cult of mediocrity


Don Reto Nay is a priest of the Swiss Diocese of Chur. I heard of his reputation for preaching the faith with wit and wisdom but without fear or favour long before I met him. He is a scholar and a polyglot of considerable stature but it is as a faithful priest that he is renowned. I first heard of him as the chaplain to the Legion of Mary in Rome from a friend who had assisted in their mission of evangelisation at that time and who was full of inspiring stories about the zeal that had overtaken its members and the moving conversions of many ordinary people to whom they had preached the gospel in the Piazza Navona and elsewhere in Rome. Later (not having remembered the name of this priest) I unknowingly got to know him in person and witness his inspiring work with students and the pro-life movement in Austria. As is inevitably the case when someone preaches the gospel without compromise he has aroused powerful opposition on various occasions. For the last years he has worked as a Parish Priest in Switzerland and pursued his missionary work through the medium of on which he regularly posts powerful sermons (which have been re-posted here on a number of occasions).

All the powers of Hell have once more raised themselves up against Fr Nay, this time because of news’ attacks on the German Bishops for their endorsement of the morning-after pill. It is alleged that these bishops have done no wrong because they only endorse the pill in case of rape when it is not abortifacient. There is no non-abortifacient morning after pill and the necessary professional ultra-sounds and blood tests to ensure it would not harm an already conceived child are most unlikely to occur and may not be entirely reliable. None of these precisions (which anyway are probably fatal to their position) have been made by the German Bishops. news has been robust in its criticism superimposing swastikas on images of the prelates. As St Thomas says (IIaIIae, 33, 4 ad 2) “It must be observed, however, that if the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly” and the staff of are not subjects of the German bishops anyway. The parish council (a body with inappropriately sweeping powers in Switzerland) of Don Reto’s parish have de-selected him as their Parish Priest and the diocesan Bishop has confirmed this. I would ask the readers of this blog (as Sancrucensis has) to pray for this loyal and worthy priest that, while he endures the (inevitable) hatred of the world, he may not be impeded from pursuing his charism of evangelisation.

ChocolateLong-time readers having stated their dissatisfaction  about the increasing seriousness of this blog and the preponderance of hardline doctrinal posts, coupled with the absence of shoe-post and the like – and given that even an unnamed male person did express some concern about the increased ‘blokishness’ of Laodicea – it seems I must try and rectify this to some extent in the future.

So here my first attempt:

Given it is Lent, some of us may – as a side effect – be living more healthily than during the rest of the year. Probably female are more likely than male Catholics to have given up chocolate, sweets and the like, and may be suffering from scruples about their side thought that, in addition to being a good and pious thing to do, this will result in them loosing weight, and thus be partly motivated by vanity. The good news: As I have just heard (as a scientist I should check if there is actually empirical evidence for this, but I am lazy, so I won’t) if you are eating lots of unhealthy, sugary and fatty things for a while, your body becomes unable to absorb all the nutrients of the more healthy stuff you eat. As a consequence, as soon as you cut out these unhealthy things, you may well gain, instead of loose, weight. Which makes your fasting really a spiritual, not a self-seeking thing.

From another perspective, the message would seem to be that the more unhealthy the food you eat, the more you can eat of it. So at the end of Lent…


Some time ago a colleague of mine welcomed a delegation of students from an Arabian country to our city. She was both impressed and bewildered by that encounter: For her, it was fascinating to have first-hand contact with people involved in the Arabian Spring, but talking to them she also felt like encountering an entirely different world. As one of the most bewildering aspects she mentioned those people’s religiosity: not only that they were religious, but also the way they were religious: ‘This is just not comparable to Christianity’, she said, ‘they just thought they were right, and everyone else was wrong. And then their missionary zeal to have everybody believe as they do!’ – What a lowering thought that we have known each other for over a year and a half, and I have not got across to her that that is what we (with better justification) believe as well…


Last weekend I had a conversation with two atheists so far away from both the Church and Protestantism that they base their views on Christianity entirely on secular news coverage. Nevertheless, quite magically, conversation at one point touched ecumenism.They started comparing the situation between Catholics and Protestants in Germany to that of the Christian-Muslim-Jewish conflict in the Near East (‘religious intolerance’), which I strongly denied. Of course, they said, normal people did not think like this, but those in charge in the Catholic Church… This mildly blew a fuse in my irenical mental lookout and made me say that, au contraire, many Catholic priests and bishops in Germany were so intent on ‘ecumenism’ that they were countenancing all sorts of compromises, and sometimes right-out betrayals of Catholic doctrine, that I was often annoyed with it.

