Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Duty to Maintain Communion

Because I have been asked I am recording some of my homilies. This is today's offering. Have a blessed day and week.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Way to Fly

There really is no other way!

Bishop Thomas J Paprocki on troubling issues of Democratic Party Policy

Bishop Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, (watch video above or read his article) addresses the "platforms" of the Democratic and Republican Parties. He points out the following intrinsic evils in the platform of the Democratic Party:

  • Abortion should be safe and legal and should be a right "regardless of the ability to pay", which can only happen if taxpayers are required to fund abortion, or insurance companies can will be required to pay for them, or hospitals will be forced to perform them for free.
  • support for same-sex marriage, recognizing that "gay rights are human rights", calling for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law signed by President Clinton in 1996 that defined marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman.

He also addresses the troubling conflict over whether or not the name of God should be included in the party platform, pointing out that if it was only included at the will of the The Party Leader, then it could also just as easily be removed at the will of The Leader, which does not bode well for democracy in the Democratic Party.

Bishop Paprocki looks at the Republican Party platform and finds party support for no intrinsic evils.

On other matters, a Catholic can hold a variety of opinions, such as how "to address the needs of the poor, feed the hungry, solve the problems of immigration, but these are prudential judgments about the most effective means of achieving morally desirable ends, not intrinsic evils."

Bishop Paprocki is concerned for the salvation of the souls of his flock when he concludes his piece as follows:
I am not telling you which party or which candidates to vote for or against, but I am saying that you need to think and pray very carefully about your vote, because a vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.

I pray that God will give you the wisdom and guidance to make the morally right choices.

May God give us this grace. Amen.

Friday, September 28, 2012

"A Consequential Election" - Bishop Alexander Sample

Bishop Sample of Marquette, Michigan, is contributing a 4-part series of articles in the diocesan newspaper The UP Catholic to guide his diocesan faithful in the November General Election.

His first article entitled "A Consequential Election" deals in general with the Church's social teachings describing her rich and well-developed social doctrine as "one of the 'best kept secrets of the Church'".

In his second article Bishop Sample writes about the Church's teachings on life. "From the very moment of conception, a unique and irreplaceable member of the human family comes into existence."

The UP Catholic, published twice monthly, is available free on line, and you can subscribe to receive a free email notification when a new edition is published by clicking on the enotify button at the top of the page.

Who and what are we offering at Mass?

When ... the bread and the wine are placed on the altar we are symbolically hidden in them, united to Jesus Christ and offered with him. (Blessed Columba Marmion, Christ: the Ideal of the Priest, Ignatius Press, p.217)
So when the priest says the following prayer at the Offertory:
Suscipe, sancte Pater, omnipotens ætérne Deus, hanc immaculátam hóstiam, quam ego indígnus fámulus tuus óffero tibi Deo meo vivo et vero, pro innumerabílibus peccátis, et offensiónibus, et neglegéntiis meis, et pro ómnibus circumstántibus, sed et pro ómnibus fidélibus christiánis vivis atque defúnctis: ut mihi, et illis profíciat ad salútem in vitam ætérnam. Amen.

Receive, O holy Father, almighty and eternal God, this spotless host, which I, Thy unworthy servant, offer unto Thee, my living and true God, for mine own countless sins, offenses and negligences, and for all here present; as also for all faithful Christians living and dead, that it may avail both for my own and their salvation unto life eternal. Amen.
what is the "immaculate (or spotless) host"? Is it the bread that lies on the altar? Maybe. But surely it is also the Church, all of us. The Church is spotless, we no doubt are sinners, and yet we are all that the Son has to offer to the Father. The priest, standing in persona Christi, professes the fact that he is servant and unworthy, that he has countless sins that require the Father's mercy. In some senses, he is Christ taking upon Himself all the sins of the Church so that the Church can be offered pure and spotless.

I am reminded of the first time I celebrated Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Even though I had read and rehearsed the prayers, it was only when standing at the altar that the force of the following words said in preparation for Holy Communion after the Lord's Prayer became apparent to me:
Domine Jesu Christe, qui dixisti Apostolis tuis: Pacem relinquo vobis, pacem meam do vobis: ne respicias peccata mea, sed fidem Ecclesia tua; eamque secundum voluntatem tuam pacificare et coadunare digneris: Qui vivis et regnas Deus per omnia saecula saculorum. Amen.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who saidst to Thy Apostles, Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you; look not upon my sins, but upon the faith of Thy Church; and vouchsafe to grant her peace and unity according to Thy will: O God who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.
The faith of the Church is pleasing to God, even if the priest is sinful and unworthy. Even though the Mass is effective even if the participation of the faithful is lacking, think dear Catholic faithful of how the priest asks the Father to look upon your faith and upon you as members of the immaculate Bride of Christ, a spotless victim offered to the Father in union with His Son.

Pray for me as I go now to offer the Holy Sacrifice. I'll make a special memento for all my readers.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bishop Sample's Homily at Mass in Honor of Venerable Frederic Baraga

Bishop Sample preaches on the New Evangelization and how the life of Bishop Baraga exemplifies the seven priorities of the New Evangelization as set out by Blessed Pope John Paul II in Novo Millennio Ineunte.

