Sunday, 29 April 2012

Poilitical?

The news that the Catholic Education Service faces an investigation [a report hereover its encouragement to schools to sign the Coalition for Marriage petition [sign it here raises many questions, but one is very crucial indeed.
According to some commentators, the C.S.E.'s action contravenes sections 406-7 of the Education Act 1996 [here]  which forbid the “promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school”, and requires balanced treatment of political issues.
When does a religious issue become 'political?
It would seem the answer is simply when the government of the day decides it should - merely by contemplating legislation and initiating a consultation process as it is at present. Far from the Church intervening in a political debate, this is a clear instance of the State seeking to trespass on to an area which is not its concern. These sections of the 1996 Education Act were never intended to address a situation like this.
But it is in this way that even 'representative democracy'  becomes tyrannical and the rights of 'minorities' can be played off against one another and given priority according to the social fashion of the moment. 
It may be thought that is is hardly tyrannical to insist on a 'balanced treatment' of controversial issues, yet can it be right to insist that a Catholic school (or any other kind of Christian educational establishment) should be forced to present a case to its pupils which is diametrically opposed to its teachings, according to which the definition of marriage is not a 'controversial' or partisan political issue at all? The fact that these schools are state-funded is a red herring  - Christians pay taxes too.


Surrexit Pastor Bonus: Lassus

Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Good Shepherd


Ravenna - mosaic of Christ the Good Shepherd

                   



Psalm 23 sung by the choir of St Paul's Cathedral; the setting is by Hylton Stewart

Friday, 27 April 2012

Beech trees



Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary from 1906 - 1916 (famous for his prescient words on the eve of the outbreak of the Great War, "The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our time" ) always took time off from affairs of state at Westminster to be in the country at this time of year to see the fresh green of the newly opened beech leaves: those were the days! 
I grew up in a house surrounded by beech woods, and there is nothing like the sight of their leaves against the silver grey of the tree trunks when they first open .. 
This year, undoubtedly because of the wet and cold of the last few weeks, the beech woods are  rather late in coming into leaf - it's normally the last weekend of April here. 
But despite the unseasonal weather and general lack of sunshine, the swallows and the wheatears are back. Summer is on its way. 


But what are the limits?

The blog Valle Adurni has published the following quotation from an apologist for the LCWR (an umbrella organisation for some American female religious orders) currently under investigation by the Vatican):
"The notion that postmodern Catholics assent to “the doctrine of the faith that has been revealed by God in Jesus Christ, presented in written form in the divinely inspired Scriptures, and handed on in the Apostolic Tradition under the guidance of the Church’s Magisterium,” (or, simply, the fathers know best) is simply ludicrous." 
There will be those who will use this investigation as a reason for attacking the Vatican for its authoritarianism and lack of respect for intellectual and theological freedom. The Vatican itself (and any Catholics who doubt its wisdom in this respect) should be heartened and encouraged in its present course of action by the fact that it is precisely this absence of restraint, this contempt for commonly accepted boundaries within which the work of theology is done and practised, which has created the modern face of Anglicanism.  
You really do not want to go there.


As many Anglicans - even after several generations of this -  clearly do not:

"...If we were facing a merely institutional problem, then we would have expected that the heavy investment made in Anglican Covenant would have brought a resolution. But now with the rejection of the Covenant, even in the Church of England itself, it is obvious that institutional remedies for the crisis have failed and that the problems we face are far too deep seated to be dealt with by merely managerial and organisational strategies. As Primates of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, we recognised in our communiqué of November 2010 that the Anglican Covenant was I quote: “Fatally flawed!” It had become clear that it was little more than a form of words to disguise conflict rather than resolve it. The heart of the crisis we face is not institutional, but spiritual.                                             Micah can ask ‘what does the Lord require?’ In the confidence of that, what the Lord requires has already been revealed. But the Lambeth Conference of 1998 showed that a determined minority were willing to bend the word of God to fit the fashionable ideas of their cultural context and that they were not willing to stand in solidarity with the clear mind of the communion’s bishops when opinion was tested.                                                                                                                                                                              The subsequent history of our communion unfolds from this point. Some sections of the Anglican Communion have been echoing the words of the serpent; ‘has God really said…?’ And their strategy has been to continue this dialogue endlessly in order to wear down resistance while all the time pursuing their self determined mandate of radical inclusion. In this they have been greatly helped by those Anglican theologians who claim that our identity is found in what they call ‘the grammar of obedience.’ They want us to step back from the plain sense of scripture and excavate ‘deeper truths’ of God’s revelation concealed below the words themselves. It is little surprise then that we find scripture can be bent into all sorts of convenient shapes and that so called ‘gospel’ truths can contradict the plain meaning of scriptures..."

