29 January 2015

Quare lacrymae of Pope Pius VI

Read it on The Josias.

Carolus quoque Stuart propter odium fidei martyrium subiit. Ille ergo ...


(1) "The decrees of the Vatican Council give not even the shadow of a foundation to the assertion that the pope has been made by them an absolute ruler (principem absolutum), and, indeed, by virtue of the Infallibility, "a monarch more absolute than any in the world". ...  even as far as concerns ecclesiastical matters, the pope cannot be called an absolute monarch (monarchus absolutus), since indeed he is subject to Divine Law and is bound to those things which Christ set in order (disposuit) for His Church. He cannot change the constitution (constitutionem) of the Church which was given to it by its Divine Founder, after the manner of a civil legislator who can change the constitution of the state. The constitution of the Church in all essential matters is founded in the divine arrangement (ordinatione) and is therefore immune from every arbitrary human disposition." (Denzinger 3114)

(2) "Venerable Brethren, you have continued the glory of the Church, since you have undertaken to restore the genuine sense of the definitions of the Vatican Council which had been twisted by the deceptive interpretation publicised by a certain circular letter, lest it deceive the faithful and, converted into an object of ill-will, appear to provide a handle to machinations being placed in the way of the freedom of election of a new pontiff. Indeed, such is the perspicuity and solidity of your declaration, that, since it leaves nothing to be desired, it ought to provide the occasion for our most fulsome congratulations; unless the crafty (versuta) voice of some journals were to demand from us an even weightier testimony - a voice which, in order to restore the force of the letter which has been refuted by you, has tried to deprive your hard work of credibility by arguing that the teaching of the conciliar definitions approved by you has been softened and on that account does not truly correspond with the mind of this Apostolic See. We therefore reject this sly (vafram) and dodgy (calumniosam) insinuation and suggestion; since your declaration expresses the inherent (nativam) catholic judgement, which is accordingly that of the sacred Council and of this Holy See, skilfully fortified and cleverly (nitide) explained with such brilliant (luculentis) and inescapable arguments (rationum momentis) that it can demonstrate to any honest person that there is nothing in the attacked definitions which is new or makes any change ..." (Denzinger 3117)

Let me explain. (1) is part of the response of the German Hierarchy to Chancellor Bismarck, who, after the definition of Papal Infallibility in 1870, had attacked it as being subversive both of State and of Church. The German Bishops thus vigorously refuted the notion that the Pope is an absolute monarch who can do anything.

Their admirable declaration was then attacked on the grounds that they were toning down what Papal Primacy and Infallibility really meant; that their motive in doing so was simply to calm things down in Germany; that Rome itself was angry with them.

(2) is part of the message of Blessed Pius IX to the German Bishops, confirming their interpretation of the Council. And there is nothing niggardly about his approbation of their words! Even Pio Nono, despite his undeserved reputation, had no notion of the arbitrary, absolutist, and despotic view of the Papacy which is held ... but only when it suits them! ... by modern liberals enthusiastic about promoting innovatory agendas.


 In the light of (1) and (2), let us now consider the centrally important paragraph by which S John Paul II, in his brief document Ordinatio sacerdotalis, condemned the idea of women priests.

"Ut igitur omne dubium auferatur circa rem magni momenti, quae ad ipsam Ecclesiae divinam constitutionem pertinet ... declaramus Ecclesiam facultatem nullatenus habere ordinationem sacerdotalem mulieribus conferendi, hancque sententiam ab omnibus Ecclesiae fidelibus esse definitive tenendam."

The Holy Pontiff thus unambiguously declares that the inability of the Church to ordain women is a matter which "pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself". The language he uses is a clear allusion to (1) above. Indeed, we know that Cardinal Ratzinger, who presumably drafted this passage, had (1) very much in his mind: you will recall his famous condemnation of the "Spirit of Vatican II" error that the Pope is an absolute monarch who, especially if acting upon the mandate of a ecumenical council, can do anything.

