Monday, December 11, 2017

The Pater Noster: a problem with the Son of God himself



So, the Sovereign Pontiff suggests the Pater Noster needs a rewrite, well we know from the Superior General of the Jesuits no-one had a tape recorder, so it is not possible to know what Jesus actually said, in the same way we don't haver a video of his life, so we have to rely on the Church's collective memory, guided by the Holy Sprit to lead us into all truth.

The Gospels though they give slightly different versions of this prayer, they concur with the ancient liturgical form of the prayer which ends, "Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo." in Greek, "καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν, ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ." So it is not just the translation the Pope has problems with but the actual text itself. His problem therefore is not with ICEL or some other body but with the Son of God himself.

The Greek means “to bring into” or “to lead into”: it’s in the active voice not the passive therefore it certainly does not mean “do not let”, the Pope's preferred translation. There is an important truth here, God does not merely permit temptation as though we live in a world where Satan is as powerful God and good and evil struggle together, and mankind is pulled hither and thither.

The new French translation uses the passive voice, "let us not fall into temptation", is far from accurate, it suggests that falling into temptation is some kind of unfortunate accident. For a Christian, that is those empowered by the Holy Spirit, to "cry out, "Abba, Father"", a new relationship has been formed, in whichthrough Grace we are empowered by God and no longer in sway of the Tempter, in short, we can resist sin and temptation, even the temptation in the Last Days to defect from the faith.

Regrettably, there seems to be trait in much of His Holinesses theology, where human beings do not receive sufficient grace to overcome sin or live Christian lives: the Blessed Virgin cries out to God that she has been decieved or Jesus has to beg forgiveness from Mary, and the Grace of marriage does not give the strength to live according to Jesus' teaching.

An alteration will obviously add to a sense of change within the Church. Protestant churches seem to have their own translation but what His Holinesses seems to want to do is to change, not merely change words but the very theology, the words, of Christ.

The problem is that the Orthodox Churches will continue with what has been given and the un-Churched will continue with what has always been but the cavalier attitude of the Pope to the explicit teaching of Jesus Christ will wound the Catholic Church for generations and set precedents for further rejection and sidelining of Christ.



If we can't have a Pope fluent in the major liturgical languages, God grant us one who knows when to keep silent!

Friday, December 08, 2017

Dictator Pope - some thoughts



I finished that book, 'The Dictator Pope', a few days ago. There was very little that was new in it but it is shocking when scandals are brought together in a catalogue of vice. This is certainly not a book I would recommend most people reading, especially those who are easily shocked.

It portrays a picture of an arbitrary self-seeking princeling with few virtues and practically every vice. For those who hear confessions regularly it gives an insight into the cup which is clean on the outside but full of corruption on the inside.

It gives an insight into the contemporary Church, certainly into the psychology of many of its leading clergy and perhaps into the heresy of Mercy. In the abuse crisis so many of our leaders like Cardinal Daneels, who comes in for much criticism, not only defended abusers, telling their victim they needed to repent but they simply pretended there was no problem. Maybe they were not as bad as Cardinal Maradiaga who chairs Francis' Council of Nine, he dismissed the whole matter as a construction of the 'Jewish media'.

A false, heretical understanding of Mercy reduces God to being tolerant of everything, to the point where sin disappears and black becomes white, the foolish are regarded as wise, the corrupt become virtuous. A tolerant God means mankind has no need of Redemption or Salvation, the whole Christological drama becomes unnecessary and humanity has no need of a moral compass, because whatever is done, so long as it doesn't undermine the Enlightenment virtues, is fine.

An excess of Mercy has a tendency to remove any critical faculty. God becomes the watchmaker who having finished his work, sets it in place to run by itself, he is not as scripture portrays him concerned by our every action, nor is he the one who will come to judge between sheep and goats, and certainly not the one who is concerned about our personal integrity, our truth telling, our sexual or financial morality and our craving for power. It works well for a dictator, in that any criticism or expression of doubts or any questioning about this new god (the god of theological speculation, rather than God revealed by Jesus Christ in scripture and Tradition) becomes a sign of sickness, rigidity, even heresy but worst of all of the unforgivable sins of divisiveness and disloyalty.

