Sunday 26 October 2014

2015 Synod Attendance: Whom Will the Conferences Elect?

It is sensible to remind ourselves that the 2015 follow-up Synod on the Family will not bring together all the bishops. They will be selected by their bishops’ conferences. Therefore, the bishops we hope to see there may not be there at all.

They are chosen as follows. First, from the Code of Canon Law, on the Synod of Bishops:

Can. 346 §1. A synod of bishops assembled in an ordinary general session consists of members of whom the greater part are bishops elected for each session by the conferences of bishops according to the method determined by the special law of the synod; others are designated by virtue of the same law; others are appointed directly by the Roman Pontiff; to these are added some members of clerical religious institutes elected according to the norm of the same special law.

Next, from Pope Paul VI’s Motu Proprio letter Apostolica Sollecitudo of 1966:

The Bishops who will represent individual national Conferences are to be chosen in this manner:
a) one for each national episcopal Conference which has 25 members or less;
b) two for each national episcopal Conference of no more than 50 members;
c) three for each national episcopal Conference which has more than 100 members.
The episcopal Conferences which take in a number of nations will choose their representatives on the same basis.
In choosing those who are to represent the episcopal Conferences of one or a number of nations and the religious institutes in the Synod of Bishops, great attention should be paid not just to the general knowledge and wisdom of individuals, but also to their theoretical and practical knowledge of the matter which the Synod is to take up.
The Supreme Pontiff may, if he so chooses, increase the number of members of the Synod of Bishops by adding bishops, or religious to represent the religious institutes, or clerics who are experts, to the extent of fifteen percent of the total number of the members mentioned in articles V and VIII.

The 1980 Synod of Bishops, on the subject of The Christian Family, took place in what was, in England and Wales, an atmosphere churned up by the National Pastoral Congress, which had been held in Liverpool earlier that year. As a resident of that archdiocese at the time, with a number of contacts among those who had attended the Congress or subsequent meetings and talks, I remember in particular that we were upset and worried by all the conflicting views that were being put forward on the Church, Her teachings, and the Mass. Some of these views were clearly in error.

One reported encounter stands out, given the situation in which we find the Church today. A person attended a talk in which a prominent priest of the archdiocese was challenged by a member of his audience to say whether the Church’s teaching against contraception was true. “Yes”, he was reported to have said, “in theory and in abstract”. The extension being planted into people’s minds was, of course: “But in practice and in reality …”. Haven’t we heard similar things in recent days, still going strong after more than three decades!

Incidentally, the priest on that occasion went on to become a very highly-placed member of the E&W hierarchy.

But back to the 1980 Synod in Rome. Two of our bishops were elected to attend it. They were Cardinal Hume of Westminster, and Archbishop Worlock of Liverpool.

Some time after the Synod, I read that the two men had agreed that each would press the Synod for change on a specific area: one would concentrate on contraception, the other on divorce-remarriage. As we know, they did not prevail. The following year, Pope John Paul II reiterated the Church's teaching in his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio.

Interestingly, it is in this document that we find the clarification of another issue which appears to have been misrepresented at the recent Synod. Here is a reminder (with my emphasis) of what FC says on the question of gradualness, or graduality as some Synod Fathers have recently called it:

Married people too are called upon to progress unceasingly in their moral life, with the support of a sincere and active desire to gain ever better knowledge of the values enshrined in and fostered by the law of God. They must also be supported by an upright and generous willingness to embody these values in their concrete decisions. They cannot however look on the law as merely an ideal to be achieved in the future: they must consider it as a command of Christ the Lord to overcome difficulties with constancy. "And so what is known as 'the law of gradualness' or step-by-step advance cannot be identified with 'gradualness of the law,' as if there were different degrees or forms of precept in God's law for different individuals and situations. In God's plan, all husbands and wives are called in marriage to holiness, and this lofty vocation is fulfilled to the extent that the human person is able to respond to God's command with serene confidence in God's grace and in his or her own will."(95) On the same lines, it is part of the Church's pedagogy that husbands and wives should first of all recognize clearly the teaching of Humanae vitae as indicating the norm for the exercise of their sexuality, and that they should endeavor to establish the conditions necessary for observing that norm.

In conclusion, I repeat the important question, the great uncertainty: Whom will the conferences elect? We all know of some real heroes of the Faith amongst our bishops. If they are not chosen to attend, let us not be downcast. Let us pray and trust that the “God of Surprises” will visit the hearts of those who do attend. We may find ourselves astonished to learn that among the Fathers of the next Synod there are hitherto-unsuspected episcopal lions, inspired with courage and with loving zeal for the true guidance of souls.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Please pray for Pastor Emeritus

I have always appreciated the kindness and wisdom of dear Pastor Emeritus, Father Eamonn Whelan, who has posted many comments on my little blog. Now I am going to ask my readers to join with me in keeping Father in your prayers, because he is ill. The following was published today on his blog:

Just over a month ago I was rushed to hospital with a suspected heart attack. It was a false alarm, for which I was truly grateful as I have had more than enough illnesses, I thought, during past six years!

