Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Priest: a Messenger of Joy.

I enjoyed this from Pope Benedict`s homily at the ordinations to the priesthood at the weekend. It is easy to be demoralised but this helps to focus the mind. From VIS

Benedict XVI examined the first reading, the passage in the Acts of the Apostles narrating the persecution in Jerusalem against the first Christian converts, the scattering of the disciples including Philip's flight to Samaria, and his preaching being welcomed there "with great joy".

"Bringing the Gospel to everyone, that everyone may experience the joy of Christ and that there may be great joy in every city; what could be more beautiful than this? What could be greater? What could create greater enthusiasm than helping to spread the Word of Life throughout the world, than communicating the living water of the Holy Spirit? Announcing and bearing witness to this joy: this is the very heart of your mission", said the Pope to the ordinands.

"These are elemental words for all priests", he told them. "To collaborate in other people's joy - in an often sad and negative world - the fire of the Gospel must burn within each of you, the joy of the Lord must live in you. Only then will you be able to convey and multiply this joy, bringing it to everyone, especially those who are sad and disillusioned".

Monday, April 28, 2008

John Senior

A while ago I was sent a meme about my favourite books and I mentioned The Restoration of Christian Culture by John Senior as a book that has influenced me greatly. At the time it was out of print but and copies were going second hand for about £100 so I`m delighted to see it is back in print again and available through Family publications for £16.95.

Bede Chair of Catholic Theology: Official Announcement

Here is the announcement from the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, released today.

The Bede Chair of Catholic Theology:

Professor Lewis Ayres, an English lay Catholic theologian currently teaching at Emory University in Georgia U.S.A, has been appointed as the first Bede Chair of Catholic Theology in Durham University.

Professor Ayres is also an active member of his local parish and has a real commitment as a catechist. It is hoped that he will be able to take up his new responsibilities in the new academic year 2009.

A number of diocesan trustees, representatives of the Sisters of Mercy (Oaklea) and other clergy and people from the Diocese were present at the public presentations at the beginning of the two day interview process on 20-21 April.

Very many thanks to Fr Michael Campion, Mr Austin Donohoe and Mr Paul Murray for their hard work in acquiring the necessary funds for this particular initiative in Durham University. It is a remarkable achievement.

Thanks also to Archbishop Vincent Nichols and Jim O'Keefe for their participation over the two days of Interviews. We look forward to welcoming Professor Ayers and his family into the diocese.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The return of the papal states?

Another article from today`s Telegraph. If Italy is to be broken up then maybe the middle bit might like to become the papal states again.

Italy must be broken up, says Berlusconi's wife

By Malcolm Moore in Rome
Last Updated: 1:37am BST 26/04/2008

Silvio Berlusconi's wife added her voice yesterday to the growing calls for Italy to be partitioned.

In an interview with La Stampa, Veronica Lario, 51, said: "Italy has never been well-suited to being a single country, and has never matured enough to become one. There is no longer any value in a unified Italy."

Cabinet posts may go to the Northern League, which wants independence from Italy’s South.

Ms Lario, a former showgirl, married Italy's prime minister-elect 18 years ago after catching his eye on a television show. Since then, she has rarely courted publicity, but does run Il Foglio, an influential newspaper.

The prospect of a devolved Italy has grown significantly in recent weeks since the Northern League, a secessionist party, won strong support in the general election.

Umberto Bossi, its volcanic leader, has repeatedly threatened to "take up arms" against the "corrupt" politicians in Rome who divert the wealth of Italy's North to the impoverished South.

Ms Lario disclosed that she was a fan of Mr Bossi and added it was time for Italy to stop being "snobbish" about the League, whose politicians are frequently coarse and populist.

"This is a disillusioned country, even after Berlusconi's victory," she said. "The League expresses concrete demands from the most productive part of Italy, which is tired of dragging the rest of the country and does not find itself represented by the Left-wing."

Mr Berlusconi, who will find it difficult to maintain a majority in parliament without the League's support, is likely to make Mr Bossi a cabinet minister. He could also appoint Roberto Calderoli, Mr Bossi's second-in-command, as deputy prime minister.

