Tuesday 31 December 2013

"Where Dialogue Stumbles"

In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis writes with warmth and sincerity about the Church’s relationship with the followers of the religion of Mohammed.

Calmness is an important quality, in this matter as in others. Sandro Magister’s Chiesa has published this calm assessment of the relevant parts of the Apostolic Exhortation. It is written by Father Samir Khalil Samir, a Jesuit and an Islamologist. According to Magister, Fr Samir “examines them one by one. And he criticizes their limitations.”

Monday 30 December 2013

Do Traditional Catholics consider themselves better than others?

GloriaTV has a constantly-updating list of links to posts from various sources. Some of them are real gems. Highly recommended.

I have just found this beautiful post , written by Fr Peter Carota on his blog, Traditional Catholic Priest. I encourage you to read it: it is food for the soul in these times.

Tuesday 24 December 2013

A happy and holy Christmas to all ...

... from a very quiet blogger. Heads held high, as we face whatever oh-so-strange things are in store for Holy Mother Church in the coming year.

God bless us, and guide us, and keep us safe.

Saturday 9 November 2013

Choosing Life: Donating to The Good Counsel Network

May I urge you to read this extraordinary report from The Good Counsel Network, about a mother’s desperate efforts to save her baby from abortion.

At the end of the report, they make this heartfelt plea for funds:

… we are completely broke at the moment and for the most of the "40 Days for Life" campaign, our staff have had to put up with wages coming weeks late, which is more than tough when you are on a low wage and are doing very frontline work!!

Please help us to raise money to reach out to and support Mothers with Counselling, Advice, Financial help, Practical Support, Mother and Baby Goods, Housing and Friendship.
During the 40 Days for Life Campaign, the pro-abortion group 40 Days of Choice has launched a "Pi** off a Picket" Campaign (sorry!) which has raised £508 for the pro-abortion group "Education" for "Choice". We are also running a fundraising campaign, Our Lady's Pocket Fund to raise £5,000. Please support this campaign and show that Pro-Lifers Give Double during 40 Days for Life. (For other ways to donate)

God bless all my readers who have visited here during my break from blogging. My husband’s health has been of concern lately. Happily, he is recovering well, but would you be so kind as to say a prayer for him?

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Cheltenham TLM returning: same day, different time

Good news from Canon MacDonald, parish priest of the church of St Gregory the Great in Cheltenham. This is from the parish newsletter for Sunday 13th October 2013:

I’m pleased to announce that Fr Ian McCarthy of Stow on the Wold has kindly agreed to take on responsibility for the monthly Latin Mass in the older form of the liturgy. As before the Mass will be offered on the first Wednesday of the month, recommencing on 6th November. Please note that the time of these Masses has been moved from 6.00pm to 7.00pm.
Warm thanks to the following for their kindness and all their good work:

- to Canon MacDonald, for making the church available
- to Fr McCarthy of Stow, who has offered the traditional Mass at St Gregory’s on a number of occasions before this new arrangement
- to Fr Redman of Dursley, who has offered it until now

- and particularly to the sacristan, Heather, who makes everything ready and welcoming for the steadily-growing congregation.

God bless, one and all!

Saturday 12 October 2013

What does “Lesus” mean?

When the news broke of the misprint of the name of Jesus on the new papal medals, one of my first reactions (and a rather frivolous one) was to wonder if the word “Lesus” meant anything.

The same idea had evidently occurred elsewhere: a commenter on another blog mentioned that someone in Mexico (I think) had discussed the meaning. The commenter did not pass it on, apart from the clue in her spelling of it, which was “L(a)esus”. I thought I would check it out in my Latin dictionary, thinking, of course that it might mean something rather apt.

“Laesus” is the past participle of the verb “laedo” – I hurt, wound, injure, damage. Its figurative meaning is: trouble, annoy, vex, injure, insult, offend, afflict, grieve, hurt.

Latin diphthongs are often simplified, as you know. It is interesting to see that the English word “lesion” comes from the same verb.

Of all the meanings it might have had …

Monday 30 September 2013

Cheltenham loses its Traditional Latin Mass

Sadly, Fr Redman of Dursley can no longer offer the monthly Traditional Latin Mass at St Gregory's church in Cheltenham. At present there is no information as to whether another priest could offer the Mass in his place, so we have to assume that this situation will continue for the foreseeable future.

Many thanks to Fr Redman for looking after our little congregation.

Friday 27 September 2013

"When Paul Corrected Peter"

Next to the daily news report on gloria.tv there is a constantly updated list of news stories and articles, some of which are worthy of much wider dissemination.

Here is one which caught my eye: The American Spectator has published an article by George Neumayr, entitled When Paul Corrected Peter.

I have been hoping for some time that one or more of the Vatican-based Cardinals will speak to Pope Francis as candid friends. Who knows, perhaps they have done so already.

He needs many prayers, offered up in a spirit of love.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Fog and Uncertainty

I'm reluctant to add my two-penn'orth to the swirl of reactions to Pope Francis's recent interview. On both sides, excellent Catholics, both clerical and lay, have made their contributions to the debate.

I have the impression that the work of stressing the positive elements has been rather laboured, relying very much on hope and on interpreting things in the best light. On the other hand, the work of pointing out the negatives, and of drawing worrying conclusions from them, has appeared more analytical and logical.

As for me, I hope the Pope never attempts to put these expressions of his thought into an official, magisterial pronouncement.

Friday 20 September 2013

Young Catholic Adults: 18-20 October, 2013

During the weekend of the 18-20 October 2013, Young Catholic Adults will be running a national weekend at Cold Ash Retreat Centre just up the road from Douai Abbey (which was booked up this year).

* It will be include the following speakers:- Fr Goddard FSSP, Fr de Malleray, Fr. Pearson O.P. and Br. Gabriel O.S.B..

* There will be a Marian Procession, Rosaries, Sung/HighMass, Low Mass, Confession and socials.

* Gregorian Chant Workshops will also be running, this year led by the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge

Weekend rates: £99.00 for adults, £69.00 for Students and U/E ( weekends starts on Friday evening with supper and finish on Sunday after lunch.

Saturday night only - £60.00 for adults, £50.00 for Students and U/E Full Board

B & B - £35.00 for adults, £30.00 (for student - U/E) per day

Non - residential and full board - (Friday & Saturday) - £45.00 for adults, £40.00 for (for student - U/E) per day

Non residential (includes meals) - £30.00 for adults, £25.00 (for student - U/E) per day

Non residential & no meals - £20.00 for adults, £15.00 (for student - U/E) per day.

To download a booking form please see :- http://www.youngcatholicadults.co.uk/events.htm

For general enquiries about the weekend please ring Margaret on 07515 805015 or Damian on 07908105787.

How to get to Cold Ash Retreat Centre (near Thatcham, Berkshire)

Car - Roughly halfway between Reading and Newbury, Cold Ash Retreat Centre is within easy reach of these towns as well as London, Oxford, Bracknell, Winchester and Basingstoke. The A4 (Bath Road is a couple of miles and the M4 is just 4 miles away.

Trains - The nearest railway stations are Thatcham and Newbury, with a regular service on the line from Reading to Taunton. It's just c. 45 minutes from London Paddington. The local railway station, Thatcham, is a couple of miles away (and has plenty of taxis available). Timetables and other information are provided by http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/.

Buses - Weavaway operates a bus service from Newbury Town Centre via Thatcham Broadway to Tilehurst, which stops at Cold Ash along the way.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Does Pope Francis have an Identical Twin?

I hope you like the tabloid headline. More about that at the end. First of all, thank you, Pastor Emeritus, for your kind message following my most recent post.

A mixture of technical problems and a draining away of inspiration has prevented me from posting for some time. I’ve found a way round the problems. But as to the lack of inspiration, I think it was due mainly to a reluctance to say what I have been feeling about the new papal regime under which we are living. I’m glad that others have felt able to articulate their views.

Pope Francis says some beautiful, inspiring things, but he also says really awful things which it is pretty clear are emboldening those who reject major elements of the Church’s teaching. This is horrible.

