30 January 2009

That's how to do it

Having watched Mgr Fellay explaining how SSPX got the excommunications rescinded, I see all clearly. It was the number of rosaries offered by the faithful.

We ought to be doing this. For the more 'Anglican' among us, perhaps the Prayer Book Litany ... one of Dr Cranmer's real masterpieces, unsullied by Zwinglianism ... could do as an alternative to the Holy Rosary.

Bridging the Tiber

The news is exciting: Benedict XVI, the Pope of Unity. Four cheers for what he is doing for those sundered fragments of Latin Christendom, SSPX and the TAC.

In England, we have a problem which neither of those organisations has: the problem of Extricability; of getting, corporately, out of structures we are enmeshed in. Anglican Catholic clergy can enter individually into full communion; but they will be submerged like every other wave of 'converts' that has done the same. Our elephant-in-the-room is the attachment of our laity to ancient buildings and historic structures and identities. Unless the C of E is prepared let property depart, we have a difficulty. And is there any chance of this? Remember (1) the visceral hatred of 'Rome' which lurks in the most liberal hearts; and (2) the possibility that the financial value of property might, in an economic depression, be rather handy for the Establishment to have.

Rome cannot solve the problem of Extricability. Only we can. But how?

29 January 2009

A Nutter on Thompson's blog

A correspondent hiding behind the term Dominican keeps writing on Damian Thompson's blog that there is no doubt about the invalidity of Anglican Orders. He must be unaware that, as a result of the participation of Dutch 'Old Catholic' bishops in Anglican Consecrations since 1932, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decided, when the former Bishop of London entered into full communion, that there was a doubt about the invalidity of his orders, and directions were given that he should be ordained sub conditione.

I know that this is a long way from concluding that Anglican Orders are valid, but it also means that it is either plain ignorance, or dishonesty, to allege that things are still where they were in the time of Leo XIII. One also wonders why some RCs are so desperately need Anglican Orders to be invalid. It's like the niggling hatreds which fester in some guts with regard to Jews.

Could it be that this personage is a sedevacantist? Why else should he keep writing comments which imply that he knows better than the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith did when Joseph Ratzinger was its Cardinal Prefect? Why does he need anonymity? Or she?

Fr Zuhlsdorf, SSPX, and Ecumenism

When the great Fr Zuhlsdorf descended from on high and walked on earth as a man among lowly men - I mean, visited Oxford last year - he made a point that I have also read several times on his blog. It related to that selfsame SSPX whose bishops have just had their excommunications revoked. Are they schismatics? Father Zed is, he told me, of Prussian ancestry, and perhaps it was a Prussian instinct for tidiness and order that suggested the answer to that question. He replied with another question: the quack quack question. What is it that looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and sounds like a duck? SSPX behave and talk like schismatics, so ...

But here is the problem. Vatican praxis has consistently refused to consider adherents of SSPX as having set themselves outside the Church Militant. True, its bishops automatically incurred excommunication by the mere fact of accepting episcopal consecration sine mandato Apostolico. True, its priests have been suspended a divinis from the moment of their ordination. They lack jurisdiction for those sacraments that, for validity, require it, such as Penance and Matrimony. But - and this, frankly, surprised me as much as it did the admirable Fr Zed - PCED, in allowing that the Sunday Precept may be fulfilled by attendance at a SSPX Mass, has refused to condemn those who do so out of affection for the Old Rite, reserving its censure for any who do so out of a schismatic temperament; that is, out of a desire to reject the communio and teaching of the Sovereign Pontiff; out of a desire 'to adhere to schism'.

It is easy enough to see pragmatic reasons for the Vatican's disinclination to wave the S-word around. It would harden attitudes rather than encouraging reconciliation. And pastoral solicitude dislikes the idea of of a supra-logical rigidity which places souls for whom Christ died in a state of exclusion from his Church and of mortal sin. So - to put it crudely - the situation has been fudged. But was there ever such a fudge? Not often, surely; not often has a group that adheres to excommunicated bishops and leads its ecclesial life in explicit contravention of the jurisdiction of of the Visible Church been treated as anything other than a schismatic sect - whether its orders were valid or not. Fr Zed is dead right about the peculiarity of this.

