Wednesday, January 30, 2013

SCT Family Retreat with Fr Hunwicke, 5-7 April

Fr Hunwicke giving 'first blessings' last Summer, at the St Catherine's Trust Summer School
I can now announce the annual Family Retreat I help to organise, under the umbrella of the St Catherine's Trust. This year, the Retreat giver will be the well-known Fr John Hunwicke of the Ordinariate. 

Asperges at the Retreat last year, with Fr Southwell
The Family Retreat is an unparalleled gathering of traditional Catholics and their families; you can expect about 150 people, including children of all ages. We have talks and activities (indoor and out) for the children, to enable their parents to attend the spiritual conferences. We also have Sung (I hope Solemn) Mass each day, Compline, Vespers, Benediction, and a procession through the grounds. Confession is available, and there'll be a bookstall provided (to be confirmed) by St Philip's Books of Oxford, one of our foremost Catholic bookshops, who have both new and second-hand books.

It is a great spiritual experience and a great social experience, it is something of a 'gathering of the tribe' of the traditional movement in England and Wales, and Scotland too.

Running alongside is the growing Weekend Chant Course; see here for details. It is possible for one family member to attend that while the rest are at the Retreat. The singers provide the accompaniment for the liturgies.
Marian procession at last year's Retreat
It takes place in the very lovely setting of the Oratory School, Woodcote, north of Reading. Easily accessible by car and train (nearest station: Goring and Streatley, a few minutes out of Reading), it has two chapels where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, both arranged ad orientem.

The dates are Friday 5th to Sunday 7th April, that is Low Sunday weekend, the weekend after Easter. It starts on Friday afternoon and ends with lunch on Sunday.

Prices are very reasonable: all the staff are volunteers and almost all the entire cost is the accomodation and the excellent food. Furthermore, those in financial need can apply for one of a limited number of 50% bursaries, provided by the Latin Mass Society.

So there is no excuse not to come! Full details of this and other events run by the St Catherine's Trust are detailed on this pdf download, which includes all the contact details and application forms.

Bookstall last year
Lots of photos of last year's event, which was led by Fr Andrew Southwell, now studying in Rome.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Get ready for Lent!

The Season of Septuagesima is 'pre-Lent': a preparation for Lent, when the liturgical colour is purple, and the Gloria and Alleluia are not sung.

So for those who follow the Extraordinary Form, yesterday was Septugesima Sunday. The Epistle was St Paul telling us how he brought his body into subjection by mortifying it, and the Gospel was the Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard, when we, the idle labourers, are urged to go to work in the Lord's Vineyard even though it is the 'eleventh hour'; we may still hope, from God's pure generosity, for the pay due for a full day's work: that is, we can still squeak into heaven. We need to get ready for Lent.

What were they thinking of, when the reformers abolished the season of Septuagesima? Looking it up in Bugnini's massive 'The Reform of the Roman Liturgy' (p319), the answer seems to be 'nothing'. This is what he says:

'The Septuagesima season is suppressed, the the three Sundays making it up become Sundays of Ordinary Time.'

That's it.

One could speculate that the rationale was connected with the general dislike of 'negative' elements in the liturgy, such as penance. Certainly, the yesterday's Collect won't have endeared itself to Bugnini:

O LORD, we beseech thee favourably to hear the prayers of thy people; that we, who are justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness, for the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Human Sin leads to suffering, including the suffering of the innocent, but we are delivered by God's Grace. This is the dogmatic teaching and the spiritual guidance of the Church. We need to get our heads around this in time for Lent, and prepare ourselves for some penance. We can all think of thinks we should be sorry for, and things for which we need to beseech God's mercy. Don't present yourself for the ash of Ash Wednesday without thinking about it first.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sexual abuse of schoolgirls - by schoolboys

I know I'm the only person in the world (ok, a slight exageration) to think that co-education is worth thinking about, but I don't care. This article by Alison Pearson draws attention to the fact that girls find themselves under huge pressure to perform sexual acts on boys in many schools: her example was drawn from a 'highly respected boarding school'. This is hardly surprising, anyone with contacts in such schools, or indeed anyone who reads the newspapers, has heard it all before. It is worse in boarding schools, because the pupils are there all the time, and it is worse today, because online pornography has had its effect on the boys, but the problem is a wider one. Co-education is just a stupid idea.

A friend of mine (at school in the 1980s), one of the earlier cohorts of girls in her particular (independent) school told me of a conversation she'd had with one of the teachers, a rather outspoken and cynical man. He said that before the girls had come to the school the local prostitutes had found it worth their while to hang around outside the gates. They let the girls in and... problem solved.

Are all those girls having a wonderful time exploring their sexuality? That possibility is one the secular world likes to cling to. Given that we are talking about a vulnerable group - children and young adults - this seems to me a tad too close to the self-justification used by paedophiles. We go to endless trouble to protect children from un-CRB checked strangers and then ignore the fact that girls are having sex, below the age at which the law regards them as capable of giving informed consent. Go figure.

