Saturday, 30 June 2012

Fr Martin Durham RIP

A Secular Priest reports the death of Fr Martin Durham of Rockhampton diocese.

As a retired priest, Fr Durham said the Extraordinary Form Mass for communities in the diocese, often driving long distances to do so. You can also read some of his opinion pieces over at AD 2000.

Please keep his soul in your prayers.

His funeral is next Wednesday.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Defining Marriage: Join the webcast!

This is an alert for the webcast tomorrow night (Tuesday 26 June) put together by the excellent Australian Christian Lobby.

The blurb for the event says:

Do Christian values and ideals for marriage still matter? Should marriage remain between a man and a woman in today's world? Can Christians continue to advocate for the biological meaning of marriage publicly? What does research say about the benefit of man-woman marriage and the importance of children being raised where possible by their biological parents?

The event will be hosted by Karl Faase, Senior Pastor of Gymea Baptist Church in Sydney, and the panel consists of:

•John Anderson, former deputy Prime Minister;
•Professor Patrick Parkinson, AM specialist in family law, child protection;
•Christopher Pearson, columnist for The Australian;
•Patricia Weerakoon, sexologist;
•Dr Allan Meyer, pastor and author;
•Helen Meyer, educator and counsellor.

Christopher Pearson is, of course, the traditionalist Catholic presence, so do consider joining the party. 

The webcast can be accessed via a Church near you.  Depending on where you live, you might even find a Catholic Church amongst them - but I'm afraid practical ecumenism looks pretty thin on the ground on the whole.  But it is not too late to register...

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Democracy and the legitimation of sin: a reply to Brian Lewis, Frank Brennan et al

This week in Parliament saw something of a win on the defence of marriage front, in that legislation to allow the marriage of same sex couples was not introduced as planned, on the basis that it faced inevitable defeat.

It also saw Queensland Premier Campbell Newman upholding his election commitment to repeal civil partnership legislation, as urged by a statement by Archbishop Mark Coleridge.

And a push for a conscience vote at the NSW National Party Conference was also defeated (just).

Celebrate our victories!

We should take a moment to savour these victories.

But let's be realistic: the advocates of same-sex marriage believe that the ultimate outcome is inevitable, and I suspect they are right. The reality is that, despite the strength of the arguments for the traditional stance on this subject (and thanks to the reader who drew my attention to the useful article I've linked to here), the relentless diet of soft (Glee, Modern Family) and hard (Get Up and friends) propaganda is swaying hearts and minds.

Still, this pause in the debate gives us a chance to rethink strategy and tactics.

For the good of society

A good starting point would be to take the chance we have now been afforded to do some serious catechizing within the Church, so we can present a more unified front to the world.

So let's start by examining one of the key claims of the opposition within, that it a pluralistic, democratic society, Catholics are obliged to tolerate, even support, positions they personally disagree with so as to respect the views of the majority.

It is a position that is regularly promoted over at Jesuit central, Eureka Street.

But, let me point out, it doesn't actually hold up to the test of conformity to magisterial teaching.

The duty to oppose the legitimation of immorality

Take Brian Lewis's latest exposition of the subject over at v2 Catholic.  Dr Lewis claims that there are two possible positions in the Church that a Catholic politician, for example, can take.

The first is the orthodox one:

"Since civil law, it says, derives from the natural law by expressing it in practical applications or further determining  it in concrete situations, politicians must be guided by the natural moral law and may not support legislation that is against it. State laws ought to direct citizens to do what natural law dictates, not permit conduct that contradicts it."

Dr Lewis cites several Vatican documents in support of this view.  In the context of the current Australian debate, a key one we should all (and especially, it would seem some of our bishops, such as their Lordships of Townsville and Port Pirie for example) read is the CDF Document on recognition of homosexual unions

That document forbids, for example, support for civil unions on the grounds that it would provide approval for an immoral act:

"There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law. Homosexual acts “close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved”."

The document goes on to look at the range of options available where the legal system of a State gives some recognition to homosexual acts:

"Faced with the fact of homosexual unions, civil authorities adopt different positions. At times they simply tolerate the phenomenon; at other times they advocate legal recognition of such unions, under the pretext of avoiding, with regard to certain rights, discrimination against persons who live with someone of the same sex. In other cases, they favour giving homosexual unions legal equivalence to marriage properly so-called, along with the legal possibility of adopting children.

Where the government's policy is de facto tolerance and there is no explicit legal recognition of homosexual unions, it is necessary to distinguish carefully the various aspects of the problem. Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons. Therefore, discreet and prudent actions can be effective; these might involve: unmasking the way in which such tolerance might be exploited or used in the service of ideology; stating clearly the immoral nature of these unions; reminding the government of the need to contain the phenomenon within certain limits so as to safeguard public morality and, above all, to avoid exposing young people to erroneous ideas about sexuality and marriage that would deprive them of their necessary defences and contribute to the spread of the phenomenon. Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil.

In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection."

A free society?!

In his blog piece, however, Dr Lewis claims that there is a second position permissible within the Church, based on Vatican II's Declaration of Religious Freedom.  This is of course the reason why so many traditionalists struggle with that document.

But does it really say what he claims?  In a breathtakingly audacious example of the hermeneutic of discontinuity, Dr Lewis claims that the will of the majority of the people should triumph over absolute truth:

"The second approach sees the role of the politician in exercising civil authority in the context of a democratic state under a constitution, in which the will of the people is the rule of law and in which freedom of conscience is as far as possible upheld. Politicians are elected to represent a wide cross-section of people of many religions, moral convictions or none of either and they are bound to respect the will of the majority of their constituents. The politicians role is complicated by the fact that most politicians belong to a political party, whose policies may conflict with their own beliefs and their personal moral conscience. The point to be made is that the responsibility of the politician is not to seek to impose his or her own religious views or personal convictions on the community but to ensure that any restriction of their constituents' freedom is required by the demands of public order...."

Politicians are not called upon to vote upon the morality of abortion, embryonic stem cell experimentation, nuclear armament or euthanasia. It seems fair to suggest, in the light of the second approach, that the responsibility of the politician in conscience is to determine whether legislation sanctioning such issues is required to protect the rights of the persons involved and will not infringe upon the rights of other members of society."

Before looking at the underlying theology here, let's talk about the poverty of the political science.

The idea that politicians are bound to vote in a way that reflects the views of the majority of their constituents on any particular subject certainly doesn't seem to bear any resemblance to the realities of the modern Australian political system!  In  reality, MPs in our system are mostly bound to vote in ways that reflect their particular party's platform, and the influence of constituents on any particular issue (even it would seem, where the MP is an Independent!) is very much at the margin.

More fundamentally though, just where in the Declaration on Religious Freedom does it suggest that Catholic politicians should vote in favour of abortion, as Dr Lewis proposes, because, for example there is no consensus in our society that a human embryo has a right to life?

What the Church actually teaches

Without actually citing sources, Dr Lewis claims to find support for his position in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. 

But in fact the Compendium takes exactly the opposite view, pointing out that democracy is merely a system, and one that like any other, is subject to the test of conformity with the common good:

"...The Church's social doctrine sees ethical relativism, which maintains that there are no objective or universal criteria for establishing the foundations of a correct hierarchy of values, as one of the greatest threats to modern-day democracies....Democracy is fundamentally “a ‘system' and as such is a means and not an end. Its ‘moral' value is not automatic, but depends on conformity to the moral law to which it, like every other form of human behaviour, must be subject: in other words, its morality depends on the morality of the ends which it pursues and of the means which it employs”." (407)

The views of the majority, the Compendium points out, are no justification for support of immoral acts:

"Citizens are not obligated in conscience to follow the prescriptions of civil authorities if their precepts are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or to the teachings of the Gospel. Unjust laws pose dramatic problems of conscience for morally upright people: when they are called to cooperate in morally evil acts they must refuse...It is a grave duty of conscience not to cooperate, not even formally, in practices which, although permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to the Law of God. Such cooperation in fact can never be justified, not by invoking respect for the freedom of others nor by appealing to the fact that it is foreseen and required by civil law. No one can escape the moral responsibility for actions taken, and all will be judged by God himself based on this responsibility (cf. Rom 2:6; 14:12)."

