Words of wisdom (not mine, naturally)

Since recovery from the cold/throat infection etc is slow, and the latest papal offering (11,000-odd words) is too long for me to face at the moment, I will plagiarize a little. Consider it a nod to a great tradition.

With all the renewed guff from campaigners for the impossible dream of women’s ordination; and those who seek to minimize the Church’s teaching on abortion, the admission to Communion of remarried divorcees or publicly pro-abortion politicians, or other moral issues, a decades-old reflection from Frank Sheed seems apt. Frank Sheed was an Australian layman who was doing the New Evangelization before it was even a twinkle in a future pope’s eye, a street-corner apologist who was both remarkably faithful to Church teaching and wonderfully clear and direct in its expression; he was the “Sheed” in the great Catholic publishing house Sheed & Ward.

Invariably when dissenters pipe up, they bring up the matter of conscience, usually a rather skewed version of it. So many of them use “conscience” as a pretext for acting for “justice” outside the earthly boundaries of the Catholic Church, even as they profess to be more faithful to God in doing so. Mr Sheed is dealing with sensitive issues, writing at the time of Humanae Vitae in 1968, and admits that there may be occasions when a rightly-formed conscience might move one to reject a particular precept or teaching of the Church (he is speaking mainly of non-dogmatic, non-infallible teachings). Let what Mr Sheed writes sink in:

Following conscience and acting against some Church ruling might mean being deprived of the Blessed Eucharist. And that could mean anguish. It would not be a reason for leaving the Church: the only reason for belonging to it is the belief that it is Christ’s, and it does not cease to be His because its officials have judged wrongly or acted unjustly. The anguish must be borne, must be offered to God. must not turn into bitterness against the authorities. Seeing things as he does, the man has no choice. He must remind himself that the authorities also, seeing things as they do, have no choice… The troubled Catholic’s belief may be right or wrong, but if his love for the people who have barred him from sacraments is not diminished but increased, then he is suffering not only for his belief but for the Church, and his suffering works for its renewal.  (Is it the same Church?, F J Sheed, 1968)

Again it must pointed out that Sheed has in mind here matters of Church discipline and the consequences of its moral teaching. Nevertheless, it is even more apt for those who deny magisterial and dogmatic teachings of the Church. But the principle is clear whatever the case: if you think the Church is wrong, you will only ever be vindicated and the Church changed (should either actually be possible) not by leaving the Church, not by disobedience to her, but by humbly suffering what you see as injustice. That is what “works for its renewal”. And if you are wrong, as chances are you might be, then you have the merit of obedience to your credit. Why is such suffering obedience so crucial? (Think about that word – it comes from crux, “cross”.) Because Christ could have achieved nothing without his own obedience.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.     Philippians 2:8

Has the universe known a greater injustice than that worked on Christ by humanity? Yet he endured it, though he was indisputably in the right. How much more, then, should we, so rarely right, endure our petty little sufferings for his sake.

dali Christ

As St John the Baptist so profoundly taught about Christ,

He must increase, but I must decrease.  John 3:30

Until we fully grasp these truths, I suspect we can never fully be Christians.


29 thoughts on “Words of wisdom (not mine, naturally)

  1. Father, as I gravitate to the Catholic church, my true roots, away from the Episcopal church, which I see taking the direction away from Scriptural doctrine… I am now perplexed by the latest remarks by the Holy Father—I have always believed abortion to be wrong as I myself am adopted—I see society using it more as a means of drastic birth control, the quick fix to a result of living outside the realm of God’s desire.
    I do not believe that homosexuality is a lifestyle that is warranted by God’s Word but a lifestyle counter to such…if those who represent God’s word don’t reflect God’s word on such, then how are the sheep to know the truth vs that of the impostor….
    I often think of St. Francis and his sadness over the corruption in the Church during his time–how he saw it in such disrepair—as God told him to repair the church (bless his heart for his literal take on that 🙂 ) but yet he did not leave the church—he stuck it out–formed a monastic order yes, one that he also saw fall in to disarray, but he never left, he honored God by merely living as he should…..so I suppose I feel a bit conflicted.
    I can’t stay with the Episcopal church as it races toward the acceptance and practice of all that is counter to Holy Scripture. I have looked to the Holy Father to be a voice in the wilderness–one, such a John Paul who spoke of the evil of the Culture of Death that our world is embracing……
    I don’t know Father, I just feel out of step with the way of the world…forgive my rambling, I had just hoped for direction from Rome…now I’m a little confused