[Full text here]


And on a related theme, this lecture exploding modern myths about othodox Christianity from the eminent theologian and patristic scholar Fr John Behr of St Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary, New York (thanks to Bishop David Chislett's blog) 
"Unless you've got a canon, a criterion which is acting as your first principle, your hypothesis, you can't think..."
And an explanation of humanity as the divine 'project' which is only 'finished' by the passion and resurrection of Christ.
Breathe the clear air!












Wednesday, 25 April 2012

John Milbank on the implications of modern secularism and equality

"...It is good that people can no longer so easily be coerced into faith; faith itself has to welcome that, for faith-based reasons. In a way, we have returned to the situation of the first few Christian centuries. At the same time, though, autonomy and freedom from tradition can never be real. One has to come to terms with one’s own legacy, and children have to be taught something. The idea that they might be offered only “choice” is of course crazy. Before we choose, we are inducted into an habitual way of life..."
 "...In one sense, the freeing of sex from the law has always been implied by Christianity; the 1960s’ “liberation” remains an event within Christian history. At the same time, what one saw here was a kind of democratization and commercialization of “bohemian” morals, which had themselves earlier been newly legitimated and normalized for an elite, as Phillip Blond has pointed out. The problem here is that self-pleasure can become either explicitly or tacitly a goal in itself. When the romantics earlier spoke of the importance of marriage being “free,” that seems to me nearer the mark, as a goal. Human fulfillment lies more in the direction of faithful love and inserting oneself in the continuity of generations. Marriage and the family, for all their corruption and misuse, are at base democratic institutions. Fascism for me comes into the picture because I think (following Adorno, amongst others) that the gradual separation of sex from procreation is regarded naively if we do not realize that this is what the state wants. Covertly, it wants to secure “Malthusian” control over reproduction and to deal with the individual directly, rather than through the mediation of couples. Much of liberal feminism is actually, in practice, on the side of economic and political neoliberalism. It is too rarely noticed that sexual permissiveness has today become a kind of opiate that covertly reconciles people to the loss of other freedoms—both in relation to the state and to the workplace...."
"...What we need is not a return to former legal coercion and social ostracism in the sexual field, but a change in ethos, which will promote both relational fidelity and the encouragement of human creativity and participation in the workplace and in civil life. As part of this, I think it is important both to support gay civil partnerships and yet to oppose the idea of “gay marriage.” Many more gay people in Europe approve of this combination than do in the US..."

The full interview is here













Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Not really a 'debate ' at all


Being generally in life rather slow to catch on, I’ve failed until recently to appreciate the precise nature of the current western and Anglican debate about matters of human sexuality.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise after the interminable conflict over women’s ordination to discover that those who wish to see a radical departure from established tradition have, despite the endless talk about dialogue, not the slightest interest in listening to what others are saying, or of entering into a conversation with the aim of changing hearts and minds, only in ridiculing, silencing and marginalising those who disagree with them. This is a one way street: those who fail to obey the instruction can expect to have their driving licences taken away from them. It's the "Newhaus law" again, I'm afraid. *
To that end, whatever arguments are put forward, and however reasonably they are expressed, accusations of homophobia, judgementalism and lack of charity, are repeatedly levelled at those who express any kind of reservation about current Anglican trends. One comment on this blog has charmingly suggested that ‘I get out more’ – well, in the face of such irrefutable logic and erudition, one's only option is to retire  gracefully from the battle and accept defeat.
Then the penny dropped – it doesn’t matter a jot what we say, the force of our arguments are of no consequence whatsoever. The very fact that contrary opinions are expressed is itself worthy of condemnation.
We are probably deluding ourselves if we think that any constructive engagement is possible with those who, from an assumed and often vicarious victim mentality, regard their opponents and their opinions as beneath a civilised person's contempt and on a par with those who defended racism or the slave trade.
Not, of course, that the rhetoric used by some of those who are also opposed to change has always helped in this regard.
No one needs to be reminded that the whole area of human sexuality is an immensely complex one – far too complex and mysterious to be regarded as ammunition in a political battle. There are many conflicting opinions and a great deal of conflicting research, but there is so much we do not know, so many determining causes of which we are unaware in relation to the determination, stability and permanence of sexual preference and orientation.
It needs to be said in view of some of the propaganda readily believed about “traditionalists” that the response of many of us has also been to operate (I hope, sensitively) both in our private lives and pastoral ministry from a position of tolerant and charitable conservatism: not to seek to condemn or stand in judgement (we are all in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness), but also not to advocate change to society’s basic institutions and the Church’s theological stance until we know far more than we do at present. My suspicion is that experience of its absence will prove that there is more wisdom in the Catholic Christian tradition than our culture now acknowledges.   
But my own feeling is that, in this small corner of the Lord’s vineyard at least, we have lost this ‘debate’ – the zeitgeist is against us, the atmosphere has become too overheated and politicised and too tied up with the shibboleths of fashionable opinion for any rational or truly 'theological' consideration of these questions to take place either within the Church or in the wider society.
We are about to find out.