Truth is an absolute

The reality is that the Declaration justifies tolerance of other religions only up to a point.

It would not justify, for example, the tolerance of a religion that advocated killing all first born children!

And even the most secularist of souls seem to squirm, if the conversations at Friday night drinks in my workplace are anything to go by, at the free reign apparently being given to sharia law notions of divorce in this country.

The real problem is that progressives have lost sight of the fundamental philosophical foundation of Christianity, which is that truth is an absolute, not a relative concept.

We can acknowledge that others may be genuinely searching for the truth.  We can respect their journeys, hopefully aid them. 

But we can never compromise on the concept that there is only one truth, and that the Church has been entrusted by God with safeguarding certain aspects of that truth (viz what pertains to faith and morality).

This is a subject on which someone drew my attention to a nice article by George Weigel written recently, seeking to explain the extraordinarily distorted reporting on recent US stories about the attempt to reign in religious women, and the condemnation of a book by a US woman religious theologian.

Weigel argues that the progressives see everything through the lens of power; the Vatican by contrast, is acting to safeguard truth.  That is obviously something of a vast over-simplification: any bureaucracy, ecclesial or not, inevitably brings in human motivations as well.  Still, his article does remind us of the proper perspective from which we must view the world.

To be Catholic one must act always for the common good, even though an overwhelming majority oppose you.

To be Catholic we must take the view, to steal a line from a secularist source, take the view that the 'good' of the few or the one does not outweigh the good of the many.  That is why Catholics can never condone abortion, civil partnerships, gay 'marriage' or any other form of grave immorality.

The Wisdom sayings and life of St Benedict /5

Sodoma, c15th
 Today in this continuing series, a look at the fifth of St Benedict's 'Tools of Good Work', from Chapter Five of his Rule, Non facere furtum (Not to steal).


Like many of these wisdom sayings, this might be seen as a statement of the obvious. 

But even at the literal level, we often tend to minimise our offences against this commandment.   I will never forget my nephew, for example, visiting an EF Mass for the first time and being utterly scandalised by people talking about (illegally) downloading tv shows from the internet.  Others think it is fine to dud their employer just at the margins.  Or to cheat the tax man. 

We all need to be constantly reminded not to delude ourselves and steal, whether in big ways or small.

Ownership and the obligations of wealth

It is worth also reminding ourselves that even where we legitimately own goods, their 'universal destination' is for the good of others and for society, not just our own  or even our family's benefit. 

Wealth, in short, exists to be shared, and improper accumulation of it is immoral, for it is stealing it from the destination it has been assigned by God (see Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church, 328-9).

One of the functions of the religious life is to model this for us all through the monk or nun's commitment to poverty.  The key temptation for a religious is to forget that he personally owns nothing, and keep gifts from family and friends to him or the monastery without seeking the abbot's permission (RB 54), or to treat the profits of the sale of his work as his own (RB 57).  St. Gregory offers several instructive tales from the life of St. Benedict on this subject, of which my favourites are the following.

The wine flask

First from Chapter 18 of St Gregory the Great's Life of St Benedict:

"Once upon a time, Exhilaratus, our monk, a lay-brother, whom you know, was sent by his master to the monastery of the man of God, to carry to him two wooden bottles, commonly called flagons, full of wine. The servant, as he was going, hid one of them in a bush for himself, and presented the other to venerable Benedict. He took it very thankfully, and, when the man was going away, he gave him this warning: "Take heed, my son," said he, "that you don't drink of that flagon which you have hidden in the bush. First be careful to examine it, and you shall then find what is within it."

The poor man, thus pitifully confounded by the man of God, went his way, and coming back to the place where the flagon was hidden, and desirous to try the truth of what was told him, as he examined the flagon, a snake immediately leaped forth. Then Exhilaratus, perceiving what had gotten into the wine, began to be afraid of the wickedness that he had committed."

The problem of nuns....from Chapter 19:

"Not far from his Abbey, there was a village, in which very many men had, by the sermons of Benedict, been converted from idolatry to the true faith of Christ. Certain Nuns also there were in the same town, to whom he often sent some of his monks to preach to them, for the good of their souls.

On a day, one that was sent, after he had made an end of his exhortation, by the entreaty of the Nuns took certain small napkins, and hid them for his own use in his bosom: whom, on his return to the Abbey, the man of God very sharply rebuked, saying: "How comes it to pass, brother, that sin is entered into your bosom ?"

At which words the monk was much amazed for he had quite forgotten what he had put there; and therefore knew not any cause why he should deserve that reprehension: whereupon the holy man spoke to him in plain terms, and said: "Was not I present when you took the handkerchiefs of the Nuns, and put them up in your bosom for your own private use?"

The monk, hearing this, fell down at his feet, and was sorry that he had behaved himself so indiscreetly: forth he drew those napkins from his bosom, and threw them all away."

Stealing from God

The greater sins though, relate to stealing from God.

For we steal from God when we withhold what we owe him, for example in prayers and the material support of the Church.

We steal from God when we fail to uphold our vows and promises, fail to follow our vocation.

St Gregory the Great records:

"A certain monk there was so inconstant and fickle of mind, that he desired to leave the Abbey. For this fault of his, the man of God daily rebuked him, and often times gave him good admonitions. But yet, for all this, he would by no means tarry among them, and therefore continually begged that he might be discharged.

The venerable man, wearied with his importunity, in anger bid him depart. He was no sooner out of the Abbey gate, when he found a dragon in the way waiting for him with open mouth. About to be devoured, he began in great fear and trembling to cry out aloud, saying, "Help, help! for this dragon will eat me up.

At the noise the monks ran out, but they saw no dragon, only the reluctant monk, shaking and trembling. They brought him back again to the Abbey. He forthwith promised that he would never more forsake the monastery, and so ever after he continued in his profession. By the prayers of the holy man, he saw the dragon coming against him, whom before, when he did not see him, he had willingly followed."

When we pursue our own desires rather than giving faithful service in a way appropriate to our state of life.  The housewife who neglects her children for her prayers; the diocesan priest who acts like a monk rather than a pastor; the priest who abandons his vocation in order to marry: all of these are surely forms of stealing, the rationalizations we tend to offer for these behaviours notwithstanding.

For our lives are not ours alone, to do with as we will, but rather a gift from God intended to be used for the good of all in the particular way he has called us.

May God give us the necessary graces of discernment and perseverence, and save us from the fires of hell.

You can find the next part in this series here.

Birthday of St John the Baptist

And congratulations to Fr McCaffrey of Adelaide on the anniversary of his ordination...

Friday, 22 June 2012

Census 2011: Same sex couples vs Jedi Knights

You have to love the Census because it helps put things into perspective.

Homosexual couples vs Jedis

Like the fact that we have, apparently, about the same number of people living in same sex relationships as we do Jedis!
  • same sex couples: 33, 714 (so 67, 428 people);
  • Jedi Knights, 65,000.
I therefore demand that the State give Jedi Knights a certificate of recognition of their Jedi-ness. 

I demand a Parliamentary Inquiry.

After all, why shouldn't the taxpayer fund a costly national debate on behalf of an important minority?

Why shouldn't we pay to validate the choice of 'religion' of a vital 0.3% or so of the population??

Marriage is not yet (entirely) dead!

Just to put the whole same sex marriage issue into further context:
  • 71.5% of Australians still live in family households;
  • 49.2% of Australians are in a registered marriage, compared to 9.5% in a de facto relationship;
  • 7 out of 10 children are still growing up in a traditional household.
Religion on the other hand...

The Census however shows that the decline of religion continues apace.

The proportion of Christians is down three percentage points, to 61%.

More worryingly, less than half of 25-34 claim any religion at all.

