29 December 2008


I have just been looking back over comments upon recent posts. Two points.

(1) I understand the pseudonimity sought by the use of pseudonyms. But one does rather wonder who some of these anonymous friends are. Would it be inconceivable for them to send me emails revealing their identities and som e personal details? (pp@thomasthemartyr.org.uk)

(2) In this matter of the validity of Orders, I do sometimes speculate on whether in messy situations some notion of Deus necessaria supplet might be necessary. Some examples:
(a) the implications [Bede IV ii] of S Chad being judged by S Theodore non rite consecratus and then having his consecration catholica ratione consummata.
(b) the ordinations of Pope Formosus which were declared null by Pope Stephen VII and then 'regularised' by Theodore II.
(c) the granting of permission by fifteenth century popes to merely presbyteral abbots of the right to ordain to major orders including the priesthood. Some commentators have argued that these ordinations were valid on the grounds that 'Roman pontiffs have granted this faculty and therefore they can grant it', but the view of Ratzinger that the Pope is the servant and not the master of Sacred Tradition rather puts sa question mark against such a radical administrative overturning of the Church's basic sacramental structure.
(d) the declaration of Eugene IV that the Matter of Ordination is the porrection of the instruments, and the probability that while this decree was held in scholis to have juridical force, less care was taken to ensure that all ordinands had received the imposition of hands than was to ensure that they had all received the porrection of the instruments.

26 December 2008

The Anglican Use of the Roman Rite

A Christmas card from Fr Alan Hawkins, one of the senior priests of the Anglican Use of the Roman Rite, in North America; he included a prayer card with this devotion printed on the back:
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer to you my continual obedience, pleading that all Anglicans seeking union with the Apostolic See of Peter may have fruition of their hope. By the power of your Divine Spirit so guide the Holy Father in Rome that this union will be accomplished; and that what is good and true in the Anglican heritage may be preserved to the benefit of the Universal Church. Grant that Anglican bishops and priests longing for this union may be granted continued exercise of the priestly ministry in an Anglican Rite under the authority of the Roman See and that Christians everywhere may once again know the Chair of Peter as that rock upon which your Church on earth is founded, against which hell cannot prevail. Amen.

Sounds pretty kosher to me.

23 December 2008

450 years

Last month we celebrated Masses for the repose of the souls of Reginald Pole, Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury (doesn't that roll beautifully off the tongue) and Mary Tudor, Queen of England (the first of quite a succession of de jure Queens of England with that name). It was 450 years since they died, and they were beautifully remembered in an EF Mass in Magdalen Chapel in Oxford, and an OF Mass in America, the booklet of which was sent to me by a good friend of myself and of all Catholic Anglicans, Professor Bill Tighe. (The American Mass included an anthem in lament of the Queen by Byrd; Fr Aidan Nichols - another friend and benefactor of Catholic Anglicans - observed to me with gentle irony that we strangely don't often seem to hear that. I think I'll see if our choir at S Thomas's, the Byrd Consortium, can put it on.)

Professor Eamonn Duffy, well known for his revisionist histories demonstrating the vitality and healthiness of English late medieval Catholicism, gave a lecture after the American Mass. He is to publish a book in May on the reign of Mary. I cannot believe that it will be anything other than fascinating and will put the capstone on the work of rehabilitating this reign and rescuing our national memory from 450 years of merciless brainwashing.

At this moment 450 years ago, Catholic Anglicans were nervously wondering what their future was to be. They feared the worst, and with good cause. Then a date appeared which seemed to encapsulate their fears: the Nativity of S John Baptist, 1559. On that day, so Parliament ordered, they were to abandon the Sarum Mass and return to (an only very slightly modified version of) the Second Prayer Book of Edward VI.

They kept their fingers crossed and carried on. Since this was what the letter of the law required, they continued to use the old rites until the last, legal, moment. After that, different men took different paths. Conservative men had endured the changes between 1533 and 1552 because they happened gradually, even if with increasing momentum, over two decades. Now the regime wanted them to say Yes or No overnight. But the regime was not particularly stable; so why not wait ... a little ...? But was that honourable? At one traditionalist Cathedral, Exeter, for example, the Bishop and the Dean were deprived in August; the Chancellor appeared to conform. But he was subsequently found to be harbouring two recusant colleagues in a house he had in Hereford. And, in 1561, the Precentor was in a foreign university; but he did not resign for another decade.

S John Baptist Day, 2009, will be a day for Catholic Anglicans to recall with love and affection their predecessors of 450 years ago, and to wonder about the parallels that can be drawn with their own situation.

22 December 2008

Why did he sing it in Latin?

Four cheers for the admirable seminarians of Massinformation (is there anywhere in the world where either Protestant or Popish seminarians have created so learned and professional a blog?) for their piece on the Christmas Proclamation. But I am a bit shy about incorporating into the S Thomas's liturgy the assertion that our blessed Lord was born on December 25. Not that I've suddenly been attacked by the querulous pedantry that the 'Enlightenment' seems to engender in the half-informed. If our Holy Father declared Christ had been born on the thirtythird of February, you wouldn't find me stepping out of line or rabbiting on, like the 'Catholic' bishop of Arundel and Brighton, about it not being ex cathedra.

But, every Christmas, somewhere in the media, some dim clever-clever journalist looks through last year's files and then writes a piece about how different bits of Christendom have celebrated Christmas at different times; about how there is no real evidence for the date; about how it is really just a Christianisation of the old pagan Roman festival of the Unconquered Sun. And there can even be the tedium of dealing with some know-all who comes up after the service to show that he, having read the Observer, is better informed than the ignorant and credulous clergy.

If I am irritated enough, I tend to snarl at such people that it is a pity they are not up-to-date enough to have read the more recent scholarship that shows Christmas as predating the commemoration of Sol Invictus, which may well be a paganisation by resurgent paganism (never forget Julian the apostate) of the preexisting Christian celebration. And how 'calculation' approaches to calendar suggest that the conception of Christ was dated to March 25 (by a combination of rabbinic tradition and patristic mathematics) before the inference of his birth on December 25 was made.

I bet that's why the administrator of Wesminster Cathedral sings the Proclamation in Latin.

21 December 2008

Comments on the Blog

Some well-meaning Comments seem to be rather way-out. The suggestion that a right-thinking person might hope for Anglican Orders to be invalid so as not to have to be pained by what would otherwise be sacrileges, puts me in mind of the Inauguration of our present Holy Father, and the scrimmages in the mob at Communion time. I was not surprised to read later of Hosts being found trodden into the piazza. This should not make us hope that Benedict XVI's orders are invalid so that we need not be pained (unless we are sede-vacantists). Being pained by sacrileges is a decent Christian reaction but we know that by giving himself in the Sacraments our ever suffering Lord exposes himself endlessly to this. And that every time I receive communion unworthily I am probably a worse offender that some poor theologically illiterate dunce who doesn't know what he's doing.

And it is very easy to be off the mark with regard to the Doctrine of Intention. Saying that so-and-so cannot be validly administering the sacrament because he has completely erroneous views about the Sacrament sounds at first sight like common sense but is quite contrary to the tradition and praxis of the Western Church. I can supply lots of chapter-and-verse if anyone needs it. Cardinal Franzelinus took an incident in seventeenth century Marseilles in which a nutter believed that by baptising he was devoting someone to a devil to show that even this mistake 'non impediret virtutem et efficaciam sacramenti'. The Holy Office laid down that some Methodists in Oceania who actually declared in their Baptism services that Baptism did not regenerate were still capable of baptising validly. All that is needed is the most general intention to 'do what Christians do', not an accurate understanding of what it is that they do or indeed a conviction that the sacraments effect anything at all or even who 'Christians' are. There is nothing invalid about ordinations performed by Talleyrand after he became an atheist.

Provided always that adequate Form and Matter are used. So a Moslem doctor who, to comfort a Christian woman whose newlyborn baby was dying, poured water over it and said 'I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit' would validly baptise, while the Sussex Anglican priest who appeared last year on telly 'baptising' with the formula 'I baptise you in the name of the Spirit' would not.

Honest. If this seems so preposterous as to be manifest nonsense, I suggest you do quite a lot of homework before you contradict me, because I know that you wouldn't want by accident to assert heresy.

20 December 2008

Communion in the hand

The normal Anglican custom is as follows. The communicant very reverently kneels (unless infirm) at the communion rails. He extends a left hand, flat, palm uppermost, and his right hand on top of it, palm uppermost. The Host is placed on the right palm, and he moves both hands up to his mouth, taking the host off his palm with his moist tongue. (The details of this are based on a Tractarian reading of some patristic practices, and thus have a usage of about a century and a half. Previous Anglican reception in the hand had been less neat, but had nevertheless taken place at the altar rails and kneeling. The kneeling had been a battleground in English Christianity ever since the 'Reformatiom'.) Incidentally, when I say 'normal Anglican', I mean just that. I have in mind such admirable people as the parishioners of the six completely 'middle of the road' Devon parishes I served between 2001 and 2007. I am not just talking about Anglo-Catholicism. Indeed, 'extremely advanced' churches are at some risk of having adoped the less desireable habits of contemporary faddish Catholicism.

Among most Roman Catholics, the communicant saunters up to where the altar rail was before it was thrown out, receives the host in one hand, turns, and walks away; while walking he transfers in a very matter-of-fact way the Host from his hand to his mouth with the thumb and forefinger of his other hand.

I know which I consider the more decorous. For what it's worth, I have known members of the Church of Ireland (not one of our more papalist provinces) comment adversely upon the irreverence of what has become the RC norm.

I am all for preserving the Anglican custom, and very often employ it myself. I am made all the more comfortable in it by the knowledge that a Vatican Instruction in the pontificate of Paul VI (Memoriale Domini of May 29, 1969, which is after the promulgation of the Novus Ordo Mass) allowed communion in the hand to continue where it was the established custom and where there were good and verifiable reasons for it. What is disgraceful is the unprincipled use of this very guarded exception by Roman liturgical modernisers to enforce their innovatory preferences (generated by their own heterodoxies with regard to the reality of the Eucharistic Presence) throughout their communion.

