21 December 2014


Today is the Anniversary of the death of Professor Peter Geach, Balliol College, distinguished Catholic philosopher and husband of the equally distinguished Elizabeth Anscombe. When I publicised a Notice of the Requiem arranged for yesterday, a kind reader drew my attention to the accounts of Geach's proclamation in 1937 of our late Sovereign Lord King Robert I and IV. As one does, I duly googled PETER GEACH PROCLAMATION RUPPRECHT ... and it is surprising how much can be found in old newspapers about this subject; and remarkable how much interest it elicited all over the English-speaking world. Some scholarly person could probably reconstruct in some detail an interesting minor episode in English History (I didn't bother with the materials which would have involved me in opening internet accounts). Readers will recall that 1937 was a time when the Abdication crisis had put the institution of the Monarchy under considerable pressure, and a charismatic and popular 'modern' (i.e. e.g. pro-Nazi) king had been replaced by a younger brother whose startling lack of glamour was exceeded only by the courage and resolution he was to display in the unwanted role of kingship during a difficult war ... a damn' close run thing. But, in 1937, the virtues of 'Stuttering Bertie' still awaited future demonstration.

"Fifty Oxford undergraduates championed a lost cause when, on January 31, they proclaimed Rupprecht, ex-Crown Prince of Bavaria, 'legitimate heir to the throne of Britain' as descendant of the Stuarts.
The proclamation was read at the Martyr's Memorial. The undergraduates did not even Anglicise the new 'king's' name to the Stuart 'Rupert' - who was a member of St John's College and who led the German forces against Britain on the Western Front. ... The proclamation sneered at the House of Windsor for failing to defend "the dignity of the crown and the liberties of the people". The ceremony lasted but a few minutes. ... The undergraduates, wearing in their button-holes the white rose of the 'Legitimist' clique, raised a cheer. Mr Peter Geach, 21-year-old scholar of Balliol College, who made the proclamation ... stressed the 'loyalty' of Balliol. 'There are many in Oxford', he said, 'who would be willing to fight for the Stuarts'. ...He said the Jacobites would take no part in the Coronation celebrations ...".

Another newspaper added the information that "should former Prince Ruprecht of Bavaria become king of England, the only reward Peter Geach plans to ask is 'the right to lead a quiet academic life' ... Geach, who wore his scholar's gown when he made the proclamation, continues to peer through his horn-rimmed spectacles at the Latin and Greek tomes on which he must stand examination [Honour Moderations in Litterae Humaniores, aka 'Mods'] this spring. ... slender for his six foot height, Geach comes from Cardiff, Wales, and is of Cornish descent ..." This account is headed by a photograph of Geach waving his academic cap.
To be continued and concluded tomorrow.

20 December 2014

Dear Old Mother Hilarious

A friend tells me that at the moment, the C of E, dear sweet old thing, is agonising over 'the Green Report'. It's a laugh a line. Don't miss it. It reads like a satirical spoof by Mgr R A Knox. Perhaps it is.

Another friend tells me of an Anglican Diocese which has invented an 'Archdeacon for Generous Giving'. In other words, the pew-fodder shell out for the stipend of an archdeacon whose job it then is to screw even more money out of them! (But 'Green' is going to cost £2,000,000.)

Turkeys not so much voting as paying for Christmas! Like buying tickets to gain admission to the abattoir!

Magnifique!! Trebles all round! Pass another mince pie!

2014/5, YEAR OF THE SYLLABUS: more guidance from Dr Jalland

Surely, even if the British Post Office does not do so, the Vatican Post Office will issue stamps commemorative of the Sesquicentenary of the Syllabus Errorum?

