23 June 2018

TRUTH

It was reported, during the Chilean Abuse Scandal, that lengthy documents were delivered to Cardinal O'Malley which he undertook to forward to PF. PF subsequently, angrily, claimed that nobody had told him about the Scandal. (Or so the accounts allege: vide exempli gratia the report, with photograph, in the Irish Times of 6 February 2018.).

And now a news agency called Reuters, which is generally considered to have a reputation for objectivity and honesty, is claiming that PF says he only learned about the Dubia from the newspapers.

I do not think it is right or properly respectful, or even Christian, to jump to the conclusion that PF is a liar. There are at least two other clear possibilities:

(1) That he is starting to have what people call 'Senior Moments'. If this is so, then clearly some sort of competent and tactful medical intervention is called for. Benedict XVI resigned because he felt he could no longer properly perform his duties. As an honourable man, surely PF would wish to be told honestly and frankly if his mental capacities are deteriorating.

(2) That some person whose duty it was to place ... physically ... important documents into the Pope's hands, failed to do so. In view of the stories circulating about PF's violent outbursts of temper, it would perhaps be humanly understandable if one or more of his staff do habitually conceal or destroy documents likely to drive him into intemperate rages. But such a possibility is in itself gravely worrying.

And there may very probably be other possibilities which readers will be able to imagine.

Meanwhile, it would surely be a good thing if efficient office procedures were put in place. These would include specific individuals signing for documents, so that a precise paper trail existed of where significant documents actually got to. Secular organisations seem able to manage such accountability questions with routine good sense, or else are justly criticised when they fail to do so. I believe British ministers are expected to initial documents in their Red Boxes when they have read them.

The Catholic Church sets great store by the Petrine Office. And rightly so. It is profoundly rooted in Scripture and Tradition. And this carries with it a duty of proper and proportionate respect for the individual who occupies that post. But that individual himself ought to have a proper respect for the post he occupies. And this has practical implications.

Perhaps the archives of the CDF will be able to reveal whether their copy of the Dubia arrived in their Office on the day their Eminences have stated, thus giving prima facie evidence that the Cardinals are telling the truth. And Cardinal Mueller must know whether he duly discussed the matter with PF. It would do the Church no harm at all if it were seen to embrace a culture of openness; of giving Truth a priority.

There need be no confusions about simple questions such as whether something that PF should have read, actually did reach him. Public Meejah discussions about whether PF or the Four Cardinals ... and Cardinal O'Malley ... are honest men, do the Church's reputation no good at all.

22 June 2018

The Anglicans prepare to flush Ecumenism away

UPDATE: I published this last December. Now, voices are heard in England, from Anglican Clergy and lawyers, advocating an attack upon the integrity of the seal of the Confessional.

Rumour has it that the Anglican Church in Australia is modifying or has modified the Seal of the Confessional so that Anglican Clergy may report paedophiles to the police. This happens at the same time as legal pressures, I gather, are growing in Australia to compel (all) clergy to report such offences to the police. (Unsurprisingly, similar suggestions have been made before the British Royal Commission on Sex Abuse ... but not, I think, by Anglican clergy. Tell me if I'm wrong!)

One argument brought forward is that if a child mentions such activity while confessing, they are not really confessing a sin of their own. The answer to this seems to me fairly simple. ("My dear, I need you to come to me outside this confessional and to tell me again what Uncle X did to you. Then I will be able to help both you and Uncle X properly".)

If the information in my first paragraph is accurate, then I believe that a very serious situation is arising for ecumenical dialogue, and especially for the now-pointless (but still-expensive) organisation called ARCIC. This dialogue was set up on the explicit premise that the old disagreements inherited from the Reformation period would be sorted out, and that neither 'side' would put in place new divergences. I wonder if this question of the Seal of the Confessional was ever discussed at any level of 'ecumenical dialogue', nationally or internationally.

In English Anglican Canon Law (Canon 113 of 1604, never repealed), the provisions for the Seal of the Confessional are for practical purposes the same as they are for Catholics (the Anglican canon does, I regretfully admit, permit the Seal to be broken if, otherwise, the priest himself would incur the death penalty for not reporting some matter ... but there cannot be many offences for which a priest can be strung up under modern Australian or British law).

