18 September 2019

The Anglican Patrimony

What is that Anglican Patrimony which we are supposed to have brought into the Ordinariates? I feel that it must be more than just a few little liturgical goodies, favourable though I am to the BCP structure of the Divine Office and to the Anglican Use Eucharistic Rite, with its BCP and English Missal components. And to the translations made by John Mason Neale of Patristic hymnody.

Some five years ago, when I was putting together my annual paper for the Gardone Riviera Conference, I resolved to talk about 'Modern Biblical Scholarship', that tired old construct of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I decided to formulate my critique exclusively through the insights of writers who were Anglicans or who, if they became Catholics, had been Anglicans when they wrote. I gathered together R A Knox, C S Lewis, Dorothy L Sayers, E L Mascall. (I think I also mentioned Austin Farrer and Abbot Butler; and that towering champion of Catholic Truth E B Pusey and some of his contemporaries.) I found in these writers a coherent critique, although I discern no links of indebtedness between them. They wrote, not as members of the cosy self-referencing and self-affirming club of European or North American Protestant "Biblical Scholars", but as people trained in literary criticism (in Mascall's case, also in Mathematics and Logic!) who brought their own rather different skills to the task of exposing the non-existence of the Emperor's Clothes, aka "the assured results of modern scholarship". "That", I triumphantly concluded my talk, "is the contribution which the Ordinariate is called by God to make".

By a happy coincidence (although S John Paul pointed out that with God there are no coincidences) these insights are exactly what the Church Militant needs at this particular moment in its sad passion.

This similar methodology could be extracted from Dix, Jalland and Mascall for expounding the Petrine Ministry; from Dix, Ratcliff, Willis, Moreton for critiquing "Modern Liturgical Scholarship". I have written before about the wise sentiments of Bishop Gore in his cruel, incisive paper on the question of Contraception. In so many cases, the Anglican input would have the result of questioning assumptions which some more recent "Catholic" "Scholarship" has gullibly borrowed from necrophiliac Protestant Modernism. Such an 'Anglican' input would make a valuable contribution to vindicating a Hermeneutic of Continuity; to insisting that the documents of Vatican II must be understood, and understood only, in reference to and in subjection to the teaching of the Church's Magisterium over the two preceding millennia. Its value would rest partly on the sheer intellectual distinction of such writers as I have mentioned, but also on the fact that they wrote at times when a Catholic, advancing the same arguments they were advancing, would have had to listen to the accusation "Ah, but you have to say that because you're a Roman Catholic".

I think the most succinct summary I know of what the Anglican Patrimony must mean is in a phrase which Cardinal Manning used ... I'm afraid ... in condemnation of Blessed John Henry Newman."I see much danger of an English Catholicism of which Newman is the highest type. It is the old Anglican, patristic, literary, Oxford tone transplanted into the Church"*. Exactly. That is precisely what we are, and what we have brought into the Church packed into our luggage. I pray that we may be able to make our own powerful contribution to the essential reconstruction of a Catholic Church which has been so weakened, and much of its life so corrupted, by the heterodoxies and heteropraxies of the last half-century.
*Gary Bennett, in his 1987 Crockford's Preface, saw our distinctiveness in "the conservative theological tradition of the English universities with their strong links with the Church of England. Even into the mid-twentieth century it was received opinion among continental Protestant theologians that Anglican academics lived in a world of their own and set up a firm resistance to the kind of biblical criticism which was commonplace in European theological faculties. English scholars tended to do their theology through a study of church history and it was hard to deny that most of their work was done within the usual Anglican assumptions about the authority of Scripture and the normative character of patristic usage". Indeed. Knox and Lewis made the same sort of dismissive remarks about 'German Scholarship' that Pusey had made half a century or more before.

17 September 2019

A splendid day ...

... with Cardinal Burke. He eloquently presented the document Declaration of the Truths Relating to Some of the Most Common Errors in the Life of the Church of Our Time, signed by himself and four other bishops.

As those who have already studied it will know, this is a most important document. It begins with a ringing affirmation of the phrase eodem sensu eademque sententia. These words not only occur in the Decree Dei Filius of Vatican I; they have appeared also in the more recent Magisterium, and go back, through S Vincent of Lerins, to S Paul.

I wrote a number of pieces tracing its history in October 2017.

Mendacious spirits may use the imminent canonisation as an opportunity to claim S John Henry Newman as an advocate of the idea that "Development" can convert lead into gold; error into truth; X into nonX. We need this ringing endorsement of the principle that any presentation of the Faith must rest upon what has in the past been taught with authority, and must have

the same sense and the same meaning.

Captions and Metamorphosis

In the Ashmolean Museum, before its expensive and unneccesary makeover a decade ago, there was a bit of an old Greek figurative pot, captioned "Man courting boy". The scene in fact was that for which the late Professor Sir Kenneth Dover coined his sweetly twee expression "Intercrural intercourse".

After the makeover, this became "Paedophile and victim". Many of us complained about such culturally anachronistic language; either we got a brush-off or not even the courtesy of a reply. Then Mr Orator Jenkyns, at the 2010 Encaenia, had the entire (attendant) University rolling in the aisles (aisles in the Sheldonian Theatre? Let that pass ...) after he made a joke about it in his Creweian Oration. I only wish I'd jotted the joke down at the time. If anybody ... ... Might that Creweian have been published in the Gazette?

Later in 2010, I cast another eye at the now celebrated pot. The caption had again changed: it now read "Man and Boy making love. The nature of Greek homosexuality is the subject of current academic debate".

Clearly, a 'holding' operation!

Recently, I had a new look at the captioning concerned. It now reads: "Sexual acts between an older man and a boy were considered part of a youth's formative education".

Hrrrmff. I'm not sure how universal this was. My instinct is that it may have been an affectation among the upper (symposiast) classes.

I'm not sure that such things were really much more than an affectation, even in the case of Oscar!

16 September 2019

A Silver Occasion?

Tomorrow, Tuesday, I shall be off ... Deo volente et trenis* permittentibus ... to hear the Mighty and most Eminent Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke addressing the English Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, at the Brompton Oratory.

A man who truly merits the ancient Christian technical term of Confessor. Entirely and confidentially just between ourselves, I think of him as Leo XIV.

It occurs to me that 6 January 2020 will be twenty five years since his Eminence was consecrated Bishop, and embarked upon an Apostolic career which has been so timely, so necessary, and so fruitful in the life of the Catholic Church. (Incidentally: Cardinal Burke's episcopal 'pedigree' includes Prospero Lambertini, aka Benedict XIV; and Henry Cardinal Stuart, quondam Duke of York, aka Henry IX, King de jure of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland.)

Comes the time, comes the man! Behold the man!

Eis polla ete, Despota! Ad multos annos, plurimosque annos!


*Well, 'hamaxostichis', according to the Lexicon Recentis Latinitatis. But I prefer the more linguistically and philologically relaxed process of adopting the modern Italian term. Recondite coinages from the Greek seem to me to smell rather of the Bibliotheca. And in daily use, I rather suspect that a cumbersome five-syllable word would, in any real language, get abbreviated or adapted very quickly. You travel on a hamaxostichus if you like; I'll catch the treno. If the omnibus (the pasi?)  gets me to the station on time ...

15 September 2019

We need a Novena ...

Today, September 15, Feast of our Blessed Lady of Sorrows, is a good day to start a Novena leading up to the Feast of our Lady of Walsingham, on Tuesday 24 September.

Nine days of prayer, that the intercession of the Mother of God might bring succour to the Ecclesia adflicta of her divine Son. Has the Church, in your lifetime, ever needed this more than it does today?

And I would like to put in a word for the use, during this Novena, of the old Litany of our Lady of Loretto, rather than of something ... anything ... more 'up-to-date' which may be suggested.

I have two reasons for making this point.
(1) The theology of the Shrine at Walsingham is the same as that of Loretto: namely, that the House in which the Holy Family lived and worked is a potent image of the Incarnation! God truly became, and  is, Man.
(2) This Litany is one which was used since the earliest days of the Restoration of devotion to our Lady at Walsingham. It is contained in the first Pilgrims' Manual, that of 1928. By using it, we link ourselves with Fr Hope Patten, Fr Fynes Clinton, and all the heroes, lay and clerical, male and female, to whom we owe the modern form of this devotion within our Anglican Patrimony.

I am not willingly negative; indeed, I would not deny the propriety of a rich diversity of approaches to Marian devotion. I don't regard it as my job to criticise others and to disparage their own initiatives and to snarl at anybody who does things differently from the exact way I would do them myself. Nor would I sneer at all 'modern' devotions. But I do feel cautious about (ex.gr.) dropping "Tower of Ivory", and instead invoking "Woman of Faith"; instead of "Pray for us", saying "Keep us in mind".

I mention this not for the rather cheap motive of inviting you to groan at the inept 'modernity' of such things, but because what we are losing here is in fact something extremely important: the typological character of the old Litany. The titles of our Lady in that Litany include many of the  typological titles which Christian devotion, since at least the time of the Council of Ephesus, has discovered in the Old Testament as pointers to the Mother of the Incarnate Word.

Typology is discerning in the Old Testament the Figure of Christ and his Mother and the events of their lives, so that the Old Testament passage is the Type and the New Testament Figure or event is the Antitype. Typology is the central way in which the Great Tradition of both East and West has appropriated the Old Testament. It goes back to the New Testament texts themselves: Christ as the New Adam ... and see I Corinthians 10:1-11 ... and look at I Peter 3:20-21 ... etc.etc..  

Typology is part of the fundamental Grammar of the Faith; something even deeper than dogma.

Yesterday ... the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross ... the liturgical texts reminded us that the Lifting up of the Son of Man on the Cross is the Antitype of which the Lifting up of the serpent in the desert was the Type (Numbers 21:4-9; S John 3:13-17; S John 12:32).

