Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Over at What Does the Prayer Really Say, Fr Z has received one of the most squishy comments I've ever read:
Dear John
I happened on your web-site and blog and I had to quickly move elsewhere as I found myself entering a prison! You yourself put it so beautifully and powerfully well “Slavishly accurate Liturgical Translations”! What a pity it is to be a prisoner of accuracy and prisoner of the letter when we are called to be not “slavishly” but “LAVISHLY” and creatively free, open and awake enough to listen to the ever fresh daily rhythms of the Spirit who is beyond all boundaries and who as you know breathes where She wills! Be blessed John and may you know true freedom in the one who came to set us ALL free.
Philip sj
I don't want to read too much into such a short comment, but it seems to me that Fr Philip fundamentally misunderstands the nature of Christian freedom. Veritas liberabit! The truth will set you free. Fr Zuhlsdorf does us a great service in unlocking the riches of the Roman liturgy, whilst talk of the ever fresh daily rhythms of the Spirit who is beyond all boundaries puts me on my guard... There are far too many squishy spiritualities that in their vagueness and solopism actually cushion us from the transforming power of the Word that cuts more finely than a double-edged sword.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Lunacy in the UK

From the Telegraph:
A Christian student society is going to the High Court to overturn a ruling requiring it to admit non-Christians.
The Christian Union at Exeter said the ruling by an independent adjudicator would mean Muslims or atheists could become its leaders.
Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, is backing the organisation.
His successor, Dr Rowan Williams, has criticised the "suppression" of Christian groups on campuses.
The 350-strong Union was told by the Students' Guild, which regulates student bodies, last year that it may lose its status unless it drops its requirement for members to declare their faith in Jesus because it meant the society was closed to many students.

The University appointed Mark Shaw QC to produce an independent adjudication.
In his ruling earlier this month, he criticised the union for restricting its membership to Christians, even though its meetings are open to all.
Lord Carey said: "This ruling opens the way for a Muslim to head up an Anglican Society or a member of the BNP to chair the Labour club.
The National Union of Students said: "Students' unions have a duty to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all communities.
"As a result, they continually take steps to ensure that their own equal opportunities policies are adhered to."

Friday, August 17, 2007

But what will his e-mail address look like?

From the Telegraph:
In China, where almost 90 per cent of the population has one of just 129 surnames, it is difficult to stand out from the crowd.
However, if one couple have their way, their child will be able consider itself a true individual by having "@", the symbol used in email addresses, as its given name.
The name application was cited by a government official as one of many off-beat requests as parents attempted to counter the traditional naming methods that have led to such conformity.
Li Yuming, of the state language commission, said the couple argued that "the whole world uses '@' to write emails" and that translated it sounded like "love him" in Mandarin.
Mr Li did not say whether the police, who were the arbiters of names because they issued identity cards, rejected baby "@" and others, but last year there were 60 million people who had "unfamiliar characters" in their names.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Cannibal Tribe Apologises...

From the Telegraph:
A tribe in Papua New Guinea has apologised for killing and eating four 19th century missionaries under the command of a doughty British clergyman.
The four Fijian missionaries were on a proselytising mission on the island of New Britain when they were massacred by Tolai tribesmen in 1878.
They were murdered on the orders of a local warrior chief, Taleli, and were then cooked and eaten.
The Fijians - a minister and three teachers - were under the leadership of the Reverend George Brown, an adventurous Wesleyan missionary who was born in Durham but spent most of his life spreading the word of God in the South Seas.
Thousands of villagers attended a reconciliation ceremony near Rabaul, the capital of East New Britain province, once notorious for the ferocity of its cannibals.
Their leaders apologised for their forefather's taste for human flesh to Fiji's high commissioner to Papua New Guinea.
"We at this juncture are deeply touched and wish you the greatest joy of forgiveness as we finally end this record disagreement," said Ratu Isoa Tikoca, the high commissioner.
Cannibalism was common in many parts of the South Pacific - Fiji was formerly known as the Cannibal Isles - and dozens of missionaries were killed by hostile islanders.
Born at Barnard Castle, Durham, Rev Brown emigrated to New Zealand as a young man and served as a missionary in Samoa before moving with his wife and children to New Guinea.
He was familiar with the cannibalistic traditions of the region and once described a visit to a village in which he counted 35 smoke-blackened human jaw bones dangling from the rafters of a hut.
"A human hand, smoke-dried, was hanging in the same house. And outside I counted 76 notches in a coconut tree, each notch of which, the natives told us, represented a human body which had been cooked and eaten there," he told the Royal Geographical Society.
Even so, he was shocked when told that four of his staff had been cannibalised.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

