Saturday, July 23, 2011

I'm Spartacus!

Several sites have picked up on various threats to introduce legislation obliging priests to reveal some matters revealed in the Confessional. It's nothing new of course. Recent years have seen credible threats against the seal from various legislatures on at least three occasions. Each time there has been a lot of posturing then a back down in the face of considerable opposition. I imagine if you scanned the newspapers of Britain in the 1880s you'd find similar stirrings. At the moment we seem to have two politicians rather ham fistedly attempting to gain votes for themselves by huffing and puffing over this old chestnut. Thankfully they both seem to be receiving a fairly firm 'not on your nelly' from the Church spokesmen in Ireland and Australia.

But what if, and only what if, some lawmaking group were to introduce legislation that would make keeping the seal an act against the State? Even the most liberal of Church men would not budge on this one. But is there a way that such a law could become ineffectual? To be able to report what you have heard in confession you would need to be able to identify the penitent in a manner that satisfied the civil laws of evidence. Traditional anonymous confession would seem to be a way forward here. Back into the box and away with the 'open forum' counselling session would seem to be a wise precaution. Of course all the faithful could play a part in protecting the seal by making a sure an abundance of penitents were available at every advertised session. It would be hard to single out the individual no matter who was looking on.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Back on topic!

I'm afraid I have to do something today that I would normally avoid like the plague. Before you conjure up an image of some sort of  esoteric liturgical abuse let me assure  you that the unpleasant task, for it can frequently be so, would seem, at least externally, to be quite benign. But like other things that eat away it's actual potency can be hidden. Well what is this terror of terrors? Yes I'm afraid I have to go and socialise with other clergy. It's something I generally find irksome, not just as an ardent anti clericalist of the old school, but because clergy, at a social level, are best taken diluted. Other similes would involve them being best spread around.

So what's the real problem you ask? Well it's not the usual lot of heretical rot that's spewed amongst clergy- you just expect that and learn to 'take it on the chin'. Half the time they're not aware of what they're doing. It's not the inane pomposity of the clerical caste at play nor their intellectual achievements- to find such in many places would be a rare pleasure. Rather it's simply the pure boorish nature of such gatherings. Come to think of it it's pretty much the same with modern homiletics except it's difficult, but not impossible, to spill a glass of bubbly and make a discreet exit, when being subjected to parsimonious balderdash from the 'presidential chair'.

The  clergy these days (and traddies seem to be particularly susceptible) are unable to hold a decent conversation without reference to (i) tat, or, (ii) Vatican politics, or, (iii) more tat, or (iv) diocesan politics, or (v) even more tat! It's not their fault really, rather it is the way they were trained without any reference whatsoever to their own cultural heritage.  By the way, in case of emergencies you  can 'kill' a conversation over a clerical dining table in 15 seconds flat by just mentioning 'Antigone'. You can then work your way down, starting with William Shakespeare, till you find some common ground. I normally make a pit stop when we get to Mark Twain to see how we are going. Unfortunately I normally get to Marvel Comics before any real group discussion will kick back in with any coherence.

S. Thomas  More, ora pro nobis!

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Around this time of the year we often receive news of ordinations that have just happened or are about to happen. It’s an appropriate time. The Feast of Ss Peter and Paul is close by and the link to the apostles is strong. Through the laying on of bishops’ hands the sacramental ministry of the Church is ensured. That which was started in the Upper Room at that Last Supper is continued. Comfort and healing for the penitent is made available. The strengthening power of the Paraclete is renewed. Food and solace for the long journey to the new life if offered to all who call on the Lord’s name. Another sap bearing twig is added to that tree whose roots extend back to Our Lord himself.

          For those receiving orders, the new ‘fishers of men’, it is a day of profound experiences. The memories of this day will form a large part of what holds them to that call of the Lord to follow him in this particular way. Yet we know there are those who do not persevere. This was certainly the experience of the Early Christians and we hear it recalled in the agricultural parable of the ploughman looking back. Those in Holy Orders never leave the ministry without considerable sacrifice. They know that once the step as been taken never again will they be permitted to as much read a lesson during Mass.

          When this happens we should be reticent to condemn them. Certainly the pressures of the current times, the attacks of the evil one, certainly impair judgement on the part of many. We must pray for them. We can never fully understand what brings somebody to this point nor can we perceive, in this life, what part this sadness may play in God’s larger plan for the world. Listen to these words from Our Lord. Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God. To turn back is serious and the consequences dire just like the state of sin that we all fall into. But the grace of the Lord is also revealed if we listen carefully; is fit. It does not exclude the possibility that again, by the grace of God, the person may become fit for the Kingdom of God.

          Let us pray that God will act in the hearts of those who have taken their hand from the plough and looked back. Let us pray that His grace may abound now and at the hour of our deaths.