Friday, January 31, 2014

Chartres Pilgrimage 2014: LMS sponsored places

High Mass in a field on the way.
More information and booking form here.

The dates are 6-10 June 2014. 

The usual cost of £260 is reduced by £100 for each of fifteen places sponsored by the Latin Mass Society.

The British contingent gather in London on Friday 6th, for an early morning Mass in Westminster Cathedral crypt and a coach and ferry journey to France. The whole pilgrimage comes together on Saturday morning in Notre Dame and sets off. There are two nights under canvas, and the big final Mass is in the early afternoon on Monday. The British pilgrims spend a night in Chartres in a hotel and return on Tuesday.

It is possible to join the pilgrimage on Saturday morning and head home immediately after Mass on the Monday, for those short of time. The group journey out is recommended, however, especially for those new to the pilgrimage.


The Chartres Pilgrimage is an unforgettable experience. There is nothing like it in the Catholic world: approximately 10,000 people walking together the 78 miles from Paris to Chartres, united in prayer and intention.


The two times I have done it it has been hot; other years it rains. There is no escaping the fact that it is tough: significantly more demanding than the LMS Pilgrimage to Walsingham. If you can't continue to walk you will, of course, be looked after, by the amazing Order of Malta first aid teams who set up at intervals along the way.

The Children's Chapter: they have a shortened route.

One of the highlights of the pilgrimage is Benediction and Exposition on the second night. You are conscious of the intensity of the prayer: people take big intentions to Chartres!

Benediction and Exposition, at the second campsite

It is, above all, a joyous experience. It is impossible to describe the effect of the prayers and songs, the camaraderie and sense of purpose, over three days. We also walk through some lovely French countryside. The sight of Chartres Cathedral on the last day, appearing on the horizon and growing gradually larger, is quite something. This is, of course, perhaps the greatest achievement of Medieval architecture in the world.


Pluck up your courage and come to Chartres!


Journey's end: standard bearers processing out of Chartres Cathedral
These photos are from 2010; see the full set here.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

LMS One-Day Conference is back! 24th May 2014

2010 08 12_7401
Bishop Schneider giving an unforgettable after-dinner speech at the LMS Priest Training
Conference at Downside, 2010: his last visit

In 2012 we held a one-day conference in the Regent Hall, the Salvation Army hall in Oxford Street in London. It was a huge success, and I promised to do more, but not every year: to keep the standard of speakers high, we decided to do them on alternate years. So this is the 2014 line-up. (More info and booking here.)
The theme is The Traditional Mass and Evangelisation.

Pearce and his recently published
autobiography - we'll have copies
to buy at the conference.
Bishop Athanasius Schneider from Kazakhstan. Bishop Schneider is well known as the author of Dominus Est - It is the Lord! - a defence of the traditional manner of receiving Communion.

Joseph Pearce is the critically acclaimed author of several biographies of Catholic literary figures, including Chesterton, Belloc, Tolkien and Oscar Wilde, as well as Literary Converts - the conversion stories of a string of early 20th century English writers who were received into the Catholic Church.He has recently written his autobiography Race with the Devil - the story of his conversion from a Catholic-hating member of the National Front to a devout Catholic.

Fr Michael Mary is the superior of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer (the Transalpine Redemptorists), based in Golgotha Monastery on the Orkney island of Papa Stronsay. A completely Traditional Order, their canonical status was regularised after having reconciled with the Holy See following Summorum Pontificum, having previously worked for many years with the SSPX.

Christopher Hodkinson is the director of the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge, one of the leading influences in the revival of Gregorian Chant in England in recent years.

Professor Thomas Pink lectures at King's College, London, and is known for his work on the fraught topic of religious liberty. 

Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer
Fr Michael Mary F.SS.R, photograph by the Benedictine Oblate

All of them are excellent speakers and I am delighted that they all agreed to come.

Tickets are £20. Book here.

Add £5 for lunch, deduct £5 if you are an LMS member!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Booking for Walsingham Pilgrimage open!

Pope Francis, Evangelii gaudium: “Journeying together to shrines and taking part in other manifestations of popular piety, also by taking one’s children or inviting others, is in itself an evangelizing gesture”. Let us not stifle or presume to control this missionary power!
(Internal quotation from the Latin American Bishops' Aparecida Document)


The Walsingham Pilgrimage, a walking pilgrimage from Ely to Walsingham over three days, is the most exciting new event of recent years. Please book sooner rather than later, to assist our planning!

The dates: pilgrims gather in Ely on the evening of Thursday 21st August, and walk Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (24th) morning, when we have a High Mass in the Shrine at 2pm. For those staying an extra night, there is another Mass, in the Slipper Chapel, on Monday morning.

All our Masses are of course open to the public. The High Mass in the Shrine on Sunday is always joined by many pilgrims in cars, and a coach organised by the LMS comes from London. This is followed by a procession to the site of the Holy House in the town of Walsingham.

The Pilgrimage is for the Conversion of England. And how England needs it!

Loads of photos of last year's pilgrimage can be seen here.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Regina Magazine launches e-newsletter

Regina Latin Mass is a free e-newsletter; the first issue is here.

TRUE CONFESSIONS: How I Found the Traditional Latin Mass

They are young and old, converts and cradle Catholics. The ways in which people discover the Latin Mass vary widely, but their stories are all fascinating. In this first in a series of  roundtable discussions, Catholics from all over America and the world reveal their voyage of discovery of the ancient beauty of the Mass.

