29 April 2010

Ecce Agnus Dei

Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.

Great to see that the new translation of the Missal is now given it's recognitio by the Holy See. You can read more here. The US bishops’ conference has a great website, here. You can get ahead of the game and spend some time learning the new responses of the people, here.

The 'art' by the way is:

González's painting is a Spanish Caravaggesque work showing naturalism and a touch of sensuality. Without the barely noticeable halo and without the scroll the Saint could easily be taken for a resting shepherd with a sheep lying at his feet like a dog. The text on the scroll is a quotation from the Gospel of John: "Ecce Agnus Dei, qui tollit peccata mundi".

St Catherine of Siena

An excellent post, here, from Rocco Palmo at Whispers on the great Doctor of the Church which is St Catherine of Siena. One of my inspirations. Just recently I was able to visit her sarcophagus beneath the High Altar of the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. It's one of the highlights for me during any visit to the Eternal City. Along with catching a Caravaggio or two and stopping by the Gesu. Oh, yeah, and gelato too. Ah, such halcyon days!

Just this morning I have been preparing the 'saints of the week' section of our weekly newsletter. I had quite forgotten how, once the seasons of Lent and Easter are behind us, the memorials and feasts of the saints come thick and fast. What excitement awaits us!

One such excitement is il Beato Angelico who is also buried in Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Blessed Fra Angelico, as we know him, was only beatified recently by JP II in 1982. I heard once that he is the only artist to have been beatified - can this be true? I'm not a huge fan of his work: a bit early for my personal tastes. Nonetheless who can fail to be moved by his rendition of the Annunciation. A classic, surely.

Anyway, back to the great Doctors of the Church, including Pope Paul VI's wisdom is declaring those first women doctors.

St Catherine of Siena, pray for us.

Baby boy survives for nearly two days after abortion

This shocking story from Simon Caldwell of the Daily Telegraph, here, is worth copying in full in order that as many people as possible come to realise the shocking effect upon us all when we live within a culture of death.

A baby boy abandoned by doctors to die after a botched abortion was found alive nearly a day later.

The 22-week infant died one day later in intensive care at a hospital in the mother's home town of Rossano in southern Italy.

The mother, pregnant for the first time, had opted for an abortion after prenatal scans suggested that her baby was disabled.

However, the infant survived the procedure, carried out on Saturday in the Rossano Calabro hospital, and was left by doctors to die.

He was discovered alive the following day – some 20 hours after the operation – by Father Antonio Martello, the hospital chaplain, who had gone to pray beside his body.

He found that the baby, wrapped in a sheet with his umbilical cord still attached, was moving and breathing.

The priest raised the alarm and doctors immediately arranged for the infant to be taken to a specialist neo-natal unit at the neighbouring Cosenza hospital, where he died on Monday morning.

Italian police are investigating the case for "homicide" because infanticide is illegal in Italy.

The law means that doctors have had an obligation to try to preserve the life of the child once he had survived the abortion.

The Italian government is also considering an inquiry into the conduct of the hospital staff.

Eugenia Roccella, the under-secretary of state in the health department, on Wednesday night promised a government inquiry into the incident.

“The minister of health will send inspectors to the hospital in Rossano Calabro to investigate what actually happened, and to see if the Law 194, which prohibits abortion when there is a possibility of the foetus living separately from the mother, and permits it only when the continuation of the pregnancy would result in life-threatening danger to the mother.”

She said that if initial information is correct, “this would be a case of deliberate abandonment of a seriously premature neonate, possibly also with some form of disability, an act contrary to any sense of human compassion but also of any accepted professional medical practice".

She added: “We must remember that a baby, once born, is an Italian citizen equal to all the others, and is entitled to all fundamental rights, including the right to health and therefore to be given full support.”

The case has reignited controversy on the legality of abortion in the Roman Catholic country.

It could also raise questions in Britain over the legal upper limits for abortion and the viability of the foetus – or its ability to survive outside of the womb.

