Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What Would Jesus Do? What did Jesus Do?

The phrase "What Would Jesus Do" has once again become popular mainly through the use of "WWJD" bracelets. This is perhaps the question that St Martin of Tours would have asked when he gave his cloak to the beggar. The concept of imitatio dei (the imitation of God) has always formed the basis of the lives of the saints and ordinary faithful Catholics. The idea of the imitation of Christ is the central theme in Thomas a Kempis’ great spiritual classic, "The Imitation of Christ".
In recent times however this phrase has taken on a new meaning and you hear it being used to challenge the authority of the Church, usually in situations when someone thinks the Church is acting harshly. If a priest withholds communion from family members who are not Catholic then someone will say, " but, what would Jesus do?" If they really want to pressurise the priest they will say, "what would a loving Jesus do?"
The question is totally inappropriate because what they should be asking is what did Jesus do? What Jesus did was that he created a Church and he gave that Church authority to teach in His name. "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it."(Matthew 16:18). In order that we do not have any doubt about what Jesus would do in matters of faith or morals, we have a sure guide in the Church. If we have a problem with those teachings then we can be sure that the problem is on our side and not on the side of the Church and Our Lord.
Why did Jesus create a Church? Simply that He did not want to leave us by ourselves. He wanted to give us the experience of walking with Him and learning from Him the way that the disciples did. As God, Jesus does not discriminate against us on the basis of time. Just because we didn’t live at the time when Jesus did walk on this earth does not mean that we cannot have a deep personal relationship with Him. When Our Lord left this earth He did not leave us as orphans. Through the sacraments He has continued to bring us to new life, to feed us, to forgive us, to confirm us in our faith, to be present at our weddings as he was at Cana, to give us priests to perpetuate His presence and to be with us at our passing into eternity. Equally important, He has continued to teach us and to guide us. We are not like poor deserted children who have to wander between the confusing ideas of our time. What we have is the voice of Our Lord Jesus Christ speaking through the Church.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pope says "Let my people go" CofE says "you can have ém"

Breaking news from London is that the Church of England has effectively evicted the Anglo-Catholics.

In a statement that has the potential to go down as one of the most important in English church history, the Church of England's Revision committee on Women in the Episcopate declared:

"After much discussion, the members of the Committee were unable to identify a basis for specifying particular functions for vesting which commanded sufficient support both from those in favour of the ordination of women as bishops and those unable to support that development. As a result all of the proposals for vesting particular functions by statute were defeated." (italics mine)

The phrase in italics essentially tells the Anglo-Catholics that no provision will be made for them that allows them to fully separate themselves from the ministry of women bishops. This was the minimum that groups like Forward in Faith were asking for.

This particular committee was formed to draw up the legislation that would allow women to become bishops in the Church of England. Groups like Watch and Inclusive Church want simple legislation that makes it possible for women to be bishops.

Groups of traditionalists like Forward in Faith and evangelical groups want to be separated from the ministry of women bishops. First prize for them would have been a separate province, effectively what the Pope has established with the Anglican Ordinariates. Their second prize was a "statutory provision" that created an easily legally enforceable provision that would allow them to separate themselves from the ministry of women bishops while remaining within the Church of England (and not becoming a separate province).

Crafting this compromise has proved very difficult. The best that the committee could come up with was a Code of Practice. One of the key objections to this was that the female bishop herself would have to allow for provisions to be made for "traditionalists". Those who want to understand the minutiae can have a look at "Why the Code of Practice is no good for traditionalists in the C. of E."

In general the committee has been more sympathetic to the Anglo-catholics than the General Synod has been. On October 8th they stated that they had "voted to amend the draft Measure to provide for certain functions to be vested in bishops by statute rather than by delegation from the diocesan bishop under a statutory code of practice." This caused hopes to soar in the Anglo-Catholic camp. It appeared that they could be looking at a second prize.

Those hopes soared higher still when on the 22nd October the Vatican announced the creation of the Anglican Ordinariates.

Anglo-Catholics felt a bit like a neglected lot on auction. No one was showing much interest and then a mysterious buyer called in a phone bid that was three times the best bid from the floor. Would the bidders on the floor match or even offer a better bid? The ball, as they put it, was now in the CofE's court. Would the CofE return it with interest and give them what Rome had offered but within the CofE?

The answer now appears to be a firm no and the Pope's offer is the only game in town.

As we all no doubt know from our personal lives it is not always easy to change for purely positive reasons. We need negative pressures to move us in the right direction. The decision of the revision committee appears to be the stick actually beating people out of the Church of England. The carrot that the Pope is holding must look a lot more attractive to-day.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Celibacy issue

There is a general assumption that if priestly celibacy becomes the norm in the Anglican Ordinariates then they will experience a problem with vocations.

