Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A devilishly good read

Occasionally a Catholic writer comes on to the scene who can captivate readers of all faiths and none.

I have had the privilege of reading a novel called "The Devil's Fairytale" by the little known writer, Greg Stewart. It would be a compelling read for those of any background and would have a positive impact on someone who does not yet know Christ.

The author describes it as follows: It is dark and epic and draws heavily on Grimm’s Fairytales but as the story progresses the reality of a supernatural world unfolds, and then as people takes sides in the developing struggle, a Christian reality slowly shines through, affecting all of the characters in one way or another, There is also a strong pro-life message and an emphasis on the power of sacrifice, friendship and the bond between parents and children.

As one character says towards the end of the book:

‘In all our broken relationships, from our childhood, through to our adult life, from our broken marriages and separated families – and ultimately to the broken relationship we hold with ourselves – not knowing who we are, what we want or where we are going – there is only one true bond that can save us, the bond that is the covenant offered by the eternal love and friendship of Jesus Christ.’

You read this book by clicking: If you know of any publishers who may be interested in this work, please contact me on and I can put you in touch with the author. Alternatively follow the links on the above website and click on ‘back the book’.

"Enemies of the Pope in the Vatican undermine faithful Catholics in China"

I recently attended Mass at a Catholic Church in Shanghai.

Nothing remarkable about that except that like most Catholic Churches in China, things aren’t quite what they may seem. What struck me was that there was a huge, almost lifesize photograph of the Pope with a summary of his life story, alongside a picture of St Peter.
The congregation were English speaking people from many nations and their genuine faith and devotion was evident. During the Eucharistic prayer, however there were the first signs that things were not quite as they should be. The names of the Pope and bishop were missed out. While others went to receive communion, I read the newsletter which contained a touching story about the persecution of Catholics in England under the first Queen Elizabeth, when “faithful Catholics had to keep a low profile and would worship in secret places”. Ironically, this is the situation of many Chinese Catholics today.

The Chinese Catholic Church is sometimes described as being split between the illegal and persecuted 'underground' Church which is loyal to Rome and the official or ‘Patriotic’ church controlled by the communist People’s Republic of China. The Chinese constitution guarantees freedom of religion but there cannot be 'outside interference'. The Papal appointment of bishops is seen to contravene this and so the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPA) was set up in 1957 to do this instead. Pope Pius XII deplored the attitude and activities of the Association and declared as excommunicated the bishops who consecrated new bishops selected by the CPA.

Pope Benedict XVI referred to the agents of the Association as "persons who are not ordained, and sometimes not even baptized", who "control and take decisions concerning important ecclesial questions, including the appointment of Bishops.”At first glance it is simple. The so called ‘Underground Church’ consists of Catholics who won’t compromise and the ‘Patriotic Church’ consists of those who have given into government regulation and interference. In many ways it could be seen as similar to the Church of England under Henry VIII. The government appoints bishops and has the supreme authority but the faith and sacraments are essentially Catholic in that the doctrines – except that of Papal authority – are the same.

Pope Benedict XVI said in May 2007: “the proposal for a Church that is 'independent' of the Holy See, in the religious sphere, is incompatible with Catholic doctrine.” He does not speak of the Patriotic Church or Underground Church but distinguishes between those who accept state control and those who do not. Those who accept state control are under the auspices of a body which is an organ of the communist state and is controlled by a group of people, many of whom are not even Christian.

The situation is complicated by the fact that many bishops appointed by the state subsequently request and often receive Papal recognition. All of these episcopal and priestly ordinations according to a Catholic rite are considered to be valid although the Pope makes it clear that those who do so without Papal mandate or subsequent legitimisation cannot be considered to be Catholic. It is estimated that about 70% of the bishops appointed by the communist Patriotic Association have been subsequently been approved by the Vatican and most visitors to these churches would see them as the local Catholic Churches. Why would Catholics therefore not chose to worship at these churches, something that they can do openly?

Millions of people in China refuse to attend these Masses and do so in secret. Many have been arrested, some imprisoned and others claim to have been tortured. One difficulty seems to be that whilst bishops are often legitimized by the Pope, their subsequent behavior can seem to be schismatic. The Bishop of Beijing was approved by the Vatican and by the Patriotic Association and yet has implied since then, that he sees the church as independent. Literature on sale in the Cathedral bookshop in Beijing describes the Chinese Church as 'independent'.

