Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Standards of Proof

If I was being less charitable I could have included this entry in my forthcoming guide Traddies Ancient and Modern- a handbook for the seriously syncophantic. The entry would have commenced;
The Common Blog Traddie. Common habitat: darkened incense laden rooms with an over decoration of ecclesiastical paraphenalia contrasting with the latest computer technology. Basic feeding habits often nutritionally compromised by ever spiralling broadband bills.

In the last week there's been some pretty fierce accusation levelled concerning the ceasing of a particular's orders ministry in a particular city in the Northern Hemisphere. One expects there's more to the story than the published statement that they were withdrawing at their own initiative. The natural mind of the common blog traddie is, of course, to smell a rat. And then the blogfest starts. Accusations fly against the diocese and whoever else might get in the way in cyberspace. This continues unabated despite the fact that (1) there is no objective proof of connivance on the part of the diocese and (2) the particular institute has issued quite a clear statement. It's quite obvious that they want it left at that.

It worries me that what's accepted as fact by much of the general blogging populous is pretty low in the 'burden of proof' stakes. I'm not suggesting that we should all run around supplying detailed footnotes (Heavens no- the truth might get in the way of a decent bit of purple prose!) but rather that we often accept interpretations of events and actions at their face value and repeat them rather than actually going to the original sources and making a balanced judgement. Of course the argument can go in the other direction. I have no doubt that one of the greatest tools of the Devil is his (or her) ability to confuse an issue by disinformation. After all the first words from the serpent's mouth were a question trying to re-spin what God had actually said to Adam and Eve. Strange that this seems to be the principle rhetorical device of NEWCHURCH. I wonder where they learned it from? Ahem!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What if?

The following fell mysteriously in to my inbox tonight. Obviously inspired by Fr Bryan Houghton's novel Mitre & Crook, and some other essays, it provokes some interesting thoughts about possibilities if a bishop was to take the bull by the horns or rather the diocese by its whatevers.

An Imaginary Pastoral Letter

Bishop’s House
7th October 2014

My dear Brothers and Sisters,

I write to you all, clergy, religious and laity at the same time as the contents of this letter concern each of you equally. I wanted my intentions for the first years of my episcopate to become known to you all at the same time so we can avoid some of the communication problems and distortions that may have occurred in the past.

I know my appointment was somewhat of a surprise. I realize that some of you will be sorely disappointed that somebody was not selected from within the diocese, let alone your state, to lead the diocese. The reasons for this, which I do not fully understand, must rest in the wisdom of our current Holy Father, and his advisors, who have consulted within our own country. All I ask from you is your support. What’s done is done and plainly there is no use quibbling about it.

I’ll be honest. Upon hearing of my appointment to this see my first reaction was one of fear. I immediately set out for the one remaining contemplative house of religious that we are blessed with and asked, indeed begged, for their prayers. They will continue to pray for us across the coming years. Please support them in whatever way you can in this great work that they undertake.

Following advice from the Holy See the following policies will be enacted in the diocese.

(1) All seminarians will return to the diocese immediately and reside with me at the Bishop’s House. Their academic needs will catered for by an excellent Philosophy and Theology degree by extension. Their spiritual formation will be under my direct supervision with the assistance of a senior priest who will also act as academic tutor.

(2) Clergy serving exclusively in the administration of the diocese will be returned to full time pastoral assignments in the diocese. Those serving on the various tribunals will be allocated one day per week for this purpose. I am seeking to appoint appropriately qualified lay people to fill the various administrative duties. There is wealth of experience amongst our recently retired men and women and we must now draw upon their talents in a real way.

(3) The provisions of Summorum Pontificum will be interpreted literally in this diocese. This will be a process taking some time but will commence today with a weekly celebration on Sundays in the Cathedral. Parishes should make similar arrangements. If there is any real difficulty I will arrange for the support needed.

