25 September 2016

Offchester and Effchurch

While Doing the North, we found ourselves looking over a perfect 'transitional' Augustinian Priory Church, which, as Pevsner observes, was in ruins but still complete enough in the 1840s to make its restoration at that time almost totally reliable. It is beside a ruined Regency house; if only the Priory were still in ruins; and the Regency house were not in tatters, the whole (immensely romantic) site would be a perfect setting for S Jane's Northanger Abbey. I will call it Effchurch Priory; we visited it at noon on the Saturday when forty or fifty people were gathered there for a Tridentine High Mass. It happens, I gather, once a year. An elegant and very accessible sermon on the day's Saint (S Nicolas of Tolentino); perfect liturgy; excellent singing. An enthusiastic and very participatory congregation, who knew their way around the Church's immemorial Liturgy and took part in a natural, relaxed, unforced, often quite loud, way.

Sadly, I did not feel that hearing Mass on Saturday at 12:00 would fulfill the Sunday obligation; so in the evening we went to a Vigil Mass in a town some miles away, which I will rename Offchester. The difference was palpable. The 1969 rite done very badly. Very little participation; the organ droned eight stanzas of a hymn tune and not a person made a sound. The pp obviously deemed himself a brilliant mystagogue, because every single 'presidential formula', even the pseudo-Hippolytan Eucharistic Prayer, was either changed or interpolated. There was, unsurprisingly, no sermon. I say "unsurprisingly" because I have found the same liturgical corruption in the South of England, not least in a church where the priest proudly referred to it as "a Vatican II church".

I wonder why some priests of a certain generation and a 'Conciliar' culture have such an aversion to preaching. This leads me on to wonder what exactly it was that they were taught in the corrupted and emptying seminaries of the post-Conciliar decades. We know that (despite Canon Law and Veterum Sapientia of S John XXIII) they were not taught Latin or Greek; because of this, they cannot have been taught Patristics. They did not ... clearly ... do Liturgy or Liturgical Theology or Practical Liturgy; it appears that they received no education in Scripture, Biblical Theology, or how to open the Word of God for their people. I somehow doubt that they were all given a deep formation in traditional moral theology or the hearing of confessions; I know of (another) church in the South of England where a priest explained that the difficulty about hearing confessions was that the Confessional had for many years been used for stacking away the unsold debris of Parish bazaars. What, in the Name of God Almighty and God most Adorable, did those men learn in those seven expensive years of 'priestly formation'? 

I know some traddies cheerfully but irresponsibly point out that Father Time will solve the problem of that generation of clergy, but, in a decade or two's time, will the joyless and infantilised congregations still be in existence? These are souls for whom Christ died.

If I were a bishop, I would send formidable and terrifying hit squads of bright, orthodox, and cheerful newly ordained young clergy round to teach the dear old gentlemen all the things that their lecturers forgot to tell them about in the 1970s and 1980s; and to overhaul a radicibus the parish liturgies. Cardinal Sarah's recent extremely sound suggestions could provide a lively and exciting start to a programme of restoring catholic authenticity in the desert areas. And His Eminence clearly understands the urgency of this need. Happily, one hears of diocesan bishops loyally responding to his timely initiative.

But not, sadly, all bishops. One or two Ordinarii locorum prefer to resemble stewards careering crazily around on the Great Liner's dangerously sloping decks while shouting noisily at anyone they meet about the 'true post-Conciliar' alignment of the deckchairs.

24 September 2016

The ORDINARIATE and Malines, Mercier, and Mary

A great day! Our Patronal Festival! We accept your respectful felicitations!!

September 24 is the Ordinariate Solemnity of our Lady of Walsingham. Our admirable Ordinariate Missal provides for use today the beautiful Mass which Fr Hope Patten and Fr Fynes Clinton ingeniously created by making one very minor adaptation in the Mass granted pro aliquibus locis by Innocent XII (1691-1700) in honour of the Holy House at Loretto. (The Breviary Office which complements this Loretto Mass is also extremely beautiful and I assume that application of the principles of Canon 19 enables Ordinariate clergy who say the Breviarium Romanum to use it.)

