Friday, 31 May 2013

Co-responsibility of the laity and the 'theology of the laity'

I posted yesterday on two talks at the Vatican II Great Grace Conference that talked about the concept of the 'co-responsibility of the laity'.  In that post, I suggested that the two speakers seemed to be coming from a rupture theory approach to the Council.

Today I want to expand on that a little and try and sketch out some directions that I think might prove more fruitful in making the case for a genuine realisation of the vision of co-responsibility.

The hermeneutic of continuity and renewal

A genuine narrative of continuity, I would suggest, needs to take into account all of the history of the Church without arbitrarily jettisoning large chunks of the tradition.

For this reason, the attempt by some, following von Balthasar and others denigration of spiritual classics such as the Imitation of Christ, to develop a new 'spirituality of the laity' that altogether rejects religious life, for example as a reference point for the laity, seems to me a false direction.  And one that has been largely rejected by the laity voting with their feet given the continuing exponential increase in the number of lay 'oblates' and the vast number of books devoted to making works like the Rule of St Benedict relevant to lay life.

But at the same time, I don't think the principle of continuity means we have to stick with pastoral approaches that have proved to be based on a flawed theology, did not work in practice, or have simply outlived their usefulness.

The Council of Trent, for example, was a response to an era when heresy flourished widely.  In the face of a laity who were often more theologically literate than priests, it decided to try training priests better through the establishment of seminaries, and then emphasizing their teaching authority, in order to combat the then prevailing errors.

Was that the right solution?  Perhaps at the time, but unfortunately in our time the seminaries have mostly become part of the problem rather than the solution!

So this time around it probably does make more sense to make use of that educated laity, and even empower them to act in the name of the Church, rather than to attempt to suppress or bring under formal clerical control all lay initiated activity.

Similarly Trent put an emphasis on uniformity in the liturgy in order to be able to distinguish clearly between Catholic and protestant services.

But these days the problem is not so much protestant services trying to like Catholic, as Catholics trying to look protestant.

Perhaps its time then, to rethink the effective ban on lay groups and individuals being able to hire (and fire) the chaplains of their choice, as the medieval guilds and larger households once did?

In my view, then, we need to look critically at what has been said and done in the past, ensure where we go now is firmly based in dogma and the tradition, yet not be afraid to make even radical changes when they are truly needed.

But in making those changes, a lot of care and support is needed through the formal structures of the Church.

Parents as educators

A good example of some of the issues at stake is the example of the recognition of parents as the primary educators of their children for example, which a reader reminded me of through some comments offline.

The principle that parents are the primary educators has been articulated many times by the Church, including through a series of nineteenth and twentieth century encyclicals.

What this has been taken to mean in practice, however, has changed dramatically.

Prior to Vatican II, you might recall, Catholic parents had no right to either homeschool their children or send them to a non-Catholic school.  Many parents in this country endured the horrors of ex-communication rather than have their children be handicapped for life by the poor quality of some catholic schools in the pre-Government funding era.

Accordingly, many welcomed Vatican II's Declaration on Christian Education, which, on the face of it, takes an almost directly opposite approach to Pius IX's Divini illius magistri.

Pius IX acknowledged the primary role of parents and their direct accountability to God for this. But he then went on to declare the family to be an 'imperfect society' in need of the correcting influence of the Church, and then proceeds to condemn assorted innovations (such as co-education) and reaffirm the requirement, set down in the then Code of Canon Law, to send children to Catholic schools only.

Vatican II, on the other hand, gave greater weight to the principle of subsidiarity, and flowing from this recognised greater rights - and duties - to parents, including the right to choose which school (if any) to send their child to.

Few, I would suggest, even (perhaps especially given the number of homeschoolers) amongst even the most hardline traditionalists, would want to go back to the previous regime.

Yet it has to be said that as a result both of parents choosing to opt out of the Catholic system, and the chaos that prevailed within the system for many years, the net result has not been an entirely happy one.

Children and sexuality

Perhaps the most fraught area of all has been education on sexuality.

A reader has pointed me to a useful articulation of that position in the The Pontifical Council for the Family's 1995 Guidelines for education within the family on human sexuality issues.

But why did it take until 1995 for this to appear!

My reader also drew my attention to a good new resource, launched by Bishop Eliot of Melbourne in the last few weeks, aimed at supporting parents in this area, Sexuality Explained: a Guide for Parents & Children by Louise Kirk, published by Freedom Publishing.

It is a good example, perhaps, of the laity stepping up to the plate to address the relative paucity of resources in this area.

Consultation and active engagement

But one wonders why the Church couldn't have engaged the laity properly many years ago on the question of what was really needed to support the newly recognised role of parents, and made sure the gap was properly addressed one way or another.

It seems to me that a properly functioning system of consultation and engagement with the laity that would have identified just this kind of area.

And similar principles apply in many other areas of activity.

Blogs, for example, are arguably in part a response to the shortage of priests and the consequent lack of    appropriate catechetical and general support for formation and daily living that was arguably once more readily available.  I'm focusing here firstly on their role in relation on the practice and content of the faith - their 'teaching' if you will, rather than on their other role in providing often critical commentary on church affairs.

To the extent that bloggers often touch on domains once seen as reserved for clerics, they do seem to touch on some clerical nerves.  Yet in a way they are nothing more than the modern equivalents of medieval monasteries, guilds and confraternities which provided spiritual support structures that complemented the role of parishes rather than supplanted them.   Medieval monasteries, as well as being the social welfare agencies of their day, for example, provided pilgrimage sites and propagated particular spiritualities by copying and circulating books and more.

Similarly, when it comes to the role of blogs and other forms of social media in providing (hopefully constructive) criticism and commentary on Church affairs, perhaps greater recognition needs to be given to their role as a source of the very engagement of the laity that Vatican II's Apostolicam Actuositatem (Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People) envisaged.  A nice example of this is the petition currently running through Linen on the Hedgerow protesting the provision of Muslim prayer rooms in Catholic schools in the English diocese of Southwark.

But rather than waiting for petitions and trying their best otherwise to ignore us, wouldn't it be better if bishops and parishes actively engaged with the blogosphere (and I don't just mean by starting their own blogs, though that can be a positive thing to do as well)?

Some attempt to dismiss blogs such as this one as the product of one (deranged) person's ramblings.  No doubt some blogs do fall in that category, but most, including this one, get a surprisingly large number of hits each day; regularly have posts cross-referenced by others; and frequently gain an even wider audience when individual posts are picked up by social media aggregation services like Pewsitter, Big Pulpit, New Advent, Spirit Daily and so forth.

 It is true that the Vatican has made a number of statements about the positive role the social media can play.  But in practice social media enterprises such as Mr Voris' Church Militant TV for example, more often seem to be viewed by the hierarchy as the enemy to be marginalized rather than as potential allies.

Of course, viewing those who are often critical as allies does imply a willingness to be open to alternative approaches and engage in active listening: and of the legitimacy of the co-responsibility of the laity.

There are of course many great lay initiatives one can point to.

All the same, for all the rhetoric about role of the laity, the current situation seems more the product of benign and not so benign neglect (for example in relation to the running of our schools and Universities); fear of controversy; and an undue focus on protecting the empire, rather than on using every means available to advance the Church's mission.

But perhaps I'm being unfair?

Pope Francis' sermonettes: clarifying their status...

A number of bloggers, myself included, have raised questions about the availability of the full text of Pope Francis' daily homilies at weekday Masses.

The Vatican has now issued an explanation from Fr Lombardi of the Holy See Press Office of what is being released and why:

"Pope Francis, he said, wants to retain the familiar atmosphere that characterises the daily Mass, which is typically attended by a small number of the faithful. “For that reason,” Fr. Lombardi said, the Holy Father has specifically requested that the live video and audio not be broadcast. 

The Pope’s daily homily, Fr. Lombardi said, is delivered spontaneously, and not from a written text, and in Italian – a language Pope Francis knows well, but which is not his mother tongue. An integral, or official, text, would necessarily have to be transcribed and slightly reworked, given the differences between a written work and the homilies’ original oral form. In short, he said, there would have to be a revision by the Holy Father himself – but this would clearly result in something that differs from what the Holy Father intends in his daily homily.