(4) The revised General Instruction on the Roman Missal will be implemented in all parishes. Fr Torquemada has been asked to assist with this and will accompany me in the general visitations that will occur across the coming year.

(5) We live in a very secular environment and our public witness is nearly invisible in comparison to the adherents of other religions. It’s time to stand up and be counted for who we are. Clergy of the diocese will commence wearing the soutane when ’on duty’ in the diocese. Religious will wear the habits as determined by their constitutions approved by the Holy See. The Faithful are encouraged to wear modest crosses and crucifixes to indicate their faith.

(6) The Catholic Education Office of the diocese, the Liturgical Commission, and other ’official’ organizations functioning within the diocese will undertake an immediate review of their commitment to what the Holy See requires of them. For the time being the bishop will act as Chairman of each of these groups. As a matter of immediate effect all future appointments to the senior management teams of our schools will be referred to the bishop for approval before any offer is made.

Dear brothers in the clergy. I realize that much of this will be hard for you to adapt to. Many of you, as young priests, experienced changes that you never could have dreamed would happen and now, when you seem faced with a similar change, it must be very difficult to assimilate new ideas and ways. However these are necessary for the good of the Christian people and I ask you to do what you can. I realize that this burden may be too much for some of you and, if you honestly cannot take on this new task, it is best that you retire. I know we are desperately short in numbers but I’m confident that God will provide.

To all the faithful of the diocese I would assure you of my daily prayers at Holy Mass. Support and help your parish priests and those who assist him in his ministry. The Holy Father is giving a clear lead and we should follow, not only for the sake of our own salvation, but that the truth of Christ’s sacrifice for the whole world may be proclaimed.

John Smith

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The songs of the Lord in a strange land.....

It's time to pay tribute where it's well deserved. I dropped, a bit like a cuckoo chick, into somebody else's choir this morning. A dangerous thing to do especially when you are dealing with the foibles of interpreting Gregorian Chant. Now I'm not the greatest fan of sung Masses, at the best of times, but this was a real treat for the First Sunday in Lent and almost (I repeat almost) convinced me to revise my intention to concentrate on the 'low' form of the rite and leave the more complex (and lengthier forms) to those who actually know what they are doing. What I found this morning was a very well prepared core group of singers, and an appropriate use of the chants of the Graduale, crafted to the needs of the local situation. This was no archaic rendition of ancient codices but rather a truly prayed interpretation of those traditional Christian songs which, like pebbles in a river, have been refined over the centuries. The choirmaster knew his job and had applied what was required to the abilities of the schola. I couldn't quibble. It was the faith in action rather than just on display.

What was even more remarkable was the feeling of being 'at home' and this continued in the conversation and banter outside the chapel after Mass; meeting with the long suffering congregation and their pastor and some real solid sharing of the Catholic faith and the problems they faced in being traditional catholics in an unwelcoming environment. So in the liturgical desert there is an oasis. Prayers are assured.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Liturgical Desert Island

I find myself in quite a peculiar situation. For seven days I'm doing some, shall we say, research work on an island where, liturgically at least, things seem pretty awkward. The stranger thing is the extraordinary feeling of being watched- watched for fear that I might do something as horrid as celebrate the form of the Holy Mass that I've been used to using since the day I was ordained. I admit there's a degree of personal paranoia here drummed up by the horror stories that you hear from time to time. I was advised before I came here to 'lay low' as any public manifestation might endanger the monthly celebration of the Usus Antiquior that the locals get. Now I realise that in the current atmosphere that care must be taken with exactly who celebrates what in public but to actually fear making an approach to say Mass privately in one of the churches of the diocese is a bit bizarre.

The subtle undermining of the provisions of Summorum Pontificum is not peculiar to this place however it seems that where the situation is the most barren, just as there are the dwindling forces of modernism, there is a faithful network of the traditional faithful just getting on with whatever that can manage to arrange. They deserve our daily prayers and our admiration.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Those were the days....

