Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Itchy feet

This is the time of year when bright (young) things in the teaching profession get a new job, and it becomes known in the staff room - or the prep room, if your subject area happens to be science - that they are leaving at the end of the year. It has to do with the end of May being the deadline for giving notice under the teaching contracts prevalent in the UK.

I caused some amusement during the discussion of "itchy feet" in the prep room earlier this week when I pointed out that when you reach a certain age (ie mine), the term "itchy feet" refers to retirement not promotion.

"Itchy fingers", I suppose, refers to retirement from the keyboard ...

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

More than a matter of life or death

There are some news items that are more important than Universae Ecclesiae.

Sunday afternoon saw the demise of West Ham, or, at least, their relegation from the Premier League to the Championship (ie the second tier in English football).

So they will play Crystal Palace next season. My last experience of a Crystal Palace - West Ham game was a Championship play-off in Cardiff, during West Ham's last sojourn in the Championship. I was driving back along the M4 that evening, and missed the football scores on the radio. I asked a group of West Ham fans at a service station who had won - thinking West Ham would be a safe bet as the winners.

Oops. Crystal Palace had won in their typically makeshift manner.

Reports on Conference on Summorum Pontificum

There are two reports that I have found on the recent Summorum Pontificum conference held in Rome.

La Croix are carrying a report Rome prêche la réconciliation autour de la forme extraordinaire, that makes reference to the interventions of two cardinals and two bishops during the conference. It needs a bit of a health warning - what has been highlighted by the journalist may need to be placed in the wider context of each cleric's full text when/if that becomes available.

According to this report, Cardinal Koch was anxious to counter three false oppositions:
Il entreprit ainsi de mettre à mal plusieurs faux « dualismes » : la messe est tout à la fois la commémoration du sacrifice du Christ et le repas partagé par l’assemblée des fidèles, et non l’un ou l’autre ; le prêtre est bien le représentant du Christ devant l’assemblée, celle-ci participant pleinement à la liturgie, l’un n’excluant pas l’autre ; le célébrant devrait pouvoir se tourner, à certains moments de la liturgie, vers l’Orient, sans pour autant se détourner du peuple.

We must respond to several false "dualisms": the Mass is at one and the same time the commemoration of the sacrifice of Christ and the meal in which the assembly of the faithful takes part, and not one or the other; the priest is truly the representing of Christ before the assembly, which takes part fully in the liturgy, the one does not exlude the other; the celebrant must be able to turn, at certain points of the liturgy, towards the East, without for all that, turnining himself away from the people.

Sur ce dernier point, le cardinal suisse fut largement applaudi, le public étant séduit par deux de ses exemples : « Personne ne s’offusque qu’un conducteur d’autobus ou un guide de haute montagne tournent le dos à leurs clients ! »

On this last point, the Swiss cardinal was stronlgy applauded, the audience being taken by two of his analogies: "No-one would argue that a bus driver or a mountain guide turned their back on their clients".
Mgr Schneider's argument in favour of the restoration of the minor orders - by reference to the Levitical priesthood and the sacrality of Holy Orders - seems to be out of step with the provisions of Universae Ecclesiae which insists that it is ordination to the diaconate that marks incardination into a religious institute.

ZENIT are carrying a report that largely covers the intervention of the Secretary of the Pontifical Council Ecclesia Dei, before including some coverage of the interventions of others. What is of interest here - though, again, the full context of this would need to be gained from the full text of the different interventions - is the extent of the discussion of "mutual enrichment".

According to Mgr Pozzo:
Now, both forms of the Roman liturgy "are an example of reciprocal increase and enrichment," he stressed. "Whoever thinks or acts otherwise, stains the unity of the Roman rite, which must be tenaciously safeguarded."...
In each form there can be "accentuations, underscoring, assertions more marked in some aspects in regard to others, but this does not affect the essential unity of the liturgy," the priest explained.
The ZENIT report suggests that Cardinal Koch's contribution centred on a discussion of the implications of Summorum Pontificum for the Church's ecumenical engagement.
For his part, Cardinal Koch said that the Motu Proprio "will mean steps forward in ecumenism" only if both forms of the one Roman rite are not considered as "an antithesis" but "as mutual enrichment."
Cardinal Koch also suggested that there is a programme of liturgical reform on the part of Pope Benedict XVI:
He explained that the Pope "believes that a new liturgical movement is indispensable today," which in the past he himself described as "a reform of the reform of the liturgy."...

