28 October 2020

Yet More Mirth in Hell, and the subject is still Poland. Satan as a sophisticated Liturgist and ironic wit.

S John Paul II knew, and warned, that the next danger which would befall his long-suffering and blood-soaked native land after the fall of Communism would be secularism and the the temptatations of materialism.

We are told that, this last Sunday, there were interruptions of the Most August Sacrifice of the Mass in Polish churches, engineered by pro-abortionists. After the years in which the Communist regime struggled to do down the Church, a new, brilliantly updated, gang of Christ-hating anti-lifers is now, apparently, alive and well in the land of the Black Virgin. Come back Uncle Jo; all is forgiven!

I wonder if one of these blasphemous protests was in the great basilica of Nowa Hut, the building of which was one of Cardinal Wojtyla's greatest triumphs during his fight against the Stalinist regime.

And this last Sunday was the day ordained by Pius XI for the Latin Church to celebrate Christ the King. Under the witty guidance of the Enemy, the Polish protesters, unconsciously, chose their day of protests with admirable liturgical precision. In the Church's Liturgy, the Vespers Office hymn reads Scelesta turba clamitat/ Regnare Christum nolumus. [The wicked mob keeps on shouting/ We do not wish Christ to be King].

My goodness me, they do indeed keep shouting.

The hymnographer (Fr Vittorio Genovesi, SJ, ob 1967) chose his words well. In a lifetime mostly spent in teaching Augustan poetry, I came to realise that, of the many Latin words for Evil Deeds, scelus is just about as bad as you can get.

And a later stanza in his hymn reads Te ... Leges et artes exprimant. [May the Laws and arts express Thee]. Or rather, that used to be the text.

Few readers will be surprised to know that the phrases I have quoted were eliminated from the Divine Office sponsored by S Paul VI. Good on yer, Saint P! They were very tactless words! They actually related to the real world!!!

Archbishop Lefebvre wrote a rather good book on all this entitled They have uncrowned him. (Angelus Press). When will the cause for his Beatification be introduced?

27 October 2020

Does Satan have a sense of humour?

I throw out the above topic as a possible object of research for some keen young DPhil student on the threshold of a brilliant career in Academe.

Here is some evidence for her to consider.

A couple of evenings ago, I was watching the Beeb on my computer: a late-night slot in which media experts tell you what the interesting stories in the following morning's papers are, and ... on a good evening ... sometimes hint at what the 'Fleet Street' gossip behind and about them is.

Very unusually, one of the newspapers they had in front of them that evening was Polish! Yes, the news had just come through that the Polish Constitutional Court had ruled against the pre-birth destruction of the handicapped.

Of the three broadcasters (occasionally the three may include a man, but most commonly they are all women), the 'Anchor' was an elderly lady 'of Polish heritage'; another was Women's Editor on a right-wing paper generally known as The Torygraph; she was called Claire Cohen.

Cohen reacted to the Polish Breaking News with the phrase "really shocking". The Anchor seemed not unsympathetic to this laconic pronouncement. There was no suggestion that this was a merely personal view to which Cohen was entitled; the phrase was left hanging in the air as an obviously objective observation. Nobody offered any balance.

Poland is a country in which, within still living memory, there were the very grossest Extermination Camps engaged in the sadistic slaughter of millions of human beings, many of them with names like, er, Cohen. And the country itself suffered from a murderous Nazi tyranny determined to reduce the numbers of 'sub-human' Slavs and to destroy its cultural identity.

Yet Cohen, and her Polish chum, sophisticated ladies, had graduated far beyond any simple-minded revulsion at the slaughter of the innocent. Instead, they seemed horrified that the current holocaust of 'sub-human' babies might in anyway be interrupted. 

Ridete, quidquid est Daemoniorum!!

26 October 2020

Newman, Mueller, Burke, and Weinandy: where are we now in this pontificate?