The number of (nominal) Catholics, though falling, is still enough to keep us as Australia's largest religious grouping, at 25.3% of the population.

But the number claiming no religion overtook the number of Anglicans (though the classic Yes Prime Minister take on Anglican requirements in regard to actual belief in God, which does in fact have some support in actual Australian pew survey data, do spring to mind I'm afraid!).

And non-Christians now make up around 10% of the population...

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Everyone is welcome in the Church - except ex-Anglicans and the SSPX!

One of the more breathtaking aspects of the hypocrisy of the progressives is their attitude to inclusiveness.

You are not welcome...

Everyone, they argue, is to be welcomed into the Church. 

Everyone, that is, except those they don't like, such as the SSPX or former Anglicans (I'd provide a link to the Cath News story on the official erection of the Ordinariate of the Southern Cross - except that they didn't actually cover it!).

The words in the photo above are Pope Benedict's, spoken during a trip to Lourdes in 2008, insisting that those who prefer the Extraordinary Form have a place in the Church.

The photo is from its misappropriation by the now ex-Catholic South Brisbane 'in exile' congregation.

Heretics and disgruntled Anglicans?!

Yet over at Cath News the relentless promotion of 'inclusiveness', and rejection of the need for actual repentance, apparently finds its limits with those who actually sign up to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as the recently admitted members of the Ordinariate did.

Consider this charming comment from 'Pauline':

"I often wonder if the Church is heading in right direction in accepting back a group of heretics [the heresy of rejecting the Spirit of Vatican IIism I presume?!   Because no, Pauline, whatever one might accuse the SSPX of (and schismatic tendencies springs to mind), they are not, in general, actually heretics, unlike so many over at Cath News!  Oh and as an aside, whatever happened to Cath News' policy of rejecting comments attacking others and using the h word!  Or is that yet another suitably selective policy...]  and also discontented Anglicans.

I love the Catholic Church and believe that the greatest scandal in Christianity is that we are divided and I look forward to the time when we can worship together in truth.[So what then could possibly be your objection to the Ordinariate and proposed Personal Prelature for the SSPX?]

Accepting a large group of disgruntled Anglicans and former Catholics is not true ecumenism. [Oh really?!  Even when they are 'disgruntled' because their former denomination has sold out to the secularists and rejected centuries of tradition?  But I presume Pauline would only deem it to be true ecumenism if one adopts the progressive agenda promoting the ordination of women and homosexualism!]

Surely if we need to increase our numbers so badly we could do more to try to win back those who feel alienated from our parish communities, often from some misunderstanding that can be remedied.[Well I for one feel alienated from my parish community Pauline.  That is because of the heresy regularly spouted in the sermons, the crap liturgy, and the kind of fake inclusiveness that you seem to be advocating.  But I'm guessing you've decided that those worthy of being won back are not people like me, but rather those who refuse to accept the injunction to 'go and sin no more'...]

What is wrong with Trent?!

Similarly, the ever charming Mr Timbs attacks the SSPX over there.

He points to their alleged rejection of modernity.  Last I heard that wasn't actually a crime David.  In fact the Church permits a variety of philosophical positions.

He claims they suffer from 'institutional ossification'.  Actually they seem a fairly dynamic organisation, with an ever burgeoning number of priests, affiliated religious orders, lay associations and more.

Their final crime is apparently being 'hard-wired' to the Council of Trent.  Last I heard, the Council of Trent was still accepted as one of the Council's of the Church, meaning we do actually still have to accept the doctrines it defined!

Genuine hospitality and welcoming

Someone suggested in a comment to me recently that I had lost a proper sense of Benedictine balance. 

I'd strongly recommend a read of the actual Life of St Benedict and his actual Rule, not the soft soap versions of it too often served up these days.

Because St Benedict does indeed provide us with a strong guide to how we should react to heresy and disobedience, and it is not with acceptance, but rather with concern for the souls of all concerned.  He did not preach a fake inclusiveness that tolerates or even lauds sin and the advocates heresy.

When he arrived at Monte Cassino and was confronted by pagan worship there, St Gregory the Great tells us that he did not preach tolerance, but rather destroyed their false idols:

"In this place there was an ancient chapel in which the foolish and simple country people, according to the custom of the old gentiles, worshipped the god Apollo. Round about it likewise on all sides, there were woods for the service of the devils, in which even to that very time, the mad multitude of infidels offered most wicked sacrifice. The man of God coming there, beat the idol into pieces, overthrew the altar, set fire to the woods, and in the temple of Apollo, he built the oratory of St. Martin, and where the altar of the same Apollo was, he made an oratory of St. John.  By his continual preaching, he brought the people dwelling in those parts to embrace the faith of Christ."

When welcoming visitors to the monastery, St Benedict insisted that all pray together in the chapel before the kiss of peace is exchanged, lest the devil be admitted to the community in disguise.

If a monk will not reform after repeated corrections, he is to be expelled from the community lest he contaminate the whole flock.

When faced with some early dissenting nuns, forerunners of the LCWR, he excommunicated them!

Clearing out the filth in the Church

If we want to get to heaven, we should cultivate a proper horror of sin, including the sin of heresy.

If we want the Church in Australia and the West to be a more effective aid to our salvation, we must clear out filth from the Church, immorality of all kinds, as the Pope once again acknowledged at the Irish Eucharistic Congress:

"Thankfulness and joy at such a great history of faith and love have recently been shaken in an appalling way by the revelation of sins committed by priests and consecrated persons against people entrusted to their care. Instead of showing them the path towards Christ, towards God, instead of bearing witness to His goodness, they abused people and undermined the credibility of the Church’s message. How are we to explain the fact that people who regularly received the Lord’s body and confessed their sins in the Sacrament of Penance have offended in this way? It remains a mystery. Yet evidently, their Christianity was no longer nourished by joyful encounter with Jesus Christ: it had become merely a matter of habit."

The filth in the Church, the filth amongst the clergy, is not, alas just an issue of child abuse.  It is not just about the problem of fornicating priests.  It is not just an issue of the public advocacy of heresy.  But it certainly includes all these things.

Nor is it a problem entirely confined to the progressives, for the problem surely includes those traditionalist priests who undermine the faith of the laity in the sacraments by sharing their schismatic sentiments in their sermons.

The problem includes those traditionalist priests who feel the need to indulge their narcissistic love of power by doing their best to threaten, interfere and stymie the good enterprises of others (and I'd ask you to keep especially in your prayers someone particularly affected this week by yet another instance of what appears on the face of it to be purely malicious, unwarranted interference in the affairs of others on the part of a serial offender).

Adherence to truth, the Pope insists, is the real key to faith:

"May he who breathed on the Apostles at Easter, communicating his Spirit to them, likewise bestow upon us his breath, the power of the Holy Spirit, and so help us to become true witnesses to his love, witnesses to the truth. His truth is love. Christ’s love is truth."

Time to act
This is a time for outrage and action, not false tolerance. 
This is a time for genuine inclusiveness, acknowledgement of the communion of all who truly believe - which does not include those separated from 'full communion' with the Church through the sin of heresy, even if they occasionally manage to roll up to their local parish, or grace the pages of cath news on a regular basis.
So if you haven't voted in the poll on Cath News (top right hand corner of the blog) yet, please do!
As at this Thursday morning, 182 people have registered their protest to our bishops at their continued sponsorship of this organ of dissent, and called for it to be either reformed or suppressed. 
Take note,  all who will be held accountable for the subversion of the faith in this country, for the failure to teach. 
For if the reckoning does not come here, it will in the hereafter...

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Have we learnt nothing from the abuse scandal? The case for laicising Bishop Patrick Power

I've been mulling over how to respond to the revelation that just retired Bishop Patrick Power - as well as, allegedly, at least one other senior member of the Canberra clergy - has a live-in woman friend.

The nauseating report of the Bishop's retirement Mass (complete with a picture of apostate ex-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in the queue for communion) in today's Canberra Times, and of course picked up by Cath News, made up my mind.

