Friday, 5 February 2016

The Synod on the Family – the Final Documents. [4]



The final Relatio Synodi: My Comments & Conclusions.



A Shambles?



Having worked through the final Relatio Synodi (RS) and compared it with the Instrumentum Laboris (IL) it is obvious to me that the IL was almost totally rewritten and anything heretical has been removed. The RS followed the same plan as the IL with similar headings but towards the end large parts have been re-ordered as well as rewritten.

The question arises as to how this came about. We have the description from Professor Roberto Mattei that on the evening of Thursday 22nd October a draft of the RS was presented to the Synod but only in Italian and the delegates were sworn to secrecy. Professor Mattei wrote:
The text did not take into any account the 1355 amendments proposed over the course of the preceding three weeks, and substantially reproposed the implantation of Instrumentum laboris, including the paragraphs that had roused the strongest criticism in the Hall: the one on homosexuality and the other on the divorced and remarried.

He goes on to tell us that the draft was rejected and the next morning, Friday 23rd October, it was arranged that it should be rewritten and presented for voting on the Saturday 24th October. To what extent the Thursday draft followed the IL is impossible to know. It seems incredible that it was little changed from the IL and that it was entirely rewritten taking account of the 1355 amendments by the Saturday morning.

Another account is that by Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane, someone regarded as being in the liberal camp. He kept a diary which is on the Archdiocesan website where he says that Thursday 22nd October was a free day for the delegates whilst the drafting commission prepared the Thursday draft. He wrote:

But a few others – myself among them – were also tied up, trying to finish our assessment of the 520 proposed amendments to Part III of the working document. My little group resumed work at 9am, with Cardinal Lacunza saying he couldn’t stay beyond 10.30. So we agreed that we would finish by then. As it turned out, we finished by 10.25.


So at same time as the drafting commission were preparing the Thursday draft in Italian to be distributed that evening Archbishop Coleridge and others were considering the 522 proposed amendments to Part III. Are we to suppose that the results of their deliberations were then handed to the drafting commission who incorporated them, suitably translated into Italian, into the Thursday draft that evening? It seems unlikely. Perhaps they were just ignored? Archbishop Coleridge's account is less dramatic than that of Professor Mattei in recounting the presentation of the Thursday draft on the Thursday evening:


"The Secretary General then told us that it was our solemn duty to read the text carefully so that we could present proposed amendments the following morning. This was OK for those who know Italian. But the fact is that many of the bishops (and even some of the cardinals!) don’t know Italian or don’t know it well enough to read and respond to a complex document like this one. Bishop Hurley is one of those, so I had to sit down with him last night and go swiftly through the text so that he knew what he was responding to.
---
The fun and games started again when Cardinal Baldisseri told us that the draft document was so sensitive and super-secret that we couldn’t even take it home. At this, there were serious rumblings in the Hall. Boos were looming. Sensing mutiny, the Secretary General changed his mind: we could take it home but it was strictly for our eyes only. Not a whisper to anyone else. They weren’t even to know we had the document. “


On the Friday morning amendments were submitted verbally and/or in writing. Archbishop Coleridge commented: “We’re free this afternoon while the 10-man Commission is hard at work processing all the proposed amendments, spoken and written. I don’t think their task will be monumental; most of the substantial suggestions concerned only a few paragraphs.” But was he in a position to know what amendments had been suggested in writing?


On the Saturday afternoon they voted on the 94 paragraphs in 90 minutes. They had electronic voting which was not all that reliable. The Archbishop tells us:
In all the pressing, you hoped to hell that the system worked. This evening it did, though the Archbishop of Sao Paolo had to call for a number of technicians at one point. They either fixed his handset or decided that his vote didn’t really matter.


With one paragraph only getting the absolute minimum two-thirds majority by one vote?!!! Perhaps the Holy Spirit had a hand?


As to at what stage the very extensive rewriting of the IL into the RS took place the whole procedure sounds pretty shambolic with little time for ensuring that the drafting was properly done or that the delegates even understood what they were voting on.

Doctrinal changes?



As explained the RS was a total rewrite of the IL. The IL itself gave rise to grave concerns and certain clauses in the IL were seriously in contradiction to the teaching of the church:


  • Clause 98 in the IL suggested that there were positive aspects in irregular situations such as Catholics marrying outside the Church (civilly married) and cohabitation thereby tending to indorse such situations. This was attenuated in clause 70 of the RS but it remains ambiguous and as in the 2014 session there were over 50 delegates voting against it. It should really distinguish between good intentions and sins but fails to do so – intentionally?
  • Fortunately the earlier clause that there was good in homosexual sexual acts did not even make it to the IL let alone the RS.
  • Clause 72 still seems to say that cohabitation can almost be accepted as a step towards marriage but the mention of 'seeds of the word' being found in such arrangements, that was culled from the Shadow Synod, has been dropped.
  • On the question of those in irregular situations whether cohabitation or divorced and remarried the whole of the Art of Accompaniment has been rewritten and the idea of a Way of Penance leading to communion for them has been dropped.
  • The idea that spiritual communion is available for those who cannot receive eucharistic communion has been dropped.
  • There is no more any suggestion that Orthodox practice on second marriages should be considered.
  • Clause 63 on Generative Responsibility mentions both Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio as essential guides. There is no qualification of these two documents and in the absence of such qualification their teaching stands. It is only in that context that individual clauses should be read. The appalling interpolated clause 137 in the IL where uninformed conscience was put on a par with the teaching of the Church has not been repeated.


Pastoral changes?



Whilst it is fair to say there are no doctrinal changes there are pastoral openings which no doubt some will take advantage of. Indissolubility of marriage, Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio are reasserted without any caveats. However the whole document is notable for what is not said. Important teachings are not mentioned and there are some very weak passages on abortion, bio-ethics and IVF. The Art of Accompaniment in respect of cohabitation and other irregular situations is plainly open to abuse. Unfortunately the scope for misinterpretation and the skills of those who do misinterpret are large.


My Final Conclusion.



The delegates at the Synod have done a great job in resisting the KasperKampf and effectively rewriting the IL as the RS. However it is still a skeleton produced by the Secretariat; the bones have been cleaned by the Bishops but there is precious little new flesh. From the voting one can see that there were a considerable number of delegates who had reservations about the text particularly in Chapter III where irregular situations were discussed. 

Pope Francis now has the task of writing the Apostolic Exhortation. However if he accepts what the Synod has said i.e. that there can be no doctrinal changes but merely some rather vague pastoral suggestions, what is he going to be able to say that has not been already said in Familiaris Consortio and said extremely well? Familiaris Consortio is a document which is as up-to-date and relevant to-day as it was thirty years ago. It has just been largely ignored and its recommendations not implemented.

If this is the case has this whole Synod on the Family achieved anything at all in saying anything that was not already in Familiaris Consortio and ignored a great deal more? Was it needed? Was it a colossal waste of time? What was it? Was it an attempt by the liberals of the KasperKampf to undermine the teachings of the Church on sexual matters which has failed despite every manipulation by the Secretariat?

However if Pope Francis were to ignore this final Relatio Synodi and attempt to redefine doctrine we would be into a completely different ball game.

