14 February 2016

Does one HAVE to be an illiterate to be a journalist ...

 ... or is it just a wopping great advantage? Media reports of the meeting in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moskow, almost without exception, carried on about how this was the "first" meeting between the Pope and the head of the Russian Church since the "Skism" between East and West "nearly a thousand years ago".

I wonder who told the fools this convoluted nonsense. I hope it wasn't the Secretariate for Unity and/or Metropolitan Hilarion's people; because that would rather suggest that, 1984-style, Metropolitan Isidore has been declared an unperson and is to be written out of history.

Isidore, Metropolitan of Kiev, Moskow, and All Rus was at the Council of Florence in 1439, when the Union between East and West was brought about. Isidore was a keen advocate of that Union (and was in fact imprisoned on this account on his return home). He was made a papal legate and a Cardinal. Can it really be true that he never met the pope?

My suspicion is that the guilt here does not in fact lie with Koch or Hilarion, but with an arrogant laziness which prevents journalists from bothering to brief themselves accurately with regard to any 'religious' matters.

I wonder what we, or anybody, could do to explode the idea that 1054 is the date of the breach between East and West. It was a date, certainly, of a nasty spat in Constantinople when a Papal Legate excommunicated a Patriarch and that Patriarch excommunicated that Legate. But there had been nasty spats before then; and there were unions (such as that of Florence) after then. And analysing relations between East and West has never been a simple matter of assuming that Constantinople is the whole East. There are two other autonomous (and more ancient) patriarchates out there, as well as Jerusalem and Moskow. Moskow certainly doesn't think that Constantinople is the whole East: and Moskow is quite right on this as on many other matters.

I am also much puzzled why are there so few banner headlines saying

Could it be that the text of the Declaration was just that bit too long for poor ill-educated journalists to be able to read all of it?

I have said before, I think, that I find the following a sobering thought: 
When journalists rabbit on about things I do know just a little about, it is clear to me that they totally lack competence in that field. So should I therefore prudently assume per analogiam that, when they pontificate in fields in which I am ignorant, that's all a load of rubbish, too?

13 February 2016

Roman Primacy and Cuba

There is so much that is better than good in the Declaration of Cuba that it seems churlish to carp. But ...

Paragraph 27: I find this enormously strange. Unless the Russian Church is finally conceding that the Bishop of First Rome does have a general supervision of All the Churches so as to maintain or to restore unity and to resolve disputes, I completely fail to see what on earth it has to do with the Pope what the competing Ukrainian Orthodox jurisdictions do. What standing has Rome to prescribe upon what basis in Canon Law Orthodox should reconcile among themselves? I can't help feeling that Moskow has tricked the Vatican into, rather unwisely, taking sides in an intra-Orthodox dispute. No fools, these Russkies.

Paragraph 25: If a group of Bishops with their Clergies and Peoples decide to seek formal links of Communion with the See of S Peter, I do not see upon what grounds of Catholic ecclesiology their request can be denied or rebuffed. Calling it Unia and then deeming that term to be a dirty word is just ecclesiastical spin-doctoring.

Could it be that Moskow is afraid that some of the Ukrainian Orthodox might seek shelter under a Roman, rather than a Muscovite, umbrella? Or is all this part of Moskow's unease that the Ecumenical Patriarchate might (as it has done before) take a 'primatial' hand in the canonical problems within the former Soviet Empire? Or do we have here a device to pre-empt some possible jockying at this year's Pan-Orthodox Conference? Did Cardinal Koch check with Constantinople that these texts were unexceptionable?

A chap can get himself into trouble by flirting with two girls at the same time.

Only for readers of D L Sayers ...

 ... if there are some out there!

Thrones and Dominations is a Peter Wimsey  novel, abandoned, fragmentary, between 1936 and 1938 and "completed" in 1998 by Jill Paton Walsh.

The context of this book fascinates me. It portrays the equal, and equally passionate, love of PW and H; a love destined to be fruitful although that fruitfulness, Sayers emphasises, will not just be for dynastic reasons! Against this is set the relationship between Laurence and Rosamund, who are married but whose conduct deceives a seasoned observer into thinking it is that of lover and mistress. Their relationship has distinctly sadomasochistic undertones: Rosamund disciplines Laurence to secure her own wilful interests by the giving or witholding of her person. Sayers, and the lapdog, make clear the inherently infertile character of this flawed association. Not surprisingly, the title of the book is ...

