Friday, 27 February 2009

Wise words from across the pond

This from Fr Dwight Longenecker at Standing on my Head gets it exactly right:
"My friend's utilitarian answer to the atheist's question (Religion gives peace of mind) is a reminder that we must never attempt to answer the atheist or agnostic with practical benefits of religion. If we do, we shall always lose the argument, and most of the problems of modern Christianity (including modern Catholicism) has to do with the fact that we focus on promoting the practical benefits of religion rather than the salvation of souls.
If you try to make church interesting or entertaining you will always lose to television, movies and the circus. If you try to make religion practical as an attempt to change the world you will lose to politics. If you try to make religion the thing that starts charities and helps people you will lose to more efficient means of helping people through government programs.
But if you focus on the salvation of souls you will focus on the one thing and the only thing that religion can promise. What was the answer to the young German student? I'm afraid the only real answer is what we call here in the South the 'ole time religion'. In other words, the answer to the student was, "You need to believe in God and trust in Jesus Christ for the salvation of your soul, for without him you are lost in your sin and headed for an eternity in hell."
Let's face it. This is the only thing religion is good for, but the beautiful thing is that when you do focus on this one thing, all the other good things that religion can do are suddenly added as an extra benefit. In my experience it is the Christians who really believe the "ole time religion" who also do all the other stuff best. They run the best ministries to the poor and needy. They do the best music and liturgy. They do the best art and architecture and they produce the most radical and vital social change."

Thursday, 26 February 2009

LENT




Welcome dear feast of Lent: who loves not thee,
He loves not Temperance, or Authority,
But is compos'd of passion.
The Scriptures bid us fast; the Church says, now:
Give to thy Mother, what thou wouldst allow
To ev'ry Corporation.

The humble soul compos'd of love and fear
Begins at home, and lays the burden there,
When doctrines disagree,
He says, in things which use hath justly got,
I am a scandal to the Church, and not
The Church is so to me.

True Christians should be glad of an occasion
To use their temperance, seeking no evasion,
When good is seasonable;
Unless Authority, which should increase
The obligation in us, make it less,
And Power itself disable.

Besides the cleanness of sweet abstinence,
Quick thoughts and motions at a small expense,
A face not fearing light:
Whereas in fulness there are sluttish fumes,
Sour exhalations, and dishonest rheums,
Revenging the delight.

Then those same pendant profits, which the spring
And Easter intimate, enlarge the thing,
And goodness of the deed.
Neither ought other men's abuse of Lent
Spoil the good use; lest by that argument
We forfeit all our Creed.

It's true, we cannot reach Christ's forti'eth day;
Yet to go part of that religious way,
Is better than to rest:
We cannot reach our Saviour's purity;
Yet we are bid, 'Be holy ev'n as he, '
In both let's do our best.

Who goeth in the way which Christ hath gone,
Is much more sure to meet with him, than one
That travelleth by-ways:
Perhaps my God, though he be far before,
May turn and take me by the hand, and more:
May strengthen my decays.

Yet Lord instruct us to improve our fast
By starving sin and taking such repast,
As may our faults control:
That ev'ry man may revel at his door,
Not in his parlour; banqueting the poor,
And among those his soul.

George Herbert

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Images of Shrove Tuesday






The day began after Morning Prayer and Mass with the burning of last year's palm crosses to provide the ash for tomorrow's ceremonies.
The nearest we get to carnival here at St Arvans are the pancakes served in the Meeting Rooms to coincide with the arrival of the school bus! We had about fifty children and adults through the door this afternoon.
Now a couple of confessions & then, tomorrow, down to the serious business of Lent, the Springtime of the Church's year.

State Visit of Pope Benedict?




There is a report in the Times yesterday by Ruth Gledhill , and taken up by the blogging community (see onetimothyfour
) that there could be a State Visit to Britain by Pope Benedict as early as next year.
I remember the pastoral visit of Pope John Paul II very well, in particular his visit to Pontcanna Fields in Cardiff and (on television) his visit to Canterbury Cathedral and the hopes which it inspired in many of us.
The heady days of ARCIC and dreams of Anglican – Catholic unity (at least in the way we envisaged then) seem to be over, but a visit from the Holy Father, perhaps coinciding with the beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman and who knows what else, could be a huge factor in the reinvigoration of the life of the Church in these islands and a step towards the reconversion of our society to Christ.
We must hope and above all pray.

