24 April 2015

Responsa ad dubia

Hello Victoria! That thing about Paul VI is in Fr Bouyer's Memoires. I plan to print a translation of it some time. It's jolly!

Hello Tantumergo! And Welcome! I say Welcome because I suspect you may be a newcomer to this blog. I hope you find it useful, and do ask such questions. Sometimes, by the way, I don't do immediate answers myself because I anticipate that somebody else will be likely to do so on the thread. Or else I plan to do a post on the question in the not-too-distant future (as with a query recently about the writings of Benedict XIV). But your question, about the "Validity" of Eucharistic Prayer II, is so pastorally important that I think I'd better deal with it instantly.

Unless some priest is such a mad ingenious fool that he decides not to use wheat bread and grape wine, or misses out the Lord's Words at His Last Supper, it is very difficult for him to make a Mass invalid. Even if he were to be a secret atheist! Because of the chaotic situation which arose after Vatican II (but not mandated by the Council) devout laypeople quite often ask your sort of question. If you really want to read all the technical details about what is 'valid' and what is 'invalid' please look back at some earlier posts I gathered together at 4 September 2014; and also read 20 November 2013, 12 May 2014, and 13 March 2015. You see how often people do get worried! I'm sure this will not be the last time I am asked to take up a question like yours.

But my advice to anybody in your position is: Don't worry. Because using EP II certainly does make the Lord's Body and Blood to be present, and truly does offer them in Sacrifice. No ifs, no buts.

Misericordiae vultus: an amplification

Our Holy Father, in his Bull about Mercy, observes at one point Iesus legem praetergreditur [Jesus goes beyond the Torah, the Law]. I think a rereading of Jesus of Nazareth, written by his learned and distinguished predecessor Pope Benedict, would enable Pope Francis ... and you ...  and me ... to sharpen our thinking and nuance its expression. I repeat here something which I first posted last December (with the original thread). It is the view of this Mutual Enrichment Blog that the Scholar pope, and the Pastor pope, together, have much to say to each other.

As Joseph Ratzinger engages with the eminent Jewish Rabbinical scholar Jacob Neusner to discuss the Sermon on the Mount, we enter a world in which we can breathe fresh air, set free from the fug of 'liberal' expositions. No longer are we told that Jesus is simply a teacher of an elevated morality, but a morality which nevertheless can be interestingly paralleled from the sayings of many other great moralists Eastern and Western. No; what we encounter is One who sits on Mount Sinai throned in the Teacher's cathedra as ... No; not as an appealingly 'liberal' rabbi - forerunner of all Christian liberalism - not even as a New Moses - but as the Torah Itself, God's Eternal Word to His People, God-Enfleshed-Speaking. As Benedict XVI puts it, "The issue that is really at the heart of the debate is thus finally laid bare. Jesus understands himself as the Torah - as the word of God in person." The Torah, that is, no longer as it was to be heard when it was the discriminating marker of one privileged race, but that 'fulfiment' of Torah which is equally and without discrimination for every man and woman.

I will not spoil the adventure which Neusner and Ratzinger lay out before you by giving my poor summary of their dialogue; I will simply point out that this analysis links up with the Pauline teaching that Christ is the Wisdom ... that is, the Torah ... of the Father; and with the credal chant of the Johannine prologue which we read at the end of each Mass: God's Own Utterance (Logos, Verbum) which is God, became Flesh. (So, happily, we can dump that grim orthodoxy of the old debunked 'New Testament Scholarship': the idea that the 'different strands' of the New Testament are quite unrelated to each other.)

And the Jesus who is the Torah, also is the Temple, as I have explained before. That is why he can forgive sins. True, expiation for sin could be sought, only of God, and only in His Temple ... but Jesus is that person, that place.

So how does this relate specifically to our present situation in the Catholic Church? I will attempt to explain.

The style of much modern dialogue is to set things against each other as polar opposites. Law vs Freeedom; Judgement vs Mercy; Cultus vs Prophecy; Demands-of-the-kingdom vs Compassion-and-Love. Any such cheap game needs to be exposed to the fact that Jesus is both. Writers often give me the impression that the Demands of the Kingdom, God's commandments, are something which we can't, unfortunately, get round, get out of, much as we might wish to do so. So we grit our teeth and loyally get down to compliance with as much dutiful obedience as we can muster. But ... if only we could square it with our consciences ... we would so very much rather be singing, to our congregations and to the World, great paeans of sentiment about God's Compassion, Mercy, and Love. So we do our best to circumscribe and render practically ineffective the Truth of the Gospel and the Kingdom, out of our fear that, by laying too much emphasis there, we shall be robbing people of the Compassion and Love which we would so much rather be seen to be dispensing to a waiting World. I hope I am not being unfair or too cruel when I share my fearful suspicion that the anonymous ghost-writer of that CBCEW document is, with the best will in the world, at just about that stage of thought.