What mainly intrigues me is that the narrative is not situated in a novelistic never-never land; Sayers very deliberately places it explicitly within the early months of the reign of Edward VIII. And we now know that the relationship between him and Mrs Simpson was indeed a matter of Thrones and of Dominations. And, of course, for whatever combination of reasons, it was infertile.

As Sayers wrote the surviving six draft chapters, had she read foreign newspapers so that she knew about Simpson? Assuming that indeed she had, could she have known ... did anybody know then, except for the occasional footman who might happen to burst in while the King-Emperor was coram dea provolutus ... how unusual that liaison was? Are the similarities between Sayers' characters and the reality behind the Abdication Crisis sheer coincidence? Or could there be a cultural link: was this type of sexual situation one of the preoccupations of writers and novelists in the 1930s? Is there a symbiosis somewhere here linking Art and Life? I am not very well-read in English fiction written between the wars. You literate chappesses and chaps out there will be able to answer this.

And I have some plain and factual source-critical questions which I share simply on the very remote off-chance that somebody might have some answers. We know that Walsh wove into a unity two differing and often very different drafts left by Sayers. Have any variant versions escaped into the public domain? Do we know if Walsh may have censored from her synthetic narrative typically Thirtiesish tropes in the Sayers drafts because they would be considered politically incorrect nowadays? The 'Diagram' Sayers left of the plot: is that anywhere to be seen? The section we know Walsh omitted ... in which Paul Delagardie describes to Harriet Wimsey's sexual initiation ... has that sneaked out? Why was Walsh ... in our 'liberated' age ... so squeamish about it?

Finally: despite a slight chronological misalignment, might Sayers have based the portraitist Gaston Chapparelle on Philip de Laszlo? (I have a personal interest here: a de Laszlo, a portrait of a disillusioned flirt, hung just outside the room I taught in at Lancing, where he had sent his boys. I must have looked at it well above 10,000 times!) In 1933, all London flocked to an exhibition to see and gossip over de Lazlo's portrait of the red-haired Anny Ahlers, who had recently so mysteriously died.

12 February 2016

Practical Ecumenism

Decades ago when we were still in the House Of Bondage (sic JHN), there was a Church Directory, indicating the level of churchmanship in every English Anglican church which was somewhere on the spectrum between 'Prayer Book Catholic' and 'Full Catholic Privileges'. (And in the episcopopter era, FIF did a list.)

After the hoped-for regularisation of the SSPX, we could (in this on-line age) have a Catholic version; listing all the churches where the EF was celebrated ... or where the OF was so reform-of-the-reform as to be almost undistinguishable ... or where the Ordinariate Use was done in its more 'Tridentine' version ... or where Ukrainian or Melkite liturgy could be had ... you get the idea.

Not 'pure' enough, some of you think? Well, it's how the once-admirable Good Food Guide used to function: full entries for real food but supplementary information about the best-of-the-rest in otherwise arid areas miles from a decent restaurant.

It would be a charitable ecumenical enterprise enabling Tablet readers to know which churches fail to tick their exacting boxes.

MISSALE PARISIENSE, Feria VI post cineres

Browsing the other day through this Gallican (Gallican in the French eighteenth century sense of emphasising a degree of independance from Rome; not in the pre-Carolingian sense) Missal, I was struck by how right Dom Gueranger was to campaign for the elimination of these confected late French 'rites'. But there are good things in them. At a time when new propers issued from Rome tended to be prosaic, prolix, and very obvious [O God, who dost grant us to celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of xyz ...], there's an elegant simplicity about some 'Gallican' collects.

Take this one, for the Five Wounds (Feria VI post Cineres):
Concede, quaesumus, misericors Deus; ut sacrae Unigeniti tui plagae sint nobis medela vulnerum et fontes salutis aeternae.
Good, yes? Multum in parvo; a lot of ideas in a few words.

And here's one for the Mater Dolorosa (Feria VI post Dominicam Passionis), not quite so tight but still attractive:
Interveniat pro nobis, quaesumus, Domine, apud tuam clementiam, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae, beata Virgo Maria mater tua, cuius animam, in hora passionis tuae, doloris gladius pertransivit.

Incidentally, 'Paris' renamed the Dedication of S Michael " S Michael and All Angels". I wonder if they got this idea from Cranmer's Calendar. There were links between the 'Gallicans' and the Anglicans; I suspect the Gallicans thought Anglicans were rather like themselves but had taken local autonomy a trifle too far, while Anglicans saw the Gallicans as Sound Chaps who might easily be persuaded to go the whole hog.

(Would anybody care to translate those collects for the Greater Good?)

