Wednesday 29 December 2010

What is Bishop Burns talking about?

The Bishop of Menevia Diocese in Wales gave a sermon at the end of the Year of the Priest in June and now it has been regurgitated to form part of the 2011 Menevia Diocesan Yearbook. H/T to Chris Gillibrand of Catholic Church Conservation.

Apart from the fact that the grammar and syntax is pretty dull, the content itself is appalling. He seems to have lost the plot in terms of theological fact and speaks about 'the priesthood of the laity' in one sentence before stating that: 'there is only one priesthood'. He speaks of 'triumphalism and male domination,' these are, apparently the result of the EF Mass rubrics not being inclusive of Female Altar servers or  the "Ministries" does he mean Extraordinary Ministers, I wonder?

The language used is imprecise, the intention seems to blur the lines between followers of the OF Mass as opposed to followers of the EF Mass. Is this a slick ploy to deflect any allegations of him waging a war of attrition against traditional belief Catholics?

Please judge for yourself......and help those of us who live in the bounds of Menevia by posting are the Bishop's words, verbatim:-

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bishop Tom Burns of the Diocese of Menevia does not get it!

Mass to Celebrate the Closure of the Year of the Priest

HOMILY: In most walks of life, we need back-up: e.g. reaching agreement in a family about some proposal; winning support at work for a new idea; welcoming a helpful word or a shoulder to lean on at a time of crisis; in sport, as in cricket: backing-up at the wicket to prevent an overthrow; and, of course, in the world of computers, making a back-up copy of files gives new meaning to the phrase Jesus saves! In the Church too, the sacraments back-up the living-out of our Christian calling. Indeed, the Eucharist is not just a back-up to something else; it is the very means of receiving the Lord fully into our lives. It is the major part of a priest's ministry, in which he brings the Lord to others. It is the summit of our prayer and worship as priests.

The Ministerial Priesthood functions amid today's frenetic reality. What we are doing today can seem to some a bit out of touch with reality. To some, the Priesthood appears to be a bit remote from the physical and moral difficulties of ordinary lives. Yet, as priests, we are to step into a new space, the space of the Transcendent, of Otherness. For, we are signed by a special character and - conformed to Christ the Priest. We need to see beyond the Priesthood, and delve more deeply into it, because it is our call to Priesthood that has to change people's lives. The transcendent demand needs ratification, so that the Priesthood is recognized as that group of men, anointed by Christ to stand in that daunting space, to gather the rest of God's people around that space, and to underwrite the presence of that holy space as near and accessible to each one of us. This 'other' space will provide a bridge between this world and the next, between what we are and what we shall be. So, by our ordination, we are anointed, to be Christ-like, to bring others to that goal of human history and that focal point to which the desires of humanity aim: Christ himself. We are called to a ministry of preaching and healing, to make people whole again, ready and willing to meet the Lord when he calls, to be there when others need us most. This requires us to develop our inner well-being; our generosity; our selflessness; our desire to give and encourage forgiveness in others by our word and example, and most of all by our generosity of service. We are called to have the strength and courage to contradict the ways of the world.

And to do all this, we cannot do it alone. There is another aspect of priesthood that complements the ordained priesthood. It is the priesthood of the laity. It is the priesthood conferred on all who are baptised. Yet, there is only one priesthood of Christ, within which there is a diversity of kind and function. It is the role of the ministerial priesthood to bring to its full exercise - and to its full expression - the priesthood of the entire body of Christ, in which all share in different degrees. And to remember, every ordained priest comes from among the laity in the first place.

It is difficult to convey what it means to say, for the first time, the words of consecration at Mass, and to realise that it is the first person singular - I - that we are using. It is my voice, my hands, my mind, that are engaged in this tremendous act which is central to the Eucharist, in which Christ is made present through my person. How could anyone in the priesthood ever have abused that anointing deliberately and-repeatedly, not just in a single, one-off moment of immaturity or indiscretion immediately regretted, but by knowing and planning habitually, without remorse or regret, what they were doing?

It's ironic that the Year of the Ordained Priest began as the Year of the Abused Victim. During this past year we have made no excuses; for there are none to make. The lapses and the offences of the few, who make up no more than a half of one percent of all clergy, have sadly damaged also the many. It's been a year when society has called into question the integrity of politicians and their expenses, financiers and their bonuses, and not least of all priests and their assaults on the innocent and vulnerable. All these groups have been guilty of betraying trust. All have been convinced of their own self-righteousness, almost their entitlement to do these things, their conviction that they were doing no wrong.

For priests who offended, I'm not sure that their abuses grew out of the rule of celibacy; abuse happens within otherwise good families too. I'm more convinced that it grew out of the clericalism of the past. That clericalism risks raising its head today among those who again are looking for identity in status, not service. They want to be treated differently. There are those who set high standards of morality for lay people, while they blatantly violate those same standards themselves. There are those who go to extremes to express the Mass in a particular way, whether it is in the Ordinary Form or Extraordinary Form, in a so-called VAT II rite or Tridentine Rile, through the "People's Mass" or the . "Priest's Mass". Some want to put the priest on a pedestal, whilst the people are consigned to be privileged spectators outside the rails. Flamboyant modes of liturgical vestments and rubrical gestures abound. Women are denied all ministries at Mass: doing the Readings, the serving, the Bidding Prayers, and taking Communion to the Sick. To many in our Church and beyond, this comes across as triumphalism and male domination. This clericalism conceals the fact that the Church as an institution has often acted in collusion with what I can only regard as structural sinfulness. It has paid dearly for it and is untrue to its humble Founder, Jesus Christ.

