Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Congratulations to Bishop Sample (and a note on "thimble symbols")

Congratulations to Bishop Sample of Marquette who has been appointed as Metropolitan Archbishop of Portland, Oregon. At 52, he is the youngest Archbishop in the US (at 45, he was the youngest Bishop in the US.) Bishop Sample is know for his podcasts and tweets, and for ordaining the Deacons last year at the FSSP seminary in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is Bishop known for fortitude and clear teaching in the public square.

Some modern Liturgy buffs used to (perhaps still do) talk about how we must not use "thimble symbols." So they encouraged priests and bishops to slosh around cup-loads of holy oil, baptise by immersion, and use a large bowl and bath-towel at the lavabo. So if you hear a modern liturgist complain about Bishop Sample's splendid mitre in the picture above, just tell them that it is not a "thimble symbol."

Muslims and Christians defending family life together

A priest whom I know, went to talk to the local Imam to discuss their common concern about same-sex "marriage". Here is his report which I publish with his permission:
Today the two priests in our parish had lunch at a local Mosque.

We have met the Imam before and have worked together on local issues. But today we met with him and some other members of their community to discuss “same-sex marriage”, which is a common concern.

The Imam said how pleased he was to hear about the postcard campaign which was arranged by our Bishops. He is going to organise something similar in his Mosque and suggest the idea to others.

It was wonderful to find that our views about the government’s proposed legislation are exactly the same.

We were all concerned that the “re-definition” of Marriage will cause same-sex marriage to be promoted in schools. And we gave them a printout of the Coalition for Marriage’s latest booklet about same-sex marriage and Primary Schools, which explains about this and shows some samples of the sort of materials which would be used.

Muslim families, we were told, are already very concerned about what their children are taught in school.

I asked, “What right does the government have to take away the rights of parents in this way?”

We also discussed the fact that the new law would make it much more difficult for people in the workplace to hold their religious views about marriage.

Many of the issues identified by Aidan O’Neill QC in his paper on “same-sex marriage” and religious freedom apply also to Muslims.

As the Imam said, it’s not just a matter of toleration. Rather, the new law and its effect will mean that we have to approve of lifestyles which are against our beliefs – or pay the price.

We’re being discriminated against!

Though we didn’t mention the exact phrase, we all seemed to think that the “Dictatorship of Relativism” is the order of the day.

Why is there, the Imam wondered, this haste to re-define Marriage – for a tiny minority of people?

Why take away the freedoms of an enormous number of people, so as to accommodate a minority group?

Marriage is something arranged by God when he created the world, part of our human nature.

We agreed that local campaigns are sometimes more effective than national efforts. Readers of this blog might like to approach the Muslims in their local area. I’m sure they would find a welcome from like-minded allies.

It’s great to find new friends in the local community.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Roman Forum Summer Symposium 2013

The Roman Forum has announced its 2013 Symposium at the Gardone Riviera from 1-12 July 2013 on the theme "The Divine Comedy Versus the Theater of the Absurd: Navigating a Path Between Scylla and Charybdis". There is sung Mass in the usus antiquior every day as part of the programme. One fine day I will be able to get to this - sadly not this year, though I wish I could.

See also the post by LMS Chairman Joseph Shaw: Lake Gardone Conference.

Sign petition to stop EU funding for the destruction of embryos

One of Us is a new group launched this week in twenty European countries calling for a ban on the EU’s “financing of activities which presuppose the destruction of human embryos, in particular in the areas of research, development aid and public health.”

They are hoping to get a million signatures by November of this year. Go to One of Us to sign, and to the C-Fam Friday Fax for some background information including the serendipitous link with a case brought by Greenpeace in 1997.

Boat of Fools Blogfen Review

Incognito Mystery Church Reviewer and his Research Assistant

We have been honoured by a visit from the mystery Church reviewer: The boat of fools visits Blogfen. He picked up on all the important things including the mantillas and the child bloggers, though he must have gone for coffee before the under-3s chorus of Ave Regina Caelorum. It's true that we don't allow books in Church. All that page-rustling during the Canon disturbs the more considerate worshippers who silently tap iPads or use e-book readers.

