Monthly Archives: May 2008

Guy Sebastian embraces Papistry…

…well, at least for his Wedding. And no, I am not implying by that that he and his beloved were married according to the rites of the Catholic Church or by a Catholic celebrant–as far as I know, they used neither.

But as Mother Nagsus points out over at Cooees, they DID use a Papist shrine for the occasion. I left a comment there to the effect that they it was interesting that they prefered a Catholic church over an AOG barn.

Which reminds me of an interesting fact. Ceremonial lives on in popular rites of passage long after we have forgotten their original purpose. How many guests at a modern wedding ceremony have any idea why there is a cake and why the bride and groom have to cut it?

I don’t have any sources for this, but the pop-wisdom is that when the puritans tried to do away with all papist ceremonies in England during the Republic, weddings were one area that refused to submit. Many later non-conformist churches (eg. old congregationalist churches even here in Australia) were built with two side aisles instead of a central aisle for the single purpose of preventing processions. Which might have suited the local pastor, but not the brides and brides’ mothers who wanted to get married in such churches. It was, I understand, the pressure for a “traditional marriage procession” down the aisle that saw the restoration of central aisle in many of these anti-papist churches.

Today, we see that even Japanese couples want a “traditional western wedding” with all the trappings, and civil celebrants offer “chalices” of wine to couples to drink together “as a sign of their union”. We can’t blame the Sebastians too much then. Their puritan barns might suit their puritanical theology of worship, but when it comes to such key social occasions as a wedding, even the most ardent protestant will succumb to the very human instinct to lay on the ceremony with a trowel.


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Dean Phillip Jenson: Not a Defender of The Faith, but a Defender of World Youth Day nonetheless

Make no mistake about it: Sydney Anglicans are Protestants and they ain’t finished protesting against us yet. But at least they do not extend their protestations to inhospitality, and that is something.

Dean Phillip Jenson, the brother of the Sydney Anglican Archbishop, has written an article in the Sydney Morning Herald called “Church of Rome hath erred, but Anglicans won’t rain on Pope’s parade”. If nothing else, it is an encouragement to see that some Anglicans in Australia are sticking to their historic identity as “Protestors”:

So we protest against Roman Catholic claims to authority. We object to the Pope claiming to be the Vicar of Christ. We reject all claims to authority that imply the insufficiency of scripture. We reject any implication that Jesus’s work on the cross was insufficient or is received by more than faith or requires some other mediator.

No, don’t bother explaining to Dean Jenson that he has most of this wrong. He won’t listen. He will assure you that he knows the Catholic Church better than we Catholics do. If you want another example of Sydney Anglican Protestation, go read the book “Nothing in my hand I bring” by Ray Galea. He gets most of it twisted too, but again, at least he knows what he is. He is a Protestant.

One would think that the Jensons would have enough protesting to do about the current state of the Anglican Church to keep them from being too worried about their neighbours who are Catholic. But no, Sydney Anglicans are so good at Protesting that they can protest on more than one front at the same time.

Nevertheless, Sydney Anglicans will be, according to Dean Jenson, good hosts for the World Youth Day. These Anglicans may protest, but they are civil and polite after all. One day, however, it is to be hoped that they might wake up to the fact that one the current religious landscape the Catholics may be the best friends and allies they have.


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A point by point critique of Robinson’s book?

According to Cathnews:

Marist Fr Michael Whelan, director of the Aquinas Academy in Sydney, Australia, responded to the bishops’ criticisms saying: “We have a right to know precisely what is doctrinally unsound with what Bishop Robinson has written and why it is unsound.

“It is a serious book and it demands a serious response,” Father Whelan added in his statement posted on the Aquinas Academy Web site May 19.

The “imprecision and vagueness” in the bishops’ “bland and defensive” statement, Fr Whelan said, is a “sad and discouraging reflection on the leadership of the Catholic Church in Australia, likely to confirm those who are unlikely to read Bishop Robinson’s book and alienate those who find it worth reading.”