Father Lombardi went on to explain how the Holy See has resolved the question: 

“We must insist on the fact that, in all of the Pope’s activities, the difference between different situations and celebrations, as well as the different levels of authority of his words, must be understood and respected. So, for the Pope’s public celebrations or activities, broadcast live on television and radio, the sermons or speeches are transcribed and published in full. During smaller, more familiar celebrations and functions, we have to pay attention to the character of the situation, and the spontaneity and familiarity of the Pope’s remarks. The solution respects both the intention of the Pope and the nature of the morning Mass, on the one hand; and, on the other hand, the desire to give the wider public the opportunity to hear the message of the Holy Father even in such circumstances. 

“And so, after careful consideration, it seems the best way to make the richness of the Pope’s homilies accessible to a wide audience, without altering the nature of his remarks, is to publish a detailed summary, rich in direct quotations that reflect the genuine flavour of the Pope’s expressions. 

L’Osservatore Romano undertakes this responsibility every day. Vatican Radio, on account of the nature of the medium, offers a shorter synthesis, including some of the original sound, while CTV offers a video clip corresponding to one of the audio inserts published by Vatican Radio.”

Thursday, 30 May 2013

What does the co-responsibility of the laity actually mean?

I mentioned in another post that I'm slowly working my way through the various talks given at the recent Vatican II 'Great Grace' Conference, and today I want to reflect on two given on that most vexed of all questions, the role of the laity, by Professor Anne Hunt and Matthew Tan respectively.

Professor Hunt's talk can be viewed or to listened to.  Mr Tan has also helpfully made the text of his talk available on his blog.

Both talks discuss some important issues, and I found a lot I could agree with Professor Hunt's practical conclusions.

But both, alas, seem to me to position themselves firmly in the 'discontinuity' or 'rupture' school of Vatican II thus tending to undermine the cases they attempt to make for a greater role for the laity in the running of the Church.

What does the co-responsibility of the laity actually mean?

Both speakers latch on to the term 'the co-responsibility of the laity', popularised by Pope Benedict XVI to justify their vision of  greater lay input to decision-making processes and ministry.  Yet both seem to view the concept as a fundamental conceptual shift.

I don't think that position can withstand scrutiny.

Mr Tan's paper is essentially an attempt to rationalise the clericalisation of the laity in the pursuit of lay ministries within the Church, despite Pope John Paul II's clear attempt to curtail this direction of development in Christi Fidelies Laici.

Professor Hunt actually takes the argument somewhat further, claiming that the documents of Vatican II directly reject the notion of distinctive roles and responsibilities of clergy and laity, a direction whose apparent 'resurgence' (in what she dismisses as 'two realms theory') in recent magisterial teaching she decries.

Personally, I think Professor Hunt's reading of the relevant documents is just outright wrong.

Leaving aside, for the moment, a traditionalist perspective on these issues, some of the leading proponents of the so-called 'theology of the laity' such as Fr Jordan Aumann OP, Russell Shaw and many others have taken the view that what Vatican II actually teaches is that the laity have considerable autonomy transform the secular sphere where they in fact have the lead role, while the role of the clergy is primarily to support and form them for this role.

And their position on the texts is supported by subsequent magisterial teaching, particularly in the form of Pope John Paul II's Post-Synodal Exhortation Christi Fideles Laici, which talks about a 'unity in the Church's mission' in which we all participate, even as there is diversity in roles ordered to that mission (see also the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1547).

History of the term

That context, I think, helps us to understand the earliest uses of the term 'co-responsibility' that Mr Tan has been able to locate.  The first is in the Catechism, where the two reasons cited to support the duties of citizenship (such as to vote and pay taxes) are submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good (CCC2240).  The second is in John Paul II’s 1988 Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, Article 21:

"The Church is directed and guided by the Holy Spirit, who lavishes diverse hierarchical and charismatic gifts on all the baptised, calling them to be, each in an individual way, active and coresponsible."

In Christifideles Laici, Pope John Paul II makes a clear distinction between those areas, viz the secular sphere, where the laity have a leading role, and those areas, viz those relating to the hierarchically ordered ministry, where the laity's role is one of collaboration under the direction of the hierarchy rather than something essentially autonomous.  The current Code of Canon Law reflects this principle.

We might agree then, with Professor Hunt's statement that the "building up of the Church and the fullfillment of its mission in the Church and the world is the work of the whole community of believers, it is a co-responsibility".

I don't think, though, Mr Tan's argument that Pope Benedict's use of the term co-responsibility represents a shift away from the notion of the laity as 'collaborators' when it comes to strictly ministerial functions, stands up to scrutiny.  Rather, co-responsibility, at least as the hierarchy have been using the term, positively depends on respecting the different roles and responsibilities of the ordained and non-ordained in different spheres ordered overall to effecting the common good of the Church's mission.

Rupture theory and the universal call to holiness

In essence both these lines of arguments seem to me to based above all in rupture theory, and in particular the spirit of Vatican II fairy tale that before V2 life for Catholics was horrible, but now things are just wonderful; and that any articulation of the different roles of priests and laity that pre-dates the Council are irrelevant.

Neither of them explicitly articulated outright the commonly stated claim that before Vatican II, the laity were (allegedly) not called to holiness, but it was certainly implicit.  And in my view, the claim is just not true.

There are some texts of Vatican II that are genuinely difficult to reconcile with Magisterial teaching and the tradition that preceded it.  This particular section of Lumen Gentium isn't one of them.

In fact the Catechism of Trent and numerous post Reformation encyclicals provide clear context and support for the Vatican II teaching.  Have a read, for example of the Council of Trent on the sacrament of matrimony.  That Catechism, you may be aware, was directed at priests, so they would know what they had to teach the faithful.  And the section on marriage starts: "As it is the duty of the pastor to seek the holiness and perfection of the faithful..."  A good read of the various social encyclicals of the nineteenth century would also be salutary in this regard.  So too some of the encyclicals aimed at combating heresy, as you can read here.

Another reason for rejecting the claim that the universal call to holiness is an innovation is that it simply does not reflect the historical reality of practice in the Church before Vatican II.  As Catholics we surely believe that the path to holiness depends in large part on obtaining grace through the sacraments.  Yet more Catholics by far attended Mass regularly, went to confession, got married and so forth before the Council than today.

There is a similar problem when it comes to spiritual discipline.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2012-2015) teaches that the path to holiness is through renunciation, asceticism, mortification and a commitment to the spiritual battle. There is a certain irony, then in the fact that most of the demands the Church used to make on the faithful in the name of the path to holiness - such as the more extended Eucharistic fast, Friday abstinence - have been abolished since the Council.  At the time it was claimed that people would find their own ways of training in virtue.  One of those classic cases of a misconceived anthropology that ignores concupiscence in my view!

Similarly, if you actually look at the kinds of ways Catholics practised their faith before Vatican II, you will find a deep commitment to the role of the laity in evangelizing the world.  Think for example of the professional confraternities, such as those for nurses and others; of Catholic Action; 'the Movement' in Australia; and many other such initiatives.

It is true that both the degree of independence of lay action, and the extent to which they were entitled to have input to formal and informal ecclesial decision-making processes have been vigorously contested from time to time.  But the extremist view that the role of the laity was merely to 'hunt, to shoot and to entertain', or to 'pray, pay and obey' was always clearly a minority one, and not one applicable to the vast majority of lives, as the popularity of books such as The Imitation of Christ (the most widely read devotional book after the Bible) and St Francis de Salles' The Devout Life attest.

Resisting the clericalisation of the laity

What then is the role of the laity when it comes to what happens within the Church?

I do think that Vatican II pointed to a 'renewed sense of the co-responsibility for the life and work of the Church', both in calling the laity to reject any separation between their faith and their life in the world, and in acknowledging that they have genuine rights and responsibilities when it comes to the internal affairs of the Church.

I also agree that, sadly, those rights, though recognised in law, are far from fully realised.

Take the right, for example, recognised in Canon Law, to be 'assisted by the spiritual riches of the Church' (CL 213).  How can that be reconciled with the widespread prevalence of liturgical abuses, and the refusal of some priests and bishops to allow the Traditional Mass?

And there are reciprocal obligations.  Making a Mass happen, traditional or otherwise, ideally requires the efforts of more than just a priest, but also members of the laity to sing in the choir, beautify the church, act as servers and so forth.