In the past, Mr Calderoli has called for immigrants to be shot in their boats and for a national pork-eating day to defy Islam.

"If the people have voted for Mr Calderoli," said Ms Lario, "that gives him credibility".

Oh well

Today`s Mandrake column in the Daily Telegraph has the following interesting information:

Short list to succeed Cardinal Murphy O'Connor

By Tim Walker

Last Updated: 1:22am BST 26/04/2008

The candidates to succeed Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor as Archbishop of Westminster have been whittled down to three.

Mandrake hears that the names on the official list - the terna - are Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Archbishop Peter Smith and Bishop Arthur Roche.

"It will disappoint those who were hoping for someone outside of the current crop of bishops," whispers my man at Archbishop's House.

"Benedict XVI is not, however, obliged to pick one of the names that Archbishop Faustino Munoz, the Papal Nuncio, submits to him so we will have to wait and see."

Traditionalists had hoped that the next archbishop would have been chosen, like Basil Hume, from outside the episcopacy of England and Wales and Mandrake understands that George Pell, the Australian cardinal, had been lobbying the Pope for such a move.

This led to speculation that either Abbot Hugh Gilbert, of Pluscarden Abbey in Scotland, or Fr Aidan Nichols, a Dominican Friar, were in the frame.

The Most Rev Nichols, the Archbishop of Birmingham, considered the favourite, is supported by Lord Alton, while the Rt Rev Roche, the Bishop of Leeds, is backed by John Gummer, the Catholic convert MP.

The Most Rev Smith, the Archbishop of Cardiff, won admirers with his lobbying of parliament over legislation on euthanasia and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

Cardinal Murphy O'Connor is expected to stand down early next year

Lefebvrists snub Pope's call for unity

Having seen bishop Fellay in action a few months ago when he came to Gateshead for the opening of the SSPX church there, this comes as no surprise to me. He did not give the impression he was a man about to seek reconciliation with the Holy See. I was quite disappointed by him: having been led to believe he was the moderate face of the SSPX, he appeared no less extreme than bishop Williamson. At least things are becoming more sharply defined with the SSPX now as they call for the rejection of the Second Vatican Council. Clearly this cannot going to happen. How can the Church reject a General Council? What happens to the indefectibility of the Church? The best way forward is that outlined by pope Benedict on December 22nd 2005 when he called for the council to be understood and interpreted according to a `hermeneutic of continuity`. It appears that the schismatic nature of the SSPX is clearer now.

However, of course, many will agree with some of bishop Fellay`s points about Summorum Pontificum. It is true that there has been in some quarters an underwhelming response: in some places in the world bishops have arranged for a Extraordinary Form Mass to take place in their cathedral, in others it has been generally ignored and swept under the carpet. I was speaking to a young Polish student recently who spent a year in a seminary in Poland. He told me that the Polish bishops have done very little to expedite Summorum Pontificum and that if a seminarian expresses an interest in the Extraordinary Form this counts against his progress in the seminary. Clearly this is wrong: it should now be the task of seminaries to ensure that all students are trained in the Extraordinary Form.

On a brighter note there are rumours flying about that the extravagantly named Transalpine Redemptorists, a body under the aegis of the SSPX, are seeking reconciliation with the Holy See.

Here is the article from the Catholic Herald:

Lefebvrists snub Pope's call for unity

By Mark Greaves

25 April 2008

The head of the Society of St Pius X has said that full communion with the Catholic Church cannot happen until Rome rejects some of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the SSPX, ruled out the reconciliation sought by Pope Benedict XVI in a letter to his estimated one million followers last weekend. He said that "the time for an agreement [with the Vatican] has not yet come". His announcement ends hopes that Benedict XVI's liberation of the traditional Latin Mass would clear the way for reconciliation after more than two decades of near-schism.

The Pope's Motu Proprio, published in July, granted priests everywhere the freedom to celebrate the "extraordinary form of the Mass in the Roman rite".