A spokesman for the ProLife Alliance said: "There cannot be anybody in the world who is not horrified by a story like this nor anybody in the UK who would not support a massive reduction in the upper limit for abortion."

Most abortions at 22 weeks simply involve the induction of the birth which normally results in the death of a young foetus.

The case is causing uproar in Italy because it is the second involving a foetus of that age surviving the procedure in just three years.

The other involved a baby in Florence who weighed just 17oz when he was aborted at 22 weeks because of a suspected genetic disorder, but lived for three days.

Since 1978, abortion has been available on demand in Italy in the first three months of pregnancy but is restricted to specific circumstances – such as disability- in the second trimester. The government is considering a review of the working of the laws.

The case also comes as figures in Britain revealed last week that the number of babies born weighing only 2lbs has more than doubled in just two years.

Yet the proportion of tiny babies born stillborn has nearly halved, the health service statistics have shown.

The figures do not reveal at what stage the babies were born but a child weighing under 2lbs is likely to have been born at least three months early.

They will inevitably include some born alive at an age when they could, in other circumstances, have been aborted.

More than 200,000 abortions are performed each year, most for non-medical reasons within the legal upper limit of 24 weeks gestation.

The increasing number of babies surviving below 24 weeks, partly because of advances in medicine, has led to widespread calls for the legal upper limit to be further reduced.

Attempts to lower the limit failed in Parliament in 2008.

In 2005 a baby boy in Manchester was born alive at 24 weeks after surviving three attempts to abort him. He is now a five-year-old schoolboy.

27 April 2010

St Matthew and the Angel

Wow, since getting back I don't seem to have had a minute to sit down (though in truth I have been sat rather a lot) nor managed to completely catch up amidst all the rearranged schedules. Thus, there has been something of a hiatus in posting. Before popping off to pray and sleep I thought I'd share with you a little discovery from Rome.

Now you are not to become jealous, but one of the highlights was going to the Caravaggio exhibition at the Scuderie, about which you can read more here. It was worth the two hour queue to get in, trust me. Not least is seeing his Angelus in the flesh (that's the oil on canvas, obviously, not the actual Virgin Mary and said Angel).

The more astute amongst us will, however, have noticed that the picture above is not from the master himself. Rather it is Guido Reni, St Matthew and the Angel, which is housed in the Vatican Museums. This was my discovery! It was painted in 1640, thirty years after Caravaggio's untimely death. Again, this was a two hour wait to get into a museum, or more accurately described as a series of museums. The frustrating thing was the long queue and the hope to see the Deposition of Christ by Caravaggio. Sadly, when eventually we managed to get into the papal picture gallery there was a small notice explaining the work was on loan to an exhibition at the Scuderie. Clearly it is THE exhibition of the decade!

What comes around goes around.

Oh, and on a technical point, we managed to get to see (over the course of our delay) 35 of Caravaggio's works. When you realise that there are only 50 known works accredited to him in the world, I think you'll agree we did rather well all things considered.

23 April 2010

St George

Happy Feast to one and all, but not least our good friends in Worcester.

It's good to be back...

18 April 2010

Stuck in Rome

Currently enjoying the wonderful weather in Rome and badly missing the parish. Just one of the victims of our frighteningly fragile society. Is it really true that one simple sneeze from nature can result in hundreds of thousands of people across the continent being stranded?

12 April 2010

Christ our Light

This last Easter Vigil I didn't preach, as it happens, but recently I happened upon the Easter Vigil homily from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland. Think of the tragedy of child sex abuse and you may find his thoughts very inspiring...

The resurrection of Jesus Christ has changed human history. It enters history... as an explosion of light, light which illuminates the darkness, light which allows us to see reality as it is, light which enables us to discern the good from what is evil. Darkness already begins to be dispelled even when only one single flicker of light appears. Even one single flicker of light can be the beginning of hope within any darkness.

We remember in our prayers this evening all those for whom darkness seems impossible to overcome, for whom darkness seems unbearable and without hope. We remember those for whom the darkness of their past still haunts them. We remember those whose torment and anxiety tears away at their will to live....

