Monday 29 June 2009

Prayer prognosis

This is the heading over two letters in The Times today. They have been written in response to discussions about whether or not doctors should be allowed to offer to pray with patients.

The Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association writes about:

the research that demonstrated that patients who are prayed for, and know that they are, have worse outcomes than patients who are not prayed for or don't know that they are.

The classic response to "research shows", of course, is "which research" and "what about research that might show something a bit different and that you are not telling me about"? But this quotation has another hidden assumption: what is meant by a "worse outcome"? Is "outcome" measured solely in terms of the material "outcome"? Or does it allow for the "spiritual"? And if the research being referred to was commissioned by the British Humanist Society ....

1. Most hospitals do have multi-faith chaplaincy arrangements, and spiritual care is an accepted part of the support available to patients during their hospital stay. Spiritual care can vary from simple visiting to prayer and Sacramental ministry. It seems to me that there should be no difficulty in clinical staff (nurses, doctors and other medical professionals) asking a patient if they have a religious faith and, in the case of a positive response, asking if they would like a visit from an appropriate chaplain. The present environment of "patient confidentiality", and the anti-religious content of equalities policies, are having an unfortunate consequence in deterring clinical staff from having these simple conversations with their patients.

2. So far as I can gather, patients who have no religious faith are very often appreciative of a visit from a hospital visitor or chaplain- even if the conversation lasts only a few brief moments, and has absolutely no religious content. It seems that the British Humanist Society are doing their best to remove this valued service to patients.

3. Rather than trying to discourage clinical staff from raising the question of spiritual and religious care with their patients, I think we should encourage them to do so, and to provide the frameworks of chaplaincy to which they can refer patients in appropriate circumstances.

4. It should be absolutely clear that, in the relationship between patient and clinical professional, the purpose is the advising and consent to a course of scientifically competent physical treatment. The provision of religious care to those patients who wish it does not contradict the provision of perfectly competent physical care - which is the quite misleading suggestion of the last paragraph of the second letter in today's Times:

... if Christian medics say they will pray for the sick, theoretically the sick do not need him or her to be a doctor.

5. Why should the concept of spiritual care, generally accepted in hospitals, not be extended to care environments outside of hospitals - Primary Care Trusts etc?

At a location in deepest Essex ...

.... and encountered whilst wandering around the county yesterday.

Saturday 27 June 2009

Christus versus populum

This is an interesting and well presented post from Catholic Analysis: Christ towards the people.

I do think clergy of the "Good morning, everyone" .... "Good morning, Father" mold would do well to read it. Those of the lay faithful who try to be devout, particularly in terms of trying to get to Mass on a weekday, are not going to Mass because they want to "see Father". On the contrary, they are seeking a meeting with the Lord. Please help us by celebrating with the same kind of purpose: "The Lord be with you" does very nicely, thank you.

If you read Catholic Analysis' post you might be able to see in it (though the post does not make it explicit) something that is common to both ad orientem and versus populum celebration, when both of them are correctly understood. What is common is an underlying meaning of facing towards the Lord - in the former case, the "Lord who is to come" at the end of time and in the latter case the "Lord who is to come" on the altar at the moment of the Consecration. [One could perhaps argue that the ad orientem celebration contains both senses of facing towards the Lord, but I think one is more transparent than the other.] There is no contradiction between the properly understood meanings of both orientations - in fact there is a "mutual enrichment".

The singing of the Sanctus seems to me a particular moment in the Liturgy that expresses this orientation towards the Lord and, during versus populum celebration, should be a moment at which we (ie both priest and lay faithful) particularly focus our attention on the altar and on the bread and wine that will soon become the Body and Blood of the Lord.

Thursday 25 June 2009

A Small (Maybe Quaint) Step Toward Boldness

I commented on this post at Catholic Analysis a day or two ago. The post itself is quite powerful; now a third comment contains a lovely testimony, too.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Announcement of a "new arrival"

To Fr Kevin Hale, of Leigh-on-Sea

On 23rd June 2009, at 9.30 pm

Ben, 7lbs 2oz

Both Father and Labrador puppy are doing well

(though Father is worried about being awoken during the night, and about dog-care arrangements if he is called out)

Traditional Catholicism: a synopsis of the discussion

This post is an attempt to draw together the discussion of "traditional Catholicism" that has been taking place on this blog and elsewhere in the last few days.

1. My starting point in asking the question about "traditional Catholicism".

There are two points here. The first is that of trying to see "traditional Catholicism" in the same way that I would see a new (or, for that matter, an old) movement or religious congregation in the Church - the presence of "traditional Catholics" at events such as the World Youth Days suggests this to me, and suggests to me that it is the way "traditional Catholics" would like to be seen. The second is the view that, after Summorum Pontificum, it is not possible to define the idea of "traditional Catholicism" only by way of attachment to the extraordinary form.

This is why I am trying to identify a charism in "traditional Catholicism", and this led me to want to look at institutes with approved statutes.

All the movements and religious congregations in the Church recognise that their charism is normative for those who are affiliated to them, for those who receive the charism as a grace. But one of the issues placed before the new movements in recent years has been what might be called generosity towards other charisms - in other words, recognising that their own charism represents a specific way of living Catholic life among other specific ways, and that some will receive a call to their charism and others will receive a call to a different charism. I think it was after the meeting of the movements with Pope John Paul II in St Peter's Square on the eve of Pentecost in 1988 that Focolare took on a mission of promoting unity among the charisms in response to this challenge.

What I am trying to discover is the same generosity towards other charisms in "traditional Catholicism".

2. Summorum Pontificum

My interpretation of the provisions of Summorum Pontificum and the accompanying letter from Pope Benedict XVI was posted earlier this year, and can be found here. These provisions can be seen as a kind of completion of the earlier provisions of the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei issued by Pope John Paul II in 1988 shortly after the illicit episcopal ordinations in the Society of St Pius X. Ecclesia Dei called for a generous application of the permissions by which those attached to the (now known as) extraordinary form could continue to celebrate the Liturgy according tot hat form, and facilitated this by way of the Pontifical Commission of the same name.

