26 March 2023

Sandford and Faber

Six or seven years ago, the archivist of Sandford upon Thames Church discovered, in a mouldering chest, a Prayer Book and a Bible inscribed by Fr Faber as given to the church while he was serving there.

And they conjecture that their stone altar, very like that at nearby Littlemore, is ascribed to Faber.

This puts me in mind of Chapter 2 of Loss and Gain, Newman's novel of Tractarian life in Oxford back in the 1840s. Here Bateman, a young Ritualist clergyman, proudly shares his pride in the renovation of a country church near Oxford ... which is in the very latest Ritualist style (even though he does not anticipate it having an actual congregation). 'It was as pretty a building as Bateman had led them to expect, and very prettily done up too. There was a stone altar in the best style ...'. ''We offer our Mass every Sunday, according to the rite of the English Cyprian, as honest Peter Heylin calls him; what would you have more?'' explains Bateman; an explanation which mystifies his hearers all the more. 

Not that I am suggesting that Loss and Gain is satirising Faber; the details do not fit. After all, Faber, unlike Bateman did enter into Full Communion. Si monumentum requiris, vade ad Bromptonem et circumspice, preferably at a time when the Authentic Form of the Roman Rite is in use (as it is daily) in that marvellous Church.

In any case, Loss and Gain is not that sort of book. Its relevance lies mainly in the accuracy with which it catches the fashion of a particular moment in English Church life.

Mind you, if Fr Faber did put that stone altar into Sandford church in 1839, it must have been one of the earliest to enter an Anglican church after the 'Reformation'.

25 March 2023

Archbishop Lefebvre, the man who believed in Truth, the Apostle and Saint of PARRHESIA.

 Today, as well as being the day when the Theotokos by her fiat became Co-Redemptrix, is the obitus of Marcel Lefebvre. I was once quite critical of this French Archbishop.

As the years have passed, it has become increasingly clear to me what a very great man he was ... I should say is.

Why? Not because he got every detail right. I am not convinced that he was right to make the 1962 rite normative in his foundations. And I note that he changed the Rite he used whenever the Vatican changed. He adopted the ritual changes made in the mid-1960s. There is evidence that he concelebrated versus populum.

Nor did he refuse to subscribe to the Decrees of Vatican II. He signed them all. Without exception.

The fine biography of him by Bishop Tissier evidentially establishes all these points.

So how should we estimate his greatness?

He was a man of the Church. And this meant that he was not quick to realise it when other churchmen told him lies. Honest himself, he was slow to recognise the warm, if synthetic, sincerity on the face of a crook who is just about to tell you a pack of lies.

Gradually, however, he did come to understand the mendacity which characterised the post-Conciliar years. And, discovering this, he reacted accordingly. Realising the fact that he was surrounded by liars had the effect, I believe, of putting him in a place of glorious liberty in which he was free to live in his life the Biblical duty of PARRHESIA.

Parrhesia is his message and his sacred bequest.

We, too, have lived through a time of lies and of liars. A liturgical and then a doctrinal example: we have been constantly told that the post-Conciliar liturgical revolution as it emerged was mandated by the Council. It wasn't. In important respects, it contradicted the Council.

People have asserted that we ought to consider ourselves obliged to refrain from preaching Christ to Jews, because Nostra Aetate condemned Supersessionism and declared them still to have their own separate and saving dispensation. This is not true. The Council did nothing remotely of this sort.

And we are still living in a time of lies: lies galore; lies proliferating; lies shameless; lies Roman. A document from the Prefect of the Worship dicastery assured us that the Authentic Form of the Roman Rite was "abrogated by S Paul VI". In fact, it has never been abrogated. But the convenient but blatant lie is now made the basis of a world-wide campaign of persecution.

Lefebvre learned by his own lived experience about the generous mendacity of the ecclesial culture that surrounded him; and he reacted courageously.

