Wednesday 31 October 2012

post - Sandy

The video clip here is, I think, one of the nicest bits of coverage of the super-storm that I have seen. I think it communicates something of the natural resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

The gentleman arranging his showers in different places for the next three days ....

The young girl recognising that the children are perhaps enjoying a fun side of the very serious events ....

Monday 29 October 2012

Far be it from me ....

... to differ from the Holy Father and the Synod of Bishops, but a thought has occurred to me since posting on the homily at the Mass celebrated to close the Synod. and on the Propositions of the Synod.

In his homily, Pope Benedict referred to the need for appropriate catechesis to accompany preparation for the sacraments of initiation - Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist.
It has been reaffirmed that appropriate catechesis must accompany preparation for Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.
And among the propositions that the Synod presented to the Pope, Proposition 38 refers to the need for a suitable mystagogical approach to the sacraments of initiation:

Therefore we propose that the traditional process of Christian initiation, that has often become simply a proximate preparation for the sacraments, be everywhere considered in a catechumenal prospective, giving more relevance to permanent mystagogy, and thus becoming true initiation to Christian life through the sacraments. (cf. General Directory of Catechesis, 91)
According to the General Directory for Catechesis, the terms "catechesis" and " mystagogy" have a very well defined meaning, and are distinct from an idea of "primary proclamation". Paragraph 61, for example, says:

61. Primary proclamation is addressed to non-believers and those living in religious indifference. Its functions are to proclaim the Gospel and to call to conversion. Catechesis, "distinct from the primary proclamation of the Gospel", promotes and matures initial conversion, educates the convert in the faith and incorporates him into the Christian community. The relationship between these two forms of the ministry of the word is, therefore, a relationship of complementary distinction. Primary proclamation, which every Christian is called to perform, is part of that "Go" which Jesus imposes on his disciples: it implies, therefore, a going-out, a haste, a message. Catechesis, however, starts with the condition indicated by Jesus himself: "whosoever believes", whosoever converts, whosoever decides. Both activities are essential and mutually complementary: go and welcome, proclaim and educate, call and incorporate.
A distinction is also drawn between "initiatory catechesis" and a catechesis at the service of an ongoing faith formation (cf nn.67-70).

There strikes me as being a particular situation for a new evangelisation with regard to the relationship of "primary proclamation" and "initiatory catechesis". Precisely where the situation of a first evangelisation might expect a "primary proclamation" to have prepared the way for the more systematic nature of "catechesis" in the strict sense, the "primary proclamation" to Christians in those regions in need of a new evangelisation has not done so.

It seems to me part of the particularity of the situation of the new evangelisation that preparation for the sacraments of initiation should therefore be associated with a renewal of "primary proclamation", of initial conversion to Christ, and not just with a renewal of catechesis strictly so-called.

John XXIII and the Cuban Missile Crisis

As the anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council approached, I dipped into Meriol Trevor's biography of Pope John XXIII and into Alden Hatch's biography of Pope Paul VI. I read the chapters relating to the part played by the two pontiffs with regard to the Council.

According to chapter 19 of the former, it was Norman Cousins, a political activist and editor of a publication called the Saturday Review, who telephoned the Vatican on 24th October 1962 and suggested that the Pope should make an appeal for peace. Pope John was initially concerned that what he said might offend the Soviet side, but Cousins assured him that the terms of the appeal could be checked with each side before publication. Pope John is reported to have stayed up until midnight preparing a radio message that he delivered the next day, 25th October 1962. Given the genuine fear that nuclear war was a possible outcome of the crisis, Pope John's words are very powerful.  Appealing to the consciences of those who held power, he said:
May they hear the anguished cry which rises to heaven from every corner of the earth, from innocent children to old men, from persons and communities: peace, peace!

Vatican Radio's coverage marking Pope John's radio broadcast is here, and gives an account suggesting that the initial approach suggesting the Pope issue an appeal for peace came from President Kennedy.

According to Meriol Trevor, Russian premier Kruschev acknowledged to Norman Cousins that he had been moved by the Pope's appeal, which contributed to the easing of tension. The Vatican Radio coverage suggests that the broadcast, while not a crucial factor in bringing the crisis to a conclusion, was nevertheless a factor among others that led to its conclusion.

This article at Crisis Magazine gives an impression of a stronger influence of Pope John's appeal. It also refers indirectly to the part played by John XXIII in helping achieve the nuclear test ban treaty between the Soviets and the United States in 1963.

Sunday 28 October 2012

Pope Benedict's homily at Mass to close the Synod of Bishops

The full text of Pope Benedict's homily at Mass this morning is being carried at homily at the Mass concluding the XIII Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the New Evangelization .

Particularly striking is the way in which Pope Benedict cites St Augustine in order to interpret the situation of Bartimaeus as being analagous to that of the Christian in the evangelised world who has fallen from the dignity of Christian belief and living, and is now in need of receiving again the light of faith by way of a "new evangelisation".