And as for the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Immaculate, and the appointment of the man alleged to have been the chief dissident to the post of Secretary General of the order …. well! In a way, the thing that I found almost more chilling than his appointment, was the statement that for the period of the commissariamento this man would be the sole spokesman of the order. That is grim.

Thank God for the academics who have set out, with such precision, their case against the decision of Pope Francis to forbid these Franciscans to exercise (without permission) their right of offering the Holy Mass in the ancient form. Sandro Magister has the details here.

I think it was the FFI bombshell that “emancipated” me. I know what I think and feel about all this. But I have been searching for a word to describe it that is as little emotionally charged as possible. We need cool heads. I will make do – and, I stress, make do - with the word “exasperated”. The acknowledgment to myself of even this somewhat underpowered expression of my feelings has, rather oddly, liberated me from a sense of oppression. Some people refer to the pope as Francis the Confusing. He has moved on, for me, to Francis the Exasperating. If he continues like this, a stronger adjective may be in order, even from me.

The title of my post comes from those silly, spooky films where Good Twin has an identical Bad Twin, locked away in secret in the attic, but escaping at frequent intervals to cause confusion and mayhem. At last, when all is revealed, everyone starts to wonder: Which Twin was responsible for what? And more to the point, which one is this Twin?

Oh, I think I need to get out more!

Monday 22 July 2013

A report that Mgr Ricca has resigned

In a comment on Fr Ray Blake’s blog post concerning the Ricca affair, Deacon Augustine refers readers to a report that the Monsignor has resigned from all his posts. The report is publicised by a Swiss Catholic site, the name of which I can’t make out, and the news is said to originate from the French agency I.MEDIA. Here is my translation:

Caught by revelations about his homosexuality, Mgr Ricca is said to have presented his resignation to the Pope.

After the revelations in the Italian weekly I’Espresso about his homosexual activities, Mgr Battista Ricca, recently named prelate of the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), is said to have presented his resignation to Pope Francis, the I.MEDIA agency in Rome has learnt.

The Italian prelate, who spoke with the Pope on 20th July, is reported to have given up all his responsibilities at the Vatican, including the management of the guest-houses for priests in Rome. On the 18th July, L’Espresso published many details about the homosexual relationship of the prelate with a former officer of the Swiss army when he was working at the nunciature in Montevideo, from 1999 to 2001. The Vatican responded by asserting that these revelations were “unreliable”.

(I have decided not to translate the final sentence of the report.)

Tuesday 16 July 2013

The Bishops, too, are Sheep

This program is from ChurchMilitant.TV

It has been some time since I have been able to compose anything on my blog.  The cursor refused to appear - goodness knows why.  Suddenly it is back again, I'm happy to say.

Supertradmum of Etheldreda's Place has linked to this wonderful video from ChurchMilitant.TV, in which Michael Voris interviews Bishop Athanasius Schneider.  I strongly urge you to set aside the 35 minutes or so, make yourselves a cup of something, and sit down to savour Bishop Schneider’s words. As you will no doubt recall, he is the bishop who has urged that a new kind of Syllabus of Errors be published, formally setting out the correct and incorrect interpretations of certain passages in the documents of Vatican II.

These are some of the gems, with rough timings. I haven't noted the source documents for most of them, but I’m sure most of you will recognise the sources.

7:44 onward: The bishops, like us, are sheep; and Peter is their shepherd as well as ours.

9:14 onward: The government of the Church by the college of cardinals is not continuous, it is extra-ordinary. Continuous government by the college is not the structure Christ gave us. At times, the Church went for some centuries without a council being convened, and the Pope continued to govern the Church during those times.

10:45 onward: The assertion that Christians and Moslems believe in the one God must be clarified. Two substantially different levels of belief are involved: natural faith, which is theirs, and the supernatural faith which comes to us by revelation.

17:00 onward: Lumen Gentium states that the summit of creation is Man. But in fact the summit is God. The idea and practice of anthropocentrism are dangers for humanity and for the Church. The sin of Adam and Eve was anthropocentric.

Just a few notes, but I hope they will whet your appetites.

Sunday 7 July 2013

For the record: Today I heard the P-word.

It may be useful for Catholic bloggers to keep a tally of their sightings - or rather, their hearings - of the Pelagianism word in the wild.  I heard it today, somewhere in deepest Gloucestershire. The speaker was a priest. He was expressing his pleasure at discovering the Vatican Information Service's extracts from the Pope's homilies, delivered at his Masses at the Domus Sanctae Marthae. 

He liked the fact that Francis was inclined to deliver his homilies unscripted.  He had noted the Pope's comment in one of the homilies that the Catholic Church had made mistakes in the past.  He had also been struck by what he understood to be Francis's reservations about meditation.  According to the priest, the Pope had suggested that meditation could be an expression of, or be influenced by, Pelagianism.

I remember Pope Francis's scenting of possible Pelagianism on the part of the kindly Argentinian Catholics who had presented him with a spiritual bouquet of Rosaries.  But I have not heard of any other links made by him, in other contexts.  I'm reluctant to wade through all the homilies since the Pope's election, but I'd be interested to know if any readers have heard the P-word other than relating to the Argentinian incident.  I don't necessarily expect a comment if you don't feel like posting here, but I'll look out for any posts on this subject in the Catholic blogosphere.  I have a feeling that Pelagianism - or some caricature or misrepresentation of it - is going to be the new stick with which to beat the more orthodox or traditionally-minded Catholics.

I suspect the roots may lie deep in the past, in an episode of "Father Ted", when a parishioner said "I hear you're a Pelagian now, Father .... "

Picture from 127project.net, via Google Images

Wednesday 3 July 2013

The Thoughts of Pope Francis

Whoever would have thought to see a picture of Chairman Mao's Little Red Book on a Catholic blog?  Our good but somewhat variable Holy Father astonishes us time and again with a pithy phrase which goes to the heart of very important matters.  Such is the case with his recent exhortational homily at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, reported in the Catholic Herald.  In a situation of sin, or even faced with a temptation to it, "Run away and do not look back!"

Repeatedly, the Holy Father's concentrated words offer us spiritual and moral wisdom in a very practical form. This is a pope whose epigrammatic sayings could prove most edifying when gathered together in a little book.  Or do you remember those desk calendars some people used to have on their office desks, with a motto for each day?  People still like a proper calendar: not everything is better for being online.

Catholic Truth Society, over to you!

Picture from Google Images

Monday 3 June 2013

A busy Sunday afternoon

First, to Prinknash Abbey, where the Traditional Latin Mass is offered by Father Damian at 3pm on the first Sunday of every month.  Beautiful weather for the drive there and back, through the glorious intense greenery of Gloucestershire as spring turns into summer.  The road sweeps in great curves round the scarp-face of the Cotswolds, climbing higher and higher. Thick woods rise up on one side. I looked up at the gap among the trees where the famous Gloucestershire cheese-rollers had churned up the grass last Monday.  On the other side, the ground falls away steeply, to the different beauty of the great Vale of Gloucester.  Beyond that, the Forest of Dean, and even farther away, the hills of Wales.   At last, we turn off and plunge in a series of zig-zags through the grounds of the Abbey.

After Mass, to Cheltenham, and the Holy Hour in union with Pope Francis.  Plenty of people there.  At intervals, Deacon McDonald - top of the range, they are very fortunate to have him - gave uplifting talks, or led us in prayer, or in a hymn.  Then he and the servers processed round the aisles, the thurifers immediately preceding him walking backwards, with great care.  Benediction, chanted in English, and very well, but it made me a little sad, because I know he chants the Latin Benediction with great skill.  However, he must have had his reasons.  O Salutaris Hostia and Tantum Ergo in English too; but as I recall, we sang all the verses, which was good.  Finally, the Salve Regina - in Latin - and the prayer for England.  Altogether a moving and very worthwhile experience, enhanced by the knowledge of others sharing that time with us throughout the world.

Picture of Prinknash Abbey from cotswolds.info, via Google Images.

Friday 31 May 2013

Pope Francis Calls the World to Adoration

Very sorry not to have posted anything for such a long time. I have felt rather drained for quite a while, beginning with the abdication of Pope Benedict and continuing through the election and the first few months of Pope Francis, a good man who is nevertheless a big change from Benedict XVI.