At present there are just rumours that the Apostolic Exhortation will be published on March 19th the feast of St Joseph - a week before Easter, that somebody in Argentina has drafted it, that there are several drafts in circulation and that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued 40 pages of suggestions or critical notes


We, the laity, have nearly the whole of Lent to pray for a good outcome.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The Synod on the Family – The Final Documents [3]



The Final Relatio Synodi: Commentary on Part III.



As already mentioned some of the clauses are inherited from the 2014 session whilst others were interpolated by the Secretariat in the Instrumentum Laboris (IL). Some clauses are completely new.


This third and last part is entitled 'The Mission of the Family' and presumably corresponds to the 'Act' part of 'See, Judge, Act'. The preamble talks of the 'Gospel of the Family' – a phrase which the Irish Bishops did not like! What was Chapter II in the IL has now become Chapter I in the Relatio and is entitled 'The Formation of the Family'. It starts with clauses 57 & 58 on marriage preparation which are rewrites of the inherited clause 84 and two interpolated clauses 85 & 86 and clauses 94 & 95 in the IL. The clauses follow a much logical sequence than in the IL.


Clause 59 on the Celebration of Marriage is a reworking of clause 79 in the IL. Clause 60 on the Initial Years of Married Life is a reworking of inherited clause 96 and interpolated clause 97 in the IL. Clause 61 on the Formation of Priests and Other Pastoral Workers is a very much extended version of interpolated clause 89 in the IL.


Chapter II in this Part III corresponds to Chapter IV in the IL and is entitled Family, Generativity and Upbringing. 'Generativity' is a new word for me and a better one would have been 'Procreation' or a better title could perhaps be just 'Marriage and Children'. The IL is somewhat confused at this point and we get sentences like: Some see a need to continue to make known the documents of the Church’s Magisterium which promote the culture of life in the face of the increasingly widespread culture of death (interpolated clause 137). Why only 'some'? Thankfully this has been changed to This situation calls for an ever-increasing diffusion of the documents of the Church’s Magisterium which promote the culture of life in clause 62 on The Transmission of Life. That should make the liberals groan!


Clause 63 on Generative Responsibility mentions both Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio as essential guides. The appalling interpolated clause 137 in the IL where uninformed conscience was put on a par with the teaching of the Church has not been repeated.


Clause 64 on The Value of Life in All its Stages is a reworking of clauses 140 & 141 in the IL. Both documents refer to the 'tragedy of abortion' which is an inadequate statement. Many people who accept abortion might agree that it is a tragedy but surely the Relatio should say something much stronger such as defining it as an 'unspeakable crime' as in the Second Vatican Council. For once the wording of the IL is preferable to the Relatio. The Relatio speaks of being in favour of life whilst the IL speaks of defending it. The Relatio talks of the Church being close to those who have 'endured abortion' whilst the IL speaks of 'those who have suffered through abortion'. But both versions are weak. Both say Those who work in healthcare facilities are reminded of the moral obligation of conscientious objection. I think, in England at least, more support from the clergy to those who do work in healthcare facilities would not go amiss.


Clause 65 on Adoption and Foster Parenting is a reworking of clause 138 in the IL. Clauses 66 to 68 deal with the upbringing of children and replace clauses 142 to 146 of the IL.


Chapter III of the Relatio corresponds to Chapter III of the IL and is entitled The Family and Pastoral Accompaniment starting with 'Complex situations'. This is where controversy begins! Inherited clause 98 in the IL almost put irregular situations on a par with sacramental marriage having regard to to-day's world. It certainly suggested that there are positive aspects of civilly celebrated marriages and cohabitation. Clause 70 of the Relatio still speaks of positive elements but perhaps in a slightly attenuated manner; unfortunately clause 71 still seems to suggest that cohabitation can be a valid stepping-stone to sacramental marriage as in clause 102 of the IL.


Clauses 72 to 75 deal with mixed marriages and replace clauses 126 to 128 of the IL. Clause 76 replaces clauses 130 to 132 in the IL dealing with persons who have homosexual tendencies. 'Gay marriage' is condemned but there is an ambiguity in the use of the word 'union'. Clause 76 says


'Regarding proposals to place unions of homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family”.'


The quotation is taken from the document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals To Give Legal Recognition To Unions Between Homosexual Persons, 4. The conclusion of that document reads:


'11. The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself.'


The document from the CDF signed by the then Cardinal Ratzinger and approved by St John Paul II thus does not approve of legal recognition of homosexual unions (civil partnerships in the UK). The Relatio Synodi fails to condemn such unions but does condemn 'gay marriage'. Approval of legalised unions is very much a liberal idea. There are reports that Pope Francis has been ambiguous on this subject when in Buenos Aires. So is this Relatio ambiguous on the subject? Although it quotes from the CDF's document it does not endorse it as a whole. It is something to watch out for when we have Pope Francis's Apostolic Exhortation.


There then follows a section on 'Accompaniment in Different Situations'. Clause 77 gives a general view on the Art of Accompaniment and is an abbreviated version of clauses 109-111 in the IL. Clauses 78 & 79 deal with marriage breakdown and are an extended rewrite of clauses 112 & 113 in the IL. A new clause 80 separates out the question of single-parent families briefly mentioned in clause 113 of the IL. Clause 81 is on reconciliation and the Church's role in helping in such which was mentioned briefly in clause 104 of the IL.


Between the time the IL was written and the 2015 session of the Synod Pope Francis has issued his motu proprio Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus and Mitis et Misericors Iesus which fundamentally reform the annulment process. This is reflected in clause 82 of the Relatio which replaces clauses 114 to 117 of the IL. The IL had a suggestion that In cases of the validity of consent in marriage, most agreed on the importance of the faith of those to be married and suggested a variety of approaches to be examined further. Quite what that means I do not know. It gets no mention in the Relatio but I believe does get mentioned in the motu proprios which have led to considerable comment by Canon Lawyers. This is a very complex affair which I am not competent to comment on although I find the grounds for nullity to have been stretched to such a degree compared with earlier years that they tend to promote scandal.


Clause 83 congratulates those who have stayed faithful to their marriage vows in spite of divorce reflecting a brief mention at the end of clause 113 of the IL.


There then follows a section on 'Discernment and Integration'. Clause 84 deals with the divorced and civilly remarried. It replaces clauses 120 and 121 in the IL. IL 120 said the such couples should not be discriminated against and should be encouraged to participate in the life of the Church. IL 121 suggested a process of discrimination to ascertain whether it was impossible for the divorced to return to their previous spouse and whether some exclusions should be reviewed. The divorced and remarried should be encouraged to follow the law of gradualness. It then said that the community should be led to accept such situations according to the Law of Gradualness referring to Familiaris Consortio 34. Now Familiaris Consortio refers to the Law of Gradualness as the gradual conforming of souls to the teaching of the Church and NOT gradualness of the Law i.e. gradually changing the teaching but this is surely what the IL intended.


