25 March 2019

National Unity in the Post-Brexit world: Fr Hunwicke's Modest Proposal

Exciting days: we may soon Have Our Country Back Again, and be deploying our nearly-finished (but as yet aircraft-less) Aircraft Carrier to ward off all the foreign diplomatts and Trade Ministers and merchants who will be besieging us (I distinctly remember being assured that this is what would happen) in the hope of getting some of our splendiferous new Trade Deals. It will be a period in the History of our Great Nation when we shall have to re-emphasise our National Unity.

Perhaps one element here will be the need to ensure that anyone who tries to get in on our post-Brexit financial boom will be able to speak our National Language. Nothing of course cements a society as much as etc.etc. ad nauseam..

Which, of course, er, means, er ... y'kno' ...

English is not our only historic and native language in these Three Kingdoms. There is Welsh; there is Cornish, the language that Pam and I dip into together during our Cornish holidays as we return to the Catholic culture of medieval Europe by reading the mystery plays and sermons which survive in the old Cornish language. There are the two kinds of Gaelic; and, no, I haven't forgotten Manx. (In the disiecta membra of the old Duchy of Normandy, fragments of Norman French dialects survive.) Each of these is as properly, anciently, British, as is English ... the late Mr Chaucer's dialect ... or, possibly, even more so. And I haven't forgotten Old Norse, part of the heritage of the Orkneys. But there is also another inherently British tongue: Latin, the language of these islands from the Claudian invasion onwards; the language of S Bede the Venerable and Sir Isaac Newton; the language in which Law and Theology and Mathematics and Logic were taught in our ancient universities ... Oxford, Cambridge, Glasgow, Aberdeen ... in the Middle Ages and thereafter; the language in which the inhabitants of the Three Kingdoms worshipped for more than a thousand years.

So here is Fr Hunwicke's Modest Proposal. We should have two levels of citizenship: full citizenship; and associate citizenship. Full citizenship, including the right to vote and to own property and to have social benefits, would be available to all who could speak at least two of the languages on the following list; associate citizenship would have much more restricted rights attached to it, including temporary residence and the right to pay taxes, but would be freely and generously available to lesser mortals who were only able to be fluent in one of these languages.

(In the Channel Isles: Norman French.)
(Within the Metropolitan Province of Westminster: Scouse, as an act of respectful deference to Cardinal Vin.)
(Esperanto would need to be excluded as being insufficently divisive.)

Gosh, the scope for fertile combinations: lessons in Cornish for native speakers of Urdu; Latin word lists for Polish Plumbers and Dentists ...

You know it makes sense.

24 March 2019

Eminent Training; but Pellucid Guilt ???

I'm rather terribly embarrassed about writing this ... it's not the sort of thing Nanny expected one to talk about in public ... after all, this is a Family Blog ... but, well, I was at Waitrose stocking up on smoked salmon (they sell a variety which is not cluttered up with all those daft little slithers of transparent plastic), when my Instinctive Responses suggested that, before catching the 'bus home, it might be comforting to, er, void my, er, bladder. So I went to, er, the PAC (Publicly Available Commode, Americane 'restroom').

Dear me. I was wearing trousers, pants, a capacious pullover, a long dangly scarf (my Wife's College), a waterproof. It was not a warm day. (This year, we got summer out of the way in February during Torpids.)

The good news is that I do have two hands. Using these with all the complex skills born of nearly eight decades, graduating in due course from elementary potty training, I was able to achieve my purposes without mishap, or whatever the American is for 'mishap'. I couldn't suppress a thought that a Wiser Providence ... I hope this isn't disrespectful ... let's say an Even Wiser Providence ... could helpfully have provided male humans with three hands, if not four. Perhaps, if Mr Darwin is right, we shall evolve an extra hand over the next few millennia. No; don't write in screaming about how I'm not really a Traditional Catholic or I wouldn't have mentioned Evolution. I'm just not in the mood for opening up warfare on yet another front.

Yes. Fronts. That's it. At this moment I thought about Cardinal Pell, whom I once had the pleasure of meeting at Knock when we both adressed the Irish Confraternity of Catholic Clergy. I think it might have been an occasion when I read my Paper on how a pope who tried to suppress the Vetus Ordo would be acting ultra vires. I particularly enjoy reading that Paper. I modestly feel that it goes with a zing.

Like me, Pell only has two hands; larger and more eminent ones than mine, I grant you, but still subject to all the same fundamental terrestrial limitations.

Assuming that, for solemn Mass in his Cathedral Church, the Cardinal Archbishop will have been wearing pants, trousers (do they favour zips or buttons in Oz?), soutane (with buttons), alb, girdle, stole, dalmatic, pectoral cross, chasuble, and pallium (praetereo Cappam Magnam), how, er, um, how on earth inguen ita suum a vestibus liberare potuisset ut minctum sine periculo tute perageret, non dicam stuprum?

Phew. Why didn't I write this whole piece in Latin? It's so much easier than English. I'm sure English must be the product only of God's permissive will.

Do you think newly created cardiinals attend specially designed Training Sessions praeside et magistro eminentissimo domino Cardinale Coccopalmerio?

23 March 2019

Liturgy and Vatican II: what did they think they were voting for?

Vaggagini says somewhere "Three tendencies were manifested: some wanted no concessions to the vernacular; some wanted permission to say everything in the vernacular for all who wanted it; some wanted to maintain the basic principle of Latin, but also to open the door noticeably to the vernacular tongue." (The text of Sacrosanctum Concilium at para 54 actually reflects this stage of understanding very closely.) The last group, he said, were by far the largest. So, if you put that together, you clearly find that the overwhelming majority of the Council Fathers wanted at least to preserve a basically Latin Liturgy. And thought they were voting for this!

All but four bishops voted finally for the draft text: and those four lonely dissenters did  not  include Archbishop Lefebvre. He and his friends were happy with what they had voted for; with what they imagined they would get.

So how did we end up with the practical disappearance of Latin in less than a decade? And a radical deformation of the Roman Rite?

A friend once left a comment advancing the hypothesis that the Council, if anything, attempted to put the brakes on the radical slide into innovation which had been begun, on his own initiative, by Venerable Pius XII. I think there could be something in that. How about this as a summary of a possible narrative:
Over the decades, an international network of professional Liturgical Experts had grown up who were mostly not particularly marked by precise or original scholarship but maintained a close network of meetings, conferences, and journals. After the Council, they soon came to dominate the Diocesan Liturgical Committees which the Bishops set up, and then the liturgical bureaucracies created by the Episcopal Conferences. Bishops felt that they themselves didn't really know about Liturgy and were glad to be able to leave it to The Experts.

You remember the hoohaa that started up when Joseph Ratzinger began to write about Liturgy: "But he's not an expert in Liturgy". They meant: he's not one of us and he hasn't participated in our conferences and our journals and our international common agendas.

22 March 2019

Ad Multos Annos!!!

I don't know whether there are any fissures at all in the heavy plate-armour surrounding PF's fortified self-certainties; if there are, he must several times have wondered whether it really was a smart move to dispense with the services of Gerhard Cardinal Mueller ... there is an edifying English proverb to the effect that it is better to keep one's "enemy" inside one's tent p***ing out than to have him outside p***ing in. But PF's repertoire of old English proverbs may be limited.

His Eminence's Statement of Faith was, I think, the first substantial act of Magisterial guidance during this arid pontificate. Catholics thank him for it.

But now there has appeared another such!

It became clear that Bishop Athanasius Schneider was being leaned on by the Congregation for Bullying to stay in Kazhakstan and support his local footie team against the Scots rather than gallivanting round the world. He did exactly this, and with great success ... the massed and woad-painted Clans were thoroughly humiliated ... and his Lordship, freed from the tyranny of airports, has been able to spend time on researching and writing.

I commend ... how could I not ... the fine treatise by Bishop Athanasius about heretical popes (and much else).

Readers of this blog will immediately discern that his arguments, evidence, exempla, and conclusions are exactly those which I have regularly deployed here. So you will not be surprised that I am feeling quite up-beat.

Bishop Athanasius has rightly emphasised the importance of the Honorius case (above those of other errant popes) in making clear beyond any question that (1) popes can err; (2) such popes can be formally and Magisterially condemned for heresy; and (3) such popes do not ipso facto by their heresy lose their position.

When something has happened, this proves it can happen. 

Do-it-yourself depose-a-pope may be emotionally satisfying but it is not an option for grown-ups in a real world.

21 March 2019

Only for those who possess Latin Monastic Breviaries: Hymns for S Benedict

In the Liturgia Horarum, you have Legifer prudens for Lauds. This was composed by Dom Anselmo Lentini and published (1954) in the periodical Latinitas. Lentini, a very considerable hymnographer, commented that it fitted the munus sociale of S Benedict, on account of which he was made principal Patron of all Europe by S Paul VI.

Also in LH, at Vespers, there is Inter aeternas, by Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny, who died in 1156. It is shortened, partly by the omission of some miracles.

In the original draft of the Hymnarium for the Liturgia Horarum, Fratres alacri had been suggested for the Office of Readings. It was composed by Paul the Deacon, who died in 799.

In my Diurnale Monasticum, Inter aeternas is the hymn at Lauds; at Vespers there is Laudibus cives. I find this hymn very appealing because of the clues scattered around its text. For example, it tells us that the youth ful S Benedict left the penates of his fatherland; that he laid low both the nemus of Venus and the bronze statue of Clarius. The God of Clarus was, of course, Apollo ... I wonder if penates and Clarius would have featured in a hymn written before the classicising movement of the seventeenth century.  

But Urban VIII and his circle cannot claim the credit for Laudibus cives. It was written by Jean-Baptiste de Santeuil (1630-1697), who, in the style of the times referred to himself as Santolius Victorinus, because he was a Canon Regular of the Monastery of S Victor.

