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”

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”

Maundy Thursday: The Washing of Feet, Priesthood & an Ecumenical Imperative

Over at Fr Hunwicke’s Mutual Enrichment, the good Father gives us a salutary refresher course in the real meaning of the washing of feet—what he terms the pedilavium in literal translation, but what we more commonly refer to as the Mandatum, the commandment. Or rather, he offers several meanings—for footwashing as a more general symbolic act such as king to his subjects; as a liturgical act within fairly strictly limited parameters such as an abbot with his monks; and (a relative novelty in the liturgical context) as a symbolic act of mercy and welcome to all, especially the marginalized, which is the only way to explain decently his allowing women’s feet to be washed on Maundy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

For what Fr Hunwicke rightly reminds his readers is that in its original context—Jesus at the Last Supper—the washing of feet on Maundy Thursday has a very particular meaning. The Lord Jesus did not wash the feet of his disciples per se, of whom there were many even then, though soon they would mostly melt away till after the Resurrection. Jesus washed the feet of the Twelve, the apostles including Judas Iscariot who Jesus knew was about to betray him (cf John 13). Jesus was in the upper room with his intimate circle, those (save for Judas who was about to break communion) whom he would shortly commission and send forth into the world to preach the Good News and repentance (for this is what the Greek word apostolos means, one who is sent with a message). Continue reading “Maundy Thursday: The Washing of Feet, Priesthood & an Ecumenical Imperative”

Coptic Solidarity during the Triduum

The massacre inflicted in Egypt by Daesh on our Coptic brethren at worship in their churches on Palm Sunday is still fairly fresh in our minds. The first bombing was inside a church at Tanta, on the Nile delta, during the Palm Sunday liturgy, killing 27 and injuring or crippling 78 people. Soon after was a blast at the Coptic pope’s cathedral in Alexandria, again during the liturgy but at the entrance to the church as the bomber had been stopped by police. 17 people were killed, including three police officers, and 48 injured. Pope Tawadros was not injured.

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The aftermath of one of the bombings (Stringer/AFP/Getty image)

Continue reading “Coptic Solidarity during the Triduum”

Clericalism and culture

The perceptive among the regulars here will have noted that I have a mild mania at the moment for a long-time favourite Catholic writer and theologian, Frank Sheed. Recently circumstances have only afforded occasional dips into the charming yet vigorous memoir of Frank and his wife, Maisie Ward, by their author-son, Wilfrid Sheed. Taking a stroll in the 20+˚C sunshine, said memoir in hand, Wilfrid had arrived at the narration of the family’s move, early in World War II, to the United States to found an American outpost of the family publishing concern, Sheed & Ward, but which was to become home for them all. Wilfrid begins this section by explaining the difference between the Catholic Church in England and in the States in the 1940s. It bears extensive, though necessarily selective, quotation here: Continue reading “Clericalism and culture”