It is a very fine Mass. Unfortunately, management at the Anglican Shrine later abandoned it in favour of some new Mass formulae confected by themselves in the Spirits of Hannibal Bugnini and Old ICEL; my copy of the 1979 (fourteenth) edition of their pilgrims' Manual informs us that "considerable revision was both necessary and appropriate, and this [a committee] proceeded to provide". (That presumably happened around the time when, so I was shamelessly informed, they made a bonfire of their maniples, burses, and veils.) Happily, in the Ordinariate we remain true to the vision and genius of Hope Patten and Fynes Clinton. Both that vision and that genius were and are of a very high order. "Considerable revision" is neither "necessary" nor "appropriate".

After all that, I hope it will not seem eccentric for me to write today about another Marian Mass; one which, it seems to me, also has interesting links with the long process which eventually, in Good Pope Benedict's Golden Days, led to the erection of the Ordinariates.

Our Lady, as Mediatrix of all Graces, used to have a big shop window in the Supplementum pro aliquibus locis; she possessed a festival granted for May 31 by Pius XI in 1922. It was granted largely at the instance of one of the great Prelates of the twentieth century, Desire-Joseph Cardinal Mercier, Archbishop of Malines 1906-1926.

Mercier, like Ratzinger, was one of those rare and admirable Catholic Prelates who were much attracted by the essential orthodoxy of the Catholic Movement in the Church of England and realised its enormous value to the Catholic Church, its true home. That is why, although he was a hammer of the Modernists (appointed, indeed, to Malines by S Pius X), Mercier was, with no inconsistency, the leading spirit in the Malines Conversations, in which Catholic and Anglo-Catholic theologians came to substantial agreements and espoused the idea of 'Corporate Reunion' expressed in the phrase "The Church of England United Not Absorbed'. 'Malines' is, in fact, part of the pre-history of our glorious Ordinariate, and Cardinal Mercier one of its godfathers.

Pius XII is said to have disliked our Lady's title Mediatrix of all Graces. That may be why he effectively sabotaged the feast in 1955 by submerging it beneath his own new festival of our Lady, Queen, on May 31.

The Mass and Office of our Lady, Mediatrix of all Graces, authorised before 'the Council' for many places (including Belgium; much of the North of England; and Wales where, back in the age of Octave Days, it was transferred to June 1) contained good things. Here is part of the fourth Reading at Mattins, from S Ephraim the Deacon. I have written before about the Latin and Byzantine testimonies to this doctrine; I hereby now, in honour of today's great Marian Solemnity, cheerfully mix in the Syrian, Semitic tradition.

My mistress, most holy Mother of God and Full of Grace, inexhaustible ocean of divine and secret bounties and gifts, the beseeching of all good things, Mistress of all after the Trinity, another consoler after the Paraclete, and, after the Mediator, Mediatrix of all the world ... thou hast filled creation with every kind of benefit, to the dwellers in heaven thou hast brought joy, thou hast brought salvation to earthly things. By thee we hold the most certain proof of our resurrection; by thee we believe that we shall obtain the kingdom of heaven; through thee all glory, honour and holiness, from the first Adam and unto the very end of the world, has flowed, is flowing, and will flow, to the Apostles, the Prophets, to those of righteous and humble heart; and in thee rejoices, O Full of Grace, the whole creation.

Supplex Omnipotentia, ora pro nobis.

23 September 2016

Bishop Fellay and Mutual Enrichment

I was very moved when I listened to the two videos of His Excellency Bishop Fellay, justifying his hope of leading the Society of S Pius X into a canonically regular situation.

And particularly by the section in which he read long extracts from a letter sent to him by a diocesan bishop. (I suspected that he laid emphasis upon the fact that his correspondent was a diocesan bishop to prevent it being assumed that the writer was Bishop Schneider!) It seemed to me sad that His Excellency felt that he needed to conceal the bishop's identity; such, I suppose, is the result of the atmosphere of fear which pervades Christ's Catholic Church militant here in earth during the current pontificate. (Although no steps appeared to be taken against Reinhardt Marx when he said all that stuff about not being a subsidiary of Rome and not being prepared to 'wait' ... which is confusing. Might there be different standards of punitive retaliation for the differently dissident?)

