I was delighted to read this report, written by a cradle Catholic who encountered Ordinariate worship for the first time. He was struck by the reverence and beauty of the liturgy and believes it offers a vital and healthy middle way, a via media, between the Extraordinary form and the Novus Ordo. He sees in the development of the Ordinariate, still in it’s infancy, much to commend.

It was also pleasing to read the comments, in which other voices joined in singing the praise of the Ordinariate mission. Here in Pembury the Ordinariate Rite is offered every Saturday at 9am. It will soon be offered, in all its musical glory, on the first Sunday of every month at the 9:15am Mass.


One of the strangest ideas modernist theologians hold is “progressivism”. The idea that humanity is somehow naturally improving simply by virtue of time! As if humanity automatically becomes more civilised the further into the future we travel. Wow! Is our human nature mystically linked to advances in technology and science? Its bonkers but many people seem to believe it or behave as if they do.

Hence modernists are ever found calling us to “move with the times” or “get with the programme” As if the programme itself could never be wrong- or the times be shallow and corrupt. Its ever out with the old, in with the new. Didn’t you know Catholicism was invented shortly after the Second Vatican Council, as something divorced from all that went before? The modern Catholics being the first in history to have considered issues such as mercy and compassion and how to fit the Gospel to everyday life… No?

Then get with the times dinosaur!! Of course the modernist  programme is best- it comes from those living today- you know- not yesterday! How better informed we must be compared with those dopey church fathers, or the primitive numbskulls who built the ancient Churches, the very Churches we had to improve by replacing altar rails and high altars with concrete tabernacles and coffee tables from Ikea!

I am being flippant but the point holds. It is because modernists believe they know best that they feel entitled to update and improve Holy Scripture and the teaching of the Church in all ages. God ought to be grateful! After all the bible is an ancient document not written for them but for a primitive and less civilised breed of human.

The problem is, of course, that it is a lie! We might have more information today but access to knowledge is no substitute for knowledge itself. Have standards gone up or down? And what of the arts? How do modern artists like Damian Hurst compare with Caravaggio? Are we really improving or sliding as a culture?

But even leaving aside such comparisons -which are arguably subjective- the very notion of progressivism itself is daft. There is no evidence to support it. If we are automatically becoming more civilised then why did more people die at the hands of others during the 20th Century than in all other Centuries combined? Would you rather dine with the lads from modern day ISIS or those who erected Cambridge and Oxford Universities during the so-called Dark Ages?

The lamentable reality is human nature, unlike science and technology, does not advance with time. Hence nobody has improved on the moral teaching of Jesus Christ. And thus the upgrade of the human condition still requires what he revealed; obedience, humility, self discipline, repentance, conversion and a willingness to co-operate with God. The rules of that Covenant he assured us would last to the end of time, of that Kingdom of which there is to be no end. The divine truth yesterday, today and forever.

This point was hammered home at Mass this morning as we read about the demise of John the Baptist. Who died precisely because he would not “get with the programme” accepting the remarriage of a divorcee without an annulment, to her former husband’s brother! And that issue, dealing with divorce minus annulment, is also what caused the schism in England with Henry VIII!

What this reveals is that dealing with divorce and issues of sexual morality is manifestly not new. The breakdown of families not being a recent thing or any different today than it was then. So why are people speaking as if it is new? As if nobody before us considered the implications of upholding matrimony as a life long union between one and and one woman? As if no other culture found it bothersome having standards set down by God which we fallen humans can struggle with?

Silly John the Baptism- couldn’t he see the need for “mercy”? Why didn’t he respond to Herod with a new pastoral solution? That the modern world of his day might view the faith as relevant and edgy? Thank goodness homosexuality hadn’t been invented or sex outside  marriage..heaven only knows how the Early Church would have coped with that knowledge when they consistently backed the ideal of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman!

You get the point. There is nothing remotely new for the Synod to consider as regards human behaviour and sexual morality. The only difference is the modern attitude we have to certain matters of morality and God’s word.

So if the Synod finds a way to help the world better hear God’s word and receive the forgiveness and mercy that has ever been there- that will delight me! But if the desire is to forge ahead with innovation under the notion that we somehow know best simply because times have changed…well that would be dangerous, being founded on a lie so big even Pinocchio’s nose wouldn’t cope with it!


