17 September 2019

Captions and Metamorphosis

In the Ashmolean Museum, before its expensive and unneccesary makeover a decade ago, there was a bit of an old Greek figurative pot, captioned "Man courting boy". The scene in fact was that for which the late Professor Sir Kenneth Dover coined his sweetly twee expression "Intercrural intercourse".

After the makeover, this became "Paedophile and victim". Many of us complained about such culturally anachronistic language; either we got a brush-off or not even the courtesy of a reply. Then Mr Orator Jenkyns, at the 2010 Encaenia, had the entire (attendant) University rolling in the aisles (aisles in the Sheldonian Theatre? Let that pass ...) after he made a joke about it in his Creweian Oration. I only wish I'd jotted the joke down at the time. If anybody ... ... Might that Creweian have been published in the Gazette?

Later in 2010, I cast another eye at the now celebrated pot. The caption had again changed: it now read "Man and Boy making love. The nature of Greek homosexuality is the subject of current academic debate".

Clearly, a 'holding' operation!

Recently, I had a new look at the captioning concerned. It now reads: "Sexual acts between an older man and a boy were considered part of a youth's formative education".

Hrrrmff. I'm not sure how universal this was. My instinct is that it may have been an affectation among the upper (symposiast) classes.

I'm not sure that such things were really much more than an affectation, even in the case of Oscar!

16 September 2019

A Silver Occasion?

Tomorrow, Tuesday, I shall be off ... Deo volente et trenis* permittentibus ... to hear the Mighty and most Eminent Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke addressing the English Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, at the Brompton Oratory.

A man who truly merits the ancient Christian technical term of Confessor. Entirely and confidentially just between ourselves, I think of him as Leo XIV.

It occurs to me that 6 January 2020 will be twenty five years since his Eminence was consecrated Bishop, and embarked upon an Apostolic career which has been so timely, so necessary, and so fruitful in the life of the Catholic Church. (Incidentally: Cardinal Burke's episcopal 'pedigree' includes Prospero Lambertini, aka Benedict XIV; and Henry Cardinal Stuart, quondam Duke of York, aka Henry IX, King de jure of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland.)

Comes the time, comes the man! Behold the man!

Eis polla ete, Despota! Ad multos annos, plurimosque annos!


*Well, 'hamaxostichis', according to the Lexicon Recentis Latinitatis. But I prefer the more linguistically and philologically relaxed process of adopting the modern Italian term. Recondite coinages from the Greek seem to me to smell rather of the Bibliotheca. And in daily use, I rather suspect that a cumbersome five-syllable word would, in any real language, get abbreviated or adapted very quickly. You travel on a hamaxostichus if you like; I'll catch the treno. If the omnibus (the pasi?)  gets me to the station on time ...

15 September 2019

We need a Novena ...

Today, September 15, Feast of our Blessed Lady of Sorrows, is a good day to start a Novena leading up to the Feast of our Lady of Walsingham, on Tuesday 24 September.

Nine days of prayer, that the intercession of the Mother of God might bring succour to the Ecclesia adflicta of her divine Son. Has the Church, in your lifetime, ever needed this more than it does today?

And I would like to put in a word for the use, during this Novena, of the old Litany of our Lady of Loretto, rather than of something ... anything ... more 'up-to-date' which may be suggested.

I have two reasons for making this point.
(1) The theology of the Shrine at Walsingham is the same as that of Loretto: namely, that the House in which the Holy Family lived and worked is a potent image of the Incarnation! God truly became, and  is, Man.
(2) This Litany is one which was used since the earliest days of the Restoration of devotion to our Lady at Walsingham. It is contained in the first Pilgrims' Manual, that of 1928. By using it, we link ourselves with Fr Hope Patten, Fr Fynes Clinton, and all the heroes, lay and clerical, male and female, to whom we owe the modern form of this devotion within our Anglican Patrimony.