There is just one correction to make: the worshipper feeding paper tape into an IBM mainframe was actually not a regular but another mystery worshipper from a leading liberal weekly who was also trying to be incognito but hasn't yet worked out that it is not 1968 any more.

What Mystery Reviewer doesn't know is that there is an army of disguised papal tech ninjas in the congregation who are using the latest tiny and easily concealed DNA-based nano-machines. They have now got his IP address, passwords and the entire contents of his hard drive in a blob of nucleotides that is stored in a single cell of one of the biscuits in the hall kitchen. The ninjas have a childish sense of fun, so you can expect some odd spelung mustaks in the nier footur.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Something more wholesome: "Passing on the Faith: Virtues and Values" -

Thanks be to God, there is something positive to report after the last post. The Archdiocese of Westminster Office for Marriage, Family and Life is putting on a Day for parents, teachers and catechists who work with families called Passing on the Faith – Virtues and Values.

It will be on Saturday 9 March 2013 from 10:30am to 4:30pm at the Student Union Hall, St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, TW1 4SX.

Speakers include Bishop Jean Laffitte, Secretary to the Pontifical Council for the Family and Dr Peter Kahn, author/editor of the Catholic Truth Society 'Family Matters' series. The excellent Ten Ten Theatre will also be giving a presentation.

Cost: £10 per person, £20 per family (children welcome). The organisers say "Please register in advance if you can - it helps us plan the programme - but you are welcome to turn up on the day."

Same-sex marriage: impact on education

The Coalition for Marriage have produced a booklet which indicates that if the “Equal Marriage Bill” is passed schools would have a legal requirement to teach about “same-sex marriage”.
Section 403(1A)(a) of the Education Act 1996 imposes a duty on the Secretary of State to “issue guidance” to ensure that pupils “learn the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and the bringing up of children” as part of sex education.

If the legal definition of marriage changes, the law will require that children learn about gay marriage as part of sex education...
This is obviously far more serious than the right of teachers to object on an individual basis. This would affect all the nation’s children. The C4M booklet gives a number of sample pages from books such as "Daddy's Roommate", "Hello Sailor", "Josh and Jaz have Three Mums" etc. They are aimed at young children. Here is a link to download a copy of the booklet.

With materials that might be put before secondary school pupils, we are in a bind because some of it is too disgusting to detail. It is more important than ever that parents insist on seeing exactly what materials are shown to their children, whether in school - or outside school by agencies that have gained trust (and contact details of young people) by being invited into the school. From a link in Laurence England's excellent post Schools and Same-Sex Marriage, I have just read a booklet from the Terence Higgins Trust which I wish I had never seen. "Called The Bottom Line. All you'll ever need to know about your arse and his." it gives detailed instructions on various forms of anal sex along with the diseases and injuries that commonly result from it - as though these are just hazards we have to accept in life.

The THT has a page asking "Why should Terrence Higgins Trust come to my school?" If you are a teacher opposed to same-sex marriage or a parent who wants their child protected from such instructional material, you may soon be unable to ask that question without legal consequences.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Postcards to MPs - this weekend crucial

The Bishops have sent postcards to all parishes in England and Wales for people to fill out and send to their MP to ask them to vote against the "Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill." This weekend is crucial because the second reading of the Bill will be on Tuesday 5 February.

John Smeaton has written about this on his blog and has suggested some practical ways in which the postcard campaign can be made more effective than simply leaving the postcards at the back of the Church (Archbishop Smith also encouraged such practical action.) Here are the points:
  1. Hand cards to mass-goers as they arrive for Sunday mass.
  2. Priests celebrating mass speak about the importance of defending marriage and of the bishops’ postcard campaign in their homily or at another appropriate moment.
  3. The name of the local MP (or MPs) should be mentioned.
  4. Pens & stamps – providing pens for people to fill in the postcards before they leave church, and stamps they can purchase to post them will encourage people to act.
  5. If this is not possible, please strongly urge people to post the postcards to their MP immediately upon returning home.
  6. Further details about the postcard are available at:
As a parish priest, I would add that the postcards (and the name of at least the MP(s) within the boundaries of the parish) could be put in the newsletter or on a note to be made available to people.