Cardinal Mueller, in the last few days, has given wise guidance about how faithful Catholics should treat recent remarks attributed to the Roman Pontiff. As he puts it, "every Catholic can and should contradict" these remarks. 

I hope that readers have not forgotten this same Cardinal Mueller's Manifesto of 2019; it was and is a most  interesting document. In it, surprisingly,

he did not mention the Petrine Ministry of the Roman Pontiff.

This is unusual in modern Catholic discourse; it is the Dog which Failed To Bark In The  Night. The sickly and mawkish modern cult of the Bishop of Rome has for so long pushed the Witness of the Incarnate Word, the words of Scripture, the teaching of the Fathers, into the background. How often have you heard a semi-literate sermon in which "Pope Francis Says" is prominent, but never any hint is given of "Jesus Says"? Or "in the words of S Paul?" In his most recent remarks, Cardinal Mueller has wisely criticised "idolatrous papolatry" and warned against letting "sentimentality" contradict "the rationality of Faith".

So, if Mueller's 2019 Manifesto had no other value, that particular silence was as refreshing as a glass of cold water on a sticky day.

But why?

Possibly the Cardinal agreed with the realisation by the great Anglican theologian Eric Mascall, that the doctrine of Papal Infallibility does not so much tell us something about the Christian Faith, as about the circumstances in which we might be told something about that Faith.

But most importantly, Gerhard Mueller's words reflect and endorse the illuminating perception of S John Henry Newman about the situation during the Arian crisis:

"... the body of the episcopate was unfaithful to its commission  ... at one time the pope*, at other times a patriarchal, metropolitan, or other great see, at other times general councils*, said what they should not have said, or did what obscured and compromised revealed truth ... I say, that there was a temporary suspense of the functions of the Ecclesia docens. The body of bishops failed in their confession of the faith. They spoke variously, one against another; there was nothing, after Nicaea, of firm, unvarying, consistent testimony, for nearly sixty years ..."

(In his statement last week, Cardinal Mueller cited Newman's observation that corruption in maters of revealed doctrine is much more serious than any other corruptions ... financial ... sexual ... )

It seems to me that the moment when PF decided not to aswer the Dubia of the four Cardinals was the formal, official moment ... the starting gun ... when the Petrine Ministry entered into its current "temporary suspense". When, likewise, he ignored the Filial Correction which some of us had sent him, he confirmed that Suspense. His determination to continue to mislead God's people by (at least) speaking ambiguously and then declining to clarify the "messes" which he creates, makes the truth of this analysis clearer day by day. Thus we are "officially" in a period in which the functions of the Papal Magisterium are in a vacatio docendi which will be ended at the moment when the same Petrine Magisterial organ as formally emerges from dogmatic silence to the audible exercise of the functions rightly attributed to it in Catholic Tradition and Magisterial Conciliar definition; that is, "devoutly to guard and faithfully to set forth the Tradition received through the Apostles; i.e. the Deposit of Faith".

In a masterly address on Apostasy delivered a few years ago at Buckfast, Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke spoke of "The poisonous fruits of the failure of the Church's pastors in the matters of Worship, teaching, and moral discipline ... ". His dear Eminence always puts things so much better than I could! After PF's recent remarks, Cardinal Burke, as he has done after earlier pieces of papal nonsense, assured the Faithful that such utterances of PF are "devoid of magisterial weight".

And, dear readers, do you remember the Letter sent to PF by Fr Tom Weinandy? He wrote that a bishop who espoused heretical teaching "would no longer bear within himself as a bishop the four defining marks of the Church  and, therefore, he could no longer justifiably act as an ecclesial member within the Church. He may continue to act outside the Church, or even within the Church, but his actions would lack a genuine ecclesial character, for the essential and indispensable four marks of the Church would be absent within his specious ministry."

By joining with Newman in this analysis, and suggesting that his analysis gives coherence to the remarks of Cardinals and scholars regarding the Bergoglian Crisis, I do not, of course, in any way suggest that PF and the silent or heterodox bishops have lost the right or capacity to use the Magisterium of his and their offices. On the contrary. I say no more ... and no less ... than S John Henry did: I am simply observing that, as a matter of fact, he is not and they are not at this moment using it.