In Shanghai is a Catholic Cathedral and within the grounds is a flagpole flying the national red and gold flag of the People’s Republic of China. A sign at the Cathedral forbids anyone from taking photographs. One Japanese couple who ignored this had their camera taken from them by force by security. Pictured to the left is a luxurious building describing itself as the Catholic clergy residence which is next to the slightly shabby Shanghai Cathedral. One priest who is in contact with loyal clergy told me that this is basically a bribe to lure into the Catholic Patriotic Association Catholic priests who had previously stayed loyal to the Pope.

In another part of China, I had a conversation with a priest, who for obvious reasons asked to be quoted anonymously. He said that there was a Catholic priest who was originally loyal to the Pope but subsequently decided to join the Patriotic Association. He was rewarded for this by being chosen to be a bishop and consecrated, contrary to Canon Law without Papal approval.
Some years later his appointment as bishop was recognised by the Vatican. I asked this priest, “why do so many people then stay with the underground church when they can worship openly in a church that is not persecuted?’ He replied that many priests and faithful say that while the ‘Vatican’ may recognise that man as a bishop, they see him as a traitor. “He is not our bishop. He has left his flock to gain all the privileges that the state can afford him.”
Surely, a group claiming to be faithful to the Pope, cannot refuse to recognise a man whom the Vatican has now approved? Has the Vatican been misinformed? My contact claimed, "Enemies of the Pope in the Vatican are undermining faithful Catholics in China.” He stressed that Pope Benedict himself loves and cares for the faithful, loyal Catholic community but that he is surrounded by sycophants, career churchmen and people whose love for power appears to exceed their love for Christ. If a power-hungry Vatican diplomat can get the Holy See and China to establish diplomatic relationships then that would make them seem very influential. Perhaps they would receive worldy recognition and perhaps be appointed to high office themselves?

Pope Benedict makes it clear in his Letter to Chinese Catholics: “The present College of Catholic Bishops of China cannot be recognized as an Episcopal Conference by the Apostolic See: the “clandestine” Bishops, those not recognized by the Government but in communion with the Pope, are not part of it; it includes Bishops who are still illegitimate, and it is governed by statutes that contain elements incompatible with Catholic doctrine.” An example of this is that in September 1995, the CPA approved Bishops’ Conference issued a pastoral letter calling for all Catholics to support China’s ‘Platform for the Development of Women’ that includes birth control, sterilization, and the one family-one child policy whereby women who are pregnant after having one child are forced by the Chinese government to abort their unborn babies.
Joseph Kung, the nephew of the brave and saintly, Cardinal Kung travelled with him to the United States after he had been released from years of imprisonment. He is President of the Cardinal Kung Foundation which presents what he sees as the truth about the church in China. He stresses that the persecution of loyal Catholics continues to this day. He points out that many people worldwide hear stories about the Catholic Church in China but do not know that this refers to the communist controlled Patriotic Association. He emphasises the irony of many Catholic missionaries returning to China at the invitation of and operating under the supervision of the communist controlled Patriotic Association but without the permission of the loyal bishops.
The situation is clearly complicated. There are good people who have in conscience made different decisions as to how they live out their faith in China. One Catholic priest in China felt that God was calling him to be a priest and after a great deal of thought and prayer, decided to study at a government approved seminary. He does not like the way the church is run in China (although cannot say this in public) but he does believe that working within the framework of the Chinese Patriotic Association means that he can minister to more people and he does see the Pope as the spiritual head of the church even if he does not appoint the bishops at the moment.
We cannot judge the hearts and motivations of others but we can help the persecuted church. See for more information and let's pray for Catholics in China.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The artful doffer?

My millions of readers globally have been waiting with baited breath for my erudite comments on more pressing issues, i.e. hats.