    1. Hi Julie. A quick answer.

      First up, try not to get too caught up on the pope. He is not the sum-total of Catholicism. It seems he has brought with him an approach that may have worked in Buenos Aires but is not suited to this vastly different role he now fills. I suspect also he is exasperated by all the division and argument in the Church, and would like us to stop for a moment and remember that our arguments are ultimately undermined if we are not living out the very basic tenets of the gospel we all seek to protect and profess. Perhaps some of the nuance of his message is being lost in translation, but it is not really helpful at the moment, and at times very much unhelpful as he hands secularists and liberals the tools with which to divide yet further the Church within itself and from the world, by construing his words to the Church’s detriment.

      Remember too that popes do not teach, and certainly do not enact change, through letters to the editor or interviews to media outlets. This is not the medium for dogmatic teaching. These are his personal opinions, and while some of them have force and merit, some do not and can safely be ignored.

      Thankfully, as if he were toying with us all, the pope yesterday came out and spoke in unequivocal terms against abortion. Fr Z has a useful little translation of the important bits here. Maybe +Francis is getting a sense now that not all he has said in public has been helpful.

      This is but a hiccup. Take heart; it will not last long!



      1. Put another way, being Catholic is more than being pro-life and pro-traditional marriage (although these are obviously part of the body of Catholic teaching).

        When people find out I’m Catholic, generally all they want to talk about is abortion and homosexuality. Jesus rarely gets a look-in…


      2. Well, you have to deal with people where they are. And if abortion and marriage are issues they identify with Catholicism so be it. Actually, I rejoice in it because it means something of the message is getting through to them. If they are prepared to discuss things, you can then show how these teachings fit into a larger, coherent body of teaching.

        If your interlocutors are already Christian then I would not get too fussed about things not centering totally on Jesus: surely you can take him as given for a while at least.


  2. After half a lifetime defending the Church, being obedient even when every fibre of my being knew things were wrong, my wife and I attended our last Mass on Sunday. We will be attending the Orthodox Divine Liturgy from now on and will be received into the Greek Orthodox Church next Easter.
    All of our six children have grown up and lapsed in spite of all our best efforts and sacrifices. Having taught them the faith meticulously, and then having had to explain (or try) continuously why it was that practically every Mass they ever attended featured contradictions of the Faith the Church holds. Having had to make excuse after excuse for the absolute chasm between teaching and practice. Having been treated like lepers by the Church for holding to what the Church itself teaches, we have finally accepted that actually, if it looks bad, smells bad, and feels bad, then it is bad. We would have held on to the Catholic Church if we could actually have found it.
    I write this with no joy, and with almost disbelief that it is coming to pass. The Catholic Church has become a stranger to itself. It has almost lost all access to it own meaning to the point that it discards the very substance that it’s made from. ‘Why face East, God is everywhere’; ‘Why actually kneel, I’m kneeling in my heart’ etc, etc, etc. They have no idea who they are or where they come from anymore. Chesterton said ‘Man has always lost his way, but modern man has lost his address.’ The Catholic Church has become just another umbrella of modern, secular, utilitarian man. That’s why we can’t actually find, or hold on to it.
    Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi. Our Lord told us that we reap what we sow, and He mentioned something about knowing by the quality of fruit. We finally decided to listen.
    I don’t think you should publish this comment, Father – I would not wish to be a source of scandal to anyone. I love my brothers and sisters, and will never be found openly criticising the Catholic Church in the public sphere. We long for Communion – to belong truly to the ‘whole body’ that we’re called to be. It just simply isn’t there.
    I pray that God blesses you, and us all, and brings us together to everlasting life.