He noted that "Benedict XVI knows well that in the long term we cannot remain with a coexistence between the ordinary and extraordinary forms in the Roman rite, but that the Church will again need in the future a common rite."

"However," he said, "given that a new liturgical form cannot be decided in an office, as it requires a process of growth and purification, for the time being the Pope stresses above all that the two forms of use of the Roman rite can and must enrich one another mutually."
What is essentially offered to all the faithful, and should receive the attention of all the faithful, as a result of the provisions of Summorum Pontificum, is the "richness of the Liturgy" (cf n.1 of Universae Ecclesiae). The agenda of "mutual enrichment" means that this should not be exclusively identified with attachment to the extraordinary form. The notion that a (re-)unified singularity of form is the ultimate purpose of a Papal project of liturgical reform is in a certain tension with the notion of "two forms of the same Rite" that underlies the idea of Summorum Pontificum as it will be lived in the forseeable future. However, that the two forms should move closer to each other does seem to be in the intention of Summorum Pontificum.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Universae Ecclesiae and mutual enrichment

I promised more, so here it is.

First of all a bit more mischief tucked away in Universae Ecclesiae. The first of the aims of the provisions of Summorum Pontificum cited in n.8 of the Instruction is:

a.) offering to all the faithful the Roman Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, considered as a precious treasure to be preserved
A "parallel passage" to this cannot be found in Summorum Pontificum. It is true that the provisions of Summorum Pontificum intend that all the faithful who wish it can participate more easily in celebrations in the extraordinary form (and, of course, we should read the Instruction about implementing the Motu Proprio in the light of the Motu Proprio itself and not in isolation from it). The preamble and article 1 of Summorum Pontificum make this clear:
But in some regions, no small numbers of faithful adhered and continue to adhere with great love and affection to the earlier liturgical forms. These had so deeply marked their culture and their spirit that in 1984 the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, moved by a concern for the pastoral care of these faithful, with the special indult "Quattuor Abhinc Anno," issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship, granted permission to use the Roman Missal published by Blessed John XXIII in the year 1962. Later, in the year 1988, John Paul II with the apostolic letter given as "motu proprio, "Ecclesia Dei," exhorted bishops to make generous use of this power in favor of all the faithful who so desired.

Following the insistent prayers of these faithful, long deliberated upon by our predecessor John Paul II, and after having listened to the views of the cardinal fathers of the consistory of 22 March 2006, having reflected deeply upon all aspects of the question, invoked the Holy Spirit and trusting in the help of God, with these apostolic letters we establish the following:

Art 1. .... It is, therefore, permissible to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass following the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated, as an extraordinary form of the liturgy of the Church.
We also need to bear in mind the agenda of "mutual enrichment" referred to by Pope Benedict in his letter that accompanied Summorum Pontificum:
For that matter, the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching: new Saints and some of the new Prefaces can and should be inserted in the old Missal. The "Ecclesia Dei" Commission, in contact with various bodies devoted to the "usus antiquior," will study the practical possibilities in this regard. The celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage.
I think there are three things to be said about the provision of n.8 (a) of Universae Ecclesiae. If it is read in the context of Summorum Pontificum, it does not mean, as some might wish, that the extraordinary form should be celebrated in every parish every Sunday. It does mean that those who have an attachment to the extraordinary form should have a kind of "natural right" to participate in  celebrations of that form rather than needing a "special permission", and that appropriate logistics are in place to enable this. The phrase "all the faithful" should be read, when responding to this question about the frequency of celebrations, with reference to those who are attached to the extraordinary form.

However, I do think the more ready celebration of the extraordinary form is offered to "all the faithful" - by which I mean now those who do not have an attachment to the extraordinary form. This offer is mediated through the idea of "mutual enrichment". Once it is recognised that there is no contradiction between the ordinary and extraordinary forms, then it should be possible to see in the ordinary form those elements of the "precious treasure" that come to greater visibility because of their now being seen in a relation to the extraordinary form.

