24 June 2018

Art Historians again. And dear Auntie Tablet

Long time readers of this blog will remember a time when, to a high degree of tedium, I used frequently to attack art historians for their treatment of the Latin language. It was not so much that I resented their ignorance of Larin; many people are ignorant of Latin and I am myself ignorant of very many very important languages. It was their illiterate belief that by picking up a Latin dictionary and thumbing through the pages, they could, in complete ignorance of Latin Grammar, cobble together a "translation". A fine example of this was (I haven't checked recently to see if the howler is still there) the label attached to a cope of Cardinal Manning, mistranslating his motto. Of all places, this is to be seen in the Treasury attached to that big Victorian-Byzantine-style Church next to Victoria Station.

I have complained less about this failing among 'professional Art Historians' in recent years because I am getting older and weaker and with a lower exhaustion threshold, and tend to do the London Exhibitions less frequently. But the Tablet provides an example in its current on-line edition.

A Relic of Pope S Clement has, happily, made its way to Westminster Cathedral, a large church in what the Victorians thought of as the Byzantine style (situated next to Victoria Station). It is labelled
Ex Oss S Clementis P M

A person described as a Deputy Keeper at the V and A explained to the Tablet that PM probably stood for Proto Martyris. This is rubbish, partly because Protomartyr is one word and not two; more importantly, because S Clement was not the Church's Protomartyr. That role fell to S Stephen.

The words stand for Ex Oss[ibus] S[ancti] Clementis P[apae] M[artyris] ('From the bones of S Clement, Pope, Martyr.')

(Conceivably, P M might be for Pontificis Maximi, but I strongly incline to Papae Martyris because that is how S Clement is described in the Calendar.)

Some years ago, the V and A had a rather good exhibition on the Baroque, which was damaged by the amazing degree of ignorance shown in the catalogue about the Catholic Religion. I commented then that the V and A staff could have strolled next door and asked the learned Oratorians of Brompton for help, accompanying this, of course, with the assurance of a proper professional fee for their expertise.

The same dearth of zimmer frames applies in this case.

And I wonder if the people at Westminster Cathedral have corrected their own howlers yet. They were informed about them by ... not me, but by others. Seems peculiar to me that a Church which boasts of being the Mother Church of English Catholicism has nobody on its staff who knows Latin, but that is another matter. Veterum Sapientia of S John XXIII is the Background Reading here.

23 June 2018


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


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


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.


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


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.)

11 June 2018

Local Calendars (3)

I follow on from my series on the English Martyrs; taking, again, the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton as an example of how, in my opinion, we who celebrate the Extraordinary Form should organise our local Calendars.

The diocese of A & B was carved out of the old Southwark diocese after the de facto demise of the Old Rite. Should one therefore continue to use the old Southwark EF Calendar, since there is no provision made for A & B by the Sacred Congregation of Rites?

Up to a point, in my view, but only up to a point!

In my last two pieces, I offered some suggestions about how a Calendar needs to be emended to incorporate more fully the English Martyrs. Continuing to apply the principles underlying Canon 19, I suggest also the following.

The old diocese of Southwark included Canterbury, and that is presumably why its Calendar included a number of sainted Archbishops of Canterbury over and above the number of those Archbishops who are of interest throughout England (these latter, of course, should be retained). It seems to me that such Archbishops ought not to be on an EF Calendar for A & B. Nor should any other Saints who are really of only Kentish (or South London) concern.

This is what the Novus Ordo Calendar for A & B has considered right. The OF Calendar, of course, has no authority in the EF, but it is surely among the sources of guidance to which the principles of Canon 19 suggest it is proper for us to turn when there is an unfilled gap in the strictly lawful provision.

As there is in A & B!

10 June 2018

Donald Trump

Can any of my transpontine readers explain why Mr Trump wears a Brigade of Guards tie? Is it his die-hard Anglophilia? Can we expect him to drop the usual "Mah fellow Americans" and begin his speeches with "Mah fellow Grenadiers"? Did he leave the G7 early in order to parade incognito in yesterday's Trooping of the Colour on the Monarch's Official Birthday?

In the jolly old English phrase, he is clearly a man of many parts, not all of them public. Is it true that he is planning to bring out an improved edition of How to make friends and influence people?

White Rose Day

The wild roses in our hedgerows seem even more generously and abundantly in blossom this year than usual ... almost as if Boucher or Fragonard were personally responsible for their frothy glory ...

... On June 10, in 1688, our late Sovereign Lord King James II and VII was presented by his wife with a Son and Heir, who was to reign for longer than any other British Monarch de iure.

His Birthday became known as White Rose Day, and those who advocated his rights wore either a white rose or ... out of season ... a white cockade. Oxford was an immensely Jacobite city ... you could tap Geach into the Blog's Search Engine.

To the Glorious Memory of King James III and VIII!

Nunc est bibendum! Nunc pede libero pulsanda tellus!

And Vivat Rex!

And three cheers for the Governing House of Liechtenstein!

You know it makes sense!

9 June 2018

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus! (5)

If you browse through the Pontificale Romanum as it so admirably was before the post-Conciliar depravations, you will discover that the most solemn liturgical blessings and consecrations both of persons and of things had one constant feature. They began like the Preface of the Mass, with Dominus vobiscum; Sursum corda; Gratias agamus; Vere dignum et iustum est, aequum et salutare .... This is how Major Orders were conferred; how Chrism and the Paschal Candle were blessed; how Abbots, Abbesses, Virgins and Queens, Churches and Altars, were solemnly blessed. The custom was not 'primitive'; but expressed very beautifully the 'primitive' understanding that it is by Thanksgiving, Eucharistia, that things are blessed and made over to God. Nowadays, apart from the Mass, the Paschal Candle appears to be the only survival in the Novus Ordo of this noble custom (apparently, in modern liturgical theology, candles are more sacral objects than Bishops or even Virgins!). Couratin provides the Prayer for the Ordination of Priests remodelled in this way. Here we have something more than just an elegant literary embellishment; it is in itself a theological statement. Priests are something more than the merely functional. They are consecrated, changed, just as the Eucharistic Elements themselves are consecrated and changed.


The Rite of Ordination which I have described was only used in one Anglican diocese (as far as I know) and possibly only during two episcopates, those of Kirk and Carpenter. I must emphatically disclaim any intention of investing my narrative with any broader theological significance. But that Diocese was a rather special star in our Anglican firmament (fuit Troia, fuimus Troiani ...), and Kirk was a profoundly significant figure in that now long-vanished Anglo-Catholic world of Dix and Mascall and Farrer and their associates. Surely, it cannot fail to be a matter of interest precisely how just such a bishop solemnly administered the Sacrament of Holy Order in his Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford?

How happy are those Oxford flocks
How free from heretics;
Their clergy all so orthodox
Their Bishop orthoDix. 

Bishop Harry Carpenter was succeeded by Kenneth Woolcombe, an enthusiast for the the ordination of women who was put in despite scant experience of the parochial ministry because he was regarded as a high-flyer who would almost certainly go on to Canterbury. Exactly what happened I don't know; I had moved on to Southwark (the C of E has no system of Incardination). But an enormous collapse undoubtedly occurred in the diocese. There is no trace now of that great old succession of scholar bishops and erudite parish clergy.