See more at Bishop Sample's Facebook page.

We proclaim the death of the Lord...

Why? Shouldn't it be His Resurrection? My reading from Christ the Ideal of the Priest has provided a neat insight.

We must realize that, at the consecration, the whole drama of Calvary, with all the consequence of sufferings and humiliations which it involved for Jesus, is present before God. It may be said in all truth truth that we are displaying before the eyes of the Eternal One all this divine past; that is why the Apostle says so aptly that at every Mass "we announce to the Father the death of His Son."

Every time that a priest celebrates Mass, he is presenting (to the Father) the Son Himself under the sacred species making, for love, a true immolation, though in sacramental form.

Let us dwell a little on this thought. What does the Father see on the altar stone on which the holy sacrifice is offered? He sees the body and blood of the Son of His love: Filius dilectionis suae (Col. 1:13). And what is that the Son is doing on the altar? Anuntiat mortem: He is placing before the eyes of the Father His love, His obedience, His suffering, the oblation of His life. And the Father casts on us a look of mercy.
We really do need to try to acquire a "God's eye view" of the Mass.

St Vincent de Paul and the Poor

St Vincent (1581 - 1660) founded the Congregation of the Missions (Vincentians) to give spiritual formation to the clergy and relief to the poor. In a letter to the priests of his Congregation he wrote:
Let us show our service to the poor ... with renewed ardour in our hearts, seeking out above all any abandoned people, since they are given to us as lords and patrons.
In the poor we encounter Christ Himself, our Lord and God.

The St Vincent de Paul Society of Marquette is being featured in a three-part series in the Mining Journal.

Sep. 24th: St. Vincent de Paul has long history of helping people

Sep. 25th: Marquette thrift store is hub for St. Vincent de Paul Society activities

Sep. 26th: St. Vincent de Paul food pantry works to fill gaps

Ron Provost, President of the Marquette
St Vincent de Paul Society

And today:Sep. 27th: Kiwanians assist St. Vincent de Paul

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Further comment on the German Bishops

I have received some very helpful feedback on the subject of my previous post.

I would refer readers to the latest post by Jimmy Akin, a correspondent with the National Catholic Register, on his blog. Among other things he writes:
As a Catholic News Service story suggests, the German bishops have tried to frame the issue without reference to money and instead frame it in terms of Catholic identity:

"There must be consequences for people who distance themselves from the church by a public act," said Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg, conference president, in defending the Sept. 20 decree.

"Clearly, someone withdrawing from the church can no longer take advantage of the system like someone who remains a member," he said at a Sept. 24 news conference as the bishops began a four-day meeting in Fulda. "We are grateful Rome has given completely clear approval to our stance."

The archbishop said each departure was "painful for the church," adding that bishops feared many Catholics were unaware of the consequences and would be "open to other solutions."

"The Catholic church is committed to seeking out every lost person," said Archbishop Zollitsch, whose remarks were reported by Germany's Die Welt daily.

"At issue, however, is the credibility of the church's sacramental nature. One cannot be half a member or only partly a member. Either one belongs and commits, or one renounces this," Archbishop Zollitsch said.
Akin also addresses the issue of manifest grave sin:
Since denying your faith before the state is a mortal sin, it is thus potential matter for canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, which provides

"Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion."

If they have denied their faith before the state, it's a grave sin. Because they filed paperwork with the state, it's a manifest sin. And if their pastor has talked to them about it and they haven't turned back then they are obstinately persevering in it.

So I see a possible basis for denying them holy Communion on such grounds. I don't want to go further into canonical waters, however, until I've seen the actual documents involved and seen competent commentary from others.

My point is that the German bishops may have reasonable grounds for their decree, canonically, either because it merely applies existing provisions of the Church's universal law or because it further specifies that law as particular legislation for Germany.
I think this makes very good sense.

The Catholic News Service article reports:
"Conscious dissociation from the church by public act is a grave offense against the church community," the (bishops') decree said.

"Whoever declares their withdrawal for whatever reason before the responsible civil authority always violates their duty to preserve a link with the church, as well as their duty to make a financial contribution so the church can fulfill its tasks."
Akin also quotes several verses of Scripture, including:
Jesus said: “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 10:32-33).
I must say I think he has analysed the case extremely well with his skill as a journalist, and it seems that the German bishops have acted appropriately. As so often, it is the narrative that is the problem but I guess the bishops could not have won this anyway. The media would always spin it as being a case of no tax, no sacraments.

See also Ars Vivendi for an explanation from one who lives in Germany.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Can the German Bishops do this?

UPDATE September 27th.

Since writing the below yesterday, a lot of comment has been generated which greatly clarifies the situation. It would seem to me that there is a clear break of communion by those who "defect" or declare their intention to leave the Church. In which case it would seem that the bishops have the right/duty to inform the people of the consequences. It's not about the money but about the act of defection. There is, however, the problem of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts specifically excluding the removal of one's name from a government maintained register in order to secure certain civil consequences (see below) as sufficient for procuring formal defection. I guess it would depend on the means required for such removal. If, for removal, one actually has to say "I wish to leave the Catholic Church", then one should be taken at one's word and face the consequences.

