Wednesday 22 December 2010

The Pope will present Thought for the Day

On Christmas Eve, the Holy Father is to present Thought for the Day on Radio 4. I remember that the idea was first mentioned at the time of the Papal visit. Well, now it's happening.
Read about it here on the BBC site.
H/T The A&B Communication Service

The secularists are having a grumble, of course. Nobody is interested in religion, they observe. They really are still in denial, even given the evidence of the recent Papal visit. I'd be interested to see if they could command attendances like the Holy Father did for one of their grumble-ins. And actually leave people feeling good afterwards!

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Down to earth with a bang—

This, on the other hand is frankly disturbing:

Europe Ecology offers you its best wishes for the new year 1432 / 2011


H/T to G.F.

Solstice — fulcite me floribus

 'Things can only get better!'

What an exciting year lies ahead of us! We can expect the introduction of the new translation of the Missal (or at least the Missale Moronica) in the coming months; we have a new nuncio with a reputation for getting things done; we have several episcopal appointments to be made in the UK; and, of course, there will very soon be the establishment of the Ordinariate.

And right now we can look forward to the fact that after today the days will lengthen—a cock's step every day, as my grandmother would say—and soon we will see green shoots of all kinds.

Veni, delicta mea…Jam enim hiems transiit;* imber abiit et recessit;** flores apparuerunt in terra nostra.***

* even if it's only officially starting today
** well, a man can dream!
*** don't laugh!

The pictures, taken last May, are from my hortus in valle—I am surprised how much I am missing it while away.

Saturday 18 December 2010

Our new Nuncio

There seems to be a consensus emerging on the Italian blogosphere (as on Palazzo Apostolico among many others) that our new Nuncio was appointed because of his success in soothing the volatile temperament of the Russian Orthodox. In this his achievement has in all regards been conspicuous. He is, it is said, expected to perform the same miracle with the Church of England. Let us set aside the question of whether the aggrieved sensibilities of the CofE are perceived to be more important than the aggrieved sensibilities of the Russian Orthodox, or the extent to which either side brought it on themselves. What matters is that Mennini was perceived to have done a good job, and it is hoped that he will do it again.

It would appear that the Vatican has been serious in its post-Williamsongate (sorry!) intention to scan the online media, and has taken to reading Wikileaks among other things, and believes the Church of England to have been seriously annoyed by the establishment of the Ordinariates. This might a be a correct assumption, however incorrect the attribution of this opinion to Francis Campbell (whom I continue to believe to be a good thing). The Church has (in my view correctly) seen it as an important project to maintain good relations with non-Catholic bodies. The fact that the Church of England has taken some steps recently which have had seriously anti-ecumenical consequences (meaning that they see ecumenism as being less important than these other matters) does not change that. Eastern Churches frequently stamp off in dudgeon about some matter or other (I remember a formal breaking off of all dialogue with Rome by the Greeks because Rome exhibited a Macedonian icon in the Vatican museum) but despite the fact that actual unity has been postponed by the CofE sine die (unless we abandon our antediluvian ideas and join them in ordaining those whom our Lord did not), the Church still wishes, like a loving Mother, to keep the lines of communication open. This is good and Christian behaviour.

So Mennini's job is, they say, to soothe the savage breast and restore ecumenical equilibrium. I think, though, that the Secretariate of State has overestimated the problem, despite everything I wrote above. The Church of England isn't really that annoyed by the Ordinariates. Papalist Anglo-Catholics have long been a thorn in the side of the Establishment, and I am sure that there are many Anglicans, publicly posturing a 'Papal Aggression' stance, who privately are saying 'good riddance; just make sure they leave the silver spoons behind when they go'.

I believe, too, that the Church of England ought not entirely be allowed to get away with feeling that it occupies the moral high ground on the matter of women's orders, and I also dislike any notion that we Catholics are chasing to ingratiate ourselves once more with the people who caused the problem in the first place. Our first moral duty is to those now limbering up to swim the Tiber. They are our brethren, let us be in no doubt—and Rome is in no doubt—about it.

So Archbishop Mennini's first job is to keep Canterbury sweet. But he shouldn't waste too much time on that matter; it isn't necessary. Canterbury isn't Moscow or Athens (a far more intractable see than Constantinople). Canterbury is far too preoccupied with keeping its much bigger chicks within the nest—and the Anglican Communion right now risks losing far more members to the Southern Cone and the African group than it ever risks losing to us. Canterbury will keep talking to us because it needs to, and because it is right to do so, anyway. If it hesitate, it is because it feels, just a teeny bit, guilty about what has happened. The fulminations of such as Bishop Charteris (in denying Ordinariate swimmers use of London Diocesan property) are really the actions of someone who feels rather insecure, not someone who feels positive about his actions and wishes to make others feel positive too. He wishes to play the 'offended against' card. Sorry, it doesn't convince.

Archbishop Mennini is very welcome to our shores. I really hope he will enjoy his stay among us. Having served in Uganda, he should know some English already, which will help. But let him make no mistake about it: the real issue here is not ecumenism, vital though I genuinely believe that to be, but is  to be found in the various talks of the Holy Father on his visit to Britain only a few months ago. Those talks gave huge potential impetus to the faith of the Catholic Church here, and it will be vital to ensure that our future episcopal appointments realize this (in both senses of the word).

Friday 17 December 2010

Prayers please

Tomorrow (Saturday) we are due to ordain four splendid young men to the Diaconate, a most important step on their road to priesthood. But one bishop has been struck down with illness, and the arrival of another is imperilled by the threat of more snow.
Please do say a prayer!
Some guests have already arrived, including the redoubtable Mac, The Mulier Fortis, who lived up to her name and defied the weather.


—All went well, thank the Lord: Bishop Kieran Conry defied the snow and the Church now has four more deacons, whose ordination made us all very happy.

Thursday 2 December 2010

The Central Seminary Scheme

In the years following the restoration of the English and Welsh hierarchy in 1850, a lot thought was given to establishing diocesan seminaries.

Seminaries, in fact, are an English idea. In 1556, Cardinal Pole laid the idea before a synod of the English Church, and though, as is well-known, events were to overtake him and his scheme, the Council of Trent was to pick up the idea and run with it. Trent's idea (Session 23, Chapter 18, Cum Adolescentium Aetas) is that each diocese should have its own seminary, situated near the Cathedral and bishop, to mutual benefit. The bishop can get to know his future clergy, and imbue them with his vision for the diocese; in some sense, the seminarians can be apprenticed to him. The Cathedral, too, would benefit from experienced and professional serving—real clerics performing the appropriate role allotted to their order.

In England, during the Second Spring, bishops wanted to implement this, but there were a lot of difficulties, the major one being finance. So the plan was slow to get off the ground.

Westminster Diocese had trained its students at St Edmund's, Old Hall Green, Ware, which was half of the old Douai college, the other half having gone to Ushaw. Both places also, like Douai, doubled as secondary schools for boys, and even, to some extent, substituted for the Universities that Catholics were forbidden to attend (initially by the Universities' rules, and then by the Church's own).

Cardinal Manning tried to remedy that for Westminster, trying an abortive University in Kensington, and, only a little more successfully, a proper dedicated seminary in Hammersmith. This has as its patron St Thomas of Canterbury, and its buildings now house the Sacred Heart Convent and School. I think that they were also used for filming part of Nuns on the Run, but I'm not certain.

St Thomas' was not a happy place, it is said, but it endured until Manning's death. However, almost the first act of the new Archbishop, Bernard Vaughan, was to decree its closure. He did this, rather tactlessly, on the seminary's feast day itself, 29th December 1892. His decision was not to send the students back to St Edmunds (Cardinal Bourne was to do that), but instead to establish a Central Seminary for the whole south  and midlands of England. This was to be domiciled at Oscott.

It didn't quite work. He knew that the scheme would never manage to draw in Ushaw, so he left that alone. Wonersh had only just been founded, and so he thought that if he applied a little pressure, Wonersh could function as a junior seminary, and the seniors could go to Oscott. The bishop of Southwark, John Baptist Butt, and the first Rector, Francis Bourne (later the Cardinal) fought furiously to preserve their own seminary, and in the end won their right to independence.