Can this truly be the Church?!

In the end, I've decided to speak out because I am utterly scandalized to learn of this, and to learn that it was permitted to continue so long.

Even more scandalized that the man is being lionized by the press and 'progressive' catholics instead of being condemned for heterodoxy and advocacy at least of heteropraxis.

Let us hope that Pope Benedict XVI moves swiftly to laicize him lest he continue to lead others astray.

Have we learnt nothing from the abuse scandals?

One of the features of the abuse scandals was the clericalist deferral to the word of priests who denied all sin, claimed all innocence.  One of the lessons we should have learnt is that claims of innocence need to be properly tested, not just accepted because it is a priest (or bishop) speaking.

So why then is no one challenging Bishop Power's alleged commitment to celibacy even the face of his acknowledgement on television that he has been in a 'loving relationship' with a woman for the last ten years?!

He said, in an interview on ABC TV, that it is important to his relationship to God that "I try my best to honour that [commitment to celibacy]". 

Why should we take that seriously?  And is it even a claim that he has never fallen?  More importantly, even if he has kept his promise of celibacy, his public acknowledgment of the relationship will surely endanger others who will be encouraged to follow his example.

Consider too, the context.  He has acknowledged that many of his seminary class mates have left the priesthood to marry.  Others, it seems, were child abusers:

"I think that much of the sexual abuse... I'm not saying it's caused by celibacy, I've never said that, but I do think that in that whole climate I don't think that we've, within the Church, got a healthy attitude towards sexuality, and I remember going to court one time to give some hope of a lighter sentence for one of my classmates that was going down for that [!] and I pointed out that in the seminary we were very poorly prepared for a celibate life, and I think in many ways it's all about relationships and where priests are denied healthy relationships that they'd have within marriage, that at times there can be the temptation to find comfort in other areas..."

One of the features of the abuse crisis was surely that occasions of sin frequently led to the commission of sin (human nature being what it is!).  One of the lessons we should have learnt is that the Churches age-old emphasis on avoiding occasions of sin should be followed, not rejected. 

Instead, it appears successive Canberran archbishops have allowed Bishop Power have allowed to continue to live in scandalous circumstances that appear to have been well-known to many in Canberra, particularly amongst the clergy. 

I'd like to hope that Bishop Power's 'early retirement' was actually action by Rome (where the wheels after all do turn slowly in such cases!) and do reflect some attempt to rectify the situation on the part of now Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge.  But if, as someone has claimed in a comment, other Canberra clergy are living in similarly scandalous situations, you have to wonder.

Finally, one of the features of the abuse crisis was that heterodoxy - adherence to error or heresy - frequently flowed through into heteropraxy, most often manifested as immoral behaviour.

Since his retirement, Bishop Power has dropped all restraint, openly advocating the practice of homosexuality, the ordination of women, and allowing married clergy to return to pastoral ministry.

All care no responsibility!

 A commenter on my earlier, rather sympathetic post on the Bishop suggested that he was a case of all care, no responsibility.

I'd have to say his behaviour at the moment is certainly lending considerable support to that view.

Canberra-Goulburn is currently without either an Archbishop or an Auxiliary.  That surely puts an enormous  administrative load on those left behind to administer the diocese for the remainder of the interregnum period.

Yet instead of offering to help out, Bishop Power portrays, in the Canberra Times, his abandonment of his Office as a positive virtue:

"His hopes for retirement, freed from the burdens of meetings and bureaucracy, include that he be freer to support priests and deacons hanging in for the long haul. He would also have more time to catch up with other friends and family members and to have a special outreach to those on the outer in the Church and the wider community."

Is this one of those cases of presenting a positive front?

The Vatican is of course notoriously reluctant to speak out on these kind of issues, and explain for example, just why a bishop has requested or accepted 'early retirement'.

The reasons for this perhaps made sense historically, in the desire to preserve reputations.

Maybe they still make some sense when the bishop or priest concerned keeps quiet, or better still adopts a suitably penitential lifestyle.

In this day and age though, when wrong is proclaimed as right, and all too many of those who promised obedience feel free to break that promise, never mind the others made at their ordination, the case for greater transparency seems overwhelming....

Meanwhile, please join me in praying for a good, holy, orthodox and strong new Archbishop for Canberra-Goulburn.

And while you at it you might raise a prayer for good bishops for the still vacant diocese of [about to become?] Wilcannia; and for the Archdiocese of Hobart and diocese of Ballarat (where the bishops are above the age limit).

Sunday, 17 June 2012

The Life and Wisdom of St Benedict/4 - Not to commit adultery

The Temptation of St Benedict
Allori, c1597
Continuing my series on the Tools of Good Work from Chapter 4 of the Rule of St Benedict, the fourth of the tools of good work in Chapter Four of the Rule of St. Benedict is: non adulterare (Not to commit adultery).

Adultery and monks?

Like the previous tool of good work (not to commit murder), this one seems at first glance an odd inclusion in a rule for monks.

Early commenter on the Rule, Smaragdus, however, notes that adultery can be committed in many ways both in body and mind.

It can include those who abandon the love of heavenly wisdom, and desert their calling as priests or monks.

It can mean those who abandon God's truth for heresy and dissent.
But of course it is above all about the virtue of chastity, so little valued today.

St Benedict and sins of the flesh

St. Benedict, St. Gregory relates in Chapter Two of the Life, suffered terrible temptations in this regard, and takes Our Lord's advice that if necessary drastic solutions should be applied:

"On a certain day being alone, the tempter was at hand: for a little black bird, commonly called a merle or an ousel, began to fly about his face, and that so near as the holy man, if he would, might have taken it with his hand: but after he had blessed himself with the sign of the cross, the bird flew away: and forthwith the holy man was assaulted with such a terrible temptation of the flesh, as he never felt the like in all his life.

A certain woman there was which some time he had seen, the memory of which the wicked spirit put into his mind, and by the representation of her so mightily inflamed with concupiscence the soul of God's servant, which so increased that, almost overcome with pleasure, he was of mind to have forsaken the wilderness. But, suddenly assisted with God's grace, he came to himself; and seeing many thick briers and nettle bushes to grow hard by, off he cast his apparel, and threw himself into the midst of them, and there wallowed so long that, when he rose up, all his flesh was pitifully torn. So, by the wounds of his body, he cured the wounds of his soul, in that he turned pleasure into pain, and by the outward burning of extreme smart, quenched that fire which, being nourished before with the fuel of carnal cogitations, inwardly burned in his soul: and by this means he overcame the sin, because he made a change of the fire.

From which time forward, as himself afterward reported to his disciples, he found all temptation of pleasure so subdued, that he never felt any such thing..."

You can find the next part in this series here.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

The stories Cath News hasn't run this week...

Readers have drawn my attention to a few stories Cath News hasn't run this week, that you might be interested in:
  • Surprise, surprise, children brought up by same sex 'parents' do not do as well as those in a traditional family;
  • the Australian opinion piece about Peter Singer's gong for advocacy of infanticide (it is behind the paywall, so google if you want to read it and don't have a subscription);
  • on the list of (recently) deposed bishops and their fate by Sandro Magister (Australian mentions include including +Malone, +Morris, +Power; missing from the list, +Toohey).
And one that may have missed their deadline, death of philosopher ABC radio host Alan Saunders.  RIP.

By way of weekend reading, you might want to take a look at Sydney christian responses to the gay marriage push, with co-ordinated pastoral  letters from Catholic, Anglican and Greek Orthodox leaders (and of course the standard message of dissent from ex-Premier Kristina Keneally).

Friday, 15 June 2012

And the Ordinariate has a new Ordinary...newly ordained Fr Entwistle!

A big welcome to many new members of the Church, received in Perth tonight, and congratulations to the newly ordained 'Ordinary' for the Ordinariate, Fr Harry Entwistle!

This morning I flagged that the Australian Ordinariate for former Anglicans would be established today, with the reception of the first group in Perth, and ordination to the priesthood of former Bishop Entwistle. 

