10 August 2022

PF, Evelyn Waugh, and Humanae Vitae

 Uncanny ... the way my topography overlaps that of Waugh, although not, of course, simultaneously. He was at the College where I spent nearly three decades teaching ... he and I were at the same undergraduate College ... he was married in the Church which is now the Ordinariate Church in London ... he loathed the destruction of the authentic Roman Rite (although he died before the worst of its corruption was engineered) ...

As PF, reportedly, sits huddled over the draft of his intended document destroying Humanae vitae, I recall a jolly passage from Waugh'ss novel Black Mischief, written in 1932, not long after he became a Catholic.

It is situated on an imaginary island in the Indian Ocean, called Azania, which is portrayed as enduring 1930s-style 'Modernity'. 

" ... the Emperor assimilated the various books that had arrived for him by the last mail. Worst of all, the pageant of birth control was proving altogether more trouble than it was worth; in spite of repeated remonstrances ... it continued to occupy the the mind of the Emperor in precedence of all other interests. He had already renamed the site of the Anglican Cathedral, Place Marie Stopes

"'Heaven knows what will happen if he ever discovers psycho-analysis,' remarked Basil, gloomily foreseeeing a Boulevard Kraft-Ebing, an Avenue Oedipus and a pageant of coprophagists ..."

Yes ... even that unseemly preoccupation of PF!!

Black Mischief was viciously attacked by a periodical called The Tablet.


9 August 2022

Roma liberanda Papa Rex (2)

Some little while ago, a kind Canadian benefactor sent me a book ... small, as we say, but perfectly formed ... which set me thinking about the Temporal Power of the Papacy. It was a reissue of a book by Dom Martial Besse (1861-1920) about Mgr Louis-Francois-Desire-Edouard Pie, Cardinal Bishop of Poitiers (1815-1880). (Le Cardinal Pie Sa Vie Son Action religieuse et Sociale; Edition de Chire). I commend it to anyone who can muddle through a little French and is mindful of C S Lewis's wise advice that one should never read another new book until one has read three old ones.

"The temporal Government of the Vicar of Jesus Christ is, in effect, the very nearly unique refuge of orthodox polity (la politique orthodoxe). What a triumph for Hell, if this last fortress of Christian Order (le droit chretien) were broken and overturned." Pie sees in such sacrilegious enterprises as the Piedmontese and Garibaldian aims of uniting Italy "a supreme effort of the Revolution and of Hell to introduce the principles of 1789 in the whole of Italy and even in the States of the Church, to the end that the church would no longer have the thought, the possibility of re-establishing the principles of Christian Order among the nations".

I suppose most of us would defend the establishment of the Vatican City-State as a useful way of preserving the independence of the Church from any secular state. It was certainly useful in WW2. But it had never occurred to me to see in it any deeper purpose. Which means, I suppose, that I am less wise than so many of those builders of Europe, both in its West and in its East, who understood just a little of the meaning of the Kingship of Christ. I gather Cardinal Pie has not been totally forgotten in France; perhaps he deserves to be better known this side of the water. Perhaps Fr George Bampfield and his Papal Zouaves were not so stupid.

Not surprisingly, Victor Emmanuel complained to Napoleon III, who had one of his ministers pass the complaint on to Poitiers, and who spoke personally about it to the future Cardinal. But Pie was not to be silenced; he spoke movingly at the funeral of Papal Zouaves who died defending the rights of the Holy See; he saw meaning in the person of the de jure Henry V.

Who, some people say, could have had his throne if he had been prepared to accept the revolutionary tricolore.

Would that have been a proper sacrifice to make?

8 August 2022

Roma liberanda Papa Rex (1)

The college, founded in 1848, in which I taught for so long was, unaccountably, accused in its early days of being popish; possibly because the Founder Nathaniel Woodard insisted on Confession before the reception of Holy Communion. To be fair, it is true that some of his younger collaborators did go off and become Catholics ... especially a young man called George Bampfield. And he was very popish.