As the current Roman regime apparently moves towards the 'nuancing' of Humanae Vitae, we should also remember Bishop Charles Gore, who so unambiguously and so robustly denounced the apostasy of Lambeth 1930 in this matter of conjugal ethics. His witness is part of our Patrimony.

May I thank all those who, on this day of my Golden Jubilee, have sent me good wishes. Above everything, thanks be to God that by his merciful grace I have kept the Faith.


8 June 2018

It is important to keep up the pressure

Professor William Tighe ... goodness me, what a fantastic ministry he does perform of keeping sound information circulating ... points out that Fr Weinandy has published, in The Catholic Thing, a neat, elegant, and witty demonstration that the real "Neo-Gnostics" in the Church are ... stone the crows ... the Bergoglians!! Beautiful. Understated and magnificent.

Weinandy, you will remember, was the last Warden of the Oxford Greyfriars, who wrote a helpful letter to the Pope last summer and, for his trouble, was sacked by the Yankie-doodle bishops from something or other which I cannot now remember. Neither can you.

Sackings can be such fun. I think all those with a record of criticising the current regime should be given half-a-dozen or more grand titular roles so that they can be progressively stripped of them. Thus will discipline be maintained.

I would like a few archdeaconries and canonries and one or two prebends. I don't think Pam would permit me to be an Abbot nullius, even in partibus infidelium. Extraordinary Papal Legate to the Order of the Golden Fleece would be nice. Or Apostolic Administrator in absentia of the Arctic Ice-Cap.

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus! (4)

Continues ...
Couratin made further additions from the Pontifical; before the Ordination Prayer he included a translation of the formula Oremus fratres carissimi ...; and, during the administration of Holy Communion, the Choir were to sing the Jam non dicam vos servos .... He introduced the Offering by the Newly-ordained to the Bishop, and provided a formula: the Pontiff said "I will offer in his dwelling an oblation with great gladness: I will sing and speak praises unto the Lord"; and the choir sang "Ye have not chosen me ...". Then, during "The offering of the Bread and Wine" the choir sang "Tu es sacerdos in aeternum secundum ordinem Melchisedech". It is not difficult to detect here a determination to restore that sense of Sacrifice and Priesthood which Apostolicae curae had complained that Cranmer had eliminated.

Apostolicae curae did, however, have a point. By eliminating the part of the Roman Canon which followed the Consecration, the Prayer Book Rite presented Anglo-Catholics with a problem. Having successfully taught their laity that the bread and wine truly became the Lord's Body and Blood, they found they had a rite in which the Consecration now appeared merely to be a way of securing the Presence so that it could be adored and/or received. This was accentuated by the growing practice of singing the Agnus Dei after the Consecration. My learned predecessor at S Thomas's, Trevor Jalland, observed "Thus the whole attention of the worshippers is concentrated on the Presence at the very time when there should be thought of sacrificial offering" (This our Sacrifice, 1933, 146sqq.). He went on to suggest that "a partial remedy lies ready to hand". He recommended the use of hymns "expressive of the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist", mentioning in particular one of a number of hymns composed by W W H Jervois designed to paraphrase parts of the Unde et memores and to teach the doctrine of the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice for the departed as well as for the living. This hymn was duly introduced into the Oxford rite of Ordination between the Consecration and the Agnus Dei.

It appears with the title "Hymn at the Consecration", and reads: Wherefore, O Father, we thy humble servants/ Here set before thee Christ thy well-beloved,/ All-perfect Offering, Sacrifice immortal,/ Spotless Oblation.// See now thy children, making intercession/ Through him our Saviour, Son of God incarnate,/ For all thy people, living and departed,/ Pleading before thee. It was often sung in Anglo-Catholic churches (as late as the 1960s in Pusey Chapel in Oxford) after the Consecration, while the Celebrant said various things secreto. I would be interested if anyone had evidence bearing on how widespread this usage was.

This little booklet produced for the guidance of the congregation does not mention the Latin Church's ancient custom of Concelebration by the newly ordained. But at the rehearsal, the Precentor, Fr Michael Watts, a product of St Stephen's House in the era of Canon Couratin, explained about Concelebration to the ordinands, and instructed them what to do. I remember this clearly!

Perhaps the most striking changes made by Couratin concerned the central Prayer of the Rite. As left by Cranmer, this failed to ask the Almighty to do anything whatsoever to the Ordinands. Couratin made three changes. He printed the heading "The Prayer for the Holy Spirit". Following the draft Prayer Book of 1928, which Parliament had rejected, he inserted into the Prayer a request that God would "endue them with all grace needful for their calling". And (again following 1928) he significantly changed the opening of the Prayer ...  as I plan to explain next time.

7 June 2018

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus! (3)

Continues ...
The Prayer Book forms of Ordination, unlike those in the Pontifical, provide Proper Collects and Epistles and Gospels. For the highly  'Romanising' form of the Anglican Rite which we are examining, it was necessary to supply what the Prayer Book lacked: such as an Introit, a Gradual, and an Alleluia (in English and in plainchant). Couratin [if my identification of the hand at work here is correct] secured them from a very interesting source. The Introit Hic accipiet benedictionem is from Psalm 23/24; Hic ... Jacob; Domini est terra; Gloria; Hic. It comes from a form disused in the Catholic Church herself since the Conciliar ruptures, the Rite De Clerico faciendo or Tonsure. It is what the Choir sings immediately after the Pontiff has cut the hair of the candidates. In other words, Couratin begins the service by supplying what would have been experienced by the ordinands if they had been taken through the Tonsure and Minor Orders as prescribed in the Pontifical.

The Gradual and Alleluia are from Psalm 14/15 and 15/16 and represent the following: Domine, quis habitabit in tabernaculo tuo, aut quis requiescit in monte sancto tuo? V Qui ingreditur sine macula et operatur justitiam; qui loquitur veritatem in corde suo. Alleluia. Alleluia. V Dominus pars haereditatis meae et calicis mei: tu es qui restitues haereditatem meam mihi. Alleluia. This Alleluia incorporates the words which the ordinand was required to say while the Bishop was actually cutting his hair. Pope Benedict XVI took it to heart and remembered it all his life, quoting it in his Christmas Address to the Roman Curia in 2007. "This is marvellously expressed in a verse of a  priestly Psalm that we - the older generation - spoke during our admittance to the clerical state: 'The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup, you hold my lot'. The priest praying in this psalm interprets his life on the basis of the distribution of territory as established in Deuteronomy. After taking possession of the land, every tribe obtained by drawing of lots its portion of the Holy Land and, with this, took part in the gift promised to the people of God. The tribe of Levi alone received no land: its land was God himself. This affirmation certainly had an entirely practical significamce. Priests did not live like the other tribes by cultivating the earth, but on offerings. However, the affirmation goes deeper. The true foundation of the priestly life, the ground of his existence, the ground of his life, is God himself. The Church in this Old Testament interpretation of the priestly life has rightly seen ... the following of the Apostles in communion with Jesus  himself, as the explanation of what the priestly mission means. The priest can and must say today with the Levite Dominus pars haereditatis meae et calicis mei. God himself is my portion of land, the external and internal foundation of my existence. ..."
To be continued.


