50 years ago today David Steel MP decided to introduce a Bill to legalise abortion in Britain

Posted by John Smeaton at Spuc.org on 23 May 2016

Lord Steel of Aikwood

Paul Lennon, SPUC’s adviser on parliamentary affairs has reminded the Society this morning: “It is 50 years ago today that David Steel made the fateful decision to sponsor a Bill to make abortion more easily available.”

In 2015, under Steel’s tragic legislation, 509 babies were killed every single day in England and Wales alone.

Paul Lennon explains: “Having won third place in the Private Members’ ballot on 12 May, David Steel pondered on what Bill to introduce. He has said that he would initially have liked to have sponsored a Bill to create a Scottish Border development authority but the Government made it clear that they were opposed to this and Steel realised that it would have probably have been defeated on Second Reading.

Roy Jenkins

“The pro-abortion Home Secretary Roy Jenkins, suggested to Steel that he might wish to consider introducing the Sexual Offences Bill (to legalise homosexuality in England and Wales), which had just passed the House of Lords, or a Bill on abortion. (See John Campbell’s biography Roy Jenkins: A Well-Rounded Life, page 294 [2014])

“Steel apparently decided to take abortion because the Sexual Offences Bill did not extend to Scotland. The Labour MP, Leo Abse would subsequently take up the Sexual Offences Bill as a Ten Minute Rule Bill in July.

Lord Silken

“Today also marks the 50th anniversary of the Committee stage of the second of Lord Silkin’s two Bills to make abortion more easily available. The debate can be seen here.

“The anti-life Labour Peer, Lord Silkin – the Sponsor David Steel’s Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill when it arrived in the House of Lords – had introduced his own legislation to make abortion more easily available during the 1965-66 Session. His first Bill was introduced on 11 November 1965 and was debated on Second Reading on 30 November 1965. An attempt by pro-life Peers to kill the Bill on Second Reading was defeated by 70 votes to 8. The debate can be seen here.

“The first Bill had been introduced at the start of the 1965-66 Session. Although that Bill had completed its passage through the House of Lords, there was no Parliamentary time available for it to proceed further in the House of Commons because the 1966 General Election intervened.

“Following the election, Lord Silkin reintroduced the Bill on 26 April. It was given an unopposed Second Reading on 10 May 1966.”

The pro-life fightback

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, the first pro-life group to be established anywhere in the world, began to be formed on 30th September 1966 when Elspeth Rhys-Williams (now Elspeth Chowdharay-Best) and Alan Smith (who remains a member of SPUC’s Executive Committee and Council) had a letter published in The Church Times. They asked readers, wishing to oppose David Steel’s abortion bill, to contact them at 47 Eaton Place, SW1, SPUC’s first national address.

Both Elspeth and Alan will be attending the SPUC’s 50th anniversary national conference from 23rd to 25th September 2016 in Derbyshire. Click here if you are interested in attending and would like to receive full details, or contact: katherinehampton@spuc.org.uk

Let’s pray for David Steel today (now Lord Steel of Aikwood) and for the countless millions of victims of his Abortion Bill (mothers, fathers and children) which he made the decision 50 years ago today to introduce – as well as the victims of copycat abortion legislation subsequently introduced in so many countries worldwide.

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The Blessed Virgin is so good!


During World War One, on September 14th, in Noyon, France, a young corporal lay dying among wounded comrades. The officers had signaled to me that the poor fellow was lying in a field. When I got near him, leaning down, I said, “It’s me!”

“Who are you?” he asked. I realized that the man’s head was bleeding, his forehead was split open and his eyes had been gouged out. “I’m the chaplain,” I said, very moved, “I am here at your side!”

“Oh, Mr. Chaplain, the Blessed Virgin is so good!” Then he raised his right arm that was holding a Rosary and exclaimed: “All night long, I have been asking her to send a priest this way. I am so glad you’re here!”

He was shaking with fever. I took him to a nearby farm and dressed his wounds. He was beaming with happiness. His leg had been broken in the attack. A German passing by had given him a drink; another, at close range, shot him three times, the last bullet opening his forehead.

During his night of agony every time I bent over him, this young man kept saying: “Hail Mary …” and kept repeating: “How glad I am, Mr. Chaplain! The Holy Virgin is so good to have brought you here to me!”

He died three days later with a smile on his face.

Father Paul Doncoeur, military chaplain

(From mariedenazareth.com)


Our Lady promised to assist at the moment of death all those who made the Five First Saturdays in Reparation and in honour of Her Immaculate Heart.

On 10th December 1925, Sister Lucia was visited by Our Lady and the Child Jesus and the Holy Virgin said to her:

“‘Look My daughter, at My Heart, surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce Me at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You at least try to console Me and announce in My name that I promise to assist at the moment of death, with all the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the First Saturday of five consecutive months shall confess, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep Me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making Reparation to Me.”

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To the Most High Trinity


The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in Himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the “hierarchy of the truths of faith”. The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men “and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin”.

[Catechism of the Catholic Church]

Trinity Sunday, today, marks the end of the liturgical commemoration of our Lord’s life and God’s saving work, which began last Advent. In these six months we’ve commemorated the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Baptism, the Epiphany, the Presentation, the Transfiguration, the Passion, the Death and Resurrection, the Ascension, not to mention the Descent of the Holy Spirit. Phew.

This then would surely call for an anthem today by Sir James MacMillan* (born 1959), To the Most High Trinity.



Summæ Trinitati, simplici Deo, una Divinitas, æqualis gloria, coæterna maiestas, Patri, Prolique, Sanctoque Flamini.

R: Qui totum subdit Suis orbem legibus.

Præstet nobis gratiam Deitas beata Patris ac Nati, pariterque Spiritus Almi.

R: Qui totum subdit Suis orbem legibus.

Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto.

R: Qui totum subdit Suis orbem legibus.

To the most high Trinity, God pure in essence, one Divinity, of equal glory, of coeternal majesty, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

R: Who subjects the whole world to His laws. 

May the blessed divinity of the Father, Son and equally also of the life-giving Spirit grant us grace.

R: Who subjects the whole world to His laws.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

R: Who subjects the whole world to His laws.


*Notes on this piece say:

This short work demonstrates MacMillan’s versatility as a composer. This has ‘coronation service’ wow factor with brass, timpani and organ making a hugely impressive entrance fanfare/motet for the new Archbishop as he entered the west door of Westminster Cathedral and processed down the centre of the nave to the high altar. It is pure musical theatre and would be a good starting work in a concert which included MacMillan’s Gloria.

The notes are not difficult for a choir to master. The work is in three sections. Fanfares and choral outbursts followed by chant in the habitual MacMillan manner interspersed with free chant in four-part harmony before a return to the opening fanfare material and a wonderfully ‘driven into the buffers at full tilt’ ending.



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A Comedy Of Manners

I grew up to the age of six in a house with ma and pa and five siblings, before my eldest sister left to start nursing. In those days families were more nuclear than atomised as they are today. We would all gather in the living room on a Saturday evening to watch this show together. Laughing along with my family (and the laughter track) is one of my earliest rememberings. There are 55 early episodes in the public domain due to a failure to renew copyright, so the one I link to is guaranteed guilt-free viewing. I hope you enjoy this marvellous humorous comedy which was made in a simpler more innocent time.