Of course, the ARCIC understanding that neither side would introduce new divergences was bull-dozed out of the way in order to allow for the 'ordination' of women to sacerdotal ministries within most Anglican provinces. But this new divergence concering the seal of the Confessional is, in some ways, even graver. You see, with the Anglicans going down this path, things will become much more difficult for Catholic clergy who may be prosecuted for not delating paedophile penitents. Catholic clergy will have been hung out to dry by their Anglican 'friends'.

The Anglicans will also have made it easier for Catholic priests to be sent to prison for contempt of court ... because, of course, a Catholic priest in the witness box is unable even to say "I never heard that in my Confessional", because one is not allowed to say anything about what transpires there. Or even to indicate it by a nod or a wink or a hint or an allusion.

Some moralists used to argue that one could deny having heard something in the confessional by assuming "I heard it while acting as a conduit to God; I did not hear it qua Father X". But this would have the unfortunate effect of providing a court with evidence for the innocence of a guilty defendant.

And it's even nastier than that. Anglican clergy (especially but not only in the diocese of Sidney) hear very few confessions compared with the numbers that Catholic clergy hear. So the Anglicans are abandoning their Catholic 'partners in ecumenical dialogue' to be persecuted by the agents of the Zeitgeist with regard to a subject which really matters very little to the overwhelming majority of  Anglicans.

It reminds me of how some Orthodox collaborated with Stalinism in the persecution of their fellow-Christians.

Ultimately, this whole business is a symbol of the determination of the secular state to leave no corner of space or moment of time outside its own iron grip. Under cover of protecting children, Christ the King will have been even more effectively uncrowned. Am I alone in detecting here all the hallmarks of the Enemy?

Well, so be it. But it's a shame the Anglicans too are so keen to kick us in the teeth. After all those hypocritical decades of wet nonsense about 'Ecumenism'. Perhaps it's just that they find it so terribly hard to get out of the habit of persecuting us. But there is no need to worry, is there: in a century or two, with tears of emotion in their eyes, their successors will formally apologise to our successors. That will make everything All Right, won't it?

21 June 2018

ENCAENIA

I don't know that I warm to our new Public Orator. In the 1950s, dear Dacre Balsdon, in his sweet book Oxford Life, referred to the Orator at Encaenia as delivering Orations "studded with vile puns", but vilitude can surely be taken too far. Yesterday, presenting Professor Mary Beard, Mr Orator gave us "Num cuiquam alii inter studiosos nostros antehac tabula picta PAENE-APotheosis concessa est ?" which, so the accompanying crib explained, puns on the word 'pin-up'. (I don't think, anyway, that, even in hormone-dominated adolescence, I would ever have pinned Ms Beard up, even had I known her, which I didn't, and even if I had possessed any pins, which I didn't.) Indeed, puns, in my view should not need recondite explanations redolent of the Alexandrian Library on a Bad Hair Day. But how, without a crib, could one spot (this was in the Oration introducing my Lord Neuberger) that "MENS" punned upon the Hebrew: "mentsh among the Menschen"?

Still, there were interesting nuggets in the Creweian Oration. Mr Orator revealed that both Horace and Cicero were Oxford Men. I can only imagine that this is a recently discovered goody from the somewhat disordered early archives of the University. Perhaps it will soon appear in the Zeitschrift fuer Papyrologie und Epigraphik, possibly in the exciting Papyrus Obbink series. Mind you, I have never believed all that stuff about Boadicea having founded the University. I know that one should not rely too heavily upon an argumentum ex silentio, but the fact that Tacitus nowhere mentions her role as a fautrix litterarum latinarum seems to me decisive.

I have always suspected, however, that Rousham was the Sabine Farm; and I am sure that its stretch of the Cherwell is the fons Bandusiae. One of these days, I shall surreptitiously sacrifice a kid there.

