The times they aren’t a-changin’

Author: Alan Robinson
Issue: 24 – April 2008

The times they aren�t a-changin�
There is a satirical and amusing magazine called Private Eye, on the cover there is always a funny and genuine picture, with a spoof headline or speech bubble.

If it�s not worth buying it is usually worth having a look at the cover; in fact you can buy a book called Private Eye Covers and I strike a blow against puritanism and Jansenism by having a quick look at them and enjoy a merry laugh in Easons. I think that you can do the same thing with The Irish Catholic, a useful and informative paper, but a recent cover was too close to Private Eye for comfort �Rehabilitation of Luther far fetched – Pope�s former student says Luther was a genius�. Now I am not too old, not really Dickensian, but I did grow up in the pre-Good Friday agreement county of Armagh. If that cover had been put inside our history books, we would all have had a long and hearty laugh. Private Eye often puts in an exclamation after a particularly outrageous piece: �Shurely shome mishtake, ed.?� Is there a mistake in this month�s The Hibernian or in the Irish Catholic, is this a delicious April Fool? No, there was a piece in the Irish Times on the 8th March which claimed that the Pope was going to have a study week in the summer, together with forty churchmen, all about……. Luther, and then possibly in September there would be a rehabilitation and who knows, a statue outside St Peter�s to fill up the few empty niches. However, Fr Vincent Twomey, Ireland�s conservative theologian and former Ratzinger pupil has said that although they are going to have a theological Lutherfest in August, a full rehabilitation is unlikely. I am sighing with relief, I thought I might be going off to join a little chapel of extremist you-know-whats come September; batten down the hatches, get the wind up radio ready, dried food and bottled water, guns, gold and groceries…it�s going to be a hard winter. It is strange that when you think of all the wonderful saints, theologians and holy bods there are, that the Pope should choose Luther as his summer holiday reading. I have to admit that I am puzzled. Maybe the Vatican will issue a simple sixty-page elucidation for us all in October, which will explain it all away. If one of my children said he was going off for a two week holiday by the sea to study Luther, I�d have something to say and you�d hear the screams in Mullingar. However, I think that we need to pray seriously for a great miracle between now and August, that the Pope will once again declare that Luther�s teachings and opinions are directly and in every way contrary to the Catholic faith.

The times aren�t a-changin� and there is now some kind of official acknowledgement that we are short of priests.The bishops are launching a campaign to get more folk to sign up for seven years� hard in Maynooth. I am more interested in why there are few vocations here and then I am interested (in my positive and optimistic way) in why there are places with large numbers of vocations. It is worth thinking about. In Ireland people blame the �priest scandal� as the cause of the drop off in vocations and I am sure that it is part of the picture. People also blame the increased wealth and materialism in Ireland, but post-War America was wealthy, growing and materialistic and yet there were many vocations to the priesthood. I still say that it�s all theological. In the early days of the Church there was the risk of persecution, mockery and martyrdom and still they were producing vocations and converts. I blame the theology. There seems to be a reluctance to talk theologically. People will not argue about the traditional Mass theologically. People will not argue about the House Of Prayer and Christina Gallagher theologically.They will talk about her cars and houses and riches, but no-one seems to say that we ought to study the so-called messages in the light of Catholic doctrine. If they did all those books of many �messages� would be soon washed up on the sands of Achill�s shores and the adjacent seas. I believe that there are few priests because people are not taught why we need priests and what a priest is, what the Mass is and ultimately what the church is and why it�s necessary. People think of a priest in terms of what he does and not of what he is. Until our bishops produce a very simple, modern and completely orthodox small catechism, which will contain a clear statement of what we are committed to as truths of faith and morals and enforce it in all Catholic schools, we are lost. This little catechism should contain the popular errors taught in the Irish Times and their answers. This can be done. One Corkman has done it. His name is Patrick O�Donoghue and he happens to be Bishop of Lancaster. He has woken up from a post-Vatican II dream and discovered that the Catholic Faith isn�t being taught and so he has produced Fit For Mission, which gives a pretty good outline of what should be taught in schools. It won�t be the cure-all, but he has made a big effort. Good English Catholics have been writing to him and congratulating him, because even if it�s not perfect it is a good beginning and it is on sale at the Knock bookshop.