So I applaud the return under this pontificate to the decencies of the preBugnini era; without in any way wishing to discourage our decent traditional Anglican ways.

19 December 2008


I feel that there is some confusion about what the Holy See might allow to Anglicans coming into full communion as groups.

Uniatism is not a term that has any canonical meaning. There are no Uniate Churches. There are only Churches, of different Rites, in full communion with the Holy See.

Anglicans do not have a distinct Rite. The idea of some tractarians that medieval England used, not the 'Roman Rite' , but the Sarum (and other rites), was a nonsense. Sarum et al were mere dialects of what has always been a pluriform Roman Rite (and, before the standardisation which printing enabled, was very much more pluriform). Adrian Fortescue neatly pointed out that to speak of the Roman and Sarum rites is as daft as to speak of English, French, and Yorkshire as three languages. Significantly, and very logically, the United Anglicans in the USA who use the Book of Divine Worship are using 'The Anglican Usage of the Roman Rite'. The question is: what structures Rome would allow for groups that use variant forms of the Roman Rite.

And there is no doubt that Rome would be infinitely flexible, adapting canonical structures to suit the needs of real situations.

There is, in the Roman Communion, the 'Extraordinary Form' of the Roman Rite. When an entire quasi-Diocese in Brazil, which used this Form, returned to full communion, Rome erected them into a personal (but stable) Apostolic Administration. Something even more broadminded and generous is on offer to the SSPX. These are the analogies which are relevant to our situation.

I suspect that the real issue is not what structures Rome would allow, but the ability of Anglican Catholic clergy to bring groups with them. So many layfolk have a residual affection for their ancient parish church or even their ancient diocese. That is why we need to be a firmed-up ecclesial entity before we make a final move (see earlier posts). And to be strong and real enough to be able to take with us some of our properties - which, in its heart of hearts, the Cof E doesn't really want to be lumbered with the upkeep of anyway.

16 December 2008

Apostolicae curae again

My little piece seems to have acquired threads of comments in various places. Since I took up blogging, I have been intrigued to discover that the most decisive negative comments generally seem to come from those who haven't read the piece concerned and/or know very little. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that there is very little point in replying, because if they haven't read the first post, they probably aren't going to read a painstaking reply from me either. So I won't. The other thing that strikes me is that there are some people out there who quite desperately want Anglican Orders to be invalid. That somebody could regretfully come to such a conclusion, compelled by the facts, I could understand even though I disagreed. But the animus ...

Instead, I will attack the question from a different angle. In the bona fide attempts of the Anglican episcopate (back in the days when, whatever their failings, they believed in Christian Unity) to solve this question and establish that Anglican bishops are bishops in the same sense as Roman Catholic bishops, we seem to have been dogged by bad luck. The procedure used after 1933 was that the schismatic Dutch bishops executed and sealed Latin documents declaring their intention to convey, as principal consecrators, the episcopate they had received; and then imposed hands, at the same moment as the Archbishop of Canterbury, saying aloud the Form of Episcopal consecration. Or rather, they used the words which were once commonly held in manuals of Sacramental theology throughout the Western Church to be the Form. The Dutchmen deemed this to be safe, assured, and secure.

It wasn't. In the 1940s Pius XII declared that the words previously considered consecratory were not; instead, that a sentence in the long quasi-Eucharistic prayer in the Pontifical was to be held to be the essential Form. In fact there were good scholarly and theological reasons for this, but, for us, it had the unfortunate result of weakening the foundations of the procedures in use since 1933. Subsequently, in the aftermath of the Council, the Vatican apparently decided that the quasi-Eucharistic prayer concerned did not itself express terribly well the theology of the Episcopate; in the grotesque Bugniniesque passion for discontinuity of the time, the whole prayer was dumped and replaced by a prayer of questionable and oriental provenance (which has led the some of the more extreme members of the Lefebvreist tradition to wonder whether bishops consecrated with it are validly consecrated ... what a tangled web we weave ...).

We Catholic Anglicans face a future in which it is essential that we sever ourselves from the ministerial mass damnationis of the main ecclesial body. Within a few generations, the Anglican mainstream, with womenbishops as well as womenpresbyters, will be a body in which nobody will know whether a 'priest's' orders are valid without going through the chancellries checking an endless successsion of who-consecrated-whoms. We need, not as a luxury but as a basic survival-necessity, an episcopate separate from all this. The sooner we face up to this, the better. I am not certain that we are wise to be so singleminded in our struggle to secure some minimum structure for toleration within the mainstream that we leave this question on one side, for a later period of leisure that will never come. There are rumours that there is a retired bishop willing to be the first to brave the wrath of Henry VIII's wraith by committing the ultimate sin of 'illegal consecrations'. In my view, this cannot come soon enough. Apart from the theology, it would show that we really do mean business.

But there is something else that is necessary. The brave and careful attempt after 1933 to relegate Apostolicae curae to the history books foundered for the reasons I have skipped through above. The most that Rome - officially - will acknowledge, as in the case of Graham Leonard, is that the invalidity of some Anglican Orders is now a matter of doubt. We need to do '1933' again, and this time we need to get it right. I do not believe it would be impossible to find a bishop out there of impeccably valid orders who would be prepared to give us, so to speak, a hand. We should put the matter beyond question by having consecrator and consecrands signing documents giving a careful theological rationale of what is being done and, using a bit of deft overkill, perhaps the consecrator could use all three of the Forms which Roman Catholics have, over the last century, regarded as essential! And would there be any objection to all of us in ministerial office receiving a sub conditione reordination? Certainly not on my part.

Thus we could firm up our ecclesial identity as a preliminary to the most exciting ecumenical step forward since Cardinal Pole absolved this realm from schism on the Feast of S Andrew in 1554.

14 December 2008

Apostolicae Curae

I do meet clergy, sound and thoroughly orthodox men, who are disturbed by the Bull Apostolicae curae Leo XIII declaring Anglican priestly Orders to be null and void. And one meets nice young laymen, fairly recently received into full communion with the Holy See, who make a point of addressing one as Mr So-and-so. And some rather fierce RC traditionalists fume and foam at the thought that we can give the impression of being so sound when, in their view, we are not even priests. Let me share my own thoughts.

I am not in favour of criticising and trying to unpick Apostolicae curae. That would simply put us in the same position as all those other people who are so totally loyal to the Holy See ... except in one particular matter. The only point I would make is that that the actual bull sealed for Leo XIII described the question as hoc caput disciplinae, and this is what was first officially published. It appeared to situate the question in the area of discipline and not of dogma. Pressure from the English RC hierarchy resulted in the removal from subsequent editions of the word disciplinae.

Moreover, in Apostolicae curae we got what we deserved. For more than three hundred years we, as a faith-community, had behaved as if we were a Protestant sect intent on harrying, persecuting, sneering at, and murdering Roman Catholics. After all that it is rather bad form for us to make a fuss about Cardinal Vaughan's success in politicking his way, against the views of the leading RC scholars of the time, to getting this condemnation.

What has to be pointed out is that Apostolicae curae no longer applies. Some sixteen years ago I coined the phrase 'the Dutch Touch' to describe the participation after 1933 of Dutch schismatics with indubitably valid orders in Anglican episcopal consecrations (the technical details are in my paper in the volume Reuniting Anglicans with Rome). The secret archives in Pusey House, Oxford, make absolutely clear that the intention of the very highest levels in the Church of England and the Dutch Old Catholic Church was to introduce the 'Dutch Succession' into the Church of England and so, after two or three generations, render Apostolicae curae obsolete. Remember that in 1662 the Cof E had made the formulae in presbyteral and episcopal ordination (which Leo had asserted were insufficiently clear), more explicit. Although the plotting of 1933 was done in private (so that nobody could say'Ah, the Anglicans do realise they are not real priests'), it clearly represents a formal and ecclesial act.

The Dutch Touch started in 1933. It must by now have reached those parts which other Touches cannot reach. Rome has not reinvestigated the question. But when Bishop Graham Leonard became a R C, the CDF did look at photocopies of the Pusey archive and recommended that there was enough doubt about the invalifidity of Bidshop Graham's presbyteral ordination for him to be ordained only sub conditione and not absolutely. John Paul II disagreed only to the extent that he ordered Bishop Graham not to be subjected to the indignity of diaconal reordination, either conditional or absolute. Rome specifically did not investigate the question of the validity of his episcopal orders, because of the problems which would have followed the discovery that the RC Church now had a married bishop!

Now, of course, we are nearly in agreement with Rome about the dubiety of Anglican Orders anyway. We believe that a large and growing percentage of Anglican Ordinations are invalid: the purported ordinations of women, and of both men and women by 'women bishops'. That is why, if we are to hang on in the C of E, we need a separate episcopate and clear mechanisms for the reordination of men who come to join us having been invalidlty ordained within the 'mainstream' Church.

12 December 2008


OK, so Sunday's Postcommunion in the Ordinary Form is not a modern composition. You can find it in the Hadrianum, the Sacramentary Pope Hadrian sent to Charlemagne. But it's always worth checking that the Bugninides didn't do a naughty when they incorporated a collect into the post-Conciliar Missal. In this case, I suspect they did. The original text hopes that God will enable us terrena despicere; to despise (well, literally, to look down upon) the things of earth. The Revising Committee changed that to terrena sapienter perpendere, to weigh up wisely the things of earth.

One can see why. We are not Manicheans; we are not opposed to material things; we do not despise the Earth that God has created. Indeed, the ancient Roman Eucharistic Prayer, the Canon Romanus, ended in its classical period by asking a blessing on the fruits of the Earth, concluding: haec omnia semper creas sanctificas benedicis et praestas nobis. God's Goods are good, and it is our duty to discern and weigh them and to be wise in our use of them. But the old text - and it resembles a great many other such texts in the euchological tradition of the Western Church - is based on the infinite space between things earthly and things heavenly; between God and (even the good) things which he creates and gives us. We must pass through a willingness to accept that even the best of them, even when entirely used as God wills, are as nothing in the estimation of the Christian compared with caelestia, the things of Heaven.

