Saturday, March 31, 2012

Prayer For The Pope

The boys over at Creative Minority Report are featuring the trailer of a new movie about the Papacy - "We Have A Pope".

It's an Italian comedy in which the newly elected pope has a nervous breakdown as soon as he's elected.  The cardinals, in desperation engage the services of a psychoanalyst to see if he can help the new pontiff to embrace his office.

I suppose there will be different responses to this, and as I have not seen the movie I cannot comment one way or the other.  There are reviews which are positive, and others not so.

The basic storyline is very interesting though, and it might actually help us Catholics to appreciate the Pope more.  In the movie Conclave you see the various cardinals praying not to be elected: "Please Lord, not me!"  I'm sure in an actual conclave that actually happens as, I'm sure, the opposite too.  While conclaves are secret, we have all heard stories of newly elected popes expressing fear as the burden of the office is placed in their shoulders: the "Salle di lacrime" , the Room of Tears, is aptly named apparently.

The call of the office of pope is one in which the holder is called to what can be for many, a living martyrdom.  Cardinal Ratzinger, as was, just wanted to retire, and as when Blessed John Paul died he thought the time had come.   It was not to be so; he had to put aside his own desires and step into the shoes of the fisherman.

To see, in this movie, a newly elected pope cowering in fear may not be edifying for the faithful, but it might just give us an insight into what happens in a man's heart when God plucks him out of the comfort of the college of cardinals, to bear the burden of the Church and her universal mission.  

Of course, there is something else which doesn't seem to be present in the movie: the grace and power of the Holy Spirit.  If the man embraces the will of God with humility and putting his trust in God, the Holy Spirit will give him the help he needs to serve as pontiff.  The election is also a call to greater faith and as well as greater love. 

I think we should say a prayer for the Holy Father:
Almighty and Everlasting God, have mercy on Your servant Benedict, our Supreme Pontiff, and direct him, according to Your loving kindness, in the way of eternal salvation, that with Your help he may ever desire that which is pleasing to You and accomplish it with all his strength. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lord Jesus, shelter our Holy Father the Pope under the protection of Your Sacred Heart. Be his light, his strength and his consolation. 
Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for him.
Here's the trailer, see what you think....

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lenten Devotion To Our Lady Restored

As I mentioned in one of my posts yesterday, there are a number of changes to the Holy Week ceremonies in the new translation of the Missal, and today we encounter one of the first: the restoration, in part, of the commemoration of Our Lady of Sorrows, celebrated on the Friday of Passion week (now fifth week of Lent) in the liturgy prior to the changes of Vatican II.  Blessed John Paul II directed that the collect of the commemoration be included as an option in today's Mass.

This is a wonderful restoration, it encourages a more devotional approach to the liturgy and that is not a bad thing.   As we are about to enter Holy Week, there is no better companion than Our Lady who can lead us through the events and help us enter into them in a deeper way.  Meditating on her sorrows, those of a mother and a faithful disciple, we may experience a livelier sorrow ourselves, and that sorrow will help us come closer to the Lord who offered his life for our salvation.

Traditionally today's memorial commemorates Our Lady's compassion, a compassion not only for her suffering Son, but also for us who still labour under the yoke of sin and struggle with the difficulties of life.  As we reflect on that we see what a beautiful commemoration this is and how necessary it is for us in these times, particularly when so many have suffered, even at the hands of representatives of the Church.  Surely the Holy Mother of God holds in her heart all those innocents who, like her Son, have been abused by others.  I hope many priests will use the optional collect and preach on the Compassionate Heart of Mary, the Lady of Sorrows.  Personally I would have like to see a restoration of the full Mass of the commemoration, rather than just an optional collect, a restoration which would also include the Stabat Mater.

Blessed John Paul restored a number of Masses from the Tridentine liturgy.  The Mass of Tears is one (cf Roman Missal, Masses for Various Intentions, 38 B), and the Mass for Chastity is another (cf Roman Missal, Masses for Various Intentions, 39).  Strangely, in a time when purity and chastity were under attack - the 1960's, those reforming the liturgy felt the need to remove a Mass which was badly needed.  Crazy. 

O God, who in this season
give your Church the grace
to imitate devoutly the Blessed Virgin Mary
in contemplating the Passion of Christ,
grant, we pray, through her intercession,
that we may cling more firmly each day
to your Only Begotten Son
and come at last to the fullness of grace.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

New Stocking Rubrics!

With Holy Week coming, it is time for priests to refresh their memories and look again at the various ceremonies and their rubrics.  Given that we will be using the new translation for the first time, it is advisable for all priests to read through the texts and rubrics very carefully because there are changes.

The most obvious concerns Good Friday and the adoration of the Cross (note adoration not veneration).  According to the first form, the cross draped in purple, is processed in silence to the sanctuary, and there unveiled with the threefold "Ecce lignum Crucis".  The second form consists in processing with the already unveiled cross and stopping for the threefold chant.  The cross is not to be unveiled in procession. 

Another change which must be noted: the priest, before he adores the cross, must remove his chasuble and shoes - he approaches the cross in his bare/stocking feet: an act of humility.  That can only be good. 

So, brothers, make sure you don't wear those colourful socks on Good Friday - I would suggest plain, black socks, and make sure there are no holes - nothing worse than a big, ugly toe sticking out for all the parish to see.  I think it goes without saying that fresh, clean socks are a must.  I would also suggest slip-on shoes, you can be sure that laces will become a problem when under pressure.

That said, I wonder how many of my brothers will follow this rubric, or indeed, how many of them will even know about it? And, in protest, will members of the ACP arrive with doc martens laced up to their armpits?

Of Fathers And Mothers

Last night the Holy Father completed another successful apostolic visit, this time to Mexico and Cuba.   I was watching the farewell ceremony last night on EWTN (of course!).   It was spilling rain, so the ceremony took place inside the terminal building.  No matter where he goes, Benedict charms the socks off people - not something he plans to do, they just see him as he is and realise that here we have a good and holy man, his gracious simplicity touches people's hearts. 

This is one of the reasons why he should visit Ireland - actually seeing and meeting Pope Benedict will help undermine the dreadful image the media have created in their hatred of him (I use that word intentionally).  As in every other visit to countries where the Church has been ravaged by child abuse, Benedict would meet victims, usually out of the media spotlight, and listen to their stories.   Not only does this give the Pope a good idea of the problem in a particular local church, but also gives victims an opportunity to be heard by the Pope, and to hear what he has to say.  From previous encounters victims have been touched by such meetings and found great healing. 

As for a Papal visit during the Eucharistic Congress, which is definitely ruled out at this stage, I do not believe it would be a good idea for a number of reasons, hence I did not support any petition or call for the Pope to come.

Watching the farewell ceremony and clips of other ceremonies, I see that the Pope is slowing down - but then you expect that for a man of 85.  He used a walking stick as he boarded the plane in Rome, and this has led to all sorts of speculation, and that one glaring question which excites the hearts of journalists everywhere: "Will he resign?"