* Not that anyone needs to be reminded, but the reference is to the maxim of the late Fr Richard John Neuhaus, the famous American convert from Lutheranism to Catholicism,  that if orthodoxy is merely tolerated, it will soon be proscribed. Our opponents seem - by their language at least - to be intent on going one step further, cutting out the interim stage and going straight for proscription.


'Greetings from Joan to Jean'

Some beautiful, serene, and lesser known, Vaughan Williams: the Epilogue from the Second String Quartet in A Minor, written in 1942-3.
The movement is subtitled 'Greetings from Joan to Jean' (the work was dedicated to the violist Jean Stewart) and contains material originally intended for a film about St Joan of Arc.

Monday, 23 April 2012

This anecdote is too good not to repeat:


"... As I walked up the stairs from the Members’ entrance to the House, one of the more light-heated of the bishops fell into step with me, and we exchanged greetings before he cheerily asked me: “What mischief are you up to today, Lord Tebbit?”“That,” I replied with a grin, “is not a very charitable nor Christian remark.” But in a stroke of inspiration, perhaps even divine inspiration, I continued: “As a matter of fact I am going to put down my private members' bill. It is to give legal force to the Ten Commandments. I want to see which way you Bishops would vote, clause by clause.”“Oh my God,” cried the bishop. “You are being very mischievous.” 
It seems to me that of all the bishops I have known, the two most unlikely to have had many problems with my imaginary bill would have been John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, and Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, and I think it is that rather than racism within the Church of England, which has been mainly responsible for the nastiness of some of the attacks on Sentamu. After all, it cannot be a very racist organisation which promotes to its second highest office a man of Ugandan origins, or gave preferment to one from Pakistan..."
[Here]  The highlights in red are mine 

St George's Day

Cranmer is right, I think, about St George's Day and the regrettable, if understandable, lack of enthusiasm on the part of the English for celebrating their national patron saint. For a long time our public holidays apart from Christmas and Easter have been detached from anything meaningful.
It's also a huge pity that the St George's flag was allowed to be hijacked irrecoverably in many people's minds by a gang of racist thugs in the 1970s - a period best forgotten in many ways, although, like Charles Moore in today's Telegraph,  I grew up in that rather dismal decade which was marked above all by an overwhelming sense of national and institutional decline and of impending crisis .


Anyway, the poem which follows is quintessentially English - and understated - read here in a spirit of cross-border cooperation (the motto of the old county of Monmouthshire was 'utrique fidelis' and many of us have a foot in both camps *) by the Welsh actor Richard Burton, one of the finest Shakespearians of his day, before he was seduced by Hollywood .... and other things.



* And inclined today - in a spirit of irony, naturally - to cherish belonging to what a recent Church in Wales report on the Welsh language has described as giving the impression of being an 'English imperialist' institution. If  a nationalist is commissioned to chair a committee that is perhaps what we are likely to hear - one might think? 
[link here]



Shakespeare

To mark his birthday, the concluding scenes of my favourite Shakespeare play (since a school visit long ago to the RSC to see Judi Dench and Donald Sinden in the leading roles) and favourite Shakespeare film - Henry V notwithstanding - including an excellent score by the composer, Patrick Doyle:

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Christ rising again: John Sheppard


Sung by Stile Antico


Christ, Christ rising from the dead now dieth not;
death from henceforth hath no power upon him.
For in that he died, he died but once to put away sin,
but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
And so likewise count yourselves dead unto sin,
but living unto God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Alleluia!

