Saturday, March 31, 2007

Not Hitler`s Pope

More evidence that Pius XII was not the Nazi sympathiser that some like to make out in this article from the Daily Telegraph

'Nazi' Pope helped Jews flee Holocaust By Malcolm Moore in Rome

Pius XII, the wartime pontiff often condemned as "Hitler's Pope", was actually considered an enemy by the Third Reich, according to newly discovered documents.
Several letters and memos unearthed at a depot used by the Stasi, the East-German secret police, show that Nazi spies within the Vatican were concerned at Pius's efforts to help displaced Poles and Jews.
In one, the head of Berlin's police force tells Joachim von Ribbentropp, the Third Reich's foreign minister, that the Catholic Church was providing assistance to Jews "both in terms of people and financially".
A report from a spy at work in the Vatican states: "Our source was told to his face by Father Robert Leibner [one of Pius's secretaries] that the greatest hope of the Church is that the Nazi system would be obliterated by the war."
La Repubblica, the newspaper that discovered the papers, said they were sent to the heads of the Stasi, after the Second World War.
The revelations they contain will help to clear the name of Pius XII, Eugenio Pacelli, who has long been criticised for turning a blind eye to the Holocaust. During the war, the British Foreign Office even described him as the "greatest moral coward of our age".
In 1999, John Cornwell's Hitler's Pope suggested that Pius XII, who had been the papal envoy to Germany before the war, was sympathetic to the Nazis.
In addition, an international Catholic-Jewish historical commission, set up by the Vatican, said it was clear that Pius knew of widespread anti-Jewish persecution. However, the commission was forced to disband before it finished its work, and one member said it had run up "against a brick wall" from the Holy See.
In his defence, the Pope always maintained he did not speak out further against the Nazis for fear of putting more people in danger.
Over the years more documents have come to light as the Vatican has opened its secret archives to scholars in an attempt to clear what it sees as a communist-funded smear on Pius's name.
Giovanni Sale, the author of Hitler, The Holy See and the Jews, said Moscow had deliberately funded operations to discredit the Vatican after the war. "I have said for 10 years that the Church fought the Nazis on all fronts," he added.

This is in addition to the story that broke in January that the Kremlin was conducting a smear campaign against Pius XII, depicting him as a Nazi sympathiser.

The Indult again

Rumours seen to be reaching a cresendo and today in Le Figaro Magazine, Cardinal Bertone verifies the existence of the Motu Proprio and its imminent arrival. As usual Rorate Caeli has the story. I reproduce their translation here. It is good to see that the 1962 calendar is not going to be altered to fit in with the Pauline Missal.

Is a Decree widening the possibility of celebrating the Latin Mass according to the rite from before Vatican II (the so-called Mass of Saint Pius V) still expected?

Cardinal Bertone: The merit of the conciliar liturgical reform is intact. But both [for reasons of] not losing the great liturgical heritage left by Saint Pius V and for granting the wish of those faithful who desire to attend Masses according to this rite, within the framework of the Missal published in 1962 by Pope John XXIII, with its own calendar, there is no valid reason not to grant to every priest in the world* the right to celebrate according to this form. The authorization of the Supreme Pontiff would evidently preserve the validity of the rite of Paul VI. The publication of the motu proprio which specifies this authorisation will take place, but it will be the pope himself who will explain his motivations and the framework of his decision. The Sovereign Pontiff will personally explain his vision for the use of the ancient Missal to the Christian people, and particularly to the Bishops.

*au prêtre du monde entier: literally, to the priest of the whole

It will be interesting to see what explanation is put forward to the bishops. Surely by now even the English bishops will have got wind of what is happening.

Dumbing Down Again

A story in the news today reveals that the last examination board in the country to run an `A` level in Ancient History is abandoning the subject despite a huge growth in the number of candidates recently. (Ok so it only grew from 300 a year to 1,000 sitting the exam but it`s still a 300% increase.)

Peter Jones, Spokesman for the Co-ordinating Committee, said:

‘At a time when a generation of students has been stimulated by Boris Johnson’s TV series on the Roman Empire and numerous high-profile films such as Alexander, Gladiators and 300, it is a supreme irony that they will have no opportunity to pursue ancient history in depth post-16.’

