31 July 2015

Obeying the Council: the importance of submission to Dignitatis humanae.

It is, I hope we would all agree, extremely important that the Council, like all Ecumenical Councils, should be treated with respect and its wishes put into effect.

This is why I am disturbed that some Jews, and some Moslems, are allowed to go around without being distinctively dressed so that it can be seen who is Jewish, who is Moslem, who is Christian. I also have a suspicion that some Jews may even go outside their homes during the Christian Sacred Triduum. This is clearly both illegal and disgraceful, since it is explicitly forbidden by the Council, and with great emphasis.

And, moreover, the SSPX is to blame for not rigorously demanding, in season and out of season, that Jews and Moslems should always wear their distinctive dress.  I cannot recall a single SSPX document which adequately emphasises this important decree of the Council. Frankly, this raises difficult questions about the SSPX itself. Since it so manifestly treats important enactments of the Council with apparent indifference, it is important that it should be denied faculties, and kept at arm's length, until it unambiguously undertakes to do all it can to embrace and enforce the Conciliar decrees regarding Jewish and Moslem dress, down the the last comma, the last detail.  Frankly, I blame Bishop Fellay for this indiscipline. He is a man who, to my knowledge, has never spoken loudly and publicly enough about the importance of the distinctive dress which should be worn by Jews and Moslems. Can you show me one single statement of his about the need for all Moslem women, as the Conciliar Canon implies, to wear the hijab? No group can truly expect to be in good standing unless its submission to the Council, as to all the Church's Ecumenical Councils, is total, unequivocal, and ex animo.

It is not as though the Council to which I am today referring [Lateran IV (vide Canonem LXXXIX)] is some minor Council. Because of the large numbers of bishops, archbishops, and patriarchs which attended it, it was sometimes called The Great Council. It promulgated the Dogma of Transsubstantiation. Could any Council be more important than Lateran IV?

I hope nobody, on the thread, will dare to speak slightingly about the duty of all Catholics to accept without question every jot and tittle of Lateran IV, as of every other Council. Moreover, its Spirit, easily collected and inferred from its canons about the exclusion of Jews from public life and the iniquity of their usurious behaviour, not to mention the problems of miscegenation, is also something which it is the duty of all Catholics to accept with enthusiasm. Isn't it? You know I'm right.

VIVAT CONCILIUM!!!   VIVANT CONCILIA!!!!!! (ENDS.)

We live in a dangerous world, in which some people tend to be or pretend to be depressingly blind to literary genre. I hope no reader of this blog is so blind as to fail to detect my irony all through the above piece. I neither like nor subscribe to the teaching of Lateran IV about the Jews as being suitable to our time, nor do I condemn the SSPX for being lukewarm about that teaching. My view on Councils, prescinding from those Conciliar decrees (with attached anathemas) which strictly define dogma, is that their teachings and edicts, even if appropriate to the time of the Council itself, gradually merge into the quiet background noise of the life of the Church. I have no doubt that this applies to Lateran Canon 89 as much as it does to Vatican II Dignitatis humanae. But both of these were completely 'valid' Ecumenical Councils; a truth which, I believe, no Catholic is allowed question. I also believe that no Catholic should read the non-dogmatic texts of any Council, or of any Roman Pontiff, without applying a contextualising nuance. Catholics are not fundamentalists. Councils, and popes, when not defining dogma, can, quite simply, be wrong. Especially fifty or more years after their time.

BTW: New Blackfriars has just published a very impressive article on Dignitatis humanae by John Lamont. 



30 July 2015

Bishop Eric Kemp ... I wish I'd asked him ...

Back in those heady days in the 1960s and 70s, when most of us thought that the Council had made the possibility of Christian Unity so much easier by 'balancing' the teaching of Vatican I, Bishop Eric Kemp of Chichester (one of the very few Anglican bishops to be a canonist), Visitor of Staggers and President of the Woodard Corporation and for two and a half decades my Ordinary, commented that whatever ecumenical problems there were in the teaching of Vatican I about the Papacy, they had been made very much more acute by Vatican II. Eric, I should make clear, was not a papalist: he had a soft spot for those silly schismatics, the Dutch so-called 'Old Catholics'; he contrived that two of their bishops should be aequiprincipal coconsecrators at his own episcopal Consecration.

