24 August 2019


I don't know if you you feel this ... a stirring of irritation when somebody uses words in a just slightly "incorrect" way ... incorrect, that is, to my rather narrow little mind.

One of my examples is hearing people referring to a priest "putting on his robes".

For me, there is a world of difference between 'robes' and 'vestments'. 'ROBES' signify a laudable status which someone by laudable exertions has laudably achieved. Examples: Judges; Mayors; Doctors of Philosophy ...

This last example is a comparatively new introduction in this University. In the Old Days, when lovely clean-cut American youths came here to further their academic careers, they were told to read for one of the tried-and-tested Honour Schools. This they did. But problems arose. When the little fellows went back 'state-side', people asked them what they had achieved. "Bachelor of Arts", they proudly replied. "But you already had that from X University over here before you went across to England" was the wondering reply.

So Oxford introduced the 'Doctor of Philosophy' degree. Soon, not only Americans but everybody who had academic ambitions was taking it. When we were undergraduates in the early 1960s, the younger lecturers and Fellows tended to have one; older dons jealously, zealously, guarded the title "Mr Smith' and spluttered angrily when the well-meaning mistakenly addressed them as "Dr Smith".

To such dinosaurs, the only doctorates that meant anything were the rare old medieval doctorates in Divinity, Law, Medicine, Music, Letters, and more latterly Science.

The gown of the Doctor of Philosophy is a vulgar red and blue without proper sleeves. Nothing like the stately medieval gowns. If you will forgive a Bergoglian expression, they look like overgrown butterflies. For all I know, the gown may be based on transpontine archetypes (what are New England Butterflies like?)
Doctoral garb distinguishes the achievement of, er, achievers.

'VESTMENTS', on the other hand, negate the individuality and achievements of the wearer. He wears them to indicate that he is nothing; that he is acting solely in the name of Another. He is a man who was not honoured but humiliated, when, at his Ordination, he lay prostrate on the ground. He now acts clothed in the Priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Far from gaining or achieving anything, he has lost individuality. 'Initiative' is, quite simply, not his job. Nor is 'personality'.

He is a man whose hands and voice are not his own because his sacramental words and deeds are those of the Redeemer.

When you see him emerging, chasubled, from the Sacristy, you should say to yourself "Ah ... jolly good ... another of these Nobodies ..."

23 August 2019


A very good piece , on that blog, from the redoutable Fr Allan Hawkins.

The Papal Tiara

A few days ago, Fr Zed wrote an interesting piece about papal liturgy and its adjuncts ... including the papal tiara.

Perhaps it is time for me to revive the Hunwicke Proposal for the Restoration of the Tiara.

In 1800, the papacy was under enormous threat. Pope Pius VI had been arrested by the forces of the Enlightenment, and had died in exile. Many thought that he had been the last pope. However, eventually a Conclave was held in Venice, and Pius VII was elected. But the tiaras of his predecessors were unavailable ... because they were all in occupied Rome.

So an instant, papier-mache tiara was made for him!

It still exists.

Wonderful! This cheap-o tiara symbolises a persecuted Church; a Church Militant at the mercy of her enemies. A Church without the capacity to draw upon the physical riches of an opulent past.

An ideal piece of headgear for a Holy Father called to preside over a persecuted, a slenderer Church.

And here is another Hunwicke Proposal.

Let a law be enacted
(a) prohibiting the acquisition for use by the Roman Pontiff of any new liturgical garb; and
(b) mandating that any monies which anybody desires to use for giving the pope new liturgical garb must instead be given to the poor. Let the pontiff 'slum' by wearing the left-overs in the Vatican sacristies ... the vestments worn by his predecessors in the Roman See. Vestments still impregnated with the snuff used by B Pius IX! The very vestments in which Pius XII hiccupped his way through his final years!

This law should last for, say, 300 years. By then, perhaps these inherited vestments would indeed all have been used up.

And the poor might not be poor.

22 August 2019


Happy times, when I used to go a couple of Sundays each year to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the Latin Mass group in Copenhagen when they did not have a regular priest! Days when my friend Ulf, whose eyes see everything, who understands everything, took me round the palaces and parks, the museums and galleries of that most exquisitely civilised city! And introduced me to its culinary delights ... did you know that it possesses probably one of the half-dozen best Italian restaurants in the world?