How embarassing...

Lucy, over at City of Steeples, links to an unfortunate flier for a 'Lakefront Procession'. The hapless organisers have decided to advertise the presence of a Prince of the Church by referring to him as 'Possible successor to Pope Benedict XVI'. Needless to say, I doubt that either of the participating prelates would have given the okay to such a description.

~ Zadok the Roman
Possible Successor to St Augustine

(Who should I bribe to be made titular Bishop of Hippo?)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Disturbing story from the UK

From the Telegraph:
Lawyers have told the Roman Catholic Church that it cannot sack a Catholic headmaster who has entered a civil partnership with a male teacher.
The Archdiocese of Liverpool has been unable to take action against Charles Coyne, the head of St Cecilia's primary school, who has registered a partnership with Richard Jones, who is believed to work at a nearby school.
Pope Benedict XVI has called civil partnerships "anarchic" and a danger to the family.
The couple, who live together, had a reception in a parish centre.
Local Catholics and family campaigners have urged the authorities to take action over the "scandal".
One churchgoer said: "Senior officials are aware of this yet they have done nothing. It's unacceptable."
Norman Wells, the director of the Family Education Trust, said: "It is not unreasonable for parents sending their children to a faith school to expect the headteacher to be living according to that faith."
The archdiocese - which is headed by Archbishop Patrick Kelly, the second most senior cleric in England and Wales - said it was powerless.
It said in a statement that Mr Coyne had run St Cecilia's for many years and "matters relating to his personal life have in no way interfered with his management of the school".
A spokesman for the archdiocese said senior officials, including Fr Michael O'Dowd, the episcopal vicar for schools and colleges, had discussed the case as issues of employment law were involved.
"Legal advice was sought," the spokesman said. "The Church was advised that in this case nothing could be done, despite the fact that the head was acting contrary to Church teaching."
One bishop, the Rt Rev John Jukes, said school governors should ask a head teacher to step down if he or she openly flouted the Church's moral code.
"I would ask heads to think about the example they are setting to their pupils and the local community," said Bishop Jukes, an auxiliary bishop emeritus in Southwark.
The Rev Richard Kirker, the general secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, predicted that Mr Coyne's "courageous" step would be followed by others in senior posts.
"This will be very helpful to everybody who expects the Catholic Church to be open and honest," he said.
Would it not be more 'open and honest' for Mr Coyne to do the honourable thing and resign his post?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

CoE - Women Clergy to be in the Majority?