Please see Further Comment. Also of interest are: Jimmy Akin quoted in Further Comment, Sentire Cum Ecclesia, Ars Vivendi, the German Bishops Conference, comments of Dr Edward Peters.


As widely reported the German bishops have decreed that Catholics who "renounce" their membership of the Catholic Church so as to avoid paying the religious tax will not be able to receive the sacraments, act as godparents or have a Catholic funeral. Which sounds pretty severe. Is it legal in Catholic Church law?

Reports can be read at the BBC and Reuters. I'm not knowledgeable about why Germany operates a religious tax system. No doubt it has historical roots. The religious tax is about 8% of your overall tax bill, so if you pay 10,000 euro income tax, a further 800 euro will be added to your tax bill and go towards your church/religion of declared affiliation: Protestant, Catholic, Jewish... It is not an 8% income tax. Apparently over 180,000 Catholics "left" the Church in 2010 following the various scandals that have rocked the Church in Germany and elsewhere. Other religions have also experienced a fall in their tax-paying members. Apparently, many "left" as way of reducing their tax bill when income tax went up to cope with the effects of the reunification of East Germany with the rest of Germany in the early 1990's.

So, can the bishops deny baptised Catholics the sacraments because they do not pay the tax? Have Catholics who have decided to remove themselves from the civil religious register put themselves outside the Church? The media reports claim that the Vatican has approved the measure, but this does not mean the measure is beyond appeal. And I daresay it won't be long before someone appeals to Rome if they are denied the sacraments, or prohibited from being a godparent, or their relative is denied a funeral, simply on the basis that they are not registered in the State taxation system.

What does Canon Law have to say?

How is a Catholic defined?
Can. 96 By baptism one is incorporated into the Church of Christ and is constituted a person in it with the duties and rights which are proper to Christians in keeping with their condition, insofar as they are in ecclesiastical communion and unless a legitimately issued sanction stands in the way.

Can. 205 Those baptized are fully in the communion of the Catholic Church on this earth who are joined with Christ in its visible structure by the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical governance.
So if one is baptized in the Catholic Church, or received into it after valid baptism in another Church or ecclesial community, one is joined with the Church in its visible structure, unless one breaks the bonds of faith, sacraments and/or governance. One has duties and rights. Does removal from the religious tax register constitute being no longer joined with the Church in its visible structure? As for the duty of supporting the Church, could one not claim that one is fulfilling this duty in ways other than paying the tax, e.g. by placing money in a collection etc? The Church has never stipulated a set sum of money that must be contributed for membership to continue.

The Eucharist

The rights/duties of Catholics as regards the Eucharist:
Can. 912 Any baptized person not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to holy communion.
So a Catholic is presumed to have a right to receive holy communion. There are very strict conditions that must be met before a minister can refuse to give holy communion to a Catholic.

There is a special requirement for children:
Can. 913 #1. The administration of the Most Holy Eucharist to children requires that they have sufficient knowledge and careful preparation so that they understand the mystery of Christ according to their capacity and are able to receive the body of Christ with faith and devotion.

Can. 914 It is primarily the duty of parents and those who take the place of parents, as well as the duty of pastors, to take care that children who have reached the use of reason are prepared properly and, after they have made sacramental confession, are refreshed with this divine food as soon as possible. It is for the pastor (parish priest) to exercise vigilance so that children who have not attained the use of reason or whom he judges are not sufficiently disposed do not approach holy communion.
So, the question arises: are Catholic children whose parents have removed themselves from the civil religious tax register prohibited from receiving the Eucharist? It would appear that the tenor of the Canons is quite to the contrary. Everything should be done - primarily by the parents of course (and here they must examine their consciences as primary educators of their children as to the consequences of removal from the religious tax register) but also by the pastors - to ensure that children with the use of reason receive the Eucharist at the earliest possible time.

An assessment must therefore be made as to the consequences for their children of parents removing themselves from the register. Does such an action conflict with their duty of educating their children in the Catholic faith? I'm not pretending to give a general answer to this question. I am simply posing it. Perhaps the German bishops' decree addresses this issue. I have not seen it.

Those who may not receive the Eucharist:
Can. 915 Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.
This Canon refers to the external forum. The reports state that all talk of excommunication has been carefully avoided and, indeed, excommunication is a penalty that can only be imposed on one who has committed a crime in the Church. So those who have removed themselves from the religious tax register have not received either of these penalties. They are not being accused of having committed a canonical crime.

So, are they amongst those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin? It's certainly manifest in that it is a matter of public record. But is withholding the religious tax a grave sin?
Can. 916 A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to ... receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.
This Canon refers to the internal forum of conscience, but again the question hinges on whether or not self-removal from the register is a grave sin.

Canon 844 concerns the discipline regarding administration and reception of the sacraments of penance, holy eucharist and anointing of the sick by/to members of other churches and ecclesial communities. But this canon would not be applicable since the people we are talking about are Catholics.

Does removal from the tax register constitute departure from the Church? It is possible to formally defect from the Church and there used to be consequences of such defection on the validity of marriage contracted outside the Church. These consequences were done away with by Pope Benedict but it is still possible to formally defect. And this must have consequences.