"An Open Process of Reception?"

We have it on very good authority indeed (see the comments made by Canon Gregory Cameron to a previous post on the Anglican Covenant) that the Anglican Communion is in an open process of reception in terms of the issues of women’s ordination and other, “gender-related” issues.
It would seem to this no doubt poorly informed commentator that an “open process” implies the real possibility of a change of mind and heart on both sides of the present division, the practical possibility of “a radical shift in either direction.” For that to be possible at all, the alternative (that is, a biblically and traditionally orthodox understanding of holy order) must still exist in order for it to be restored to the provinces of the communion. An “open process of reception,” for it to be truly open (indeed to have any meaning at all) has to include episcopal provision for those who hold to the traditional understanding of holy order as the Church has received it. Doesn’t it?

“Safe to receive?”

The Bishop of Monmouth’s Ad Clerum for Lent contains within it an explanation of the process by which one bishop informs another that a cleric (a wonderful mediaevalism, although ‘clerk’ would be even better, if not inclusive enough for contemporary Anglican tastes) is ‘safe to receive' and can be commended to another diocese. In addition to the eminently sensible and probably legally required information as to CRB checks and disciplinary issues, one of the necessary qualifications in order to be recommended is that of attendance at “deanery and diocesan events (clergy chapter, diocesan conference etc.”) I’m not sure I like the "etc." particularly; if one has to jump through hoops it’s as well to know where one has to jump; but the question of attendance at deanery and diocesan events is a pertinent one.
I don’t for one moment think the Bishop of Monmouth (who personally I like, and who is an honourable and genuinely decent man in every way) is trying to make a point here about those of our integrity who might wish to leave the diocese for pastures new, but the issue of attendance at the said deanery and diocesan events is something of a problem - a huge difficulty, in fact, for many of those who are opposed to women’s ordination.
It’s the old question, which we thought had been at least provisionally answered by alternative or additional episcopal oversight, of how far can one collude in a process which assumes the validity and interchangeability of all those in holy orders?
Of course, one could argue that Anglicanism is now within itself an exercise in ecumenism and attempt to treat chapter meetings and diocesan synods accordingly, but, like it or not, that is not the way they are regarded by the hierarchy, and these bodies themselves (deanery chapters and diocesan conferences) are increasingly important in the process of decision-making within the Province, particularly given the melt-down we seem to be experiencing in Wales in terms of finances and church attendance and the subsequent pastoral reorganisation deemed to be necessary.
[To digress just a little, the local deanery of Netherwent refused even to consider the needs of traditionalists when pastoral reorganistion was discussed a few years ago, and some of us feel so bruised as a result of that series of encounters that we are reluctant to become involved again.]
Personally, I found it easier to attend deanery chapters (even when completely isolated theologically) and diocesan conferences when one could at least point to the fact that for pastoral and sacramental purposes one was under the care of the Provincial Assistant Bishop (part of a kind of embryonic personal prelature within the Welsh Church, one could say.)
None of that, we know painfully well, is at all satisfactory in terms of Catholic ecclesiology, yet we live in an era within our communion of a wild and desperate experimentation not seen since the 16th Century, and anomalies abound; the PAB was an experimental response to the greater experiment within the Anglican laboratory of the ordination of women.
With the abrupt removal of the code of practice which gave us that episcopal care our link to the life of the deanery, diocese and province has been severed. If diocesan bishops propose to deal with that problem simply as a matter of discipline and impose sanctions on those who do not conform (even in terms of the withholding of a reference or commendation) then we have entered yet another stage in the “long defeat” we have been fighting for a generation. The solution to the problem is simple: the appointment of a Provincial Assistant Bishop or a differently-named equivalent, but that would require such a dramatic change of heart (and loss of face?) on the part of the diocesan bishops that it would seem extremely unlikely to say the least.
Not being “safe to receive” could well in time become a badge of honour along the lines of the inhibitions imposed on our Anglo-Catholic forebears; on the other hand, it demonstrates yet again the wilful refusal (no, let's be charitable, and say failure of understanding) of those in authority to come to terms with the real issues which now confront us as Anglican Catholics.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

An Early Spring?