At this moment, most unhappily, Christ's Church Militant here upon earth is deprived of the guidance of its principal earthly Shepherd.

But her Immaculate Heart will prevail!

Note: Newman is referring to Pope* Liberius; and, in referring to general councils*, he does not mean Ecumenical Councils. He explained later that he follows S Robert Bellarmine in distinguishing between Ecumenical Councils and councils which, even if large, do not count as Ecumenical. So nobody should try to apply these words to Vatican II, which was undoubtedly a 'valid' Ecumenical Council. Whether it always sought all the right answers to all the right questions in all the right places is, of course, very much another matter.

25 October 2020

Homosexuality and the 'Problem' of the Catechism

I published this in January 2018. I was disgruntled at the thought that, only a couple years previously, incoming Anglican Clergy had had to be carefully questionned to check that they subscribed to what the Magisterioum taught about Sex ... while, by 2018, it had become clear that the very same Magisterium was now some sort of playground  in which big rough boys from Argentina could bounce around knocking everybody over. I am still disgruntled.

I wonder how the 'Formation' of incoming Anglican Clergy now deals with Sex.


 When the first wave of Anglican priests was in preparation to be admitted to the presbyterate of the Ordinariate, we all had to go, one by one, to a Church-run centre in Manchester for 'psychometric' evaluation.

During one of my interviews, the clergyman interviewing me asked whether there was any part of the Church's teaching that I had difficulty with. Bishop (now Mgr) Newton had very strongly advised us all to be totally honest, so I said "Well, there is something. I have no trouble accepting it theoretically, but I do have problems internalising it, feeling it. To tell you the truth, I feel a little embarrassed mentioning this ... you know, it's not the sort of thing chaps of my age like talking about ..."

"Out with it", he invited, looking extremely interested, leaning slightly forward in his chair. So I explained.

"Particularly when I'm in a big, bustling crowd, I look at all those faces, all apparently with their own preoccupations, everybody pushing and kicking everybody else, and I get Big Doubts. I wonder if it really can be true that God has an individual and salvific and interlocking purpose for each and every one of them. I know, intellectually, that He does ... but .... well ..... particularly in the middle of the London rush hour ......  just after someone has kicked my shin ......."

"No no no", he replied, perhaps a trifle impatiently. Strangely, all the interest had now faded from his face. 

"I meant Sex".

During the period when we were being "formed" (surely, a horrid word) at Allen Hall ... where the food was so very, very, good ... we were taught very little about the Bible and the Fathers, but were endlessly drilled on the Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Magisterium. I still have all the voluminous teaching aids which embodied this teaching. They must have cost somebody quite a lot of money. It was apparently highly important for us to accept all those documents. I had no trouble doing so; they expressed what I had believed and taught all my life.

The Apostolic Constitution erecting the Ordinariates made clear that our doctrinal standard was to be the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This was rational, since the CCC summarises the teaching of the Catholic Church. And it was promulgated as being, together with the Code of Canon Law, one of the major fruits of the Council.

But PF has already hinted that he would like to see the teaching in the Catechism regarding Capital Punishment changed. Members of his circle have also alluded to the 'unsatisfactory' teaching expressed concerning 'remarried divorcees' and active genital homosexuality.

So, six or seven years ago, we were interrogated, indoctrinated, required to subscribe, the teaching  Magisterially given in Conciliar and Papal documents, most particularly and insistently as regarding sexual matters. I entertained more than a mere suspicion at the time that the intention in interviews like one I have narrated above was to 'weed out' applicants who possessed a homosexual orientation. Apparently, there is now a real likelihood of those teachings being radically changed in a new edition of the Catechism. What we were carefully 'formed' to believe and accept would be reversed.