As a Catholic priest, Fr Bampfield founded a number of Catholic schools in which his inculcation of the Faith was mingled with an inculcation of deep personal affection for Blessed Pio Nono. As a young priest Bampfield had been to Rome "to drink of Catholicity at its fountain head" and "had the happiness of kneeling at the feet of Pio Nono". After enlarging his church at Barnet he reopened it on the day of the Sovereign Pontiff's Episcopal Jubilee, and commemorated the occasion in stained glass. His autobiography [written in the third person] relates that "Not only once, but throughout the history of the schools, affection and reverence for the Holy Father had been inculcated and practised continually. So when the death [of B Pius IX] was announced, there was a solemn Requiem in the Church, to which the boys marched in sad procession, headed by the band playing the Dead March in Saul. Even the youngest must have felt that he had lost a friend, and, indeed, this was the truth".

One of the Prize Poems written by a pupil was entitled 'The Prisoner of the Vatican'; and a significant day came in 1874 with "a presentation of colours, worked by the Ladies Howard, sisters of the Duke of Norfolk, to St Andrew's Regiment of Papal Zouaves, for be it known that the boys were devoted to the Pope; that they marched, with band playing and colours flying, to church every Sunday, and that their drum bore the Papal arms and the regimental motto, Roma liberanda, Papa Rex".

You will not need me to tell you that Fr Bampfield had been under the influence of Fr Faber; and how the accounts of his doings bring to life the perfervid papalism of that era. How difficult it is to empathise with it now! To think that there were people who went around advocating that the Temporal Power of the Papacy be defined as a dogma of the Faith! Thank goodness we have moved on to a more balanced papalism!

But I wonder if this is quite the whole story. Perhaps there might be a rather more nuanced interpretation of the narrative.
Bampfield was the model for Fr Barham in Trollope's The Way We Live Now. To be continued.

7 August 2022


For the next ten days or so, I shall be teaching the LMS Latin Course and then visiting Family. Every day, God Willing, I shall put something on the blog, but I shall not read Comments which may be offered ... or emails.

The Eucharist as a societal paradigm (2)

Dom Gregory Dix continues: " But the eucharist is not a mere symbolic mystery representing the right ordering of earthly life, though it is that incidentally and as a consequence. It is the representative act of a fully redeemed human life. This perfected society is not an end in itself, but is consciously and wholly directed to the only end which can give meaning and dignity to human life - the eternal God and the loving and conscious obedience of man in time to His known will. There the eternal and absolute value of each individual is affirmed by setting him in the most direct of all earthly relations with the eternal and absolute Being of God; though it is thus affirmed and established only through his membership of the perfect society. There the only means to that end is proclaimed and accepted and employed - man's redemption through the personal sacrifice of Jesus Christ at a particular time and place in human history, communicated to us at other times and places through the church which is the 'fulfilment' of Him. That is the eucharist. Over against the dissatisfied 'Acquisitive Man' and his no less avid successor the dehumanised 'Mass-Man' of our economically focussed societies insecurely organised for time, christianity sets the type of 'Eucharistic Man' - man giving thanks with the product of his labours upon the gifts of God, and daily rejoicing with his fellows in the worshipping society which is grounded in eternity. This is man to whom it was promised on the night before Calvary that he should henceforth eat and drink at the table of God and be a king. That is not only a more joyful and more humane ideal. It is the divine and only authentic conception of the the meaning of all human life, and its realisation is in the eucharist."

6 August 2022

The Eucharist as a societal paradigm (1)

"In this period of the disintegration and attempted reconstruction of thought about our secular society [1943], the individual's relation to society and his need for and securing of material things are the haunting problems of the age. There is a christian pattern of a solution which is expressed for us and by us at the eucharist. There the individual is perfectly integrated in society, for there the individual christian only exists as a christian individual inasmuch as he is fully exercising his own function in the christian society. There his need of and utter dependence upon material things even for 'the good life' in this world is not denied or even ascetically repressed, but emphasised and met. Yet his needs are met from the resources of the whole society, not by his own self-regarding provision. But there the resources of the society are nothing else but the total substance freely offered by each of its members for all. There, too, is displayed a true hierarchy of functions within a society organically adapted to a single end, together with a complete equality of recompense."