My parents moved to the UK from different parts of Ireland just after the war. They met and married in London. There was plenty of work available for them, though like immigrants everywhere they weren’t always welcomed except at church and among their own. Family togetherness substituted for their lack of social “success”. I cannot fault the upbringing they gave me. My parents did their best, and that’s good enough for me. As the fifth of six children, I entered a pretty mature family group. I worshipped my elders, and fought and played with my younger brother, as one does. We would all gather for meals and TV treats like the above.

I think this program was such a favourite with us because the Clampett’s predicaments comically mirrored our family’s own, as fish out of water. I can see now how well written and acted it was. Jed has to be one of the nicest good men ever portrayed in drama. All the characters are lovable. From what I have watched so far, there are laugh-out-loud scenes and lines every minute. Only a bitter person could not enjoy this, I guess.

Look, I know how nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, but it is my main hobby nowadays. I would hate for this show to become forgotten. It is very wholesome entertainment that deserves a new audience. Spread the word!

(Check out Wikipedia for more information).


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Hello readers, its Brother Burrito here (“yet again”, I hear you groan).

I beg your indulgence, and especially that of my blog colleagues, because my health has taken a down-turn recently, and this has made me a little self-observant. In the past I have often written from experience because that is all I have to write from. I don’t think anyone could see my life as noteworthy or exciting (except my mother, perhaps), but I intuit that many people feel the same way about their own lives, and so I instantly find myself in solidarity with them, in my mediocrity.

I wasn’t a rebellious teenager, at all. In fact my mum asked me once why I was so dang docile. I didn’t know the answer because I did not know what docile meant. I messed up at school for sure, but learned from my mistakes and succeeded academically before I left. I just learned nothing about teenage angst and confusion and turmoil and loneliness while I was a teenager. This was a very poor preparation for adult life. I entered the proving oven of university and beyond with barely any leavening in me. Like a sour-dough, we are meant to be leavened by the wild yeasts that enter the brew unintentionally. My upbringing had been too clean

Short-cuts always make for long delays. I finally came a-cropper in my late twenties when I suddenly found myself bereft of all the people and things I had become dependent on. My romance had gone south and my friends had deserted me because they thought I had gone weird, but the hardest part was when my Psion Organiser 2, which held all my contacts, died without warning, just when I needed it most. Why hadn’t I just written stuff down on paper? Geek-pride, I suppose. I was up the creek without a paddle.

It took a lot of digging to get me out of that pothole in my life, and this taught me a lot about soul survival. I was then living in a hospital room, and owned no property. Existence was very day to day. In my loneliness I hooked up with a nurse I worked with who was in similar straits. It didn’t last long, and just left us both feeling worse than before we’d met. Emergency romance is never a good idea.

I came upon this song by New Order called “Regret”. The tune is melodic to my ears, and the lyrics resonate with my experiences of that time closely enough. The closing septuplet is particularly resonant:

I would like a place I could call my own
Have a conversation on the telephone
Wake up every day that would be a start
I would not complain about my wounded heart

Just wait till tomorrow
I guess that’s what they all say
Just before they fall apart.

PS: My concentration and memory are so poor at the moment that I can hardly read a paragraph of text without losing the thread. I have been consuming music videos instead. The music helps my train of thought. I can only compose articles by making up the sentences as I go along, and then regularly proof reading it. Perhaps Toad can confirm that’s how the professionals do it? God bless!

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Trinity Sunday: Shared glory, Majesty’s gift

The Trinity is the hardest, most mysterious of all dogmas.

There is a logic to the timing of this feast.

We focus on the Son’s Ascension to the Father, then the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, and then the Triune God the Sunday after.

God the Father created us through the Son who redeemed us and revealed us more fully to ourselves (GS 22). God the Holy Ghost sanctifies us in Christ’s Holy Church so we can enjoy communion in the Trinity in the life to come.

Here is Sunday’s Collect:

Deus Pater, qui, Verbum veritatis et Spiritum sanctificationis mittens in mundum, admirabile mysterium tuum hominibus declarasti, da nobis, in confessione verae fidei, aeternae gloriam Trinitatis agnoscere, et Unitatem adorare in potentia maiestatis.

This is glued together from new material and part of the 1962 Collect.  The phrase admirabile mysterium is used to describe the Trinity in the minutes of the summit of June 411 in Carthage between Catholic and Donatist bishops. St Augustine of Hippo (d 430), whose work On the Trinity was the first great work of systematic theology in Latin, was a major player at that meeting.


O God the Father, who, sending the Word of Truth and the Spirit of sanctification into the world, declared Your astonishing mystery to men, grant us, in the confession of true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and to adore the Unity in the might of majesty.


God our Father, who by sending into the world the Word of truth and the Spirit of sanctification made known to the human race your wondrous mystery, grant us, we pray, that in professing the true faith, we may acknowledge the Trinity of eternal glory and adore your Unity, powerful in majesty.

Someone may have been on autopilot in adding that “we pray”.  Our Latin prayers often have some phrase like “tribue, quaesumus“.  This prayer doesn’t.

In this prayer I hear echoes of manifestations (epiphanies) of the Trinity in Scripture: at Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan when the Holy Spirit was seen as a dove and the voice of the Father was heard (cfLuke 3) and when Jesus was transfigured before the eyes of Peter, John and James (cf Matthew 17). God “made known, manifested, showed, proclaimed publicly” (declarasti, a shortening of declaravisti, from declaro) the wondrous mystery (admirabile mysterium) that He is Three in One, a Trinity of divine Persons, God the Father, God the Word of Truth, God the Spirit of sanctification, One God.  It is necessary for true Christian Faith (vera fides) that we recognize (agnoscere – “announce, allow, or admit a thing to be one’s own, to acknowledge, own”) that God is Triune, One God having one divine nature in a perfect unity of three distinct Divine Persons. Man can reason toward this truth on his own, as ancient Greek Neoplatonic philosophers did.  They almost got there, too.  Only by the gift of Faith can we profess (confiteor) this mystery in an authentically Christian way.  What reason and intellect straive after, revelation and the grace of faith must complete.

In our Collect we adore the gloria Trinitatis, the maiestas Unitatis. They have “power” (potentia). “Glory” and “majesty” in our liturgical prayers boom with the Last Things.

Maiestas is conceptually related in the writings of the Latin Fathers to gloria, Greek doxa and Hebrew kabodMaiestas and gloria are more than simple splendor. They express our recognition of God as God.  They also indicate the mighty divine characteristic which God will share with us and by which we will be transformed. The transforming glory we will receive in heaven was foreshadowed in Moses’ meetings with God, when He descended like a cloud upon the tent.  After these meetings Moses’ face shone so brightly that he had to wear a veil.

Declare God’s glory in all you say and do.

Marvel, friends, at the gift that awaits us, when we die in God’s friendship.  We will no longer have to grope for a glimpse God as if through some dark glass, as if through a cleft in the rock.

Face to face we shall meet MYSTERY.

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Catholics have filled the internet with venom and vitriol, says Vatican media advisor

From the Catholic Herald

Fr Thomas Rosica (AP)

Fr Thomas Rosica said many Catholics were guilty of character assassination and ‘being against everyone and everything’

Many Catholics on the internet are uncharitable and disturbed individuals, the Vatican’s English-language media advisor has said.