Do they really want that? I do not believe that Fr Whelan is incapable himself of identifying the passages to which the “imprecise and vague” statement of the Australian Bishops refers. (He is, after all, an intelligent man). Nor can we seriously believe that the lay readers of Geoffrey Robinson’s book are so ill-informed. Essentially, the errors may safely be taken to be those bits of the book that simultaneously warm the hearts of dissenters and inflame the hearts of faithful Catholics.

In the meantime, Cathnews also reports that “at least 11 bishops, including Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles, asked Bishop Robinson to cancel his tour.” Unfortunately, we are not given a list of who these “at least 11” are. I take it that would be “at least” each of the 11 bishops in the 11 dioceses he would be visiting? No red carpet then? Small wonder.


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I may not be judging Tony, but Cherie stands convicted…

In the past I have defended our new brother Catholic Tony Blair. And some readers have pointed out that I was wrong to do so. Apparently, they had evidence. Well, I don’t know about Tony, but Mrs Blair, the good Catholic girl, is certainly convicted out of her own mouth. Sorry, Cherie, contraception has no place in the kitbag of the faithful Catholic.


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That combox is a real gold mine…

So you really DO have to read it. One of the gems (sorry, I said “goldmine” didn’t I? I meant “gemstone mine”…) in it is this spectacular one from Past Elder:

There is no difference whatsoever in saying I believe this because I agree with it and in saying I believe this because I believe in the authority which says it.

Okay, can the Logicians reading this please get to work on it? I think he is wrong.

Let’s try an example: I do not think going 10kmh over the speed limit is wrong. Yet I respect the authority of the police. When they pull me up for going 110kmh in a 100km hour zone I am not going to argue the point. I submit. I pay the fine. Do I agree with the authority? No. Do I submit? Yes. Do I, over time, come to see their point about the danger of speeding. Maybe. Let’s say I do, even if it is only because they keep fining me until I realise that at least one thing wrong with speeding is that it costs me a lot of money.

Or try this one. A homosexually active person becomes a Christian and accepts the literal authority of the bible as the word of God. In the bible he reads that homosexuality is wrong. Although it goes against all his inclinations, and involves a deep struggle to change his behaviour, on the basis of his acceptance of the authority of the bible he ceases his homosexual activity.

Sorry, Past Elder. It simply is not true (or at least it is too cynical) to say that we only accept those authorities who command us to do what we already agree is right. Sometimes, it is in accepting valid authority (an objective, rather than a subjective decision, as my example of the police and the speeding ticket should indicate) that we learn, against our natural inclinations, that certain behaviour or beliefs are wrong.

Ergo, accepting the authority of the Catholic Church is not simply a shifting of the Protestant doctrine of private judgement from the issue at hand to the authority in question, but a recognition of the objective reality of that authority and modifying our beliefs and actions accordingly.


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You really have to read that combox…

By which I mean this one at the end ofthis post.

It has elicited the most remarkable declaration from our good Lutheran correspondent, Pastor Weedon. To wit:

This Lutheran has NO intention of becoming Roman or Orthodox; I believe that the Lutheran Symbols express exactly the same faith articulated in the Sacred Scriptures. I know the comments are meant kindly “not far from the kingdom” or whatever, but know that they are really an insult to all of us who believe that the Church lives from the receiving end of God in the means of grace. When the Church is put at spot #1, it become an idol, and that’s what I fear has happened to many who convert from Lutheranism to the Roman or Orthodox jurisdictions. I have no intention of doing so and I wish that folks would stop implying that that’s where I’m headed. No way, no how. If I once thought along those lines, I no longer do and I’m rather glad that neither Rome nor the East hold any enticement to me in the least. I’ll take the poverty of the Lutheran Church with her pure confession anyday.

Ah well. I can’t say I ever set out with the intention to become Roman or Orthodox myself. I don’t believe it works that way. Pastor Weedon is to be thanked for such a clear statement, but one would remind him of his own Catechism:

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith…

That’s the way it works, old boy, and when it happens, God doesn’t take your own intentions much into account. But of course, you must protest your innocence of any such nefarious intention on your part. Otherwise, how could you continue in your ministry?


