1 April 2015

Re-iter-ation! More on Cardinal Mueller

Last Monday, I published the piece which follows below. Today comes the news that Cardinal Mueller, Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has made very emphatically the point hammered home by S AUGUSTINE in the passage I quote at length at the end of my piece. His Eminence said: "We must remember also in the Holy Year that we cannot speak of mercy without truth". He also said:" The mercy of God accepts us as we are, but it does not leave us as we are". Cardinal Mueller, admirably, like S Augustine, does not write or speak anonymously!

Monday March 30 2015: I repeated parts of a piece of mine from last December. Its context was the issuing, by the CBCEW, of a document giving no hint of authorship. Worse, it appeared to me to be designed to advance strategically the theological opinion of Walter Kasper (contrary to the Magisterium as expressed by Benedict XVI), that the Local Church (which appears to some theologians to mean the Episcopal Conference) has an ontological priority over the Universal Church. Readers will recall the practical conclusion to Kasper's argument: that the bright and sparkling Local Church can make its own decisions about certain Matrimonial matters without waiting for the sclerotic Universal Church to catch up.

It seemed to me that when a document emerges from the bureaucracy of an episcopal conference with an at least prima facie appearance of calling into question Magisterial teaching, there should be some indication of who is taking responsibility for it.

The abiding topicality of Kasper's errors has recently been highlighted by its vigorously crude  reassertion in statements from Cardinal Marx, and - on the opposite side - by the superb interview given by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; the fine Letter from Cardinal Cordes; a most useful intervention by Cardinal Koch, and the courageous Letter of the English Priests. The, frankly, sinister revelation (itself an act of courage) that some of those English priests were subjected to "pressure and intimidation" not to sign the Letter suggests that the anonymous person who wrote last December's deplorable CBCEW document has, in the memorable words of Gerry Adams, "not gone away".

December 2014, I said: The anonymous document suggested that we should derive from the Donatist controversy a way to "reach out to people in their very diverse situations". The Donatists died out a long time ago; they were opponents of S Augustine of Hippo. Yet, apparently, S Augustine, in his dealing with the Donatists, "offers us a way of looking at the Church from his age which is still relevant today". Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I am in favour of learning from the past and that I deplore any inadequacy of Formation which leaves clergy without enough Latin to be able actually to read for themselves all these interesting, and, apparently, now immensely important documents relating to S Augustine's long battle with the Donatists. The question, however, which does have to be asked, is: what is the motive here for dragging in the Donatists and, for that matter, S Augustine? There does appears to be a subtext. Could it possibly be to imply that those who stand by the currently well-established disciplines of the Church are behaving like the Donatist heretics whom Augustine condemned? 

As far as I can make out, the message which the anonymous author wishes to derive from the case of S Augustinus versus Donatum, is that sinners should not be excluded from the Church; the Church should not attempt to be the Pure Few. S Augustine, we are told, favoured "patience and tolerance"; not the exclusion of sinners from the Church. I certainly buy that. 100%. But ... neither, as far as I am aware, does anybody in our present debates make any such proposal. It is true that a question arises (in fact, is raised by S Paul I Cor 11:27) about the reception of Holy Communion by those who, without repentance and a purpose of amendment, live in sin, whether that sin be adultery or fornication or homosexual genital relationships or embezzlement or pride or theft or mendacity or murder or spite or people-trafficking or torture or arbitrary imprisonment or slavery or sexual and economic exploitation ... I think I must have been reading Gaudium et Spes and Veritatis Splendor ... or whatever other common sins you care to name. But that is not the question which S Augustine is addressing. He condemns, it is very true, the error of "making rash or premature conclusions" about who will, on the Day of Judgement, be saved ... and I do most certainly agree that "we are not in a position in this life to pass judgement on others".

But there is a gap in logic between that, and the conclusion that "such key words of S Augustine can help us move the debate beyond particularly difficult issues* and set these same issues* in a wider context." I wonder what you think those 'particularly difficult issues*' are which, in view of the anonymous writer, will benefit from the 'wider context' of S Augustine and the Donatists a millennium and a half ago? Could they ... just possibly ... I make a wild guess ... be the 'issue*' of the admission to Holy Communion of those living in the objectively disordered and unrepented states of Moikheia, adultery ('remarried divorcees') or Malakia, homosexuality genitally expressed ('Gay Marriage')? If not this, then whatever else can possibly be in the anonymous mind? In a word, how can the rather obvious fact that we do not know who will end up saved, have anything to do with the question of whether or not the Church should adjust her teaching or her rules?

