Monday, 31 January 2011

St Brigid, patroness of Australia?

Some, though not all, of the traditionalist communities in Australia seem to be celebrating February 1 as a Class II feast on the basis that St Brigid (who doesn't actually make it into the general calendar) is a patron saint of Australia.  Can anyone tell me when that happened and why?

St Brigid (c451-525)

Now despite my blind prejudice against all things Irish (and yes I do have Irish ancestry!) on the grounds of the cultural devastation  it has caused in this country, St Brigid has some attractions: a monastic foundress, she is certainly one of those activist women saints who make clericalists squirm, with claims that she was made a bishop (well, really just made similar promises) and exercized jurisdiction.  The Catholic Encyclopedia explains it thus:

She founded two monastic institutions, one for men, and the other for women, and appointed St. Conleth as spiritual pastor of them. It has been frequently stated that she gave canonical jurisdiction to St. Conleth, Bishop of Kildare, but, as Archbishop Healy points out, she simply "selected the person to whom the Church gave this jurisdiction", and her biographer tells us distinctly that she chose St. Conleth "to govern the church along with herself". Thus, for centuries, Kildare was ruled by a double line of abbot-bishops and of abbesses, the Abbess of Kildare being regarded as superioress general of the convents in Ireland.

But a patroness of Australia?

All the same, if she was made a patroness of Australia, there is a remarkable lack of public documentation about it around.
 
First, the Brisbane Liturgical Commission's calendar doesn't seem to include her feast in the Novus Ordo calendar at all.
 
Secondly, the official Catholic Inquirers website has this to say:
 
"Currently Australia has only one patron (which is normally the case for most countries) and that is Our Lady Help of Christians. The Feast day is celebrated on 24 May.

Australians have invoked the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary since 1844 under the title of our Lady Help of Christians. The title first came about in the sixteenth century when Pope Pius V included it in the litany of Loreto. Later in 1815 Pope Pius VII established Mary Help of Christians as a feast day after he returned to Rome from his years of captivity imposed by Napoleon Bonaparte.

For some time, though, Australia also had the patronage of both St. Francis Xavier (3 December) and St. Therese of Lisieux (1 October) who were co-patrons of universal missions.

This declaration was made in 1927 by Pope Pius XI. When Australia ceased to be a mission country under Propaganda in 1976 both St Francis Xavier and St Therese of Liseaux ceased to be patrons of Australia."

The bishops are however in the process of asking the Vatican to make St Mary McKillop a patroness of Australia, so perhaps all this will be clarified soon one way or another...
 
But if anyone knows how St Brigid crept into the 1962 calendar here, please do enlighten me...

The ABC's Religion and Ethics Website...

This is a post I've been meaning to write for a while, but prompted by Canberra Observer, I wanted to draw reader's attention to the rather good ABC Religion and Ethics website.  And yes, I really am talking about your ABC in praise, not condemnation!

When the Australian Broadcasting Commission went online...

There was a fair amount of angst a year or so back from the bishops and others when the ABC decided to axe Radio National's The Religion Report and go online instead.  Now I admit it wasn't angst I shared - I figured anything would be an improvement on then presenter Stephen Crittenden's entirely secular-liberal perspective.

But all the same, I have been impressed by the overall quality of the site.  It makes a genuine effort to cover all ends of the spectrum (I even saw some comments lauding it on aCatholica, and yes the downside of  this is that Paul Collins still gets his time on the ABC!), and tackles a wide range of issues.  And it makes clever use of the technologies, including podcasts, video and twitter.

So let me point you to two excellent articles up there currently that illustrate the diversity of the site, and are well worth a careful read.

The unintended consequences of Dawkins et al...

First up is a piece by Alistair McGrath arguing that the new atheists have done us a favour - far from killing off religion as obsolete, they've helped but God back on the public agenda.

Much of the most penetrating critique of Dawkins et al, he argues, is actually coming from fellow secularists, worrying about the effects of the over the top rhetoric that is their hallmark:

"It easy to see why the "old school" of atheism is worried. The slick and breezy slogans of the New Atheism simply conceal its obvious evidential and rational deficit. Sooner or later, someone's going to notice that these simplistic slogans just don't match up with the reality. And they're right to be apprehensive."

There are some interesting implications he draws out from all this...

The future of Aged Care in Australia
 
Secondly I wanted to mention a blog post by Scott Stephens on the Draft Report of the Productivity Commission on Aged Care reform.
 
How we care for our currently largely neglected, and rapidly growing ageing population is a crucial issue for Australia, and one I hope to come back to in a later post.  But this article is an excellent starting point for your consideration.  Stephens goes right to the core of the issue from a Christian perspective:
 
"...for far too many Australians, the ability to go on living in our consumerist nirvana is predicated on the capacity to forget our obligations to the elderly.

And here there is a rather distressing correlation between our failure to honour our obligations to the unborn and to the elderly. In this respect, what Peter Hitchens says about the "strange popularity of abortion" applies to our haste to consign the elderly to third-party care:

"I have often thought that the strange popularity of abortion among people who ought to know better has much to do with this sensation of lost control, of being pulled down into a world of servitude, into becoming our own parents. It is not the doomed baby that the unwilling parents hate ... It is the life they might have to live if the baby is born."

And so it seems that the elderly, like unwanted pregnancies, have become a kind of ritual sacrifice that we as a society offer to the most implacable of our modern idols: what Herve Juvin has described as a kind of lived immortality sustained by unlimited choice, a freedom from obligation to others, and the delusion that we can somehow indefinitely defer our deaths."

Do read it all, take a look around the rest of the site while you are there.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

And they will know we are pagans...

Over at Sentire Cum Ecclesia David Schütz has written a nice article on the call to repentance addressed to lapsed catholics in the context of an anti-catholic piece from (soon to be ex? retired priest) Fr Eric Hogdens about a possible Australian run of the successful 'Catholics Come Home Campaign'.

Neo-pagan acatholicism?

It is timely then that Fr Z has alerted his readers to a piece by Fr Dwight Longenecker on the collapse of 'cultural catholicism' in America, which pretty much parallels the Australian experience.

Fr Lonenecker points to the same kind of mass attendance statistics as Australia is getting (around 15% of Catholics on average in the US, a little lower here), and asks the vital question:

"What is the reason for these disastrous statistics? Basically because for the last forty years Catholics themselves have not taught Catholicism to their children. They've taught 'American Catholicism' which is a watered down blend of sentimentalism, political correctness, community activism and utilitarianism. In other words, "Catholicism is about feeling good about yourself, being just to others and trying to change the world." The next generation have drawn the obvious conclusion that you don't need to go to Mass to do all that. You can feel good about yourself much more effectively with a good book from the self help shelf, or by attending a personal development seminar. You can be involved in making the world a better place without going to church."

But how do you evangelize those who (wrongly) consider themselves to be good Catholics?

Fr Lonenecker's solution is evangelization and a return to an emphasis on the sacred.  But his comment on the problems in attempting this are particularly pertinent:

"The big difference is that the Apostles knew their targets were pagans and the pagans knew they weren't Christians. We're dealing with a huge population of Americans (Catholics and Protestants alike) who are pagan but who think they're 'good Christians.' It is very difficult to evangelize people who already think they're fine just as they are. We don't know what we don't know, and the vast majority of poorly catechized, lazy and worldly Catholics aren't aware that there's anything wrong."

Fr Z comments that:

"It may be that some of those pagans of whom Fr. Longenecker speaks above are also wearing Roman collars. They just don’t realize they actually belong to a different religion."

Well, I sincerely doubt whether many of Australia's venting acatholic priests would ever be seen dead wearing a Roman collar, but the sentiment certainly works!

I'm also not quite sure that neo-paganism is the correct label - there are certainly some false idols being worshipped in this stuff, but isn't this really, for all practical purposes, just plain old-fashioned atheism?  Either way, it certainly is a problem that needs to be tackled head-on in my view.  Just waiting and hoping that they die out condemns both them and many more who follow them.

But it is not just sloth....

There is a dreadful 70s 'hymn' - you know the one, 'they'll know we are Christians by our luv...' - that claims has perhaps encouraged a content free concept of charity that empties it of all actual Christian content.

