however, it is particularly important to clarify the criteria used to distinguish the authentic sensus fidelium from its counterfeits. In fact, it is not some kind of public opinion of the Church, and it is unthinkable to mention it in order to challenge the teachings of the Magisterium, this because the sensus fidei can not grow authentically in the believer except to the extent in which he or she fully participates in the life of the Church, and this requires a responsible adherence to her Magisterium."

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Life and Wisdom of St Benedict/ 25: Not to give a false peace

The twenty-fifth of the 'tools of good works' in Chapter 4 of St Benedict's Rule is 'not to give a false peace' (pacem falsam non dare).

This is perhaps one of the great temptations of our age, with its emphasis on the values of 'tolerance' and emphasis on the supposed virtue of 'niceness'.

These days we often presented with a sanitised version of Jesus who is always smiling, always happy, always 'gentle, meek and mild'.

The Gospels tell a different story:  they depict him as someone who is not afraid of showing his emotions: during his life he showed empathy for people and he wept.  But he could also appear intimidating such that the disciples were afraid to disturb him or ask him questions.   When the circumstances demanded it, he spoke harsh words.

To imitate Christ, in other words, requires genuineness, not the falseness that seeks to smooth things over when the real problem is yet unresolved...

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Advent...Gangnam style!

Brought to you by Xt3:

The Church and women

One of the things that tends to be forgotten in the debate on women in the Church is just how important a role the Church has played in Western civilization in articulating key rights for women.

There is a nice article on this from Dr Donald Prudlo (who was my Masters thesis supervisor) over at the Truth and Charity Forum.  Dr Prudlo points out that, amongst other things, it was the Church that rejected the idea that women were simply property to be disposed of by fathers or husbands, or even aborted or exposed at birth, and taught in stead that they but rather had the right to choose whether or not to marry, and if they did marry, to whom.

Forced marriage is a non-Christian concept

Last week NSW Minister for Women, Pru Goward, drew attention to the alarming prevalence of forced marriages in this country, estimated to be running at around 1,000 a year and rising.

It is, of course, largely a consequence of the increase in the proportion of migrants from non-Christian cultures such as Islam and Hinduism which recognise no such autonomy on the part of women when it comes to decisions about marriage for example.

Dr Prudlo points out the Christian tradition on this:

"...Christianity demanded freedom. A woman is not a piece of property to be bartered between father and spouse (though their choices remained significant for all of later history). A woman’s free consent was irreducibly important for Matrimony.

In any other culture, there would be no scene of Old Capulet throwing a fit because Juliet would not consent to marry Paris — anywhere else it was simply inconceivable for a marriageable woman to refuse her father’s wishes. But the dignity of women went further still. The Church safeguarded their right, just like that of men, to choose a more perfect way and refuse marriage entirely. They could not be forced to marry. This was social revolution. Women for the first time had a right of self-determination, rooted in their Christian freedom. They could refuse to marry, enter a convent, and increasingly, become educated.  Some became powerful leaders in Church and state in this manner."

Christian women as saints and martyrs

He also points out that women in the Church have always been accorded a very high status indeed:

"The Church revolutionized the role of women. Women were devoted followers of Christ, and Mary Magdalene had the privilege of announcing the Resurrection to the Apostles themselves (for this she merited the title apostola apostolorum – the “Apostle of the Apostles”). Mary, Christ’s mother, became renowned as the greatest human person ever to live, the “New Eve.

Women laid down their lives with courage in former ages attributed to men alone, and merited for themselves veneration which echoes down the centuries (“Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia,” sound familiar?). St. Perpetua herself leaves some of the first remaining writings ever authored by a woman.  In no culture or religion are women as elevated, respected, and commemorated."

The protections accorded to Christian marriage

It is secularism though, that has undermined one of the most important protections for women, namely the indissolubility of marriage:

"Yet Christianity revolutionized the position of everyday women as well. In a time when women were considered disposable property, Christianity brought the hard teaching of monogamy until death, and equality of guilt in adultery. By banning divorce, the early Church defended the dignity of women as persons, refusing to consider them disposable goods, just as she refused to consider the unborn disposable."