Christ is risen again, the firstfruits of them that sleep.
For seeing that by man came death,
By man also cometh the resurrection of the dead.
For as by Adam all men do die,
So by Christ all men shall be restored to life. Alleluia!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Leos Janacek - Otcenas (Our Father)



Janáček's intriguing setting of the Lord's Prayer  - written in five movements for tenor solo, chorus, harp, and organ

Friday, 20 April 2012

Presidential Address

Here is a report from Wales Online (not entirely accurate in its detail - I hope Dr Will Strange and Anglican Mainstream can cope with being described as  'Anglo-Catholic' - do your research, journalists, please!)  with reported reactions and some background in the wake of Archbishop Barry Morgan's latest presidential address to the Church in Wales' Governing Body - on the subject of homosexuals and marriage.
The Archbishop's address is actually an excellent summing up of the liberal position - displaying the usual false dichotomy between Scripture and tradition on the one hand and the 'wider trajectory' of the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels on the other.
So, then,  we need only quarrel with its theological method and its conclusions.
Apart from that, no comment.

Regina Coeli: Marc-Antoine Charpentier



Thursday, 19 April 2012

Only an "amber light to Anglican Covenant"

Whatever the 'collegial'  view may be in public, the recent rejection of the Anglican Covenant by the dioceses of the Church of England won't have exactly displeased everyone in the Church in Wales - even, it is said, on the episcopal bench itself...
Is today's Governing Body resolution, as presented, just a response to the changed situation following the Church of England's rejection, or is it in reality the very most that can now be affirmed about the Covenant in the Church in Wales itself? 

This report from ACNS

Church in Wales gives "amber light" to Anglican Covenant

A plan to protect the unity of the worldwide Anglican Communion was given an amber light, rather than a green light, by the Church in Wales yesterday (April 18).
Members of its Governing Body voted to affirm their commitment to the Communion and the Covenant process, but asked questions of the Anglican Consultative Council which meets in October. They feared the recent rejection of the Covenant by the Church of England jeopardised its future and clarifications about that were now needed before a decision could be made.
The Bishop of St Asaph, Dr Gregory Cameron, who proposed a motion which was amended in the light of the Church of England decision, said, “We have given the Covenant an amber light rather than a green light but in doing so we are being honest about where the Church is today. However, I think we need to reaffirm our strong commitment to each other through the saving power of Christ revealed in the Gospels. That is what I believe the Covenant ultimately calls us to do and I hope one day the Church in Wales will be able to vote for it.”
The amended motion, which was carried overwhelmingly, was that the GB:
· Affirm the commitment of the Church in Wales to the life of the Anglican Communion;
· Affirm its readiness to engage with any ongoing process of consideration of the Anglican Communion Covenant;
· Request clarification from the 15th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council as to the status and direction of the Covenant process in the light of the position of the Church of England;
· Urge upon the Instruments of Communion a course of action which continues to see reconciliation and the preservation of the Communion as a family of interdependent but autonomous Churches.

For a copy of the briefing paper on the Anglican Covenant, please visit:
www.churchinwales.org.uk/structure/govbody/apr12/docs/ag7.doc

It's good to see such a decisive response to the grave problems of the Anglican Communion... 

Music for Eastertide: Marcel Dupré: Regina Coeli

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Loud music and a classical quietness

Fr Dwight Longenecker [here] on the awfulness of so much "Christian music"
"...Why is it that so often Christian music is so awful? I think there are a couple of reasons. The first is that the musicians and their audience mistake a worthy message for talent. Then they get a martyr complex if they’re criticized. “You’re obviously not very spiritual if you can’t enjoy my music!  The second problem is that the audience are often either totally uncritical or they haven’t the ability to criticize intelligently. Too often the audience actually like the crap that is being dished up. The third factor is that market forces are usually not in play. Market forces often have a surprisingly sharp and salutary critical effect. Market forces weed out the junk, but in the Christian market they’re doing it for love, not money, so no one is telling them to get off the stage ’cause it won’t sell.These are all the practical problems. There is, however, a deeper problem. Christian popular music is almost always pretty bad, but  the problem with most “Christian” music is that it is secular music with Christian words. In any decent art style and substance are supposed to match up. The meaning and the media are supposed to harmonize. Most “Christian” music is taken from the secular world. Whether it is the music of Broadway musicals, Country Western, Las Vegas ballad crooners or light rock or heavy rock and roll it’s secular not sacred. When you then add sacred words to the secular music there is a natural disconnect. That’s why so much Christian music (even when it is well written and well performed) doesn’t really work. Oh sure, people might like it. They might even have nice feelings about Jesus by listening to it, but the secular music was designed to produce certain types of feelings, and why should those warm sentimental feelings or hard emotional feelings be linked with worship? We might like listening to Christian country Western or a sweet Broadway type ballad about Jeezus or we might get all hyped up listening to Christian rock, but is it worship? Is it really inspiring us to draw closer to God? Is it really deepening our spiritual life or is it just music we like which makes us feel good and it makes us feel even better because it talks about Jeezus too? Forgive me for being cynical, but think about it..."
I can't help thinking that the awfulness has something, too, to do with 'ghetto-isation' - unlike, say, Palestrina or Schubert, it's no longer in the mainstream  - and the fact that most modern Christian genre music is yesterday's popular music but sanitised and transplanted into what is really an alien soil. As Fr Longenecker himself hints at, the whole point of rock music is adolescent revolt and sexualisation. The fact that this is now standard adult listening - even among the better educated - points to a sad cultural regression on the part of the children of the sixties and beyond; if we've not exactly been infantilised, it encourages us to remain perpetual teenagers - we see the results all around us. 