I know that most laity have not been taught about Typology; this is because the Clergy weren't taught it either; and that is because there were so much more important things for them to be taught in seminary (the Synoptic Problem... the inauthenticity of most of S Paul's letters ...)*. But having the Lorettan Litany displaced by a modernist 'relevant' formula devoid of Typology brings home the radical impoverishment of current Catholic culture; the loss within it of both Tradition and of Holy Scripture.

The Catholic Church needs an Edward Bouverie Pusey, and a John Mason Neale, redivivi. Come to think of it, perhaps that is precisely what God has raised up the Ordinariates for.

*None of my strictures apply to the admirable Fr John Hemer, of Allen Hall, who understands perfectly about Typology!

14 September 2019

Pope Pardoctonus the First

I can see no reason to attack PF on the grounds that a chasuble he recently wore is decorated with faux leopard skin.

I always think the best of people; so my assumption is that the leopard-skin is gloriously authentic. Who cares if it cost (as it must in these days when big-game hunting is so expensive a hobby) a very great deal of money? He's worth it.

In classical art, Heracles is commonly shown wearing the skin of the Nemean Lion, which he gloriously slew. Apollo is sometimes termed sauroktonos, because he killed the Python. (In a Roman copy of a Praxitelean original in the gallery at Petworth, an effeminate Apollo is shown peering with languid interest at a fairly small lizard running up a tree. I take this to be a jolly piece of subversive Hellenistic humour. Given a choice between Pheidias and Praxiteles, I am for Praxiteles every day of the week.)

So I am very willing to believe that our Holy Father has indeed bloodily defeated a mighty leopard in heroic monomachy. Motu proprio, as we say! The first truly military Roman Pontiff since dear Julius II, Papa della Rovere! A second David! Henceforth, I shall think of PF as Pardoktonos. You see, in the minds of many, the name "Franciscus" has unworthy undertones as of a pallid and soppy zoophile. We need to change all that. So, in the Te igitur, from now onwards, " ... una cum famulo tuo papa nostro Pardoctono ..." Come on, Fathers, you know it makes sense.

On a different planet, PF might have been referred to as Hpap Hanakrapunt. In Victorian English verse, I suppose Pardoctonus would have been "Jorge the Leopard-slayer". The author of the romance of Tristan and Iseult could have given us a vivid verse-picture of the Sovereign Pontiff as he skilfully carved up the carcase. Perhaps someone more learned than I am could offer a pastiche of Beowulf.

All we need now is a Second Callimachus or a Second Ovid to give us an account in High Epic style of so signal a victory. Or perhaps another Catullus (I have in mind the Fall of the Minotaur in 64). But stay! ... why do I forget poor Maro? Arma papamque* cano, pardum qui perdidit ultro ...  

Adeste hexametri versus* quot estis omnes undique, quotquot estis omnes ...

Io triumphe!

* Let's have no pedantic quips about false quantities.

13 September 2019

He's right!

PF has recently made some interesting remarks.

He acknowledges that those who criticise him openly are preferable to those, even in the Curia, who complain about him covertly. It is an advance in understanding on his part that he knows how widespread are the criticisms of those who murmur them while keeping their heads beneath the parapet.

His remarks about the "Old Catholics" are historically a bit off the mark; that particular sect existed before Vatican I. But his observation that their schismatic mentality led to heterodoxy and heteropraxy ... "Now they even ordain women!" ...  is well made.

Leaving the Unity of the One Church so as to be uncontaminated outside it is no solution to anything. The only "Resistance" worth anything is the Resistance of those who are faithful to the Truth we have been given, while remaining in full communion with the Church of S Peter.

Incidentally, I find it encouraging that PF's tone-of-voice implies that he regards the 'ordination' of women to sacerdotal ministries to be beyond the pale.

But I would add that the first major departure from the disciplines of the Latin Church made by the "Old Catholics" after Vatican I was their abolition of mandatory celibacy.

That ... I think you will agree ... is worth thinking about.

12 September 2019

Alliteration and Assonance

Can truly it be that I recently described a Bishop in full communion with the See of Rome as a Consecrated Crackpot? I had toyed with Preposterous Prelate and Notable Nutcase, but Consecrated Crackpot seemed to say more, as well as being a neat Ciceronian trispondaicus. Sometimes one tires of all these plani. Don't you find that?

Perhaps readers might have their own suggested alternatives ... go on ...

As long as you cram in alliteration and assonance and steer clear of blasphemy, libel, and obscenity, and anything that I personally dislike, the Thread is yours. Don't bother too much about scansion.

Am I being childish? Very childish? Very very childish? I suppose so.

But when, recently, PF, with that graceful Argentine courtesy of his, described Cardinal Mueller as Childish, his Eminence responded most aptly by reminding PF what it was that the Incarnate Word Himself taught about being childlike. (It never fails to surprise me how little of Holy Scripture PF appears to have read. Poor chap. Some of it really is quite good.)

When we were in the C of E, we had a lovely magazine called New Directions. It was replete with satire and news about the risible goings-on of the Anglican Great and Good. We were sometimes told that it was not our theological views that caused offence, but our tone.

The Great and the Good simply cannot abide being laughed at. 

They can tolerate being hated, but being treated as ludicrous, as being a joke, is beyond their capabilities. This is probably because it is so difficult for them to respond to laughter with their favourite weapon, the Pompous Put-down. The Rt Revd Mgr R Knox, Protonotary Apostolic, of the Anglican Patrimony, explained all this better than I can in his Preface to his own collected Essays in Satire. He argued that the Satirist is the little boy who is the only one in the crowd to perceive that the Emperor is, in fact, stark naked.

If you are ever told by one of the Mighty that your tone is objectionable, at least the initial assumption must be that you are getting things right. Good On Yer, Cobber.

And if you are told, as Cardinal Mueller has been by PF, that you are childish, perhaps the most suitable answer is a Biblical one: Nai; emou gar estin he basileia ton ouranon.

11 September 2019


A magnificent event, last Saturday: the Deaconing of Brother Benedict Manning, Congregation of the Oratory. I have got to know him because we are members of the same select little seminar which reads Latin liturgical texts together. He is a thoroughly splendid young cleric and an ornament to the Sons of S Philip.

The Sacrament of Holy Order was conferred by Bishop Robert Byrne, himself an Oratorian and one of the two young priests who, on the Feast of our Lady's Nativity in 1990, took over the Parish Church of Oxford. And what immense graces have come (and still are coming) to the City and the University from that event.

As Bishop Robert stood at the Altar offering the Holy Sacrifice, I could not help recalling that, as Bishop of Hexham, he is a Successor of S Wilfrid, that doughty Apostle of Romanita. (It is quite an experience to tread the passages beneath Hexham Cathedral, framed with Roman masonry ... you could feel as if you were in the Catacombs.) His Lordship quoted, in his Homily, a prayer of Blessed John Henry Newman, C.O., written on the occasion of his Anglican Ordination to the Diaconate. This seemed to me a graceful tribute to Newman's own insistence, in his Biglietto speech, upon the essential continuity of his Anglican and his Catholic lives.

And the music was truly Oratorian! A great credit to the Prefect of Music, Fr Oliver Craddock, C.O..

If modern Rome seems to some people to be a trifle less Roman than it ought to be, perhaps they should remember that the spirit of that great Apostle of Rome, S Philip Neri, is vibrantly alive throughout the English-speaking world. Deo ... et Sancto Philippo ... gratias!

10 September 2019

glamour pusses

What an important saint he was, S Hugh Bishop of Lincoln (c1135-1200; within whose massive diocese medieval Oxford lay); who certainly consecrated the church of S Giles in this city in 1200. On the occasion of this visit to Oxford, so the traditional account has it, he instituted the Giler*, still the largest fair in England, which (see a previous post), occupies the whole of the broad thoroughfare called S Giles' Street, North of the North Gate.

S Hugh is best known among the narrators of 'romantic' tales because he noticed that the body of Henry II's paelex [the word used in the old rite Mattins readings for S Hugh's feast] Rosamund Clifford had been buried in the sanctuary of Godstow Priory and that her resting place had become something of a flower-covered popular shrine (this mob adulation post mortem of a royal glamour-puss is curiously redolent of the bizarre and sick cultus of Diana Spencer ... I pray and hope that neither the Duchess of Cambridge nor the Duchess of Sussex, pretty poppets, will die before multa post lustra they have sunk far into senility ...). Accordingly, he ordered that she should be removed and reburied outside in loco profano**.

Happy times ... when ecclesiastics were willing to mark their disapproval of the public adultery of kings and magnates. Nowadays, who cares any more if a 'royal' goes through a form of marriage with his/her paelex? An Archbishop of Canterbury might even grace such an event with his presence. And who can blame him, given the compliance of Dr Cranmer in every royal whimsy?

The 'romantic' can still visit the ruins of Godstow Priory, opposite the Trout, a favourite undergraduate pub in our days but now unhappily devoid of either 'character' or 'romance'.

*Giles = Giler; traditional Oxford slang. Cf. Proctor = Progger; Breakfast = Brekker; Queens = Quaggers; Jesus College = Jaggers; etc.. Soccer (for AsSOCiation Football) and Rugger survive nationally. Fr Hummerstone, with characteristic philological acuity, once reminded me of the all-important Wagger Pagger Bagger where, in the primitive days before episcopal and diocesan communications became paperless, we used to file away ... er ...

** I wonder if S Hugh wrote Latin Elegiacs? Some phrases survive of an inscription in that metre incised upon her tomb, which I will very loosely paraphrase in English: "Rosa munda is supposed to mean clean rose, but this specimen was distinctly filthy. She used to have a very nice smell, but now she just ... smells".

Dorothy Leigh Sayers was a learned lady ... I wonder if she had a reason for giving the name Rosamund (interpreted by Sayers as rosa mundi) to the sexually unwholesome murderee in Thrones, Dominations?

9 September 2019

New threat to Biodiversity

Sadly, an article is reported in our British medical journal The Lancet concerning the probable complete elimination of Malaria.

Laudato si  clearly teaches, with all the authority of its Magisterial author:
"It is not enough ... to think of different species merely as potential resources to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves. Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species ... The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right."

