Yesterday’s Junk?

Recently I borrowed a book from our library. If it had been read, it had not been read often. It dated from 1976, an edition under the imprint of Catholic Book Clubs.

A couple of bits of paper fell out as I opened it. Someone’s jottings? A letter or postcard? No; rather they were two flyers inserted by the Catholic Book Club—the sort of stuff that comes by forest-load in the weekend papers.

However, they fascinated me. What a marvellous little slice of social history they comprise. Continue reading “Yesterday’s Junk?”

A Reading from the Prophet Sheed…and a Mystery, and a Musing—All on Sex

I think the title counts as what is called in the cyber world, clickbait. Anyway…

Frank Sheed (1897–1981), the great Australian Catholic publisher, apologist and missionary to England and America, manages the feat of being orthodox without being pious, and of being comprehensive without being complex. He was also, and often, remarkably prescient.

His ecclesial autobiography, The Church and I (Sheed and Ward, 1974), charts his life in relation to the Church, its heroes and villains, its triumphs, and its crises. So what he writes about “The Church and Sex” (chapter 16) still reads as fresh and relevant as it must have back in 1974. I will cobble together some sections below, much as the lectionary often does with its scripture. But whereas the lectionary often does that to pull some punches, my purpose here will be to allow no breathing time between each punch: Continue reading “A Reading from the Prophet Sheed…and a Mystery, and a Musing—All on Sex”

The Near Loss of English Benedictine Hood

The hood is a distinguishing feature of the habit of the English Benedictines. It is detachable, not attached to either scapular or cowl (though centuries ago it was for a time), and is split or open at the front with long draping flaps at the front, affectionately or irritably (it depends on the monk you’re speaking to) known as elephant’s ears, and reaching to point more than halfway down the back (the tippet). It is not practical though it does at least cover the head well enough, unlike the micro-hoods we see on some religious habits today. Continue reading “The Near Loss of English Benedictine Hood”

Further Thoughts on Papal Silence

Recently I made use of Frank Sheed to suggest that the cloud of papal silence over the Amoris Laetitia crisis, and in particular the dubia of i quattro cardinali, might perhaps carry with it a silver lining. In a nutshell, Sheed explained that papal infallibility can be secured by the Holy Spirit in a positive way, definitive teaching for example such as that on Our Lady’s assumption, or in a negative way, in that even the most scandalous of popes were preserved from teaching error ex cathedra. In that case, their silence was at least silver, if not golden. So too now, papal silence might not be as bad as we think.

For we do well to remember that the papacy does not exhaust the teaching authority of the Church. Historically popes have not been doctrinally very active, save as courts of final appeal. The dubia were presented to Pope Francis precisely in his capacity as the final and magisterial arbiter of doctrinal contention. It would be wonderful if he answered them by reaffirming the teaching of Christ.

However his silence is not the end of the world, nor grounds for his deposition as a heretic as some commenters have suggested. Continue reading “Further Thoughts on Papal Silence”

Christian Pacifism May Have a Point

This post will upset some people, most of them from a particular socio-cultural-ecclesial context. However, before they give vent to the full fury of their outrage it is asked that they read this post carefully, and then read it again. Disagreement is expected and constructive argument encouraged. Abuse or vitriol will get short shrift. There is an issue to engage with here, and it is not to be camouflage for arguments ad hominem.

You will recall the atrocities committed against the Coptic Christians on Palm Sunday in Egypt. What may not be so clear in our memory is the Copts’ response. Continue reading “Christian Pacifism May Have a Point”

Cardinals’ Dubia and Papal Silence: The Silver Lining

**NB Some further thoughts can be found here.**

The five questions, or dubia, submitted by Cardinals Caffarra, Burke, Meisner and Brandmüller to Pope Francis regarding his Apostolic Exhortation on family life, Amoris Laetitia, have been mentioned here before. Many commentators have expressed frustration that the pope has yet to answer them. Plain rude, some say. Probably quite a few liberals also would like Pope Francis to answer the dubia, and make the de facto practice in many places de iure: that divorcees who have entered into a subsequent civil remarriage might be allowed to receive Holy Communion.

So far the pope has been silent, and his defenders—not a few of them self-appointed and self-serving—have taken it upon themselves to attack i quattro cardinali, and even to advocate what it is said the pope thinks but has never quite said: that civilly-remarried divorcees should receive Holy Communion, as part of the Church’s “accompaniment” of them. There is a supremely strong case that the Chief Shepherd of the Flock should answer the dubia and clarify once and for all the Church’s teaching. Continue reading “Cardinals’ Dubia and Papal Silence: The Silver Lining”

English Catholic Publishers: An Unexpected Contrast

This little gem from Wilfrid Sheed’s Frankie and Maisie: A Memoir with Parents (1985) is worth sharing, at least for those who might remember these publishing houses, now absorbed into the publishing giant Continuum, and essentially defunct, though not definitively dead. The author is looking back to the 1940s:

Sheed and Ward was one of merely two Catholic [publishing] houses in England, and with its American branch, it was much more dashing than its rival, the semi-official Burns & Oates, which included hair shirts and knotted ropes for self-flagellation in its catalogs (sic)—a far cry from the jokes that filled ours.

Now I am left with a strong hankering to see the catalogues of both these firms from the 1940s. An online search, admittedly a fairly cursory one, yielded nothing useful for Sheed and Ward. The house had its own journal, Sheed and Ward’s Own Trumpet, which may be what Wilfrid is referring to. The price as marked on the cover was “Priceless”. Again, I can find nothing much except library references for it online, and mention of it in a journal article.

Does anybody have anything along these lines? Do let me know if you do, please.

A few weeks ago I wrote to Continuum to ask what archival holdings they have for Sheed and Ward. No answer yet, alas.