21 February 2017


During the Stalinist era, the Moskow Patriarchate was complicit in the persecution, even martyrdom, of Catholic Ukrainians. It would be nice if, instead of resenting the resurrection of the heroic and ancient Church of Ukraine, Moskow could express some penitence for a period of its history when it appeared very willing to benefit from the oppression of the Ukrainian Church and even from the genocidal famine which Stalinism unleashed upon the Ukrainians.

Moreover, I have a lot of sympathy for the wish of Russian Orthodox that Latin Christianity should not proselytise in the Canonical Territitory of the Moskow Patriarchate. I know that some readers will disagree with this, but I would wish that Orthodoxy be supported in its desire to be the Church of the Russian people. But a real solution to this group of problems would need examination of the mirror-image problem: the existence of (several!) Orthodox jurisdictions within the Canonical Territory of the Roman "Patriarchate". Or is the "Patriarchate" of Rome a virgin area in partibus infidelium and available as sort of free-for-all for Orthodox to missionise? The recent Great and Holy Council and the fierce wrangling which has followed it suggest that the status of the Roman "Patriarchate" is a profound source of dissension within and between Orthodox.

During the Inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI, while the Holy Gospel was being sung in Greek, a considerable number of the Orthodox present turned away. I can only suspect that they were so anxious to show (before the world media) disrespect to the "uniate" deacon singing it that they were also willing to show disrespect to the Incarnate Word solemnly proclaimed. I suspect - I don't know how to check this - that the deacon concerned may have been associated with the Abbey of Grottaferatta near Rome in the Alban hills; founded by S Nilus in 1004 and for more than a millennium an oasis of Hellenic Christianity in the heart of the West and never out of communion with the See of Rome. A foundation which survived more successfully than the Latin religious communities which were in Constantinople and on Athos before 1054.

If this were so, it would make that action even more unpleasant.

20 February 2017


I don't intend here to go into the original significance of the Pax at its traditional place in the Roman Rite; in posts some time ago, accessible through the search engine, I showed conclusively that the idea was that a liturgical Kiss concluded and sealed what had just been done (here, in the case of the Eucharist, consecration and oblation). No; I want to put some question marks against the significance assigned to it in the Pauline rite. And in current de facto praxis within the mainstream Church

"The faithful implore peace and unity for the Church and the whole family of men and express mutual charity with each other, before they share one loaf". MR 1969 IGMR para 56 b.

I doubt whether it would be easy to find much patristic support for the thought that Christians ought to be concerned for the unity of the human family qua unredeemed - that is, for humanity before and without Christ. You don't have to be a Calvinist believer in the massa damnationis to have read your New Testament and to know that 'brethren' are brethren because it is Baptism that makes one a co-sharer in Christ's Sonship so that one can cry "Abba" in fellowship with all those others who have been so admitted into His Body.

But my real dubium is about the logical link apparently asserted here between the Kiss and the eucharistic sharing in the Panis sanctus Vitae aeternae, the One Loaf. I do not understand why/how those who are admitted to the Kiss can be excluded from the Loaf ... or why/how those to be excluded from the Loaf are admitted to the Kiss.

Modern custom is that on the Solemnity of SS Peter and Paul, the Orthodox metropolitan who is visiting Rome to represent the Phanar is the first to receive the Kiss from the Pontiff. And indeed, in ordinary parish churches, there can be no doubt that it very commonly occurs that non-Catholic and even unbaptised visitors at Mass will (whether they like it or not) be given a warm greeting at Pax time (even though the paragraph quoted above technically suggests that the Pax is confined to the fideles).

Old-fashioned worshippers are sometimes opposed to the Peace because this silly little piece of faux-friendly hypocrisy interrupts their private piety. I have some sympathy with this, but I feel there are more profound reasons for deploring what have become the accepted customs of the mainstream Church.

Or at the very least, questions which need answering.

19 February 2017


At the top left hand corner of this blog, there is a sweet little box with a very nice magnifying glass beside it. You can use it to find all sorts of interesting things ... I think of it as a Search Engine ... you'll be surprised ...

... for example: a recent comment enquired where the Anglican evangelical theologian and bishop N T Wright had made his critical remarks about the pre-Advent dating for Christ the King.