As a response to the illicit ordinations, I would say that Ecclesia Dei's direction of glance was towards those associated with the Society of St Pius X who wished to remain in communion with the Holy See, intending that they should be given every opportunity so to do. Under the provisions of Ecclesia Dei, for example, the emerging FSSP was granted a general permission to celebrate according to the 1962 Liturgical books. So far as I can gather (and those who know the history of these societies in more detail than I are welcome to correct me via the comment box if I have misunderstood), it was within the framework of permissions granted under Ecclesia Dei that the Institute of the Good Shepherd, the FSSP and the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign High Priest came in to being, all of them more or less directly from among former members of the Society of St Pius X.

Summorum Pontificum and the accompanying letter in my view added two things to the earlier position. In its direction of glance towards those who might otherwise be in schism, it established the possibility of celebrating according to the Liturgical books of 1962 as something of right rather than as something of concession or permission. It is therefore something that is now a normal part of the life of the Church (but read this in the context of my previously posted exegesis of Summorum Pontificum). This can be seen as a natural development of the provisions of Ecclesia Dei. But Summorum Pontificum also introduced a second direction of glance, towards the Church as a whole. This is expressed in the language of "ordinary form"-"extraordinary form"; in the agenda of "mutual enrichment"; and in the consideration that there should not be an "in principle" rejection of the ordinary form. This two-fold glance is referred to in my earlier post.

3. Societies dedicated exclusively to the extraordinary form

The Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP), the Institute of the Good Shepherd, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest and, I think, one or two more societies celebrate the Liturgy exclusively according to the extraordinary form. Founded in a more or less direct way from among former members of the Society of St Pius X, they all fall under what I have been expressing as the direction of glance towards those who would otherwise be in schism. Historically, their foundations and ecclesiastical approvals took place under the provisions of Ecclesia Dei rather than those of Summorum Pontificum. In this context, one can understand why they celebrate exclusively according to the extraordinary form and why this is established by their statutes.

I do find interesting and encouraging, however, that these societies also articulate a charism specific to their institutes which is not directly dependent on their celebration of the extraordinary form (though I suspect that they would argue that the exclusive commitment to the extraordinary form is either integral to their charism or, at least, closely derived from it). If you go here (first section) and here you will see what I am referring to.

However, post-Summorum Pontificum, I think these institutes do need to take on board the second direction of glance, that towards the wider Church. I do not think that this requires an abandonment of their exclusive commitment to celebration according to the extraordinary form, but I do think it might involve: (1) engagement with the ordinary form in the sense of encouraging that enrichment of the ordinary form that can come from the extraordinary form - and this will require some form of dialogue with/about the ordinary form on their part to address issues like the sense of the sacred and fidelity to rubrics; (2) engaging in a dialogue about how the celebration of the extraordinary form might develop in the light of the mutual enrichment of the two forms - issues like coming to a common universal calendar, inclusion of the new prefaces and texts from the ordinary form and considerations around the question of audible/inaudible canon.

4. The idea of "traditional Catholicism"?

There is a lot to be said for the remark made among the comments at Catholic and Loving It's discussion that we run into difficulties if we add "qualifiers" to the word "Catholic" as we describe ourselves. [Aside: this remark is quite compatible, in my view, with recognising that different charisms in the Church, be they religious orders or new movements, provide specific ways of being Catholic in this un-qualified sense.]

I am also grateful to Agellius for the contributions in the comments to this earlier post; I am grateful for the willingness shown to be involved in the discussion. If I take those contributions as a fair reflection of the concept of "traditional Catholicism", I still think it is defining itself in terms of affiliation to the extraordinary form and to a particular understanding of the ecclesial tradition in relation to the contemporary teaching of the Church, in particular, in relation to the Second Vatican Council. My premise, of course, is that the former is not feasible post-Summorum Pontificum. And the status of discussion about the latter is expressed in the incorporation of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei into the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The question of a charism that "traditional Catholicism" tries to live in the Church will, in this context, remain unanswered outside the context of the societies referred to above.

5. Tradition!

Let me put an extract from Fr Rapperger's article ...
Neo-conservatives have fallen into this way of thinking i.e. the only standard by which they judge orthodoxy is whether or not one follows the current magisterium. Traditionalists, as a general rule, tend to be orthodox in the sense that they are obedient to the current magisterium, even though they disagree about matters of discipline and have some reservations about some aspects of current magisterial teachings which seem to contradict the previous magisterium (e.g. the role of the ecumenical movement). Traditionalists tend to take not just the current magisterium as their norm but Scripture, intrinsic tradition, extrinsic tradition and the current magisterium as the principles of judgment of correct Catholic thinking. This is what distinguishes traditionalists and neo-conservatives i.e. their perspectives regarding the role of ecclesiastical tradition and how the current magisterium relates to it.
... next to an extract from the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei:
The root of this schismatic act [ie the illicit episcopal ordinations of 1988] can be discerned in an incomplete and contradictory notion of Tradition. Incomplete, because it does not take sufficiently into account the living character of Tradition, which, as the Second Vatican Council clearly taught, "comes from the apostles and progresses in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts. It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth".
The two analyses seem strikingly similar.

Fr Rapperger's concept of extrinsic tradition seems to me to refer to historical disciplines of the Church, which are only normative in the sense of disciplines (that the Church might or might not feel she wishes to change), though they may gain a certain standing from custom and practice; and I think they are being given a level of authoritative status which is not justified.

There is a careful sense in which it should be possible to live entirely with the Catholic faith as taught by the contemporary magisterium - because it is the living expression of the "traditional magisterium". This is, I think, the force of the citation from Ecclesia Dei, and, one might suggest, the meaning of "tradition" as "handing on" the faith. It is the way of being "Catholic" without adding a qualifier. I am distinctly uncomfortable with Fr Rapperger's formulation with regard to "intrinsic" and "extrinsic" tradition, in the otherwise more usual formulation of "Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium" as the norms according to which we receive the content of Revelation.