From the Telegraph:
According to a report due for release this autumn, there will be as many female priests as male by 2025. The study, entitled Religious Trends, concludes that without the rapid growth in the number of women being ordained - as many women will be becoming priests as men by the end of the decade - some parishes would be forced to close.
Some dioceses, many of them in rural locations, already report a higher number of women being ordained than men.
The report estimates that by 2016 one in every three priests will be a woman. This year, 47 per cent of new priests have been female. In the Bath and Wells diocese, 13 out of the 16 priests ordained have been women. In Wakefield, it is 10 out of 14.
The Rev Charlie Allen, 27, a vicar in the village of Portchester, Hampshire, said that her decision to be ordained had been met with some surprise, but that being a woman priest had become much easier.
"It is not the obvious job that parents expect their daughters to do," she said.
"The traditional stereotype of the middle-aged male priest is part of the Church's historical legacy, so when I started five years ago people would be surprised to see a young female priest. That is no longer the case. It has ceased to be a great unknown or something for people to fear or be worried about."
Miss Allen, the parish's first female incumbent, said some people still saw women priests as "slightly unusual", but predicted that in 10 years sex would no longer be an issue.
According to the study by Christian Research, an independent organisation that analyses Church statistics, between 1990 and 2015 the number of women priests will have doubled to 2,200 while the number of male clergy will have almost halved to just over 4,500.
The Ven Chris Lowson, director of ministry for the Archbishops' Council, the Church's executive body, said: "For the Church to be healthy and reflect its congregations it needs to be balanced. For most of its history it has been an inhospitable place for women's ministry so it has taken a while for the role models to have an impact. They are now catching up and are taking their place. If the Church hadn't ordained women we'd be in substantial difficulty now."
Despite the rapid growth in the number of women clergy, concerns that females are failing to make the higher echelons of the Church remain.
Since women were allowed to become priests in 1992, just two of the Church's 43 cathedrals have appointed a female dean. The Church is also struggling to find a way of permitting women to become bishops without antagonising traditionalists and evangelicals. Around 400 clergy left the Church of England after the decision to allow the ordination of women, with many converting to Catholicism.

Holy Oil?

From the Telegraph:
A patch of oil that vaguely resembles the face of Jesus Christ has fetched more than $1,500 in an online auction.
An American family that found the image on its garage floor sold it on eBay for $1,525.69 (£755) earlier this week.
Deb Serio, a high school teacher, said she was surprised anyone wanted to buy the oily slab of concrete.
"I really never thought I'd get any [money], to be honest," she said.
Ms Serio received hundreds of messages from around the world from people interested in the "smudge of Christ".
The family has now hired a contractor to remove the section of concrete.
The slab will then be delivered to the winner of the online auction, who is identified only as "islandoffthecoast."
An active Lutheran, Ms Serio considers the smudge a slightly odd occurrence, rather than a divine sign or miracle.
"There are some people who need this kind of thing to sort of start them on their faith journey. I don't," she said.
"That's why I don't mind parting with it."

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Pretty cool Youtube Clip - The Virtual Barbershop

Play this whilst wearing headphones. Very impressive!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Priest shortage - what solution?

Fr Philip Powell OP posts an interesting piece about the possible effects of appointing 'parish life co-ordinators' en lieu of resident pastors in parishes:
I'm not one to be shy about noting that the Church has had mistakes in her long, long history. These mistakes seemed to multiple after Vatican Two when the spirit of invention and make-believe possessed some in the leadership to hold and teach that the intent of the Council Fathers was inadequately expressed in the actual texts of the Council. Mistake after mistake followed. And they still follow. Here's a sure-fire way to ensure that your parish will almost never again have a resident pastor: the Parish Life Coordinator (PLC).
From Pittsburgh we read: "In what the bishop who appointed her called 'a historic moment,' Sister Dorothy Pawlus, a Sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth, was commissioned July 15 as the first parish life collaborator in the Diocese of Pittsburgh."

So, what's the problem?

1) Without a priest in charge of the parish, young men won't have a model of priesthood to aspire to; no fault accrues to Sister for this, of course, but we know young men need male leadership in order to be properly challenged to sacrifice secular enticements. Sister's appointment is one more example of the feminization of the Church and another nail in the coffin of priestly vocations.

2) Once Sister and other PLC's (no doubt there will be huge pressure to appoint women in most of these positions) are appointed, it will take an Act of God to move them out when priests become available. Make no mistake: the PLC is not a temporary canonical solution to a temporary vocational problem. This is a move (sideways and under the guise of an "emergent crisis") to undermine presbyteral authority in the parish by emptying the role of pastor of its orders. IOW, this is a move to make it possible to be appointed Pastor (even if not in name) w/o being an ordained priest. Priests will simply become traveling Sacrament Machines. The office of Priest Director will fade as demand for priests grows. Interesting side note: priests now are starting to look a whole like bishops in the Patristic period!