This argument is based on two assumptions:

1. The Anglicans and Eastern Churches are right about celibacy.

2. That celibacy rule is what caused the vocation crisis.

The first is an issue I will leave to another time but the second is clearly false because the Latin Church is not finding it difficult to recruit priests where the seminaries are orthodox and the faithful are praying for vocations (usually in perpetual adoration chapels).
The traditionalist groups (dedicated to celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass) like FSSP (Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter) and the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (ICKSP) for example have a two-year waiting list.
A few diocese in the US also have seminaries that are full or nearly full. In some cases the problem is where to find more space for the seminarians. Lincoln, Nebraska is an example.
In Australia, Cardinal Pell reformed the seminary in Sydney and now it is full. See Story One and Story Two
Celibacy is not the problem, orthodoxy in the seminaries is.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Rome gives 100%

Early Bird spotting Kudos go to Fr. Anthony Chadwick of the TAC parish in Normandy and Early Bird commentary Kudos go to Sub Tuum (Darn! Do those Cistercians never sleep?)

With Apostolic Constitution "Anglicanorum coetibus" and the accompaning Complementary Norms the Holy Father has done all he could reasonably do to open the Church to the largest group of Anglicans possible.

The documents are practical and show sensitivity, even with regard to what are strictly inessentials, such as allowing former Anglican Bishops to use the insignia of the episcopal office even if they are not consecrated Catholic Bishops.

While the Apostolic Constitution is much as expected, it is the Complementary Norms that are most interesting as they give more attention to the details, wherein the devil oft dwells.

The celibacy-obsessed media is going to want to focus on how the celibacy issue will play out. So I will get that out of the way first before getting down to more important matters.

The theme in some of the secular press the last week or so has been that the Holy Father is letting a trojan horse into the Catholic Church and thousands of Catholics would be flocking to the Ordinariates to allow them to become married priests.

Well that door is well and firmly shut:

1. Catholics baptised outside the Ordinariate are not ordinarily (the pun is not mine - it is in the document) allowed to join the Ordinariate. So that would, in general, exclude anyone baptised in a 'normal' Catholic parish. (Complementary Norms: Article 5 §1)

2. Priests ordained in the Catholic Church will not be allowed to be priests in the Ordinariate. (Complementary Norms: Article 5 §2)

The documents make clear that celibacy in the Latin Rite Church remains the norm and that a married clergy is an exception. The provisions for a married clergy will stay in place indefinitely as the ordinariates will be receiving married clergy from the Anglican Church for the foreseeable (and even unforeseeable) future.

It is evident that this is the "full provision" that Anglo-Catholics have been asking the Anglican Church for. The ordinariates are basically going to function as dioceses within the Catholic Church. So what they are asking from the Anglican Church they have now been clearly given by the Catholic Church.

The ordinariates are also going to be fully incorporated into the Latin Rite Church. They are in no way akin to an Eastern-rite Catholic Church. Latin Rite Canon Law is going to apply and structures, while parallel, feed in at appropriate places into the Latin Rite Church structures, such as at the level of Bishops' conferences.

Priests will be incardinated into the Ordinariate. Lay-faithful and religious will have to make a profession of Faith, receive the Sacraments of baptism and confirmation, albeit conditionally, if there is doubt as to the validity of the sacraments received. The lay-faithful and religious will also have to request in writing to join the Ordinariate.

The ordinariates are erected by and subject to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith(CDF). The power of the CDF seems to be on the increase. The Ecclesia Dei Commission was recently moved to the CDF and now the Anglican-Catholic ordinariates are also going to be subject to them. It was thought that this move was to be a short-term measure while the SSPX and the Holy See were in doctrinal talks and once that was sorted out they would revert to another congregation. This move may indicate that Catholic Traditionalists may also be attached to the CDF for the long haul. (Anglicanorum coetibus: Section 1§1, Complementary Norms: Article 1)

Priest in the ordinariates will also be allowed to use the Roman Rite. That will allow them to assist the local Catholic diocese. Co-operation with the local diocese and the Bishops' conference are recurring themes in both documents. This provision will get the minds of a few Catholic traditionalists working. If Anglican-Catholic priests can use the Roman Rite and the Traditional Latin Mass is one of the forms of the Roman Rite then .....

Another interesting aspect of the structure is that the ordinariates are going to be erected within the confines of a Bishops' conference but that within the confines of each Bishops' conference there may be more than one ordinariate. As the Anglicans likely to take up the offer come from a diverse set of groups this is a particulary wise and generous provision as it will avoid turf-wars between the groups and allow the maximun number to enter. On the other hand it is possible that an existing Anglican diocese (of groups like the TAC) may stretch over more than one Catholic Bishops' conference. That could take some working out.

The Complementary Norms (article 11) make a number of concessions to Anglican Bishops who may not be eligible to be consecrated Bishop because they are married:

1. As Ordinary, they will have full juridictional power.
2. If they are not the Ordinary they can be called upon to assist the Ordinary.
3. The Ordinaries will be full members of the Catholic Bishops' conferences and former Anglican Bishops will be treated as retired Bishops and will be invited to the meetings of the Bishops' conferences.
4. They can request the Holy See to use the insignia of the Catholic Episcopal office.

Some thought has also been given to financial matters. The priests of the Ordinariate are going to be the ongoing financial responsibility of the Ordinary. The Ordinary will have to make provision for those who are ill, disabled or aged.

