Wednesday, 11 May 2011

A Beginning?

The Call went out from Dylan Parry aka A Reluctant Sinner for a gathering of Catholic Bloggers with the intention of forming a 'Guild' and in some way further promoting the Faith and supporting fellow Catholics in a more cohesive unified way - an extension to our own blogs or our commentary elsewhere [I have to concede with Brian Sudlow of The Sensible Bond that I am more a commentator than a blogger - time restrictions and the availability of a good argument elsewhere are invariably to blame]

Now let's make one thing clear:
I don't think there is one Catholic blogger out there who doesn't want this type of 'Umbrella group' - Most of us have been calling for something akin to it for years - Damian Thompson had a few ideas in 2008 [which sadly all came to naught thanks to our illustrious Cardinal- but that's water under the bridge] and old Holy Smoker Benedict Carter had a similar idea in early 2009 but logistics, calendar restrictions and geography also led to this idea fading away]. I've been nagging everyone for years that we needed to be a unified force within the country - promoting and defending the faith and reaching out to dispossesed and disenfranchised Catholics throughout the country and reassuring them that they are not alone....

Poor Red Maria was forever getting it in the neck from me that we had to do something, James [Free the Brum 3!] Preece concurred, and the suggestion was oft-repeated to Fr Tim Finigan & Fr Ray Blake & Fr Mildew
and Mulier Fortis and Laurence England and the marvellous Ttony of The Muniment Room have all either promoted or supported the idea of it...Fr Tim has always been one of the first to offer his services and his Parish for anything that would promote the cause [God bless him!]

But apart from a few blognics and Fr Mildew's lunches nothing was ever really done - then after a few run-ins with Radio4 regarding their choices of guests on their religious programming and Channel4 over the Jon Snow/ Joanna Bogle debacle of hiv/condoms
[and I advise everyone to watch it again - recognise just how well Joanna started - that the other lady repeatedly lied [yes lied - she knew exactly what the Cochrane report of 2007 said in regard to condom safety in serodiscordant hiv couples - only reducing the rate of infection by 80%] - and that Jon Snow was being his most pig-ignorant [  the issue continued on his blog; within two days he apologised - but ironically this fact has never been mentioned by certain individuals prominent in the catholic 'meedja scene' [ we all know who they are ] despite repeat reference to the incident itself] One of the bitterest ironies - there are two prominent people lengthily defending the Catholic position - yours truly and certain Mr D Parry!!!! [who'dathunkit!!!!?]

Now yes of course what the hell was Joanna Bogle doing on a TV news programme as an unofficial spokesperson for the Church? Where were the CCN? Where was Bishops' Conference - Archbishop Smith in particular [this being his remit - and his duty to support his Brother Bishop the Holy Father]?  We know from some journalists' articles and blog comments that rather than arguing for the Catholic position they'd have said  the exact opposite of Joanna's position - Both CAFOD & Austen Ivereigh support the idea that the 'prophylactic intention' overrides the contraceptivity issue in condom use.

Of course they were nowhere to be seen - and to be honest would they have used the truth to argue their case and defend the Faith? I think not! Now I don't think Joanna will mind my saying that I got tore into her and told her for her own sake that she really needed to get some media training [and why the bloody hell shouldn't conference pay for it given she was there in their stead - doing the job they refused to do?!!!]

Anyway back to what I was saying - this incident - together with +Vin and +Smiffy making major gaffes in radio interviews and guests on the Sunday programme, Beyond Belief, the Moral maze and TFTD being from the extremely progressive wing to the point of being fantasy-sushi-catholics rather than plain cafeteria ones; it seemed to everyone that the Tabletista had all of the media completely sewn up!

[to be continued - hopefully this evening]

Updated Repost: The 'Cleverness' of things...

"Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded his empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for him." [Napoleon Bonaparte]

"If Jesus Christ were to come today people would not even crucify Him. They would ask Him to dinner, and hear what He has to say, and make fun of it." [Thomas Carlyle]

"Joined whom, what clever people?" cried Alyosha, completely carried away.
"They have no such great cleverness and no mysteries and secrets....
Perhaps nothing but Atheism, that's all their secret.
Your Inquisitor does not believe in God, that's his secret!"
['The Grand Inquisitor' from Dostoyevsky's 'The Brothers Karamazov']

On the Catholic Herald blog a while back  Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith commented on The Observer's '300 British Intellectuals' List and sadly noted the dearth of Catholics among the renowned [even the few Catholics present aren't exactly recognised for their Catholicism - did anyone know Mark Lawson was a Catholic? Awkwardly pretentious yes: But Catholic?] The Reverend Dctor asks is the Church so far out of touch with the mainstream as the list indicates? Where are the new Bl Cardinal Newmans, the new Graham Greenes, Evelyn Waughs, Malcolm Muggeridges?

I'll continue this and ask why is it so different elsewhere? The US recognises its Catholic Intellectuals and amongst the Clergy and 'professional' [in the real [i.e. good] sense] Catholic laity they have some really big hitters! Look at some of their {Arch]Bishops and Cardinals who are world-renowned for their intellect and erudition...Then there's Fr Benedict Groeschel, George Weigel, Michael Voris,Fr Frank Pavone, Fr Mitch Pacwa, Fr Larry Richards and on and on and on- even Fr Corapi before his's phenomenal - the spirit of Fulton Sheen continues....

But in England and Wales?
Who do we have?
Let's face it shall we - Preaching and Evangelising have gone out of fashion in perfidious Albion
Our Bishops are most definitely NOT advocates for, defenders of, or evangelists expounding the One, True Faith.
Our Intellectuals and Academics much prefer to stick to their own specialised elitist circles and write for them
- whether it be desiccated tomes on the liturgy or Church history or autobiographies...hiding from the faithful.

Ever heard of Joyce Meyer? I may disagree with her doctrinally and socio-economically but I wish to God she was a Catholic - because she's a better Christian preacher than ANYTHING I have ever heard from the Catholic Church in this country for decades...

The Redemptorists used to be fantastic - their missions would be phenomenal - unforgettable - and the Churches would be packed to bulging - even in the siales and chapels- children by the hundred sitting on the sanctuary because there was simply no room - and oecumenical? Ye gods! They were so popular we'd have atheist spouses, anglicans, methodists, jehovah's witnesses and the staunchest Orangemen or starchiest Eastern Star Matriarch for whom being seen in a Church would normally be a 'black affront'...but they were NOT going to miss out on the 'Reds' being in town...
What happened? Oh the Redemptorists found publication more lucrative, they found that watering down the faith made it more accommodating for themselves and the Conference/Diocesan keepers of the's now got to the stage where their trite inanities which contaminate the obverses of our parish newsletters have become utterly devoid of Catholicism - if not Christianity.

What went wrong?
There's a tale of the Old Desert Fathers:
St Antony was praying in the desert when the devil dropped in to say hello, after the regular banter and boasting of his temptations throughout the world the exasperated Devil declared:
"Antony you pray for hours depriving yourself of sleep - I NEVER sleep;
Antony you spend days fasting and abstaining - I NEVER eat;
But Antony you are humble - and so you have defeated me...."

So answer one is Humility - we stopped being humble
- oh we didn't stop being 'demure and self-effacing on occasions' but it was a sham...we lost the humility.
Well we became a mixture of Cafeteria Catholic and Pharisee
- we knew all the answers and where the Church disagreed? Well the Church should change....but more on that at a later time.


Answer two is easier and more recognisable:
How do you recognise a good text-book? Or a good history book or instruction manual?
The author is clever enough, wise enough, capable enough, experienced enough and empathic enough to be able to teach the truth with a childlike simplicity that anyone - given time and patience- can understand.
[The great language-mentor Michel Thomas argued that there is no such thing as a bad student - only bad teachers]

Oliver Wendell Holmes stated
"I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity."

