Saturday, April 28, 2012

Catholic Cyber Bullying

Over the last few days I've witnessed the most extraordinary episode of cyber-bullying I ever hope to see. I've come to this late; I realise now it has been going on for months. Looking into it, with increasing incredulity, I have seen numerous examples of bullying which would be extreme in a dysfunctional school playground, but where the bullies present themselves, not just as Catholics, but as Catholic bloggers: people who go to some thought and care, one would assume, in what they say and do, acting in the public eye as identifiable Catholics. Among other things they ridicule their victim's appearance, and call her 'Iggy Pop'. Here is just one delightful trio of tweets from one of them; I have erased the identity of the writer. (With Twitter, the bottom message comes first.)
Can you guess what the victim's alleged crime was? In a nutshell, cyber bullying. The actual evidence for this is lacking, but the claim is that, using false or anonymous identities, she attacked others on-line.

But hang on a minute: are her critics against cyber bullying, or in favour of it?

I am not interested in the truth of the original allegations, or the identity of any of the parties involved. I just want to draw attention to this as a general issue. We all know how mobs can go berserk and lynch innocent people. (Shakespeare gives a brilliant example in Julius Caesar.) We may have seen references to twitter-storms of people going berserk and pouring vitriol on even rather mild critics of very popular people, like Steven Fry. But here we have a small, albeit strongly mutually-reinforcing, group of people, no more than half a dozen, ganging up to attack a pregnant woman, in a way which would be completely wrong even if she had been a serial killer, and these people are simultaneously claiming to be Catholic. I never knew what Pharisaism was until now. The two main protagonists have blogs which they clearly think are a cut above the average - oh-so-clever, oh-so-sophisticated, giving their wonderfully deep views on every issue to the punters, and all terribly, terribly orthodox of course.

Truly, there are few crimes which Catholics have not committed. We are not the saved; we are sinners in need of salvation. But this is a serious matter. Bullying like this needs the active collaboration of a few, and the passive cooperation of many. It is very hard to intervene when these things are going on without making it look, to the next person coming upon the discussion, like a sack of ferrets throwing insults at each other. But we can support the victim in many ways, and withdraw our support from the bullies. The systematic attempt to cause a breakdown by needling and insulting, which I remember so well from school, is grave matter for adults. Calumny and detraction, about serious issues of character, is grave matter. As we all know, those who have damaged another's reputation, even accidentally, are obliged in justice to do what they can to repair it. In a case like this this means public apologies and retractions. I know that is very hard to do, but the great moral theologians who've turned to on-line bullying as a recreation will know, I am sure, that this will be on their consciences until they do this. Alas, it is not a matter of the private forum: it is out in the public forum.

We must all repent of our on-line sins. We have all been too swift to condemn, too busy to check facts first, too eager to jump on a band-wagon, too busy or too afraid to stand up for truth and justice. I hope this sorry example will make us all more vigilant, and not just be the first of many such disedifying episodes. If it is the latter, then alas for Catholic blogging.

Women beware women

Catholic Voices have asked Joanna Bogle and Sarah de Nordwall to give them a talk, in an in-house gathering. Not ground-rockingly surprising, you may think, but the fact that, shock, Joanna Bogle isn't in favour of women's ordination, and, horror, Sarah de Nordwall is pro-life, has aroused the ire of the absurd Tina Beattie. She claims, jaw-droppingly, that they have 'relatively affluent backgrounds so are likely to have little experience of the issues that poverty presents for any women.'

Austin Ivereigh responds, within this news item, as follows: 'It is a bit rich, if you'll excuse the pun, for Tina, with her professor's salary, to pour scorn on our speakers for being 'affluent' (how does she know?) and to criticise them for not knowing about poverty. She should get out of suburban Roehampton some time.'

A swallow doesn't make a summer, but the fact that they've asked for, and printed, Ivereigh's response in this way may suggest a slight improvement in The Tablet's journalistic standards.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Passing on the fruits of contemplation

The reason my blog has fallen silent over the last few days is because I have been unwell. It is just the latest little bug going round but it has cut a swathe through the Shaw household. When not asleep I've been reading, and I've just finished James Mawdsley's account of his three Burmese incarcerations, 'The Heart Must Break', published in 2001.

Mawdsley is now a seminarian with the FSSP; back then he was a campaigner for Burmese democracy and human rights. His thinking has moved on from the book in some ways but it remains a fascinating insight into Burma, dictatorships, and suffering.