Here's a comment from Carolyn Graglia's important 1998 book Domestic Tranquility:

In the United States today, an adolescent high school male can find at the desk next to him a young girl equipped by their high school clinic with the latest birth control device ready to provide him with the sexual services that, in an earlier time, he would have received, if at all, from a prostitute. The "soaring pregnancy and abortion statistics on many campuses across the country" that Thomas Sowell has deplored confirm the condition of sexual servitude to which our sexual revolution consigned the best educated segment of our female population. And just as liberated female sexual revolutionaries replaced prostitutes by creating a competing market of free sex, it should not be surprising if they shared the prostitute's dearth of sexual pleasure.

As so often, it is the worldly wise attitude which is naive. Anyone young enough to remember school knows that societies of children have their own rules, into which teachers, parents, and the police can occasionally intrude, but which they do not control. You can't stop children being bullied into a thousand humiliating situations at school. Making one of those situations unwanted sex isn't a very clever idea.

I paste in below something I wrote on this subject in an old post of mine, responding in part to Will Heaven's article lamenting the child-protection problems at a Catholic boarding school, Downside College.


The other thing which struck me was Heaven's jaunty reference to Downside going mixed. He writes:

There is no question about it: Downside School is still flourishing. A few years ago, I wrote in this newspaper about its “second spring”, which occurred after 2005 when it allowed girls to join. I noted that the school was livelier and noisier than before and was at its capacity of 430 pupils.
Alas, Downside – as a community – is now experiencing an unexpectedly harsh winter.
You might think that the sudden onset of colder weather might make Heaven wonder whether 2005 was spring after all. For why did they they let in girls, to a school which had been single-sex since its foundation a century earlier? Did the monks suddenly feel a special charism to look after the emotional needs of adolescent girls? I don't think so. Letting in girls enabled it to bring number back up to capacity: oh, that's it!

I don't blame the monks of Downside in particular, they were just following the trend. The point is that this is a trend in which the interests of pupils were sacrificed to financial considerations, and to educational fashion. No one was ignorant, by 2005, of the educational benefits to girls of being in a all-girls' school; the subject had been studied to death. Catholic boys' schools, usually with superior brand-recognition and resources, continued to undermine the girls' schools by going mixed because it was in their interests, not in the girls'.

If anyone is interested in the Church's teaching on co-education, they can look at Pius XI on the subject in 1939 (Divine illius magistri):

68. False also and harmful to Christian education is the so-called method of "coeducation." This too, by many of its supporters, is founded upon naturalism and the denial of original sin; but by all, upon a deplorable confusion of ideas that mistakes a leveling promiscuity and equality, for the legitimate association of the sexes.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Same Sex Marriage debate and the lay apostolate

I was at the meeting organised by the Catholic Union reported by The Reluctant Sinner. The commitment and energy of the lay people and their organisations is very heartening. There is also an interesting degree of consensus, not only on the urgency of the problem, but of the means to tackle it. Archbishop Smith spoke about the 'Million Postcards' initiative, which is excellent; we should think of it, however, as the bare minimum: a personal letter in an envelope is better, and best of all is to ask to see your MP face-to-face in a 'surgery'.

My MP is, ahem, David Cameron. We've written in fact but I'm not expecting a change of mind.

It made me think about the longer-term causes of the crisis we are now facing, in relation to the organisations represented around the room. I don't think anyone there would be offended by my saying that, encouraging though the meetings (this was the third such meeting) have been, the world of lay Catholic associations is not in especially good shape, from a historical perspective, to face this supreme test.

There are many reasons for the decline in membership of voluntary organisations, and non-Catholic organisations have certainly suffered too. I recently discovered that the membership of the Masons in the USA has been falling steeply since its peak in the mid 20th C - see the graph - so it's not all bad.

This is something which has effected membership organisations: organisations based around people attending meetings or events and sending in subs. But there is a self-inflicted aspect to the decline of Catholic organisations, which is the dilution of Catholic identity of many of the organisations themselves, even, or especially, ones not based on membership.

These are often organisations with significant property or resources - the kinds of organisations which it is worth someone's effort to take over. This dilution is very often to the point when they cease to be Catholic altogether. One then usually finds the organisation disappears from the Catholic map, sometimes by merging with another organisation without even vestigial Catholic connections. In any case, such organisations were not represented at the Catholic Union meeting: the organisations which were once called Catholic Marriage Care (now 'Marriage Care'), The Catholic Prisoner's Aid Society (now PACT), Catholic Institute of International Relations (now 'Progressio'), and of course the Catholic adoption agencies (RIP). The justification for shifting the pennies of the Catholic poor, which usually established such organisations, to the service of the state and, very often, to the culture of death, are familiar: essentially, Why not? Surely we can reach more people, and more money, if we 'widen our appeal' beyond the Catholic population.