I am not by profession a dogmatic theologian, but another element in all this that strikes me as novel is the weight and emphasis that is placed on the individual dispositions of the individual Christian; whether they incur canonical penalties for attending a SSPX Mass depends on their interior disposition in each case. Normally, if someone adheres to, let us say, the Copts, or the Anglicans, or the Methodists, or the Orthodox, the mere fact of such actual adherence is taken to mean that they are not in full canonical communion with the Holy See. I, as an Anglican, am treated as an Anglican if I behave like an Anglican. But the methodology used with regard to SSPX would suggest that if I attend Anglican worship simply because I like the ethos of the Anglican tradition, I do not exclude myself from Catholic Unity. I would only do this if my reason for attending Anglican worship were a desire to demonstrate my rejection of the teaching and authority of the Successor of S Peter. Which, in the case of (at least) very many Anglicans, is not so. It certainly isn't in the case of myself and my congregation. In my own case, when I was sixteen I joined an Anglican society which requires explicit and formal and witnessed subscription to the decrees of all the ecumenical councils up to and including Vatican I (with its definition of papal primacy and infallibility). With regard to *****, a Venetian lady in my congregation, she finds our baroque liturgy at S Thomas's much more congenial than what she could find elsewhere. With regard to ... but I can hardly go through my entire congregation. Suffice it to say that, at every Mass, the Holy Father is named, together with antistite nostro N where N is a bishop whose views on the urgency of being in peace and full communion with the Apostolic See coincide with my own.

I feel that precedents have been set by the treatment of SSPX (yes, I do realise that, among differences between the position of papalist Anglicans and that of the SSPX is the tricky little problem of Orders, but I don't think that goes to the heart of the matter). There is an irony here, of course. SSPX condemns the 'ecumenism' of the 'Conciliar Church'. But it has itself been a beneficiary of that 'ecumenism'. Would Pius XII have left unexcommunicated a body like SSPX which adhered (formally and sacramentally in the case of its clergy) to excommunicated bishops?

28 January 2009

Another very fine Bampton lecture.

And I wonder why more of those who are traditionalist Catholics in Oxford, whether Anglican or Roman, were not there. Pam justly commented that it seemed rather more about Bossuet than Pascal, but none the worse for that. Bossuet has long deserved resurrection. Obstacles, I suppose, have included a prejudice among English intellectuals against both the Baroque and the Rhetorical. Me, I can't get enough of either.

What came out was the passionate - Professor Parish kept using the word erotic, but, as Pam observed, without ever defining what he meant - and physical response among thinkers and mystics in mid-Bourbon France both to the Incarnation and its continuation in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. He seemed, indeed, as if he was almost surprised himself by the ultra-realism of the language concerned. Many English are. I have a sermon which I have preached in a number of places on just this theme ... alluding to resonances between the union of sexual intercourse and the union of the believer through his physical eating and drinking of the Body and Blood of God. Each time I delivered it I was aware of the acute embarrassment of the congregation. I wonder how many people have really engaged with the utter realism of their eucharistic communion with God. Similarly, Parish seemed taken aback by the realism of the incarnational references among the authors he surveyed: God in a manger. Throughout my pulpit ministry I have found the same disquiet among the Anglican laity. I suspect that not one in a hundred of either our clergy or our laity really either understands or believes what the Incarnation really means. And I challenge RC readers to deny the truth of this suspicion with regard to their own laity ... and clergy.

Two comments. (1) I suspect that a number of the topoi Parish found so striking in seventeenth century France were not as original as he seemed to believe to that culture. Take the one about how a Death resulted in the death of Death. I bet we could find that quite often in both the Latin and Greek Fathers and in medieval writers. Chesterton justly observed that if you can't do paradox you'll find it difficult to be a Christian.
(2) I wonder if the intensity of the devotional attitudes of the mystics of the period owed something to the theatricality of baroque architecture and liturgy. They exposed naked realities very vividly to the senses and to the intellect; and I don't just mean (although this is part of it) in the paintings and the statues. It was after prolonged exposition of the Blessed Sacrament that S Margaret Mary had her intensely physical First Friday visions of her beautiful beloved. I have long felt that a sort of suspicion of baroque liturgy which I think I discern in such interesting authors as Pickstock and Hemming might not represent the entire truth. The Baroque must have some place in God's Providence.

I won't describe all S Margaret Mary's acts of self-humiliation too vividly. You might never feel quite the same again about lentil soup.

You read it first here

A splendid meeting tonight, arranged by some canny people who are not a million miles from the auntie of the man who sells the fish to the grandfather of the housemaid of the proprietors of England's premier blog, Massinformation. They had Mgr Bruce Harbert, i/c of ICEL, to talk about the progress of the New ICEL translation of the Mass into English. It would be unbloggish to scoop their scoops; but I think I have a right to blurt out just one teensie weensie detail.