I wish to quote just once more from the distinguished Anglican scholar Dr Trevor Jalland in order to ease us a little forward in our study of that admirable document the Syllabus of Errors of B Pius IX, the sesquicentenary of which we joyfully celebrate this year of 2014/5 (see earlier post). The Anglican Tradition (now of course to be found safely incarnate and incardinate within the Roman Unity in the Ordinariates) can often be relied upon to give you a more balanced and nuanced judgement than ... er ... Well, anyway, here goes Jalland, again:
"The syllabus naturally evoked a great deal of interest, though in Catholic circles it was not unmixed with some measure of alarm. For the latter the form of the document was no doubt in some degree itself responsible. Dupanloup, who may be taken as representative of its more moderate critics, published a pamphlet on the encyclical as a whole, in which he called attention to the need of interpreting the language of the several views condemned in the light of their proper context ... the distinction made by Dupanloup in the course of his exposition between thesis and hypothesis, between the ideal and the actual, was later formally endorsed by Pius IX's successor Leo XIII. And even if it is true that Dupanloup was less concerned to say what the encyclical was than what it was not, it is at least noteworthy that Pius himself commended his work."

Jalland had begun his Bampton Lectures with Monsignor Felix Dupanloup, bishop of Orleans. "On the morning of Monday, July 18, 1870, as the early glow of dawn was slowly spreading across the sky of north Italy, an express train which had left Rome at half-past seven o'clock on the previous evening was clanking on its way across the plains of Lombardy". Yes; rather a novelistic style. I doubt whether any previous academic delivering the prestigious Bampton Lectures had  ever similarly begun. " ... Dupanloup ... felt in the pocket of his douillette and drew out his Breviary. His companion, Monsignor Louis Haynald, archbishop of the the metropolitan see of Kalocsa in Hungary ... who was occupying the opposite corner of the compartment, leaned forward ..." Yes, of course you want to know what happened next. You have every right to. This is Gripping Stuff. The lectures were published, in 1944, as The Church and the Papacy a historical study. I recommend it [Wikipaedia "Bampton Lectures" PDF under 1942, so I am told].

Dupanloup and Haynald were leaving the First Vatican Council early, before its final vote had taken place. They were among the leaders of the unsuccessful ('inopportunist') minority which had opposed the formal definition of Papal Infallibility and Primacy. As we edge forward in finessing our approach to the Syllabus, you need to know this; you need to have it clear in your mind that Dupanloup was not an Ultramontane; not someone who lived safely trapped in the pocket of Pio Nono's douillette. Certainly not another Manning or Ward.

By the way, do you know whom Dupanloup had wanted to take with him to the Council as his personal peritus? Have a guess .... .... .... yes! Yes! You will go far! You have sound instincts! An Englishman called Newman! Just imagine what Mr Archdeacon emeritus Manning would have had to say about that! How he would have pursed his thin lips every time he noticed Newman and Dupanloup and David Moriarty* with their heads together murmuring behind a pillar in S Peter's, or laughing in a trattoria! Ah, the might-have-beens of History! Clio, what a tease thou art!

After Christmass, we shall return, DV, to the admirable Dupanloup and his 'take' on the Syllabus. And then move on to Blessed John Henry. And conclude with some speculations about the light the writings of Dupanloup and Newman throw on the topical question of the appropriate nuancing, exegesis, and taxonomia of papal utterances in our own time. I bet you can't wait.

*A close friend of Newman's, Bishop of Kerry; another 'inopportunist', apparently one of only two Council Fathers who never quite found the time to get round to subscribing formally the decrees with regard to the Infallibility and Primacy of the Roman Pontiff. The exquisite (mini-Salisbury) Cathedral (with Close) which he helped to finish in Killarney ... with spectacularly Constabular views of it across the water meadows ... was grossly and disgracefully vandalised in the 1970s by a charismatic, up-to-date and progressive young bishop called Eamon Casey. Its architect was Pugin and J J McCarthy, a Kerryman, had done the interiors. I have myself spoken to venerable ladies who described the endless procession of builders' skips carting off the smashed marble and masonry and plaster, a memory still raw in their minds in the 1990s. And when a Kerrywoman has a raw memory ...


I have added an UPDATE to this post, because there seem to be some worriers. Don't worry. You are NOT obliged to abstain on December 26.

19 December 2014

That splendid Father Ray Blake ...

 ... has a charming little video on his admirable blog showing a lot of clips of Liturgy as it was before the Great [fill in here your own term of preference] of the 1960s. And it includes our wonderful  Anglican Patrimony!! And it involves my own last Anglican church, S Thomas the Martyr in Oxford!!! And it even hints at our magnificent Ordinariate!!!!