Interestingly, this seems to me to constitute an understanding of "Magisterium" which brings that concept carefully into line with the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell's 1984 ... . You will remember that Winston Smith's job is to sit at a desk onto which a machine intermittently disgorges copies of old stories from The Times newspaper which have now become inconvenient to the Party and which Winston is employed to "correct". When he has manufactured a 'correction' (which means, a falsification), he files it away so that henceforth that is what will be on record as the 'truth', while the earlier newspaper report is immediately burned so that no evidence of its 'error' will survive.

Not long ago, some individual called Scicluna told us that it is the present pope whom we should obey, "not the last pope, not the pope before that". 1984 redivivus! I wonder what that dear old principled Old Etonian 'Tory-anarchist' and Anglican atheist George Orwell aka Eric Blair would have said if he could have known that his dystopian fantasy would be so ruthlessly plagiarised (without acknowledgement) by a Catholic Archbishop of Malta.

Hot off the Press, on the Rorate site, we are given another superb example of Orwellianism: the Calendar of the Franciscans of the Immaculate writes out of history the Founders of that mercilessly persecuted Order, who are now Unpersons. Might Big Brother be involved?

If that is the sort of 'Magisterium' which PF's corrupt, and sycophantic entourage is determined to impose, there is little I can do to stop them, except praying ... and writing this sort of thing. Were these people to succeed in their evil endeavours, I would have to consider very carefully whether I should repudiate formally the mangled form in which the Catechism would be left.

FINALLY, a practical suggestion. PF is very enthusiastic about Oriental Patriarchs. He likes to hug them, be blessed by them, to meet them in Cuba ... I am sure he would like to turn any important change, such as alterations to the Church's teaching on genitally expressed homosexuality, into an ecumenical, a collegial affair.

There is a very articulate Russian Metropolitan called Hilarion. He is 'foreign minister' of the Moskow Patriarchate. He is an Oxford Man, having done his Doctorate in this University. He is very articulate.

He is just the person to be involved in such an enterprise. After all, it is a basic principle of Ecumenism that neither 'partner' should make changes which would widen already existing gaps between the Churches. His Excellency Metropolitan Hilarion could give the Holy See helpful and informed advice on all this lovely stuff. I think he should be closely involved in the backrooms conversations now, apparently, going on.

Is your bishop eschatological?

A Greek (phrourein) verb and a Latin (excubare) verb are found in early literature describing the duties of a Bishop. Excubare literally means 'to sleep out of doors'. These terms point to your bishop's duty to be a  guard, a watchman. Not for him ... metaphorically ... the comfort of a soft mattress and a downy pillow; not for him to enjoy unbroken slumbers until his alarm-clock rouses him at 6.00 for his Office, Meditation, and Mass.

His duty is that of the Watchman, on the ramparts of the Holy City, his eyes keen to spot an approaching Enemy. Ideally, he is a Cerberus whose bite is every bit as bad as his bark, ready to savage those who attempt illicit entry into his Household. Or he climbs comscientiously up the high city tower from which his keen eye can detect hostile movement even on a distant horizon. 

And don't forget another Greek verb, gregorein, a rather late, perhaps koine coinage from egeirein, meaning to Stay Awake. Have you noticed how often the Gospels offered for Confessor Bishops emphasise the episcopal duty to watch, vigilare? "Watch, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. ... if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up ... " "he commanded the doorkeeper (thuroros) to watch ..."

And the Lord's teaching is that the Coming of the Judge upon that Day will be like that of a Lord or a King coming unexpectedly to make a reckoning with his household officers.

Your Bishop's job, before everything else, is to keep you safe by Watching and Guarding, so that on the Day of the Lord he can present you, with all his Household, pure and undefiled, to the Judge. 

Does your Bishop understand this? Does he do these things? When a Wolf starts sniffing around the sheepfold, is your bishop out there to confront him, brave, resolute, and fearless?

