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Bible boy_reading_bibleThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Hebrews 13:17-19

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19 I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.

———————————————————————————————

The verses in last week’s post were a final warning against falling into apostasy by following teaching that goes against Scripture and the Good News.

The first verse in today’s selection is a rather substantial one relating to the clergy or, as they were called at the time, overseers (verse 17).

The author of Hebrews, inspired by the Holy Spirit, counsels his Jewish converts to obey their overseers and submit to them spiritually, because being an overseer is all-consuming work as, at the end of it, he has to give an account to the Lord. Therefore, we should respect their position, the onerous responsibility of that position and allow them to get on with their work without putting obstacles in their way. If a good clergyman leaves as a result of petty obstacles, ultimately, the congregation loses.

Matthew Henry explains the issue impartially — and well (emphases mine):

It is not an implicit obedience, or absolute submission, that is here required, but only so far as is agreeable to the mind and will of God revealed in his word; and yet it is truly obedience and submission, and that not only to God, but to the authority of the ministerial office, which is of God as certainly, in all things belonging to that office, as the authority of parents or of civil magistrates in the things within their sphere. Christians must submit to be instructed by their ministers, and not think themselves too wise, too good, or too great, to learn from them; and, when they find that ministerial instructions are agreeable to the written word, they must obey them.

It is sometimes difficult in our era to submit, especially to clergy who are quasi-agnostics (I have known a few). To them, I have kept my distance beyond civil pleasantries of a greeting and a kind word on Sundays.

As far as clergy are concerned, Henry — who was an Anglican clergyman himself — says that they are not to lord their position over the congregation:

They have the rule over the people; their office, though not magisterial, yet is truly authoritative. They have no authority to lord it over the people, but to lead them in the ways of God, by informing and instructing them, explaining the word of God to them, and applying it to their several cases.

Henry explains the heavy responsibility of a clergyman:

They watch for the souls of the people, not to ensnare them, but to save them; to gain them, not to themselves, but to Christ; to build them up in knowledge, faith, and holiness. They are to watch against every thing that may be hurtful to the souls of men, and to give them warning of dangerous errors, of the devices of Satan, of approaching judgments; they are to watch for all opportunities of helping the souls of men forward in the way to heaven.

After they have exercised their solemn duties on Earth, they will have to give an account to the Lord:

[3.] They must give an account how they have discharged their duty, and what has become of the souls committed to their trust, whether any have been lost through their neglect, and whether any of them have been brought in and built up under their ministry. [4.] They would be glad to give a good account of themselves and their hearers. If they can then give in an account of their own fidelity and success, it will be a joyful day to them; those souls that have been converted and confirmed under their ministry will be their joy, and their crown, in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Therefore, we should think of our clergy as we would a shepherd busy with his flock or, as John MacArthur says, a triage nurse:

I’ll tell you something, that’s a joy. The sweetest joy that comes into the life of a pastor who’s committed to the things of God is when he sees somebody walking in truth and bearing fruit. Believe me, that’s sweet. And the tragedy of all tragedies in the life of the man of God is when he sees those in whom he invests his life who do not bear fruit, who do not walk in the truth, who stray away. That grieves – worse than anything else. We’re like nurses, you know, with critical care patients. We care for your souls …

It’s a serious thing to be a critical care nurse in the church. It’s a serious thing to be a wakeful shepherd of a flock that has sheep that are forever going astray. And we have to labor as those – and I say this even with a sense of reluctance in my own heart to – to even admit that this is true, that I must give an account to God for the way that I minister to the care of the souls that He entrusts to me. And as I’ve said before, that’s why I’m not real anxious to have more people. I’m not too sure I’m doing the right job with the ones I’ve got.

What humility. He preached this in 1973, and, since then, his team’s ministry has gone international. That said, I bet he still has the same concerns — and rightly so.

MacArthur points out that St Paul had his share of faithful and rebellious congregations. The faithful ones made him joyful and the rebellious ones grieved him:

I think sometimes the saddest group of people, the most grieved group of men, are very often ministers, pastors. And I think sometimes the reason is because of the fact that they are dealing with a stubborn and rebellious people who, because they will not submit, rob them of the joy of their ministry.

The idea of the word “grief” here is groaning, over a thankless task, and there are many men whose ministry is a very thankless thing. And he says you ought to submit, just for the joy of the one who labors with you. You know, the Apostle Paul knew about that joy, apparently especially the Philippians were a submissive bunch. He didn’t express a whole lot of joy over the Corinthians. In fact, they were a pain in the neck as well as the heart. But in Philippians 1:4, he says, “Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy.” He said to the Philippians, “You make me happy.” And the reason was because they were submissive.

The author of Hebrews then issued a personal message, requesting the converts’ prayers for him and Timothy (verse 18). (I’ll have more on Timothy next week.) The author is sure both have clear consciences as they attempt to act honourably in all their undertakings.

Henry says this request came because the Jews hated Paul, wrongly so, but the author and Timothy were taking great pains to not offend anyone unnecessarily:

Many of the Jews had a bad opinion of Paul, because he, being a Hebrew of the Hebrews, had cast off the Levitical law and preached up Christ: now he here modestly asserts his own integrity: We trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly. We trust! he might have said, We know; but he chose to speak in a humble style, to teach us all not to be too confident of ourselves, but to maintain a godly jealousy over our own hearts.

The author asked for their prayers so that he might be with them again that much sooner (verse 19). MacArthur explains:

And so he says, pray for me, I deserve it. Secondly he says, pray for me, I need it. I need it. Verse 19, “I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.” I want to get there. You say that guy actually believed that prayer works? Does he believe that if he was going 30 miles an hour and they started praying, he’d go 90 miles an hour to get there? He believed that. Doesn’t sound too much like fatalism to me. Not at all. He knew God heard and answered prayer. There’s no blind fatalism.

Sadly, next week’s verses conclude the Book of Hebrews. However, I will follow up with posts on the first eight verses of Hebrews 13, which explain how to live the Christian life. Fortunately, those verses are in the Lectionary.

Next time — Hebrews 13:20-25

In my new series ‘What’s on Episcopal priests’ minds’, here’s a good tweet on eschatology: the theological view of the end of the world, or, in Christian parlance, Christ’s Second Coming.

This comes from the Revd J Wesley Evans, OPA, an Anglo-Catholic based in Texas who belongs to the Anglican Order of Preachers. The Order of Preachers — O.P. — is better known as the Dominicans.

Two weeks ago, he lamented that the Episcopal Church does not preach enough about eschatology. I wholeheartedly agree, for all the reasons he states:

Sadly, a reply he received displays all the wrong thinking of the Episcopal Church and, in many respects, the Anglican Communion in Western countries. Contrary to what the Revd Hill says, eschatology should not be restricted to the season of Advent alone:

So, how does one preach about eschatology?

Here is one useful and rather timely example, given that the Super Bowl took place on February 2, 2020. This comes from a young deacon who is preparing to be ordained to the priesthood (i.e. ‘transitional’). The Revd AD Armond works for the Episcopal Diocese of Western Lousiana as a school chaplain:

If one wanted to preach on eschatology more often, however, how would one do it?

Fr Evans offers his thoughts on preaching in general. There is a fine line to be struck between giving congregants a sense of complacency on the one hand and, on the other, despair.

There’s another important message in the first tweet. God makes no promises regarding our health (N.B.) or wealth:

That last tweet says it all concerning ‘the virtue of Faith’.

One wonders how many other clergy are that concerned about their Sunday sermons. Would that they all were that intent on preaching about our spiritual health — and faith.

Last week — and by chance — I found a few interesting Twitter feeds from Episcopal priests in the United States.

I’m thinking of starting a new series: ‘What’s on Episcopal priests’ minds’.

Without further ado, here goes.

The Revd Robert Hendrickson is rector of Saint Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church in Tucson, Arizona. He is an Anglo-Catholic.

