Why conservatives are wrong...

Blogged by James Preece 1 Day ago...

Broad Tent Appointments

Blogged by James Preece 2 Days ago...

Reading around the blogs a bit, I see frequently the view that recent episcopal appointments are a sign that Pope Francis (or should I say Cardinal Nichols) has been looking outside of the usual suspects and finding men from religious communities which is obviously a good thing because these guys are not part of "the club".

Allow me to offer an alternative interpretation.

Take for example the appointment of Fr Alan Williams SM (Marist) as Bishop of Brentwood. Fr Alan Williams is universally acknowledged as the very nice man who was awfully kind to you, me, him, everybody, everybody on their pilgrimage to Walsingham. He is, in short, as "broad tent" as they come.

This photo (via Mark Lambert) pretty much sums him up..

At the top of the picture we have the traddy pleasing incence while at the bottom you can spot the lefty pleasing clay chalices. Redemptionis Sacramentum is pretty clear about those..

Reprobated, therefore, is any practice of using for the celebration of Mass common vessels, or others lacking in quality, or devoid of all artistic merit or which are mere containers, as also other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily.


So if you are expecting anything other than business as usual from Fr Alan Williams you are going to be very dissapointed.

The other appointment I would like to talk about is not so obviously problematic. Fr Robert Byrne of the Oxford Oratory says Mass in the Extraordinary Form frequently.

He also, you ought to know, was provost of Oxford Oratory during the Papal Visit of 2010 when three members of the Birmingham Oratory who were officially stated to be "entirely guiltless of any wrong-doing whatsoever" and yet found themselves spirited away to three continents.

The real crime of the Birmingham Three was that they refused to cooperate with the broad tent agenda. They issued press releases and spoke loudly against Catholics who publicly support abortion and contraception. They could not be allowed to remain at the Birmingham Oratory while all the world's media turned their cameras that way.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying that Fr Robert Byrne isn't pro life.. I'm sure his personal theological views are highly orthodox. There's plenty of room for othodoxy in the "broad tent". Just so long as the orthodox keep their heads down and don't rock the boat.

Fr Robert Byrne isn't going to rock the boat. He and Fr Alan Williams are the same you see. Everybody is welcome. Come inside - it's Vincent Nichol's Broad Tent spectacular.


Update: To clarify - my point here is not "look at these awful men, we hates them". I am simply saying that anybody who looks at these appointments as a sign of change is going to be dissapointed. It is possible to think somebody a non-boat rocker without hating them.

Pope Francis: Help Your Pastors not to be Mediocre

Blogged by James Preece 3 Weeks ago...

From the Holy See press office...


Vatican City, 26 March 2014 (VIS) – “The Sacraments of the Holy Orders and Matrimony, two specific vocations and two great paths to the Lord” were the theme of the Holy Father's catechesis during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square. “The ministers who are chosen and consecrated for this service prolong Jesus' presence over time, and they do so with the power of the Holy Spirit in the name of God, and with love”.

“Those who are ordained are placed at the head of the community. Yes, they are at the 'head', but for Jesus this means placing their authority at the service of the community. … 'whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be your slave'. … A bishop who does not serve his community does not do good; a priest or a curate who does not place himself at the service of his community does not do good, he is mistaken”.

Pope Francis emphasised that “impassioned love for the Church” is a characteristic that always derives from this sacramental union with Christ. “The bishop, the priest, love the Church in their own community, they love the Church greatly. How? How Christ loves His Church. … The spouse loves his wife as Christ loves His Church. ... The priesthood and matrimony are two Sacraments that represent the path by which people habitually reach the Lord”.

Finally, the Pope cited the words of St. Paul to Timothy when he advised him not to neglect, but rather always to revive the gift given to him. “When the ministry is not nurtured by prayer, by listening to the Word of God, with the daily celebration of the Eucharist, and also with regular confession, the authentic sense of one's own service is inevitably lost from view, along with the joy that comes from profound communion with Jesus. … The priest who does not do these things loses, over time, his union with Jesus and becomes mediocre, which is not good for the Church. Therefore, we must help bishops and priests to pray, to listen to the Word of God that is our daily bread, to celebrate the Eucharist every day and to confess regularly”.

