Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Loftus calls for withholding donations from the Church

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Simple enough? Cardinal Burke celebrating Low Mass in Oxford.
At the end of a rambling column in the Catholic Times (26th June 2015), largley made up of quotations from Laudato si', Mgr Basil Loftus suddenly calls for action by the lay faithful: to demand less spending by dioceses and parishes, and more of the Church's money being given to the poor.

'And if the right answers are not forthcoming, then we have Francis' blessing on boycotts - on withholding money from purposes which do not contribute to simplicity and the alleviation of poverty. The church collection, like "purchasing", "is always a moral - and not simply economic - act."

The internal quotation is fromt the Encyclical, but of course it is talking about purchases, not the fulfilment of the Sixth Precept of the Church and Canon 222 that we support our pastors. Loftus is suggesting that if we don't like all the spending priorities of our priests and bishops, we should starve them of cash. Tempting though that might be, it is only because reasonable people allow a degree of latitude as to what their donations can be spent on, that we have bishops and priests at all.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Pilgrimage to Holywell Sunday 5th July

High Mass at 2:30pm.
St Winefride's Church, Holywell CH8 7PL: click for a map.


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Monday, June 29, 2015

Reminder: SCT Summer School 2015

The dates are Sunday 26th July to Sunday 2nd August.

This is something I've been doing since 2005, and it is one of the most exciting, and (for me!) exhausting event I'm involved in each year. We have a little school, for just a week, with maybe 40 children: lots of interesting discussions, lots of prayer, lots of fun.

The Summer School is for children aged 11-18; there is NO FEE, parents and guardians make a donation at their discretion. It is run by St Catherine's Trust with the support of the Latin Mass Society.

Click here for our downloadable application form in PDF format.
Click here to apply online. 
It takes place at the Franciscan Retreat Centre at Pantasaph, 10 minutes from Flint station, half an hour from Chester. We can offer lifts there from London. It has a Pugin chapel, and is home to the National Shrine to St Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio).

As well as liturgy and catechesis, the Summer School introduces children to wide range of subjects, including history, philosophy, history of art, Latin, music and drama, an ideal Catholic supplement to homeschooling or conventional schools, Catholic or not.

We have all sorts of children, from all over England and Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and a few from further afield. It is a great experience for them to meet children from like-minded families, and many come year after year. Don't let your children miss out!

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Friday, June 26, 2015

The Supreme Court and the Call of the Ghetto

I've been reading a few posts about the infinitly depressing US Supreme Court decision that, contrary to what anyone would have thought until five minutes ago, the US Constitution guarantees the right of men to pretend to marry other men, and women women.

A couple of them (Rod Dreher and Steve Skojec) mention the 'Benedict Option': as Dreher expresses it, this takes inspiration from St Benedict of Nursia's monastic vision.

'learning how to resist, in community, in a culture that sees us orthodox Christians as enemies.'

Skojek talks moving out of the cities and about living off the land.

I can understand the reaction, but we need to remember the differences between our situation and St Benedict's. St Benedict lived at a time when the power of the state was at an extremely low ebb. We live our lives during a time in which the reverse is the case. Moving to the countryside is going to make no difference at all. If social services are going to enforce gender theory onto homeschoolers, they'll do it in the countryside just as much as the towns.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Juventutem London Mass this Friday

In St Mary Moorfields, Friday 26th June 2015, at 7:30pm. High Mass to be celebrated by Canon Amaury Montjean ICKSP; all welcome.


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What is a 'contraceptive mentality'?

A recent article in The Telegraph shines a new light on Natural Family Planning ('NFP'): a smart-phone application means couples can replace periodic abstinence with periodic use of a condom, which will have no effect on the accuracy of the method, since this is based entirely on temperature. (This is not the case for the currently standard 'Billings' version of NFP.)

Couples adopting this approach will avoid the many hideous, and occasionally life-threatening (yes, thrombosis can kill you) side-effects of other methods of contraception. Since many methods can (and some invariably do) cause early abortions, it may be morally preferable as well, though this consideration won't be a motivating one for many secular couples.

I think that proponents of NFP would agree, however, that, if you take away the element of self-restraint and abstinence, a lot of what they say about the spiritual and relationship benefits of NFP would no longer apply. The stuff about being in tune with your body is still there, but while this is an appealing idea, it doesn't have any very obvious connection with Catholic spirituality. You're not a better person because you are 'in touch with your body'.

I don't know if this NFP app will take off, but it raises the question of the 'contraceptive mentality', to which, as a Catholic ethicist, I'd dearly love to give a proper definition. If this phrase means anything, it must apply to the couples supplementing fertility awareness with condoms.

An article here argues that the 'contraceptive mentality' idea is a 'myth'. It points out correctly (more or less) that the intrinsically wrong contraceptive act identified by Catholic ethics has two components: an intention to perform a complete sexual act, and an intention to frustrate that act's potential for procreation. Used in the normal way, without condoms, NFP doesn't make room for this: there are no sexual acts whose fertility is impeded, only ones which weren't fertile in the first place. But that is exactly why we need a vaguer phrase like 'contraceptive mentality' to cover the clearly wrongful use of NFP to implement an intention, for example, not to have any children at all within marriage. This intention, if present at the time of the marriage ceremony, invalidates the marriage itself. It is rather different if the couple choose not to consummate the marriage; but if there are sexual acts, there is a need for them to be 'open to life' in a sense which goes beyond the requirement not to engage in contraceptive acts. The question is, what does this mean?