LMS Priest and Server Training Conference 2014: Belmont Abbey

The Latin Mass Society has got some great events planned for this calendar year, and I shall be posting about them here. First: a priest training conference. These have also been attracting many servers in recent years, who are also vital to the celebration of the Traditional Mass; we also welcome deacons, permanent and transitory, and seminarians. Since 2007 the Latin Mass Society has organised the training of more than 100 priests. All training of clerics is done by experienced priests. Thus year we have another lovely venue: the Benedictive Abbey of Belmont in Herefordshire, near the Welsh border.

LMS Priest and Server Training Conference:
Belmont Abbey, Hereford,

29th April to 2nd May 2014 (Low Week)

Application forms can be downloaded here: Word   PDF

The Latin Mass Society will be organising a residential training conference for priests wishing to learn to celebrate Mass in the usus antiquior.

It will be held at Belmont Abbey, Hereford, HR2 9RZ.

Tuition, which will be given by experienced priests, will be tailored to suit the needs of each priest. The conference will also be open for servers who wish to learn or improve their skills with the older form of the Mass.

Training begins on the afternoon of Tuesday, 29 April and will end on the morning of Friday, 2 May. Meals are included in the price (including Friday lunch), which is heavily subsidised by the LMS.


The following prices are inclusive of board and lodging at Hedley Lodge, which is adjacent to the abbey.
Regular fee: £100
Full-time students: £50
Seminarians in their final two years at seminary can attend for free.
Tuesday lunch supplement: £5

Map showing Belmont Abbey

Juvenetutem London Mass this Friday

Solemn High Mass in London
for the feast of Saint John Bosco, followed by a social in the hall under the church on Friday 31 January.
Confessions from 7:15pm, Mass at 7.30pm.
St Mary Moorfields Catholic Church, Eldon Street, London EC2M 7LS

The social is for those aged 18-35. The Mass is, of course, open to everyone and all are welcome.

St John Bosco, 'the Father and Teacher of Youth', is one of the patron saints of the International Juventutem Federation, so his feast day is of especial significance for Juventutem London. Celebrant and homilist, Fr Armand de Malleray, FSSP (Ecclesiastical Assistant of the International Juventutem Federation)
Food and drink will be provided at the social after Mass. If you can, please bring along a dish or a bottle to share.
Cf  There is a Facebook event page which can be used to invite 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Fr de Malleray FSSP to speak at St Mary's Twikenham

On Tuesday 28 January 2014 in Twickenham
at St Mary’s University Chaplaincy: 
'How reasonable to believe'
All are welcome to this talk
by Fr Armand de Malleray, FSSP: examining how trust, every human’s propensity, rather than degenerating into credulity and superstition, can be enhanced by faith.
6pm: Optional EF Low Mass (Crypt of the University Chapel)
7pm: Talk on 'How reasonable to believe', at St Benedict House (directly opposite the main entrance to the University: 7 Waldegrave Gardens, Twickenham, Middlesex, TW1 4PQ)followed by questions
8pm: Snack

Contact : Hannah: 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pro-life witness attracts counter-demo in Oxford

For the third time, a small counter-demonstration has accompanied the monthly pro-life witness in Oxford. This time they managed to gather I think six people. There were about 55 of us, and a few more with the Blessed Sacrament in the church.

The witness has been going since 2007 without any trouble. We pray the Rosary, nearly always led by a priest. The location is outside the Catholic parish church of St Anthony of Padua, by the entrance to the John Radcliffe Hospital. Not by the hospital door - by the road which leads to the hospital. The 'JR' is the only place in Oxford where abortions take place. The witness happens on a Saturday afternoon, when, in fact, no abortions take place.

From a political point of view our 'protest' is purely symbolic. We aren't intimidating anyone on their way into the hospital. It is not a particularly busy road. But we are praying.

And we have the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the church, and have Benediction at the end.

The pro-abortionists are not primarily interested in getting their own message across, but of hiding our placards and stopping us praying, with a music player, a whistle, and by banging a spoon on a tin tea-pot lid. In all this they are almost comically unsuccessful, and I felt rather sorry for the not-very waterproof looking protesters as the rain turned into hail.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Universe garbles story about H1N1

Texas, to the North and East of Mexico.
An alert reader from the USA has identified the source of the story about H1N1 ('Swine Flu') which appeared last weekend in the Catholic Universe, which I, thinking it was a bit fishy, reported verbatim on this blog.

I realise that all newspapers make mistakes, but this is real howler. Cheerily chopping out the 'TX' for 'Texas' in the opening line of the story, the subeditor began to wonder where exactly the story is from. Seeing a reference to 'Rio Grande', he jumped to the conclusion it was about Mexico. Mexico! Has the Universe not caught up with Texas' independence from Mexico in 1835?

Then the story has been made to say that Communion has been suspended completely, and not just the Chalice, which is completely wrong.

Even more troubling, from a professional point of view, the reference to the news agency which composed the story in the first place, and the journalist (Ms) Alex Stockwell, has been chopped, even though it is clearly just a (badly) edited version of it. Are newspapers supposed to do this?

Come on, Editor Joseph Kelley! Let's have a correction.