I wonder what he really made of the complete surrender of that minute body to the Zeitgeist, women priests and all. Further, I wonder what he would have made of the two traditionalist Chartres pilgrimages of our era; because he much valued the twinning of Chichester with Chartres. When he sang Pontifical High Mass in Chartres Cathedral, they used to put out for him, his deacons and ministers, a superb gold set given to the Cathedral by (yes, it would have to be by her, wouldn't it?) the Empress Eugenie (her of the pretty feet ... you know the burglar story?). I wonder what the post-Catholic clergy of Chartres made of the reappearance of proper Catholic finery in their city! Pictures rather like the (Fr Zed phrase coming up) 'eye candy' you nowadays get in Traditionalist magazines and websites appeared in the Chichester Diocesan Magazine. Chichester clergy went over there ... and came back with whispered accounts of the corruption of the French Church ("The Chartres Chrism Mass ... the bishop consecrates the same lot of oil three times ... so there's only one oil ..."). Eric used, I think, this connection to procure a relic of S Richard of Chichester to reinstate in his own Cathedral. He was pleased to be a Canon of Chartres (I am confident that his appointment as Canon was watertight because, since nobody in Chartres knew any Latin, I was asked to compose the Letters of Appointment myself).

As the French Church continues its terminal decline, I gather that a very considerable percentage of French ordinands now come from one or other of the Traditionalist groups or from dioceses where a bishop vigorously encourages both forms of the Roman Rite. I can't help feeling that Bishop Eric might have transferred his affections from the gloomy death-wish 'Old Catholics' to these points of authentically Catholic New Life in French Christianity.

Long time readers of this blog will know of my own great antipathy, which I share with Joseph Ratzinger, towards the grossly exaggerated and false idea of the Papacy which grew up in the 1960s, and my preference, also shared with Ratzinger, for the Papacy as it was defined and limited by Vatican I. I am less than happy when I see that perverted 1960s conception of the Papacy again utilised by unscrupulous innovators today as they attempt to manoeuvre our beloved Holy Father into being an instrument of their own tired old heterodoxies.

Which is why I so dearly wish I'd asked Bishop Eric what he meant when he said that Vatican II and its aftermath had made the Papacy more of an ecumenical problem. Could it be that he was among the first to realise what so many are now belatedly coming to understand?

29 July 2015

Talking Oxford (2)

Continues:
Last year, at the 2014 Encaenia in June, the Public Orator, Mr Richard Jenkyns of LMH, had used a phrase which one of his hearers ... none other than Mr Vice-Chancellor himself, a Professor A D Hamilton ... had disliked so much that he cherished it, for four months, in a Resentful Bosom. When he came to make his own Oration in October at the start of the 2014/2015 academic year, Hamilton, speaking in English, had this to say:
"I want to reflect with you on the public value of Oxford; the benefit that flows to others from who we are, what we do, and how we do it. And if, in the course of these reflections, I manage to say something of wider interest and relevance about the special importance and value of higher education in the world of the twenty-first century, well, then I shall consider I have not entirely wasted my time or, more importantly, yours."

Oh dear. Not a word of this is Talking Oxford, is it? How terribly portentous and consequential! How full of a Politically Correct sense that we must demonstrate the vast amount of good we do to others! Do you feel the adjective "pompous" struggling to make itself heard in your mind? Not a touch here of that quick and allusive levity, that faux self-deprecation behind which we Oxonians lightly conceal our feeling that we are so obviously unique that we don't even need to remember that fact, still less to be so unspeakably vulgar as to assert it. Even worse, observe the implication that Oxford is relevant. Nemo qui mammas almae huius Universitatis ipse suxisset haec vel talia unquam proferre potuisset!. Quid de apicibus somniantibus? Quid de rebus desperatis? 

Clearly, Hamilton is not a man who, in those formative youthful years, was woken daily by his College Servant bringing him hot water and the information "Good morning sir, quarter to eight sir, blizzard in the night sir, three cars crashed on the ice coming down Headington Hill, eleven people killed, will there be anything else, sir?" vel similia. Because, unlike Talking Cambridge, Talking Oxford is not a class dialect designed to condescend and to insult. It is a style of processing and assimilating reality, of cutting mere facticity down to size, a style which has owed as much to our beloved and respected College Servants as to anything or anybody else.