Dom Gregory Dix's words may remind others of my generation of the trajectory explored, under titles like "The Eucharist as a paradigm of a Socialist Society", by Terry Eagleton and his associates back in the 1960s in the Catholic-Marxist periodical Slant.

Dix, however, began his next paragraph with the word BUT. I will print it tomorrow.

5 August 2022

The Abbe Perdrau and our Lady

"The thought of Mary and of the Eucharist easily unite; they are connected with each other, so to speak, and are convertible terms. It is Mary who offers us the Divine Infant of Bethlehem; at the foot of the cross she presents us with the dead body of Jesus swathed in its shroud; at the Altar she gives it to us again enveloped in the Eucharistic linens.

"Is this not what the Church of God is thinking when it authorises us to chant before the Blessed Sacrament the beautiful sequence AVE VERUM: I salute thee, O Body, truly born of the Virgin Mary! Thus, at the moment when Jesus emerges from his tabernacle, the memory of Mary is revived in our souls, Mary appears to us like the monstrance in which the Saviour's Body shines. In fact, the Sacred Host is a present from the Blessed Virgin. S Augustine says so in four oft-quoted words: CARO IESU, CARO MARIAE ... The flesh of Jesus is the flesh of Mary. This Body, this Blood of Christ which upon the Altar becomes our food and drink, derive their origin from Mary. It is the substance of Mary which has become the substance of Jesus. Mary is one of the principal constituents of the Blessed Sacrament; she contributes thereto as the grain of wheat that is sown produces the ear of corn which itself forms the harvest."


A learned reader instructs me that the Abbe wrote a devotional account of our Lady's last days at Ephesus; and that his sister Pauline was a nun who painted a picture of the Mater admirabilis which was much admired by Pio Nono. It shows our Lady, unusually, with a distaff.

4 August 2022


For reasons which are obvious ... and boring ... I performed, in my Anglican days, very few "blessings" of Marriages.

But I did conduct one such event. Having satisfied myself that the couple had aready lawfully contracted the state of Matrimony, I allowed them to devise their own 'vows' for the subsequent 'Blessing' ... subject to my own scrutiny and appoval. (This devisal seemed to matter to them a great deal; I think they saw it as agreeably personal and individual ... unlike the official, formal, goings-on.)

When I saw their draft, I made clear that there was one element that I could not sanction, because it contradicted the Church's teaching on Marriage.

They were surprised when I revealed which piece of wording I deemed unacceptable.

It was the bit where they wished to speak about their love and their marriage being "eternal".

I explained that, in the Church's doctrine, their marriage would terminate when one (or both of them) died.

Matter here for thought ...

3 August 2022

"Only a game"

 When I was in my teens, an England cricket captain, Len Hutton, was made a Knight Bachelor. I well recall the heavy disdain in my Father's reaction to this announcement:

"It's only a game."

Since then, Sport has received an ever heavier emphasis in our public life. I have no doubt that honours galore, like muck being shovelled off the back of a lorry, will be onloaded onto everybody associated with "our" most recent Triumph: the winning by England of the European Women's Footie Championship. Important pigeonholes in Sports Personalityy Of The Year competitions are, one imagines, already booked. Who would dare ... ...

Much of the current hysteria, I quite simply fail to understand. The defeat of Germany by England, we are told, was an immense victory for Women and Girls. I presume these words are intended to mean something objective in the real world: but since both teams were composed exclusively of women, presumably ... whoever won ... it would have equally been a 'triumph for women' ... and ... Freddy Ayer, he say ... what cannot be falsified can hardly be safely affirmed.

And there were oddities ... such as this: one goal-scorer yanked off her shirt and ran around waving it (she was weaing a "sports bra"). A daft commentator expressed enormous pleasure because "She is doing exactly what the men do". I say no more.

