Caesar vs Jesus

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Yesterday it was the turn of Father Nicholas to preach and he delivered a great homily on the need to dedicate ourselves entirely to Christ. He text was the Gospel reading in which the pharisees attempt to trap Jesus by asking if it is right to pay tax. Jesus demanded a coin and asked whose image it bore. When they replied “Caesar’s!” he famously told them “render unto Caesar what is Caesar and to God what is God’s” 

Many preachers make the mistake, Fr Nicholas told us, of imagining Jesus is accepting a necessary divide. That there are some things worldly and others divine. Each meriting service. Leading to the common practice today of living in the world and coming to church rather than being the church living in the world. Fr Nicholas then asked which of us neatly divides life/attitude/ behaviour into two separate areas labeled “church” and “rest of life”. And if we did this without caring we should get up and get out! It is just not Christian.

Think about it harder, he urged. And see how Jesus was being far cleverer that we think. Because the reality of taxation is that it is all an enormous confidence trick. There may be winners and losers within the system but the system itself takes more than it gives. Caesar, that is the civic realm, is dependent on the people he does not, in truth, provide a single thing for them that isn’t first taken from them.

Meaning, rather obviously, that Caesar gives nothing. He takes. Where God has given the world we inhabit, the resources we use, the life we enjoy, the air we breathe. Back to Jesus clever quip then and we see that in rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s – we owe NOTHING AT ALL. But in rendering to God what is God’s – we owe EVERYTHING! What a brilliant point and what a sermon it was!

Because so much of what is threatening the faith today does stem from misplaced confidence in the philosophy of the world. Just ponder the recent synod where the call for change was due to the prevailing attitude within Caesar’s realm at this current time! Has the world changed its view regarding the sexual act- surely the church must catch up or be denounced. Has the world accepted serial monogamy in preference to lifelong marriage – well the church better embrace the change or risk falling out of favour.  Do Africans dare stand against Caesar’s thinking- disregard them entirely and call them primitive…Yes even lunatic Cardinals are to be found dancing along to this seductive tune.  For life is more comfortable when you go with the flow. Rendering to Caesar what is God’s in the process.

We cannot live with one foot in the church and the other in the world, horse trading morals to balance the two. It leads only to a compromised version of divine revelation. What God calls for- what we see again and again in the lives of the Saints- is total fidelity. A total surrendering of the will to  God . A total rejection of sin. It is hard. We balk. But that is what holiness is about. And anything less than total self giving is to render less to God than He calls for.

The church is living through a crisis. In truth little to do with sex -though our culture can think of little else as it pushes for a relaxing historic teaching in pursuit of the goals of the sexual revolution. No the crisis is centred on loss of true holiness of life, the total giving of self to God. The comfort of the modern world has won many souls including those in the church. So that even the bishops- those called to be guardians of faith- are found leading lives of compromise and corruption. As tales of abuse and adultery make clear.

The cure to this seeping wound in the body of Christ is not to make the sins MORE acceptable. And stating this does not negate the need for mercy, forgiveness and fresh starts. No the cure is to reject the world in favour of the Gospel. To turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ. To stop rendering to Caesar what he has no right to demand and stand up for Jesus and the faith he revealed. Why is this very obvious point so difficult for some to accept. Yes even those in pointy hats?!

Who has my back?

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It is said rugby is split between two playing types. Piano lifters and piano players. The ‘players’ sprint off in a moment opening up defences with an array of dazzling skills. The “lifters” ensure, through brawn and grunt, that they have a ball to dazzle with in the first place. Balance is essential- too many players and you get mashed up front. Too many lifters and people dance rings round you. Jonny Wilkinson may have taken the headlines when England won the world cup but, trust me, he would not have done so without the gigantic presence of Martin Johnson up front.

It will surprise nobody that I was/am a lifter. My job to secure ball in the scrum and throw myself around in the loose. Being an amateur the results were mixed and are now declining with age/weight but no matter how good or bad I might be one thing is vital. If trouble breaks out I need to be there. The backs play best when they know the forwards have their backs! And every man on the pitch must know his team mates are 100% behind him. For rugby can be a bruising encounter and the “team” is everything.