In a 2006 interpretation from the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, the conditions for a successful formal defection are described in detail and may be read on its website. Of great relevance to our study is the following paragraph:
The substance of the act of the will must be the rupture of those bonds of communion – faith, sacraments, and pastoral governance – that permit the Faithful to receive the life of grace within the Church. This means that the formal act of defection must have more than a juridical-administrative character (the removal of one’s name from a Church membership registry maintained by the government in order to produce certain civil consequences), but be configured as a true separation from the constitutive elements of the life of the Church: it supposes, therefore, an act of apostasy, heresy or schism.
It is to be noted that the removal of one's name from a tax register simply to avoid paying the religious tax is explicitly mentioned as not being sufficient for formal defection from the Catholic faith. One must have the intention of rupturing one's communion with the Church by an act of apostasy, heresy or schism. This would surely have to be verified in each individual case.

What about the concept of notoriously or publicly abandoning the faith, (which is not the same as the formal act of defection mentioned above)? Notorious or public defection from the Catholic Church has consequences such as: being unqualified to vote in any canonical elections for ecclesiastical offices (Can. 171 #1,4); automatic removal from any ecclesiastical offices held (Can. 194 #1,2); becoming unqualified for reception into public associations of the faithful (Can. 316 #1); their marriage in the Catholic Church would need the permission of the local ordinary (Can. 1071 #1,4) and when marrying a Catholic their marriage is subject to certain conditions that apply to mixed marriages i.e. they are treated in some way as non-Catholics (Can. 1071 #2) while still remaining subject to ecclesiastical law (Can. 11).

All the Christian faithful are obliged to maintain communion with the Church. (Can. 209 #1) and to notoriously or publicly abandon the faith is, I would guess, a grave sin, and so one guilty of such an act would doubtless fall within the category of those in manifest grave sin referred to in Can. 915 as well as falling under Can. 916. So they could be refused communion. But is removing one's name from the religious tax register such a notorious and public act of defection?

One notes that the German bishops' document states that those who have removed their names from the register must get the permission of their bishop before marrying a Catholic in a church ceremony. They therefore do indeed seem to be classifying these people as notorious and public defectors from the faith. (See my reference to Can. 1071 two paragraphs up.)


Among other things sponsors must

  • have the aptitude and intention of fulling this function (in assisting an adult in Christian initiation or together with the parents an infant for baptism, and helping the baptized person to lead a Christian life and to fulfill faithfully the obligations inherent in baptism);
  • be at least sixteen years old;
  • be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the Eucharist;
  • be leading a life of faith in keeping with their function as sponsors;
  • not be bound by any canonical penalty. (Cann. 872, 874)

Under these canons, it would have to be verified whether or not removal of one's name from the tax register constitutes a failure in living the life of faith in keeping with the function of sponsor. I cannot see that any of the other requirements are affected by this act.


The Canons dealing with denial of funeral rites are as follows:
Can. 1184 #1 Unless they gave some signs of repentance before death, the following must be deprived of ecclesiastical funerals:
- 1 notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics;
- 2 those who chose cremation of their bodes for reasons contrary to Christian faith;
- 3 other manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful.
#2 If any doubt occurs, the local ordinary is to be consulted, and his judgment followed.

Can. 1185 Any funeral Mass must also be denied a person who is excluded from ecclesiastical funerals.
Can a general statement be made of those who have removed themselves from the religious tax register that they are notorious apostates, heretics or schismatics, or manifest sinners? I would find this hard to accept. It must surely be determined on an individual and case by case basis.

But the bishops seem to be clear that these people do fall under one of the categories of Can. 1184 #1 for they state that
"If the person who left the Church shows no sign of repentance before death, a religious burial can be refused."
As I must stress, I have not seen the decree nor any other documentation concerning this matter. But it would seem to me that the burden of proof is with the ecclesiastical authorities to verify that one who has removed his/her name from the religious tax register has in fact notoriously abandoned the faith or formally defected from the Church or is by some other means in manifest grave sin.

I await with interest the comments of Dr. Edward Peters who is obviously studying the matter closely. The reported position of the German bishops is that
"This decree makes clear that one cannot partly leave the Church.It is not possible to separate the spiritual community of the Church from the institutional Church."
This is obviously a fair point, but I think a lot rests on the motives for the removal of one's name from the tax register. I think it would be difficult to uphold the requirement of being on a tax register for being considered a member of the "institutional Church". But I'm sure the bishops have good Canon Lawyers involved in this and that the Vatican has guided them. We shall have to wait and see. I find it perplexing and would agree with one commentator that it sends the wrong signal.

The act par excellence of priestly charity is a Mass well said.

I am currently reading Christ - The Ideal of Priest by Blessed Columba Marmion (available from Ignatius Press and Amazon). It is a truly rich book of spirituality and theology for a priest. But all Christian faithful would benefit greatly from its wisdom. In my reading this morning I read the following:
We must remember that the act par excellence of priestly charity is a Mass well said. When he is celebrating, the priest must not think of himself alone. He bears in his heart the responsibility of his charge of souls. He must pray for his flock, for his works; for his parish, for his diocese, for the whole Church and, from the chalice of benediction which he consecrates, he will pour out on souls, even those far distant, a flood of merciful grace. On Calvary, Jesus took upon Himself our anguish and our sufferings. he was the Good Shepherd Who gave His live for all His sheep.