What I find so shocking in this book, which hardly reveals any new secrets, just adds a few details, is that such corruption as it reveals causes dis-ease in so few. Indeed, those who do raise concerns are hussled to the margins and vilified. Colonna gives us insight into a court that seems to be hotbed of neurotic revenge, nepotism, financial corruption, homosexual practice and where surveillance and gossip are rife and where image is all. A quote from the book, a priest said, "It is not who or what you know, it is now about what you know about who you know", he was talking about a culture of blackmail.
Why is it tolerated? Why is it so easily accepted? Why do so few denounce it?

Perhaps it is that Catholicism in particular has seen so many changes in recent years that there are so few points of stability from which bearings can be taken. Even the Gospels, the actual revealed words of Jesus are pushed to the background and replaced by 'the sublime theology' of some German Cardinal. The author makes the point that what has been lost in the last few years is Jesus's 'Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no',

Being anxious that some fragment of the Lord's body might be lost or desecrated should be important to priests, nowadays being deeply concerned that a word, a comma of Lord's being lost should be a deep, deep concern of every Christian because where sin and vice abounds Christ cannot be tolerated

But then many bishops and religious superiors simply turned a blind eve to sexual abuse and abusers.....

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

When we lose faith



I don't fear atheism or aggressive secularism as much as I fear Catholics who have lost their faith bur remain in professional roles within the Church,  There seem to be a awful lot of them on the right and left who contribute nothing to the life of the Church, in fact they suck it dry or damage its Christocentricity, they are interested in church politics and factions or they use the Church to satisfy and further their own needs. People like this can be found in every Catholic school and parish, in diocesan curial offices, in choir galleries and music groups, in theological faculties, in fact they are everywhere and they are legion.

Increasingly there is a strong division between the episcopacy and the people, in recent weeks young men have been forcibly removed from churches in Belgium and France over Reformation celebrations, in Belgium, as in Germany and Austria protests over art installation, the latest being a crucified cow in a Belgium church. It seems really odd that any bishop or priest would allow such things and that they would not realise how appalled the faithful might be. On the continent it could be that the local civic authority rather than the clergy have control over what is put into churches but one might expect senior clergy to be more shocked not less shocked than the laity.

When lay people lose faith, unless they are Church employees or gain some satisfaction like performing, they simply stop practicing and supporting the Church and its activities and in effect they disappear. When clergy, especially those of a certain age, stop believing they carry on, either with a lack of enthusiasm or actively undermining the faith of those who still believe and pushing their own particular agenda, in many cases they become even more concerned about developing their own careers.

It is important to remember when faith goes, so too do the other theological virtues, hope and charity. The result is people who are depressed and bitter or cruel or those who are aggressively destructive of faith and those things that speak of faith, they become practically and supernaturally anti-Christ. We Catholics understand faith as the foundational virtue which if it is present always produces fruit. If the fruit is rotten, then faith is likely to be dead and the tree unsound or dead. I remember a prelate who gutted his church and threatened to sue parishioners who objected, he used to send one particular couple a Christmas each year renewing the threat.

This article appeared a few days ago, which, if as I suspect it is true, it explains Pope Benedict's reference to "the wolves". A great deal of the confusion and pain in the Church today and the divide between those who have faith in Jesus, and those who use Christianity for their own agenda; amongst the laity using Christianity is about a backdrop for weddings or funeral, amongst the clergy it can be about career development or exerting power over others, which as we have seen all too vividly can be expressed in sexual terms.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The third man


The third man or servant, the one with one talent is worth considering. Why did he not do anything with that one talent, except bury it?