11 December 2008


The other day I went to the library at Blackfriars to look through the two or three recent numbers of Notitiae, the official Vatican periodical which, like the Britrish Government's Gazette, gives the official news and statements and Decrees of the Congregation for Divine Worship. As the Compiler of the Church of England's 'Catholic' Ordo Missae Celebrandae et Officii Divini Persolvendi, I like to keep my eye on things and, in particular, to make available to users New Propers; Masses and Offices of Saints newly added to the Universal Calendar, of which, in the present state of things, I have to do my own unofficial translations. These I print in the Ordo as they come out; and make available in subsequent years to users who apply to me for them.

I noticed two things. Since the election of our present Holy Father, I do not think there have been any additions to the Universal Calendar. And there has been a meeting at the Congregation to establish and refine criteria for 'promoting' Saints out of local calendars into that of the Universal Church. I suspect this represents a policy right at the top of exercising more of a control over that perennial liturgical phenomenon, the silting up of the Calendar as special interest groups - countries and religious orders - campaign to publicise their own candidates.

Under the previous Pontificate, it was sometimes the Holy Father himself who provided the impetus. A striking example of this was the inclusion in the Universal Calendar of S Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort. It was from his writings that John Paul II took his own motto Totus tuus, and the Decree introducing this Mass and Office diverged from the usual formulae to emphasise that the promulgation was the Pontiff's own and personal initiative. I suspect that this sort of thing may now become less common.

This has nothing to do wth the number of people beatifed and canonised. John Paul II was often accused of 'inflation' in this regard - once by a distinguished Oxford Benedictine giving a paper to CIEL ... of all people! The raw numbers of those canonised, which could be made to suggest that JP2 canonised more people than had ever been canonised before, concealed the fact that his Sancti and Beati included several groups. This is thoroughly traditional. In some old calendars there had been groups of tens of thousands! And very few of these groups became compulsory commemorations on the Universal Calendar. Benedict XVI has beatified a very large group of martyrs from the period of the Spanish Civil War; and there is no reason to expect this sort of thing to be discontinued. Local churches have every right to the celebration of their local saints.

This fact has been emphasised by another feature of the present Pontificate: the relegation of most Beatifications to the local church. This is a reversion to the earlier practise of distinguishing between the the local cultus of local saints and the List of Saints commended to the Universal church. It is not always remembered that until well into the seventeenth century Beati were proclaimed in the local church without any recourse to Rome. Moreover, Beatification, right through the seventeenth century, consisted simply of the promulgation of their Mass and Office: not of glamorous public ceremonies.

Rather what happened among us wioth regard to Blessed Charles Stuart. And, in the fifteenth century, that great Bishop of Exeter, Blessed Edmund Lacy (see earlier posts).


If you do not already read this eloquent and important blog, I think you should.

10 December 2008

Pro aliquibus locis

Those of us who wield Extraordinary Form missals, or even the venerable English Missal, do well to remember the sections of Masses for Certain Places and The Supplement for ... England. Tucked away in such places is the Mass of the Holy House - composed and granted for the Shrine of our Lady of Loretto, where the Holy House of Nazareth is the devotional centre of the pilgrimage. We Anglicans, of course, go to Walsingham to perform the same act of memory of the Incarnation, recalling that God Incarnate lived in a House as the Member of a Human Family: Perfect God and Perfect Man, as the Quicunque vult puts it.

The Restorer of the shrine at Walsingham, Fr Hope Patten, incorporated this Mass in the Pilgrims' Manual which went through so many editions in his lifetime and since - although, sadly, this beautiful Mass isn't in more recent editions, just as it no longer appears in the RC calendar for England and Wales. Fr HP did remove from the Collect the words eamque in sinu Ecclesiae tuae mirabiliter collocasti.

What a shame I do not have the technical competence to put pictures onto my blog. If I did, I would share with you the glorious ceiling in the Venetian church of the Discalced Carmelites, where Tiepolo has shown us our Lady transferring her Holy House through the air from Nazareth to Loretto. I seem to recall that it inspired some recent Pope to make our Lady of Loretto Patron of air travellers; perhaps more learned readers can put me right on the details of this.

8 December 2008

Core Values

Another talk on the wireless about how the different immigrant communities need to be made to share our British Core Values. This is not just Twaddle and Balderdash, but dangerously so. If I could flush Core Values down the sewer, I would willingly do it. In modern Britain, our Core Values are inextricably bound up with an anti-Life agenda, a terrified hatred of of the sexual mores which traditional Christianity shares with most other religious traditions, and an idea of 'democracy' which means that whatever can get a majority vote, in a process which is generally initiated, guided, and dominated by a secularist 'intellectual' elite, must be right. I do not share British Core Values, and if any reader of this blog does, I hope she or he will renounce them forthwith. I feel just as much an alien in modern Britain as I imagine any 'immigrant' does.

Of course, there was a time when we had different Core Values: formed by a Christian, Protestant, and Anglican (to paraphrase Fielding's Mr Square) tradition, which were, in a rough and ready sort of way, acceptable. In those days, there were 'alien' groups with alleged 'alien' allegiances: the Papists, alleged to have a prior loyalty to a sinister organisation called 'Rome'; and the Jews, regarded as being in thrall to an extraordinary mythical concept labelled 'International Jewry'. We viewed them with suspicion. God forgive us for having done so, because our chickens have come home to roost. We now have the choice to be 'Assimilationist' - to roll out our prayer mats in front of the Grauniad newpaper and spend our time aborting foetuses or having 'democratic' votes on whether God wants womenbishops - or to be Aliens in our own land.

You will not get me joining any campaign to bully British Moslems into adopting our Core Values. I'm too busy wondering where I shall go when the cry comes 'If you won't accept our Core Values, go back to where you came from'. The Moslems, lucky people, could at a pinch go back to where their grandparents came from; the Jews have Israel with its Law of Return; where do we traditional Latin Christians have that we can go? The monastery of S Andrew on the Caelian Hill from which S Augustine travelled to Canterbury? Would there be room for us all?

6 December 2008

Mission and Majesty

I don't often criticise the Holy Father's liturgical instincts, but I'm not too keen on the idea of making the Ordinary Form Mass end with a dismissal that hypes the notion of God's people being sent out for Mission. The alternative forms of dismissal now authorised include one which is inspired by that idea, and I gather that Orationes super populum soon to be authorised will play the same game. We went through all this in the Anglican 'reforms' of the 1970s, and if one isn't careful one can still find oneself in a church where one can't get away at the end of Mass before one has yawned one's way through send us out in the power of your spirit to live and work to your praise and glory, or something similar. My own suspicion is that most christifideles, as they walk out of church, have their minds more set on having a fag or a gin and wondering if it's too late to dump the children on the grandparents so as to be able to get an undisturbed Sunday grope at the wife. Or husband. And in any case, the Eucharist is not some preliminary to Involvement In The World, but itself the supreme Involvement of God in His world, finished and perfected when the deacon sings Ite Missa Est. These changes will seem to me to be additional grounds for favouring the Extraordinary Form.

And, reading about the constitutional crisis in Luxembourg caused by the unwillingness of the Grand Duke - bully for him - to sign a Euthanasia bill, I recall a similar crisis a decade or two ago when the King of the Belgians wouldn't sign an Abortion bill. It is disturbing that such flickerings of Christian conscience never seem to trouble our own Head of State. I am not in the habit of criticising her - it seems to me that she's worth ten of all those seedy trendies and libertines who sneer and giggle at her - but it sets me wondering whether we ought to bring the King back. Does anybody know what views our Sovereign Liege Lord King Francis II has on such moral questions?

5 December 2008

Am I a Calvinist?

I haven't been inside Oxford's 'Reform Evangelical' church, S Ebbe's, since as an undergraduate, I went to mass there out of curiosity as an undergraduate; but I went there today to a Memorial service. Some nice medieval glass (our blessed Lady; and their great patron S Ebbe) and, in Victorian glass, an anonymous bishop wearing full pontifical Mass vestments and a pallium. How true it is that the Divine Light ejected by the reformers so often sidles (how spelt?) back in through the windows. Homily by a Fr Peter Wilkinson; thoroughly out of kilter with the ethos of the Church of England in that he obviously believed in the Resurrection. What slightly disconcerted me was that he didn't say much about Grace. It was as if his Jesus was the fairy on top of the Christmas tree but not the root and fount of all good and the One who sets all his people free from Adam's trangression. There is always the risk that people who do not explicitly believe in the Immaculate Conception will fall into this mistake.

I found myself wondering whether the shades of Father Calvin would have approved slightly more of my theology than of Fr Peter's. And whether there is much cultus nowadays of S Ebbe. S Ebbe's, since my visit 50 years ago, has lost its Altar (drums instead, framed by the old reredos with its Decalogue), but we could always use S Thomas's, where we still hang on to our altars, for an Extraordinary Form Mass on her feast day (when's that?).

29 November 2008

Tridentine Anglicans

In a recent number of New Directions, Fr Digby Anderson wrote about the need for more Anglican priests and bishops to celebrate the Old Mass. Of course, since the motu proprio making clear that any priest of the Western Church may celebrate this Mass without further permissions, there can be no doubt about its legality in the Church of England. The Holy Father has ordinary, immediate, and episcopal jurisdiction over all the Faithful.

I wonder if there are any Anglican clergy or seminarians out there who would be interested in becoming a small and informal group or network to support and promote the Old Mass, whether in Latin or in the English Missal version - which surely must have acquired liceity by immemorial custom.