Was St Paul anything but a scholar?
Was Chesterton an ill-read buffoon?
Was CS Lewis a school drop-out with only a cse in woodwork to his name?
Is St Francis de Sales being the patron Saint of writers a woefully inept designation?
Are the two Ss Theresa not intellectually qualified to be considered as Real Doctors of the Church?
Is Benedict XVI a 'bit backward'?

Then why have their writings the overwhelming simplicity of Truth which leaps from the page and thrusts itself all so simply and readily into our understanding?

Happenstance I have two moral theology books next to my keyboard - One is a massive annotated tome by Germain Grisez where he expounds every conceivable aspect of Catholic Morality - endlessly debating this and that aspect, reflecting on the overawing 'profundity' and 'complexity' and 'struggle', always advising caution in one's choices, reticence requiring reflection and never assessing anything's moral worth or the potential rightness/wrongness of an action without a scrupulous dialectical analysis. It gets to the stage wherehe refuses to make a decision on the important things while being rigoristly opinionated about the little and somewhat irrelevant things.
Next to it lies a tiny little battered, torn, coffee-stained copy of the Domincan Fr Gerald Vann's " Morals and Man" and I'm telling you now - That book has taken me to hell and back - led to sleepless nights - hours gazing distantly mid-air in thought - a whole day at work or doing housework and I cannot recollect a single instant of it because I've been lost in thought at a paragraph - or single sentence.
But it's a 'simple' book - very readily understandable - if one made the attempt one could complete it in a few hours..but it's diamond dust - for it contains that simplicity past complexity [something sadly lacking in the Grisez]

Take a look at contemporary theology books, or spirituality books and you find they are usually of two types - the first is dumbed-down and watered down beyond credulity - wasn't worth writing let alone reading.
The second type is even worse - exercises in narcissistic vanity; intense, complicated references and sesquipedalian terms to obfuscate and make the simplest of notions or principles incomprehensible - allusions to scripture or some 19th century german philosopher or a 17th century french poet or a dodgy latin phrase from some 'ahead of his time' monk who was burned for heresy in 1232 or whatever - all of which simply confuse rather than substantiate or edify; references to the greek nuances [usually eschaton and kerygma find their way in ] and page after page of guesswork by the author - usually on the hypothetical applications or metaphysical speculations or secret unmentioned motives or the conjectured actions of what someone might have thought, said or done. These authors should be charged for crimes against their own intellect - to have the arrogant deceit to hide a reality behind so many clouds of linguistics and ill-conceived flights of fancy - all to seem as if one is clever?
Well - it's a travesty!

So - it's either Books you don't need to read:
Or Books impossible for anyone to understand [I'm practically certain most of the authors can't - and those who swear by them as 'prescribed texts' have never even attempted to read them]

So answer two is intelligence and understanding - WE STOPPED CONVEYING THAT TRUTH

Now this is a long-term issue - it goes back over a century and for the necessity of brevity I'm going to have to refer you to a previous post and provide you with the conclusion here - We stopped using apologetics - we simply stated the what and the how without ever giving any cogent reasoned answers 'Why..."

Answer three is the I'll state it then try to explain it - although I remain utterly incredulous.


Virtually every day I have spent on the internet speaking on a Catholic issue I have been accused of being doctrinaire or cruel or uncharitable or thoughtlessly insensitive or arrogantly dismissive or ignorantly presumptuously unwilling to compromise or accommodate or give people's opinions and beliefs 'the respect they deserve'. I have been denounced as a 'Taliban' Catholic or an 'Ultra' - "more Catholic than the Pope" - an insensitive abusive Pharisee - a Jansenist - who 'neither reflects nor relates contemporary Catholic understanding or teaching on the issues' and I should be roundly condemned accordingly [One dear Catholic lady [an Austen Ivereigh fan] even suggested I should have my children removed by social services because I was so despicably hateful and must be prevented from indoctrinating my children with this vitriol].

I'm going to leave the response to Chesterton:

"If a critic tells a particular lie, that particular lie can be pointed out. If he misses a specific point, that point can be explained. If he is really wrong in this or that, it will be on this or that that the insulted person will eagerly pounce. But “malice and spite” are vague words which will never be used except when there is really nothing to pounce on. If a man says that I am a dwarf, I can invite him to measure me. If he says I am a cannibal, I can invite him to dinner. If he says I am a coward, I can hit him. If he says I am a miser, I can give him half-a-sovereign. But if he says I am fat and lazy (which is true), the best I can answer is that he speaks out of malice and spite. Whenever we see that phrase, we may be almost certain that somebody has told the truth about somebody else."
The Illustrated London News, 13 November 1909.
We are caled to be 'The Salt of the Earth" - both a part of it yet apart from it .
Now I don't know if anyone's said it before but here's the deal:



So When Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith asks us "Where are the Catholic Intellectuals" The answer is sadly the majority have ceased to be intellectuals [much preferring to be elitist incoherent 'academics', populist dumbed-down well-loved 'characters' or socialite raconteurs who 'know everybody worth knowing']
and in the process they have also ceased to be 'public' Catholics - the price of Catholicism being far too high to be accommodated or acceptable in Modern social circles...
The true Catholic Intellectuals are far too invisibly getting on with God and getting on with Life - and that's definitely not part of the Observer's understanding of the social milieu.

Where are our modern day Chesterbellocs and Muggeridges and Fulton Sheens?
They're all around us - they're just not wanted.
Remember the adage of the Abbot of Worth?

"The Media is no place to evangelise!!!!"

So many are so willing to oblige him!!!

 Countercultural Father is also concerned

The what we believe and how we live mean nothing without the why - and for that we need apologetics - and frankly virtually anything that's been proffered recently and called 'apologetics' [and sorry to name names but that includes Dr Ivereigh's latest] has had absolutely nothing to do with apologetics.
If Protestants can do it
- if we have Church Militant TV running intensive apologetics tv programmes,
if Maryvale is doing a Masters course in it,
if we have the gold dust of the works of Peter Kreeft & Scott Hahn
and the Diamond Encrusted Platinum excellence of Sheed & Ward and a heritage of the CEG - we frankly have no excuse...

When did we turn utilitarian appealing to the consequences/benefits/detriments of society rather than the intrinsic moral rightness and wrongness of issues?

In my Catechetics classes I've had to throw out virtually all the available material of the past forty years and resort to Frank Sheed's works as i t thrives within and proffers that 'simplicity beyond complexity'.

I'm getting a little bit sick of those claiming to speak for me as a Catholic neither knowing nor understanding basic Catholic principles and teachings - and instead replacing it with 'common sense best-guesses and platitudinous 'winging it''.

This has nothing to do with being highly educated or undergoing intensive media/evangelical/apologetic training - this is about the basic [hitherto adolescent-level] fundamentals of our faith...

...and it's frankly becoming more and more embarrassing when 'professional' clerics and laity aren't delivering the mesage because they never 'got it' in the first place...

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Hinc illae lacrimae [My argument FOR a Guild of Catholic bloggers] Pt 1

It's never enough to Love someone: That someone needs to know they are Loved....

St Francis de Sales reminds us :

CONSIDER how noble and excellent a thing your soul is, endowed with understanding, capable of knowing, not merely this visible world around us, but Angels and Paradise, of knowing that there is an All-Mighty, All-Merciful, Ineffable God; of knowing that eternity lies before you, and of knowing what is necessary in order so to live in this visible world as to attain to fellowship with those Angels in Paradise, and the eternal fruition of God.

Yet more;—-your soul is possessed of a noble will, capable of loving God, irresistibly drawn to that love; your heart is full of generous enthusiasm, and can no more find rest in any earthly creation, or in aught save God, than the bee can find honey on a dunghill, or in aught save flowers. Let your mind boldly review the wild earthly pleasures which once filled your heart, and see whether they did not abound in uneasiness and doubts, in painful thoughts and uncomfortable cares, amid which your troubled heart was miserable.

