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September 29, 2014

What a difference a comma makes

Almost everyone surely knows that “The panda eats, shoots, and leaves” is an example of how a variation in punctuation  can change the intended meaning of a phrase.

When I was very young, every toilet on British trains had a little notice saying, “Gentlemen lift the seat.” One always wondered if this meant “Gentlemen, lift the seat.” or “Gentlemen lift the seat.”

The Germans have an advantage here, as in their language the imperative mood is always followed by an exclamation mark, which prevents any such possible confusion.

September 27, 2014

A Modern Student-Clerical

I have received the following from an Irish clerical student.  Anyone with even a perfunctory knowledge

of Gilbert and Sullivan operas w ill recognise straight away that it’s based on “I am the Very Model of

a Modern Major-General” from The Pirates of Penzance.

I am the very model of a modern student-clerical,

I’ve had formation spiritual, humane and academical,

I know the Popes of Rome and can quote councils ecumenical

from Nicaea to Vatican II in order categorical;

I’m very well acquainted too with matters philosophical,

I understand all arguments Cartesian and Platonical;

about things transcendental I am teaming with a lot of news,

with many cheerful facts concerning Hegel’s cat and how to muse.

With many cheerful facts concerning Hegel’s cat and how to muse,

with many cheerful facts concerning Hegel’s cat and how to muse,

with many cheerful facts concerning Hegel’s cat and how to, how to muse.

I’m very good at putting into use my talents pastoral

I know the name of every holy nun who has a class to rule;

In short, in matters spiritual, humane and academical

I  am the very model of a modern student-clerical.

In short, in matters spiritual, humane and academical

I am the very model of a modern student-clerical.

I can pronounce on all the controversies christological

I’ve mastered St Augustine and the sermons mystagogical

I understand Aquinas’ Summation Theological

and know the rubrics of the Trinitarian Processional.

For questions of morality I have the perfect manual

containing answers useful for all things in the confessional

For learning to read Mass, I have a disc both versatile and digital,

in Latin from that group who once were thought a tad heretical.

In Latin from that group who once were thought a tad heretical.

in Latin from that group who once were thought a tad heretical.

in Latin from that group who once were thought a tad, a tad heretical.

That said, I strive to work in continuity hermeneutical

and to be safe I read that blog on new movements liturgical.

In short, in matters spiritual, humane and academical

I am the very model of a modern student-clerical.

In short, in matters spiritual, humane and academical

I am the very model of a modern student-clerical.

I know Israel’s history and have great knowledge scriptural,

from Genesis to Apocalypse, I read in the original

That’s not to say I don’t employ good methods exegetical

like lectio divina and interpretation literal!

Upon examination I’m not lacking Law Canonical,

I know the rules on stipends and on black-stole-fees at funerals;

For couples getting married my advice is always practical,

particularly on their obligations consummational!

Particularly on their obligations consummational!

particularly on their obligations consummational!

particularly on their obligations consu-, consummational!

I have the best of knowledge on canonical impediments

so that I judge myself ordainable with little hesitance.

In short, in matters spiritual, humane and academical

I am the very model of a modern student-clerical.

In short, in matters spiritual, humane and academical

I am the very model of a modern student-clerical.

 

September 26, 2014

Britain a Moth-Eaten Lion?

A final look at Harold Nicholson’s 1942 visit to Dublin…

Before his meeting with Eamon de Valera, the British MP  addressed the Law Society of Ireland and nearly got into serious trouble at home for what some regarded as a “defeatist” speech. Here is his own diary assessment of the proceedings:

The auditor’s address is a covert attack on England and is designed to show that she has fallen from her high estate and reaped the penalty for her many sins. I have to follow, and the audience receives me kindly. I was stimulated by the danger of it all and made a good speech. There is much applause at the end, with that carrying-through movement, the effect of a following  wave of appreciation, which one sees  in a good drive at golf.

The next day,  the poet John Betjeman, then the British press attache in Dublin rang to tell Nicholson the speech had gone very well.  Nicholson himself was worried by the fact that the Irish Times and Irish Independent both mentioned his references to the danger that Britain was in, but left out his insistence that Britain was determined to persevere and win the war. In fact , in his reply to the Law Society auditor, he  had prefaced his speech by the following unprepared remarks:

Imperialism is dead, and, I devoutly hope, buried. If you were to picture the British lion as a rampant beast, red in tooth and claw, seeking whom it might devour, than you would get a completely false and distorted picture of our war aims. It would be much wiser to think of the British lion as an elderly, replete, self-satisfied, moth-eaten animal, whose tail in the last twenty years has been so frequently twisted that few hairs remain, but an animal which at this moment is alert and angry.   We have suffered severe defeats  and will have further disasters to meet in the future, but while these defeats and disasters have certainly diminished our conceit and destroyed our self-complacency, they have increased our pride.

Nicholson then turned to his prepared speech and spoke of British patriotism and determination to win.  Irish newspapers carried the headline: “Britain, a moth-eaten lion.” When he returned home he faced a motion in the House of Commons that he be dismissed as a governor of the BBC for making a “generally defeatist” speech in Ireland.  He wrote that “All my pleasure and triumph at my Irish visit is suddenly damped, and I feel deeply depressed. This sort of thing can never really be explained away.” However, before it came to a vote Nicholson did manage to explain himself to the satisfaction of the House, and the motion was withdrawn.