Once or twice during Pope Benedict’s reign, some of those who loved him dearly will have had a moment now and then in which they thought, “Oh, I wish he hadn’t said that, or done that!” I’m thinking, for example, of the Assisi III gathering, and even more of the interview in which his finely-tuned words on the question of prostitutes and condoms were interpreted as a green light in certain quarters. And yet those who loved him, have continued to love him, and this is just as it should be.

We have a new Pope who is more informal in his style. I am bothered by the tendency to hang on his words, uttered off the cuff in his daily homilies, and to work overtime trying to interpret them.  Some of them are creating more than a few ripples, not to say more serious problems and potential divisions. But he has said some very edifying things, and I think it is impressive that certain governmental decisions (Think of the Scottish hierarchy, and the American nuns of the LCWR) have shown a flash of steel.

Well, that’s a rather long introduction to a post that is in fact about the Pope’s declaration of a Holy Hour throughout the world, on the transferred-to-Sunday feast of Corpus Christi. It will be from 5 to 6pm Rome time, 4 to 5pm British Summer Time.

I am really delighted to see that the website of the Diocese of Clifton (Bristol) has publicised this initiative:


This Sunday afternoon from 4-5pm in Clifton Cathedral we shall have an hour of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. We end with Evening Prayer of the Church at 4.45pm. In response to the Pope's request we are uniting with all Cathedrals round the world, synchronised with Rome as the Pope prays: "For the Church spread throughout the world and united today in the adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist as a sign of unity." The Pope's second intention is: "For those who suffer from slavery, and victims of war, human trafficking, drug running, slave labour and children and women suffering from every kind of violence. This is a historical event, the first of its kind. Please do come along for all or part of this time of prayer which is part of the Year of Faith.

Homing in on the part of the diocese centred on Cheltenham, I am very happy to see that the church of St Gregory the Great, in the centre of the town, will have its own Solemn Exposition and Benediction at the same time.

Eucharistic Adoration - Corpus Christi

Pope Francis is marking the Feast of Corpus Christi during this Year of Faith with a period of Eucharistic Adoration on Sunday, 2nd June. Here at St Gregory‟s Exposition and Benediction will take place between 4-5pm on Sunday.

Cheltenham also has a church on the south-eastern outskirts of the town, The Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, but unfortunately this time is already booked for a regular Mass in Polish. So St Gregory’s is the place to go.

Lovely picture from ourcatholicprayers.com, via Google Images.

Sunday 28 April 2013

No Bishops to be Appointed in Scotland, Pending Investigation by Rome

Some of my overseas readers may not be aware that there are three hierarchies in the United Kingdom: one for England and Wales; one for Scotland; and one which embraces the whole of Ireland including Northern Ireland.

I certainly feel for the travails of our neighbouring hierarchies, as I do for the troubles of England and Wales.

An interesting article has appeared on the website of the Scottish newspaper The Herald. I first read it on the Scottish Catholic blog, Spirit of Teuchtar II, and it has also been picked up by GloriaTV. Do read it. There are difficult and stressful times ahead, but it’s good to see that Rome is really getting to grips with the situation.

Just to show that our bishops south of the border have more than a few things to attend to, here is a link to the talk given by Cardinal Ouellet to the Bishops of England and Wales during their Low Week visit to Rome. This will provide a good opportunity for brushing up one’s skills in reading between the lines.

I am beginning to feel rather optimistic.

Thursday 18 April 2013

"How Did the Victim Die?"

Just a thought or two about abortion. 

You can hear the following question in every television detective series:  "How did the victim die?"  Here is a selection of answers:

Completely unable to fend for himself, he was left to die of cold.
She died of starvation (or thirst).*
He was stabbed in the heart.
She was poisoned.
He was dismembered.
She was crushed to death.
He was decapitated.

In the normal course of events, every pregnancy will be terminated, inevitably, whether by childbirth or by miscarriage.  The essential difference with abortion is that its purpose is to bring about the death of the gestating child.  Calling this "termination of pregnancy" is a euphemism to deceive the mind or lull the conscience.  But of course, as we know from the Gosnell case, some minds are perfectly clear, and some consciences are ... well, what they are, God only knows.

All abortionists know that the gestating child is alive. The more honest of them are willing to say as much. Everything an abortionist does to a gestating child to abort him, would be called a method of killing him if it were done to a person after birth.  This is evident from the list above.

I don't think I have anything more to say about it.

*In case some readers wonder why I have included starvation or dehydration, I am thinking in particular of the effect of abortifacient drugs or devices which prevent the implantation or terminate the life of the early embryo.  This, from Wikipedia, sheds some light on the subject:

In molecular biology, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone produced by the fertilized egg after conception. Later during pregnancy it is made by the developing placenta , and later by the placental component syncytiotrophoblast. [.........] Human chorionic gonadotropin interacts with the LHCG receptor and promotes the maintenance of the corpus luteum during the beginning of pregnancy. This allows the corpus luteum to secrete the hormone progesterone during the first trimester. Progesterone enriches the uterus with a thick lining of blood vessels and capillaries so that it can sustain the growing fetus.

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Aid to the Church in Need: A Plea for Syria

Just before Easter the following email arrived from Aid to the Church in Need, asking for an extra effort of giving to help the poor suffering people of Syria:

“If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” (Mark 9:22)

Dear Friends,

A disaster of biblical proportions is unfolding in the Middle East.

Reports say two million Syrians are destitute in their own country. Another one million have fled their homeland, sparking a refugee crisis that neighbouring Lebanon and Jordan are struggling to cope with.

Amid this awful suffering, bishops in the region have turned once again to you for help. They are ashamed to ask again when you have been so generous, but they are also acutely aware of the urgent need to help their people now.

Thanks to you, we can continue to provide essential food, medicine, shelter and trauma counselling both for people trapped in Syria and those seeking sanctuary in Jordan and Lebanon.

The people are so grateful to you for helping them to carry their cross – and for walking the path that Pope Francis has pledged to walk, the path of brotherhood, love and faith in service of our suffering brothers and sisters. We can but echo their gratitude.

Thank you for all that you do – with your prayers and compassion.

With every blessing for a holy Easter Triduum,

Neville Kyrke-Smith
UK Director

Sunday 31 March 2013

Easter Morning and the Folded Cloth

A very happy Easter to my readers.  May we all experience the return of peace and joy.

If you would like to reflect upon the significance of the folded cloth in Christ’s tomb, a detail described very precisely in St John’s Gospel, please visit this marvellous post entitled Father Ignatius makes a discovery, on Victor Mubarak’s excellent blog, Time for Reflections. Perfect reading for Easter Sunday!

Picture from hope-grace.com, via Google Images.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Revised Papal Coat of Arms

Messa in Latino reports that the Holy See has issued a revision of Pope Francis's coat of arms.  The star has been given eight points instead of the former five, to make it more Marian, and the flower no longer looks like a bunch of grapes.

Monday 25 March 2013

I am unworthy of this honour ...

Thank you, Ttony of The Muniment Room, for naming me on this Liebster award thing. I am reluctant to print the illustration of the award, since I haven’t complied with all the requirements. In particular, I’m going to refrain from nominating other blogs, because I’m likely to double-nominate with others, and also perhaps nominate bloggers who would prefer not to join in, as happened the last time I did this. However, I thought I would have a go at doing the other things.

Here are a few of the less soporific facts  about myself (or perhaps you have nodded off already):

1. I’m not really Dorothy B.

2. I have a small family and live a very quiet life.

3. Only two or three people in my “real” life know I have a blog.

4. I’m delighted when people visit the blog, and am perfectly happy for them just to read it without commenting.

5. I enjoy doing family history research. I haven’t discovered any famous people, but I have been taken on a fascinating tour of England, Ireland and the Isle of Man, with glimpses of social and industrial life in times gone by.

6. I love Rome, but I don't look forward to going again, because EasyJet have changed the arrival airport for their flights from Bristol. Ciampino is smallish and friendly, and the approach took us low over Rome, with a heart-liftingly beautiful view of St Peter’s. Fiumicino is a nightmare, then a shuttle train, then another nightmare.