As an alternative to providing stamps, volunteers could collect the completed cards and post them in bulk, or deliver them to the local constituency office.

This is action that needs willing lay volunteers. It is no good at such short notice asking Father "Why don't you ...?" You need to be willing perhaps to come to two or more Masses to help, and to do the practical work involved. In my parish, people have come forward and made this possible. If you contact your priest today or tomorrow, make it clear that you will take on the spadework. Your parish priest may be completing the newsletter, writing his sermon, doing a wedding or a baptism. The question "May I help by contacting others, handing out the cards, providing some pens, getting the cards posted, etc?" will likely be more fruitful.

Remember too, that next weekend is not a total loss - if there are volunteers willing to drop the cards off at the local constituency office, the voice of many good people will not be lost.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Towey reinstated, Esler steps down

Dr Anthony Towey has been reinstated at St Mary's University College. Here is his SMUC web page. Last September, security staff escorted Dr Towey from the premises and he was suspended "pending investigations into a very serious disciplinary matter and a grave breach of his professional duties to the college." Not any more, it seems.

Here are links to the articles I wrote about Strawberry Hill in September:

Yesterday, the College announced that:
‘Professor Esler will conclude his time in office on 31st March 2013 and will undertake research leave and then his remaining annual leave from Wednesday 23rd January 2013, from which date Dr Arthur Naylor will assume the role of Interim Principal pending the appointment of Professor Esler’s successor.’
It is very good news that Dr Towey has been reinstated and I am sure that his students will be delighted.

Prayer for Marriage blog

Since my post about Safeguarding Marriage and the power of prayer a new blog has been set up to publicise any prayer events that are held: Prayer for Marriage.

Please email details of any times of adoration or indeed any events organised for people to come together to pray for marriage. Here is the email link.

Mass for Fr Thwaites RIP at Little Oratory

Thanks to a reader for information about this forthcoming Mass for Fr Hugh Thwaites:
(1917 – 2012)
Requiescat in Pace

You are cordially invited to attend
a Low Mass, celebrated by Father McHardy,
in honour of Father Hugh Thwaites, and for
the repose of his soul,
The Little Oratory, Brompton Oratory,
Brompton Road SW7 2RP,
Saturday, 2nd February, at 4.15 p.m.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Anthony Ozimic fights 3-1 pounding and wins on points

Calm, dispassionate and devastatingly effective, Anthony Ozimic of SPUC argued against the promotion of same-sex marriage in schools on ITV's "This Morning."

It was quite typical of British television that he not only had to answer his invited guest opponent - that would be fair enough - but also the relentless hostile questioning of both presenters on the opposite sofa. There was not even the pretence of impartiality.

At one point, the instant audience reaction was 80% for and 20% against teaching gay marriage in schools, but by the end the gap had narrowed to 60% - 40%. In such an arena, arguing alone against three opponents, this was a highly significant swing. At the end, even the presenters had to acknowledge this and managed to admit that the debate was "interesting."

Congratulations to Anthony for this sterling defence of marriage and to SPUC for their determined campaign on this issue.

New Rector for Oscott

This morning at 11am, Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham announced that as of 23 February, Mgr Mark Crisp, the Rector of Oscott, will be moving on to other duties in the Archdiocese

The new Rector of Oscott will be Fr David Oakley STL MEd PhD. (right) Fr Oakley is currently Parish Priest of Our Lady of Assumption, Maryvale. He was at one time Bursar and Pastoral Director of Oscott, he has also been a member of staff at Maryvale and has been teaching Fundamental Theology at Oscott.

In a message to the seminarians, Mgr Crisp wrote:
On a personal note to you as students, it is with mixed feelings that I inform you of this news. I have been a priest for 21 years and 20 of these have been working with seminarians either as Vocations Director or as Rector. Working with seminarians and encouraging seminarians in their vocation is a ministry I have greatly enjoyed even though at times I’ve found being Rector quite difficult. For a while I have sensed that it would be good for me to have other experiences of priesthood while I still have the energy for new challenges! While I believe this to be the right decision I will greatly miss all of you and will keep you very much in my prayers in the future.
I have known Mgr Crisp since we were together at the English College in Rome in the 1980s. He has done a great job at Oscott and on my occasional visits there, I have always found an excellent atmosphere among the students.

