Sunday, 30 December 2018

Family Religious Practice, Feast of the Holy Family



Lk 2:41-52
I want to talk today about how the Holy Family, of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, can be a role model for religious practice in the family home. I’m aware that many in West Moors have grandchildren rather than just children, but hopefully you feel these are points we all need to ponder. And I’m aware, also, that in many ways I am preaching to the converted -if you’re here at Sunday Mass just a few days after Christmas, then you probably already take your religious practice seriously. Nonetheless, looking at the Holy Family can hopefully confirm you in that practice.

Let me start by pointing out a detail in the Gospel text we heard: “When he was 12 years old, they went up for the feast as usual”(Lk 2:42). The point I want to highlight is the “as usual” -they, as a family, had a REGULAR religious practice of going up to the Temple in Jerusalem for the Passover.
In our own families, as we all know, children pick up most of what they learn from their parents by osmosis -just absorbing what their parents do, and becoming like their parents in lots of little habits and manners.
This is why it’s really important that we have RELIGIOUS influences in the home.

Let me return to the Gospel text on another point: The boy Jesus makes it clear that being “busy with my Father’s affairs” (Lk 2:49) means that GOD is His REAL Father.
Now, for Jesus, this was true in a unique way.
But there is another sense in which it is true of the children in your home too. They belong to God even more than they belong to you. They are loved by God even more than they are loved by you.
Our heavenly Father entrusts the raising of His spiritual children to their physical parents. He wants you to raise them in such a way that you introduce them to HIM, their SPIRITUAL Father.
In our first reading while we didn’t get the whole story to hear the background, Hannah gave her child to God. She did this because she recognised that her child came from God, and so she offers him back. Something of that same attitude needs to be in every mother and in every father.

So, HOW do you introduce your child to God, his spiritual father?
You need to talk to your child ABOUT God, and teach your child about God.
You need to teach your child how to pray, how to talk TO God, just as you no doubt introduced your child to his grandparents and so forth.
And, returning to the image of the Holy Family having the regular family tradition of going up to the Temple for the Passover, we need to have little traditions in our families that imbed God into our lives.

What traditions can this include?
Most basically, the practice of attending Mass each and every Sunday. How does your child learn that God is a fixture and not just some disposable commodity? By the priority that you give to worshiping Him on HIS day, the Lord’s Day, Sunday. I’m very fortunate that when I was growing up I always experienced that Sunday Mass was a priority that was unquestioned. When we planned our weekend, we planned when Sunday Mass would be. When we travelled, we found out where the Catholic church would be, and what times it had Mass. And when my parents planned which out-of-school activities I would do, making those activities revolve around Mass, rather than the other way around -this taught me lessons even before I ever realised it.
Another simple practice is night prayers as a family. I’ve enclosed a sheet with some example prayers in the newsletter (click here). But there are many simple prayers a family can learn to say together at the foot of the bed. Learning to thank God at the end of the day. Learning to apologize to Him for the sins of the day. Asking Him for what I will need the next day.

To sum that up: the Holy Family had customs, family practices, that built God into their family life.
Our families, likewise, need to have customs, little traditions, things we regularly do, so that a child grows up having his or her physical parents introducing him or her to God the HEAVENLY Father.
Lets think today what those practices are in our own homes, and what more they could be.
And be thankful for what we ourselves experienced over life, for good or ill, that led us to be here today with God the Father.

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Who is the Baby?, Christmas




We gather here today to recall and celebrate what Christmas is truly about.
I would like, very simply, to focus ourselves on the question of WHO the baby in the manger was, and why it should matter to us.

The baby’s birth was heralded by angels, shepherds came and worshiped, and a star guided wise men from the east to find Him.
These are not normal things to happen when a baby is born.
This was not an ordinary baby.
When He grew up, He would work miracles:
He would heal the sick and raise the dead;
He would walk on water and calm the storms.
He would, teach so powerfully that crowds of thousands would flock to hear Him.

This baby was born for a purpose.
Let me note three aspects of His purpose, three aspects of WHO the baby is:

First, He was born to be your friend.
There is a loneliness in the human heart that seeks to be satisfied.
There is a loneliness in the human heart that even the turkey and feasting of today can’t ignore.
This child was born for you, born to be your friend,
Born to be your companion in both your difficulties and your joys.
He was born in rejection, in a stable because there was no room in the inn.
So, when you feel dejected, He can be the friend who know your trails.
He brought, repeatedly, “joy”(Lk 2:10 e.g. Lk 19:6) to those who met Him.
So, when you feel joys, He can be the one you share those with.
He was born to be your friend.

But, more than this, His is not a friendship of equals: He was also born to be your king.
Let us note what the angels said at His birth:
The angels emphasised that He was born in Bethlehem, “the town of David”(Lk 2:11), a descendent of David, “of David’s House and line”(Lk 2:4).
David was the greatest king of the Old Testament, the greatest king of God’s chosen people.
This was baby was descended from him, thus, this baby was born to be king.
This baby was born to be YOUR King.

Friend, king, but more still: He was and is GOD:
The Lord and Creator of the cosmos sought to reach down and enter His Creation.
The Lord and Creator of the cosmos made us, made humans as the pinnacle of His work, and had a plan to unite us to Himself:
to unite us to Himself by becoming one of us, by taking flesh as a baby in Bethlehem.

A final point: All this calls for a response from us.
If He has come to be your friend,
then He calls for you to offer Him friendship.
If He has come to be your King,
then He expects you to render Him the service due to a King.
If He has given Himself to you, as God entering our world,
then it is clear that we must give ourselves to Him.
The shepherds gave a lamb; the kings gave gold, frankincense and myrrh,
As the carol sings, we must give our hearts.

Who is the baby? Your friend, your King, your God.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Joy-borne-of-hope, 3rd Sunday of Advent, Yr C



Phil 4:4-7; Lk 3:10-18
This Christmas, as soon as the last person leaves after the 10am Mass, I’ll be driving home for Christmas. And there are certain moments in the journey when I get a little sense of excitement at the closeness of being home -I’m not there YET, but I somehow sense and anticipate the outcome, even before it arrives:
when I see the town SIGN saying, “Torquay. Welcome to the English Riviera”;
when I get to the SEAfront and the road takes me along beach promenade.
I’ve not yet got home, I’ve not yet greeted my family, and yet, I am somehow anticipating that outcome and some of the joy of that outcome fills me already.

I offer that to you today as an image of the joy that should fill us today, on Gaudete Sunday, this 3rd Sunday of Advent.
Christmas has not come yet,
Christ has not come yet,
And nonetheless, the Church bids us rejoice at His coming -in anticipation.

There is a joy borne of love, when we possess the beloved -in union with them.
There is a different joy that is borne of HOPE, when we do not yet possess, but are confident that we WILL possess. And our advent joy is this joy-borne-of-hope.

Today is ‘Gaudete’ Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Advent. This word means ‘rejoice’ and it comes from the Scripture verse we heard in our second reading (Year C):
‘Rejoice in the Lord, always, and again I say, ‘rejoice’!... the Lord is at hand’(Phil 4:4).
There are many things people rejoice in at Christmas, good things:
Family, presents, food -but none of these are ‘the Lord’.
Let us think for a moment about why it is THE LORD that we should rejoice in.

