Sunday, 24 March 2013


Recently I've been praying the rosary a fair bit and it's been forcing me to reevaluate parts of my life and ask some fairly fundamental questions. I thought I might as well jot down some of my reflections on it and so, being in the 21st century, I thought a good way of sharing them would be to pop them online and so there is another blog under the same Francesco Forgione called "Reflections from the Rosary". Don't you just love the illiteration and the vacuous title? Do pop over there and give it a read. Criticism always welcome.

Michael Voris. Get over it.

Michael Voris
I saw today a video by the scary Michael Voris of Church Militant TV about what he labels as the "Gay Mafia" within the Church hierarchy. Scrolling through some more of his videos there are more inflammatory videos such as "Talk Like a Man, Not a Sissy", "The New Pope & Homoheresy", "Homosexuals and the Conclave", "Gays in the Clergy" and "Father Gay". Now, I have no idea if the crisis we are told we are experiencing in the Church today is any greater or weaker than the crises we as a Church have experienced over the last 2, 000 years; I'm not a Church historian. One thing that I'm certain of, however, is that the cause of this crisis is not the existance of homosexuality within the Church. It is just a complete non sequitur. It looks to me simply to be unthinking scape goating. This is a man who is completely comfortable berating others for the alleged heterodoxy, even sneeringly saying of judgmentalism in one video that "[we] can't have any of that", apparently forgetting what a certain first century rabbi-come-God incarnate said on the subject. The Catechism itself seems to recognise that societies, one of which is the Church, get on just fine with gay people in them. I think the Church will cope with some gay men in cassocks. We've done pretty well thus far.

Without wishing to form an ad hominem attack against Voris himself, maybe glancing over his wikipedia page might give some background to where his views come from. What was once called "RealCatholicTV", his digital television channel on YouTube, has had to rename itself "ChurchMilitantTV", having been forbidden the use of the term "Catholic" by his local diocese and is forbidden from talking on property owned by the Diocese of Scranton. He sounds like the sort of person Fr Z campaigns against. The most bizarre moments in his videos are his rants against Social Justic, portraying them as part of the liturgical puppet movement of those who perverted Vatican II. I guess the letters "STB" after his name means he knows better than St Dominic, St Francis, and Our Blessed Lord. He casts himsef as a defender of America (if you hadn't guessed he's a yank yet), and yet is quite happy to attack the fundamental principles of democracy, basically saying that people who disagree with him ought not to have the vote. In that video, he talks about how only faithful Catholics look at God and don't stare in the mirror, but have you seen his hair...?

Also, he's actually an appaulingly bad speaker. He stammers, his prose is littered with tautology and his reasoning leaves much to be desired. Looking at his "Talk like a Man, Not a Sissy" video, maybe he should talk like someone with an ounce of intellect, ideally with a touch of compassion, not a foolish biggot. Basically I don't think he's a good advocate for our beautiful faith.

With that as useful background, let's examine in great brevity one or two of his videos. I'll just deal with the gay ones since they're the most easily ridiculed.

The reason I feel fine about writing the ad hominem paragraph above is because of the "Father Gay" video seems to have no argument at all. He rants quite a lot, and gives us a clip of a priest supporting gay marriage, but does not engage at all with the gay marriage debate, instead just shouting about a dog collar for quite a while and saying that the priest is an instrument of the devil. As it happens I believe in the devil, something I think is unusual for Catholics my age. I certainly don't think there is anything diabolical about a priest going off the rails a bit. The handful of priests I know who have had contact with the demonic lead me to believe that Satan is cannier than that. Certainly he possesses an intellect far superior to Mr Michael Voris STB.