7. I dread asking a question in another language because I can hardly ever understand the answer.

8. I can see myself in the audience in this photograph taken at the Latin Mass Society’s excellent conference in London in June last year, but I’m not going to point myself out. Acknowledgments to Dr Shaw’s LMS Chairman’s blog.      

Questions asked by Ben Trovato, the Countercultural Father:

What inspired the title of your blog?
I started the blog at a time when some people (I don’t think they were contributors to the Catholic blogosphere) were talking of being “proud” to be a Catholic. I’ve always felt rather uncomfortable with that idea. It’s an honour – which is reason enough to hold our heads high - and it’s a responsibility.

Why should people read your blog?
Oh, no special reason. It’s only a micro-blog, really. I’m flattered to receive visits.

What is your personal favourite post on your blog?
I’m not sue I can pick a favourite. One of my most heartfelt posts was Forgiveness for the unrepentant, published in 2009.

What has been the most popular (most viewed) post on your blog?
It’s pretty obvious that some of the highest scorers are simply the result of surfers Googling particular keywords. But there is one which I think probably deserves to be here: Summorum Pontificum: Milanese seminarians speak out, dating from 2011.

Which post on your blog has attracted most comments?
My blog attracts hardly any comments, and that’s absolutely fine by me. However, all comments are interesting and welcome, whether short or long. Very few go into the spam box. The post A letter to my MP about SSM, written in January this year, drew some long comments. Not at all surprising, given the topic.

What other hobbies or interests (beyond blogging) are you prepared to admit to?
I’ve included some in the Facts section. I like sewing, and particularly enjoy adapting or mending things. I like to read, but some books bog me down a bit; I am nearing the end of Max Hastings’s Bomber Command, having started it some months ago. I have two internet addictions: Web Sudoku and TheJigsawPuzzles.com.

What are your hopes for the new pontificate?
The truth is illuminated by rays cast from various directions, as we have seen to wonderful effect in various pontificates and in many spiritual writings. Whether or not we are happy with some of Pope Francis’s decisions regarding the external signs of his office, I look forward to hearing the teaching of unchanging eternal truths from a man of his scientific background. It will certainly set out a challenge to those who think that religion and science are incompatible.

Where is your favourite place of pilgrimage, and why?
Rome, because I know it best. I have never been to Lourdes, and would like to go there one day.

Who is your favourite spiritual author, and why?
Apart from the New Testament (a chapter a day) I am too much inclined to coast along on the strength of things I read some time ago. I don’t think I can identify a particular author, other than C S Lewis. I see things on the blogs sometimes, extracts from spiritual writings or from homilies, which go straight to my heart.

Which of these questions did you find it most difficult to answer?
The questions about my blog posts.

Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?
Naturally, I'm assuming that this is a joke.  Or did the question originate from an American blogger? I think British bloggers are possibly a bit more aware that the extreme Left has various faces. This is my opportunity to encourage my American readers to use the word Marxist, rather than Communist. The Marxist views and tactics of Trotskyism are, I think, far more influential than plain Communism.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Pope Francis and an Interesting Absence

Here is a link to Dominus mihi adjutor, the blog of Fr Hugh of Douai Abbey.  Highly recommended!

Specifically, the link takes you to his post of Tuesday 19th March, entitled Francis, the Pope of our Punishment?  The entire post is well worth reading. 

In passing, he draws our attention to an intriguing element - or rather, the lack of it - in Pope Francis's words during these early days .  He does not infer anything from it; but still, it is interesting:
And still no mention of Vatican II…

Monday 18 March 2013

Tomorrow’s Papal Mass: Good news from Messa in Latino

The heading is in English: Mozzetta back again. A nice picture of Gammarelli’s shop window, as above. Here is my translation, rather rushed and a bit stilted:

A red mozzetta has just been sent to the Vatican, ordered in great haste only this morning, from the famous ecclesiastical tailors, Gammarelli of Rome.

Tomorrow is the date set for the Mass to mark the “beginning of the Petrine ministry of the Bishop of Rome” and in all likelihood (and it is only in this sense that the haste with which the ordinal was prepared can be understood) the one who is being inaugurated will use it, it is being kept for the ceremony in which he will receive the vows of obedience of a representative group of the cardinals.

We are getting excited over very little, some people will think, but on a more substantial level, it comforts us that Mgr Guido Marini has been confirmed in his functions for the ceremony of “inauguration”, coordinating the Franciscan friars of La Verna who have been called up for service at the altar.

The Mass, preceded by the Laudes Regiae, will be in Latin, except for the homily (in Italian), the readings, the responsorial psalm and the prayers of the faithful, all in assorted languages; while the Gospel will be chanted entirely in Greek rather than in the two sacred languages, as would be the custom in the more solemn papal ceremonies; this seems to spring from a desire to shorten the length of the ceremony. With the same intention of synthesis, the offertory procession will be abolished (and this is good, considering what masquerades that rite has given rise to in the past).

During the offertory there will be performed a motet by Palestrina for four voices, written, appropriately, for the coronation of Popes: Tu es pastor ovium.

Finally, the chanting of the Te Deum will close the liturgical part of the proceedings.

Sunday 17 March 2013

Hopeful signs concerning the inaugural Mass and Mgr Marini

After the concern expressed in my last post, I think there is reason to be more hopeful. Chant CafĂ© has posted a link to the booklet for the Holy Father’s inauguration Mass. The music has been decided upon, and no doubt rehearsed, well in advance of the occasion, and is of great dignity. Anything else which the Franciscan cerimonieri wish to introduce will, I assume, be additional to this.

It is also cheering to read the comment from Justin, which is worth pasting here in full:
Did anyone watch the Holy Mass this morning at St Ann's though? Mgr Marini and the Holy Father were sharing a joke after the Mass as he was greeting the crowds. 

The monsignor doesn't seem overly perturbed by what news reporters are saying about his and the Holy Father's fractious encounters. He's a professional and very excellent MC and has a doctorate in the psychology of communication - he's worked with prelates as diverse as Tettamanzi and Bertone and Papa Ratzinger; he's taken over a very well run office from Archbishop Marini and gained the loyalty of staff there. It's his *job* to gently guide the Holy Father in the appropriate liturgical actions - even Pope Benedict did not wear the fanon immediately, or carry the ferula immediately. Given time, I'm sure Mgr Marini can discreetly and gently persuade the Holy Father to do things he had probably never thought about before as well.

The only time Mgr Marini looked mildly ruffled during the Mass was when the Holy Father offered him the sign of peace to him as well. In time the Holy Father won't even notice Mgr Marini's presence, and that too will be due to the professionalism on Mgr Marini's part.
Give the Holy Father time and the benefit of the doubt that he is not some vicious hostile dictator - not only is he the Vicar of Christ will all the graces that the Holy Spirit pours out upon him and his office, Jorge Bergoglio is human too, he will have been doing things a certain way for a number of years, and the last thing he wants in a new environment is to suddenly change the way he celebrates Mass - his source of consolation and joy.

If you don't have hope in the Holy Father (!!!), then at least trust Mgr Marini's expertise as an MC. He's a slick operator - he's not going to barge in there and tell the Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church that the way he's been celebrating Mass for 40 years has been all wrong! He's going to gently nudge the Holy Father in the right directions, and perhaps during the summer offer him some chant lessons, etc. That's how it's done in parishes all across the world, and that's how it'll be done in the Office of Papal Liturgical Celebrations as well.

Saturday 16 March 2013

Mgr Marini and his team not to be involved in Papal Inaugural Mass?

Messa in Latino reports today that Pope Francis has decided not to make use of the services of Mgr Guido Marini and his team of cerimonieri for his inaugural Mass on Tuesday 19th March. Instead, the Mass will be under the care of a secular Franciscan order, the Franciscans of La Verna.

I have no reason to doubt MiL, but I find this news rather startling. I don’t know if it has been confirmed by any other source.