And the dire consequences of such pulp theology are only too evident in the mass rejection amongst Catholics of the idea that to be a Catholic one actually has to turn away from sin and believe what Our Lord and his Church teach.

The problem is also that while the vast majority of this group have slumped simply into indifference, a significant minority - witness the stream of pieces by priests and religious of late mentioned on this blog - have turned to active hatred of the Church and all it stands for, and continual attacks on anything that looks like it might succeed (such as the Catholics Come Home campaign).

Traditionalists cop a lot of flack - perhaps because that is where you can actually go to Church and see young families attend.

Conservatives like Cardinal Pell cop a lot of flack  - perhaps because they actually stand up for Catholic morality.

And every success story is bitterly attacked by the (fortunately ageing) liberal remnant.

Revival of religious life and the Missionaries of God's Love

Take for example the lively new emerging order, the Missionaries of God's Love (memorably dubbed the brown trouser boys by the now defunct Cooees blog).  They are thriving, with forty nine brothers and priests now, and an associated group of young women.

Though charismatic in orientation, they are completely orthodox, and Eucharistic Adoration is a central part of their charism.

So you would think everyone would be doing all that they can to support them - the dioceses they work in, the Catholic Religious Australia establishment, and so forth.

But instead of being given some help with a convent by the Canberra or Melbourne Archdioceses, the women's group seem to be out desperately fundraising and pleading for help, as they've outgrown their current accommodation.

And instead of their success being hailed as the start of a counter-trend to the more than 50% decline in the number of religious since the mid-1970s alone, they actually got a bollocking, enshrined in print, at a recent conference of Catholic Religious Australia held to consider the report "See, I am Doing a New Thing!".

A "theological reflection" by Francis J Maloney SDB, Provincial of the Australia-Pacific Province of the Salesians of Don Bosco, printed in the Report released with some fanfare late last year, actually includes a general rant against the newer orders and lay ecclesial movements that are stepping up.  And here is what he has to say about them and the MGL's:

"My other concern is their absence from the margins of human society, among the poor and the suffering...While I wish them well, and admire their focus upon God [damning with faint praise what should be the central element of all Christian lives!] and their often-deep commitment to prayer [because religious life surely shouldn't be prayer-centered, with Eucharistic Adoration as a regular part of it!], especially more charismatic forms of prayer (especially important for the Missionaries of God's Love), I am waiting for them to join the traditional religious of Australia at the margins of society [!what!?  This is a pretty breathtaking misrepresentation of the MGLs (and the other groups referred to for that matter).].."
 
That last is a pretty amazing statement.  The MGL website shows that:
  • in Darwin they run a chaplaincy to the aboriginal people through the St. Martin de Porres community. This includes a chaplaincy to the Darwin jail in which most of the inmates are Aboriginal men and a part-time chaplaincy at St. John's College, which is a boarding school with a large number of Aboriginal young people;
  • have a mission in working predominantly with people who live in "squatter settlements" which are overcrowded shanty towns with limited water supply and electricity. The MGLs provide both spiritual and practical assistance to enable the poor and marginalised to develop their lives to the fullest extent possible;
  • in their model Melbourne and Canberra parishes have active commitments to charitable work and work with Indigenous people.
But perhaps the problem is their reluctance to abandon tackling the issue of spiritual poverty?  Their refusal to abandon a commitment to practical charity? Or perhaps it is because they do not join the 'traditional' orders in spending all their time lobbying Government for funding and policy change under the guise of 'social justice' instead of actually getting out and doing something...

Nothing new in this I guess...

There is of course nothing new about such attacks.  One only has to read the psalms, speaking to us across the millennia, to be reminded that the bitterness and malevolence that takes hold in those who act as if God doesn't exist, doesn't watch what we do, and act as if there were no consequences to their actions is endemic to those who fail to fear God.

So please, pray for the conversion of priests, and for all those being persecuted and bullied by the Liberal establishment.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Ordinariate update...

Zenit has posted an interview with Bishop Eliot on the progress in setting up the Australian (and Japan!) Ordinariate which is well worth reading - and you could do so via the excellent Ordinariate Portal.

Of particular note is the news that it is not just the Traditional Anglican Communion that is being brought in here, but also some clergy and laity from the official Anglican Church.

An extraordinary lay saint: Joan of Arc


A few days ago I wrote about an 'ordinary' lay saint, Catherine of Genoa.

This week, the Pope gave his General Audience on another lay saint, but one who led a much more extraordinary life, St Joan of Arc.

Unfortunately the full (non-copyright) English version of the text probably won't meander its way onto the Vatican website for another week or two (of course you are set if you can read Croatian - that language's version generally appears in a day or two!), but in the meantime you can go and read the Zenit version on their site.

Here is a short teaser:

"Today I would like to speak to you about Joan of Arc, a young saint from the end of the Middle Ages, who died at age 19, in 1431. This French saint, quoted many times in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is particularly close to St. Catherine of Siena, patroness of Italy and Europe, of whom I spoke in a recent catechesis. In fact they are two young women of the people, lay and consecrated in virginity, two committed mystics, not in a cloister, but in the midst of the most dramatic realities of the Church and of the world of their time. They are, perhaps, the most characteristic examples from among those "strong women" who, at the end of the Middle Ages, fearlessly took the great light of the Gospel to the complex vicissitudes of history. We could place her next to the holy women who stayed on Calvary, close to Jesus crucified, and Mary, his mother, while the apostles fled and Peter himself denied him three times."

Great that the Pope is bringing to us such an interesting selection of women saints, who played, and continue to play, such key roles in the Church in disparate ways!

Oh that God might call such saints forth today - and that we all might overcome our lukewarmness and cowardice and say yes to God's call to us all to be great saints as St Teresa of Avila instructs!

Just call me Catholic please...

Cath News continues with its winning streak in the propagation of error today, with a blog entry by Fr Gerald Arbuckle SM, attacking traditionalists and conservatives, and accusing them of being fundamentalists, just like the Islamic variety.

Catholic fundamentalists are just like Islamic fundamentalists...!

Catholic fundamentalists are just like Islamic fundamentalists?  Really?!  And the last traditionalist to set off a suicide bomb or launch a terror attack was?

It is not a new line - a US liberal journalist coined the term 'Taliban Catholic' and it gained some currency around the world for a while.

It is a pretty outrageous claim though.

Here is Fr Gerard's justification for his condemnation:

"Sometimes they turn to all kinds of bullying – emotional, political, even physical violence at times – to get things back to "normal".

Those are pretty strong claims.  And I'd like to see some evidence to support them.  Because I am not aware of any cases at all of violence for example.

And most of the bullying has been from the liberal side of the fence, not the conservative-traditionalist!

But if fundamentalism means the rejection of liberal heresies....

Still, perhaps we really are fundamentalists in the broader sense.  Interestingly, the wikipedia's definition of a fundamentalist is this: "adherence to specific set of theological doctrines typically in reaction against the theology of Modernism". The term's origins lie in those who defend traditional views over liberal theology, and on that definition, I guess I am a fundamentalist, and happy to be so, since last I heard, modernism was still a heresy!

Still, it is meant to be a pejorative, and I would argue that I and others who Fr Gerald would presumably label as fundamentalists are actually just Catholics.  Just people who believe what the Church has always taught, and does what the Church tells us we have a duty to do.  But it's unsurprising to hear believing Catholics given  pejorative names by those who claim to be catholics - but don't actually believe or practice what the Church teaches.

A longing for the past - or just a desire for a better present?

Let's take a look at Fr Gerald's arguments.

His basic argument is that fundamentalism is a reaction to change social and religious change, engendering a simplisitic desire to "return to a utopian past or golden age, purified of dangerous ideas and practices".

And of course there is some truth in this - not, of course that there is a desire to return to a golden age (perhaps I would suggest that the pre-Vatican era was perhaps at best a silver one, certainly an advance on the current very dire state of the Church in Australia in terms of attendance, adherence or any other measure).  Personally I'm too young to remember the pre-Vatican II era, but I've heard and read enough about it to know that it was no golden age, and I'm very happy indeed not to be living in the 1950s. 

But certainly there is a desire to purify out dangerous ideas and practices in religion.

