22 October 2019


Even Adrian Molesworth no about the Defenestration of Prague. Would "The Depontification of Pachamama" do as a description of the watery relocation of those iffy statues in Rome? Or "The Intiberisation"? Does it merit an annual liturgical celebration? I expect Joshua has Propers (Extraordinary Form) at the ready.



There is an intriguing news story going around.

Here in Oxford, in what we used to call the Library of the Ashmolean but now call the Sackler since its magnificent rebuild, they store thousands of papayri, some published, many unpublished. These were dug up in a 2000-year-old rubbish dump at Oxyrhynchus in Egypt back in the 1890s by a couple called Grenfell anf Hunt. (Dry sand preserves papyrus.) They are the property of 'The Egypt Exploration Society'. These papyri range from literary texts lost since the fall of Constantinople to laundry lists.

Among them are some OT and NT fragments. And some of these, missing from the Sackler, appear now to be held by an American Evangelical 'Museum of the Bible' financed by a family called Green. (They have very promptly said that they will return anything to which they do not have title.)

The name of an Oxford American papyrologist called Dirk Obbink has cropped up.

What our media do not seem to be aware of is that Obbink has been in the news in a variety of contexts. One of these concerns the Aeolian poetess Sappho of Lesbos.

Most of her oeuvre is lost, the last copies having very probably been destroyed during the spread of Islamic enlightenment. A few pieces survived because they were quoted by other writers. But in the last century quite a few papyrus fragments have been identified and published. One such substantial and quite 'recent' fragment was unofficially named "the New Sappho". Obbink has been in the Sappho Industry from an early stage. And when an "Even Newer Sappho" was published by him, much interest was aroused.

There were some nasty-minded people who even wondered if this might be a forgery ... a suspicion definitively disproved. Interest then turned to 'provenance'. Then there were those who felt that Obbink had given an unsatisfactorily laconic account of where he got it from. It transpired that the Green Museum somehow came somewhere into the story. Nobody has suggested that the Greens have behaved with anything other than complete propriety from beginning to end.

In publishing this text, Obbink, in his understated American way [might he be a relative of Max Beerbohm's Oover?], secured blessed immortality by giving it the title "Papyrus Obbink".

The University is "investigating". Inspector Morse has not been called in. Who needs plods when you have dons?

Why might readers of this humble blog have any interest in such a subject? Because Sappho either invented, or somehow found her name attached to, a metre called the Sapphic. Users of a Breviary will know this metre extremely well because of the hymn Iste Confessor, which crops up with great regularity whenever ... as we so often do in the Western Rites ... we celebrate yet another 'Confessor'. Dragged from Greek into Latin poetry by Catullus and Horace, the 'Sapphic Metre' has for centuries been popular among those composing Latin verse, including hymns. I used it in my recent Latin hymn to S John Henry, Salve Fundator.

In English translations, it springs up at you from the pages of your hymn book because it has three longish lines and then a very short one with the rhythm tumtitty tumtum. [Exempli gratia: Wherefore O Father, we thy humble servants; Lord of our life and God of our salvation ...]

21 October 2019

Silly person

Some person called Mary Beard, who enjoys the title of 'professor' at some 'university', has said to the meejah: " ... do I like the Romans? I really hate them ... I am not going to love a culture that gave the likes of me no political rights, however interesting I find them. The same would go for the Victorians."

"The same would go" for Germany before 1919; the Beard will have to "hate" pre-Weimar Germany. Comparatively, at least, she will accord an easier toleration to the more liberal German electoral system which left the Nazis in charge. I expect she adores Stalin and can't wait to live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

What a thoroughly fatuous individual. She "really hates" [schoolgirl talk?] every culture before around 1920. Dumping any attempt at nuance, she misreads earlier cultures by implying that 'political rights' had the same significance in all of them that the phrase possesses in modern Western societies.

I wonder what Livia would have made of being condescended to by the pity of a Beard, on the grounds that she "lacked political rights". Have fig, dear. Have several.

In earlier societies, male and female spheres were different and distinguished. Typically, the male sphere included the the relationship between the family and external society. The female related to the household. This is carefully explained in the last chapter of Proverbs.

We may be better off or worse off now that we have discarded such distinctions. In my fairer moments I can see plausible arguments both ways.