One of the least commented upon points of Universae Ecclesiae is n.25:

25. New saints and certain of the new prefaces can and ought to be inserted into the 1962 Missal, according to provisions which will be indicated subsequently.
There is clear indication here that the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" are working on the "mutual enrichment" from the aspect of its significance for the celebration of the extraordinary form. What I would hope is that, as they undertake the two specific tasks referred to in n.25, they will also look at the question of unifying the calendars of the two forms. This would make it much easier for those who look to enrich the celebration of the ordinary form from that of the extraordinary form, as well as better serving the intention of unity in the Church that is another of the intentions of Summorum Pontificum.

However, perhaps the underlying difficulty is that the Commission "Ecclesia Dei" do not appear to have the (mutual) enrichment of the ordinary form within their brief, though Summorum Pontificum suggested that they had an overview of its provisions that might have included this. There seems to be no clear allocation of this responsibility within the dicasteries of the Holy See. It could, of course, be undertaken at the level of the local Church. Unless it is undertaken, a key aspect of the "offering to all the faithful" of the extraordinary form will not be achieved.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Mischief in Universae Ecclesiae?

Does the introduction (nn.1-8) of Universae Ecclesiae represent any changes from Summorum Pontificum? The question is of significance if Universae Ecclesiae is seen as in some way a teaching document about the merit/standing of the extraordinary and ordinary forms. It is of rather less significance if Universae Ecclesiae is seen more strictly as a legislative document.
Now, so far as I have been able to tell, there is nothing in those first paragraphs of Universae Ecclesiae that is not already in Summorum Pontificum. In fact, one can take most of those first paragraphs, turn to Summorum Pontificum, and look to find where they are in "the original". It is really a summary of the provisions, or the underlying principles of the provisions, of Summorum Pontificum.

So, for example, this from Universae Ecclesiae
6. The Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI and the last edition prepared under Pope John XXIII, are two forms of the Roman Liturgy, defined respectively as ordinaria and extraordinaria: they are two usages of the one Roman Rite, one alongside the other. Both are the expression of the same lex orandi of the Church. On account of its venerable and ancient use, the forma extraordinaria is to be maintained with appropriate honor.
could, if one were publishing a concordance of such things, be placed alongside this from Summorum Pontificum:
Art 1. The Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI is the ordinary expression of the "Lex orandi" (Law of prayer) of the Catholic Church of the Latin rite. Nonetheless, the Roman Missal promulgated by St. Pius V and reissued by Blessed John XXIII is to be considered as an extraordinary expression of that same "Lex orandi," and must be given due honor for its venerable and ancient usage. These two expressions of the Church's "Lex orandi" will in no any way lead to a division in the Church's "Lex credendi" (Law of belief). They are, in fact two usages of the one Roman rite. It is, therefore, permissible to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass following the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated, as an extraordinary form of the liturgy of the Church.
If we also recall that, in his letter accompanying Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict wrote:
..., it is clearly seen that the new Missal will certainly remain the ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, not only on account of the juridical norms, but also because of the actual situation of the communities of the faithful....The celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage. The most sure guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives.
we can begin to see what I might call an element of mischief. If one reads the Instruction without reading the Motu Proprio (and, after all, the Instruction is about the implementation of the Motu Proprio, so one should really read the Motu Proprio with the Instruction) one can gain a rather different sense of the intended "balance" between the two forms of the Roman Rite. One could take away from the Instruction a sense of "equivalence" between the ordinary and extraordinary forms - prompted by the absence of the assertion of the ordinary form as being the ordinary form in a real sense as well as a juridical sense and the insertion (compared to Summorum Pontificum) of the phrase "one alongside the other". I do not think that such an "equivalence" is intended or expressed in the provisions of Summorum Pontificum.

As someone who does not have an attachment to the extraordinary form, and who sees the value to the vast majority of Roman Catholics of Summorum Pontificum and its more generous provision for celebration of the extraordinary form in the mutual enrichment of the ordinary form resulting from that more ready celebration of the extraordinary form, I do not find this element of mischief helpful. We have a stake in the project of Summorum Pontificum, just as much as do those attached to the extraordinary form, though that stake is of a different nature. [And before anyone complains about my use of the word mischief, do read it within the genre in which it is written and remember that, if you are complaining about my use of the word here, it's quite likely that you wouldn't complain about it if I were referring instead to the work of the post-conciliar Consilium or of ICEL in its pre-new-translation incarnation.] 

Oh dear, I am off message again ... More to follow.