“Access to the priesthood cannot be sold. This is an initiative the Lord takes. The Lord calls”, he added, and concluded by encouraging the young who hear this call to “cherish this invitation and pray so that it might grow and bear fruit in all the Church”.


Only interested in themselves...

Blogged by James Preece 3 Weeks ago...

I expect it's been a busy week for Bishop Drainey after his appearance in The Tablet last week. I've certainly had a few emails asking my opinion but I've not gotten around to blogging about it because, honestly, I thought it was a bit of a none story and I've been busy.

An English Bishops calls for a "radical re-examination of human sexuality" which could lead to "development" and that's a none story? Really? Well yes, of course, because it could mean anything. The Gospel is radical and it would be a "development" if the Church in England and Wales promoted it.

So what has prompted me to find time in my busy schedule to regale you fine people with my views on the subject? Well, I received an email today that really grated.

Good news! It proclaimed. Good news! Bishop Drainey has really given The Tablet what for! He's written a letter! There's a full page letter on the Diocesan website! Well done Bishop Drainey!

No. Stop it. Most certainly not well done to Bishop Drainey.

There have been lead articles in The Tablet calling for the Church to "reconsider" her position on abortion. Articles attacking Church teaching on Marriage, contraception and womens ordination. Articles questioning the divinity of Jesus Christ.

Where was Bishop Drainey then? Nowhere. Silent.

But somebody writes something that makes him look bad and it's all outraged letters and pages on the Diocesan website. This is supposed to be good news? Give me a break. Bishop sticks speaks out for self. Big woop.

Bishop Drainey ends his letter by asking "does the Tablet try to report and respect the truth or does it just massage facts to support its own agenda?".

Seriously? You ask that now?

A Humanae Vitae Moment?

Blogged by James Preece 1 Month ago...

If you want to appear wise, then predicting the future is a very silly thing to do. The future has a nasty habit of doing it's own thing and making those who tried to predict it look very silly indeed.

That said, I cannot help but note certain similarities between the current state of things and the way things were back in the 1960's as Pope Paul VI prepared to release that most lefty liberal of documents: Humanae Vitae.

It was Pope John XXIII (according to Wikipedia at any rate... what? did you think I knew this stuff off the top of my head) who established a commission to look in to issues like population control and contraception. Pope Paul VI enlarged the commission and the commission reported back to him.

By all accounts the deal was in the bag. The commission said that contraception ought to be allowed and Paul VI was expected to go ahead and allow it. It was the 1960's, Vatican II had just allowed all sorts of things. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, Pope Paul VI gave us Humanae Vitae.

Fast forward a few decades and the Church stands in a similar spot. A pre-synodal survey in place of a commission, plenty of support from high ranking churchmen and an upcoming synod at which to finally decide, once and for all, that divorce is not so bad after all.

If you read The Tablet and co you could be forgiven for thinking that this deal, like contraception before it, is in the bag. Everybody knows Pope Francis is off the cuff and flexible. He'll probably sign anything and hardly even notice. What could possibly go wrong?

Well... Don't be suprised this October if all the hype doesn't turn out to be a tad misplaced.

You never know...

Fr Paterson is Innocent

Blogged by James Preece 1 Month ago...

I've been out of touch with the world of Catholic Blogs for a little while, so I don't know if this has "done the rounds" or been shamefully ignored, but it ought to be mentioned.

The conviction of Father Mark Paterson, O.Carm. for sexual assault has been quashed.

via Seraphic and Laodicea



Symptoms and Causes

Blogged by James Preece 2 Months ago...

