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Two news events that US and UK Catholics haven't noticed

Just briefly, I want to draw the attention of concerned Catholics to two international news events whose timing (last Sunday and Monday, right at the end of the Rome Synod on the Family) is especially poignant.

First, after years of dispute the Italian Council of State decided on Monday to quash court decisions that had allowed left-wing mayors in Italy to keep public registers of so-called "gay marriages". The Council of State, fresh from reading the final Relatio of the Synod, no doubt, announced on Monday that gay marriages are against human rights because they do not take into account the need to treat different groups equally but differently, hence marriage is for men and women but not for homosexuals.

Tuesday's Corriere della Serra seemed relieved and approving about this. They mentioned that 13 countries in the EU have either gay marriage or civil unions, and 9 (including Italy) have no special provision at all. So that, now, is the definitive position of Italy, b…

The Pope is inhumanely busy

I have been visiting various people in the Roman curia recently. They seem to have an interesting working week. They start quite early, but finish about 1pm for lunch, then pop in to pick up their coats around 4 or 5, before going home at about 6. The only afternoon they work is a Tuesday.

But there is one man who doesn't follow this Roman rhythm, and that is the Holy Father.

After the exhausting synod, which only finished on Sunday, the Pope had already managed by yesterday night to have held Masses and meetings with the Syrian Chaldeans (to whom he gave support in their time of trial), a conference of Army Chaplains (whom he reminded about the need for peace) and an enormous multitude of thousands of gypsies/travelers, many of them Irish.

I bought today's Avvenire to see what he said to them, and it is very interesting. He told them that of course society needed to fight prejudice against them. But he also said: enough is enough! There have been too many tragedies with your …

The Synod's Final Word

Just been reading the FINAL document from the Synod on the Family (out this evening), and it seems to be rather interesting and sensible. No revolution on doctrine, just being aware of changing priorities. On the doctrinal front, the teaching of Paul VI and John Paul II is amply referred to. The indissolubility of marriage is mentioned, with quotes from scripture. On homosexuality, the Synod quotes Benedict XVI and especially warns that individual local churches should not give in to government pressure to accept the notion of 'marriage' for those of the same sex. They also underline the scandal of international aid being linked to the adoption of such laws in African countries. It is in Italian and will probably not be translated: http://press.vatican.va/…/pubbli…/2015/10/24/0816/01825.html
There is some (perhaps deliberate) obfuscation in the paragraphs about pastoral care of the divorced and remarried ... but the idea of somehow devolving key areas of doctrinal…

Saturday in Rome

My bedroom window (in a cheap little hotel near the main station) overlooks the Baths of Diocletian, the largest bath complex ever built, ranging over 32 acres. Apparently it was restored in the beginning of the 6th century under the pontificate of Pope Symmachus and the reign of King Theoderic.
Pope Symmachus was the last pagan convert to become Pope.

So I went and had a look. It was a Charterhouse full of monks for a few generations. Part of it is now a beautiful, light and airy basilica, designed about 400 years ago. Lots of Roman tombstones, milestones, columns and headless statues from around the city. And an art exhibition of Henry Moore which I wasn't prepared to pay 13 euros for.

Then I strolled up to the Victor Emmanuel monument (the 'wedding cake') and decided to climb all the steps. There is a 'sacrum' as in the ancient legion camps in the Roman army. It houses all the tattered flags of the various regiments of the Italian armed forces in reverential …

Much ado about nothing

This animation from a Chavagnes outdoor production of Much Ado About Nothing seemed strangely appropriate to this week's ecclesiastical events ...

If you are looking for miracles, and other funny things in Rome

Popped into San Lorenzo in Damaso today (on the Corso Vittorio), thinking there was a Mass on. I had got the time wrong so went out again; but as I was leaving, I spotted two intriguing angels above the door with an invitation not to be missed: Si quaeris miracula ... "if you are looking for miracles". So I went back inside and asked for several.

There is, it seems, a 13th century prayer to St Anthony, especially enjoined for those trying to find something lost.

in Latin, it runs:

Si quaeris miracula/Mors, error calamitas/Daemon, lepra fugiunt/Aegri surgunt sani. 

Here is an English translation: 


If, then, thou seekest miracles,
Death, error, all calamities,
The leprosy and demons flee,
The sick, by him made whole, arise.