The question was asked with increasing urgency from the 1970s onwards because the people in these organisations, and above all their trustees of Catholic Great and Good, had lost the sense that  there was anything of value about a distinctively Catholic approach to the problems which the organisations were addressing, or indeed that there was a distinctively Catholic approach at all. This is a familiar 'spirit of Vatican 2' attitude: the idea that 'opening to the world' meant ceasing to take anything to the world; taking 'dialoguing' to mean the disappearance of the Catholic dialogue partner; and taking the recognition of good in non-Catholic individuals and groups to downplay, or even deny, the existence anything distinctive and good in the Church.

This is the classic 'spirit of Vatican 2' which actually contradicts the texts of the Council.

These were coupled with two other factors from the 1970s onwards. One was the professionalisation of charities, starting with the biggest, which was an excuse for employing non-Catholics and tidying away distinctively Catholic aspects of their work. The other was the increasing attractiveness of Government grants, and the onerousness of regulation, each of which tends to lead to the adoption of Government policies and attitudes. These trends could, however, easily have been managed if trustees had been determined not to risk their organisations' Catholic identity. The 'spirit of V2' rubbish gave them an excuse not to bother.

The disappearance of these organisations means the drastic decline of the Catholic charity sector, as a benefactor, as an employer, and as a something needing trustees. Far fewer people, from the widows and orphans to the Catholic Great and Good, are now exposed to the effectiveness of Catholic values in action, and to the problems which social and legal changes pose to them. The question of what Catholic teaching has to say about our society has become an increasingly academic one.

Catholic charitable work gives, even in the eyes of the World, the Church a right to be heard in society. The work of lay Catholics, as identifiable Catholics, using an identifiably Catholic approach, to social problems, to those left behind in society, demonstrates that we really do care. That can no longer be demonstrated today with such force. We've been robbed.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pro-Life Witness in Oxford this Saturday

Saturday, 26th January

3pm- 4pm

Please come and pray for all unborn babies, their families and those involved in the crime of abortion.

We meet at the Church of St Anthony of Padua, Headley Way, Oxford.

Witness is at the entrance of the JOHN RADCLIFFE Hospital , Headley Way.

Refreshments available afterwards in the Church hall.

Information, call, Amanda Lewin:  01869 600838

(On the picture, see here.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Spiritual Arms

There have been a number of things suggested as a spiritual means of opposing the Government's plans for Same Sex Marriage. The 'Ocean to Ocean' pilgrimage, of an Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa from Siberia and right across Europe, was for the protection of the family. The Good Counsel Network in encouraging people to have Exposition, ideally the 40 Hours.

I'm delighted to give these things publicity. We have to accept that each idea will have limited take-up without concerted and coordinated encouragement from the Bishops. Coordinated action among the bishops, however, is a slow business, and time is short. In any case, these different initiatives will fit the different circumstances of different people.

So here's another initiative. Our Lady of Good Success is a truly remarkable devotion; it is associated with a series of private revelations, many of which specify the 20th century as a time of particular trouble for the Church. These revelations took place in the 16th century, and were investigated at the time and approved by the proper authorities. The Faith in England and around the world came under tremendous attack in the 20th century, but few people seemed to notice. Contraception, divorce and abortion eroded the culture's conception of marriage, and Same Sex Marriage is simply the result. If Catholics are waking up to the problem, it is about time.

The Feast of the Purification on Feb 2nd is also the Feast of Our Lady of Good Success (a devotion with full ecclesiastical approval) – please try to make the novena in preparation, from Thurs 24th Jan to 1st Feb and include the same-sex marriage threat intention in the novena, or make the novena specifically for that intention.  Our Lady of Good Success promised particular graces and helps for those who invoke Her under this title, in these times.  Regarding the threat to the Sacrament of Marriage in our times, Our Lady said:-  
“The sacrament of Matrimony, which symbolizes the union of Christ with the Church, will be thoroughly attacked and profaned. Masonry, then reigning, will implement iniquitous laws aimed at extinguishing this sacrament.”
Novena to Our Lady of Good Success

Hail Mary, Most Holy, Beloved Daughter of God the Father,
through the intercession of Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres,
grant Thy good success to this request (name your request)
~ Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be ~
St Michael, pray for us

Hail Mary, Most Holy, Admirable Mother of God the Son,
through the intercession of Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres,
grant Thy good success to this request (name your request)
~ Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be ~
St Gabriel, pray for us

Hail Mary, Most Holy, Most Faithful Spouse of God the Holy Ghost,
through the intercession of Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres,
grant Thy good success to this request (name your request)
~ Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be ~
St Raphael, pray for us

Hail Mary, Most Holy Temple
and Sacrarium of the Most Holy Trinity,
St Michael, St Gabriel, St Raphael, pray for us

Our Lady of Good Success, Thou who art the all-powerful intercessor before the Most Holy Trinity, deign to hear and answer my request,
so long as it contributes to the salvation of my soul, and the glory and exaltation of our Holy Mother, the Church.