It was hoped that this would pave the way towards unity with traditionalist groups which had strongly objected to the suppression of the "Tridentine" Mass in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.

But Bishop Fellay said in his letter that a change to the Church's liturgy needed to be accompanied by a substantial reversal of its doctrine.

The Motu Proprio was "not accompanied by logically co-related measures in the other areas of the life of the Church", he said in a French-language letter.

"Nothing has changed in Rome's determination to follow the Council's orientation, despite 40 years of crisis, despite the deserted convents, abandoned rectories and empty churches," Bishop Fellay said.

"The Catholic universities persist in their ramblings, the teaching of the Catechism remains unknown at the same time that the Catholic school does not exist anymore as particularly Catholic," the Swiss-born bishop wrote.

He also complained of "brutal resistance" to the Motu Proprio from whole groups of bishops. It is understood that Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, head of Ecclesia Dei, believes the statement is only a modest setback and is determined to bring the SSPX back into the Church.

But other Vatican officials are much more pessimistic about the prospect of reconciliation. One Vatican source said he believed the society was a sect closer to Calvinism than Catholicism.

One of the main doctrinal obstacles to re-union is the refusal of some in the society to accept that the Jews cannot be blamed for the death of Christ - a declaration made by the Second Vatican Council document Nostra Aetate.

Bishop Fellay made clear in his letter that the SSPX would not end its dialogue with the Vatican and would continue "on the path defined in the year 2000" when its bishops met Cardinal Castrillon on a pilgrimage to Rome.

He also said that the SSPX would continue to appeal to Benedict XVI to overturn the excommunications of its leaders in 1988 after its founder, the French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, ordained four bishops against Rome's wishes.

His letter will disappoint many Catholics who believed that the Pope's Motu Proprio would lead to the SSPX becoming re-united with the Church. The Motu Proprio allowed priests to celebrate the traditional Mass without the permission of a bishop and was partly aimed at bringing traditionalist groups back into the Church.

On the day it was made public Bishop Fellay expressed his "deep gratitude" to the Pope and said he had created "a favourable climate" in which to consider disputes over doctrine.

However, signs that the SSPX did not feel ready to re-join the Church emerged in February when it accused Benedict XVI of caving in to "foreign pressures" by amending the Good Friday prayer in the extraordinary form of the Mass.

The Pope removed a reference to the "blindness" of the Jews and an appeal that they "be delivered from darkness" and that God "may take the veil from their hearts".

Bishop Richard Williamson, one of the four excommunicated bishops of the SSPX, said he believed the amendment was "anti-Semitic".

Fr Arnaud Sélégny, the general secretary of the SSPX General House in Menzingen, Switzerland, confirmed that the SSPX was not ready to be reconciled with Rome until the Church repudiated some parts of the Second Vatican Council.

He said that the society was "satisfied" with the Pope's Motu Proprio, but added: "On all the points where we have special difficulties, there is no change. These novelties [of the Second Vatican Council] are continuing to infect the body of the Holy Church."

He admitted that it might seem "optimistic" to expect the Church to reject some of the Council's documents.

However, he said it was impossible to conceive that the Church would not eventually reject teaching that was "against its tradition" - and predicted that it would do so in 10 or 20 years.

He said the post-conciliar era was a crisis period in Church history similar to the Great Schism, when the removal of the papacy to Avignon, France, led to the election of more than one pope.

"These big crises in the Church always last for 70 years," he said. "That's why I think that in 10 or 20 years - at about 2030 - [the current crisis] will be finished."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bede chair of Catholic Theology at Durham

One of the things Bishop Dunn set himself to do was to raise money to finance a chair of Catholic theology at Durham University. A couple of days after his death it was announced that £2.1 million had been raised to achieve this. Durham University announced it here. Recently candidates were interviewed for the post. It has just been brought to my attention that James Mawdsley has an account of the interviews for the four candidates on his very sound blog. You can read it here. He writes:

Of the four candidate's for the new Bede Chair at Durham University's Centre for Catholic Studies, three of the candidates seem to favour a hemeneutic of rupture over a hermeneutic of continuity when it comes to understanding the Church's relation to its past. Sentire cum Ecclesia is not their way: they want to build something new which is in conflict with the Church of former generations. This apparently sets the Church Militant in conflict with and judgement upon the Church Triumphant. If this is unfair to Profs. Beattie, McPartlan or O'Leary then maybe someone can explain why. So Prof. Ayres looks like the best candidate.
UPDATE: I understand that Prof. Ayres got the job.
FURTHER UPDATE: I`d never heard of Fr Joseph O`Leary but he appears to be a controversial character to say the least. For more click here on the Pertinacious Papist blog

Confirmations in the Extraordinary Form

I received this press release from the Latin Mass Society today. John Medlin hopes that more bishops will follow the example of Westminster and Northampton. I expect new bishops nowadays have to be Motu Proprio friendly so I hope the new bishop of Hexham and Newcastle whoever he will be will be open to this.

24 April 2008

* Westminster bishop to confer Traditional Latin Rite Confirmations

Bishop George Stack, auxiliary bishop in Westminster, will administer Confirmations in the Traditional Latin Rite at St James’s Church, Spanish Place, London W1 on Saturday, 15 November at 11.00 am at the request of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster. This will be the fifth consecutive year that Westminster auxiliary bishops will have conferred Confirmation in the Traditional Rite. Last year in November 2007, a record 54 candidates received the sacrament at the hands of Bishop John Arnold – 50 children and 4 adults.

Also in November 2007, Bishop Peter Doyle of Northampton became the first diocesan bishop of England and Wales to administer Traditional Rite Confirmations when he confirmed 7 candidates during a pastoral visit to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour Church, Chesham Bois, Bucks on Sunday 18 November 2007. Bishop Doyle also celebrated Sunday Mass in the Traditional Rite on that occasion.

John Medlin, General Manager of the Latin Mass Society, said, “There is no sign of slackening of demand for Traditional Rite Confirmations – in fact the opposite. The numbers are increasing every year and I expect this trend to continue after Pope Benedict’s Motu Proprio. We hope it will not be long before bishops all over England and Wales respond to pastoral demand for Mass and the Sacraments in the Traditional Rite. Those attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite are very grateful to Cardinal Cormac and the Westminster auxiliary bishops for making provision for the Traditional Mass and Sacraments.”

At St James’s, Spanish Place, in November 2007, a packed congregation of 600 family and friends were led by the St James’s choir in singing the Veni Creator Spiritus and other traditional hymns. During the anointing, the choir sang polyphony and plain chant. After the anointing, Bishop Arnold led the congregation in the Divine Praises and then conferred Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

After the Confirmations, at a reception, Julian Chadwick, Chairman of the Latin Mass Society, thanked Bishop Arnold for his pastoral concern and led the assembly in a traditional roof-raising round of applause. Bishop Arnold then spoke informally and cut the special Confirmation cake with many parents taking photographs. Later, the bishop mixed with the parents and children whilst everyone enjoyed the refreshments provided by the LMS.

Parents who require Traditional Confirmation for their children in November 2008 should contact the LMS office for full details of how to register.
. . . . ENDS . . . .

For further information, please contact John Medlin, General Manager, or James Murphy, LMS Office Manager, on (T) 020 7404 7284; (F) 020 7831 5585;
(E mail) thelatinmasssociety@snmail.co.uk

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Washington Post on Music Wars

I thought this was an interesting article on the question of church music in the light of the Pope`s visit to the USA. Good to see Jeffrey Tucker of the NLM blog interviewed here as well as Thomas Day of `Why Catholics can`t sing` fame. I tried to introduce some chant here at Forest Hall at the 10.30 Mass but it would be wrong to say that it was enthusiastically received.

Between Medieval And Folk, Two Mass Audiences

Catholics don't argue about abortion or the death penalty nearly as much as they argue about what music is sung (or not sung, or used to be sung) at their local Sunday Mass. It was ever thus -- at least since the 1960s, when Sister first shortened her habit, strummed a G7 chord and, to hear some Catholics tell it, all heck broke loose.