I agree with William Oddie of the Catholic Herald - I do not think he will abdicate, I think the existence of two popes will lead to problems, confusion, and perhaps even crisis.   I know we have had popes abdicating in the past - the case of Pope St Celestine V is well known, so too the abdication of Pope Gregory XII as a means of ending the Great Western Schism.  But I think, given that they are exceptions, a pope should remain in office until his death.

Why?  you might ask.  There are a number of reasons, which Oddie mentions in his article, but I also believe the office of pope is different to that of other bishops: it incorporates universal fatherhood (Pope comes from papa (Latin) and pappas (Greek) a child's title for father), and as the father in the Church he embraces a call which is much deeper than a mere ecclesiastical office.   Blessed John Paul II understood that, and so said that there was no room for a pope emeritus, just as none of us will have a father emeritus.  

Perhaps that all too sentimental.  Some may say, well, what will happen, and it may happen given advances in technology, that a pope becomes incapacitated, develops Alzheimer's for example, what do we do then?  That is a difficult question, and as Oddie suggests, we should pray it never happens.  But what if it does?  Well, then there will be a serious problem, because then the pope cannot abdicate - according to canon law if a pope abdicates, it must be done freely - if he has Alzheimer's, he may not have the capacity to fulfill this requirement.  Can he then be deposed?  That will lead to more problems.

Anyway, lest we drive ourselves nuts with all this, perhaps our efforts are best employed praying for our Holy Father that God will give him the strength to fulfill his office and when the time comes, to take him home quickly to the "house of the Father".   In the meantime, we give thanks for the life, example and teaching of the gentle Pontiff, Benedict XVI: for his wise heart, fatherly love and tender concern for the flock that is in his charge.  Say whatever you like about what people perceive to be "mistakes", we should not doubt that he honestly seeks to serve God and his people faithfully even until death, and wants the best for every man and woman on this earth: life with Christ and eternal salvation. 

As for his successor; instead of speculating on who he will be, we leave it in the hands of the Holy Spirit who is already preparing him for his office.  We may just pray for him that the Lord will make his heart big enough to hold within it all the children of God.

I discovered a new Blessed a few days ago - I noticed her beatification last year, but did not research her.  A brief biography appeared in the Magnificat a few days ago: Blessed Maria Serafina of the Sacred Heart.  Dom Mark Kirby, who is staying with me, filled in the details: he was present at her beatification because it took place in his ancestral town in Italy. He has a lovely introduction to her life on his blog

Blessed Maria Serafina was some lady - she was trying to follow God's call for years, facing many difficulties and yet remaining faithful.  God called her to found, and eventually cleared the way for the beginning of her new congregation, the Sisters of the Angels.  I am told that these sisters are still faithful to the way of their foundress and they have that wonderful sense of motherhood which is really at the heart of consecrated sisterhood.  When nuns and religious sisters see themselves as mothers, then they are on to a winner.  A true nun or sister will be a mother to those she meets.  When growing up in Clara, we had many such sisters in the convent.  The Sisters of Mercy had a house in our town, and among them were some wonderful motherly sisters - there were others too, as you expect in a fallen world.   But I was always impressed by the motherly ones.

Anyway, back to Blessed Maria Serafina - for her struggles and endurance, and her devotion to God's will, she should really be the patron saint of those struggling to discern or fulfil their vocation (perhaps also of orthodox seminarians in liberal seminaries!).  The motherly care and intercession of Blessed Maria Serafina might help those who need some sign from God to help them presevere.

And finally, as a Carmelite I cannot ignore this article: Joseph Pearce writes about the man who save the original autograph of the writings of St John of the Cross during the Spanish Civil War.   Roy Campbell is well known for his translations of St John's poems, during the persecution of Catholics, he was entrusted with the care of the papers to save them from the Republicans.  It was the Discalced Friars of Toledo who entrusted the manuscripts to him: a number of these friars were martyred by the Republicans, and they have since been beatified - one of my favourite beati among them, Blessed Hermilo of St Eliseo - I keep his picture here beside me on my desk. 

This story is a wonderful tale of heroism, well worth reading.  It is also another reminder that the Spanish Civil War was not as simple as the leftists like to make out.  As we constantly hear only one side of the story - the Republicans, the story of the innocent Catholics - men, women and children - tens of thousands of them, were murdered by the Republicans simply because they were Catholics.  The media ignores their stories while holding up for public veneration the very men and women who slaughtered them.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Twitter "Conclave"?

With Rowan Williams due to divest himself of the See of Canterbury to become Master of Magdalen College, Cambridge, the Church of England is looking for a successor.  Who that will be may decide the fate of the Anglican Communion as it wrestles with many difficulties and issues, the ordination of women to the episcopate and the position of openly gay clergy being the main ones. 

One would imagine that the Prime Minister of the UK (who appoints the bishops of the Church of England) will be treading very carefully.  One would imagine he would spend some time in prayer, but seeing as Tony Blair when PM raised the shackles of many when he said he prayed over decisions, I presume David Cameron will be careful not to resort to divine assistance when making his decision, or will he? 

Well, seeing as divine assistance might have to be ruled out, it seems assistance of another kind is being sought - the opinions of all peoples through Twitter.  Twitter will be the "conclave" for the election of the new Archbishop of Canterbury.  There's democracy for you.  So if you have a view, or a candidate, you can make it known and who knows, you might just elect the next head bishop of the Anglican Communion.

I'm sure many people will think this is a good idea, but to be honest, I'm not so sure.  When it comes to ecclesiastical offices, particularly in a time when controversy is rife and the message of the Gospel being diluted and indeed erased or distorted beyond all recognition, democracy is not the ideal way to choose a leader.  Prudence, prayer and the advice of wise people is necessary, but resorting to Twitter will further politicise the election.   But we shall see how things turn out.  Will this help in the decline and eventual demise of Anglicanism? 

As one holy priest said to me today: "They are using Twitter?  I hope they don't elect a twit."  Indeed!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mark Dooley Hits The Blogosphere

Many of you know will know Mark Dooley from his work on Roger Scruton and his columns in the Daily Mail.  In a series of articles a few years ago Mark lifted the lid on what was going on the seminary in Maynooth, revealing practices that were eventually discovered by the Apostolic Visitation and mentioned in the recent report.  Mark had been working in the Philosophy Department in NUI Maynooth and knew many of the seminarians personally.  Though he had been told that his contract would be renewed, following the articles, the NUI in Maynooth suddenly discovered they could not keep him anymore. 

Mark always has something interesting to say, and so he has hit the blogosphere.  He tends to have his finger on the pulse and offers interesting insights to get us thinking.  As a philosopher himself and a student of Scruton, one of contemporary philosophy's more controversial thinkers, there is often a healthy critique of contemporary society and thought in his writing.   Here's the link to his blog, I'll include him on my blog list over to the right for your convenience. 

Just to remind you, one of Mark's most recent books, Why Be A Catholic? is a good read and offers one thinking man's view of what has been happening in the Church in Ireland these last few decades.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Jumping On The Bandwagon?