It is a great honour to have been asked to serve, one afternoon per week, as Catholic chaplain to East Sutton Park Prison. This afternoon was my first official visit and it was a pleasure to offer Mass followed by some refreshments. The ladies who attended the mass were really warm and welcoming and it was humbling to pray alongside them. They were so appreciate of it.

During mass we reflected on the life of St. Monica and considered how her son, the great St. Augustine, managed to turn his life around thanks to God. We laughed at the story of a woman from his past life chasing him down the road shouting “cooey – its me” and him replying “yes madam, but it is no longer me”. This led us to reflect on how a new life with God can sometimes require us to avoid those who might lead us astray, especially if we are prone to temptation! The company we keep is important and faith requires us to find support in friends who share our Christian outlook.

I return next week and, in a few months when my official clearance is sorted, will be able to offer more time to work alongside people on the farm and in the gardens and making time for confession and catechesis.  I am really looking forward to it.

The full time chaplain is a free church minister named Sally, who could not have been more helpful and welcoming. She has to babysit me at present, whilst clearance is sorted, which meant she was in attendance at mass and on hand to help afterwards. Just as well- she holds the keys to the biscuit cupboard!


One of the advantages of being not only a priest but also a husband and father, is that I have some insight regarding parenting in the 21st Century. This can prove helpful in the confessional or when preparing couples for marriage and baptism. I speak as one who shares the struggles to get it right. As one who has staggered along the landing half asleep, at 3am in the morning, desperately trying to pacify a mewling infant only for it to burp rather suddenly and deposit the contents of it’s stomach over my back!

Such experiences rid one of unrealistic and romanticised views of marriage and family life. Lets get real. It is a joy to have a family but also a challenge. And when one factors in the need to raise children in love, it is also a most profound responsibility. If I am honest it always feels beyond my ability. For every positive I might bring  to the family table there seem to be equal and opposing negatives. What wounds we fallen sinners inflict on children by our own bad habits, hard words and inability to love as truly we should. Even though our hearts burst with love for our children!

So it thrilled me when the church announced a Synod on the family. Heaven knows there are burning issues at present that confront the Catholic family and make the job all that much harder! We need help, we really do. And I want to share some questions I had hoped, as a parent, the Synod might address.

1) How do we help our children navigate a hostile secular culture?  The faith we would love to instil in our children is under serious attack in the public square. I was raised in a culture of ambivalence which, at least, paid lip service to the truth of the Gospel. My children will grow up in a more hostile environment where the faith is challenged and ridiculed in most every classroom, lecture hall and newspaper. What help is the church planning to give parents to support them in transmitting the faith, in such a positive way that our children are enabled to stand up for truth against scrutiny?

Sorry but most parishes today, I include my own, are not cutting the mustard in this regard. Recognising then that the church has largely failed to hold onto the youth over the last half century- losing several generations of young adults in the process- what is it planning to do differently to ensure it doesn’t lose the next generation as well?

Will it be brave enough to acknowledge that young families seem most drawn to orthodox parishes today where emphasis is placed on apologetics and commitment not on dated models where teaching is dumbed down to accommodate the culture? Within this arena- what is to be done about the standards of many Catholic schools when it comes to transmitting an emboldened and firm faith? They seem to have lost their zeal.

2) How can I protect my children’s purity? The current culture is dangerously over sexualised and the proliferation of internet pornography is causing untold damage to marriages. It is corrupting and warping young minds. How can I shield my children from these vile images- given that they are shown on most every playground thanks to those clever phones? What work is being done, by the Church, to combat pornography head on and ensure governments censor content and stop it being so freely available? This is a big one.

3) How do I give my children a healthy understanding  of marriage?  How will my children accept Catholic teaching, that sex is intended for marriage between one man and one woman for life, given that the culture is itself redefining marriage to the detriment of children?

And why do some church leaders seem to echo the culture? What is the Church planning to do about high ranking clergy who openly dissent from the teaching of the church? For they are sowing terrible confusion at the peril of souls, that is if the historic voice of the church is to be believed. And if it isn’t to be believed anymore…then why not? And why should my children believe anything the church has to say? Will the church give us clarity of teaching as regards sex and family life? Because it is sorely lacking at present…despite all the noise.

