A Clip of Papa Benny consecrating La Sagrada Familia

Our Archdiocesan website has this clip on it. You may enjoy it. It gives a good view of the interior of the “Minor Basilica” (which is what it is now classed as) of La Sagrada Familia. I thought the Pope’s homily had some interesting points too. Especially the bit about Gaudi’s confidence that “St Joseph” would complete this church!


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The “Second Coming”??

Well, not quite. I will be “coming again” to St Benedict’s in Burwood this Saturday to continue the Anima Education course on Eschatology (“The Last Things”). All are welcome. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t come to the first half, in which we dealt with teachings of the Kingdom of God, body and soul, death, Heaven and Hell. This Saturday, we will be continuing with Purgatory, Resurrection, the Second Coming, the Judgement and the New Creation. So there is still plenty to get out of this one day seminar. We start at 10am (after the 9am mass in the chapel at St Benedict’s) in St Benedict House, a few doors down from the Church (at 301 Warrigal Rd. Burwood), and go through to 3:30pm. There is a small fee ($10 I think) to cover expenses. It should be a great day. Full details here.

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Can’t see this “open letter” having much effect

There is, apparently, an “open letter” to Anglican “dissidents” considering entering the Church through Anglican Ordinariates in the Tablet. The irony is that it is not on-line, so not very “open”, eh? Still, thanks to Catholica for posting it. I don’t think it will have much effect on those considering entering the Ordinariates, since “the deeply anti-modernist thinking (and pessimism towards modern culture) which has obsessed Pope Benedict XVI” is exactly what is attracting these folk away from the Anglican communion towards communion with the Catholic Church.


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What (Who?) they are preaching at “St Mary’s in Exile”

It is always a bit of an education to take a squiz at the Catholica Australia website. A link from their discussion board took me here, to the St Mary’s Community in Exile South Brisbane website, and a post entitled “Greg Latemore – Homilist October 30- 31 2010”. What was Mr Latemore preaching at St Mary’s on “Reformation Day”? Or rather “Who” were they preaching? Not Christ, it appears, but Hans Küng. And to make his point, Mr Latemore drew up the following table contrasting Prof. Küng to his archnemesis, Prof. Joseph Ratzinger, aka Pope Benedict XVI. To assist us in the grasping of his point of view, Mr Latemore provides us with the following table (I have reproduced it as it appears on the Catholica website)


Not a completely helpful comparison, because it isn’t completely accurate, is it? I won’t argue about Mr Latemore’s description of the positions of Prof. Küng, but I would argue about his characterisation of the Holy Father on a couple of points, viz.:

1) “Apparent vision”: Mr Latemore describes Hans Küng’s vision as a vision for “an ethical world” and Pope Benedict’s vision for the world as “A Catholic World”. His description of Küng’s vision as an “ethical” vision is true enough, but does beg the question of what “ethical” means in this context. Whose ethics? What standard of ethics? Be that as it may, I think it would be more accurate to say that Pope Benedict has “a Catholic vision for the world”, rather than “a vision for a Catholic world”. I am sure you understand the difference.

2) “Apparent time scale of interest as a Christian”: Mr Latemore says that while Prof. Küng’s interest ranges from “biblical origins and the early church to today”, Pope Benedict’s interest is limited to “from Augustine & Nicea to today”. That seems rather bizarre. Has Mr Latemore not read any of Pope Benedict’s works, many particular studies of particular biblical themes and passages, and especially his most recent and continuing study of the Gospels? Has he not been paying attention to the Holy Father’s long running series on the saints of the Church, from the apostles right up to the current series of the great women saints? To say that Ratzinger has not always been deeply engaged in biblical and early church studies seems to show a total ignorance of any standard bibliography of Joseph Ratzinger. AND I would say that in fact Prof. Küng’s focus actually extends beyond “today” to the next generation and perhaps the generation after that. In just the same way the Holy Father’s interest in ecclesial eras goes beyond “today” – even further beyond “today” than Prof. Küng’s. The Holy Father’s teaching and preaching is always focused upon the Eschaton, the end of days, the coming of the Lord, the resurrection of the dead and eternal life. When you take that into account, I think that you will see how limited is Mr Latemore’s appreciation of Pope Benedict’s “time scale of interest”.

