9 October 2015

PARRHESIA: Blessed John Henry Newman and the Synod of Bishops

Today, on this splendid Festum of Blessed John Henry Newman, I can think of no better, nor more relevant, topic for thought than our great Blessed's writings on synodical processes. I rather think he might have been a bit of a thorn in a Baldisseri's side ... a frustration to a Forte ... a source of fury to a Fernandez ...

Early in 1870, B John Henry received a letter from his bishop William Ullathorne about the disgraceful bullying going on at the [First] Vatican Council. He replied with words which became justly famous: "Why should an aggressive insolent faction be allowed to 'make the heart of the just to mourn, whom the Lord hath not made sorrowful?'" ... words which spring easily to mind when one thinks about the synodical goings-on in Rome under this pontificate. Seven months later, on 23 July, Newman saw the Definition of papal infallibility five days after it had passed through the Conciliar Aula. He was relieved, even delighted, at its "moderation"; it afforded him no problems; but "does it come to me with the authority of an Ecumenical Council?" 

Newman did not instantly accept it as such. He wanted to know what the conciliar minority would do. This was important, because unanimity, at least 'moral' unanimity, was accepted as essential for the validity of a conciliar definition of doctrine. If the Fathers "allege in detail acts of violence and deceit  ... if they declare they have been kept in the dark and been practised on, then there will be the gravest reasons for determining that the Definition is not valid."

After Vatican II, Cardinal Heenan (who deserves rehabilitation; he was an Archbishop of Westminster a cut above most of them) noted (Sire pp 200-201) that "During the last two weeks of the council the fathers were called upon to cast their votes before they could possibly have studied the text and context, much less the implications, of the amendments".

Sadly, the Fathers of Vatican II, who were indeed subjected to acts of violence and deceit, kept in the dark and practised on, made no such corporate protest as would (in Blessed John Henry's view) have nullified the Council. Nor, indeed, did they make any individual protests. Even Archbishop Lefebvre's repudiations were not articulated until it became clear, well after the Council, whither the Church was being led. Let us not condemn these men; it is easy for us lesser men to be wise half a century after the event.

Not, of course, that this failure of protest mattered or matters too desperately, since Vatican II, unlike Vatican I, claimed to define no dogmas. Even less is formal repudiation a matter of crucial importance during a mere Synod of Bishops, such as the present Synod, since such bodies have no doctrinal or legislative authority whatsoever. In this respect, they are rather like the old Lambeth Conferences.

But those Lambeth Conferences played a crucial role in the downfall of the once-great Anglican Communion, because such bodies do have a moral influence in the Church, the World, and the Media. Which is why it will be a disgrace if the sort of aggessive and insolent misbehaviour which marked Vatican II occurs at the present Synod. I particularly have in mind breaches, in mid-Synod, of the procedures previously laid down. 

At Vatican II, the 'Rhineland Bishops', the 'Liberated Countries' (Sire), had organised themselves and their tactics even before the first moments of the Council, enabling them to execute a crude coup in its first minutes. The bulk of the Fathers floundered, disorganised, at the mercy of this aggressive insolent faction.  But, during this last year 2015, orthodox cardinals and bishops and theologians have not made the same mistake that their predecessors made in 1962. Their voices have been heard, their pens have not been inactive. It is unlikely that the Wolves, the Mafia, the aggressive insolent faction, will find it as easy to ambush them

However, at the 2014 Synod, Papa Bergoglio was not averse to changing the rules after the game had started: witness his setting-aside, when it suited him, of the requirement of a two-thirds majority. It is a distressing sign of the state the Church is in that one Synod Father ... a Cardinal ... spoke of the Pope "tearing up the rule-book", and said it with apparent approval. If such unfortunate evidences of capricious authoritarianism and aggressive and insolent absolutism again occur this time, they will leave a permanent stain on the Bergoglio pontificate and will damage the respect in which, as Vicar of S Peter, we ought to be able to hold him.

8 October 2015

A splendid occasion, last Saturday, in Westminster Cathedral ...

... to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the priesthood of Mgr Andrew Wadsworth. Solemn Latin Mass in the Ordinary Form in the Cathedral's 10.30 slot (Fr Andrew had celebrated a High Mass in the Extraordinary Form with his fellow Oratorians in America).

Father Andrew is not only one of the best priests and kindest men I know (he has been very good to Pam and myself), but has played a crucial role in one of the most important parts of the return to orthopraxy which took place in Pope Bendict's pontificate and in the last few years of that of his predecessor: the gift to the Anglophone Latin Church of liturgical texts which are usable without offence to God and skandalon to the plebs sancta Dei.

