Thursday, 29 December 2011

New Translation Survey

What If We Just Said Wait?
How is the new Roman Missal being received in your parish? Take a brief (two-minute) survey on the Missal by following the link below.
The 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal Survey

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Another year passed,
time travels fast,
carol singing,
some people whinging.

A year of change,
Some of it strange,
Some changes annoy,
Others bring joy.

Some feel bad,
Terribly sad,
loved ones missed,
Yet others insist
‘All shall be well,’
How can we tell ?

We’ll raise a toast
To those we miss most.
Remember at table
babe, born in a stable.

Who smiles with a dimple,
Can life be so simple ?
Babe with his mother,
Thank God for each other.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Catholics Occupying Things . . .

Just enjoyed a fascinating read on William D. Lindsey’s  ‘Bilgrimage’  blog called “Catholics Occupying things.” In the middle of the piece this paragraph says so much.
“Much of the analysis of the malaise of our church right now among centrist Catholics comes nowhere near recognizing how dire the pastoral situation is for many of their fellow Catholics, for whom the key questions are no longer whether we should be intoning "consubstantial" or "one in being with," but for whom the key questions are about finding and sustaining any sense of divine presence at all in a church that has revealed such a savage face to many of its own followers and to the world in general.”
To my mind, the Divine presence lies within and without the church.  The radical statement of Jesus that “the kingdom of God is within you” (luke 17:21) testifies to this.  The Kingdom of God does not lie exclusively within or without the church.  Many of the frustrations of so called lay people in the RC Church today can find hope in these words of Jesus.  Jesus refers to the Kingdom of God often insisting “it is like . . . .” Not defining infallibly what it is.

In John Joseph  O’Donnell’s book, ‘Karl Rahner, Life in the Spirit’ (pg 78) he writes, “for Rahner, the Church of the future will be a little flock.  But this doesn’t make it a sect.  Rather these communities of the Church will be communities of witness, communities that preach the gospel and that seek to live the gospel beatitudes and hence to be a light to the world.”

These challenges are faced in many of the Independent catholic churches.  They too don’t always get it right but at least try to free God for others and free others for God.  My hope lies in the Independent movement.  Not so much concerned with churchianity as with living the gospel, living a sacramental life and being open to all. 

I love being labelled a ‘syncretist.’  It’s used as a term of abuse by conservative catholics and is almost orthodoxy for those who follow the spirit wherever it blows, who do not know where it comes from or where it blows.  I am happy not to know the answers and even happier not to need the answers !

As for “catholic occupying things,” perhaps “catholics occupying sacramental priesthood” is a step down the road, as priesthood almost regulates who can and who can’t receive the sacramental life of the church.  The “Society of St Pius X,” could be considered a sub group of “Catholics occupying things.”  They have a valid but illicit sacramental life.  No less than the more liberal elements of schismatic churches such as the “Ecumenical Catholic Church.”  Let us all strive to be ‘Mothers of God’ in this world that so badly needs to recognise and be recognised by the Divine presence in our midst.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

St Gabriel's, Liverpool UK

St Gabriels website has had a makeover.  We are an ecumenical Christian community in the Catholic tradition. Our community  is a part of the Ecumenical Christian Church-UK and also of the world wide 'United Ecumenical Catholic Church.'
Please take a short time to find out about us . . .

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Bishop Terry Flynn's Advent Message

“The circle of life” – “The circle of the seasons” – “The circle of the year”. There are many circles that we refer to in conversation and in our thinking, sometimes we call them cycle.

Today, the First Sunday of Advent, we begin a new “liturgical cycle”. We will take four weeks or so to think of the promises God made over the centuries leading up to the birth of His Son Jesus in the Bethlehem stable. For the Eastern Church this season is called “the Little Lent” and is mainly penitential – for the Western tradition it is more hopeful but still sombre. For us let it be sombre but filled with anticipation and joyful hope.

As a small, young church it falls to us to look forward and not dwell on negatives, nor on our age or our size. Our sins we put behind us and rely on God’s merciful forgiveness, we do not dwell on their impact and beat ourselves up over them. Instead we should be dwelling and meditating on the promises that are ours and the promise that we show.

The Last Supper narrative in John’s Gospel is full of promise for the future of the Church to be founded on the Apostles, a promise summed up in John 16: 23-24: Anything you ask for from the Father he will grant in my name. . . Ask and you will receive, and so your joy will be complete.

That is the simple message for Advent – we need the confidence of Mary in her response to the Angel (Luke 1:38) and we need to pray with that confidence, knowing that what we ask will be granted.

Having said that I want to remind us all of the beautiful (UK) television advert that everyone is talking about – the impatient little boy waiting for Christmas – so he can give his parents the gift he has for them.

When we ask in Jesus’ name, and when we are confident to get what we ask for that will only be the case when we ask for it for the good of others.

So, what am I asking for this Advent? That the gift of Christmas be life, strength and growth for our small family to become the earth-shifting power of a faith that moves mountains.

We already see the seeds of growth in several parts of the world – let us rejoice in that and feed that growth with the fertiliser of our prayer, good works, and above all love.

May this Holy Season bring forth it’s fruit abundantly in each and every one of us.

Presiding Bishop UECC,

Metropolitan for Europe and Bishop Ordinary of ECC UK

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Russia: a bill to silence millions

Political leaders in St. Petersburg are about to vote on law that will make it illegal for any person to write a book, publish an article or speak in public about being gay, lesbian or transgender. The ruling party led by President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin could make millions of people invisible with the stroke of a pen.
Human rights defenders around the country are doing everything they can to stop it. They are risking their freedom to organize flashmobs and protests, but they are afraid that it won't be enough.

Right now, the world needs to speak up and tell Russian authorities to drop the bill. Join this call to leaders around the world to reach out to their counterparts in the Russian government - and ask them to reject this discriminatory and anti-democratic law.

Sign the petition here.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Austrian Priests Initiative Update . . .

Thanks to "Pray Tell" blog for an update on the Austrian Priests Initiave. . .

"A survey on the “Appeal to Disobedience(Pray Tell reported here) gives explosive results: more than 70% of Austrian priests support, at least in part, the demands of the “Pastors’ Initiative.”
Two-thirds of the priests in Austria see a “dangerous stalling out of reform” in the Catholic Church and a “dramatic gulf” between the Church and modern culture. More than 70 percent of them have a fundamentally positive view of the priests’ initiative for disobedience initiated by Fr. Helmut Schüller and see it as a stimulus for necessary reform. This is the main outcome of a recent study of over 500 priests in Austria."

to continue reading click here

Monday, 31 October 2011

The Newman Hymnal . . .

For musicians with responsibility for planning Sunday Liturgy "The Newman Hymnal" could be really useful resource.  Just click on the Sunday or other Solemnity you are planning for and take a look at some of the musical suggestions offerred.  If you're not that keen you can add your own suggestion.  Many thanks to the University of Notre Dame for their generosity in sharing the resource

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Ministry OUTSIDE the Box; LIFE Outside the BOX - John Chuchman

Read this John Chuchman poem on the Catholica website.  Thought it needed a UK hearing. thanks John

Ministry OUTSIDE the Box; LIFE Outside the BOX

Invited to speak at a Conference
with the Theme
"Ministry OUTSIDE the Box,"
I had to ask myself,
How/Why did I move
Outside the Box?

I never planned to move outside the Box.
I was essentially
a Pay-Pray-Obey Catholic
for over fifty years of my life.
All of my formal education
was in parochial institutions
(though the Jesuits at John Carroll University
might be considered resident on
the inner part of the outer edge).

All of my children were Baptized
inside the Box
and dragged to weekly Liturgy
as long as we could do so.

I thought I was content
inside the Box
paying my dues,
praying in the prescribed manner,
obeying the rules
to earn my
pass into heaven.

Thank God,
I was pushed, called, cajoled, forced
Outside the Box;
God was NOT resident in that Box!

What/Who pushed?

The Guys in control of the Box
had a swinging back door out.
They abused little children
and protected the abusers,
perpetuating the abuse.

The "celibate" Guys in control of the Box
were not so celibate.

The Pay part
of my pay, pray, obey,
was not being used for
the Good I thought it was;
much of it spent by and for
the box-controllers.