FSSA, perhaps? (Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Augustini)

Stowe Celtic Sarum

Interesting comments on my last post. The early Irish Stowe Missal in Latin was published in the Henry Bradshaw Society series; I doubt whether it's still in print. The chaplain of Lampeter did produce a (depapalised) English translation in something called - I believe - A Celtic Eucharist. If I did a Demonstration Celebration I would of course do it in the Latin: Latin was unvernacular to the Irish peasants who worshipped in the 790s, so do do it in a vernacular would be grossly inauthentic. I would also keep the congregation standing outside the church for the whole sevice, with the clergy starting outside and entering the church only after the Gospel. If there were torrential rain, that would only make the whole thing even more genuine. See my 2002 paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy (Vol 102C, Number 1). Copies, if there are any left, at only 4.50 Euros from the RIA, 19, Dawson Street, Dublin2.

I did make plans a few years ago to celebrate a Sarum votive of the Five Wounds down in Cornwall to commemorate the 1549 Rising. This was being organised by a sound and admirable priest who reluctantly had later to tell me he had discovered that most Cornish Nationalists seemed to be antiChristian and those who weren't appeared to think that Methodism is the authentic Cornish indigenous religion: so his lovely idea had to be aborted. I had been planning a low Mass, and I discovered that while the Sarum Missal provides very full rubrical directions, they presuppose a Cathedral High Mass. It is not at all easy to work out what exactly Sir Mumpsimus did when he was racing through his Chantry obligation at six o'clock on Monday morning; my plan was to supply this void with help of the customs with which the preConciliar Dominican Low Mass used to be celebrated: Fr Aidan Nichols was a great help. But it all came to nothing.

27 November 2008


'Stand up', the nagging deacon of the Byzantine Rite reminds us just before the Gospel. And so we should, as the soundwaves in the church are transsubstantiated into the true and very voice of the Rabbi from Nazareth. But in C of E tradition, we don't; at least, we don't when the NT reading at Mattins or Evensong is a Gospel reading. But we were all put to shame the other evening. All right-thinking people from anywhere near Oxford had gathered for Pontifical Solemn Evensong, Procession of the Blessed Sacrament, and Pontifical Benediction in the Church of S John the Evangelist in Hinksey. (What a superb occasion; Fr Wilkinson organised it to coincide with the blessing of his new Christus Rex; and Fr Ward, who runs our seminary, preached with his usual wit and elegance and learning. How can anybody possibly want to belong to the poor sad expiring Diocese of Oxford when such splendours are on offer on the sandbanks of Ebbsfleet? Though there were things to make us sad - such as the sight of the S Mary Mags ombrellino, vexillum and reminder of even happier days when that church was the Catholic centre of Oxford and before the arid heterodoxies of the wybrew incumbency.)

So when we got to the NT reading in Evensong, we all slumped, Anglicans to a woman, while a passage from S Matthew was read. All except for the Pontiff himself, his deacons, and the Altar Party. They stood; and so they should. And so should we have done.

In the rites, old and new, of the Western Church, the Gospels are not usually read at the Divine Office. This in itself is a significant fact: it says that there is something special about the Gospel words of the Incarnate Word; that they should not be cheapened by being used lightly or sprung on us as apparently chance and equivalent alternatives to the other parts of Scripture. Where a Gospel is read in the Office - for example, as the climax of lengthy vigil - it is proclaimed with the proper and traditional rituals to a respectful, attentive and standing church.

Bishop Andrew was right. And surely we should also move to having Gospel readings within the Divine Office proclaimed by a deacon and with candles and incense. You know it makes sense.

25 November 2008

More on buses

Despite what some friends think, I don't have a lot of a problem with the adverts they're putting on the London buses about how there probabably isn't a God. We live in a rainbow country. My only suggestion would be that our atheist/agnostic friends should show a bit more awareness of our cultural diversity. Do they realise that some London buses go into areas where English is not everybody's first reading language? Why haven't they considered putting their advert into Koranic Arabic for buses that go through mainly Islamic suburbs? Or into the various culturally Islamic languages? And they could enhance the implied cultural engagement by including their home addresses on the adverts. I would willingly supply the local branch of Al Qaeda with road atlases.

Likewise with the individuals who are are defiling Hosts on Youtube. My main anxiety, again, is the cultural narrowness of the enterprise. They could always add to their repertoire the doing of nasty things to Korans. In fact, like the agitprop Trotskyites of the 1960s, they could turn it into street theatre. It would have maximum impact if they did it outside mosques just as the faithful are emerging from Friday Prayers.

Perhaps I should make clear that I am indulging myself a degree of irony; I would in fact offer no support at all to any sort of ritual desecration of anything sacred to any Faith or Nonfaith community. My point is that there's a certain sort of secularist who's tremendously brave about attacking Christianity, but very shy about attacking Islam - the coward who only attacks soft targets. And I have a fair bit of admiration for the way Moslems ensure that people don't take liberties with their religion. At the heart of it is the social fact that Islam is still a religion for men as well as women. Christianity has, for a couple or more generations, been turning into a feminised religion. Ordination of women is only a symptom of this: but symptoms generate their own momentum, and in a generation's time, when the overwhelming majority of 'clergy' are women, it will be regarded with the same contempt that many people (misguidedly) have for largely feminine spheres such as primary school teaching, nursing, et al..

So, yes, I do have a bit of a sneaky envy for those Islamic clergy whose main pastoral problem is to restrain their 'radicalised' yoof.

24 November 2008

It is amazing ...

...how one can be misrepresented: as in my comments on the Holodomor. I am accused of making a criticism of Jewry, when what I wrote was 'some Zionists (by which I do not mean all Jews) ...' My criticism was not even of 'all Zionists'. I am perfectly aware of those Jews, both in Israel and in the diaspora, whose contemplation of the Shoah leads them to say, in effect, 'And, dreadful as it was, it also serves to remind us that other peoples have suffered in the same way'. And the silly fury about lebensraum inspires me to wonder whether the author is aware of the many Jewish settlements built in the West Bank, and around Jerusalem, and the security wall which includes some of those settlements within Israel, so as to 'create facts'. Are there not Jews living in these settlements? If so, what is wrong with writing about livingspace?

The next contribution, which makes claims with both the tone and content of which I would not wish to be associated, is no reason why I should submit to being whipped into line.

In fact, that first contribution confirms me in my views about the attitudes of 'some Zionists'. In broader terms, my preference would be that both contributors would conduct their private warfare in some place where it doesn't affect me or my blog.

22 November 2008


I wonder if I'm the only one who , when he hears talk of the Lottery (although I've never actually had a go at it) fantasises about what he would do if got the twelve million. This week, I have no doubts. I would pay for a lavish advertising campaign on the sides of buses, with this message:

20 November 2008


This week's Secret (Extraordinary Form) must be one of the shortest prayers in the Missal - and one of the most strikimg (I wonder if it survived into the Ordinary Form). Haec nos oblatio, Deus, mundet, quaesumus, et renovet, gubernet et protegat. We ask the Lord that the Oblation we are about to offer may cleanse us; wash us from our sins as our baptismal cleansing did; may make us new again, keep us in the new creation which is our Lord Jesus Christ who promises to make all things new; might direct us as the helmsman does the boat; and guard us from the pirates, human or diabolic, who might draw alongside and try to swarm up the sides of our frail craft.

19 November 2008

Countercultural Cardinal

My computer now having returned from the doctor, I can pay tribute to the Mass - Extraordinary Form - in Magdalen Chapel for the repose of the soul of Cardinal Reginald Pole; and the elegant address by Fr John Osman. I'm sure there were some Cradle Catholics there, but there was a very good showing from Anglicans, not to mention former Anglicans.

We modern Catholics are so at odds with the circumambient culture that I sometimes uncomfortably wonder whether we are really just people who get our daily fix from being countercultural ... as perhaps our Victorian prededcessors did (remember that lovely book The Glorious Battle?) {Oh dear, I don't seem to be able to do italics now} In the Middle Ages, instead of being staunch Catholics, would we have been Wycliffites or ProtoLutherans? Pole reassures me. In Bodley, there is a copy of Bishop John Grandisson's Vita of the blissful Martyr S Thomas of Canterbury with the owner's name written inside, in elegant Italian humanist script. That owner was Reginald Pole, and his ownership was a year or two before Henry VIII had his mother murdered. You will remember how Pole, upon hearing this, thanked God that he had a mother who was a martyr.

In the years before the 1549 Rebellion against Protestantism, many of those who were to join the Rebellion in Cornwall will have seen one of the plays which were performed in their round, open-air theatres, the Plen-an-gwarry. It contains a Wicked King whose name is ... Tudor. His desire is to impose an alien religion - Islam! The Western peasantry were apparently brought up to suspect the Political Correctness of their time; and the readiness of intellectuals such as Pole to resort instantly to countercultural categories (and there can be few categories more counterculural than that of martyrdom) convinces me that even in the the age of Christendom, Christians were capable of independant judgement.

14 November 2008

Not so Maudlin

A splendid evening, thanks to a kind friend whose college it is, at the Magdalen Guest Night. Not even the splendours of food and of company could entirely distract me from the linenfold panelling which, apart from some plaques inset coimmemorating the life of S M M, is plausibly reputed to have come from Reading Abbey at its dissolution. By coincidence, today is the Memoria of the the last Abbot, Blessed Hugh Cook of Farringdon, and his martyred brethren.

It is an interesting college; in the 1630s, when elsewhere Puritan iconoclasts were smashing the Saints out of the windows, Magdalen inserted a brand new set of them, a baroque equivalent of the windows at New College and All Souls in what Professor Nikolaus 'Bauhaus' Pevsner described as the'dry repetitive logic of English perpendicular gothic'. And a generation later that enlightened monarch James II installed a Roman Catholic President - to whom a memorial has recently been placed in the chapel.

God willing, next Monday I will be back there for the Requiem to be offered on behalf of the last Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury, Reginald Pole, who (together with his queen) died 450 years ago - our last primate to have been in peace and communion with the See of Peter.Quod Deus vortat in bonum.

