Sunday, October 16, 2016

Chocolate Luther

The statue of Martin Luther that graced the meeting of the Pope and Lutherans in Rome was made of chocolate - what does it mean?

It could mean that Martin is meant to melt in the warmth of the Pope's presence in Rome, like those harsh, hate-filled words he used about the Catholic Church, the Mass, Apostolic Succession, the Papacy, Orthodox Catholics, not to mention the Jews, the peasants and other protestant reformers.

The great advantage of a chocolate Luther is that despite harsh attitudes of some Catholics to Lutherans about receiving Holy Communion; the expectation that they should actually be in communion with the Catholic Church, and that they should reject sin and having been to Confession desire to live the life of Grace in communion with the Church Jesus founded, a chocolate Luther can be shared by anyone. In chocolate Luther, we can all be sharers. As lutheran-lady-bishops wander to and fro, holding in their fingers a portion of the sweetness of Luther's broken body, to the words, 'A bit of Martin Luther', everyone can reply 'Amen'. To those who might find even this difficult, the words could be changed to , 'Do you want a bit of chocolate, dear', who would refuse?

Theologians might argue whether all chocolate takes on a degree of Lutheranisn and everyone is waiting for Cardinal Kasper's latest book, following on from 'Mercy', the world is hungry for 'Chocolate'. and Catholics of course wait for the words of the Great Chocolatier, or should that be the Great Confectioner, for a definitive statement.

Will bits of Luther be handed out at the next Consistory? Will some reactionary Cardinals develop a chocolate allergy?

The ecumenical world awaits a marzipan Calvin, a licorice Cranmer and a toffee Knox, all of which are due to appear in Rome over the next few years.

For now, choco-luther anyone?

Friday, October 14, 2016

A New General

Image result for Arturo Sosa AbascalThe new Jesuit General, Fr Arturo Sosa Abascal, from Venezuela.

At one time the whole Ultramontane project depended on the Jesuits, that fourth vow that senior Jesuits take of obedience to the person of the Pope, has meant that from their origin there has been a certain special relationship of Pope and Jesuits.

Ignatius of Loyola had said, 'Putting aside all private judgment we should always be ready to accept this principle: I will believe that the white I see is black, if the hierarchical Church so defines it.'

For many the Jesuits are a law unto themselves, a secretive, plotting group, known for their duplicity. From their beginning they grew wealthy and powerful, owning vast estates, the size of countries in South America, they were major exporters of and traders in both Asia and the Americas. Their education establishments were designed to form the influential and the wealthy and to extend their power base.

In the 20th century there were many heroic Jesuits suffering in the prisons and gulags of the Communists, and many struggled on the side of their people against the right-wing dictatorships of South America. Yet there were many accusations that not an insignificant number of the Jesuits themselves had taken on a theology that was more inspired by Marx and Engels than Jesus Christ. In Argentina, as in many places throughout the world the Society was deeply divided. In the case of Argentina and its Provincial, Fr Jorge Bergoglio, the division seems to have focused on eirenical group around the the Provincial, engaging in real-politik and radical cultural-warriors, whether they were wielding the Rosary or the red flag. The divisions have lasted and continued when the Provincial became archbishop of Buenos Aires within the diocese, and now within the Church as a whole.

Their fourth vow is perhaps the Society's greatest problem, really because the Pope's mind and will is interpreted by the General, or by the Provincial. Rarely have Popes revealed their minds to the Society as a whole, Benedict XVI did of course by telling them to return to promoting devotion to the Sacred Heart and the Holy Eucharist. When the General can say he has the Pope's mind on a matter he does indeed become a second Pope, and if the Pope is weak or politically oppressed, the Black Pope can easily become the real power within the Church, especially if the Society of Jesus has control of many the Church's formational, educational and financial institutions.