As a Christian community we are called to be light in the world. We are called to be with those for whom darkness is excruciating and who see no future, no hope. Woe to a Church which hides and destroys light in people’s hearts. Woe to a Church which prevents the light of Christ from appearing as it should.

Resurrection means that death has been definitively conquered. Jesus Christ entered into his passion and death freely out of love for us. His death was the ultimate expression of his giving of himself. Christ’s death lovingly opens the door which leads to resurrection and new life. It is love that transforms death definitively. That explosion of light which is the Resurrection tells us and reminds us even in the darkest days that there is always a future beyond darkness....

In our days there is so much scrutiny and examination of the Church. There are exposés of the failings of the Church; there is questioning of the role of the Church in society in the past and in whatever our future may be. The role of the Church is being examined under a microscope and from every possible direction. The spotlight of media and public opinion is focused on the failures and the betrayals of Church leaders and a damaging culture which has grown up in the Church.

I am not criticising the media for that. That is their job. In doing their job some will feel the media have been unfriendly to the Church, even unfair; others will welcome and recognise valid criticism, from whatever angle it comes, even if it comes from people patently unfavourable to the Church. We have to remember that the truth will set the Church free, even if the truth is hard to digest.

Identifying the failures of the Church may, however, be the easier task. There will be some who will hope that such exposure will mortally would an organization which they consider has gone irreparably astray. But what of those who love the Church? How do we overcome our disgust and shame for the sins of Christians?
The sins of the Church can well be exposed by the spotlight of the media; but the Church will be converted, renewed and reformed only when it allows the light of Christ to inspire it and guide it. It is the light of Christ which will show the real significance of the darkness that has slipped into our lives.

The light of Christ will expose the sins of Christians but the light of Christ does not abandon us naked and alone in the exposure of our shame and sin. The light of Christ heals, it leads; there is no way we can switch off or dim that part of the light that exposes the sad realities of the past; there is no way we should switch off or dim the light that can open the path to a new future. No generation is too sophisticated not to need the light of Christ; no generation is too sophisticated not to be able to comprehend that light and what it can bring to society....

The tomb signifies a place of death. The Resurrection brings new light. The spirit gathers us as children of the light, prepared with all our weaknesses to ensure that the message of Jesus Christ is not just transmitted abstractly to the next generation, but that the next generation will be a generation inspired by the light of Christ.

The message of the Resurrection comes to us at a moment of darkness. The message of the Resurrection comes to as a message of hope that the darkness will not prevail.

Christ is truly risen. Let us go out into life filled with joyful hope.

H/T Whispers in the Loggia

11 April 2010

Going to be busy

This coming week I have several meetings to attend and it is likely that I will be unable to post very much. Forgive me. It is Easter, after all.

More when I'm back...



Loving this version of Caravaggio's Doubting Thomas by John Granville Gregory called Still Doubting. It hangs, currently, in Bangor Cathedral, North Wales. You can find a quirky comment on Tim Parker's Blog, here, and even read a comment from the artist himself. Thank you Fr Mark, over on Vultus Christi, for this work.

10 April 2010

Doubting Thomas

Acts 5:12-16. Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24. Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19. Jn 20:19-31

Thomas, Thomas, Thomas! Whatever are we to do with you? What will become of you? You can imagine the scene. It’s very late in the day, the first Easter Sunday. Perhaps it’s even Easter Monday, and the disciples tell Thomas that he’s missed the Lord. “We have seen the Lord!” Yeah, right. And I’m the Queen of Sheba! When He comes and shows me the wounds, then I’ll believe.

This lovely story comes right at the beginning of the early Church. An early Church which is soon growing at an exponential rate. In the Acts of the Apostles we hear of the fervent outpouring of praise and worship at the Portico of Solomon, and those who came to believe in the Lord increased steadily. In future weeks we will hear how entire towns came to hear the Word preached, not least once we bring in St Paul. Even now, people are bringing the sick to lie merely in the shadow of St Peter as he passes by. All of them were cured.