Here is the original Italian text in MiL’s report:
Mons. Guido Marini e tutti i cerimonieri prescelti da Papa Benedetto XVI sono stati esonerati in tronco dai loro incarichi, in vista della cerimonia per la Messa di 'inaugurazione' del nuovo vescovo-di-Roma. Ne faranno le veci i francescani della Verna.
Update: Rorate Caeli are reporting this news too, sourced from the French news agency I.Media.

Thursday 14 March 2013

Prayer for our Holy Father

Some time ago there was a novena prayer for then-Pope Benedict, in one of those very difficult times he endured in his pontificate.  After the novena had ended I incorporated it in my daily prayers, continuing through the sede vacante period, and now into the pontificate of our new Holy Father.  It will, I am sure, be familiar to many of my readers.

Our Father; Three Hail Marys; Glory be to the Father.

Let us pray for our Holy Father, Pope Francis.
May the Lord preserve him, give him long life, make him blessed upon the earth, and not hand him over to the power of his enemies.

"You are Peter;
And upon this Rock I will build My Church."

Let us pray:
God our Father, Shepherd and Guide, look with love on Your servant, Pope Francis, the Pastor of Your Church.  Grant that his word and example may inspire and guide the Church, and that he, and all those entrusted to his care, may come to the joy of everlasting life.  We ask this through Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Mother of the Church, pray for us.
Saint Peter, pray for us.

Monday 11 March 2013

Picking the Men for the Job

Continuing to pray for my adopted Cardinal Levada, that the Holy Spirit may guide him to choose well in the Conclave.  As a bonus, this adoption has reminded me on each occasion to extend my prayers to all the Cardinal-Electors, far more so than at previous Conclaves.

The cardinals have no doubt been focussing their thoughts on the various qualifications and personal qualities the new Pope needs.  The media and the blogs have also given a good deal of attention to it.  I don't recall seeing much on the subject of the team he will create: whom he will reappoint, at least for a time, as the heads of the Congregations, and whom he will immediately or eventually replace.

Please God, among all his other virtues, may he be a good chooser of men.

Wednesday 6 March 2013

"Adopt a Cardinal" passes 300,000

Just thought I'd mention that Jugend 2000's Adopt a Cardinal website currently shows that the number of adoptions is now well over the 300,000 mark.  Staggering! 

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Happy Centenary to the Monks of Prinknash Abbey

Went to the monthly 3 pm Traditional Latin Mass at Prinknash Abbey in Gloucestershire on Sunday. (They also have one every Saturday at 11 am.) The celebrant, Father Damian, told the congregation about a very special anniversary.

One hundred years ago today, on 5th March 1913, the Anglican monks of Caldey Island, off the coast of Pembrokeshire in Wales, were received into the Catholic Church. I have gathered the following details about that happy occasion. First, from the blog of Farnborough Abbey in Hampshire:
It was in 1913 that Abbot Cabrol of Farnborough and his friend Blessed Columba Marmion sailed to the Island of Caldey to welcome the Anglican monks there into what Newman called the ‘one true fold of the Redeemer’.
The website of Prinknash Abbey tells more of the story, which explains the link between Prinknash and Caldey:
The community began in the Anglican Church, but converted to the Catholic Church, while living on Caldey Island, near Tenby, Wales, on 5th March 1913—one hundred years ago.
- and this:
Our particular community began life in the Church of England when our founder, Abbot Aelred Carlyle set up a small community in the Isle of Dogs, London. After many wanderings, that community eventually settled permanently on Caldey Island off Tenby, South Wales, and became Roman Catholic in 1913. Financial pressure forced them to leave Caldey and come to Prinknash Park in December 1928, where they have been ever since. (Caldey Abbey was taken over by another branch of the Benedictine family, the Trappists). But the Prinknash community flourished in the mid-20th century, and was able to take over Saint Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough from the French in 1947, re-found Pluscarden Abbey Elgin, Moray, Scotland, in 1948 and, with Saint Augustine’s Abbey Ramsgate and Pluscarden, founded a small dependent house in Ghana, West Africa in 1989, known as Kristo Buase Monastery.
Many congratulations to the monks of Prinknash. Here is a picture (courtesy of their website) of the lovely mediaeval house to which the community returned a few years ago, from the modern building in the same grounds:

Picture of Caldey Island from visitpembrokeshire.com, via Google Images

Saturday 2 March 2013

Traditional Mass in Cheltenham for the Election of a Pope

The blog of the Latin Mass Society in the Diocese of Clifton has the following information:
On Wednesday 6th March, Low Mass will be celebrated at 6pm at St Gregory the Great, St James' Square, Cheltenham GL50 3PR. This Mass will be a Votive Mass Pro eligendo Summo Pontifice.

All welcome.

Friday 1 March 2013

I've adopted Cardinal Levada!

Well, I didn't expect that when I went into the Adopt a Cardinal website which has been promoted by various bloggers.  Goodness me!  I shall certainly pray for him.

This feels like an empty time, and it's good to have useful things to busy ourselves with. And what better than prayer?

Thursday 28 February 2013

"If it's not of God, it's not going to happen."

Was delighted to see, in the BBC coverage of Pope Benedict's departure from the Vatican, an interview with Fr Bede Rowe, whose blog A Chaplain Abroad is always worth visiting.  He is from Middlesbrough but is a priest of Clifton diocese, and for a while he was assistant priest at St Gregory's in Cheltenham.  He is at present the chaplain of the Chavagnes International College.  He is very committed to the Traditional Latin Mass, and offered it at St Gregory's at the beginning of January.

Fr Rowe's manner was excellent throughout the interview: he struck exactly the right note. The interviewer raised the usual questions about women priests, and about moral issues such as contraception. The interview closed with his very straightforward answer that if these things were not of God, they would not happen.  Well said!

A strange day

Went to Cheltenham today, intending to spend half an hour at St Gregory's church before the Blessed Sacrament in Solemn Exposition, to pray especially for Pope Benedict and for a holy and lion-hearted successor.  They always have Solemn Exposition there on Thursdays, from 10 to 3, and had advertised it as usual in the parish newsletter.  But sadly, when I arrived, I found that there was no Exposition.  I don't know the reason; perhaps the clergy had all been called to Clifton Cathedral for the Mass being offered there this morning in thanksgiving for the Pope. 

Instead of my half-hour of contemplation, I prayed the Stations of the Cross. They are particularly fine in St Gregory's, and very moving.  I was strongly aware today that right to the end Our Lord Jesus was being abused and mocked.  And it seems to be that way too with the closing days of this pontificate.

The Catholic Herald is doing a live blog of this last day.  I will close with this little item, which I found very poignant:
11.58 Earlier this morning Pope Benedict XVI said farewell individually to cardinals, heads of various Vatican departments and Mgr Guido Marini, the papal master of ceremonies.
What a star Mgr Marini has been, in the best sense of the word!  Not flamboyant, but good, and anxious to give the greatest dignity to the papal liturgies. I hope he continues in his post in the next pontificate.

Tuesday 26 February 2013

To quote The Most Sarcastic Priest in Ireland: "I'm reeelly enjoying this..."

Do you mind if I ramble a bit?  I can't really get my head round all the things that have been going on since the Holy Father announced his abdication.  Mulier Fortis says pretty well exactly what I am feeling. Father Blake has just published a heart-rending post about all the filth that has been bubbling up in the Church.  It has been going on for a long time, but I can't help thinking of Pope Benedict having pulled the plug on his pontificate, and instead of the water going down the plughole, all sorts of unmentionable and smelly stuff is welling up from the U-bend, requiring vigorous work with a plunger followed by strong disinfectant.  If only it were just a sweet little frog, instead of an ecclesiastical version of the plagues of Egypt.

I thought it a bit odd when it was reported that the Pope had directed the cardinals who had investigated and reported on the Vatileaks scandal to reveal its contents to the rest of the cardinals on 1st March. I read somewhere that the only copy of the report was to be locked in his safe, in his apartment.  But what if the Camerlengo seals the apartment, in accordance with custom, with the document still in the safe?    As to its being the only copy, surely thare is at least a memory stick or whatever they are called, or preferably more than one, secreted in suitable places?  You see how my mind is starting to show the strain ...