It should be pointed out that Vaughan himself came to regret what he had done. A central seminary has a lot of advantages—the sharing of resources, for one. But it entirely lacks that necessary connection between bishop and student that makes a good seminary. Vaughan was to find that by sending Westminster students to Oscott, he lost all control over their formation, this coming under the Bishop of Birmingham instead (it did not have an archbishop until 1911). And, as I mentioned, Bourne was to bring the Westminster students back to St Edmund's in 1904 (he had succeeded Vaughan in 1903).

Now why do I write all this? Well really because I hear on the grapevine (from a source in the north of England) that the idea of a central seminary at Oscott is being talked about again among the bishops. With the closure of St Cuthbert's Ushaw now on the cards, and the majority of students to be moved to Oscott, there is talk of making the seminary at Oscott a national one, which would entail the closure also of Allen Hall and Wonersh (though presumably not Valladolid or Rome).

Please, your graces and your lordships, think well about this. A seminary is a kind of a home and common inheritance for priests who have surrendered these things for the sake of the Gospel. And, most particularly, you will yourselves lose influence over your students and their education. As in so many other things, expensive committees will take over your own roles, and though Eccleston Square can no doubt find time to do it on behalf of the Bishops' Conference, your own input will be severely restricted, and you will not feel able to intervene on behalf of your own students should you believe it to be necessary.

Our seminaries may be small, but they are ours. They can be decanted into smaller, more economic, buildings, should this be thought necessary (I wish they had done that at Ushaw), but they should not lose their local nature. They are part of the inheritance of the particular churches; in one sense they are the family silver which should not be lightly disposed of. The principle of subsidiarity suggests that one should not let economic considerations do the driving in this instance.

Sunday 21 November 2010

Letting nothing dismay them.

It was lovely (and an honour) to meet Fr Michael Gollop of the blog Let Nothing You Dismay and The Anglo Catholic today in St Arvan's, his (Anglo Catholic) parish near Chepstow just over the Welsh border. It was sobering to consider that his churches are attended from people from really quite a long distance away (including by a close relative of one of the Church of England's most unremitting persecutors of the opponents of women bishops) who must all be facing very serious decisions in the near future.
May God the Holy Spirit and St Peter guide them. Please pray for them.

On happiness

Sinéad O'Connor seems a strange place to start this post, but for me she is emblematic of our age. She feels passionately about things, and this causes her to make dramatic gestures that seem crazy, rather like some secular version of some of the Old Testament prophets. She has passion and fire, but this energy is unfocussed, undirected, and lashes out in all directions so that she can always be relied upon for a headline, a soundbite, that is as passionate as it is unreflective.

For a while she lived with a journalist called John Waters and had a daughter by him. He, in common with many Irish people of his generation, rebelled against the Church and lost his faith, believing himself to have profited by the loss. In due time, and through many journeys, he found it again, better than ever, and he also found Communion and Liberation which gave him a vocabulary to understand and articulate what he had been through and what Ireland was going through. He put it into a book, called Lapsed Agnostic which contains a lot of wisdom, and I commend it to you, especially if you know something about Ireland, though its wisdom is much wider.

The book is a kind of rebellion against revolution and at the same time a pæan in its praise. Years ago, in the eighties and nineties, I noticed that the authorities in our Church were still insistently employing the language and rhetoric of revolution and of change, which was strange, given that they were very clearly in power and making damn sure that revolution and change from their view of things was not gonna happen. In its own way, I suppose, it wasn't that different from Fidel Castro continuing to wear military uniform long after it had anything but symbolic relevance.

Did you ever watch any of those iconic comedies of the 90s, Absolutely Fabulous? There, Edina Monsoon, the mother, played by Jennifer Saunders, is an ageing revolutionary who just happens to be stinking rich and selfish, and is completely blind to the fact. She longs for her daughter, Saffron, a very buttoned-up conservative (with a small c), to embrace her 'values', and at one point asks her with passion 'Why can't you just rebel?' Saffron quietly says 'I thought that's just what I was doing!'

Waters writes from the point of view of Irish politics, observing that the politicians likewise, by presenting themselves constantly as forward-looking, embracing constantly blue-sky-thinking, have seized the initiative of revolution from the young and have refused to let it go. They monopolize revolution, and have stolen it from those to whom it naturally belongs. This has an enervating effect on the young, who simply will not engage with the political process at any level because the situation has been created where all politics are simply sat upon with the dead weight of authority administering with what ought to be their own language of revolution. But, of course, nothing ever does change, least of all for the better. The promise of one government after another that it will do away with the past (yet again) and create a new future simply seizes the spirit of youth from the young and makes them cynical.

The issue, I think, is deeper. Our society has become so consumer-led that it is incapable any more of perceiving the truth that happiness and fulfillment are far better achieved by self-giving than by satisfying our own wants and desires.

I was discussing this book with a colleague recently, and she made the sage observation that when she was growing up, the message given by Church, governments and schools was to consider just what the young people could give their lives to. It set before them a purpose and goal which was in some degree transforming. My colleague then contrasted this to what happened increasingly from the 60s onwards, which was to enable young people to organize their choices so as to get what they want out of life. It might seem a small difference, but the consequences have been catastrophic.

Life is now organized around the next pleasure and how to get it. Relationships likewise, and the whole advertising industry is organized around convincing people that they can perpetually have dinner without ever washing up. While the West is engaged upon this orgy of indulgence, the 'soma' of Brave New World, the poorer world struggles to satisfy the appetites in our own; it supplies cheap goods, but also drugs, sex workers and much more; these tear apart societies in the poorer world as much as in our own. And ultimately, it is no wonder that people do not care what government is doing. And it is no wonder that when the Church suggests that this 'soma' is bad for us, she is not listened to.

What it comes down to is that the real revolution is the Gospel, and, unlike the faux revolutions of our politicians, it is new in every age. Instead of arranging our lives around the next pleasure, the Church suggests that instead we should ask ourselves 'who can I give the next pleasure to?' It holds up marriage as the example of this love par excellence, since it reflects this exact self-giving relationship which exists between the Church herself and Christ.

It would be wonderful if our schools again could help our young people to consider their vocation in life. Not 'how do I get what I want?', but 'what am I called to be, to give?'

Not only would our young people be happier, but so would our world. In a world like this, Sinéad O'Connor with all her fire and passion might have done something truly great.

Saturday 20 November 2010

One man and his fax machine

Every time I see Fr Federico Lombardi, the (seemingly) one-man public relations team for the Vatican, I feel we ought to start a Fr Federico fan club. I can't imagine anything worse than having to front to an often hostile press things that you have no idea what they were about because nobody briefed you properly in the first place. And somehow, in many languages, he keeps his cool and comes across as, well, a nice man.
Three cheers for Fr Lombardi!

Friday 19 November 2010

The truth always hurts

There is a site on the web that affects to be able to analyze one's writing style and liken it to published authors. I ran one or two of my pieces through, and discover, to my consternation, that, apparently, I write like Dan Brown. Oh, the shame!

My consternation was slightly alleviated when my friend, an Anglican priest, ran his sermons through the same analysis, to discover that his style was that of  H.P.Lovecraft, who, according to Wikipedia, was known best for 'horror and weird fiction'.

In fairness, I ran a well-known piece of Jane Austen through the test and it came up with, er, Jane Austen. Too easy. I tried its teeth on a little-known piece of Evelyn Waugh's, from his biography of Monsignor Ronald Knox, and the answer came back…………… H.P.Lovecraft!

Impolite and humourless observations will not be posted.

Asia Bibi

I rarely repeat news that you can read on other sites, but sometimes I feel that I need to do so, if only to add weight to the general opinion.

You will no doubt be aware that Asia Bibi stands condemned to death for an alleged blasphemy against Mohammed. It appears sometimes that merely to make an accusation against a Christian in certain places in certain countries is as good as proving guilt.

Setting aside the question of whether Mrs Bibi did malign Mohammed or not, justice does not appear to have been done, and a certain amount (but by no means enough) international pressure is being brought to bear. Even within Pakistan, there is in some circles a sense that this action is doing Islam no good whatever. The Jinnah institute itself has condemned the sentence, which is said to have been the consequence of revenge by a malicious landlord.

Now it seems that President Zidari is examining the evidence. He has a difficult path to tread; Like Turkey, only more so, Pakistan likes to look west, and think of itself as a modern state, but it also has a substantial hard-line Islamic presence without whose support any government's position is always going to be precarious.