Ad Multos Annos

This evening I will be visiting the parish of Our Lady and St Joseph, Leigh on Sea. This will be to join the celebrations for the Silver Jubilee of ordination of the parish priest there. This is what Fr Kevin wrote about these celebrations in his newsletter last Sunday (I wasn't able to make the "big do" last night):
With great joy and thanksgiving to God, I hope to celebrate twenty-five years of the gift of Priesthood this Tuesday evening with a concelebrated Mass at 7.30pm I hope many of you will be able to join me. The Bishop will be present together with many of the priests I have had the privilege to work with over that time, and some of my close priest-friends. I will offer the Mass in thanksgiving for the wonderful gift that is the Catholic Priesthood; and in particular for all the graces given to and through me. I hope to welcome visitors from other Parishes where I have served together with our own Parish Family. Our Diocesan Director of Music has kindly arranged the liturgical music with some of the Cathedral Choir. On Wednesday – Solemnity of the Birth of St John the Baptist – there will be another celebration on the anniversary of my First Mass; this will be a sung Latin Mass (new rite) at which I will preach, and again I hope many of you will be able to attend.
I assume that Fr Kevin will preach in Latin - simultaneous translation available by podcast. When Fr Kevin was parish priest in Romford I fulfilled the role of parish MC - I learnt very quickly that what looks highly reverent to the congregation can, in what is not heard by the congregation at large, be full of pertinent comment - but that's letting you into the secret of why Fr Kevin does not favour the clip-on radio microphone!

Fr Tim has posted about Sr Claire's Silver Jubilee celebration at St Cecilia's: here and here. I am not very good at keeping in touch - at one time I managed to make a visit to St Claire each year - but this broke down when other things began to occupy my summer break from school. The connection goes back to university days (be polite, don't ask how long ago that was); I believe there are one or two other members of the community at St Cecilia's who I knew , but not closely, at that time.

I think these Jubilee celebrations take place at three levels. They are occasions for celebration at a human level, with family and friends; they are a great encouragement to others in their living of the Christian life. They are also spiritual occasions, in that they are occasions of prayer of thanksgiving and praise offered to God for graces that have been recieved. At a third level, they are also a celebration of the good things that the Lord has done for his people - a celebration of the Paschal mystery. We can say of them, as we do of Easter Day, "This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it".

Monday 22 June 2009

Madeleine Delbrel: reaching out to those at the margins of society

I came across these two passages from the writings of Madeleine Delbrel whilst reflecting on the way in which Frank Duff during his life had a kind of charism on behalf of the marginalised. An early work of the Legion of Mary was with prostitutes in Dublin, but that is not the only example of Frank Duff's mission to the poor and marginalised. An article about this can be found here. From “Poverty and the Poor” in Madeleine Delbrel The Joy of Believing pp.98-99.

Note 1964 

The poor are not only brothers and sisters to be loved in a brotherly way because they are our brothers and sisters, they are also "our lords the poor" because the poor man is Our Lord. He is the sacrament of our encounter with Christ, of our love given to Christ - there is nothing Platonic about the parable of the Last Judgement. 

So, whatever the form that poverty takes in our life, we can only be faithful to Jesus himself if the poor may come into our particular nitty gritty life situation and feel at home there, just as Christ is at home with us: that is to say if they are not given the wrong kind of "priority" (there are multiple kinds of priority but each has its own concrete expression). 

One can write reams about the poverty of Christ - drawing conclusions about what an imitation of that poverty would be like and what kind of implica­tions this might have for us. What is beyond discus­sion is that whatever our life it must, if it is to be Christian, protect a place for Christ in our flesh and blood encounters - our meetings, our welcomes, our ways of relating - to the poor. 

The poor man by reason of poverty itself often repels us (cf. Francis kissing the leper). He brings into our way of life the very contradiction that is Christ. 

It is the real presence of Christ in the poor man, when this is really believed and the poor man is known as a person, that can transform the encounter with him from a purely "social problem" into some­thing essentially and authentically Christian. 

The poor must not be someone who is tolerated and put up with but someone who is waited for and expected. The poor must not have to receive from us .orne kind of regulation staple treatment (e.g. a bowl of hot soup and a shower) "we do this as far as this," "we do that as far as ... " The poor man never owes us anything. It is we who owe him what we owe Christ. 

It is this same faith that allows us to receive Christ: through the eucharist into ourselves; through the poor into our lives. 

Who is my neighbor? - Any human being.Who are the poor? - Usually someone who, from a social point of view, is "outside": "outside" other people's lives, a prisoner, a sick person, a stranger, naked, etc.

From “The Atheistic Environment as a Situation Favourable to Our Own Conversion” in Madeleine Delbrel We, the Ordinary People of the Streets pp.265-267.

The Disappearance of God and Solitude

What can be the sorest trial for us in a Communist city is the disappear­ance of a God who had been until then for us visible and grasp able. The sign of this disappearance is a total "uselessness" of God that is vividly ex­pressed in the life of the Communists as well as in the life of the city as a whole. 

The corollary of this disappearance is the blinding epiphany of man, of his value, his power, and his collective destiny. For if the exceptional Communist milieu of Ivry - made up of national, regional, and local leaders who have all been doctrinally formed according to the level of their responsibility, as well as the basic militants entrusted with the most diverse of tasks, from the hanging of posters to administrative positions, and in­cluding the responsibilities of para-Communist movements, of educa­tional or cultural groups, or of international meetings - if this milieu is at once a demonstration of indisputable personal virtues and effective hu­man activity in full force, it seems as if we could do just as well without God. Nothing and no one seems to be any worse off for his absence. 

The moment we cease to see such a milieu as a trial, it turns into a temptation - a temptation that is all the stronger to the extent that we are gradually able to look at things that used to be for us signs of God, with the eyes of our comrades and our friends. 