The Holy Father then goes on to highlight three themes emerging from the Synod:
I would like here to highlight three pastoral themes that have emerged from the Synod. The first concerns the sacraments of Christian initiation. It has been reaffirmed that appropriate catechesis must accompany preparation for Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. The importance of Confession, the sacrament of God’s mercy, has also been emphasized. This sacramental journey is where we encounter the Lord’s call to holiness, addressed to all Christians. ....... 
Secondly, the new evangelization is essentially linked to the Missio ad Gentes. The Church’s task is to evangelize, to proclaim the message of salvation to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ. During the Synod, it was emphasized that there are still many regions in Africa, Asia and Oceania whose inhabitants await with lively expectation, sometimes without being fully aware of it, the first proclamation of the Gospel. So we must ask the Holy Spirit to arouse in the Church a new missionary dynamism, whose progatonists are, in particular, pastoral workers and the lay faithful. Globalization has led to a remarkable migration of peoples. So the first proclamation is needed even in countries that were evangelized long ago. All people have a right to know Jesus Christ and his Gospel: and Christians, all Christians – priests, religious and lay faithful – have a corresponding duty to proclaim the Good News. 
A third aspect concerns the baptized whose lives do not reflect the demands of Baptism. During the Synod, it was emphasized that such people are found in all continents, especially in the most secularized countries. The Church is particularly concerned that they should encounter Jesus Christ anew, rediscover the joy of faith and return to religious practice in the community of the faithful. Besides traditional and perennially valid pastoral methods, the Church seeks to adopt new ones, developing new language attuned to the different world cultures, proposing the truth of Christ with an attitude of dialogue and friendship rooted in God who is Love. In various parts of the world, the Church has already set out on this path of pastoral creativity, so as to bring back those who have drifted away or are seeking the meaning of life, happiness and, ultimately, God. We may recall some important city missions, the “Courtyard of the Gentiles”, the continental mission, and so on. There is no doubt that the Lord, the Good Shepherd, will abundantly bless these efforts which proceed from zeal for his Person and his Gospel.

Saturday 27 October 2012

The Synod: Message of the Synod and the Propositions

Now that the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the subject of the New Evangelisation has come to an end, we can consider the message of the Synod and the propositions of the Synod fathers submitted to the Holy Father.

A summary of the Message can be found at the Holy See Press Office: FINAL MESSAGE OF THE SYNOD ON NEW EVANGELISATION. An (unofficial, kind of) English translation of the propositions submitted to Pope Benedict XVI can be found in the Bulletin of the Synod at the Vatican website:  FINAL LIST OF PROPOSITIONS.

Both the Message and the propositions cover a wide range of ideas, so it is difficult to pick out any one or two ideas without giving the misleading impression that they have a "priority" over other ideas in the mind of the Synod fathers. I pick out the following more because it touches on my own situation in the Church and the world than for any other reason.

Proposition 27 refers to the part to be played by Catholic educational institutions in the new evangelisation. Part of the proposition reads:
Education is a constitutive dimension of evangelization. To proclaim the Risen Jesus Christ is to accompany all human beings in their personal story, in their development and in their spiritual vocation.  
Education needs, at the same time, to promote everything that is true, good and beautiful that is a part of the human person, that is to say, to educate the mind and the emotions to appreciate reality.  
Children, teenagers and young people have a right to be evangelized and educated. The schools and Catholic universities respond in this way to this need. Public institutions should recognize and support this right. 
Schools should assist families in introducing children into the beauty of the faith. Schools offer a great opportunity to transmit the faith or at least to make it known. 
The core of this proposition seems to me to lie in the statement that "children, teenagers and young people have a right to be evangelised and educated". This represents the double polarity expressed in the preceding two paragraphs of the proposition. But if each word of the polarity - "evangelised" and "educated" - has its own significance in this statement, so does the connective word "and". On the one hand, in so far as a school educates it also evangelises. On the other, if a school does not in some way offer an explicit introduction to, or at least an offer of, the Christian message, the evangelisation that is education remains incomplete. This should not, of course, be read as approving proselytism (ie an unjust effort to convert) towards those of non-Christian beliefs. I find interesting the implication that might be drawn from this proposition that children, teenagers and young people have this right to be evangelised and educated in their own right, and that it is not a right mediated through rights with regard to education that belong to parents/guardians.

It is interesting to read this in the light of article 19 and  article 26 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and against the background of a notion of secularisation which wishes to remove the presence of religion from schools and to deny parents/guardians rights to educate their children in their own beliefs:
Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 26:
1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
There is an implicit cross-reference to Proposition 16 of the Synod fathers, which refers to the importance of the right to religious liberty for the new evangelisation:
In light of the recognition of the Second Vatican Council as an instrument for the New Evangelization and the growing need to protect the religious liberty of Christians throughout the world, the Synod Fathers propose a renewed commitment to and wider diffusion of the teachings of Dignitatis Humanae. This renewal seeks to affirm and promote freedom in religious matters for individuals, families and institutions to protect the common good of all. Such a freedom includes the right to teach the Christian faith without compromise of its tenets to children in the family and/or school. 
The Synod Fathers propose that the Holy Father consider the opportuneness of establishing a commission of Church leaders representing various parts of the Church throughout the world or entrusting this task to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, to address attacks on religious liberty, and to obtain accurate information for public witness to the fundamental right to religious freedom and freedom of conscience.