Speaking to the DeSales Media Group of Brooklyn diocese, Fr Thomas Rosica said: “Many of my non-Christian and non-believing friends have remarked to me that we ‘Catholics’ have turned the internet into a cesspool of hatred, venom and vitriol, all in the name of defending the faith!

“The character assassination on the internet by those claiming to be Catholic and Christian has turned it into a graveyard of corpses strewn all around.”

Fr Rosica described internet bloggers and commentators as “obsessed, scrupulous, self-appointed, nostalgia-hankering virtual guardians of faith or of liturgical practices”.

He urged Catholics to pray for such people, “who never found a platform or pulpit in real life and so resort to the Internet and become trolling pontiffs and holy executioners.”

Fr Rosica was appointed by Benedict XVI to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications in 2009. He has since worked with Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s spokesman, in relating to English-speaking media, and is closely involved with the media group Salt + Light TV. Fr Rosica was speaking after the DeSales group awarded him the St Francis DeSales Distinguished Communicator Award.

Fr Rosica said St Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists, was remembered today for insisting on “the call to holiness for all people in all walks of life”, and the necessity of serving God at every moment and in the ordinary circumstances of life.

Fr Rosica said Catholics should be known online, not as “the people who are against everyone and everything”, but as people who have something positive to offer – “the Good News that the Lord has asked us to spread”.

He praised Pope Francis for “rebranding” the Church and for encouraging a practice of dialogue. “Let us learn from him how to model this badly needed kindness, goodness, mercy and joy to a wounded world and broken humanity around us,” Fr Rosica said.

This should spur some debate on CP&S!- Ed ;) 


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They’re Messing With My Heart

I just found this video of one of my favourite songs from the 80s, performed energetically and live on the Old Grey Whistle Test, a UK TV program. This song was released in 1984, prophetically 32 years too early. It perfectly depicts the modern mindset and its relationship to technology: hyperactive+++ Enjoy the craftmanship. I especially love the trombone playing, but everyone does their part well.


At the tender age of three
I was hooked to a machine (TV?)
Just to keep my mouth from spouting junk
Must have took me for a fool
When they chucked me out of school
‘Cause the teacher knew I had the funk
But tonight I’m on the edge –
Better shut me in the fridge
‘Cause I’m burning up (I’m burning up)
With the vision in my brain
and the music in my veins
And the dirty rhythm in my blood

They are messing with my heart
And they’re messing with my heart
And they’re messing with my heart
Won’t stop messing with me
Ripping me apart !

Hyperactive: when I’m small
Hyperactive: now I’m grown
Hyperactive: and the night is young
And in a minute I’ll blow

Semaphore out on the floor
Messages from outer space
Deep heat for the feet
And the rhythm of your heartbeat
‘Cause the music of the street
It isn’t any rapattack
It isn’t any rapattack

I can reach into your homes
Like an itch in your headphones
You can’t turn it up
I’m the shape in your back room
I’m the breather on the phone
And I’m burning up
But there’s one thing I must say
Before they lock me up again –
You’d be safer at the back
When I’m having an attack!

Hyperactive: when I’m small
Hyperactive: now I’m tall
Hyperactive: as the day is long
Hyperactive: in my bones
Hyperactive: in your phones
Hyperactive: and the night is young
Hyperactive : when I’m small
Hyperactive: now I’m grown
Hyperactivfe: ’til I’m dead and gone

Stand up : hyperactivate!
Get up: hyperactivate!
Wise up: hyperactivate!
London: hyperactivate!

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Cardinal Burke: Pope’s exhortation must be read ‘critically’

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

ROME, May 18, 2016 (LifeSiteNews

Two days after the Rome Life Forum in which he called faithful Catholics to be prepared to endure the “Martyrdom of Witness” for the sake of “the defense of human life and its cradle in the conjugal union of husband and wife,” I was privileged to obtain a personal interview with Cardinal Raymond Burke for LifeSiteNews in which he made clear that in his view, Amoris laetitia can be read “critically.” He spoke gravely, even sadly, deploring the fact that many Catholics today are “ignorant of their Catholic faith,” underscoring also that “the part played by artificial contraception is fundamental and lethal” to many marriages that fail, “because what it does is diminish the love between the husband and wife.”

The post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation has been widely criticized by many lay Catholics on several points, including its almost complete lack of condemnation of contraception.  At the Rome Life Forum, having called attention to several of Amoris laetitia’s marked failings to uphold the Church’s traditional teaching, a very large majority of participants vocally approved an appeal to withdraw the text.

“Those parts which support and give full expression to the Church’s magisterium are fine, but there may be other things that are reflections of the Holy Father, but they are not magisterium.”

In his interview, Cardinal Burke recalled that “we have all the tools in our faith to understand correctly this kind of writing,” parts of which, being “personal thoughts” of Pope Francis, are not “part of the magisterium.” Up to now, such an appeal has not been made by any prelate of the Church, but many, including Cardinal Burke, have asked for it to be interpreted in the light of its constant teaching regarding Faith and morals.

Answering a question in which I remarked that “many Catholics are troubled by the text,” Cardinal Burke did not deny that some of the Exhortation’s elements are open to a non-orthodox interpretation, underscoring that these cannot be part of the magisterium. “I think the important thing is that when one reads critically the document, one is always respectful of the person of the Pope,” Cardinal Burke said, thus conceding that in itself a critical reading is not contrary to the Catholic faithful’s correct mindset.

“Some people criticized me for saying that the document is not magisterium; they said it was a Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation and, therefore, must be part of the magisterium; but the title of the document doesn’t give it the quality of magisterium. You have to read the contents and when you do, you see that this document has to be read critically in the light of the Catechism, in the light of the Church’s magisterium. Those parts which support and give full expression to the Church’s magisterium are fine, but there may be other things that are reflections of the Holy Father, but they are not magisterium.”

As regards absolution for the divorced and “remarried,” Cardinal Burke explained why they cannot obtain absolution without deciding to separate or at least to live “as brother and sister.” The cardinal placed this requirement in the light of the “grace” which is bestowed on every person who is married to live “in fidelity to that marriage,” whatever the circumstances.

He also clarified that while Amoris laetitia affirms that “no one can be condemned forever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel,” man can indeed refuse grace and choose hell.

The Interview:

Your Eminence, you have spoken out loudly and clearly about the necessity of upholding the Church’s true teaching on marriage, the family and human sexuality. Is this teaching sufficiently known to Catholics?

No, it is not. We have suffered in the Church now for several decades from a very poor catechesis and also from a certain tendency in preaching to avoid a systematic exposition of the faith, and it has left many Catholics ignorant of their Catholic faith, and even of the teachings of the moral law, which is an important part of our Catholic faith. So the fact of the matter is that in a world that grows ever more insane in its rebellion against God and His law, Catholics are ill-equipped to respond and to do their duty in defending the faith for the sake of the salvation of the world.

What would you advise Catholics to read and meditate before entering their adult lives and what points should be stressed during marriage preparation?