An absence of theological and Catholic thinking can be seen in the furore about Archdeacon Dermot Dunne�s appointment to the deanery of Christchurch in Dublin. As far as I can see, the only priest who has written publicly stating that it is a calamity when any Catholic gives up his faith and even more when a priest abandons his priesthood, is a Fr John McCallion from the Primatial See of Armagh (genuflect at the mention of its name). Instead of all the �nice� talk about faith communities and faith journeys and personal fulfilment, Fr McCallion has broken ranks and dared to write like a Catholic. Despite what people say about change and ecumenism, the fact is that members of the Church of Ireland are not taught any definite or binding doctrine about anything, they do have dignified and beautiful worship and sometimes nice buildings. They are unlike Catholics who are taught very little about anything but don�t usually have either dignified worship or nice buildings. There is, of course, a clear body of Catholic doctrine and moral teaching, it�s just that nobody pays much attention to it.

I do hate �The Latin Mass�. By that I mean, the use of the name or adjective �Latin�. Let us be clear. There is the Novus Ordo Missae, the new Mass of Paul VI which can be said entirely in the vernacular or entirely or partly in Latin. Many people don�t realise this; it is possible, if you like dignity, Latin and dressing up to find churches, cathedrals and abbeys where they have the new Mass in Latin, said eastward facing, with Gregorian chant. The New [English] Mass is not a translation or version of the Old Latin Mass. It is, just that, a New Mass. Can we stop using the expression Latin Mass? It does sound snobbish,elitist and culturally divisive. We can say The Old Mass, the Traditional Mass. There is an Irish bishop who is convinced that Traditionalists fancy the old Mass because they are academics pretending to be better educated than others. This is true, I�m afraid. He thinks that they want to be better than other Catholics. We are not a language preservation society. Traditionalists are happier with the traditional and Tridentine Mass in Japanese rather than a done up Pauline Mass in Latin. Our arguments are theological and are based on Catholic theology and emphases that have been eliminated from the new rite. Most people never used a Missal nor did they actively dialogue the Mass and so they never really knew the doctrinal riches of the traditional Mass. Archbishop John Charles McQuaid wrote �Thankfully we have been spared the Dialogue Mass here� ; maybe if we had not and people knew their Mass, there would have been, as there was in France, a robust Catholic reaction in favour of the traditional Mass here in Ireland. As it is, hardly anybody knows that there are major differences between the two rites and what�s more, they�re not bothered.

How can I continue the uplifting and optimistic tone of this month�s article? We have the feast of St Benedict Joseph Labre, a lovely �little man� saint. He wanted to be a monk and everyone thought over and over again he was not at all the thing and asked him to go. He became a pilgrim, what the Russians call a �Fool for Christ� [maybe that�s why his feast is in April] and he dressed in smelly and grotty clothes. He went from shrine to shrine, eventually living in Rome. He was, I suppose, a little bit like Matt Talbot. He was so smelly his confessor heard his confession in the sacristy so as not mess up the box. He is the apostle of counter cultural dressing; the apostolate of not being well dressed. We do need to show people in this age of image and celebs. that it is not too important to be well dressed. It is not the important thing and yet we don�t need to emulate St Benedict Joseph Labre and be all flea infested; neat clean and decent are probably OK. It is good to see the variety of saints that the Lord provides. We do also, as I have written, have the sanctity and sanity of our homes. We can say or sing the Regina Caeli instead of the Angelus in the glorious season of Easter. There�s a treat on RTE Lyric every Sunday, with Tim Thurston�s Gloria programme, it really is a feast for the ears. Every Sunday in Easter tide is glorious and I often think of my fav [as the young say] story, the Road to Emmaus and it�s a good thing to think about when you are out for a walk. If you can get hold of that great Corkman Alfred O�Rahilly�s book Gospel Meditations, with good old +John Charles�s 1957 Imprimatur, it helps a great deal to grasp so many details of the Easter stories. Despite all the awful things that churchmen have done and are doing, we still have the Holy Presence of God, both really in our souls and brought home to us by the prayer of aspirations and holy actions. We can pray before a Cross or an Easter garden in our own homes and forget, for a time, the mad, mad world out there. A happy Easter-tide to all our readers.


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