Let us pray for our sister in such peril, and for her family, and, if we can, do more. Pakistan is sensitive to public opinion abroad, and it must be encouraged to see that the world is watching what happens in this case.

The St Barnabas Society

For a very long time now, the St Barnabas Society (formerly the Converts Aid Society) has been helping clergy across the Tiber by providing financial assistance when necessary (and it is very often necessary). They are facing a very great call on their resources, as any reader of this blog will know, and could really do with some help.
Please read all about it on Jeffrey Steel's blog here.

Thursday 18 November 2010

Crisis in Belgium

Paolo Rodari, in his Palazzo Apostolico blog, draws our attention to a little rebellion in the Belgian Church which he read about in the New York Times. Don Bosco parish in Buizingen, a parish in the diocese of Malines, now without a priest since the death of the last incumbent, has simply started to attempt to celebrate the Mass without benefit of clergy. Though there is a former priest, now married, in the parish, the first 'celebration' was led by a retired railway official, pictured here. There are said to be about a dozen of these churches in Holland and Flanders, being a reaction to the shortage of priests, but also a gesture of defiance to a hierarchy perceived as being too conservative and too inadequate in its response to abusive clergy.

This reaction is not surprising from many perspectives. The Dutch and Flemish Churches were famous before the 1960s for the vibrancy of their faith and their loyalty to Rome. They were second only to Ireland for their commitment to the missions, exporting vast numbers of priests mostly to the former Dutch East Indies. But, as we all know, the bottom fell out of it all. The Dutch Church first became extremely liberal, and then imploded; that these two things might be connected does not seem to have occurred to the people in Buizingen. As with so many people of this cast of mind, the only answer is to accelerate and deepen the break with the past in the hope that if this policy is implemented with all fervour, then the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit promised at Vatican II will finally happen.

What will happen, of course, is that these communities will either die out altogether, or will come to resemble liberal congregationalist Protestant bodies who cheerfully decide doctrine more or less for themselves, and therefore come to resemble simply clubs of (more or less) Christians who agree with each other, but not with the club down the road.

You might care to compare these querulous, ageing and failing congregations on their way out of the Catholic Church with those happy Anglo-Catholics in San Antonio lining up to join. One line from the report on the blog I linked to on the last post has kept ringing in my mind: 'Children are the necessary fruit of these communities. Where people have hope, they have children.'

Actually, I've just noticed that this post has for some strange reason been deleted from the Anglo-Catholic. You can find it now here, on the Ordinariate Portal.

History happening right now

I do hope that everyone is following with interest the meeting of people interested in the American Ordinariates in San Antonio. Follow the link on the right to the Anglo-Catholic blog. Make no mistake, whether you are inclined to be in favour of the Ordinariates or against them, we are living at a remarkable moment in the Church, and, mark my words, this meeting will find its way into the history books.

Wednesday 17 November 2010


A strange thing is going on in the Church at the moment. Former liturgical enemies seem to be reconciling, lions lie down with lambs, all that sort of thing.

Going back a mere handful of years—well within the lifetime of this blog, at least in its earlier incarnation—the lines of battle were well drawn between those faithful Catholics who thought we should adhere faithfully to the liturgical books of Paul VI, and 'those attached to the former books', as Pope John Paul put it.

Now, of course, it is not a case of 'former books', for Pope Benedict has made both forms of the Roman Rite perfectly current, hoping, it is said, to recreate the Roman Rite anew without legislation or coercion. It will take time, but it is beginning to work.

To begin with, there is the more solemn style of celebration that he has introduced. We saw some excellent examples during the Papal visit to the UK. Some grumbled at the less traditional aspects of the Masses at Bellahouston and Birmingham, but really they should be comparing the whole thing to the Masses during the visit of Pope John Paul. The atmosphere was entirely different, and the change happened on that occasion when Pope Benedict, only a few weeks elected, attended the prayer vigil at the Cologne Youth Day that Pope John Paul had planned to attend. When the crowd began to chant 'Be-ne-det-to!', as it had done for JPII, the Holy Father simply put his finger to his lips and pointed skywards. It was a glorious moment; instant transformation resulted, and the consequence was one of the most prayerful occasions every seen on such a large scale. Subsequent Papal celebrations have had the same note of prayerfulness. I had long given up attending such things, or even watching them on the TV, because I was so distressed by the disruptive atmosphere. But everything has changed. In particular, I remember the great prayer vigil in St Peter's square at the close of the year for priests: there was hardly a sound in that vast crowd: I knew things were now going to be different. And so, during the Holy Father's visit to the UK, we saw the same thing. Yes, there were liturgical undesirabilities, but the tenor of the whole thing was prayerful and spiritually nourishing.

A few days ago, I met a brother priest at the seminary whom I had not seen for some time. He is, shall we say, not unknown in Catholic media circles. No, it isn't Mgr Loftus. In passing he happened to mention to me that he was starting to celebrate the traditional Mass from time to time. I was taken aback, because although I am aware that this priest is on the more orthodox side of things, I had never associated him in any way with traddydom. He saw my surprise, and said quietly 'yes, well, it's the future, isn't it?'

He's not the only one. In one southern English diocese, about twenty per cent of the priests now celebrate the traditional Mass at least from time to time. Most of these are in their forties or younger. They haven't stopped celebrating the Ordinary form as the norm, but, one might say that the Missa Normativa is no longer the Missa Formativa in their life or the life of their parish. I mean that behind their celebration of the Mass of Paul VI lies a positive experience of the Mass of Pius V (at least in its John XXIII form). The people who attend Mass now are mostly the sort of people who found the prayerful celebrations of the Papal Visit nourishing, and are (mostly) glad to experience the same in their parishes. Some call it the 'gravitational pull' of the traditional rites.

This has partly to do with the fact that in reality our parish liturgy has hardly changed since about 1975. A few extras, such as girl servers, but nothing much. What was exciting then, the introduction of a 'celebratory' style of liturgy, has become the norm, and like all party games that have been played over and over again, unless one is the centre of attention, the game palls. And still we see some priests beginning almost every celebration with a reminder to the grey heads in front of him of how awful things used to be and how much better they are now, like some ageing apparatchik of the Kremlin in the Russia of Brezhnev. We are even singing the same awful music. Very little has changed.

Except everything has changed. Like a long musical piece that has got itself stuck into a canon going on and on, now a new musical theme has entered. It harmonizes perfectly well with what is already being played, but suddenly the audience lift up their heads and regain their interest. This is not dissonance, but actually is not just interesting in itself, but makes better and more interesting sense of what is there already, to everybody's surprise, including the surprise of those who thought that really the best thing to do was to stop the music altogether and play the previous piece exclusively.

Here I would refer you to what inspired this very long post; Paix Liturgique from time to time send me emails with their latest article. Today's is arresting: Fr Claude Barthe, a long-term campaigner for the traditional rites, has lent his support to the movement for reform of the reform. Read it here (it's in English). Here's a taster:
The reform of the reform project cannot be implemented without the spinal column of the most widespread possible celebration according to the traditional Mass, which in turn cannot hope to be reintroduced on a large scale in ordinary parishes without the recreation of a vital milieu through the reform of the reform.
The lion shall lie down with the lamb indeed.

Now before you write in and tell me that you have not the slightest intention of modifying your position, that either the Mass of Paul VI or that of Pius V are the devil's work, I am not suggesting that there are not plenty of people out there who have not moved an inch in their position. Simply that there are a lot who have, and right now they are having their effect.

Monday 15 November 2010

Traddy announcements…

The Society of St Peter have a vocations discernment weekend on 17-19 December. Details here.
The Latin Mass Society have posted many pictures of their annual Requiem here.

Sunday 14 November 2010

Valle de los Caidos

The Valle de los Caidos ('The Valley of the Fallen') is a strange monument; I have been there a couple of times (out of curiosity, mostly) and latterly because I was the guest of some Madrid-based friends who have a holiday cottage not far away. From the little garden of the cottage, one can easily see the vast cross that indicates the Valle which itself is situated not far from the Escorial, the heart, in some ways, of the Spanish Monarchy. Not to visit it would be strange, though I am no Fascist. And, according to Wikipedia, it was the third most-visited monument in Spain in 2009.