No posts this last week due to a short half-term break.
These are a couple of photos from the Vicarage garden inluding a flowering mimosa tree - well, an acacia, anyway! After our coldest winter for twenty years, spring is just around the corner.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

LED BY THE SPIRIT



“Led by the Spirit” roadshows are taking place this month, giving people throughout Wales the opportunity to find out more about the traditional integrity within the Church in Wales. Study material will be available and there will be a chance to ask questions.
If you live anywhere near these venues, try your very best to be there and recommend the events to others, better still take as many people along as you can!

All roadshows will take place from 7.30pm to 9.15pm.

These are the South Wales’ events:

February 12 Swansea - St Hilary's Church Hall, 462 Gower Road, Killay, Swansea SA2 7DZ

February 18 Cardiff/Llandaff - The Old Library, St Michael's College, 54 Cardiff Road, Llandaff CF5 2YJ (tea/coffee on arrival in the ground floor Common Room
February 19 Newport - Main Hall, University of Wales, Caerleon Campus, Lodge Road, Caerleon, Newport NP18 3QT

The range of study material, setting out what lies behind the traditionalists’ case, why we believe what we believe.
The five booklets available look at:

►The Apostolic Church
►The Apostolic Ministry
►Women in the Church of God
►A Study Guide
►Biblical Foundations

For more information see the St Mary’s Abergavenny website:
www.stmarys-priory.org/the-church/led-by-the-spirit/2009-activities.htm

Pdf files of the study materials are available on the Bishop of Ebbsfleet’s site: www.ebbsfleet.org.uk/spiritledcc.htm

Why the Anglican Covenant cannot work.

An interesting interview on Wales Online with Canon Gregory Cameron, now the bishop-elect of St Asaph, and widely regarded as the principal architect of the Anglican Covenant.
Any doubts about whether the Anglican Covenant is workable seem to be resolved by one comment: African bishops will not recognise Bishop Gene Robinson as a bishop "for the foreseeable future."
His comments on movement towards the consecration of women bishops in the Church in Wales (from about 9 minutes on in the interview) display a similar misunderstanding of the traditional orthodox position: "those not able to receive women's ministry at the moment"
The interview seems to display very clearly the prevalent attitude of the Communion's liberal ascendancy in its assumption that really it is only a matter of time before we poor, deluded traditionalists (which include our Catholic and Orthodox "ecumenical partners," if that phrase can still be used) see the error of our ways and change our minds, whether on the subject of same-sex relationships or the (clearly related) issue of the ordination of women. The Covenant seems to be an impressive exercise in trying to keep an all too disparate and human institution in one piece, whilst treating truth and error on an equal basis.
I have to say I don't need the Church in Wales to be "charitable" or "sympathetic" towards me, but merely to remain faithful to the tradition and theology of the Church Universal. Both possibilities seem somewhat remote for "the foreseeable future."

Listen here:


Wednesday, 11 February 2009

The General Synod votes

I won't comment further on today's vote in the Church of England General Synod; coming from another province (albeit one with an already rescinded Code of Practice) it would probably be an impertinence. Fr Giles Pinnock at onetimothyfour in his two posts today says all that needs to be said at this point.

