24 November 2014

Totally Spectacular

I can think of few Calendars ... yes, this is the season, is it not, when people give each other calendars ... which are more spectacular than that of the Papa Stronsay Redemptorists. Breath-taking photographs of intimate yet exquisite liturgy alternate with pictures of the breath-taking scenery as the Brethren go about their tasks on the island. In terms of vestments, I love the shots of the working habits: the habits worn during hard labour, with the leather hems worn and torn. July shows Fr Michael Mary and two brethren walking past a farm gate which I think may have been the one which they kindly and carefully opened for me ... and then cheerfully commented "Bishop Fellay just vaulted over that"!

Do you want to know the important centenaries which occur in 2015? Would you like an attractive iconic painting of the Divine Child, kilted and wearing the Crown of Scotland (a marvellously beautiful late medieval crown, quite unlike the rather boring English Crown which had to be remade after the Great Rebellion) accompanied by a poem by S Robert Southwell which can be sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne? This Calendar is truly and totally unique. Literally unique! And it has all the details needed for it to serve as a daily ORDO for the 1962 rite.

Golgotha Monastery Island
Papa Stronsay
KW 17 2AR
email: contact@the-sons.org

23 November 2014

Christ the KING: Tom Wright's view

Many readers of this blog will not have heard of Tom Wright. A former don in this University, he became Bishop of (the prestigious see of ) Durham, because of his formidable academic reputation. Within months he joined that distinguished number of heavyweight Anglican intellectuals who've either turned down episkope or else abandoned it after a short trial to return to academe. (Don't ask me to tell you why.) He is an Evangelical but has 'broadened'. He tries to understand the Catholic Faith, but, not having experienced it from the the inside, often gets things wrong. His books on S Paul are worth reading. Don't bother with For all the Saints, because he gets the Catholic cult of the Saints wrong.

But he's no fool. Writing about the adoption by the Church of England of the feast of Christ the King on the dear old Sunday Next Before Advent, he objects because "this particular novelty ... gets it completely wrong. It presses all the wrong buttons. It completes the job of pulling the Church's year out of shape. Once again, more is less. This "feast" devalues other feasts and occasions ... by concluding the implicit story-line at the wrong point, thereby throwing out of kilter the narrative grammar of the whole story. It implies that Jesus Christ becomes King at the end of the sequence, the end of the story, as the result of a long process". So it devalues Ascension Day. It is, he opines, "like trying to eat the Christmas pudding first and stir it afterwards".

I would simply say that it removes the idea that Christ is King now; replaces it with an eschatological picture of the final Glory when all Creation will be restored; and then expects us to pray Thy kingdom come throughout Advent.

22 November 2014


The document to which I referred (and which I owe to the researches of a dear friend who is also a dear friend of the beloved Ukrainian Greek Catholic tradition) is dated Rome 17.2.1908 and is headed 'Exemplar'. Below, it begins:
               BEATISSIME PATER!
In it, Metropolitan Andrew, including in his titles 'totius Russiae Administrator', asks for a "facultas etiam confessariis communicabilis dispensandi fideles saeculares a lege, qua vetita est communicatio in sacris cum orthodoxis, quoties opportunum esse in conscientia judicabunt" (i.e. a faculty, communicable also to confessors, of dispensing secular faithful from the law by which communicatio in sacris with orthodox is prohibited, as often as they shall judge it to be opportune in conscience).

This has thought-provoking features, not least of which is the term 'orthodoxi' to describe 'dissident Byzantines'. What follows is even more interesting. Printed at the bottom, in italic, is:
Documentum originale a me scriptum Sanctissimus Dominus Noster Pius Papa X, propria manu dignatus est signare verbis "Tollerari posse".
I presume that 'me' means the Metropolitan himself. To get ones bearings, it is revealing to compare this first document with a very similarly made out Faculty, for celebrating the Eucharist in times of necessity without portable altar or vestments or server, and in glass vessels. But this second document concludes thus:
Ex Audientia SSmi habita die 22, Februarii 1908. SSmus Dominus Noster Pius, Divina Providentia PP X., benigne adnuere dignatus est pro gratia iuxta preces. Contrariis quibuscumque non obstantibus. 
It is signed and sealed by Metropolitan Andrew and dated Datum Romae ex aedibus ad S. Sergium et Bacchum die et anno praedictis. 
But the first document, the one which we are now considering, concludes with none of these formalities.

