Monday, 13 February 2017

Re-visiting Forward Together in Hope -or into lamentation

I have been looking at the document for moving ‘Forward Together In Hope’, mentioned in a previous blog post. The Diocesan Document is available here. I have chosen to comment upon the following, which are bullet-points taken directly from the document which says:

“Our new partnerships will offer opportunities to ensure that:

 · A range of formation programmes can be developed, at a more local level, to help communities provide pastoral care for many groups of people, catechesis, marriage preparation and worship.
This seems admirable. I have always felt that deaneries could have worked more closely; one perhaps one providing Marriage Preparation; another providing First Communion Preparation or Reader/ Extra-ordinary  Ministers Formation etc. It has always been problematic when preparation or formation courses are held in a location central to the Diocese as travel for many people made it impossible to attend. We might also have better input at a local level and not be formed like sausages to suit a particular person’s vision.

· Support can be made available for smaller communities.
Yes: more priests taking it in turn to celebrate Mass for them; hear their Confessions, anoint their sick. But having their own named priest remains essential if we are not to fall into having communities which are decapitated Christs (bodies without a head). Each parish should have its own named priest to teach, sanctify and govern; to oversee the parish as its local shepherd.

· The gifts, talents and financial resources in a wider area can be put at the service of more people.
Yes, but care needs to be taken. If this means a central fund for partnership areas, how will parishes like one I served which is very small but very generous (and therefore not short of money) feel about their funds being used to help out a larger parish who has not had land to sell or does not have a good weekly offering? We might like to say charity will overcome but in reality, that is not how people broken by original sin with the wound of concupiscence tend to function. It is naïve to think people are not concerned to spend their own money on their own parish.

· Responsibility for a range of services such as finance, health and safety, administration and communication can be coordinated across a wider area.
I’m not sure how this one will work; it uses high-sounding words but there is no explanation as to how this is expected to work out.

· Priests can be freed to concentrate on their essential calling to preach, call the community to worship and the celebration of the sacraments.
This one is very problematic: it removes from priests their role as shepherds and makes them sacrament machines. It is contrary to scripture in which the Apostles took care to ensure they left a presbyterate and overseer for each area. Such shepherding is not peripheral to the call of the priest but is part of his essential calling: Our Lord lamented communities where there were no shepherds; they are therefore of His Divine Will for each community.

· A thorough and careful review of property and its uses can be carried out throughout the area.
One might hope that this means selling off unused land and closing unused buildings. It will hurt, but did the Bishop not tell us to expect pain as the result of this programme? Why avoid it now? Larger parishes can at least have their own pastor.

· Opportunities can be found for people to come together across the area to celebrate and worship together.
We have been doing this anyway: have we not for years had shared Penitential Services, shared Carol Services, Deanery-wide advertised pilgrimages etc?  

· Leadership teams including priests, deacons and people can develop to help everyone deepen their understanding of what it means to be a witness to Jesus in our world today.”
This does not reflect the Tradition of the Church: the leadership role is within the shepherding role; responsibility for certain tasks may be taken on by lay members of the community, but leadership of the flock lies with the shepherds, not the sheep. We have not given the laity their education and formation to be salt of the earth –their authentic vocation is, said Vatican II, “the evangelization and sanctification of men and the penetrating and perfecting of the temporal order through the spirit of the Gospel” Decree on the Apostolate of the laity, #2).

In truth, we seem to have spent three years to no real purpose, other than giving the people the experience of feeling they were being consulted. It was of no real purpose because it brought about nothing new, only the extending of an already-existing model of cross-boundary working: we first went from Deaneries to the ‘twinning of parishes’; then to tripartite parishes as ‘pastoral areas’; we have now spent three years to do no more than extend ‘pastoral areas’ to ‘Partnership’ areas. I doubt three years was needed to merely extend a model that has been going on for some time now.