Bergoglio was banned from even entering a Jesuit house by Arrupe because of his disruptive influence how interesting it will be to see how gets on with the new General.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Cardinal-elect Simoni

Simoni. Albania.A friend of mine rang up last night excited that a priest he knew was being made a Cardinal.
My friend had worked in Albania for almost a decade and the Cardinal-elect is Fr Ernest Simoni, who suffered imprisonment for 28 years.
He was betrayed by his sacristan, on his release one of his first visits was to him, he embraced him and asked him to come back and continue his service.
In prison, at least in later years, his guards and local Communist officials would invite him to come and bless, or sometimes exorcise their homes.
Now, he spends much of his time giving spiritual direction and hearing confessions.
See Zenit's comments

Gifts: another thought

Catholics, Anglicans walk the talk as they seek unityJust one last thought following on from the last post.
What would the reaction be in Orthodox circles if the Pope gave either the Patriarch of Constantinople or Moscow a pastoral staff or another episcopal ornament?
It would of course never happen, or if it did it would probably cause a riot amongst the Orthodox, there would be cries of Papal aggression, monks on Athos would riot, names and Sees be struck from dyptrichs, East / West ecumenism will grind to a halt.
But Anglicans are a breed apart.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Rings and things

Image result for athenagoras paul feet"The image is the message", that apparently is what the Holy Father said about the meeting with the Patriarch of Moscow, the first since the the sixteenth century (?) but not as the Vatican Press Office inaccurately reported since the 11th Century.

Blessed Paul VI might have said the same about image being message after his falling at the feet of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras and kissing them at their meeting in Jerusalem. He was overcome by the encounter which was indeed the first since the Great Schism. Apparently the dear old thing would often burst into tears or make some extraordinary gesture. It was gesture politics, he was a man of gestures, to the point where many, not just his enemies, questioned his mental balance. Alas, poor Hamlet!

For Anglicans, there was yet another famous gesture. When he met Archbishop Ramsey for the first time, he gave him the ring he had used as Abp of Milan. Until recently my Anglican friends had told me it was 'Papal ring', that is the Fisherman's Ring, but no, it was a spare ring he happened to have, for which he had no use. Until his death Ramsey had worn it as his personal ring, it was on his finger as he died and was removed from his corpse, post mortem.

Image result for ramsey ringQuite what the Pope's intention was is anyone's guess. It is stretching things alot to assume it was a repudiation of Apostolicae Curae, or even a recognition of Ramsay personally as a brother bishop. Ramsay had gone to the usual extraordinary Anglican Catholic party's lengths after the publication of the 1928 prayer Book to ensure the 'Dutch tutch' and stories have gone the rounds for years, that after his Anglican episcopal ordination he was ordained by a rogue Orthodox too. Validity was important to him, as was full sacramental and doctrinal unity. For Anglican Bishops of Ramsay's generation, overcoming the problems identified by Apostolicae Curae, which are essentially about the roots of Anglicanism by giving it Dutch roots was seen as a solution. Of course that was before the ordination of women,

Mother Augustina Weihermüller, O.S.B., about 1959
 with pontifical gloves, ring, pectoral cross and crozier!
It is of note that successive Archbishop's of Canterbury have worn this Milanese ring in their subsequent encounters with Popes. For Catholics it is simply a ring, a sign of honour, like rings worn by the Canons of Northampton and other Cathedral Chapters, or even Abbesses, in itself it has nothing whatsoever to do with episcopacy.

Gestures are simply that, gestures. Anglican friends have been deeply moved by the current Pope giving the current a wooden replica of the ivory crozier reputed to have belonged to Pope St Gregory. What does it mean, beyond a photo opportunity? Well, little. It is an act of friendship, a recognition not of episcopal order but of jurisdiction. Nuns too can carry such an ornament, as laymen, 'commendatory abbots', often did. Certainly it is recognition that the carrier has 'oversight' or jurisdiction over a community, whether it is nuns or of Christian people but it says nothing about the validity of orders.