(Recently Mgr Crisp was the focus of some controversy because the Bishops responsible for Oscott had made it clear that they did not want the students to be trained in the Extraordinary Form at the seminary nor for that form of Mass to be celebrated there. He had to announce this unfortunate decision to the students. It was fairly obvious that this was not Mgr Crisp's decision and he went out of his way to reassure students that an interest in the usus antiquior would not be a "formation issue.")

Please pray for Fr Oakley in his new post as Rector. It is a heavy responsibility and I wish him every blessing.

Liturgy untouched by the deconstructionist critique

The Beautiful Persistence of Chant is a magnificent short essay by Jeffrey Tucker of the Chant Café on chant and deconstructionism.

In tracing briefly the history of setting music down in notation so that others could sing it even if they had not directly heard the music, he looks at the way in which digital media have now made it possible for us to hear (for example) a recording of monks from the 1950s singing chant. Even though most of the singers will probably now have gone to their eternal reward, we can imitate and interpret them, and build upon what they have left us.

In the second half of the essay, Jeffrey looks at the prevalent philosophy of deconstructionism and the claim that the meaning of any text is arbitrary, never-changing, and dictated by culture. He makes the point that even if we were to accept this in other fields (which of course we do not):
Liturgy is the great exception. It does not exist in time. It extends out of time into eternity. It touches a real outside of time and the material world. It points up and out of time. Through it we receive communication from God and find ourselves transported out of the limits of the physical and into communication to God to give praise. In sense this, and if this is true, the deconstructionist critique of the realm of time cannot touch it. We did not make up liturgy. The liturgy is a gift from all eternity to us.
I recommend the essay to you: it is well worth reading.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Outing to live feed of Maria Stuarda, and choosing your favourite "vil bastarda"

Multiplex cinemas now offer live showings of concerts and operas from prestigious venues. When I first came across this, it struck me as an excellent idea. So I was delighted that our Director of Music (who blogs at Bara Brith) organised a trip on Saturday evening for the choir to go to Bluewater for the live feed of Donizetti's Maria Stuarda from the New York Met. (From the combox of Mulier Fortis I learn that Fr Michael Brown who blogs at Forest Murmurs was watching it at the same time in Newcastle.)

A few years ago I went with a priest friend to Madame Butterfly at Covent Garden. We had tickets for somewhere under the rafters but he knew that you could go and occupy empty seats in the stalls after the interval. (Not sure if you can still do that.) That was my only experience of live opera and jolly good it was too, but I remain an ignoramus on the subject. Thanks to Bara Brith and Wikipedia I now have an elementary understanding of what is meant by Bel canto, and coloratura, and know a little about Donizetti.

Maria Stuarda doesn't increase anyone's historical knowledge of Mary Queen of Scots, though it was useful to check out which bits were completely invented. It is interesting, though, to learn of the fascination of Italians and others with the tragedy of her life and death; the opera certainly gave this some colour and we were all prepared to cheer at the bit when Mary Stuart lets rip at Elizabeth I:
Figlia impura di Bolena,
Parli tu di disonore?
Meretrice indegna e oscena,
Su te cada il mio rossore!
Profanato è il soglio inglese,
Vil bastarda, dal tuo piè!
Unclean daughter of Boleyn,Dare you speak of dishonour?Unworthy and obscene whore,My so-called shame fall upon you!The English throne is sulliedBy your own foot, you vile bastard!
Nowadays, in these matters, we are helped by modern technology. YouTube conveniently has a video in which you can "Choose your favorite 'vil bastarda' from Maria Stuarda." Having watched them, I thought that Joyce DiDonato's (top of post) compared favourably in terms of dignified vehemence.

I don't think this won't be the last Blackfen trip to Bluewater for the opera. There was quite some interest in Handel's Giulio Cesare which is on 27 April - also live from the New York Met.

