Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Catholic Pennies

From memories of years ago, and they may well be rosy-hued, we used to have a special collection today for various smaller Catholic charities and good works. It may have been a local practice which has probably died out with the new systematic table of second collections ordered throughout the region. From memory it was a day not of big donations but of small charitable actions, often the 'widow's mite' which went towards feeding the poor, a project for the parish school, and numerous other worthy causes. It set me to thinking about the real sacrificial giving that has come from people who can least afford it over the years. Those for whom a shilling was a big deal. Those for whom a couple of pence, a century ago, meant one less loaf of bread on the family table. It was these donations that built our local schools and hospitals and were the daily support of many smaller charitable works without the benefit of large trumpets.

It worries me that this inherited patrimony of charitable giving is being subverted. We may have considerable freedom now as Catholics in Britain but it doesn't mean that the wheels of the state will stop grinding in a subtle attempt to ensure that these charities get diverted into the general purse. They may not seize our property, as they did in the past, but they certainly can do a pretty good job in making sure that all those hard earned Catholic pennies are not applied to Catholic purposes and that they get their 'cut'.

Two examples of a generic kind. I'm sure that fifty years ago when Mrs Everyman, widowed mother of eight, was delving to the bottom of her purse to find a stray penny, to give to the local parish school building appeal, she meant it to serve Catholics of the parish for generations to come. She was doing this so that the Catholic faith would be promoted and that there would be a place for her children, and their children, to receive a sound education in the future. At the grander 'end' of the scale I'm equally sure that the scholarship fund endowed by Lord Whoever to enable poor Catholic children to receive a good education was not intended to enable a school to keep it's 'league table' score up by importing talented children of any, or no, religious persuasion. Both had Catholic intentions in mind. To subvert their generosity in another direction is a breach of their trust. I'm equally sure that those who paid for the land or buildings of a hospital had no intention that there largesse would end up supporting the provision of dubious medical 'services'.

And yet we have submitted ourselves to laws, through accepting charitable status, that actively seek to limit the real Catholic effect we can have. Is this right? Perhaps it's time that we took stock of exactly what is the real cost of being 'part' of the 'system'. Should we abandon charitable status for the sake of the common good? It certainly may mean less fine lunches in the corridors of power, for some, but what would it really mean for those for whom the 'widow's mite' was originally intended?

With apologies for the lack of postings over the last few weeks. I've had a deadline on a new publication to meet.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Church Millinery here on earth.

I'm not sure who first coined the term 'The Church Millinery Here On Earth'. It was originally applied, from memory, to the rows of ladies in special bonnets who used to show up on Easter Day as if it was some sort of fashion parade. These days I tend to apply it more to those who have bypassed the fundamentals of the faith and seem to satisfy themselves with the superficial elements alone. Hence the 'cut of one's maniple', sorry- fanon for the Dearmerites, becomes a life and death situation of ecclesiastical shattering proportions. What a cardinal happens to be wearing at any particular time, no matter the context, becomes the evidence for another conspiracy theory related to some sort of unpleasantness that happened forty years ago.

Now I don't begrudge some sort of interest in the topic of ecclesiastical fashion. That scene from Fellini's Roma probably satirises the whole business. The Bad Vestments  Blog can be highly amusing if only for the fact that some people obviously take themselves far too seriously. But to blow these sort of things into anything beyond the superficial smacks of people with too much time on their hands. On both sides of the divide, conservative and wet liberal, 'tat' obsession often descends into sniping.

Of course the problem is equally made sadder by the fact that the 'wet liberals' just don't do snide asides very well. They tend to confect a ham fisted attempt, seen coming a mile off, which can easily be dismantled by anybody who can spell mystagogy without consulting a disctionary. The problem with 'conservatives' is that sometimes they can't 'see the wood for the trees' and something that is really not significant becomes a rallying point. You hear the call go up 'So and so is to be made a whatever and he wears nice vestments, is a classicist, and uses Latin!' Whoopee! Nobody seems to notice that the particular person would never touch a Missal printed before 1970 with a barge pole.

They say you could take the Holy Ghost out of 90% of what is fronting as Christianity and you'd see absolutely no difference. On this feast, and with a lot of nonsense flying about, you can almost see why they think this of us.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Eleventh Commandment

It's been suggested more than once that the Catholic Church in this part of the world has an eleventh commandment; 'Thou shalt be nice'. We've got a bit of a spat on at the moment over the forthcoming Pro Ecclesia conference. Cardinal Burke has decided to withdraw from speaking at the conference because of what has been perceived as some intemperate, if not inflammatory, elements in the advance publicity that has been issued. I must admit that, having read it, I stuck the flyer on the board without a second thought. Then again my innate  'niceness' gene is not highly active. It seems to have struck a nerve somewhere or another in this country. I suspect it wouldn't have raised an eyebrow in most places. I'll leave others to speculate on just how the good Cardinal's withdrawal was achieved. I suspect there was a fear that he might have wandered vaguely into the area of Catholic education which could have been just a wee bit, ahem, embarrassing. (Perish the thought!) Pro Ecclesia pro Pontifice will need to cover their costs, somehow, on this one. Their website may be found here. They hope to find a replacement speaker for the day. For one I hope that they will not be subjugating truth to niceness.