8 November 2008

Good bye Geza

Today, a conference at S Stephen's House organised by Margaret Barker and in the area of Temple Studies. The topic was Melchizedek. And what a wonderful demonsrtration it was of the ephemerality of the Historic Jesus. I am old enough to rember feeling excited by Sammy Brandon's Che Guevarra Jesus of the 1960s and decidely less so by Geza Vermes's construction of the Jewish Holy Man Jesus. The Jesus we met today was a Jesus aware of his Divine, priestly, and kingly status; a Jesus whose perceived inner calling was to be Melchizedek. In fact, a Jesus very much like the Jesus whom we met in Professor Ratzinger's Jesus of Nazareth; particularly in the chapter on the sermon on the Mount where the Professor brilliantly exploits the work of the American Jewish Rabbi Jacob Neusner.

I'm not an advocate of being slavishly at the Cutting Edge of the Latest Theories on Christology, or, indeeed, of anything else. Most Cutting Edges are Bunkum. But just sometimes when you pull the lever of the one-armed bandit you do get that crash of cascading dubloons. I rather think that this is one such moment. Particularly if you read Margaret Barker and Joseph Ratzinger (his next volume is to be out soon) and Jacob Neusner and Laurence Hemming.

Thirty years ago when we were on a seaside holday my children discovered a machine in the amusement arcade which was paying out every time. Conscientiously, they milked it until it was dry. Are we in a phase a bit like that now?

5 November 2008


Two or three days ago I saw an afro-american interviewee saying that she would vote for Obama because he is black, so as to show that the colour of a person's skin doesn't matter.

I'm a decrepit and decayed product of what I recall somebody described as Old Europe. Could some smart with-it person explain to me the logical processes which make the World's only Superstate function?

4 November 2008

Missa sine ministro ... how?

If there is nobody to make the answers, how does a priest celebrate Mass?
(1) The Extraordinary Form; the old Tridentine Rite either in its Latin form or said using the English Missal. Here the priest makes the replies - all of them - himself. After all, as well as being sacerdos he is also a member of the laos, the plebs sancta Dei. I find that even the Blessing at the end gives me no trouble; I think of myself as blessing the whole parish beyond the walls of the church. The Missal itself tells you how to modify the reply to the Orate Fratres; the only other change you have to make is that in the Preparation at the foot of the altar, like Michelle of the Resistance, you say the Confession only once and omit et vobis fratres/et vos fratres and then you say misereatur nostri ... nostris ...nos .... This information is given in reliable manuals bearing Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, such as O'Connell. Remember that, although you are alone, you say every prayer with your lips moving and in a low murmur. This applies to both Uses of the Rite and is essential for validity.
(2) The Ordinary Form, aka the Novus Ordo. Para 211 of the General Instruction of 1969 said that the priest omits salutations and the final blessing, to which the Third Edition adds monitiones, advices. I take this to mean, for example, that the priest omits both the Orate Fratres and its response; that he omits the entire dialogue before the Preface; the Pax; Behold the Lamb of God; and so on. The Second Recension of the Third Edition completely revised the rites to be employed in this type of Mass; itself an indication that this form of liturgy is not obsolescent but a living part of the Western Rite. I give directions for how to do it simplified for when there is no server.
Having venerated and kissed the Altar, the priest stays at the Altar, where the Missal has been placed, and says the Introit; In the Name ...; Penitential Rite; Kyries (and Gloria); Collect. If possible, he goes to the legilium for the Ministry of the Word (and Creed); for the (optional) Intercession. Mass then continues as you would expect, with the omissions described in my last paragraph, until he has received Communion. Then he says the Communion Antiphon and does the ablutions either at the Altar (in which case the chalice is left at the side of the Altar) or at the Credence (when the Chalice is left there). Mass ends with the Postcommunion. He Kisses the Altar, venerates it, and retires.
This could be a rather brief Rite; I suspect most clergy will wish to use the First Roman Eucharistic Prayer so as to inject a slowing-down, and some gravitas, into the Mass. But why not take the oportunity to get chummy with the Old Mass?
Personally I find an early morning Private Mass a profoundly appropriate way to start the day. The main problem is that distractions creep in more than when I have a congregation ... but perhaps that's only my frailty. I do advertise these Masses, and sometimes they are not so private!

3 November 2008

Missa sine ministro ... whether...?

How does one say a Private Mass - a Missa sine Populo? Well, of course, there is no such thing as a Private Mass. Any Mass, as Eric Mascall once explained, whether celebrated alone in a Saharan hermitage or in S Peter's Rome with cardinals galore and hundreds of thousands of the Faithful, is equally the Sacrifice of Calvary, the public sacrifice of Christ's Church, the great mystery of every place and age. Quite a thought as one stumbles up to the altar in an empty church on a freezing winter morning.
But we do use these slang terms as convenient shorthand for a Mass where the priest is assisted only by a server; or, even more reductively, by someone in the pews. (Incidentally, since the Motu proprio, laypeople who happen to know that there is such a Mass happening, are welcome to turn up, and that still doesn't stop it technically being sine populo - further proof of the point in my first paragraph: as well as of papa Ratzinger's creative cunning.) There is, however, an even more 'Private' Mass: one at which noone at all is present except the celebrating presbyter.
Until recently, such Masses were forbidden (not only in the C of E but also) by Vatican authority [General Instruction, 1969, para 211] nisi ex gravi necessitate. Such necessitas might have been the need to confect the Blessed Sacrament for somebody in articulo mortis. But the 1983 Codex Iuris Canonici modified this to nisi iusta et rationabili de causa - for a just and reasonable cause - and the semi-official Question Box of Msgr [now Bishop ... how these S Stephen's House liturgists do get around ...] Peter Elliott points out that Canon 904 'strongly recommends' daily celebration 'even if the faithful cannot be present'. The present Holy Father does not seem often to miss the chance of strongly commending daily celebration when addressing priests and seminarians. Now the General Instruction has been modified to bring it into line with the canon. And the old para 4, now para 19, has been modified to state that, in celebrating, the priest fulfills his principle role, so that he ought if possible to do so daily. This makes clear that even if there is another Mass that day in that church, or in another church to which the priest could get, at which he would be able to receive Communion but not to (con)celebrate, the laudable desire himself to celebrate would give him a just and reasonable cause to celebrate alone. If there were a concelebrated mass in which he could take part as a concelebrant, the matter might not be so clear.
I hope to do a post a little later about the ritual employed in doing this both in the Ordinary and in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

31 October 2008

Whatever happened to the Resurrection?

The other day I went to the funeral of a dear friend, Jack; and came away wondering where God had been. The service seemed so Man-centred. There was no emphasis - as there would have been in a Medieval rite - on the need to pray for the dead lest he end up in Hell. Indeed, white rather than black or even purple stoles were worn by the clergy. But this was not an indication that Resurrection Glory had become the major theme of the celebration. It was barely mentioned except in some of the set Common Worship formulae. There were tributes, there was extensive biography; there was indeed a beautiful singing of the Hail Mary, but it was in Latin which, I imagine, must for most of those present have thrown a veil of opacity over any idea that Mary, sweetest advocate of the departed, was at the heart of the ceremony (this is confirmed by the fact that the tributes were all in the vernacular). Dr Cranmer's own typically late-medieval use of funeral rites as a sort of memento mori ... repent, for you will die too ... was also lacking. In few areas of Liturgy can there be as little of a Hermeneutic of Continuity as in those surrounding Death.

I left feeling very weepy, and grateful that divine grace had moved me to say a Requiem for Jack.

14 October 2008

Concordantia Missalis and Pelagius and Smoke

Enormous thanks to the correspondent who revealed the existence and usefulness of the Concordantia Missalis. I could create quite a case out of those references.

But ... am I right? ... it doesn't give the sources of the formulae; whether from a Sacramentary or newly composed. Where would I turn for that information?

On another subject entirely ... what the Pelagians thought about grace can be accessed via the de Gratia Christi et de Peccato Originali.

On another subject entirely ... a friend points me to a blog called Holy Smoke, which appears under the pseudonym 'Damian Thompson'. The writer seems to have a dislike of Catholic Anglicans which, in the comments anonymous others have added to his post, becomes almost pathological. He and they appear to be quite sympathetic to at least some of the features of our Holy Father's agenda but to be totally unaware of the long history of sympathy towards Catholic Anglicans shown by Joseph Ratzinger; and, for that matter, by theologians closely in line with Ratzinger's thought such as Aidan Nichols. It would be a sad day for the 'Thompsons' of this world - but a splendid day for Catholic Anglicans - if papa Ratzinger were to give Nichols the See of Westminster.

'Damian Thompson' is a curious pseudonym. It invites speculation about ... but no; perhaps correspondents can unpack its semiology.

13 October 2008

The Fulness of Grace

There is something that has been nagging at my mind for some years as I have said my Office according to the Liturgia Horarum. It is the word plenitudo, or fulness. I seem to keep on coming across it, but foolishly never make a note. But one example would be the nova Collect for the memoria (happily, a Festum in the Ebbsfleet Apostolic District, God bless it) of the Presentation of our Lady in the Temple, November 21: ... concede ut de plenitudine gratiae tuae nos quoque mereamur accipere (grant that we also may be worthy to receive of the fulness of thy grace).

Now it may be that this collect, and others with similar locutions, are not (as I confess I suspect) novae compositions, but come from the ancient sacramentaries of Western Christendom. Or that there are within the Tradition parallels; although the Concordance s.v. pleroma does not offer anything relevant from the Pauline Corpus. Perhaps someone with more skills than I possess in Information Technology is in a position to resolve this question.