All of this however, fails to note the elephant in the room; the failure to promote the priesthood as a singular and sacred way of serving God. Let’s be honest: without diminishing marriage which is at the core of the Church and society, marriage is of the natural created order of things; it was “that way from the beginning”. Men are called out of that natural order to serve the community, which is why the word vocation was customarily applied only to priesthood and religious life. 

In his Introduction to the Booklet the Bishop says, “I hope that our whole diocesan family will continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will guide us into the future with confidence, a deep sense of mission and a willingness to witness to the coming of the Kingdom of God.” I too hope the Holy Ghost will inspire and lead the Diocese. I am not sure about the word ‘continue’ as I think by the direction e have been taking in the West for some years now courts the danger of making priests into nothing more that sacrament machines who renege on their calling to ‘teach, sanctify and govern’. If we leave the hsheep to tend the sheep it will no longer be individual sheep that wander off but whole flocks –for want of a shepherd who calls and directs their way.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Decentralisation or Degeneration into Protestantism?

Apparently this poster is popping up all over Rome, something that has not happened since the end of the Papal States. That superb blog Rorate Caeli translates the poster for us as:
Ah Francis, you have intervened in Congregations, removed priests, decapitated the Order of Malta and the Franciscans of the Immaculate, ignored Cardinals... but where is your mercy?

It is sad that a Pope is so publicly rebuked by the people he is called to shepherd, and just as sad that the people feel the need to make such a criticism so publicly. Ever since the election of Francis I have been defending him by saying I’m sure he has a good heart (a genuine desire to lift burdens from folk) and has not attempted to formally pervert the Doctrine of the Church (and as such is not a heretic). I still maintain these to be true. Francis does demonstrate a heart for the lifting of burdens from folk, and has not tried to formally impose any new doctrine on the faithful. That said, we cannot deny that there are things about this papacy that are disturbing faithful Catholics at their very core. For example, criticism of francs has been ubiquitous regarding:

his treatment of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate
his constant derision of Traditional Catholics in words that display no respect for, or charity towards, such Catholics who he labels ‘Pharisees’ and ‘Doctors of the Law’, and suggesting they are either hypocrites or have psychological problems
his off-the-cuff remarks that do are seen as contradicting orthopraxy and sound doctrine (such as the oft-quoted line ‘who am I to judge?’)
his footnotes in Amoris Laetitia which many see as leaving the sacraments open to sacrilege
his interference in the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM)
his extolling of Martin Luther, who tore apart the Mystical Body of Christ at the Reformation.

All of these come together to form a rather negative picture, so that Francis cannot complain about posters like the above or if he is described as judgmental (by Traditional Catholics), tyrannical (in light of his treatment of the Franciscans and the SMOM) or arrogant (in his re-writing of marriage in the Amoris latitia footnote). One person recently said to me in a slightly heated discussion, “It’s as they say Father, ‘power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ -Francis thinks being Pope gives him the right to dismiss Revelation.” I did remind my interlocutor that Francis has not imposed any new doctrine and seems to me to be a man of good intentions, but my confrere was not convinced.

While I think we can say still say that Francis is not officially declaring things contrary to the Doctrine of the Church and that his care for the marginalised is obvious (unless we are speaking of Traditional Catholics), we cannot deny that he is allowing others to publicly state things contrary to our Doctrine without correct them. The most recent example of this is the assertion by Rev Antonio Spadaro S.J., editor-in-chief of La Civiltà Cattolica and confidante of Pope Francis (See Lifesite News) that “Theology is not Mathematics. 2 + 2 in Theology can make 5. Because it has to do with the real life of people.”

That statement advances relativism and subjectivism. True, theology is not mathematics -but that does not make our doctrine uncertain. Theology is the way we arrive at and explain a long-held belief, and doctrine cannot be discarded unless we say the Church has no real hold on Truth; that the Spirit of Truth has not been given and has not led the Church into Truth in accord with John16v13 -and if that is true, why should we accept the opinion of Spadaro or even the teaching of Francis -who may be allowing others to cut off the branch on which he is sitting: he cannot give us another teaching on marriage without it being as disposable as the immemorial teaching he is allowing to be swept aside by some epsicopal conferences).