Horse trying to find mum in Tesco

A good, honest, harmless and absolutely hilarious prank. Kudos to the youngsters who thought this one up and carried it off.

(By way of explanation: it was recently discovered by DNA testing that some economy burgers in Tesco and some other stores were contaminated with horsemeat. Lots of coverage in the UK and Irish press.)

Safeguarding Marriage and the power of prayer

The Good Counsel Network have sent news of a couple of parishes that are holding the Forty Hours Devotion in advance of the Government's proposal to introduce legislation for same-sex marriage. It seems that the second reading may be as soon as 5 February, so we do need to get on our knees.

If your parish has not had the 40 hours devotion, I do recommend it. We have had it for a few years at Blackfen and it is a blessing not only for those who directly take part but also for the parish and the neighbourhood.

If you can't organise 40 hours, you might want to have at least a Holy Hour of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with the intention of safeguarding marriage.

If you do have an event of this sort, please put a note in the comments box or email me and I will post updates.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Catholic Evensong at Blackfen

When I was an undergraduate at Oxford and attended Evensong from time to time in my own College Chapel at Corpus Christi, I little imagined that one day as a Parish Priest I would be able to invite a brother priest in full communion with the Catholic Church to celebrate Evensong according to a rite approved by the Holy See. The Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is an ecumenical success story. When Professor Hans Kung wrote about The Church and Reunion in 1961, I do not expect he anticipated a service such as we celebrated at Blackfen last Friday for the beginning of the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Peter Mitchell and the Bexley and Crayford District Organists' and Choirmasters' Association generously gave their time to rehearse and execute some excellent music. The Blackfen Church Choir took part, with singers on all four parts. Fr Simon Heans of the Ordinariate who regularly helps out at Blackfen, was the celebrant.

After the Introit, we sang Praise to the Holiest, to the Chorus Angelorum melody which is not so often sung these days. The Responses and the Preces were sung to the setting by William Smith of Durham which did sound familiar to me from back in the day. The office hymn was Jerusalem the Golden; Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis by Derek Holman, and the Anthem was "Behold how good and joyful a thing it is" to music by John Clarke-Whitfield. Glorious!

We had some good-humoured banter about Anglican Patrimony afterwards over cake - and Prosecco which I provided as an Italianate influence (along with tea, of course.) I am looking forward to having Choral Evensong again at Blackfen from time to time.

Femina nivalis devota

One of my parishioners, defénde nos in proélio, posted this photo today of a snow-lady build by the children after Mass this morning.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Mixed blessing from the ECHR

Fr Ed Tomlinson has a good summary of the recent cases heard in the European Court of Human Rights: Don't put out the bunting. Essentially one case went well - it was ruled that British Airways discriminated against employee Nadia Eweida for prohibiting her from wearing a cross at work, but the other three went badly. Elfin safety arguments were upheld against nurse Shirley Chaplain who was banned from wearing a cross at work (though the court did not actually know what the arguments were). The case against Gary McFarlane who objects to offering sex therapy to homosexuals was upheld as was the case against registrar, Lillian Ladele, who refused to perform same sex ceremonies having ensured others would cover in her absence.

Deacon Nick at Protect the Pope gives his summary: Christians allowed to wear discreet crosses, but not allowed to follow consciences – European Court of Human Rights

Christian Legal Centre is taking a glass half full approach and has some helpful comments: European Court announces judgement on Christian freedom cases.

There is also a good article at the French magazine, La Vie: Cour Européenne des Droits de l'homme : pas de discrimination antichrétienne

And Archbishop Mamberti, the Holy See's Secretary for Relations with States has commented on these and other cases: If relativism is taken as a norm. As he says:
There is a real risk that moral relativism, which imposes itself as a new social norm, will come to undermine the foundations of individual freedom of conscience and religion. The Church seeks to defend individual freedoms of conscience and religion in all circumstances, even in the face of the “dictatorship of relativism”.