The answer is given us,  "Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid ..." (RSV translation). It is pretty obvious that his fear has blinded him to know that what the master wanted was a profit. so it seems as if he didn't know his master very well, the other two servants obviously knew him better. Perhaps the fact he buries the talent indicates that whilst his master is away, for 'a long while', he is happy to have him out of his mind and house and life, his memory buried with talent amongst the dead things in the earth. One is left to wonder too what he is doing whilst not burdened by his master's affairs, is he mistreating his fellow servants or perhaps found another master to serve.

Scripture tells us, "perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love" (1Jn 4:18). We don't kinow about the other two servants but presumably they knew the master better than the third one, perhaps they loved him too because the knew him "We cannot love what we do not know", says St Thomas Aquinas. The third servant certainly does not love, he is merely afraid, too afraid to either know or do his masters will, yet he knows it perfectly, because he says that his master reaps where he has sown and gathers where he has not winnowed.

Jesus says, "If you love me, keep my commandments". John 14:15. There are lots of themes here, first of all love gives us an insight into what his commandments are, then proof of love is by action, not necessarily by emotions or sentiment.

What is not forgiven the third servant is that he is paralysed by 'his' fears and is unable to see or act beyond them to produce any fruit, he is fixed on himself rather than his master. He has built his life, his house, on the sand, of his feelings and fears, rather than the rock-like hardness of the masters will who invites his servants to follow "the hard and narrow path".


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Confusion


Image result for gender confusionA parishioner who works in social care has been told she is a "bigot" and a lot of other rather unpleasant things, the reason is that she refuses to go along with her department's gender policy. She deals with confused young people who often cut themselves or are anorexic or are suicidal. often drug or alcohol dependant and aggressive to others, lately to this mix has been added confusion over gender identity.

Her description of most of those she deals with suggests gender identity is just one of many confusions these young people have to deal with. Many appear to be from homes where there is no father, where the mother has a succession of 'partners' and is uncertain about her role, where the family is sexualised by the presence of various forms of pornography and where the children are prematurely sexualised by the actions of those around them.

Confusion over gender seems to occur where there is confusion on many other levels. The confused are left asking who they are, where do they fit in. Gender confusion would seem to be merely a symptom of general confusion, that ends up by disrupting relationships and ultimately questioning one's very identity as a person.

Religion is about identity; our ability to understand what we mean by "I am ...". it is about knowing one's place in the universe and history in relationship to God and others.

The present confusion in the Church, especially amongst bishops, is not unrelated to gender confusion, it is about having lost sight of who God himself is. Confusion especially confusion about right and wrong, good and evil is always from the Devil, as is confusion -heresy- about who Jesus Christ is.

Monday, November 13, 2017

"Has it worked?" the question we dare not ask



In this centenary year of the Soviet Revolution, it is worth reflecting that after 70 years the Russian people actually asked the question, "Has it worked?" It is the question an efficient business asks regularly, I suspect parents in a healthy family ask that question. it should be the fundamental question of the spiritual life.

Fifty years after the implementation of the liturgical changes, it is the question the Church should be asking itself, any business would have product tested before a change of brand. I suppose that Summorum Pontificum was Benedict's way of doing this retrospectively.

Vatican II's liturgical reforms were introduced en masse everywhere and within a few years of the Council, unlike the gradually introduced liturgical reforms of Pius V that percolated gradually as old books were slowly replaced but even then only where the Roman Rite was used, the Milanese, Lyonese, Bragans, Dominicans, Carthusian, for example, continued using their own Rites, and acted as a kind of quality control or reference point for the reformed Roman Rite.


There are two areas where, 'has it worked?' should be asked, the first is liturgical reform, the second is the modern use of the papal fiat that introduced them, it was an unprecedented use of papal power. The second of these, Pope Francis is dealing with very effectively by forcing even the most conservative to ask about the modern use of papal power, "has it worked?". I half think that it is a deliberate policy, a reductio ad absurdum, that the Pope is raising with allies like Fr Spadaro and Dr Ivereigh and other cheerleaders. Are they cooperators who will heroically sacrifice their careers in a successive papacy. Dare one suggest that Magnum Principium might actually be a return of the Church to local Rites and Usages that are mutually enriching? I suspect not but it is a possibility. The Ordinariate Rite after all seems to have this effect where it is celebrated.