If one types in Christ King Wright one instantly gets given a 2014 post of mine listing the book concerned, and offering some quotations.

Now comes my strict bit. Mummy and Daddy and Nanny can't always be at hand to spoon every little last morsel of porridge into your dear expectant litte mouth. Why not try the Search Engine before you impetuously raise a great hungry wail from the cavernous depths of your perambulator?


I did tell you that I was going to be away from technology for a fortnight ...

... but I have now been through all 300 emails and enabled a lot of Comments which arrived during that period.


I apologise to Dom Benedict Andersen for inviting him to write on this subject on the thread when I was not in a position to enable his cogent and important comments. I now therefore repeat this piece  to ENABLE YOU TO READ HIS COMMENTS.
I am afraid that there is an immensely silly article in the CWR by a Fr Peter Stravinskas. He asks how the Ordinary Form could enrich the Extraordinary Form.

The problem with his piece is that he goes on and on ... and on ... and on ... having yet more bright ideas. One thing leads to another. You start off considering his ideas ... but by the time he has finished with you he is proposing a completely new rite.

More to the point, and most disturbingly, he is apparently unaware of a large amount of work, academically, which has been done in the last twenty or so years. The 1960s changes were based on shabby and shallow scholarship. The last thing we want to do to the EF now is to make precisely the same blunder!

A tiny handful of examples:

"The riches of prayers in the OF should be brought into the EF." BUT it has been demonstrated that even where OF prayers have a pedigree in the old Sacramentaries, their selection and their conceptual bowdlerisation in the OF has made them very suspect.
"The OF Lectionaries should be brought into the EF." BUT it has been demonstrated that, although the OF gives more Bible, it goes easy on certain Biblical themes, and so in fact it is something of an impoverishment; a censorship of Holy Scripture.
"The OF Calendar should be brought into the EF ... for example, by shifting Christ the King to November." BUT the (Evangelical Anglican) Bishop NT Wright has demonstrated what a very flawed move that was.

There are two changes that should be made: the EF Calendar needs to be thinned out. Historically, Calendars continually silt up with new saints and new devotions, and periodically Roman Pontiffs revise them. I believe that some saints should be made optional, and (very judiciously!!!) some more recently canonised saints should be considered for admission to an 'optional' category. This is a sensitive area and the revision should be done in careful collaboration with the SSPX and other interested parties. Epiphany, Ascension, Corpus Christi, Christ the King should not  be messed around with! Not now, not ever!

And some Prefaces should be added. Particularly, for Advent. But, long before the OF was even a glint in the eye of Mgr Bugnini, France had faculties to use a select handful of (originally neo-Gallican) prefaces, including that for Advent. The SSPX in France has continued to use those faculties, as their French-language ORDO makes clear. These Prefaces are, I believe, already printed in the 1962 Missal. The provision of a few hundred new prefaces would be a bad idea because it would unbalance the rite.

Lastly: a personal fad of mine. I think the authorisation of rubrics for a form of Mass using a Deacon but not a Subdeacon ... when, for example, there is no appropriate and trained person available even to be a 'straw' subdeacon ... would enrich the possibilities for doing the EF magis sollemniter.

Fr Stravinskas's proposed massive revision of the EF would provide a sort of intermediate use between the EF and the OF. His desires would much more easily be achieved by authorising certain optional changes in the OF ... for example, the silent Canon, disuse of the Acclamations after the Consecration, the restoration of the historical Roman Words of Consecration, and the authorisation of the old Offertory Prayers of the celebrant. These would all be a good thing, and could be done very simply by a decree which need hardly occupy more than one sheet of paper.

My thanks to the learned Dom Benedict of Silverstream for alerting me to this matter. I have invited Father to expand in the Thread my rather brief  treatment of Fr Stravinskas' journey up the Garden Path. Hear Him!!

18 February 2017

S Wilfrid the Fisherman

Apparently during the first millennium we caught only fresh water fish. The middens that archaeologists spend their lives delving into demonstrate that towards the end of that millennium, such fish became smaller and fewer; so that we had to diversify into sea fish.