Let us start with the most basic truth of human existence:
We are all SEEKING something, we are all seeking happiness.
Humans disagree about where they will find happiness, and disagree about what happiness looks like, but they all want it. No one wants to be miserable. (St Augustine, Confessions, Bk 3, Ch 2)
If happiness is real, then it is only something truly incredible that can cause it
-our desire is so great,
our yearning is so persistent,
that only something incredible can satisfy it.
Only God, Himself.

We want justice in the world, and we can’t achieve it.
We want love in the world, and there’s not enough of it to go around.
But now, half-way through Advent, we can recall the promise of the One whose coming can bring this,
and MORE.

He has fulfilled His promises in the past,
let us rejoice in the confidence that He will fulfil His promises for the future.
He is “very near”(Phil 4:5).

A final brief point: Let us get ourselves ready.
When the people wanted to be ready for the coming of the Messiah, they asked St John the Baptist, “What must we do?”(Lk 3:10), as our Gospel text opened.
If WE have joy in our heart, not yet the joy of possession, but the joy-borne-of-hope,
then let us ask ourselves “what must we do?” to make ready a place for the Lord in our hearts this Christmas.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Confession, 2nd Sunday of Advent



Lk 3:1-6
I was shopping in Wilko this week and the woman at the cash register smiled, looked at my food and presents, and said, ‘Christmas is such a special time’.
Indeed, this is a ‘special’ time.
But, as Christians, we know that many of those around us have forgotten what makes it ‘special’:
the coming of the Lord Jesus.
Like most of you, I find that the build up to Christmas can easily distract me from what Christmas is about:
The stress, the shopping, and more.
How can I focus on the RIGHT things?
How can I prepare, in my heart, for Christ to COME?

Our Advent readings, over the 4 weeks, give us different tools, but today’s is on what it is WITHIN me that stops the Lord coming:
My sins.
That not an EASY message, but it’s a very BIBLICAL one, and a crucial one
We heard in our gospel about how St John the Baptist prepared for the first coming of Jesus Christ, prepared by crying out in the wilderness, "prepare a way that the Lord"(Lk 3:4), and the way he called people to prepare the way for the Lord was by REPENTING of their sins.

If I want the Lord to come to me this Christmas, then I need to create SPACE in my heart for Him.
The thing that fills my heart, the things that stop there being space for Him, are my sins.
Let me note two things: I need to see, and, I need a cleaning agent.

Wilko sells reading glasses, and I’m reaching that age when I sense that I can’t read properly without them.
The text can be right in front of me, and I can’t really see it any more.
But the biggest sight problem I have is seeing my sins, being HONEST about my sins.
I feel grumpy and tired, and I blame other people, rather than looking into my own heart.
I find myself complaining about my problems, when I should see that I need to listen to others.
I need to SEE my sins.
And the most powerful tool for this is regular confession.
Going to regular confession, and the regular examination of conscience that goes with this, this is a most POWERFUL tool to enable me to see my sins, to enable me to see what is stopping the Lord coming.
There is an examination of conscience sheet inside the newsletter this week, take it and prepare.
We have 4 priests coming soon for hear your Advent confessions, 18th Dec, but what we each need is to be going to confession REGULARLY if we are to see our sins
-if we are to have the ‘reading glasses for the soul’.

Wilko also sell cleaning agents: limescale remover, washing up liquid, and more.
But the biggest cleaning I need is in my soul, of the dirt of my sins.
And the Lord established a mechanism for this: the sacrament of Confession.
As Jesus said to the Apostles, His first priests: “Those whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them, those whose sins you shall retain they are retained” (Jn 20:23).
If the Lord is to come this Christmas, I need to not just SEE my sins, but bring them to the divine cleaning agent: Confession.
I can’t forgive myself, only God can do that.
I can’t heal myself, only God can do that.

The thing that makes Christmas ‘special’ is not for sale in Wilko.
The thing that prepares me for Christmas is not for sale in Wilko.
The greatest gift that prepares me for the coming of the Lord is His forgiveness, available in Confession, a great tool for regular use, but especially in this season.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

20th Ordination Anniversary, 1st Sunday Advent, Year C



Lk 21:25-28, 34-36
This Sunday I’ll have been a priest for 20 years, I was ordained in 1998.
In that time I’ve thought many times about the Second Coming of Christ, which is the theme of our readings this first Sunday of Advent.
I was ordained just before the year 2000, the turn of the Millennium, and there was much buzz then about the End of the World, would the year 2000 be the time - would it be soon?
I’ve read many internet posts about ‘signs’ of the Second Coming, many details of the book of Revelation supposedly being fulfilled RIGHT NOW. I’ve read about how Pope John Paul II, who was pope when I was ordained, spoke often about the “acceleration of history”, about the ever-more-rapid pace of change in society, and people speculated that this is all heading to a conclusion, soon: Christ will Return.

As I noted two weeks ago, while the Second Coming fills some people with fear, nonetheless, it’s supposed to be a thing of HOPE. Thus our Gospel text says today, “your LIBERATION is near at hand” (Lk 21:28).
BUT what should we do if we FEAR His final coming?
Well, there is an obvious way to be READY for His Second and final coming, and that is to welcome His coming, already, TODAY.
The saints speak of three comings of Christ (St Bernard, Office Readings Advent Wk 1 Wed):
2000 years ago in Bethlehem in humility, at the end of time in glory,
and now, every day that we welcome Him into our hearts.

And, thinking of this being my 20th anniversary of priestly ordination: a priest’s role is all about Christ coming. This is what I am here for:
That He might come in the Mass,
That He might come in Baptism,
That He might come with forgiveness in Confession.
Why am I here, as a priest? I am here to be an instrument CAUSING His coming.

Thinking more specifically, let me note a parish priest’s PRIMARY purpose:
Many people might guess this wrong: if I was to ask everyone here what they thought the Church taught was a parish priest’s primary purpose, what would you guess?
It’s not to offer Mass, though I do that every day, 9 times this week.
It’s not to visit the sick, though I do that often too, 3 times this particular week.
My PRIMARY purpose, according to Vatican II (Pres Ord n.4), according to encyclicals of the 20th century before the Council (Acerbo Nimis, n.7, 10, 11, 12), according to the Council of Trent (Sess. V, cap. 2, De Reform.; Sess. XXII, cap. 8; Sess. XXIV, cap. 4 & 7, De Reform), my primary role is:
Is to TEACH and PREACH, to proclaim the Gospel, to make Christ present by preaching of Him.
And my secondary role is to do that, in particular, in formation of youth.

And as a priest, it has been my great JOY over the years to witness many occasions when people have heard of Him and ACCEPTED Him, when He has been presented to them and they have let Him COME into their hearts and lives.
And, I say this to you today, as an ADVENT focus:
If we are to prepare for His coming for Christmas,
If we are to prepare for His coming at the End of Time,
Then, we need to welcome His coming TODAY.
He comes in the sacraments: the Mass, and Confession.
He comes when we love Him in the least and the needy, when for example, we donate to the food bank in our ‘Reverse Advent Calendars’.
He comes in personal prayer.
He comes when we read His holy Word in the Bible.

He will come in glory at the End.
He came in weakness when He was born.
Let us prepare for His Christmas coming by welcoming Him now.