I am not a canonist; and even if I were, I suspect that the date in 1908, before the completion of the magnificent Pietro Gasparri's codification of Canon Law, would throw up complexities even further beyond my competence. But to my completely untrained eye, it rather looks as though the Metropolitan presented to S Pius X, in his own handwriting, this request for such a faculty; and that the Sovereign Pontiff was unwilling to concede the gratia juridically, possibly in order not to set in place such a formal papal precedent. But, with his enormously pastoral heart, he was equally unwilling to send Metropolitan Andrew away empty handed, or to hinder his great mission; and so, with the authority of his own propria manus he intimated that the practice could be tolerated. I speculate that Metropolitan Andrew had these papers printed for circulation to members of his clergy.

Our conclusion? That S Pius X did not consider the very possibility of such communicatio in sacris with Russian Orthodox to be completely intolerable. I venture a further conclusion: that some who decry all of the provisions of the post-1950s Magisterium with regard to ecumenical relationships do not quite appear to have S Pius X 100% on their side. 'Tradition' is a broader concept than 'How I'm almost sure things were in grandma's time'; and Benedict XIV and S Pius X are big parts of that Tradition. Particularly Benedict XIV, but ... ah well, you must forgive me my little foibles ...

21 November 2014

Bishop Fellay

Bishop Fellay's latest letter, dated today, has interesting features.

I think that the impact of members of the SSPX upon the wider Traditionalist constituency in the Church has sometimes, in the past, been considerably diminished by a tendency to speak in tones which, whether rightly or wrongly, many ears perceive as sounding schismatic. This is particularly true when an impression is given that it is very important indeed to keep expressing a totally negative view of Vatican II. And when appeals are made to a Platonic idea of 'Catholic Rome' which seem designed to exclude all possibility of engagement with the actual Rome.

Today's letter takes two of Joseph Ratzinger's most remarkable passages and makes them the basis of an interesting analysis of the position of the Church in the modern world.

If, in the past, you have avoided reading anything that emerged from the Society, you might well feel that this letter merits breaking your rule! It seems to me an interesting contribution to a very topical debate. I can see only one half of a sentence which some might feel it would have been tactful not to include.

And, incidentally, instead of ranting indiscriminately against the Novus Ordo (as the SSPX sometimes has given the impression of doing), it acutely puts its finger on the centrally questionable feature of that rite: the provision of alternative Eucharistic Prayers. Exactly. I wonder if Bishop Fellay has seen the Ordinariate Ordo Missae?

November 21: Our Lady of Light, 1924, and Unitatis Redintegratio, 1964

Ninety years ago to this day, on the Feast of the Presentation of our Lady, November 21 1924, in the little Anglo-Catholic mining village of S Hilary in Cornwall, where Fr Bernard Walke so heroically worked and suffered to establish the Faith, one of his collaborators had a remarkable vision. Mother Theresa, Foundress of the Franciscan Servants of Jesus and Mary, describes it:
"We were preparing to go to church as usual just before 9 p.m.. It was a dark misty night, there was no moon and the stars were not showing at all. As I came down the stairs from my bedroom, I saw through a long window on the landing that there was a great glow of light shining all round the house and lighting up the fields beyond the house. My first thought was that there must be a fire somewhere, though the light was not red but white, and I called to Emma to come out with me to see from where it was coming. We went out of the front door, which opened straight on to a lane, and stood in the middle of the lane to see better.
"At the side of the house there was a gigantic figure, veiled and crowned in a dazzling, perfectly still light. The figure seemed to reach from the sky down to the ground. It was the figure of a woman but we saw no features, the face, as well as the rest of the figure, was veiled in the pure light. We could see the other's faces and the hedges in the lane, and the fields beyond the lane, quite clearly in this light. The figure did not move at all, though we stood silently watching it for nearly ten minutes, It was still there when we left and walked up to the church, but there was no sign of it when we returned in about three quarters of an hour. We did not speak, either that night or for a long time after, to one another about what we had seen.
"I think, while I was looking at the figure, I did not reflect at all on what I saw. I hardly even wondered at it, I watched with a great sense of quietness within myself and with no surprise. Afterwards, while we were praying in church, there came into my mind and soul a certainty that what we had seen concerned our Lady and must have been an apparition of her ... "