But back to my point. It occurred to me that the Pope did not seem to have given his request legal force. Since his pontificate will end on the evening of 28th February, how could his direction be insisted upon after that date?  Could the investigating cardinals decide not to do it?  Could the rest of the cardinals - or the most influential among them - refuse to have it revealed?

But since then we have learnt from Rorate Caeli and others that this communication to the cardinals will not now happen, and that the whole matter will be handed on to the new Pope.  Several bloggers have expressed the concern that as a result one of the culprits may end up being elected Pope.  As if it isn't already enough of a shambles!  Oh boy, lots of prayers going up from this corner of Gloucestershire ...

Natracalm is very good; also St John's wort*.  Just thought I'd mention that.

*Update:  Very good point from John-of-Hayling : "Careful with St John's wort - it is contraindicated with a number of prescription medicines!"

Friday 15 February 2013

Courage and Frailty

Following my post about St Peter walking on the lake (Matthew Chapter 14), here are a few more thoughts on the weakness of this great soul.

In Chapter 2 of his Gospel, St John tells us that Jesus "never needed advice about any man; He could tell what a man had in him."  That is the Jerusalem Version.  In the RSV, it is written as "He knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for He Himself knew what was in man."  Two vivid renderings.  Christ knows each of us better than we know ourselves.  He knew His adversaries, who prompted the words just quoted. He also knew Peter, and knew his weaknesses.

Peter's relations and fellow-workers had known him for much of their lives, and probably had a good idea of his temperament.  But never in their dreams could they have imagined such an illustration of that combination of inspired insight, courage, rashness, and sudden quailing and collapse, as was displayed by their friend when he challenged the Lord to bid him come to Him on the water.  If they had had a fairly good idea of him before, they had a far clearer knowledge of him after that hair-raising episode. 

It was after that incident, when Peter's fellow-disciples had had the opportunity of seeing Peter's flaws displayed in the most spectacular manner, that Christ chose to bestow on him, in their presence, the greatest commission imaginable.  In that light, we hear Jesus speaking, in Matthew Chapter 16:
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon-Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father Who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
What varied personailities have held the office of Pope since St Peter!  And in our day, when we can learn so much more about each of our Popes, and their individual strengths and frailties, how conscious we are of these variations, and indeed these weaknesses.  Pope Benedict XVI, a Pope who has acted with great courage - for example, in promulgating Summorum Pontificum and Anglicanorum Coetibus -  is leaving us; that is, leaving the office of Peter.  He leaves on the grounds of his frailty.  We can guess at its nature, but we do not know for certain.  Perhaps we will learn more at some future date.  But whether we do or not, this thing is happening. 

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Coincidences can be spooky, while remaining just coincidences.

Let me say that I make no judgment at all of Pope Benedict's decision to abdicate.  Church law allows the Pope to do so. He prayed.  He thought deeply about it.  He gave pointed hints, judging by his particular attention to Pope Celestine V in 2009 and 2010.  Finally, he decided.  Goodness, we shall miss him!  God bless and inspire the one who will follow him.

Here is a funny little story of what happened to me on the evening of that staggering day.  I took up my Bible to read a chapter of the New Testament, as I do every day.  There is no plan or selection to it: I plod along, taking each chapter as it comes.

It happened to be Chapter 14 of St Matthew's Gospel, in which I read:
Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me."  Jesus immediately reached out His hand and caught him, saying to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

Monday 11 February 2013

The Deathbed of a Pontificate

When we receive the stunning news that a person whom we do not know personally, but who is very important to us, has died or has only a short time to live, the sense of personal shock, distress and lowered spirits is surprisingly similar to the more intense sorrow of actual or approaching personal bereavement.  A somewhat paler version, but of the same type.

In the case of dear Pope Benedict's declaration of abdication, at least he himself will continue his earthly life, with whatever degree of frailty. The Church will be spared the machinations of the last years of Pope John Paul II's reign.  On the other hand, who knows what great and valiant things might have been achieved by our present Pope, if he had decided to soldier on for a little longer.  We will never know.  We are where we are, and we move on from here.

Still, it feels like an approaching death.  And of course it is: the death of a Pontificate.  A momentous thing.

Wednesday 6 February 2013

My pro-SSM MP did not abstain: he was at a meeting

An update on my previous post.  I emailed my MP to thank him for abstaining on the SSM vote, and received the following reply:
Martin did not abstain on the equal marriage bill last night. He did not vote as he had an important meeting with constituents in Cheltenham on the effects of the government’s welfare reforms. This meeting had already been rearranged once and had to go ahead. Martin remains 100% in favour of equal marriage and will vote for the bill at all its subsequent parliamentary stages and looks forward to it becoming law.

My MP, a supporter of SSM, has abstained in the vote

David Lindsay has published the SSM voting data for Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs. My MP, the Lib Dem Martin Horwood, had expressed his support for the Bill – please see my recent posts about it. I don’t know the reason for his decision, but I am very pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

A letter to my MP about SSM

Yesterday morning I posted the following letter to Martin Horwood, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cheltenham, in response to his detailed statement of support for same-sex "marriage" which I published in my previous post.

I felt it was important to keep to one side of A4. Within this constraint, I may have omitted things you would have included.  I may also have said things you would not have said.  If there are any points I have missed, I trust that others will have included them in their own letters, thus ensuring that everything that matters has been covered.


Access to marriage by same-sex couples

Thank you for your courteous and detailed letter setting out your views on same-sex marriage.

I understand that in English law there is no distinction between civil and religious marriage, provided the legalities are complied with. My letter proceeds on that understanding.

Having studied your letter, including its theme of equality of love, I have to say that the opposition to the proposed legislation is based on the actual nature of marriage. At the core of marriage is the act of sexual intercourse. Whether or not it results in the conception of a child, it makes the marriage real in a way that the ceremony alone does not. In its absence, the marriage can be declared invalid. Since couples of the same sex are physically incapable of this act, they cannot accomplish this essential element of marriage.

Given that consummation by sexual intercourse is inherent to marriage, if Parliament legislates to remove this requirement, the words of removal can logically have no basis in reality, if marriage is to remain marriage. Or else, they will have the effect of abolishing marriage as we have known it up to the present time, for all citizens, including the heterosexual majority. Marriage will be replaced by an institution which the law calls marriage but is not marriage. I have no doubt that others will explain this more fully to you and your fellow MPs.

Your letter includes a number of supportive views expressed by various clergy and laypeople. In contrast to these personal opinions must be placed the orthodox teachings of the major religions. Whatever the civil law may state, these organisations will require their clergy and teachers to inform their congregations and their school-pupils, not merely that “our religion teaches this, and others believe that”, in a morally equivalent and neutral manner. They will be obliged to explain, with reasons, that “our religion’s teaching is true; the law of the land is based on an erroneous understanding; and same-sex marriage is not in fact marriage.” This firm stand will be shared by many other citizens in the general community, who will continue to give witness to what they steadfastly believe to be unchangeable.

I have mentioned just a few points in this letter. I urge you to consider that there are other factors to be taken into account, other implications, unforeseen consequences and unintended ramifications, before you commit yourself to voting in favour of same-sex marriage.

Monday 28 January 2013

A long letter from an MP who supports same-sex "marriage"

This is a very long letter on same-sex "marriage" from the Liberal Democrat MP for Cheltenham, Martin Horwood.  I had emailed him to ask his view on the subject, and am quite happy with the format of a standard reply, since he has received a large amount of mail on the subject.  Naturally I disagree with his view, but I commend him for taking such trouble over his reply.


20 November 2012

Equal marriage

Thank you for getting in touch with me about the issue of equal marriage (same-sex marriage). I must apologise if this reply has taken a while to reach you. Some of the points being raised by constituents have been quite fine legal and even theological arguments and I wanted to hear from ministers and religious authorities on these points before deciding on my answers to you. I finally did get the chance to question equalities minister Lynne Featherstone MP about this only recently. At the same meeting I also heard the views of colleagues with legal backgrounds and from those with a variety of beliefs, including committed Christians. I have also had the opportunity to talk to another kind of minister, the House of Commons chaplain the Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin who was very helpful in answering my questions, as well as to Michael Perham, the Bishop of Gloucester, and Cheltenham’s only rabbi, Anna Gerrard.