When the heart of man seeks the creature, it goes to work eagerly, expecting to satisfy its cravings; but directly it obtains what it sought, it finds a blank, and dissatisfied, begins to seek anew; for God will not suffer our hearts to find any rest, like the dove going forth from Noah’s ark, until it returns to God, whence it came. Surely this is a most striking natural beauty in our heart;—why should we constrain it against its will to seek creature love?

In some such wise might you address your soul: “You are capable of realising a longing after God, why should you trifle with anything lower? you can live for eternity, why should you stop short in time? One of the sorrows of the prodigal son was, that, when he might have been living in plenty at his father’s table, he had brought himself to share the swine’s husks. My soul, you are made for God, woe be to you if you stop short in anything short of Him!” Lift up your soul with thoughts such as these, convince it that it is eternal, and worthy of eternity; fill it with courage in this pursuit.

...St Francis continues:

CONSIDER the Eternal Love God has borne you, in that, even before our Lord Jesus Christ became Man and suffered on the Cross for you, His Divine Majesty designed your existence and loved you. When did He begin to love you? When He began to be God, and that was never, for He ever was, without beginning and without end. Even so He always loved you from eternity, and therefore He made ready all the graces and gifts with which He has endowed you. He says by His prophet, “I have loved thee” (and it is YOU that He means) “with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” And amid these drawings of His Love He led you to make these resolutions to serve Him.
What must resolutions be which God has foreseen, pondered, dwelt upon from all eternity? how dear and precious to us! Surely we should be ready to suffer anything whatsoever rather than let go one particle of the same. The whole world is not worth one soul, and the soul is worth but little without its good resolutions.

...and our mantra? The words we must repeat every day to remember who we are - The Declaration of the Soul:

“I am not mine own, whether I live or whether I die, I am the Lord’s. There is no longer any me or mine, my ‘me’ is Jesus, my ‘mine’ is to be His. Thou world, wilt ever be thyself, and hitherto I have been myself, but henceforth I will be so no more.”
We shall indeed not be ourselves any more, for our heart will be changed, and the world which has so often deceived us will in its turn be deceived in us; our change will be so gradual that the world will still suppose us to be Esau, while really we are Jacob.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Repost: The Crisis was never new....

From 'On The Holy Spirit' by St Basil the Great [329-379] ChXXX
76. To what then shall I liken our present condition?
It may be compared, I think, to some naval battle which has arisen out of time old quarrels, and is fought by men who cherish a deadly hate against one another, of long experience in naval warfare, and eager for the fight.
Look, I beg you, at the picture thus raised before your eyes.
See the rival fleets rushing in dread array to the attack.
With a burst of uncontrollable fury they engage and fight it out.
Fancy, if you like, the ships driven to and fro by a raging tempest, while thick darkness falls from the clouds and blackens all the scenes so that watchwords are indistinguishable in the confusion, and all distinction between friend and foe is lost.
To fill up the details of the imaginary picture, suppose the sea swollen with billows and whirled up from the deep, while a vehement torrent of rain pours down from the clouds and the terrible waves rise high.
From every quarter of heaven the winds beat upon one point, where both the fleets are dashed one against the other. Of the combatants some are turning traitors; some are deserting in the very thick of the fight; some have at one and the same moment to urge on their boats, all beaten by the gale, and to advance against their assailants.
Jealousy of authority and the lust of individual mastery splits the sailors into parties which deal mutual death to one another.
Think, besides all this, of the confused and unmeaning roar sounding over all the sea, from howling winds, from crashing vessels, from boiling surf, from the yells of the combatants as they express their varying emotions in every kind of noise, so that not a word from admiral or pilot can be heard.
The disorder and confusion is tremendous, for the extremity of misfortune, when life is despaired of, gives men license for every kind of wickedness.
Suppose, too, that the men are all smitten with the incurable plague of mad love of glory, so that they do not cease from their struggle each to get the better of the other, while their ship is actually settling down into the deep.

77. Turn now I beg you from this figurative description to the unhappy reality.
Did it not at one time appear that the Arian schism, after its separation into a sect opposed to the Church of God, stood itself alone in hostile array? But when the attitude of our foes against us was changed from one of long standing and bitter strife to one of open warfare, then, as is well known, the war was split up in more ways than I can tell into many subdivisions, so that all men were stirred to a state of inveterate hatred alike by common party spirit and individual suspicion.
But what storm at sea was ever so fierce and wild as this tempest of the Churches? In it every landmark of the Fathers has been moved; every foundation, every bulwark of opinion has been shaken: everything buoyed up on the unsound is dashed about and shaken down.
We attack one another.
We are overthrown by one another.
If our enemy is not the first to strike us, we are wounded by the comrade at our side.
If a foeman is stricken and falls, his fellow soldier tramples him down.
There is at least this bond of union between us that we hate our common foes, but no sooner have the enemy gone by than we find enemies in one another.
And who could make a complete list of all the wrecks?
Some have gone to the bottom on the attack of the enemy, some through the unsuspected treachery of their allies, some from the blundering of their own officers.
We see, as it were, whole churches, crews and all, dashed and shattered upon the sunken reefs of disingenuous heresy, while others of the enemies of the Spirit of Salvation have seized the helm and made shipwreck of the faith. 1 Timothy 1:19
And then the disturbances wrought by the princes of the world 1 Corinthians 2:6 have caused the downfall of the people with a violence unmatched by that of hurricane or whirlwind.
The luminaries of the world, which God set to give light to the souls of the people, have been driven from their homes, and a darkness verily gloomy and disheartening has settled on the Churches.
The terror of universal ruin is already imminent, and yet their mutual rivalry is so unbounded as to blunt all sense of danger.
Individual hatred is of more importance than the general and common warfare, for men by whom the immediate gratification of ambition is esteemed more highly than the rewards that await us in a time to come, prefer the glory of getting the better of their opponents to securing the common welfare of mankind.
So all men alike, each as best he can, lift the hand of murder against one another. Harsh rises the cry of the combatants encountering one another in dispute; already all the Church is almost full of the inarticulate screams, the unintelligible noises, rising from the ceaseless agitations that divert the right rule of the doctrine of true religion, now in the direction of excess, now in that of defect.
On the one hand are they who confound the Persons and are carried away into Judaism; on the other hand are they that, through the opposition of the natures, pass into heathenism.
Between these opposite parties inspired Scripture is powerless to mediate; the traditions of the apostles cannot suggest terms of arbitration.
Plain speaking is fatal to friendship, and disagreement in opinion all the ground that is wanted for a quarrel.
No oaths of confederacy are so efficacious in keeping men true to sedition as their likeness in error.
Every one is a theologue though he have his soul branded with more spots than can be counted. The result is that innovators find a plentiful supply of men ripe for faction, while self-appointed scions of the house of place-hunters reject the government of the Holy Spirit and divide the chief dignities of the Churches.
The institutions of the Gospel have now everywhere been thrown into confusion by want of discipline; there is an indescribable pushing for the chief places while every self-advertiser tries to force himself into high office.
The result of this lust for ordering is that our people are in a state of wild confusion for lack of being ordered; the exhortations of those in authority are rendered wholly purposeless and void, because there is not a man but, out of his ignorant impudence, thinks that it is just as much his duty to give orders to other people, as it is to obey any one else.