The association between divorce and the increasing proportion of older women living in a state of poverty has been well-established in this country.  A 2010 study summarised the evidence as follows:

"The financial impact of divorce on women is now well  known. Women’s disposable income commonly decreases following separation, limiting their capacity to accumulate superannuation or make voluntary savings. Comparing the 
financial situation of divorced women aged 55-74 years, with those still married, the remarried and divorced men, de Vaus et al. found that divorced women have the lowest levels of household income, superannuation and assets.

The impact of separation and divorce on women’s financial status has significant implications for their housing security. Women have marginally higher rates of outright home ownership than men following divorce, but this effect is 
reduced by the impact of domestic violence in a marriage, tripling the likelihood of receiving less than 40% of the assets.  Even receiving typically two-thirds of a couple’s assets at divorce does not provide women with long-term housing security, due to their ‘subsequent inability to meet housing costs’."

Implications for the participation of women in the Church?

These are all important messages for us to remember, and there is a lot more that could be said and done if one considered their consequences for the life of the Church.

Catholic divorce rates in this country, for example, are not very different to all others, and the proportion of Catholics actually choosing a Church wedding has collapsed - so that might be a logical place to start.

Wouldn't it be nice, for example, if the ACBC's National Office for the Participation of Women focused more on issues around vocational discernment, marriage preparation and the over-readiness of marriage tribunals to hand out annulments, for example, rather than endless less than subtle campaigning for women priests and pseudo-clerical roles.

Another possible focus might be an increased priority to missionary work directed at Australia's growing non-Christian population.

Or perhaps the Office could look at tackling the clericalism, for example that inherent in the form of the liturgy that puts the priest rather than the Eucharist at the front of our eyes in the Mass, and suggest he might turn around to celebrate ad orientem so that he leads us in worship, rather than becomes the centre of attention himself?

But I'm not holding my breath...

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception - the teaching that Our Lady was born without the stain of original sin - is one of those things protestants (and no doubt today many Catholics today) struggle with because it is one of those concepts that reflect the fruits of the Church's inspired meditation on Scripture rather than being something that can be proved directly from Scripture itself.

But when you think about it, it really is a logical conclusion to draw: Mary is, we are taught the second Eve, who fulfills the promise of Genesis 3:15: "and I will put enmity between thee and the woman and her seed; she (he) shall crush thy head and thou shalt lie in wait for her (his) heel" .

And at the Annunciation, the Archangel Gabriel bestows on her the accolade 'full of grace', something impossible if original sin had still prevailed in her, even though she had not been baptised.

Moreover, the teaching can be traced back to the earliest fathers of the Church, such as SS Justin, Iraenaeus and Tertullian.

Wouldn't this be a great feast to make a Holy Day of Obligation once again in Australia!

Friday, 7 December 2012

Has Cath News no shame!

It is a while since I've commented on the antics over at Cath News, but honestly this one takes the biscuit!

They are advertising a 'training course' on the 'new' media, to be addressed by such luminaries as publisher Christine Hogan.  And it will cost you anything from between $200 to $2216 to attend, depending on what technological goodies you want to purchase along with your attendance!

But here is the thing.  What precisely are Cath News' (and Church Resources) credentials in this area?

It is true of course that they use the internet, including, now, things like twitter and facebook.

The trouble is that they do it in the most old-fashioned way possible!

They don't update on stories throughout the day - what you get at 8.30 or 9am each day (or midday Friday) is what you get, bar the few comments from readers that get approved thee days.

And, Monday's liberal Trojan horse 'blog watcher' aside, the news sources they link to are resolutely 'old media' ones.  Indeed, normally they only provide links to newspaper stories, not even bothering with radio or television (unless of course to promote liberal dissenters like Geraldine Doogue) - so important stories like last night's 7.30 Report story on the St John of God order don't even crack a mention.