One of my concerns following a disastrous synod in Rome is that the team was damaged. There seems to have been  an accentuation of division not unity.  How sad to see Cardinals bickering over politics not united in proclamation of the faith. Pope Francis’ final speech might be encouraging, following a dire mid term report that had been highjacked by a clear agenda, but sanity only prevailed  after  blood was spilt. And far from putting families first the whole thing descended into a Machiavellian farce as they were about the only thing we didn’t actually hear about. Why is the modern world so obsessed with homosexuality that nothing else gets a look in?

I guess we should not be surprised modernists attempted to derail this synod. They firmly believe the Pope is for them (he may be? I don’t know) but confidence led to arrogance and an overplaying of hand. Did we also detect desperation? Are they having to push hard because they have largely lost the next generation meaning supporters of such change are increasingly aged?

It adds up. For as I have stated before: the long term future is bright for orthodox Catholics-it is the next 10 years that are dangerous due to the age of those in authority who all come from “that woodstock/revolutionary generation”. The one that has spent its life deconstructing one institution after another in the name of “progress”. Creating a brave new world in their image.

That then is the explanation that makes sense to me. The liberals pushing hard for reform before its too late. The orthodox responding with vigour.  Fault lines exposed in the process. And thus a war of adult politics took centre stage at a Synod that should have been there to support and encourage the family and especially children. A scandal in real terms as many parishioners are already asking for reassurance. Their morale low, their faith shaken in the confusion and conflict.

The circus ends for now and both sides leave with casualties. The orthodox witness the shameful demotion of Cardinal Burke. The modernists witness the shredding of the reputation of lead spokesman, Cardinal Kaspar, exposed as lying over comments he made in racist tones. It seems de rigour these days for enlightened liberals to hold vile sentiments about Africans who dare defy trendy Western thinking. They are to be dismissed as “primitive thinkers” against their enlightened views. It is as horrid as it is ignorant but you detect this new racism very often. No matter that most of the African Cardinals have an education and intellect second to none!

And what of people in the pews? As a family man I do NOT feel affirmed by this Synod. I am left wondering why  those living out married life seem less interesting than those divorced. I feel as though my children’s voice and needs matter less than the voice of homosexuals at this time. As a priest I ask who has my back?

Does the Pope have my back? Is he there to stand up for the Catholic faith I surrendered so much for? Does he understand we have a revealed faith to defend and not a man made creed to progress?  Does he know how undermined those of us who preach the faith are when it is suggested that personal views equate to dogma?

I hope so. The truth is nobody knows because he did not take a clear lead even as blood was being spilled. He did not interject in order to underline the teaching of the ages. Why not I keep asking? Is it a sign of weak leadership? A ploy to expose those peddling the modernist agenda? Or a refusal to put fingerprints on an agenda of his making? Who knows? But ultimately his personal views and politics should not matter for his job is not to promote them but to defend the faith.

What is certain is that these are uncertain difficult times. The  modernist agenda threatens the faith and pressure is being applied from without and within. Can the gates prevail as Jesus promised? They must! But it won’t be easy as we have seen in the midst of all other heresies that have rocked the church throughout the ages.

We need to pray then. And those who hold the faith of the Apostles must stand together and have each other’s backs. The road ahead looks bumpy in the short term but positive in the long term. Let us pray and  be patient and take comfort in the fact that the modernisers coup spectacularly failed. For this is not a synodical church and our process exists to defend us. Nothing has changed  as regards the teaching of the church. We do well to not only remember that but take great confidence in it.

Let me tell you a story…

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In a parallel universe lived a kind and goodly man who, for love for an unfit race, established fitness centres. He equipped them to the highest standard. And whilst compassionate with those who struggled to reach even simple goals, he made it clear that without  sacrifice and hard work the obesity threatening to kill these people could not be overcome. They must take up their bikes and peddle!

Having set up these ‘centres of life giving fitness’ the goodly man entrusted their care to 12 managers, those he had personally trained, as he himself ascended to head office. With the help of the first members, those who had followed him, the managers performed miracles. Soon fitness centres sprung up in most every town on earth. And as the equipment was used those who had been living in the shadow of death became fit and strong and capable. Sloth turned to action and civilisation reached an all time high.