I think the most remarkable thing about this is that our Lady said nothing. There is Light: but there is nothing here of all the daily chatter and bustle reported from Medjugorje; instead, there is Silence! I am powerfully reminded of the Byzantine liturgical texts for our Lady's Presentation, with their incessant emphasis on the theme of Light. And we recall  another Byzantine perception, which links the sojourn of the Mother of God in the Temple with the hesychast ('silent') tradition of prayer. Yet I think it unlikely that the Cornish experience was a product of subconscious memories because I know of no evidence that Mother Foundress was a student of things Byzantine. Surely, it truly was Mary, Queen of Athos, the exemplar of hesychia, the prayer of Silence, who came to that Cornish lane in a great veil of Light, on this her Feast of Light and of Silence, and said nothing, and stood in silent prayer, and gave her Son's gift of Silence ('... perfectly still Light ... the figure did not move ... we stood silently ... I watched with a sense of great quietness ...'). The messages the Mother of God brings when her Son sends her among us do not always have to be verbal.

Oh dear ... I suppose this account raises the possibly contentious question of Appearances of our Lady to those not in full canonical communion with the See of Peter. The Catholic Church has never taught that such appearances are to be denied. Unitatis Redintegratio (3) teaches ...ex elementis seu bonis, quibus simul sumptis ipsa Ecclesia aedificatur et vivificatur, quaedam immo plura et eximia exstare possunt extra visibilia Ecclesiae catholicae saepta ... haec omnia, quae a Christo proveniunt et ad Ipsum conducunt, ad unicam Christi Ecclesiam iure pertinent (many of the good things by which the Church is built up can exist outside her visible boundaries, and they by right belong to her). This was far from an innovation in teaching; it expresses what had for centuries been Catholic praxis, as I tried to suggest yesterday in the enquiry which I hope to conclude tomorrow. As another proof of this I can cite the fact that Eastern Catholic calendars today include liturgical commemorations of graces bestowed through the hands of the Mediatrix of All Graces extra visibilia Ecclesiae catholicae saepta. Subject to correction, I see no reason not to accept, as a private opinion, the probable authenticity of such reported visions. The Church, of course, reserves to herself the authoritative judgement about such matters ... both within her visibilia saepta and outside them.

I will dare to go further. It seems to me that the powerful converging arguments for the authenticity of such an Apparition as this on a day such as this afford support to the teaching of Vatican II, about the authenticity of the Lord's gifts outside the visible boundaries of His Church; gifts which are graces truly belonging to the Church herself.

The Franciscan Servants of Jesus and Mary now have only one Sister still maintaining the Rule at Posbury St Francis. I wonder, with some sadness, what will happen in the next generation to the Altar and Statue of our Lady of Light in the Convent Chapel there.

20 November 2014


I think that's the phrase Father Zed Archiblogopoios uses for the sort of items I'm going to mention ....

Firstly: as well as some more superb pictures of the waterfront at Margate, Fr Tim has given us another picture of his immensely photogenic Lady Chapel. He really has fallen on his feet, lucky man!! (And he's a bit of a tease: the photograph is so angled that one cannot be sure whether there are three altar cards or only one ...)

And, a close second, there is the Gloria TV* (last summer, I met some of the splendid young people involved in Gloria) video of il Cardinale volante, il vice Papa (see my post of November 8) celebrating Pontifical High Mass in Vienna. Fantastic! Twenty minutes before you even get to the Iudica me Deus!!! I'm almost sure I spotted, in the congregation, the Professor Thomas Stark whom I also met in Italy last summer, and Fr Markus Doppelbauer, priest of the Diocese of Vaduz, a considerable ironist.

God appears to be in his heaven, and all to be right with the world! Trebles all round, as they say in Private Eye!

* And it's on Rorate.


I share the view that we should look at a broader background than Unitatis Redintegratio of Vatican II, considered in isolation, if we desire a Catholic and 'Traditional' account of "Ecumenism". The following roughs out some lines of thought which I have been considering, based upon evidence. (I am not really interested in opinions which are evidentially unbased.) Please regard it as inchoate; please understand that it is intended less to assert than to ask.

