Saturday, 21 January 2017

Bishop Lopes on Amoris Laetitia

The Ordinariate Bishop of North America (Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter) has published an excellent pastoral letter on the beauty of marriage and the papal exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. Mgr Newton, our Ordinary, has also circulated this amongst the Ordinariate clergy. As well as excellent general pastoral teaching, he also has specific things to say to members of the Ordinariate.

“I take thee, to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse: for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy law; and thereto I plight thee my troth.”(1)
With these beautiful and profound words of the Divine Worship Order of Solemnisation of Holy Matrimony the groom gives his consent, with the bride responding in kind, “I give thee my troth.” The Priest or Deacon then pronounces “that they be man and wife together,” having “given and pledged their troth either to other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving of a ring, and by joining of hands.”(2)
The pledging of troth expresses a deep, exclusive loyalty and lifelong faithfulness. It is the act whereby the marriage covenant is made actual, for the giving of consent, the free “act by which the partners mutually give themselves to each other” is “the indispensable element ‘that makes the marriage.’”(3)  While the Priest or Deacon “witnesses” and “receives that consent in the name of the Church,” it is the spouses themselves who are “the ministers of Christ’s grace” and “mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony” through “expressing their consent.”(4)
“Forsaking all other … so long as you both shall live,” the spouses are by this “vow and covenant betwixt them made” indissolubly bound, for whom “God hath joined together let no man put asunder.”(5)  So permanent is this unity “which by its very nature is perpetual and exclusive” that, once validly entered, it “is a reality, henceforth irrevocable.”(6)  No one, not even the Church herself, has “the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom.”(7)
Yet the truth of the indissolubility of marriage, rooted in nature, reason, Revelation, and God’s own unchanging nature, “is not at odds with a bitter truth found throughout sacred Scripture, that is, the presence of pain, evil, and violence that break up families and their communion of life and love.”(8)  As our Holy Father, Pope Francis, reminds us in the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia, the family is often confronted by grave and threatening realities. No one can doubt the severe troubles facing families and marriages in our own time, just as “[n]o one can think that the weakening of the family as that natural society founded on marriage will prove beneficial to society as a whole … only the exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman has a plenary role to play in society as a stable commitment that bears fruit in new life.”(9)

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1 Divine Worship: The Order of Solemnisation of Holy Matrimony, for use by the Ordinariates erected under the auspices of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus. 
2 Ibid. 
3 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1627, 1626; citing Gaudium et Spes, 48, and Code of Canon Law, 1057. 
4 The Order of Solemnisation of Holy Matrimony, Introduction, 8; citing Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1623. 
5 The Order of Solemnisation of Holy Matrimony. 
6 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1638, 1640. 
7 Ibid., 1640. 
8 Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, 19. 
9 Ibid., 52

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Ordinariate: "Going forward in faith"

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster ordains to the Catholic priesthood three former Anglican bishops at Westminster Cathedral in London Jan. 15, 2011.
Joanna Bogle writes about the Ordinariate for Catholic World Report:

It’s been six years. I remember sitting in a guest house at EWTN in Alabama—where I was working on a new history-and-traditions series at the time—and watching, via my computer, a great event unfolding in my native city of London. And I thought: “This is history…but because I know the Cathedral so well it looks just, somehow, ordinary!” And somehow “ordinary” was exactly the right words because—forgive the pun—I was watching Msgr. Keith Newton being established as the ordinary of the newly-created Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. He and two other former Anglican bishops were ordained as Catholic priests in Westminster Cathedral; he was appointed as ordinary and the other two as vicars-general. Msgr. Newton is the ordinary—with the rank and style of a bishop—because he cannot actually be a bishop, as he is married (to Gill, who, incidentally, has since become a good friend and with whom I have been carol-singing at London Bridge railway station).