I felicitate Americans whose Supreme Court has found for the American Evangelical bakers.

I hope our own Supreme Court will come to a similar conclusion about some Ulster Evangelical Bakers. Call me a Marsh-wiggle if you like, but I don't trust that Lady Hale who is the new president of our Court. She backed the sacking of a couple of senior Glaswegian midwives who refused to organise abortions. She held that conscience clauses only protect medical personel from being compelled physically to partake in the 'procedure'.

It will be interesting to see what today's SCUK Judgement on the validity of the Northern Irish Abortion Law comes up with. Will it resurrect the old Denning dream of judges (in effect) setting aside Statute Law?

6 June 2018


Nice images via the Internet of the reopening of the beautifully restored Church of Corpus Christi, Covent Garden. NB the Ordinariate presences at the EF Pontifical High Mass: Fr Elliot-Smith, pp of Warwick Street, deaconing; and in choir the Ordinary the Rt Revd Mgr Keith Newton  (episcopus emeritus Rutupiensis necnon et protonotarius apostolicus). And I think one of my Churchwardens may have been there. Now that really is a very good sign.

Also there in choir, Fr John Osman, who has done such wonderful things to his own exquisite little church at Dorchester near Oxford.

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus! (2)

I suspect Couratin of having the large hand in producing this booklet, because when I was a seminarian at Staggers under Fr Derek Allen, the liturgical dispositions put in place by Canon Couratin were still in place. There was a particular style about them; that of accommodating Anglican formulae to a Tridentine Roman mindset. I can't express it better than thus, and with the following examples, which those of you with a certain sort of background will understand: at the Divine Office, we used to say the Collect of the Day with the standard longer conclusion, then the last two of the three final collects sub una conclusione with the longer ending after the last one (instead of Cranmer's varied conclusions after each one). At the start of Lent, a notice went up signed by the Bishop of the Diocese formally dispensing members of the House from the strict observance of the Lenten Fast. Mass Practice sessions inculcated the Tridentine ceremonial even in the case of seminarians who would, in their title parishes, be marrying up that ceremonial to Cranmer's libretto. So Couratin's my hunch; but, out of honesty, I'd better give you evidence for different conclusions.

When Kirk became Bishop of Oxford, certain changes were made which are described in the biography of Kirk written by his son-in-law, Eric Kemp, long-time Bishop of Chichester. These were masterminded by his friend Canon Dr N P Williams [who also used to help out at S Thomas's]. Christmas, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost were henceforth marked by a Pontifical High Mass. Kirk was given a full set of pontifical vestments, which he used on these and other occasions (they may the ones which he bequeathed to his episcopal son-in-law). "The ceremonial of the ordination was carefully worked out by Williams and E C Ratcliff, and later on was under the direction of A H Couratin ...". Ratcliff was a most distinguished liturgist with a passion for the Roman Canon; he did a great deal in collaboration with Couratin, who had an instinctive understanding of his mind. If the little booklet I am examining was the product of Ratcliff and Couratin working together, this would fit the data. It's just that I am a trifle doubtful about evidence for Williams' hand in it. (He was dead by the time of the publication of the booklet; but, of course, there could have been an earlier version of the booklet.)

So, when in the next instalments, I refer to "Couratin", what I really mean is ... whichever of these three, severally or in which combinations, did it.



ONEPETERFIVE is carrying a story that the outgoing Archbishop of La Plata has not only had his resignation accepted with significantly indecent haste, but is being told not to reside in the Archdiocese. If this turns out to be true, it will show a cavalier attitude to Canon Law (402:  ... habitationis sedem, si id exoptet, in ipsa dioecesi servare potest, nisi certis in casibus ob specialia adiuncta ab Apostolica Sede aliter provideatur.)

It has long been my fear that PF might wish to fast-track Tucho Fernandez, the Professor of the Art of Kissing, to be Prefect of the CDF. This may be a step towards that. We must pray that this pontificate may not last long enough to allow any such plot to mature.

If all this is true, it exemplifies the picture painted by recent historians, of this pontificate as a tyranny; an absolute monarchy. Sire; Lawler; Douthat. Except that in real absolute monarchies there were de facto checks and balances.

The only attractive feature of this story is that the emeritus archbishop is said to have been offered a bed by an Orthodox bishop. Vivat Byzantium.

God grant that the whole story may turn out to be untrue.

5 June 2018

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus! (1)

The Choir.
Ecce Sacerdos Magnus, qui ...

is how the little book begins; it was among my late Mother's effects. On the cover it reads: "This book is the property of the Diocese of Oxford and must not be taken away." But my Mother, God rest her soul, was rather inclined to keep little mementos of memorable occasions; and this was "The Form and Manner of Making and Ordaining of Deacons and Priests"; and she preserved it as a memento of my Deaconing in 1967 and my Priesting on 9 June 1968 in the Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford. It has some interesting features.

It bears no date; but bibliographical considerations narrow its printing down to the period 1945-1947; and thus to the episcopate (1937-1955) of Kenneth Escott Kirk, predecessor of the Bishop Harry Carpenter who ordained me. I look upon both of these as sacerdotes valde magni; incidentally, for those Catholics (sometimes they write to me) to whom the papal condemnation of Anglican Orders in Apostolicae curae is a very important part of their Faith, I will in passing point out that each of those two bishops received the episcopate from coconsecrators including Bishop Bertram Fitzgerald Simpson, who was himself raised to the 'Old Catholic', i.e. Dutch Schismatic but indubitably valid, episcopate in 1932 by Henry Theodore John Vlijmen, Bishop of Haarlem (utpote per consecratorem aequiprincipalem). Rome has never condemned 'Old Catholic' Orders, and, indeed, accepts them as valid. Simpson left it on record that when he took part in subsequent consecrations, he carefully intended always to pass on the Dutch, as well as the Anglican, episcopal succession.

(Incidentally, I believe I am right in saying that Bishop Kirk used to consecrate the oils according to the Roman Pontifical (preConciliar, of course) in the Benedictine Abbey at Nashdom, within his diocese, where Mass and all the Offices were done in Latin. I wonder if he was the first Church of England bishop since Tudor times to consecrate the Holy Oils?)

Ecce sacerdos magnus is a significant starter to a service; it is what is sung in Catholic churches when a Bishop enters solemnly for a great liturgical occasion. Bishops Kirk and Carpenter certainly regarded themselves as Catholic Bishops in the fullest Catholic sense; both were distinguished Anglo-Catholic scholars and Oxford academics and it was Kirk who masterminded the collection The Apostolic Ministry (1946) which defended Catholic doctrines of priesthood and episcopacy. Among his close friends (and an Honorary Chaplain from 1946) was Canon Arthur Hubert Couratin, Principal of St Stephen's House (1936-1962; died 1988) and a considerable liturgist both theoretical and practical. He used to bring his 'circus', a gang of seminarian servers, to the Cathedral in order to 'do' Kirk's ordinations. I believe, from internal evidence, that the little book I am considering is a collaboration between Kirk and Couratin; and it exhibits ... as I have said ... some very interesting features, of which Ecce sacerdos magnus is the first.
To be continued. This is in five parts, and I shall not enable any comments until all five have appeared.