Devoted readers of this blog [thank you for getting it into its second 100,000] may recall that a couple of days ago, on the 26th of January, under the heading Fifty Years Since The Council Was Called, I said, among other things, that the form of Divine Office brought out after the Council was looking very tired and could do with being rethought; I mentioned in particular the preces. This in fact followed on from Routers and Breviaries of January 7, in which I spoke in more detail about the problems of both the Liturgia Horarum and the 1962 Breviary respectively.

Mgr Harbert said tonight that ICEL had in fact done some work on a new English version of the Lityrgy of the Hours, but had then put the brakes on when a very senior person in Rome intimated that perhaps the Latin base text, the Editio typica altera Liturgiae horarum, might find itself returned to the melting pot. Just as ICEL had waited until it had the definitive Editio typica tertia Missalis Romani to hand before doing its English draft of the Missal, so it did not want to do a lot of work on a new Breviary when the Latin base-text might be about to metamorphose.

Fr Hunwicke's Liturgical Notes has a telepathic relationship with the thinking of top people in Rome.

27 January 2009

Barmiest Bishop Quest

I think I may run this as an occasional but frequent column, in the spirit of Dix, who took the name Gregory in religion 'because Gregory VII deposed more bishops than any other man in history'; reminded a whingeing Anglo-Catholic that one should expect the worst of the episcopate because 'after all, the heraldic symbol of a bishop is a crook; of an archbishop, the double cross'. Today's candidates:

(1) I can't remember his name: which one was it? One of the English 'Roman Catholic' bishops; who warmly welcomed the election, as president of our revolting colonies, of the abortionist Obama.

(2) Williamson; I thought of him yesterday as Pam and I did some research in the archives of S Anne's (her college and that of senior daughter and junior son) on an aspect of the university education of women in the late Victorian period. We were surprised by the large numbers of religious, some Anglican but vast numbers RC, who were sent by their orders to take advantage of the possibility of an Oxford education for women. They certainly went places; at least one became Mother General of her Order in Rome. I wonder what makes Williamson so hysterically opposed to the university education of women. How is that in accordance with tradition? Not that it needs me to attack the silly fellow; and I wouldn't want you to think I'm doing so out of prejudice. Some of my best friends are Wykehamists. It's not fair to blame people for their parents' mistakes.

(3) Finally, our own home-grown candidate, the barmy bishop of bux. Finding himself in a bit of a hole after his nutty attack on Anglo-Catholics, he demonstrated his resolve by continuing to dig. When last seen he was still shovelling furiously and had nearly reached the magma. He'll soon be up to his ears in it. {Massinformation; but you'll have to scroll quite a long way down to find it.}

26 January 2009

Fifty Years Since The Council Was Called

Bishop Fellay has asked for dialogue about the parts of the Vatican II documents which are prima facie difficult to reconcile with the Tradition. I feel that this is a debate which should occur anyway, and it is a dialogue which Joseph Ratzinger prepared for by writing that, of the ecumenical councils which have taken place, some have been unnecessary and unhelpful. It was prepared for even earlier by Bl John XXIII when he said that his Council would not be a doctrinal Council. There can therefore be no logic in requiring anybody to believe, as defined ex cathedra, doctrine inferred from the Vatican II documents. And in fact, when the clergy in Bordeaux belonging to the Institute of the Good Shepherd regularised their position, they found, so they said, that they were not required to accept anything except that the debate should be carried on within the fellowship of the Church and not across barricades. There is something Anglican about this; and I have said before that I believe Benedict XVI is the most Anglican Pope we have ever had.

I do sometimes find that the documents of Vatican II seem tired and dated. When they come up in the Office of readings, I confess that I do quickly check the rubrics to see if there is a lawful way of getting round reading them. And the post-Conciliar liturgy also often has too much of a sense of the 1960s about it (even in the Latin) to be comfortable; especially the 'preces'. The time has come for reconsidering and sifting; not because Mgr Fellay wants it but because the time has come.

There is a phrase of S Vincent of Lerins which was adopted by Bl John XXIII in his opening speech to the Council: that restatements of the Faith should be 'eodem sensu eademque sententia'. I believe that should be the starting point. It is what is implied by the motto 'Hermeneutic of Continuity'.