Indeed, Ms Hogan has repeatedly frothed at the mouth on the horrors of the social media (especially bloggers like me!) in her own blog pieces:

"At the same time as the publishers were seeing their circulations plummet and internet usage rise, two other phenomena was gathering speed – the citizen journalist and the ubiquitous blogger. Sometimes untrained, always opinionated, their ascent was an echo of the inflation of another source of "news" ... the extremist commentator (sometimes known as a “bloviator” in US tabloid parlance)...

...It comes at us all day every day – from RSS feeds, tweets, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn... whatever... but in the end, you have to decide what you really want to read.

Here is what I want for you – well-written, well-researched, intelligent pieces from journalists employed by major media organisations who know the difference between editorial and editorialising."

Right.  Just the people to train you on how to use and respond to the social media!

Dealing with dissenters...

The inimitable Larry of Acts of Apostasy came up with some brilliant responses to the US National 'Catholic' Reporter's last editorial in support of the ordination of women.

Here is an extract of his post on the subject:

"By now, most of you are probably aware that the National Catholic Distorter published an editorial yesterday, in which their front-page blurb said:

We say: Barring women from ordination to the Catholic priesthood is an injustice that cannot be allowed to stand. The call to the priesthood is a gift from God.

Not being one to pass up on an opportunity to be Snarky for Jesus, I started following the Distorter on Twitter today, and sent three tweets to the their account, @NCRonline.

@NCRonline in 4th Cent: Barring any preaching that God isn't a Trinity is an injustice and cannot be allowed to stand. We support Arius.

...@NCRonline in 1500's: Barring the king from divorcing & remarrying is an injustice & can't be allowed to stand. We support King Henry VIII. 1521: Barring preaching of sola scriptura is an injustice that cannot be allowed to stand. We support Martin Luther."

With that typical hypocrisy of liberals they banned him!  Do go read his whole post (and follow him on twitter!).

Towards a conversation abut the future of the Church in Australia

Every day sees another story on the abuse crisis in Australia in the media.  Last night it was the 7.30 Report, with a story on the St John of God order; and this morning I was alerted to the latest developments in the Parramatta Christian Brothers saga.

And I'm afraid this stream of stories is not going to stop; quite the contrary.

So I want to try and open up a conversation with readers on how we should respond to the ongoing effects of the Royal Commission into institutional sex abuse in Australia on ourselves in the practice of our faith, and on the Church community more generally.

How do we cope with the ugliness and horror of it all?

You would have to hope that few of us can be any further disillusioned about the state of our hierarchy and religious orders, but unfortunately some of the stories I'm privy to suggest that the worst is still to come.

Most of us understand, I think, that no matter how bad the sins of the clergy and hierarchy, the holiness of the Church itself, an institution that transcends the divide between heaven and earth, remains.

We know that no matter how terrible the state of the earthly institution at times (and even the most casual perusal of Church history shows that heresy can indeed be almost universal at certain times and places; that that those in positions of responsibility can be very corrupt and sinful indeed!), grace still flows through the sacraments; grace still flows through the liturgy; grace still flows through faithfulness to the Church's teachings.  That is because all of these depend not on the merits of the men who are entrusted with the position of standing in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) to us, but rather on Christ himself.

All the same, I continue to receive emails about the injustices still being perpetuated by the hierarchy and priests, most of which have only tangential relevance to do with the abuse crisis.  Rather, they reflect the broader malaise of the Australian (and indeed Western) Church: dissenting priests who are actually rewarded for their erroneous ideas and abuses of power; faithful priests who are treated appallingly badly; and arrogant, narcissistic, self-absorbed and/or bullying priests left in place, destroying the communities they are supposed to serve.

Getting in front of the agenda

Everyone has their limits as to how much they can take - and I suspect that all of us are likely to come up against that limit in the not so distant future as yet more horrors are revealed.  But the key to dealing with what is coming is surely to try and get in front of it, and take control to the degree that we can.