As a church, that of the Valle de los Caidos isn't exactly heart-warming. There is a certain air of James Bond about it. The approach is up a long (highly defensible) road winding uphill through a forest which terminates in a large car-park with a ghastly cafeteria-style restaurant. From there one approaches on foot up some large concrete stairs. The church is not so much built as tunnelled into the mountain-side, and at the sesquipedalian entrance one must be searched and pass through those metal-detecting arches such as one finds at airports.

Inside, the gloom deepens. There is a long concrete tunnel of a church (which might have been by Goodhart Rendall) with no natural light, and side altars with tapestries behind them. The focus, through the unremitting grey gloom, is the large high altar with the graves of Franco and Primo de la Rivera at its foot.

The church, a Benedictine Abbey Church, is supposed to be a monument to all those (of both sides) who lost their lives in the Spanish Civil War. Inevitably, since it was the losing Socialists who, as prisoners of war, were made to do some of the work (they could halve their sentence by agreeing to participate), as well as the personalities buried there, it has come to be seen as a memorial to Franco and Spanish Fascism. Those workers are now called the 'esclavos de Franco'; Franco's slaves.

And now the church has been closed by order of Zapatero's government, and policemen posted to turn everybody away.

Let us not trample in where angels fear to tread. The whole issue of the Civil War is still a very painful one in Spain. There had been for many decades a general agreement simply not to talk about it, for the common good. This uneasy peace Pope John Paul was held to have broken by his raising to the altars many of those who were killed by the left wing anticlericals. Consequently, say some, now it is open season.

As Catholics, it would be hard not to see those Catholics who were killed as in some sense real martyrs. But the acknowledgment at a time when people can still remember that Franco and his army also committed atrocities has raised very painful memories and also the temperature of the debate.

Added to this is the fact that Franco has been judged by history as the villain of the piece. During my first visit to Spain, my companion lamented that the Church had supported 'the wrong side' during the Civil War. My jaw dropped; such is the forgetfulness of time, that nobody now remembers those thousands of priests and religious gratuitously killed by the left wing in and before that terrible war, and the dreadful oppression. They only remember Franco's fascism and his refusal to fight against Hitler and Mussolini.

King Juan Carlos owes his throne, at least in some degree, and perhaps mostly, to Franco. But he demonstrated his preference for a more democratic rule in facing down personally a pro-Fascist attempted coup not long after his accession. Consequently, the Spanish often speak of themselves as being not Monarquistas, but Juan Carlistas—attached not so much to the monarchy per se as to the person of Juan Carlos. Whether a similar reverence will be accorded the Prince of the Asturias when he succeeds, remains to be seen.

But to return to the Valle de los Caidos. Clearly, it was a thorn in the side of Zapatero and his mates. Not only was it a memorial to the fallen, it was also Franco's burial place, and therefore a focus of attention, even pilgrimage, to people that Zapatero pathologically hates. The closure is an act of defiance from a man who feels that finally he has put Fascist Spain to rest. The Guardia Civil are posted to prevent people from attending Mass there.

Not that long ago, guide books warned visitors to the Valle that the Guardia Civíl were still very much pro-Franco, and kept a proud watch on his tomb. Consequently, we were warned, 'behave yourselves!'. On my first visit, my companion (the same person who had lamented the Church's bad choices in the Civil War) raised his right arm and goose-stepped his way out of the church.

I was mortified; I thought we'd be arrested for mocking the Caudillo.

The chances are now that we'd be arrested for the opposite reason.

I was deeply saddened to read that the latest casualty of this business was a Pietá statue at the Valle which this year has officially been attacked with jack hammers in order to destroy it.

Whatever one's politics, this vandalism doesn't seem to be the right way to go about things.

Saturday 13 November 2010

One Timothy Four

A rather overdue post, this, to welcome Giles Pinnock and his family into the fold of the Redeemer. Let it never be underestimated, the courage and conviction to do this.
As a cradle Catholic myself, I salute my new brother and congratulate both him and the Catholic Church for being able to welcome him home.
As a token of this, with pleasure, his blog is now moved from 'Nearly Brethren' to 'Catholic Lynx', on the right.

Thursday 11 November 2010


When I was in the seminary in the early 1980s, we had a retreat given by an eminent Franciscan. Among other things, he described the translation of the liturgy we have now as being 'like a wet sack on a damp mattress'.

Well, yes. That was the good stuff, and generally he was an engaging and passionate preacher. However, (and of course there's a however—I'm a blogger!) he said at one time in an enthusiastic outburst:
'Purgatory wasn't even invented until the twelfth century'!

He clearly hadn't read Tertullian's De Anima. Tertullian (c.155-230) doesn't use the word (that may, of course, have been invented much later, possibly in the twelfth century), but the idea is clear enough:
It is most fitting that the soul, without at all waiting for the [resurrection of the] body, should be punished for what it has done, while not being joined to the flesh. So, on the same principle, in return for the pious and kindly thoughts in which it did not have the help of the body, it shall receive its consolation outside the body. 
  Moreover, even with things done through the body, the soul is the first to conceive them, the first to arrange them, the first to authorize them, the first to precipitate them into acts. And even if it is sometimes unwilling to act, it is still the first to deal with the thing which it means to bring about with the help of the body. In no case, indeed, can an accomplished fact happen before it has been thought about. So it is quite in keeping with this order of things, that the part of our nature which comes first should be the first to have the recompense and reward which it is due. In short, inasmuch as we understand the prison pointed out in the Gospel to be Hades, (Matthew 5:25) and as we also interpret the ‘last penny’ to mean the very smallest offence which has to be recompensed there before the resurrection, no one will hesitate to believe that the soul undergoes in Hades some compensatory punishment, without prejudice to the full process of the resurrection, when the recompense will be administered through the body as well. De Anima 58

Novembrish thoughts. The eminent Franciscan has now died, so he is able to find out for himself whether what he said was true or not.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Rowdy children

The Catholic Herald asks the question whether special children's liturgies actually encourage bad behaviour in church. Rather than make an extended comment in the box there and irritate people, I thought that I might do so here.

In the Adur Valley we have both a regular Sunday children's liturgy and (now) pretty well-behaved children, thanks be to God. I assume that in my absence on Sabbatical, things are still the same. This is how we tackled it:

When I first became Pastor in Valle, I determined that I would try and follow the recommendation of St John Vianney that the priest himself should prepare the children for their sacraments. Now, our catechists are very good and willing, lovely people, and I was not prepared to unseat them, so I simply joined them.

Our Communion preparation sessions these days always begin with ten to twenty minutes when I myself talk to the children in the church. I meet them in the hall, and explain what behaviour is expected of them and why. Then we go into church. I start very simply, showing them how to make the sign of the cross (most don't know—itself rather, well let's just say surprising, but certainly telling), how to genuflect reverently, and generally how to behave in church. We learn all the normal Catholic things; the bits and pieces in the church, lighting candles, looking at the furnishings and talking about their purpose. Finally, we kneel down (important to kneel, I think) and pray together the traditional prayers (which most don't know); the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, and the Act of Contrition (to get by heart for their first Confession).
Finally, their catechists take them off, after a good genuflection, to the main bit of their preparation.

My personal involvement has all sorts of spin-offs. The most important, I think, is that I get to know the children; their names, their families, their commitment and the rest. This has been terribly important, I have found. Next year, for the first time, I will be preparing for Confirmation (and, yes, I get closely involved there, too) those I prepared for First Communion six or seven years ago. My contact then and since will, I am sure, make all the difference. I am very keenly looking forward to it.

But another spin-off is that those children know how to behave in church, and in many cases they behave better than their parents. And the bonus which I had not anticipated is that their younger brothers and sisters naturally model their behaviour in church on them, as younger siblings will do. And fewer children seem to be lapsing, though there is a lot of room for improvement there.

Oh, our children aren't perfect all the time, of course, but what child is? All I can say is that I am moved that we can have 60+ children under ten in a crowded building, and not hear a sound at the Consecration.

Monday 8 November 2010

Five brave men

Today five Anglican bishops have announced their resignation: the Rt Reverends Andrew Burnham of Ebbsfleet, Keith Newton of Richborough, John Broadhurst of Fulham, Edwin Barnes emeritus of Richborough and David Silk, a retired assistant bishop of Exeter.

They have my prayers and good wishes.

So it begins.

