The Sin-nod — Clarifying some of the Nonsense

Dominus mihi adjutor

It has taken some time, but it is coming finally. It’s in a more subtle form than usual, and perhaps far less subtle in places I have not seen.

It is, of course, the old chestnut that bishops and clergy preach down to the faithful, have no knowledge of “real life”, and that their recourse to doctrines is divorced from reality, and almost inhuman. So we hear the drivel that the Church needs to “listen” to those in irregular situations (ie sinners) so that the Church can better “accompany them”. So this article seemed one of the more temperate versions of that rhetoric. Sr Maureen Kelleher, an auditor at the Synod, reworks the language into that of a cultural chasm between laypeople and the bishops. The bishops she paints almost as victims, desperately trying to please both the institution and the people.

“And they’re very, very – well, they’re in…

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The Sin-nod and a Sin-nodized Church

Dominus mihi adjutor

The confusion and kerfuffle in the world’s media during the first week of the current Synod were remarkable and un-precedented as far as I can see. Then came week two, and things have become truly extraordinary, and frighteningly so. Anyone who denies that a major ecclesiastical battle is being fought in and around the Synod is in cloud-cuckoo land.

Matters seem to have come to a head with the Archbishop Cupich of Chicago proposing that no-one should be denied Holy Communion as the Church should respect individual conscience. The utter logical and theological nonsense of his position is breathtaking. However, things became exponentially worse yesterday after the papal speech to the Synod. The Pope is certainly faithful to the infamous call he made to young people to go out and “make a mess”.

Not long ago the Pope reminded us all that the Synod was about more than Communion…

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A Telling Letter in The Tablet

Dominus mihi adjutor

In the latest issue of The Tablet (22 August) there is a letter from the composer and former director of music for Portsmouth diocese. Here it is:


Melanie had suggested that children be taught more traditional Eucharistic hymns because of their (undeniably) fuller theological content and catechetical utility. Mr Inwood is clearly not impressed, perhaps because if all parishes switched to traditional hymns there would be little work for him to do.

But his last sentence suggests there is more to it than that. It is amazingly bald in its honesty:

That is why there is a whole new generation of hymns that reflect a postconciliar understanding of what we do at Mass.

Here is an expression of the hermeneutic of rupture that Pope Benedict XVI so eloquently warned of in 2005. Mr Inwood seems to think that there is a radical difference between “what we do at Mass” now in…

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Good Friday Respite

Dominus mihi adjutor

Good Friday evening is an oasis of peace for this monastic sacristan. It is grey outside, steadily and consistently drizzling, and drab. Even the lambs were subdued (oh yes, we have seven so far – you will meet them soon). Nature has on her mourning cloths

This respite from the recent hurly-burly and hubbub allows a moment to share a thought that came during the proclamation of the Passion according to St John this afternoon. For no apparent reason, what was striking today was the conclusion of the narrative, the denoument after the death of our Lord. The Twelve have disappeared totally from view, they have fled and melted away, though we can take it as implied that John was faithful enough at the end and went off with Mary, now his mother too.

In place of the apostles, the chosen Twelve, we find much lesser disciples, not part of…

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Synodalia: What is Love?

Dominus mihi adjutor

Anthony Fisher OP, Archbishop-Elect of my hometown, Sydney, has penned an article posted on the website of his new diocese. Its context is the Synod, and he addresses some very topical issues. But it is his opening lines that arrested this reader’s attention:

I think the biggest challenge to the family today is that people have forgotten how to love. That sounds odd, I know, but what I’m getting at is the cross-shaped Easter sort of loving rather than the heart-shaped Valentine’s sort of loving. We are less and less willing to commit, for the long haul, to another person or a small community of persons, come what may, even when the loving is hard. We are less and less willing to engage in the self-sacrifice that requires, the compromising of our willfulness, even unto death.

One of my homiletic preoccupations (obsessions?), as the boys at this morning’s Mass at…

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English Gradual Belmont Abbey

Over the past few months we have had a few selections from An English Gradual by Belmont Abbey. I can’t say I was terribly impressed by them. Imagine my shock when, lo and behold, we now have the books for use every Sunday! I am in near total despair. How can a Benedictine Abbey foist this 1970s trite, banal music on the Church today? Really, how can they do it?

Little ditties is what they are. I am not fond of Taize chants but even they are better than these so-called chants. Really, they are not chants. They are like modern responsorial responses. There isn’t a hint of Gregorian chant (except the Attende Domini they threw in) about the whole enterprise. For Ordinary Time we have twelve Introits to choose from and they are basically all the same.

