Monday 31 May 2010

We may never discover how the Universe ticks

We may never discover how the Universe ticks
Our brains are limited. It may take a posthuman species to work out the big questions
These are the headline and strapline to a column in today's Times. The column is written by Professor Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society and Astronomer Royal Professor Rees is the 2010 Reith Lecturer. The subject of his lectures will be "Scientific Horizons", and his article in today's Times trails that theme.
Science is a global culture ... It’s a cultural deprivation not to appreciate the panorama offered by modern cosmology and Darwinian evolution — the chain of emergent complexity leading from some still-mysterious beginning to atoms, stars and planets. And how, on our planet, life emerged and evolved into a biosphere containing creatures with brains able to ponder their origins. This common understanding should transcend all national differences — and all faiths too.
I do rather like this observation. For the person of religious faith, the failure to appreciate the picture of the world offered by modern science can only leave their faith lacking in the richness that it should have. An opposition to an evolutionary perspective cannot, in my view, be considered as a matter arising from Christian belief. Fundamentalism, or more precisely, a form of fideism on this point does an injustice to both science and faith. Rather, this field of science is a field for dialogue between the secular world and the world of religious belief.
One might be a bit cautious about Professor Rees' last sentence and want to clarify that the common understanding he suggests should be shared with all nations and religions rather than it being a case of an exclusively scientific understanding taking dominance over nations and religions.

...Einstein would have been specially gratified at how our cosmic horizons have expanded. Our Sun is one of a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, which is itself one of many billion of galaxies in range of our telescopes. And there is firm evidence that these all emerged from a hot dense “beginning” nearly 14 billion years ago.

Other sciences have advanced apace, disclosing the nature of atoms, genes and cells. Last year, we celebrated Charles Darwin’s anniversary. His pioneering insights are pivotal to our understanding of all life on Earth, and the vulnerability of our environment to human actions.
I found it striking that Professor Rees would cite much the same aspects of the universe revealed to us by science as those cited by Pope Benedict XVI when speaking about the Trinity in June 2009.

Oh, and there are one or two irreverent/amusing comments to the online version of Professor Rees' article!
The first of the Professor's Reith Lectures is to be broadcast tomorrow and I expect that, as in all recent years, the text and an audio recording of the lectures will appear on the Radio 4 page dedicated to the lectures.

Sunday 30 May 2010

Pope Benedict XVI on the Trinity

Today's "Meditation of the Day" in Magnificat has led me to the Angelus address of Pope Benedict XVI for Trinity Sunday 2009. Pope Benedict's scientific comparisons remind me of the analogy that he drew between the Eucharist as a source of an explosion of love among mankind and the chain reaction that is a feature of a nuclear explosion in Cologne.
God is wholly and only love, the purest, infinite and eternal love. He does not live in splendid solitude but rather is an inexhaustible source of life that is ceaselessly given and communicated. To a certain extent we can perceive this by observing both the macro-universe: our earth, the planets, the stars, the galaxies; and the micro-universe: cells, atoms, elementary particles. The "name" of the Blessed Trinity is, in a certain sense, imprinted upon all things because all that exists, down to the last particle, is in relation; in this way we catch a glimpse of God as relationship and ultimately, Creator Love ...  "In him we live and move and have our being", St Paul said at the Areopagus of Athens (Acts 17: 28). The strongest proof that we are made in the image of the Trinity is this: love alone makes us happy because we live in a relationship, and we live to love and to be loved. Borrowing an analogy from biology, we could say that imprinted upon his "genome", the human being bears a profound mark of the Trinity, of God as Love.
The same "Meditation for the Day" has also led me to the translation of the Preface for the Holy Trinity that will come into use with the new English translation of the Roman Missal - see here for my source. As one might expect, this article notes that the ICEL translation presently in use is the furthest from the Latin original than other English translations that have existed. The italics below are the words quoted by Pope Benedict in his Angelus address, and which caught my attention in Magnificat; they cannot be recognised in the ICEL translation presently in use.

It is truly right and just,
our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and
eternal God.

Who with your Only-begotten Son and the Holy Spirit
are one God and one Lord,
not in the unity of a single person,
but in a Trinity of one substance.

For what you have revealed to us of
your glory
we believe equally of your Son
and of the Holy Spirit,
so that, in confessing the true and eternal Godhead,
we adore the uniqueness of each Person,
their oneness in being,
and their equality in majesty.

Which Angels and Archangels praise,
Cherubim too and Seraphim,
who never cease to cry out each day,
and acclaim with one voice: ...

Pope Benedict at Fatima

A little while ago, I suggested that I would post about Pope Benedict's thoughts about Fatima, following his visit to Portugal. I haven't got round to doing that, but Friends with Christ has posted the prayer of entrustment and consecration of priests to the Immaculate Heart of Mary that was prayed by Pope Benedict at Fatima.

Laws in context

David Laws, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has resigned following newspaper revelations about his expenses claims. Many of his colleagues in political life have praised Mr Laws in the short time since he resigned, as this BBC news report shows.

Let us consider, say, a totally hypothetical employee (I emphasis "totally hypothetical" - I have never encountered any such case in my trade union role, and have no knowledge of any such case) who was discovered to have claimed £40 000 of expenses to which they may not have been entitled. Since the employer would probably consider this, if proven, to be an instance of gross misconduct for which a disciplinary penalty of dismissal without notice could apply, the said employee would in all probability be suspended from work (on full pay) while the matter was investigated. If, after due investigation by the employer and appropriate hearings and appeals under their disciplinary procedure, the allegation was upheld.... the employee would be dismissed without notice for gross misconduct, along with all the implications that that might have for their future employment prospects.

Mr Laws does appear to be recognising that his expenses claims were in some way wrong - see the BBC news report linked above - though we still have to await the outcome of his self-referral to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner. As might also be the case with our hypothetical employee, one can also recognise the existence of a "mitigating circumstance" in Mr Laws reason for making the expenses claim.

But, whilst it is quite right that his colleagues should recognise Mr Laws' strengths and positive qualities (though his integrity is surely now in question at least to a degree), and there might well be questions to be asked about the motivation of the newspaper in finding and publishing the story, I'm just asking: would our hypothetical employee be treated in the same way? Or would there be a more realistic assessment of his wrong doing by his peers?

Saturday 29 May 2010

Our Church

Vatican II - Voice of the Church is a site to which I have a link in my side bar headed "Implementing the Second Vatican Council". A strength of this site is that it posts and links to original documentation relating to the Council and to participants in the Council.