This tweet lists his views on Sunday services:

I’m not sure what he is saying about Purgatory, which, as far as I know, is not a belief of the Episcopal Church.

For everything else, in layman’s terms, he is saying that:

a) the priest should kiss — osculate — the altar. A proper altar should have a consecrated square of stone in it that the celebrant kisses before celebrating the Communion service, as if he were kissing Christ. It is a sign of reverence.

b) the celebrant should wear a maniple, which is an embroidered band of silk worn over the left hand, reminding a priest that he is God’s servant. From Wikipedia, which has illustrations (emphases mine below):

Originally, the maniple was likely a piece of linen which clerics used to wipe their faces and hands and has been described by some modern commentators as being akin to a handkerchief. It appears to have been used in the Roman liturgy since at least the 6th century. The maniple can vary widely in size, shape, and degree of embroidery and ornamentation.

Common symbolic comments refer to the maniple’s likeness to the rope by which Christ was led and the chains which bound his hands. It has also become known as an emblem of the tears of penance, the burden of sin, and the fatigue of the priestly office. This understanding is reflected in the vesting prayer said while putting on the maniple before Mass. Anglican commentators have described the maniple as a symbol of being a servant to the servants of God.

Alphonsus Liguori claimed: “It is well known that the maniple for the purpose of wiping away the tears that flowed from the eyes of the priest; for in former times priests wept continually during the celebration of Mass.”[11]

c) he does not like concelebrated Communion services. Concelebrated services parcel out various parts of the Communion liturgy among two or more priests. (I agree: too distracting.)

d) the Revised Common Lectionary is not very good. (I tend to agree.)

e) the Revised Standard Version of the Bible is preferable to the New Revised Standard Version.

f) facing east — the traditional direction — at the altar is preferable but not better.

g) he would like to see more feast days celebrating Mary, the mother of Jesus.

h) benediction — a blessing — should be offered to all who do not receive Communion.

i) Morning Prayer — what used to be the main Sunday service, with one or two Communion services per month — is preferable over Communion every week. (I definitely agree.)

This is why he dislikes concelebrated services:

Some priests believe that getting in the habit of going up to the altar to receive a blessing instead of Communion accustoms people who are not yet baptised to the altar rail. This is a relatively recent development in the Anglican Communion and, quite possibly, priests might have a point:

Morning Prayer is a big hobby horse of mine, too. Would that it returned:

Robert Hendrickson explains his religious journey, including his love of Morning Prayer, in a fascinating post of his, ‘Morning Prayers with Hymns and Anthems: A Catholic Case for the Office on Sunday at 11:00’.

Like me, he was raised a Catholic. For both of us, Morning Prayer was a big draw to the Episcopal Church. Both of us also read the Book of Common Prayer (different to the English one) and got to know clergy and congregation at the churches we respectively chose.

His experience fully mirrors my own.

Excerpts follow from his defence of Morning Prayer.

His story begins in New Haven, Connecticut. His wife had been raised a Methodist. Both were looking for one church they felt mutually comfortable in.

Enter Morning Prayer, especially Rite I:

Our third Sunday, we visited Trinity Episcopal Church on the Green. The welcome there was warm without being cloying. The music was beautiful. The choir that day was the Choir of Men and Boys. The liturgy was dignified without being self-conscious. It was Rite I Morning Prayer with Hymns and Anthems done with grace, dignity, reverence, and joy. In short, it was classically Anglican and my wife and I both fell in love with the parish.

Coming to New Haven, I had grown up Roman Catholic and my wife had grown up United Methodist. We were looking for a church that we could attend together. The beauty of Trinity on the Green’s Morning Prayer service was that I could participate fully and prayerfully without wrestling with what it meant to come to a “protestant” Communion service. By the time a service of Holy Communion came around at Trinity, I had talked with the priest there, gotten to know parishioners, read large parts of the Book of Common Prayer, and made up my mind that this was the church for me. More importantly, it was the church for us.

Morning Prayer served an evangelical function in the best sense of that word. We were brought into the life of the parish and, over time, made the decision to receive Communion there. It was a service in which the presence of God was made manifest through art and warmth and we were drawn into the Presence of God, in the Sacrament, over time and after much thought. We committed to the parish and felt deeply and warmly cared for.

Hendrickson became a priest, thanks to that profound experience via Morning Prayer:

I daresay that I owe my vocation in the Episcopal Church to Morning Prayer (as well as kind priests who encouraged me).

For those parishes looking for a way to be welcoming while maintaining the historic Reformed and Catholic understandings of the Sacraments, I would urge a re-examination of our Church’s history of Morning Prayer as a central act of worship.

Detractors will say — and they do — that one should not deny the congregation Holy Communion. At the church I attended in the US, the early morning and evening services were Communion services every Sunday. The main one, however, was Morning Prayer on most Sundays. We had one Communion service per month at 11:00.

Hendrickson appreciates what the detractors are saying, however:

If the choice, however, is between Communion without Baptism (an abandonment of the Reformed and Catholic traditions) or regular Morning Prayer with less frequent Communion, then Morning Prayer makes great sense

Now so many have much of the ceremony but little of the theology …

Morning Prayer can be an absolutely beautiful and dignified service full of joy.

It is ideal for newcomers — Christians who are church shopping and especially those who are enquiring about Christianity:

It is a service ideally suited for education, formation, and evangelism. It can prepare believers for Baptism and Communion. For those who are seeking a way to welcome, educate, and form believers for the life of the Sacraments, Morning Prayer is a meaningful and authentic liturgical response.

As more and more people come to our churches with little or no experience of the Church, minimal knowledge of the story of Christ, and virtually no understanding of the Sacraments, regular Morning Prayer may make far more sense than regular Mass. In many ways, it would be a return to a time when we had a Mass of the Catechumens (those being instructed in the faith) and the Mass of the Faithful (those that have received Baptism).

This does not impart judgment or a lesser status! This means we have a group of people being raised up in the faith and that we trust them to hear, learn, and to make the choice as to whether they want to make that step through Baptism to the Altar. If I were to enter a temple, mosque, or any other holy place, I would not expect to be welcomed to their holiest rites as a visitor. In fact, I would assume they were not all that important to them if I were!

Our modern Christian experience is looking evermore like that of the early Church and our practices need to be informed by them. We will have more adult baptizands, more people knowing little of the story of Christ, and less cultural influence. We will have to take the time to bring these folks into the fullness of the faith we have received. It is not our role to dismantle the Sacraments we have been entrusted with but to find new ways to draw those who have never heard to the Remembrance. Morning Prayer may be the perfect Anglican answer for this day and age.

Fully agree!

I see that Saint Philip’s in the Hills still has 100% Communion services, but, here’s hoping the congregation and clergy eventually make the move towards Morning Prayer.

As I close a week discussing Disroyalty starring the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, here are a few more views about their plans as well as a summary of what went on at Sandringham on Monday, January 13, 2020.

Before I get to those, however, it is important to remember that other Royals will have to pick up the Sussexes’ slack, leaving 200 engagements per year to divide among them.

Key points about the Sandringham summit

Here’s what to know about the Sandringham summit on Monday.

The Daily Mail says that Harry arrived at 11:20 a.m.

By then, Prince Philip had already left and was driven elsewhere on the estate. He was reportedly furious last week:

Philip was reportedly ‘spitting blood’ with anger when he found out last Wednesday and yelled at his aides: ‘What the hell are they playing at?’

If he left, he wasn’t feeling any calmer.

Prince Charles had arrived the day before. Prince William showed up 15 minutes before the meeting began at 2:00 p.m.

The meeting was held in the Long Library, which used to be a bowling alley. Princes William and Harry spent much time there as children.

It is located away from other rooms where the Royals might have been overheard.

