17 March 2010

Paul Murphy MP delivers Thomas More Lecture

‘The Apostle Paul’ on making politics dull: 
Paul Murphy MP reflects on peace in Ireland

From The Catholic Herald, 19 March 2010 (click here for the original article):

As an architect of the Good Friday Agreement, and subsequently as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Paul Murphy MP played a pivotal role in bringing an end to violence in the province, writes Richard Pickett.

Despite being a practising Catholic he has succeeded in gaining respect from across the political and religious divide and has even won the nickname "the Apostle Paul" from arch-Unionist politician Ian Paisley.

In a recent lecture given to the Oxford University Newman Society Mr Murphy spoke about his role in driving forward the Northern Irish peace process. He told his audience: "My mission is to make politics as dull in Northern Ireland as they are everywhere else."

He said that he hoped the continuing process of devolution of power would bring about a situation in which schools, hospitals, policing and other bread-and-butter concerns would become the principal focus of political activity in the province.

Mr Murphy told the Newman Society that over a 30-year period 3,500 people had been killed out of a population of just one and a half million.

But one of the most remarkable things about recent Northern Irish politics, he said, had been the willingness of age-old enemies to come together in the face of this trauma.

As an avowed Labour politician Mr Murphy joked that he could never bring himself to enter into coalition with the Conservatives.

Despite this, he said that he felt privileged to have worked alongside people who had been able to set aside a painful and often very personal history for the sake of achieving a lasting peace.

The former Secretary of State observed that the role of religion in the conflict has often been mischaracterised.

Although the names Catholic and Protestant are employed as a common shorthand, the real divisions giving rise to violence have always been political.

Differences over national identity, and not religion, he said, have presented the most significant bar to achieving lasting stability.

Mr Murphy then turned to examine the positive role played by the churches in driving forward the desire for peace.

With Sunday church attendance at around 70 per cent of the province's population Northern Ireland remains the most religiously observant part of Britain and the churches wield a significant moral influence.

Mr Murphy said he felt privileged to be part of the Northern Ireland story, but that the real credit must be given to the people [of the province] themselves. His speech was part of a series of lectures put on by the Society [to examine the role plaid by religion in public life. Cardinal George Pell and Francis Campbell, British Ambassador to the Holy See, have given previous lectures in the series].

Photographs by James Bradley  
Click here for the full flickr set.

16 March 2010

Newman's beatification confirmed to take place during Papal State Visit to Britain


16 MARCH 2010, 12 noon


The Fathers and many friends of the English Oratories are delighted by the official announcement that our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI will beatify our founder, the Venerable John Henry Newman, in the Archdiocese of Birmingham during his visit to Britain in September. Newman made his home in the Archdiocese for all his adult life, first in Oxford, where he lived as an Anglican and was received into the Catholic Church, and later in Birmingham itself where he founded and worked in the Birmingham Oratory for over forty years.

The Holy Father's life-long devotion to Newman has made a profound contribution to understanding the depth and significance of our founder's legacy. His decision to beatify Newman in person confers a unique blessing upon the English Oratories and all who have drawn inspiration from Newman's life and work.

We joyfully look forward to welcoming the Holy Father, as well as the many pilgrims and visitors who will come to the Beatification ceremony and visit Newman's shrine at the Birmingham Oratory.

We also look forward to the challenging work of preparing for the Beatification in conjunction with Church and civil authorities. We pray that the Beatification will fittingly reflect both Newman's significance for the Universal Church and the honour paid to our Archdiocese and our country by the Holy Father's presence among us.

Very Rev. Richard Duffield
Provost of the Birmingham Oratory
and Actor of the Cause of John Henry Newman

10 March 2010

Fr. Aidan Nichols Criticises the Critics

A talk which Fr. Aidan Nichols OP gave to the society a few years ago has appeared in print as Chapter I of his most recent book 'Criticising the Critics'.  The chapter is titled 'For Modernists' - not, we hope, a reference to its original audience!

In this book, Fr Aidan Nichols O.P. turns his attention onto contemporary critics of the Catholic Church: those who are inspired by modernist rationalism to reject the supernatural; those who regard the New Age as an acceptable surrogate for the Christian doctrine of salvation; academic theologians who reject the historical and biblical basis for Christianity. Also coming under scrutiny are feminists who see the Church as an expression of a patriarchal society; Protestants who play down Christ’s nature as a priest; progressive Catholics who hesitate about proclaiming the Gospel of Life; those who regard the Church’s sexual ethics as ‘unrealistic’, and critics of Fr Nichols' book The Realm.

Copies can be ordered from Family Publications.