This is God's message to us, also. It is our duty ... quite a simple obligation ... to declare THAT IS A LIE, when pompous and elevated bullies summon us to submit to their untruths.

24 March 2023


So here come those lovely Passiontide hymns, which are permitted in the Liturgia Horarum for this coming week even though it has officially abolished Passiontide.

Having a powerful and well-connected Mother Superior in your patch is not every cleric's preference, especially if she's inclined to start the day after Mass by just happening to mention 'By the way, father, my friend the Emperor of Constantinople is sending me a nice big relic of the True Cross. Will you be around? Could you just knock up a new hymn or two for the occasion?' But I jest: undoubtedly Venantius Fortunatus, the bishop of Poitiers who died in 609, was just as excited by the prospect of such a glamorous relic as was the Rt Revd and Rt Royal Lady Abbess Radegunde herself.

Sing my tongue the glorious battle, sing the ending of the fray,
now above the Cross, the trophy, sound the loud triumphant lay;
tell how Christ, the world's Redeemer, as a Victim won the day.
What a wonderful expression of joy at the thought of Jesus' Crucifixion. Some people used to say that only the Orthodox really understand S John's perception that Jesus' death on the Cross is the high triumphant moment of his glory (doxa). But this hymn (Pange lingua) and its twin (Vexilla regis) coming from so very Western a Christian as Venantius prove what nonsense that is.

Triumphant, yes, but before that word Venantius uses another: a Greek word, tropaion. This refers to what you did after winning a glorious battle: first you found a tree; then you lopped its branches off; and you clad it with armour stripped from your defeated foes. Clever of Venantius, to see the Cross as a Victory Tree, and neat to think of the diabolical powers as stripped naked in defeat. Next we have a Latin word, Triumph, which refers to the boisterous procession into Rome after a victory: the Triumphator, his face painted red so that he looked like Juppiter, processed in his chariot with his legions following and singing. By the chariot wheels marched the leaders of the defeated enemy; they were facing a decisive end in a dark little cellar on the Capitoline Hill (you'll remember that Cleopatra didn't look forward to making her last public appearance in such a way). And what the soldiers chanted was the Triumphant Lay: io triumphe io triumphe. Venantius neatly suggests that we Christans have our own Triumphant Lay: immolatus vicerit; The Sacrificial Victim has won the day. An oxymoron: sacrificial victims usually ended up dead rather than in glory. Or you could call it a paradox; G K Chesterton rightly observed that it's not easy to be a Christian if you can't take paradox.

The metre of this hymn calls for comment: the trochaic tetrameter catalectic (tumtytumty four times with the final syllable chopped off). What is interesting here is that this metre was used by writers such as Menander in Athenian New Comedy for scenes that are pretty nearly slapstick - Aristotle called it kordakikoteron or 'tending to a lively vulgarity'*. Caesar's soldiery chanted their ritual abuse at him (to avoid the the risk of the Gods taking offence as he rode in triumph) in this metre. I wonder if Venantius chose it because of the joyous exuberance of the procession accompanying Abbess Radegunde's spectacular new acquisition into Poitiers. Roman Triumph Processions were boisterous to the point of being disorderly, the soldiers probably having already made bibulous inroads into their bounties. I'm not suggesting that Pange lingua was written to accompany a drunken orgy, but I bet the procession at which it received its premiere was not quite the sort of prim and stately event that Anglican Outdoor Religious Processions usually are.

The same may be true of some of those first Corpus Christi processions in Avignon after one of my favourite popes, John XXII, got that festival going and thus gave an airing to the great hymn in which S Thomas Aquinas borrowed Venantius' first three words, and his metre.

(And I wonder if Prudentius danced a bit as he composed Corde natus - also in this metre.)