But despite the success there was ever a threat of failure. It  was ever a struggle to keep people active. But in the years that the gyms were loved, held at the centre of public life, so incredible and beautiful fitness centres were established. Artists inspired to paint athletes, musicians sung of long distance runners, and spires dotted the countryside calling a nation to exercise. Obesity became a detested thing, the obvious sign of a moribund life. And those with bulging waistlines were reached out to and helped by the loving fit. Given free training shoes and running vests. Because the people resourced these fitness centres. Gave of their best to see them soar.

But let us recall that the race was still fallen, prone to laziness and love of unhealthy living. And because it was ever a challenge to keep them at the treadmill, they gradually ran out of steam. And a foolish people began to forget all what the goodly manager had done for them. Bit by bit the gift was taken for granted and levels of performance declined. Resources ran scarce and enthusiasm waned.

It was then that a revolution broke out centred on a festival called Foodstock . Soon people ridiculed the very notion of fitness. It had been coming for some time, ever since doubt over fitness had been mistaken for virtue in the leading universities.  Let us praise our flab, they suggested. Let us have cake and eat it! What matter the size of our waistline? Did the goodly manager really intend us to diet as well as to exercise? Is it not a matter of interpretation?

The world grew fat again. Everywhere sofas groaned under the heaving weight of these gargantuan fatties. And wanting to hide their shame they began to detest those who called them to run. Even  those who remained members of the gym, mainly for tribal and sentimental reasons understand, grew podgy. And scandals began to break concerning managers consuming calories in secret and even consuming things never intended to be consumed.

And inside the gyms people began to look at the equipment instead of using it. Lives which should have witnessed to the clear benefits of a healthy lifestyle did not. Members waistlines and fitness levels told a different story. Confidence in the centres fell to an all time low.  Why run whenothers seemed so cosy on their sofas? So comfortable eating cakes and delighting in acts of rebellion? Who cares what the goodly man once said. That was then and this is now.

Fear spread amongst the successors of the 12. And a terrible division emerged. There were those who believed the only solution, no matter how unfashionable, was a return to hard work.  All the harder now people could barely walk. But others doubted. Fearing  closures of their centres, and often with the best of intentions, they began to soften the message. Might it not be better to appease a nation of obese people. To listen to their cry for more chips!

And given that the majority of those opting to soften the message were themselves part of the Foodstock generation, it is unsurprising that the message was popular. Soon the majority of centres acted as though membership alone was enough. The manual might say otherwise but conscience was important too. It didn’t really matter if you could not visit each week. What is a little fat amongst friends given that there is fat on every living being…who are we to judge?

Civil war broke out. The food stock generation growing bolder by the year. Their most extreme members positively encouraging inactivity by stating it was about the “spirit of fitness” not the actual teaching of the fitness manual. Gymnasiums were stripped bare of  historic equipment. Once lavish centres became ugly concrete shells. Sweat was discouraged. And the managers of those gymnasiums congratulated themselves on staying “with the tribe” even as they waddled through its doors. Wasn’t a fat manager more pastoral? A magazine called “the diet tablet” took up their cause. And a notion called gradualism suggested wearing gym clothes was a good first step to actually running…

And so the modernisers came to distrust gymns where the old order was maintained. They stared at long distance runners in disbelief. Wasn’t it extreme to run so far? To visit a fitness centre daily and actually work out?  Wasn’t it off-putting to sweat so visibly and forever seek the help of the man at head office? They had changed so much that the modernisers even believed, sincerely, that it was cruel to demand use of the equipment. To follow the ancient rules strictly and denounce those who did not as unfit?

Passionately the managers held onto their desired ‘interpretation’ of the manual no matter what. Yes even as their own children and grandchildren disappeared from the gym. Whole generations were lost- raised without historic teaching on health. Fitness came to be of secondary importance to membership. So much time could be spent choosing clothes and singing about fitness without ever actually running. A gentle jog was enough with no care given to calories consumed. And so the gyms were hollowed out from within,  often by well meaning people, even the personally fit,  but all of them blind to the real problem before them. A massive lack of fitness.

