Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bishop Tom Burns of the Diocese of Menevia does not get it!

Mass to Celebrate the Closure of the Year of the Priest

HOMILY: In most walks of life, we need back-up: e.g. reaching agreement in a family about some proposal; winning support at work for a new idea; welcoming a helpful word or a shoulder to lean on at a time of crisis; in sport, as in cricket: backing-up at the wicket to prevent an overthrow; and, of course, in the world of computers, making a back-up copy of files gives new meaning to the phrase Jesus saves! In the Church too, the sacraments back-up the living-out of our Christian calling. Indeed, the Eucharist is not just a back-up to something else; it is the very means of receiving the Lord fully into our lives. It is the major part of a priest's ministry, in which he brings the Lord to others. It is the summit of our prayer and worship as priests.

The Ministerial Priesthood functions amid today's frenetic reality. What we are doing today can seem to some a bit out of touch with reality. To some, the Priesthood appears to be a bit remote from the physical and moral difficulties of ordinary lives. Yet, as priests, we are to step into a new space, the space of the Transcendent, of Otherness. For, we are signed by a special character and - conformed to Christ the Priest. We need to see beyond the Priesthood, and delve more deeply into it, because it is our call to Priesthood that has to change people's lives. The transcendent demand needs ratification, so that the Priesthood is recognized as that group of men, anointed by Christ to stand in that daunting space, to gather the rest of God's people around that space, and to underwrite the presence of that holy space as near and accessible to each one of us. This 'other' space will provide a bridge between this world and the next, between what we are and what we shall be. So, by our ordination, we are anointed, to be Christ-like, to bring others to that goal of human history and that focal point to which the desires of humanity aim: Christ himself. We are called to a ministry of preaching and healing, to make people whole again, ready and willing to meet the Lord when he calls, to be there when others need us most. This requires us to develop our inner well-being; our generosity; our selflessness; our desire to give and encourage forgiveness in others by our word and example, and most of all by our generosity of service. We are called to have the strength and courage to contradict the ways of the world.

And to do all this, we cannot do it alone. There is another aspect of priesthood that complements the ordained priesthood. It is the priesthood of the laity. It is the priesthood conferred on all who are baptised. Yet, there is only one priesthood of Christ, within which there is a diversity of kind and function. It is the role of the ministerial priesthood to bring to its full exercise - and to its full expression - the priesthood of the entire body of Christ, in which all share in different degrees. And to remember, every ordained priest comes from among the laity in the first place.

It is difficult to convey what it means to say, for the first time, the words of consecration at Mass, and to realise that it is the first person singular - I - that we are using. It is my voice, my hands, my mind, that are engaged in this tremendous act which is central to the Eucharist, in which Christ is made present through my person. How could anyone in the priesthood ever have abused that anointing deliberately and-repeatedly, not just in a single, one-off moment of immaturity or indiscretion immediately regretted, but by knowing and planning habitually, without remorse or regret, what they were doing?

It's ironic that the Year of the Ordained Priest began as the Year of the Abused Victim. During this past year we have made no excuses; for there are none to make. The lapses and the offences of the few, who make up no more than a half of one percent of all clergy, have sadly damaged also the many. It's been a year when society has called into question the integrity of politicians and their expenses, financiers and their bonuses, and not least of all priests and their assaults on the innocent and vulnerable. All these groups have been guilty of betraying trust. All have been convinced of their own self-righteousness, almost their entitlement to do these things, their conviction that they were doing no wrong.

For priests who offended, I'm not sure that their abuses grew out of the rule of celibacy; abuse happens within otherwise good families too. I'm more convinced that it grew out of the clericalism of the past. That clericalism risks raising its head today among those who again are looking for identity in status, not service. They want to be treated differently. There are those who set high standards of morality for lay people, while they blatantly violate those same standards themselves. There are those who go to extremes to express the Mass in a particular way, whether it is in the Ordinary Form or Extraordinary Form, in a so-called VAT II rite or Tridentine Rile, through the "People's Mass" or the . "Priest's Mass". Some want to put the priest on a pedestal, whilst the people are consigned to be privileged spectators outside the rails. Flamboyant modes of liturgical vestments and rubrical gestures abound. Women are denied all ministries at Mass: doing the Readings, the serving, the Bidding Prayers, and taking Communion to the Sick. To many in our Church and beyond, this comes across as triumphalism and male domination. This clericalism conceals the fact that the Church as an institution has often acted in collusion with what I can only regard as structural sinfulness. It has paid dearly for it and is untrue to its humble Founder, Jesus Christ.