Indeed, the Pope himself has spoken of the need for this several times, pointing to the parallel with the period immediately after the Council of Nicaea, a council that condemned the heresy of Arianism (rejection of Our Lord's divinity).  It was a time when, as Blessed Cardinal Newman wrote, virtually every bishop in the world was an Arian heretic.  Yet after a period of disruption, through the providential action of God, the dangerous ideas that had sprung up were put down, and orthodoxy eventually restored.

And the Pope himself has given the lead on countering some of the dangerous practices that have sprung up, insisting, for example, now on reception on the tongue at papal liturgies.

Preserving our culture

Fr Gerald also attacks those who are concerned that migration is undermining Australian culture:

Here in Australia, for example, there is a political fundamentalist movement to preserve the “pure, orthodox Australian culture” from the “endangering ways of foreigners”.

The reality is of course that Australia is a nation of migrants, and almost no one thinks that can or should change. 

What some are legitimately concerned about however is the current record high levels of migration, and our capacity as a country to cope with it (both in terms of the physical and social infrastructure).  Even more concerning is the influx of migrants who do not accept Australia's system of government and law as legitimate, are working actively to convert others to their cause, and are prepared to use terrorist methods to achieve their goals.  Only this week for example, was it made public that one of the leading organisers of people smuggling into Australia, allegedly responsible for the disastrous loss of life in the recent shipwreck near Christmas Island, is an Australian passport holder of Iranian origin.  And there have been a series of terror trials and incidents illustrating the very real nature of the threat to our institutions.

Fr Gerald's signs of fundamentalism

Fr Gerald sets out a number of signs of fundamentalism.  I've given them numbers (and combined a couple) for ease of reference.

1.  ...it is assumed that Church never changed...undivided by misguided devotees of the Council’s values. The fact is that the Church and its teachings have often changed. Some statements have been shown to be wrong and were either repealed or allowed to lapse.

Do I detect the smoke of 'spirit of Vatican IIism' here?  Because the truth is that the Church's teachings do not change! They way they are presented and explained, sure.  Pastoral practices, yes.  The ordinary magisterium  - occasionally, albeit very rarely. But as Pope Benedict XVI has insisted, the Council's teachings have to be seen in a spirit of continuity, not automatically interpreted as rupture.

2.  A highly selective approach to what fundamentalists think pertains to the Church’s teaching: Statements on incidental issues are obsessively affirmed, but papal or episcopal pronouncements on social justice are ignored or considered matters for debate only.

There is a strange thing about the term 'social justice'.  Look up the index of either the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church and you won't find it!  It's not that the term isn't used by the Magisterium - it is. Occasionally.  But it is put in its proper context of the much broader array of the Church's Social Teaching - including the issues that Fr Gerald presumably regards as 'incidental' - such as the right to life for example.

3. Concern for accidentals, not for the substance of issues, e.g., the Lefebvre group stresses Latin for the Mass, failing to see that this does not pertain to authentic tradition.

Latin is not part of the authentic tradition of the 'Latin rite'?! Last I heard, Latin was still the official language of the Church, and all 'Latin rite' priests retain the right to say the Mass (of whichever missal) in Latin.  Indeed, even Pope Paul VI wrote (in vain) on a number of occasions about the importance of safeguarding the use of Latin in the Church as part of its tradition and patrimony even while providing the option of the vernacular.

4.  The vehemence and intolerance with which they attack co-religionists ...attempts to infiltrate governmental structures of the Church...An elitist assumption that fundamentalists have a kind of supernatural authority and right to pursue and condemn those who disagree with them, including bishops and theologians.

The ticking timebomb of Canon 212 and the right to form private associations indeed! Because yes, the 'Gaudium et Spes' generation are dying out, and a new more traditionally oriented generation are making their views and desires known.  Though actually, if anyone is succeeding in 'this 'infiltration' process, I've yet to see the results of it!

And some of us do get angry - mostly a righteous anger in my view - when our right to a Mass without liturgical abuses or heretical sermons is abused; angry when pap 1970s songs sung badly are forced on us; when casual irreverence is the norm not the exception; and above all when those who should be shepherds of their flocks are instead ravening wolves disguised as sheep.

But is this elitism - or the sensus fidei at work?  Could it not in fact be the expression of charisms that have been so important in returning the Church to orthodoxy and orthopraxis at other key periods in the Church's history?

5. A spirituality in which Jesus Christ is portrayed as an unforgiving and punishing God; the overwhelming compassion and mercy of Christ is overlooked.

Traditionalists are certainly aware of the need for God's mercy.  But as Scripture repeatedly stresses, the beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord.  And if this is a reference to the view that all are saved, even if they actually reject the Church's teachings, the error of inclusivity, then yes I for one plead guilty....

It really is disappointing to see this kind of attack served up as legitimate opinion on a semi-official website.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Happy Australia Day!


On 26 January 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the First Fleet of eleven convict ships from Great Britain and the first governor of New South Wales, arrived at Sydney Cove, and raised the Union Jack.  And thus started the colony that eventually became the great country of Australia.

Today would be a particularly appropriate day to pray for the conversion of our country:

O God, Who hast appointed Our Lady, Help of Christians, St Mary McKillop, St Francis Xavier, St Therese of the Infant Jesus Patrons of Australia, grant that through their intercession our brethren outside the Church may receive the light of faith, so that Australia may become one in faith under one Shepherd. Through Christ our Lord. R/. Amen.


Our Lady, Help of Christians, pray for us.

St Mary McKillop, pray for us.

St Francis Xavier, pray for us.

St Therese of the Infant Jesus, pray for us.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The error of inclusivism

There has been a call recently for a 'syllabus of errors' following Vatican II, and here is one I'd like to add to the list: inclusivism, as articulated in an opinion piece by Fr Ron Rolheiser OMI, brought us courtesy of Cath News' interesting selection of opinion pieces.

What is inclusivism?

Inclusivism is the idea that rules, beliefs and practices are irrelevant and divisive, because:

"What ultimately characterizes a genuine faith and a big heart is not how pure our churches, doctrines, and morals might be, but how wide is the embrace of our hearts."

And pesky things like doctrine, morals and practices are irrelevant because everyone will get to heaven:

"One of the marks of a Christian heart is the desire for inclusivity, the desire to ultimately be in communion with as many people as possible..."

The desire to bring souls to heaven is holy

Now of course it is certainly true that the desire to bring as many souls into heaven is a truly christian characteristic.  But wishful thinking, or worse, ignoring sin, won't make it happen. 

Fr Ron correctly points out that actually the rules do matter:

Our Christian scriptures and our subsequent tradition warn clearly that there are certain rights and wrongs and that certain attitudes and actions can exclude us from the God's Kingdom, heaven.

And it's true too, as he points out that God wants all to be saved:

But those same scriptures make it equally clear that God's salvific will is universal and that God's deep, constant, passionate longing is that everyone, absolutely everyone, regardless of their attitude and actions, be somehow brought into the house. God, it seems, does not want to rest until everyone is home, eating at the same table.

He then provides three scriptural stories from Luke 15 to illustrate the zeal we should have to bring the lost sheep back into the fold, or welcome the lost back when they return or are found.  True enough.

The problem of course is that while God calls all to be saved, he gives us free will.  So that while everyone can choose salvation, in fact Christ died 'for many'.  We have to accept that God's gift to us of free will would be meaningless if no one could actually say no to God and not have that 'No' stick.

Relativism rules

More, the comforting idea that there are multiple paths to heaven and that we don't need to insist on the one the Church lays out for us has no basis in Scripture or Tradition.  Fr Ron claims that:

"Our own love, truth, and worship are often unconsciously predicated on making ourselves right by making others wrong. Too often we have an unconscious mantra which says: I can only be good, if someone else is bad. I can only be right, if someone else is wrong. My dogma can only be true, if someone else's is false. My religion can only be right, if someone else's is wrong. My Eucharist can only be valid, if someone else's is invalid. And I can only be in heaven, if someone else is in hell."

He is right in suggesting that there is a false duality in this of course: what God actually wants is for everyone to be good, for everyone to believe what the Church teaches, for everyone to follow the only true religion! 

But in the meantime, yes Father, some people do do right, others do the wrong thing. 

The dogmas taught by the Church are true, those condemned by it are false. 

The Catholic religion is the only true one. 