This cross-reference does not just consist in the opposition to coercion in matters of education and religious belief on the part of society or the organs of the state. It requires a genuine access to information about matters of religion. It is interesting to see the way in which Pope John Paul II, in his book Sources of Renewal on the implementation of Vatican II, cites Dignitatis Humanae in his discussion of the nature of faith. This is a discussion which could usefully be read alongside the propositions of the Synod fathers.

Monday 22 October 2012

More from the Synod

I had been hoping to follow the discussions at the Synod of Bishops more closely than, in the event, I have been able to.

Bishop Campbell of Lancaster has been blogging from the Synod, and the extracts below from a post on 20th October give some idea of his experience. I have added italics so that you can see the observations that caught my attention.
A fascinating aspect of this Synod of Bishops is its worldwide dimension, with bishops and other speakers shedding light on their own particular Church situations from many different countries. We needed to be reminded of the realities of the Church in current turbulent areas such as Syria and parts of Africa, living in the shadow of war and civil unrest.  
Bishops from Cambodia and Vietnam described the life of their local Church communities, while believers in parts of Europe which were originally behind “the Iron Curtain” were now living in freedom and catching up on the work of the Second Vatican Council and other theological trends in the last fifty years. There is much more to the Church than the large cities of the Western world!

Despite these vastly differing local circumstances certain common threads are emerging, such as the centrality and importance of the family for the life of the Church, the responsibility of each baptised person for handing on the faith, the necessity of conversion for all members of the Church, and the challenges posed for example by globalisation.....

The courage, faith and resilience of those bishops from unsettled and war-torn regions was evident to us all, as exemplified in the moving reflection by a Sudanese bishop after the opening morning prayer earlier in the week. His optimism and deep faith were a living proof of the presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit in what we would consider harrowing, even desperate situations. I mused on just how in spite of everything the Church goes on.
The text of the "Report after the Discussion" by Cardinal Wuerl, referred to in Bishop Campbell's blog, can be found in this issue of the daily bulletin of the Synod. If you want to gauge the situation of the Synod as it moved from the general interventions in the aula to the small language group discussions, scan through this "Report after the Discussion" and look out for the questions that were proposed for discussion in the small groups.

H/T to Fr Ray for the link to Bishop Campbell's blog.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Six points for a "new evangelisation"; and "environmental cells"

The October 2012 issue of New City, the magazine of the Focolare movement in the United Kingdom, contains an article dedicated to the Year of Faith. It identifies six points for a "new evangelisation" which are interesting because of the way in which they could be shared by Christians who are not Catholics.
1. It preserves the patrimony of faith: "Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow"
2. It looks for new language and new methods to announce the Gospel with renewed enthusiasm
3. It is addressed primarily to those who already know the Gospel but became indifferent to it
4. It come from Baptism and calls every Christian to become more aware of their vocation
5. It convinces people that faith needs to be lived out as well as understood and studied
6. It highlights relationships: when announced, faith become credible if supported by a lifestyle.
Maria Voce, the President of the Focolare Movement, made an intervention at the Synod of Bishops on 17th October. What caught my attention in the summary of this intervention was the reference to "environmental cells". Previous interventions, from different parts of the world, have suggested a need for "small communities" in parishes, so that the parish then become a "communion of communities". Such a suggestion might be very different in its implications in different parts of the world, not all of the implications being positive. In a country such as Great Britian, for example, such groups might become the preserve a certain "chattering class".  But the "environmental cells" to which Maria Voce refers might well offer a different model for what is intended by the suggestion of "small communities" in parishes:
‘Environmental cells’, made up of two or more people in the same place, bring the living presence of the ‘Risen One’ everywhere, into families, factories, places of public administration, hospitals, schools and universities. At the local level, it builds relationships of fraternity inspired by the Gospel through ‘local communities’ within suburbs and towns.

Saturday 20 October 2012

Today's Gigs

Out of the three possible gigs today - A Future that Works, Aid to the Church in Need's annual event at Westminster Cathedral, and the procession of the Blessed Sacrament from Westminster Cathedral to Southwark Cathedral - I made the first and the last.

For the first, branch officers from London branches of my trade union had been asked to volunteer to join the union's contingent of stewards for the day. So, below, is yours truly on duty outside Westminster underground station. I am not expecting to be asked again to stand in the middle of the road outside of the Houses of Parliament waving my arms around to direct crowds. It was a fun day, though obviously with a very serious point being made. [NB. The TUC insist on having the pink high visibility vests back, so I don't have it as a souvenir.]