Accordingly, today I want to start a series on just how we do prepare ourselves for the next few years of trial for the Church in this country.  I want to float a few ideas of my own.  But I'd also like to invite readers to through there own ideas into the arena, because I think this is a big conversation that all in the Church need to have.

It seems to me that there are potentially three areas of response that we could consider: firstly how we practice our own faith; secondly influencing the Church's interactions with the Royal Commission; and finally broader reform of the Australian (and perhaps wider) Church.

For ourselves: above all the grace of perseverance

The first thing we have to remember, I would suggest, is that although, as I noted above, we all have our own human limits of 'how much we can take', those limits can be transcended with the help of grace.  With God's help we can do superhuman things; we can be saints!

To me, that suggests that perhaps the top priority is (continue) to pray for the grace of perseverance both for ourselves and others.  An excellent prayer for this purpose is the St Benedict novena prayer, but there are many others around.

A second point that we perhaps need to consider is whether we, as Catholics, need to become visible models of charity and good works.  The first step is, of course to strive to be more compassionate and kind, to reach out to our neighbour.  But even as we do, our proper instinct is, I think, is to pray and do our good works in secret as far as possible and let people think what they think!  But in the current environment, perhaps we need to be a little more public about what we do, at least at the parish and institutional level, and use it more explicitly as a witness to our faith?

Thirdly, though we ourselves may be victims, friends of victims, or feel aggrieved at the actions or inactions of the hierarchy, we are part of the Church and we should take on some of the burden of that sin, and make what reparation we can.  Personally, I think the bishops should be suggesting things like Friday abstinence as an offering for the sins perpetrated, and/or both doing and advocating some  fasting to the same end, but in the meantime we can do that individually.

Institutional response

The ACBC plenary last week set up a new Council to work with the Commission, and the non-episcopal members of that Council will be announced in coming weeks.

In the meantime, perhaps there would be some value in considering just what we all think the priorities and strategy of that group should be?

The Council will face some hard decisions and have to juggle some competing considerations about how to approach the Royal Commission.  They could surely do with some broader input from the laity on this.

At the purely practical level, for example, should the Church be pro-active and release a list in each diocese of all those convicted or removed from the priesthood from these crimes as some victims groups have advocated?  What about all of those who have been involved in handling cases (whether or not implicated in cover-ups)?

The extraordinary degree of unanimity on the need for a Royal Commission - 95% of Australians support it - suggests that few Catholics, let alone the broader public, really buy the line that Towards Healing is enough and has worked well.  So what changes to current practices, procedures and publicly provided information should be made in order to get in front of the issue?

Reforming the Church?

The far bigger agenda though, is surely what changes need to be made to the Church operates more generally.

All the indications are that at least some members of the current hierarchy will find their position untenable as a result of the outcomes of the various police investigations, State level Inquiries and the Royal Commission.  Will this be enough to effect the necessary change in culture though?  My own view is no.

Archbishop Coleridge of Brisbane recently wrote a rather good piece on the need for humility on the part of the clergy, whether or not they are guilty of any crimes or cover ups.

But not long after I read it I went to Mass and was confronted with a fill-in priest (naturally a Jesuit) who proceeded to perpetuate a number of liturgical abuses (let's skip the preparatory rites, because hey, we are surely sinless; bound down from the sanctuary at the sign of peace to shake hands with as many people as possible, because hey, I'm surely the most important person here aren't I? and there were more...) and preach Arianism in the sermon.  Humility requires obedience first and foremost, and that is still sadly lacking in so many cases amongst our clergy!

Cardinal Pell recently pointed to the need to recover our catholic identity and shore up our practice: recovering our sense of the sacred in the liturgy would be a good start.  So would simple things like extending the Eucharistic fast to three hours; bringing back Friday abstinence; and restoring a few Holy Days of Obligation.