20 June 2018

1968-1986: a miracle of evanescence

A kind friend has sent me a little booklet from 1968, put out by the American bishops to prepare priests and people for the new Eucharistic Prayers, authorised by Rome that year. It appears to be a translation of something published by the Sacred Congregation of Rites.

It seems to flutter down out of another world ... a world in which it is anticipated that ordinary folks will henceforth go around referring to Eucharistic Prayers as "anaphoras"; in which parish priests will be giving catechesis on the various elements of a Eucharistic Prayer. Here's a jolly bit which you will all much enjoy: "The world-wide and ecumenical horizons of the Second Vatican Council and also those of the so-called theology of secular values will find here a discrete, biblical and real reflection".

One intriguing detail: it says "The third eucharistic prayer ... could be used alternately with the Roman Canon for [=on?] Sundays". If only ... if only ...

By 1986, Enrico Mazza in The Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Rite, was to write of the Roman Canon that "its use today is so minimal as to be statistically irrelevant".

But, when all is said and done, there was, back in 1968, a sense of excitement about the New, which you young things will find it hard to imagine. I remember buying with eager anticipation, just a few weeks after I was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood, the first Vatican Press print of the Latin text of the new Ordo Missae.

(I bought it down in the dear old Newman Bookshop opposite Christ Church, where one could find in the back room such intriguing things ... I acquired a proof edition of Knox's In three tongues ... there were endless old copies of the Eastern Churches Quarterly and of Sobornost ... Someone called Timothy Ware was often scavenging there ... he told me he had managed to put together a complete set of the ECQ. I've often wondered what happened to him subsequently. He did Mods and Greats a couple of years ahead of me. He must be getting on a bit now, I suppose. I'm sure he has long-since grown out of his 'byzantine' phase, as most of us have.)

Exciting days, yes. Nowadays, the poor old Novus Ordo is anything but exciting and new. Arthritic, rather, and with poor wind, and suffering horribly from her varicose veins. It is time, surely, to euthanise and then respectfully to bury the poor dear old biddy and to hurry quietly away and to keep ones fingers crossed that no-one digs her up. A stake through the heart, posibly, would be a wise precaution.

19 June 2018

UPDATE ON BEECHING

There is a Meejah story about a one-time evangelical chanteuse called Vicky Beeching who has  disdained Holy Order in the Church of England because that body is insufficiently appreciative of her rather unevangelical Lesbianism, about which she has just ... yes, you guessed correctly ... written a book.

The Sunday Times has a jolly picture of her, clad ut videtur in her shiny leathers, standing in front of and with her back to an altar which (from what one can see of it) is stylistically Early Renaissance, with six candles on it and an apparently red hanging lamp. The statue above the altar may be of the Sacred Heart. One can't quite be sure.

It all seems rather unevangelical, unless the Evangelicals have changed a lot since I left the C of E, but I suppose the implicit narrative that she has turned her back on the Love of the Incarnate Word may be thought by some people to have a certain suitability. I won't enter into that debate.

I hope permission was duly sought by the journalists concerned for this use of the Church.

Perhaps the Church concerned should receive a share of the royalties on the book.

UPDATE

I do in fact know which Church Beeching chose for her photoshots that are being used to publicise her book. It is a Catholic Church; a Catholic Church with notices up forbidding photography. 

Beeching's quarrel is with the Church of England; in which, apparently, it has been made clear to her that if she were admitted to Holy Orders, she would be expected to be chaste. This is hardly a remarkable stipulation; the only objection I would make would be to the apparent assunption that chastity is something which is not also required of the Laity. This seems to me a mind-blowingly exaggerated form of corrupt and over-the-top Clericalism. However, no longer being a member of the Church of England, I would be open to fair criticism if I started laying down the law about how that apostate body should conduct itself. But surely I cannot be criticised for objecting to a member of that institution deciding to use a Catholic Church for her ill-judged exhibitionism and her advocacy of activities and lifestyles which Christ and His Church condemn. Is it not, at the very least, terribly bad manners?

I have rather wondered if the reason might be that, had she turned up in S Paul's or in Westminster Abbey and started to mess around with her photographers, "Security" would undoubtedly have intervened.

