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Monday 29 June 2015

Queen of Canada

From time to time I am asked about the relationship of the Queen of Canada to the Church.  It used to  be, when I was a member of the clergy of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC), that some would assume that Her Majesty (HM) was the "Head of the Anglican Church of Canada."  

This was a hangover from the 1950s when the ACC was still called THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND IN CANADA even though it was an independent ecclesial body in the ever loosening Anglican Communion. Certainly the Queen has never had a formal role in the ACC except as a fellow Anglican who is also the Head of State of Canada.

Now, with the many judicial and legislative measures dealing with moral and ethical problems: Euthanasia, Marriage, Abortion, etc.,  the question arises as to the personal views of HM as they may relate to her role as Sovereign in a Constitutional Monarchy.  

For example, the following request for an explanation was made recently.  After some thought on the matter I asked an expert (anonymous) friend to respond.  Here is the request and the response.


 " . . . an explanation of how we can reconcile HM’s signing evil legislation into law (against her personal convictions) that is not an exercise in unsustainable mental gymnastics…. I’d love to hear it. As an ardent monarchist, it’s one thing I struggle with. I know the technical explanations, and that if she refused to sign legislation it might very well mean the end of the monarchy, but is all the monarchy good for now the “reserve powers” to prevent a dictatorship? It seems to me we already have a dictatorship presided over by the Supreme Court. Any good reading recommendations on this topic?"


The convention of a constitutional monarchy is that the Sovereign acts on advice of her Ministers – the government of the day via the Prime Minister – and has no authority to exercise the Royal Prerogative in terms of giving Royal Assent to legislation (nothing is “signed” by the way; that is an American expression which accurately expresses what the President does, but not Her Majesty or the Governor General, who if present give a nod of the head; but more normally are represented by commissioned officials) unless:

a) the Prime Minister of the day leads a government which lacks the confidence of the House of Commons (has been defeated on a motion of no-confidence or a budgetary resolution – “supply” - and not subsequently resigned; or has been clearly “defeated” by the results of of an election and neither returned his Commission nor advised The Queen that the leader of the “winning” party be summoned to attempt to form a government);

b) the Prime Minister or his ministry is enmeshed by credible, serious and unanswered charges of scandal and has refused to meet the House of Commons but instead asked The Queen or Governor Governor General to prorogue Parliament and/or sustain the administration by Warrant rather than the normal process by which Parliament votes for funding – “supply.”
 Absent those instances there is no way, in a constitutional as opposed to an absolute monarchy, whereby the Sovereign may substitute his personal judgment to refuse Assent for (or “advice” in the constitutional sense from) a Prime Minister/government whose legislation has been passed by the normal legitimate process – in Canada, that means passage of identical legislation through three “readings” in each of the chambers of Parliament.  

The siren calls for the Sovereign/GG to do otherwise, as in the case you cited led by what many would identify as “the right wing” or what many termed “the left wing” during, for instance, Hilary Weston’s time as Lieutenant Governor, would destroy at once the constitutional monarchy by thrusting The Queen or her representatives into the role of being simply another partisan player/actor who determines what is “good/right” and what “evil/wrong” which are, you would agree, highly pejorative terms susceptible of various interpretations according to the varying philosophy and point of view of those using them – in this case, the electorate of the Dominion of Canada.

The political neutrality of the Crown and its status as standing only (in the political world) for the maintenance of “the rule of law” could not exist should The Queen substitute  her judgment (congenial to you or me on one issue, antithetical to you or me on the next) for the process by which laws are made. The Royal Assent has nothing to do with The Queen’s views on the substance of the legislation. As well, many laws are modified or overturned or, some would argue, are made, these days, by the Courts – the process in Canada sometimes called “reading in” – which rulings admit of no process of being overturned by the Crown – but only by fresh legislation (which itself would be subject to judicial review) or by a Constitutional Amendment according to the various formulae for same under The Constitution Acts 1867-date. 

So had The Civil Marriage Act 2005 been partially or wholly constitutionally deficient, the Courts could have so held. But given that it was passed through Parliament by the usual process by a Government of unquestioned legitimacy (in the Constitutional sense) AND after an affirmative pre-review of the Legislation by the Supreme Court using the right of the Government to so submit a reference case which is a long-established procedure) AND by a majority of the popularly-elected Commons in a “free” vote except for members of Cabinet and the NDP, and affirming the legislation 158-133, there can be no argument that it was deficient in the constitutional sense.
Of course the ultimate arbiter of national argument over divisive legislation is the ability of the public to “throw out the rascals” in an election and vote for a new government committed to changing the offending legislation. This did not occur, either.