3) Who will help us model family life? Given the attack on marriage and family life how will you truly support married people? Because at present the church only offers little to married couples save for a little pre marriage prep.

This is of no help when couples later encounter difficulties, when finances are mismanaged or serious arguments develop. Often it is too late when couples  access help – and they do so within a secular context which can even encourage the idea of divorce in certain cases. What then could the church do to better support and nurture families, holding them together?

4) Why haven’t you consulted married clergy? One might have assumed a largely celibate priesthood would look to its few married members for advice. Why haven’t dioceses consulted with priests who are actually married? Why hasn’t the vatican approached the married Ordinaries placing them on the panel drawn up to discuss family life? Surely they offer unique insight that might be of benefit being not only priests but fathers and husbands as well?

5) Why don’t you speak about children? I have listed a few questions and concerns I have. I would love the Synod to tackle them head on,  speaking powerfully and helpfully to parents like myself. So why is it that all we hear about is homosexuality and those in broken families due to divorce and separation? It leaves me scratching my head…

I don’t doubt the importance of reaching out to such people…but I seriously question why they seem to be at the heart of the Synod debates. Where are the needs of children being raised? Where are the needs of those holding onto marriage, often at great cost, addressed? Where are the needs of those with large families highlighted and praised?

Surely it is farcical that this Synod on the family, to date, has said nothing of value know… er actual families??!

It is inexplicable and inexcusable. But what seems to be developing is not a Synod that places children and families at the centre but one in which indulgent in-house clerical spats are being fought along predictable and tired political divides. Someone needs to bang heads together and reminds all the Cardinals that such indulgence only plays into secular hands. As if the church is about left v right when it ought to be centred on right v wrong.

I hope that the Holy Father will yet surprise us. But I won’t hold my breath. Because, to date, this Synod has had nothing say to children or parents. Rather it seems constructed as an arena for the liberalising of church doctrine. I doubt many actual families are much interested in such games. They surely have better things to do. Like actually raising children and trying to put food on the table.


Our current Director of Music, Antony Pitts, has been headhunted by one of Australia’s leading choral groups and is therefore leaving us for pastures new at the end of the year. It will be sad to say goodbye but that sorrow is mingled with joy as we recognise what a fabulous opportunity this is for him. He will remain in post until Advent Sunday.

Our new Director of Music is to be Tom Davis who is pictured above. Tom is already very committed to our church. He sings in the choir at 9:15am each Sunday and also plays the organ, cantors and chooses hymns at the 11am Mass! Tom will therefore step up from his role as assistant Director of Music to take over the reigns and I am delighted he is able to take on this role.

After Evensong last week Tom and I sat down to discuss his vision for the future of music at Saint Anselm’s. Naturally we did this whilst supping a pint of real ale nestled in a snug at the nearby Black Horse. Now there is some time honoured English patrimony for you!  And I left the conversation feeling confident that the music in our parish is in safe hands. And it wasn’t just the beer talking!


An exciting weekend for Saint Anselm’s is taking place over the 12th and 13th of September. On Saturday morning, between 10am and 12:30pm, a coffee morning is to be held alongside an open day. We will need lots of tea and coffee makers and lots of bakers. Our hope being that visitors, from the village and beyond, will feel enabled to come and see all that has been taking place here in recent months and share in our joy.

Refreshments will be free, of course, but donations accepted. Any money raised being given to St. Peter’s, the local Anglican church, who recently announced their own plans to build a hall and develop their worship space.

On Sunday 13th, at 11am, we are holding our patronal festival. We usually transfer the feast of St Anselm as it tends to fall around holy week. The celebrant will be Rt. Revd. John Hine, recently retired as area bishop. The Mass will be a special thanksgiving for the new build and the construction workers are returning to read the lessons and accept our thanks in person!

After Mass there will be a bring  and share lunch during which a new plaque will be unveiled. The hall is to be named the Hine Room in honour of bishop John who is, to our knowledge, the only bishop to have been raised in Pembury as a lad! The local newspaper are sending a photographer and reporter along to what promises to be a very special day indeed for our little village church.

Most people in England have been raised to accept, in part or in full, an anti-Catholic prejudice that does not stand up to serious academic scrutiny. We might think of the widespread but slanted view of reformation history, in which the English are supposed to have chosen the protestant option with glee, when the reality is that it was enforced brutally by the crown under point of a sword and threat of bankruptcy.