 

 

 

September 24, 2014

Divorce and Communion–the Impossible Dream
There has been a vast amount of speculation in the secular and liberal Catholic media  that the forthcoming Synod on the Family might  somehow relax the Church’s teaching in relation to marriage and the Eucharist. I’m indebted to Fr Brendan Purcell for drawing my attention to this interview with Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in which the Cardinal spells out with great clarity just why the Catholic Church can never admit  anyone validly married, divorced and then “remarried” to Holy Communion.  I hope that any readers who missed this interview–as I did–will find Cardinal  Müller’s remarks reassuring.

Question: Public opinion in recent months has been very concerned about the problem of divorced and remarried persons. It has gone so far as to call into question the criterion established in Familiaris consortio, which in number 84 says: “The Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.” Starting from a certain interpretation of Scripture, patristic tradition, and magisterial documents, some recent commentaries have hinted that it is time to propose an updated version of Familiaris consortio. What position should we take with regard to this? Is it possible to hope that there might be a change of doctrine in this matter? But above all (to formulate the problem more clearly and proactively): Is there any concrete way to accommodate divorced persons who have entered a new civil union?

Cardinal Müller: Not even an ecumenical council can change the doctrine of the Church, because her Founder, Jesus Christ, entrusted the faithful preservation of his teachings and doctrine to the apostles and their successors. The Gospel of Matthew says: “Go and teach all people everything that I commanded you” (cf. Mt 28:19–20), which is nothing if not a definition of the “deposit of the faith” (depositum fidei) that the Church has received and cannot change. Therefore the doctrine of the Church will never be the sum total of a few theories worked out by a handful of theologians, however ingenious they may be, but rather the profession of our faith in revelation, nothing more and nothing less than the Word of God entrusted to the heart—the interiority—and the lips—the proclamation—of his Church.

We have an elaborate, structured doctrine about marriage, all of it based on the words of Jesus himself, which must be presented in its entirety. We encounter it in the Gospels and in other places in the New Testament, especially in the words of Saint Paul in the First Letter to the Corinthians and in Romans. We also rely on tradition, with many writings and reflections of the Fathers of the Church, such as those of Saint Augustine. These are joined by the particular development that Scholasticism and the Magisterium made in the Councils of Florence and Trent. Lastly, a final stage in the progressive exposition of dogma is magnificently expressed for us inLumen Gentium and, above all, in Gaudium et Spes (nos. 47–51), which are a complete synthesis that the Second Vatican Council made of the Church’s entire doctrine on marriage, including the question about divorce also.

In this regard, the Church cannot allow divorce in the case of a sacramental marriage that has been contracted and consummated. This is the dogma of the Church. I insist: the absolute indissolubility of a valid marriage is no mere doctrine; rather, it is a divine dogma defined by the Church. In the case of a de facto break-up of a valid marriage, another civil “marriage” is not permissible. Otherwise, we would be facing a contradiction, because if the earlier union, the “first” marriage, or, more precisely, the marriage, really is a marriage, the other later union is not a “marriage.” In this regard, I think we are playing with words when we speak about a first and a second “marriage”. A second marriage is possible only when one’s legitimate spouse has died or when the previous marriage has been declared invalid, whereby the preceding bond has been dissolved. Otherwise, we are dealing with what is called an “impediment of the bond.”

There are many respectable authors, renowned for their prestige in theology and canon law, who at present warn about the danger of simplifying or even adulterating these teachings. In this connection, I want to emphasize that in 1994, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the congregation over which I now preside, with the approval of then-Pope Saint John Paul II, had to intervene expressly in order to reject a hypothesis that had appeared (the one that you set forth in your question).

At the root of the question you pose, and beyond any apparent theological dispute, we must keep in mind that we are addressing a problem that casts doubt on the fact that it is necessary for the Church always to remain faithful to the doctrine of Jesus, whose words in this regard are absolutely clear.

This does not prevent us, however, from speaking, as we must, about the problem of the validity of many marriages in the present context of secularization. We have all attended a wedding at which you could not tell whether the intention of the couple contracting marriage really was to “do what the Church does” in the rite of matrimony! In theory, we all know the criteria or classical conditions for being able to contract marriage; especially that the will to consent not be vitiated but rather should be free and that there be sufficient personal maturity. Nevertheless, this current situation described earlier makes us reflect, and, as pastors, we are worried about the fact that many people who contract marriage are formally Christians, since they have received baptism, but are not practicing the Christian faith at all; not just liturgically, but also existentially.

Benedict XVI issued an insistent call to reflect on the great challenge posed by baptized non-believers. Consequently, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith took up this concern of the pope and set a good number of its theologians and other collaborators to work on the problem of the relation between explicit and implicit faith. What happens to a marriage when even implicit faith is lacking in it? It is certain that when implicit faith is absent, even though it was celebrated libre et recte [with free consent and with the proper form], it could be that it was invalid. It leads us to think that besides the classical criteria for declaring the invalidity of a marriage, it is necessary to reflect more on the case in which the spouses exclude the sacramentality of marriage. At the moment we are still in the process of working, with calm but persistent reflection, on this matter. I think that it would not be good to propose hasty conclusions, since we have not yet found a solution, but this does not prevent me from pointing out that in our congregation we are making great efforts to give a correct answer to the problem posed by implicit faith in the contracting parties.

Question: So that if the subject were to exclude the sacramentality of marriage, just as if one were to exclude children, for example, at the moment of the wedding, this could also make the contracted marriage null. Is this what is being studied . . .?