Consider these words, also from the same anonymous document: "Can charity allow us to live with difference, without diminishing what is essential in our Catholic faith?** ... Liberty in what is doubtful, unity in what is essential, and charity in everything". This reminds me disturbingly of Walter Kasper's claim that "the disagreements at issue fall into the category of those where the Church has historically recognised legitimate differences of opinion" - and he was writing about the admission to Communion of 'remarried divorcees', a policy which he had tried to implement in Rottenburg-Stuttgart when he was its diocesan bishop. (Who put the stoppers on him? Joseph Ratzinger. Eis polla ete despota!)  

I will, indeed, let S AUGUSTINE, Hammer of the Donatist Heresy, have the last word. We will take him up, in translation, as he quotes the Lord's words to the Woman Caught in Adultery.
" ' Neither will I condemn you'. What is this, Lord? Do you therefore favour sins? Not so, evidently. Mark what follows: 'Go, henceforth sin no more'. Therefore the Lord did also condemn, but condemned sins, not man. For if he were a patron [fautor] of sin, he would say 'Neither will I condemn you; go, live as you will: be secure in my deliverance; how much soever you will sin, I will deliver you from all punishment even of hell, and from the torturers of the infernal world'. He said not this. Let them take heed, then, who love his gentleness in the Lord, and let them fear his truth [veritatem]. For 'The Lord is sweet and right [rectus]'. You love him in that he is sweet; fear him in that he is right. As the meek, he said 'I held my peace'; but as the just [iustus], he said 'Shall I always be silent?'  'The Lord is merciful and pitiful'. So he is, certainly. Add yet further: 'Long-suffering'; add, even further still: 'And very pitiful'. But fear what comes last: 'And TRUE [verax]'. For those whom he now puts up with [sustinet] as sinners, he will judge as despisers. 'Or do you despise the riches of his long-suffering and gentleness, not knowing that the forbearance of God leads you to repentance? But you, after your hardness and impenitent heart, treasure up for yourself wrath against the Day of Wrath and the revelation of the righteous judgement of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds' [Romans 2:4-6]. The Lord is gentle, the Lord is long-suffering, the Lord is pitiful; but the Lord is also just, the Lord is also TRUE. He bestows on you space for correction; but you love the delay of Judgement more than the amendment of your ways".
* Notice this very modern use of the word issue here instead of the older term 'problem'. 'Problem' would admit, give away, the fact that there is a problem. By calling a thing an 'issue', it is turned into something much more neutral ... something to discuss.
** Another very useful rhetorical dodge here, not to be missed by the connoisseur: the anonymous writer desires to promote a certain agenda, but he or she sets his or her desired innovation in the form of a question, so that, if it becomes politic, he or she can hide behind the the formula "I didn't argue in favour of X; I just asked the question". (This is often combined with another common modern rhetorical trick: the implication "I just want to make a contribution to debate". But the implication, smuggled in here like the illegal immigrant underneath the chassis of the lorry, is the idea that the subject concerned is truly open to discussion. Those who are inclined to doubt this are thus cast in the role of nasty rigid inflexible legalistic people who 'refuse to listen'. Which is to be unmodern.)

Spring or Summer on the Italian Lakes? Join me there!!.

I remember the beginning of the sermon well; firstly, because it was the day after we got married on April 1, secondly because the preacher was very fat. Low Sunday 1967; High Mass in S Mary's Bourne Street; and the homilist began by remarking that, a generation ago, one could have found the entire Anglican Bench of Bishops on the shores of the Italian Lakes on Low Sunday. I suppose we should all rejoice, we of the Ordinariate, that the English Catholic bishops are planning their ten-day break, so richly deserved, lakeside at Palazzola from April 17: a very Patrimonial thing to do!!