It is now official, as is the appointment of the 'Ordinary', who has the equivalent jurisdiction to a diocesan bishop.

The erection of the Ordinariate

The Australian Ordinariate is the third to be established by the Pope, following the UK and US.

It covers the same territory as the Australian Bishops' Conference (so not Japan!), and its principal church (though not necessarily the Seat of the Ordinariate) is the Church of St Ninian and St Chad, Marylands, Perth.

According to the press release:

Fr Entwistle has been serving as a Bishop in Western Australia since 2006, and is married to Jean. They have two adult children.

Fr Entwistle is honoured to have been chosen to lead the Ordinariate and explained that it is a wonderful privilege and step towards unity between the Churches.

“Pope Benedict has made it very clear that unity between Christians is not achieved by agreeing on the lowest common denominator, and those entering an Ordinariate accept the Catechism of the Catholic Church as the authoritative expression of the Catholic faith”, said Fr Entwistle.

“Membership is open to former Anglicans who accept what the Catholic Church believes and teaches; former Anglicans who have previously been reconciled to the Catholic Church but who now wish to reconnect with their Anglican spiritual heritage and those baptised in the Catholic Church who have close family members who belong to the Ordinariate.”

“As the Ordinariate is in organic unity with the Catholic Church, Western and Eastern Catholics are welcome to worship and receive communion in an Ordinariate mass and vice versa”, he said.
Fr Entwistle was born in England, in 1940, and was ordained to the (Anglican) priesthood in 1964.  He emigrated to Australia in 1988.  He joined the Traditional Anglican Communion in 2006, and was ordained a bishop for them in that year.  He was received into the Catholic Church and ordained a deacon on 10 June. 

Perthites: go watch history being made with the launch of the Ordinariate!

Today is the official launch of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, which is under the patronage of St Augustine of Canterbury.

And it officially gets underway with the priestly ordination of former Anglican Bishop Harry Entwistle, and reception into the Church of around 70 members of his congregation, in Perth tonight at the Cathedral at 7pm.

So if you are in Perth, do go along and show your support.

Regardless, please keep all those preparing to enter the Church, and those being ordained, in your prayers.

Please pray also for those who have so far rejected the invitation to enter or return to the Church, that their hearts might yet soften.

And please do especially remember Bishop Peter Elliott, who has been the lead on this for the Church in Australia, and whose anniversary of consecration as a bishop it is today.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Using the word 'Catholic' - Cath News and Michael Voris...

Canon Law regulates the use of the word 'Catholic' by organizations - it requires the permission of the hierarchy.

Acath claimants to the title

That hasn't stopped numerous extremely acatholic organizations indeed claiming the term in part or in whole - think 'Catholica' in Australia, 'Cath' News, and the most blatant, the US National 'Catholic' Reporter, for example.

So thanks to all of those who have protested so far about Cath News' claim to be Catholic -  as of Thursday morning, 139 people have voted so far in the poll (top right of blog page) saying that it needs to be reformed or destroyed (although I'm intrigued that only a third of those who voted are willing to pray for it!).

If you haven't voted yet, please do.  We are sending a message to Church Resources who run it, and the bishops who sponsor it that needs to be heard.

Progressive hypocrisy

Meanwhile, with breathtaking hypocrisy, actual genuine Catholics such as Micahel Voris get told they can't use the word!  There was a curious jurisdictional dispute going on at one point, with the diocese in which 'Real Catholic tv' is located saying it was fine for the organization to use the term Catholic, while the diocese he actually lives in said he couldn't.

Well, now it has been resolved.  Real Catholic TV is now - Church Militant TV!

Do and listen to his explanation of why the change, and his expositions on the importance of recovering the term Church Militant today.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Catechetical meanderings - where do you go to (really) know your faith?

On Saturday a couple of Jehovah's Witnesses knocked on my door, as they occasionally do, wanting me to take a copy of the Watch Tower.

These days I have a couple of standard lines readied for such occasions, appropriate to the religion in question (viz Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, I don't think I've ever been doorknocked by anyone else!) so that I get to catechize them, rather than letting them set the ground for debate!

Ready for the knock on the door?

This time I tried out my line on the Bible (how do you know which books make up the Bible - answer: because the Catholic Church decided it was so!).

It certainly got a rise out of them, in as much as one of the two lads admitted that he was a catholic who had apostasized.  When pressed, he claimed it was because he couldn't see how certain doctrines, such as the doctrine of the Trinity, fit with the Bible.

I gave them a bit of quick catechesis highlighting a few key references (the Spirit hovering over creation in Genesis;  those Gospel texts like John 10:30, 'I and the Father are one', etc); a bit on the understanding of the faith handed down through the liturgy; a bit on understanding what Scripture means in the light of the Fathers and reflections of the saints.

Judging on body language, I think I scored some points with this friend.  But the ex-Catholic, I suspect, had some other baggage that was going on; I'm going to hope my prayers prove more effective in opening his mind than my words appeared to!

The problem of poor catechesis and worse theology

Still, it did bring focus for me the terrible legacy in terms of lost souls of poor catechesis in this and other Western countries.

We tend to focus in on those ex-Catholics who slide into cultural/cafeteria catholicism, maintaining their nominal identification with the faith while in practice rejecting it.  Issues of their own salvation aside, they certainly have a  high annoyance factor create endless problems for actual Catholics, through their control of schools, hospitals and other 'catholic' institutions.  Indeed, in the US and elsewhere, they even control the Catholic theological societies.

We also, in Australia at least, look at the huge increase in the proportion of the population who claim no religion whatsoever.

But in fact many ex-Catholics go the other way, choosing a much 'stricter' religion, whether Islam (still a minority, but a rapidly growing one) or Protestant (typically of the fundamentalist variety).

Sandro Magister in Chiesa this week points to what happens when Catholics are and aren't taught their faith:

"The nation that has the largest number of Catholics today is Brazil, with 134 million, more than Italy, France, and Spain put together. Catholicism there has successfully confronted fierce competition, which in recent decades inflicted serious damage on it. Because when liberation theology was in fashion among the neo-Marxist Catholic élite, the faithful did not convert en masse to their message. They went over by the millions to the new Pentecostalist Churches, with their festive celebrations, music, singing, healings, speaking in tongues. But now this exodus has stopped. In the Catholic Church as well, the faithful are finding the warmth of participation and firmness of doctrine that three and four centuries ago brought success to the Reductions, the Jesuit missions among the Indians..."

Magister argues that in the US the Church has stood up to the challenge of secularism better than many Protestant churches there.  It hasn't withstood the challenge posed by fundamentalism very well though - 1 in 10 Americans is an ex-Catholic.  And of those, around half become unaffiliated with any religion, the other half become Protestant. 

Are the figures similar in Australia?  Pentecostalist numbers are much smaller here, but are rising rapidly, and they have to be coming from somewhere!

Are the right tools available?

How can we change this? 

Well a good start would be to know the faith thoroughly ourselves, and make sure our children are being taught it.

Unfortunately, if the right tools are out there, I haven't found them, at least in any readily accessible, easy to use form like subject matter guides.

Don't get me wrong, there are certainly some excellent catechetical resources around - for young children, things like The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for example.

Many, however, will find the Catechism of the Catholic Church rather too discursive, and find its lack of clear, hard edged doctrinal summations annoying. The Compendium of the Catechism is more focused, but where do you go if you are looking for further reading?  Where are the traditionally oriented theological resources targeted at adults that take you beyond the Catechism?

There are of course a plethora of resources around. 

But all too many of the online resources and books you come across are infected by modernist errors, subtle or otherwise, advocating, for example, the views of suspect theologians such as Karl Rahner, who, inter alia, advocated the now condemned heresy of transfinalization in relation to the Eucharist.

A similar point can, unfortunately, be made about courses taught in our Catholic Universities and seminaries!

Sticking to the tried and true?

