Friday, 31 May 2013

La manif pour tous and L'avenir pour tous

Frigide Barjot, who has been the most prominent of the spokesmen and spokeswomen of the movement La Manif pour tous has, since the large demonstration on 26th May, launched a new movement L'Avenir pour tous. This represents a split from La Manif pour tous, who, at the date of posting, no longer include her among their list of spokesmen. Also absent from that list is the representative of a gay movement that was opposed to the legalisation of same sex marriage, who has joined Frigide Barjot in founding her new movement.

The reason for the split? Frigide Barjot has been defending the idea of a form of civil union, other than marriage, for same sex couples, and this has not been shared by all those represented in the La manif pour tous collective. For this reason, and to avoid discord at the rally on 26th May, Frigide Barjot did not take part in the march itself and did not appear on the platform at Les Invalides (though she was very warmly thanked from the stage in her absence). Press reports on the day suggested that she had received threats from the extreme right.

La manif pour tous have updated their account of their position: Comprendre l'essentiel. Even accepting that the political context in France is different than that in the UK (the French have no equivalent to our civil partnerships), the articulation of the opposition to same sex marriage seems much better. In particular, the focus on the right of children to be born of a mother and father and a critique of "gender theory" have been largely absent from the public debate here. The President of the movement (formerly a media spokeswoman for the French Catholic Bishops Conference) Ludovine de la Rochère has committed to a continued activity on the part of the movement.

The split to form L'Avenir pour tous does prompt a re-reading of a paragraph from the Considerations of the Sacred Congregation for Doctrine in 2003:
In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.

Monday, 27 May 2013

La Manif pour Tous in Paris 26th May 2013: round-up

[To remind readers of the inspiration of La Manif pour Tous , an inspiration which may be lost in the coverage of events: Our Message and  Our Ethics]

France's report is one that best captures an overview of yesterday's events in Paris: France’s anti-gay marriage movement eyes future fights

La Manif pour Tous website gives an account of the first of the vigils referred to in France's report, which ended with a degree of violence on the part of the CRS towards entirely peaceful people attempting to disperse as instructed by the police. Vigils are now being held regularly in towns throughout France. This report captures exactly what remains the particular mission of La Manif pour Tous: The True Face of Manif pour Tous.

La Croix gives an account of the arrests,which took place after the dispersal of the main Manif pour Tous demonstration, and were linked to groups of the extreme right, and should not be associated with Manif pour Tous itself: Près de 300 interpellations à l'issue de la Manif pour tous ("Nearly 300 arrests at the end of Manif pour Tous"). And here, too: Scènes de violence après la « manif pour tous ».

Yesterday's demonstration prompted the BBC to send a presenter to Paris, so that part of The World this Weekend was presented from Paris. Rather than focus on what was the issue for the vast majority of the ordinary participants in the Manif pour Tous movement - opposition to "la loi Taubirau" legalising marriage and adoption for same sex couples - the coverage tried to present the demonstration as providing a focus for a much wider range of anti-Hollande protests. Huge anti-gay marriage march in Paris
Opposition to gay marriage has become conflated with all sorts of other anti-government grievances coming from the right and the atmosphere in the country is particularly volatile, the BBC's Hugh Schofield says.
Whilst this might be true of some participants, it is not true of La Manif pour Tous as such.

There is a lot more to be said about the phenomenon that is La Manif pour Tous, and the vigil movement that has emerged from it. Yesterday's strapline? It was "resistance" It will be interesting to observe developments ....

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Spirit in the City: 12-15 June 2013

In one of its earlier years, I took part in this (now annual) festival in the West End of London. If I recall correctly, this involved me in an afternoon of street evangelisation and particpating in the Eucharistic procession.

In more recent years, the coincidence of the festival with the school half term has meant that I have been out of the country at the time. This year, I am again out of the country (well, in Wales at least, and for work not holiday) for the Wednesday to Friday. I am hoping to be able to take part in the Saturday afternoon and closing Mass at Leicester Square.

According to the print flyer:
Catholic parishes, various Catholic communities and other Christian movements come together to pray, celebrate and evangelise in a variety of ways.

Spirit in the City celebrates the GOOD NEWS of Christianity and welcomes people of all faiths, ages and walks of life. It gives an opportunity to raise deeper questions about life and to search for new ways to connect with God and others around us.
Each year this festival prompts me to reflect on the catholic nature of the Catholic faith. At a first level, there is the participation of Catholics from different cultural and national backgrounds. And then, within this range of backgrounds, there are present the permanent elements of Catholic life - Marian character, Eucharistic character, Sacrament of Penance. It is of the catholicity of the Catholic faith that it should speak to each and every culture and time, and not be restricted to any one culture and time to the exclusion of others. With its different ministries, Spirit in the City does exactly this. It offers a lived experience of a "hermeneutic of continuity" - the permanent elements of the Catholic faith presented in a new and lively way.