The new clause 84 in the Relatio talks of integration of the divorced and civilly remarried into the Church. In a thoroughly fulsome manner it talks of a joyful and fruitful experience and the Holy Spirit pouring into their hearts gifts and talents for the good of all. After such hyperbole it suggests that any exclusions should be surpassed which in plain English means added to but I think they meant the reverse. It claims that none of this will show 'a weakening of her faith and witness in the indissolubility of marriage'. The mention of indissolubility is an improvement!


Clause 85 calls for the divorced and remarried to reflect on what they have done and further says that moral imputability can vary according to the circumstances. Clause 86 is very important and reads:


'The path of accompaniment and discernment guides the faithful to an awareness of their situation before God. Conversation with the priest, in the internal forum, contributes to the formation of a correct judgment on what hinders the possibility of a fuller participation in the life of Church and Church practice which can foster it and make it grow. Given that gradualness is not in the law itself (cf. FC 34), this discernment can never prescind from the Gospel demands of truth and charity as proposed by the Church.'


It is important to note whilst there is a reference to the internal forum this is not a reference to the internal forum where somebody, in the absence of an annulment of their previous marriage, sincerely believes that the first marriage was invalid and therefore they can receive communion – a version of the internal forum that was explicitly condemned by St John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio. Thus the whole idea of a Way of Penance leading to them being admitted to communion, as suggested in clauses 122 and 123 of the IL, has been dropped.

It is a pity though that the words of St John Paul about attending the mass (different from participating) and the exclusion from communion are not quoted in full. At least his words are not deliberately and dishonestly misquoted as in the IL under Cardinal Baldisseri. Likewise the nonsense about spiritual communion being available for those unable to receive eucharistic communion because of the lack of a state of grace, as suggeseted in clauses 124 and 125 of the IL, has been dropped. Further the suggestion about considering the Orthodox practice on second marriages in clause 129 of the IL has been dropped – squaring the circle was obviously not one of the aims of the Bishops.


The final Chapter IV is on 'Family and Evangelisation' has some generalities in clause 87 on marriage from Pope Francis. One wonders whether the translation into English has been carried out by a native speaker of the language – the awkward language could certainly be improved. For example 'forgive me' would be a better translation than 'pardon me' which is usually used in different circumstances! Clause 88 talks about tenderness.


The next section on 'The Family: Object of Pastoral Care' starts with the words: To be faithful to its mission, the Christian family will have to well understand.... I think many couples might find this section rather irritating as if everything is down to them in a somewhat moralising tone with no mention of any pastoral care by the clergy – a particularly egregious lack since the time of Familiaris Consortio and before.


Finally there are sections on 'The Relationship with Cultures and Institutions' and 'Openness to Mission' which do have some good points but are written in a somewhat platitudinous style – clauses 91 to 93. Finally there is a self-congratulatory clause 94 where the Bishops hope that this Relatio might give hope and joy to many families in the world. Perhaps I am unduly cynical but I am reminded of what one African Bishop said of the Instrumentum Laboris: “Would any young couple want to get married after reading this?”. The Bishops were faced with a herculean task in revising and rewriting the Instrumentum Laboris and they have succeeded in removing the heretical suggestions and by and large it is a great improvement despite the Secretariat. But...


In a final post on this subject I will give my overall conclusions.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Join Cardinal Burke in a Spiritual Crusade

From LifeSiteNews:

Cardinal Raymond Burke is urging faithful Catholics to "storm heaven" by joining with him once a month in the Mass and the Rosary to pray for hope and guidance out of the current "confusion" in the Church and the world.

The lay Catholic organization Catholic Action for Faith and Family has put up a page on its website for "Rosary Warriors" to sign on to join the effort, which Cardinal Burke launched with a Mass in Rome on December 8.

For more information visit their page here.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

The Synod on the Family – the Final Documents [2]

 
The final Relatio Synodi [2]
Commentary on Chapter II of Part I onwards and on the whole of Part II.

As already mentioned some of the clauses are inherited from the 2014 session whilst others were interpolated by the Secretariat in the Instrumentum Laboris (IL). Some clauses are completely new.

Chapter II on 'The Family in the Socio-Economic context' first emphasises the importance of the family as the basic unit of society and secondly insists on public authorities doing everything possible to support the family – clauses 11 and 12.

After a string of interpolated clauses no. 13 is inherited from the 2014 session and is entitled 'Loneliness and Insecurity'. Not much on the the first but quite a lot on the second and it has been revised to make it less Euro-centric dealing with the problems that arise from corruption and economic deprivation.

The next two paragraphs on the Economy and Growth and Poverty and Exclusion rightly draw attention to the problems caused by poverty and marginalised groups but to attribute these problems to some unique unspecified economic system is really an oversimplification.

Chapter II concludes with a clause on Ecology and how we should all try and protect our world. Correct but just how is another and somewhat controversial matter.

Chapter III is entitled the Family and Exclusion and first deals with the Elderly. This was first interpolated in the IL but has been rewritten and much improved. A further clause deals with widowhood. Clauses follow about the care of the dying and people with special needs. There is a new clause on the unmarried. All much improved in comparison with the IL.

Clauses on migration and refugees have been updated and made more positive in tone. Clause 25 is inherited from the 2014 session and mentions special challenges – polygamy, mixed marriages, cohabitation etc. Clause 26 is another inherited clause dealing with children which has been considerably shortened.

Clause 27 is an interpolated clause which has been rewritten with the subject of women again largely rewritten. An interesting difference between the IL and the new Relatio (RS) version is that in the former it is suggested that women should have a greater role in the Church whilst in the latter it is stated that women have a greater role in the Church already.

There then follow two completely new clauses on Men (28) and Young People (29) both of which gives much better balance to the document. That concludes Chapter III.

Chapter IV on Family, Affectivity and Life starts with an inherited clause 30 which thankfully has been rewritten with a couple of scriptural quotations. I do wonder why they use the word 'affectivity' which incidentally can relate to hatred as well as love. It is not a word many are familiar with; why not use the word 'affection'? The revision of the next interpolated clause 31 has had its title changed from 'Formation in Affectivity' to 'Formation in Self-giving' and has been improved although still somewhat obscure in what it is trying to say. In the next inherited clause 32 'Affective Fragility' has been changed to 'Weakness'.

Interpolated clause 33 'Technologies in Human Procreation' talks about IVF but only relates it to single persons and homosexual couples. Curiously no mention is made of the most common use which is for heterosexual couples unable to procreate themselves for some reason. No mention is made of more advanced techniques such as three parent embryos or genome manipulation.

The final clause 34 in this Part I is a brave attempt to rewrite an inherited clause and an interpolated clause the former of which is almost impenetrable in its meaning. The title is 'A Pastoral Challenge' changed from 'The Pastoral Challenge' – perhaps indicating a certain hesitation!

That concludes Part I which I understand is based on the See, Judge, Act paradigm. It is a very distinct improvement on the IL and the extent of the rewriting is impressive. However, the basic plan of the IL remains and it is still unduly pessimistic ignoring positive developments such as the Hospice movement or Pro-Life movements. In particular it ignores the almost total failure of the Church to teach anything about marriage at the local level coupled with the abandonment of proper catechesis of the young. This is as much a part of the reality of marriage for the laity as anything else.