It is no secret that there is a tendenz within the Society which favours an ecclesiology of remaining dug into a heavily fortified defensive position. I would not myself find this at all easy to justify. It can never be safe to be out of perfect canonical unity with the Successor of S Peter. And such a position can never be free of a suspicion that a schismatic mentality is being generated; a mentality which can only harden over the years. The longer communities exist in separation, the less easy it is to reconcile them. Surely, whatever else History teaches, it teaches this. Every unreconciled year is 365 more days' journey into the land of hardened cultural arteries

It is very much to the Holy Father's credit that, apparently, he has lowered the doctrinal bar for reconciliation, in line with the interesting remarks made by Archbishop Pozzo ... who had (or has a friend who had) clearly been diving into the Conciliar archives and unearthing formal statements made in the aula about the non-binding status of certain documents. And the Pope's statement that he had not spoken infallibly when he performed certain recent canonisations must help reconciliation. Obviously, a formula of canonisation does not fall within the parameters of Pastor aeternus; additionally, there is significance in the changes Pope Francis made in the rites of Canonisation. (The Search Engine would reveal my extensive views on this subject.)

The nameless bishop, in his letter to Bishop Fellay, was in fact echoing the appeal recorded in Acts 16, Come over to Macedonia and help us. But the Society has only some 600 priests. How can it possibly 'help' the so much vaster Universal Church Militant? As the disciples said to the Lord, alla tauta ti estin eis tosoutous? [John 6:9]. 

He answered their very natural apprehension non verbo sed actu. Such is the way with God.

Perhaps the fostering of vocations and seminary training could be areas in which the Societry's long, well tested, and proven experience could be of general usefulness. I gather that one in five of the priests ordained in France this year was ordained in the Extraordinary Form ... Possibly this is what that rather sporting Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith had in mind when he observed, I think in 2012, that he would be happy to see the Society running his seminary. Does anybody have any better plan for reviving Wonersh? An Ushaw redivivum might end up full again, just as it was in that splendid old black-and-white video of High Mass on the eve of the Council!!

Incidentally, it could be useful for orthodox presbyters being hounded by unsympathetic diocesans to have a refuge into which they could be incardinated. The Society might end up growing faster than it anticipated!

Indeed, things after the regularisation of the SSPX might be fun. Since the Society's priests are relatively thick upon the ground in France, there would just have to be some entertaining exchanges of opinions as they took a full part in deliberations with the aged liberals in French dioceses and deaneries. And just suppose the Savoyard Bishop Tissier de Mallerais were nominated to sit in ... merely as an observer, you understand ... on the meetings of the CBCEW ... imagine that engagingly dismissive flap of the hand and the laconic verbal grenade blandly lobbed across the table, just when some item on the Agenda seemed to have been safely sewn up ... and, incredible though this must seem, Tissier might just possibly not be overawed even by Vincent Nichols ...

22 September 2016

The Tome of S Leo

Did you think I was a bit hard  in my criticisms a day or two ago of bureaucracies which operate under the cover of episcopal conferences? But those of us whom Pope Benedict so graciously invited to bring our own distinctive patrimony into the one true fold of the Redeemer have seen it all before ... these bureaucracies, their unaccountable Spokesmen. Sequuntur a couple of boring old anecdotes of my own. I hope you're sitting comfortably.

Once upon a time, S John Paul II, in the course of his admirable catecheses, spoke about the Perpetual Virginity of the Most Holy Mother of God. Virginity in any shape or form being an unusual concept to journalists, the Press wanted a Story out of this, and so they turned to the Press Office of what our Patron Blessed John Henry Newman so beautifully called the House of Bondage. Duly, next day, it was reported in the public papers that a Spokesman of the Church of England had disclaimed the doctrine and said that Modern Scholarship did not accept it. Since I was working as a priest of the Church of England, I rather objected to this anonymous individual claiming to speak on my behalf. I objected all the more, because 'Ever Virgin', aeiparthenos, is in the Conciliar documents of the Council of Chalcedon, a Council to which the Church of England has historically been regarded as doctrinally committed (under the legislation of Elizabeth I, you could be burned as a heretic for denying its teaching). Semper Virgo is, to be specific, present in the Tome of S Leo, who was one of the dozen greatest latinists of all time. I am very attached to (as we say nowadays) the Spirit of Chalcedon ... but also to its words. And equally attached to the Spirit and words of S Leo. And to the doctrinal interventions of all Roman Pontiffs except Pope Honorius I, whom, of course, I anathematise.