One of the less pleasant things I did with my time over Christmas was to listen to the comedy Catholic Herald podcast in which several hilarious (and sadly uncredited) actors gave a fantastic performance in a parody of Peter D Williams and his chums at the London branch of the Self Importance Society.

Oh wait.. What? It was for real?

We are the center. They are the fringe. We are the center. Did I mention who the center is? We don't know what the pro-life movement is, or what it's for, or where it's going but we dashed well know it's us and it's not SPUC!

That's pretty much all Peter D Williams and his London-centric chums have to offer the pro-life movement. Bitterness.

They are bitter because they honestly believe that with the right clever combination of campaigning, lobbying and clever PR pro-lifers could force something through Parliament and that would be wonderful because it would be a Victory! and nothing is so important to the London branch of the Self Importance Society as a Victory! so they can put their name to it and feel, well, important.

Only.. those nasty pieces of work down at SPUC HQ keep spoiling everything. Not content with simply being more well known (and nothing upsets the London branch of the Self Importance Society more than somebody else being more well known) the meanies at SPUC keep sabotaging all the clever campaigning, lobbying and PR by doing silly things like opposing same-sex "marriage" and the promotion contraception.All that does is exclude potential supporters and make Victory! Impossible. So little wonder that SPUC are so reviled by the London branch of the Self Importance Society. They are stealing their glory and sabotaging their Victory! all at the same time. We hates them my precious!

The fact is, dear reader, that the London branch of the Self Importance Society are wrong. SPUC are not sabotaging anything. The fact is that no amount of clever campaigning, lobbying or PR is ever going to result in a Victory! in Parliament because Parliament is not the problem. Fix the problem and Parliament will sort itself out.

Okay Mister Clever Cloggs. So what is the problem?

I'm glad you asked.The problem, as the peeps at SPUC understand but Peter D Williams doesn't, is that abortion is a symptom and not a cause.

Symptoms are the things you see that make you go and visit the doctor. Vomiting, diarrhea (try spelling that without Google) and purple pimples. You go to your doctor and you say "I've got purple pimples and I keep vomiting" and the doctor says "gosh, what terrible symptoms".

The cause, as we all know, something else entirely. Tiny little germs have found a home in your body and are robbing you of whatever it is you need to prevent purple pimple sand vomiting. If you are lucky, your doctor will be able to treat the cause by giving you something to kill the little germs and you will recover.

If you are unlucky, your doctor will be Peter D Williams and he will attempt to prevent your vomiting by stuffing a rag in your mouth and saying "after much clever lobbying and PR we have successfully convinced parliament to ban you from vomiting - hooray! You are cured! I am the best doctor in the world!"

Abortion is not the germs. Abortion is the purple pimples and the vomiting.It is a symptom of a society which is sick, of a culture which is deeply unhealthy. This is why we cannot hope to 'fix' abortion in isolation.We need to heal our culture and given that the disease our culture is of a deeply spiritual nature, saying "let's have a secular pro-life movement" makes very little sense.

But James! If we oppose eating eight Pizzas a day, people who are in favour of eating eight Pizzas a day but who are otherwise opposed to obesity will not support our anti-obesity society. We must remain neutral on eight Pizza eating!

Yes, er, um. Thanks for that one.

Look, I want it to be true as well. I would love to be able to say "Oi! Smeaton! Get it sorted!" and then go hug some lefties and see abortion stopped. It would be awesome but it's not going to happen.

The only thing that is going to work is years and years of long, slow, painstaking, grass roots campaigning. Actual work. When SPUC talk about leaflet drops our friends in London snigger. If they have a better idea for actually reaching ordinary people I would love to hear it. TV appearances? Check. Coffee mornings? Check. Standing on the side of the road with your message scrawled on a ruddy big bit of cardboard? SPUC do that too.

No. It's not galamorous and if you have better ideas for actually changing the culture I would love to hear it. Writing a novel might help. Oh.. Fiorella is on it. Maybe somebody could start an internet meme?

