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Tag Archives: Pope Benedict XVI

March 2nd, 2017

Into the Desert: A Lenten Reflection

You don’t get many Anglican clergy converting to Rome these days. However infuriated they may be by the woolliness and general gutlessness of their denomination, there’s little or no incentive to cross the Tiber, and the present Holy Father actively discourages such a step. Nonetheless, there’s still  a small trickle of Anglican converts, thanks mainly to Pope Benedict XVI and the Ordinariates.

Perhaps the most distinguished comparatively recent convert is  retired Cambridge don Edward Norman. Dr Norman is unusual in that he’s not from the Anglo-Catholic wing of the church, but tended towards Low Church evangelicalism.   As we are now in Lent, I’m reproducing something he wrote as an Anglican which appeared over a dozen years ago in the London Times. It displays a most un-Anglican intellectual rigour, and an almost pre-Vatican II Roman insistence on the unpopular truths of the Christian faith.

Traditional Christianity was a structure of doctrine, which the individual did not expect to adjust to suit his own emotional preferences. It expressed obligations owed to God and involved not emotional fulfilment but privation.

Church leaders who attempt to present religion as a product to be sold on its appeal, as an advertising agent might do, are being unfaithful to the doctrines they are supposed to hold on trust. Religion does not ‘appeal’, and it is founded not in emotional need but in objective truths, many of which are deeply antipathetic to what humans regard as their entitlements.

At the centre of Christianity is the assurance of its Founder that there is something wrong in the hearts of men and women, and that what we need is not some pandering to our emotional greed but a structure of spiritual discipline. Religion is about giving things up. It is about denying ourselves things, including emotional entertainment, so that we may follow Christ into the austerities of the wilderness—and therefore into the clarity of the light by which we can see.

 

October 4th, 2016

Silent Church v. Chattering Church

I was particularly struck by the wisdom of this blog post by Fr Ray Blake, on the importance of silence. At the end, he provides a link to an English translation of an interview with Cardinal Sarah in the French traditionalist magazine La Nef.  I hope you will be able to open this link (which should not be missed) but if not you should be able to access the interview by Googling Catholic World Report 

Image result for expulsion carthusians

Why do attacks on the Church always begin with attacks on contemplatives? It was the Carthusians the French masonic government first attacked in 1903, just as bloody Henry had begun his English Reformation with the martyrdom of St John Houghton and his Carthusian companions.

The silent Church is always a greater threat than the chattering Church. The chattering Church is easily manipulated, it depends on its own resources, its own wisdom and insights, it is receptive to novelties and eager for change. The silent Church is close to Christ, it contemplates the essential mysteries of the faith, it is in the World but not of it, it depends not on its own resources but the Power of God. It is united to an unbroken Tradition.

The silent Church is a Church of prayer, it is not inactive but neither is it yet another NGO; its activity comes from its contemplation, its communion with God. The chattering Church is the foundation-less house built on sand, that has no permanence and come wind and rain will be swept away.

Pope Benedict in many ways has repeatedly acted a little like an Old Testament prophet, choosing prophetic signs often over words. I cannot help but think his retiring to a life of contemplation is a prophetic sign to a Church far more interested in chatter than silence.

Cardial Robert Sarah has an interview in Le Nef, translated here,  It preludes his new book The Strength of Silence – Against the Dictatorship of Noise. At the moment it is only available in French. In the interview he speaks of silence in the Liturgy, returning to the subject of ad orientem worship; one can grasp a little of why he understands it as being so important.

August 8th, 2016

Maynooth: An Uncleansed Augean Stable

All this talk about homosexuality in Maynooth seminary brings me back 14 years or so, when the Brandsma Review was about  the first publication to tackle the problem in a reasonably robust fashion.  A great deal of printer’s ink was spilled, and airtime given, to clerical paedophilia—but Big Media shied away from suggesting that the two problems could be intertwined, even though it must have been known even then that most of the victims were not strictly speaking children but adolescent males on the verge of adulthood. 

There was great reluctance to admit the existence of any homosexual network  among the Irish clergy, although it was already clear that the problem was rife throughout the Catholic Church, extending  to the highest levels. Pope Benedict later commented: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the Priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him!” Fr Hunwicke recently referred to the present state of affairs as “The Coprocracy” (rule by filth).

Back in the early 2000s, during one RTE discussion mainly about clerical paedophilia, the station’s former religious affairs correspondent Kieron Wood raised the question of  whether a Lavender Mafia existed  among the clergy, and whether this  had any connection with  the incidence of clerical child abuse. The rest of the panel wouldn’t even discuss the possibility. Breda O’Brien, an Irish Times columnist but an orthodox Catholic wrinkled her nose and intimated that the idea was most unhelpful. The two clerical panellists agreed. One of them, I recall, refused to commit himself when asked whether he approved of “gay marriage” (that phrase had only recently come into use in Ireland.)