I am not willingly negative; indeed, I would not deny the propriety of a rich diversity of approaches to Marian devotion. I don't regard it as my job to criticise others and to disparage their own initiatives and to snarl at anybody who does things differently from the exact way I would do them myself. Nor would I sneer at all 'modern' devotions. But I do feel cautious about (ex.gr.) dropping "Tower of Ivory", and instead invoking "Woman of Faith"; instead of "Pray for us", saying "Keep us in mind".

I mention this not for the rather cheap motive of inviting you to groan at the inept 'modernity' of such things, but because what we are losing here is in fact something extremely important: the typological character of the old Litany. The titles of our Lady in that Litany include many of the  typological titles which Christian devotion, since at least the time of the Council of Ephesus, has discovered in the Old Testament as pointers to the Mother of the Incarnate Word.

Typology is discerning in the Old Testament the Figure of Christ and his Mother and the events of their lives, so that the Old Testament passage is the Type and the New Testament Figure or event is the Antitype. Typology is the central way in which the Great Tradition of both East and West has appropriated the Old Testament. It goes back to the New Testament texts themselves: Christ as the New Adam ... and see I Corinthians 10:1-11 ... and look at I Peter 3:20-21 ... etc.etc..  

Typology is part of the fundamental Grammar of the Faith; something even deeper than dogma.

Yesterday ... the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross ... the liturgical texts reminded us that the Lifting up of the Son of Man on the Cross is the Antitype of which the Lifting up of the serpent in the desert was the Type (Numbers 21:4-9; S John 3:13-17; S John 12:32).

I know that most laity have not been taught about Typology; this is because the Clergy weren't taught it either; and that is because there were so much more important things for them to be taught in seminary (the Synoptic Problem... the inauthenticity of most of S Paul's letters ...)*. But having the Lorettan Litany displaced by a modernist 'relevant' formula devoid of Typology brings home the radical impoverishment of current Catholic culture; the loss within it of both Tradition and of Holy Scripture.

The Catholic Church needs an Edward Bouverie Pusey, and a John Mason Neale, redivivi. Come to think of it, perhaps that is precisely what God has raised up the Ordinariates for.

*None of my strictures apply to the admirable Fr John Hemer, of Allen Hall, who understands perfectly about Typology!

14 September 2019

Pope Pardoctonus the First

I can see no reason to attack PF on the grounds that a chasuble he recently wore is decorated with faux leopard skin.

I always think the best of people; so my assumption is that the leopard-skin is gloriously authentic. Who cares if it cost (as it must in these days when big-game hunting is so expensive a hobby) a very great deal of money? He's worth it.

In classical art, Heracles is commonly shown wearing the skin of the Nemean Lion, which he gloriously slew. Apollo is sometimes termed sauroktonos, because he killed the Python. (In a Roman copy of a Praxitelean original in the gallery at Petworth, an effeminate Apollo is shown peering with languid interest at a fairly small lizard running up a tree. I take this to be a jolly piece of subversive Hellenistic humour. Given a choice between Pheidias and Praxiteles, I am for Praxiteles every day of the week.)

So I am very willing to believe that our Holy Father has indeed bloodily defeated a mighty leopard in heroic monomachy. Motu proprio, as we say! The first truly military Roman Pontiff since dear Julius II, Papa della Rovere! A second David! Henceforth, I shall think of PF as Pardoktonos. You see, in the minds of many, the name "Franciscus" has unworthy undertones as of a pallid and soppy zoophile. We need to change all that. So, in the Te igitur, from now onwards, " ... una cum famulo tuo papa nostro Pardoctono ..." Come on, Fathers, you know it makes sense.

On a different planet, PF might have been referred to as Hpap Hanakrapunt. In Victorian English verse, I suppose Pardoctonus would have been "Jorge the Leopard-slayer". The author of the romance of Tristan and Iseult could have given us a vivid verse-picture of the Sovereign Pontiff as he skilfully carved up the carcase. Perhaps someone more learned than I am could offer a pastiche of Beowulf.

All we need now is a Second Callimachus or a Second Ovid to give us an account in High Epic style of so signal a victory. Or perhaps another Catullus (I have in mind the Fall of the Minotaur in 64). But stay! ... why do I forget poor Maro? Arma papamque* cano, pardum qui perdidit ultro ...  