Many traditionalists address this problem by sticking with those good old Baltimore Catechisms, the Catechism of Trent, and if they are feeling adventurous, some of those old 'Manuals' advocated by Fr Z amongst others.  These are certainly good starting points, great as far as they go.

But they don't go to the heresies common today that you are most likely to encounter over at Cath News or V2 Catholic for example.  You won't find the response to the historico-critical subversion of Scripture in them.  Nor do they incorporate more recent Magisterial teaching - and to my mind, that's just a recipe for encouraging schismatic thinking or even or sedevacentism.

So, suggestions anyone?

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Queen's birthday honours: why do we give people gongs for doing their job?

The Queen's Birthday Honours list as usual recognises the work of many hundreds of committed 'ordinary' Australians who volunteer their time and other resources for the good of the nation.  That's a wonderful thing.

Time for a rethink?

Rather more controversially, it recognises the contribution to our nation's reputation of great artists, scientists and academics.  That's probably fine when it's a Rolf Harris, rather less so when its controversial 'bio-ethicist' Peter Singer, or Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University Ian Young who keeps trying to sack large numbers of staff and drastically reshape its music department in rather less than ethical ways (viz an attempt to sack the lot of them)!

But why oh why do we still give out gongs to endless numbers of ex-politicians (Joan Kirner, Peter Beattie, Robert Hill, Gareth Evans end more), public servants and military types.

I'm not talking here about medals for those on the frontline in our military.  I'm talking about the bosses who are very well remunerated indeed, and in no more danger than the rest of us.  People like the the chief of the navy, the deputy chief of the army and the chief of Defence's capability development group all of whom were recognised this year.  People like the extremely well remunerated heads of public service departments who more or less automatically pick up gongs.

Once upon a time  - when public servants and politicians were relatively poorly paid and honours went some way to making up for this - there might have been a case.

But the time has come to end this, and restrict recognition to those who don't get it in other ways.

Nothing new about my complaint though....

Monday, 11 June 2012

The Feast of Corpus Christi: how to subvert belief in the Real Presence in Three Easy Lessons

One of the great ironies of the push, following Vatican II, for a greater focus on the Eucharist as the source and summit of the spiritual life, has been the utter subversion of belief in the Real Presence.

The Feast of Corpus Christi which we've just celebrated, or are in the process of celebrating depending on your time zone and liturgical calendar, provides an opportunity to reflect on just how this has happened.

Here are three ways error has been promoted, and some suggestions on what we can do about it.

1. Don't celebrate the feast!

The Feast of Corpus Christi was made a universal feast of the Church in 1263 precisely to counteract the problem of lack of belief we see today. 

These days, when it is needed more than ever, it is barely celebrated in most places.

Downplay the feast day itself

Part of that is unfortunate twentieth century history that needs to be reversed in my view. 

The feast survived Pope Pius X's purge of devotional feasts from the calendar. But it suffered at the hands of other twentieth century papal liturgical wreckovators.

Originally it has an Octave - that was abolished by Pope Pius XII in 1955. 

Originally it has a sister feast, of the Most Precious Blood - that was abolished by Pope Paul VI in the great 1969 calendar purge.  Ironically, Brisbane's Liturgical Commission's rant for the week at Liturgical Lines is on why reception under both kinds is preferable.  Just how this fits with the actual official instructions that reception under both kinds requires the explicit permission, and was originally only to be for special occasions such as for the bride and groom at their wedding, is unclear!

Originally the feast was celebrated on a Thursday, because the Eucharist was instituted on that day - these days, following the permission given by Pope John Paul II,  it has been shifted to the following Sunday in Australia and many other places.

Dump the Procession

Traditionally, the Mass ends with a Procession and Benediction.  Didn't happen either at the (one 7am sung by the priest only) EF Mass in my town on Thursday or at St Christopher's Cathedral on Sunday.  These days, Blessed Sacrament Processions for Corpus Christi are rare affairs (though good to see Archbishop Coleridge presiding at the Brisbane event this year).

Ignore the traditional texts

St Thomas Aquinas composed much of the liturgy for the feast, with texts that stress the necessity of faith in something the sense cannot perceive - great hymns like Pange Lingua, and the sequence Lauda Sion.

No surprise that the propers don't get much play these days - they don't get much play any day of the year!

Still, one could at least use the Sequence and hymns!

Yet at the Cathedral in Canberra this Sunday those texts got the barest homage possible in the form of a communion motet.  There was no sequence (and yes, it still is in the new missal!).  The hymns (it was a four hymn sandwich affair) and intercessory prayers centred heavily on the promotion of the common priesthood of all believers.  Orthodox homily notwithstanding, one has to assume this was a deliberate attempt to counteract one of the central messages of the feast, and blur over the notion that the ministerial priesthood, who alone can effect transubstantiation, differs essentially, and not just in degree, from the 'priesthood of the people'.

Insert secularism

The Pope commented, in his sermon for the feast this year, on the subversion of the very idea of liturgy, of the use of signs and symbols to sustain our faith.  There has been he said:

"..some misunderstanding of the authentic message of Holy Scripture. The Christian novelty of worship has been influenced by a certain secularist mentality of the 1960s and 1970s. It is true, and it remains valid, that the center of worship is no longer in the ancient rites and sacrifices, but in Christ Himself, His person, His life, His Paschal Mystery. Yet this fundamental novelty must not lead us to conclude that the sacred no longer exists".

Christ "did not abolish the sacred but brought it to fulfillment, inaugurating a new worship which is entirely spiritual but which nonetheless, as long as our journey in time continues, still uses signs and rites. These will only fall into disuse at the end, in the celestial Jerusalem where there will be no temple".

Moreover, the Holy Father went on, "the sacred has an educational function. Its disappearance inevitably impoverishes culture, and especially the formation of the new generations. ... Our Father God ... sent His Son into the world, not to abolish the sacred but to bring it to fulfillment. At the culmination of this mission, at the Last Supper, Jesus established the Sacrament of His Body and His Blood, the Memorial of His Paschal Sacrifice. By doing so he put Himself in the place of the ancient sacrifices, but He did so in the context of a rite, which he ordered the Apostles to perpetuate as a supreme sign of the true sacrifice, which is Him. With this faith, ... day after day we celebrate the Eucharistic Mystery, and adore it as the center of our lives and the heart of the world".

So what can you do

There are still a few days of the old Octave left.  Why not add the hymn Pange Lingua or the sequence Lauda Sion to your prayers each day up until and including Thursday (the old Octave Day)?  Or perhaps even Sunday if you are following the Novus Ordo calendar!

You might also think about lobbying your bishop to restore the celebration of the feast to the actual Thursday!

2.  Dump Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction

Traditionally belief in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the sacrament of the altar, belief in the transubstantiation that transforms bread and wine into the body and blood of Our Lord though their outward appearance does not change, was fostered through devotions such as Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction.

The Pope spoke on this at the Mass he celebrated for the Feast this year at St John Lateran.  Spero news reports:

"A unilateral interpretation of Vatican Council II has penalized this dimension", the Holy Father explained, "effectively limiting the Eucharist to the moment of celebrating Mass. It is, of course, very important to recognize the importance of celebration, in which the Lord calls His people, bringing them together around the table of the Word and Bread of life, nourishing them and uniting them to Himself in the sacrificial offering. This interpretation of the liturgical gathering, in which the Lord works and achieves His mystery of communion, naturally retains all its validity, but a rightful balance must be restored. ... By concentrating our relationship with the Eucharistic Christ only on Mass we run the risk that the rest of time and space is emptied of His presence. Thus our perception of Jesus' constant, real and close presence among us and with us is diminished".

"It is a mistake to establish a contrast between celebration and adoration, as if they were in competition with one another. The opposite is true. The cult of the Blessed Sacrament represents the spiritual 'environment' within which the community can celebrate the Eucharist correctly and truthfully. Only if preceded, accompanied and followed by this interior attitude of faith and adoration, can liturgical activity express its full meaning and value", the Pope said.