Cardinal Müller: Faith is an essential part of the sacrament. Nevertheless, we have to clarify the juridical question posed by the invalidity of the sacrament because of an obvious lack of faith. A famous canonist, Eugène Corecco, used to say that the root of the problem is specifying the degree of faith necessary to bring about sacramentality. The classical doctrine assumed a minimalist position, requiring a merely implicit intention: “to do what the Church does”. Corecco added that in today’s globalized, multicultural, and secularized world, where the faith is something that cannot simply be taken for granted, it becomes necessary to require a more explicit faith of the contracting parties, if we really want to save Christian marriage. Nevertheless, I emphasize again that this question is still being studied. To establish a valid and universal criterion in this regard is not a trivial question. In the first place, because persons are constantly developing, in matters pertaining both to the knowledge they acquire over the years and also to their faith life. Learning and faith are not static data! Sometimes at the moment when marriage is contracted, a person was not a believer; but it is also possible that a conversion process took place in his life, through which he experienced a sanatio ex posteriori [a “healing” or validation after the fact] of what was a serious defect of consent at the moment when it was given.

I want to insist, however, that when we are dealing with a valid sacramental marriage, in no way is it possible to dissolve that matrimonial bond: neither the pope nor any other bishop has the authority to do so, because this reality is not their concern but, rather, belongs to God.

Question: In this same context, there is talk about giving spouses the option to “redo their lives”. What are the underlying assumptions of this question? Is it a good approach to the problem? Most importantly: If the revelation of God was constantly bound up, both in the Old and in the New Testament, with the nuptial mystery and with a certain concept of the reality of marriage, what implications would that have for the faith? Within this same framework, it has also been said that the love between Christian spouses can “die”. I ask myself: Can a Christian really use this expression? Is it possible for the love between two persons united by the Sacrament of Matrimony to die?

Cardinal Müller:These theories are radically wrong, because they refer terminology that may be true about the life of the spouses to the life of their love. One cannot declare a marriage defunct with the excuse that the love between the spouses has “died”. Contrary to what many people claim today, in a not disinterested way, love is something more than a feeling. Love is the will that a person has to share his life with another and, above all, to give himself to her. Marital indissolubility does not depend on human feelings, whether they are permanent or transitory. This property of marriage was willed by God himself. The Lord has become involved in a marriage between a man and a woman, and for this reason the bond exists and originates in God. This is the difference.

The proposal to which you refer is in itself yet another expression of the grave secularization of marriage. But basically it is an instance of “begging the question” (petitio principii). In reality, only the death of a spouse dissolves the bond of a sacramental marriage. And I am not referring to death in a metaphorical sense. The reason for this is that the marriage is not only a merely human reality; it is a transformed human reality. The kind of marriage desired by Christ is a sacrament; it is a visible representation of the transforming grace that has created a new reality that did not exist before. In this regard, we must consider that the indelible character of baptism, confirmation, or priestly ordination does not disappear, either, when the Catholic who has received the sacrament distances himself from the Church or from his priestly commitments. Theological tradition speaks in this connection about a “quasi-sacramental character” in matrimony, because a person is permitted to contract a new marriage after the death of the spouse, but not while the spouse is alive.

In its intrinsic supernatural reality, marriage includes three goods: the good of exclusive, personal, reciprocal fidelity (the bonum fidei), the good of welcoming children and educating them to know God (the bonum prolis), and the good of the indissolubility or indestructibility of the bond, the permanent foundation of which is the indissoluble union of Christ and the Church, which is sacramentally represented by the marriage (the bonum sacramenti). This is why, although a limited abrogation of the physical communion of life and love is possible, the so-called “separation from bed and board,” for a Christian it is not lawful to contract a new marriage while the first spouse is alive, because the legitimately contracted bond is perpetual. The indissoluble matrimonial bond corresponds in a way to the character (res et sacramentum) imprinted in baptism, confirmation, and holy orders.

Gerhard Cardinal Müller is prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Formerly the Archbishop of Regensberg and a professor of theology, he is president of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and the International Theological Communion.  Acknowledgments to the magazine First Things, which published this extract from a forthcoming book from Ignatius Press, entitled Will Catholic Teaching on Marriage Change?  

 

September 23, 2014

Merciful hour!

The synod on the family next month is shaping up to be a titanic struggle between representatives of the new modernism–those who believe, implicitly or implicitly, that the Church has  abandoned, or should have abandoned,  all those nasty rigid dogmas–and those who hold fast to what the Church has always taught about the Incarnation, the Resurrection, the Four Last Things, the necessity of repentance.

Fr Ray Blake sums up the modernist spirit in a devastating critique on his blog:

What seems to be being said is that the age of dogma and doctrine is dead, everything is pastoral, focus groups replace creeds, there is more concern with how we are conceived by public opinion than any teaching…What we are now concerned with is the “lived experience”. In the New Pentecost, the Age of the Spirit that has superseded the age of the articulated Incarnate Word;  it is the experience of women and men. The pneumatic, blow-where-it-will Spirit is all that matters…It is about syncretism, dialogue, moderation, compromise, ambiguity, recognition of ignorance, the preference  for the via negativa, the rejection of the via positiva. Christ and the apostles might be unambiguous about judgment, heaven and hell, about objective realities; but in fact “we have moved beyond” all of that. That is no longer the default position of the Catholic Church.

It’s not really surprising–is it?–that those who can swallow all of that have no difficulty with perverting the concept of “mercy” to include  allowing unrepentant adulterers to be admitted to Holy Communion.

 

September 22, 2014

Bag of Irish Bile?

“The Irish are not in a conspiracy to cheat the world by false representations of the merits of their countrymen. No, Sir; the Irish are a fair people; — they never speak well of one another.”
–Boswell: Life of Johnson.