Ulf has most kindly sent me a present: Hymnarium Suppletivum: Hymni Sacri recentiores compositi a Ioanne Georgio Bertram (this second edition, 2017, has the ISBN numbers 10:3-86417-088-5 and 13:978-3-86417-088-1). This is a profoundly interesting volume in which every page one turns elicits a "Wow"!

Bertram begins his Praefatio ad secundam editionem by remarking, justly, that Leo XIII was a hymnodus ingeniosus et entheos. He laments that, since that time, the Muses have been silent! He makes an exception for Dom Anselmo Lentini ... who, he says, composed some new hymns for the Benedictine Saints. True: but Dom Anselmo also composed quite a number of other hymns for the Liturgy of the Hours to supply exactly the want which Bertram pinpoints -- the lack of proper hymns for Saints, particularly including the newly canonised.

So, for example, Bertram provides a fine composition for the Visitation of our Lady on July 2. But Lentini had already composed a new hymn for this feast (on its Novus Ordo date), so it is not quite accurate to say that the Muses had been entirely silent. When one compares the two, I think it has to be said that Lentini's has the instinct for sobriety which, as Edmund Bishop pointed out, characterises the Roman Rite. Bertram portrays S John Baptist loudly complaining that he is still confined in the darkness of the womb! (Lentini's work can be found in two volumes, Hymni Instaurandi of 1968 and Te decet of 1984.)

Bertram's compositions seem to me often to breathe the exuberant spirit of the Middle Ages (and I do not say this in a sneering or pejorative spirit). He is not scared of starting a hymn with Westphalicum illud praecipuum genus ... . Medieval in spirit is his detailed refutation, in a hymn he composes in honour of Pius XII, of the accusations concerning papal policy towards the persecution of the Jewish people. He even works in an account of how Rome's Chief Rabbi received in Baptism the name Eugenio! His admiration for Cardinal Midszenty elicits a hymn in honour of that great pontiff; and a hymn starting Habsburgensibus goes on to apostrophise Sic te, Carole, sic te Zita ...

I am not sure that this collection is, so to speak, oven-ready to be added to the (pre-Conciliar) Breviarium Romanum. But it will undoubtedly be a stimulating volume for the clerus Latinus to keep close at hand, perhaps on the prayer-desk or beside the bed.

Thank you, Ulf, for this gift and for the friendship of the years!

21 August 2019

G K Chesterton

The Right Reverend Peter Doyle, Bishop of Northampton, has recently declined to progress, as we say nowadays, the cause for the Beatification of G K Chesterton.

I don't understand his first reason : he says that there is no local cult. But, traditionally, those promoting a cause had to demonstrate that there was no local cult; that the local Church had not jumped the canonical gun. Perhaps a canonist could explain this to me. Nor do I find it easy to take seriously his second reason: "I have not been able to tease out a pattern of personal spirituality". The liturgical Calendar is already, arguably, overloaded with Bishops and Founders. The addition of a simple and married layperson who sought sanctity simply through the plain everyday means of grace offered by the Redeemer in His Church would seem to me a valuable affirmation of plain 'mere' Christian 'spirituality'.

It seems to me obvious that the real reason for Bishop Doyle's decision is the third claim he makes: that "even allowing for the context of GKC's time, the issue of anti-Semitism is a real obstacle particularly at this time in the United Kingdom".

I had better make clear that I am not a Chestertonian enthusiast. I have no dog in this fight.

My apprehension is a 'justice' issue. His lordship is behaving in a quasi-judicial manner, and I do not believe that he possesses the necessary and publicly visible judicial impartiality.

Why? Soon after the end of Pope Benedict's pontificate, the German bishops launched an attack on part of his legacy: his imposition on the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite of a Prayer for the Jews, composed by the Pope himself, for use (only) on Good Friday. And somebody persuaded the CBCEW to fall into line behind Cardinal Marx.

This was probably the most disgraceful episode in the history of the CBCEW.

A body of men so anxious to rubbish a Magisterial action of a very learned Pope only half a decade or so after that action is not a body of men which can claim impartiality in the area concerned.

Peter Doyle was a member of that body of men.

20 August 2019

Meeting Newman

A fine way of encountering Blessed John Henry Newman, as we prepare for his Canonisation, is to revisit the Oxford which formed both Newman the Anglican and Newman the Catholic; Newman the Tractarian controversialist and Newman the venerated Cardinal.

