Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Back these bishops!"

To quote Porta Caeli. The Bishops of Hallam, Leeds and Middlesbrough have issued a very important joint Pastoral Letter about their adoption agencies and equality legislation.

Petition the Bishops on Sex Education in Catholic Schools

If you would like to sign the following petition, click here.
We, the undersigned, call upon the Bishops of England and Wales and the Catholic Education Service to fulfil their duty as guardians of our Catholic Faith and unequivocally reject recent Government measures forcing Catholic schools to teach what is explicitly condemned by the Church, viz: presenting active homosexuality as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, and providing information on the nature - and provision - of contraception and abortion services. Compliance on the part of the Bishops and the CES in such measures would effectively render our schools no longer Catholic in any meaningful sense, and would place the faith and moral life of our children in jeopardy. As Catholic parents, teachers and pastors, we earnestly beg of you, our Shepherds in Christ, that you do not allow this to happen.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Diaconate Ordination at St John's Seminary, Wonersh

Congratulations to Rev. Deacon Philip Smith who was ordained deacon yesterday at St John's Seminary, Wonersh. He has the dubious honour of having me as a Canon Law lecturer. Sadly I was unable be present due to a number of other commitments, particularly the reception of the body of the late Rita Redman whose funeral took place this morning.

Anyway, getting back to Deacon Philip, you can read more at Southwark Vocations. Please remember him and all our seminarians in your prayers.

Britain and Sex Ed: Zenit sums it up!

The following is from yesterday's Zenit news.

In the Name of Diversity

Catholics in England might like someone of Cardinal Martino's caliber at the moment.

This week, the U.K. parliament voted to pass an amendment to a bill that, according to the government and an agency of the Catholic Church, will allow faith schools to teach sex education according to their religious ethos.

But pro-life organizations and many orthodox-thinking Catholics say the amendment is deceptive and misleading, as it will still require all schools, including Catholic schools, to give information about contraception, abortion, and homosexual partnerships in the name of equality and diversity. The government's education minister, Ed Balls, seemed to admit as much on a BBC radio program on the day of the vote.

"They can explain the views of their faith," he said, "but what they can't do is say that they are not going to teach children about contraception, how to access contraception, or how to use contraception." He added that what the bill changes is that for the first time "these schools cannot just ignore these issues or teach only one side of the argument."

Teachers in faith schools, he said, will have to teach "different views on homosexuality, they cannot teach homophobia, they must explain civil partnership and must give a balanced view on abortion. They must explain both sides of the argument and how to access an abortion. The same is true on contraception as well."

Faith schools will, therefore, now be obliged to instruct young girls on where to kill a child in their womb, say pro-life organizations. They also say there are many other aspects to this legislation which will "advertise" to pupils pro-abortion messages, mandate the teaching of lurid sexual material, and ultimately lead to the further "sexualization of children." As one observer put it: Catholic schools will from now on be coerced by the state’s concept of ‘neutrality’, to present as ‘choice’ what hitherto has "not been a choice; to give pupils the options as though they were all morally equivalent; to promote what has traditionally been judged to be ‘sin’. It is facilitation under the guise of information."

But the Catholic Education Service, the agency which has worked with the government on the bill and which is governed by the bishops of England and Wales, supports the legislation. It insists that the teaching of all aspects of the curriculum in Catholic schools "reflects their religious ethos," and that sex education "will be rooted in the Catholic Church's teaching of the profound respect for the dignity of all human persons."

This hasn't placated pro-life organizations, some of which feel "utterly betrayed" by agency's stance. One group said the new curriculum "is going to put conscientious Catholic teachers, parents and young people in an utterly invidious position." So far, only Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien, president of the Scottish bishops' conference, has spoken out on the Church's behalf against this week's vote on the bill. The bishops of England and Wales are expected to comment once they reach an agreement on a way forward but some suspect they wanted the amendment passed just in case the bill cannot be defeated.

Some priests and laity see this legislation as the fruit of decades of dissent within the Catholic Church in Britain. And both inside and outside the Church, this bill is being viewed as flagrantly opposed to the natural moral law which governments are supposed to uphold.

Benedict XVI reminded the bishops of England and Wales earlier this month that such legislation which restricts religious freedom "actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded." He then urged them to ensure that the Church's moral teaching "be always presented in its entirety and convincingly defended." Fidelity to the Gospel, he said, "in no way restricts the freedom of others -- on the contrary, it serves their freedom by offering them the truth."

The legislation will now head to the House of Lords where much hard work is expected to ensure the bill is defeated.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Catholic Schools - can they remain Catholic?

The Government got its Children, Families and Education Bill passed yesterday which will, if passed (corrected following a comment from Simon Platt), make it compulsory for Sex and Relationships Education to be taught in all schools, including Catholic Schools. The fact that the CES claims credit for an amendment allowing SRE to be taught within the context of Church teaching is worthless since it is still a legal requirement that all children be taught about contraception and abortion and how to access these services. Our schools will therefore be legally required to co-operate in the evils of contraception and abortion.

We must pray for our Bishops to simply say 'No.' No one is obliged to obey an unjust law. In fact Divine law demands that we resist unjust laws and, if forced, to disobey unjust laws. We must also pray for those who teach in our Catholic Schools that their consciences will be guided by the Holy Spirit, even if those in authority in the Church fail to give such guidance.