Adeste hexametri versus* quot estis omnes undique, quotquot estis omnes ...

Io triumphe!

* Let's have no pedantic quips about false quantities.

13 September 2019

He's right!

PF has recently made some interesting remarks.

He acknowledges that those who criticise him openly are preferable to those, even in the Curia, who complain about him covertly. It is an advance in understanding on his part that he knows how widespread are the criticisms of those who murmur them while keeping their heads beneath the parapet.

His remarks about the "Old Catholics" are historically a bit off the mark; that particular sect existed before Vatican I. But his observation that their schismatic mentality led to heterodoxy and heteropraxy ... "Now they even ordain women!" ...  is well made.

Leaving the Unity of the One Church so as to be uncontaminated outside it is no solution to anything. The only "Resistance" worth anything is the Resistance of those who are faithful to the Truth we have been given, while remaining in full communion with the Church of S Peter.

Incidentally, I find it encouraging that PF's tone-of-voice implies that he regards the 'ordination' of women to sacerdotal ministries to be beyond the pale.

But I would add that the first major departure from the disciplines of the Latin Church made by the "Old Catholics" after Vatican I was their abolition of mandatory celibacy.

That ... I think you will agree ... is worth thinking about.

12 September 2019

Alliteration and Assonance

Can truly it be that I recently described a Bishop in full communion with the See of Rome as a Consecrated Crackpot? I had toyed with Preposterous Prelate and Notable Nutcase, but Consecrated Crackpot seemed to say more, as well as being a neat Ciceronian trispondaicus. Sometimes one tires of all these plani. Don't you find that?

Perhaps readers might have their own suggested alternatives ... go on ...

As long as you cram in alliteration and assonance and steer clear of blasphemy, libel, and obscenity, and anything that I personally dislike, the Thread is yours. Don't bother too much about scansion.

Am I being childish? Very childish? Very very childish? I suppose so.

But when, recently, PF, with that graceful Argentine courtesy of his, described Cardinal Mueller as Childish, his Eminence responded most aptly by reminding PF what it was that the Incarnate Word Himself taught about being childlike. (It never fails to surprise me how little of Holy Scripture PF appears to have read. Poor chap. Some of it really is quite good.)

When we were in the C of E, we had a lovely magazine called New Directions. It was replete with satire and news about the risible goings-on of the Anglican Great and Good. We were sometimes told that it was not our theological views that caused offence, but our tone.

The Great and the Good simply cannot abide being laughed at. 

They can tolerate being hated, but being treated as ludicrous, as being a joke, is beyond their capabilities. This is probably because it is so difficult for them to respond to laughter with their favourite weapon, the Pompous Put-down. The Rt Revd Mgr R Knox, Protonotary Apostolic, of the Anglican Patrimony, explained all this better than I can in his Preface to his own collected Essays in Satire. He argued that the Satirist is the little boy who is the only one in the crowd to perceive that the Emperor is, in fact, stark naked.

If you are ever told by one of the Mighty that your tone is objectionable, at least the initial assumption must be that you are getting things right. Good On Yer, Cobber.

And if you are told, as Cardinal Mueller has been by PF, that you are childish, perhaps the most suitable answer is a Biblical one: Nai; emou gar estin he basileia ton ouranon.

11 September 2019


A magnificent event, last Saturday: the Deaconing of Brother Benedict Manning, Congregation of the Oratory. I have got to know him because we are members of the same select little seminar which reads Latin liturgical texts together. He is a thoroughly splendid young cleric and an ornament to the Sons of S Philip.

The Sacrament of Holy Order was conferred by Bishop Robert Byrne, himself an Oratorian and one of the two young priests who, on the Feast of our Lady's Nativity in 1990, took over the Parish Church of Oxford. And what immense graces have come (and still are coming) to the City and the University from that event.