At about 3.44 you will find a shot of the Translation of our Lady of Walsingham, October 15, 1931. The rather Protestant Bishop Pollock of Norwich had sniffily asked Fr Hope Patten to remove the statue of OLW from the Parish Church; so Father built a beautiful Shrine Church at the other end of the village, including within it a reconstruction of the Holy House of Nazareth (which had been the focal point of the medieval pilgrimage to Walsingham). Accordingly, on October 15, after the Bishop emeritus of Accra had sung Pontifical High Mass in the Parish Church, our Blessed Lady was carried in solemn procession to her new Shrine while the bells both of the Church and of the Shrine (baptised with the oils on the previous Saturday by the Bishop) rang out her praises. "In the midst of this throng, high and lifted up upon the shoulders of four clergy in dalmatics, and under a blue and gold canopy fixed to the feretory, sat the venerated figure of our Lady, crowned with the silver Oxford Crown, and robed in a mantle of cloth of gold" (the Oxford Crown had been given by the congregation of one of the daughter churches of S Thomas's). That is the moment captured in the video.

The Holy House had ... has ... a Latin foundation stone dating itself by the pontificate of Pius XI and the episcopate of Bishop Pollock. When he heard about this, the Bishop objected to being thus associated with the Bishop of Rome, so Fr Hope Patten duly obscured ... the name of the bishop! But fear not: after Dr Pollock's death, his name re-emerged. When you go to look at it, don't forget to say a prayer for him; and for Fr Hope Patten and Fr Fynes Clinton, the Latinist who composed the inscription. They were both mighty priests in what one might call the Pre-History or the Proto-Evangelium of the Ordinariate.

As Fr Ray says ... Oh, such happy days! But, in the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham, Happy Days live again!!


Like all decent right-thinking people, I rejoice mightily at the idea of Catholics and Protestants celebrating together the centenaries of Martin Luther's Reformation in 2017 and the Convocation of the Council of Trent in 2045.

The joyous celebrations set in place by the Vatican to commemorate, this year, Quanta cura and the Syllabus of Errors, provide a very fine example of how the Reformation could and should be commemorated.


I find it hard to get out of my mind the possibility that the Taliban perpetrated their horrendous and cowardly massacre of schoolchildren as a response to the international parading around of a schoolgirl whom they had previously, criminally, shot for her advocacy of the education of girls (a cause which I strongly favour). It culminated a few days ago in the award to her of a 'Nobel Peace Prize'; the same vacuous but prestigious award which, I recollect, was given to Obama for being black. Not for the first time, I am left wondering how useful provocative gestures are, not least when those making them are not the ones who will probably have to pay the price.

18 December 2014

Are the Clergy properly formed?

Roman Pontiffs do not commonly sign their Magisterial documents on the High Altar of S Peter's in the presence of the body of Cardinals. But S John XXIII thus promulgated his Apostolic Constitution Veterum sapientia, 1962, in which he insisted that the Latin language must remain central to the culture of Western Christianity. What more could the good old gentleman have done?

That Letter was praised by B Paul VI (Studia Latinitatis, 1964, " ... principem obtinere locum dicenda sane est"), who was anxious that seminarians "magna cum cura et diligentia ad antiquas et humanas litteras informentur"; and S John Paul II (Sapientia Christiana) emphasised the requirement for knowlege of Latin "for the faculties of the Sacred Sciences, so that students can understand and use the sources and documents of the Church". More recently Benedict XVI (Latina lingua, 2012), praised Veterum sapientia as having been issued iure meritoque: it is to be taken seriously both because of its legal force and because of the intrinsic merit of its arguments; and in his Encyclical Sacramentum Caritatis wrote specifically about the need for seminarians to be taught Latin. We have, in other words, a coherent expectation in the teaching of popes S John XXIII, B Paul VI, S John Paul II, and Benedict XVI that all seminarians should become proficient in Latin, the language of the Church. And the attitude of the popes to the promotion of Latin studies in even broader contexts than that of the formation of the clergy is demonstrated in the establishment by B Paul VI of a Latin Academy; a foundation re-established and strengthened by Benedict XVI.

