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Mgr Graham Leonard RIP

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Mgr Graham Leonard, the former Anglican Bishop of London, who was received into the Catholic Church in 1994, has died.

My colleague, Damian Thompson, comments:

Mgr Leonard, 87, was a formidable and dignified champion of the Anglo-Catholic cause in the Church of England; when he converted to Catholicism after the vote to ordain women priests, he was ordained priest conditionally, having persuaded the Vatican that he might already possess valid orders by virtue of an Old Catholic apostolic succession.

Mgr Leonard had originally hoped that he could bring with him Anglican priests and faithful who could worship together after their reception; as it turned out, the time was not yet ripe. But it is now. The Ordinariate scheme, currently taking shape, will be a fitting memorial to this inspiring priest.

I was once had the privilege of hearing him preach. His homily sounded like something Newman might have preached: it was literate, beautiful and deeply theological. He will be missed.

Written by Luke Coppen

January 6, 2010 at 1:30 pm

What’s in The Catholic Herald this week

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In this week’s paper we report on the clash between Harriet Harman and the bishops of England and Wales over the Equality Bill, the installation of the popular new Archbishop of Birmingham and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor’s decision to reject a seat in the House of Lords.

We also interview the son of St Gianna Beretta Molla, publish a robust defence of Anglo-Catholic “patrimony” and present a forceful appeal for a sharper divide between the roles of clergy and lay people.

This is just a hint of what’s in the paper. To get the whole story, you may like to pick up a copy (at the back of churches in Britain and Ireland) or subscribe.

Archbishop Longley takes charge of Birmingham archdiocese

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Photo: Archbishop Longley at the installation Mass (Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk)

Archbishop Bernard Longley was installed in Birmingham yesterday, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. His homily can be downloaded as a PDF here.

He said:

Our Patronal Feast of the Immaculate Conception makes us aware of the power of Christ at work within us, as individuals and as communities, even – and perhaps with most effect, most fruitfully – when we are least aware of it. As Catholics we believe that our Lady was herself held free from sin and from the influence of original sin, from the first moment of her life, through the saving merits of her own Son, Jesus Christ. Her closeness to God is the first fruit of redemption and it eventually enabled her to recognise and welcome the hand of God directing the course of her life. Yet the most important moment of grace in Mary’s life occurred when she was as yet incapable of sensing or recognising it, still less understanding its importance.

It is often the same with us. Most of us were baptised as babies: the pattern of and potential for our lives of faith was established when we could never have understood or appreciated it. Only later in life we become grateful for what our parents and god-parents did for us and actively live the life of faith we received through their commitment to Christ and to us. Moments of grace often catch us unawares and it is only when we stop and reflect that we can appreciate their significance in the pattern of our lives.

Mary was prayerful and reflected on life’s experiences: she pondered these things in her heart. No doubt, as the life of her Son unfolded before her, she looked back and understood the meaning of what she had seen and heard and felt. St Luke does not disguise the fact that our Lady, even though she was full of grace, was deeply disturbed by the angel’s words. The natural, human reaction of bewilderment and astonishment at something so powerful caused her to face it and accept it. Mary had two moments of amazement: first that she was chosen: Rejoice, so highly favoured one. And then, that her life was to be fruitful with the birth of Christ, that she was chosen to be a mother.

Mary’s experience awakens in us the recognition of an extraordinary grace: we too, each of us, have been chosen and are highly favoured. In the words of St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians: In him we were claimed as God’s own, chosen from the beginning. We shall never fully understand the reason for God’s choosing until we come one day to see him face to face, yet we have been chosen, each in our own particular way and together as the Church, to bear Christ to others.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception reminds us, through Mary’s example, of the Church’s calling to be holy and to bear Christ to the world, and of the wonderment that overcomes us when we ponder on God’s choosing and calling and empowering.

Maureen Messent has a lively report on the occasion in the Birmingham Mail:

Let Rome’s detractors say what they will of us – our Catholic Church knows, as no other, when to parade the pomp, rejoice and remind ourselves our faith gives us a right to be merry.

We saw Bernard kneeling, in stark white, on the threshold of St Chad’s, to pray that he will be a faithful and prayerful servant of us, his flock, and, before that, came a long procession of priests from all over the archdiocese, identical in Birmingham’s ‘uniform’ of yellow and gold chasubles – and one poor priest got his skirt tangled around a cable so he looked, for a second, as if he were growing a little black tail.