It would be a grave step backwards, though, in my opinion, to put more emphasis on the laity in ministerial and bureaucratic roles, for surely this just serves to reinforce the utterly erroneous idea that a commitment to holiness can only be realised by becoming a priests, monk or nun!

And it is a particularly dangerous direction when it comes to women, for it implicitly calls into question the exclusion of women from the priesthood.

In the Q&A section of Professor Hunt's talk, a bishop pointed to all the attempts to engage women within the Church asked rhetorically what more could be done.  Personally, I think the answer is to put rather less emphasis on liturgical roles and rather more on engaging the laity on the fundamental challenges we as Catholics face in Australia today.

Constructive engagement

It is not enough, for example, in my view, to pick out a few of the great and good to advise the bishops on how to handle the abuse crisis; what is needed rather is a grassroots engagement with all Catholics on this issue.

In her talk, Professor Hunt suggested that "many of the laity have competencies and charisms that many are willing and able to bring, but little opportunity to place them at the disposal of the Church."

I agree.

But we don't have to be converted into pseudo-priests in order to contribute to the building up of the Church.  Rather, what is needed is a commitment to transparency, accountability and genuine respect for the potential contribution of the laity that has thus far been noticeable by its absence.

Feast of the Most Holy Body [and Blood] of Christ

Today is the (actual) feast of Corpus Christi.

On calendar foibles

Indeed, there is something of an irony to be observed today in that this is one of those cases where traditionalists (and Eastern Rite Catholics) will actually be celebrating the feast on the same day as Rome (where it is an official holiday as well as feast day), while in Australia and many other places, those following the novus ordo calendar will be out of sync, transferring the feast to Sunday.  There is one difference though: in the traditional calendar, devotion to the Precious Blood is reflected in a separate feast; in the novus ordo calendar the two are crunched down to one feast.

Either way, the Holy Father is making the most of the two different dates of the (novus ordo) feast by celebrating it both today and then again on Sunday by leading an hour of world-wide Adoration.  So traditionalists can perhaps appropriately follow that lead and likewise do double duty!

The origins of the feast and its relevance today

The feast itself has its origins in the thirteenth century, and most of the texts for the traditional Mass and Office for the day at least, were composed by St Thomas Aquinas.

It has long stood as a counter to those who seek to deny the Real Presence in the sacrament.

Such a reminder is needed today more than ever!

As Vexilla Regis blog recently pointed out in a commentary on the latest of the notorious Ms Harrington's 'Liturgy Lines' on a Brisbane Archdiocesan website, the liberal anti-liturgy band when confronted with the feast, attempt to reinterpret it to their taste, so rather than being about Christ's gift of his continuing Real Presence in our midst it becomes all about us instead.

As Pope Francis has been trying to emphasise, we need to be clear that Christianity is actually about Christ, not us!

The false dichotomy of 'passive presence' and 'active participation'

Ms Harrington's piece (unsurprisingly) also had a sideswipe at the practice of Adoration as being about 'passive presence' rather than 'active participation'.  It is a common view of the world, also echoed in a line used by Professor Anne Hunt in relation to the role of the laity in the Church at the recent Great Grace Conference.

Yet it is, I think, an altogether false dichotomy, as this feast reminds us, for Christ is present in the Eucharist and in the tabernacle whether we are conscious of the fact or not!

And the consequence of this is the theological reality that, for example, is that if a person is present at Mass, they are in fact participating in it by virtue of their baptism, regardless of how actively engaged they are in it.  Participating actively, of course, by being consciously engaged in what is happening and joining ourselves to it, offering ourselves in it, can increase the graces we give and receive, but it is a continuum that is at play here, not an either/or situation.

Nor should we confuse activity and active participation: when we enter a Church, Christ's presence is working on us, whether we are conscious of it or not.

Similarly, someone kneeling in deep Adoration at the transubstantiation, who opens themselves totally to the Real Presence of Christ, can be 'participating' far more actively than the person worrying about the next task they have to do in the liturgy.  The traditional view of the Church has always been that we can be transformed far more deeply through contemplation than through action; deep commitment and openness in prayer can be a far more grace-filled occasion than someone rushing around 'doing' things in the liturgy or outside it.

In short, as Pope Benedict XVI spelt out in his Encyclical Spe Salvi, to become witnesses in the world,  our faith needs to be deeply rooted in contemplation of the reality of Christ made present to us in a way that is ontologically different  - a whole different level of meaningful presence - to they way that he is made present to us in Scripture, for example, or in the faithful who manifest Christ to each other.

Truth and its consequences

The feast calls us to the worship of Christ, and the rejection of false idols such as worship of self, comfort, pleasure or wealth.

And the readings set for the feast remind us that there are consequences to the reality of the Eucharist:

"Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord. Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you, and many sleep..." 1 Cor 11:27-32

Music for the feast

Ave Verum Corpus was not actually composed by St Thomas: it dates from the fourteenth century.

But its text  - and the sublime musical settings of them, such as Mozart's - are my favourite expressions of Eucharistic devotion.

Here is the translation from the wikipedia:

Hail, true Body, born
of the Virgin Mary,
who having truly suffered, was sacrificed
on the cross for mankind,
whose pierced side
flowed with water and blood:
May it be for us a foretaste [of the Heavenly banquet]
in the trial of death.
O sweet Jesus, O pious Jesus, O Jesus, son of Mary,
have mercy on me. Amen.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

A Great Grace scandal: priest refuses to give communion to the sick

I'm trying to slowly work my way through some of the recordings of the Great Grace conference (I do wish hard copy transcripts could be provided!) and I'll write more on them in due course, but I just have to rant at one of the stories related in the Question and Answer section of Professor Anne Hunt's Session on the role of the laity.

A person who did not identify himself but from his comments is a priest of the Gaudium et Spes generation was trying to advocate the introduction of female acolytes.

And as part of his advocacy he proudly related what seems to me to be an utterly scandalous story, of the type condemned by Pope Francis just the other day, of the triumph of ideology over pastoral good sense (not to mention canon law in this case).

A woman in hospital had asked to receive Holy Communion.

A layperson arrived to give it, however the sick person, presumably being of a traditional mind on this matter, asked instead for a priest.

The priest  - the official hospital chaplain - duly arrived.

And then refused to give her communion, instead giving her a lecture to the effect that the layperson was the duly authorised minister for the sacrament!

I'm utterly scandalised, and I hope the priest in question has been properly identified, counselled and if necessary removed from Ministry since he clearly has no grasp either on his role or his duties under canon law.

You can watch him talking on the video of session 4 (he starts at around 48.28).

PS: I'd be particularly interested to hear from anyone who can identify him and/or was there...

Pope defends the Extraordinary Form Mass: treasure tradition!

Fr Finigan of the Hermeneutic of Continuity blog has an important story today, of Pope Francis defending the right of priests to say the Traditional Latin Mass in the face of a push from a group of Italian bishops to close it down.

He has translated a newspaper article from Il Foglio, which reports on an exchange at a recent ad limina visit.

The bishops apparently claimed that 'the old rite was creating great divisions within the Church' and should be cancelled or tightly limited.

But the Pope rejected the proposal and told them instead:

"...that they should treasure tradition and create the necessary conditions so that tradition might be able to live alongside innovation."

Excellent news.

Do go and read the rest of Fr Finigan's analysis.

**And you might also take a look at the more extended report of the discussion over at Eponymous Flower.

Unsurprisingly though, Rorate Caeli remains unconvinced, suggesting that the words have been put into the mouth of the Pope and he didn't actually quite say that...wouldn't want to spoil a good attack line now would we?

Archdiocese of New York undermines the fight against Obama mandated coverage of contraception and abortion

And on the ongoing problem of the sorry state of the episcopacy, today's big story is the revelation that in the US, the Archdiocese of New York has been paying for abortions and contraception for its employees for over a decade.

Yet at the same time, Cardinal Dolan has been leading the fight against the Obama Healthcare Mandate to force the Church to do just that.

You couldn't make it up...

**Reflecting on the Cardinal's approach to the abuse crisis...

There is a rather good piece in the Canberra Times today from 'editor at large' Jack Waterford reflecting on Cardinal Pell's appearance at the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry.

I don't always (or even often) agree with Mr Waterford's take on Church-related issues, but on this one, though he can't resist the temptation to toss in what I think are some rather unfair attack lines - I for one think the constantly repeated quote about Cardinal Pell's alleged 'sociopathic lack of empathy', for example, is frankly outrageous and wish people would stop using it - I think that overall he has pretty much hit the nail on the head.

