Hell Fire and Generative Living
Here’s another set of Straws for the Camels’s Back, this time from 1999…
In a Kilkenny city church in the first quarter of the 20th century, the Redemptorist missioner leaned forward in the pulpit and gestured as though removing a rabbit from a hat. “If I were to take the lid off hell fire and reach down my hand,” he bellowed, “the first person I would pull up by the hair would be a Kilkenny man!” Afterwards, in the sacristy, he noticed that one of the servers, Jimmy Weekes, aged about 10, was looking preoccupied, and asked what the matter was.
“Well, Father,” said Jimmy, “I didn’t like what you said about the Kilkenny man being in hell.”
“Ah, son, you must understand that there are lots of people who don’t live the kind of lives they should be living, and they need shaking up, spiritually. That’s my job as a missioner. When I go to Cork, I say it’s a Cork man.”
Around 40 years later the same James Weekes was my parish priest at Bovey Tracey in the Plymouth diocese.
Now that we actually need a bit of old-fashioned Redemptorist brimstone, see what they have on offer instead. This it what goes on at Marianella (“A World of Difference”) their Centre for Study and Renewal in Dublin 6:
“HUMAN SEXUALITY: ENERGY FOR RELATIONSHIPS AND SERVICE. 13-18 June 1999. Fran Ferder fspa and John Heagle. The course explores our psychosexual journey toward relational maturity and personal wholeness. With biblical spirituality and contemporary psychology as a background, the course will address issues of sexual healing, authentic intimacy, reverence in relationships and the call to generative living. Cost IR£200 (including a deposit of IR£50)”
Celebrating the Inner Child
That nugget came from Intercom, the magazine which I understand is sent free to priests. There’s lots more ads like that, and the compilers would all appear to have advanced diplomas in Applied Paraclerical and Pseudospiritual Jargonics. “Celebrating the Inner Child”, says one. “Exploring in a faith context the wisdom and power available through contact with the child within.” Another one, on NEW INCLUSIVE COMMUNITIES, seeks help in setting up a new Christian support/community group “in the process of coming to birth”. Then there’s a Six-Day Creative Retreat, given by Sr Pauline McGrath OP and Fr Paddy Greene SJ: “A journey of creative spirituality using colour, clay, movement & dream work, and a time for silence and savouring the gifts of nature. Please bring casual clothing.”
Among the features is Clio’s Diary, “the Jottings of One Road-Weary Irish Traveller”. After praising the reordering of the church at Newtownshandrum in Co. Cork, it describes the timber cross which has “an unusual multi-coloured cloth hanging from its arms”. A nearby notice reported a Holy Week liturgy of healing where pieces of cloth brought by parishioners to represent their unexpressed pain were stitched together. “ The resulting 22 foot long cloth was draped from the cross on Good Friday and remained there till Pentecost, I discovered. A beautiful idea from the local Liturgy Group. Simple yet expressive. (Clio will find out the whole story for a future Intercom).”
I can’t wait.
Our Brown Shirt Award
Katholiken raus! Anti-Catholicism in the media plumbs new depths of bigotry all the time. But this passage from the Irish edition of the Sunday Times makes columnist Liam Fay the clear winner of our Julius Streicher Brown Shirt Award for 1999:
“For sheer throat-clenching nausea, nothing you will ever encounter in any gin palace, speak-easy or ale-house can equal the inherently repulsive sight of a chummy gathering of the scrubbed-faced, the cow’s licked and the devoutly pious attempting to whoop it up in a wholesome manner…They are intoxicated with their own piety and are, therefore, a danger to both themselves and others.”
He is talking about the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association, which has been celebrating its centenary with a rally in Croke Park. (As the Irish Family pointed out, Fay’s piece was written before the event.) To find anything to equal such frenzied loathing of ordinary Catholics you would have to dredge the files of the Volkische Beobachter. But Streicher would not have regarded himself as a liberal and a pluralist, which Mr Fay presumably would.
I would have thought that this kind of hate-mongering was now against the law. Don’t laugh, but it is also probably in breach of some section of the National Union of Journalists’ Code of Conduct. The only ones who could take action on that front are Mr Fay’s fellow NUJ members. How about it, my gallant Catholic hacks?