At the end of our stint, I managed to walk along to Westminster Cathedral in time to join the Blessed Sacrament procession, something I hadn't expected to do. The procession was well attended, the crowd filling St George's Cathedral for benediction at the end of the procession.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

The Synod of Bishops: a delegation to Syria and a thought on small communities

At the beginning of this morning's session of the Synod of Bishops, an announcement was made of a delegation from the Synod to visit Damascus, Syria. I have italicised part of the text below because I think it expresses the collegial character of this action on the part of the Synod and the Holy See. This delegation represents a quite dramatic intervention of the Synod Fathers.
Most Holy Father,
Most Eminent and Most Excellent Synodal Fathers,
Dear brothers and sisters,
We cannot be mere spectators of a tragedy like the one that is unfolding in Syria: some of the interventions we have heard in the hall bear witness to this.
Certain that the solution to the crisis cannot be but political and thinking of the immense suffering of the population, the fate of the evacuees as well as the future of that nation, some of us suggested that our synodal assembly might express its solidarity.
The Holy Father has thus arranged for a delegation to make its way in the next few days to Damascus with the aim of expressing, in his name and in all our names:
our fraternal solidarity to the whole population, with a personal offering from the Synodal Fathers as well as from the Holy See;
our spiritual closeness to our Christian brothers and sisters;
our encouragement to all those who are involved in the search for an agreement that respects the rights and duties of all with particular attention to what is demanded by humanitarian law.

The delegation will be made up of:

Synodal Fathers:
- His Em. Card. Laurent Mosengwo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa;
- His Em. Card. Jean-Louis Tauran, President of Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue;
- His Em. Card. Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York;
- His Exc. Mons. Fabio Suescun Mutis, Military Ordinary of Colombia;
- His Exc. Mons. Joseph Nguyen Nang, Bishop of Phat Diem;

In addition to the Synodal Fathers quoted above, the following persons are part of the delegation:
- His Exc. Mons. Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State;
- Mons. Alberto Ortega, Official of the Secretariat of State.

It is expected that once the necessary formalities have been carried out with the Apostolic Nuncio and the local authorities, the Delegation will make its way to Damascus next week. In the meantime time we pray that reason and compassion might prevail. 
More than once in the last couple of days, interventions in the Synod hall have referred to the part that might be played in the new evangelisation by "small communities" in parishes. The "small communities" being referred to have been explicitly distinguished from those associated with new ecclesial movements and explicitly identified as having a relation to a parish community.

The summary of the intervention of the Archbishop of Dublin, for example, states:
The culture of individualism can be counteracted by the creation of a variety of new ecclesial communities, not just those of the ecclesial movements, but around our parishes, which will be the building blocks of the Eucharistic communities of the future.
And the summary of the intervention of the Anglican Bishop of Sheffield , one of the fraternal delegates, included the suggestion:
Third, I would encourage the Synod to reflect further on the formation of new ecclesial communities for the transmission of the faith to those who are no longer part of any church. For the last ten years, the Church of England has actively encouraged a new movement of mission aimed at beginning fresh expressions of the church, as a natural part of the ministry of parishes or groups of parishes or dioceses.
Such "small communities" within parishes are quite different in character if one considers a parish that is large in geographical area and in the developing rather than the developed world.  But it will be interesting to see whether or not the Synod will take up this idea.

My own immediate thought is to suggest that the problem faced by such "small communities" is that they will become an imposed structure rather than a response to a genuinely given charism, and that leadership in these communities will lack the appropriate intellectual and spiritual/ecclesial formation to effectively undertake the new evangelisation. Both aspects of this would be overcome within the framework of the charism and formation provided by an ecclesial movement.

Monday 15 October 2012

The Synod of Bishops: two interventions

I have not read all the summaries of the interventions being reported in the Bulletin Synodus Episcoporum, but have just spotted two, that I copy in full below:

H. Exc. Rev. Mons. Francis Xavier Kriengsak KOVITHAVANIJ, Archbishop of Bangkok (THAILAND)
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand is of the opinion that it is necessary that all the Bishops, priests, men and women religious and the laity be concretely revived in faith and Christian life aiming at “Discipleship and sharing the Good News” with regards to the teaching of the Church, liturgy, life of prayers and continuous formation, using the means of “BEC” (Basic Ecclesial Communities) through coordination of the various Catholic entities and the CBCT commissions especially the Episcopal Commission for Pastoral Care of the Christians. The parochial community will enable the BEC to be the sign of active life of a parish which will be a new community, “communion of communities”, based on the culture of love and will become a good approach for the pastoral care and evangelization “Ad gentes”.