A synod was held which some thought was rigged. A Machiavellian plot intended to do away with parts of the manual that chaffed the thighs most. And one had to ask, in the interest of fairness, why managers whose gyms were growing were absent or ignored, whilst the managers of the dwindling gyms were present and charged with writing reports? But probably it wasn’t rigged. It just reflected the general level of chaos and confusion that blighted the modern gym.

But some things were  rotten. Some were undeniably intending mischief by trying to change the rules forever. And there was panic. For the food stock generation were growing old in the tooth. And the absence of their own offspring guaranteed the future would be delivered into the hands of those who ran unless they did something.  Sensing they were in a last chance saloon- they went all out. Daring to state in an obviously manipulated report that binges on cream cake, whilst officially naughty, might actually be nice.

And what of the high manager whose decision was final? Would he back historic teaching in fidelity to the owner or give licence to these lovers of cream cakes? Was he a Foodstock man or did he stand with his predecessor, one of the most impressive athletes of all time?

It was time for the owner to be called on as never before. He had promised the centres would always be there. That they would stand firm against the assaults of the fatties. And on this cliff hanger my story ends for now….

Will the owner come to the rescue? Finding a way to mercifully  entice fatties back onto equipment they so desperately need without losing the truth of the manuals? Or will  exercise be eclipsed by a new message from the radicals? Will they change the very purpose of  gymnasiums to suit the world’s agenda? Stay tuned for the next episode expected to be written in around a year’s time.

(Note to self: Someone of my physical shape should not write stories like these…)

Cardinal Nichols urges caution

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From the ever wonderful Catholic Herald website:

Cardinal Vincent Nichols has said that the relatio post disceptationem, the mid-term report on the family synod, was “composed under pressure”, which has led to it being misinterpreted in some quarters.

The controversial document, which uses strikingly conciliatory language toward divorced and remarried Catholics, cohabitating couples and same-sex unions, has been criticised by some synod fathers who say it does not accurately reflect the assembly’s views.

However Cardinal Nichols said in a statement that the relatio “is not a doctrinal or decisive document”.

“This account of the discussions of the first week served to crystalise the hopes and difficulties raised in that week. It is proving to be a stimulant to very searching and creative discussions in the small language group of which I am a member,” he said.

“I appreciate the spirit of the Report which seeks to proclaim and strengthen the pastoral care of the Church. The warmth and the reach of the Church’s pastoral care is crucial even if not always known or experienced.”

The statement continued: “The report, obviously composed under pressure, has easily given rise to some misinterpretation. It’s nature has to be understood. It is not doctrinal or decisive document. It is, as stated in its Conclusion, ‘intended to raise questions and indicate perspectives that will have to be matured and made clearer reflection’.

“The process of this Extraordinary Synod is being conducted with great openness. This Report comes at the half-way stage. I know that one of the deepest desires of the Synod Fathers is to blow a trumpet for marriage and family as central part of God’s plan for our happiness and fulfilment. As Cardinal Tagle said ‘the drama continues’.”

This really is starting to feel like Humanae Vitae episode 2. I predict some irate and deflated people in the so called “progressive camp” when the dust finally settles. It is starting to look like certain individuals spoke on behalf of all and have caused much confusion. Perhaps this is a good picture to ponder:

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Or if something a little more theological helps, then this:

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Catholic schools for Catholic children?

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When Jemima began school I was thrilled to discover that transport from Pembury was provided. Thus for the last three years she has jumped onto the Catholic bus that meanders through Kent villages and drops off at both the Catholic Primary and Secondary School. An Anglican bus ran alongside it for the same purpose dropping off at the Anglican secondary school.

These buses ran – until this year- because law stipulated that where a child lives a certain distance away from their nearest appropriate school then assistance must be given. A sensible provision that proved a great help to generations of faith school children.

But when Benedict applied this year his application was turned down. The reason being that policy has changed so that faith is no longer taken into account. A blow to faith schools the nation over. The head teacher of our local secondary school informing me of the sudden loss of many pupils affected by this change. Those whose families are unable to drive them in due to work commitments and who cannot afford to spend hundreds of pounds a year on transport.

So I decided to appeal the decision. Not with a personal interest so much as a broader interest. On what grounds was this being defended? Did those in authority really think that the local village school was most appropriate for Benedict given his Catholic faith? The question I have is really very simple. How can the local Catholic school not be the “appropriate” school for local Catholic children…who else do they imagine Catholic schools exist for?