The Obey part
of my pay, pray, obey,
related to
rules which were
not only discriminatory,
not only man-made,
not only spiritually stifling,
but also,
Totally Un-Christlike.
The rules were created
to keep people
inside the box,
while keeping trouble-makers
outside the box.

Yes, God was not resident In a Box,
But neither was trouble-maker Jesus!

The Pray part
of my pay, pray, obey
pushed me out of the box
and at the same time
called and cajoled me out of it
as being rote, shallow, repetitive, dogmatic,
focused on formulas, superstitions, and beliefs.
I needed more;
My Spirit needed more;
Life was more;
Love was more.

People lived and died
in the box
never questioning their Faith,
never expanding their Faith.

Thanks Holy Spirit,
for blowing my spark of Spiritual Thirst
into a Raging Inferno,
for Seducing me
Outside the box.

After retirement from 32 years in Commerce,
I thought about
Ministry within the box,
joining the box-controllers
albeit only as a subservient Deacon.
Thanks, God,
for that not being a chosen path.

Instead, "I did it My Way"
Hospice Volunteer,
Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministries,
Certified Bereavement Counselor,
Free-Lance Author, Speaker, and Poet,
Spiritual Companion,
Trouble-Maker Rabble-Rouser,
Consoler of those Grieving Loss of Life in the Box,
Helper of those needing to escape it,
Celebrant of the Good Life
Outside the Box.

I don't know if it was My Way
or the Way ordained for me,
but I'm sure Joy-Full I found it
and am traveling it.

It seems that
the people to whom I Minister
are outside the box
or at least need to be;
those discriminated against
by the box-controllers,
(married men, women,
gays and lesbians, those divorced,
the alienated, and us trouble-makers)
and perhaps most importantly
those the Holy Spirit is helping to discover that
life inside the box
is not life at all,
but spiritual death,
or at best paralysis.

Trouble-Maker Ministry Outside the Box
is not all peaches and cream;
Ask Jesus.

Friends and Family inside the box
separate themselves from me.
The Box-Controllers and their idolizers
deride and exclude me.
There is always a price to pay
It can be a lonely path.

But I think the Box may be crumbling;
so many are growing out of it
that it can't support all the Box-Controllers
sitting atop it.

The Flame of the Holy Spirit
seems to be casting a brightness into the box
exposing the swinging back doors
and the hidden nooks and crannies
maintained by the box-controllers
for all to see,
enabling many inside the box
to see that
a pay-pray-obey fully punched ticket
is good only for a life-time ride
on the merry-go-round
Inside the Box.

There are no two
Ministries Outside the Box
exactly alike, completely identical;
It's more simply like
using one's unique God-given Gifts
to help others
wherever the need.

Instead of pay-pray-obey,
I chose to follow the call of the Holy Spirit
(out of the comfort zone onto a Great Adventure)
and to
Go, Grow, and Glow.

Love, John Chuchman
Leave the Nest, Join the Quest, And Be Blessed!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

A Call for Unity . . .

John Chuchman's writing has the knack of speaking to the heart.  I needed to hear this poem on his blog.  thank you so much.   Let's Agree on Something . . . . . . Have a look at his website after reading this poem.

A Call for Unity

Whether you express your Spirituality
by regularly attending weekly liturgies
in prescribed formats
by using every meal with friends and family
to express Thanksgiving
and enhance Community,
Let’s agree
that We are all One
with the Creator of the Universe.

Whether you idolize
clerics, the hierarchy, the papacy, church
the Original Blessing, All of Creation,
Let’s agree
We are all gifted and
need to be Thankful.

Whether you worship Jesus,
which He never requested
Emulate Jesus
which He did request,
Let’s agree
He showed us the way
to Live and Love.

Whether you believe
you are part of the one true church
that we are all children of God
with many paths to Spiritual Growth
Let’s agree
to respect each other’s way.

Whether you believe
that only celibate males can be ordained
that All can be called to priesthood,
Let’s agree
that the Creator has no gender
and can be envisioned as female and male.

Whether you believe
Gays and Lesbians are disordered
that we are All children of God,
Let’s agree
to respect every individual’s
God-Given rights.

Whether you believe
Church hierarchy can do no wrong
that they are human
and can err,
Let’s agree
they should be transparent and accountable
to us.

Whether you believe
the old ways are the best
that we must seek new ways of being church,
Let’s Agree
that Change is a normal part of Creation
and humans need both change and continuity.

Whether you believe
we should all do Liturgy the in the same way
that God’s created Diversity
should be celebrated,
Let’s Agree
We need to respect and honor our differences.

Whether you believe
some will suffer eternal damnation
we will All return to Our Creator,
Let’s Agree
not to
condemn people in this life.

Whether you believe
we are fallen
and needed to be redeemed
we are simply works in process,
Let’s Agree
we have the potential for perfection.

Whether you believe
Jesus died because of our sinfulness
because the hierarchy feared
loss of control
at his message,
Let’s Agree
We did not kill him.

Whether you believe the Pope
is infallible
Let’s Agree
we must all
live by our conscience.

Whether you believe
the world is evil
Creation is Good,
Let’s Agree
to be Representatives of Good.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Forgotten Pope

Why Albino Luciani's holiness should be celebrated

Thanks to Mo Guernon  in America Magazine for this article.
On the Third Sunday of Easter, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed John Paul II a blessed, a milestone in the late pope’s journey to sainthood. The speed at which Karol Wojtyla’s cause for canonization has progressed is singular. Under the church’s rules, the process cannot begin until a candidate has been deceased at least five years, but Pope Benedict dispensed with that requirement in this instance.

Not so with John Paul’s namesake and immediate predecessor, Albino Luciani, whose own cause, initiated nearly eight years ago, still sluggishly wends its way through the labyrinthine Vatican bureaucracy, its ultimate resolution still in doubt.

For those whose faith was rekindled by that gentle pope, the lingering uncertainty about his canonization is disheartening. Albino Luciani’s life was so exemplary that it could inspire a world grown weary and cynical and yearning for the “greater gifts” and a “more excellent way.”

“He passed as a meteor which unexpectedly lights up the heavens and then disappears, leaving us amazed and astonished,” Cardinal Carlo Confalonieri aptly observed at the pope’s funeral Mass in 1978.


It is consoling to remember this holy man. Hundreds of millions, however, have no such consolation, for Luciani’s fleeting 33-day papacy has been eclipsed by that of John Paul II, whose illustrious 27-year tenure was of impressive duration and historical consequence. But papal longevity itself is no criterion for sainthood, and it is wrong to conclude that Luciani left no legacy of import to succeeding generations.

In just a month Pope John Paul I captured the hearts of people worldwide, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, who witnessed in him the welcome but unexpected triumph of humility. Many of us intuitively recognized in the flash of his benign grin, the gentleness of his manner and the compassion at the core of his public talks a beacon of hope. That Luciani transfixed the world during his abbreviated pontificate is no exaggeration: he was a radiant man who taught us how to live and love.

Luciani picked “Humilitas” as his episcopal motto, an appropriate choice for a prince of the church who regarded himself as “poor dust.” “We must feel small before God,” he preached; and he lived that conviction faithfully, often describing himself publicly as “a poor man accustomed to small things and silence.”

How Can I Serve You?

There was a nobility in Luciani’s simplicity, and evidence of his humility abounds. As bishop of Vittorio Veneto, for example, he visited his parishes by bicycle, a rather unassuming means of transport for a man of his station. Later, when taking official possession of St. Mark’s Basilica, he dispensed with the fanfare traditionally accorded the new patriarch of the ancient Archdiocese of Venice. At his official residence he literally opened his door to all who knocked: priests, penitents, prostitutes, drug addicts, drunks, the destitute—everyone.

Luciani eschewed the accouterments of high ecclesiastical office, preferring a tattered black cassock to the regal purple and red hues signifying the ranks of bishop and cardinal to which he had reluctantly been raised. Strolling through the streets of Venice, Luciani would furtively stuff his zucchetto in his pocket, content to be mistaken for a parish priest by the pedestrians he encountered. After one such solitary twilight walk, the patriarch returned home sporting a bruised and swollen cheek. When the sisters asked him what had happened, he replied dispassionately, “Oh, nothing…I met a drunkard…. He hit me in the face.”