But Jesus is there in both places. The Truth that you cannot divorce a spouse and then acquire a replacement, without committing Adultery, is the Merciful Love of Christ. He is like the loving and compassionate Land-owner who puts a safe fence along the edge of a dangerous cliff in countryside where people are strongly tempted to behave carelessly, and then sets up as Law the truth (which in fact is inscribed into the very situation itself) that we cannot leap over that fence without falling to destruction. Any contradicting definition of Mercy, of Compassionate Love, is a fabrication of the Anti-Christ, who decks himself with devastating plausibility in the most apparently authentic religious language so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

You can't set Love or Mercy against Law because Christ has you in the most unavoidable of all pincer-movements: He is both.

23 April 2015

Misericordiae vultus

Firstly: a very happy S George's Day to all who count themselves English; and to those of other countries or places beneath the Patronage of S George! God bless Pope Benedict XIV, who decreed that S George was Totius Regni Angliae Protector; interestingly, doing so at a time when, according to Whig constitutional thought, the Kingdom of England had (in 1707) by statute been decreed out of existence. A great Pontiff, one of whose first actions was (upon the nomination of our late Sovereign Lord King James III) to appoint the admirable Richard Challoner (Beato pronto!) to be a Bishop.

Secondly: A very Happy Name Day to our beloved Holy Father Pope Francis! May the Protector of the Realm of England, his own Patron, pray that he have every Grace! And ... how can I have forgotten? Matthew Roth reminds me ... Ratzinger Major; and Archbishop Gaenswein!!

Thirdly: Thank You to readers who very kindly kept me informed when the definitive Latin Version of his Bull on Mercy appeared ... rather later than the vernacular versions. (Incidentally, has a Latin text for Evangelii gaudium appeared yet? If not, this will confirm Cardinal Burke's analytical judgement that it is not part of the Magisterium.)

I haven't been through Misericordiae vultus with a fine toothcomb; but my first impression is positive. Let me just, for now, share one highly important detail with you.

Long time readers will recall that one of the preoccupations to which I often come back is: that the Covenant of Salvation in Jesus Christ is freely offered to all men and women through Faith in our Saviour. Mercy is for all ... and through Jesus. I am very much opposed to the fashionable heresy that one race alone ... the Jews ... is excluded from this; and that, for them and them alone, the Old Covenant with its Torah (its prescribed way of life, its Law, its marker which identifies Jews and sets them apart as the Chosen Race distinct from the Gentiles), is still salvific, still their road to Salvation. No; the New Covenant in His Blood supersedes the old dispensation for all of humankind, just as Antitype supersedes Type, as antiquum documentum gives place Novo Ritui, as (you will remember Blessed John Henry Newman's motto) we come out of Shadows into Truth. Page after page in the New Testament makes this point. And the Fathers and the Liturgy.

And, gratifyingly, the Holy Father very firmly teaches this currently unpopular truth. Let me translate for you an important passage near the end of his Bull.  
"Before [S Paul] met Christ on the road to Damascus, he dedicated his whole life to fulfilling in every way the Righteousness of the Torah. But, converted to Christ, he so radically [prorsus] changed his mind that he wrote in his Letter to the Galatians: 'We have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we are made righteous out of Faith in Christ and not out of works prescribed by the Torah.' Paul turns totally upside down the basic idea of Righteousness [rationem iustitiae omnino evertit]. He puts in the first place, not now the Torah, but Faith. Keeping the Torah does not save, but Faith in Jesus Christ, who through his death and resurrection brings His salvation through the Mercy which makes righteous".
[The Holy Father appropriately cites Philippians 3:6 and Galatians 2:16, in both of which S Paul is concerned to emphasise strongly that Salvation is not by means of Judaism and its identity markers.]

Exactly. Precisely what S Paul taught. Couldn't be more clearly put. If this is what the Holy Father intends very firmly to continue to teach, even when he is attacked for it (as he must be) by the "Two Covenant" enthusiasts for "Inter-religious dialogue" (I wonder if Kasper has already raised the question?), then I have good vibes about this Year of Mercy.

22 April 2015

How to enjoy Eucharistic Prayer II

That charismatic writer and teacher of the 1950s and 1960s, the distinguished liturgist Fr Louis Bouyer, in his Memoires [published 2014; I am very gratefully indebted to a kind friend for these extracts], tells of his own involvement with the composition of Eucharistic Prayer II.

