Thursday, 30 October 2014

EF Masses in Lancaster Diocese: November


Shrine Church of St Walburge, Preston 
Mondays – Fridays: 12 noon, Low Mass 
Saturdays: 10.30 am, Low Mass 
Sundays: 10.30 am, Sung Mass

St Mary Magdalene, Leyland Road, Penwortham
Sundays: 8.30 am

St Catherine Labouré, Stanifield Lane, Leyland 
Sundays: 11.30 am

Sunday 2 November, 6.00 pm: Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost 
Our Lady & St Joseph, Carlisle

Friday 7 November, 7.00 pm: Requiem Mass for those buried in the churchyard
Our Lady & St Wilfrid, Warwick Bridge, Carlisle

Sunday 9 November, 6.00 pm: Requiem Mass for Remembrance Sunday 
Our Lady & St Joseph, Carlisle

Sunday 16 November, 3.00 pm: Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost 
St Peter's Cathedral, Lancaster

Sunday 16 November, 6.00 pm:  Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost 
Our Lady & St Joseph, Carlisle

Sunday 30 November: 6.00 pm: First Sunday of Advent
Our Lady & St Joseph, Carlisle


Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Evil that Is Brook

I could scarcely credit it.  Brook run training courses, to instruct teachers and others that:
  • solitary masturbation
  • sexually explicit conversations with peers
  • obscenities and jokes within the current cultural norm
  • interest in erotica/pornography
  • use of internet/e-media to chat online
  • having sexual or non-sexual relationships
  • sexual activity including hugging, kissing, holding hands
  • consenting oral and/or penetrative sex with others of the same or opposite gender who are of similar age and developmental ability
  • choosing not to be sexually active
 all 'reflect safe and healthy sexual development. They are:
  • displayed between children or young people of similar age or developmental ability;
  • reflective of natural curiosity, experimentation, consensual activities and positive choices.' (source)
From a Catholic point of view, of course, there are problems with many of these. But even leaving to one side a morality informed by Faith, or by the whole of Western Civilisation for centuries, there are severe problems.

There seems to be a strong consensus in the academic literature that early sexual activity is harmful, physically, emotionally and psychologically. Brook, in pursuing its ideology of 'consent is the only morality,' completely ignores that. It is children (and they are explicit about that - children as young as 13!) we are talking about. So it is children who will pay the price: physically, emotionally and psychologically.

This is evil.

Consent as the only moral criterion doesn't work, even in purely secular terms. Increasingly, reality -the dreadful reality that provokes Serious Case Reviews - has displayed the links between consensual underage sexual behaviour and child sex exploitation/abuse.  For example the 2013 Torbay Serious Case Review states in section 5.12:

Underage sexual activity by young people between thirteen and sixteen years old is judged on the perception that if it takes place with partners of a similar age, it is by mutual consent. This perception has to be reconsidered in light of the growing evidence in this case that the abusers were not much older than the girls and also that the girls, who often did not consider that they were being abused, lied about the age of their partners as they were aware of the potential professional response.”


The Torbay Review also recommends that:
 “There appears to be a need to review current national guidelines to examine if they are sufficiently robust to account fully for the growing evidence around sexual activity and its links to sexual exploitation.”  
But Brook pays no heed to any of this, apparently. Indeed, their guidelines suggest that all of these:
  • solitary masturbation
  • sexually explicit conversations with peers
  • obscenities and jokes within the current cultural norm
  • interest in erotica/pornography
  • use of internet/e-media to chat online
  • having sexual or non-sexual relationships
  • sexual activity including hugging, kissing, holding hands
  • consenting oral and/or penetrative sex with others of the same or opposite gender who are of similar age and developmental ability
  • choosing not to be sexually active
'provide opportunities to give positive feedback and additional information.'

I should not, I suppose, be surprised. But note that it is Brook and their ideological allies who are among the key experts consulted by government in formulating policy - not least with regard to Sex Education.

In fact, in front of the Select Committee, Simon Blake CE of Brook, when facing the evidence, that the best quality of research on this topic (including randomised control trials), published in the prestigious BMJ, shows some programmes have adverse consequences, suggests that his intuition is more important than the research data. (see here for the Select Committee hearing. The remarks I refer to are c. 9.41).

There's also something else: the shamelessness of Brook in suggesting that such intimate things should be 'opportunities for positive feedback.' Just think what that means in practice. 'Oh James, I hear that you were reading pornography at break. Well done! And Maciej and Sundeep: I gather you had protected oral and penetrative sex in a very consensual way! Congratulations, keep it up. Freddy, it's wonderful that you masturbate alone in the toilets at lunch time!' And if not that, what? 