Indeed, one wonders at the final clause of that section of the IL which says that those outside the Church or in irregular situations are referred to as 'excluded' or 'rejected'. People may feel such but I have never heard anyone refer to them as such. Perhaps there is some corner of the world where Jansenism still reigns? Or was this a prelude to saying their situation is really satisfactory and to be accepted? Or is it part of the liberal narrative that claims that traditionalists go round condemning people in that way? Perhaps this is all part of the victimhood culture. Thankfully the revision in the RS just says 'no-one is excluded'.

Part II is entitled “The Family in God's Plan'. Here we are into the 'judge' part. It is prefaced by two new clauses setting out the Church's view of marriage as based on scripture and the teaching of Christ.

Chapter I is entitled 'The Family in Salvation History'. The first clause 37 is a complete rewrite of the inherited clause and much expanded to describe the Sacrament of Marriage. There then follow three entirely new clauses entitled 'The Icon of the Trinity in the Family' (38) and 'The Family in Scripture' (39 and 40) – excellent teaching on the history of marriage replacing three muddled clauses in the IL. Clause 41 retains the same title as the IL – 'Jesus and the Family' but it is basically a rewrite and concludes the Chapter completely leaving out clause 42 to 46 of the IL although much of those clauses are included elsewhere.

Chapter II is entitled 'The Family in the Magisterium of the Church'. Clause 42 is a slight revision of the inherited clause dealing with teaching in the Second Vatican Council citing Gaudium et Spes. There then follow four new clauses each dealing with the teachings of Popes Paul VI (43), St John Paul II (44), Benedict XVI (45) and Francis (46) respectively. Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio are explicitly mentioned and thus the teaching of these two most important documents is confirmed. This is very significant.

From here there seems to be increasing divergence in this Relatio Synodi from the Instrumentum Laboris. Chapter III has the title 'The Christian Teaching on the Family'. Clause 47 has the title 'Marriage in the Order of Creation and the Fullness of the Sacrament' and mentions the 'Seeds of the Word' which is a phrase used in 'Ad Gentes' of Vatican II to describe worthy characteristics of marriage found in other faiths. There is nothing in the RS about finding the Seeds of the Word in irregular situations – an idea favoured by the KasperKampf – which appeared in clause 99 of the IL.

Clause 48 is entitled 'The Indissolubility and Fruitfulness of the Conjugal Union'. The word 'Indissolubility' or 'indissoluble' is used about a dozen times in this whole document and it is important to read the whole of the document to see it hammered home rather than just considering one or two clauses that have given rise to controversy. Again a vast improvement on the IL where we got such vague sentences as 'Some stressed that highlighting the teaching contained in Sacred Scripture can be of assistance' implying that others did not!

Clauses 49 and 50 deal with the the Goods of the Family in the sense of union and fruitfulness. Clause 51 is a very positive view of the Truth and Beauty of the Family.

Chapter IV of this Part II is headed 'Towards the Ecclesial Fullness of the Family'. Clauses 52 to 54 emphasises the need of the Church and the Family to be close together especially when marriages run into difficulties. It also talks about the need to try and persuade people to regularise their situations. Unlike the IL it does not talk about cohabitation as being a more or less legitimate step towards marriage. A final clause 55 end Part II and talks of the need to be merciful to those in difficulties or irregular situations but pointing out: “Proclaiming the truth in love is itself an act of mercy.”

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The Synod on the Family – the Final Documents [1]



The final Relatio Synodi  

Some shenanigans, the Relatio introduction and Chapter I


After the reports of the language groups or circuli minori no more documents have been published other than the final Relatio Synodi which appeared on the Vatican press website immediately after the close of the 2015 and final session of the Synod at the end of October but only in Italian. We had to wait until mid-December to get an official English translation.

There is no official account of what happened at the Synod but we do have an account by Professor Robert Mattei published on 27th October 2015 in 'Corrispondenza Romana' with a translation appearing on the 'Rorate Coeli' website. Professor Mattei wrote:

'In order to understand better how things actually went, we need to go back to the evening of October 22nd, when the Synod Fathers were given the final report, worked on by an ad hoc commission on the basis of the amendments (ways) to Instrumentum Laboris, proposed by the work groups which were divided by language (circuli minors).'
To the great surprise of the Synod Fathers, the text consigned to them on Thursday evening was only in Italian, with the absolute prohibition of communicating it, not only to the press, but also to the 51 auditors and the other participants in the assembly. The text did not take into any account the 1355 amendments proposed over the course of the preceding three weeks, and substantially reproposed the implantation of Instrumentum laboris, including the paragraphs that had roused the strongest criticism in the Hall: the one on homosexuality and the other on the divorced and remarried. Discussions were fixed for the following morning, with the possibility of preparing new amendments that night only, on a text presented in a language mastered by only part of the Fathers. But on the morning of October 23rd, Pope Francis, who had always followed the work carefully, found himself faced with an unexpected rejection of the document edited by the commission.

After mentioning those who opposed the draft Professor Mattei continues:

The document could certainly not be re-presented the following day in the Hall, without the risk of it being put in minority and causing a big split. The solution for compromise was found following the way outlined by the “Germanicus” circle, which included Cardinal Kasper, the icon of progressivism, and Cardinal Müller, Prefect for the Congregation of the Faith. Between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, the Commission revised the new text, which was read in the Hall on Saturday morning, October 24th, and then voted on in the afternoon, obtaining for each of the 94 paragraphs the qualifying majority of two-thirds, which with the 265 Synod Fathers present, was equal to 177 votes.

No doubt many will not accept that account but we have Pope Francis's remarks on the Saturday evening : [the Synod] “was also about laying closed hearts bare which frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families. […] It was about trying to open up broader horizons, rising above conspiracy theories and blinkered viewpoints, so as to defend and spread the freedom of the children of God, and to transmit the beauty of Christian Newness, at times encrusted in a language which is archaic or simply incomprehensible. [...] In the course of this Synod, the different opinions which were freely expressed – and at times, unfortunately, not in entirely well-meaning ways – certainly led to a rich and lively dialogue".


These were strong words and coupled with the fact that the final Relatio Synodi was only available in Italian for some six weeks after the end of the Synod tends to support a certain typicity to Professor Mattei's account. For another account of what happened it is worth reading Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane (some regard him as a liberal). It certainly makes one wonder about how these Synods are conducted. For example, the Archbishop explains...


'The Secretary General then told us that it was our solemn duty to read the text carefully so that we could present proposed amendments the following morning. This was OK for those who know Italian. But the fact is that many of the bishops (and even some of the cardinals!) don’t know Italian or don’t know it well enough to read and respond to a complex document like this one. Bishop Hurley is one of those, so I had to sit down with him last night and go swiftly through the text so that he knew what he was responding to.'


Archbishop Coleridge recounts that things were not much better on the Saturday when the final text was presented for voting only in Italian. It was, however, read out and there was simultaneous translation but one wonders how much of the detail was sufficiently clear to those not fluent in Italian.