In 1945, Evelyn Waugh looked back to the 1920s and wrote "Oxford -- submerged now and obliterated, irrecoverable as Lyonesse, so quickly have the waters come flooding in -- Oxford, in those days, was still a city of aquatint. In her spacious and quiet streets men walked and talked and spoke as they had done in Newman's day; her autumnal mists, her grey springtime, and the rare glory of her summer days ... when the chestnut was in flower and the bells rang out high and clear over her gables and cupolas, exhaled the soft airs of centuries of youth."

But how can you revisit that city, those aquatints, those submerged streets? There are still copies available of a booklet deceptive in its slightness (50 pages) which the admirable Fr Jerome Bertram of the Oratory wrote in 1995 and greatly enlarged in 2010 to celebrate the Beatification. It is called Newman's Oxford and is in stock at the Bookshop attached to St Aloysius' Church in St Giles. With painstaking scholarship, it traces the places the Blessed lived and worked in, and retells anecdotes very worthy of the retelling ... such as the College washerwoman who so memorably impinged upon the installation of Edward Hawkins as Provost of Oriel ...

But stay: I am aware that some of you may be unable to visit Oxford before the Canonisation. Do ot worry. One of the strengths of Fr Jerome's work is that he has hunted down some thirty pictures and engravings of Oxford as she was in Newman's time.

Perusing this slender but exquisite volume, you will visit Oxford  -- Newman's Oxgord -- more truly than if you fought your way through the regiments of Oriental touristswho have gridlocked the city once so "branchy between towers; Cuckoo-echoing, bell-swarmed, lark-charmed, rook-racked, river-rounded ..."

19 August 2019

Missile Romanum ... hairesis kai skandalon ...

The egregious Austin Ivereigh is reported to have complained that admirers of the former Roman Pontiff Pope Benedict are a "source of division and scandal" because they launch aginst PF "a missile every month".

It is surprising how different things can seem from different viewpoints. To me, it seems that admirers of PF, and sometimes even his own pontifical mouth, are the most constant sources of division and scandal, consistently reliable in their grim predictability.

And it seems to me that never a month goes by without these same gruesome sources emitting divisive missiles of unorthodoxy or of scandalous ambiguity.

Let us be fair. From the beginning of this pontificate, there has been no concealment of the fact that  its policy is "to make a mess". It is a shame that the words ataxian polutropos poieson are missing from so many of the Greek manuscripts of II Timothy 4.

However, in the surviving fragments of that sadly lacunose text, S Paul does advise us to preach the Word eukairos akairos. He never ... even in an ambiguous footnote ... mentions the need to do this on an irregular, intermittent, or less than monthly basis.

18 August 2019

Typology is the answer

The 'Spirit of the Council' has had a lot to do with the erroneous notion that 'the Council' told the Jews that they did not need to 'convert'.

It's very closely similar to what happened to Liturgy: the Council Fathers thought that in Sacrosanctum Concilium they were mandating a modest revision which would leave Latin substantially in place ... and so on. But in less than a decade, change had vastly outstripped the texts which the Fathers had actually subscribed. And, gradually, people were led to think that the Council had ordered a totally vernacular Liturgy; had prescribed the well-nigh universal reordering of sanctuaries ... and all the rest.  

Nostra aetate  had a very similar fate. The Fathers thought they were roundly condemning anti-Jewish persecution and prejudice. They thought they were doing what little they could to atone for the Shoah. Disgust at what had happened less than two decades earlier led them to speak strongly against the obscene horror which had befouled the face of Europe and about defects in Christian culture which may have contributed to it. But they did not establish, and did not intend (indeed, there is no evidence that they even considered this) to establish, the Two Covenant Error. Yet within a few decades people were being told that the Council had outlawed 'supersessionism'.

Just as there are millions who have never read a page of Sacrosanctum Concilium but are quite sure that it ordered the liturgical ruptures and abuses which in fact ensued, so there are very many who have never opened Nostra aetate but have been lied to about what it contains.

And where did we go wrong?