------
Primarily to teach

Vat II Pres Ord n.4 “priests, as co-workers with their bishops, have the PRIMARY duty of proclaiming the Gospel of God to all.”

“We must now consider upon whom rests the obligation to dissipate this most pernicious ignorance and to impart in its stead the knowledge that is wholly indispensable. There can be no doubt, Venerable Brethren, that this most important duty rests upon all who are pastors of souls. On them, by command of Christ, rest the obligations of knowing and of feeding the flocks committed to their care; and to feed implies, first of all, to teach. "I will give you pastors according to my own heart," God promised through Jeremias, "and they shall feed you with knowledge and doctrine." Hence the Apostle Paul said: "Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel," thereby indicating that the first duty of all those who are entrusted in any way with the government of the Church is to instruct the faithful in the things of God.”(Pius X, Acerbo Nimis, n.7)

“If what We have just said [that a priest’s primary role is to teach, c.f. n.7] is applicable to all priests, does it not apply with much greater force to those who possess the title and the authority of parish priests, and who, by virtue of their rank and in a sense by virtue of a contract, hold the office of pastors of souls? These are, to a certain extent, the pastors and teachers appointed by Christ in order that the faithful might not be as "children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine devised in the wickedness of men," but that practicing "the truth in love," they may, "grow up in all things in him who is the head, Christ." “(Pius X, Acerbo Nimis, n.10)

“For this reason the Council of Trent, treating of the duties of pastors of souls, decreed that their first and most important work is the instruction of the faithful.[Council of Trent, Sess. V, cap. 2, De Reform.; Sess. XXII, cap. 8; Sess. XXIV, cap. 4 & 7, De Reform.] “(Pius X, Acerbo Nimis, n.11)
“These prescriptions of the Council of Trent have been summarized and still more clearly defined by Our Predecessor, Benedict XIV, in his Constitution Esti minime. "Two chief obligations," he wrote, "have been imposed by the Council of Trent on those who have the care of souls: first, that of preaching the things of God to the people on the feast days; and second, that of teaching the rudiments of faith and of the divine law to the youth and others who need such instruction." Here the wise Pontiff rightly distinguishes between these two duties: one is what is commonly known as the explanation of the Gospel and the other is the teaching of Christian doctrine. Perhaps there are some who, wishing to lessen their labours, would believe that the homily on the Gospel can take the place of catechetical instruction. But for one who reflects a moment, such is obviously impossible. The sermon on the holy Gospel is addressed to those who should have already received knowledge of the elements of faith. It is, so to speak, bread broken for adults. Catechetical instruction, on the other hand, is that milk which the Apostle Peter wished the faithful to desire in all simplicity like newborn babes.”(Pius X, Acerbo Nimis, n.12)


“The principal way to restore the empire of God in the souls is religious instruction… this is why Christ commanded the Apostles, ‘Going forth teach all teach’(Mt 28:19)”:(Pius X, E supreme, n.12)

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Former Anglican Clergy Lecture Notes (Dec 2018)


1) Introduction: What is ‘Moral Theology’? & The Place of Scripture, Tradition, Magisterium, and Reason in Moral Theology
click here


2) The History of Moral Theology
click here
Possible additional reading: Servais Pinckaers, OP, Morality: The Catholic View, trans Michael Sherwin, OP (South Bend, Indiana: St Augustine’s Press, 2001), pp.25-41 and p.44, excerpts


3) Lecture: Emotivism, G.E. Moore, and Logical Positivism
With
Lecture: Aristotelian ‘Good’ vs. Emotivism et al
click here and here


4) Lecture: Happiness and the Good, Sin and freedom
click here
Possible additional reading:
section "h" of Mark Lowery, "Choosing Evil “Under the Aspect of the Good” , in Handout Notes for Moral Theology, Christian Marriage, and Catholic Social Thought (2007) click here
or
“Freedom and Happiness” in Servais Pinckaers, OP, Morality: The Catholic View, trans Michael Sherwin, OP (South Bend, Indiana: St Augustine’s Press, 2001), pp.65-81 (not online)


5) Lecture: What is Virtue?
click here
Possible additional reading: John Hardon SJ, The Meaning of Virtue in St Thomas Aquinas click here


6) Lecture: Natural Law I: Basic Principles (Ordinariate course notes)
click here
Possible additional reading: Michael Schutzer-Weissmann, Natural Law (and the Laws of Nature), Catholic Medical Quarterly vol 63(2) (May 2013) click here


7) Contraception and Natural Law (Ordinariate course notes)
click here
Possible additional reading (omit section on Edward Holloway): Dylan James “The Perverted Faculty Argument” click here


8) Lecture: The Just War
click here
Possible additional reading: Paul J. Griffiths and George Weigel, “Just War: An Exchange”, First Things 122 (April 2002) click here


9) Lecture: Natural Law III: The Relationship between Civil Law and Morality
click here
Possible additional Reading: Kathy Schiffer, “Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas” (7 Feb 2014) click here


10) Lecture: Mortal Sin (Ordinariate Course notes)
click here
Possible additional Reading: Jimmy Akin, "Assessing Mortal Sin" click here


11) Lecture: The Moral Evaluation of Acts: The End and the Means (c.f. Ordinariate course notes) see here (ignore pages 6 onwards (on cooperation in evil))
Possible additional reading: John Harris, “The Survival Lottery”, in Bioethics, Oxford Readings in Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp.300-303; Robert Spaemann, “Even the best of intentions does not justify the use of evil means”, Reflections on the Encyclical Letter ‘Veritatis Splendor’-7, L’Osservatore Romano (English) 50 (15 December 1993), p.11; Germain Grisez, “Revelation versus dissent”, Veritatis Splendor in focus: 1, The Tablet (16 October 1993), pp.1329-31.


12) Lecture: Cooperation in Evil
see here
Possible additional reading: Germain Grisez, Difficult Moral Questions, The Way of the Lord Jesus, Vol. 3 (Quincy, Illinois: Franciscan Press, 1997), pp.365-380, excerpts.


13) Hearing Confessions: Moral Theology and the Sacrament of Penance
see here (Ordinariate notes)


14) Divorce and Remarriage (Ordinariate course notes)
see here


15) Homosexuality, Sex Change, and Transgenderism (Ordinariate course notes, 2 different files)
here and here
an optional list of further resources from the NCBC here


16) Infertility, IVF, Human Cloning, and Stem Cell Research (Ordinariate course notes, and pages below)
(a) on IVF and Infertility see here
and
(b) "Why Human Cloning Is Immoral" by William Saunders here
(c) "Reflections on Cloning" by the Pontifical Academy for Life here
(d) "Human Cloning, Stem Cell Research and Attempts at Hybrid Embryo Creation: A Commentary On Dignitas Personae, Part Three, nn 28-33" by Tadeusz Pacholczyk here
(e) "Would a Human Clone Possess a Soul?" by Catholic Exchange Editors (2003) see here
and
(f) "The Catholic Church's Stance on Various Forms of Stem-Cell Research" by Scott Richert here
(g) "Is the Catholic Church against all forms of stem cell research?"(2016) here
(h) "Catholic Support for Ethically Acceptable Stem Cell Research"(USCCB) here
and possible book reading here:
“Technological Reproduction of Human Life”, and “Stem Cell Research”, in Handbook of Critical Life Issues, by Leies et al, 3rd edition (Boston: National Catholic Bioethics Center, 2004), pp.97-111; 113-118.