Then there's "The New Pope & Homoheresy" video which lays the blame of all divisions in the Church squarely at the door of homosexuals in the Church. He doesn't offer up any evidence for this in his video, but waves a report by Fr Dariusz Oko, who Voris repeatedly reminds us has a magic, infallability granting doctorate. The Rev'd Dr Oko seems to follow a non sequitur Voris would be proud of which suggests that because there are gay men serving as clerics in his diocese, therefore there is division amongst the clergy. Voris then extends this into an explanation for the divisions within the college of bishops. Practicing sexuality is problematic for a priest of any sort. Besides breaking his vow of celibacy, it makes him vulnerable to blackmail and can cause scandal. That there are gay clergy is so far from a problem. Diversity is a mark of God's creation, the human race is blessed with a diversity of sexualities and thus, so should be the clergy. In terms of sociology, if the gay clergy in the Vatican have formed a clique it is probably because they feel excluded in some way and so formed a clique (Voris hypes it by using the term "underground"). If this clique presents a danger to the Church (which we know that it won't in the long term, keep calm non praevalebunt) then it is not them being gay which is the danger, it is the men who happen to also be gay. Their sexuality actually bears at most a tangential importance to the situation.

His video "Homosexuals and the Conclave" is based on the same document. He has based it entirely upon spurious newspaper reports in the Italian press. This "homosexual underground" he refers to again, I know many holy, faithful priests who I know are gay. They are serving God and offering up the gift of their sexuality to Him. I'm sure that there are practicing gay clergy, but I'm also sure that there are practicing straight clergy. There are more non sequitors about gay clergy and uncooperative bishops. The man makes almost no sense. It is not plausible that Pope Benedict resigned because he has gay priests in his curia, he resigned because of ill health. Look at his dog collar recently, much larger than it has been in the past, presumably covering up that he has almost no neck. Look at his cassock, how many times it is gathered under his fascia? That overcoat he saw him in when he met Pope Francis which hid his frame completely and just how frail he looked when he was walking. The man has lost a lot of weight very rapidly recently. Benedict is a man of God facing his end with his hand in the Lord's. I don't think gay priests are at the top of his agenda at the moment.

In short, Church Militant TV presents itself as expressing "solid Church doctrine". I'll just point out again one doctrine of our Church, that homosexuals "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity [and] every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided." I just wish he would calm down, take a sip of tea and think about what is important and what is not. There seems to be a lot of stone casting and splinter removing and I don't think that's something Jesus was very much in favour of.

NB For the Americans who read this. We British have what I suspect is a completely unfair notion that you don't get irony. There is some irony in this.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

I really like his public style

It seems Francis is less keen on Marini than he is his stole.
 The Italian press has reported that moments after Pope Francis was elected, he told Msgr Marini, the papal ceremoniere, "Quella roba se la metta lei, Monsignore. Il tempo delle carnevalate รจ finito": "put those robes away, Monsignor. Carnival time is over." Now this isn't a sentiment I disagree with entirely. I think that beauty has its place in Church, and that place should be limited to the glorification of God and the raising of the souls of the faithful to a plane in which they might better communicate with the Almighty. Beauty being used to glorify an individual is not a very pleasant idea for the Catholic Church. Some of course will argue that the Pope dressing in the finery of choir dress is in fact a glorification of the office rather than the man, but I'm not sure that holds water.

However, the style of this remark seems to be somewhat at odds with the public style of the man we've seen thus far. The sentiments match, but saying this to the holy man that is Msgr Marini in front of several other priests, seems to have been calculated to embarrass him. It seems this remark has been confirmed by certain other officials who were present at the time, presumably in the Room of Tears.

His attitude to Marini seems also to be shown in the fact that his Inauguration Mass on Tuesday will be orchestrated by the Fransiscans of La Verna rather than the house team. 

It seems that in the past our Holy Father has been a man of courage. If this comment was indeed made, it was made in semi-private, with only a few others there. A courageous act would be to make up with Msgr Marini in similarly semi-public circumstances and it would be in keeping with his humble personality.

Like I said in my previous post, the only time the rags of St Francis of Assisi would be replaced with finery was when he was in the liturgy: the source and summit of the Church's life and mission.

He hasn't had time to establish anything more concrete than style yet, but if his style carries through into actions then we will have a fine Pope. We've had good popes and bad popes in the past, and we will have good and bad popes in the future. This man could be either, just like any man only a few days into his pontificate might be.