He was summoned to join the sub-commission charged with inventing the new 'Missal'; after seeing the drafting work aleady done, his instinct was to leave the group instantly ... but Dom Bernard Botte persuaded him to stay, even if only to obtain a less dreadful result. He agreed. I give you my own probably inaccurate translation [corrections welcomed with a sigh of relief] of Bouyer's vivid account of the early history of what has, so very sadly, become by far the most commonly used Eucharistic Prayer during this past half-century in the Western Church.

"You'll have an idea of the deplorable conditions in which this indecently speedy reform (reforme a la sauvette) was pushed forward, when I have told you how the Second Eucharistic Prayer was tied up (ficelee). Between the fanatics who were archaeologising wildly and at random, who would have wanted to ban the Sanctus and the Intercessions from the EP, adopting the Eucharist of Hippolytus just as it was, and the others who didn't give a damn about (qui se fichaient pas mal de) his pretended Apostolic Tradition but only wanted a botched (baclee) Mass, Dom Botte and I were charged with patching up the text so as to introduce these elements, which are certainly very ancient ... in time for the very next morning! By chance, I discovered, in a writing perhaps by Hippolytus himself but certainly in his style, a happy formula on the Holy Spirit which could make a transition, of the Vere Sanctus type, leading into the brief epiclesis. Botte, for his part, fabricated an intercession more worthy of Paul Reboux [a belle epoque humourist and producer of witty pastiches] and his In the Style of ... than of his own areas of academic competence. But I can never reread this weird (invraisemblable) composition without recalling the terrace of the bistro in the Trastevere where we had to work carefully at our allotted drudgery (pensum), so as to be in a position to present ourselves, with it in our hands, at the Bronze Gate at the time fixed by our bosses." [Botte recalls in his memoires that the Pensionato in which he stayed was too full of red, purple, and cassocks; "my only break was to eat my meals in the little public restaurants on the nearby streets ..."]

I am very thankful, and I know you are as well, that the Trastevere was so much more respectable by the 1960s than it is said to been a generation before Bouyer's time; otherwise our somewhat racy narrator might have been tempted to describe Eucharistic Prayer II as "misbegotten among the filles de joie of the Trastevere". Yes, I knew that would make your mind bogle. It is a shame Bouyer gives no account of which bistro was graced by this historic moment of liturgical history; if he had done so, enthusiasts could even now be planning to gather there for an Ognissanti-style Solemn Pontifical Liturgical Commemoration of the genesis of this unworthy little Prayer; poor Guido Marini acting as MC with an expression like curdled milk. And Clio should have considered it her duty to preserve the name of the barman who supplied the crucial drinks. And if only Bouyer had transcribed the menu; that would have given you something with which to distract yourselves next time you have no choice but to attend a well-at-least-it's-certainly-valid-and-so-it-fulfills-my-Sunday-Obligation celebration of the Great Sacrifice. (Instead, devise the words in which you will politely remind the celebrant on your way out that Prayer II, according to the GIRM, is not intended for Sunday use ... as Michael Caine used to say, "Not many people know that".)

The next paragraph begins with Bouyer informing us that the Novus Ordo Calendar was "oeuvre d'un trio de maniaques". He also describes Archbishop Bugnini as meprisable and aussi depourvu de culture que de simple honnetete, all of which really does totally defeat either my schoolboy French or my plain old-style Anglo-Saxon sense of decency de mortuis; I'm not sure which. It's such a terrible burden being an Englishman.

21 April 2015

Ad cenam agni providi/Ad regias agni dapes

Low Sunday has passed; we are now again using hymns in our Office. If you are accustomed to the Liturgia Horarum, and if you look in a 1961 Breviary, you will get a shock when you got to the Office Hymn for Vespers during Eastertide. Instead of Ad cenam agni providi you will find Ad regias agni dapes. This text is the piece of elegant Renaissance Latinity which Urban VIII substituted for the the fifth century text previously in use. The problem Pope Urban had with the original is that it was written when Latin was still a spoken language, a living and vivid vernacular, and its text is therefore, from the point of view of classical purists, full of irregularities. For example, it treats stolis albis candidi [bright with white garments] as if it were istolis albis candidi (eight syllables): ist- is how they pronounced st- in the 'Vulgar Latin' period*. Like many popular and subclassical texts, strongly influenced by a basically 'oral' culture, the original form of this hymn has anacoloutha, diminutives, and 'intolerably' erratic systems of accented syllables. All this is why I like it. I even have a personal theory that the author was a considerable poet who actually used 'irregular' accentual patterns to emphasise words.