An article entitled "Our Church" has been added to the site. This appears, so far as I can tell, to be the text of a pamphlet published around 1970. The author is Cardinal Suenens. The majority of the text, though not the last three sections, is taken more or less verbatim from Cardinal Suenens book "Co-Responsibility in the Church", published in 1968. A scanned copy of the this book can be downloaded from the site of the Cardinal Suenens Center. The article is made up of several sections from the book, with the concluding three sections either written specially or drawn from another of Cardinal Suenens' writings.

I do think that Cardinal Suenens' article is worth reading, but it is not really possible to read it "in parts". You need to read the whole to gain a fair understanding of what the Cardinal wishes to say.

I know that some will find it unexpected in a writer such as Cardinal Suenens, but I believe that the first section of "Our Church" can be understood as an articulation of what would now be known as a "hermeneutic of continuity". The Second Vatican Council exists both in a relation to its past and in a relation to its future, and whilst present day advocates of the "hermeneutic of continuity" might feel that the implications of this differ from those that Cardinal Suenens might see, he nevertheless recognises an importance in this mutual relation:
However, to grasp the full meaning of the Council, it is not enough to view it only in relation to a past which it concludes. We must also consider it in the light of those forces of the future which it contains. It is, in its own turn, a point of departure, as Pope Paul VI forcefully reminds us: "The conciliar decrees are not so much a destination as a point of departure toward new goals. The renewing power and spirit of the council must continue to penetrate to the very depths of the Church’s life. The seeds of life planted by the Council in the soil of the Church must grow and achieve full maturity".
The identification of the importance of Baptism for a common equality of all the faithful, and of their calling to different vocations and apostolates in the life of the Church, is now a commonplace in the Church. It underpins such experiences of Catholic life as consecration to Mary (cf the spirituality of Louis Marie de Montfort as lived by the Legion of Mary and the Foyers of Charity) and "baptism in the Spirit" as lived out in the Charismatic Renewal; it is the basis of understanding different vocations in the Church as different specifications or ways of living out the original baptismal consecration of all the faithful.

I think that Cardinal Suenens discussion under the heading "Is the Church a democracy?" is particularly interesting. He notes the ambiguity and need for clarification of the criticism that the un-democratic nature of the Church's structures put it out of step with the atmosphere of our time.
To wish to catalogue the Church under the label of monarchy, oligarchy or democracy is a futile task. The Church’s reality is too rich and too complex to fit within human categories. There are within the Church elements which are monarchical, others which are oligarchical, and others which are democratic. The papacy, the bishops, and the laity could be invoked as illustrative of these elements. Within the Church there is at one and the same time one principle of unity (monarchy), a pluralism of hierarchical responsibilities (oligarchy), and a fundamental equality of all in the communion of the people of God (democracy). All of these must mutually integrate with one another since they are all essential to the truth of the Church.
An interesting observation towards the end of this discussion:
Every bishop accomplishes his mission in a partnership of shared responsibility with the whole body of bishops united to its head. Doubtless, the magisterium must take account of the common belief of the faithful before making a pronouncement. But the body of bishops has not only the mission of recording this faith as it is lived, it must also discern the elements of this faith and pass judgment on them. And this judgment is binding on the consciences of the bishops as well as upon the faithful.
In the next section, where Cardinal Suenens makes a short practical observation on the contribution of the lay faithful, particularly in the context of diocesan pastoral councils, it is interesting to see his emphasis on the professional skills and experience that the laity bring to such bodies. One wonders how the idea of commissioned parish ministers would fit in to this framework.

And to take a couple of paragraphs from the concluding section:

The younger generation have a profound sense of man, and this is a great asset. However, they could be tempted to be not quite so open to a sense of God....If an apostle does not realize the value of a silence filled with God, his activities will be philanthropic, noble social work, but they will not be a Christian apostolate, the extension of the unique priesthood of Christ.

Our younger people must also have a living and affectionate love for the Church. Too often one hears ruthless criticism.... Sad to say, there are Christians who have left the Church because they were too bruised by its structures. The Church seemed to them too human to be a sacrament of God. But has not the Church from the very beginnings of its history been made of men of flesh and blood, beset with weakness and mystery just like the rest of us?...No amount of disappointment can be a legitimate excuse for leaving our mother, the Church. It is to this mother even today that humanity owes what is best in itself. The Church and those who remain faithful to her have, through the centuries, carried the torch of the gospel, thus enabling others at times to see better than we do by its light.
These last words do, of course, today have a different reference than that intended by Cardinal Suenens when he wrote them. Now we see all to clearly the damage that is done to the mission of the Church when those in positions of leadership and ministry do not remain faithful to their calling.

A synagogue carries the Torah scroll in public procession

The photographs above appeared in some editions of the Recorder groups local newspapers covering East London this week.

A Synagogue congregation paid tribute to its community as it paraded a new scroll around neighbourhood streets.

Members of the Chigwell and Hainault Synagogue .. completed the Sefer Torah - scroll of the law - in time for the festival of Shavuot, which marks the time when [the] Jewish people were given the Torah on Mount Sinai, after their Exodus from Egypt.

Worshipper Alex Stuart came up with the idea for a scroll donated by the synagogue's community and spearheaded a fundraising campaign. A specially trained scribe, known as a "sofer", completed the work at the home of Rabbi Baruch Davis. The congregation took it in turns to help inscribe the final letters of the scroll ...

The Torah was carried under a chupah, or canopy, through the rain soaked streets of Chigwell, while worshippers sang, danced and played music.

The crowd were joined by guests [the local MP and Deputy Mayor], and waited outside the synagogue while other Torah scrolls were brought out to "welcome" the new addition.
Now, how about that Eucharistic Procession for the forthcoming Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord?

UPDATE: Do follow the link in Madame Evangelista's comment below ....

Friday 28 May 2010

The Purifying Power of Prayer

The title of this post is the title of the "Meditation of the Day" in Magnificat for today. The meditation is from St Teresa of Avila, and it was this few words that caught my attention:
For mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequenly to be alone with him who we know loves us.
I think that the meditation was chosen to go with the Gospel at Mass today, which included the account of Jesus clearing the Temple of the traders (Mk 11:15-19):
Does not scripture say: My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples? But you have turned it into a robber's den.
Now I read these in the context of a recent post about talking in Church, a post based on what St Benedict says about the status of the Oratory in the monastery in Chapter 52 of his Rule:
Let the oratory be what it is called, a place of prayer; and let nothing else be done there or kept there.
In the parish and in the monastery, the Church is the place where the Liturgy is celebrated; and the Liturgy is, generally speaking, a communal prayer rather than just an individual prayer. When we attend Mass we attend along with others, and as we arrive in Church beforehand or stay for a time afterwards, there will be others present in the Church with us.

There seems to me to be a kind of dialectic between the meeting of the individual soul with God - "taking time to be alone with him who we know loves us" - and the fact that this meeting takes place alongside others. This dialectic seems to me to be served by a real, lively participation in the Liturgy, in the sense expected by the Second Vatican Council, combined with respecting the silence of the Church outside of the Liturgical celebration itself.