The Complementary norms state that the the Ordinary "will" enter into discussion with the Bishops' conference to see what resources are available. The "will" is interesting: Perhaps more a note to the Bishops' conferences that Rome will be watching them to see how generous they are - rather than an instruction to Ordinaries to do something they would be daft not to do.

Specific mention is made of the fact that priests in the ordinariates may have suitable secular employment - possibly essential to those with large families.

In the past some (rather uncharitable) gripes have been heard about convert clergy (accustomed to the perquisites of the Anglican communion) draining finances from their Diocese. These provisions will make this scenario unlikely.

The spirit of generosity and the level of detail in the documents makes it clear that this is not an "offer" that can be negotiated. Anglicans who think that this is an opening gambit from Rome and that they can hold out for better terms will be sorely diasppointed.

The Pope is not negotiating; he has given everything that he can. Time will tell if this generosity of spirit is matched by Anglo-Catholics.

It's Out: The Apostolic Constitution - "Anglicanorum Coetibus".

Readers will recall that the Apostolic Constitution that would allow Anglicans to join the Catholic Church on a corporate basis was not issued at the time of the press conferences in Rome and London(October 20th). The Vatican has today issued the Apostolic Constitution "Anglicanorum Coetibus".

I was going to edit in a "(The Pope of Christian Unity)" after the BENEDICTUS PP XVI. But thought that some may then think that it was part of the official document and that Fr Z's influence had grown beyond all reasonable bounds.

From the Vatican website


In recent times the Holy Spirit has moved groups of Anglicans to petition repeatedly and insistently to be received into full Catholic communion individually as well as corporately. The Apostolic See has responded favorably to such petitions. Indeed, the successor of Peter, mandated by the Lord Jesus to guarantee the unity of the episcopate and to preside over and safeguard the universal communion of all the Churches(1),could not fail to make available the means necessary to bring this holy desire to realization.

The Church, a people gathered into the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit(2), was instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ, as "a sacrament – a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all people."(3).Every division among the baptized in Jesus Christ wounds that which the Church is and that for which the Church exists; in fact, "such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages that most holy cause, the preaching the Gospel to every creature."(4). Precisely for this reason, before shedding his blood for the salvation of the world, the Lord Jesus prayed to the Father for the unity of his disciples.(5)

It is the Holy Spirit, the principle of unity, which establishes the Church as a communion(6). He is the principle of the unity of the faithful in the teaching of the Apostles, in the breaking of the bread and in prayer(7). The Church, however, analogous to the mystery of the Incarnate Word, is not only an invisible spiritual communion, but is also visible(8); in fact, "the society structured with hierarchical organs and the Mystical Body of Christ, the visible society and the spiritual community, the earthly Church and the Church endowed with heavenly riches, are not to be thought of as two realities. On the contrary, they form one complex reality formed from a two-fold element, human and divine."(9). The communion of the baptized in the teaching of the Apostles and in the breaking of the eucharistic bread is visibly manifested in the bonds of the profession of the faith in its entirety, of the celebration of all of the sacraments instituted by Christ, and of the governance of the College of Bishops united with its head, the Roman Pontiff(10).
This single Church of Christ, which we profess in the Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic "subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside her visible confines. Since these are gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces impelling towards Catholic unity."(11).

In the light of these ecclesiological principles, this Apostolic Constitution provides the general normative structure for regulating the institution and life of Personal Ordinariates for those Anglican faithful who desire to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church in a corporate manner. This Constitution is completed by Complementary Norms issued by the Apostolic See.

§1 Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans entering into full communion with the Catholic Church are erected by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith within the confines of the territorial boundaries of a particular Conference of Bishops in consultation with that same Conference.

§2 Within the territory of a particular Conference of Bishops, one or more Ordinariates may be erected as needed.

§3 Each Ordinariate possesses public juridic personality by the law itself (ipso iure); it is juridically comparable to a diocese.(12)

§4 The Ordinariate is composed of lay faithful, clerics and members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, originally belonging to the Anglican Communion and now in full communion with the Catholic Church, or those who receive the Sacraments of Initiation within the jurisdiction of the Ordinariate.

§5 The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the authoritative expression of the Catholic faith professed by members of the Ordinariate.

The Personal Ordinariate is governed according to the norms of universal law and the present Apostolic Constitution and is subject to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the other Dicasteries of the Roman Curia in accordance with their competencies. It is also governed by the Complementary Norms as well as any other specific Norms given for each Ordinariate.

Without excluding liturgical celebrations according to the Roman Rite, the Ordinariate has the faculty to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical celebrations according to the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition, which have been approved by the Holy See, so as to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.

A Personal Ordinariate is entrusted to the pastoral care of an Ordinary appointed by the Roman Pontiff.

The power (potestas) of the Ordinary is:
a. ordinary: connected by the law itself to the office entrusted to him by the Roman Pontiff, for both the internal forum and external forum;
b. vicarious: exercised in the name of the Roman Pontiff;
c. personal: exercised over all who belong to the Ordinariate;
This power is to be exercised jointly with that of the local Diocesan Bishop, in those cases provided for in the Complementary Norms.