Preface . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
1. For Modernists . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
2. For Neo-Gnostics . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . .29
3. For Academic Exegetes . . . . . . . . . . . . .51
4. For Feminists . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69
5. For Liberal Protestants . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88
6. For Progressive Catholics . . . . .  . . . . .103
7. For the Erotically Absorbed . . . .  . . . .121
8. For Critics of Christendom . . .. . .  . . . 137
Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .157

Catholicism — and the Catholic Church at each stage of her history — is always well supplied with critics. When the Church is not all she should be — morally, intellectually, pastorally, aesthetically — such critics will often have useful points to make. And whenever, we may ask, is she all that she should be, short of the Parousia?

Critics essentially both benign and right-thinking are not, however, the only kind of critics that exist. Others, far from benign, may well be intemperate, even irrational, in their passions. Others again, possibly benign, offer their criticisms — whether from without or within — owing to a failure to grasp certain aspects of Catholic truth. This last category includes the critics this book has it in mind to criticise in turn.

I offer here a series of apologias for different facets of the truth of faith and morals held by the Church. The apologias are, it may be said, ill-assorted, and I can hardly deny the claim. It is part and parcel of the present conjuncture that intellectual assaults come from very different quarters at one and the same time. Those considered here are by no means all there are, but they are among those I personally have encountered and sought to answer. The audiences have been very varied — the Oxford Newman Society (Chapter 1); the annual conference of Kirkelig Fornyelse, the umbrella organisation of catholicising movements in Christianity in Norway (Chapter 2); the Walsingham Retreat of the (Anglican) Federation of Catholic Priests (Chapter 3); a summer school of (what became) the International Institute for Culture at Eichstatt in Bavaria (Chapter 4); the international bi-lateral dialogue of the Catholic Church with the Disciples of Christ at Klosterneuburg in Austria (Chapter 5); a day of recollection of the Association of Priests for the Gospel of Life (Chapter 6); a conference to the young clergy of the Giffard Society (Chapter 7); the Craigmyle lecture of the Catholic Union (Chapter 8).

With the partial exception of the opening chapter, I have not spent a great deal of time in describing the positions I oppose. I have preferred to concentrate on the positive exposition of Catholic truth. Each chapter might be described as a quid pro quo, an offering appropriate, in its own way, to each of the categories of person involved. Readers of The Lord of the Rings may recall how, after his ‘eleventy-first’ birthday party, Bilbo Baggins left a set of carefully selected and labelled packages for various miscreant family members and friends. Clearing out the hobbit-hole of my room, these essays serve mutatis mutandis a like end.

Finally, I would like to thank Fr Vivian Boland, of the Order of Preachers, for contributing a number of helpful suggestions and corrections.

Blackfriars, Cambridge
Memorial day of St Francis Xavier, 2009

Hat tip: In Hoc Est Veritas.

Pontifical Mass and termly dinner HT10

Our old friend and Past-President, Fr. Tim Finigan, has posted the following report on the termly Mass and dinner on his Hermenutic of Continuity blog:

Yesterday evening the Oxford University Newman Society arranged for Pontifical High Mass at the Oxford Oratory, celebrated by Abbot Cuthbert OSB of Farnborough Abbey. (The photos of Mass are from Joseph Shaw's Flickr set.) I was Assistant Priest, which obliged me to some intensive study of Fortescue since this was the first time that I have acted in this capacity. The MC Yaqoob Bangash directed us all expertly and the choir sang Monteverdi's Mass for four voices as well as Victoria's Te Deum after Mass.

It was an "Et in Arcadia Ego" evening for me since I used to attend daily Mass at St Aloysius as an undergraduate, and lived just round the corner at 14 Wellington Square. Dinner after Mass was at St Benet's Hall and I had the opportunity to meet the Master, Rev J Felix Stephens OSB, a monk of Ampleforth Abbey who was a most gracious and genial host. The Newman Society seems to be thriving and the after-dinner speeches had various arcane references to shenanigans on the committee which, as I commented, were impenetrable to the outsider but all seemed to be good fun. It brought back memories from my own term as President in Hilary 1979.

My rambling as guest speaker was partly (and I hope excusably) taken up with reminiscence of 30 years ago, including the conclave of 1979 and the "Habemus Papam" announcement which I listened to on Vatican Radio in John Hayes' set at Keble. John was always an ardent follower of Vatican affairs and probably one of few people in the world to have exclaimed immediately at the word Carolum "My goodness: it must be Wojtyla!"

After dinner I got to re-visit Keble College for a gathering in the MCR. As ever, it was a little sad to have to take the train back to London after a brief opportunity to catch up with old friends and young friends. One of the men drew my attention to the number of vocations that have come from the Newman Society - a fact to which I had not explicitly adverted before. Long may heart speak to heart in that most venerable of Oxford societies.