I have really very little to add to my previous posts or to what is said by the the following amongst others:
Fr Ray Blake
Fr Tim Finigan

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Another film from Mary's Dowry Productions: St Margaret Clitherow

Saint Margaret Clitherow depicts the life of an English Catholic Martyr, beginning in York in Sixteenth Century England and ending with martyrdom at thirty years of age. Using original visuals to provide imagery in Saint Margaret's unfolding story, the encounter is moving, inspiring and shocking. She was a normal young woman, the wife of a wealthy butcher, a mother and a recusant Catholic. She hid hunted Catholic priests during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and was subsequently executed in one of history's most unusual death sentences. Historical, beautiful and absorbing, this film presents a personal encounter with a great English Catholic Martyr, providing imagery and narration for a relevant journey with an inspiring English woman.

Further information from Mary's Dowry Productions and watch a trailer here.

LMS Training Conference for Priests 12th to 16th April

Another opportunity for priests wishing to learn or improve in the celebration of the Mass according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite (usus antiquior). The following information from the Latin Mass Society:
The fifth Priests’ Training Conference to be organised by the Latin Mass Society will take place at Ushaw College, near Durham from 12th to 16th April 2010, which is Low Week. Again, we will have use of the magnificent St Cuthbert's Chapel for a range of liturgies, including Lauds, Vespers and Compline as well as a daily sung Mass. In response to suggestions made last year, the 2010 conference has been extended by one day.

In order to cater for all levels of ability and experience, tuition will be given in small groups according to existing knowlege. Beginners and near beginners should book into one of the Low Mass groups. Those who are fully competent at Low Mass may book into the Missa Cantata group which will concentrate on the various tones for singing the priest’s parts (Epistle, Gospel, Preface etc). It will be assumed that everyone booking into the Solemn Mass group will already have mastered both Low Mass and the Missa Cantata.

The tutors will all be experienced priests who regularly celebrate Mass in the older form. Although the programme is not finalised, the conference will open with Mass at around 11am on the Monday and will close after lunch on the Friday. If you are only able to attend for part of the week, please indicate your anticipated arrival and departure days on the form.

The Latin Mass Society is able to offer this conference at the subsidised rate of £115 per head, inclusive of four nights accommodation and all meals. Priests travelling a distance can also book in for the Sunday night for an additional cost of £25. In cases of hardship, the society may find it possible to cover the full cost.

For further information send an email to Paul Waddington.

Southwark's Director of Music Nick Gale launches Gregorian Chant educational CD

It's very good to see the increase in interest in Gregorian chant. Nick Gale visited this parish a couple of years ago and introduced our choir to the chant. He is actively involved in promoting the chant wherever possible and this Press Release is on his Gregorian Chant website:

Ash Wednesday 2010 sees the launch of the first of three educational CDs of Gregorian Chant for use in parishes. The Chant is performed by a small group of singers from the Choir of St George's Cathedral, London, under the direction of Nick Gale. Nick is a UK-based teacher of Gregorian Chant and the Director of Music at St George's Cathedral. Volume One of Cantus Angeli, (Chants of the Ordinary,) features complete performances of seven Gregorian Masses, the Ambrosian Gloria, the Asperges and Vidi Aquam, three Credos and a selection of alleluias with verses. The singers are chosen for the simplicity of their tone and the acoustic for its gentle resonance; the consequent clarity and simplicity of the performance makes the Chant accessible to the average parish and gives the CD a more pedagogical focus than most similar productions.

January saw the lauch of the Gregorian Chant Network of which Nick is a member.

St Nicholas Owen - the priest's hole maker

Information from Mary's Dowry Productions:
A new film currently in production from Mary's Dowry Productions presents the life and martyrdom of one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, Saint Nicholas Owen.

For about twenty years he worked across England constructing priest holes in many houses, some of which have still not been discovered. His work was so ingenious that those hunting the priests had to admire the skill involved in them. Saint Nicholas Owen worked alone and often at night. He worked with brick and wood, sometimes constructing holes behind chimneys, beneath floors, in staircases and in walls. He died an excruciating death under torture in the Tower of London for the Catholic faith and was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

Lenten Weekend Recollection on Four Last Things

The following information from Fr Armand deMallery FSSP. Further details email Fr deMalleray or telephone 0118 987 5819.

Come and meet us soon at the
Lenten week-end of recollection: 5-7 March 2010
on ‘The Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Hell and Heaven’.
  • Address: All Saints Conference Centre, Shenley Lane, London Colney, Herts, AL2 1AF.
  • Website:
  • Starts on Friday 5th March 2010 at 5pm (later arrival possible) – ends on Sunday 7th March 2010 at 4pm.
  • Holy Mass in the EF on Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday.
  • Confession / spiritual direction on request.
  • Retreat Master: Fr Armand de Malleray, FSSP
  • Price: £126 everything included (for: £116 as Centre’s fees + £10 as FSSP fees).
  • Please bring your traditional hand missal + your own towel and soap.
  • Booking: please send to us a £15 deposit cheque made payable to FSSP ENGLAND.
Please kindly book now.

Mother of Six begs Archbishop Nichols to reverse support for CFE Bill

This from John Smeaton of SPUC. It's a really important subject, excuse me for going on about it. Here's Mrs Tully's statement:

"We beg Archbishop Nichols, and other religious leaders, to back parents, whether Catholic or of other faiths, who refuse to allow their children to be subjected to what the government's bill demands.

"Archbishop Nichols must say whether schools should do what Ed Balls demands  - tell children how to access abortion and where to get, and how to use, contraception. Or will the archbishop tell schools to resist - even though they may risk legal action, losing Ofsted accreditation, or even losing hard-won state funding?