The Eucharist is only valid where the requirements set out by the Church are met. 

Build your house on the rock, and ignore the ravening wolves

What Fr Ron omits to mention in his retelling (and creative rewriting) of the Scriptural stories in Luke 15 is that in the story of the prodigal son, the son actually repents, to the point where he is willing to accept again his father's rule, and take even the lowest position amongst his father's workers. 

In the story of the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to go after the one lost, he returns it home on his own shoulders, not some other mysterious way.

And the moral is this.  Unless we are working to persuade all those other lost sons and sheep to likewise repent, to return to the sheepfold, and yes, obey those pesky rules, and believe what must be believed, we are leading them to perdition not heaven.

Because as hundreds of visions of the saints attest, the idea that hell is empty is just wishful thinking...

On 'ordinary' lay saints...

One often hears complaints, on certain types of blogs, and in books on the 'theology of the laity', about the relative dearth of lay saints.

The wrong type of saints?

What this is generally code for is not that there aren't many lay saints in the calendar, for there are; but that they are in some way the 'wrong type' of lay saint, disdained by many today for their hardline positions (such as St Monica, St Augustine's mother), their positions (kings and queens) or their defense of Christian dedication and virtue, such as the virgin martyrs. 

Now these days I rather suspect we need once more to be reminded of the heroic courage of the martyrs; those who converted their husbands and thence their countries; and those faced with the apostasy of their children, and more.  These are times when we need to be inspired to cope with the lesser persecutions that are becoming increasingly common in our society, even to be prepared, if necessary to disobey immoral laws.

All the same, it is nice to be reminded from time to time of the lay holy women and confessors who have been recognized by the Church even though they carried out no heroic deeds, yet learnt heroic virtue!

Catherine of Genoa, a married saint


Pope Benedict's General Audience on Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510) has received some coverage for the saints' teaching on purgatory as a state rather than a place.  But now that the full text translation of the Audience is (finally) available, it can be seen that her life is also an inspirational model for married women, so here are some extracts from the Audience on this aspect of her life:

...Catherine was born in Genoa in 1447. She was the youngest of five. Her father, Giacomo Fieschi, died when she was very young. Her mother, Francesca di Negro provided such an effective Christian education that the elder of her two daughters became a religious.

Unhappy marriage

When Catherine was 16, she was given in marriage to Giuliano Adorno, a man who after various trading and military experiences in the Middle East had returned to Genoa in order to marry.

Married life was far from easy for Catherine, partly because of the character of her husband who was given to gambling. Catherine herself was at first induced to lead a worldly sort of life in which, however, she failed to find serenity. After 10 years, her heart was heavy with a deep sense of emptiness and bitterness.

[The Pope's summation here seems something of an understatement: according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "The marriage turned out wretchedly; Giuliano proved faithless, violent-tempered, and a spendthrift. And made the life of his wife a misery. Details are scanty, but it seems at least clear that Catherine spent the first five years of her marriage in silent, melancholy submission to her husband; and that she then, for another five, turned a little to the world for consolation in her troubles."]

Conversion

A unique experience on 20 March 1473 sparked her conversion. She had gone to the Church of San Benedetto in the monastery of Nostra Signora delle Grazie [Our Lady of Grace], to make her confession and, kneeling before the priest, “received”, as she herself wrote, “a wound in my heart from God’s immense love”. It came with such a clear vision of her own wretchedness and shortcomings and at the same time of God’s goodness, that she almost fainted.

Her heart was moved by this knowledge of herself — knowledge of the empty life she was leading and of the goodness of God. This experience prompted the decision that gave direction to her whole life. She expressed it in the words: “no longer the world, no longer sin” (cf. Vita Mirabile, 3rv). Catherine did not stay to make her Confession.

On arriving home she entered the remotest room and spent a long time weeping. At that moment she received an inner instruction on prayer and became aware of God’s immense love for her, a sinner. It was a spiritual experience she had no words to describe ( cf. Vita Mirabile, 4r).

It was on this occasion that the suffering Jesus appeared to her, bent beneath the Cross, as he is often portrayed in the Saint’s iconography. A few days later she returned to the priest to make a good confession at last. It was here that began the “life of purification” which for many years caused her to feel constant sorrow for the sins she had committed and which spurred her to impose forms of penance and sacrifice upon herself, in order to show her love to God.

On this journey Catherine became ever closer to the Lord until she attained what is called “unitive life”, namely, a relationship of profound union with God.

Spiritual direction from God

In her Vita it is written that her soul was guided and instructed from within solely by the sweet love of God which gave her all she needed. Catherine surrendered herself so totally into the hands of the Lord that she lived, for about 25 years, as she wrote, “without the assistance of any creature, taught and governed by God alone” (Vita, 117r-118r), nourished above all by constant prayer and by Holy Communion which she received every day, an unusual practice in her time. Only many years later did the Lord give her a priest who cared for her soul.

Catherine was always reluctant to confide and reveal her experience of mystical communion with God, especially because of the deep humility she felt before the Lord’s graces. The prospect of glorifying him and of being able to contribute to the spiritual journey of others alone spurred her to recount what had taken place within her, from the moment of her conversion, which is her original and fundamental experience.

Practical charity

The place of her ascent to mystical peaks was Pammatone Hospital, the largest hospital complex in Genoa, of which she was director and animator. Hence Catherine lived a totally active existence despite the depth of her inner life. In Pammatone a group of followers, disciples and collaborators formed around her, fascinated by her life of faith and her charity.

Indeed her husband, Giuliano Adorno, was so so won over that he gave up his dissipated life, became a Third Order Franciscan and moved into the hospital to help his wife.

Catherine’s dedication to caring for the sick continued until the end of her earthly life on 15 September 1510. From her conversion until her death there were no extraordinary events but two elements characterize her entire life: on the one hand her mystical experience, that is, the profound union with God, which she felt as spousal union, and on the other, assistance to the sick, the organization of the hospital and service to her neighbour, especially the neediest and the most forsaken. These two poles, God and neighbour, totally filled her life, virtually all of which she spent within the hospital walls....

With her life St Catherine teaches us that the more we love God and enter into intimacy with him in prayer the more he makes himself known to us, setting our hearts on fire with his love.

In writing about purgatory, the Saint reminds us of a fundamental truth of faith that becomes for us an invitation to pray for the deceased so that they may attain the beatific vision of God in the Communion of Saints (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1032).

Moreover the humble, faithful and generous service in Pammatone Hospital that the Saint rendered throughout her life is a shining example of charity for all and an encouragement, especially for women who, with their precious work enriched by their sensitivity and attention to the poorest and neediest, make a fundamental contribution to society and to the Church.

Do read the rest of the Audience, particularly for her teaching on purgatory.

St Catherine's feast day is 15 September.

The Pope on the blogosphere...

Pope Benedict XVI has put out some interesting comments in his message for World Communications Day (5 June) this year:

On the occasion of the 45th World Day of Social Communications, I would like to share some reflections that are motivated by a phenomenon characteristic of our age: the emergence of the internet as a network for communication. It is an ever more commonly held opinion that, just as the Industrial Revolution in its day brought about a profound transformation in society by the modifications it introduced into the cycles of production and the lives of workers, so today the radical changes taking place in communications are guiding significant cultural and social developments. The new technologies are not only changing the way we communicate, but communication itself, so much so that it could be said that we are living through a period of vast cultural transformation. This means of spreading information and knowledge is giving birth to a new way of learning and thinking, with unprecedented opportunities for establishing relationships and building fellowship.

New horizons are now open that were until recently unimaginable; they stir our wonder at the possibilities offered by these new media and, at the same time, urgently demand a serious reflection on the significance of communication in the digital age. This is particularly evident when we are confronted with the extraordinary potential of the internet and the complexity of its uses. As with every other fruit of human ingenuity, the new communications technologies must be placed at the service of the integral good of the individual and of the whole of humanity. If used wisely, they can contribute to the satisfaction of the desire for meaning, truth and unity which remain the most profound aspirations of each human being.