I would urge all Catholics to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church which is the compendium of our Catholic faith, and if they don’t have the time to read the whole Catechism at least to read the Compendium, and then to go to the entire Catechism for further illustration of points that they may not have understood. This is critical for us today. Our faith is our salvation and if we don’t know our faith we certainly run the risk of losing our salvation. That means for us eternal salvation, but it also means for us our happiness here on this Earth, which is an anticipation of the fullness of that happiness in the world to come. But regarding marriage preparation I think it has to emphasize most those fundamental goods of marriage, in other words, a union between one man and one woman, that is faithful. We need to insist on fidelity which is a virtue which in many respects is frequently violated in our culture. Secondly, that it is lifelong; and thirdly, that it is by its very nature procreative. And we need to emphasize with those who are preparing for marriage that the married life is a particular participation in the life of God. It reflects the love of the three Persons in the Holy Trinity, which is faithful, enduring and life-giving. Accordingly, it should be emphasized that the love of marriage is best understood and most effectively nourished through our communion with God in prayer and through the Sacraments, above all, the Holy Eucharist. So I think those are the things that should be most stressed. Then, it seems to me important to help the young people to recognize the aspects of our culture which are particularly threatening to the good of marriage, so that they may be attentive and may safeguard themselves against those kind of influences which would lead them to betray the truth of their marriage.

No one would think that you can break the link between a mother and her child or a father and his child: is it the same sort of link that exists between a man and a woman who are married?

Of course. In fact, the bond between a father and mother, and their children is a link constituted by the father’s and mother’s love for each other. A child will not grow and develop properly unless his father and mother communicate the love they have for each other. We absolutely need this for our growth and development: to have the love of a father and a mother, and to have it communicated by both parents.

In this age of rampant divorce and failed marriage, what is the part being played by artificial contraception, and do you think the Church can turn the tide on the contraceptive mentality?

The part played by artificial contraception is fundamental and lethal because what it does is diminish the love between the husband and wife by removing the totality of the love which includes the conjugal union, that always includes the great gift of procreation: the crown of the marriage union is the gift of children. And so when a contraceptive mentality enters in, that love is distorted. And in fact we see that people use the argument that sexual union without its life-giving aspect is marital to argue for sexual activity between two persons of the same sex and so forth, because they say: “Well, this is loving activity even if it isn’t life-giving.” But this is an abuse of the conjugal union: the conjugal union can only be between one man and one woman who are united in love. So the contraceptive mentality is at the root of a number of the most serious threats to marriage today. And the Church, to my knowledge, is the only institution which has been upholding the inherent evil of contraception, and so she is called upon more than ever today to defend the truth about the conjugal union and its fundamentally life-giving nature. And I believe very strongly that Blessed Pope Paul VI recognized this in 1968, when there was a tremendous pressure upon him by so-called “leading theologians”, moral theologians, to relax the Church’s teaching, and in fact to change it. He held to the Church’s teaching in an heroic way, and thank God for that. And then his successor, Pope St. John Paul II, after the brief pontificate of Pope John Paul I , gave so much of his magisterium to illustrating the truth that is  contained in Blessed Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical Letter Humanae vitae.

There are many repetitive sins and habitual infidelities that cut us off from sanctifying grace, but that can be absolved in Confession; could you explain why the divorced and “remarried” cannot obtain absolution without deciding to separate or at least to live “as brother and sister”?

Here it is important to make a distinction between an individual sin, for instance, an individual act in which one fails to respect fidelity, and living in a public state that is in violation of that fidelity. First of all one can argue that in the individual act there was a force of passion, a pressure, whatever it may be that may have diminished in some respect the culpability. One cannot say that about a state because one freely chooses to live with another person as husband and wife, even though one or the other is bound, or both are bound to a marriage. To confuse these two situations is very harmful. And so the individual who fails and goes to confession, truly repentant and with a firm purpose of amendment not to do this again, can be absolved, but if one goes to confession to confess the sin of infidelity, when one has the intention to continue to live in that situation, then an essential element of the repentance – the firm purpose of amendment — is not there, and therefore the person cannot be absolved and, of course, cannot approach to receive Holy Communion. People talk about an internal forum solution; in other words, a solution within the Sacrament of Penance. There exists only one such solution, and that is that, in the Sacrament of Penance the man and woman agree to live as brother and sister, in other words to observe continence and to respect the fidelity of the marriage relationship to which they are bound. Then they are permitted to receive the sacraments, but only in a place where this will not give scandal, in other words, in a place where people will not know what their situation is. One sees in this discipline of the church – very ancient – how tremendously important the truth about marriage is to the whole life of the Church and how the Church safeguards that truth. I know many people whose marriages have broken up and who devote the rest of their lives to living in fidelity to their marriage union, even though their marriage partner has abandoned them. In the end, they tell me very clearly, that in this fidelity that they find their happiness.

Your first reaction to “Amoris laetitia” was to say that we must listen to the Roman pontiff with respect, but that all his sayings and writings are not part of the “infallible magisterium”. Does this mean that, with respect, we can make a critical reading of the post-synodal Exhortation, or even that some of its elements are open to a non-orthodox interpretation?

I don’t think it can be otherwise because the Pope himself says that the document is his reflections after the experience of the Synod, and those reflections are personal. The church has never held that everything that the Pope says or all of his reflections are part of the magisterium. To teach in the Church is a very serious matter in which one understands that he is not speaking personally, but that he is speaking as the Successor of Saint Peter. And so this document has to be read in that way. Some people criticized me for saying that the document is not magisterium; they said it was a Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation and, therefore, must be part of the magisterium; but the title of the document doesn’t give it the quality of magisterium. You have to read the contents and when you do, you see that this document has to be read critically in the light of the Catechism, in the light of the Church’s magisterium. Those parts which support and give full expression to the Church’s magisterium are fine, but there may be other things that are reflections of the Holy Father, but they are not magisterium.

Many Catholics are troubled by the text but are reluctant about expressing their doubts and even misgivings because its author is the Pope. What would you advise them to do?

My own thought is that we haven’t been accustomed to this kind of writing on the part of the Holy Father. In the past the Holy Father spoke very seldom, or wrote very seldom, and it was always with a great attention to the fact that he is the Vicar of Christ on Earth and therefore, that every expression of the Faith had to be faithful to the truth of her magisterium. I was recently talking with a Cardinal who worked very intimately with Blessed Pope Paul VI, and he told me how even in his homilies, he would go over them and over them before their publication because, as he openly acknowledged, his responsibility was very grave. Pope Francis has chosen to write and speak in a way in which there is a kind of mixture between presenting the Church’s teaching and also giving his own thoughts, and many times in a very colloquial language, where it isn’t so easy at times even to know exactly what it means. And so I think that we have to realize that we have a different kind of papal writing here, and we have all the tools in our faith to understand correctly this kind of writing, but it is not familiar to us. But to take the position, for instance, that this document which is not written in the same way as documents like the Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, or Familiaris consortio which was also a post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, is part of the magisterium in the same way as they were is simply not true. It is written in a very different way.

In that regard too, I think the important thing is that when one reads critically the document, one is always respectful of the person of the Pope. To engage in a lack of charity with regard to any fellow Christian, and in a preeminent way toward the Roman Pontiff, is completely inappropriate and wrong.

In particular, the question of eternal damnation appears to have been set aside: “No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!” Even if God’s mercy wants to reach out to every man, is it not possible for man to refuse grace and to choose hell?

Of course. The Church has always taught that. God respects our freedom and so people can be hard of heart, even at the moment of death. Christ  Himself spoke about it in the Gospel. The logic of the Gospel is: God wants to save all men, there is no question about that. He sent his only Son to save all men. But men remain free and some of them reject salvation, and if they do so, they merit eternal damnation: if you reject salvation, how can you be saved?