Apparently a large number of French Seminaries are closing, as are a whole lot of ancient monasteries and practically every convent has become a retirement home. I am not sure what the number is this year, but last year, in our diocese we had only 3 seminarians. Whilst I was at the seminary we had in this city of Brighton and Hove almost 30 priests, in 17 years time by the year 2030 we will be lucky to have 2 under 65, they will age prematurely out of exhaustion.

The thing is that there isn't an absence of vocations, from my little parish we have three men, two preparing for the priesthood and one in a rather rigorous contemplative monastery but they were very much involved in the Old Rite and have gone to communities outside of the diocese. It isn't even that there is an absence of contemplative religious, there are new convents opening in the Channel Islands and in the Diocese of Lancaster but again the sisters will worship according to Old Rite. The only monastery flourishing, without scandal, in Italy (despite episcopal opposition) is Old Rite, at Norcia. The same in France, where a quarter of this years ordinations were of priests attached to the Old Rite, and where monastic life is retracting but Old Rite monasteries like Fontgombault are actually making new foundations. I am quite willing to accept that it is not necessarily the Rite itself but if it is not then it is the theology that goes with the Rite, or the 'ecclesiological experience' that goes with it. On a practical level the Old Rite seems to work.

Why are we incapable of asking, "Has it worked?", presumably it is because of an ideological attachment, rather like the politburo of the Soviet Union that will not allow itself to question givens until long after they had collapsed.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The soldier and his cloak are radical



The radical nature of St Martin's giving of his cloak to the beggar is easily reduced to the sentimental or just overlooked: the soldier Martin, a catechumen, meets a beggar, and then later in a vision or a dream or in prayer sees that has given the cloak to Christ himself, St Francis and the leper is a similar story.

It is radical because of what it says about the 'personhood' of the outsider, the poor, the powerless. In the medieval world it was a frequently seen reminder of human dignity. It subtly conveys Martin's own anti-Arian teaching.

Martin lived at a time when Christianity had become legal, but armies tend to be conservative, the Mythraic cult seems to have been the dominant religion of the army. Scholars now suggest that the reason Christianity had been persecuted and suppressed at least by the powerful, though it seems to have grown widely amongst the masses in the 3rd and 4th centuries, to emerge as a great torrent with the Constantinian coup d'etat, was precisely because of the Trinitarian and Christological doctrines that underlined St Martin's (and his master Hiliary of Poitiers') anti-Arianism. It is also an indication of why Arianism was so attractive to the upper classes.

Christianity did threaten the power structures of Roman society: it actually said that slaves and beggars and the poor were of equal value to the emperors or patricians, in the same sense that publicans and sinners were of equal value to Pharisees, because in them Christ was made present.

It seems folly, but an accepted one, to imagine outside of Christianity that all are of equal importance or value in the state and society. When society excludes Christ it is easy to devalue the poor, the unborn, the elderly. racial minorities.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

La Vulnerata: A prayer for the Church


Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, and our wounded Mother that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession, was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, We fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother.  To you do we come, imploring you to look on the Holy Church of God, your Son's Immaculate Bride, now defiled by sin, ravaged by wolves, betrayed by her Shepherds and Priests, becoming covered in the filth of the world, blinded to the Vision of her Spouse your Son, deaf to his teaching, by your own share in His Sacred Passion and by the sword that pierced your heart, hear our sorrowful prayers, bind up our woundsand wipe away our tears.

Amen


The Vulnerata, The Wounded One, was desecrated by English sailors in Cadiz in 1596, she was brought to Vallodolid in solemn procession by order of the King and is venerated in the Real Colegio de Ingleses, she is an apt reminder of the Church today.

She inspired the Holy Martyrs of the College, may devotion to her inspire us.



Borromeo: Epitomy of Trent

Ironic some celebrated the Protestant Reformation at the beginning of the week, today Holy Church celebrates Saint Charles Borromeo (1538-1584).