This underlying culture of clericalism has to end and never happen again. In addition, where there have been victims of it, they merit our individual and collective expression of sorrow, without reservation, plus our promise of listening and healing, and our assurance of Support, These are openly given. Accompanying all this is a deeper truth without which life would be just too hard to live. It is the truth that there is a deeper power at work below the surface of our human failings and our uncertainties. The strength of the priesthood, exercised by some 99% of the clergy, lies in the daily sacrifice of self in the service of the Lord, in making him known, in a Church that all of us love and that does so much, good. We can only glimpse a horizon beyond which so little is known this side of eternity. Here, earthy symphonies will always remain unfinished. And we want a priest to ease us out of this world, who anoints and forgives us, to speed us on our journey into the next.

Together, whether you are ministerial priest or baptised priest, you are all called to be a dynamic force in the Church. You, the ordained, have to realise the power for good that you have and thus exercise your God-given gifts. None of you can measure the good that you do. Most of it is hidden. It is rarely publicised, and because of its personal and confidential nature it cannot be shouted from the roof-tops. It is known to the individual who has benefited. It is known to the Lord himself. Whereas everything else can be taken away from you, even your reason can diminish or disappear, no-one can take away your priesthood. You are a priest forever. Cherish that. You, the laity, and us, the ordained, have been given a dynamic force to be Christ and to make Christ present in this world, today and for as long as we are alive. Sometimes we need to pray as Pope John XXIII did one night he knelt by his bedside, tired and frustrated at the end of a long day. He said: "It's your Church, Lord. Get on with it!"   AMEN.

Bishop Tom acknowledges the helpful advice and comments which he obtained as a result of consulting certain individuals and resources in the preparation of this homily, which was given in St. Joseph's Cathedral, Swansea, on the occasion of the Closure Mass for the Year of the Priest' 21st  June 2010.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Sermons of Pope St Leo the Great

I. All share in the joy of Christmas

Our Saviour, dearly-beloved, was born today: let us be glad. For there is no proper place for sadness, when we keep the birthday of the Life, which destroys the fear of mortality and brings to us the joy of promised eternity. No one is kept from sharing in this happiness. There is for all one common measure of joy, because as our Lord the destroyer of sin and death finds none free from charge, so is He come to free us all. Let the saint exult in that he draws near to victory. Let the sinner be glad in that he is invited to pardon. Let the gentile take courage in that he is called to life. For the Son of God in the fullness of time which the inscrutable depth of the Divine counsel has determined, has taken on him the nature of man, thereby to reconcile it to its Author: in order that the inventor of death, the devil, might be conquered through that (nature) which he had conquered. And in this conflict undertaken for us, the fight was fought on great and wondrous principles of fairness; for the Almighty Lord enters the lists with His savage foe not in His own majesty but in our humility, opposing him with the same form and the same nature, which shares indeed our mortality, though it is free from all sin. Truly foreign to this nativity is that which we read of all others, no one is clean from stain, not even the infant who has lived but one day upon earth Job 19:4 . Nothing therefore of the lust of the flesh has passed into that peerless nativity, nothing of the law of sin has entered. A royal Virgin of the stem of David is chosen, to be impregnated with the sacred seed and to conceive the Divinely-human offspring in mind first and then in body. And lest in ignorance of the heavenly counsel she should tremble at so strange a result , she learns from converse with the angel that what is to be wrought in her is of the Holy Ghost. Nor does she believe it loss of honour that she is soon to be the Mother of God. For why should she be in despair over the novelty of such conception, to whom the power of the most High has promised to effect it. Her implicit faith is confirmed also by the attestation of a precursory miracle, and Elizabeth receives unexpected fertility: in order that there might be no doubt that He who had given conception to the barren, would give it even to a virgin.