I am sure that our Holy Father will make an early protest against this proposed anthropogenic extinction of a God-created life-form; and, presumably, the relevant bureaucratic department of the CBCEW will already have its draft protests well in hand. The Conference will pretty certainly soon hold an emergency meeting to uphold the authority of Laudato si in these dark days.

And Cardinal Baldissieri will add this new assault upon Biodiversity to the agenda of his Synod. The appropriate paragraph of the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation (Malariae dignitas?) more or less writes itself.

Each of us has a grave duty to support our pastors in the face of this new ecological crisis.

8 September 2019

Bring back the Freaks and the fleas

An adapted reprint from yesteryear, with an old thread.
Oxford, perversely, pedantically keeps its own time, so that Cathedral services begin five minutes later than Greenwich Mean Time (or British Summer Time). Perverse; but distinctly more rational than celebrating the S Giles' Fair, the 'Giler', eight days later than S Giles' Day itself (which occurs on September 1).

Incidentally, the 2018-9 Oxford Diary claimed that the Fair started on September 2; the new 2019-20 diary puts it the week later. Bad, that.

Whenever the Giler happens, the broad thoroughfare which leads Northwards out of Oxford, will, at midnight tonight, metamorphose like Cinderella's pumpkin into a vast Fair (returning to pumpkinhood 48 hours later). In Dacre Balsdon's words, S Giles ceases to be a murderous highway of fast-moving traffic and becomes a playground instead. "It is a tightly packed confusion of booths and hurdy gurdies, fat women, fire-eaters, performing fleas, fairing, streamers, and warnings against pickpockets". When Pam and I were undergraduates, Prebendary John Hooper ["Prebendary" because of his years in the Exeter Anglo-Catholic mafia] used to emerge from S Mary Mags with his bucket and his aspersorium after Mass on the Monday morning, and douse the whole business with holy water ("Over 'ere, Farvver, give us a bi' more over 'ere").

Fings aren't what they used to be. The great American showman Barnum, proprietor of the Barnum and Bailey Freak Show, would be run out of business in our narrower society. Traditional Freaks ... Dwarfs and Fat Women and the World's Tallest Man ... are no longer politically correct objects of mirth (or wonder). My own favourite Freak ... the Spider Girl (a young women curiously and ingeniously disposed so as to resemble a large arachnid with a human face) ... has, I am sure, long since collected her bus-pass. The performing fleas would simply invite a noisy demonstration from the Anti-Vivisection people ('Free the Fleas' a good tongue-twister?). The dour, merciless Puritanism under which we now spend our days decrees that the most exciting or Freakish thing you can now see at the Giler is candy-floss.

But Freak-shows are very much in the Oxford - and Anglican - tradition ... as was pointed out by Canon Arthur Couratin, once (rather before my time) the Principal of S Stephen's House ['Staggers'], England's premier seminary. When sacerdos ille valde magnus Bishop Kirk of Oxford purposed solemnly to administer Holy Orders in his Cathedral Church of Christ ... or to sing Pontifical High Mass there on a Solemnity such as that of S Frideswide ... Arthur used to turn up with an immaculately trained team of seminarians to serve. A few days before one such occasion, Mr Dean Lowe observed "I suppose we shall have Arthur Couratin here next Sunday with his travelling circus". Now ... and you need to know this ... in Oxford, there are worthy souls who, like the disciples in the accounts of the Lord's Miraculous Feedings, rejoice to gather up in their baskets all such waspish remarks "so that nothing be lost". Accordingly, the Dean's comment was faithfully reported to Arthur, who promptly observed in his languid drawl "Well, old man, I'd rather belong to a travelling circus than a permanent Freak-show".

Professor Canon Dr Eric Mascall, who preserved that story, admitted that, while this less than wholly flattering description of the Oxford Cathedral Chapter was no doubt exaggerated, "the Chapter of Christ Church when I came to know it was certainly a remarkable assortment of clergymen". (Fr Eric was objective enough to recognise the possibility that he might himself have seemed to some observers to merit being bracketed among the capitular Freaks.)

Even sixty years ago, in my time, the Giler ... to which I now return ... was that bit more surreal because it coincided with the Staggers House Retreat (in those days, Staggers was just round the corner in Norham Gardens). So you might have seen little knots of devout seminarians gawping at the Freaks while carefully maintaining Greater Silence. (I should explain to cradle Catholic readers that Anglican retreats were not gossipping shops like popish retreats but took place in silence.)

Perhaps it is part of the calling of the Ordinariate to revive the good old Anglican Patrimonial traditions of Freaks and Freak-shows. Perhaps they are exactly what the culturally impoverished English Catholic Church needs in order to put some oomph ... I meant to say Inculturation ... into its public image. Part of the New Evangelisation? Should we again risk entanglement in the Web of an androphagous Spider Girl? Re-embrace the fleas? Pick pockets and eat fire?

I just know you agree with me. But where would we find a new generation of worthy and authentic Freaks?

There's not a single member of the CBCEW whom I could conscientiously nominate.

7 September 2019

The Bergoglianist heresy: Cardinal Mueller's use of irony and sarcasm.

A little more about Cardinal Mueller's wise words yesterday.

He describes the Bishop who has given the most recent description of Bergoglianism as "This great thinker and most worthy successor of the Apostles". This, I presume, is an allusion to the teaching of Vatican II about the Episcopate. But (people remind me from time to time that not all Americans  understand Irony) His Eminence is using irony to suggest that this consecrated crack-pot is not in fact a reliable Successor of the Apostles.

Blessed John Henry Newman, so soon to be added to the catalogus Sanctorum, was "a formidable controversialist, as supreme a master of irony and satire as any in our literature" (words of the great Anglican Church Historian Professor Henry Chadwick). Other one-time Anglicans who were superb satirists include Dom Gregory Dix and Mgr Ronald Knox. I believe that one of the reasons why God called the Ordinariates into existence at this particular kairos of so great a crisis in the Church Militant is for us to use every literary and didactic means available, especially satire and irony and even plain sarcasm, to controvert the deadly heresy of Bergoglian ultrapapalism. And to do it eukairos kai akairos.

Mueller went on to describe these heretics as "such courageous friends who, with shameless half-education, undermine the Roman Primate, by abusing the Pope's authority for their anti-Catholic agenda. He who still yesterday was prominently defaming the predecessors [of PF] and purportedly congratulated Pope Benedict for his courage to retire, is completely untrustworthy  ..."

And, in language uncannily like the analyses so often offered on this blog, His Eminence expresses his determination not to be intimidated by "ideologues with their ridiculous super-papalism which stands in direct contradiction to the First and Second Vatican Councils".

Gerhard Mueller has, surely, given there enough information for it to be possible to identify this particular episcopal "theological illiterate".

So who is he??

6 September 2019

The Bergoglian Creed

The admirable Lifesitenews reveals today that some "theological ignoramus with a bishop's hat" [Cardinal Mueller's apt description] has stated that the Instrumentum laboris is
"merely the application of the encyclical Laudato si, and therefore an expression of the infallible Magisterium of the Pope who stands above the word of God or, as a source of revelation, right next to it".

This goes even further than the hitherto finest exposition of the ultrapapalist Bergoglianist heresy: the famous words (probably the only thing he ever said which wasn't plagiarised) of the Bergoglianist former high-flyer (now Icarised) Fr Rosica:
"Pope Francis breaks Catholic traditions whenever he wants to because he is 'free from disordered attachments'. Our Church has indeed entered a new phase: with the advent of this first Jesuit pope, it is openly ruled by an individual rather than by the authority of Scripture alone or even its own dictates of tradition plus Scripture".

Such statements are not merely [to quote Mueller again] examples of "shameless half-education"; they are blatant heresy, in as far as they deny the solemn teaching of Vatican I to the effect that the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of S Peter so that they could proclaim new doctrines.

PF is not merely surrounded by fools; he is surrounded and supported and sustained by heretics. Bergoglianist ultrapapalism is a heresy every bit as deadly and as evil as all the other heresies which have assaulted the Church Militant.

What makes the present situation arguably more serious than any other in history is the circumstance that Bergoglianism is now favoured in the highest places and enjoys the power to utilise the Church's machinery of government.

Bergoglianism is quite simply Satan's masterpiece.


5 September 2019

Losing our Marbles?

The dear old chestnut of 'giving back' the 'Elgin Marbles' is back in the papers. In some quarters, it is now being linked with the imminent celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the the modern Greek Nation State.

I wrote about all this in some detail a few years ago. I now wish to make two simple points.

(1) 'Classical' Greece was not a Nation State. It was a mosaic of poleis, city-states, composed of cities with their surrounding country. These could be ... and often were ... at war with each other.

Nevertheless, Greeks did have a sense of Greekness. And so there were Panhellenic sanctuaries. For example: that of Olympian Zeus; Delphi ...

Athens was not such a sanctuary. The carvings on the Parthenon related to the mythical history of Athens and of Attica. It celebrated the choice of that particular place to be the possession of Athene.

Only in 1821 was a modern-style Greek Nation State invented, with Athens being declared its "capital".

I do not see how this comparatively recent Nation State has any locus standi in the question of where the Athenian 'Marbles' should live. Perhaps the Mayor of Athens, or the local government of Attica, might do. This would at least be arguable ... which is more than one can say for the views of that silly Mrs Clooney.

(2) The demand for 'return' is, culturally, nothing whatsoever to do with Greece or an admiration for things Hellenic. It relates to the Neo-Classical period of Western European artistic fashion ... the age of Byron and Winckelman and Canova and Flaxman and Thorwaldsen and the Grand Tour and the collecting passions of the Western European aristocracy.

One indication of this fashion was the desire of those collectors for pure white marble. So intense was this quaint superstition that when ancient statues reappeared from the soil, they were badly mistreated. They often showed signs of their original colouring, so to make them fit for the eyes of wealthy collectors, every speck of colour was carefully removed. Our own dreadful Duveen exemplified this sort of cultural imperialism and the perverted taste which went with it.