PS Cardinal Mahony's twitter seems suddenly to have become deeply distateful on Marini related matters.

As always, comments very welcome in the box below.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Deo Gratias

Thank God for our new pope! I was in the pub last night watching on the "ThePopeApp" with some friends, several Catholics but quite a few non Catholics and the joy was palpable. Drinks were bought, the Holy Father toasted and we had a great evening celebrating.

I mean to expel thee from the rank thou holdest, deprive thee of thy office. And when that time comes, I will summon one who is a true servant of mine, Eliacim the son of Helcias, clothe him with thy robe, gird him with thy girdle, entrust him with the power that once was thine; to rule all the citizens of Jerusalem, all Juda’s race, with a father’s care. I will give him the key of David’s house to bear upon his shoulders; none may shut when he opens, none open when he shuts. I will fix him securely in his place, like a peg that is to carry all the royal honour of his father’s house; all the honour of his father’s house will rest upon him, as a man’s goods rest on a peg, the smaller of them, here a cooking-pan, there an instrument of music. Isaiah 22:19-24
So many things to like about him. We desperately needed someone who will spur on the New Evangelisation fruitfully and forcefully. Catholicism is an attractive religion full of beauty, goodness and truth, full of our very means of being. He seems to be a genuinely humble man, there are outward signs, but I've seen a couple of photos that have been taken of him surreptitiously on the tube and Fr Z has a story on his blog recounting how even he didn't realise he was a cardinal when he first met him. In particular I note the line "missionary fervor does not require extraordinary events. It is in ordinary life that mission work is done.". That he's practically unheard of is probably evidence of his humility too. Cardinal Dolan makes a strong case for humility being Jesus's favourite virtue in his book Priests for the Third Millenium, it seems we have a pope for our epoch.

He has picked the name Francis, presumably to signify the simplicity for which he will continue to strive in his pontificate. The other thing, however, with which he signalled the style of his pontificate was coming onto the balcony in just a plain cassock. He seems to be saying that this pontificate will concentrate on the acts of faith, the getting out there and getting one's hands dirty and less interested in the liturgical expression of that faith in which his immediate predecessor. Obviously, I think this is magnificent in itself, but I think it's maybe worth tempering it a little. For a Christian the move from the encounter with Jesus at the altar to the encounter with Jesus in our neighbour should be almost superficial, something which only happens on the surface. There's that line in the Tantum Ergo "Faith will tell us Christ is present when our human senses fail", this seems to go as much for seeing Christ in our neighbour as in the Eucharist. The liturgy and the good works should in fact all be one love, a continuum. I am reminded that the rags worn by St Francis were covered with as much beauty and gold as any other medieval cleric while he was serving as deacon in the liturgy. He had no problem giving the finest craft and artistry back to God or with lifting people's minds to heaven through beauty. I'm a little concerned that having been a genuinely humble man all his life, it's now important for him to be seen to be so. I think this may have been at the bottom of the lack of Urbi et Orbi liturgy. Another type of humility would to have seen the Church's liturgical laws governing these things and submitting oneself to them, even though one had the power to change them. Like I say, the evidence suggests that Pope Francis is genuine in his humility, but there is more than one way of looking at these things. There seems to be a potent but quiet charisma to this man. When he asked for silence he got it, when he prayed, the crowd prayed with him. when he smiled, the crowd cheered.

It will be interesting to see who he appoints to the Secretariat of State. This is the key role which up and till now has been filled with the not terribly effective but very nice Cardinal Bertone. It will be his replacements job to flush out the corruption which has set in with the roman curia. If they have any sense a selection of people will be keeping their heads down and behaving in the apostolic palace with this unknown quantity of a pope in play. That he is an outsider from the curia is simply ideal.

The other joy I have is that he is 76. This is not because I think he will die soon so the sacristy can get back to being prettified, it's because the cardinals who elected him probably think of him as a stop gap pope. Like they did when they elected Benedict XVI. Or John XXIII. Stop gap popes seem not to have been what the cardinals expected of late, and I imagine the Almighty has something similar in store for this holy, humble man.

Viva il Papa