*Sandbach wrote, in 1973, that "such passages in this metre are distinguished in tone from the adjacent iambics, but not always in the same way". In his 2013 edition of the Samia Sommerstein wrote "trochaic tetrameters  were clearly considered suitable both for farcical scenes (such as the latter part of the present act [Samia IV]) and for passages of unusual solemnity (such as Demeas' speech in [Samia] 694-712 or Knemon's in Dyskolos 708-47)."

23 March 2023

S Gabriel ... help ... ...

So, this evening, we shall celebrate First Vespers of S Gabriel the Archangel.

Oh Yeah? you cry. What's all this about First Vespers? But you do know that according to our delightfully Semitic Catholic Tradition, days began (if you're still with me) the evening before. One of the things I find least satisfactory about the 1962 (Papa Pacelli) rite is the implicit attack it makes on this tradition, perhaps one of the most venerable in our entire Tradition. I feel its absurdity particularly on Festa, Second Class Feasts with a Vigil, when the question arises of how Vespers fits in between the Vigil and Mattins.  

Well; there you go. S Gabriel was historically a Greater Double (festum; Second Class). We owe his feast entirely to Benedict XV in 1921 ... er ... well, not quite. As with so many celebrations, this one was around long before that; it swirled around in an ever-changing and really fun-section of our liturgical books called the Appendix Pro Aliquibus Locis. In my 1874 Breviary, there it is. Er ... but ...

But it is on the day before S Joseph, 18 March

The APAL is a sort of ante-room to the full acceptance of a feast into decent society. And S Gabriel has now become incredibly  decent: the 2020 CDF liturgical decrees make him one of the privileged commemorations on the Calendar. 

Generations ago, Dom Gueranger discussed S Gabriel (on the 18th). In the course of his exposition, he offered us a couple of Franciscan, and one Dominican, hymn. That was another feature of the old system: in the 'candidate' feasts within the APAL there might be a certain very local and experimental quality to the propers locally authorised and used.

But Stay. I would not like you to be ignorant of Walter Bronescombe, Bishop of Exeter 1258-1280. S Gabriel was his Patron. So Bishop Walter decreed a feast of the Holy Archangel on the first Monday of September, and gave it a high liturgical rank. He ordered that his own obit should be kept the following day (just as Bishop Grandisson was to order his own obit to be kept on the day after the Octave of the Assumption).

Here comes my plea for YOUR HELP!

Bronescombe (I presume it was he) made liturgical provision for this important festival. The Collect was to be Absterge quaesumus Domine; the hymns were to be Laudes solvant; Supra choros angelorum; Fideles novi (Vespers, Mattins, Lauds ... these incipits are in the Ordinale Exoniense Volume I p 187).

I have not been able to find the texts in the obvious places. I am intrigued to know whether they were being passed around in the Middle Ages and were picked up, so to speak, by Bishop Walter. 

Or whether he commissioned them and ordered their construction.

Does anybody know of any evidence? 

22 March 2023



  There has been much in the air about the necessity for certain categories of people to "admit" that the Novus Ordo is valid and licit. This had made me wonder whether the Maimed Rite is decent or appropriate. Only recently, on March 14, I raised in this blog the question of whether or not one can, now, in good conscience, use this Mass. I then regarded that question as open. Parrhesia, don'tyaknow.

Last Sunday, however, H E Arthur Cardinal Roche, solemnly pontificating on BBC Radio 4, announced that "The theology of the Church has changed".

I'm not convinced that Pope S Paul VI in his post-Conciliar pronouncements took this distinctly radical view ... on the contrary. Consider ... ... But Now is Now.

And if Roche, now, is right about the situation now, then I think the status of the proposition I examined a week or so ago has become clearer. The Novus Ordo will have been assigned a meaning which sets it beyond the possibility of orthodox use. Using it now would be rather like using a Semi-Arian Creed after Nicea. Or collecting signatures for the Henotikon.

So the proposition that the NO should, as a matter of principle, be avoided, has (I now tentatively suggest) graduated from probabilis status to  probabilior.