This papal teaching by no means relates solely to the language of worship; it desires Latin to remain a living vernacular for the clergy and not least for their formation; and it is explicitly based upon the belief that, by being latinate, a clerisy will have access to a continuity of culture. My post would have to be very long indeed if it quoted fully all the words of all four popes to this effect. Coming as I do from the Anglican Patrimony, I will instead share the witness of C S Lewis's Devil Screwtape, who confessed, "Since we cannot deceive the whole human race all the time, it is most important thus to cut every generation off from all others; for where learning makes a free commerce between the ages there is always the danger that the characteristic errors of one may be corrected by the characteristic truths of another". And in his Pilgrim's Regress, Lewis suggests that the growing disuse of Classical languages is a Diabolical trick to isolate the educated classes from the wisdom of the Past. Both in secular culture and within the Church, there is a risk that the educated class will be cut off and imprisoned in the narrow confines of a particular culture - victims of its particular Zeitgeist. A literate clerisy is one that reads what other ages wrote, which means that it will at least be able to read Latin; and the sign of such a clerisy, in practical terms, will be that it can with ease read its Divine Office in Latin.

It is in this context that we must see the requirement of Vatican II (Sacrosanctum Concilium 101): "In accordance with the centuries-old tradition (saecularis traditio) of the Latin rite, the Latin language is to be retained by clerics in reciting the Divine Office". And it is highly significant that it goes on to make any use of the vernacular an (apparently very rare) exception which bishops can grant "only on an individual basis". One might plausibly surmise that this exception may have been envisaged as useful in areas where resources for clerical formation were limited, like the remoter parts of the 1960s Third World. I wonder how the Council Fathers - or a significant proportion of them - might have reacted to the information that in less than a decade the bishops of Western, Old, Europe (whose culture both religious and secular had been based upon Latin for nearly two millennia, the continent of the great universities in which the civilisation of the Greek and Roman worlds had been transmitted) would regard both this conciliar mandate, reinforced by the directions of the Conciliar Decree Optatam totius on seminary training, as an irrelevant dead letter. As early as 1966, B Paul VI was deploring (Sacrificium laudis) the habit of requesting dispensations for a vernacular Office.

Readers of this blog are probably familiar* with the other prescriptions of Vatican II for the retention of Latin, particularly in the Liturgy, and I will not labour the point. I emphasise that I am not basing an argument for the retention of a living Latin culture simply and nakedly upon the words of the Council. The auctoritas for that retention is very much more broadly based, as the Council Fathers themselves emphasised by calling it and invoking it as a saecularis traditio. The conciliar mandate is merely a dutiful affirmation, proper to an Ecumenical Council of the Church, of the continuity and abiding prescriptiveness of the Church's Tradition; the guarantee making explicit that in an age of revolutions the old assumptions are still in place. Without these words of the Council, it might have been plausibly argued by ill-disposed persons that a radical cultural and intellectual shift had invalidated previous assumptions. In view of the plain language of the Council, such a thesis can only be advanced as a deliberate repudiation of the explicit words of an Ecumenical Council ... as well as of the centuries preceding it and of the teaching of subsequent popes. 

But a few days ago I met a bright and recently ordained young priest who had been taught "a little Greek but not a word of Latin". And, early in 2014, one of our English Catholic archbishops, in an engagingly matter-of-fact sort of way, explained why he would not require all his clergy to learn how to celebrate the Vetus Ordo. After other (in my view, thoroughly understandable) reasons for his attitude, he also gave this one: "You have to be practical as well. There is the Latin to learn ...". Really? What a very interesting cat to let out of the bag! So, despite Canon 249 (in the post-Conciliar Code of Canon Law), the clergy have not all learned, and are not now all being taught, Latin as part of their seminary formation?