"SPUC urges all faith leaders to speak out in oppostion to Mr Balls' demands, assuring parents that this is not going to happen in their schools. Teachers and school governors need an assurance that their faith leaders will defend them when they refuse to be complicit in arranging abortions, promoting contraception or deceiving parents.

"The legislation and guidance enforcing this have been drawn up with the advice and support of the Catholic Education Service (CES), headed by Oona Stannard.

"Archbishop Nichols was chairman of the Catholic Education Service and Archbishop of Birmingham when that archdiocese drew up a sex education programme, with funding support from the government. That programme, "All that I am", included instruction for children in a wide range of contraceptives, including many believed to induce early abortions. Will he now have that programme withdrawn?"

Catholic Adoption Agencies and the Equality Bill

A No. 10 petition has been set up as follows:

"Following the loss of some Catholic Adoption Agencies, and the severing of links between some agencies and the Church, it is clear that the Government has not achieved its aim of 'not dissipating or diluting the expertise that the Catholic Adoption Agencies have developed in dealing with hard-to-place children.'(25 Jan. 2007) Quite apart from the rights of children, the rights of those wishing to adopt in a Catholic ethos have been trampled on. The Government must use the opportunity presented by the Equality Bill to amend the Law to make space for Catholic Adoption services. Sexual Orientation laws on the provision of goods and services should not be used to prevent people of faith from accessing a service in the context of their faith tradition".

If you would like to sign the petition go here.

Research into Priests' use of Internet

Via a former (and very successful) doctoral student of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross I have received this request from Professor Daniel Arasa of the Faculty of Social Communications of said university.


Please, help to the research PICTURE filling in an online questionnaire (before February 28).

The questionnaire is available in seven languages (French, English, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Spanish and German).

PICTURE studies the usages of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) by the priests of the Catholic Church. This research project is run by the Università della Svizzera italiana and the School of Institutional Social Communications of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.

All priests are invited to contribute to this research filling in the online questionnaire. More information on the research is available here.

Prof. Daniel Arasa
Comunicazione Digitale
Facoltà di Comunicazione Sociale Istituzionale Pontificia Università della Santa Croce Piazza Sant'Apollinare, 49
00186 Roma
Tel. +39 / 06-681-641

Bloggers lunch

I was very grateful to the Hermeneutic of Continuity to be treated to lunch today. Thanks to the wonderful High Speed Train between Ashford International and St Pancras International in London, I was at our Green Park location just one hour after leaving Ashford International. London is really so much closer now.

Afterwards, I visited a few religous book shops to see if I could obtain a large picture of the Divine Mercy for the church and found a very reasonably priced print at St Paul's by Westminster Cathedral. All I need now is a frame - which will cost quite a bit more if it's going to be decent, and I do want it to be nice.

I wonder if you are as amused as I was by the following grouping together of books:


After the shops, a visit to Westminster Cathedral. I routinely genuflected and took my place in the Blessed Sacrament only then to notice that the Blessed Sacrament is exposed on a throne above the tabernacle, so I did my afternoon meditation before returning to St Pancras. (I only had my mobile phone with me so you probably can't see the monstrance in the following photo - you can see the shadow, however.)

The atmosphere in Westminster Cathedral is always very prayerful. It's a wonderful gift for Catholics to have such a church in the centre of London.

CHRISTIAN INSTITUTE STATEMENT -Choice threatened by Whitehall sex ed grab

I am grateful to Hippolytus who brought this to my attention in the combox to my previous post. The Christian Institute and Care have obtained legal advice which suggests that
the proposals may, in effect, discriminate against religious parents who are unable to consider alternatives to government-maintained schools.
Amongst the points mentioned in a one-page summary of the legal advice are:
  • “The new requirement for PSHE to be ‘appropriate’ to pupils’ ‘religious and cultural backgrounds’ (set out in clause 11(4) of the CSF Bill) is not only held in tension with a potentially conflicting requirement to ‘promote equality’ (as already stated), but it is a much weaker requirement than the existing obligation in section 403 (1A)(b) of the Education Act 1996 (which will be deleted by the CSF Bill) to ensure that children are ‘protected’ from inappropriate teaching and materials.”
  • “The recent amendment would, on the face of it, improve the position for faith schools. However, it would still have to be read alongside the other conflicting requirements in the SRE curriculum. This would not be a straightforward task and there is still potential for the CSF Bill to erode the religious ethos and autonomy of faith schools.” (para 44.d)
These latter points illustrate the conflict betwen the so-called concession granted to faith schools that they may teach these matters in accordance with their religious ethos and the obligation as re-stated by Ed Balls in the 8.10am interview on the Today programme this morning that all schools must teach their pupils about contraception and abortion and ensure that they are informed about how to access these services. I haven't yet caught up on the news today...

Children Schools and Families Bill - It's all about Catholic Schools

Ed Balls claims that the Catholic Church welcomes a Bill that makes Sex and Relationships Education compulsory in schools, making it compulsory for our schools to ensure that children know how to access contraception and abortion services. If anyone is in any doubt about the crisis we are facing then listen to his interview with John Sympson on this morning's Today programme. It is still on air as I write so not available yet to listen again. But you'll find it here and the interview takes place at about 8.10am. The interview begins with a Jewish Rabbi who is most unhelpful.

UPDATE: See Damian Thompson's take on the situation.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Children Schools and Families Bill

This is being voted on tomorrow. Prayers are needed. The CES has failed to get anything out of the government. But the Conservative opposition has tabled an amendment to exclude Sex and Relationships Education from Primary Schools altogether. The real champion of our Catholic Schools in this regard is John Smeaton of SPUC and his team who seem to be following everything so closely and alerting us of dangers etc.

