Wednesday, January 22, 2014

March For Life

Today is the 41st anniversary of the Roe v Wade judgement in the US Supreme Court which legalised abortion in the US.  It was a tragic day, and since then over 52 million children have been murdered in hospitals and abortion clinics in America.  This number is growing every year and I believe that so far more than 42,000 children have been killed this year.  These figures make abortion the greatest crime against humanity in human history and sadly it is a crime protected and promoted by most governments in the world and by the media.  On 1st January this year the Republic of Ireland joined those countries which enshrine this intentional killing of the unborn in their legislation.

Abortion is not a tragedy, it is a crime: a crime that destroys two lives.  It physically destroys the life of a vulnerable baby, and psychologically destroys the life of a woman.  The child is gone, it will never leave its mark in the world - in most cases its very existence is denied: we can only commend this unique human being to the mercy of God.  The woman can find healing, forgiveness and a new life, yet this can be difficult when these women live in a society which tells them they did the right thing.  For many post-abortive women such reassurances ring hollow and when they seek help the very doors that opened wide to assist in the abortion, now close firmly in their face. 

The pro-life movement is committed to ending abortion and seeking to help women who have had abortions find peace, reconciliation and healing.   Today in Washington DC one of the world's biggest pro-life events takes place, the March for Life.  It gathers hundreds of thousands of people of all faiths and none, of all races, who want to stand in solidarity with the unborn child, with post-abortive women (and men) who are now traumatised, and with women facing crisis pregnancies.  This event is largely ignored by the media, but thanks to networks like EWTN and pro-life groups around the world the message gets out. 

It is bitterly cold in Washington today - there is a snow storm.  So say a prayer for all those who are defying the weather and taking part in the March.  Little by little they are winning; a number of States in the US are beginning to curb their abortion laws and businesses like Planned Parenthood, who make a fortune each year by killing children, are beginning to be squeezed out: but they are fighting back with an infernal rage.  Though they say abortion is about a woman's right to choose, it seems to many, myself included, that it is really all about money.  There are many who have been greatly enriched by the abortion industry and they are fighting hard to keep this lucrative source of income coming in.  So the war rages on, and now another front has opened up in Ireland.

So greetings to all in Washington DC, and to all who are marching for life today.  Let us pray for victory!  It will come in the US, in the UK, in Ireland, in the world.  We must keep praying and working.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Coming Back In From the Cold...?

Worldwide ambassadors accredited to the Vatican attend the annual meeting with Pope Benedict XVI and Holy See Diplomats at the Hall of the Throne on January 8, 2009 in Vatican City, Vatican. The Pope called for a cease fire and condemned the violence in the conflict in Gaza as he met with the central government of the Catholic Church.
Diplomats accredited to the Holy See

Well, it seems the Irish government is reversing its decision to close the Vatican embassy: according to reports the Cabinet has approved the reopening of a smaller embassy to the Holy See.  The reason given: "This will enable Ireland to engage directly with the leadership of Pope Francis on the issues of poverty eradication, hunger and human rights", a spokesperson in the Department of Foreign Affairs has said. 

This is to be welcomed, although it does not take to a genius to work out that the announcement is made at a time when the country is preparing for the local and European elections and at a time both government parties fear they may well be facing the loss of many seats. Are politicians that obvious? Yes.

I think we all know why the embassy was closed in the first place - and it had nothing to do with finance and little to do with child protection issues: it was a political decision, pure and simple, one aimed at the Catholic Church by a certain party. However, as they have probably found out, without a resident ambassador at the Holy See, Ireland is somewhat out in the cold when it comes to networking and gaining information. 

The Holy See is one of the best listening posts in the diplomatic world, where the host country makes few demands on the diplomats accredited to it, treats them well and provides an easy and friendly forum for networking to take place.  Given that the Church is present in every country in the world and she is regularly updated by nuncios, bishops, priests and laity in those countries on various situations and issues, resident diplomats have access to information their own foreign embassies may not be able to get.  The Church is also one of the world's largest charitable organisations (if not the largest) and so any country's work in the era of poverty, human rights can only benefit from a close diplomatic relationship with the Holy See. 