If you think that 13 year old children should not be given 'positive feedback' about 'consenting oral and/or penetrative sex with others of the same or opposite gender who are of similar age and developmental ability' by teachers, social workers or indeed anyone else, make your voice heard.

Write to your MP, letting him or her know about this. Write to your schools, expressing your concern and asking about their programmes, and specifically whether the Brook Traffic Light approach to safeguarding is used. If your children are in a Catholic school, don't assume it is any better. Write to your bishop and the CES and ask for concrete assurances.

Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genetrix.
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias in necessitatibus nostris,
sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Freedom to do or freedom to be?

I can't even remember what sparked this post, but something prompted me to reflect on the very different meanings we can attribute to the notion of freedom.

In contemporary society, people typically think of freedom as meaning the freedom to do something (or even, the freedom to do anything).

The Church, however, has a wholly different notion of freedom: the freedom to become something. And that 'something' is what we are called to be: saints.

The first freedom, the freedom to do whatever we please, leads ultimately to hedonism, sin and misery. Pursuing it results in the restlessness which our hearts experience, the existential angst of the modern age.

The second freedom, the freedom to 'become what we are' leads to ultimate fulfilment (albeit by way of the Cross).

That is one of the reasons that the Church is a sign of contradiction; it is also one of the reasons that we all (and particularly Cardinals and Bishops...) need to maintain a critical distance from the freedoms the world and the worldly clamour for, and not get swept away by them.

Finally, the difference is freedom from any restraint, versus freedom from sin. The second is the primary concern of Christians.

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Postbag

Cardinals are, after all, very busy people. Moreover, sometimes the memory fails a bit. So it is not surprising that not every letter is answered.

Nonetheless, I thought it might be interesting to see the incoming postbag, even though none of these letters have yet been answered.

***

Dear Cardinal

Why was Kieran Conry elevated to the episcopate when everyone knew?

Yours sincerely, 

Worried, of Arundel and Brighton

***

Dear Cardinal

I am so pleased that I can now divorce my wife and shack up with my secretary, and know that within the year I will be OK with the Church again.

Thank you so much,

Amoroso, of Westminster

***

Dear Cardinal

My dad has just left my mum for another man. When she asked him what the hell he thought the future held for them, he answered 'Who knows what's down the road?' 

She blames you.

Can you explain?

With love,

Distressed, of Hemel Hempstead


***

Dear Cardinal

I was considering a career in the priesthood, but was reluctant to commit as I also quite like the ladies. Do I gather that is not an impediment and that I will still be able to claim to have done a good job if ever I am found out by the press, without fear of your contradicting that?

Yours,

Ambitious, of Coventry


***

Dear Cardinal,

I want to send my son to Cardinal Vaughan School, but now it's like playing the Lottery!

Thanks for not very much.

A Practicing Catholic Parent, Acton


***

Dear Cardinal

Thank you for your solicitous care for the LGBT? Community. Queering the Church is such an important mission, so we are grateful to you for your support, in face of all the oppression of those who would demonise us.

Love and kisses,

XXXX

***

Dear Cardinal

I was going to write to ask your advice on amnesia, but I can't remember why.

Forgetfully,

Can't remember my name? Nor where I live nor how I voted nor when I knew.

***

Dear Cardinal

Since my husband walked out on me, I have struggled to bring up our four kids on my own. I have worked hard to keep an amorous colleague, whom I really like, at a safe distance, as I don't want to risk any occasion of sin, or of scandal to my kids.

It is hard work and I am very lonely. I thought this was the right  thing to do, and I try to offer my sufferings up.

Am I a mug?

Yours,

Solitaria, North Finchley


***

Dear Cardinal

You be good, and we won't tell. Capisce?

(unsigned)

***

Dear Cardinal,

I have struggled with Same Sex Attraction for many years. 

I have not always managed to avoid falling into temptation, but I continue to try, and by frequent use of the Sacrament of Penance, I am gradually mastering my desires.

This has been a long and painful journey, but I have been encouraged by my parish priest, who has been both understanding of my personal struggles, and clear in expounding the teaching of the Church as found in the Catechism.

However, last Saturday, when I went to Confession and told him that I had nothing serious to confess, he was uncharacteristically upset, and suggested I might as well indulge my every desire. 