The panel I faced was four strong comprised of councillors. They soon realised I was less interested in pleading Benedict’s specific case than seeking joined up thinking regarding all faith school provision. And though they were helpful in explaining process – the key question remained unanswered. Apparently it boils down to money. Which is hard to swallow when a recent KCC employee walked away with a £460,000 pay off after less than two years work. That would have funded our lovely bus for a century and more!

Then another possible agenda reared its head as a councillor stated firmly that, despite her own Anglican convictions, KCC’s education office is secular. I asked her when the constitution of Great Britain had changed? Does KCC not serve the realm? A realm imagined was still Christian in fact if not in practice. This led to another awkward pause. I then asked the panel to consider how England once flourished when faith was at the heart of its educational policy. Oxford and Cambridge being Christian foundations alongside the entire University system and most public schools. At this point I was kindly asked to stop preaching! Fair enough….

But what do we make of the sudden removal of travel assistance to faith children? Is this simply a financial move or is the creeping secular agenda behind this nationwide shift? What is the point of faith schools if not to help members of that faith make use of them? Do you know if this is being tackled by our bishops at the higher level? Do you agree with me it must be? For I fear secular forces are moving towards our schools and if we do not robustly defend our rights as Christians then we could well lose them.

As to the appeal. A victory of sorts. Benny can utilise the spare seat in the reduced taxi service until a more deserving applicant arrives or the service is axed altogether. (It remains for those granted help under the old policy) This is certainly helpful to the family, and it ends the daft scenario  whereby I was expected to follow the half empty taxi Jemima was in to get Benny to the same destination! But not a victory for the point being raised. My children are assured a Catholic education- it is those on the fringes I am concerned about. What can be done to help faith schools provide for faith families?

Questions raised not answers given

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There has been a tremendous hullabaloo going on since the release of a midway document from the Synod on the family. I understand why- the document is confused and poorly written. And so it is that those hungering for change are jumping for joy claiming a massive shift regarding the Catholic approach to a raft of issues revolving around sex and the family.  Whilst those wanting to stand by the faith of the ages are confused wondering how such a very Anglican looking document could be the fruit of a truly Catholic gathering. So what do we make of it all?

First I urge caution. Do not let the media form your opinions because they have a clear agenda in all of this. And the truth is that this report changes nothing.  And history teaches that the last time everyone was adamant change was en route regarding sexual life they ended up wrong. I speak of humane vitae Then as now the world was convinced changes would happen but the hermeneutic of continuity not rapture was, as ever, the ultimate order of the day.

Secondly change, such as is anticipated, is simply not possible. A shift in language could happen, helpfully or  unhelpfully. But the nature of the church, the way it is set up, just does not allow for innovation that contradicts scripture and tradition. This is not a synodical voting body. If teaching on masturbation hasn’t shifted in 2000 years then it is highly unlikely teaching on other matters concerning sexual morality are going to change either!

Thirdly the Holy Father has, I think, asked for “cards on the table” for a reason. I get a hunch he wants liberals to form the questions because, if you consider what he has previously stated, he wants to bring about robust catechesis to answer these critics. The process has therefore been about listening to where the world is at to ponder how best to bring people closer to Christ. Meaning we have the world’s questions before us. Not the answers that will be given.

And I have a sneaky feeling the two will not chime because the purpose of the church is to transform the world and not itself be transformed by the world. And Pope Francis may be low church but he is manifestly not a modernist liberal if all his previous statements on family life are taken at face value. Remember this is the man whose effigy was burnt by secularists for his defence of the family.

A sensible voice at present then is that of Fr. George Ganswein who has close ties to Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict. He has stated clearly that the synod must be based on the Gospel not the thinking of the secular world. Let us hold before us then that the conclusions are still a year away.

The media is wrong . There is nothing to see at present save an open discussion.  There is no earthquake and it is quite possible the Pope wants all this out in the open that it may be dealt with head on. At least that is my prayer because the alternative would be, frankly, extraordinary and profoundly serious.

Who will speak for them?