The Roman See has not always treated Oriental groups seeking Full Communion as if they were merely groups of individual schismatics some of whom happened to possess technically 'valid' Orders. The Oriental bishops at Florence were, surely, treated as having real status as Patriarchs and Bishops. As late as Vatican I, dissident Oriental bishops were sent invitations to the Council*. When the Melkite Patriarchate of Antioch regularised its position with Rome in the early 18th century, I know no evidence that its hierarchy was granted jurisdiction. Benedict XIV (Demandatam caelitus) assured Cyril VI and his bishops: "We have no other intention ... but that the due obedience of your people and your authority and jurisdiction over them shall be kept whole and entire ... We wish all the rights, privileges, and free jurisdiction of Your Fraternities to remain intact". Indeed, there is evidence that, in the period before the definitive restoration  of Full Communion, Jesuits working within the Patriarchate of Antioch had treated all Melkite bishops as the local Ordinaries.

Perhaps surprisingly, even the 1917 Code of Canon Law ... yes, I did say 1917 ... permitted the faithful to seek the Sacraments from an excommunicate ministers "ex qualibet iusta causa" (i.e. not necessarily even "ex gravi causa"; vide 2261 para 2). In the first part of the twentieth century, Latin theologians advanced differing interpretations of the de facto acceptance by Rome of jurisdiction (for example, to absolve) within Orthodox communities (at the end of Lumen Gentium, among the Notificationes appended by the Docrinal Commission, we find an admission that "variae exstant sententiae" among theologians "quod attinet ad potestatem quae de facto apud Orientales seiunctos exercetur".) It would be difficult to sustain a claim that, according to Catholic Tradition, ecclesiastical jurisdiction only authentically exists in full canonical unity with the See of Rome.

Perhaps the evidence is even stronger with regard to the Patriarchate of Moskow. After all, spats between Rome and Constantinople went back to the first millennium, while Rome and Moskow had always been rather more cut off from each other (did the Russian Church formally denounce the decrees of Florence in the 1480s?). The fabulously erudite Benedictine Orientalist Jean-Baptiste-Francois Pitra, Cardinal Bishop of Frascati and Archivist of the Holy Roman Church, took the view that the separation between Rome and Moskow was neither juridical nor formal; a view shared not only by the maverick Russian Orthodox lay theologian Vladimir Soloviev but also, significantly, by the great Ukrainian Greek Catholic Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytsky. Metropolitan Andrew was what the early Latin Christians called a Confessor: one who witnessed to Christ with the offer of his life but was never called to shed his blood. During the course of his heroic life, in which he saw the insides of many prisons, he was an indefatigable worker, not only for his own flock, but also for the unity of all Christians of the Byzantine Rite with the See of S Peter. He dealt with Russian Orthodox in ways that accorded ill with the views of some tidy-minded Latins. There survives a printed document copies of which he presumably handed out to Ukrainian Confessors ...

I shall deal with it, Deo volente, in a day or two's time.
*Bishop C Butler wrote "It is possible to argue, and has been argued from the Roman Catholic side, that 'schism' was never formally consummated between these two great communions".

Benedict XIV reminded us, in general terms, that we cannot definitively deny the propriety of any sacramental sharing, because the Catholic Church grants dispensations for mixed marriages ... in which, according to Western theology, the two ministers of the Sacrament belong to different communions.

19 November 2014

Stir up Sunday

As all right-thinking people will know, next Sunday is really Excita Sunday and ought to have a Green Mass and Office.

I will go further and explain that the really traditional way of celebrating this day is with Sarum and the other medieval English 'uses' (partially reproduced, of course, in the Book of Common Prayer). In this rite, we used an Epistle (well, actually, a Lesson from Jeremiah) and a Gospel (from S John) which both moved around a bit in the Middle Ages but pretty well always came just before or just at the start of Advent, as a taster and a preliminary for that season. Their loss is an impoverishment in the Missal of S Pius V. I will explain the importance of these readings in the words of Abbot Rupert of Deutz (1075- 1129) - a considerable mystagogue. I believe that we can learn from his words about what Scripture and the Tradition teach concerning the redemption of our Jewish brethren, in greater detail than we can learn it from Nostra aetate.