The Church is the place of the meeting with the Triune God, and so the individual and the others who accompany the individual come to the Church to encounter God. The encounter with each other belongs elsewhere.

Thursday 27 May 2010

Des hommes et des Dieux

Des hommes et des Dieux - which seems to be being translated as Of Gods and Men, in a kind of reversal of the title in the original French - is a film based on the story of the Cistercian monks of the Atlas mountains who died in Algeria in 1996. The film won the Grand Prix (the kind of "second prize", if I have understood it correctly) at the Cannes film festival this year. It was also awarded the prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the same festival.

I was first alerted to this film by this post at Windowstothesoul and the report at Catholic News Agency.

The film does not I believe follow the true story of the monks in all its details, but is so far as I can tell a fair account. The incredible story of the Cistercian monastery in the Atlas can be found here. I am still waiting to find a full review of the film to which I can link.

I think that the film, and its success at Cannes, are interesting in several ways:

it is a film about monastic life, a style of life which is profoundly and utterly religious in its nature, and it is interesting to see the world of cinema being willing to engage with and to show appreciation for such a religious topic in a time characterised by secularisation

it is also a film about an encounter between Christian life and Islam, and so has a character of portraying an inter-religious dialogue in the form of a "dialogue of life", again a very interesting area for the world of cinema to explore

it portrays courage and charity of the highest degree, lived out from a religious motivation, but open to appreciation by those of no faith.

When I can find a good review to link to, I might well add to these comments.

UPDATE: SIGNIS have now placed a review/statement about the film on their site, and a report of the award of the Ecumenical Jury at Cannes.

SIGNIS film statements: Lourdes and No Greater Love

SIGNIS is the World Catholic Association for Communication. Their website contains statements/reviews of two films that address religious themes. The first is about Jessica Hausner's Lourdes, on which I have posted. I think this statement is a particularly useful introduction to Jessica Hausner's film. The second is about the more recently released film No Greater Love.

Wednesday 26 May 2010


This, with my emphasis added,:
Have invitations been allocated to the dioceses of Scotland, England and Wales for the large events? At the moment, we are not yet fully certain of the exact numbers we can accommodate. This is because there are health and safety issues, security considerations and comfort requirements. Once the number of attendees at each venue has been decided upon invitations will be allocated to the dioceses for each of these large events.

How will invitations be allocated? At this stage, it will probably be done in terms of the relative size of the diocese. Another factor will be the geographic proximity of the diocese to a particular gathering. Decisions will be made with a view to making sure as many people as feasibly possible can be with Pope Benedict.
...has been translated into this (on several blogs, though I suspect with the viral effect typical of the ether and served by people not tracking back to the first source - I cite from here):
I was quite amazed to hear that the powers-that-be are attempting to restrict the numbers of people attending events during the Papal visit.
I think it is worth remembering, too, the part played by internet coverage of the visit of St Therese's relics last Autumn. I certainly found it very helpful to follow the visit via the blog before my own opportunity to visit the relics "live" (so to speak). That streaming and internet coverage is being planned for the Papal visit should not in any way be read as an invitation to stay at home rather than participate "live". It is a case of both-and, I think, not either-or. One can follow at home those events that one is unable to attend live.
Oh, dear. I'm off message again ....

Sunday 23 May 2010

Observations on the Society of St Tarcisius

Several bloggers have been very encouraging about the Society of St Tarcisius, a sodality recently established for those who serve at Mass celebrated in the Extraordinary Form. I have three observations about it. In summary of them, I find that, while the aim of being an organisation supporting the serving of the Extraordinary Form is legitimate, it is disappointing that "traditional Catholicism" does not appear to be engaging fully with what I understand Summorum Pontificum to have intended.

1. "The society is specifically committed to the traditional Latin Liturgy of the Catholic Church, in a form no later than that current in 1962."

I believe that this is at odds with Summorum Pontificum and the accompanying letter of Pope Benedict XVI in at least three ways. The first is the continued use of the term "traditional Latin Liturgy". After Summorum Pontificum, I do not believe that it is right to consider the Extraordinary Form to be in any way more "traditional" than the Ordinary Form. The second is the reference to the "form no later than that current in 1962". This is a statement of resistance to the idea of "mutual enrichment" that is expressed in Pope Benedict's accompanying letter, since it does not admit of any growth in the celebration of the Extraordinary Form in the light of the present life of the Church. The third way, more implicit, is that it indicates an unwillingness of those attached to the Extraordinary Form to engage in the enrichment of the Ordinary Form  - which is also a part of the agenda of "mutual enrichment".

My analysis of these issues with regard to Summorum Pontificum and the accompanying letter can be found here.

2. "The Society of St Tarcisius is sponsored by the Latin Mass Society - Traditional Catholicism for the 21st Century"

It is my view that, after Summorum Pontificum, the idea of "traditional Catholicism" - understood as a movement in the Church, expressing and living out a particular charism - can no longer be defined only in terms of attachment to the Extraordinary Form. I have attempted on this blog to arrive at an understanding of what a charism of "traditional Catholicism" might be post-Summorum Pontificum. I do not feel that I was successful in finding such a definition, though a certain definition can be found in the rules of the priestly institutes that emerged from the Society of St Pius X under the provisions of Ecclesia Dei. The Latin Mass Society and the Society of St Tarcisius seem to me to be continuing to define "traditional Catholicism" only in terms of attachment to the Extraordinary Form.

3. "It ... is a private association of Christ's faithful, sponsored by the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales"

The term "private association of Christ's faithful" indicates a canonical status - cf cc.321-326 of the Code of Canon Law. Such associations are self-governing though they are expected to act in communion with their local dioceses. They can be established quite freely under c.321 - "Christ's faithful direct and moderate private associations according to the provisions of their statutes". Or they can seek a juridical personality by a decree of appropriate ecclesiastical authority which might be the local bishop, bishops conference or, in the case of universal associations, the Holy See - cf c.322. Such a decree requires the approval of the statutes by the appropriate ecclesiastical authority, but does not alter the self-governing nature of the association.

I expect, but do not know, that the Society of St Tarcisius has not sought to gain juridical personality (corrections in the Comments, please, if I have got this wrong) - I think it would be unusual for a sodality of this type to do so, particularly as it is early in its existence, and there is no real need for it to do so in order to meet its aims. This observation would apply to any similar organisation, and is not specific to a "traditional" organisation.

However, should a bishop be approached to grant approval of the statutes and grant a decree under c.322, I would hope that they would consider the questions raised in this post in the way in which they respond.

Can I, a little mischievously, suggest that the story of St Tarcisius would in fact provide a good model for those who act as Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, particularly those who take the Lord to those who are sick or housebound?