He made generous contributions to the hymnody of the Paris 'Neo-Gallican' breviaries of 1680 and 1736, but I have not discovered that Laudibus cives was one of them. My hypothesis is that he provided it for the Cistercian Breviary revised in that century by Claude Vaussin, Minister General, and that it thence made its way into the current Monastic Rite. Or perhaps the Cluniac Breviary of 1685 was the source. Erudite readers who know better are urged to correct or supplement this account.

'Santolinus', having been buried at Dijon, was moved later to his Abbey of S Victor. When that Abbey was destroyed during the Troubles of the 1790s, the body was transferred to the church of S Nicolas du Chardonnet, where, according to Wikipaedia, it is buried in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. I have not been able to discover in Wikipaedia the text of the Latin epitaph composed by the great (if Jansenist) Hellenist Rollin.

I don't know if current Roman Catholic hymnody is much influenced by the oeuvre of 'Santolinus'; he was quite popular in the Anglo-Catholic rediscovery of Latin hymnody, and he has three translations in the English Hymnal. They include the still popular Disposer supreme ...

20 March 2019

CENSORSHIP: Postscriptum

Some thoughts about points of reference in an atmosphere of intimidation.

(1) Cardinal Mueller continues to make lively and relevant comments. These include doctrinal matters (for example, his Profession of Faith)  but also frank comments on matters which are not doctrinal or are not solely doctrinal. For example: the poor quality and theological illiteracy of many who are currently being promoted in and to the Episcopate; the true status of Episcopal Conferences and their chairmen and their bureaucracies ...

His Eminence signed his Profession with the information about his tenure of the position of Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This implied a guarantee of the authenticity of his teaching.

I do not see how lesser people could be criticised, still less disciplined, if their remarks are in line with Mueller's and Mueller has himself not been condemned.

(2) Watch the CDF and its current prefect Cardinal Ladaria. Not long ago, after PF made some particularly silly remarks about Gnosticism and Pelagianism, the CDF put out a very sensible statement on those heresies. While not criticising PF by name, it was clearly a put-down ... er ... clarification. The situation, of course, may change, particularly when His Eminence retires and if he is replaced by someone like the Graf von Schoenborn or even 'Tucho' 'Kiss me quickly!' Fernandez.

(3) It appears that Blessed John Henry Newman will be canonised this year. It would hardly be elegant for anybody to be leaned on for subscribing to his views, or, indeed, to the example he set by how he referred to Pio Nono and Cardinal Manning and the other ultrasuperhyperueberpapalist extremists of his own time. I have found the 1870 volume of his letters to be endless fun!

(4) PF himself still calls for Parrhesia. While it is contextually clear that what he means by this is "If you agree with me, say so loudly and often!", it can be rhetorically amusing to turn his own repeated topos against him.

(5) Mgr Knox's preface to his own collected Essays in Satire is a fine account of the importance of demonstrating how naked Emperors commonly are.

(6) Do not forget Canon 212, especially the admirable sense and fine balance of its third paragraph.

Again ....

The reason why some submitted comments have not been enabled is that I do not enable comments which say or suggest that our Holy Father Pope Francis is not Pope.

19 March 2019

Te Ioseph ...

Naturally you want to know all about the hymn Te Ioseph celebrent agmina caelitum, found in the Breviary Office of S Joseph.

The lyric metre is (what Nisbett and Hubbard classified as) the "Second Asclepiad". It was used in Greek by the early Lesbian lyric poet Alcaeus, but the form we find in the Breviary is that standardised by Horace in Latin. Each stanza consists of three 'minor Asclepiads' followed by a 'Glyconic'.

Unlike the Sapphic metre (also of Lesbian origin), this metre did not attain the same enormous popularity among Christian hymnographers, although those of you who use the Liturgia Horarum will find, if you turn to S Jerome on the 30th of September, a modern hymn in this metre probably written by Dom Anselmo Lentini. He explained that this was the only metre in which S Jerome's name could be metrically included!! Whether you deem the name to be, with five syllables, Hi-er-on-ym-um, or with four syllables, Je-ro-ny-mum, you can fit it in after laude. Geddit?

What a lot of trouble Dom Anselmo and his coetus did go to in order to fulfil the Conciliar mandate with regard to the Hymnology of the Office ... little knowing that in half a decade the recitation of the Office in Latin would, to all intents and purposes, have disappeared ... disappeared despite the explicit mandate in Sacrosanctum Concilium that the use of Latin by clerics in the Office should be maintained. What a corrupt decade that was. Whenever I hear the mendacious, the lying, claim that the liturgical "reforms" did what the Council had ordered, it makes me want to kick people.

However, one should not go around kicking poor deceived deluded people who have been taught a pack of diabolical lies by others far wickeder than themselves. So back to S Joseph ...

Te Ioseph  was written by a Carmelite, John Escallar a Conceptione, about whom I only know that he died in 1700. In other words, this composition is the fruit of the classicising Counter-Reformation. An exquisitely elegant fruit.

One oddity. The line Post mortem reliquos sors pia consecrat. Lentini explained that the original text was Post mortem reliquos mors pia consecrat. Others deserve their rewards after their deaths, because of the sanctity of their deaths. But S Joseph got his goodies during his earthy life as he guarded the Holy Family. Dom Anselmo explains that the original line won't do, because it contains a certain word-play, mortem ... mors, acceptable in that century but unpopular (invisus) nowadays.

Oh dear ...

18 March 2019

Censorship ... Bergoglianity is at work on it ...

I here republish an old post with its original thread, from 29 October 2018. When one ventures upon prophecies, it is always interesting to know if they are fulfilled! So it would be kind if readers were to let me know of any signs that I was right in the apprehensions which I voiced! I will read and then delete comments which their authors preface with NOT FOR PUBLICATION. I quite appreciate that people have good reasons for not exposing themselves to persecution by the Ministers of Mercy who patrol the Bergoglian Church.

I will add a few further thoughts the day after tomorrow.

In the chaos of the 1960s, one notable casualty was the Church's system of the censorship of books. This disappearance was, I think, inevitable; in that febrile and aggressive atmosphere, it is inconceivable that the process of waiting for a diocesan Censor Librorum to read a book and make his comments, then for him to negotiate with an author about his/her ambiguities, and to agree a text ... then for the Ordinary or his VG to issue the imprimatur ... it is inconceivable that such a system could have survived. Then add Humanae Vitae and the spate of dissenting books and articles which would have needed to be refused the Nihil obstat ...

There was undoubtedly rejoicing at the disappearance of the pre-modern apparatus of censorship; predictably, especially among 'liberals'.

Clandestinely, this development led to a new and only semi-visible form of censorship. The dominance of certain 'schools' in Academe, especially in subjects such as Liturgy, Biblical Studies, and Moral Theology, made it increasingly difficult to secure publication of ideas which defended or explicated Tradition.

Although the boot was invisible ... it was now on the other foot.

But now comes the paradox. The disappearance of Censorship preceded, at a polite distance, the emergence of the Internet. And in our own age it has become very difficult for anybody to monitor, let alone to control, the myriad ideas and opinions which can flicker across the World's computers. And, among all this material, orthodox and traditional statements and ideas have as free an access as everything else to the many fora of discussion. I very much doubt if the examination and critical assessment of this pontificate would have been as open and free as it has been, had the Internet not existed.

But now ... Synod 2018 Paragraph 146.

"The Synod hopes that in the Church appropriate official bodies for digital culture and evangelisation are established at appropriate levels ... Among their functions ... [could be] certification systems of Catholic sites, to counter the spread of fake news ..."

I very much dislike the look of this. It is no secret that some members of the CBCEW were, for years, very nervous about bloggers and especially clerical bloggers. The disgraceful episcopal suppression of one famous diaconal blog became quite a cause celebre. Management had lost a significant control. It is only a year or two since my friend Fr Ray Blake bravely put on the public record that he had found tanks parked on his lawn: tanks in the shape of his Bishop passing on the cheerful news that "The Cardinal doesn't like ...".

We seem to have come a long way from those broad sunlit uplands when Benedict XVI (remember him? The 'Rat', the 'Inquisitor', the 'Panzer Cardinal'? Yes, that one) encouraged blogging, and especially clerical bloggers. Now, the era of the boors and the bullies.

Shall we, in a few years' time, discover that we have Diocesan, National, and Worldwide systems for closing down free discussion in the Church? After all, the Synod will have "called for it", won't it?

"Synodality" sounds so democratic, modern, open and free. What's not to like? And this Synod has concluded with the usual flurry of synthetic Bergoglian rhetoric about the Holy Spirit. In such liberated and happy times, don't you need to be paranoid to be suspicious?

Don't you believe it. Bullies are bullies are bullies.

17 March 2019

The Emerald Isle

Q What should the Irish do on S Patrick's Day?
A Wake up from their hiberniation.

The first S Patrick's Day since the Enemy promised to the Irish people, as he did to Tinidril on Perelandra, "I have come that you might have Death, and have it in abundance."

I think Cardinal Sarah should revoke the indult that allows the dioceses of Ireland to celebrate S Patrick even on a Sunday in Lent.

16 March 2019

"The worst pope ever"?

So a correspondent wrote on one of my threads. It set me thinking.

I am convinced that PF is most certainly not the worst man ever to have been pope. OK; he has a short temper; he turns easily to abuse; he has either a very bad memory or a tendency to lie. But even striking characteristics like his propensity to accuse people of shit-eating betoken, probably, nothing more than a cultural back-ground a trifle different from our own. We middle-class British are so much more circumlocutory in our put-downs of those we dislike. "My dear fellow, with the utmost respect I'm not entirely sure that I completely agree with you" may be every bit as aggressively focussed as "You coprophagist!". We must be humble enough to be open to semantic diversity.