The quietness of Pope Benedict -  and why he (even where sometimes his Church does not - for all kinds of reasons, some complex and historical, some not)  appeals to a certain kind of British Anglican (that's me speaking now, of course):

"Some people think the pope is a very complicated man, but really, he is very easy to get, because he is very open. He is not a politician; he is not a diplomat; he is simply a man who is humbly all-for-God, who lives his faith so completely that there are no shadows. His words are words of Be-ing, primarily.Do-ing, comes farther down the line.Even before he was Benedict, back when he was Joseph Ratzinger, I loved his humility; he has always struck me as the shy old uncle who — once drawn out — keeps you enthralled with the openness, depth and breadth of his intellect, which is never pedantic, and always accessible.That has its drawbacks, of course, particularly in terms of perception. Benedict is an introvert, content with solitude; he allows himself to be subsumed by his servant’s office in a way that is so paradoxical that some do not understand it. Russell Shaw is right when he says Benedict is “still something of an enigma”.In truth, The Reality of Pope Benedict has always been quite different from the narratives, whether they come from media or “insiders....”

From The Anchoress [here]



Open justice isn't always comfortable

There have been some very  worrying comments made about the trial of Anders Behring Breivik now taking place in Oslo  [here].
It isn't right, we are being told, for this evil individual to be given the opportunity in the full glare of publicity to explain himself and give the outward appearance of being lucid in his own defence; his court appearance, some have argued could even encourage others to commit similar crimes.
But in a free society - and our freedoms and our responsibilities come ultimately from God himself -  the open process of justice is not negotiable. Yes, it may not make comfortable viewing; the defendant in this case may be able to string together a few coherent sentences in order - in his own eyes - to justify his mass killings. 
Yet his crimes, which he does not deny, speak for themselves and speak far more loudly and cogently than the banal words of  someone who is, equally undeniably, a murderous psychopath.
Yet the doubts and anxieties being expressed, mainly by commentators on the liberal left, about the advisability of a public trial in this case, are very revealing both about their own moral relativism and  their basic lack of confidence in the traditional freedoms of western society. 
The price of liberty is eternal vigilance: we should be very wary of arguments - always made with the very best of intentions - which seek to erode or suspend our freedoms. And the greatest guarantee of liberty is an open and fair judicial process.
No, the Norwegian authorities are right and should be applauded. If we believe in liberty and freedom, a few days' publicity in a  courtroom for the likes of Breivik, however repellent we find both his views and his deeds, seems a very small price to pay.
It is what distinguishes a free society from the increasing number of those who seek to destroy it.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Theological illiteracy, or is it wilful blindness?

Once again the Governing Body of the Church in Wales is to discuss the possible options for proceeding towards the ordination of women to the episcopate.
Once again the consultation documents (downloadable here) fail to recognise the nature of our objections to the proposed innovation.
May I respectfully point out - once again - that the substitution for a 'woman bishop' simply of  'a male bishop' to carry out her sacramental functions with regard to those who are unable to accept the ordination of women and the exercise of their sacramental ministry (which, without mincing words, we regard as being probably no sacramental ministry at all) is discriminatory to say the very least and one would hope prove unacceptable to both sides in this seemingly endless debate.
The only satisfactory provision for those who remain in conscience opposed to the ordination of women is through the agency of a male bishop who accepts and upholds the traditional teaching of (I quote from the document) 'the Church Catholic' in relation to the apostolic ministry. It's not what the biologists might call the primary sexual characteristics of a male bishop  that matter here, but the orthodox faith that he holds in his mind and his heart.
Interestingly, this was the Archbishop of Canterbury's recognition and acceptance of the same point at the February 2012 meeting of the Church of England's General Synod - it's a shame no one in Wales appears to have read it:
"..The difficulty many feel is that to leave the phrase ‘male bishop’ in the draft Measure insufficiently recognises where that particular point comes in the argument people are trying to make.  It doesn’t go to the root of it.  In other words the theological conviction is not about male bishops as such:  it arises from certain other convictions.  And one of my questions about the draft Measure is whether anything can be done there, and / or in the Code of Practice, to overcome the resistance that is felt to that phrase, and to do better justice to what it rests upon.." 
It would be good in Wales to encounter an opponent who has the same grasp of our essential position... or, should we say, one who is prepared to be honest enough to recognise it. 