Meanwhile, the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, denied charges of racism (same link):

Ms Patel, speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, said: ‘I’m not in that category at all where I believe there’s racism at all. 

‘I think we live in a great country, a great society, full of opportunity, where people of any background can get on in life.’

Asked if the media had been in any way racist, she replied: ‘I don’t think so, no… I certainly haven’t seen that through any debates or commentary or things of that nature.’

On January 14, the Mail reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson wisely refused to be drawn in on the controversy:

In his first major TV interview since the election, Mr Johnson said: ‘I am a massive fan of the Queen and of the Royal Family…

‘I am absolutely confident that they are going to sort this out.’

I was happy to read that Harry’s early arrival ensured that he could have a lengthy one-on-one conversation with his grandmother.

Bolter

In 2018, a few months before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married, Germaine Greer gave an interview to Australia’s 60 Minutes in which she said she thought the bride would end up leaving.

The Cut posted the story on April 16. Prescient (emphases mine):

During an interview with 60 Minutes Australia this weekend, outspoken and controversial feminist author Germaine Greer said she thinks Markle “will bolt” as soon as she gets a sense of what life in the British royal family (which Greer refers to as “the firm”) is really like.

“Let’s hope they’re in love. If they’re not it’s going to be totally unbearable,” Greer told journalist Tara Brown. “She will see vistas of boredom that are unbelievable. I think the pressure to escape from the firm is crushing.”

When Brown asked what she predicted for the couple’s future, Greer answered, “I think she’ll bolt.”

“She bolted before. She was out the door,” she said, referring to Markle’s 2013 divorce from Trevor Engelson. “I think she’ll bolt. I hope in a way that she’ll bolt but maybe she’ll take Harry with her.”

When asked why Markle, already a successful television star, would give up her career to marry into the royal family, Greer quipped: “Why would a girl born in poverty marry a man with 53 million quid? I can’t think of single reason.”

It seems Harry might be worth less than that — possibly £30m, but the point stands.

There is also the status involved.

Opportunism

The deputy political editor at the Daily Mail, John Stevens, had this to say about the Sussexes’ announcement last week:

In fact, that is quite possible.

Allegedly, Justin Trudeau knew of their plans before the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family. So did Elton John.

On January 11, the Daily Mail reported:

There was speculation last night that Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may have given a cryptic Twitter clue about the crisis that was about to engulf the Royal Family.

When news emerged that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had turned their back on Royal tradition and flown to Canada for Christmas, their powerful friend was one of the first to welcome them on social media.

He wrote: ‘You’re among friends, and always welcome here.’

Just weeks later, the Royal couple were looking to test that ‘always’ by announcing their move to Canada.

And the tweet has done little to dampen gossip in Embassy circles that Mr Trudeau was more aware of the Sussexes’ emigration plans than even their closest family.

Diplomatic sources claim Mr Trudeau and his wife Sophie were consulted about the decision late last year, before members of the Royal family and even the Queen.

The Trudeaus are friends with the Sussexes:

Last night, the Canadian government did not respond when confronted about the claims, but sources close to the Sussexes denied they had discussed the move with Prime Minister Trudeau.

The Canadian First Couple and the Sussexes have been close friends, with Meghan and Sophie even sharing a stylist – Meghan’s best friend and sometime babysitter for Archie, Jessica Mulroney.

Prince Harry, 35, and Mr Trudeau, 48, are two of the younger fixtures on the world stage, with both men appearing to enjoy each other’s company at events such as Commonwealth commemorations.

The two have also encountered each other on multiple occasions through Prince Harry’s Invictus Games for disabled servicemen.

I wonder if the Sussexes are aware that, many years ago, Trudeau once attended a fancy dress party in blackface. He thought nothing of it at the time. Terrible.

Returning to John Stevens’s tweet, here are a few responses:

Money

Although, technically, what Prince Charles does with his income from the Duchy of Cornwall is his business, the British would be annoyed if he continued to finance Prince Harry:

This YouGov poll shows similar results:

This Briton tweeted about the video of Harry touting Meghan to Disney’s Bob Iver for voiceover work:

Naturally, some of the money she would earn from such work would go to charity. Of course:

Trudeau said that his country will pay for the Sussexes’ security detail. Canadians won’t be too happy about that:

Another Daily Mail report said that Canada would pay half the Sussexes’ £1m annual security detail cost. We shall see. On January 14, the Mail published an article quoting Trudeau, who said:

I think most Canadians are very supportive of having royals be here, but how that looks and what kind of costs are involved, there are still lots of discussions to have.

Family

The young Anglican priest who tweeted the following has mistakenly said that the Sussexes are on the Civil List. They are not.

However, the larger point about their role in the Royal Family is what is important:

The Revd Giles Fraser, formerly Canon at St Paul’s Cathedral and now Rector of St Mary, Newington in South London, wrote a considered article on the topic that the Revd Philip Murray raised. The Bishop of Dorking (Surrey) complimented him on it:

Excerpts follow:

Do we still recognise moral obligations that exist prior to our having chosen them? That is, it seems to me, the question embedded within the whole Megxit scandal. It couldn’t have been better designed to drive a wedge between two very different ways of seeing the world

But this isn’t just about monarchy. For the same tension exists within the very idea of a family — the Windsors being, as well as royal, the most famous family in the world. How does liberalism — of which Meghan Markle feels like a supreme representative — deal with that age-old sense of moral obligation towards those who have brought you into life and have raised and nurtured you, without you having chosen them for the task. Of course, some families fail in this very basic duty. And most of us parents only get it half right, at best.

Without this very basic idea that we are born into some fundamental unit of existential solidarity, something towards which we owe an allegiance long before we are able to choose it, human life is released from its moorings and we are all deeply lost. This is where liberalism flounders. For when it comes to the most important basis of human flourishing, family life, liberalism has nothing useful to say, other than to remind us that some families are destructive and dysfunctional and best escaped from. Be your own person, it advises. Break free. But this is to cut off the branch on which nests are built.

Sense of duty

A Theology graduate from Cambridge University has the ultimate analysis of the Duchess and her outlook on a sense of duty.

This is a must-read:

So true — especially the closing thought about helping minority Britons!

When they got married, I thought she might look forward to such a role. I was wrong.

Poll on the monarchy

Between Thursday and Friday, January 9 and 10, Deltapoll conducted a survey on the monarchy. This was after the Sussexes’ announcement.

The favourable results were lower than I’d expected:

A Pole responded to that tweet, encouraging us to keep the Royal Family:

Good or bad? It’s important. I come originally from Poland. I read Polish papers and monarchy issues make front page headlines there. The monarchy is ‘s trademark, as it were, recognised worldwide. Try and lose it to see how good it actually is to have it.

I fully agree.

This is a breakdown of the question by age group:

I also agree with these replies:

I do not think that most of our Prime Ministers would have made great Presidents.

The Royal Family are good for Britain. Let’s not discard them because of the actions of a few bad apples.

advent wreath stjohnscamberwellorgauOn the First Sunday of Advent a fortnight ago, our vicar (Anglican) urged us to use the four Sundays of Advent wisely.

This is the first time I have personally heard a Protestant clergyman exhort his congregation to examine their consciences before Christmas.

The Gospel reading was Matthew 24:36-44, wherein Jesus described His Second Coming (emphases mine):

24:36 “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

24:37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

24:38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark,

24:39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.

24:40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.

24:41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left.

24:42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

24:43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.

24:44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

Our vicar advised us to consider the state of our souls with regard to death. We do not know when we will depart this mortal coil, therefore, we should take every care to make sure we are spiritually prepared.

He said that we put so much time and effort into preparing materially for Christmas — sending cards, wrapping presents and preparing meals — that we forget the deeper meaning of the season.

Just as John the Baptist called upon his followers to repent of their sins in preparation for Christ’s ministry, we, too, would do well to consider if our souls are in an appropriate state.

