Monday, 30 September 2013
Sunday, 29 September 2013
Religion can only do as much harm as science allows it.
Saturday, 28 September 2013
If one could reproach the Renaissance papacy it would not be for it being too medieval but rather for being too modern. The overwhelming interest in secular pursuits, sex, reputation, greed and good food, what else would be needed to make the modernist merry?
Friday, 27 September 2013
Thursday, 26 September 2013
Wednesday, 25 September 2013
I have been holding off on writing this short article which I have been planning on doing for a while now, but I believe that it would be appropriate to contribute something of my own to the debate about His Holiness Pope Francis, his vision for the Church and his manner of approaching the key issues of our age. I am not going to grade the Vicar of Christ on his performance but I do wish to state my unease, discomfort and nervousness every time he attempts to detail with loaded issues.
The first statement that I believe we must recognise is that Jorge Mario Bergoglio does not understand what it means to be pope, to be the Successor to Saint Peter in the See of Rome. We live in a world where our politicians, celebrities and of course, religious leaders are covered 24/7. The first two can benefit from such extensive coverage to promote their agendas and to advertise their products. Yet it is a different matter for the pope. It can be a wonderful opportunity for the faithful to observe the Holy Father and listen to his teaching and counsel, and this is provided for by wide coverage of his every move. However this presents a unique danger to the pope who is not prudent enough to consider that those who report on him are generally hostile to the Faith. He must be aware how his words will be twisted or utilised to meet a certain agenda. He must tailor his words so that no doubt may remain as to his intention. Should he speak as much as he does or would like to? My answer is probably not. At least in the manner that he has been engaging in. Pope Francis, I am sure, has a number of personal attributes that we could all benefit from, but it is obvious that clarity is not one of them. Perhaps he should have stuck at the 'decadent Thomist manuals' that he recently decried.
On this blog I may stumble out some garbled teaching or offer an opinion that is too harsh or too lenient, but I have no authority whatsoever. Few will ever come across my words, fewer still will bother to read and consider them. My thoughts are derived from my own reading, conversations and interpretations about the Church and the world.
Pope Francis on the other hand, does not possess such a luxury. I may state an opinion or belief that is fantastical or downright wrong but the newspapers will not publish my thoughts with bold headlines stating, 'Charles Milligan decrees XYZ'. The pope as the Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church must recognise his public role and the necessity of presenting clear doctrine for the sanctification of the people entrusted to his care in these times. He is no longer simply Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Of course he can not do away with his personality and natural attributes, we should never demand that he do so, but he must have a new vision and realisation about his task.
So much about the papacy is its public face. How it presents itself to the world. It is rather obvious that Pope Francis is struggling to come to terms with that. Within hours of his election, the newspapers and the blogsphere were alight with claims that he would completely disregard tradition (and therefore likely to alter Church doctrine) simply as he refused to wear the mozetta upon appearing on the loggia. How dull of understanding are they! Yet I say he should be conscious of their likely reactions to his actions. The papacy is not about the personality of a Bergoglio, a Ratzinger or a Wotyla. It surpasses all possible names and personality types. The Faith will endure many years after he has died. I understand that ceremony and formality may be foreign to Bergoglio, but as Pope Francis he must make them his own for the sake of the Church. Pope Saint Pius X certainly was humble and poor in his origins, but you will not find a man who has ever assumed such an aristocratic poise or formality for the sake of the Church than he. He must present an image of the Church that is strong and faithful to its constitution, the proclamation of our redemption in Jesus Christ. He has to be stubborn for the sake of the truth.
In the modern world there is far too much consideration for the forging of a personal legacy. The press demands that the man who assumes the papacy that he must make it his own. He must distinguish himself from the public face of the papacy and from his predecessors. But I state, I am sure to the horror of the ''neo-Catholic'', maybe Pope Francis will have no legacy whatsoever. This may seem impious to them but I ask them how many popes do they really know about in the twenty centuries of the Church? The post-Vatican II bishops of Rome? Before that? Maybe Leo XIII because of Rerum Novarum? Perhaps Saint Gregory the Great? There so called piety is misplaced.
Quickly I wish to trace some key lines of how Pope Francis the man wishes to approach the world. I would have a different approach, probably threatening excommunications and suspensions and alienating potential collaborators. Rightly or wrongly, Pope Francis is attempting to show the human face of Christ to a world that is lost and confused. He believes that his simplicity and his off-the-cuff manner will prove attractive to men of good will. He probably sees the Church as suffering from a public image crisis. Certainly the fame of the Catholic Church has been besmirched by the ineptitude and downright evilness of some of her pastors and Pope Francis believes this is the right way to present an alternate face of the Church. But I warn that he must not fall into the trap of the liberal elite. They have a particular vision of the Church which reduces the Bride of Christ into a mere humanitarian organisation. To his credit the Holy Father spoke out about that very quickly after his election. His approach seems entirely natural to him and he is very different from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. That is not to say that Benedict lacks humility, which is patently absurd to those who have watched him closely. Papa Bergoglio is no intellectual which suits the modern world as it does not make them uncomfortable and his lack of clarity is ripe for twisting.