Urban's gang of resurrected Horaces so rewrote the second stanza that not a word of the original remained ... but perhaps by this point I have lost non-latinists. Never mind. If you have your English Hymnal [the finest English Language hymnal there is; one of the Patrimony's principal gifts] to hand, you can find the original, translated by the incomparable John Mason 'Patrimony' Neale, at 125. You will find the Urbanist replacement at 128. You may feel that both, in their different ways, are good hymns. In my opinion, you are right, at least as far as the Latin original of 128 is concerned (the great Adrian Fortescue disagreed: for him, there was not one single good word to be said for Pope Urban's hymns, and their elimination, he felt, should be the first element in a reform of the Breviary). I just happen to feel that Sacrosanctum Concilium of Vatican II was indeed wise to mandate the restoration of the original texts of the hymns (although the Dom Anselmo Lentini's 1968 revisers, foolishly, did straighten out the rhythms a bit). The Benedictines, incidentally, never did adopt the Urbanist texts.

Moreover, the Renaissance version can miss things. Neale was convinced that the old text's description of Christ's blood as 'rosy' (roseo: 'light pink', because Roman roses were not modern cultivars) is explained by that fact that if a body is totally drained of blood, the last few drops are ... pink (how did he know? Was he right?).
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*Grandgent writes thus about this prosthetic vowel: "The earliest Latin example is probably iscolasticus, written in Barcelona in the second century; it is found repeatedly, though not frequently, in the third century; in the fourth and fifth it is very common: espiritum, ischola, iscripta, isperabi ..." Isidore of Seville in the seventh century was the first to comment on it. It has, of course, left innumerable marks upon the lexicography of the Romance languages (e.g. stella became istella which became estaile which became etoile).

20 April 2015

Episcopal leadership

It is, I feel, distinctly courageous of the Scottish Bishops to question the "Trident" nuclear deterrent at a time when doing so might appear to favour one party in the imminent British General Election. They deserve very great praise; as do those English bishops who, a few months ago, appended their signatures to a petition with a similar purpose. Honoris causa, I think these English prelates should be named:
The bishops of Nottingham, Salford, Northampton, Brentwood emeritus, Leeds, Portsmouth, and Bishop Kenney auxiliary of Birmingham.
 (I should declare personal interests: Bishop Egan is the admirable bishop within whose jurisdiction I am domiciled, the very model of a pastoral and teaching bishop; and Bishop Kenney, when he realised an injustice that was being done to me a couple of years ago, sorted it out within a couple of days; subsequently at his request and to my enormous pleasure laid hands on me; and spoke in a far kindlier way about me in his homily than I could possibly deserve).

I have long felt that some development is due in the matter of the Church's Magisterium on the two moral questions (linked but not identical) of the (1) Use; (2) Possession; of Nuclear Weapons. I feel its development may have suffered from the ethos of the Cold War and the close collaboration between Pius XII and Cardinal Spellman. That America and the Vatican should be seen to be in a holy alliance against the powers of Evil was the order of the day, and any suggestion that America ought not to possess a Nuclear Deterrent might not have been in the Spirit of that alliance. But I may very well be wrong. I so often am. Notwithstanding this factor, some very remarkable individuals realised that a positive answer to neither of these two moral questions could be reconciled with Catholic teaching about the Just War. I have in mind the mighty figure of Cardinal Ottaviani, the Lion of the Council, mocked and harried by the Modernists, Defender of the Faith against the Liberals of Northern Europe, wise critic of the Novus Ordo. Elizabeth Anscombe of this University, distinguished Catholic philosopher, a penetrating intelligence who tried to prevent the award of an honorary degree to Harry Truman on the grounds that he was a War Criminal. And the speeches of Enoch Powell against the policy of Deterrence were such masterpieces of elegant rhetoric and incisive logic that I used to set them for rendering into Latin by my more able Latin Prose Composition students.

Under S John Paul II, the Church, happily, moved closer and closer to a position in which war itself was seen as an increasingly difficult option to justify in the conditions of the modern world. The Holy Pontiff's tendency to distance himself from military adventures in the Middle East became increasingly insistent, and increasingly a problem to his sad neocon admirers such as George Weigel. But he seemed unwilling to adopt a definitive position on the Possession of Nuclear Weapons. Yet the Church's Just War teaching, with its principle that, for a war to be just, it must (among other conditions) be prudently foreseen that it would do more good than harm, seems quite irreconcilable with what is known about the effects of nuclear explosions on dozens of future generations; and there is very little doubt that Western leaders did intend to use a nuclear option to counter any irruption of Russian tanks and infantry across the plains of North Germany.