78. So, since no human voice is strong enough to be heard in such a disturbance, I reckon silence more profitable than speech, for if there is any truth in the words of the Preacher,
"The words of wise men are heard in quiet," Ecclesiastes 9:17 the present condition of things any discussion of them must be anything but becoming.
I am moreover restrained by the Prophet's saying,
"Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time, for it is an evil time," Amos 5:13
...a time when some trip up their neighbours' heels, some stamp on a man when he is down, and others clap their hands with joy, but there is not one to feel for the fallen and hold out a helping hand, although according to the ancient law he is not uncondemned, who passes by even his enemy's beast of burden fallen under his load. Ezekiel 23:5
This is not the state of things now. Why not? The love of many has waxed cold; Matthew 24:12 brotherly concord is destroyed, the very name of unity is ignored, brotherly admonitions are heard no more, nowhere is there Christian pity, nowhere falls the tear of sympathy.
Now there is no one to receive "the weak in faith," Romans 14:1 but mutual hatred has blazed so high among fellow clansmen that they are more delighted at a neighbour's fall than at their own success.
Just as in a plague, men of the most regular lives suffer from the same sickness as the rest, because they catch the disease by communication with the infected, so nowadays by the evil rivalry which possesses our souls we are carried away to an emulation in wickedness, and are all of us each as bad as the others.
Hence merciless and sour sit the judges of the erring; unfeeling and hostile are the critics of the well disposed. And to such a depth is this evil rooted among us that we have become more brutish than the brutes; they do at least herd with their fellows, but our most savage warfare is with our own people.

79. For all these reasons I ought to have kept silence, but I was drawn in the other direction by love, which "seeks not her own," 1 Corinthians 13:5 and desires to overcome every difficulty put in her way by time and circumstance.
I was taught too by the children at Babylon, that, when there is no one to support the cause of true religion, we ought alone and all unaided to do our duty.
They from out of the midst of the flame lifted up their voices in hymns and praise to God, reeking not of the host that set the truth at naught, but sufficient, three only that they were, with one another.
Wherefore we too are undismayed at the cloud of our enemies, and, resting our hope on the aid of the Spirit, have, with all boldness, proclaimed the truth.
Had I not so done, it would truly have been terrible that the blasphemers of the Spirit should so easily be emboldened in their attack upon true religion, and that we, with so mighty an ally and supporter at our side, should shrink from the service of that doctrine, which by the tradition of the Fathers has been preserved by an unbroken sequence of memory to our own day.
A further powerful incentive to my undertaking was the warm fervour of your "love unfeigned," and the seriousness and taciturnity of your disposition; a guarantee that you would not publish what I was about to say to all the world,—not because it would not be worth making known, but to avoid casting pearls before swine. Matthew 7:6
My task is now done.
If you find what I have said satisfactory, let this make an end to our discussion of these matters. If you think any point requires further elucidation, pray do not hesitate to pursue the investigation with all diligence, and to add to your information by putting any uncontroversial question.
Either through me or through others the Lord will grant full explanation on matters which have yet to be made clear, according to the knowledge supplied to the worthy by the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Repost Pt 5: The Road in Ruin...

I'm going to use an analogy which I'll call the Roman Road:
The War went on for millennia ; then our Saviour came and victory was ours...the way home was made clear - over the centuries all those seeking to return , to continue their long journey homeward were led towards a long road, straight and true, which led directly there...
it was well fortified and defended, it was always occupied with many thousands of travellers and companions all making the same journey ; enlightening, consoling, sharing all that they were and had...there were places of rest and refuge along the way, and in them we could regain our strength and determination to carry on and free ourselves from any unnecessary burdens and hear stories and inspirational poems and songs of long past travellers....

but darkness covered the land, local administrators , guardians of the road became negligent, lazy and indifferent to the safety of the travellers, signposts were torn down, lamp-posts were extinguished, regions of the road crumbled ,collapsed and fell into disrepair and became prone to bandit raids, towns and villages became cold and silent and laden with phantoms , to replace stone buildings mere shacks were erected, but few sought solace there - the laughing and singing rang hollow and less was talked about the journey or the way ahead and more about enjoying the now or the hovel in which they dwelled... the well known guides and community leaders hid themselves away most of the time, only emerging when it was deemed necessary for civic duty...previously where everyone knew either your name or was happy to make your aquaintance and become a friend and fellow traveller for life, more often there are secret people hidden in shadows, there are many orangeboxes along the road, upon each stands a scruffy individual telling everyone of shortcuts home, of sideroads which lead off the main road which are more comforting and secure...some declare that the road is no longer the way home, some shout that home is no longer there and we should stay put and make the best of it here...sometimes the braver innkeepers argue back or send these loudmouths away with a flea in their ear, but sometimes the innkeepers allow these renegades into their taverns with open arms and can be seen avidly discussing their ideas with the innkeeper in the backroom...
sometimes the travellers gather together to ask the town leader how they can continue on, do they have a map or directions...the town leader does not mention the older accurate maps but more recent local scribblings or sketches , even some he has made himself - which he is ready to give to anyone [for a modest fee of course!?]....want me to continue ? or are you depressed enough ?

let's be really honest;
the problem on a diocesan level is not that it is run badly by people of ill or misconceived will....
but that it is hardly being run by people of virtually no will at all !

To be blunt and 'analytical' : Dioceses are suffering from clinical depression...

Complacency, disillusionment, anxiety, fear, abject loneliness, despondency, denial of the real problems, no visible solutions, no hint of hope....

a few remedies are sought : hasty activity, making oneself too busy to contemplate what's wrong; making grand designs or schemes and putting all one's eggs in the one basket or risking everything with a single throw of the dice, then there is the seeking out of what people think is the problem - they ask among themselves and come to the conclusion that there is ;
a] nothing wrong - how could there be ? we're here!
b] something that needs to be done but it must be set off for the future because there aren't enough people or resources or we are too busy doing other things at the moment.
c] there was something that could have been done but now it's too late and we have made our bed now we have to lie in it and make do...
d] this is all part of a growing process, like birth pangs, the darkest hour before the dawn
e] we're already doing everything we can, we have already considered everything and it's all working wonderfully thankyou if only you'd allow us to get on with it and stop bothering us...

Ok, now imagine for some reason we have a new bishop who's been in a monastery most of his adult life and has no idea whatsoever what's facing him in his new diocese : what does he encounter?

Well for a start most of his authority within the diocese has been usurped from him !!? From Rome ? Of course not ! By his predecessor placing his own men in positions of authority ? No. Guess again...
Diocesan government has become riddled with 'quangos' ; most under the ostensible auspices of that dreaded behemoth known as the conference of bishops - education, RCIA, youth programmes, catechetical material in schools AND the diocesan representatives on those commissions, committees, quorums, clades, inner-rings [clerics or lay-people the bishop may personally loathe or consider a heretical reprobate]- they decide practically everything - even the movement of feast days , provincial timetables , a significant budget from the diocesan purse, etc , etc etc.. all the exigences which used to be within the sole remit of the bishop has been 'tendered out on a long-term lease'!!!

so the Bishop looks to his personnel ; and weeps...
the good people ? the effective, orthodox, holy men ? well there are a few but they are stuck clinging to their parts of the diocese for grim death trying to keep them into a coherent semi-functioning machine - simply none of them can be moved except maybe slid across to a larger more encumbent parish to replace the bloody useless ,if not dangerous or mentally unstable ones, some will be sick and elderly and incapable of doing anything more than they are possibly doing now, in fact for a few charity demands that some of their burden should be removed...
of the rest ?
well there will be a handful of priests going through a severe mid-life crisis - they will be in trouble, crisis of faith, mental exhaustion, deep feelings of all the things I've mentioned in previous postings, and for some they will have been up to less than a modal priestly behaviour.
The youngsters ? half of these priests are bleeding useless - they don't know what they're doing, they don't believe in half of what they're doing and most of the time they do as little as possible anyway or they're trying to find any excuse in the book to get out of doing what they are supposed to be doing....
some of the priests in the diocese will already be working to a diferent agenda and trying to impose it upon the diocese - the 'professional' clerics of the quangos, together with their covens of laity. the bishop either submits fully, attempts to waylay them or sidetrack their authority, or commences a long drawn out war of attrition attempting to regain his power and authority back from them...
there will be the odd tin pot tyrant who needs either kicked out of his post, or put out to pasture or merely deprived of a few of his more capable assistant priests who are being too well moulded into his image and likeness; and a few positions of power may need to be taken away from him too...
there will be a few surprisingly capable priests who are imply not being used to their full abilities ? why? diocesan politics - maybe they just don't fit in, or have made enemies in the wrong places or are just unwilling to conform to certain other people's agenda, and sometimes through just sheer negligence and oversightedness....
but within the majority ? who are the ones readily available for promotion ?