When yet another Satanic assault upon the Faith wafts across the airwaves from the Seven Hills, is your bishop out there in front, valiant for the Faith handed down through the Apostles, for the Depositum Fidei, insistent that, if Peter carelessly misspoke, he should clear away the confusion; that if the Vicar of Christ himself has actually fallen short of the Faith, he should purge himself of his Hypocrisy (synhypocrithesan ... tei hypocrisei are S Paul's words in Galatians).

Is your Bishop careful to keep his nose and his copy-book clean, or does he bear the marks of a man who is haunted by the thought that he does not know whether his Lord will come at Midnight, or in the Third Watch?

24 October 2020

Learning from our Ecumenical partners

I've just been speed-reading a horrendous report on a former Anglican diocesan Bishop of Chester, a man called Whitsey, now departed this life. By the Mercy of God, may his soul rest in peace.

His life-long career of sexual Abuse rivalled that of Bishop Peter Ball, but also included women and girls as well as men and boys. 

Whitsey was married, with three children.

I mention all this, not to glory in the downfall of the C of E, or because it is meritorious to throw stones at other people (it isn't), but simply because there are Catholics (and others) who argue that Abuse in the Catholic Church is related to the Latin Rite rule of clerical celibacy, which should therefore, in their view, be abolished.

This is the purest, silliest, simplistic, nonsense. Incidentally: observe that Matrimony was not a safeguard against Abuse in the case of Bishop Whitsey. 

Human sexuality is, quite simply, immensely complex ... and dangerous. It has been since the Fall.

Anyone who implies otherwise is probably a crook with an agenda.

(h/t Dr Cotton)

23 October 2020

Santissimo Redentore and Coronavirus

The Appendix pro aliquibus locis in the Altar Missal I use daily has a Mass for October 23 ... for our Most Holy Redeemer. Next year, I think, I shall use it, not least because the particular devotion goes back to the Great Plague of Venice in 1576 ... which makes it ... you know what I mean ... topical for us in these fun days. There were terrible numbers of plague victims, and so the Doge and the Senate vowed that ... the rest of the story writes itself, doesn't it?

The main Festival in Venice with this title is, as I suspect many readers will know, celebrated on the Third Sunday of July. I believe that quite a lot still goes on, even though it is, I think, some years since the poor things had a Doge. In 1830, Pope Pius VIII marked his brief pontificate by extending the Feast to Rome itself, where it was to be observed on 23 October. Readers lucky enough to have a copy of the splendiferous Calendar published each year by the Redemptorist Community on Papa Stronsay, up near the North Pole, will have noticed that Santissimo Redentore is observed on the Third Sunday of July with greater solemnity, but also appears on 23 October.

That Mass, like so many of the liturgical innovations of the Counter-Reformation, is full of exuberant joy in the wonders of our Redemption ... rather in the triumphalist spirit which animated Rubens' Triumph of the Eucharist. The Introit with which it begins, Gaudens gaudebo ... is from Isaias 61, and the psalmus of that Introit is the majestic, architectural, opening of Psalm 88: Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo: in generationem et generationem annuntiabo Veritatem tuam in ore meo. This psalmus is also  used in the Votive of the Passion, and in the Sarum (and Ordinariate) Mass of the Five Wounds. And it's there in the Mass of the Most Precious Blood ... and, I think, in a number of other Masses celebrating our Redeemer. (The Mercies of YHWH shall I sing for ever; unto generation and generation I shall proclaim thy hMT in my mouth.)

And the Offertorium, most suitably, is Salus populi ... I am the salvation/health of the people, from whatsoever tribulation they call upon me I will hear them; and I will be their God for ever: Alleluia! You appreciated the pun!

The best response to Coronavirus would have been for the Nation to vow a great Neo-Palladian Basilica to our Beloved Saviour, to be built on the site of that bizarre monument to utter, crass, pointlessness, the "Millennium Dome". Tchaikovsky wrote something which could have been played in connection with its solemn Consecration by Cardinal Burke.

22 October 2020

Pope Francis ... again ... and why he is wrong ...