I don't mean ... two things. Firstly, I don't mean that we should particularly target Jewish communities in our 'mission'. I have never stood outside a synagogue dishing out leaflets. Nor, for that matter, outside a mosque or a Methodist Church or a Mormon centre. Like most clergy, I have always felt that there were enough people around who technically belonged to my Church but were either totally lapsed or had only very light observance. And then, good heavens, there are the multitudes that are not even technically anything. There are only twenty four hours in the day ... and I think I would even feel a trifle uneasy about the deep-down attitudes of people who had a great obsessive thing about Converting Jews and did little about converting anybody else. There is such a nastiness as Anti-Judaism (I prefer to avoid the vague term Anti-Semitism, because, after all, Arabs, too, are Semites). But, when all is said  and done, the Gospel Call to Faith in Christ is for all men and women and that includes Jews. Always and everywhere and despite whatever. There is no Alternative Covenant for anybody; nothing but the Covenant which is in the Blood of Christ.

Secondly, I also do not believe that, unless particular urgent needs make it essential, we should preach or teach against other faiths. My view is that we have failed adequately to teach our own faith.

 One, big, example.

Typology. Exodus the Type, Baptism the Antitype. And so on. All that. Typology is what makes clear that the Old Divine Dispensation has been superseded by the work of Christ. Typology permeates the the Scriptures and the Fathers. It is the Christian hermeneutic for reading the Old Testament. With it, pretty well everything points to Christ; or is a type of something in the Christian life. It is because most laypeople (and clergy?) are unaware or only nominally aware of this that the usually unspoken problem they have is: What is the point of reading the Old Testament? Why do we have all those dreary and irrelevant psalms? And then there is the Easter Vigil: without an understanding of Typology, it is meaningless mumbo-jumbo. The Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore, indeed. Poor Egyptians. What a nasty God. And what a long time ago. Why on earth am I sitting here listening to all this?

I don't think I've ever heard anybody, apart from myself, work this subject into a sermon. I try to introduce people to it myself, especially when I am invited to give Retreats or Conferences or Lent Courses. But ... well, let me put it like this. I was sitting in Allen Hall in one of the "formation" sessions awaiting a lecture entitled something like the Catholic Approach to Scripture. I did not have much expectation of anything other than an hour of 1960s tedium. But then Fr John Hemer came in and explained, lucidly and brilliantly ... that the Catholic Approach to Scripture is Typology! What a sense of liberation I felt ... gosh, I thought, I'm not, after all, the only one ...

To be fair: Cardinal Danielou did Typology in The Bible and the Liturgy 1956.

And Byzantium does a good line on Typology: if you don't use it already, why not pray the Akathist Hymn? But perhaps we Anglicans In Full Communion With Peter could have a particular role to play here. We had John Mason Neale, who filled the windows of his large Convent Chapel with typology ... Lionel Thornton, a Mirfield Father and a notable typologist ... Austin Farrer ... and, deep in the archives of Pusey House, lie the manuscript lectures on Typology of our own great Dr Pusey quo maior vix ullus.

Pusey ... If the Ordinariates have any purpose at all beyond mere survival, it must surely be to bring Pusey along with us as a big part of our luggage, as a particular treasure of our Anglican Patrimony, as a gift of incalculable value to the Universal Church. May he, before the Throne of Grace, intercede for us his children in the Ordinariates.

Oh, and by the way, in addition to the rest of his polymathy, he was Professor of Hebrew in this University.

17 August 2019

Priestly Formation

Back in the happy days when the Church of England still existed in more than name, she was famed for the intellectual quality of her clergy. Nowadays her degenerate successor organisation trains its ministers largely at non-residential regional Ministerial Training Courses, run jointly with the Methodists ... I remember a day when Bishop John Richards and I had met one of these gentry and 'JR' had some things to say about his total ignorance of Scripture and, indeed, of anything.

In the old days, much seminary training went on in theological colleges. Those Theological Colleges were largely one of the fruits of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England (Chichester was founded by Charles Marriott). In the spirit of the Counter-Reformation Tridentine reforms, first adumbrated, as Eamon Duffy pointed out, by Reginal Cardinal Pole, they were very often founded in cathedral closes ... Chichester or Wells or Salisbury or Lincoln ... not simply so that the seminarians could benefit from the influence and teaching of erudite canons residentiary, but so that they might be part of the episcopal familia. They remind me of Archbishop Michael Ramsay's admirable definition of classical Anglican Theology as Divinity done within the sound of church bells. Their closure (do chickens come before eggs?) betokened the collapse of that classical Anglicanism which it is the duty of the Ordinariates to recover and to repatriate into Catholic Unity.