Much more can be written about His Holiness and perhaps he will surprise us. Occasionally the bluntness of his words condemning certain aberrations are refreshing as he does not employ the nuances of his predecessor. Let us continue to pray for him so that he learn to assume the papacy with a strong sense of duty the Faith handed onto the saints once for all. May the Lord grant him prudence in his words and actions.
Tuesday, 24 September 2013
This Saturday I was privileged to assist at the Episcopal Consecration of Mgr Leo Cushley as our new Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh. I will pass over with a mental 'tut' the presence of Protestant guests standing in the sanctuary or the fact that a young school girl read the Epistle when you had plenty of clerics present to do their job. I wish however to focus on the duties of a bishop in this short reflection.
The Apostle tells us that it is legitimate to desire the office of the episcopate (I Timothy 3) but he sets out the qualifications for one who follows in the path of an Apostle, namely that he should be prudent, vigilant, sober, of sound mind and live an impeccable life among men. The crisis of confidence in the uniqueness of Christ's Church and of a firm commitment to her saving mission must be known by all of us. Let us not be so naive to believe that all is well with the flock Christ has entrusted to the shepherds of His Bride. Our parishes have declining numbers, seminaries are empty (apart from the various traditionalist ones), nuns have fled from their habits and prayers and have turned into activists, ignorance pridefully reigns among the laity. How many souls have perished already or will perish if this sad state continues to exist? What will happen to our bishops, the primary teachers of the Faith in their jurisdictions? There is far more to the office of bishop than purple buttons! Although it is a holy desire to be consecrated as a successor to the Apostle, to receive the fullness of the priesthood, to be able to lead a diocese to salvation, the man elevated to such an angelic state must be fully aware of his duties and responsibilities. His own salvation depends on the salvation of the flock entrusted to his care.
He must enter the sanctuary daily with a pure heart to offer the unblemished Sacrifice to the glory of God and for the salvation of his flock. He must counsel prudently those who seek his advice and spiritual expertise. He must bear patiently with sinners, console the grieving, attend to the poor and sick, all without complaint. His preaching of the Faith must be clear and concise. He must alert the faithful to the errors and dangers of the day. He must show the face of Christ to those who have defaced their own divine likeness through sin. His first concern upon awaking should be to praise God and to beg Him for the grace to carry out his duties with due diligence.
St. John Chrysostom remarks that a man would be better to flee such a burden. After all, when much has been given, much is expected (Luke 12:48). I do not offer my advice to His Grace, I am simply setting out the duties of a bishop as they are.
The patron saint of our nation is St. Andrew and this name in Greek signifies 'manly. Oh how we need men in the episcopate! We need fearless leadership among the clergy, who will state clearly the truth and be unashamed of the Faith handed onto the saints. He must be a man first to be an effective father. He should abandon as a grave danger the meetings and summits with politicians and dignitaries. He should not seek the company of such people who utilise the Church to their own ends. Our politicians endlessly blaspheme the Lord while proclaiming religiosity and moderation. The bishops must be aware of this deception, calling out their errors, especially if they claim to be Catholic. I am not calling for our bishops to abandon the public sphere I am urging them to be cautious and aware of the devices of politicians. Too often our shepherds launch onto the latest social justice craze whether it be 'green' light bulbs or carbon emissions. He becomes a servant too frequently of those who support the greatest evil of our time, abortion. Usually he does not realise what kind of company he has entered.
I also speak out against the 'trendy cleric' who seeks to be friends with the world in order, as he claims, to make the world more disposed to accepting the Church. Such a false Church would not be worthy of accepting. It would offer nothing as it demands nothing. Truth and holiness should be attractive enough to people.
The Church universal and triumphant celebrated with joy the consecration of Leo Cushley but we must not neglect these sober truths outlined above. Let us pray without ceasing for our shepherds that they may first know Christ to lead us to Him.
I also ask for prayers for our former Archbishop, Keith Patrick Cardinal O'Brien. He has done immense harm to our Church but I do feel terribly sorry for him. Remember him and all others who have failed.
I managed to greet His Grace after Mass and he did not pull away his hand as I and others kissed his ring, a small but good sign.