See his post New Amendment to Sex Education Bill - Act Now.
See also:
Fr Tim Finigan Catholic Schools: have we reached the endgame?
Fr Ray Blake
Fr EF Whelan: Bishops should reform CES.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The kind of 'Sleep Over' I approve of

This morning the cousin of one of our altar servers came to Mass. He is a young parishioner and server at St Margaret's, Canning Town, which is entrusted to the pastoral care of the Community of St John. So I invited him to join the team of servers at the Mass.

Baptism of Carris Joy Bernadette Clarke

Congratulations to Roy and Cheryl Clarke on the baptism of their first baby girl which took place after the 10am Mass this morning. Our numbers at Mass were swelled by family and friends of Roy and Cheryl, and many more of their non-Catholic friends arrived after the Mass for the Baptism. I had prepared Roy and Cheryl for their marriage which took place in Cheryl's home parish in Huddersfield, there was a good representation of family (including Cheryl's mother and father and sister) from 'up North' so it was a delight to baptise their first child.

The Baptism was celebrated according to the more ancient usage of the Roman Rite (aka extraordinary form) with all but the exorcisms and form of Baptism in English. As seems to be a repeating pattern now, people were very impressed by the ritual and said how 'special' the Baptism was. Carris was quiet all the way through, apart from a little cry when the salt was placed in her mouth.

Pictured above are Roy and Cheryl (either side of me) with Godmother and Christian witnesses after the ceremony.

Oh, as for the Latin of Carris' name, I went for Caritas Laetitia Bernarda and, after the ceremony, said a few words about St Bernadette of Soubirous before we said the Hail Holy Queen together.

Afterwards there was a reception at a local boxing club where a family friend (James Carter on Cheryl's left in the above photo) trains youngsters. There should be a photo of me in boxing gloves soon...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Internet censorship

In searching for an image for my previous post on our prayer vigil outside the Maidstone Marie Stopes clinic, I found this image:

It was posted on the website of the Biblical Christian Network, which you will instantly see is very pro-life. The above photo is the one that violated the terms of use of photobucket which must be the organisation that stores their photos. What is it about the truth that people find offensive?

Praying at the Maidstone Marie Stopes Clinic

A correspondent asked: how did it go? It was cold, windy, raining. It was not pleasant. We were called 'hypocrites' by a mother with a child and a baby in a buggy who thought the pavement was her own. These prayer vigils are organised in co-operation with the police. We do not obstruct the pavement, standing on the kerb across the road from the clinic so that people can easily pass by, yet this mother 'accidentally on purpose' knocked into one of our pray-ers, almost knocking her into the road. Had a car been passing something serious could have happened. Thankfully, all our pray-ers know that they should never retaliate but remain calm and, preferably, silent.

Whilst we were praying, our kerbside counsellor came over to us to tell us to pray hard because she could see where we couldn't and it appeared that a young girl was trying to get out of the clinic but she was being forced in by her mother. It appears the girl was being forced to take an abortion pill. Later on a Marie Stopes staff member was seen allegedly checking the floor outside the entrance to ensure that the tablet had not been spat out.

I saw the young girl as she left the clinic - she couldn't have been aged more than 14 years old, accompanied by the mother and a young lad.

We also saw a car pull up, driven by a man with a young woman in the passenger seat. She was clearly struggling with her emotions and, after seeing us, the car drove off. I saw it park further down the road, turn round as if to come back, but then turn round again to drive off. Some fifteen minutes later, the car returned, but drove past, the driver looking very unpleasantly at us.

All we were doing was saying our prayers with nothing more than a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a banner.

Further, we saw a young man come out, obviously having left his partner inside. He hung around further up the road and then disappeared while we were praying.

This was the day after Ash Wednesday. I only lead the group a few times a year, but this was when I experienced the war with Satan as never before. My conscience is troubling me that we did nothing more than pray to help that young teenage girl and the child she may have been carrying. When will there be martyrs for the unborn child?

When will more priests and bishops see this grave injustice as worth giving up their time and comfort for?

The collect of Ash Wednesday remains apt:
Support us, Lord, as with this Lenten fast
we begin our Christian warfare,
so that in doing battle against the spirit of evil
we may be armed with the weapon of self-denial.

I'm afraid I have given up on the CES

Please simply read John Smeaton's blog about St Thomas More School in Bedford. I almost feel like setting up an automatic redirect on John Smeaton's email alerts so they get published as postings on my blog. What would St Thomas More be saying? Oh, and I have discovered that my previous blog post has been reprinted in the February edition of Christian Order. (They have yet to update their website.) Now whatever chances I had of being a bishop have really gone up in flames!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pontifical Academy for Life members call for removal of Fisichella

Lifesite news reports on the disquiet within the Pontifical Academy for Life to which I have referred in a previous post. Five members have published a statement which refers to conerns about integrity within the Vatican curia as well as the fact that the Academy's president Archbishop Fisichella has undermined greatly the Church's ability to witness to the sanctity of life.

As lifesite news reports:
The statement says that members held back from a direct confrontation last week, believing that an open challenge at the time would have merely caused the Vatican’s Curia to “close ranks” around one of their own “because of the clericalist culture of that body” and despite the “lack of support” for Fisichella himself.

“There is credible information that Fisichella is widely perceived in the Curia to be an inappropriate President of PAV and there is a reasonable hope that the Holy Father will recognise the need to provide him with an occupation better suited to his abilities,” the statement said.