Also present and concelebrating was the mighty Mgr Bruce Harbert, Fr Andrew's predecessor as boss of ICEL.

Two truly great and learned men, who deserve our eternal gratitude, and not least every time we take part in a vernacular Mass. Ad multos annos, plurimosque annos!

7 October 2015

Our Lady of Victories (3)

But Christian materialism - our emphasis on the reality of an Incarnate God and the goodness of his created universe - is not the materialism of secular society. S Joseph was the foster-father of God, not his begetter; the chaste Guardian, not the bedfellow, of the Mother of God. This unambiguously masculine figure, whose calling was continent love, is God's witness against the sexual trophyism and appetite of the culture we live in. Dogmatically, S Joseph's witness is encapsulated in another title of our Lady, Aeiparthenos, Ever-Virgin; a title which features so much more largely in the ancient Conciliar documents and the authentic tradition of both East and West than it does in much modern writing. I think we have lost yet more of our nerve when it comes to talking about virginity and purity. And the result has been that we end up with Bishops being gathered at the expense of the faithful from the four corners of the globe (rhetoric, rhetoric!) to discuss sympathetically, tactfully, and without condemnations ... Adultery, fornication, and sodomy!!

How often, Fathers, do you preach on Chastity? How often, brothers and sisters, do you hear your clergy teaching about Purity? How much time would you guess is being devoted, in the Synod of Bishops, to discussing Sexual Abstinence? How many of the clustered, hungry, journalists in Rome are leaking the explosive words of Bishop X about Purity; the angry 'intervention' of Bishop Y on Virginity? The Zeitgeist, the Spirit of the Age, has used our own doctrine, the inherent materialism of the Incarnation, to undermine the whole concept of Continence; and what have we ended up with? A society which respects, enhances, and protects Marriage as never before? You know that we haven't. We find ourselves with a culture in which fornication and adultery have become norms, and wedlock is treated as endlessly terminable and repeatable, and Marriage is redefined in terms of fluid Gender. (There's such skilled and calculated cynicism here ... who can fail to believe in a personal Devil?) Only now do we see, five decades after Humanae Vitae, that it is solely in the context of a society which exalts Continence and Virginity that Marriage itself has a chance of surviving.

In 1854, Pope Pius IX issued an dogmatic decree, over the small print of which Latins and Byzantines may make differing judgements. What is indisputable about it is that it did put the adjective Immaculata right at the centre of Western devotional culture. By doing so, it brought the Occident into line with the Orient; taught us timorous Westerners the importance of that great word-bag of alpha-privatives with which Byzantine hymnody had for more than a millennium adorned the Mother of God: amomos, akhrantos, apsilos, aphthartos. Khaire, nymphe anympheute! I put it to you that Mary's perpetual Virginity, an immaculate purity of heart and mind and body, is not so much a title, a mere honorific, as it is a dogma. And not so much even a dogma, as God's conquering and triumphant Truth, which alone can win the victory over the disorders of our culture.

The Immaculate and Ever-Virgin Lady of Victories, born aloft by the sculptors on billowing draperies, her gravity-defying bulgy baroque crown precariously perched upon her head, is the Woman of Triumph whom God is giving to this world, and he is giving her now. She treads down all the serpents of heresy; she crushes all the serpents of vice and corruption with her virgin and immaculate heel. Khaire, kataptosis ton daimonon! Her Immaculate Heart will prevail.

Our Lady of Victories (2)

If the title of our Lady of Victories apparently seemed a bit over-the-top even to a sixteenth century pope, it seems all the more inapposite to our age. Triumphalism is a dirty word to the twenty-first century Church. And not only a dirty word, it's a forbidden concept. Not for us that great canvas of Rubens in the Prado - the Triumph of the Church - with the heretics squirming in helpless agony under the inexorable chariot wheels of Ecclesia Triumphatrix. Not for our age Tiepolo's ceiling in the Carmelite Church in Venice, with the imperious and Gloriosa Domina looking down an almost haughty nose as she's carried in glory by clouds and angels, riding, as if it were on a supercelestial surfboard, standing on the Holy House of Nazareth as it flies to Loreto. No: our age looks to a humbler Virgin; Mary the model of obedience; Mary, the norm of the disciple; Mary, the Woman of Faith. Triumphalism is not of our age. We've been cut down to size. Ecclesia Triumphatrix has been replaced by Ecclesia Famulatrix - although I bet Orthodoxy, not so quick to lose her nerve, still celebrates dominically the Triumph of Orthodoxy. Good for them! But for Westerners, who have suffered a collective loss of confidence, the Church is the Servant Church, the only society, we have been rather foolishly informed, which exists to 'serve' those who are not members.