Among his more fastidious devotees, Pope Benedict XVI is valued most for the fact that he is not Casey Kasem, and Mass is no place for a hit parade, and church is most relevant when it is serious. (The point of this trip is just that: Get serious.) Do not hold your breath waiting for "One Bread, One Body" -- a '70s liturgical hit at most American parishes -- to be performed at His Holiness's mega-Mass tomorrow at Nationals Park.

But don't listen for too many sacred hits of the 10th century either. While Benedict understands the deep power of ritual, and loves little more than a Gregorian chant, what he and 46,000 others will be singing (or not singing) tomorrow will be a sort of compromise, neither modern nor traditional, but a little of everything. As soon as tomorrow's Mass playlist hit the Web, the new traditionalists were fuming on blogs and comment threads. (The pre-show includes African hymns, a "celebratory merengue" and some Mozart; the Mass itself includes a gospel-style Kyrie, some traditional Latin chants and several new interpretations of standard hymns.)
Like devout record store clerks, American Catholics are still having a sort of Stones-vs.-Beatles debate about what the classics really are.

Imagine a bizarro world where all the 25-year-olds want Mozart and all the 60-year-olds want adult-contemporary. The kids think the adults are too wild. The backlash against "Kumbaya Catholicism" has anyone under 40 allegedly clamoring for the Tridentine Mass in Latin, while the old folks are most sentimental about Casual Sunday (even more rockin', the Saturday vigil Mass), and still cling to what's evolved from the lite-rock guitar liturgies of the 1970s. The result, for most parishes, has been decades of Masses in which no one is entirely satisfied, and very few enjoy the music enough to sing along.

"The great majority [of Catholics] are totally inert at Mass," says Thomas Day, 65, a humanities and music professor at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I. Day wrote a book called "Why Catholics Can't Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste," which is often cited by those who'd like to see a return to Mass music that is to them more sacred. "Most Catholics have either forgotten or never knew traditional music," Day says.

The great enemy in the Benedict era? Why, somehow, it's Sister and her guitar.

Although everyone says rock Mass is long dead, there are parishioners still complaining about it. There are faded, nearly gone memories of singing nuns and hippie laity and teenage guitarmies at the altar of love; or faded stories of pop phenomena like Sister Janet Mead, the now 70-year-old Australian nun who discofied "The Lord's Prayer" and charted gold on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1974 (and who then released an album of an entire rock Mass).

It's been a long time since anyone at church was singing the hosanna from "Jesus Christ Superstar" or Cat Stevens's "Morning Has Broken" at the offertory. Even the vast catalogue of the St. Louis Jesuits -- the stalwart, lite-rock ballads heard in almost any Mass for the past few decades ("One Bread, One Body"; "Be Not Afraid"; "For You Are My God") -- has come under assault.

It's "Day by Day" -- out, and Agnus Dei -- in. Younger priests now go to weekend-long workshops to brush up on their Gregorian chants, or to learn the lost seminary art of singing the entire Mass in Latin, English or both.

"You know, just today I received a publication from a mainline Catholic music organization, and there are aspects of it that seem like the musical version of the AARP quarterly, if you know what I mean," says Jeffrey Tucker, 44, a choir director who lives in Auburn, Ala., and is the managing editor of Sacred Music, a journal of the Church Music Association of America. "There is no question that we are talking about a generational issue here. The young priests and the young people just can't seem to get 'hep' to the whole 1970s thing, and the old people just don't understand why."

Tucker encounters this all the time, and blogs about it frequently. At a recent conference, a jazz pianist confided to Tucker that he'd been playing at church, but there was a new, young pastor who had taken over and "he said, 'You know what that means.' [And] I said, 'Well, I'm not entirely sure.' So he added, surprised that he would have to clarify, 'That means he wants Gregorian chant!' " In one of his many blog posts at New Liturgical Movement, Tucker characterized most Catholic church parishes as ruled by a "hard-core" group that "is fanatically attached to music of the 1970s and fears even the slightest hint of solemnity, warning darkly that the new priest is going to take the parish into a new Dark Age."