The Catholic Church in Thailand is amid our brothers and sisters of other faiths. The Church is essentially the sign and instrument of announcing the Kingdom of God and all the disciples of Christ are called to announce and share the Good News to both those who have not yet heard and those who are not yet in the same sheepfold. The appropriate way to bring about mutual understanding in society is through the “Interreligious Dialogue” which is the way suitable for our new evangelization.
In the context of multiple cultures in Asia the dialogue with respect will widen the venue of mutual listening to the religious experiences and mutual collaboration. The Catholic faithful through the Basic Ecclesial Community, therefore, filled with faith, love and hope will be able to enter into the dialogue not only, with our Christian brothers and sisters of various denominations, but also with the Buddhists, the majority of the population in Thailand, to cooperate and together create true unity and peace in Thai society. And with the Risen Lord in the midst of “two or three, united in His name”, we Catholic faithful in Thailand, can share God's love to everyone.
- H. Exc. Rev. Mons. Dominique REY, Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon (FRANCE)
Evangelization’s finality is the conversion of men, in other words, embracing the novelty of Christ (cf. Instrumentum laboris, no. 24). This conversion begins within the Church through the pastoral changes to be carried out. For the countries of ancient Christianity this means going from a traditional Christianity to a Christianity of personal adhesion to Jesus Christ and missionary involvement.
This pastoral conversion concerns all the baptized and all the actors of ecclesial life, but especially the pastors: bishops and priests. For the new evangelization to not be merely a slogan or a catalogue of actions to be taken, to not be asphyxiated by immobility, bureaucracy or clericalism, the pastors must be better prepared in the practice of the pastoral governing.
1. This conversion of the pastors first points out a task of personal sanctification.
2. This conversion must be followed by a deeper re-reading of the Council texts and the Magisterium of the Church, to be able to penetrate an ecclesial and theological intelligence of missionary renewal, of which he is the minister.
3. This conversion also calls for an apprenticeship on the new way of practicing pastoral responsibility: to place the direct proclamation of faith at the head of the ordinary pastoral, to promote a catechesis of initiation of the catechumenal type for beginners and those starting again and proper apologetic paths, to develop an ecclesiology of communion that allows the complementarity of the states of life and embraces the charisms, to favor the creation of places of welcome and of dialogue open to spiritual expectations, to incite the witness of charity in Christians.
4. Finally, the new evangelization calls for “a new style of pastoral life” (Pastores dabo vobis, no. 18) for priests and for bishops.
What I thought was worth reflecting on was the very different situations of the Church in Thailand and in France, and the way in which these very different situations colours these two contributions.

The Year of Faith: Comparing Pastoral Letters

On the whole, I think I preferred reading this on the web than listening to this in the pew.

In the former, I was particularly struck by the kind of summary profession of faith of Archbishop Smith beginning part way through the third paragraph and ending part way through the fourth. And what I couldn't really make out in the latter was the parallel reference to the "spirit" and the "documents" of the Council, the first being un-defined and it then not being clear that it is the latter that are definitive as the expression of the ecclesial experience of the Council. The profession of faith contained in the former, which could be seen as a proposed content for the primary proclamation of the Gospel, also appears more invigorating than the proposal for evangelistion contained at the end of the latter (though this clearly has merit, and is full of echoes for those with experience in the Legion fo Mary).

Archbishop Smith's account of the teaching on the "new people of God" and "co-responsibility" of the laity is also more coherent than Bishop McMahon's reference to
One of the predominant images was that of the ‘People of God’ having an inclusive character based on baptism.
 which appears, in comparison, to be selective and removed from its Biblical and ecclesial context.

And there is also Bishop Egan's Pastoral Letter, here, which is different again in its character, seeming more practical and immediately pastoral in its proposals.

Thursday 11 October 2012

General Audience: Pope Benedict XVI reflects on Vatican II

The Vatican Information Services report of this Wednesday's general audience, including a full translation of the Holy Father's address can be found here: Audience: Pope's personal memories of Vatican II.

Once again Pope Benedict cited John Paul II:
Blessed John Paul II, on the threshold of the third millennium, wrote: "I feel more than ever in duty bound to point to the Council as the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century: there we find a sure compass by which to take our bearings in the century now beginning" (Apostolic Letter. NMI, 57). I think this is telling. The documents of the Second Vatican Council, to which we must return freeing them from a mass of publications that often instead of making them known, have hidden them, are, for our time, a compass that allows the ship of the Church to set sail, in midst of storms or calm and quiet waters, to navigate safely and reach port.
No-one, be they traditionalist or liberal, should be in any doubt Pope Benedict's commitment in favour of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. The added italics in the citation above are mine, and the words emphasised are in my view a rather diplomatic way of saying that not everything that claims to speak for the Council actually does so! And the analogy of the ship quite clearly sees the documents of the Council, not just as a point of departure that can now be disregarded as some would have us believe, but as the guide to which we must still refer in order that the Church can reach her destination.

Pope Benedict also cites Pope Paul VI's homily at the final session of the Council. Pope Paul
 .. affirmed that in order to properly asses this event, and I quote, "it is necessary to remember the time in which it was realized. In fact, the Pope says, it took place at a time in which, everyone admits man is orientated toward the conquest of the kingdom of earth rather than of that of heaven; a time in which forgetfulness of God has become habitual, and seems, quite wrongly, to be prompted by the progress of science; a time in which the fundamental act of the human person, more conscious now of himself and of his liberty, tends to pronounce in favor of his own absolute autonomy, in emancipation from every transcendent law; a time in which secularism seems the legitimate consequence of modern thought and the highest wisdom in the temporal ordering of society;... it was at such a time as this that our council was held to the honor of God, in the name of Christ and under the impulse of the Spirit". Thus said Paul VI. He concluded by indicating in the question of God the central focus of the Council, that God, I quote again, that " He is real, He lives, a personal, provident God, infinitely good; and not only good in Himself, but also immeasurably good to us. He will be recognized as Our Creator, our truth, our happiness; so much so that the effort to look on Him, and to center our heart in Him which we call contemplation, is the highest, the most perfect act of the spirit, the act which even today can and must be at the apex of all human activity".
This last sentence gives a clear indication of the theme of Archbishop Rowan Williams address to the Synod of Bishops, an address that is very well worth reading and I think will become one of the Synod highlights.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

The Synod of Bishops: spotted among the interventions ....