This year Spirit in the City will take a particular message from the witness of Pope Francis, whose impulse towards evangelisation rather than introspection on the part of the Church, is clearly reflected in an event such as Spirit in the City.

If you are able to take part in one or more of the events of the four days, I highly recommend them to you. The website with details of the four days (full programme can be found from one of the tabs at the top of the home page, and there is also a poster/flyer for download) is here: Spirit in the City.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Pentecost: high point of the Year of Faith?

The Solemnity of Pentecost - the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the infant Church of the Apostles gathered around the person of Mary - should perhaps be one of the greatest celebrations during the Year of Faith. It captures both the element of inner renewal, both communal and personal, of faith that is a feature of this Year, and the impulse for evangelisation that is its hoped for outcome.

I suspect that in many parishes today this significance of the Solemnity for the Year of Faith will be obscured by the celebration of the sacrament of Confirmation, rather than being brought in to focus by it. In Rome this weekend, Pope Francis has met with the new ecclesial movements and associations in St Peter's Square. Some 120 000 people are reported as joining the vigil yesterday evening ( here and here), and Pope Francis is to celebrate Mass with the movements and associations this morning. The pilgrimage for the Year of Faith has taken the same form for the new movements as it has done for previous gatherings (most recently for Confirmation candidates and for sodalities and confraternities), with participants making a pilgrimage to the Vatican Basilica focussed on a profession of faith before the high altar/tomb of St Peter on the Saturday and joining the Holy Father for a celebration of Mass on the Sunday morning. Pope Francis own appreciation of the movement Communion and Liberation has become apparent since his election. I expect that fuller reports and texts of the pilgrimage this weekend will appear in due course.

This weekend's encounter in Rome is an echo of two previous such meetings, one with Pope John Paul II in 1998 (during which the Holy Fathers reference to the co-essentiality of the charismatic and the hierarchical in the Church provided a strap line for the role of the movements in the Church) and the second with Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 (Zero and I were in St Peter's Square for that one!).

Pentecost usually prompts me to look again at the books of Fr Peter Hocken (and here) that I have on my bookshelves. What are in some ways the first and last in a sequence of four - Blazing the Trail: Where is the Holy Spirit leading the Church? and Church Forward: reflections on the renewal of the Church - are the two that I dip in to most often. (The other two in the sequence are The banquet of life, about the dignity of the human person, and God's Masterplan: penetrating the mystery of Christ, whose title speaks for itself.) One thread in these books, and of Fr Peter Hocken's thinking in general, is the conviction that the Second Vatican Council represents a particular inspiration of the Holy Spirit for the Church of our times - reflecting the way in which the significance of the Council has been affirmed by both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI and is expressed again in the celebration of the Year of Faith to mark an anniversary of the Council. Another is the way in which he takes that general principle and develops it very specifically in relation to such themes of the Council as liturgy, Scripture, evangelisation, dialogue and ecumenism.

There is no misrepresentation of the Council to be found in Fr Hocken's writing; it offers a positive and orthodox orientation with regard to the Council documents that is fresh air when compared to the antagonism towards the Council implicit in the traditionalist critique of the contemporary situation of the Church.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

The EU referendum: what should the question be?

One of my sharpest memories of fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 is waking up the following day and lying in bed a few moments thinking. What I thought was .... that, almost literally in a 24 hour period, the situation of the world (though I should perhaps have thought Europe in particular) had changed. I have a particular memory of a young girl that night, who had just crossed over into West Berlin for the first time, being asked by a radio reporter whether or not she would go back to the East. She couldn't answer one way or the other, being so completely overwhelmed by the moment. My sensitivity to Berlin comes from the fact that it is the city where my parents first met, when both were serving in the British Army in the decade or so after World War II.

This week, in British politics, the intervention of Lord Lawson calling for Britain to leave the European Union has created a comparable sea change in our perception of the relationship of Britain with the rest of Europe. Lord Lamont has also intervened, arguing that our relationship with Europe should be one that is economic in nature rather than political. He differed from Lord Lawson in arguing for at least an attempted renegotiation of the relationship into a free trade agreement. The possibility has emerged of a vote this coming week on an amendment that regrets that there were no plans for a referendum on the EU built in to the Queen's Speech. There is a hefty element of internal Conservative Party politics in all of this - the Tory Eurosceptics do not trust David Cameron's qualified promise of a referendum, and detect that he really wants Britain to remain in the EU but has to offer something that will gain back support from the United Kingdom Independence Party. Should a vote occur this week, Government ministers are being "guided" to abstain, while other Conservative MPs are likely to have a free vote (or, as the BBC are reporting it: "Other MPs, including ministers' parliamentary aides, will be free to vote with their consciences.")