PS: According to 'Paris', one covered one's head with one's amice in the winter, assuming the biretta between Easter and the Octave of S Denis. Sometimes I think people forget what life must have been like in the age of unheated churches; we were reminded of this at Lancing by the presence in the Treasury of a pomme; a silver unscrewable 'apple' in which hot water had been poured so that the celebrant had the wherewithal to unfreeze his fingers.

11 February 2016

After the Year of Mercy ...

 ... there will be some unfinished business. After all, Mercy will itself not be just shoved back into the freezer and forgotten next November ... if Mercy is not even bigger, more prominent in the Church than it was before the Jubilee Year, the Year will have been a failure, a farce. Or is there something I'm not spotting?

During this Year, by the Holy Father's personal and gracious say-so, either the clergy of the SSPX have faculties to absolve, or the laity of the Church have faculties to go to confession to clergy of the Society (I'm a little unsure which of these the Holy Father said it was, but it doesn't make a lot of practical difference). Will those faculties be unavailable in November?

I venture to suggest that such an unmerciful possibility is inconceivable. I devoutly hope I am not wrong.

Perhaps a canonical solution will have been found. That would be the first prize. But one can comprehend some of the difficulties: because they are not totally unlike some of the problems which beset the Ordinariates at their inception.

Clergy who have built up a going concern in their local pastoral environment can be nervous about taking a step in which their laity, or a lot of them, may quite simply not follow their pastor. This is understandable. That is why there are priests still in the Church of England who have longed for Unity all their lives but cannot bring themselves to walk out on their laity. I understand the arguments for gentle pastoral caution, even though I believe that things are, in reality, well beyond that point.

I can't see that the Holy See would lose much face if it simply granted the clergy of the Society faculties to absolve and marry (after all, the Ministers of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony are the spouses); and then embarked upon a gradual, gentle process of de facto lowering the barriers.

And the legal framework of the Ordinariates includes some very good ideas. "If the Ordinary wishes to do X, he shall first consult with the Bishop of the place" ... " ... shall first hear the views of ...". That sort of stuff. In other words, officials of the mainstream Church are not given vetoes over the development of the other body, but a situation is created in which it is in everybody's interest to behave consensually. It has, so far, worked well for us.

And I think we should all remember that the Bishops of the Society, already down to three, are a generation older than they were when they were consecrated. The time will come when new consecrations will be needed. Yes, I know, the Society could again just do it and then just wheel out again all the same old arguments about States of Necessity ...

But it would be a crying shame if we had to go back to all that. The Church as a whole needs a robust, active, noisy, SSPX. The Society insisted for years that the Old Mass should be available to every priest of the Latin Church, until, in the end, Pope Benedict did it. I bet there were SSPXers who never really believed that Rome would ever in a million years respond to such an "extreme" demand! Their praiseworthy insistence was surely the result of their determination not to be fobbed off with the status of an isolated ghetto for grudgingly tolerated eccentrics. Tradition, the Archbishop had always insisted, must be given free rein, allowed to run unfettered; which is, after all, the Gamaliel Principle. Again and again he asked "Please try the Experiment of Tradition!". How right he was! But an unreconciled SSPX, getting ever older in habits of isolation, with an ever-decreasing influence on outsiders, is surely just what the Archbishop was so anxious to avoid. Merci, Monseigneur.

Looking through his telescope from his lofty vantage point in distant Broadstairs down at us lowly NewMortals, Bishop Richard Williamson has been insisting recently that he can discern elements of Catholicism left in what he chooses to call the NewChurch. Even to those who cock an ear at this somewhat grudging analysis, isn't it at least arguable that those 'elements' will be strengthened, not weakened, if the voice of the SSPX is heard, loud and clear, within the main-stream Church?

Generous Mercy is called for; and I think this means that it has to come mainly, but not entirely, from the Holy See.

10 February 2016

Frankly, I don't believe it.

That story about the Pope losing his temper.

Frankly, I don't believe it.

I spent three decades in a gossip-riden institution, and learned something of the dynamics of rumour. You can hear a story, vividly recounted, from five different sources; but if each source was simply recounting what X had said, then there is only one actual source. I know this sounds so absurdly obvious, the simplest possible Cmmon Sense; but it is very easy to forget it. Time and time again I discovered, on asking "who actually told you that? Have you heard it from anybody else?" that a tale was traceable to one unreliable origin.

Frankly, I don't believe it. The accounts I have read are very thin on eye witness sources. Autopsy and autography are conspicuous by their absence.

And perhaps unsubstantiated gossip is the sort of thing we should all be giving up for Lent?

Especially when the victim is the Sovereign Pontiff. But not only then.