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Thanks to Dan at "Beatus Vir"; and a Defence of Newman’s "Development" thesis

I just want to say a big “Thank you” to Dan at Beatus Vir (a rather odd blog which has nothing on it except a link to three excellent documents that every Lutheran should read and then ask himself: Why I am not a Catholic?) for doing an excellent job in the combox discussion to my post below on Sacred Scripture establishing doctrine.

I have been a little pre-occupied with mundane matters of late, and have not had the opportunity to pursue my argument with Pastor Weedon as the topic deserved (with relentless logic and multiple quotations from the Fathers). Riding to the rescue comes Dan with the most excellently argued and well expressed reposts. Truly, Dan, you should put something on your own blogsite. No, on second thoughts, I am quite happy with you continuing your excellent apologetics on my blog!

And, while I can understand how Past Elder rejects the thesis of Newman’s “Essay on the Development of Doctrine” (clear proof of history and logic of argument meaning little in that quarter), I can’t quite make out how Pastor Weedon can dismiss it in such a cavalier fashion. He wrote (in the same combox string):

You have frequent recourse to Newman; I do not buy his entire line of argument of development and hence growth of the doctrinal corpus.

The faith of the Church is the faith of the Apostles; and the Apostles under the Holy Spirit’s influence wrote for us an inspired record of what they believed and what they taught and the Church is bound to this record in her teaching. To quote another Father on this very matter:

“What is the mark of a faithful soul? To be in these dispositions of full acceptance on the authority of the words of Scripture, not venturing to reject anything nor making additions. For, if ‘all that is not of faith is sin’ as the Apostle says, and ‘faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,’ everything outside Holy Scripture, not being of faith, is sin.” Basil the Great (The Morals, p. 204, vol 9 TFOTC).

Dan nicely shows how Pastor Weedon’s interpretation of the matter is clearly at odds with what St Basil himself wrote in another place, but nevertheless, can it truly be said that, by reflecting upon the deposit of faith which the apostles received from our Lord, authentic Catholic theology has been guilty of “rejecting anything or making additions” to that faith once received? Applied strictly, Pastor Weedon would require that we only use the words of Scripture itself in our preaching, and not interpose any interpretation or elucidation of our own. The fact is that in his essay, Newman describes and seeks to explian nothing other than what has actually and indisputably taken place in regard to the dogmatic affirmations of catholic and orthodox Christianity.

How anyone can deny it is beyond me. It is like denying that the sun comes up every morning simply because one has read somewhere in a science book that it is the earth which goes around the sun, and not vice versa.


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Kneeling for Communion: "For I have Given You An Example" (John 3:15)

The great thing about modern tele-communications is that whatever happens in Rome is known throughout the world within five minutes. The rest is up to bloggers.

Throughout Catholic history, liturgical developments have spread via imitation. While often the last to adopt new liturgical “fads”, Rome has itself often been a trend-setter, imitated by Churches throughout the world. In the past that process was slow, today it is (by ecclesiastical standards) practically instantaneous.

Witness the example of what some are calling the “Benedictine” (after the Pope, not the Order) style of placing a crucifix on the altar so that the celebrant might still be said to be celebrating “ad dominum” even though he is not facing liturgical east (cf. here for the effect of that example in Melbourne).

Now the eagle eyes of the world’s cameras have pounced on the fact that “four dozen people received the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling from Pope Benedict on the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.” Instantly the speculation on the blogosphere goes wild about some new command coming down from on high dictating a return to kneeling and reception on the tongue. Demonstrating once again what a power the blogging world is in terms of public opinion and media, the Holy See has been just as quick to respond:

Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don says “there are no new norms coming” that would change the Vatican’s 1969 decision that local bishops could allow their faithful to receive the Eucharist in their hands while standing.