Another of Francis’s questionable ideas is devolution of authority from Rome to episcopal conferences. As EdwardPentin noted in the NCR 2015:

…Francis quoted what he had previously written in his 2013 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium: “It is not appropriate for the Pope to replace the local episcopates in the discernment of all the problems that lie ahead in their territories,” and, “in this sense, I feel the need to proceed in a healthy ‘decentralization.’”

To support the idea of decentralisation, some may point to the days of the early Church where they assume local Churches had more autonomy from Rome, but as St. Iranaeus said,

“the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul...With that church, because of its superior origin, all the churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world; it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the Apostolic Tradition" (St Iranaeus, ‘Against The Heresies’).

Sadly, we now hearing of the desire to have control of the liturgy devolved to episcopal conferences, with a return to paraphrases of the official Latin Missal rather than translations as required by Poe St John-Paul’s Liturgiam Authenticam (see here). If Francis pursues the idea of devolution we cannot do other than arrive at a federation of churches with their own doctrine and their own worship –and the Universal Church will have disappeared. In effect, Francis would be duplicating the divided Anglican Communion, thus demonstrating himself to be Protestant at heart, or at least a very poor theologian. The author Aldo Maria Valli makes his own contribution (see Lifesite News, here):

‘…in the beginning, I was very happy with the election of Francis because I thought that for the Church in Europe and the West it would be helpful to see reality from a different point of view than usual. I thought that the South American Pope could give freshness and a youthful spirit to the Church as the Church in the West seemed to have grown tired. Step by step, I had to realize, though, that in Francis there exist a kind of inconclusiveness, too much doctrinal confusion, and a certain flattening of himself to the dominant mentality of the world, as we see in Laudato sì. My perplexity exploded after Amoris Laetitia.’

You may remember I was confronted by someone recently who said that Francis was deliberately trying to destroy the Church and is stocking the College of Cardinals with men of his own mindset so as to perpetuate that destruction. I denied this was the case and pointed out that ultimately, the Holy Spirit is in charge of the Church, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to defend Francis. I told a friend the other day that I am praying for Francis to be so moved by grace he will come to a renewed valuing of Objective Truth and see the unity of the Church as requiring a central authority and a stable liturgy. My friend replied simply, “I’m just praying for his conversion to Catholicism”. I offered ‘No Comment’ in reply. 

One cannot be happy with the state of the Church today, but there is something good that attends the doctrinal and disciplinary chaos surrounding Marriage and the Eucharist we currently see: it encourages those who do not truly have The Faith nor a real love for The Church to come out of the woodwork under the guise of loyalty to the Papacy, with the result that when Francis is taken from us by God we will know who is Catholic and can be trusted in the episcopate, presbyterate and pew: we will know who upholds the Truth and is therefore of God, and who does not uphold the Truth and is not of God -for where there is no Truth, there is no God: “I am The Way, The Truth and The Life” (Jn.14v6).

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Forward Together in Hope -or into lamentation?

It is a while since I put a post on the blog, so I hope I still have some readers out there!

We all know there is a dwindling number of priests, which is a problem that needs to be addressed. But the answer is not the currently-favoured Western idea of ‘lay-led communities’, since sheep without shepherds caused Our Lord to lament (Matt.9v6). Do we want to intentionally create the kind of communities over which our Lord laments? Indeed, communities without a priest are local incarnations of a decapitated Christ: not simply sheep without shepherds, but bodies without a head. In short, the Body of Christ loses its integrity as local incarnations of the Risen Lord. In our Diocese we have sought to address the dwindling number of priests by our ‘Forward Together in Hope’ programme, which is now reaching its final phase. It seemed to me to hold out great hope of encouraging the laity to be more active and take on more roles under the oversight of their shepherds.