We all know that the more distinguished gentleman will wear a trilby, but do we know the finer points of etiquette? I have been described as a little unorthodox (in my trilby-wearing) and so will redirect you elsewhere so that you may be educated:

This link gives you important lessons in hat etiquette including the following gems and my comments:
  • I generally remove my hat indoors, although generally not in corridors or elevators or airports or other places where people are moving about. As a general rule, remove your hat before entering the places you'll be seated. [Do people not sit around in airports? I fear that next time I'm about to flee these shores, I may have a crisis of conscience.]
  • A basic rule is on outside. When inside you can leave it on in public areas; off in private ones, off when you sit to eat. [What if one stands to eat? I think we should be told.]
  • The first time you meet a lady, take off you hat. The next time you met her tipping your hat is acceptable. To show particular respect to a specific lady take off your hat the second time you meet her as well. [What if you're not sure if you've met her before? Is a semi-doff permitted?]
  • In a restaurant, use an extra chair. If you have the guts, put it upside down under your own chair. A side note, to keep from forgetting your hat, drop your keys in it when you set it down. [I like the insinuation that real men keep their hats upside down. I do, however, see a flaw in this advice, I might simply forget both and find myself at home sans keys and trilby.]

My favourite comment so far, is this one:

  • My wife better not ever catch me tipping my hat to a strange woman. I mostly do it at church anyway. [This begs certain questions: Firstly, is extra-marital doffing, strictly speaking, sartorial adultery? Secondly, didn't Saint Paul suggest men don't wear hats in church?

Thursday, March 11, 2010


The Asperges is one of my favourite pieces of music and is particularly appropriate during Lent. It is sung outside of Easter time during the sprinkling of the congregation with holy water, as part of an entrance ritual, symbolising the cleansing of the people. The Western (Latin) part of the Catholic Church insists that Gregorian Chant has pride of place in its worship as reaffirmed during the Second Vatican Council.

"You will sprinkle me Lord with hyssop and I will be made clean. You will wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. Have mercy on me God according to your great mercy. [Psalm 51(50)] Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit."

Amazing Grace

This film should be an inspiration to those fighting for justice today. The struggle of William Wilberforce, motivated by his Christian faith, to outlaw slavery has strong parallels with the pro-life movement today. There is hope if we refuse to give up.

Hard as Nails Ministries

Instead of watering down the faith, this hard-hitting movement is bringing thousands of young people to Christ in the United States and beyond. This is just one of the many signs of hope for the church worldwide.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What have the Romans ever done for us?

Quite possibly one of the funniest scenes from the Life of Brian. Classic British comedy. Enjoy.

Traditional Latin Mass

One of the many actions of Pope Benedict XVI that we should always be grateful for his his liberation of the Traditional Latin Mass. No one would expect the Methodists to abolish the beautiful hymns of Wesley, nor Anglicans their choral Evensong. Enjoy what has been described as the most beautiful thing this side of heaven.

Benedict XVI - I Will Survive

A light-hearted celebration of Pope Benedict XVI; a man who has done more to promote peace, support the poor, defend the sancitity of human life and take steps to bring about Christian unity than many of his detractors put together. Ad multos annos!

The Godfather: Baptism Scene

From one of my favourite films of all time. A child is baptised and Satan is renounced by Michael Corleone who has ordered the murder of his enemies. A powerful interplay of good and evil, light and darkness, life and death. Religion without love is meaningless.

The Gentleman Rhymer

I am delighted to report that a gentleman answering to the name of Mr B has managed to combine "rap" music with the Queen's English. If that alone was not sufficient to commend this chap, he wears a dashing trilby hat, a sign of distinction, if ever there was one.

I thirst for you

This is a powerful talk given by Fr Larry Richards that is encouraging and filled with hope. This is a love story that all people can benefit from:

Can I Live?

This is an inspiring song and video from the American comedian, Nick Canon that celebrates life. It is a true story. His mother considered an abortion but in very difficult circumstances chose life. I love the words, "I thank my mother for giving me life." Let us always celebrate and stand up for dignity of every human being.

Word of encouragement: Focus on the positive

People sometimes ask me why I am so positive. Life is not always easy but we should never be discouraged. Why focus on what drags us down when we can focus our energies and attention on what is positive? This is not New Age but is traditional Christianity:

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

Philippians 4: 4-8

Apologia Pro Blogga Nostra

There are hundreds of blogs already in existence, so why another one?

This blog purely exists in order to be a place for me encourage, inspire and amuse. The subjects will be diverse but the tone will always be positive. It may be that you won't share my sense of humour or attitude to life but you are welcome to drop by and comment at any time.