And so I was distinctly glad to read the message of our beloved Holy Father on this subject (9 December 2014). "The humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons are predictable and planetary. While the focus is often placed on nuclear weapons' potential for mass-killing, more attention must be given to the 'unnecessary suffering' brought on by their use. Military codes and international law, among others [is this a delicate way of including the teaching of the Church?] have long banned peoples from inflicting unnecessary suffering. If such suffering is banned in the waging of conventional war, it should all the more be banned in nuclear conflict ... Nuclear Deterrence and the threat of mutually assured destruction cannot be the basis for an ethic of fraternity and peaceful coexistence ..."

I would hope that this may be a theme to which the Roman Pontiff will return, and, so to speak, firm up. I think the time of all prelates, from top to bottom, would be much better spent on this and similar moral questions, including global questions of wealth and poverty, than on attempting to adapt Christian sexual moral principles to the libertine cultures of Northern Europe and North America. I gather some cardinal called Madariaga appears to hope that Synod will just keep on following Synod until a 'correct' conclusion is secured (which is exactly how the Anglican Establishment got the Ordination of Women through). As if the Church and her bishops have nothing more worthy to devote their energies to than the delicate feelings of wealthy adulterers.

More than two decades ago, Germaine Grisez, John Finnis of this University, and Joseph Boyle wrote their (in my opinion) definitive treatment of the ethics of nuclear deterrence (Nuclear Deterrence, Morality, and Realism, 1988). In the days of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, it was easy to write off those who marched against the Bomb as long-haired subversives and crypto-Russkies. And there were all those rather iffy women at Greenham Common (but, in God's great mercies, iffy women are sometimes right). So the important thing to remember about this trio is that they are the ethical thinkers who, in our time, most consistently, coherently, and vigorously have defended the traditional Catholic teaching on sexual matters, 'Life' matters, and every aspect of traditional teaching which has been attacked by the modern secular establishment. These writers not only subscribe to the whole gamut of Catholic teaching, but delve deep into philosophy, law, and every kind of moral discourse, to sustain it in the fora of modern discussion. They are not just yet another trio of wet modern lefty liberals masquerading as Catholics. They are firmly on the side of traditional Christian morality in all its aspects and irrespective of whether or not it is found attractive by 'modern' thought.

They concluded that the concept of Nuclear Deterrence is indissolubly linked with a real intention, in certain contingencies, actually to use nuclear weapons. And they demonstrated, in my view conclusively, that such a contingent intention stands condemned by the traditional doctrine of the Catholic tradition on the Just War.

I do not suggest that these three writers, or Cardinal Ottaviani, are infallible; or that the magisterium of the Church has formally uttered such a judgement. I wish it had. But I do not understand on what grounds their arguments may be refuted (and I do not propose to entertain Comments from readers who wish to contradict them without having actually read the book).

19 April 2015

Sweet little lambs and family memories

We walked up to the Trout, passing on the way fields with new lambs. Ah ... memories ... when our family was young, and all the other kiddies were Ahhing and Ooing at the sight of the lambs, our five, who had not been brought up to be sentimental, were climbing up the field gates and yelling "Mint Sauce! Mint Sauce!" at the lambs.

How tempus does fugit. Trinity Term is about to start with what is nowadays called Noughth Week, and Senior Granddaughter is coming up again today. At the end of last term, she got 88% in her Koine Greek paper; I gather that anything above 70% is currently reckoned first class.

It's all in the genes, y'know. In this case, her Grandmother's.

Ovid a liturgist?

I have remarked before how strange it is that not even a single one of the old Roman collects for the Sundays after Easter survived the post-Conciliar 'reforms' for use on an Eastertide Sunday. This is, surely, a great historical curiosity. (Incidentally, an identical fate befell all the Sunday Collects for Lent and Advent.) Sacrosanctum Concilium of Vatican II had limited change to points where it is truly and certainly clear that the benefit to the Church demands them (23). Another such oddity is the fact that the OF collect for today is a modern composition. Whatever is wrong with an old collect for this Sunday? Can it really be true that no Western Christian knew how to pray to God on a Sunday within Eastertide until 1970?

The Vatican 'reformers' did in fact keep this prayer and re-assign it, ejected from Eastertide, to one of the 'green' Sundays. So, even in their view, it cannot be totally beyond all redemption. But in doing so they (you know what I'm going to say) changed it; out went the reference to 'perpetual death' (replaced by 'slavery of sin') - and since that had to disappear, the parallel reference to 'perpetual joy' had to be changed to 'holy joy'. How exactly does vera et certa utilitas demand (exigat) the excision of the wonderful truth that the Father has rescued us from everlasting death? Or that the 'joy' He promises us will be for ever?