Why does it worry me? To be frank, because I suspect it of arising from a semi-Pelagian mindset. Euchological formulae which are indubitably old ask that we be delivered from our sins; or saved from a very nasy fate; or cleansed from our vices; or be able diabolica vitare contagia. But those fulness phrases seem to me to suggest that we've already got quite a nice lot of Grace or Redemption or whatever, but are turning to God for a useful top-up, or to receive the total works. Which is not so much semi- as fully Pelagian. My suspicion fits disconcertingly well with the devastating critique of the ideology of the novae collects by Lorenzo Bianchi in the 1999 CIEL Redbook (Theological and Historical Aspects of the Roman Missal; these Redbooks, now sadly discontinued, were a most valuable resource. But Laurence Hemming's projected Journal will undoubtedly be more than a replacement).

12 October 2008


What a splendid two-day Forward in Faith Assembly we had in London; how easy to come away on a high. But, as I told my wife about it, I began to wonder whether some of the layfolk present will have understood some of the Jargon. Do we clergy always explain our jargon?

For example: we passed a resolution about how we understand our ecclesiology in the context of ARCIC. What this means is that since the 1960s, we have been glad to remain in the C of E because we were told that the discussion group called ARCIC was sorting out the differences between ourselves and Rome so that we can have Christian unity; full unity with Rome. Have we always explained this to our people? And have we explained our great hope and prayer that we will keep our Anglican traditions, our Anglican way of life, our Anglican churches and shrines ... while having the great joy of being in full communion with the rest of Catholic Christendom.

The last address was given by the S Thomas's Honorary Curate, Fr Jonathan Baker. It was characteristically brilliant. He gave the first reason for being 'cheerful' as the fact that we have such a wonderful Pope now. But have I ... and other clergy ... explained why we are so keen on Benedict? That Benedict is the most Catholic Anglican Pope ever; he has actually explained the limitations of Papal power as no previous pope ever did; how the pope is the guardian of the Ancient Tradition and not some autocrat who can change and innovate according to his own whimsy. And have we explained how Benedict's liturgical programme is exactly what we have gone for and done since 1833; and continued doing even when people have taunted us with the jibe that 'it's all guitars and clown-masses in the RC Church now'.

Perhaps more sermons on all this are called for.

11 October 2008


The calendar on my bedroom door - the 2008 SSPX calendar with glamorous pictures of ecclesiastical architecture - showed us, in September, the Chapel of the Anglican Sisterhood of S Peter in Woking; built by J L and F L Pearson. Now, in October, we have an even more splendid former Anglican convent chapel, at Bristol, where the architect was G F Bodley. Each is now a centre for the mission of the SSPX. How admirable that there is someone to take over these places and continue in them the style of liturgy for which they were designed and built; there can belittle doubt that they would otherwise, even if listed, have suffered a dire fate. I know a former convent in Sussex jampacked full of superb glass by Harry Clarke where, of course, the glass is preseved but in a most unfortunate context.

You've never heard of the great Irish maker of stained glass, Harry Clarke? Shame on you. His glass is not in the least like that of Sir Ninian Comper except in that each of them did learned glass with several sermons in each pane. And that the glass of each of them is, at its best, absolutely stunning to look at.

10 October 2008

What's the time of Mass?

The preconciliar Missal lays down that Mass may be said between Dawn and Midday. History isn't, of course, as simple as that . At an earlier period in Western Liturgy, Mass on fasting days was to be said after None ... at a time when None was in the afternoon. This is why the Oratio super populum in Lent is appointed to be also the Collect at Vespers. Celebrant and communicants would be fasting, and no doubt one reason why the times of services otched gradually earlier is the reponse of human frailty to this regimen. I hope to share some thoughts on another occasion about the Eucharistic Fast. For the moment, suffice it to say that Mass in the morning was the general rule until Pius XII permitted evening masses, thereby undermining one of the most insistent campaigns which Catholic Anglicans had been waging since the start of the Catholic Revival.
Of course one accepts that this flexibility has been one of God's new gifts to his Church in the last couple of generations. I do not know if there is any significant body of Western Christian that condemns it; the SSPX certainly countenances evening Masses. But I wonder if we ought to regard it as the norm, so that when arranging the times of Mass in Retreats or pilgrimages we just fix them for any old time. I suggest that, if the Hermeneutic of Continuity means anything to us, we ought to start off with a prejudice in favour of beginning the day with Mass. This doesn't mean getting up at the crack of dawn; on a retreat I can see no reason why Mass should not be at 8.30 and be followed by a comfortable breakfast. We shouldn't let what the catering staff have grown accustomed to providing become a barrier to facing the Lord who comes to us with the rising of the sun so that the Mass is what our entire day springs out of. And on our Lourdes pilgrimage, it was entirely natural for us to meet for Mass in the evening of the Monday of our arrival. But I wonder whether it was necessary to delay the Tuesday's Mass until the evening.
Nor am I suggesting that later masses which suit workers, or those who do not live near the church which they attend, are anything but a Good Thing which should continue. I'm not suggesting anything which would be awkward or uncomfortable or make Mass less easy to attend. I'm simply asking whether some of us could benefit in our own personal discipline from what nearly 2,000 years of Christianity did find to be a manageable norm.

9 October 2008

Any vexillologists out there?

During the marvellous week of our pilgrimage to Lourdes - what a boost it gave to our optimism and self-confidence - there was an interesting phenomenon which I haven't seen commented on elsewhere. In front of the basilicas, there are some flagposts. While we were there, two flags flew: the Cross gules on the argent field, for S George and for England; and the arms of the See of Canterbury: azure an archiepiscopal cross in pale or surmounted by a pallium proper charged with four crosses paty fitchy sable. What a pleasure it is always to see these arms, reminding us of happy days when the Archbishop of Canterbury received the pallium from the Successor of Peter (of whom he was also, I believe, Legatus natus) as a sign that he was a major Archbishop in peace and in communion with the Holy See. What a pleasure just for a moment to be able to forget all that has divided us since 1559; to imagine that one has just woken up from a gross nightmare and that the Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury is leading a great Catholic pilgrimage - greater even than September's - from an England which had never been sundered from the rest of Christendom.

Now to come down to earth: what is the convention at Lourdes with regard to those flagposts? Which countries and which prelates normally get to have their flags flown? Despite the crowds of Croats, Italians, and Irish, I didn't see their flags.

7 October 2008

What are we going to hear on Friday?

The Daily Torygraph having leaked the recommendation of the Manchester Group that Catholic Anglicans should continue to have Flying Bishops in the imminent gynaecocracy, we are all wondering what the House of Bishiops will have made of it in their meeting of Monday and today. Any little feelings of amusement we might have at the hilarious fury with which the Chaplain of New College greeted the news is less important than the question of what we shall be told at the National Meeting of Forward in Faith on Friday and Saturday. Whatever the House of Bishops has or has not decided, we need to know about it and to be able intelligently to discuss it. Otherwise either we shall not have the oportunity of informed discussion before the July meeting of General Synod, or we shall have to be recalled: a greater inconvenience for those who live in Devon or Cornwall, Yorkshire or Northumberland, than it is for those of us who live in London or Oxford. It would be very unfortunate if our bishops, out of loyalty to Club confidentiality, were unable to inform us and lead us. If this situation does look like arising, let us hope that some responsible person will blow the gaff to the media so that it can be discussed as something that has been put into the public domain. This, surely, is too critical a situation for us to be the victims of gentlemanly rectitude.

In 1992-3, I remember the fury that many felt because it seemed that the loyalties of the episcopal 'leaders of the Catholic Movement' were more with episcopal collegiality than they were with their fellow Catholics. We can do without those sorts of divisions this time. Another thing 1992-3 taught us was that Right Reverend Fathers do not possess all the wisdom and that mere laity, presbyters and seminarians (not to mention the womenfolk of the seminarians) are entitled to a say in our own future. If we have one.

6 October 2008

The S Thomas's Ecumenical Outreach

Although we are in no real sense part of the Church of England, we at S Thomas's are by no means lonely - quite the opposite. Today Oxford's 'Syrian Orthodox' community celebrated its first Liturgy in our church. It was a jolly and a reverent event; apparently only in the Protestant tradition is worship either a lugubrious tedium or else an even more tedious attempt at informality and withitness. I suppose it's a measure of my own alienation from 'Anglicanism' that I felt at home with the 'Syrians' and yet I feel like a tart in a nunnery on those rare occasions when I can't get out of worshipping in the post-Christian folk-Protestant tradition which pervades most of the Cof E.

And that is despite the fact that I couldn't understand a word of what was going on: although the congregation is in communion with one of the Patriarchs of Antioch, most of its members are from Kerala in South India and the Liturgy was in the the Malayalem language with only a few ecphoneses in Syriac (not, anyway, that I can now remember any of the Syriac that I got a smattering of when I was doing N T Textual Criticism with the late George Kilpatrick). But the Shape of the Liturgy was clear enough and the grammar of its ritual conventions would be familiar to anybody nutured in any ancient Tradition; the way the incense was used; the way blessings were given and received; the way the Blessed Sacrament was treated; the respect shown to God's priest (see the bits in Fortescue/ O'Connell on the solita oscula); the chanting; the versus orientem; even details like flashy tat and lacey albs. If one were on a semi-desert island and this were the only liturgy available - not an EF Mass or a Byzantine Liturgy anywhere on the group of atolls - one could be very comfortable with it.

The 'Jacobite' Patriarch they are are in communion with (there are, I fear, quite a lot of hierarchs with the title Patriarch of Antioch) is the one we used to call 'monophysite'; although I share the common suspicion that it was terminology rather than deliberate heresy that separated the more moderate of S Cyril's followers from Chalcedonian Christianity.

The provisional plan is that this community should worship at S Thomas's on the first Sunday of each month at 12.00. You would be very welcome (but remember to sit, men on the left, women on the right, just as people did in medieval England and still do in many traditions East of the Adriatic). It wouldn't matter if you got taken ill because most of the women seemed to be nurses from the JR. Best of all, come to our Solemn Mass at 10, have coffee and refreshment, then settle down for a Syrian. Plenty of Sunday parking in the grounds of the Old Vicarage next door.