17) ‘Adoption’ of Frozen Embryos? (an issue debated among orthodox Catholics)
Articles:
“Vatican Rules Out Adoption of Frozen Embryos - at Least for Now” (LIFESITENEWS.COM, 12 Dec 2008) see here
“Top Catholic ethicists duel over frozen embryo adoption” (LIFESITENEWS.COM, 2 Aug 2011) see here
Helen Watt, “A Brief Defense of Frozen Embryo Adoption. A Moral Analysis”, see here
“What Should We Do with the Frozen Embryos?”by TADEUSZ PACHOLCZYK see here


18) Abortion (Ordinariate Course notes):
on Abortion see here
and possible written texts:
“A. Abortion, Abortacients and Partial-Birth Abortion”, in Catholic Health Care Ethics. A Manual for Ethics Committees, ed. Peter Cataldo et al (Boston: National Catholic Bioethics Center, 2001), 7A/1-5
“Suicide, Assisted Suicide, and Euthanasia”, in Handbook of Critical Life Issues, by Leies et al, 3rd edition (Boston: National Catholic Bioethcis Center, 2004), pp.135-150


19) Double Effect and Abortion
(a) a general analysis "Abortion and Double Effect" by Matthew A.C. Newsome (2006) here
(b) on ectopic pregnancies see:
"When Pregnancy Goes Awry: The Moral Ending to an Ectopic Pregnancy" by Kathy Schiffer here
(c) "The Management of Ectopic Pregnancy. Prepared by the ethicists of the NCBC" (2013) here
and possible written texts:
“D. The Double Effect”, in Catholic Health Care Ethics. A Manual for Ethics Committees, ed. Peter Cataldo et al (Boston: National Catholic Bioethics Center, 2001), 3D/1-3
“B. The Ethics of Treating Ectopic Pregnancy”, in Catholic Health Care Ethics. A Manual for Ethics Committees, ed. Peter Cataldo et al (Boston: National Catholic Bioethics Center, 2001), 10B/1-5


20) Rape Protocols
See the second part (i.e. pp.66-69) of the article "Applying the Directives" by Kevin O'Rourke in Health Progress (July 1998) here
and
"Directive 36 and 'Contraceptives'" by Kevin McMahon in Ethics & Medics 27.9 (Sept 2002)pp.1-2 of here
and possible written texts:
“Rape and the Peoria Protocol”, Ethics and Medics 22.9 (Sept 1997), pp.1-2
“Rape and Emergency Contraception”, Ethics and Medics 28.6 (June 2003), pp.1-2
“Why Fear Ovulation Testing?”, Ethics and Medics 28.6 (June 2003), pp.3-4


21) Euthanasia
(a) for an overview see "What is the Church's Teaching on Euthanasia?" by William Saunders here
(b) for commentary on ordinary/extraordinary, also called proportionate/disproportionate care,
see "What is the Church's teaching on extraordinary care for the sick?" by Jim Blackburn here
(c) with respect to resources in the developing world "Justice and health care: When 'ordinary' is extraordinary?" by James McTavish see here
(d) for a definition of various terms see "End of Life Care" by NCBC here
(e) a very long article defining ordinary/extraordinary see "Ordinary and Extraordinary Means of the Preservation of Life: The Teaching of Moral Tradition" by Paulina Taboada here

(f) on the need to continue nutrition and hydration as basic care, "Nutrition and Hydration (2013) NCBC see here
(g) even for someone in Persistent Vegetative State, see "FAQ on Persistent Negative State" by NCBC here

(h) on Assisted Suicide proposals in the UK see here
and possible written texts:
“Decisions of Prolonging Life”, in Handbook of Critical Life Issues, by Leies et al, 3rd edition (Boston: National Catholic Bioethcis Center, 2004), pp. 153-162 –p.159 of this article could be read so as to imply that it seems to ignore the authoritative status JPII’s statement on food & water being ordinary care.
“Ethically Ordinary and Extraordinary Means”, in Catholic Health Care Ethics. A Manual for Ethics Committees, ed. Peter Cataldo et al (Boston: National Catholic Bioethics Center, 2001), 3B/1-3
“The Ventilator as Excessive Burden”, Ethics and Medics 36.9 (Sept 2011), pp.1-2


22) Advance Directives:
(a) for 'A Catholic Guide to End-of-Life Decisions' (NCBC 2011) see here
and
on 'Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)' orders:
(b)"Catholics and 'Do Not Resuscitate' Orders" by William may (2010) see here
(c) "Going Too Far with DNR?" by Tadeusz Pacholczyk see here


23) Lecture: Environmental Ethics
see Wonersh lecture notes here
Possible additional reading: Acton Institute, Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Acton Institute, 2007), pp.33-65, excerpts.


24) Lecture: Wealth and Catholic Social Doctrine
see Wonersh lecture notes here
Possible additional: George Weigel, “The Virtues of Freedom. Centesimus Annus (1991)”, in Building the Free Society. Democracy, Capitalism, and Catholic Social Teaching, ed. George Weigel and Robert Royal (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Pub, 1993), pp. 207-23 excerpts.



25) A Contrast: Catholic and Protestant Approaches to Ethics
Reading: James M. Gustafson, Protestant and Roman Catholic Ethics (Chicago: SCM press, 1978), pp.1-29, excerpts


26) Lecture: Conscience
see Wonersh lecture notes here
Possible additional: “Conscience and Christian Tradition” in The Pinckaers Reader, pp.321-41, excerpts.

Friday, 30 November 2018

The Pastor's Primary Role is to Preach and Teach

Many people, even many priests, have a mistaken understanding of what constitutes a pastor's (what the British call a 'parish priest') primary role:
It's not offering Holy Mass,
it's not visiting the sick,
rather,
it's preaching and teaching.

While we can properly say that the priesthood, per se, is primarily ordered to the offering of the holy sacrifice of the Mass,
nonetheless,
the primary pastoral task entrusted to a priest when he is made a pastor, in virtue of the care of souls given to him in his appointment, is to teach and preach.



Here are some Church document quotes:

“priests, as co-workers with their bishops, have the primary duty of proclaiming the Gospel of God to all.” (Vatican II Pres Ord n.4.)