A quick post on an item which has grabbed the headlines over the last few days - another accusation made against the Church.  This time she is being accused of castrating ten boys in the Netherlands in the 1950's.  The usual suspects are irate again.

However, all is not what it seems: the original New York Times article was not, what you might say, generous with the truth, it seems the situation is a little more complicated, and the Church's role not as presented.  Here's what Tim Stanley of The Telegraph unearthed.  Another case of jumping on the bandwagon to bash the Church?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Apostolic Visitation Report: Some Reflections

The Apostolic Report (see below) is dominating the news here in Ireland.  There is a lot in the summary of the report, which was the text released yesterday, and if you read it carefully you will see there is a lot more in the report which seems very hopeful. 

The visitators have acknowledged that the bishops are now working very hard on child protection - indeed it is the number one priority in the Church in Ireland, even at times leading to other important ministries being given less time and attention than they deserve - but such things happen when you are trying to deal with a crisis.  The Catholic Church in Ireland now has the strictest and most transparent policies and practices in place than any other organisation here, including those which continue to attack the criticise the Church.  Indeed the State's own agencies fall well below the standard being adhered to by the Church.  However whenever you say that the critics come out in force and start on the offensive again.

Indeed I see the usual suspects are on the warpath in response to the report's recommendations with regard to the formation of priests.  They are attacking the decision to sort out the seminaries and the living arrangements for seminarians. They may be operating under the misconception that abusing priests were conservative, orthodox and Papist (the facts show otherwise) so they may think a tightening up on seminarians will make them more conservative, orthodox and papist, and this will lead to the nurturing of more abusers.  I do not think so. 

Having lived in two seminaries, I think a tightening up is necessary.  First of all I would not favour isolation from the world - and I don't think that's what the report is suggesting.  But I do think seminarians need space for prayer, reflection, privacy and for fraternity with their fellow seminarians.  When in Maynooth the seminary was so open you could come across lay students, male and female, anywhere in the seminary building - even in the seminarian toilets in our private quarters.   Seminarians need to learn to become "men apart from the world": living in the world, yes; working in it, yes; but men who have their sights set on the next and so able to resist the temptations of the world and meet its challenges.  Many priests become worldly because they have never stepped back from the world even for a short period of their lives so to become acquainted with the next world and develop a healthy distance from the world. 

I remember hearing an interview with some people who were discussing priestly celibacy.  They were all against it because it made the priest "different from the rest of us".   Priests should be allowed to marry and have sex so they will be like the rest of us, one man said.  And that is the problem with the modern world's perception of the priesthood: a priest is not understood as a man set apart for the service of God and his people.  This doesn't mean he is aloof and cannot relate to other people: it means that his relationship with people is different- it is not ordinary, it is extraordinary and even more loving and caring for that extraordinariness. 

While priests must be friends with the laity, and it is important that priests have lots of lay friends who will keep him grounded and love him (that should help undermine any temptations to clericalism) ultimately he is called to a greater vocation towards the faithful than friendship: fatherhood.    Men need a certain amount of space to prepare for that.   A priest cannot be like "the rest of us" because his vocation and mission is different than that of the "rest of us" - he is called to a greater love, a greater sacrifice: only then can he be truly a priest for "the rest of us". 

The formation of priests is very important, and we need to take it very seriously, particularly in this time of reform.  I pray that good formators will be put in place to help guide, form and love the men who are seeking to respond to God's call. I emphasise love because if a seminary and a formation process are devoid of love, then the seminary will become a breeding ground for vice, particularly anger and self-centredness.  When new formators are being chosen for our seminaries, then, not only must they be examined for orthodoxy, intelligence, personal holiness and ability, but also measured for their ability to truly love those in their care.

I see also that the diocesan structures in Ireland has also come up, or "configuration" as the report puts it.  A number of people have said that we need to reduce the number of dioceses, and I think so myself, so it is good that this is being taken seriously by the Holy See. 

I also note with gratitude that the visitators saw how much ground heterodoxy has gained among our clergy, religious and lay people.  This raised the ire of one of our journalists who was disgusted that the Holy See should think that dissent is not compatible with true reform.  Those who know the history of the Church know that dissent leads to decay and abandonment of Christ's teaching in favour of "mere human thinking".  True renewal consists in an "aggiornamento" firmly grounded in "ressourcement": back to the Gospel, the Fathers of the Church, the Saints - what Vatican II had advised.  And that is the advice the report has for our religious too - go back to the basics, back to the Gospel, to religious life, to the intentions and charism of your founders.  

All in all, there is a sign of hope in this report; coupled with the letter of the Holy Father to Ireland, we have two useful and inspiring documents to help us in the process of reform.  One important point which we need to take from the report: it is now time for the faithful to get to work, to assist this reform and help the renewal of the Church in Ireland.  It will require a dying to self for most of us, and we face challenges and opposition even from within - the secular media here will try and hamper our efforts at every juncture and they will have allies in the Church, be they bishops, priests, religious or laity.  But we also have fine and faithful bishops, priests, religious and laity, and we must work together in union, as the Body of Christ, to overcome the challenges that lie ahead.  

The green shoots of reform are already apparent.  The Spirit is moving among us - we see that in the growth of new movements here - the report advises us to make use of the new Ecclesial Movements in assisting this reform.  There are fine priests, consecrated people and laity in those movements who want to be of service to the Church in Ireland - we need to take them up on the offer.  The days when certain quarters of the Church and her governance can stand aloof from others should be exorcised.  Now we are all down on the ground, working and rebuilding together.  That is one good thing which can come out of the suffering of the last couple of decades - a more humble Church, yes, but a more fraternal and loving one.

That said, we must thank the visitators for their help and generosity in responding to the Holy Father's request, and for their work in service of the Church universal and the Church here in Ireland.  May their efforts in the vineyard be rewarded with a new springtime for faith in this land.

UPDATE:  Rory Fitzgerald has an interesting article in the Catholic Herald online, with regard to the report. He speaks about the new challenge the Church in Ireland has to face - a crisis of faith.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Apostolic Visitation To Ireland Report: Text

The Report on the recent Apostolic Visitation to Ireland has been released.  I am posting the entire text that has been released today.  I have no time to comment on it, but it deserves a close reading.

Report on the Apostolic Visitation to Ireland

The Visitation to the Dioceses was carried out in the four Metropolitan Sees during the first few months of 2011. The four Visitators, accompanied by qualified and authorized persons and in coordination with the Archbishops of the Sees concerned, met individuals from the various categories listed in the Communiqué of 12 November 2010, along with others who requested a hearing, including representatives of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church. Special priority was given to the meetings with victims of abuse, who were assured of the particular closeness of the Holy Father. Some of the Archdioceses held very moving penitential liturgies in the Cathedrals, attended by clergy and members of the faithful, with the participation of victims of abuse in each case. These four Visitations included meetings with the suffraganeous Bishops and yielded sufficient information to provide an adequate picture of the situation of the Church in Ireland, such as to obviate the need to extend the Visitation to the suffraganeous Sees.