Or is it simply that, for these sad ideologists who promote disordered genital activity, the Catholic Church is the natural, indeed, prescriptive, object of hatred?  

Final frivolous passing thought: couldn't Beeching and her photographic crew go off and do stuff in some Kremlin Church, under the immediate and watchful eye of Vladimir Vladimirovich? One could then at least respect their courage. And the aftermath would be real publicity! Just think how sales would rocket!  

18 June 2018

Flags

In pictures of the interiors of North American churches, even Catholic churches, one often sees the national flag in the Sanctuary to one side of the Altar.

I have never* seen this in an English church of any denomination. The most you might find would be the ancient 'laid up' colours of dear, long-forgotten regiments hanging from a dark and dusky ceiling, deliberately left to fall apart in cobwebs and sanctity.

I wonder when the American custom arose. To my quaint European instincts it seems an incomprehensible intrusion of transient terrestrial territorial politics into the Place of Eternity.

During the last war ... imagine German POWs being marched to Mass in an English church ... how easily could they have worshipped if the British Flag had been hanging aggressively in front of their eyes? And vice versa.

I believe the pro-Hitler 'German Christians' did it in the 1930s.

Do Ulster Protestants do it?

Do Canadians do it?

Do North American Orthodox or Eastern Catholics do it?

*Exception: In S James, Spanish Place, once the Spanish Embassy Chapel, there is, in one of the side aisles, the Spanish Royal Standard, handily placed so that, if the pp gets a message that His Most Catholic Majesty is about to pay a surprise visit, he can haul it up a rapid flagpole ...

17 June 2018

Pius IX

A translation of a card I once found tucked into a breviary previously owned by the late Fr Melrose of S Giles, Reading:

PRAYER to beg of God the glorification of Pius IX and to obtain graces.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, hear our prayer and glorify thy servant Pius IX who consecrated the Universal Church to thee.
(3 Gloria).
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee, hear our prayer and glorify thy servant Pius IX who declared thee Immaculate.
(3 Ave).
Saint Joseph, most pure Spouse of Mary the Virgin, hear our prayer and glorify thy servant Pius IX who declared thee Patron of the Universal Church.
(3 Pater)
.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Mary, Immaculate and our Hope, Saint Joseph, hear our prayer and glorify your servant Pius IX, granting us by his merits and intercession the grace which we ardently desire.

16 June 2018

A Paradigm Shift; and Humanae vitae; and the 'ordination' of women.

A splendid talk the other day, from Fr John Hemer, at the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy.

His talk set me thinking about the real paradigm shift in Catholic studies during the Ratzinger Years. After the terrible aridity of "Modern Biblical Scholarship", as Catholic "scholars" aped what went for "Biblical Studies" among liberal Protestant Northern Europeans and North Americans, Professor Ratzinger (following the teaching of S John Paul II that Scripture should not be seen as a field for disdainful "see how clever I am" analysis) not only restored the respectful study of Scripture but showed, in his own three-volume Jesus of Nazareth, how it should be done.

And Benedict XVI put the Fathers into the heart of his homilies and Angelus addresses.

And readers will not need to be reminded of the significance of his liturgical interventions. His revelation that the old rites had never been lawfully and canonically abrogated created a New Ballpark (am I getting this idiom right?), and, more importantly, his assertion, theological rather than canonical, that what has been sacred never can be abolished, puts in place an important marker should some future pope attempt ultra vires to limit Tradition.

Fr Hemer's exegesis of Scripture is part of this most welcome revolution. The foundation, in Anglophone countries, of the Confraternities of Catholic Clergy is a highly important factor in the renewal of witness to Catholic Truth. And the erection of the Ordinariates, thus strengthening within the Catholic Church B John Henry Newman's appropriation of Anglicanism, is another monument to the Benedict Paradigm Shift.

A particular and most recent fruit of this shift is apparent in the signing by some 500 English priests of a letter affirming the truths taught in Humanae vitae (see yesterday's Catholic Herald). Many of the signatories were, of course, members of the Ordinariate (including married clergy) and of the Confraternity, although the letter was not organised by either of those bodies. At a time when there is unease about the risk that the current Roman regime may try to relativise and water down Catholic teaching, this wise, robust, and sensible document can do nothing but good.