3). This is the first step in a long series of steps leading us to the "inevitability" of women being ordained priests. Think: altar girls and the arguments used post facto to defend against attempts to suppress the practice: "But we've been using altar girls for years!" Some predictions:

a). even with the availability of newly ordained priests, PLC's will continue to "pastor" their parishes with Fr. Newbie hanging around for "mentoring." He will be graduated to a staff position and made a "member of the team."

b). Within five years (but before the Fr. Newbies arrive) PLC's will demand the right to preach at Mass since Fr. Sacramental Minister isn't in residence and doesn't know the parish. How can he possibly preach to us when he doesn't know us?

c). Look for a new book of ceremonies to appear from The Liturgical Press, Liturgies for Pastoral Life Coordinators quite soon. It will be argued that since PLC's play a special role in the life of the parish, the church needs liturgies designed to celebrate their unique ministry. Translation: we need liturgical validation for the invention of the PLC so that the concept of the PLC is more easily tolerated over time. Liturgies bestow legitimacy and normalize innovation.

d). Parishes administered by female PLC's will produce far fewer priestly vocations than parishes run by priest-pastors. This NOT b/c women intentionally deter vocations or somehow jinx boys into believing that the priesthood is bad--how many priests today trace their vocations back to a religious sister? My point is that w/o active, visible, and regular priestly leadership in a parish, a boy or young man cannot "see" the priesthood in action.
The entirety of his post deserves reading and corresponds in its broad outline with some of my concerns about how the priest-shortage in the Western world is being dealt with.
Now, I think that we should be careful about assuming that all moves towards appointing lay-staff to perform functions that priests previously did are ideologically motivated. However, it would be naive not to admit that there is a significant push in some quarters to see the priest-shortage as being an act of the Holy Spirit to make space for greater lay/female participation in the Church. This opinion must be firmly resisted. A proper understanding of the relationship between the Priesthood of the Baptized and the Ministerial Priesthood will lead to the conclusion that as the laity become more actively and enthusiastically involved in the Church's work, there will be an even greater need for holy and energetic pastors to guide and serve them. Additionally, a true renewal of religious spirit amongst the laity should lead to more and more young people hearing the call to priestly and religious life. One of the signs of a flourishing and wholesome lay movement within the Church is a flowering of religious and priestly vocations in its ranks.
So, what's the solution?
This is the tricky part. What is to be done in a diocese when there are insufficient clergy to staff the parishes? It would seem imprudent to totally eschew lay staffing of parishes. After all, if a layperson can fulfil some of a pastor's administrative functions, then it would seem irresponsible to leave a parish to simply feel the pain rather than make some kind of accommodation to get the work done.
However, Fr Philip's post does make clear that any such lay position should not be that of a 'priest substitute' and I quite agree with him that the use of communion services as a 'Mass substitute' is, in general, a very bad idea. (Ironically, this detachment of the reception of the Eucharist and the celebration of Mass is something that the Second Vatican Council set itself against.)
One possible way of mitigating the damage done by the replacement of a full-time Pastor by a PLC would be to make such an appointment temporary. In other words, make it a 3 or a 4 year appointment, with the PLC being appointed to another parish at that time, and a priest brought in to be pastor. In this way, if there are going to be PLCs, then at least no parish is going to be permanently deprived of a priest.

I think that Fr Philip's post also points to a certain need to appreciate the theology of the priest's relationship with his parish. A pastor, surely, is supposed to be a spiritual father and shepherd to his flock. Priests and people alike need to take that seriously. Pastors need to minister with that in mind, and the parish needs to realise just how much its integrity as a flock and a family depends on the unifying and guiding figure of the pastor.