Anybody who seriously thinks that PF is the worst man ever to have been pope should probably read rather more Church History. I do not only have in mind the 'Marozia' popes of the period called the Pornocracy; I would also nominate Urban VI, who precipitated the Western Schism by his 'harshness and violence'; and Paul IV Caraffa, 'of ferocious character', whose malevolent hostility towards the English Catholic Church during the reign of Queen Mary made it so much easier for Elizabeth Tudor to reintroduce the Reformation to my country.

What might, much more plausibly, be argued is that PF is the worst pope in the single sense that the papal office has drastically changed under the influence of modernity, in a world of instant communications and rapid reporting and the possibility of minute-by-minute micromanagement. So this Ministry, when exercised by an impatient shoot-from-the-hip-especially-when-you're-irritated individual like PF, is more dangerous now than any exercise of the Petrine office was in the past, even in the pontificates of very bad men, back in those happy days when the ordinary layman or cleric probably knew little about the current occupant of the Roman See, and had certainly not heard about the sillier things he said in his private chapel this morning or the proclivities of his nastier cronies.

What we need after PF's death or abdication or deposition is not a better or more holy or more prayerful man. What we need is the papal office itself stripped down and cleansed from the idolatrous accretions of recent pontificates, so that it is again a Petrine Ministry which can without daily disaster be exercised by an ordinary sinful human being with ordinary human failings tempered by the Grace of God ... just like the great majority of popes over two millennia, who were neither saints nor reprobates.

Above all, a new pope will need the self-discipline to ... you thought I was going to write "Talk very much less". But that does not quite get to the heart of the problem. Very soon after this pontificate began, I wrote in a blogpost that our new pope should not be allowed out without whatever he was to say having been carefully checked by those in the Curia whose responsibility it is to give a theological shape to a pontificate.

Papal authority is not personal in an individualistic or whimsical sort of way. The pope is supposed to say, not what he feels or wants, but what the judgement of the Roman Church is as a corporate and structured body mindful of its own Holy and immemorial Tradition. (When PF, after some off-the-cuff remarks about his own liturgical preferences, emphatically added "This is Magisterium!", he thereby exemplified the main error which he entertains with regard to his own job-description.)

The first major exercise of papal authority, the letter called I Clement, has the form of something written as if by one member of the Roman Presbyterate. S Clement is not himself actually mentioned. The writer was very clearly an individual who expected to be obeyed. But he writes and judges and instructs in a corporate manner. That is why the Curia Romana has a doctrinal status and purpose. It is not meant to be a tedious bureaucracy which so sadly gets in the way of everybody being able to see what a splendid chap a pope is once he is able to shake off his staff. It is an integral part of the exercise of the Ministry which the Redeemer instituted in his Church, because an episkopos is meaningless without his presbyterium, his diakonia, his laos.  And this goes for Rome as much as for any other particular Church. The earliest witnesses of the Roman Primacy, SS Ignatius and Irenaeus, do not explicitly mention the Roman Bishop; they talk about the Roman Church.

Finally: this Next Pope will need to remember the apercu of Blessed John Henry Newman, that the Ministry of the Roman Church within the Oikoumene is to be a barrier, a remora, against the intrusion of erroneous novelty.

It is: to hand on the Great Tradition unadulterated.

In an age when the adjective "negative" has unpopular vibes, we need a reappropriation at the very highest level within the Church of the central, fundamental importance of a negative and preservative, papacy. Tradidi quod et accepi implies Quod non accepi non tradam.

15 March 2019

Is PF "A Subtle Jesuit"?

Newman's Oxford undergraduate (Loss and Gain) "Charles Reding", about to be rusticated for  ... allegedly ... having a mind "perverted, debauched by sophistries and jesuitries", goes to say farewell to the Principal of his College. To whom he says "'I cannot conceive, sir, why I should be unfit company for the gentlemen of the College'. Dr Bluett's jaw dropped, and his eyes asumed a hollow aspect. 'You will corrupt their minds.' Then he added in a sepulchral tone, which seemed to come from the very depth of his inside, 'You will introduce them, sir, to some subtle Jesuit -- to some subtle Jesuit, Mr Reding'".

What a lovely reputation the Jesuits once had. What a shame we have no subtle Jesuits around today. But Stay!! Perhaps, after all, we do. Perhaps PF is a Subtle Jesuit!!! Had that occurred to you?

Here, again, is what PF said in his joint statement with his Islamic chum:
"The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race, and language are willed by God in his wisdom, through which he created human beings."

The inattentive might misread this as a typical piece of modern liberal 'affirmation', in which everybody is praised for and in their diversity. It is, surely, the dogma expressed by the 'diversity flag', in which all the colours of the rainbow are gloriously combined in one composition. All affirm all.

Well ... we have no way of knowing how PF's Islamic co-signatory glossed these words, But to many, this statement will seem nothing but a statement of the modern liberal blindingly obvious.

But PF introduced a new element into the rich mix when he gave Bishop Schneider permission to report a quite different interpretation: the idea that Diversity of Religion relates to the permissive will of God ... not to what he positively wills, but only to what he is willing to permit even though it is evil in itself.

Lovely Stuff. But PF goes on to bracket diversity of sex with the diversity of religion. And anybody who knows the least about the Judaeo-Christian tradition could have explained to PF that the division of Humanity into two sexes is given in Genesis, a section of the Pentateuch near the beginning of the Bible just after all the stuff about King James I, as part of the positive will of God for unfallen Humanity ... not just as something God tolerates because it is an unfortunate consequence of creating Man with the free will to choose the Good and the Bad. Creation of Mankind in two complementary sexes is not something that God permits; it is what he has himself freely done.

But ... hang on ... perhaps PF is not, as you were foolishly assuming, impetuous, judgmental readers that you are, a poor ignorant old man who has never read Genesis. Perhaps he is ... after all ... a Subtle Jesuit ... like all those Subtle Jesuits who lurked behind every lamp-post and hedgerow of the Victorian Protestant imagination!

So, on the one hand, to Moslems and Liberals, PF wishes to come across as praising religious diversity; it is a Good positively willed by God.  

But, on the other hand, to Bishop Schneider and his associates, PF tips the wink: "Don't be too noisy about this, old man, but of course I agree wholeheartedly with you that the existence of all false religions is one of the terrible evils resulting from the wilfulness and waywardness of Man, once he has been led by Satan into Sin, Disobedience, and Error. If you think it will help, do tell your troops that what I meant was: false religions are not positively but only permissively willed. And do anything else you can to get them to just Shut Up and stop analysing what I say. Analysis is just so ***********ly Rigid. As S Thomas Aquinas so rightly said, Logic is the Devil's Whore."

Amazingly Subtle. Devastatingly Jesuitical. What a man!!!!!

14 March 2019

Cassiciacum? Praeferendus Newman! (3)

Did Blessed John Henry Newman say  

"It was Oxford that made me a Catholic"? Or did he say

"It was the Fathers that made me a Catholic"? Or did he, as I rather think, say both?

It is certainly true that Henry Manning said, referencing Newman, that "it is the old Anglican, patristic, literary Oxford tone transplanted into the Church". And who durst say that an Archbishop of Westminster can err?

For Newman, what has actually happened in the history of the Church makes a good starting point.
This is one of the reasons why I have been so attracted by Newman's argument that the papal or episcopal teaching office may be seen as being in 'Suspense' if the pope or bishop stops using it, or gets into the habit of using it improperly. We do not, in my view, profit by discussing 'formaliter' and 'materialiter'. If we adopt Newman's modes of discourse, discussions of how or whether a Roman bishop can lose his office, or the exercise of it, become no less fascinating but quite a lot less necessary. We do not need to break or fracture the canonical unity of the Church Militant, the Church Visible.

Blessed John Henry came to his conclusions as the result of his long studies of the Arian Crisis, in which, for sixty years, a pope and most bishops taught error or at least subverted the Truth by their weakness. The Magisterium was indeed in suspense. It is an objective fact of History. Syllogisms be damned: Newman's accounts and interpretations describe reality. That is what makes them, and his methods, attractive.

I have written before about Pope Honorius. We might also consider the Great Schism of the West. If you believe that the 'Urbanist' popes were the true popes, then from 1378 until 1415, the papal Magisterium was in suspense in France, Scotland, Spain, and Naples. If, on the other hand, you are a 'Clementine', then, from 1378 until 1429, the papal teaching office was in suspense in the Empire, England, Ireland, North Italy, Poland, Hungary, and Northern Europe (editions of the Annuario pontificio have given fluctuating lists of 'true' popes, but there has never been a Magisterial decision ... the pompous list of popes on the walls of Westminster Cathedral gets its shambolic knickers into quite a self-contradictory twist).

The history of the Church is not a tidy phenomenon in which we can say: there has never been a dodgy pope because, as soon as a pope does become dodgy, he ... like magic!! ... 'Beam me up, Scotty!' ... automatically ceases to be pope (even if nobody is actually aware that this invisible cessation has occurred).

Church history is a messy business in which there really have been dodgy popes, and ... whatever all the syllogisms in all the universe might anxiously jostle to say about it ... they have not thereby ceased to be popes or ceased to be recognised as such.

So when Sedevacantists solemnly and under threat of Sin tell Christian people that they ought never go to Mass unless they can cadge a lift to their nearest sedevacantist Mass a thousand or three miles away, they ought to remember that for half a century during the Great Western Schism, half the Christians in Europe attended Masses in which an 'invalid' pope was mentioned in the una cum. They also ought to remember that, in cases where there is a genuine doubt, a stricter view should not be imposed on penitents even if that stricter view appears, to the mind of the Confessor himself, to be the very much more probable view (vide H Davies Vol I pp 91sqq). It is a grave responsibility to drive Christifideles laicos away from the Sacraments (I am not discussing here the question of Sacramental Validity).