I wrote about this in 2012: ‘Advent: John the Baptist’s message of Good News — and repentance‘. I cited a sermon from a Reformed clergyman, the Revd Scott E Hoezee, ‘When Advent Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas’ (Reformed Worship, September 1997). In that article, he says of these weeks prior to Christmas:

… if you are to meet and greet this Messiah correctly, you must admit that you need him in the first place. If you don’t, then you’ll have no use for Jesus once he’s born

Only those willing to turn their lives over to God are ready for the Christ. The rest, John says, are fuel for the fire. None of that is very Christmaslike. Or is it?

His sermon cites Luke 3. Last Sunday’s Gospel reading was from Matthew 3, which was a similar account about John the Baptist’s ministry, also mentioning ‘chaff’ and ‘fire’.

By all means, let’s enjoy the festive season within reason, but let us also remember Whose season it is — and why.

Before I get to the main story, October has been Theresa May’s best month this year.

Her birthday was October 1:

During the extraordinary parliamentary session of Saturday, October 19, 2019, she stood firm with Boris on his new Brexit deal. That was principled, considering that David Cameron didn’t stand with her when she was PM. In fact, he resigned as the MP for Witney (Oxfordshire):

She gave an excellent speech that day:

Now, let us cast our minds back to 1961. Theresa Brasier was nearing her fifth birthday. Her parents, the Revd Hubert Brazier and Zaidee ‘Mary’ Brasier, played host to a 16-year-old German teenager from Bonn that summer at the vicarage in Church Enstone, Oxfordshire.

On July 24, 2019, Detlev J Piltz wrote a fascinating article about his four weeks with the Brasiers for The Oldie magazine, outstanding reading for anyone over the age of 40. He learned invaluable lessons about the English during his time in the Cotswolds.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

The Brasiers took young Detlev everywhere:

The four weeks I spent there enriched my life. Not only did I improve my schoolboy English and become more fluent, but the family took me with them on their shopping trips in their plush Morris Minor, usually to Chipping Norton.

On Sundays, the family and I attended the village church together. We all went to watch the motor racing at Silverstone, picnicked in the country, and the vicar showed me Oxford University and explained about its colleges.

He especially appreciated his time with the vicar:

What impressed me most were the many conversations that the Reverend Hubert, to call him by his first name, then in his mid-forties, carried on with a rather wet-behind-the-ears teenager.

The vicar, as folk in the village referred to him, was a good-hearted soul: clever, educated, helpful and gentle, yet quite clear about his moral and ethical principles. Perhaps this was also partly due to his slight stoop which, as he himself put it, had focused his concentration more on the spiritual than on the physical.

The parishioners – who visited us, or whom we visited – and the congregation in church always displayed an aura of love and devotion, but also respect, for their vicar.

I still admire him today for how he and his wife managed the not-so-easy duties of an English country clergyman. During my stay, I also learned something about Englishness and even about the English class system, although this knowledge was more sensed and intuited than consciously understood.

The Brasiers had just purchased a television set. A Test Match between England and Australia was being broadcast, so the vicar explained the rules of cricket to Detlev. Detlev also learned a lesson about the English. Only they can criticise their country. Foreigners cannot.

This is very true — and anyone coming here should remember it. It’s just how things are:

He straightforwardly concluded that the Australians would win, as they were both bowling and batting better than the English, an assessment with which I dutifully agreed.

This proved to be a mistake. My host took me to one side and explained, ‘You are quite right, Detlev. Australia is playing better than England. But perhaps I can give you a piece of advice for the future. As a foreigner, you would do well not to say so. Leave it to us.’

In a few words, the vicar had borne out a rule of English interaction with foreigners, summarised succinctly by George Orwell, ‘We spend our lives in abusing England but grow very angry when we hear a foreigner saying exactly the same things.’

Fortunately, comments in the opposite direction are allowed. If a foreigner praises certain features of England, the English are pleased, although they will immediately play down the merits of what has been admired and claim that it is actually not so great.

The bishop of the diocese visited the Brasiers on the last Sunday that Detlev was there. The couple made a point of impressing upon the young German the importance of manners:

something they had never previously done.

They told him to stay silent unless the bishop spoke to him:

I was also kindly advised not to engage the bishop in conversation myself, but to wait until he spoke to me, and to address him as ‘Bishop’, rather than Mr Johnson, or whatever his name might be.

They impressed upon him the finer points of tea drinking — always two cups:

a single cup was deemed impolite, as not enough; three cups were considered impolite, as too many.

Detlev did not like the special tea that Mrs Brasier served but refrained from commenting until later. It was probably Lapsang Souchong, a smoky tea:

‘It was Chinese tea,’ the vicar’s wife explained. When I asked why it was different from the tea we otherwise always drank, I heard for the first time in my life that it was ‘because of the bishop’.

The high point of his visit was when he accompanied the Brasiers to the local landowner’s for tea. Detlev had a keen interest in historic Royal Navy battles. When they arrived at Sir John’s house, Detlev could not contain his enthusiasm:

When we arrived in the entrance hall of the large and rather grand residence, I spotted on the opposite wall a painting of a scene from the 1916 Battle of Jutland, details of which were well known to me.

Without thinking, I stopped in front of the picture and said, ‘Oh, the famous manoeuvre of crossing the T [when a line of warships crosses in front of a line of enemy ships at right angles] by Admiral Jellicoe.’

Sir John treated his guests to tea and scones. Then he turned his attention to the young German:

Afterwards, Sir John asked me how I recognised the scene in the picture, and I told him about my interest in the Royal Navy. He signalled to me to follow him and we entered a room full of English naval memorabilia.

It transpired that Sir John had fought in the Battle of Jutland. For nearly a whole hour, he described the events and his role. I was eager to know whether he had known the English admirals, Jellicoe and Beatty, personally. It was an hour suffused with mutual affection between old and young, with never a word out of place, and certainly no nationalistic undertones. I remember it clearly and vividly to this day.

On the way home, Mrs Brasier expressed her disappointment that Sir John had not spent more time with them. The vicar responded:

Well, it may be years since he had such an admirer, let alone such a young one – and, by the way, he can do whatever he thinks fit.

Detlev’s stay with the Brasier family fostered in him a lifelong love of England.

In 2015, he and his wife visited the Cotswolds and passed through Church Enstone, where they stopped.

Detlev Piltz did not want to bother the present occupants of the vicarage, but he asked at the church what happened to the Brasiers:

… in the church, someone showed us a roll of past vicars, and there was the name of ‘my’ vicar, and his dates in office, from 1959 to 1971.

Piltz thought nothing more about it until the following year, which featured that momentous summer of the Brexit referendum and David Cameron’s immediate resignation, which was completely unnecessary but was perhaps for the better, given his Remainer views.

Lo, Theresa May won the Conservative leadership contest that summer:

The candidacy of Theresa May spawned widespread reporting about her background and early life. And only then did it become clear to me how small the world really can be.

For the idyllic village in the Cotswolds was Church Enstone, and the vicar and his wife were Hubert and Zaidee Brasier, although he always called her Mary. Sadly, I then learned that Hubert Brasier had been killed in a car accident in 1981, and his wife died the following year.

And I also learnt what had happened to their young daughter. She was called Theresatoday known to every Englishman and woman as Prime Minister Theresa May.

I thought that was such a terrific anecdote.

People have either made fun of Theresa May or criticised her mercilessly. We still don’t know what fully took place between her people and Angela Merkel’s regarding Brexit. Certainly, May’s downfall began when she put forward that London-Berlin Brexit deal in July 2018 at Chequers, when her own Brexit team, lead by David Davis, was putting together a proper exit plan (Canada ++), working together with Michel Barnier from the EU. May told a shocked assembly of her own ministers that it was her deal or the highway. The Evening Standard reported that she told ministers they could pay for their own transport back to London if they wanted to leave early. Brexit minister David Davis tendered his resignation afterwards as did Boris Johnson, who was Foreign Minister at the time.