Original story: The H1N1 virus is spreading rapidly across the Valley, prompting everyone from doctors to teachers and now priests to take extra steps in preventing the illness from infecting more people.

In a traditional Catholic Mass, the Precious Body and Blood of Christ are consumed by parishioners, but with the H1N1 flu, some churches are not serving the Blood of Christ, which is taken from a communal chalice.
Chilies are eaten in both places,
so perhaps it doesn't matter.

Universe version: Rio Grande: Growing concern over the spread of the H1N1 virus has prompted the Mexican Church to change the way the Mass is delivered. To prevent the transfer of the virus, some priests are not serving the Blood of Christ from a communal chalice, while others have have further and stopped giving Communion completely. 

Original story: "Some parishes, because of the epidemics or for logistical reasons, decide not to have communion under both species," said Rev. Msgr. Heberto Diaz of the Diocese of Brownsville.  "And that's up to the local pastor of each of the parishes.  If someone is ill, then they shouldn't receive from the chalice."

Universe version: "Some parishes have decided not to have Communion," said Rev Mgr Heberto Diaz of the diocese of Brownsville. "And that's up to the local pastor of each of the parishes. If someone is ill, then they shouldn't receive from the chalice." 

Original story: Another custom in Mass that is being adjusted is the "Sign of Peace" before Communion, where people shake hands with one another and wish each other peace.

"In the past when we had this H1N1 epidemic, what we did is we asked people if they were sick not to shake hands with each other but to maybe bow as a form, as a gesture of like shaking hands, of community," explained Rev. Msgr. Diaz.

Universe version: Parishioners are also being discouraged from shaking hands at the 'Sign of Peace' before Communion, which can also transfer the H1N1 virus. 

Original story:  Monsignor Diaz says the best way that churches can help the spread of the flu virus is by reminding parishioners that it's perfectly fine to miss church if they are sick.
"It's not a sin to not come to church on Sunday if you're ill, so that's another thing people really need to know if they're ill or if they feel like they could be contagious to others."

When the Mexican attempt to regain control of Texas
was defeated, in 1836. Texas joined the USA in 1845.
Universe version: Mgr Diaz says the best way that churches can help prevent the spread of the flu virus is by reminding parishioners that it's perfectly fine to miss church if they are sick. "It's not a sin not to come to church on Sunday if you're ill, or if you feel you could be contagious to others," he said.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Loftus attacks Cardinal Burke

I have had other and better things to think about than Mgr Basil Loftus in the last few weeks. But just to remind him and others that I have not forgotten about him - far from it - here are a couple of quotations from his latest effort: 19th Jan, The Catholic Times.

It begins:
'Catholics who are divorced or remarried, those who are gay, and those who do not believe that the physical expression of married love must always be open to the conception of children, are not the first ones, or even today the only ones, to find themselves in a seemingly impossible situation. And long before Holy Father Francis came on the scene practical solutions have had to be found. They can help us now to understand what Francis has termed his "epoch of mercy", his practical solution.'

Later in the same column, he writes:
' "If in our heart there isn't mercy, the joy of forgiving, we are not in communion with God" (Pope Francis' Angelus Address, 15th September 2013). Surely there is food for thought here for those who are so keen to excommunicate and thus to deny Holy Communion to politicians who have to genuflect in the Temple of Rimmon when their political masters debate issues of sex and marriage which are not compatible with Church teaching. Effectively, it seems that it is those judgemental zealots themselves who "are not in Communion with God", even though one of them, Raymond Burke, is, for the moment, the Cardinal Prefect of the Church's highest law tribunal.'

The practical contradiction between criticising 'judgementalism' and then attacking a named Cardinal as a 'judgmental zealot' 'not in Communion with God' is, sadly, typical of Loftus' writings.

Is there any point saying that, since Cardinal Burke has been confirmed in office, he is Pope Francis' head of the Apostolic Signatura? Perhaps not. Loftus' angry polemic operates at a level rational criticism can't reach.

He has form. Last November he referred to 'Sri Lankan cappa magna fetishist and Tridentine-rite devotee, Malcolm Ranjith.’ Last June (in a Letter to the Tablet) he said a talk by Bishop Davies of Shrewsbury 'may even call for anger.

And in a double barb aimed at Archbishop Nichols and the Nuncio, Archbishop Nichols, he wrote:

(Letter in The Tablet 22 June 2013): ‘Something has to be done to challenge those cardinals, bishops and priests who simply don’t get it. Is an appeal for £500,000 for work on Archbishop’s House, Westminster, and the some £1 million reportedly spent recently on the nunciature, compatible with the example Francis wants to “send ... to other cardinals, bishops and priests” when he lives in a clergy hostel?’

(The sum of £1m to be spent on the Nunciature is, I hasten to add, pure fantasy.)

When those attached to the Traditional Mass criticise bishops, this is often held up as a demonstration that we are a practically schismatic. I certainly won't and couldn't claim all such criticisms are justified. But what I will say to those worried by traddy criticisms: Don't you read the Catholic newspapers? What sort of tone are they setting? The Catholic Times is a newspaper operating with ecclesiastical approval. Kevin Flaherty, Editor, please note.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Over-praising children - and Popes

Mehrerau Collegiumskapelle Papst 09 Pius IX a

There has been quite a bit of research in recent years on the dangers of over-praising children. The latest, reported in The Independent, says that if you give exaggerated praise to the work of an insecure child this has been shown to lead the child to take the easiest work option on the next occasion. They infer that the child is worried about falling short of the impossibly high standards which have been claimed for the first bit of work.