If anything, the giving and receiving of a ring or crozier says more about the recipient and their relationship to the giver than it does about the one who does the giving, receiving a crozier from another involves an acknowledgement that they are in some sense your superior, this is what the Investiture crisis was all about.

By his reception of a crozier from the Pope, although it was still in its box, did Abp Welby concede that that his authority to exercise jurisdiction (not orders) comes from the Bishop of Rome. Was it repudiation of, "the Bishop of Rome has no jurisdiction in this realm of England". For those of Byzantine sensitivity about sign and symbol what was the significance of the crozier still being broken in its parts in its plastic covered box when carried out the church by the bishop. In this time of the most Ultramontane papacy ever, 'Dottore' Welby, as he was referred throughout the joint service should beware of Argentinians bearing gifts.

Added a little later
Image result for welby pope blessingSomeone, an Anglican. asked me about the Pope and il Dottore Welby given a shared blessing, it is unfortunate but much to their credit that Anglicans seem to have a higher theology of such things than most Catholics. For most of us a blessing has become simply a prayer.

In the past the Pope Francis seems to have been happy to be prayed over by Pentecostals and to have received their blessing whilst kneeling, and even to have hands laid upon him.
In parishes around the world lay people (Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, especially) seem to bless other lay people with impunity.
The post - concilliar Rituale seems to have stripped any sense of 'change' to a blessed object, it merely thanks God for the object or person.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Feast of the Rosary, a celebration of Intolerance and Partisanship

As an aging hippy and son of the Council, I am uncomfortable with today's Feast.

Yes, it says in the Missal its the Memoria of Holy Rosary in the Old Rite it is a Feast but it is actually the commemoration of the Battle of Lepanto and the triumph of the Catholic forces under Don John of Austria. Pius V got the Church to pray and the Catholic navies won the day. Christians destroyed the dominance of Muslim forces in the Mediteranian and the BVM was venerated as Our of Victories, and all over Catholic Europe churches and chapels were erected in her honour, that is in honour of the destruction of the enemies of Catholic Christendom!

For the Catholics of the 16th Century, it was simple, Christianity was threatened, we had recourse to the Blessed Virgin Mary and God acted. This feast is not about shades of grey but black and white: it is the Catholic faith good, Islam bad.

This feast challenges us to see God as Lord of History and on the side of the Church, to see the Mother of God as intolerant and partisan, this is not 21st Christianity!

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

The Silent Church versus Chattering Church

Image result for expulsion carthusians

Why do attacks on the Church always begin attacks on contemplatives? It was the Carthusians the French masonic government first attacked in 1903, just as bloody Henry had begun his English Reformation with martyrdom of St John Houghton and his Carthusian companions.

The silent Church is always a greater threat than the chattering Church. The chattering Church is easily manipulated, it depends on its own resources, its own wisdom and insights, it is receptive to novelties and eager for change. The silent Church is close to Christ, it contemplates the essential mysteries of the faith, it is in the World but not of it, it depends not on its own resources but the Power of God. It is united to an unbroken Tradition.

The silent Church is a Church of prayer, it is not inactive but neither is it yet another NGO, its activity comes from its contemplation, its communion with God. The chattering Church is the foundation-less house built on sand, that has no permanence and come wind and rain will be swept away.

Pope Benedict in many ways has repeatedly acted a little like an Old Testament prophet, choosing prophetic signs often over words. I cannot help but think his retiring to a life of contemplation is a prophetic sign to a Church far more interested in chatter than silence.

Cardial Robert Sarah has an interview in Le Nef, translated here,  it preludes his new book The Strength of Silence - Against the dictatorship of Noise, at the moment it is only available in French. In the interview he speaks of silence in the Liturgy, returning to the subject of ad orientem worship, one can grasp a little of why he understands it as being so important.