At the altar, when he is offering the chalice, the minister of Christ, associated by Him in His work of salvation, must embrace in a great movement of charity the divers needs of the whole human race: Offerimus tibi, Domine, calicem ... ut pro nostra et totius mundi salute, cum odore suavitatis ascendat: "We offer unto Thee, O Lord, the chalice ... for our salvation and for that of the whole world, rising with a pleasing fragrance."
This was the final paragraph in a section on the various ways a priest must exercise charity in imitation of Christ. A Mass well said is no substitute for all the other ways of living charity that are necessary for a holy life, particularly a priestly life. But it is surely the crowning of all the priest's life of charity.

As for text of the Mass quoted above, it is of course from the Offertory prayers of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Here is the prayer in full with English translation, and the corresponding prayer in the Ordinary Form of the Mass. I'm afraid the newer is poorer, in my opinion.

The older:
Offérimus tibi, Dómine, cálicem salutáris, tuam deprecántes cleméntiam: ut in conspéctu divínæ majestátis tuæ, pro nostra et totíus mundi salute, cum odóre suavitátis ascéndat. Amen.

We offer unto Thee, O Lord, the chalice of salvation, beseeching Thy clemency, that it may ascend in the sight of Thy divine majesty with a sweet savour, for our own salvation and for that of the whole world. Amen.
And the new (in English only):
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will bcome our spiritual drink.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bishop Philip Egan's address at the end of his ordination Mass

Bishop Philip Egan has pronounced his Magna Carta for his episcopate. Beautifully and compassionately delivered, and so clear.

Highlights for me:
We must offer this salvific message to a people,
       sorely in need of new hope and direction,
       disenfranchised by the desert of modern British politics,
       wearied by the cycle of work, shopping, entertainment,
       and betrayed by educational, legal, medical and social policy-makers
       who, in the relativistic world they're creating, however well-intentioned,
       are sowing the seeds of a strangling counterculture of death.

Please pray for me to the Lord Jesus,
       whose Heart yearns for us in the Blessed Sacrament,
       that I might be a humble and holy, orthodox, creative and courageous,
       Bishop of Portsmouth, one fashioned after the Lord's own.
The address in full (also at the Portsmouth diocese website)

Dear fellow pilgrims on life's journey,
we inhabit a remarkable century, the 21st,
which despite the current economic distemper, is witnessing momentous advances
in every domain of human knowledge and endeavour,
with new discoveries and new applications in science and engineering,
in computing and cybernetics, in medicine and bio-technology,
in the social sciences, arts and humanities,
all of which manifest the limitless self-transcending reach
of human experience, understanding and judgement
and the cloud of burgeoning possibilities for human deciding,
undreamt of by those who've gone before.
Indeed, even as we speak, Curiosity is roving among the sand-dunes of Mars,
in anticipation of a manned space-voyage to the Red Planet. 
With all these exhilarating developments, the Catholic Tradition must engage,
the old with the new, in a mutually-enriching critical-conversation.
Yet the ordination of a Bishop,
as Successor of the Apostles, in communion of mind, will and heart with the Pope,
as the chief Shepherd, Teacher and High Priest of the diocese entrusted to him,
who, like the Master, must lay down his life for his flock,
reminds us that human needs ever remain essentially the same:
the need to love and to be loved,
the need for a purpose and vocation in life,
the need to belong to family and community,
the need for mercy and forgiveness, for peace and justice, for freedom and happiness,
and most profoundly, the need for immortality and for the Divine.
All these fundamental desires, hard-wired into the human heart:
theology expresses in the word 'salvation,'
and we profess that every child, woman and man on this planet can find that salvation.
There is a Way - and it's the Truth!
It's the true Way that leads to Life, real life, life to the full, a life that never ends.
There is a Way, and it's not a strategy, a philosophy or a package-deal.
            This Way has a Name, because it's a Person,
            the only Person in human history who really did rise from the dead,
            a Person alive here and now: Jesus of Nazareth, God the Son Incarnate.
He alone can save us.
            He alone can give us the salvation our spirits crave.
            He alone can reveal to us the Truth about God and about life,
            about happiness and humanism, about sexuality and family values,
            about how to bring to the world order, justice, reconciliation and peace.
This message of Good News, and the civilisation of love it occasions,
            we Catholics must now communicate imaginatively, with confidence and clarity,
            together with our fellow Christians, and all people of faith and good will,
            to the people of England, this wonderful land, Mary's Dowry.
We must offer this salvific message to a people,
            sorely in need of new hope and direction,
            disenfranchised by the desert of modern British politics,
            wearied by the cycle of work, shopping, entertainment,
            and betrayed by educational, legal, medical and social policy-makers
            who, in the relativistic world they're creating, however well-intentioned,
            are sowing the seeds of a strangling counterculture of death.
My brothers and sisters, today, the Feast of Our Lady of Ransom, of England's Nazareth,
let's go forth from this Mass with joyful vigour, resolved in the Holy Spirit,
to help bring about the conversions needed - intellectual, moral and spiritual -
for everyone-we-meet to receive Jesus Christ, the Gospel of Life, the way to TGLHH&F.
Bishop Crispian, I thank you sincerely for your most gracious welcome here
            and on behalf of the whole diocese I express to you our deepest gratitude
            for the wonderful legacy you have bequeathed to us.
            Please pray I might be a worthy successor.
Archbishop Peter Smith, our metropolitan, I thank you for coming here today as co-consecrator
            and Bishop Mark too, you have given me an inspiring example
            of what it means to be a brilliant diocesan Bishop.
I thank Archbishop Vincent for his excellent homily,
            and all my brother bishops for your support and prayer.
I also greet Mgr. Brian, asking him to express my gratitude to his Excellency,
            Archbishop Mennini, and through him to the Holy Father, Pope Benedict,
            who, in God's providence, has trustingly given me this appointment.
On everyone's behalf, many thanks to Canon Hopgood, Fr. Phillip,
            all the helpers here at the Cathedral,
            and to Fr. Stephen, our musicians, servers, sacristans and others
            who have made this Liturgy so memorable.
I also greet all our friends here today:
            first, our ecumenical guests, the dignitaries from the Navy,
the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, and civic leaders,
            then, the priests and people of this diocese, and those of Shrewsbury Diocese,
            and all my personal friends, many of whom have travelled from so far away:
            from the US, California, Germany, France and the north of England.
It's marvellous too that so many dear parishioners have come from Romiley,
            together with some of our best altar servers, all in fine array,
            - a huge journey - thank you so much.
And finally, I must add my love and thanks to my family,
            my three brothers and sisters in law, my nephews and nieces,
            and to one truly special person, without whom I wouldn't be here today: my father.
            Thank you Dad for everything - all my love to you, God bless and good health.