of course there are nominal jobs of little import these days as their roles are simply not used or implemented - things like 'vicars of clergy', deans [deanery structure is a joke!] ,boundary commissioner ,archivists etc - anyone can have these as they mean very little - there are the diocesan finances which are the main import so there will only be a select few capable of these anyway...
but the rest ? the bishops secretaries? the chancellors? vicar general ? the deans of the cathedral ? vocations director , canonical lawyers etc... well, unless the bishop is willing to go against the grain and pick the best for the job [something that normally only happens infrequently now, the bishop's secretary is mainly the priest the bishop loathes the least - the vicar general ? the least offensive or antagonistic , the vocations director ? the young charismatic well as that there will be a few positions that have to be filled with certain people 'expected' to get the job...] - so unless the bishop is willing to compromise some other aspect of the running of the diocese, he is compelled to pick from a select bunch :

these are invariably the ones whom the bishop can afford not to have have on the front line in the major parishes, the ones least likely to be boatrockers, the bland , the mediocre, the clever but not too clever [even though they may be ostensibly academic and may have had a couple of books or articles published - in this scenario intelligence has nothing to do with wisdom - and a bishop doesn't want any too wise in such positions - they'd be much better in a big parish] , the ones trained more as administrators or accountants, the ones with a head for business or are experienced with liaison with all the quangos but aren't part of the system, the paper shuffler, the inoffensive, the academic who did their licence in something worthwhile like canon law...
the non-entity who has just been around for such a long-time....the ones with 'links' to people in the know....

so regrettably the administration is run by the second-raters with a few non-raters thrown in and a couple of "I'd love to sack them now but I dare not - they're better inside the tent widdling out..." types...
there maybe the odd 'clerical celebrity' too - one famous for their being a member of some quango or commission or for writing something - whatever - they assume the authority by popular assent among the 'professionals' and it's better to go with the flow , even if you think they're either useless, just plain wrong, or responsible for the end of civilization as we know it !!

But have you noticed one thing?
I haven't mentioned a single thing regarding what the priest believes, how he acts, or how well he has integrated his priesthood into his pastoral life - why ? because the majority of the time when considering people for positions of authority and responsibility in a diocese it's an irrelevance !!! Unless the bishop directly goes out of his way to ensure it happens !
And a lot of the time the price is too high for the diocese and its structural integrity if the bishop chooses the best as his closest associates.

So what happens ?
when it comes to the choice of the next bishops ? among whom do the conference of bishops, the papal nuncios etc look to recommend ?
well whom do they know ?
who have they encountered?
who is 'sound' according to their agenda?
who is popular ?

you see here is the bitterest , deepest irony of them all...this is the age of the internet, the wi-fi, the blackberry, the mobile phone, the fax, video conferencing - you name it ...
this is supposed to be a global village...

would you be surprised to learn that the majority of clerics simply NEVER interact with each other except on the most major of diocesan occasions - some priest in the same town or city in neighbouring parishes may never speak to each other from one year to the next, the majority of priests in a diocese have neither had a decent conversation or any reasonable encounter with half of the rest of the diocesan priests - it's incredible ! it's ludicrous - but more than that it is highly morally disordered....

but this is the breeding ground for our new bishops...
and in such a stagnant pond how do you expect anything to truly flourish ?
sometimes the Holy Spirit works its way round human will and gets the right people in the right position, but all too often we get um...well?

This has been the worst written of all of these, and i apologise for it because it was written at lightning speed and with little real composition - but I'll have a go at trying to summarise what I'm poorly attempting to relate very shortly...

Repost pt 4: The Insulted & The Injured

One cannot repudiate the simple fact that vatican II wrought a considerable amount of enthusiasm from some quarters....
but on the parish level there was an awkward confusion about what was really happening - it's with a deep irony that the majority of vociferous clerics about the subjects of the council were ardent traditionalists ; they naiively presumed that there would be a sweeping clean of the stables and a return to orthodoxy and orthopraxis amidst the tiny hints of rebellion in the US and northern europe and the missions. Although there were major stirrings among the seminarians , the younger and the 'professional' clergy ; the ordinary priest on the doorstep was reticent to admit what was really going on - because generally he had absolutely no idea - basically they presumed it was going to continue as 'business as usual'....

Oliver Wendell Holmes said :
" I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity."
Good Pope John sought to gather the Church together in the simplicity wrought from complexity; regrettably the church ended up with a faux simplicity and simpletons.

It came like a thief in the night : like a subcultural new fashion - punks, hippies, goths, yuppies, emos - we suffered with endurance the living nightmare of the 'trendies'!!!!
The onslaught and desecration became more rife than anything any Tudor Monarch had wrought upon the church...the puritanical iconoclasts of old merely destroyed buildings and lives; these new trendies crushed and destroyed the purposes behind the building and lives.

Ok I apologise now because I'm going to go contemporary theologically 'incorrect' and mention the devil....
The worst thing about modern society is not that it is more evil [even though it is] but it's the failure to recognise blantant evil when it's right before one's eyes !
Now we have some pretty infantile ideas about the devil - part the absolutely gut wrenching terror of the exorcist; part 1930's suave sophisticated elegant bounder - the english cad!! ; part Iago - the supreme suggester in our ears....

let's make it clear - whatever this devil is - he is infinitely more dangerous than this - he's a spoilt brat seeking to destroy everything and anything merely for the sake that given any opportunity , he can!! One of the best analogies of the devil in his actions within the modern church is to compare him with, believe it or not, The Grinch who stole Christmas !!!

sounds a bit spurious doesn't it ? Until you remember what the Grinch did - he stole all the presents to make everyone miserable...

So the devil and all his minions used every fault,failure and weakness within us to make an all-out assault on our gifts...
I call this 'The War of the Sacraments'
Just think about it - Suppose we were some great anti-catholic legion - where would we intensify our assault ?
Come on , imagine it ; what would you do ? how would you destroy the church from within ?
How about this way ?

First destroy that which makes a catholic a catholic ; destroy what makes a priest a priest...

a] On baptism - make it unimportant , an irrelevance , deny original sin exists or twist the concept of original sin into something utterly unbelievable; imply that all religions are equal and baptism is of no intrinsic significance or worth. corrupt it until it crumbles....

b] Matrimony - yet again make it non-sacramental, non unifying, non-Godlike in its love.... assault it from every corner ; suggest it is non-fungible; equivocate it with secular marriage or mere sexual liaisons or homosexuality; and go for the jugular - destroy the unity of a husband and wife by depriving them of the graces of a family, allow them to become obsessed with sexual awareness and fulfillment rather than intrinsic mutual love - destroy potential children, destroy the bond, destroy the love !

c] The sacrament of the Sick - attack the very notion of life itself and promote the hideous evils of dying with dignity - kill off the handicapped foetuses because they may suffer in life, allow those in PVS to be starved to death, kill off the 'burden' of the terminally ill - deny the right to live until one dies - euthanise , eugenicise, abort !

d] Confirmation - destroy responsibility and adult maturity altogether - reaffirm the right to act childishly,narcissistically, selfishly and irresponsibly - instigate a blame culture or one ridden with psychological neuroses and excuses for any behaviour - live and act as if one is a teenager for the rest of your life - refuse to take on the mantle, never assume away from the adult life in Christ - assault the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit by ridiculing them, denying them or tormenting those who excel in them or live their lives according to them.