The events just described have created a sense of a real possibility of British withdrawal from the European Union that did not exist, say, two weeks ago. My own suspicion is that, by and large, the ordinary British citizen would prefer to stay in the EU rather than leave - but that perception has been significantly altered this week. The Telegraph coverage today suggests a growing revolt against David Cameron's approach and in favour of a stronger move towards a referendum that might lead to British withdrawal.

1. I think we should first of all be wary of the way in which interventions from Tory grandees of the past have played in the media, catching degree of publicity out of all proportion to the significance of the respective speakers in the present day political arena. In the light of point 2, I would suggest that there has been a certain amount of manipulation in terms of the media coverage, and we should be aware of that manipulation in our evaluation.

2. If I have understood the interventions of Lord Lawson and Lord Lamont correctly, they have framed the question of Britain's EU membership solely in terms of its economic benefit (or opposite) to Britain. And this, more than anything else in my view, represents a manipulation of the debate.

3. And, in the light of point 2, to describe an unwhipped vote on the matter as "allowing MPs to vote according to their consciences" is misleading. To vote simply on the basis of a judgement of economic benefit for Britain only seems to me instead to be a complete abdication of conscience in favour of blatant self-interest.

So what is the real question?

4. From the point of view of Catholic social teaching, the question of EU membership is one in the area of prudential judgement rather than one in the area of absolute right and wrong. It involves a prudential judgement, not about what is in our own self-interest, but a prudential judgement about what constitutes the "common good". As Gaudium et Spes n.26 teaches (though I have slightly adapted the translation from that on the Vatican website):
Every day human interdependence grows more tightly drawn and spreads by degrees over the whole world. As a result the common good, that is, the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members full and ready access to their own fulfilment, today takes on an increasingly universal complexion and consequently involves rights and duties with respect to the whole human race. Every social group must take account of the needs and legitimate aspirations of other groups, and even of the general welfare of the entire human family.
It is worth reading something of the original inspiration for what subsequently became the European Union during the years immediately following World War II to gain some idea of what the notion of the "common good" means for the current debate. Try the Schuman Declaration and this history of the development of the European Union. [Aside: Robert Schuman's hiding place from the Germans during part of World War II was the shrine at La Salette ...] One can readily see the solidarity among European nations encouraged by the European Union as reflecting this teaching.

The history of the European Union clearly indicates that to reduce the present debate to an exclusively economic level is to misunderstand the nature of the entire project of the European Union. The European Union, in its most fundamental inspiration, sees matters of economics as being at the service of a wider solidarity between the peoples of Europe. Only a generation that is so far separated from the events of 1939-1945, and indeed from the events of 1945-1989, by their own blinkered self-interest and/or immersion in decadent materialism can give the contributions of Lord Lawson and Lord Lamont (at least as they have been reported in the media in recent days) any credence.

[I have not seen it raised in the debate in recent days, but the question of economic migration as a consequence of the provisions for freedom of  movement within the EU sits within this discussion of the "common good". There is a prudential judgement to be made about appropriate levels of such migration, but, again, that judgement, if it is to be ethically just, cannot be reduced just to its economic aspects. There is an element of solidarity with the person who is less well off -even at a cost to a host country - that represents a part of the wider sense of the "common good" referred to by Gaudium et Spes.]

6. If a free vote is also to be a vote "according to their conscience" with regard to EU membership, MPs should, in deciding how they are going to vote and in discussing that with their political colleagues, the media and their constituents, give due regard to the whole substance of what constitutes the "common good", and that not just for the people of Britain but for all the peoples of Europe. MPs might well come to different prudential judgements, and the economic arguments will form a part of that. But concentrating only on the economic arguments will not constitute a vote "according to conscience" in any real sense.

7. And, finally. The question on the ballot paper of any referendum that we might or might not eventually get is likely to be expressed in the stark terms of "in" or "out". But the real question on the ballot paper is one with regard to the "common good". But will the typical voter actually answer that question?

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Getting things right: what the bishops really said

Fr Hugh has posted a correction to one of his earlier posts: What the English bishops actually said about royal mixed marriages.

Not only does this episode act as a warning about the use of new media - not every source is reliable, and it is wise to do some checking out of a story rather than simply re-publishing it all too rapidly  from somewhere else - but also as a warning about being too ready to adopt a contentious stance towards a local Bishops Conference.

