Saturday 29 October 2016

Proud of our diversity?

The commitments, particularly in the field of education, contained in the Labour Party's recent Proud of our Diversity document make it timely to re-post the Catholic teaching below.

Perhaps the proposed changes to the National Curriculum will also include the discrimination against those who oppose the legislative outcomes achieved by gay activists in recent years?

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,140 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."141 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
And from Pope Francis' Amoris Laetitia:
56. Yet another challenge is posed by the various forms of an ideology of gender that "denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby elimination the anthropological basis of the family. This ideology leads to educational programmes and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity  and emotional intimacy radially separated from the biological difference between male and female. Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time". It is a source of concern that some ideologies of this sort, which seek to respond to what are at times understandable aspirations, manage to assert themselves as absolute and unquestionable, even dictating how children should be raised. It needs to be emphasised that "biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated"..... It is one thing to be understanding of human weakness and the complexities of life, and another to accept ideologies that attempt o sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality. Let us not fall into the sin of trying to replace the Creator. We are creatures, and not omnipotent. Creation is prior to us and must be received as a gift. At the same time, we are called to protect our humanity, and this means, in the first place, accepting and respecting it as it was created.

Saturday 22 October 2016

I think I shall miss the Year of Mercy when it ends ....

It can appear that, in inaugurating a Year of Mercy, Pope Francis was being radical and novel in the way in which he wished to encourage us to live the Christian life. Actually I believe that what he has done is draw attention to a dimension of the Christian life that is already present and multiform in Catholic life.

The year has given me a sensitivity, for example, to those occasions when the Church's Liturgy makes reference to the mercy of God. The Collect for the Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, for example, is:
O God, protector of those who hope in you, without whom nothing has firm foundation, nothing is holy, bestow in abundance your mercy upon us and grant that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may use the good things that pass in such a way as to hold fast even now to those that ever endure.
And for Twenty Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time:
O God, who manifest your almighty power above all by pardoning and showing mercy, bestow, we pray, your grace abundantly upon us and make those hastening to your promises heirs to the treasures of heaven.
Reading recently about Elizabeth of the Trinity, I came across a reference (which I can't at the moment trace) to St Catherine of Siena's praise of Divine Mercy in her Dialogue. This occurs in the section "A Treatise of Discretion" (text taken from EWTN website, and the same as that in the translation published by Baronius Press in 2006):
How this soul wondering at the mercy of God, relates many gifts and graces given to the human race.
Then this soul, as it were, like one intoxicated, could not contain herself, but standing before the face of God, exclaimed, "How great is the Eternal Mercy with which You cover the sins of Your creatures! I do not wonder that You say of those who abandon mortal sin and return to You, 'I do not remember that you have ever offended Me.' Oh, ineffable Mercy! I do not wonder that You say this to those who are converted, when You say of those who persecute You, 'I wish you to pray for such, in order that I may do them mercy.' Oh, Mercy, who proceeds from Your Eternal Father, the Divinity who governs with Your power the whole world, by You were we created, in You were we re-created in the Blood of Your Son. Your Mercy preserves us, Your Mercy caused Your Son to do battle for us, hanging by His arms on the wood of the Cross, life and death battling together; then life confounded the death of our sin, and the death of our sin destroyed the bodily life of the Immaculate Lamb. Which was finally conquered? Death! By what means? Mercy! Your Mercy gives light and life, by which Your clemency is known in all Your creatures, both the just and the unjust. In the height of Heaven Your Mercy shines, that is, in Your saints. If I turn to the earth, it abounds with Your Mercy. In the darkness of Hell Your Mercy shines, for the damned do not receive the pains they deserve; with Your Mercy You temper Justice. By Mercy You have washed us in the Blood, and by Mercy You wish to converse with Your creatures. Oh, Loving Madman! was it not enough for You to become Incarnate, that You must also die? Was not death enough, that You must also descend into Limbo, taking thence the holy fathers to fulfil Your Mercy and Your Truth in them? Because Your goodness promises a reward to them that serve You in truth, You descended to Limbo, to withdraw from their pain Your servants, and give them the fruit of their labours. Your Mercy constrains You to give even more to man, namely, to leave Yourself to him in food, so that we, weak ones, should have comfort, and the ignorant commemorating You, should not lose the memory of Your benefits. Wherefore every day You give Yourself to man, representing Yourself in the Sacrament of the Altar, in the body of Your Holy Church. What has done this? Your Mercy. Oh, Divine Mercy! My heart suffocates in thinking of you, for on every side to which I turn my thought, I find nothing but mercy. Oh, Eternal Father! Forgive my ignorance, that I presume thus to chatter to You, but the love of Your Mercy will be my excuse before the Face of Your loving-kindness."
"In the darkness of Hell Your Mercy shines ..." is the phrase which strikes me most as capturing something of the spirit of the Year of Mercy.

This is without considering the more recent development of devotion to the Divine Mercy prompted by the charism of St Faustina, and the establishing of the Liturgical celebration of that devotion at the beginning of the Easter season.

As I said above, rather than representing a radical innovation, the Year of Mercy draws our attention to a dimension of Christian life that is present already in the history and life of the Church and encourages us to live it with an ever greater richness.

Monday 10 October 2016

Is there a right to offend?

There is a certain fashion for saying, in its negative expression, that we have no right to be protected from others giving offence to us; or, in the corresponding positive expression, there is a right of one person to act or speak in a manner that gives offence to another. I heard it again the other day, expressed by a BBC radio interviewer.