What is wrong with a married couple's intention, however implemented, not to have any children (while still having sex) is that it is contrary to the vocation of marriage. It would be like a priest who decides never to celebrate Mass. Married couples are called to have children. It may be that they can't have any, physically; it may be that they discover that pregnancy would be dangerous to the wife's health after marriage. But it remains the nature of the marital state that it is ordered to procreation.

The same would go for couples who use NFP to limit their family size in an unreasonable way. I'm not going to define what would be unreasonable, but just to take it for granted that there is such a thing, since everyone agrees (or should) that the just use of NFP requires 'reasons'. If couples limit the number of children unreasonably, then they are offending against the nature of their vocation.

This, I would suggest, is what it is to have a 'contraceptive mentality'. It is a mentality which is typically accompanied by contraceptive acts, but can also be put into practice using NFP. It is an attitude not open to life in accordance with the marital vocation, excluding children altogether or to an unreasonable degree.

It would follow from what I have said that it would not apply to non-married couples. Although contracepted fornication or adultery is worse than non-contracepted fornication or adultery, since the act has been deformed in an additional way, a blanket use of NFP would not be wrong, since the couple are not under an obligation to partake of the marital vocation in this way. On the other hand, they are attacking marriage in another way: from the outside, at it were.

Something I've skirted round here is continence in marriage: a decision not to engage in sex at all, either from the start, or at some time later, or temporarily, for a longer or shorter period of time. This finds a place in the history of Catholic spirituality. The logical conclusion of the practice is when a married couple agree to give up their marital rights in order to join monasteries. I think this case makes sense of the whole practice: it is the exchange of one vocation for another. Since the vocation to the religious life is the higher vocation, the exchange is a reasonable one, even if not formalised by public vows, and even if just a temporary arrangement to 'make time for prayer'.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Filial Appeal

(Reposted: now over 270,000 signatures)
Read it. Sign it. Spread the word. (Click on the image.)


Christ, the great Prophet, who proclaimed the Kingdom of His Father both by the testimony of His life and the power of His words, continually fulfills His prophetic office until the complete manifestation of glory. He does this not only through the hierarchy who teach in His name and with His authority, but also through the laity whom He made His witnesses and to whom He gave understanding of the faith (sensu fidei) and an attractiveness in speech so that the power of the Gospel might shine forth in their daily social and family life.
Lumen Gentium, 35


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Monday, June 22, 2015

Loftus: involuntary untruths or wilful lies?

What are we to make of this statement from the latest column (19 June 2015) by Mgr Basil Loftus in The Catholic Times?

The very words of the sacrament of baptism have changed - in the early Church baptism was not with a Trinitarian formula, but "In the name of Jesus".

It is scarcely conceivable that Loftus could be ignorant of the final two verses of the Gospel of Matthew (28:19-20)

19 Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.


If he knows it, however, his statement would appear to be a barefaced lie.

Loftus never says anything for which he could not offer some defence, however specious. In this case it is the fact that the phrase 'baptised in the name of Jesus' appears several times in Acts, eg 2:38.

But such a defence would carry no real weight. It makes no sense to say that Acts represents the practice of 'the early Church' whereas Matthew does not.

1. There is no scholarly consensus that Luke/ Acts is earlier than Matthew; quite the reverse.

2. The term 'early Church' covers the first centuries, when Matthew would in any case have been known. Matthew was also known in the 'primitive Church', which refers to the very earliest period and which Loftus may have in mind, even if it had been a bit later than Luke / Acts. The very existence of Matthew rules out the claim that the Trinitarian formula not not used at that time.

3. The apparent conflict between Matthew and Luke is easily understood on the supposition, agreed by a wide range of scholars, that 'baptism in the name of Jesus' does not exclude the use of the Trinitarian formula, but merely distinguishes Chrisitian baptism from the 'Baptism of John' (John the Baptist), which is explicitly contrasted with it in Acts 19:1-5.

As usual, Loftus would have something to say if accused of bad faith. But what he would have to say, as I have reconstructed it for him, is itself subject to accusations of bad faith. He knows perfectly well that the Church has never accepted the idea that baptism without the Trinitarian formula would be valid, and has a perfectly reasonable way of understanding the Acts references to 'baptism in the name of Jesus' in accord with this. To take up the contrary view is to take up heresy.

Loftus is deliberately leading his readers up the garden path on this subject, without addressing the real teaching of the Church or the arguments for that teaching. This is dishonest, and worse than dishonest. It is a sin against Faith, if conscious. And humanly speaking, how could it not be conscious?

This is one sentence in this column. I could have written as much or more about each of about a dozen other sentences, in which he most notably denies 1 Cor 11:29, and (more or less) calls it a human obstacle placed on Christ's mercy. But we've heard this one before, and life is short.

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