So I made enquiries about this Press Statement. To be brief: my enquiry was passed from hand to hand, office to office, with nobody taking responsibility, everyone disowning it. But I persisted, eventually discovered the identity of the 'Spokesman', and the processes he had gone through.

His media contacts had demanded a response before their press deadline that very same day. So he had 'phoned up the only bishop of the Church of England who had an academic reputation ... a liberal Evangelical who was 'chair' of the Doctrine Commission ... who had told him what to say.

Thus did a 'Spokesman' for the Church of England disclaim, and dissociate his ecclesial body from, the common teaching of the ancient Churches, Latin, Byzantine, Oriental, and their ancient liturgies; and of the ancient Ecumenical Councils. And disrespectfully dismiss the words of the World Leader of one of our 'partners in ecumenical dialogue'. It's as easily done as that! It's what bureaucrats are for!

The waywardness of these proceedings was emphasised by the subsequent ARCIC document on Mary, which spoke about the doctrine with much more respect, and reminded readers that Cranmer, Latimer, and Jewell had subscribed to it. 

Incidentally, I met a similar implicit disrespect for the Tome of S Leo during the period of 'priestly formation' which we had to go through at the beginning of the Ordinariate. One of the 'lecturers' described a formula found in the Tome (De nostro enim illi est minor Patre humanitas; de Patre illi est aequalis cum Patre divinitas) as "heretical" (ipso ipsius verbo). I was not impressed by what this revealed about the reliability of the doctrinal teaching still perhaps being given even today to Catholic seminarians, or the competence of all their teachers.

I pursued that chap, too. You just can't let these people, wherever you may find them, get away with things, can you?

21 September 2016


I hope that the 'Spirit of Assisi', which has so worried many good Catholics, may be losing its power to offend.

It is well known that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger felt that he must absent himself from one of the 'Assisi Events' sponsored by his admired friend and Pope S John Paul II. Indeed, I do not think it is disrespectful to suggest that the great 'showman pope' may have been even culpably careless with some of his gestures; or that some of the arrangements at 'his' Assisi came near to the sacrilegious. Complaints were in order.

But I felt that some traditionalists failed to give Pope Benedict XVI credit for the differences which he introduced when he made his own papal journey to Assisi. Had he simply discontinued these events during his own pontificate, he would have left, among the precedents from the previous pontificate, objectionable arrangements which subsequent popes might have accepted as normative, and followed. I believe that this is one important reason why Benedict went to Assisi ... to change the precedents; to correct and sharpen the implicit meaning of the event.

And now our Holy Father, in his Address at Assisi, has explicitly and clearly renounced "syncretism and relativism". This is splendid; and, because of its formal and scripted nature, is worth far more than those off-the-cuff observations which cause such justified unease.

'Assisi events' may still not be entirely to our taste. I can't imagine taking part in such things myself. But I think that anybody who claims to raise questions of principle must think very carefully about which details he/she finds radically unacceptable.

I add, as a footnote, my own warm approbation of the repetition by Pope Francis of the spirit and much of the language associated with S John Paul's condemnations of war. I wish that the Camerons of this world had listened more attentively to such teaching when they were wildly and irresponsibly clamouring for Regime Change in the Arab world under cover of the daft and murderous slogan "the Arab Spring". It was like handing out matches and encouraging the kiddies to run along and celebrate Bonfire Night in the forecourt of a petrol filling station. There is much blood on many fastidious hands. But not on the hands of successive Roman Pontiffs, who have discerned with clarity and have given their warnings in unmistakeable language.

20 September 2016

The Catholic Herald

It seems to me a bit of a pity that the ability of what the CIC calls Christifideles to make their views known via the Internet, courtesy of the Catholic Herald, is, apparently, no more.