This might seem counter-intuitive, but on reflection it makes sense. If you get this exaggerated praise, you think both that you don't really deserve it (you are a fraud), and that you want it to carry on if possible. Given your own assessment of your abilities, the best way to get it to carry on would be to attempt something as easy as possible. (There is a similar problem with praising ability instead of effort.)

Thinking of the media's adulation of the Holy Father, the question arises as to whether over-praising can have a similar effect on Popes as on children, or whether at some level of consciousness the world's secular media think it will. There is, in fact, an historical precedent: Bl Pope Pius IX.

Pius IX was elected to a chorus of praise from liberals. As Pope, he released all the Papal States' political prisoners and created an elected assembly for the first time. The liberals pushing these and other reforms went to extraordinary lengths to keep the praise coming. They organised spontaneous demonstrations of enthusiasm from the Roman populace to greet his carriage-rides around the city, and composed songs of praise for people to sing. If he hesitated in his reforms, these would be turned off like a tap, to demonstrate the people's disappointment.

This extraordinary circus carried on, from his election in 1846, only until the revolutions of 1848. 1848 demonstrated just how nasty and dangerous the radicals were, and how little the apparently-civilised and humane liberal intellectuals could control them. The necessary efforts to restore order created the image of the ultra-conservative Pius IX we all know and love, especially since he ended up having the longest Papal reign in history, of 32 years, so the conservative phase lasted a lot longer than the liberal one.

Maybe the liberal media have been reading Aesop's Fables and have realised that you can get the results you want from being nice more easily, sometimes, than from by being nasty. For the most part they failed to bend Pope Benedict to their will. Their agenda is exactly the same now as it was a year ago, but the means have changed. It takes a different kind of courage to resist praise, than to resist criticisms.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

H1N1 prompts bans on Communion under Both Kinds in Mexico

I can't find this story online, but it is in the print edition of the Catholic Universe, 19th Jan 2014.

Virus Prompts Mass Change

Rio Grande: Growing concern over the spread of the H1N1 virus has prompted the Mexican Church to change the way the Mass is delivered. To prevent the transfer of the virus, some priests are not serving the Blood of Christ from a communal chalice, while others have have further and stopped giving Communion completely. 

"Some parishes have decided not to have Communion," said Rev Mgr Heberto Diaz of the diocese of Brownsville. "And that's up to the local pastor of each of the parishes. If someone is ill, then they shouldn't receive from the chalice." 

Parishioners are also being discouraged from shaking hands at the 'Sign of Peace' before Communion, which can also transfer the H1N1 virus. 

Mgr Diaz says the best way that churches can help prevent the spread of the flu virus is by reminding parishioners that it's perfectly fine to miss church if they are sick. "It's not a sin not to come to church on Sunday if you're ill, or if you feel you could be contagious to others," he said.

This seems unusually badly written, and I don't want to attribute too quickly to the bishops of Mexico the strange claims or terminology implied in the report. I assume it has been through some kind of news agency, though the Catholic Universe does not say what the source is.

(No, it is not 'up to each pastor' to refuse Communion to the entire parish at whim - such a thing would only be licit of the Bishop had issued a decree, effectively calling an emergency situation.)

It is interesting that the H1N1 / Communion Under Both Kinds issue hasn't gone away. In England we had all this back in 2009. The people still determined to ignore the public health aspects of the question are going to feel increasingly beleaguered.

To reiterate what the FIUV Position Paper on the general issue of Communion under One or Both kinds said, the hygiene problem is not with the early Medieval Western practice of reception from the Chalice (using a straw) in small congregations once or twice a year. The problem is certainly not with Vatican II's suggestion that one or a few people receive from the Chalice in addition to the priest once or twice in a lifetime. Nor is the problem with the Eastern practice of intinction using a spoon which does not touch the Communicant's lips or tongue. The problem is with the practice unique to the Latin Church after 1970, in direct contradiction of the liturgical law of the 1970s and early 1980s, until they gave up trying to enforce it, of large congregations receiving the Chalice (with little solemnity) every Sunday of the year.

Read the Position Paper here.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Evangelium gaudii, 7: Sactifying grace for pagans

There is one really troubling paragraph in the Exhortation.

It's not the bit in which the Holy Father rejects 'trickle down theories'. Economics is not 'faith and morals' and his views on this subject don't bind Catholics, although Catholics would be foolish indeed to take up dogmatic economic liberalism.

It isn't the bit about promethean neo-pelagians, which could mean a lot of different things and is not exactly news, coming from Pope Francis.

It isn't even the bit about the Jewish Covenant. This is a bit unclear, but this kind of thing has been said a lot in official (not necessarily magisterial) documents, and the problem, if it is one, is a long-established one.

No, the problem is this.

"Non-Christians, by God’s gracious initiative, when they are faithful to their own consciences, can live “justified by the grace of God”, and thus be “associated to the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ”. But due to the sacramental dimension of sanctifying grace, God’s working in them tends to produce signs and rites, sacred expressions which in turn bring others to a communitarian experience of journeying towards God. While these lack the meaning and efficacy of the sacraments instituted by Christ, they can be channels which the Holy Spirit raises up in order to liberate non-Christians from atheistic immanentism or from purely individual religious experiences.(EG 254)"

Remember, first, that Jews are excluded from this generalisation: their situation has been addressed separately (247-249). They are not part of conventional 'inter-religious dialogue', they are sui generis. The section on inter-religious dialogue has two paragraphs on Islam preceding the paragraph just quoted; this looks like taking a step back to make a generalisation about all non-Christian and non-Jewish religions.