The statement’s signatories include Monsignor Michel Schooyans, Professor Emeritus of the University of Louvain, Belgium; Professor Luke Gormally, the former director of the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics; Christine de Marcellus de Vollmer, head of the Alliance for the Family in Venezuela; Dr. Maria Smereczynska a corresponding member from Poland and Dr. Thomas Ward, president of the National Association of Catholic Families.

It says that Fisichella’s claim that the Academy “is moving forward and working to speak as a united body” is belied by the reality and that it gives a distorted and false impression to the Church at large of the situation in the Academy.

They call it “absurd” that the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, is “being led by an ecclesiastic who does not understand what absolute respect for innocent human lives entails.” The situation is one that can “be rectified only by those who are responsible for his appointment as President.”

Read the full report and the full statement of the members, two of whom are from England: Professor Luke Gormally Professor Luke Gormally, Ordinary Member of the Academy and former Director (1981-
2000) of The Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics, London, UK, and Dr Thomas Ward, Corresponding Member of the Academy,President of The National Association of Catholic Families and a Retired General Practitioner, UK.

UPDATE: See John Smeaton of SPUC.

Anglicans becoming Catholics

Damian Thompson reports on the former assistant bishop of Newcastle, Paul Richardson, who has been received into the Catholic Church. He says “I’m very happy just being an ordinary Catholic,” attending Mass at St George's Cathedral, Southwark, with no fixed ideas about applying for ordination as a Catholic priest or joining any proposed Ordinariate. This seems, to me, an exemplary way of becoming a Catholic.

Yet the Ordinariate possibility is there for those who might wish to avail of it, and it seems that things are moving in Australia where Forward in Faith Austrlia has voted to see how things might proceed. (Daily Telegraph, Damian Thompson).

See also E F Pastor Emeritus.

A Good Ash Wednesday Attendance

In this part of the world it is currently mid-term school holiday. When Ash Wednesday falls during school time, our parish primary school pupils all attend, with their teachers, and some parents. This is obviously a very lovely occasion. But we understand, of course, that the vast majority of those pupils are either not Catholic or not practising Catholics. The fact that they come to Mass with the school is obviously a great opportunity to open them up to the mysteries of the liturgical seasons and the liturgy itself.

But something that makes me even happier is to see families come to Mass on Ash Wednesday without leaving it to the school to ensure their children attend Mass. I was taken very much by suprise by the excellent attendance at both morning and evening Mass today. I had quite underestimated the likely attendance and very nearly ran out of Sacred Hosts. As the prophet Joel said: "Call the people together, summon the community, assemble the elders, gather the children, even the infants at the breast." Little children and tots were delighted to be ashed along with their parents and older siblings. Non-catholic members of the families were also amongst those who came forward. I'm not sure if they were expecting the customary blessing at communion, but they got ashes and seemed pleased to be one with the rest of their families on this occasion.

A number of people clearly made a huge effort. After this evening's Mass, I was asked to give ashes to a number of people who had arrived too late to receive the ashes at Mass as they had struggled to get home from work and get their families together, yet they made it. Well done to them.

We also had an adequate number of young servers at both Masses.

There was a very happy atmosphere after Mass, very much in keeping with Our Lord's injunction not to put on gloomy looks when fasting...

Anyone else notice a good attendance at Mass today?

I was very grateful to Fr Z's commentary on the Collect and the translation of the Prayer over the People provided by one of his commentors. I used the version of the Collect from the English Breviary which remains authorised for use in the Mass:
Support us, Lord, as with this Lenten fast
we begin our Christian warfare,
so that in doing battle against the spirit of evil
we may be armed with the weapon of self-denial.

Zenit, Blair and Comments

An article in yesterday's issue of Zenit news is headlined "Blair saw Catholic Ban as Ridiculous" and attibutes the appointing of a Catholic as UK Ambassador to the Holy See after a centuries old ban on Catholics holiding the post to Blair.

Well, I have sent the following comment to Zenit:
All well and good, but Blair, although having been received into the Catholic Church, is, together with his wife, a leading dissenter from the teachings of the Catholic Church on matters such as contraception, abortion, homosexuality, women's ordination... Thanks to him our Catholic adoption agencies were put in the position of having to choose to remain faithful to the Church's teaching or severing their links with the Church. Disgracefully many chose to do the latter. Outside the UK people seem to think it's great that Blair 'became' a Catholic. In fact, it was a scandal.

I have found that Catholics on the continent or elsewhere, even in Rome, have little understanding of the situation of the Church in England. The good rector of the Warsaw seminary I met last week was surprised at the views I expressed on Blair's 'conversion'. Everyone in Poland thinks it's fantastic that a former PM has become a Catholic. Well, of course, it would be fantastic!

Zenit does publish comments. All you have to do is go the article concerned and scroll down to the "Comment on this article" link. Here's one of mine that got published last week.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pope Benedict and the Irish Bishops: child abuse is a heinous crime and a sin

The Vatican issued a communique today following the conclusion of the two-day meeting with the Irish Bishops. His words are not likely to satisfy victims of abuse, but this is still a work in progress. What will his pastoral letter say? How will those in the Church who are/were responsible for these terrible crimes/sins make reparation for the harm done
- to those who were abused
- to the good name of the Church?

The BBC reports the Pope as condemning the Irish Bishops over the scandal. Here's the Vatican's communique.

VATICAN CITY, 16 FEB 2010 (VIS) - Given below is the communique released this morning after the Holy Father's meeting of yesterday and today with the Bishops of the Irish Bishops' Conference.