During the Western Schism, were those who moved across the border between England and Scotland required to be absolved from Schism because they had been attending Masses in which the 'wrong' pope was named? When the Schism was over, did the Council of Constance require the clergy and laity of half Europe to go to confession to be absolved of the 'sin' of attending Masses in which a 'wrong' papal claimant was silently named? Go on, give me a Denzinger number!

13 March 2019

Benedict XIV, Clement XIV, and Clement XV.

Once again, as Britain rocks in the aftermath of the Brexit' votes, I sought solace from the bust of Pope Benedict XIV in Oxford's Ashmolean Museum. There is a brief summary for non-Latinists at the bottom.
Res mira! Hodie ridentem inveni magnum et carum pontificem! Quem saepe lugentem, miserum inveneram, quinimmo paene flentem, tot miseriis adflictum propter vulnera in Ecclesiam Militantem his temporibus illata, hodie palam gaudentem aspexi. "Cur Domne laetaris?" rogavi. "Propter tuum Zuhlsdorfium" respondit "virum lepidum et ad cor meum, qui mirabiliter prae Mundi oculis exhibuit amicum meum Ganganelli, meum in Sede Petrina sub nomine Clementis XIV successorem. Tot poculis huius papae et imagine et armis adornatis per orbem terrarum missis, gloriam tanti historici valde promovit et promovet!"

"Poculis tam bonis cotidie utor. Sed amicus tuus, Sancte Pater, Ganganelli fuit? Historicum dixti?"

Parvum emisit suspirium. "Ignorasne quot et quanta pro Iudaeis defendendis hic gesserit?" Ignorare me demissis oculis confessus sum. Ille "Iudaei per saecula multa inter homines nefasti et scelesti habebantur. Hoc illis crimen scelestissimum adlatum est, eos sanguine Christianorum et praesertim parvulorum in suis panibus conficiendis uti et usos esse. Quam rem Ganganello meo commisi penitus inquirendam. Omnia perscrutatus omnia lucide monstravit: crimen omnino falsum esse; nil tale unquam factum. Et Poetae Tragici L. Annaei Senecae fautorem se doctum monstravit. Gavisus sum maxime illo in Sedem Apostolicam postea promoto. [Hic pausam aliquantulam fecit et venuste subrisit] Sed audi! Hoc quoque placet et placebit ... dies nunc appropinquat liberationis vestrae."

Attonitus tacui. Deinde "Qui dies quae" dixi "liberatio? Num Brexitum dicis? Num tu Brexientibus faves?"

Cladem istam Brexitialem nihil ad rem pronuntiavit; cumque circumspexisset ne quis prope esset auditor ne Iaponicus quidem, suo more cautius murmure parvo hoc mihi patefecit: fore ut pontifex Romanus ... e suo loco tolleretur! Quae secutura dixit, me prohibuit nuntiare; hoc tantum vobis dicere possum, tempora breviora. Idcirco annuntio vobis gaudium magnum!! Non habebimus papam!!!

Papam cachinnantem currens effugi et hoc benigne addentem "Natalem tibi hodiernum, pusille, quam faustissimum precor!".

If your Latin is a little rusty, all you actually need to know is: get your Ganganelli and your Lambertini mugs from Fr Zed fast because they may soon be valuable historical items. IMPORTANT!

12 March 2019

Cassiciacum? (2)

A "Scholastic" approach to theology might progress from apparently given fixed principles through apparently syllogistic logic to apparently obvious conclusions. Thus:-

"Popes do not Teach heresy;
Honorius taught heresy;
Therefore Honorius was not pope"


"Antipopes have no legitimate jurisdiction;
Honorius was an antipope;
Therefore Honorius had no jurisdiction."

and so on; thus the canonical framework Honorius imposed upon the Anglo-Saxon Church was of no effect. Et cetera; et cetera.

You could put a group of such thinkers on to a Desert Island, and by pure logic they could come up with a complete history of the Church, perfect in every respect, possibly even armoured by every protection of immaculate logic ... except that it bore no relationship to what actually did happen in the real History of the real Church.

Thus, although Pope Honorius was condemned by his successors and anathematised by an Ecumenical Council, nobody ever did claim that he at any point ceased to be pope; or that his acts of papal jurisdiction were "invalid", in England or anywhere else. Certainly, when S Bede the Venerable wrote his account of the Honorius years, there is no hint in the Saint's words that Honorius was an antipope or that his acts of jurisdiction were null. Nor did later popes or Ecumenical Councils decree this to be so.

More later ... perhaps after, tomorrow, I have lauded that faultless pontiff Prospero Lambertini..

11 March 2019

Cassiciacum? (1)

A brother priest very reasonably asked me whether my views on the present state of the papal office were not rather like those of the Cassiciacum Thesis. I am very shy about answering this. For more than one reason.

I do my best to confine myself to writing about subects in which I, perhaps over-boldly, consider myself to have some slight competence. I am not a canonist, and if I started trying to deal with the Cassiciacum, I would probably merely expose the degree of my own incompetence in that area. Which is enormous. Why should I make myself a laughing stock?

A second reason is that, in the present state of things, this thesis is ... so I believe ... espoused by a particular ecclesial group. I have no desire to attack them. They are very probably far better Catholics than I am. That wouldn't be difficult! But I would not want to create an assumption that I was one of them, or that I was in agreement with their own canonical separation (as I understand it) from the Church Militant. We all have enough problems of our own without letting ourselves get tarred with other people's brushes. [However, I will admit to having some human curiosity about one particularly diagnostic question: do they name our Holy Father Pope Francis, Successor of S Peter, in the Canon of the Mass?]

But my main reason is that I prefer to do theology, not in terms of what is sometimes called the (neo-)scholastic method, but in a way more rooted in historical actualite. I would like to describe this as "more English", but I won't, because, if I did, I know what would happen: you'd all start jumping up and down and screeching "But what about Doellinger?!" "What about Hefele!?

I will elucidate later.

10 March 2019

I am naturally shy ...

... about promoting myself, or appearing to do so. But I draw to your attention a nice little book from the Arouca Press, a new and traditional Catholic publishing house.

Arouca is, in any case, to be encouraged. But today I commend a reprint of a splendid little volume published in 1927, giving homilies upon the Sunday Epistles of the Old Missal. These homilies are by an Anglican convert to the Catholic Church, Fr Michael Chapman.

My reticence in commending the book arises from the fact that I have contributed to it a Preface. But you should not allow this to bias you against the book.

We are all asked by Holy Mother Church to study Holy Scripture; I can think of no better way of doing this than by starting with those passages which, Sunday by Sunday, the Church especially commends to us by selecting them to be publicly read at Mass.

Fr Chapman's sensible, elegant, and profound set of homilires affords a very good way of doing this.


"Annibale Bugnini ... "; Private Masses

Chiron's biography of Bugnini, which I reviewd recently and is necessary reading for those who desire to be on-the-ball with regard to scholarly discussion of the post-Concilar 'reforms', reminds us that S Paul VI, as disorder spread like wild fire in the Latin Church, wrote in 1965 an encyclical Mysterium Fidei. Among the Pontiff's "concerns and anxieties", he condemns the idea that a "Community Mass" has greater value than mere private Masses, with these words:

"Every Mass, even though a priest may offer it in private, is not a private matter; it is an act of Christ and of the Church".

This truth was unpacked very neatly by the great Anglican Thomist and dogmatic theologian, the Reverend Professor Canon Doctor Eric Mascall, OGS MA: (Very Germanic of me to pile up all the titles, yes?)

"What makes the mass one and corporate is not the fact that a lot of people are together at the same service, but the fact that it is the act of the one Christ in his Body (corpus) the Church. And I can think of no better way of making anyone understand wherein the unity and corporateness of the mass really consists than to take him into a church in which a number of priests are simultaneously celebrating private masses and to say: "Look at those men at their various altars all round the church, each of them apparently muttering away on his own and having nothing to do with the others. In fact they are all of them doing the same thing - the same essentially, the same numerically - not just a lot of things of the same kind, but the very same identical thing; each of them is taking part as a priest in the one redemptive act which Christ, who died for our sins and rose again for our justification, perpetuates in the Church which is his Body through the sacrament of his body and blood."

Mascall used to say his own mass before breakfast every morning, usually privately in the church where I went for daily mass as an undergraduate, at the altar under the picture of blessed Charles the Martyr. How wonderful it would be if the scene he describes returned to the life of our churches ... just imagine the Rosary Basilica at Lourdes every morning with a constant coming and going of priest pilgrims to the altars of the Fifteen Mysteries.

Even the marbled refrigeration of Westminster Cathedral might wake up to warm and vibrant new life!

9 March 2019

Vocation to the Priesthood?

I have received an email from a postulant who, before he can go further in seminary studies, will need to pay of a student debt, contracted in Canadian dollars.


God's [Permissive] Will

How clever of the Kazakhstan Episcopal Conference to use their ad limina to secure clarity from PF with regard to certain dubia which were troubling their minds. Especially about his recent statement that Religious Diversity is God's Will.

And what a relief it is that PF has given his explanation. Now we all understand. The existence of religious diversity may not be positively willed by God, but, since he permits it to happen, it is part of his permissive will.

What could be clearer? Thank God for PF.

And this supramagisterial clarification provides valuable ways forward by which the Vatican can improve its relationship with other groups on the periphery, with as much success as it has done with Islam.

