Sunday 24 September 2017

The "correction" of that which is in no need of correction ....

I have already posted on why I have no problem with Amoris Laetitia:  see here and, for a "compendium" of my posts on the subject, here.

I also wonder how much an "anti-Francis" attitude, rather than just the question of Amoris Laetitia, sits behind those passages in the so-called "correction" that address other aspects of Pope Francis' exercise of the Office of St Peter. I quote, for example, the full section of Pope Francis' address to members of Communion and Liberation in March 2015, an excerpt of which in the so-called "correction" seems to suggest that we are forgiven without conversion and which demonstrates very little appreciation of the charism of Communion and Liberation:
One cannot understand this dynamic of the encounter if astonishment and adherence are inspired without mercy. Only one who has been caressed by the tenderness of mercy truly knows the Lord. The privileged place of encounter is the caress of Jesus’ mercy regarding my sin. This is why you may have heard me say, several times, that the place for this, the privileged place of the encounter with Jesus Christ is my sin. The will to respond and to change, which can give rise to a different life, comes thanks to this merciful embrace. Christian morality is not a titanic, voluntary effort, of one who decides to be coherent and who manages to do so, a sort of isolated challenge before the world. No. This is not Christian morality, it is something else. Christian morality is a response, it is the heartfelt response before the surprising, unforeseeable — even “unfair” according to human criteria — mercy of One who knows me, knows my betrayals and loves me just the same, appreciates me, embraces me, calls me anew, hopes in me, has expectations of me. Christian morality is not a never falling down, but an always getting up, thanks to his hand which catches us. This too is the way of the Church: to let the great mercy of God become manifest. I said in recent days to the new Cardinals: “The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for eternity; [but] to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart. The way of the Church is precisely to leave her four walls behind and to go out in search of those who are distant, those essentially on the ‘outskirts’ of life. It is to adopt fully God’s own approach”, which is that of mercy (Homily, 15 February 2015). The Church, too, must feel the joyous impetus to become an almond blossom, i.e. spring, like Jesus, for all of humanity.
And this passage from the so-called "correction" is to me a gross misrepresentation of the integration of persons into the life of the Church by way of the "via caritatis" that is proposed in Amoris Laetitia nn.305-306, the fuller context for n.299:
How can we not see here a close similarity with what has been suggested by Your Holiness in Amoris laetitia? On the one hand marriage is supposedly safeguarded as a sacrament, while on the other hand divorce and remarriage are regarded ‘mercifully’ as a status quo to be – although only ‘pastorally’ – integrated into the life of the Church, thus openly contradicting the word of our Lord.

Saturday 23 September 2017

Padre Pio and the stigmata

Today's memorial of St Pio of Pietrelcina has reminded me of writing an article about him for a parish magazine at the time of his canonisation. At the time, St Pio was not someone about whom I knew much, and he was not someone to whom I had any special devotion.

One of the things I found unusual about him was that, as a man, he experienced the stigmata, the marking of his body with the wounds of the passion of Christ. Most of the other stigmatists I knew of at the time were women, so I had a sense of the stigmata as part of a feminine charism in the Church, certainly as far as the contemporary life of the Church is concerned. This is what I wrote about it at the time:
The core of Padre Pio’s active apostolate and his spiritual mission in the Church, however, is his being marked with the wounds of Christ, the stigmata.  The visible marks are an outward sign of a lived experience of the crucifixion, both as a willing self-offering on the part of the person involved and as a gift from God of being able to take part in the suffering of Jesus himself.  Padre Pio is distinguished from his contemporary stigmatists (Marthe Robin, Adrienne von Speyr, Therese Neumann) as a man and as a priest.  Where their experience of the Passion is associated with time - from Thursday evening to Sunday morning or the period of the Easter Triduum - Padre Pio’s experience is associated with his celebration of the Eucharist.  Eyewitness accounts describe the intense pain that he experienced in his hands, feet and whole body as he celebrated Mass.  At the words of Consecration, said hesitantly and with frequent repeating of words, “he is literally on the cross with Christ”.  Blood flowed from the wounds in Padre Pio’s hands, feet and side.  After his Mass, Padre Pio would spend many hours celebrating the Sacrament of Penance.  This aspect of his mission in the Church can also be seen in the light of the stigmata.  In this sacrament, the Church bears the burden of sin “for others” and for Padre Pio this was explicit in the way in which he offered himself as a victim for others.  Whilst there are many stories of Padre Pio’s supernatural insight into the lives of those who came to him for confession, he was for the majority of people simply a very good confessor and counsellor.
The Collect for his feast captures something of the essence of St Pio's mission in the Church:
Almighty ever-living God, who, by a singular grace, gave the Priest Saint Pius a share in the Cross of your Son and, by means of his ministry, renewed the wonders of your mercy, grant that through his intercession we may united constantly to the sufferings of Christ, and so brought happily to the glory of the resurrection.
[For those not familiar with the phenomenon of the stigmata, it is a rare occurrence in the life of the Church, but well attested in the lives of those who experience it. As I indicate above, it should not be seen as just a "wonder" but as an expression of a particular gift and mission given to an individual in the Church.]