“We must now consider upon whom rests the obligation to dissipate this most pernicious ignorance and to impart in its stead the knowledge that is wholly indispensable. There can be no doubt, Venerable Brethren, that this most important duty rests upon all who are pastors of souls. On them, by command of Christ, rest the obligations of knowing and of feeding the flocks committed to their care; and to feed implies, first of all, to teach. "I will give you pastors according to my own heart," God promised through Jeremias, "and they shall feed you with knowledge and doctrine." Hence the Apostle Paul said: "Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel," thereby indicating that the first duty of all those who are entrusted in any way with the government of the Church is to instruct the faithful in the things of God.”(Pius X, Acerbo Nimis, n.7)

“If what We have just said [that a priest’s primary role is to teach, c.f. n.7] is applicable to all priests, does it not apply with much greater force to those who possess the title and the authority of parish priests, and who, by virtue of their rank and in a sense by virtue of a contract, hold the office of pastors of souls? These are, to a certain extent, the pastors and teachers appointed by Christ in order that the faithful might not be as "children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine devised in the wickedness of men," but that practicing "the truth in love," they may, "grow up in all things in him who is the head, Christ." “(Pius X, Acerbo Nimis, n.10)

“For this reason the Council of Trent, treating of the duties of pastors of souls, decreed that their first and most important work is the instruction of the faithful.[Council of Trent, Sess. V, cap. 2, De Reform.; Sess. XXII, cap. 8; Sess. XXIV, cap. 4 & 7, De Reform.] “(Pius X, Acerbo Nimis, n.11)

“These prescriptions of the Council of Trent have been summarized and still more clearly defined by Our Predecessor, Benedict XIV, in his Constitution Esti minime. "Two chief obligations," he wrote, "have been imposed by the Council of Trent on those who have the care of souls: first, that of preaching the things of God to the people on the feast days; and second, that of teaching the rudiments of faith and of the divine law to the youth and others who need such instruction." Here the wise Pontiff rightly distinguishes between these two duties: one is what is commonly known as the explanation of the Gospel and the other is the teaching of Christian doctrine. Perhaps there are some who, wishing to lessen their labours, would believe that the homily on the Gospel can take the place of catechetical instruction. But for one who reflects a moment, such is obviously impossible. The sermon on the holy Gospel is addressed to those who should have already received knowledge of the elements of faith. It is, so to speak, bread broken for adults. Catechetical instruction, on the other hand, is that milk which the Apostle Peter wished the faithful to desire in all simplicity like newborn babes.”(Pius X, Acerbo Nimis, n.12)

“The principal way to restore the empire of God in the souls is religious instruction… this is why Christ commanded the Apostles, ‘Going forth teach all teach’(Mt 28:19)”:(Pius X, E supreme, n.12)

Sunday, 25 November 2018

An unwanted king, Christ the King, Year B



Jn 18:33-37; Rev 1:5-8
Imagine, for a moment, that you have a job that no-one wants you to do.
Or, imagine, you have a product that you’re trying to sell, and yet no one wants it.
This image, in many ways, describes the Lord Jesus, especially today on this feast day of Him as “Christ the King”:
No one wants a real king these days, maybe a figurehead, maybe a symbol to look pretty and open parliament once a year, or to cut ribbons to open a new shopping centre.
But, in our culture, no one wants to be told what to do, no-one wants a boss. We even have the phrase, “You’re not the boss of me, no-one is the boss of me, only I am the boss of me”.
People, sadly, can even relate to God this way:
We want a symbol, a figurehead, a nice old man in clouds, but we don’t want someone who is going to tell us what to do. We don’t want someone to be our King.

Let me focus that image more: imagine you are selling a product that no one wants, but it’s a product that everyone NEEDS, even though they don’t want it.
This image, maybe even more profoundly, sums up the problem of the Lord on His feast day of Christ the King.

What do people NEED to be truly happy and fulfilled?
We need more than money;
We need more than presents -Santa can’t bring you REAL fulfilment.
To be truly fulfilled, we need to find the PURPOSE we were created for:
There is a need in me that can only be satisfied by the One who created me.
-That means I need Christ as my King.

While it is a very un-“modern” thing to admit, at my deepest level:
I can’t create my own purpose and meaning;
I need someone to tell me what to do;
I need someone to direct me;
I need the Lord Jesus to be my King.

Let me shift the focus, and bring in the issue of “truth” -this year our Gospel reading focuses on the Lord Jesus as Truth. We heard Him say, in describing His type of Kingship to Pilate, we heard Him say He bore witness to the truth (Jn 18:37), as He also said elsewhere in the Gospels: “I AM… truth”(Jn 14:6).
Truth, also, is unfashionable today. People think they can make up their own truth. They think that what’s “true for me” is not the same as what’s “true for you”.
The Lord Jesus says otherwise.
He IS truth because all reality is measured by Him, because He made it all (Jn 1:3).

And what of our society, instead?
It has wealth;
It has an abundance of food, even if not adequately shared,
It has gadgets and technology, iPhones and X-Boxes.
But if you don’t have a purpose it your life, then these things aren’t much good to you.

If I want my life to have a purpose and direction, a fulfilment and happiness,
Then I need to come to One who is the “Alpha and Omega”(Rev 1:8), the beginning and the end.
I need to accept His Lordship,
not just as a symbol and figurehead,
but in every moment of my life, in every aspect of my life.
I need to accept the Lord Jesus as my king.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Entropy & the End of Time, 33rd Sunday Ordinary Time Year B



Mk 13:24-32; Dan 12:1-3
Many years ago, when I was a schoolboy, I can remember learning about the Second Law of Thermodynamics, about Entropy, discussing it with a friend, and getting thoroughly depressed.
For those of you who can’t remember your physics, “entropy” basically means that the entire universe is levelling out, or winding down, like a battery running out -there is an end coming that cannot be avoided.
When you’re young, and you think you’re going to live forever, the physical certainty of a coming “end” feels very unwelcome.
Many people feel similarly when they hear the Lord Jesus speak about the End of Time. However, there is a point I want to make to you today, and it is this:
The Lord’s teaching that Time will end is truly “good” news.

We’re now approaching the end of the liturgical year, and every year, at this moment, the Church reminds us that not merely the year, but time itself, will come to an end.
The Lord Jesus, as we heard in today’s Gospel text, tells us that He is going to come again, “coming on the clouds with great power and glory”(Mk 13:26). This is something He taught a great many times and it’s a PIVOTAL part of His message.

There are some people who think that this world is all there is to live for. For such people, to be told that this world will end is bad news. Their money will end. Their clothes will rot and decay. Their house will eventually collapse. Even their bodies will crumble to dust.

Why is it “GOOD” news to be told that this world will end?
The truth about the End of the World is this:
there is a GOAL towards which time and history is heading;
there is a LORD of time and history who will not just return at the End, who not just was active in the beginning, but who is ACTIVE in every moment of history.
To realise this is to realise that there is a meaning and a purpose to MY life.
To fail to realise this is to fail to realise the meaning and purpose of my life.

Many people think there is NO purpose to life, that it is a random sequence of events.
One of the biggest reasons why people think life has no purpose is the presence of suffering.
It’s thus very significant that the Lord Jesus almost always situates His prophecies of the End in the context how we are to BEHAVE in the midst of suffering, in particular, in the midst of the sufferings that will characterise the End Times. A Christian is NOT to be SURPRISED at suffering in his life: sufferings WILL come, but there is the promise of something else too.

The focus of our readings this year is PRECISELY on the promise of what is to come in the End Times.
Thus we had the promise in the prophecy of Daniel, which announced that, even though “there will be a time of great distress”(Dan 12:1), nonetheless, “your own people will be saved” (12:1), the just will rise “to everlasting life”(12:2) and “shine… as bright as stars for all eternity”(12:3).
While in the Gospel we heard the Lord Jesus promise that, “after the time of distress”(Mk 13:24), He will send his “angels to gather his chosen from… the ends of the world”(Mk 13:27).
There is a promise of something BETTER to come.

There is an implicit challenge to each of us here:
Do we live with our heart set on this world, so that the thought of the end of this world fills us with sadness?
Or, Do we live with our heart set on the Lord, on the promises He offers?