I have long been very worried about the rather Rigid approach which old-fashioned people take towards the long-suffering National Socialist Community. The Shoah has often been treated as a great crime, a massive and bloodthirsty historical injustice. I may myself have unguardedly appeared to use such language without employing the more generous formulation exemplified by PF. Now, thanks to PF, I know better. Thanks to the inspired clarity and Mercy with which PF speaks, we are now encouraged to say that "The Holocaust was God's Will". If unsophisticated Rigidists are horrified by such a form of words, we jump in with the reserve explanation "Ah: I meant God's permissive will ... since he did not prevent it from occurring, we can say that it is his will without implying that in a positive sense he wanted it to happen. But you can't deny that he permitted it".

Similarly, with regard to the immense pain being even at this moment inflicted upon the Paedophile Priest Community. Although PF has Mercifully toned down the Rigid policy which his Rigid predecessor had put in place, it remains true that many Rigid and intolerant things are still being said and done, both with regard to such clergy themselves, and also those admirably Merciful Bishops and Cardinals who prevent nasty people like Police and Canonical Prosecutors (who have imperfect understandings of the Will of God) from getting involved. After all, paedophile clergy are (have I got this right?) nothing less than an inspired and exemplary Avant Garde, who are only doing their simple best to inculturate our Faith more thoroughly within highly sexualised post-modern Society. Hard work, heavy lifting, but somebody has to do it!

Now, happily, we have PF's own go-ahead for this new and far more Christian approach. Archbishops who are summoned to appear and to give evidence before secular tribunals investigating sexual abuse will in future not need to be mealy-mouthed. They can stand there in the witness Box, clutching their pectoral Crosses*, and with bold Parrhesia  proclaim: "The Clerical Abuse of Children is the Will of God".

People Traffickers too ... Drug Smugglers ...  Indian Fast Bowlers ... all of them purposive enactors of the (permissive, of course) will of God.

And PF's own example gives another valuable pointer and precedent: we need not actually mention this "permissive" stuff unless some Rigidists from Kazhakstan start bending our arms. It's a crafty caveat we keep up our sleeves. Normally, a simple statement (e.g. "Female Genital Mutilation is God's Will") is an adequate formula. Because that's how PF did it, God bless him. He knows better than to complicate matters beyond the understanding of simple folk. What a marvellous charism it is to smell so sweetly of the sheep!

And PF's approach will enable us to engage more sensitively and immediately with whatever concerns modern Society has. Over here, for example, we are currently very concerned about Knife Crime. It is apparently even worse in our big cities than it is (for example) in that notable abode of the Will of God, New York. All the Church needs to do, PF makes clear, is to get folk to understand that this epidemic is God's Will.

What a breath of Fresh Air PF is. This is the true Aggiornamento which S John XXIII expected of the Council. Throw the windows even wider open!!

*A neat phrase I have borrowed verbatim from Bishop Lopes. I mention this in case it occurs to some trouble-maker to suggest that by the Will of God I am part of the Plagiarist Community.

Footnote: I have in the past been advised to remember that "Americans don't understand Irony". This blogpost is, er, ironical. Every word of it, pretty well, except this footnote.

8 March 2019

PIUS XII and the Archives

Frankly, I am not as fervent an admirer of Ven Pius XII as many of my readers will be. Three of my reasons:

(1) He initiated the concept of deeply radical 'revision' and transformation of the Liturgy, which ended up we-know-where; and

(2) he developed significantly the disastrous and sick modern papal personality cult: I detect a direct line from him through S Paul VI to PF. Joseph Ratzinger wrote "After Vatican II the impression arose that the pope really could do anything ... "; it was a small jump from this to the major Bergoglianist error that PF, free from the constraints of Scripture and Tradition, is guided in his daily words and deeds by the Holy Ghost, by whose intervention he was indeed elected.

I do not subscribe to this perversion of Catholicism. So the idea that Pius XII's canonisation might be brought nearer by the opening of the remaining Vatican Archives of his pontificate leaves me, er, tepid.

(3) It is the role of the Roman Pontiff to repel error and to condemn heretical innovation. Nazism was a gross conceptual error; more precisely, it was a form of the Marcionite Heresy which the See of S Peter had put down in the Second Century. ("To Rome comes Marcion, already under censure in other Churches; but until Rome has condemned him he is still a Catholic Christian": Dix.) Between 1939 and 1945, this heresy was made even worse by the inclusion of anti-Christian twaddle such as Earth, Blood, and Volk. And it did not meekly remain in the lecture room: it was horribly embodied in an unjust war of aggression and in the planned mechanised slaughter of millions.

Yet, during this period, there was no papal condemnation of the error, or specifically of the consequent Judaeicide, at the formal, Magisterial, level. The fact that Pius XI had condemned it should have made it easier for Pius XII to repeat and to develop and to precision and to elevate (why not ex cathedra?) that condemnation both at the conceptual and at the genocidal levels. In the Newman terminology which I endlessly promote, the Teaching Office of the Church was, at least arguably, as much "in suspense" from 1939 to 1945 as it was during the Arian Crisis and has been during this pontificate. It is not that Pius XII taught nothing during those years (Mystici Corporis ...), so much as that he failed to teach with proportionate vigour and focus about the biggest single monstrous error that was staring Europe in the face. Just so, Vatican II was to leave Stalinism not, indeed, exactly uncondemned, but possibly not adequately condemned. The early Church Councils, on the other hand, identified errors by name, and flung precisely worded anathemata around with accurate addresses on the envelopes.

So there you have my own, provisional, personal,view.

I am a person of very imperfect judgement. I am usually wrong. My wife will confirm this.

So, if the opening of the Archives gives us a quite different picture of that pontificate, then, if I am still alive, I shall welcome it and do penance.

[I wonder if the Yad Vashem people and those neo-con meejah folks across the water would also welcome such a result. Or would they dream up some new means of evading the consequences of newly disclosed facts?]

(I know Pius XII secured the survival of nearly a milllion Jews who would otherwise probably not have survived, so please don't inform me of this. Let's take it as agreed between us.)

7 March 2019

Matthew Parris

One of our most entertaining columnists, called Matthew Parris, recently revealed that he will soon be seventy years old. It is his view that this relative antiquity now hands him on a plate the freedom no longer to be afraid to say what he really thinks. "There will be no more job interviews now, no more exams to sit, no more voters to please [he was once an MP], no more objects of desire to impress, no wagging tongues to fear ... This is freedom!"

Perhaps I should have added that Parris is an active homosexual who has long been out of the closet.

Among the freedoms he went on to mention, this rather struck me:

"The corollary ... of my view that many are on a sliding scale between gay and straight is that many can choose. I know they do. The corollary of that is that cognitive behavioural therapy may work in some cases. The corollary of that is that those silly Christians who say you can be 'cured' of being gay do have half an argument. I've certainly done my best in my time to cure a few men of being straight. But the right-on in the gay 'community' are horrified at any suggestion that sexuality can ever be a choice. I know it can, for some. I wouldn't have dared write this when young. Now? I don't give a damn."

If you just chop out a couple words which are inserted as a conventional act of deference to long-standing prejudices ("silly"; "half"), you do have, I think, a quite interesting admission.

6 March 2019

Another Triumph of Clericalism

The Beeb tells us that the Chinese Government has assured its Parliament that there will be "tighter control over Religion".

So that's all right, then. Coming immediately after Parolin's insistence on the Vatican/Peking Accord, it shows a reassuringly common mind between these two sets of benign and thoughtful apparatchiks.

Thank Goodness that Bergoglian Rome is so much more cunning than the Chinamen. Otherwise, wherever would we be?

Three cheers for the even-more-than-Ostpolitik.

5 March 2019

What went wrong when and why?

We hear no plans for any sort of investigation into the devilish disaster which, in the form of the clerical sex abuse of the vulnerable, has overtaken the Latin Church.

Rhetoric, yes; gallons of it. But no attempt to find out how we got here. No apparent interest in what went so wrong as to precipitate such a crisis.

It's as if the First Sea Lord ... er ... yes; we may have not nearly as many ships in our Navy as when our policy was to keep it at twice the size of its nearest rival, but we do still have lots of admirals and some beautifully Nelsonian titles ... it's as if the FSL had to admit that his ships were just mysteriously sinking all over the world like stones dropping down to the bottom of a village pond. And as if he refused to take any sort of interest in the reasons for this calamitous situation. Were the ships engineered efficiently? Who cares. Did systems synergy operate efficiently? Couldn't care less. Were Sea Trials comprehensively performed and adequately monitored? Time for a gin.

My recollection is that when my Father was a serving officer, if you so much as grazed your paintwork against a jetty, you were at risk of facing a court of enquiry.

Yet this is the problem in the Catholic Church. The idea of painstakingly trying to sort out the aetiology of the crisis is dismissed; or rather, is not even allowed to be mentioned. Top Brass is putting its trust in rhetoric.

Management's attitude is epitomised by a plausible narrative relating to the English Catholic Church. A girl made a complaint about Cormac Cardinal Murphy O'Connor. The CDF was prepared to do its canonical duty and opened a case. But somebody told PF about it all, and he telephoned Mueller. His Eminence was actually in the course of offering the Most Holy Eucharist. But PF demanded that he be summoned to the telephone in the Sacristy to receive a peremptory instruction to take that case no further. Not long after, Mueller's tenure of his prefecture was not renewed.

Murphy O'Connor, of course, was a prominent S Gallen plotter who hurried to Rome as soon as Ratzinger's resignation happened to take a leading role in the plotting which preceded the Conclave.

If this narrative is true, it exemplifies exactly the sort of clericalism which needs to be rooted out at the very highest level in the Church.

If it is not true, it should by enquiry be shown to be false.

4 March 2019

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me ...

I'm not sure this is true, as I will make clear ...

Someone drew my attention to a sedevacantist/invalidist blog attacking me. It addresses me as "Vicar Hunwicke".