3) “Apparent Focus”: Mr Latemore’s “homily” declared that Prof. Küng’s focus is “Christianity” while the Holy Father’s focus is “Christendom”. Again, he get’s Ratzinger entirely wrong. Ratzinger’s real focus is Christ. One need only read the first paragraphs of his first Encyclical to get that. “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” The teaching and preaching of Pope Benedict is entirely focused on the encounter with the person of Christ. It is true that he is also concerned about what might be called “Christian culture”, but only because he believes that the encounter with Christ is not just for individuals, nor even for the Church, but God’s intention for the whole of society. In this way, society itself undergoes much the same transformation that takes place when the individual encounters Christ.

4) “Apparent idea of the Church’s vocation”: According to Mr Latemore, Küng’s idea is “To be partners with the world” and Ratzinger’s is “To convert the world”. I can’t really argue with that. I think he is quite right. I just ask you which you think is closer to New Testament Christianity.

5) “Apparent attitude to other religions”: Again, I can’t really argue with Mr Latemore’s characterisation of Küng’s attitude to other religion as “valid paths to salvation”, whereas the Pope believes that the Church is the “path to salvation”. But I will argue that he is wrong in saying Pope Benedict “recognises but does not value” other religious traditions. He does value them, precisely as the Church does, namely as containing something of the true human yearning for God, and something of God’s revelation. He is simply being true to the witness of the apostles in saying that they are not complete or perfect sources of revelation.

6) “Apparent idea of the role of theologians”: Again, Mr Latemore is more or less correct when he says that Küng’s idea is that theologians are “answerable to scholarly research & conscience”. I don’t think Ratzinger would argue with that as an important and indispensible element of the work of a theologian. But, as Mr Latemore says, the Pope does believe that (in the final analysis) Catholic theologians are “answerable to the Church’s magisterium”. I think that says more about the difference between these two men in their understanding of the purpose of theology. Küng believes that theologians should BE the “magisterium”. The Ratzinger recognises a higher authority beyond the theologian’s own scholarship and conscience. Küng does not.

7) “Apparent attitude to celibacy”: I think the Holy Father is just as aware as Küng and Mr Latemore that celibacy is “Church law” rather than “Divine law” – otherwise how could the Pope recognise the tradition of the Eastern Churches as valid? What the Holy Father understands, and Küng does not is that there is a benefit to the Church in the discipline of celibacy, that it is a “Divine vocation” rather than a “law”, which befits the calling to the priesthood. Basically, Küng sees it as a negative and Ratzinger as a positive.

8 ) “Apparently opposes”: There are lots of things both Küng and Ratzinger would agree on opposing, but if you want to single out a couple of items, it is true that Küng opposes what he (and Mr Latemore) calls “clericalism & dogmatism” whereas Ratzinger has opposed “secularism & relativism” all his life. I guess the question is: which is the greatest danger to the world today?

This little exercise is indeed, as Brian Coyne says on Catholica, a pleasant “distraction [from] the Melbourne Cup” and other things going on in the world, but I ask you whether it is the stuff that homilies should be made of? In the end, who are we supposed to be preaching: the ideas of this or that theologian, or the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ?


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Wanted: A Priest/Parish to “Sing the Mass”

I recently attended a Hindu-Catholic conversation on chanting. Hindus, of course, have maintained a very ancient form of chant that forms an integral part of their prayer and spirituality. The Catholic who presented on our behalf, a priest, brought along the Liber Usualis (you can download a complete copy here) and beautifully and expertly led us in some of the great variety of chants from this resource. And yet, when I asked him afterwards, he said that he does not believe that the chant can or should be revived. “It’s time is past”, he said.

Is it?

Fr Nick Pearce writes about a new book called “Gut Check” by Tarek Saab. He quotes from Saab’s book as follows:

I attended mass at my local parish like I had every Sunday, but I failed to connect with the promise of mystery in my Catholic belief. Absorbing the mind numbing sappy, guitar hymns, or the fiftieth iteration of the “God loves you” sermon from a happy-go-lucky preacher, was a gut-wrenching experience for any man with an ounce of testosterone.” (p124)

…In my local church, like many other, the treasured master pieces of Catholic art were replaced in favour of sandal clad caricatures with all the realism of a Hanna-Babera cartoon. It could have been tolerable if I had sensed any level of reverence from the community, but apathy had found a new home in the cargo shorts and unkempt appearance of communicants, while others claimed to be “on fire” with a form of trendy, secular Christianity.”(p125)

This is such an accurate description of the experience many have of modern Catholic liturgy. Some time ago, Jeffrey Tucker wrote a book called “Sing like a Catholic”. I disagreed with Tucker about his attitude to hymnody (which I think can have a positive place alongside the use of the chant in mass) but entirely agreed with him that we need to reclaim our treasured heritage of chant if we wish to reclaim the authentic spirit of the Roman Rite. (Just try to imagine for the moment a liturgy in the Byzantine or Syriac Rite spoken, if you want to understand what I mean.)