Turning to the text itself it is clear that it is based upon the Instrumentum Laboris. The Introduction has been rewritten and clause 1 now contains references to Gaudium et Spes and Pope Francis's references to Scripture – references sadly lacking in the IL. It says that the Pope wanted them to study the reality of marriage. I would have thought that the first reality to be emphasised is the teaching of Christ and the Church on marriage before looking at the experience of marriage in the world. That was not to be. The table of contents of Chapter I in the IL and RS show how similar the two documents are:



Instrumentum Laboris:
Part I
The Socio-Cultural Context
Anthropological Changes
Cultural Contradictions
Social Contradictions
The Weakness and Strength of the Family



Relatio Synodi:

Part I

The Church Listening to the Family

Chapter I
The Family and the Anthropological-cultural context

The Socio-Cultural Context
The Religious Context
Anthropological Change
Cultural Contradictions
Conflicts and Social Tensions
Fragility and Strength of the Family


My heart sinks! As one African Bishop remarked during the 2014 session 'Who would ever want to get married after reading this?' Note the section on 'Religious Context' was no doubt 'stuck in' after a lot of argument.


A new clause 4 has been inserted as an introduction to Part I before Chapter I. It is a series of generalities about marriage without actually saying what marriage is as defined by the Catechism. The problem is knowing who wrote this new paragraph 4 or more generally who wrote any of the changes between the IL and the RS?'

Was it something produced by the Secretariat in the document given to the Fathers in great secrecy on the Thursday evening or is it a revision made in the 24 hour review from Friday morning to Saturday morning by the newly appointed Commission? In the case of this, clause 4, I am inclined to think it was the former. However, it is a general problem with this document. Many people have had a hand and the result is often very disjointed.

Take clause 5 for example. It has survived from the Relatio that came out of the 2014 session of the Synod. However, the first words have been changed from "Faithful to Christ's teaching" to "Docile to what the Holy Spirit asks us” which strikes me as a considerably weakening. And then we get this,

“We are aware of the principal tendencies in anthropological-cultural changes in which individuals, in their emotional life and life as a family, receive increasingly less support from social structures than in the past.” 

What are these social structures? The welfare state or what? There is no explanation. Then there is a criticism of individualism followed by the sentence:

“We are thinking of mothers and fathers, grandparents, brothers and sisters, immediate and distant relatives and the bonding of two families at every wedding.” 

I do not think they are accusing all of these of 'individualism' but it certainly reads that way! There are then some very positive words about the value of the family obviously inserted to counteract the negative bits about the socio-cultural scene. It is just the wrong way round.

We then get the new clause 6 about the Religious Context. That amounts to saying that religion is growing in some parts of the world and diminishing in others. Well they had to say something about religion didn't they?

Clause 7 is on anthropological-cultural changes. The 2014 Relatio did not have such a clause and it was interpolated by the Secretariat into the IL. It was very gloomy and Euro-centric. It has been rewritten to be much more positive. The decline in the birth-rate is clearly attributed to contraception and abortion rather than just being caused by consumerism as the IL would have it.

Clause 8 is again an interpolation into the IL but has been much strengthened in its treatment of gender ideology but it also has a longer quote from Pope Francis where he seems to be suggesting that only married couples and not individuals are made in the image of God. Perhaps that explains something about the clergy.

Clause 9 on Conflicts on Social Tensions is a vast improvement on the interpolation by the Secretariat. 'Exhaustion of resources' has been dropped and the problems of migration and refugees is much more clearly stated.

Clause 10 on the Weakness and Strength of the Family is just contradictory waffle interpolated by the Secretariat.

That concludes Chapter I. In the next Chapter we have to consider the The Family in the Socio-Economic context.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Commemorating Childermas



Say, ye celestial guards, who wait
In Bethlehem, round the Saviour's palace gate,
Say, who are these on golden wings,
That hover o'er the new-born King of kings,
Their palms and garlands telling plain
That they are of the glorious martyr-train,
Next to yourselves ordained to praise
His Name, and brighten as on Him they gaze?

But where their spoils and trophies? where
The glorious dint a martyr's shield should bear?
How chance no cheek among them wears
The deep-worn trace of penitential tears,
But all is bright and smiling love,
As if, fresh-borne from Eden's happy grove,
They had flown here, their King to see,
Nor ever had been heirs of dark mortality?

Ask, and some angel will reply,
"These, like yourselves, were born to sin and die,
But ere the poison root was grown,
God set His seal, and marked them for His own.
Baptised its blood for Jesus' sake,
Now underneath the Cross their bed they make,
Not to be scared from that sure rest
By frightened mother's shriek, or warrior's waving crest."

Mindful of these, the firstfruits sweet
Borne by this suffering Church her Lord to greet;
Blessed Jesus ever loved to trace
The "innocent brightness" of an infant's face.
He raised them in His holy arms,
He blessed them from the world and all its harms:
Heirs though they were of sin and shame,
He blessed them in his own and in his Father's Name.

Then, as each fond unconscious child
On the everlasting Parent sweetly smiled
(Like infants sporting on the shore,
That tremble not at Ocean's boundless roar),
Were they not present to Thy thought,
All souls, that in their cradles Thou hast bought?
But chiefly these, who died for Thee,
That Thou might'st live for them a sadder death to see.

And next to these, Thy gracious word
Was as a pledge of benediction stored
For Christian mothers, while they moan
Their treasured hopes, just born, baptised, and gone.
Oh, joy for Rachel's broken heart!
She and her babes shall meet no more to part;
So dear to Christ her pious haste
To trust them in His arms for ever safe embraced.

She dares not grudge to leave them there,
Where to behold them was her heart's first prayer;
She dares not grieve--but she must weep,
As her pale placid martyr sinks to sleep,
Teaching so well and silently
How at the shepherd's call the lamb should die:
How happier far than life the end
Of souls that infant-like beneath their burthen bend.
                               




It is easy to be so absorbed in the joy of Christmas to forget some of suffering and turmoil that was associated with the miracle of the Incarnation.

Childermas, or the Feast of the Holy Innocents, commemorates the massacre of all males under the age of two in Bethlehem ordered by Herod to preclude a rival king.

The Coventry Carol is a haunting hymn which mourns the loss of the first Christian martyrs in the form of a lullaby to the Holy Innocents. 

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

The Synod on the Family – the Final Documents [Introduction]

 


Introduction 

Commentary on the Reports of the language groups or circoli minori


So, the final Relatio Synodi has been published in English nearly two months after the close of the Synod on the Family. We thus have available to us the documents that arose from the second session of the Synod. We started with the Instrumentum Laboris (IL).

The IL was based on the final Relatio Synodi of the first session of the Synod in 2014. It will be remembered that that contained three clauses which did not obtain the two-thirds majority which is normally a requirement for remaining in such a document but they remained in at the insistence of the Holy Father Pope Francis as he felt they deal with matters which required further study. The way in which the Synod worked is that the Secretariat under Cardinal Baldisseri produces a draft which then gets amended and voted on by the delegates at the Synod. The draft considered at the 2014 session was largely rewritten but the three clauses voted down remained. The first (clause 52) dealt with the possibility of communion for the divorced and remarried; the second (clause 53) dealt with spiritual communion – the argument being that anyone can receive spiritual communion (a doubtful proposition to say the least) so why not the divorced and remarried and thirdly (clause 55) dealt with homosexuality.