The Five Wounds pro aliquibus locis.

At the back of preconciliar missals, there is delightfully readable appendix of Masses which at one time might only be used by indult in particular places. For example, on the Fridays of Lent the following Votives were printed:
After Ash Wednesday: The Holy Thorns of the Crown of Christ.
Week 1: The Sacred Spear and Nails of OLJC.
Week 2: The Most Sacred Shroud of OLJC.
Week 3: The Sacred Five Wounds of OLJC.
Week 4: The Most Precious Blood of OLJC.
(In Passion Week, of course, the main body of the Missal gives the Seven Sorrows of the BVM. Interestingly, the Third Typical Edition of the postconciliar Missal gives an alternative Collect for the ferial Mass this day: a new collect of our Lady of Sorrows.)

You will remember that the old English Votive of the Five Wounds consisted essentially of another Mass, the Votive Humiliavit of the Passion, with a few clauses added and a whole lot of very 'medieval' material before the Gospel. Aliquibus locis gives the same Votive of the Passion as the Mass of the Five Wounds, but with different Collect, Secret, and Postcommunion from those used in medieval England. Happily, over here in the Ordinariate we have a good translation of the old Sarum Votive. Happily, our rubrics do not discourage us from using it on ferias in Lent!

When the people of many parts of England rose in rebellion against Edward Tudor in 1549, carrying the Banner of the Five Wounds in front of them, there was one respect in which the peasantry of the South West was fortunate. There was an Exeter man, Vowell, a strong Protestant but a fair historian, who left an account of their insurrection. Other areas lacked a historian, so that we know very little of what happened in them. But we do have lists of those whom the government ordered to be executed in the Oxfordshire Rising - and of where they were ordered to be killed. And the list makes clear that this is only the tip of an iceberg; that very many disaffected have already been killed.

The Five Wounds is Patrimony.

9 February 2016

Before Lent, muscadines all round?

Festum Ovorum, the Feast Of Eggs, is how they describe last Saturday, the Saturday before Lent, year by year in the Oxford University Diary, despite the fact that for some centuries nobody in Oxford has even thought of celebrating this entertainingly named day.

The origin and purpose of Festum Ovorum is pretty certainly exactly what each one of you will have guessed from first principles: as today on Shrove Tuesday, to have a binge before Lent. It has stayed on the University Calendar since the Middle Ages ... just as, in this University, All Soul's Day and Corpus Christi and the Assumption survived the 'Reformation' (I bet they didn't in the Fens.) We know that this was not just a custom in alma academia, but flourished throughout the neighbouring country areas, where, in their endearingly unlatinate way, the rude but worthy yokels just called it Egge Satterday. However, purely by coincidence, it became, in this University, linked with an academic deadline: the last day on which bachelors were allowed to 'determine'; that is, to complete the exercises for the degree of MA. And academics had a 'Determination Feast' to celebrate this, which goes back at least to the time of Lord Richard Holland (nephew of Richard II) who had his Determination Feast on the 21st and 22nd of February, 1395 (yes, I have checked that in Cheney). As late as 1603, "all the bachelors that were presented to determine did after their presentation go to every college where they were determining and there make a feast for the senior bachelors, videlicet, of muscadine and eggs; figs; raisons; almonds; sack; and such like".

I suppose all this was quite an exotic spread in those days. Now we could buy most of it in Waitrose. Except for the muscadines, which (look it up in the OED if you don't believe me) are sweetmeats (North Americans might say 'candies') made from a pod near the fundament (check that as well, if you like, in the OED) of an asiatic deer (its secretion may have been a sexual attractant) and regarded as an aphrodisiac since the days when the trade routes brought both it, and its Sanskrit name, from India to Byzantium. It is now vastly expensive since the poor things have been hunted nearly into what our Holy Father would call bio-undiversity - ah, the compulsions of homo insipiens, the so-called animal rationale. But I gather that chemists produce a synthetic version. 

The English sweetmeats made from musk were rather curiously called 'kissing cakes' or 'rising cakes'. Now ... no offence ... many of my best friends are chemists ... but I bet muscadines made with synthetic musk would have less potent characteristics than the Real Thing. A controlled experiment, perhaps?


A good piece of artwork on Rorate about the Gesimas, Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday. A weeny niggle: it would be nice if it were made clear that the artist, Enid Chadwick, was Anglican. A lot of her stuff is to be seen in the Anglican Shrine at Walsingham. Patrimony, y'know.