Each Bishop speaking at the Synod is asked to write a summary of their intervention for publication in the twice-daily bulletin of the Synod. Spotted among the interventions published today:

H. Em. Rev. Card. Stanisław RYŁKO, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity , speaking on the particular part that the new movements and ecclesial communities are able to play in evangelisation.

H. Em. Rev. Card. Timothy Michael DOLAN, Archbishop of New York, speaking on the Sacrament of Penance as the sacrament of the new evangelisation, it being the sacrament by which those who are to evangelise are themselves converted to God.

A hard-hitting intervention from H. Em. Rev. Card. Zenon GROCHOLEWSKI, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, addressing the question as to why Catholic educational institutions fail so badly in evangelising. He suggested three strategems in response, with a reference more to higher education than to schools: the necessity of a personal, living contact with God among faculty; the importance of the Magisterium with regard to the evangelising mission of theologians; the need to overcome that pride which desires (academic) importance and public recognition.

Monday 8 October 2012

The Synod of Bishops

Today sees the first working day of the Synod of Bishops, on the theme of the New Evangelisation.

One of the recent innovations in the working of the Synod has been the publication of a regular (in the case of the present Synod it is due to be twice daily, or at necessity) bulletin. This enables the faithful who are so inclined to follow the events in the Synod as they happen.

The bulletin covering the morning session today is here.

An innovation particular to Pope Benedict's pontificate has been the period for "free interventions" by the Synod Fathers at the end of each working day. Summaries of these, and of the other interventions are due to appear in the Bulletin.

Interesting to note two of the outside speakers who will address the Synod Fathers. Archbishop Rowan Williams will give an Anglican view of the theme of the New Evangelisation; and the president of the Pontifical Academy of Science will address the Synod Fathers on the theme of science and faith.

The scene has been set today by the "REPORT BEFORE THE DISCUSSION BY THE GENERAL RELATOR, H. EM. CARD. DONALD WILLIAM WUERL, ARCHBISHOP OF WASHINGTON (USA)" - you will need scroll a good way down today's Bulletin to find it  -  from which I quote just a small section of a lengthy intervention:
The New Evangelization is not a program. It is a mode of thinking, seeing and acting. It is a lens through which we see the opportunities to proclaim the Gospel anew. It is also a recognition that the Holy Spirit continues actively to work in the Church.  
At its heart the New Evangelization is the reproposing of the encounter with the Risen Lord, his Gospel and his Church to those who no longer find the Church’s message engaging. I believe there are three distinct, but interrelated stages: 
a) the renewal or deepening of our faith both intellectually and affectively; (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 24, nn. 37-40, nn. 118-119, nn. 147-158)
b) a new confidence in the truth of our faith; (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 31, n. 41, n. 46, n. 49, n.120) and
c) a willingness to share it with others. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 33-34, n. 81)

Saturday 6 October 2012

Is it true that Vatican II issued no condemnations?

In the most obvious sense of the question, it is true that the Council documents contain no condemnations. That is, the Council documents do not include at the end a list of opinions contrary to the exposition contained in the documents themselves, listed as being condemned, and attracting that wonderful descriptor, anathema sit. In particular, a wording that condemns the persons who might hold these contrary opinions is absent.

It is correct, I think, to see in this something of significance for the nature the Second Vatican Council and for the nature of one of the attitudes that it sought to encourage. It is a sign of a positive engagement between the Church and the wider world, a positive engagement with the culture of our times. But, and I think the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes demonstrates this particularly, it is a critical engagement and not a compliant one. So the Council sought a positive and intelligent engagement with the world.

But is it true to say that condemnations are absent from the expositions of the Council documents themselves? They are certainly few and far between, but when the assertion that the Council issued no condemnations was aired at last evening's Tablet lecture, three examples immediately ran through my mind.

From Sacrosanctum Concilium n.22:
... no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.
OK, this is not in the form of a condemnation. But it does clearly indicate a manner of behaviour that is not supported by the Council document concerned.

From Gaudium et Spes n.80:
... this most holy synod makes its own the condemnations of total war already pronounced by recent popes, and issues the following declaration.

Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.
Condemnations do not come much clearer than that! And n.81 contains a condemnation of the arms trade. Though the Vatican website appears somewhat clumsy in its translation - my print copy refers to "greatest curse" rather than "treacherous trap" - it does communicate some force.
Therefore, we say it again: the arms race is an utterly treacherous trap for humanity, and one which ensnares the poor to an intolerable degree.
 And from Gaudium et Spes n.51:
Therefore from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.

Friday 5 October 2012

Stories of the Tablet Lecture 2012

The 2012 Tablet Lecture was given earlier this evening by Robert Blair Kaiser, an author and journalist, who covered Vatican II for Time magazine and has since written books about the Council and other topics. His title was "Stories of Vatican II: The Human Side of the Council". The flyer for the lecture suggested that the lecture would describe
how the Council made the bishops more human, more real, and more loving. The Bishops turned around and made us (and the whole Church) more human, more real and more loving.
In the event, the lecture probably just included that as a concluding strap-line, and did not really develop the idea in a manner that could be recognisably related to the claims of the flyer. It was interesting to hear Robert Kaiser describing the sorts of things the journalists covering the Council got up to to gain information about the events in the Council aula, from which they were excluded. Official press briefings were not helpful - if some think that the Vatican's media strategies today leave something to be desired then those in effect during the Council appear to have only encouraged the "alternative Council" that was generated by the media coverage. I went because I was interested in hearing something of the stories of the people taking part in the Council.