It appears to be saying that when individual non-Christians, who have some intimation of the existence of God and even some kind of relationship with him, get drawn into some kind of possibly idolatrous cult, this is not only a good thing but a means of salvation for them. This would appear to invert the teaching of the Church, which is that all are bound to believe in God and worship Him (by prayer, for example), and that idolatry is not a way of doing this, but a way of not doing this. It is the worship of something other than God - idols - and is against Natural Law.

This comment, left on on earlier post in this series, deserves wider attention.

I don't see that the statement 'Non-Christians, by God’s gracious initiative, when they are faithful to their own consciences, can live “justified by the grace of God”, and thus be “associated to the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ”', is unclear. The key notions are being a non-Christian, being faithful to your own conscience, and being justified by the grace of God. Being a non-Christian is self-explanatory. Being faithful to your conscience means doing whatever your conscience tells you is right, and the fact that it is applied to non-Christians means that the commands of conscience in these cases are not considered to include conversion to Christianity. Being justified by the grace of God means that you are saved.

The passage insinuates, but does not clearly state, that the rites of non-Christian religions can be channels of sanctifying grace, but it does clearly describe such rites as good and even as sacred. Things can of course be good and sacred without being channels of sanctifying grace, and not all grace is sanctifying grace. It is reasonable to describe the work of the Holy Spirit as a grace of some kind, so since the passage describes the rites of non-Christian religions as works of the Holy Spirit, it describes these rites as conveying grace.

Of course you will be puzzled by this passage if you begin with the a priori assumption that the Pope cannot be describing idolatry as good or as a channel of grace. But there is no basis for this assumption. The Pope is not God, and this document is not an infallible definition or even clearly intended to teach authoritatively on matters of faith and morals. It is the personal opinion of the Pope, and thus there is no barrier to its expressing claims contrary to the Catholic faith, if that is what the Pope happens to believe.

My concern from the start in blogging about Pope Francis has not been to hide those views of his with which I don't agree, or to twist his words into meaning something different from what he intended. My concern, rather, has been twofold: to understand his thinking, and to come up with ways in which Catholics attached to the Traditional Mass can engage positively with it. Ways, for example, in which to make those influenced by the Holy Father stop and think, that perhaps really their concerns are not best served by attacking the Traditional Mass.

In this case the best approach might be to consider the possible scenarios the Holy Father may have in mind. I differ from the commenter I quote above in thinking that, even at a purely human level, Pope Francis can't have idolatry in mind. If you said to him: 'Pope Francis, idolatry is a sin isn't it?' He wouldn't say, 'Oh no, not at all, the First Commandment has been abolished by Vatican II.' As a matter of fact, he is quite fond of talking about the sin of idolatry, interpreted in quite a broad sense. In this very document he says (55)

The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.

When he says that the rites of non-Christian religions can be 'channels of the Holy Spirit', he doesn't have, at the front of his mind, the example of the worship of the Golden Calf. Either he has forgotten that many non-Christians are idolatrous, or he believes that they are not.

The second possibility can be expressed like this. It may be argued that the condemnation of idolatry we hear in Scripture does not apply to the religious rites of, for example,  modern Hindus and Animists. You often hear Christian homosexual activists saying that what St Paul condemned is not what homosexuals do today, it is different somehow. And it is true that we need to exercise some caution in applying the categories found in the Book of Deuteronomy and so on to people we meet today. Specifically, the point of idolatry as condemned in the Bible is that the worshipper addressed himself to the idol, and not to a (genuine) supernatural reality which it represented. Depending on the Hindu you ask, you may hear arguments to the effect that this criticism does not apply to them, any more than to the Catholic cult of icons.

This is all far too complicated to attribute to the Holy Father, of course, on the basis of this paragraph. I mention it because it is one line of thought which his defenders or those influenced by him might wheel out. And it doesn't work. Because the Catholic cult of images is premised on the Incarnation. We have an incarnational religion because it is the religion of the incarnation. The ancient Jews were right not to use images in the way we use icons and holy statues because God had not taken flesh, which is the pre-requisite for Him to be represented and honoured by way of honouring that representation. (Images of God the Father are visual metaphors, and are not given the honour accorded to images of Our Lord. We don't light candles in front of images of the Ancient of Days.)

I can only leave this issue with the hope that it will be clarified in some authoritative way. There is enough confusion about interreligious dialogue already.

Pictures: honouring images of the Virgin and Child, at Walsingham, at Willesden, and at Caversham.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Evangelii gaudium 6: favourite bits

LMS Pilgrimage to Walsingham: 'an evangelising gesture'.
When EG first came out there was a lot of focus on the bits about 'promethean neo-pelagians', which I have already addressed to some extent, and on economic issues, which I am not going to discuss (life is too short), and on one or two more positive passages, such as this one:

Evangelisation with joy becomes beauty in the liturgy, as part of our daily concern to spread goodness. The Church evangelises and is herself evangelised through the beauty of the liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelisation and the source of her renewed self-giving. (24)

For a bit of mental exercise, I recommend the passages which explain why 'time is greater than space' (222ff) and polyhedrons are preferable to spheres (236). However, I don't have the time (or space) to go into those here and now.