UPDATE: The effect of this mischief is exemplified in this extract from Fr Zuhlsdorf, where the influence of the insertion "one alongside the other" and the omission of the recognition of the Missal of Paul VI as the ordinary form in reality as well as juridical nature is quite apparent. What it says is both perfectly correct and perfectly incorrect (though both in different senses).
The Instruction could have said that the Extraordinary Form is not to be used as often as the Ordinary Form. It doesn’t. It says that the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms are “one alongside the other” and that the Extraordinary Form is to be maintained with “appropriate honor”.

Mind sets

Two points in preparation for further comment on Universae Ecclesiae.

In the discussions of a "guild" of Catholic bloggers, there seems to have been an anxiety that everything should be loyal to the magisterium. This for example is part of a post at A Reluctant Sinner on this subject (my emphasis added):
Of course, such a blog / group would need to be committed and faithful to the magisterium, and would strive to be a positive and charitable space. It would not engage in controversy, but would seek to defend the Church and witness to the joys of our Catholic faith. But individual members and bloggers would, of course, still be able to post controversial and / or independent opinions on their own blogs.
This appears to me (from the outside) to be an "anxiety" of those concerned, rather than just something that is lived in a natural way in the Christian life. I don't happen to share this "anxiety" as an anxiety, and am rather put off by it.

In discussions of Summorum Pontificum, before the publication of Universae Ecclesiae, there has been comment from those attached to the Extraordinary Form about the "wishes of the Holy Father". This sometimes takes the line that, with Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI wanted to see the Extraordinary Form celebrated in every parish (my own view to the contrary can be discerned in this post). Herewith one example:
Three years on and the availability of the Latin Mass across Wales is pitiful! As I understand it the same picture is true in most dioceses, with some better than others - but nowehere coming closed to "every parish" especially for Sunday Mass.

Why are the Pope's wishes being ignored? Why is this wonderful Liturgical treasury of Heaven's Graces being denied to the Faithful? Why are the Faithful being treated like obstinate children when many of us simply want to do what the Holy Father wants, for the benefit of the Church, the faithful, our priests and our parishes?
The claim by those attached to the Extraordinary Form to have some kind of unique "ownership" of the wishes of the Holy Father with regard to the liturgy has two aspects that I find off putting. Again, there appears to be an "anxiety" about the universal jurisdiction of the Holy See with regard to the life of the Church, rather than just a natural experiencing of that jurisdiction in the life of the local Church. In a previous era and historical context this kind of attitude might have attracted the label "ultramontanism" but there is only one element of such a label that would be appropriate here, the element of playing off the jurisdiction of the local Bishop against that of the Holy See. The second aspect is the rather simple one that what is claimed as being the "wishes of the Holy Father" is not actually the wishes of the Holy Father and that there is in any case a certain selectivity in what is being discerned as the wishes of the Holy Father and what is not being so discerned.

After the publication of Summorum Pontificum I attempted on this blog to define what the term "traditional Catholicism" meant since my view is that, after Summorum Pontificum, traditional Catholicism can no longer be defined on the basis of attachment to the Extraordinary Form. I am not sure that I was able to come to a clear conclusion. Is traditional Catholicism now, not as a matter of definition or charism but as a matter of phenomenology, to be discerned by the above "anxieties" or "mind sets"?

Real Life

I have copied this from Tigerish Waters because it was posted there in such a way that it was not possible to link to it as an individual post. Tigerish Waters is one of the more thoughtful blogs on the block. Her husband was taken ill suddenly during the Easter triduum.

It has taken me a while to get here, but I now have to report the news to you that my husband, Paul died at 9.20 pm on Tuesday 10th May. I humbly ask now that you pray for the repose of his soul.

It was a good death. It was a beautiful death. I wake up every morning and cry because I cannot believe I was able to participate in such an outpouring of grace. Perhaps one day I'll write in more detail, but not now.

Actually, I implore you too to pray for a happy death as he did every night. It is such an important thing to do.

If I could, on my own testimony, raise Bl John Henry and my dear Bl Elizabeth of the Trinity to be amongst the canonised saints, I'd do so now. They have worked miracles for us in the last few weeks.

I also give thanks to God for your wonderful prayers and support. This is the real power of blogging, and never let us forget that.


Well my dear St Rita, I'm a widow now like you, what ever next .....?
Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord, and perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace and rise again in glory.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Become one Body one Spirit in Christ: Behold the Lamb of God

It is a little while since I posted anything from the DVD resource Become One Body One Spirit in Christ, the resource prepared to support the introduction of the new English translation of the Roman Missal.