Prelates in white lace with scarlet skirts followed. And after them came others with purple and scarlet vestments, bishops with crimson skullcaps – and a female worthy who wore an ostrich feather hat even more eye-catching than the male get-ups.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols was there in his old haunt, probably recalling his own enthronement in Birmingham and a tall and whippet-lean figure in crimson stood out as Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor – he still walks almost coltishly, albeit a little creakily these days…

[Archbishop Longley’s] homily was simple, almost humble, reminding us that this day was the feast of the Immaculate Conception when Our Lady’s life changed forever after the angel’s visitation.

“These thoughts have given me a profound sense of hope… for the Archdiocese of Birmingham,” he told us.

The clergy filed out. We had a new Archbishop who seemed likely to become a friend.

Here’s the Birmingham Post’s report, the BBC’s write-up, and the Independent Catholic News report.

Written by Luke Coppen

December 9, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Cardinal: I decided not to enter the House of Lords

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A fascinating story in the Sunday Telegraph today: Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor turned down the offer of a peerage from Gordon Brown after consulting his brother bishops.

The Cardinal told the paper:

I did consult widely with Bishops, the Holy See and members of the House of Lords. Ultimately it was my decision to turn down the kind invitation of the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

Since my retirement as Archbishop of Westminster I have been asked by Pope Benedict XVI to join two important and busy Congregations [to choose Bishops across the world]. I have gladly accepted this honour as the best way of continuing to serve the Church.

Written by Luke Coppen

December 6, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Pope accepts resignation of Southwark archbishop

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The Vatican has just announced that the Pope has accepted the resignation of Archbishop Kevin McDonald of Southwark.

This is the announcement on the Vatican website:

Il Santo Padre ha accettato la rinuncia al governo pastorale dell’arcidiocesi di Southwark (Inghilterra), presentata da S.E. Mons. Kevin McDonald, in conformità al can. 401 § 2 del Codice di Diritto Canonico.

Canon 401 § 2 states:

A diocesan Bishop who, because of illness or some other grave reason, has become unsuited for the fulfilment of his office, is earnestly requested to offer his resignation from office.

Here is the press release sent on behalf of the Archdiocese of Southwark:

Pope Benedict XVI has today accepted the resignation of Archbishop Kevin McDonald of Southwark in accordance with Canon 401 §2. The Archbishop submitted his resignation to the Holy Father having taken account of medical advice. The Archbishop has had a triple heart bypass and also suffers from severe osteo arthritis. This has already necessitated surgery and the Archbishop envisages further surgery in 2010.

Archbishop McDonald said:

‘I feel great sadness at having to relinquish my post as Archbishop of Southwark. Although I have had to contend with illness over the last three years, this appointment has been a great grace. It has been a privilege to lead this great Diocese and I have received a wonderful response to everything I have tried to do. I have also been very appreciative of the prayers of so many people while I have been ill. The Diocese will continue to be very much in my thoughts and prayers in the time ahead.’

A Diocesan Administrator will be appointed soon and he will be in charge of the Diocese, until a new Archbishop takes possession of the Diocese.

When the Pope formally accepts Archbishop McDonald’s resignation (11am 4th Dec), the Diocese of Southwark is classed as being vacant. Southwark has three auxiliary Bishops, Bishop John Hine being senior (ordained bishop 27th Feb 2001; Bishops Patrick Lynch and Paul Hendricks were both ordained on bishop on 14th Feb 2006). In accordance with Canon 419, Bishop Hine immediately takes up governance of the Diocese, until a diocesan Administrator is elected. It is the duty of the College of Consultors to elect a diocesan Administrator. Bishop Hine is required by Canon 419 to arrange for the College of Consultors to be convened.

The College of Consultors is to elect a diocesan Administrator within eight days of being notified of the formal acceptance of Archbishop McDonald’s resignation (Canon 421 §1). The College of Consultors is made up of Bishops and priests of the Diocese appointed by Archbishop McDonald. The present College of Consultors is made up of the following:

Bishop John Hine, Bishop Patrick Lynch, Bishop Paul Hendricks, Fr Matthew Dickens, Monsignor Canon Nicholas Rothon, Fr John Lavery, Fr Anthony Plummer, Canon John Madden, Canon Michael Bunce, Fr John O’Toole, Fr Geoffrey Pointer, and Fr John Clark.

