Saturday, 28 September 2013

Using rumours to prepare for the worst

A book on business management that I once read in order to see whether there were any insights that could help in pastoral work, rewarded me with one observation, namely that rumours can sometimes have positive effects. If a company allows a rumour to go round that there are redundancies in the offing, people who are subsequently made redundant will be prepared to some degree, and those who keep their jobs will be relieved.

This is a brutal example but it has some relevance for the Catholic blogosphere. There is a rumour (and I understand from various sources that it is not a wild one) that Archbishop Piero Marini may be appointed as the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Archbishop Marini (not to be confused with the papal MC Mgr Guido Marini) was removed as papal MC by Pope Benedict. He is a disciple of the late Archbishop Bugnini and published a book "A Challenging Reform. Realizing the Vision of the Liturgical Renewal" which I wrote about briefly in 2007.

If Archbishop Marini is appointed Prefect of the CDW, it will be a blow not only to traditionalists but also to the neo-orthodox supporters of the "reform of the reform." So it would be good to prepare ourselves for such an eventuality. Every day, as part of my morning prayers, I say the prayer Ecclesiae for the protection of the Church, along with the prayer for the Pope, both from the traditional Missal. I have done so ever since the foot-washing incident and do so each day as the bad news piles up. Following St Vincent Ferrer, I would urge that if you disagree with the Pope, prayer is not simply a piously sentimental comfort, but the proper course of action since it is an appeal to his immediate superior.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Vocation discernment weekend in Reading with the FSSP

The picturesque snow scene above was taken at St John fisher House in Reading, the home of thee Priestly Fraternity of St Peter in England. Fr de Malleray just sent me information about their retreat in December for young men considering a priestly vocation.
Vocation discernment weekend in Reading
13-15 December

For Catholic men between 18 and 32 years of age (under 18 please contact us).
Starts on Friday 13th December at 6pm (arrivals from 5pm) – ends on Sunday 15th December at 3pm.

Led by Fr Armand de Malleray, FSSP, assisted by Fr Matthew Goddard, FSSP

Location: St John Fisher House is the residence of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter in England & Wales.
Address: 17 Eastern Avenue, Reading, RG1 5RU, England.

Programme: Spiritual conferences, socials, Holy Mass each of the three days (Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite), walks, silent prayer, private talk with Fr de Malleray, FSSP. Fr de Malleray will explain what a vocation is in general and to the priesthood in particular.

Cost for the whole weekend 2 nights full board: no set price for students or unemployed – any donation welcome; others: £50 suggested.

More: our special Vocations flyer and videos on .
Contact: Tel: 0118 966 5284; Email:
Web:; International:

Please pray for our 10 seminarians from England & Wales. God bless you!

Family Education Trust Autumn Bulletin

As ever, I recommend Family and Youth Concern which campaigns on many issues that are addressed on this blog. The latest Bulletin for Autumn 2013is now available at the website: Bulletin No. 152. Here is a list of the articles:
  • ‘Legislation built on pretence’
  • Coming soon! A new booklet from Family Education Trust
  • Government to ask gays, ‘What can we do for you next?’
  • Fractured Families: Why stability matters
  • Marriage DVD
  • Context matters in the discipline of children
  • Sweden : criminal assaults on children rise following ban on smacking
  • The pitfalls of ‘positive parenting’
  • Parliamentary inquiry demands review of abortion law
  • More contraception = more repeat abortions
  • New volumes in the Core Knowledge curriculum series
  • Sexuality Explained - a guide for parents and children
  • Risky business: the association between casual sex and emotional problems
  • Prime Minister calls for action to protect children from internet pornography
  • ‘Named person’ for every child: ‘disproportionate state interference’, says Scottish Law Society
  • New introductory leaflet

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Disabling comments

The comments feature for this blog will now be disabled. I have been thinking about this for some considerable time, and discussing it with other bloggers. Rorate Caeli have recently made the same decision and, as far as I know, the uber-blogger Rocco Palmo of Whispers in the Loggia has never had comments.