But now we come to the Crux...The major assault which is destroying Holy Mother church from both without and within.
e] The dissolution of Holy Orders
f] The Abolition of the Confessional
g] The denial of, and the spitting upon the Blessed Sacrament

We know it's happening - we can witness it all around us...
Now I think I've gone into more than enough detail regarding the priesthood elsewhere, the majority are not acting like priests, for a lot of these they have no notion or concept of priesthood to begin with ; so they fumble along in the dark , hoping that whatever they do will either suffice or placate....

But as the question was regarding the appointment of Bishops - I feel I need to concentrate my emphasis to that of the way the violation of these last three sacraments has personally affected the clergy:

Primarily it is through a loss of identity and understanding of the vocation. Alienating them from the seven corporal and seven spiritual works of mercy :

To feed the hungry;
To give drink to the thirsty;
To clothe the naked;
To harbour the harbourless;
To visit the sick;
To ransom the captive;
To bury the dead.
To instruct the ignorant;
To counsel the doubtful;
To admonish sinners;
To bear wrongs patiently;
To forgive offences willingly;
To comfort the afflicted;
To pray for the living and the dead.

Secondly it is through isolation and ignorance - remove all proper education and instruction from the sacred traditions and wisdoms ; remove them from the flock and make them devoid of any experience or understanding of their human condition. It thus deprives the clerics of the graces of the cardinal virtues: Prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice.

The easiest way to do this ? Make the confessional redundant, prevent the priest interacting with his people - stop the practice of home visiting - make the priest isolated from and ignorant of all the people around him.

Thirdly it is by depriving the priest of the ritual of being a priest - removing every habit or sacred ritual which complements or supplements and inspires the theological virtues : Faith, Hope & Love

Violate the mass, despoil it - de-sacralise it , demean and debase and de-spiritualise it; turn the symbolism on its head to represent the exact opposite of its intent

- Turn the mass, our participation in the ritual sacrifice of the public execution of God Incarnate for our Redemption - INTO A PARTY ROUND A TABLE!!!

- but most importantly - promote treatment of the most precious , sacred gift from God ; His very Body and Blood , instill the habit as one of overfamiliarity and disrespect verging on contempt ! No longer make the vessels valuable and beautiful and worthy to befit the King of Kings, rather turn them into bowls not fit for dogs to drink from ; no longer have the priest and people dress as if they are in the presence of royalty, no longer have the priest and people bow or kneel in homage of their God, no longer have the people receive the Blessed Sacrament ; compel them to give it to themselves...
destroy the dignity of the blessed sacrament , and you destroy every consequence that comes from that respect...

That's what mother Theresa meant when she said it brought her the most sadness !!!
A faithful catholic of a century ago would look upon the average contemporary mass of today with the horror and outrage of witnessing a satanic ritual - why ? the way we virtually spit upon the blessed sacrament through our indifference and abject negligence.

If a priest resides in this culture which disrespects the greatest of things ? how else will he act towards anything else ? save with an attitude distinctly devoid of reverence.

Lastly - once the priest is unaware of who they are, and no longer acting like a priest inside the church through prayer and ritual and respect/worship of the sacraments ; or outside the church pastorally within the community with respect for God's children,

once all the major damage is done ; impose the sin of Pride upon it all - poison it irrevocably through presumption and despair ; either make the cleric oblivious to these factors and allow him to continue as if everything is wonderful, or make him believe in nothing except his despondent futile ineptitude and the utter falsity of all that he and the church stands for.

... and to seal everything up - to prevent a change of heart , a damascene conversion, a metanoia ; ensure that the priest never encroaches upon the critical virtues - patience, gentleness and humility.

That's how to destroy the Church - it's a brilliant masterplan isn't it ???

Now, does any of this seem remotely familiar ?
Ok, on to the last part - what it's like in a diocese and why the best priests aren't becoming bishops....

Repost pt 3: It was the best of times: It was the worst of times...

Word Picture:

The old structure within a diocese almost invariably ensured that the cream floated to the top.
The cleverest, wisest, most charismatic or empathic, the most talented, the best preachers or pastors or spiritual directors/confessors - even on the rare occasion the holiest of priests would manage to reach the top jobs/positions within a diocese - most of us have been graced with encountering the type of priest I'm referring to.
Now even if some of them weren't the best among pastoral priests ; they were assuredly the most capable or effective administrators, good chairmen or team leaders - and rarely were there any who had not experienced and obtained a deep level of understanding regarding the human condition and the spiritual necessities for societies and the individual.
because the priests were highly active and very much about the Lord's business it was more often than not quite easy to determine a cleric's capabilities and talents.
the Holy Spirit made the job of a Bishop a great deal easier by pushing the more capable and responsible priests to the fore.
Frequently a bishop would be fully aware that he could both rely on his clergy and could be assured that anyone he placed in a diocesan position of responsibility/authority was already tried and tested by time and had proved their worth on many occasions beforehand . It was more than likely that a person he had 'chosen' for a position would become his or another bishop's successor; and he could be proud of both his choice and have few qualms about the future in that cleric's hands.

Then came Vatican II.

Now there were already significant embryonic factors within the clerical and episcopal make-up:

a] The efficacy of priestly formation was being compromised by increasingly poor,irrelevant or out-of-date/overly zeitgeist training in seminaries; and the limiting of the considerations of the duties and responsibilities of Holy Orders - usually the source of this was the poor example of priests and the overlying ethos of the seminaries regarding priesthood [too many educators in pastoral ministry had little experience of being pastoral ministers!]

b] The increasing duties, responsibilities and demands upon the priest within the parish led to six significant consequences/types of clergy:

i] the Hero - the priest who seized the helm of responsibility in the storm to prevent all around them sinking - assuming an authority and duty merely by being the right person at the right time who saw the problem and acted upon it.
ii] the Envious - those antagonistic to the hero-type - there may be a vast array of reasons/causes/motivations behind their positions ; but nevertheless the predominant result is their begrudging the hero's position - how they act on that envy also manifests itself in varied forms - hostility, indifference, diammetrically opposing positions regarding doctrine or praxis, procedural antipathy, reticence to assist or even direct action against the 'hero'.
iii] the Tin Pot Dictator - the Master of his own Domain - not much more needs to be said as we have all encountered and experience such a type - it may be a virtuous and benign dictatorship or one that has compromised its authenticity and supped with the Prince of this World; but nevertheless they are still dictatorships and the priest has jeopardised spiritual authority by confusing it with the secular and temporal.
iv] the Reactionary - what are they opposing ? good grief ! it could be anything - the Pope, the bishop, certain clergy, Church teaching on sexuality or contraception or divorce or celibacy, liturgical practice, aspects of church dogma, it could be politically motivated or over-encultured with the spirit of the age [we've all suffered the hippy priests, the corporate downsizing thatcherite priests, the blairite spin/procedural committee priests...all too sad!]
v] the Counter-Revolutionary Uber-Traditionalist - could be some belligerent irish canon unwilling to change anything and stopping time somewhere mid 1928, ditto an almost anglo-catholic brideshead-type who revels in the bells, smells, frippery ; or the youngster outraged at the pragmatism/situationist ethics/abject relativism/sacrilegious liturgies/banale indolences of the reactionary clerics; and counteract with an overpietistic or overlegalistic pseudo-conservatism verging on sedevacantism. [yes this is surprisingly not a new phenomena or a product of the outrages in the late sixties and seventies- the tridentinista were already gathering forces in the forties/fifties being fully aware that there was going to be trouble ahead]
vi] the Recluse - the priest who ran away and hid from any controversy, who either swayed in the wind and agreed with everyone, or dissociated himself from the prevailing situation and got on with his own job in his own quiet way.