An appropriate time to say "Lord have mercy"

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

A PRAYER FOR THE GENERAL SYNOD OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

Lord,
protector and ruler of your Church,
fill your servants with a spirit of understanding, truth and peace.
Help them to strive with all their hearts to learn what is pleasing to you and to follow it with all their strength.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Church in Wales report urges an end to the ordination of those opposed to women priests

The Report of the “Standing Committee Working Group on Representation of Women in the Church in Wales” dropped on to my doorstep this morning. It makes fascinating reading, even if I am left feeling somewhat queasy at the future it envisages.
The report is, as one might expect from such a source, heavy on sociology and somewhat light on theology (section 4.6 for those of you with a strong stomach & a taste for fiction.) Its assumptions are, purely and simply, those of liberal, secular society. (Even the U.N. Millenium Development Goals have a mention – the Atlantic Ocean narrows by the day!)
Among the comments of the Group is the following priceless paragraph. It is beyond parody:
“Church people may feel tempted to disengage from this debate about gender equality because it is difficult and they fear conflict. It can seem safer to stay with words, ideas and behaviour that are familiar. The Group looked at some difficult questions about the limits of inclusion and tolerance asking in particular who was marginalised or excluded by any theological stance that we take. It was recognised that there is a dangerous attraction for Christians who feel that their viewpoint is marginal or unpopular to regard themselves as victims”

Moving on (swiftly), among the Working Group’s detailed recommendations are the following aims:
To achieve 50% women’s representation in the Governing Body’s House of Laity by 2013 and an aim of 30% in the House of Clergy in the same period.

The authors go to recommend “gender equality understanding” in clergy training and the production of resources to be used "for training in gender awareness and confidence building, for use and promotion in our Churches, Church Schools, St Michael’s College (Llandaff) and Trinity College Carmarthen.”
Interestingly in a Province which, despite recent decisions by the Bench of Bishops, still pays lip service to a continuing place for those opposed to women’s ordination, Recommendation 5 of the Working Group asks that the recruitment of ordinands takes account of their “commitment to gender equality,” that the training of ordinands “incorporates specific gender equality awareness training,” and that “gender equality is on the agenda for the continued ministerial education of clergy and trained laity.”
The authors also (section 6.5 on page 18) make the following observation:
“The Working Group found it difficult to understand why the ordination of those opposed to the ordination of women continues in a Church committed to the ordination of women.”
They also recommend that “the use of inclusive language” (not defined, as such) in worship “is endorsed and encouraged.”
A question for the Bishops of our synodically governed and episcopally led Church in Wales: if you are genuinely committed to the survival and fair treatment of those who remain in conscience opposed to the ordination of women to the Sacred Ministry, will you oppose the detailed recommendations of the Working Group which, despite being received and welcomed by the Governing Body in September, if they were to be implemented, would result in the eradication of the “original integrity” from the life of the Province altogether?
If not, why not?

Monday, 9 February 2009

Synodical Govenment

An interesting article in this month’s New Directions on the subject of the General Synod of the Church of England.
From the perspective of a Province in our ecclesial community which has had a form of Synodical government since its separation from the C of E in the 1920s, things look slightly different.
Whilst agreeing with the author that synods inevitably emphasise factions and divisions within churches, it would seem that in the Anglican situation they have simply served to draw out already existing weaknesses and fault lines in our theology and ecclesiology.
Inevitably, they have made us even more dependent upon the passing values and preoccupations of contemporary secular society: Anglicanism since its separation from Rome has never needed much encouragement to stray in the direction of Erastianism, the existence of synods even partly composed of those without theological expertise and training has served to exacerbate our problems in that regard.
But, having said that, would we have fared any better in terms of fidelity to scripture and tradition had we been governed solely by our bishops?
There simply is no consensus or any workable mechanism even to decide what we mean by fidelity to scripture and tradition.
The problem is not so much the presence of a synod but the absence of a magisterium. Our difficulties lie in our continuing separation from the Universal Church. Would it be going too far to say that it is not so much a problem of contemporary Anglicanism as a problem with Anglicanism per se?

Sunday, 8 February 2009

"the one great thing to love on earth....."


"Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament . . . There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death, by the divine paradox, that which ends life and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste (foretaste) of which alone can what you seek in earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexity of reality, eternal endurance, which every man's heart desires."


J.R.R. Tolkien (1892 - 1973), writing to his son Michael, 6-8 May 1941.

Biretta tip to Bishop David Chislett SSC

IS THIS OUR FUTURE IN WALES?