As Fr Hugh observes towards the end of his post, perhaps others will also correct their posted material.

Pope Francis on the Evangelical Counsels

It even made the BBC Radio 4 Today programme at about 7.45 am this morning, in the form of an interview with the superior of the Company of Jesus! I have to say I was impressed by the positive way in which Sister presented Pope Francis' words yesterday.

In an address at the end of a meeting of the International Union of Superiors General in Rome, The Holy Father spoke about each of the counsels in turn. What caught the attention of the Today programme was the following phrase:
The consecrated are mothers: they must be mothers and not 'spinsters'!
But I thought he spoke very beautifully about each of the three counsels, presenting them as a positive way of life and not just as a juridical provision (though they do have that aspect to them, the juridical provision in Canon Law and the statutes of institutes being an expression of a living meaning).

An English text of his words can be found at Vatican Radio's report: Pope meets with heads of women's religious communities. An Italian text is at the Vatican website: Discorso del Santo Padre Francesco ai participant all'Assemblea Plenaria dell'Unione Internatzionale delle Superiore Generali.
Obedience as listening to God's will, in the interior motion of the Holy Spirit authenticated by the Church, accepting that obedience also passes through human mediations. … Poverty, which teaches solidarity, sharing, and charity and which is also expressed in a soberness and joy of the essential, to put us on guard against the material idols that obscure the true meaning of life. Poverty, which is learned with the humble, the poor, the sick, and all those who are at the existential margins of life. Theoretical poverty doesn't do anything. Poverty is learned by touching the flesh of the poor Christ in the humble, the poor, the sick, and in children.  
And then chastity, as a precious charism, that enlarges the freedom of your gift to God and others with Christ's tenderness, mercy, and closeness. Chastity for the Kingdom of Heaven shows how affection has its place in mature freedom and becomes a sign of the future world, to make God's primacy shine forever. But, please, [make it] a 'fertile' chastity, which generates spiritual children in the Church. The consecrated are mothers: they must be mothers and not 'spinsters'! Forgive me if I talk like this but this maternity of consecrated life, this fruitfulness is important! May this joy of spiritual fruitfulness animate your existence. Be mothers, like the images of the Mother Mary and the Mother Church. You cannot understand Mary without her motherhood; you cannot understand the Church without her motherhood, and you are icons of Mary and of the Church.”
And a passage that has attracted less attention but has a significance for the situation of religious life in the Church today:
“Your vocation is a fundamental charism for the Church's journey and it isn't possible that a consecrated woman or man might 'feel' themselves not to be with the Church. A 'feeling' with the Church that has generated us in Baptism; a 'feeling' with the Church that finds its filial expression in fidelity to the Magisterium, in communion with the Bishops and the Successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome, a visible sign of that unity,” the pontiff added, citing Paul VI: “It is an absurd dichotomy to think of living with Jesus but without the Church, of following Jesus outside of the Church, of loving Jesus without loving the Church. Feel the responsibility that you have of caring for the formation of your Institutes in sound Church doctrine, in love of the Church, and in an ecclesial spirit.” 
“The centrality of Christ and his Gospel, authority as a service of love, and 'feeling' in and with the Mother Church: [these are] three suggestions that I wish to leave you, to which I again add my gratitude for your work, which is not always easy. What would the Church be without you? She would be missing maternity, affection, tenderness! A Mother's intuition.”

Friday, 3 May 2013

The present situation of Traditional Catholicism

1. An alternative magisterium

There is, of course, an irony in suggesting that Traditionalists (or those who are of similar mind to them) act in some manner as if they are an alternative to the structures/office in the Church. One element of this arises from an expression of a "no compromise" Catholicism, with its risk of absolutising prudential judgements about a particular issue as if they are directly matters of belief,  and the consequent public attack on those who do not accord with their own particular prudential judgement. Another element arises from seeing the exercise of pastoral office in the Church, either exclusively or in an exaggerated manner, in the exercise of its aspect of juridical authority. The absence of public exercise of juridical authority is then equated with weakness in holding and teaching the faith. [I happen to think that the most significant exercises of the universal pastoral office of the Successor of Peter in recent years to have been the various "Years of ...", which, while totally respecting the liberty of the local Churches, nevertheless provides a lead and encouragement to pastoral activity in those local Churches]

So one can see among the Traditionally minded a tendency for a publicly critical stance with regard to a local episcopates or ecclesial bodies, a tendency to say "Rome says X" as a basis for a critical stance towards those who do not say X (when Rome has not always said X, even in the document cited by the Traditionalists to support what "Rome says ..." and, as I write this, I have a particular instance in mind) and a tendency to champion particular bishops or priests who they see as matching their understanding of the exercise of office in the Church ("courageous bishops" and, by implication, also the non-courageous).