Here is a long quotation which I thought particularly perceptive. We've all heard it said, and we all believe, that 'to change the world you have to start with yourself'; such aphorisms can sound trite and empty if it is not explained exactly why. And this is from the pen of no mere armchair activist.

'...much as I disliked Maung Lo, the [prison] governor, he was not my enemy. The goodness in him was my friend and the badness in him was my enemy. How do I go about fighting the bad part of him without damaging the good part? Well, it is extremely difficult. In fact, if I want to fight the evil in the world I find that there is only one place where I can be assured of succeeding and that is the evil inside myself. So in prison ninety per cent of my struggle was against myself and it is precisely in striving to overcome the evil in oneself that one consequently has the effect of reducing evil in the world.
'When I received a food parcel I had the choice of sharing it with other prisoners or eating it myself. I could be more or less greedy. But if I eat most of it myself, how are the other prisoners supposed to believe me the next time I shout out "Your cause is my cause" or claim that all beings are of equal worth? My words will mean nothing if I do not overcome my greed. I will not be a source of support to other prisoners if I cannot overcome my greed.
' does not matter if person speaks truly or falsely because, if he is doing it offensively, few people are humble enough to listen. So whenever I meet with authorities I have to try to be humble. If they find the very sight of me obnoxious, I am not going to get over the democratic message. ...with high-ranking [guards], oh what a struggle for me to rein in my pride! ...
'It is a paradox. Whoever would change the world must change themselves. Strive to overcome your own pride, greed and anger and this very process will affect the world. It is not something to be done first, to make yourself a goodly person so that you can then deal with the world. To sort oneself out takes more than a lifetime. It is our task from God: to seek perfection, to strive to love our neighbour and our enemy. And by thus striving, by obeying His command, we unknowingly shape the word round us to make a better place. I should not have spent ninety per cent of my effort in prison fighting myself, I should have spent a hundred per cent of it.'

James Mawdsley, 'The Heart Must Break', pp294-5

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

SSPX - Rome latest

It seems things are moving in a positive way. Bishop Fellay's own spokesman has confirmed that the SSPX Superior did indeed send a revised version of the Theological Pramble to Rome with which he is happy; the journalist Andrea Tornielli is claiming that this version will be acceptable to Rome as well, since the revisions are not substantive, but of course this is for the proper authorities to decide. That decision may take some time to emerge.

See Rorate Caeli:

The Dominican Rite at the Family Retreat

Fr Thomas repeating the readings in English on Sunday morning.

Before breakfast on Saturday and Sunday Fr Thomas Crean celebrated Low Mass in the Dominican Rite, in the Old Chapel, which attracted a good number of people. I don't often get the chance to assist at the Dominican Rite and the differences between it and the Traditional Roman Rite are fascinating.
Lighting the 'Sanctus candles', alight between the Sanctus and the Communion of the Faithful.
The elevation: more restrained than in the Roman Rite, the Host is only just visible.
I laid in a stock of booklets to help people follow the Mass - booklets created, coincidentally, by Fr Thomas himself, with others; the front cover shows a Mass at a previous Family Retreat, with Fr Andrew Southwell celebrating. You can buy them on Lulu (or the expensive version printed in two colours).
A characteristic gesture of the Dominican Rite, which it had in common with the Sarum Rite.
Something I hadn't noticed before was the server extinguishing the candles before the priest leaves the Altar, during the Last Gospel; the Epistle side one first. (Corrected: see comments.)
The hood is worn up when entering and leaving the chapel.
More photos.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Family Retreat

IMG_9771The St Catherine's Trust Family Retreat was led by Fr Andrew Southwell, the LMS' National Chaplain, and Fr Thomas Crean OP, who is the regional chaplain for the Midlands. As always we had Sung Mass each day, Compline on Friday evening and Vespers and Benediction, and Compline, on Saturday, all sung with the help of the nearly 30 singers on the GCN Weekend Chant Course which ran alongside it. On Saturday the presence of the Rev Mr Scott Tanner, a seminarian with the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, made it possible for us to have Solemn Mass. IMG_9817
One of the highlights of the Retreat is always the Procession through the grounds of the school, from the New Chapel to the Old Chapel. It was a Procession of Thanksgiving, beginning with the Re Deum; for the first time (because they are new) we had the LMS banner and the processional statue of Our Lady of Walsingham. The banner had its first outing on the Pilgrimage to Walsingham last August, and the statue at the Oxford Pilgrimage last October. IMG_9828
After the procession there is a break, with tea and a bookstall. This year the stall was supplied by Cenacle Books, although we manned it ourselves, in the sunny Entrance Hall of the schoolIMG_9634
 We have various activities - and spiritual talks - for both older and younger children. Here are the younger ones making Easter baskets.
Which they used for the Easter Egg hunt.