Here are some other passages which illustrate some of the range of interesting, and sometimes neglected, ideas Pope Francis set out in the Exhortation, which I haven't otherwise addressed in the series of posts.

43: In her ongoing discernment, the Church can also come to see that certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots, are no longer properly understood and appreciated. Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel. We should not be afraid to re-examine them. At the same time, the Church has rules or precepts which may have been quite effective in their time, but no longer have the same usefulness for directing and shaping people’s lives.

We need to be unapologetic about applying this passage to customs such as getting children to carry up the gifts at the Offertory or compose the Bidding Prayers, about putting teddy bears on the Altar, dancing in the aisles or using or home-made communion hosts. It is these kinds of things, which are on the borders of liturgical law or cross over it, which have been criticised as 'no longer properly understood' since were allowed or just developed after the Council, in a string of official documents, but have nevertheless become cherished customs in some places, often on the basis of the claim that they are restorations of ancient practices (ie that they have 'deep roots'). If they are misleading people, they should be reconsidered. To give just one example, consider Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (Redemptionis sacramentum 151):

Only out of true necessity is there to be recourse to the assistance of extraordinary ministers in the celebration of the Liturgy. Such recourse is not intended for the sake of a fuller participation of the laity but rather, by its very nature, is supplementary and provisional.

Another issue: closed churches.

47. The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door. There are other doors that should not be closed either. Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason.

I hate to see church doors locked. I know there are security problems in some places, but these problems can be usually addressed in various ways. And I heartily endorse the idea that parishes should not develop an inner clique who look down on everyone else, and bar the way to the Parish Priest and indeed the Sacraments.


61. We also evangelize when we attempt to confront the various challenges which can arise.[56] On occasion these may take the form of veritable attacks on religious freedom or new persecutions directed against Christians; in some countries these have reached alarming levels of hatred and violence. In many places, the problem is more that of widespread indifference and relativism, linked to disillusionment and the crisis of ideologies which has come about as a reaction to any-thing which might appear totalitarian. This not only harms the Church but the fabric of society as a whole. We should recognize how in a culture where each person wants to be bearer of his or her own subjective truth, it becomes difficult for citizens to devise a common plan which transcends individual gain and personal ambitions.


66. The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. In the case of the family, the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children. Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will. But the indispensible contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple.

The New Evangelisation and secularisation.

68. The Christian substratum of certain peoples – most of all in the West – is a living reality. Here we find, especially among the most needy, a moral resource which preserves the values of an authentic Christian humanism. Seeing reality with the eyes of faith, we cannot fail to acknowledge what the Holy Spirit is sowing. It would show a lack of trust in his free and unstinting activity to think that authentic Christian values are absent where great numbers of people have received baptism and express their faith and solidarity with others in a variety of ways. This means more than acknowledging occasional “seeds of the word”, since it has to do with an authentic Christian faith which has its own expressions and means of showing its relationship to the Church. The immense importance of a culture marked by faith cannot be overlooked; before the onslaught of contemporary secularism an evangelized culture, for all its limits, has many more resources than the mere sum total of believers. An evangelized popular culture contains values of faith and solidarity capable of encouraging the development of a more just and believing society, and possesses a particular wisdom which ought to be gratefully acknowledged.

86. In some places a spiritual “desertification” has evidently come about, as the result of attempts by some societies to build without God or to eliminate their Christian roots. In those places “the Christian world is becoming sterile, and it is depleting itself like an overexploited ground, which transforms into a desert”. In other countries, violent opposition to Christianity forces Christians to hide their faith in their own beloved homeland. This is another painful kind of desert.

Persecutions within the Church. Those attached to the Traditional Mass know exactly what Pope Francis means in this paragraph.

100. Those wounded by historical divisions find it difficult to accept our invitation to forgiveness and reconciliation, since they think that we are ignoring their pain or are asking them to give up their memory and ideals. But if they see the witness of authentically fraternal and reconciled communities, they will find that witness luminous and attractive. It always pains me greatly to discover how some Christian communities, and even consecrated persons, can tolerate different forms of enmity, division, calumny, defamation, vendetta, jealousy and the desire to impose certain ideas at all costs, even to persecutions which appear as veritable witch hunts. Whom are we going to evangelize if this is the way we act?

Other issues.

115: Grace supposes culture, and God's gift becomes flesh in the culture of those who receive it.

124: “Journeying together to shrines and taking part in other manifestations of popular piety, also by taking one’s children or inviting others, is in itself an evangelizing gesture”. Let us not stifle or presume to control this missionary power!

132. When certain categories of reason and the sciences are taken up into the proclamation of the message, these categories then become tools of evangelization; water is changed into wine. Whatever is taken up is not just redeemed, but becomes an instrument of the Spirit for enlightening and renewing the world.

183. Consequently, no one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society.

233: ... the Church’s history is a history of salvation, to be mindful of those saints who inculturated the Gospel in the life of our peoples and to reap the fruits of the Church’s rich bimillennial tradition, without pretending to come up with a system of thought detached from this treasury, as if we wanted to reinvent the Gospel.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Evangelii gaudium, 6: why evangelise?