This provides the background of something in Bede that has always puzzled me. He says that when S Wilfrid (who was responsible for giving the English Church its admirable Romanita) decided to evangelise the South Saxons, he found them so afflicted by famine that they were lining up to jump off Beachy Head. There was fish galore, but the only fishing they were familiar with was catching eels. So he showd them how to use their eel nets to supplement their diet.

It used to mystify me that people could have been starving who had the English Channel in which to fish and no restrictive European quotas to hamper them. Now I understand.

17 February 2017

Fr Forrest: Stanza 4: Spirit of Vatican II

Oh, just the usual thing, you know, we trust that you'll be able
To mingle with the reredos and stand behind the Table;
(For clergymen who celebrate and face the congregation,
Must pass a stringent glamour-test before their Ordination!)
Patristic ceremonial; economy of gesture,
Though balanced by a certain superfluity of vesture;
With lots of flanking presbyters all gathered in a ring,
But, apart from these exceptions, just the ordinary thing.

16 February 2017


Whatever is a chap to do if he gets onto a train in Kent and finds a typescript left on an empty  seat by a previous traveller ... or "customer", as the train companies now call us ...

This is an appeal for information: does anybody know the status of a document by a Jesuit called James Hanvey and dated 20 October 2016?

15 February 2017

Fr Forrest: Stanza 3; 1928 and Percy Dearmer

Oh, just the ordinary thing you know; but very up to date,
Our basis is the liturgy of 1928,
With lots of local colouring and topical appeal,
And much high-hearted happiness, to make the service real;
Our thoughts on high to sun and sky, to trees and birds and brooks,
Our altar nearly hidden in a library of books;
The Nunc Dimittis, finally "God Save The Queen" we sing;
But apart from these exceptions, just the ordinary thing.

14 February 2017

Gabbling the Mass

In Newman's (insufficiently read but brilliant) novel Loss and Gain, a young Ritualist clergyman called Bateman is trying to reclaim for the Church of England a fellow Oxonian, Willis, who has become a Roman Catholic. "Do tell me, just tell me, how you can justify the Mass as it is performed abroad; how can it be called a 'reasonable service', when all parties conspire to gabble it over, as if it mattered not a jot who attended to it, or even understood it?"

Willis explains that Catholicism and Protestantism are essentially two different religions. "The idea of worship is different ... for, in truth, the religions are different. Don't deceive yourself, my dear Bateman: it is not that ours is your religion carried a little further - a little too far, as you would say. No, they differ in kind, not in degree: ours is one religion and yours is another".

This is an important perception today, when much misunderstanding is caused both in ecumenical dialogue and in the subject called 'Comparative Religion' by those who fail too realise that religions can have radically different structures; their fundamental grammar may be wholly different, not just their superficial features. As so often, Newman is a thinker and an analyst very much for our time. But let us follow Willis's explanation:

"To me nothing is so consoling, so piercing, so thrilling, so overcoming, as the Mass, said as it is among us. I could attend Masses for ever, and not be tired. It is not a mere form of words - it is a great action, the greatest action that can be on earth. It is, not the invocation merely, but, if I dare use the word, the evocation of the Eternal. He becomes present upon the altar in flesh and blood, before whom angels bow and devils tremble. This is that awful event which is the end, and is the interpretarion, of every part of the solemnity. Words are necessary, but as means, not as ends; they are not mere addresses to the throne of grace, they are instruments of what is far higher, of consecration, of sacrifice. They hurry on as if impatient to fulfil their mission".

In other words, for classical Protestantism, the Eucharist is an acted word; it is a sermon dramatised; it is intended to instruct the witnesses and draw their heart to that saving faith which justifies. But for the Catholic, it is an opus operatum; an action which by the powerful and indefectible promise of Christ is objectively (not merely subjectively and in the heart of the believer) effective. So the celebrant is not in the business of moving or instucting or edifying or converting the viewer - if such may be the the by-products, even useful ones, of the action, they are not its intrinsic purpose. The priest's intrinsic purpose is to confect and offer the Body and Blood of the Redeemer in sacrifice for the sins of men. Failure to realise this is at the heart of what is wrong with so much modern and 'relevant' liturgy. And failure to realise this is to fall into the structured error which we call the Enlightenment.