It took us several minutes to establish that this was what I actually wanted to say, so great was their disbelief.

I felt quite satisfied afterwards.



In Luke 20:27-40 we receive the fullest account of why the blessed neither marry nor are given in marriage.

And there came to him some of the Sadducees, who deny that there is any resurrection, and they asked him, Saying: Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man’s brother die, having a wife, and he leave no children, that his brother should take her to wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children. And the next took her to wife, and he also died childless. And the third took her. And in like manner all the seven, and they left no children, and died. Last of all the woman died also. In the resurrection therefore, whose wife of them shall she be? For all the seven had her to wife. And Jesus said to them: The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they that shall be accounted worthy of that world, and of the resurrection from the dead, shall neither be married, nor take wives. Neither can they die any more: for they are equal to the angels, and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. Now that the dead rise again, Moses also shewed, at the bush, when he called the Lord, The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; For he is not the God of the dead, but of the living: for all live to him. And some of the scribes answering, said to him: Master, thou hast said well. And after that they durst not ask him any more questions.

God is the living one. Those who would approach him, in this life or the next, must divest themselves of death. Since the Fall marriage has been inextricably tied up with death. Before the Fall all who were born would have been born into grace and eternal life and reproduction existed to make up the number of the elect. After the Fall reproduction is required, as with the beasts, just to keep the human race in existence. All are now born into sin as children of wrath and most die in sin as children of wrath. The elect are born now not from the womb but from the font. All the faithful who are, since that second birth (God willing) no longer children of the world, must strive to live poverty, chastity and obedience so far as it is given them. Whether in the monastery, the presbytery or in the sacrament of marriage they form part of a common struggle to keep unstained our baptismal robe when we appear before the Lord in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and at His return in glory. For the the Christian spouses a necessarily imperfect struggle is made possible by the sacrament of marriage to restore the sanctity of the union of our first parents before the Fall when marriage existed only to beget children of God. For the Monk, engaging in spiritual combat in a state of perfection, life is directed with an undivided heart to the reality which that great sign represents. The priest approaches the Living One in the holy terror of the Mass. With him we stand before that splendid outrage in our common priesthood as children of God and children of the resurrection striving for chastity according to our state.

Even the married faithful need to be willing to separate themselves from each other if fidelity to Christ requires it of them. “And there went great multitudes with him. And turning, he said to them: If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-26). This is not just a negative requirement. The greatest love, even spousal love, respects and recognises that the beloved exists for herself and ultimately for God. In the last sentence of A Grief Observed C. S. Lewis meditates on the moment of his wife’s death quoting the moment at which Dante and Beatrice part at the end of the Divine Comedy: “How wicked it would be, if we could, to call the dead back!  She said not to me but to the chaplain, ‘I am at peace with God.’  She smiled, but not at me.  Poi si torno all, eterna fontana.” ‘Then she turned herself back toward the eternal fountain’. This moment of separation occurs when every religious enters the cloister and for every priest when he steps outside the camp and into the sanctuary of the Living God.

Cardinal O’Brien has sadly wobbled on priestly celibacy. It is of course quite false to say that Divine Law permits priests to marry. Divine Law forbids priests to marry. The Church will not allow priests to marry unless they have first been forever forbidden to exercise their priestly functions. Outside of the Roman Patriarchate other Churches sui iuris allow men who are already married to receive sacred orders up to and including the presbyterate but not the episcopate. In fact, there are regulations, still arguably in force in at least some of these Churches, requiring married priests to abstain from the use of marriage for a certain period prior to the celebration of the Eucharist. The observance of these is naturally difficult for a married priest alone in a parish celebrating the Divine Liturgy every day.

A difficult question arises concerning the status of these provisions. Is the use of marriage by priests (for this is the real issue not marriage as such) permitted by Divine Law but forbidden by the Latin Church as an ascetical discipline; or is the use of marriage forbidden by Divine Law but in such a way that the Church may dispense? We know this second possibility, of dispensing from some precepts of Divine Law, exists in the case of marriage between a baptised and a non-baptised spouse.

What is clear is that both the East and the West hold it to be in some way better for a priest to abstain from the use of marriage. No married man has ever been consecrated to the episcopate. As mentioned, the married priests of e.g. the Byzantine ritual Church have traditionally been required to abstain from the use of marriage before the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.

What makes the question hard to resolve is the fact that respect and enthusiasm for St Paul’s teaching on perfect chastity in  1 Corinthians 7 was so general in the earliest age of the Church that the question of whether perfect continence was required for clergy or just taken for granted seems not to have even arisen. More energy was expended in the second century dealing with those who in their enthusiasm for chastity or because of Gnostic tendencies forbade the use of marriage to the baptised in general.