    1. Darren, welcome. And thank you for your coherent and impassioned comment. As you can see, I have published it because it deserves to be read, and also because it says nothing that would give scandal, though it does highlight certain realities that are, and have been for decades, scandalous. What your comment does give is cause for alarm and sadness.

      To start positively, there are far worse refuges than the Orthodox! They have valid and worthy sacraments and ministry, a strong and vigorous sense of tradition, a liturgy of true beauty and a theological tradition of great depth and wisdom. Healing the breach with them is the only breach with separated brethren that can be practicably healed.

      Yet for all that there is a serious problem with the Orthodox that comes immediately to mind. They exist and have developed in schism, in defiance of and even a sort of rebellion from the authority of the Rock. Thus they have institutionalized on a less disruptive scale the inherent weakness of protestantism: fragmentation and self-determination. The Orthodox churches have settled down into national, and often nationalistic, camps. Some of them are united in little more than name. Some of them have more than once anathematized each other. Their vision is narrower, and their evangelistic endeavours far less ambitious and vigorous than the Catholic Church’s. Some of them have at times been little better than ghetto churches. Their theological enquiry has often shied away from the very real issues that humanity has faced, especially in modern times. There is an advantage to this, but there is also a disadvantage, a failure to tackle the world head on with a view to converting it, or at least guiding it on a moral path.

      That churchmen have obscured the truth and the beauty of the Church does not make the Church any less herself, any less the locus of truth and of Christ’s sovereign rule. Those church men and women who have effected or indulged such wounds on the Body of Christ will have to answer for them on the Last Day. Of that I have no doubt. And they should fear, since we know what our Lord said of those who led even one of his little ones astray.

      In the 4th century the Arian heresy had taken such a hold that the number of orthodox bishops in the Church was very much in the minority: more bishops openly professed heresy than those who did not. Yet it was a crisis the Church endured, and not without gain given that the struggle enabled her to clarify and expand the Church’s teaching on Christ.

      God allows crises in the Church, even massive and overwhelming ones, because from them he will bring forth lasting fruit. Of course, that does not make it any easier for us to endure. But we must; it is something like the marriage vows: in sickness or in health, for richer or poorer, in good times and in bad, we remain wed to the Church, and she to us. “He who endures to the end will be saved” – do re-read this little passage from St Matthew as it is exactly relevant.

      Not knowing where you live, I do not know of the options available to you in reasonable proximity. There must be some.

      All that said, I well understand your frustration at the cognitive dissonance in the Church: professing one thing, then as good as giving the lie to it in its actions. Saying that the Eucharistic host is the Body and Blood of Him who died to save us, the Second Person of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, yet treating it like a corn chip – yes that is an example all too universal today.

      But individually we can still witness to the truth in the gentle,wordless preaching of our own actions and steadfastness. Some will see, and will understand. And that is enough to make such endurance worthwhile.

      So I do but ask you to think and pray carefully on these points before swimming the Aegean. Be assured of my prayers.

      Pax semper.


      1. Thank you, Fr. It is a great comfort, always, to know that you are prayed for. Could I also ask, Fr, that you pray for a few others at this time?

        A friend of my mother has just passed away aged 62 – she was pre-deceased, very sadly, by her 3 small children and husband in a fire some years ago; her name is Maureen. Also, a friend’s granddaughter passed away suddenly two weeks ago, aged 18 months (Ruby). My daughter’s friend, Tom, was killed in an accident about ten days ago too. I am also very tempted to ask for your prayers for our old, beloved, faithful dog, Bruce, who passed away on Saturday, leaving us all totally devastated.