Perhaps the time may be coming when similar interventions may be necessary in order to uphold the Church's infallible teaching with regard to the 'ordination' of women to sacerdotal ministries. There is no reason why His Eminence the Graf von Schoenborn should be allowed to make all the running ...

15 June 2018

The Rape of Clio

Apparently, there has been a 're-enactment' in Gloucester of the funeral of Aethelflaed, daughter of Alfred the Great, and a mighty Queen.

I have only been able to find a brief video clip; but it suggests rather massively that the Officiant was an Anglican womanpriest dressed in an anachronistic cope, who proclaimed lingua Anglica "may she rest in peace and rise in glory".

Public announcements were made honouring those who took part in the 'Suffragette' movement.

The event also seems to have involved 'Franciscans', 'Dominicans', and women 'Religious' dressed as such persons were in the early decades of the twentieth century.

Mockery is easy; but I think all this precisely encapsulates modern attitudes to History: the idea that the Past in simply the Present, dressed up perhaps in whatever the children have left in the dressing-up box. Or in what has been hired from a theatrical agency.

My suspicion is it that Modern (wo)man could not handle the truth that the Past may really be an extremely foreign country; and that, as C S Lewis argued, its very differences may be the most important gift that it can offer us.

14 June 2018

S Dunstan ... a problem

On the Vigil of Pentecost this year, prevented by the rubrics from celebrating a great Pontiff, S Dunstan, I found myself wondering: is he part of the Patrimony?

He was, as I am sure you know, a 'Reformer', and, as such, very unenthusiastic about Married Priests (or concubinarii, as we used once so succinctly to be called). But Bishop Edwin, with whom I agree about all things, has identified a married clergy as an essential part of our Anglican Patrimony. I once asked him how we are to get round this knotty little problem. He replied by reminding me that Alcuin was the son, and grandson, of priests. So that's all right, then.

Incidentally, it is not only presbyters who, in those far off days, manifested an attenuated awareness of being called to celibacy. I remember reading about one of the early occupants of the See of Ardfert in the County Kerry, whom annalists distinguished from both his predecessors and his successors as having been 'chaste'. Think about the unspoken implications of that! And, Yes, Bishop Eamonn Casey was a later bishop of this same see. Perhaps there's something in the water ...

My suspicion is that once the Latin Church has decided (in two years' time?) to admit married viri probati to the presbyterate, the regulations about what we can do in the Ordinariates may seem a little less set in stone.

Mind you, I would resist any suggestion that Priests should be able to get married, or that married men should made bishops. I do not see Mrs Proudie as an essential part of the Patrimony. The instinctive conviction of both Catholicism and Orthodoxy that there is a congruity between priesthood and celibacy can properly and decently be upheld by restricting the summum sacerdotium to celibates.

This would also discourage careerists ...

13 June 2018

Slippery Slopes

"I knew there was something wrong when he first walked out onto that balcony", I heard a priest saying a few months ago at a clerical gathering. Indeed. So one instinctively did. In my case, it was not so much that PF declined to dress as a Bishop of Rome as his choice of an unheard-of papal name. It was as if he felt the need to dissociate himself from all his predecessors in the Cathedra Petri ... even from the other 'post-conciliar popes'. In other words, it seemed to me that this was at least potentially a proclamation of papal Rupture.

But how long it took before such uneasy whispers broke out into the open in the mainstream Catholic blogs. Even when the unappealing side of PF's character ... particularly his propensity to insult and humiliate his fellow clergy on every conceivable situation ... became noticeable, and some humourist decided to make a collection of the genre ... bloggers remained cautious. After all, the Lord Himself said some impolite things about Pharisees and Pilates. We leaned over backwards to make excuses when we could; PF's ambiguous phrases and actions were glossed in as orthodox a sense as writers felt able to invent.