This underlying culture of clericalism has to end and never happen again. In addition, where there have been victims of it, they merit our individual and collective expression of sorrow, without reservation, plus our promise of listening and healing, and our assurance of Support, These are openly given. Accompanying all this is a deeper truth without which life would be just too hard to live. It is the truth that there is a deeper power at work below the surface of our human failings and our uncertainties. The strength of the priesthood, exercised by some 99% of the clergy, lies in the daily sacrifice of self in the service of the Lord, in making him known, in a Church that all of us love and that does so much, good. We can only glimpse a horizon beyond which so little is known this side of eternity. Here, earthy symphonies will always remain unfinished. And we want a priest to ease us out of this world, who anoints and forgives us, to speed us on our journey into the next.

Together, whether you are ministerial priest or baptised priest, you are all called to be a dynamic force in the Church. You, the ordained, have to realise the power for good that you have and thus exercise your God-given gifts. None of you can measure the good that you do. Most of it is hidden. It is rarely publicised, and because of its personal and confidential nature it cannot be shouted from the roof-tops. It is known to the individual who has benefited. It is known to the Lord himself. Whereas everything else can be taken away from you, even your reason can diminish or disappear, no-one can take away your priesthood. You are a priest forever. Cherish that. You, the laity, and us, the ordained, have been given a dynamic force to be Christ and to make Christ present in this world, today and for as long as we are alive. Sometimes we need to pray as Pope John XXIII did one night he knelt by his bedside, tired and frustrated at the end of a long day. He said: "It's your Church, Lord. Get on with it!"   AMEN.

Bishop Tom acknowledges the helpful advice and comments which he obtained as a result of consulting certain individuals and resources in the preparation of this homily, which was given in St. Joseph's Cathedral, Swansea, on the occasion of the Closure Mass for the Year of the Priest' 21st  June 2010.
It would be very interesting to know just who the "certain individuals and resources" mentioned above are. I don't think he has spoken to anyone of a traditional bent.


  1. I think this is what's called a dog's dinner, ie a homily by committee. If you excise the type you've bolded then the the homily makes some kind of coherent sense.
    What's in bold is the gripe of every group pushing for more power whether it be liturgical or women's "rights" in the church; a blatantly liberal agenda that sits at odds with the rest of the homily.
    I think what he meant to advance was clerical humility, laudable in itself, though not often to be found in the E&W hierarchy. Would that it were.
    Trying to be fair, on the OTT liturgical practice it may be that he wanted to stress that the cult of personality and performance has no place in the Mass but felt that he needed, or was advised, to be "inclusive" by mentioning celebration of the EF which, of course, is the antithesis of either.
    It says a number of things: that the Bishop hasn't the confidence in his own judgement and/or was hijacked by liberal advisers, he has little experience of the EF.
    But, whoever wrote the homily, it was signed off by the Bishop and the result is . . . well I leave it to Dickens:" 'Tis awlus a muddle. That’s where I stick. I come to the muddle many times and agen, and I never get beyond it."

  2. Tearing into the local Bishop has become a sad past time for those who consider themselves to be Traditional Catholics.
    The likes of James Preece and his sad band of followers trot off to Mass, only to return to happily stab the local Bishop in the back, doing it on the web of course to raise a cheap laugh.
    If this is an example of what it means to be a traddie, I think I shall give it a miss. All I see is a bunch of arrogant, self centred individual who think they own the church and are way superior to the rest of us including their local ordinary! Bishop Tom may have his failings but I would put him head and shoulders above the traditional Catholics who have criticised him on the web today.

  3. Robert - I don't see any cheap laughs, quite the reverse.

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  4. The sermon almost seems like a draft copy which contains a jumble of ideas and initial thoughts. One or two healthy trips through the editing process would have helped develop a clearer line of argument. Editorial responsibility should have resided with the Bishop: he was the one who delivered the sermon and thus took ownership of the ideas. Why was it published in the Year Book and not left in the more ethereal realms of speech? Presenting something in the public domain is an open invitation to analysis and debate.

  5. Awwwww... Robert is hurt by someone who dared to not put the bishop "on a pedestal" and not let his remarks go unquestioned.


  6. Actually I think Robert has a valid point! I'm looking at St Paul's letter to Timothy about there coming a time when there will be an outward show of religion without a corresponding holiness..I'm examining my own posts with this in mind..I actually agree with much that the good bishop says..but then I'm not a Trad..just Catholic..

  7. I agree wholeheartedly with the Bishop's thinking; as a member of the laity I am disgusted by the child abuse scandal, also priests may like to consider, I am in the frontline of those who defend the Church from the likes of atheists and others who delight in this opportunity, an own goal, to deride the filth as definded by the Holy Father, no laity let us remember? A little less arrogance would be most appropriate, no patronising as to the women members of the church, we have to defend paedophile priests and incompetent bishops, our input may have stopped this disgrace.

  8. The Linacre Institute published an intersting study called "After Asceticism"
    Quote: "The truth is that the deficiencies that caused the scandal were not merely rooted in a few disturbed individuals, but rather, were common deficiencies and aberrations in the religious purpose and intellectual formation of priests dating back to at least the 1950s."

    It suggests that a downplaying of asceticism was a major problem.

    On a different tack: we may not want clericalism but we don't want a clericalised laity either!

    1. It is interesting to compare comments on this thread with those about Fr Finnegan elsewhere on this site. It is not clear to me whether the words in bold have been highlighted by the Diocese or the blogger, presumably the latter. Being no fan of the Tridentine Mass I tend to give the Bishop the benefit of the doubt and say good for him. It is funny how traditionalists often pick and choose like Anglicans e.g we like Pope Benedict but not Pope Francis, or we like parts of what Pope St John Paul said but not other parts. Some even say they will not attend Mass unless it is Tridentine. We used to call that private judgement, but now it seems widespread in the Catholic Church in England - I cannot speak for Wales.