If you follow the path Receiving this English translation to Changes to the Roman Missal Text and then to the section on the Rite of Communion, you will find the part of the resource that treats of the invitation to the people to come to Communion.

The currently used text reads:
This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.
The revised translation coming into use in Autumn 2011 reads:
Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.
This is not by any means the only example, but it is a very good example of two things about the new translations. The first thing is what one might call a "spirit of faithfulness" to the Liturgical text as it is received in the original Latin, rather than a sense that it has been re-written from the original. This is reflected in both the closeness of the translation to the original text, and in the way in which the rhythm/structure of the original is reproduced. The second thing is the way in which the new translation makes transparent the Scriptural reference contained in the text. As the DVD resource points out, the first sentence is taken from the encounter of John the Baptist who points out Jesus as the Lamb of God (Jn 1:29) and the second from the account of the marriage feast of the Lamb in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 19:9).

Each of these Scriptural references allows the faithful to "enter into" the moment in which they are called to receive Holy Communion (or to make a spiritual communion if they are not able to recieve sacramentally). The first invites us to look on the Sacred Host as Jesus, in just the same way that John the Baptist invites us to look upon Jesus in the biblical text. It also highlights for us the salvific significance of receiving the Eucharist, which receiving washes away our sins (this being the sign value of Holy Communion received under both kinds). The second invites us to see the moment of Holy Communion as being a moment when we are taken into that communion and feast of the Lamb that, represented in the celebration here on earth, takes place in heaven. The commentary on the DVD suggests that it should also make us reflect on the possibility that not all are called to take part in the supper of the Lamb. This can be seen as a "negative" - there are some who will not be called to the supper of the Lamb - or it can be seen as a "positive". As a "positive", it leads us to reflect on the notion of "election", of our being chosen by the Father in the Son, a choosing which has its ecclesial component and its individual component. A passage from Francois Mauriac which appeared in Magnificat as the "Meditation of the Day" for 13th May 2011, reflecting on the Gospel reading from John 6:52-59, captures something of this:
[There is a] mysterious mingling of conflicting feelings in the man who is about to receive Holy Communion: fear and confidence, open-heartedness and remorse, shame and love. The small Host which the sinner approaches throws an impartial and terrible light on irretrievable deeds: on that which he has done, on that which he should not have refrained from doing. No man knows himself if he has not looked at his soul in the light of the Host lifted above the ciborium ..
For the life of me, I cannot see any difficulty that the lay faithful will have in using the new translation (apart from the inevitable hiccups that will occur as they get used to the change). The line of catechesis indicated above is quite accessible and communicable - what is the purpose of the homily, after all - to the faithful.

But it will all go pear shaped, and its richness be undermined, if the priest in the parish feels able to continue his ad-libbed insertions, changes etc. The spirit of faithfulness intrinsic to the text itself will need to be put into practice, and the celebrating priest has a particular responsibility in this regard!

Linked from the BBC Chris Evans show

For the first time in quite a long time I have just explored the Sitemeter statistics for Catholic Commentary. I am not important enough to be one of the blogs that the Vatican spokesman, Fr Lomabardi, reads each morning since there are no .va referrals.

There were some referrals from the BBC, though:

Try the link in the Buzz About This Programme box at the right hand side of the page to: God is always faithful to his promises. I don't know how long it will be there...

Blessed Titus Brandsma

I did read quite a section of my book about Blessed Titus Brandsma. I got as far as his arrest, which means I have covered the part of his life that might reveal a charism appropriate to bloggers. The book involved - by Constant Dolle Encountering God in the Abyss: Titus Brandsma's Spiritual Journey - presents a problem in that it includes a fair amount of interpretation by the author. The reader is therefore a little wary of it, but it is nevertheless a useful read. Another problem that I have encountered is the lack of availability in English of much of Blessed Titus' writings.

But here goes, in an attempt to summarise the elements of Blessed Titus' active apostolate.

He was a man of tremendous energy, being very active in all sorts of different apostolates, taking on many different things at one and the same time. He also always had time for people who came to him, finding time in a busy schedule to spend time with them - a warm and welcoming person whatever the circumstances.