Let us resume our reading of poor Hamilton's embarrassing Oration.
"It was our celebrated Public Orator, Richard Jenkyns, at Encaenia this Year [2014] who stated in the course of a typically mordant review of the worldly achievements of Oxford alumni, I quote: 'Life - always our most dangerous competitor.' He captures neatly that too familiar perception of the academic world having little if anything to do with life, certainly life as it is lived; life with a capital L.

"Well, this morning I want to try not just to take issue with that perception by illustrating some of the ways in which it is woefully wide of the mark, but to go further and even to argue that life as it is lived - still with that capital L ..." and blah blah blah for several pages more. Dinosaurs competed for mention with budgerigars. Honest! Heaven help us.

And so, at this year's Encaenia, Mr Orator Jenkyns ut decet et placet had the last word. Not a dinosaur in sight, thank God, nor even the Oxford Dodo.

28 July 2015

Talking Oxford (1)

Cambridge men and women, vulgo "Tabs", are, in my experience, without exception (well, 'spiritually', as Rex Mottram would say), Old Etonians with aunties and uncles high up in the KGB, who speak with a leisurely, languorous and protracted drawl which rarely seems to approach a conclusion. It expresses their contemptuous sense of superiority to the rest of the world ... "You dear little people, you have nothing better to do with your poor little lives than to listen to me". It has been suggested that Oxonians feel no need to prove any such thesis and and that we more characteristically speak faster and then pause for breath in mid-sentence so that, when we do get to the end of the sentence, we can immediately leap into the next sentence without giving any opportunity to a polite interlocutor to ... er ... er ... interlocute (stet haec sententia pro exemplo). I think this is right; but there is more to "talking Oxford" than just that one particular (very serviceable) device. What has drawn me back to philology is an entertaining little spat which erupted last month at this year's Encaenia, in the Creweian Oration, delivered, nowadays, in English. ("Insignissime domine Cancellarie, licetne Anglice loqui?" ... the Chancellor teases the moment and then, with a dismissive shrug, snarls "Licet" ... that is how we get round it.)

At this point you need to know that, since about 2004, the role of Vice-Chancellor in this University has radically changed. Previously, the VC was himself an Oxford product, commissioned, so to speak, from the Lower Deck. But since then we have had two of them who have belonged to the new international elite of super-administrators, Staff College products who have never drunk from the Isis, who can (and do) cheerfully flit from running Yale to running Oxford; from running Oxford to running NYU. Let us not go into the question of any financial aspects there may be to these arrangements (neat example of a Ciceronian praeteritio, yes?). The first of these two gentlemen tried to haul Oxford into the twentieth century; he met fierce resistance. The second, who is about to leave, is not having a second term in office and is departing some months early. But what this sociological change means is that a modern Vice-Chancellor does not now speak, or even understand, Oxford's own ideolect (forgive the dittography). He ... or she ... has, quite simply, not been suckled at the correct breasts. Ergo, a deep gap in communication ... C S Lewis's phrase a phatic hiatus will have sprung to your minds. Exactly. Gottit.

More later.

27 July 2015

'High Church' or 'Catholic'? (2): within the Catholic Church

Continues.
I may very well be wrong, but I think I sometimes detect a distinction just the very tiniest little bit like this in the Catholic Church; the distinction between those whose preoccupation is with Liturgy and, for preference, very fine Liturgy; and those for whom liturgical questions are part of a larger whole. For example: in England, the 'traditionalist' movement concentrates, for the most part, on Liturgy. Indeed, I get the impression that it is policy not to confuse Liturgy with other matters or different causes. So we emphasise that, in our strong preference for the Extraordinary Form, we are totally in unity with the pope and the hierarchy. Little mention is made of problems in Conciliar texts. Great appreciation is shown for any signs of friendship from bishops.

I do understand this strategy. It means that bishops, if they are honest and honourable, cannot make problems for EF liturgy on the grounds that it is bound up with, even perhaps a front for, other agendas. And the Liturgy, in and for itself, very definitely is a cause deserving very high priority.