The entire Acropolis Hill in Athens is itself a grand-scale example of just the same unfortunate vandalism. As it emerged from the Ottoman Empire, the hill was covered with buildings of later date than the Periclean period. The Parthenon was for centuries a Christian church; there were little streets and houses and shops and cafes. All of this was scraped away by an independant Greece which accepted uncritically the Western European cultural myths: that
(a) only Periclean Athens really matters; and
(b) 'classical' art and architecture have to be pure, gleaming white.

THE HUNWICKE SOLUTION: Restore the Parthenon to being an Orthodox Church, Our Lady of Athens. Rebuild the demolished Christian sanctuary and cover the walls of the entire building with mid-Byzantine murals. And have it intensively used for the solemn offering of the Great Sacrifice. Perhaps a monastery should be built to serve this church.

This would be a worthy celebration of the truest Hellenism.

4 September 2019


"[The Ultrapapalists] have behaved very cruelly, tyrannically, and deceitfully."

3 September 2019

Advice from Mascall: Where should the Tabernacle be?

Useful guidance from the Anglican Catholic theologian Professor Canon Dr Eric Mascall;

"There are a good many Anglicans ... who would prefer that the Sacrament was kept in some quiet and secluded corner of the church where it would not be exposed to the attention of the casual visitor and where the devout worshipper would be free from disturbance. It seems to me that this attitude, however well-meant, is fundamentally mistaken ... For the fundamental facts about the Blessed Sacrament are its publicity and its centrality. It is not a hidden treasure, hidden away in a corner to be the object of devotion of the abnormally pious; it is the gift of Christ to His Body the Church. The method of reservation ... whereby the consecrated elements are placed in a safe in the church wall and removed from association with the altar, seems calculated to encourage almost wrong view of the reserved Sacrament that is conceivable. Could anything be more likely to detach the reserved Sacrament from its organic connection with the Church's liturgy ... ? It is therefore, I would suggest, most desireable that the Blessed Sacrament should normally be reserved in as central a place as possible, upon the high altar of the church, and that regularly some form of public devotion to the Eucharistic Presence should be held, if possible when the main body of the congregation is assembled ...

"In the full rite of Benediction ... the blessing of the people with the Sacred Host as the climax of the service reminds them inescapably of the fact that, in our relation with God, it is he, and not we, who is the primary agent and who takes rthe initiative."

2 September 2019

Exactly which periphery?

I read a suggestion that the the most recently announced batch of newcardinals again privileges the "peripheries".

I then read through the CVs of these people. "Peripheries?", I wondered. These are men  of the machine, company men, men whose talents were spotted and fostered; collectors of doctorates, people who have been heads of this and vice-rectors of that; who made their ways through the traditional cursus honorum of those recognised as high-fliers. Favoured and now successful members of the clerical and clericalist oligarchy which is the Church's real problem.

I'm not impressed. I see the real peripheries as those who, since the Modernist rebellion which followed the Council, resisted error and fostered orthodoxy and decency within the Church. Men who have suffered persecution or at least uncomfortable discouragement.

Where, in that list, does the Society of S Pius X appear? Which members of the Franciscans of the Immaculate have been raised to the Purple? Nichols and Weinandy, where ... apart from being on our library shelves ... are they? Why does Kazakhstan not merit a Cardinal?

1 September 2019

The Cult of the Child

"'Diddle diddle diddle diddle dum dum dum, hasn't he got lovely legs?' said the rapturous mother. 'H'm 'm 'm' m'.' simmered [her sister-in-law], burying her lips in the little fellow's fat neck, by way of kissing him. 'H'm 'm 'm 'm 'm,' simmered mamma, burying her lips also in his fat round short legs. 'He's a dawty little bold darling, so he is; and he has the nicest little pink legs in all the world, so he has;' and the simmering and the kissing went on ... A regular service of baby worship was going on ..."

Years ago, so I recall, when we were looking around Queen Victoria's Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, I was surprised by all the little marble carvings of the hands and feet of her children, made when they were very young.

I felt that the whole business was just a little bit weird.

Recently, I noticed this obiter observation while revisiting GK Chesterton's Orthodoxy: " ... the modern world (even while mocking sexual innocence) has flung itself into a generous idolatry of sexual innocence -- the great modern worship of children. For any man who loves children will agree that their peculiar beauty is hurt by a hint of physical sex".

Hmmmmm. Interesting. GKC characterises (twice) Child Worship as "modern". Is he right?

And what GKC while still an Anglican noticed as an odd inconsistency in 1908 is even more remarkable nowadays. On the one hand, we are constantly bullied to accept any and every sexual "orientation" ... but Paederasty, alone,  is viewed, by those selfsame bullies, with horror (or so they say).

Christians, of course, view every sort of sexual activity with disapprobation, unless it is between a man and a woman within the holy estate of Matrimony; and, even there, if it is contra Naturam.  But the World denies every element of this Christian analysis ... and yet regards paedophile activity with what one can only call hysteria.

Another aspect of this cult is found in news items which tell us that an airliner has crashed with the loss of 463 lives "including eight children".

My instinct is that the Cult of the Child substantially began with the Victorians (I don't think that earlier Greek social patterns have any relevance).The Chronicler of Barchester acutely described the rituals of Baby Worship; do similar passages occur in pre-Victorian writers?

31 August 2019

A necessary pedantry

We often speak loosely about "the Church". I fear I do it myself. In a prim, schoolmasterly fashion, I would like to sugest some rather important precisions.

(1) The Church, the Body of Christ, consists of the Church Triumphant; the Church Exspectant; the Church Militant. Heaven; Purgatory; Earth. We use "the Church" so commonly when we are talking only about the Chrch Militant.

The tempter Screwtape writes to a junior tempter: "One of our greatest allies ... is the Church itself. ... I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That ... is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans. All your patient sees is the half-finished sham Gothic erection ... the local grocer with an oily expression on his face bustling up to offer him one shiny little book containing a liturgy which neither of them understands and one shabby little book containing corrupt texts of a number of religious lyrics, mostly bad ... When he gets to his pew and looks around him he sees just that selection of his neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided..."etc., Letter 2.

The awareness that the Church is so much more than merely the Church Militant, owes, I think, a lot to the appropriation of this important truth by Anglo-Catholic writers of the twentieth century  from Orthodox writers.

(2) Sometimes we talk about "the Church" when we mean, within the Church Militant, the Latin Church. Latin Christianity is  not the only cultural, theological, liturgical tradition, even among those Christians who are in full communion with the See of S Peter.

30 August 2019


Speaking about the "Dubia" some little while ago, PF said that these questions had been published in the Press before being submitted to him. He described this action as "not ecclesial".

(Here we have to decide whether Cardinal Burke and his associates are liars for saying that the text was sent to PF long before its publication, or PF the liar for claiming the opposite. Having on a number of occasions had the privilege of Cardinal Burke's company, I have my own judgement about who the liar is. Others will naturally have their own good reasons for judging differently. But this little detail is not what I am discussing this morning.)

We now have a former Nuncio to these kingdoms reported as saying that a strong letter will be sent to the Pope "tomorrow" urging the pretended ordination of women to sacerdotal ministries.

Presumably, PF will draw this person's attention to the teaching of S John Paul II, expressive of the infallible Ordinary Magisterium, in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

Presumably he will also point out how "unecclesial" it was for this initiative to be be made public before being sent to him.

Presumably some of the venom unleashed upon another retired Nuncio, Archbishop Vigano, who went "off-message", will be be made generously available to this retired Nuncio, who has rubbished the infallible teaching of the Church he was ordained to serve.

29 August 2019

Valentia Island

For fifteen years of our lives while we were still in the Church of England, we would still, in late August, be spending seven weeks at one of the loveliest places I have ever known: the island of Valentia, off County Kerry near the bottom left hand corner of Ireland. The sort of jokes the English make about the Irish, are, in Ireland, made about the people of Kerry; and, in Kerry, are made about the people of Valentia. But they are, in my view, marvellous people, friendly, articulate, ever curious. We went there because, during the summer months, the Church of Ireland opened up a church there for the holidaymakers (there being no Church of Ireland parishioners permanently living there), and provided a chaplain's house.

I am reminded of Valentia every morning as I say my Latin (EF) Mass; you see, during our visits I got to know, very well, the Parish Priest, Fr John Shanahan, a gracious, generous, and well-read man. Having mentioned to him that I stood in need of an Altar Missal, and Did he have a very old one that his church wouldn't miss, I found a very nice 1950s missal in a bag on my doorstep. It must have been bought back in the glory days of the Irish church; during the Marian Year of 1954, commemorating the centenary of the Proclamation of the Dogma of the Immmaculate Conception, when the then Parish Priest had a derelict slate quarry transformed into a very creditable representation of the Grotto at Lourdes. On Assumption Day Fr John and I used to go there and lead his congregation (with the addition of one or two of my Church of Ireland people) in the Glorious Mysteries of the Holy Rosary.

If you want to go to a holiday spot with fishing, water sports, regattas, ogham stones, ancient monastic sites, fossilised tetrapod footprints, choughs, razorbills, gannets, fulmars, puffins, seals, dolphins, oysters, scallops, lobsters, subtropical gardens, fantastic walks ... you can't do better than Knightstown, Valentia. And don't forget to say your rosary in the Grotto.

28 August 2019


Recently, I rejoiced on a rare Monday actually to be able to say the 'green' Mass of the Sunday. And then, on the Tuesday, I said a Mass of a local Beatus, Dominic of the Mother of God (who received S J H Newman into the Church) ... with a commemoration of S Joseph Calasanctius, the Saint on the Universal Calendar.

I would like to say those grand old Roman Masses, with their superb collects, more often. As far as the Divine Office is concerned, I think it is deplorable that, in the Novus Ordo, even on the surviving ferias one is not allowed to use the Sunday Collect (only allowed at the Office of Readings; elsewhere collects relating to the time-of-day are provided).