Here is the preconciliar text: Deus qui in Filii tui humilitate iacentem mundum erexisti: fidelibus tuis perpetuam concede laetitiam; ut quos perpetuae mortis eripuisti casibus, gaudiis facias perfrui sempiternis. God, who in the lowliness of thy Son didst make upright a prostrate world: grant to thy faithful people perpetual joy; that to those whom thou hast snatched from the falls of  perpetual death, thou mightest give the fruition of everlasting joys.

I simply love the sophisticated interplay of words in the opening phrases. Humilitas comes from humus, the ground, and so it has an etymological sense of flat-upon-the-ground (as did the Greek tapeinos). So we are offered the elegant paradox that the lowliness of Christ raised upright, erect, a world which was prostrate or, literally, lying. As a frivolous Classicist, I am reminded of the similar word-play at VIII 526 of Ovid's Metamorphoses, where all Calydon is grieving at the death of Meleager: Alta iacet Calydon, lofty Calydon lies prostrate, where, as the late (and lamented) Adrian Hollis of Keble College in this University pointed out, the 'sportiveness' of this combination of the literal and metaphorical is enhanced by the fact that 'lofty' is a traditional epithet (aipeinei Kaludoni Iliad XIII 217). Hollis rightly described the humour as 'whimsical, almost Callimachean' (it was Callimachus of Cyrene, greatest of all the Hellenistic poets, who elevated verbal fun to be the highest art form). The concept of flat-on-the-ground is neatly taken up yet again in our collect when perpetual death is said to result from falls, casibus, unrepented sins.

And then there are the antitheses and assonances. They raise my spirit in the same sort of way as do the brilliant firework-displays of that great gift of Byzantine Christianity to the Catholic world, the Akathist Hymn. Why do the killjoys, gloomily lugubrious, want to rob the Liturgy of the Latin Church of its sparkle, its fun? Why, after Vatican II, are only Byzantines allowed to enjoy their Faith?

But, underneath the sheer fun of the classical prayers of the old Roman Rite, there is the saving and glorious truth that it is the Lord, weakened by scourging, falling under his Cross deep into the grime and filth of a fallen world, who alone raises up that world and conveys to us an endlessness of joy. Christian euchology renders soteriological the Classical humour.  

18 April 2015

Two cultures, two languages: Bishop Egan and the MP

Sometimes, when the Media are interviewing Catholics on controverted issues, they tell us the religion of the person they have with them, as if to say "Of course, you should take account of the fact that X is a devout Catholic, and so what he says must be taken with a pinch of salt".

The BBC, in the person of Ed Stourton, a Catholic remarried after divorce, gave radio space on Sunday March 22 to the RC MP for Bournemouth, Conor Burns, to make another attack on Bishop Philip Egan, Burns' own diocesan Bishop.

I think it would have been helpful to listeners to mention Stourton's own status, so as to remind them that he is himself not impartial and unbiassed when it comes to Christ's teaching on Marriage and associated matters.

Burns is described by Wikipedia as "openly gay"; surely, it would have been appropriate to inform listeners of this? Perhaps Stourton could have introduced him with something like:

"Mr Burns, who is said to be openly gay, first attacked Bishop Philip last year when the bishop gave his opinion that legislators who voted for homosexual marriage 'shouldn't be receiving Holy Communion'".

This point of mine is pure Common Sense. We all know the phrase "I see where you're coming from". For the members of the Media Establishment to be so coy about letting us know where they and their darlings are "coming from", amounts to a culpable and deceitful suppressio veri.

Readers will remember the occasion of Burns' first attack on Dr Egan. The bishop made it clear that he would not himself deny Communion to legislators voting for laws which contradict Catholic moral teaching unless this were the common policy of his episcopal conference. Some Bishops' Conference employee called "Greg Pope" promptly issued a statement which, while formally eminently correct, effectively cut the ground from beneath Bishop Philip's act of witness. And I am also sure that readers will also remember Cardinal Mueller's recent observations that Dioceses and their Bishops are not 'branches' of Episcopal Conferences or of their bureaucracies; still less should a bishop be subject to the implied supervisory correction of Conference employees. Gerhard Mueller's observation that the diocesan bishop and the Roman Pontiff have a direct and unmediated relationship is not so much pastoral as it is theological: it is the local Particular (i.e. diocesan) Church, and the Universal Church (with their circumincessio), that are, for Catholics, the basic ecclesiological realities.