I honestly thought we were moving in the right direction as a Church. Bringing back the correct Propers for each Sunday. Proper Introit and Communion antiphons and psalms plus Offertory Chants that at least fit. Music that if not from the Graduale Romanum then at least patterned on Gregorian Chant so that it actually sounds like chant. But what do we get with these Belmont so-called chants? “Zing”. That’s how our choir director described one of the Mass Ordinaries – “it has quite a bit of zing”. Have we fallen off the wagon again? Are we now resurrecting trash from the 1970s with “zing” in a vain attempt to liven up the church? Bring the people back?

And when are our Bishops going to get off their backsides and give us the new Grail translation of the psalms? Other English speaking countries approved their use years ago. What are they waiting for? And when are they going to make an attempt – even a little one – to improve the dreadful state of liturgical music in this country? Why can’t they come out and say that hymns at Mass are not on? When are they going to encourage the use of Gregorian Chant? And if they don’t want Latin at least they can encourage the use of good English Chant like Lumen Christi Simple Gradual or even Simple English Propers to get parishes started back on the road to singing something like Gregorian Chant.

I despair. I totally despair over the state of the Church in this country!

A martyr journalist

Dominus mihi adjutor

As you will all know, James Foley, an American journalist captured by jihadists in 2012, was barbarously beheaded on a demonic video by a masked British jihadist. The Catholic Herald informs us that he was Catholic, and he had not lost his faith. After a previous kidnapping in 2011 in Libya, he wrote:

I kept telling (my colleague) Clare my mom had a strong faith. I prayed she’d know I was OK. I prayed I could communicate through some cosmic reach of the universe to her. I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. 
I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused. Clare and I prayed together out loud. It felt energising to speak our weaknesses and hopes…

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Married Priests

Today is the 20th anniversary of the ordination of women in the Anglican church but we won’t go there.  Enough people will be filling their blog boxes with oohs and aahhs about that event.  But married priests – well, that is probably up for discussion in the Vatican right now along with communion for divorced and remarried.  A link?  Not at the moment but there might be in the future.

So, married priests on the agenda (I’m guessing).  Is the problem that some feel about married priests in the Roman Catholic rite anything to do with sex?  or being married?  I don’t think so.  At least, not if you really think about it.  No.  The problem is about first, money and second, the nature of the priesthood.

First, money.  It’s the root of all evil and is definitely a huge consideration for the church if she is to decide her priests can marry.  Why?  Well, think about your parish.  I happen to live in a rural part of England where there is no way the parish could financially support a married man and his family.  We have to consider that the man is professionally trained, has a wife and two or three or more wee bairns to look after.  So, in good ol’ British Pound Sterling you are looking at a salary of at least £20,000 and more likely one of close to £25 to £30k.  Not many parishes in England and Wales, never mind Scotland and Northern Ireland can come up with that kind of money and keep the actual church building up and running.  What to do?  That leads to the second problem, the nature of the priesthood.

Your parish can’t afford a full-time priest so he has to work.  He is a teacher or a nurse or a care home manager or works in the public sector or runs a large Tesco store or whatever.  He has a job that means he works at least five days a week.  If he is a nurse or other type of shift worker his hours change weekly or monthly.  So, when do you have mass during the week?  Maybe not at all because his hours just don’t suit or he is exhausted in the evening and no one comes early in the morning.  Or he can’t fit the evening meetings of the parish with a mass.  And what about Sunday?  If he’s a teacher maybe he can fix the Sunday mass times.  If he is the manager of Tesco or a nurse probably not.  And he won’t be able to take those sick calls in the middle of the night nor will be be free to visit the housebound or those in hospital (unless he goes at night).  You see where I am going with this?

I don’t think that any thinking person has a problem with married priests per se.  The problem is how do we pay them and if we can’t pay them enough to raise a family and they have to work outside the church what does that do to the nature of priesthood as we understand it today?

Could be it will all work out fine.  I’ve been told to look at the Ordinariate priests but frankly, the only ones I’ve met have been old, retired men living on a healthy pension from the C of E.

I don’t mean to sound jaded.  I understand that some, maybe most, men need to get married and raise a family.  And some of these men may also desire to serve the church as priests.  But we must be prepared for the many changes this will bring across the board.  It will have a knock-on effect on parish life as we know it today.  And how on earth will it function in the missions?  Are churches in the West going to be expected to finance the many young priests in Africa and Asia with their families?