But the annual Gardone Roman Forum symposia illustrate that there can be, indeed is, a different possible approach. At Gardone, the liturgy is in the Extraordinary Form, and superbly done, but nobody spends all their time talking about it. It is simply the assumed, natural, and obvious  background and basis to the fortnight; there is no fascinated preoccupation with ritual adjuncts. The talk is about the conceptual questions which are at the heart of intellectual debate in European and American Catholicism, particularly at this present time. The addresses are not all given by clergy intent on deepening the liturgical spirituality of the laity; they are, for the most part, given by lay philosophers and historians and academics intent on 'discerning the times' in the light of the Gospel. They are, in fact, nothing less than a dutiful response to the Holy Father's repeated calls for lay participation and for frank openness, Parrhesia.


So perhaps there is just a minute difference of tone between the Traddidoms of Britain on the one hand; and of America and Continental Europe on the other. Moreover, it seems to me that there may also be some such cultural difference between the 'Ecclesia Dei Communities' and the SSPX, in that the former appear sometimes more liturgically preoccupied than does the latter. It is clear ... well, to me, at least ... that the contentious issues at stake at the moment in the Western Church centre around the claim that Christ is Lord; in other terms, the truth of the Social Reign of Christ the King. Or, to chase the same rabbit from the other end of the warren, the relationship between Zeitgeist and Faith. This was the truth that Archbishop Lefebvre saw with great and luminous clarity. "They have uncrowned Him."

I throw these thoughts out merely as speculation.

I thank God that the Ecclesia Dei Communities are in a canonically regular situation, and I pray for the canonical regularisation of the SSPX. 'Unity' is not just a gracious adornment, oil running down the beard, but a demand made by the ontological reality of the Christ's Body the Church. I believe the clergy of that Society need this as much as the rest of the Church needs them. At the same time, I value the persistent witness which the SSPX has relentlessly brought to the heart of the Gospel message, to the primitive kerygma "Kyrios Iesus"; "Viva Cristo Rey". (This does not mean that I in any way undervalue the fact that it was also the Society that, almost single-handed, kept a form of the authentic Roman Rite alive and well through the darkest years.)

It is not, to resort to the familiar cliche, either / or but both / and. 

The Liturgy builds the Church and sustains her witness; and our witness to the Gospel is the soil in which the Liturgy bears fruit.

26 July 2015

S Anne

A few days ago, Pam and I walked to a village church near Oxford, at Marsh Baldon (yes, I can assure cynical American readers that English villages really do, even outside novels, have names like that).

I am puzzled. The Buildings of England series (popularly known as 'Pevsner' even when, as in the Oxfordshire case, a particular volume was written by someone other than old Bauhaus himself) informed me that the East window dates from 1902, Heaton, Butler, and Bayne. I would have said that, beyond any doubt, this window represented a quite common English phenomenon: the gathering together (with restorations) into one window of fragments of medieval glass from throughout a church (in fact, there is another chancel window, unmentioned by 'Pevsner', including jumbled late medieval fragments from the time of one of the Henry Tudors). (Alternatively: around Oxford a late Georgian antiquary called Fletcher collected unwanted medieval glass; parts of his collection can be found in quite a number of places. But I go for my first suggestion.) Is there anybody inter doctos who can help me out here? I get intrigued by so often seeing tiny glass fragments too insignificant in themselves to attract attention but which cumulatively point to a massive movement in different parts of England to provide new glass, often with Renaissance motifs, on the eve of the Reformation.

The central light at Marsh Baldon has a nice representation of S Anne engaged in her customary occupation of teaching her Daughter.

And ... what a coincidence! ... the next church we saw, Sunningwell, also had a vitreous S Anne. Here, the date is about 1877, and the designer "J P Seddon, a friend of Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites" (Pevsner), who restored the church. In this case the reason for S Anne's presence is that among those whom the window commemorates there is a woman with that Christian name.

[Unmentioned by Pevsner: there are fine and unusual encaustic tiles in the Chancel at Sunningwell by Seddon, showing the Elders casting down their crowns before the throne; "The Lamb slain"; and related themes reminding me of Canon Chamberlain's famous Eucharistic Window in S Thomas's, representing the worship of the Lamb at the heavenly altar and, below, the Sacrifice of the Mass. The unity of the earthly and heavenly sacrifice(s), taught in the paragraph Supplices te rogamus of the Roman Canon, was a favourite theme among the Tractarians. Part of our Patrimony! More on this another time.]