Blessed Titus came from a region of northern Holland called Friesland, and took a great interest in the culture of that region. So a number of his activities were related to the promotion and study of Friesian culture, and the development of a Catholic contribution to that culture. It would perhaps now be quite interesting for us in the United Kingdom to see a priest or religious so engaged with English culture - folk music, say, or Morris Dancing. Blessed Titus' activities in this context came towards the end of a period of Catholic revival in the Netherlands, with the Church gaining in cultural and social influence.

Blessed Titus Brandsma was an academic, teaching at the newly founded Catholic University of Nijmegen. There his subject areas were philosophy (about 75% of his lectures) and the history of mysticism, particularly in the Low Countries. He had a particular interest in John Ruusbroec and the tradition of the Devotio Moderna - which gives a certain priority to unity (over truth) in its understanding of the spiritual life. I think this interest can be seen as part of Blessed Titus' charism, and it is worthy of note that the Titus Brandsma Institute at the "Catholic based" Radboud university in Nijmegen today is dedicated to the study of the phenomenon of spirituality.

There are perhaps two key texts from Titus Brandsma's academic career. The first is his lecture on  "The Idea of God". This was given as his inaugural lecture as the Rector of the University in 1932. The text is not, so far as I can find, available in English translation. Its starting point is Blessed Titus' concern that, despite progress in the society of his time, more and more people seemed to be turning away from a lived belief in God. For Blessed Titus', this was not just a question of intellectual belief, but one of a lived experience of belief in God. For Blessed Titus, this denial of God was "the greatest of human afflictions". The lecture goes on to describe the experience of God and its interpretation through history (I am reliant on Constant Dolle here). According to Dolle's account:
(Titus Brandsma) concludes that in our view of God we are bound to the currents of our day, especially the philosophical currents. The idea of God is not immutable like a rock but manifests itself in our lives in ever-shifting images which do not mean an essential change but place our idea of God in a different light. Titus calls for greater openess to this variability of the idea of God. We must seek the Eternal One in time, which moves forward with much inconstancy...
The second key text is a series of considerations of the spiritual history of the Carmelite Order. These can be found in the form of a .txt file in EWTN's document library, and comprise lectures given in America in 1935.

Blessed Titus Brandsma also gave lectures that highlighted the dangers of the emerging Nazi ideology in Germany, and argued strongly against it.

Amongst other tasks that Blessed Titus Brandsma took on were two that would land him in trouble with the Nazi authorities who occupied the Netherlands. He was the chair of the association of Catholic high schools and gymnasia in the Netherlands from its foundation in 1923 until his death, having already taken an interest in promoting Catholic education. Throughout his time at the University of Nijmegen, he was also an examiner for secondary schools. Blessed Titus' opposed attempts by the occupying authorities to prevent Jewish children from attending Catholic schools. He did this in correspondence with the authorities and by encouraging schools to exploit to the maximum (and beyond) concessions that he gained. In the end, Catholic schools continued to teach Jewish children even when forbidden by the authorities to do so. It is interesting in the light of Pope Benedict XVI's repeated assertion of the place for God in human life to read about a speech of Blessed Titus that makes much the same point with regard to the central place that should be given to God in the educational enterprise. This speech, given in April 1939 and not, so far as I can tell, available in English translation is perhaps a third key text for understanding Blessed Titus' charism.

Blessed Titus Brandsma also had a vocation as a writer for Catholic newspapers and magazines, which were flourishing in the Netherlands as a result of the Catholic revival taking place there. Though I have not been able to find any of these writings available in English, they would appear to have spread across the whole range of his academic and pastoral interests. I am under the impression that it would be more accurate to see Blessed Titus as having been a writer rather than a journalist. In 1935 Blessed Titus was appointed as ecclesiastical assistant (ie chaplain) to the Roman Catholic Association of Journalists. In this role, he implemented a decision by the Archbishop of Utrecht to refuse the placing of pro-Nazi advertising in Catholic newspapers. Blessed Titus wrote to the boards and editors of these newspapers, and then set out in January 1942 to visit each of them to gain a written agreement that they would not accept these advertisements. It was as a result of this activity that he was arrested by the Germans.

At the end of my previous post, I suggested that I felt it would be disappointing for a charism associated with Blessed Titus Brandsma's name to be limited to blogging. In the light of the above, I would feel that his charism is so wide ranging that to associate his name with just one aspect of it is to do him a disservice.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Extra-judicial execution

President Obama says of the death of Osama bin Laden: "Justice has been done". Much comment refers to the death of Osama bin Laden as being justice achieved on behalf of those who died in the attacks on America on 11th September 2001, and in other terrorist attacks inspired by Al Quaeda.