Salve Regina (Hail, Holy Queen)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Eucharistic adoration for Marriage

This is a great initiative and I'm delighted to publicise it.

The Good Counsel Network are encouraging all their priest friends and supporters to hold Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament - and in particular the Forty Hours Devotion - in defence of marriage and family, with the special intention that the government's plans to redefine marriage are defeated.

It is obvious that no amount of campaigning will be sufficient to defeat the Government's plans, so prayers are absolutely essential.

Parishes that do not feel they have the resources to put on the Forty Hours are encouraged to hold a shorter time of Adoration, for the same intention.

My posts on Natural Law arguments on Same Sex Marriage can be read here.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Lake Garda Conference

A plug for the Dr John Rao (who spoke at the LMS Conference last summer and has recently published an important book) and the guys at The Roman Forum. This is a wonderful and unique event: ten days of talks, liturgy and activities in the lovely setting of Lake Garda in Italy. Full details on the Roman Forum website

The Roman Forum
Twenty-First Gardone Riviera Summer Symposium
First International Catholic Christendom Congress
July 1st-July 12th, 2013 (11 nights)
The Divine Comedy Versus the Theater of the Absurd:
Navigating a Path Between Scylla and Charybdis
      Catholic Christendom is meant to be a social “stage” upon which “the drama of truth” can be performed by men and women utilizing innumerable natural and supernatural tools of both individual and communal character. Although this drama does indeed require personal commitment and action, such free involvement cannot be fully truthful or effective without the intellectual assistance of everything from theology and philosophy to history, economics, and sociology; from architecture to city planning; from literature to art and music. It also desperately requires the authoritative intervention of the Church, the State, and all other corporate institutions besides. It is only in this many-faceted environment of individual and social interaction that that happy “divine comedy”
---the working out of eternal life with God--- can most successfully be played out.
      Such a fertile Catholic setting stands in vivid contrast to the tragically impoverished stage provided man by modern civilization. Modernity cheapens and ultimately annihilates the drama of life, placing a variety of crippling and arbitrary limitations on the number of intellectual, literary, artistic, and authoritative social aids made available to the individual on his naturalist journey to nowhere. It replaces the divine comedy with what amounts to a theater of the absurd. It abandons a magnificent feast for a mess of pottage.
      A study of the nature and the effect of these two diametrically opposed civilizations is crucially important for Catholics the world over. Nevertheless, it is, perhaps, most important for American Catholics, who repeatedly commit social suicide by supporting either “liberal” or “conservative” forces that represent nothing other than two faces of the same false, naturalist, a-moral, anti-social, and highly destructive Enlightenment theme of individual freedom. Liberals focus on personal sexual libertinism, conservatives on both personal economic as well as national patriotic libertinism. They limit their debate to the choice of shipwreck on the Democratic Scylla or the Republican Charybdis.  So long as they continue to prefer one or the other piece from the anti-social repertoire of the theater of the absurd there is no hope for rebuilding Christendom. For, tragically, acceptance of one form of libertinism merely conditions men and women to open the door to the other.
      The recent election has given American Catholics more time to learn how to navigate between certain death on the rocks of Scylla and in the whirlpool of Charybdis. But grasping such navigational skills demands profound study of the full nature of the divine comedy. This involves recognition of the fact that America is not “exceptional” and that the Catholic drama of truth is one in which believers from countries throughout the world have an equal role to play. Hence, it is only through an international congress of Catholic Christendom that its divine comedy can be properly appreciated and lovingly put to use.

Faculty, Clergy, Musicians

Dr Rao at the LMS Conference
Dr. Miguel Ayuso-Torres (University of Madrid)
Rev. Mgr. Dr. Ignacio Barreiro-Carámbula  (Human Life International)
James Bogle, Esq. (Author, A Heart for Europe)
Dr. Patrick McKinley Brennan (Villanova University)
Dr. Danilo Castellano (University of Udine)
Rev. Bernard Danber, O.S.A.
Bernard Dumont (editor, Catholica, France)
Christopher A. Ferrara, J.D. (President, ACLA)
Gregor Hochreiter (Oekonomika Institute, Vienna)
David J. Hughes (Musical Director)
James Kalb, Esq. (Author, The Tyranny of Liberalism)
Michael J. Matt (Editor, The Remnant)
Professor John Médaille (University of Dallas)
Rev. Dr. Richard Munkelt  (University of Fairfield)
Dr. John C. Rao (St. John’s University)
Hervé Rolland, President of Notre Dame de Chrétienté
Dr. Thomas Stark (Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule, Austria)
Rev. Richard Trezza, O.F.M.

Each day involves three lectures (morning and pre-dinner), and Sung Mass in the Extraordinary Rite (Tridentine Mass) at noon. There are no lectures on Sundays. Musical and theatrical entertainments take place in the garden of the Angeli and in the Piazza dei Caduti in the evenings after dinner.