The Visitation to the Seminaries examined the situation of four Institutes: the Pontifical Irish College in Rome, Saint Malachy’s College in Belfast, and two Institutes in the Archdiocese of Dublin – the National Seminary, Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, and the Milltown Institute of the Society of Jesus. All Hallows College in Dublin informed the Visitator that it no longer offered a programme of priestly formation and consequently it was not included in the Visitation. Before visiting each of the Institutes, the Visitator was able to study documentation on the Colleges concerned. Upon arrival, with the assistance of several Bishops and priests, all previously approved by the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Visitator examined, to the extent possible, all aspects of priestly formation, along the lines indicated in the Press Communiqué of 31 May 2010. The Visitator and his assistants held individual meetings with formators and seminarians, as well as others holding positions of authority in the seminaries, including those responsible for the protection of minors. Priests ordained within the last three years were also invited to a personal conversation if they so wished. It should be pointed out that the Milltown Institute, which is more an academic centre than a seminary, was examined only with regard to the theological formation offered to future priests.

The Visitation to the Religious Institutes took place after careful study of the responses to the questionnaire that was sent to all Institutes with Religious houses in Ireland. The questionnaire sought to elicit information on the current safeguarding measures and policies adopted by each Institute and the effect of the present crisis on the Institute’s members. The Visitators then held various meetings with Bishops, Superiors and formators of the different communities and with any particular groups, including abuse victims, that requested a meeting, as well as representatives of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church. Meetings were held with the members of the Conference of Religious of Ireland, both in the common assemblies and in regional assemblies throughout the country. The Visitators had the opportunity to conduct extended visits to 31 Institutes. They estimate that, during the visit, they had the opportunity to dialogue with a significant portion of Religious in Ireland.

With a view to promoting the work of renewal called for by the Holy Father, the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for Catholic Education have carefully studied the information collected by the respective Visitators. Keeping in mind the provisions of the document Towards Healing and Renewal issued by the Irish Episcopal Conference, they have communicated their conclusions to the four Metropolitan Archbishops and to the Ecclesiastical Authorities of the seminaries visited, indicating courses of action. The Archbishops and the Ecclesiastical Authorities gave their responses. The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life is likewise forwarding its conclusions to the Superiors of all Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life with houses in Ireland. A Summary Report will also be presented to the Apostolic Nuncio to be shared with the Bishops of Ireland.


During their stay in Ireland, the Visitators were able themselves to see just how much the shortcomings of the past gave rise to an inadequate understanding of and reaction to the terrible phenomenon of the abuse of minors, not least on the part of various Bishops and Religious Superiors. With a great sense of pain and shame, it must be acknowledged that within the Christian community innocent young people were abused by clerics and Religious to whose care they had been entrusted, while those who should have exercised vigilance often failed to do so effectively. Indeed, “wounds have been inflicted on Christ’s body” (Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland, 19 March 2010). For these faults, forgiveness must once more be asked: from God and from the victims! As Blessed John Paul II said: “there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young” (Address to the Cardinals of the United States, 23 April 2002).

At the same time the Visitators were able to verify that, beginning in the 1990s, progressive steps have been taken towards a greater awareness of how serious is the problem of abuse, both in the Church and society, and how necessary it is to find adequate measures in response.

The Visitation was also intended to determine whether the structures and procedures put in place by the Church in Ireland from that period onwards are adequate to ensure that the tragedy of the abuse of minors will not be repeated. In this regard, the Holy See has made the following observations:

Particular attention has been given to the assistance offered by the Church in Ireland to victims of past abuse. All the Visitators acknowledge that, beginning with the Bishops and Religious Superiors, much attention and care has been shown to the victims, both in terms of spiritual and psychological assistance and also from a legal and financial standpoint. It has been recommended, therefore, that, following the example given by Pope Benedict XVI in his meetings with victims of abuse, the Irish diocesan authorities and those of the Religious Institutes continue to devote much time listening to and receiving victims, providing support for them and their families.

Their meetings with the victims of abuse helped the Visitators to understand better various aspects of the problem of the sexual abuse of minors that took place in Ireland. The Visitators and the Church in Ireland are thankful for this contribution and want to assure them that their well-being is of paramount concern for the Church.

In their meetings with the chief officers of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church and various diocesan officials, the Visitators were able to verify that the current norms of Safeguarding Children: Standards and Guidance Document for the Catholic Church in Ireland (Guidelines) are being followed. The Visitators welcome the process, already initiated by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, of regularly auditing the implementation of the Guidelines. It is recommended that this process of covering all Dioceses and Religious Institutes by regular audits will be implemented in a prompt manner.

In recent years the work of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church has been thorough and far-reaching, for which reason it should be supported by the Bishops, Religious Superiors and the whole community of the Church in Ireland, and it should continue to receive sufficient personnel and funding.

The Archbishops of the visited Archdioceses gave assurance that all newly-discovered cases of abuse are promptly brought before both the competent civil authority and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The norms contained in the Guidelines, as well as the procedures to implement them, must be updated in accordance with the indications published on 3 May 2011 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and also periodically revised. The Guidelines need to be amended in order to create a common model for all the Dioceses and Religious Institutes, and they should be periodically re-examined in order to ensure increasing effectiveness both in the work of prevention and in the response to cases of abuse in all the required aspects, for the good of everyone concerned.

In view of the shortage of personnel trained in canon law, the Visitators insisted on the need for a reorganization of Ireland’s ecclesiastical tribunals, to be carried out in cooperation with the competent bodies of the Holy See, so that the various cases still awaiting definitive resolution can be adequately processed.
The Visitators were struck by the efforts made throughout the country by Bishops, priests, Religious and lay persons to implement the Guidelines and to create safe environments. In the four Archdioceses, the results of these efforts were judged to be excellent. In addition to the large number of volunteers, they noted the presence of men and women within the various safeguarding structures who bring the highest level of professionalism to the service of the Christian community.

In the Visitation to the Seminaries, the following elements were examined: theological doctrine on the priesthood, seminary governance, questions regarding the admission of candidates to the seminary and assessment of them prior to ordination, the process of formation (human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral), and possible ways of assisting recently ordained priests. Particular attention was given to the admission of candidates and to programmes of spiritual and human formation aimed at enabling seminarians to live priestly celibacy faithfully and joyfully. The Visitation to the Seminaries gave priority to issues involving the protection of minors.

In this regard, the Holy See has made the following observations:

The Visitation was able to establish that there are dedicated formators in Irish seminaries, committed to the work of priestly training. The seminarians themselves were generally praised for their human and spiritual qualities and for their motivation and commitment to the Church and her mission. Studies are taken seriously, and attention is given to human and spiritual formation.