My, how much water has passed under the dam since then. I hope that our former PM continues to vote in support of our present one, Boris Johnson.

I regret to report that our new exit deadline is January 31, 2020.

If you missed it, please check out my last post on Notre-Dame de Paris, which ends with this stunning tweet, quickly deleted:

A Jesuit friend in Paris who works in told me cathedral staff said the fire was intentionally set.

What follows is also a bit strange. It is the best glimpse of the flash from the cathedral before the fire started.

Note the time stamps in the tweets below. Did we know there was a Mass on the evening of Monday, April 15, 2019, that had to be evacuated?

I will come back to the mystery of this fire in another post.

Today’s entry looks at what had already been removed from the cathedral during renovations and what had been saved from the fire.

Fearless fire brigade chaplain

The Paris firefighters did an incredible and exceptional job, but special credit goes to their chaplain, the Revd Jean-Marc Fournier, who dashed into the burning structure to save the Blessed Sacrament and the gold Crown of Thorns, believed to be the one our Lord wore. The journalist who posted this tweet works for the Catholic network KTOTV, based in Paris:

Breitbart has more on Fr Fournier and the cathedral’s sacred contents. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Fournier has been in dangerous situations before:

The newspaper reports he responded with the fire brigade to the 2015 Bataclan terror attacks in Paris, where Islamist extremists killed 90 with rifles and suicide vests at a rock concert in the city, where he was “quickly on the scene after the attack… he helped remove the wounded from the hall and prayed with the bodies of the victims.”

The priest also served as a chaplain to the French army and survived an ambush in Afghanistan where ten French soldiers were killed.

Television network Sky News reports the remarks of one member of the Paris emergency services who said of the chaplain: “Father Fournier is an absolute hero.

He showed no fear at all as he made straight for the relics inside the cathedral, and made sure they were saved. He deals with life and death every day, and shows no fear.”

In the following short video, Fr Fournier describes what he calls ‘the fire of the century’, extinguished by 600 firefighters. He also praised the fire chief and his ‘extraordinary intuition’ to save as much of the structure and its contents as possible.

Fournier said that his first thought on arrival was to rescue the Blessed Sacrament and the Crown of Thorns.

He’s a good speaker, very well prepared. Francophones will appreciate this:

On Tuesday, April 16, 2019, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Paris Philippe Marsset said that if there were miracles during the previous night, then our Lord surely worked through the Paris fire brigade:

One can understand why they were the guests of honour at the Easter Mass held at Saint-Eustache for Notre-Dame’s congregation. Archbishop Aupetit praised them for their courage and their ‘human genius which renders honour to God’s love’ for mankind:

Items already removed for renovation

A number of items had already been removed and stored for safekeeping during the cathedral’s renovation:

The 16 copper statues of the apostles and evangelists that adorned the roof of Notre-Dame made headlines last week as they were removed by crane for restoration work, intended to go two at a time over the course of the coming years. They now stand on palettes in a warehouse, having been saved from the fire which the restoration work, ironically, seems to have started.

Breitbart‘s article has photos of the statues’ removal. They were around the base of the spire, which burnt and broke off the cathedral. The statues will be restored in Perigueux, in southwest France. They will be returned once the new spire is completed, thought to be in 2022.

Items saved from the fire

Fr Fournier saved the Blessed Sacrament — consecrated hosts — and the Crown of Thorns from the fire:

Among the relics saved in the effort was Notre-Dame’s most famous and revered and holy relic, the gold-encrusted Crown of Thorns, believed to be the wreath of thorns that was placed on the head of Jesus Christ at his crucifixion.

A close up of the Crown of Thorns can be seen in another Breitbart article.

Elaborate candelabra and works of art were rescued and sent to City Hall (Hôtel de Ville) for safekeeping in St John’s Hall. St Louis’s tunic is also there. Paris’s City Hall is immense, so it is likely that the items can remain there for a long period of time.

The first tweet I saw on February 16 discussed the rooster from the top of the spire, with historic relics inside, including one of the Thorns:

As this historian said that same day, every time something else was rescued, it seemed like a miracle:

The 700-year-old statue of Our Lady was rescued. The cathedral’s rector said he saw it at midnight. He was grateful and expressed his gratitude that ‘the Mother of Jesus protected’ the cathedral built in her honour:

Tweets responding to the original one below indicate it might go to the Louvre temporarily:

This footage shows that, although there is ash all over the floor, the cabinets with the votive candles are unharmed — as is the magnificent rose window in the background:

Amazingly, all of the cathedral’s resident honeybees, living among three hives, survived:

Good News Network‘s article has an aerial photo of the hives’ location and explains:

For the last six years, there have been a trio of beehives nestled on top of the cathedral’s roof. The hives were just a few honeybee colonies that were installed across the city as a means of of boosting dwindling pollinator populations in Europe.

The hives have been managed by Notre Dame beekeeper Nicolas Geant since 2013; so when the Parisian cathedral caught fire last week, he anxiously awaited news of their condition …

Once specialists were finally able to check up on the honeybees, Geant was elated to hear that they were alive and well.

“It’s a big day. I am so relieved. I saw satellite photos that showed the three hives didn’t burn,” Geant told The Associated Press. “Instead of killing them, the CO2 (from smoke) makes them drunk, puts them to sleep.”

That being said, the bees are particularly lucky because the hives reside only 100 feet under where the roof was burning. If their hives had been heated to 63 degrees Celsius (145.4 Fahrenheit), the hive wax would have melted and the bees would have perished.

“I wouldn’t call it a miracle, but I’m very, very happy,” Geant added.

Church bells tolled in solidarity

Church bells tolled in solidarity with the losses that Notre-Dame de Paris suffered in the fire.

NDTV reported that, in England, bells rang on Tuesday of Holy Week and again on Maundy Thursday:

Church bells will toll across England on Thursday in “solidarity” with France and its people as they mourn the Notre-Dame blaze, Prime Minister Theresa May said.

The bells of Westminster Abbey, the church opposite parliament where kings and queens have been crowned since 1066, will be rung on Tuesday at 1643 GMT – the time that Monday’s fire broke out, May said.

“Notre-Dame is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world – a symbol of France and the French people, and cherished across the globe,” Ms May said in a statement.

“The images of destruction we saw last night were truly heart-rending.”

Bells will then be rung across the country on Maundy Thursday, three days before Easter.

Mrs May paid tribute to:

the “swift and heroic action of the first responders, France has huge professionalism in dealing with emergencies of this kind”.

She also offered to help with restoration:

“When it comes to the task of rebuilding, French craftsmen and women are among the finest in the world,” said the British leader.

We stand ready to offer any UK experience and expertise that could be helpful in the work that lies ahead to restore this magnificent cathedral.”

On Wednesday of Holy Week, all French cathedrals rang their bells in solidarity with Notre-Dame de Paris. I would encourage those who love the Church and architecture honouring the glory of God to watch this brief video of France’s magnificent cathedrals:

Bell ringing also took place in other countries, such as Poland.

In closing this post, I would like to point out the following for the many who think the Church is people alone, without houses of worship. The Archbishop of Paris had this to say in his homily during the Chrism Mass on Wednesday of Holy Week:

What is the difference between a lump of stone and a cathedral? The same difference between a lump of cells and a human being.

Both have a sacred dimension.

AMEN!

Tomorrow’s post will look at the fire’s influence on Holy Week services in Paris.

Good news from Syria!

On Tuesday, April 23, 2019, Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral in Aleppo was reconsecrated:

With faith, all things are possible.

Amazingly, the news came from Russia’s RUPTLY/RT network:

The description reads:

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption in Aleppo was reconsecrated on Tuesday after it had been damaged during the Syrian war.

His Beatitude, patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church Youssef Absi held a service attended by dozens in which he declared the site sacred once again.