In our last post we quoted Harold Nicholson’s impression of Eamon de Valera, whom he met while on a visit to Dublin during World War II.  It wasn’t very flattering, with references to Dev’s uninteresting conversation, his  “porridge-coloured face” , and his “unhealthy look about the gills, and faint indications of white puffiness” ; yet he also described him as “a very simple man, like all great men” , and referred to his “happy smile” and  “deep spiritual certainty”.

On the same occasion, Nicholson was visited by Daniel A. Binchy, Professor of Jurisprudence in University College Dublin,  uncle of the late authoress Maeve Binchy and of William Binchy the academic lawyer and pro-life campaigner. Daniel Binchy’s rather sardonic opinion of his fellow-countrymen seems to have made quite an impression on Nicholson:

He says a visiting Englishman is apt to be taken in by the blarney and to imagine that the feelings of this country towards us are really friendly. Not in the least: at the bottom of almost every Irish heart is a little bag of bile, and although their hatred of us may die down at moments, it is there, even as our Protestantism and puritanism  are there subsconsciously.  He says that at the beginning of the war no Irishman really supposed that Eire would be able to maintain her neutrality. The fact that this neutrality has been respected is not accorded unto us for righteousness: most of it is attributed to the genius of de Valera, who has thereby gained enormous prestige and many new adherents. Those who refuse to admit Dev’s part in it attribute it to a Merciful Providence who is recompensing Ireland for all her past sorrows. “Neutrality” has thus taken on an almost religious flavour; it has become a question of honour; and it is something which Ireland is not ashamed of, but tremendously proud. The Irish were “relieved” by the American occupation of Ulster [Nicholson means the arrival of three US divisions in Northern Ireland] and only a few of them have the sense to see that it will go far to explode the American legend about Ireland. “You see”, says Binchy, “the Americans will find us out.”

I [Stramentarius] am reminded somewhat of an incident in 1967 during my first week working in the office of the old Irish Press. One of my fellow sub-editors, Tony Matthews from Co. Louth, asked me what impressions I, as an Englishman, had formed of his countrymen. Kicking for touch, I replied that it was a bit early to give an informed opinion  but (truthfully) that I had found everyone I dealt with had been very kind.

“Don’t be fooled by that”, replied Tony. “The English are kind. The Irish are charming.”

 

September 19, 2014

An Interview with de Valera

Browsing through my books recently,  I found one  my mother gave me for my 31st birthday in 1968.  It was the diaries and letters of Harold Nicholson, parliamentary secretary in Winston Churchill’s wartime government, who was married to the writer Vita Sackville-West. It was a bizarre marriage, to put it mildly, but that’s not what I’m going to be on about today.

On a visit to Dublin in 1942, Nicholson met Daniel A. Binchy,  Professor of  Jurisprudence in UCD,  uncle of the academic lawyer and pro-life campaigner Professor William Binchy and of the novelist Maeve Binchy. Nicholson also gave a  lecture to the Law Society and  paid a visit to Eamon de Valera, then Taoiseach. He later wrote about this interview in his diary:

He is not what I expected. I expected a thin sallow man with huge round black spectacles,  a thin mouth, great lines from nose to lip-corner, and lank black Spanish hair. But he is not thin, and pale rather than sallow, not a bit haggard, benevolent cold eyes behind steel-framed glasses, hair that is soft and almost brown, no great lines in his face anywhere.   An unhealthy look about the gills, and faint indications of white puffiness. A firm gentle voice with a soft Irish accent. An admirable smile, not showing teeth, but lighting up the eyes and face very quickly like an electric light bulb that doesn’t fit and flashes on and off. Yet not an insincere  smile. A happy smile.

His conversation is uninteresting. He talks rather in a monologue. He asks about things at home and sympathises much with Churchill’s difficulty in having to cheer up the country and yet not give us bright and optimistic forecasts. “I know that difficulty–I know it all too well.” He talks about the “partition” but in a stereotype way and I don’t feel much fire behind that… He speaks affectionately about France, and fears that that the Germans will beat Russia this spring. He thinks that if we in Britain were beaten, America would not carry on an Atlantic war but would compromise with Germany and Japan. He is indignant with Churchill for not supplying Ireland with arms.  I say it is due to our shortages. He taps thick whitish fingers. “No, it is something more than that.” I fear he is right about this. He then touches on the Press. I tell him that he only gets the disagreeable cuttings, and that  on the whole our Press is good about Ireland. I tell him that before I became a Governor of the BBC, I was under the impression that the papers were on the whole friendly to that institution, But now I see files of press-cuttings, I have the impression that every paper devotes column after column to unfair attacks on the BBC. He is amused by this, and the  faint flash of his smile lights up his porridge-coloured face.

He is a very simple man, like all great men. He does not look like a strong man, nor are there any signs in his face of suffering and endurance…Deep spiritual certainty underneath it all, giving to his features a mark of repose

More about Nicholson’s visit to Dublin in subsequent posts.

 

 

September 18, 2014

What a `Divisive` Referendum!

Macduff: Stands Scotland where it did?

Ross: Alas, poor country, almost afraid to know itself.

–from Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

At the time of the first pro-life referendum, the Irish media agreed with near unanimity that the measure was most undesirable because it was “divisive”.  But the Scottish referendum on independence is about as divisive as you could get, and everyone seems to think that’s just great.