Style vs substance

In essence, Waterford argues that the Cardinal's combative style at the Inquiry does the Church no favours:

"It was not a public relations triumph - not even intended to be. One can sense, however, that Pell left thinking he had given as good as he got, and that a few of his hits reached the boundary. He has shown over and over that he simply lacks the self-awareness to know that his every appearance on the subject throws fuel on to the fire - if only because his every facial tic makes it clear that he does not get it.

No one has reached stage one of argument suggesting that Pell condoned or facilitated a culture of abuse in his dioceses. But his combativeness...[my suggested rewording: and perceived lack of empathy] seem to be one of the key factors guaranteeing that an array of public inquiries will continue to embarrass and humiliate the church over the next few years."

In terms of storyline, as Mr Waterford acknowledges, the Cardinal did in fact manage to get across a reasonably convincing account: under his predecessor, Archbishop Little, terrible things occurred; when he took over  he moved quickly to put some kind of process into place, and he took the advice of police and others on what form it should take.  And if in retrospect some aspects of the Melbourne process should have been changed in the light of experience, well the Cardinal has not been Archbishop of Melbourne since 2001.

You can read the official Sydney website's summation here.  And you can read the Cardinal's Submissions to the Inquiry here.

The problem came particularly with the Cardinal's responses at the time - and defended at the Inquiry - in the face of complaints about priests.  Instead of listening actively and considering what he could do to respond, such as instigating a proper investigation, he appeared both to victims and their friends at the time, and to anyone watching the Inquiry as dismissive and impatient, repeatedly dismissing complaints as mere gossip that he could not act on in the absence of clear evidence. Indeed, in one case, it was not until a year ago that the Archdiocese of Melbourne attempted to close the loop on one case by canvassing the parish to see if there were any other complaints about a particular abuser!

History vs the here and now

The most fundamental problem, though, Mr Waterford suggests - and I agree - is the claim that that was then, this is now:

"There seemed a strong and consistent line to Pell's refusal to submit. This seems to be: yes, the abuse was reprehensible beyond measure, and the church, more through ignorance than ill will, seriously and culpably mismanaged its response. But it's ancient history now, and I suspect your motives in continually coming back to it.

It's ancient history, Pell suggests, because church leaders - Pell actually - ultimately addressed the problem with firm leadership, and the problem has more or less disappeared. While there are still ''historical'' cases emerging - of abuse from any time between the 1930s and the 1980s - there have been few cases come forward of recent sexual abuse. So, presumably, the church's institutional response, if belated, is working. Moreover, victims are now getting help, including damages and counselling.

In these circumstances, there's an implicit and aggressive question: so why are you still going on about it? It's bad, yes. Embarrassing, yes. Shameful, yes. We've said sorry, again and again, and we say it again. But surely we can, at least after we ''mop up'' the remaining survivors, move on, as the prime minister might put it? Or are you people harping on this simply so as to have a stick with which to beat the church, the bishops, and loyal Catholics everywhere? In that case we will fight you."

The problem is, though the number of cases occurring may well have fallen drastically (though given the typical time delays in people coming forward that is hard to verify) the number is not zero.

And there is every indication that when cases do arise today, they are often not well handled.  Aside from the cases raised at the Victorian Inquiry, there have been a number of well publicised cases of this in Australia and overseas of late, and I've been told by more than one priest (in different dioceses) that they do not have confidence in that the procedures are actually being properly followed when they raise issues.

Moving forward

The current Victorian and Maitland-Newcastle Inquiries are small beer really, compared to the Royal Commission: they are both strictly time limited affairs, though their effects may be disproportionate.

The Royal Commission is currently conducting private hearings around the country.

But there is still time to get the Churches approach to this right.

As Mr Waterford concludes:

"Those in the church know the church will be judged, here as well as in the hereafter, not by its ‘‘management’’ of the sex abuse disaster but by its humility, its justice to victims, and its adoption of a precept of its founder about manifesting love of God by love of the least in the community."

**Alternative Perspectives?

There are of course different views on this subject.

Over at the Sydney Morning Herald, a poll asked whether they believed the Cardinal's testimony: 77% replied no.

That's extremely unfair - as even his critics in the media acknowledge, despite trying very hard indeed, every claim of his involvement in the cover up has proved to be demonstrably false.

Nonetheless, as Mr Waterford piece makes clear, and indeed the Cardinal himself acknowledged, this is about an issue playing out in the public domain that is all about perceptions and credibility, and in the view of most, the Church has garnered little indeed of that to date.

An editorial in The Australian, however, sees it differently, concluding that:

"In his 4 1/2 hours of evidence, Cardinal Pell was patient, open and credible. He and Archbishop Hart are in the forefront of dealing with the abuse and mismanagement that has undermined the church's credibility. They are part of the solution, not the problem..."

 For the reasons set out in my previous post on the Cardinal's appearance before the Inquiry, the view that any of the incumbent bishops are part of the solution is not a conclusion that is widely shared amongst the laity and clergy of this country.  Yes, the introduction of at least some decent processes is to be commended.  But the reluctance to change the approach in the face of legitimate criticism; the  'better late than never' approach to correcting past errors and perceptions that appears to being driven by the external pressures on the Church at this time rather than any internal fervour for reform; and the failure to address the underlying issues around attitudes to morality and obedience remain festering sores in my view.

Canberra's St Patrick's Church Braddon saved!

Some time ago I reported on the fight between parishioners and the Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn over the future of a Church located near the centre of Canberra City, St Patrick's Church, Braddon.

Well, it seems now that all bets are off, because according to The Canberra Times, the ACT Government's offer for the site was deemed insufficient to make selling it worthwhile.

That is great news for the various groups who use the Church - the German Community has its Sunday Masses there (as does the local parish), as well as the office workers and others who attend the weekday lunchtime Masses there.

When the Church loses its focus...

This was one of those deals, championed by the former Archbishop, +Coleridge, that seemed, on the face of it, more about building up the Churches financial resources than advancing the cause of Christ.

It involved closing and selling off the only Church still located in walking distance from one of Canberra's city centres, a church that was still in active use, in order to raise money for the development of the area around the Cathedral (!) in Manuka.

And the methods the diocese used to advance this affair seem, at least on the basis of what I have been told, questionable.

I for one noticed, for example, when the diocese suddenly closed off the parking for the Church making it much harder to go there for Mass or access the Catholic Bookshop in Favier House.  It turns out they had leased the parking, without consulting users, to the Anglicans!

Similarly, initially the diocese seems to have thought it owned the land itself - but in fact it was part of the Central Canberra Parishes territory, thus requiring the parishes sign-off.  Many of the parishioners, as well as former parishioners, were less than happy at the proposal.

Some have claimed to me that there were a number of rather heavy-handed attempts to 'persuade' individual, and in some cases vulnerable, parishioners into compliance by various senior members of the diocesan hierarchy.

And some people have suggested to me that it was not entirely coincidental that the contract that had the Dominicans running this parish was terminated, despite the fact that the diocese is desperately short of priests.

In desperation, a number of supporters of the Church sought Heritage listing for the Church.  They succeeded, but the Archdiocese is continuing to fight the decision all the way.

Whatever the truth of the various claims, this is not edifying stuff!

And there is a great deal of irony in Canberra's relentlessly secularist Government effectively saving a Church from being closed and demolished...

The way forward

Canberra still lacks an Archbishop.

Whoever does get the job needs to take a hard look at what has happened and the modus operandi of all involved.

I'd also suggest a serious rethink of the proposed Manuka development: shouldn't the Cathedral of a diocese stand above its surroundings rather than be crowded in by apartments and office buildings?

And as for the archdiocese's finances, if the situation really is that dire, perhaps a strategic rethink aimed at taking seriously the Pope's hope that we become a  'poor Church for the poor' might be in order.  A church that focused on making the spiritual riches of the Church available to all, to spending its wealth on the worship of God rather than on protecting and growing its financial resources for example.

Shedding much of the archdiocesan bureaucracy would be a good start - Canberra has a ready supply of well-trained laity who could well be persuaded to help out on a volunteer basis if allowed to do so.

Build a real Cathedral!