Well, of course they all haven't so learnt, and are not all being so taught. Everybody knows that. A priest of my acquaintance once wrote to me "When I was a seminarian in the 1980s, the very fact of having done a course in Latin at University was considered tantamount to a declaration in favour of Archbishop Lefebvre. A priest who gave a retreat (a prominent moral theologian of those days) searched our places in choir and denounced those who possessed Latin Breviaries as certainly having no vocation". One can hardly blame the present generation of English bishops for a problem which looks as though it arose more than half a century ago (in any case, blame is not my purpose). Indeed, I have heard that matters may now be a little less bad. But not, I believe, everywhere, and certainly not for all seminarians. Surely Catholic Bishops have some say about the syllabuses taught in seminaries? Surely they have some responsibility for the formation of their own clergy? Are they happy that seminaries are run in a way which pays only very selective regard to the Magisterium of S John XXIII, so recently canonised? And to the Second Vatican Council, which (vide Optatam totius 13) laid emphasis on the role of Latin in seminary education: or is that particular Conciliar document now to be consigned to oblivion? B Paul VI, so recently beatified, as the first in his list of academic priorities for seminarians, wrote "The cultural formation of the young priest must certainly include an adequate knowledge of languages  and especially of Latin (particularly for those of the Latin Rite)." (Summi Dei verbum.) There has long been a tacit assumption among some that the Magisterium of the 'pre-Conciliar popes' is to be quietly forgotten. Pius IX? Pius XII? Who were they? One might be forgiven for wondering whether the Magisterium of the Council itself, and the teaching of the 'post-Conciliar popes', are now also (when it suits) being treated with similar contempt. Are these more recent Pontiffs to be elaborately honoured with Beatifications and break-neck-speed Canonisations and facile rhetoric, while their actual teaching, emphatically and insistently given, is tossed aside as irrelevant or impractical?

"There just isn't room on the syllabus for any of that". Is there not? I have met significant numbers of clergy who have deplored the fact that, at seminary, they were robbed of what the Catholic Church regards as the first building block of a priestly formation. They seemed to have in mind quite number of useless topics which could profitably have been omitted so as to liberate syllabus time.

Cardinal Basil Hume, back in the 1990s, reminded Anglican enquirers that "Catholicism is table d'hote, not a la carte". Surely that gives an ex-Anglican some right to wonder whether this principle also applies as much to those who run or supervise seminaries as it does to Anglican enquirers?

A final quotation from S John XXIII. "The teachers ... in universities or seminaries are required to speak Latin (latine loqui tenentur) and to make use of textbooks written in Latin. Those whose ignorance of Latin makes it difficult for them to obey these instructions shall gradually be replaced by teachers who are suited to this task (in eorum locum doctores ad hoc idonei gradatim sufficiantur). Any difficulties that may be advanced by students or professors must be overcome (vincantur necesse est) either by the patient insistence of the bishops or religious superiors, or by the good will of the teachers."

And a final question: how many of those currently teaching in English seminaries are idonei?
*You sometimes find claims made to the effect that "Vatican II mandated more extensive use of vernacular languages in the liturgy". Sacrosanctum concilium para 54 says 'Linguae vernaculae in Missis cum populo celebratis congruus locus tribui possit'. Doesn't sound to me much like a 'mandate'. Not even 'potest'! It goes on to say 'praesertim' and mentions the readings. Then, much more cautiously, it raises the possibility of the vernacular 'even' (etiam) 'in partibus quae ad populum spectant' linking this with a specific requirement that the laity should also be able to sing and say those selfsame parts in Latin. Hardly a 'mandate' for the vernacular! Rather, a nervously tentative partial permission.

17 December 2014

Midwives, Conscience, and Abortion in the British Supreme Court

" ' Participate' in my view means taking part in a 'hands on' capacity".
Thus the Court dismissed the appeal of two Catholic midwives who are not prepared, even in a solely administrative capacity, to organise and supervise abortions.

What a shame these judges were not around in time to defend that poor Adolf Eichmann when the Israelis so unfairly tried and hanged him for organising the transportation of Jews to the Death Camps. And they would have been really in their element during the Nuremburg trials, defending the bureaucrats who masterminded the war crimes.

But stay: it is not too late. If the International Criminal Court ever finds itself trying former tyrants who gave orders for genocide, these judicial jokers will be invaluable to the defence teams.

Memo to all those contemplating crimes against humanity: OK, dears, as long as you aren't HANDS ON.

OZ and pervert priests and Celibacy

It is a sound rule never to criticise the words of others unless one has read them carefully and in full. So I Fess Up now, and apologise in advance, if my admitted failure to do this has led to my being unfair in what follows.