Advertising abortion services

I do not think that the Catholic Bishops Conference will mind me reproducing in full their statement in response to the planned television adverts by an abortion referrer and provider here in the UK.
Comment from Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales re. TV commercials for abortion services

A spokesperson for the CBCEW said:

We believe that services which offer or refer for abortion - whether commercial or not-for-profit organisations - should not be allowed to advertise on broadcast media.

Abortion is not a consumer service. To present it as such erodes respect for life and is highly misleading and damaging to women, who may feel pressured into making a quick decision, which can never be revoked. Moreover, to allow the broadcasting advertising of abortion-referral services is, in effect, to allow the exploitative promotion of these services and is not in the interests of the health or psychological well-being of women.

For this reason the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has consistently opposed any relaxation of the BCAP Guidance on broadcast advertising to allow this (see below).

The Bishops of England and Wales encourage and support women to make informed choices about their emotional, psychological and physical well-being. The Bishops support a number of charities which do this, in particular the organisation called ‘LIFE’ which offers confidential information, counselling and practical help and support for women contemplating abortion, suffering after pregnancy loss or struggling to cope after abortion.
I have added the italics. Abortion, contraceptive and, in some situations, cosmetic treatments strike me as being rather different in nature than other medical treatments. This is because they are provided, in general, to people who are not actually suffering from an illness or injury. Their potential client base is therefore the male and female population as a whole, and not just those who might suffer from a diagnosed illness or injury. It is also of its nature an elective choice in the fullest sense, rather than a choice indicated by a medical condition. To a greater or lesser extent, these have become consumer services - and the proposed television advertising by an abortion provider makes this clear in a rather eloquent way.

LIFE - loving life, offering hope have also made a statement in the light of the proposed advertising.
Friday, 21 May, 2010

LIFE, the national caring and educational charity, has expressed doubt about Marie Stopes’ claims to offer a full and proper counselling service at their abortion clinics.

A LIFE spokesperson said: “LIFE has considerable expertise in this area, employing a large number of diploma-qualified counsellors and skilled helpers, who offer person-centred non-directive counselling, accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. Our services are also completely free of charge for all users. Do Marie Stopes – and other abortion providers – offer such extensive, independent and accessible services? Is their counselling really free of conflicts of interest, given their financial interest in women going through with abortion? Are all their counsellors accredited and qualified? Are women given full information about the potential side-effects of abortion and the available alternatives?”

“At LIFE we are totally committed to meeting the needs of women in crisis pregnancy. We have no financial interest in the outcome of clients’ decisions. We provide a safe space where women can talk through their feelings and discuss their needs. We hope that all organisations that deal with women in crisis pregnancy have the same values and aspirations.”

Thursday 20 May 2010

An open letter

Fr Hans Kung's open letter to the Bishops of the world is interesting as a phenomenon of dialogue - or of non-dialogue - in the Church. Blogs that are faithful to the Church pretty much ignored it. Dissenting sources lauded it, and gave it good coverage. I had difficulty understanding why main stream media outlets were giving it coverage, as Fr Kung is really quite marginal to the life of the Catholic Church these days, and has been so for many years.

If you read Fr Kung's open letter, it seems very plausible. It is another example of saying something confidently in public and thereby having it believed, regardless of whether or not it is really credit worthy.

The open letter appeared on 18th April 2010. On 21st April, the website of the American edition of the journal Communio posted a link to an archive article by Hans Urs von Balthasar On the Withdrawal of Hans Kung's Authorisation to Teach. This does, of course, put the whole position of Fr Kung into its proper context - essentially that of dissent from what the Catholic Church believes. And one can then see the open letter rather more for what it is.

Which hermeneutic?

Meetings are part of my bread and butter, some of them being at school but many in my role as a trade union representative. One becomes very wary of the person in a meeting who will say something in a way that is full of confidence, and thereby sway the meeting in a particular direction. Sometimes that person might come out with something that everyone else in the meeting knows is a non-runner, in which case the meeting just carries on and leaves the remarks on one side. Saying something confidently doesn't mean that it has substance, but it can be difficult on-the-spot to develop a response. Quite often what one needs to examine is something that has not been said, not said either as part of the process of persuasion or not said because it is a hidden assumption that you may or may not share with the other speaker.

I think this paragraph from Tina Beattie's post Save the foetus - let the mother die falls into this kind of category. You will need to read her entire post to see the context to which she refers.
We have seen in recent months just how reluctant the Catholic hierarchy has been to take decisive action against abusive priests. Yet once again, we are reminded that no such prevarication afflicts its ability to act with ruthless efficiency when it comes to policing women's bodies by appealing to a form of moral absolutism which has little justification in the Catholic tradition. Until the last century, there has always been far greater flexibility in the Church's understanding of early abortion than Bishop Olmsted's actions suggest - particularly in situations when the mother's life is at risk. Until the men who govern the Church become less intoxicated with their own power and more willing to listen to women who live and love in situations which sometimes create profound moral dilemmas, they will remain the most brutal and ignorant of moral dictators. Once again, the actions of a bishop bring shame upon the Church.
What is Tina's hidden assumption, her hidden premise? This, from another recent post Time for a women's reformation? perhaps gives us a hint. Agian, read the original post to see the full context.

Christianity was and is a religion made for and by men. Of course women have played a role, sometimes a significant role, in influencing its development, but in its doctrines, structures of leadership and practices of faith, it is a religion designed to meet men's expectations on earth as in heaven, and to satisfy their spiritual and intellectual desires.
I have added the italics because of their tremendous implications. Leaving aside the question of the legitimacy of a feminist hermeneutic, to see Christianity as being a religion made by humans of either gender is to deny to that religion a supernatural origin. On the basis of this hidden assumption, even were the perceived male domination to be corrected, there would still be a denial of a supernatural origin to Christian faith. From such a premise, a reconstruction of Christianity in the image of one's own favoured hermeneutic and without regard to those criteria arising from within Christian faith itself, is entirely licit.
One can also spot some other unstated premises. Does the use of the word "foetus" in the title of the post imply something about Tina's understanding of the nature of the unborn baby?

"Moral absolutism", as used in Tina's post, decries an action on the part of Bishop Olmsted that is seen as uncharitable and harsh.  In Pope John Paul II's encyclical Veritatis Splendor nn.52, 80, it refers to something altogether different, to the idea that there is an objective moral nature of an action, and that in consequence there are some actions that can never be morally good whatever their motive or surrounding circumstances.  As n.2271 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out, such a statement of the objective moral wrong of abortion goes back to the first century. So far as I can tell, the suggestion that a certain flexibility applied to the Church's understanding of early abortion has only been maintained by those who would in other respects also dissent from Catholic teaching (cf the references given on p.99 of R F R Gardner's 1972 book Abortion: the personal dilemma).