Of course one bold solution to the Manuka issue that could be used to unite the Archdiocese in a great cause would be to commit to building the Cathedral originally planned for Canberra on the site given to the Church for the purpose on the shores of Lake Burley-Griffin.

Back in 1926 it was announced that:

Early in the New Year, a commencement will be made by the Roman Catholic Church of a comprehensive scheme to cater for Canberra and its environs. The foundations are to be laid in July of a school, church, and of a convent in Canberra, and of a large hall in Queanbeyan.

On the occasion of the laying of the foundation stones, the Archbishops of Sydney and Melbourne andthe Bishop of Goulburn will visit Canberra.

The Church has secured three fine sites in the city area, one of which is a cathedral site on the northern bank of the Molonglo River....

The main cathedral site is situated on the northern side of Molonglo Basin, on the right hand side of Commonwealth Avenue bridge head, on the way to Civic Centre from the Administrative Area.
The site is opposite Parliament House, and is close to the large residential areas of Ainslie and South Ainslie...

The foundation stones of the initial edifices will be laid on Sunday, January 30, next..."

Alas, all that eventually resulted was a large house for the Archbishop on one of Canberra's prime pieces of real estate!

The 'better late than never' principle seems popular at present, and a Cathedral dedicated to Our Lady Help of Christians could be a much needed shrine and shield against the forces of relentless secularisation.

And perhaps the project could be launched as an act of reparation for the sins committed in the child abuse scandal.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Praying for good bishops: rumours, rumours!

You may have noted that the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Ouellet, recently visited Australia.

Given the number of current vacancies (viz Wilcannia-Forbes and Canberra-Goulburn), diocese with bishops over the age limit (viz Hobart, Rockhampton and Lismore) or where the bishop is approaching the age limit (viz Broken Bay), one assumes he might also have taken the time to meet some of the candidates and take some soundings in person while here.

No surprise then that the rumours have started flying, with someone over at aCatholica suggesting that ++Prowse of Sale is destined for Canberra-Goulburn (I'd like to think that Catholica wasn't a reliable source on such subjects given its steadfast opposition to actual Catholicism, but alas, it is a sign of the state of the Church in this country that it has in fact proved on the money in the past).

Of course appointing bishops these days is no easy task.

In Scotland, a halt has been called on all appointments pending the in depth investigation of the Cardinal O'Brien fiasco.

Some have speculated that a similar process might (or at least should!) be underway in England and Wales given the problem of homosexual infiltration of the seminaries there in the 1970s.  Given the sordid account of life at Manly offered recently, and the problem of apparent complicity or worse in the coverup of child sexual abuse on the part of many, similar arguments apply to Australia.

But all those issues aside, there is also the problem of persuading priests to actually say yes when asked.  If they are refusing because their past lives won't stand up to scrutiny, then good that they do so.  But otherwise, hard to understand why a priest should refuse to serve, not withstanding the challenges involved: our religion, after all, demands that we take up our cross!

So perhaps it is a good time to renew our prayers for good shepherds for our dioceses...

Memento Mori: On remembering death/1

A reader wrote to me recently, asking some excellent questions flowing from something I posted recently on funerals.

In particular, she wrote that she herself had recently attended a couple of 'heartbreakingly secular funerals', and wondered how to ensure that she gets a proper Requiem Mass in due course.

It is an important topic, and she had several questions around it, so I'm going to try and answer her questions over a couple of posts.

Today though, I thought I'd tackle her first one, which is perhaps the most critical one, namely is it morbid or odd to worry about getting a proper funeral even if you are only young?

Is it morbid or odd to worry about getting a proper funeral if you are only relatively young?

The answer is, in my view, absolutely not!

Death is the one thing we know will come to us all, so it makes sense to plan for it.

And while we all hope we'll get our threescore years and ten (or more!), we can't rely on that.

Death can come at any time, so it is only prudent to be prepared for it.

Indeed, one of the wisdom sayings in the Rule of St Benedict is 'To keep death daily before one's eyes' (RB 4).


Thinking about death needn't be a negative or morbid remembrance though, for what St Benedict is actually getting at is that we should direct all our thoughts and actions in the here and now to getting to heaven: indeed he also advises that we should 'constantly turnover in our heart the eternal life which is prepared for us' (RB 7).

Christians, in other words, must cultivate the theological virtue of hope, for we have the promises of Christ to sustain us, and know that death is not the end.

For the Catholic, then, preparing for death needs to have two key spiritual focuses it seems to me: first making sure that we will ultimately get to heaven; and secondly, making sure we get out of purgatory as quickly as possible.

Final perseverance

Making sure that we will ultimately get to heaven, which requires that we persevere in the faith to the end and die in a state of grace.  

Getting to heaven is achieved by striving to grow in holiness, through all the normal means of grace the Church provides.  

There are though some particular practices that you could consider adopting now that are useful reminders, such as praying daily for the grace of  'final perseverance', that 'last grace which confirms us in the Lord at the moment of death'.

Even if we've lived a good Christian life, this grace is not something we can take for granted.

A happy death

We can also pray for a happy death.  

It is important to keep in mind that the Catholic concept of a happy death is not the same as the current prevailing secular one.  

Catholics can look forward to death as the gate to our birth in heaven, but that doesn't mean we have to be eager for that to occur right now (unless of course we have already achieved the maximum degree of perfection we are capable of!) and shouldn't seek proper treatment for our illnesses.  But neither does it mean that we should adopt the secularist obsession with futile treatments that attempt to extend life at any cost, including to our own dignity.

Nor does it mean that we should allow things to be speeded along!  These days palliative care can make death a fairly pain-free process in most cases and that's a good thing if it allows us to face death recollected and properly prepared.  But equally, if we do have to endure some suffering in the process, we should remember that suffering can be redemptive if embraced and offered for ourselves and others.  

Thinking through the issues around medical treatment in case we suffer an accident or major illness is important; so too is recording our preferences in the event that we can't speak for ourselves, and making sure our family and friends are aware of our views and are prepared to carry them out.

More important still, though, for a Catholic, is ensuring that we are prepared spiritually for the event and will be well supported through it.

In particular, a happy death means having the chance to receive the sacraments in preparation for death, particularly those ordered to it, namely Extreme Unction ('Anointing')  and Viaticum (the Eucharist as food for the journey).

It also means having people ready to pray for us immediately before and after our deaths (including a priest who can give the Apostolic Blessing to a person in danger of death) to help smooth the way - there are standard prayers for this purpose contained in most missals and prayer books, and readily available online that we should all be familiar with.   

Getting out of purgatory!

The second focus is to get out of purgatory as quickly as possible once we do die.

We should, of course, strive to become saints in this life, and thus skip the need for a period of purgation, or purification after death.  

The prayers said by and for us (such as the Indulgence attached to the Apostolic Blessing) and the suffering (be it physical or psychological) that we endure as we approach death might help us get over the line if we've strived diligently all our lives.

Few of us will manage sainthood that quickly however, hence the importance of a funeral and other events to solicit the prayers of the living for us, since in purgatory we can no longer help ourselves.

And in this light, I'll talk more about the options around funerals and related matters in the next post on this subject...

**Pope on salvation: just to be clear, atheists and apostates are going to hell!

You may or may not have caught the last round of the Christ died 'for all' versus 'for many' debate, this time triggered by some comments made by Pope Francis in one of his daily homilies.

Well now the Vatican has issued a clarifying statement, to make it clear that people who aware of the Catholic church cannot be saved if they refuse to enter her or remain in her.

The offer of salvation has to be accepted!

The original media storm was triggered by these reported comments:

"The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!

We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there."

I didn't bother reporting on it, since it was pretty obviously a storm in a teacup: there is a big difference between asserting that Christ died for all (which is dogma), we all have a duty to do good (the natural law), and asserting that we are all saved (hence the 'for many' words in the Mass).

In short, yes, Christ died for all.

Yes, that offer is open to everyone, no-one is excluded.  Indeed, we should pray hard that every hardened atheist we know has a deathbed (or earlier!) conversion.

There is a critical requirement though, for salvation, namely our co-operation, for God has given us the gift of free will, and that includes the right to reject the offer to be with him for ever in heaven.

Though Christ reopened the way to heaven and invites us to join him there, we have to respond, we have to accept that invitation.  To repeat a quote from St Augustine I cited recently, 'God created you without you but he will not save you without you'.