Vidi Aquam
I think the Family Retreat is unique - certainly I'd be very interested to hear of similar events. While unattached adults are very welcome, we make special provision for children by having activities for them to enable the parents to attend the spiritual conferences without distraction; everyone can attend the liturgies, which are sung to the highest standard. Each year it attracts well over 100 people, including a lot of children, and as well as the spirtual side it is a valuable opportunity for like-minded families to meet. This year we had a number of families we have not seen before. We also had a number of people on both the Retreat and the Chant Course who live close enough to join them for the day, without staying the night.

IMG_9837The Oratory School is a wonderful venue; there is plenty of space, and very beautiful grounds. It is well connected, not far from Reading and a few minutes away from Goring and Streatley railway station. we are very fortunate also to have the use of two chapels: having two priests meant that confessions could be heard in the confessional in the Old Chapel while the spiritual conferences took place in the New Chapel.

If you missed it this year, don't miss it in 2013!

More photos.

Feminists hate women

Tim Stanley, the Telegraph blogger and historian of the USA, reports on the latest spat of the US Presidential race.

The controversy was started by Hilary Rosen when she opined on TV that Ann Romney – the housewife spouse of Mitt Romney – “has actually never worked a day in her life.” She went on to say, “She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school, and why we worry about their future.” In case you’re wondering, Hilary Rosen describes herself as a “political consultant” – so, presumably, she’s never worked a day in her life, either.

This is par for the course: feminists have always has a special hatred of housewives. The possibility of a career outside the marketplace for women makes it impossible for feminists to achieve their goal of numerical equality for women in the marketplace. Even if only some women, for some of the time, stay at home to look after children, then men will outnumber women in business. Women must therefore not be allowed to choose houswifery as a career. The most characteristic, the most feminine, and in many ways the most interesting, wide-ranging, and autonomous type of work for women should, therefore, be closed to them. Being a housewife is primarily about household management and eduction. The claim that this is demeaning and fit only for the mentally retarded is an attempt to make something true by asserting it. The idea that it isn't 'work' is just bizarre. The tragedy is that the vitriol poured on housewives by feminists has been so effective that many young women have an allergic reaction to the idea of being one: they think they would be denigrated, and they have a point.

In this context, there is a role for a counter-cultural counter-offensive: An Oppressed Catholic Woman Shops for Bras. This isn't the same issue, but a closely related one: the denigration of women who have large families. This happens in the streets of our cities every day. Every woman who ventures out with three or more children risks rude comments from complete strangers. Here's someone who's taken the battle to the enemy; perhaps inevitably, she lives in Ave Maria in Florida, the town of Ave Maria University. Reading this made my day, and I hadn't even had breakfast. H-T to Caroline Farrow.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Family Retreat and Chant Course

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Last weekend (Friday to Sunday) the annual St Catherine's Trust Family Retreat took place - for the 6th year - and alongside the Gregorian Chant Network Weekend Chant Course - for 4th year, counting the first one we did before the GCN was actually founded. Both were great fun. We have been tinkering with the schedule of the Chant Course to make it integrate seamlessly with the Retereat, while working as well as possible in its own terms. I'm increasingly convinced that the combination of the two events, which is really fortuitious, is a huge boon. The Chant course singers get to sing at a succession of real, live liturgies with a real, live congregation, and the Retreatants get the kind of singing support for Mass, Vespers, Compline and Benediction which you could only expect if you were having your retreat in a large monastery, or paying vast sums for professional choirs.

My photos are still uploading, so I'll do a proper report on the whole thing tomorrow. IMG_9637 IMG_9630

Ad multos annos, Holy Father!

Happy Birthday Holy Father! On Saturday, at the Family Retreat, we sang 'God Bless Our Pope!' by Cardinal Wiseman in anticipation of his 85th Birthday, which is today.
It is hard not to become fixated on the latest smoke-signals about the SSPX's response to the latest document from Rome. We don't know what the response is. We don't know what it was responding to. We don't know what the Holy Father will make of it. Speculation is inevitable but probably pointless. Pray!

