Thursday 28 October 2010

Of doves and serpents: the road to the Ordinariate

Pastor Emeritus and others have drawn readers’ attention to this article about the Ordinariate, which appeared in The Daily Telegraph on 21 Oct 2010, under the name of the paper’s Religious Affairs Editor, Tim Ross. The source for the article was an interview with Dr Rowan Williams, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, in The Hindu newspaper.

In a surprise announcement, Dr Rowan Williams said he wanted to establish a new joint group of Roman Catholic and Church of England figures to oversee the conversion process.

The proposed group would be designed to enable smooth and less painful transition for those who want to leave the Church of England to become Roman Catholics in protest at the ordination of women bishops. …….

“As this is now being implemented, we are trying to make sure that there is a joint group which will keep an eye on how it's going to happen. In England, the relations between the Church of England and Roman Catholic Bishops are very warm and very close. I think we are able to work together on this and not find it a difficulty.”

It is understood that neither the Church of England nor the Roman Catholic authorities in England and Wales have yet agreed to Dr Williams’s proposal for a joint group to oversee the Ordinariate.

"Come into my parlour, said the spider to the fly", wrote Pastor Emeritus, which made me laugh. Far be it from me to hint (perish the thought!) that any such thing is in their minds, or will be part of the remit of the proposed ecumenical group. I very much hope that the E&W bishops are not, either alone or in combination with the CofE bishops, attempting to take control of the Ordinariate. I’ve no doubt that helpful things can be contributed by all parties; but there is a limit.

As I understand it, the Anglican-Catholic Ordinary will have as direct and unmediated a right of access to Rome as any Latin-rite English or Welsh bishop. Neither the Ordinary nor any other bishop is subordinate to the Bishops’ Conference. And certainly not to a joint Catholic-Church of England group which seeks to “work together on this”.

Charity in all things, of course. I have no doubt that this will be the watchword of many if not all of those involved. Nonetheless, I am reassured by the thought that those who are approaching the banks of the Tiber on this beautiful and grace-filled journey are both as gentle as doves and as intelligent as serpents. I have confidence that they know how many beans make five.

Friday 22 October 2010

The SSPX: Vatican recognition de facto and ad hoc

Here is a fascinating article by Brian McCall in The Remnant newspaper, dated 20th October. My source, acknowledged with thanks: Rorate Caeli.

The occasion was an Angelus Press conference held from 12th – 17th October this year to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Founding of the Society of St. Pius X. Bishop Bernard Fellay of the SSPX gave an address to the conference, at the end of which he provided “a survey of the SSPX’s political and legal relations with the authorities in Rome”.

Bishop Fellay referred to what he termed the “principle of action” in his explanation of the Vatican’s present dealings with the SSPX. He said: “The Holy See has been pursuing a two-pronged policy – an official de jure policy contradicted by de facto actions.”

I strongly recommend the entire article; but for the general whetting of appetites I have extracted the following extraordinary details.


According to the standard understanding, the priests of the SSPX cannot validly hear confessions or grant absolution. However:
“As most Catholics know, there are certain grave sins, the remittance of which is reserved to the Holy See alone. Under Church law if a priest hears the confession of a person who has committed one of these reserved sins, he is obligated to report the matter to the Holy See …” [Bishop Fellay went on to say] “that from time to time Society priests have heard such confessions, and that, in every case, the required notification was sent to the Holy See. In each of these cases, the response received from the Vatican was that “all was good and licit” and that the permission for the SSPX priest to absolve was granted.”

The SSPX had arranged to ordain a number of priests in Germany in March 2009. This provoked great tensions between the German hierarchy and the Vatican.
“The Vatican asked Bishop Fellay to move the ordinations out of the jurisdiction of the German bishops. If Bishop Fellay would do so, the Vatican Cardinal bargained, the Society “would be legally recognized until Easter.” This was to cover the two-week period in which the ordinations would occur. Bishop Fellay explained that he had asked the Cardinal why this was being requested since, according to a recent document of the Secretary of State, the SSPX does not “even exist legally.” The Cardinal replied that “the Pope does not believe that.” “
Truly, we live in adventurous times.