There is a perennial tendency for calendars to get cluttered; this is accentuated by the unnecessary Novus Ordo prohibition of what we used to call 'commemorations'. And day after day, we repeat the hymn Iste Confessor as we celebrate the endless succession of  'confessors', especially 'confessor bishops' who founded orders or congregations.

The older strata of the Roman Calendar have very many more Martyrs. As, indeed, it seems to me the Byzantine Calendar does. Perhaps this is because for centuries the Western Church was dominated by confessor bishops and founders while the Ottoman Empire offered to God New Martyrs.

I don't think that either the 1962 calendar, or that of the Liturgia Horarum, have quite got things right. As an interim remedy, perhaps the Novus Ordo Calendar should admit commemorations; perhaps the twentieth century martys canonised by S John Paul II should be among those allowed onto the 1962 Calendar ... and more saints should be made optional.

27 August 2019

Things to do in church

In Ickford church in Buckinghamshire, where Pam and I once went for a walk, one of the window sills is marked with a design for the ancient game of Nine Men's Morris [according to OED, a corruption for merrells]. In fact it is marked twice; one design neatly cut, another rather crudely.

Who played this game there, and when? I know we mustn't assume that medieval worshippers were always devout and well-behaved, but the sill concerned is rather near the site (indicated by an adjacent piscina) of an ancient altar ... and accordingly probably inside the confines of a parclose screen and perhaps within a chantry. Were the merrells players active in the age of box pews ... my Victorian predecessor at S Thomas's, Canon Chamberlain, when he was evicting the box pews from S Thomas's, claimed that such things went on within them as were an offence to female modesty. Or should we deem the perpetrators to have been parishioners at leisure, amusing themselves in church when worship was not occurring?

Romantic Anglicans sometimes forget that before the unjustly reviled Victorians got down to their sometimes admittedly heavy restorations, some of our churches were almost derelict and many were in a state of near collapse.

Any thoughts?

26 August 2019


Enixe commendatur ut quilibet sacerdos quotidie unam Missam Votivam offerat pro Cineribus Recuperandis.

De Laszlo and eyes

I wonder if the canonisation of Blessed John Henry Newman will be welcomed by any thematically associated exhibitions? I might nominate a  picture which appeared in London in 2010 from Budapest and had also featured in a very jolly little exhibition put on by Christie's in 2004: a fine portrait by Philip de Laszlo of Leo XIII, who rehabilitated Newman after the Pio Nono years by giving him (despite the machinations of Cardinal Manning) a Cardinal's hat.

I never forget a Laszlo, because right beside my door in Great School at Lancing hung a superb portrait by Laszlo of a former head master ... he did it cheap because he had a couple of boys at the College. Laszlo rendered Dr Bowlby's eyes very well: haunted and disappointed. Evelyn Waugh commented that it was while he was at Lancing that Bowlby must have realised that he had been passed over for a bishopric ... he ended up sacked after a SCR coup ... one of life's unachievers?

I have been told that Laszlo's first attempt at a portrait of the Pope made him look disastrously like the late Voltaire; but the artist was very young at the time! Laszlo recorded that, during his four sittings with Pope Leo, the Holy Father conversed about "a great variety of subjects; political, religious, social, artistic and scientific". The eyes are those of an old (he was in his nineties when he died), kindly, highly intelligent, and intellectually lively man.

Pope Leo was no slouch when it came to composing Latin hymns.

25 August 2019

Shrewsbury College flattened usque ad fundamenta

Pam and I took a walk the other day which I don't think we've done since we were undergraduates. We strolled along South Parks Road, to see how the devotees of Natural Philosophy are getting on. And the verdict is: splendidly! Readers will recall the 1938 chapter of Let Dons Delight, where Roberts, the venerable and aged science don at Simon Magus College, is inclined to complain that "the labs are being starved". Not any more, they're not. Unbelievably, a great brutalist monstrosity on the corner of South Parks Road and Mansfield Road, temp. 1970, which in a sane world would be demolished, is being refurbished for another phase of its misbegotten life!!

We hurried past it to revisit the redbrick building with pretty Queen Anneish gables on the other side of the road: in our, happier, times a convent, but now describing itself as Linacre College. I was wondering what has become of all the clever nuns who were such an adornment to intellectual life in the 1960s ... when the penny dropped in my mind: clever nuns are now largely a thing of the past. The Spirit of Vatican II has phased out such unwanted anomalies.

So we passed the desolate site of Parsons' Pleasure, where Sir Maurice Bowra once so famously adjudged his os to be magis pudendum than his inguina, and approached Mesopotamia. But lo! there is a new path on the West side of the Cherwell ... which led us to S Catherine's College, a building described by 'Bauhaus' Pevsner in 1974 as "a perfect piece of architecture ... if young people don't like it, that may be an argument against them rather than against the college". Ah ... the facile arrogance of a cultural elite ...

The Medieval monks, in their crabbed way, devised the concept of the quadrangle or cloister, wherein the members of a scholarly (or any) community can most comfortably relate to each other, and enjoy the shelter afforded by this enclosed design against the worst demonstrations of our weather. In so devising they were, of course, simply reinventing the old Roman convention of the urban house looking inwards to its sheltered interior peristyle garden.

The Enlightenment of the 1960s knew so much better than monks and Romans. "Cat's" follows a quadrangular design but wisely leaves open the North and South ends of its neo-quadrangles, thus skilfully chanelling cold North winds so that they sweep refreshingly down through the entire complex.

We returned to Mansfield Road hoping to pass by the little house where, six decades ago, Pam used to go for tutorials with Miriam Griffin. Horror!! Not only have nearly all those coy little donnish houses been demolished, but the entire site of Shrewsbury College has been flattened! 

"Shrewsbury College" ... its very dedication calls to mind a happy era of strong and clever women, long before the advent of the whinging Sisterhood. "... Mary Countess of Shrewsbury ... the queer, strong-featured face, with its ill-tempered mouth and sidelong secretive glance ... Bess of Hardwick's daughter ... a great intellectual, indeed, but something of a holy terror: uncontrollable by her menfolk, undaunted by the Tower, contemptuously silent before the Privy Council, an obstinate recusant, a staunch friend and implacable enemy and a lady with a turn for invective remarkable even in an age when few mouths suffered from mealiness. ...  Her husband, the 'great and glorious Earl of Shrewsbury', had purchased domestic peace at a price; for, said Bacon, there was 'a greater than he, which is my Lady Shrewsbury'".

On the boarding surrounding the demolition site, there is one of those deliciously deceitful "Architects' Drawings". It demonstrates what is even now being built in place of Shrewsbury College. In the middle there will be Scone College Cricket Ground, and round it accommodation for undergraduate and postgraduate members of that eccentric collegiate institution. The drawing shows men in white, vigorously playing Cricket within, er, a few feet of plate-glass windows.

Ah, well, I'm sure the Master of Scone ("First come I. My name is Jowett / There's no knowledge but I know it") knows best.

We scuttled off down Jowett Walk ("I am the Master of this College / What I don't know isn't knowledge") to the Covered Market, and stocked up with Levantine goodies ... no; not in Palm's delicatessen; that, like Fuller's Walnut Cake, now only exists as a Platonic Idea ... but at Manos's  Greek Restaurant (admirable, but not as admirable as his magnificent first emporium still flourishing up in Jericho).

That cheered us up enough to enable us to stagger to our 'bus-stop outside Cardinal College.

24 August 2019


I don't know if you you feel this ... a stirring of irritation when somebody uses words in a just slightly "incorrect" way ... incorrect, that is, to my rather narrow little mind.

One of my examples is hearing people referring to a priest "putting on his robes".

For me, there is a world of difference between 'robes' and 'vestments'. 'ROBES' signify a laudable status which someone by laudable exertions has laudably achieved. Examples: Judges; Mayors; Doctors of Philosophy ...

This last example is a comparatively new introduction in this University. In the Old Days, when lovely clean-cut American youths came here to further their academic careers, they were told to read for one of the tried-and-tested Honour Schools. This they did. But problems arose. When the little fellows went back 'state-side', people asked them what they had achieved. "Bachelor of Arts", they proudly replied. "But you already had that from X University over here before you went across to England" was the wondering reply.

So Oxford introduced the 'Doctor of Philosophy' degree. Soon, not only Americans but everybody who had academic ambitions was taking it. When we were undergraduates in the early 1960s, the younger lecturers and Fellows tended to have one; older dons jealously, zealously, guarded the title "Mr Smith' and spluttered angrily when the well-meaning mistakenly addressed them as "Dr Smith".

To such dinosaurs, the only doctorates that meant anything were the rare old medieval doctorates in Divinity, Law, Medicine, Music, Letters, and more latterly Science.

The gown of the Doctor of Philosophy is a vulgar red and blue without proper sleeves. Nothing like the stately medieval gowns. If you will forgive a Bergoglian expression, they look like overgrown butterflies. For all I know, the gown may be based on transpontine archetypes (what are New England Butterflies like?)
Doctoral garb distinguishes the achievement of, er, achievers.

'VESTMENTS', on the other hand, negate the individuality and achievements of the wearer. He wears them to indicate that he is nothing; that he is acting solely in the name of Another. He is a man who was not honoured but humiliated, when, at his Ordination, he lay prostrate on the ground. He now acts clothed in the Priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Far from gaining or achieving anything, he has lost individuality. 'Initiative' is, quite simply, not his job. Nor is 'personality'.

He is a man whose hands and voice are not his own because his sacramental words and deeds are those of the Redeemer.

When you see him emerging, chasubled, from the Sacristy, you should say to yourself "Ah ... jolly good ... another of these Nobodies ..."

23 August 2019


A very good piece , on that blog, from the redoutable Fr Allan Hawkins.

The Papal Tiara

A few days ago, Fr Zed wrote an interesting piece about papal liturgy and its adjuncts ... including the papal tiara.

Perhaps it is time for me to revive the Hunwicke Proposal for the Restoration of the Tiara.