        I promise that we will continue to pray over our decision, Fr.

        As for the points to think over, we have spent 18 months very carefully investigating all of the points you mention (and others besides), and are satisfied with what we have found. Being united to Peter, as witnessed to by many Patristic sources, is not what most Catholics believe it to mean, as I’m sure you’re aware. The only thing that has kept us Catholic over all these years has been our understanding of Universal Ecclesiology, but when studying the Father’s, finding that they continually identify every Bishop as Peter, and every Diocese as the ‘Catholic Church’ in its fullness, that alters one’s position considerably. I understand why one man may read the Fathers and come down on the side of Universal Primacy, and another will not, as it is extremely complex and nuanced and not straightforward at all but, considering our experience it is completely reasonable to come to the conclusion we have. As a Benedictine, Fr, you will know the value of experience, and the neglect of this in the philosophically-seduced west. At least I fully understand now why it is that I constantly disagreed with my Catholic Professors and agreed with my Eastern Orthodox Professors when I studied for my M.Th.

        As for Orthodoxy being a good ‘refuge’ and being the only group with whom unity would be possible, I would say the following:

        There are no other choices Fr.

        At risk of sounding offensive, Protestantism is barely even Christianity, and I think that one problem the Orthodox Churches do have currently is that the most vocal adherents at this time are generally converts from Protestantism who actually warp the presentation of the faith in order to justify the decision they made to convert ‘eastward’. And many of them become Orthodox because it’s not Roman Catholicism, and not because they desire to be Orthodox. I think the Catholic Church faces the same problem with disaffected Anglican who are more ‘running from’ than ‘running to’, and Catholicism’s own Protestant converts also ‘protest too much’ and warp the presentation of the Catholic faith.

        Sorry for rambling, I should really shut up now.

        Thanks again, Fr. Your prayers mean a lot, and I’m very grateful for the time you have taken to respond to me, and the counsel you have offered.


      2. Your “ramblings” are always welcome here, have no fear.

        Be assured I shall keep your sad list of intentions in my prayers. That’s a lot to bear at the moment.

        On reading the Fathers, as I am sure you know, one must be careful. They are not all right all of the time. They taught in the early centuries when understanding of the Christian mystery was in flux, mistakes being made and corrected, often violently. Beware, I guess, of anachronistic reading. That goes for the Orthodox today. Most if not all acknowledge a primacy for Peter and his successors. Many have and would still allow the Bishop of Rome a primacy in doctrine, at least as far as the power of veto. They balk mainly at the exercise of the primacy in governance and pragmatic matters. I am simplifying matters but the gist is what matters. The Orthodox do have a concept of papal primacy, though are rather set in the habit of autocephaly now, with all the dangers that has thrown up in history.

        David has rather beaten me to the punch, but it is fitting that it is so since he speaks from experience. Eastern Catholics are often barely distinguishable from their Orthodox counterparts. Their liturgical theology and praxis is Eastern not Latin. They maintain a remarkable uniqueness of identity, and their insertion into the Universal Church founded on Peter rescues them from the worst of ethnic narrowness.

        What is crucial is that they are there for you to explore fully without any paperwork. A Latin-rite Catholic may worship with them without restriction from the outset. Might I suggest you will not have given Mother Church her proper chance until you have explored the eastern rites of the Catholic Church?

        Think about it. And pray about it, as we shall for you.

        Peace upon you.


  3. Hey Darren,

    I do very much appreciate your situation, also having been scandalized by things going on in the Catholic Church, particularly at the local level.

    Have you had any contact with the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church? Although raised in the Roman Rite, I attend a Byzantine Rite parish here in San Diego.

    God bless,



    1. Thank you David. Thank you Fr.

      You make a good points.