Witness: the Rosary Crusade of Reparation in London, 2013
I have a couple more posts to add to my series about the Holy Father's Exhortation. The first, this one, is an area which I think it should have been clearer. Surprisingly, this is the question which is central to the whole document, evangelisation. The question is, why should we do it?

The traditional answer is to play our part, under providence, in the salvation of souls. That we should work for the conversion of non-believers out of a concern for their eternal salvation does not imply that we believe their salvation is absolutely impossible without their conversion. We should promote the sacrament of Penance out of a concern for the salvation of Catholics already baptised; that doesn't involve a denial that mortal sin can be forgiven by an act of perfect contrition, without sacramental absolution. Indeed, one can have quite a broad view of the possibility of salvation outside the visible boundaries of the Church, and still want to see people come into the Church, visibly, in order to make their salvation more likely. To this extent the debate about how people can be saved outside the Church, interesting as it is, is a red herring. We all think that the sacraments are at least very useful aids in escaping the state of mortal sin. As useful, say, as anti-malaria tablets for those visiting a malarial region, for those who want to avoid a state of malaria. Can't we at least agree about that?

But the motivation of saving souls for evangelisation is not stated in the Exhortation. Instead, Pope Francis talks first about how we want to evagelise because we love God, rather than because of our love for the people we are evangelising. Thus (264):

The primary reason for evangelizing is the love of Jesus which we have received, the experience of salvation which urges us to ever greater love of him. What kind of love would not feel the need to speak of the beloved, to point him out, to make him known? If we do not feel an intense desire to share this love, we need to pray insistently that he will once more touch our hearts. We need to implore his grace daily, asking him to open our cold hearts and shake up our lukewarm and superficial existence. Standing before him with open hearts, letting him look at us, we see that gaze of love which Nathaniel glimpsed on the day when Jesus said to him: “I saw you under the fig tree” (Jn 1:48). How good it is to stand before a crucifix, or on our knees before the Blessed Sacrament, and simply to be in his presence! How much good it does us when he once more touches our lives and impels us to share his new life! What then happens is that “we speak of what we have seen and heard” (1 Jn 1:3). The best incentive for sharing the Gospel comes from contemplating it with love, lingering over its pages and reading it with the heart. If we approach it in this way, its beauty will amaze and constantly excite us. But if this is to come about, we need to recover a contemplative spirit which can help us to realize ever anew that we have been entrusted with a treasure which makes us more human and helps us to lead a new life. There is nothing more precious which we can give to others.

The LMS Oxford Pilgrimage, 2013

This leaves open the question: why, exactly, does love of God lead us to seek the conversion of others? Why does spending time before the crucifix inspire this kind of work, rather than any other? The answer must be sought in the benefits gained by converts who receive the message. This is referred to more briefly and rather vaguely.

272: A committed missionary knows the joy of being a spring which spills over and refreshes others. Only the person who feels happiness in seeking the good of others, in desiring their happiness, can be a missionary.

Again, in 274:

Consequently, if I can help at least one person to have a better life, that already justifies the offering of my life. It is a wonderful thing to be God’s faithful people. We achieve fulfilment when we break down walls and our heart is filled with faces and names!

Those who receive the Gospel are refreshed. It assists their happiness. They are helped to lead a better life. Is that all? Of course not. Only a few years ago, in 2007, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith produced a 'Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelisation'. This asserted the obvious (1): 

The Apostles, therefore, “prompted by the Spirit, invited all to change their lives, to be converted and to be baptized”, because the “pilgrim Church is necessary for salvation”.

A talk at the SCT Summer School, 2013
The reason this had to be re-stated was:

3. There is today, however, a growing confusion which leads many to leave the missionary command of the Lord unheard and ineffective (cf. Mt 28:19). Often it is maintained that any attempt to convince others on religious matters is a limitation of their freedom. From this perspective, it would only be legitimate to present one’s own ideas and to invite people to act according to their consciences, without aiming at their conversion to Christ and to the Catholic faith. It is enough, so they say, to help people to become more human or more faithful to their own religion; it is enough to build communities which strive for justice, freedom, peace and solidarity. Furthermore, some maintain that Christ should not be proclaimed to those who do not know him, nor should joining the Church be promoted, since it would also be possible to be saved without explicit knowledge of Christ and without formal incorporation in the Church.

I do not think Pope Francis is a victim of this 'confusion'; I do wish, however, that he had taken the opportunity of his Exhortation to dispel it. But the fact is that, after its initial linkage of evangelisation with salvation in the opening section, even the CDF (under Pope Benedict, of course) seemed reluctant to call a spade a spade. It goes on to talk (very interestingly, it must be said) about things like the fullness of truth which Christ represents. Fine. But I can go to heaven without the fullness of truth about mathematics, and the same is true of theology. The only sense in which individual Catholics have the fullness of truth is the sense in which they possess it by virtue of their incorporation into the Mystical Body by Baptism. What gets us to heaven, if we go, will be the sacraments.

It is obvious that the missionary impulse is going to be blunted if the missionaries think that what they are offering others is little more than a combination of truths and a life-enhancing way of life. The people who promote Yoga or skin products with similar claims usually do so with financial incentives. We aren't going to get Catholics to be effective witnesses and evangelisers of the Faith until they are once again convinced, as they were until about fifty or sixty years ago, that their interlocuter's salvation may be at stake.