But we also need, I think, to look more fundamentally at the way the Church is run.  Making the idea of lay co-responsibility in the Church a reality shouldn't just be seen as a liberal agenda, but rather as recovery of a legitimate aspect of the Church's ongoing reality in my view.  English conservative theologian Fr Aidan Nicholls OP, for example, recently noted that there are creative ways that could be used to better engage the laity without compromising on orthodoxy:

"...Readers of The Tablet would like to see an element of lay governance operating in the Catholic dioceses. Readers of The Catholic Herald would shut their ears in horror at the prospect.  But an Anglo-Catholic gentleman who is now in communion with the Holy See suggested to me that if the Catholic bishops in England do not have obvious regular means for listening to a larger range of the committed laity than their own bureaucrats and ‘professional Catholics’ such as those in the media, something like a synod with a house of laity in the Catholic Church in England would be perfectly compatible with continuing orthodoxy if – a very important ‘if’ – all lay members of such a synod were required to declare their conscientious allegiance to all the Church teaches and their fealty to the Church’s hierarchical constitution by making exactly the same profession of faith and taking precisely the same accompanying oath of fidelity as, since the pontificate of John Paul II, the Catholic Church has asked of her office-holders…”

He wasn't necessarily advocating this particular option: just suggesting that there is scope to bridge the ideological divide in the Church on this issue.

So what do you think?

Thursday, 6 December 2012

The bishops promoting fasting? Well only if you're a Muslim!

The public version of the outcomes of last week's Australian Catholic Bishops Conference plenary are now online.

As usual, they are pretty bare bones, just notes of outcomes rather than much indication of what was actually discussed or debated.  So if you read them, you'd be forgiven for thinking these things must be the most boring meetings ever (well, maybe they are...).

Praying for the conversion of Muslims?  Of course not!

But there are a few crumbs of interest in there, as well as a few bizarre curios, such as a suggested prayer for Muslims during Ramadan.

You might have thought a prayer for their conversion might be appropriate, since the Church teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation for all those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and have the opportunity to ask for this sacrament (CCCC 261).

That surely means pretty much everyone living in Australia, and if that isn't the case then our bishops are surely failing in their duty to evangelize.

But no, instead it is suggested that we pray for their good work of fasting so that they might receive God's approval (!):

"For our Muslim brothers and sisters, that by the bodily discipline of fasting and the spiritual devotion of their hearts, they find grace and favour in God’s eyes."

Really? How can the works of a false religion find favour in God's eyes!  It is one thing to recognise that there might be a few positives mixed in with the false teaching.  Quite another, I would suggest, to suggest that their religious practices could find favour with God.

Indeed, I thought the Church's view was that natural good works, that is, those performed by the unbaptised and/or those not in a state of grace, are not efficacious for salvation.  The Council of Trent, for example, said:

"If anyone says that man can be justified before God by his own works, whether done by his own natural powers or through the teaching of the law, without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema." (Council of Trent, Sixth Session, Canon I)

And anyway, why are we being urged to praise the fasting of others rather than seeing Ramadan as a spur to reintroducing some of the fasting disciplines of our own tradition?

Cardinal Pell recently suggested that the abuse crisis should encourage us to shore up Catholic identity and practice.  In England and Wales, the bishops's recently formally reintroduced Friday abstinence for example.

So why not here too?  Was it even raised at the plenary as a possibility?  And why can't we, the laity, be allowed to know whether or not such things were considered?

The Royal Commission

One of the more useful crumbs of information in the report on the plenary is that the bishop's representatives on the new body being formed to manage the Church's input to the Royal  Commission are Archbishop Coleridge (Brisbane) and Bishop Wright of Newcastle.

Syro-Malabar Epachy?

The other item of note is discussion of a proposed Syro-Malabar Eparchy with Cardinal George Alencherry, who attended the Plenary meeting for the item.  No indication, however, of where the bishops came out on the idea, though my guess would some would have reservations at the potential loss to dioceses of all those Indian priests...