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Friday, 30 December 2016

Virgin-born we bow before thee

On Sunday, at the 3pm Mass in the Ordinariate's rite at Buckfast Abbey, we shall sing this beautiful hymn. It was written originally for the feast of the Presentation, but seems very suitable for the Solemnity and Octave Day, this Sunday.

Virgin-born, we bow before thee:
blessed was the womb that bore thee;
Mary, Mother meek and mild,
blessed was she in her Child.
Blessed was the breast that fed thee;
blessed was the hand that led thee;
blessed was the parent's eye
that watched thy slumbering infancy.

Blessed she by all creation,
who brought forth the world's salvation,
and blessed they, for ever blest,
who love thee most and serve thee best.
Virgin-born, we bow before thee;
blessed was the womb that bore thee;
Mary, Mother meek and mild,
blessed was she in her Child.

by Reginald Heber (Anglican Bishop of Calcutta, d.1826)

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

When popes are fallible and when infallible

The Catholic philosopher, Edward Feser, has, I think, written an excellent blog on the current controversy in the Church regarding Amoris Laetita and the dubia publicly submitted to the Successor of Peter, our Holy Father.

The piece is long, but it is really well worth reading. From my own limited brain capacity this seems to present a very logical and respectful case and explains the background very well. He goes in to the history of errors promoted by popes (giving the examples of three) and how this does not contradict papal infallibility. He gives some very clear analysis but without being disrespectful to our Pope. He makes a case for the dubia being made public, and he suggests what are the possible ways forward (he gives three basic possibilities).

It is a long piece but it is the best I have read and its tone I think is also very good. I commend it to you.

Fr Ian

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Advent thought for O Sapientia day

Matthew 1:1-17

When I was a country Rector in the Church of England I would receive from time to time requests for information from our parish registers. Serving traditional country parishes, the parishes were reluctant to part with their ancient registers into the central diocesan archive, so it was not uncommon for me to receive a request for a register search. Although they didn’t always arrive at convenient moments, in a way I quite enjoyed dusting off the old registers and peering through their crisp pages. I was often struck by the beautiful handwriting of all entries before the 1950’s and how the hand-writing went downhill from there! But I was also struck how in the 19th and 18th century so many entries contained signatures consisting of an X and alongside the Rector’s annotation “the mark of…” For some people the researching of their genealogy is very important to them.

Clearly for Matthew the genealogy of Jesus Christ is very important. Today we hear the long list of names read out at mass (Matt 1:1-17). We might think it a little boring. We might think there is nothing of inspiration in today’s gospel. But we need to ask ourselves, “Why?” None of us would miss these 17 verses if Matthew hadn’t included them. Well the point is that although we might not, Matthew’s original hearers/readers did appreciate it. Matthew is establishing Jesus’ kingly messianic credentials as he effectively states in verse 1: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” He is establishing that Jesus is in fact of the line of Abraham and of the line of King David.  God promised long before that “kings” would stem from Abraham’s line (Gen 17:6) and later promised, in a covenant oath, that David would always have a dynastic heir (2 Sam 7:16; Ps 89:3-4).

Matthew establishes for us Jesus’ earthly credentials while not undermining His divinity. Jesus is of course not the biological son of Joseph, but Joseph does accept Jesus into his family lineage. Matthew reminds us of this at the end when he says, “and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.” Despite the long list of “the father of”, now at the end Matthew is preparing to reveal that Jesus was miraculously born of the Virgin Mary, without the contribution of an earthly father, but instead the Holy Spirit.

One final comment on this genealogy is to say that the gospel here is ensuring we understand that Jesus is human as well as divine. It doesn’t use that sort of language, but by establishing Jesus human ancestry we can be in no doubt that His divinity did not exclude His human nature received from Mary. This is the wonder of the Incarnation, which in this last week before the great and solemn feast, we contemplate. God’s plan for the salvation of mankind was worked out through the lives of real human beings. This is not just for the past, but even now God has a part for us to play, in His great plan.

Fr Ian