Patrimonial, the Italian Lakes, but Trollopian as well! All I knew about them until last year was that Dr Vesey Stanhope spent the emoluments of his Barchester canonry living there and adding to the collection of butterflies for which he was so famous, until the menaces of a new Bishop ... or his Chaplain ... or rather, the Bishop's wife ... induced him to return to the Close. But last year I did get, finally, to Lake Garda; and the wonders of the place swept me off my feet. The "Roman Forum", run by Dr John Rao, is what took me there.  Beneath is what I wrote on my blog shortly after I returned:
FROM  12 JULY 2014 ...
 What a spectacular ten days! I have just returned from the Roman Forum colloquium organised annually by the brilliant and indefatigable John Rao. Centred at a beautiful village on the hillside above the exquisitely beautiful Lake Garda which Caius Valerius Catullus so loved (I did, of course, take my Catullus with me) the colloquium includes two daily lectures; a Sung Mass at 11.30 (said Masses earlier); drinks at Seven ... Dinner at Eight ... you get the idea. It also included a trip around the lake ... as far as Malcesine where thousands of swallows endlessly circled a Venetian tower ... and a superbly organised expedition to Venice: Dr Rao has his own boatmen and the entire day was magically effortless. Some participants later made up a party to go to the opera in the Roman amphitheatre at Verona.

This is not a liturgical conference (although the liturgy used is of course the authentic rite of the Latin Church, done with a very competent Schola in the beautiful baroque Parish Church). A commitment to Tradition is broader than just being fond of the Vetus Ordo. I'm not going to tell you what the common intellectual theme was this year ... you should jolly well make sure you go in 2015. Suffice it to say that the quality of the lectures was (except for my couple) very distinguished indeed. The participants were of every age and included those with ideas to communicate and non-intellectuals who just wished to learn more about the Faith. (English is the language of the colloquium, but lecturers are from all over Europe and America).

I was very glad to meet and talk with, for the first time, the eminent historian of Vatican II, Professor Roberto de Mattei, whose papers will have fascinated you on the Rorate blog. The lecturers were all (except for me) distinguished. The staff of Gloria TV dropped in and filmed us ... It was fascinating to get the low-down on the Austrian Church ...

You just don't know what you missed. But there is 2015 ...

Thayt's what I wrote last year, 2014, and believe me, I can't wait to get back. There are some rooms still vacant in the village and I'll do another Post later in the day.

Gardone: more ...

THE ROMAN FORUM SUMMER SYMPOSIUM GARDONE 2015 will get you the  details via Google. The dates are June 29 until July 10, and the theme this year is Forbidden Topics: a free and rational Catholic challenge to the frightened Modern Mind. An admirable general subject; it took me some time to narrow myself down to the two choices I am allowed to lecture on. I do beg you to give serious consideration to a ten day treat in which one is unsure whether it is first-rate intellectual stimulation varied by food, wine, good liturgy, good conversation, top-notch sight-seeing ... or the food and the etceteras varied by first-rate intellectual stimulation. I append below what I wrote after returning from last year's Forum; WARNING: its original heading apologised for the excessive Classical references. Don't be put off: the Conference is not a Classical Conference! 

FROM 7 AUGUST 2014 ... mainly for Classicists ...
 .... the drill was that we made our own arrangements for lunch ... usually eating in little groups at the various eateries around the square. On just one occasion I acted antisocially. On my own, concealing shamefacedly a small volume of poetry, some of it sexually explicit, I crept down to the waterfront, lined with lavish villas and hotels built by or for the Austrians and Germans for whom this was a convenient riviera. Under the ample and cool portico of the former Casino, looking out over what must be some of the most wonderful views in the world, I ordered a vitello tonnato  and settled down, undisturbed, to reread Caii Valerii Catulli Carmina.

Well, wouldn't you have done so? Perhaps you have done so. How could one visit Catullus's lake, looking across to his Sirmio over the anerithmon gelasma ton kumaton (did he have this line from the Prometheus Vinctus in mind as he wrote O Lydiae lacus undae, ridete quidquid est domi cachinorum?) and not read his Carmina? And not think of his Phaselus cutting through the water? (The commentators, incidentally, discuss whether the river was still navigable when he brought her home for her retirement; but since more than a millennium later the Venetians hauled their galleys over the mountains to have a naval battle with the French, the question seems otiose.)