II. The mystery of the Incarnation is a fitting theme for joy both to angels and to men

Therefore the Word of God, Himself God, the Son of God who in the beginning was with God, through whom all things were made and without whom was nothing made John 1:1-3, with the purpose of delivering man from eternal death, became man: so bending Himself to take on Him our humility without decrease in His own majesty, that remaining what He was and assuming what He was not, He might unite the true form of a slave to that form in which He is equal to God the Father, and join both natures together by such a compact that the lower should not be swallowed up in its exaltation nor the higher impaired by its new associate. Without detriment therefore to the properties of either substance which then came together in one person, majesty took on humility, strength weakness, eternity mortality: and for the paying off of the debt, belonging to our condition, inviolable nature was united with possible nature, and true God and true man were combined to form one Lord, so that, as suited the needs of our case, one and the same Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, could both die with the one and rise again with the other.
Rightly therefore did the birth of our Salvation impart no corruption to the Virgin's purity, because the bearing of the Truth was the keeping of honour. Such then beloved was the nativity which became the Power of God and the Wisdom of God even Christ, whereby He might be one with us in manhood and surpass us in Godhead. For unless He were true God, He would not bring us a remedy, unless He were true Man, He would not give us an example. Therefore the exulting angel's song when the Lord was born is this, Glory to God in the Highest, and their message, peace on earth to men of good will Luke 2:14 . For they see that the heavenly Jerusalem is being built up out of all the nations of the world: and over that indescribable work of the Divine love how ought the humbleness of men to rejoice, when the joy of the lofty angels is so great?

III. Christians then must live worthily of Christ their Head

Let us then, dearly beloved, give thanks to God the Father, through His Son, in the Holy Spirit , Who for His great mercy, wherewith He has loved us, has had pity on us: and when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together in Christ Ephesians 2:4-5, that we might be in Him a new creation and a new production. Let us put off then the old man with his deeds: and having obtained a share in the birth of Christ let us renounce the works of the flesh. Christian, acknowledge your dignity, and becoming a partner in the Divine nature, refuse to return to the old baseness by degenerate conduct. Remember the Head and the Body of which you are a member. Recollect that you were rescued from the power of darkness and brought out into God's light and kingdom. By the mystery of Baptism you were made the temple of the Holy Ghost: do not put such a denizen to flight from you by base acts, and subject yourself once more to the devil's thraldom: because your purchase money is the blood of Christ, because He shall judge you in truth Who ransomed you in mercy, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Head of the Belgian Church makes shocking comparison of comparing pedophilia and floods

Le chef de l'Eglise belge choque en comparant pédophilie et inondations

The head of the Belgian Catholic Church, Andre-Joseph Leonard shocked MPs on Wednesday saying that the Belgian Church could compensate victims of pedophile priests, just as it has shown "solidarity with flood victims ".

"The Catholic Church could freely participate with all other sectors of society in the creation of solidarity funds, not because it is legally obliged, but because there is a duty of solidarity with all victims, not only of floods and epidemics, but also sexual abuse, "said the Primate of Belgium.

He spoke in particular cases where the abuser is dead or the actions under statute of limitations, for other cases being for him the responsibility of Justice.

Archbishop Leonard, a conservative at the head of the Catholic Church in Belgium since the beginning of the year, was speaking before a committee of the Chamber of Deputies set up after the publication of the testimonies of nearly 500 people accusing the clergy of abusing them during their youth, mostly from the 1950s to 1980s.

"You were provocative in comparing the victims of natural disasters and those of pedophile priests," responded the Flemish Green MP, Stefaan Van Hecke, saying that he himself was "deeply shocked".

"By saying that you would respond in the same way as to floods, you send a signal of indifference to victims, to be seen as misplaced irony", echoed the French-speaking Green MP Olivier Deleuze.

"This is a total failure to take responsibility," the Socialist deputy, Valerie Déom told AFP stressing the special role played by the Catholic Church in Belgian society.

Known for his controversial statements - he has recently described AIDS as a "kind of poetic justice" - Bishop Leonard has again ventured into the minefields at his hearing, which lasted four hours.

The Archbishop of Malines-Brussels has warned the Members of Parliament of risks for institutions - political, medical ...-- who have not committed crimes but might in future be called upon to give compensation.

"Medical studies say there is reason to believe that children who were conceived by artificial reproduction could after a while be more vulnerable to certain genetic diseases," he said, suggesting that some of these children seek redress from the legislator who authorized the practice.

"There are also people who are doing studies on the possible psychological sequelae of children who grew up with two moms or two dads. What will happen if people begin to ask for compensation?" he said.

Moreover, the Belgian courts have announced on Wednesday that much of the spectacular June 24 searches in the heart of the Church by a Belgian investigating judge were valid, dismissing the claim of the Archdiocese.

Seizure of documents at the headquarters of the Church in Mechelen and the home of Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, Archbishop of predecessors Leonardo, are "valid," said the Court of Appeal in Brussels.

However, documents seized at the headquarters of the Adriaenssens Commission named after its chairman, who had heard the testimonies of victims, will be returned, the court decided.