Each seminary has clear child protection norms in place and the Irish seminaries are committed to educating future priests with a broad understanding of all that is involved in the protection of minors within the Church.
For the further improvement of the seminaries, it has been proposed, wherever necessary:

to ensure that the formation provided is rooted in authentic priestly identity, offering a more systematic preparation for a life of priestly celibacy by maintaining a proper equilibrium between human, spiritual and ecclesial dimensions;
to reinforce structures of Episcopal governance over the seminaries;
to introduce more consistent admission criteria – this would involve the seminary, in consultation with the Dioceses, examining and deciding admissibility of candidates;
to show greater concern for the intellectual formation of seminarians, ensuring that it is in full conformity with the Church’s Magisterium;
to include in the academic programme in-depth formation on matters of child protection, with increased pastoral attention to victims of sexual abuse and their families;
to re-evaluate the pastoral programme, ensuring that it is sacramental, priestly and apostolic, and duly concerned with preparing candidates to celebrate the sacraments and to preach;
to ensure that the seminary buildings be exclusively for seminarians of the local Church and those preparing them for the priesthood, to ensure a well-founded priestly identity.

The task entrusted by the Holy See to the Visitators to Religious houses was twofold: 1) ensuring that all Religious Congregations have adequate protocols for safeguarding children and are implementing them; and 2) encouraging members of Institutes and Societies to a renewed vitality in their life and mission as Religious or members of Societies of Apostolic Life. In a spirit of cooperation with the Bishops, clergy and lay faithful of Ireland, the Superiors and members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life are encouraged to develop the resources at their disposal, so that they may be better equipped to meet the needs of those still suffering the effects of abuse. In the light of the immense contribution they have made in the past to the life of the Church in Ireland and their remarkable missionary outreach across the world, consecrated persons should renew their commitment to building communities capable of offering their members mutual support along the path towards holiness and capable of contributing effectively to the renewal of the entire local Church community.

In this regard, the Holy See has made the following observations:

The Religious in Ireland will join Bishops in mutual reflection, planning and support, revitalizing the instruments of dialogue and communion that have been envisioned by the Magisterium (cf. Mutuae Relationes). The Bishops themselves will convoke and lead the process of renewing dialogue and concrete collaboration in the field of safeguarding children, while also seeking to bring about a more effective and deeper communion between different and complementary charisms in the local Church.

The Major Superiors of each Institute in Ireland should design a programme for focusing anew over the next three years on the Institute’s fundamental sources, particularly the following of Christ as revealed in the Scriptures, and contained in the Apostolic Tradition of the Church’s teaching, the living of their vows in a contemporary context, and the life, works and charism of the founder of the Institute (Perfectae Caritatis; Vita Consecrata).

All Institutes should perform an audit of their personnel files, if such an audit has not yet been carried out. As in the case of the Dioceses, every Religious Congregation, active and contemplative, should perform the regular audit monitoring the implementation of the norms contained in the Guidelines, in coordination with the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church.

Major Superiors should develop, with the members of their Institutes, concrete means for revitalizing communities of prayer, community life and mission.

The Religious in Ireland are asked to consider developing a collaborative ministerial outreach to those suffering from the effects of abuse.

Based on the proposal of the Visitators and the observations made by various Dicasteries of the Holy See, it has been recommended that the Bishops of Ireland and Religious Superiors, in collaboration with the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, should continue to examine and update the current Interim Guidance – Leave from Sacred Ministry and Apostolate for Clergy and Religious with a view to:

Formulating guidelines for handling the varied cases of those who have been accused, but in whose case the Director of Public Prosecution has decided not to proceed.
Formulating policies regarding the falsely accused and their return to ministry.
Formulating policies regarding the pastoral care of those who are convicted of abuse: the appropriate settings and the conditions under which such offenders should live.


The Visitators have been able to establish that, over and above the suffering of the victims, the painful events of recent years have also opened many wounds within the Irish Catholic community. Many lay persons have experienced a loss of trust in their Pastors. Many good priests and Religious have felt unjustly tainted by association with the accused in the court of public opinion; some have not felt sufficiently defended by their Bishops and Superiors. Those same Bishops and Superiors have often felt isolated as they sought to confront the waves of indignation and at times they have found it difficult to agree on a common line of action.

On the other hand, this time of trial has also brought to light the continuing vitality of the Irish people’s faith. The Visitators have noted the exemplary way in which many Bishops, priests and Religious live out their vocation, the human and spiritual bonds among the faithful at a time of crisis, the deep faith of many men and women, a remarkable level of lay involvement in the structures of child protection, and the heartfelt commitment shown by Bishops and Religious Superiors in their task of serving the Christian community.

These are just some of the signs of hope that the Visitators have identified, alongside the various difficulties, in the life of the Church in Ireland. It is vitally important that, at a point in history marked by rapid cultural and social transformation, all the components of the Church in Ireland hear in the first place a renewed call to communion: communion among the Bishops themselves and with the Successor of Peter; communion between diocesan Bishops and their clergy; communion between Pastors and lay persons; and communion between diocesan structures and communities of consecrated life – communion that is not attained merely through human agreements or strategies, but above all by listening humbly to God’s Word and to what the Holy Spirit gives and asks of the Church in our day. Only a united Church can be an effective witness to Christ in the world.

Among the pastoral priorities that have emerged most strongly is the need for deeper formation in the content of the faith for young people and adults; a broad and well-planned ongoing theological and spiritual formation for clergy, Religious and lay faithful; a new focus on the role of the laity, who are called to be engaged both within the Church and in bearing witness before society, in accordance with the social teachings of the Church. There is a need to harness the contribution of the new Ecclesial Movements, in order better to reach the younger generation and to give renewed enthusiasm to Christian life. A careful review is needed of the training given to teachers of religion, the Catholic identity of schools and their relationship with the parishes to which they belong, so as to ensure a sound and well-balanced education.

Since the Visitators also encountered a certain tendency, not dominant but nevertheless fairly widespread among priests, Religious and laity, to hold theological opinions at variance with the teachings of the Magisterium, this serious situation requires particular attention, directed principally towards improved theological formation. It must be stressed that dissent from the fundamental teachings of the Church is not the authentic path towards renewal.

The Visitation also placed in question the present configuration of Dioceses in Ireland and their ability to respond adequately to the challenges of the New Evangelization. The Holy See and the local episcopate have already initiated a joint reflection on this matter, in which the communities concerned are to be involved, with a view to adapting diocesan structures to make them better suited to the present-day mission of the Church in Ireland.

Finally, the Visitation attested to the great need for the Irish Catholic community to make its voice heard in the media and to establish a proper relationship with those active in this field, for the sake of making known the truth of the Gospel and the Church’s life.


For its part, the Holy See recalls the ongoing importance of the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, which proposes an overall vision that can shed useful light on the pastoral priorities of the Church in Ireland, and on the special attention that must be given to the younger generation. The forthcoming International Eucharistic Congress will surely represent an important stage in this process, as will the subsequent National Mission, which it is hoped will provide all the members of the Church community with a fruitful opportunity for prayer, common reflection and instruction on the content of the Christian creed, in harmony with the Holy Father’s vision for the approaching Year of Faith. As Pope Benedict said in his Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland: “Through intense prayer before the real presence of the Lord, the Church in Ireland can make reparation for the sins of abuse that have done so much harm, at the same time imploring the grace of renewed strength and a deeper sense of mission on the part of all Bishops, priests, Religious and lay faithful.”