The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is reported as having a "very uncomfortable feeling":
Dr Williams, asked about the death during a press briefing on Thursday, said: "I think the killing of an unarmed man is always going to leave a very uncomfortable feeling because it doesn't look as if justice is seen to be done.

"In those circumstances I think it's also true that the different versions of events that have emerged in recent days have not done a great deal to help.

"I don't know the full details any more than anyone else does. But I do believe that in such circumstances when we are faced with someone who was manifestly a war criminal in terms of the atrocities inflicted it is important that justice is seen to be served."
One might be very dissimulating and try to distinguish between the process leading to Osama bin Laden's death and the outcome, and suggest that the descriptor "justice" applies primarily to the outcome and that the process is of no significance. I really don't think that wears at all. Compare it to the following two rights contained in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
6. Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

10. Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
It is difficult to see the death of Osama bin Laden as it can be understood from news reports as being anything other than an execution.

It is difficult to see the processes leading up to the death of Osama bin Laden as involving a judicial process of any description at all.

Which makes it an extra-judicial execution. Whatever one's view of the evil perpetrated by the man and by those under his leadership, and whatever one might want to make of the outcome as being in itself "justice".

To use the form of words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, justice is something that needs to be seen as being done as well as being done.

According to the BBC news report cited above:
A spokesman for Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, said the Church would not be commenting on Bin Laden's death.
Protect the Pope reports on other relevant reaction that suggests that Christians have a duty of prayer for the souls of Osama bin Laden and of all of his victims. 

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

AVs and AV nots

Like Fr Lucie-Smith I do believe that Christians have a duty to vote. I am not sure I buy his line that I should trust him because he is "a doctor - of moral theology", but it is perhaps right for pastors to remind their flocks of their duty to vote.

Sometimes, as in the case of the referendum on the alternative vote, it is not at all obvious that there is one "right" way to vote and a "wrong" way to vote. The decision about which way to vote is then more a question of prudential judgement rather than of immediately moral judgement. We do nevertheless have a duty, to the best of our ability and making use of the forms of social communication, to inform ourselves about the question and come to a prudential judgement. And then to go out and vote.

Thinking Faith has an article which looks at this in more detail.
This would seem to rule out the idea of our finding a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question in hand, but we should not lose all hope of finding guidance, because the preceding paragraph states:

"The Church values the democratic system inasmuch as it ensures the participation of citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the governed the possibility both of electing and holding accountable those who govern them, and of replacing them through peaceful means when appropriate. Thus she cannot encourage the formation of narrow ruling groups which usurp the power of the State for individual interests or for ideological ends. (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus n.46)"

That one paragraph offers us, at least, some principles – some criteria which we might apply when considering the merits of different voting systems. Two of the principles are stated quite explicitly here: participation and accountability. A third is suggested by those final words about the undesirability of narrow ruling groups usurping power for their own interests – the principle of the common good, which is found throughout Catholic social teaching....
And their conlusion:
All in all, these considerations do not lead us to a very emphatic conclusion on the question of whether the Church’s teaching would encourage us to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the introduction of the Alternative Vote. The Church’s teaching has given us clear criteria to judge by – the difficulty is that the evidence about how well AV might meet those criteria is extraordinarily mixed.
I expect that, if the referendum approves a change to the alternative vote system for parliamentary elections, the impact will be very different in different places. In "safe seats" used to having a large majority for one of the major parties it will probably not make much difference to the final outcome. In "marginals", where majorities are small and the seat changes hands from time to time, the impact of the alternative vote system might well lead to a different outcome. There is a potential for inappropriate minority parties to gain an undue influence. This differentiation of impact is of the nature of much legislation.

My own sense is that the introduction of an alternative vote system will, in general, make those standing for election more sensitive to wishes outside of the mainstream of political stances. In marginals this will be more acute than in safe seats, but I suspect it will still occur in safe seats. [In Barking and Dagenham, those council wards in which the BNP have done well, even at one point to the extent of having councillors elected, have not shown the BNP gaining anywhere near an overall majority; so I am not convinced that such parties would gain from an alternative vote (indeed the BNP stance is to oppose AV).] This gives Christians a greater opportunity to influence for the good in the political sphere - and, of course, a consequently greater duty to go out and vote in order to exercise that influence.