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

How a Ford Fiesta is too scandalous for a priest

An article on Autoblog!
"Can it get any worse than this? You've managed to arrange the purchase of one of your dream cars. The only one in the country as a matter of fact. You get it and find that it is everything you ever hoped for in a car. This Ford Fiesta 2000 ST has the 150 hp mill that will get you up to 130 mph and beyond when given enough space and time. This being Portugal, those times might not be as frequent as you'd hope, but you love to open it up whenever possible. You haven't kept it a secret that hitting 130 is an easily-achieved thrill that you've thanked God for helping you survive without fines. In fact, you also love to share the thrill with anybody who wants to tag along. Now along comes a Portuguese group campaigning for safe roads and they've made you their poster boy. They have even asked the Vatican to encourage you to "resist the temptations of speed." Why get the Vatican involved? Because you are a priest, that's why. This is the story of one Father Antonio Rodrigues, Portugal's only Fiesta 2000 ST owner. He says he is "no speed freak," but he likes to be able to "arrive on time to the three parish churches." The association's website quotes part of their letter to the Pope: "We ask Your Holiness to help this unfortunate priest to ponder the gravity of his acts and the immodesty of his words and to resist the temptations of speed and boasting," As if that vow of chastity wasn't enough, now you've got to deal with this!"

Monday, March 26, 2007


There is a story in the news today in which the Archbishop of Canterbury says the Church of England should make reparation for its part in the slave trade. As I heard this on the news this morning my immediate thought was to wonder whether they will get round to making reparation for the Reformation and the loss of Catholic property!

Afternoon of recollection

Last Wednesday afternoon Fr Andrew Byrne of Opus Dei came north to give an afternoon of recollection to diocesan priests. We met, as is now usual, in the chapel of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Sunderland. The Sisters gave us a warm welcome and tea and cakes afterwards. As is usual Father gave two talks with an interval for confessions afterwards. I was delighted to see that we had three new faces among the priests present. The first talk was on the role of Scripture in priestly life and prayer and the second was on the Communion of Saints. In the evening Father gave a talk to parishioners on `Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire` in which he explored the theme of friendship as depicted in the book. This was very well received by those who came and a discussion followed which included whether Harry Potter was a good thing given the criticisms made mostly by American Evangelicals. Father explained that while some books it is right to avoid he saw nothing sinister in the Harry Potter books. Unfortunately no-one who came for the talk had read anything other than the first book so Father had a lot of explaining to do as regards the characters and plot.

During the day I asked Father whether Ruth Kelly really is a member of Opus Dei! For more on the Ruth Kelly and Opus Dei angle see Fr John Boyle`s blog.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The last years of Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli 1951-58)

Following the interesting collection of videos of Pope John XXIII celebrating Mass currently on Valle Adurni, I did a search on Youtube and found this rather interesting film about the last years of Pius XII. Apologies if you have seen it before. I found the Pastor Angelicus clip particularly interesting as I don`t think I`d seen him speaking apart from from the balcony of St Peter`s and was surprised how theatrical it was. I liked the goldfinch too. At least he was `allowed` it unlike Benedict XVI and his cats

St Cuthbert

Today is the feast of our diocesan patron, St Cuthbert.

Today at Mass I spoke about Cuthbert being a man who had to accept what he would not naturally choose. He loved the Celtic traditions but accepted the decision of the Synod of Whitby to introduce the Roman method of calculating the date of Easter and the Roman tonsure. He had been among a group of monks who had left the monastery at Ripon about 661 to return to Melrose rather than accept the Roman ways. Later when he was sent to Lindisfarne Bede tells us:

"There were some brethren in the monastery who preferred their ancient customs to the new regular discipline. But he got the better of these by his patience and modest virtues, and by daily practice at length brought them to the better system which he had in view. Moreover, in his discussions with the brethren, when he was fatigued by the bitter taunts of those who opposed him, he would rise from his seat with a placid look, and dismiss the meeting until the following day, when, as if he had suffered no repulse, he would use the same exhortations as before, until he converted them, as I have said before, to his own views. For his patience was most exemplary, and in enduring the opposition which was heaped equally upon his mind and body he was most resolute, and, amid the asperities which he encountered, he always exhibited such placidity of countenance, as made it evident to all that his outward vexations were compensated for by the internal consolations of the Holy Spirit."

I can imagine in the 1970`s and even later Cuthbert would be held up as an example for those who loved the Church but found the liturgical changes too hard to bear, as a man who overcame his love for the old ways in favour of the magisterium and the greater good of the Church. Now in the 2000`s it seems that with Sacramentum Caritatis the picture has changed somewhat as the request that the faithful be familiar with their parts of the Mass in Latin so as to be able to participate in Masses at international gatherings could mean that those who love the Israeli, or even the Geordie, Mass might be asked to lay aside their natural preferences to learn how to sing the odd Kyrie, Sanctus, or Agnus Dei.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Using Latin in a small parish

On the New Liturgical Movement blog there is an article today on `Latin in typical parish liturgy` which notes that the Holy Father last week in the post synodal Apostolic Exhortation called for its use at Masses at international gatherings which will not be possible unless Catholics have become familiar with it at parish level. I have tried to introduce a `chant Sunday` once a month which involves the singing of the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei of Mass XVIII led by Ian Graham.
This is the article in full. Thanks to Shawn Tribe.