As I write, the people of Scotland are going to the polls to decide whether or not to secede from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is  a union which, desired by both England and Scotland,  has endured for over three centuries and has been mutually beneficial for most of that time, unlike that between Great Britain and Ireland. The opinion polls have been so close that, in the words of almost every media outlet, the result is “too close to call”.

The campaign  has been marked by so much bitterness and recrimination that whatever the result, Scotland will almost certainly be in a bad way for decades to come. It will be impossible to weld the two factions together after so much mutual hatred.  The degree of bullying, particularly on the Yes side, has been intense. The Labour MP Jim Murphy was forced to cancel his speaking tour of Scotland in the face of mob hostility; in Glasgow, George Galloway of the  Marxist group Respect was called a “Tory stooge” and told he would “face a bullet”; in Edinburgh, the Labour Party leader Ed Milliband was sworn at and pushed; Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, was accused of crimes against the people of Scotland. It was quite uncanny how mobs of Yes supporters always seemed to know exactly where and when the Better Together politicians from both Scotland and England were going to appear next.

To my mind, the most sinister incident of the final days of the campaign came when it was revealed, on documented evidence, that the First Minister Alex Salmond tried to force Professor Louise Richardson, principal of St Andrews University, to criticise the Westminster government and tone down the warnings she had made about the adverse effects of Scottish independence. She had said St Andrews would lose its leading academics and fail to attract others from abroad. Professor Richardson stood her ground, but there is good reason to believe  that various Scottish firms opposed to independence have been bullied into silence, fearing loss of state contracts if the measure is carried.

It would certainly appear that the standards of  the Scottish National Party have  declined considerably since the time, a generation ago, when its membership consisted of  principled patriots motivated  solely by love of country.  The party is  now a strange amalgam of  a very unattractive and xenophobic form of   tartan neo-fascism and old-fashioned bossy socialism, determined to control every aspect of the lives of Scottish citizens. I did not believe this until I looked it up on line, but the Scottish government is actually gearing up to assign a “Named Person” to every child up to the age of 18, able to share information with a range of authorities and intervene without parental consent.

It is quite understandable that many Scots are fed up with rule from Westminster, but independence, I fear, would curtail their liberties  even further. In one of Aesop’s fables, the frogs asked Jove to give them a king; the chief of the gods duly tossed a large log into their pond and told them this would be their monarch. After the initial  splash, the log  lay there doing nothing , so the frogs then complained that  their king was just too boring, and could they please have another.  Jove  sent them a stork, which proceeded to gobble them up. I don’t need to labour the point.

We’ll know the result in a few hours. It will be a bad day for Scotland if the Ayes have it. As the British prime minister Robert Walpole said about all the excitement over the conflict with Spain known as the War of Jenkins’ Ear: “They are ringing the bells now; they will be wringing their hands tomorrow.”

 

 

 

 

September 17, 2014

 A Bishop After Our Own Hearts

Bishop Aloysius  Schneider  of  Astana, Kazakhstan  is  one of the  one of the most perceptive and outspoken  prelates of our time. In the course of one wide-ranging  interview, he deplored the practice of Communion in the hand, excoriated  those clerics pushing for the admission of the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion,  and predicted a further deepening of the crisis in the Church  before its eventual recovery.  He also thanked God for the existence of the Internet, which he believed to be the only means  of spreading orthodox ideas. Truly a man after own hearts!  Parts of this interview, which he gave to freelance journalist Sarah Atkinson, appeared in the British Catholic Herald of May 30 this year.  This is the full text of the interview, slightly edited for clarity.  Acknowledgments to Mass of Ages, magazine of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales.

Bishop Schneider: To my knowledge and experience, the deepest wound in the actual crisis of the Church is the Eucharistic wound; the abuses of the Blessed Sacrament. ‘Many people are receiving Holy Communion in an objective state of mortal sin. This is spreading in the Church, especially in the western world. There, people very rarely go to Holy Communion with a sufficient preparation. Some people who go to Holy Communion live in irregular moral situations, which do not correspond to the Gospel. Without being married, they go to Holy Communion. They might be divorced and living in a new marriage, a civil marriage, and they go nevertheless to Holy Communion. I think this is a very, very grievous situation. There is also the question of the objectively irreverent reception of Holy Communion. The so-called new, modern manner of receiving Holy Communion directly into the hand is very serious because it exposes Christ to an enormous banality. There is the grievous fact of the loss of the Eucharistic fragments. No one can deny this. And the fragments of the consecrated host are crushed by feet. This is horrible! Our God, in our churches, is trampled by feet! No one can deny it. And this is happening on a large scale. This has to be, for a person with faith and love for God, a very serious phenomenon. We cannot continue as if Jesus as God does not exist, as though only the bread exists. This modern practice of Communion in the hand has nothing to do with the practice in the ancient Church. The modern practice of receiving Communion in hand contributes gradually to the loss of the Catholic faith in the Real Presence and in Transubstantiation. A priest and a bishop cannot say this practice is OK.

Q. You are standing out on your own in this?

Bishop Schneider: I am very sad that I am feeling myself as one who is shouting in the desert. The Eucharistic crisis due to the modern use of Communion in the hand is so evident. This is not an exaggeration. It is time that the bishops raise their voices for the Eucharistic Jesus who has no voice to defend Himself. Here is an attack on the most Holy, an attack on the Eucharistic faith. Of course there are people who receive Holy Communion in the hand with much devotion and faith, but they are in a minority. The vast mass, though, are losing the faith through this very banal manner of taking Holy Communion like common food, like a chip or a cake. Such a manner to receive the most Holy here on earth is not sacred, and it destroys by time the deep awareness and the Catholic faith in the Real Presence and in Transubstantiation.

