LIBERA ME, Domine, Iesu Christe, ab omnibus iniquitatis meis et universis malis,
fac me tuis semper inhærere mandatis et a te numquam separari permittas. Amen.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Where I'm coming from . . .

I’m slightly bewildered – and perhaps a little amused – by the fact that the most spectacular comments I have received to date have all been in respect of what was actually only intended to be a footnote !

Last Thursday, 22 April, I wrote a little post about serving Mass, and made the comment at the end that ‘for the ladies, I have written this for the gentlemen because that is the perceived norm, particularly in the UK; but if you attend Mass somewhere where women and girls serve, and feel inclined to do so, then the above applies to you as well !’

The subsequent comments have been interesting, and informed, and from resolutely opposite sides of the fence !

One result of the debate has been to make me feel it might be appropriate for me to clarify my own position on this sort of issue.

I am entirely conscious of the fact that the Church sometimes permits things which are (at least) offensive to a substantial percentage of her members; and I am not suggesting that the Church, or even the Holy Father, never makes a mistake.

My approach is this : however much I may personally dislike a particular position, providing that the Church permits it, then I must accept it. I may regret it, I may even – within proper bounds – campaign to have it changed; but I can’t say it’s wrong.

Further, and perhaps more importantly, not only is it a great exercise in humility and charity to accept things you don’t necessarily like – after all, someone presumably does, or it wouldn’t be like that in the first place – but it is also a fact that one can never sin by following the directions of one’s spiritual fathers in matters which are not already defined by the Faith.

So : whether or not I personally like, or agree with, female servers isn’t really the point; they are permitted, so I do nothing wrong by accepting that, whatever my personal views.

Some years ago, I got into a discussion (OK, an argument !) with a very earnest lady who was campaigning for some Church-aligned vegetarian organization; and who was arguing that it was morally wrong to eat meat, fish, or any living thing.

My reply was that as far as I could see she was perfectly entitled to dislike – even disapprove – of eating meat and fish; but that she could not be a genuine Christian and say that it was morally wrong; indeed, to do so was heresy.

For some reason this answer appeared to enrage her to a point where I thought that she might even physically attackme; and she also seemed unable to see my point – which was simply that, as we know that Our Blessed Lord ate meat and fish, it cannot be morally wrong (ie sinful) to do so, as to suggest that is to suggest that He committed sin – which is heretical.

Now; this isn’t actually off topic – because my point is that whatever my personal views are on the subject of female servers, or modern vestments, or the Ordinary Form, they are only my opinion.

Providing I accept that, it seems to me that I retain the right to try and persuade people that they are the right views; but the moment I try to suggest that any position which the Church has accepted is wrong – that is, by implication, morally wrong – then it seems to me that I lose that right, not least because I am probably sinning in all sorts of ways : pride and uncharity not least amongst them.

There are many times when I’m quite outspoken; you may, for example, recently have seen comments I have made on other blogs about the recent appointment of Mr Pope as Deputy Director of the CES : but it seems to me that I have every right to suggest that someone with such a publicly equivocal record on such fundamental Catholic principles as abortion has absolutely no right to put himself forward as a spokesman for the Church; and that if he does the Bishops should instantly – and if necessarily very publicly – dissociate themselves from him.

I hope, on the other hand, that you’ve never seen me, either in a post here or in a comment elsewhere, do more than express an opinion on any matter which is permitted by the Church : simply because I don’t think I have any right to do so. That does not mean, I repeat, that I’m not entitled to comment – even forcefully – and to try and persuade; all I mustn’t do is to suggest that those who disagree with me are actually wrong . . . not least because the humility to accept their opinions as valid, and the charity to endure them, are both virtues of which I am deeply in need !

fr Vincent McNabb OP, the famous English Dominican preacher, always used to end his public addresses for the Catholic Evidence Guild at Hyde Park Corner and Parliament Fields by saying ‘God Bless you all : I humbly beg your pardon’.

I know that I, for one, could benefit greatly from getting that attitude firmly fixed in my soul.


  1. The issue of communion in the hand, altar girls or forward facing altars are not articles of faith, that we must believe in in order to remain good-standing Catholics. Just because they are permitted by whatever reigning Pontiff, doesn't mean they have the stamp of the Holy Spirit upon them. In this regard, one may say they are objectively wrong in accordance with the tradition of the church.

    A good example of this, is the Ottaviani Intervention, a humble but devastating criticism of the Novus Ordo by Cardinal Ottaviani (then retired prefect of the CDF/Holy Office). In it he says:

    "It has always been the case that when a law meant for the good of subjects proves to be on the contrary harmful, those subjects have the right, nay the duty of asking with filial trust for the abrogation of that law."

    One may not ask for the abrogation of something, if it is not objectively wrong or harmful. Nothing is gained by "submission", when the church's tradition is eroded bit by bit. I would even venture to say, God judges us not standing up, when we had the chance.

  2. With respect, you make two statements which are not accurate.

    First, just because something is not in accordance with the tradition of the Church does not mean that it is inherently wrong; and incidentally the matters you mention are not 'permitted by whatever reigning Pontiff' - they have, righly or wrongly, been permitted by several Pontiffs, and approved by a great many bishops and others over quite a number of years.

    Secondly, it is perfectly permissible to ask for the abrogation of any law; so that doing so does not per se imply that the law in question is objectively wrong and harmful.