In news stories with a "conservative Catholics" angle, the church's most faithful frequently mention the nightmare of Mass as it was in the decades after the Second Vatican Council. Loaded words like "hippie" and "total mess" and "Brady Bunch" get thrown around. There are stories of suburban churches built in mod, saucer-shaped architecture. ("Lots of guitars and banjoes," a 32-year-old Catholic man moaned to The Post's Metro section the other day, recalling the church scene of his youth. "I felt uncomfortable about it constantly.")

So really it's a retro movement, but instead of "I Love the '80s" (or '70s or '60s), it's "I Love the 1000s [Up Until 1963]," with Benedict encouraging Catholics toward rediscovering the beauty of the old way. He is on record as thinking of rock music as "anti-Christian," and once fretted (according to his memoirs) over Bob Dylan's appearance with Pope John Paul II in 1997. Benedict canceled a Vatican Christmas concert in 2006, fearing it far too pop in nature. He also shuns guitars in church. (Sister has been in big trouble lately. The pope doesn't like her music, isn't so wild about some of her politics, and when it comes to her role in priestly matters, don't even go there.)

Tucker says the music debates going on in parishes nationwide present a more serious issue for American Catholics, "having to do with what is appropriate at liturgy, what is timeless, what is sacred -- but the [young vs. old] demographic element is very difficult to deny."

In defense of guitar Mass, was it really so bad? It was the soundtrack of a lot of social justice efforts. The St. Louis Jesuits stuff conjures up, for many, memories of food banks and felt banners, of youth group carwashes and, more nobly, martyred nuns and priests in Central America. Maybe that was the problem for some churchgoers? The groovier music really was of its time, and came with an agenda?

"What about silence?" wonders Day, the music professor, 18 years after he wrote "Why Catholics Can't Sing."

If he has any prescriptive at all for Mass music, he says, "it would be to cool it. Pick plain, simple music. Plain, square hymns with reasonable accompaniment. And listen to silence occasionally."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Some of my old teachers

I was interested to read this on VIS today concerning archbishop De Paolis and bishop Daneels. I was taught process law by Daneels and penal law by De Paolis back in 1990 at the Gregorian university in Rome. I had no idea what De Processibus was about at first but after one hour every day for two years it began to make sense! Ad multos annos to both.

Appointed Bishop Velasio De Paolis C.S., secretary of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, as president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, at the same time elevating him to the dignity of archbishop. The archbishop-elect was born in Sonnino, Italy in 1935, he was ordained a priest in 1961 and consecrated a bishop in 2004. He succeeds Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani whose resignation from the same office the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

- Appointed Fr. Frans Daneels O. Praem., promoter of justice of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, as secretary of the same tribunal, at the same time elevating him to the dignity of bishop.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Clergy 'bullied by parishioners'

From the BBC news website today. An interesting story I thought. I don`t think it is confined to the Church of England. I know of one priest who was subject to this and when he challenged the offender for his arrogance got the reply that `arrogance is a gift`!

Members of the clergy are being bullied by parishioners while the Church is doing little to prevent it, a trade union has claimed.

Unite [ a trade union] says vicars are experiencing psychological, emotional, verbal and physical abuse.
It blames the "pressures of modern society" for the increase in the number of bullying cases.
The Archbishops' Council of the Church of England insists it is listening to priests and taking action.

'Out of control'
Rachel Maskell, of Unite, told the BBC that the bullying could take various forms "and every story is different".

"For example a group of one or two powerful people in any congregation may not like the style of worship, the times of meetings and even when the main activities are taking place in the Church," she said.

"But these campaigns seem to get out of control and rapidly turn into little campaign against the minister.

"It could be in the forms of letters to start with and then complaints being made, often to the bishop themselves."

She said bishops were "hiding behind the legal technicalities of the situation", but that they had a "moral duty to act expediently when they see one of their ministers in distress".

She gave one example of a minister who was off sick due to bullying, and had only had one meeting with their bishop in seven months.