Now, the first of these tendencies seems to be alive and well in, for example, the criticisms of Archbishop Nichols (over his remarks about complaining) and Catholic Voices (over their post on vocations numbers). The second tendency seems to have been put on hold since the election of Pope Francis, as the Traditionalist inclination cannot quite work out if the Holy See might now promote policies not to their sympathies. The third tendency took a rather hard knock with the events surrounding Cardinal O'Brien.

The underlying current to all of this is a sense of an essentially Traditionalist criterion of judgement - an alternative exercise of office which seems to be of its nature contentious. Whatever the precise rights and wrongs of Archbishop Nichols remarks about "complaining bloggers", and their relation to Pope Francis' own remarks cited by the Archbishop, the underlying thought that there is a contentiousness latent in the Traditionalist-style activity (which has colonised the electronic media out of all proportion but is also expressed in other media) deserved a more considered reflection than the rather dismissive response of many.

2. Raising the drawbridge on mutual enrichment

Again, there is an irony in my suggesting that the Traditionalists have not really come to terms with the full implications of Summorum Pontificum and Pope Benedict's accompanying letter. Or rather, they have come to terms with the aspects they liked (greater freedom for the celebration of the Extraordinary Form), exaggerated the intent of Pope Benedict XVI (I do not think he ever intended any restoration of the Extraordinary Form at the expense of the Ordinary Form, or that the Extraordinary Form should be celebrated in every parish) and ignored the bit that was inconvenient to them (mutual enrichment and the insistence that it is the Missal of Pope Paul VI that will unite parish communities). I have posted on this in the past. From the very start, those areas of celebration of the Extraordinary Form that are open to enrichment from the Ordinary Form (spoken Canon, insertion of new Prefaces, the adoption of a common calendar) have been resisted with a combination of rubricism (everything exactly according to the 1962 books, we can't change anything) and academic argument (though, in the case of the FIUV position paper on new Prefaces, for example, one might be forgiven for thinking that the essential argument once one cuts through the historical detail is little more than "no change"). The use of celebration in the Extraordinary Form to facilitate celebration of those Days of Obligation recently moved to Sunday is a symptom of this;  the consistent refusal to use the language of Extraordinary Form is another. But then neither of these suit ...

I can see that the "mutual enrichment" agenda was to an extent "on hold" while there was a potential for reconciliation of the Society of St Pius X with the Holy See.  That, of course, was part of what I described as a second direction of glance for Summorum Pontificum. Every indication now is that such a reconciliation is not going to happen. That, and the election of Pope Francis to succeed Pope Benedict, should put an end to the dalliance that some in the Traditionalist fold might have had with Lefebvrist thinking (though, if I recall correctly, a useful observation  emerged from that dialogue about the circumstances to which Vatican II's declaration on Religious Liberty was addressed being different than those toward which previous teaching was addressed). Perhaps the Traditionalists saw this coming and got the drawbridge on Liturgical development raised quickly in anticipation ....

In my earlier posts, I observed that Traditional Catholicism should not, post-Summorum Pontificum, define itself only in terms of attachment to the Extraordinary Form, and this because juridically speaking Summorum Pontificum establishes the two forms as being equally "traditional".

3. Where do Traditionalists go under Pope Francis?

I do not yet feel that I have understood Pope Francis' stance towards the Liturgy. One part of me has to forgive him for being a Jesuit, as Jesuits notoriously do not really "do Liturgy" - and can one see that in a tendency towards informality in style of celebration on the part of Pope Francis? I am not sure of that. Yes, the morning celebrations in the chapel of the St Martha House have a touch of informality (so called "off the cuff" homilies). But what I have seen of the more "set piece" celebrations appear to have a clear continuity with the style of Pope Benedict, perhaps most notably in the "Benedictine arrangement" of the altar. Some aspects of his approach seem to be driven by Pope Francis' own language skills. The Traditionalists certainly don't seem to have him sized up at all from the Liturgical point of view. And Pope Francis certainly has not done anything to encourage a vision of the Office of the Successor of St Peter in its juridical/authoritarian aspect.

I suspect that the perception of the significance of the Traditionalists in the wider Church is more  accurately apparent with Pope Francis than it was with Pope Benedict (my view is that the Traditionalists thought they had rather more than was there in reality as far as Pope Benedict was concerned and their presence in the electronic media acted as a magnifying glass for it). If the election of Pope Francis encourages a reality check in this regard, I do not think that will do the Church any harm.