I was shocked and upset, after all I have been through, and we exchanged heated words. He referred me to you.

Can you explain?

Yours, 

A Struggling Sinner, Soho

***

Dear Cardinal

My partner and I would like to apply for the jobs of Chief Executive and Head of PR at CAFOD.

We are very committed to Justice and Peace, extremely well-networked, and like some aspects of the Catholic Church's approach.  In fact my partner goes to Church when he visits his mum, as she is a practicing Catholic (he hasn't come out to her yet).

I understand that our (what I believe you call) irregular situation, and the fact that we demur from some of the Church's more demanding teachings are no bar to running a large Catholic organisation - as long as we keep the people in the pews in the dark, which I am sure we can manage between us.

And if you can find a bishop to celebrate a service for our anniversary, that would be lovely.

Yours,

Valentine, Eccleston Square

Thursday, 16 October 2014

What's to be done?

I raised the question recently (here, in fact): what are the faithful to do when they no longer trust many of their bishops?

I was thinking of the situation in England and Wales when I wrote that; and I am still thinking of that situation. I don't think we should let the Synod distract us from the +Conry affair and its ramifications.


However, I think the Synod has clearly demonstrated that problems with the episcopacy extend far beyond our home patch, so the question is even more acute.


I still don't know the answer.  I know bits of it: prayer and fasting is always a good starting point, as for any Catholic dilemma. In fact, in cases of difficulty, I always refer back to the first two questions of the Penny Catechism to reorientate myself:


 1: Who made you?

 God made me.

2: Why did God make you?

God made me to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in the next.

So, prayer, fasting and a good sacramental life, overflowing into the spiritual and corporal works of mercy are the sine qua non.


Beyond that, I think we have certain responsibilities: to make known to our pastors our genuine concerns (and yes, I have written to my bishop) and to warn those who may be at risk of dangers: which, I suppose, is the point of blogging about it.


However, the larger question, of what else we should do, and the associated question of how should we do whatever we decide to do, I find difficult to grapple with.


So I turn it about. What does Satan want me to do? If I can discern that, and avoid his temptations - and even do the opposite - that may be a good start.


Satan, it strikes me, would be happy with any of these responses:



  • Despair
  • Hating, denigrating or abusing anyone
  • Colluding with sin, by silence or consent
  • Fostering spiritual pride because I know I am on the right side
  • Focusing on high-level troubles to the detriment of my daily duties to God, family and others
  • Retreating into splendid isolation and ignoring my responsibilities to the Church and others
  • Prompting others to do any of the above
So  putting all that together gives some kind of plan of action, on top of the foundation of prayer and fasting.

Turning once again to the Penny Catechism, I refresh my memory about the Spiritual Works of Mercy:



322. Which are the Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy?
The seven Spiritual Works of Mercy are:
1. To convert the sinner.
2. To instruct the ignorant.
3. To counsel the doubtful.
4. To comfort the sorrowful.
5. To bear wrongs patiently.
6. To forgive injustice.
7. To pray for the living and the dead.
 That is why silence is not an option: we have an obligation to convert the sinner and to instruct the ignorant. In normal times, we may feel that we are members of a Church that is doing that, and as long as we play our role, and bear the silent witness of living a Catholic life (preach at all times, use words when necessary...) that is sufficient.

But these are not normal times: we cannot rely on many in positions of authority in the Church to discharge their obligations. Now may be a time when words are necessary.


So I think that we need to do more. We need to find new and more effective ways to make the truths of the Gospel heard, and in particular those truths which seem out of favour, such as the truth that sin always causes harm, even sin committed in ignorance and (therefore) relative innocence; the truth that the word love does not mean the gratification of physical or emotional desires, and nor is our identity determined by such desires; the truth that the one true Church, uniquely, makes Christ available through the sacraments for those who believe; and the truth that we are all called to repent and believe the Gospel.


But we must do that in ways that are oriented to hope and not to despair; in ways that refrain from hating, denigrating or abusing anyone; with a humble and contrite heart; without neglecting either our immediate or our ecclesial duties; and without tempting or provoking others to sin.


Friday, 10 October 2014

Who took the sin out of the Synod?

Hearing some of the noises emanating from the Synod, I was reminded of when I was first learning my Catechism. 