In 1800, the papacy was under enormous threat. Pope Pius VI had been arrested by the forces of the Enlightenment, and had died in exile. Many thought that he had been the last pope. However, eventually a Conclave was held in Venice, and Pius VII was elected. But the tiaras of his predecessors were unavailable ... because they were all in occupied Rome.

So an instant, papier-mache tiara was made for him!

It still exists.

Wonderful! This cheap-o tiara symbolises a persecuted Church; a Church Militant at the mercy of her enemies. A Church without the capacity to draw upon the physical riches of an opulent past.

An ideal piece of headgear for a Holy Father called to preside over a persecuted, a slenderer Church.

And here is another Hunwicke Proposal.

Let a law be enacted
(a) prohibiting the acquisition for use by the Roman Pontiff of any new liturgical garb; and
(b) mandating that any monies which anybody desires to use for giving the pope new liturgical garb must instead be given to the poor. Let the pontiff 'slum' by wearing the left-overs in the Vatican sacristies ... the vestments worn by his predecessors in the Roman See. Vestments still impregnated with the snuff used by B Pius IX! The very vestments in which Pius XII hiccupped his way through his final years!

This law should last for, say, 300 years. By then, perhaps these inherited vestments would indeed all have been used up.

And the poor might not be poor.

22 August 2019


Happy times, when I used to go a couple of Sundays each year to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the Latin Mass group in Copenhagen when they did not have a regular priest! Days when my friend Ulf, whose eyes see everything, who understands everything, took me round the palaces and parks, the museums and galleries of that most exquisitely civilised city! And introduced me to its culinary delights ... did you know that it possesses probably one of the half-dozen best Italian restaurants in the world?

Ulf has most kindly sent me a present: Hymnarium Suppletivum: Hymni Sacri recentiores compositi a Ioanne Georgio Bertram (this second edition, 2017, has the ISBN numbers 10:3-86417-088-5 and 13:978-3-86417-088-1). This is a profoundly interesting volume in which every page one turns elicits a "Wow"!

Bertram begins his Praefatio ad secundam editionem by remarking, justly, that Leo XIII was a hymnodus ingeniosus et entheos. He laments that, since that time, the Muses have been silent! He makes an exception for Dom Anselmo Lentini ... who, he says, composed some new hymns for the Benedictine Saints. True: but Dom Anselmo also composed quite a number of other hymns for the Liturgy of the Hours to supply exactly the want which Bertram pinpoints -- the lack of proper hymns for Saints, particularly including the newly canonised.

So, for example, Bertram provides a fine composition for the Visitation of our Lady on July 2. But Lentini had already composed a new hymn for this feast (on its Novus Ordo date), so it is not quite accurate to say that the Muses had been entirely silent. When one compares the two, I think it has to be said that Lentini's has the instinct for sobriety which, as Edmund Bishop pointed out, characterises the Roman Rite. Bertram portrays S John Baptist loudly complaining that he is still confined in the darkness of the womb! (Lentini's work can be found in two volumes, Hymni Instaurandi of 1968 and Te decet of 1984.)

Bertram's compositions seem to me often to breathe the exuberant spirit of the Middle Ages (and I do not say this in a sneering or pejorative spirit). He is not scared of starting a hymn with Westphalicum illud praecipuum genus ... . Medieval in spirit is his detailed refutation, in a hymn he composes in honour of Pius XII, of the accusations concerning papal policy towards the persecution of the Jewish people. He even works in an account of how Rome's Chief Rabbi received in Baptism the name Eugenio! His admiration for Cardinal Midszenty elicits a hymn in honour of that great pontiff; and a hymn starting Habsburgensibus goes on to apostrophise Sic te, Carole, sic te Zita ...

I am not sure that this collection is, so to speak, oven-ready to be added to the (pre-Conciliar) Breviarium Romanum. But it will undoubtedly be a stimulating volume for the clerus Latinus to keep close at hand, perhaps on the prayer-desk or beside the bed.

Thank you, Ulf, for this gift and for the friendship of the years!

21 August 2019

G K Chesterton

The Right Reverend Peter Doyle, Bishop of Northampton, has recently declined to progress, as we say nowadays, the cause for the Beatification of G K Chesterton.

I don't understand his first reason : he says that there is no local cult. But, traditionally, those promoting a cause had to demonstrate that there was no local cult; that the local Church had not jumped the canonical gun. Perhaps a canonist could explain this to me. Nor do I find it easy to take seriously his second reason: "I have not been able to tease out a pattern of personal spirituality". The liturgical Calendar is already, arguably, overloaded with Bishops and Founders. The addition of a simple and married layperson who sought sanctity simply through the plain everyday means of grace offered by the Redeemer in His Church would seem to me a valuable affirmation of plain 'mere' Christian 'spirituality'.

It seems to me obvious that the real reason for Bishop Doyle's decision is the third claim he makes: that "even allowing for the context of GKC's time, the issue of anti-Semitism is a real obstacle particularly at this time in the United Kingdom".

I had better make clear that I am not a Chestertonian enthusiast. I have no dog in this fight.

My apprehension is a 'justice' issue. His lordship is behaving in a quasi-judicial manner, and I do not believe that he possesses the necessary and publicly visible judicial impartiality.

Why? Soon after the end of Pope Benedict's pontificate, the German bishops launched an attack on part of his legacy: his imposition on the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite of a Prayer for the Jews, composed by the Pope himself, for use (only) on Good Friday. And somebody persuaded the CBCEW to fall into line behind Cardinal Marx.

This was probably the most disgraceful episode in the history of the CBCEW.

A body of men so anxious to rubbish a Magisterial action of a very learned Pope only half a decade or so after that action is not a body of men which can claim impartiality in the area concerned.

Peter Doyle was a member of that body of men.

20 August 2019

Meeting Newman

A fine way of encountering Blessed John Henry Newman, as we prepare for his Canonisation, is to revisit the Oxford which formed both Newman the Anglican and Newman the Catholic; Newman the Tractarian controversialist and Newman the venerated Cardinal.

In 1945, Evelyn Waugh looked back to the 1920s and wrote "Oxford -- submerged now and obliterated, irrecoverable as Lyonesse, so quickly have the waters come flooding in -- Oxford, in those days, was still a city of aquatint. In her spacious and quiet streets men walked and talked and spoke as they had done in Newman's day; her autumnal mists, her grey springtime, and the rare glory of her summer days ... when the chestnut was in flower and the bells rang out high and clear over her gables and cupolas, exhaled the soft airs of centuries of youth."

But how can you revisit that city, those aquatints, those submerged streets? There are still copies available of a booklet deceptive in its slightness (50 pages) which the admirable Fr Jerome Bertram of the Oratory wrote in 1995 and greatly enlarged in 2010 to celebrate the Beatification. It is called Newman's Oxford and is in stock at the Bookshop attached to St Aloysius' Church in St Giles. With painstaking scholarship, it traces the places the Blessed lived and worked in, and retells anecdotes very worthy of the retelling ... such as the College washerwoman who so memorably impinged upon the installation of Edward Hawkins as Provost of Oriel ...

But stay: I am aware that some of you may be unable to visit Oxford before the Canonisation. Do ot worry. One of the strengths of Fr Jerome's work is that he has hunted down some thirty pictures and engravings of Oxford as she was in Newman's time.

Perusing this slender but exquisite volume, you will visit Oxford  -- Newman's Oxgord -- more truly than if you fought your way through the regiments of Oriental touristswho have gridlocked the city once so "branchy between towers; Cuckoo-echoing, bell-swarmed, lark-charmed, rook-racked, river-rounded ..."

19 August 2019

Missile Romanum ... hairesis kai skandalon ...

The egregious Austin Ivereigh is reported to have complained that admirers of the former Roman Pontiff Pope Benedict are a "source of division and scandal" because they launch aginst PF "a missile every month".

It is surprising how different things can seem from different viewpoints. To me, it seems that admirers of PF, and sometimes even his own pontifical mouth, are the most constant sources of division and scandal, consistently reliable in their grim predictability.

And it seems to me that never a month goes by without these same gruesome sources emitting divisive missiles of unorthodoxy or of scandalous ambiguity.

Let us be fair. From the beginning of this pontificate, there has been no concealment of the fact that  its policy is "to make a mess". It is a shame that the words ataxian polutropos poieson are missing from so many of the Greek manuscripts of II Timothy 4.

However, in the surviving fragments of that sadly lacunose text, S Paul does advise us to preach the Word eukairos akairos. He never ... even in an ambiguous footnote ... mentions the need to do this on an irregular, intermittent, or less than monthly basis.

18 August 2019

Typology is the answer

The 'Spirit of the Council' has had a lot to do with the erroneous notion that 'the Council' told the Jews that they did not need to 'convert'.

It's very closely similar to what happened to Liturgy: the Council Fathers thought that in Sacrosanctum Concilium they were mandating a modest revision which would leave Latin substantially in place ... and so on. But in less than a decade, change had vastly outstripped the texts which the Fathers had actually subscribed. And, gradually, people were led to think that the Council had ordered a totally vernacular Liturgy; had prescribed the well-nigh universal reordering of sanctuaries ... and all the rest.  

Nostra aetate  had a very similar fate. The Fathers thought they were roundly condemning anti-Jewish persecution and prejudice. They thought they were doing what little they could to atone for the Shoah. Disgust at what had happened less than two decades earlier led them to speak strongly against the obscene horror which had befouled the face of Europe and about defects in Christian culture which may have contributed to it. But they did not establish, and did not intend (indeed, there is no evidence that they even considered this) to establish, the Two Covenant Error. Yet within a few decades people were being told that the Council had outlawed 'supersessionism'.

Just as there are millions who have never read a page of Sacrosanctum Concilium but are quite sure that it ordered the liturgical ruptures and abuses which in fact ensued, so there are very many who have never opened Nostra aetate but have been lied to about what it contains.

And where did we go wrong?

