Wednesday, November 30, 2011

St Andrew's Day pro-marriage rally in Edinburgh

BBC News carries this report on a rally protesting against same-sex marriage held today outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Cardinal O'Brien's stance seems to be somewhat different than that of a prelate in a neighbouring episcopal conference. Let's not kid ourselves about civil partnerships being different from same-sex marriages. They amount to the same thing and those promoting civil partnerships clearly want to move in the direction of "marriage."

The cardinal said: "As an institution, marriage long predates the existence of any state or government.

"It was not created by government and should not be changed by them. Instead, recognising the innumerable benefits which marriage brings to society, they should act to protect and uphold it, not attack or dismantle it."

Archbishop of Westminster backs civil partnerships

“We would want to emphasise that civil partnerships actually provide a structure in which people of the same sex who want a lifelong relationship [and] a lifelong partnership can find their place and protection and legal provision,” Archbishop Vincent Nichols said at a press conference after the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales’ meeting last week.
“As a Church we are very committed to the notion of equality so that people are treated the same across all the activities of life … The Church holds great store by the value of commitment in relationships and undertakings that people give. Stability in society depends upon the reliability of commitments that people give. That might be in offering to do a job but especially in their relationships with one another. Equality and commitment are both very important and we fully support them.”
As quoted in The Tablet, London, UK.

He's wrong. Civil partnerships are deeply discriminatory. A brother may not enter into a civil partnership with a brother, or a sister with a sister. Or a man may not enter into one with a woman. The impediments of consanguinity to entering into a partnership are analogous to, if not exactly the same as, those of marriage.

Let us keep the question of chastity out of it for a moment. Let us not even enquire into the nature of the relationship between the parties to a (potential) civil partnership. Why do these need the protection of the law? One can be in a committed and stable relationship of friendship which, it could be argued, is good for society. But these neither need nor merit any legal recognition.

As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith pointed out in its 2003 document Considerations regarding Proposals to give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons:
By putting homosexual unions on a legal plane analogous to that of marriage and the family, the State acts arbitrarily and in contradiction with its duties. The principles of respect and non-discrimination cannot be invoked to support legal recognition of homosexual unions. Differentiating between persons or refusing social recognition or benefits is unacceptable only when it is contrary to justice. The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of cohabitation that are not and cannot be marital is not opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires it. (No. 8)

If it is true that all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are obliged to do so in a particular way, in keeping with their responsibility as politicians. Faced with legislative proposals in favour of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are to take account of the following ethical indications.
When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.
When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is already in force, the Catholic politician must oppose it in the ways that are possible for him and make his opposition known; it is his duty to witness to the truth. If it is not possible to repeal such a law completely, the Catholic politician, recalling the indications contained in the Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, “could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality”, on condition that his “absolute personal opposition” to such laws was clear and well known and that the danger of scandal was avoided.(18) This does not mean that a more restrictive law in this area could be considered just or even acceptable; rather, it is a question of the legitimate and dutiful attempt to obtain at least the partial repeal of an unjust law when its total abrogation is not possible at the moment. (No. 10)

See comment by William Oddie of the Catholic Herald, and Father Ray Blake, and His Grace's interventions in the following interview:

No holding hands during the "Our Father" - Bishop decrees.

I am grateful to a correspondent who has drawn my attention to The Deacon's Bench blog reporting the letter and decree of the Bishop of Covington, the Most Reverend Roger J Foys, issued on the occasion of the implementation of the new English translation of the Roman Missal.

In his letter the Bishop points out that
The rituals of the Roman Church, of which we are a part, call for specific words to be used as well as particular actions and gestures, both on the part of the priest and the faithful who join their hearts with his in their worship of God.

He reminds his people:
As we continually give ourselves to the Lord, to His Word and to His Church, as your bishop I ask for your cooperation with the implementation process and to take to heart the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, in the decree Sacrosanctum Concilium (The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), that no one on their own authority, for any reason, may add to, remove or change anything in the Sacred Liturgy (emphasis added).