Entropy, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, no longer fills me with sadness. I love this world, but I’m happy to hear of the promise that it will pass away.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Remembrance Sunday, 32nd Sun in Ord Time, Yr B



Mk 12:38-44; 1 Kgs 17:10-16
Today I'd like to reflect on the value that our actions have in God’s sight, which is often very different from the value our actions appear to have in the sight of the world.
Today, in our nation, is Remembrance Sunday, when we remember all those who have died in the wars of the past century. This year, 2018, we particularly are aware of it being the century of the end of the First World War.
Among the thoughts that can arise at such moments can be the question of what value sacrifices in war had. Pausing to see the value of deeds in God’s sight rather than our own can help to give us a most important perspective.

One way of considering the issue of the value of our deeds and the value of someone’s sacrifice would be to return to the ‘measuring’ criteria I have often referred to in my sermons:
the value that GOD puts on our actions depends on the LOVE with which we do them (c.f. St Thomas ST II-II q184 a1). And the love of family and love of country that motivate someone’s deeds in warfare is one way of considering their value.
However, most the time we can tend to want to evaluate actions in terms of their OUTCOME, their results, their consequences. The problem with trying to do this is that we can never see all the effects of our actions, so how can we make that the criteria for judging their value? The Scriptures give us another model, as we hear of in the two widows in our scripture readings today.

So, let us look at these two widows and evaluate their actions according to the two different criteria I mentioned: results, and motive.
Let us consider the first widow, who helped the prophet Elijah in the Old Testament. What were the RESULTS, the effects of her deed?
What she did, as we heard, was she chose to generously feed Elijah, even though she had so little food that she thought she was preparing a final meal for her and her son before they died.
The results, however, were very different. The ‘results’ were that GOD worked a miracle and rewarded her generosity by miraculously re-filling her “jar of meal” and “jug of oil” until the rains came and the drought was ended.
One point we can draw from this is that the PRIMARY agent acting in the world is the LORD. And He can draw great things even out of our small efforts.
AND He can do this, and does do this, even working in a world of suffering and evil.
So, we should persevere with our good deeds, even when we can't see what outcome they will have.

The second widow, praised by the Lord Jesus, is praised slightly differently.
We are never told the outcome of her deeds. What was her money used for after she gave it to the Temple? We simply don't know.
Nonetheless, the Lord praises her for her generosity, “they have all put in money that they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on”(Mk 12:44).
The Lord looks on what she has done and praises her, regardless of the outcome of her deeds, simply because of the good motive with which it was done.
God, likewise, will look kindly on us for good deeds that WE do with a generous heart.

So, to conclude, in whatever we find ourselves called upon to do in life, let us take these two widows as examples:
Let us give generously, doing the right thing, even when we cannot see the outcome. Because the value of our deeds, and the outcome of our actions, ultimately lies in the hands of God, who can do much more with our deeds than we can imagine.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Praying for the Dead, 31st Sun Ordinary Time, Year B




Mk 12:28-34
One thing that can be said for almost all of us is that we know someone who has died, probably someone we love. And this is a thought that the Church focuses on in every November. Love tells us that we want to still do something for those who have died –a something that many people in our secular society today seek for in their grief.

We just heard Jesus give the second commandment to "love your neighbour". And love seeks manifest itself in action. There are various works of mercy that are a part of living out this command, but there is one specific act of spiritual mercy that I’d like to focus on, and that is the need to pray for the dead. If our love leads us to want to do something for our deceased loved ones, then we can find in this practice something that’s not only beneficial to them, and rooted in sound doctrine, but is deeply pastoral as a practice for us who remain. It’s one of those practices that makes me very glad to be a Catholic.

We can read in the Bible (2 Macc 12:45) that it was the Jewish practice to offer us sacrifices for the dead, that they might be loosed from their sins. This Jewish practice became the early Catholic practice, and it’s rooted in two simple beliefs: That the dead will actually rise again –that there is an eternal focus and destiny to life, a focus so easily lost in our materialistic world. But also, that the prayers of the living can actually help the dead. The prayers of us who live can help each other, after all, that’s why we pray for each other. And it is no different after death. We remain united in Christ, and this union in the communion of saints enables us to pray for each other.

Someone was asking me about Purgatory this week, asking who goes there, and what it’s like, and is it painful. For those of you who don’t know, ‘Purgatory’ is the name of that place where almost everyone goes before they get to heaven –and it’s a very important place, a lot depends upon it. Let me put it this way: heaven is a place of absolute perfection, otherwise it would not be place of absolute happiness, and yet none of us here are perfect, so something must CHANGE before we get into heaven. If we are judged to not be so evil that we are condemned to hell, then we will, nonetheless, still need some serious changes made to ourselves before we get to heaven. After all, if imperfect people were allowed into heaven they would stop it being a perfect and happy place. And if we went there still imperfect our imperfection would stop us enjoying the happiness it brings.
Thus a change is needed, and this is what purgatory is about.

The word ‘Purgatory’ implies being ‘purged’ of sins, of impurities, of imperfections. The traditional image used for this place is fire -because fire purges away impurities. And, there is no point in avoiding admitting that this must be very painful –because all change is difficult. But, the theologians point out that it is a HOPE-filled pain. Someone in Purgatory knows they are going to heaven, so they have hope and joy. Someone in Purgatory wants to be perfect, and so WANTS the painful purging that is involved –they want to be perfect to enjoy heaven, and they want, even more, to be perfect to please almighty God who they love. They want to be free of the residue of their sins.

But, to return to where I began, what does this have to do with us praying for those in Purgatory?
Well, the teaching of the Church, the practice of the Jews before us, and as confirmed by countless visions to many saints, is that this purging action can be assisted by the praying of the living. We can pray:
First, for mercy in the judgment for those who have died;
Second, for consolation and strength to those undergoing to painful, even if joy-filled pain;
Third, our prayers can somehow assist and speed this cleansing process.
And all of this happens because this change, this purgation, is a work of God’s GRACE, and we can implore God that more of it to be poured out.

So, in this month of November, let us remember to pray for the dead, those we have known and loved, and also for those who have no-one else to pray for them –it’s an important way of loving our neighbour.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Hope and Blindness, 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B



Mk 10:46-52; Ps 125:3; Jer 31:7-9
Today I’d like to draw your attention to the title the blind man used to call out to the Lord.
He didn't just say, “Jesus”, or “Lord”, or even use the description St Mark’s Gospel gave Him, “Jesus of Nazareth”.
Instead, he called out to Him saying, “Son of David”(Mk 10:47;48). In fact, he used this title twice in close succession when he was addressing the Lord.

To a blind Jew this would have been very significant:
The “Son of David” was a title referring to the expected Messiah.
Of course, ALL the Jews we waiting for the Messiah,
BUT, He was to have a special significance for the BLIND. As we heard in our first reading, which was one of many such prophecies of the Messiah, when the Messiah would come He would be distinguished by His capacity to give sight back to the blind. Other prophets had worked other miracles, but this miracle was to be one of THE signs of the Messiah.

