A Patron Saint

Before there was St George, there was St Edmund, King, Virgin and Martyr, whose feast falls today. St George was a soldier saint from the region we now call Syria (what little of it remains intact notwithstanding). He was a decent chap and a worthy saint, but he did not become England’s patron saint until the fourteenth century. He was brought back by crusaders and had been favoured under the Norman occupation because he was neither Anglo-Saxon—and thus a potential emblem for resistance among the subjugated English—nor a Norman—and thus likely to be rejected out of hand buy the English. Before him St Edward the Confessor (on whose feast my birthday happily falls) had been widely considered the national patron of England, though even he was not original. The first saint we call the patron of England was St Edmund, the patron of my monastery, and the raison d’ĂŞtre of the great abbey and town of Bury St Edmunds. Continue reading “A Patron Saint”

L’Affaire Weinandy: A Watershed?

In yesterday’s post the subject was Fr Thomas Weinandy OFMCap’s letter to Pope Francis of 31 July, seemingly still unanswered; the release of this letter has been afforded a reception which is gaining momentum. This is for a very good reason: one who was approved by the establishment has broken ranks. Not just anyone, but an eminent theologian who had been head of the US bishops’ own doctrinal commission. One does not need to be Einstein to see in the circumstances surrounding Fr Weinandy’s resignation as theological consultant to the US bishops that the bishops’ conference has thrown him under a bus.

Prepare to see many establishment figures rushing to distance themselves from him. It is an understandable and otherwise laudable Catholic instinct that leads some to see any opposition to a pope as tantamount to blasphemy. Yet some situations are not so clear cut. This is why we must read Fr Weinandy’s letter very carefully; he is no Luther and far more a Newman.

There are two posts you might want to read for an idea of the reaction to Fr Weinandy and some of the points being raised, some of high significance and some not. Continue reading “L’Affaire Weinandy: A Watershed?”

Here I stand; I can do no other.

Whether or not Martin Luther actually uttered the words attributed to him and found in the title of this post, it certainly had become the principal rallying cry for the claims of conscience, equalled only by (the oft-decontextualized use of) Newman’s “I shall drink to conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards”. Both are seen within the context of a challenge to the papacy, be it the brazen hubris of Luther or Newman’s more subtle and nuanced disquiet at the proclamation of papal infallibility at Vatican I.

Both might be seen as applicable to the case of Fr Thomas Weinandy OFMCap and his recently-released letter to Pope Francis regarding the current crisis of authority in the Church. In the preceding link one will find also Fr Weinandy’s explanatory note, which is in many ways perhaps even more arresting than the letter itself. It is important to note that Fr Weinandy is no fringe-dwelling extremist nor some rare and exotic flower in the vineyard of the Lord. He is as mainstream, in the best possible way, a theologian as one can get. Widely-read by students (including myself), 12 years teaching in Oxford and, for some of that time, as chairman of the theology faculty, former head of the US bishops’ doctrine commission. But this is barely to touch upon his eminence as a theologian. Continue reading “Here I stand; I can do no other.”

A Prophet for Today

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Jeremiah weeps over Jerusalem (Horace Vernet, 1844)

Yesterday at Matins the reading was taken from chapter 23 of the book of the prophet Jeremiah. As we read it in 2017 it seems very apposite: Continue reading “A Prophet for Today”

The Adulterous Theologian

Thanks to The Catholic Herald, an article about the long-term adultery with his assistant of the greatest Protestant theologian of the 20th century, Karl Barth, came on screen. It is worth reading, not least for its implications in assessing his corpus of theology.

The author, Mark Galli, notes that Barth’s theology was centred on the knowledge of God through objective revelation rather than subjective experience, the great flaw of 19th century liberal theology that still flourishes today. Yet, Galli discovers in the great man’s personal writings, Barth justified his own adultery precisely on subjective terms, overriding the objective demands of morality and the binding nature of the marriage vows he had freely pronounced. Modern liberals might say he was following his conscience in a difficult situation. It is all the more interesting in light of current Catholic controversies.

In fact Barth was engaging in self-contradictory self-justification. Continue reading “The Adulterous Theologian”

L’Affaire Weinstein: Two Questions

The Harvey Weinstein scandal has been a nauseating fixture in the news over the last week or two, inescapable and distasteful. Nauseating and distasteful in the details of the accusations against him, of sexual misbehaviour and abuse of power on an industrial scale. Yet equally nauseating has been the exponentially-increasing parade of Hollywood identities lining up to throw their stones at the man, rightly or wrongly, now in the stocks of public opinion. Continue reading “L’Affaire Weinstein: Two Questions”

Is there a statistician in the (Catholic) house?

Professor Stephen Bullivant has written recently of the Church of England’s latest set of national statistics. It is a lot to get through and Professor Bullivant pulls out a few points of interest to him. The Executive Summary has some bracing moments (with a little commentary): Continue reading “Is there a statistician in the (Catholic) house?”