No; I'm not pontificating. I'm wondering. Even under PF that, surely, must be permissible.


I have not commented on this, and I probably won't. I think one should not do so until one has carefully studied the text and any associated documents. 

Additionally, there would be the question of whether 'Mayan' elements originally, or currently now, implied or imply meanings contrary to the Faith. Answering this would require a capacity to judge upon philological and cultural questions far beyond any competence I could ever claim.

If it were clear that any elements were expressive of departures from the Faith as defined, I suppose one would have to move on to questions like whether formal papal approval had constituted formal Apostasy, so that the Petrine See had now become vacant.

So I'm staying well to the windward side of this whole business. Bargepoles, and all that.

Here's a good Examination Question: How Mayan is the Ordinariate Rite?

Personally, I rather liked the 1950s/1960s Missa Luba, drums and all. Does the Congo at any point ever flow into the Amazon? Do the Congolese (benedicantur) still speak Latin? 

The bit in the film where the progressive head master is shot in the quad is superb. Bang Bang!

Cathartic?? I couldn't possibly say.


21 March 2023


Long ago, in my first week of teaching, I happened to be passing through the Common Room, and found myself also passing one of my new colleagues. Being somewhat in awe of him, but feeling that I ought not to pass him silently by, I made a remark which I cannot now remember but which was pretty, pretty cretinous.

He looked at me as though I were something which the cat etc., and remarked in his broad Yorkshire accent "For un uppurently intelligent mun, thut's a bloody silly remark." 

What did I learn from that? (1) Not to make bloody silly remarks; and (2) Not to be intimidated by Yorkshiremen. Possibly some of those cricketers 'of South Asian heritage' who, in our current UK news, are complaining about 'racism' among their former Yorkshire team-mates, should have been given a similar induction into the arcane structures of native Yorkshire culture.

My colleague was called Donald Bancroft. He was an extraordinarily clever man with a particular gift for teaching Latin Prose Composition. During the War, he had worked in 'Intelligence' at Bletchley Park, but we only discovered this later ... members of that elite body still, in the 1970s, didn't blab about it. 

DB was not homosexually inclined. If he had enjoyed this additional PR advantage, absque dubio he would by now have been promoted to the status of National Hero and Victim, and given a place on banknotes.

I have been told that the Bletchley brains were helped when an Enigma machine was rescued, in heroic circumstances, from a sinking German U-boat. And that a film was made about  this episode. The main historical inaccuracy therein was that: whereas in fact the feat was performed by the Royal Navy, the film-maker, unaccountably, attributed it to the US Navy.

20 March 2023


Genuinely, I don't know what to think about one feature of the Bergoglio papacy: its down-playing of local primacies. 

Sees which seemed regularly entitled to be graced by a Cardinal's Hat, no longer appear to be thus honoured. Milan (even dignified until recent vandalism by the possession of its own ancient Rite), Naples, Venice (styled Patriarch because of his wide sway within the Eastern Mediterranean), Palermo, Turin ...

In many cases, these sees exhibited the last vestiges of what used to be called local primacies, particularly where, as in Italy, the modern 'Nation State' is very much a johnny-come-lately phenomenon compared with older political units (La Serenissima; the Papal States; the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies ...). Dix counted some half a dozen prelates who bore the monniker Primate of Gaul.

My hesitancy: should my innate conservatism incline me to deplore this erasing of gracious historical dignities, endowed with massive auctoritas; or should I applaud a sensible insistence upon modern reality?

It looks to me like deliberate destruction of a local primacy when a Previous Archbishop Big is made to coexist with a suffragan wearing a Cardinal's hat: having two Archbishop Bigs elides the auctoritas of each. Is PF really incapable of coexisting with another centre of auctoritas anywhere in the world?

One thing I dislike, in either case, is that the Red Hat Game still continues in the Curia. Why should the Italian prelates I listed above, and their congregations, be humiliated while the Roches of this world continue to galumph around with the inappropriate grandeurs of the baroque era?