But readers of Scripure might have their occasional nagging doubts about this proscribing of all Triumphalism. The Magnificat, for example, the song of the tapeinos, the lowly one, suggests that the Lord has hupsosen, highly exalted, her. And the woman of the Apocalypse, crowned with stars and adorned with the Sun, whether she be the Messiah's Mother or his nurturing community or both, seems to my eye to have had more than a dollop of Triumphalism ladled over her. Our Lady, after all, is, as we Latins have been taught to sing, victorious over heresies: "Thou alone hast put down all heresies in the whole world". The truth of Theotokos secures the Incarnation of a real God against the heresy of Islam; it guarantees that the Rabbi from Nazareth possesses an unpronounceable Hebrew Name written but not spoken in four silent letters. Since God has entered his world in the flesh, that Kosmos, created by him and redeemed, is itself good; let Manichee therefore stop his mouth.

Ends a little later today, around supper time.

MORE BORING been there and done that

(1) Some daft Canadian Archbishop wants women deacons. That is how, in Anglicanism, people were softened up for women priests.
(2) That poisonous fellow Rosica, whose duties seem to include telling the Synod Fathers what they should think, says that the admission of the remarried divorced to Communion should be decided regionally. As Anglicans, our technical term for this was Provincial Autonomy. It's a brilliant way of perverting the Faith ... you get some perversion started in one place and then you rely on a combination of bullying and creep to spread it.

Can the Devil really think he can get away with these games in the Catholic Church when the evidence of what it all leads to is so obviously displayed to view in Anglicanism? But he seems to, and he has a history of success.

Our Lady of Victories (1)

So, had I been Bishop of Rome, how would I have structured this Synod of Bishops? Firstly: I would have put it under the Patronage of our Lady of Victories. My statutes would decree that, each morning, after each of the Fathers had offered his own private Mass, they should all come together for a corporate celebration of the Akathist Hymn.

What a telling title: our Lady of Victories. So very Western Catholic; so Counter-Reformation ; so baroque; so redolent of the triumphalist Anglo-Catholicism of the 1920s and 1930s. You couldn't possibly imagine, could you, the Byzantine Christians giving the Theotokos a title like that ... Well, of course, they did. One of those Greeks did write a hymn to Mary as the hypermachos stategos with an aprosmakheton kratos (the Protecting General with an irresistible power). If the Orthodox had Hymns Ancient and Modern, you would probably find in it a paraphrase of the Hymnos Akathistos beginning: Stand up, stand up, for Mary. Or, taking my fantasy even further, imagine some Orthodox Sabine Baring Gould writing Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war; with the Protecting Robe of Mary, going on before.

Because, of course, the title our Lady of Victories, just like the Akathist hymn, does have its military associations. That great Pontiff, S Pius V, established the Feast of our Lady of Victories to celebrate the triumph of Christian arms at the battle of Lepanto, October 7, 1571, a victory won by the countless rosaries which clanked through the hands of the Rosary Confraternities of Western Europe. They begged God for the safety of Christendom against the invading Turk. Gregory XIII pusillanimously renamed the feast as 'of the Rosary', and popped it onto the first Sunday of October (a stone's throw from the Feast of the Protecting Robe of the Mother of God in some Byzantine calendars) where it stayed until the reforms of S Pius X. But, to this day, those who follow the Extraordinary Form are allowed, on the first Sunday of October, an External Solemnity of this feast. And, after all, no homilist could be forbidden to refer to this celebration as our Lady of Victories.

More on our Lady and on the Synod, later today, probably after lunch.

6 October 2015

Been there, done that ... Boring.

Again, we hear the profoundly silly suggestion that the Church's current discipline of denying Holy Communion to 'remarried divorcees' could be replaced (of course, only on an individual basis) by a (needless to say) very tough period of penitential discipline, followed by readmission.

We tried out all that sort of daft stuff in the Church of England. My recollection is that when I was  ordained to the Sacred Priesthood in the 1960s, those involved in a 'second marriage' in which one of the partners had already been validly married to somebody else were supposed to be subject to the discipline of being excluded from Holy Communion for six months.

This was a dead letter. Neither bishops nor parochial clergy were prepared to risk the fury ... oops, I mean Hurt ... of those who were supposed to be invited to undergo such discipline.

Believe me, we tried such ideas in the C of E and they simply proved to be a brief preliminary step towards the automatic acceptance of all de facto unions.