I don't mean ... two things. Firstly, I don't mean that we should particularly target Jewish communities in our 'mission'. I have never stood outside a synagogue dishing out leaflets. Nor, for that matter, outside a mosque or a Methodist Church or a Mormon centre. Like most clergy, I have always felt that there were enough people around who technically belonged to my Church but were either totally lapsed or had only very light observance. And then, good heavens, there are the multitudes that are not even technically anything. There are only twenty four hours in the day ... and I think I would even feel a trifle uneasy about the deep-down attitudes of people who had a great obsessive thing about Converting Jews and did little about converting anybody else. There is such a nastiness as Anti-Judaism (I prefer to avoid the vague term Anti-Semitism, because, after all, Arabs, too, are Semites). But, when all is said  and done, the Gospel Call to Faith in Christ is for all men and women and that includes Jews. Always and everywhere and despite whatever. There is no Alternative Covenant for anybody; nothing but the Covenant which is in the Blood of Christ.

Secondly, I also do not believe that, unless particular urgent needs make it essential, we should preach or teach against other faiths. My view is that we have failed adequately to teach our own faith.

 One, big, example.

Typology. Exodus the Type, Baptism the Antitype. And so on. All that. Typology is what makes clear that the Old Divine Dispensation has been superseded by the work of Christ. Typology permeates the the Scriptures and the Fathers. It is the Christian hermeneutic for reading the Old Testament. With it, pretty well everything points to Christ; or is a type of something in the Christian life. It is because most laypeople (and clergy?) are unaware or only nominally aware of this that the usually unspoken problem they have is: What is the point of reading the Old Testament? Why do we have all those dreary and irrelevant psalms? And then there is the Easter Vigil: without an understanding of Typology, it is meaningless mumbo-jumbo. The Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore, indeed. Poor Egyptians. What a nasty God. And what a long time ago. Why on earth am I sitting here listening to all this?

I don't think I've ever heard anybody, apart from myself, work this subject into a sermon. I try to introduce people to it myself, especially when I am invited to give Retreats or Conferences or Lent Courses. But ... well, let me put it like this. I was sitting in Allen Hall in one of the "formation" sessions awaiting a lecture entitled something like the Catholic Approach to Scripture. I did not have much expectation of anything other than an hour of 1960s tedium. But then Fr John Hemer came in and explained, lucidly and brilliantly ... that the Catholic Approach to Scripture is Typology! What a sense of liberation I felt ... gosh, I thought, I'm not, after all, the only one ...

To be fair: Cardinal Danielou did Typology in The Bible and the Liturgy 1956.

And Byzantium does a good line on Typology: if you don't use it already, why not pray the Akathist Hymn? But perhaps we Anglicans In Full Communion With Peter could have a particular role to play here. We had John Mason Neale, who filled the windows of his large Convent Chapel with typology ... Lionel Thornton, a Mirfield Father and a notable typologist ... Austin Farrer ... and, deep in the archives of Pusey House, lie the manuscript lectures on Typology of our own great Dr Pusey quo maior vix ullus.

Pusey ... If the Ordinariates have any purpose at all beyond mere survival, it must surely be to bring Pusey along with us as a big part of our luggage, as a particular treasure of our Anglican Patrimony, as a gift of incalculable value to the Universal Church. May he, before the Throne of Grace, intercede for us his children in the Ordinariates.

Oh, and by the way, in addition to the rest of his polymathy, he was Professor of Hebrew in this University.

17 August 2019

Priestly Formation

Back in the happy days when the Church of England still existed in more than name, she was famed for the intellectual quality of her clergy. Nowadays her degenerate successor organisation trains its ministers largely at non-residential regional Ministerial Training Courses, run jointly with the Methodists ... I remember a day when Bishop John Richards and I had met one of these gentry and 'JR' had some things to say about his total ignorance of Scripture and, indeed, of anything.

In the old days, much seminary training went on in theological colleges. Those Theological Colleges were largely one of the fruits of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England (Chichester was founded by Charles Marriott). In the spirit of the Counter-Reformation Tridentine reforms, first adumbrated, as Eamon Duffy pointed out, by Reginal Cardinal Pole, they were very often founded in cathedral closes ... Chichester or Wells or Salisbury or Lincoln ... not simply so that the seminarians could benefit from the influence and teaching of erudite canons residentiary, but so that they might be part of the episcopal familia. They remind me of Archbishop Michael Ramsay's admirable definition of classical Anglican Theology as Divinity done within the sound of church bells. Their closure (do chickens come before eggs?) betokened the collapse of that classical Anglicanism which it is the duty of the Ordinariates to recover and to repatriate into Catholic Unity.

It would be wonderful if our Catholic Bishops, or some of them, were to rebegin clerical formation within their own households. (Possibly Bishop Mark Davies is heading in this direction with his Mater Sacerdotum House.) How such a reform would rejoice the priestly hearts of Cardinal Reginald Pole and S Charles Borromeo! This could help in the long labour of rebuilding a clerical culture in accordance with the mind and legislation of the Church. I am thinking here not least of Veterum Sapientia (S John XXIII) and of the provisions of canon 249.


The celebrated Schola Sainte-Cecile will be in Oxford for the first part of next week.

Monday August 19: 6.30: Vespers and Benediction, the Oratory.

Tuesday August 20: 9.30 am: Solemn Mass in Balliol Chapel.

Wednesday August 21: 11.00 Solemn Mass, the Oratory.
                                            6.30: Sarum Rite Vespers, in Balliol Chapel.

Lucky Oxford!

16 August 2019

Masterful Me ...

Returning to contact with the World, I have done my best to deal with comments and emails.

And I have capriciously decided not to enable two additional categories of comment:
1. Comments including the grammatical error "We must respect he who is the King of Tonga". We do not, in English, say "we must respect he [nominative]"; we say "We must respect him [accusative]". A curious idea seems to be growing up that whenever the relative pronoun "who" is used, it has to be preceded by a nominative. It most certainly doesn't. This is the same sort of error as using the nominative for the second of two linked names: "He spoke to Theodore and I". We do not in English say "He spoke to I"; we say "He spoke to me". So: "He spoke to Theodore and me".

I once heard a colleague refer to "Paul and I's study".

A less spectacularly horrible usage which is getting common is to make genitive only the second of two linked names. "Michael and Anne's house" is, surely, as illogical as it is imprecise. It would imply that we were talking about two objects: (1) Michael; and (2) Anne's house. If we are talking about a house which belongs to both Michael and Anne, the logical form surely is "Michael's and Anne's house".

The correct thing for that colleague (who, incidentally, was a Wykehamist, heaven help us) to have said would have been: "Paul's and my study".

2. Comments in a language which I do not understand or imperfectly understand. The reason for this is, I think, obvious.

So there. Dixi.

15 August 2019

Sol in Virgo [sic]

Medieval calendars quite often inform us that the Sun is in the constellation Virgo on August 15. I wonder if it has ever been suggested that this astronomical fact has anything to do with the selection of that day to celebrate our Lady's Assumption.

Which Collect is preferable on August 15? Certainly not an Anglican one: they all seem rather sad examples of modern Anglican collect writing: a couple of wordy banalities shoved together, and all the time a sense that the writer is looking over his shoulder fearing that he might be deemed too "extreme". The Pius XII composition is preferable ... but I'm not over-enthusiastic about it quite simply because the older collects it replaced are, in my view, extremely fine.

Veneranda nobis Domine huius est diei festivitas, in qua Sancta Dei Genetrix mortem subiit temporalem, nec tamen mortis nexibus deprimi potuit quae filium tuum Dominum nostrum de se genuit incarnatum.

Famulorum tuorum, quaesumus, Domine, delictis ignoxsce: ut, qui tibi placere de actibus nostris non valemus; Genetricis Filii tui Domini nostri intercessione salvemur.

I don't see how anybody whose affections are excited by the old collect Veneranda, and by the teaching of S John Damascene, and the explicitness of the Byzantine Liturgy about the glorification of Mary's wholeness, can dislike the Pius XII collect for doctrinal reasons. But minimally conceived 'doctrine' does not exhaust the content of 'Tradition'.

My own hesitations about features the 1950 definition relate not to what it said, to which I of course very cheerfully subscribe ex animo, but (1) to what, by not saying, it appeared to imply could be forgotten - such as the edifying common legends which informed piety and art in East and West for centuries and about which Blessed John Henry Newman spoke so sympathetically; and (2) to the fact of our Lady's mediation of all graces. This was clearer in the older traditions of East and West, but in the West has more recently been overshadowed by preoccupation with the idea, true in itself, that the Assumption is the logical consequence of her preservation from all sin.

Mary, in History, mediated all graces to humankind by giving birth to the Redeemer; her Assumption means that what she was in History she is ontologically and for all eternity. In her, function and ontology are fused into one.

I would feel more cheerful about the 1951 liturgical texts if they could be supplemented by a definition of our Lady as Mediatrix of All Graces. It could be phrased in the elegant Greek with which S Gregory Palamas explained this truth! Pius XII, for all his Marian devotion, seems to have been lukewarm towards the concept of our Lady's Universal Mediation.

14 August 2019

Nostra antonomaica Domina

When the Lufwaffe bombed Exeter Cathedral (tit-for-tat: the RAF had bombed a nice little medieval University city in Germany ... and the Rhodes Scholars in the German government wouldn't allow Oxford to get the retaliation ... such are the legends) a discovery was made amidst the rubble: of wax ex voto offerings which had been hidden behind a stone above the tomb of Exeter's great and holy Bishop Edmund Lacey (it was rather a shrine: his progress towards canonisation was of course halted by the Reformation). Presumably they were hidden away when the Protestant Dean Simon Heynes vandalised the tomb. (He was not a popular dean and his new-fangled religion was as unpopular in the Close as it was in the City.)

Lacey was an intellectual who was not above putting his head into intellectual hornets' nests. On August 15 1441 he preached to the English Chapter of the of the Domicans in the Exeter Blackfriars at a time when the Preachers were still far from enthusiastic about the dogma of the Immaculate Conception; his action in having his sermon transcribed into his register has no parallel that I know of in Medieval episcopal registers ... (would anyone like to comment on that?). Lacey pulled no punches: So those who, with their rash and reprobate opinion struggle to besmirch her Conception, let them shut their mouths; and those who struggle to put blemishes on her way of life, let them put a sock in it; and those who are unwilling to exalt the outcome of her Assumption, let them get lost and stay lost (perpetuo delitescant).