Thursday 21 September 2017

A patients best interest? Really?

In a report headlined "Court ruling not needed to withdraw care, judge says", the BBC reports in its analysis of a court ruling with regard to patients in a permanent vegetative state that:
Today's ruling makes clear that as things stand, courts need not be involved in these sorts of cases, so long as doctors and families are in agreement, and the removal of food and water are in the best interests of the patient.
They quote a spokesperson of Compassion in Dying (a pro-euthanasia campaign group) as saying:
"When all parties - family, the hospital and treating doctors - are agreed on what someone would have wanted for their care, it seems absurd to require a costly court process to confirm this." 
The good of human life, in its ethical sense, means that it can never be supportive of that ethical good to remove nutrition and hydration from a human person. They are so fundamental to the good of life that their removal on the grounds of "best interest" in reality constitutes a denial of that good.

[From an ethical point of view, the removal of nutrition and hydration if provided by a clinical means such as a nasogastric tube may only be justifiable when a patients condition reaches the point where their organs are no longer able to metabolise that food and water. Its provision is then futile in the strict sense, and there is no ethical judgement in terms of "best interest", there instead being a quite different recognition of futility. I suspect that such a situation might only be reached in the last minutes or hour of life; and the situations being envisaged by this court judgement are not of this type at all.]

How family, hospital and treating doctors are entitled, or even able, to agree on what a non-communicative patient would have wanted for their care at the particular moment is also a mystery. That a spokesperson for a euthanasia campaign group should be quoted in this way is worrying for its indication of the potential pressure (from decision making by others) on patients to agree to steps taken to end their lives should euthanasia be legalised at some point in the future.

This ruling is likely to be appealed - with the potential that, if it is upheld at appeal, there will be no further redress.

Saturday 16 September 2017

All the Cathedrals (6): Leicester

I think we visited Leicester before any idea of visiting Cathedral towns had occurred to us. At the time of our visit Leicester City Football Club were atop the Premier League, and Richard III had not been that longed interred at the Cathedral. Indeed, it was the opening of the visitor centre on the site of the discovery of Richard III's remains that provided the reason for our visit.

Walking from the railway station to the Richard III visitor centre took us first of all into a shopping area that might have been in any town. However, the Lanes represents a quite different experience, with small shops and narrow streets. We wandered the market at one point in the day, too.

The Richard III visitor centre is well worth a visit. The presentation of the story of the discovery of Richard III's remains beneath a council car park, and the subsequent investigations that confirmed that these remains were indeed him, is excellent (though the detail might put some off from following the whole story). The last room in the visit contains a glass panel in the floor which allows you to look down at the very place where the remains were found. Since nothing else is displayed in this room, it provides a very reflective end to a visit. The more you know about the Wars of the Roses the more you will appreciate the significance of Richard III and his connection to Leicester. [If you can make anything of the Wikipedia page you have a better brain than mine. Desmond Seward's A Brief History of The Wars of the Roses is my own reading on the subject.]

We then crossed the nearby square to visit Richard III's tomb in Leicester Cathedral. We had to queue for a few minutes before accessing the tomb. The presentation is, like the last room of the visitor centre, very reflective.

The cathedral building itself was only relatively recently designated as a Cathedral, which means that it has something more of the character of a parish church. It shares, in a slightly different way than other cathedrals we have visited, the narrative of Saxon foundation, followed by a Norman construction, a stripping of statues and decoration at the time of the reformation (the Greyfriars monastery where Richard III's remains had been interred was closed at this point) and Victorian restoration. The history of the cathedral building is outlined here. This page allows you to take a virtual walk round the cathedral; the links from the side bar at the top of the page allow you to read more about the main features of the building.

A Lancastrian, of course, will not patronise the White Rose café as a matter of conscience!