"Frankly we believe that the bishops shouldn't be crossing the road to the other side, as happens in the great parable of the Good Samaritan, but should be actually supporting their ministers."

Bullying 'intolerable'
The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, John Packer - who chairs the committee of the Archbishops' Council which deals with clergy's conditions of service - said bishops were taking action.

For example, next month they were producing a document entitled Dignity at Work.

This would declare both that harassment and bullying were intolerable and also give ways in which dioceses could help in such situations.

"Although these cases are rare, there are instances where co-operation between clergy and church councils does break down," he said.

"I think I believe that bishops do respond when they see ministers in distress.

"I do think there is a difficulty in that we are dealing with a situation where cooperation is necessary.

"One of the difficult things is that often the allegations of bullying are made by both sides - both bullying of clergy and bullying by clergy - and that's why I would want to move towards a situation in which mediation is used much more often than it is now."

Friday, April 11, 2008


On Tuesday I caught the train to Birmingham and went to Maryvale. This was at the suggestion of Dr Andrew Beards who directs the philosophy course there and who used to be part of the Latin Mass group on Tyneside. As cardinal Cordes from the Vatican`s Cor Unum pontifical council was going to talk on the encyclical Deus caritas est he suggested it might be a good time to visit., I had been once before to Maryvale shortly after ordination for a course on Newman for priests but that was a long time ago. I`d only ever had one other trip to Birmingham, in 1983 when I spent a few days of Holy Week at Oscott.

On the way down I read through the encyclical. I had picked it up when it first came out but hadn`t finished it. I really enjoyed reading it and thought there was lots of useful stuff for sermons in it. The cardinal had spoken to the English bishops at their Low Week meeting the previous day. He gave his talk despite being a little unwell. There was a very good turn-out and it was interesting to learn about the work of the Cor Unum council in directing charitable work in the Church. The cardinal did very well in fielding questions afterwards, only the first of which, from Edmund Adamus, (who was at Ushaw in my time and who was a priest of the Salford diocese before taking on his role of Director of Pastoral Affairs for the archdiocese of Westminster) had much to do with the encyclical. The second question was put by a man who thought that the encyclical made Humanae Vitae redundant. No-one could quite follow this but the cardinal dealt with it with good grace. There followed a couple more off-topic questions and then the cardinal had to leave to catch a plane to Rome.

One of the joys of this trip was seeing quite a number a people I knew. I caught up with a priest colleague who is also now a canon lawyer and whom I`d not seen since leaving Ushaw. As we talked about Summorum Pontificum I was sad to note that he took an extremely restrictive view of what constitutes a `stable group` in such a way that he had never considered the encyclical might contemplate new stable groups emerging who want the Mass as opposed to pre-existing groups of marginalised Catholics. The new document should clear all this up.

The next morning I celebrated the Extraordinary Form in the tiny Sacred Heart chapel pictured above set up for Mass. While the main chapel has been happily re-reordered since my last visit (the tabernacle now being restored to the middle of the sanctuary wall) this is not true of the historic Sacred Heart chapel. It was the first chapel consecrated to the Sacred Heart for public worship in England but the tabernacle is still firmly attached to the right hand side of the wall a mere two feet from the centre. I hope one day the tabernacle may be restored to a central position. The altar must be one of the smallest in England but where there`s a will there`s a way and Mass was duly celebrated!

I was kindly given a lift back into Birmingham by `Augustinus`, an exile from the North East and who sometimes comments on this blog and elsewhere. I enjoyed learning about all the good work done at Maryvale in forming an educated laity and I look forward to perhaps visiting again.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Easter Question

An anonymous comment on the last post asks how the date of Easter is calculated because he thinks I will know. Interestingly I went out for lunch on Easter Sunday with my mother and I`d no sooner walked through the door of the restaurant when the maître d' came rushing up to me to ask me how the date of Easter is calculated. I`m afraid I`ve never taken a great interest in the subject but know it is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. Further research reveals that this must therefore never fall before March 22nd and never after April 25th.