In the summer of 2015 there appeared the Instrumentum Laboris (IL). This was essentially the Relatio from the first session but with a great number of new clauses interpolated more than doubling its length from 61 to 147 clauses. This was clearly an attempt by the Secretariat to get the Synod back on track to follow the ultra-liberal ideas proposed by Cardinal Kasper and others. Particularly objectionable features were:

  • Clause 98 suggesting there were positive elements to be found in sexual unions outside of marriage
  • Clause 121 reintroduced the idea of Graduality of the Law misrepresenting Familiaris Consortio – an idea rejected at the 2014 session.
  • Clause 123 claimed that the previously rejected clause 52 on communion for the divorced and remarried now had the support of a great number without explaining who this 'great number' were. Utterly disgracefully it misquoted Familiaris Consortio.
  • Clause 137 gave faint praise to Humanae Vitae but goes on to assert the primacy of untutored conscience.
Prior to the 2015 session there was heavy criticism of this Instrumentum but it nevertheless was presented to the Bishops as the working document. The Synod seems to have been then divided quickly into working groups and their individual reports have been made available despite the Secretariat's attempts to suppress publication. There were 13 of them.

French Language Groups


The report of the first French-language group under the Archbishop of Quebec seems to have been written fairly soon after the start of the 2015 session. The relator was the Archbishop of Chambery. Evidently there were divergent views so the report is rather 'On the one , hand....' and then 'On the other...' with little firm conclusion other than on the magnitude of the task in hand and omissions from the Instrumentum Laboris. They felt the IL could be more positive but they wondered whether any notice would be taken of what they said.


The second French-language group was under the chairmanship of Cardinal Robert Sarah. His relator was Father Dumortier, Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, which had hosted the Shadow Synod back in May 2015. The most concrete comment was that the IL was too negative and Euro-centric.


The third French-language group was under the chairmanship of Maurice Piat Bishop of Mauritius. (Incidentally I think I may have taught him English literature some 55 years ago and knew his family in that far-off isle!). His relator was the Archbishop of Gatineau, Quebec. It starts off with a good point that one should talk of 'families' and 'our families' rather than 'the family' as some abstract concept. It goes on to say how the whole document could be made a great deal more positive with a new draft. It mentions two points of concern: gender theory and bio-ethical problems.

English Language Groups

The first English-language group was under the chairmanship of Cardinal Pell who needs no introduction. The relator was Archbishop Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky both regarded as conservatives. The group wanted more reference to scripture and tradition and joined with Cardinal Sarah's group in wishing it was not so bleak and Euro-centric.


The second English-language group was under the chairmanship of Cardinal Vincent Nichols with Diarmid Martin Archbishop of Dublin as relator. They wanted a document seen through the eyes of faith rather than sociology. They also felt it was unduly negative. The group proposed a broad rewriting of paragraphs 17-30 under the title of The Family on the Pilgrimage of Life. We will have to see whether they got it.


The third English-language group was under the chairmanship of Eamon Martin Archbishop of Armagh with the Archbishop of Brisbane as relator. Oh dear! They want a more decentralized church. They regard the concept of the ideal family as being somewhat bloodless – is that how they see the Holy Family? This must have been the group that Doctor Cernea attended as they shocked her with the words:

'We also considered certain phrases which have become commonplace in Church documents, among them “the Gospel of the family” and “the domestic Church”. These were vivid and illuminating formulations when they first appeared, but in the meantime they have become clichés, which are less clear in their meaning than they are usually assumed to be. We felt that it may be a good thing if they were given a rest.'

They complained about the methodology of the Synod and said there seemed to be more muddle than method. I think they added to the muddle. They quoted Pope Francis: Evangelii Gaudium, “time is greater than space”. An idea that appears in Lumen Christi. Quite what it means escapes me.


The fourth English-language group was under the chairmanship of Thomas Collins Archbishop of Toronto with Charles Chaput Archbishop of Philadelphia as relator. They started with a remarkable suggestion as to how the document should begin: 'We need to acknowledge and ask forgiveness for our own mistakes as pastors, especially those that have undermined family life.'

They then say 'we found much of the text to be flawed or inadequate, especially in its theology, clarity, trust in the power of grace, its use of Scripture and its tendency to see the world through overwhelmingly Western eyes.'

From thereon their criticism gets more and more devastating: chaotic, without inherent logic. Sentences seemed to be tossed together without any organic connection to one another. It is well worth reading.

Italian Language Groups


The first Italian-language group was under the chairmanship of the Archbishop of Agrigento, Italy and his relator was Father Manuel Conde described as a Spanish expert. It is written in a rather verbose manner perhaps typical of a Latin culture but under the polite comments one detects a certain dissatisfaction with the IL. They insisted that marriage is only between a man and a woman. They deplore gender theory.


Incidentally I am very grateful to the website of the Diocese of Shrewsbury for providing translations of these Italian-language group reports – translations by Bishop Michael Campbell himself. The Diocese provides remarkably good coverage of the Synod on its website.


The second Italian-language group was chaired by Cardinal Menichelli Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, Italy. His relator was Cardinal Piacenza head of the Apostolic Penitentiary. The most notable point in their report was pointing out that there was not a single biblical reference until page 32 and then only in a footnote.


The third Italian-language group was chaired by Cardinal Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa and his relator was the Archbishop of Vescova, Italy. Again the criticism is of the negativity and Euro-centric nature of the IL. They proposed emphasis on the power of the family in evangelisation and suggested numerous amendments.

Spanish Language Groups


The first Spanish-language group was chaired by Oscar Andres Rodriguez Madariaga, SDB, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa (Honduras) and as relator Card. José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuan, OAR, Bishop of David (Panama). They examined the whole of the IL and came up with 54 suggested amendments but there is no hint of what these were.


The second Spanish-language group was chaired by the Archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico and his relator was the Archbishop of Merida, Venezuela. They complained that the translation from Italian into Spanish and Portuguese was not always accurate. They set out the points in the IL on which there was agreement but not those where they disagreed. They lacked time to complete their examination of the IL.

German Language Group


The German-language group was chaired by Cardinal Schonborn, Archbishop of Vienna and his relator was Monsignor Koch, Archbishop of Berlin, who has recently fallen over backwards trying to please the Jews. They start off about mercy saying: 'The justice of God is his mercy, by which he has made us just.' Well equating the two can lead to some problems. Does God show mercy to the unrepentant sinner making him just? Cohabitation is to be regarded as normal prior to marriage and accompanying them is a pastoral challenge but also a joy! There is mention of 'biographical-historical lines' which reflects some of the claptrap that came out of the Shadow Synod.

They emphasise conscience and one of their conclusions states Any impression is to be avoided which only uses Sacred Scripture as a quotation source for dogmatic, juridical or ethical persuasions. The law of the New Covenant is the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers (CCC N.1965-1966). That seems to be trying to set the law of the New Covenant against scripture and suggesting that conscience can be superior to Scripture as the New Covenant. Well if one reads on in the Catechism it makes it clear that the law of the New Covenant is to be found primarily in Scripture in particular the Sermon on the Mount.