For further reports on the Mass see LMS Chairman Blog and Rorate Caeli.

4 March 2010


Conor Gannon of Wolfson College, Junior Officer, has been appointed as next term’s President.

Tim Sherwin of Merton College, Treasurer, has been elected unopposed as President-Elect.  He will be President in MT10.

Next term Hubert MacGreevy of St. Peter's College, President, will continue to sit on the Executive Committee as a Past-President.

Demelza Shaw of All Souls has been co-opted to the Executive Committee as a Junior Officer.

Congratulations to them all!

3 March 2010

Bishop Andrew Bernham speaks about realising Pope Benedict's vision for Angican unity

Last Tuesday Dr. Andrew Bernham, the Anglican Bishop of Ebbsflet, addressed the Newman Society on the subject of Pope Benedict XVI's Apsotolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.  Dr. Joseph Shaw, Tutor in Philosophy at St. Benet's Hall, reports on the talk in his blog:

Last night Andrew Burnham, Bishop of Ebbsfleet, addressed a packed meeting of the Newman Society on the subject of Anglicanorum Coetibus. I was there. (Picture: Bishop Burnham is introduced by the President of Newman Society, Hubert MacGreevy)

Andrew Burnham is the Anglican Bishop of Ebbsfleet and one of the 'flying bishops' who has been ministering to Anglicans who can't accept the ordination of women since these ordinations were authorised in England in 1994. He and his fellow 'flying bishops' administer a third of the country each, looking after any parishes who sign up for this.

I don't intend to give a summary of his talk but here are a few of the things he said.


First of all, the Apostolic Constitution on the Anglicans was a response to discussions he had with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and also with Cardinal Kaspar of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Chrisian Unity about two years before it was published. It is also a response to discussions between Rome and the Traditional Anglican Communion, and no doubt other groups and individuals, but in no sense is the English 'Forward in Faith' / 'flying bishop' set-up a side issue for the Apostolic Constitution.

When he was first ordained in the Anglican church the 'Anglo-Papalist' position was to recognise the Pope and work to re-unite Anglicanism with him. This was not such an extravagent view since the ARCIC talks seemed to be heading in this direction, but eventually the issue of the ordination of women pulled Anglicanism the other way. When he was made a 'flying bishop' he did so on the understanding that he would be continuing this stalled ecumenical project.

Since 1994 he has worked to create a sense of community among the very idiosyncratic and geographically scattered Anglo-Catholic parishes under his care. A good deal of progress has been made, making it much more likely that a good proportion of them will be able to come over to full communion with Rome as a body. His ideal would naturally be that they all came over, but this is clearly not going to happen.

He was very interesting on the subject of how the typical Anglo-Catholic parish is similar to, and different from, a Catholic one. Anglo-Catholic parishes tend not to have medieval buildings; they are the successors of the High Anglicans who built churches for the unchurched poor in the growing cities of the 19th Century. Their liturgy tends to be the 1970 Missal in English, distinguished outwardly from that of a Catholic parish mainly by the hymns. But they do have a different attitude to church-going: whereas a Catholic, at least a serious-minded one, will go to great lengths to get to some Mass or other on a Sunday if things disrupt his usual routine, an Anglo-Catholic who can't make the usual 9.30 service won't bother going to something else instead. They are very attached to their physical church, and lack the sense of 'Sunday obligation'. The attachment to the church, as has often been pointed out, will be a sticking point for many in joining an Ordinariate.

He was cautious not to make any promises about what he or anyone else would do, and when, but is was clear enough that he is going to join the Ordinariate and will be bringing others with him. Nothing will happen until the Anglican Synod debate on provision for Anglo-Catholics when women are ordained to the episcopate: he said he didn't want to go down in history as the man who scuppered the chances of a good deal for Anglo-Catholics staying in the Anglican Communion.

On the Ordinariate itself, he said that what happened after 1994 was that Anglican clergy who wanted to 'swim the Tiber' and become Catholic priests received three years' training before ordination. This created the problem that by the time they were back in circulation the Anglican laity who might have gone with them had dispersed. The key issue with the Ordinariate is to make possible the continuity of the communities and pastors so that whole groups will be able to come accross together.


Bishop Burnham spoke with great fluency and charm, in a witty and self-deprecating way, and without notes. His talk was less than an hour long and there are many issues which he didn't settle, but it gave the audience many important insights into the situation.

As I have written before [Dr. Shaw is Chairman of the Latin Mass Society], the conversion of groups of Anglicans is a matter of great interest to Traditionally-minded Catholics, for a number of reasons, not all of which may seem obvious.

