Wednesday 31 October 2012

Kindness from Ecclesia Dei on the SSPX Discussions

My translation of a good article from Roberto of Messa in Latino on 30/10/2012 about the recent optimistic Declaration from the Ecclesia Dei Commission regarding the SSPX discussions. It’s quite long, but please bear with it, because it's well worth reading.

“We thank a reader for having drawn our attention to this Declaration of last Saturday, 27th October 2012, which had escaped our notice, through no fault of our own, on account of bad weather.

Having read the Declaration, we side with those who are optimistic, and with those who trust in God and in Benedict XVI. (We do not side with the naïve ones; we well know that we are dealing with priests, and with Rome). But certainly one cannot fail to notice that in general the tones of the Declaration are peaceable and conciliatory, and that the focus of the message is the Pope’s desire, and that of the Fraternity, for the “reconciliation” which is so greatly wished and hoped for.

In order to achieve this, on the one side we read that the Fraternity needs to prepare, with study and reflection, its own response to the proposals of the Holy See (it is not said that the FSSPX must decide whether to accept or not: but that the Fraternity has to prepare the response, as though to say: “we hope that the response will be positive”); and on the other side the Holy See declares itself well disposed to wait, and to understand the need for reflection on the part of the Lefebvrian superiors, in order to arrive at the meeting-point.

Certainly, there is silence on a serious fact which was the real motive for the brusque halting of the Fraternity’s reconciliation with Rome. Mgr Fellay’s revisions had been brought to the doctrinal declaration before June, having already been personally approved by the Pope, which would thus have permitted an immediate acceptance on the part of the FSSPX of the canonical recognition that had been proposed to it. Nothing is said about the fact that these revisions were unexpectedly removed by the Ecclesia Dei Commission, which thus, on 13th June 2012, had re-proposed the original text to Fellay, causing by this means the reversal of the agreements that had been in progress.

The action was serious, and easily explainable. Let us hazard a guess as to one reason for it: perhaps in the year which was to see the 50th anniversary of the Council, the wolves of the Curia would never have allowed the Lefebvrians to be granted the right to challenge and criticise the Council, or even merely certain expressions in certain conciliar documents.

But all is not lost. We note that Ecclesia Dei wants to make it known officially to the Fraternity that things are on standby, and that the Commission remains ready. And it does this, speaking in peaceable terms, to express the best intentions, and to announce a pause (and not a rupture!) and to hold out its hand. Hence the door is not closed (as certain birds of ill omen strive to croak to the four winds).

Certainly substance is more important than form. But in the communications – especially from the Holy See – even the form can enclose important contents.

One could say, a little mischievously, that last Saturday’s Declaration was not written by Müller - who some informed sources say is categorically opposed to the possibility of a reconciliation between the Holy See and the Fraternity. He has been dealt a bad hand!* Because having missed out on the cardinal’s biretta at the forthcoming consistory, he is likely to have even more of a toothache.

On the other hand, the Declaration seems to be imprinted with the diplomatic and benevolent style of the Vice-President of Ecclesia Dei. Under the guidance of Mgr Di Noia, there are grounds for hope, if he succeeds once more in sharpening up the doctrinal document, and in finding thereby a form and a substance that are welcome to both sides, and the resulting canonical recognition of the Fraternity which guarantees her freedom both of action and of speaking. (And the fact that the Fraternity has freed itself from Mgr Williamson may be a good point.)

Let us perhaps wait until next year, when the euphoria and excitement of the 50th anniversary of the Council have waned, and it will once again be possible to do business. There is indeed so much need for “patience, serenity, perseverance and trust” in God, and let us add, for prayer.”

*Only guessing at this phrase – DB

Tuesday 30 October 2012

To my American readers ...

To my American readers:  I hope you have not been affected by the awful storm; but if you have, I send my prayers and good wishes, that you and your loved ones and neighbours may be able to recover quickly from this difficult experience.

Sunday 28 October 2012

The Two Shall Become One

In some of my earlier posts I have referred to the occasional experience of a jolt of insight or appreciation when reading this or that passage of Scripture. It is a rather wonderful thing, and I know I’m not alone in having experienced it.

This reflection follows on from my previous post about the Natural Law. In particular, I’d like to concentrate on the words of Christ in Matthew, Chapter 19 ("The two shall become one"), which echo the words of Genesis 2:24 ("And they become one flesh").

In the early 1980s I studied natural family planning in some depth, and taught it for a short time before other commitments meant that I could not continue to do so. One of the many interesting facts I learned was how recently the existence of the ovum had come to be known for certain.

The ovarian follicle was first discovered by Reinier de Graaf in 1672, but it was not until 1826 that the scientist Karl Ernst von Baer discovered the mammalian ovum. The first human ovum was described by Allen in 1928.

A bit more background, just for the record, but I’m sure you are all aware of this. All our individual cells contain 46 chromosomes, with the exception of the gametes, which each contain only 23. When the sperm and ovum fuse, they cease what would in any case have been their very fleeting existence. It is a little as though they have died; and yet in their "dying" the two have become one.