In the name of the Holy Father, heartfelt gratitude must once again be expressed to all those who worked so generously to ensure a fruitful outcome for the Apostolic Visitation – firstly, to the Visitators and their assistants, then to the entire Catholic community of Ireland: the lay faithful, including the various victims of abuse, the Bishops, the clergy and the Religious communities who have responded so well to this concrete sign of the solicitude of the Successor of Peter for the future of the Church in Ireland.

Consequently, the Apostolic Visitation should now be considered completed. The Holy See entrusts its conclusions to the responsibility of the Bishops, clergy, Religious and lay faithful of Ireland, in the hope that they will bear fruit worthy of that process of healing, reparation and renewal which Pope Benedict XVI so eagerly desires for the beloved Church in Ireland.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Celebration Of Faith

A happy St Patrick's Day to you all from Ireland.  As we celebrate the life and teaching of our patron saint, we pray that he will intercede for all your needs, and we ask you to pray for Ireland.

Today is the celebration of the mystery of faith - the Christian faith, which St Patrick taught.  He was not the first Christian missionary to Ireland - we already had Christians here, and even a number of Saints.  Neither was he the first bishop to the Irish - St Palladius was here before him.  St Patrick, however, seemed to have had a particular charism, he travelled around the country preaching the faith, converting and baptising, to an extent which had been unknown up to that time.  He initiated a spiritual revolution among a barbarian people, and for this he is the Apostle of Ireland.

So in our Masses we honour this holy man, our Father in faith, and our celebrations as Christians must first and foremost be founded on faith.  Yet, for many people "Paddy's Day" is not about faith at all.  As I said in my homily at Mass this morning, there are people in Ireland who are trying to wipe out Catholicism, and today they will be raising their glasses in honour of "St Paddy".  Meanwhile the rest of the world are dyeing their rivers green, eating cabbage and downing gallons of alcohol as they celebrate "Irishness".

The marriage of St Patrick and "Irishness" is only a recent phenomenon.  It developed in the 19th century when Irish Nationalists hijacked the feast of the Patron of Ireland to further their cause.  The St Patrick's Day parade was originally a civil rights march, and as for the leprechauns, the diddly dee and the clay pipes, well that's just stereotyping, and it drives some of us Irish crazy.  There are many who think we still live in thatched cottages, have red beards (even our women?) and sprinkle our conversation with "begorrahs".  God help us! 

Even worse than all this is that many of those out "drowning the shamrock" never darken the door of a church, and yet the man they celebrate was a man who wanted to bring the Irish to God, to keep them faithful to the Mass and to the practice of the faith.   There is no doubt that we need to reclaim St Patrick and his feast and begin to divorce it from nationalism.  Ironically, it makes no difference if one is Irish to celebrate this feast, it's all about Christianity.  Indeed today the British may well celebrate, not Irishness or the Irish among them, but that a son of Britain who left his people and his land to proclaim the Gospel among an alien people.  In this St Patrick serves as an important link between Britain and Ireland, a link which is firmly grounded in the Christian faith.  And, it seems, there may well be a church in Britain which was built by the Saint himself - see here for the article.

In other news: it seems it may be the end of the road for the Society of St Pius X: the Vatican has not accepted their response to the doctrinal preamble - it is inadequate for the restoration of full union. A friend said to me yesterday that it is all a game to the SSPX - they think that because the Pope desires reconciliation they can do what they want because they think the Pope will just bring them back in without their having to say they were wrong.  They will still continue to reject Vatican II.  It is an interesting position, and I think there is a level of truth in it.  Traddie blogs are convinced that reconciliation will take place without their having to move an inch because they are in the right, they believe. 

Well, if they do not move an inch, then there should be no reconciliation: they must accept Vatican II or stay where they are.  Many think this row is all about the liturgy and so they think that as Pope Benedict has given greater freedom for the celebration of the Extraordinary Form the way is open.  This row is not about the liturgy, it is about the Church's apostolate and her outreach to the men and women of our time, her holding to the truth, but also seeking to engage with those of other faiths and none.  The Society has until April to clarify its position: the ultimatum has been issued. The Vatican, it seems, may well be tired of playing games.

What could happen here?  Well one commentator said that it could lead to a declaration of formal schism, the reimposition of the excommunication on the bishops and priests, and an interdict on their lay followers.  We must pray for them.

Friday, March 16, 2012

More On IVF

A quick post before I go out to offer the Vigil Mass for the Solemnity of St Patrick.  I found this article on the net, written by a man who with his wife, submitted to IVF.  It's not an easy read, but this is part of the procedure for many.  As he laments the loss of two, he does not mention the others who were conceived and then died or are now frozen.

Please note, pro-abortion people, abortion is not painless for the child: in most cases the child endures dreadful torture before it dies.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Culture Of Death Applauded In Irish Parliament

Pro-Abortion TD, Mick Wallace

"Warped" - that's what Mick Wallace, a member of the Dail, called those who believe that the intentional killing of an unborn child in the womb is wrong. 

Speaking in the Dail as he and his friend Clare Daly, TD,  sponsor a bill which seeks to bring abortion into Ireland, the TD made a passionate appeal for fairness to all by allowing women to have abortions.  Refusing to allow women access to abortion was interferring in what women do with their bodies.   Nothing new in that speech, it's the usual nonsense we hear from the pro-abortion lobby, mixed with the usual lies and scare mongering.  After his speech, Wallace got a round of applause from the gathered TDs.

The bill, due to be debated in April, will probably fail, as the government will vote against it.  Strangely, previous judgements on abortion make it legal up to birth where a mother's life is deemed to be in danger (judgements which are "interpretations" of the Constitution as handed down by the Supreme Court): any legislation which does not permit abortion up to birth would be unconstitutional. 

Yes, people, the law here is an absolute mess thanks to crazy court judgements.   The government will be loath to provide abortion up to birth, even though there are people in the government who would favour it: to do so would raise the ire of many in Ireland, including some pro-abortion advocates who think some sort of limit is required. 

All of this is, of course, very ironic when we remember this government and the pro-abortion advocates are crucifying the Church for not doing enough to prevent child abuse, even closing down embassies to the Holy See in their anger.  The Church in Ireland is rightly chastised for its failures, but to then defend the abuse and murder of children in the womb reveals a level of hypocrisy, blindness and stupidity which is almost unsurpassed.  That this hypocrisy, blindness and stupidity leads to piles of infant bodies in abortion clinics borders on the satanic - indeed it is satanic.

In his speech Wallace appealed for fairness to all, but in promoting abortion he is seeking to undermine that: what about our unborn?  Our future generations?  It is not fair that they can be summarily destroyed before they can take their first breath.  No fairness there, just the propagation of a brutal, pagan dominance of the strong over the weak.

Ultimately abortion is about power - the power to destroy life if and when we please.  Pope Paul VI alluded to that in his encyclical Humanae Vitae: once men and women delude themselves into thinking they can have power over life, can create it or destroy it at will, then the door is open to all sorts of atrocities.  Today, in our national parliament, our elected members applauded those atrocities.  