However during the four days I was an in-patient other tests, including CT scan and cardiogram, were performed. Result: - lung cancer and 3 blocked arteries. After long discussion with consultant I decided against targetted deep radium treatment, though I agreed to have work done on arteries. That latter job is due tomorrow, Thursday. So a prayer would be appreciated. I received Sacrament of the sick yesterday.

Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed nomini Tuo da gloriam.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

ACTA in Bristol to discuss the Synod

I saw this in the newsletter of a parish church in the diocese of Clifton:

Synod on the Family: The Clifton diocese branch
of A Call to Action (ACTA) will hold a meeting on 15
November, at St Nicholas of Tolentino, Lawfords
Gate, Bristol, BS5 0RE, to discuss issues arising out
of the current general synod on the family. For
ordinary Catholics these issues are some of the
most important and topical of the challenges facing
the church and the views of the laity may be highly
relevant. The meeting will be assisted by a
Dominican friar, Fr Peter Hunter OP of Blackfriars,
Oxford who will provide expert theological guidance.
Coffee at 10.30, the meeting will begin at 11.00 am
and finish by 4.00 pm. Please bring a packed lunch.
All are welcome. Admission is free, though there will
be a retiring collection to help to defray expenses.

I well remember Deacon Nick Donnelly’s reports on ACTA, which indicated that it appeared to be popular among those who dissented from the teachings of the Church. If this is still the case, then goodness me, the weird goings-on at the Secret Synod, and the strange Relatio, are likely to provide plenty of excitement. I hope Fr Hunter can steer them along the right path.

Saturday 11 October 2014

"Well done, good and faithful servant!"

From the Linen on the Hedgerow blog, Saturday, 11 October, 2014:

It is with great personal sadness that we, the Collins Family, must inform the loyal followers of Linen on the Hedgerow, that our beautiful father, husband and grandfather, Richard Collins, has died peacefully at home this morning surrounded by those who loved him most. He was blessed to receive the Last Rites and Holy Mass was celebrated in the Extraordinary Form at his bedside. Please pray for the repose of his soul.

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Please pray for Richard Collins

Readers of Richard Collins’s blog, Linen on the Hedgerow, are aware of his illness.

I have just read a comment under his most recent post, bringing the sad news that his life is drawing to a close.

I invite my own readers to join me in praying for him, and for his wife and family.

Sunday 5 October 2014

Personal thoughts on praying for the Pope

Following the election of Pope Francis, I adapted and continued to say the following prayer, which I had originally started to say in the reign of Pope Benedict. You are all familiar with it, I'm sure:
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.
Some way into the present pontificate, I began to struggle with the words of the prayer. I had a sense of facing a barrier, an increasing reluctance. It was a strange experience, and made me rather unhappy.

And yet of course it is very - very - important to pray for Pope Francis. Some weeks ago I decided to switch to what is perhaps a fairly standard set of prayers for the Pope, often recommended to accompany a work for an indulgence: the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, and the Hail Holy Queen. They are less directional, and also less emotional, than the specific prayer quoted above. I pray most earnestly for our present Pope , but I prefer to leave the details to the Lord. I am surprised to observe how much more peaceful I feel for having done this.

Thursday 2 October 2014

Gossip and the Vatican Security Corps

Pope Francis offered Mass on 28th September 2014 for the members of the Vatican Gendarmerie. Here is a link to a report on the occasion, by Kerri Lenartowick for the Catholic News Agency.

The report explains that “While the Swiss Guards are primarily dedicated to protecting the Pope, the Gendarmes are responsible for the security and public order of Vatican City.”

Pope Francis returned to a theme he has touched on a number of times in his pontificate: that of gossip. I reprint here the bulk of the article, which is fairly short.
Pope Francis said the police force must not only defend the Vatican against thieves or attacking armies.

“Napoleon is not coming anymore,” he quipped.

Instead, the “war here today is rather something else.”

“It is a war that is not waged with the weapons that we recognize: it is a war waged with the tongue,” he explained.

Pope Francis told the police force to be attentive to gossip within the Vatican walls.

“If (you hear) someone gossiping, stop him! (Say) ‘here there can be none of that: walk out of St. Anne’s Gate. Go outside and talk there! Here you cannot!’”

This spiritual war is one of light and darkness, said the Pope.

On the eve of the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel, the Gendarmerie’s patron saint, Pope Francis asked for his intercession.

“We ask St. Michael to help us in this war: never speak ill of each other, never open your ears to gossip,” the Pope said.