Friday 29 October 2010

Boy Bishops

I must admit that I had thought the custom of making a boy bishop was something pertaining particularly to Mediæval England (with one or two modern and self-conscious revivals). Well, I was intrigued and pleased to read that the custom still endures in Palencia, Spain, where it seems that the custom of annually creating an obispillo has just been revived, having being going on (give or take a civil war or so) since 1220. It takes place on the feast of the Holy Innocents (so I apologize for only noticing it today), and the boy-bishop presides in the chapter house, rides through the city on a white horse, preaches, and even censes the altar in the Cathedral at Vespers. And he dresses far more splendidly than the real bishop does!

If you read Spanish, you can see more here, and here.

In Burriana, they elect a boy bishop more conventionally on the feast of St Nicholas.

And they do the whole thing in Burgos, too, on Holy Innocents.

Here, the Obispillo addresses the Mayor of Burgos and his Corporation

And presides in the Cathedral with his boy canons, wearing a stole priest-style

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Pædophilia—you've read the book, now see the film.

The acclaimed German (former Catholic, now Presbyterian) film director, Wim Wenders, President for the last ten years of the European Film Academy is to make a film about the Catholic Church and pædophilia, I imagine because nobody has spoken about this subject before.

He plans to tell the whole story, including accusing Pope Benedict of having failed to break the vicious circle of silence about the subject.

Zapatero to meet the Pope

Perhaps the most openly anti-Church premier that Spain has seen since the Civil War, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (right, not to be confused with Mr Bean, left)  is, after all, to meet the Holy Father when he visits Spain next month to consecrate Gaudi's famous Sagrada Familia church (or the bits of it that are finished, anyway), and also to visit Santiago di Compostella, the shrine of St James that has a hugely important symbolic status for the Spanish self-understanding of nationhood.

People had been wondering whether there would be a meeting, since a non-appearance might be construed to be a snub. In the opinion of the government, it is quite sufficient that the Holy Father be welcomed by the president of Catalunya, José Montilla and his assistant.

By not turning up, of course, Zapatero could claim to be sensitive to Catalunyas devolutionary aspirations. But it looks bad, doesn't it? And though Barcelona is in Catalunya, Compostella is not. So now Zapatero is to meet the Holy Father after all, for the first time.

At Barcelona airport.

'sólo de "unos momentos"—and only for a few moments.

Big of him.

I hope the Holy Father gives him a rosary.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

The New Cardinals

A friend last night drew my attention to the blog of Paolo Rodari, called Palazzo Apostolico. It appears to be very well informed on Vatican politics, and if Italian isn't your thing, there is always Google Translator which will have a pretty good stab at a whole webpage if you enter in the url.

Rodari, an Italian himself, of course, comments on the remarkable number of Italians among the new voting cardinals, and the remarkable number of curial, as opposed to residentiary ('pastoral') cardinals:

1. Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Prefect for the Causes of Saints;  Italian Curial
2. Antonios Naguib, Coptic Patriarch;
3.  Robert Sarah, President of Cor Unum; Curial
4. Francesco Monterisi, Archpriest of St Paul's outside the Walls; ItaliaCurial
5. Fortunato Baldelli, Major Penitentiary; ItaliaCurial
6. Raymond Leo Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura; Curial
7. Kurt Koch, President of the Christian Unity thing Curial
8. Paolo Sardi, Vice Camerlengo; ItaliaCurial
9.  Mauro Piacenza, Prefect of the Congregation of the Clergy; ItaliaCurial
10. Velasio De Paolis, C.S., President of Economic Affairs; ItaliaCurial
11. Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pont. Council for Culture; ItaliaCurial
12. Medardo Joseph Mazombwe, Former Archbishop of Lusaka;
13. Raúl Eduardo Vela Chiriboga, Former Archb of Quito;
14. Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, Archb of Kinshasa);
15. Paolo Romeo, Archb of Palermo;  Italian
16. Donald William Wuerl, Archb of Washington;
17. Raymundo Damasceno Assis, Archb of Aparecida;
18. Kazimierz Nycz, Archb of Warsaw;
19. Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, Archb of Colombo;
20. Reinhard Marx, Archb of Munich & Freising.

Plus, of course, the non-voting cardinals.

Granted the fact that all these people might have expected to become a Cardinal, it is a little startling to discover that there would be 25 Italians in a potential conclave, which is to say 20% of the 121 Cardinal electors. The Americans come next, with 13 (about 15%). Is the Holy Father suggesting that his successor should be an Italian? The Vatican doesn't think so (openly at least), though it has to be said that the names of Cardinals Scola of Venice and the eloquent Ravasi of Milan are in the air. Rodari, however, is of the opinion that the next Pope will be a Latin American, and the one after, an African.

Still, it is strange that, though the majority of Catholics now live in the Southern Hemisphere, this is not reflected in the College of Cardinals. And a great deal of the reason for this must surely go on the fact that so many Cardinals are from the Roman Curia. More of this in a minute. In his pontificate up to and including his forthcoming third consistory, Pope Benedict will have created 50 voting cardinals, of whom 27 are from Europe (14 Italians) and 23 from the rest of the world. It can be argued that in fact Pope Benedict has simply appointed Cardinals to the jobs that would expect to be accompanied by a red hat, though rigidly excluding all those who still have a Cardinal of voting age, albeit retired from active ministry (Florence, Turin, New York, Toledo, Brussels, and of course Westminster). So, says Rodari, we must expect a fourth consistory some time in the not-too-distant future.

The number of curial cardinals does make one pause and wonder quite when somebody is going to do something about the Curia. It is said that when Pope Benedict was elected, venerable curialists quaked, because, as someone put it, 'he knows where all the bodies are buried'. As a long-time curial official himself, he knows how the system works, and he was best placed to make some changes.

But then, perhaps, that is why he did not tackle the job. He knew that it would be a labour of Hercules, and that not only would he probably not have the time to do it properly, being elderly, but also there were more serious matters needing attention—child abuse, to name but one.

It has always seemed strange to me that bureaucrats feel unable to do their job unless they are created the bishop of a semi-fictional see. They feel, I suppose, that it gives them a certain authority. In a sense, though, I suspect that this is just what the rank of Monsignor is created for; the clobber of a bishop without the clout, as it were, or more precisely, without the cure of souls which surely is the real charge of a bishop. Given that there is an analogy between the canons of the diocese and its bishop with the cardinals and the pope, might we not find in the diocesan custom of creating honorary canonries for those who are superannuated, or worthy of honour, but without the necessity of actually doing the job, a good precedent for creating a class of non-voting, honorary cardinals, to include those who no longer have the cure of souls, or those who never had it, because of working in a Roman office? This would create many vacancies that could be filled with men who do have the cure of souls. And it would mean that Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor and his contemporaries would pass to the ranks of Honorary Cardinals, with all the clobber, while Vincent Nichols would already have been nominated for the Active Red Hat in the forthcoming consistory.

Just a thought.

Monday 25 October 2010


'Catholic bloggers aim to purge dissent'

'Catholic Taliban'

These headlines have been floating around the blogosphere in recent days, and they have stirred something which has been cooking at the back of my mind for a little while.

There has recently (over the last seven hundred years or so, I mean) been a tendency towards the repression of dissent. Some have traced it back to St Augustine's reluctant agreement that, if the only way to restrain the violence of the Circumcellion Donatists was to use violence back, then this might be justified, catching the little foxes that might destroy the vines.
Already there was an understanding between Church and State. It had begun with the Edict of Milan in 313 whereafter the Church henceforward would support the state, and the state would support the Church. It wasn't altogether a marriage made in heaven, but it more or less worked, with the Church being sometimes the junior, sometimes the senior, partner.

Heresy was considered seditious. It was considered to affect the State quite as much as the Church. From the Church's point of view, the state, then, would enforce orthodoxy for its own purposes as much as the Church's, this really getting into its stride only quite recently, with the Cathar business in France.
At bottom, this meat that if the Church said someone was a heretic, the state would kindly burn them and rid both Church and State of a troublesome individual. Everyone (except the heretic) benefitted.