Is it simply so that they can outrank really considerable men in local sees, rather like a Harbour Admiral always being able to outrank a mere ship's Captain?

In other words, is it yet another example of PF's dislike of anybody who might stand up to him?

19 March 2023


So clergy and sacristans are busily fishing out rose vestments for 'Mothering Sunday'; although I'm unclear why today is so observed by those who do not follow either the Tridentine Rite or the 1662 Prayer Book. 

"Mothering Sunday" is still (thanks to commercial interests) still part of our culture, both religious and secular ... but not even this was sufficient to protect Mothering Sunday from the ruthless scissors of the post-Conciliar 'reformers'.

So the theme of the old Roman Mass is (Galatians 4) of our Mother the heavenly Jerusalem; but in the modern rite, the Roman Pontiff is not instructed to have a statio at the basilica of Holy Cross in Jerusalem, as so long a list of his predecessors were. 

This is the Roman church which the Empress Helena, my Colcestrian concivis, devised to be 'Jerusalem in Rome' and to which she imported cartloads of soil from Jerusalem together with significant relics of the Crucifixion. Sadly, moreover, choirs are now rarely required to sing all those lovely Siony texts, from the Introit onwards, which embellish the old propers. Anglican Common Worship, of course, slavishly, pathetically, follows the modern Roman Rite in abandoning the theme of the Heavenly Jerusalem, our Mother; the City whose politeuma we enjoy.

Of course, those old propers and S Paul's teaching in Galatians 4 raise in an acute form the very problem involved in the Good Friday prayers for the Jews. Has God's Covenant with the Jews been superseded? Do they need to take Christ on board to be saved, or are they, alone of all races and peoples, given a Christless way to salvation? It seems to me clear that S Paul teaches throughout Romans that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile either in the problem - sin - or in the solution - faith in Christ. 

I recall that the founder of the late twentieth century New Line on S Paul, Ed Sanders, concluded that, qua exegete of Paul, he was obliged to admit that in Paul's view Jews as well as Gentiles do need Christ (although qua liberal he did not think that Paul's view was now plausible).

So: 'cast out the bondwoman and her son'; Jews both need and are entitled to Christ. The Old Covenant was the type, the shadow, of the reality which is Christ. Not, of couse, that it would be particularly seemly somehow to to seem to single out Jews for mission in a Western society which largely consists of lapsed Christians: it would seem as if we were saying 'We've made a hash of hanging onto our own people so now we're going to try to get our hands on yours'. But the principle needs maintaining; all have sinned and all need Christ.

I have sometimes wondered if Pope Benedict had in his mind, when revising the EF Good Friday Prayer for the Jews, that his own ordaining bishop, Cardinal von Faulhaber, was a member of the group Amici Israel, which proposed a revision in the 1920s. ( Merry del Val may have been among those who scuppered this proposal.) But I am not convinced that, in its essence, the original Good Friday Bidding (Let us pray for the unbelieving Jews) was anti-semitic - on the contrary. 

There have always been Christian Jews and they are as fully privileged as any other Christians ... indeed ... more so. In the Good Friday prayer we were not disdainfully and in a racist way praying against the Jews as a race but for those members of that race who do not believe. The reason why we prayed for them specifically was simply their special place in God's dealings with Man and the steady New Testament witness, echoed in Pope Benedict's revised prayer, that the Eschaton will mean the combined redemption of Jew as well as Gentile. 

There is also, as S Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 10, a sharp reminder for all of us in the fact that the great majority of Jewry, for whom first the Euangelium was intended, failed to hear God's call. 

(By the way: in the reading from I Corinthians 10, which the Novus Ordo does allow once in every three years, verses 7-9 [mentioning Idolatry and Fornication {porneia} and their divine punishment] are characteristically expunged. The Authentic Use of the Roman Rite, as it was prior to what Arthur Roche calls its 'enrichment', contains the passage complete and unbowdlerised.)