The full cost of the Gardone program in a double occupancy room is 2,100 Euros.

A number of full and partial scholarships are available.

Go to the Roman Forum for more information.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Parable of the Old Man and the Young

Although from rather different contexts, this image of William Blake's, and this poem of Wilfrid Owen, which is about the Great War, seem to me to illustrate something going on in the Catholic Church today. They are about the killing of the young, particularly a young man, by the old, particularly an old man.

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
and builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

I've been blogging a lot about Mgr Basil Loftus, and Clifford Longley has come into my sights too recently; others who have include Dr Casey and Stuart Reid, before them was Paul Inwood, the inimitable Tom MacIntyre and Fr Leo Chamberlain. (Br Edward Egan is hardly worth mentioning.) They have something striking in common: they are all, I think, over 70 years old, or getting on for it. I'd like to make a wider point about the phenomenon of which they are (perhaps minor) examples, and of which I, growing up as a cradle Catholic in the 1980s, and since then, have long been acutely aware: the fear and loathing of many of the older generation of Catholics towards young Catholics who, often without knowing much about the historic changes in the Church, appear to be seeking some measure of restoration of the ruins they see all around them.So what I say below needn't be true of each of these figures, but seeks to explain why so many old men keep cropping up in this blog. There is a definite phenomenon of the Angry Old Man.

In some cases they were, when young, fire-brand liberals; in others, they didn't much like the changes of the 60s and 70s, but felt obliged, sooner or later, to make some kind of accommodation with them. In either case, the idea that important aspects of those changes (important in their effects on them, not necessarily the theologically most significant), were unnecessary or mistaken, is intolerable. Intolerable because only if the changes were right and inevitable were their actions in the past, actions of destroying the tradition, destroying altars and churches, destroying vocations, destroying the simple faith of the pious, or just going along with this destruction, would be justified. If they were not justified, then they would be subject to unbearable guilt, and even, they might fear, to public shame and humiliation.

In a very real sense, this represents a great renewal of the Church. Don't you agree?
There is a similar phenomenon  at work in the debate about abortion. Women who have had abortions, men who have helped or bullied women into it, are often desperately, indeed pathetically, eager to convince others, but most of all themselves, that abortion in similar circumstances is inevitable and right. Such people are naturally at the forefront of the pro-abortion movement, and dealing with them is one of the great challenges of pro-life work. They are trapped in a prison of suppressed guilt, from which the only escape is repentance. Repentance, ideally with sacramental confession, can transform such a person: having made that step, which in a way is always so obvious and yet seemingly so impossible a thing to do, can suddenly make the entire world look different. Suddenly they can see things as they are.

In the Church, the people who wrecked the altars and burned the old vestments and introduced guitars and told the children that Jesus is only alive in our hearts, as these people grow older, they are frequently not quite confident that they did the right thing. They were, after all, brought up with the old catechism and the old Mass. The great vindication of their work of destruction would have been a reciprocal appreciation of the Faith by the World, and the enthusiasm of new generations for the free and easy Church they tried to create. But after an initial flush of apparent success, this vindication has stubbornly failed to materialise. A horrible suspicion in their minds needs to be constantly squashed, that perhaps, just perhaps, they made a mistake.

So it is intolerable to them above all to hear the young questioning these changes, and even beginning to undo some of them. Those young people, often in their innocence of the historical significance of what they are doing, must be humiliated, ridiculed, and persecuted. After all, a reviled subculture of young people in the Church doesn't have much significance, does it? They've just been watching too much Brideshead Revisited on TV.

But it gets worse, we have a Pope now who seems to sympathise with them, and however many young men are thrown out of seminary for appearing to believe in the Real Presence or liking the Traditional Mass, there seem to be more knocking on the door every year. And the intellectual tide too seems to be turning, there are more and more books being published by conservative Catholic scholars showing that one after another of the innovations was poorly thought through, or based on mistakes, mistakes about anything ranging from human psychology to the archaeological record left by the early Church.

I should say, in passing, what a joy it is to meet and work with the older generation of the traditional movement. People sometimes characterise them as embittered and battle weary, but that is not my experience. Of course, things are beginning to go their way, which always helps. But these are people who maintained their integrity, or have rediscovered it, who lived through the horrors without giving in to the horror. Their obedience has been learnt by suffering. They have much to teach us, and are more than willing to pass it on. This is how the Church is supposed to work. (Here's one illustrative obituary, and here's another.)
Quarantine zone for retired liberals.