In preparation for the beatification of Pope Paul VI, let's just ponder his words (Evangelium nuntiandi (1975) 5):

Such an exhortation seems to us to be of capital importance, for the presentation of the Gospel message is not an optional contribution for the Church. It is the duty incumbent on her by the command of the Lord Jesus, so that people can believe and be saved. This message is indeed necessary. It is unique. It cannot be replaced. It does not permit either indifference, syncretism or accommodation. It is a question of people's salvation.

Someone being received into the Church.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Transferred Holydays: Postscript on External Solemnities

The Epiphany: celebrated on 6th Jamuary, as it has been since the 4th century.

This post follows two others on the wider topics: on the importance of having 'days of precept' in the week and on the significance of the traditional dates.

Following the submission of a dubium by the Latin Mass Society, Monsignor Camille Perl, Vice President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, replied as follows, in a letter dated 20th October 2008, Protocol N. 107/97.

‘1. The legitimate use of the liturgical books in use in 1962 includes the right to the use of the calendar intrinsic to those liturgical books.
‘2. While in accordance with Canon 1246 §2 of the Code of Canon Law the Episcopal Conference can legitimately transfer Holydays of obligation with the approbation of the Holy See, it is also legitimate to celebrate the Mass and Office of those feasts on the days prescribed in the calendar of the liturgical books in use in 1962 with the clear understanding that, in accordance with the legitimate decision of the Episcopal Conference, there is no obligation to attend Mass on those days.

‘3. Thus, in accordance with nn. 356-361 of the Rubricae Generales Missalis Romani of 1962, it is appropriate to celebrate the external solemnity of Holy Days on the Sunday to which they have been transferred by the Episcopal Conference, as has been customary in many other countries hitherto.’

This is the response which made possible the continued celebration of Epiphany on 6th January, and the Ascension and Corpus Christi on their proper Thursdays, in the Extraordinary Form. It also applies when Holy Days get moved from Saturday or Monday to the Sunday. The essential point is that the only effect of the bishops' action, as far as the Traditional Mass goes, is to remove the precept to attend Mass on the traditional dates.

Point 3 makes reference to the 'external' celebration of a feast: the celebration of a feast on a day other than its proper day. This is essentially the same as the celebration of a Votive Mass. In many places priests celebrating the EF on the Sunday nearest 6th Jan will celebrate the Mass of the Epiphany. The possibility of doing so is unaffected by the changes in the Ordinary Form. It may seem more appropriate to do this in light of those changes, because (in a bi-ritual parish) the Ordinary Form Masses will be of the feast, and since there was no obligation to attend Mass on the proper day, more people than otherwise will not have made it to Mass that day. That is a matter for the celebrant to decide.

What we do need to keep in mind is that thinking it is a good idea to celebrate an external solemnity of a feast is not the same as being bound to celebrate the feast because the date has been moved. The difference is not just one of obligation.

1. On the old day - 6th Jan, for example - in the EF the feast (of Epiphany or whatever) must  be celebrated. These are all First Class feasts; it would not be licit to celebrate any other Mass. In the Ordinary Form, the feast may not be celebrated. It has become a ferial day. It may be possible to celebrate an appropriate Votive Mass, for example of the Blessed Sacrament on the day-formerly-known-as-Corpus-Christi. But there is no Votive Mass of the Epiphany or the Ascension.

2. On the Sunday, only one Mass of the feast may be said. In the (unlikely) case of two public EF Masses being said in a church on the Sunday closest to 6th Jan, only one could be an external celebration of the Epiphany. The other(s) would have to be the Mass of the Sunday, which is, after all, the Mass proper to the day.

3. There are certain small differences in the Mass with an external solemnity, as with other Votive Masses. For example, Votive Masses of the Blessed Sacrament use the Mass formulary of Corpus Christi, but the Sequence is omitted. Similarly, it is omitted when celebrated on the Sunday.

4. Another difference is one of class: Epiphany is a first class feast; the external solemnity is only 2nd Class. It can therefore be said on a Second Class Sunday. An external solemnity cannot, however, be said on a First Class feast. First Class feasts on Sundays are unlikely to clash with these external solemnities, but the principle is an important one.

5. The celebration of an external solemnity requires justification. The disruption to the proper order of the liturgical calendar is allowed - yes - but only for a good reason. The good reason must be that large numbers of the Faithful would not otherwise be able to celebrate the feast. It is not just an ad libitum option, like the choice of Votive Mass on a ferial day.

The EF is actually quite used to the repetition of Masses. Last evening I attended Low Mass and (in accordance with the rules) it was the Mass of the Epiphany again. On Ferial days priests often repeat the Mass of the previous Sunday: this is especially useful if the Sunday has been replaced by an important feast. I know, however, that it has been irritating to many people who have made the effort to attend these particular feast days in the EF on a weekday, and who probably won't go to a ferial Mass during the following week, to be deprived of the 'Sunday withing the Octave' every year for no good reason. Celebrants need to balance this consideration against the desire to provide the feastday Mass for those who didn't make it.

I really hope that, after the Bishops' meeting after Easter, we can stop worrying about all these issues, except perhaps in the more manageable cases of the transferal of OF celebrations from Saturdays and Mondays to Sunday. Please, again, say a little prayer that this may be so.