Holy Church is so intent on paying her debt of supplication, and prayer, and thanksgiving, for all men, as the Apostle demands, that we find her giving thanks also for the salvation of the children of Israel, who, she knows, are one day to be united with her. And, as their remnants are to be saved at the end of the world, so, on this last Sunday of the Year, she delights at having them, just as though they were already her members! In the Introit, calling to mind the prophecies concerning them, she sings each year: I think thoughts of peace and not of affliction. Verily, his thoughts are those of peace, for he promises to admit to the banquet of his grace, the Jews, who are his brethren according to the flesh; thus realising what had been prefigured in the history of the patriarch Joseph. The brethren of Joseph, having sold him, came to him, when they were tormented by hunger; for then he ruled over the whole land of Egypt; he recognised them, he received them, and made, together with them, a great feast; so too, our Lord who is reigning over the whole earth, and is giving the bread of life, in abundance, to the Egyptians, (that is, to the gentiles), will see coming to him the remnants of the children of Israel. He, whom they had denied and put to death, will admit them to his favour, will give them a place at his table, and the true Joseph will feast delightedly with his brethren.

The benefit of this divine table is signified, in the office of this Sunday, by the Gospel, which tells us of the Lord's feeding the multitude with five loaves. For it will be then that Jesus will open to the Jews the five books of Moses, which are now being carried whole and not yet broken - yea, carried by a child, that is to say, this people itself, who, up to that time, will have been cramped up in the narrowness of a childish spirit.

Then will be fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremias, which is so aptly placed before this gospel: They shall no more say, The Lord liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, but, The Lord liveth, which brought up, and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north-country,and from all countries whither I have driven them.

Thus delivered from the spiritual bondage which still holds them, they will sing with their heart, the words of thanksgiving as we have them in the Gradual: It is thou, O Lord, that savest us from our enemies!

The words we use in the Offertory: Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord, clearly allude to the same events; for, on that day, his brethren will say to the great and true Joseph: We beseech thee to forget the wickedness of thy brethren! The Communion: Verily I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and it shall be done unto you, is the answer made by that same Joseph, as it was by the first: Fear not! Ye thought evil against me: but God turned it into good, that he might exalt me, as at present ye see, and might save many people. Fear not, therefore, I will feed you, and your children.
(The Reading is Jeremiah 23:5 ff; the Gospel, John 6: 5 ff, is the Feeding of the Five Thousand. My translations of the propers are taken from the Book of Common Prayer and the good old English Missal.)

This is a superb exposition, in the patristic 'typological' idiom, of an important theme in Pauline eschatology - see Romans 9-11. There is significance, I suspect, in the fact that modern lectionaries delicately step around this theme: the Eschatological Submission of the Jews to the Call of Christ. 

Sometimes I feel that, despite the call for a "richer table of Scripture" in Sacrosanctum concilium, the Scriptures read to the People of God have in some respects, paradoxically, been made conceptually narrower in the post-conciliar books.

18 November 2014

Culture and Taste

I accidentally heard an immensely Tasteful and very Cultured programme on the Beeb about Durham Cathedral. It pulled out all the stops. There was music; history; poetry; a truly wonderful Cultural celebration of that amazing building. And, when I say amazing, I am not exaggerating. I can still remember the first time that, walking along the Thames embankment, I saw the Baroque accumulation of buildings at Greenwich. Similarly, I will never forget when first I saw Durham, its Cathedral, its Castle. There can be few places in the world where architecture so combines with landscape to make such a statement.

In this Tasteful and Cultural radio programme, I heard so much marvellous and evocative stuff. About the monument to England's worst ever mining disaster and the miners' galas; about the monks carrying there the body of S Cuthbert; about the Chapel of the Durham Light Infantry; about the Scots captives locked in and starved to death after the Battle of Dunbar in 1650; about the great embracing forest of deeply chiseled Romanesque columns; about the emaciated faces of the Green Men in bosses; about the pre-Christian as well as the Christian; about the 'simplicity' of the lives of its early Saints. I heard snatches of plainchant to remind me of the monks. We were invited to have an intelligent opinion about whether the marked line beyond which women were not allowed to go should be discerned as Exclusive or Inclusive. And the narrator's reverential, deferential, tones never violated the respect due to such a building. Awe was made audible.