“This was the first cathedral we built during the Ottoman period, this is why it is a heritage that revives our love to the homeland,” said archbishop Yohanna Janbert.

What a blessing for clergy and worshippers alike!

May God bless them and their restored church for centuries to come.

Over the past few weeks, I have written posts about Covington Catholic High School boys who were wrongly maligned and harassed at the Lincoln Memorial after the March for Life in Washington, DC, on Friday, January 18, 2019:

A school chaperone’s role is an onerous one (January 18)

Covington Catholic: responsible media backtracked (January 20)

Covington Catholic: doxxing followed by support on a fateful weekend (January 20-21)

Covington Catholic: when the media narrative turned (January 21-22)

Today, I will look at the Diocese of Covington’s response as well as those from two archdioceses.

Instead of waiting to gather facts about the incident, the Diocese of Covington in Kentucky — and at least two archdioceses — were quick to condemn the high school students.

Diocese of Covington

On Tuesday, January 22, Breitbart posted ‘Catholic Leaders Refuse to Retract Slander of School Boys at March for Life‘. The diocese unquestioningly followed the media narrative from the weekend (emphases mine below):

The boys’ school and the Diocese of Covington joined in the feeding frenzy, hastily issuing a statement of condemnation of the boys as well as a public apology without hearing the boys’ version of the story.

“This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person,” Covington Catholic High School and the Diocese of Covington said in a joint statement. “The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion.”

We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general, Jan. 18, after the March for Life, in Washington, D.C. We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips,” the statement reads.

Bishop Foys created his Twitter account a short time ago in January 2019. The tone of his first tweet contradicts the above statement:

His second was this retweet of a President Trump message:

Conservative network OANN host Jack Posobiec reported that parents wanted a swift apology to the students on the March for Life:

Perhaps Bishop Foys thought the diocese’s strong statement would avert a protest in front of a Catholic church in Covington on January 22. If so, he was mistaken. Fortunately, the weather was cold:

Catholics across the country were frustrated, if not livid, with the condemnation of the students, especially as lengthy videos showing their innocence appeared that weekend:

The Daily Wire article says, in part:

The commissars in charge of Covington Diocese are not the only members of the American hierarchy behaving shamelessly during this railroading of innocent young boys. As of this writing, Cardinal DiNardo, president of the USCCB, has uttered not a word in the boys’ defense, nor has he rebuked priests like Father Edward Beck (CNN Commentator) who doubled down on his condemnation of the boys even after evidence proved them innocent.

On January 23, Gateway Pundit‘s Cassandra Fairbanks tweeted:

Fairbanks’s article states:

The students claim that after some of the kids spoke to Fox News and other outlets, the Bishop informed the school that he doesn’t want them doing any more interviews. The school faculty agreed, claiming they are worried about their safety.

While no punishment was made clear if they fail to comply, the students want to cooperate and plan to do so.

One of the mothers Fairbanks interviewed had said at the weekend (emphasis in the original, those in purple mine):

“Like I said, the Bishop here is literally victimizing the victims twice. They’ve already been victimized by the media, now they are being victimized again,” she added. “There is blood in the water and they are making it worse. They’re feeding the piranha frenzy from the liberal media. I just want people to understand that they need to wake up and stop believing the fake news and defend the kids.”

That day, Bishop Foys addressed Covington Catholic’s students. I’m so disgusted by some of the remarks, I won’t even comment (emphases mine):

I am the shepherd of this Church. I have to present not only to the people of our diocese but also to the world the facts. Not the facts that someone has imagined or the facts that someone thinks or facts that people might determine from seeing a video. I encourage all of you, especially the students who were there at the march, to cooperate with the investigators. This is with the permission of your parents. We’re not going to have you do anything without the permission of your parents. And the teachers and chaperones who were there, I am asking you, too, to be cooperative with this …

I’m going to ask you, as your bishop, to stay off social media in regards to this situation at least until it is resolved. Because the more you say — pro or con — the more you exacerbate the situation. You have to help, especially yourself, by getting off social media. Right now anything we say — you or I — anything we say is questioned. The devil is real; trust me. He has taken this good thing, this March for Life, and turned it into a media circus.”

Bishop Foys then talked to the students about the statements that have been released by the diocese and the school, which have been criticized.

Some people think our first statement was too strong, but in my mind with what we saw and what we heard at the time, we had to say what we said and we meant it. If that behavior is genuine then we have to condemn it.

“We issued a second statement yesterday. Regardless of what you heard or what you’ve read or what you think— I am on your side. I want you to come out of this in a positive light.

“In our second statement I asked people to pray that we will arrive at the truth. The only way we can do that in an objective way is through a thorough and in-depth investigation … If there was some wrongdoing we have to own up to that, too. Father Michael [Hennigen, school chaplain] is right, it is the truth that will set us free.”

“Know that I stand with you, that I join with you in that ‘Spirit that will not die’ and that together we will work through this. Thank you and God bless you.”

As Bishop Foys turned the podium over to Mr. Rowe, he expressed his confidence in the principal. “Mr. Rowe has done a wonderful job here in his leadership. I have full confidence in him and he will continue to lead you,” he said.

In his final remarks before dismissing the assembly Mr. Rowe said, “Bishop Foys supports us — now we need to support him.”

On January 25, Bishop Foys sent a letter to the parents of Covington Catholic High School students. In it was an apology to Nicholas Sandmann and his family. Foys admitted he thought the diocesan announcement of the third-party investigation into the Lincoln Memorial incident would placate venomous critics and acknowledged that did not happen.

Sadly, it took until Wednesday, February 13, for the boys to be exonerated:

If the diocese paid handsomely for this report, they were robbed. The Daily Beast reported:

The Washington Post reports Wednesday that a team of Cincinnati private investigators spent hundreds of hours reviewing footage and interviewing witnesses before concluding that there was no evidence that there were “racist or offensive statements by students to Mr. Phillips.” They did not, however, speak to Nathan Phillips or Nicholas Sandmann, the two people featured most prominently in the encounter. After the results were released, the Bishop of Covington reversed the diocese’s earlier condemnation of the students, noting that “my hope and expectation expressed in my letter to you of 25 January that the results of our inquiry … would exonerate our students so that they can move forward with their lives’ has been realized.” The report doesn’t offer any guidance on how to prevent similar encounters in the future.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore

Two days after the Lincoln Memorial incident, the Archdiocese of Baltimore — hundreds of miles east, in Maryland — got involved:

That tweet received a number of indignant responses, which outnumbered positive ones.

A Catholic priest tweeted:

Boomer Catholic clergy pass judgment on Catholic high school students before investigating all of the evidence. Why aren’t there more young people at Mass?

Someone recommended the archdiocese delete their tweet:

Very sad that a prominent archdiocese would rush to judgment and gullibly swallow a contrived, libelous attack on young Catholics. You’d do well to delete this tweet.

Someone else recommended amending the tweet in light of new facts:

You are WRONG!!! Get the facts. Watch the videos. And CORRECT this tweet. NOW!!!

Another noted that clergy love only the elite:

Love how the Catholic Church stands with elites instead of its children.

A mother tweeted:

I’ve been preparing my teens that we’ll likely see more aggression towards Catholics. Who knew it would come from a hierarchy that can’t even keep their own accountable for their sins? Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

A Catholic man said:

Would that the hierarchy was this quick to deal with molesters in its ranks…🙄

On January 21 — Martin Luther King Day — the archdiocese issued a clarification:

The statement reads in part:

The Archdiocese of Baltimore wishes to clarify its message condemning what was widely reported as disrespect toward a Native American elder during the March for Life in Washington, D.C. We reiterate our condemnation of disrespect and denigration toward any person or group based on the color of their skin, their religious or ethnic heritage, or immigrant status. The circumstances of this confrontation at the Lincoln Memorial are now being reported as more complex and it will be the responsibility of school authorities, parents and others involved to determine the actual circumstances, responsibility and consequences. Regardless, it is deeply unfortunate that the annual March for Life was marred by this confrontation.