After the terrible period of depraved Popes and decadent churchmen there arose men like Borromeo. It must have appeared that Christ and his saints slept, I am sure many good Christians were brought near despair, then as if from the tomb Christ awoke.
"What good thing came out of the Protestant Reformation: why - the Glorious Counter-Reformation", as one Oxford preacher said a decade or two ago.

This is no idle Catholic boast, it is not just about art an architecture, it is about 'holiness'. I can't help thinking about the young Seminary Priests, leaving Rome where they might well have met St Philip Neri, St Ignatius of Loyola, St Francis Xavier perhaps, St Paul of the Cross, many travelled up through Italy to call in to see Borromeo, many would made a detour to Geneva to receive the blessing of St Francis De Salles, before coming to England or other parts of Europe to suffer death and reveal their own heroic sanctity.

In there northward journey one suspects like sought like and they would have sought out and been sought by other holy men. St Charles however seemed to hold a special place, he seemed even for his contemporaries to epitomise the Council of Trent held between 1545 and 1563, he was the model of a reforming post-Trent bishop.

There is much that Trent did but like other Councils it was expected to produce fruit, not just peace to a troubled, disunited and confused Church but also to produce a new flourishing in the Church's mission and her structures, ultimately holy men and women.

I am not sure that Vatican II, or even the foreshortened Vatican I, has produced the same fruit as Trent, there appear to be less flourishing, less saintly men and women, less zealous priests and bishops and less clear thinking members of the Papal Court than there were once.

Perhaps it is too early to tell.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

The Pontifex Maximus


.... Under this fiendish Emperor every form of torture was imagined and having been imagined was visited upon the Church of God, sparing neither the Holy Apostles themselves or clergy, man or women, even little children, widow or orphan, all were subject to the rapacious will of this Pontifex Maximus ....
... The sycophants about him, who should have stayed his hand as true friends, encouraged not only his violence but his viciousness which spared none. How low his court fell, and with them the morals of the people of Rome. For once the ruler becomes vile and corrupt soon the whole edifice is weakened and crumbles and is plunged into hatred, yes, of the Church and Christian people but also of goodness itself, so that virtue is lost and vice extolled  ...
From a sermon for St Peter and Paul by one of my predecessors, not quite sure who, in the 1920s/30

Monday, October 30, 2017

Did the Protestants win?





There is a provacative little article in the Wahington Post by a Lutheran working in various Catholic institutions entitled: The Reformation is over. Protestants won. So why are we still here? Is it true?

A Lutheran academic most probably only moves in rather restricted circles, possibly one should ask where have Protestants won? The question however provokes other questions.

Such as where do we find Catholicism?

Is it in the documents of VII, or the theology of Cardinals Cupich or Marx, or in an ecumenical gathering, or is it the congregation at weekday Mass or the Rosary Procession through London last week or is it in the millions today that would term themselves 'former Catholics' or 'of Catholic descent', who have turned their back on the Church and its teaching?


Who 'owns' or controls the Church?
Is it the 'possession' of the Pope and a small group vociferous twittering bishops, media savvy academic theologians and other clergy and journalists, or is something else?

I am no Church historian but it strikes me that Luther was the first 'theologian' in the modern sense, we had men like Aquinas and Bonaventure but they were quite different, they tried to make sense of an an already existing faith and explain it. In a sense their teaching persisted for centuries until it was actually taken up the Church, an example is Aquinas' use of 'Transubstantiation', it was only the Council of Trent that took it up as a philosophical explanation of the Real Presence, even now we can ask do we have to believe in a divide between 'substance' and 'accidents' to be a good Catholic or can we take it as analogy that explains why we prostrate before Blessed Sacrament and hold it as our greatest treasure and our contact point with God himself?

One could ague there have never been any Catholic theologians ever, even Newman (and Ratzinger at his best) were historians of theology rather than theologians in their own right, they, like good preachers tried to explain to their contemporaries an already existing faith (held always, everywhere and by all). If one follows this understanding of what a theologian is then all Catholic 'theologians' added nothing new but merely tried to bring out the treasure of the past and place it in the context of the present.