Thankfully, a Vatican spokesperson, Fr Rosica has now formally clarified just these basic points.

How authoritative are these sermonettes?

Pope Francis' daily sermons are providing rich ground for some restatements of basic truths of the faith, and a fresh emphasis on the realities of Christian life, such as the daily struggle with Satan.

And while I for one loved the theological richness of many of Pope Benedict XVI's sermons, these clear cut, simply put sermonettes are often refreshing in their directness.  For a traditionalist at least, they often seem attractive in their rejection of wishy washy evasions and 'nuance' that has so often prevailed in recent years in many places.

This whole affair, though it certainly does illustrate the problems that can be caused by the selective way in which the Popes ferverinos are released, and the lack of appropriate context for some of the comments.

In particular, rather than the full transcript of the actual sermon being released (tidied up if necessary given they are delivered off the cuff), all we get is a few selected paragraphs courtesy of Vatican Radio.  Often that's fine; sometimes though, it makes it difficult to know what he was really trying to get at.  A bit of refinement of the media strategy would seem warranted.

**Vatican on Pope Francis' sermonettes

And on this subject, the Vatican has issued an explanation of the reasons for only releasing summaries of the sermonettes, and explained that they are of a lower level of authority than his more formal presentations.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Cardinal Pell at the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry on Child Abuse

In the Traditional calendar, today is the transferred feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, patron of Australia (in the Ordinary Form the feast was celebrated last week).

We certainly need her help and intercession, now more than ever in the light of the various inquiries currently in progress on the child abuse scandal.

Today the fuel for the fire was Cardinal Pell's appearance this afternoon before the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry.

His appearance attracted a packed hearing room, hundreds of tweets, and was broadcast live on ABC News 24 and it made for several hours of riveting viewing.

The Cardinal generally held his own...

It wasn't pretty.

But it wasn't until very late in the afternoon on the last day of hearings that it started turning into the train wreck I had feared, with the revelations starting to come out.

In particular, in terms of the Cardinal's own actions, surely the most damning revelation was that he had authorised the provision of financial support to a priest who had been suspended from ministry due to abuse and fled overseas to avoid prosecution!

Why we need the Royal Commission...

There were some real clangers along the way, and some of the language the Cardinal uses ('those people') reinforces the impression of being unsympathetic.

But on the whole, for most of the hearing, the Cardinal did, I think, the best that could be expected of him, particularly in the face of some particularly silly and blatantly anti-Catholic lines of questioning.

Frankly, the Committee members wasted a lot of time due to apparent ignorance of Church structures, and a determination to score political points on the amount of monetary compensation victims should get.   In particular they were arguing that the Church should increase the compensation it pays out, and targeted 'Pell's Palace' in Rome (Domus Australia) as a possible source of loot.  The Royal Commission won't make the same mistakes.

Late in the day, though, there were a series of new revelations that will only add to the outrage the laity feel at the hierarchy's management of abuse cases and will feed the opprobrium with which the Church is currently  viewed.

Overall, the Committee managed to hone in on three key issues: continuing financial support for suspended priests; continuing breaches of processes due to the lack of any serious monitoring and audit of compliance to procedures; and details of some of the cover ups and subsequent inaction that had occurred.

Financial support for priests who fled the country

Early on in the hearing, Cardinal Pell suggested that laicizing priests was something of a side issue, since once their faculties were removed, that was the end for them.

Later in the afternoon, though, the Committee finally hit the money in my view, in extracting the revelation that Cardinal Pell authorised the continuing payment of a stipend to accused abuser Fr Pickering (amongst others) despite the fact that he had fled the country without permission and the Cardinal wanted him to return.  It was stopped by his successor.

The revelation raises a number of questions, not least about how many other abuser priests are still receiving financial support from the Church.

Ongoing breaches and auditing compliance

Another key line of question covered the actual checks in place to ensure that procedures are actually being followed, and to ensure that all cases are properly and thoroughly investigated.

The short answer, when it came down to it, seemed to be that there aren't any really.

And the net result is that the Archdiocese of Melbourne, in the face of the Inquiry, has been scurrying around doing some last minute attempts to tidy things up on the 'better late than never' principle articulated last week by Archbishop Hart.  Let's hope that every other diocese is also doing a thorough audit of its records.

But the evidence did seem to suggest that the religious orders in particular are still straight out ignoring the rules they've signed up to.

The other key revelations concerned details of the cover ups that seem to have been actively facilitated by Archbishop Little - and the years it has taken to do anything about it.

Other reports

These are the stories that appeared as the hearing went on.  No doubt there will be more detailed reports where you read the gory details if you feel so inclined:

Our Lady Help of Christians, pray for us.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Paris attack on soldier: denialism/2

One of the bizarre consequences of the denialism around the link between Islam and violence has been that instead of the media being concerned about copycat attacks on soldiers following the murder of a soldier in London, there have been wall to wall stories about Muslim fears of retribution.

Unsurprisingly, there has been little if any evidence to support the latter fear.

But there has now been another attack on a soldier, this time in Paris.

And guess what, denialism reigneth again.

This time the soldier was in uniform, on patrol.  He is in hospital in a serious condition, but looks likely to survive.


The ABC Report describes the attacker as follows:

"A police union spokesman said surveillance footage of the attacker showed him as tall and bearded, aged about 35, possibly of North African origin and wearing a white Arab-style tunic."

And the French Interior Minister admitted that he was indeed trying to kill the soldier:

"Interior minister Manuel Valls noted the similarity in an interview on French TV, saying the attacker was clearly trying to murder his victim..."

Riiiight, so definitely not a Muslim copycat attack then?!

Here is what President Hollande reportedly had to say:

"While anti-terrorist investigators were probing the incident President Francois Hollande said "at this stage" there was no apparent link between the attack in Paris and a murder of a soldier in London this week.

"We still don't know the exact circumstances of the attack or the identity of the attacker, but we are exploring all options," he said.

Mr Hollande said police were hunting for the perpetrator but did not provide any details about his identity or any possible motivation for the attack."

Yep, Islam the religion of peace...

Latin prayer of the week: The Athanasian Creed

Folio 10 verso from a Book of Hours
(British Library, Royal 2 B XV), The Trinity
Traditionally, the Athanasian Creed was said each Sunday in the Office: since 1962 it has been said liturgically only on this Sunday of the year.

It actually in all probability was not written by St Athanasius, but dates from a century or so later.

All the same, it is a wonderful summary of our Trinitarian faith, well worth getting to know.

Whoever will be saved...

If you have a read of it you will see why it has gone out of fashion: it insists we actually have to believe in certain things for salvation!

Take a look at the English first:

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation; that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess; that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Essence of the Father; begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Essence of his Mother, born in the world. Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood. Who although he is God and Man; yet he is not two, but one Christ. One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood by God. One altogether; not by confusion of Essence; but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of the God the Father Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies; And shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.

The Latin:

Quicumque vult salvus esse, ante omnia opus est, ut teneat catholicam fidem: Quam nisi quisque integram inviolatamque servaverit, absque dubio in aeternum peribit. Fides autem catholica haec est: ut unum Deum in Trinitate, et Trinitatem in unitate veneremur. Neque confundentes personas, neque substantiam separantes. Alia est enim persona Patris alia Filii, alia Spiritus Sancti: Sed Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti una est divinitas, aequalis gloria, coeterna maiestas. Qualis Pater, talis Filius, talis [et] Spiritus Sanctus. Increatus Pater, increatus Filius, increatus [et] Spiritus Sanctus. Immensus Pater, immensus Filius, immensus [et] Spiritus Sanctus. Aeternus Pater, aeternus Filius, aeternus [et] Spiritus Sanctus. Et tamen non tres aeterni, sed unus aeternus. Sicut non tres increati, nec tres immensi, sed unus increatus, et unus immensus. Similiter omnipotens Pater, omnipotens Filius, omnipotens [et] Spiritus Sanctus. Et tamen non tres omnipotentes, sed unus omnipotens. Ita Deus Pater, Deus Filius, Deus [et] Spiritus Sanctus. Et tamen non tres dii, sed unus est Deus. Ita Dominus Pater, Dominus Filius, Dominus [et] Spiritus Sanctus. Et tamen non tres Domini, sed unus [est] Dominus. Quia, sicut singillatim unamquamque personam Deum ac Dominum confiteri christiana veritate compellimur: Ita tres Deos aut [tres] Dominos dicere catholica religione prohibemur. Pater a nullo est factus: nec creatus, nec genitus. Filius a Patre solo est: non factus, nec creatus, sed genitus. Spiritus Sanctus a Patre et Filio: non factus, nec creatus, nec genitus, sed procedens. Unus ergo Pater, non tres Patres: unus Filius, non tres Filii: unus Spiritus Sanctus, non tres Spiritus Sancti. Et in hac Trinitate nihil prius aut posterius, nihil maius aut minus: Sed totae tres personae coaeternae sibi sunt et coaequales. Ita, ut per omnia, sicut iam supra dictum est, et unitas in Trinitate, et Trinitas in unitate veneranda sit. Qui vult ergo salvus esse, ita de Trinitate sentiat.