"We are satisfied because the most important documents are being retained. The investigation will now be allowed to continue," exclaimed a lawyer for the victims, Joachim Meese.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Danneels, the do-nothing Cardinal

Pédophilie: Un ex-primat belge se dédouane de toute responsabilité -

Pedophilia: Former Belgian primate to shirk responsibility

Cardinal Godfried Danneels, former primate of Belgium, said Tuesday before a parliamentary commission to investigate sexual abuse by clergy that he was not responsible for other Belgian bishops.

A report published in September by a commission set up by the Church has identified 475 victims of priests, including at least 13 suicides.

Based on recordings made this summer in Belgium, Cardinal Godfried Danneels was aware of sexual abuse by the Bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, but he discouraged the victim from making an immediate public statements on this matter .

"I cannot give orders to other bishops. I have no authority over other bishops and I think that is the basis for many problems that have been cited here, Danneels defended himself.

Closure of Ushaw College

The trustees of Ushaw College announced on 8th October that the seminary would close at the end of the academic year (ie next June) if a development partner could not be found. Presumably this meant that they were looking for some business to take over part of the site and relieve the college of some of the running costs of a large complex of buildings. Following a further meeting of the trustees, who are the bishops of the northern dioceses, under the chairmanship of Archbishop Kelly of Liverpool, it was announced on 14th December that the ancillary businesses including the hosting conferences would cease at the end of December 2010, and that all bookings after this date would have to be cancelled.

By eliminating the conference activities, and the healthy income stream that they generated, the trustees have struck a severe blow at the possibilities of the rescue plan, that, according to their earlier announcement, they were seeking. It seems that this decision was ill judged and taken without regard to the financial consequences. No longer is any mention made of a business partner, although it is known that a proposal has been made.

Ushaw College has very fine buildings, many designed by distinguished architects including members of the Pugin and Hansom families, St Cuthbert’s Chapel and the library being particularly notable. It also occupies a major place in the cultural, religious and educational heritage of the Catholicism in the north of England. Many are dismayed that its future is being dismissed without consultation and that there seems to be scant regard for those who have supported it during the last 200 years.

Anyone sharing this dismay is invited to sign a petition

Archbishop Kelly enjoys closures- witness the devastation to the ecclesiastical patrimony of Liverpool.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Feast of Our Lady in Expectation


In Bavaria, a statue of Our Lady in processed from house to house in the parish in memory of Our Lady and St Joseph's search for lodgings.

The Feast was removed from the Roman Calendar during the reign Pope St Pius X (in the name of simplification!). The Feast is long overdue for restoration in the calendar, not least as an antidote to the rampant commercialism of Christmas that Pope St Pius would never have dreamed of, and as Our Lady under this title is a most excellent Patroness of Expectant Mothers.

Our Lady in Expectation is venerated in Bavaria at Bodenburg

and in Austria in the Parish of Ohlsdorf (see first picture)

Our Lady in Expectation often shown with her arms crossed, as in this statue in the Dominican Museum in Rottweil

Our Lady in Expectation venerated in Italy.

Venerated in the Church of St Catherine in Bergamo, Italy.

And the most famous of all, Madonna del Parto, also known as Our Lady of the O, recalling the "O" Antiphons.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Vatican on WikiLeaks list as 'hacktivists' rally to the cause | Ekklesia

Link to full article

"Meanwhile, WikiLeaks is continuing to release documents, with assistance from mirror sites, campaigners and individuals across the world - who have ensured that the site remains functional, despite cyber-attacks from the US government, China and others.

Material relating to the Vatican and Israel is described as 'in the pipeline', and could be released within the next few days.

The political storm around WikiLeaks has now turned into a fully fledged cyber battle, with grassroots groups on one side and large corporations and governments on the other."

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The indifference of the Belgian Church

Abus sexuels: l'Eglise n'a jamais envisagé d'indemniser les victimes

Sexual abuse: the Church never considered compensating victims
(Belga) The Church never intended to compensate victims of sexual abuse by priests, Godelieve Halsberghe, President of the Interdiocesan Commission responsible for this issue from 2000 to 2009 said on Wednesday, before the Parliamentary Committee on Sexual Abuse by those in a relationship of authority.