I wondered whether it was the limpid waters of Garda that got Catullus thinking, while he was still an adulescens, about luxus et veneres: what Jasper Griffin, the Corpus Professor emeritus in this University, once wrote about as the joys of women, water, and nakedness ... the nymphs nutricum tenus exstantes e gurgite cano ... Ariadne on the beach, mindless of her mitra, her amictus and her strophium all slipping off her body to be played with by the cheeky little waves around her ankles as in Catullus 64, his Epyllion in the purest manner of Callimachus ... until I was woken from reminiscences of Neoteric poetry and Oxford Professors by the waiter, who clearly had begun to think quamquam invito Catullo of taking his siesta. He told me that the premises had been used during the War as a German Officers' Club. For the first time in my life (this will confirm you in your view of how amoral and unimaginative I am) I began to wonder whether I might have had a vocation to join the Wehrmacht.

So I strolled through the gardens of the adjoining villa, where Il Duce, another man not indifferent to pleasures of the flesh, set up Clara Pettacci ... in all the circumstances, let us hope that she enjoyed her all-too-brief stay there ... and then I climbed the hill to listen to another particularly spectacular paper by John Rao.

31 March 2015

Our Chrism Mass

Another splendid Chrism Mass yesterday! Celebrated as ever by the Nuncio, as the Holy Father's particular representative; a lovely piece of symbolism since it reminds us that canonically and ecclesiologically we are directly under the Sovereign Pontiff himself; a detached portion, you might say, of the Church of Urbs Roma herself, miraculously transplanted into this our land. To great applause (I have to admit we did become a trifle unliturgical in our exuberance) Archbishop Tony, as I have heard him called, assured us (and not just once!) of the very special affection in which Pope Francis holds us. Among the massed concelebrants, our six formerly Anglican bishops. And Keith was very persuasive on Mission ... Chrisma as the "Oil of Mission". What a privilege it is to be incardinated into this splendid body.

Through an open door, I happened to notice, over the fireplace in the Ordinary's study, a fine painting of Bishop Graham Leonard. I felt quite touched; how marvellous to be reminded of that great Pontiff but, even better, to be reminded by him of our continuities ... that we lineally constitute as a Coetus  that Ecclesia Anglicana planted by S Augustine Romanissimus Romanorum which was violently wrenched into schism under the Tudors but then, over the grace-filled centuries, felt its way back to full Catholic orthodoxy and the fullest and most whole-hearted adherence to the Magisterium. (You should have heard us sing Praise to the Holiest at the end!) We have so much to be proud of ... Oops; I should have said, "Grateful for"; grateful for Grace, grateful for each other, grateful for Pope Benedict. God bless him! I am sure it is his prayers, joining with those of the amoluntos Theotokos of Walsingham and of Blessed John Henry, that propel us on our Way.

How the Clergy did chatter, before and after. We are so far flung that we have a lot of catching up to do. I don't think I heard one little bit of bad news; just talk of growth ... and "How's your family?" ... and "I didn't hear about the Letter until it had gone to press" ... and "What a lot of laity this morning, and weren't they cheerful?" ... and "Thank you so much for your blog" (Thank YOU, dear Fathers.) The only hints of sadness were occasional reminiscences of those who had said they would join us on our journey into unity with Peter, but who drew back at the last moment. How much more we could be doing if only ...

Perhaps we have spent too much time enjoying ourselves and not enough time in penitential prayer for them? I, for my part, plead guilty to that failing. God give them the grace to understand, and give to me the grace of self-denial.

30 March 2015

in tot adversis

Da quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut, qui in tot adversis ex nostra infirmitate deficimus; intercedente unigeniti Filii tui passione respiremus.

Thus today's ancient Collect (Grant, we beg, almighty God: that we, who among so many adversities faint on account of our weakness, may through the mediation of thy Son's passion, get our breath back).

How extraordinarily up-to-the-moment those ancient prayers are. The Church is at this very minute under a great Satanic onslaught: she is still reeling from the wounds inflicted  by the monstrous evil of pedophilia: men privileged to take the Lord into their own hands morning by morning so as to offer the immaculate oblation with the purest of hearts became ... filth. Demonic cunning is putting the Church's doctrine of Marriage is under attack in some of the highest quarters of the Church. Sexual perversion is Proudly paraded before us, and woe-betide any who dissent. And, without the gates, Christians are hounded to Martyrdom by a foul and murderous superstition. Among so many adversities puts it mildly.