      You are absolutely right, Fr, concerning Primacy, and these things have been acknowledged in Catholic/Orthodox dialogue. The Orthodox Church said as much openly in the mid 1800’s when they made their plea for reconsideration of the promulgation on infallibility. The Bishop of Rome is Peter of all Peters, but, as you point out, what that actually ‘means’ is another matter.

      The first thing we did is think and pray deeply about how we can stay both practically and in good conscience and remain Latin Rite Catholics. We love the traditional liturgy, and attend it regularly, although we have to travel to England (we live in Wales) to do so. It is a 60 mile round trip for us, and we have to pay to get back into our own country to add insult to injury!

      We concluded that it is not a solution because it is no kind of Communion. We’re like a very small band of recusants, barely tolerated by the ‘bishops’ (I’ve yet to come across one who I’d entrust with the care of my goldfish, never mind my soul), and so different to other Catholics that we can hardly communicate. I think this is probably summed up pretty well by the difference in physical posture assumed at the two Rites: we are, literally going in opposite directions. We cannot hide away at a weekly Tridentine and pretend that the whole Church is like this – it’s absolutely not. It’s just about as far from ‘catholic’ as you can get. (Do you celebrate ad orientem, Fr? If not, why not?)

      The same would be true of attending an Eastern Rite Liturgy, which we have looked into. On a practical level, again, we’d have to leave the country to attend our nearest, but this time the round trip would be over 100 miles. There is still the question of real Communion in the same sense as above, and my experience of speaking to Eastern Rite Catholics is that they feel almost the same as Latin Traditionalists. They seem to be very wary – even quite hostile at times – of/to Latinism. They feel that Rome, in spite of stating that they must guard, and even re-discover their ‘eastern-ness’, acts completely contrary to this and is trying to slowly Latinize them to oblivion. This then leads to suspicion of refugees like us bringing our Latin ways – the Rosary creeps in etc. More than half of those I’ve spoken to who went from Latin to Eastern Rite have either now gone over to Orthodoxy or are on their way. It would be interesting, David, to hear of your own experiences.

      We have been down every alley, ransacked it, turned around and ransacked it again to try to find even the slightest thing to hang onto and there is nothing – literally, nothing. Show me where the Church is, please do. Our Archbishop couldn’t give a damn about the Liturgy, or about twisting Blessed JPII’s words on Our Lady in order to make the Anglicans feel warm and comfy. He doesn’t care that the local Priest will not allow a single word of Latin, or a hymn composed after 1970, or that the local nuns are running around in hot pants, but if there’s a priest who thinks making the sign of peace should be left out for the sake of good order, he gets moved out of the Diocese.

      He’s not bothered that since Pope Francis became the ‘do whatever you like’ Pope, that the priest in the next town now has the congregation saying his parts of the Mass along with him, and that he now has ‘dialogue sermons’ not homilies. I see Fr. Ray Blake’s ‘bishop’, Conry has given ACTA permission to operate in his Diocese and use Church property to conduct their anti-Catholic meetings – quick enough to distance himself from Fr. Blake, though, wasn’t he?

      Now, I realise, quite rightly in a sense, that you will take my statement about Pope Francis above and point out that this is based on a false reception by these abusive priests of what Francis actually says/does. And that after his ‘foot-washing’ escapade, which we all, quite rightly, thought would open the doors for an avalanche of liturgical abuse, Conferences came out and declared that he could do it because he’s Pope, but nobody else can, which, presumably was supposed to put us who were worried at ease, and inform those who planned abuse thereafter that they were prohibited from doing so – but was it as simple as that? The thing that really bothered me was not that he actually did it as Pope, it was the fact that he’d been doing it for years and just continued to do so after being elected. A liturgical abuser was elected Pope – what happens then?