§1 Those who ministered as Anglican deacons, priests, or bishops, and who fulfill the requisites established by canon law(13)and are not impeded by irregularities or other impediments(14)may be accepted by the Ordinary as candidates for Holy Orders in the Catholic Church. In the case of married ministers, the norms established in the Encyclical Letter of Pope Paul VI Sacerdotalis coelibatus, n. 42(15)and in the Statement In June(16)are to be observed. Unmarried ministers must submit to the norm of clerical celibacy of CIC can. 277, §1.

§2. The Ordinary, in full observance of the discipline of celibate clergy in the Latin Church, as a rule (pro regula) will admit only celibate men to the order of presbyter. He may also petition the Roman Pontiff, as a derogation from can. 277, §1, for the admission of married men to the order of presbyter on a case by case basis, according to objective criteria approved by the Holy See.

§3. Incardination of clerics will be regulated according to the norms of canon law.

§4. Priests incardinated into an Ordinariate, who constitute the presbyterate of the Ordinariate, are also to cultivate bonds of unity with the presbyterate of the Diocese in which they exercise their ministry. They should promote common pastoral and charitable initiatives and activities, which can be the object of agreements between the Ordinary and the local Diocesan Bishop.

§5. Candidates for Holy Orders in an Ordinariate should be prepared alongside other seminarians, especially in the areas of doctrinal and pastoral formation. In order to address the particular needs of seminarians of the Ordinariate and formation in Anglican patrimony, the Ordinary may also establish seminary programs or houses of formation which would relate to existing Catholic faculties of theology.

The Ordinary, with the approval of the Holy See, can erect new Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, with the right to call their members to Holy Orders, according to the norms of canon law. Institutes of Consecrated Life originating in the Anglican Communion and entering into full communion with the Catholic Church may also be placed under his jurisdiction by mutual consent.

§1. The Ordinary, according to the norm of law, after having heard the opinion of the Diocesan Bishop of the place, may erect, with the consent of the Holy See, personal parishes for the faithful who belong to the Ordinariate.
§2. Pastors of the Ordinariate enjoy all the rights and are held to all the obligations established in the Code of Canon Law and, in cases established by the Complementary Norms, such rights and obligations are to be exercised in mutual pastoral assistance together with the pastors of the local Diocese where the personal parish of the Ordinariate has been established.

Both the lay faithful as well as members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, originally part of the Anglican Communion, who wish to enter the Personal Ordinariate, must manifest this desire in writing.

§1. The Ordinary is aided in his governance by a Governing Council with its own statutes approved by the Ordinary and confirmed by the Holy See.(17)
§2. The Governing Council, presided over by the Ordinary, is composed of at least six priests. It exercises the functions specified in the Code of Canon Law for the Presbyteral Council and the College of Consultors, as well as those areas specified in the Complementary Norms.
§3. The Ordinary is to establish a Finance Council according to the norms established by the Code of Canon Law which will exercise the duties specified therein.(18)
§4. In order to provide for the consultation of the faithful, a Pastoral Council is to be constituted in the Ordinariate.(19)

Every five years the Ordinary is required to come to Rome for an ad limina Apostolorum visit and present to the Roman Pontiff, through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and in consultation with the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, a report on the status of the Ordinariate.

For judicial cases, the competent tribunal is that of the Diocese in which one of the parties is domiciled, unless the Ordinariate has constituted its own tribunal, in which case the tribunal of second instance is the one designated by the Ordinariate and approved by the Holy See.

The Decree establishing an Ordinariate will determine the location of the See and, if appropriate, the principal church.

We desire that our dispositions and norms be valid and effective now and in the future, notwithstanding, should it be necessary, the Apostolic Constitutions and ordinances issued by our predecessors, or any other prescriptions, even those requiring special mention or derogation.

Given in Rome, at St. Peter’s, on November 4, 2009, the Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo.

1 Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 23; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Communionis notio, 12; 13.
2 Cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 4; Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 2.
3 Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 1.
4 Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 1.
5 Cf. Jn 17:20-21; Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 2.
6 Cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 13.
7 Cf. ibid; Acts 2:42.
8 Cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 8; Letter Communionis notio, 4.
9 Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 8.
10 Cf. CIC, can. 205; Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 13; 14; 21; 22; Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 2; 3; 4; 15; 20; Decree Christus Dominus, 4; Decree Ad gentes, 22.
11 Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 8.
12 Cf. John Paul II, Ap. Const. Spirituali militium curae, 21 April 1986, I § 1.
13 Cf. CIC, cann. 1026-1032.
14 Cf. CIC, cann. 1040-1049.
15 Cf. AAS 59 (1967) 674.
16 Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Statement of 1 April 1981, in Enchiridion Vaticanum 7, 1213.
17 Cf. CIC, cann. 495-502.
18 Cf. CIC, cann. 492-494.
19 Cf. CIC, can. 511.
[01640-02.01] [Original text: English]

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fools for Christ

A Traditional Anglican called Piperspop made the following comment on the TAC acceptance over on the Catholic Answers Forum.

"They voted to accept something they have not even seen!

What fools these mortals be!