More important, however, than my personal 'seemings' and my subjective 'bits of a pity' are the right, and indeed duty, prescribed in Canon Law (vide Canonem 212), for Christifideles to make their necessitates et optata et sententias known to their pastors and to each other. A valuable forum for the the exercise of this ius et officium is being removed. The all-important Spirit of the Code of Canon Law is thus being gravely infringed. We really can't be having that, can we?

Surely we may with confidence expect our beloved Episcopal Conference to take steps to ensure the restoration of this or a similar forum; and to encourage clerics and laics alike to practise thereupon the fullest Parrhesia. Since the Catholic Herald mentions the enormous economic burden of providing this service, perhaps the Conference could make a financial contribution, saving an equivalent sum of money by effecting extensive economies in Eccleston Square.

Indeed, discussion about the nature of such economies could be the initial topic which a revived and revamped Internet Forum (Forum Interretiale Christifidelium) could open up for discussion by clerics and laics. In accordance with Canon 212, I would nominate for the First Big Wave of Major Chops all the Liturgy wallahs, especially the one who provided a misleading translation recently with regard to the ad Orientem question; and all the chaps (and chappettes) who deal with Inter-faith Relations, particularly the one who advised the bishops with regard to the Good Friday Prayer for the Jews; and all the Spokespersons, especially the one who made a statement a couple of years ago dissociating the Conference from Bishop Egan's reminder about the canonical provisions for refusing communion to legislators who legislate against Catholic morals. Oops: I nearly forgot to include the anonymous lady (or gentleman) who wrote the document I analysed in my recent "BUT ..." post. Clear 'em all out, sez I. Surely, such people precisely represent all the dangers Cardinal Mueller has had in mind when he has spoken over the years with such clarity and wisdom about the problems inherent in powerful 'Conference' bureaucracies. To His Eminence's words, with which I entirely concur, I will add my own humble ha'p'orth: that the mischief is increased when, as so often, these people make their utterances anonymously, thus, as dear Mr Baldwin put it, exercising power without responsibility, 'the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages'.

And the CBCEW could discontinue any subvention the Conference makes to ARCIC and other time-wasting bodies (I know you will all be able to nominate some).

We could save oodles of dosh.

But that's all just my own personal and deeply subjective and whimsical view. Please, in accordance with the Holy Father's wishes, use much Parrhesia in making your own suggestions.

19 September 2016

S Januarius and the Ordinariate

Oxford is a city of secrets; and one of its best kept secrets is its very personal relationship with the 1630s, an interesting decade when the Ordinariate very nearly happened ahead of its time. There appeared to be exciting ecumenical possibilities between England and Rome, partly helped by Charles I's laudably uxorious infatuation with his Queen Henrietta Maria.

First stop, if one wishes to do a pilgrimage to the 1630s, might be to contemplate the glass in Magdalen Chapel; 1632 and a baroque reinterpretation of the 'perpendicular' schemes in the windows of All Souls, New College, and elsewhere, each light being occupied by one saint. That in itself is interesting in a period commonly supposed to be 'Protestant'; and the selection of saints is even more so. They are not, as you might expect, a predominantly Biblical band; indeed, numerically they are less biblical than the saints in Oxford's medieval glass. Some of them, interestingly, are saints whose very existence plays a deft game of hide-and-seek with the canons of Enlightenment historicity, such as S Catherine with her wheel. There is S Anne 'Mater'; and S George; and S Januarius. S Januarius!! That admirable Saint who, this very day, is being celebrated in Naples, with supplications that, by the annual miracle of the liquefaction of his blood, he will guarantee the safety of that city! Many of the Saints in the window are so deliciously obscure that I cannot find them in my Dictionary of Saints. There is a strong cohort of Fathers: Ss Cornelius and Cyprian; Basil; a brace of Gregories; Dionysius; Polycarp; Hippolytus; Ignatius; Irenaeus; Clement. All this is faintly reminiscent of the Tractarian period: Fr Faber would have been happy writing biographies of Ss Eulalia and Theodosia; while Blessed John Henry Newman would have felt at home among the Fathers (one recalls that feature of his character which Dr Manning never stopped suspecting: 'the old patristic Anglican tone'). A most provocative curiosity: only one of the saints is wearing a halo. She is labelled 'Sancta Maria Deipara'.