The sea withdraws and fetters break,
And withered limbs he doth restore,
While treasures lost are found again,
When young or old his help implore.

All dangers vanish from our path,
Our direst needs do quickly flee:
Let those who know repeat the theme:
Let…

The italians may be like naughty boys, but their bishops know how to deal with them

Interesting how the Italian bishops come out of this synod as holding the line on Christian morality.

There is a sense in which the Italians know so much about sin that they have no illusions about it.

There are about six different kinds of policemen here (perhaps more), all with different, super-stylish, uniforms. There is even a special police force, with guns, for tax evasion. There is no smoke without fire: Italians obviously need an awful lot of policing ...

The Termini railway station is full of beautiful photos of women in revealing underwear. (Even if the women in the streets are less elegant than their Parisian counterparts, I feel.)

But then there are Italian men. La bella figura runs deep here. A good portion of Italian men must lose ten hours out of their working week on looking after their appearance; Rome is full of posters, on every street corner, listing the reasons to oppose gay marriage and adoption (they are the single most common poster in Rome this week), and yet …

In Rome, on business ...

The Synod is ending here in Rome. Spoke to some African synod fathers today. Atmosphere upbeat, I feel; but that may be because it has stopped raining and the bishops are tired and just want to go to home.

Popped into the Libreria Editrice Vaticana today. I see that the Pontifical Council for the Family brought out a whole list of very large books on the family, in Italian, in time for the synod. You can't get them in English. They include a 3546-page Enchiridion of magisterial teaching on family and life issues from 1439 to the Present Day. http://www.libreriaeditricevaticana.va/…/enchiridion-della-…

Which explains why the Italian bishops have been so incredibly well-informed during the Synod (it came out on the first day and I guess they have been able to skim through it during coffee breaks). It's all good stuff; good of the Pontifical Council for the Family to do all that work. One wonders how many copies have sold though ...

Romans 1:26-32 anyone? Come to min…

When we know what we've got to do ...

I prayed, and understanding was given me;
I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me.
I esteemed her more than sceptres and thrones;
compared with her, I held riches as nothing.


That was the first reading at Mass yesterday morning, and the Fathers at the Synod in Rome must have been moved by it. Just like the previous Sunday, when the Gospel contained Jesus' clear condemnation of adultery, this week's readings will certainly speak to the heart, but in a different way.
The Gospel yesterday, from St Mark, tells the tale of the devout young Jewish man who wants to know how to gain eternal life in Heaven. Jesus' answer is about respect for the moral law: the ten commandments. And then when the young man says that he follows them all, but still desires to serve God better, Jesus asks him to go a step further and give away all his wealth.

St John Paul II used the same story, but in the version from St Matthew's Gospel, in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor. He uses the…

Cautious optimism called for: Common ground and common sense at the synod.

Having just read the reports of all the different languages groups for Day 5 of the Synod, this is my overall impression of what all the bishops are saying. It is good stuff, and, for a change, is not pointing the finger at the world; rather, encouraging the Church to do what is necessary in order to preach the authentic mesage of Christ.

1. There should be less Eurocentrism. One can see that the bishops from outside Europe are staggered at the European bishops' myopic vision.
2. We need more teaching on the centrality of the family; and the Italian bishops underline that this should explicitly mention that it is about a MAN and a WOMAN.
3. A "clear magisterial intervention" is needed to clear up the confusion which has been cause by the synodal process. Although Cardinal Tagle has explained there will not necessarily be a post-synodal exhortation, it seeems that most bishops think one is necessary.
4. The Chuch needs to do more to support families who are doing well, th…

Could this be the storm before the calm?

"We can talk a lot about God, and in the end, do so without faith", said Cardinal Mueller a couple of weeks before last year’s Synod on the Family in Rome.  And now, a year later, and another Synod about to happen, I am thinking it is the most sensible observation I've noted out of all the soundbites over the last twelve months on those subjects of divorce and homosexual relationships.

And now a Monsignor from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has just planted a kind of philosophical bomb in the Synod Hall by calling a press conference to tell the world that he has a live-in boyfriend, and that all priests would if they could ...

It is precisely the kind of happening that could discourage us all into a kind of paralysis or even indifference, at least towards any news or pronouncements from Rome. We know our Faith. Wouldn’t it be much easier if we just ignored the news from the Vatican?

In a sense, this is a salutary truth. We do know our Faith. And we should…