"On 15 and 16 February 2010, the Holy Father met the Irish Bishops and senior members of the Roman Curia to discuss the serious situation which has emerged in the Church in Ireland. Together they examined the failure of Irish Church authorities for many years to act effectively in dealing with cases involving the sexual abuse of young people by some Irish clergy and religious. All those present recognized that this grave crisis has led to a breakdown in trust in the Church's leadership and has damaged her witness to the Gospel and its moral teaching."

"The meeting took place in a spirit of prayer and collegial fraternity, and its frank and open atmosphere provided guidance and support to the Bishops in their efforts to address the situation in their respective Dioceses."

"On the morning of 15 February, following a brief introduction by the Holy Father, each of the Irish Bishops offered his own observations and suggestions. The Bishops spoke frankly of the sense of pain and anger, betrayal, scandal, and shame expressed to them on numerous occasions by those who had been abused. There was a similar sense of outrage reflected by laity, priests and religious in this regard."

"The Bishops likewise described the support at present being provided by thousands of trained and dedicated lay volunteers at parish level to ensure the safety of children in all Church activities, and stressed that, while there is no doubt that errors of judgment and omissions stand at the heart of the crisis, significant measures have now been taken to ensure the safety of children and young people. They also emphasized their commitment to cooperation with the statutory authorities in Ireland - North and South - and with the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland to guarantee that the Church's standards, policies, and procedures represent best practice in this area."

"For his part, the Holy Father observed that the sexual abuse of children and young people is not only a heinous crime, but also a grave sin which offends God and wounds the dignity of the human person created in his image. While realizing that the current painful situation will not be resolved quickly, he challenged the Bishops to address the problems of the past with determination and resolve, and to face the present crisis with honesty and courage. He also expressed the hope that the present meeting would help to unify the Bishops and enable them to speak with one voice in identifying concrete steps aimed at bringing healing to those who had been abused, encouraging a renewal of faith in Christ and restoring the Church's spiritual and moral credibility."

"The Holy Father also pointed to the more general crisis of faith affecting the Church and he linked that to the lack of respect for the human person and how the weakening of faith has been a significant contributing factor in the phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors. He stressed the need for a deeper theological reflection on the whole issue, and called for an improved human, spiritual, academic and pastoral preparation both of candidates for the priesthood and religious life and of those already ordained and professed."

"The Bishops had an opportunity to examine and discuss a draft of the Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father to the Catholics of Ireland. Taking into account the comments of the Irish Bishops, His Holiness will now complete his Letter, which will be issued during the coming season of Lent."

"The discussions concluded late Tuesday morning, 16 February 2010. As the Bishops return to their Dioceses, the Holy Father has asked that this Lent be set aside as a time for imploring an outpouring of God's mercy and the Holy Spirit's gifts of holiness and strength upon the Church in Ireland."

Pope Benedict and The Priests nominated for Classic BRIT awards

I'm not sure how good Alma Mater is but wouldn't it be fun if it or The Priests won the award? You can vote here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Rita Redman RIP

Please pray for the repose of the soul of a dearly beloved parishioner, Rita Redman, who died this morning. She had a great love for the Cross and was not spared from having to share in the suffering of the Cross in the form of cancer in her final hours. May she rest in peace.

Oprah promotes Dominican Sisters of Mary Ann Arbor Michigan - must watch

Oprah thought a cell was a phone! You really must watch these videos - a report for the Oprah Winfrey show on this dynamic community of Dominican Sisters of Mary whose average age is 26! H/t Fr Finigan.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Sacrilege in Costa Rica

A very sad report which I post (acknowledgements to Kate) to encourage reparation...

Support the work of the Southwark Vocations Promotor

Do respond to the request at Southwark Vocations. One might wonder why the diocese cannot support in full this work but, as always, a diocese relies on the support of faithful people. So, whether you are a faithful Catholic of the Southwark Archdiocese or somewhere else in the world, do respond generously if you can. The Southwark Vocations Office is reaching out well beyond the Southwark diocese.

Pope Benedict reiterates the inviolability of the dignity of human life

On Saturday Pope Benedict addressed members of the Pontifical Academy for Life which has been undergoing something of a crisis.

The Holy Father said:
"Recognising human dignity as an inalienable right has its first foundation in that law - unwritten by the hand of man but inscribed by God the Creator in man's heart - which all juridical systems are called to recognise as inviolable, and all individuals to respect and promote. Without the basic principle of human dignity it would be difficult to find a wellspring for the rights of the person, and impossible to reach ethical judgements about those scientific advances which have a direct effect on human life".

"When we invoke respect for the dignity of the person, it is fundamental that such respect should be complete, total and unimpeded, ... recognising that we are always dealing with a human life"

Full text at Zenit.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Metropolitan Seminary of Warsaw

Whilst in Warsaw Father Zbigniew arranged for us to visit the Metropolitan University College Seminary of St John the Baptist. The tourists just direct people to the Carmelite Church of Our Lady of the Assumption. It was, of course, a Carmelite Church but is now the Seminary Church - not a bad chapel for the approximately two hundred seminary students!

I was very pleased to find this painting of our parish patron St Simon Stock receiving the Brown Scapular from the Blessed Virgin:

The students are in separate groups for Philosophy and Theology, reflecting the different stages of spiritual development and expectations in terms of prayer life, and each has its own chapel. Below is the beautiful chapel for the theology students:

The Rector, Father Krzysztof Pawlina, invited us to his study for tea and cheesecake where we exchanged opinions about the formation of seminarians and the promotion of vocations to the priesthood. Father Pawlina gave me a present of his book "Kandydaci do Kaplanstwa Trzeciego Tysiaclecia" (Candidates for the Priesthood of the Third Millennium). His study is of course written in Polish but a summary in English, German and Italian is contained at the end of the book.