I have my own theory about why chant has been completely lost from the Roman rite, and partly it is because when it was done it was only ever done by the Schola rather than the congregation, and partly because the dominant form of liturgy in parishes before the Council was Low Mass, in which no chant (no music!) was used at all. Others argue that the chant has to be in Latin and cannot be in English. But from my experience of the traditional Lutheran liturgy I KNOW that the chant can be in English and that the ordo of the mass can be sung by a congregation (with the propers done by a Schola).

The fact that the new English missal will have the chants for both the celebrant AND the congregation seems a clear enough indication that the Church actually WANTS us to sing the mass (the whole issue of the singing of the propers in English is another thing altogether – see this interesting project by Adam Bartlett and Jeffrey Tucker here). The question is, what are we going to do about it? Where is the Parish or the Priest that will take the bull by the horns and actually schedule a regular weekly mass that puts this vision into action?

There are two papers that I can point to that should encourage this attempt. The first is “Towards the Future – Singing the Mass”, a keynote-address to the Southeastern Liturgical Music Symposium by Msgr Andrew R Wadsworth, Executive Director of The ICEL Secretariat given in Atlanta, Georgia on August 21 this year. The second is a comment on this by Adam Bartlett called “An Experiment in Sacred Music Resource Production: Let’s Lay an Egg!”. Again, my question is: is there anyone who can put this into practice? It would take either a parish or at least a priest with the vision to give this a go. Let me say at once that if any such parish or priest is willing to take up the challenge, I would be more than happy to be a part of the team helping to bring it to reality.

It’s not just the chant, of course, but the whole shebang: ad orientam celebration, kneeling for reception of communion, good challenging Catholic preaching, good solid (musically, lyrically and doctrinally etc.) hymnody, faithfulness to GIRM and the rubrics etc. But if we are going to start somewhere we need at least a priest to be the celebrant, and a parish willing to host such an oddity which can be a model for the whole archdiocese.


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Reading the Junkmail

…can sometimes be like reading Tarot cards or tea leaves. Here are the only two articles to arrive in my post box at home yesterday:

Is that spooky, or what?

I have written to Jo Tenner, and to James Merlino (Labor) and to Matt Mills (Liberal) with my questionnaire based on Your Vote, Your Values. Apparently, James (the currently sitting member, a Catholic in good standing and definitely pro-life), would need a swing against him of 6.8% if he were to lose the seat. That doesn’t sound likely, but who knows what havoc the Greens vote might cause in Victoria this year. (BTW, self-disclosure: I am usually a Liberal voter – decision will be more difficult this year).

I do think I need to say one thing about the Greens, though, just in case you might take me for a melon-smasher. I thoroughly get the fact that Greens candidates and supporters are sincere in their beliefs and are committed to doing what they believe to be the “right thing”. I was saying to DLP Senator Elect John Madigan on the phone yesterday morning (he rang me) that I believe we do the Greens a discourtesy if we treat them as if they were dishonest in their motives, or as if ethics and morality did not count for them. In fact, I believe they are almost as fanatical and zealous in their moral beliefs as we Catholics are.

Where we differ is not in our moral sincerity and honesty, but in what we believe to be “the right thing”. Our argument against the Greens should therefore not be an ad hominum attack, but an argument about issues.

Nor are we opposed on all issues. On the back of Jo’s flyer is the statement:

“The Greens stand for funding preventative Healthcare and early intervention in Mental Health services as well as making sure Ambulances, GPs and Hospital Beds are available where and when you need them.

That could be taken as a positive answer to the question in “Your Vote, Your Values” which says:

Will you commit to:
•strengthening preventative and early intervention measures [for mental illness], and committing sufficient resources to enable effective treatment?

So some of their policies are good, and some of their policies are ones that Catholics can support. The problem is with with those other policies, the ones on matters of human life and dignity from conception to natural death, on marriage and family, and on the freedom of religion and Church/State relations.