I think we should all try to calm down. 

Mind you, that's not altogether easy when one, at least, of our British dailies has for its lead story this morning a large claim that Pope Francis favours "Gay Marriage". 

He does absolutely nothing of the sort. In fact, he has a long history, dating back to before his election as Bishop of Rome, of opposing SSM, but favouring Civil Partnerships. It is far from clear to me that his recent effusion represents any change in his publicly expressed views.

Any reaction to his words which is schismatic, or tends to encourage schismatic talk, is very wrong. It is matter of first importance to be in Full Communion with the See of S Peter.

When the occupant of that See is manifestly a poor silly old man, the obligation of koinonia is, if possible, even greater, not less. I would encourage any readers who do me the honour of taking seriously anything I say, to make an Act of Faith, explicitly expressing belief in the indefectibility of Christ's One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and the fact that Jorge Bergoglio is the Vicar of Christ upon Earth. We should pray, with Vatican I, that the Holy Spirit may help him "traditam per Apostolos revelationem seu fidei depositum sancte custodire et fideliter exponere". Tough job? Tough Spirit!

The root of the PF-and-Sex-Problem can be summed up in the question: When did you last hear him emphasise the importance of S Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae? And of Casti connubii from the pen of Pius XI?

Those two great encyclicals robustly emphasised the tradition of two Christian millenia about the licit use of Marriage. And about the disorder structurally inherent when that teaching is ignored. And, prophetically, S Paul VI saw the great Tsunami of sexual incontinence which the Enemy was planning to unleash upon the Church and upon the World. And has done.

In the context of this teaching, which upholds (like the Anglican Prayer Book) the primary procreative teleology of the sexual act, it is not difficult to see why the Church also teaches that a SS 'orientation' is intrinsically disordered, and that  SS genital acts are every bit as sinful as are contraceptive sexual acts among the married.

If we forget the teaching of HV, then condemnations of SSM, and of SS genital activity, are bound to seem to the World to be pure discrimination. Indeed, they probably are.

If PF, and other Ministers of God's Word, are too terrified to teach, opportune et inopportune, what the Papal Magisterium, from Casti connubii  to Humanae Vitae emphasised with such clarity, then they ... we ... condemn ourselves to the incomprehension, the ridicule, and the opposition of the World.

What if we teach what Scripture and Tradition teach? The World is very likely to say: "You want to cut out most of the Sex that most human beings have!! You even want to condemn a lot the sex Catholic married couples have!! What a weird lot you are ...". They will be making something very much like  the point made by the Disciples (S Matthew 19: 10 ou sumpherei gamesai). 

But they will be less able to hammer us with the unfair and illiterate accusation of 'homophobia'.

And the best back-up to this would be: robust teaching about the Christian emphasis on Virginity, as I wrote only a day or two ago in one of my pieces on S Frideswide. So we also need teaching, not least from PF's ever-generous tongue, on Virginity, both male and female, on Consecrated Virginity, on Consecrated Widowhood, and on Consecrated Widowerhood.

And this is the very last moment the Latin Church should dump its tradition of clerical celibacy.

21 October 2020


Some journalists have reported Tutti Frutti as abolishing the Church's traditional teaching on the Just War. This is untrue. Paragraph 258 has marks of careful drafting; but it actually implies the abiding validity of that body of teaching. I refer to such phrases as "it is easy to fall into an overly broad interpretation of this potential right ... it is very difficult nowadays to invoke the rational criteria elaborated in earlier centuries to speak of the possibility of a 'just war'".

What I find a trifle dodgy about this is: if you urge people not to invoke the principles of the Just War teaching, you may think you are simply discouraging them from saying"This war is just! Fight on!" But you are also discouraging them from saying "This war is unjust! Drop your weapons!"