Cardinal Levada issued 2 sections of the AC earlier this week, and there will be NO ongoing married priests after those that are currently married. This means they will not be any more likely to find priests than Roman Catholics.

I want to see if there will be anything left of Anglicanism, or if this will be like the Anglican Use, conversion of all, and gone after one generation."

Lets deal with that first comment now. I will get back to the rest in subsequent posts.

Archbishop Hepworth (TAC) has publically stated that they would have accepted a much more limited offer and that they were overwhelmed by the Pope’s generosity.

The TAC would like to present their acceptance of the Pope’s offer by Easter 2010. As they have a synodical form of government they need all of their assemblies/synods to accept before that date and therefore have a tight schedule.

While others (perhaps quite understandably, dither) they are positioning themselves to take a leadership role in early days of the ordinariates. Note the request for Bishop Mercer to be made ordinary in the UK.

The adherents of the TAC in the 1990s (and in fact well before that) were quite prescient in foreseeing that the “ordination” of women would lead to the “consecration” of women bishops and that would, as Cardinal Kasper has now made clear, make visible corporate re-union with the Catholic Church impossible. As they had read the course of events so clearly then it may be wise to pay careful attention to their actions now.

In the past they have sacrificed much to preserve Anglo-Catholicism and the hope of re-union, leaving their Anglican communities and churches behind.

Currently, they are willing to sacrifice much to be re-united. All of the married bishops will have to stand down. While some may become ordinaries they will still not be the ones ordaining their priests and deacons as Cathollic priests.

I trust that God will reward this fidelity and sacrifice and that we will see a steady growth of Anglican-Catholicism (i.e. Anglicans in full union with the Catholic Church, preserving all that does not conflict with Catholic teaching)

If they are fools then they are fools for Christ and Christian unity.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

TAC in UK accepts "Ordinariate"

The Traditional Anglican Communion in the UK voted last Thursday (October 29th)to request that they form part of the proposed Ordinariate in the UK.

During the Forward in Faith conference Archbishop Hepworth of the TAC had stated that the motion would be placed before the Synod of the Traditional Anglican Church in the UK (and other Synods of the TAC) that the Apostolic Constitution of Benedict XVI be accepted and that its immediate implementation be requested.

The website of the TAC in the UK is now reporting that the following resolution was passed:

"The Resolutions
That this Assembly, representing the Traditional Anglican Communion in Great Britain, offers its joyful thanks to Pope Benedict XVI for his forthcoming Apostolic Constitution allowing the corporate reunion of Anglicans with the Holy See, and requests the Primate and College of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion to take the steps necessary to implement this Constitution.

That this Assembly is of the respectful opinion that Bishop Robert Mercer CR might be considered for the position of Ordinary in Great Britain."

This is not unexpected as the TAC was the group that had approached Rome and Archbishop Hepworth had publically stated that the offer of the "ordinariates" exceeded their expectations.

The TAC in the UK numbers about twenty parishes (they also have one in France). Some of these parishes would be more accurately described as mass centres rather than parishes in the full sense of the word.

This is good news as it is the first indication that the Pope's offer is being accepted.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Archbishop Thlagale spells out how we need to treat the Eucharist

At his Chrism sermon this year His Grace Archbishop Buti Thlagale gave the following sermon.


Pope John Paul declared the year 2005, the Year of the Eucharist. At the conclusion of that year, he canonized five saints distinguished for their Eucharistic piety (S.C. No. 4). He also issued the Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine and an Encyclical on The Mystery and Worship of The Holy Eucharist (2005). Pope Benedict continued on the same theme with his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, The Sacrament of Charity (Sacramentum Caritatis). The Congregation of Divine Worship issued an Instruction on The Sacrament of Redemption (2004). These valuable documents address the mystery of the Eucharist, and are closely related to the Priesthood.

The Year of the Eucharist has come and gone, and yet (as a diocese) we can hardly boast of a good grasp of these documents and the teaching they contain. My strong plea to the priests: put these documents within the reach of your parishioners. Help us translate them into vernacular languages where necessary. This is one way of reawakening and increasing Eucharistic faith. This is the supreme treasure of the Catholic Church.

While the Eucharist and Eucharistic Adoration have not emerged as a major theme at our Diocesan Synod, it is no doubt the basis, the foundation, the cornerstone of the themes adopted by the Synod.

Turning our attention to the Eucharist and Eucharistic Adoration can only enhance and deepen the themes adopted by the Synod.

The Eucharist is the source and summit of all that the Church is and does. The breaking of the bread has always been at the centre of the life of the Church (Mane, 3). The Eucharist holds within itself the whole spiritual treasure of the Church (P.A. No. 5).

Through the ministry of the priest, Christ entrusted to us a memorial of His own passion and resurrection. The memorial makes effectively present here and now an event in the past, the death and resurrection, of Jesus Christ. The power of these events touches, and transforms us. In Baptism and in the Eucharist we enter into a communion of life and mission with the crucified and risen Lord. We take upon ourselves His mission to transform both our lives and the lives of others. The Eucharist is the most precious gift, the pearl of great price given to the Church by the Lord Himself. After receiving both the Body and Blood of Christ, we say “Amen”, affirming the real presence of the Body and Blood of Christ Himself. His invisible presence is made visible through the visible signs of bread and wine. The Eucharist gives Catholics their unique identity. The non-celebration of the Eucharist because of the shortage of priests weakens this Catholic identity.