Friday, September 30, 2016

To Sign or Not To Sign

I signed a private letter to their Eminences requesting clarification of certain aspects of Amoris Laetitia, as we saw in the Synod, such is the dysfunctionality of the Church in recent times,  even private letters from Cardinals to His Holiness, are leaked, so the making public of a letter from us is not unexpected.
Life Site News reports this, on that letter, we are indeed in cruel times!
Many of the signatories of the scholarly appeal remain anonymous to protect their reputation and jobs. Yet some are still suffering pressure for their attempt to stay faithful to Church teaching and tradition.
LifeSiteNews has gathered information – confirmed by several of the signatories, including the spokesperson, Dr. Joseph Shaw – that one signatory, who is well known internationally,  has lost his position as a director of academic affairs at a Pontifical university.
Another was threatened by his bishop that his academic sabbatical would be canceled, but he found another bishop willing to allow him to begin the process of incardination in his diocese.
Yet another has been forbidden to speak publicly about Amoris Laetitia, and another has been told to rescind his signature.
And a Cardinal put pressure on one of the signatories to withdraw his name.
Two clear conclusions can be drawn: first, many of the suffering parties are under pressure not by remote institutions but by high-ranking individuals in the hierarchy. Second, the scholars’ document has opened the discussion on a wide public field and given rise to similar demands by individuals and groups.
There is another letter on-line, a Declaration of Fidelity to the Church's Unchangeable Teaching which you may consider signing.

I can well understand many clergy not signing, not because they don't believe 'the unchangeable teaching' but because they fear the consequences, which isn't necessarily the displeasure of their bishop,
Fr Raymond de Souza has written a couple of interesting articles for the Herald, the latest is headed "Amoris Laetitia is destined to be forgotten" I can agree within him, Amoris Laetitia is best forgotten, and will soon be forgotten, it is a novelty as far as Papal teaching is concerned. The subsequent leaked letter (all these leaks!) of the Pope to the Bishops of Buenos Aires is a repudiation of the teaching of all Pope Francis' predecessors. I can't help being in two minds, if you have an eccentric but lovable grandfather, who does or says something stupid, or even illegal does one draw attention to it or look a little askance and ignore it.

We used to study Papal documents in the parish, I haven't done this with either Laudato si and I certainly won't do it with Amoris Laetitia, it is just too big, it just goes on and on. It is as one bishop described it to me as a 'very subtle document', so subtle that the Holy Father himself when questioned couldn't remember one of its most controversial footnotes.

Bigging it up, especially as it goes far beyond the powers of a Pope, as defined by either of the Vatican Councils could be described as sharing in folly. Orthodoxy has a sense that in order for a Council or the Magisterium of a Patriarch or bishop to become the Church's teaching it has to be accepted by the Church, though some dissident or sycophantic bishops might extol the more controversial aspects of Amoris Laetitia, this is actually an eccentric view. From both the Church's history but also from the Synod itself the controversial aspects of Amoris Laetitia have already been rejected.

The good thing is that the Pope is not the Church, it is not ruled according to his whim or the latest leak, his bright ideas are not that important, what matters is the faith, which is given it by Jesus Christ himself. The Church has a way, overtime, of purifying itself. It might well be that Church at a given time appears to be dominated by Protestantism or Arianism but Jesus is the Lord of history and the Church and has and will triumph.

Friday, September 23, 2016


Pope Francis attends an interfaith peace gathering outside the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, Italy (CNS photo/Paul Haring)Assisi: as Fr Lucie Smith says needs revamping, it is a bit like any ecumenical event, it becomes self-referential, a bit 'same old' a bit dull. I have always justified it to those Catholics who disapprove of 'Assisi', as being the Pope being recognised in some sense as 'leader' of all 'faith communities', I admit its not necessarily good theology.

