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.