Rorate receives far more comments than I do, and I fully appreciate the difficulty that there must be in moderating all of them. In my case, there is much less work involved (although it is one more social media interaction that does at times require some effort and some borderline decisions.) My main reason is to marshal my time more efficiently by removing one social media chore. My primary duties as a pastor and teacher mean that I do have to ration my use of social media.

In making this decision, I would like to record my thanks to the many commenters who have over the years made kind and supportive comments, as well as those who have provided interesting and helpful links. I don't receive many abusive comments - I have always deleted such comments and never refer to them except on very exceptional occasions. (This is an effective strategy to deprive dysfunctional attention-seekers of "the oxygen of publicity" if you will excuse me using a phrase of Margaret Thatcher.)

If you have an interesting link or further information regarding a post, please do feel free to email me ( or to put something on Twitter. I find Twitter useful and would like to free up a little more time (only a little) to use it. On Twitter, I am @FatherTF.

Twitter provides an alternative way for people to interact with blogs and make comments without the blog author having to take responsibility for their being published. However many disclaimers you make, the relatively recent phenomenon of tiresome self-appointed internet policemen adds a layer of annoyance to the combox business. Twitter does something to return responsibility to the commenter as well as limiting the audience for pedants and obsessives to those who follow them - and it is simple to block people who are a nuisance.

Apologies to anyone who is unhappy with this decision. It is certainly not a criticism of the vast majority of my commenters - though I have noticed that several former regulars do now use Twitter as an alternative. Let us also remember that the use of social media is evolving all the time. My instinct is that comment boxes are likely to be superseded by other ways of interacting. We must be prepared to "think outside the box" (aaagh!)

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Street preacher arrested for using a loud voice

In another ludicrous piece of intimidation against Christians, Josh Williamson was arrested last Saturday because someone complained that he was speaking too loudly while he was preaching the Gospel - shouting, the police said. Nobody complained about the street buskers who were using loudspeakers so they were not arrested. Williamson was held for five hours in a Perth (Scotland) Police Station. (In the video, the police intervene at 6'52")

The Christian Legal Centre has a short report.

This would be a good time to take another look at Rowan Atkinson on freedom of speech He refers to a classic Not the Nine O'Clock News sketch in which a manifestly racist officer, Constable Savage, is dressed down for arresting a black man on charges such as "walking in a loud shirt in a built-up area during the hours of darkness", "walking around all over the place", and "looking at me in a funny way." As Rowan Atkinson asked, "Who would have thought that we would end up with a law that would allow life to imitate art so exactly?" He was referring to Section 5 of the Public Order Act but it also applies to the arrest of Josh Williamson for "Breach of the Peace" on the grounds that he was preaching too loudly.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Iuventutem High Mass Friday

St Charlemagne and the play of antichrist

This looks interesting. Here is the information:

Friday 22nd November to Sunday 24th.

St. Charlemagne and the Play of Antichrist

Sing, study and learn about music from the early Middle Ages in honour of the first Holy Roman Emperor and his successors, and chants for the Feast of Christ the King.

The programme will include excerpts from the early 13th c. Office of 'St. Charlemagne' together with hymnody from the Carolingian renaissance and some of the earliest polyphony, and a speculative edited reconstruction of the semi-liturgical drama 'Ludus de Antichristo' from 12th c. Germany, in which the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I 'Barbarossa' is first seduced by Antichrist and then won back to the true faith.

This programme will be the basis of a concert to be performed by the Schola with the Bristol University Schola Cantorum on Saturday 30th November, 7.30 pm, at the Temple Church, Fleet Street, London EC4Y 7HL

The inclusive cost of board, accommodation, music and tuition is £200.
For full details, and non-residential participation, please address enquries to, or St. Benedict's, 124 Cambridge Road, Barton, Cambridge, CB23 7AR Tel: 01223 263063

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Whitstable, lecture and evangelising with a cardboard cutout of Pope Francis

On Friday a gave the first of my own contributions to a short series of classes for the evangelisation team gathered by Fr Stephen Langridge at the Vocations Centre at Whitstable. These are young men discerning their vocation, living in community at the centre. They have a programme of prayer (morning meditation, Mass, Rosary, visit, Office etc.) they do some manual work around the house and grounds, and, most importantly, engage in evangelisation in various ways in chaplaincies and on the street. The idea is that evangelisation should be part of the "DNA" of those considering priestly formation.