I draw to your attention the book Index Lectionum A Comparative Table of Readings for the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite published in 2016 by Matthew P Hazell (and his wife Lucy; I reviewed it when it first came out. ISBN 978-1-5302-3072-3); if you want to take a serious interest in what the Bugnini junkies did after Vatican II, you really do need to have this book. At the flick of a wrist it reveals that the Novus Ordo Sunday Lectionary entirely dumped this old reading from Galatians (a pitifully bowdlerised version of it was allowed to survive on a Monday morning in Ordinary Time in alternate years).

I can just imagine Screwtape's glee: "The bad news, my dear Wormwood, is that the Christian leaders have decided to encourage their people to become more familiar with the pestilential Enemy propaganda known as The Bible. But all is not lost ... far from it! Our policy is now to work through the soi disant 'liturgical experts', whom we already have securely under our control. They will be easily persuaded to increase the amount of time reading the Bible in Church, while eviscerating the text of passages and ideas which we will convince them are 'difficult'. Thus any teaching which is not currently popular among a certain narrow portion of the intelligentsia in the 1960s will be carefully concealed. The next stage, which we have scheduled for the beginning of the Third Millennium, will be to use the dominant ideologues to promote the notion that the portions of Scripture which have been censored out of public use contain ideas which it is actually forbidden for Christians accept. We will then stir up particular, easily duped, constituencies (our planning department has the especially gullible German and English episcopates primarily in mind) to demand peremptorily the elimination of these ideas from any public prayers".

18 March 2023


Of course, the Statio today has to be at the Roman Church of S Susanna, who might have died a dreadful death if Daniel hadn't shown his detective skills. Dorothy Sayers included this delightful story (from what Anglicans call the Deutero-canonical parts of the Book of Daniel) in an anthology of detective fiction, with the comment "Susanna ... may be taken as foreshadowing the Gallic method of eliciting the truth by the confrontation of witnesses."

In the Missal, of course, the story is paired with the Johannine comma, in which the Lord protects (not an innocent but) a guilty woman. I think there is some evidence that this pericope came from the lost Gospel according to the Hebrews, which had (judging from quotations given by S Jerome) some stylistic links with S Luke.

The story of Susanna being a bit longish, the Novus Ordo offered, as an alternative, a shortened version. In a Collins Missal we used in the College Chapel three decades ago, there was a line down the margin: if you read just those bits, you would get the abbreviated essence of the story. I had a colleague, now departed this life who, instead, read the bits which lacked the line. This resulted in the most incomprehensible narrative of the purest gibberish I ever heard in Christian worship.

Hippolytus gave a typological interpretation of this story (I summarise the story and interpolate the typological interpretations in red).

"On an opportune day On the Pascha Susanna desired to be washed a bath was prepared because it was hot (kauma en), for those who were 'burning'. Two companions Faith and Charity prepared soaps (smigmata) the Commandments of the Word,  and oil Chrism to confer the Spirit. Susanna was bathed The Church is cleansed by a bath of baptismal water."

17 March 2023


In the second half of Lent, the ancient Authentic Form of the Roman Rite offered three Gospel readings, all from S John. All of them are long; all of them are beautifully crafted and full of the very finest teaching; and are intended primarily for the catechumens preparing for Initiation at Easter. I list them briefly with a few notes about their histories since the 1970s.

The Samaritan Woman. Theme: Living Water. S John Chapter 4. Traditional place: Friday after Lent 3. Novus Ordo place: Sunday Lent 3 in year A.

The Man Born Blind. Theme: Enlightenment. S John Chapter 9. Traditional place: Wednesday after Lent 4. Novus Ordo place: Sunday Lent 4 in year A.

Lazarus. Theme: New Life. S John Chapter 11. Traditional place: Friday after Lent 4. Novus Ordo place: Sunday Lent 5 in year A ('Passion Sunday').