In the digital world, transmitting information increasingly means making it known within a social network where knowledge is shared in the context of personal exchanges. The clear distinction between the producer and consumer of information is relativized and communication appears not only as an exchange of data, but also as a form of sharing. This dynamic has contributed to a new appreciation of communication itself, which is seen first of all as dialogue, exchange, solidarity and the creation of positive relations. On the other hand, this is contrasted with the limits typical of digital communication: the one-sidedness of the interaction, the tendency to communicate only some parts of one’s interior world, the risk of constructing a false image of oneself, which can become a form of self-indulgence.

Young people in particular are experiencing this change in communication, with all the anxieties, challenges and creativity typical of those open with enthusiasm and curiosity to new experiences in life. Their ever greater involvement in the public digital forum, created by the so-called social networks, helps to establish new forms of interpersonal relations, influences self-awareness and therefore inevitably poses questions not only of how to act properly, but also about the authenticity of one’s own being. Entering cyberspace can be a sign of an authentic search for personal encounters with others, provided that attention is paid to avoiding dangers such as enclosing oneself in a sort of parallel existence, or excessive exposure to the virtual world. In the search for sharing, for “friends”, there is the challenge to be authentic and faithful, and not give in to the illusion of constructing an artificial public profile for oneself.

The new technologies allow people to meet each other beyond the confines of space and of their own culture, creating in this way an entirely new world of potential friendships. This is a great opportunity, but it also requires greater attention to and awareness of possible risks. Who is my “neighbour” in this new world? Does the danger exist that we may be less present to those whom we encounter in our everyday life? Is there is a risk of being more distracted because our attention is fragmented and absorbed in a world “other” than the one in which we live? Do we have time to reflect critically on our choices and to foster human relationships which are truly deep and lasting? It is important always to remember that virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives.

In the digital age too, everyone is confronted by the need for authenticity and reflection. Besides, the dynamic inherent in the social networks demonstrates that a person is always involved in what he or she communicates. When people exchange information, they are already sharing themselves, their view of the world, their hopes, their ideals. It follows that there exists a Christian way of being present in the digital world: this takes the form of a communication which is honest and open, responsible and respectful of others. To proclaim the Gospel through the new media means not only to insert expressly religious content into different media platforms, but also to witness consistently, in one’s own digital profile and in the way one communicates choices, preferences and judgements that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically. Furthermore, it is also true in the digital world that a message cannot be proclaimed without a consistent witness on the part of the one who proclaims it. In these new circumstances and with these new forms of expression, Christian are once again called to offer a response to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is within them (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

The task of witnessing to the Gospel in the digital era calls for everyone to be particularly attentive to the aspects of that message which can challenge some of the ways of thinking typical of the web. First of all, we must be aware that the truth which we long to share does not derive its worth from its “popularity” or from the amount of attention it receives. We must make it known in its integrity, instead of seeking to make it acceptable or diluting it. It must become daily nourishment and not a fleeting attraction. The truth of the Gospel is not something to be consumed or used superficially; rather it is a gift that calls for a free response. Even when it is proclaimed in the virtual space of the web, the Gospel demands to be incarnated in the real world and linked to the real faces of our brothers and sisters, those with whom we share our daily lives. Direct human relations always remain fundamental for the transmission of the faith!

I would like then to invite Christians, confidently and with an informed and responsible creativity, to join the network of relationships which the digital era has made possible. This is not simply to satisfy the desire to be present, but because this network is an integral part of human life. The web is contributing to the development of new and more complex intellectual and spiritual horizons, new forms of shared awareness. In this field too we are called to proclaim our faith that Christ is God, the Saviour of humanity and of history, the one in whom all things find their fulfilment (cf. Eph 1:10). The proclamation of the Gospel requires a communication which is at once respectful and sensitive, which stimulates the heart and moves the conscience; one which reflects the example of the risen Jesus when he joined the disciples on the way to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35). By his approach to them, his dialogue with them, his way of gently drawing forth what was in their heart, they were led gradually to an understanding of the mystery.

In the final analysis, the truth of Christ is the full and authentic response to that human desire for relationship, communion and meaning which is reflected in the immense popularity of social networks. Believers who bear witness to their most profound convictions greatly help prevent the web from becoming an instrument which depersonalizes people, attempts to manipulate them emotionally or allows those who are powerful to monopolize the opinions of others. On the contrary, believers encourage everyone to keep alive the eternal human questions which testify to our desire for transcendence and our longing for authentic forms of life, truly worthy of being lived. It is precisely this uniquely human spiritual yearning which inspires our quest for truth and for communion and which impels us to communicate with integrity and honesty.

I invite young people above all to make good use of their presence in the digital world. I repeat my invitation to them for the next World Youth Day in Madrid, where the new technologies are contributing greatly to the preparations. Through the intercession of their patron Saint Francis de Sales, I pray that God may grant communications workers the capacity always to carry out their work conscientiously and professionally. To all, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Monday, 24 January 2011

And Cath News was doing so well...

Well I was taking a blog break, but I couldn't help myself and checked the news headlines at Cath News.  They had obviously noticed that I was taking a break as well...

I almost commented last week that Cath News seemed to have taken my advice and turned over a new leaf, adopting a more considered approach to the selection of its material. 

Just as well I didn't, because today marks the return of the old Cath News, with a classic piece from dissenting nun, Sr Joan Chittister, advocate of, inter alia, women priestesses, via the National acatholic Reporter.

Her theme is the role of the laity in the Church, and what she describes as the 'ticking bomb' of Canon 212.  Not everything she has to say is silly or wrong - but unfortunately it is so mixed up with outright with heresy as to disqualify it as "catholic".

Canon 212 - the laity's right to speak up not an invitation to dissent

Sr Joan has apparently just discovered (I guess dissenters don't often bother reading the Code of Canon Law of 1983!) Canon 212, which makes clear that the laity have a right and sometimes a duty to make known to their pastors their views.  Unsurprisingly, she sees it as a potential boon to liberals.

Well no.

First of all its not an unrestricted right to dissent. 

The canon itself speaks of the right and duty being "in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position".

Secondly, it operates within the broader framework of the Code, which obliges Catholics to believe what the Church teaches!

And thirdly, Canon 223 provides that "Ecclesiastical authority is entitled to regulate, in view of the common good, the exercise of rights which are proper to Christ's faithful" - and that includes, in principle at least, public expressions of views under Canon 212 (and yes that does include blogs, forums such as acatholica, and websites such as cath news).

And Canon Law aside...

The more fundamental point of course is that its the conservative and traditional minded laity that have long since taken advantage of Canon 212 - witness the hundreds of blogs - not the rapidly declining members of the 'gaudium et spes' generation.

So let's take a quick look at Sr Joan's list of ten pieces of advice for a new priest.

1.Reread annually a summary of the second Vatican Council reforms.

No.  If you must read about VII, read the actual documents, not some 'spirit of Vatican II' version of them (bring on Bishop Schneider's proposed Syllabus of Vatican II errors!).  Better still, reread the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church each year for all of the Church's teaching over the centuries in an integrated up-to-date form.

2.Commit yourself to interfaith bridge building.

By all means reach out - and seek to convert - Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, and Muslims.  After all, our faith is where truth and salvation lies, right?  Yes, somehow I'm pretty sure that's not what she means...

3.Be open to a changing position of the church on gays and women.

Um no.  Doctrine is doctrine.  It can't be changed.  Instead, let's work for the reassertion of the Church's traditional moral teachings on marriage, and encourage homosexuals to practice continence.

4.Learn more in the first four years of your priesthood than you did in the recent [seminary trainings].

Well probably true, depending on the seminary.  Certainly some of the traditionalist ones seem to be rather vague on the actual practicalities of  how to lead a parish and do all the things associated therewith; while the novus ordo ones frequently seem a little vague on doctrine and how to reenchant the liturgy...

5.Prepare your homilies with one hand on the Bible and the other on (with) the daily newspaper.

Actually I might agree with this one.  Priests need to be out there equipping us to counter secularism and other problems in the world, not giving nebulous fluff sermons or collections of interesting quotes to illustrate esoteric points of theology.  Of course the bible and news should only be starting points, some real substance that engages people is needed...

6.Work with people rather than imposing a top-down strategy.

In the end the priest has to make the final decision on many subjects.  But St Benedict's advice to his abbots to listen carefully to the views of all in the monastery and visitors to it, even the most junior, before making a decision is well worth making your methodology.  Transparency and accountability are norms of our culture which are not at all opposed to the hierarchical constitution of the Church, but rather than aid it.