Q. Is the Church going in the opposite direction from where you are going?

Bishop Schneider: It seems that the majority of the clergy and the bishops are content with this modern use of Communion in the hand and don’t realize the real dangers connected with such a practice. For me this is incredible. How is this possible, when Jesus is present in the little hosts? A priest and a bishop should say: “I have to do something, at least to gradually reduce this. All that I can do, I have to do.” Unfortunately, though, there are members of the clergy who are making propaganda of the modern use of Communion in the hand and sometimes prohibiting receiving Communion on the tongue and kneeling. There are even priests who are discriminating against those who kneel for Holy Communion. This is very, very sad. There is also an increasing stealing of hosts, because of distributing Communion directly in the hand. There is a network , a business, of the stealing of holy hosts and this is much facilitated by Communion in the hand.

Q. In respect of the questionnaire on the issue of the family, people are expecting big changes.

BAS: There is on this issue a deal of propaganda, put about by the mass media. We need to be very careful. There are the official anti-Christian mass media worldwide. In almost every country it is the same content of news, with the exception perhaps of the African and Asian countries or in the East of Europe. Only on the Internet can you spread your own ideas. Thanks be to God the Internet exists. The idea of changes in marriage and moral laws to be done at the upcoming synod of bishops in Rome, comes from mostly the anti-Christian media. And some clergy and Catholics are collaborating with them in spreading the expectations of the anti-Christian world to change the law of God concerning marriage and sexuality. It is an attack by the anti-Christian world and it is very tragic and sad that some clergy are collaborating with them. To argue for a change to the law of God they use, in a kind of sophism, the concept of mercy. But in reality this is not mercy, this is cruel. It is not mercy, for instance, if someone has a disease to leave him in his miserable condition.  Those of the clergy who want to admit the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion operate with a false concept of mercy. It is comparable with a doctor who gives a patient sugar, although he knows it will kill him. But the soul is more important than the body. If the bishops admit the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion, then they are confirming them in their errors in the sight of God. They will even close down the voice of their conscience. They will push them more into an  irregular situation only for the sake of this temporal life, forgetting that after this life, though, there is the judgment of God .This topic will be discussed in the synod. This is on the agenda. But I hope the majority of the bishops still have so much Catholic spirit and faith that they will reject the above-mentioned proposal and not accept this.

Bishop Schneider addresses the LMS Conference in London, May 2014

                                        Bishop Schneider

Q. : What is this crisis you mention?

BAS: This is a broader crisis than the reception of the Blessed Sacrament. I think this issue of the reception of Holy Communion by the remarried will blow up and show the real crisis in the Church. The real crisis of the Church is anthropocentrism, forgetting  Christocentrism. Indeed, this is the deepest evil, when man or the clergy are putting themselves in the centre when they are celebrating liturgy and when they are changing the revealed truth of God, e.g. concerning the Sixth Commandment and human sexuality. The crisis reveals itself also in the manner in which the Eucharistic Lord is treated. The Eucharist is at the heart of the Church. When the heart is weak, the whole body is weak. So when the practice around the Eucharist is weak, then the heart and the life of the Church is weak. And when people have no more supernatural vision of God in the Eucharist then they will start the worship of man, and then also doctrine will change to the desire of man. This crisis is when we place ourselves, including the priests, at the centre and when God is put in the corner and this is happening also materially. The Blessed Sacrament is sometimes in a cupboard away from the centre and the chair of the priest is in the centre. We have already been in this situation for 40 or 50 years and there is the real danger that God and his Commandments and laws will be put on the side and  human natural desiring in the centre. There is causal connection between the Eucharistic and the doctrinal crisis. Our first duty as human beings is to adore God; not us, but Him. Unfortunately, the liturgical practice of the last 40 years has been very anthropocentric. Participating in liturgy is firstly not about doing things but praying and worshipping, to love God with all your soul. This is true participation, to be united with God in your soul. Exterior participation is not essential. The crisis is really this: we have not put Christ or God at the centre. And Christ is God incarnated. Our problem today is that we put away the Incarnation. We have eclipsed it. If God remains in my mind only as an idea, this is Gnostic. In other religions e.g. Jews, Muslims, God is not incarnated. For them, God is in the book, but He is not concrete. Only in Christianity, and really in the Catholic Church, is the Incarnation fully realised and this has to be stressed therefore also in every point of the liturgy. God is here and really present. So every detail has meaning. We are living in an unChristian society, in a new paganism. The temptation today for the clergy is to adapt to the new world to the new paganism, to be collaborationists. We are in a similar situation to the first centuries, when the majority of the society was pagan, and Christianity was discriminated against.’

Q. Do you think you can see this because of your experiences in the Soviet Union?

Bishop Schneider: Yes, [I know what it is] to be persecuted, to give testimony that you are Christian. We are a minority. We are surrounded by a very cruel pagan world. The temptation and challenge of today can be compared with the first centuries. Christians were asked to accept the pagan world and to show this by putting one grain of incense into a fire in front of the statue of the Emperor or of a pagan idol. But this was idolatry and no good Christian put any grain of incense there. They preferred to give their lives, even children, lay people, who were persecuted, gave their lives. Unfortunately there were in the first century members of the clergy and even bishops who put grains of incense in front of the statue of the Emperor or of a pagan idol or who delivered the books of the Holy Scripture to be burned. Such collaborationist Christians and clerics were called in those times “thurificati” or “traditores”. Now, in our days the persecution is more sophisticated. Catholics or clergy are not being asked to put some incense in front of an idol. That  would be only material. Now, they neo-pagan world wants us to take over its ideas, such as the dissolution of the Sixth Commandment of God, on the pretext of mercy. If some clergy and bishops start to collaborate with the pagan world today in this dissolution of the Sixth Commandment and in the revision of the way God created man and woman, then they are traitors of the Faith, they are participating ultimately in pagan sacrifice.