Clergy Retreat in Bavaria

There are a few places left on the clergy retreat in Bavaria organised by Fr Armand de Malleray of the FSSP. The retreat is from 15-19 April and there are full details here. Unfortunately my teaching and parish committments don't allow me to go this time, but it looks like a superb opportunity. You get to stay next to the seminary at Wigratzbad which is itself a Marian shrine. Fr de Malleray is giving the talks, which will be on the Most Holy Eucharist in the life of priests.

It will be a proper silent retreat with reading at meals but there is also the option of staying on for a day of tourism to visit the Lindau peninsula on Lake Constance, have dinner in local ‘Gasthaus’ visit the Benedictine Abbey of Ottobeuren.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Speaking at The Keys

The Keys is the name of the Catholic Writers Guild. (Membership of The Keys is for those who are working in the media or the world of publishing.) After being kindly introduced to the The Keys by a member, I decided to join and have always enjoyed the meetings that I have been able to get to. They often have distinguished speakers and this makes me rather nervous to be in the hot seat myself next Wednesday 23 January on the subject of "New Movements and New Media".

The meeting is held at St Mary Moorfields in Eldon Street (EC2M 7LS) and the the programme is:

6.30 pm Holy Mass with Cantor
7.00 pm Dinner
8.00 pm Talk by Fr Finigan followed by questions and discussion.
Finish at approximately 9.30 pm

The Master of the Guild has kindly advised me that I may advertise the meeting on the blog. If you would like to come, the price for non-members to attend is £16 (including dinner).

It is (absolutely) necessary to book in advance (as soon as possible) by contacting Fr Peter Newby email:

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Now would be a good time for Cameron to start listening

In one of the largest joint letters of its kind, over 1000 priests have signed a letter to the Daily Telegraph calling on MPs to reject the legislation for same-sex marriage. Here is the text:
Same-sex marriage law

SIR – After centuries of persecution, Catholics have, in recent times, been able to be members of the professions and participate fully in the life of this country.

Legislation for same-sex marriage, should it be enacted, will have many legal consequences, severely restricting the ability of Catholics to teach the truth about marriage in their schools, charitable institutions or places of worship. 
It is meaningless to argue that Catholics and others may still teach their beliefs about marriage in schools and other arenas if they are also expected to uphold the opposite view at the same time.

The natural complementarity between a man and a woman leads to marriage, seen as a lifelong partnership. This loving union – because of their physical complementarity – is open to bringing forth and nurturing children.

This is what marriage is. That is why marriage is only possible between a man and a woman. Marriage, and the home, children and family life it generates, is the foundation and basic building block of our society.

We urge Members of Parliament not to be afraid to reject this legislation now that its consequences are more clear.
The list of signatories is given on the Telegraph Letters page.

The third sentence makes an important point when it says that it is meaningless to say that we are free to teach our beliefs if we are also expected to teach the opposite view at the same time. The question of teaching something as true is at the heart of the debate over the freedom of the Church to teach. The Metropolitan elite want to pretend that they do not teach anything as objectively true but that they respect everyone's views. Any first year Philosophy undergraduate could see that this is incoherent since the principle of relativism is itself taught as an absolute truth which nobody may deny.

As Damian Thompson observes, this is not just a letter from traditionalists, but from priests across a wide spectrum of views within the Church. I found it very encouraging that priests who I thought might have just ignored the letter (that's all they had to do) took the trouble to sign it and post it in to the organisers. I am proud to stand beside them. This issue, and the firm and clear witness of our Bishops in the matter, has united the Catholic Church in our country. Congratulations to the young and dynamic priests who organised this highly significant act of witness.

Now would be a good time for Mr Cameron to start listening to the strength of opposition to his foolish and dangerous proposal. If he doesn't, those who hold influence in his party would be well-advised to bring him in for an "Interview Without Coffee."

Relics of St John Bosco in London

A little bit late on this one, but the relics of Saint John Bosco which have been taken around England have been taken around England, Scotland and Wales for veneration, will be in London this weekend. They are in Westminster Cathedral today and will be in St George's Cathedral, Southwark, tomorrow. Details are at the dedicated Pilgrimage website.

The relics are being venerated as part of a world-wide pilgrimage leading up to the 200th Anniversary in 2015 of the saint's birth.