c] Systemic Ignorance of Fundamental Theology among the Clergy - this is the deficit of the teaching of the underlying 'why' that I referred to in the previous posting ; and led to the massive ruptures regarding doctrine/morality/liturgy/clerical praxis/ecclesiology among the clergy - let's be truthful - what we had was a schism - the only problem was that both left and right, liberal and traditionalist, were so inadequately trained and educated in all the subjects they purported to be experts on, that their ignorance prevailed, incompetence ensued; and many millions of catholics were deeply hurt in the process.

d] The Crisis in Faith - it was on its way - academia and intellectual realms and alleged 'colleges of excellence' were adopting every new fad or ideology or innovative philosophical/political/socio-cultural/anthropological process - chaos reigned.
pragmatism, relativism, demeaning post-hegelian political ideologies, behaviourism, nihilism , linguistic and logical positivism and many more ideologies all had pervasive contaminating influences ; and the ignorant ill-educated clerics and theologians became corrupted by these prevailing forces...
The results ? Well please refer to my first posting regarding anxiety and despondency.

e] The Crisis in identity [more later, but basically I'm referring to the loss of an authentic notion of a Unique Real Ordained Priesthood in contrast to 'vocational pastoral ministries']

f] The Crisis regarding the Love of God and consequently the reality of both Love and God. [ref. first posting]

g] Existential Angst and the authenticity of anything the cleric professes/represents/adheres to ; in the light of d,e & f.

Now One person in 1958 was more aware of the clerical situation than any other - Cardinal Ottaviani [indeed every member of the Vatican General Council] was inundated with reports/assessments/new writings on the impending crises regarding doctrine, morality, the liturgy and most especially the clergy:
So much so that when John XXIII announced the actuation of a Second Vatican Council one voice was heard echoing through St Peter's:
'E Pazz!!' [He's mad!!!]
to the cardinal it was like detecting a gas leak and lighting a match to see where it was coming from....

We must concede that many necessary reforms and considerations simply had to be addressed or redressed - but what happened at Vatican II and the reprehensible post-conciliar committees was a systemic fiasco of the first order....

One of its benefits was that indeed, all the sins/poisons that had previously only lurked in the mud - now hatched out !!!
The result was the disenfranchisement of tens of millions of catholics - they were left abandoned to the wolves...Holy Mother Church ruptured and millions of victims were left in its wake...

a price worth paying ?
I'm sorry, but I believe the price was too high; but I trust in God and his Divine Providence - I am certain that God did not leave us orphans ; that ultimately there MUST be a reason as to why this happened and why God allowed it to happen....
could it possibly be that had we remained the way we were we may have altered into some monolithic autarchy ? or could the world have finally confronted us head on and destroyed us all in its wake ?
I don't know , all I am sure of is that it was God's will ; and it is now a wake up call to action for every devout and orthodox sinful catholic...

maybe this was a baptism of fire in preparation for the terrible adversities ahead ?
I do not know - but I do know the affect it has had on the church at a Diocesan level - and in the choice of clerics - which is what I'll address in my next posting.

[to be continued]

Repost: Pt 2: The Enemy Within

Nietzsche had a mandatory criterion for the possibility of God, meaning to Life etc ; and that was Love being eternal....

He could not believe it ; and I truly believe that the major source of the crisis in the Church is the simple fact that despite wanting to believe it, and all the verbiage and innovative ritual attempting to compensate or paper over the hints of disbelief, this lack of belief is prevalent.

But the unbelief isn't the disease, it's merely a symptom of something a lot more subtle.

The cause ? We need to go back a century and the age of presumption and arrogance. Italy , France and Germany were beginning to settle down after generations of crisis; Britain and Ireland were beginning to reap the benefits of the decades-long struggle to re-integrate catholicism, The US was gaining the security in the power of money and distance from warring europe - and catholicism leapt on the bandwagon grasping the opportunity to thrive espcialy among the millions of immigrants, the British Empire was stealing a quarter of the world from its rightful owners and instigating 'peace' down the barrel of a gun and utilising every available natural resource - and we resided in the shadow of that effect ; The Church was gaining ground, there were no significant adversaries and theological/scriptural/moral/canonical and clerical spheres were beginning to become effective and powerful influences within societies; the social teaching of Leo XIII made this even more of a concrete visible active prevailing force - we built churches, hospitals, schools, junior and senior seminaries bulging at the seams - and it's here we begin to see the first signs of complacency...

I'm not going to go through a history lesson - it's all readily available to anyone interested - but the first major test to the Church in the new century was modernism. Now Pius X was truly a saint and he sought to remedy a crisis in a specific way - suppression of the questionable ; and the re-emphasising and reformed expression of age old dogmas and their doctrinal implementation and consequences - almost every available resource was oriented towards what the church teaches and how it is to be taught....

You see the problem ? It's very subtle , but here's the root of what followed - we were complacent in that we presumed that society and the individual were not going to significantly change in their outlooks and lifestyles...

Inadvertently we'd become contaminated with Hegelianism - we'd catholicized his notion of the Geist - the development and progression of society and the Church along a certain path - all that was required was a reiteration of 'the what and the how' of Church teaching ; the 'why?' we believe or act wasn't exactly ignored, but it was never deemed an absolute intrinsic necessity towards understanding and living the catholic faith - and anyway, catholic society possessed the capabilities to deduce the 'why' from the hearts and minds of those who thrived in the overwhelming thrall of the Church. Because we had a surplus of understanding 'the why' among the average cleric or devout parishioner, we merely assumed that feeding the faithful [and the trainee clergy] with 'the what and the how' was more than amply enough for doctrine and praxis to be sustained. We presumed that the monolith of the teaching authority of the church would suffice. We were negligent because we failed to notice the idol of 'Church authority' had feet of clay.

Thus the message of the 'why we believe and live that belief' was neglected and compromised; and in a way it became distorted and obfuscated into being perceived as not primarily a spiritual authority ; but more a regimented temporal [albeit religious] was seen as 'surplus to requirement' to do anything other than 'state the faith', not continually prove was seen as an unnecessary exigency to do anything other than 'show love of neighbour' through teaching, healing, feeding, housing, consoling and caring - very little effort was made to emphasise the 'why we love' or to validate or prove or remind the faithful 'what business we are about and why'

This negligence only took three generations to wreak havoc -war irreparably altered society and the clergy were already being contaminated by this black hole in their catechesis and training; the ignorance manifested itself in two ways:

a] questioning every aspect of the Church and the faith it professed and the morality it demanded; failing to realise that one was not personally equipped or experienced or educated enough to assess or discern the core motives and reasonings of the fundamental teachings, these people decided that they could work out their own , personalised theology, morality and ecclesiology - or sought answers from sources external to the church [regularly of the protestant ilk like Bultmann, Barth or Tillich]

b] defiantly refusing to contemplate the possibilities of the motives or reasonings behind the church teachings [possibly out of fear or a sense of possibly losing the newly acquired temporal power within a parish/diocese] and rather than attempt to understand the why ; instead blindly following what the church says to the letter [and possibly adding a more rigorist or pietistic flavour to it in the process] - 'Just do what you're told and stop asking questions!!!'

It was a lack of education, a dearth of understanding , and a childish arrogance [something only truly present among the ignorant] that led to the initial divergence of what we perceive now as progressive/liberal/neo marxist and the Ultra-traditionalist 'fascist'.

rather than being a Faith ; this ignorance allowed ideology to pervade and contaminate the ranks of the clergy.

But what about the parishes and dioceses ?