Or we might think of how Catholicism is often upheld as being a “foreign” thing. “The Italian mission to the Irish” is the nonsense spouted..when it was of course English Catholicism, working in unity with Rome, that built our beautiful Saxon and Norman churches and Cathedrals, founded our greatest Universities and the Parliament that went on to persecute it! That we choose to pretend the cuckoo in the nest is in fact the body it ejected is another example of fanciful history that exists to suit an agenda rather than tell the truth. Hence they will say Justin Welby is the 107th successor to Augustine and not the 37th since Cramner.

And then of course there is the Inquisition seen as clear evidence that Catholicism was ever a cruel and wicked thing. The accusation being that the Catholic Church had many tortured and murdered. But even this historic claim is based on bigotry not fact. So I am very grateful to the BBC for having produced the programme above which blasts the theory of the Inquisition out of the water.  Do watch it. The bottom line is this…it never actually happened.

None of us can be pleased that the nation is abandoning its Christian heritage to buy into a secularism founded on atheism. But an unintended positive consequence of that is that sectarianism is therefore dying and old national lies are washed away. The result being that historians are approaching evidence with a truly open mind, not with bios already in place, and so the truth is coming forth.

It does makes you wonder how much else we accept as fact in history is actually far removed from reality?


As mentioned yesterday I have some fears ahead of the family synod in Rome. I am probably fearful due to experiences as an Anglican when I lived through the tragic and confusing liberalisation that ate away at the soul of that ecclesial body until it what was unrecognisable from what went before. The via media giving way to the uber liberal modernism we witness today.

My fears are also heightened at this time because it is a matter of public fact that a powerful group of modernist Cardinals have acted against the spirit of the synod by plotting behind closed doors to push a relativist agenda. These skilled manipulators seem to have abandoned their duty in guarding the faith wanting to innovate it instead. The protestantisation of the Catholic church continues with those who glory in an erroneous “Spirit of Vatican II” which contradicts the actual teaching of that council.

So as we approach the Synod pray for the faithful prelates who must beware the damage caused if modernism gets its way. Having lived through the political manipulation within Anglicanism I can share three tricks the orthodox must watch out for. 

Separation of doctrine and practice. A favoured trick of modernists, especially when they acknowledge a weakness in terms of their coherent theological argument, is to leave “official teaching” alone whilst changing practice under the guise of a “pastoral solution”. Then, further down the line, one can point to the dislocation; shifting doctrine to reflect practice is easier than shifting doctrine on sound argument alone!

We saw this in the Church of England when it avoided the thorny issue of changing doctrine to allow women priests by opening a “period of reception” during which women were ordained but nobody was forced to officially accept it!?  People were assured that nothing was set in stone and that the theological debate had yet to be settled…but of course, in reality, nobody was ever going to un-ordain the women or throw them out of jobs. It was a dishonest statement then but it worked a treat. In this way the ordination of women was achieved, with much heated debate in a warring synod chamber maybe but no official working through of the theology set forth in the Rochester Report.

We also saw it playing out in the last half century as modernist Catholic clergy  ignored the actual teaching of the Second Vatican Council and went their own way. Catholic statues were thrown away, altar rails discarded and protestant choruses adopted in place of Catholic sacred music. Thus, in many places today, practice no longer reflects official Catholic teaching. The result being something akin to a papal methodism.

So beware sugar coated arguments that leave official teaching untouched- providing a smokescreen impression of victory for tradition- whilst creating a “pastoral approaches” that bring change via the back door.

What is good for the goose is not for the gander. Theological modernists do not believe in truth as a fixed reality. They are relativists who imagine that what is true for me may not be for you. So watch out for suggestions that the church should adopt local practices in which bishops decide what pastoral solutions should prevail within their own location.

We saw this during the last Synod in the racist comments made by Cardinal Kaspar. He tried to suggest that African views on morality should have little impact on the West because of the difference in cultures. He was trying to suggest that what is right for Africans may not be right for Europeans. As if we are not all children of God called to live by his teaching.

It is chilling  to note that these words mirror the argument of Katherine Jefferts Schori, uber liberal leader of the American Episcopal Church. Words that turn the notion of truth from rock to jelly.  St Paul wrote that truth is the same today, yesterday and forever. So whatever is decided in Rome must be applicable to all people in all places else it is a cause for alarm.