The problem was never about sex.  It is always about money.

Women Priests

We’ve had the obligatory homily about allowing women to be priests.  This comes every year with the reading of the gospels about the women at the tomb and the women running to tell the apostles and the woman recognizing Jesus when he called her name.  It’s always very subtle and is intended, I am sure, to be a positive nod to a chapel full of women.  I usually just let it float over my head but this year I thought it’s not quite right.

I don’t doubt that some women could be very good priests in the present modal but I am wondering if the present modal is the best we have to offer the church.  With the new mass we have pretty much a performance by the priest.  I suppose some women would love this just as many men seem to revel in the show.  And women are usually very good at relating to people and making them feel comfortable.  And God knows we must have comfortable people in the pews.  We certainly wouldn’t want to have anything remotely serious going on in church.  Many of the videos from women’s ordination groups show that they are perfectly capable of entertaining an audience.  All very touchy-feely and warm and cuddly.

I’m a women and if the church asked me to serve as a priest in the church today I couldn’t do it.  Not because I am a woman and feel inferior to men.  But because the modal of priesthood we now have in the Roman Catholic Church is quite pathetic.  It makes me cringe to have arm-waving priests trying to make me feel comfortable in the faith when what I want to do is pray.  I don’t like to be eyed by the priest during the consecration.  So much do I hate this that I gave up looking at the altar and the elevation long ago for fear of the dreaded priestly eye contact.

What is missing from the homilies on women’s ordination is any understanding of what Mary and the other women were all about.  They were looking for the Lord.  Their Lord.  They were intent on ministering to the Lord even in his death.  And when they finally realized he was dead no more but alive they could not keep it to themselves.  They told everyone. (And most women are good at talking – a lot.)  Their priesthood, women’s priesthood was the fearless ministration to the one they loved.  Their priesthood was the standing by the cross during the agony and suffering.  (No sentimentality in their faith.)  Their priesthood was the fearless proclamation to the men (mostly) that Jesus was not dead and was risen and their pestering the men to come out of hiding and, well, be men.

I think St. Therese, the Little Flower, was correct in her understanding of priesthood when she said she wanted to be a priest to the whole world.  So do I.  And I try to be one every minute of every day.  I wish our ordained male clergy would do the same.  Lead us in prayer – don’t conduct a user-friendly service.  Be men of prayer – not the latest psycho-babble.  Look like priests and act like priests.  Give up the flash cars and the frequent foreign holidays and the clever ways of making more money.  Be a priest of Pope Francis.  Be a priest of Jesus.

1968 repeated

This may be a self-evident reflection but I am growing more convinced that the upcoming discussion on communion for divorced and remarried Catholics will be a bit like the contraception debate of the late 1960s.  The Pope will publicly rule against communion for this group but it will be “understood” by some bishops, many priests, and the vast majority of Catholics that it’s okay to just “follow our consciences” on the matter.  The cardinals and bishops don’t seem to be able to speak with one voice.  The Holy Father won’t want to challenge the possibility that it could violate dogma (or, better, the teaching of Jesus) so will issue a cautious, very carefully worded and ambiguous statement.  Then, the cardinals and the bishops and the priests and the laity will continue on their merry way doing what they want anyway.

So often these days we, in our chapel, hear homilies telling us that following the “letter of the law” is not important.  Rather, we must show mercy; love God and love our neighbour.  But following the letter of the law does help us show mercy and compassion.  It does help us better understand the words of Our Saviour, Jesus Christ.  And it never ceases to amaze me how quickly the words “and not one letter of the law will be done away with” are forgotten when we discuss (or preach) about these issues.  And what about entering by the narrow gate?

Although the “Francis effect” may have given the public image of the Church a makeover and helped the secular press gush over the “most popular pope ever” it is also doing some serious damage.  Some more liberal-minded priests see Francis as giving them all the freedom they want to do what they want.  We now have the texts of the Mass changed.  We have the use of “I” by the celebrant to invite us to pray – as though it were his “show”.  We have gyrations during the Mass as he swings the host and the chalice around making a grand show; applause and silly jokes and endless “look-at-me-doing-this-wonderful-thing-for-all-of you”.

I want to invite others to the Church but at our place, at this moment, I am too embarrassed to do so.

What ever happened to the concept of worship and prayer and silence in Church?  We want to pray the Mass not be entertained.