That made their Twitter readers even angrier.

Risky business, that. Donations can dry up in an instant.

One Catholic tweeted:

Then let me respectfully clarify my position on the annual appeal letter I just received …until you apologize to those boys for rushing to judgement and condemnation, I’ll set the letter aside and will recommend that all Catholics in this Archdiocese do the same

Another Catholic responded:

You’ll never receive another dime from me.

A third Catholic said:

This is why we refuse to give to the Hope Appeal.Your quick to condemn these young people w/o all the facts yet you covered up pervert priest for years.. Apologize now.

A fourth sent them back to Catholic catechism:

Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, specifically paragraph 2477 “Respect for the Reputation of Others” and the definitions of “rash judgment” and “calumny.” You owe those students an apology!

A fifth wrote:

Apologize and stop attacking the laity.

A sixth said:

This explains why the Laity is taking the lead. Because the leadership is not Catholic.

And, finally, a Venezuelan Catholic wrote:

Still waiting s not an . These is the perfect example of why more and my re people is LEAVING the church.

On January 23, the archdiocese tried again. Money talks. They probably got a lot of angry phone calls, emails and letters:

This was a guarded — let’s just say, lame — apology. The statement reads in part:

It has become apparent, however, that initial reports of that incident were at best incomplete. Those incomplete reports led many, including the Archdiocese of Baltimore, to speak out too hastily. We apologize for doing so. It is our hope that the young people involved were in fact acting in accord with the truth and values that are foundational to Catholic education. We also hope that this sad incident will give to all a renewed determination to respect the life and dignity of every person without exception.

Only three people were happy. Everyone else was scathing. Responses from Catholics follow. Interestingly enough, all of the following are from women.

One lady wrote:

Nick Sandmann turned the other cheek and you stabbed him in the back. For once could you put the well-being of teenage boys ahead of your own ambitions?

She added:

That was such a quisling statement.

Another lady said:

How about having the courage to unequivocally state that these boys did nothing wrong? So sad that pro-life Catholic boys can’t even depend on their shepherds to stick up for them in the face of persecution.

To which another responded:

Totally agree! A pretty lame statement.

A second response rolled in:

Why was everyone so quick to judge the boys in the shortened video, but afraid to condemn the aggressive behavior of adults (towards kids!!) after seeing the full video? It boggles my mind. This is a cowardly, conforming statement, at best. We are lost.

I wonder if the archdiocese thought its tweets on Catholic schooling were somewhat misplaced the following week. I accept that it was Catholic Schools Week, but when Covington Catholic High School and the diocese weren’t defending their students, one wonders.

Even after Catholic Schools Week was over, the archdiocese was still at it. Meanwhile, Covington Catholic High School’s students were still under the cosh, as it were, awaiting judgement — for having done nothing wrong:

Two days later — after the Diocese of Covington found no wrongdoing on the part of the students — the archdiocese tweeted:

Oh so generously, the Archdiocese of Baltimore felt it could finally support the students. Pah.

Here’s the statement in full. Note what could be construed as a legal disclaimer in the second paragraph:

Citing the public release today by the Diocese of Covington of the Final Investigative Report into the January 18th incident at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the Archdiocese of Baltimore joins Bishop Roger J. Foys, Bishop of Covington, in expressing its support for the students of Covington Catholic High School. The independent investigation, conducted by a third-party firm with no connection to Covington Catholic High School or the Diocese of Covington, found that “our students did not instigate the incident that occurred,” Bishop Foys said.

As previously related, the Archdiocese regrets communicating before all the facts were known about the unfortunate confrontation that occurred at the Lincoln Memorial with other demonstrators.  Furthermore, the Archdiocese of Baltimore again commends the students from Covington and across the nation who participated in the annual March for Life in witness of their active faith and defense of the sanctity of human life at every stage.

By then, Twitter readers must have been fed up. The tweet only garnered four responses: three negative and one positive.

First tweet:

At least you finally responded in the right way. My ongoing complaint and criticism remains: You act like pansies without a backbone unwilling to take a strong stance on any issue (esp Catholic issues) unless you have the support of a corrupted society. I keep praying for you.

Second:

didn’t support Needed an “independent investigation” in order to clear youths’ reputations. What a bunch of cowardly shepherds. Skulking under their skullcaps. Creeping behind their croziers. You should be embarrassed.

And finally:

When the ex-con fake vietnam vet got in this child’s face, his Indian friend yelled racial slurs at the white kids. The Indians then attempted a hate-crime by trying to disrupt a Catholic Mass. How sad you attacked these pro-life teens. SHAME!

The Archdiocese of Baltimore never should have said a thing.

The Archdiocese of Louisville

Closer to home, the Archdiocese of Louisville chimed in.

The Archbishop’s original statement of January 19 was replaced with one dated January 22:

Over the past few days, I have received many calls and email messages from people with many different viewpoints and seemingly opposite messages about the incidences involving Covington Catholic High School students at the March for Life. Many of these calls and messages have revealed the regrettable polarization in our Church and in our society

As many have noted, over the weekend, I joined Bishop Foys in a condemnation of alleged actions, not people. This post replaces that original blog entry with the additional information below from the Diocese of Covington.

I do not have jurisdiction in the Diocese of Covington. However, I have sought to act in solidarity with the Bishop of Covington, who is in a position to have the best information about what transpired and who has pledged an independent investigation of the situation. (See the statement from the Diocese of Covington below.) At this time, I am not going to get ahead of the Diocese of Covington’s independent investigation with additional comments.

I want to assure those who are concerned that I am confident that Bishop Foys and the school will reach out and respond to those who were impacted by these events and media reports

Whatever the investigation reveals, I hope that we can use this as a teachable moment, learn from any mistakes on the part of anyone involved, and begin the process of healing.

That, too, was pretty lame. The last sentence in particular suggests that, somehow, someone did something woefully wrong.

The Archbishop issued one further statement — a weak apology — on January 25:

I offer further reflections about the events at the March for Life involving Covington Catholic High School students.  Today’s letter sent by Bishops Roger Foys to Covington Catholic High School parents is a good description of what has transpired since the events at the March for Life.

Since I joined with Bishop Foys in condemning the alleged actions by Covington Catholic students, I apologize for what was a premature statement on my part based upon incomplete information. I very much regret the pain and disruption in the lives of the Covington Catholic community and in the broader Church and society.

I support Bishop Foys in his efforts to investigate fully what happened, to learn from mistakes, and to take any action needed to address the harm done to anyone from the events that occurred last Friday at the March for Life.

There is a great deal to be learned about the risk of responding to social media and media reports without additional analysis and especially the need to elevate our discourse and to foster the much-needed skills of listening, dialogue, and mutual understanding.

After the Covington Catholic High School boys had been cleared of wrongdoing, nothing to that effect was posted on the archdiocesan website.

One cannot help but think the Archbishop really wanted someone to be expelled. As if the boys hadn’t suffered enough — for doing nothing wrong.

If nothing else, this painful debacle proved the truth of the New Testament to the boys that followers of Christ will be persecuted.

It’s a pity that their own clergy had to join in that persecution: Pharisees, every last one of them.

I will look at the legal angles in another post.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the much-maligned students at Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky:

A school chaperone’s role is an onerous one (January 18, March for Life, Covington Catholic High School)

Covington Catholic: responsible media backtracked (January 20, March for Life, Covington Catholic High School)

Covington Catholic: doxxing followed by support on a fateful weekend (January 20-21, Covington Catholic High School)

I meant to write about them last week, but that worked out just fine, because the story gradually progressed to a happy ending. On Wednesday, February 13, the Diocese of Covington has cleared the boys of any wrongdoing.

