Fr H nails it..

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A quite brilliant post from fr Hunwicke:

In Mgr Ronald Knox’s brilliant collection of Essays in Satire, there is a piece about a ‘Professor’ who invents a new sin. Now, even Knox’s brilliance has been quite superseded. Now, you see, we have completely new types, genres, of Sin. The Third Millennium has branched out into a whole novel taxonomy of Sin.

Earlier this month I approached this subject and asked three simple questions. Here they are again:

(1) Can you square it with the Sermon on the Mount and the ethical teaching of S Paul?
(2) Can you square it with the Lord’s parables about not knowing ‘the Day or the Hour’?
(3) Does it apply to murderers and paedophiles?

Let me explain what the New Casuistries teach about Sin.
(a) Graduality. People cannot give up their Sin instantaneously. They should be given the time, and the grace of the sacraments, to wean themselves off it gradually.

Y(b) Acceptance without Approval. Remarried divorcees may be in a position to which the Church cannot give formal approval; but she may welcome them as they are into her Sacramental life.
(c) Elements of truth. Outside the relationship of heterosexual monogamy, other models of relationship exist in which important elements exist of the values proper to Marriage itself: and it is these elements which we should emphasise (permanence; self-sacrificing love …).

Now apply Fr Hunwicke’s Question (3). Would you accept that, since a paedophile has very strong inclinations, his aim should be to work ghard to abuse children less and less frequently? How do you feel about the Church accepting that some paedophiles are gentle and affectionate to the children they abuse, and that we should concentrate our attention on those good elements of gentleness and affection? Take someone with a pathological impulse to murder; should the Church continue to maintain the teaching of the Ten Commandments about Murder, but, without approving of the murders, accept the murderer as he is?

Probably you wouldn’t. Probably most people, even very liberal Catholics wouldn’t, unless they are themselves paedophiles or murderers or both. Why not?

What we have is, in fact, the adoption by liberals of two quite distinct categories of Sin. There are sins which (most people would agree) are really sinful. Such as abusing and/or killing children. The clever little games (a), (b), (c), would never be acceptable here. If somebody suggested that it really is in accordance with nuanced Christian morality for a paedophile to abuse children as long as he does it gradually less frequently, most of us would probably kick him. However they do it, apart es should just give up, or genuinely try to give up, their vice. They should receive Absolution and then “Go and Sin No More”.

But there is now a quite different category of Sin. It consists of things which, because they are condemned by Christ or by long centuries of Christian Tradition, liberals might agree are in some sense technically sinful. But liberals do not feel that they are really wrong. So they devise sophisticated ways of avoiding the requirement of the Gospel: repentance and a firm purpose never to offend again and to avoid the occasions of Sin. Like children who have cheated and found out the answer to a sum, they start with the conclusion and then try to find the right ‘workings’ to get to the answer. “I want a way to argue that a homosexual couple may continue to live in genitally sexual relationship: where can I find clever arguments to support that conclusion?”

(I) REALLY WRONG SINS.
(II) SINS WHICH ARE ONLY TECHNICALLY WRONG.

Those are the two radically distinct categories of Sin in which Liberals believe.

Neither in the Bible nor in two Christian millennia is there evidence for (II).

The rigidity of liberals

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There was an ugly incident during the Synod on the family when Cardinal Kasper, on being challenged by African voices ove permissive views on sexual morality,  attempted to dismiss the criticism by suggesting African beliefs are somehow not relevant in the West. Homosexuality is taboo there, he opined, as if nobody in Africa can therefore hold a reasoned view on the subject.

Quite rightly he was called out for the shoddy comment leading him to later deny ever making it. The incident then descending into  farce as the original recording was posted on the internet. It has left his reputation damaged and so it should. For such patronising attitude towards the third world is not good let alone godly. It masks a very modern form of racism which needs exposing to all for what it is. Racism and not a mature contribution to adult debate.

But intriguingly Kaspar is not alone in suggesting African views on human sexuality are not relevant in the West. The Episcopalian leader Katherine Jefferts Schori herself used almost identical words a few years back when defending against criticism from African Anglicans who condemned the blessing of same sex unions in America. Like Kaspar she suggested an enlightened liberal view was beyond the grasp of supposedly primitive Africans.

Kaspar and Schori make strange bed fellows. Leaders who, in attempting to be inclusive end up excluding huge numbers of people. Why? Is it mere co-incidence or a sign of a larger problem for trendy liberals? I say the latter. For there is much to suggest Western elites have become so  sure of their own viewpoint that they have closed minds to all others.  They being so very “right” alternative viewpoints must be “wrong”. Either a result of bigotry/rigidity or caused by backward and primitive thinking.

It is something George Weigel picked up on in his comments on the Synod. He said “Many northern European bishops and theologians acted as if the blissful years when they set the agenda for the world Church at Vatican II had returned. That these same bishops and theologians have presided over the collapse of western European Catholicism in the intervening five decades seemed not to matter to them in the slightest. Happy days were here again…otherwise intelligent men…incapable of admitting that they’d gotten it wrong.