On acceptance of the election, the diocesan Administrator assumes responsibility for governing the diocese (Canon 427 §2) until a new Archbishop is appointed and takes possession of the diocese (Canon 430 §1).

The archbishops resignation letter is here (hat tip: Mulier Fortis).

Written by Luke Coppen

December 4, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Archbishop Nichols sees signs of a revival

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The Daily Telegraph has a wide-ranging interview with Archbishop Vincent Nichols today, in which he notes a growing “undercurrent” of interest in the Catholic faith.

Written by Luke Coppen

November 28, 2009 at 10:20 am

Archbishop Nichols ‘The Mass gets us beyond the divisions’

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The Tablet has an interview with Archbishop Vincent Nichols, marking six months since his installation as Archbishop of Westminster.

Here’s a taster:

And what of other divisions – between Catholics of a more traditional bent and those who are more progressive – a division made more marked today by disputes over liturgy and by ill-tempered blogs? Do they concern the archbishop?

“Variation and change are not a bad thing,” he says, urging people to be more understanding. “There is something unusual about a Catholic Mass,” he adds, “celebrated within a group of like-minded people. Celebration of the Mass gets us beyond the divisions.”

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Written by Luke Coppen

November 20, 2009 at 10:05 am

US bishops approve controversial letter on marriage

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The American bishops agreed to publish their controversial pastoral letter, Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan, at their plenary meeting yesterday. The full text is available as a PDF on the USCCB website.

Catholic San Francisco reports: “Nearly 100 changes in two rounds of amendments preceded the 180-45 vote in favour of Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan on the second day of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops fall general assembly in Baltimore. Two thirds of the USCCB membership, or 175 votes, were required for passage of the document. There were three abstentions. Final approval came after an effort to remand the document to committee failed 56 to 169.”

A draft of the letter was heavily criticised by both the National Catholic Reporter and the Tablet. The NCR called it “a turkey of text” and the Tablet described it as “highly conservative”.

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Written by Luke Coppen

November 18, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Cardinal George: Imagine a world without priests

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Reading Cardinal George’s address to the US bishops, I’m struck by the remarkable passage in which he imagines a world without the sacrament of Holy Orders.

He says:

The priest teaches the people in Christ’s name and with his authority. Without ordained priests, the teaching ministry would fall primarily on professors, whose obligation is first to seek the truth in the framework of their own academic discipline and whose authority to teach derives from their professional expertise.

The priest governs the people in Christ’s name, exercising Christ’s authority in collaboration with the bishops. Without ordained priests, the only instance of real governance in any society would be that of civil and political leaders. Their authority comes from God through the people they have sworn to serve; but, in Catholicism, secular kingship confers no religious authority and a civil government has no right to deprive the Church of freedom to govern herself by her own laws and under her own leaders.

The priest counsels people to see the hand of God directing human affairs, using the discernment of spirits to govern souls and to free people from what oppresses them. Without ordained priests, counseling passes into the hands of therapists, dedicated to their clients and skilled in examining the dynamics of human personality, but without consideration of the influence of God’s grace.

The priest leads his people in worship, making possible the real presence of Christ, the head of his Church, under the sacramental forms of bread and wine. Without ordained priests, the Church would be deprived of the Eucharist, and her worship would be centered only on the praise and thanksgiving, the petition and expiation open to all by reason of baptism.

Without ordained priests who love and govern their people in the name of Christ and with his authority, the Church would not be connected to Jesus Christ, the great High Priest, as Christ himself wants us to be joined to him. Without ordained priests, the Church would be a spiritual association, a faith community, but not fully the Body of Christ.

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Written by Luke Coppen

November 17, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Cardinal George: We may vet those who claim ‘right to be a voice in the Church’

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Cardinal Francis George’s presidential address at the American bishops’ autumn meeting is getting a lot of attention.

Both Commonweal and America are discussing the cardinal’s disclosure that the bishops are considering vetting universities, media and other organisations that claim “the right to be a voice in the Church”.

Rocco Palmo has the full text of Cardinal George’s speech.

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Written by Luke Coppen

November 17, 2009 at 4:04 pm