31 December 2017

Ovidius in Luca ludit ... for classicists only

I can't let the last hours of the annus Ovidianus slip away without a few last lingering sips from this two-thousand-year-old vintage which never fails to exhilarate however often one raises the glass.

I want to suggest that the writer of the Corpus Lucanum in the New Testament was at least familiar with the Metamorphoses. Yes; you're right; I'm going mention the pericope at Acts 14: 8-18. Surely, if one met this in profane literature, one would cheerfully analyse it as a witty, even frivolous, inversion of the topos of the Unrecognised Gods as at Metamorphoses VIII: 611-724. An inversion and a frivolity almost worthy of Naso himself.

Indeed so. But I want to pitch the hypothesis more broadly.

Perhaps the theme most central to the Metamorphoses is the stylistic metamorphoses within the work itself*, as it swings gaily from genre to genre pastiching wildly as it goes ... Homer and Ennius and Accius and Vergil and Theocritus and the 'neoterics' and the elegists and Euripides and Lucretius and Callimachus ...

Surely, the writer who composed the first two chapters of the Ad Theophilum I in such a convincing Septuagintal pastiche could, if he had wished, have claimed Naso magister erat.

But S Luke has pressed his lusus into the service of God, rather than drawing his gods into the service of lusus.


*Surely we must, with Tarrant's OCT, emend the last word  of  I:2.

30 December 2017

Cookies

What knowing things "cookies" seem to be ...

... I was recently offered a full video of Pope Ratzinger's last Easter Sunday as occupant of the Roman See. How lovely to see him again; that devout and self-effacing manner ... but how weak he already looked. What a good illustration that Liturgy was of how the Novus Ordo can be done in a convincingly baroque idiom! If only that style had proved to be ... what is the word ... irreversible!

I was reminded of his use as a staff of his Anglican Cross. By 'Anglican' I mean, not that we gave it to him, but that it is a design once very popular in the C of E for Altar Crosses. Instead of a crucifixus attached to the Cross, there is an Agnus Dei in the middle. (Often, the four extremities of the Cross are marked by medallions of the four Evangelists.) My assumption has always been that in early twentieth century Middle Church Anglicanism, this seemed a little less in-your-face popish than a Crucifix.

Presumably, the design has medieval origins or analogies? Who knows about these things?

Does PF ever use the Anglican Cross?

29 December 2017

"Almost Infallible" ... an old Irish joke?

Cardinal Mueller recently used the phrase "almost infallible" to characterise the status being claimed by PF's associates for some of his initiatives. There have been one or two criticisms of Mueller.

I have to say that, having looked carefully at the context, I am convinced that his Eminence, far from inventing a new formal status in the hierarchy of papal statements, is talking with angry sarcasm about those who wish to deck out some of PF's more dubious utterances with an appearance of authority.

It is as if one were to refer to a young woman as "almost 99% a virgin".

Which reminds me of the (extremely) old Irish joke about the unmarried girl who, criticised by her pp for having a baby, replied "But it's only a very little one, Father".

By the way: the Bishop of Plymouth apparently has a splendid repertoire of old-fashioned pre-Enda Irish jokes. Some years ago when he was Rector of Allen Hall, he told an assembly of Ordinariate clergy a story about a peasant from the other side of the mountain; it ended with the punch-line "I didn't mean the whole b***dy bucket". But I can't remember the narrative in between.

Can anybody out there supply the missing material?

28 December 2017

Friday Abstinence

On 16 October 2014, a Spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales announced that the Friday within the Octave of Christmas is never [in England and Wales] a day of Abstinence.

That applies to tomorrow.

27 December 2017

Fr H's Vaticinia for 2017 UPDATED

UPDATE I offered these prophecies on January 1 this year (2017).

I don't think I got it terribly wrong, did I?

I offer them again for the coming year, 2018.

Our Holy Father will open his mouth when it would become him to keep it shut, and keep it shut when it would become him to open it. Thus he will maintain and continue, by the exercise of that sovereign will with which he is always free to act, the Suspense of his Petrine Magisterium (I use this term strictly in the sense made clear by Blessed John Henry Newman and not otherwise).

Our Holy Father will provide further proofs of the truth of an observation made in 1944 by the late, great Anglican Benedictine mystagogue, Dom Gregory Dix (1901-1952).
"Old men in a hurry to realise their dearest dreams can be very short-sighted."

Mary's Immaculate Heart will prevail. Never forget that this is Fatima Year

UPDATE for 2018: Perhaps I will add that the CBCEW will still fail to reach a common mind on Amoris laetitia. And that Cardinal Burke will return to the questions posed in the Dubia.

26 December 2017

Are they excluding orthodox priests from the episcopate?

When is a hint a hint? If I say "Don't do X", I think a future historian might draw the inference that X was really happening, or might at least be a real possibility. In other words, the Slave of Clio might detect a pretty potent hint as he/she interprets such words. When I was in teaching, we did not put up notices saying "Students must not frequent the pubs in Manhattan during term time", because of the unlikelihood that students might do such a thing, or even, given the distances involved, think about it. We did put up notices regarding rather closer watering holes, particularly the Sussex Pad: a nearby hostelry at which some prankster always seemed to have removed the first three letters of the first word of its name.

The interview with Cardinal Mueller last October, published in the National Catholic Register by the admirable Ed Pentin, contained a number of things which I am surprised have not made more of an impact among people with an eye for hints. Here is one such passage.

"A certain interpretation of the document's [Amoris laetitia] footnote 351 cannot be a criterion for becoming a bishop. A future bishop must be a witness to the Gospel, a successor of the Apostles, and not someone who repeats some words of a single pastoral document of the pope without a mature theological understanding."

If this isn't a hint as to what's now going on in the Congregation for Bishops, I don't know what such a hint would look like.

Recently a kind reader sent me a copy of the oath that new bishops are made to swear (Fr Zed subsequently published it). It included these words: "I will guard the unity of the Universal Church, and therefore I will work hard to see that the Deposit of the Faith handed down from the Apostles is kept pure and whole ..."

Indeed; and how splendidly edifying. You will remind me that it is positively Irenaean. But it is preceded by three paragraphs, some of them rather slavishly expressed, about how obedient the newly consecrated bishop will be to the pope, to his legates, and [then in the final paragraph] to Uncle Tom Cobbly and all.

In my opinion, this reprents an inversion of the proper order of things. The faithfulness of a bishop to the Tradition is conceptually prior; his faithfulness to the current occupant of the Roman See is something which, by Divine Institution, ministers to that faithfulness. Reread your S Irenaeus!

The bishop is not faithful to Tradition because the pope orders or requires him to be; he is respectful towards the pope because the pope is supposed to embody the Tradition, venerable and normative, of the Roman Church.

If my discernment of the hint in Cardinal Mueller's words is accurate, then the question might arise (see my post of December 13) of ones attitude towards the 'magisterium' of those appointed to the episcopate since Amoris laetitia.

Were they selected on the grounds of their reliable heterodoxy?

It seems to me humili presbytero that the very wells of Apostolic Teaching are being deliberately poisoned, if not by PF, then by his agents (cronies, for example, in the Congregation for bishops ... I must remember to look through their names some time). Blessed John Henry Newman our Patron, writing at a time when ultrahyperueberpapalists were on the rampage, felicitously referred to them as "an arrogant and insolent faction". Surely, the same  phrase applies a fortiori to the equally fanatical Ultras of our own age.

25 December 2017

A GIRL FULL OF GOD

In a patristic reading recently offered (remarkably) both by the Roman Breviary and by the Liturgy of the Hours, S Ambrose reminds us that the first thing our blessed Lady did after the Annunciation was to hurry into the hill country to visit Elizabeth; and asks, rhetorically, 'For whither, now Full of God [plena Deo], should she hurry if not to higher places?'

The greatest of the Roman poets was Publius Ovidius Naso, whose rococo imagination and baroque syntax would have made him a most wonderfully Counter Reformation Catholic, had he lived a millennium and a half later. In this year, we of the elite have been commemorating the 2000th anniversary of his death. I wrote about him a little while ago. And it is purely and simply the Spirit of Ovid that animates the exuberant baroque statuary in the fountains and squares of renaissance Rome. In his youth, the dear old boy appears to have written a tragedy, the Medea, of which only two fragments remain as citations in later rhetorical treatises ... yes ... a sad fate ...

One of these fragments gives a few words of Medea, the Colchian Witch, a liberated feminist girl who engagingly terminated her children in order to irritate her husband; a wench quite worthy to be adopted as their tutelary deity by the crazed half-naked demonstrators plenae Diabolo [full of Satan] who riot for Abortion; the Choroi whose spondaic-dactylic-spondaic-dactylic incantation orders us "keep your rosaries off our ovaries". Apparently, in her frenzy, Medea cried out in Ovid's play feror huc illuc, ut plena deo [I am carried this way, that way, as full of (a) God].