Here then is the real problem behind Kaspar’s comment and it is grave. Not that he said something stupid for which he could apologise. But that his view is authentic and actually representative of  many in global politics. So that there is no room  today for doubt or dissent in the wake of the sexual revolution. It spells disaster for those not conforming to the will of modernity, who still sincerely believe in traditional marriage as a union of one man and one woman in the clear interests of all children.

When we accept liberal minds are now closed we begin to make sense of extraordinary situations recently witnessed. Nurses disciplined for praying or -this month- pastors in Houston asked to submit sermons to be checked for “homophobic content”. (Otherwise know as conventional Christian teaching on family life)

Or consider the claim of Africans at the Extraordinary Synod who spoke of threats from the first world to withhold aid where abortion and same sex marriage are not accepted. A clear example of hubris from the wealthy elite and a bullying of those with less resources. No wonder so many countries “all at once” started waving the rainbow  flag and signed up to “gay marriage”. Economic pressure and threats have ensured it is so.

But let those who stand by the family not lose hope. For where we see crass bullying or an obvious need for manipulation in synods- there we find doubt. Think about it! If liberal attitudes were really so convincing  the British Government would not have forced  “gay marriage” through parliament- they could have consulted the electorate! And the third world would not need threats at all if reason leads to only one conclusion.

Back to Kaspar’s claim then and the weakness of the liberal argument is exposed. For the notion that Africans cannot inform the West rests on a relativistic supposition. As if  human nature, morality and revelation somehow shift according to postcode. And even worse it rests on a very racist supposition. As if the people of the third world are somehow more stupid/ less enlightened than those in the West. (In fact many are inspiring and well educated and overseeing growth not decline in the churches they lead.)

We reach a worrying conclusion. Kaspar’s comment was laughable in its stupidity- risible in its racism- but truly frightening in its scope. For it is a view held by many today whose minds are closed.  Take the Guardian which  saluted the church (wrongly) for having got with Guardian thinking. If that is not arrogance – a one sided newspaper congratulating a two thousand year old church for having caught up with its thinking- I do not know what is.

So remind me again who is rigid? And who is it on the side of the poor? Those who back the impressive leaders of Africa and Asia who are overseeing a period of growth and renewal. Or the tired leaders of the crumbling West who manage decline whilst assuring themselves of their own superior thinking?

George Weigel speaks out

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The impressive Catholic writer and thinker George Weigel, who wrote the impressive biography of JPII and the excellent book “Evangelical Catholicism” , has given his reflection on the recent Extraordinary Synod. It is the best reflection I have read to date. I urge you to read it to as it raises important points for reflection.

Comfort or confusion?

Pope Francis

The first session of the Synod on the Family has ended and the Pope has issued a balanced speech to gather it together.  I urge you to read it carefully.

Dear Eminences, Beatitudes, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters,
With a heart full of appreciation and gratitude I want to thank, along with you, the Lord who has accompanied and guided us in the past days, with the light of the Holy Spirit.

From the heart I thank Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, under-secretary, and with them I thank the Relators, Cardinal Peter Erdo, who has worked so much in these days of family mourning, and the Special Secretary Bishop Bruno Forte, the three President delegates, the transcribers, the consultors, the translators and the unknown workers, all those who have worked with true fidelity and total dedication behind the scenes and without rest. Thank you so much from the heart.

I thank all of you as well, dear Synod fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors, and Assessors, for your active and fruitful participation. I will keep you in prayer asking the Lord to reward you with the abundance of His gifts of grace!
I can happily say that – with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality – we have truly lived the experience of “Synod,” a path of solidarity, a “journey together.”

And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

– One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

– The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

– The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).
– The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

– The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things…

Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.

Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).

And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.

We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.

His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God’s People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it… that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: ‘let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord’ (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).”

So, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334).

Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.
One year to work on the “Synodal Relatio” which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as “lineamenta” [guidelines].

May the Lord accompany us, and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Joseph. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Thank you! Thank you, and rest well, eh?

For me it raises as many questions as it answers. Though, in fairness, that is not so much because of the speech as the Pope who issued it.  He does seem a most perplexing fellow- one whom nobody can really pin down. People praise and fear him in equal measure but none point definitively to his agenda.

Do we take the speech as a sign that the deposit of faith is in safe hands? Or should we fear the liberal forces unleashed via this debate given how strong are the pressures on the church now that the thinking of the sexual revolution is becoming a global ideology?

Learn about Newman

An excellent new DVD has been produced by Saint Antony Communications tracing the life of Blessed John Henry Newman. That giant of English spirituality and the father of the Anglo-Catholic movement in the Church of England, who would eventually move to Rome in order to lead where his movement would one day follow as the Ordinariates were established.

I heartily commend this DVD to all Catholics and especially to members and friends of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. For it tells an important story that we should all ponder as it travels with Newman through the pilgrimage of his own life and thinking.

To purchase a copy, which merits a place in the home as well as on the catchiest shelf, visit the St. Antony Communications website.

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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