Indeed, this is an exciting time for the Church. Yet we know also that there was great scepticism in first century Palestine. There was real threat to life and to limb for those brave souls who followed not the way of the world but rather the way of Jesus Christ. People talked, in those early days, of following The Way. It was both a seemingly secretive sect of those who gathered in one another’s houses to celebrate a clandestine Mass, and at the same time the disciples spoke out loud and proud, proclaiming He is Risen, Alleluia, alleluia.

Today, also, we are both a Church in secret, a Church facing persecution, a Church shamed by the sins of her priests. Yet we have in our midst those who call out the name of Jesus, those who offer to us a powerful and significant witness to the Lord, those who inspire us to keep true to who we are. In an excellent article in this week’s Tablet, the Dominican, Timothy Radcliffe says “Why stay? I must lay my cards on the table; even if the Church were obviously worse than other Churches, I still would not go. I am not a Catholic because our Church is the best, or even because I like Catholicism. I do love much about my Church but there are aspects of it which I dislike. I am not a Catholic because of a consumer option for an ecclesiastical Waitrose rather than Tesco, but because I believe that it embodies something which is essential to the Christian witness to the Resurrection, visible unity.” He concludes: “We may be embarrassed to admit that we are Catholics, but Jesus kept shameful company from the beginning.”

But what of those who were the shameful company from the beginning, those Apostles and particularly Thomas. He got his wish eight days later that is today. On the 2nd Sunday of Easter our Lord appeared again, showing his new found aptitude for resisting closed doors, and said ‘Peace be with you’ and to Thomas, “put your finger here”; “give me your hand”; “doubt no longer but believe.” Caravaggio takes this image further in his raw and real masterpiece, Doubting Thomas, with the Apostle’s finger lost in the side of Christ. Interestingly it is Jesus’ hand which guides the hand of the suspicious one, as though it was necessary not only for Thomas to trust in Jesus, but also to be guided by him.

Through Thomas’s Trust in Jesus in he is able to finally declare “My Lord and my God”, the strongest possible indication that Christ is indeed the Son of God. The man who walked amongst us is nothing less than God himself. Oh where would we be Thomas without your faith?

St Faustina, the Polish nun to whom Christ also appeared in 1931, introduced to the world the devotion of the Divine Mercy. With her we can confidently say “Jesus I trust in you”. And on this Divine Mercy Sunday, we can join with Thomas, on our knees before the Blessed Sacrament and say “My Lord and my God!” because ‘happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

9 April 2010

The Pope and Legal Nonsense

Recently Geoffrey Robertson, it appears, wrote an inflammatory article in the Guardian titled 'Put the Pope in the Dock'. No, I didn't read it, but found this interesting article by Neil Addison on the religion law blog, below, fascinating and totally agreed with the final comment: we are all entitled to our own opinion but when a Lawyer writes an article or Blog and invokes the law then people are entitled to assume that they are quoting the law accurately not just engaging in personal prejudice and polemic masquerading as legal fact.

This is the whole article:

Now I'm not a QC (a "senior" lawyer for my non British audience) but I am a lawyer and I do recognise a rubbish legal argument when I see one which was certainly the case in a recent article in The Guardian Newspaper by Geoffrey Robertson QC called "Put the Pope in the Dock"

The Article suggested that the status of the Vatican State "as a state" was bogus and could be challenged in the UK Courts and the European Court of Human Rights and in addition that Pope Benedict could be tried by the International Criminal Court for "Crimes against humanity" involving the Sex abuse scandal by some Catholic Priests

It's difficult to know where to start in the legal inaccuracies in Geoffrey Robinsons article but the following comment certainly takes the legal biscuit.