And, besides, if Mr Cameron is against it it must be a good idea (oops, political bias showing).

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Thoughts on blogging

In the light of the recent meeting of bloggers under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, here are two contributions about the nature of blogging that have caught my eye in recent days.

One and Two.

Some of my previous posts that are relevant to the theme: When priests blog ... and Dialogue for Unity in the Church.

Monday, 2 May 2011

The meaning of marriage

Bridges and Tangents has a useful post on the marriage of the Prince William and Kate Middleton. The reflection on the nature of marriage as an institution contained in this post is of particular interest.
Thank goodness William and Kate chose not to invent their own wedding service. There is so much suspicion today of ‘institutions’, but on Friday you saw what it meant for a couple to enter ‘the institution of marriage’. It means they are taking on something far bigger and more beautiful than they could ever have invented for themselves – no matter how many books of poetry they might have plundered, or how many hours they could have put into phrasing their own heartfelt sentiments for each other and hopes for their future.
I was interested to learn of the origin of the wording of the marriage service in the Book of Common Prayer. Bridges and Tangents' post is matched by Archbishop Nichol's comments. Speaking the day before the beatification of Pope John Paul II, he said:

“Tomorrow, in a way, is a celebration of the same love that William and Catherine promised to each other – yesterday in marriage, today in service of priest, bishop and Pope – but it’s the same well-spring of love that comes from God that we see on both days.”

Christians should not rejoice at death of Osama bin Laden, says Vatican spokesman

“Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of each and every one of us before God and before man, and hopes and commits himself so that no event be an opportunity for further growth of hatred, but for peace.”
I am personally horrified by the scenes of rejoicing that are emerging in the news media after the death of Osama bin Laden. I hope that the leaders of the nations involved will in due course distance themselves from those scenes, which, it appears to me, can only do untold harm.

H/T Catholic Herald

Two views

When the Duccess of Cambridge came out on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to greet the people, her "Wow" as she caught sight of the numbers was quite easy to read on her lips. Estimates put the number of people present to greet her and the Duke of Cambridge at about 1 million. This image, taken during the fly past, gives an idea of the sheer size of the crowd.

On Sunday morning I couldn't avoid comparing that scene to the view across St Peter's Square and on down the Via della Conciliazione in the moments after Pope Benedict had declared John Paul II to be blessed. Again, the estimates put the number of people present at about 1 million, and the see of waving banners immediately after the rite of beatification was very moving. I think the image below was taken later, after the crowd had been asked, in the interests of a more prayerful participation in the liturgy, to cease waving banners and applauding.

Given the debate about the reasons for John Paul II's beatification, I was very interested to see what Pope Benedict said in his homily. He recognised Pope John Paul's Marian charism, referring explicitly to the inspiration of St Louis Marie de Montfort for his predecessor; he recognised Pope John Paul's experience and dedication to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which he saw as a great grace for the Church; he recognised his commitment to what we might now term the "new evangelisation" summarised in John Paul II's call "Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors to Christ"; he recognised John Paul II's commitment to the human person, observing that "man is the way of the Church, and Christ is the way of man"; he identified, in John Paul II's leading of the Church to the celebration of the Jubilee of the Year 2000 a restoration to Christianity of its identity as a source of hope; and, in his personal testimony, he witnessed to John Paul II's spritual depth and quality of insight, that supported his own work as Prefect of the Congregation for Doctrine.

It is possible to see themes that interleave through the more specific points made by Pope Benedict XVI: the valuing of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, perhaps particularly the implications of the insertion of the teaching on the Virgin Mary as part of the Constitution on the Church and its teaching about the dignity of the human person; Pope John Paul II's recognition of the value of the human person in a Christian anthropology placed between the contrary ideologies of Marxism and an ideology of progress characteristic of the non-Communist world; a Christocentric approach in which the person of Christ is placed at the centre of all things.
To put it even more succinctly: he gave us the strength to believe in Christ, because Christ is Redemptor hominis, the Redeemer of man. This was the theme of his first encyclical, and the thread which runs though all the others.
The one view leads one to reflect on what it means to belong to the nation of Great Britain. The other leads one to reflect on what it means to belong to the Catholic Church.