I don't know who draws up the guest list, or more significantly the veto list, presumably for the more important it is the Pope. This year the dear old Dalai Lama being struck from the guest list, that is not insignificant - presumable a more acceptable (to the Chinese and therefore Rome) patriotic Lama was found as a substitute for Chinese approved Tibetan Buddhism. I don't know if the there were other Chinese 'faith communities', most probably not Falun-gong. China and its treatment of Christians is deeply worrying, read this from First Things or the Catholic Herald on organ harvesting. It is pretty harrowing stuff but it is these are people, the Chinese government, Holy See plans to allow to choose Catholic bishops.
Image result for Assisi

Patriarch Bartholomew was also there behind and obviously junior to the Bishop of Rome but then to be honest he is always in need of friends (and money) being starved of both not only by Moscow and Athens but also the increasingly hostile Turkish state, which under Erdogan is taking a significant turn against the countries tiny Orthodox community, there have been accusations the Phanar was involved in the coup against him. As things are it is quite possible next year depending on how things develop with Moscow, or whether the Holy See wants a closer relationship with Turkey, he too could be on the way out, or being even more junior.

There were of course Sikhs and Bahá'ís who are always glad of an invitation: reaching out to other religions is part of their creed. This time round from the photographs there seemed to be a lack of pagans, animist and spirit worshippers. I don't know if the Vatican prohibits Voodooists, Spiritualists and Satanists, there didn't seem to be many in the photographs.

Image result for AssisiThere were various Jewish and Islamic leaders who were more 'ecumenical' than most of their brethren who frankly would not be seen dead at such an event or even in the company of those who would attend such an event. Many of course are what Catholics might consider 'Liberal'

What should not be forgotten is that Assisi is much more a political event than a religious one, increasingly it seems like event to show favour to political friends and disfavour to those who might compromise the Holy Sees global ambitions, as a peace maker of course, and at the table of peace-makers.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Drinking to Conscience?

I haven't seen the inside but the outside of this week's Catholic Herald reminds me of the words in the document on Christian Unity about the terrible scandal of disunity. "Leaks, intimidation, claims of heresy". indeed seem to be a mark of today's Church, indeed they seem to be more obvious marks of the Church than 'One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic', and increasingly so, there is a brutality and anti-intellectualism in today's Church, based on ambiguity, confusion and incoherence

It is an irony that the the Pope, himself, 'the minister of unity' should become the focus and source of disunity. Perhaps that is precisely what the Conclave of 2013 desired when it elected Jorge Bergoglio, he was already known as a divisive figure in both the Society of Jesus and his home diocese of Buenos Aires. In Et in Unum Sint John Paul had recognised the Papacy. among Christians in general, was a source of division and invited a discussion on the role of the Pope in the Church of the future. After Francis the Church will need to clarify, again, for its own adherents what is the role of the Pope, in what way is Universal Pastor, in what way should he exercise his jurisdiction, or even voice his personal preferences.

We all speak infallibly when recite creed or when we speak the truth of the Gospel. With the the Orthodox I suspect Pastor aeternus, with its hedging round of and very narrow definition of Papal powers is perhaps less divisive than the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, which most (all?) Orthodox would consider as unnecessary novelties. One could argue that the Great Schism only gathered theological significance with the promulgation of Ineffabilis Deus  in 1854 until then in practice Orthodox and Catholics believed that which was 'held always, everywhere and by all'.

As the headline says, "The Communion row gets nasty", I fear for many Catholics that rather than as Newman says, "I shall drink to the Pope, if you please, still, to Conscience first", we must make a conscious choice between Conscience and the Pope, and that choice will have very uncomfortable consequences for those who feel compelled to follow conscience. The Kasper doctrine which the Pope has signified he favour is for many of us a sign of the distancing of the Church from Revelation and the person of Jesus Christ, that is not what the Church is for. When we ask for clarification from the Cardinals of the Church, as we are bound to do, we are met with either silence or told, as we were in England, by many of our superiors that Cardinal Nichols 'was displeased' that we should even voice such a concern in a private communication to him and his fellow Cardinals, that is the absolute moral low ground, though maybe a not entirely unexpected response. It is certainly not what the Pope himself calls for, 'open fearless debate' nor is it inline with a Catholic search for truth and is certainly not 'pastoral' to leave Christ's faithful in a state of uncertainty and confusion. Recently someone asked, "Having divorced sixteen years ago in the light of the Pope's new rules, can I look for a new wife?
Another man was just angry that he thought his forty-five years of continence since his own marriage broke down was now considers by the Church as unnecessary.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Mutual Enrichment Goes Both Ways