The readings selected to accompany these passages in the Novus Ordo do not show much interest in the Readings associated with these Gospels in the Old Rite.

In the Novus Ordo, they may also be used with their associated readings, in Years B and C. They may also be used, together with their associated readings, on weekdays. Abbreviated selections of verses are authorised.

All three Readings have associated Proper Prefaces; each of which is a highly abbreviated version of a Preface taken from the Appendix which Charlemagne and his academics added to the 'Gregorian Sacramentary'.

Current Anglican English provision copies Rome.

In the ancient Ambrosian Rite, the Sunday Gospels are: 

Lent 2: The Samaritan Woman.

Lent 3: Abraham (John 8:31-end).

Lent 4: The Man Born Blind.

Lent 5: Lazarus.

In the Byzantine Rite, Lazarus is read on the Saturday before Palm Sunday; the Samaritan Woman and the Man Born Blind occupy Sundays in the period after Easter.

C S Lewis, a Literature Man, and E L Mascall, a Mathematician, both commented on the literary form of these pasages: almost 'modern novelistic'; 'vivid' (Mascall rendered the Man Born Blind into Cockney). Lewis observed that he had been studying literature, ancient, medieval, and modern, for yonks years and had never come across stylistic parallels. Both scholars treated with abrasive and merited contempt the reductive views of self-styled 'modern biblical experts'.

These three majestic Johannine narratives deserve respect and also deserve close attention.


I repeat this from 2017 in response to a query.

Bishop Richard Williamson of SSPX published some months ago an article arguing (these are his words) that in the post-conciliar Church, sacraments are increasingly going to be invalid. "If [a priest's] ideas of what the Church is and does do not correspond to the Catholic realities, how can he intend to do what the Church does, and so how can he administer true sacraments?"

I hesitate to criticise a Wykehamist - many of my best friends are Wykehamists - but this quite simply is not what the teaching and praxis of the Western Church has always been. It has, for example, been held and taught (see Apostolicare curae, the sentence beginning "Quo sane principio") that even a Moslem could administer baptism validly if he used adequate form and matter - perhaps in baptising a baby about to die in the delivery room whose mother has asked for this to be done. The unbeliever believes nothing about Baptism except that this is something Christians do. His only intention is to do what Christians do. His action is valid, but if it in any way depended on his personal beliefs, it would be invalid.

The Church's standard teaching is graphically expressed by S Robert Bellarmine: "There is no need to intend to do what the Roman Church does; but what the true Church does, whichever it is, or what Christ instituted, or what Christians do: for they amount to the same. You ask: What if someone intends to do what some particular or false church does, which he thinks the true one, like that of Geneva, and intends not to do what the Roman church does? I answer: even that is sufficient. For the one who intends to do what the church of Geneva does, intends to do what the universal church does. For he intends to do what such a church does, because he thinks it to be a member of the true universal church: although he is wrong in his discernment of the true church. For the mistake of the minister does not take away the efficacy of the sacrament: only a defectus intentionis does that."  

Cardinal Franzelin gives an extreme case: a daft priest who didn't want to confer grace when he baptised but actually believed that by baptising he would consign someone to the Devil - there was a seventeenth century rumour about this in Marseilles. Non tamen, he writes, sacramenti virtutem et efficaciam impediret. 

He qotes Aquinas in support. 

In nineteenth century, the Holy Office declared that Methodist missionaries in Oceania who explicitly denied in the course of the Baptism service itself that Baptism regenerates, did not thereby invalidate the Sacrament. Heresy or even total Unbelief is, in the traditional Theology of the Western Church, NOT the same as a Defect of Intention. Defect of Intention means a deliberate intention not to confer any Sacrament at all, NOT a mistake about what the Sacrament is or confers. Bishop Williamson's theology, despite his admirable desire to be Traditional, is NOT the teaching of Catholic Christendom. Pope Leo XIII reiterated this truth in his Bull Apostolicae curae in the section which begins "De mente vel intentione ...".