Back in civilised days ... I mean, before the Pius-XII-Bugnini 'reforms' ... S Anne would today have superseded the Sunday Mass (leaving it a Commemoration and a Last Gospel). And so she should: Ann is Pam's middle name (making today her Name Day), and S Anne is also the Patron of Pam's College ... undergraduate memories of so many Sunday lunches in Hall there before we set off on walks through the Oxfordshire countryside ...gracious, all that was more the half a century ago ... water under bridges ...

25 July 2015

'High Church' or 'Catholic'? (1): Church of England Games

Bishop Christopher Luxmoore, now departed, was a friend, as well as being the Provost of Lancing, who quite often graced our breakfast table in Common Room during his (very happy) years as our Provost. He appeared gentle and gentlemanly; but beneath the patrician charm there lurked a most agreeable capacity for waspishness. I remember, for example, the morning after a cleric of slender intellect had been nominated Bishop: "B.A. Leeds, John! B.A. LEEDS!!" he snarled. And, another morning, after a cleric who had been 'one of us' had (as Bishop Christopher considered it) made the appointed sacrifices to Moloch in order to acquire a mitre, after giving his order to the Common Room Steward, Luxmoore just looked across and said "Venner has ratted!". Unlike most Tabs, he was not a man who always felt the need for subordinate clauses.

Memorable, also, his equally laconic definition of the difference between 'High Church' and 'Catholic': "Catholics go to Confession". Exactly. Outsiders often failed to appreciate that there was a difference between the two terms. If  ceremonial went on in a church, they called it 'High Church'. They thought 'the High Church will join the Ordinariate'. However, for those of us who were in the know, the term was used quite differently. 'High Church' used to mean 'rather given to ceremonial but without real substance'. Many of its members were in fact, doctrinally, very far indeed from discernibly Catholic or even, dare I say it, in some cases, even Christian, Faith. 'High Church' meant an attachment to those of the externals which would not impede your career.

But 'Catholic', either on its own or with an 'Anglican' or an 'Anglo-' added, implied seriousness; commitment; dogma. You could, indeed, be 'Catholic' without being particularly attached to ceremoniousness, without being 'High Church', at all. Moi, I've never needed highchurchery: my first, 'title', parish was just surplice-and-stole; I've never owned an inch of lace; I rather enjoyed the ritual simplicity of the Church of Ireland. Blessed John Henry Newman, I believe, was not an addict of ritual. A failure to grasp this distinction is what caused all the puzzlement when large numbers of very 'moderate' clergy joined the Ordinariate, while the 'extremists', the 'advanced' men who owned yards of lace, and were repositories of exquisite lore about coloured pompoms on birettas, stayed, almost to a man, in the C of E, where they still produce cheerful magazines with beautiful pictures of exotic liturgy.

Is any such distinction discernible in the Catholic Church? To be continued.

24 July 2015

Piltdown Man and the Ordinariates

I have a lovely postcard which I bought when I was a keen little boy very interested, I can't now remember why, in Science. It came from the Natural History Museum, and showed the skull which is the final glorious proof that Men are descended from Apes; the long awaited proof of Darwinianism: Eoanthropus Dawsonii, AKA the Piltdown Man, AKA the Great Hoax. If I had time to waste being childish, I'd pin it up with a picture beside it of the mighty Dawkins.

Liturgy has its Piltdown Man; the 'Liturgy of Hippolytus'. Actually, I'm not being quite fair; Piltdown Man was a deliberate forgery; an attempt to provide the evidence for a dogma for which genuine evidence had been tantalisingly too coy to show itself. 'Hippolytus' is no forgery, but a genuine first millennium liturgical text.

But, everyone now agrees, it is not by Hippolytus, nor was it a very early liturgy of the Roman Church. And Professor Paul Bradshaw has shown good reason to think that it is not nearly as early as had been assumed. Yet this text dominated the Committee-Liturgy reconstructions of the twentieth century. It provided the basis of the Eucharistic Prayer which is by far the most commonly, and disastrously, used in the Catholic Church: Prayer 2. It was the model of the drafts which started to be considered in the Church of England in late 1960s.