Rumour has it, back here in far-away Blighty, that a report  generated somewhere within the Australian Catholic Church has raised a question about a possible relationship between the law of Celibacy, the style of Formation of the Catholic Clergy: and clerical sexual abuse of minors.

If such possibilities were to be explored further and in greater depth, I am in the happy position of being able to suggest a number of extremely helpful lines of enquiry.
(1) It seems to me, anecdotally and from my own experience in my four decades in the Anglican Priesthood, that there is quite a bit of sexual abuse in the Church of England (and that it is by no means confined to unmarried clergy). Australian investigators might like to begin their researches by reading the reports about the scandals and cover-ups in the diocese of Chichester, and those relating to the former Dean of Manchester. Much of this is available online. And the Church of England has not imposed celibacy for some 450 years, and trains its clergy in quite a different way from the Catholic Church. Just as medical researchers like to have 'control groups', so might those researching clerical sexual perversion.
(2) Over here, recently, the Scouts have been paying out big time for abuse by Scoutmasters. Indeed, since the 1920s, if not earlier, 'scoutmasters' have been a common source of vulgar jocosity with regard to paederasty. No law of celibacy there. The Scouts could provide another 'control group'.
(3) Our own much loved Beeb has recently had ginormously large problems in this area. Sir Jimmy Savilles appear, in the past at least, to have carpeted the studios wall to wall! Another culprit sentenced just yesterday. Not much evidence of a law of celibacy in Broadcasting House! A veritably magnificent potential 'control group'.
(4) Our late Holy Father Pope Benedict advanced the theory that the promotion by those teaching in seminaries, during and after the 1960s, of 'relativistic' theories regarding ethical issues, in which nothing is per se wrong, may have contributed to the problem of what, rather neatly, he called 'the filth'. This intellectual fashion cannot be the entire cause of sexual delinquency among Catholic Clergy down the ages; after all, for centuries, Roman Pontiffs were obliged to legislate against Sollicitatio (although that seems generally to have applied to delicts with adult women). But, I would have thought, the suggestion is well worth going into.
(5) Since the 1960s, there has been much talk about mercy, and forgiveness, and similar very splendid things. It has been an era in which we have been urged not to be too preoccupied with sin, particularly sexual sin. A Catholic priest with much professional competence in this area has explained to me that one psychological reason for the bitter hatred of the Extraordinary Form among senior clergy of a certain age has been that they associate it with a cruel, rigid, sin-obsessed sex-proccupied form of Catholicism upon which they look back with fear and detestation. So: 'merciful' bishops were disinclined to 'ruin' a priest for 'just one lapse', or even two or three. Or four. After all, as we have been informed over and over again, sexual sins are not the only sorts of sins; spiritual sins such as Pride, and sins against Social Justice, are far more displeasing in the sight of God than mere lapses from Chastity. Our Oz friends could look into the problem of 'liberal' bishops as well.
(6) My own, again anecdotal, experience has inclined me to think that 'charismatic' leaders, admired by the media and surrounded by adoring groupies, can be peculiarly vulnerable to sexual temptation. J F Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and, within the Church, bishop Eamonn Casey ... and Fr Macial Maciel ... and Fr Lelio Cantini ... spring to mind; and one bishop of my acquaintance in the Church of England was another. He was held in such tremendously high regard, not least in the very highest reaches of the British Establishment, that after acknowledging his guilt, accepting a police warning, and resigning his diocese, he immediately started spreading it around that he was completely innocent, but had pleaded guilty to save the Church the embarrassment of a public trial. This claim was accepted by people unwilling to face up to the fact that they had been gullible dupes. So plausible was he that his one-time diocesan superior, when he came later to write his own autobiography, roundly asserted the total innocence of his fellow-bishop and put the entire episode down to a Wicked Plot. I think psychometric experts should examine with even more than their usual acuity candidates for ordination who are at the extreme 'extrovert' end of the spectrum. Oz could look into this side of things as well.
(7) I sometimes wonder if somebody should keep an eye on the troubling question of false or possibly false accusations, sometimes, conceivably, financially generated.
(8) A competent historian might be able to unearth interesting parallels between the present atmosphere, and the use, by the National Socialists, of sexual allegations in order to discredit the clergy and the Catholic Church.
(9) Finally, a somewhat dangerous suggestion. Some say that the pervert priest phenomenon sometimes relates to activity with teenage boys rather than with those properly called children, and in some such cases should be seen as a product of a homosexual orientation. This suggestion creates great outcries of "Homophobia!!". Ideological promoters of homosexualism as a political cause mercilessly persecute anybody guilty of such talk (which, indeed, certainly ought not to be spread thickly around with an indiscriminate brush of generalisation). But if, down in Oz, they really do want to get this business sussed, they should leave no stone unturned. Brave the inevitable huffing and puffing and examine this one too!