The new Rite retains this Collect. But it misses out the words in tot adversis [among so many adversities]. In the breezy and optimistic confidence of the post-conciliar years, we felt that as the Church made herself up-to-date, threw open her windows to the world, and blew her cobwebs away, old liturgical phraseology about her being besieged by afflictions was not particularly ben trovato.

Oh dear. How the chickens so carefully nurtured by the fashionable liturgists of the 1960s really are coming home to roost. One recalls the Lord's words about the yet greater demonic infestation which can occupy the swept and garnished house.

29 March 2015


The ancient (and EF) formulae for Palm Sunday speak of both Palm and Olive branches. Palm, of course, is the ancient Mediterranean symbol of Victory: and our Lord's triumphant ride into Jerusalem is what we might call the pre-emptive procession of the Great Conqueror. Perhaps we should not think of Holy Week in too 'linear' a way. It is well known that S John's Gospel, read in the Western Rite on Good Friday, emphasises the Victory of the Cross (Victory doesn't have to wait for Easter morning). On Maundy Thursday, the Lord gives his disciples to eat and drink the Body and Blood which, in terms of a simplistic 'linear' approach, have not yet been broken, shed, or sacrificed. Yet he gives them to his disciples as already sacrificed. And Triumph is already integral to Palm Sunday. All the themes and elements of Pascha surface in all the rites of Holy Week; it is a thematic unity, even if poor mortals, bogged down by 'linear' time, have to take the components one at a time. The soon-to-be-taxed bag you brought back from the shop contains all your groceries simultaneously, even if you have to take them out one at a time.

Olive has, if anything, an even profounder ideology associated with it than Palm. It suggests richness and fruitfulness enjoyed in peace. The EF prayers referred to the twig which the dove brought back to Noah, emblem of the end of God's wrath, emblem of the first covenantal peace between God and his people. How fitting to meet it on this day when He who is the New Covenant sets aside the Temple Sacrifices by cleansing the Temple of the beasts awaiting immolation so that, antitype for type, he can set up the Eucharistic New Table of Sacrifice for his new people. We meet Olive again at the Chrism Mass, and I would like here to revive an edifying speculation of Dom Gregory Dix. Ancient Jewish tradition held that the tree of life standing in the midst of the garden of Eden was an Olive, from which came the oil of mercy that cured both pain and death. That is why patristic sources insistently associate the Chrism of Confirmation with immortality and resurrection. And the Medieval Cornish Mystery Plays make much headway, typologically, with the pun between elaion [oil; pronounced in later Antiquity as eleon] and eleos [mercy]

In some early writings, the tree from which this oil flows is the tree of the Cross. It seems to me that here the images of scripture and tradition merge and mingle. The Cross, the New Tree in the New Garden, is the true tree of life, and the Anointing (Chrisma) which makes and marks us as Christians unto everlasting life flows from that tree. And it is the tree of which Venantius Fortunatus in his Pange lingua teaches us that it is itself soaked, anointed, through and through, with the blood of the lamb ( ...quem sacer cruor perunxit fusus agni corpore).

A preChristian Jewish writing pictures Adam begging to be given of the oil that flows from the tree in garden. He is given for anwer: 'It shall not be thine now, but at the end of the times. Then shall all flesh be raised up and God will give them of the tree of life'. Praise be to God, who, here in the end-time, gives us to be marked with the anointing of eternity.

28 March 2015

Two notes in response to queries.

Gardone 2015 ... the Roman Forum ... google it ... I plan to write about it next Wednesday, but I do urge readers who can devote 10 days to high living combined with top-notch intellectual pursuits to suss it out and book now. I went last year and it was the experience of a lifetime. All that and Venice too!

Anthony Kenny wrote A Stylometric Study of the New Testament in 1986, Clarendon Press, Oxford.