In a recent memo to priests in his diocese, Bishop Alexander K Sample of Marquette also reminded us of this very point. Bishop Sample is currently preparing a pastoral letter on the liturgy.

Amongst some of the points in Bishop Foys' decree that I was glad to read:

The music used in the Sacred Liturgy be theologically sound and properly composed in accord with the teaching of the Church on Sacred Music.
Would this seem to imply that not all hymns in our hymnals fulfill this condition? I have already given my parish music director a list of hymns from our hymnal that I do not consider appropriate.
Music for the Ordinary Parts of the Mass (also known as Service Music – e.g. Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei) must have the approval from the Diocesan Office of Worship and Liturgy.
i. From November 27, 2011, until June 30, 2012, only the following three English settings are permitted for use:
1. The Chant Mass of the 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal (mandatory)
a. This one setting is mandatory so as to foster a unified participation of the faithful at Mass throughout the Diocese.
2. The Heritage Mass (optional)
3. The Mass of Renewal (optional)
ii. Other Mass Settings will be approved for use on July 1, 2012.
iii. Please note: Hymns that are theologically sound and properly composed are not restricted.
Note that the bishop is only speaking about the English settings. All the Latin Gregorian Chant settings are permitted, nay encouraged, by the universal law of the Church and have been repeatedly proposed for use by the Supreme Pontiffs before and after Vatican II.

In Marquette, Bishop Sample has asked all parishes to learn the Mass of Resurrection, in addition to the chant settings.

Bishop Foys reminds the faithful that
“Songs or hymns may not be used in place of the responsorial Psalm.”(GIRM 61)
(How often has one heard hymns in stead of the psalm, or paraphrasing of the psalms - Because the Lord is my shepherd...)

He reminds people that the people should kneel from the end of the Sanctus through to the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, that deacons are to kneel from the epiclesis through to the showing of the Chalice, that priests (presumably concelebrants - for it is normally the case that priests and other clergy attending in choir kneel when the people kneel) should remain standing, and that the people should kneel after the Agnus Dei.

Concerning the Our Father, the bishop writes:
Special note should also be made concerning the gesture for the Our Father. Only the priest is given the instruction to “extend” his hands. Neither the deacon nor the lay faithful are instructed to do this. No gesture is prescribed for the lay faithful in the Roman Missal; nor the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, therefore the extending or holding of hands by the faithful should not be performed.

The bishop makes these important observations about silence:

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal reminds us: “Sacred silence also, as part of the celebration, is to be observed at the designated times…. Even before the celebration itself, it is commendable that silence is observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred action in a devout and fitting manner.” (GIRM 45) Silence following the Mass is also encouraged for those who might want to remain in the church to pray.

I am very pleased to say that in this parish there is always a reverent silence before Mass. However, since I have arrived a number of people have brought my attention to the rather noisy atmosphere afterwards, hoping that I will "do something about it". A group of parishioners has organized coffee in an adjacent room to encourage visiting there rather than in the church. I haven't yet preached on this matter but the time is coming soon when I shall do so. The fact that a bishop has mentioned this point obviously adds some strength to my position.

Other things I have drawn attention to here in this parish are:

  • the striking of the breast during the I confess
  • the bowing during the words referring to the incarnation in the Creed
  • the sign of peace to be made in a sober fashion and only with persons next to you, the words "The peace of the Lord be with you always" being permitted with the reply "Amen"
  • that communicants receive on the tongue or, in those places where it is permitted, on the hand, and how communion on the hand is to be received.
It is most encouraging to hear news from so many places that the liturgy is being restored to what was really intended by the Second Vatican Council.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Great story about a Downs Syndrome child and her parents

Gemma decided against having any tests that would disclose whether her baby had Down’s. She knew they could increase the risk of miscarriage; besides, she and Robbie had resolved to love whatever child they were blessed with.

A good attitude to have, surely? But not everything turned out as hoped. This is a very touching account of the disappointment that the parents felt but of the acceptance of their child and their determination to do all they could for her.

Read it at the Daily Mail.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

How did the new English Mass go today?