And we see that these signs are necessarily opaque if you do not al­ready know in advance what they mean. 

At the same time, in spite of the deepest affections, we begin to feel that the faith, which makes us love others more and more, is making us strangers to them. It can happen, at this point, that we begin to accuse faith, either under our breath or out loud, of being foreign to this world. This is a profound suffering. If we do not see the necessary test that is here concealed under temptation, we would very easily fall to it. But if, on the other hand, we believe in the one who called us and who remains faithful to those he calls, if we ask him to teach us, then he will explain to us what we need to know in order to be living converts, what we may have forgot­ten or perhaps never really knew: that faith is a gift from God. 

As a gift from God, faith, which is foreign to the world, is given to the world. To believe is to consummate between faith and the world an eternal covenant within time. 

If faith creates people who are faithful, it is not a fidelity of blood, country, or honor, but a personal fidelity to the living God who calls and to whom the one who is called must respond freely and always with the whole heart of a free human being. 

In order to hear this call and answer it, we need solitude. Solitude ceases to be painful and becomes instead the indispensable place wherein God makes contact with us. Prayer reinforces the roots of solitude - it transforms the way we see all community in the Church - the trees that together are meant to make up the forest are individually given life by their solitary roots. We learn that in order to offer us faith God calls each of us by name, and that faith is not a privilege due to heredity or good behavior ... and that it is the grace of knowing that God gives grace, the grace of be­ing in the world committed with Christ to his mission of Redemption. 

Once we have returned to the state of conversion, we learn that faith in the Son of God and the Son of Man binds us indissolubly both to the God who grants it and to man, the man of creation, humanity as a whole. For we too are able to say "all for one and one for all." Each of us has re­ceived faith on behalf of all of us. 

The solitude into which we are driven by God brings us into con­scious solidarity with every living human being that comes into the world, with all of the nations that Christ will gather together on the last day.

Sunday 21 June 2009

Quebec 22nd June 2008

Seeing today's date reminded me that, one year ago ....

...... I had my "15 minutes of fame" reading at the Statio Orbis at the closing of the International Eucharistic Congress in Canada.

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus

I heard the "Sanctus" from the Missa Luba on the radio during breakfast this morning, and thought it would be quite a nice way to start a Sunday.

This is not the recording I heard, but I think this is the best I can find on Youtube. The Sanctus is at 4:45 if you want to skip the Credo.

This clip shows the Sanctus being sung in 2007 outside the Royal Festival Hall in London by the in-house choir of the South Bank Centre. One lives and learns - but the idea of Jarvis Cocker having a setting of the Sanctus as one of his favourite pieces of music is rather out of the box, to say the least. Voicelab were asked by him to sing this piece as the opening of his music festival.

Saturday 20 June 2009

Pope to priests: You Must Foster the Charismatic Gifts

Catholic Analysis has highlighted some interesting passages from Pope Benedict's letter for the opening of the Year for Priests.

It interests me both for its reference to the evangelical counsels and for its reference to the place of new movements and communities in the Church.

Discrimination ... discrimination ..... discrimination

There are instances of Christian hotel owners facing discrimination claims because they do not wish to let double accomodation to same-sex couples. Information about one case can be found here.

But what happens when two opposite sex friends want to book hotel accomodation for a holiday? They are not married, so they try to book two separate rooms. They are both practicing Catholics, so one can say that their wish to book separate rooms arises from their religious beliefs.

In some places, they will come up against that phenomenon that is "single room supplement" - but twice, of course, once for each of the two rooms they book.

Elsewhere, they come across pricing regimes based exclusively on "per person sharing", and virtually doubling the cost for single occupancy of double or twin rooms.

At the very least, are we looking at indirect discrimination on grounds of religious belief?

Being practical about this: if you know anywhere in Co. Kerry that can accomodate two single people in two single rooms 14-19 July, could you drop contact details in the comments box (not for publication)?

The start of the Year for Priests

When I went to Mass yesterday evening in a nearby parish, the attendance was "up" compared to usual. It was probably three or four times that of a typical Friday, and about double that of a "first Friday". This was undoubtedly partly to do with it being the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus - but I think it was also to do with it being the start of the Year for Priests.

ZENIT are today carrying a report titled "Year for Priest initiatives flood internet". This reflects my own experience here in Romford, where the start of the Year has been "noticed" in a way that the start of, say, the Year of St Paul was not. Our priests seem to have taken notice of it; and the lay faithful appear to be responding with a certain "warmth".

Thursday 18 June 2009

How to pray the Rosary

From p.107 of the Official Handbook of the Legion of Mary, referring to the practice that I call "clipping" - starting the second part of each prayer during the last phrase of the first part - and which occasionally (OK, regularly) leads me into mischief while leading the Rosary. I sometimes stop without saying "Jesus" and let everyone else start the second part of the prayer without it:
The proper recitation of the Ave requires that the second part should not begin until the first part has been finished, and the Holy Name of Jesus reverently pronounced.

From an article in the June-July issue of Lourdes Magazine, describing a "school of prayer" in the shrine run each day to help individual pilgrims in praying the Rosary:
..start with a time of silence in the presence of the Lord, make the Sign of the Cross, choose a Word of God as a main thread, pray the Our Father, then evoke the decade and turn towards the Trinity (this is what we call the doxology: Glory be to the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit), and end with your own intimate prayer.

The Institute of the Good Shepherd

The Institute of the Good Shepherd is, in its canonical status, a Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical right (which means it comes immediately under the jurisdiction of the Holy See rather than of a local diocese). It is a priestly society in that, at least in the initial foundation, it appears to be primarily an institute for priests. The statutes do allow for religious brothers in the institute, though.

This page describes the Institute - in French and I have not had time to translate. The statutes of the Institute can be downloaded from a link at the very bottom of this page - also in French. This link has come to me via the comments in response to my earlier post asking about the charism of "traditional Catholicism".