Even Luciani’s speech patterns reflected the austerity that characterized his life. Like any great teacher, he had a gift for conveying profound insights in unadorned, easily understandable prose. Though blessed with a probing intellect, prodigious memory and vast learning, he sprinkled his discourse with humble anecdotes from life and literature, clearly illustrating great truths that even the young and untutored could readily grasp.

As pope, Luciani quickly discarded the royal “we” and disdained the sedia gestatoria, or portable throne in which popes, hoisted onto the shoulders of their subjects, were carried in majestic procession like conquering monarchs. At his papal installation he also abandoned the traditional crowning with the ostentatious, jewel-encrusted, triple tiara, insisting instead on receiving a simple shepherd’s pallium as symbol of his new role as bishop of Rome. This pope’s unexpected greeting to those who met with him at the Vatican was, “How can I serve you?”

And there were private instances—only recently disclosed—in which John Paul I revealed his abiding humility in ways the public could not have imagined.

A Niece Remembers

This past summer I made a monthlong pilgrimage to Italy and retraced Luciani’s life journey from Canale D’Agordo, his birthplace in the Dolomites, to St. Peter’s Basilica, where the pope’s earthly remains rest in a crypt not far from the bones of St. Peter.

I also examined documents written in his own hand and spoke extensively with several people who knew and loved him, including nieces, prelates and secretaries from his days as bishop, patriarch and pope.

One of them was the pope’s favorite niece, Pia Luciani Basso, daughter of Luciani’s younger brother Edoardo. Their relationship, she confided to me, was so close that he was like “a second father” to her.

She explained how her uncle’s soothing presence and gentle encouragement eased her mind when she left home to attend a distant school. Despite a pressing schedule as bishop, Luciani volunteered to accompany her when her father fell ill. “He always put aside his own problems to help others in need,” she recalled.

Her father was fond of telling about an incident that illuminates the pope’s extraordinary selflessness even as a youngster. The Luciani family was poor, and hunger was an almost constant companion. Even so, one day Albino came home with some white bread, a precious commodity. Instead of eating it himself or giving away a part of it, he gave Edoardo the entire piece and watched with satisfaction as the younger boy devoured it.

“His humility was a choice, because he was always conscious of his intelligence, but he was conscious too that this was a gift from God,” she explained.

Mrs. Basso noted that Luciani thought of himself as an ordinary priest. “His dream was to have a parish in the lake region and bring with him his mother and his father, because he said his mother would be happy to be in a house on the lake.” He never realized his dream.

Instead, Luciani would reluctantly accept what ambitious clerics yearned for: promotion to the highest ranks in the church hierarchy. “I must accept the will of Providence,” he would say resignedly, according to Mrs. Basso.

Just before entering the conclave that elected him, Luciani wrote to her expressing relief that he was “out of danger.”

“I think he was afraid of that. He was hoping that it wouldn’t happen,” she conjectured.

Santo Subito!

“Lived holiness is very much more widespread than officially proclaimed holiness.... Coming into Paradise, we will probably find mothers, workers, professional people, students set higher than the official saints we venerate on earth,” Luciani once wrote. That is undoubtedly so, and though he would surely deem himself undeserving to be counted among them, his life is a testament to his worthiness.

In his book Making Saints, Kenneth L. Woodward defines a saint as an individual who is recognized as especially holy. By that standard alone, Albino Luciani should have been canonized decades ago. The church’s official recognition of a saint confers special status on an individual in the eyes of the faithful, for it is the saints whose lives we celebrate and whose virtues individuals of conscience strive to emulate. It is they whose memory endures in perpetuity.

The Pope Luciani Foundation, based in Canale d’Agordo, Italy, his birthplace, is devoted to the laudable goal of memorializing him. Its director Loris Serafini, author of the delightful biography Albino Luciani, The Smiling Pope, informed me recently that dedication of a museum and library in the pope’s honor will coincide with the centenary celebration of his birth on Oct. 17, 2012.

That is a heartening development, but to those whose souls Luciani touched, it is not enough; his cause for sainthood should proceed apace.

Today, a broken world desperately needs moral enlightenment. The life and teachings of the first Pope John Paul can provide that in abundance. Thus it would be an incalculable loss to those in current generations—as well as future ones who never knew him—for his memory to fade into oblivion.

A streaking meteor, spectacular as it is for the glorious moment we behold it, leaves not a trace of its luminous presence once it hurtles beyond our vision. Pope Benedict has the power to prevent the fading of Albino Luciani’s light by canonizing this extraordinary pope.

Mo Guernon, a former newspaper reporter and Rhode Island columnist, is writing a biography of Pope John Paul I.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Ordination of Rev Tom Armstrong

On Saturday 1st October, our dear brother, Rev Tom Armstrong was ordained a priest.  Our celebration took place at the John Pounds memorial church in Portsmouth.  He was ordained by the Rt Rev Terry Flynn, UECC presiding bishop. 
Our community used the New Sarum Missal for the first time, only recently promulgated in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Bishop Terry’s Episcopal Ordination. 

Our small corner of the vineyard grew that weekend.  The love that binds us, the freedom we celebrate and our openness to open a sacramental life to all who respectfully draw near was affirmed by this ordination.  Have a good look at the photos and be pleased to celebrate with us.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Vatican II lost and betrayed - Iglesia Descalza

Giovanni Franzoni, a former Benedictine abbot, Catholic theologian, and eyewitness to Vatican II, offered these reflections at the 31st Congress of the Asociación de Teólogos y Teólogas Juan XXIII in Madrid earlier this month. They were reproduced in Spanish on Religión Digital.  and translated in English on his blog.

read the article here, the introduction is below.

Dear friends, dear fellow travellers, it's an honor and a joy for me to have been invited here to Spain to participate in your meeting. I thank you, not only for the invitation, but mainly because, despite the difficulties, and although times are not propitious, you continue to courageously hold high the flame of Vatican II, and you continue to hold tenaciously to the need for an evangelical reform of the Roman Catholic Church.

I apologize if my manner of speaking is more "itañol" (Italian-Spanish) than Spanish, but I hope you will understand me all the same. I wrote my speech in Italian and Maria Lorenza Ferrer, a friend from the Canary Islands who has lived in Rome for many years, translated it into Spanish. She patiently tried to teach me the pronunciation of your Spanish language, and for this I thank her as well. Naturally, after my speech I will be happy to answer your questions. I'll do it in Italian. I hope that one of you will do me the favor of translating.

Reaffirming the joy of being among you (I really feel at home!), I would like to explain first why I attended the Council, then go straight to our topic.  more . . .

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Association of Catholic Priests, Ireland

The Association of Catholic priests in Ireland published this article found on the Glasgow Celtic Quick news website. The Post is reproduced below as soon as I find a link I’ll include it here.

13 September, 2011 at 12:29

Re the impending legislation and Bishop Tartaglia’s comments.

As the train from Geneva stopped at Montreux on the way to Sion, right outside our carriage, two young guys kissed each other goodbye. The comments from some Celtic fans were such that I hoped the young guy getting on the train wouldn’t get into our carriage. I feared for him. Thankfully he didn’t.

I saw knuckle-draggers that day, and they werent Rangers fans.

Phil Tartaglia – You and the other Scottish Bishops stand utterly without a shred of credibility. You have allowed the Pope, Sodano, Bertone, Castrillon Hoyos and the Vatican Curia to remove any semblance of ‘collegiality’ from you without so much as a whimper.

You have sat back and watched these fascists rip apart Vatican II Council, be bought off by the insidious Opus Dei, ignore the culture of abuse of our children by priests and the disgusting attempts to cover up by these same people, you have watched them reward Marcel Maciel for years of abuse, you watched them give a Papal Knighthood to Rupert Murdoch while lecturing us on what newspapers we are allowed to read and clapped your hands as Escriva was made a saint and while they fast track Pius XII through the same process – dispensing with the use of the devils advocate for the first time in history regarding the last two. Worst of all, you lot dine with Cardinal Law when you are in Rome – a man being protected from prosecution in the United States by the Vatican, a man who collects $12, 000 A MONTH!! salary and is clearly being rewarded for NOT cooperating with the police re the shocking abuse of children in the US.