Sed necessarium est ad aeternam salutem, ut incarnationem quoque Domini nostri Iesu Christi fideliter credat. Est ergo fides recta ut credamus et confiteamur, quia Dominus noster Iesus Christus, Dei Filius, Deus [pariter] et homo est. Deus [est] ex substantia Patris ante saecula genitus: et homo est ex substantia matris in saeculo natus. Perfectus Deus, perfectus homo: ex anima rationali et humana carne subsistens. Aequalis Patri secundum divinitatem: minor Patre secundum humanitatem. Qui licet Deus sit et homo, non duo tamen, sed unus est Christus. Unus autem non conversione divinitatis in carnem, sed assumptione humanitatis in Deum. Unus omnino, non confusione substantiae, sed unitate personae. Nam sicut anima rationalis et caro unus est homo: ita Deus et homo unus est Christus. Qui passus est pro salute nostra: descendit ad inferos: tertia die resurrexit a mortuis. Ascendit ad [in] caelos, sedet ad dexteram [Dei] Patris [omnipotentis]. Inde venturus [est] judicare vivos et mortuos. Ad cujus adventum omnes homines resurgere habent cum corporibus suis; Et reddituri sunt de factis propriis rationem. Et qui bona egerunt, ibunt in vitam aeternam: qui vero mala, in ignem aeternum. Haec est fides catholica, quam nisi quisque fideliter firmiterque crediderit, salvus esse non poterit.

Pope Francis on blessings and baptism!

Ever strike one of those modernist priests who disdain giving blessings and offering other sacramentals, and instead of giving you one, gives you a lecture on how all that stuff is old-fashioned rubbish that is no longer part of our practice?

It seems Pope Francis has, and he doesn't approve!

His latest weekday homily tackles three classic problems: a reluctance to use sacramentals and the traditional tools the Church offers to help us; reluctance to offer baptism in certain cases; and the bureaucratic instead of faith filled response to requests for pastoral support (the specific example he gives relates to marriage).

No Father, Mass is not a substitute for a blessing!

Once upon a time, blessings given by priests were an important part of our practise. Some blessings are associated with specific feast days, such as the blessing of throats on the feast of St Blaise.  Many more are provided for specific occasions such as before and after childbirth, wedding anniversaries, when you are sick; for things such as food, books, and cars; and for places, such as your home.  And there is a blessing able to be used whenever you need for one.

Outside of traditionalist communities though (and even in some of them) you will be hard pressed to find any of these being regularly used.

The Pope's commentary on blessings is salutary:

"I remember once, coming out of the city of Salta, on the patronal feast, there was a humble lady who asked for a priest's blessing. The priest said, 'All right, but you were at the Mass' and explained the whole theology of blessing in the church. You did well: 'Ah, thank you father, yes father,' said the woman. When the priest had gone, the woman turned to another priest: 'Give me your blessing!'. All these words did not register with her, because she had another necessity: the need to be touched by the Lord. That is the faith that we always look for , this is the faith that brings the Holy Spirit. We must facilitate it, make it grow, help it grow. "

Access to baptism

The Pope also made some interesting remarks on baptism.  The current Code of Canon Law is rather discouraging about access to baptism, requiring assurances that the child will be brought up as a Catholic and more.  It reflects, I suspect, the current horror of  'proselytization' and the not particularly biblical or traditional hope that almost everyone will be saved.

It is, in short, a direction that runs counter, in my view, to the Church's traditional view that baptism is necessary for the assurance of salvation and so should be freely offered when explicitly asked for, or even when not in cases where there is a danger of death.

Pope Benedict XVI made some comments suggesting that a rethink on current restrictive practice was required, and it seems that Pope Francis is also signalling a change going down this direction.

Responding pastorally

But the really key point the Pope makes is about turning occasions of encounter with the faithful into occasions to promote the faith.

The Pope gives the example of a couple seeking to get married dealing with a parish secretary.  But his comments could equally be applied to many priests in my experience, who simply don't seem to understand how to be pro-active about engaging on the faith.  The point is that instead of trying to understand what someone is really trying to say, we tend to respond to the mere words, and miss opportunities to genuinely engage with people:

"Think of the good Christians, with good will, we think about the parish secretary, a secretary of the parish ... 'Good evening, good morning, the two of us - boyfriend and girlfriend - we want to get married'. And instead of saying, 'That's great!'. They say, 'Oh, well, have a seat. If you want the Mass, it costs a lot ... '. This, instead of receiving a good welcome- It is a good thing to get married! '- But instead they get this response:' Do you have the certificate of baptism, all right ... '. And they find a closed door. When this Christian and that Christian has the ability to open a door, thanking God for this fact of a new marriage ... We are many times controllers of faith, instead of becoming facilitators of the faith of the people. "

Saturday, 25 May 2013

News updates

There a few key items of news around that are worth alerting readers to, so here goes.

NSW votes down right to be murdered bill

Some good news to start off with: the Greens Bill to introduce Euthanasia in New South Wales was decisively defeated on Thursday, voted down voted down 23 votes to 13.

In a week where the media attempted to beat up the further apostasy of the @KRuddMP (just why his views are in the least bit relevant to anyone these days is a mystery to me, but still), this time, on same sex marriage, good to have a win.

Not that it will stop the Greens from trying again in NSW, and continuing the push elsewhere around the country...

Vicar-General of Newark Archdiocese resigns over abuse case handling

You might recall the ongoing saga of Fr Fugee of Newark, a priest who should, on the face of it, have been laicized, but instead was allowed to continue in ministry without much evidence of the court mandated supervision actually occurring.  Now the National Catholic Register has reported that Archbishop Myers has accepted the resignation  of the Vicar-General of the archdiocese,  Monsignor John E. Doran, following an investigation of what happened.  Fr Fugee himself is due to appear in court shortly charged with breaching the terms of his agreement with the court.

Notre Dame desecrator was a militant atheist...

You might also recall the story of a man committing suicide in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, allegedly as a gesture against legalizing same-sex “marriage".

Lifesite News has now revealed that the media portrayal of him as Catholic extremist is entirely false, and in reality he was a militant atheist who lauded paganism, and was protesting about immigration:

"He was, instead, protesting the massive influx of Muslim immigrants to France, which he considered a form of population replacement, and he hailed paganism and Nietzsche's will to power.

In a message posted to his blog on the morning of May 21, Venner wrote that demonstrators participating in next Sunday's march against the law “are perfectly right to cry out their impatience and their anger” over redefining marriage – but this was less of a concern to him. “An infamous law, once adopted, can always be repealed,” he wrote.

He went on to say that he had just heard an Algerian blogger saying that “in any case, Islamists will have taken over command in France and they will suppress this law” as contrary to Shari'a (Islamic religious law).

“We must acknowledge that France falling into the hands of the Islamists is an existing probability,” he continued. “[For] 40 years, politicians and governments of all parties (except the National Front), as well as the employers and the Church, worked actively towards this, using every possible means to accelerate North African and African immigration.”..."

Suddenly a multitude of voices: Catholic Talkers vs Catholic Voices!

You may recall that some time back the Archdiocese of Melbourne launched a group calling itself Catholic Voices Australia, aimed at providing a wider range of potential media spokespeople.

There was some talk of the organisation going national, but a bit of a rethink might be needed on that, because Cardinal Pell has just launched what appears to be a rival organisation sponsored by the Sydney Archdiocese, also with national ambitions, called Catholic Talk.