In the last couple of days, I have enabled two comments from valued correspondents, one accusing another person of 'fatuity'; the second employing the term 'twaddle'.

Henceforth, I shall not enable comments such as these.

4 June 2018


I commend an article at New Liturgical Movement in which Dr Peter Kwasniewski argues that the Classical Roman Rite and the Classical Byzantine Rite [and one might add other rites from further East] have a commonality which the Novus Ordo lacks.

I am reminded of how the former Patriarch of Moskow welcomed Summorum Pontificum on the grounds that when East and West properly respect their own rites, they grow closer in their Common Ancient Traditions.

In the Novus Ordo, every single euchological formula in the classical Roman Rite has either been eliminated or modified or, when allowed to survive, has only been tolerated because it is considered to be in accordance with the transient and already out-dated assumptions of the 1960s.

The rupture of the 1960s can be paralleled only in the ruptures of the 'Reformation'.

BTW: I have heard on a grapevine [but not seen its text] that the Eparch in Britain for the Syro-Malabar Rite has preached a fine homily on the Liturgy as the organ of Tradition and of magisterial teaching.


A marvellous day or two last week at Ramsgate during their S Augustine's Week.

I took the train along the North Kent coast ... which was a bit of a disappointment. Passing through Rochester, I failed to see, from the train, Rochester Cathedral. The train then reached Margate, where of course, like any good Catholic, I scanned the platform carefully to see if I could catch a glimpse of the magnificent Fr Tim ... but, sadly, no sighting. Soon we slowed down to enter Broadstairs ... Ah, I thought, surely a glimpse here of a certain dignified episcopal presence ... but there was not a sign of His Excellency to wave me on my way with a Dickensian benediction or to cheer me with a snatch of Beethoven.

But Ramsgate was no disappointment. From the superb between-the-Wars Railway Station onwards, every prospect pleased. Not least the sight of the hospitable Shrine Rector, Fr Marcus, and of my old friend and colleague from Lancing, Fr Simon Heans of the Ordinariate, a considerable Historian. The Catholics of Ramsgate are very fortunate in their clergy.

If you don't know Ramsgate, as I didn't, you should follow my lead and remedy the omission (preferably during S Augustine's Week). I peered out through the sea fret almost hoping to see a phantasma of S Augustine's boat bringing the purest Roman Christianity to the people of Kent; then i looked round the Church which now houses a relic of the Saint. Forgive me for going all wet on you, but I felt a great sense of being 'in on' the foundation of the English Church, a millennium and a half ago.

And Ramsgate had the luck to be favoured by Pugin, the architectural wizard who breathed more than a little life into the memories of the Age of Faith. His house ... his Church. Apparently, he had a tunnel from his house down to where his boat was moored, so that he could rescue sailors (and their cargoes) who navigated carelessly close to the Goodwin Sands. Believe it or not, he built his Church out of the money he made from salvaging.

The next morning I said a private Mass of Corpus Christi in S Ethelbert's Church before setting off back to the Midlands, leaving as the clergy and laity were about to go on a boat trip to look at the sandbank and to see England, aka Pegwell Bay, from the point of view of an approaching Italian missionary band.

I do so very much hope they got back safely. Perhaps someone could reassure me ...

3 June 2018

Introibo ITERUM ad altare Dei

Many readers will remember the story of the priest in Revolutionary France, who, vested as for Mass, said the praeparatio while ascending the steps to the guillotine. Introibo ad altare Dei, ad Deum qui laetificat iuventutem meam. As the erudite Dr Simon Cotton reminded me the other day, his name was Noel Pinot; having refused to take the oath whereby he would have submitted to the State, he was arrested while secretly saying Mass in a remote farmhouse in the Vendee during the February of 1794, and executed not long afterwards.

I find it a haunting story. So often, as I stand at the foot of Mount Moriah and in my unworthiness prepare to go up the Temple Mount to offer to the Father the Tamid Lamb for His whole people, the image of Blessed Noel Pinot climbing that ladder comes back to me. And here is a certainty, for me as for every single priest in the world: there will be a day, one particular day and not another, when by God's grace I offer that Sacrifice, that Mystery, a Beauty so ancient and yet so new, for my last time in via.

If you are celebrating today the Feast or the Octave Sunday or the External Solemnity of Corpus Christi, of your charity pray for all of us who have this awe-full responsibility, and also for so many young men who this month will be ordained to the Sacred Priesthood, to be sons of our Father Aaron.

May the Ancient of Days make His merciful Face to shine upon all His cohanim.

2 June 2018

Newly overbumped

On the first day last week of this year's Eights Week Races, I strolled down to see a Historical First. It was the first time St Benet's Hall had fielded ... if that's the right term ... a women's boat.

Benets never had women until this year. You see, it is an offial Benedictine House as well as being a PPH of this University, and I gather there is something rather obscurantist in the Regula or else in current law about women lurking in men's houses. But Benets has a new Master ... who is no longer a Benedictine monk from Ampleforth. This lay Master, according to rumour, is not unknown in the circles of the S Gallen Mafia. Under his new regime, an important decision was taken. So that it could hold its own among the other colleges, secularised more than a century ago, Benets needed, of course, to have women. Don't we all? So it purchased the former convent in Norham Gardens (my generation at Staggers will remember it). That is where they hide their women undergraduates (these are not, I believe, women religious).

And this year, their women showed on the River, having secured a place through the Rowing On process, in the bottom Women's Division.

They looked terribly nervous. One of them said "per omnia saecula saeculorum", another added "Kyrie eleison", and a third asked "Does anybody know any other Latin words?" (You couldn't make it up, could you? I promise I haven't.)

The gun went off; off they went; and I watched until, intactae, the sweet little mites disappeared under Donnington Bridge and out of my sight. I gather that later, sadly, they were bumped: indeed, they were overbumped. What would S Benedict have made of that? What is the Latin for 'overbumped'? Unaccountably, the Vatican Lexicon Recentis Latinitatis affords no help.

I think I know how the Benets Women's Boat, next year, could begin the long journey to Head of the River. My solution is very much in the Spirit of S Gallen and of the Zeitgeist. All the beefiest young male Benedictines at Benets should "Self-Identify" as women. Perhaps the Master should lead the way.

Hey Presto!! Bob's your uncle!!! Tempora mutantur, nos et ... er ...

1 June 2018

Fasting Communion

When the Venerable Pius XII and Blessed Paul VI made their respective interventions with regard to the Eucharistic Fast, the assumption (very strongly asserted by Pacelli) was that all who could do so would continue to fast from midnight ... the new rules being an accommodation to the constraints of life in the modern secular polis, provided for those who need them.

All that seems now forgotten. I have just been looking at the Horarium of a Novus Ordo religious community; they start at 7:00 with the Office of Readings; at 7:15, Personal Prayer; at 8:15, Breakfast; at 9:05, Morning Prayer; at 9:30, Eucharist. My purpose is not to criticise other Christians who are probably a great deal holier than I am but to draw attention to the fact that they are quite willing to get out of bed to appear in Chapel at 7:00, but there is apparently no instinct whatsoever
(1) to organise their time so that they begin with Laudes, the service which should be the first, because it lauds God at the time of the rising Sun, the great icon of Christ our Orient; or
(2) to celebrate the Eucharist fasting before diving into the happy dissipations of breakfast. Yet, being Religious, there is probably no practical reason why they cannot do this.