One of the perennial complaints of traditionalists both in England and Wales in recent years has been the lack of appointments made to senior positions of those who hold orthodox, catholic views (the evangelicals no doubt have a similar grievance.) Those “catholic” appointments which have been made have come, almost without exception, from the “Iscariot” tendency.
To hammer this home the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, has appointed Canon Frances (Peggy) Jackson from the Diocese of Southwark as the new Archdeacon of Llandaff. Mrs Jackson is a leading member of GRAS, the Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod.

These are her views on those of us she refers to as “conscientious objectors”

“It is one thing to make special arrangements for those around whom the CofE has changed its mind; it is quite another to split the CofE into ‘special’ divisions accommodated at all levels, specifically to foster and accommodate a new generation of people who wish to make a conscientious choice from the outset, never to engage with the mainstream ministry of the church. No structural provision should be made for such people, beyond any bishop’s normal pastoral concern for the variety of individual feelings and circumstances among serving clergy. New individuals with conscientious difficulties over women’s ministry will simply have to make personal decisions and individual choices, to find accommodation as best they can – just as many already have to do over a host of other current issues, some very uncomfortable, where people find themselves representative of a view which is not that sanctioned by the ‘church’ as a whole, and upheld through Synod and Parliament.”

Outside the snow is melting; for Catholics in the Church in Wales, I fear the big freeze is only just beginning.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Thursday, 5 February 2009

DON’T PRAY FOR ME. I MIGHT BE OVERSENSITIVE!


The case of the nurse, suspended from duty for offering to pray for a patient, raises some interesting questions for all of us.
Caroline Petrie, 45, from Weston super Mare, was accused of failing to show “a commitment to equality and diversity” over her suggestion and faced the possibility of a disciplinary hearing.
Mrs Petrie, a married mother-of-two, said she did not force her beliefs on anyone but simply asked if the woman would like a prayer said for her, as she has done with other patients.
Who could possibly take exception to that? If, in the name of a commitment to “diversity,” all religions were to be relegated to the private sphere that would be bad enough for the life of any healthy society, but can one for a moment believe that if the nurse in question had been a Muslim, a Hindu, or a Sikh she would have been treated in such a high-handed and oppressive manner?
We should all champion equality and diversity, so long as the equality is diverse and the diversity has a measure of equality. But diversity is rapidly becoming simply a policy for singling out the Christian faith for a degree of persecution which would have been unthinkable a generation ago, and one has to conclude that we actually live in a very unhealthy society indeed, where expressions of equality and diversity are tailored to the anti-religious prejudices and desperate fear of litigation) of those who, as in Mrs Petrie's case,implement professional codes of practice.The implications for freedom of speech and religion are profound.
One might have expected this kind of thing in the days of Soviet Russia, but in modern England? But, then, nasty little liberal ideologues and Marxist commissars have a great deal more in common than one would at first think, except perhaps the latter might be more pragmatic. Where is George Orwell when we need him? Perhaps his writings and his Collected Essays, in particular, should be required elements of the National Curriculum.
Who makes and implements these internal rules regarding “equality and diversity?” Where has been the public debate surrounding their compilation, their adoption and implementation? Who was the complete idiot who decided to suspend Mrs Petrie?
In the Christian West, it seems, the Faith which formed us, our history and our institutions, has become the one unmentionable.
But can anyone really take exception to being prayed for? If someone doesn’t believe in God, then presumably that person might think prayer could do no possible good, but it cannot in any sense whatsoever said to be harmful or threatening. In the end, one can always say, “no, thank you.”
If we take this kind of bizarre nonsense to its logical conclusion then any display of religious affiliation could be said to be offensive. So, let’s follow Kemal Ataturk and ban religious dress of all kinds, let’s go one further and pull down our Churches in case they cause offence, and not ever use the name of Christ, except as an expletive.

What, if anything, will we learn?




A photo of one of the high-profile casualties of the current recession – a depressing view of Chepstow High Street.