I must stop now or we'll be late for the 'do'.
            Thank you all, once again.
            Please pray for me to the Lord Jesus,
            whose Heart yearns for us in the Blessed Sacrament,
            that I might be a humble and holy, orthodox, creative and courageous,
            Bishop of Portsmouth, one fashioned after the Lord's own.

Episcopal Ordination of Mgr Philip Egan as Bishop of Portsmouth

The Mass is beginning as I write and can be watched live at the diocesan website. In England it is the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham. Mgr Egan's appointment is very good news. Pray for him.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Vatican Nominations announced today

Announced today:

Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sidney, has been nominated a Member of the Congregation for Bishops. So he will have a vote on the appointment of bishops.

And Dr Edward Peters, Professor of Canon Law in the "Edmund Cardinal Szoka Chair" at the Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, USA has been appointed an "expert" for the forthcoming 13th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. He also blogs at In the Light of the Law.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The War on Families

Mass Resistance photo
A concerted campaign is under way to portray being pro-family, pro-marriage as "anti-gay" and pro-family, pro-marriage groups as "hate groups". Chick-fill-A has been caught in the midst of this. Today I received an email from a pro-family group with the subject header:
Chick-fil-A caves in to gay movement - disgraceful!
And the text was headlined:
Chick-fil-A caves in to homosexual pressure. Agrees not to donate to pro-family groups in exchange for permission to put restaurant in Chicago. Slap in the face to pro-family supporters.
And it went on to describe Chick-fill-A's apparent betrayal of marriage and the family.

I found this volte-face difficult to comprehend. So, following the advice in that same email, I emailed, the charitable wing of Chick-fill-A asking "Is it true?"

I wrote:
That Chick-fill-A and you have caved in to pressure and renounced support of pro-family organizations to secure permission to open your restaurant in Chicago? Pro-family is not "anti-gay".

Please let me know the truth on this. Our families are being made to feel very vulnerable. If being "pro-family" is going to be equivalent to be "anti-gay" we will be living in a dangerous world.

If you have caved in to political pressure when setting up a restaurant is a perfectly legal thing and should not involve politics, then a dangerous precedent has been set. Even "gays" should be worried, for any group will be able to threaten law abiding individuals and businesses who do not happen to conform to the latest politically correct fad.

Which group of people behaved more agreeably when families flocked to your restaurants in large numbers and just a few engaged in a public display of behavior that should be kept to the private sphere, if carried out at all?

Yous sincerely
Within minutes I had a reply. They had obviously been receiving many enquiries. And here is text of the reply:
Thanks for your interest and concern.

Despite recent mischaracterizations in the media, neither Chick-fil-A nor WinShape Foundation has changed our giving strategy. We will continue to focus our efforts on programs that educate youth, strengthen families and enrich marriage, and support communities.  Chick-fil-A plans to release the information below to the media.

Chick-fil-A, Inc. – Who We Are

For many months now, Chick-fil-A’s corporate giving has been mischaracterized. And while our sincere intent has been to remain out of this political and social debate, events from Chicago this week have once again resulted in questions around our giving. For that reason, we want to provide some context and clarity around who we are, what we believe and our priorities in relation to corporate giving.

A part of our corporate commitment is to be responsible stewards of all that God has entrusted to us. Because of this commitment, Chick-fil-A’s giving heritage is focused on programs that educate youth, strengthen families and enrich marriages, and support communities. We will continue to focus our giving in those areas. Our intent is not to support political or social agendas.