Among traddy Catholic moralists there is agreement that Nuclear War could never be justified because the harm done would so vastly outweigh any conceivable good ... which means that the principles of the Just War on Proportionality of Harm are being invoked. At least on this side of the Atlantic, such a judgement leads to the further conclusion that (since a contingent intention to commit an immoral act is itself immoral) the policy called Nuclear Deterrence is itself immoral. PF, I suspect, shares this view in the following paragraphs of Tutti Frutti. (I am not going to waste my life trying to explain to people that no End can ever justify a Means which is intrinsece malum, because S John Paul II explained that very adequately in Veritatis Splendor para 80 sqq..) But the arguments PF uses are the same arguments which those of us in the Just War tradition use in order to condemn the policies of governments (including my own) which retain nuclear weapons.

In other words, PF runs the risk of undermining the very teaching on which he then relies in what he says about nuclear weapons. 

But that is a characteristic of this Pontiff. The agility and aplomb with which he saws off branches he is sitting on is one of the eight wonders of the moral world..


20 October 2020

The Elector of Hannover

On October 20, 1714, George, Elector of Hannover, a distant Protestant relative of King James, underwent a form of 'Coronation' in Westminster Abbey.

Not a happy day. For half a century, Britain was to be sorely divided.

In towns all over England, the worthy common folk ... not the Whig Plutocracy ... rioted in protest. God bless them all. But this University had an even better idea than rioting.

Instead, on this day the University conferred on Sir Constance Phipps the honorary degree of DCL (Doctoris in Lege Civili).

Although Phipps (1656-1723) had been prepared, like many sound men, to serve the de facto regime of Anne, his practice as a barrister had been among staunchly Tory and Jacobite circles. He had achieved national hero-status by his participation in the defence of Henry Sacheverell (and, later, of Bishop Francis Atterbury for whom we in the Ordinariate have a great regard).

Confusion to Whiggery and Hannover Rats! Redeat Magnus ille Genius Britanniae!

19 October 2020

More on S Frideswide

So, hiding among her pigs, Saint Frideswide prayed to S Margaret and S Catherine, who made a spring arise from the ground (a Holy Well can still be seen at Binsey, restored by a Tractarian Vicar) with the water of which S Frideswide cured her erstwhile suitor of his blindness (I bet he was more careful thereafter to practise Custody of the Eyes).

So were S Margaret and S Catherine the other two ladies in the arms of the See of Oxford (see earlier post)? Probably, but I'm not sure that my great predecessor at S Thomas's, Canon Thomas Chamberlain, thought so, since in his famous Eucharistic Window he portrayed S Frideswide, S Margaret, and S Etheldreda - another Saxon royal virgin who preserved her chastity against onslaught (this time, the importunities of no fewer than two husbands).

I don't know what you think about those female saints - some of them a tadge legendary - who sprawl all over the Analecta Bollandiana and whose sanctity appears to lie at least partly in their heroic and determined protection of their virginity. It's easy to call this dualist or paranoid; to complain about an unnecessary denigration of the holy estate of Matrimony; even to speculate along Freudian lines. Just possibly some of these points could have been validly made in earlier generations. 

But in our culture, surely, a quite different point has to be made. Our Zeitgeist has its own novel superstition: that everybody is inevitably going to express genitally the sexuality about which they either say 'God has created me' or 'I have chosen this gender'. The point which all those Armoured Virgins - even the mythical as well as the historical ones - make is that it was and is neither compulsory nor inevitable to be sexually active. Our Christian cult of Virginity teaches that if you want, or, rather, are called, to be a male or a female who is not committed irrevocably to pursue fruitfulness with another individual 'in bed and at board', the consequence is simple. You offer up to God a sexually abstinent life. It is a privilege, rather than a disaster, to have such a divine vocation.

The assumption all around us now is that, since mechanical means exist whereby sexuality may now be divorced from both fertility and commitment, we are all at liberty to be uncommitted, sterile, and promiscuous. This preposterous nonsense is now solemnly enshrined in the 'laws' of this and many other lands. It is one of the most superbly crafted of the deceits of the Evil One. Day by day, it becomes increasingly clear that it is only in a culture which values Virginity and Celibacy that Matrimony itself can flourish ... paradoxical as that may seem to us.