This is a video of President Kennedy's funeral in 1963, amazingly it is 'Low Mass of a Bishop' with music, as opposed to a sung Mass or Missa Solemnis.
It is pretty apparent when the Old Rite influences the New, since Summorum Pontificum, that has been quite considerable, which I suspect was the main reason for it promulgation but people often ask to what extent the New Rite has had an influence on the Old. I don't think that today a prominent Catholic figure would be buried today with such a perfunctory Rite celebrated in such perfunctory way, even though Low Mass in the Old Rite without music is normal. Apart from a Mass with a Bishop I have never attended Low Mass with music, before the Council it seems to have been quite usual, in Germany first, then elsewhere there was Mass with hymns, before Veterum Sapientia hymns in the vernacular were widespread, hence the large repertoire of Catholic hymns. In Frances there were those pretty organ Masses.

Cardinal Cushing's manner of celebration today would be regarded as unusual even shocking to a Catholic who normally attends the Traditional Mass, it certainly seems to be light on prayerful recollection, possibly even in 1963 prelates were getting used to the use of not always reliable microphones.

Of course what we might do with Old Rite today might well regarded by our forefathers as a bit prissey

Monday, September 19, 2016

Mass Yesterday

I thought you might like this, it is our choir singing at Mass yesterday, with some pictures of the Mass. We ended with the traditional blessing for those departing on journey and a good  dousing with Holy Water for the Sisters and gave them a few souvenirs of Brighton, an even balloons (the balloons play no part in the Mass!) Poor Servant of the Mother of God don't get them often.

I shall miss the Sisters, they are good, holy, sensible women, who are much loved here.

p.s. the recording was done on a portable telephone, so the sound of our choir is not the best, though I thing they sound pretty good.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Garden of Allah

It is nothing about Islam. It is a 1936 film with Marlene Dietrich. It is about two people finding themselves. One is Dietrich, a devout Catholic, the other is a Trappist monk who has lost his faith and run away.
It gives an insight into spirituality of duty and the power of vows that we seem to have lost. It doesn't quite end happily but it does show the power of sacrificial love and self denial and placing God first.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Destruction of the Order of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate

Image result for "Franciscans of the Immaculate" benedict
Nothing seems to sum up the new brutality of Church life than what has happened to the Franciscans of the Immaculate. To his discredit Fr Volpi, the now deceased Papal Commissioner, brought various spurious legal actions against them all of which were thrown out by the Italian courts. Now gossip, innuendo and intimidation are the weapons used against them.

The reason for all this according to Franciscans of the Immaculate is not merely their support of 'Tradition', though all of them seem happy to celebrate both forms of the Roman Rite but their opposition to the speculative doctrines of Karl Rahner, the Jesuit.

Image result for "Franciscans of the Immaculate" volpi
How far has the destruction of the Order of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate progressed? This is the updating of a chapter that is like a dark shadow on the pontificate of Pope Francis.
In 1969 two Fathers Minor, Stefano Maria Manelli and Gabriele Maria Pellettieri, asked the Father General of the Order, after a thorough study of Fontes Franciscani, to be allowed to start a "new experience of Franciscan life" back to its original rigor. In 1970 an abandoned monastery of the Order was made ​​available to them where they gathered more men over time, and with the establishment of a female branch, women also joined. In 1990, the Community was canonically recognized as a separate order.
read more here