"[The words of the Mass] hurry on as if impatient to fulfil their mission. Quickly they go, the whole is quick; for they are awful words of sacrifice, they are a work too great to delay upon; as when it was said at the beginning, 'What thou doest, do quickly'. Quickly they pass, for the Lord Jesus goes with them, as he passed along the lake in the days of his flesh, quickly calling first one and then another; quickly they pass ... " but I invite the reader to get and read the book.

In terms of rhetoric and apologetic, it might seem that Newman has cleverly (no wonder Protestant England considered him dangerously sinister in his cleverness!) justified 'gabbling' the Mass. But his purpose is deeply theological. I would put it like this (I am borrowing the illustration from Eric Anglican Patrimony Mascall's section in Corpus Christi where he explains the logic of 'Private Masses'). If a Protestant went into a Catholic church and saw half a dozen side-altars, and at each of them a priest murmuring a 'private' Mass, his reaction would be likely to be 'Why are all those Ministers taking separate services, each of them with no more than one person to watch? What good does it do? Actors don't put on Hamlet to empty theatres just for the sake of it. It's pointless'. But the priest knows that offering the One Sacrfiice for the sins of all the world is the most worthwhile thing a man can do, whether his congregation is thousands ... or no-one. It is not a performance to impress.

Naturally, Doing This each day takes hold of a man and changes him. To quote Newman again, "You, who day by day offer up the Immaculate Lamb of God, you who hold in your hands the Incarnate Word under the visible tokens which He has ordained, you who again and again drain the chalice of the Great Victim; who is to make you fear? what is to startle you? what to seduce you? who is to stop you, whether you are to suffer or to do, whether to lay the foundations of the Church in tears, or to put the crown upon the work in jubilation?"

13 February 2017

Fr Forrest: Stanza 2: Prayer Book Catholic

Oh, just the usual thing you know; we're C of E of course,
But beautify the service from a medieval source,
With various processions, and in case you shouldn't know,
There are tunicled assistants who will tell you where to go;
And should you in bewilderment liturgically falter,
Just make a little circumambulation of the altar.
The blessing, like bishop, you majestically sing,
But apart from these exceptions, just the ordinary thing.

12 February 2017


It seems to me that the (old) question of Purgatory raises some interesting questions of dogmatic authority. I seek the help (this is not irony!) of readers in clarifying some problems.

(1) The Councils of Florence and Trent defined nothing beyond the fact that a Purgatory exists and that the souls detained there are assisted by the suffrages of the faithful, and especially by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar; and that the souls of the truly penitent are cleansed after death by purgatorial punishments.

(2) The Catechism of the Catholic Church apparently adds to this minimalism. It says that the purification after death of those who have died in the grace and friendship of God but imperfectly purified, is what the Church calls Purgatory: "the final purification of the of the Elect, which is totally different from the punishment of the damned". The inhabitants of Purgatory are "aeternae salutis certi".

Is this now proposed as de fide to all Catholics? Or, in view of Anglicanorum coetibus, is it only obligatory for members of Ordinariates to accept it?

The minimalist definition (1) would not exclude the possibility that some of those in Purgatory misuse free will and fall from grace, so that not every inhabitant of Purgatory is "sure of eternal salvation". But CCC does appear to exclude that. And (1) would not, I think, exclude the thesis advanced (I believe) by S Mark of Ephesus, that the souls of whom we write might be cleansed by a temporary sojourn in Hell. But (2) would.

I doubt if I am the only person to have wondered how some sections of the EF Missal are to be reconciled with the tighter definition in (2). " ...mereantur evadere judicium ultionis ... ne tradas eam in manus inimici ... " But especially the words of the Offertorium: " ... deliver their souls from the punishments of Hell (inferni) and from the deep lake, lest they sink into obscurity: deliver them from the mouth of the lion, lest Hell (Tartarus) absorb them ...".

Needless to say, such phrases disappeared from the Novus Ordo; it is not difficult to see why. But they are part of the Tradition, aren't they? The Church is not a "1984" style body in which these ancient Western texts have been expunged, as if they had never existed, by some Mgr Winston Smith?