In this summary we read that the average age of men entering the seminary in 2000 was 20. Average students come from a town and from a middle class family. Their parents are of modest professional and educational backgrounds. Their parents' average level of education is secondary level. Only one in ten have parents who have been to higher education institutions.

The majority were altar servers in their youth. They desire to serve God and the Church and seek holiness. They are not motivated by achieving status and are not afraid of poverty or being objects of ridicule.

"The future priest is quite observant and critical, also in relation to modern priests," observes Fr Pawlina. "He can see their faults - especially too much materialism, lack of humility, wrong attitude towards people, passiveness, and formalism." I wonder if this is youthful criticism. I did experience a little pre-occupation at times with 'formalism' but, by and large, the priests I met during the last week were zealous and hard working. Fr Pawlina continues describing the attitudes of today's seminarians: "And, what should a priest stand out by according to a young seminarian? So what is his ideal of a priest? Above all, he is to be a persistent man, constant, patient, obedient, forgiving, and modest. He should stand out by his diligence, courage, and piety."

The attitude of seminarians seems to be one of self-sacrifice and sincerity. I'm sure that if Fr Pawlina's book were available in English it would be an excellent contribution to the study of the identity and role of priests in this millennium.

Father Krzysztof Pawlina (centre) and Fr Zbigniew Sajnóg, parish priest of St Joseph's in Warsaw (right).

Incidentally, cassocks are normal dress for both staff and students.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Venerable Father Jerzy Popielszko

Today we visited the church of St Stanislaw Kostka in Warsaw to pray at the burial place (pictured above) of Fr Popieluszko.

Here are a couple of shots of the church of St Stanislaw Kostka in which he served.

You can read a short biography of Fr Jerzy by clicking on the following photo.

We had hoped to visit the nearby museum but it was closed. However, you can find out more by visiting the museum's website and if your Polish is as non-existent as mine, you can run it through the Google translator which renders a reasonably comprehensible result.

I have discovered another holy example of a priest for this Year of Priesthood. Fr Jerzy was not a healthy man, sometimes fainting during Mass. He also feared violence and persecution. But he was ever faithful to the truth. Whilst his last prayer in public was for peace and that the people be spared violence (violence which he was to experience only hours later) he said that our lives are worth nothing if we are not faithful to the truth.

Fr Jerzy was thrown into the boot of a car which was driven into the Vistula. It took several days to discover his body.

I was very moved by the following photograph which was part of a display behind the choir and reredos in the church. See the grief of his father at the funeral:

Fr Jerzy's mother is still alive. According to rumours, it might well be that she will live to see her son's beatification...

Prayer for beatification of Venerable Father Jerzy Popieluszko (as in the English booklet bought at the church - clearly not a perfect translation):
Endlessly good God,
you have granted Venerable Father Jerzy Popieluszko
with the grace of faithful vocation,
which led him to his martyr's death.
We ask you through the words of Pope John Paul II
"May this death give rise to Good
just as the cross gives rise to resurrection."

Father Jerzy was a steadfast defender
of human and God's rights.
He was given to our Homeland and the whole world
as a sign of victory over love and hate.
We pray that he be exalted
to the dignity of sainthood.

Merciful God,
I ask you through Father Jerzy
to grant me the grace I crave for.
May the sacrifice of His life
and His intercession with you
promote the Christian faith,
unity and peace in the world.
We ask you this through Christ our Lord.

Ann Winterton Early Day Motion censuring the BBC

I have received the following from a correspondent:

Ann Winterton MP has tabled an early day motion in the House of Commons complaining at the supposedly impartial BBC's blatant bias in attempting to have assisted suicide made legal.

The Motion is called Early Day Motion 787. It is very desirable that pro-lifers should call on their own M.P. to sign it.

The motion says:

That this House notes that over the years there have been numerous complaints by hon. Members regarding the persistent bias of the BBC on matters relating to euthanasia and other life issues and on the manner in which the BBC have misused public funds to promote changes in the law; further notes the bias of the Corporation applies not only to news programmes but to drama, with thinly-disguised plays and soap operas being used to promote the use of euthanasia and misrepresentation of pro-life activists in the UK as people of violence; further notes that these presentations have culminated in the last weeks with a multi-million pound campaign featuring Mrs Kay Gilderdale in Panorama and the fantasy fiction writer, Sir Terry Pratchett, given centre stage to present this year's BBC Richard Dimbleby lecture calling for euthanasia and supported by the BBC website; further notes that as usual the BBC have ignored the rights of the disabled, despite the fact that every disability rights group in the UK is opposed to the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia on the grounds that from experience they know it would undermine the right to life of the disabled; and calls on the Government to make it clear to the BBC that public funds will be withdrawn unless they abide by the Charter and ensure that all programmes on issues of public interest are treated impartially, and that in particular broadcasters must bear in mind the human rights of the disabled.

Me and Max are real good friends!

Max is one of the two dogs owned by the parents of Fr Piotr who kindly gave us lunch yesterday. They warned me to stay clear of their other dog.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Tablet's Homosexual agenda

John Smeaton of SPUC draws our attention to the editorial in the latest edition of The Tablet.