The Regal Edition of the Roman Missal available from Midwest Theological Forum.
Here, there were a few stumbles - but by and large it went well. For me as a priest, it was like learning the Mass once again. The Missal - we have the MTF Regal Edition pictured above - is beautifully bound and illustrated. It will take a little while to become familiar with both the layout and the new words, and to discover the richness of what is on offer. Check the appendices for music for the presidential prayers and dialogues, sample prayers of the faithful, etc.

The language is uplifting and - as sacred language should - veils the mystery that we must penetrate with the eyes of faith through prayer and contemplation.

For me, the Mass will never be the same again.

Today we veiled the Tabernacle with a new purple veil made by our parishioner Bonnie Hurkmans. Bonnie is also going to make veils in the other liturgical colours: white, green and red. We are blest to have people like her - and many others in the parish - who put their talents at the service of the Lord. Rosie King has made linen cloths to go under the top altar cloth and on the credence table, and she is working on one for the shelf on which the tabernacle rests. As I mentioned in my homily this morning, the veil over the Tabernacle indicates that there is Mystery beyond the veil that we are called to meditate upon, a Mystery that the Lord will reveal to those who keep silence before it in reverence and awe.

It is a beautiful Tabernacle in itself, as you can see from this previous photograph:

The new purple vestments got their first proper outing today.

Although they look a bit blue in this picture, this is the effect of night lighting
and flash. See the tabernacle above for a better idea of the colour.

The tabernacle veil is made from the same material. The vestments were purchased from House of Hansen with money donated by parishioners and include all the five parts: chasuble, stole, maniple, chalice veil and burse (these last three are not included in the price shown at the House of Hansen website). I shall use them in the Extraordinary Form for the first time this coming Thursday evening at 7pm. Parishioners have generously funded the purchase of new rose vestments which have been purchased from Luzar Vestments and red vestments which are now on order from House of Hansen. We have also received donations towards a new white set and these are now also on order from House of Hansen. Thank you to all our generous parishioners.

During this time of Advent, we consider the Mystery concealed within Mary and await - in silent conemplation - Its revelation.

I was struck by - and preached on - the orations (Collect, Prayer of the Offerings, Prayer after Communion) of today's Mass.

Prayer after Communion:
May these mysteries, O Lord,
in which we have participated,
profit us, we pray,
for even now, as we walk amid passing things,
you teach us by them to love the things of heaven
and hold fast to what endures.
Through Christ our Lord.
By what does the Lord teach us "to love the things of heaven"? By "these mysteries" or by our "walk amid passing things"? Probably the former, but the passing things of this world are also created by God and should lead us beyond them to the appreciation of the beauty of their Creator and Lord.

Indeed, the sacraments, too, are "passing things". A time will come when there is no time and no sacraments. We will no longer see Christ veiled in the Eucharistic "vestments" of the appearances of bread and wine but we shall see Him "immediately", without the mediation of sense, sign or symbol. As ecstatic as our union with the Lord in Holy Communion can be, it is a mere foretaste of the heavenly union.

The new, more sacral language, also veils a mystery. If we now find some words of the Mass a little more difficult to "get" at first, this might indicate that perhaps the previous translation was not up to the mark in showing forth the mysterious nature of the Mass. If, now, we must exert ourselves in thinking and - preferably - contemplating in prayer, this is a grace given us by the Lord. As we prayed in the Collect today:
Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ
with righteous deeds at his coming...
 We are called to "run forth" out of our comfort zone, out of our worldly way of seeing things, into the realm of mystery through prayer and contemplation. There are many "righteous deeds" that we can accumulate in readiness for the coming of the Father's Christ, but perhaps prayer and contemplation are the more important.

Wishing everyone a blessed Advent.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I'm not ashamed to publish this email regarding Tesco and Gay Pride

But I'm not going to watch the videos. Even if children are being exposed to this sort of evil (and I know they are) I don't want to watch it myself - I saw a bit of one from another website and found it offensive and disturbing - spiritually! But if you are not aware that this sort of thing happens, then maybe you should take a look. Ensure, however, you pray before, during, and after to Our Lady conceived without sin that she might keep your body pure and your soul holy, to St Michael the Archangel to safeguard you against evil, and to your Guardian Angel.