Saints like Oscar Romero and the wonderful John XXII are ignored.

Presently, you allow these people to impose a Latinate Mass on the English speaking population without a word on the bullying tactics they have employed. You sat and watched the chairman of ICEL, one of your brother Scottish Bishops, in tears as his life’s work on translating the Mass, was thrown down the toilet. You, with the other Scottish Bishops have kept silent and hoped no one would really notice as you sneak it in now.

So forgive me if I totally ignore your comments re marriage and gay people, especially when you yourself know how many Scottish priests are gay. Hypocrites.

Good luck on Thursday, Celtic.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Real Face of Thomas Merton ?

Found this fascinating website with personal accounts about Thomas Merton.  The Intro is posted below, but click here to view the website.

What is the real face of Thomas Merton?

When he painted the portrait of his friend Merton standing near the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, Ed Rice deliberately blanked out Tom's face. He confessed to being confused. Over the years, the scholars, the followers, publishers, the church itself, had drawn a portrait that was unrecognizable, that of a plastic saint, a monk interested mainly in pulling nonbelievers, and believers in other faiths, into the one true religion.

This was not the Merton that his friends from younger days and later days, Jim Knight and Ed Rice, knew. Merton was eminently human. He honored, and reached out to other faiths. He loved, he laughed. In essence he was a poet, who used words to help us understand the thousands of things we need to understand. This is his portrait, as recalled by his very close friends.

Jim Knight

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Push for reform grows in Austria

From the National Catholic Reporter
Sep. 12, 2011  By Christa Pongratz-Lippitt

VIENNA, AUSTRIA -- As Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna prepares to meet privately for a second time with leaders of a group of priests who are pushing a reform agenda for the Catholic church, other Catholic leaders are calling for wider discussion of church reform.

In June, a group of about 300 priests, called the Austrian Priests’ Initiative, issued an “Appeal to Disobedience,” in which they pledged to take practical action on a list of reforms that included giving Communion to everyone who approaches the altar in good faith, including divorced Catholics who have remarried without an annulment, and publicly speaking out in support of the ordination of women and married men.

Membership in the group has grown to about 400, roughly one in 10 active priests, and some 12,000 lay Catholics are said to support the initiative.

Schönborn met Aug. 10 with leading members of the initiative and countered the priests’ “Appeal to Disobedience” with an “Appeal for Unity.” Schönborn reminded the priests that when they were ordained, they promised the bishop “reverence and obedience.”

Anyone who has come to the decision “that Rome is on a wrong track,” he said, must leave the Catholic church.

This sparked media reports of schism in the Austrian church, which caused the archdiocesan spokesman Michael Prüller to tell Catholic News Service, “The situation is not as dramatic as the Austrian media make it seem.”

While some saw the cardinal’s statement as an ultimatum, Prüller said, “this is nothing like that. There will be an ongoing debate and there has to be an ongoing discussion of the underlying issues.”

Schönborn was reportedly to meet the Priests’ Initiative leaders again Sept. 10.

But the leaders of Austria’s Conference of Religious Superiors of Men want that meeting to be public and encompass a larger group. Because there is talk of schism, they say, the controversy can no longer be solved by Schönborn alone.

There are about 40 male religious superiors in Austria, and their opinions carry weight because religious priests account for about half of all parish priests in Austria.

The head of the male superiors, Abbot Maximilian Fürnsinn of the Augustinian Monastery of Herzogenburg, says a church summit is called for because certain of the reforms the Priests’ Initiative is pressing for -- such as “allowing older married men to say Mass” -- are “at least worthy of discussion.”

Abbot Martin Felhofer of the Premonstratensian Abbey of Schlägl said, “Everyone -- bishops, abbots, religious and representatives of the Austrian Priests’ Initiative -- must sit down and discuss these problems together.”

The director of Caritas Austria, Franz Küberl, told Austrian state radio Sept. 3 that the church reform debate was not confined to Austria. The same issues are being discussed in many countries. He was in favor of ordaining women deacons, he said, and as far as obedience was concerned, the main thing “surely” was to obey the Gospel.

The head of Austrian Catholic Action, Luitgard Derschmidt, said that she fully understands that the members of the Priests’ Initiative “have had enough” and that Catholic Action shares many of their concerns. Austrian Catholic Action is the umbrella group for seven Catholic lay organizations that represent approximately 500,000 lay Catholics.

They were “not so much calling for disobedience but rather for a higher obedience to conscience and to God,” Derschmidt said. Mandatory priestly celibacy was a rule that could be relaxed, she said, adding that that many Catholic theologians see no reason why women could not be ordained.

The most recent polls taken among Austrian Catholics show that 90 percent want this controversy solved without there being winners or losers.

The polls also show that only 14 percent of Austrian priests think they are duty bound to obey church leaders and only 14 percent of Austrians accept the argument that women can never be ordained as Jesus only ordained men.

But 70 percent believe the church and its leaders are “an important moral authority.”

Ninety-six percent say that the exodus from the Austrian Catholic church would be “huge” if members of the Priests’ Initiative are suspended.

The Austrian Priests’ Initiative was founded in 2006 by Msgr. Helmut Schüller, one of Austria’s best-known churchmen and media personalities. He is a former president of Caritas Austria and former vicar general -- under Schönborn -- of the Vienna archdiocese.

Schüller, 58, was ombudsman of the Vienna archdiocese’s center for priestly sexual abuse and child protection from 1996 to 2005. Since then he has been the chaplain for students at Vienna University and parish priest of Probstdorf, a small market town north of Vienna.

The initiative decided to make their “Call to Disobedience” public in June, Schüller said, because parish priests have been expected to live schizophrenic lives for so long that it was wearing them out.

The hierarchy tolerates widespread disobedience at the grass roots, he said. For instance, it is a well-known fact that Catholics, even many of the young who go to World Youth Days, widely use contraception although it is forbidden by church law, he said. As a result, birth rates in Catholic countries like Poland and Austria are among the lowest in Europe if not in the world, but the bishops refuse to discuss such problems openly, thus leaving parish priests to teach one thing but practice or tolerate another, Schüller said.

Since June, Schüller’s group has been in touch with similar groups in Ireland and the United States, he said. From the beginning, the group has had close contact with like-minded priests in Germany, where there is a similar initiative that is, however, more hesitant to go public than the Austrian initiative, according to Schüller.

He has received thousands of e-mails from all over the world, he said. Most have been supportive, but there has also been some harsh criticism, with people accusing the priests of promoting a schism and telling them to leave the Catholic church.

Schönborn’s call for “reverence and obedience” triggered a heated, nationwide debate on obedience and disobedience in the church, which has a sad history in Austria.

It was pointed out, for example, that in April 1938 the Austrian bishops called on Catholics to vote for Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria. Most obeyed the bishops, but a few, like Franz Jägerstätter, refused. Jägerstätter did not leave the church. He was, moreover, many years later beatified for his disobedience.

[Christa Pongratz-Lippitt is an Austrian correspondent for the London-based weekly Catholic magazine The Tablet.]

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Why Catholics are heading for the Exits . . .

A well thought out piece from the Catholica website deserves a full airing here.  It can be found on Catholica by clicking here.

Exit Stories : Why Catholics are heading for the exits

We have known for a long time that Catholica attracts a disproportionate readership from the sectors of the Catholic Church who have played a significant role in leadership initiatives in the Church over recent decades. This has been confirmed through an initiative that one of Catholica's publishers, Amanda McKenna, initiated earlier this year asking people to send in their stories explaining their disillusion or why they have left or dropped out of supporting the institution. Today's commentary from Amanda seeks to give an overview of the responses she received. Over coming Tuesdays we will publish a selection of the comments that people have written.

Listening to the disenchanted and those who have left the Church...

Some months ago an article by William J. Byron titled "On Their Way Out" [LINK] appeared in the online journal "America" magazine's January 3rd edition. What I read came as no surprise to me or to any of us who are paying attention to the trends in the Catholic Church today. In fact, I felt very strongly that we should be doing a lot more listening to discover why people are making the decision to leave the practise of their faith. For this reason I put out a call through the pages of Catholica and other websites I frequent to learn more not just from those who had already left, but also from those still practicing their faith, albeit uncomfortably.