The relics of St John Bosco - the bones and tissues of the right hand and arm - have been placed within a wax replica of the saint's, which is enclosed in a casket.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Alliance of pro-life students

The Alliance of Pro-Life Students is to be launched on 16 January with an evening of drinks, canapes and speeches, including Lord Alton. It is to be held at the Thistle Hotel Marble Arch from 7.30-11pm. This is a fundraising event and tickets are £25 or £15 for students or for groups of 5 or more.

The idea of the APS is to revitalise pro-life work by:
Building pro-life societies by encouraging students of all religious backgrounds and none to start their own societies.

Supporting pro-life societies by: providing educational resource packs and databases of speakers and reliable sources; helping with event organisation and networking; standing up for the rights of pro-life students to peacefully speak out on life ethics.

Connecting pro-life students: with each other online through our website forum and face-to-face with specialist training days; with other pro-life organisations for internships and volunteering opportunities.
For more details of the fundraising event and of the APS, see the website.

New Deacon speaks on his promises

Daniel Fitzpatrick has just been ordained a Deacon. He has spoken on 4Thought TV about the promises of celibacy, obedience to the Bishop and of praying the Divine Office. He speaks very well and positively and for his troubles has a slew of the usual snarky anti-clerical comments.You could join in the combox or simply click on the thumbs-up button to get the rating up.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Soho Masses stopped, Church given to Ordinariate

That was a headline I did not expect to be writing. The Archdiocese of Westminster has issued a statement today explaining that the pastoral care of people with same-sex attraction will enter a new phase, encouraging people with same-sex attraction to enter more fully into the life of the Church, particularly by participating at Mass "in the midst of the whole Church." The regular "Soho Masses" are to be discontinued.

Included in the same statement is the news that the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Warwick Street is to dedicated to the life of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

The pastoral care of people with same-sex attraction will be hosted at the Jesuit Church of the Immaculate Conception in Farm Street under the continued guidance of Mgr Seamus O'Boyle.

The full statement can be read after an article by Mark Greaves in the Catholic Herald: Archbishop Nichols ends ‘Soho Masses’ after six years. Damien Thompson has also followed up on the story, with a link to a balanced background article by William Oddie from last November.

There will surely be many other comments on the blogosphere so I am glad to have picked up this story early, on a quiet day in the parish. (I was intending to catch up on my email, but ho-hum.) I know of many Catholics (including people struggling with same-sex attraction) who have been scandalised by some of the phenomena associated with the "Soho Masses" over the years. There are also many who have felt that the Ordinariate has not been treated with sufficient generosity. Today's "double whammy" story will be a temptation to triumphalist and perhaps unkind comments. I understand that temptation but would urge that like so many, it should be resisted.

First of all, there are many in the Church today who struggle with same-sex attraction and try to live a good life within the communion of the Church. Now would be a good time to focus our efforts on pastoral and friendly support - that respect, compassion and sensitivity of which the Catechism speaks. (n.2358) The new initiatives recently promoted by Encourage are also a great help in this ministry. I would certainly recommend priests to be involved in supporting their work.

Secondly, the Ordinary, priests, sisters and lay people of the Ordinariate have a difficult path to negotiate. Many of us welcome the wonderful breath of fresh air that they bring to the life of the Church and hope that they will be a powerful influence for the good. Yet there is a touching humility that I have nearly always come across in those who have come into the Church: they are grateful to be part of the full communion of the Catholic Church and do not come with ideas of telling everyone else what to do. It is a matter for rejoicing that the Ordinariate are to have such a beautiful and historic Church in the heart of London's West End. That rejoicing can surely be simple, heartfelt and generous to Archbishop Nichols.

Yesterday I posted my customary silly article for the New Year. Today I am reflecting more seriously on the good that can come to the Church in our country from the way that things are changing for the better. Not perfect, yes yes yes. But a very good start to the year. Let us pray to the Good Lord for more to come. And let us pray earnestly for our Bishops.

CCC Briefing paper on same-sex marriage

The British Province of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy has grown rapidly since its foundation and provides much-needed opportunities for priests to meet, hear good speakers, and offer support to one another in fidelity to the magisterium of the Church.