      The SSPX are criticised time and again for talking about ‘Eternal Rome’ and the ‘Rome of Tradition’ as opposed to the ‘current captivity’. Venerable Pius XII is continually quoted as a counter to this in his statements about the Church as a visible structure. I believe Pius XII is right, and the SSPX are wrong, and yet, I cannot ‘find’ the Church. Do I find it in those ‘successors of the Apostles’ mentioned above? I’m sorry, but I couldn’t locate it in/with them with both hands, a map and my own private Sherpa.

      If you can show me the Church, please do.

      Thanks again to both of you. I do appreciate your concern.


      1. Hello Darren!

        So you are in Wales. I see. This does make things tough as it is something of a Catholic desert. All your travels to get to Mass are meritorious in themselves and should not be seen only as a hurdle or obstacle, but as a personal sacrifice that adds value to your participation in the Sacrifice.

        Where is the Church? I well understand the question and why you ask it. Nevertheless my answer may sound glib. But the Church is where Peter is. Christ built his Church on the rock that is Petrus, and it is this Church only (for there is only one of course) that Christ has promised hell can never overcome nor prevail against.

        However, hell may sometimes assail the rock-founded Church in furious violence, be it physical, doctrinal, or moral. Its beams will creak, windows shatter, and she may become infested by roaches or fleas or vermin. She may have few within her or many at any one time. The leaders of the household might squander her resources or fail to repair damage and fail to shore up against future storms.

        But she will always stand. Always. Though Peter be weak, even he will not fail because he is Petrus only because Christ is the underlying Petrus. Peter is not the Church, but the Church can never be separate from him nor he from her. Popes are not guaranteed against failure (though they are against definitive error), and even if they fail they are still popes, still Peter, and Christ will not let hell prevail over them, however much it batter them.

        Christ did not guarantee that hell would not hold sway over a room or two in the Church, for a time. But even when encamped within, the Devil cannot win. He can merely cause chaos and try to separate as many from Peter, and from Christ, as he can before he is repulsed yet again.

        We do not have to like our Petrus, or approve his style or methods. We can even reprove him where appropriate. But we must stick by him. If we cannot do that, we cannot rightly expect Christ to stand by us.

        To abide in a vermin-infested, battered Church without running off in despair is indeed a cross. We are called to carry the cross. We don’t get to choose what sort of cross we carry. That makes it all the more burdensome.

        But he who perseveres to the end will be saved. It is a promise from Christ, and so 100% sure.

        The bell has gone so I must dash.

        Courage and peace.


      2. Hey Darren,

        I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but within my parish we have a large chunk brought up Byzantine Catholic, a good number of Romans like myself, as well as a good number of converts from Protestant congregations.

        Although my experience is limited, I have not encountered the issues you raised concerning “Latinization”. I partially attribute this to the decree on the Eastern Rites from Vatican II (Orientalium Ecclesiarum). I’m guessing you’ve probably read this conciliar document already, but if not, it’s worth a look since it spells out very clearly that the Eastern Churches should remain just that, Eastern! The Council tells the Eastern Rites to retain their religious patrimony and traditions and, where they’ve lost their heritage, they should make every effort to restore it.

        I would suggest that “Latinzation” often doesn’t come from the “top-down”, but from the “bottom-up”, Eastern Catholics adopting Western practices either in an attempt to fit in with their more numerous Roman neighbours, or as a result of attending a Roman Rite parish for some time while staying in an area without an Eastern Rite home. I recall hearing an episode of “Ancient Faith Radio” where something similar was suggested.

        Eastern Catholics are very proud of their heritage, since it is an ancient one, equal in dignity with that of the West, as Vatican II taught. When I attend the liturgy I wear a komboskini, but typically also have a rosary on me as well. I’ve probably had about 40-50 of my Roman Rite friends visit my parish. Several of my Eastern brethren (including myself) often visit a Roman parish in order to “breath with the other lung”.