Time for prayer.  As we approach the feast of our apostle, St Patrick, we must commend our people and country to his intercession. May he hear, once again, the voice of the Irish as we appeal to him.  May he remind all of us that we will be judged by God for our actions, and that those who take, facilitate or promote the taking of innocent human life have to answer to God for it.  Politicians will not escape that - indeed, they will face a harsher judgement since they are charged with protecting life and the common good.  And their accusers will be the children who perished at their hands.  And an emotive speech on fairness will not convince God that the killing of a baby in the womb was a good and justifiable act.

Related news: the Irish Family Planning Association (Irish Planned Parenthood) has been chastising Ireland at the UN for refusing to facilitate abortion.  Another assault, this time with big foreign investment behind it.  American pro-abortion groups are bankrolling pro-abortion groups here in an effort to eradicate the protection unborn children have.   I seem to remember, correct me if I am wrong, goverment disapproval when Pro-Life groups were receiving funding from foreign donors a few years ago, and I think there is a law in place which prevents it. If so, what do you think the chances are it applies to pro-abortion groups?  Nil, nout, nay, never.....?

And in other news: Ben and Jerry's have renamed one of their flavours in England as a gesture of support for the proposal to introduce gay marriage.   I'm not surprised - B&Js are big supporters of abortion, so those of us who believe in the sanctity of life never buy their products.  They have renamed their "Oh! My! Apple Pie!" to "Apple-y Ever After" with a re-designed tub which features an image of two grooms.  I presume it is an attempt to tell us gay marriage is as wholesome as apple pie.  I wonder if they realised that, traditionally (not biblically), it was believed that it was an apple which led to the downfall of humanity in the Garden of Eden?  Ironic or fitting or what?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The NYT and FFRF

I remember a conversation I had with a friend of mine a while ago, we were discussing the various attacks on the Catholic Church and our beliefs by non-believers and radical secularists.  He said that the reason they are so vicious, slanderous and untruthful was because they know the Church will not take them on: they know the Church will actually stand by Jesus Christ's teaching on forgiveness and turning the other cheek, so they are emboldened. 

Or as another friend of mine once said: "When a journalist libels the Catholic Church, he/she knows there will never be a libel case against them and that they can get safely into their car, turn the key and drive blissfully home unharmed."  The Catholic Church, despite all her faults and sins, still strives to take the Gospel seriously, so we can look at these attacks in that light - despite their griping, they know the Church stands by her values.  That said, it does not, and should not mean, we do not challenge the lies which have become common place.

There is a bit of furore in the US over another attack on the Church, this time by some crowd who call themselves the Freedom from Religion Foundation or FFRF (alot of Fs there!).  They have taken out an advertisement in the New York Times (surprise surprise) attacking the Church over her stance on contraception and other issues, and trying to persuade people to leave the Church.   Here's the Catholic League's take on it, and here's a copy of the ad itself.  

Now, to be honest, I have no problem with people inviting Catholics to leave the Church if those Catholics vehemently disagree with fundamental Church teaching: as St Dominic Savio used to say, we have to be true to ourselves.  Of course we want people to stay, to understand the fullness of the faith and to play their part in the Church.  But if people cannot stomach the moral teachings Christ has entrusted to the Church to uphold and teach, and are not prepared to reflect on them and pray and seek to understand why the Church holds them, then perhaps it is time to skip off somewhere else, as Archbishop Diarmuid Martin advised a short time ago.  We will, of course leave the door open and pray for them.

There is one part of the ad which is interesting - it's at the end: the subscription rates - it seems the Freedom from Religion Foundation is not free at all - there are dues, including an "After Life" subscription rate of $5,000, that got me chuckling.  I presume that bit is the 'spirit' which keeps their memory alive after members have thrown off the mortal coil and gone into oblivion?  And they say the Catholic Church is money mad!

Friday, March 9, 2012

St Frances Of Rome

Today is the feast of St Frances of Rome, wife, mother, mystic, foundress.  She founded the Olivetan Oblates of  Mary, based at Tor de Specchi in Rome. Her relics rest under the altar in the Church of Santa Maria Nova in the Fourm.  I remember when studying in Rome having to make a number of visits to the church before I finally hit on it being open and being able to see and venerate her remains.  Her skeleton is clothed in a habit and laid out in a glass-fronted tomb.

Frances was an amazing woman - she juggled family life - adoring husband and children, with a mystical life while organising and forming women in the religious life - no mean feat: I suppose that's what you call multi-tasking which women seem to be able to perfect.  We poor men just have to do things one at a time! 

St Frances is considered one of the city of Rome's great saints and patrons.  Apart from her holiness and interesting life, I love the image Orazio Gentileschi painted of her.  Very much influenced by Caravaggio in his work, Gentileschi has created a wonderful tableau depicting the Saint's vision of the Child Jesus in the arms of his mother. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

London Prayer Group Mass Tonight

If you are in or near London tonight, come along to our Prayer Group at 7pm in Corpus Christi Church, Maiden Lane, Covent Garden.  Tonight we celebrate a Mass to mark the foundation of the Prayer Group and the Fraternity's fifth anniversary.  The church is an important one for us since it was there that the inspiration for the family of prayer was born: we say that the Fraternity was born in that church.  Hope you'll come.  If you cannot make it, come another time: the group meets on the second Thursday of every month at 7pm: all welcome.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

RTE, The Holy Tunic And A Modern Mystic

The national broadcaster here, RTE, is in trouble again.  It has been given a slap by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland for broadcasting an unverified source during the last Presidential election, which made an accusation against one of the candidates - the frontrunner, Sean Gallagher, an accusation which was untrue.  The candidate lost the support of those who were going to vote for him, and Michael D Higgins, RTE's favoured candidate went on to win the election.    The broadcaster discovered pretty quickly, it seems, that the source was not legitimate, but failed to make this known to the public. 

If they had, Sean Gallagher may have been elected president.   Will there be legal action?  Such behaviour by the national broadcaster is disgraceful, and reminiscent of Soviet Russia.  This is the organisation we the people have to support through the television licence. Perhaps it is time to look again at that: if this is what we are getting, surely we should not have to pay for it. Is it not time for RTE to go out on its own and make its own money?   

Now, some good news.  A relic believed to be the Lord's tunic and preserved a Trier in Germany, is due to go on display for a month from April 13th to May 13th this year; the last exposition was in 1996.  Trier has a number of relics of the Lord including, I believe a nail from the cross and part of the lance.  I'm sure there will be great discussions over the authenticity of the relic, but at least it is an opportunity for us all to reflect in a deeper way on the Lord's suffering, and the tenth Station of the Cross where he was stripped of his garments: the Station of purity - a timely meditation in an age when purity is much maligned.  