On the one hand, it was good to see this principle reaffirmed, even with the civil law disclaimer (now what could that imply?): 
"In 1996, the Church in Wales, acting within this context, passed a canon to enable the ordination of women to the priesthood.  In the preamble to the canon, the text stated that “the Bench of Bishops [was] unanimously committed to collegial action in order to secure a continuing place in the life of the Church in Wales for people of differing conscientious convictions on the issue”, and that “the Church in Wales, subject to the provisions of civil law relating to sex discrimination, wishes to respect those who in conscience cannot accept that women be ordained as priests”.
Yet on the other hand, if the Bench of Bishops is as serious as it claims in its commitment to 'inclusivity' for the orthodox, one has to ask the question - again - as to why the ministry of a Provincial Assistant Bishop was taken away from us without prior consultation and in clear contravention of the spirit prevailing in the province after the 1996 vote. After such unilateral action, it is well-nigh impossible to re-establish a relationship of trust with those responsible.


And again, it displays a staggering lack of awareness of our concerns about the final destruction of sacramental certainty, once women bishops are consecrated, for these 'provisions' to be put on the table: 
"With respect to Confirmation.  Where a diocesan bishop receives a request from a member of the Church in Wales to receive Confirmation from a male bishop, the diocesan bishop must either provide for a male bishop to take a Service of Confirmation in the diocese, or for a candidate to be presented at a Confirmation in another Welsh diocese where a male bishop is presiding.                                                                                                                           With respect to Ordination.  A candidate for ordination who wishes, in the exercise of his or her conscience, to be ordained by a male bishop may make application to the diocesan bishop who shall then issue letters dimissory to a male bishop of the diocesan bishop’s choice." 
(Sigh) Let's ask the obvious question: what about 'a male bishop' himself ordained by a woman?  Or are these assurances not meant to last that long?


And to end, for now, it's hard to judge whether the closing comments of the discussion document are notable more for their failure to address the real theological issues or for their self-congratulatory tone. Judge for yourself:  
"The Bench of Bishops believes that by offering such a statement of respect for conscience they are discharging their duty to collegial action to secure a continuing place for people of differing conscientious convictions.  Those exceptions are based on conscience, and limited to sacramental ministry.  The authority of any woman bishop is respected, and duties are laid on all bishops equally to make provision where questions of conscience on this matter arise."
I'm afraid that, however this is dressed up, the acceptance of these inadequate safeguards - which in reality are no safeguards at all - would inevitably  mean the further - and irrevocable - dismantling of any theologically recognisable and 'comprehensive' vision of the Church in Wales that might still, even now, exist. 
If there is a way forward together, this procedural document does not form the basis for it.









Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Another voice in the wilderness

of contemporary culture who is prepared to speak up unambiguously for the Faith.
This is Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury in his Easter homily:
"...Yet today we are becoming increasingly aware that there are those in leading positions within our society who wish to see history somehow reversed, who wish the very light which Christianity brought to these islands would recede. This is often done under the plausible intention of “modernizing” yet it is in reality an attempt to turn the clock back: as if the Gospel had never arrived in this land, never shaped its laws and culture and never formed the basis of our civilization. They are sometimes called “anti Christian” as Christians do indeed suffer as a consequence of new laws and regulations. But in fact the mentality is “pre-Christian.” They see progress only in terms of moving this nation away from its Christian inheritance, from the very roots of its laws, its culture, its life. In the words of the Psalm today they wish to discard “the corner stone” (Psalm 117) on which so much good in our society has been built.
Pope Benedict repeatedly points out, as he did to the German Parliament recently, that it is from faith in God our Creator that the very idea of human rights and of equality before the law arose, and that the inviolable dignity of every human person came to be recognized (Address to the German Parliament, 22nd September 2011). Otherwise, without such a foundation we would become subject to any passing ideology. Dr. John Sentamu, the Anglican Archbishop of York, was accused of “exaggerating” when he spoke of the Government’s proposals to re-define the identity of marriage as linked to a totalitarian mentality (The Daily Telegraph 31st January 2012). Yet his analysis of recent history is clearer than that of many of the leaders of opinion in our society..."
Read it all here