Simplicity and sophistication

"S Mark's Gospel must be the earliest to have been written because it is so much simpler; and its rough, primitive unsophistication ... "

"Early Christological models are inevitably simpler, indeed, more sincere, than the later Christologies, with their complex and artificial ... "

"The sophisticated theology and complex narratological techniques of S John's Gospel make clear that it can hardly predate the second decade of the second century ... "

"The worship of the Christian Churches, as it developed from the simple fellowship meals held by the early Christians in memory of Jesus of Nazareth ... "

"The palaeographic indications which appear to suggest that the papyrus containing the prayer Sub tuum praesidium dates from as early as the third century, must give way to the realisation that its developed Mariology cannot possibly ... "

So very many of the 'assured results of modern scholarship' have rested ultimately upon comfortable and rarely interrogated Enlightenment prejudices. To the mentality of the last two-and-a-half centuries, it has seemed obvious that 'primitive' simplicity must have been transformed, in a simple linear process, into greater complexity. Rousseau's Noble Savage, dated into mythical human pre-history, must necessarily predate the Bourbon Court! That such a methodological presupposition still survives among 'liberal' Christian academics is, it seems to me, another example of the failure of many such writers to keep up with advances in the secular study of the ancient world. Here is a passage, written in 1998 by Peter Parsons, Regius Professor (now emeritus) of Greek in this University and a very great papyrologist. He is surveying the large number of 'new' Classical texts which the sands of Egypt had yielded in the couple of decades before he wrote. (It is worth adding that discoveries since 1998 have done nothing to weaken his argument.)

" ... the new texts test the categories and structures of scholarship, the faible convenue which nineteenth century positivists based on the assumption that the texts then surviving were typical and to be explained simply in relation to one another. As usual, aesthetic prejudices and unquestioned categories lie below the scientific surface. Scholars used to regard Aeschylus' Suppliants as the earliest of his plays; it has a simple plot, little action, and long choruses. Now a papyrus has dated it, less than ten years earlier than the Oresteia. False assumption: that artists develop in linear mode, from simple to complex, irrespective of theme. Now that we have Simonides' celebration of the Battle of Plataea, the great patriotic war of classical Greece, we see how he reinvented epic in elegy, the Trojan war in the Persian war, Homer in himself. Standard literary histories had put such generic mutations and complex intertextualities two centuries later. Another false assumption: that classical poets were all genius without artifice (and that their successors all artifice without genius)."

27 March 2015

The See of Westminster is not primatial. (UPDATED)

UPDATE: kind readers have enabled me to refine and strengthen this piece. 
Non-Catholics often misunderstand the position of the Archiepiscopal See of Westminster; and this can lead to unfairness towards its occupant. I think the reactions of some people inside the Catholic Church can also be misinformed and hence unfair. I have in my mind, of course, the controversy currently raging as a result of Cardinal Nichols' less than enthusiastic reaction to the Letter of the 500 clergy. But this whole question is of importance because it bears on matters of ecclesiological doctrine which, in fact, are the real basis of the Church's current upheavals. Which is how Cardinal Mueller comes into the question.

The Archbishop of Westminster is not, as journalists and others often appear to assume, a sort of Catholic equivalent of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The common notion that 'primate' and 'archbishop' and 'metropolitan' are interchangeable terms is historically false. The Archbishop of Canterbury is a Primate. And he is Primate of All England (totius Angliae), with certain powers (of a legatus natus sanctae Sedis continued to him by statute after the Schism) even within the Province of York. When he visitatorially enters another diocese, the Diocesan Bishop automatically but temporarily loses his diocesan jurisdiction. He is known sometimes colloquially as alterius orbis papa, and his primatial dignity, remarkably, is sustained by the possession of an episcopal Curia comprising a Provincial Dean (the Bishop of London), Chancellor (Bishop of Winchester), Vice-Chancellor (Bishop of Lincoln), Precentor (Bishop of Salisbury), Chaplain (Bishop of Worcester), and Cross-bearer (bishop of Rochester).Whatever you may think about the theological or sacramental status of a modern Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, these structural and legal arrangements are, substantially, in continuity with the very grand position and considerable primatial authority held by medieval Archbishops of Canterbury, as the holder of an office that historically went far back before the time when there was a King or a Kingdom of England.