It should also be noted that Bishop Olmsted has not excommunicated those involved in this abortion. He has just made a public declaration of the automatic excommunication that is incurred by those who procure a directly intended abortion - cf n.2272 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and canons 1323-1324 of the Code of Canon Law. Whether or not Bishop Olmsted had made the public declaration, the teaching of the Church would have indicated such excommunication in the circumstances of this abortion - the terms of the Church's teaching on this matter include abortions sought as either a means to another end, or as an end in themselves.

"Until the men who govern the Church become less intoxicated with their own power" - a generalisation from an individual or small number of possible cases to the general, that would actually need a quite wide ranging sociological study of the Catholic episcopate to receive justification - "and more willing to listen to women ..." - see remarks above about a feminist hermeneutic.

The comment that implies that the Bishops of the Church are "the most brutal and ignorant of moral dictators" is frankly offensive.

A concluding thought: I have genuine difficulty in seeing how a feminist hermeneutic as it is manifested in Tina's post can sit alongside an expression of Catholic faith. The sources of judgement in the former seem to be incompatible with those in the latter, and it appears to me that it is the former that is trumping the latter in Tina's thought.

Tuesday 18 May 2010

150 000 turn out to express solidarity with Pope Benedict XVI

USA Today reports on Sunday's demonstration of solidarity with Pope Benedict XVI. ZENIT's report 200,000 Gather to Express Support for Benedict XVI suggests that an even larger number turned out:
The arms of the Bernini colonnade were not able to contain the crowds, which were about triple the numbers that were present for Easter Sunday, and lined the entire length of the Via della Conciliazione, even spilling over into the side streets.
Auntie Joanna's post links to more coverage.

Monday 17 May 2010

Spirit in the City 2010

I missed Spirit in the City 2009. I am also going to miss Spirit in the City 2010. But that doesn't mean you can't go. When I was able to take part in one or two of the events of the first such celebration, I found it a most interesting and rewarding experience.

This year I will be away for this particular weekend, which includes the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, and not for the first time. Three years ago we were in Assisi, and spoilt for choice as to where to take part in a Eucharistic Procession. This year it will be Lisieux and Bayeux. Lisieux on 6th June:
Le Dimanche 6 juin 2010

Activités du Sanctuaire : Fêtes liturgiques : Fête du Saint-Sacrement

10h30 messe

15h30 vêpres et procession

Lieu : à la Basilique
Not quite Leicester Square, but I think it will do ...

Sunday 16 May 2010

A round-up on obedience

Try here, here and here.

I think it is possible to have an obedience that is un-thinking and subservient - that is not in any way a manifestation of freedom but instead a kind of subservience. However, this poor form of obedience should not be an excuse for rejecting the genuine article.

The elephants in the park

And now for the matching elephants ....

The reason for the elephants? Go here.

Pope Benedict in Portugal

I have not followed Pope Benedict's visit to Portugal very closely, due to demands of work - and the distraction of UK politics (will the coalition stick?).

What caught the news media attention more than anything else were Pope Benedict's remarks about the abuse crisis during a press conference with journalists on the flight from Rome to Portugal. The BBC news report is here.
Today we see in a truly terrifying way that the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from outside enemies, but is born of sin within the Church," the pontiff told reporters on a plane bound for Portugal.
Pope Benedict also referred again to the need for the Church to do penance in reparation, a call that has been taken up by, among others, the Bishops Conference of England and Wales.

In an interview on his way to Portugal, Pope Benedict said:
The dialectic between secularism and faith in Portugal has a long history. Already in the eighteenth century the presence of the Enlightenment was strongly felt: we need only think of the name Pombal. So we can see that in these last centuries Portugal has always been living in a dialectic, which nowadays has naturally become more radical and appears with all the marks of the contemporary European spirit. This strikes me both as a challenge and a great opportunity. In these centuries of a dialectic between enlightenment, secularism and faith, there were always individuals who sought to build bridges and create a dialogue, but unfortunately the prevailing tendency was one of opposition and mutual exclusion. Today we see that this very dialectic represents an opportunity and that we need to develop a synthesis and a forward-looking and profound dialogue. In the multicultural situation in which we all find ourselves, we see that if European culture were merely rationalist, it would lack a transcendent religious dimension, and not be able to enter into dialogue with the great cultures of humanity all of which have this transcendent religious dimension – which is a dimension of man himself. So to think that there exists a pure, anti-historical reason, solely self-existent, which is “reason” itself, is a mistake; we are finding more and more that it affects only part of man, it expresses a certain historical situation but it is not reason as such. Reason as such is open to transcendence and only in the encounter between transcendent reality and faith and reason does man find himself. So I think that the precise task and mission of Europe in this situation is to create this dialogue, to integrate faith and modern rationality in a single anthropological vision which approaches the human being as a whole and thus also makes human cultures communicable. So I would say that the presence of secularism is something normal, but the separation and the opposition between secularism and a culture of faith is something anomalous and must be transcended. The great challenge of the present moment is for the two to come together, and in this way to discover their true identity. This, as I have said, is Europe’s mission and mankind’s need in our history.
This perspective was reflected in Pope Benedict's address as he arrived in Lisbon, and again in his address on returning to Rome. The following paragraphs from the first of these addresses shows how Pope Benedict combined a clear and explicit account of the Catholic faith with an invitation to those who do not share that faith to enter into dialogue with it, offering at the same time an indication of the lines along which that dialogue might take place. I have added italics to emphasise the key points in Pope Benedict's argument, and to draw out how they extend the invitation to dialogue - indeed the address is itself an exercise in such a dialogue.
The Virgin Mary came from heaven to remind us of Gospel truths that constitute for humanity – so lacking in love and without hope for salvation – the source of hope. To be sure, this hope has as its primary and radical dimension not the horizontal relation, but the vertical and transcendental one. The relationship with God is constitutive of the human being, who was created and ordered towards God; he seeks truth by means of his cognitive processes, he tends towards the good in the sphere of volition, and he is attracted by beauty in the aesthetic dimension. Consciousness is Christian to the degree to which it opens itself to the fullness of life and wisdom that we find in Jesus Christ. The visit that I am now beginning under the sign of hope is intended as a proposal of wisdom and mission.