Pierre Cochereau: Easter Improvisation

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Tuesday in the Easter Octave

"The death and resurrection of Christ draw near to us and touch us in this sacrament. The bread is broken - there Christ dies; we receive it as Christ alive - there is his resurrection. It is the typical expression of divine power to make something from nothing. God has made the world where no world was, and God makes life out of death. Such is the God with whom we have to do. We do not come to God for a little help, a little support to our own good intentions. We come to him for resurrection. God will not be asked for a little, he will be asked for all. We reckon ourselves dead, says St Paul, that we may ask God for a resurrection, not of ourselves, but of Christ in us."
Austin Farrer: from 'The Crown of the Year' (1952)

 Below are photos taken this morning before today's mass of the rising sun shining into the parish church illuminating the Easter Candle and transforming the east window of the Lady Chapel (appropriately an illustration in stained glass of today's Gospel)  into a blaze of light. 




Mary stayed outside near the tomb, weeping. Then, still weeping, she stooped to look inside, and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet. They said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away’ she replied ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ As she said this she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not recognise him. Jesus said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’ Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master. Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ So Mary of Magdala went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had said these things to her.
Fra Angelico: Noli me tangere 


Monday, 9 April 2012

Some positive messages of the season

Mentioning no names, we'll draw a line under the predictable semi-agnostic seasonal offerings concerned with the U.N. Millennium Goals and related matters; this is from the Archbishop of Canterbury's Easter message:
"...We are not told that Jesus ‘survived death’; we are not told that the story of the empty tomb is a beautiful imaginative creation that offers inspiration to all sorts of people; we are not told that the message of Jesus lives on. We are told that God did something – that is, that this bit of the human record, the things that Peter and John and Mary Magdalene witnessed on Easter morning, is a moment when ... we see through to the ultimate energy behind and within all things. When the universe began, prompted by the will and act of God and maintained in being at every moment by the same will and action, God made it to be a universe in which on a particular Sunday morning in AD33 this will and action would come through the fabric of things and open up an unprecedented possibility – for Jesus and for all of us with him: the possibility of a human life together in which the pouring out of God’s Holy Spirit makes possible a degree of reconciled love between us that could not have been imagined ... for the Christian, the basic fact is that this compelling vision is there only because God raised Jesus...." 
"....When all's said and done about the newly acknowledged social value of religion, we mustn't forget that what we ultimately have to speak about isn't this but God: the God who raised Jesus and, as St Paul repeatedly says, will raise us also with him. Even if every commentator in the country expressed generous appreciation of the Church (and we probably needn't hold our breath...), we'd still be bound to say, 'Thank you – but what matters isn't our usefulness or niceness or whatever: it's God, purposive and active, even – especially – when we are at the end of our resources. It's the moment when the wall becomes a window.' Read it all here
Although I am still reflecting on the challenging words of Pope Benedict's Chrism Mass homily [full text here]:
"....All our preaching must measure itself against the saying of Jesus Christ: “My teaching is not mine” (Jn 7:16). We preach not private theories and opinions, but the faith of the Church, whose servants we are. Naturally this should not be taken to mean that I am not completely supportive of this teaching, or solidly anchored in it. In this regard I am always reminded of the words of Saint Augustine: what is so much mine as myself? And what is so little mine as myself? I do not own myself, and I become myself by the very fact that I transcend myself, and thereby become a part of Christ, a part of his body the Church. If we do not preach ourselves, and if we are inwardly so completely one with him who called us to be his ambassadors, that we are shaped by faith and live it, then our preaching will be credible. I do not seek to win people for myself, but I give myself. The Curé of Ars was no scholar, no intellectual, we know that. But his preaching touched people’s hearts because his own heart had been touched.
The last keyword that I should like to consider is “zeal for souls”: animarum zelus. It is an old-fashioned expression, not much used these days. In some circles, the word “soul” is virtually banned because – ostensibly – it expresses a body-soul dualism that wrongly compartmentalizes the human being. Of course the human person is a unity, destined for eternity as body and soul. And yet that cannot mean that we no longer have a soul, a constituent principle guaranteeing our unity in this life and beyond earthly death. And as priests, of course, we are concerned for the whole person, including his or her physical needs – we care for the hungry, the sick, the homeless. And yet we are concerned not only with the body, but also with the needs of the soul: with those who suffer from the violation of their rights or from destroyed love, with those unable to perceive the truth, those who suffer for lack of truth and love. We are concerned with the salvation of men and women in body and soul. And as priests of Jesus Christ we carry out our task with enthusiasm. No one should ever have the impression that we work conscientiously when on duty, but before and after hours we belong only to ourselves. A priest never belongs to himself. People must sense our zeal, through which we bear credible witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us ask the Lord to fill us with joy in his message, so that we may serve his truth and his love with joyful zeal. Amen."