However looking at the old Catholic Encyclopedia I found some interesting stuff about Easter customs, some quite remarkable:

Men and women
On Easter Monday the women had a right to strike their husbands, on Tuesday the men struck their wives, as in December the servants scolded their masters. Husbands and wives did this "ut ostendant sese mutuo debere corrigere, ne illo tempore alter ab altero thori debitum exigat" (Beleth, I, c. cxx; Durandus, I, c. vi, 86). In the northern parts of England the men parade the streets on Easter Sunday and claim the privilege of lifting every woman three times from the ground, receiving in payment a kiss or a silver sixpence. The same is done by the women to the men on the next day. In the Neumark (Germany) on Easter Day the men servants whip the maid servants with switches; on Monday the maids whip the men. They secure their release with Easter eggs. These customs are probably of pre-Christian origin (Reinsberg-Düringsfeld, Das festliche Jahr, 118).

I`ve never seen any of this going on on the northern parts of England!


Processions and awakenings

At Puy in France, from time immemorial to the tenth century, it was customary, when at the first psalm of Matins a canon was absent from the choir, for some of the canons and vicars, taking with them the processional cross and the holy water, to go to the house of the absentee, sing the "Haec Dies", sprinkle him with water, if he was still in bed, and lead him to the church. In punishment he had to give a breakfast to his conductors. A similar custom is found in the fifteenth century at Nantes and Angers, where it was prohibited by the diocesan synods in 1431 and 1448. In some parts of Germany parents and children try to surprise each other in bed on Easter morning to apply the health-giving switches (Freyde, Ostern in deutscher Sage, Sitte und Dichtung, 1893).

House blessings
On the eve of Easter the homes are blessed (Rit. Rom., tit. 8, c. iv) in memory of the passing of the angel in Egypt and the signing of the door-posts with the blood of the paschal lamb. The parish priest visits the houses of his parish; the papal apartments are also blessed on this day. The room, however, in which the pope is found by the visiting cardinal is blessed by the pontiff himself (Moroni, Dizionariq, s.v. Pasqua).

Last year I offered to bless any houses of families that would like it as a way of honouring the custom and to get to do some parish visiting. It did take me quite a while to get around but this year I have offered to do this again and will be starting later this week.

Sacred Music Series

Last night I watched the most recent of the BBC4 series on sacred music which has been really excellent. Last week was on Palestrina and this week`s was on Tallis and Byrd. What made it particularly interesting from a Catholic point of view was that the programme focused on the Catholic loyalties of the two men under an Anglican government. Most of the analysis of Byrd`s music was of his Catholic output and it was interesting to see the Petre`s family home at Ingatestone which was an important recusant centre in Essex. If you live in the UK you can see the programme on the BBCi player. Click here.

Fr Aidan Nichols on Zenit

There is an interview with Fr Nichols on Zenit today regarding his latest book The Realm: an Unfashionable Essay on the Conversion of England. The parish reading group here are busy working their way through it.

I particularly enjoyed this question and answer:

Q: For the 100 or so odd years between 1850 and 1960, a number of England’s leading artists, intellectuals and public figures became Catholic. What was the main reason for these conversions, as well as their notable absence today? What can the Church do today to evangelize the “commanding heights” of the culture?

Father Nichols: The remarkable number of conversions of major or relatively major figures in the period 1850 to 1960 is to be explained by their common perception of Catholicism as a presentation of truth, goodness, and beauty that was at once a powerful philosophy, a comprehensive ethic, and a vision of spiritual delight.

The absence of such conversions in the period after 1960 is to be explained by the ensuing doctrinal disorientation -- “So where does that leave truth?” -- echoing of fashionable human rights discourse -- “So where does that leave goodness, at any rate in terms of a comprehensive ethic?” -- and liturgical banality -- “So where does that leave beauty and spiritual delight?”

What the Church can do today is to reform herself by repeating like a mantra the words “only the best will do”: the best intellectually, morally, aesthetically.

So maybe the `clapping Gloria` isn`t going to solve our problems after all.