It would be wonderful if our Catholic Bishops, or some of them, were to rebegin clerical formation within their own households. (Possibly Bishop Mark Davies is heading in this direction with his Mater Sacerdotum House.) How such a reform would rejoice the priestly hearts of Cardinal Reginald Pole and S Charles Borromeo! This could help in the long labour of rebuilding a clerical culture in accordance with the mind and legislation of the Church. I am thinking here not least of Veterum Sapientia (S John XXIII) and of the provisions of canon 249.


The celebrated Schola Sainte-Cecile will be in Oxford for the first part of next week.

Monday August 19: 6.30: Vespers and Benediction, the Oratory.

Tuesday August 20: 9.30 am: Solemn Mass in Balliol Chapel.

Wednesday August 21: 11.00 Solemn Mass, the Oratory.
                                            6.30: Sarum Rite Vespers, in Balliol Chapel.

Lucky Oxford!

16 August 2019

Masterful Me ...

Returning to contact with the World, I have done my best to deal with comments and emails.

And I have capriciously decided not to enable two additional categories of comment:
1. Comments including the grammatical error "We must respect he who is the King of Tonga". We do not, in English, say "we must respect he [nominative]"; we say "We must respect him [accusative]". A curious idea seems to be growing up that whenever the relative pronoun "who" is used, it has to be preceded by a nominative. It most certainly doesn't. This is the same sort of error as using the nominative for the second of two linked names: "He spoke to Theodore and I". We do not in English say "He spoke to I"; we say "He spoke to me". So: "He spoke to Theodore and me".

I once heard a colleague refer to "Paul and I's study".

A less spectacularly horrible usage which is getting common is to make genitive only the second of two linked names. "Michael and Anne's house" is, surely, as illogical as it is imprecise. It would imply that we were talking about two objects: (1) Michael; and (2) Anne's house. If we are talking about a house which belongs to both Michael and Anne, the logical form surely is "Michael's and Anne's house".

The correct thing for that colleague (who, incidentally, was a Wykehamist, heaven help us) to have said would have been: "Paul's and my study".

2. Comments in a language which I do not understand or imperfectly understand. The reason for this is, I think, obvious.

So there. Dixi.

15 August 2019

Sol in Virgo [sic]

Medieval calendars quite often inform us that the Sun is in the constellation Virgo on August 15. I wonder if it has ever been suggested that this astronomical fact has anything to do with the selection of that day to celebrate our Lady's Assumption.

Which Collect is preferable on August 15? Certainly not an Anglican one: they all seem rather sad examples of modern Anglican collect writing: a couple of wordy banalities shoved together, and all the time a sense that the writer is looking over his shoulder fearing that he might be deemed too "extreme". The Pius XII composition is preferable ... but I'm not over-enthusiastic about it quite simply because the older collects it replaced are, in my view, extremely fine.

Veneranda nobis Domine huius est diei festivitas, in qua Sancta Dei Genetrix mortem subiit temporalem, nec tamen mortis nexibus deprimi potuit quae filium tuum Dominum nostrum de se genuit incarnatum.

Famulorum tuorum, quaesumus, Domine, delictis ignoxsce: ut, qui tibi placere de actibus nostris non valemus; Genetricis Filii tui Domini nostri intercessione salvemur.

I don't see how anybody whose affections are excited by the old collect Veneranda, and by the teaching of S John Damascene, and the explicitness of the Byzantine Liturgy about the glorification of Mary's wholeness, can dislike the Pius XII collect for doctrinal reasons. But minimally conceived 'doctrine' does not exhaust the content of 'Tradition'.

My own hesitations about features the 1950 definition relate not to what it said, to which I of course very cheerfully subscribe ex animo, but (1) to what, by not saying, it appeared to imply could be forgotten - such as the edifying common legends which informed piety and art in East and West for centuries and about which Blessed John Henry Newman spoke so sympathetically; and (2) to the fact of our Lady's mediation of all graces. This was clearer in the older traditions of East and West, but in the West has more recently been overshadowed by preoccupation with the idea, true in itself, that the Assumption is the logical consequence of her preservation from all sin.

Mary, in History, mediated all graces to humankind by giving birth to the Redeemer; her Assumption means that what she was in History she is ontologically and for all eternity. In her, function and ontology are fused into one.

I would feel more cheerful about the 1951 liturgical texts if they could be supplemented by a definition of our Lady as Mediatrix of All Graces. It could be phrased in the elegant Greek with which S Gregory Palamas explained this truth! Pius XII, for all his Marian devotion, seems to have been lukewarm towards the concept of our Lady's Universal Mediation.