I hope this simple clarification may be of assistance to anybody who finds him/herself obliged to oppose the idea that 'WO' is a matter which is up for any discussion other than that of further demonstrating the coherence of the Holy Pontiff's teaching with the general body of Catholic doctrine. To argue for this aberration would be an assault, not merely upon the infallible Ordinary Magisterium of the Universal Church which S John Paul here declares, but upon the very wise limitations with which Vatican I surrounded its teaching on the Papacy ... "the Holy Spirit was not promised to the popes so that they could disclose new doctrine but so that they can guard the Deposit of Faith handed down from the Apostles."
Ordinatio sacerdotalis declared that the Church nullatenus has the facultas to ordain women. The sense of these two Latin words is important. Facultas comes from the root of facere, to do; and has a general sense of the wherewithal, the means, to do, to effect something. To say that the Church lacks the facultas to ordain women is like saying that a man with an empty purse does not have the facultas to to give a sovereign to a beggar; a man without a membrum virile does not have the facultas to perform sexual intercourse. In other words, the Holy Pontiff is not saying that the Church ought not to ordain women; he is saying that she is unable to do so. If she attempted to, the action would be a nullity, just as to give someone a 'dud cheque' is to give them nothing. Nullatenus [accent on the a; I once heard a liberal so-called scholar mispronounce it with comically vigorous decision] is a post-classical word meaning literally "right as far as, absolutely all the way up to, nothing". The Holy Pontiff could have written nullam habere facultatem ... ("has no wherewithal to ... ") or facultatem non habere ... ("does not have the wherewithal to ... "), but instead chose, more  emphatically, to assert that the Church has "absolutely no wherewithal whatsoever ... none at all ...
                                                     nil, zilch ... 
                                                                                    you gotta believe it".

28 January 2015

Cardinal Rodriguez

I have tried to read carefully a paper by a Cardinal Rodriguez. There are entire paragraphs that I actually don't understand. Perhaps there are problems of translation; Fr Lombardi will know. But three points do strike me: (1) Christology. The Second Person of the Glorious and Undivided Trinity is referred to in phrases like "The God of Jesus" and "God through Jesus". I did not identify language clearly affirming that our Redeemer is God. (2) "Mercy" seems to be construed as being at the heart of theology. But any attempted reconstruction of Christianity which concentrates singlemindedly on one word or slogan ("Justification by Faith Alone", for example, or "Sola Scriptura") has tended, throughout history, to have disastrous effects. (3) The Roman Pontiff's role is to protect the Tradition and to define and exclude heresy. This paper seems exclusively concerned to prepare the way for an agenda of radical but unspecified change centred upon the non-Magisterial utterances of just one pope during a ministry of less than two years. This is accompanied by a bizarrely curious suggestion that the Holy Father's public style and personal  gestures are his Magisterial Encyclicals.

Even during the pontificate of Pius XII and his canary, did papolatry go quite as far as this?

27 January 2015

Tunc erat bibendum ...

Extract from an undergraduate newspaper: "The underage Corpus fresher reportedly shouted 'Vote Labour', ran around the College garden, and recited Latin after becoming intoxicated".


On one of the threads, a reader suggested that seasonal pastoral letters already showed some bishops softening up their flocks for "change", whatever that may mean. I have no evidence for that. In fact, I have just been reading a pastoral letter sent out by Philip Egan, Bishop of Prtsmouth. It is very fine indeed. Like all his Pastoral Letters, it is beautifully footnoted. Truly, he is a bishop who takes seriously his munus docendi not just his laity, but also his clergy. So am by nature rather inclined to dismiss apocalyptic conspiracy-theorist claims about heterodox bishops. However ... here are some words by a very senior Curial Cardinal very much better placed than I am to know what is going on in the Church at large; he says that there are bishops "who have allowed themselves to be somehow blinded by a secularised society in which they have been so influenced that it has drawn them away from the main topic or from the teachings of the Church based on revelation".

I suppose, prima facie, a crude and ignorant journalistic mentality, trained in the usual journalistic arts of gross over-simplification, might expect bishops to fall into roughly three groups:
(1) the orthodox, busily setting down clear markers about what the Church (to adapt S John Paul II's phrase) nullatenus habet facultatem faciendi;
(2) those betting bishops who have put all their money firmly on Bergoglio's nose; and
(3) those hedging their bets, anxious to say nothing which might either offend Current Management or be an embarrassment on their files if Pope Francis is followed by a hypothetical 'orthodox reaction'.