That I take as a compliment. 'Vicar' in Anglican parlance refers to a parish priest who has canonical freehold. I never attained that lofty status. It was always far, far above me. I was never trusted with such glory. So I am absolutely dead choughed to be addressed as Vicar by sede-invalidists. Go further ... call me Monsignore ... Eminence ... Beatitude ... Holiness ... you'll have me eating out of your hand. Like our dear Holy Father, I do so love it when people grovel.

But what really got under my skin was ... this blogger chappie went on to refer to me as a Novus ordo high church apologist!!

Novus Ordo !!! Moi!!! Apologist !!! !!! You can sense how apoplectic this has made me. I will pause for a moment while I take some more of the medicine.

There. Better now, although I think the grandchildren may have been at the gin.

What reminded me of this episode was reading in my Office for Sunday that homily of S Gregory I (commonly regarded, among the more moderate sedes, as a Probably Valid Pope) in which he deploys the word mysterion without apparently being aware that this word refers "univocally" to the episcopate.

The sede blogger chappie claimed the meaning is univocal..

I expect these sede types, on the sly, mumble the Liturgia Horrorum, or whatever it's called, so he probably won't have read S Gregory at Mattins. Someone should buy him a Kennedy's Latin Primer.

3 March 2019


What a bore clergy find the 'Hymn to Love' in I Corinthians 13 (the EF/BCP Epistle in Sunday's Mass), as yet another engaged couple want Uncle Bob to read it at their wedding. Read, however, in the context of the blistering attack S Paul is making on the failings of the Corinthian Christians, its cutting irony, verging on sarcasm, is rather fun. Whenever S Paul says "Love is not X", he is mightily suggesting that the Corinthians are X. But it isn't irony Kevin and Sharon think they're getting ... I blame the late Thos Cranmer for the start of this vulgarisation. He abolished the fitting pre-Lent Collect for Quinquagesima and replaced it by a composition of his own, highlighting Charity. Since then, it has all been downhill.

If you look carefully at Quinquagesima's BCP/EF Epistle and Gospel (Luke 18:31-43), you may notice that the link between them is the idea of being made able to See. Then, if you turn to the Homily by S Gregory which provides an extract for the third nocturn in the Old Breviary, you will discover that this is exactly what the saint leads us to expect. (Migne, 76, columns 1081 and following; incidentally, as on the preceding two Sundays, the manuscripts tell us that this was preached to the people in the Stational Church - S Peter in Vaticano - on the Sunday we are examining. I will endeavour to amuse you by translating some of S Gregory's little Latin 'fillers' by means of our popular modern 'fillers'.)

"Now look (Ecce enim): who the Blind Man was according to History, we just don't know. But, y'know (tamen) what he signifies through a mystery, we do know. Y'see, (quippe) the Human Race is Blind, and it was chucked out in its First Parent from the joys of Paradise and it is ignorant of the brightness of heavenly light and it suffers the darkness of its own damnation. But, y'know (tamen) it's given a great dose of light through the presence of its Redeemer ...". S Gregory goes on to argue that, as the Blind Man asked for mercy, we have to keep doing that because memories of our sins keep returning and their phantasmata are hardly (vix) overcome by the laments of penitence. He insists that we recall our sins and consider what a terrible Judge is coming to punish; and, the Sunday before the start of Lent, he advises us that our life should have a temporary patch of being made nasty and bitter through penitence so that it doesn't have to endure everlasting bitterness in punishment (vita nostra ad tempus amarescat in paenitentia ne aeternam amaritudinem sentiat in vindicta). "Per fletus, y'see, ad aeterna gaudia ducimur", he adds.

On Quinquagesima Sunday we reach, as we read Genesis in the Breviary, what S Gregory called a couple of Sundays ago the 'Sixth Hour'; the period from Abra(ha)m onwards. Abram has arrived in Egypt; it turns out that his wife Sarai (the Old Testament has a liking for such stories about the  weakness Gentile males have for Hebrew beauties) is exactly the sort of product that the Egyptian consumer warmly appreciates - and Pharaoh discovers that he can just about find room for her in his house. So, of course, YHWH flagellavit Pharaoh plagis maximis together with - it goes without saying - his entire household. As the Old Testament, and the natural disasters of our own age, endlessly remind us, suffering is to a large degree a corporate matter.

Hence, in this Age of the Individual, so much bewilderment about the way the world works; leading to the sort of questions about God's Way with Man by which so many fewer people in previous eras seem to have been worried (but see Luke 13 and read Jonah). But I hope by now I have made clear my own approach to those tedious questions about Theodicy which so worry Modern Man and so tax the ingenuity of those Modern Clergy who feel obliged to answer Modern Man's questions without querying Modern Man's assumptions.

2 March 2019

Before Lent, muscadines all round?

Regular readers will have seen this seasonal offering, and its thread, before!

 A kind and doctus friend has sent me this reference. http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/motm/muscone/musconeh./htm 

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

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

I suppose all this was quite an exotic spread in those days. Now we could buy most of it in Waitrose. Except for the muscadines, which are sweetmeats made from a pod near the fundament of an asiatic deer (its secretion may have been a sexual attractant) and regarded as an aphrodisiac since the days when the trade routes brought both it, and its Sanskrit name, from India to Byzantium. It is now vastly expensive since the poor things have been hunted almost into bio-undiversity ... ah, the compulsions of homo insipiens, the so-called animal rationale ... fortasse potius animal dicendum venereale. But I gather that chemists now produce a synthetic version of musk. 

I will here reveal that I have published this post in previous years at the corresponding time of year; and the only interest it has secured has been among North Americans who, in their very welcome billions, regularly offer me Comments in which they patiently explain to this ignorant European that, in all their splendid dictionaries, muscadine refers only to grapes. The old and full Oxford English Dictionary gives entries of three separate words with this same spelling: grapes; animal musk; and, thirdly, "a Parisian woman of fashion". This year, just for variety, I am going to enable none of those grape-preoccupied comments, but I would admit relevant academic comments on Parisian Women of Fashion (whom I had always thought were known technically as les grandes horizontales or obalisques [h/t to Evelyn Waugh The Loved One]).

The English sweetmeats made from musk were called 'kissing cakes' or ... er ...  'rising cakes'. Odd names, don't you think? Now ... no offence ... many of my best friends are chemists ... but I bet muscadines made with synthetic musk would have much less potent characteristics than the Real Thing. As for Fashionable Parisiennes, I have no experience whatsoever of their potential characteristics or physiological effects, synthetic or otherwise. My wife comes from Leicestershire.

A series of controlled experiments, perhaps, in somebody's laboratory?

1 March 2019

S David

A great Saint, a great Feast, a great Nation. Last autumn, Pam and I went to visit his Shrine in his great Cathedral. It contains bones which a previous Dean convinced himself were those of S David ... but probably aren't. William Barlow, a nasty 'reforming' bishop (one of Matthew Parker's consecrators), confiscated the relics after the Dean disobeyed his order that they should not be exposed for veneration on his Festival. (S Caradog, however, is presumed still to be where the Reformers left him.)

But S David's day for me will always recall one particular March 1 at Lancing, when my colleague and brother priest lost - happily, only temporarily - the power of utterance.

We had at Lancing a daily Mass, attended on a voluntary basis by anything between half-a-dozen and thirty masters and students. We also had a Welsh Methodist Senior Master whose innate enthusiasm for everything that went on in Chapel was ... limited. One S David's Day, wearing his daffodil, he was loudly complaining in Common Room about the fact that, in his words, S David's Day had been totally ignored as far as Chapel was concerned. Of course, that 'fact' was no fact; the day hadn't been ignored at all; two chaplains and more than twenty laity had gathered for Mass, had honoured S David, and had prayed for the Principality.

My normally gentle and mild-mannered colleague was rendered wordless with fury. As he said to me when he had recovered the faculty of speech, "Whatever does the bl**dy man think we were doing in Chapel this morning before breakfast ... when he wasn't there?"

But I doubt if it had ever occured to 'Taffy', as the students used to call the poor old thing, that S David was not an anti-sacramental Welsh Methodist minister but a Catholic priest who offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Likewise, the current 'bishop' and 'dean' at S David's probably assume that S David was as female as they both are.

Happily, the proud flag ot the Redeemer's Five Wounds flies often over Newman Hall, the Catholic Chaplaincy at Cardiff University. Clergy and students there are a fantastic crowd!

28 February 2019

The Chief Executive Officer

Suppose a once flourishing international commercial enterprise had fallen onto extraordinarily hard times. Suppose stores world-wide were closing; 'Industrial relations' were at an all-time low, with various forms of industrial inaction occurring daily. Suppose the creditors were moving in for the kill.

You might think that some people would favour an attempt to discern what had gone so badly wrong. But suppose that Board Meetings enabled the CEO endlessly to deploy his rhetorical gifts. And that every time the flow of his discourse paused for a moment, the Board Members took this as an opportunity simply to say"Quite so, Holy Father" and "I do so agree, Holy Father" and "You are always so right, Holy Father".

The Church Militant is not an international commercial enterprise.

But it is more, not less, than that.

27 February 2019

Verification principles

Many good people are filled with visceral disgust at the very thought of homosexual genital activity. I'm afraid that I'm not among these many good people. As an old style rationalist, I instinctively feel that it ought to be possible to analyse courses of conduct negatively without getting emotionally excited about either the actions or the actors. If this notion is damnable, then you will have to condemn me.

But I'll tell you what ... I admit it ... does irritate me about some homosexually inclined people. It is the conviction of so many of them that everybody else shares the same objective ordinatio as they do.

So, as you will guess, I didn't like that book that everybody was talking about last week. The author, smart chappy, adopted the hermeneutic that those who are homosexuals are homosexuals; and that those who write or speak dissuasively about homosexuality or homosexuals ... are themselves homosexuals, since they manifest this state by their obvious repression. Unsurprisingly, this shoehorns him into the firm conviction that nearly everybody is homosexual. Indeed, given his premises, they must be. Gay is the new Straight! If not even Straighter!!