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Contacting the Catholic Times about the Mildew/Loftus matter

Solidarity with dear Fr Clifton! I'm very sorry he has felt it necessary to close his Fr Mildew blog. He doesn't deserve this treatment.

Catholic and Loving it! has provided this helpful link to The Catholic Times's Contact the Editor page. The CT will no doubt receive eloquent and detailed messages from many correspondents, which will say all that needs to be said on the subject. I don't feel I could add any useful detail, but I think it is important to swell the numbers. I have therefore sent the following:
Would you please add my name to the list of those who write to you in support of Fr Michael Clifton (Fr Mildew) in the matter of the action threatened against him by Mgr Loftus.
The more messages they receive, however brief, the better.

Sunday 17 October 2010

The Bishops' Conference: Is unity more important than truth?

Reflections from the lounge bar of “The Four Horsemen”:

I have been trying to think of an appropriate word for the degree of authority which supports anything I write on this blog. It is only right to say that I am Mrs Nobody-in-Particular. So the answer is: Nil. However, in the free-for-all spirit of the blogosphere, why should that stop any of us? Nevertheless, I promise to try to keep on the doctrinal strait and narrow, and I will aim to be charitable.

Imagine me, therefore, sitting in a comfortable chair in my local, in the company of like-minded friends, saying: “What I can’t understand is … “, or “Why can’t they just …”, or “Have they all got something on one another? Like that film - what was it called? Oh yes: I know what you did last summer.” We are somewhat inclined to conspiracy theories, my chums and I; but then again, there’s no smoke without fire …

That excellent blog, Protect the Pope, published a post on 26 August concerning the recollections of Daphne McLeod, head of Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, of her conversations with Archbishop Nichols of Westminster. Here are some choice extracts:
… he admitted that he couldn’t speak out against the homosexual movement’s agenda promoted in the UK because of fears that it would create disunity among the bishops …

‘We must have unity at all price. If I speak out against it, there’ll be disunity among the bishops, and we can’t have that’.

My post is not specifically concerned with questions relating to the homosexual movement. The import of the words attributed to Archbishop Nichols applies across the whole range of the Church’s teaching on matters that go against the grain of the way people want to live their lives.

I think it has been assumed that the Archbishop himself would like to speak up for the teachings of the Church, if he were not so afraid of the episcopal heavies who would come round with their pit-bulls. I too am very willing to assume this. However, the words as quoted are “If I speak out …”, and not “I want to speak out, but …”. They are therefore rather more impersonal than a quick reading would suggest. I look forward to hearing clear statements of all the teachings of the Church, including the unpopular ones, together with encouragement to follow them or to return to their observance.

According to the Penny Catechism, one of the ways in which we may either cause or share in the guilt of another’s sin, is by silence. This applies to all of us, including bishops. How much more so, in addition, does it apply to the successors of the Apostles, who are commissioned to teach the truth and to refute error?

“They” (to use a catch-all word that has the advantage of not pointing a finger) appear to be hiding behind a falsely inflated representation of the powers of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. On this subject, here is a fine article by Bishop Robert F Vasa, taken from the Catholic Culture website, on the role - and the limitations - of bishops’ conferences. It is written in the context of the USA, but it applies equally in other countries. Here are some salient quotations from a long but important document:
Episcopal Conferences must keep in mind the good of the Church, that is, the service of unity and the inalienable responsibility of each bishop in relation to the universal Church and to his particular Church. (Pope John Paul II, Apostolos Suos, 7)