Such activity of the laity has always been part of my ministry. In two of my previous parishes I established teams of lay-minister Chaplaincies for the local general hospitals. In my last parish we encouraged an increase in the number of folk who had roles and responsibilities within the parish so as to provide a sense of belonging and ‘ownership’. Some felt all they could do was run coffee mornings or a cake stall; others were happy to ensure the Church was clean and well-cared for as a fitting place for worship; others consistently cared for the parish garden, while others took on roles as Catechists, Children’s Liturgy leaders or Piety Stall management. Others took on the responsibility of being Parish Visitors to the sick, housebound and bereaved via the Legion of Mary; others formed a small rota of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Readers, and Servers for the liturgy, while others took on the roles of Bookkeeper, Financial Returns Officer, Tax Benefit claims (Gift-Aid) Administration, and Vulnerable Persons Representative. In short, there was room for everyone who wanted to some ownership in the parish. In fact, 25% of our Mass attendance took on some –even if small- active part in the care and running of the parish. A few were unhappy (such are present in every parish) in their distaste for the following of liturgical norms wherein we used some Latin for the Novus Ordo Ordinary (as per Sacrosanctum Concilium 36, 54, 116); did not encourage the sign of peace (it was explicitly never forbidden but I omitted the optional invitation) and perhaps because on the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum I introduced the Traditional Mass with vernacular readings and vernacular hymns (so that each Sunday Mass encompassed and catered both for those who like the vernacular and those who like Latin).

Should ‘Forward Together’ emphasise such roles as those above under the oversight of the priest; if we promote the priesthood in line with Our Lord’s desire to have shepherds for the sheep, ‘Forward Together’ can be a real work of grace. As it is, it might turn out to be very problematic -it might have deteriorated into a programme with the inherent danger of establishing of lay-led parishes with priests little less than visiting, wandering Sacrament-providers; a programme promoting local manifestations of a decapitated Christ: bodies without a head; sheep without shepherds. In that case, and since from the inception of the programme the stated aim was ‘to encourage Catholic communities to flourish with or without a resident priest’, it would not surprise me to hear the programme described as social engineering, with a pre-determined outcome being sought: lay-led parishes.By the time this programme is fully enacted, our Bishop will have retired back to his native land -a wise decision, since retiring into the Diocese where one has been the Ordinary will always give the impression that one cannot let go of control and hopes to influence one's successor 'by advice and knowledge'. I therefore applaud the Bishops decision to return home.

I have heard the establishing of lay-led parishes described as a ‘movement of the Holy Spirit’. I beg to differ: not only does deciding upon a goal and then seeking out ways to establish it attempt to force the hand of the Holy Ghost, but it puts Him at loggerheads with Christ who lamented sheep without shepherds, for the response of Christ to such a situation as we have today was very different; it was ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into His harvest.’ What we need is not a giving-in to the falling numbers of clergy but a genuine push to encourage vocations to the priesthood; a programme to seek out labourers for the Lord’s harvest by providing sound doctrine in schools and parishes; liturgy that raises the mind and heart to God (rather than today’s style which holds it earthbound as a celebration of the people). We need to see the promotion of the priest as a man with a sacramental configuration and intimate relationship with Christ. We talk about the clergy as servants, and that is without doubt true. But we cannot ignore the fact that the service provided by the priest is one of being a co-worker with and under the Bishop in teaching, sanctifying and governing (CCC §1563). If we are not promoting the seeking of shepherds for the sheep as our Lord requested, we cannot claim to be biblical in our theology and this (we were told in seminary) was at the core of the Vatican II renewal. 