Ireland has excluded itself from most of this, and I know that while the civil servant appointed as non-resident ambassador has been doing Trojan work to keep channels of communication open with the Holy See, it has been difficult and Ireland has been the loser.  

The plans to reopen the embassy will begin, I presume, although the date of its actual opening is not yet decided.  Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has welcomed it, as have groups who have been campaigning against the original decision.   It is good news, but I would not see it as a gesture of reconciliation with the Church or with Catholics: it is, in my view, a purely pragmatic decision and it may well be an effort to coax back some Catholic votes: some commenters are calling it a stunt. 

I wonder if this decision has anything to do with the revelations which emerged during the Vatican's testimony at the UN a few days ago: that Pope Benedict had dismissed almost 400 priests in two years as part of his work in dealing with child abuse?  These revelations certainly contradict  what Taoiseach Enda Kenny said in his personal attack on the Pope in the Dail a couple of years ago.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Foundation Day

Today in the Fraternity we celebrate "Foundation Day", transferred from yesterday.  The Fraternity of St Genesius was founded on the 19th January 2007 in Drogheda.  To mark the day we will have a Mass of celebration in St Mary's Church, Drogheda, at 7.30pm.  All are welcome to attend.

For those of you not completely familiar with us, you can log on to our website  We are always looking for new members to join us in our prayer, so if you are not a member, you might consider becoming one.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Poorer Church...

There is another issue which I have been pondering, and it is not unrelated to that just mentioned in my last post: the issue of the Church tax in Germany. 

At the moment the German government requires its citizens to declare which Church they are members of, if they are members, and a percentage of their salary is then taken at source and passed on to their Church.  This is the main source of income for the Church in Germany, and it has made the Church there very wealthy.  German Catholics who object to this have no option but to formally leave the Church in order to prevent the tax being taken from their salary.  Not an ideal situation. 

The Church in Germany has since become a major contributor to the Holy See, passing on large donations from the funds it has collected in taxes.  Now given the nature of the human condition, I’m sure we all know the effects such generous donations can have, and so when the phrase “The Rhine flows into the Tiber” is mentioned, a number of things are implied.  The Papacy may well, at times, have found itself under pressure from the north, and that is not good.  Is such pressure being applied now in the issue of Communion for the divorced and remarriage, an issue close to the hearts of the German bishops?  One couldn’t possibly speculate. 

The Church tax is problematic; being in the pay of the secular authorities, or relying on it for one’s income, has never been good for the Church.  Often bishops and priests have been tempted to side with the source of income when disputes arose between secular powers and the faith.  There is also the concern that if a tax is being collected and paid to the Church, the expectations and desires of those who pay it may assume more importance than the Gospel.  In our consumerist age those who pay expect a service and expect it to be carried out in the a particular manner which accords with those expectations.  If these expectations and desires are out of synch with Church teaching, that puts pastors who rely on the tax in a dilemma: what do they do?

I personally believe the Church in Germany must renounce the Church tax and rely, as the Church does almost everywhere else, on voluntary donations.  Yes, it may well mean a poorer Church in Germany, but also a freer Church, one where the paymaster does not decide the direction the Church goes in, but rather the Gospel.  Pope Francis, with his emphasis on poverty, is the very man who could persuade the German bishops to renounce it.

Is Church History About To Repeat Itself?

CNA/Stephen Driscoll

A friend sent me an email recently in which he wondered if Pope Francis will face a "Humanae Vitae moment" at the Synod on the family next October. The substance of his reflection is that the Pope will be unable to satisfy the demands of the German bishops, the media and liberal Catholics and permit the admission of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to the Eucharist, and this will lead to a situation for Francis which will mirror that faced by the Venerable Paul VI in 1968 following his refusal to endorse the use of artificial contraception. This has been suggested by a few people in the past couple of weeks. 