Back then, we had the wonderful Penny Catechism:



121. What is mortal sin?
Mortal sin is a serious offence against God.
122. Why is it called mortal sin?
It is called mortal sin because it is so serious that it kills the soul and deserves hell.
123. How does mortal sin kill the soul?
Mortal sin kills the soul by depriving it of sanctifying grace, which is the supernatural life of the soul.
124. Is it a great evil to fall into mortal sin?
It is the greatest of all evils to fall into mortal sin.
125. Where will they go who die in mortal sin?
They who die in mortal sin will go to hell for all eternity.
...


271. In order to receive the Blessed Sacrament worthily what is required?
In order to receive the Blessed Sacrament worthily it is required that we be in a state of grace and keep the prescribed fast: water does not break this fast.
272. What is it to be in a state of grace?
To be in a state of grace is to be free from mortal sin, and pleasing to God.
273. Is it a great sin to receive Holy Communion in mortal sin?
It is a great sin to receive Holy Communion in mortal sin: 'because a person who eats and drinks without recognising the Body, is eating and drinking his own condemnation.' (1 Cor. 11:29)
...


286. Are any conditions for forgiveness required on the part of the penitent?
Three conditions for forgiveness are required on the part of the penitent - Contrition, Confession, and Satisfaction.
287. What is Contrition?
Contrition is a heartfelt sorrow for our sins, because by them we have offended so good a God, together with a firm purpose of amendment.
288. What is a firm purpose of amendment?
A firm purpose of amendment is a resolution to avoid, by the grace of God, not only sin, but also the dangerous occasions of sin.
...


328. When are we answerable for the sins of others?
We are answerable for the sins of others whenever we either cause or share in them, through our own fault.
329. In how many ways may we either cause or share the guilt of another's sin?
We may either cause or share the guilt of another's sin in nine ways:
1. By counsel.
2. By command.
3. By consent.
4. By provocation.
5. By praise or flattery.
6. By concealment.
7. By being a partner in the sin.
8. By silence.
9. By defending the ill done.
...


335. How must we hate sin?
We must hate sin above all other evils, so as to be resolved never to commit a wilful sin, for the love or fear of anything whatsoever.
All of which has a superb clarity.

Now, we are being told that that proposals to re-admit those who have pretended another marriage whilst already married are not a change in doctrine, only in practice.


I have been struggling to get my head around this; how could they possibly think that? But I think I may be beginning to understand it.


For, of course, for a sin to be a mortal sin, certain conditions need to be met (grave matter, consent and knowledge, in brief). So perhaps the bishops saying some of the odder things believe that nobody really understands marriage any more, so sins against it (grave though they may be, and consenting too, come to that) are not mortal sins, subjectively; and therefore those committing them should be free to receive Holy Communion.


There is of course, a problem with that, though. I remember, on first learning of the conditions for mortal sin, asking my late mother whether, in that case, it would not be better simply not to teach the Faith, because then nobody would be able to commit a mortal sin.


She set me straight (of course). On the one hand, the moral law is written in our hearts: we know (for example) that breaking our marriage vows is wrong, without the Church having to tell us. There is no ignorance here.


But more importantly, we are under orders from Christ himself to teach the Faith.  That's the trouble: and §328-9 above are very clear that we cannot keep others in ignorance about their sins without incurring the guilt of them ourselves.


And that is the same, rather inconvenient, Christ who foresaw that this would be a difficult area; that our human compassion might tend to over-rule our heart's discernment and incline us to collude with the person who 're-marries;' the Christ who, therefore, taught us very explicitly that such a case was adultery.


Of course we should be merciful: but mercy tends to the good of the other. And the good of the other is not served by lying to them about the sinfulness of their situation, and failing to call them to repentance; still less by encouraging them to eat and drink condemnation to themselves.


This is indeed, as the apostles noticed at the time, a hard teaching. But even the Pope does not have the authority to change it.


The reality is, I think, that those who propose a pastoral solution do not 'hate sin above all other evils,' nor do they remember that even sin committed in ignorance does damage.


And we only have to look at the damage that divorce and 're-marriage' is wreaking on society to realise that, as we should have recognised all along, Christ was right.



Musing on Trust

In my last blog entry, I suggested that the bishops in England and Wales needed to earn our trust again.

I have blogged about trust and the bishops before, here, prompted by my mistrust of CAFOD and my recognition that the problems went higher up the chain.

It seems to me that at the heart of the bishops' role is to lead, teach and support us in the two key areas of faith and morals: that is, what we are to believe and how we are to behave.

The more I reflect on it, the more uneasy I am; for I am increasingly drawn to the conclusion that there are members of the hierarchy who are not to be trusted in these key areas.