A quiet saunter along the curve of the High brings one to the porch of the University Church, built in 1637, grandly and exuberantly baroque, its twisted columns identical with those supporting Bernini's canopy in S Peter's, Rome; a tantalising hint of the Catholic Baroque England that just might have been. Enshrined within a jolly ensemble of classicising details is a female Figure royally crowned and holding a Child ... the 'Sancta Maria Deipara' we met in Magdalen. The statue in this porch was listed on the indictment of Archbishop Laud when he was to be martyred for being Popish. Sancta Maria Oxoniensis, ora pro nobis! Et beate Gulielme Laud, sis memor nostri!

A third statio is much more private; no public thoroughfare. The back quadrangle at S John's was built by Archbishop Laud in an elegant Renaissance style; a statue of blessed Charles Stuart at one end looks across to a statue of Queen Henrietta Maria. An interesting suggestion of the workings of Providence: that it was a King who had no mistresses, and promoted a culture of Married Love, who was privileged with a crown of martyrdom ... am I right in thinking that the same may be true of Louis XVI?

If you want to have a better look at Queen Henrietta Maria, you could try the Old Common Room in Merton (the college in which the Queen resided during the Civil War), but they probably wouldn't let you in. But not to worry: there is at least one other portrait of her somewhere or other in the Ashmolean. (And indeed, I visited her last week among the Roman Renaissance magnificences of Alnwick Castle in Northumberland; I suspect loyalist fervour demanded her mass-production.)

In Oxford Cathedral, in the Lucy Chapel, you will find monuments of the royal servants who died (sometimes under arms) while the King and the Court were in Oxford, quorum animabus propitietur Deus (as well as the Shrine of S Frideswide and a bust of beatus ille Doctor Veritatis Edward Bouverie Pusey).

What more could a visitor want?


Readers will remember my Notice of 2 September explaining that I would no longer be taking in-coming computer traffic, including comments offered to this blog, until today, September 19.

I am now willining to consider any comments that anyone may wish to offer with regard to any posts during this very refreshing period.

I commend such breaks to all readers!

18 September 2016

Elephants never forget

Is it really true that Archbishop Bugnini's baptismal name was Hannibal? Is it really permitted to baptise with a name that perpetuates the memory of the old Semitic fertility god Ba'al? Wouldn't such a name imply that its holder was destined to be a promoter of idolatry? Or that he was philoprogenitive?

Is the name Annibale common among Italian Freemasons?

17 September 2016

(5) Anglican Patrimony and the importance of the Argumentum ad hominem

This piece assumes that the reader already knew, or has by now taken on board, the sense of ARGUMENTUM AD HOMINEM which earlier posts of mine explained. The following example of this argumentum is taken from the great Anglican Catholic theologian Dr Eric Mascall.

Fr Eric is dealing with the claim that Anglo-Catholics are subversive Quislings because they try to reverse, within the Church of England, the changes made at the Reformation. He points out that it ill becomes those who support the Reformation Settlement to argue that a status quo should never be changed.

Let's unpack that or, to use Fr Zed's neat term, 'drill into it'.  [What follows is Hunwicke, not Mascall.]

Someone who believes "Changing a status quo is always bad" cannot be a supporter of what was done at the Reformation. Because, in that period, a status quo was changed.

Someone who supports what was done at the Reformation cannot also, simultaneously, believe that "Changing a status quo is always bad", because that is exactly what the 'Reformers' did.

Of course, it is open to anyone to say "Ah, but the status quo which the 'Reformers' changed was a wicked and corrupt status quo and so they were right to change it; but the present status quo is a good one, so you are wicked to try to change that". That is fair enough, because you and he can then dialogue or argue about whether the two claims in his statement are in fact true.

If he modifies his assertion of principle to "Bad status quos should always be changed and good ones should always be preserved", then he has shifted his ground to a rational (if a somewhat blindingly obvious) stand. You may well agree with him, while insisting that it is necessary to apply the two halves of his proposition with dispassionate care.