5 October 2008

Hermeneutic of Continuity

Catholic Anglicans can only feel amused sympathy as the Roman Catholic Church grapples with the question of whether Vatican II was a new Pentecost which rejected and put behind it the tradition of the past ('a hermeneutic of rupture') or should be seen - and interpreted - as in unbroken continuity with what went before (the 'hermeneutic of continuity' described by our Holy Father in his most important Magisterial utterance so far, the Christmas allocution to the Roman Curia soon after his Election). How we pray that Benedict's teaching may take hold in the Roman Catholic Church and begin the great enterprise of driving what Paul VI called 'the smoke of Satan' out of the Church.

But I said 'amused', because this debate is the very one which we have been living with - perhaps I should have said 'fighting' - for 450 years. In my College here at Oxford there is a dark and horrible picture showing a group of C16 heretics lurking round a table ... and on the head of each of them, a Pentecostal flame. Consider what happened when Cranmer's first Prayer Book came in. There were, of course, the courageous 1549 Rebels about whom I have several times posted. But there were also those who conformed yet within a hermeneutic of continuity. Bishop Gardiner argued from the actual text of the 1549 Book that it expressed Catholic doctrine. Bishop Bonner, apparently, only occasionally performed new rites in his Cathedral and preserved the old 'Apostles' Mass' and 'our Lady's Mass' in its side chapels as 'communions'. What the parochial clergy did can be discovered from what the Royal Injunctions of 1549 felt it necessary to forbid: 'Item, for a uniformity, that no minister do counterfeit the popish mass, as to kiss the Lord's table; washing his hands at every time in the communion; blessing his eyes with the paten or sudary; or crossing his head with the paten; shifting of the book from one place to another; laying down and licking the chalice of the communion; holding up his fingers hands or thumbs joined towards the temples; breathing upon the bread or chalice; showing the sacrament openly before the distributiion of communion; ringing of sacrying bells; or setting any light upon the Lord's board at any time ...'.

Ever since, this game has been played out among us Anglicans. At the dogmatic level, there have been those who have interpreted the XXXIX Articles in accordance with the teachings of the continental 'Reformers' while others sought their true interpretation in the writings of the Patristic and later periods. The whole point of the Catholic Revival, of course, was to claim both in the Tracts and at the Altar that the Church of England was not a Tudor or Protestant confection but a body in continuity (ministerial, liturgical, doctrinal, moral) with the preceding centuries.

The tragedy has been that as the hermeneutic of rupture gripped the RC Church after Vatican II, many of our people lost heart ... 'What's the point of making a fuss about X and Y and Z when Rome doesn't bother about them any more?' Countless Catholic Anglican clergy have struggled to uphold Catholic Truth in regard to some area of Faith or Morals only to be undermined by the fact that Fr Flannahan down the road is saying the opposite. Every innovation proposed among Anglicans has been advanced on the back of a confident claim that an ever-changing Rome will undoubtedly itself hop onto that particular bandwagon ... just give it a pontificate or two longer. Our adversaries taunt us with this every day with regard to the womenbishops question. Yes, 'Catholics' have been one major factor in the corruption and destruction of everything we had worked for and recovered and built up since 1833!

2 October 2008

Any Padre Pio experts out there?

Let me explain my problem. I say my Divine Office according to the postconciliar Liturgia Horarum in Latin because that is what Vatican II mandated except in what it anticipated as the very rare exceptions when a cleric did not know Latin. When a new Saint is added to the Universal Calendar, I photocopy the new proper from Notitiae, the Vatican periodical which gives the official texts of the Acta of the Cogregation for Divine Worship and whatever, and gum it in.

This is where my problem starts. The typists who process these documents into print are manifestly a ropey and highly careless lot (presumably this is why, in the Collect for Padre Pio, the word presbyterum is misspelt). There's nothing new in this; indeed, the problem goes back to the 1987 edition of the Breviary, which is full of misprints - sometimes a word misspelt; sometimes an impossible punctuation; sometimes a couple of lines missed out. Some mistakes are easy to handle; for example 'italianisms' like spirito instead of spiritu; misto instead of mixto; ogni instead of omni. Others reduce the text to meaningless gibberish so that the only recourse is to go into Bodley and if possible look up the originals.

But even in this context, the Lectio Altera for S Pius of Pietrelcina is quite outstanding. I've counted five major grammatical errors of the most elementary nature: the sort of howlers I would not have expected my IV Form Latin set to make. What does this mean? That the quality of those who produce the official Latin texts of the Latin Church has plummeted to an even more appallingly low level than before? Or could it be that Padre Pio wrote his letters in Latin and that the mistakes are the Saint's own mistakes? Saintly mistakes, so to speak.

I would love to know.

1 October 2008


Back to Archbishop Rowan and the double act he did with Kasper. Correct me, those of you who were there, if I got it wrong, but I have a distinct recollection that he expressed the conviction that Community is more important than Ideas. He got this, with his usual unfailing felicity and elegance, out of the narrative of Luke's Infancy narratives, where the Annunciation sets up Community between Mary and her enwombed God, and the Visitation extends that Koinonia. [[I think he used the Greek word; I thought the less well of him for doing so: I have a rooted aversion to the game of impressing the troops with hellenisms. But I applaud his apparent belief that Luke's Infancy narratives are 'historical', just as I do his definition of the Resurrection: 'Empty tomb and no Body'.]]

Being nasty, however, I did discern within myself an unworthy suspicion that he had in mind the Current Crisis ... Oops, Crises. So did a highly intelligent laywoman sitting beside me, who observed, as I stroked her knee with my left hand, that he shouldn't have brought his problems (and our crises) to Lourdes. Was he saying that we should hang around in the C of E because Community is more important than Ideas?

Because if he was, perhaps there is a question he could answer. Why, if Togetherness is more important than being sure about your intellectual integrity, does the Anglican Community, en bloc, not submit to the See of Rome? And why do his own problems (hinted at in the following debate as they have been in obiter asides over the years) with the Petrine Ministry not merit being set aside in the greater cause of Christian Unity?

It would be fun to be a fly on the wall at a meeting of the House of Bishops at which Rowan unfolded a policy, based on blind submission to Vatican I (Pastor aeternus), for Corporate Togetherness with the biggest Christian communion.

29 September 2008


Is it a record? At Cardinal Kasper's International Mass he shared the Asperges with a former Vice-Principal of S Stephen's House; the Gospel was read in English by one of the House's latest deacons; and most of the serving team were Staggers men. What sort of record, I wonder? In the Good Old Days, when the Diocese of Oxford was under the sound Catholic management of Bishop Kirk, whenever a major event was needed, the Principal of the House turned up with a team and managed things with that style and precision for which Staggers was famous. One of the Chapter members at Christ Church - I think it may have been Canon Jenkins, but they were mostly a rather weird lot - said 'I suppose we shall have Couratin here again with his circus'. To which Arthur is said to have retorted 'Well, old man, better a circus than a menagerie'.

It would be lovely if, whenever the Western Church needed really top quality serving, Mgr (Good) Marini sent for Canon Ward and his circus. And it could easily come to that. Have you seen the interesting names recently added to the list of Consultors of the Office for Pontifical Ceremonies?

28 September 2008


How brilliant. Was it Fr Rowlands's idea? To make the climax of our pilgrimage an event not in Lourdes but at the older nearby shrine of our Lady of Betharram? One can get a trifle tired of the two styles of architecture in Lourdes itself: that heavy and idiosyncratic French Gothic Revival in the older churches, and the concrete brutalism of the newer ones (all rather like the Jubilee Line, as one of our seminarians acutely put it). So on our last full day we went to a jewel of early C18 baroque so that, as Father put it, he could show us what we ought to like. A profound piece of theology. Wonderful shrine that it is, Lourdes lacks a hermeneutic of continuity. At the beginning of the C20, even the old parish church - S Bernadette's church - was demolished so that a new one could replace it in guess-what style (although you can see some of the altar furnishings from the church S Bernadette worshipped in Sunday by Sunday preserved in the chapel of the Fort which looms over Lourdes). But Betherram is an unbroken masterpiece in the same style: bright and joyous and playful; as Bishop Ladds put it, not a straight line in sight (except that in one of the side chapels I did see something rather nasty: a square kitchen table with some chairs informally around it). There are lots of those Salomonic pillars, curvy like the supports of the ciborium in S Peter's in Rome, reminiscent of Raffael's cartoons inthe V and A showing the Temple pillars at Jerusalem. The porch north of Oxford's University Church (the porch with the statue of our Lady which formed part of the indictment leading to Archbishop Laud's indictment and martyrdom) has just such columns. So here we have an art style diachronically continuous in its idiom, and synchronic in its tying-together of Caroline Anglican Oxford and post-Huguenot Conte Bearn. Except that Laud's porch doesn't have putti with wobbly little bottoms climbing up the pillars. You need something to go to Aquitaine to see.

Father, I don't know if you read this humble blog, but, if you do, I did like what you showed us and I think the whole pilgrimage was simply wonderful.


Walter Cardinal Kasper, the soon-to-be-ex-Prefect of the Christian Unity Council, undoubtedly set out to make gestures at the Lourdes International Mass; gestures to the old pre-Oxford-Movement style of Anglican Liturgy. Like old-style Protestant Evangelicals, he presided at the (ritual) North End; the altar lacked both cross and candlesticks. Somebody should have told Professor Kasper that since the 1840s Anglicans have somewhat developed their ritual practices. Indeed, some of our clergy, including my predecessor Fr Thomas Chamberlain, were physically persecuted for their doings. How different Kasperliturgie was from the pictures the tatshops of Lourdes were still showing: our Holy Father celebrating only a few days previously: seven candles and a crucifix on the altar. And how good it is to have a proper Anglican Pope after all these years. Kasper should copy his boss.