7. Respect the role of the laity in an evolving Church.

Getting the balance right on this is not easy.  Clericalism in its disease form is alive and well, albeit with different symptoms, in all parts of the Church in my view.

8. Build upon personal spirituality by a growing concern for social justice.

Forget social justice.  Focus on practical charity and prayer instead, and leave the politics to the laity.

9. Store your seminary notes in an inaccessible place.

Well no.  Unless your seminary courses were taught by liberals you will actually need to consult your notes from time to time.  The priest is inevitably the expert in the parish, the person who does actually have to know the rules, theology and so forth!

10. Remember that an unquestioning “company man” in all professions, even the priesthood, sacrifices creative energy.

Yep.  Given that so many bishops and priests are liberals still, or at least fellow travellers, the orthodox young priest needs to steel himself for the problems of coming from a different generation's perspective....

And now back to my attempted blog break...

Saturday, 22 January 2011

The phobia that isn't...

The Australian today reports that there was a debate last night at the Parramatta Town Hall on the merits of sharia law vs democracy. 

The event has been organised by Zaky Mallah, who was acquitted of terrorism charges in 2005 but pleaded guilty to threatening to kill a commonwealth officer after his passport was cancelled. 

And making the case for Sharia law is an Australian-born convert, Siddiq-Conlon, leader of a group called Sharia4Australia, which has three objectives.The first is to persuade Muslims they must hate "taghoot", the worship of any God other than Allah, which includes democracy.  His other objectives are to advise elected governments they have no authority to rule, and to educate non-Muslims on the benefits of sharia, including its punishments.

The Australian quotes Mr Siddiq-Conlon as saying:

"My attack is on the Prime Minister of Australia," he said yesterday. "I hate the parliament in Canberra. I want to go straight for the jugular vein and advise the parliament that they have no right to legislate. They should immediately step down and let the Muslims take over."

"One day Australia will live under sharia; it's inevitable," he said. "If they (Australians) don't accept it, that's not our problem. We hope, and our objective is to have a peaceful transition, but when you look at history that has never been the case. There's always been a fight. It is inevitable that one day there will be a struggle for Islam in Australia."

A more detailed article from the Oz on the increase in home-grown extremism can be found here.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Euthanasia Bill set for defeat?

And some positive news for a change - the ACT Government's lobbying efforts in favour of the Federal Euthanasia Bill seem to have failed, according to the The Canberra Times:

A Senate bid to allow terminally ill Canberrans the right to die is doomed to defeat, the ACT Government says.[Good news!]

The attempt to remove barriers to euthanasia legislation, due to be debated in Federal Parliament next month, looks set to run foul of pro-life senators and MPs from both sides of politics.

Letters from federal Members of Parliament and senators to Chief Minister Jon Stanhope show that the ACT has failed to convince federal parliamentarians the vote is about territory rights and not euthanasia.[That might be because the Bill is only about - euthanasia?!]

The majority of MPs and senators, who responded to a plea by Mr Stanhope to separate the two issues, gave the Chief Minister the cold shoulder, writing that they saw the vote, on a private member's Bill introduced by Greens leader Bob Brown, as a debate about the right to die.

Mr Brown's Bill would repeal legislation brought by Howard government minister Kevin Andrews in 1997, in response to euthanasia laws enacted by the Northern Territory, with the Andrews laws expressly forbidding territories from legislating for voluntary euthanasia.

Mr Stanhope wrote to all senators and MPs in November urging them to separate the territory's rights issue from euthanasia, but he has conceded, after responses from dozens of parliamentarians, that his plea had mostly fallen on deaf ears."

Let's hope the numbers fall the way this article suggests...

Down on your knees folks!

Yep, even as the first funerals are being held, the floods still keep coming.

Perhaps, as I've suggested before, we need a more serious and coordinated prayer response?

Most of the focus at the moment is on Victoria (home of Australia's worst abortion legislation), where more than 51 towns have been affected, and the water is still coming.

But Queensland is still in the thick of it, with severe thunderstorms and huge downpours hitting south-east Queensland for the second night running.  The severe weather pattern is forecast to continue for several months more...

Signs of the times: reclaiming the integrity of Holy Orders**

There are a number of interesting threads bubbling around the blogosphere at the moment all of which centre on the nature of Holy Orders.

For much of the last few decades, the importance and distinctiveness of Holy Orders, particularly in relation to the service of the altar, had been downplayed in favour of notions of the radical equality of all the baptised, an emphasis on social justice over actual worship of God, and above all the promotion of lay role in the Church at the expense of the clerical instead of as a complement to it.

So it's refreshing to see some signs of the reassertion of some more traditionally oriented theology in this area.

Here is a little reading list.

Ministry vs apostolate

I've written before (see also the sidebar on best of 2010) on a number of occasions on the problems inherent in promoting the concept of 'lay ministry' in the Catholic Church.  But now Adoro Te Devote has written a nice exposition on the subject and why it matters.

The role of deacons

The excellent Fr Hunswicke is currently running a very interesting series on the centrality of the cultic function of deacons and the reflection of this in ordination and other liturgies There are three parts so far.

Clerical continence and permanent deacons

Not entirely unrelated to the above, a fierce debate has sprung up around the canonical requirement of continence for clerics, and whether this applies to permanent deacons - first read the original article by canonist Ed Peters.  The Anchoress has a guide to the debate.  And then for round two, see Peters' response to an article in America Magazine on the subject.

**For Round Three, Ed Peters has now proposed four possible ways forward on this issue, go to his blog for details!

Coming events.....

There are a number of upcoming events that may be of interest:
  • Dom Alban Nunn OSB is leading a Catholic Organ Music Symposium in Melbourne over the Australia Day weekend;
  • the Record reports that the Australian Ordinariate (which is to include Japan!) is moving forward with 28 priests signed up so far, and an Ordinariate 'festival' planned in Perth for 26 February.  Speakers will include Bishop Elliot (Ordinariate Delegate, Archbishop Hepsworth of the Traditional Anglican Communion, and more);
  • Fr Michael Rowe is leading a Lenten retreat between March 14-18 at St Mary's Towers Retreat Centre, Douglas Park, NSW.  For details contact Sue Russell;
  • third National Family Gathering, 15-17 April. The event is sponsored by the Australian Catholic Bishops' Commission for Pastoral Life and hosted by Archdiocese of Melbourne.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Refugees, migrants and leadership: can we hope for better this year?

Last Sunday was World Refugee and Migrants Day - I had been meaning to write something, but I'm afraid I missed the date, but, I've been prompted on this again, as the Australian Bishops' facebook page has just posted the Pope's message for the occasion.

And this post is by way of a plea for rationality to prevail over emotion. 

On both sides.

Refugees - towards a more sensible approach?

The Government recently made at least some changes to the arrangements (albeit largely forced to do so by the High Court's ruling that claims processed 'offshore' are appealable) that are at least a step in the right direction.  But we still have an Opposition leader complaining that this 'won't stop the boats'.

Well no, it won't.  But as Kate Gauthier has recently argued, most refugee claimants don't actually arrive here by boat, but by plane! 

And the numbers remain tiny - in total for example a whole 4300 people have arrived from Afghanistan by boat since 2008.  The UK has been getting around that number of applications each year from Afghans.  And in March 2009, there were still over 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan!

So why not redirect the extraordinary levels of resources we currently waste patrolling the area around Christmas Island towards actually deterring people from getting on a plane...

And more importantly, let's try persuading our political leaders to shift their rhetoric a little, and try selling Australia's obligation and duty to protect those who genuinely need our protection.  As the Pope says in his message:

"The situation of refugees and of the other forced migrants, who are an important part of the migration phenomenon, should be specifically considered in the light of the theme "One human family". For these people who flee from violence and persecution the International Community has taken on precise commitments. Respect of their rights, as well as the legitimate concern for security and social coherence, foster a stable and harmonious coexistence."


But those who aren't refugees

Of course one of the barriers to politicians actually doing this is the inability of the refugee lobby to distinguish between the cause of genuine refugees and those who actually aren't.  The reason Australia's detention centres are overflowing is not just the new arrivals - but our inability to send home, both for domestic political reasons and more fundamentally the state of our relations with the country of origin, those who actually don't pass the test. 