Perhaps all we need to do when priest numbers dwindle is amalgamate bordering parishes into one parish under one Pastor, with one Church being the Parish Church and the others Mass –centres. If this is financially impractical, sell the other Churches –many of which are products of the 1950’s and 60’s following an post-war increase of vocations. It is not easy to do, but it can be done. I had a second Church closed on me in my last parish and I took the flack, not the Bishop and his advisors, even though there was a long consultation before the closure; even though the Bishop said the Closing Mass, and even though all that could be installed in the remaining Parish Church was so installed, from Stations of the Cross and parish statues to vestments, chalices and altar Crucifix. The excuse that these are worshipping communities to be valued and fostered holds no water, since they become the sheep without shepherds which caused Our Lord to lament; they become incarnations of a decapitated Christ. The emotional pain of losing one’s Church can be tempered with good explanation and good pastoral care -such as increased visiting in the closed areas and transfer of transferable items such as those listed above. Are we willing to take that risk?

Monday, 7 November 2016

Sede vacante?

It is becoming increasingly difficult to defend Pope Francis, since although he has not tried to officially teach anything contrary to the Doctrine of the Faith and cannot therefore be accused of formal heresy, his homilies and talks do seem to include questionable statements, and his acts do seem to lack prudence and consistency with our doctrine. Someone said to me recently that they think the ‘sede vacante’ folk may be right; that there is no Pope on the throne of Peter.  I have never held that position, but yes, I can see where they are coming from. Indeed a lady said to me last week that Paul VI spoke of the smoke of Satan entering the Church, and that she sees it in Francis; that she is very disturbed by Pope Francis, having returned to the full practice of her Faith only 14 years ago during the papacy of John-Paul II.

Looking at things as they stand today, Francis can be said to have followed a programme that is anything but Catholic. As the New York Times recently reminded us:

Francis is a Jesuit, and like many members of Catholic religious orders, he tends to view the institutional church, with its parishes and dioceses and settled ways, as an obstacle to reform. He describes parish priests as “little monsters” who “throw stones” at poor sinners. He has given curial officials a diagnosis of “spiritual Alzheimer’s.” He scolds pro-life activists for their “obsession” with abortion. He has said that Catholics who place an emphasis on attending Mass, frequenting confession, and saying traditional prayers are “Pelagians” — people who believe, heretically, that they can be saved by their own works.

Such denunciations demoralize faithful Catholics without giving the disaffected any reason to return. Why join a church whose priests are little monsters and whose members like to throw stones? When the pope himself stresses internal spiritual states over ritual observance, there is little reason to line up for confession or wake up for Mass.

We cannot overlook the fact that Francis has permitted, according to Schonborn and Kasper (even if in only a few circumstances) for those in objectively grave sin (adulterers) to receive our Lord in Holy Communion, and said that seeking to convert others are is grave sin -see Lifesite News (that is., those who actually follow the command of the Lord to ‘Go, teach all nations’ are grave sinners). When he hear that Francis’ heart is in the right place we cannot help but agree but also hear the voices that cry out ‘yes but to ease their temporal pain his is endangering their immortal souls;. his thinking seems stuck (fossilised) in the theories of the 1960’s and 1970’s’ (that being, of course, the time of such confused teaching it brought the Bishops of the Extraordinary Synod to call for a Catechism of Vatican II.)

In discussion with those who think the sedevacantists may be right, a dreadful possibility arises: that Francis has accepted the authority of the papacy, but not its responsibility of defending the Faith, which papal authority exists only to serve. I cannot help but think of St Paul here: that  epsicopal authority is given ‘unto edification, and not unto destruction’ (2 Corinthians 10:8). By undermining the Church’s previous stance on conversions; by celebrating heretics and by allowing those who are objectively speaking in grave sin to receive Holy Communion, Francis cannot be surprised to find himself accused by many of destroying rather than edifying; of abusing papal authority to remake the Church to his own liking. Where does one go with this? Does one see Francis as a wilful subversive, or as a good man making imprudent remarks and setting up imprudent pastoral approaches? For many, only the former fits in the light of his appointments to the College of Cardinals, which he appears to be filling with men who are not known for their fidelity to our Sacred Tradition.