There is also a comprehensive course on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, led by a senior seminarian who is spending his pastoral year at Whitstable, and there are some classes in basic theology. (That is where I, and other visiting lecturers come in.)

On Friday I was introduced to the community dog. He is called Nemo and it was explained to me that the name is itself instructive because it indicates that he is not a person.

I was also introduced to the cardboard cut-out of Pope Francis. This is used in an ingenious idea for evangelisation dreamt up by the team. They take the cut-out onto the streets and invite people to have a photo taken with Pope Francis. Since the Pope is very popular and has had good press coverage, this is an amusing prospect for people, and an opportunity for the team to engage in further conversation about the faith.

Unfortunately, the maker of the cut-out could not find a full-length photo of Pope Francis at high enough resolution, so it is cleverly photoshopped with the top half being Pope Francis and the bottom half being Pope Benedict. Keen-eyed readers will spot the error here, since it appears as though Pope Francis is wearing red shoes and has Pope Benedict's arms on his fascia. I hope he doesn't mind too much - the people on the street will not notice.


Please pray for the work of the Vocations Centre, and for vocations to the priesthood. There is a special Help page if you would like to support the work, as well as an amazon wishlist in the sidebar.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Faith priests to speak at Ordinariate Church on reasons for believing

The Church of the Most Precious Blood in the Borough (a short walk from London Bridge Station) has been given into the care of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. They have arranged "Evenings of Faith: Reasons for believing." In October, these will be given by two priests of the Faith Movement, dealing with subjects that are vital to apologetics in our culture.

Here are the details:
Creation’s witness to the Living God: The path from science to religion
Fr Roger Nesbitt

Jesus Christ: source and summit of all creation
Fr Hugh MacKenzie

Mass 6.30pm
Light refreshments
Talk starts 7.30pm
Questions, more refreshments, social time
Here are directions to the Church

Raising questions about award to Gates Foundation

Matt Hanley has an intelligent and balanced article at, critical of the granting of the Lasker award for Public Health Service to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (The gates open to a Nobel Prize)

Essentially, the work of the Gates Foundation, some of which is of great benefit, is marred by their dogged adherence to the promotion of "reproductive health" with "family planning" as the number one priority. Hanley suggests that it is this underlying impulse that is being rewarded as much as the good works.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Ven Fr Felix Cappello's confessional

Rome 006

The confessional pictured above is the one used by Fr Felix Cappello whose excellent canonical and theological manual on the Sacraments is a goldmine of sensible information. Fr Cappello's cause has been introduced and Edward Peters has suggested invoking his prayers for the recovery of his son, Thomas Peters who was seriously injured in a swimming accident. (A dedicated blog has been set up by Thomas's friends so that you can follow his progress.)

On the question of confession, do have a look at Fr Z's 20 Tips for Making a Good Confession and some additional comments that I added.

CD 24 "Shopping list" Confession

I have often heard priests say that we should not bring a “shopping list” to confession. I find it difficult to explain my personal life. Is it all right for me simply to list my sins?

The sacrament of reconciliation was instituted by Christ so that we could be reconciled to God and to the Church by receiving absolution and penance from the priest who ministers the forgiveness of God. The “confession” part is necessary first of all in order that the priest can make the judgements necessary to advise us, clarify any matters of conscience as necessary, help us to be truly contrite, and ask us to do a suitable penance.

We must explain the circumstances associated with a particular sin if they affect the gravity of a serious sin (for example if a lie has gravely damaged someone else’s reputation). In addition, we may wish to talk about the way that we are trying to lead a prayerful life, or to mention some difficulty or crisis we have encountered, which forms a context for a sin that we have confessed. Some people go regularly to the same priest so that they can receive advice more closely suited to their daily efforts to live a devout life.