The PTAA in fact deserves the gratitude of thousands of Irish families for rescuing them from alcoholism. I really admire those who have struggled to throw off their addiction, many of whom would have been at that rally in Croke Park. Then there are those who have decided to make the sacrifice of abstaining for life from one of God’s gifts, purely out of love for Him and for their neighbour. They are better men than I am.
Doing the Paradigm Shift
I only read The Tablet, house journal of liberal British Catholic establishment airheads, in the line of duty. The temptations against faith to which it gives rise are fairly easily resisted, as its brand of neo-modernism could only impress those already in its toils.
The temptations against charity are more serious. In a column with the twee new-agey title “Lay Lines”, Mr Clifford Longley rubbishes the Council of Trent: he has to, really, because as he himself admits, its impossible to reconcile Trent with the views of his ecumaniac friends on the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission.
Mr Longley make use of a contrivance called the Paradigm Shift (sounds like a 1930s dance, as someone once said). It enables one to ditch the Counter-Reformation entirely by describing it as “one particular historically conditioned cultural expression of Catholicism”. The weakness of this device is that you can use it equally well to rubbish the whole of Revelation. More advanced modernists than Mr Longley actually do.
Mr Longley argues that the Mass regularised by St Pius V was “new and strange” to 16th century British Catholics, and that the state-imposed Anglican Communion Service was closer to their old Sarum Rite. Tell that to the Cornishmen who described the new English service as gwary Nadelek (a Christmas game) and gave their lives to defend the Holy Sacrifice in the Prayer Book Rebellion of 1549. There was, in fact, not that much difference between the two Latin rites—certainly not from the perspective of the laity. Anyway, Pius V allowed for the continuation of any rite more than 200 years old, which would have ensured the survival of the Sarum Rite if the Counter-Reformation had succeeded in England. The Dominican Rite—which is older than that of Trent—is still in use in some places.
That word “Tridentine” will really have to go. I wanted to ignore the whole grotesque Sineád O’Connor “ordination” affair, although this unfortunate young woman certainly deserves great sympathy for being exploited in so many ways in the course of her short life.
But when otherwise intelligent people think that those of us who prefer the old Latin Mass are somehow involved with Ms O’Connor one’s patience becomes strained. They must be forgiven, however, because the media have been giving this impression by referring sloppily to something called the “Tridentine Church”. There’s not much one can do about that. But when the Irish Times actually said that the “rituals” used by Ms O’Connor’s mentors had been banned by Vatican II I hoped to persuade them to correct the error, as most readers would have got the impression that the Latin Mass had been officially abolished.
I was put in touch with a lady bearing the encouraging title “Readers’ Representative”. It quickly became evident that the title was Orwellian; she considered her function was to fend off cranks, of which she clearly thought I was one. She admitted she knew nothing about the subject at issue, and thought this ignorance made for impartiality. When I told her Vatican II did not ban any “rituals” and that therefore a correction was needed she refused to check independently to discover whether I was right, and told me I could write a letter to the editor if I liked. So much for the boast of the Irish Times that it corrects mistakes when these are pointed out.
That Irish Catholic ad
It was inexcusable that an Irish Catholic advertisement was banned from the airways, and the editor David Quinn, who has done so much to liven up the paper in very difficult circumstances, deserves every support. Yet I experienced a little unworthy frisson of schadenfreude over the incident. You see, quite a few years ago I myself received similar treatment—only at the hands of the Irish Catholic.
I hasten to add that this was well before the days of Mr Quinn. I placed an ad for a Latin Mass to take place in Knock, which was duly accepted. Then, a few days later, I received a message by telephone that the editor would not accept the ad after all. No reason was given, and the editor was not contactable. I wrote the editor a polite letter asking why the change of mind and received a rude note which said merely: “I do not give reasons.”
I saw red, and spoke to a friendly barrister who told me the editor’s conduct probably amounted to breach of contract, as the ad had been accepted. So I wrote what I admit was a nasty letter pointing this out. (The barrister had also said I wouldn’t get damages unless I could prove financial loss, but I didn’t mention that.)
Within a few days I received a furious letter not from the editor, but from the Managing Director—no less—of the British Catholic Herald (who controls the Irish Catholic). He began by telling me my conduct was quite outrageous, and defying me to do my worst. He ended by telling me I could have the ad—provided I altered the format to fit in with the usual style. This of course I did.