Gregory Dix was among the many taken in by the then consensus that (what earlier writers had called) 'The Egyptian Church Order' was really an early form of the Roman Rite; although his instincts were too sound to swallow the idea that really early liturgy had an Epiclesis of the Holy Spirit after the Institution Narrative (he concluded that this must be an interpolation into 'Hippolytus' dating from the fourth century, when notions of Epiclesis became popular in the East).

Despite its dodgy origins, 'Hippolytus' became real politics in the C of E in 1965, and initially appeared to be productive of highly useful results. The Liturgical Commission offered a draft Eucharistic Prayer which ran "Wherefore ... we offer unto thee this bread and this cup; and we pray thee to accept this our duty and service in the presence of thy divine majesty (note the echoes of the Canon: ... offerimus ... panem ... calicem ... hanc ... oblationem servitutis nostrae ... ... in conspectu divinae maietatis tuae ...). A year later they offered the explanation "this need mean no more than 'we put this bread and this cup at God's disposal', so that he may use them to feed those who receive in faith. It can, of course, be interpreted to mean something else; but it does not assert the fully developed doctrine of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. It confines itself to the simple language of the first two centuries ... Hippolytus ... Irenaeus ... Justin ... Clement ... The use of the phrase is in line with the Anglican appeal to antiquity". But a tiny 'note of dissent' followed from one Colin Buchanan: "I reluctantly dissent ... Inquiry has shown that the phrase ... is unacceptable to many Anglicans".

Buchanan was not just a single individual. He was front man for the (mostly) Calvinist extreme Evangelical wing of the Church of England. In the decades which followed, his eagle eye relentlessly spotted and vetoed (through the Evangelical block vote in Synods) any phrase expressive of the Eucharistic Sacrifice; not because he wanted to save evangelicals from having phrases they disliked forced upon them; there was no proposal or desire on anybody's part to make evangelicals use anything they didn't like - he just couldn't stand the thought that, in a long list of optional alternatives, there might be even just one on the menu which Anglo-Catholics could use with a moderately good conscience.

The poor bloke would go apoplectic if anybody pointed this out to him, but the main fruit of his long and active life was the unwillingness of many Anglican Catholics to use Eucharistic prayers authorised by the Church of England. All those decades of Liturgical Revision since the 1920s, Green Books and Orange books and 1927 and 1928 and goodness knows what,  Series One, Two, Three ... the Alternative Service Book and Common Worship ... mostly with options galore ... and you still don't have one single usable Eucharistic Prayer!

Even 'Non-Conformist' churches use 'offer' language nowadays; I've heard it among Methodists and URC: after all, it is based on a diachronic and synchronic ecumenical consensus. But not in Buchanan's C of E. Paradoxically, the 'Reformation' body which retained the most 'Catholic' doctrines and structures became, in the second half of the twentieth century, the most inflexibly anti-Catholic of the whole lot in its refusal to allow any approximation, however ambiguous, to Catholic doctrine in its Eucharistic rites. The dear old whore (I say this with great affection and in my very friendliest tones) is now extreme Liberal in ethical matters and Church Order; and extreme Proddy in the texts of her worship. For that matter, despite the resistance of the 'Catholic Wing' for so many decades, she is in full communion with Scandinavians who still permit non-episcopal ordination, and has formally agreed that her own 'orders' are identical to those of the Methodists, just as Leo XIII said they were. Name a disease, she's got it. The fastidious among you may feel it is high time she went to a clinic to be checked over for dangerous infections ... a vessel best given a wide berth by mariners who value their tackle.

We 'papalists', of course, used the rites of 'another Church'. But for those of you who turned down Pope Benedict's offer and are still hunkering down with Old Mother Damnable, the only liturgies legally available to you are perched on the extreme 'left' wing of the Reformation spectrum!

Better join the Ordinariate. We have a nice rite. It's more-or-less what all the Right Sort of Chaps were using from 1912ish down to the 1960s. And we still have fun. Do you remember 'fun'?

23 July 2015

Three Maniacs and why you need to read this blog EVERY DAY

I have a problem. Some people do not read my blog EVERY DAY. Dear dear!