        God bless,



      3. I wanted to close with something that one of my friends recently said to me: “You know David, I don’t think I’ll ever join [the local FSSP parish] or [your Eastern Rite parish]. Even though it drives me nuts sometimes, I’m sticking with the Norvus Ordo. Someone has to stick around and help sort things out…”


  4. Hi David.
    Thanks for that – it’s very interesting to hear your own experiences, and I’m glad that things are so positive for you.

    It does beg the question, does it not, that if the Church is so concerned that the Eastern Rite protect and even rediscover her own traditions etc, why it is that it is so hell bent on destroying the Latin patrimony.

    As for your friend’s comment: I appreciate the sentiment he expresses, and even admire it to some degree, but the Novus Ordo, as I mentioned above, is not just another ‘option’, it literally leads elsewhere.

    When Pope Benedict talked of cross-pollination of the two Rites, I’m afraid that, although his intentions were entirely good, it was utterly flawed at root. As Benedict himself wrote concerning the liturgy, something went seriously wrong in the wake of Vatican II, but you can’t just liberate the Tridentine Rite and expect this ‘Jurrasic Park’ style hybrid of the two to appear. There is no ‘missing link’, there is just simply one and the other and they are different in more than just form. The upshot of this will be that you and your friend are going to hold to two different religions, whether that overtly presents itself in your lifetimes or that of your children.

    We are called to be Icons of Christ, as you will know, and this means, literally, to be the external image of the internal disposition. The Novus Ordo priest has turned around. The rubrics do not instruct it – in fact they seem to assume the exact opposite, and yet there he is, a complete about-face. If he turns back, the majority will be horrified that he has ‘turned his back on them’ – which means they have changed in accord with his own alteration, of course – it cannot be any other way. After a century of this, what do people who worship that way think or believe? What access will they have to their fathers who came before them? They have already become strangers to themselves after 50 years – what about another 50? You and your friend are headed in different directions, and every year you will have travelled further apart. Show me how you pray and I’ll tell you what you believe. Lex orandi, lex credendi. The Catholic Church is heading the way of Anglicanism – a ‘Communion’ which has no communion whatsoever between its irreconcilable factions; a patchwork of ‘religions’ joined together by mutual rejection and contempt. It’s a disaster.

    I totally agree with Fr Hugh about clinging to the Rock, and about the endurance and ‘one-ness’ of the Church, and that is precisely why I now disagree about where this Rock and Church are to be located. It is the picture of shifting sands. Have you ever stopped to think, David – worshipping in the tradition you do – what it actually means having to be instructed by which hermeneutic you are to interpret ‘the Church’?

    I really do hope that this doesn’t sound dismissive, or a flat rejection of the help and encouragement you are taking the time to offer. I am extremely grateful for the prayers, advice and good wishes of you both. Thanks again, and God bless you.


    1. Hey Darren,

      Although these are sensitive issues, they’re also important ones and it’s inevitable (particularly over the Internet) that things will come out a little blunt. Don’t worry, I’m not easily offended, I’m an Englishman living in America! Likewise, Fr. Hugh is an Australian living in England! If we were easily offended we would not be able to live where we do… 😉

      I’m not quite sure what you mean about “…having to be instructed by which hermeneutic you are to interpret ‘the Church'”. I would just say that from Ignatius of Antioch and Cyprian of Carthage I know that I must cling to my Bishop and the chair of Peter.

      You asked why there is a conservation effort going on with regards to the East while the West falls apart. I would suggest that this is simply an outworking of something fairly common throughout Church history: the Church doesn’t live up to her own teaching. As you point out, the Norvus Ordo text does seem to imply that the priest and people are facing the same direction.

      You described Pope Francis as a “liturgical abuser”. As I’m sure you know from history, we’ve had far worse crimes than that committed within the Papal household! However, as destructive as these things have been, no sin can abrogate the promises of Christ.

      Although I no longer regularly attend the Norvus Ordo, I don’t distain it. After all, it was the Eucharistic Liturgy that I attended for thirty years. I have seen the Norvus Ordo done well and I’ve seen it done badly. It was the liturgy prayed by Mother Theresa; if it can make her a Saint then I guess there’s hope for me too.