Speaking about the divorced and remarried, some priests are saying that in certain concrete situations it is hard to say they are living “in sin”. The Exhortation says: “Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.” How should we interpret this?

The only way to interpret it is the following: if they are living in what appears to be a state of sin but in fact are not sinning, in other words if they are living as brother and sister, then it is true. But if they’re engaging in marital relations, that objectively is sinful and it cannot be any other way. It cannot not be sin and be sin at the same time. Objectively, to have sexual relations with a person who is not your spouse is either fornication or adultery.

In any case it would require a blessing of the union.

Of course! And for the same reason cohabiting outside of marriage is greatly wrong and denies people the sacraments.

And if “moral culpability” is indeed attenuated, is this a sufficient reason to allow these couples to receive communion? Or to put it differently: while God’s mercy can operate their eternal salvation, is it wise on the ecclesiastical level to allow them to receive communion?

First of all, I return to the distinction between attenuating circumstances with regard to an individual act and attenuating circumstances with regard to living in a state of sin: the attenuating circumstances are applied to individual acts, and that remains true, that for an individual act there can be some circumstance which diminish the degree of culpability. But with regard to living publicly in the state of sin, given that our Lord provides to every person who is married the grace to live in fidelity to that marriage, we can say that, yes, they can live in fidelity in the marriage because they have the grace to do so. While there may be all kinds of serious considerations, children to be educated and for whom to provide a home, they can all be respected while remaining faithful to the marriage union.

Has contemporary ignorance about the rules and goods of marriage reached such a level that many marriages are invalid?

I think that the confusion that is in the world, and now is also entering into the Church, has an influence on a person who is contemplating marriage. But I think also that we have to recall that the good of marriage is taught to us by nature itself, and so to say that, for instance, widespread divorce, sexual promiscuity and so forth condition people so that they cannot enter a valid marriage, is incorrect. The young person knows within his or her heart what marriage is, and is even helped in that by good preparation, and therefore even though in the society there are all sorts of pressures contrary to a marriage the young person can well choose marriage as it truly is. The only way to say a marriage is invalid is to show that a particular individual applied to his marriage consent the right to divorce or infidelity. In other words: in giving consent to marry a person reserved the right to divorce or reserved the right to have sexual relations with another partner.

From childhood I was taught in Catechism that the virginal calling is objectively superior to marriage, which is man’s ordinary state. Has this changed?

No, not at all. That has been the Church’s constant teaching. It is in the Gospel, it is in the Fathers of the Church. There is no change regarding the fact that the perfect continence of the virgin represents the perfection of love and is, therefore, a source of inspiration and also strength for the married to live chastity in their relationship with each other. That is the meaning of Our Lord too when He tells us that in the life which is to come, we will neither marry nor be given to each other in marriage because there will be that perfection of love. No, that teaching has not changed.

In these times of confusion, are we not paying too much attention to the accomplishment of self and the fact of “being part” of a community instead of realizing that our ultimate goal and happiness is in Christ?

Exactly. Our attention should be completely on Christ-like goodness, our fidelity, our cooperation with His grace in order to grow in His likeness, and in that way we are then bound in charity to all our brothers and sisters. But if we don’t concentrate our attention on grace, viewing all things in the perspective of eternity, then we would descend into a worldly way of thinking, and so our life in the Church becomes a kind of a political reality, associationism and so forth. But our bond in the Church, the bond between us which is of course the most profound bond possible, is the life of the Holy Spirit within us, it is the love of Christ within us. I am very disturbed today by an increasing ecclesial language which is completely mundane, referring to members of the Church as more “conservative” or more “liberal”, and all this kind of thing, as if we were a body made up of political parties. There is one faith, we all share it, and that binds us together.

You have been calling Catholics to pray the Rosary for the family. Would you like to call on my French-speaking readers to do this also?

I urge you to do so! There is no question that we are living in very difficult times in the Church today, and we as members of Christ’s Body must pray fervently for the Church in our time. And one of the most powerful prayers which our Lord has given us is the Rosary. That is why I have been so supportive of “Operation Storm Heaven”, as we call it in English, asking people to pray a Rosary every month for the Church, and of course urging themto pray even more frequently, but one hopes that that monthly, so to speak, “solemn” praying of the Rosary also informs a daily attitude of prayer for the Church, which is so needed.

And you yourself are celebrating Mass…

Yes, every first day of the month, I celebrate the Holy Mass for all the intentions of those who are part of “Operation Storm Heaven.”

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Ember Wednesday after Pentecost

Station at St. Mary Major

“The Gift of Fortitude is a permanent power which the Holy Ghost communicates to our will to assist us in overcoming the difficulties which might deter us in the practice of what is right.” (Rev. M. Meschler, S.J., Ibid., p. 260.)

The Ember Days always fall during the octave of Pentecost. The Church then offers up to God the first-fruits of the new season, and prays for the priests who, on the coming Saturday, are about to receive the Holy Ghost in the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

The Station on Ember Wednesday was always held at St. Mary Major. It was at the feet of the Blessed Virgin, whom the Holy Ghost filled with His grace in the Cenacle, that the newly baptized gathered together. The Liturgy reminded them of the miracle of Pentecost (Lesson) and the marvels wrought by the Apostles, as a result of which the number of those who believed in the Lord was greatly increased (Epistle).

Moved by the Holy Ghost the Catechumens also believed in Jesus: they turned to Him, and Jesus gave them to eat of the bread that would make them live for ever (Gospel).

Let us implore the divine Consoler to enlighten, us always more and more and to place us in full possession of the truth.” (Collect)

May God protect the Church, as of old He protected His chosen people.

Deus, dum egredereris coram populo tuo, iter faciens eis, habitans in illis, alleluia: terra mota est, caeli distillaverunt, alleluia, alleluia.* Exsurgat Deus, et dissipentur inimici ejus: et fugiant, qui oderunt eum, a facie ejus.
O God! when Thou didst go forth in the sight of Thy people, making a passage for them, dwelling among them, alleluia, the earth was moved and the heavens dropped, alleluia, alleluia. * Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered: and let them that hate Him flee from before His face.
(Psalm 67:8,9,2 from the Introit of Mass)

Mentes nostras, quaesumus, Domine, Paraclitus, qui a te procedit, illuminet: et inducat in omnem, sicut tuus promisit Filius, veritatem.
May the Holy Comforter, who proceedeth from Thee, enlighten our minds, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and lead us into all truth, even as Thy Son hath promised.


From http://liturgialatina.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/ember-wednesday-after-pentecost.html

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Pope Francis interviewed by La Croix


On 9th May Pope Francis granted an extensive interview to Guillaume Goubert, the director, and Sébastien Maillard, the Rome correspondent of the semi-official daily of the French Bishops, La Croix.

The interview which lasted over an hour took place in the residence Santa Marta at the Vatican.

Amongst the various topics discussed were the Christian roots of Europe, migrants, Islam, laicity, the Pope’s views on France and the pedophile scandals.

Le pape François a reçu, lundi 9 mai 2016, Guillaume Goubert (C) et Sébastien Maillard (D), pour un entretien exclusif accordé à « La Croix ».

Pope Francis with Guillaume Goubert and Sébastien Maillard


– In your speeches in Europe, you refer to the “roots” of the continent without ever describing them as Christian. Rather, you define “European identity” as “dynamic and multicultural.” In your view, is the expression “Christian roots” inappropriate for Europe ?