When I was a seminarian at Staggers in the mid-sixties, we had Mattins, then Meditation, then Mass, then Breakfast, so as to be free to start the academic day at 9:00. Before Staggers, as an undergraduate, I used to go to Mags before breakfast every morning, and usually there were visiting priests saying private masses at the other altars during the public Mass.

But my main grouse today is that not even traditionalists assign much of a priority to Mass-before-breakfast. And this post is not an attempt to rerun discussions we've had together before, in which we all agree that it would have been better if the Church had stuck to the three-hour fast. Brekker at 8:00 for example, then Mass at, say, 12:00, is not what I think accords with the Tradition of both East and West. It is not what anybody in the West or East before Pius XII would have considered to be real  'Fasting Communion'. And even when we come to organise traddy conferences, we don't seem to attach much importance to having Mass before breakfast.

I am not all hot and bothered about this, nor am I terribly flush with solutions: I just wanted to raise the question.

31 May 2018

Fr Faber, of course. God bless him.

"We think ... of all the thousands of masses which are being said or sung the whole world over, and all rising with one note of blissful acclamation, from grateful creatures, to the Majesty of our merciful Creator. How many glorious processions, with the sun upon their banners, are now winding their way round the squares of mighty cities, through the flower-strewn streets of Christian villages, through the antique cloisters of the glorious cathedral, or through the grounds of the seminary, where the various colours of the faces, and the different languages of the people are only so many fresh tokens of the unity of that faith which they are all exultingly professing in the single voice of the magnificent ritual of Rome! Upon how many altars of various architecture, amid sweet flowers and starry lights, amid clouds of humble incense, and the tumult of thrilling song, before thousands of prostrate worshippers, is the Blessed Sacrament raised for exposition, or taken down for benediction! And how many blessed acts of faith and love, of triumph and of reparation, do not each of these things surely represent! The world over, the summer air is filled with the voice of song. The gardens are shorn of their fairest blossoms, to be flung beneath the feet of the Sacramental God. The steeples are reeling with the clang of bells; the cannon are booming in the gorges of the Andes and the Appenines;the ships of the harbours are painting the bays of the sea with their show of gaudy flags; the pomp of royal or republican armies salutes the King of kings. The Pope on his throne, and the school-girl in her village, cloistered nuns, and sequestered hermits, bishops and dignitaries and preachers, emperors and kings and princes, all are engrossed to-day with the Blessed Sacrament ... "

Viva il Fabbro!!!

30 May 2018

Michael Curry again

The Primus of the American Episcopal Church gave an interview on the BBC Sunday programme. Since I have been described in a recent book (Douthat) as 'waspish', I will buzz some more. I warn the temperamentally sensitive that my views on this cleric have not ... er ... mellowed. Per contra ...

Curry's principal tool as an interviewee was what, in this country, is thought of as a soppy, softly quiet, parsonical voice, together with passages of sentimentality. (He is also what I categorise as a "Y'knower".) Three times he was asked about 'reparations'; I presume this is a live issue in some American circles, because, each time, he declined to answer the question, and talked instead about 'reconciliation'.

Invited to explain the communion-breaking actions of the ecclesial phenomenon he leads, he spoke about 'differences' which, he said, should be 'navigated' by 'love'. The two examples he gave were 'homosexuality' and 'various medical issues'. My suspicion (I may accept correction from those with refined antennae more in tune with American culture) is that 'Various Medical Issues' means, or at least includes, Abortion. (Surely, since the context here is the break-up of the world-wide Anglican Communion, he is not just discussing Obamacare!) He quoted the famous aphorism which S Augustine did not invent about in dubiis libertas.

Vespae iterum bombum sonans, I wonder whether this voluble gentleman applies his sweetly tolerant principles to the issue of Civil Rights. In view of the fact that Holy Scripture in no way condemns (indeed, explicitly tolerates) the practice of Slavery, I assume that this is another of Curry's dubia about which Christians can with a smile and a wink agree to differ. Against the background of a system in a number of American states where those (often negroes and in legally worrying circumstances) convicted of murder are painfully killed by lethal injection, I wonder if he includes this as among the 'various medical issues' on which Christians can amicably differ with cheerful goodwill. There are countries in the world where coercive interrogation crosses the line into torture, medically supervised. (Then there is the not-so-little matter of the imaginative use of Zyklon B for another sickening 'medical issue'.) And, taking up his reference to 'homosexuality', it would be amusing to know whether he also regards consensual paedophilia as a dubium upon which Christians are to be expected to hold varying opinions. And if not, why not.

When Adolf Hitler heard that Blessed Clement von Galen had outed and denounced his policy of exterminating the unfit, he is reported to have snarled "When I have won this war, I shall settle my account with von Galen". Michael Curry, on the other hand, speaks with gentle fragrance about "Love and Reconciliation".  Yet in each case it looks to me as if the subject is, or at least plausibly includes, the elimination of lives deemed too inconvenient to be allowed to survive. How can such very different styles of language refer to such similar objects? I am very clever and I think I know how to explain this apparent contradiction. You see ...

But there is no need for me to take up your time or my own with this. George Orwell has done the job already.

29 May 2018


I am uneasy about the reports circulating about one of the cardinals elect. The text I have seen contains passages which I find it hard to understand.

More generally, it is important not to wish for ill reports to be true. We must pray that they be not true.

This has particular force when it so immediately concerns the Roman Pontiff.

He deserves our trust until, unless, it is clear beyond all doubt that something is amiss.

And we have a duty to pray for him, both when he is in the right and when he is in the wrong.

Among causes for gladness, the promotion of Archbishop Ladaria is prominent. Partly because he continues to show himself to be orthodox; also because, had he been omitted from the list of new cardinals, this would have indicated a sidelining of his dicastery the CDF, "La Suprema", within the Vatican structures. And that would be bad for orthodoxy.

Blogger Gibberish

"Blogger no longer supports OpenID. Existing OpenID comments and your OpenID settings may have changed".

Does anybody happen to know what this twaddle means?

The English Martyrs and a local EF Calendar (2)

It seems to me that the later, 1987, Ordinary Form Arundel and Brighton Calendar is a great deal more welcoming to our  English Reformation Martyrs than the earlier, rather stingy, Extraordinary Form Calendar.

In using the Extraordinary Form in our present context, what is one to do? Need one simply stick to the stingy 1949 Calendar authorised for Souhwark? I think not. The principles of law embodied in Canon 19 seem to me to suggest the question: "If the SCR had still be supervising EF diocesan Calendars in 1987, what would it have done?"

It is surely reasonable ad interim to utilise cautiously the 1987 Novus Ordo diocesan supplement, not as being an authoritative intervention in the Old Calendar, which it is not, but as being a strong indication of what the SCR would have authorised had it addressed the question of dealing with (a) a brand new diocese, and (b) a new batch of beati. Of course, dates might need to be adjusted if they are already occupied on the older Calendar: again, this is simply in accordance with long-standing precedent.