On Monday the Government announced a deal with the Afghanistan Government for the forced repatriation of Afghans who fail the test.  We should welcome this.
One can certainly understand the concerns of those who worry about the situation in Afghanistan given the continued war there.  But the fact that one's country is in a state of war does not of itself justify a refugee claim - otherwsie every single perosn there would flee.  More, the evidence is that things actually are getting better, albeit slowly.

And in the past, where there was no avenue of appeal on administrative decisions, there were legitimate concerns about the process.  But that has now changed.

The Australian reported of the 4300 Afghans had arrived in Australia by boat, 2700 remain in detention.  Of those, 723 had their initial refugee claims refused, with 49 rejected on appeal.

The Minister for Immigration was quoted as saying that; "With the option of judicial review now open to failed asylum-seekers following last year's High Court ruling, he said, "we're not going to see returns tomorrow, we're not going to see returns the day after tomorrow".

Multiculturalism, integration and social cohesion

Underlying the public rhetoric on this issue of course, and the real source of much of the tension, is a much broader issue of what Australians expect from those who come to this country, whether as refugees or voluntary migrants.  And on this subject, the Pope had this to say:

"At the same time, States have the right to regulate migration flows and to defend their own frontiers, always guaranteeing the respect due to the dignity of each and every human person. Immigrants, moreover, have the duty to integrate into the host Country, respecting its laws and its national identity. "The challenge is to combine the welcome due to every human being, especially when in need, with a reckoning of what is necessary for both the local inhabitants and the new arrivals to live a dignified and peaceful life".

Perhaps those within the Church currently preoccupied by advocacy in this area might consider redirecting their efforts to practical assistance with this objective.

For a good rant on the trouble with traditionalism and traditionalists...

So many of us love the traditional Mass. 

So many of us want orthodox theology seen through the lens of the tradition. 

But so many of us get put off by the inevitable problems that come with being part of what is still essentially a fringe movement.

"Fr Raven", of the Love the Tradition, Loathe the traddies blog rants, prompted by an experience relating to an upcoming conference:

"You see the sons of mediocrity within the traddie movement are always hiding around the corner ready to pull anything down that might might question their undoubted position as arbiters of what is just, right, and unfortunately good taste. I hold very little faith in good taste indeed, when it becomes the yard stick of orthodoxy, I smell a sacristy rat...

It's moments like these that I begin to understand why some quite reasonable clergy want nothing to do with traddies. They've discovered through bitter experience just how nasty people can be when mediocrity lays ownership to something which is not actually theirs and then somebody else comes along with a lace alb to spoil their Gothic party. Our little local problem is just symptomatic of the wider movement at the moment..."

Do go and read the whole thing.  And reflect on whether you are part of the problem, and how to become part of the solution....

Oh and say a prayer for Fr Raven and other priests who bear the brunt of dealing with the more difficult amongst us.  And for those priests who are the difficult amongst us!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

And the first Ordinariate has been established!

We should have great joy today at the historic reconciliation of Anglicans to the Church, symbolised by the ordination of the first three priests, and the formal establishment of the first of the new Ordinariates, for England and Wales.

In the past individuals have made the jump; now the way is paved for many to do so.

And the willingness of these men to publicly be received into the Church and be ordained, with no talk of conditional ordination, finally makes it utterly clear that Anglicans who remain behind must let go of any claims to be 'catholic'.

Here's a guide to some of the early coverage.

The Ordination of the (first) three former Anglican bishops
Formal establishment of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham
Related news
  • Update on David Silk, former Anglican bishop of Ballarat's reception into the Church

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Spare us O Lord!

There was an item on the news tonight saying that a Mass is going to be said in Rome for the flood victims.  That is great news.

But I think what we really need to consider now is serious intercessory prayer - and perhaps some repentance - seeking an end to the dreadful weather pattern that has Australia in its grip.

More to come

The flood continues to take a toll of homes in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and elsewhere, with some towns hit two or even three times over the last few weeks, cleaning up only to find themselves underwater again.

And at the entirely self-interested level there was a worrying report today in The Canberra Times that noted that the pattern of flooding experienced in Australia to date has so far eerily followed long-term meteorological predictions.  And that on that basis, the nation's capital Canberra, where I live can expect to be battered by relentless storms starting shortly and continuing for the next two months, and face bad flooding.

Like much of the surrounding region we've had an abnormal amount of rain over the last several months (today was our first day of actual sun in more than a week), coupled with abnormally low temperatures for summer, so that the ground is absolutely saturated.  Our dams went from half full and strict water restrictions this time last year, to 100% full in November last year. And we've already had one round of flooding that cut our satellite-town Queanbeyan, in two, blocking one of the main roads out of town.

So how should we respond?

Taking its toll but pulling together

Well obviously there are practical things Canberrans and others can do to prepare - mentally, physically and spiritually.

In that light, it has been wonderful to see the great surge of volunteer effort in the clean-up of Brisbane today, where thousands of volunteers from unaffected areas poured in to help clean-up the CBD and individual homes.

But events such as these call, I think, for more.

A call to repentance?

It would be only too easy to suggest a very long list of the possible reasons why Australia (and many other countries that are quickly secularising) might have earned God's ire at the moment.  So I won't construct a list. 

Nope, I certainly won't blame the recent election of the Greens and collaborators to the Federal Parliament, and their relentless campaign for euthanasia and other evils. 

And I certainly wouldn't want to suggest that the floods may have rather put paid to the Greens' demand that MPs conduct a summer consultation with their constituents over gay 'marriage' legislation! 

Nope, because that would be way too simplistic....

Yes, I actually do mean that.  Well, maybe.  After all, we could, I suppose be be the righteous suffering Job-like for reasons to do with God's greater plan. 

Hmm, well...

Bring back those intercessory prayers!

But, still, whatever the reasons for the disasters, when God sends tribulations our way, the correct response is surely to turn to him and acknowledge our dependence on him.  To examine our consciences and repent, and try and persuade others to do likewise.

So please, pray very hard indeed that God might spare us more of this.

In Canberra, perhaps we should be praying particularly hard, and lobbying once again, for our MPs and Senators to reject the 'Territory rights' argument and vote against the Euthanasia Bill when the Parliament resumes. 

Would a general 'Dear MP, I'm a Canberran and I don't want the Federal Parliament to allow our House of Assembly to have the power to legislate on euthanasia' campaign be of any use?

And maybe our bishops and priests could consider introducing intercessory prayers at Mass and introducing devotions for the alleviation of the floods, just as we did only a short time ago, asking for an end to the drought....

Pope John Paul II: beatification decisions are not an exercize of infallibility! **updated

The news that the Pope plans to beatify the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, on May I has caused consternation amongst many, myself included.

Holiness doesn't necessarily equate with competence and good judgment

While one can certainly point to precedents of Popes and other rulers whose personal holiness merited sainthood, but who were less than spectacular successes in their positions they held, they are fairly few and far between and in most cases exceptional circumstances applied.

Pope Celestine V, a Benedictine hermit, for example had a reputation for holiness before being made Pope - indeed that was why he was forced into the role, in order to break a deadlock.  And he spent only five months in it before finally being allowed to resign, with great personal consequences (he was hounded to death by his successor).

In other cases, such as founders of religious orders forced out of the lead role in their institutions, sometimes (though not always) for good reasons, they left a clear and important spiritual legacy behind them that survived the test of time not withstanding their weaknesses as leaders or administrators.

By contrast, Pope John Paul II spent a very long time indeed in the role, so on the face of it surely deserves to be judged in part for how well he carried out the duties of his state of life when assessing how appropriate a role model for holiness he is? And while Pope John Paul II still has a strong lobby of supporters, even many of those have gone quiet in the face of the continuing revelations of his mismanagement of the Marciel affair and abuse situation more generally, to take but one of many issues relating to his reign.

On the face of it, the best one can say, in my view, is that his true legacy needs more time to be properly assessed.

Beatification is just a step in the process however

It is important to be clear however that, whatever the situation in relation to canonisation (and this is debated, though the weight of opinion firmly favours the decision as infallible) a papal decision to beatify someone is not infallible.