" the Vatican was created by fascist Italy in 1929 when Mussolini endowed this tiny enclave – 0.17 of a square mile containing 900 Catholic bureaucrats – with "sovereignty in the international field ... in conformity with its traditions and the exigencies of its mission in the world". The notion that statehood can be created by another country's unilateral declaration is risible: Iran could make Qom a state overnight, or the UK could launch Canterbury on to the international stage."

Well with all due respect to Geoffrey Robinson statehood is a matter of fact and whether it is created unilaterally or muitilaterally is irelevant all that matters is whether that independent statehood is recognised by other independent states. Sovereignty and statehood is a matter of fact in International law and whether Geoffrey Robertson likes it or not the Holy See is recognised diplomatically by a majority of countries internationally including the UK, the USA and all the member countries of the European Union and the Council of Europe as is the independence of the Vatican State. The Holy See Issues passports which are recognised internationally and during the Second World War the Italian Government recognised the Neutrality of the Vatican and did not interfere with the Holy Sees contact with Governments with which Italy was at war. Similarly when Germany occupied Rome after the fall of Mussolini it did not occupy the Vatican and neither did the Allies when they entered Rome.

The legal status of the Vatican as an independent state may be regarded by some as ridiculous and it can be described as anomalous but it is nevertheless a legal fact and it is frankly fatuous for a lawyer to suggest otherwise, but the article goes further

"This claim [that the Vatican is a State] could be challenged successfully in the UK and in the European Court of Human Rights"

Now I realise that many Human Rights lawyers grant to the European Court of Human Rights a degree of infallibility that even the most Papist minded Catholic would consider excessive but even the European Court of Human Rights can only act within the limits of its own jurisdiction and it has absolutely no power to determine whether the Vatican is or is not a state it only has jurisdiction to determine whether the European Convention on Human Rights has or has not been breached by the member states of the Council of Europe.

Nowhere in the Convention is their any suggestion that the Court has jurisdiction to decide on whether or not a state exists and to suggest that the ECHR should make such a determination is to suggest that it should act illegally by exceeding its own powers and its own lawful jurisdiction. Similarly the UK Courts have made it clear on more than one occasion that it is up to the UK Government to decide whether or not a State is granted Diplomatic recognition. Since the UK Government recognises the statehood of the Holy See and the Vatican that is the end of the matter so far as the UK Courts are concerned.

Finally Geoffrey Robinson suggests that the Pope personally could be brought before the International Criminal Court for unspecified Crimes. The ICC came into being on 1 July 2002 when the "Rome Statute" was brought into force and it can only prosecute crimes committed on or after that date so any allegations prior to that date are irrelevant so far as the ICC is concerned. In addition the ICC has jurisdiction over the crimes of "genocide", "crimes against humanity", "war crimes", and "the crime of aggression" and I am assuming that not even Geoffrey Robinson is accusing the Pope of Genocide, War Crimes or International Aggression. To the best of my knowledge the Swiss Guard have not launched an invasion of any country recently so that leaves us with the possibility of a prosecution for "Crimes Against Humanity"

Article 7 of the Rome Statute defines Article 7 of the Rome Statute defines "Crimes against Humanity" as follows (my emphasis)
"For the purpose of this Statute, "crime against humanity" means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack"
(a) Murder;
(b) Extermination;
(c) Enslavement;
(d) Deportation or forcible transfer of population;
(e) Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law;
(f) Torture;
(g) Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity;
(h) Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender as defined in paragraph 3, or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law, in connection with any act referred to in this paragraph or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court;
(i) Enforced disappearance of persons;
(j) The crime of apartheid;
(k) Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.

Even the worst facts, or exaggerations, regarding sex abuse by Catholic Priests would find it difficult to define it as a "widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population," To try to bring it under the definition of "crimes against humanity" demeans the seriousness of the concept of crimes against humanity.

Normally I wouldn't comment on an article or Blog written by another person because, at the end of the day, we are all entitled to our own opinion but when a Lawyer writes an article or Blog and invokes the law then people are entitled to assume that they are quoting the law accurately not just engaging in personal prejudice and polemic masquerading as legal fact.


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