In Roman literature, it is not unnatural for one in the grip of madness or, indeed, merely alcohol, to be called 'Full of (a) God', because Roman deities were so often personifications of dangerous or even disastrous things. So, after your Christmas celebrations, you might be (but I trust you will not be) said to be full of Bacchus. Medea was, I'm afraid, merely demented, poor thing.

I wonder whether S Ambrose, as an exercise in what we Classicists call Creative Intertextuality or imitatio cum variatione [copying something but with a significant change] but which lesser mortals mistake for Plagiarism, has consciously transposed this witty topos from the demented, noisy and bloody mythological figure of Medea, to the reality and hesychia [quietness] of a particular Jewish Girl who, quite literally, carried God Eternal and Incarnate an inch or two south of her fallopian tubes and is now Queen of Heaven. If so, he certainly put his finger on the Culture War, the essential enmity, between the Theotokos and today's maddened Satanic perversions of her icon.

But her heel will tread down the Serpent's head; and the Immaculate Heart of our Lady of Fatima will prevail.

Lectoribus omnia felicia, omnia fausta, omnia precor sancta.

24 December 2017

Prayers and best wishes ...

... to all readers, not least to those who kindly sent me cards and presents. I will remember you all at the Altar.

Traditions, Christmas traditions ...

It hasn't taken long for the Tradition to take hold that, just before Christmas, PF berates the Roman Curia for its shortcomings, polymeros kai polytropos, as the Letter to the Hebrews puts it in the Epistle in die for Christmas Morning. Rather as with the Queen's Christmas Address to the Empire and the sound of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer in Tescoes, we would miss this terribly if it no longer happened.

This year, however, the customary pontifical malevolence was confined to just one single rather lonely paragraph, giving it a distinctly perfunctory appearance. Did someone slip some paracetamol into the papal coffee? (That is the paragraph, of course, that all the ordinary blogs have been commenting on.) Elsewhere in the address, there are some really quite good bits. I will single out in particular what PF says, fairly early on, about the ministry of Deacons. (I do hope Cardinal Burke and the other Cardinal Deacons were listening carefully.) But first, a little local background.

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my irritation when well-meaning people repeat the tired old historical and sacramental nonsense (vastly popular in the 1960s but unmitigated rubbish in that and every other decade) that the purpose of a Deacon is to minister to the poor and needy and sick and disadvantaged within, or even beyond, the Christian community. (Somebody included this stuff recently in a comment on this blog ... don't worry, I know you only did it in order to infuriate me! I know where you live!) Newer readers who care can use the search engine to discover a series I wrote on this particular topic. I haven't the energy to repeat it all here, not even as a Brand New Christmas Tradition!

This year, PF, or whoever tittivated his draft for him, included quotations from authentically early Christian writings, giving a very clear explanation of what the real, Traditional understanding is of deacons within the Church's ministry.

So credit where credit is due. Viva il Papa! I hope that Cardinal Sarah will take the hint and expunge from the Ordination Prayer of deacons in the modern Pontificale Romanum all the weary old 1960s twaddle which was so crudely interpolated into that fine old Roman Prayer in the meddlesome years that followed the Council, thereby pretty well doubling its length.

[I wonder if Cardinal Sarah is among those PF had in mind when he said they were being given just a weeny bit more time to come on-message before being sacked ... or 'sidelined', delicatamente allontanate, as we say nowadays ... ]

23 December 2017

CELTIC

As Christmas approaches and you look for suitable presents along the shelves of 'Church' bookshops: a word of advice. Don't buy anything from the shelves in the section labelled 'Celtic'.

Historians have decisively abandoned the concept of the 'Celtic' and especially of a supposed distinctive 'Celtic Church'. In a recent major scholarly work on this subject, Professor Charles-Edwards' Early Christian Ireland (Cambridge, 2000), the distinguished author writes dismissively of 'that entity - beloved of modern sectarians and romantics, but unknown to the early Middle Ages - ''the Celtic Church'' ', and surveys in a footnote the scholarly work of the last thirty years which has established this.

'Celtic' is the sexy religious thinggy because the 'Celtic' saints are distant figures in the past who , when they were alive, were rather combative old people but pose no particular threats to us now because they're dead except in in books and so they can easily be moulded to our own fads by suppressions and misrepresentations. And because 'Celtic' Christianity is in the past, people with hangups about the actual real Christianities available in the present day can invent their own 'Celtic Christianity'. Commonly such DIY constructions are all about being rather Mystical in pieces of remote and beautiful countryside, and about being 'close to nature'. If you are tempted to buy their books, check carefully whether the contents actually are sourced somewhere ancient or are merely the author's own compositions 'in the Celtic Spirit'.

If the 'Celtic' industry really had any serious interest in the Christianity of the 'Celtic fringe' during its first millennium, they would be rather keener to revive use of the earliest surviving Missal from these islands, the Stowe Missal, which dates from the 790s but was copied from an original which must have dated from before the changes made in the Mass by Pope S Gregory the Great in the late 500s. It is of southern Irish origin. I published a little academic something on it a few years ago. Its Eucharistic Prayer is almost entirely identical with the current Roman 'First Eucharistic Prayer', except that it contains rather more saints and describes the Pope as 'thy most blessed servant N our Pope, Bishop of the Apostolic See'. It has a lovely Prayer of Humble Access, so much more mystical and uplifting than Cranmer's, which includes beautiful (if possibly politically incorrect) phrases like 'I am unworthy because I filthily adhere to the mire of dung and all my good deeds are like a rag used by a menstrual woman'.

See if you can find it on those bookshelves!


22 December 2017

NOT FOR ANTIPODEANS

When you get old and confused and start taking your pills for Osteoporosis, you become prejudiced against ice and rather look forward to the end of Winter. And ... here we are in the December Ember Days, originally the Feriae Sementinae  of pagan Rome, when the sowing was done. So already we are allowed to look forward to the Return of the Sun and to the fertilities of Spring and Summer. Incidentally, the earliest liturgical formulae we have for these Ember Days predate the invention of Advent and seem completely oblivious of the approach of Christmas. Could it be that they predate even the invention of Christmas?? For example:
Humbly O Lord we beseech thee that, being sufficiently aided by the full measures [commodis] of earthly fruits, we may advance towards thee the Author of all things. 
How redolent of the unfussy workaday matter-of-fact genius of the old Roman Rite.

And then, yesterday, the Feast of S Thomas the Apostle, we had the Winter Solstice. Not a day too soon, sez I.

At least, we did if we follow the Gregorian Calendar. I expect solstices and equinoxes and all that sort of stuff come later for all you followers of the Julian computation. Three cheers for pope Gregory XIII! Perhaps one day we may have a pope sufficiently enlightened and Flexible to move the solstice even earlier! Perhaps ... this is just a thought that has popped into my mind ... back to the Feast of S Lucy! Frankly, I don't go for all this Rigidity.

21 December 2017

Professor Peter Geach


Today is the obitus, or Year's Mind, of Peter Geach, whom readers will recall as a philosopher of distinction; he converted to Catholicism in the early 1940s while reading Greats at Oxford ... and married a no less distinguished philosopher, Elizabeth Anscombe, who also converted while reading Greats. The Geaches formed a last link with one of the principal philosophers of the twentieth century, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and helped to ensure that in extremis he had a priest at his bedside, and received a Catholic burial. Quorum omnium animabus propitietur Deus.

The young Geach proclaimed King Robert I & IV, in 1937, standing on the steps of the Martyrs' Memorial, wearing his scholar's gown and doffing his academic cap. He was not arrested. Not even by a stray passing bulldog. Newspapers in the distant and dusty climes of Texas and the Malay Straits as well as in England covered the event. It would be very jolly to know whom the fifty-odd gathering of undergraduates included.

I shall return to Geach and his Jacobitism in January, a month when you may need cheering up. What better cheer than a Toast to the King over the Water! And, I think, to Geach.

20 December 2017

"Fas est doceri ab Anglicanis "

"Things are rarely so dire that they can't be made worse by an episcopal cover-up".

Comment on the Bell case.

Women Bishops

I wonder if I am out of date with regard to Anglican canonical niceties?

My recollection is that 'suffragan' [i.e. auxiliary] bishops are commissioned by their diocesan, and that their commission becomes void when the diocesan retires ... until the new diocesan grants them a new commission. Is that still the case?

This means that those congregations which reject the sacerdotal ministrations of women in the London diocese, who hitherto have been 'under the care of' Jonathan Baker, will henceforth be under the care of a Jonathan Baker who acts in the name of and by the authority of a woman 'bishop'.

When there is a woman at Canterbury, the same will true of those who are under the care of the bishops of Ebbsfleet and Richborough.

Will this be an acceptable situation? Personally, I don't see how it can be. But those clergy who hung on in the C of E in 2011 are now very adept at staying put. There is always, they explain, some further Enormity, still a few years ahead, which will finally make their position impossible, but this Enormity is just about tolerable.

If I had any power in the matter, I would offer such clergy a period of, say, eighteen months during which they could enter the Ordinariate (or a diocese) on special terms ... such as reordination within six months.