All of which is a lengthy rehearsal of established Constitutional Convention in this Realm of Canada to say that one’s correspondents are simply dead wrong when they call The Queen complicit in “evil” in respect to the Royal Assent being given to this or that piece of legislation. The Queen does what she has always done: act as a perfectly-constitutional monarch, on the one hand, and as a universally-admired (or nearly so) figure in our national family precisely because she voluntarily surrenders the expression of personal opinion for the good of the Realm. 

Your friend might remember that one of the very few occasions on which she has broken this practice during her long and exemplary reign was c. 1988 to authorize her Private Secretary to reply to a letter from an aggrieved correspondent by which HM shared the view “all people” felt – I paraphrase – about how offensive was the film “The Last Temptation of Christ.”

Sunday 28 June 2015

Fr. Phillips vs SCOTUS

Fr. Christopher Phillips reflects on the recent U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruling re. the states registering contracts of marriage.  Many of us, as priests in both Canada and the U.S. are refusing to act as registrars for state or provincial contracts since the governments of both countries have imposed their new meaning for marriage which is entirely opposed to what the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is.

The state may use whatever language it chooses to define contracts between people but they cannot dictate to the Church or to other religious groups what Holy Matrimony is.
As stated previously, many of us are no longer licensed by the province or state to record with the civil authority the sacraments that we celebrate.  This is for the good, given the current confusion and disorder.

As Fr. Phillips points out, the state can make and keep its own register of whatever contracts it chooses whether they are good for society or not.  The Church, however, offers sacraments to those properly disposed and the state has no business in the Church's life -- Now that is why there needs to be a separation of State from Church -- to protect the Church!

Fr. Phillips  (bold emphasis is mine) . . .


So a man can enter into a legal contract with another man and call it a marriage. A woman can enter into a legal contract with another woman and each state must recognize it [according to SCOTUS]. Call it whatever you want. Call it a marriage if you wish. But calling it by that name doesn't make it so.

The Supreme Court ruling has not affected the sacrament of Holy Matrimony one bit. In fact, the state's part in the sacramental marriage of a man and a woman has nothing to do with its sacramental nature. The only reason it is there is for the legal protection of the persons involved, including subsequent children. But that's not what makes it sacramental. It's not what makes it a marriage . . .

With their recent decisions, some of the Supreme Court justices have shown that they believe words have no meaning other than what they themselves decide such words mean. They have taken the word "marriage" and have applied it to relationships which manifestly are not marriages.

Saying that a cow is a horse doesn't mean you can throw a saddle on it and head off to the Kentucky Derby.


I think it is inevitable that Catholic priests will have to get out of the business of being agents for the state. After all, it's really for the sake of convenience that a priest signs the "marriage license" after witnessing a sacramental marriage. It simply means that the couple didn't need to take care of the legal part of things by going together down to the courthouse; we make it easier by taking care of the legal formality after the Nuptial Mass. But everyone should understand - signing the license isn't what makes it a marriage. The couple's free consent and exchange of vows before God and His Church accomplishes that.

I'm ready to give up my role as "state's witness" in this regard, and let the state do its own thing. In fact, it might help people come to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony if we were to untie it from the "legal contract" aspect of things. Let's face it, all too many people see contracts as being easily broken -- and the state certainly has made it easy when it comes to the legal contract called marriage.

It was fine when the legal contract and the sacramental union were each considered binding, but having these two things hooked together in today's circumstances is rather like driving a car with patched, under-inflated tires on one side, and brand new, perfectly inflated tires on the other. It makes for an uneven ride, and eventually the bad side will cause undue wear on the good side.


It's about words again, friends. Over and over the question is asked, "Will churches lose their tax exemption if they refuse to perform same-sex marriages?"

I cannot guess what crazy thing the federal government will try next, but if they try to take tax exemption away from churches, it won't be because of a refusal to perform a same-sex marriage. The government would be asking us to do something that is utterly impossible. It's not a refusal if you're being asked to do something that simply can't be done.

They might as well ask us to turn lead into gold. We're unable to do it.

What'll they do to us? Take away our tax exemption? If they do, it'll be for some reason other than that we're not alchemists.

A POSTSCRIPT: It’s important to understand that God does not condemn an individual simply because of being a homosexual or lesbian. It is the action which is sinful. Every single one of us has particular sins which are temptations to us, and when we succumb to those temptations we have recourse to the confessional, where we may express our sorrow and repentance, and receive God’s absolution. 

Also, not every homosexual or lesbian person is clamoring to enter a legal marriage. Those who are, usually have a political motive and wish to break down traditional values and culture.

There are some faithful Catholics who happen to suffer from this condition who are leading chaste lives, just as there are countless Catholics who are unmarried heterosexual persons, also leading chaste lives. The orientation is less important than the desire to live in accordance with God’s divine Will, with the help of the holy sacraments given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ.