During the 2014 Synod, the suggestion was made that the modern debates within the Church about Gender and Sexuality may be our equivalent of the debates in the first six Christian centuries about Christology. I think this is quite an acute observation. If it is true, this could mean that we have several centuries of the present mayhem in front of us.

Those who observe the pre-Pacelli rules and celebrate the solemnity of S Frideswide with a Privileged Octave, will have seven more days to meditate upon these matters!

18 October 2020

The Demivirgins of Oxford

Two liturgical notes:

(1) S LUKE This morning, the Beeb was broadcasting an Anglican eucharistic celebration in honour of S Luke. I think there was a medical bias here, because the Saint has medics in his patronal portfolio. The Anglican observance is in accordance with the long-standing Catholic Tradition (see your S Lawrence Press ORDO) that a Second class feast supersedes a Sunday Mass. Sadly, the 1962 Vetus Ordo reduces S Luke to a commemoration, while the Novus Ordo eliminates him altogether.

Not only is this contrary to Tradition, it is also contrary to a principle beloved of trendies, called Inculturation. It is part of English tradition, secular as well as in religious, that S Luke ... and other Saints in the same liturgical class ... should not be suppressed when they pop up on a Sunday.

It should immediately be made optionally licit in all forms of the Roman Rite, as it is in the C of E, for a Second Class festival to supersede a Sunday Mass.

(2) S FRIDESWIDE The Arms of the See of Oxford have a band across the middle (a "fess" ... francophone readers, be quiet) and above it three crowned demivirgins (yes, the heraldic term does afford scope for endless witticisms, but, believe me, most of them were made several hundred years ago), and in the base an Ox walking sedately across a Ford. The three demivirgins and their fess gave rise to an old undergraduate joke that the shield represents three lady dons sitting at a table and giving a viva to a cow. Who the ladies actually are is not entirely clear.

Pretty certainly, one of them is S Frideswide, whose festival is tomorrow. She was a princess who declined marriage, fled, and hid among pigs (a faintly Circaean touch?) in a forest until her suitor was struck blind and gave up the quest, whereupon, as one does, she became an abbess. Her shrine was in the chapel of S Frideswide's Priory, which later became the Chapel of Cardinal College (I believe trendy people now call it Christ Church, but it's still got Wolsey's hat and his coat of arms - which it uses as its own arms and its flag - all over it). This chapel subsequently served as the cathedral church of the diocese which Henry VIII erected on the cheap (and which was formally given Catholic legitimacy, by virtue of his legatine powers, by Cardinal Pole). Under the Tudor Spoliation, the shrine was demolished and, under Bloody Bess, S Frideswide's bones were mixed with those of a Protestant woman; subsequently an inscription informed the public that Religion and Superstition lay mingled there ...

( ... a bit of an ambiguity there, don't you think? Rather in the spirit of the naughty old Jacobite doggerel "God save the King! God save our Faith's Defender:/ God bless - no harm in blessing - the Pretender./ But who Pretender is, and who is King:/ God bless my soul! That's quite another thing!").

Anyway, S Frideswide now does cheerful duty as Patron of the City, University, and Diocese of Oxford. (Under the old conventions that made her Festival a Double (Treble?!?) of the First Class with a privileged octave.) In Bishop Kirk's happy days, the Lord Bishop celebrated Pontifical High Mass on her festival against a background of apprehension that somebody might be offended because of the niceties of Precedence. You see, there was the traditional Anglican frisson of uneasiness between Bishop (and Diocese) and Dean (and Chapter), combined with the amour propre of the University and the capacity of the City Corporation, representing Town, to feel slighted by Gown as well as by Crown. This was solved by having different processions simultaneously snaking into the Cathedral from different directions.

Yes, I know what you're thinking ... Oxford has never really quite Grown Up ...