For some, such an offer would be a lifeline, a godsend; for others, it would call their bluff.

S AMBROSE and Female Modesty

At Mattins on the Wednesday and Friday of the Advent Ember Days, we read lections from S Ambrose's Book 2 in Lucam. Here are a few extracts.

The Angel went in to [Mary]. Learn that she was a virgin by her way of life; learn it by her modesty; learn it by the Angel's word; learn it by the Mystery. It is the characteristic of virgins to tremble, and to be afraid whenever a man enters; to fear every utterance of a man. Women should learn to imitate the resolve of her chastity. Alone in the innermost parts of the house, so that no man might see her, that only the Angel should find her; alone, without comrade, without a witness, lest she be corrupted by any ignoble address, she receives the greeting of the Angel ... 

... When Mary heard this, not as if unbelieving concerning his words, nor uncertain about his news nor doubtful about his example, but joyful for prayer, religious for duty, hasty for joy, she went to the hill-country. For, indeed, being now full of God, where should she go with haste except to the higher places? ... Mary, who previously lived alone in the most private recesses, was not delayed by the modesty of virginity from going out into the public realm, nor did the harshness of the mountains keep her from keenness, nor the difficulty of the journey from her duty ... Virgins: learn not to run around (circumcursare) other peoples' houses, not to hang around in the streets, not to gossip together in public. Mary was late leaving her home, but speedy once she was in public, and stayed with her cousin for three months.

Presumably, the habits S Ambrose castigates did exist, or he would not have wasted his time criticising them. It is the assumptions he can share with his hearers about what constitutes modest and decent behaviour that I wish to highlight.

Our society has lost, it seems to me, the entire concept of female modesty. This has been replaced by the bizarre notion that women can dress themselves and conduct themselves as shamelessly as they please and as publicly as they desire, but that a man who is misled into drawing inept conclusions from this is self-condemned.

I do not think our Christian forebears or the Greeks for whom Homer wrote or the Italian congregations to whom S Ambrose preached would have had any doubt that our society has been driven completely and incomprehensibly insane ... barking mad. To our shame, our Islamic neighbours are more likely to understand Christian and pagan antiquity, Homer and S Ambrose, than we are.

We are the strangers, the crazy misfits, the arrogant out-of-place tourists who plant our inappropriate and unwelcome feet in every other country, in every other culture, on every other age of history.

And we are so  pleased with ourselves.

19 December 2017

Anglican bishops (2)

And yesterday's London appointment, surely, lends massive support to the thesis in my yesterday's post. And how similar Sarah is to Justin!! I don't mean that Justin is effeminate or that Sarah is butch: rather, that each of them achieved eminence outside the Anglican Ministry; each served rather briefly in the presbyteral and parish ministries; did a fairly perfunctory stint bishopping; and bob's your uncle. Carey, likewise, rose from Bath'n'Wells to Canterbury without pettifogging delays. And for his successor, the Wise and the Good turned to ... somebody who was not a Church of England bishop at all! And Archbishop Eames was another name that had been mentioned!

Given the judgement thus effectually passed upon the Church of England's Bench of Bishops, you hardly needed me to make the unkind remarks about their quality which I offered you yesterday.

Time was, when some Sees (notably, Durham and Oxford) were reserved for academics of eminence. It was felt useful that they would be able to keep their heads above water as they navigated the Senior Common Rooms. But, with the increasing secularisation of the older Universities, that instinct has disappeared. It is rumoured that Rowan had been "in for" a number of Oxbridge headships of house before, by a narrow margin, he secured Magdalen. The Church of England is no longer a real part of the English Establisment, incredible though that may seem.

Justin's major success has been keeping the anti-woman-priests brigade happy by giving them an attractive little ecclesiola in ecclesia ... something that the liberals consistently vetoed during Rowan's pontificate. But I don't put that down to Justin's superior diplomatic skills as much as to the success of the Ordinariates and a nervous sense that a leakage needed to be blocked up. PF has helped too ... he is nothing like as attractively Anglican as dear Professor Ratzinger was. Indeed, PF has been a godsend to the C of E. One Anglican cleric said to me: "You know, I just don't feel nearly as papalist now as I thought I was"!

I imagine that the idea will have been in many minds that Sarah would make a good shoe-in for Canterbury when Justin cuts and runs. They must be rather worried about the current calls for his resignation ... "a bit too soon, old man" they will be murmurring. "Most people outside the Athenaeum have never even heard of Bell ... stick it out".

18 December 2017

"astonishingly unimpressive and tricky"

This is the analysis by Peter Hitchens, a well-known journalist (an English Anglican of Marxist origin), of the Management of the Church of England. It was elicited by a Report, written by a very distinguished barrister (of Polish Jewish extraction), dealing with the trashing, on minimal evidence, of the reputation of George Bell, an Anglican bishop. Bell had been highly regarded hitherto because of his support of the German Protestant opposition to Hitlerism, and his subsequent condemnations of the Allied blanket bombing of German centres of civilian population. But a single female complainant had made accusations of sexual abuse, several decades after Bell's death. The Church of England adopted its normal modern fall-back positions: panic and incoherence.*

"Astonishingly unimpressive and tricky" is undoubtedly a fair description of your modern Anglican bishop. Managing an institution in terminal decline is an unattractive proposition, and, in a fallen world, it is not surprising that it gets left to third- and fourth-rate men and women. Hence the Careys and the Welbys. And they got to be Archbishops of Canterbury!! Even poor Sentamu managed to collar the See of S Wilfrid! An influential Anglican blog has commented that "it is time for a fundamental debate about what is wrong at the highest levels of the Church of England". Well, that would lead us not higher but deeper down, to where lies the root problem.

Ours is a culture in which it is impossible to avoid the immense chasm which has opened up between those for whom inherited patterns of sexual morality still retain a normative status; and those who (either out of an instinct for organisational survival or out of a notion of what "the Holy Spirit" is calling for) believe in an accommodation with the Zeitgeist. Adopting either premise can mean that a man will suffer a lifetime of abuse and calumny. First- and second-rate men naturally assume they can do more good, and live more agreeably, in less exposed positions.

So the third- and fourth-raters to whom Management does by default fall waste their time in pursuit of compromises "which everybody will be able to live with".

I have not been in full communion with the Catholic Church in England and Wales for long enough to know how generally true such things may also be of Catholic bishops. I am not encouraged by the fact that (as far as I know) no report has been published revealing who knew about Kieran Conry's womanising before the baloon went up; and whether they had read a media report of it before his Consecration. And now, of course, Cardinal Murphy O'Connor is no longer available to answer questions.

*To be fair: the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral here in Oxford did not behave like that. And analysis of the Carlile Report has suggested that the major faults lie with the central Management of the C of E rather than with the Diocese of Chichester. Of course, the hooha will die down over the Christmas and New Year Holidays, and I think we can confidently assume that no resignations will follow. Back to business as normal! ... er ...

17 December 2017

Salome non sine mentula

It just plopped through my door earlier in the year ... a leaflet inviting me to see a production of Oscar Wilde's Salome by the Royal Shakespeare Company. I am reminded of it as we reach this 3rd Sunday of Advent, on which Holy Mother Church sets S John Baptist before our eyes.

"Portrayed by Matthew Tennyson wearing a dress and high heels, the 'Salome' ... is not depicted as male or female ... we can't shoehorn everyone into being either a 'he' or a 'she' ..."

Poor dear Oscar, what a wonderful, counter-cultural, time of it he had. What an amusing era that was, when you could use homosexuality to set yourself up as a wit and to provoke and disquiet the grim, stuffy, pompous old bores of cultural conformity.


And I wonder what poor dear Oscar would have made of our era, in which we are required to preach the normality of sodomy and to inculcate the bizarre rubbish of fluid gender among the young. It's a tough time now for the counter-cultural, isn't it? A time in which the rules are rigidly enforced  and carefully policed by the grim, stuffy, pompous old bores of cultural conformity. I wonder if Oscar might have banged on the gates and sought readmission to Reading Gaol.

Ah well. I expect the RSC is glad to get an occasional break from endless performances of Transqueen Lear.

16 December 2017

Pope and Curia

In his recent Interview, Cardinal Mueller said: "As the first and the last, the highest most important interpreter of that revelation of God in Christ Jesus, [the pope] is not an isolated person, but head of the Roman Church ... and, therefore, he is reliant on the qualified and engaged cooperation of that Roman Church in the form of the Cardinals and the dicasteries of the Roman Curia".

Obvious stuff ... but perhaps not so obvious in this ultrahyperueberpapalist age, in which PF shows himself impatient of the more intelligent and theologically formed members of his Curia; and happily dependant upon questionable collaborators. I wrote about this not very long ago; I venture to repeat my earlier pieces below. As Cardinal M emphasises, the Curia has a theological status.