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We are hearing the Synod on the family is listening to the voices of a great many people. It begs a question. Who is speaking for children? Those whose voice was almost entirely absent in the debate surrounding so called “gay marriage” as it was forced through parliament in the least democratic change I ever witnessed. It was as if human relationships in the 21st Century centre only on adults desires with children an afterthought to be dealt with not protected.

I trust then that their voice, their undeniable emotional and spiritual needs, are not only heard but clearly expressed and placed at the forefront of every decision this Synod will make. For procreation lies at the heart of marriage. And if their voice is suppressed it would constitute the gravest scandal in the history of the church. Divorce should never be easy or condoned if only for their sake.

Of course sexual revolutionists deny the procreative purpose at the heart of family life. “What of Aunt Gladys who can’t conceive?” as if it settles the matter for good. A daft  argument given that marriage is not about individuals but wider society. We all have common interest in the raising of the next generation. Aunt Gladys might not conceive but she can witness to the union of one man and one woman which in the overwhelming majority of cases does produce life.  Thereby pointing nieces and nephews and neighbours toward the common good. Her entering marriage, as properly understood, supports the institution.

Almost always sex between man and woman produces life. Life that is not just precious but holy. Which cannot be ignored or downplayed. You cannot just flush this life down the waste unit of the abortion clinic because it inconveniences. You cannot just pretend divorce will not deeply damage this life. You cannot engage in sex with a good conscience if you deny space for that life, the intended birth (that nature proclaims and scripture teaches) should necessarily spring forth from such intimate union.

Which is why the reasonable person, yes gay or straight, will understand that  marriage is all about man and woman and the raising of the young. That children thrive best in a loving home upheld by their own biological parents. The gold standard, no matter how heroic single parents or same sex couples might be. The gold standard historically named “marriage”. The gold standard that is life-giving and life long to reflect its intended purpose. The gold standard so damaged when sin enters the equation. Which is why you cannot speak meaningfully of divorce in terms of mercy alone. There must also be talk of justice, penitence and reconciliation.

But too often people do debate the admitting of divorced and remarried people to communion as if divorce is no big deal. Move on, they suggest, who are we to judge? It is as if the couple are the only ones involved. But isn’t this to deny the reality of others- the jilted ones in the background? The broken hearted spouse whose heart and trust in humanity was shattered by the act of infidelity. The hurt children who no longer see one or other parent as much as they should? Where is mercy for them if we simply ignore the sin? If we act as though divorce is a private affair and not, as in the case of Aunt Gladys, something affecting the wider society.

Considering those in the background always leads us to the children. Those who seldom have a choice as they are dragged through the courts. Those who inevitably suffer the most where divorce rears its ugly head. Unsurprisingly then most every child wants mummy and daddy held together in life long union. Children do not endorse divorce – they tend to have much higher ideals and expectations than we adults who have grown cynical in this world of sin.

This is not to say we ignore mercy. Forgiveness is vital. We must serve as a hospital to those damaged by the pain of broken families. But so too we must stress reality, however painful to hear, ensuring divorce is ever seen in the negative. A process of scrutiny then put in place to ensure divorce is never easy-that all parties ALL are ever considered. A process we have, in truth, contained in the annulment procedure. It can be improved, it must not be removed.

As the synod progresses my prayer is that we will hear, not only from the divorced and remarried, but from their children as well. What testimony these little ones would give if recounting the effect on them of mummy and daddy separating. When they were no longer held secure by vows made for better or worse, till death do us do part… I say this not to wag a finger of blame and induce guilt but because healing cannot occur if the cause of our pain is ignored. Mercy requires justice. We cannot sweep some things under the carpet. Any surgeon knows that.

And in fairness to the divorced people I know, all seem fully aware that sin played its part. Most live with terrible guilt and wish things had been different. Most fully understand that the past must be healed for new life to emerge.  I am all for compassion and mercy then but not at the cost of truth or grace. We cannot downplay the damage divorce causes. And we must, must, must, must, MUST put the needs of children FIRST. A rare thing in todays society of self. An entirely absent thing in those scandalous cases of abuse we keep discovering throughout society since the dawn of the sexual revolution. What of the voice and needs of our children? That is THE QUESTION for this synod if it really is centred on family needs.