Nevertheless, there exists direct and implied scriptural grounds for the discipline of priestly celibacy. The most explicit statement is Titus 1:8 where St Paul says that a presbyter or bishop must be continent. It is interesting that just before this, as elsewhere, he insists that he must be the husband of only one wife. This comment has often been misinterpreted by casual readers to indicate precisely that that clerical continence was not required in the Apostolic Church. In fact, it leads to the opposite conclusion. Why would second marriage have been forbidden except because it indicated a person was unable or unwilling to practice the continence the priestly state requires?

There is an incident recorded by the church historian Socrates (who died in the mid-fifth century) that supposedly occurred at the First Council of Nicaea when a famously holy and continent bishop Paphnutius dissuaded the  Council Fathers from imposing continence on the presbyterate. There is considerable dispute over the authenticity of this incident for which Socrates is the earliest authority. Those who uphold it obviously conclude that no such discipline existed earlier than 325. This is often seen a strong argument against the conclusion that priestly celibacy is Apostolic and of Divine Law. Once again this conclusion arises from a reading of the evidence through secular modern lenses. The truly interesting fact about the alleged incident is that the passing of a decree enforcing presbyteral continence was nearly passed on the nod until Paphnutius’s supposed intervention. What this tells us is that even if the story is accurate clerical continence was so widespread that its enforcement in ecclesiastical positive law would have been (but for one highly persuasive and unexpected intervention) uncontroversial.  This strengthens the idea that the practice of clerical continence is of Apostolic origin.

Of course we must conclude that by the time Socrates wrote in Constantinople in the fifth century clerical continence cannot have been universal else his assertion of the story (regardless of its accuracy) would make no sense. In fact, for an orthodox Catholic the origin of the discipline of clerical continence in Divine Law is not a matter of doubt because of the clear teaching on this subject given by Pope Siricius in 385,

Let us come now to the most sacred orders of the clergy, which we find so abused and so disorderly throughout your provinces to the injury of venerable religion that we ought to say in the words of Jeremias: Who will water to my head, or a fountain of tears to my eyes? And I will weep for this people day and night (Jer. 9:1). . . . For we have learned that very many priests and Levites of Christ, after long periods of their consecration, have begotten offspring from their wives as well as by shameful intercourse, and that they defend their crime by this excuse, that in the Old Testament it is read that the faculty of procreating was given to the priests and the ministers.

Whoever that follower of sensual desires is let him tell me now: . . . Why does [the Lord] forewarn those to whom the holies of holies were to be entrusted saying: Be ye holy, because I your Lord God am holy [Lev. 20:7;1 Pet. 1:16]? Why also were the priests ordered to dwell in the temple at a distance from their homes in the year of their turn? Evidently for this reason that they might not be able to practice carnal intercourse with their wives, so that shining with purity of conscience they might offer an acceptable gift to God. . . .

Therefore also the Lord Jesus, when He had enlightened us by His coming, testifies in the Gospel, that he came to fulfill the Law, not to destroy it [Matt. 5:17]. And so He has wished the beauty of the Church, whose spouse He is, to radiate with the splendour of chastity, so that on the day of judgment, when He will have come again, He may be able to find her without spot or wrinkle [Eph. 5:27] as He instituted her through His Apostle. All priests and levites are bound by the indissoluble law of these sanctions, so that from the day of our ordination, we give up both our hearts and our bodies to continence and chastity, provided only that through all things we may please our God in these sacrifices which we daily offer.”But those who are in the flesh,” as the vessel of election says, “cannot please God” [Rom. 8:8].

But those, who contend with an excuse for the forbidden privilege, so as to assert that this has been granted to them by the Old Law, should know that by the authority of the Apostolic See they have been cast out of every ecclesiastical office, which they have used unworthily, nor can they ever touch the sacred mysteries, of which they themselves have deprived themselves so long as they give heed to impure desires. And because existing examples warn us to be on our guard for the future should any bishop, priest, or deacon be found such, which henceforth we do not want, let him now understand that every approach to indulgence is barred through us, because it is necessary that the wounds which are not susceptible to the healing of warm lotions be cut out with a knife. (Denzinger 89)

Two questions remain. First, why did clerical continence become controversial by the end of the fourth century (and de facto optional in e.g. Constantinople) when it was apparently so uncontroversial at the beginning? Secondly, what are we to say of the married clergy of the Eastern Catholic Churches and those ordained after reception from the ‘Church’ ‘of England’ if clerical continence is of Divine Law?