What I didn't expect was the sheer volume of replies I was to receive over the next few months. For many, it was the first time anyone had ever bothered to ask the question. So many of these people noted that they had left communities in which they had played a active role with no one even noticing they were gone, let alone asking if everything was all right. This apathy only served to confirm them in their decisions.

We have heard over and over again from the Vatican how things such as 'consumerism' and 'secularism' are drawing people out of the church, and while for some that may be true, it certainly wasn't reflected in the many heart-wrenching stories shared by the respondents. By and large the people who responded to my request for their stories are people who have been the heart and soul of their communities; often cradle Catholics who have been educated in the Catholic system and are theologically literate, who have become so disillusioned by the current state of a church in which they can barely, or no longer, in good conscience participate.

Rather than being apathetic, these people were highly involved in their parish and faith communities. They served as pastoral councilors, RCIA facilitators, liturgists, teachers, music ministers, catechists and youth leaders, as well as priests and religious of all stripes. Many of those who remain practicing Catholics say that if not for the life they find in their own local parish communities, they would be long gone.

A wide range of reasons...

There were a wide range of reasons people gave for leaving (or having one foot out the door), but one reason above all others appeared in almost every letter I received: sexual abuse and its cover-up in the church.

The extent of anger and disillusionment of the people continues to grow as more and more stories come to light of instances where pedophile and abusing priests and religious were moved on to unsuspecting parishes, schools, hospitals and other institutions to continue their nefarious activities. The argument that 'we didn't know any better back then' no longer holds sway in light of the fact that canon law has forbidden it for many hundreds of years with promises of dire consequences for the offending persons, as well as the fact that it continues to this very day. People are frankly disgusted with the hierarchy's adversarial response to victims in an effort to shore up both their finances and their reputations, rather than pastorally caring for the victims and their families.

Another of the main reasons people gave for leaving was the misogyny inherent in both the teachings and the organisation of the church. The lack of equality between women and men in the church is as unpalatable to modern western society as it was to Jesus and his followers. And given that among those who remain in the pews, women far outnumber men, it is a dire forecast for the future of Catholicism, particularly in the western world of the 21st century.

In fact, most of the objections about the church were centred around, or related to, sex. Humanae Vitae was a stillborn teaching if ever there was one. It has been largely ignored by women and men since its promulgation in 1968 and therefore not 'received' by the body of the faithful. And if, as many stated, the Vatican could get that so wrong, what else did they get wrong and what does that say about the teaching of 'infallibility'?

Personal experiences of hurt and injustice...

Many people spoke of their own experiences of hurt and injustice suffered at the hands of the church. Numerous stories of sexual abuse were told, as well as of situations where new priests came to already established and thriving parishes and literally emptied the pews in very short order by the insensitive imposition of their own brand of so-called 'traditional' liturgies, lack of respect for the laity (women in particular) and inability to pastorally care in any meaningful way for their communities.

The majority of the respondents also cited their dislike of the way the church is currently governed; the increasing centralisation of the church paying lip-service to notions of 'collegiality', the lack of transparency at all levels, the treatment of theologians who dare to question 'the party line' ... and the list goes on.

The glossy pr might look good but the reality is that throughout the Western world nearly 90% of the baptized have ceased participating and listening. That's why the bishops try and mount these campaigns to get people back. But do they work? What's the results of all the evengelisation and re-evangelisation efforts of the past half century?

How can the 'sensus fidelium' be heard when there is no one to listen? I have said before that Vatican II woke up the People of God, and the Roman Curia has been trying to put us all to sleep ever since! Today, the claim to be a Vatican II Catholic is met with derision by those currently influencing and controlling the agenda in the Catholic church. Labeled '70's hippies' and worse, it now seems to be a criminal offense to have been born a 'baby boomer' and to have maintained an active church affiliation since Vatican II. We are now told that we didn't understand what the documents 'really' said, as if we were a theologically uneducated laity not capable of reading the documents for ourselves. Even though conservative popes, Paul VI, JPII and Benedict XVI have been at the helm throughout this period, apparently all the rest of us are to blame for the state the church finds itself in today, as the bishops of Ireland and the people of Cloyne have been told in recent times.

People are tired of beating their heads against a brick wall and are now finding other ways to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ outside of the church. Only two respondents stated that they went on to worship at other churches, while most of the rest found nourishment in a myriad of other ways outside the confines of any church. While some respondents state that they have lost faith in God altogether as a result of their experiences, the vast majority went to great lengths to explain that their faith in God remains strong; that, in fact, it was their faith in God that led them out of the Catholic church in the first place!

In my view the New Evangelisation and initiatives like Catholics Come Home are doomed to failure while ever the very serious reasons people left in the first place go unaddressed. And until those in authority right up to the 'servant of the servants of God' are prepared to actually listen to the People of God, nothing will — or can — change.

Over the coming Tuesday's we will publish a selection of the views I received. Although some respondents gave us permission to publish their names others, for understandable reasons, work in sensitive positions or disclosure of their names may harm other people close to them. On consideration of the sensititities we are choosing to publish all opinions we received anonymously.

Amanda McKenna, Linden, NSW. 06Sep2011

Milly is the pen name of musician and composer Amanda McKenna. She is the wife and business and creative partner of the Editor of Catholica, Brian Coyne. (Amanda McKenna is both her professional and married name.)

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition . . .

 . . . . however, the new inquisition appears to be alive and well as this article (Vatican pressures theology journal) from the National Catholic Reporter shows.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Bishop Morris Final Mass. Why can't the church cope with discussion ?

From the Toowoomba chronicle

"A THANKSGIVING Mass was held to say goodbye to Bishop Bill Morris at St Patrick’s Cathedral yesterday.

The congregation overflowed from the cathedral into an outside marquee where the service was broadcast live.

Bishop Morris, 67, was appointed to the Diocese of Toowoomba in 1993 and hoped to enjoy an early retirement at the age of 70.

However, he was forced to retire on May 2. In a letter to parishioners on May 1, Bishop Morris thanked his supporters.

“To the entire diocese I say a heartfelt thanks for your support, friendship, love and prayers over the last eighteen years,” he said.

“You have been a great gift to me it has been a privilege to serve you.

“While the overwhelming majority of you have been supportive of me and have worked collaboratively with me to ensure the ongoing life of the diocese, and its mission to be a bearer of the Gospel to the wider world, a small group have found my leadership and the direction of the diocese not to their liking.

“It would be my hope that as I say goodbye to you as your pastor, that we can both say, because of our relationship over the last 18 years we all know the Shepherd a little better.”"

Friday, 26 August 2011

Geoffrey Nobes new website

At last Geoffrey Nobes has a web presence.  His music deserves to be widely known. Geoff's compositions are particularly effective leading individuals or groups into quiet meditation or contemplation.  Some pieces use traditional prayer texts, passages from scripture or  texts from the Celtic tradition.  Don't take my word for it though.  Listen to some of the tracks on his website or just click below and prepare to be enchanted !

Thursday, 25 August 2011

The Silly Season !

Traditionally at this time of year silly articles appear in the 'red tops.'  Scanning the blog world I can't believe some of the things I'm reading - perhaps the catholic blogosphere has a similar 'silly season.' Sadly they're deadly serious.  Check these out:

Thomas Merton : The first neo- Conservative ?

The 1994 statement permitting girl servers was a mistaken tactical retreat which led to a fall in priestly vocations. It’s time to withdraw it

An Ordinariate for the Society of Pope Pius X ?

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Council of the Baptised

Just discovered this interesting website. The Catholic Coalition for Church reform has launched “Synod 2011” which aims to create a “Council of the Baptised” that hopes to “invite partnership with the Archdiocesan ordained decision makers.” The website can be found here or click their banner at the top of this page

Join us in Launching a Council of the Baptized

Do you see disconnects between the policies and practices of the institutional Roman Catholic Church and the Gospel message of love that Jesus demonstrated and proclaimed? If so, you are one of a growing number of Catholics.

We see friends leaving the Church because their spiritual needs are not being met. We see the younger generations uninterested in supporting the institution. We see vast numbers of Catholics struggling in their lives without pastoral care. We see women treated as second-class citizens, and gays and lesbians discounted in their humanity. We see divorced and remarried Catholics suffering exclusion from the Eucharistic community. Animosity divides factions. There are no avenues of communication between the official leadership and the people. And meanwhile the world we are supposed to be serving is in need of strong and organized care. How can we see all this without feeling responsible to act?