What can you do?  

If there is a Church that offers Adoration in your town, go visit and spend some time there this week.  If there isn't, try finding a priest you think might be sympathetic to arrange an occasional hour of Adoration. 

And it is not too soon to start thinking about planning a Eucharistic procession for next year's Feast of Corpus Christi!

3.  Promote heretical views of the Eucharist

Inevitably at this time of the year, assorted condemned heresies around the Eucharist pop up out of the woodwork and make their way into parish bulletins and sermons!

Indeed, the problem was so acute at the time of Vatican II that Pope Paul VI actually interrupted the Council in 1965 in order to put out an encyclical,  Mysterium Fidei, to counteract errors on this subject.

What the Church actually believes is this:

"Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist in a unique and incomparable way. He is present in a true, real and substantial way, with his Body and his Blood, with his Soul and his Divinity. In the Eucharist, therefore, there is present in a sacramental way, that is, under the Eucharistic species of bread and wine, Christ whole and entire, God and Man." (Compendium of the Catechism, No 282)

What occurs at Mass is transubstantiation.  As a result, we owe the Blessed Sacrament the duty of latria, worship.

The classic heresies (there are no new heresies, just old ones recycled!) that pop up at this time of year, Paul VI notwithstanding, include:
  • consubstantiation - the Lutheran view that the Body and Blood co-exist with the bread and wine after the consecration.  No - the bread and wine become the actual Body and Blood of Christ; they cannot be two things at once (and thanks to Cardinal Wolsey for drawing my attention to the Lutheran origins of a picture I unfortunately chose for the feast!);
  • transignification - the idea that the bread and wine take on a new meaning or significance but the reality does not necessarily change.  Explicitly condemned by Pope Paul VI, it got a run in a Ballarat parish bulletin drawn to my attention by a reader, in a piece by Sr Veronica Lawson RSM;
  • transfinalization - the idea that the words of consecration lead the bread and wine to serve a new function (such as to arouse the faith of the people in Christ's redemptive love).  It is the theology that underpins the 'litany' for the Feast presented for the feast over at Cath News' anti-faith project.  And of course its chief advocate was Karl Rahner, quoted on the Eucharist in a companion piece by a Jamberoo nun over there.
What can you do?

If you see or hear heretical expositions of the meaning of the Blessed Sacrament, consider complaining.  It may not have much impact on your priest, bishop or Rome, but eventually it must add up!

Consider writing your own, orthodox alternative reflections, or identifying a particularly good write up by someone else, for inclusion in next year's parish bulletin or diocesan newspaper.

Get your priest on the mailing list for the Congregation of the Clergy's sermon notes, sent out each week to help priests searching for material.

Keep the Pope especially in your prayers (perhaps you could say a rosary for him, although leaping up at 2.45am in order to say it at the same time as he does each day may be asking a little bit too much of those living in Southern Hemisphere time zones!), for, inter alia, his defence of the Real Presence and other key doctrines.

Oh, and add your vote to the Cath News must be reformed/abolished/prayed for poll up at the top right of this blog page (115 people have voted as at Monday am, with votes equally split between reformed or abolished)!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

The wisdom of St Benedict/3: Then not to Kill!

Today the next installment in my Year of Grace series on the wisdom of St Benedict, using as a jumping off point, the ‘tools of good work’ listed in Chapter 4 of his Rule.

The first two ‘tools’ were simply the two parts of the Great Commandment. The next set of tools are a selection of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:13-17), starting with today’s, Deinde non occidere, Then not to murder.

Monks and murder!

The instruction not to murder is repeated many times in Scripture (see for example Mt 19:18; and Rom 13:9). All the same, one obvious question that immediately comes to mind is, why does a Rule for monks need to include an instruction not to murder?!

The answer unfortunately is that men are men: St Benedict himself survived several assassination attempts, including one the part of his own monks, another by a jeolous priest; and today the Pope who has taken him as patron is beset by metaphorical attempts at the same thing.

The lesson that sits behind today's wisdom saying is that God freely offers us grace: yet he also leaves men free to reject that offer, even though that freedom may have terrible consequences for others in the here and now.

Yet death now, literal or metaphorical, is in the end a small price to pay in the greater scheme of things: it is eternal life or death that we really need to focus on.

Let’s take a closer look at the meaning of the commandment in the context of St Benedict’s Rule and Life.

The way of perfection

The selection from the Ten Commandments that St Benedict includes in his tools of good work is not random.

It is in fact the list that Our Lord used in Matthew 19 when Jesus speaks to the rich young man, and calls on him to leave everything and follow him.

The rich young man claims that he has kept the commandments, yet refuse Christ’s invitation. He rejects the way of grace offered by Our Lord.

By contrast, the monk or nun has accepted the call to a higher state of life, the renunciation of the goods of this world.

Death of the soul

In the context of the New Testament, Our Lord reminds us that the commandment forbids not just literal murder, but also attempts to kill the souls of ourselves and others.

He explains in the Sermon on the Mount Our Lord explains that anger is a sin against this commandment.

Elsewhere in his Rule, St Benedict takes up the other warning in the Sermon of the Mount, against false shepherds who are wolves in sheep's clothing, seeking to kill the souls of others, a problem all too prevalent in our own time!

One of the oldest surviving commentators on the Rule, Smaragdus, notes that the Rule prohibits anything that brings about spiritual death, whether of oneself or others:

"For monks go about girded not with worldly weapons with which murders are committed, but with spiritual virtues by which souls may be saved. But just as there is such a thing as killing with the sword, there is also such a thing as killing through hatred, lying and any grave sin."

Doing the good will bring you under fire!

We shouldn’t forget the literal meaning of the commandment though.

In our own culture of death, many are all too ready to persuade themselves that abortion and euthanasia are not murder; all too ready to rationalize away evil.

Similarly, Our Lord’s own life reminds us that those who stand up for truth and insist on doing the good will be persecuted, even assassinated either literally or metaphorically.

Those speak the truth – whether about what the teachings of the Church actually are, or the fallen away state of modern religious will be ridiculed and mocked, not lauded, for speaking the truth.

It is the price we must be prepared to pay for being Christ’s true disciples.

St Benedict’s failed attempt at reforming a monastery

St. Benedict himself survived at least two assassination attempts. The first was by a group of evil monks, as St Gregory relates in Chapter 3 of the Life, and it is a curious story indeed.

The monks had invited St Benedict to be their abbot because of the prestige he had accumulated as a hermit.  St Benedict warns the monks that he will be a tough leader.  They claim they will obey him. 

But the asceticism he demanded of them was too much, to the point where they decide to kill him by poisoning his wine!

The saint was miraculously saved.

But he also realises that there comes a point where he has done as much as he usefully can: he adopts Our Lord’s instruction when the message of truth is rejected, namely that if they won’t listen, shake the dust off your feet and move on. (Mt 10:14).

Here is the story:

"Not far from the place where he remained there was a monastery, the Abbot whereof was dead: whereupon the whole Convent came to the venerable man Benedict, entreating him very earnestly that he would vouchsafe to take on him the charge and government of their Abbey: long time he denied them, saying that their manners were divers from his, and therefore that they should never agree together: yet at length, overcome with their entreaty, he gave his consent.

Having now taken on him the charge of the Abbey, he took order that regular life should be observed, so that none of them could, as before they used, through unlawful acts decline from the path of holy conversation, either on the one side or on the other: which the monks perceiving, they fell into a great rage, accusing themselves that ever they desired him to be their Abbot, seeing their crooked conditions could not endure his virtuous kind of government.

Therefore, when they saw that under him they could not live in unlawful sort, and were loath to leave their former conversation, and found it hard to be enforced with old minds to meditate and think on new things: and because the life of virtuous men is always grievous to those that be of wicked conditions, some of them began to devise, how they might rid him out of the way.