The Curia Romana (1)

Jorge Bergoglio has no Magisterial authority whatsoever. The Bishop of Rome does. But, of course, Jorge Bergoglio is Bishop of Rome; and so, qua Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis possesses the very considerable authority defined dogmatically by the First Vatican Council and expressed legally in the two Codices Iuris Canonici. Being Bishop of Rome is what counts. And being Bishop of Rome, like being Bishop of Anywhere, means being Bishop of Somewhere. And being Bishop of Somewhere means being Bishop of certain people ... of certain living and breathing Christian humans.

What is "a Bishop"? There is a (largely Anglophone) ecclesiastical underworld populated by what are often called "Episcopi vagantes", "Wandering Bishops". These are persons who have privately secured for themselves technically 'valid' episcopal orders. Many people suspect that their motive for doing this has been personal vanity, because these are 'bishops' who are not surrounded by the serried and serious ranks of their presbyterium, nor ministered to ad altare by their cheerful bustling Deacons, and who lack the boisterous, sometimes disorderly, mob of 'their' Laity, laos. And they are not, these Episcopi vagantes, in peace and communion with the Apostolic, or indeed with any other, See. Far from it.

Per contra, in Catholic (and Orthodox) ecclesiology, a Bishop is a man who discharges the functions of the high Episcopal office in the context of the structured Church life of People, Deacons, and Presbyters. A gathering of Christians so structured is known as a "Particular Church". Like any other Diocesan Bishop, the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, is a Bishop with a Presbyterium, a Diakonia, a Laos. He is not a lonely isolated individual with technically valid orders and a technically valid Electio in Summum Pontificem tucked into his back pocket. He is not, that is to say, a Papa vagans. With his usual acuity, Blessed John Henry Newman argued, in the case of some early popes who showed signs of doctrinal wobble, that, since this happened after they had been beaten up in Byzantine prisons, it had no bearing on the Papal Office, since they were acting as individuals in physical and moral isolation from their Ecclesia.

In the Particular, local Church of Rome, the "Cardinal Presbyters" are the Pope's presbyterium, which is why they have "titular" churches assigned to them of which they are the titular parish priests. Mutatis mutandis, the Cardinal Deacons. You will see where this is leading. The 'Cardinalate', if that is the right word, is not without theological significance. It is part of the organic structure of the very important Particular (i.e.local) Church of which the Successor of S Peter is the Bishop. This is seen most easily and most visibly in the persons of the curial Cardinals who permanently work in Rome. But it applies also to the other Cardinals throughout the world, who qua Roman Presbyters have their titular churches and are distributed among the boards of the Roman dicasteries. The Cardinal Archbishop of Timbuctoo wears red and is addressed as 'Eminence' not because he is the important local 'Primate' of a big 'National Church', but because he is Cardinal Presbyter of the Titular Church of SS Promiscuus and Miscellaneus*, which, until the Risorgimento, the Pontiff used to visit for the Stational Mass on February 31.

There has sometimes been a tendency, which I very strongly condemn, to want to separate the notion of the Pope from that of the Curia. The Pope, it is sometimes said, is the Pope and has his highly significant dogmatically based prerogatives which we can't really avoid fessing up to because they were dogmatically defined at Vatican I. But the Curia ... that is nothing more than a civil service, and a rather unattractive one to boot ( ... er ... ). Not only is it without doctrinal significance, but its members get in the way; they behave in a bossy fashion in their dealings with the Churches throughout the world. Perhaps they should be cut down. Perhaps they should be put in their place. Might we not be happier without them? Liberal journalists are programmed to cheer any pope whose sycophants put it about that he intends to savage the Curia.

In my view, this is not merely humanly unfair but is also extremely flawed theologically. It is a direct assault upon that structure, the structure of the Particular local Church of Rome, within which the Supreme Pontiff necessarily discharges his unique and indispensible role. It is a solvent which, because it seeks to split off the Pope from the structures of his Particular local Church, has the potential to leave the Roman Pontiff as a lonely and decontextualised figure; in effect, a very powerful Episcopus vagans. And that sounds to me very much like saying 'a theologically dubious Absolute Monarch'.
To be continued.
___________________________________________________________________ 
*I owe this intriguing duo, and their Feast Day (a semidouble), to the fertile imagination of the late Rt Revd Mgr Ronald Arbuthnott Knox, Protonotary Apostolic and Master of Arts (Oxon.). 

The Curia Romana (2)

It is well-known that in the early centuries of the Church, the Bishop was the Sacramental centre of his Particular Church, and its Teacher who, assisted by the Holy Spirit, preserved and articulated the authentic teaching which that Church had received. But it seems that the presbyterium was the administrative body, the committee which took decisions, the body of men to whom the bishop turned for their consent before he even felt free to absolve a penitent or ordain a subdeacon. And this seems to have been very true in Rome. There are historians who believe that the Roman Church was, for centuries, governed by its presbyters and entirely lacked a 'monarchical Bishop'. I do not believe this theory, but the evidence upon which it is based does indicate the significance of the Roman presbyters. When a letter had to be sent to Corinth to sort out the disorders in the Church there, the earliest document we have of the exercise of a disciplinary Primacy by Rome, it was not sent in the name of the Bishop. Indeed, it has been argued that S Clement was not so much the Bishop/Pope, but just the presbyter in charge of correspondence! Again, I do not accept this, but, again, the fact that such an argument has been deployed does indicate the significance of the Presbyteratus Romanus. A little later, we have the account by Pope Cornelius of how a previous pope had begged for the favour of being allowed to ordain a particular presbyter who had been vetoed by the clergy and many of the laity; and Tertullian's (imaginative and scathing) account of Pope Callistus imploring the consent of the fraternitas to be allowed to absolve an adulterer. The Church of those centuries saw itself as corporate in a way that we find hard to imagine. Take the earliest letter to the Roman Church after S Paul's, the letter of S Ignatius: it does not actually mention a bishop; it is the Church which is said to preside (Kathemene). Nor does the passage in S Irenaeus which is our earliest evidence for the idea of the Roman Church as the locus par excellence of authentic doctrinal teaching contra haereses, locate that role specifically in the Pope, but in the Church. It all amounts, of course, to the precisely same thing; if Rome teaches authentic doctrine, and if its bishop is the ecclesiatical organ which enunciates that authentic teaching of the Roman Church ... well, Bob's your uncle. But these facts do bring me back to my initial point: Jorge Bergoglio is nothing; the Bishop of Rome is everything. Papa Bergoglio is Episcopus Romanus in et cum Ecclesia Romana. He is not a vagans.

My conclusion is the same as it was at the end of my first part. The Curia Romana is a body of theological significance. If I wished, in the time-honoured style of this University, to set a spoof quotation as an essay question, "Papa sine Curia Papa nullus: discuss" might occur to me ... and I would give deltas to those who argued in favour of or against the tag ... and better marks to those who subdivided their propositions and came out somewhere in the middle.
To be concluded.

The Curia Romana (3)

It is against the background I have tried to sketch out that I find myself wondering about the attitude of the present pope towards the Curia. Of course, like every institution insecurely placed in Time, it needs to be reformed from time to time. The question that worries me is whether the present pope is drawing the Curia closer in fidelity to its true ecclesial calling; or pushing it further away.

Commentators have not been slow to remark that, to the outside observer, it looks as if the current pope is attempting to prevent or eliminate the existence of strong foci within the Curia. He seems to be incapable of working with any Head of Dicastery who is not a yes-man. It is a sign, not of the Holy Father's strength, but of his weakness, that he cannot collaborate with as gentle yet principled a man as Robert Sarah, without deeming it necessary to humiliate him before the world. And Sarah was one of his own appointments.

And he aso appointed Raymond Burke to be Patron of the Order of Malta. But as soon as a problem arose in the Order, he humiliated and sidelined him. When you appoint people, you should either back them up when the going gets rough, or confess that you yourself erred in making the appointment.

Gerhard Mueller was inherited, not appointed, by Papa Bergoglio. But he confirmed him in office, and the position is a highly significant one. The current pope is neither learned nor intelligent. To run the CDF he needed someone who was each of these things. Mueller was and is. First he humiliated him by sending Schoenborn to front the Amoris laetitia news conference; then by sacking three of his collaborators without even telling him; lastly, he has humiliated him yet again by dumping him with a minute's notice and invoking a principle he had not mentioned either to Mueller or the World before: that Heads of Dicasteries will not be continued in post beyond their first quinquennium.

(Incidentally, it will be interesting to see whether this principle really does get applied as all the Cardinals come to the ends of their terms. The Franciscans of the Immaculate must be puzzled to find that their tormenter Bras de Aviz is still around. Cardinal Parolin must be starting to get demob-happy. There are going to be quite a lot of underemployed 'young' cardinals swilling around, with the Vatican Press Corps hovering hungrily above them like seagulls round a trawler.)

If the Curia really is in want of radical reform, what it needs is more strong and principled and able workers and fewer unprincipled yes-men. The Press reports suggest that this is not the way our Holy Father appears to see things. But his idiosyncrasies have been obvious since his election. For the first few years he made a daily exhibition of himself by that constant stream of obscure abuse ... butterflies, pelagians ... which seemed to be directed at clergy. He is the pope who considers that a most natural Christmas present to give his curial collaborators is a torrent of invective. He sneers at grandmothers for their infertility and describes journalists as shit-eaters. Given a world so sadly unappreciative of eccentricity, in most other organisations this side of North Korea the Men in White Coats would have been sent in to hustle such a CEO out of public view.