With regard to morals, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that a number of our bishops do not believe in the teaching of Humanae Vitae, nor with the teaching on the objective sinfulness of homosexual and extra-marital sexual relations; even the Church's prophetic witness against abortion seems too much for some. (I should, as ever, make it quite clear that there are honourable exceptions to this).  With regard to faith, it is hard to be clear what they believe, and in particular that there is any understanding of the Church as the One True Faith, of Original Sin and Personal Sin, and the importance of the Sacramental life for the salvation of souls.

Consider, for example:
  • The failure to preach about Humanae Vitae, anywhere, ever, by almost anyone;
  • The continued promotion of The Tablet, as though it were a Catholic journal, despite its dissent from Humanae Vitae;
  • The Filochowski/Pendergast scandal, when +Crowley was prepared to celebrate a Mass in honour of the 25 year anniversary of a homosexual relationship - a Mass eventually celebrated by the then-Rector of Ushaw Seminary, and attended by the bishop;
  • The failure of the Conference to back up +Egan’s important statement that politicians who voted against Catholic teaching should repent before presenting themselves for Holy Communion; 
  • The way in which  ++Nichols supports the 'Queering The Church'-led LGBT Masses; and the fact that his only clear statement on the subject was to tell those who questioned this policy to 'hold their tongues;'
  • ++Nichols' saying that talking about sin was a misguided attempt to motivate people;
  • The failure of  CES to hold anything approaching a Catholic line, and the appointment to it of a man who as an MP had voted consistently in ways that are diametrically opposed to Catholic teaching on, for example, abortion, contraception, 'gay' relationships etc.;
  • The Conference’s stance in favour of Civil Partnerships, which, it seems to me, paved the way for the disaster of Same Sex ‘Marriage;’
  • Catholic Marriage Care offering relationship support to homosexual couples;
  • The failure to correct the public statements of people like Professor Beattie, when she opines that Catholics may, in good conscience, ignore the teaching of the Church on matters of sexual morality;
  • The episcopal silence as Cafod has drifted away from Catholic principles (eg redefining abstinence in ways that are far from Catholic, and promoting condoms);
  • Personal conversations I have had with various bishops; for example one bishop (now retired, when I lived in another diocese) who told me that the Catholic Schools couldn’t teach the Faith, because many parents didn’t follow it, and their children might think they were doing something wrong.
  • The hostility shown toward +O'Donoghue for his 'Fit for Mission' project: praised by the Vatican, he was disappointed by the response of his brother bishops;
  • The welcome extended to the dissenting group ACTA and the contrasting hostility displayed to those who seek to defend the traditional Faith;
  • The promotion of educational programmes that are at best deficient and at worst heretical for use in our schools;
  • The silence around the whole +Conry affair;
  • The silence when +Conry was denigrating Confession (and his many other misrepresentations of the Catholic Faith);
  • The fact that +Conry's deliberate failure to teach on sexual morality was not noticed - because he was not the only bishop to be refraining from such teaching;
  • The '+Conry shrug' (exemplified in the link in my last post, but also practiced by ++Nichols when asked whether the Church would eventually bless homosexual unions);
  • The equivocation we hear from so many bishops whenever we might expect a clear explanation of any difficult aspect of the Faith.
Of course, I may be joining the dots in the wrong way when tempted to doubt some of our bishops with regard to their adherence to the Church's teaching; as I noted in my previous post, another explanation could be that some are actually under the power of someone else, who has the dirt on them. 

In either case, I would be dishonest if I did not say that my trust in many of  them is seriously undermined, and I do not believe I am alone in that.

As I suggested in my earlier post on trust, I think that in order for someone to trust someone else, they must believe in his good intentions, his competence to deliver them, and his integrity. When it comes to many of our bishops, somewhere in that mix something is missing.

When seeking to re-build trust, open and honest communication are essential. So I would suggest that the hierarchy needs to be open and honest at this time.

For myself, I would particularly welcome a few assurances:
  • That each member of the hierarchy accepts without reservation the teaching of the Church, especially and explicitly including the teachings on human sexuality and on original and personal sin, the unique role of the Catholic Church as the one true Church, the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and the need for sacramental confession;
  • That each member of the hierarchy swears that he teaches and acts free from any duress or blackmail;
  • That each member of the hierarchy states what he has learned from the +Conry affair, and what he personally will undertake to do to avoid the risk of any recurrence.

That is what I would welcome: however I have no reason to expect it will come to pass.

Which raises the question: what are the faithful to do when they no longer trust many of their bishops?