The lay theologian John Lamont has made a list of propositions from Vatican II documents which many - really, the vast majority - of theologians teaching in Catholic institutions would find difficult to accept, not because they are contrary to the Church's Tradition but because they are not contrary to it. It is a useful list to ponder. My favourite:

Lumen gentium 14:

"Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church."

A close second:

Dei Verbum 19:

"The four Gospels just named, whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly asserts, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation until the day He was taken up into heaven (see Acts 1:1)."

FIUV Position Paper 4: Liturgical Orientation

Yesterday the fourth FIUV Position Paper was published on Rorate Caeli, on Liturgical Orientation.

Download the pdf here. Look at the paper online, and the discussion on Rorate Caeli, here.

'Rubricarius' is fond of reminding us how early some of the practices we associate with the Novus Ordo began to be popularised; the above picture (from his blog) was published in 1960; he discusses it here. Note the reference in the text to the removal of the tabernacle from the Altar - obviously this is essential to versus populum celebration at the main altar of an ordinary church. The removal of tabernacles was condemned in a decree of the Sacred Congregation for Rites (Sanctissimam Eucharistiam) in 1957. The possibility of freestanding altars was first mooted authoritatively in the decree Inter Oecumenici in 1964. The picture above is therefore a nice example of 'anticipatory obedience': doing, boldly and openly, not what the Church says but what you hope the Church will come round to saying before long. And by so doing, the progressives paved the way for the changes they favoured.

Sanctissimam Eucharistiam is an interesting document, not widely available, and as a service to the Church I am publishing today a full English translation on the LMS website.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Catching up: Solemn Mass in the Birmingham Oratory

With Easter and other things I've not had a chance to post my photos of Solemn Mass on Passion Sunday (ie, the Sunday before Palm Sunday), at the Birmingham Oratory, which I attended on my way back from the LMS York Pilgrimage.

The Birmingham Oraotory is a really splendid church; not as grand as the London Oratory, but very impressive, and in a very unusual Romanesque style.

The Birmingham Oratory now has a Traditional Solemn Mass every Sunday at 10.30am. This is the only place in England where this is found. It is well attended, and accompanied by the parish's small choir.
They naturally have a shrine to Bl John Henry Newman, with a reliquery. Although no first-class relics were recovered from his grave, they have a lock of hair. 

More photos.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Friends of Papa Stronsay Newsletter, and the Sons at the LMS Conference

The latest Newsletter of the Friends of Papa Stronsay is now available online (pdf). Go and have a look at the Friends' blog.

Each Traditional order has its claim to fame; the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer is the only one based in the United Kingdom. They were not founded to take on parishes, but to support parish priests by doing Parish missions and retreats. They are able to do this by spending half of each year as a contemplative community. A remarkable combination of roles, the inspiration of the great St Alphonsus Ligouri (who was also the greatest moral theologian of modern times).

There will be a chance to meet two of the brothers during the LMS' Conference on 9th June; they will be manning a stall, and will be able to answer your questions about their life and apostolate. The conference is not academic in character, but is directed to all Traditionally minded Catholics and anyone who wants to get a taste of what we have to say. The speakers are the blogger Fr John Zuhlsdorf, the historian Dr John Rao, Fr Tim Finigan, Stuart McCullough of the Good Counsel Network, and John Hunwicke of the Ordinariate of Our Lady.

Benediction in one of the chapels on Papa Stronsay
Book your tickets online here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Michael Voris on the Traditional Latin Mass

I'm not an uncritical fan of Michael Voris (that's just me, I'm like that with most people!); this video of his is fun both because it is about the TLM and because the Juventutem London group gets an honourable mention. Voris is right: a high proportion of the places where the Faith is active, growing, and engaged with the issues of the day are places where the Traditional Mass is to be found. A much higher proportion, that is, than in the general Catholic population. If the TLM accounts for only one percent or so of Catholic Masses, it certainly accounts for a lot more than one percent of pro-life activists, chant scholas, vocations to the priesthood, and young families.

Easter Sunday Solemn Mass in Reading

Surprising as it may seem, this is the first year I've been to a Traditional Mass on Easter Sunday morning. I've always been the Vigil, at a distance from where I lived which made going to the morning Mass as well pretty difficult. This year I went to the morning Mass instead of the Vigil.