Pope Francis : We need to speak of roots in the plural because there are so many. In this sense, when I hear talk of the Christian roots of Europe, I sometimes dread the tone, which can seem triumphalist or even vengeful. It then takes on colonialist overtones. John Paul II, however, spoke about it in a tranquil manner.

Yes, Europe has Christian roots and it is Christianity’s responsibility to water those roots. But this must be done in a spirit of service as in the washing of the feet. Christianity’s duty to Europe is one of service. As Erich Przywara, the great master of Romano Guardini and Hans Urs von Balthasar, teaches us, Christianity’s contribution to a culture is that of Christ in the washing of the feet. In other words, service and the gift of life. It must not become a colonial enterprise.

– On April 16, you made a powerful gesture by bringing back the refugees from Lesbos to Rome. However, does Europe have the capacity to accept so many migrants ?

Pope Francis : That is a fair and responsible question because one cannot open the gates wide unreasonably. However, the deeper question is why there are so many migrants now. When I went to Lampedusa three years ago, this phenomenon had already started.

The initial problems are the wars in the Middle East and in Africa as well as the underdevelopment of the African continent, which causes hunger. If there are wars, it is because there exist arms manufacturers – which can be justified for defensive purposes – and above all arms traffickers. If there is so much unemployment, it is because of a lack of investment capable of providing employment, of which Africa has such a great need.

More generally, this raises the question of a world economic system that has descended into the idolatry of money. The great majority of humanity’s wealth has fallen into the hands of a minority of the population.

A completely free market does not work. Markets in themselves are good but they also require a fulcrum, a third party, or a state to monitor and balance them. In other words, [what is needed is] a social market economy.

Coming back to the migrant issue, the worst form of welcome is to ‘ghettoize’them. On the contrary, it’s necessary to integrate them. In Brussels, the terrorists were Belgians, children of migrants, but they grew up in a ghetto. In London, the new mayor (Editor: Sadiq Khan, the son of Muslim Pakistanis) took his oath of office in a cathedral and will undoubtedly meet the queen. This illustrates the need for Europe to rediscover its capacity to integrate.

I am thinking here of Pope Gregory the Great (Editor: Pope from 590 – 604), who negotiated with the people known as barbarians, who were subsequently integrated. This integration is all the more necessary today since, as a result of a selfish search for well-being, Europe is experiencing the grave problem of a declining birth rate. A demographic emptiness is developing. In France, at least, this trend is less marked because of family-oriented policies.

– The fear of accepting migrants is partly based on a fear of Islam. In your view, is the fear that this religion sparks in Europe justified?

Pope Francis: Today, I don’t think that there is a fear of Islam as such but of ISIS and its war of conquest, which is partly drawn from Islam. It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam. However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest.

In the face of Islamic terrorism, it would therefore be better to question ourselves about the way in an overly Western model of democracy has been exported to countries such as Iraq, where a strong government previously existed. Or in Libya, where a tribal structure exists. We cannot advance without taking these cultures into account. As a Libyan said recently, “We used to have one Gaddafi, now we have fifty.”

Ultimately, co-existence between Christians and Muslims is still possible. I come from a country where they co-habit on good terms. Muslims come to venerate the Virgin Mary and St George. Similarly, they tell me that for the Jubilee Year Muslims in one African country formed a long queue at the cathedral to enter through the holy door and pray to the Virgin Mary. In Central Africa, before the war, Christians and Muslims used to live together and must learn to do so again. Lebanon also shows that this is possible.

– The significance of Islam in France today, like the nation’s Christian historical foundation, raises recurring questions concerning the place of religion in the public arena. How would you characterize a positive form of laicity (Editor: ‘laicity’ refers to the French system of separation of Church and state)?

Pope Francis: States must be secular. Confessional states end badly. That goes against the grain of History. I believe that a version of laicity accompanied by a solid law guaranteeing religious freedom offers a framework for going forward. We are all equal as sons (and daughters) of God and with our personal dignity. However, everyone must have the freedom to externalize his or her own faith. If a Muslim woman wishes to wear a veil, she must be able to do so. Similarly, if a Catholic wishes to wear a cross. People must be free to profess their faith at the heart of their own culture not merely at its margins.

The modest critique that I would address to France in this regard is that it exaggerates laicity. This arises from a way of considering religions as sub-cultures rather than as fully-fledged cultures in their own right. I fear that this approach, which is understandable as part of the heritage of the Enlightenment, continues to exist. France needs to take a step forward on this issue in order to accept that openness to transcendence is a right for everyone.

– In a secular setting, how should Catholics defend their concerns on societal issues such as euthanasia or same-sex marriage?

Pope Francis: It is up to Parliament to discuss, argue, explain, reason [these issues]. That is how a society grows.

However, once a law has been adopted, the state must also respect [people’s] consciences. The right to conscientious objection must be recognized within each legal structure because it is a human right. Including for a government official, who is a human person. The state must also take criticism into account. That would be a genuine form of laicity.

You cannot sweep aside the arguments of Catholics by simply telling them that they “speak like a priest.” No, they base themselves on the kind of Christian thinking that France has so remarkably developed.

– What does France mean to you?

Pope Francis: It is the eldest daughter of the Church, but not the most faithful! (Laughs) However, during the 1950s, they also spoke of “France, the mission country.” In that sense, it remains a periphery to be evangelized. However, to be fair to France, the Church there does have a real creative capacity.

France is also a land of great saints, great thinkers such as [Jean] Guitton, [Maurice] Blondel, [Emmanuel] Levinas, who was not Catholic, and [Jacques] Maritain. I am also thinking of the depth of its literature.

I also appreciate how French culture is impregnated with Jesuit spirituality compared to the more ascetic Spanish current. The French current, which began with Pierre Favre, gave it another flavor, while continuing to emphasize discernment of spirits.

There have also been great French spiritual figures such as (Louis) Lallemant, or (Jean-Pierre) de Caussade. And the great French theologians who helped the Society of Jesus so much, namely Henri de Lubac and Michel de Certeau. I really like the last two. Two Jesuits who are creative.

Overall, that’s what fascinates me about France. On one hand, that exaggerated laicity, the heritage of the French Revolution, and on the other hand, so many great saints.

– Who is your favorite?

Pope Francis: Saint Therese of Lisieux.

– You have promised to come to France. When might such a trip be possible?

Pope Francis: I recently received an invitation from President François Hollande. The episcopal conference has also invited me. But I don’t know when the trip will take place because next year is an election year in France, and in general, the policy of the Holy See is not to organize such trips during these periods.

Last year a few hypotheses emerged regarding such a trip, including a visit to Paris and its suburbs, to Lourdes and to a city that no pope has yet visited, such as Marseille, which represents an open door to the world.

– As elsewhere, the Church in France is experiencing a serious crisis of priestly vocations. How is it possible to manage today with so few priests?

Pope Francis: Korea provides a historical example. That country was evangelized by missionaries from China who later left. Then, for two hundred years, Korea was evangelized by lay people. It is a land of saints and martyrs that now has a strong Church.

So there is not necessarily a need for priests in order to evangelize. Baptism provides the strength to evangelize. And the Holy Spirit, received at baptism, prompts one to go out, to take the Christian message with courage and patience. The Holy Spirit is the protagonist of whatever happens in the Church, its motor. Too many Christians are ignorant of this.