As we have stated, the Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators
This reply satisfies me.

We can wait and see if they are playing with words - will their promotion of programs that "enrich marriage" be broadened to include any modified definition of marriage? I trust not. And I hope not.

But let us make no mistake about it: supporters of marriage according to the natural law can expect to be treated by a minority as bigots and haters. Be prepared.

The hypocrisy of dictating to a private business whom they should and shouldn't give money to, and labeling pro-marriage and pro-family groups as holding "political agendas" defies reason. Do those groups promoting "marriage equality" not hold a "political agenda"? And yet the pro-gay lobby praises Microsoft and other corporations for supporting them.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

If Islam is not a rational belief system, it cannot survive.

"By their fruits you will know them." I don't approve of insulting the religious beliefs of anyone (French magazine adds fuel to fire), but I strongly disapprove of the irrational reaction to the insults. I think it is highly irresponsible for people to publish these insults because we know that it will inflame the hatred that many Moslems seem to bear towards "the West". The lives of westerners stationed or working abroad are now in further danger. Furthermore, Christians who bear no hatred towards Moslems will be at risk, too. Those who publish these insulting materials cannot be considered to be behaving in a Christian way. Jesus would not do it. But perhaps the "Christian" west should be making a much stronger stand before Moslem nations about religious freedom and tolerance in their own lands. But violence would not be our way of reacting to attacks on our religion (except in the case of legitimate self-defence.)  The Cross tells us how to react: "I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. The Lord God is my help..." (Is 50: 6-7)

I have been wondering how to formulate my thoughts on this matter and have come across the excellent blog post of A Reluctant Sinner: As Islam totters on the brink, millions of souls are turning towards the light of Christ -- Christians need not be afraid! I would recommend you read it. Islam has nothing to offer today rationalist world. Christianity - and Catholicism in particular - is the only religion that can be said to be truly reasonable. And so we will, in the end, win in the battle for ideas.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Liverpool institutes lay-led funerals

Shouldn't we get back to this kind of solemnity for funerals?
The Archbishop of Liverpool has commissioned 22 lay people to preside at funerals in the absence of a priest, the first UK diocese to do so. (Catholic News Service)
"In some of our parishes in the diocese priests are being asked to celebrate over 120 funerals each year," Archbishop Kelly wrote.

"That does not neatly work out at two or three times a week," he wrote. "Some weeks there can be six or seven."
I can see the difficulty, and as a priest I know how much stress celebrating a number of funerals a week can be. One is dealing with people at a very emotional time and situation. The fact that the Church has so many options in the liturgy adds to the stress as people ask for their favourite songs, and eulogies, and other strange things to be inserted into the liturgy. Sometimes they don't like Scripture readings that refer to judgement, etc. etc.

But to celebrate a funeral is a unique opportunity for the priestly office to be exercised in providing pastoral care for the bereaved but, more importantly to enable the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice for the repose of the souls of those who have died.

I have consulted the archdiocesan website and have counted roughly 310 priests. Now, some of these priests are retired, some will be abroad studying, etc.  The news item from CNS News quoted above states the number of priests as 170 (with a projected reduction to 100 by 2015). So I don't know what the situation with the other 140 priests is. I wonder if any of the retired clergy or others from those 140 could be called upon to celebrate funeral Masses.

I also tried to find a list of deacons but couldn't locate it on the diocesan website. Could (and should) they not be called upon in preference to lay people?

We also read:
The move was announced through a brochure, "Planning a Catholic Funeral," published recently by the archdiocese. The brochure described a funeral as the "community's main celebration and prayer for the deceased."
I have often wondered about the community aspect of a funeral. What about having a funeral Mass for more than one person? I know this would be a huge cultural shift for many people and perhaps it would be something of an innovation. But I'm not sure what the significance of emphasising the funeral as the "community's main celebration and prayer for the deceased" is about. It is the prayer of Christ and His Sacrifice offered through the ministry of the priest that is of the utmost importance, not the "community's ... celebration and prayer".

One must trust the fact that the Archbishop has consulted his Council of Priests and taken their advice, but I can't help thinking this is a retrograde step and will do little to promote vocations to the priesthood.

What I'll be doing is praying for an increase in vocations to the priesthood for Liverpool so that the beloved departed might have the funeral Mass that the Church foresees as the norm.

I realise now that I am very much behind the curve. See A Reluctant Sinner for his take on it. I am certainly in agreement with him that the main pastoral consideration at a funeral is not the mourners but the deceased. It is for him/her that the rites are being celebrated. The advantage with the more traditional (extraordinary) form of the Church's liturgy is that the participation or otherwise of those present was of no consequence to the effective celebration of the liturgy and the application to the departed of the merits of the Holy Sacrifice. And with a good choir and servers, it had/has a dignity that cannot be matched.