And whilst we focus on truth let us remember that it is not something forged by popular opinion! Else Barrabas not Christ would be Lord! Truth remains true even if everyone rejects it. So appeals to widespread practice should not sway the synod in its theological deliberations.

Appeals to false mercy and use of emotive language. It suits modernists to suggest mercy is a concept recently discovered. They probably believe this too for they often hold a ludicrous belief that the world is naturally moving forward and getting better. They therefore love to paint a picture of a cruel church that only began to love people when they arrived on the scene with a language of change and permissiveness. It is  clap trap but the danger is that media control means the message is widely believed and begins to influence voting.

Beware then the use of highly emotive language that casts liberals as progressive ‘good guys’ and traditionalists as repressive ‘bad guys’. This trick is used to gain popularity whilst applying guilt to manipulate weaker voices. But it is deeply unfair -a tactic of divide and conquer. Let us never forget that Catholicism is not about modernist v traditionalist or left v right but simply  truth and error. We must avoid letting political agendas dictate the tone.

Those then are my fears. Do you share them? Am I being overly anxious or do we stand at a moment of crisis , akin to the Arian heresy, in which the truth of the ages is under assault and the Church in danger of schism?


When Jesus preached the parable of the prodigal Son he gave a powerful reminder concerning the nature of God’s mercy.  An example that needs to be pondered by the church as we approach the Synod on the family in October, threatened as it is by anti-family agenda of the modern relativists. Those using the excuse of “mercy” to promote change in church teaching regarding morality.

In the parable the younger son falls into sin rudely demanding a share of the family inheritance, which he then blows on fast living. Yet he is not the villain for he later comes to his senses having hitting rock bottom- there is nowhere more degrading for a Jew to be found than living amongst unclean pigs. Full of remorse he courageously vows to return to the Father. And there is no doubting his regret and shame for he decides he can no longer live as a son but must now be content with a role as servant.

The father is having none of it. There is to be no lecture on “why did you do that?” nor punishment of any sort. Far from it. The father, as soon as he witnesses a sincere change of heart, runs with open arms to the son and embraces him. He calls for a feast in his honour telling everyone his son was lost but is now found.

Meanwhile a grumpy older brother, who never squandered a penny, refuses to share the joy for he is full of resentment. He excludes himself from the feast proving himself the real villain. It transpires he never worked for the father out of love but only from a begrudging sense of duty. His relationship was as broken as his brother’s despite being hidden. But, unlike his brother, he never found his way to saying sorry and therefore ends the story out in the cold…

Obviously the father represents God. The younger son the sinner who comes to God in confession. No matter what he may have done forgiveness is possible so long as he is sorry. Meanwhile the older brother represents the religious hypocrite closed in on himself, being overly judgmental and lacking charity.

So to the Synod. Those pushing for radical change in church teaching imply that any who oppose it are playing the role of grumpy older brother. A judgemental attitude lacking charity. They see themselves as being in tune with mercy- the mercy shown by the father. But there is a major fatal flaw in their argument. For the mercy they propose does not reflect that which God reveals in sacred scripture, the sort requiring a sincere change of heart. Rather it is based on secular understanding in which all do as they please without question.

Yes, in direct contradiction to the teaching of Christ in this parable, they want to apply mercy but without any need for repentance. A mercy that asks no questions and does not seek the change in heart, the remorse at the folly, the desire to return to the former way of life. They would have us change the parable so that the father follows the son to the pigsty and simply tells him, over the fence if you like, that he is loved but without bringing him out of squalor and into the heavenly feast.

What the church must do in October is avoid both pitfalls in applying mercy. She must not be so strict and judgmental that the path to mercy and renewal is made impossibly hard. But nor must she peddle the modern false mercy that does nothing to address sin and merely accepts the broken state of the family within modern society. True mercy will be found where grace is given freely not cheaply. Christian faith is liberating and gentle to sinners… but it necessarily makes demands on us all. Demands that we conform to Christ and not to the way of the world.