The Catholic Church is inevitably run by the old. The retirement age is far higher than in the secular world, if it exists at all, and seniority usually implies, simply, seniority. This is normally a good thing: the Church moves slowly, and should do so. The flip side of this is that the Church cannot recover from a fashionable mistake as quickly as other organisations. In music, fashion, architecture, and government, the silly fads of the 1960s have left their mark, sure, but they aren't still being officially enforced: the people who stuffed them down our necks have long since headed for the golf course. This process has only got going in the Church in the last decade, but because of the importance of discussion and ideas, we have an even longer time to wait, with septuagenarian and octogenarian columnists and letter writers who are clearly going to shut up only when the coffin lid is nailed down.

I feel sorry for these angry old men (less often women), but opposing them is, unfortunately, necessary. Since they are engaged, to a greater or lesser extent, in an endless stream of attacks on the traditionally-minded young, to stand by and do nothing, when you can do something, would be to consent to the ridiculing and marginalisation of another generation of Catholics. It is true that these oldies have zero clout on the internet (with the partial exception of Paul Inwood), but they dominate much of the Catholic dead-wood media, and there is a pool of offline Catholics who still read that stuff, and non-Catholics go there to see who is who among Catholic intellectuals.

It is important that young Catholics today get to see and hear reasoned responses to the liberal attack on them and their Catholic instincts. Apart from anything else, it is important for their mental health. Yes, you are not mad: other people have noticed too, that there is indeed something very rum about the fact that every church you go into has had the altar ripped out and replaced with some kind of table in a different place. That mainstream Catholic books don't refer to any document published before 1962 apart from Rerum Novarum and the Bible. That there seems to be a lot of evasion on certain topics where we desperately need crystal clarity, like the morality of contraception, the necessity of baptism for salvation, and Church-state relations. And that influential Catholics of a certain age become puce with rage if you so much as mention words like 'mantilla', 'indulgence', and 'infallibility'.
Ronald Reagan says “Shut Up Hippie!” Round Sticker
When these angry old men are given the prestige of publication in the Catholic press, and when they use this to to attack traditional Catholics, undermine the teaching of the Church, or distort the meaning of her documents, I will continue to respond. Yes, it a pathetic attempt at self-affirmation, but it is harmful to souls, and personally hurtful as these writers may find being contradicted, they must be opposed.

So here's my message to the over-seventies liberal Catholics with an itch to write in the press: you are not going to get everyone to agree with you and thereby sooth your uneasy consciences. On the other hand, if you want a quiet life, all you need to do is shut up.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Feeling happy? This'll sort you out.

Lest we grow too proud, the Lord sends us a thorn in the flesh - aka The Tablet.

From the letters page.

It is so encouraging to discover that three-quarters of my colleagues felt unable to sign the letter whining about the Government’s policy on same-sex marriage in spite of letters and stamped, addressed envelopes provided by the backers (see News from Britain and Ireland, page xx). I received two of these letters which, with the two envelopes provided, cost someone £2. I wondered who was paying for this ridiculous initiative which must have cost many many thousands of pounds to mount. Clearly the Church has far more money to waste than it has common sense.

(Fr) Richard Barton

Matson and Tuffley, Gloucestershire 

For the record, clearly not all priests did receive such a letter: the system wasn't foolproof. And it wasn't organised by 'the Church', with the resources that implies.

A last word on Basil Loftus (pro tem)

I'm hugely honoured to have received a letter myself now from Mgr Basil Loftus. I've already responded to the main charge: that I'm too concerned about his goatee beard. Actually I'm not concerned about it at all. I just think it's amusing.

Why do I lower the tone of the 'academic' exchange in the Catholic Times by invective and ridicule? Simple. Mgr Basil Loftus does not deserve academic respect because he lacks intellectual integrity. Because he evades questions, obfuscates, throws sand in your eyes, quotes selectively, and changes the subject when in a corner; because he uses his knowledge not to illuminate the truth, but to cast doubt on it. I've given a number of examples of this. Since such a person cannot be pinned down with rational argument, a justifiable and effective resource is ridicule, not as a replacement for argument, of course, but as a supplement.

Invective and ridicule have often been used by Catholic apologists, and you find it in every age. Our Lord used it too: he called Herod the Tetratrach a 'fox', and the Pharisees a 'brood of vipers'; he compared the lakeside towns, unfavourably, to Sodom and Gommorah. It is not a first resort, it is a last resort: He did this when his appeal to them had, explicitly or implicitly, been rejected.

Basil Loftus' idea of an academic argument
What you need to look out for is ridicule being used as a substitute for answering serious questions. This is what traditional Catholics have been subjected to for getting on for half a century: they ask questions, but receive only ridicule. It is quite different to use ridicule when one's opponent has refused to answer the serious questions. At that point the way forward, in rational argument, has hit a road block.

People have been pointing out the holes in Loftus' arguments for decades. The fact that he is still writing them is a scandal. The idea that I, or anyone with intellectual respectability, regard him as part of a serious conversation within the Church, would give him prestige which he in no way deserves. Indeed, that would be to magnify the scandal.