As late as 30 May 2016, I agonised for some time about whether to describe this pontificate as 'dysfunctional'. One's every instinct was and is to avoid writing like this about the Successor of S Peter. One has a habit of affection and, even when that had been worn away, one says to onself "Could it really be right to use such language?" Or even possibly "Such language might get me into trouble". After much thought and redrafting, I left in my draft for that day a statement that this pontificate had "some dysfunctional characteristics".

I think you might discover (to give just one example) the same sort of caution in Fr Zed; the same long reluctance to engage too directly with what was manifestly dodgy in this pontificate, until such engagement became unavoidable.

It was, in various different ways on the various Catholic blogs, an unwillingness which only gradually got eroded.

Then, of course, and with as much reluctance, we moved into the period of the Five Dubia and the Filial Correction. And now the world has had a spate of books about this pontificate by lay historians.

PF really did have to work enormously hard before the current atmosphere of frank talking was born.

12 June 2018

Ultra-Catholics and moustachioed Jesuit 'generals'

On this august festival of S John of Fagondez, I am giving this old post another outing.

 The Reverend Professor Canon Dr Eric Mascall, a distinguished theologian (and mathematician), was for some years the unofficial House Theologian of 'Anglo-Catholicism'. In these comic verses he portrays the extremest of the extreme in that movement. But don't be too deceived; when Mascall was not on the Christ Church Cathedral weekday Mass rota, he himself said a private Tridentine Mass in Mags. Unlike a certain sort of High Churchman, who tinkered with both Western and Eastern practices or Dearmerised with Sarumidippity, Mascall was in no doubt that he was a Latin Catholic. He was a Thomist, too, so they would have liked him at Econe. They would have liked him anyway.

Satirical verse has long been at the heart of the Anglican Patrimony. We write it far better than anybody else, and we laugh louder ... even at ourselves ...

I am an Ultra-Catholic - No 'Anglo-'*, I beseech you!
You'll find no heresy in anything I teach you.
The clergyman across the road has whiskers and a bowler,
But I wear buckles on my shoes and sport a Feriola.

My alb is edged with deepest lace, spread over rich black satin;
The psalms of Dahvid I recite in heaven's own native Latin,
And, though I don't quite understand those awkward moods and tenses,
My ordo recitandi's strict Westmonasteriensis.

I teach the children in my school the Penny Catechism,
Explaining how the C of E's in heresy and schism.
The truths of Trent and Vatican I bate not one iota.
I have not met the rural Dean. I do not pay my quota.

The Bishop's put me under his 'profoundest disapproval'
And, though he cannot bring about my actual removal,
He will not come and visit me or take my confirmations.
Colonial prelates I employ from far-off mission-stations.

The music we perform at Mass is Verdi and Scarlatti.
Assorted females form the choir; I wish they weren't so catty.
Two flutes, a fiddle and a harp assist them in the gallery.
The organist left years ago, and so we save his salary.

We've started a 'Sodality of John of San Fagondez,'
Consisting of the five young men who serve High Mass on Sundays;
And though they simply will not come to weekday Mass at seven,
They turn out looking wonderful on Sundays at eleven.

The Holy Father I extol in fervid perorations,
The Cardinals in curia, the Sacred Congregations;
And, though I've not submitted yet, as all my friends expected,
I should have gone last Tuesday week, had not my wife objected.
______________________________________________________________
*Such clerics did not in fact describe themselves as Ultra-Catholics; simply as Catholics. They did eschew 'Anglo-' because, rightly, they saw it as implying a modified form of Catholicism. (Outsiders, missing these nuances, did speak of them as 'Anglo-Catholic'.) They hated being called High Churchmen; historically they were again right, because this term preceded the Oxford Movement and didn't necessarily at all imply 'advanced' ceremonial or an addiction to the Bishop of Rome (but often a 'high' view of the C of E over against all forms of Dissent or Whiggery). Laypeople, however, generally used 'High' to describe any usage with which they were themselves unfamiliar. ( I was once accused of being 'High Church' because, for State Mattins, I wore 'preaching bands' with my surplice, scarf and MA hood ... their usual officiant didn't wear bands.)