First, the Anglican converts we have seen since 1994 and, come to that, since 1558, have been a huge boon to the Church, in terms of their talents and zeal; many convert clergy have come to the Latin Mass Society's Priest Training Conferences.

Second, the existence of an Ordinariate with a certain Anglican spirit and its own hierarchy is itself exciting. I do not accept the argument often made by Anglicans that 'if England is to be Christian again, it will only be in the uniquely English way represented by Anglicanism': Edmund Campion, Richard Challoner, and Pugin are quite English enough, to my mind. Nevertheless, the Ordinariate will clearly remove psychological obstacles to conversion for many Anglicans, and that is a good thing.

Third, it will create a degree of legimate diversity in the English Catholic Church which will be healthy. Fr Aidan Nichols OP argued forcefully at the LMS Priest Training Conference at London Colney last Summer that we need to recover a sense of legitimate diversity. In the past the Catholic Church was far more characterised by a diversity of Missals and also by jurisdictional complexity than it is today. The monolithic Post-Vatican II uniformity of the Church has in many ways been stifling.

Whether or not they make use of the 'Anglican Use' based on the Book of Common Prayer, parishes in the Ordinariate will have far fewer qualms about allowing the Traditional Mass. And they will also serve as a model of jurisdictional diversity, of a very similar kind to that proposed for Traditional Catholics in the context of the reconciliation of the SSPX.

So we await developments with interest!

Former Northern Ireland Secretary to deliver Thomas More Lecture

‘Religion in the public square’

The Rt. Hon. Paul Murphy, MP
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 2002 - 2005
Catholicism and the Northern Ireland Peace Process

Tuesday 9th March, Catholic Chaplaincy, 8.30pm 

The inaugural series of Thomas More Lectures is examining the role of religion in public life and discourse. As the Western World increasingly identifies itself as 'post-believing', can Christianity continue to play an effective role promoting the common good in the public forum?

The previous lectures in this series were given by Cardinal George Pell and Francis Campbell, British Ambassador to the Holy See.  They examined the positive role which religion can play in public life.  Last term's Thomas More Debate between Bishop John Arnold and Even Harris MP illustrated the challenges presented to religious communities in the face of increasing secularism.

In this lecture Paul Murphy, the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, will address the historic challenges presented by religious affiliation in the province. He will argue that instead of seeing faith as the problem, we can find in it the building blocks to take forward peaceful and constructive dialogue.

Further details about the Thomas More Lectures, including the text of past lectures, can be found here.

Paul Murphy - Biography
Paul Murphy has been Labour MP for Torfaen since 1987. He has served twice as Secretary of State for Wales; from 1999 until 2002 and most recently under Prime Minister Gordon Brown from January 2008 until June 2009. Upon leaving the Cabinet, he was elected British Co-Chair of the British-Irish Assembly.

He was previously Secretary of State for Northern Ireland from October 2002 until May 2005. When he was last Secretary of State, Paul Murphy was also Minister for Digital Inclusion, and given responsibility for overseeing the British-Irish Council and the joint ministerial committees. He has also chaired Cabinet committees on Local Government and the Regions, and on data security and information assurance.

In May 2005, Paul Murphy was appointed Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, serving until his re-appointment to the Cabinet in 2008.

Paul Murphy was Minister of State for Northern Ireland with responsibility for Political Development from 1997 to 1999, acting as Mo Mowlam's deputy in the talks that culminated in the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. In 1999, he was named 'Minister to Watch' at the Spectator Parliamentary Awards.

In opposition, he served as Shadow Welsh Office Minister (1988-1994), Shadow Minister for Northern Ireland, Shadow Foreign Office Minister and Shadow Minister for Defence.

Paul Murphy was born in 1948 and was educated at St Francis Roman Catholic School in Abersychan, West Monmouth School in Pontypool and Oriel College, Oxford. He was a management trainee with the CWS, before becoming a lecturer in Government and History at Ebbw Vale College of Further Education.

Mr. Murphy joined the Labour Party at the age of fifteen. He is also a member of Unite, formerly the Transport and General Workers Union. He was Secretary of the Pontypool/Torfaen Constituency Labour Party from 1971 to 1987. Mr. Murphy was a member of Torfaen Council from 1973 to 1987 and was Chair of its Finance Committee from 1976 to 1986. He contested Wells Constituency in Somerset in the 1979 General Election.

Mr. Murphy was made a Papal Knight of St. Gregory in 1997, a Privy Counsellor in 1999, and an Honorary Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, in 2000. He was Visiting Parliamentary Fellow of St. Anthony's College, Oxford from 2006 to 2007 and in 2009 was made a Fellow of Glyndwr University, Wrexham.

Mr. Murphy's leisure interests include classical music and cooking.

(Biographical text adapted from Paul Murphy's website)