Those of you who read Greats in the early 1960s will recall sitting on hard benches and listening to Professor Freddie Ayer explaining his 'Verification Principle' ... that a proposition must be falsifiable in order to have meaning. Do you remember the jolly little ripple of laughter that went round the room when he remarked that this "of course" put all religious talk beyond the pale? I rather feel that the book with which I am concerned is based on assumptions which appear in practice to be unverifiable qua unfalsifiable. Ergo ...

But there is a funny side to all this, as there usually is with regard to doctrinal and moral errors. Employing a Lockean argumentum ad hominem, we would have a corollary: the people who went to Rome last week and spoke so categorically against the sexual abuse of the young would themselves have to be mostly either paedophiles or repressed paedophiles.

Him ... and him ... and him ... and her ... 

And the more any of them deny it, the more ineluctable wpould the inference be!!!

26 February 2019

Father Rosica and Me and our Interns

I call it plain heartless of Lifesitenews to criticize my friend Fr Thomas Rosica for having spent the best years of his life devotedly plagiarizing. However, he has now explained the situation: his Interns were all to blame. He has made this so clear that he can, I think, expect a full apology from Lifesitenews. If they fail to do this, well, the Law provides ways of mitigating against calumny.

My sympathy arises from my own need to confess that I am every bit as guilty as Tom is. And my explanation is exactly the same as his: it's all these bl**dy Interns who are to blame. Have you never wondered why so much of what I write is inaccurate, poorly expressed, and offensive? There is the reason: Interns. Everything you have ever read here, that you didn't like, was not actually from my pen: the Interns did it. (I only wrote the things you approved of.)

You can have no idea how much these wretched Interns disrupt domestic life. Is it fair to expect my Cook to serve up Michelin *** meals day by day when there are thirteen Interns unhygenically plagiarizing on the kitchen floor 25/7? You know what a mess plagiarism leaves. Who do think has to clear it all up?

How can the Head Gardner get on with his mulching (whatever that means) when there are always at least seven and possibly as many as eleven Interns endlessly rutting around the rasberry bushes?

Please do have a thought for Tom and I at this difficult time.

Drafted by Millicent, Mildred, and Montagu.
Additional material by Giorgio, Gironimo, and Geraldine.
Despatched by Samantha and Sven.

25 February 2019


"Certainly the Pope is not infallible beyond the Deposit of Faith originally given."

24 February 2019


I wonder if anyone knows exactly when the Byzantine preLent season was invented? It occurs to me that, if it was in place when S Gregory was apocrisiarius in Constantinople, he could have picked up the idea for the Gesimas there. You will remember that on his return to Rome and his election as Pope, he was much criticised because he made changes in the Liturgy which the admirably conservative plebs sancta Dei of Rome deemed to be Byzantinisations. But let us look at the Propers for  Sexagesima.

That great liturgist G G Willis (funny, isn't it, how so much of the best work on the early history of the Roman Rite was done by Anglican Catholics) pointed out that the propers for Sexagesima in the Missal of S Pius V and the Book of Common Prayer manifestly relate to S Paul; his own account of his tribulations in the Epistle being matched by the Parable of the Sower, so appropriate to the work of the Apostle to the Gentiles. (You will remember that the Pope's Mass, on these three Sundays before Lent, took place in turn at the three basilicas of Rome's great saints, Ss Lawrence, Paul, and Peter, which stand like protecting spiritual fortresses outside the City walls; and today, Sexagesima, Pope and people were at S Paul's.)

I don't like to tangle with as great a scholar as Willis; but with diffidence and respect I point out that this is not quite what the Begetter of the Gesimas, S Gregory the Great, himself actually says. Again I recommend those with access and a little Latin (Gregory's Latin is very easy) to read not only the extract which the Old Breviary gave in the third nocturn for Sexagesima, but the whole text of Homilia 15 in Evangelia (Migne, 76, columns 1131 and following). The emphasis here again is on the need for a sense of sinfulness as Christians approach the penitential season of Lent. The Holy Father picks up the Lord's explanation of the parable (the second section of the pericope, which the crass 'scholarship' of the twentieth century confidently and ludicrously assured us could not possibly be from the Lord's lips): i.e. the work of the Devil in frustrating the Gospel Word sown in our hearts, and the dangers of riches. It is this that becomes the basis of his attempt to stir up within his congregation an awareness of its sinful need to do penance.

[My incurable propensity to ramble inclines me to recommend the whole of the homily, not just the extract in the Breviary, if only for the sake of the (very 'modern') way S Gregory engages the congregation with his vivid account of the recent holy death of a devout cripple whom we all knew, who used to beg outside the Church of S Clement. Again, this is a classical, hands-on, mission sermon by a preacher who fears that his flock has lost its sense of sin. Plus ca change ...]

And, in the Divine Office, S Gregory's message is reinforced by the story of Noah. I hope you recall, from my post on Septuagesima, how S Gregory interpreted the parable of the husbandman hiring labourers for his vineyard. 'Morning' meant the period of Sacred History from Adam onwards [Septuagesima]; the 'Third Hour' was the period from Noah. So in the first nocturn of Mattins for Sexagesima Sunday we get the account of God's decision to punish human iniquity by a flood. Undoubtedly, that Flood evoked, for S Gregory's generation, vivid memories of the Great Tiber Flood of 589, followed by the epidemic which ended the life of many Romans, including Pope Pelagius II, S Gregory's own immediate predecessor.

But ... had all those who suffered in the Flood (either Noah's or Rome's) truly deserved, each individually, such punishment? I wonder if seminary courses dealing with 'Theodicy' take their starting points from Biblical and Patristic material. S Gregory, with the sort of realism from which our generation can shy away, meets head on the fact that a lot of people do their best to do good, but find themselves clobbered by tribulations. They flee earthly desires, and all they seem to get in return is worse wallops (flagella duriora). The solution is humiliter purgationis flagella tolerare: humbly to submit to the blows which cleanse us.

When did you last hear a sermon on Submission to God's Will ... whatever it be?

23 February 2019


Meejah accounts of what Cardinal Cupich and Mgr Scicluna said at a News Conference suggest that the meeting currently happening in Rome will fail to address some crucial elements in the present crisis. For example, the abuse of seminarians; and homosexuality.

It also appears that Rome is putting a Rigid stopper on any approach to the big question:


Bishop Steven Lopes, Ordinary of the American Ordinariate, in the Anglican patrimonial tradition of plain Parrhesia, has said:

"I'll tell you what response I think is not good enough. It's the parade of cardinals and bishops who have rushed to the the television cameras clutching their pectoral crosses, saying, 'I knew nothing'. I don't believe it, and I am one of them. I don't believe it. I was a seminarian when Theodore McCarrick was named archbishop of Newark. And he would visit the seminary often, and we all knew."

Cardinal DiNardo, President of the American Episcopal Conference, wanted to do a proper investigation; he was humiliated in the eyes of the entire world, his hand was smacked and he was peremptorily told to Leave It All To Daddy. It is hard not to pass a negative judgement on PF's Rigid determination to keep his own Rigid control over the current spin operation.

Wuerl, disgracefully, is still in charge of his diocese. Farrell, unsurprisingly, is still climbing the ladder, reaping the undeserved rewards of sycophancy. Although as intellectually negligible as most of this crew, smug little Cupich appears increasingly to be His Master's Voice. Under this regime, no member of the cronydom has ever really suffered, until the facts became too notorious to be contained.

From Daneels, who was at PF's side on that dreadful night of his election, and for long afterwards, there has been a pattern. A sick pattern of crony influence and the protection and promotion of cronies.

Some years ago, an English Catholic bishop had to resign, apparently admitting serial unchastity with more than one woman (paedophilia is not the only sin). A secret enquiry took place; it was indeed proper that some persons involved should not be named. But


As then an Anglican priest in the same area, I knew. Accounts had even appeared in print around the time of Kieran Conry's Consecration.

I noticed from the Bolletino that Murphy O'Connor (who had been the main organiser of the disastrous election of 2013), just a few days before the Conry scandal finally broke after a distressed husband went to the tabloids, had a private audience of PF.

So that's all right, then. Fixed. Sorted. Chaps have a quiet word with chaps.

Eventually, whether in this pontificate or in the 'clean break' future pontificate for which so many pray, both in America and here and in Rome, questions will have to be answered. Archives will have to be opened. The later this happens, the worse it will look for those whose public narratives have been less than frank. 

And for those who have organised the spin.

And for any shred that is left of PF's reputation. 

I've now finished, for a while, on Cronyism. Cardinal Mueller, in any case, says what needs to be said far better than I can.

22 February 2019

Fascist Flags

I fear I misinformed readers about the 'rainbow' flags now flying over every college in this University. I said it was just for a week; 'Pink Week'.

Oh Dearie Me, No. They're up for a month. 'Gay History Month'.

Oddish. Normally, every college has ts own, distinctive, flag.

But, in the interests of diversity, they are all now flying the same flag!

God bless your Nanny and your Butler and all your faithful Cronies

Of course you know the Fables of Aesop. Perhaps Nanny used to read them to you at bed-time. Probably, as an adolescent, you dined off them on those rare and grand evenings when the Butler had murmured to your Grandfather "And I'll put out the Meissen Service tonight, my lord?" So you will not need me to remind you of the man who bought an ass [in English English, this means donkey] 'on approval' and tested its character by putting it into a stable already full of asses [ditto]. It revealed its flawed personality by immediately settling down beside the laziest and greediest.

The Moral?