We are now in the full grip of the economic downturn (something they say our Prime Minister when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer – surely he is too bright to be guilty of such hubris – told us would never happen again.)
What will we learn from the recession in terms of our lifestyles, the way we order our day-to-day lives, the time and care we bestow on our families and friends, the system of values we live by, the duties we owe to God himself?
Will economic uncertainty, the fear and anxiety caused by the threat of unemployment or business failure lead us to think about the deeper meaning of life, the things which are of eternal significance? Or do we think it is all fixable, with a tweak here and there to the international financial system, so we can get back to enjoying the really important things of 21st Century life such as unlimited credit, retail therapy and exotic holidays?
As a natural cavalier rather than a puritan, I don’t think we should give the impression of relishing the prospect of discomfort, whether it’s our own or other people’s, but perhaps – just perhaps – we may return to some kind of balance in the way we live. Order isn’t always the enemy of spontaneity but the guarantee of its possibility.


An interesting report earlier this week, from the Children’s Society,
“The Good Childhood Report” stated that children are more "anxious and troubled" and their lives "more difficult" than ever they were in the past. And the report lays the blame firmly on the priority given by adults to the quest for material success. We live, say the authors, in a "selfish and individualistic culture" and we should learn to focus on helping others rather than pursuing our own self-centred aims. They also go on to say that children living with lone parents or step parents are three times more likely to have behavioural problems as those living with married parents. In other words, the traditional family offers the best chance of a good childhood.
There’s nothing so really controversial there one might think; it’s only the common currency of most modern, orthodox Christian reflection on the nature of the society in which we live.
But what has been most surprising is the purely ideological reaction to the report. Never mind the evidence from the lives of our children, opponents seem to say; if what is said seems to go against much of the accepted cultural wisdom of the last fifty years then it must be the evidence which is somehow at fault and not the way we now live.
Of course, it helps no one to be loaded down with a huge weight of personal guilt about the way we are failing our children. Most people live by and are conditioned by the values of the society in which they live; in the absence of a clearly articulated alternative vision of life (and here the Christian Churches – Anglicans in particular - are most definitely culpable in their failure to defend Christian social values & I write as someone whose own views have changed significantly in twenty years - yes, a convert to traditional, Catholic Christian values!) it is a moot point as to how far one can attribute individual blame.
But the downplaying, even the disparaging, of the role – more than that - the full time job - of motherhood by the feminist movement in a somewhat unlikely collusion with free-market economics has to account for more than a little of the various crises afflicting the modern family.
It can’t be a co-incidence that we are now left here in Britain with the highest levels of family break-up in Western Europe. Essentially, we have North American economics without America’s sense of social cohesion and their sense of the importance of religious and family values in the life of their country. Somewhere along the line between the 1950s and 1990s we in Britain lost our own sense of the importance of structure and community in our lives and have been left with an exaggerated individualistic outlook in almost all aspects of our national life, public and private. The free market economy (which is all we have been left with in terms of a common identity) is by its nature amoral, it can have no regard for history or tradition, it cannot guarantee the stability or the benevolence of any society and it is certainly no guarantor of Catholic social doctrine.
This feels a little bit like confessing to a secular heresy, but whereas many of the insights of the feminist movement were a necessary corrective to societies long dominated by the (so-called) male values of aggression and competition, and they have undoubtedly and rightly led to a huge improvement in women’s lives in terms of legal status, educational and career prospects (in fact, in terms of basic human rights), one has to wonder at what point did working in an office for a multi-national corporation, answering ‘phones at a call centre, working at the till in Tesco’s, or whatever, come to be regarded as being of a higher social status and degree of usefulness than looking after one’s own children? Perhaps in this world of ever-higher material and emotional expectations and, even now, obscenely high property values, we should consider giving people very large tax benefits to be able to afford to be full-time parents and thereby helping to make it very clear that to be a full-time mother (or father, for that matter) is one of the most demanding and high-status jobs one could ever have. Being responsible for the future, giving our children the love and care they need, passing on to them the most valuable insights into life we ourselves have gained and the tradition of faith in turn passed on to us, is no small matter; it is far too important to be left in the hands of strangers and far too significant to be left to the dictates of politicians or educationalists. The human love we give our children, the time we spend with them, what we hand on to them, is their first apprehension of the love of God himself and their first and enduring vision of what life should be like.
For those who recognise that our society is broken and in need of repair the report is a welcome contribution.
On the other hand we can be forgiven for identifying with the passer-by somewhere in Ireland (or so the joke goes) who when asked directions to a certain town, replied, “well, if I’d wanted to go there, I wouldn’t be starting from here!”