Latin in typical parish liturgy
As a representative of the gradual effects that the apostolic exhortation can have (even with a less than stellar translation),
Saint Florian Parish in Michigan has announced they will begin to increase their use of Latin in the modern Roman rite liturgy, beginning with the Easter Vigil. Kudos to the pastor.Solely as a springboard to a discussion of this point (and most certainly not as a critique of the pastor, who can only be congratulated for taking immediate action in his parish) I should like to note that there is likely to be a perception out there (and likely fostered in certain "progressive" liturgical schools of thought) that the use of liturgical Latin is somehow only encouraged when there are multiple language groups present at a Mass -- such as international masses. Aside from the fact that the average modern parish in the Western hemisphere would find this situation as a norm (with many people not being speakers of the native tongue as a first language) I believe it is important to understand the exhortation of the Holy Father in the light of that other "SC" document -- Sacrosanctum Concilium as well as the Popes from the post-conciliar era, who expressly encouraged the general use of Latin in the liturgy, particularly as regards the sung/chanted ordinary of the Mass.Indeed, this only makes sense. After all, if Latin were excluded from normative parish liturgical life, it would not be terribly familiar to the faithful, thus making it yet still difficult and unfamiliar to use in "international liturgies". The use of Latin in international liturgies as fundamentally proper and right, presupposes that the participants in those liturgies would already be familiar with chanting or saying the "Pater Noster", "Agnus Dei", "Credo" and so on. If they had not experience of this in their typical parish life, this would be as unfamiliar to them as if the Mass were in Polish or Spanish -- at which point, why bother it might be fairly asked?As such, when we read this encouragement to re-discover Latin in the sacred liturgy, it is quite clear that what it intended is what has always been intended, both by Sacrosanctum Concilium, under the encouragement of Pope Paul VI in Jubilate Deo and which is most certainly an aspect of a hermeneutic of continuity with regard to the liturgy, which is that the use of Latin in the liturgy would also form a common part of the experience of typical parish church liturgies.Let us be clear then: Latin is not merely for international Masses, like World Youth Day, or at Shrine Churches in places like Fatima or Lourdes; it is also for small town parishes, be it on a Sunday or weekday in the heartland of the United States of America, or France, or Africa. This much is clear not only from a reading of all the pertinent documents that have spoken on this subject since the Council, not only from the perspective of a hermeneutic of continuity with regard our liturgical tradition, but also merely from the perspective of common sense.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Something in the Water?

Today I was at ( alas not the whole of) the day of recollection for priests given by the bishop at Ushaw. I`ve always thought it would be a good idea for a bishop to give a recollection to his priests and this is the first time I can recall it happening in our diocese. The bishop reflected on the Pope`s letter for Lent. In the break before sext, I went for a walk with some fellow priests. We talked happily about Luzar vestments and interesting websites we had found. I was curious to know whether anyone had heard of the Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Church which claims to have a bishop of Sunderland based in Stockton. I had come across it following a link on the Hermeneutic of Continuity to the Obnoxiously Pious blog which looks good and which I`ll add to my links. No-one had heard of the church but I suppose Stockton and Sunderland might be breeding grounds for this church as there is at present no Sunday traditional Mass in those places. The Fathers spoke about the spread of twig worship as featured on the Catholic Church Conservation blog and the fascinating Evil Traditionalist blog with its unusual range of gift items.

During the conversation one of my confreres reminded me that his home parish was Forest Hall. He is a convert Anglican clergyman. Another of our group was an Anglican convert and his parish was also .... Forest Hall. Another young priest of our diocese, an Anglican convert is also a former parishioner of Forest Hall. Recently John, an Anglican, has made contact with the idea of becoming a Catholic and is expressing an interest in becoming a Catholic priest. At the minute I have two Anglicans taking instruction to become Catholics with another two in the pipeline. What is it about Forest Hall that drives people to seek refuge in the arms of Holy Mother Church and fling themselves across the Tiber?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bishop`s Visitation

Pictures of last weekend`s visitation Mass can be found on the parish website. Here`s an extra one.

Dominican Sisters of Mary

Biretta tip to Valle Adurni for this encouraging item about the Dominican Sisters of Mary in the United States. I`ve mentioned already on this blog the Dominican Sisters of St Joseph in the New Forest who are also young although a much smaller group.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The indult

Rocco Palmo say there is a leaked copy of `the indult` circulating in Rome. Shouldn`t be long before it finds it`s way to the internet I suppose.