Since Christ is in charge of His Church and has already defeated Satan the Father of Lies, faithful Catholics should take heart that a future pope will correct the oddities of Francis. After all, if Francis can turn 2000 years of teaching and practice on its head, a future pope can turn the teaching and pastoral programme of Francis on its head.  No Pope -including Francis- can, as he and his admirers might like, set a course for the Church that is unchangeable, no matter how slowly he goes so as to achieve that end, since his papacy must be seen in the context of 2000 years of teaching and practice -and where he deviates, be can be and ought to be rebuked.  Sadly, most bishops are not doing as St Paul did and ‘confronting him face to face’ (Gal.2v11); they too seem to think ‘pastoral care’ means alleviating temporal pain to the loss of eternal peace. 

Whether one wants to say Francis is a good man who makes imprudent judgements, or a man who is deliberately subversive, one cannot easily say that Francis has shown himself clearly and unquestionably loyal to the previous 2000 years of teaching and pastoral practice; indeed the very reason he is lauded by many is that he is leaving the more difficult bits of the Faith behind.  It is not insignificant that Cardinals such as Burke and Sarah (‘Either God or Nothing’, Fayard publishing, France) and the hierarchyof Poland through the President of their Episcopal Conference, appear at odds with Francis simply because they are holding to that 2000 years -as must we all if we want to remain faithful to the teaching of Christ and His Apostles. We cannot be ultramontanists who tie themselves to whoever happens to inhabit the See of Peter; we must be tied rather to the Deposit of Faith.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Amoris Latitiae: Catholicism or Francisism?

Francis has named to the College of Cardinals men who are not known for their loyalty to the Doctrine of the Faith. Some folk have asked troubling questions about Francis; others are just severely critical. I have always tried to respond in defence of Francis, but folk now ask such serious questions as:

[1] Is this a deliberate stacking the cards in favour of a Church where the Doctrine is abandoned in practice?
[2] Is such a stacking of the cards an abuse of papal power?
[3] If Francis is changing pastoral practice so that it no longer fits with the doctrine, is he not a subversive; a ‘quisling’?

It is difficult to know how to answer these questions, but we must try.

[1] If Francis is stacking the college without a deliberate intention to favour a private opinion, then he simply needs our prayers to make better choices so that the Deposit of Faith given us by Christ may be protected and promoted not only in word but in application to life (pastoral care). We cannot state definitively that Francis is deliberately stacking the cards since some of his appointments to the College of Cardinals have been O.K., but there are many folk who would add up the good and the bad and decide that Francis is weighting the College in the direction of Francisism rather than Catholicism.

[2] If it could be proved that any pope was ‘stacking the cards’ (deliberately constructing a college whose members are known to disregard The Deposit of Faith) it would be a serious abuse of papal power, and a treachery worthy of the devil himself.

[3] Such a Pope could not avoid being called a subversive, since rather than defend Christ’s Deposit he would be setting himself (and the Church) against it -and therefore setting himself against Christ.

It cannot be a surprise -even to those who think Francis is wonderful- that in the wake of Amoris Latitiae he is seen by many as someone who has no regard for the Deposit of Faith in application to pastoral care.  Francis cannot be surprised if he is thus accused of throwing out Catholicism in favour of Francisism (or Bergoglianism).

The problems in today’s Church run very deep but in truth, responsibility for the problem does not lie with so much with Francis but with the Bishops. How so? Well, few Bishops have followed the example of St Paul who tells us: “When Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he had clearly done wrong” (Gal.2v11). While Protestants have long pointed to this verse as showing the Apostolic Church did not believe in Papal Infallibility, Catholics have always pointed out that what Peter was confronted about was not denying The Faith but failing to live by it. Isn’t this exactly what Francis is saying the Church should do in Amoris Laetitia?  

Sadly, too many Bishops and priests are of the same mind as Francis and therefore failing to imitate St Paul, and Francis could not act if the Bishops resisted -and resist they should, because what Francis is proposing is in conflict with the entire pastoral history of the Church. Pastoral care is not an invention of the Church post Vatican II. (A number of the Bishops and Cardinals have sort to correct what Francis says in A.L., but they are in a minority as yet).