None of us can point fingers at others. We are all broken sinners in need of Christ’s help. Be that as it may we must strive for the ideal in the hope of getting close and not simply lower ideals to meet fallen standards. The history of civilisation teaches us this.

My thoughts on gradualism

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It is still far too early to discern what will come from the Synod on the family being held in Rome. Reports suggest agreement on the fact that the clear teaching of Jesus cannot be changed. What may be up for debate is the best way to convey that teaching to a damaged world left reeling by the sexual revolution; a culture in which the family has been so seriously damaged by high rates of divorce, abortion, a loss of value for virtues of chastity and purity, loss of personal dignity , loneliness etc, etc..

The media claim that use of language is being spoken about. Could we better address issues in a way that does not hurt or seem to condemn those in need of healing and evangelisation? This sounds sensible, so long as truth is not lost. It is therefore to be welcomed.

Another suggestion is that we need to better meet people where they are so that we might then gently lead them, by the hand as it were, to the truth. A process labelled as “gradualism”. The concept makes sense but there is an obvious risk. Will clergy be faithful enough to ensure they do lead people to the truth? Or will they just use the pastoral “meeting people where they are” bit to quietly brush things under the carpet and leave sin unresolved?

If gradualism is adopted  (I would be wary of second guessing at this point) then I suggest an essential caveat. Those implementing it must ensure everyone fully understands the process between  the initial meeting of people where they are and the ultimate goal of leading them to the truth. A period of time could then be fixed after which such a novel approach could be evaluated against hard evidence of success or failure. That way fudging of issues could be avoided and people held to account. Accountability being the thing so often missing in the life of the church.

More felling…

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Yesterday it was back to work for the men of the parish as we continued to fell the unsightly Leylandii which have grown completely out of control on our site. This will free up space for the builders to woek in when they arrive for works on the new parish room, after which we shall be planting new bushes and laying new turf to create a much, much better environment for the church and preschool children who use the paddock for recreation.

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We did allow some time out from the lugging & limbing of logs, shredding of branches and felling of trees. Here you see a well earned rest being taken following a most delicious lunch. One of the parish ladies, Sue, having kindly cooked a huge shepherds pie and fruit crumble for us all. What a superstar!

The removal of the Leylandii has really allowed the other trees to be viewed in all their glory. Just look at the chestnut in the picture above which had been jostling for space for years. Things look a little sparse at present but the end result will be well worth it. A massive thank you to all the chaps who worked so hard yesterday.

And now its off to Maryvale, Oscott for me for a much needed tutorial as I turn again to the task of finishing off the MA- which I am really enjoying. One more essay and then the dissertation beckons. The subject of which will be- of course- the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Specifically what Pope Benedict’s visit to England might tell us about it.

The return of the bish…

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When I first came to Kent, to serve as vicar of Saint Barnabas parish in Tunbridge Wells, my bishop was Rt. Revd. Michael Nazir Ali, then of Rochester. He proved to be a fine bishop- always friendly and supportive when called upon and solid when it came to matters of faith. No wishy washy liberal this man! Today he has stepped down from his role as bishop of Rochester to engage in work supporting persecuted Christians throughout the world.

It was therefore wonderful to see him again last week, when he was guest speaker at the plenary session in London for Ordinariate clergy. A good write up can be found here. Sadly I missed some of his address due to lateness caused by a hospital appointment (a checkup following needles in the back – ouch!) but what I did catch showed him to be at his best. Delivering a fine talk without notes about the threat of radical Islam.

After the talk there was time for questions and, being naughty, I delighted in asking him if he felt the name “Monsignor Nazir-Ali” had a certain ring to it? The cheeky affront brought a smile to his face and he was very open in explaining both his fulsome support for the Ordinariate vision as well as his reasons, at this time, for not having joined. He then accepted my invitation to visit Saint Anselm’s in Pembury one Sunday to experience Ordinariate life at grass roots level. Watch this space…

Bishop Nazir Ali is a deep thinking man who has much to offer Christians of all denominations. He was also instrumental, it is rumoured, in having put the Ordinariate together in the first place. What is certain is that he is a great friend to the Ordinariate and we very much appreciated his time with us.