The Group commemoration of "The Blessed Martyrs of Sussex" is a completely reasonable disposition, based upon the much older "The Blessed Martyrs of England and Wales". The point is that Beati are, historically, supposed to enjoy a much more limited cultus than that of Sancti. So it is reasonable to group them together rather than assigning to each of them a separate feast day throughout an entire diocese.

But there is every reason why each of them should have an individual observance in places with which they are closely connected, if the EF rubrics can admit them on that day.

To be continued after a few days.

28 May 2018

The English Martyrs and a local EF Calendar (1)

I decided to see what treatment the English Martys have received from English local, diocesan, Calendars. I selected Sussex for no better reason than that I had the data by me.

(1) Leo XIII beatified two groups of Martys equipollently [on the grounds that their pictures in the Venerable English College indicated a de facto cultus] in 1886 and 1895.
(2) Pius XI beatified another group, after formal process, in 1929.
(3) Pius XI canonised two of those previously beatified, SS John and Thomas, in 1935.
(4) Paul VI canonised another 40 in 1970.
(5) John Paul II  beatified another 85 in 1987.

In 1949, Sussex was part of the diocese of Southwark. Its Calendar included only
May 4: the Blessed English Martyrs (1 and 2); and
July 9: SS John and Thomas (1 and 3).

By 1987, Sussex had become, with Surrey, an independant diocese, Arundel and Brighton. That year, a (Novus ordo) diocesan Calendar was authorised which included
Feb 21 S Robert Southwell (2 and 4)
May 12: The [blessed] Carthusian [probably included because of the Parkminster Charterhouse in Sussex.] (1)
May 28: Blessed Margaret Pole. (1)
June 23: S Thomas Garnet. (2 and 4)
October 3: The Blessed Martyrs of Sussex. (See below)
October 19: S Philip Howard. (2 and 4)

Of the 10 'Blessed Martyrs of Sussex' ...
two were (1);
five were (2);
three were (5). 

Tomorrow I hope to draw liturgical conclusions from these data.

27 May 2018

Ordination Season

Trinity Sunday, according to the tradition of the Latin Church, used to be the main day for Ordinations in the West: prepared for by the Pentecost Ember Week. Or, to be pedantic, ordinations happened at the Mass of the Ember Saturday, when the various orders were conferred after each of the lections.

Before both the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion fiddled with their respective rites, the same words appeared in both the Roman Pontifical and the Prayer Book Ordinal as the Bishop laid hands upon the ordinandi: the Lord's own paschal and pentecostal words Accipe Spiritum Sanctum to his disciples, pointing to the Gift of the Spirit for the forgiveness of sins. Fittingly; because the priesthood we are given to share is at the heart of the Paschal Mystery. And the First Reading at Mattins, in both ecclesial bodies, used to be that unforgettable passage from Isaiah (6) about the Divine Glory: Et audivi vocem Domini dicentis: Quem mittam? Et dixi: Ecce ego. Mitte me. "And I said: here am I; send me". Gratias tibi, Deus, gratias tibi, vera et una Trinitas, una et summa Deitas, sancta et una Unitas.

Sacrosanctum Concilium (23) decreed that "innovations, should not happen unless a true and certain usefulness for the Church demands it". I still wonder why the Liturgia Horarum rejected that chapter from Isaiah about the Glory of God in the Temple of God ... what true and certain usefulness it was that (so the Experts decided) demanded its elimination. Strangely, the Church of England revisers have remained unaware of the doubtless profound reasons which required this change. However, in more recent years, the C of E has moved the Ordinations to a newly invented "Petertide", so as to allow a full final academic term in the Summer. A shame.

Because what a wonderful feast, how full of joy, today's solemnity is. I find it difficult to to feel sympatheia with PF when he grudgingly utters sour words about "the rigidity of abstract doctrine", as if dogma, which by definition must imply an abstractio from particularity and materiality, lacks the ability to thrill and to enchant and to be entered into and to be lived and to be shared with others. Poor chap ... what an impoverished life he must lead. Perhaps that's why he always looks so miserable.

A particular pleasure is that of praying in the Divine Office that great paean of praise, the Quicumque vult. Our Patron Blessed John Henry Newman had described it as "The most simple and sublime, the most devotional formulary, to which Christianity has given birth". I wonder what he would have said could he have known that, in a century, the Catholic Church would have eliminated it from her worship!

Its loss among both priests and people in the Catholic Church is probably a big reason for the doctrinal collapses in the Latin Church. The poor robbed clergy are no longer shaped by its pin-point orthodoxy as well as its beautiful cadences. A shame, too, that in the OF the profoundly beautiful Preface of the Most Holy Trinity is no longer heard Sunday by Sunday during the 'green' season. It is no wonder that, deep down and instinctively, so few people now really believe in the Holy Trinity. You hear both homilists and laity talking about "God and Jesus". I sometimes feel that only Byzantine Christians really believe in the Trinity. But, to give credit where credit is due, I've read several things by Vincent Nichols teaching the Godhead of the Son with great clarity.

On June 9 1968, which is when Trinity Sunday fell that year, Harry Carpenter laid his hands on me, on exactly the same spot as a previous Bishop of Oxford did the same thing on a Trinity Sunday to Blessed John Henry Newman ... just a few yards from the bones of Oxford's Saxon Patron S Frideswide and those of Dr Pusey and the tomb of the last Abbot of Oseney, first Bishop of Oxford and the only one to have been in full communion with the See of S Peter.

My warmest good wishes to all brother priests who were ordained on a Trinity Sunday.

26 May 2018

Missing Faces: the Final Solution

For some fifteen years we took our summer holidays in Ireland; and, every year I wondered what it was that seemed missing on the streets of England after we got back home.

Then the penny dropped in my mind. In Knightstown, on Valentia Island in County Kerry, there was a new and happy residence for people with Down's Syndrome. We knew some of them; we greeted them and as cheerfully were greeted by them each year when we arrived there. They were an accepted part of the community.

Those faces were and are missing on the streets of England. They have been missing here for decades. Because, you know, such faces have no place in a modern state.

Just as, after Hitler's murderous deportations of millions of Jews to the death camps, there were faces missing from the streets of German cities, towns, and villages.

Leo Varadkar is receiving exstatic plaudits. Will anybody deny that he deserves them, as he sets in motion the Final Solution of the Down's Problem?


Today is, of course, the Feast of S Philip Neri, and so of great consequence to clergy and laity throughout the world who love the old gentleman and have been influenced, as I have, by the marvellous charism of his Sons. They are so potent in spreading Catholicism within the Church!

But stay. What about the Octave of Pentecost? Should S Philip be made to tranfer from today to Monday ... even, perhaps, to fight out with S Augustine who gets Monday ...

There is a real problem here which has an easy solution, hinted at by Tradition.