Indeed, it was in order to make this distinction clear that Pope Benedict XVI decided not, in general, to preside at beatifications.

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints set out the distinction thus, in announcing the new procedures:

Canonization is the supreme glorification by the Church of a Servant of God raised to the honours of the altar with a decree declared definitive and preceptive for the whole Church, involving the solemn Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff.

This is expressed unequivocally in the formula: "Ad honorem Sanctae et Individuae Trnitatis... auctoritate Domini Nostri Jesu Christi, beatorum Apostolorum Petri et Pauli ac Nostra... Beatum N. N. Sanctum esse decernimus ac definimus, ac Sanctorum Catalogo adscribimus, statuentes eum in universa Ecclesia inter Sanctos pia devotione recoli debere".

Beatification, on the other hand, consists in the concession of a public cult in the form of an indult and limited to a Servant of God whose virtues to a heroic degree, or Martyrdom, have been duly recognized, as is pointed out by the respective formula: "...facultatem facimus ut Venerabilis Servus Dei N. N. Beati nomine in posterum appelletur, eiusque festum... in locis ac modis iure statutis quotannis celebrari possit".

**Prudential delays

Fr Zulsdorf has a good post up on the processes around the beatification and canonisation processes.

He points out that an extensive and proper process has occurred.  Fair enough, although I would suggest that assessments of evidence, jdgments and interpretations do tend to change with perspective and time.  Still, that's not the real issue here.

Fr Z concludes by arguing that if all the steps in the process suggest proceeding then in justice it should proceed:

If a good case has been made and the Congregation determines within reasonable doubt that what the actor proposed is true (a person lived a life of heroic virtue, there was a miracle obtained through some person’s intercession, that a person was killed out of hatred for Christ, the Church or some virtue that cannot be separated from them) then it would be wrong to delay moving to the next step.

But I'm not sure that follows at all.  Indeed, only a paragraph before Fr Z acknowledges that there is a prudential element involved here in the decision on whether or not to go forward - indeed it seems highly likely that the cause of Pius XII has been held up for exactly this reason. 

So a delay to take stock of the situation in relation to Pope John Paul II is not really out of court at all.

In any case, Pope John Paul II is one of those issues that makes clear the demarcation line between conservatives and traditionalists I suspect, and for once I'm with the curmudgeons on Fr Z's blog and Rorate !

Flood update

As the great clean-up, using an army of volunteers, gets going in Brisbane and elsewhere, assisted by 1200 Defence Force troops, the Australian reports today that the flood crisis continues to spread, now affecting five States:
  • the likely death toll in Queensland stands at 75, with 16 confirmed dead, the remainder missing;
  • the emergency in Queensland now extends from the central coast centre of Rockhampton, to the riverside suburbs of Brisbane, neighbouring Ipswich, west to Toowoomba and the Darling Downs community of Condamine and through to the southern border town of Goondiwindi;
  • in Victoria yesterday residents of Carisbrook were evacuated, and as many as 50 homes were inundated in Beaufort, where the water reached waist deep in the streets.  Homes in Charlton, northwest of Bendigo;
  • in South Australia residents of Naracoorte, 336km southeast of Adelaide, were told to prepare for potential flooding;
  • in NSW, about 70 homes in the border township of Boggabilla, in the state's north, were surrounded by water last night, and water was flowing through the nearby Aboriginal settlement of Toomelah;
  • in Tasmania, the hardest hit areas are St Helens, Scamander and Binalong Bay in the North, but there have been evacuations across the State as dams burst and rivers overflow.
The biggest short term issue remains the scale of the logistics required: in Brisbane and the surrounding region alone, 4436 people are in emergency accommodation, and many thousands more are isolated by floodwaters in places running out of food.  Power is till out over wide swathes of the country, and in some cases may not be returned for months due to safety concerns.  And drinking water supplies are rapidly becoming a problem in many places.

And efforts to get food to unflooded Northern cities involves some very long and convoluted routing indeed.  Brisbane to Cairns is normally 1721 kilometres by road (1070 miles).  But the Brisbane fruit and vegetable market is still under water, and most of the main roads North are cut, so one routing being tried for food is via Melbourne to Adelaide (767kms), put on the train to Tenant Creek (2038kms), then truck across country, 1910 kms)!

So please, do keep all those affected, as well as the dead, in your prayers, and if you haven't already, donate what you can.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Those diaconate ordinations....

I posted earlier a link to the first reports of the Ordinariate diaconate ordinations, which gave a glowing review of the ceremony.

But I have to admit, I suspect my own reaction would have been more along the lines of Fr Hunswicke's.

Here are the key parts (WARNING: Don't read while drinking!):

"Yesterday evening, as I was strolling up and down the King's Road in Chelsea looking for a bit of Night Life - we old gentleman tend to do that sort of thing - I noticed the familiar figure of Fr James 'Ubiquitous Camera' Bradley, who has chronicled every significant event in the Anglican Catholic world for decades - lugging his equipment along. Curious, I followed him discretely and discovered myself in a Roman Catholic place of worship which I gather was originally founded at Douai by a fellow of S John's College in this University called William Allen, after he very wisely scarpered abroad in the dark days of Elizabeth Tudor. Not that Dr Allen would, I think, have recognised the Chapel as a place of Catholic worship ...

As you know, I am dreadfully ill-informed about the complex niceties of Novus Ordo worship, so I can't give you an intelligent account of what was going on. However, it seemed to involve our three Bishops, so I guessed it probably had something to do with this ORDINARIATE thinggy. Just in case I ever find myself having to use the Ordinary Form, I watched carefully what happened. There were some striking differences from what most Anglican Catholics are used to. For example: after the Consecration we tend to ring bells and waggle incense. But, it seems, in the Novus Ordo Mass, all the fire alarms go off while the celebrant is actually uttering the verba Domini over the Host; and keep ringing until after the Consecration of the Chalice. They come on later, too, to remind the congregation that it is Communion time.

The episcopae seemed to have a big role to play. They brought up the elements at the Offertory (yes ... I know what you're thinking ... a bit Parish Communionny) and had special blessings and things at the end. From time to time, the bishops seemed to kiss them. The service began with the sort of music you get in a Crem - Jesu joy or Come down O love Divine or something like that. It ended with the sort of business you get at weddings, with various fluctuating groups of people coalescing and dispersing and regathering for photographs. Altogether, a rich liturgical event. I felt most at home in the sung Ordinary of the Mass, Kyries etc., which was sung in dead languages, and when Bishop Andrew sang the Ite missa est at the end."

Go Ordinariate!

And while you are praying for Queenslanders...**updated

Please do keep praying for Queenslanders and other Australians affected by the floods - many Australians can and will offer practical aid, but few will also offer prayers (including for the dead), and personally I think the latter may well prove more important than the former!

And the worst is not over yet in many places, including Victoria and Tasmania.

But you might also, in solidarity, remember those in other countries affected by catastrophic floods:
  • in Brazil at least 356 have died following landslides (and this or worse could so easily have been Brisbane had the Wivenhoe Dam collapsed due to 'overtopping' as seemed possible at one point);
  • in Sri Lanka at least 23 are dead and one million people homeless following floods there.
**Updates

Prayer vigil in Toowoomba

From xt3:

In the early morning of Friday 14 January, thousands of residents of Toowoomba and the surrounding area entered St Luke's Anglican Church for a Day of Prayer and Reflection organised by the city's Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Churches. Whereever you are in the world, you can join in the day of reflection by praying the prayer below, provided by the Diocese of Toowoomba.

Prayer for Those Affected by the Floods

God of compassion,
You created a world for us
To know your love and peace
Yet amidst the beauty of creation
We encounter pain and hurt
And forces beyond our control.

At times like this our hearts are shaken and ache with sorrow
At the destruction of our lives, homes and livelihoods.
Hear our prayers for those affected by the floods
And for all those working
To bring relief and fresh hope.

Amen

Flood status update:
And as at 3.45pm Australian Eastern Summer Time on Friday:
  • In Queensland, the bodies of 50 people still missing in addition to the confirmed death poll of 15 may never be found according to authorities;
  • almost 2,000 people have been evacuated in Victoria;
  • In Brazil, the death toll now stands at 500.