The audience for the lecture were, to an extent I had not expected, a group of the like-minded, a kind of club of those adhering to Catholicism a la the Tablet, with only one or two others. I had thought that the subject matter might attract a wider interest, though the name of the speaker might have been a factor here if one was already familiar with him. And one has to realise just how far off the wall the members of this little club can be. Robert Kaiser's expression was to say that
... the Council Fathers were trending towards a people's Church (a people of God Church) and not a clerical Church.
It was clearly in his view that bishops could be elected by the people of their diocese, and then un-elected again if they did not meet with their approval, that it was quite alright just to create your own liturgy. There seemed no real sense of an ordained ministry at all. It really was a make your own Church in all but name. And he clearly did not like Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI. One questioner asked if the speaker saw any hope among young people (ie for the kind of vision being presented). It was not clear to me whether Robert Kaiser intended by his response that these Popes had turned young people away from the Church or just turned them away from the vision:
The last two Popes haven't helped. John Paul II and Benedict XVI have turned the kids away ...
And looking round:
Not many kids in the hall today ..
These are occasions when Yours Truly is inclined to bad behaviour, but I thought I was quite good this evening. I wore the Papal Visit polo shirt, and took my fleece off when I got in to the hall so that everyone could see it. Well, it just seemed the right sort of thing to wear for an occasion like this. My question was carefully worked up to reflect the lecture's title, and yet subtly make a point. If I am really honest, I ended up asking it - the last question as it turned out - more to stand up to let people see the polo shirt than anything else (I had ended up near the back of the hall).

But the question did have a somewhat hilarious unforeseen consequence. I briefly described the occasion when Frank Duff's presence among the auditors at the fourth session of the Council was introduced to the assembled bishops - who proceeded to warmly applaud him. And I then asked whether the speaker could share with us any more examples of that kind of personal/warm response on the part of the participants during Council sessions themselves. (It very quickly became apparent that he could not, his repertoire of stories seeming limited to those supporting his wanted narrative). But the amusement was caused when Robert Blair Kaiser, journalist extraordinaire whose coverage of Vatican II for Time magazine won him an award .... had to ask me who Frank Duff was, thinking he might have been some Jesuit theologian. Which gave me the opportunity to say he was founder of the Legion of Mary, whose work in the field of the lay apostolate foreshadowed much that Vatican II later taught on that subject. I expect that this will be edited out of the video (not posted yet, but I expect it will be in due course) - but if it isn't, look out for the last 5 minutes or so.

Thursday 4 October 2012

"Preces" and "Intercessions"

My Latin is not strong, but just good enough to cope with some Liturgical Latin. Some years ago now, I came across a situation where the Liturgy of the Hours is prayed in English but, particularly during the major Liturgical seasons, the hymns used are from the Latin breviary. This prompted me to a similar practice with regard to the "intercessions" at Morning Prayer - I now switch at that point in the Liturgy to the Latin "preces". In passing, I also look out for feasts like that of St Francis of Assisi, today, where the English Liturgy of the Hours has no proper hymn but the Latin does.

A couple of examples from Morning Prayer/Lauds of Friday Week One of the psalter:
Christum, qui per crucem suam salutem generi contulit humano, adoremus, et pie clamemus: Misericordiam tuam nobis largire, Domine.
[Let us adore Christ, who through his Cross bestowed salvation on the human race, and sweetly acclaim: Lord pour out your mercy on us.]

Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you. Through your cross and resurrection you offer freedom and hope to those ready to receive them: Lord, show us your loving kindness.

Averte faciem tuam a peccatis nostris, - et omnes iniqitates nostras dele.
[Turn your face away from our sins, - and cleanse all our iniquities.]

Help us to avoid wrongdoing: - show us your mercy and love.
That the intercessions are not brilliant when considered as translations of the Latin preces is well known, and there are various stories about how they came to be written. But what has struck me of late is how the issues that exist around the preces/intercessions comparison are very similar to those existing around the new English translation of the Missal.

It is sometimes quite striking if the preces are read alongside the intercessions to see how a strong Scriptural allusion in the former is almost imperceptible in the latter. And there is also the question of faithfulness, or a lack of, with regard to the original texts. The second example above illustrates this. The intercession is to a reasonably good degree a translation of the sense of the corresponding Latin; but it definitely lacks the force of the Latin as far as the language of sin and iniquity is concerned, and therefore contains a lack of faithfulness at quite a profound level. Another striking feature that can be seen in the Latin texts and that is not always present in the English texts is the vividness of the theme of light/dawn as the sign of Christ and of the Resurrection.

The question that arose in the background of the new English translation of the Missal is also present here. It is the question of the balance between the universal and the local, how we achieve a Liturgy that is universal (ie essentially the same and celebrated everywhere) and at the same time local (every celebration takes place in a particular Church). This is, of course, a particular instance of one of the major themes of the Council. Seeing this question in terms of "communion", rather than of "centralisation", is important, and perhaps above all in reference to the celebration of the Liturgy. It is communion - the universal lived in the local Church - that requires a faithfulness to the provided Liturgical texts.