The commentators seem to think that Archbishop Ladaria, in his new chair at the CDF, is unlikely to put up much resistance to Bergoglian tantrums. They may very well be very wrong. I pray they are; because the Archbishop has some very precious institutions under his protection: the Ordinariates and Ecclesia Dei. 

But we can be sure of one thing: if Ladaria does turn out to have both principles and guts, Pope Francis, if this pontificate continues along its established lines, will either humiliate him or sack him or both.

14 December 2017

The Anglicans are dumping the Common Ground: Welby on Abortion

When formal ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Anglicans began in earnest in the 1960s, there was a strong ground assumption. It was this. We were glad that we had so much in common. We recognised that there were things upon which we differed. So dialogue would serve to remove the differences; meanwhile, what we had in common would stay safe. The Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury had agreed upon a formula which made much of "the Common Ancient Traditions". Neither side would introduce new differences.

(We Anglo-papalists, of course, already agreed with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church on everything. I'm talking about the general assumption among non-papalist Anglicans and Catholics.)

Recently, there have been reports about Justin Welby. He is said to have declared that the (admirably clear) views on abortion held by a Catholic MP called Rees-Mogg are not held in the Church of England.

He could have said that these views on abortion were not universally held in the Church of England. That would have been a (depressing) statement of fact. But his actual words, reportedly, were that such views are "certainly not held within the Church of England".

That is a plain untruth. His predecessor as Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, held very clear views on abortion. You could find them by googling 'Rowan Williams abortion'. And Williams, sadly, is still in the Church of England. Ergo ...

The Anglicans appear to have no shame about ditching those things which, a generation ago, they held in common with Catholics. And, as far as I know, Catholic spokesmen, whether in Rome or Westminster or Birmingham, never waggle a finger and say "'ere 'ere 'ere, what's going on? Are we still in dialogue or are we not?"

The ARCIC methodology would be best served if both sides were required to give, say, ten years' notice of the next load of innovatory departures from the Common Ancient Traditions which they intended to introduce.

12 December 2017

Obituaries

Fr Zed, and the Obituary writers of the Times, often combine to remind us wrinklies of the imminence of Death ...

Firstly, King Michael of Romania. He visited us several times at Lancing; we provided the Romanian royal National Anthem and treated him as befits a ruling Monarch. In the slippery years from 1930 to 1950, years (as General Kim Philby, I believe, put it) of the King Carols and the Prince Pauls, of Fascist strong men and ambitiously unscrupulous Marxists, His Majesty ... kindly; decent; honourable ... deserved better than he got. The detail of his life which I liked best was that after he used his royal prerogative to sack and arrest Marshal Antonescu, the Man of Steel was confined in the strongest room they had in the Royal Palace. Which happened to be the room in which the Royal Stamp Collection was kept safe. Let us hope that he did not interfere with the perforations or smudge any of the postmarks. Somehow, there is just a whiff of P G Wodehouse about this, yes?

And now, Enoch Powell's widow has died. I never met her, but we did once have Enoch himself to dinner. My main recollection is that we discussed Rhetoric, Classical and modern, and the sad days upon which that noble art had fallen. With due and deferential reference to his own eminence in this field, I asked him who else, in the politics of the early 1970s, he believed to be considerable in the art. With no hesitation, he replied "Michael Foot". I had not known, until I read it in last week's obituary of his widow, that the Powells and the Foots, at the opposite extremes of politics, were close friends who often dined together.

Quorum animabus propitietur Deus.

11 December 2017

Will he never stop ... (2) Pope Francis, the Our Father, and the next Conclave

Lead us not into temptation. It is unlikely that the Greek and Latin words translated by temptation meant the sort of thing we mean by 'temptation' in the confessional ... the 'temptation' to steal something, or to speak uncharitably, or to suspend the Custody of the Eyes. Peirasmos has been thought to refer much more probably to the time of testing, that is to say, of being tortured or intimidated to give up our Faith. Scripture teaches us that the End Times will indeed be marked by just such testings or persecutions. It is natural to ask God, whose providence disposes the times, to spare us this. [See for example Mt 26:41; Luke 8:13; Apocalypse 2:10 and 3:10.]

(And, by the way, Evil could be either masculine or neuter (tou ponerou). Many, probably most,  people think it refers to the Evil One.)

So, in my opinion, PF is proposing a revision which is not, as he appears to have been told, a revised translation but a radical change in the meaning of the Greek original. With sorrow, I have to say that this new example of his gigantic self-confidence does not surprise me.

What repeatedly ... it seems, almost daily !! ... irritates me about PF is his endless propensity to treat the Depositum Fidei, the Universal Church and what she has inherited from the Apostles or from the generations since, as something which is at his disposal to change, to criticise, or to mangle in any way that appeals to his personal whimsy at any particular moment. He is like a toddler who has been given toys to play with ... a big, boisterous and wilful child who likes to play with them rather roughly; whose commonest phrase is "I want ...". If anyone suggests that he should perhaps handle them rather more gently, he throws a tantrum. I am immensely sorry to have to write like this about Christ's Vicar but, ever since his election, PF has appeared to me to want attention to be drawn particularly to those parts of his personal 'style' which mark him as most radically different from his predecessors. A pope who disliked close scrutiny and the consequent criticism would keep the journalists and cameramen at a distance, say a very great deal less, and speak only after taking competent advice. An ecclesiastic who deliberately sollicits attention is ill-placed to complain if he gets it, nor can his sycophants plausibly do so on his behalf. This pontificate did not invent the unfortunate modern phenomenon of the celebrity pope, but it has shown how very dangerous and divisive that cult is.

PF's election was, I suppose, the responsibility of the Cardinal Electors ... to whom one has to add such Cardinal non-Electors as Murphy O'Connor, who, we are told, dinnered his way around Rome encouraging his friends, and the other Anglophone Cardinals, to vote for Bergoglio (as he had every right to do). But there are also perhaps systemic problems here too. I do not think that even those whose analysis of this pontificate is totally different from mine will wish to disagree with much in what follows. Firstly ...

Time was when the Church was blessed with perhaps a dozen or two cardinals, pretty certainly not more than seventy; so that, in a conclave, each elector was more likely to know something about at least the more prominent and papabili of his brethren. If there are 120 or more electors, you are inevitably going to have the sort of situation in which an Eminent Father "from the peripheries" who knows next to nobody, will be open to be influenced by fellow electors who appear knowledgeable and who combine to assure him that Cardinal X is a Splendid Fellow. Additionally, PF has (significantly) suppressed the open discussions which the Cardinals used to be allowed to have with each other when they met formally in consistories. His once-claimed passion for parrhesia did not survive his experiences in his two 'synods'.

Secondly, it has come to be felt that it is edifying ... that the World will be impressed ... if a pope is elected within a couple of days. Almost as if it would be dangerous if the electors got to know each other, or if it became apparent to the waiting Press that there were deep divisions inside the Sistine Chapel. Even those simple souls (Ratzinger and I think they are misguided) who believe that the Holy Spirit chooses the pope, might have trouble giving a plausible theological explanation as to why the Holy Spirit should be so keen to operate through a quick-fire conclave rather than through a more lengthy and carefully considered one.

And, thirdly, PF will bequeath to the next interregnum a Church ... and a Sacred College ... much more deeply and ideologically divided than has been true for a very long time, possibly for ever.

I pray that the next conclave may be very, very, lengthy, even if that does encourage the Vatican press corps endlessly to lecture the watching World on such arcane mysteries as Blocking Thirds. Surely, their Eminences will have learned the lessons of the last five disastrous, destructive, divisive years?

10 December 2017

Will he never stop ... (1) Pope Francis and the Our Father

PF thinks the traditional translations of the Oratio Dominica need to be changed. Lead us not into temptation displeases him. Why should God lead people into temptation to sin? Obviously, this must be a Bad Translation. Would May we not be led into temptation be better?

Fundamentalist traddies are likely to be outraged. Changing the Our Father!!!!!

Although of course I am a Rigid Pharisee, I am not that sort of fundamentalist. The Lord's Prayer contains a number of mysteries. Let me go off at a tangent and give you an example from elsewhere in the Prayer. Let me tell you about Give us this day our Daily Bread. The Greek word translated Daily is particularly mysterious. Epiousion is pretty well a hapax legomenon (a Greek word occurring only once) and Origen remarked that you never heard it used in his time. It looks as though it should be related to epiouse, which means coming. Put that together with hemera (day) and it would mean our bread of the coming day, and S Jerome knew of a Hebrew Gospel which did indeed render it by mahar, of tomorrow. Might it mean the Bread of the Kingdom? Might it mean the eschatological Food, tomorrow's Bread which we are allowed to receive today ... i.e. the Blessed Sacrament? Or might epiousion mean supersubstantial? Etymologically, it could do so. And so on. Far from finding my Faith disturbed, I find such questions exhilarating. If you wanted to go further, you could compare the Lucan version of the Our Father with S Matthew's. TheTradition, in all its breadth, gives us such riches upon which to meditate ...