But my main point is to ask what this hysteria for Sport really betokens.

What does it replace? 

What cultural phenomena does it express?

What is it hiding? 

2 August 2022

S Alfonso and Monkeypox ... Coprocracy rampant?

Our prayers and enthusiastically best wishes must on this feast be with the Papa Stronsay Redemptorists, and their brethren in New Zealand, who keep alive in our own time the charism of that great Doctor of the Church. I hope that today the Fathers and Brethren may be allowed some festive relaxation of their labours! Ad multos annos!!

Descending from the sublime to the depressing, I wonder how S Alfonso, a magnificent exponent of Catholic Moral Theology, would be ... well, is ... responding to the Monkeypox ... which appears to be another contribution to our culture from such promiscuous homosexuals as might not bother with Safe Sex. 

In a desire not to seem exclusively to condemn genitally active homosexuals, it is commonly suggested that we are all at risk of being infected by sexually transmitted diseases.

Really? A husband and wife neither of whom has ever had intercourse with anybody else? A homosexual couple neither of whom has ever had sexual contact with anybody else? And who have never injected drugs? 

Well, I suppose that anybody can catch Aids if they have a rogue GP who reuses dirty needles or if something goes wrong in the Blood Transfusion service, but what percentage of Aids (or monkeypox) sufferers falls into those categories?

It reminds me of hearing one of the advocates of the Libidinous Society saying that Sexually Transmitted Diseases are a risk for "everybody who is sexually active".

How far is that true for a couple neither of whom has ever had another sexual partner?

According to this fashionable linguistic usage, when a married couple neither of whom has ever had intercourse with anybody else get into bed together and make love, they do not qualify for the lofty modern status of being "sexually active". This is not even new. I recall an American series we had decades ago on TV called Cagney and Lacey in which ... for clarity ... we were informed that one of these constabular ladies was "married" while the other was "sexually active".

I think there should be a Dedicated Title for our elite and dominant Filthy Classes, I mean, for those who operate on the assumption, and are permitted relentlessly to promote in the Media the idea, that  everybody is automatically promiscuous.

 In the spirit of the lexicographical passions of the current pontificate, I suggest "the Coprocracy".

1 August 2022


I reprint, this morning, together with some of its original thread, an old blog post. It has even more force, I think, than when I originally posted it, because the CDF liturgical legislation of 2020 in effect encouraged this celebration among those who, so wisely, worship according to the immemorial Usus Authenticus of the Roman Rite.

Its crude elimination from the Novus Ordo emphasises the de facto anti-semitism of the mangled liturgical mess which PF has had the temerity to describe as the unicus Usus of the Roman Rite.

Well, this morning I put on red vestments and said the Mass of the Holy Maccabees: the seven pre-Christian Jewish brothers whose martyrdom, described in II Maccabees 7, reads so much like a preview of the acta of the Christian martyrs under the Roman Empire.

There is no strictly theological reason why we should not celebrate the saints of the Old Covenant liturgically; as Catholics we know that we are in organic continuity with the Jewish faithful remnant who did accept their God and Messiah. The practical reason why we do not have more 'Old Testament' saints in our Latin calendar lies in the the origin of our Sanctorale in the local cult of the martyrs: they were celebrated liturgically where their bodies were venerated. The relics of the Maccabees, of course, are indeed preserved in Rome. [I preserve, on the thread, a valuable comment appended by a Byzantine writer to an earlier piece of mine upon the Maccabees.]

But this admirable Feast did not make the cut in the post-Conciliar 'reforms'! Interestingly, the post-conciliar revisers of the Calendar have left us an account of their thinking. I translate [my italics]: "The memoria of the Holy Maccabees, although it is extremely ancient and almost universal, is left to particular calendars: until 1960 only their commemoration happened on the feast of S Peter ad Vincula; now indeed August 1 is the memoria of S Alfonso and, according to the rubrics, another memoria cannot be kept on the same day". The revisers know that this commemoration is of immemorial antiquity and amazing universality; they feel embarrassed and sheepish about abolishing it; they can't think of any defence to make for their actions, except to appeal to their own novel man-made liturgical dogma (which is out of continuity with the traditions of both East and West) that you mustn't combine celebrations. The fact that today's commemoration is unique in the Calendar of the Roman Rite had no power whatsoever to influence them. 