Since making the Conscecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary last Lent and since being in this remote part of the world, I have found it a great grace to have been protected from this sort of stuff for so long. There are those called to fight the battles, and this part of the world is not without them, but there is great wisdom - if I may venture to suggest - in keeping a wall around one's mind, one's heart, one's will, one's passions, and have Our Lady keep you as an enclosed garden. I think I have reached the stage in life where I do not need to see the evil to be able to know it exists.

Parents need all the support they can get to keep their children protected also.

(Since publishing and after a comment from Damask Rose, I took a look at the three videos. I had to stop the reading of the poem: not only blasphemous but pornographic. And the others just made me think: what has London come to? There is nothing benign in this at all: it is in-your-face exhibitionism.)

Parents: exercise your discretion.
Dear Friends
I am writing again to Tesco about its links with London and World Pride.  Complaint has thus far been futile.
By Tesco leading this year’s London Pride, with Tesco staff carrying the rainbow flag and promising money and resources for next year ---  providing a “safe, relaxed and chilled out place with family-friendly entertainment and activities aimed at younger children” --- it may attract the Pink pound, but badly damages its public image.
The public will soon need to accept not just homosexuality but an increasingly extreme range of sexual orientations. The main resistance to this pressure to conform comes from Christians who, apart from losing their jobs, having their businesses shut down, being dragged through the courts and threatened with physical violence, are being held up for public ridicule.
It seems that Tesco is already experimenting with this tactic. The Head of Research and Development at, Nick Lansely, did a dramatic reading of  James Kirkup’s “The Love That Dares to Speak its Name”, videoed and posted it on Youtube.
It is a description of a necrophilial (an ‘orientation’) soldier having sex with/on the crucified body of Christ. [WARNING EXTREMELY OFFENSIVE; but remember before you avert your eyes, judging by what  our children are already exposed to in schools, this, in time, is what they will be led to accept.]
“The Love That Dares to Speak its Name”
Nick Lansely, Head of R&D
Nick Lansley, reading the Blasphemous poem on Youtube
Nick Lansley is on the team of Out at Tesco that organised Tesco’s leading this year’s London Pride 2011
Nick Lansley is clearly visible at the 2-minute mark on this Youtube
Nick was also on hand to record an event held in June 2008, when the National Secular Society (NSS) gathered in a London restaurant to celebrate the repeal of the Blasphemy Laws. Here Sir Ian McKellen OBE gave a spirited rendition of the above poem and boasted of ripping pages from the Bible – something he proudly confesses to doing whenever he finds one in a hotel room. At the bottom of the NSS web site we read:  “Nick Lansley recorded the event.”
Had McKellen distributed cartoons of the dead body of Mohammed being sodomised, whilst tearing pages out of the Q’ran all hell would have been let loose - globally. 
Why is it that Christian employees and customers don’t have the same human right to feel that they are victims of incitement to religious hatred as are Muslims? Why are Muslims protected from such hatred by Tesco and Sir Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and yet the sensibilities of Christians can be openly mocked and trampled on?
Why can Nick be publicly identified with promoting Lesbian Gay Bi-sexual and Transsexual (LGBT) rights whilst  simultaneously encouraging what many people of faith (and others) would consider profoundly blasphemous --- even an incitement to religious hatred?
Other Tesco employees, especially Christians cannot make a critical remark of the LGBT for fear of being sacked. I received this recently from a concerned Tesco employee:
“Let me open by apologizing for my going through the absurd necessity of using a fake email address – my employer (Tesco) has been known to take action against members of staff who are identified as making any remarks online which could be considered derogatory. (This is advice handed out by our union, USDAW – never, ever mention Tesco on Facebook, Twitter, etc). I simply cannot run the risk that my real name would be associated with the comments I am about to make. (which is not meant to question your personal integrity, it is simply a risk I cannot take).”
Tesco should be in the business of providing essential goods and services. Homosexuality is not a state of being like being black; it is an emotional and psychological disorder. When a black woman goes to sleep she is no less black than when she is awake. There is nothing that a black woman can do to make herself either less or more black. On the other hand a homosexual is only homosexual when his imagination leads his emotions, desirers, actions, habits and character to become homosexual.  This orientation can either become stronger or weaker. Movement into and out of homosexuality can and does travel in both directions. But it seems that this travel is only allowed in one direction: from heterosexuality to homosexuality – never the reverse.
In 2 Peter2 it describes how God condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly. It says that “He  rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless, for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard.” Are we prepared to be distressed or do we wish to bury our heads in the sand?
Please write to Tesco letting them know your views and intentions: Chairman of Tesco International and IT Director Commercial and Marketing Director Chief Executive of Retailing Services and Group Strategy