Let me describe the occasion of Burns' second, Stourton-facilitated, attack. Recently, Bishop Philip, in response to appeals for advice, put out a carefully argued statement on the complex subject of support for 'charities' which have varying degrees of involvement in controverting Catholic teaching. As a bishop has a duty to do, he warned against "formal cooperation in gravely immoral acts". Burns called this "legalistic" [the second time he used the term, he expanded it into "highly legalistic"]  and "rigid".

Now that is an interesting word. Would he describe those who with unflagging determination worked for the passage of the Gay Marriage legislation as "rigid"? Or is this another of those Irregular Verbs ... "I am resolute, You are rigid ..."?.

Burns went on to attack the bishop's paper for causing "worry and anxiety". Having damned his Bishop with faint praise for being erudite, he then waffled on about "the World as it is". He referred to Bishop Philip's "absolute logic" (but, very strangely, these words do not seem to have been intended as complimentary but as a sneer). He revealed that a "couple of priests" were upset and were wailing "What on earth are we to do?". He was clearly enraged about the copious footnotes which support all Bishop Philip's statements. Imaginary "conflict" with Pope Francis got dragged into this load of nonsense.

Bishop Egan does indeed invariably footnote his utterances with great care. Far from being "legalistic", this practice is in the very highest degree reassuring to the ordinary, faithful, cleric or laic. Indeed, it is profoundly humble. A bishop's duty is, very obediently, very humbly, to teach the Deposit of Faith handed down from the Apostles in accordance with the Church's Magisterium; and footnoting exemplifies the authenticity of his teaching as well as drawing his readers more deeply into the authentic sources of the Faith. I hope that there is no Catholic bishop anywhere in the world who, instead of teaching what the Church teaches, uses his office to promote his own divisive whimsies. If there is, then there must be a relevance in Cardinal Brandmueller's recent observation that people who "insistently demand" change in the Church's dogma are "heretics" even if they happen to wear the purpura of a Cardinal. (I am glad, incidentally, that his Eminence has revived this useful analytical category.)


Nor do I like the cheap game of attempting to judge and condemn a bishop by deploying Media fantasies about what the 'policy' of Pope Francis is. Quite apart from the fact that these fantasies are grotesquely garbled, Leo XIII taught ... and so did Vatican II ... that the Bishops are not mere vicars of the Roman Pontiff, but themselves Successors of the Apostles. Here again, we have journalists assuming that maximalising view of the Papacy which I dealt with (yet again) in a recent post. Of course there isn't any "conflict" between the Bishops of Rome and Portsmouth ... the very suggestion is absolute and unmitigated rubbish ... but even to raise the possibility is to be asking a wrong question on the basis of a faulty understanding arising from a false theology.

17 April 2015

A footnote on the Armenians and Holocaust Denial

After the Holy Father's admirable words on Sunday, it would be good to hear just a few Admirable Words from a lot of others. (I apologise in advance if what follows demonstrates that I am not quite up-to-date with the utterances of politicians.) After all, this is the Centenary of the Armenian Holocaust, and everybody all over the world clamours to observe Centenaries. Why do we hear so little on this one?

Successive British Governments of all parties, highly principled in all things, full of moral courage, anxious to lecture other governments all over the world about their poor records on human rights, fortified by a self-confidence based on the sublimely High Ground which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office invariably occupies, have never dared to say anything which Ankara might take amiss.

Obama, before he became Divine Emperor, spoke about the Armenian Holocaust, but since his Apotheosis has done a good line in weasel words and diplomatic ambiguities. Come on, Mr O, this is Centenary time!

Some Israelis have spoken very Admirably indeed about the Armenian tragedies. There have been others who have felt that enormous moral imperatives, like not upsetting a country whose airline does a lot of flights in and out of Tel a viv, counsel prudence. An odd line for Zionists, of all people, to take. Or is it that some of them think they hold the copyright on being victims of a Holocaust? Netanjahu could clear these uncertainties up for us, with the same clarity that Pope Francis used.

I wonder if the Masonic tradition has examined its conscience in this matter? Have there been Apologies which I have missed?

Lombardi boobs again

Outrageous, Wednesday's Bollettino. It refers to someone called "Lord Chris Patten". A totally non-existent person. There is another major Vatican scandal here. Heads should roll.

For there to be any such person, he would have to be the younger son of a Duke. Let us suppose that there is a Thirteenth Duke of Chalice, descendant of King Charles II by his mistress (a very physical girl) Nelly Corporal. His family name is Patten; and, as well as his dukedom, he has some subsidiary titles. So, in full, he is something like this: Charles Patten, Duke of Chalice, Earl of Pall, and Baron Purificator (in fact it would be more complicated that that, but let's not go there). His Grace's personal friends probably call him Charlie Chalice.