I have been thinking about this for the last while, and reflecting on it with some theologian friends, and I think it is possible that this might actually happen. Ultimately it will depend on how Francis deals with the situation, but I have to admit the Holy Father is being pushed further and further into a corner by growing expectations.  

Let's explore this for a moment. We are all aware of the media hype that surrounds the Holy Father. Okay, we can put to one side for a moment his ambiguity, his lack of theological precision and the now growing need for Fr Lombardi or other Vatican officials to clarify points made by the Pope due to his spontaneous utterances. The Holy Father's style is different from John Paul's and Benedict's - he is more free and ambiguous in his speech and I think we'll just have to get used to this for this Pontificate (although rumours have it a senior ranking Churchman has taken the Pope to one side and has had a "chat" with him on this ambiguity so we might see a change there - might). But all that said, I do not doubt his orthodoxy.  

However the media and liberals have been engaged in creating a virtual Francis, one who eschews doctrine and wants to demolish the Church and rebuild it as a more liberal organisation founded on the shifting sands of relativism and human emotions. At the moment it can be hard to distinguish between Francis and the virtual Francis because the secular media control most of the airwaves and Francis's free ways do not help matters. As we have seen here in Ireland with the recent abortion issue, the media set the agenda and can actually push public representatives and even the electorate in a particular direction - one which favours their point of view and political persuasion. Such is the power of the image and careful control of reporting and opinion. In a similar way, the media are presenting the virtual Francis as the reality and selectively reporting on what he says so as to lead the public to accept their man as the real man.

In this context, then, it may well be that the media and liberals will be attempting to use their power to push various issues in a particular direction. They may well be na├»ve enough to think that Francis will go in that direction (but he is, as we all know now, his own man), and so they are sowing expectations that Church teaching on marriage and the Eucharist may well be changed "for pastoral reasons". There are those in the Church who seem to think this as many pastors have already allowed divorced and civilly remarried couples receive Holy Communion in anticipation of the Pope changing the rule. This is very much like the situation in the 1960s with regard to contraception - many bishops and priests were then advising Catholics to use contraception because they believed Pope Paul was going to permit it.  

But will Francis change the rule? I do not think he will, not because he won't but, as I said before, because he can't. Even though it is a personal and painful issue for many, it is at its core an issue of the moral law. I have no doubt that Francis realises this and knows that to change the rule is to admit that adultery is no longer a grave sin, and such a change will undermine the nature of Christian marriage and lead the faithful into error, something as Pope he cannot do. There is much to be done on this painful issue, and the synod will reflect on what possibilities lie before us - one of which is a reconsideration of the annulment process and perhaps even the issue of canonical form as suggested by Ed Peters in a recent article. Such a synod is long overdue and, given the challenges to marriage, it is necessary. 

I hope Pope Francis is also aware that to change the rule will have other consequences with regard to marriage: this is not just about the divorced and civilly remarried receiving Communion - it is about the nature of marriage. We had a similar situation in 1968: Pope Paul realised that contraception was broader than controlling fertility in the short term, but rather an issue of life, marriage and the family. Paul prophetically understood that contraception would led to the undermining of respect for life because it placed life under the control of human beings and left it up to them to decide whether life begins or not, and, as we have seen, if life has begun whether it will be allowed continue or not. Rendering the sexual act barren through artificial means would also lead to other problematic issues regarding the integrity of the human person and the family. 

So too with this issue on marriage. To change the rule would undermine sacramental marriage and endorse situations in which Catholic marriage can be put to one side and other unions legitimised. Remember receiving Communion is not just a personal act, it is an ecclesial act: admitting those in what are seen as irregular unions under the moral law to the Eucharist will be seen to legitimise those unions. This will have many consequences. For one it will open the door to a form of legitimising same sex unions: how could the Church refuse the Eucharist to those in a same sex union when it allows it for the divorced and civilly remarried? To be consistent, she can't: she will have already undermined and put aside the moral law. 