A curiosity is that Bishop Campbell's translation which I have commented on above is evidently a later document then that that appears on the Vatican website. The earlier document reads almost like a note made at the time. I suspect that Cardinal Schoenborn decided to rewrite it himself – it reads very much as if written by one person giving his views rather than a report of a group.

Conclusion


It is remarkable that in none of these reports from the groups is there any specific mention of communion for the divorced and remarried. It should be remembered that each of these groups had representatives from all other the world e.g. Africa, Asia, the Middle East etc. The frequent complaint that the IL was too Euro-centric reflects the over-emphasis in the IL on communion for the divorced and remarried, cohabitation and the other problems which beset the Western world. Outside of the western world the Bishops want none of it. There is the overall criticism that the IL was too negative as well as being Euro-centric. Numerous amendments were suggested but there is very little detail of what those amendments were. The western contribution is quite good from North America and the likes of Cardinal Chaput however the vacuity of the Irish contribution is evident and this is reflected in the English contribution. The German contribution is uniquely and quite obviously pushing the heterodox line of Cardinal Kasper and others.

I will turn next to the actual final Relatio Synodi and see how far it reflects the reports of the language groups.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

A Spotless Rose-- Our Lady of Guadalupe




Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of the Americas and of Mexico.

In the 1640s, a peasant named Juan Diego was walking between his village and Mexico City and he saw a vision of a girl approximately sixteen years old surrounded by light on Tepeyac Hill. Speaking to him in Nahuatl, the local language, she asked Juan Diego that a church be built on Tepeyac Hill in her honor.  Juan Diego recognized the vision and the Virgin Mary.  The Bishop instructed Juan Diego to return to Tepeyac and ask the lady for a miraculous sign to prove her identity.  The visage instructed Juan Diego to gather flowers from the top of Tepeyac Hill.  The usually barren Tepeyac Hill was blooming in Castilian roses, which were not native to Mexico.  Juan Diego gathered the roses which the Virgin arranged in his tilma cloak.  When the peasant opened the cloak before the Bishop, the flowers fell to the floor and an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe was miraculously imprinted on the fabric.

Pope John Paul II canonized St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin in 2002.  And in 1999, Pope John Paul II elevated Our Lady of Guadalupe to a Solemnity in all of the Americas.

The iconography of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was understood as being the Woman of the Apocalypse from Revelations 12:2 "clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars”.  Yet there are hermeneutical images that appealed to indigenous Americans too.  The Lady’s blue-green mantle was a hue reserved for the divine couple Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl.  A cross shaped image below the sash is the nahui-ollin and indicates the cosmos.  The rays of light look like maguey spines, the source of the sacred beverage pulque (and tequila).  Moreover, Many understand the black girdle along the Lady’s belt to indicate pregnancy, so Our Lady of Guadalupe is also unofficially considered the Patroness of the Unborn to the Pro-Life movement.

The rose amidst winter’s cold is an image of Advent which is not isolated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.  A Spotless Rose is a 15th Century German carol.





A spotless Rose is blowing,Sprung from a tender root,Of ancient seers' foreshowing,Of Jesse promised fruit;Its fairest bud unfolds to lightAnd in the dark midnight,Amid the winter cold,A spotless Rose unfolds.

The Rose which I am singing,Whereof Isaiah said,Is from its sweet root springing,In Mary, purest Maid;For, through our God's great love and might,And in the dark midnight,Amid the winter cold,The blesse`d Babe she bare.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

On the Solemnity of Christ the King

Pope Pius XI on Christ the King


Many of the Catholic Faithful appreciate the Feast of Christ the King as marking the end of the liturgical year.  Those who pay attention to the scriptures explore eschatological issues. 

But it is useful to understand why the Feast of Christ the King was added to the Church calendar in 1925, through Pope Pius XI's Apostolic Letter Quas primus (1925). The Feast of Our Lord Christ the King emerged at a time in which nationalism, secularism, fascism and communism was sweeping the world.  It was placed as the last Sunday in October, and was intended to give the faithful strength and courage to live the Kingdom of God in this world.

In a motu propio Mysterii Paschalis  (1969) by Pope Blessed Paul VI, the feast was moved up to be a Solemnity and given a new formal name "Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe". By moving it to the last Sunday on the liturgical calendar, the significance of last things becomes more poignant.  

Many Protestant and Orthodox Christians, such as the Anglicans, Lutherans and the Russian Orthodox outside of Russia followed the motu propio after 1970 and moved celebration of "Christ the King" to the last Sunday before the start of Advent.







H/T: Fr. Geoffrey Plant, St. Michael's Catholic Church, Lane Cove, Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Pope Francis on the Church and Change?

Pope Francis on the Church and Change



During the 5th National Ecclesial Convention in Florence Italy, Pope Francis gave 45 minutes of remarks reflecting upon the Convention's theme of "In Jesus Christ, the New Humanism".



The Holy Father warned that Pelegianism (a heresy denying original sin) and Gnosticism (a heresy denying Christ's divinity) are temptations which defeat a true Christian humanism.

In this context, Pope Francis' exhortation to companion in Christ to all not limited by a closed system of doctrine makes more sense.  Pope Francis voiced a desire of a happy church with a face of a mother who understands, caresses and accompanies.  

These pastoral pronouncements echo the weltanshaaung of this papacy and look forward to the year of mercy.

What is concerning is the inference that Catholic doctrine can change, that moves and grows in the flesh of Jesus Christ. This doctrinal ambiguity led to much of the consternation concerning the recent Synod on the Family, in which "Mercy driven" (liberal) prelates may bend doctrine on marriage to accommodate civilly divorced and remarried Catholics so they receive Communion.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Thank You

It is fitting that as Guild chairman, I extend gratitude on behalf of the Guild and of our readers to Supertradmum, who has, through her excellent writing on the Holy Faith, inspired so many of us with her words, helping to spread the fragrance of the Gospel and to enlighten us with her writings, which have always been measured with the charity of Christ, with candour, integrity and with great love for Jesus and His Holy Church.

May God bless Supertradmum, in all your undertakings and may God and Blessed Titus Brandsma watch over our Guild of Catholic bloggers in this, a time of upheaval and distress within the walls of the Church. Thank you, Supertradmum, for your witness to Jesus on this blog and may God shower His blessings on you and all who you know and love.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Good-Bye: Cassian to Blake and Back Again

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England's pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England's green & pleasant Land


I have been revisiting John Cassian's Conferences and commenting on these on my own blog. However, I want to share a few thoughts, as I have to say goodbye to this wonderful place, The Courtyard. Because of new political trends and events, I cannot write freely for an English audience on an English site. This fact grieves me. My heart is broken.

This blog has taught me many great truths of the Catholic Church. Without a foundation in truth, in the teachings of the Magisterium and the Scriptures, one cannot grow in holiness. Holiness, notes Cassian through the Desert Father, Abba Isaac, must be based on orthodoxy. The pure in heart seek only the truth of the Gospels, the long Tradition of the Fathers, and the doctrines and dogmas of Holy Mother Church. In the Church, we find safety from both heresy and eccentricity. In Christ, we find wholeness.