For all sorts of reasons which I won't go into here, (and simplifying dangerously), the Enlightenment changed all that. Orthodoxy was considered the Church's matter, and the Church was left to get on with it. The concordat with Napoleon strengthened the Church's hand a little, but really from now on, the Church was on her own. The nineteenth century growth of Ultramontanism and the proclamation of Papal Infallibility was enormously helpful in strengthening the centralized moral authority of the Church, as was the invention of modern methods of communication. Once what Wiseman called the telegraph's 'magic wires' had connected Rome to the rest of the world, it meant that, were one produced, Wilfrid Ward really could have a new Papal Encyclical on his breakfast table every morning. And Rome could hear of naughtinesses in remote dioceses within minutes.

The new system got its first real trial in the opening years of the twentieth century with the new heresy of Modernism. Hearing about it quite early on, Rome sought to nip this weed in the bud, and in 1908 or so fulminated the two encyclicals of Pascendi Dominici Gregis and Lamentabile Sane. Now, the State was not involved, but the Church yet pursued modernists relentlessly as it could. In my studies for a book I am writing, I have seen how the chillingly-named 'Vigilance Committee' of the Southwark diocese called in priest after priest and grilled them on their theological opinions. They found much to condemn, but there was a horrible atmosphere; brother reported on brother, fulminations were fulminated, excommunicands were excommunicated and buried without Catholic rites…… and for what? Sixty years later it all sprang up again, because the matter had never been properly dealt with in the first place.

Simple condemnation is no real use unless you can call on secret police, thumbscrews and a stake to back it up. And I'm happy to leave that sort of stuff in the past, and I wish it hadn't happened then, either. Quite a lot of the condemnation stuff happened in the last pontificate, the then Cardinal Ratzinger having taken quite a lot of the flack for it.

He was on a losing wicket, of course. The world's bishops were deeply reluctant to sort out heretics themselves, and so left it to Rome, rather like a harassed mother saying 'just wait till your father gets home' so that she can play the nice parent and let the father become the hated one. Several of the cases that came to the Holy Office could and should have been sorted out at home. Tissa Balasuriya for one. Even Hans Küng for another. And, when the case came to Rome, Ratzinger had to do with far more fuss and scandal what these chaps' own bishops should have already quietly sorted out themselves.
In addition, I suspect, that the notorious condemnations without adequate hearings were not Ratzinger's idea either, and may suggest why he invited Hans Küng to tea so soon after his election, and why he appointed a gentle man to the Holy Office, and why the same Holy Office has gone very quiet (on the whole) since.

What I am trying to lurch my way round to saying is that nowadays condemnation is not the best way to deal with things. The Holy Father does not think so, nor do I. Condemnation á la Pascendi did not deal with the Modernist problem, but drove it underground, where it brewed and grumbled until it sprang forth a hundred times stronger.
These days we are not in the position of simply condemning someone and trusting in the state to make the problem go away. Now, we have to fight with our minds and with our pens, with our prayer and with our good example. And if we are going to fight, it is best that we know what our enemy thinks, and why he thinks it. If we simply suppress him and his writings, we are never going to know what the problems are that have led to this situation. If we have not heard the genuine weight of his argument, if we have not listened with openness and goodness in our hearts, then we will not be dealing with the situation, simply repressing it, and that fruitlessly.

It is surely much more important to win somebody's soul than to burn his body. And ideally we could even make a friend of him.

To which end, I say, not Tabula delenda est, but Tabula promovenda est. While Newchurch has an organ to express itself, we have a means of understanding not what we think it says, but what it actually says, and we can argue with it, and debate with it in charity, in omni patientia, and perhaps win it over. If something offends you in its pages, write in, or do a blog post, or something. Don't just say 'burn it'!

Sunday 24 October 2010

How will it all work out?

I have been asked by a commenter on the Anglo Catholic blog about the laity; what should they do? This is not, of course, for me to say, and anything I write is pure supposition based on what I hope is common sense and some knowledge of how these things work.

The arrangements are already being worked on, no doubt, by Bishop Hopes and others. But what can be said is that nothing can really be established until it is known which clergy will be coming across with which established groups of people.

This will have to be the first stage. Clergy in this situation are asked to have spoken to their Anglican superiors by the end of October. That will set the ball rolling. It will establish fairly rapidly where identifiable congregations will be found and what their needs will be.

In a very few cases, there may be a building and the overwhelming proportion of an existing congregation. This is relatively easy to sort out. I imagine that the schema worked out in the USA, and commented on by Fr Christopher Phillips on the Anglo Catholic Blog here might provide a model. No Mass was celebrated in this period, but after a month Fr Philips was ordained and everyone received into the Church together. Clearly those Anglicans wishing to identify with the Ordinariate would attach themselves to one of these congregations if that is feasible distance-wise.

The second case will be of a sizeable group with a priest but without a church building. Here Bishop Hopes and his team will need to negotiate a home for the priest and a church for the community. In the case of the church, this will very likely be the use of an existing Catholic church pending more permanent arrangements. Perhaps the Redundant Churches Commission might be persuaded to make over one or other property to such a group. I think, for instance, of St Andrew's Waterloo Street in Brighton which is standing empty but might be very suitable. In all other respects, this group would probably operate like the first.

The third case, more difficult to solve, is where there is a priest wishing to become part of the Ordinariate, but only a smallish handful of laity who have followed him from his old parish, plus one or two from neighbouring parishes. I suspect that the greatest number of takers will be in this category. Here, there will be need for delicate negotiations with local Roman Catholic parishes to find a home and, probably, part-time work, perhaps as a chaplain or part-time Latin-Rite priest in a parish, along the lines I suggested in the last post. No doubt such a priest's work with the Ordinariate will initially be largely liturgical and confined to Mass on Sundays and greater feasts. But this can change, and will change as he becomes known; laity will take the trouble to travel to find his Mass and no doubt some Roman Catholics will find the time, location and ambience agreeable and tag along for the ride. A group like this will either grow or fade out with time. If it grows, it can get its own priest and buildings; if it fades, it fades.

The fourth case is a priest entirely on his own. He, I think, will simply need to be loaned out to a diocese, perhaps full-time, where he can pursue promoting the Ordinariate way of doing things as best he can. He may well find that opportunities will arise of starting something—a Mass in Anglican style, an evensong—which may slowly build interest and eventually a congregation. He may travel around to isolated small groups of Ordinariate Catholics, encouraging them and celebrating the sacraments for them from time to time.

The fifth case is of retired clergy. I see no reason why, especially if they have their pension sorted out, they should simply not be ordained, incardinated to the Ordinariate, and then left to post themselves wherever they choose, helping out, or sustaining and pastoring existing groups as they find them.

Unattached laity are in a slightly difficult position. It is entirely possible that there may be a family or even individuals who are the only members of their parish who think they would like to join the Ordinariate. If this is the case, they will need to travel to where they can find a community to be received with. Thereafter, when they cannot get to one of the centres, they will need to fulfil their Sunday Obligation at the local Roman Rite church, but may certainly regard themselves as being members of the Ordinariate. In time they will either move nearer to the church of their choice, or maybe work towards building something locally. There is no reason why a small group of laity should not meet together in the local Catholic Church to say or sing Evensong together, or even have a visiting priest celebrate Mass for them from time to time according to the Anglican Use (whatever that may prove to be).

Ordination Preparation
The early comers are likely to be ordained with very little additional preparation. This will probably come as a relief to many, but it should not entirely do so. One of the most commonly heard observations made by those who have crossed over in the last twenty years is that 'it is more different than you think'. Canon Law is the obvious case in point. This is a system that clergy will be required to drive; Canon Law cannot be ignored as is sometimes the case in the Church of England. The Law of Marriage, for instance, is the most important element, where doing the wrong thing can actually invalidate the Sacrament, and there are a lot of wrong things that one may do. The necessary information will need to be provided somewhere and somehow. But probably most of it will have to happen after ordination. Just a guess.

Lay instruction
Initially, the same will be true of the laity, that the early takers will be received with little preparation. I am aware that there are Anglican parishes in England that are already systematically studying Catholic Doctrine with a view to joining the Ordinariate, and this is highly commendable. The biggest difference is that the laity will then be full Catholics, and bound, for instance, to attend Mass every Sunday and Holy day on pain of sin, to confess their grave sins at least once a year, and all the other requirements. Some understanding of why these things are necessary may in some cases be important to have provided

Realistically, there is likely to be quite a bit of coming and going from the Church of England to and from the Ordinariate in the early years. But I expect things will settle down, and the Ordinariate will become part of the normal ecclesiastical landscape, at least in the bigger towns.