Taking counsel together, they agreed to poison his wine: which being done, and the glass wherein that wine was, according to the custom, offered to the Abbot to bless, he, putting forth his hand, made the sign of the cross, and straightway the glass, that was held far off, broke in pieces, as though the sign of the cross had been a stone thrown against it: on which accident the man of God by and by perceived that the glass had in it the drink of death, which could not endure the sign of life. Rising up, with a mild countenance and quiet mind, he called the monks together, and spoke thus to them:

"Almighty God have mercy on you, and forgive you: why have you used me in this manner? Did not I tell you before hand, that our manner of living could never agree together? Go your ways, and seek ye out some other father suitable to your own conditions, for I intend not now to stay any longer among you."

When he had thus discharged himself, he returned to the wilderness which so much he loved, and dwelt alone with himself, in the sight of his Creator, who beholds the hearts of all men.”

Who are we when God offers his grace?

The question we have to ask ourselves in this story is, who are we?

Are we St Benedict in this story? 

Are you a priest or bishop, entrusted with the task of governing and teaching the Church?  Are you a teacher in a Catholic school?  Are you a parishioner? Are you a Catholic!

Confronted with evil in the Church, do you speak up, teach, support attempt to make reforms as best you can, whether that is simply a small gesture (like voting in the Cath News poll on this blog!), or something much bigger? 

For just as he did with St Benedict, God will leads us to the times and places where we are called to act, and God will give us the courage to speak, the grace to know what to do or say. 

But of course we can refuse that grace, keep silent lest we be attacked and reviled, even murdered.

Or are you one of those evil monks, in need of reformation?  

We all stand in need of reform, just as those evil monks did.

Yet when we are confronted with those hard sayings, do we accept them, and stick with Christ?  Or do we instead attempt to shoot the messenger?

God offers us the grace of perseverance, the grace of conversion. He calls us to realise our vocation, as he did the rich young man. 

But we can say no. 

Don't do it. 

Rather, accept God's grace, and live eternally.

St Benedict instructed his monks to say every day, at Matins, Psalm 94.  It's key verse?

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts...

This series continues here.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Signs and symbols: why we need devotions - a guest post by Paul MacLeod

Veil of Manoppello
Ealier this week I posted on the importance of devotions, and the progressive attack on them.

Today, a guest post by Paul McLeod on this important topic.

Two witnesses – and a tiny lock of hair

A tiny lock of hair is a vital piece of evidence in an investigation of the circumstances of the Resurrection, validating one of the “signs” Pope Benedict XVI spoke of in his address to the world on Easter Sunday.

The Pope quoted the ancient Easter hymn, Victimae Paschali Laudes, which addresses to Mary Magdalen the question: “What did you see?” It has her reply: “the angelic witnesses, the sudarium and the gravecloths.”

These the Pope described as “signs”.

Research by the German historian and journalist Paul Badde in recent years has established the identity of the sudarium and the gravecloths, which all still exist, and are indeed signs, just as a sacrament is a physical sign of a spiritual truth.

The German theologian, Klaus Berger, a friend of the Pope, has said of Badde: “Nobody has ever dared to go deeper into the Holy Sepulchre than Paul Badde.”

Silent witnesses to the Resurrection

The term “sudarium” has long been taken to refer to the Shroud of Turin, but it is only one of the “gravecloths” (othonia in Greek, which means “wrappings”). Another is the bloodied cloth preserved at Oviedo, in Spain, and another a headband, kept in Cahors, in southern France.

Badde has now established that the “sudarium” is, in fact, what is known as the Veil of Manoppello, which has an image of Jesus’ face, alive and with His eyes wide open.

The Shroud and the Veil present us with two witnesses to the reality of the Resurrection, the two witnesses required by Jewish law. One shows us Christ dead and the other Christ alive.

The Shroud of Turin and the Veil of Manoppello

The Shroud, of course, bears an image of the whole body of Jesus, bloodied and wounded, majestic in death – a large four-metre long linen sheet, but dim in its outlines and detail. The Veil, on the other hand, is a delicate, transparent piece of expensive material, measuring just 28cm by 17cm, in which the face of Jesus seems to float in light, even to store light

The Shroud came to world attention at the end of the 19th century, when the Italian photographer, Secondo Pia, famously produced a positive image, greatly clarifying the detail and leading to years of study, tests and speculation.

Now the Veil has come to world attention – almost as though these physical signs have been reserved for an unbelieving age.

Badde describes them as “the first pages of the Gospel”, written during the very night of the Resurrection, not by man’s hands though, and written in images rather than words – and what could be more appropriate for our digital age in which we increasingly communicate by images?

None of the written gospels attempt any description of what Jesus looked like. They did not need to, as the Church treasured these cloths from the tomb.

They were found there by Peter and John on the morning of the Resurrection, and, as John relates, one was rolled up by itself, away from the others. This was undoubtedly the Veil, which was a piece of most expensive material, known as byssos, woven from the fibres of sea mussels, and used as a face covering in death for dignitaries such as the High Priest.

In the darkness of the tomb, the image on the Shroud would not have been evident, but if Peter held the Veil up to the earliest light of the day from the entrance, his shock would have been much greater than that of Secondo Pia.

Preservation of the relics

Peter obviously took the cloths back to the city with him, and as articles that had touched a corpse, they were ritually unclean in Jewish law, and would have brought down the wrath of the Jewish authorities on the new community. Hence, Badde suggests, the Apostles kept the doors locked to preserve these treasures. Had they been shown and displayed or discovered in those early days, neither these items would have survived, nor the community of the first followers of Christ around Mary and the Apostles.

As the Church spread, they found their way first to Edessa, then to Constantinople and, during the Crusades, to Europe, and were referred to by a variety of names. But both images are of the same person. Computer technology has now shown that the features of Christ on both are an exact match.

What is of great significance is that the Veil was first publicly displayed in Rome in 1208, and up to that time, icons and paintings of Christ bear a close resemblance to the features on the Veil – even to a tiny lock of hair on the forehead. Why would an artist put that there if he was not copying the Veil?

The Veil, known then as “the Veronica”, was later housed in a pillar of the rebuilt St Peter’s Basilica, but disappeared during the Sack of Rome in 1506, although the broken frame which had held it is still in the treasury of St Peter’s.

This cloth turned up in 1508 in the little town of Manoppello, in the Italian province of Abruzzo, and is now housed in a reliquary above the altar of the Capuchin monastery there, visible to all who visit. The shrine is known as the Volto Santo, or Holy Face.

Meanwhile the Shroud turned up in France and was first publicly displayed in Lirey in 1356. From then on it gained increasing attention, while the Veil faded into obscurity. That is, until 1977 when the Capuchin custodian of the Manoppello shrine, Fr Domenico da Cese, took a large photograph of it to a Eucharistic Congress in nearby Pescara, and the world began to take notice. He died in an accident the next year in Turin, which he had visited to see the Shroud for the first time - and there are now moves for his beatification.

In 1968, Fr Domenico opened the doors of the shrine one morning to find Padre Pio kneeling in prayer before the image – as the very last example of Padre Pio’s power of bilocation. At the time, Padre Pio was gravely ill in his cell in the Capuchin friary at San Giovanni Rotondo, more than 200 kilometres away, and was to die that night.

Contemplating the face of Jesus

Pope Benedict XVI visited the Manoppello shrine in 2006 as one of the first acts of his pontificate, and has since increasingly referred to the face of Jesus as the human face of God, culminating in his Urbi et Orbi address this last Easter Sunday.

The new second Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass now asks God to welcome the departed “into the light of Your face”, rather than “presence”, as in the old version, and it has been suggested that the altar cloth and chalice veil at Mass have their origins in the Shroud and the Veil.

In Psalm 24 we read: “Such is the generation of those who seek Him, seek the face of the God of Jacob”. This is the deepest longing of the human heart – to see the face of Him in whose image we are made.

Paul Badde tells the story of his investigation into the link between the Shroud and the Veil in his book “The True Icon”, published by Ignatius Press.

Paul Macleod

Paul MacLeod is a retired journalist, living in Geelong, Victoria."