You are a joke, Monsignor. You have done this to yourself, over many years, it's not my fault. If you've had enough of the laughter, then do us all a favour and stop writing your column.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Travails of Communion in the Hand

This blog post is too good to miss: an American deacon, Greg Kandra recants his support for Communion standing and in the hand. It is wide open to all manner of abuses.

I've watched a mother receive communion, her toddler in tow, then take it back to the pew and share it with him like a cookie.
At least four or five times a year, I have to stop someone who just takes the host and wanders away with it and ask them to consume it on the spot. 
Once or twice a month I encounter the droppers. Many are well-intentioned folks who somewhere, somehow drop the host or it slides out of their hands and Jesus tumbles to the floor. 
A couple times a year I get the take-out crowd. They receive the host properly, and then pull out a hanky and ask if they can take another one home to a sick relative.

Go and read the whole thing.

Dr Tina Beattie in Wimbledon

My own comment on Dr Beattie's roving apostolate of apostasy, and the pathetic argument about academic freedom, can be read here.

From 'Protect the Pope':

The parish newsletter of the Catholic Church of the Sacred Hear, Wimbledon:
“NEWMAN CIRCLE WEDNESDAY 23 JANUARY at 7.30 pm in the Lounge. Dr Tina Beattie will be speaking on ‘As Mary goes, so goes the Church’. All are welcome.”

These invitations to Prof. Beattie to speak in Catholic parishes follow her being banned from delivering a lecture in her own diocese of Clifton, and her fellowship being withdrawn from San Diego university because of her public support as a Catholic theologian of same-sex marriage in open defiance of the position taken by the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, and the Holy See.
Prof. Beattie, along with others, wrote to The Times on 13 August to state that “it is perfectly proper for Catholics, using fully informed consciences, to support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples”, and who equally scandalously quoted Cardinal Basil Hume, the late Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, in a way which suggested he might have supported their case. They used words from his 1997 document, ‘A Note on the Teaching of the Catholic Church Concerning Homosexuality’: “love between two persons, whether of the same sex, or of a different sex, is to be treasured and respected” whilst omitting to mention that he went on to say that “the Church does not approve of homosexual genital acts” and “homosexual genital acts … are morally wrong”.
The catalogue of Prof. Beattie’s dissent includes:
  • In an examination of the morality of abortion Prof. Beattie justifies  the argument that the embryo is not a person by using the doctrine of the Trinity.
  • Prof. Beattie uses the doctrine of the marriage between Christ and His Church to support gay marriage.
  • Prof Beattie condemns as ‘perverted’ a CTS booklet defending the Church’s doctrine on divorce and contraception.
  • Prof. Beattie describes the Mass as an ‘an act of (homo) sexual intercourse…’. ‘God’s Mother, Eve’s Advocate’, p.80.
  • Prof. Beattie supports government plans for same-sex marriage http://que
  • Prof. Tina Beattie imagines the apostles and women disciples having sex in her meditation The Last Supper According to Martha and Mary (2001) which the publishers describe as ‘part fiction, part Biblical reflection’.
Dr Tina Beattie is a director of and regular contributor to The Tablet which in its issue for Saturday 12 January published a version of Dr Beattie’s lecture on Mary.
Protect the Pope comment:  It is significant that in the week after the announcement that the Soho Masses are being transferred to the Jesuit church of Farm Street, that members of the same Jesuit community have invited such a notorious supporters of same-sex marriage to speak at their parish in Wimbledon.

We should recall the words of Pope Benedict XVI to the English and Welsh bishops during their ad limina visit to Rome in February 2010: it is important to recognise dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free.” Very few doubt that Pope Benedict had The Tablet and many of its contributors in mind when he uttered those words.

The Church in England and Wales is now entering a period of intense public conflict with David Cameron’s coalition government over its  intention to legislate for “gay marriage”. And yet, a renowned parish run by the Jesuits (whose special charism is a vow of obedience to the Holy Father) has chosen to host a public lecture by a Catholic theologian who publicly supports same-sex marriage.

Please pray to Blessed John Henry Newman so that this lecture may be cancelled and that no further invitations to speak are extended to Prof. Beattie by the dioceses and parishes of the Catholic Church.
Protect the Pope asks anyone who is a parishioner of Sacred Heart Church, Wimbledon or lives within the Archdiocese of Southwark to write and/or e mail urgently with a respectful request that the lecture be cancelled to :

Dr Bill Russell, Secretary, Wimbledon Newman Circle. E mail:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Lofus: the charge sheet, an introduction

Perhaps the most harmful thing Mgr Basil Loftus does in his lengthy columns is disinformation. Writing at length, with a scattering of references to canon law and Conciliar documents, he makes what looks like a plausible case for the inverse of the truth. This is harmful because it reinforces false assumptions about the teaching of the Church, and distorts the basis of debate. We should be able at least to agree on matters of Church law, or what documents say, but Loftus, taking advantage of the fact that few of his readers are experts in these things, and few will trawl through the original documents to check, is able to lend his authority (I'm a Monsignor, you know!) and that of the Catholic Times, to completely false claims.
Paul VI: never lifted the prohibition on CITH

Here I'll look at two columns from some time ago, which are available online, which illustrate his modus operandi.