But let me tell you his argument for the Assumption. The Philosopher of the Ethics proves that it is necessary for there to be some end to human affairs, namely immortality and eternity. To which our antonomaic Lady is deservedly assumed by the Apostle, Romans 2, 'Glory, honour and peace to the one who does good'.

So you bung Aristotle and S Paul together and invoke the principle of antonomasia, which I trust is still taught in the Fundamental Theology courses in our seminaries, and Bob's your Uncle.

Antonomaica Domina in caelum gloriose Assumpta, ora pro nobis.

13 August 2019

Thumbs and tongues

I shall get slammed for this piece of sexual stereotyping ... but I have to express my conviction that the ceaseless use of little plastic machines held in the left hand is commoner among young women than it is among young - or older - men. It is ... have I got this right? ... called Texting, and involves the agile flickering of the thumb of the left hand in order mysteriously to communicate with distant other young women. It appears to imply an unwillingness to have communications severed, even for an hour, even for a minute, even for the blinking of an eye, by mere distance.

Long before these funny little machines were invented, I at the age of about six was aware that the little girls at my Primary School simply could not stop gossiping with each other. Except when compelled to be silent in class, they were endlessly engaged in huddling together in corners whispering their perfervid confidences to each other. Sometimes they became noisy and shouted (just as girls now sometimes talk loudly on mobile 'phones), but the intimacy of the corner, filled with murmuring and giggles, seemed preferred. Mark Studdart in That Hideous Strength felt, as a small boy, so terribly excluded by the whispered intimacies his sister Myrtle shared with the little girl next door. Is Texting simply the ultimate, the technological validation, of this urgent biological necessity among young girls? Should we relate it to the different linguistic functions of the two sexes as the men crawl around silently in distant fields doing the Hunter Gatherer stuff, while the women endlessly Cement Relationships back in the Cave?

Girls can, as I have just said, still be noisy. The previous house we occupied in Oxford was on the bus route which conveyed the trainee school-teachers of Brookes University from one campus to another (they seemed almost all to be female). Those large double-deckers were capsules of din as fifty or sixty young women endlessly and ferociously exchanged information. You will remember that the maidservants in Odysseus' home on Ithaca tended to be heard phthongo eperkhomenai ... . But confidences seem to be even more attractive than din. I have just had a sudden vision of the Fornicating Maidservants in the Odyssey, after being led out (end of book 22) by Telemachus to be hanged, stretching their necks forward into the nooses while their thumbs still flickered on their texting machines minuntha per, ou ti mala den.

S Ambrose was critical of girls who were accustomed circumcursare per alienas aedes ... demorari in plateis ... in publico miscere sermones .... Is the Texting Machine the Omega Point to which a girl-culture of the unbroken exchange of unmemorable secrets has, through all the millennia of human history, been deplorably pointing?

12 August 2019


Now that Mr Trump has proclaimed the final defeat of ISIS, this may at last be a safe moment to reveal that I am, myself, the Founder of Isis*.

It happened in a modestly Anglo-Catholic establishment on the South Downs, called Lancing College. In 1973, newly appointed, I founded a Society which gave members the opportunity to get off the campus and attend meetings in my house and to go on expeditions which did not exclude hostelries (nowadays, organising such society activities would be an instantly sackable offence). Quite why we chose Isis as our Patron, I cannot now remember; but we had nice ties manufactured bearing the hieroglyph of Her of the Throne. I still have one somewhere. You had better not tell the CIA.

In the first centuries of the Christian era, Isiacism was a very attractive syncretistic religion. It denied the validity of no other religion; it conceded that the same Deity was behind all the divine names in all the cults. Isis was the preferred name (and her mysteria  the most satisfying); but in no exclusive way. Like PF, they believed that plurality of religions was part of the Divine Will. I have often wondered why those relativistic Christians who take an analogously syncretistic stand because all religion is at root the same, do not have courage of their convictions and rebrand themselves as Isiacs. It would be a particularly attractive cult for those of them who, by an unfortunate accident, have like poor dear Apuleius got themselves metamorphosed into donkeys with oversized membra virilia.

Moreover, if only the Right Side had been victorious at Actium, Isis might have had a great literary future. After all, Cleopatra VII, the philopateira Thea, was also the Nea Isis. Would Vergil, instead of writing that rather tortured aetiological epic about the Ira Iunonis, Venus Genetrix, Pallas puer, and Pius Aeneas, have poured all his heart and genius into an Isiad, which would have climaxed, not in the vengeful killing of Turnus paidophonos, but in the divinely glorious Nuptials and exquisite couplings of Isis Epiphanes with her Neos Bakkhos? Er ... perhaps not ... I admit that you are right. He probably wouldn't. No scope there for his libido pronior in pueros. But somebody else might have done it. Publius Ovidius Nosey, for example.

Since an excitingly Hellenistic Romano-Alexandrian Empire would have had a much more Eastwards bias than the boring old Roman Empire did, the Name of Isis would have been Great in the Orient, two thousand years earlier than today.
*To make Isiacs feel at home in Oxford, we have renamed our bit of the Thames after the Goddess, and divided our other river, the Cherwell, into two parallel streams so that we can call the bit in between them Mesopotamia.

11 August 2019

Talking Oxford (2)

At the 2014 Encaenia, the then Public Orator, Mr Richard Jenkyns felicissimae memoriae of LMH, had used a phrase which one of his hearers ... none other than the then Vice-Chancellor himself, a poor silly Professor A D Hamilton ... had disliked so much that he cherished it, for four months, in a Resentful Bosom. When he came to make his own Oration in October at the start of the 2014/2015 academic year, Hamilton, speaking in English, had this to say:
"I want to reflect with you on the public value of Oxford; the benefit that flows to others from who we are, what we do, and how we do it. And if, in the course of these reflections, I manage to say something of wider interest and relevance about the special importance and value of higher education in the world of the twenty-first century, well, then I shall consider I have not entirely wasted my time or, more importantly, yours."

Oh dear. Not a word of this is Talking Oxford, is it? How terribly portentous and consequential! How full of a Politically Correct sense that we must demonstrate the vast amount of good we do to others! Might it even contain 'virtue signalling'? Do you feel the adjective "pompous" struggling to make itself heard in your mind? Not a touch here of that quick and allusive levity, that faux self-deprecation behind which Oxonians lightly conceal our feeling that we are so obviously unique that we don't even need to remember that fact, still less to be so unspeakably vulgar as to assert it. Even worse, observe the implication that Oxford is relevant. Nemo qui mammas almae huius Universitatis ipse suxisset haec vel talia unquam proferre potuisset! Quid de apicibus somniantibus? Quid de rebus desperatis? 

This sad (and now happily long departed) Hamilton was not a man who, in those formative youthful years, was woken daily by his College Servant bringing him hot water and the information "Good morning sir, quarter to eight sir, blizzard in the night sir, three cars crashed on the ice coming down Headington Hill, eleven people killed sir, will there be anything else, sir?" vel similia. You see, Talking Cambridge is a class dialect designed to condescend and to insult those marked out by the speaker as social inferiors. But Talking Oxford is a style of processing and assimilating reality, of cutting mere facticity down to size, a style which in my undergraduate days owed as much (at least in the men's colleges) to our beloved and respected College Servants as to dons or undergraduates.

Let us resume our reading of poor daft Hamilton's embarrassing Oration.
"It was our celebrated Public Orator, Richard Jenkyns, at Encaenia [2014] who stated in the course of a typically mordant review of the worldly achievements of Oxford alumni, I quote: 'Life - always our most dangerous competitor.' He captures neatly that too familiar perception of the academic world having little if anything to do with life, certainly life as it is lived; life with a capital L.

"Well, this morning I want to try not just to take issue with that perception by illustrating some of the ways in which it is woefully wide of the mark, but to go further and even to argue that life as it is lived - still with that capital L ..." and blah blah blah for several pages more. Dinosaurs competed for mention with budgerigars. Honest! Heaven help us.

10 August 2019

Talking Oxford (1)

Cambridge men and women, vulgo "Tabs", are, in my experience, without exception (well, 'spiritually', as Rex Mottram would say), Old Etonians with aunties and uncles high up in the KGB, who speak with a leisurely, languorous and protracted drawl which rarely seems to approach a conclusion. It expresses their contemptuous sense of superiority to the rest of the world ... "You dear little people, you have nothing better to do with your poor little lives than to listen to me". It has been suggested that Oxonians feel no need to prove any such thesis and and that we more characteristically speak faster and then pause for breath in mid-sentence so that, when we do get to the end of the sentence, we can immediately leap into the next sentence without giving any opportunity to a polite interlocutor to ... er ... er ... interlocute (stet haec sententia pro exemplo). I think this is right; but there is more to "talking Oxford" than just that one particular (very serviceable) device.

At this point you need to know that, since about 2004, the role of Vice-Chancellor in this University has radically changed. Previously, the VC was himself an Oxford product, commissioned, so to speak, from the Lower Deck. But since then we have had members of the new international elite of super-administrators, Staff College products who have never drunk from the Isis, who can (and do) cheerfully flit from running Yale to running Oxford; from running Oxford to running NYU. Let us not go into the question of any financial aspects there may be to these arrangements (neat example of a Ciceronian praeteritio, yes?). What this sociological change means is that a modern Vice-Chancellor does not now speak, or even understand, Oxford's own idiolect (forgive the dittography). He ... or she ... has, quite simply, not been suckled at the correct breasts. Ergo, a deep gap in communication ... C S Lewis's phrase a phatic hiatus will have sprung to your minds. Exactly. Gottit.

More later.

9 August 2019


"[Like Balaam who] wished to curse but opened his mouth with blessings, so a pope may all his life be in error, but if he attempts to put it forth, he will be cut off, or be deterred, or find himself saying what he did not mean to say".