Q. Can you see a split coming in the Church?

BAS: Unfortunately, for some decades some clergy have accepted these ideas of the world. Now however they are following them publicly. When these things continue, I think, there will be an interior split in the Church of those who are faithful to the faith of their baptism and of the integrity of the Catholic faith. There will be a split with those who are assuming the spirit of this world and there will be a clear split, I think. One can imagine that Catholics who remain faithful to the unchangeable Catholic truth may, for a time, be persecuted or discriminated even by  those who have power in the exterior structures of the Church.  But the gates of the hell, i.e. of the heresy, will not prevail against the Church and the Supreme Magisterium will surely issue an unequivocal doctrinal statement, rejecting any collaboration with the neo-pagan ideas of changing e.g. the Sixth Commandment of God, the meaning of sexuality and of family. Then some “liberals”, and many collaborators with the spirit of this world, many modern “thurificati et traditores” will leave the Church. Because the Divine truth will unresistingly bring the clarification, will set us free, and will separate in the midst of the Church the sons of the Divine light and the sons of the of the pseudo-light of this pagan and anti-Christian world. I can presume that such a separation will affect each level of  Catholics: lay people and even not excluding the high clergy. Those clergy who accept today the spirit of the pagan world on morality and family declare themselves Catholics and even faithful to the Pope. They even declare extremists those who are faithful to the Catholic faith or those who are promoting the glory of Christ in the liturgy.

Q. Do you feel you have been declared an extremist?

Bishop Schneider: I have not been declared as such formally. I would say such clergy are not in the majority but they have acquired a lot of influence in the Church. They managed to occupy some key positions in some Church offices. Yet this is not power in the eyes of God. Truly powerful are the little ones in the Church, who conserve the faith. These little ones in the Church have been let down and neglected. They have kept the purity of their faith and they represent the true power of the Church in the eyes of God and not those who are in administration. Thanks be to God, the numbers of these little ones are growing. I spoke for instance with young students in Oxford  and I was so much impressed by these students. I was so glad to see their purity of faith and their convictions, and the clear Catholic mind. Such examples and groups are growing in the Church and this is the work of the Holy Spirit. This will renew the Church. So I am confident and hopeful also in respect of this crisis in the Church. The Holy Ghost will win this crisis with this little army. I am not worried about the future. The Church is Christ’s Church and He is the real Head of the Church, the Pope is only the Vicar of Christ. The soul of the Church is the Holy Spirit and He is powerful. However we are now experiencing a deep crisis in the Church as has happened several times in two thousand years.

Q. Will it get worse before it gets better?

Bishop Schneider: I have the impression that it will be worse. Sometimes things have to go to the depths and then you will see the collapse of this anthropocentric, clerical system which is abusing Church administration power, abusing the liturgy, abusing the concepts of God, abusing the faith and the piety of the little ones in the Church. Then we will see the rising of a renewed Church. This is already preparing. Then this liberal clerical edifice will crash down because they have  no fruits.

Q. Some people would say you are worrying about unimportant things; what about the poor?

Bishop Schneider: This is erroneous. The first commandment which Christ gave us was to adore God alone. Liturgy is not a meeting of friends. It is our first task to adore and glorify God in the liturgy and also in our manner of life. From a true adoration and love of God grows love for the poor and our neighbour. It is a consequence. The saints in two thousand years of the Church, all those saints who were so prayerful and pious, they were all extremely merciful for the poor and  cared for the poor. In these two commandments are all the others. But the first commandment is to love and adore God and that is realised in a supreme manner in the sacred liturgy. When you are neglecting the first commandment, then you are not doing the will of God, you are pleasing yourself. Happiness is to fulfil the will of God, not to fulfil our will.

Q. How long will it be before the Church is renewed?

Bishop Schneider: I am not a prophet. We can only presume. But if you look at the history of the Church, the deepest crisis was in the fourth century. That was Arianism. This was a tremendous crisis, all the episcopacy, almost all, collaborated with the heresy. Only some bishops remained faithful, you could count them on the fingers of one hand. This crisis lasted more or less 60 years.  Then the terrible crisis of the so-called dark century, the 10th century, when the papacy was occupied by some very wicked and immoral Roman families. They occupied the papal chair with their corrupt sons, and it was a terrible crisis. The next period of harm was the so-called exile of Avignon and was very damaging to the Church, causing the great occidental schism. All these crisis lasted some 70-80 years and were very bad for the Church. Now we are, I would say, in the fourth great crisis, in a tremendous confusion over doctrine and liturgy. We have already been in this for 50 years. Perhaps God will be merciful to us in 20 or 30 years? Nevertheless we have all the beauty of the divine truths, of divine love and grace in the Church. No one can take this away, no synod, no bishop, not even a Pope can take away the treasure and beauty of the Catholic faith, of the Eucharistic Jesus, of the sacraments.  Unchangeable doctrine,  unchangeable liturgical principles,  holiness of the life, constitute the true power of the Church.