Now, let us pause a moment and think what this tells us about this blind man.
This blind man suffered.
He was a beggar.
And, to be a blind beggar in a poor country is a harsh thing.
But, THE point I wish to draw your attention to today is that this blind man somehow kept his FAITH and kept his HOPE.
He didn't curse his darkness, he didn't inwardly close in on himself in bitterness and anger –the way we all know it is very easy to do. Instead, he kept faith and hope, and the SIGN of this is that he was still WAITING and HOPING for the Messiah, and called to Him by His title, “Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me”.

The Scripture readings that the Church has given us today point us to two pivotal things that this blind man must have held on to:
First, the PROMISE from the Lord God that He would send His Messiah, send Him with healing.
This enabled the blind man to look FORWARD with hope.
Our first reading from Jeremiah records one of many such Old Testament promises that remind us of this.
Second, the MEMORY of what God had done the PAST.
If we remember the wonders the Lord has done in the past, then the past is able to anchor our faith. Our being rooted in the past thus enables us to fix our eyes on the future, it enables our faith to give us hope.
Our responsorial psalm reminded us of this with the antiphon, “What marvels the Lord worked for us! Indeed we were glad.”(Ps 125:3).

To summarise: the title “Son of David” that the blind man used for Jesus showed he remembered that a promise had been made that a Messiah, the “Son of David” would come.
The blind man thus serves as a role model for all of us:
We all have difficulties, the way that blind man had difficulties.
But, if we kept our memories secure in recalling the Lord’s past deeds then we will have hope.
We do this by recalling our personal histories, the good things the Lord has done for us.
We do this also, more fundamentally, by recalling the good things the Lord has done in the pages of Sacred Scripture.
He has shown He is a good God.
He has shown He keeps His promises.
And a great many of those He promises still hold for you and me. The promise of heaven if we are faithful. The promise of grace to sustain us on the way. The promise that He is by our side, “I am with you always”(Mt 28:20). And much more.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Riches and Sadness, 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B



Mk 10:17-30
Today in the Gospel we heard of a man who had no name. At least, no name that history records. Why not? Why do the Gospel writers not know who he is? Presumably, because he went away and never came back. A tragedy.
If we think about why he left, as we heard, he left “sad”.
If we think about why he was sad, it was because the Lord Jesus said he had to choose between his riches, and, following the Lord. And to not follow Jesus leaves the soul sad –this is point that Pope Francis makes repeatedly to us.
He was a “rich young man”, he had his whole life ahead of him. And that life, it seems, was a life of sadness because he chose riches over the Lord.

Let me remind of you of another rich man in the Gospels: Levi.
The Gospels record that he was sitting at his office, and the Lord passed, said, “follow me”(Lk 5:27), and Levi “left everything, and rose and followed him”(Lk 5:28).
This immediacy surely implies a joy and eagerness.
He had riches. The Lord called him. And he eagerly left them in order to follow.

Let me give a third and final example of a rich man called by the Lord: Zacchaeus (Lk 19:1-8).
Zacchaeus, if you remember, was the short tax collector who climbed a tree to get a look at the Lord Jesus as He passed by. The Lord called him, Zacchaeus welcomed the Lord into his home, and declared he would give half of his goods to the poor and restore fourfold from all those he had defrauded (Lk 19:8).
All this he did “joyfully”(Lk 19:5), not like the young man who went away “sad”.
And, let us note, he was one of those who weren’t called to give up all their money, but rather, to have money but in a NEW spirit.

Back to the rich young man. He was rich, but he as sad. Which is notable, because we all think that riches will make us happy.
I saw a 55” TV this week. I want it. There is a voice inside me telling me that my lack of a 55” TV is what is holding me back from happiness. And yet, human experience, and the example of the rich young man, shows us that money doesn't give you happiness.
Real joy comes from love, it is a fruit of love. But love of the right thing: of people, of God, not of money, and of people for THEIR sake, not in a possessive clinging-ness.
Joyful people are noteworthy for their freedom, their LIGHTNESS. This is the very opposite of being held down by possessions.
What is needed is spirit of DETACHMENT from the riches of this world. An inward detachment that means I am free to let them go, and free to have them, but I am not held down by them.

And the rich young man, What was his problem? His lack of detachment.
He is not presented to us as selfish, or as uncaring, or neglecting the poor (as some figures condemned in the Gospels are, e.g. Lk 16:19-31).
Rather, the problem is that he is more ATTACHED to his possessions than to his willingness to follow where the Lord called him. And this leaves him sad, sad without the Lord, sad without love.

What of us?
If we are attached like the rich young man, then we will feel sad when we are prompted to anything that disrupts our attachments.
If we are de-tached like Levi, we will be prompt and eager to leave what must be left to follow.
If we are detached like Zacchaeus, then even though we possess things, we will only hold them lightly, because our joy in the Lord, in finding more joy in possessing Him than we do in possessing things, will leave us free to give, free to love, and free to give in a way that causes us to have joy, not sadness, in our heart

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Alone in the Garden, 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Yr B



Gen 2:18-24; Mk 10:2-16
Today I’d like us to consider the symbolism of Adam, alone and lonely, in the Garden of Eden.
This image is one of the most profound in the Scriptures, and, as many of you will be aware, it was the starting point for Pope St John Paul II’s famous Theology of the Body catechesis.

Before saying anything else, less the modern skeptical mind get distracted, let me note that we don’t need to take everything in the Genesis account as science.
I am a scientist. I believe in evolution. I could add that the Big Bang theory was invented by a Catholic priest, Father George LemaƮtre.
Evolution can trace the mechanism of how God made us, not in seven 24-hour days, but nonetheless in the progression of stages.
Genesis similarly describes a progression: the heavens, the earth, the waters, the plants, the animals.
At the end of this progression, and on this science CONFIRMS what Genesis teaches, man emerges, and emerges DIFFERENT from the rest of creation. Science cannot explain the MIND, because there is something in the mind that is beyond science. The Bible DOES explain it: the spiritual soul, symbolically directly “breathed” into man by God (Gen 2:7), making man different from the rest of creation:
Only we have a spiritual soul; only we are made in the image and likeness of God.

And so Adam was alone in the Garden.
Gloriously in the image and likeness of God, but alone, and lonely.

This image is hugely important in our modern content, because in our modern world the INDIVIDUAL reigns supreme. Me. I. “I’ve got to look after number One”.
But our modern world has formed a culture of isolated, privatised, LONELY people.

Adam, was alone in the Garden, but he wasn’t meant to be alone.
We are made for community.
We only find completion in another, as Adam found it in Eve, and Eve found it in Adam.

A hugely important part of this is the truth about our bodies, as male and female.
Contrary to the currently fashionable viewpoint, we do not CHOOSE our gender, rather, it is a gift given to us at our conception -male or female.
Even for those who are sadly born with imperfect organs, their gender is not a matter of choice, rather, its a matter of biology. Our gender and our sexuality are received, not chosen (see here and here).
We, similarly, if we are to follow God’s plan, not our own, our bodies are designed to find union in another in a very specific manner. Everything to do with sex is part of God’s plan.
Man only finds bodily completion in a woman, and a woman only finds bodily completion in a man.
And that completion is so significant, that, as we heard the Lord Jesus teach, that it involves a lifelong commitment, and thus He forbids remarriage after divorce.

But even outside of marriage, this image of Adam alone in the Garden is vital:
We are made for community. We are not made for loneliness.
Thus communities like the parish community are so important, with our parish supper tonight, our SVP events for the elderly, our Christmas Fayre, and so forth.
Community is often hard work, as the family is often hard work, but it’s what we are made for.