The Confraternity has just issued a Briefing paper on same-sex marriage which is intended to support the various statements made by our Bishops and to assist the people in our parishes to understand the Church's teaching in the face of much misinformation. It is a helpful brief explanation which is suitable for distribution in parishes. If you want a printer-friendly pdf, I have uploaded the file to my parish website. (It is now also available on the CCC website.)

May I also take this opportunity to encourage brother priests to examine the objects of the Confraternity and to take out membership.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Bishop Egan's Pastoral Letter breaks a "difficult silence"

Bishop Philip Egan sent his people an excellent Pastoral Letter for the feast of the Holy Family. He presents clearly the orthodox teaching of the Church concerning the divinity and humanity of Christ. With regard to Christ's perfect humanity, he reflects on human nature itself and the teaching of Humanae Vitae. As he rightly says:
Sadly, the teaching of Humanae Vitae about sexual morality and family values has become something of an ‘elephant in the room’ that no-one seems to mention.
Well Bishop Egan has certainly mentioned it now.

The process by which Humanae Vitae became shrouded in silence is well described in Clifford Longley's book The Worlock Archive, an important record of the way in which the Catholic Church in England and Wales changed during the post-conciliar period. I recommend it especially for younger Catholics as it helps to understand how we got to where we are now.

In chapter 8 of his book, Clifford Longley describes how, after the publication of Humanae Vitae, a compromise was reached by the Hierarchy with a carefully worded statement supporting the encyclical but proposing leniency towards priests who dissented from it. As he astutely observes:
“It was a tacit acknowledgement, at least for the time being, that there was nothing to be gained by an aggressive policy of promoting the teaching of Humanae Vitae in the parishes. This was where the statement was most eloquently silent. A bishop issued his carefully worded pastoral letter, and in many cases also a private letter to his priests, and then left the subject alone. After a while this silence became a difficult silence to break.” (p.254)
(I wrote about this at greater length in the Faith Magazine editorial of July-August 2007 (Sex Education in Catholic Schools. The Deeper Questions.)

Bishop Egan's courageous pastoral letter deserves the commendation that it has received from priests and lay Catholics well beyond the confines of his diocese.

The full text of the pastoral letter is on the Diocesan website.

10 things that will not happen in 2013

Happy New Year! Apologies for the lack of blogging during the Christmas Octave. I see that there are comments awaiting moderation. I'll get to those later, but first a tradition of the blog - things that will not happen in the coming year, or things that will happen this year in an alternative universe:

1. Following his successful foray onto Twitter, Pope Benedict starts a new personal YouTube channel featuring Cardinal Deacons in liturgical dance to the top Bluegrass Gospel numbers. (With a Cardinal Priest to act as MC: Luis Tagle is tipped by Sandro Magister.)

2. Professor Richard Dawkins offers a considered and rational response to St Thomas Aquinas' De ente et essentia.

3. Bruvver Eccles is appointed Director of Communications for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

4. Bara Brith takes up the ukelele to transform sacred music at Blackfen by playing "What a friend we have in Jesus" as a regular motet for the Offertory. (No point having just one bluegrass number in a fun post when you can have two.)

5. Mgr Andrew Burnham and Fr Ed Tomlinson compose an alternative liturgy for the Ordinariate with the assistance of the Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley. Tea lights feature prominently.

6. The New Liturgical Movement runs a series conterpointing the "other modern" with the "normal modern", showcasing the most spiritually uplifting designs on polyester chasubles of the seventies.

7. The Society of St Pius X decide to open the windows by publishing a three-part treatise by Fr Dr Dr Klaus Sterngrumpher on Modern Man in Search of an Intercultural Meaning in the World of Today.

8. The Tablet responds to its drop in circulation by appointing Richard Collins as editor with a brief to introduce a new column on comparative religion.

9. Sir Dan of the Blogosphere (Bene Merenti) sets up a course in Carshalton offering Hopi Ear Candling, Aromatherapy and Indian Holistic Head Massage.

10. Gangnam dancing proves to be more than a silly passing fad.
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