I celebrated the Requiem Mass for a Catholic in a beautiful medieval Anglican church in Kent. Most of the mourners were not Catholic but the local choral society got together to rehearse the chant, and added a few lovely motets, and did a beautiful job. This was probably the first time the Traditional Mass had been celebrated in this church since the reformation. All commented on the beauty of the ceremonies. (And no homily was given, at the request of the widow who was not a Catholic. And the older form anyway does not allow for a homily during the funeral Mass, only the possibility of an address before the final commendation. At first I felt put out at the request for no homily but then realised that there was nothing that needed to be said. The Liturgy spoke for itself!)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Pope in Lebanon: "Reason must overcome passion"

From NY Times
Pope Benedict arrived in Lebanon today. In his arrival speech he said:
"The successful way the Lebanese all live together surely demonstrates to the whole Middle East and to the rest of the world that, within a nation, there can exist cooperation between the various Churches, all members of the one Catholic Church in a fraternal spirit of communion with other Christians, and at the same time coexistence and respectful dialogue between Christians and their brethren of other religions. Like me, you know that this equilibrium, which is presented everywhere as an example, is extremely delicate. Sometimes it seems about to snap like a bow which is overstretched or submitted to pressures which are too often partisan, even selfish, contrary and extraneous to Lebanese harmony and gentleness. This is where real moderation and great wisdom are tested. And reason must overcome one-sided passion in order to promote the greater good of all". (
With all that his happening around the Moslem world right now, this call to reason needs to be heard. These attacks on American and other western embassies and institutions are irrational.

From BBC
Christianity, as the Pope demonstrates, is a religion that has faith in reason. I'm honestly not sure how Moslems view reason. Extremists of any persuasion, of course, abandon reason and become "fundamentalists", another "ism" the Pope said must be abandoned.

"Religious fundamentalism seeks to take power for political ends, at times using violence, over the individual conscience and over religion," the Pope said.

"All religious leaders in the Middle East [should] endeavour, by their example and their teaching, to do everything possible to uproot this threat, which indiscriminately and fatally affects believers." (BBC News)

"I have come to Lebanon as a pilgrim of peace, as a friend of God and as a friend of men. ... Looking beyond your country, I also come symbolically to all the countries of the Middle East as a pilgrim of peace, as a friend of God and as a friend of all the inhabitants of all the countries of the region, whatever their origins and beliefs..." (

Franciscan University in hot water over course on "deviant" behaviours

It was reported on Public Radio this week that the Franciscan University of Stubenville, Ohio, is to have its Social Studies program examined following protests from alumni who count themselves amongst the Franciscan Gay Alumni and Allies Facebook group.

The offending course description reads:
“Deviant behavior focuses on the sociological theories of deviant behavior, such as strain theory, differential association theory, labeling theory and phenomenological theory,” states the course description. “The behaviors that are primarily examined are murder, rape, robbery, prostitution, homosexuality, mental illness and drug use. The course focuses on structural conditions in society that potentially play a role in influencing deviant behavior.”
As one can read at the National Catholic Register:
Up until 1973, the American Psychiatric Association classified homosexuality in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as a mental disorder.

“It strikes me that the gay alumni group, as so often happens, are overreacting to the word ‘deviant,’” said Phil Sutton, a psychologist and psychotherapist in South Bend, Ind., who launched Franciscan University’s master’s degree program in counseling 23 years ago. “Whereas in psychology we talk about ‘abnormal’ or ‘dysfunctional’ behavior, sociologists talk about ‘deviant’ behavior, meaning self-defeating behavior that is outside the norm. Franciscan’s use of the word is consistent with sociology, and, in that sense, they are not wrong to use it.”

“The research shows that same-sex behavior is medically, psychologically and relationally harmful,” added Sutton. “So there is nothing in the ‘deviant’ definition that is unrealistic. There is no doubt that you can talk about those who engage in that behavior as psychologically distressed, and there is no doubt that, in a secondary sense, it’s harmful to those who participate in it.”
I couldn't help checking St Paul's list of those who will not inherit the kingdom of God:
Neither the immoral (literally "fornicators", according to a footnote), nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals (footnote: Greek has "effeminate nor sodomites." The apostle condemns, not the inherent tendencies of such, but the indulgence of them.), nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9-10 RSVCE Ignatius Bible edition)
So St Paul groups active homosexuals in with other "deviant" kinds of behaviour. The DSM can change its classification for proper scientific reasons or for politically correct reasons. The Word of God is eternal, however. Note that St Paul continues:
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
So it's possible to change, by the grace Jesus pours out upon us at our conversion and Baptism and subsequently through the reception of the Sacraments, and openness to the Holy Spirit! Another thing the "gay" lobby considers anathema.

New bishop for Lincoln, Nebraska

Could you think of a better recommendation than that given by the Archbishop of Denver where Bishop Conley has been serving as auxiliary?
“In the four years Bishop Conley has served as auxiliary bishop of Denver, he has become well-known for his commitment to the unborn, his enthusiasm for young people, and especially for the devotion with which he celebrates the Most Holy Eucharist,” Archbishop Aquila said.

Read more:
Oh, and (shhhhh!!!!!) he ordained seven men to the minor orders of porter and lector, seven men to the minor orders of exorcist and acolyte and Rev. Mr. Rhone Lillard to the diaconate at St Francis of Assisi Oratory in Lincoln, Nebraska, 7 XI 2009 for the FSSP!

Are these the qualifications for the bishops of the New Evangelization? Bishop Sample is also known for his Extraordinary Form ordinations, for his commitment to the unborn, the young and the devout manner in which he offers the Mass.


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