On the other hand, the opposite danger for the Church is clericalism. This is a sin committed by two parties, like the tango! The priest wants to clericalize lay people and lay people request to be clericalized because it’s easier.

In Buenos Aires, I knew many good priests who, whenever they saw a capable lay person, immediately exclaimed “let’s make him a deacon!” No, let him remain a lay person.

Clericalism is particularly significant in Latin America. If popular piety is strong, it is precisely because it is the only lay initiative that has not been clericalized. This is not understood by the clergy.

– The Church in France, particularly in Lyon, has been shattered recently by historical pedophilia scandals. What should be done about this situation?

Pope Francis: It is true that it is not easy to judge the facts decades later in a different context. Reality is not always so clear. Nevertheless, there can be no statute of limitations for the Church in this field. As a result of these abuses, a priest, whose vocation is to lead a child to God, destroys him. He disseminates evil, resentment, distress. As Benedict XVI said, there must be zero tolerance.

Based on the information that I have, I believe that Cardinal Barbarin in Lyon took the necessary measures and that he has matters under control. He is courageous, creative, a missionary. We now need to await the outcome of the civil judicial proceedings (Editor: As opposed to canon law proceedings).

– So Cardinal Barbarin does not need to resign?

Pope Francis: No, that would be a contradiction, imprudent. We will see after the conclusion of the case. At the moment, however, that would amount to an admission of guilt.

– On April 1, you received Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior-general of the Priestly Fraternity of St Pius X. Is the re-integration of the Lefebvrists into the Church again under consideration?

Pope Francis: In Buenos Aires, I often spoke with them. They greeted me, asked me on their knees for a blessing. They say they are Catholic. They love the Church.

Bishop Fellay is a man with whom one can dialogue. That is not the case for other elements who are a little strange, such as Bishop Williamson or others who have been radicalized. Leaving this aside, I believe, as I said in Argentina, that they are Catholics on the way to full communion.

During this year of mercy, I felt that I needed to authorize their confessors to pardon the sin of abortion. They thanked me for this gesture. Previously, Benedict XVI, whom they greatly respect, had liberalized the use of the Tridentine rite mass. So good dialogue and good work are taking place.

– Would you be ready to grant them the status of a personal prelature?

Pope Francis: That would be a possible solution but beforehand it will be necessary to establish a fundamental agreement with them. The Second Vatican Council has its value. We will advance slowly and patiently.

– You have already convoked two synods on the family. In your view, has this long process changed the Church?

Pope Francis: This process was started by the consistory (Editor: The consistory of February 2014) where it was introduced by Cardinal Kasper, prior to an Extraordinary Synod in October the same year which was followed by a year of reflection and an Ordinary Synod.

I think that we all came out of the various processes different from the way that we entered. Including me.

In the post-synodal exhortation (Editor: Amoris Laetitia, April 2016), I sought to respect the Synod to the maximum. You won’t find canonical prescriptions there about what one may or may not do.

It is a serene, peaceful reflection on the beauty of love, how to educate the children, to prepare for marriage… It emphasizes responsibilities that could be developed by the Pontifical Council for the Laity in the form of guidelines.

Beyond this process, we need to think about genuine synodality, or at least the meaning of Catholic synodality. The bishops are cum Petro, sub Petro (Editor: with Peter and under Peter). This differs from Orthodox synodality or that of the Greek Catholic Churches, where the Patriarch only counts as a single voice.

The Second Vatican Council set out an ideal of synodal and episcopal communion. This still needs to be developed, including at parish level, with respect to what is required. There are parishes that still do not have a pastoral council, nor a council for economic affairs, even though these are obligations under canon law. Synodality is also relevant at this level.

Translation Stefan GIGACZ for la Croix. Interviewed by Guillaume Goubert and Sébastien Maillard (in Rome)
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Death-Watch Beetling

Don’t try this method to attain redemption and salvation. PS, that is not me in the picture😉

“Media vita in morte sumus”, or “In the midst of life we are in death”. I heard those words in a movie scene I saw recently, set at a graveside of course. It got me thinking.

How true those words resound to those of us who work in healthcare-including the patients! Death surrounds our ilk like a superior enemy besieging our collapsing shanty citadel. It is only a matter of time…..

Trapped on the surface, we only have two options: We could tunnel down to who knows where, but then we run the risk of the enemy following and cornering us at the tunnel face. Nobody has to guess the outcome of that scenario. Yep, it would be both temporally and eternally grisly.

So we look up for help, but none of us are able to fly. We need help from above, from someone who is the master of the higher dimension, and who is also kindly disposed towards us. He must understand our situation, and the urgency of our redemption. He must intervene before all our hope is lost.

He hears our distress call from afar and is already near us, but needs a precise fix on our position. We must shout and wave to the Sky-Pilot, so that He can zero in on us, and perform the rescue.

Once we are within His salvation vessel, we are as good as home and dry.

Watch this video, and see how rescue is done. A team effort surely, but the guy hanging from the hefty thread gives the star performance imho.



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Someone in Rome has said something about reviving the order of deaconesses.  This has got all of the dissenters very excited.

There are a couple of points to make:

  1. Deaconess ≠ Deacon – the earliest statutes of the Church pretty much make it clear that deaconesses served only women and infants and their service was contingent on male deacons, priests and bishops;
  2. Deaconess not necessarily an ordained person – the institution of deaconesses seems to have varied from diocese to diocese in the early Church – in some diocese the deaconesses would have received the imposition of hands, in others not – and the label “deaconess” had become extinct in the western Church so long ago that we have no intelligible written witness as to their role;
  3. Deaconesses did not die out – in the west they just became known by other names (e.g. consecrated virgin, Abbess, etc);
  4. The churches that continue to have deaconesses (i) keep them as a separate order to male deacons and (ii) do not allow deacons or deaconesses to confer blessings – they cannot preside over the sacraments of matrimony or baptism in these churches (please note, I’m talking about the eastern schismatics, not the divers heretical western groups who trace their origins back to the sixteenth century);
  5. Deacons/deaconesses ≠ priests; and
  6. The people advocating this change are agitating for something new (deaconesses who could take the place of a deacon), not the revivification of the biblical order of deaconesses and they very much see this as a wedge to get women admitted to the presbyterate and episcopate, as has happened in Anglicanism.

Whatever the merits of the idea of creating a new order of deaconesses, the plain fact is that the people advocating this innovation intend to use it as a way to ease the path for the ordination of women.

Rather than get stressed about the sound and fury that the dissenters are going to generate in the press about this issue, let’s instead pray to St Phoebe, on this Monday in the Octave of Pentecost, for the good of the Church and the salvation of the silly souls of the innovators.

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Where the Spirit Blooms

Lectio Divina – Pentecost Year c


The Church is the place where “the Spirit blooms” (St Hippolytus of Rome, Traditio apostolica, 35) and the Chosen People, non-restricted by borders, come from all the peoples: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks” (1 Cor 12:13)

Fire and wind

The old and the new Pentecost

For the people of Israel, Pentecost, the former feast of harvesting, had become the feast of the Covenant. God had manifested his presence with fire and wind and had given the gift of his law, the 10 Commandments engraved on the rock.