However, such additional things are not obligatory. A person may wish to celebrate the sacrament frequently, as encouraged by the Church, to receive extra graces, or to fulfil the conditions for gaining an indulgence. Any Catholic is entitled to use the sacrament even if only to confess briefly some venial sins, listen to some appropriate spiritual advice from the priest and receive penance and absolution.

Personally, I think that it is not helpful to refer to this kind of confession as a “shopping list.” Many people find it difficult enough to make a simple confession of their sins, and would be perplexed by the thought that they had to do something else in order that their confession should be a good one. It is probably more important today to emphasise that the sacrament is not simply a chat about our life in general but involves the humble and contrite recognition that we are indeed sinners in need of forgiveness.

Catholic Dilemmas column published in the Catholic Herald
Suggestions for Catholic Dilemmas are always welcome in the combox, by email or via Twitter @FatherTF

Friday, 6 September 2013

Sex-selective abortion - a couple of things you can do

In February 2012, the Daily Telegraph reported on an undercover operation, by their journalists who clandestinely filmed doctors who agreed to carry out abortions simply on the grounds that the baby was female. The Crown Prosecution Service has decided that it would not be in the public interest to prosecute the doctors.

Clearly this is a disgrace. There needs to be a good response from the public indicating that such a prosecution would certainly be in their interest, since there is some hope that the decision might be reviewed. As a small part of this, there is a Facebook page "An investigation into sex-selective abortion is in the public interest" If you use Facebook, do take a moment to pop over and "Like" this page. You will find there also some guidance on writing to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt.

Dumb and dumber - or malicious?

Fr Ray Blake wrote a characteristically thoughtful and provocative post about the poor who turn up on his doorstep in Brighton. His article challenges romantic notions about the poor by detailing some of his experiences of the reality of helping poor people - which he does with heroism. He has to cope with lies, nuisance and mess, but his point he makes is that rather than become complacent, we must let the poor mess up our lives.

Enter Bill Gardner, journalist for The Argus in Brighton who writes a stupid article portraying Fr Blake as though he were simply attacking the poor. Fr Blake has replied in spirited fashion, inviting Mr Gardner to come and help with one or other of the projects that St Mary Magdalen's runs for the poor. (See, for example his thoughtful article on Soup Runs.) The Daily Mail has also run another stupid article in the same vein as Bill Gardner.

I don't agree with those who denigrate all journalists in response to this kind of thing. Many journalists of my acquaintance are good, honest people who want to provide a service to others by researching their stories well, portraying the truth, getting a human interest angle to interest readers, finding out a different view of things that can be included, and getting people to make comments. I am sometimes asked for comments myself. In these days of email, I try to persuade journalists that I will reply asap with something in writing: it is easy to make mistakes following a phone conversation. If the issue is wide-ranging, I sometimes send an email in the form "Fr Finigan said any or all of the following..." and give four or five separate sentences so that the journalist can choose.

Unfortunately there are some journalists who are not particularly interested in getting a genuinely good story but simply concerned to impress their editor with something that will look sensational enough to help sales of the paper. The Argus-Mail take on Fr Ray looks like an example of Dumb and Dumber, but realistically we have to say that it is simply malicious, unprincipled and a disgrace to a profession that labours under public criticism. I imagine that principled and honest journalists must be cursing those who sully their profession with the kind of rubbish that Fr Ray has been subjected to.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Is the priest "burdened" by people's sins and lonely?

The ever-readable Simcha Fisher has an article: Should We Burden Priests with Our Sins? A commenter suggested that lay people shouldn't "burden" priests with frequent confession. Here is a bit of background:
"You might want to give the priests a break," she said. “Instead of dumping your ‘sins’ on them, why don’t you offer them some comfort?”