Two particularly interesting features, however. Despite the regulations that 'non-Catholic ministers' may not preach the Homily after the Gospel, Rowan, Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England (does that make him de jure to be a Legatus natus of the Holy See?) did just that. Was it at the invitation of the Ordinary, Jacques our bishop? Or is Cardinal Kasper himself getting demob happy? And why did not Geoffrey Rowell carry a crosier? After all, as he reminded us, we were in his diocese.

27 September 2008


If the Lord spares me, I may post a number of comments on the remarkable week which many of us have just spent in Lourdes; the Society of Mary pilgrimage during which hoardes of Anglicans seemed to be taking over the basilicas of our Lady's shrine; a week during which I suspect that the numbers of those flocking to receive the Bread of Life at the hands of our bishops were far in excess of the number of Anglican pilgrims.

Two quite remarkable and iconic moments: firstly; the seminar room in which Cardinal Kasper and Archbishop Rowan Williams read their papers and tried to answer questions. I did not feel that either of them had anything useful or new to say about the current Anglican crisis; each of them seemed to feel that the agreements already secured under the auspices of ARCIC about issues in which few are terribly interested could be of value when new and vibrant issuies are creating new and acrimonious divisions. The erudition of the erudite twosome was interupted repeatedly by the malfunctioning electronic system which relayed instead the devotions elsewhere in the domaine of congregations praising the Mother of God, seemingly in every peasant patois known to Europe. I felt that a jocose Deity, or perhaps a Deity with a jocose Mother, was making a different point and making it rather well.

Secondly: the sight of Archbishop Williams prostrate on the uneven and damp rock beneath the staue of the Immaculate. He is successor not only of Augustine and Pole but of Cranmer (surrounded by his gang of foreign heresiarchs); of Manners Sutton (the avaricious pluralist who kept his sons and sons-in-law in the style of Whig aristocrats out of the inheritance of English Christianity) ... I wondered what these and so many other Archbishops would have said if they could have seen such a day. And Williams, too, a cleverer man than most of them!

What price now, the venom of the 'Reformation'; or the disdeign of the 'Enlightenment'. Peasants, shepherdesses, and Popery seem to have the last laugh.

21 September 2008

Whoever wants to be saved ...

There are quite a lot of rural areas in the Church of England where a mixture of conservatism and an inherited suspicion of the Eucharist means that Prayer Book Mattins has survived as a main Sunday service on at least some Sundays in a month. I wonder how many of those churches used, this morning, as the rubric ordered, the Quicunque vult (aka the Athanasian Creed).

Not many, I suspect. It is long, and it starts and ends with some politically incorrect observations about the eternal destiny of those who do not keep the whole Catholic Faith. But it is a superbly simple explanation of the doctrine of the Trinity: effective by the pedagogic device of repetition. You cannot read it without getting straight that each Person really is God and each Person is not one of the other Persons.

Laurence Hemming in his new book (you must read it) suggests that the elimination of this creed from Sunday Prime, back in the 1950s, is probably the reason why modern R C priests don't have Trinitarian orthodoxy at their fingertips. The disuse of it in the Church of England, even by Prayer Book 'enthusiasts' (BCP orders its use a dozen times a year), has certainly gone hand-in-hand with a practical loss of interest in the Trinity, which is now Boring and not Sexy. Conservative Evangelicals, while technically orthodox on the Trinity, de facto are much more interested in soteriology.

Remarkably, Common Worship actually allows the QV to be used as an alternative to the 'Nicene' Creed on Sundays. If ever again I find myself doing 'duty' in a mainstream church, I'll spring it on them.

18 September 2008


Some members of the S Thomas's PCC having asked for the restoration of the Asperges (which disappeared after the time of Canon Lucas; his association with our church began when he was a curate here in 1933 ... he died not long ago aged more than a hundred), and the rest seeming willing enough, I am wondering about the practicalities. If a Cantor is present, he can sing it; but without a Cantor the congregation might struggle. Purists will tut-tut about this, but I wonder if anybody knows a metrical version of it?

If not, perhaps it might not be hard to construct one. If one used the tune of Cwm Rhondda and allowed oneself a little dynamic equivalence in translating, one could start
Thou shalt purge me from my sins
With thy cleansing hyssop, Lord;
Thou shalt wash me white as snow ...

Any help welcomed!

Our Lady of Sandford

I'm getting more and more interested in the beautifully preserved and almost unknown Assumpta of Sandford-upon-Thames in Oxfordshire (see earlier posts). The likelihood is that it was taken there from some more prestigious church which possessed a relic of our Lady which could be fitted into the apparently 'reliquary' niche at the bottom. The Powells, the (subsequently) recusant family who had the Manor of Sandford also secured the property of the former Carmelite house at the end of Friars' Entry, opposite S Mary Mags church in Oxford, where Henry VI often stayed.

Does anybody know whether there was anything distinctive about late-medieval Carmelite iconography of our Lady? Or where such info might be sought? Another possibility is that the Sandford Assumpta came from the Dominican House in Oxford, which had its quire rebuilt around 1500, the conjectural date of our carving, and was a site of frenzy-feeding in the 1540s as parish churches in Oxford (little knowing how soon they were themselves to be looted and vandalised) sent labourers to walk off with its goodies.

17 September 2008

What is the language of Heaven?

As Lourdes cowers in terror at the imminent arrival of goodness-knows how many Anglican pilgrims led by our beloved and primatial Welsh Wizard, I wonder if someone could help me with the question of what our Lady actually said. I have always thought that she said, in the Gascon dialect of Occitan, Que soi era Immaculada Concepcion: where era shows the characteristic Gascon shift from the ela of other dialects (prescinding of course from the knotty question of whether Gascon is an Occitan dialect). But the erudite Fr Martindale, in his 1957 CTS booklet, gives Que soi l'Immaculado Councepciou. There must be someone out there in the blogosphere with enough historical knowledge and philological learning to put me right on this.

Incidentally, I think I recall Metropolitan Kallistos Ware once suggesting that (bearing in mind that the Mother of God was speaking on the Feast of the Annunciation) what she meant was 'I am the one in whom the Logos has been immaculately conceived'. Did he really mean this, or was it an example of his Beatitude's deliciously feline sense of humour?

Daft women and spineless men

I heard this evening of a liturgical innovation in a normal, middle of-the-road C of E parish. The 'Worship Committee' decided that some women (who felt that they had the gift of healing) should lay their hands on all those kneeling at the altar rails to receive Holy Communion. This happened before the Blessed Sacrament was administered.

Enough people complained about this daft little ritual for a change to be made: that the Salutary Imposition should happen after the Sacrament had been received and that those who wished not to avail themselves of its benefit could intimate as much by folding their arms upon their chests as the Impository Nutters approached. Ah: and, by the way: a couple of women also lurk in a side chapel in case anybody returning from the altar Needs To Talk About Something. And this is not a parish in which womenministry is so unavailable that a safety valve is necessary to satisfy the pent-up hunger for feminine pseudoliturgy: it is a parish crawling with womenpriests.

The Rector, I was told, is too weak to put a stoppers on such nonsense.

Is this a novelty, or is it a widespread fashion which I, as so often, am the last person in the world to hear about?

16 September 2008


.... is of not knowing whom to commemorate. I've always had a soft spot for S Januarius; the thought of all those small but perfectly-formed Neapolitan crones screeching their abuse at the Saint if the relic of his blood is lazy about liquefying; the clergy smoking and gambling in the Sacristy and occasionally strolling out to see whether it's happened yet; the episode a few years ago when a Sceptical Journalist (oxymoron?) was given a prime spectator's position so that he could see and report what 'really' happened and who was flabbergasted to see that the liquefaction really did happen; the Archbishop then, as he took the Reliquary around to be kissed, pressed it upon the Man of the Press with such generosity that his nose was nearly broken ... now there's real religion for you.

But then there is S Theodore of Canterbury; and the wonderful thought of a Pope of Rome appointing a Greek-speaking Syrian monk to be Archbishop of Canterbury ...

Of course, if the modern Liturgy were not so neat, so reformed, so Enlightenment, so uncluttered, so logical, so etc., I might be able to say Mass of one with a commemoration of the other.

13 September 2008

St Aidan and St Ninian

The New Liturgical Movement blog has an article by the distinguished Dominican theologian Fr Aidan Nichols. Fr Aidan is a kind and sympathetic friend of Catholic Anglicans; he sat as R C consultant with the Forward in Faith group which put together Consecrated Women, our theological response to the imminent consecration of women bishops in the Church of England. I rather sympathised with his point that the title of that book would be misunderstood by Roman Catholics to whom consecrated women are nuns; Fr Aidan's suggested title was The Voice of the Bridegroom.

Fr Aidan knows more about Anglican history and culture than most Anglicans: it is a curious and disconcerting fact that most Anglicans are now completely uninterested in the Anglican tradition. An earlier fruit of Fr Aidan's learning and sympathy was The Panther and the Hind, in which he writes about the different Anglican traditions, their histories, and what they could each offer to a united Christendom. The book makes no secret of Fr Aidan's conviction that a 'Group Solution', repatriating the viable part of the Anglican faith-group to unity with Catholic Christendom, is a desirable way ahead. The same belief is implied in his more recent book, The Realm.

His New Blackfriars article recognises the contribution which our Catholic Anglican liturgical tradition can make to the reform and resacralisation of Western Catholic worship and of the architectural attitudes that go with it. He is not unmindful of the great role played by Sir Ninian Comper, and of the immense beauty of Comper's buildings. What a complete contrast to the heavy Teutonic contempt which Sir Nikolaus (Come and play with me in my Bauhaus) Pevsner loved to pour on Comper's oeuvre: 'limp' was perhaps one of his nicer words.

Roman Catholics sometimes have trouble understanding why Catholic Anglicans, who are so very much more orthodoxly Catholic than many Roman Catholics, are slow to leave their heritage behind them and to submerge themselves in the institutionalised philistinism of the English RC church. Fr Aidan's article might help them to understand.