Perhaps readers will be able to add (10), (11), and (12)? I'm sure the Wise Men from the Oz could do with all the help they can get.
ADDENDUM I believe it is important not to use the existence of abuse in other groups as a justification for any toleration of abuse in the Church. The Church should not be just-a-little-bit-better than the BBC! My point, which I make three times, is that anybody who wants to do a scientific investigation about alleged links between Celibacy and Pedophilia should do what researchers in other disciplines do: use 'control groups' to discern whether there is a statistical correlation.

A logical question which would remain with regard to pedophile priests and celibacy is: were they perverts who sought the clerical state because of the obscene opportunities it provided; or did celibacy (as the Oz report is inclined to suggest) predispose them to an orientation which they did not have previously?

16 December 2014

The Papacy and Nuclear Deterrence

I have long felt uneasy about the state of the Church's Magisterium on the two moral questions (linked but very definitely not identical) of the (1) Use (2) Possession of Nuclear Weapons. I feel its development may have suffered from the ethos of the Cold War and the close collaboration between Pius XII and Cardinal ('Bomb them') Spellman ... the one who said Mass but once a year and was dispensed from the Divine Office. [[UPDATE: a friend has queried this; and I have been unable to support these two assertions, which I thought I knew, via Google. Does anybody have any ideas?]] America and the Vatican in a holy alliance against the powers of Evil was the order of the day, and any suggestion that America ought not to possess a Nuclear Deterrent would not have been in the Spirit of that alliance. But I may very well be wrong. I so often am.

Under S John Paul II, the Church moved closer and closer to a position in which war itself was seen as an increasingly difficult option to justify in the conditions of the modern world. The Holy Pontiff's tendency to distance himself from military adventures in the Middle East became increasingly insistent. But he was unwilling to adopt a definitive position on the Possession of Nuclear Weapons. Yet the Church's Just War teaching, with its principle that, for a war to be just, it must (among other conditions) be prudently foreseen that it would do more good than harm, seems quite irreconcilable with what is known about the effects of nuclear explosions on dozens of future generations; and there is very little doubt that Western leaders did intend to use a nuclear option to counter an irruption of Russian tanks and infantry across the plains of North Germany.

And so I was rather glad to read the message of our beloved Holy Father on this subject (9 December 2014). "The humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons are predictable and planetary. While the focus is often placed on nuclear weapons' potential for mass-killing, more attention must be given to the 'unnecessary suffering' brought on by their use. Military codes and international law, among others [is this a delicate way of including the teaching of the Church?] have long banned peoples from inflicting unnecessary suffering. If such suffering is banned in the waging of conventional war, it should all the more be banned in nuclear conflict ... Nuclear Deterrence and the threat of mutually assured destruction cannot be the basis for an ethic of fraternity and peaceful coexistence ..."

I would hope that this may be a theme which the Roman Pontiff will return to, and, so to speak, firm up.

More than two decades ago, Germaine Grisez, John Finnis*, and Joseph Boyle wrote their (in my opinion) definitive treatment of the ethics of nuclear deterrence (Nuclear Deterrence, Morality, and Realism, 1988). In the days of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, it was easy to write off those who marched against the Bomb as long-haired subversives and crypto-Russkies. And there were all those rather iffy women at Greenham Common (but, in God's great mercies, iffy women are sometimes right). So the important thing to remember about this trio is that they are the ethical thinkers who, in our time, most consistently, coherently, and vigorously have defended the traditional Catholic teaching on sexual matters, 'Life' matters, and every aspect of traditional teaching which has been attacked by the modern secular establishment. These writers not only subscribe to the whole gamut of Catholic teaching, but delve deep into philosophy, law, and every kind of moral discourse, to sustain it in the fora of modern discussion. They are not just yet another trio of wet modern lefty liberals masquerading as Catholics. They are firmly on the side of traditional Christian morality in all its aspects and irrespective of whether or not it is found attractive by 'modern' thought.