8 February 2016

The Answer

Lovely pictures on Rorate of the crowds surrounding the two great Capuchin Confessor Saints being carried to S Peter's; evoking lovely memories of the Grace and Mercy which flowed in great streams from the Relics of S Teresa when she visited Oxford a few years ago.

An inspired idea of the Holy Father.

Sex abuse

By the skilled work of the Enemy, the evil of sexual abuse by clergy continues to harm the Body of Christ. A crisis has arisen in Rome with regard to a man abused as a child, now a member of the Holy Father's Committee on Abuse, with whom his colleagues find it difficult to work; and who, in a logical ellipse which is far beyond me, considers it relevant to his predicament to attack the teaching and practice of Catholics and Orthodox with regard to the veneration of the relics of the Saints. And now the subect of sexual abuse in the Church of England is apparently raised in a book which would have been published this week, had not the publisher's lawyers required the recall even of the review copies.

I have a few rambling observations leading to a couple of unexciting conclusions.

Last year, Bishop Peter Ball, who began his bishoping in the Chichester diocese, was sentenced to a term in prison for using public office to procure his own sexual gratification. A little after, an associate, Fr Vickery House, of the same diocese, was sentenced for offences including offences against an under-age boy. It then transpired that a previous Bishop of Chichester, George Bell, now long dead, was accused of offences against an under-age boy, and that the Church of England had paid compensation and apologised both for the act and for the cover-up. In the modern style, Bell, no longer alive to defend himself, is considered guilty because he has no way of demonstrating his innocence; and the Diocese of Chichester cannot even bring itself to say whether or not those who made this decision had asked themselves or their legal advisers the questions "Does this evidence put the matter beyond reasonable doubt?" and "Does this evidence reach the bar of the balance of the probabilities?" (Details about the specific allegations concerning Bishop Bell have apparently just been printed in the Brighton Press.)

I knew Ball well and disliked him, although I had no actual evidence at all that he was breaking the law. My memory both of him and of House is that other people sat spell-bound during their sermons and addresses ... while what struck me was that they both carefully avoided doctrinal, or, indeed, any intellectual or solid or objective content, whether good or bad. Their homilies seemed often to regard reflexively the preacher himself rather than any broader topic ... our Holy Father might have reached for the term narcissistic. Ball, in particular, rarely omitted a paragraph or two of name-dropping. When the vote for women 'priests' took place in the 1990s, he ostentatiously abstained, sitting in the Chamber 'agonising' with his cowl over his head and face: I had no doubt at that this moving public performance was to avoid taking sides so as not to put at risk the adulation in which he was held by both 'sides'. For Ball was commonly regarded as a Walking Saint, 'the wisest and holiest man in the Church of England'. Although he admitted sexual misbehaviour towards a novice monk in 1993 and accepted a Police warning, he promptly set about convincing people that his admission was made simply to save the Church of England from the embarrassment of a public trial. Such were his reputation and his very considerable plausibility that this exculpatory campaign was widely successful; and so a whiff of Martyrdom was added to his already bloated public reputation. Numbers of the Great and the Good wrote letters in his defence, which can now be read on the Internet. Establishment figures seem so often to combine a quite extraordinary gullibility with an equally remarkable confidence in their own judgement; I remember being condescendingly told off by one of those letter-writers because I made it clear - having by then myself seen the written evidence of which the police were in possession - that I considered Ball guilty of very disgraceful conduct.

Bell, also commonly regarded as a modern Saint, has had since 2010 a liturgical commemoration in the C of E (on October 3). I never knew him, but, of course, I was aware of the immense reputation which led to the widespread assumption that he had been unjustly prevented from being appointed to the See of Canterbury. All sorts of organisations, places, and objects, and not only in Sussex, are named after him: they will find it a complicated business to do a complete Jimmy-Saville-style damnatio memoriae. There is even an altar dedicated to him in the Cathedral here in Oxford. I wonder if the C of E will reconsider the current cheerful and slapdash way they stick people on to their liturgical calendar without any forensic process of enquiry. If they had had anything like the sort of process which the Catholic Church has for beatification, surely the calls for information might have brought to light the evidence against him ... assuming of course that he was in fact guilty. If you make a habit of sneering at the legalistic and pompous procedures of the Catholic Church with regard to who can be commemorated at the Altar, and of going for a low-key approach, you may find you get more accidents.

Not that it's any of my business any more. But I am entitled to wonder how much greater the Media interest would have been if similar offences or alleged offences had been brought home to bishops of the Catholic Church in this country.

And have I learned anything from all this? My experiences have led me to conclude, over the decades, that glamorous and 'charismatic' people can be extremely dangerous people, and are best kept at arm's length, or more, or more.