I'm not sure into which category we should put that Belgian bishop ... was his name Bonny? He seems quite 'way out' in his suggestion that the Church ought to provide blessings to parallel the many varieties of sexual relationships in the secular world. The mind boggles. But it all sounds like enormous fun, with masses of interesting work for liturgical wordsmiths ... 'jobs for the boys', as we say in England ... and, of course, for the girls ... and for the biboys ... transboys ... cisboys ...  cisbigirls ... bitransgirls ... et ceteris et ad infinitum ... just imagine trying to provide liturgically for every possible 'relationship' between any two (does it have to be just two?) of these!! Quelle richesse!!

I am totally sure that, under the wise guidance of our beloved Holy Father and of our very savvy English bishops, we are not moving into the world envisaged and consistently urged since 1992 by Walter Kasper, in which (since in his view the Local Church has ontological priority over the Universal Church) doctrinally significant 'differences' should be allowed to coexist, such as 'differences' of marital and sexual discipline, between or even within provinces. That would make the Catholic Church exactly like the dear old Anglican Communion which is now so amusingly splitting up! With the best will in the world, humankind does not really need three Anglican Communions. Two is more than enough!

It must be truly dreadful to be in the dioceses of heterodox Belgian and German bishops. I feel particularly disappointed with regard to the Belgian Church, since it was that admirable Cardinal Mercier of Malines who so vigorously advocated, during the 'Malines' Conversations, the basic idea of the Ordinariates, i.e. of an Anglicanism 'united not absorbed'; of diversity but within the structures of the Magisterium of the Ages.

We of the Anglican Patrimony could, perhaps, make a Euro or two doing lucrative Consultancy Work helping Belgian and German parishes which are suffering under unorthodox bishops!! We had 170 years of experience of doing that sort of thing!! But since the papist Euro is currently plummetting in value, perhaps we should demand payment in good sound Protestant Pounds. [This last paragraph is meant as a childish joke. Indeed, I doubt if there is a single Ordinariate priest who is sufficiently fluent in modern Belgian.]

26 January 2015

At long last, Fr Tim ...

 ... has shown us the fine picture of S Gregory which he has in his parochial school. The Saint is holding a scroll inscribed with the Angli/Angeli pun recounted in S Bede.

Interestingly, the sentence ends with a good example of cursus; the use of certain end-of-sentence rhythms employed by Cicero and then in the Papal Chancery from around 350ish until just after S Gregory's time (vide G G Willis Essays 1964): "esse consortes" is a neat planus. I must have a look and see whether S Bede himself was a cursus  man. If he wasn't, this bit might indeed go back to S Gregory himself.

What other treasures has Fr Tim unearthed in Marvellous Margate which he will gradually reveal to us?
Might it once have been above an altar? Is there any evidence of the identity of the artist?

Judas College

The Internet suggests that Judas College is based on Merton. It may well be, but the topographical indications in the novel suggest to me that its buildings are more likely to be somewhere up Parks Road. Any ideas?

Women priests .... again? ... groan groan ... er ....

A while ago, Fr Zed, at the end of the Rome meeting the Confraternities of Catholic Clergy, seemed to hint that a big debate was on the way about women priests. Oh dear! Are we really going to have relive those dreary decades in the Church of England when that dreary subject just wouldn't go away? And it is a useless subject to discuss, because those who demand women priests are simply not prepared to listen to arguments. Do you hear me? They never listen. You are wasting your time. Believe me, the male supporters of this demand, who are so over-anxious to prove and flaunt their feminist credentials, are far worse and far more shrill than the women. Just you wait.

Being in Full Communion since 2011 has given me a wonderful respite from all that. And I have no intention of ever returning to the subject. When invited to go anywhere in the world to give talks or take part in conferences or give retreats, or just to sing the glories of the Ordinariate or simply to celebrate the Extraordinary Form, I willingly (diary and health permitting and as long as my expenses can be met) accept the invitation. But, very definitively, not on this subject. Never, never, never. Not now; not ever; not anywhere; not for anyone. And this is not a joke. Since 2011 I have, as they say, got a life. And I like it.