Beautiful words set to a beautiful melody - no secularised reinterpretations
or 'demythologising' - please...









Happy Easter!

My apologies for the lack of posts recently, but after what has seemed like a more than usually spiritually demanding Passiontide and Triduum (food poisoning didn't help!), belatedly a very happy Easter to all readers of  LNYD.


I've posted this video before but I make no apologies for including again now:





And a couple of rather blurry photos from the parish over the last week - there is a far more comprehensive selection on Fr Mark's blog [here}




Monday, 2 April 2012

Not an April fool

Someone I know  phoned me yesterday, and the conversation turned to April Fool's day broadcasts and "news" stories. 'The one I really laughed at,' she said to me, 'was the story about the Government wishing to monitor all emails, texts and mobile phone calls. Who would possibly believe that?'
If only.
We all know that the modern State has the technology at its disposal to place each of its citizens under close surveillance from dawn to dusk and the hours of darkness thrown in. If we were so monitored there is no doubt that crime and terrorism and all kinds of bad behaviour would be significantly reduced. It's also true that those who have nothing to hide and have done nothing wrong  would, in an ideal world governed by the consistently wise and benevolent representatives of the people, have nothing to fear.
But at what cost to human freedom? There is always a balance to be struck between the necessary protection of the public and the legitimate right of  individuals not to be spied upon, or have their lives intruded upon arbitrarily.
It would seem that those who have governed us and, under their influence, those who have policed us, over the last decade or so have little clue as to where that balance should be struck and what should be the philosophical and practical limits of the power of the State. Our politicians, with some honourable exceptions, have conspicuously failed in their duty to practice eternal vigilance in relation to our freedoms. We should never assume the benevolence of those in power; the checks and balances of even an unwritten constitution are designed to rein in the natural propensity of officialdom to accumulate any powers beyond those absolutely necessary.
As we know, customs and mores change, public consciousness shifts. What may be perfectly legal and unexceptional in terms both of private conduct and the public expression of views in one generation, may be become socially frowned upon or even criminalised in the next.
We seem now to have an obsessive and increasing faith in the power of law to change human nature and to enforce those patterns of thought acceptable to contemporary society. Strangely, we arrest and jail the repugnantly racist for expressing their moronic views on Facebook or Twitter, while on weekend nights our urban public spaces are awash with vomit and darkened with the threat of violence, and some worry about their future ability to proclaim robustly and live the Gospel authentically in a society where sensibilities sometimes appear so tender and easily threatened.
But do we really want to hand to the State a blank cheque in terms of the power to observe us and regulate us? Powers are usually handed over to governments for the best possible reasons; they are very seldom, if ever, given up even when conditions change.
 As has been said, the proposals likely to be included in the Queen's Speech, if the weekend's reports are true, represent a seismic shift in the relationship between the individual and the State. [Report here]
We are already  in grave danger of  trying to create windows into men's souls and, it would seem, not that far away.from the Orwellian nightmare of a CCTV screen in every room.
No, not an April Fool.

Serious Words

This is Pope Benedict's homily for Palm Sunday. Whatever our relationship to the Church which he leads, these are serious words by a serious man about eternal truths. In a world whose contemporary narrative is so dominated by what is merely transient -by  both the foolishly fashionable and the downright deceptive - we could do worse this Holy Week than listen very carefully to what he says:

".... The majority, in fact, was disappointed by the way Jesus chose to present himself as Messiah and King of Israel. This is the heart of today’s feast, for us too. Who is Jesus of Nazareth for us? What idea do we have of the Messiah, what idea do we have of God? It is a crucial question, one we cannot avoid, not least because during this very week we are called to follow our King who chooses the Cross as his throne. We are called to follow a Messiah who promises us, not a facile earthly happiness, but the happiness of heaven, divine beatitude. So we must ask ourselves: what are our true expectations? What are our deepest desires, with which we have come here today to celebrate Palm Sunday and to begin our celebration of Holy Week?...."
Read it all here