He also says “there is no discussion” about insisting those who receive Communion from the Pope do so kneeling or that they receive it on the tongue rather than in their hands.

“But the gesture of the Holy Father is to be appreciated. It brings out in a better way the fact we adore the Lord whom we receive” in the Eucharist, Archbishop Ranjith said.

“It was a special occasion and I hope this practice spreads.”

(See Cathnews for the whole story here).

Get that? No commandment, no dictate, no arm-twisting. Just an example of a good practice, and one that the Congregation (and presumably Pope Benedict himself) hopes will spread.

Long ago in the Lutheran Church of Australia, the Commission on Worship realised that it was no good trying to tell Lutherans what they had to do in the liturgy. They would simply and stubbornly insist on their Christian freedom to do otherwise. So the Commission adopted the practice of providing good resources and making them easily available, and simply setting an example whenever possible of good practice. It didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t happen everywhere, but today the standard of liturgy in the LCA is 100% up on what it was twenty years ago.

Modern Catholics are much like modern Lutherans in this way. Or should we say that they are all simply human. They are much more likely to adopt good practice when they see its merits and they see it well modelled than they are if they are simply told “Thou shalt do it this way”.

John 13:15: “For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”


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Do I dare to sing the Sequence tomorrow?

Big dilemma at the moment. I am on music in my local parish tomorrow morning. Its Corpus Christi and the question is: Do I dare to sing the Sequence, Lauda Sion?

Now, Lauda Sion is a very tricky text. There are a few English translations (The one in the missal is dreadful, but this one is better).

The problems are principally the following:

1) it is extremely long (24 verses!)

2) the 8.8.8 metre is unusual, and it goes pear-shaped at verse 19 ( and then again at verses 23 and 24 (–so there are no well known tunes to sing it too

3) None of the English translations are modern, and some are really twee (eg. “the very music of the breast”) or tortured (“We break the Sacrament; but bold / and firm thy faith shall keep its hold; / Deem not the whole doth more unfold / than in the fractured part resides”) or simply grating (“the bread for God’s true children meant, that may not unto dogs be given”–I know the biblical allusion, but can one actually sing this?)

4) No Catholic hymnal I possess has any setting of it at all, not even the Adoremus Hymnal (I did find a translation to the original Gregorian tone in the New English Hymnal and a paraphrase by Alexander Ramsay Thompson in the Australain Lutheran Hymnal).

Given all this, it is no wonder that no one knows the damn thing. Yet the Liturgy Office of England and Wales lists it in their draft “Core Music Repertoire” (which is quite a neat document in itself).

Now, here’s the rub. Do I dare to sing it tomorrow morning? My parish priest usually likes a bit of music or something solo during the offertory instead of a hymn, so this would be a perfect opportunity to stick it in as a solo piece. In Latin? Or in English?

PS. While doing this blog, I came across this Spanish(?) site that has all the missal texts for the Sundays of this year on it in easy printing PDF form. Check it out!


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The New Missal: A Progress Report from the Australian Bishops Conference

A report in Cathnews today includes this:

Work towards new Missal proceeds

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference voted to approve the completed draft texts for the Roman Missal entitled: Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Intentions (January 2008) Ritual Masses (January 2008) and Eucharistic Prayers for Masses with Children (January 2008).

This follows the approval at the November 2007 Plenary Meeting of the completed draft of the new translation of the Roman Missal.

It is now anticipated that the completed Missal, with Australian adaptations, could be sent to Rome for recognition by the Holy See in 2009.

The Missal Implementation Team for Australia continues its work on making preparations for the new translation of the Missal.

A comprehensive multi-media resource is in the early stages of preparation. It is hoped that there will be an international resource able to be adapted for the needs of Australia.

Well, they say all things good come to those who wait. And wait. And wait. But at least they are doing this properly this time. Not like last time. Who was it on this blog telling me that all the preparation they got for the vernacular mass was “Next Sunday the Mass will be in English”? Now, after 40 years, it just might be true…


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