Despite the different possible interpretations of parts of this Prayer, if I were a person of immense authority, I would not choose to use my power to change one single inherited rendering. My first reason for not doing so would be that I am profoundly aware that I am not infallible. And that a rendering which appealed to me 100% today might no longer do so in a year's time. And it is worth remembering that the Church has got along for two millennia without prescribing to us what meaning we should each attach to the words of this prayer. Two Millennia of hermeneutical freedom ... until we reached the Age of Mercy, the Aetas Bergogliana. Now, it seems, we need to be tied down to those particular interpretations and meanings which appeal to this particular, all-wise, pope.

It's almost as if PF has decided to give a big plug to the recent e-book, The Dictator Pope by Professor Marcantonio Colonna, about which I wrote a few days ago.

And let me make this clear: the Greek original and its Latin version do not mean what PF wants them to mean. Anybody who claims that they do, is either ignorant or dishonest. PF's proposal is not a translation, but an alteration. But I'll return, D v, to that tomorrow. (I'm afraid it has occurred to me that all this might be a ploy to provoke yet another disagreement with Cardinal Sarah, with the intention of finally getting rid of him. After all, PF is suggesting that a change be made in liturgical texts which involves eliminating the actual words of what the Greek and Latin and Syrian bibles say the Lord actually said, and replacing them with what a twenty-first century Roman Bishop says he prefers. It is Cardinal Sarah's job, quite frankly, to resist the imposition of a gratuitous mistranslation of an authorised original.)

My second reason for making no change is pastoral. Back in the 1970s, we in the Church of England did indeed experiment with 'modern' translations of the Pater noster. Those experimental forms are now, I think, rarely used. The reason is: the clergy discovered that among infrequent church-goers, including the house-bound sick and elderly, and those attending Baptisms, Weddings, and Funerals, and the Midnight Mass brigade, the Lord's Prayer was the only formula they knew. Any other liturgical memories they had lingering from their childhoods had been rendered out-of-date by the liturgical revolutions of the 1960s. Was it 'pastoral' to deprive such people of the only remaining bit of a worship-experience which was in the least familiar to them ... which had any sort of purchase upon their memories? So most of us just changed Our Father which ... into Our Father who ... , and left it at that.

Incidentally, the 'modern language' Anglican version ... in case you were wondering ...  finds no problems whatsoever in the phrase which makes PF and, we gather, some French and Italian bishops, lose so much sleep.

We were right not to meddle.

(Concludes tomorrow, by examining Lead us not into temptation.)

9 December 2017

Appeal for information

A kind friend has sent me an interesting text: the oath fidelitatis that (?) newly consecrated or translated bishops have to swear in the Latin Church (how about the sui iuris Oriental Churches?).

My first impetuous reaction was to feel that no man with any sense of his dignity would sign such a grovelling formula (vide praesertim verba atque consilia prope finem) . Then I recollected that, over the last thirty years, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bishops may have signed this piece of paper with no intention (exempli gratia) of doing anything to implement Canon 249 (seminarians being taught to be fluent in Latin). Or of doing anything to repress liturgical abuses. So I expect this 'oath' is just an empty formality that one performs and then has a good laugh about. As when we Anglican clergy used to swear an oath to use only the Book of Common Prayer. Ha Ha Ha. Indeed. Ha Ha Ha.

I would be interested, nevertheless, to know the history of this formula, and to what extent its wording is recent. Quite a bit of it seems to me to be redolent of the catch-phrases of Vatican II.

8 December 2017

Litany to a Lady ...

Stella orientalis,
Fulgidum lumen,
Libertatis propugnatrix invicta,
Exemplum fortitudinis,

... no; good guess; but you're wrong. This is not a recently discovered fragment of a medieval Litany to the Theotokos. Just some of the phrases lavished in this University by Mr Orator Jenkyns and my lord Chancellor upon Aung San Suu Kyi on the emotionally highly wrought occasion when she received the degree of Doctor of Civil Law honoris causa in 2012.

She seems to have been less than successful in teaching Civil Law to her own military. So here is my proposal for succouring the Burmese refugees who have fled to Bengal. Let every institution which has showered honours on Aung San Suu Kyi, from the exquisite heights of Oxford University all the way right down to those risible idiots the Nobel Peace Prize Trustees, chip in with, say, £5 million each.

As a penance for infringing the prerogatives of the Mother of God.

Tu Gloria Jerusalem

Throughout the opening chapters of S Luke's Gospel, like the insistent tolling of Great Tom after nine o'clock each evening, there rings the insistent phrase kata ton nomon Moyseos. Mary, the truest Daughter of Jerusalem, who is herself the antitype of Sion, obeyed punctiliously the Torah, as gradually, storing away like a miser in her Immaculate Heart the wonders of which she had been made a partaker, she came to full understanding that the Child upon her knee was himself the blessed Torah Incarnate. "Whatever he says unto you ..."

Mary Immaculate is, surely, meant to be known as an icon of Redeemed Israel; Israel as she and all men were meant to be if Eve had not fallen; as in God's promises she will be, purged from the disobediences against which her prophets preached, washed in the waters of Baptism, joyful in the knowledge that her God is faithful and that his promises will be fulfilled.

Condemn me as a 'judaizer' if you like, but my heart lifts whenever I see a family of what our nasty secular Media disdainfully call "the Ultra-Orthodox"; the mother caring for her children, the father, as likely as not, with his nose in the Torah. Surely we should pray for those whose devotion to the Torah needs but the gentlest removal of the veil from their eyes so that, seeing, they may grasp Who that Torah is. And especially at this time for those communities in the Holy Land who, I gather, are now at risk of being made to serve in the armed forces of the Israeli state. And for the Departed, especially those millions who were victims of the rabies Germanica.

Living and departed, may they be all faithful, like Mary, to the End (telos), knowing finally Who the End, the Omega, is, and, like Mary at Golgotha, hearing the proclamation tetelestai.

7 December 2017

The See of Westminster; Episcopal Conferences; and Cardinal Mueller again.

This piece was originally posted in March 2015. Subsequently, I refined and strengthened and shortened it using information supplied by kind readers.  In my view, the most important parts of this are the two passages from Cardinal Mueller.

I would like to emphasise that this is not some attack on Archbishop Nichols. I have simply taken the English situation as an example of a very important ecclesiological point which relates equally to every part of the Latin Church. I just happen to know a little more about the ecclesiatical history of England than I do about that of Portugal or Poland or Peru.



Non-Catholics often misunderstand the position of the Archiepiscopal See of Westminster; and this can lead to unfairness towards its occupant. I think this whole question is of importance because it bears on matters of ecclesiological doctrine which, in fact, are the real basis of many of the Church's current upheavals. Which is how Cardinal Mueller will, nearer the end of this piece, come 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 Parliamentary Statute after the Schism) even within the Province of York. When he visitatorially enters another diocese, the Diocesan Bishop automatically if temporarily loses his diocesan jurisdiction. He was 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 ... and you are probably right ... 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 holders of an office that historically went far back before the time when there was a King or a Kingdom or even a concept of England.

Archbishops of Canterbury have behaved accordingly ... as when a medieval ABC attempted (unsuccessfully) to enter the Diocese of Exeter on Visitation, accompanied by his private army; and when Archbishop Fisher summoned John Robinson Bishop of Woolwich to see him after the publication of Honest to God. Robinson was an auxiliary bishop of another diocesan; but Fisher greeted him with "Now look here, Woolwich, you just can't do this sort of thing" vel sim.. (But even Fisher, I suspect, would not have behaved thus towards a bishop within the Province of York.)

The See of Westminster has never been constituted or recognised 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 and Liverpool were raised to metropolitan status. There was indeed at that time a desire (see the thread) to preserve a national position for 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 by a majority vote agreed). But he was given no jurisdiction and the only dignities conferred were the purely ritual ones of using pallium and cathedra and cross throughout England and Wales. This falls far short of the old 'primatial' conception. Indeed, it shows a very laudable determination on the part of the Holy See to preserve the rights and status of diocesan bishops.

And, in any case, under the current CIC, primacy would be purely nominal dignity.

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 (by contrast, 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 four totally independant metropolitical provinces of Birmingham, Liverpool, Cardiff and Southwark, or with four extra-provincial and extra-diocesan entities, the Ukrainian Eparchy, the South Indian Eparchy, the Military Ordinariate, and the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham (all four 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 diocese 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 being a Cardinal? No more than Raymond Cardinal Burke does. Or because of his Presidency of the Episcopal Conference? Not in Canon Law and not in dogma. I will, in conclusion, illustrate this by quoting  Cardinal Mueller, speaking when he was head of the CDF.

"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 Cardinal 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 ..." 