Amongst all the history and literature, only once was there a very slight allusion ... so fugitively allusive that you'd miss it it if you weren't looking for it ... to the reason why that building was built at all. I mean: the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The voracious anthologist who put the programme together, apparently, did not notice, or certainly failed to understand, the heart of the building, the High Altar. As she walked behind the Shrine of S Cuthbert, she did not see, or did not understand, the great expanse of the Chapel of the Nine Altars with its ... well ...  nine altars. The Cathedral, you could be forgiven for concluding, is an incredible building in which there happens to be an unaccountably large number of pieces of table-like furniture which, even in combination, even in their strange, repetitive profusion, do not even begin to add up to Something which a Cultivated person of Taste might deign to notice, still less to mention.

The title of the programme was Something understood.

17 November 2014

The local Calendar

This week we really are at home, here at Oxford, in the Divine Office. Yesterday, we had S Edmund of Abingdon, here both as an undergraduate and later as a don; his feast was a Double of the First Class, superseding the Sunday. Incidentally, in the old Breviary it gave us an opportunity, all the more welcome for being so rare, to read at Mattins a passage by that admirable example of the Anglican Patrimony, Nicolas Harpsfield. Harpsfield's Historia Ecclesiastica was written while he was imprisoned by Henry Tudor's bastard daughter Elizabeth. A (Wyccamical) member of this University, and a protege of S Thomas More who spent the bad days at Louvain, he had flourished (and was very effective) as Cardinal Pole's Archdeacon of Canterbury. He was elected Prolocutor of the "Great Convocation" of 1559, which, in the very days when Elizabeth Tudor's Parliament in Westminster was busy 'abolishing' the Mass and the Pope, met down the river in London and courageously upheld in its Five Articles both the Mass and the Petrine Ministry. In a typical final stroke of public witness, Harpsfield held a last Corpus Christi procession through Canterbury in 1559, surrounded by vast crowds of the devout (on June 9; the Act of Uniformity took effect on June 24). He was not part-time either as a Catholic or as a scholar.

Today, we have S Hugh of Lincoln (which diocese medieval Oxford lay within); who certainly consecrated the church of S Giles in this city in 1200, and very probably also the rather smaller chapel at Oseney of S Thomas the Martyr (medieval episcopal registers show reforming bishops of this era going on progress through their vast sprawling dioceses, accompanied by waggon trains of chaplains, altar stones, relics, and oil stocks, consecrating churches which had been accumulating for generations unconsecrated). On the occasion of this visit to Oxford, he instituted the Giler*, still the largest fair in England, which at the beginning of September 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 today's old rite Mattins readings] Rosamund Clifford, had been buried in the sanctuary of Godstow Priory and had become something of a popular shrine (this popular adulation post mortem of an unchaste royal glamour-puss is curiously redolent of the bizarre cultus of Diana Spencer). Accordingly, he ordered that it 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, nobody is much surprised if a Prince of Wales actually goes through a form of marriage with his paelex. An Archbishop of Canterbury will 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 = Quagger; etc.. Soccer (for AsSOCiation Football) survives nationally. University terminology isn't what it was; the days when 'undergraduates' referred to the "Varsity" have now given way to a culture in which 'students' (who would never recognise a respublica litterarum if it hit them in the face) talk about "going to Yewnnee". Perhaps there is a Platonic idea of Yewnnee-Varsity from which both usages disiunctim derive?

** I wonder if S Hugh wrote Latin Elegiacs? Some phrases survive of an inscription in that metre on her tomb, which, in deference to those who think there's been too much Latin on this blog recently, 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". (An old Byzantine monk once dyspeptically commented, after some fashionable ladies had visited his monastery, "The Saints used to stink during their earthly lives, but their relics smell very sweet. Worldly people smell very sweet now, but when they die they'll stink". Truly beautiful harmonia in the twin Lungs of the Church, yes? Is this the sort of thing that Ecumenism is really all about?)

16 November 2014

An Encyclical (2)

Among points which we might expect an Encyclical to expound, there are a number which relate to the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.
(1) It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name;
(2) It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication, that such persons as have not the the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ's body.
(3) It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.
(4) It was ordained to join together a man and a woman.
(5) It was ordained to last as long as they both shall live.