1. It is interesting that the first paragraphs of the Institute's homepage describes an understanding of the Institute in terms of Jesus' words: "I know my sheep and my sheep know me".

Mais parce que le Christ-Seigneur envoie ses prêtres vers vous, fidèles ou non, comme le Père l’a envoyé vers nous tous, il est juste que cette connaissance réciproque du Pasteur et des brebis passe par ces amis qu’Il s’est choisis de toute éternité. C’est pourquoi, dit l’Apôtre, « nous nous acquittons d’une ambassade auprès de vous » et notre ardent désir sera toujours de vous communiquer l’espérance fondée sur cette science suréminente et de Jésus-Christ. L’Institut du Bon-Pasteur est d’abord et restera toujours l’organe de cette mission primordiale : « Répandre parmi les nations la bonne odeur de Jésus-Christ ».

Because Christ the Lord sent his priests to you, faithful or not, just as the Father had sent Him to us all, it is right that this mutual knowledge of Shepherd and the sheep reaches by way of those friends that he has chosen from all eternity ....The Institute of the Good Shepherd is firstly and remains always the organ of this primordial mission: "To spread among the nations the goodness of Jesus Christ".

This thought is also expressed in the statutes (see I.3). What I find interesting is that this, first of all defines a charism that is not as a matter of essential principle connected to the extraordinary form of the Roman rite. There is a reference to the traditional faith towards the end of this paragraph:

La polémique n’est pas de notre goût, nous lui préférons la défense doctrinale de la foi traditionnelle, celle qui procure la vie éternelle

Polemic is not to our taste; we prefer the doctrinal defense of the traditional faith, that which leads to eternal life.

2. The statutes define the books as in force in 1962 as the "particular rite", the "proper rite" (French "rite propre") of the Institute in all its Liturgical acts. The wording of the statutes describes this as the "traditional Roman rite". See statutes I.2. Within the historical development and the approval of the Institute, it would appear that the celebration of the (what we now would know as) the extraordinary form as a matter of right rather than of concession is important. The statutes are dated 8th September 2006 - that is, pretty much a year before Summorum Pontificum. The "QFP"s (French equivalent of FAQs) towards the bottom of the home page are revealing. The statutes allow the Institute to establish "personal parishes" - ie parishes of their own right - celebrating exclusively the extraordinary form; and the Institute see this as being a mission to increase access to the extraordinary form given to them by the Holy Father in his approving their statutes; and, against the criticism that they have accepted a kind of ghetto-isation of the extraordinary form rather than a complete freedom for it, they argue that it is step along the way to a complete freedom.

Now, does a mission with regard to the extraordinary form belong to the charism of the Institute? Or is it a task undertaken, clearly related to the charism, but not of its essence? This question is of significance if, as I have been arguing, "traditional Catholicism" post-Summorum Pontificum cannot define itself by way of attachment to the extraordinary form. I do think it is important that the Institute does try to define a charism that is not dependent on the liturgical form celebrated.

3. It is very interesting, very interesting, very interesting to read the statutes of the Institute of the Good Shepherd in the retrospective light of the provisions of Summorum Pontificum and its accompanying letter. The reference that I think Pope Benedict XVI makes to the "Gregorian rite" in his letter seems to indicate that term as used in the statutes. One suspects that, were the statutes being approved post-Summorum Pontificum the terminology of "extraordinary form of the Roman Rite" would be used instead of that of the "traditional Roman rite", and this would be referred to as the "proper form of the rite" used by the Institute. And the caution exercised in Summorum Pontificum's reference to celebrants of the extraordinary form not of principle excluding celebration of the ordinary form (even though they may in practice always celebrate according to the extraordinary form) appears to be a balance to the exclusive celebration of the extraordinary form established in the statutes. These statutes do very much look like a kind of trial run for the strategy underlying Summorum Pontificum. It will be very interesting to see how the statutes are amended, if at all, when the five year experimental period expires in 2011.

The comment at this post gives some background on the foundation of the Institute of the Good Shepherd, by priests who had previously been members of the Society of St Pius X.


I have a tendency to wake up early when I am having a lie in (see time of today's posts, and remember this is after prayers and breakfast). It means I sometimes catch the Today programme's report on the previous day in Parliament at about 6.45 am. [Today is BBC Radio 4's flagship morning news and current affairs programme, for those outside the UK].

Today I heard the following observation being made by one Member of Parliament. The remark was NOT made in the context of MP's expenses, but in another context which I didn't catch. However, I am sure I will find an opportunity to use the line at some point.

The remark was that, in politics "irony is just hypocrisy with panache".

Still trying to define "traditional Catholicism"

In the context of a study of the charism of the Legion of Mary, I have recently constructed the following definition of a charism in the Church.
A charism is (1) a particular/special gift of the Holy Spirit (2) often given in the first instance to an individual member of the Church (3) before being shared with others, and (4) which prepares the faithful to undertake a particular task or office in the Church. A charism is given (5) for the common good of the Church, (6) and for the good of men and women in the world, perhaps through the meeting of a particular need; a charism is in this way at the service of charity. A charism might be (7) extraordinary, in which case it might be more particularly given to an individual, or simple and humble, in which case it is likely to be more widely experienced in the Church. A charism should (8) be accepted and practised by the person to whom it is given, (9) accepted and practised by others in the Church who come to share that charism, and it should be (10) discerned and recognised as authentic by the hierarchy of the Church.[1]

[1] cf Catechism of the Catholic Church nn.798-801, 2003; cf Vatican II Lumen Gentium n.12, Apostolicam Actuositatem n.3; cf Paul VI Apostolic Exhortation Evangelica Testificatio n.11; cf John Paul II Christifideles Laici n.24.

The question I am really trying to ask of "traditional Catholicism" is: what is your charism? I ask the question subject to the view that, after Summorum Pontificum and the accompanying letter, I do not believe that it is possible to define this charism in terms of attachment to the extraordinary form.