What he is not entitled to do, not today, not ever, not even on the Day of Judgement, is to have his cake and eat it: to rant about how "change is always per se wrong" when it suits him, and then to change horses to "Change is sometimes necessary" when that suits him. If he persists in trying to have things both ways, there is no point in wasting your time on arguing with him.

We could disentangle this from inter-Anglican squabbles and apply it to the Catholic Church of 2016 by considering the attitudes of the 1970s Liturgical Fetichists who dislike Cardinal Sarah's recent admirable and admirably repeated call for worship Ad Orientem and who also claim that it is totally beyond the pale even to imagine reversing the gigantic changes made in the 1970s; forgetful as they are of how vicious and radical were those changes of the 1970s.

A traddy Socrates would (despite his own very profound dislike of the 1970s 'reforms') probably start by cunningly representing himself as being where his interlocutor actually is (as a supporter of the 1970s 'reforms') by saying ...

Socrates Do you agree that the 1970s liturgical reforms were a good thing?
1970s Liturgical Fetichist I jolly well do (panu ge).
Socrates And did those reforms constitute a profound change in the inaccessible, guilt-ridden, incomprehensible, clericalist and hide-bound Liturgy of the pre-Conciliar Church?
1970s Liturgical Fetichist Dead right, Socrates, that's just what they did. You never said a truer word (panu men oun, kai alethe legeis).
Socrates So when the 1970s reformers made their root-and-branch changes, they did well?
1970s Liturgical Fetichist B****y well, if you'll forgive the French, Socrates me old chum (kai mala, o sokratidion, houto phainetai).
Socrates It seems, then, that we are agreed that change can sometimes be necessary?
1970s Liturgical Fetichist Yeah, well, fair do's, I s'pose we are, if you put it like that (alla moi dokeis ge, o sokrates, metrios legein, kai houto tithemai).
Socrates So if it were to appear upon further study that what Cardinal Sarah and the Traddies are currently trying to do to the worship of the Catholic Church is a necessary change, then we would need to applaud them and to follow them?
1970s Liturgical Fetichist Crikey! I don't at all like the sound of that! (ou ma ton Dia).
Socrates But you cannot both agree that change may be necessary, and say that we must refuse to consider the changes proposed by Sarah and the Traddies. *ei gar tauta amphotera ereis, oukh hoios t'esei sumphonein soi.

There is the essence of the Argumentum ad hominem, in that last sentence of Socrates: *"For if you are going to say both these things, you will not be able to be in agreement with yourself". 

This, the Argumentum ad hominem, is how B John Henry Newman confessed that he amused himself in the Oriel Common Room by playing with slower people; this is the sort of device that Dom Gregory Dix so relished. Not to mention Mgr Ronald Knox, Protonotary Apostolic, and Fr Eric Mascall. Even Socrates and ... your humble servant. As Locke pithily described it, the Argumentum ad hominem is "Pressing a man with the Consequences of his own Principles or Concessions". Aesthetically, at its best it affords you the pleasure of watching, perhaps with a vivid glass of Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc in handas your adversary squirms and wriggles on the painful horns of a dilemma which ... am I mixing my metaphors? ... he has walked right into.

There are, surely, in God's wonderland of pleasures, few sweeter, more exquisite, delights than contemplating that? You agree? Panu ge!!
* Plato, the Cratylus, 433B.

16 September 2016

(4) Anglican Patrimony and the importance of the Argumentum ad hominem

But Blessed John Henry Newman went far beyond the gentle Procrustean Bed of the argumentum ad hominem. I can think of no satire more ruthless than his novel Loss and Gain. With exquisite cruelty he exposes the hypocrisies of the comfortable domestic affluence, combined with a dilettante affection for the superficial trappings of Catholicism, enjoyed by a certain type of Establishment, monied, gothic-romanticist Anglican. Clearly, it touched a raw nerve in Newman, and the Novel was the only way in which he could express the violence of his feelings. And violent they were. Not much more gentle was his ironic mockery of those who believed that the Birmingham Oratory contained oubliettes in which heiresses were tortured to death for their inheritances. Newman, frankly, took no prisoners. And his mode of attack is, essentially, to laugh at his adversaries. This, surely, is the most merciless sort of put-down imaginable. If someone criticises you in a flat, humdrum, terribly earnest style, he doesn't get to you. He is a poor, sad, old thing. But if he makes the world laugh at you ... ! And the victims of this sort of attack ... to quote the martial figure of Corporal Jones ... don't like it up 'em.