And the same erudite Cardinal repeated the same teaching in his 2017 book-interview, which, incidentally, appears to be selling like hot cakes in the Westminster Cathedral Bookshop. For some reason, there seems at the moment to be a great appetite for sound teaching. 

6 December 2017

Terminological inexactitudes? UPDATED

This morning on the BBC Home Service the Mayor of Jerusalem told us that Jerusalem has been the Capital of Israel for 3,000 years.

UPDATE: Motu proprio most kindly supplied a great deal of information about what Jerusalem was capital of for three thousand years. Unfortunately, my aging and moribund computer seemed to have endless trouble showing the Comments on screen. I hop they are now all 'up'.

Magisterial??

So PF's letter to a bishop in Argentina has been published in the AAS. Naturally, people are worried about the status which this might confer on it. Does it turn the letter concerned into a Magisterial document to which we are obliged to exhibit respect (obsequium)? And all that.

I am not going to get into questions such as the different weight to be accorded to different levels of papal documents; or how to construe a papal document which either obviously or apparently contradicts another document of the same Magisterial level. You can find that sort of stuff elsewhere. And the great Father Zed has done the Church Militant another immense service by printing a detailed analysis of the situation by a noted canonist. The gist is: even an Apostolic Letter printed in AAS does not cancel Canon 915 (unless it explicitly and in due form says that it does).

We are in a new situation under PF, and new hermeneutical methods are both needed and implied. I offer some thoughts ... you might call them the tentative reactions of a Plain Simple Man.

It is an objective and undeniable fact that Amoris laetitia has been interpreted in diametrically  contradictory ways. Some bishops, some conferences, take the view that it has changed nothing of the teaching contained in previous Magisterial documents. Some bishops, some conferences, believe that it has opened up the possibility of giving the Sacraments to unrepentant public adulterers. A sound and common sense principle is A doubtful Law is no Law.  As Cardinal Mueller has pointed out, in a very grave matter a change can only be made in law or doctrine by an explicit statement, with accompanying reasoning, making clear beyond all doubt that a change is being made. Sending Von Schoenborn down to a Vatican News Conference to smile sweetly at Diane Montagna and say "It's a Development!! Read Newman!!!" hardly meets this criterion.

If Amoris laetitia itself is of no effect, clearly a letter (even if it subsequently appropriates to itself the grandiose term 'Magisterial') which purports to interpret AL, can hardly rise much above the level of nugacitas.

Vatican I defined that ex cathedra statements of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable ex sese and not e consensu Ecclesiae. By implication: it has not been defined that lesser papal statements are ex sese irreformable. Thus, it is lawful to take into account what conferences and individual bishops say in interpreting Amoris laetitia. That document is reformable and any force it may eventually after a few decades acquire will depend on the consensus of the Church.

A fortiori, the same is true of the note that Cardinal Parolin has so unwisely attached to the text of "the Argentine letter" in AAS. One of the cheapest and nastiest tricks of the current regime is its facile habit of plastering labels reading "Holy Spirit" or "Magisterium" onto any ill-considered novelty it wants to force down the throats of its unwilling fellow Christians.

Another objective and undeniable fact: although instructed by his Employer to "strengthen your brethren", PF has not replied to Dubia, even when submitted by patres purpurati. Quite obviously, it cannot be argued that he has taught, clearly, explicitly, and as definitive tenendum, any of those contents of the document Amoris laetitia which have caused such puzzlement.

In other words, the Petrine Ministry appears currently to be in the state which Blessed John Henry Newman neatly described as Suspense. I suggest that a general pastoral conclusion to be drawn from all this is that ordinary straightforward Christians have better things to do with their time than worrying about the precise status of ambiguous statements. Better, richer, more God-given things. Qualia essent ...


Open a bottle of wine.

Compose a limerick in English about Cardinal Kasper.

Do the Times Latin Crossword in under five minutes.

Play forfeits with your wife/husband.

Incorporate into a 'Vergilian' eclogue (with goats and shepherdesses galore) Cardinal Mueller's recent brilliant apercu that the Church is not a Field Hospital but a Silicon Valley.

Recite the Quicunque vult and make an Act of Faith.

Cram yourself full of baklava and/or halva.

Listen to the Kyries of the Missa Papae Marcelli.

Go to Ashmole and commune with Menander or Benedict XIV or both.

Walk down the river from Sandford Lock to Abingdon and count the species of waterfowl.

Convert the encyclical Pascendi Dominici gregis into Homeric hexameters.

Shoot a magpie or two or three or four.

Find a priest who will take a stipend to offer the Mass Salus populi for the Ecclesia Dei adflicta.

Kai, as Aristotle might have put it, ta loipa panta.



5 December 2017

Is he still Pope?

I sympathise with dear and conflicted layfolk who wonder, in view of the preposterous publication in AAS of a certain letter, whether PF has finally stepped across a certain line and through manifest heresy forfeited the Petrine See.

The answer is
(1) No;
(2) No; and
(3) No.

To suffer canonical consequences for formal heresy, formal canonical procedures, including formal pertinacity after formal warnings, would be necessary.

There is nowhere you can buy a DIY 'deposeapope' kit.

If God spares me until tomorrow morning, I shall as usual say una cum famulo tuo papa nostro Francisco in the Te igitur, bowing my head as I do so.

Sedevacantist comments are never, you will remember, enabled on this blog.

Talk about PF no longer being pope is an easy way out of a very horrible problem. It is a characteristic temptation of the Enemy. You must realise that the Enemy is terribly active at the moment.

I beg you in the Holy Name of our Redeemer to forget it.

Cardinal Parolin on Episcopal Conferences

In his recent paper read to the Catholic University of America, Cardinal Parolin, Secretary of State, urged upon us a policy first suggested by PF in Evangelii gaudium: the increasing of the competences of Episcopal Conferences. He appeared to be unaware of the reasons for Apostolos suos of S John Paul II; but he did acknowledge the existence of that document. He proceded to tell us that it should "be understood not as a final destination, but as the basis for a renewed reflection".

This hermeneutical principle seems to me subversive of the whole structure of Catholic doctrine. Consider "[Christ] rose on the third day according to the Scriptures". Well, you can if you like call this a basis for a renewed reflection ... our Faith is always something upon which we should reflect further. But our reflection should always preserve the whole content of the original doctrine, so that the new reflection is eodem sensu eademque sententia.

Parolin then went on to claim that Conferences are "really episcopal" because "they have their reason for being not in a sociological principle of collaboration, but in the implementation of the ministry conferred upon each bishop with episcopal consecration". Thus an attempt is being made to give episcopal conferences a basis, a toe-hold, in the Church's Tradition and Dogma.

Whoever drafted this section for his Eminence seems to be ignorant of, or to have ignored, the Magisterium of the last three decades. The Ecclesiology of the Catholic Church sees only two institutions as definitive by Divine Institution: the Universal Church, in communion with the Roman Church; and the local Particular Church, in communion with its Bishop. These are in fact, theologically if not geographically, the same thing; the Universal Church is manifested and made present in the Particular Church. The phrase 'local Church' does not mean a quasi-National 'church', such as "the English Church", which is an aggregation of dioceses. That phrase itself is common, useful, but imprecise slang. But, to be precise, there is the Universal Church and there is the Diocese of Portsmouth.

Groupings of Particular Churches, as Vatican II taught, may for practical and prudential reasons be highly valuable or of venerable antiquity, such as the Patriarchates. But they are not by Divine Law essential. See Communionis notio AAS 85 (1992).

This is why our Holy Mother the Church has been circumspect with regard to Episcopal Conferences. In Apostolos suos she allowed Conferences to have a doctrinal competence, but only if (1) a vote is unanimous (in which case the teaching is the teaching of each individual bishop) or (2) where a vote is not unanimous but is confirmed by the Holy See (in which case the teaching is that of the Universal Church). She is apprehensive about the weakening of the Magisterium of the Bishop in his own Particular Church (i.e. his diocese), and the influence of bureaucracies.

The duty of a local bishop is to ask himself whether a particular idea is in accordance with what has been handed down to him by his predecessors in his See and coheres with the Magisterium of the Church. It is not to ask "Is this a brilliant idea of an amazingly fantastic theologian?", or "Is this roughly in line with what my colleagues bishops X, Y, and Z thought last time we had a chat about it?", or "Can I really go against this when the the Episcopal Conference's ABCDEF Commission has considered it long and hard and come to a definite conclusion expressed in a big Document impressively supported by innumerable footnotes?"

I have throughout this pontificate been afraid that "autonomy and doctrinal Competence for Episcopal Conferences" may be the next major error to assault the whole State of Christ's Church Militant here in Earth. It is the very self-same principle which has corrupted and destroyed the Anglican Communion. It is a Diabolical threat with which those of us with 'Anglican Previous' lived and suffered for decades. Believe me, we know all about it. This is a problem which matters. It is most clearly a strategy elaborated at the very depths of the Lowerarchy.