But for 'professor' Beard simply not to understand such elementary matters makes me wonder if it was ever wise to allow Cambridge the title of university. Is it too late for us to have second thoughts about this?

20 October 2019

Vatican Gardens Event

There's a lot of hot air on the internet, following the Vatican Gardens Event. I noticed one in particular by a person saying that he could not say AMEN to a prayer for the pope. I would like to make a technical point: the Te igitur of the Roman Canon does not pray for the pope, still less does it in some way glorify him; it expresses our sacramental communio with him. I do that each morning with determination.

I propose to start deleting proffered comments which angrily attack PF for the VGE.

What I would like to see is a careful exegesis by some academically qualified person who is expert in the 'indigenous' religions of Amazonia, of what PF did at the VGE I shall not accept comments which woffle angrily. It would need to rely on a precise and evidenced account of what actually happened.

Our great Anglican mystagogue Dom Gregory Dix used to assert (e.g. Shape pp 24-26) that during the early persecutions Apostasy by a cleric meant that he had irremediably lost his Orders. I would like to see accounts by academically qualified writers of how this matter stands, historically and theologically.

Please do not waste your time or mine writing in with your own strong views unless you are academically competent.

19 October 2019

Bishop Robert Barron and Papa Lambertini's conundrum

Pope Benedict XIV pointed out (1) that we are obliged to venerate an exposed Host (cultum negari non posse hostiae ad venerationem expositae). But (2): although it is de fide that consecrated Hosts have been transubstantiated, (3) it is not de fide that this particular host actually was, as a matter of History, certainly consecrated (licet de fide non sit esse consecratam).

You see what he means in part (3) of that. The validity of its (or Its) consecration depends on our certainty that Fr O'Flanahan did say the proper words over it with an adequate intention (poor old chap undoubtedly getting senile) and that the novice nun who baked it did get the recipe right (last week her scones tasted of Vindaloo) and that the village miller's labourer didn't confuse his wheat-grain with his barley-grain (should have gone to Specsavers) and that our rather cranky Sacristan Maire Murphy didn't surreptitiously substitute an unconsecrated host for the consecrated Host (has brainstorms every alternate full moon) and that the priest who baptised Fr O'Flanahan, the notorious Fr Jack Hegarty of Graggy Island, didn't deliberately do it invalidly (by withdrawing his intention to perform any sort of Christian rite) in order to take revenge on bishop Brennan for cutting off his supply of whiskey and girls.

[Can I just break off here to clarify that I am not anti-Irish ... if the officiating clergyman had been, not Fr O'Flanahan of the County Tipperary but Fr Featherstonehaugh-Cholmondeleigh, Eton, Kings, and the Beda, one of the Barsetshire Featherstonehaugh-Cholmondeleighs (note for transatlantic readers: pronounced 'Fanshaw-Chumly'), I could have gone on for pages and pages more ... ]

While we are in via, even the majesty of Dogma does not free us from dependance on ordinary human probabilities. Watertight logical certainties guaranteed by a string of immaculate syllogisms are not the stuff of our Christian lives.

The other day, Bishop Robert Barron lectured memorably in the University Church on S John Henry's Grammar of Assent. I wonder if the Lambertini Conundrum gives interesting Magisterial support to the argument of the Grammar!

18 October 2019

18 October: S Eadnoth of Dorchester

The Heavenly Birthday, Natale, of S Eadnoth Bishop of Dorchester. He was killed while saying Mass during the Battle of Assandun.

The victorious Danes killed him; I expect I will be criticised for suggesting that it shows more respect ... indeed, fear ... towards the power of the Sacrifice of the Mass, to kill a priest for offering it than it does just to dismiss the Eucharist as some irrelevance by which nobody need feel threatened. Might the Danes who killed S Eadnoth and the man who killed Fr Hamel at the altar be a millimetre closer to Truth than the Obama who so slyly campaigned to replace 'Freedom of Religion' with a 'Freedom of Worship' about which he couldn't care less?

S Eadnoth ended up being buried at Ely. His own Cathedral Church at Dorchester, just South of Oxford, was to lose that status half a century later under the Normans, when the sedes episcopalis was transferred to Winchester. S Eadnoth's church, or rather, the gothic Abbey Church built over its site, was once, but is no longer, a dynamic Anglo-Catholic centre with a Missionary College attached.