Another brilliant Anglican who brought his satirical gifts into the Catholic Church was Mgr Ronald Knox. He argued that "our sense of the ridiculous is not, in its original application, a child's toy at all, but a weapon, deadly in its efficacy, entrusted to us for exposing the shams and hypocrisies of the world. The tyrant may arm himself in triple mail, may surround himself with bodyguards, may sow his kingdom with a hedge of spikes, so that free speech is crushed and criticism muzzled. Nay, worse, he may so debauch the consciences of his subjects with false history and with sophistical argument that they come to believe him the thing he gives himself out for, a creature half-divine, a heaven-sent deliverer*. One thing there is that he still fears; one anxiety still bids him turn this way and that to scan the faces of his slaves. He is afraid of laughter. The satirist stands there, like the little child in the procession when the Emperor walked through the capital in his famous new clothes; his is the tiny voice that interprets the consciousness of a thousand onlookers: 'But, Mother, he has no clothes on at all!'"

I mean no disrespect to a great Pontiff when I suggest that Knox's satirical demolitions of 'Modern Biblical Scholarship' (The identity of Pseudo-Bunyan; Materials for a Boswellian problem; etc.) were more effective than any pronouncement of the Magisterium of S Pius X. The great, monolithic, illiberal structure of Liberal Theology, its censoring tentacles strangling every academic journal and printing house, had no defences against Knox's wit and the laughter it generated.
*This section bears reading in tandem with the paragraph in Mit Brennende Sorge which describes Hitler.
To be continued.

15 September 2016

(3) Anglican Patrimony and the importance of the Argumentum ad hominem

DIX: "The doctrine of the full Deity of the Holy Ghost ... was defined in 381 against the teaching of Macedonius that the Holy Ghost is not God as the Father and Son are God, but is in some way subordinate and intermediate between God and creatures. There is nothing in the NT which clearly indicates that the Orthodox doctrine is certainly right, or which is irreconcilable with Macedonianism in some form. Even the baptismal formula of Mt 28:19 can scarcely be pressed (as it was pressed then) in such a sense, seeing that baptism "in the name of the Lord Jesus" only is scriptural, and so late as the ninth century was still an officially accepted alternative. S Athanasius and S Basil both raised the question of the Third Person, but their controversy was waged with those who had followed them against the Arians. They appealed, naturally, to Scripture and Tradition, and it is notorious how defective in substance their appeal is found to be when it is closely examined. It is also remarkable that in the works which they wrote to vindicate this doctrine both carefully avoid even once applying the decisive word "God" to the Holy Ghost, though in this they are but following earlier writers, even professed Trinitarians like Novatian, and the NT itself.

"S Gregory Nazianzen, "the theologian" par excellence for the East, under whose presidency the Oecumenical Council of 381 actually defined the doctrine, is explicit that there were but "few" who accepted it in his day, and that Athanasius was the first and almost the only doctor to whom God had vouchsafed light on this subject. Elsewhere he is even more devastatingly honest with the admission that while the NT plainly revealed the Godhead of the Son it no more than "hinted at" that of the Holy Ghost, which was now being plainly revealed in his own day. This is some distance from talk of "most certain warrants of Holy Scripture". It was neither Scripture nor Tradition which imposed the dogma of 381, defined by the most thinly attended and least unanimous of all the assemblies which rank as General Councils, but the living magisterium of the Church of that age.

"That the full doctrine of the Spirit's Godhead was then believed in some sense "everywhere" we may hope, though the evidence is not reassuring. That it had "always" been believed by some we may suppose, though the evidence is at least defective. That it had previously been believed "by all" is demonstrably untrue."

This piece by Dom Gregory Dix is to be read in conjunction with the recent post titled Argumentum ad hominem.