Fr. Phillips Blog is found at: Atonement

Wednesday 24 June 2015


The inimitable Father Hunwicke weighs in on the question of Pride, Family and Anglican Patrimony in a recent blogpost:
Fr. John Hunwicke (For we colonials . . . pronounced "Hunnick")
The Elephant in the Room during all this endless talk about the [Synod on the Family's] Agenda, is, surely: Has Human Nature changed? Did humans never, before today, suffer from sexual temptation? Are Fornication, Adultery, Sodomy, problems only of our own unique and spectacularly sui generis age? 

What did the New Testament writers mean when they talked about porneia, moikheia, malakia? Is there something crashingly new about the capacity or incapacity of modern human beings (whether with or without Grace) to resist temptation? What is supposed to be so different about our groins and minds compared with the groins and minds of every other human generation since the Fall? 

What has so privileged us that we are (apparently) free to claim exemption from the Divine Commands, entolai, which were considered to bind former generations since the dawn of history?

What is different about our age; what does set it apart from all previous ages? 

Not, surely, human sexual organs or the human minds which have to cope with them. The only change is the spread of the curse, the heresy, of thinking that humans have a Right to Autonomy, free from obligations to God or even to the age-old genetic and social inheritance of our long history as a species; "free", in S Paul's terrifying phrase, "from Righteousness".  In other words, the amoral individualistic wickedness of the Enlightenment Chicken is at last come home to roost and to befoul its roosting place.


If you will allow me yet again to belabour you with the Anglican Patrimony, I will remind you of C. S. Lewis's fictional snapshot (1945) of an atheist 'freethinker', a Professor Churchwood, 

"an old dear. All his lectures were devoted to proving the impossibility of ethics, though in private life he'd walked ten miles rather than leave a penny debt unpaid. But all the same ... was there a single doctrine practised at Belbury* which hadn't been preached by some lecturer at Edgestow? 

Oh, of course, they never thought that anyone would act on their theories! No one was more astonished than they when what they'd been talking about for years suddenly took on reality. But it was their own child coming back to them: grown up and unrecognisable, but their own. . . . Trahison des clercs. None of us is quite innocent." (This theme, surely, is what That Hideous Strength is all about.)

And try putting that together with blessed Edward Bouverie Pusey's perceptive and prophetic analysis in the 1830s (unpublished Papers in the archives of Pusey House): 
"We must bend our minds and conform them to the teaching of Holy Scripture, or men will end in bending Holy Scripture to their own minds, and when it will not bend, will part with it. For a time a person or a generation may go on with this discrepancy unsettled; and a person of strong faith will go on to the end undisturbed, satisfied on this or any other point, that there is some way of settling it, though he knows not of it, yet . . .  for a Church, wherein men of every sort are gathered, it is a dangerous state to take a direction in any respect varying from Holy Scripture."

D. L. Sayers

And finally, from Dorothy Leigh Sayers, an Anglican scholar whose genius is insufficiently recognised or remembered, in a paper she read at Oxford in 1947: 

"Right down to the nineteenth century, our public affairs were mostly managed, and our books and journals were for the most part written, by people brought up in homes, and trained in places, where [the Scholastic] tradition was still alive in the memory and almost in the blood. 

Just so, many people today who are atheist or agnostic in religion, are governed in their conduct by a code of Christian ethics which is so rooted that it never occurs to them to question it. But one cannot live on capital for ever. However firmly a tradition is rooted, if it is never watered, though it dies hard, yet in the end it dies."


That is precisely where we are now.

*The first syllable ('Bel' is, I presume, a LXX/Vg transcription of Ba'al) indicates the significance of this fictional placename.


Christians flee Syria and Lebanon

The CATHOLIC HERALD reports that Catholic and Melkite Catholic bishops plead for peace and for help to Syrian and Iraqui Christians:
Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham, who was born in Syria, presided over the Melkite synod last week at the patriarchal summer residence in Ain-Traz, Lebanon. He pointed to “the miseries and dangers that destroy our people and cause paralysis of Christian spirituality”.