At the beginning of this millennium, the shrine of Dorchester's founding bishop S Birinus was reconstructed. That reconstruction is superbly emblematic of all that is pathetic about a faded and gutless middle-of-the-road Anglicanism devoid of real content. On top of the now meaningless masonry there is no feretory containing relics; attached to its west end there is no Altar for the August Sacrifice. (The same is true of S Frideswide's Shrine in Oxford.) The C of E is terribly good at 'heritage' and demonstrating a polite enthusiasm for the past, but has no real awareness of any interaction between the Now and the Supernatural. (The church is in the hands of a woman 'priest'.) In Kenneth Kirk's pontificate, the Anglican Bishop Suffragan of Dorchester was permitted, once a year on S Birinus' feast in December, to sing Pontifical High Mass in Dorchester with all the dignities of a Diocesan Bishop, including the presence of the famed and feared Staggers Serving Team commanded by Canon Couratin.  A past era; a departed culture.

Sic transit gloria ....

But you can find the supernatural a little way away, down by Dorchester's river, in the lovely little Victorian Catholic Church of S Birinus, beautifully restored by the admirable Fr Osman, who celebrates the Old Mass in it, and is one of the assertores Veritatis who is prepared to lift his head above current parapets.

Luci cedant tenebrae, et cedunt.

17 October 2019

Sancta Patrona, ora pro nobis UPDATED

A rare liturgical treat this year. Saint Frideswide, Patron of this City and Univerity, has her feast on Saturday (October 19). And, thanks to the Latin Mass Society, there is a High Mass in the traditional Dominican Rite at Blackfriars. 11 a.m..

A treat, because the Dominican Rite is very similar to the old Sarum Rite (the main visual difference is that modern Dominicans do all the 'tridentine' genuflections, which 'Sarum' didn't have). So this is the closest you are likely to get to what happened in honour of the Saint in Oxford Cathedral, originally the church of the priory of S Frideswide until the suppression of the monasteries under Cardinal Wolsey. Unless, of course, it were to happen that ... er ...

Despite the 'Reformation', the University never quite got round to deleting S Frideswide from its Calendar. Check this in your Oxford Diary if you don't believe me.

As Patron, S Frideswide grabs the (second) Vespers of S Luke, who, according to the 1962 rules, doesn't even get a commemoration. She steals her own Second Vespers from the Sunday, which does get a commemoration. Before P*us XII and B*gnini got tinkering, S Luke did get a commemoration of his (Second) Vespers. And there would have been a Common Octave of S Frideswide ...  If I've got some of that wrong, I'm sure there is One Above who will correct me!

Moi, I shall use the 'Gallican' Preface of Patrons.

Back in the days of the dear old Church of England, now no more than a sanctified memory, on this Feast the Lord Bishop sang Pontifical High Mass in his Cathedral, assisted by the Staggers Travelling Circus. Happy times! But all good things come to an end ... up to a point ...

Not very far from the bones of S Frideswide is the grave of Robert King, last abbot of Thame and Oseney and Bishop of Rheon in partibus infidelium, first and only de facto Bishop of Oseney, first Bishop of Oxford (the See was canonically erected by Cardinal Pole on 24 December 1554). His de facto successor was Hugh Curwen, who had been consecrated by Dr Bonner temp' Philippi et Mariae to Dublin (it is not quite true, as people carelessly claim, that only one Marian bishop conformed under Elisabeth). I've no idea where he's buried, poor old gentleman.
[UPDATE: Mark West kindly points out that, according to the DNB, Curwen was buried at Burford; 'Pevsner' does not record a surviving monument.]

Our exalted Patron is still there in her Church, buried under a stone inscribed Frideswide, her bones amusingly mixed with those of some Protestant woman. Nearby, the fairly complete fragments of the medieval shrine have been reassembled.

A statio, perhaps, to be made on the way up to Blackfriars.

16 October 2019

Was Vincenzo Carducci a crypto-Anglican?

There is a delightful picture by a Baroque painter of the seventeenth century, Vincenzo Carducci, who worked for the Spanish Crown. It shows the Ordination of S John Matha (and his first Mass in which he received a mercedarian vocation).

Carducci or his patron, interestingly, clearly did not accept the then current assumption, based upon the teaching of Pope Eugene IV, that the Porrectio Instrumentorum was the Matter of Ordination. He shows the Holy Spirit descending like a flame of fire upon the head of the Saint as the bishop imposes his hands and says the words Receive the Holy Ghost ...whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven ... etc..