Until Pius XII and his henchman Bugnini started galumphing heavily around all over the Roman Rite, the days in the Octaves of Easter and of Pentecost were not uniform in status throughout the week. As in the Book of Common Prayer, Monday and Tuesday had a very special status, and excluded any other feast or commemoration that tried to elbow its way in. But the same was not true of the Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays within those Octaves. As your St Lawrence Press Ordo makes clear, those days were susceptible to the intrusion of commemorations (not of Festivals).

I think both Tradition and Pastoral Utility could suggest a return to something a bit like the pre-Pius XII system.

So, where S Philip (or anybody else who is a Double of the First Class qua Patron) finds himself ... e.g. ... on the Saturday, he might be allowed to intrude, and be observed on his proper Day..

When a Curate in the 1960s, I seemed often to be troubled by the appearance of S George in the Octave of Easter. Ordinary Christians found it hard to understand why the Church seemed so anxious to prevent him from being observed on his proper day.

My Modest Proposition: Where a Patron, a First Class Festival, occurs on the Wednesday etc. of the Pentecost Octave, (s)he should be allowed in. We should not be entirely deaf to lay instincts.

23 May 2018

Referendum UPDATE

UPDATE I beg readers who are surfing through sites they commonly look at every morning, to break off and, instead, spend that time invoking the the Holy Ghost on behalf of the Irish electorate.

I think, Thursday morning and Friday morning, I will say Mass for the people of Ireland.

I know that many people are hoping that all clergy will do something like this.

And that laity will say the Holy Rosary and/or receive Holy Communion, for the same intention.

The skill with which the Evil One has set about destroying Ireland is ... awesome.

A kind American priest ...

Some eight years ago, a kind American priest very graciously sent me some extremely interesting books; most of which bear the autograph (and annotations) of a Fr J B O'Connell ... a name which seems familiar ... whose reactions to emerging 'reforms' from the 1940s to the 1960s one could trace. (Tucked inside one of them was a 1946 envelope, with rough notes on the back, from 'Great Southern Hotels'; the Irish Hotel group which includes Parknasilla, where G B Shaw wrote plays, having got there travelling bolt-upright in the back of his Rolls Royce all the way through the Rebel County of Cork ... and where my family played golf while I read and watched the otters and kingfishers on a then-secluded ruined quay ... it's a small world ... is that ruined quay still 'undeveloped'?).

One volume bears a stamp of ICEL in its earliest days; it is Mary Pierre Ellebracht's highly erudite and still very useful Remarks on the Vocabulary of the ancient Orations in the Missale Romanum of 1964. Other volumes include many papers on Latinity by the ever-great, ever-admirable Christine Mohrmann.

Over these eight years, this blog has been very much enriched by that benefaction. If you read this, thank you very much, Father.

22 May 2018

The Royal Wedding ...

... just carries on and on in the Meeja.

I can only say that I find aspects of it puzzling and alienating.

Some things I just don't even begin to understand: such as why Ms M keeps describing herself daily as a Feminist while apparently happy to be called a Duchess simply because she has married a Duke.

Alienating? The host of  'celebrities' invited to the party alienates me. I suppose in a different age the 'invitees' might have been from other Royal Families, from the Bitish Aristocracy, and from people in our public or political life. Like most ordinary Englishmen, I could discover members of aristocratic families among relations by marriage, or Oxford acquaintances, or former pupils. Foreign Royalty? I met on comfortable terms the late King of Romania; and a Duke of the House of Bourbon. I have mingled socially and bibulously with Members of Parliament. Being quite a small nation, we are comfortably integrated and surprisingly egalitarian.

But all these International Celebrities ... I think they are known technically as "A-list" ... Sir Elton John ... Clooneys ... Serena Williams ... Ophra Winfrey ... Batman, probably ... etc. etc. ... there is not a snowball's chance in Infernis that I have or ever could run into any of them, such is their inaccessible greatness. They are of a mighty altitudo far, far above my humiliated reach. I imagine they are the sort of people whose doings are related in the glossy Celebrity magazines one sees adolescent girls devouring in omnibuses. Looking at the TV clips of those confident lordlings striding into Windsor Castle, I knew how the French must have felt when Herr Hitler visited Paris in 1940 and was photographed in front of the Eiffel Tower.

                     *               *               *               *               *               *

Incidentally, according to the Times, the music played included Greensleeves ... and the wedding took place on the anniversary of the day Anne Boleyn lost her head. And there was a Henry with Welsh connections involved in all that, too ... perhaps I should take more interest in the blacker implications of last Saturday's events ...

What a cheap fool that American 'bishop' is ... it would be fun to see him taking part in a 'historical  reenactment' in the road outside the front door of the Master of Balliol.

Conveniently, the spot is already marked.

21 May 2018

Drunk on MUST?

There are elites within elites within elites within elites. If you say the Divine Office ... in Latin ... according to the Old Rite ... but using the text of the hymns as they were before Urban VIII debauched those texts in the 1630s ... then:

You will know that the Office Hymn at Mattins last week was Iam Christus astra ascenderat. In the post-conciliar reforms, Dom Anselmo Lentini kept it as the hymn for Terce; but, as well as adding a new stanza (Descende ...), he eliminated several of those in the original. Not surprisingly, one of these was an unpleasant stanza about the Jews (Iudaea ... vesana ...). But that stanza had already been neutered by Barberini. The original contained the line "ructare musti crapulam" - belching the drunkenness/drunken hang-over of the Must. But belching, although Horace uses ructare in the Ars, is not the sort of vocab you expect in the Odes - and it was the Odes which Urban VIII's merry men took as their stylistic bench-mark. So they changed it to "... madere ...". (I know what you're thinking: Quod barbari non coinquinaverunt, stupraverunt Barberini.)

You may have wondered at Mass yesterday how the disciples could have been drunk on Must: unfermented grapejuice. Sometimes, mustum seems to mean partially fermented wine, and S Jerome certainly thought that it was a fair translation for the gleukous of the original.

20 May 2018

Pentecost Time

How splendid it is that the Extraordinary Form and the Ordinariate Missal preserve for us this Pentecost Octave which stretches, like the Easter Octave, to Saturday arternoon next. But there is, I fear, something missing in what we have; an omission which undermines the liturgical integrity of Pentecost.

Your Roman Missal, if it preserves the Roman Rite as it was at the beginning of the Pontificate of Pius XII, will show you a Pentecost which begins with a Baptismal Vigil: just as does Easter. The rites are scaled down for Pentecost; there are only six lections: but it is clear that Pentecost is a secondary Baptismal Season. Practically, it was a useful back-up to Easter for those who, for whatever reason, had not received Christian Initation at Easter. But in any case, the association is theologically appropriate, since the Pentecostal Anointing of the Spirit is central to the full rite of Initiation. Dom Gregory 'Patrimony' Dix was, I am convinced, absolutely right to insist that Consignation/Confirmation is not a secondary adjunct to "Water Baptism", but one of the primary elements in Christian Initiation.

(I devoutly trust, by the way, that the Latin Church will not follow the boring old Anglican mistake of regarding Confirmation as an adolescent Rite of Passage, a sort of Christian Bar-Mitzvah; a misunderstanding as pastorally disastrous as it is theologically flawed. It most certainly is nothing whatsoever of the sort.)