Our consciences cry out for us to step up and take responsibility. The Holy Spirit is working through us, the laity, according to the official Church doctrine called sensus fidelium, the sense of the faithful. Our mandate for action comes from our baptism and was urged upon us by the bishops of the Church at the Second Vatican Council. For us, stepping up is a moral imperative. If not us, who? If not now, when?

Our strategy for taking responsibility is the creation of a Council of the Baptized to invite partnership with the Archdiocesan ordained decision-makers and to communicate the sense of the faithful.

We will
• pray together for the Spirit to guide us
• discuss among ourselves the concerns of conscience we will bring to the Council
• explain the set up and work of the Council
• hear from people who have envisioned the Council’s work
• nominate the charter members of the Council
• appoint people to work on teams to present the first concerns to the Council in January 2012

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Bishop Kevin Dowling reflects on trends in the Church

Thanks to the Association of Catholic Priests for reposting Bishop Kevin Dowlings address to Laity in Cape Town, South Africa on June 1st this year.  The whole article is well worth reading and his final paragraph (which is hilarious) is reproduced here to whet your appetite !. Thankyou so much to Bishop Kevin.

“Over the Pope as expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there stands one’s own conscience which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even the official Church, also establishes a principle in opposition to increasing totalitarianism”.

(Joseph Ratzinger in: Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II,Vol. V., pg. 134 (Ed) H. Vorgrimler, New York, Herder and Herder, 1967).

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Holes, what holes?

Just read an article in the National Catholic Reporter by John L Allen Jnr. The article concerns remarks made about the role of theologians by Capuchin Fr Thomas Weinandy. in a May 26 address to the Academy of Catholic Theology in Washington, D.C., and published in July in Origins, the official documentary service of the U.S. bishops.

What I find interesting isn’t so much the article, but the comments that followed. I counted 44 comments. Nine of these favoured Weinandy’s position, 1 was indifferent and a whopping 34 disagreed.

Fascinating. The Barque of Peter seems so full of holes and about to sink. You’d have thought the church would begin to start plugging those holes rather than shouting “holes, what holes?” Instead it looks for scapegoats to blame for making those holes that it denies are there. Meanwhile the water rises . . .

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Misguided Missal ?

Anyone who finds issue with the new translation of the Roman Missal would do well to look at this new website.  It’s full of articles to justify why the new translation is, well  . . . . erm a bit poor !  Don’t take my word for it have a look yourself Here's what they have to say :
Out of Love for the Church……we are deeply concerned with the New Missal Translation emanating from Rome.
…we believe it is poorly translated, indeed, at times, mistranslated, difficult to speak, let alone comprehend.
…we are deeply concerned with the process resulting in the 2011 Missal Translation.
…we believe the process circumvented collaboration and consultation with liturgists, linguists, scripture scholars and theologians and is simply being imposed without regard for the People of God.
…we are deeply concerned with the return to authoritarianism and clericalism implied in the words of the new translation.
…we believe the hierarchy has lost sight of who we are as the people of God, who, like them, are called to discipleship.
…we are deeply concerned with Rome’s rejection of the 1998 Missal Translation in favor of their new translation.
…we believe that the 1998 translation was beautifully constructed, understandable, scripturally and theologically sound and easily spoken out loud and understood by the presider and the assembled People of God.
…we are deeply concerned with Rome’s retreat from the principles and theology of the Second Vatican Council.
…we believe that the liturgical documents of Vatican II are inspiring and a great gift to the Church.
…we are deeply concerned with Rome’s justification for the new translation and their statement that the changes promulgated in the documents of Vatican II diminish our understanding of the Eucharist and our understanding of Christology.
…we believe that the rites emanating from Vatican II have deepened people’s understanding of the celebration of the Eucharist and appreciation of who Christ is and who we are each called to become.
…we are deeply concerned with Rome’s need to silence those who express their concerns and with our bishops’ docile compliance.
…we believe we should be able to expect more from our spiritual leaders who no longer speak for us or with us but simply to us.
…we believe that we have the right and responsibility to express our needs to our bishops.

In the Documents of Vatican II, Lumen Gentium states “Like all Christians, the laity have the right to receive in abundance the help of the spiritual goods of the Church, especially that of the word of God and the sacraments from the pastors. To the latter the laity should disclose their needs and desires with that liberty and confidence which befits children of God… By reason of the knowledge, competence or pre-eminence which they have the laity are empowered – indeed sometimes obliged – to manifest their opinion on those things which pertain to the good of the Church.” Lumen Gentium, #37.

The Code of Canon Law #212, section 3 states “They (Christ’s faithful) have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church.”

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Guilt shortage dooms reform of the reform - Eugene Cullen Kennedy

Thanks to Eugene Cullen Kennedy for this article (reproduced below) in the National Catholic reporter.
Guilt shortage dooms reform of the reform - By Eugene Cullen Kennedy

The Reformers of the Reform resemble those who restore and sell antique cars. They labor strenuously to polish up once sleek models out of the '20s and flog them confidently as the next big thing in Catholic life.

Their sparkling showroom is modeled on St. Peter's, their sales people speak Latin, and, instead of cash, they offer plenary indulgences as incentives. They hand out a stilted language manual that promises the people they want to convert into pilgrims that they can ride happily again on the two-lane roads of pre-Vatican II Catholicism.

There is only one thing missing: the fuel of neurotic guilt that these vehicles desperately need in order to wheeze their way back to that church whose imagined glories depended on making people feel bad even about being good.

The so-called Reform of the Reform will sputter out precisely because it cannot drill in the Arctic, in the Gulf, or in people's backyards for the massive amounts of inappropriate guilt that were pumped into the lives of Catholics to keep them in their pews and in their places in the Father-is-always-right era into which these deluded pied pipers of reform are determined to lead us.

Catholicism can rightly claim that it has always made room for, forgiven and offered comfort to sinners. The cultural evocation of Catholicism that gleams in the eyes of Reformers of the Reform is, however, a distortion of the church's humane and understanding pilgrimage with its people.

These zealots do not understand the profound pastoral majesty of a Servant Church whose energy source is the Spirit; they want a Church as Master that exercises power to control and condemn, if need be, every believer's slightest thought or impulse.

They detest Vatican II because it did away with the pseudo-guilt that made good people feel uneasy or unclean about even the healthy aspects of being human, such as having sexual feelings and the desire for union that goes with genuine love. They want to overturn Vatican II because it placed the dignity of the human person at the center of its deliberations and as the subject of its extraordinary documents. They dislike Vatican II precisely because it did away with the imaginary guilt that these out-of-touch reformers need to fill up their out-of-style vehicles of spiritual life.

The church they long to restore, but lack the fuel to run, was indeed a powerful force that could get people coming and going and give them a phony speeding ticket as facilely as a traffic cop on the take. Indeed, "Catholic guilt" remains a staple for literary critics who think that artists, such as playwright Eugene O'Neill, found their inspiration in the guilt that once seemed to permeate the lives of their people, no matter how hard they tried or how good they really were.

Nothing is more human or natural than the sexual feelings or imaginings that course through ordinary people every day. If, as in a prime distortion of the dead and gone Catholic Culture, you could make people feel that each one of these was -- if the person so much as hesitated no longer than it takes to smell a beautiful flower or savor a taste of fine wine -- always and ever an occasion of serious sin, then you could make them feel needlessly guilty and in dire and urgent need of absolution in the confessional. If a person could be made to feel guilty for taking healthy pride in some achievement, then you could ruin their day and make them feel senselessly guilty even about their efforts to use their gifts wisely.

Many of the good men and women who entered seminaries and religious houses brought generous hearts but a cultural conditioning that made them feel guilty if they turned away from the idea. Many good people remained, against the grain of their truest selves, out of the counterfeit guilt piled on them by spiritual directors and others who insisted that God wanted them to stay.