Catholic Talk

The Archdiocese's website explains:

In the final presentation at The Great Grace Conference, the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell launched a new and exciting initiative - Catholic Talk.

Catholic Talk is a group of people who can present views in the media on all issues through a Catholic perspective.

This group comprises a diverse range of Catholics, professional and students, as well as clergy and religious who aim to offer a contribution in the media from the rich Catholic tradition.

Catholic Talk does not speak on behalf of any bishop or diocese but instead seeks to articulate a personal, relevant and clear Catholic perspective in the media.

In launching Catholic Talk Cardinal Pell said it is extremely important the views of Catholics from all walks of life and age groups are represented.

He said; "It can be very difficult to get our views across in the media. We  are all aware of the importance of communication, especially on social networks, blogs and Twitter.  I hope this will provide the opportunity for those who feel they are unrepresented to have the opportunity and platform to have their views heard.

"Also I would like to see Catholic Talk grow into a trusted resource for the media. "

Catholic Talk is a home-grown Australian  response to the call Pope Francis made early in his papacy.

"We need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others."

A website is being developed to support the communications effort of this group. It will also be a hub for an interactive exchange of ideas as well as providing great resources.

"I would like to see Catholic Talk eventually grow and expand. There is a great need for this kind of initiative," Cardinal Pell.

Sydney vs Melbourne?

I actually think its no bad thing to see a bit of rivalry in this sphere: a case of the more the merrier.

And I do see a lot of value in a home grown approach on this one, given that adopting the name of the UK version of this kind of effort comes with some unfortunate baggage attached (Mr Ivereigh, its mentor, has very close associations with the UK 'magic circle' of bishops, being inter alia a former PR man for Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Emeritus of Westminster) particularly from a traditionalist and perhaps also conservative perspective.

In addition the focus of the Sydney group seems to be not so much on providing commentary on Church affairs (though it clearly includes that), but also on engagement in the public square more generally.

Both these groups represent very positive initiatives.

But for my money, its the Sydney enterprise that I'd like to see expand!

Here is their introductory video:

The problem of Islamic denialism

The world has been shocked, over the last few days, at the murder of a British soldier, hacked to death in the streets of London by terrorists anxious to explain to all and sundy their actions in the name of Islam.

But even more shocking is the denialism that has been rampant on the part of UK politicians, who rushed to explain that the attack was 'a betrayal of Islam' and inconsistent with its principles.

A similar episode of denialism happened in the US over the Boston Marathon attacks, where there was an initial reluctance to admit that a terrorist attack had actually occurred, and that it might be motivated by Islam.

Denialism isn't quite as advanced in Australia as yet, but the large number of young Australian Muslims choosing to fight in conflicts like Syria and elsewhere suggests that we do have a real problem that needs to be tackled far more aggressively than we are doing at present.


There is a nice article highlighted by pewsitter today describing the affliction as 'Jihadophilia':

"Jihadophilia (/dʒɪˈhɑːdoˈfɪljə/) is a mental disorder affecting members of the Western (West European, North American and Anglo-Antipodean) elite class, mostly politicians, journalists, academics and civil servants. J. is characterized by a breakdown of the ability to name Muslims as perpetrators of the acts of Islamic terrorism, by the tendency to systematically ignore Islam as a factor in terrorist attacks or to deny its relevance in such attacks, and by an acute deficit of the capacity or will to provide appropriate institutional or emotional responses to such attacks.

Common symptoms of J. include hallucinations, usually in the form of an imaginary “peaceful and tolerant Islam,” paranoid or bizarre delusions, usually in the form of “right-wing terrorists, white supremacists and Christian extremists,” and disorganized speech and thinking, usually in the form of inappropriate and bizarre attempts to characterize acts of Islamic terrorism as  generic terrorist acts unmotivated by Jihad, or else not “terrorist” at all."

Do go and read the rest of it.

It is true of course that not every Muslim sect subscribes to the view that every Muslim is bound to conduct violent Jihad.

But it is equally clear that an ever growing portion of the world's Muslim do subscribe to this view, and many of them are living in Western countries.

The reality is that the overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world, regardless of what country they live in, support the introduction of sharia law, and a strong minority (including 39% in Afghanistan and 40% in the Palestinian territories) say acts of violence against civilians are justified.

And around the world, extremist versions of Islam are growing in strength and numbers, not decreasing.

In countries such as Indonesia that previously tolerated relatively lax practice, more and more women are being forced into wearing, or are choosing to wear the hijab, while Christians and other non-conformists are being actively persecuted.


Fortunately, the denialism disease is not quite as advanced in Australia as elsewhere I think.  The media has been happy, for example, to report on incidents such as the refusal of one of the accused from last year's riots to stand as a mark of respect for a magistrate last week.

In part I think that's because overall, the proportion of the population that is Muslim in Australia is still relatively low: 2.25% of the population compared to 4.8% in the UK.  Outside of Sydney (where around half of Australia's Muslims live) they don't yet have much political clout.

But Islam is growing rapidly in this country - it has already grown 438% since 1981 - as a result of immigration, high birth rates and high conversion rates.  And as a number of terrorist plots have illustrated, it is not the 'moderate' version of that faith that is gaining converts.

So far Australia has not had any incidents, at least on its shores, as extreme as those in the US and UK.  But the risk of something similar happening here has to be very high indeed.

As Greg Sheridan pointed out in the Australian  yesterday:

"Security agencies believe about 200 Australians have gone to Syria to participate in the civil war, mostly against the Assad government.

Some are definitely involved with the al-Qa'ida-affiliated al-Nusra movement, which now leads the insurgency. But there are many other jihadist groups active in Syria.

Some of these people will return to Australia with extremely enhanced terrorist-related skills, and some are likely to be much more radical than when they left.

Our ability to combat terrorism is also in decline.

Nearly two dozen people are in Australian jails for terrorist offences.

Many terrorist plots have been thwarted but people not convicted, and many people overseas have plotted terror against Australia."

With the two Bali bombings, Australia ranks relatively highly among OECD nations for citizens killed by terrorists since 9/11.

The limits to platitudes

The Australian 'mainstream' Islamic community has been unsurprisingly slow to respond to the challenge posed by extremism.

A letter writer to The Australian today called on local Islamic leaders to go beyond mouthing platitudes such as they did at the time of the Sydney riots last year, condemning the violence involved.  What was needed, the writer argues, is for extremists to be expelled from the mosques.

Don't hold your breath.

One of the interesting results of the Pew Survey of the world's Muslims (see the link above) is that relatively few Muslims say that tensions between more religiously observant and less observant Muslims are a very big problem in their country.

Unfortunately, many Christians, including our own Church leaders, remain reluctant to admit this, and still seemed immured in the warm inner glow approach to inter-religious dialogue promoted by Vatican II and Pope John Paul II, rather than the more robust recognition of reality reflected in Pope Benedict XVI's Regensburg Speech.

Indeed, the pendulum seems to be swinging back the other way at the moment, with Pope Francis managing to get through the ceremony for the canonisation of the martyrs of Otranto a week or so back without once actually mentioning that they were martyred because they refused to convert to Islam, and that it was Muslims who did the martyring!

What needs to happen now!

I'm not suggesting we should abandon inter-religious dialogue altogether, far from it: we have an obligation to seek peace, and to try and find ways to reign extremists in.

But we need to approach this task without naivety.

In the UK and US the recent focus has been on whether the security forces could have done more to identify and pre-empt the danger.  Maybe there are lessons to be learnt, but early intervention and prevention is generally far more effective and far less costly an approach.

We need to look at how to better promote that dreaded word, 'assimilation' into Australian culture and values without forcing people to abandon their religion but not being shy about insisting that they will have to abandon some practices (such as female genital mutilation and so-called 'honour killings').

We need to resist the Islamization of certain regions of our cities.

We need to challenge the Muslim apologists who regularly try and soft soap the religion in the media every time some attack occurs.

We need to have a robust debate on Islamic immigration to Australia that goes beyond the cliques of the  'illegal arrivals' focus.  Maybe, for example, all migrants, of whatever origin, should have to complete an intensive orientation to Australian culture, values, history and laws as a condition of their visas.

Instead of praising Islam for those things we find attractive about it, such as its Ramadan feasts, we need to demand that the Islamic community in this country take responsibility for its members.

And above all, our churches need to launch a serious missionary effort aimed at converting Muslims to Catholicism.