The See of Westminster has never been constituted by the Holy See as a Primatial See. An obvious moment to have given it that dignity would have been in 1911, when the Sees of Birmingham at Liverpool were raised to metropolitan status. There was indeed at that time a desire (see the thread) to preserve the national position of Westminster; its Archbishop was made the permanent chairman (Praeses perpetuus) of episcopal meetings and given the right to represent the national Catholic community to the Civil Power (as long as he said only what his fellow-bishops had agreed). But he was given no jurisdiction and the only 'ritual' dignities conferred were those of using pallium and cathedra throughout England and Wales, and having his metropolitical cross carried before him anywhere in the country. This falls far short of the old 'primatial' conception. I now turn aside to dispose of a couple of minor details. (1) The Holy See did once grant the See of Westminster a coat of arms almost identical with that of Canterbury, Pallium and Primatial Cross (with a field gules [red] rather than azure [blue]). But, subsequently, as the impropriety of this became better and better understood, Archbishops of Westminster changed that shield by omitting the Primatial Cross, firstly, replacing it with a fleur de lys; and then simply leaving its place blank. (2) At Vatican II Cardinal Heenan rather boldly subscribed the conciliar documents as Primas Angliae. But neither of these oddities means that the Archbishop of Westminster has acquired jurisdiction such as that enjoyed before and since the Reformation by the Archbishops of Canterbury ... primatial jurisdiction which, in any case, is ruled out by the current Code of Canon Law (vide Canonem 438). The position of the Archbishop of Westminster is thus simply as it is described in the front of my Breviary in a decree signed by Cardinal Griffin: Coetus episcopalis totius Angliae et Cambriae Praeses Perpetuus (in another Breviary I possess, the corresponding part of a parallel decree from the Archbishop of Malines describes him as Primas Belgii). He is, additionally, Metropolitan of his own province [comprising the dioceses of Brentwood, East Anglia, Northampton, and Nottingham], with the distinctly tenuous and limited metropolitical powers described in Canon 436. He has no metropolitical relationship with the totally independant metropolitical provinces of Birmingham, Liverpool, Cardiff and Southwark, or with three extra-provincial entities, the Ukrainian Eparchy of the Holy Family, the Military Ordinariate, and the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham (all three of which, incidentally, extend beyond the boundaries of the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales).

What this means is that an Archbishop of Westminster has no substantive jurisdiction whatsoever outside his own archdiocese of Westminster ... which is, roughly, London North of the Thames and Hertfordshire. But, even if not a primate, does he perhaps have authority by virtue of his Presidency of the Episcopal Conference? Not in Canon Law and not in dogma. I will illustrate this by quoting some very recent words [h/t Rorate] ... jolly convenient, this! ... expressed by Cardinal Mueller, whose job (committed to him by the authority of our beloved Holy Father himself, the Vicar of S Peter) is to give rulings on precisely such matters.

"An episcopal conference is not a particular council, even less so an ecumenical council. The president of an episcopal conference is nothing more than a technical moderator, and he does not have any particular magisterial authority due to his title ... dioceses are not branches of the secretariate of a bishops conference either, nor of the diocese whose bishop presides over the episcopal conference. This kind of attitude risks in fact the reawakening of a certain polarisation between the local Churches and the Church universal, out of date since the Vatican I and Vatican II councils. The Church is not a sum of national churches .... ". This continues the strong teaching Mueller has given before; in 2013, for example, "the Roman Pontiff and the individual bishops are of divine right, instituted by Jesus Christ. ... But the patriarchates and episcopal conferences, historically and today, belong solely to human ecclesiastical right. The presidents of the episcopal conferences, although important, are coordinators, nothing more, not some vicepopes! Every bishop has a direct and immediate relationship with the Pope. We cannot have a decentralisation in the conferences; there would be the danger of a new centralism, with the presidency that has all the information and the bishops submerged in documents without the time to get ready ..." 

Some of us may very much admire the views expressed recently through the Press by His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, and others may as deeply resent them. But, unless he is our diocesan Bishop, they really do not have anything whatsoever to do with us. We should, both clergy and laity, refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of the Archdiocese of Westminster ... unless, of course, we happen ourselves to be incardinated into it.

Non-Catholics sometimes ignorantly believe that the Catholic Church is some kind of militaristic tyranny, ruled over at the top by the Biggest Bully, the Pope, and, under him, by a descending hierarchy of Lesser Bullies, including Cardinals, Archbishops, and Bishops, right down to Fr Little Bully, the Parish Priest. The Catholic Church is not anything remotely like that. She is the Body and Bride of Christ; and, institutionally, a body with quite extraordinarily precise provisions defining, and limiting, the jurisdiction of whoever has any jurisdiction. Thus every Catholic is protected, by Canon Law, from canonically unsupported assumptions of authority. At least, that's the impression which the much fingered Navarra Edition of the CIC resting here on my desk gives me!