From a wise vision of life and of the world, the just ordering of society follows. Situated within history, the Church is open to cooperating with anyone who does not marginalize or reduce to the private sphere the essential consideration of the human meaning of life. The point at issue is not an ethical confrontation between a secular and a religious system, so much as a question about the meaning that we give to our freedom. What matters is the value attributed to the problem of meaning and its implication in public life. By separating Church and State, the Republican revolution which took place 100 years ago in Portugal, opened up a new area of freedom for the Church, to which the two concordats of 1940 and 2004 would give shape, in cultural settings and ecclesial perspectives profoundly marked by rapid change. For the most part, the sufferings caused by these transformations have been faced with courage. Living amid a plurality of value systems and ethical outlooks requires a journey to the core of one’s being and to the nucleus of Christianity so as to reinforce the quality of one’s witness to the point of sanctity, and to find mission paths that lead even to the radical choice of martyrdom.
What is interesting about this visit is that, made in the context of a dialogue with a society characterised by both profound religious faith and secularisation, it was by all reports a visit that exceeded expectations - see also this report, which suggests that Pope Benedict was warmly greeted by crowds in the streets of Lisbon. The BBC website has a slideshow from the Mass celebrated at the shrine in Fatima, which shows a large participation by the faithful. The Vatican website's Portugal visit mini-site, with the texts of all Pope Benedict's addresses during the visit, can be found here.

The theme of dialogue and service to truth was more fully developed in the address that Pope Benedict gave during a meeting with representatives of the world of Portuguese culture. This address is well worth reading in its entirety - it isn't long but has typically Benedictine density. It develops a theme of truth in the context of the role of the Church in a society that has a largely Christian heritage, and in the context of a culture which does not profess a specific religious belief. It is an exposition of how Pope Benedict understands the notion of dialogue.
Dear friends, the Church considers that her most important mission in today’s culture is to keep alive the search for truth, and consequently for God; to bring people to look beyond penultimate realities and to seek those that are ultimate. I invite you to deepen your knowledge of God as he has revealed himself in Jesus Christ for our complete fulfilment. Produce beautiful things, but above all make your lives places of beauty. May Our Lady of Belém intercede for you, she who has been venerated down through the centuries by navigators, and is venerated today by the navigators of Goodness, Truth and Beauty.
We can see from this visit some indicators for how Pope Benedict might approach his visit to Britain in September - and also signs of hope that it, too, will exceed expectations.

PS. I hope to post soon about Pope Benedict's thoughts on Fatima.

UPDATE:  A more detailed analysis of Pope Benedict's visit, that picks up several of the themes referred to above, can be found at Wheat and Weeds: Potpourri of Popery, Catholic Sundance Edition. I was rather taken by the irreverance of the title of this post, but the content is first rate.

Thursday 13 May 2010

Ecclesial equivalent of the ash cloud?

Those who have been grounded and prevented from leaving EF-land by that ecclesial equivalent of the Icelandic ash cloud (no, I am not going to try to spell the name of the volcano, let alone pronounce it) called "traditional Catholicism" (some time ago I tried on this blog to arrive at a definition of the charism of the traditionalist movement) are celebrating the Ascension today. Today is, of course, the "right day" for that - which begs the question of how the "right day" for the celebration of any Liturgical feast is decided.

A few in OF-land are taking the annual opportunity to berate the episcopate for transferring the celebration of the feast to Sunday; most probably haven't noticed any thing to complain about.

In OF-land, or at least that part of it for which Brentwood Diocese is the home diocese, today is the Diocesan Memorial of St Erconwald, secondary patron of the Diocese.  A happy feast day to my fellow members of Brentwood Diocese, and particularly to the residents of Barking, a town associated with St Erconwald through its connection with his sister, St Ethelburga.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Chapter 52 - again

My "not coping" (with people talking to me in church) is not the only reason I have been reflecting on Chapter 52 of the Rule of St Benedict. I was in fact led to it by thinking about the monastery, as described by St Benedict, being a model of the political process. Chapter 3, for example, talks about how the Abbot should call together the brothers when an important decision has to be made and listen to their advice before he chooses a course of action. One might think of this as a kind of parliamentary democracy, or perhaps a referendum. The election and duties of an Abbot described in Chapter 64 might also be considered as models of the democratic process, and of the duties of political office.

But I still came back to Chapter 52, and reflected on it in the context of the political process.
Chapter 52 On the Oratory of the Monastery

Let the oratory be what it is called, a place of prayer; and let nothing else be done there or kept there. When the Work of God is ended, let all go out in perfect silence, and let reverence for God be observed, so that any brother who may wish to pray privately will not be hindered by another's misconduct.
"Let reverence for God be observed". Even when a politician does not have a religious faith, is an atheist or agnostic, this seems to me a pre-requisite for a politics that is for the common good. For the believer, that reverence for God is represented in the world by the dedication of the physical building of the church solely and exclusively to the worship of - and, indeed, the presence of - God. For the non-believer this reverence for God is not a profession of belief in a supreme being, deity of some form, or a religious practice. It is instead a recognition that there is something more, something beyond ourselves and our immediate environments, something to which we owe respect and against which we rebel only at our cost.
This is expressed very ably by Vaclav Havel in the opening section of his lecture Politics and Conscience. The text can be found by going here, and clicking on the title Politics and Conscience. Do read the whole of the first section, and not just my extract below. The text is also published in the collection of writings, and appreciations, of Vaclav Havel "Living in the Truth". Vaclav Havel was himself a non-believer but one who possessed at the same time a respect for things of religion, a respect that in part came from his encounter with believers in the dissident movements of Communist era Czechoslovakia.
To me, personally, the smokestack soiling the heavens is not just a regrettable lapse of a technology that failed to include "the ecological factor" in its calculation, one which can be easily corrected with the appropriate filter. To me it is more, the symbol of an age which seeks to transcend the boundaries of the natural world and its norms and to make it into a merely private concern, a matter of subjective preference and private feeling, of the illusions, prejudices, and whims of a "mere" individual. It is a symbol of an epoch which denies the binding importance of personal experience including the experience of mystery and of the absolute and displaces the personally experienced absolute as the measure of the world with a new, man-made absolute, devoid of mystery, free of the "whims" of subjectivity and, as such, impersonal and inhuman. It is the absolute of so-called objectivity: the objective, rational cognition of the scientific model of the world....

Lest you misunderstand: I am not proposing that humans abolish smokestacks or prohibit science or generally return to the Middle Ages. Besides, it is not by accident that some of the most profound discoveries of modern science render the myth of objectivity surprisingly problematic and, via a remarkable detour, return us to the human subject and his world. I wish no more than to consider, in a most general and admittedly schematic outline, the spiritual framework of modern civilization and the source of its present crisis. And though the primary focus of these reflections will be the political rather than ecological aspect of this crisis, I might, perhaps, clarify my starting point with one more ecological example....

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Chapter 52

I have had reason over the last few weeks to keep coming back to Chapter 52 of the Rule of St Benedict.