In all this, I should emphasize, perhaps, that I have no insider knowledge. I am not on Bishop Hopes' team nor do I know anyone who is. Everything I have written is pure supposition. It just seems to me that if I were in charge, this is what I would do, and I cannot think of another way of doing it.

The Elephant in the Room

A good friend emailed me last night and drew my attention to one major anxiety of Tibernauts: money! Yes, it really is the elephant in the room, isn't it?

The Tablet article that announced the appointment of Bishop Alan Hopes to the Ordinariate in England and Wales also had this to say:

Another important issue to be resolved concerns the funding of the clergy. Some Anglican clergy own properties; some don’t. But all will leave behind their Church of England final-salary pensions. Priests within the ordinariate will be paid and housed by it, and there are rumours of Anglo-Catholic benefactors bank-rolling the operation to make it viable. 

But wherever the money comes from, the stipends will be relatively small and ordinariate priests will be allowed, and may even be encouraged, to take on secular work. The St Barnabas Society, which looks after Anglican clergy who are reordained as Catholic priests, said it will offer financial and pastoral support to ordinariate clergy. 
Secretary of the society Fr Robin Sanders admitted that finding employment might be hard for clergy who hadn’t worked outside the Church for years. 

Yes, money is an issue. In 1992, there was no Ordinariate option. Priests had to find dioceses who would take them on, and, in several cases, a wife and children also. Sometimes bishops made extravagant promises that were not lived up to, others shrugged and admitted that though they were desperate for priests, they hadn't got the funds to support a whole family.

Catholic priests get paid a great deal less than Anglicans and, as I remarked on a post on the Anglo-Catholic blog a few months ago, the money comes from all sorts of strange corners. Married priests do manage, but, like the rest of us, they have to forage a bit to put together a decent wage. Those concerned would do best to speak to one of the married Catholic priests.

The Ordinariates will be in a different situation. There is unlikely to be compensation as there was in 1992, unless Parliament can again be called on to intervene. The Ordinarates' desire for independence will mean that in fairness the ordinary dioceses cannot be directly called upon to bankroll something which will bring them no discernible benefit. Here, I think, the role of Bishop Alan Hopes is going to be crucial. If the first man to lead the Ordinariate were to be a recent Tibernaut, he would find it immensely difficult to establish relations with the dioceses, and I think that these relations are going to be key to the success or failure of the project. Alan Hopes already has all the right contacts. Let me unpack that.

Even if the Ordinariate finds ways of persuading wealthy benefactors to help out, or manages to bring with it funds from various currently-Anglican societies, there is still going to be a massive initial investment that will have to be made in the matter of things like houses, before one can even think about clerical salaries. The Ordinariate is going to have to be fairly reliant, one way or another, on the co-operation of ordinary Catholic dioceses; there is no way that it can establish itself, let alone survive, in a hortus conclusus.

But with some co-operation, this ought to work fine. One set of resources that most Catholic dioceses have right now (and could be persuaded to share) are houses, mostly in parishes that have lost a resident priest and sharing now one priest with the neighbouring parish. The Adur Valley is in this situation, having two houses. However, these houses are not owned (for the most part) by the diocese but (according to Canon—though not Civil—Law) by the parish. This means that the parish has the right in Canon Law to use its house to benefit itself, whether by accommodating a priest, or else by collecting rent from it. A diocese that wanted to take that house away to accommodate an Ordinariate priest (and maybe a family) would feel the wrath of the parish unless the parish were to derive some real benefit. The benefit need not be great. One Sunday Mass and one from time to time in the week need be all that was required—the pastoral work would continue to be the responsibility of the local diocesan priest. In other words, this could be a better deal than the common house-for-duty arrangement in the Church of England, because an Ordinariate priest would not, potentially, need to undertake pastoral work in the diocesan parish, but could concentrate on building up his own, Ordinariate, parish, and/or by supplementing his income in other ways. He could also use the diocesan church buildings to begin his congregation since it seems unlikely that the Church of England will permit buildings to be shipped over the Tiber. This will only work if the Ordinariate clergy are willing to work alongside diocesan clergy. If they hold themselves aloof, things will be very much more difficult.

And, of course, the various TAC congregations around the world will already have their entire set-up running and functioning, and will not need this sort of arrangement.

There are various chaplaincies that can be obtained. I see that Jeffrey Steel de Cura Animarum has got himself a school chaplaincy. Now, he's got a big family and seems to be managing fine (or well enough, anyway). To diocesan priests, who are getting more and more stretched, the idea of a chaplaincy in their parish being taken by an Ordinariate priest should be be a very desirable thing. Not just schools, but hospitals, prisons, airports, military bases, can be sources of income if properly negotiated, and need not prevent the establishment of Ordinariate cures of souls. Many of these chaplaincies are now being staffed by lay people; to have a priest doing the job would be wonderful.

My friend writes that there is an expectation that wives will need to work, and possibly be the larger breadwinner. In these days of recession this is an unfortunate necessity; indeed it is not something that the Church imposes, but has become the norm in the world, part of our modern way of life. I guess it all depends on the standard of living required. But I have to say that for the Latin Church, celibacy is the norm, and has been so for a very long time. I do not think that people and their whole families have the right to expect to be maintained in the standard to which they have become accustomed on a single clerical salary when the Church dispenses them from the necessity of celibacy—not that this is what my friend was asking for.

I do not understand that reference in the Tablet quotation about losing final-salary pensions. Perhaps someone can explain it. I cannot think that it means that all pensions for years already worked are to be taken away: that would surely be illegal.

And what about taking up tent-making? Some may feel it necessary to take a secular job to supplement their income. Unless one is really trying to support a family of ten single-handedly, and stay entirely away from the diocesan system, I do hope that this isn't going to be necessary. But it might, I suppose, especially in the early days before ordination. I cannot really make any comment here, because each person knows his or her skills and inclinations. It might, again, we worth contacting your local Catholic diocese to see whether they have any jobs available. Parishes and schools often need office help of various kinds, and this may provide just enough to tide people over. Invigilation (proctoring, to our transatlantic brethren) in schools can also be a good find for those who can get free during the day.

No doubt people can come up with other ideas. But what might be apparent is that clergy might initially have to be prepared to be nomads on the earth; the Ordinariate is a wholly new thing, without history or financial backing. It's going to take a while for it to get to the point where it can guarantee a living to all its clergy. With God's grace it will get there sooner rather than later, but a lot of this will depend on how the layfolk will also make the transition. On that, we need to wait and see.

Saturday 23 October 2010


An esteemed future colleague, who right now is in his ecclesiastical swimming trunks, running up and down the bank in his track suit, touching his toes and generally limbering up, worries about the reception that he is going to receive on this side of the Tiber.

His concern is perfectly natural and understandable, and so I thought I might put a few ideas down to reassure him.

1) I was already a priest in 1992, and I remember the concern that there was then in the Catholic Church about Tiber-swimmers shaking things up. Everything has changed now. I think of the many former Anglican clergy who have become part of this diocese since then, and can say with absolute assurance that they (and their wives and children, where applicable) have become valued and loved parts of our diocesan family. Indeed, it is hard to imagine life without them. I have never heard a word of complaint about them—well, all right, about one of them, but the problem is personal, not ecclesiastical.
What I mean is that these early-adopters have prepared the ground, and the clergy in the Catholic Church know now what to expect (which we didn't in 1992) and, on the whole, are positive, though curious, about what might develop over the next few months.

2) What is different is that new Tibernauts will not join dioceses, but have their own arrangement. In practice, we all know that we will be working very closely together. Some of you chaps no doubt will have your own congregations who can support you full-time. Others will help out in Roman-rite parishes, which will be of mutual benefit—hard-pressed parish priests like myself will appreciate the assistance, and you guys no doubt will appreciate the financial return (to say nothing of the fraternal and pastoral support). On this subject, please be determined not to hold yourselves aloof from our fraternity; that would cause problems (for obvious reasons). And deanery meetings (=chapters) are not at all what they are in the CofE: you might actually enjoy them. When we all share the same faith (more or less), there is far less to worry about.