In the answer to the second question lies the answer to the first. All these clergy have in common that they either personally or as Churches have spent significant periods outside of the visible hierarchical structure of the Church. Of the Eastern Catholics only the Italo-Greeks have never been in schism. The Melkites were in a rather confused position for a long time due to Antiochene disapproval/ambiguity towards the Cerularian Schism. The Syro-Malabars were caught up with the Persian Nestorians for geographical rather than theological reasons. Nevertheless, it is clear that all these Churches were, for long periods at least, headed by bishops who resisted the Roman primacy. Marriage is a symbol of the union of Christ and His Church – the Sacramentum Magnum. This union is effected by Sanctifying Grace. As Pope Boniface VIII solemnly taught in Unam Sanctam (1302) outside of the Church, defined by submission to the Roman Pontiff, “there is neither salvation nor the forgiveness of sins”. The reason chastity is superior to marriage is that it orders us more perfectly to the reality, the nuptial union of Christ and the Church, of which marriage is the symbol. Outside the Roman obedience the symbol and the reality both perish. Sanctifying grace cannot be had outside the Church and the indissolubility of marriage and obligatory clerical continence swiftly pass away. It is noticeable that those Eastern Catholics with little or very little history of real schism have the strongest tradition of clerical celibacy. By the end of the fourth century the entire Church had been rocked by the Arian Crisis for nearly seventy years. Many individuals and particular churches had been separated from the See of Rome and the true faith for long periods. The Monks, most famously St Antony, were a notable bulwark of Catholic orthodoxy. St Paul forbade the ordination of those who had been married twice because such could not be expected to maintain the continence of the clerical state. What is a restored schismatic individual or church but one who on the deepest level has been compelled to marry twice: once when he or she was baptised and once agin when restored to communion with Christ’s Vicar on Earth?

The fact that clerical continence, though of Divine Law, is dispensable bears witness to the goodness of marriage. The discipline of liturgical marital abstinence in the Eastern Churches (which requires some renewed emphasis) bears witness to the superiority of continence. The married clergy of the East also remind us of the fact that continence is not uniquely clerical. It is the monk who is the paradigm of the chaste life not the cleric. All the faithful are called to practice poverty, chastity and obedience in spirit and in fact so far as is given to them by grace and providence. For the clergy the fittingness is so intense, because of their proximity to the Holy Sacrifice, that it constitutes a norm that must be dispensed only when pressing pastoral need requires it. In this era when the true nature of marriage is under assault on every side and chastity despised, urgent pastoral need demands that the largest Patriarchate  in the Church the Church of Rome blessed with the Supreme Pastor as its proximate head preserve inviolate the Apostolic tradition of clerical continence and boldly profess the sanctity of virginity, continence and marriage to this corrupted dying age.

Because of this:


Or, more generally speaking, because their programme includes the abolition of Church Tax and Religious Education in state schools. Both would do the Church in Germany no end of good.

Not having been a Catholic when I was at school, I have no first-hand experience of RE lessons, but from all the accounts I have had both of RE lessons themselves, and of the ‘recruitment’ and training of future RE teachers (for some school forms, RE used to be a job guarantee, and much less hassle to study than ‘proper’ subjects like maths, science or languages), the situation seems to be grim indeed.

Moreover, the Church in Germany has too much money. There is probably enough in this topic for a really profound and insightful reflection, but due to restrictions of time and intellectual capacity, I will focus on the example depicted above: The plan for the renovation of a church I know and love. As background information, the church is an 18th cent. building in a region where most churches were built during the concrete-box-stile. Currently, the interior is very pleasant and prayerful in a down-to-earth, unspectacular sort of way: A proper sanctuary with altar steps; a 19th cent. Crucifixion group of average artistic value, with a tabernacle-like looking tabernacle at the foot of the cross; a post-VII lectern and people’s altar, but actually rather tastefully done; a small Marian chapel: somehow a place that feels like a proper church, which both I and several of my friends have liked from the first time entering it.

Now, however, it will be renovated.

I entirely agree that the walls could do with a new layer of paint (they are pink, originally, but now quite greyish). If there are ways to improve heat isolation without wrecking the place, I am also in favour of that. But why, oh why, would one want to rip out everything, at immense cost, to give the above? We are no longer in the 60s or 70s!

The majority of the parish feels more or less the same way as I do, so if they had to rely on our voluntary donations, I do not think they would get anywhere with this concept.

And that is just one, albeit a particularly awful example of how money is wasted. What a shame that Aelianus is right with his reminder to me that we are not to do evil so that good may come from it… I will have to comfort myself with the thought that German secularism will probably embrace the Communist position in this respect in the near future without my active collaboration.