The editorial is entitled "Deepest Human Desire" and, as John Smeaton illustrates, exposes - if it was not clear enough already - that it completely dissents from the Catholic Church's teaching on the sinfulness of homosexual relations in

argu(ing) that "the Church [should] move on with confidence, if not doctrinally then at least pastorally" on the subject of homosexuality". Among other things, it:

* implies that the Church is open to the charge of "anti-­homosexual prejudice, even bigotry"
* says that the Church should "move beyond a sterile state of dis­approval" of homosexuality, lest it "lose the sympathy of wide sections of the public"
* criticises "the Church's inability to comprehend and value [homosexual persons'] emotional lives [and] their relationships"
* implies homosexual love "is to be treasured and respected"
* insists that homosexuals must be defined "positively ... by their affections"
* claims that there are homosexual couples who "demonstrate a constancy and a stability in their partnerships that, rather than causing scandal, set an example to their heterosexual friends and relations"
* questions whether homosexual men or women are unsuitable parents
* questions whether homosexuality is unnatural, and implies that homosexuality is innate rather than acquired.
In asking the Church to show more understanding, it is difficult to know what more the Church can do.

In 1986 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persions in which it stated among other things:
It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.(n.10)

The characteristic concern and good will exhibited by many clergy and religious in their pastoral care for homosexual persons is admirable, and, we hope, will not diminish. Such devoted ministers should have the confidence that they are faithfully following the will of the Lord by encouraging the homosexual person to lead a chaste life and by affirming that person's God-given dignity and worth.(n.13)
But the Church will always remain true to Her teaching on this matter which derives from natural law. If there is anything that the Bishops must learn from the intolerant outcry of the secular humanists to which I referred earlier, it is that there are certain elements outside the Church, but more particularly within the Church, who will not listen. They fall within the dissent that Pope Benedict asked them to recognise for what it is when he said in his ad limina speech to our Bishops:
In a social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, it is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
Last Sunday (31st Jan) I spoke in my homily about the Government's proposed equality legislation and the question of the possible employment of 'gay' people in civil partnerships as headteachers or for other leadership posts in Church establishments, following on from the comments of Bishop McMahon mentioned in an earlier post. In making my position clear as identical with the Church's position, I also said that I have accepted invitations to have dinner with homosexual couples and I would not avoid associating with people known to identify themselves as experiencing a homosexual orientation, as long as it would not cause scandal. I have also learnt much from others whose children find themselves in this situation. I think we must go a long, long, way to show understanding and love to these people, never rejecting them. But also maintaining the truth, derived as it is from natural law, about the need for grace to deal with an orientation which is not, in itself, rightly ordered.

I don't see how The Tablet's argument can square up with this and wonder how can any faithful Catholic priest could allow The Tablet to be sold in his parish?

St Maximilian Kolbe and the City of the Immaculate - Niepokalanow

One of the places we visited today was Niepokalanow, the City of the Immaculate set up by Saint Maximilian Kolbe. Together with a few franciscan friars he established this chapel in 1927.

We all know that St Maximilian died a martyr's death at Auschwitz. In the chapel are paintings reminding us that other beatified Franciscans were also prisoners in the death camp. Here are two of them:

Adjacent to the chapel is St Maximilian's cell (pictured below with some of the Christmas Crib artefacts in temporary storage):

together with a display of some liturgical artefacts which he would have used:

A friar was suitably on hand for a photo as he was making rosary beads:

The friary grew to contained huge printing press from which the Friars carried out an effective printing apostolate. Near the chapel is a museum, principally about the life of St Maximilian but also about the missionary activity of the Franciscan Friars.

A series of paintings describe the story of Maximilian's life in Aushwitz:

being beaten by the works 'Capo' who was of course a prisoner himself, so the Nazis set prisoner against fellow prisoner

Maximilian asking the Nazis to take him instead of a man who had a wife and family

Maximilian being poisoned to death having lived longer than expected through starvation in solitary confinement.

This candle, donated from Holland, is a particularly impressive work of religious art in memory of St Maximilian.

Here is a detail from the centre of the Cross which contains the face of the crucified Christ.

Below the Cross is a representation of grapes that are crushed to become wine and the Blood of Christ in the Chalice beneath the Cross. Jesus' Body was crushed so that we might be saved by the shedding of His Blood which we receive in Holy Communion, and as a martyr's body is crushed and his blood shed:

The word 'Credo' in blood red wax and dripping remind us that we must be prepared to declare our faith even to the shedding of our blood. It is only thus that our saying 'Credo', 'I believe', can truly be sincere.

A summary of the life of St Maximilian (click to see it enlarged):

Nearby is the Basilica in honour of Our Lady Immaculate:

As you can see it was cold. Fr Piotr on the phone with plenty of snow on the ground:

The car thermometer records the outside temperature:

In this year of priesthood, we can ask St Maximilian to give all priests - and, indeed, all religious men and women - the grace of putting themselves at the service of others. Their celibacy enables them to offer their lives in sacrifice, after the example of Christ Himself, and to espouse themselves most especially to the Virgin Mary.

O Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe, faithful follower of St Francis of Assisi, inflamed by the love of God you dedicated your life to the practice of virtue and to works of the apostolate. Look down with favour upon us who devoutly confide in your intercession.

Having consecrated yourself to the Immaculate Virgin Mary, you inspired countless souls to a holy life and various forms of apostolate in order to do good to others and to spread the kingdom of God. Obtain for us the grace by our lives and labours to draw many souls to Christ.

In your close conformity to our Divine Saviour you reached such an intense degree of love, that you offered your life to save that of a fellow prisoner. Implore God that we, inflamed by such ardent charity, may through our living faith and our apostolic works witness Christ to our fellowmen, and thus merit to join you in the blessed vision of God. Amen.


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