These causes are incapable of being varied by Popes, Ecumenical Councils, Synods, Cardinals, Germans, Bishops, priests, Judges, Presidents, or Legislatures, because they are inscribed within the very nature of Man. This needs to be made explicit.

The teachings de Usu Matrimonii of Pius XI and B Paul VI should be repeated, together with appropriate sections from Veritatis Splendor para 80 (which usefully includes Gaudium et Spes para 27).

In order to clarify the finality of the judgements given, it would be edifying if the Encyclical cited the Decree of Vatican I Pastor aeternus (particularly the words Faith and Morals); and included sentences with the verb definimus; and summarised its teaching in pithy little sentences beginning Si quis dixerit or Si quis negaverit, and concluding Anathema sit.

To comfort those to whom there seemed here to be new burdens, it could conclude by defining that the Mother of God is Mediatrix of All Graces (perhaps, in order to mark the ecumenical significance of the proceedings, this last could be done in Greek using the words of the great Hesychast Doctor S Gregory Palamas).

There. I've done all the work myself, really, haven't I? The whole thing could be solemnly promulgated next Easter Sunday, with the entire world-wide episcopate present to affirm (Placetne vobis, Fratres Venerabiles? PLACET! PLACET!! PLACET!!!), sphragizein, and subscribe it. Our beloved Holy Father would go down in the annals of Papal History as one of a very small handful of the most doctrinally significant Roman Pontiffs.

15 November 2014

An Encyclical? (1)

I have several times recently expressed my view that an essential role of the Roman Pontiff is to guard the truth handed down from the Apostles and to act as a breakwater against innovatory error. Benedict XVI expressed this brilliantly and so did B John Henry Newman. It is the teaching of Vatican I Pastor aeternus.

At a time when some doctrinal errors about matters of Family Morality seem to be spiking the decibels, I presume that our Holy Father must be planning, as a matter of urgency, a major Encyclical in order to correct them. He has certainly not been mute in reaffirming the timeless teaching of the Church, but this is not the sort of thing the Media easily hear and relay ... not least because it does not slot into the rather constraining narrative which they have constructed with regard to this Pope. What is necessary is Magisterium laid on with a sufficiently generous trowel so as actually to get heard. What gardeners and builders among us might think of as an encyclical trowel.

I know Encyclicals take a lot of time because they have to go through the relevant dicasteries. And then get translated into Latin, which not many people in Rome understand nowadays. But I do hope it can be done as soon as possible, and preferably before the next Synod. At the moment, it almost looks as if there is some sort of vacatio legis with regard to important parts of the moral Law. This has all happened before. In April 1967, The Tablet, Le Monde, and The National Catholic Reporter published simultaneously the full texts of documents which were very plausibly taken to indicate the strong likelihood that 'the Pill' would be declared morally unobjectionable, thus bringing Rome more or less into line with the 1930 Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops. In the year before Humanae vitae emerged, this expectation had hardened into rigid assumption. We don't want something like that to happen again, do we? It would be thoroughly scandalous and a most grave abuse of Christ's faithful people.

The persona so skilfully constructed around the present Pope has the potential to be very useful. People are more prepared to listen to him than they have been to any pope for a long time. But that persona can hardly be an end in itself. It can only be coin to be spent rather than hoarded. Francis himself talked about a "two or three year" papacy. Surely the time has just about come, in this next twelve months, to utilise, to call in, the credit accrued by the Bergoglio persona. When Pope Francis finally dishes it out straight and heavy, the journalists ... and the gullible multitudes who swallow what they're told ... won't be able just to say "Well, he would say that, would'n 'e?" This is not a pontiff of whom it will be so easy for crooked journalists to explain that he graduated from the Hitler Youth via the Panzers to the Inquisition. They will doubtless dream up a substitute narrative lie, probably about how a 'good and loving' Pope Francis has been 'bullied' by 'hardliners' in the Vatican (a sort of new "Prisoner of the Vatican" story); but at least the Gospel message will have forced its way out into the open.

When Cardinal Kasper was going around claiming that Pope Francis shared his own rather eccentric views, Cardinal Burke informed the world that "The Pope doesn't have laryngitis; the Pope is not mute". Good!
Plura d.v. sequentur.