Lot's Wife

+Vincent Nichols has abolished the Soho ‘Gay Masses’ and given the desecrated Church to the ex-Anglican Ordinariate. Hmmm…. one hopes this is not a veiled insult. The Jesuits will take over ‘pastoral care’ of the congregation (but no more Masses). Hmmm….. alcoholics and breweries. These arrangements will take effect from next Lent (one wouldn’t want to rush into the cessation of sacrilege). Damien Thompson welcomes all this but feels sure that the Church’s teaching on homosexuality will ‘evolve’. Like many people with a weak grasp of Catholic doctrine he seems to confuse political conservatism with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The bishops seem to confuse vague centre-leftism with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Still John Smeaton thinks we should welcome the move and he is not over inclined to naivete in regard to the local hierarchy. So I suppose one ought to be gracious. Thank God for the Nuncio. Pray for the Nuncio. The one good thing about the misery of these times (as with our own sins) is that they expose the most important truth upon which we can meditate Sine tuo numine, nihil est in homine, nihil est innoxium. Distrust of the world is the logical corollary of distrust of self. But distrust of self is not enough without trust in God. If the Gospel is not presented to our contemporaries the disgust of many of them with the open sewer of our culture will not be enough to bring about their salvation. “For if I preach the gospel, it is no glory to me: for a necessity lies upon me. For woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel.” It makes it a lot easier to preach the Gospel if the local hierarchy is not repudiating it by their words and deeds. Thank God for the Nuncio. Pray for the Nuncio.

I am not sure what to think about the failed introduction of women ‘bishops’ by the ‘General Synod’. A student announced it to me  the morning after as a wonderful event. My first reaction was to reject this interpretation. I am generally of the view that the more intense the Gadarene enthusiasm of the Anglicans the better. This best exposes the absurdity of the entire institution to its inmates.

I find that most ordinary Englishmen are quite unperturbedly conscious of of the absurdity of the ‘Church’ of England. It is generally assumed (quite correctly) that it is designed to be absurd. Adherence to the ‘Church’ of England is a way of saying ‘I think it is good for a society to have a religion but one shouldn’t take it too seriously or allow it to get in the way of the good things in life’. It has to be absurd in order to allow its adherents to affirm through their membership of the ‘church’ the  unimportance of truth in their religious choices.

St Augustine teaches us “two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self.” Just as the Catholic Church is the gateway to the City of God on this earth so the ‘Church’ of England is the Englishman’s way of expressing the love of self even to the contempt of God. It is important that it is ‘to the point of…’. So long as God does not obstruct more important concerns a good Anglican has no intention of directly expressing or acting upon his contempt for God. By adhering to the ‘Church’ of England he gives notice that – if pushed – he will stand by his principles and wash his hands of the Almighty.

Hence my general view that women ‘bishops’ etc. are good for us all. They underline the basic distinctions in national life and remind us what its all about and who stands for what. Occasionally, however, one thinks that it might be nice if the national hara kiri were postponed a few decades and the exploits of the Anglicans reined in in the hope of delaying  compulsory sodomy and euthanasia etc. until the next half of this century. On reflexion though I think this is a misplaced feeling. It really is kill or cure now. The sooner the swine hurtle off the cliff the faster the patient can recover and sit once more at the feet of Jesus.

Bring on the women ‘bishops’ therefore and may more Vicars have the courage of this fine gentleman to profess their creed before the world!


675 Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.574 The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth575 will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.576

676 The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism,577 especially the “intrinsically perverse” political form of a secular messianism.578

677 The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection.579 The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven.580 God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.581″

The BBC website is leading on the fact that Cardinal Carlo Martini gave an interview just before he died saying that the Church should get with the world and think a bit more (or a lot more) like the world. Wow! And… further shock…. lots of lapsed and liberal ‘Catholics’ agree with him. Errr even from an intra-Catholic perspective this isn’t news. How on earth does it end up as the lead story on the BBC website? The question is rhetorical of course. The world hates the Church because the Church is not of the world just as the world hated Jesus because He is not of the world. The world realises  that the Church wishes to lead as many of the subjects of the world out of this world as she can before it is destroyed and that she does this through the Gospel and the Sacraments which perpetuate the power of the Cross.  St Paul tells us that he did not preach the Gospel with persuasive words of worldly wisdom lest the Cross of Christ be emptied of its power. The world realises that the easiest way to frustrate the work of the Church and of Christ is to convince her children to embrace the wisdom of the world and preach that wisdom instead of the Gospel. They were rather hoping that a future Pope Martini would make this the official policy of the Holy See. He lost, and now they weep over his tomb.  He who marries the spirit of the age is soon widowed.

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