Holy Tunic exposed in 1996

In the Diocese of Monterey in the US the Cause of a convert from Mormonism who became a mystic is advancing.  Cora Evans (1904-1957) left the Mormons and entered the Church in 1935, having spent ten years searching for the truth.  On 9th December 1934 she was listening to the radio when she heard the Catholic radio hour.  Normally she would have turned it off, but she was too sick and that proved providential.  As she listened all her prejudices against the faith were exposed and challenged. As soon as she was well she made her way to the local Catholic church with a host of questions: the answers convinced her that, at last, she had found the truth.

The Servant of God, Cora Evans

Her life was then marked with numerous mystical experiences.  In 1946 the Lord appeared to her and asked her to promote the Mystical Humanity of Christ, and the indwelling of God in the soul - what Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity teaches in her writings.  Cora was a lay woman, married with a family, so she is somewhat like St Frances of Rome or Blessed Anna Maria Taigi.  We shall watch this one with interest.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Round Up

What an eventful few days we have all had.  As the struggle against Obama continues in the US, Cardinal Dolan continues to rally the troops against the HHS mandate - faithful Catholics are not going to give up on this one despite the attempts of those Catholics who follow Obama to explain (erroneously) that conscience and freedom of religion are not being infringed. 

I see the White House has told the bishops to abandon orthodox Christian moral teaching in favour of the sort of stuff America magazine peddles.  So there you have it - the Obama administration seems to think that freedom of religion allows the government to tell a particular Church what stance it should take on moral issues: "follow the line of your members who dissent from the magisterium"  I think the First Amendment to the American Constitution forbids such a rebuke.

Meanwhile on this side of the pond, another fine Cardinal is defending the faith, this time in Scotland.  Congratulations to Cardinal Keith O'Brien who has taken on the Cameron administration in the UK.  Cameron and co are committing themselves to introducing full "gay marriage", the Cardinal has reminded them of the natural law and Christian teaching. 

I must say it is rather ironic - Cameron was fulsome in his praise of Christianity recently, and how important it was for Britain and how he is committed to supporting it, he sends Baroness Warsi over to the Pope to reiterate the same message, and now here he is taking a few steps backward.  Was it just all talk?  Another sound byte from a politician who wants to build up his contacts and supporters for the next election? 

On this little island one of our political parties has voted to adopt the same policy as Cameron. Fianna Fail, once considered a party which respected the Christian roots of our country, are now going to support "gay marriage" and adoption.  Given that the grassroots support for this party is Christian and traditional, this policy will alienate many of them. 

Of course this party introduced the Civil Partnership bill a couple of years ago, including penalties for registrars and those who provide wedding services who refused to facilitate these partnership - not only is there is no conscience clause, those who stick to their conscience will find themselves in prison with a huge fine to pay. So much for democracy. 

Fianna Fail was all but wiped out in the last election having ruled the country for three consecutive terms - the financial collapse occurred during their watch.  They need to rebuild, and perhaps this adoption of the gay agenda is an attempt to garner support from more liberal minded citizens.  So be it, but they may well alienate their grassroots supporters, which they deserve if they are taking this path to folly.  I hope our bishops will follow the example of Cardinals Dolan and O'Brien and speak out against this regression in Irish politics, and begin to take on the radical agenda which has been distorting the social fabric of Ireland.  Time for the Catholic Church in Ireland to get out of the trenches.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.  Despite the overwhelming historical evidence, much of it compiled by Jewish historians and writers, the old calumny against the Ven. Pope Pius XII continues to be made, and is taken as truth.   This time a Jewish rabbi is rehashing the old lies. This is like the old chestnut wheeled out by the usual suspects who accuse Pope Benedict, and before him Blessed John Paul II, of murdering millions of Africans because of the Church's teaching on contraception - an accusation that defies common sense.  It seems people prefer the lie to the truth, its more convenient and allows them to nurture their prejudice of Catholicism.

The Fr Guarnizo incident in Washington has taken another turn.  After he refused a lesbian Holy Communion at her mother's funeral, he was reprimanded and an apology sent to the woman from the auxiliary bishop of Washington. It turns out that the priest did not disgrace the woman, he refused her quietly so no one knew, and he had had already met her and her "lover" before the funeral.  At that meeting he told her of the Church's teaching and canon 915 which expressly requires a priest to refuse the Eucharist to those in such situations.  The priest fulfilled the pastoral requirements.  The lady chose to defy the Church's teaching in public.  The matter was not as simple as it seemed at first.  It seems, he is the one who is in the right.

Fr Longenecker has an excellent article on the coming persecution: he hits the nail on the head: there will be no blood on the streets - it will all happen in courtrooms, with legislation - with penal laws, basically. Ireland knows all about penal laws - the best way to crush Catholic opposition is to wear it out with laws and legal challenges.

And now, news about new Causes - this is getting to be a monthly feature.  This month we in Discalced Carmel are rejoicing as two of our friars are being put forward as candidates for canonisation.  Fr Marcello of the Immaculata, who died in 1984, was an Italian friar who lived in Ferrara and was renowned for his ministry in the confessional.  Fr Maurizio of the Child Jesus, who died in 1997, was also Italian, but ministered in the Holy Land on Mount Carmel.

Other new Causes: Mgr Guissani of Communion and Liberation, whom I mentioned last week.  Fr Edward Flanagan, founder of Boy's Town in the US.  Fr Flanagan was born in Ireland, but emigrated to the US when he was eight - a future Irish Saint we hope.  And two lay people: Marcjanna Grzanka, a Polish woman who died in 1941, and Nino Baglieri, a layman who was also a Volunteer of Don Bosco, who died in 2007: he was a suffering soul who became a model and advisor for many.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

In Brief

A busy couple of days.  I have Fr Mark Kirby and Br Benedict staying with me as they prepare to found their new Priory in our diocese - not far from here, in Stamullen.  You can catch up on the latest news on Fr Mark's blog, Vultus Christi, which is always an inspiring read.  Please keep the community and the new foundation in your prayers. 

Personally speaking, it is wonderful having them here as they bring the Benedictine life and horarium to the presbytery and it's like being back in community again.  Living on my own, it is also great to have the company of brothers in the faith.  Hilda the dog arrives tomorrow, so that will bring another dimension to life in the house! 

This quick post is to bring an excellent article to your attention.  IVF is all the talk at the moment as the Holy Father addressed the issue recently.  I wrote a post a few days ago and got an interesting reaction - one which saw IVF as okay because the end result made people happy.  Of course as Christians we know that the ends can never justify the means: we cannot do an evil thing in the hope of achieving good.  But secular society does not believe it - it is consequentialist - it judges moral actions by their outcome rather than by their moral status.  In such thinking there is no such thing as an action being intrinsically evil.  This is pure relativism and leads many astray.

The article is on multiple births: when supply exceeds demand - a common feature of IVF where 'surplus' embryos are discarded, frozen or experimented on.  And of course in recent times we have seen the growing practice of selective reduction in which 'surplus' babies are aborted to make room for the one chosen to live.  It is all barbaric and undermines the belief that society is progressing - we're not, we're regressing.  In our age human beings have become more brutal, less considerate and more selfish than people in the previous centuries.   Welcome to the real Dark Ages!