On 28 August 2000, Ms. Halsberghe received a letter from an employee of the archdiocese of Malines-Brussels indicating that it was impossible to pay damages for two reasons: on a practical level, such a decision would have resulted in a string of lawsuits and, in legal terms, the recognition of fault by the Church. Ms. Halsberghe, the magistrate who carried out this work without charge, has also sown confusion in the Commission stating that the Church could have hidden files relating to these abuses. "I think that there is a secret place where those records are kept" she said, before giving details of the statement in camera. In the corridors of the Parliament, counsel for the Bishops Conference of Belgium, Paul-Olivier Quirynen, protested against these statements. The word "secret" is borrowed from canon law and in fact covers records relating to appointment people or about people which need to be treated confidentially, like that of doctors or lawyers, "he said. The magistrate resigned in 2009, partly because the Church no longer responded to her letters for a year. The child psychiatrist Peter Adriaenssens succeeded her. (OSN)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Feast of All Saints of the University of Oxford

Over the years, the most Catholic of all the colleges was Exeter College, of which I have the profound honour to be a member, providing many of the staff and residents of the Catholic colleges on the continent when the times of persecution came and also many of the leaders of the Oxford Movement, a good proportion of whom saw the logic of their position left the Anglican Church, which then as now, no power on earth can save, and God even in his mercy will not preserve.

St Ralph Sherwin, also of Exeter College was martyred on this day.

His last words Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, esto mihi Jesus!

Psalm 26
1 Dominus inluminatio mea (the first threee words are the University Motto) et salus mea quem timebo Dominus protector vitae meae a quo trepidabo
2 dum adpropiant super me nocentes ut edant carnes meas qui tribulant me et inimici mei ipsi infirmati sunt et ceciderunt
3 si consistant adversus me castra non timebit cor meum si exsurgat adversus me proelium in hoc ego sperabo
4 unam petii a Domino hanc requiram ut inhabitem in domo Domini omnes dies vitae meae ut videam voluntatem Domini et visitem templum eius
5 quoniam abscondit me in tabernaculo in die malorum protexit me in abscondito tabernaculi sui

6 in petra exaltavit me et nunc exaltavit caput meum super inimicos meos circuivi et immolavi in tabernaculo eius hostiam vociferationis cantabo et psalmum dicam Domino
7 exaudi Domine vocem meam qua clamavi miserere mei et exaudi me 8 tibi dixit cor meum exquisivit facies mea faciem tuam Domine requiram
9 ne avertas faciem tuam a me ne declines in ira a servo tuo adiutor meus esto ne derelinquas me neque dispicias me Deus salvator meus
10 quoniam pater meus et mater mea dereliquerunt me Dominus autem adsumpsit me
11 legem pone mihi Domine in via tua et dirige me in semita recta propter inimicos meos
12 ne tradideris me in animas tribulantium me quoniam insurrexerunt in me testes iniqui et mentita est iniquitas sibi
13 credo videre bona Domini in terra viventium
14 expecta Dominum viriliter age et confortetur cor tuum et sustine Dominum

1 The psalm of David before he was anointed. The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the protector of my life: of whom shall I be afraid?
2 Whilst the wicked draw near against me, to eat my flesh. My enemies that trouble me, have themselves been weakened, and have fallen.
3 If armies in camp should stand together against me, my heart shall not fear. If a battle should rise up against me, in this will I be confident.
4 One thing I have asked of the Lord, this will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. That I may see the delight of the Lord, and may visit his temple.
5 For he hath hidden me in his tabernacle; in the day of evils, he hath protected me in the secret place of his tabernacle.

6 He hath exalted me upon a rock: and now he hath lifted up my head above my enemies. I have gone round, and have offered up in his tabernacle a sacrifice of jubilation: I will sing, and recite a psalm to the Lord.
7 Hear, O Lord, my voice, with which I have cried to thee: have mercy on me and hear me.
8 My heart hath said to thee: My face hath sought thee: thy face, O Lord, will I still seek.
9 Turn not away thy face from me; decline not in thy wrath from thy servant. Be thou my helper, forsake me not; do not thou despise me, O God my Saviour.
10 For my father and my mother have left me: but the Lord hath taken me up.
11 Set me, O Lord, a law in thy way, and guide me in the right path, because of my enemies.
12 Deliver me not over to the will of them that trouble me; for unjust witnesses have risen up against me; and iniquity hath lied to itself.
13 I believe to see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.
14 Expect the Lord, do manfully, and let thy heart take courage, and wait thou for the Lord.

And of your charity on this day, pray for the repose of the soul of the Revd John Davis, sometime deputy principal of the Anglican theological college, St Stephen's House and who taught theology at Harris Manchester College who died October 2009.