It might not be felt prudent to start changing the translation of the Liturgy of the Hours as a whole, but it would be rather nice if proper hymns could be translated and an effort be made at preparing a more faithful set of preces permitted for use even if not mandated for use. In the meanwhile, we can continue with a mixed language usage ....

Monday 1 October 2012

The essence of the Council: good and bad attempts at definition

Faith Today is a magazine published by Alive Publishing, a kind of development of that apostolate's core publication Bible Alive. When it was first launched, it represented a collaboration with the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, including documents relating to the Bishops Conference. That is no longer the case, but Faith Today does try to address broader issues of Catholic life than do articles in Bible Alive. One such article in the October 2012 issue is entitled "Vatican II: A sure compass for the Church today", and is written to mark the start of the Year of Faith.

Fr Adrian Graffy begins the fourth paragraph of his article:
The essence of Vatican II was a change of attitude.
The formulation is problematical for a number of reasons. It begs the question as to whether or not one can rightly think of there being a uniform "attitude" in the Church before the Council, and, similarly, whether or not the life of the Church since the Council can be characterised by any one single "attitude". And that is before we ask the question of a change from "what attitude" to "what attitude". The generation that will celebrate the Year of Faith without having experienced life before the Council is also going to be unable to relate to its being characterised as in essence a change from a "before" to an "after", making this characterisation irrelevant to them.

To be fair to Fr Graffy, he does go on to indicate some of the new attitudes indicated by the teaching of the Council, but in a manner that is spectacularly selective, even making allowance for the challenge presented by generalising to express things in a short article.
We were members of the "people of God", that wonderful new way of referring to Christian believers....

At the same time the status of every Catholic changed. We recognised the priesthood of all believers, that all of us have a dignity which arises from baptism, that all of us are called to serve according to a God-given vocation ...

Those of us who are old enough will remember how the liturgy was opened up to us. I remember the thrill of hearing the readings and prayers in our own language. Liturgy became once again a catechetical tool.
To respond in turn to each of these ... Lumen Gentium includes a chapter on the hierarchical nature of the Church .... I have correspondence from a friend of my mother, referring to times well before the Council, which demonstrate my mother's evangelising influence in a most striking way (inspired by Cardinal Cardijn's YCW) .... and, so far as I can tell, lack of any real understanding of the nature of the liturgy is far more common on a Sunday morning than the opposite.

Fr Graffy's reference to attitudes, though, reminded me of Karol Wojtyla's book Sources of Renewal, first published in Polish on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Council. The book represents a kind of plan, or orientation, for the post-Conciliar renewal in the Church or, to use another phrase adopted by its author, for the implementation of the Council. It would make a very good read for the Year of Faith. In the first chapter of his book, the future Pope John Paul II very clearly identifies what he believes to be of the essence as far as Vatican II is concerned:
The enrichment of faith is nothing else than increasingly full participation in divine truth. This is the fundamental viewpoint from which we must judge the reality of Vatican II and seek ways of putting it into practice. This is the most adequate criterion and corresponds as well as possible to the reality of the Council, which, as an act of the supreme magisterium, sets out to show our age the way leading to the fulfilment of God's word in the Church. All other formulations seem, by comparison, to present partial and secondary aspects instead of the essential one....

To sum up, the enrichment of faith which we regard as the fundamental pre-requisite for the realization of Vatican II is to be understood in two ways: as an enrichment of the content of faith in accordance with the Council's teaching, but also, originating from that content, an enrichment of the whole existence of the believing member of the Church.
In the second chapter, the author goes on to consider the enrichment of faith as development of what he terms "the religious attitude":
The postulate of conscious faith, as a postulate of the enrichment of faith on the subject's part, is nothing but a constant concern on man's part to respond to God who reveals himself.
It is surely not coincidental that Pope Benedict XVI has chosen to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Council by celebrating a Year of Faith which picks up very much the idea of his predecessor about what constitutes the essence of the Council.

Fr Adrian Graffy is the Director of the Commission for Evangelisation and Formation in my diocese. That someone in such a position can write an article with a woeful grasp of what Vatican II was about is worrying.

[As he articulates the range of different attitudes that the Council calls for in the third part of his book, John Paul II starts by presenting the dual attitudes of "mission and testimony":
Everyone in the Church is in a "state of mission", as is the whole Church - by which we do not as yet mean any particular function of specific task ... It is a question simply, and above all, of the attitude which is the proper response to Revelation.... This attitude is closely linked with that of bearing witness, and is to some extent identical with it. The human being who commits himself entirely to God accepts with his whole self the divine testimony made known in Jesus Christ, and is thus prepared to bear witness to Christ and to God. In this attitude we recognise the whole existential dynamic of faith and the profession of faith.
It is from this basis that he goes on to develop an account of a range of different attitudes arising from the teaching of the Council. The resonance to the public profession of faith to which Pope Benedict has invited the faithful as part of their celebration of the Year of Faith is apparent.]