Can I also apologise for sending you the same reply as I’m now sending to all those who get in touch on this issue. I have had quite a few letters and emails on this subject and a standard reply will make sure that everyone gets a prompt reply from now on. If you think I haven’t replied to a specific point which you feel is important, do feel free to get in touch again or perhaps to book a surgery appointment so that we can discuss this face-to-face.

The government’s proposal
Let me first clarify the government’s position. Based on pre-election commitments by both coalition parties , the government has declared its intention to legislate for equal marriage laws for heterosexual and homosexual couples. A three-month public consultation was recently held by the Home Office although this was more about the implementation of the proposal not about whether or not to do it. This is common on subjects for which the government feels it has a democratic mandate and on which it is determined to act. This still doesn’t force MPs to vote for it, of course.

The Liberal Democrat position
Liberal Democrat views on this issue are clear and longstanding. As Nick Clegg said recently: ‘love is the same, straight or gay, so the civil institution should be the same too. All couples should be able to make the same commitment to each other, regardless of who they love.’
This is rooted in our view, expressed in our party’s fundamental statement of principles, that ‘the Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.’

We do not believe equal marriage poses any threat to religious freedom. We do believe this is a civil liberties issue: legislation for equal marriage will remove from the law a significant discrimination against gay couples.

There has been some concern expressed about the fact that the party ‘whip’ will be applied by the Liberal Democrats on this issue whereas Conservative MPs may have a free vote on the matter. I have to say this is quite normal on a proposal that is both party and government policy but it is a bit academic in reality because there is near universal support for the measure amongst LibDem MPs in any case.

Even so, the Liberal Democrat ‘whip’ is perhaps not as draconian as in more authoritarian parties. We allow individual MPs to vote according their conscience in the end anyway, even on a whipped vote, providing they abide by a few rules such as talking to the minister or spokesperson concerned and take the trouble to listen to the whole debate before they vote. I have done this myself on issues such as the NHS Bill, civil servants’ terms and conditions and the Legal Aid Bill. I cannot imagine any LibDem MP who felt very strongly about this issue being persuaded to vote against their conscience just because the whips told them to do so.

The legal arguments concerning marriage in church
There have been a number of other concerns put to me and I will try to answer these one by one.

The most common concern is that the legislation will affect religious marriages in church. It will not. The bill concerns the civil marriage service provided by the government’s own register offices (or on other premises using the civil ceremony, such as hotels). If a minister or congregation want to see same sex marriages in their church or place of worship this is not currently legally recognised. I believe they should be able to do this if it is compatible with their own tradition, but this was not actually included in the government’s initial proposal. Whether it is or not, the minister has confirmed to me personally that nothing in the bill will force ministers or congregations to accept legally recognised same-sex marriages in their church or temple against their wishes and beliefs.

Ministers or congregations that actually want to conduct religious weddings between couples of the same sex can already do this but it is not legally recognised and a civil ceremony must be conducted as well. Unless the government’s proposal changes, this will remain the case. Some religious organisations have lobbied for the right to conduct same sex marriages should they want to do so, and I would support this right.

Concerns about the European Court of Human Rights
There has been some concern that campaigners might use the European Court of Human Rights to press equal marriage on reluctant ministers if the legislation goes through but, again, ministers tell that they have had clear legal advice and two separate opinions from the Court itself that marriage law relating to same-sex couples is a matter for states to decide and the Court does not regard religious same-sex marriage as an inalienable human right .

There was some concern that the Church of England is at particular risk from some kind of legal action because of its position as the state church. For instance, it cannot currently refuse parishioners the right to be married in its churches, unless they are divorced. I have discussed this with the minister too. She is of the opinion that the Church of England would be under no greater obligation to perform same sex marriages than any other denomination but in any case the European Court’s intention to leave this to member states still stands and there will certainly be no such special obligation in the legislation. I am happy to press ministers to make this freedom quite explicit in the legislation.

Social arguments about the status of marriage
To be absolutely clear: the intention is to allow civil marriages for gay couples and perhaps to permit any religious ministers or congregations that wish to register same-sex marriages the freedom to do so within the law. There is nothing in the government proposal that will force this on any religious minister or congregation that does not want to do it.

The question then becomes whether or not there are wider social reasons or deeper religious reasons why equal marriage should not proceed and even if there are, whether or not those who believe in them have the right to stop those who don’t from having the marriage they want.

I have heard an essentially social argument that equal marriage will in some way undermine the institution of marriage itself. This seems quite illogical to me. Generally, as a society, we believe that stable loving relationships are reinforced by the status of marriage. Surely this should be as true for gay couples as for heterosexual couples. Recognition of same-sex marriage could even be said to strengthen the status of marriage by including in it people previously excluded from the institution and strengthening the protection of children within these families. Generally speaking, society has tended to regard a decline in the number of marriages as a weakening of the institution so surely we should welcome its expansion to more couples.

Arguments from religious tradition
A more religious argument which has been put to me is that marriage has been defined by religious tradition as a union between one man and one woman and so marriage between people of the same sex is something different in kind and should not be called ‘marriage’. It has even been suggested to me that this will therefore undermine the religious idea of marriage and, in effect, be a form of discrimination against those of religious faith.

But it is far from clear to me that even religious opinion is united on this issue.

A member of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party who is a committed Christian spoke movingly at one of our meetings. He cited the New Testament injunction to love thy neighbour (Romans 13:9) as a powerful warning against discrimination. You can’t love someone if you discriminate against them, he said, and the law at the moment discriminates against gay people by denying them the right to marry.

Anna Gerrard, Cheltenham’s liberal rabbi, told me that she fully supports the government’s proposal. Liberal Judaism rabbis, she told me, ‘officiate at religious marriage ceremonies for same sex couples, currently in conjunction with civil partnerships, and hope that these may soon be enshrined in UK law. As the Rabbi of the Gloucestershire Liberal Judaism Community, I will ensure that the same opportunities to sanctify relationships are available to Jewish and mixed faith same sex couples in the county as are available to heterosexual couples.’

Quakers are amongst the most longstanding supporters of equal marriage. The Society of Friends welcomes ‘proposals offering same-sex couples equal treatment with opposite-sex couples’. The Society goes on: ‘We support the balance of equal rights with equal responsibility. We hope these registrations may be mutually recognised within the United Kingdom and outside it. Quaker Meetings in some parts of Britain have already celebrated same-sex commitments in meetings for worship, and more will do so’.

Their theological justification for this recalls George Fox’s words in 1669: ‘joining in marriage is the work of the Lord only, and not the priests or magistrates’; for it is God’s ordinance and not man’s; and therefore Friends cannot consent that they should join them together: for we marry none; it is the Lord’s work, and we are but witnesses.’ In other words it is for God and for the participants themselves to determine what is right and proper in marriage according to their conscience and belief.

The law we are proposing echoes this idea: it will facilitate more than define marriage for people, whether they are religious or non-religious, gay or straight.

The Unitarian Church in the UK has also made clear its support: ‘We value religious freedom. We do not believe any religious group should be forced to undertake same sex marriage. However, we would claim the right to do so in line with our own deeply held convictions about the inherent worth of all individuals and for public recognition of relationships.’

In April a letter to The Times was published from 15 senior Church of England clergy and Synod members including the Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson, and the former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries of Pentregarth. The writers described marriage as a ‘robust institution’ and said ‘the Church calls marriage holy or sacramental because the covenant relationship of faithful committed love between the couple reflects the covenanted love and commitment between God and his Church. Growing in this kind of love means we are growing in the image of God. So the fact that there are same sex couples who want to embrace marriage should be a cause for rejoicing in the Christian Church.’

I do not necessarily expect you to be persuaded by these arguments. But I hope you will recognise that they do represent sincere religious opinions and that they demonstrate more openness in the religious conception of marriage than some opponents of equal marriage suggest.

Our own Bishop of Gloucester, Michael Perham, is prevented from expressing a strong opinion on this issue one way or the other at present as he has agreed to take part in the Church of England’s own review of its attitude to homosexuality and feels that he should not therefore declare his ‘mind to be made up’ on equal marriage.