      I do take slight umbrage with the assertion that my friend and I “are going to hold to two different religions”. No. Same faith, different expression. This is why I have invited so many of my friends to the Divine Liturgy so that they can be exposed to the East, to recognize both the diversity and unity between East and West. I’m trying to follow the Pope’s lead on this (as well as his recent predecessors). To quote an (unknown) Orthodox Bishop around the time of the Council of Florence: “[The Church is divided] because our love for one another has grown cold”.

      God bless,



      1. I was just looking into going on a retreat with some Chaldean Rite Catholics and I came across this page which talks about the reform to the Chaldean liturgy which I think is pertinent to our discussion concerning “Latinization”:

        “A Reform was needed to “clean up” what was sloppy while keeping all that was of value. This is especially the case with “Latinizations,” or things added or changed in the Mass simply as an imitation of the Latin Rite, which can be contradictory to the flow and meaning of the Chaldean liturgical structure.”


      2. This seems to be the Chaldean version of the concept of organic development of the liturgy, that liturgy grows like a living being, building on what is present, not introducing foreign elements suddenly and recklessly to suit a modern fad or fashion.

        The Chaldean brethren would be right to purge their rite of any latinization that is obviously antipathetic to their approach. Let them learn from the mistakes of the latins themselves! We didn’t introduce foreign elements from other rites; rather we introduced rationalism and the world.



  5. As the way outsider here, I read Darren’s painful but very prayerful and heartfelt decision to leave the Catholic Church in order to join the Eastern Orthodox Church with equal interest and great empathy.
    I too have explored the move “East” having read the myriad of books by Kallistos Ware and Anthony Bloom as well as the American Frederica Matthews. Living where we do I really thought there was no chance of attending Eastern services but I did manage to find a small orthodox church within 30 minutes from my home. The Church is of the Armenian branch, what difference that makes I do not know, as the “priest” was a former Presbyterian minister. Many of the members of the congregation were indeed converts from one denomination or another…. with the family I sat by being former Episcopalians such as myself. I found the service familiar and yet very unfamiliar all at the same time.
    I think what has drawn me to looking towards the East, as it were, has been the deep committed faith I have seen demonstrated by so many Orthodox. They seem to possess such a deep commitment, a deeper spirituality which is something I miss within our western churches. The orthodox seem to take their faith so much more seriously than those of us in the Western church. Now I know that is a very broad blanketing statement but it is just my humble observation. The deep historical roots of the Orthodox church seem also to be embraced—in the West the same historical roots are often looked upon as things that are archaic and can only be improved upon rather than treasured.
    I wish those Powers that be within the West would look at the slow leak of the faithful who are indeed streaming East and address what it is many of the faithful seem to be yearning for…
    When ancient doctrine seems no longer to be relevant in our modern lives we seem to think that it is ok to simply dismiss it or rewrite it. That is so far from what we should be doing.
    I want my church to hold fast to its original historical doctrines and creeds and not yield to the modern masses by taking a route of appeasement. There are tenants and truths set forth by Jesus, then built upon by the early church fathers (ie Paul and Peter as well as the other early apostles)—which reside within our faith for a reason
    I understand Darren’s frustration and heartache. I also appreciate Father your “calling” to help lead those sheep who happen upon your blog for a little guidance—of which I am one who is most grateful.
    Prays to be said for Darren’s stricken friends and loved ones in their time of sorrow, as well as for Darren and his wife’s own spiritual heartache as I continue to wrestle with my own–
    Forgive my ramblings and butting in as it were but I had to jump in as this has been a counter weight in my own life going back and forth between East and West….


    1. Thank you for your prayers, Julie – they are deeply appreciated. Be assured of ours on your own journey.
      I couldn’t agree more with what you have to say.

      God bless you.


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