Here are some remarks, very revealing, made a couple of years ago by a German bishop, Bishop Voderholzer of Regensburg, who seems to have his head screwed on the right way. He speaks of a document of the German Episcopal Conference which
"was released in the name of the Conference of Bishops, of which I am a member, without my having seen its contents, much less having approved it". He goes on to speak of his having "accepted the torch of belief and pastoral responsibility from his forerunners, including S Wolfgang." In other words, not from Cardinal Marx or the Episcopal Conference. And not even from PF. A Bishop and his diocese are not a department of a National Organisation, nor is a bishop Romani pontificis vicarius.

S Irenaeus, with his clear exposition of the handing down of the Faith from bishop to bishop in each Church, would have shaken Bishop Voderholzer warmly by the hand.

Provincial Autonomy (the crisp title by which all this unpleasant stuff is known among Anglicans) is perfectly designed to become a forum within which innovating and unscrupulous bullies will be endowed with the procedural and personal mechanisms to subjugate an orthodox Bishop. And do not underestimate the danger that good and orthodox men may be worn down by a sense that they have a duty of solidarity with their episcopal colleagues. In English English, we call this "clubbing somebody". I am not sure whether this means 'hitting them with a big stick' or 'making them feel warm and comfortable members of a cosy club whose consensus they dread to break'. The practical consequences of each are much the same.

The apparent policy of reversing the teaching elegantly and concisely expressed by Wojtyla and Ratzinger is another major threat to the integrity of the Catholic Faith. 


4 December 2017

Henry Joy Fynes-Clinton, Priest

Today is the Year's Mind, as we say within the Anglican Patrimony, of Fr Henry Joy Fynes-Clinton. He died in 1959.

Father was, for decades, a leader ... no; the leader ... of the 'papalist' part of the Church of England. Papalist Anglicans were people who believed in the whole Catholic Faith, including the decrees of Vatican I on the Primacy and Infallibility of the Successor of S Peter. They remained in communion with the See of Canterbury because they believed that, just as the schism of 1559 had been corporate, so the renewal of full communion should also be corporate: after all, the corporate schism of 1533/4 had been corporately absolved by Cardinal Pole on S Andrew's Day in 1554. (It is our view that the erection of our Ordinariate did in fact fulfil the same striving for corporate unity which animated the whole life of Fr FC and of so many like him.)

There is much that one could say about him; not least about his foundation of the Catholic League, which still continues, now as a society for both Anglicans and Roman Catholics. And about his role in the restoration of the [Anglican] Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham. But I will pluck from the record (The Anglican Papalist: A Personal Portrait of Henry Joy Fynes-Clinton, A T John Slater, Anglo-Catholic History Society, 2012) his role in the 1933 Centenary Manifesto, put out to honour the centenary of the 'Oxford Movement', the Catholic Revival in the Church of England.

This anniversary happened at a time when many 'Catholic' externals had bedded down in the Church of England, but there were worrying signs of doctrinal modernism and of an accommodation to the Spirit of the Age in matters of sexual morality. The Manifesto stood out against disorders such as 'modernistic teaching', a 'novel comprehensiveness and mutual toleration of opposed teaching', 'the recent readiness to compromise on unpopular doctrines and moral standards'; its authors 'utterly reject[ed] Modernism and reprobate[d] all theories and accommodations of a modernistic character which impugn or innovate upon the Faith ... '. It wholly rejected departures from 'Catholic standards in faith, practice or morals. As a grave instance of the last-named, it is incumbent upon us to reprobate the toleration and even positive support ... of the immoral sanction of artificial contraception given by many Bishops at Lambeth'. Does any of this strike you as resembling any modern goings-on in the Catholic Church?

I put it to you that in this Manifesto we find the authentic tones of S Pius X (Pascendi Dominici gregis) and of the affirmation of Christian sexual mores by Pius XI (Casti connubii) and Paul VI (Humanae vitae), not to mention S John Paul II (Veritatis splendor and Familiaris consortio).

I was received as a teenager into the Catholic League by Father Fynes-Clinton in the 1950s. Recently, as I subscribed to the Correctio filialis, I did so in a vivid awareness that I was partaking in yet another skirmish in that same great conflict which in 1933 had elicited the Centenary Manifesto. Same War, same Enemy, same methods.


Eius animae propitietur Deus.

3 December 2017

ORDO; and Pope Francis

I notice that other blogs are recommending ORDOs for next year. For those who are Ordinary Form chaps and chappesses, but would enjoy something which somewhat elevates bog-standard Bugnini, I commend the ORDO which I still compile, Order for the Eucharist and for Morning and Evening prayer in the Church of England 2018. It gives full information both for the Novus Ordo Roman Rite (Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal) and for the Church of England (Common Worship). Tufton Books. (By the way, it starts with Advent.)

For those who would like something unusual and really quite exciting, I recommend (if you haven't tried it already) the ORDO done by the St Lawrence Press. It will remind you of the days before Ven Pius XII and Hannibal Bugnini started out on their career of liturgical 'reform'. In other words, it offers you the Roman Rite as it was in 1939. You will discover an exotic world in which feasts always had a First Vespers; greater feasts had Vigils; greatest ones had Octaves. You will be surprised to realise how much of what we label 'Bugnini' was really imposed before the Council and before S John XXIII.

It is in abbreviated Latin; but that's how ORDOs were before the 1960s. However, the abbreviations are all very simple and obvious and most people with a dash of liturgical know-how will have no trouble spotting what most of them mean.

Of course, its actual use today would be totally illegal. I am not encouraging anything so improper. No way could you possibly atually put it in your sacristy and ... er ... um ... er ...

... ah ... a thought has just occurred to me ...

PF, by word and example, has insistently made clear his dislike of Rigid Pharisaical people who make a fuss about sticking to Rules and Law and think they are better than everybody else because they do so. Yes! In this pontificate, you need not be legalistic pedants! Get up out of the Seat of Moses! Use this ORDO now, quickly, in case PF is succeeded by someone pharisaical! Could be your last chance!

2 December 2017

Pope Francis

I think the current Roman pontiff deserves great credit for uttering the R-word, after meeting some of the Burmese refugees in Bengal. I write this in complete sincerity and without irony.

I also applaud him for his recent words about the policy of nuclear deterrence. He thus aligned himself with the judgement on this matter of the late, great, Cardinal Ottaviani, the greatest of the Council Fathers, a living martyr for Tradition during the dark days of the 1960s; as well as of Finnis, Grisez, and other more modern very seriously competent and Traditionalist Catholic moralists.

'The Dictator Pope' ... the latest

It appears that some spoiling is going on in order to blunt the impact of this important book. I urge readers to react accordingly. (It appears on Monday in English and can be prebooked.)

No passaran!

1 December 2017

An odd address by Cardinal Parolin?

Speaking at an organisation called the Catholic University of America, Cardinal Parolin, Secretary of State, recently gave a lecture which seemed to me to have some distinctly dubious implications ... to which I hope to return later in the week. Just for today, however, a couple of weeny details.

His Eminence based the mission of Episcopal Conferences in the sacramental origin of the episcopal ministry; "in other words, these conferences are really 'episcopal': they have their raison d'etre not in a sociological principle of collaboration, but in the implementation of the ministry conferred on each bishop with episcopal consecration".

Interestingly, this appears to run contrary to PF's 'ecumenical' practice. PF meets ministers which are called 'bishops' but who belong to sects which do not possess or claim the Apostolic Succession and do not regard episcopal (or any) ordination as a sacrament. And he makes clear that he regards them as truly bishops. "We bishops", PF pointedly says to them in between the hugs. Clearly, Parolin is on a divergence course from PF in this matter. It is remarkable that he has chosen to make his disagreement so public, especially considering the symptoms of paranoia in PF revealed recently in an interview given by Cardinal Mueller (PF: "they tell me you're my enemy").

Secondly: Latin Catholicism has tended to have an immensely juridical style to it. Sacramental 'consecration' is not enough; a man must also have a missio canonica before he (lawfully) goes bishopping. He needs to have been given jurisdiction in a canonical way which may accompany, but is distinct from, his Consecration. This attitude lay behind the insistence that when Pope Ratzinger remitted the excommunications incurred latae sententiae by the SSPX bishops, they still possessed no licit ministry whatsoever in the Church Militant.

Parolin, in so exclusively emphasising the sacramental rather than the canonical or juridical, clearly implies that if his Excellency Bishop Fellay were to knock on the door of the Swiss Episcopal Conference, their excellencies would welcome him warmly. "My dear fellow", una voce they would cry, "do come in and implement together with us the ministry conferred on you in your episcopal consecration".

Furthermore, if Cardinal Mueller is right in his fear that PF might be leading the Church Militant into schism and division, it will, given Cardinal Parolin's ecclesiology, be pretty unproblematic if, a decade or two down the road, some orthodox bishops consecrate more bishops sine mandato Apostolico. So there may come a time when this ... von Schoenborn would call it "this development" ... might come in useful.

Could it be that Cardinal Parolin is be one of these crypto-Lefebvreists whom we are sometimes warned to avoid?