27 April 2008


I was so infuriated I switched the radio off: it was the sound of Professor A C Grayling misrepresenting the Christian Faith. He clearly loathes it and doesn't like to let pass an opportunity of attacking it in his popular journalism. But this was a program about the philosophy of Materialism; and he assured the listening millions that Christianity was a dualist religion, based on an opposition between Spirit and Matter which regarded the latter as inherently bad, the former as inherently good. I don't suppose we shall ever know whether this assertion is based on dumb stupid ignorance or on a wilful desire to misrepresent and thus traduce Christianity. But it sounds mighty strange as our minds turn to next Thursday's celebration of the Ascension - of the taking of that Body which was conceived in a woman's womb to the heart and throne of Godhead; the ultimate deification of matter. Regnat caro, as the ancient Office Hymn says (I quoted it only the other day: Flesh is reigning).

Oops: did I say that we shall be observing the Ascension on Thursday? Bad news from Rome: the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei has ruled that even those who use the Old Mass by virtue of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum must, in deference to the English Roman Catholic hierarchy, transfer it to Sunday. One can see the logic of a common date for celebrating festivals: I believe that the Vatican expects Latin Catholics living in countries of predominantly Oriental rite to keep the Julian Easter. But the transference of the Ascension seems illogical: this transference is envisaged in the rubrics of the new rite as an option available to hierarchies who seek Roman consent, but the old Missal offers no such option. And PCED may have pandered to the Westminster hierarchy at the expense of convincing traditionalists wavering between SSPX and FSSP that Rome can indeed not be trusted to prevent vandal hands from mutilating the 1962 Missal. The Church of England (it isn't often I say something like this) is more sensible in leaving a number of feasts (for example, the Epiphany; although not, as it happens, the Ascension) to be transferred or not at the decision of the parochial minister - a good example of that principle of subsidiarity which wisely lies at the heart of Summorum Pontificum. And I've never heard of this leading to pastoral problems.

I won't say that the solution for traditionalist Roman Catholics will be to attend Anglican Churches: partly because it would be cheap and vulgar but mainly because I have no interest in weakening the allegiance to the Holy See of those who are fortunate enough to be in unimpaired communion with her. But if somebody secured the services of a SSPX priest to say Mass of the Ascension in Oxford on Thursday and wanted to use S Thomas's Church free of fee (we have splendid sets of Latin vestments, with maniples; a Missale Romanum; and Latin Altar Cards) I'm not sure I'd say No.

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