Nonetheless, the story needs telling in full.

To pick up where I left off, Monday, January 21, 2019, was Martin Luther King Day, so there was no school. No doubt, the boys who were harassed at the Lincoln Memorial after the March for Life the previous Friday were delighted during that long, horrible weekend to hear from someone their own age, CJ Pearson, who rallied to their cause:

Pearson posted a video of two of the boys that Monday:

The Gateway Pundit was able to interview two students and two mothers under conditions of anonymity (names were changed). One of the mothers said the boys, who were performing their school chants — with permission — thought the Native American who approached them (emphasis in the original):

was on their side and drumming along to their cheer.

Clearly, this was traumatising for the families involved, especially when politicians and even their own diocese criticised the students:

The families also wanted to make it clear that there were no chants of “build the wall,” or anything else that could be seen as offensive. Mrs. Smith recited one of the Covington chants, saying that it could have been what Phillips heard.

Another mother whose son was present during the incident, who we refer to as Mrs. Adams, said that “it’s just terrible that they are being criticized the way they are.”

Mrs. Adams said that she is worried about the safety of the students on Tuesday when they return to school. The American Indian Movement Chapter of Indiana and Kentucky has called for a protest at the high school.

“I’m worried about their safety on Tuesday — people were threatening to shoot up the school,” Mrs. Adams said. “I’m worried about sending my child back.”

Mrs. Smith added that she “demands an apology and a retraction from the Diocese.”

The mothers had much more to say (purple highlights mine):

Mrs. Adams added that the worst for her has been the Bishop of Covington throwing them under the bus. “That is the worst thing to me,” she said, her voice shaking.

“I personally think they were targeted because they had the MAGA hats on,” Mrs. Smith said. “I think it’s a shame that people are saying that we shouldn’t have let them wear them. It’s a shame that you can’t support your president in Washington, DC.”

Trump “is the first and only president to come out to support the March for Life,” Mrs. Smith added. “To get blamed for this because they were wearing a hat instead of blaming the aggressors — it’s blaming the victims.”

“Like I said, the Bishop here is literally victimizing the victims twice. They’ve already been victimized by the media, now they are being victimized again,” she added. “There is blood in the water and they are making it worse. They’re feeding the piranha frenzy from the liberal media. I just want people to understand that they need to wake up and stop believing the fake news and defend the kids.”

The Gateway Pundit asked the families if there is anything they would like to say to the Democrat mob of adult journalists and celebrities that are coming after their children.

“I don’t think you could publish it,” Mrs. Smith said, taking a break from the righteous outrage for some laughter.

These students aren’t adults, these are kids — innocent children — and the adults should pause before they react when it’s children’s lives that could be ruined,” Mrs. Smith said. “And kids are so susceptible to bullying. I honestly thought, this kid could kill himself over this. What are they thinking? They could destroy this boy’s life, depress him, and he could end up committing suicide — and he did nothing wrong! These people, who are supposed to be adults, are jumping in and accusing him of terrible things — shame on them! Shame isn’t even enough of a word,” Mrs. Smith demanded.

Adam Smith noted that many of the children on the collage of photos that is being passed around the internet, looking for their names, are as young as 14-years-old. Many of them are freshmen.

“They’re really young,” he said. “They’re really going after kids. Half of us were just standing in the background and they’re looking for our information.”

Online scrutiny then turned to the Native American, allegedly a left-wing activist who appeared in a 2012 anti-police video, and thought to have been involved in a 2015 incident targeting a group of university fraternity members. In that incident, he also claimed he was abused, when it appears he instigated it.

Questions were raised about the timing of and his rank during his military service. Even the Washington Post had to correct one of their stories, retracting a mention of his service in the Vietnam War. Someone else unearthed his family history and past interviews with the media, which raised more questions about him.

Another Native American protester with him acknowledged that the two of them decided to join in solidarity with the group harassing the students.

That day, President Trump had a message of encouragement for the students:

One Trump supporter, whose Twitter account was later deleted, tweeted about the main target of the Left’s ire, student Nick Sandmann (emphases mine):

Imagine being Nick. One day you are on a field trip – next day the President of the United States got your back. That’s life in the Maga lane. The President understands loyalty better than many Bishops & ‘Catholic’ Teachers. Think about that. He fights for us. This is proof.

Things began looking up. Digital company INE Entertainment fired one of their employees who had tweeted a death wish towards the boys — and their parents. The Wrap reported:

Digital company INE Entertainment has fired a journalist who publicly wished for the death of several Covington Catholic High School students and their parents in a pair of tweets over the weekend. Aside from his job as a post-production supervisor at INE, Erik Abriss is a contributor to New York Media’s pop culture site Vulture.

“We were surprised and upset to see the inflammatory and offensive rhetoric used on Erik Abriss’ Twitter account this weekend. He worked with the company in our post-production department and never as a writer,” the company said in a statement to TheWrap on Monday.

“While we appreciated his work, it is clear that he is no longer aligned with our company’s core values of respect and tolerance. Therefore, as of January 21, 2019, we have severed ties with Abriss.”

The Wrap included the text of the offending tweet.

Tucker Carlson had a great segment on the journalists who ‘rushed to judgement’ about the Lincoln Memorial incident (also see YouTube). Note, there are neo-conservatives on his list, too:

A man helping the Covington families tweeted:

More messages of support rolled in from Patricia Heaton of Everyone Loves Raymond fame (also see her tweet), TurningPoint USA’s Charlie Kirk about his phone call with Nick Sandmann and Kyle Kashuv of Parkland, Florida, where the mass high school shooting took place a year ago on Valentine’s Day. He said:

The Media has bent over backwards to defend my Parkland Highschool liberal peers, no matter what outrageous things they have said. But now they have tried to ruin a highschool kid’s life, over fake news. What changed? The student was a Trump Supporter.

That day, the school’s principal sent an email to all parents. Gateway Pundit has the details. The message announced the beginning of an investigation into what had happened on Friday. One of the mothers was indignant (emphasis in the original):

“No apology. No explanation. No news on protests planned for tomorrow. No cancelling of school. Nothing,” she said.

The far-left radical activist group the “American Indian Movement” and Antifa have called a protest for Tuesday when the students are supposed to return to school.

The local Antifa group is urging “co-conspirators” to join them …

Two mothers that have spoke to The Gateway Pundit have both said they will not be sending their children to school tomorrow out of fear for their safety.

On Tuesday, January 22, Covington Catholic High School was closed. Gateway Pundit reported that parents received early morning phone calls with a recorded message from the principal (emphases mine):

A mother who received the call tells the Gateway Pundit that it was a recorded message from the principal saying that they decided to close the school after discussions with local authorities. They said that there were security concerns and no parents or children are permitted on campus throughout the day or for any evening activities.

The recording also asked that parents continue to pray for the school.

“It sounded serious, like they had some serious threats to call it off like that after they planned for it to be open,” the parent told TGP.

The parent also expressed frustration at the fact that they hadn’t cancelled sooner — as the threats were everywhere.

A local Antifa group and a far-left Native American group have called for protests at 10 a.m. on Tuesday at the school — though the Natives have reportedly moved their protest to a church.

That afternoon, the Cincinnati Enquirer published Nick Sandmann’s full statement on the incident and the aftermath. I cited most of it in an earlier post, but there is more. He received many threats — and so did his family:

My parents are receiving death and professional threats because of the social media mob that has formed over this issue …

Also:

I provided this account of events to the Diocese of Covington so they may know exactly what happened, and I stand ready and willing to cooperate with any investigation they are conducting.

The newspaper added:

This is the only statement that has been made by the Sandmann family. Any comments attributed to any member of the family that is not contained in this document are fabricated. The family will not be answering individual media inquiries.

That day, President Trump tweeted again about the incident:

As there are a number of other aspects to this story, I will continue next week.

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