I know, I know- it's pure and frivolous stereotyping but I just couldn't resist this picture. It's probably a phony, more's the shame, but then who really believed meek and mild Miss Florence King could tote a weapon? Presumably not the liberal vermin who got in her way. Anyhow here's my little tribute within the octave of St Scholastica to all those nuns who have held tight.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

How are things in Glocca Morra?

I've always tried to keep an open mind about the SSPX. Normally I've found them to be quite even handed and easy to work with especially if they realised you were singing from the same edition of the Graduale. Hey- they even made fun social companions - hanging around the silver collection in the Victoria & Albert Museum for example or the occasional, carefully chosen, war memorial. I have become aware that in some parts of the world there is a bit of a dark side to the Society. Think of a combination of M. Night Shyamalan's The Village and the 1973 version of The Wicker Man and you'll get the idea. No need to raise the panic alarms here however. I'm sure the civil authorities will do that in their own good time.

Please beware of some negative reporting concerning the SSPX commitment to the discussions happening at the moment. There is some mischief afoot, not the work of 'pixies' but rather of Vatican gremlins- a peculiar breed that probably should get a mention in my guide to traddies.

What is a bit of a headache at the moment is the childish tit for tat going on between certain impotent curial underlings who seem to think it works to the credit of the Church if they undermine the current discussions by confusing the times of forthcoming meetings, by privately informing against the discussion group members, and by being such general pains in the proverbial whilst attempting to feather the nests of their own private ambitions at the cost of some very good men. It's hardly going to breed much trust between the parties is it?

Prayers please for the continuing success of the discussions and novenas for a happy death for all petty curial bureaucrats!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

In Quires and places where they squeal...

Now I know it's sort of off topic but the question of choirs has reared its head again. Apparently (shock and horror!) somebody has noticed that a certain liturgical choir in a certain special city is not fit for purpose- not even for 'purpose' in its own rather 'particular' definition and tradition. I say 'off topic' as there really is not a first class choir solely dedicated to the Usus Antiquior that I can think of. Anyhow the comparison is being made with English Choirs. It's true English Catholicism has retained it's choirs (one Benedictine Abbey Choir has even managed to survive two world wars and an ecumenical council) and here's an essential difference between the situation in London, say, and that in a certain continental city- there's more than one choir. In the Archdiocese of Westminster there is the Cathedral Choir, The London Oratory School Schola, the Choir at Cardinal Vaughan School and the Ealing Abbey Choir. Across the river the choir at St George's Cathedral Southwark. All these use boy trebles. At a certain place on the Continent there is; [hum, cough and splutter]; one that I can think of. The quality of the London choirs is partially spurred on by the good natured competition that exists between them. Perhaps, and just perhaps, if there were more choirs in Rome (O go on then! I've gone and said it!), perhaps even a choir founded to serve the traditional rites, other rather venerable institutions may be spurred on to 'up their game'.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Of the types of traddies...

I was recently doorstepped after Mass by a couple that I have recently become aware of. They are a particular type of traddy that I really must catalogue and describe in my forthcoming publication 'Traddies Great and Small- an annotated guide for the apoplectic'. You see this type of traddy collects clergy. Some traddies are satisfied with arcane ecclesastical books (tempered with a healthy taste for Wedgwood)- others have secret stashes of tat filling entire Church Halls with disused ecclesiastical paraphenalia which has been rescued. However, back to the door steppers. I have come across this type before but not hunting in pairs- that's much rarer. Of course the female of the species (the blue rinsed chasuble chaser) has been a well known pest. She has been known to land her quarry quite on her own. The slightly rarer male (the spectacled Macdonald whistler) rarely emerges from it's natural habitat but when united with the female can form quite an quirky pair. Strangely enough their methods of entrapment are not particularly subtle and the wily cleric, unless he is extraordinarily hungry, can outwit them without great effort. Further entries for the guide are very welcome.