The totalitarian inflexibility of innovators! The triumph of blind self-imposed dogma over every indication of history, doctrine, and common sense!

There is a tiny but telling detail I can add here: the 'reformers' left the Maccabees "to particular calendars" ... this what they may have said ... but when they authorised, in 1973, Propers for the Liturgy of the Hours for the Clergy of Rome herself, the city where the relics of the Maccabees rest, they omitted these Holy Martyrs even from that Calendar (Prot. n. 928/72).

Today's Mass makes clear that the Maccabees are truly our martyrs who pray for us. It calls them the true brotherhood which followed Christ; who were proved by the testimony of Faith and found in Christ Jesu our Lord; who confessed the Son of God, whose Faith we hope to follow. Yet they died before the Incarnation! Because they followed the Torah! But Christ is the Wisdom, Word, and Torah of the Father, to whom they, in the only way possible before His Incarnation, did bear witness. (You might like to read, in Ratzinger's Jesus of Nazareth, the brilliant dialogue between Ratzinger and Rabbi Jacob Neusner, about the Sermon on the Mount.) 

Their liturgical commemoration by us does not imply the novel error that Jews now, after the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, are left outside his gracious call to share the redemption and the new covenant which he, the Incarnate Torah, brings to all mankind without racial distinction. It would not now be possible for a Jew to be deemed one of our martyrs because of an exclusive act of obedient witness to what the Incarnation rendered old and "fulfilled" (although S Edith Stein, killed propter odium Iudaeorum is a Patron of Europe). 

But this highly important commemoration reminds us of our continuity with the the Old Testament (just as the Canon of the Mass does in its daily reference to Abraham as our Patriarch), warning us against Marcionism. That beastly heresy was revived by the Nazified 'German Christians' of the 1930s.

How enthusiastic some German Christians seem to be, as age follows age, about clinging to the monstrous errors of the Zeitgeist

Today's celebration also witnesses against any sort of hint, however tiny, of racial prejudice against people of Jewish origin.

In the true descent which, as S Paul insistently teaches, is rooted in Faith, we are The Jews, true children of Abraham; and the Maccabees are among our most glorious martyrs.

Intercedant pro nobis.

31 July 2022

SEDEVACANTISM: only for new readers.

I don't want to bore faithful long-time readers of my effusions ... but (happily) new readers do keep turning up. To these I desire to make clear that it is my policy to decline to enable posts which assert or imply Sedevacantism.

I have often written on this distasteful subject, and my pieces can, I presume, be accessed by means of the Search Engine.

Two very brief pointers.

(1) Sedevacantism is the other side of the same coin as Ultrapapalism (Hyperbergoglioism?) expressed by a number of the undesirables who surround the Holy Father. In each case, there is the same erroneous major premise.

The Pope is a reliable teacher of the Faith;
Bergoglio is clearly not a reliable teacher of the Faith;
Therefore Bergoglio is not pope.

The Pope is a reliable teacher of the Faith;
Bergoglio is pope;
Therefore Bergoglio must be a reliable teacher of the Faith.


(2) Whichever of the many forms of sedevacantism you are tempted by, subject it to the Pope Honorius Test. He was condemned by an Ecumenical Council and anathematised by a successor. But can anyone produce any evidence that the Council, or any subsequent popes who condemned him, or any reputable ecclesistical writer, has ever argued that Honorius had ceased to be Pope at the moment when he acted heretically?

Both the Council, and the Pope who confirmed the condemnation it decreed, anathematised him well after his death. They did not say that he fell from office during his lifetime.

Whether or not you like Bergoglio, he is, beyond any shadow of doubt, the Pope.