So please. Support the work of SPUC. Get out there and be a white blood cell. Do what you can to convince friends, family and politicians that abortion is a grave evil. Give to groups that support women in crisis pregnancies. Walk up and down dropping leaflets through doors. Sit in a room on your own and say some prayers.

All of those things are useful. 

Sitting around bitching to each other about those nasty SPUC people because they refuse to take a neutral stance on the things that are actually making our culture sick in the first place?

Not very helpful at all.

Our rebellion was to seek out the orthodoxy...

Blogged by James Preece 2 Months ago...

Ben Cornish is a juggler from Exeter, which happens to be where I studied for my degree - though that has nothing to do with this blog post. I've never met Ben Cornish and we have never exchanged either emails or carrier pigeons. He is, in the great tradition of magic tricks, a total stranger to me.

Everything you are about to see took place in front of a live studio audience. There are no camera tricks. The hand is quicker than the eye. Don't worry I'm not going to saw him in half and yes, I made up the bit about the studio audience.

Anyways.. this evening I was reading a blog post Ben Cornish wrote about his time as a theatre student...

My dance training was the teaching of someone who had good technique herself but did not impose it on her students…our training was much concerned with ‘image work’ and rolling around on the floor a lot ,searching for……who knows what. ‘The floor is your friend’ was my dance teachers mantra in our first year…I didn’t find it to be the case and had the bruises to prove it! It was a great irony that by the time we reached the 3rd and 4th years , despite being a highly politicised group of students with all sorts of anarchic ideas and principles we were begging to be taught to proper ballet technique ….our rebellion was to seek out the orthodoxy that had been rejected by the dancers of 2 or 3 generations before us !


As you can see, the card Ben selected from the deck is the very one I've been banging on about for years. Amazing.

Did you know there are loads of twenty-something Catholics in this country with a similar story about their religious upbringing.. "we were young, we were rebellious, so we said enough with your rubbish, give us the truth!"

What's interesting is how the story seems to be repeated across all areas of human endeavor. When I learned to draw, when I learned woodwork, when I learned Latin... and now I hear it from a juggling theater student.

The story always seems to be the same.

It begins with some time time honored, long standing, traditional, way of doing things that was hard work but lead to genuine beauty, truth and goodness. Ah yes, it may have had it's faults and could have done with some development or evolution but it had the right goal.

Then there was the big revolution and it wasn't a revolution in method it was a revolution in intention. Everywhere people said "let's stop intending to do good and let's say, from now on, that everything is good (except orthodoxy)". Goodness was no longer the goal.

You can do that for a while because if you grew up learning your catechism or ballet or realistic drawing or whatever then even as you boldly announce that your classical training is worthless you carry on using the skills you have without even realising it.

The problem comes when the training which was abandoned as worthless is denied to successive generations - they are less able to wing it and eventually you end up with art teachers who can't draw and Ballet teachers who can't do ballet if you ask them about it they explain that you are terribly old fashioned and everybody knows that drawing is about far more than just making pictures that look like things and by the way would you leave now please?

Gradually we are beginning to reach a generation who go to college to learn art or dance or woodwork or whatever and find themselves doing papier mache models (abstract ones of course) and rolling around on the floor.

Some of them say to themselves "what is this rubbish?" and their rebellion ends up becoming a quest for orthodoxy.

As I said - the interesting thing is how the story seems to be repeated across all areas of human endeavor. Drawing, woodwork, latin, ballett.. No area of life seems untouched - even shaving.. When the fossil record tells you that all the animals and plants died out at the same time.. you know something big happened. We are talking about spiritual devestation of seismic proportions.

I consider it a great sign of hope then, to find so many people in so many area of life in open rebellion against it. All over the place, from seminaries to dance studios, people can be found saying "no" to the powers and principalities of this world.

Many of those people are not Catholics and many would call themselves atheists yet they share a common goal of beauty, truth and goodness - that put's them a lot closer to God than some Catholics!

Their rebellion is to seek out the orthodoxy.

You never know... they might even find it.