Cassian and Blake speak to my heart today.

And, did those Feet...

Perhaps the reason why John Cassian speaks to me these days is that he wrote at the end of the Roman Empire, living at the same time as St. Augustine, both witnessing the destruction of the greatest civilization of centuries.

Cassian and Augustine had to come to terms with an ending, without seeing the beginning; they did not see the flowering of monasticism, the Benedictine renewal of education and rural life, the Dominican and Franciscan revolt against gross greed and stupidity, the creation of Christendom in Europe. And was the Holy Lamb of God...

We are in the same place as Augustine and Cassian, the place of destruction, and the fall, though more subtle up to now, will result in the same sense of displacement and fear, disassociation and depression, in those who will not know what to do in the face of a total collapse of all that has been known and treasured.

Cassian and Augustine, Benedict and Bede had answers for their times.

Prayer, fasting, penance, including mortification, radical poverty, chastity and obedience---the mark of those who wanted and still want to follow Christ in the midst of chaos, were and still are the answers to the sadness and anxieties born out of the death of a civilization.

Only God brings order, not politicians, or governments, or armies. And did that Countenance Divine...

Like Cassian, like Augustine, I sit at the edge of the end of all things I have known and loved.

I have loved England and received life from the very dirt beneath my feet, the dirt of Glastonbury, the Dales, Dartmoor, pleasant pastures, the South Downs, Fountains Abbey, Hampstead Heath, clouded hills. Like Katie Scarlett O'Hara getting her strength from the red soil of Tara, the dark soil of England gave me life, and I gave it back, in my flower gardens, my teaching, my poetry, my own son. Burning gold...Arrows of desire....

The soil blessed by the blood of Cuthbert Mayne, Edmund Campion, Philip Howard, Ann Line, and so many others, now is being cursed by those who cannot see, and do not want to follow the footprints of Augustine, Lanfranc, Anselm, Etheldreda, those who walked upon England's green and pleasant Land.

My England has fast become a place of terror and uncertainty, verging on the very edge of legalized anti-Catholicism, falling into a new and worse dark age, one which has no excuse for ignorance of Christ.

My England, the small rural towns where I lived and raised my son, Sherborne, Petersfield, the lanes between flowering hedgerows, the singing of the birds in the lively morning chorus, the meeting of friends at the local shop or pub, are falling into a haze of memories, like old yellow photographs in an old black album, crumbling, fading. 

My years living in London, in West Kensington, Ealing, Tyburn, short times in Bayswater, likewise magical times of love and life, have morphed into sentences in poetry, plays and short stories. Like old type in ragged-edged books, my memories fade into one long paragraph of gratefulness.

But, my England no longer exists except in memory.

It is not that this England has stopped looking like a picture-postcard, but the air has changed. The last vestiges of secular humanism, which created the tolerance behind a great nation, has been choked by ideology and fear. I, like so many other Catholics, have become marginalized. I have been made a stranger in a strange land. I have been disenfranchised. O, clouds unfold....

Did those who lived in Germany in 1938 feel the change? Did those, like St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross understand the finality of the turning of the tide? Yes, some did. Most did not.

Years ago, a few of my commentators accused me of being negative about the future.

The future is here.

They have been silenced by reality. My England will be silenced by error, error with power.

I, like many others, are seen as “extremists”. Zeal for God's House will soon become a crime.

So, it has all happened before, and for much the same reasons, conformity being one of the foremost causes of tyranny.

Those who desire mediocrity will get it. It is already here, in schools, in churches, in literature, in music, in relationships. Those who desire excellence will be silenced. The intelligentsia always are targeted first. The Catholic intelligentsia had a long time to think about the future, which is now the present.

My England has been destroyed by those who have tried to wrestle power from God Himself-those aligned with the dark, Satanic mills. And, for a short time, God has allowed them to win a battle, but not the war. He won the war on Golgotha. I shall not cease from Mental fight...

But, this battle is for our purification. May a new England arise out of the ashes of the old, an England which again claims and desires to be Mary's Dowry, a beloved land of those who love Christ first, others second, and self third; a nation where Christ is King.

May my England come back again renewed in grace. May the Holy Mile at Walsingham echo again with Gregorian Chant, sung by all who live and go there. May we look up and see the chariot of fire...

But, I may never see this in my lifetime. I am resigned not to see the land I love the most renewed.

I have to stop writing to my beloved friends in England. I have to learn to live in more silence.

In Conference Nine, John Cassian, quoting the Desert Father, Abba Isaac, writes that we must learn to pray in silence.

Sitting at the edge of the fall of civilization may be a position of forcing us into silence.

But, why silence? Why praying in silence....? Cassian tells us and I extrapolate from his points.

To learn to listen to the right voices—the Voice of God and the voice of one's angel...How do we learn to recognize God's voice in the din of false voices?

To learn about one's self, one's sins and imperfections—like the rebellion which wells up when one is thwarted...How does one overcome self-will when one is constantly distracted? Silence focuses one.

To not share prayers with “hostile powers”, who wait to interfere with the desires of the heart...demonic influences which only wish us malice and personal damnation...How can one protect one's self from the unseen enemies? Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand...

To not distract others, with verbal prayers and utterances....How does one love the unlovable, including one's self, if not through silence?

Silence leads to purity of mind, heart and soul. Silence makes one humble...one must learn to wait for God.

Blogging has been done by me in silence, but now, God is calling me to a deeper silence, for the salvation of my own soul, for the protection of those I love the most. My “meditations” on this blog have come to this end.

For now, I have to leave this inspired blog, where I have been allowed to share some of my deepest dreams as well as the thoughts of some of our greatest writers, who works have provided me and you with many jewels upon which to meditate. I have met fantastic people through this blog. For that, I am truly, eternally grateful, now, at this time, remembering one dead, and two especially dear to me-- one who has been forced into silence, and the faithful administrator, to whom I am extremely grateful for entertaining my thoughts here.

But, as my vision of England fades into memory, and, then, will finally be purified in the scouring of my imagination by the intense Light of God, Which fashions one's memory, understanding, and will into His Own, I say goodbye to this lovely port of call of Catholicism.

I shall miss you all, and have, some, for a long time, missed your presence. Pray for me, and pray for all bloggers.

Jerusalem was not builded here, or, rather, it was, and came to be destroyed by an angry king. The City of Man prevailed, and I mourn this. Our Lady Mary must have mourned the loss of her own dowry in that Jerusalem so far away, at the foot of the Cross. The hearts of many were seen and are seen by her. She has this grace. She lived on earth with this knowledge in great silence. Mary, our Queen, with Her Son, waits for us on the other side of silence.

Slowly, but surely, we shall all have to move into silence. Our words may be for God alone, and not for those who wanted to listen, even for a short time. God will hear our words. He will respond to our cries for a new England in His Own time.

Blessed Titus Brandsma, who I have come to love through this blog, pray for us, pray for me. Help us to be strong and faithful like you were in the face of madness, stupidity, conformity, mediocrity, violence. Blessed Titus, intercede for England.



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