I have enormous respect for Cardinal Nichols and find him distinctly likeable. But he is not my bishop, and I am under no obligation to have any regard to the views he expresses, unless what he says carries with it its own moral conviction. It very often does, but, in this current controversy, it does not. I will not say why, because to do that would be to meddle in his relationship qua bishop with his own presbyters. Quite simply, not my business. Just as whatever I do is not his business.

Long and happily may he continue to occupy Dr Wiseman's august cathedra!

I would be grateful for corrections of fact.

26 March 2015

Wason's Bishop and his Extraordinary Sunday

As Catholic Anglicans, we had something like a century's experience of introducing what we used then to call "the Western Rite", i.e. the 'Tridentine' liturgy associated with the name of S Pius V, into parishes which had not previously known it. Quite often this was done overnight; as an interregnum came to its end, the newly instituted incumbent sprang (what Pope Benedict was later to name) the Extraordinary Form on the parish on his very first Sunday morning. I recently shared with you Fr Bernard Walke's moving account of how he did this at S Hilary's in Cornwall.

His friend Fr Sandys Wason did likewise at nearby Cury and Gunwalloe. A few months later, Fr Wason's bishop had heard that some of the congregation were restive. (Wason had also sacked a 'gentry' Churchwarden and appointed in his place a villager; and had expressed from the pulpit his view of the Ordo Recentior by holding aloft a Book of Common Prayer, and affecting to look inside it before throwing it down to the ground with the words "Made in Germany!") So the bishop announced that he was coming over the next Sunday to officiate in the church and to Sort Things Out. Probably surmising that his Lordship did not intend to use a rite that included the Third Confiteor, Father saw to it that he was already well into his own Tridentine Missa Cantata by the time the right reverend prelate's conveyance rolled up to the church. The latter announced to the large crowds of gaping sightseers who had come to watch the 'fun', that he would await the end of the Vicar's Service, and then celebrate the Holy Communion.

The Bishop underestimated both the stamina of the Anglo-Catholic clergy and laity ... and their appetite for Marian devotion. Immediately after Mass, with no greater interruption than the removal of his maniple, Fr Wason began Solemn Rosary ... not one of those rapid Irish Rosaries with the laity racing into the Holy Mary before the priest has even got to the fruit of thy womb, but a slow, meditative, Anglican Rosary in which, at the end of each Mystery, Father preached about it generously and extensively, allowing no typological crumb to fall unexamined to the ground. Eventually the Pontiff, almost fainting because he had not had a bite of lunch, gave up and was driven back to his Palace at Lys Escop. When Fr Wason - after delivering what may have been the most exhaustive treatise on the Coronation of our Lady in the history of Christian homiletics - finally emerged into the setting sun, he dismissed the waiting mob of journalists with a wave of his hand and the information that, since he was of course still fasting, he was off to have his breakfast.

Wason's Cornish critics did score some points against him, most notably when they dumped the putrescent corpse of a donkey on the Vicarage doorstep. There were times when West Country humour may have had its slightly heavy side.

Happy days, that blessed era of the Walkes and the Wasons, the glittering Age of Confessors when 'Faith was taught and fanned to a golden blaze'; and how authentically it is still right at the heart of our beloved Anglican Patrimony. We must keep alive in our three Ordinariates the spirit of those Heroes of the Faith! Memoria aeterna!

25 March 2015


There are customs surrounding the Angelus, familiar to those of the Anglican Patrimony, which I do not see in 'diocesan' Catholic churches.

(1) The use of the Angelus immediately after the main Sunday morning Mass;
(2) the singing of the Angelus;
(3) genuflexion at Et Verbum caro factum est; and
(4) the sign of the Cross at per passionem eius et cru+cem ... .

Can anyone throw any light on these customs (particularly their origins), which seem to me thoroughly admirable?

I rather incline to the narrative according to which the Angelus was instituted by Pope John XXII, who certainly did institute the Solemnity of Corpus Christi as we have it today. He 'provided' that great pontiff and builder and liturgist John de Grandisson to the See of Exeter, and I have long wondered whether that can possibly have anything to do with the fact that Grandisson's patron is commemorated in Avignon by a fine tomb of English manufacture.