When there are serious and deep divisions and conflicts in our ranks as priests and in our parishes, then we contradict the spirit of the Eucharist which is “a sacrament of love, a sign of unity and a bond of charity” (S.C. No: 47).

One of the chief duties of a priest is to be a faithful disperser of the mysteries of God. To him it is given to lead his people to faith and conversion. “How are they to believe in him they have not heard? How are they to hear if no one preaches and how are men to preach unless they be sent?” (Rm.10.14) (S.C. No. 8,19).

The priest and the deacon have a close relationship with the Eucharist. The Eucharist, says John Paul, “is the principal and central raison d’etre of the Sacrament of the Priesthood. Priests derive from the Eucharist and exist for the Eucharist” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, No. 2). Priests are in a special way responsible for the Eucharist. They are entrusted with the Eucharist for others. The people of God expect from priests a particular veneration and Eucharistic piety.

Now, Eucharistic Adoration “is simply the natural consequence of the Eucharistic Celebration, which is itself the Church’s supreme act of adoration” (S. Caritatis No. 66). Adoration, outside Mass “prolongs and intensifies’ all that takes place during the Eucharistic Celebration. Adoration itself is an act of witnessing when one sees many gathered in silence before the Lord. Eucharistic Adoration should become part and parcel of our way of being Church. Many have said that Eucharistic Adoration promotes vocations to the priesthood and to religious life. Children, youth and adults should be taught and encouraged to appreciate the beauty of silence in the presence of Jesus Christ.

Our attitude, external behaviour, our gestures, our bodily movements reveal our faith, or, our lack of faith in the invisible presence of God, in the “real presence” of Christ in the Eucharist, in the Consecrated Hosts in the tabernacle.

 Many enter the church and do not make the sign of the cross with holy water.
 Many no longer genuflect, not even a bow that acknowledges the presence of Christ in the tabernacle.
 Altar rails that have been dismantled, thus we no longer kneel when receiving the ‘Body of Christ’.
 Our churches are like a market place before and after Mass partly because we have moved the tabernacle to a separate room, or simply because we have lost the sense of the presence of the Holy. We have abandoned silence and a prayerful atmosphere in the church.
 Where possible, we need to restore the centrality of the tabernacle. We need to recover the culture and practice of genuflecting and of silence.
 Church law requires us to fast for an hour before the Eucharist. The chewing of gum during Mass is simply distasteful.
 External gestures help to condition our internal spiritual attitude towards the Holy.
 By putting in church pews without kneelers, we effectively discourage the faithful from kneeling during Consecration.
 The taking of Communion to the sick often leaves much to be desired. Usually Consecrated Hosts are distributed to lay ministers after Communion. And the priest asks: How many? How many what? It does not sound like a language of people who recognise the presence of the Lord.

Lay ministers carrying Communion often stop to chat with friends before going to the sick. At times they rush to do a shopping round before proceeding to the sick. It is not unusual for some to keep the Consecrated Hosts at home because they did not find the sick person or because on their return, they found the church locked.
 It is not unusual for tabernacles to be broken open (or stolen) and the Consecrated Hosts scattered about on the floor. It is not enough simply to collects the Hosts and put them back into the tabernacle. There is a need for a cleansing rite and for repentance.
 It is most edifying to see the priest praying with altar-servers in the sacristy before and after Mass. Silence in the sacristy is also conductive to an atmosphere of prayer. Such a practice stays with the altar-servers long after they have graduated from the sacristy. Some sacristies regrettably are like a market place. No prayers are said.
 It would be ideal if priests could once more pray while they vest in the sacristy. This practice would reinforce the culture of silence and a proper preparation for Holy Mass.
 It would equally be ideal to restore for the lay faithful, prayers before the Mass and prayers of thanksgiving after Mass. Such exercises would help us to focus on the “real presence” of Christ who has been received during Mass.

As custodians of the Eucharist, it is our privilege to promote Eucharistic Adoration so that those who do so may savour the grace of healing that comes from the Lord Himself.

Young people read novels: Wole Soyiaka, Chinua Achebe, Zeke Mphahlele, Bessy Head, Shakespeare, Jane Austin, Wallet Vilakazi, Dostoyevski, Tolstoi, etc., I plead with the priests, deacons and catechists to introduce young people to John Paul’s, Pius XII’s and Benedict XVI’s writings on the Eucharist and on Eucharistic Adoration.