Scripture warns us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange doctrines”. Hebrews 13v8-9. Many of the Bishops are carried away with the alien doctrines of the world, and are seeking to placate the world by trying to fit in with its morality (perhaps in order to look intellectually enlightened or pastorally caring)? 

We need to pray for our Bishops and for the world around us; pray that they see the beauty of Truth, seek it out, and live by it, so that they may be one with Christ “The Way (to live), The Truth (to be believed) and The Life (to inherit)” (Jn.14v6). Above all we must pray especially for Francis, who is to lead the Bishops in The Truth which, coming from God, is never opposed to Charity (Caritas/love): for God IS Truth (Jn.14v6) and God IS Charity (1.Jn.4v8). To think of pastoral care as not applying the Truth on marriage, sexuality and human life (while claiming that those who apply Doctrine and Canon Law are Pharisees), is to put God is in opposition to Himself, wherein His Truth and His Charity are in conflict with one another. Yet following the Gospel correctly means to do the Truth in Charity (Eph.4v15). If we are not applying the Truth to daily living we are not applying charity either; we are not acting according to the mind and nature of God. And if we are not acting in accord with the mind of God, we are endangering souls.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016



[a] What is Truth? Truth is reality: that which ‘is’. Many people today say “It’s true that there’s no such thing as Truth, since what is true for you may not be true for me.” But to say “it’s true that nothing is true”; it is a contradiction in logic: it cannot be true that ‘nothing is true’ if there is no truth. Even honesty is not the same as Truth: honesty is to act and speak without deceit; Truth equates with ‘reality’, and it only comes from God, the one Living Reality upon which all else depends. Why is God the only Reality? Because nothing has two starting points; there can only be one beginning to anything. Since the universe has existence we know there is something called ‘existence’; and since the universe has life there has to a living life force, yet since there can be only one starting point of the universe, that one starting point must be ‘living existence’, which for want of a better word we call ‘God’ (while we can say ‘I have life; I have existence’, we cannot say ‘I am life; I am existence’ –only God can say that: “tell them, ‘I AM’ has sent you to them” Ex.3v14).

 [b] It is only by living in accord with truth and not with changing opinion that we can ever have a stable society; stable families, and stable people. Changing opinions make for an unstable society where rules and norms constantly fluctuate, like faults in the earth’s crust. Change is not always a progression toward the good; like the cancerous change in cells, societal changes can be malignant to the good of society and the on-going existence of humankind.

[c] Catholic morality is thus based on God’s Ten Commandments so that they are Truth; not rules by which we prove our loyalty to Him, but instructions on how to form our character to be like His so that we fit-in with Him when we die. Important when discussing Catholic morality is the fact that Catholicism is inherently non-judgemental; we may only judge acts, never people (judgment of people belongs to God alone). Yet we have a duty to proclaim the Commandments so that people can make lifestyle choices which form their characters to ‘fit-in’ with God when they die -and thereby avoid hell.

The Commandments are in fact about preserving positive values:

1.    You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve means ‘Trust God alone: shun all forms of superstition, horoscopes, fortune telling, luck, karma, spiritualism etc.’

2.    Do not take the Name of the Lord in vain means ‘Respect God and His Holy Name which we must never use as a swear word or take a false oath by’.

3.    Remember to keep holy the Sabbath means ‘Attend Mass and avoid non-essential work on Sundays and Holy Days. Bring your earthly family to be part of the family of God.’

4.    Honour (glorify) your father and mother means ‘Be a credit to those responsible for you. Be respectful and obedient to parents and superiors in all that is not sinful.’