I recall an 80-year-old priest who tearfully told me that he never really wanted to be ordained but that every time he tried to leave, he was made to feel guilty about departing, and was told that all he needed was "to want to want to be a priest." He made the best of it, as many married couples have of relationships that they were pressured to enter, but there is no way to measure how unhappy they were and how many other people that, incidentally and unintentionally, they infected with their own sorrows.

The inability of these romantic reformers to find the fuel of guilt to keep their enterprise on the road explains the midsummer madness of the cardinal who has decreed that Catholics may only receive the Eucharist on the tongue while standing or the bishops of England and Wales who want to restore meatless Fridays. Granted that the latter is a great symbol but they will never again make Catholics feel that they commit a mortal sin equal to that of murder for forgetfully nibbling on a pig-in-the-blanket at a Friday cocktail party.

Pope Benedict XVI plans to emphasize the sacrament of penance at the forthcoming World Youth Day but, wonderful as the sacrament of forgiveness is, not even he will persuade people to feel that they are guilty of real sin when they are distracted at prayers or feel discouraged about life.

Catholics cut down on confession not because they abandoned the idea of sin but because they discovered the meaning of sin and realized that it was much different in many of its social dimensions than the personal foibles they had been trained to feel guilty about in the pre-Vatican II Church.

The Reform of the Reform is therefore doomed because it can no longer make healthy people feel unhealthy and unnecessary guilt about being human. That is why, when once asked why he convened Vatican II, Pope John XXIII replied not with a discourse on the sinful world but with perhaps the most Catholic sentence spoken by any pontiff in the 20th century: "To make the human sojourn on earth less sad."

[Eugene Cullen Kennedy is emeritus professor of psychology at Loyola University, Chicago.]

Friday, 5 August 2011

The Vatican’s Tahrir Square? - Fr Kevin Kelly

Thankyou to Kevin Kelly for having the courage to say these things.

Kevin T Kelly is a retired parish priest and emeritus Research Fellow in Moral Theology at Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool, England. The author has sent this text to all the bishops of England and Wales.

In 1975 in my role as Director of the Upholland Northern Institute (UNI) I was involved in arranging the very first In-Service Training course for the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. It was on the theme, ‘The Bishop as Teacher’ and was held at the UNI. When the bishops arrived, they all had embargoed copies of the CDF Declaration, Persona Humana, on sexual issues which was due to be published during the week. Quite a number of the bishops shared with me their deep unease about the Declaration. They were highly critical of it and made no secret of that to me and to each other. I was given a copy and asked to run a special session on it. When I read it, I could see why they felt so critical. Despite its title, Personal Humana was based on a theological approach which failed to do justice to Vatican II’s person-centred vision of moral theology. In my talk I suggested to the bishops that, if they were to be faithful to their role of teachers, they should be prepared to voice their criticism of the Declaration, if they were interviewed by the media. I stressed that we owe it to the truth to be honest and authentic in what we say. Positive criticism is intrinsic to good teaching. As far as I know, none of them followed my suggestion in their subsequent TV and Radio interviews.

What disturbed me even more was the text of a telegram I found in an issue of Documentation Catholique.a few months later.  It was sent to the CDF from  the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and thanked them for their excellent Declaration, Persona Humana! That left a bad taste in my mouth. It suggested a kind of ‘double speak’, as though there was a dysfunctionality in communications within the Church. 

That seems to be relevant at present with regard to the new translation of the Roman Missal. I may be wrong, but I have the impression that at least some, perhaps many, of the bishops share the unhappiness about the new translation which is felt by many priests and lay Catholics. Yet the new translation is being promoted as a precious gift. Let me quote from a suggested insert for parish newsletters for the coming weeks sent out by Liverpool Archdiocese. “The new translation brings with it a deeper and more profound meaning of the mystery we have gathered to celebrate at Mass.” This is because “we have grown as a Church over the last 40 years in terms of understanding how to better translate our Latin texts into the vernacular language of the people”. Consequently, “the changes also bring us a wonderful opportunity as a Church to delve more deeply into the mystery of Christ Jesus and the praise and thanksgiving we offer to God, our Father, during Mass”. 

I love the liturgy, I really do. I find it a rich source for my own devotional life. But I find those quotations deeply disturbing, arousing the same feeling of uneasiness I experienced with the Bishops’ telegram to the CDF. I simply cannot identify myself with what is being said. It smacks too much of a ‘double-speak’, not the straightforward ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ that Jesus urged us to follow.  On the Sunday following Mubarak’s stepping down as President of Egypt, I made the following point in my homily to the community of Notre Dame Sisters with whom I am privileged to share the Eucharist each day. 

“Re-reading the first paragraph of Benedict’s 2009 social encyclical, ‘Caritas in Veritate, has helped me to see beneath the surface of what has been happening in Tahrir Square. Benedict writes: “Love is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of Justice and Peace.” He goes on to stress that this force “has its origin in God” and is a “vocation planted by God in the heart and mind of every human person.” The crowd in Tahrir Square were mainly Muslims but also included many secularists and Coptic Christians. They showed “courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace” in their peaceful demands for a peaceful, non-violent transition to genuine human freedom and justice. Benedict’s amazing words applied to them and made me very conscious that what I was seeing on TV was God’s spirit present and active in these people.”

I am sure many people felt that same “extraordinary force” was tangible in the crowds during the Benedict XVI’s UK visit. I certainly felt that at Evensong in Westminster Abbey. 

However, I also feel that this “extraordinary force” is also manifesting itself in the growing unease about the imposition of the new translation of the Roman Missal. A grass-roots resistance seems to be growing among ordinary Catholics who are deeply concerned at the impact this new translation will have on their Sunday Mass. They had no say in what is happening. They feel disempowered. To my mind, their instinct is right. The New Missal imposition is just one instance of the abuse of power in our Church. It is just the tip of the ice-berg. I sense a growing discontent among many very committed Catholics who have a deep love for the church. They feel it is losing touch with the Spirit-inspired vision of Vatican II and its hope for the future. They want to mount a protest against this but there seems no appropriate channel for such protest. 

Vatican II placed collegiality at the very heart of church governance. Implied in that teaching is the involvement of all the faithful through collaborative ministry and corresponsibility. The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales made that abundantly clear in The Sign we Give, the magnificent 1995 Report from their Working Party on Collaborative Ministry. Sadly, these developments in church governance, so central to the renewal of the Church, have never been properly implemented. That continues to this very day. Until recently most Catholics have felt they had no choice but to tolerate of this abuse of power. Now, however, I suspect that the ‘Tahrir Square’ syndrome in the church is a sign that the “extraordinary force” of the fire of the Holy Spirit is beginning to disturb us from our complacency. 

The flagrant misuse of power involved in the new translation of the Roman Missal is not just about its pastorally disastrous kind of language. It is also about the serious disregard for Vatican II’s teaching on collegiality in the process leading up to the New Missal. The original International Commission for English in the Liturgy (ICEL) was set up after the Council and was a fine example of the implementation of collegiality, since it was answerable to the English-speaking bishops conferences throughout the world. ICEL’s only link with the Congregation of Divine Worship (CDW) was the requirement to obtain a ‘recognitio’ (a kind of ‘rubber stamp’!) for its proposed texts and translations. ICEL was also true to Vatican II’s ecumenical spirit since it worked with the liturgical agencies of other Christian churches to ensure that the common texts and the cycle of biblical readings would be shared in common by the churches.  Moreover, it tried to avoid as far as possible exclusive language which might be offensive to women. These original ICEL texts were carefully vetted and voted upon by all the English-speaking bishops’ conferences and are still used today throughout the English-speaking world. However, from the start ICEL had been aware that the need to provide English texts as soon as reasonably possible after the Council inevitably meant that their texts were far from perfect. In fact, Archbishop Denis Hurley, a major figure at Vatican II and first Chair of ICEL, immediately set in motion the work of revising and refining these texts. He gathered together a team of liturgical and literary experts to undertake this task. The guiding principle for their work was based on Vatican II’s insistence that the “full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else” (Liturgy Constitution, n.14) Consequently, this team was commissioned to produce texts which, while not being literal word-for-word translations, should be faithful to the meaning of the original, as well as being simple, dignified and easily understandable. In this they were following the guidance enshrined in the Vatican II-inspired 1969 instruction, Comme le prevoit, approved by Paul VI. 