That "one", that single cell, is composed of a new, unique 46-chromosome combination, which means that it could not possibly be a cell of either of its parents' bodies. And it is certainly not dead. It is intensely alive, and it is a new individual being of the human species, its body consisting of one plenipotent cell.

Jesus was teaching and reinforcing the meaning of marriage nearly two thousand years ago. The Genesis account dates from several centuries before that, and in its unwritten origins it probably reaches back into the mists of tradition. In those times it appeared to be self-evident that while it was the mother’s body that nurtured the new life, it was the father who generated it. And yet there was this theme, from the beginning and from Christ the Word of God: the two shall become one. At the heart of marriage, and at the heart of its generative power.

This is an insight that Christ’s audience could not have known; but He knew it even as He spoke, and we know it now. It is an additional layer of richness in His words, revealed to our more recent centuries.


Saturday 27 October 2012

Fresh Air and the Natural Law

Pastor Emeritus has given me a gentle reminder, for which I am grateful, that it has been a few weeks since my last post.  During the interval my husband and I have been away on a lovely week's holiday in the clear fresh air of the delightful little coastal town of St Ives, in Cornwall.  While every day's weather forecast predicted lashing wind and storms, in fact we had an entire week of mild, dry weather, with only one windy day.  A charming little Catholic church, dedicated to the Sacred Heart and St Ia, with beautiful Stations of the Cross.  Row upon row of houses clustering in higgledy-piggledy terraces, clinging to every available shelf of the steep slopes up from the bay.  Great exercise to walk up and down, but I fear my knee-joints will take some time to recover.

However, back to business. 

I have occasionally seen rather dismissive references to the Church's appeals to Natural Law arguments in promoting or defending Her moral teachings.  I think the core of the criticism was usually that the concept of Natural Law, being derived - I think - from Greek philosophy, was a type of accretion.  The objectors maintained that its adoption was therefore both post-Scriptural (Thomist, I believe, though it may have featured in earlier centuries) and indeed unscriptural.  If I have misunderstood anything in the foregoing, I shall be very happy to be corrected.

The idea of Natural Law, pure and simple, has always seemed very logical to me.  But it was when reading a certain passage in the new Testament that I became aware of its presence in the words of Our Lord.  Following His rejection of the Jewish traditions regarding divorce and remarriage, He was asked some searching questions.  It was in one of these exchanges, in Matthew, Chapter 19,  that I suddenly made the connection with Natural Law:

"Have you not read that He Who who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one'?  So they are no longer two but one." ...... "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so."

What was so from the beginning, and what was not so.  I had the impression not only of the beginning of history according to the Biblical account of creation, but also of  the beginning in the sense of the mind of the Creator at our creation; in His fundamental blueprint of the nature of man, woman and their partnership. 

Words from the Word Himself, who was with God, and was God, from the beginning.  Since gaining what I felt and still feel was a most helpful insight, I have never felt any disjointedness between the Gospel and Natural Law.

Picture from Wikipedia

Monday 1 October 2012

The Rochdale Case

Ben Trovato has pubished this excellent reflection on the appalling Rochdale case, on his blog Countercultural Father.

I wanted to pay some attention to an element that has not been mentioned in any detail in the media reports I have seen so far. That is, the question of attitudes to slavery.

We all know that during the course of history people have acquired slaves by various means. They still do so in some cultures. These methods have historically included by capture, whether in battle or otherwise; by the birth of children to those already enslaved; as a gift; or by purchase from dealers. To which I think we should add, by enticement and trickery.

The history of slavery from a Christian perspective is set out in great detail in this article in the Catholic Encyclopedia, which is really worth reading.

This year I managed to finish reading the foundational book of a certain religion. I read it five pages at a time, having to force myself to do so at times, not because it was difficult to understand, but because of a mixture of its style and content. I will just say that there are some things in it which leap out at the reader, whichever way you may wish to take that comment.

In the context of this post on slavery, the book sets the limits beyond which adherents are not to go in their use of female slaves. Here is a text relating to prostitution:
You shall not force your slave girls into prostitution in order that you may enrich yourselves, if they wish to preserve their chastity. If anyone compels them, God will be forgiving and merciful to them. (Reference 24:33)
I think it’s a pretty fair bet that those unfortunate young girls in Rochdale, who had reached an age when they were enthralled by the idea of romance (and thought they had found it in the takeaway shop, heaven help us), had never been taught about the value of the virtue of chastity – indeed, of its vital importance in the dangerous atmosphere of some parts of modern society. They may never even have heard the word, let alone the idea.

Shall we, by the way, avoid referring to the girls as white? It is not clear that all of them were, if we include other parts of the country in which similar cases have been revealed. I don't think the chief attraction lay in this. They were not members of their predators’ religion; they were young and emotionally vulnerable; they were willing to engage in unchaste behaviour. This combination provided the ideal opportunity for their abusers to act upon the entitlement implied in the text quoted above.

I will say no more on this matter, and I should warn my readers not to be disappointed if their comments do not appear.  I may also be somewhat inconsistent in my censorship.