Sacramentum Caritatis

As announced yesterday, the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist will be published in Rome next Tuesday. I only hope it isn`t too disappointing. Let`s hope and pray that it reflects something of the opinions expressed by the Pope when he was a cardinal, regarding the liturgy, especially the crucial matter of the ad orientem position for the celebration of Mass. The best scenario will be for the long-awaited Motu Proprio on the traditional Mass to be published with it. If this is the case there will be a `private` or by if it is as good as we hope, a public celebration, of the 1962 missal at St Mary`s, next Tuesday night followed by the Te Deum and champagne!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Hull Faith Forum

Yesterday I travelled to Hull to give a talk to the Faith Forum there at the invitation of Fr William Massie. I spoke about the evangelisation of pagan culture in the Roman empire. A vast topic and I really wanted to talk about Prudentius but this needed some background on the whole Christian/pagan literary relationship. Fr Massie whom I have known since my time in 1990 at the English College works flat out to get a Faith Forum up and running. Previously he had one in York and now he has moved to Hull it takes place there in a Catholic pastoral centre. It was impressive to meet young, committed, intelligent Catholics who want the authentic Catholic faith. I was slightly taken aback by the front row which was filled with 12 year old boys and wondered what they would make of my talk but it was good to see they considered it worth coming to. There was a good number of adults there too and a lively question and answer session. I was happy to revisit some of the material of my PhD and find an opportunity to talk about it.

My approach has always been to introduce traditional Catholic liturgy and hope this will arouse interest in all things Catholic but Fr Massie has sought to give the teaching first and finds that from that an interest in traditional liturgy follows even though the Faith Movement has no policy on matters liturgical. It would be very good to have something similar on Tyneside but while I like much of what the Faith Movement does I`ve never felt knowledgeable enough about its central idea regarding faith and the importance of evolution to take an active part. We did have a series of random talks on aspects of the faith last Lent at Forest Hall and I have been intending to start a series of talks again on a monthly basis but so far have not managed to do so. I have a number of speakers available and can now call them talks for the cluster of parishes, so I must try and get something started.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Parish Website

Thanks to Ronan Dodds the new parish website has got off the ground. Still quite a bit to do but at least it`s up and running.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Mystery in Munich

Last weekend, I dragged myself from my sick bed (I`d had `flu and still seem to have something wrong) and went on a long-planned break to Munich with Graham`s Tours. It had been planned in November when I had failed to realise that it was the first weekend of Lent. I discovered in January that we were also scheduled to have the parish visitation to be conducted by the bishop that weekend. (The only one of the twelve parishes in the deanery to have the bishop for visitation as opposed to the episcopal vicar or vicar general!) The bishop graciously changed his appointments and will be with us on March 10th. This was beginning to look like a trip that was not meant to happen. It was planned as an opera trip and the thought of Cavalli`s La Callisto on stage was too good to miss. The final obstacle was overcome on the morning of departure. I had set my mobile phone and alarm clock to wake me at 4.15 am but in the event neither went off and by a stroke of good fortune, or the prompting of my guardian angel, I woke mysteriously at 4.45am and just managed to get to Newcastle airport by 5.20am!

The music was very enjoyable and the food great. However the ecclesiastical side to the trip was also very interesting. On Saturday morning we visited the churches of the Holy Spirit and St Peter`s ( Munich`s oldest church) just off the Marienplatz. What was striking was that neither church appeared to have a forward facing altar. Mass had just finished in St Peter`s and the server could be seen removing a veiled chalice from the high altar. In both churches (and in the cathedral) the side altars were properly dressed but in St Peter`s all of them were also equipped with altar cards for the traditional Mass. Here is a picture of one of them.

What was going on? Had I gone through some vortex into a parallel world where the liturgical changes of the 1960`s had not happened? A visit to the Theatinerkirche soon brought reality crashing back as the high altar appeared to have been completely removed and replaced with this!
I had noticed that the Damenstift was host to a 1962 Mass on Sundays and so off we went. It is a small church but was full which meant a congregation of about 60. We had a Missa Cantata. A one man choir struggled manfully on. The only really odd thing about the Mass was that at the Gospel instead of forming up at the Gospel side, the priest and servers assembled at the lectern, on the epistle side, where the priest read the Gospel in German. Instead of a sermon we had a pastoral letter which went on for about fifteen minutes!

Museums occupied other parts of the trip and worthy of note was the basement of the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum much of which was completely given over to crib sets. Some of these were absolutely amazing. One that sticks in the memory was an Epiphany scene where the Wise Men had brought with them, amongst other things, a forty-piece military band! The figures were about a foot tall. Some of these sets had been made in Naples and most were eighteenth or nineteenth century but were more focused on the Nativity than the possibly even more remarkable cribs to be found in Italian churches which can feature volcanoes, ports and other improbabilities.

So back to the parish and Lent.