This became apparent recently when I wrote about the 'reform' of the Calendar after Vatican II. I referred to the Three Maniacs.

Two enquiries about this appeared on the thread.

You failed to read my piece of April 24 this year. Here it is again, with the Maniacs in red.

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

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

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

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

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

[Who were the three maniacs? See a comment on yesterday's post.]

22 July 2015

S Mary of Magdala

A post slightly updated from 2010.
What a rich and varied life S Mary Magdalen had, according to writers recent and ancient. An associate of the Apostle Junia in the kipper trade, she met our Lord while he was working as a healer, during his Year Out, in the spa at Tiberias. These things are certainties. And let us not question her well-documented presence leaning upon the Lord's breast at his Last Supper. Nor be doubting spoilsports if some latter-day equivalent of Chaucer's Pardoner announces that she possesses, enclosed in a rich reliquary, the genuine Wedding Certificate of Mary of Magdala, spinster of this parish, and Jesus of Nazareth. Rarely can a figure have attracted so rich a mythopoeia: the needs of medieval Provence for a Patron; of modern feminists for a female hyperapostolos; of conspiracy theorists for a Mrs Christ; all these are fulfilled in the Magdalen. Whoever was it who said that imaginative and fertile hagiography came to an end with the demise of the Middle Ages! It continues to fulfil our every need, however bizarre.

The Magdalen provides new certainties in Biblical Sudies, too. Back in the boring old days of Modern Scientific Biblical Criticism, when S John's Gospel was Late and Unhistorical, nobody would have bet a bent farthing on the historical veracity of the story about her meeting with Christ in Garden on Easter Morning. But now .... it would be more than anyone's life was worth to question the truth ... nay more, the centrality to the whole resurrection story ... to the entire Christian Gospel ... of that pericope*.

Personally, I feel we've lost a lot since the Western Church, guided by the Three Maniacs, followed Byzantium in distinguishing between Mary of Magdala - who is now as pure as the driven snow of August 5 - and the Sinful Woman. We now no longer have access to the attractive typology of Gueranger, who sees in the Sinner of Magdala a type of fallen humanity and of adulterous Israel, destined to become glorious in her repentance.

Hair and feet feature large in Dom Gueranger's entry for today; naturally he makes much of S Mary Magdalen's attachment to the feet of Jesus (he quotes S Paulinus of Nola "I would rather be bound up in her hair at the feet of Christ ..."). And he seems to suggest that S Cyril of Alexandria admired the beauty of the Magdalen's own apostolic feet. There is no doubt that the image of the reformed but still entrancing courtesan stirred up sensuous images in the minds of many. And is there very much harm in that? Er ... except ...oh dear ... come think of it ... the stories are disturbingly heterosexualist ... in a generation's time, they will have to be banned as constructively homophobic ... ah, well, win some, lose some ... unless, of course, three New Maniacs can adapt them into a 'trans' narrative ... .

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*Similarly, the one-time conviction of so many Experts, based upon negligible evidence, that the last two chapters of Romans are inauthentic, is rarely aired nowadays. You see, these chapters contain the Apostle Junia ... dump them, and she disappears too. And that would be intolerable.

21 July 2015

Owen Chadwick, priest

Of your charity pray for the soul of Owen Chadwick, priest, recently entered into rest, anno aetatis suae 99 et sacerdotii sui 74.

He was the very epitome of English Anglican scholarship.

He believed, like Gregory Dix, Dorothy Sayers, and others, that the soul of the Church of England was the sober and solid learning, piety, and pastoral care of the parochial (and, particularly, country) clergy.

I think it probably was.

May he, and it, rest in peace.

The British Way of Life

On July 20 the R/t Hon/ble David Cameron, First Lord of the Treasury and prime minister, made a speech in which I might be capable of being convinced that he made some practically sensible suggestions. However, it seems to me, conceptually, to be based upon premises which constitute an attack upon the liberties of every believing Christian in this country. The following sentence is the heart of the error:

"We believe in respecting different faiths but also expect those faiths to support the British way of life".
What does this mean but that different religious groups are required to subscribe to the British way of life? I grant that Cameron leaves the phrase distinctly undefined, but the fact that something is not defined and given clearly described limits makes it more, and not less, dangerous. It becomes all the more capable of manipulation, of being twisted to mean whatever a tyrannous ideology chooses. 