Well charitable activity, intense social interaction, continuous prayer and devotion and the machinations of the Holy Spirit through these corporal and spiritual works of mercy delayed or even halted the progression of the 'intellectual' malaise...but even within this there were detectable flaws, especially amongst the attitudes of certain clergy - whereas previously they had taken up the mantle of responsibility for their flock, burdened themselves, sacrificed and lived their love for the parish - with subsequent generations this responsibility and earned position of spiritual authority became distorted into the presumption of the younger priests [or the older priests who had been 'tainted by habit to forget the origins of things' ] that this clerical position was one of temporal , civic, social authority. The ostensible 'shepherd' slowly metamorphosed into a normatively benign well-meaning dictator !!! But this was by no means a universal occurrence - the high amount of clergy and their busy lives interacting with the communities allowed human living and loving to deflate a lot of clerical egos and autocratic ambitions....the only places it was truly likely to happen was where socio-cultural influences thrust the cleric into more than just a priest but a civic representative of authority - this usually occurred in either the rural backwaters [e.g. in ireland where the priest was practically a minor deity - we can still se it today in certain regions of the developing world or in the US among the ultra-conservative protestant bible belt pastors] or amongst the isolated or disenfranchised immigrant communities - Italians, Irish, Poles etc....

This clerical ambiguity of their role as a priest ,
and the ecclesiastical consequences of poorly trained catechetical intellectual ignorance ,
with the splitting of the church along the lines of ignorant loyalty [right-wing] and ignorant defiance [left-wing];
together with the rise in political ideologies of all flavours and their mixing with the realms of philosophy and social sciences and even transgressing into theology ;
all wrapped up in the social upheaval after the second world war - inevitably led towards Vatican II

....and we all know the consequences of that. [To be continued]

The Problem....

Anyone who has known me for any length of time will tell you that one of my many annoying habits is repeating a single sentence which I've practically adopted as a motto for how to live my life - It was written by St Francis de Sales, exemplified through the praxis and pedagogy of St John Bosco, indeed it's been intrinsic to the life of every saint ;and it encapsulates Catholic Theology, Spirituality and Morality. It's quite a simple phrase really, one that's prone to being misunderstood and quoted as if it's merely something found on the back of a cornflake packet or in a fortune cookie.
But as Dostoyevsky told us , there is nothing under heaven that cannot be twisted, distorted or debased by men of ill will .
It goes like this :

"It is never enough to love someone ; that someone needs to know they are loved."

Now Mother Theresa was always a controversial figure , and no end of abuse was hurled at her when , in this world of wars, terrorism, sexual profligacy, abortion, poverty and disease rife in the developing world she stated :

"Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand."*

Communion in the hand ? Is she crazy ? Well let me put it to you that the Blessed Theresa was anything but...because if you look into what she's saying a little closer you'll arrive at some startling revelations about what is truly in crisis within the church. I'll return to this later.
*[n.b. it's subsequently been denied by her order that the Blessed Theresa ever said it - but apocryphal or no - if asked - She would have said it]

I once gave a sermon during my time as a Pastoral Minister in the US - it centred around a question:

"For a Catholic, what is the greatest 'object' in the world ?"

After qualifying the statement that the Blessed Sacrament was not truly solely of this world, and a catholic had already received the waters of baptism ...and after a few possibilities proposed to me by the congregation which I rejected; I pointed to the little box room in the corner of the church and said :

"There - that's the greatest object in the world !" and proceeded to explain why the confessional is so intrinsically important beyond our wildest imaginings....let me move on...

Now I'm sorry to be seemingly chaotic , but I do have a reason for beginning something , then leaving it hanging and proceeding to something apparently unrelated; but you must be asking by now what the heck has this to do with the clerical crisis ? Well please bear with me for a moment - I'm getting there.

Chesterton was one of the most significant adversaries of the sin of Pride - read any one of his apologetic essays and you will invariably find it having the overriding virtue of Humility as its fundamental tenet - but he goes beyond this to a great psychological insight - that Pride , and all its manifestations in arrogance, presumption or despair are grounded in two things : Ignorance and Anxiety - In order to be humble [ and thus be virtuous in any way ] you have to possess a freedom of spirit and an openness to understanding - a willingness to confront the unknown and face your fear.

Now the majority of people think it was FDR who said 'we have nothing to fear but fear itself';
actually the president plagiarised it from my old hero St F-d-S... and if you haven't read it before , I urge you with the deepest sincerity to read St Francis de Sales' chapter on Anxiety from his 'Introduction to The Devout Life' - it's one of the greatest pieces of psycho-analysis ever written. I've posted it already on this blog : here's the link

Our Lord and Saviour spent his entire life telling us to 'Be Not Afraid' ; and we poor, weak-willed sinners do everything and anything but listen to those words....

Aside from objective sin, Anxiety is the most dangerous phenomena as it compromises and jeopardises our freedom to accept God's overflowing graces or to act upon them. Not only do we run away from God , from the world and our neighbour, we run away and hide from ourselves.

The only way for this anxiety to be overcome is through the iron will of patience and unconquerable strength of gentleness ; in other words the only way is through Love.

Now we're nearly there: only a few more steps....

Now despite all its terrors and consequences , its hiding in the shadows, anxiety still resides in the shadow of Truth - even when it has lost everything else and dwells in confusion and delusion ; it still confronts and admits the validity and worth of Truth.

One can sink to an even deeper one of despondency where Truth or untruth is not even considered; one is so scared of addressing the possibility of anything's truth or falsity, of its reality or its being merely an illusion, that one both denies or dismisses the necessity of confronting anything remotely hinting at those concepts, and when confronted with these phenomena one runs away from them. In other words not only are you lying to yourself and fully aware of the nature of the lie ; you also become a fully-fledged coward.

Cowardice ? can it really be that simple or obvious ? That we're so scared of being scared , so scared of being wrong, so scared of it all being a delusion, or a lie, or a nihilistic nightmare, that we simply refuse to acknowledge anything ; and would rather run away and hide in the faux-security of self-delusion .
That we're so scared that our belief in God might neither be validated by God's reality, nor corroborated by our Human will that it is a truly some , if only weak, form of faith - we'd rather dismiss the concept of believing out of fear that we might be unable to believe...never risk loving or hoping out of sheer cowardice that we'd be unable to love or hope or have what we love or hope for confirmed by actually being made manifest?

No, it isn't that could it be ?

because it's actually more simple than that...

I asked my elder son a few years what being a Catholic was all about...

His answer ?

"God loves you !"...

[he kind of spoilt the moment by adding..."get used to it !" straight afterwards with a cheeky grin ; but the more I reflect on his words, the more I feel that this is the message for the world of today... if there is one thing the world and all its members needs to know - it's that God loves them....]

But what of Universal Divine Revelation ? Natural Theology ? The Incarnation, teachings, actions, passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ...

Surely after all this we should be able to find the reflections of God through His Creation and the Truth in the Person of Christ in all our endeavours and interactions , surely we must see the working of the Holy Spirit in whom we Live , Move and have our Being in all we encounter and survey ?

No, because I truly believe for some of us the abyss has opened into an even deeper chasm where not only does the person not know they are loved, or believe they are loved, or even believe that they are in any respect lovable; No, they have sunk to the level where the concept of love as possessing any reality beyond genetic programming ,hormonal urges or evolutionary survival technique is beyond them.....

They don't believe in love...and truth be told, they don't believe in God.

So to return to the beginning... what can we say ? what can we do ?

Ensure that our neighbour knows they are loved - it's simple enough - but being simple it's also the most arduous, sacrificial , devastating , heart-breaking but ultimately rewarding thing we can ever do...

But What has this to do with the Crisis in the Church and the clergy and the episcopacy ? and where does Mother Theresa's quote fit into this schema ? and what concrete implementations or policies can be actuated to remedy the situation...?

Well ? I'm coming to that...[to be continued]