We don't really need Aesop any more, now that we have PF. With resolute consistency, he proves Aesop's maxim up to the hilt. And he does it with crony after crony. Just one example. Courtesy of Mr Henry Sire, Knight of Malta, author of the ground-breaking The Dictator Pope, hear now the Fable of Bishop Juan Carlos Maccarone:

"Bergoglio made [Maccarone] an auxiliary bishop at the beginning of his tenure, in 1995. In 2005, Maccarone was dismissed from the episcopate by Pope Benedict after he was filmed having sexual relations with a homosexual prostitute in the sacristy of the cathedral. Yet Cardinal Bergoglio publicly defended him, asserting that the filming was a set-up to bring the bishop down because of his left-wing political commitment. Maccarone, it is worth noting, declared that everyone was aware of his homosexual activities and he had been appointed bishop regardless of them."

A biographer might assemble into a stable pattern various recurrent features of PF's relationships: his appalling selection of cronies; his tendency to keep them in his service even when their failings have attracted public notioriety; and, when this is not possible, how he either gives them a different sinecure or rewards them with hyperbolic marks of his favour and esteem.

The other side of the Bergoglian coin is that when the favour of cronydom is offered to someone, as it was to Cardinal O'Malley, and he fails to measure up, the world suddenly becomes a much colder place.

Thank goodness Cronyism and Corruption are not identical.

21 February 2019

Interreligious Ecumenism admirably in action

Christian and Islamic parents at a Birmingham school have been demonstrating together against the school policy of indoctrinating pupils to accept and internalise the dogma of gender indeterminacy.

Amanda Spielman, who runs a government agency called Ofsted, has explained that this is required by "Democracy".

It would be good (but over-optimistic?) to read that these admirable and conscientious parents had been supported by their respective clergy.

Pervert priests ... busy-body women with an ideological commitment to brainwashing even the very young ... so many people just can't keep their hands off the bodies and minds of our helpless children, can they?

Long live Uncle Ted McCarrick!!!

(1) In 1455, James Douglas ninth Earl of Douglas, Scotland's greatest feudal magnate, fled to England after his defeat by King James II of Scots. The English court made use of him to foment trouble in Scotland. He had been followed to England by at least one clerical adherent, Patrick Holyborton, whom he was able to advance to benefices in the Diocese of Exeter and to an archdeaconry.

Holyborton belonged to a family of minor nobility in South East Scotland. The arms of this family were or on a bend azure three mascles of the first.

But in his own arms, Holyborton boasted of his connection with the great Earl and his family. He inserted three fleurs de lys each side of the bend; and included a chief with three stars on it. The chief and the stars are from the Arms of Douglas; the fleurs de lys allude, I think, to the Dukedom of Touraine held by the fourth Earl.

This is but one example of how alliances of family or of very close friendship were demonstrated heraldically.

I hope you're still reading. Unglaze your eyes, refocus them, and continue. 

(2) On the internet I read an account, apparently by Cardinal Farrell, interpreting his own Coat of Arms. Here are some illuminating extracts:

"The lion rampant honours Theodore Cardinal MacCarrick, Archbishop emeritus of Washington ... gold and red are derived from the Arms of Cardinal McCarrick, whom Bishop Farrell assisted as Auxiliary Bishop of Washington ... a blue field has been substituted ... to honour Our Lady of Lourdes, upon whose feast day Bishop Farrell received ordination to the episcopate at the hands of the Cardinal Archbishop of ... " ... er ... I'll leave the final word for readers to fill in for themselves. This is nothing if not a modern interactive blog. It's an American nameplace beginning with W. With an N at the end.

(3) And ... whoopee!! ... this selfsame Cardinal Farrell has just been appointed Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church (on almost the same day as Uncle Ted's own promotion to the lay state was gazetted). That means that during the next Interregnum, Farrell (if he lives long enough) will be in charge of the day-to-day administration of the Roman Church, and of the preparations for the next Conclave.  

So his Arms, with Uncle Ted written large all over them, will be on prominent display everywhere! And everywhere else, too!!

You just can't keep a really good man down, can you?!!!

More about cronyism in Bergoglian Rome tomorrow.

20 February 2019

A Philological question

This is in preparation for the post I have drafted for Thursday.

The words Crony and its derivatives.

I presume they are in use in American English just as much as in our own cispontine dialects.

Do other European languages have the same concept; and, if so, how do they express it?


If you want some good old-fashioned 'Eye Candy' this is the book for you. Beginning with a happy photograph of Benedict XVI, in whose honour the work is published, A history of St Agatha's Church Portsmouth gives you page after sumptuous page of pictures.

S Agatha's was one of the great late Victorian Anglo-Catholic churches, marking the begining of the era when Anglo-Catholics stopped saying "We are the heirs of 1548" and began to see themselves as Mediterranean Catholics who ought to be in communion with the Holy See. So Romanesque S Agatha's is the grand San Marco of Portsmouth! Fr Dolling at first thought of building a simple church; but then he realised that a dirty slum was the ideal place to build something spectacular. Therein lies the genius of the Anglo-Catholic Mission to the Periphery, the English urban slums. Bergoglioids, take note!

Hitler destroyed the parish; the Church was nearly destroyed by the town council soon after. As 'Bauhaus' Pevsner explained, it wasn't either old enough, or new enough, to merit preservation. As one councillor observed, it represented the Portsmouth of the Past, whereas the commercial development which was designed to swallow up its site represented the Portsmouth of the Future (that development has now of course been itself demolished ... you knew I was going to say that, didn't you?).

This book takes you through the building and decoration in the 1890s; the years of the Blitz; the restoration of the church under Fr Maunder; and today's Ordinariate High Mass therein.

You see, the congregation was able to bring its Church into the Ordinariate! So it now represents the optimistic Spirit of late Victorian Anglo-Catholicism and the triumphalist Anglo-Catholicism of the 1930s together with the exuberant Traditionalist Catholicism of today's Ordinariates! 

This last is exemplified in the new painting over the Altar of the Shrine of S Agatha: S Agatha securing the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus from our Lady to give it to Pope Benedict, with the former Anglican incumbents in the foot of the picture, rejoicing in this the final fulfilment and justification of their heroic work and ministry.

So much prayer; so much beauty!

And for so little money!! £4+£2 for package and posting = £6 in all, from

Father John Maunder
9 East Street
PO16 0BW

19 February 2019

Father Ernesto Cardenal

The angels weep and the demons rejoice when the priesthood of one priest is lost.

I thank God that PF has restored priestly faculties to Fr Ernesto Cardenal.

Antinous ... why did he have to be killed?

There is a minute ... tiny ... but interesting exhibition in Ashmole about Antinous, ending in a few days' time, at the end of this very week. And it is accompanied by a stylish and intelligent little book by Professor 'Bert' Smith (Antinous boy made god ).

[Those who know zilch about Antinous should either google him now or not bother any further with this blogpost.]

Briefly, Dr Smith's curatorial thesis is that, apart from founding Antinoopolis and providing an 'offical' image of Antinous, Hadrian did little to promote Antinous' cult. It spread in the same sort of way, and for the same sorts of reasons, as the cults of other neoi theoi (or heroes) in the early centuries AD. As such, it was in competition with other cults, such as Christianity. Unlike Christianity (but like the cult of, for example, Isis) it was deliberately syncretistic. Antinous could be identified with Dionysus or Silvanus, or with Osiris, the Egyptian and Ptolemaic god of Resurrection (vide infra). (At a time when the Catholic world has been shaken by apparently syncretistic errors from the pen of the Roman Pontiff himself, it is perhaps useful to remind ourselves how the Christians of the first four centuries defined themselves very sharply over against their syncretistic environment.)

I think I buy the exhibition's thesis. But I have my own theory about the mysterious death of Antinous, drowned in the River Nile.

I believe Hadrian had him killed.

Why? Because he had reached just the age when, in the Emperor's eyes, his ephebic beauty was finished. Hadrian, I suggest, wished to 'preserve' him permanently as he had been. It was a matter of ensuring that He shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old; age shall not weary him nor the years condemn ...

Most of the exhibits in this little exhibition show Antinous looking demurely down: an indication of sexual modesty. In fashionable upper-class Hellenistic paederastic culture, bold promiscuous boys were rather disapproved of. But Antinous had now reached the age at which he would naturally ... er ... graduate from being an eromenos to being an erastes. Hadrian, I believe, thought it much more artistic, decorous, and culturally tactful to render him immortal and immutable by drowning him, than to have a grown-up Antinous busily bedding all the lads and/or lasses at court.

Have I any evidence? Well, I do think I just may have. Antinous was drowned in the Nile on 24 October 130 ... the same day of the year on which Osiris, according to his cult followers, was ... drowned in the Nile!

Roughly a 1 in 365 chance of that being coincidental ...

As his villa at Tivoli makes clear, Hadrian was, through and through, an aesthete. And a thinking aesthete. But was he a sentimentally engaged paiderastes?


Only this week, news comes through of a spectacular 'new' Pompeian painting of Narcissus (to be added to the more than 50 Fourth Style paintings of this subject already known from the same town). This particular myth appears to have been homoerotically framed in pre-Ovidian poetry (vide Conon apud Photium), but was mostly heterosexualised (through the addition of Echo) by Ovid. I sometimes wonder whether paiderasteia really came naturally to most Romans, although they did their conscientious best in their imitatio of Greek originals and models to get themselves into the mood for it. Conon's motif of the spurned lover Ameinas, who killed himself outside the door of his beloved Narcissus, was utilised in another place (XIV 698sqq., Iphis and Anaxarete) by Ovid, but (again) heterosexualised; and lightened with a characteristically Ovidian dash of sick and aloof slapstick.


I suspect that, even for Hadrian, Epheberasteia may have been more in the mind and in the library and in the pinakotheke than in the groin. But who am I to judge?