If the Pope were to grant the German bishops what they want, he would leave the decision about the validity of a sacramental marriage to the subjective opinion of the spouses. This too would have serious consequences for marriage and for women in particular - what is stopping a man who is tired of his wife to decide in his heart of hearts that the marriage was not valid and so put her to one side with the, albeit reluctant, approval of the Church? An English king tried to do that once.

We may well be facing another troublesome period in the Church, not quite unchartered waters, but stormy ones, and the now popular Francis may well suddenly find himself presiding over another period of defections, and this will be painful for him and for all of us. It will, I suppose, depend on how the media and liberals want to proceed - will they ignore the Post-Synodal Exhortation and continue to mislead, or will they decide the decision is too obvious to ignore and turn on Francis? I do not know, it's all in the air. But one thing I do know: we need to pray for the Holy Father, and pray hard: first that he will do the right thing, and then that God will sustain him as what may be a very difficult cross will be laid on his shoulders - one which may well kill him in the end, as Paul VI's did.

Perhaps we might commend him to the care and intercession of the Venerable Paul VI.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Holy Epiphany

Adoration of the Magi - Giotto
How blessed you are, O Holy Infant, God made man. 
Revealed to the world through the adoration of the Magi:
You come, Divine Messiah, to save the world.
With the Holy Magi, we fall down and worship you
and offer you our hearts, our souls, our lives,
filled with love for our Eternal Father
and our neighbour.
Today, let us pray that assisted by the prayers of the Holy Magi,
SS Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar,
our lives may be an epiphany,
revealing Christ to the world
through zeal, charity, virtue and holiness.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The 12 Days: Twelfth Day

How blessed you are, O Holy Infant, God made man. 
You come with your wisdom
to reveal to mankind the Face of God.
Touch our hearts, O Blessed Son of the Father,
so they may be transformed with our desire
to see your Holy Face,
filled with love for our Eternal Father
and our neighbour.
Today, let us pray that we may seek God above all things
and orientate our lives to that desire.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The 12 Days: Eleventh Day

How blessed you are, O Holy Infant, God made man. 
You come shining forth with new light:
to reveal the love of the Father
and the way of truth.
Fill our hearts, O Divine Saviour, with your light,
transform our hearts,
cast out the darkness of sin,
to make them your worthy dwelling,
filled with love for our Eternal Father
and our neighbour.
Today, let us pray that we may embrace the light Christ brings,
so to radiate that light
in serenity, humility and joy.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The 12 Days: Tenth Day

How blessed you are, O Holy Infant, God made man. 
And blessed is your Holy Name,
in which we hear the word of salvation.
May our lives be devoted to you, Sweet Jesus,
your Holy Name imprinted on our hearts,
so we may proclaim that Name
filled with love for our Eternal Father
and our neighbour.
Today, let us pray that consecrated to the Holy Name,
we may worship the One who bears it,
serve him selflessly,
and imitate him humbly.
"O Jesus, be to me a Jesus"

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The 12 Days: Ninth Day

How blessed you are, O Holy Infant, God made man. 
You inspire in your servants Basil and Gregory,
through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit,
the love of Christian friendship.
Make our hearts like theirs, O beloved Eternal Friend:
meditative, generous, patient,
filled with love for our Eternal Father
and our neighbour.
Today, inspired by the holy friendship of SS Basil and Gregory,
may we give thanks for the gift of friendship
and seek to live that love in Christ
so to be sanctified by that love
and assist our friends on the way of holiness.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The 12 Days: Eighth Day

File:Our Holy Mother Of Perpetual Succour.jpg
How blessed you are, O Holy Infant, God made man. 
For you raised up Mary, the humble Virgin of Nazareth,
as Theotokos,
the Holy Mother of God
and Mother of all peoples.
Make our hearts like hers, O sweet Jesus:
loving, contemplative, poor in spirit,
devoted to the will of the Father,
filled with love for our Eternal Father
and our neighbour.
Today, let us pray that we may give ourselves completely
into the hands of the Holy Theotokos
so she, our Mother, may bring us to Christ
and make our hearts like unto His.