I have a lot of respect for Greens candidates. They stand for what they believe in. I like that. I also like watermelons. I just don’t like the pips.


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Fr Lombardi’s “Reformation Day” message

Lutheran readers of this blog will be aware that we have not only celebrated All Saints Day this week, but also “Reformation Day”, the anniversary of the nailing of the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church. Somewhat ironically then (although the irony would have been missed on most Catholics) a small group gathered in Rome on Sunday observed a new “Reformation Day” to draw attention to the scandal of child abuse in the Church (as if we needed reminding!). Gathered at Castel Sant’Angelo, a short walk from the Vatican, a victims group called “Survivors Voice” (led by two Boston-area abuse victims from the United States, Gary Bergeron and Bernie McDaid) held a vigil last Sunday to call the Church to greater action in this area.

Fr Fredrico Lombardi, the Vatican Press spokesman, met the group and read to them a personal message (not an official statement from the Pope) urging the group to see the Church as an ally in the fight against child abuse, rather than an opponent. Here is his letter (courtesy of John L. Allen Jnr):


On the occasion of “Reformation Day”, organised by “Survivor’s Voice”
By Fr. Lombardi

The windows of my office at Vatican Radio are just a few metres away, and therefore it seems fitting to me to listen, and to make a tangible sign of our attention, to your meeting.

This intervention of mine is not an official one, but because of my deep insertion and identification with the Catholic Church and the Holy See, I believe I can express the feelings shared by many regarding the object of your manifestation.

In this, I feel encouraged by the attitude of the Pope, made manifest many times, that is, to listen to the victims, and show the will to do everything necessary, so that the horrible crimes of sexual abuse may never happen again.

I must say that, even though I do not share all of your declarations and positions, I find in many of these the elements on which one can develop a pledge, that will bring solidarity and consensus between us.

It is true that the Church must be very attentive so that the children and the young, who are entrusted to her educational activities, may grow in a completely secure environment.

Yesterday morning, a hundred thousand young people were present in these places for a great celebration of their faith and of their youthfulness, and they are but a small part of the youths who take part with trust and enthusiasm in the life of the Church community. We must absolutely ensure that their growth be healthy and serene, finding all the protection which is rightfully theirs. We all have a great responsibility with regards to the future of the youth of the world.

It is true that the procedures of investigation and of intervention must be ever swifter and more effective, whether from the Church or from the civil authorities, and that there must be a good collaboration between these two, in conformity to the laws and situations of the countries concerned.

I know, you think that the Church should do more, and in a quicker way. From my point of view – even though one may and should always do more – I am convinced that the Church has done, and is doing a lot. Not only the Pope, with his words and example, but many Church communities in various parts of the world have done and are doing a lot, by way of listening to the victims as well as in the matter of prevention and formation.

Personally, I am in contact with many persons who work in this field in many countries, and I am convinced that they are doing a lot. Of course, we must continue to do more. And your cry today is an encouragement to do more. But a large part of the Church is already on the good path. The major part of the crimes belongs to times bygone. Today’s reality and that of tomorrow are more beckoning. Let us help one another to journey together in the right direction.

But the more important thing that I wanted to say to you is the following, and I feel encouraged to say it, because it seems to me that you also are aware of it.

The scourge of sexual abuses, especially against minors, but also in a general way, is one of the great scourges of today’s world. It involves and touches the Catholic Church, but we know very well that what has happened in the Church is but a small part of what has happened, and continues to happen in the world at large. The Church must first free herself of this evil, and give a good example in the fight against the abuses within her midst, but afterwards, we must all fight against this scourge, knowing that it is an immense one in today’s world, a scourge which increases the more easily when it remains hidden; and many are indeed very happy that all the attention is focussed on the Church, and not on them, for this allows them to carry on undisturbed.

This fight must be fought by us together, uniting our forces against the spread of this scourge, which uses new means and ways to reach out today, helped in this by internet and the new forms of communication, by the crisis hitting families, by sexual tourism and traffic which exploit the poverty of the people in various continents.

What the Church has learnt in these years – prompted also by you and by other groups – and the initiatives that she can take to purify herself and be a model of security for the young, must be of use to all. For this, I invite you to look at the Church ever more as a possible ally, or – according to me – as an ally already active today in the pursuit of the most noble goals of your endeavours.


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