As Bishop Robert stood at the Altar offering the Holy Sacrifice, I could not help recalling that, as Bishop of Hexham, he is a Successor of S Wilfrid, that doughty Apostle of Romanita. (It is quite an experience to tread the passages beneath Hexham Cathedral, framed with Roman masonry ... you could feel as if you were in the Catacombs.) His Lordship quoted, in his Homily, a prayer of Blessed John Henry Newman, C.O., written on the occasion of his Anglican Ordination to the Diaconate. This seemed to me a graceful tribute to Newman's own insistence, in his Biglietto speech, upon the essential continuity of his Anglican and his Catholic lives.

And the music was truly Oratorian! A great credit to the Prefect of Music, Fr Oliver Craddock, C.O..

If modern Rome seems to some people to be a trifle less Roman than it ought to be, perhaps they should remember that the spirit of that great Apostle of Rome, S Philip Neri, is vibrantly alive throughout the English-speaking world. Deo ... et Sancto Philippo ... gratias!

10 September 2019

glamour pusses

What an important saint he was, S Hugh Bishop of Lincoln (c1135-1200; within whose massive diocese medieval Oxford lay); who certainly consecrated the church of S Giles in this city in 1200. On the occasion of this visit to Oxford, so the traditional account has it, he instituted the Giler*, still the largest fair in England, which (see a previous post), occupies the whole of the broad thoroughfare called S Giles' Street, North of the North Gate.

S Hugh is best known among the narrators of 'romantic' tales because he noticed that the body of Henry II's paelex [the word used in the old rite Mattins readings for S Hugh's feast] Rosamund Clifford had been buried in the sanctuary of Godstow Priory and that her resting place had become something of a flower-covered popular shrine (this mob adulation post mortem of a royal glamour-puss is curiously redolent of the bizarre and sick cultus of Diana Spencer ... I pray and hope that neither the Duchess of Cambridge nor the Duchess of Sussex, pretty poppets, will die before multa post lustra they have sunk far into senility ...). Accordingly, he ordered that she should be removed and reburied outside in loco profano**.

Happy times ... when ecclesiastics were willing to mark their disapproval of the public adultery of kings and magnates. Nowadays, who cares any more if a 'royal' goes through a form of marriage with his/her paelex? An Archbishop of Canterbury might even grace such an event with his presence. And who can blame him, given the compliance of Dr Cranmer in every royal whimsy?

The 'romantic' can still visit the ruins of Godstow Priory, opposite the Trout, a favourite undergraduate pub in our days but now unhappily devoid of either 'character' or 'romance'.

*Giles = Giler; traditional Oxford slang. Cf. Proctor = Progger; Breakfast = Brekker; Queens = Quaggers; Jesus College = Jaggers; etc.. Soccer (for AsSOCiation Football) and Rugger survive nationally. Fr Hummerstone, with characteristic philological acuity, once reminded me of the all-important Wagger Pagger Bagger where, in the primitive days before episcopal and diocesan communications became paperless, we used to file away ... er ...

** I wonder if S Hugh wrote Latin Elegiacs? Some phrases survive of an inscription in that metre incised upon her tomb, which I will very loosely paraphrase in English: "Rosa munda is supposed to mean clean rose, but this specimen was distinctly filthy. She used to have a very nice smell, but now she just ... smells".

Dorothy Leigh Sayers was a learned lady ... I wonder if she had a reason for giving the name Rosamund (interpreted by Sayers as rosa mundi) to the sexually unwholesome murderee in Thrones, Dominations?

9 September 2019

New threat to Biodiversity

Sadly, an article is reported in our British medical journal The Lancet concerning the probable complete elimination of Malaria.

Laudato si  clearly teaches, with all the authority of its Magisterial author:
"It is not enough ... to think of different species merely as potential resources to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves. Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species ... The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right."

I am sure that our Holy Father will make an early protest against this proposed anthropogenic extinction of a God-created life-form; and, presumably, the relevant bureaucratic department of the CBCEW will already have its draft protests well in hand. The Conference will pretty certainly soon hold an emergency meeting to uphold the authority of Laudato si in these dark days.