I don’t see the father in the parable chasing after the son with pathetic desperation and caving in to his demands. Nor must the church, therefore, chase the ways of world and give in to its demands. But that is exactly what is being proposed by the relativistic Cardinals who seem more enamoured with political ideals than Gospel values. For them we must pray- they seem to have lost their faith- and we must hope that the Holy Father is not duped by their machiavellian plotting or party to their game. Otherwise I shudder to think of the damage that will be caused.

The artist Rembrandt would have understood this. For when he painted his wonderful image of the return of the prodigal son he chose to give the Father mismatched hands. One is smooth and soft and the other hard and gnarled. This was done to represent the crucial link between God’s justice and his mercy. You cannot have the one without the other. And that is the point being missed by so many in the modern world today as we move towards the Synod.



To understand the Assumption of Mary into heaven we must first understand that, unlike Jesus her son, she did not have two distinct natures. He was, at once, God and man. She was not. Mary, like us, shares only one of Christ’s natures- his humanity.

It should be an obvious point- Mary was human. Catholics do not believe she was divine and never have. Yet we must state this clearly and often because many protestants miss this point which can lead to confusion and which can then create an imaginary barrier to reconciliation. Too often those who have not had Marian doctrines explained to them will assume that we somehow worship Mary as part of the Godhead. So let us repeat Mary was not God; Christ’s divinity being a gift from his heavenly father.

This point is made obvious in the Gospel birth narratives. Mary’s gift to Jesus is his human and Jewish identity. Whilst God the father gifts the divinity, seen in the miracle by which her Virgin womb conceived the word made flesh. A miracle which, though she was a willing participant, was done unto her, not done by her. This point is important. She is the passive object, not the active agent, of grace when Jesus is born.

The same is true at the Assumption. Mary does not go up to heaven under her own steam- an active agent of grace. Again it is something done unto her -she is a passive but willing object. It is God who works the miracle – raising her body and soul into heaven. And it is not even a unique miracle, after all he also raised Elijah body and soul into heaven within the Old Testament. So the how of the assumption is simple and obvious. Mary was assumed into heaven because God willed it by act of miracle. What is more interesting is the reason why he chose to do this. To understand that we must look again to Jesus. And the clue is found by examining the very reason he came to earth at all, spelt out in 1 Corinthians 15: “As all die in Adam, so all will live in Christ“.

Jesus came to earth to correct original sin, which we see poetically described in Genesis. To put right what Adam got wrong. And just as first Adam had Eve, so new Adam does too. It is here Mary finds her role and purpose in the story of salvation. Jesus, the new Adam, Mary, the new Eve. You see this when looking at the parallels between the two:

  • In Genesis, the woman (Eve) came from the body of man (Adam). But in the new order the man (Jesus) comes from the body of woman (Mary). It’s a reversal.
  • In Genesis an angelic being drew eve away from God, in the Gospel’s another angel, Gabriel, calls her back to him. Its a reversal.
  • In the old order, the woman (Eve) said no to God and led the man (Adam) to do likewise. In the new order the woman (Mary) said “Yes” to God and raised Jesus to do likewise. It’s a reversal.
  • Adam and Eve reveled together in disobedience of God. Jesus and Mary suffered together doing his will. It’s a reversal.
  • In the old order Adam and Eve shared the punishment of sin. In the new order Jesus and Mary share the blessings of Redemption. A fullness of life with God; Jesus through the Ascension -Mary through the Assumption. It’s a reversal of man and woman’s destiny.

In the doctrine of the assumption then we focus on that final point. We discover that the destiny of man and woman lies in heaven. Man and woman together from the Fall to the Redemption. Sharing eternal life. Adam and Eve reconciled to God through the miracle of the salvation story which comes to us in the Gospel.

Mary’s faith brought the new Adam, Jesus Christ our Saviour, into the world. That faith saw her crowned as the new Eve. And that faith saw her raised to heaven- body and soul- to be with God forever. And truly there is more comfort in this assumption than in the ascension. For Jesus could only go to heaven, he belongs there. What of it. He is not like us. He is God. But when Mary is raised we can say- see there goes one like us and thus we can get there too!

in her life Mary points to Jesus. In her assumption she points us to heaven. For without Jesus, Mary is nothing. He alone is God, he alone saves by grace. But this only came to be because of Mary’s faithfulness in saying ‘yes’ to God.

Will we too say yes to God? Will we also choose to live by grace? That we may have a life dependent on Jesus? That we may be raised to be with him heaven?