Now there is certainly a prudential judgement to be made as to whether or not the giving of offence should be proscribed by law, and thereby attract a criminal or civil sanction before the law. This arises because the law would find it difficult to distinguish between legitimate difference of opinion and an offence of giving offence, however the latter might be defined. So the law, at least in this country, does not proscribe offensive language used towards another and, instead, remains silent on the matter.

But does the absence of legal proscription thereby confer its opposite - that is, does it confer a right to carry out the action that it does not proscribe? Many would believe that it does. A reading of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights would, in my view, suggest otherwise.

Its preamble argues from the "recognition of the inherent dignity .... of all members of the human family", while Article 1 argues that all persons "should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."

Article 12 reads: "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."

Article 12 has a particular bearing on Articles 18 and 19, which propose the freedom of religious belief and the freedom of belief and expression. Neither of these freedoms can be effectively exercised if people are subject to abusive behaviour or language in their regard; that is, if through attacks on the honour and reputation of their religious or political community, people are subject to mediated attacks on their individual honour and reputation.

Now the content of one person's religion or belief might be such that it is offensive to the religion or belief of another (which is the difficulty that the law faces in proscribing offensive language and behaviour). The expression of difference of opinion in this respect might give rise to offence in a very qualified manner as regards the content of what is expressed. But the recognition of the dignity of the person in the other, and regard for his or her honour and reputation, certainly constrains the manner of the expression of difference. And in this sense, I think the UN Declaration should suggest to us that, no, there is not an unqualified right to be offensive towards others.

Whilst the proscription of the law might extend only to hate crime based on certain protected characteristics, and not to offensiveness itself, there remains the obligation, articulated in human rights instruments, for citizens to maintain the dignity of others, and to respect their honour and reputation. The lack of legal proscription makes the responsibility of the citizen in this regard all the more important.

Sunday 9 October 2016

The Ordinary Form in the style of Fortescue?

Visiting a parish recently, I experienced what might be stereotyped as a celebration of the Ordinary Form according to the style of Fr Adrian Fortescue. That's not to say that the celebration was authentically derived from Fortescue - in some ways it was, but, I suspect, in other ways it wasn't.

Poor Father. He definitely appeared to be more concerned with the inches between his extended hands (I doubt that centimetres, that most heinous modern innovation, would have entered his mind), the burse stood upright on the altar when not in use, and several other like things, rather than anything else. One can be irrelevantly pedantic in suggesting that a priest should "celebrate" Mass rather than "say" Mass - but if ever I have encountered Mass being "said" rather than "celebrated" this was it. It was Liturgical form without any soul; it appeared to have only the smallest regard for the congregation present who could be forgiven for feeling that they were an inconvenience; and that included the homily which was read like a prescribed script (I can't comment on content because I very quickly stopped listening and reverted to Magnificat, my resort in circumstances that are usually different in nature). I suspect that even the most evenly balanced of MCs wouldn't have coped with it (there wasn't one, and no altar servers either, which perhaps wasn't surprising).

The funniest bit for me was the three strong tugs on the maniple to stop it sliding down over the wrist - I think towards the end of Eucharistic Prayer I, though my memory fails me a little here. Oh, and much as I might want to encourage other priests to give Eucharistic Prayer I its fair use, this unfeeling recitation left me cold. I can only remember the "Through Christ our Lord. Amen" recited without pause between the end of one paragraph and the start of the next.

I tell the story because, if the Trads have the idea that this kind of thing is a model of the mutual enrichment sought by Pope Benedict XVI in his letter to bishops that accompanied Summorum Pontificum, they couldn't be more wrong. To misquote Pope Francis, it is more like an ideological colonisation of the Ordinary Form. It won't have anything to say beyond their own enclaves. (Perhaps my recent experience was untypical, I don't know).

Likewise, the persistent reference to the "new Mass" or "novus ordo", and indiscriminating reference to the "Latin Mass" or the "Traditional Mass", don't help the cause of mutual enrichment either. One of the clear points to Pope Benedict's letter, and to Summorum Pontificum itself, is that the one form is just as "traditional", in the juridical sense, as the other. Playing them off against each other was not something that Pope Benedict envisaged at all.

As with the campaign against Amoris Laetitia (much that I read of this campaign, which gains the approbation of the Trad blogosphere, appears exactly like the kind of thing that would be written by others to denigrate the teaching of the Successor of Peter, and be excoriated by the same Trad blogosphere - perhaps the appeal to Canon 212 n.3 to justify their actions being an illustrative point), there seems to be a selection of those bits of the exercise of the Office of the Successor of Peter, be that Benedict or Francis, that suit and a disregard for those bits that don't. Once one begins to have a conversation in terms that distinguish between the present day exercise of the Office of Peter and that of his predecessors, with the intention of undermining the former, I fear there is shifting sand under one's feet rather than firm foundations.

But then perhaps the Traditionalist movement has always carried with it the risk of becoming a kind of magisterium of its own....

Wednesday 5 October 2016

National Poetry Day 2016

At school, colleagues have been encouraged to share a favourite poem with their classes to mark National Poetry Day tomorrow. The poems are also being displayed in the school library.

My choice is Gerard Manley Hopkins The Windhover.

To Christ our Lord

To Christ our Lord I caught this morning morning's minion, kingdom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-     dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
  As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
  Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, - the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
  Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

  No wonder of it: shèer plòd makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
  Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold vermilion.