I will, instead, simply commend some reading. I expect you know of Manfred Hauke's book (Women in the Priesthood? Ignatius Press 1988). I commend also the Rochester Report (Women Bishops in the Church of England?, CHP, 2004), put together in the Church of England when the question of women bishops became pressing. It is an official document, written by a committee comprehending different viewpoints, which summarises, basically fairly, the arguments on each side. It is probably a better read than something which only gives one point of view, because you need to know what the Other Side really thinks. Archbishop Rowan Williams anticipated that it would initiate a Great Theological Debate on the subject in the Church of England. But it failed in this, because the ideologues were not prepared to discuss anything. They demanded Action Now. Instead of jaw jaw, they ruthlessly and efficiently organised their Anschluss. Few people even opened the volume. The clamour went on and on and drowned all dialogue.

I would also suggest a volume which, at the same time, I was myself involved in producing, Consecrated Women? (Edited by Jonathan Baker, Canterbury Press, 2004.) Fr Aidan Nichols also had a hand in it (his suggested title for it was The Voice of the Bridegroom, which I rather liked). It is, I like to believe, a scholarly production. It, also, was totally ignored.

In addition, you will find a Bibliography on the January 25 post at the blog Just Genesis. It is compiled by a former Anglican woman priest, who came to a fuller understanding of the question, and enables you to access on the Internet both her writings, and essays by C S Lewis; the great Anglo-Catholic dogmatic theologian Professor Eric Mascall; and a well-know American Orthodox writer Fr Patrick Reardon.

There is only one limited area on which I have anything new to say, and I will say it very briefly on this blog in a post soon. It is not about the Ordination of Women in itself; it is about the Magisterial and historical significance of the significant paragraph in Ordinatio sacerdotalis.

Oh dear. It is truly terrible to think that the Catholic Church may be condemned to the same decades of misery as the Church of England. This tedious subject displaces other much more exciting or useful theological endeavours. It leads endlessly to dissension and bad feeling and accusations of bad faith*. It turns friend against friend.

You have been warned. Ohne mich.
*In the Church of England, the laboriously stitched-together recent terms of peace between those who favour, and those who oppose, the ordination of women bishops, Archbishop Welby's great triumph, are already under violent attack from the feminists, who are consumed with paroxysms of wrath that the first 'orthodox' bishop to be consecrated since peace broke out will only be consecrated by bishops who have not also consecrated a woman. The miserable lot can't even content themselves with massive rejoicings for the consecration, today, of their first woman bishop. (Explore consecration philip north on Google.)

25 January 2015


A day or two ago, I received a card from Fr Stephen Morrison, of the Premonstratensian house in Chelmsford (within my natal county); I had had the great pleasure of getting to know him at the LMS Latin Summer School at Pantasaph last year (have you booked yet for 2015?). So I was very sorry not to have been at his Ordination to the Sacred Priesthood: but when the invitation to it arrived, I had already accepted an invitation to sing Mass and give a lecture at Brompton for CIEL on the ame morning the festival of S Nicolas. The card had a wonderful photograph of Father's First High Mass, of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God. And how that picture sent my memory hurtling back to the first High Mass I witnessed as a schoolby in 1959. I had accidentally strolled into the Church of S Mary 'Mags' in Oxford on the evening of December 8 - I was in Oxford for the Scholarship Examination. The celebrant was the 'legendary' Prebendary R John Hooper; little could I have known that the exquisite liturgy I witnessed was destined to to be 'abolished' within a decade.

The same day that I received Fr Stephen's beautiful card, I watched a video which Fr Ray kindly put on his superb blog: 400 seminarians at the now defunct seminary at Ushaw in 1960. High Mass on that wonderful Last Sunday before Advent ... also within a decade of its extinction. Yes ... I did say 400: 400-plus short-backs-and-sides.

About the same time, an acute reader put this question onto one of my threads: how did it all collapse so quickly? Is there an answer? You may have your answer. Here is my take on it: the very power of that liturgical culture was turned against it by the Evil One. It was so wonderful a rite that one accepted without thought the authority which guaranteed such a system. And when that same authority turned brutally against it ... "Forget all that: this is what the Church tells you to do now" ... there seemed no help for it, no defence.