The point of the Pentecost Octave is quite simply that it follows on logically from the Baptismal Vigil Liturgy. It is a week in which (as after Easter) the Illuminati wear their Whites (a meaning still, probably, alluded to in the English name Whitsunday). The Eucharistic Celebrant continues through the week to use the form of the Hanc igitur which is said for the newly initiated. On Saturday, the Neonati returned their Whites to the Pontiff; the statio was ad S Petrum in Vaticano.

It is rumoured that Ecclesia Dei has been allowing pre-Pius XII Holy Week Rites. I can see no reason why they would object to a restoration of the Pentecost Vigil. After all, it has been restored ... sort of ... in the Novus Ordo.

(1) The Vigil disappeared under Pius XII; we should never forget that the disintegration of the Classical Roman Rite has Pius XII [if not S Pius X!] for its godfather. The 'Council' and its aftermath merely formed a logical progression of what Pius XII and Mgr Bugnini and others had already enthusiastically set rolling in the 1950s.
(2) The practical problem of administering Confirmation to adolescents, familiar to all Anglican parish clergy, is summed up in the old Anglican joke about one Churchwarden advising another about how to get rid of the bats in his belfry despite the fact that they are a protected species. "We just got the Bishop to climb up the ladder to the bell-chamber and clamber round the bells and confirm every bat he could find. We've never had a single one of them inside the Church since".

19 May 2018


I have deleted a submitted comment in which the writer assured me that, if X were to happen, "That is the day I walk out of the Church never to return".

I had better be frank about this.

Such a contingent threat of Apostasy, if seriously meant, suggests to me that the writer is in a most dangerous spiritual state.

It is true that PF treats the Church Militant (happily, there is no way he can get his hands on the Church Expectant and it is not within his mercifully limited power to "make a mess" in the Church Triumphant) as if it were some sort of private playground in which he can get up to whatever games he finds personally satisfying and heap up any number of his boasted "messes". But the Church is the Body of Christ. Not PF's playground; not mine; not yours.

There have been appallingly bad popes in the past and, depending on how long it is until the Eschaton, there very probably will be more of them in the future. None of that makes a nanogram of difference to the fact that the Catholic Church is the Ark of Salvation; the only and the essential Ark of Salvation.

And it is not a human and worldly 'membership organisation' which one can walk out of in a huff. You and I were incorporated into it by our Baptism. It is rooted in eternity; splendid as an army with banners; a terror to the fallen spirits; a wonder to the Angels.

If anything I have ever written has, however unintentionally, given any encouragement to the sort of unCatholic attitude which horrified me in that comment as I sat down to deal with it this morning, then, here and now, I repent of it.

If PF, or I, by our misconduct, drive one soul to "walk out of the Church", then he (or I) will have to answer for that in the day of Judgement. But the person who has "walked out never to return" will have the gravest charge of all to answer.


18 May 2018

A very personal problem

The Vatican has just put out a teaching document on economic matters. For me, personally, and I can speak for nobody else, this moment precisely epitomises the problem created by PF's misuse of the munus given him by God.

At any time before 2013, I would have simply received such a document with docility. In a case like this present one, because it deals with matters in which I am not personally academically competent, I would have done my best to understand it, quite simply because (although not ex cathedra) it came to me with authority. I would have done my best to put myself into the position of being able to explain and commend it on this blog and to members of Christ's faithful people to whom I might find myself speaking or who, out of a misguided esteem for myself, asked me about it.

But that is not how things can be now. For five years, PF has, arguably, played irresponsible games with the authority placed in his hands. He has - daily - pursued policies which are difficult to reconcile with a faithful following of our Most Holy Redeemer. In particular, he appears to have set himself to undermine the careful teaching of his predecessors, notably the last two, on the evils of moral relativism, and has publicly ignored appeals to bring clarity to these appearances. Unbelievably, the Successor of S Peter is seen by both admirers and critics as one who encourages souls for whom Christ died to be comfortable in a life of habitual adultery. He has impudently justified his conduct by talking about a God of Surprises. Hagan lios: he has had the temerity to go so far as to create 'a mess' in the Lord's Vineyard; and then to invite others to follow him.

It was necessary, 1300 years ago, to say in sad condemnation of an earlier pope, that 'he has permitted the purity of the Church to be polluted'; that 'he has fostered heresy'. Because this has happened, we know that it can happen.

If ... may God grant it ... from this very moment onwards PF's pontificate were to be a model of humble repentance and of chastened discipleship ... then, indeed, laus Deo; but it would inevitably still take a time for it to become apparent Urbi et Orbi that this sea-change had taken place.

Whether under this pontiff or another, it may be years before one can again receive teaching emerging from the Vatican in the old simple, childlike, obedient trust; with open and willing ears. There will long be the nagging, destabilising, anxiety that, in such very extraordinary times, the chill bonds of conscience and of duty might require one dokimazein ta pneumata.

This is the measure of the catastrophic damage which Jorge Bergoglio has done to his great Office of maintaining the Depositum Fidei by being a remora against the assaults of Novelty. In Blessed John Henry Newman's language, we feel less securely under our feet the rock of the soliditas cathedrae Petri. It may take decades, at the least, for the good God to heal this insecurity.

17 May 2018

The Irish Referendum

I originally posted this piece on 1 June 2015. It seems depressingly relevant as the Irish electorate faces another Referendum, again, in effect, inviting them to vote for or against Christ.

When I was young, there was a lot of talk to the effect that Vatican I had defined the Papacy; but had left its teachings unbalanced by saying so little about the Episcopate. Vatican II was said to have done splendidly by correcting this balance.

So, at Vatican II, we had the status of bishops being given a puff ... by the bishops! And the bishops, additionally, claiming enormous moral credit for ... themselves giving themselves this puff!

I wonder what narrative History will give of the First World Episcopate in the decades since the Council.

I could go on about the collapse within the Church of the religious orders, of vocations to the priesthood. I could get rhetorical about the Liturgy. But I might simply be expressing my own prejudices. I have as many, if not more, human failings than most. And perhaps what has happened since the Council constituted in some cases (as it certainly did in the case of Liturgy) simply an extrapolation of what was already happening.

But ... the Paedophile Priest scandal! Here, considered objectively, we do have a massive dereliction of duty on the part of Bishops and of Episcopacy. In many cases, it seems, they disregarded juridical procedures and maintained 'the filth' in pastoral ministry.

And then there have been some high-profile episcopal adulterers; firstly in Ireland and then in Scotland and most recently in England (I wonder, incidentally, if there has been any enquiry into who knew what about Kieran Conry before his episcopal nomination; and why not).

I think it does the Irish laity enormous credit, in all the circumstances, that [in the Gay Marriage Referendum] so many of them did vote in accordance with the teachings of the Church. (One constituency voted against SSM; two constituencies, knife-edge.)

It would be reassuring if some representative body of bishops ... perhaps, let's say, a Synod ... were to express some corporate regret about what their Order has done to the Church in the last disastrous half century. It has, in some parts of the world and in more than a few individuals, shown disturbing indications of a radical dysfunctionality.

Instead, we have suggestions of enhancing still further the powers of this Order by entrenching canonically and structurally and even dogmatically their Episcopal Conferences.

Holy Mother Church needs that like she needs a hole in the head.