We therefore wish to propose Eucharistic Adoration to be enacted in every parish community where such a practice does not yet exist.
 We also recommend that it be the theme of the Archdiocese for the next three years in order for a Eucharistic movement to emerge. We see Eucharistic Adoration as strengthening and deepening the themes decided upon by the Diocesan Synod.
 We strongly recommend a return to the processions of Corpus Christi in order to give public witness to our faith.
To summarise. In the Mass, Jesus Christ is the ultimate form of “eucharistia” i.e. thanksgiving. He is the perfect expression of praise to the Father. His act of thanksgiving makes our sacrifice possible. Before such a great Sacrament, we can only echo the words of the centurion: “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed” (Mt.8.8). In Eucharistic Adoration therefore, we meditate on the marvellous, intriguing mystical supper. We continue to offer thanksgiving and praise for the Passion of Our Lord which has unveiled God’s immeasurable love for each one of us. We have a compelling duty to raise the bar with regard to Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist.

Lord, help us believe.

+Buti Tlhagale
Holy Thursday

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The true cost of the contraceptive culture.

(This is the second article that appeared in the Southern Cross. Editor)

When the Pill was first introduced in the sixties it was believed that it would be of great benefit to women. Over forty years later we know better. The Pill (along with other forms of hormonal contraception) has harmed women: it has paved the road for abortion on demand, it has harmed women physically and it has created a sexually charged society.
In the US the "privacy" doctrine that underlies Roe vs Wade was established in previous Supreme Court decisions which struck down State bans on contraception. Where contraception leads abortion inevitably follows and when it does women suffer. On a world wide basis abortion discriminates against women. In China if you are unfortunate enough to be a baby girl you stand a good chance of receiving a lethal injection into the fontanel as soon as your head clears the birth canal - simply because you are a female in a country in which a one-child policy operates and boys are more highly valued than girls. In China and India the ultra-sound has become women’s worst enemy. As soon as a couple wanting a boy finds out that their baby is a girl she is aborted.
From the very beginning the Pill has been dogged by sexism. The first clinical trials were conducted in Puerto Rico. Three women died. The conclusion: change the dosages. When the first study of a Male Pill was conducted one of the test subjects experienced some slight shrinkage of his testicles. That study was abandoned. No viable form of Male Pill has ever been developed. The risks are no doubt considered too extreme.
And from that very first study until to-day women have been dying. Dosages have been changed in order to lower the risks of heart attack, blood clots, stroke and liver tumours. But risks remain and when you consider that this is a medication is taken by millions of women even low risk percentages become significant. In addition, as the contraceptive culture gets more entrenched and women use hormonal birth control from a younger age and for greater duration new risks emerge.
Studies that have focused on younger women are now revealing a link between hormonal contraceptives and breast cancer. Commenting on his 2006 study in the journal "Mayo Clinic Proceedings" Dr. C Kalhenborn stated that in "21 out of 23 retrospective studies done since 1980 ... women who took oral contraceptives prior to the birth of their first child sustained a 44% average increased risk of developing pre-menopausal breast cancer. This risk rose to 52% for women who took the Pill for at least four years prior to the birth of their first child." To-day the Pill is often given to young girls to help control acne and painful periods, to say nothing of the sexually active teens who are on the Pill.
Why is it that so few people are aware of these risk factors? Medical practitioners and many feminists understand the risks associated with hormonal and other forms of contraception. These forms of contraception are acceptable to them because they argue that the associated risks are less than the health risks of a pregnancy. This is equivalent to a doctor saying "You have a splinter in your finger. Splinters in fingers can cause infection and perhaps death, so we have to cut off you finger." The question you would ask is "Can’t we just remove the splinter". Basically you’re asking "is there an alternative, less radical treatment?".
In the field of birth control Natural Familiy Planning is that less radical treatment. We should be comparing the total health effects of hormonal contraceptives with the total health effects of natural family planning.
The reason that most liberal feminists do not want to make this comparison is that natural family planning has one ‘drawback’. A moral component that is at odds with their moral not medical worldview. Natural family planning is not the method of birth control for ‘singles bar’ pick-up sex. It is not taken seriously because it conflicts with the "Sex and the City" lifestyle so dear to liberal feminism.
From the teenage girl who attempts suicide because she was "used" to the women venting their rage against unfaithful men on the internet, it is clear that this lifestyle is not working for women. Something is broken but few people really understand the reason. It is artificial contraception that allows us to break the link between sex and children and marriage. When that link is broken sex loses its context and when that happens, it is women who bear the immediate and most serious consequences of that break.
Adultery, divorce, pornography, child pornography, prostitution, the exploitation of women by the media, the early sexualisation of girls are just a few examples of what happens in a male-dominated society when sexual pleasure is divorced from marriage and children.
In addition, the use of artifical contraception of all types has harmed the faith life of Catholic women. The Church’s teaching is clear, artificial contraception is wrong. Many bishops and priests are quite happy not to present the Church’s teaching and to leave women in a moral limbo. They should not be surprised when especially young women desert the Church. These bishops and priests have by their cowardice first deserted these women to a sexist and exploitative society. .

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What is Signum and does orthopraxis involve braces?

Signum is a newly created Catholic communications company that is currently focussing on producing short, affordable booklets on issues of importance to Catholics.

The purpose of the Signum blog is to provide Signum readers with additional information on topics covered in our booklets as well as to give Signum authors the opportunity to comment on a range of Catholic issues.