But, to be objective: can anybody deny that divorce,  fornication, adultery, abortion, sodomy are widespread in all sections of our society, and, in a number of cases, are promoted with pride by the governing class, the legislature and the courts of this country? If these things are not now at least parts of the British way of life, I do not know how any concrete meaning can be attached to that phrase.

Moreover, when I was young, Blasphemy, Abortion and Sodomy were still illegal. Is the British way of life something which metamorphoses every decade or so? Was I, in the 1940s and 1950s, not brought up in the British way of life? When did Cameron's British way of life come into existence? When the mores of this country will have changed from how they are now, will they no longer constitute, for Cameron, the British way of life? Or does the British way of life mean in each decade whatever is culturally fashionable at that precise moment? If so, Cameron's rhetoric constitutes a requirement that believers of all cults should regularly and very promptly accommodate themselves to the Zeitgeist, the Spirit of the Age. In these circumstances, were not the "German Christians" of the 1930s absolutely correct? If Christians or others are forbidden to be counter-cultural, was there any ground for not assenting to the Holocaust?


In as far as I understand the British way of life, I repudiate, with very great emphasis, all or at least large parts of it.

" ...equal rights ... sexuality ... "
 This recurs throughout the speech. Cameron does not explicitly in this speech mention his own enthusiastic promotion of sodomitical relationships and perverted lifestyles, but in a speech of 23 July 2013 he repeatedly expressed his pride in the legislation which he had recently passed into Law. In that same speech, he spoke about his determination to "export" "same sex marriage" around the world, so that other countries could follow suit. 

The fact that Cameron's July 20 2015 speech fails to be as explicit as the 2013 speech is easily explained, and the explanation does very little credit to Cameron's frankness or honesty. He is now attempting to carry along with him the greater part of the Islamic community in this country. It would not serve his devious purposes to be too explicit about some of the contents of the British way of life to which he is now imperiously demanding their (and my) allegiance. In the slippery tradition of the card-sharper who stacks his cuffs, or the spiv with his contraband merchandise, Cameron finds it convenient to conceal things in the recesses of his clothing.

"... theocracy ... fusion of religion and politics ..." 
Cameron dislikes this pair. I am not convinced that he would be a supporter of the Catholic teaching of the Social Rule of Christ the King, if someone were to explain it to him.

" ... reforming and moderate Muslim voices ... moderate and reforming voices ... critical reforming voices ... "
 I do not know how expert Cameron is on Islamic history, jurisprudence and theology; just possibly not a great deal more that I am. But let me put a hypothesis before you. Suppose, please, just for the sake of the argument, it were true that authentic Islam were something inconsistent with that British way of life to which Cameron demands the assent of Faith Communities. This would mean that he is only offering toleration, to Islam and to other Faith Communities including Christians, as long as they reform, moderate, and critically change their religions so as not to be contrary to the British way of life. Taken to its logical conclusion, as it is very likely to be taken, this would return Catholicism to the threatened state it was in during the reign of the first Elizabeth.

My faith is not at Cameron's disposal for him and his cultural allies and their masters below to reform, moderate, or change.

" ... a review of the Sharia Courts ..."
You can see why Cameron gets rather tentative and vague here. It would be embarrassing to condemn the Sharia court system in terms that also rendered illegal the Canon Law courts of the Catholic Church or the Court of the Chief Rabbi. You're going to have to tread carefully there, David.

"[You in the Media should] recognise the huge power you have in shaping these debates in a positive way".
Splendid! A candid admission! We are on familiar and agreed ground here! Christians, and especially Catholics, are very experienced in the huge power the Media have in shaping debate. We get the rough end of it almost daily.

PHILOLOGICAL FOOTNOTE
I will conclude by pointing out that Cameron here gives us a good example of the particular English dialect sometimes known as Management Speak. In this unpleasant and aggressively manipulative dialect, positive means "what I approve of", just as negative inevitably means "what I disapprove of". Somewhere at the back of his Etonian mind, Cameron has the speech patterns used by his Head Master and his House Master in their attempts to assert dominance and secure compliance. Truly, culture wars are won or lost on the playing fields of a large school near Slough.

Or, on the other hand, perhaps not.