Or ... with a little help from the convergent teachings of Pope Benedict XVI, Dom Gregory Dix, and Fr Michael Moreton ... a slightly fuller account might go like this.

Throughout Christian history, from the rising of the sun to its setting, the forms of the Liturgy rested on the auctoritas of Tradition; of the centuries which prescribed and graciously sanctified what was being done. That auctoritas was guaranteed, strongly backed up by, the (more transient) human structures of power within the Church, which preserved the Liturgy's integrity and guided its gradual and organic evolution. It was inconceivable that things could be different. Never had it been otherwise. But then, in an evil hour, those same structures did turn against the venerable and stately Roman rite. The inconceivable happened. Tradition, and ecclesiastical authority, seemed, for the very first time in two Catholic millennia, to be set against each other. Bewildered, not knowing where to turn but with great love for the Church and her authority, most of us succumbed, and submitted to one side of this terrible dichotomy.

24 January 2015

Wolves again?

I know very little about the French Church, but I do wonder whether it is appropriate to assume too quickly that the Bishop of Quimper has been "massacred" in any sense that calls into question the role of the Holy See.

The known facts suggest that Bishop le Vert may have perhaps been drive to resign by tendencies within his diocese or even among his brother bishops; or, possibly, that he may have been driven to a breakdown.

We have no way of knowing. What I have just written may bear no relation whatsoever to the truth. But, if something like this has happened, there is nothing new about it. Remember Chur. Remember the words of Benedict XVI himself at his Inauguration, about the Wolves who might drive him to desert the flock. The Wolves, as Gerry Adams once said about the IRA, have not gone away.

It is far too easy to hint that Rome or even the Holy Father himself may be the culprits. I think we should put such facile temptations right out of our minds, and not drop hints which are probably unjust. Things are probably more local and more personal. Any moderately confident person can disregard Rome: remember the 'liberal' Bishop of Toowoomba, who simply ignored any letters from Rome, and had quite a run for his money. Much more difficult than enemies across the Ocean or the other side of the Alps are the malevolent within a bishop's own diocese, even malevolent clergy, whom he is consecrated to love and to serve as their unloved Father. And if he is made conscious that his brethren in the Episcopate sympathise with the Wolves, how much more intense the pressures may be. And, if the circling Wolves are successful in harrying him into any state of weakness, how easy it is for them to move in for the kill.

I think the mere possibility of such things may be a sign to all of us that orthodox bishops may be under fearful pressures of which we know little. And divisive events such as Synods can only make matters worse, as the Wolves target any bishop who bears witness to the Deposit of Faith, the Tradition handed down from the Apostles. Just imagine what it must be like, for example, to be an orthodox bishop in Germany.

Prayer, and public support, and intimations to an orthodox bishop of love or even just of plain appreciation, are things we can deliver.

23 January 2015


I have occasionally infuriated dog-lovers by referring to the species canis lupus familiaris as
     Man's oldest and filthiest friend.
Because canine coprolites have been found, have been lovingly excavated, at Bronze Age sites such as Amesbury.

Warden Sparrow, de quo antea, famously spoke of the Dog as
     That indefatigable and unsavoury engine of pollution.

When out walking in unfamiliar countryside, one always knows when one has got within an easy radius of a carpark. However, is it fair to condemn dogs? Certainly not. Dog-owners, yes. I know a slipway in Cornwall where fish is brought in; the National Trust, who own it, were driven a few years ago to ban dogs from the slipway and to provide for the dogs and their walkers a simple pleasant alternative footpath away from the fishy area. And I know beaches galore with clear notices banning dogs between March and September. But dogs can't read. Can the Dogwalking Tendency read? What would be your guess?

But stay: I have forgotten Ringwood, the last echoes of whose deep full voice can still by the very sensitive ear be heard, baying Et in Arcadia ego in the Kentissimi horti at Rousham in this County. His "Master and Friend", Sir Clement Cottrell-Dormer, had this "otterhound of extraordinary sagacity" buried in the Vale of Venus in front of the very statue of the Goddess reflected in the waters of her pool, nuda sed pudica but dangerously overlooked by Faunus and Pan, only feet from the river Cherwell where Ringwood had worked such havoc in the otter population. There, since those last years of the reign of His Eminent Majesty King Henry IX, his doggy wraith has surely mingled at dusk in the dances of the insubstantial dryads and naiads. Is Ringwood the canine nature's solitary boast?