Orthopraxis does not require braces. Just as orthodoxy has to do with correct doctrine and orthodontics has to do with correctly aligned teeth, orthopraxis deals with the correct practice of the liturgy. Specifically in our case, assisting the widespread resurrection of the Traditional Latin Mass. We also aim to support Benedict XVI's attempts to reform the New Mass (especially the manner it is celebrated in many parishes) to better reflect the liturgical heritage of the Church.

Another aim is to make it easier for Catholics to live a life that is in accord with the moral teachings of the Church. The problem is not so much that we all are sinners in need of God's mercy but to-day within the Church we have many Catholics who publically reject the Church's teaching. This not only has a bad effect on Catholics but a terrible effect on society. Society does not take the Catholic Church seriously because Catholics do not take their Church seriously enough to follow Her teachings.

There is a positive side to this problem. As the old saying goes "we cannot break God's Law, only break ourselves (or our society against) God's Law". After forty years of widespread rejection of Church teaching the personal and social consequences are there for all to see. As Catholics we no longer have to prophesy, we merely have to record and inform.

Michelle Pedra's article caused a stir when it first appeared in the Southern Cross. It illustrated that Catholic women were harming themselves by not following the Church's teaching on contraception and that the Catholic Church was anything but misogynist and behind the times, but really at the fore front of fighting for the dignity of women.

This article is the first in a series of four (two are still to be printed in the Southern Cross). When all four of Michelle's article have appeared we hope to re-print them as a Signum booklet.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Women taking control, naturally.

"Patriarchal", "Sexist". Those are the terms that you think most feminists would use when describing the Catholic Church. After all it is an organisation headed exclusively by men, only men can be priests, only men can be bishops, only a man can be Pope. But ironically a few feminists are coming to realise that in the Catholic Church women have their greatest ally.

In the fundamental area of reproductive health and fertility they are coming to see that the Catholic Church is right; that Her policies which seemed out of step with the times and repressive are in fact the reverse – ahead of their times and liberating; and that it is the modern contraceptive culture that is really repressing women.

It is only the Catholic Church that does not see women’s fertility as something that must be cut out, tied up or treated with long-term medication as if it was a disease. It accepts women as a creation of God and seeks to work with women’s nature rather than against it (as it equally seeks to work with men’s nature rather than against it).

This is the very opposite of artificial contraception - or what is euphemistically called Birth Control. Inasmuch as it is control, it is rather the kind of control that is repression, namely the repression of a natural process within a woman’s body. We should therefore not be surprised when we discover that this kind of "control" has all sorts of negative side effects. Let us imagine that for one minute women could convince men that they should receive medical treatment to stop urinating. How soon before some serious side-effects started showing up?
This repression of a natural function is what tens of millions of women are doing when they use artificial contraception.

But it doesn’t stop there, most women have precious little knowledge about contraception. How many women are aware of the side effects of the Pill? How many know that the IUD (intra-uterine device) can cause early abortion? How many women know that taking the Pill has been associated with increased incidence of breast cancer in those who take the Pill before a first full-term pregnancy, with an increased risk of stroke, blood clots in the lung and cervical cancer? Of course all medicines have side effects, but these are perfectly healthy women who do not need to be on these medications. Along with these life-threatening side effects significant numbers of women on the Pill also experience migraine headaches, loss of libido, moodiness and weight gain. Nutritional expert Patrick Holford advises women seeking to lose weight not to take hormonal contraceptives.

The most pernicious form of repression is that most women do not know that there is a safe, non-surgical and highly effective alternative to artificial contraception. A recent study conducted in Germany and published in the leading European reproductive health journal, "Human Reproduction Today" shows that the pregnancy rate for women who used the Sympto-thermal method (STM– a modern form of natural family planning] correctly was 0.4%. That is one pregnancy a year for every 250 women. The Pill has a pregnancy rate of around 0.5%, which makes the Pill less effective than the Sympto-Thermal Method. Even a radical method such as sterilisation for either men or women has a 0.5 % pregnancy rate. So people who claim that they are using artificial contraception because to have another child would endanger their lives would be better off using a natural form of birth control.

Natural family planning is so successful because it focuses on finding out exactly when a woman is fertile. A woman’s chances of falling pregnant are a lot lower than one would normally think. The prime reason for this is that once a woman releases an egg (the ovum) each month, at ovulation, that egg only survives for twenty-four hours. If conception is to occur the sperm (which can survive for a few days within a woman’s body) has to come into contact with the egg within that time or it cannot be fertilised.

The female body gives a number of signs that indicate that ovulation is about to occur or that ovulation has occurred. Natural family planning works by observing these signs and interpreting them. If a pregnancy needs to be avoided the couple simply refrains from engaging in intercourse during this period. As medical research has shown, this can be done with a high degree of reliability.

Is there then any medical reason why Catholic women should choose not to follow the teachings of the Church? When I put this question to leading fertility awareness researcher and trainer, Dr. Heinz Wirz he answered "There is no medically justifiable reason for using artificial contraception."

The challenge is for Catholic women (and their partners) to become fully informed and to insist upon being informed about all of the aspects of contraception and for them rather to take control of their fertility naturally.