I've already explained what was wrong with what he said about altar girls. He did exactly the same thing about Communion in the Hand. Just after the Motu Proprio was issued in 2007, he wrote:

The reception of Communion on the tongue was never a matter of rubrics - but of habit or custom.

After defending this method to the exclusion of Communion in the hand, in 1969, the Holy See the following year relaxed the practice and permitted Communion in the hand.

The 1969 document he mentions is (presumably) the Instruction Memoriale Domini. This does indeed reaffirm the illegality of Communion in the Hand, and on the basis of 'custom': 'this manner of communicating, now to be considered as prescribed by custom'. Why does Loftus stress the distinction between 'custom' and 'rubrics'? The custom is binding. Communion on the tongue is prescribed.

The next little trick is to say that the Holy See permitted Communion in the Hand 'the following year'. This would be bizarre if true. So Paul VI said CITH was forbidden one year, and allowed the next? No: the exceptions to the general rule against CITH are made in the very same document, even if the first permissions made under the conditions it set out weren't given until 1970. Where the practice of CITH had become established, and with a two-thirds majority of the bishops of the country asking for it, and with the express permission of the Holy See, CITH can be allowed. In other words, where it happens (ok, so everywhere), it is under a derogation from the law of the Church. It is an indult, and as Redemptionis Sacramentum makes clear, this is always on the condition that it does not lead to a profanation of the sacrament (section 92).

The provisional and precarious nature of CITH is something which Loftus wants to disguise. So his words quoted above, while technically correct, are grossly misleading, and presumably designedly so. 

He goes on in the article to say that CITH, lay readers, the 1970 Lectionary, and communion under both kinds are all perfectly ok at the Traditional Mass. The 2010 Instruction Universae Ecclesiae makes it clear that this is not so, the 1962 Missal has its own liturgical law. It was because of people like Loftus that this Instruction was necessary. But the fact is that it is perfectly obvious to anyone not desperately trying to justify the opposite conclusion:  the right to use the 1962 Missal includes the instructions at the front of that Missal, about not having altar girls, the readings given for each Sunday and feast, and the customs which pertain to it.

The second issue is the right to dissent from Church teaching. In a column appearing in December 2009, he suggested that the Syllabus of Errors was overturned by Vatican II, on the subject of freedom of conscience. I've blogged before about this claim being made in a Tablet editorial, so I can refer readers to that and be brief.
Pius X: not contradicted by VII

Loftus quotes Vatican II's Dignitatus Humanae as follows:

'In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience faithfully, in order that he may come to God for whom he was created. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the otherhand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience, especially in matters religious.'

So far so good. Then he characterises the rationale of previous teaching, as per the Syllabus of Errors, as follows:
'no-one is forced in conscience to be a Catholic, but once someone has chosen to follow Christ within the Catholic Church, then they must follow the rules of that club. So the power of the magisterium, the teaching authority of the Church, takes precedence over the primacy of conscience within the Church.'

This is not quite right but is close enough for present purposes (see here for a better analysis). What is important is that the two quoted positions are only incompatible if you reject the Church's teaching on what conscience actually is. Of course the teaching of the Church takes precedence over the conscience of a Catholic: a Catholic's conscience is formed by the teaching of the Church. Where else is it going to take its principles from? Cosmopolitan? A properly formed conscience is one which is formed by exposure to the truth.

Loftus then goes into a long digression about the Temporal Power of the Popes - the papal states. I've blogged about that issue here, but I can't for the life of me see its relevance here. But with this as a kind of diversionary tactic, and via the bizarre claim that Garibaldi's (failed) attempts to stimulate an uprising in the Papal States were inspired by the Holy Ghost, he ends with a long quotation from John Courtney Murray, who was involved in the drafting of Dignitatis Humanae but whose view, which really was inconsistent with the immemorial teaching of the Church, was not, in the end, adopted:
'A more detailed examination of the rights of conscience within the Church is well overdue: “inevitably, a second great argument will be set afoot now on the theological meaning of Christian Freedom. The children of God, who receive this freedom as a gift from their Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit, assert it within the Church as well as within the world, always for the sake of the world and the Church. ..." '

Well that may be what John Courtney Murray thought, and it appears to be what Loftus wants us to think, placing it as a conclusion to his column. But what Holy Mother Church wants us to think is something quite different. As far as the consistency of Vatican II with the previous teaching, this is the passage of Dignitatis Humanae which Loftus does NOT want his readers to see:

Alexander Pope: had seen this type before...
Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.

Shall I go on? I hardly think it is necessary. Loftus has a sort of apostolate to mislead, in very much the manner described by Alexander Pope (Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot):
Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike.