Saturday 21 May 2016

It's unbelievable ....

... that the Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives in the UK should suggest that abortion is part of a midwife's calling (reported today in several print/online media sources).

It is also disingenuous of the Chief Executive to at the same time argue that her position does not mean that the RCM is in favour of or opposed to abortion, that it is a neutral position. Cathy Warwick's position is one that clearly favours the free availability of abortion. It is a pro-abortion position, and she should be honest enough to say so.

The petition at this link allows separate sign up for those who are midwives and those who are members of the general public. The link also provides updated background to the story of the RCM Chief Executive's decision to add RCM support to a campaign to remove any limits on the availability of abortion in the UK.

Monday 16 May 2016

Boris on Europe

Boris Johnson's remarks (here and here) comparing the present day European Union to the efforts of such as Hitler and Napoleon are quite gratuitously offensive. And the readiness of others to spring to his defence displays an ignorance of the historical origins of the European Union that is incredible to watch.

If you read the biographies of the figures now seen as the "founding fathers" of the European Union two things are very apparent. Firstly, in different ways dictated by their different national origins, they resisted Nazism or Italian Fascism; and secondly their inspiration was that a Europe that had a range of economic and social interdependence was a Europe that would not again be able to be rent by the horror of warfare.

Konrad Adenaur - who refused to decorate Cologne with swastikas for a visit of Adolf Hitler after the Nazis came to power.

Alcide de Gaspari - who was imprisoned by the Italian fascists before the Second World War, and subsequently protected from them by way of an employment in the Vatican library.

Sicco Mansholt - an active and effective member of the resistance movement against the Nazis in occupied Holland during the Second World War.

Robert Schuman - active in the French resistance against the Nazis, who narrowly escaped deportation to Dachau. [Robert Schuman was sheltered for at least part of the time at the Catholic Shrine of La Salette, where a room in the shrine complex is named after him.]

Altiero Spinelli - imprisoned for 16 years by the Italian fascists.

Winston Churchill - whose plea for a "United States of Europe" makes a complete nonsense of Boris Johnson's claim that Churchill would join him in campaigning for an out vote.

It is sad that, given the original inspiration of a shared economic and social life between the different nations of Europe in favour of the promotion of peace between those nations, the present debate before the UK's referendum on membership of the European Union is being conducted almost exclusively in the language of self interest. Our politicians are presenting us with the wrong question, that of which outcome will make the UK more (apparently) prosperous, whereas the right question is that of the common good of all the peoples of Europe.

Pope Francis has reminded us of this original inspiration in his address on receiving the Charlemagne Prize:
The writer Elie Wiesel, a survivor of the Nazi death camps, has said that what we need today is a “memory transfusion”. We need to “remember”, to take a step back from the present to listen to the voice of our forebears. Remembering will help us not to repeat our past mistakes (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 108), but also to re-appropriate those experiences that enabled our peoples to surmount the crises of the past. A memory transfusion can free us from today’s temptation to build hastily on the shifting sands of immediate results, which may produce “quick and easy short-term political gains, but do not enhance human fulfilment” (ibid., 224).
To this end, we would do well to turn to the founding fathers of Europe. They were prepared to pursue alternative and innovative paths in a world scarred by war. Not only did they boldly conceive the idea of Europe, but they dared to change radically the models that had led only to violence and destruction. They dared to seek multilateral solutions to increasingly shared problems.
It is worth reading the whole of Pope Francis' address for its account of a Europe rooted in three capacities - the capacity to integrate, the capacity for dialogue and the capacity to generate .

Thursday 12 May 2016

A plague on both your houses

This from the learned pages of the National Catholic Reporter (I have added the underlining):
... welcome back to the 'twilight zone' that was well and truly entered by the Catholic Church on 13/3/13. In the vortex of diabolical mayhem known simply as the 'post-Benedict XVI era', Catholic bloggers are tasked with the mission of encouraging Catholics to stay faithful to the Faith passed down to us while it is further polluted, corrupted and overthrown centrally by men who have overseen its decline locally for the past 30-40 years, while lauding the wisdom of the 'new direction'. Yes, vocations can plummet, Churches can empty and close and the souls of millions can - through deliberate, wilful ambiguity on the part of prelates - be placed in graver jeopardy that ever before, but the esotericist can still claim the 'new direction' to be a success even when objective statistics suggest anything but success. I guess that's just part of what makes the new Catholic gnosticism so much fun.
And this from the rather unintelligent extreme of Tradition (again, I have added the underlining):
A Christian is not supposed to give up hope. She is not to despair.
But after three very uplifting and incredible years under the prophetic leadership and compelling personal witness of Pope Francis, many reform-minded Catholics have again become quite worried about the future direction of their church.
It is not that their honeymoon with the first New World pope is over. (The memory of what a disastrous state the church was in before his election has prevented that from happening just yet.)
But there are growing concerns that, despite being able to effect a seismic change in attitude and ethos throughout the worldwide Catholic family, Francis has done nothing to ensure that this will not all be tossed aside once he is gone.
It should be stated again, without any gloss, that he must move more quickly to make structural and juridical changes that cannot be easily undone by one of his successors.
I am reminded of Abbot Vonier's insight, on which I have commented at length - The Church we are in. I concluded that post as follows:
To return to the reflection based on Abbot Vonier's notion that the Church should not be seen as divided into an "ideal" and a "real", but exists as a single entity whose beauty and holiness shine out to the world. If we look around us during the papacy of Pope Francis, we see the Church that we are in, and some of it - perhaps more on the reform-minded side than on the Traditionalist side - appears pretty far off the wall. But if we take Abbot Vonier's insight seriously, there is an abiding beauty and splendour that is there in all of it. And we need to trust that it is there and that it does still shine out.
The touchstone of that shining out is, as it has ever been, the office of the Successor of Peter. Nothing is to be gained by excoriating - or mis-representing -  its holder. 

Wednesday 4 May 2016

Vigil of Prayer to "dry the tears of physical or spiritual suffering"

This event, in which Pope Francis will participate tomorrow (Thursday) in the Vatican Basilica, is striking in any number of ways.

It seems so typically something that Pope Francis would do ....

It captures a devotion of popular piety, typifying how such devotions represent, as Pope Francis said (in Evangelium Gaudium, I think) the inculturation of the Gospel.....

And it connects that devotion of piety into a more formal, though perhaps not strictly speaking Liturgical, structure ..... devotion leading towards the Liturgy and in turn drawing from the Liturgy....

Zero and I visited the shrine at Syracuse, where this devotion is particularly recognised, during a holiday some years ago, so it strikes a personal chord, too.

The announcement at the website of the Holy See reads:

Vatican City, 3 May 2016 – On 5 May, the solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, the Pope will preside at a prayer vigil in St. Peter's Basilica to "dry faces streaked with the tears of a physical or spiritual suffering, bringing consolation and hope".
The event, that takes place in the context of the Jubilee Year, is intended as a visible sign of the merciful hand of the Father that reaches out to dry the tears of a mother or a father who has lost a child, of a child who has lost his or her parents, of those who battle against sickness, of those who have lost their job or are unable to find employment, of those who experience situations of discord in the family, of those who are alone because they are elderly, of those who suffer from existential malaise, of those who have suffered injustice, of those who have lost the meaning of life or are unable to find it. There are many and varied types of suffering, great or small, that each person carries within them, but they are all characterised by the "hardship" they cause in life and often a lack of hope and trust.
On the occasion of the vigil, the faithful in St. Peter's Basilica will be able to venerate the reliquary of Our Lady of Tears of Syracuse, linked to the prodigious phenomenon that took place between 29 August and 1 September 1953, when a plaster image representing the immaculate heart of Mary, placed above the bed in the house of a young married couple, Angelo Iannuso and Antonina Giusto, shed human tears.

The booklet of the celebration is here, and the inclusion of three testimonies reminds me of the practice of such movements as the Charismatic Renewal (with which Pope Francis is very familiar).

H/T to Abbey Roads

Sunday 1 May 2016

SSPX as a Personal Prelature? A warning

When Pope Benedict XVI made provision, in the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, for a more ready celebration of the Extraordinary Form, there was no intention on his part that this should give rise to a "restoration" of the previous Liturgy over and against that promulgated by Pope Paul VI. Rather his intention was to create a sense of a "home" for those who enjoyed an attachment to that Liturgy in the wider Church. As well as indicating a care towards those attached to the Extraordinary Form who had retained their fidelity to local Ordinaries and the Holy See, the Motu Proprio also represented a step that might have helped the Society of St Pius X to regularise its position with regard to the universal Church, something that has not as yet come to pass.
I now come to the positive reason which motivated my decision to issue this Motu Proprio updating that of 1988. It is a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church. Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. One has the impression that omissions on the part of the Church have had their share of blame for the fact that these divisions were able to harden.  This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew. [Letter to Bishops accompanying Summorum Pontificum]
Art 1.  The Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI is the ordinary expression of the lex orandi (rule of prayer) of the Catholic Church of the Latin rite.  The Roman Missal promulgated by Saint Pius V and revised by Blessed John XXIII is nonetheless to be considered an extraordinary expression of the same lex orandi of the Church and duly honoured for its venerable and ancient usage.  These two expressions of the Church’s lex orandi will in no way lead to a division in the Church’s lex credendi (rule of faith); for they are two usages of the one Roman rite. [Summorum Pontificum Art 1.]
For that matter, the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching: new Saints and some of the new Prefaces can and should be inserted in the old Missal.  The “Ecclesia Dei” Commission, in contact with various bodies devoted to the usus antiquior, will study the practical possibilities in this regard. The celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage.  The most sure guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives. This will bring out the spiritual richness and the theological depth of this Missal. [Letter to Bishops accompanying Summorum Pontificum].
With the passage of time since 2007, it appears to me that those promoting the celebration of the Extraordinary Form have become increasingly open about the selective way in which they wish to implement Summorum Pontificum. They are happy to take the easier access to such celebrations - but they do not accept the indications in Pope Benedict's letter with regard to the position of the Missal of Paul VI, the notion of mutual enrichment or the idea that the two forms of the one Roman Rite are equally "of tradition". This was expressed quite explicitly recently on the blog of the Chairman of the Latin Mass Society, and his citation of Michael Davies is suggestive of how far this attitude towards contemporary ecclesial life may be systemic among traditionalist Catholics:
What is significant about a document from Rome is what it changes, not what it says. This is an exegetical principle of the late Michael Davies: when reading a new document, ask What does it allow which was not previously allowed? What does it forbid which was not previously forbidden? The rest is padding. The truth of this principle becomes clear with the assistance of hindsight. What is significant about Paul VI's Memoriale Domini is that it allowed Communion in the Hand: it is irrelevant that nine tenths of the thing is hymn of praise for Communion on the Tongue, and that it actually says that the existing rules aren't being changed. That 90% of the document is inert, like the polystyrene padding in a parcel. In exactly the same way, what is significant about Summorum Pontificum is that the Traditional Mass is allowed without permission from bishops. The rhetorical concessions to liberals unhappy about this, slipped in here and there, are of no significance. Getting worked up about them is a complete waste of time.
As far as the Liturgy goes this may not be leading to great division within the Church, though it is not likely that it genuinely promotes that "reconciliation in the heart of the Church" desired by Pope Benedict. The vast majority of us continue to use the Missal of Paul VI; and the typical parishioner is highly unlikely to be affected in any way by Summorum Pontificum.

However, the stakes are much higher with regard to the rumoured reconciliation of the Society of St Pius X in the form of a Personal Prelature.  According to the interview with Archbishop Pozzo in La Croix, (according to the account given here as I am not able to find the link to the original):
"The difficulties raised by the SSPX concerning the Church-State relationship and religious freedom, the practice of ecumenism and dialogue with non-Christian religions, certain aspects of the liturgical reform and its concrete application, remain subject to discussion and clarification but do not constitute an obstacle to a canonical and juridical recognition of the SSPX. 
"The documents of the Second Vatican Council must be received with the required degree of adherence.

"The acceptance of the texts on relations with other religions is not a prerequisite for the canonical recognition of the Lefebvrist society, and certain questions can remain 'subject to discussion and clarification'." Anticipating already a canonical recognition —for which he has been working since 1987— the prelate announces that the Second Vatican Declarations "will, even after the canonical recognition, remain subject to discussion and deeper study, in order to obtain greater precision and avoid the misunderstandings or ambivalences that we know to have spread throughout today’s ecclesial world.” 
According to Abp. Pozzo, the SSPX is requested "to accept that the Magisterium of the Church is the only one entrusted with guarding, defending and interpreting the deposit of the Faith". 
If traditionalist Catholics take the same attitude to this reconciliation, should it occur as rumoured, as they have taken to Summorum Pontificum, they will rejoice at the establishment of the Personal Prelature........and consider any accompanying affirmations of the necessity of fidelity to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council to be of no account. Archbishop Pozzo's diplomatic use of the words "discussion" and "clarification" should not hide the fact that there is doctrinal disagreement here.

The very real danger is that, should a regularization of the canonical situation of the SSPX take place before the issues relating to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council are resolved, traditionalist Catholics will take it as a green light to dissent from that teaching and from the teaching of subsequent Popes. Rather than achieving a "reconciliation at the heart of the Church" it will contribute to an institutionalising of a division at the heart of the Church.