I am
Yours in Jesus Christ
David Skinner

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bishop John Jukes dies

Please remember in your prayers Bishop Jukes who died today aged 88. May he rest in peace.

Bishop Jukes was auxiliary bishop in Southwark (my home diocese) with pastoral responsibility for the Kent area of the diocese from 1980 to 1998.

See the Southwark diocese website for further details.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Christ the King and the Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

In 1925, in his encyclical Quas Primas, Pope Pius XI directed that the Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ the King be made annually on this feast.
Pope Pius XI

It is a great shame that this is not done nowadays. We did it this morning before the Blessed Sacrament exposed after the principal Mass here at St Anthony's. I think the prayer manifests a sorrow for those souls who have departed from the Church and faith in Christ together with a yearning on the part of those making the consecration for their return. In other words, this Consecration promotes apostolic zeal. We have lost so many souls. And we just shrug shoulders. The ditching of such customs - mandated by Papal authority - has not helped.

Here is the text of the Consecration:
Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before your altar. We are yours and yours we wish to be; but to be more surely united with you, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to your most Sacred Heart. Many indeed have never known you; many too, despising your precepts, have rejected you. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them all to your Sacred Heart. Be King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken you, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned you; grant that they may quickly return to their father's house, lest they die of wretchedness and hunger. Be King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of truth and unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd. Grant O Lord, to your Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give peace and order to all nations, and make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the divine heart that wrought our salvation; to it be glory and honor for ever. Amen.

In the above-mentioned encyclical, Pope Pius points to the good effects that will ensue if leaders govern with the consciousness that their authority comes from God (the tyranny that results when they do not can also be inferred from the Pope's remarks):
If princes and magistrates duly elected are filled with the persuasion that they rule, not by their own right, but by the mandate and in the place of the Divine King, they will exercise their authority piously and wisely, and they will make laws and administer them, having in view the common good and also the human dignity of their subjects... Men will see in their king or in their rulers men like themselves, perhaps unworthy or open to criticism, but they will not on that account refuse obedience if they see reflected in them the authority of Christ God and Man.(n.19)

The Pope describes the manner in which Christ should reign over us:

He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls... (n.33)

Regnare Christum volumus!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury to Promote Renewal with St Jean Vianney Relic

SHREWSBURY, England, NOV. 4, 2011 ( The heart of the patron saint of parish priests will tour the Diocese of Shrewsbury this July, providing an occasion to pray for the renewal of the priesthood.

The relic of St. John Vianney will be in the diocese for a four-day visit.

Priests venerate the heart of the Cure of Ars during a priests retreat I attended
at Ars in September 2005.
Three intentions are being proposed for the occasion: the renewal of the ministerial priesthood, new and generous vocations, and the renewal of the missions and life of all parishes in the diocese.

The relic will be accompanied by Bishop Guy Bagnard of Belley-Ars, France, and two priests of his diocese.

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury requested the relic tour when he met with Bishop Bagnard in September. The English bishop had taken young Shrewsbury clergy and the diocese's three seminarians to Ars.

"I am delighted we can welcome this relic of St. John Vianney to England," Bishop Davies said. "The Scriptures speak of the saints as those 'witnesses' who encourage us in our faith. This visible reminder of the heart of a simple and extraordinary pastor will encourage us to look to that love and truth found at the heart of the Catholic priesthood, for St. John Vianney said simply: 'The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.'"


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