5.    You shall not kill means ‘Respect and protect human life from the womb to the tomb, so that every person has their dignity safeguarded’(for once we say a particcular section of humanity can be terminated, there is no way to delineate who shall live and die but arbitrarily drawn lives -which one day may not include you if it is decided blue-eyes folk are less intelligent; physically weak, etc, or if it is decided that since homosexuals cannot contribute to the procreation of the human species they are a drain on resources). Fundamentally, since we must be alive to access any and all of our human rights (to freedom, health care, adequate housing, education etc,) our fundamental human right is the right to life. Catholics consequently reject today’s anti-life Culture of Death which takes life (abortion, euthanasia), prevents life (contraception) and ‘risks life and limb’ by violence and by intoxication (which leave us vulnerable to accident and attack).

6.    You shall not commit adultery means ‘Enjoy the faithfulness of one sexual partnership in life for the sake of your health (avoiding STD’s cancer), your emotional security (avoiding sexual objectification), and the stability of any offspring (avoiding broken homes)’ –offspring having the right to be nurtured and protected by those responsible for their life. Commandment 6 simply says ‘Live a life of purity before marriage and fidelity within marriage, neither of which are impossible.

7.    You shall not steal means ‘Respect the right of others to hold on to their property and good name, and have yours respected.’ Employers are to provide a fair wage and good working conditions; employees are not to time-waste, Governments must build a fair society.

8.    You shall not bear false witness means ‘Be an honest person: no gossip, lies, cheating or fraud in any sphere of life.’

9.    You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife means ‘Foster pure and wholesome thoughts; avoid lustful thoughts.’

10. You shall not covet your neighbour’s goods means ‘hanker after spiritual goods’. Do not dwell on what your neighbour has but on what you have’.

To live by the Ten Commandments is not to live by a list of prohibitions but of a list of positive values. It is to live according to Truth; to form ourselves by Truth, to form a stable society for stable lives, and to be compatible with Truth (God) when we leave this world so that we fit into heaven.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

What could liturgically deviant priests be implying?

At a parish I attended for Mass one day this week the priest preached about following Our Lady’s lead and pondering the life of the Lord in order to better recognise His hand at work and discern what is and is not of God. He warned that, just as the Pharisees not only failed to recognise Our Lord but even called His works demonic, so we can fail in discerning what is of His hand, and even call things of God ‘demonic’.

I couldn’t help but think how Catholics faithful to the rubrics and traditional catechesis are often vilified as Pharisees, even by Pope Francis. One priest defended his ignoring of liturgical norms by saying, “It’s because I think it’s more important to care for people than follow cold rules written by some priests in Rome who have never had parishes of their own”. He thus unwittingly accused faithful priests–lauded by the housebound, the bereaved and those in crisis for having been a rock and a balm in their suffering– as being completely unpastoral and heedlessly following ways detrimental to persons. And here lies another insult liturgically deviant clerics lodge: that it’s not simply that Traditional priests don’t care about people, but that Rome doesn’t either! It also supposes that the Roman Church is without insight and competency regarding the good of the faithful.

In the widespread liturgical deviancy that we encounter on an almost daily basis, the reason for their deviancy is that Rome issues offensive liturgical texts –there is a clear indication that some clergy think the Bible is politically incorrect or even misogynist in that they insist on saying ‘Sisters and brothers’ rather than ‘Brothers and sisters’ or even the inclusive ‘Brethren’.  I have even heard the Beatitudes changed to ‘Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called daughters and sons of God” (Matt.5v9). Are women really so easily offended? Is Rome really misogynist? Are today’s Catholics so banal in their language that they need a Jackanory text? It irritates me every Holy Thursday when the Gospel says (when speaking of the Apostles) that when the soldiers came to arrest our Lord “and they all ran away”. I much prefer to hear good English: “And they fled”.  I feel like fleeing from many a Novus Ordo celebration when norms are ignored and I am confronted (and I use that word deliberately) by a ‘performing priest’. Fathers, please just say the black and do the red. We of the laity don't need theatrics to help us to pray: please stop getting your personality in the way.