This is not what Luther or his contemporaries did, they invented something new, something personal. As soon as Protestantism emerges it is divided in itself. Luther has a different approach than Zwingli or Bucer or Calvin indeed they had savage disputes, they killed one another.

Luther himself said that before the Reformation there was one Pope sitting on seven hills, now every dung heap in Germany has its own Pope sitting on it. The creation of new 'churches' centred around particular theologians meant that princes were obliged to intervene for the sake of peace and order, so that religion became not something that somehow belonged to the people and bound them together but something imposed and regulated from above, by the 'prince'. I think until recently for example in England, atheist, nor-Christian, even Catholic Peers and Commons, actually had to vote on Church of England doctrine, and a non-Anglican, often non-believing, Prime Minister, in the name of the Queen, appointed its Bishops. Thus after the Reformation governments controlled what people believed, it became something imposed or something 'handed down', as opposed to something 'handed on'.

The Council of Trent, as a reaction to Protestantism for more or less the first time imposed a set of detailed doctrines on the glorious muddle of medieval Catholicism. Previous Councils had predominantly merely told the faithful what to avoid. Even then it is only with VII that the Catholicism becomes imposed from above, mainly in the liturgy of course, 'the Pope' or 'the Council wills it', became a standard phrase in post-Concilliar Catholicism, trumping Tradition or the feelings of ordinary Catholics, especially in liturgical 'reformation' of Vatican II was imposed with such destructive violence whereas so much else of VII was quietly rejected. For the first time the will of the Pope was seen as greater than the historic will of the rest of the Church, it seems to be attitude reaching it zenith in the present Papacy.

Authentic Catholicism is about a movement of the Spirit in the hearts of the faithful, expressed in worship and devotion. The more it is formalised, and taken away from what was taught at grandmother's knee, when it becomes the subject of documents, or individuals, even of Popes and Bishops the more Protestant it becomes, and I would suggest, therefore, the more empty our churches become.





Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Heresiarch Luther



Just one reason why I can't join the Vicar of Christ in celebration of the heresiarch Luther:
... a shocking part of Luther’s legacy seems to have slipped though the cracks of the collective memory along the way: his vicious Anti-Semitism and its horrific consequences for the Jews and for Germany itself. At first, Luther was convinced that the Jews would accept the truth of Christianity and convert. Since they did not, he later followed in his treatise, On the Jews and Their Lies (1543), that “their synagogues or schools“ should be “set fire to … in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christian.“ He advised that the houses of Jews be “razed and destroyed,“ their “prayer books and Talmudic writings“ and “all cash and treasure of silver and gold“ be taken from them. 
They should receive “no mercy or kindness,“ given “no legal protection,“ and “drafted into forced labor or expelled.“ He also claimed that Christians who “did not slay them were at fault.“ Luther thus laid part of the basic anti-Semitic groundwork for his Nazi descendants to carry out the Shoah. Indeed, Julius Streicher, editor of the anti-Semitic Nazi magazine “Der Stürmer,“ commented during the Nürnberg tribunal that Martin Luther could have been tried in his place. 
All the more stunning that Germany should proclaim a special national holiday in the name of the anti-Semitic Martin Luther only 70 years after the Shoah. Although the general public may mostly be unaware of Luther’s views, the responsible clergy certainly is aware and has still chosen to declare a nationwide holiday. 
It is no doubt laudable that the Synod of the Lutheran Church in Germany (EKD) distanced itself from Luther’s anti-Semitic statements in November 2011, and several other church representatives have done the same, yet how do they have no compunctions about declaring a major commemorative event to honor Luther, as if his sinister and hateful views and writings on the Jews are insignificant and trivial?
Times of Israel

The thing about the love of power and evil is that it casts out the work of sanctifying grace leavinf us thugish, corrupt and prone to all kinds of evil

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Priests Drinking to Conscience First

I had always thought that conscience was important to Catholics: Newman famously said he would drink to the Pope but to conscience first, Aquinas, that we must follow conscience, even if leads one out of the Church.