I think the place where there might well be an answer to this question is in the constitutions (or equivalent formulations) of those societies or communities attached to the extraordinary form and in communion with the Holy See, particularly those that have received a canonical recognition from the Holy See. If anyone knows where these can be found, I would be grateful to be directed towards them.

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Defining "traditional Catholicism" continued

This question continues to be debated - go here to see another discussion.

I particularly liked this:

I think we need to make a distinction between "traditional" and "traditionalist".

The traditional Catholic holds on to what is good until it gets old. The traditionalist Catholic holds on to what is old, whether it turns out to be good or not. All Catholic ought to do the former, while the latter seems a bit risky to me.

Hestor sent this link in the comment box:
If you can read your way through it, good luck to you. There is a fairly complete failure to understand the new movements in the Church (so far as I can gather, it is these that are being referred to as "neoconservative Catholics"). Such gems as this, tucked away in the middle of the article, reveal underlying presumptions that are masked by an appearance of the intellectual:

...the standard of orthodoxy was shifted from Scripture, intrinsic tradition (of which the Magisterium is a part) and extrinsic tradition (which includes magisterial acts of the past, such as Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors), to a psychological state in which only the current Magisterium is followed.

There is a more useful discussion here. Accepting a "common usage" is fine, but from a juridical point of view - and the article does refer to Summorum Pontificum establishing juridically that there are two forms of the one Roman Rite - no one of the two forms should be considered as any more traditional than the other. In reality, I suspect that most of those using the term "traditional" to refer to the extraordinary form are at least implicitly including the idea that it is in some way more traditional than the ordinary form. I think the Latin Mass Society would do well to adopt the terminology of ordinary and extraordinary form.

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Reith Lecture: Morality in Politics

One of the benefits of my flexible working arrangements is that I sometimes catch a radio programme I would otherwise miss. Sometimes it is Woman's Hour, and sometimes it is something interesting. This morning, it was the second of this year's Reith Lectures on Radio 4.

The Reith Lectures are an annual series of broadcast lectures, on a question of significant contemporary interest. The 2009 lectures are about "A New Citizenship". The lecturer, Professor Michael Sandel, has studied the idea of a "politics of the common good". This page on the Reith Lectures website gives an introduction to the lecturer.

A transcript of the first lecture can be downloaded from this page. I listened to this last week, but have not yet studied it in detail. I think it would be interesting to read this transcript along with my posts earlier this year about Professor Philip Booth's lecture at Westminster Cathedral: here and here. I think the question of "self-interest" and "selfishness" which Professor Booth addresses particularly in the second of these posts is also addressed by the Reith lecture.

A transcript of the second lecture can be downloaded from this page. This is a very interesting lecture, arguing as it does for a proper place for a moral and religious discourse in the political sphere. Professor Sandel argues against the idea of a moral space in the political sphere that is "neutral".
Many people shudder at the prospect. “Isn’t it dangerous?”, they ask, “to bring morality and religion into politics? Isn’t it safer for a government to try to be neutral and avoid taking sides on the moral and religious convictions its citizens espouse?” I say no, not necessarily, for two reasons. First, it’s often not possible for government to be neutral on substantive moral questions; and, second, the attempt to do so can make for an impoverished public discourse.

I hope that, with the following quotation, I am successfully extracting the essence of Professor Sandel's argument, whilst abstracting from his exemplification:

So this idea that there are certain proper ends or purposes to social practices, this idea suggests that to determine the right way of valuing things, we have to figure out the purpose, the end of the social practice in question. And this idea is an idea that goes all the way back to Aristotle. ....

Most people would agree that flutes are for the sake of producing music. What happens if people disagree about the purpose of the activity in question? Is it possible to reason about the purpose of social practices in the face of disagreement? Aristotle believes that it is, and I think he’s right.

The advocacy of reason here is a theme that is reminiscent of Pope Benedict XVI, speaking for example, in the context of the university (cf the La Sapienza controversy). Professor Sandel continues:
.... debates about rights are often unavoidably debates about the purpose of social institutions, the goods they allocate, and the virtues they honour and reward.

And this is, of course, something to which equalities advocates wish to remain, at a best interpretation, indifferent and at a worst interpretation, hostile. Professor Sandel follows this argument through in a detailed discussion of the question of legal recognition of same-sex relations. Well worth reading in the transcript of the lecture.

Another interesting point made at the very end of the lecture is an argument for a more robust recognition of difference or disagreement in society.
But if, as I’ve argued, it’s not possible for government to be neutral on these disagreements, is it nonetheless possible to conduct our politics on the basis of mutual respect? The answer, I think, is yes. In recent decades, we’ve come to assume that respecting our fellow citizens’ moral and religious convictions means ignoring them, leaving them undisturbed, conducting our public life in so far as possible without reference to them. But this stance of avoidance makes for a spurious respect. Often it means suppressing moral disagreement rather than actually avoiding it. This in turn provokes backlash and resentment, as we see in the rise of religious fundamentalism. A more robust public engagement with our moral disagreements could provide a stronger, not a weaker basis for mutual respect. What would that look like? Well rather than avoid the moral and religious convictions of our fellow citizens, we should attend to them more directly - sometimes by challenging and contesting them, sometimes by listening and learning from them. It is always possible that learning more about a moral or religious doctrine will lead us to like it less, but we cannot know until we try. A politics of moral engagement is not only a more inspiring ideal than a politics of avoidance. If it’s true, as I’ve tried to argue, that our debates about justice are often inescapably arguments about the good life, then a politics of moral engagement is also a more promising basis for a just society. Thank you very much.

In the discussion after the lecture, a question was asked by one Dr Evan Harris MP, who represents a constituency near the Oxford venue of this second lecture.

HARRIS: Thank you. I do a lot of public policy on abortion and gay rights and assisted dying and embryos, and it seems to me that it’s not the morality that’s missing on either side. I come from the non-religious side and I would say that I bring morality - the principle of non-discrimination, the principle of not harming someone unless there’s evidence that your policy creates harm. Obviously the religious side bring their morality. But one side, I think, tends to bring evidence and an acceptance that their position might change with evidence; whereas another side, the religious side, is much less likely to accept and consider evidence and bring that to the table because their moral position is relatively absolute. And so shouldn’t we be arguing that we should bring evidence into the moral arguments, where appropriate, not bring morality in when it’s already there on both sides?