Chapter 52 On the Oratory of the Monastery

Let the oratory be what it is called, a place of prayer; and let nothing else be done there or kept there. When the Work of God is ended, let all go out in perfect silence, and let reverence for God be observed, so that any brother who may wish to pray privately will not be hindered by another's misconduct.
I wonder why this can't apply in parish churches. It's not about being obsessively neurotic and never saying a word in church unless it is a prayer .... but, if you want to chat, why not outside the church? It's not about wanting to be unwelcoming .... but in the church I want to do something else.

I was recently totally phased - and I do mean totally - by someone who came up to me in church to ask how my week had been. My explanation that "I don't do talking in Church" probably went over more as a put down than as an explanation of why I quite literally couldn't sustain anything vaguely resembling a conversation in the circumstances.

I can't cope!

Sunday 9 May 2010

Baptism in the Spirit

"Baptism in the Holy Spirit" is perhaps one of the best known aspects of the teaching and experience of the  Charismatic Renewal. It is also perhaps one of the least understood. Being baptismal in nature, it is not something that is confined only to the Catholic Church - its historic origin lies in the experience of non-Catholic communities and, theologically speaking, a Catholic can recognise its accessibility by anyone who has been baptised. It has an ecumenical implication.

It is interesting, though, to recognise its profound relation to Baptism as a Sacrament. One can perhaps see this in the Scriptural accounts of Jesus' Baptism where a particular coming of the Holy Spirit is associated with his Baptism: " .. and while Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him .." [Luke 3:21-22].

Fr Raniero Cantalamessa describes his own experience of "baptism in the Spirit" as follows (my italics added):
For me, baptism in the Spirit was a chance the Lord gave me to ratify and renew my Baptism. For most of us, Baptism is a bound sacrament. That means that while we have received Baptism in the Church, the Church gave it in the hope that at some point in our adult life we would confirm our ‘I believe’ in a personal, free act of faith. Until there is this act of faith in the life of a Christian, Baptism remains a bound sacrament.
So, rightly understood, "baptism in the Spirit" represents a particular gift to live out the consecration received in sacramental Baptism. And this is what is prayed for by those who desire this gift in the Charismatic Renewal. The testimonies offered in the New Life in the Spirit Seminars I am currently attending suggest that this prayer is not often associated with any spectacular happenings, but more often with an unfolding understanding of how the Spirit wishes to intervene in the life of the person receiving the gift.

There is a strong likeness between "baptism in the Holy Spirit" understood in this way and the consecration to Mary of St Louis Marie de Montfort's "True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin". Indeed, the pattern of the "fundamental retreat" of the Foyers of Charity, which leads to the Marian consecration on the Saturday afternoon, parallels the development of the Life in the Spirit Seminars and the way in which they lead up to the prayer for "baptism in the Holy Spirit" at the last week. The conception of both is that they represent a form of evangelisation, leading their participants to a deeper experience of living out the vocation first received in baptism.

I come, O Mother, to gaze on you

The "Meditation of the Day" in Magnificat for yesterday was from the writings of Paul Claudel. The copyright note at the back of the booklet indicates that it has been taken from a collection of prayers to the Virgin Mary, edited by Mgr Virgilio Noe. This means that I have no idea where this comes from in Paul Claudel's work.

A thought provoking aspect of this prayer is that it speaks of visiting a Church to meet the Virgin Mary in much the way that we might normally speak about visiting a Church to meet Jesus, particularly Jesus present as the Eucharist in the tabernacle. There are two parts, I think, to trying to understand this. The first is to see in the figure of Mary a representative figure of the whole Church, the mystical Body that is physically represented in the building of a church. The second is to place it in the context of Marian consecration, seen as a living out of baptismal consecration and so fullness of dedication to the Father through Jesus Christ (cf third and final stanzas); the meeting with Mary is at once a meeting with Jesus Christ. Noon is the time of the Angelus prayer as well as being the time of a lunch time break from daily labour.
It is noon.
I see the church open,
and I must enter.

Mother of Jesus Christ,
I do not come to pray.
I have nothing to offer
and nothing to request.

I come solely to gaze on you,
O Mother.
To gaze on you,
weep for joy,
and know this:
that I am your child and you are there.

I come only for a moment
while everything is at a standstill,
at noon!

Just to be with you,
O Mary,
in this place where you are.
Not to say anything
but to gaze at your countenance,
and let the heart sing
in its own language;
not to say anything
but solely to sing
because my heart is overflowing.

For you are beautiful,
because you are Immaculate,
the woman fully restored in Grace,
the creature in its first honor
and its final bloom,
as it issued from God
on the morn of its orginal splendor.

You are ineffably intact,
because you are the Mother of Jesus Christ,
Who is the Truth in your arms,
and the only hope and the sole fruit.

The Humility of Obedience

This is the title of a reflection posted here by Mother Maria-Michael at St Walburga's. Even in the context of religious life, it is possible to think of obedience in a way that is subservient rather than a reflection of freedom. Practiced as a form of freedom, obedience involves a mutuality between the superior and the person who is under their authority - and perhaps in both a human/psychological way and as a matter of theology/grace. This is, I think, and implication of the words "They handed on ..." quoted at the beginning of Mother Maria-Michael's post.

The second paragraph of Mother's reflection has echoes of St Ignatius Spiritual Exercises, with regard to making decisions about our state of life. It does, of course, require not inconsiderable humility to recognise a genuine confirming by the Lord of what we want to do. It is easy to mistake "what I want" for such a confirmation. On the other hand, it can be very easy to simply "do what I am told" when, without any disobedience in the real sense, it would be appropriate to ask a superior for something else, to be subservient when one should exercise the freedom of obedience.

A few months ago I described to someone something I had once done in the parish, when I was not happy going along with what was happening there. The comment that this priest made in response was about the importance of keeping the unity of the parish, and of acting in a way that does not undermine that unity. In this situation, I think I had actually done that without articulating it in terms of unity. The expression of this dilemma in terms of preservation of unity has since seemed a very useful principle of discernment, keeping the genuine sense of the idea of obedience yet avoiding a reduction of obedience to subservience.

Friday 7 May 2010

The singing MP

Nicola Blackwood, who narrowly defeated Dr Death Evan Harris in the Oxford West and Abingdon constituency,  promised before her victory to sing live if she did win.

So she did.  The song starts with the words: "Every time we say goodbye, I die a little .." I heard this first on the Today programme this morning.

Ms Blackwood is reported as being a "good thing" as far as matters pro-life are concerned.

I do think she should sing her maiden speech ...

The election just got real .....

I work in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and, in my trade union role, have contact with  officers of that Borough's Childrens Services department. Had the BNP taken control of the Council at the local elections yesterday, those relationships would have been very seriously affected - all of us would have found it extremely difficult.