Saturday 9 September 2017

"Mary is the first light who announces night’s end...."

I have not followed Pope Francis' visit to Colombia closely, but was particularly struck by the text of his homily at Villavicencio. This report at the Vatican Radio website includes a lovely image, as well as the full text of the homily. Once again, reading Pope Francis, I am put in mind of the beauty of language that is also typical of Pope Benedict XVI.

The writings of Ingrid Betancourt have given me some idea of the history of the conflict in Colombia that now promises to have come to an end. The force of Pope Francis' words in favour of reconciliation are, in that context, immense. Force is added to them by the city in which they were spoken, a city which saw one of the most tragic events of the Colombian conflict.
Mary is the first light who announces night’s end, and above all, the impending day.  Her birth helps us to understand the loving, tender, compassionate plan of love in which God reaches down and calls us to a wonderful covenant with him, that nothing and no one will be able to break...
Reconciliation is not an abstract word; if it were, then it would only bring sterility and greater distance.  Reconciliation means opening a door to every person who has experienced the tragic reality of conflict.  When victims overcome the understandable temptation to vengeance, they become the most credible protagonists for the process of building peace.  What is needed is for some to courageously take the first step in that direction, without waiting for others to do so.  We need only one good person to have hope!  And each of us can be that person!  This does not mean ignoring or hiding differences and conflicts.  This is not to legitimize personal and structural injustices.  Recourse to reconciliation cannot merely serve to accommodate unjust situations.  Instead, as Saint John Paul II taught: “[Reconciliation] is rather a meeting between brothers who are disposed to overcome the temptation to egoism and to renounce the attempts of pseudo-justice.  It is the fruit of sentiments that are strong, noble and generous that lead to establishing a coexistence based on respect for each individual and on the values that are proper to each civil society” (Letter to the Bishops of El Salvador, 6 August 1982).  Reconciliation, therefore, becomes substantive and is consolidated by the contribution of all; it enables us to build the future, and makes hope grow.  Every effort at peace without a sincere commitment to reconciliation is destined to fail. 

Sunday 3 September 2017

All the Cathedrals (5): Durham

Our visit to Durham Cathedral was part of a long weekend visit that Zero and I took to Durham, courtesy of a recently purchased Two Together railcard and Advance tickets (ie as economic an arrangement of train travel as possible). Ed Balls, then an active politician rather than a star of Strictly Come Dancing, was on the train that was in front of us on the East Coast mainline, and which broke down just north of Peterborough delaying us for over an hour .... which meant we could reclaim the cost of that part of our journey. Our weekend took us to the Beamish Museum (follow the "Explore and Discover" links in the menu at the top left), with a ride on a "heritage" Blackpool tram .... but not that "heritage", as it was exactly like the trams I can remember travelling on when I was being raised in the Blackpool area. We also visited Crookhall Gardens, which can be found readily just off the centre of Durham city itself.

It is worth arriving in Durham by train, as, particularly arriving from the south, there is a splendid view of the Cathedral from the viaduct carrying the railway.

Durham Cathedral takes part in the not uncommon narrative of Benedictine community, Romanesque building at the time of the Norman conquest, dissolution of the monastic community and establishing of a Cathedral see with a chapter of canons at the time of Henry VIII and a further intrusion at the time of the Civil War. This page at the Cathedral website gives an outline of its history. These video clips give an idea of the setting and the architecture of the Cathedral: Durham Cathedral: Builders & Buildings and Durham, England: Magnificent Norman Cathedral. Zero and I enjoyed a stroll along the river bank that encircles the Cathedral on three sides.

Links from this page will tell you something of the different areas of interest in the Cathedral building. Do explore these links, as doing so will provide something of the experience of visiting the Cathedral. A visit to the Cathedral's tower provides superb views of the surrounding countryside.

An additional dimension of the history of Durham Cathedral is its role as the shrine of St Cuthbert. The shrine was destroyed at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, and the tomb damaged. An account of the shrine can be found here, and the remains of the tomb itself have been preserved. It is interesting that the Church of England appears willing now to restore a shrine such as this, perhaps from a mixture of historical and religious motivation. The Galilee Chapel of the Cathedral also houses a shrine enclosing the bones of St Bede.

Durham itself has a very young feel to it, especially if you visit during term time. The collegiate nature of the university is reflected as you walk up the hill to visit the Cathedral, as you pass entrances to a number of university buildings. Durham is built on a hill, so visitors should expect to walk up and down rather than along the flat.