And Cardinal Baldissieri will add this new assault upon Biodiversity to the agenda of his Synod. The appropriate paragraph of the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation (Malariae dignitas?) more or less writes itself.

Each of us has a grave duty to support our pastors in the face of this new ecological crisis.

8 September 2019

Bring back the Freaks and the fleas

An adapted reprint from yesteryear, with an old thread.
Oxford, perversely, pedantically keeps its own time, so that Cathedral services begin five minutes later than Greenwich Mean Time (or British Summer Time). Perverse; but distinctly more rational than celebrating the S Giles' Fair, the 'Giler', eight days later than S Giles' Day itself (which occurs on September 1).

Incidentally, the 2018-9 Oxford Diary claimed that the Fair started on September 2; the new 2019-20 diary puts it the week later. Bad, that.

Whenever the Giler happens, the broad thoroughfare which leads Northwards out of Oxford, will, at midnight tonight, metamorphose like Cinderella's pumpkin into a vast Fair (returning to pumpkinhood 48 hours later). In Dacre Balsdon's words, S Giles ceases to be a murderous highway of fast-moving traffic and becomes a playground instead. "It is a tightly packed confusion of booths and hurdy gurdies, fat women, fire-eaters, performing fleas, fairing, streamers, and warnings against pickpockets". When Pam and I were undergraduates, Prebendary John Hooper ["Prebendary" because of his years in the Exeter Anglo-Catholic mafia] used to emerge from S Mary Mags with his bucket and his aspersorium after Mass on the Monday morning, and douse the whole business with holy water ("Over 'ere, Farvver, give us a bi' more over 'ere").

Fings aren't what they used to be. The great American showman Barnum, proprietor of the Barnum and Bailey Freak Show, would be run out of business in our narrower society. Traditional Freaks ... Dwarfs and Fat Women and the World's Tallest Man ... are no longer politically correct objects of mirth (or wonder). My own favourite Freak ... the Spider Girl (a young women curiously and ingeniously disposed so as to resemble a large arachnid with a human face) ... has, I am sure, long since collected her bus-pass. The performing fleas would simply invite a noisy demonstration from the Anti-Vivisection people ('Free the Fleas' a good tongue-twister?). The dour, merciless Puritanism under which we now spend our days decrees that the most exciting or Freakish thing you can now see at the Giler is candy-floss.

But Freak-shows are very much in the Oxford - and Anglican - tradition ... as was pointed out by Canon Arthur Couratin, once (rather before my time) the Principal of S Stephen's House ['Staggers'], England's premier seminary. When sacerdos ille valde magnus Bishop Kirk of Oxford purposed solemnly to administer Holy Orders in his Cathedral Church of Christ ... or to sing Pontifical High Mass there on a Solemnity such as that of S Frideswide ... Arthur used to turn up with an immaculately trained team of seminarians to serve. A few days before one such occasion, Mr Dean Lowe observed "I suppose we shall have Arthur Couratin here next Sunday with his travelling circus". Now ... and you need to know this ... in Oxford, there are worthy souls who, like the disciples in the accounts of the Lord's Miraculous Feedings, rejoice to gather up in their baskets all such waspish remarks "so that nothing be lost". Accordingly, the Dean's comment was faithfully reported to Arthur, who promptly observed in his languid drawl "Well, old man, I'd rather belong to a travelling circus than a permanent Freak-show".

Professor Canon Dr Eric Mascall, who preserved that story, admitted that, while this less than wholly flattering description of the Oxford Cathedral Chapter was no doubt exaggerated, "the Chapter of Christ Church when I came to know it was certainly a remarkable assortment of clergymen". (Fr Eric was objective enough to recognise the possibility that he might himself have seemed to some observers to merit being bracketed among the capitular Freaks.)

Even sixty years ago, in my time, the Giler ... to which I now return ... was that bit more surreal because it coincided with the Staggers House Retreat (in those days, Staggers was just round the corner in Norham Gardens). So you might have seen little knots of devout seminarians gawping at the Freaks while carefully maintaining Greater Silence. (I should explain to cradle Catholic readers that Anglican retreats were not gossipping shops like popish retreats but took place in silence.)