Melkite Patriarch Gregoire III Laham

“We appeal to all: Stop the war. The war in Syria and the war against Syria is a real genocide,” Patriarch Laham said in the final statement. “This is a third world war whose price is largely paid by the Syrian people in all its components and … confessions.”
“We call, loud and clear – upon neighboring states, Arab countries, the European Union, the USA, Russia, China, Latin America and all world states – begging them to work seriously to put an end to this war,” he said.
In his opening address, the patriarch cited Pope Francis’s December letter to Middle East Christians, whom the pope described as serving |as a roadmap for us Christians to remain united and remain united, too, as Christians and Muslims”.
The Melkite patriarch expressed his concern about the “bleeding| caused by Christian emigration.
“It is terribly sad to see how the crises that the Middle East is going through are driving an exponential growth in Eastern Christian emigration,| he said, citing a survey indicating that 60 percent of Lebanese have decided to leave the country, with 35 percent awaiting visas. “Most of them are Christian,” he said.
“If that is the case with Lebanon, what then can be the situation and outlook for less-stable countries, torn by war and ruled by chaos?” Patriarch Laham asked. “It is necessary to operate in every way possible to try to stop this bleeding.”
. . . .  Maronite bishops urged political powers to overcome their disputes and work toward filling the vacancy in Lebanon’s presidency.
. . . . Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan was a special guest at the synod Cardinal Scola and Cardinal Rai traveled from Beirut to Irbil, Iraq, for a one-day visit June 19 to show their support and solidarity to tens of thousands of Christians uprooted by the Islamic State last summer.
Read more at: Syrian Crisis

Sunday 21 June 2015

Service of Thanksgiving for H.M. Queen Elizabeth II -- Sunday, September 13

Service of Thanksgiving 
H.M. Queen Elizabeth II
Queen of Canada
longest reigning 
Canadian Monarch
Head of State 

Sunday, September 2015
4:30 p.m.


St. Thomas More Catholic Church
381 Sherbourne St., Toronto

Saturday 20 June 2015

Requiem Mass for Anne Mahon

Anne Mahon and her husband Albert sang for many years with the noted Canadian composer and church musician Dr. Healey Willan ('the Doc').  Anne sang in the Gallery Choir and Albert was his Cantor in the Ritual Choir. Both Anne and Albert were received into the full Communion of the Catholic Church through the Ordinariate.

If you have not seen it, the NFB short documentary  about Willan, “Man of Music”, is worth watching.  At the four minute mark you will see Anne, second from the right in a white sweater.  MAN OF MUSIC

Anne died recently and the following homily was preached by Fr. John Hodgins, Parish Priest of St. Thomas More Parish, POCSP,  Toronto. The STM Parish Choir was supplemented by family and friends who came from as far away as England to sing the music for the Mass which included:

J.M. Asol, Missa pro defuntis,  Dies Ire, Edgar Bainton, And I Saw A New Heaven Healey Willan, Rise Up My Love, At the Close of the Day, Chorale Prelude

A recording of the Mass will soon be available. Watch this blog.


Jesus said: “[the one] who hears my word  and believes him who sent me, has eternal life.”  JOHN 5:24

Today we come first and foremost to celebrate the love and mercy of God in Jesus Christ.  We do this because that is what Christians do and because Anne, a wife, mother, grandmother, friend and spiritual mother to many through her love and gentleness, witnessed that she knows Jesus Christ as her Saviour and her Lord first and above all.

The liturgy today is filled with Scripture, which is communicated in song and sacred ceremonial action to affirm just that. Jesus Christ is at the centre of all and, of course, his presence in the Holy Eucharist is at the centre of our life as those who believe and follow Jesus.

Anne was an English girl, an English rose who was transplanted to this country after WW II with her beloved Albert. Blessed with five children, Anne and Albert were committed to raising a family and witnessing to friends that each person is called to, again in the words of her family: “dedicate their lives to Christ.”

Anne dedicated herself to her Lord through her personal example of gentleness and a spirit of harmony which she sought with all.  Her personal faith in Jesus Christ was set firmly within the English tradition as you will see from the liturgy today. Though unfamiliar to some, the music and ceremonial of the Requiem Mass is the way that, over the first thousand years of English history, Christians committed their loved ones to the eternal love of God by word, action and music.

For many years, Anne and Albert joyfully sang this music of the Church under the direction of Dr. Healey Willan and so contributed to one of the great sacred art forms, which is a fruit of their witness to the Kingship of Jesus Christ.  Anne sang to the glory of God as she lived to be a witness to the love and mercy of Jesus.

And so today we are in communion with Anne and with all the saints who have passed from their baptism in this world to the nearer presence and rest of God through the sacrifice, death and resurrection of Jesus, Jesus Christ who is with us in Holy Communion today at this requiem: requiem which means simply, rest. Anne rests in the arms of Jesus until the day of the general resurrection when she will stand with all who choose to follow Christ accepting Him as Lord and Saviour and entering into his life through the waters of Baptism.

Anne’s witness is to affirm the words of Sacred Scripture proclaimed in the Gospel today and to invite all of you to affirm them in your hearts and in your lives:

Jesus said: “[the one] who hears my word  and believes him who sent me, has eternal life.”