Let us imagine he has children and grandchildren. As a matter of courtesy, Chalice's eldest son takes his father's second title and is called "the Earl of Pall" or, more colloquially, Lord Pall. Pall's eldest son, again as a courtesy, bears his grandfather's title of "the Baron Purificator" or, more briefly, Lord Purificator.

Chalice's three younger sons are respectively called (so let us fantasise) Lord Andrew Patten, Lord Benjamin Patten, and Lord Christopher Patten. The duke's daughters are called the Ladies Yolanda and Zuleika Patten. That's how it is with Dukes' children in civilised countries. How dukes organise matters in Lombardy, I just hate to imagine. There are things that don't bear thinking about. Do the Lombards still rampage around Italy looting and kidnapping people to sell into slavery?

Chris Patten is not the fourth son of a Duke. Fr Lombardi, by implying that he is, might even be committing a libel by suggesting that Patten's Mother once comforted a duke. I would suggest that it could be extremely dangerous for Fr Lombardi ever to set foot within these Three Kingdoms, because he would very probably find himself instantly served with a writ and dragged off to the Tower of London, there to be photographed daily by Japanese tourists and pecked at by ravens. Or perhaps the delinquent is not Fr Lombardi, but that Fr Rosica, the cut of whose jib I have never liked. Is he aware that the Tower is where, in English tradition, prisoners are racked?

Patten is a Life Baron; his patent of creation makes clear that his peerage dies with him. Although the College of Heralds designed for him arms with a Supporter each side of the Shield, as befits a peer, they, poor wee beasties, will be sent off to the abattoir the moment their owner dies ... the Supporters, that is, not the Heralds.

And in correct English usage he is just called Lord Patten or, if you feel like being completely  formal, "the Lord Patten of Barnes". And he is the Chancellor, and a very good one, of this University. Italian and Canadian priestlings, hands off!

16 April 2015

Our love for a great Pontiff; on this festival of a great Martyr

A day of great whooppee for all good men and women and true, a day marked for us by the birthday of our Holy Father the Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, the Pope of Unity to whom we in the Ordinariate owe so much; to whom the Whole State of Christ's Church Militant here on Earth owes so much. The erudite Pope who was able to set the problematic decades since Vatican II into a conceptual framework which enabled us to make sense of the Divine purpose during those difficult years; the Pope who made clear that it is theologically impossible for a Catholic Rite to be abolished - and went on to legislate that, whatever any nay-sayer of whatever dignity might wish, any presbyter of the Latin Rite has an inalienable right to celebrate the Mass we associate with the name of his great predecessor, S Pius V. How can any of us tuck into our lunches today without thinking of that gentle old pastor and wise scholar tucking into something Bavarian, in the company, one hopes, of his brother?

This day will always remind me of my unforgettable visit to Papa Stronsay last year; a break in my journey enabled my kind hosts to take me to visit the exquisite rose-coloured Romanesque Cathedral at Kirkwall in the Orkneys. At the Reformation, the relics of the martyred Earl Magnus were removed from their shrine but carefully preserved behind a stone in the transept arch; so his presence is still living in his own Church. Because, you see, today is the Feast of S Magnus the Martyr! I think of my dear friends on Papa Stronsay solemnly celebrating the Patronal Festival of the Orkneys in their wind-swept but immaculate chapel.

It doesn't end there. We in the Ordinariate owe our present laetitia in large measure to the work and witness of Fr Henry Joy Fynes Clinton, Rector of S Magnus the Martyr by London Bridge, Founder of the Catholic League, Apostle of Romanita within the Church of England; Confessor of the Faith; another devoted lover and upholder, against whatever Anglican episcopal persecutions, of the liturgy we used to call "the Western Rite". One of those intimately involved in the restoration of the Holy House of the Mother of God at Walsingham, to whom our Ordinariate is dedicated.

So it is surprisingly unsurprising that, upon this day of days, the Particular Calendar of the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham offers us this Nordic Saint to celebrate, enabling us Caecubum depromere in honour of a great Pontiff; to celebrate our fellowship with the Redemptorists on Papa Stronsay whose regularisation, like ours, is the fruit of that great Pontificate of Christian Unity, and who, like us, suffered in their journey into full canonical status; to remember with affection and prayer our own Anglican Fathers in the Faith who did not live to see the the new dawn of Anglicanorum coetibus.

Sancte Magne, quot habes et quales filios tuos et clientes tam vivos quam defunctos pro quibus ut preces effundas deprecamur! Ora pro nobis, ora pro omnibus!