Instead, it is an understatement to say that the BNP were totally and utterly routed: here and here. They now have not one single councillor in Barking and Dagenham (previously they had 12, and formed the opposition) and were quite thoroughly trounced in the parliamentary election for Barking. Whether the fact that there are 51 councillors all from the Labour Party is a totally good thing - some sort of critical voice is, I think, good for accountability - we shall see in the coming years. But, as Margaret Hodge said, there is a clear message that the BNP should pack their bags and leave.

In so far as I can tell exactly where it happend, this incident happened within a mile or so of the school I teach in and perhaps the same distance from the building in which I was taking part in a meeting shortly afterwards. Pupils at school had seen it on Youtube the same evening, and were talking about it the next morning. Within the 48 hours before the election I had related to me the quite objectionable approach taken to a colleague by a BNP canvasser on her doorstep, an approach which clearly assumed that they shared the thoroughly racist attitude of the canvasser; and another account of a colleague who had stopped attending the area meetings with councillors because of the hostile and unpleasant attitudes of the two BNP councillors in the ward.

I know that some have been working very hard over the last year or so to campaign against the presence of the BNP in Barking and Dagenham. The nastiness indicated in the video of the incident linked to above has been an undercurrent of all that campaigning. I am not sure of the electoral tactics being used, but they do seem to have worked.

Two thoughts: If people turn out to vote in numbers, the BNP have a much smaller chance of success, and this can be seen in the patterns of votes cast at ward level in the council elections. And it is quite possible that those people who did vote were able to see the BNP for what they were in a way that had not happened previously, and, when they did see that, they were not interested. The two experiences referred to above clearly showed the BNP for what they are.

As I say, the election got very real. ..

Monday 3 May 2010

Compare ....

... this (about 3 miles-ish all told, and probably a climb of barely 20 ft) to this. I did say some prayers during our walk, as we called in briefly at Abbotswick.

A different form of beauty, but the same Author.


...well posted by Rita, really. [Note: the title of this post is a hyperlink to Rita's post, so you need to click on the title to get there ... thought I'd be clever ...]

Death rattle and roll

Dolphinarium has another instalment on Evan Harris: Death rattle and roll. Do read.

She points out the spurious nature of his claim, to which I indirectly referred, in an earlier post that the Church of England supports his stance on abortion.

Sunday 2 May 2010

Bluebells ... and Coggeshall

We started our walk at St Paul's Church, Bentley, which is part of this three-church benefice in the Church of England. It looks a bit different in rain than it does on the website.

If you go walking in the rain, it is always wise to be waterproof - even down to footwear! This is in Mores Wood, just outside Brentwood.

These next photographs are from a walk from Kelveden to Coggeshall (and back) three weeks ago. The building in the background of the second photograph is part of the remains of Coggeshall Abbey which, as you can see, are in use as a stables.

There is a much better quality of signage on the roads in these far flung corners of the Essex countryside. I suppose you have to just toss a coin to decide which is the best way back to Kelvedon!

Saturday 1 May 2010

Canticle to the Holy Spirit

Fr Aladics has posted the text of St Louis Marie de Montfort's Canticle to the Holy Spirit. For those familiar with the system of the Legion of Mary, inspired as it is by de Montfort's "True Devotion to Mary", the place of the Holy Spirit in de Montfort's thought is not a surprise. Quite pertinent in view of my earlier post today: Our Lady of the Cenacle.

Our Lady of the Cenacle

I am a little bit ahead posting on this Mass from the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It reflects that period of time between the Ascension and Pentecost, when the Church waits in prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Since I am currently taking part in a series of "New Life in the Spirit" seminars in a nearby parish, it does however reflect my current ecclesial experience.

The Preface for this Mass:

How wonderful is the example you have given us
of harmony and prayer in the Church at its beginning:
you show us the mother of Jesus
as she prays with the apostles
in oneness of mind and heart.

She who waited in prayer for the coming of Christ
is still at prayer
as she calls upon the promised Paraclete;
she who was overshadowed by the Spirit
at the incarnation of the Word
is once more filled with your Gift from on high
at the birth of God's new people.

As she keeps vigil in prayer,
her heart on fire with love,
she is the model of the Church,
enriched by the gifts of the Spirit
and keeping watch for the Second Coming of Christ.
And the Opening Prayer:

Lord our God,
as the Blessed Virgin was at prayer with the apostles
you poured out on her in abundance
the gifts of the Holy Spirit;
grant through her intercession
that we too, being filled with the same Spirit,
may persevere with one mind in prayer
and bring to the world around us
the good news of salvation.

Odone vs Harris

I have been led by Dolphinarium's posts about it in the direction of Cristina Odone's attack on Nick Clegg/Evan Harris in her Telegraph blog. Evan Harris' own response to Cristina Odone's article appears among the comments at April 19th 2010 11.16 am. Whilst it appears eminently reasonable, it somewhat disguises a deliberately secularist intent that is a feature of Liberal Democrat policies. A language of "not privileging" religion, of "neutrality" towards religion is in fact hiding a hostility that seeks to remove religion from the life of the country. And an aside on the theme among the comments that Evan Harris is "rational and scientific" - please recognise that so are many of those who would oppose his views on abortion and euthanasia.

Dolphinarium's first observations about Cristina's post, and the subsequent comments, is here. If I have understood Dolphinarium's drift, it is to point out to Cristina that this wonderful world of the ether is not quite the gentle, sedate field where polite rules of conversation hold sway. "Welcome to the blogosphere, Cristina". Where I might not quite agree with Dolphinarium is in her penultimate paragraph:
Yes, it's very different to the sedate world of the traditional dead-tree press where the commentariat spoke from on high to their forlock-tugging readers. The brave new world of the internet allows anybody with an opinion and a a modem to bellow through a virtual foghorn. It's loud, it's brash and a profoundly democratic medium. That's its beauty.
I have added the italics - yes, the internet does allow anybody with an opinion and a modem to announce their views (though for those of us with small readerships we might not be bellowing through the virtual foghorn as much as we would like to think). And, yes, regardless of whether it appears on a blog or in the comment column of a print newspaper, there is a question of literary/political genre to be borne in mind when evaluating a piece of writing such as that by Cristina Odone. Her post does definitely fall within a certain style of writing, and she should perhaps have expected response within the same genre. But I do still think there is a question to be asked: at what point does complete freedom to express an opinion stop being democratic? To get a bit philosophical: the facility that is there in the blogosphere to express an opinion is profoundly democratic, but that facility is there to be exercised in a democratic way - it is not a freedom that is licence, but a freedom that is directed towards a good. At what point do we begin to misuse that democratic facility? Dolphinarium and I debated a not dissimilar question in the comments on one of her posts against a certain far right party - can't find that post at the moment to link to it.

Dolphinarium has her own fisk of one of the comments to Cristina Odone's post here, which is well worth reading to put them into context.