Perhaps it is part of the calling of the Ordinariate to revive the good old Anglican Patrimonial traditions of Freaks and Freak-shows. Perhaps they are exactly what the culturally impoverished English Catholic Church needs in order to put some oomph ... I meant to say Inculturation ... into its public image. Part of the New Evangelisation? Should we again risk entanglement in the Web of an androphagous Spider Girl? Re-embrace the fleas? Pick pockets and eat fire?

I just know you agree with me. But where would we find a new generation of worthy and authentic Freaks?

There's not a single member of the CBCEW whom I could conscientiously nominate.

7 September 2019

The Bergoglianist heresy: Cardinal Mueller's use of irony and sarcasm.

A little more about Cardinal Mueller's wise words yesterday.

He describes the Bishop who has given the most recent description of Bergoglianism as "This great thinker and most worthy successor of the Apostles". This, I presume, is an allusion to the teaching of Vatican II about the Episcopate. But (people remind me from time to time that not all Americans  understand Irony) His Eminence is using irony to suggest that this consecrated crack-pot is not in fact a reliable Successor of the Apostles.

Blessed John Henry Newman, so soon to be added to the catalogus Sanctorum, was "a formidable controversialist, as supreme a master of irony and satire as any in our literature" (words of the great Anglican Church Historian Professor Henry Chadwick). Other one-time Anglicans who were superb satirists include Dom Gregory Dix and Mgr Ronald Knox. I believe that one of the reasons why God called the Ordinariates into existence at this particular kairos of so great a crisis in the Church Militant is for us to use every literary and didactic means available, especially satire and irony and even plain sarcasm, to controvert the deadly heresy of Bergoglian ultrapapalism. And to do it eukairos kai akairos.

Mueller went on to describe these heretics as "such courageous friends who, with shameless half-education, undermine the Roman Primate, by abusing the Pope's authority for their anti-Catholic agenda. He who still yesterday was prominently defaming the predecessors [of PF] and purportedly congratulated Pope Benedict for his courage to retire, is completely untrustworthy  ..."

And, in language uncannily like the analyses so often offered on this blog, His Eminence expresses his determination not to be intimidated by "ideologues with their ridiculous super-papalism which stands in direct contradiction to the First and Second Vatican Councils".

Gerhard Mueller has, surely, given there enough information for it to be possible to identify this particular episcopal "theological illiterate".

So who is he??

6 September 2019

The Bergoglian Creed

The admirable Lifesitenews reveals today that some "theological ignoramus with a bishop's hat" [Cardinal Mueller's apt description] has stated that the Instrumentum laboris is
"merely the application of the encyclical Laudato si, and therefore an expression of the infallible Magisterium of the Pope who stands above the word of God or, as a source of revelation, right next to it".

This goes even further than the hitherto finest exposition of the ultrapapalist Bergoglianist heresy: the famous words (probably the only thing he ever said which wasn't plagiarised) of the Bergoglianist former high-flyer (now Icarised) Fr Rosica:
"Pope Francis breaks Catholic traditions whenever he wants to because he is 'free from disordered attachments'. Our Church has indeed entered a new phase: with the advent of this first Jesuit pope, it is openly ruled by an individual rather than by the authority of Scripture alone or even its own dictates of tradition plus Scripture".

Such statements are not merely [to quote Mueller again] examples of "shameless half-education"; they are blatant heresy, in as far as they deny the solemn teaching of Vatican I to the effect that the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of S Peter so that they could proclaim new doctrines.

PF is not merely surrounded by fools; he is surrounded and supported and sustained by heretics. Bergoglianist ultrapapalism is a heresy every bit as deadly and as evil as all the other heresies which have assaulted the Church Militant.

What makes the present situation arguably more serious than any other in history is the circumstance that Bergoglianism is now favoured in the highest places and enjoys the power to utilise the Church's machinery of government.

Bergoglianism is quite simply Satan's masterpiece.