I wonder if the artist and his Most Catholic Royal Patron would have been surprised if they could have known that, four centuries later, Ordination by means of that Matter accompanied by that Form would survive among Anglicans who use the Prayer Book Ordinal (Bishop Harry Carpenter, who had Bossuet on the Dutch side of his episcopal pedigree, dealt thus with me on Trinity Sunday in 1968), but that the imposition of hands with that formula would be abolished in the post-Vatican II Roman version of presbyteral Ordination.

Ah, the whimsies of liturgical history!

15 October 2019

Walsingham and the CCC

I heard a rumour ... just a rumour ... that the Catholic Shrine at Walsingham, long known to dyspeptic Anglicans as The Barn, may be reordered or even demolished and replaced (plaudite! plaudite!) by something a tadge more like a Catholic Shrine ... indeed, something more like the Anglican Shrine, with its 16 Rosary Altars and its superb collection of relics (not to mention its Holy House and its Holy Well).

The dynamic 'new' Administrator, Canon Armitage, might give away some hints about his plans when he speaks at the Colloquium being held at Walsingham from November 19-21 by the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy (not too late, Fathers, to book).

The main speaker is to be Dom Mark Kirby (Vivat! Vivat!), the charismatic and eloquent Prior of the (traditional) Benedictine House at Silverstream in the County Meath ... a fantastic man; a fantastic place.

I don't understand why some people are so negative and pessimistic about the state of the Church Militant ...

14 October 2019


As diligent readers will know, I've been sequestered from from the input of the World ... so I'm ill-placed to comment upon Mysterious Happenings in the Vatican Gardens (there must be a joke somewhere here about leading people Up The Garden Path).

But a kind American friend draws my attention to the comments on the American fsspx.news.

Eccelente. What a superb witness the Society has given to plain sanity over so many years ... decades ...


One or two random notes and queries arising from Sunday's liturgy.

Again, the rite used was that put in place by PF. It omits the formulae which had been added by Pope Benedict and which had enhanced the Magisterial status of the rite. Common sense suggests that canonisations in this reduced rite assert less certainty about the process.

The Greek Deacon omitted, I think, the Customary Kisses of the Hierarch's hand. Previous Greek Deacons have done them. Was this by instruction? Another example of the perennial tendency to latinise Byzantines?

PF is Bishop of Rome. It is strange that he did not use the Roman Eucharistic Prayer. Doesn't he like the job? Is he getting into retirement mode?

Some clergy, at communion time, gave the Host into the mouth of a recipient, even if s/he held out his/her hands; some went along with the wishes of the recipient. At one point there seemed to be an MC gesturing to the effect that reception should be in the mouth.

At the end, Lead Kindly Light was sung in Italian. If we are to have vernacular liturgy, it would seem common sense to have a text written by one of the canonizati sung in the language in which he/she wrote it. And after all, English is not exactly one of the world's rarest languages. I deplore the rabid and relentless Italianisation of the Catholic Church. My Father used to express the view that the Catholic Church might be OK for Eye Ties, but not for Englishmen. It is a shame that current Vatican policy appears to concur.

Who were the Anglican bishops near the pope? Was one of them a scarlet woman? Why do modern Anglican bishops shun the dear sober old patrimonial Penguin which was good enough for blessed William Laud? The C of E should put a stop to all this vulgar highchurchery.

What a wonderful showing all those Keralan Catholics, and the crowds of Syro-Malabar clergy, made!

PS The cameraman generously showed us quite a lot of shots of a particular chap sitting among the Great and the Good. He very extravagantly leaned sideways and forward while reaching behind him so as to give his bottom a good scratch; then engaged with his texting machine; then started picking at his fingernails. The poor fellow was very restless.  Does Novus Ordo liturgy have this effect on everyone? Is there a medical name for the physical consequences of Modern Liturgy? Are there known remedies?

Who was/is he?

13 October 2019


I made it clear before leaving my computer for ten days that I would not be reading emails or moderating proferred comments. Again, I return to a load of abuse from someone who presumably did not read that notification, and is cross that I didn't publish his 'comments'. You might have thought he would have noticed that I didn't enable any other comments either.

Now I've been through them and enabled most.