Now there is a Church of England in which a 'Catholic' bishop, one of the leaders of the rump of Forward in Faith which stayed in the C of E, who, himself divorced, has 'married' the divorced wife of a priest. And he stays in post, ministering to those who are supposed to have secured such a good deal enabling them to remain in the C of E and to 'flourish' there with full 'Catholic' integrity.

With much help from the old Adversary, the dear old C of E got, decades ago, to exactly the place to which you are trying to lead the Catholic Church. I agree that it is jolly sensible for you to follow the Church of England's example and teaching, if that is where, with the same august help, you are determined to go. 

But you seem to me to be (1) bewilderingly naive in not being aware of the destination you are in fact heading for; (2) unendearingly arrogant in imagining that you are the first people ever to have had these Brilliant New Ideas; and (3) thoroughly obtuse in not spotting who it was that crafted them, and where.


A friend wants the Latin Collecta, Super Oblata, and Post Communionem for Blessed John Henry Newman. I've got the Collect, but, curiously, don't seem to be able to find the other two. Could somebody help?

Deus, qui beatum Ioannem Henricum presbyterum lumen benignum tuum sequentem pacem in Ecclesia tua invenire contulisti: concede propitius; ut, eius intercessione et exemplo, ex umbris et imaginibus in plenitudinem veritatis tuae perducamur. Per.

Incidentally, I wonder if somebody can find in the euchology of the Latin Church another example of the construction contulisti + accusative + infinitive (= "didst grant that X should do Y"). It reads oddly to me, but that's probably because I've spent too long staring at it straight in the eye ... I wouldn't have batted an eyelid if the text had read "fecisti".

UPDATE A kind reader has supplied the texts for the Liturgia Horarum, but not the Secret and the Postcommunion for the Mass, which are what my friend needs for Friday morning.

Dodgy and Iffy

"The Synod Fathers also considered the possibility of allowing genocide. Various synod fathers insisted on maintaining the the present discipline, because of ... Others proposed a more individualised approach, permitting genocide in certain situations and with certain well-defined conditions ... The subject needs to be thoroughly examined, bearing in mind the distinction between ... " etc. etc..

Thus Paragraph 122 of the Base Document of the Synod, reproducing Paragraph 52 of the document produced at last year's synod. Except, of course, that for genocide read  admission of remarried divorcees to the Sacraments.

I made the change, not because I regard genocide as being on an ethical level with admitting adulterers to Holy Communion, but to illustrate the rhetorical tricks being employed. We are all interested in rhetoric, aren't we? So here we go.

(1) The order of subjects. Maintaining the present discipline comes first, and is followed by Changing it. This is the trick of the Implied BUT.  First of all, you get out of the way the option which you wish to play down; then you follow it with your own preferred option. "Some board members think that you have worked here for fifty years and deserve to be retained in employment; others suggest a more nuanced approach to the moral obligations the firm has towards you ...". There's no doubt which side the speaker is on. You only have to reverse the order in which the alternatives are spelt out to see my point.

(2) Option 1 is laid out in 35 words; Option 2 in 101 words. Surprise!!! Option 2 is deployed with a (dubiously relevant) quotation from the Catechism; one wonders why no mention was made of the vast Magisterial back-up to Option 1.

(3) "The subject needs to be thoroughly examined ...". This is the trick of suppressing actual mention of who it is that has some view ... the Elision of Agency. It is often done by the use of passive or impersonal ("It is felt that ...") constructions. Just ask yourself: Is this sentence the view of the Committee which drafted the text? Or of the 2014 Synod as a whole? Is it what all the 2014 fathers unanimously agreed? Pull the other one! In fact, it is clearly part of the views of those advocating change. But it is given a lofty dignity by the grammatical structure. Not "We think it needs to be examined"; not "Kasper and his chums think it needs to be examined"; not even "Most fathers think it needs to be examined". Just "It needs to be examined"!

It is surprising what you can get away with if you avoid allowing your grammar to give away who is actually advocating what. Make it sound as if what you're saying is so obvious as to be above contradiction.

 It is has become clear to me, from reading this document and analysing its sleights of hand, that, embedded at the heart of the synodical process, are profoundly corrupt operators who are prepared to use any dodge they can lay their hands on, to pervert and to skew the deliberations of the fathers.

It doesn't suggest to me that they are particularly keen to take the risk of leaving it to the Holy Spirit to guide the Synod, despite all the Holy Father's fine talk about Synods being Protected Spaces for the Spirit.