In 2002 I wrote a piece in the Brandsma entitled “Maynooth: Seminary or Sewer” dealing, among other matters,  with homosexuality in the seminary. The problem hasn’t gone away, you know… 

In our last issue we previewed a devastating American book entitled Goodbye! Good Men by Michael Rose, which revealed in detail the parlous state of seminaries in the US. It was a catalogue of institutionalised vice and blatant heresy. At the end of the article I speculated about the possibility of a similar picture emerging in Ireland, without going into detail as I didn’t then consider I would be justified in publishing what I had already heard about Maynooth. I said that any further evidence we received would be treated in the strictest confidence.

Since then, there have been several unsavoury revelations in the secular media in relation to Maynooth. Quite apart from these, the response to our article—from several different Maynooth men who have spoken with, or written to me—has amply confirmed that many of Michael Rose’s strictures can certainly be applied to our National Seminary. The young men concerned, who are appalled by their experiences, are the best hope for the future of the Irish Church, and if this article seems written in a somewhat cumbrous fashion, with a vagueness about dates and personalities, that is necessary to protect their identities.

Of course I am well aware that there is still much good to be found at Maynooth—orthodoxy, integrity and genuine Catholic scholarship. The names of Fr Vincent Twomey SVD, Fr Thomas Norris and Fr Bede McGregor OP spring immediately to mind. But I am convinced there is enough badly wrong with the National Seminary to justify publicising these revelations.

In general, our sources believe that a different creed frequently takes hold in the College—one that highlights feeling and satisfaction over principles and true happiness.

Our sources were particularly critical of some of the retreats to which they were subjected, which served to inculcate moral relativism under the guise of “compassion”. These began with a call by a director of formation to be “open” to what they would hear and a suggestion that some would find it “challenging”.

One such retreat, given by a lay person, contained a blatant attack on the truths of the Catholic Faith. It seems particularly appropriate that this person should have thumped a fist on the altar (the symbol of Christ) of St Columba’s Oratory while verbally bashing Christ’s Body, the Church. The retreat-giver appeared to justify drunkenness by misquoting the Bible story of the wedding feast of Cana; and then justified homosexual unions—even marriages—suggesting that Jesus was homosexual, and dismissing some of the teachings of the Church as “human error”.

Taken as a whole, this retreat session amounted to a plug for situation ethics. It had a profound effect on some of the more naïve clerical students, who continually referred to it for months to come. “What are we to do,” ran the line, “if some people are different by nature?”

Predictably, this retreat giver’s moral relativism tended to encourage those with homosexual tendencies. My sources noticed that in an environment where there was already a shared understanding among some students, in the form of a dirty little secret, whispered just loud enough to draw those of similar interests into a circle, just threatening enough to keep the secret safe, this endorsement of an alternative morality was not ignored. The fact that the act of sodomising other men renders inauthentic the exercise of priesthood had no relevance in such a circle. The fact was that some could now feel invited to twist their conscience and find it easy to establish homosexual bonds among themselves, or even do damage to other gullible people.

One student, who became a target of the homosexuals, had many callers to his room late at night and these almost always had alcohol with them. Some said they were “in love” with him and made it clear that they wanted to spend the night with him. When he reported this to the authorities he was only told to be “open”. Eventually he took things into his own hands and threatened those who made sexual approaches to him. They complained that he was difficult to work with, and he was diagnosed by the authorities as having “a lot of anger stored up” within him. This young man was sent to the seminary counsellor (who, incidentally, left the priesthood the following summer). Extraordinarily, it does not appear to have occurred to the Maynooth authorities that drunken homosexuals might not be suitable people for ordination.

I am informed that one “team skills” weekend descended into one long drinking orgy by half the class, resulting in the distress of others. One three-day workshop on sexuality appeared to the more orthodox students simply to be an attempt to justify the use of artificial contraception.

Orthodox students seldom get the opportunity to do anything other than swallow what they are given. A seminarian dare not try to justify or defend the truths of the faith for fear that a director of formation will label him “rigid”, costing him his ordination. While the formation staff continually preach about how “inclusive” the students’ attitudes must be, how loving and caring and sharing, how kind and supportive they ought to be, a young man need only question them, only hint that he doesn’t accept their personal interpretation of religion, and the jackboot is immediately apparent.

Indeed, I am told that very recently a thoroughly orthodox seminarian was dismissed from the college without a word of explanation. Worse, when he reported the matter to his bishop, the authorities even refused to give the bishop a reason for their action. This story had a happy ending, as the bishop simply sent the young man to study in Rome and agreed to take him into the diocese after ordination.