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!







The scene here before Morning Prayer today!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Mass in G Minor: Ralph Vaughan Williams: Kyrie



A coffee break in the tradition of the now (alas!) defunct Massinformation.
The Kyrie from the Vaughan Williams Mass in G minor, included just because I like it & don't hear it often enough!

DENIAL, AFFIRMATION & AN UNWORLDLY AGENDA

It’s impossible to be a holocaust denier when one lives around the corner from a survivor of the Auschwitz and Belsen death camps. Mady, our good friend, neighbour and the only Jewish worshipper at our Christmas Midnight Mass, has recounted her experiences as a young girl deported from Hungary by the Nazis: http://www/.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2009/01/16/full-circle-a-life-survived-91466-22704598/
After the liberation of Belsen by the British army and a further experience of man’s inhumanity to man in the Hungarian uprising of 1956, she went on to become a top fashion designer in New York, making clothes for the wives of American presidents and film stars. This is her book: Full Circle - well worth a read if you are ever tempted to despair and lose hope.


Which brings us to the latest holocaust denier in the news, the Lefebvrist Bishop Richard Williamson, and the furore surrounding the lifting of the excommunications on members of the Society of St Pius X.
This is probably a naïve question, but why is it that the broadcast media and journalists in general seem so incapable of mastering the (not so complex) complexities of theological issues, those of Catholic theology in particular, when politics and economics are minutely analysed and given the attention which such serious and weighty matters deserve? It can’t be a simple matter of journalistic laziness, although one should never underestimate that.
Religious issues are now almost always reported from an emotional angle and usually one which tries to bring out the supposed irrationality of the subject under discussion. Reason and religion, it would seem, can’t co-exist, much less be mutually dependent.
The recent reporting of the lifting of the excommunications closely tied in with the comments of a fairly notorious fruitcake (episcopal orders notwithstanding) has been nothing less than disgraceful; most people have been left with the simplistic impression that Pope Benedict has lifted excommunications on a organisation of holocaust deniers and right wing extremists. The hidden agenda is, to be blunt, what can you expect from a German pontiff who grew up under Hitler and is doing his best to turn back the clock in terms of both the Church’s moral teaching and its sacred liturgy?
The true reason behind the decision – a desire to obey Christ’s will in terms of restoring the Church’s fractured unity, and also the Holy Father’s clear and ringing denunciation of those who seek to deny the reality of the Holocaust, have hardly been given an airing.
Read what he actually said here: http://www.zenit.org/article-24940?l=english
Why should this be? Pope Benedict’s emerging agenda for the Church is not to everyone’s taste. The defenders of the “progressivist” view of Vatican II, seem to have joined forces with those who are actively promoting the cause of women’s ordination, aggressively championing homosexual rights, and downplaying the sanctity of human life, both at its beginning and its ending. It is literally an unholy alliance, but one which is extremely vocal and which possesses a great deal of unthinking, instinctive support in today's world.
The media themselves dare not be counter-cultural; for sound commercial reasons they have to run with the herd, whilst (and you have to appreciate the irony) all the time congratulating themselves on their brave, socially radical, anti-establishment attitudes.
When will they - and the other children of the 1960s who are now running the world - wake up and realise that they are the establishment, and that true radicalism (true humanism even) may lie elsewhere?
But Pope Benedict has another agenda – one which the prevailing secular culture will find hard to understand – and that is the restoration of unity, holiness and beauty to the life, witness and worship of God’s Church. As only a “marginal Catholic,” someone on the ecclesial sidelines, I can only applaud him and in prayer stand by him as the wolves close in.