They concluded that the concept of Nuclear Deterrence is indissolubly linked with a real intention, in certain contingencies, actually to use nuclear weapons. And they demonstrated, in my view conclusively, that such a contingent intention stands condemned by the traditional doctrine of the Catholic tradition on the Just War.

I do not suggest that these three writers are infallible; or that the magisterium of the Church has formally uttered such a judgement. I wish it had.

But I do suggest that those who disagree with me should first have read the Grisez/Finnis/Boyle book, and be able to explain to themselves ... and hoffentlich to others ... exactly where (in their view) its logical faults lie.
A part of a version of this piece appeared in 2010, and some of the comments on the thread date from that time.
*Finnis, in the letters columns of the Tablet, brilliantly hunted down Peter Hebblethwaite and proved that in his account of S John XXIII's inaugural address to Vatican II, Hebblethwaite had ... lied.

15 December 2014


(A slightly abbreviated reprint of a piece I published a year ago.)

Er ... yes ... sesqui ... well, according to my trusty Oxford Latin Dictionary sesqui is a conflation of sems, an earlier form of the word that became in Classical Latin semi(s), meaning half, and the enclitic (meaning you tack it on the end of the next word) -que, meaning and. So sesqui- is a prefix meaning "and a half". So


means 150 years on, a century and a half.

2014/2015 will be the Sesquicentenary of the Syllabus Errorum of B Pius IX.

 On December 8, 1864, B Pius IX issued his Encyclical Quanta cura; and, apparently at his direction, an (anonymous) collection of 80 theses, already condemned by Roman Pontiffs in earlier Magisterial interventions, was published simultaneously. In some circles "the Syllabus of Errors" is regarded as the quintessential epitome of reactionary ecclesiastical obscurantism; you have to say the very words in the same tones of hushed horror as "the Inquisition". But I am sure that a special Commission has been put together in Rome to organise this Year in which the Universal Church will be called upon to celebrate, to study, to reappropriate the teaching handed down on the instructions of Papa il Conte Mastai-Ferreti. This blog will, as ever, merely follow humbly the lead of the Magisterium, or, if that lead is a trifle late coming, will examine as best it can one or two hermeneutical questions arising from this laudable document.

I shall eventually come on to remarks upon the Syllabus from the pen of our own beloved Patrimonial Patron B John Henry Newman. But I would like to begin, again out of pietas, with a quotation from another, later, distinguished Anglican Patristic scholar, Dr Trevor Jalland, a predecessor of mine as pp of S Thomas the Martyr in Oxford (Ecclesia Sancti Thomae iuxta ferriviam, as the common folk call it). It was in his Bampton Lectures before this University in 1942 that Fr Jalland launched a public, academic, campaign of attrition designed to undermine the great edifice of anti-papal bigotry which lurked and still lurks today in the guts of so many million of our fellow-countrymen (good mixed metaphors, yes?). These are Jalland's words about the Syllabus:
" ...what many of its detractors failed to appreciate was that the real object of the Pope's attack was not freedom but licence, not reason but rationalism, not state sovereignty but secularism ... If the more determined critics of the nineteenth-century Papacy could have foreseen the present-day progress of secularism, they might have been more willing to recognise that the Syllabus, in spite of its evident limitations, had as its purpose that characteristic aim of Roman pronouncements, namely, the preservation of a via media amid the conflicting claims of modern society, between absolutism and anarchy, between theocracy  and atheism. Indeed, it is not difficult to find in this supposedly reactionary document a few at least of the principles on which a modern enlightened democratic regime is based."

I have no doubt that Dr Jalland is part of that great Anglican Patrimony which our Holy Father the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wished the Ordinariates to bring into the unity of the Church, for the benefit and enlightenment of the entire Church. Audite eum!