MICHAEL SANDEL: I agree with what may be the impulse behind your worry, which is that if people simply assert dogmas rather than offer reasons and listen to the reasons given by their interlocutors in public debate, that’s not a very valuable contribution. Where I think you and I may disagree is on this. I don’t think that those who enter into public discourse and advance moral arguments that may be informed by faith traditions, I don’t think they have a monopoly on dogmatic assertions. I think there are dogmatic secularists, just as there are dogmatic religious fundamentalists.

Professor Sandel might have answered more strongly on the grounds of reason providing the common ground for a contribution of a religious believer just as much as the contribution of the secularist. But, on air, his answer came over ever so wonderfully ...

Monday 15 June 2009

Eucharistic Adoration: 3rd July

This is the poster for our next "first Friday" Eucharistic Adoration in St Edward's Parish, Romford. The "side bar" of the poster is the new branding to mark the Year for Priests and the visit of the relics of St Therese of Lisieux. I am expecting the lives and writings of St John Vianney and St Therese to provide me with my themes and meditations for the coming year.
As you will see from the text I have written for the parish newsletter, I am going to be using a quotation from each of them for my meditations in July.
Our Adoration this month marks the start of a year in which we celebrate the Year for Priests and welcome to Britain the relics of St Therese of Lisieux. We will reflect on the words of St John Vianney - “The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus” - and of St Therese of Lisieux - “To be nothing else than love, deep down in the heart of Mother Church”.

Sunday 14 June 2009

"Eucharistic Moments" - Mirroring the broken Christ

Thinking Faith have published an article with this title. The article can be accessed here. I am reminded of one of the catecheses at last years International Eucharistic Congress, on the theme of the Eucharist and Mission. That catechesis can be accessed here.

As I read Fr Barnes article from Thinking Faith, there was something that made me feel instinctively uncomfortable with it. One aspect to this is a background that might be described as Rahnerian. There is a complex philosophy of religion behind this background, which leads to a recognising in ordinary things of life instances of specific Christian revelation. If you are used to thinking in a different philosophical/theological framework it is quite difficult to read an article written in this Rahnerian context.

A couple of phrases in the article bring in to focus the disagreements that I would have with it. The first is in the introductory paragraph, which refers to "our experience of the eucharist, during the liturgy and in our everyday lives". This is a phrase which has a clearly Rahnerian dimension to it - in not distinguishing between "eucharist in everyday life" and "eucharist in the liturgy". However, I do not think you should speak univocally of Eucharistic experience in these two areas of Christian life; there is a Eucharistic experience in these two different areas of Christian life, and those experiences should be in complete conformity with each other and not contradictory; but the nature of those two different experiences is not the same, is not identical. I think this is a point that could be made within a Rahnerian perspective, as well as through addressing the question from a different philosophical/theological perspective.

The second phrase refers to the "same ordinary objects and the same everyday gestures recorded in the Gospel story". The Rahnerian perspective is again apparent here. In one sense, the phrase is correct - bread and wine are ordinary objects. But, on the other hand, does it do justice to the Gospel accounts to reduce the choice of those objects (rooted in the historic tradition of the Jewish liturgy) to the "ordinary"? In the context of the Jewish liturgy from which they have come, are these objects and gestures really "ordinary"? Isn't it truer and more faithful to the intent of the Gospel texts to see them as being actually quite "extraordinary"?

In passing, Fr Barnes' account of Jesus' appearance to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, where he relates their recognition of Jesus in the breaking of bread as a "eucharistic moment", seems to shy away from the suggestion that it is a "Eucharistic Moment" - Jesus disappears from their physical sight because he is present in the Bread of the Eucharist.

I think Cardinal Toppo's catechesis on "Eucharist and Mission" at the International Eucharistic Congress is interesting to read in conjunction with Fr Barnes' article. I think you should read it as a whole, but here are two extracts, one referring to the nature of the bread and wine brought in the offertory procession and the second to the nature of the mission received from participating in the Eucharist.

The bread and wine that they bring to the altar is the symbol of their daily life of interaction with one another. They are not mere ritual elements. They represent the community with its life of relationships. In the early Church these were taken from the table of sharing and thus expressed their relationship among themselves. Today, I believe it is again necessary to emphasize the social and communitarian dimension of the bread and wine that is brought to the altar. This can be done in the following manner. In the first place it is ideal that the faithful bring these gifts to the altar as a symbol of their own lives. Moreover, together with the bread and wine, it would be good if they bring other gifts which express the concern for the community. The offertory collection could be given a greater community building significance. The community gathered together as the body of Christ should realize that there are members among them who do not experience God’s love because there are not enough people who translate this love into human love and sharing.

I think one can add to Cardinal Toppo's presentation, without in any way undermining it, an idea that the bread and wine brought to the altar represent the renewed creation that is the specific work of the lay person in the life and mission of the Church. This idea gives an eschatological expression to the Cardinal's pastoral/missionary presentation.

We are sent out into the world to make the symbols of the Eucharistic worship become realities of a Eucharistic life. We go out into the world after the Eucharist challenged by the word of God, prophetically charged by the Spirit of the risen Lord and committed to work for the transformation of the world.

What I find interesting in this second extract is its direction - from our celebration of the Eucharist towards the world - where Fr Barnes' suggests a primacy of a movement in the opposite direction. Our own brokeness finds a meaning in the brokeness of Christ, and so there is a correct sense in which we experience a movement from the world towards the Eucharist. But, when viewed as a mission in the world, the primacy of movement is, I believe, in the opposite direction. We are sent to live Christ's brokeness for others - the Eucharist is a "gift of God for the life of the world".