Footnote: If anybody's interested ... this sort of close analysis of a text to see what games are really being played was a speciality of Dr Eric Mascall, a great Anglican Catholic theologian who had enjoyed a Mathematical education which included formal logic. He used to make mincemeat of the documents of Lambeth Conferences. He is part of the Patrimony which is our contribution to the life of the Universal Church.

5 October 2015

Does anybody know...

... the date of the birthday of Prebendary Michael Moreton?

Greek Lesson ... and is there a homosexualist Mafia at the Synod?

I have read a suggestion that the (hitherto unknown) curialist who has decided to grab his moment of glory should have been disciplined for sin rather than for news conferences.

I don't agree. I wouldn't like to think that there were witch-hunts going on in the CDF; and, given my awareness of my own frailties with regard to all Ten Commandments, I strongly believe that Mercy is more important than Discipline. At both the personal and professional levels, everybody who has ever spoken to me about Gerhard Mueller has described him as a kind man and a gentle pastor; I think he has been rather badly treated by his colleague. But I expect the man's own bishop will have carefully explained that to him. Very carefully, I hope.

Proclaiming and publicly defending any sin is worse than committing it. I invite you to read the passage in Romans 1 about homosexual actions, and to dwell particularly on the last verse of the chapter. Using the conventions of Greek rhetoric, S Paul works up to a climax of condemnation; Death (thanatos) is the deserving of those who do (prassontes) such things (toiauta), but-and-also (alla kai) of those who syneudokousin with the doers

Greek, like German, enjoys compound verbs, and syneudokein is a double compound. Dokein has, as one of its meanings, to think. Eu- stuck on the front gives it a sense of well, favourably. And the syn- adds the meaning of with. So the verb means to give ones warm approval to the commission of the perversion.

Publicly doing what one can to promote and encourage a perversion is a graver sin than to commit the perversion oneself in private, because one is deliberately drawing others, who may be victims of temptation, into this Death-deserving (S Paul uses the phrase thanatou axioi) sin. Promoting this perversion is thus a cruel attack upon the spiritual well-being of good people who have done their best to control an inclination to do "toiauta". It is, surely, just about the most deeply homophobic act one could commit.

There may, however, just conceivably, be good to come out of this sad episode. I wonder what you think about the following speculation. Is it possible that there is a homosexualist mafia at work within the Synod and/or its secretariate, advocating change in one area (remarriage of the divorced) so that they can use it to piggy-back their own cause (promotion of homosexual perversion)? You see, my own experience is that something very like this did happen in the Church of England: some homosexualist clergy, so it seemed to me, keenly supported the 'ordination' of women because they discerned that such a radical 'rethink' on gender would be a useful springboard for their own sad cause.

But the messy complications arising from the episode of this sad apparatchik and his little friend might make the larger players in any such sinister game (if there is one) wonder if now is quite the tactical moment to Go for the Big Prize.

4 October 2015


Reprinted with slight revisions from earlier this year.
I am not going to apologise for using, untranslated, the term Parrhesia because in doing so I am simply following our beloved Holy Father, who, in his fearless way, uses it, untranslated, quite often. If an apology is called for, I'm sure he would be happy to apologise on behalf of both of us.

It is a Greek term; it means speaking openly, boldly, fearlessly, epecially in contexts where it might be apprehended that some powerful person could turn nasty. Thus, when the Holy Father [in 2014] told the Synod Fathers to speak with parrhesia, his close friend Archbishop Fernandez* [see my post of 14 October 2014] was overheard interpreting this for the edification of common ordinary bishops as meaning "Mueller [Cardinal Prefect of the CDF] won't come after us". [Taking it symmetrically, I presume it also meant, and means, that Fernandez and Bergoglio wouldn't 'come after' them either. Or indeed 'after' anybody else.]

Quite common in the NT. S Mark 8:32; S John 7:4,13,26; 10:24; 11:14,54; 16:25,29; 18:20; Acts 2:29; 4:13,29,31; 28:31; etc. etc.. For the verb parrhesiazomai, mainly in Acts, see 9:27,28; 13:46; 14:3; 18:26; 19:8; 26:26 ...

In Italian and Spanish, it is written without the h, and, sadly, those who do English versions of Vatican statements, chaps or chappesses with limitations, sometimes don't realise that the English, like Greek, is parrhesia. Don't let this confuse you.

POST SCRIPTUM I see that ... guess who* ... is in the small group putting the final Synodical report together. Cardinal Mueller, interestingly, is not. Since he has the duty of watching over the Church's doctrine committed to him, I think this is odd. Unless, of course, the Holy Father's intention is to involve Cardinal Mueller intensively in his subsequent private consultations about what to do with the synodal deliberations.