Words such as “challenging” and “open” and “rigid” are used as cajoling and deceptive ambiguities which expose the college community and even the Church in Ireland to invented spirituality, invented liturgies and invented doctrine.

Symptomatic, perhaps, is the newly “reordered” St Mary’s Oratory, which stands as a symbol of the new Maynooth. The altar consists of a wooden table with the seats gathered around it, conveying the message that the Mass is merely a meal and not a sacrifice. Two large hosts are broken up, and Communion is distributed under both kinds. Some of the Precious Blood is kept in a bottle until it is poured into a second chalice. After Communion both chalices are purified by eucharistic ministers. No kneeling or genuflexions take place during the Mass. At the Consecration the priest merely bows, while the congregation remains standing.

An organisation called “Young Christian Students” serves officially as an instrument for lay and clerical students at Maynooth to “apply the Gospel in their daily lives”. At its retreats, female students outnumber the males by 10 to one. It is common knowledge that many female students are in the habit of “dating” clerical students; and also that some clerical students are in the habit of carrying packets of condoms.

My sources are agreed that the unsavoury goings-on related above contribute to the manifest lack of fruits coming from Maynooth—in the form of a lot of men leaving, and even priests leaving after ordination.

We are publishing their revelations not because one likes to sensationalise the Church’s problems—the secular media are already doing that with great glee—but because something drastic has to be done about Maynooth. The only conclusion one can draw from these seminarians’ accounts is that the National Seminary, far from being “a school of priestly holiness” (in the words of Pope John Paul II) has degenerated into a fetid Augean stable in urgent need of cleansing. But where will we find a Hercules?

I can’t believe that Maynooth, with its long and glorious history, is incapable of reformation. To paraphrase Fr Brian Houghton in his book Mitre and Crook: “I am a great believer in failure because it gives Divine Providence a chance. It is because in this year of grace the Church [read ‘National Seminary’] has the appearance and odour of a dung-heap that God will use it to manure the most exquisite flowers, fragrant with the odour of sanctity.”

I’ve become much more cynical since then. I now think the only solution is to close the place down and start all over again.

 

June 4th, 2016

Holy Father Is Not Amused

Just in case you don’t follow Fr John Zuhlsdorf’s blog What Does the Prayer Really Say?—you really should, you know—I ‘ve lifted this, quite shamelessly, from his post for today.

A member of the Macedonian parliament brought a gift to Pope Francis from the Orthodox convent of St. George of Rajcica: a papal tiara, the triple crown symbol of the Bishop of Rome’s authority over just about everything. Women, nuns, lovingly made it by hand, embroidering it and setting it with pearls from a lake near their convent.

Such a beautiful gift! I am sure the Holy Father beamed with delight. After all, Benedict XVI did when he was presented with a small version of a tiara, even though Pope Francis is the first Pope who – as the press acknowledges – ever smiled.

Sometimes a photo is worth 5000 thousands words. And, these days, they remain easily accessible.

His Holiness didn’t too happy with the tiara, which was lovingly made by women.

Remember when the Pope was in South America and he received the “crucifix” in the style of a global symbol of the violation of human rights?

Okay… a photo out of context doesn’t tell the whole story.

Oh, but I think these ones do, Father.

December 24, 2015

Another Caning for BBC’s ‘Ed’

Fr John Hunwicke has  had another ago at BBC radio’s tiresome  programme ‘Sunday’ and its presenter Edward Stourton, scion  of an old recusant family and still alleged to be a Catholic:  

In the December 20 ‘Sunday’ programme, the presenter, ‘Ed’ Stourton, a Catholic who ‘remarried’ after divorce, invited ‘Michael Walsh, a papal historian’, to explain Indulgences.

He did not mention that Walsh is an ex-Jesuit with a history of attacking the Vatican and the previous pontificate; a Tablet contributor. ‘A papal historian’ sounds so much grander than ‘a failed Jesuit who has attacked the Vatican in the Tablet’.

By the way … I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this … Stourton, inevitably, is a Trustee of the Tablet.

The first conspicuous feature of the episode was the laughter. The pair kept giggling together: I counted six pieces of mirth.

I wonder if either of this spiteful and malevolent pair would ever dare to deal with any other religion … Islam, say … by continually laughing as they talked about it. Or, if they did, how fast the Beeb would sack them.

And there were two major pieces of misrepresentation. (1) The ‘papal historian’ appeared unaware that, as long ago as 1967, the practice of attaching periods of time to partial indulgences was abolished. He described this practice using the present tense.

