Thursday 22 November 2012

Female bishops: ..even more nonsense

While Parliamentarians continue to speak what, at least in the BBC reporting, is theological nonsense as far as the debate about female bishops is concerned, but what politically speaking might lead to most unhelpful consequences:
Ms Johnson said it was vital that the Church "is led by the very best, not just those who happen to be male".

"There should be no stained-glass ceiling for women in our church," she told MPs.

"The Church of England now stands to be left behind by the society it seeks to serve, looking outdated, irrelevant, and frankly eccentric by this decision.

"A broad church is being held to ransom by a few narrow minds."

Ms Laing added: "When the decision-making body of the established church deliberately sets itself against the general principles of the society which it represents then its position as the established church must be called into question."

This was "a perfectly good point", Mr Baldry replied.

"What has happened as a consequence of the decision by general synod is the Church of England no longer looks like a national church, it simply looks like a sect like any other sect," he continued.

"If the Church of England wants to be a national church, then it has to reflect the values of the nation."
.....Aunty rather got to the point:
I do not accept the theological thinking behind the "men are meant to be leaders, women not" idea, since women can certainly lead and teach. Priesthood is different from that, and it is this precise thing, the priesthood, that has not been fully explored and grasped.
The problem is that much of what is being said at large about the Church of England in this context can all too easily be extended to public discussion with regard to any other religious body - the references to "narrow minds" and to a Church which is expected to represent society, for example. And the consequences? Cranmer flags up a most immediate one here, and summarises the situation:
Forget the need to find a solution that might be acceptable to everyone: this is now the raw politics of power.

The Last Typewriter

Reports of the production of the last typewriter to be made in the UK remind Joe of a summer holiday - I think it was the one between leaving school and arriving at university. I was not allowed to use the portable typewriter at home unless I went to the trouble of learning to use the keyboard properly. A consequence perhaps of my mother knowing that Dad was only able to use the "search and destroy" technique (a descriptor of two finger typing I heard yesterday) and not being that impressed?

So many a happy hour during that summer was spent doing the exercises from the book. "asdfg - ;lkjh". And I still use the home keys to orientate myself on a keyboard. I have to confess that I never quite fully mastered the top line (the numbers) before the summer ended, but I did get to do everything else with reasonable efficacy.

Many years later, when the use of a computer became all but obligatory for the preparation of teaching materials, I was extremely grateful (please note the severe understatement here, and this is not me being sarcastic) for the fact that I knew the keyboard, and could - quite literally - keyboard a section of text much faster than I could hand write it.

In the early days of computers, one of my placement schools during teacher training had a policy of teaching its pupils how to keyboard properly on the grounds that this was a universally required skill whatever the make or operating system of computer they were likely to use later in life. I am not sure that any school now would adopt such a policy....

Wednesday 21 November 2012

A criterion: reflecting on the Synod vote (and other matters)

I have not followed the debate about women bishops that has taken place at the General Synod of the Church of England meeting in London. However, I have been very struck by the terms of much of the comment that has followed the votes that have stopped progress towards the introduction of female bishops for the Church of England. The sloppiness of media coverage that chooses to describe the three votes as a (single) vote against women bishops is worth noting. The figures for the votes in the three houses of the Synod cited by the BBC report put paid to this idea. A summary of print media comment is here.

It is, however, the characterisation of the decision of the Synod in relation to its responsiveness or otherwise to modern beliefs and feelings both within and without the Church of England that is very striking. It is striking because it is, so far as I can tell, an almost universal characterisation in the media. Indeed, the BBC report already cited suggests that Archbishop Rowan Williams has led the way in this characterisation:
 "Whatever the motivations for voting yesterday, whatever the theological principle on which people acted and spoke, the fact remains that a great deal of this discussion is not intelligible to our wider society - worse than that, it seems that we are wilfully blind to some of the trends and priorities in that wider society." 
The BBC report ends by citing the Equalities minister:
Equalities minister Maria Miller said the vote outcome was "very disappointing", and showed that the Church was "behind the times", sources said.
However, Archbishop Williams did go on to say (see the full transcript here), and the BBC does not report it, that:
We have, as the result of yesterday, undoubtedly lost a measure of credibility in our society, and I make that as an observation as objectively as I can; because it’s perfectly true, as was said yesterday, that the ultimate credibility of the Church does not depend on the good will of the wider public. We would not be Christians and believers in divine revelation if we held that; but the fact is as it is.
This report, also at the BBC website, indicates the positions being adopted by politicians in response to the General Synod vote, also manifesting the criterion of popular opinion as the source of right judgement on matters of Divine revelation:
Mr Cameron - who is a supporter of woman bishops - told MPs: "I'm very sad about the way the vote went yesterday.

"I think it's important for the Church of England to be a modern church in touch with society, as it is today, and this was a key step they needed to take."...

During Prime Minister's Questions Labour MP Ben Bradshaw asked David Cameron what parliament could do to "ensure that the overwhelming will of members of the Church of England, and of this country, is respected".
Archbishop Williams' qualification is important because its omission in much of today's reporting suggests that he accepts the criterion of judgement on this question according to which it is the present day supremacy of "Equalities" as a principle that is determinative. And he does not.

It is odd, though, that those whose responsibilities are not immediately religious - the media and politicians - have been so ready to comment on the outcome of the General Synod vote. But not surprising that the comment has followed a secular agenda that has not captured the essentially religious nature of the debate.

Additional comment on the media coverage and the implications of politcal comment: Disturbing prospects after Synod vote and BBC and Sky enraged by CoE democratic vote against allowing women bishops (though, as I suggest above, the vote was more a failure to muster enough votes in favour than it was a vote against).

Monday 19 November 2012

"Missiles understand neither ethics nor morality"

This page at the website of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem gives some idea of the experience of living in Gaza under the Israeli bombardment: Gaza - Update on the Offensive: Day 6.
The attentive reader will ask: how are the people? What kind of experience are they living? In a word, they are scared, and it cannot be otherwise. Missiles understand neither ethics nor morality. They do not distinguish between young and old, between Christians and Muslims, between men and women … they simply fall and destroy. When we hear the planes and missiles, we experience a very great inner distress, and for some, a relief to see that they have not been hit. Always with the same question: “Until when?” The people want nothing more than simply to live their lives. We ask all leaders to let Gaza live in peace!

Dates for the Diary

At their recent plenary meeting, the Bishops Conference of England and Wales asked the faithful of their dioceses to observe two days of prayer.

The first is for peace in the Middle East, and is to be marked on the feast day of St John Damascene, and has gained an added urgency in the light of the Israeli assault on Gaza:
Conscious of the civil war in Syria and its impact on neighbouring countries, as well as the continuing conflict in the Holy Land, the Bishops’ Conference asks that a day of prayer for peace in the Middle East be observed on 4 December 2012, the Feast of St John Damascene.
The second is a day of prayer for the victims of trafficking and those who work to combat it, to be marked on the feast day of St Josephine Bakhita:
The Bishops’ Conference commends the request to observe the Feast of St Josephine Bakhita - 8 February - as a Day of Prayer for Victims of Trafficking and those who work to combat it.
It wold be nice if these days were to be marked by times of prayer in parishes, perhaps before the Eucharist. One dimension of times of Eucharistic Adoration is that of intercession at a time of urgent need, and these two intentions would reflect that dimension of Eucharistic Adoration. Individuals could also try to make a special effort to attend Mass on these days.

The choice of feast days, and the appropriateness of the lives of the saints involved for the intentions of prayer suggested for these days, reminds us of the universality of the Catholic Church, a universality in both space and time. The participation of individuals and ecclesial communities in these days of prayer would also express a readiness of communion with their bishops.

Saturday 10 November 2012

Madeleine Delbrel: "Love for the Church"

Yesterday's feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica is a multi-layered feast. At one level it is the same feast as that of the dedication of any other Church, be it our own parish Church (celebrated only in the parish) or our own Diocesan Cathedral (celebrated throughout the diocese). It prompts a meditation on the nature of the Church building as a physical place of the presence of Christ in the world and on the way in which the physical building represents the communion of the faithful; both in their own way representing the place of our encounter with the Father through the Son in the Spirit. In the case of the Diocesan Cathedral it also celebrates the office of the Bishop as the centre of communion and of unity in the Diocese. The antiphons for the Liturgy of the Hours from the Common of the Dedication of a Church express all of these themes.

At a second level, the feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica celebrates the office of the Successor of St Peter, an office of communion for the whole Church made up of the local Churches/Dioceses. The "Meditation of the Day" in Magnificat was particularly interesting in this regard. It was taken from an essay entitled "Love for the Church" by Madeleine Delbrel, and published in the collection We, the Ordinary People of the Streets. [See here for my earlier posts about Madeleine Delbrel, and here for the site of the Association des Amis de Madeleine Delbrel where there is a page considering the theme of love of the Church.]The meditation was very much an excerpt, and it is worth going to the original text to read the whole. Madeleine is very clear that we love "the Christ-Church" and she does not envisage any playing off of love of Christ against love of the Church. And Madeleine's love of the Church was not without its tests, particularly when the  "worker priest" movement in France was suppressed, a movement of which she had been a firm supporter and collaborator. At that time, she undertook a visit to Rome to pray at the tomb of St Peter, and her reflection on that visit ends with these paragraphs:
I also thought a lot about the fact that, though St. John is the "disciple Jesus loved", it was Peter that Jesus asked: "Do you love me?" and it was after his affirmations of love that Jesus gave him the flock. He also explained what it means to love: "That which you have done to the least of mmy brothers, you have done unto me".

It became clear to me how essential it is that people, all people, come to know that the hierarchical Church loves them. Peter - a rock who has been asked to love. I understood that all the expressions of the Church have to be penetrated through and through with love.
This is the background to Madeleine's observation in the last paragraph of the Magnificat meditation that:
Rome, through everything else, is the love of God that has been promised to the Church for eternity.
Though some might want to read Madeleine as criticising the hierarchy of the Church when she observes that we all need to come to know that the hierarchical Church loves us, I think that is to mis-represent her. Rather she is expressing an idea that it is of the very office of the hierarchical Church that it represents the love of God in the Church. The "through everything else" indicates that Madeleine's love of the Petrine office is not just a pietism, but an attitude that takes a real account of the difficulties that can arise from the decisions of ecclesial authority and which she and her friends felt. Madeleine's example for today is that we should continue to love that office and not to adopt an attitude that attacks it.
We will be incapable of incarnating God's love in the world, we will be incapable of bringing the Gospel, which is but the manifestation of love, to the world, if we do not first accept the incarnation of this love in the Church, in the mystical Body of Jesus Christ ....

If, through the long course of history, it was necessary to adapt the liturgy, to explain it, to translate it, and if it is once again necessary to do so in our own time, it never has been and is not today a question of making the liturgy more human. It already is human, and tragically so: it is the Passion of the Son of God made man, made continually present among us....
And, in what might be considered a "strap-line" for the Constitution Gaudium et Spes:
The Church will forever aspire to the world. She doesn't need the world in order to accomplish her mission, but without the world, she would have no mission.

Thursday 8 November 2012

SP: Two glances

Some time ago now I posted to the effect that Summorum Pontificum was promulgated with a glance being given in two different directions. See here, and scroll down to question 4; and here, scroll down towards the end.

It has therefore been quite interesting to see two recent contributions from the Holy See that seem to support my interpretation of Summorum Pontificum.

The first was the declaration of the Pontifical Council Ecclesia Dei, with regard to negotiations between the Holy See and the Society of St Pius X.
...Once these doctrinal dialogues were concluded, it became possible to proceed to a phase of discussion more directly focused on the greatly desired reconciliation of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X with the See of Peter.

"Other critical steps in this positive process of gradual reintegration had already been taken by the Holy See in 2007 with the extension of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite to the Universal Church by the Motu Proprio 'Summorum Pontificum' ....
The second is the message sent in the name of Pope Benedict XVI by the Cardinal Secretary of State to the participants in a pilgrimage to Rome of those attached to the Extraordinary Form.
" this Motu Proprio, the Holy Father wished to respond to the hopes of the faithful regarding the forms of liturgy", prior to Vatican Council II.
I find a double interest in the fact that it was the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments who celebrated Mass for this pilgrimage, and not Pope Benedict himself. It has been noted that, in matters Liturgical, Pope Benedict is inclined to lead by example rather than by direction. In not acceding to requests to celebrate Mass in the Extraordinary Form on such a high profile occasion, is not the Holy Father setting an example with regard to the Ordinary Form of the Roman rite being the form that should unify the Church (cf his letter to Bishops accompanying Summorum Pontificum)? One might also see in his decision an exercise in respect for his collaborators, the celebration being left to the Prefect of the dicastery properly responsible for matters Liturgical.

The second interest lies precisely in that. It suggests to me that the celebration of the Extraordinary Form exists in a relation to the Liturgical life of the Church as a whole, and not simply in a relation to the life of those attached to the Extraordinary Form itself (which would have been suggested if the pilgrimage Mass had been celebrated by a representative of the commission Ecclesia Dei). One can read this as suggesting a higher profile across the wider Church for the Extraordinary Form. Or one can read it as promoting the mutual relation of the Extraordinary Form and the Ordinary Form in one Roman rite - the agenda of "mutual enrichment" to date almost totally disregarded.

A final observation might be made about the underlying impulse for unity, expressed in the two-fold glance contained in Summorum Pontificum and the accompanying letter to the bishops, and also in the message to the recent pilgrimage:
Cardinal Bertone adds that in the Year of Faith, which coincides with "the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican Council II, the Holy Father invites all the faithful to make a special demonstration of their unity in faith; in this way they will become effective agents of new evangelisation”.

Sunday 4 November 2012

Worth seeing: Barbara

Earlier this evening, Zero and I saw a film called Barbara. It is a German language film, showing in the UK with English sub-titles. It is very much worth seeing, but on a very limited release, courtesy of Soda Pictures (trailer on this link, too).

Wikepedia description here.

Review from the Independent here.

Review from the Economist here.

The film maintains a tension throughout; there is no scene or dialogue that is without a rationale or a meaning. The striking maintenance of a culture and a medical skill against a background of systemic bullying on the part of a totalitarian regime is a striking testimony to the nature of human freedom. This reaches its final expression in the heroines choice to let another escape to the West in her place.

Well worth seeing.

Thursday 1 November 2012

Texts for All Saints

On the basis that the texts of the Liturgy can offer a teaching on the nature of a feast day being celebrated, it is quite interesting to look at the texts that I encountered for todays Solemnity of All Saints.

The first text to catch my attention was the office hymn for Morning Prayer, or perhaps more strictly, Laudes matutinas, since I use the Latin breviary for the hymn rather than the English. The hymn is Iesu, salvator saeculi and a translation can be found by scrolling down at this page. I was struck by the way in which the hymn presents categories of saints in order interceding for us: the Mother of God (v.1) , the angels, patriarchs and prophets (v.2), the Baptist (v.3), martyrs, confessors and virgins (v.4) and monks (v.5). The hymn for Vespers, Christe, redemptor omnium (translation on the same page as before) has a similar ordering, which includes the apostles. The ordering represents a ranking in order of closeness of participation in the work of Christ, and also in the historical order of salvation history.

The other text that I encountered was the introduction to the Mass for today contained in Magnificat. This was extracted from the words of Pope Benedict XVI:
To become saints means to fulfil completely what we already are, raised to the dignity of God's adopted children in Christ Jesus ...The saints bring to light in a creative fashion quite new human potentialities .... The saints are themselves the living spaces into which one can turn ... There is no isolation in heaven. It is the open society of the saints and, consequently, also teh fulfilment of all human togetherness ... One might say that the saints are, so to speak, new Christian constellations, in which the richness of God's goodness is reflected. Their light, coming from God, enables us to know better the interior richness of God's great light .....Nothing can bring us into close contact with the beauty of Christ himself other than the world of beauty created by faith and light that shines out from the faces of the saints, through whom his own light becomes visible.
And the final text was the Preface from the Mass for today:
For today by your gift we celebrate the festival of your city, the heavenly Jerusalem, our mother, where the great array of our brothers and sisters already gives you eternal praise.

It is true that this feast day celebrates the future glory for which we on earth live in hope, and so has an aspect of reference to ourselves. But these texts point us away from ourselves and towards heaven, towards the "great array" of the angels and saints who there live in worship of the glory of God