Pope Francis, or at least the Beroglians, appear to be saying that the divorced and remarried may receive Holy Communion if they do so in good conscience, the problem is what if the priest who is expected to give them Communion feels in good conscience that he may not do so.

I heard a rather garbled account of a young priest, not a 'Correcton' signer, placed in this situation, after a discussion with his bishop he was led by conscience not quite out of the Church but to another diocese. it could be that this priest was tactless or harsh in how he said what he said, I don't know.

I get the feeling that this seems to be a phenomena that is likely to grow in the Church. On social media and in clerical chat rooms those priests whose comscience tells them the Gospel and Church promotes the former 'pastoral' practice seem very uneasy about their ability to continue in their dioceses. It seems that in some places lay people and bishops can freely follow conscience but not priests.

The implication for priests is if you insist on following your conscience you must find a diocese where the bishop allows or tolerates such a priest with such a conscience.

In the past conscience led priests to the arena, or the gallows or concentration camp and a bishop and those involved in their formation were concerned about sharpening not blunting conscience. An 'e-friend' priest said recently, 'they want us out and gone from the Church', that is probably an over reaction but there are obviously diocese, as in Malta where the seminary gate is open, as is, presumably, the diocesan gate where other bishops have told critical Catholics to stay away from events, the implication for priests whose conscience is sensitive is frightening.

This is presumably where schism begins; 'old' believers are simply told to go away or are unwelcome. The problem is that 'old' believers are so often the young, not the men and women of the 1970s. for a diocese in Europe or the US to lose even one of its younger priests today is pretty catastrophic.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Pope changes the Church's teaching on ...


executioner of the Papal States
The Pope changes the Church's teaching on the death penalty, is running on Twitter and a few blogs at the moment. Well that is not true, Popes do not, cannot, change Church teaching on anything, not even when they speak Ex Cathedra, All Popes can do is clarify.

The two 'classical' acts of such clarification, the Immaculate Conception and Assumption in many ways were completely unnecessary at the time of their promulgation, except to promote Papal power. The Church had and always will believe the Theotakos was 'full of grace', and had been from her beginning, what the doctrine does is say that Mary's beginning (and therefore our beginning) happened not at birth or at her quickening, or ensoulment but at the moment of conception. The Assumption, with its deliberate ambiguities reconciles the western doctrine of the Assumption and the Eastern doctrine of the Dormition, it purifies the doctrine of possible unnecessary pious legends.

Better uses of infallible teaching are Paul VI's declaration that contraception, (especially/including modern forms of artificial contraception) are contrary to the constant Tradition of the Church. Similarly JPII's, and maybe more clearly Benedict XVI's, declaration that women never have been and therefore never can be ordained priest are the more usual forms of 'infallible teaching' but these statements depend not so much on supernatural inspiration but the Holy See's library and record keeping. I have always thought that amongst the many papal titles ought to be a reference to 'keeper of the archives' or 'first amongst historians'. These are Church teaching because they are historic facts handed on to us, not because a Pope signs a document.

The problem is that if some other historical sources produced contrary historical evidence then 'infallible' teaching becomes very fallible.

So, Pope Francis has declared the death penalty is contrary to the Church's teaching, well the office of executioner to the Holy See has been unfilled for some time now and the Old Testament laid down quite clear rules about about when the death penalty must be enforced, so one can hardly say that the death penalty is historically contrary to Christian doctrine, however one of the strands that has been developed in Catholic theology, really since the declaration of the Immaculate Conception, is that Life, all life, is sacred, that Life is the fundamental right of all human beings.

For the Pope to say that the death penalty is contrary to the constant teaching of the Church is historically untrue. Obviously he can say that the death penalty is contrary to the Church's teaching but that is his opinion and should be taken seriously as he is Supreme Pastor. The problem is that an incoherent Pope or confused Pope damages the whole concept of Papal teaching. What Francis teaches us is to be sceptical about such teaching.