On the day of the new Christian Pentecost, God has given the gift of his law of Charity not written on two slabs of rock, but in the heart of the Apostles through the Holy Spirit. Then through the Apostles He has communicated it to the Church. On them “the Holy Ghost has descended with sudden sound and has changed their mind of carnal beings inside his love. While outside tongues of fire appeared, inside the hearts became flamboyant because welcoming God in the vision of fire, they suavely burned from love” (St Gregory the Great, Hom. in evang. XXX, 1: CCL 141,256). The fire of the Holy Spirit has united them with communion of life and of divine Life for them and for the world. Their Word was not anymore only a human one, but became the Word of God that the Holy Ghost had put in their hearts and on their carnal mouths. They took this Gospel of truth and love to the entire world.

“The voice of God makes divine the human language of the Apostle, who became able to proclaim in a ‘polyphonic’ way the unique divine Word. The breath of the Holy Spirit fills the universe, generates faith, leads to truth, and prepares the unity of the peoples. ‘At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.’ (Acts 2:6.11)” (Benedict XVI).

With the gift of the Holy Spirit, the fire of charity that is the announcement of a redeeming forgiveness is committed also to us. It is the announcement that God has not only come on earth, but also that God continues to give himself to me and to you, lives in me and in you, in us who are his Church, and his true Body.

In reciting often the prayer: “Come Holy Spirit, come through Mary,” we ask the Holy Spirit the gift of Wisdom so that we can understand (not only to understand with the mind, but also to welcome with the heart). In the Bible we read, “Therefore I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded and the spirit of Wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her” (Wisdom 7:7-8). This superior knowledge is the root of a new knowledge imbued with charity. Thanks to it the soul acquires familiarity with the divine and takes pleasure in it. Saint Thomas of Aquinas speaks about “a certain taste of God” ( Summa Theologica IIa-IIae,45,2 ad 1) so that the truly wise man is not only the one who knows about all God’s things, but the one who experiences them, lives them and shares them, becoming a missionary announcing that God is Love, fullness of life, joy and peace.

The Spirit: flowers, life and joy

In the first part of the Summa Theologica (I, 37:2) Saint Thomas of Aquinas writes, “As therefore we say that a tree flowers by its flower, so do we say that the Father, by the Word or the Son, speaks Himself, and His creatures; and that the Father and the Son love each other and us, by the Holy Ghost, or by Love proceeding.” Flowers, life and joy: this is the Spirit. The babbling of the theology of us pilgrims stops here and we are left to contemplate this truth of love. Who humanly could have thought that God loves himself and us with the same kind of love? It is almost as if the same quiver moves and warms our life uniting it to his.

Man has always looked for a spark of hope to conquer the desperation of death and of the inevitable suffering. The wise Greek men had found this spark in proclaiming that man is similar to God. Considering this longing that is that man is made of a divine substance, in the sermon at the Aeropaus Saint Paul proclaims, “In him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)

What is already marvelous, in the natural participation of man in the divine nature, becomes almost an unutterable but consoling mystery of merciful love, in the participation in the divine nature and life through grace. We became worthy of this grace through Christ’s passion. The Holy Spirit takes us to the Son and makes us capable, thirsty and hungry for His Grace. The Apostles were the first to get this joyful experience. They experienced Truth that is the ability to see clearly in everything and in ourselves and to have the certainty that God loves us and that we can love and take refuge in Him calling Him “Father”.

From The Holy Spirit the Virgin received the gift of Jesus

If today the recommended prayer is “Come Holy Spirit, come through Mary” and the second one is the “ Our Father”, the third one is the “Hail Mary” because “ there is no Pentecost without the Virgin Mary” (Benedict XVI), who from the Holy Spirit received the gift of Jesus.

The presence of Mary, full of Grace, is at the beginning, in the Supper-room where the Apostles were “all with one accord in prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” (Acts 1; 14). And in the same way it is always, today as it was then, in Jerusalem and all over the world.

At the Annunciation Mary had already experienced the coming of the Holy Spirit. The angel Gabriel had told her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” (Lk 1:35) Through the coming of the Holy Spirit, Mary has been linked in a unique way to the mystery of Christ. In the Encyclical Redemptoris Mater, Blessed John Paul II wrote: “In the mystery of Christ she is present even ‘before the creation of the world,’ as the one whom the Father ‘has chosen’ as Mother of his Son in the Incarnation. And, what is more, together with the Father, the Son has chosen her, entrusting her eternally to the Spirit of holiness” (8)

In the Supper-room of Jerusalem, when through the Pascal events the mystery of Christ on earth came to its completion, Mary was in the community of the disciples to prepare a new coming of the Holy Spirit and a new rebirth, the one of the Church.

It is true that she is already a “temple of the Holy Spirit” due to her fullness of grace and her divine maternity. However she also participates in the prayers for the coming of the Paraclete (paraclitus comes from a Greek word that means called beside, invoked, consequently the consoling one) so that with his power, He might make the passion towards the mission, that Christ Jesus coming into the world received from the Father (Jn 5:36) and returning to the Father, has transmitted to the Church (Jn 17:18). From the beginning Mary is united to the Church like one of the “disciples” of the Son, but at the same time she stands out as “a pre-eminent and singular member of The Church and excellent exemplar in faith and charity” (Council Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 53).

Benedict XVI told the Consecrated Virgins “Imitate the Mother of God; desire to be called and to be handmaids of the Lord” (RCV, n. 16) and invited them to persevere in giving themselves entirely to God indicating in the Virgin of Nazareth and in her “yes” the first realization of this offer. (Address to the participants in the international Congress of the Ordo Virginum, May 15, 2008). Recently Pope Francis has reminded them that the consecrated Virgins “are an icon of Mary and of the Church” (May 7th, 2013).

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Why bishops love the EU

Cartoon by Christian Adams

The faithful are being nudged towards a ‘Remain’ vote not only by England’s cardinals but also by the Pope. But how many Catholics will take their advice?

By Damian Thompson at the Catholic Herald, 13th May 2016.

On June 23, Catholics in England and Wales will be confronted by the same question as everyone else: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

We are given only two possible answers – “Remain” or “Leave”. The Church is not officially taking sides and therefore we are free to choose.

But that word “officially” is crucial. Both Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor have endorsed a vote to Remain. These are their personal convictions, they have stressed.

They have not, however, kept these personal views private – unlike the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who probably also supports staying in the EU but who has not jeopardised his authority by saying so.

Anglicans and Catholics therefore find themselves in different situations. The former will arrive at the polling booth unencumbered by advice from their spiritual leader. The latter, in contrast, are being nudged towards a “Remain” vote not only by Their Eminences but also by the Pope.

Last Friday, Pope Francis received the Charlemagne Prize for services to European integration. The prize is awarded by the city of Aachen in the Rhineland, which Charlemagne chose as his capital and which, under the name of Aix-la-Chappelle, was for centuries a direct vassal of the Holy Roman Empire.

Last week it could have been mistaken for a direct vassal of the European Union. The awards ceremony, held in the Vatican, was addressed by Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, and Donald Tusk, president of the European Council.

They must have been pleased to hear Francis identify Brussels with “the soul of Europe”. On immigration, the Pope brushed aside the fears of Eurosceptics and even the anxieties of pro-EU national politicians. Tighter border controls were a manifestation of “meanness”, serving “our own selfish interests”. It’s not hard to work out where the Holy Father’s sympathies lie in the British referendum. The Vatican’s “foreign minister”, the Liverpool-born Archbishop Paul Gallagher, has said bluntly: “Better in than out.”

Read the rest of the article here

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