This has to be right; otherwise the validity of any sacrament would be at the mercy of any rubbish that some fool of a cleric had mistakenly got into his daft head because he misunderstood what he was taught in seminary or was just a perverse nutter anyway; every Mass celebrated by a 'liberal' priest who believed that it was merely a community supper, would have to be invalid. 


Williamson's view superficially seems common sense; but Catholic teaching, since the anti-Donatist controversy, has been firmly on the side of believing that it is very difficult for a minister to invalidate a sacrament by his own sin or stupidity or schism or even heresy or total unbelief ... as long as he Does the Red and Says the Black with at least a habitual intention of Doing Stuff (and not, for example, of performing a didactic demonstration or a blasphemous parody). And all this is ultimately based upon a very simple truth: the Sacraments are not ours, but the Sacraments of the Lord Christ.

I am of course quite aware that this teaching presupposes the use of adequate Form and Matter. Do not bother to write in and explain that to me. I simply wish to establish what the Western Church teaches about sacramental intention qua intention.

16 March 2023

An Anglo-Papalist Liturgist in the time of King James II

The Revd Edward Stephens, who died in 1706, was a late Stuart Anglo-papalist; he wrote that 'the dignity of the Church of Rome, and the authority of the Bishop of Rome, as the chief patriarch in the Kingdom of Christ, I do heartily embrace, and am resolved, by the grace of God, to assert against all schismatical acts whatsoever' (although he was a less extreme papalist than the Master of Sidney Sussex College Cambridge, the probable author of A Proposal for Catholic Reunion in 1704). Stephens also was a keen advocate of the Daily Mass ("Certain it is that the taking away of the Daily Sacrifice is as notorious a Mark of the Spirit of the Antichrist ... as any "). He composed a pamphlet called The Cranmerian Liturgy, Or, The subtilty of the Serpent in corrupting the True English Liturgy, by Cranmer and a Faction of Calvinists. He rather neatly wrote of the Prayer Book as 'hug'd [by the C of E] like a Bastard Child by a silly abused husband'. You can find his liturgies, and copious extracts from his writings, in the 1958 volume of the Alcuin Club Collections, Anglican Liturgies of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, by Jardine Grisbrooke ... a lovely exploration of the protohistory of Anglican Catholic and Ordinariate worship.

Stephens was quite rhetorician ... and what a superb blogger he would have made (he wrote about the Church of England's "execrable Schism and Separation from the Whole Catholic Church of all Ages").

As well as a liturgy to be used privately (rather Eastern in style), he produced one for public use which owed a lot to the book of 1549. In this he sharpened up Cranmer's English by writing 'who made there by his own oblation ...' (a modification made easier by the fact that the English word 'one' had not yet universally acquired the pronunciation wun). He justified his divergences from the Book which he had, by his oath of canonical obedience, promised to use, with the words 'we must obey God rather than Man, and prefer the Authority of the Catholick Church before that of any particular Church whatever'; a very typically Catholic Anglican observation. I am sure he would have been with us in the Ordinariate.

The admirable game of making Cranmer's texts less heterodox continued in the Scotch Liturgy of 1764. As well as incorporating Stephens's emendation 'own', 1764 omitted the word 'there', so that the Sacrifice of Christ was not limited to his Crucifixion.

All these attempts at a specifically Anglican and Catholic Liturgy are but ancestors and antecedents of the Ordinariate Missal. Ecclesiologically, they demonstrate that as soon as Anglicans started studying the early history of Christendom, they realised the appalling mistake which had been made in the casting off of papal authority; and as soon as they began to study the actual evidences of 'primitive' worship, they were not slow to understand that  the Cranmerian inheritance had been, essentially, a disaster.

Except for its linguistic register and its Divine Office and its collects and some particular gems ...