From the conversation that followed, it soon became pretty obvious that she was perhaps less concerned about poor, overworked priests, and more concerned about reminding everybody that the Church is corrupt, oppressive, homophobic, etc. etc.
Simcha Fisher refers to an article by Fr Mike Schmitz My side of the confessional which says pretty well all I would want to say. When people say to me that it must be terribly depressing listening to all those sins, I reply that in the confessional, the priest is listening to good people trying to be better. An in response to the "What if ...?" questions, you have to point out the obvious, that wife-beaters, child-molesters, and serial-killers don't tend to be in the queue for confession - unless you are a prison chaplain. Psychopaths unfortunately don't feel the need to repent.

One correction I would offer to the article is on the matter priests being lonely, stressed and need companionship. Well we do have particular stresses in dealing with major life and death events, but there are others who share that. Much of our "stress" comes from the mindless grind of the latest bureaucratic requirement of health and safety or whatever. Again, plenty of others share those stresses.

But loneliness and need of companionship? Not so much. Many priests live alone, as I do, but there is always the daily companionship of wonderful parishioners who are trying their best to live the faith. Their receptiveness to the guidance and teaching of the priest is humbling, and the effort to meet the need for sound teaching and spiritual direction is one of the most rewarding things a man could do.

Many lay people live alone and I find it fun sometimes to joke with them about the demands of shopping, cooking, and housekeeping for a one person unit - very different from the advice you get from large families that are buying in shedloads of stuff to feed a growing army. More seriously it is also good to share the insights of living a spiritual rule of life when you have to make your own timetable and have the privilege of a "lonely place" to be with the Lord. That kind of "loneliness" is not a burden but a blessing.

Well yes, let's fast and pray for Syria

Last Sunday, the Holy Father appealed for peace in Syria and announced a day of prayer and fasting this coming Saturday 7 September, for this intention. has the full text. There will be a vigil in Rome from 7pm. The Holy Father has renewed this appeal today.

Unfortunately, most parishes will only be able to respond in a limited way, since we usually put out newsletters and give notices on a Sunday - prepared at least a day or two beforehand. It is a pity that some sort of notice was not given out by the Sala Stampa, even if it just announced that the Holy Father was going to make an announcement. The UK Parliament had already met on Thursday and the matter was well in the news by then.

My own Archdiocese of Southwark responded quite quickly to the Holy Father's call, with an email from the Archbishop being sent round with permission to celebrate the Mass "For the Preservation of Peace and Justice" to replace the Sunday texts on Saturday evening and/or at one Mass on Sunday. He also sent a text for a special Bidding Prayer.

At Blackfen, we will have the special Mass on Saturday evening (with the special Bidding Prayer) and I know that parishioners who are tuned in to Catholic news on the internet will be praying and fasting.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Persecution of homeschoolers in Germany

In 1937, Adolf Hitler said:
"The youth of today is ever the people of tomorrow. For this reason we have set before ourselves the task of inoculating our youth with the spirit of this community of the people at a very early age, at an age when human beings are still unperverted and therefore unspoiled. This Reich stands, and it is building itself up for the future, upon its youth. And this new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing." (Source: The Nitzkor Project)
The other day, A team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed the home of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich because they refused to send their children to state schools. (See for example the Daily Mail report: Armed police turn up at family home with a battering ram to seize their children after they defy Germany's ban on home schooling)

It is not quite true to say that Hitler introduced the German ban on homeschooling. The laws of the third Reich extended laws that had been in place since Bismarck's Kulturkampf, and the Weimar republic re-introduced compulsory school attendance in 1919. After the war, compulsory school attendance made it into the German constitution. Nevertheless, it was the government of Adolf Hitler that introduced criminal penalties for failing to send children to school.

The story of the raid on the home of the Wunderlich family is harrowing and disgusting. Two quotations from the story:
When my wife tried to give my daughter a kiss and a hug goodbye, one of the special agents roughly elbowed her out of the way and said — "It’s too late for that".
The youngsters were taken to unknown locations after officials allegedly ominously promised the parents that they would not be seeing them again 'any time soon'.
I don't think anyone need apologise for alluding to the darker years of German history.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...