3) I expect that the bishops and their cohorts are genuinely a little apprehensive. This is because they don't know really how this is going to work out in practice. Perfectly naturally, they are worried about this group that is going to be pretty independent, a sort of loose cannon possibly, in our midst. And so they are seeking to tie down the cannon wherever they can. However:
(a) Catholic bishops are not Anglican bishops. I mean that here there is a real respect for the authority of the Holy Father (in practice, even where it is not heartfelt), and if he (the Holy Father) establishes the Ordinariates as independent, they will be independent. We really do respect Canon Law. But you can't blame the bishops for trying to keep things as manageable as they can.
(b) The people appointed to deal in this matter can be relied upon to be sympathetic. Bishop Alan Hopes clearly knows where you are all coming from, and Archbishop Longley, too, is a warm and good man; I have known him for a good quarter of a century. There is a real wish to make this work. If the bishops wanted to make trouble, believe me, there would have been other people appointed. These are good guys, and sympathetic to you.
(c) I expect that you might be worried about the requirement that you approach your own Anglican ordinary before making any move. This requirement is a realistic thing. The Catholic Church is still in ecumenical dialogue with the Church of England and has no desire to make enemies. The fact that we now know that any prospect of Church unity is put off to a stardate that none of us can guess as a consequence of the recent Synodical policy does not change this. Personally, I genuinely wish to remain on good terms with my Anglican opposite numbers in the Adur Valley, and the bishops wish to remain on good terms with their Anglican counterparts. Actual unity may not be a near prospect (=understatement of the millennium), but there is lots of other good work that we can and should do together. You (understandably) may feel anger and resentment toward them, but we don't feel it in the same way, except on your behalf. To us, the CofE has always done its own thing and always will.
The Ordinariates came from Rome simply because the English and Welsh hierarchy could not have established anything of the sort without causing offence. But that doesn't mean that they don't think that it is a good idea. It just means that they need to soften the blow for the CofE bishops, and make it work all round. Saying a polite goodbye to one's existing superior is not an unreasonable thing to ask, however badly one may feel that he has treated one. One can listen politely to his efforts to persuade one to remain, and then politely explain (again, I know) why that is impossible. Give him a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates for his missus, thank him, and come home.

Perhaps some of those who have already swum the Tiber since 1992 might care to add comments.

Bishop Alan Hopes to head the English Ordinariate

Well, so The Tablet says. And it is exactly what most of us expected. His candidature is obvious, given his personal history (first Anglican priest and now Auxiliary Bishop in Westminster), but also (in my experience) simply because he is a measured and kindly prelate who, I'm sure, will do a good job. He is one of the good guys, in fact. He won't set the Tiber or Thames alight, but those about to swim the Tiber can expect a sensible, sympathetic and warm welcome.

The clever bit comes with the news that he will only do the job temporarily, handing over to someone else, to be decided on by a governing council (a chapter of canons, basically) consisting of six priests, three of whom are expected to be currently bishops in the Church of England; these would be the two current flying bishops who are changing into their trunks for the swim, plus, I suppose, either Bishop Edwin Barnes or John Broadhurst. Or maybe the decision was made before Bishop Broadhurst's solemn announcement, and he will be included anyway.

Friday 22 October 2010

Beelzebub's Kazoo and other Catholic newspapers

Fr Ray's excellent blog, St Mary Magdalen, has been dealing quite a lot recently with the matter of Fr Clifton's little run-in with Mgr Loftus. He and others have dealt with the matter and, as is my custom, I don't want to rehash what you can read much more profitably elsewhere.

The particular thing that I would like to pick up on is his comment regarding the Catholic newspapers. In the Adur Valley, we don't take the Catholic Times at all. Personally, I have never liked it: when it was re-started, it seems to me that it was intended as a bit of a Trojan Horse. The Universe had, I suspect, been losing readers to the Catholic Herald at the time, and so the publishers decided to revive the Catholic Times as a challenge, to regain the more conservative readers. However, some of the articles I found decidedly fishy, and this was no surprise, given the then editorial board (it's a long time ago now, and I can't remember who they were). It seemed to me that if one were to put 'Follow Peter' on the masthead, one could, and did, put almost anything inside the paper. And of course there were some good names inside, too. But I feared that it would be an exercise in boiling fish; they tell me that (being cold-blooded) fish will not notice if you gently increase the temperature in their aquarium until they are boiled to death. I feared that the conservative readership of the Catholic Times were gently being boiled into Liberalism by means of this particular paper.

The Catholic Herald had a bit of a career, too. I remember Fr James Kenny, my parish priest when I was a boy, banning it from the church newspaper table on account of its left-wing views 'I don't know why I give it house-room', he fulminated one Sunday in a homily. This tendency had begun under the editorship of Michael de la Bédoyère (1934-62), an enthusiast for the Council, for ecumenism and the vernacular liturgy. The liberal progression found its final expression in the time of the enfant-terrible editor Peter Stanford (1986-92). For a while it was christened 'The Lapsed-Catholic Herald'. Peter Stanford resigned after his book Catholics and Sex went too far even for the Bishops' Conference.
But then the paper was taken over by Cristina Odone, who turned it right round. She astutely saw that the main problem of the Universe and its satellites was that the company was owned by the Bishops' Conference (Odone was known by Cardinal Hume as 'The Odd One') and therefore peddled the official liberal line on everything; this, however, was not where people really were. So, lightly dismissing the Universe in my hearing as 'the Catholic News of the World' (or something of the sort), and seeing the independence of the Herald as its principal strength, she aimed her paper at a very different market. And she succeeded very well, because there was nothing else for that constituency just then, except the slightly nutty Christian Order.
But, my goodness, she really got up the noses of the Bishops' Conference! One columnist she had introduced was the inimitable Alice Thomas Ellis whose column was egregiously anti-Newchurch. In 1996 Alice Thomas Ellis penned a piece on the recently-deceased Archbishop of Liverpool, Derek Worlock which caused the bishops finally to revolt. They could do nothing directly, as the Herald was independent, so they threatened that it would be forbidden to sell copies in churches unless Alice were sacked. Poor Alice went, and was soon followed by Cristina, who went to write a book, and then went to the New Statesman. I wish I knew when it was that the Catholic Times restarted, but it must have been during this period, I think; perhaps the Bishops' attempt to capture the conservative end of the market.

 Cristina Odone was succeeded briefly by Debbie Jones (who then went to work for the Bishops' Conference, and now writes letters on animal rights to the papers) and then by the splendid William Oddie, the convert Anglican cleric, who really put a rocket under the paper and sent it into the stratosphere. The Universe still claimed to be the number one read, but it never looked that way to me. If anyone took a paper, they took the Herald. Wiliam Oddie left the paper in 2004 during a strange manoeuvre shrouded in mystery which coincided with Peter Shepherd's purchase of the paper. Luke Coppen has done very well since, steering the paper to its present assured place in the Catholic porch. And since he reads this blog from time to time, perhaps he can correct me if I have gone wrong anywhere.

Where the Herald has recently been particularly acute is the move onto the Web, which Luke Coppen wisely pioneered, seeing that the internet has changed everything. The Universe has its site now, too, labelled TotalCatholic.Com (and that very title tells its own story, doesn't it?). This reflects what Fr Ray has been writing about; the decreasing use of traditional-type newspapers. Like St Mary Magdalen's, the Adur Valley has to dump piles of unsold newspapers every week (though fewer Heralds than the others, since people like it; they found they liked the paper when their parish priest was asked to write an article or two at the time of the Papal elections).

These days, more and more people are reading websites, and the websites are reaching far more people than traditional papers ever could do. This is what has done more to reassert the traditional forms of Catholicism than anything else. While the media were in the hands of the few, the media had to reflect their owners' views. Now anyone can publish anything and have it read, and real opinions of real people can make themselves known. Now, people do not have to physically walk into a Catholic Church to find out about Catholicism; they can do it from their own desk, and this is having its impact.

With its journalistic experience, the Catholic Herald should be able to keep ahead of the competition; but, let's face it, the competition these days is not from The Universe: it is from the Hermenutic of Continuity, or Fr Ray's blog or others.

The media that matter are now in dialogue in a way that they never were in the past, and in this way a consensus is being reached about the future of our faith. And it would seem to be right where Pope Benedict is pushing it.


Inspired by the same article on Fr Ray's blog, Ttony in The Muniment Room has a hilarious list of hate-words; go along and play.