Q. Our time is seen as a much more liberal era in the Church.

Bishop Schneider:  We have to pray that God will guide his Church from this crisis and give to his Church apostles who are courageous and holy. We need defenders of the truth and defenders of the Eucharistic Jesus. When a bishop is defending the flock and defending Jesus in the Eucharist, then this bishop is defending the little ones in the Church, not the powerful ones.

Q. So you don’t mind being unpopular?

Bishop Schneider: It is quite insignificant to be popular or unpopular. For every cleric  the first interest is to be popular in the eyes of God and not in the eyes of today or of the powerful. Jesus said a warning: “Woe to you when people speak good of you.” Popularity is false. Jesus and the apostles rejected popularity. Great saints of the Church, e.g. SS Thomas More and John Fisher, rejected popularity and they are  great heroes. And those who today are worried about  the popularity with the mass media and public opinion, they will not be remembered in  history. They will be remembered as cowards and not as heroes of the Faith.

Q.  The media has great expectations of Pope Francis.

Bishop Schneider: Thanks be to God, Pope Francis has not expressed himself in the ways that the mass media expect from him. He has spoken until now, in his official homilies, very beautiful Catholic doctrine. I hope he will continue to teach in a very clear manner the Catholic doctrine.

Q. On sharing Holy Communion with Anglicans and others?

Bishop Schneider: This is not possible. There are different faiths. Holy Communion is not a means to achieve unity. It is the last step, not the first step. It would be a desecration of the Holy. Of course, we have to be one. Yet we have differences in belief, some substantial differences. The Eucharist is a sign of the deepest unity. It would be a lie, it would be contradictory to logic, sharing Holy Communion with non-Catholics. Ecumenism is necessary in order to be in contact with our separated brethren, to love them. In the midst of the challenge of the new paganism, we can and have to collaborate with serious non-Catholics to defend the revealed Divine truth and the natural law, created by God. It will be better not to have such a structure that the State governs the life of the Church, such as for instance the appointments of the clergy or the bishops. Such a practice of a State church would damage the Church itself. In England e.g. the State is governing the Church of England. Such an influence of the State can corrupt the Church spiritually and theologically, so it is better to be free from such an established State church.

Q. On women in the Church?

Bishop Schneider: Women are called the weaker sex, given they are physically weaker;  however they are spiritually stronger and more courageous than men. It is courageous to give birth. Therefore God gave the woman a courage that the man doesn’t have. Of course, there were many courageous men in the persecutions. Yet God loves to choose the weak ones to confuse the powerful. For instance the Eucharistic women, about which I spoke in my book  Dominus Est worked in their families and desired to help the persecuted priests in a very exceptional way. They would never have dared to touch the holy hosts with their fingers. They would refuse to even read a reading during Mass. My mother, for example who is still living in Germany, aged 82, when she first went to the West, she was shocked, scandalised, to see women in the sanctuary during Holy Mass. The true power of the Christian and Catholic woman is the power to be the heart of the family, the domestic church, to have the privilege to be the first who gives nourishment to the body of her  child and also to be the first who gives nourishment to the souls of the child, teaching it the first prayers and the first truths of the Catholic faith. The most prestigious and beautiful profession of a woman is to be mother, and especially to be a Catholic mother.’

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September 15, 2014

Let’s Queer SVP’s Pitch

More about that €45,000 which the Society of St Vincent de Paul is giving to help set up a homosexual “resource centre” in Galway City about which I expressed great indignation more than  a week ago….

When it was announced at the Mass I attended last Sunday that the money was in fact coming from a particular bequest–and not from public donations or church-gate collections–I was greatly relieved and gave a modest sum to one of the dedicated SVP collectors outside the church.  After all, I thought, the local SVP have had nothing to do with this appalling decision, and the poor of the parish still need help.

But I wish now that I had given the money to Simon, or Aid to the Church in Need, or some other charity. Anything but the SVP.

Why the sudden change of mind?

Well,  when I returned to the car park  after Mass I got chatting to a friend who argued most cogently that it is precisely because the SVP is known to be  a Catholic organisation that people support it week by week and leave money to it in their wills. This sum now earmarked for the “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender” group called Amach! (which I think means “Out” –correct me if I’m wrong) was left to them by a lady publican in Galway. It is a safe bet that this good soul believed her bequest  would be used to relieve poverty, and that she would have been disgusted at the very thought of its  being  handed over to provide a social club for  sodomites. The SVP, whose higher echelons seem to have been taken over by  people with no respect  for the church’s perennial teaching on sexual morality, has presented the militant homosexuals not just with money, but with a propaganda coup which can only provide them with yet more undeserved respectability.

And the SVP can spare us  the bit about being “non-judgemental” as a part of their “Christian ethos”.  They know very well what Blessed Frederic Ozanam would have thought of  this pathetic expedient.

We are told the centre   is intended to be a “safe space” where “LGBT people” can “address issues and concerns such as prejudice, isolation, loneliness, depression and the lack of opportunities to network with peers”.  The “gay Masses” in London were intended to achieve the same purpose, and the kind of  “networking” that went on there was nothing short of scandalous.

I too belong to a group which frequently experiences prejudice, isolation and a lack of opportunity for networking with peers–those who prefer the Church’s traditional rite of Mass . Sometimes it seems to me that many bishops have more time for homosexuals than they have for Traddies.  Do you think it would benefit  the Latin Mass Society of Ireland  to ask the SVP for a few thousand Euros to combat  the lack of opportunities to network with our peers? We can get quite depressed too.

Anyway, if we want to prevent  similar outrages, we must refrain from  contributing to the SVP until they listen to their grass roots and come to their senses. As the Holy Father says, hagan lio! (make a fuss.)