A final aspect to this, concerning celibacy.
The celibate, as Pope St John Paul II noted, stands as a very different image of Adam in the Garden.
The celibate is a sign that our DEEPEST yearning for union can only be satisfied in GOD.
The celibate is a sign, as the Lord Jesus teaches elsewhere (Mt 22:30), that we will not be married in heaven. The celibate, on earth, is a sign of what we will all be like in heaven.

Or, to think of that differently:
The loneliness of the priest is sign of the loneliness within all of of us.
You can be lonely in a happy marriage.
You can be lonely in an unhappy marriage.
When I was a seminarian I was afraid I'd be lonely as a priest, but I've not found it so. Somehow the time I've been freed to have with the Lord has given me more.
The loneliness within us is a sign of our yearning for God.
Adam was yearning, at his deepest level, for God.

To sum up:
The image of Adam alone in the garden is powerfully symbolic:
We are different from the rest of creation;
We are made for community;
We find our fullest unity in God Himself.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Moral Theology Lectures to Ordinariate 2019

Below are links for text and audio of my Moral Theology lecture series for the Ordinariate clergy.
The text links below are for the 2019 lecture series, at Allen hall in London.
The audio below is a mix from the 2014-15 and 2016-17 lecture series (based on the same text).
The same lectures were previously given to the Buckfast gatherings of the Ordinariate clergy and the 2014-15 and 2016-17 London Ordinariate clergy.

A googledrive folder of the files for the 2019 year is available here


Lecture 1: Introduction to Moral Theology
text available here







Lecture 2: What is Virtue?
text available here







Lecture 3: Mortal Sin
text available here



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Lecture 4: The End and the Means
text available here








Lecture 5: Natural Law
text available here


Audio from 2015 is:







Lecture 6: Contraception and the Natural Law
text available here

Audio from 2015 is:





Lecture 7: Various Specific Issues
text available here
Divorce and Remarriage & Holy Communion
Homosexuality
IVF
Abortion (not in verbal lecture)
Sex Change and Transgender articles (not in verbal lecture)

Audio from 2015 is:









Lecture 8: Hearing Confessions
text available here

Audio from 2015 is:











Bibliography, text available here


Friday, 28 September 2018

Sex Abuse

Below are comments I made in the parish 28th September 2018 (updated 18th Oct 2018)


In August 2018 Pope Francis issued a letter to all Catholics in the wake of various revelations. 
The months previous to this saw two different types of sexual abuse exposed:  
  • The first concerned the abuse of adults, and brought a new evil to light   It manifested certain bishops sexually forcing themselves on clergy and seminarians under their care.  In the English-speaking world, this has led to ex-Cardinal McCarrick being defrocked.  The manifestation of the networks of deviancy involved in this is sickening. 
  • The second saw a public commission in Pennsylvania document hundreds of allegations of clerical abuse of minors with many truly perverse and disturbing accounts.  The Pennsylvania report is monumental in the time span and number of cases it covers.  Since the Pope's letter he has removed two Chilean bishops for abuse of minors.

The above revelations raise many concerns, but among the most immediate might be the question of how much of this is also true locally.  I would make three observations:
(1) The Local Situation
The revelations reported above, and the analysis below in Eberstadt's article, describe sections of the Church in the USA and some other places.  However, these horrific descriptions of networks of deviancy do not hold in every diocese and do not hold in every country.  While it seems, tragically, that every diocese has had some individual cases, only a few seem to have signs of networks of perverts.  Similarly, while some bishops have failed grievously, other bishops have responded effectively to abuse and acted to prevent it.  The statistics are much better in some dioceses than in others.  I would note, personally, that I've not seen signs of such networks in our own Diocese.  This might seem small consolation, but I think it gives us hope that the situation can be remedied: Promote the effective bishops and retire the failing ones.  

(2) Frequency/Infrequency of Abusers
How likely is it that a local priest is an abuser?  Media reports create the impression that abuse by priests is common.  However, while abuse by a priest is a great evil, coming from someone in a position of great trust, we should note:
In fact, a thorough study indicates that:
That's very different from the impression created by the media.  That said, most of us would have hoped for priests to be more than twice as safe as the general public, which makes the next point relevant (namely, that recent decades are an anomaly, not the norm, and that we can reasonably hope the future will be different from the recent past).

(3) The Past, and hope for a better Future
There are two, rather different, reasons to think that the future will not be a continuation of the recent past, one is generational and the other is a change of policies.  
In terms of policies, we might note that almost all of the reports of abuse concern events from past decades.  A major reason for this is that the safeguarding procedures that have been in place since the turn of the century would make it difficult for events such as those described in the Pennsylvania report to happen in the same way on the same scale still today.
But there is also the effect of a significant generational shift occurring within the clergy.  It might be noted that Cardinal McCarrick is an old man and the Pennsylvania reports almost entirely concern events some decades ago.  These horrors were largely a phenomenon within an older morally-confused generation influenced by the after-effects of the sexual revolution of the 1960s.
This generation is dying out and the younger generation of priests coming forward manifest a very different dynamic: they are becoming priests because they want to be different from the society around us, because they are committing themselves to a chaste counter-cultural lifestyle -they don't want to belong to the secular sexually promiscuous culture.  There is, with this, a generation of young committed laity emerging too.



I have put together analyses from a few perceptive commentators below, along with the Pope’s recent letter.  A statement has also been made by our Bishops' Conference of England and Wales (which can be read here) and a letter from our Bishop (+Mark O'Toole, Plymouth, which can be read here).

You can read comments I have previously made on the topic of abuse here and here



I list below some noteworthy articles, most of them written in recent months:


The Elephant in the Sacristy, by Mary Eberstadt 
"this crisis involving minors --this ongoing institutionalized horror-- is almost entirely about man-boy sex"
Cardinal McCarrick's abuse of young men serves as a horrific example of the analysis that Eberstadt offered in 2002.  Her analysis remains definitive and is very different from the narrative fed to us by the secular media.
What makes the abuse crisis within the Catholic Church different from abuse in other organisations is the large number of homosexual predators involved, meaning homosexual-predator-priests living a deviant double life.  The key statistic in this regard is this: 80-90% of victims were teenage boys, rather than girls or young children.  This indicates that there is a specific issue within the Church that needs addressing: somehow a large number of actively homosexual men were ordained priests in the second half of the 20th century (Church law, since the time of Pope Benedict, now says that men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" should not be ordained, see here).
This crisis is unique to our moment in history, though sadly we are living through it.




"three related issues: abuse of power, homosexual abuse and the failure to observe celibacy, and the failure of the bishops to police themselves… the crisis of 2018 is exactly the same crisis as the 'long Lent' of 2002. The elephant in the sacristy, then and now, is the conflation of those three issues."


"The Church has been uncomfortably silent on matters of sexuality, family, and marriage because some in her leadership do not live these teachings themselves. ...In my experience, the priests and bishops who are comfortable talking about, defending, and promoting the Church’s teachings on sex and marriage are confident in their vocations."






“It is time to admit that there is a homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that is wreaking great devastation in the vineyard of the Lord”.










Donahue offers some noteworthy clarifications questioning the accuracy of many parts of the recent media coverage