It was another Solemn Mass at St William of York, Reading, thanks to the presence of the Rev. Mr Hubert Coerderoi FSSP, a Seminarian at the Fraternity seminary at Wigratzbad in Germany, who has been subdeacon at each service over the Triduum, Fr de Malleray and Fr Leworthy alternating as celebrant and deacon. We also had with us the Rev. Mr Ian Verrier FSSP, who despite his French name is English, and is at the Fraternity's other seminary, at Denton in the USA; he is a highly competant musician and led the schola and played the organ. IMG_9605
The celebration of the whole Sacred Triduum with Solemn liturgies in Reading is unique in England (and the British Isles, I should imagine, at least outside Papa Stronsay). One innovation this year was the employment of Charles Finch and his Cantores Missae to sing on Good Friday; they were excellent, and gave the regular chant schola a well-earned break as well. Well done to Fr de Malleray for successfully organising the whole thing!

Monday, April 09, 2012

Blessing children at Holy Communion

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Fr Anthony McCarthy FSSP giving First Blessings (after Ordination) following Mass

One reason why a number of people probably think I'm mad, is that I don't take my children (those who haven't had their First Holy Communion) to the altar rails for a blessing during Communion. The reason is that the blessing of children at this time is, ahem, not actually allowed. Not at the Traditional Mass. Not at the New Mass. No blessings should be given during the reception of Communion.
2011 05 29_9940
Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion attempting to give blessings is a double abuse, because they can't give blessings at all. However, they probably shouldn't be there at all, since the Church's law only allows them to function in exceptional circumstances. (I'm talking about the Novus Ordo here: in the Extraordinary Form they aren't allowed at all.)

2011 06 16_0110
Veneration of a relic of St Anthony of Padua, after Mass at St Anthony of Padua, Oxford

Fr John Zuhlsdorf has written a few times on this topic; today he's linked to another discussion of it by another priest. What surprises me a little about his discussion, and that of the priest blogger (Fr Shea) to whom he links, is that the only reason they give against the practise is that it is contrary to the rubrics. I also think it would be a good idea to make the point that very few people seem to be aware of the liturgical law on this subject, and (unless I've missed it) it's not an issue which has been raised by the Instructions combating liturgical abuses which Pope John Paul II issued. So I'm not condemning anyone to Hell fire for not knowing about this.

2011 02 02_8342
Distribution of blessed candles, Candlemas, SS Gregory & Augustine's, Oxford
The fact that the faithful aren't aware of the law, and the widespread nature of the practise, puts priests in a very difficult position, even if they do know the rule themselves. I think that, if we want priests to adhere to this law, we need first to spread the idea that there is a real problem here. The law is not just a matter of the legislator not having thought of this great idea; it protects the dignity of the Blessed Sacrament.

Veneration of St Therese of Lisieux, Oxford Oratory
The general principle, of which this is a particular application, is that priests may not give blessings in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament. If the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, Our Lord Himself is present in a very particular way. It is quite wrong for priest to use their subordinate faculty for giving blessings in this Presence. In Benediction, of course, the whole idea is that the priest blessed the faithful with the Blessed Sacrament.

Distribution of blessed palms, Palm Sunday, St William of York, Reading

Everyone is given a blessing at the end of Mass, and this blessing has a special significance in the context of the Mass, just concluded, and the dismissal of the Faithful. I make a particular effort to get my children to pay attention to this, and to cross themselves. I also encourage them to go up to get ashes on Ash Wednesday, a palm on Palm Sunday, to have the Blessing of Throats on the feast of St Blaise, to kiss relics whenever these are proffered for veneration, to receive the First Blessings of newly ordained priests, and so on, as illustrated in the photos; they are always pleased to take part in these things, and they provide very good opportunities for catechesis. Going up to Communion, however, is something which really makes no sense unless you are actually going up for Communion. In the context of children, of course, the NOT being allowed up has importance in their preparation for First Communion, when they WILL be allowed up. (What is annoying, of course, is a baby being given a blessing simply because you've gone up yourself for Communion and you are obliged to hold him.)

Blessing of Throats on the Feast of St Blaise, SS Gregory & Augustine's, Oxford
Blessings during the Communion of the Faithful? Just say no!