Saturday 13 June 2009

Celebrating the "Forty Hours" in an updated way

I gather, via the mediation of Fr Mildew's blog, that an article in the Catholic Herald makes an observation, not altogether in a proper context, to the effect that the Church in 1973 suggested that the practice of an annual extended period of Eucharistic Adoration needed to be "updated in its form". Fr Mildew puts this part of his post in speech marks, so I am assuming that it is quotation from the Catholic Herald article.

Now, I do think I am alright in thinking that the way things are organised for the Forty Hours Adoration in Romford does represent an "updating in its form", in the best sense of the word "updating". I think the participation of different parish groups at different times during the three days is something that would not have happened in the past, and it does make quite a difference to the event.

But, sadly, in many parishes "updating" has become "abolition".

Defining "traditional Catholicism"

Earlier this year I posted on the question of defining "traditional Catholicism", particularly in the light of Summorum Pontificum (see here, here and, more as background, here).

Jackie Parkes has a post which attempts to answer this question. As I argued, the "traditional Catholic" should not now, post Summorum Pontificum, define their position by referring to an adherence to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite rather than to the ordinary form. However, as a matter of phenomenology, that kind of defining of the "traditional Catholic" does still seem to be prevalent, both among "traditional Catholics" themselves and among others. While Jackie's post does not contain a precise definition, it does nevertheless delineate the phenomenon in a useful way.

Tuesday 9 June 2009

Palermo and "legalita"

During the day that we recently spent in Palermo, the local television news reported an event in favour of "legalita". In the context of the influence of the mafia in Sicily, this idea that the "rule of law" is something to be valued has a very serious meaning.

However, at the time we visited, Palermo was in the midst of a crisis - over the collection, or, more accurately, the non-collection of its rubbish. I couldn't work out from the news coverage the reasons for this, but it was so severe that in some places the piles of rubbish in the street had been simply set alight as the only way of removing them. Volunteers and civil defence personnel were being brought in from all over Sicily to help collect the rubbish.

Negotiating the traffic in Palermo is also quite an interesting experience. Palermo city centre suffered from serious bombardment during the Second World War, and was never really re-built properly. It is a maze of narrow, often one way, streets, laid out in a square grid pattern, with the direction of traffic flow alternating between one street and the next. It took a little while to realise that the street on the map really was the narrow turning, barely the width of a car. I proudly managed to drive to within a couple of blocks of our hotel .... and then was completely stymied by the one way system (well, one way streets, system suggests a degree of planning that probably wasn't really there). Whilst consulting the map, I asked Zero to read me the name of a street that I couldn't see from the driver's side of the car....

Ah, bless.

We eventually gave up on the one way streets, parked up, and walked to the hotel. I explained at reception that we hadn't been able to find our way to the hotel with the car because of the one way streets. We were promptly given directions to the hotel from where we had parked the car - directions that involved driving the wrong way along no less than two one way streets. The added explanation was to the effect that "everyone does what they want".

However, it would be quite wrong to think that Palermo's traffic is utterly lawless. There is a kind of lawfulness about it - exemplified by the fact that, during all our meanderings up and down the one way streets, never did we come across a street blocked by a parked car. It's just that there isn't much connection between the lawfulness as practised and the official rules of the road - and once you realise that, everything works out fine.

I really was proud of being able to drive a car into the centre of Palermo, park it in the cortile at our hotel, and drive it back out again to the airport ... without a scratch.

Sunday 7 June 2009

Pentecost Mass in Syracuse, Sicily

We had the rather nice experience of attending Mass for Pentecost Sunday at a Marian Shrine, the Shrine of Our Lady of Tears in Syracuse. Following the links under "History" from the home page will lead you to pages telling the events of the lachrymation, events which have received the approval of the meeting of the Bishops of Sicily:

The Sicilian Episcopate, presided by Ernesto Card. Ruffini on December 12, 1953 declared the Lachrymation of Mary in Syracuse authentic: “The reality of the lachrymation cannot be put into doubt.”

“The Bishops of Sicily, reunited for the customary Conference in Bagheria (Palermo), after hearing the full report of His Excellency Ettore Baranzini, Archbishop of Syracuse, about the “lachrymation” of the image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, repeatedly happening in the days of 29, 30, 31 August and 1 September of this year, in Syracuse (11 Via degli Orti St.) and having examined attentively the relative testimonies of the original documents, have unanimously concluded that the reality of the lachrymation cannot be put into doubt.

“They hope that this manifestation of our heavenly Mother stir all to healthy penance and to a more lively devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, encouraging the urgent building of a Shrine to perpetuate the memory of the miracle.”

The architecture of the shrine reminds an English visitor of a certain Cathedral in Liverpool, known as "Paddy's wigwam", but I do think the comparison is unfair (to the shrine in Syracuse, that is). Do follow the links from this page of the shrine website to get a full idea of what the shrine is like. The vertical glass windows between each concrete upright produces a very effective lighting of the space of the upper shrine, there being no artificial lighting of the main area of the congregation during the day time.

The shrine is visited by pilgrimage groups - one parish group from Messina was there for the Mass we attended. We were treated to an instructive homily during Mass - Pentecost as the giving of the new law of love in our hearts (the Jewish feast with which it coincides is that marking the gift of the tablets of the law to Moses); the tongues in which all people could understand the preaching of the apostles being that of a divine language of love (contrasted to the division of tongues represented by the tower of Babel); the flames and wind representing a new presence of God (cf the burning bush of the Old Testament); the sending out of the Church on a mission of evangelisation (compared to the Jewish people making their journey out from Egypt towards the promised land); this Holy Spirit is also received by us in Baptism and Confirmation so we are called to live out today all of these implications of Pentecost; this we do in the company of Mary, and following her example, that points always to her Son, and, in Him, to the Father and the Spirit.
PS: Compared to most other Churches in Sicily, this one has a very big architectural advantage, even if one is inclined to dislike concrete as a building material. That advantage is its complete lack of baroque style ....