Tomorrow, we move on to wolves.


Please keep this under your hat. The problem inherent in talking about things is that they thereby may become part of the Church's conversation within herself; and so find themselves on a possible trajectory towards realisation.

For the second time in this pontificate, there have been rumours about a Vatican III.

Perhaps this would not be a disaster. Roberto de Mattei's magisterial book about Vatican II gives an account of the coup d'Etat, the tricks and dodges by which the Rhenish bishops and their associates took the Council over; of how disastrous it was that orthodox bishops were so slow in getting themselves organised. Perhaps today's orthodox bishops would benefit from the Lessons of History. History does not always repeat itself. Particularly if people have read it.

But, given all that, three reasons do occur to me for fearing that a Vatican III may not be God's will.
(1) Vatican II had the practical effect of nullifying the previous papal Magisterium. The decisions and teaching of all the 'modern' popes (B Pius IX to Pius XII) promptly became Old Hat, superseded by the new, shiny, sexy, "documents of the Council". A Vatican III might do the same to the teachings of the post-conciliar popes (S John XXIII to Benedict XVI) and thus turn out to be a constructive relegation to obscurity of their laborious recovery of elements of orthodoxy and orthopraxy, from Humanae vitae through Veritatis splendor down to the Hermeneutic of Reform in Continuity under Benedict XVI.
(2) A Vatican III could represent a recrudescence of the horrible heresy denounced by Cardinal Ratzinger: that the pope really can do anything especially if he is acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. It might be used by the heterodox bishops as a way of trumping all that they find unattractive in the recent Papal Magisterium. A Synod can't cancel what popes have decreed; the pope himself, if he tries to do so, puts himself in the difficult position of cutting off the bough upon which he is sitting (his own authority being, by definition, no greater than that of his predecessors). But the Pope-in-Council ... now there's the temptation ... who can set limitations on that?
(3) If Vatican I and II are anything to go by, conciliar decrees sometimes contain compromises. And, after a council, a dominant fashionable elite in the Church is left at liberty to run with its own side of the compromise and to render the other side dead in the water, a universal irrelevance. Consider Vatican II on Vernacular in the Mass. I summarise:
    "(a) Latin is to be preserved.
     (b) But the vernacular may be extended
     (c) in the readings and directions and to some prayers and chants
     (d) and to those parts which pertain to the people,
     (e) but [provideatur tamen] they must still be able to say and sing the parts that pertain to them in Latin.
     (f) If, in some places and circumstances, an even more radical approach [profundior aptatio] is   needed, local ecclesiastical authority is to submit proposals to the Holy See" (Sacrosanctum Concilium 36, 40, and 54).
In less than a decade after the Council, (a) and (e) had become dead letters; and (b), (c), and (d) had been turned into irrelevances because the adroit use of (f), the only de facto survivor of all this legislation, had stamped the very nearly exclusive use of the Vernacular upon the whole of the Latin Church. "Some places and circumstances" [variis locis et adiunctis] had, by the touch of Circe's wand, been turned into the universal general norm. It is now not at all uncommon to find dishonest and unprincipled clerics mendaciously informing laypeople (whom, very often correctly, they clearly suspect of knowing no better) that "the Council abolished Latin". The terrible risk of similar unprincipled games accompanying or following a Vatican III should make us pause for thought. It is part of Cardinal Kasper's approach to argue explicitly that local, Particular Churches may have different disciplines. A Conciliar document might easily contain a let-out clause providing for 'exceptions' in particular places, which would within the decade become the universal norm. Our heterodox or heteropractic brethren among the clergy very sincerely mean very well, but it is dangerous to trust such people, particularly when, as sincere people often are, they are in a hurry.

More than half a century after Vatican II, we are only just beginning to transform some of Circe's pigs back into men, and finding it hard, invidious, and contentious work. Would a Vatican III do anything to wipe the sweat from our brows? Or would it simply increase the burden?