But in his recent address to the diocese, Bishop Michael made a very interesting point. He accepted that if you take a ‘conservative biblical view that scripture forbids all homosexual relationships, then obviously you cannot support any such relationship, whether called ‘marriage’ or anything else. But if you believe, as clearly many people do, in society and indeed in the Church, that faithful same-sex relationships, in which there is physical intimacy, can be acceptable to God, then you need to find a language for such relationships.’ Bishop Michael acknowledged that, for some, using the word ‘marriage’ seems like a step too far. ‘Yet’ he said ‘when people try to describe what such a relationship should be like, they find themselves saying ‘it is akin to marriage’.’

Have we the right to ban same sex marriage?
For me Bishop Michael’s point about language gets to the heart of the matter. No one section of society owns the word ‘marriage’. Its meaning – and particularly whether or not that meaning necessarily excludes same sex couples - is not even agreed amongst those of religious belief as I hope I’ve shown.

But even if I was convinced by a particular religious point of view about who should be included in the idea of marriage, I don’t think it would necessarily give me the right to impose that view of marriage on those who don’t share this religious conviction. The law of the United Kingdom has to be fair to those of all religious beliefs and of none. Just because someone of a particular religious belief is convinced that the word ‘marriage’ can only encompass a union between one man and one woman, that does not give them (or me) the right to insist that the state prevents someone who does not share that conviction from putting into practice their own conception of marriage.

After all, most Christians (with the historical exception of the Church of Latter Day Saints) would not say that marriage should include multiple wives. Yet they do not generally declare that Muslims with more than one wife are not really married. We all recognise the validity of that very different conception of marriage and this is supported by UK law.

Given the variety of religious and non-religious arguments above, we have to ask ourselves why we should exclude same sex relationships from the legal institution. As legislators, we don’t allow a complete free-for-all and obviously can and do impose some boundaries on the legal institution of marriage in the UK. Indeed we are right now considering more specific legislation against the practice of forced marriage. But most of the remaining restrictions on marriage are protective ones like this, for instance relating to age or consent.

The ban on marriage for same sex couples is not protective. A gay couple do no harm to anyone else when they marry. It is a loss of civil liberty that they are not allowed to do this on an equal basis with couples of the opposite sex.

I do not believe that I or the government should have the right to tell gay people that they cannot get married if that is what they choose to do. I completely support the freedom of Christians and others to marry in the way they think is right, but not to stop others from doing the same.

Thank you once again for getting in contact about this important issue.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Horwood MP

Member of Parliament for Cheltenham

Monday 14 January 2013

“Spooked” Cameron plans to have SSM Bill debated on a quiet day

Guido Fawkes has published this post today about the government’s same-sex marriage plans, and the opposition inside the Conservative Party. Do read it, though I warn you that the comments on GF’s posts can be horrendously coarse.

GF closes with the following:
Sources familiar with the planning say that the latest interventions have “seriously spooked” the government and No. 10 are pushing for the Bill to be published in the next fortnight; most likely on Thursday, January 24. The second reading is then pencilled in for the day that Parliament rises for the February Recess; Thursday, February 14. Apparently No. 10 are hoping “dozens of MPs will have left early to go to their constituencies.”

Sunday 6 January 2013

Dear Bishops, do not fear your past lives

Difficult times lie ahead, almost certainly.  Here is a platitude, but, I think, a most pertinent one in these times: We are all sinners.  It is in this spirit that I have written the following.  It is not addressed to any particular Bishop in England and Wales; I don't actually think I'm on their radar, let alone their reading lists, and in any case I have no particular knowledge of their lives.  It is a general plea.

Dear Bishops, please do not ever fear the revelation of whatever sin may have been committed in your past; do not let it silence you; do not let it cause your courage to fail.  Please speak out, and take action, as one sinner striving to save other sinners; but as a sinner who is a successor of the Apostles, with the power and authority given to them and to you by God.  His strength will be given to you. 

Your flocks are sturdier than you may think. Although you are in authority over us, you and we are also brethren. In the face of any opprobrium you may suffer, even for real wrongdoing in your earlier lives, and of which you have repented most sincerely, may you always be borne up by our prayers.

Friday 4 January 2013

Meditating on the Glorious Mysteries

The final set of points for meditation.  I remember one of my teachers comparing the Joyful and Glorious Mysteries.  She said that whereas each of the Joyful Mysteries had its dark side, the spirit of the Glorious Mysteries was one of unalloyed happiness.  I accepted this for some time; but later, when I started to experience the Mysteries as real events, in which I was involved, I began to feel a sense of grief and loss, in the midst of joy, when reflecting on Christ's Ascension into Heaven.  It still hits me on every Feast of the Ascension, that sensation of being bereft, and in fact I shed tears at the thought of it.  It makes me wonder how the Apostles felt:  wrapt in the glory of it, surely, and yet with breaking hearts because in all the remaining years of their lives they would see Him no more.

It was some years later that I began to experience something of the same feeling when meditating on the Mystery of the Assumption of Our Lady.  The disciples must have loved her so much, both for herself and as the Mother of the dear Lord. The things they must have learnt from her! And what sorrow they must have felt when her life came to its end.  It is hard to find appropriate words when speculating on the effect upon them of the astonishing sequel.  All I can think of is that it would have been so overwhelming that it dried their tears instantly, and that their sorrow was transformed into awe.

The Resurrection
“He is not here; for He has risen as He said.” (Matthew 27:6)
“Go quickly and tell His disciples.” (Matthew 27:7)
“Jesus came and stood among them.” (John 20:19)
“Put out your hand, and place it in My side.” (John 20:27)

The Ascension
“I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2-3)
“If I do not go away, the Counsellor will not come to you.” (John 16:7)
“While He blessed them, He parted from them …”
“… and was carried up into heaven.” (Luke 24:51)

The Coming of the Holy Spirit
“I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7)
“All He tells you will be taken from what is Mine.” (John 16:15)
“He will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:13)
“I will pour out My Spirit; and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:18, after Joel 2:28)

The Assumption of Our Lady
Mary’s earthly life is at an end.
Body and soul, she is taken to heaven ... (Pius XII: Munificentissimus Deus, and Holy Tradition)
... and is with her Son once more.
“Blessed be her glorious Assumption.” (The Divine Praises)

The Coronation of Our Lady in Heaven
“Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy!” (Salve Regina)
The glory of the Saints.
Our friends in heaven.
Eternal joy.

Thursday 3 January 2013

Meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries

Here is my selection of points for meditation when I pray the Sorrowful Mysteries.

It was surprisingly hard to find four directly relevant Gospel texts for The Scourging at the Pillar and The Crowning with Thorns.  I approached the problem by including texts that illustrate the dreadful scenes in which these Mysteries are set.  When I reflect on them, I am very much aware of the fast-moving sequence of events leading to the Crucifixion. 

The Agony in the Garden
“Father, if You are willing, remove this chalice.” (Luke 22:42)
“Not My will, but Yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)
He finds the disciples “sleeping from sorrow.” (Luke 22:45)
“See, My betrayer is at hand.” (Matthew 26:46)

The Scourging at the Pillar
“The man has done nothing that deserves death.” (Luke 22:15)
“I shall have Him flogged and then let Him go.” (Luke 22:16)
“If you release Him, you are not Caesar’s friend!” (John 19:12)
Jesus is then scourged and mocked. (John 19:1-3)

The Crowning with Thorns
Wearing His crown, Jesus is presented to the priests. (John 19:14)
“Do you want me to crucify your King?” (John 19:15)
“We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:16)
“I am innocent of this righteous man’s blood.” (Matthew 27:24)

The Carrying of the Cross
“He went out, bearing His own Cross.” (John 19:17)
Simon of Cyrene is forced to carry it for Him. (Matthew 27:32)
“There followed Him a great multitude of the people ...”
“ … and of women who bewailed and lamented Him.” (Luke 23:27)

The Crucifixion
He gave His life “as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
“The Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the World.” (John 1:29)
“Not a bone of Him shall be broken.” (John 19:36; Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12; Psalm 34:20)
“They will look on Him Whom they have pierced.” (John 19:37; Zechariah 12:10)