We must not forget that the episcopal conferences have no theological basis, they do not belong to the structure of the Church, as willed by Christ, that cannot be eliminated; they have only a practical, concrete function. (The Ratzinger Report, 59-61)
The national level is not an ecclesial dimension. It must once again become clear that in each diocese there is only one shepherd and teacher of the faith in communion with the other pastors and teachers and with the Vicar of Christ. (The Ratzinger Report, 59-61)
The bishops’ authority to speak out and to preach the truth is laid upon each of them, individually, in direct union with the successor of Peter, under our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bishops’ Conference has no power to obstruct that authority. Each bishop has his own charge and his own flock; and each has the continuing and imperative duty to examine his own conscience and his own faithfulness of mind and heart and will to the teaching of Christ’s Church, in all its fullness. He then has the duty to go out and teach that fullness, neither adding to it, nor - which is most pertinent in these days - subtracting from it.

If, in consequence, we see differences emerging in the witness given by the various members of the Bishops’ Conference, so much the better. We shall know exactly where each of them stands. And so will Rome.

Thursday 7 October 2010

A Story about the Intercession of Blessed Cardinal Newman

As mentioned in my post on 24th September, I have started to ask for the intercessory prayers of Blessed Cardinal Newman, for the “thoughtful apostates”, that they may return to the fullness of the Faith.

Here is a little thing that happened this morning. I had just said my prayer, when I suddenly began to feel rather embarrassed, as though I were being importunate in bothering him over this intention, when he had so many others to intercede for.

Rather as one might say to someone, “If it’s not inconvenient”, I felt impelled to add, rather timidly, “If it is the Lord’s will”.

Immediately there came into my mind the following words: “It is not the Father’s will that any of them should be lost”.

You may like to read Matthew 18:10-14, the Parable of the Lost Sheep, at the end of which, almost word for word, is the sentence that came to me.

God is goodness.

Monday 4 October 2010

Wearing the Badge of our Faith

Archbishop Nichols, of Westminster, has encouraged Catholics to witness to their faith in small but significant ways: for example, by saying “God bless you” or by making the Sign of the Cross in public. These may seem like little things, but they are important, particularly in the social and legislative climate of our country these days.

I have a beautiful lapel pin, which I bought when I joined the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales. It shows their logo, which I have pasted at the head of this post. The chasuble is red, and everything else is white, with all the outlines, and the Cross, in gold. In the light of Archbishop Nichols’s exhortation, I will try to make sure that I wear the badge on my coat as a regular thing. It could be a real conversation piece, and it is full of teaching possibilities.

Having said that, of course, the question arises: am I up to the task of dealing with the questions and challenges - to say nothing of anything more adversarial - which may be directed at me when those I meet realise I am a Catholic? Those of us who may be unfamiliar with the work of presenting or defending our faith, or who may be rusty in these skills, may be rather daunted at the prospect of explaining it. On a practical note, I think it’s important to gain confidence, and not to feel one must waffle when responding to enquirers. It’s perfectly all right to admit that we can’t do justice to this or that question, but that we will try to find out all we can for the next occasion.

There is a major and urgent need to plug the gaps in Catholics’ knowledge of the Faith. And there is also the problem that the poor catechesis many people have received will result in some eccentric versions (no, I’m beating about the bush here; we all know I mean false versions) of our faith finding their way into the unsuspecting ears of enquirers.

Most glaringly, there is that all-excusing misrepresentation of the idea of “following one’s conscience”, which seems to have become fixed in the minds of so many Catholics. The more knowledgeable kind of non-Catholic will not be at all impressed if a Catholic tells him that “We don’t have to follow the Church’s teachings; we can follow our own consciences and decide for ourselves”.

There is another thing to consider. While allowing that we are all sinners, and without beating myself up about it, I’m going to have to do my best to practise the virtues, and to be seen to be trying to do so. Otherwise the behaviour that is seen won’t match the words that are heard, or the Catholic symbols that are worn. There have been some glaring examples of this in the media recently. We will be held to very high standards.

To sum up: the Archbishop’s words, which are ostensibly quite simple and restricted, are really full of potential; but they must be built on. If each of us, and our bishops and clergy, make the effort, it will be to the intellectual and spiritual benefit of all concerned.