By 1998 ICEL’s revised version of the Roman Missal was complete and had been examined and approved by all the English-speaking bishops’ conferences. It was then sent to the Congregation of Divine Worship (CDW) for its formal ‘recognitio’. This was refused, completely disregarding the key Vatican II principle of collegiality! Moreover, without any consultation, the CDW brought out an entirely new set of guidelines, Liturgiam Authenticam, which insisted on a much more literal fidelity in translating and actually warned against any ecumenical involvement in the process. Moreover, it showed total insensitivity to women by ruling out any use of inclusive language! Archbishop Hurley, by then no longer Chair of ICEL, is reported to have said: “I find the attitude reflected in the proposed change in translation practice a distressing departure from the spirit of collegiality in favour of authoritative imposition”. He even wrote to a friend: “At times I find it difficult to understand the attitude of the Roman Curia. It seems to be more concerned with power than with humble service.” (both quotations from Paddy Kearney, Guardian of the Light: Denis Hurley, Renewing the Church, opposing Apartheid, (New York, London, T & T Clark, 2009), pp.292 & 295) 

A radically reconstituted ICEL set out to produce a new Roman Missal following the new guide-lines. In due course this was sent out to the English-speaking bishops’ conferences. They could have rejected this new Missal but instead chose to approve it. It looks as though they had given up hope of any genuine collegiality. The earlier revision of the Missal which all the Bishops’ conferences had approved in 1998 was virtually binned, despite being the fruit of years of dedicated expertise and ecumenical cooperation by the commission set up by the original ICEL. A full account of this sad and shameful affair is found in Chapters 4 and 5 of It’s the Eucharist, Thank God (Decani Books, Brandon, Suffolk, 2009) by Bishop Maurice Taylor who was chair of ICEL during the fateful years of 1997 to 2002. 

This new Missal has provoked widespread dismay and disquiet, especially among many clergy, fearful of its negative impact on parishioners. For instance, in January of this year the eminent US liturgical scholar, Anthony Ruff OSB, withdrew from a commission given him by the US bishops to help prepare people for the new translation of the Roman Missal in dioceses across the US. In his letter of withdrawal he wrote:“ involvement in that process, as well as my observation of the Holy See’s handling of scandal, has gradually opened my eyes to the deep problems in the structures of authority of our church. The forthcoming missal is but a part of a larger pattern of top-down impositions by a central authority that does not consider itself accountable to the larger church. When I think of how secretive the translation process was, how little consultation was done with priests or laity, ... how unsatisfactory the final text is, how this text was imposed on national conferences of bishops in violation of their legitimate episcopal authority...—and then when I think of Our Lord’s teachings on service and love and unity…I weep.” (America, 14/2/11)

Anthony Ruff is not a lone voice. On 3 February the Irish Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) issued a press release entitled “New Translation of the Missal Unacceptable”. They described the texts as “archaic, elitist and obscure and not in keeping with the natural rhythm, cadence and syntax of the English language” and say: “from the few available samples of the new texts, it is clear that the style of English used throughout the Mass will be so convoluted that it will be difficult to read the prayers in public.” Moreover, they continue: “It is ironic that this Latinised, stilted English is being imposed on Irish people who are so blessed with world-renowned poets, playwrights, and novelists.” They ask the bishops to follow the German bishops who have objected to similar texts being imposed on them and urge them to defer the Missal’s introduction for five years to give them time to “engage with Irish Catholics with a view to developing a new set of texts that will adequately reflect the literary genius and spiritual needs of our Church community in these modern times”.

Two years earlier, an article appeared in America (14/12/09) entitled What If We Said, 'Wait'? The case for a grass-roots review of the new Roman Missal, by Fr Michael G. Ryan. He spoke out of his experience as Pastor of St. James Cathedral, Seattle since 1988 and board member of the national Cathedral Ministry Conference. He tells of the reactions of “disbelief and indignation“ of his friends to some of the translations; and of “audible laughter in the room” at a diocesan seminar for priests and lay-leaders. One reaction will strike chords with many: 

“with all that the church has on its plate today—global challenges with regard to justice, peace and the environment; nagging scandals; a severe priest shortage; the growing disenchantment of many women; seriously lagging church attendance—it seems almost ludicrous to push ahead with an agenda that will seem at best trivial and at worst hopelessly out-of-touch.” 

He also notes that when the new translations were mistakenly introduced ahead of time in South Africa they “were met almost uniformly with opposition bordering on outrage”. Fr Ryan makes a gentle “What if?” challenge to his fellow priests:

“What if we, the parish priests of this country who will be charged with the implementation, were to find our voice and tell our bishops that we want to help them avert an almost certain fiasco? What if we told them that we think it unwise to implement these changes until our people have been consulted in an adult manner that truly honors their intelligence and their baptismal birthright? What if we just said, “Wait, not until our people are ready for the new translations, but until the translations are ready for our people”?”

I recommend Ryan’s article very highly, especially to priests. Many Catholics seem to have mixed feelings about the church at present. At one level they really do love the church and, in the UK at least, felt boosted by the Pope’s visit. Yet they also agree with Tina Beattie’s comment that the problems have not gone away. A lot of these problems are related to the way the authority of God is being used to shore up teaching which, at the very least, is open to debate and, in some instances, rejected as inadequate by many theologians and most people in the church trying to be faithful to the spirit of Vatican II. I am thinking, for instance, of the rich understanding of human sexuality found in current Catholic and Christian theology, revealing to women and men, gays and lesbians, the depth of their God-given dignity and the ultimate foundation for their sense of self-worth. The same is true of developments in liturgical and Eucharistic theology with its emphasis on full participation, so crucial to the spirit of Vatican II. Using authority to close down these legitimate debates paralyses pastoral imagination from exploring new ways of coping with such down-to-earth issues as the sacraments to the divorced-remarried, Eucharistic hospitality in an ecumenical context, general absolution’s highlighting the social dimension of sin, as well as stifling the much-needed debate on contraception, the ordination of women, and the presence of God’s love in the faithful love lives of gays and lesbians.

It seems to be increasingly recognised that abuse of power is also a key factor lying at the heart of the scandal of clergy sex-abuse and Episcopal cover-up. The eradication of this horrendous abuse of power seems to lie not just in dealing with the actual perpetrators but also in a radical conversion of the organisational pathology of the church itself. I cannot get out of my mind the telling words of Brendan Callaghan SJ: “The faces of this tragedy are always the faces of the hurt and betrayed children, and we must somehow find the courage neither to turn away from those faces nor to diminish what they show us of death and destruction.” 

For some readers this article might seem too negative and disturbing, especially as coming from a 77-year old retired priest and emeritus (“past it”) moral theologian. I hope and pray that what I have written is empowered by the same “extraordinary force” of God’s love referred to by Benedict XVI which I mentioned in my opening paragraph.  God alone can judge that. Certainly it is what I pray for each morning with the words, “Come, Holy Spirit, enkindle in us (and in me) the fire of your love”. 

At the opening of the 2nd Session of Vatican II, Paul VI spoke of the church as “the Bride of Christ looking upon Christ to discern in him her true likeness” and reminded the bishops that: “If in doing so she were to discover some shadow, some defect, some stain upon her wedding garment, what should be her instinctive, courageous reaction? There can be no doubt that her primary duty would be to reform, correct and set herself aright in conformity with her divine model”. Yves Congar, Hans Kung & Daniel O’Hanlon, Council Speeches of Vatican II (Sheed & Ward, London, 1964) p.51. Paul VI was not encouraging a spirit of negative criticism at the Council. He was inviting the bishops to show their love for the church by facing up to its need for healing and renewal. Positive criticism should be loving, inspiring and life-giving. I believe, with many others, that the church needs this kind of love more than ever at this point in time – not a soft love but a courageous reforming love. Henri DeLubac is reported to have said: “If we do not learn to love the church in its sinfulness, we will not love the church loved by the Lord but, rather, some figment of our romantic imagination.” cf. George B Wilson SJ, Clericalism: The Death of Priesthood, (Collegeville, Liturgical Press, 2008) p.x. As members of this sinful church, each of us, myself included, needs to ask the Spirit to help us discern how we are part of that sinfulness and especially in this Lenten season ask for forgiveness and healing. 

Kevin T Kelly