And, (2), either out of ignorance or mendacity, ‘papal historian’ Walsh went on to claim that Pope Francis ‘has never mentioned [indulgences]’; and ‘that’s not where we are at the moment’. The implication of the interview appeared to be that Indulgences are a load of old rubbish which Sensible Pope Francis is burying by very studiously not mentioning. So what is the truth of the matter?

‘This practice [gaining indulgences] will acquire an even more important meaning [magnum pondus] in the Holy Year of Mercy.’ This is from a paragraph in the Bull of Indiction, in which the Roman Pontiff goes on to commend the practice. Furthermore, in a Letter dated 1 September 2015, our Holy Father set out at length the methods of securing Indulgences during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. And, in his Bull, he carefully explained their purpose: that Absolution remits sin, but ‘the sin leaves a negative effect [contradictionem]’. An indulgence ‘frees us from even the residue [vestigia] left by the consequences of sin’.

I fail to see why this weekly BBC programme, its ‘flagship’ religious slot, should be left in the hands of Stourton, a lapsed Catholic who, like so many of his type, seems to me to be very far from being neutral with regard to the religion which he once professed. And why, if it must give space to someone like Walsh, the Beeb doesn’t balance him with somebody who will defend the Church, even if only by giving accurate information about her.

I thought ‘balance’ was supposed to be one of the BBC rules.

Some years ago Mr Stourton  belittled  the Ordinariate established by Pope Benedict, enabling disaffected Anglicans to join the Catholic Church while keeping some aspects of their patrimony. It was a generous  and wise gesture, an example of true ecumenism in action, but Stourton  brought on two people, one Catholic and one Anglican, to scoff at it. Said Fr H.:

He should have been caned more often at Ampleforth: this morning he used a word ‘cacaphony’, which I can only imagine is a combination of the Latin cacare and the Greek phone and presumably means ‘the sound one makes while defecating’. His programme exemplified his own neologism to perfection.

October 29, 2014

Peace Be Upon the Irish Catholic…

A few days ago, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said that dialogue with other religions is no substitute for spreading the Gospel to non-Christian cultures, and warned against relativistic ideas of religious truth as “lethal to faith.”

A friend of mine was so incensed by a silly article in the Irish Catholic on  dialogue with Islam, written  by a Columban missionary nun, that he wrote a letter to the editor and was given to understand that the paper was going to carry it the following week.   (This nun must be a brave woman; she has spent a long time in Pakistan, presumably at considerable risk to herself. But she really should have known better.)

Here’s the letter:

Dear Editor,

Sr Rebecca Conlon is naive in the extreme when she writes about dialogue with Islam in Pakistan (Notebook, 16/10/14).

She talks about “reaching out to marginalised women”. Has she not read Sura 4:34 in the Islamic holy book, the Koran? My copy translates the Arabic as saying that, if a man fears “disloyalty or ill conduct” from women, he should admonish them, refuse to share their beds and beat them”. Not much room for “reaching out” there, I should have thought.

The man whom Sr Rebecca describes as a prophet, Mohammed, even took a six year old girl (Aisha) as one of his wives. Oh, but he didn’t  consummate the relationship with her until she was 10 (and he was 53). Sr Rebecca even ventures to dignify him with the Moslem phrase “Peace Be Upon Him”!

And, as Sr Rebecca knows full well, Islam teaches that the penalty for a Moslem becoming a Christian is death. The Catholic she cites, Shahbaz Bhatti, paid the ultimate  price, with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claiming responsibility for his killing as “a blasphemer of Mohammed”. Others, particularly in areas of Syria and Iraq controlled by Islamic State, have suffered a more gruesome fate.

Islam is now the greatest danger faced by Catholics, both outside and in Europe. The sooner people like Sr Rebecca realise that, the better.

Please don’t print my full address; I don’t want to get my head sawn off.

Yours etc.

In the end the Irish Catholic decided not to print the letter after all. Presumably a case of discretion being the better part of valour?

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Alive Sees No Evil

Ì picked up  the Catholic freesheet Alive this morning with considerable anticipation, hoping to find something helpful on that Synod on the Family.  But the only relevant item came on page 5.  It was a quotation from the American theologian Fr Robert Barron, taking the line: “Nothing to see here, people, move along now.”

Fr Barron told worried Catholics not to be upset about the “hysteria and distorted media reports”, insisting that that–as in general councils of the Church–consensus would evolve after lengthy and often acrimonious debate.

It’s not good enough. You can’t just brush under the carpet a determined and almost successful attempt to subvert the constant teaching of the Church on marriage and  the Eucharist–an attempt, moreover, which is certain to be renewed before long.

Sometimes I think the problem with “conservative” Catholics is that they are just too nice. Unlike us curmudgeonly trads, they  can’t accept  that there is a rottenness in the Church reaching  to the very highest levels. The fact that they can’t see it does them credit, in a way…