Mind you, I do feel that we have got to live in the twenty first century. It was all very well to talk about Error Having No Rights when a Christian state could repress Error. We now live in a society dominated by Secularist Error, the Zeitgeist, and Political Correctness. Nowadays the repression of dissident opinion has become the repression of Christianity because we have become the dissidents, the counter-culturals. Like when, a couple of British general elections ago, a pro-Life political party put up enough candidates to receive, under the electoral rules, the right to party political broadcasts on the media ... and was promptly told that pictures of aborted foetuses were not permitted.

Vatican II may have expressed itself badly on the question of religious liberty; it may require verbal dexterity to reconcile it with earlier magisterial interventions. But perhaps what it really means in the broadest terms is ... what the hell, our present need is to occupy a 'libertarian' high ground and demand for ourselves the rights that the Enlightenment made such a racket about. If Voltaire could say that he disagreed with what an opponent said but would defend to the death his right to say it, why are the bully-boys trying to muffle us?

Or am I being too cynical and slapdash?

25 January 2009

That they may be one

When he became Pope, our beloved Holy Father revealed that he expected the first question put to him by his Judge would be: what had he done for the unity of Christians? The dear old gentleman must be overjoyed that he has been enabled to allow the rescinding of the excommunications incurred by the four SSPX bishops.

Would that news within the Church of England were as full of wholesome joy. The admirable and informative Massinformation blog gives us the views of one of the suffragan [that's Anglican for Assistant] bishops in this diocese of Oxford: who thinks that Anglican Catholics enjoy self-indulgence and fantasy, and, just for kicks, attempts to smear us by hinting that we might very well have a disposition towards holocaust denial. There seems to be a jinx on this diocese. The last bishop of Oxford had reluctantly to give up his planned appointment of a suffragan because it became clear that his nominee could not function as a point of unity. Remarkably, the diocese now does have a suffragan who has disqualified himself even more decisively from exercising episcopal ministry by an attack, including a very dirty smear, upon one of the traditions of 'churchmanship' to which he is presumably expected to minister. If his resignation is not sought and accepted, I question how John Pritchard himself [bishop of Oxford] can expect to enjoy acceptance and moral legitimacy. What is surely beyond debate is this: an attempt to conclude this episode with some sort of qualified expression of regret ... a formula syntactically based on a protasis like "If I have unwittingly caused offense ..." will not work. Only a one clause apology will merit even being looked at.

Setting aside the Goebels-like smears, can I ask: Is it really "self-indulgence" on the part of us Anglican Catholics to long for Christian Unity? I am reminded of the occasion when a youthful Gregory Dix had waxed eloquent upon Unity; his paper was followed by the words of a disdainful senior bishop who suggested that, having listened to a young man's dreams, the hearers should now get real. Dix interjected that Unity was indeed the dream of a Young Man: a Young Man at Supper with his friends the night before he died.

Is it really "fantasy" to notice that Rome has drawn the concept of the Infallibility of the Church's Ordinary Magisterium over the statement of John Paul II that women cannot validly receive the Sacrament of Order? Is it a "fantasy" that Walter Kasper, a theologian with a long history as a 'liberal' and a proven track record (right up to the conclave) of drawing theological swords with Joseph Ratzinger, came and told the English Anglican bishops that they should decide whether they wished to be a Protestant or a Catholic Church and that, if they proceeded to the ordination of women bishops, the current ecumenical process of working towards visible unity would be over? Was it just a journalists' "fantasy" that his pleas were ignored by a decisive majority? Were the reactions of the Moscow Patriarchate to the vote for women bishops just a nightmare that we shall all wake up from?

May it turn out that Pritchard's dim suffragan is himself the "fantasy". He certainly isn't the pleasurable "self-indulgence".

Professor Ratzinger and Professor Neusner

I may have missed comments, but I haven't noticed much discussion in the Blogosphere of an interesting interview (from Il Riformista) with Rabbi Jacob Neusner, the distinguished American Jewish scholar and student of first century Judaism and Christianity. The text can be found in the blog Palazzo Apostolico. Readers will recall that our Holy Father based the substance of his treatment of the Sermon on the Mount in Jesus of Nazareth on a book by Neusner. They may even recall that I from time to time urged people to read Neusner even before Professor Ratzinger went public as a neusnerophiliac.

Briefly: Neusner singles out Benedict XVI 'in particolare' among modern popes for what he has done for Jewish-Christian dialogue, and curtly dismisses the claim of the Chief Rabbi of Venice that, in 'reintroducing' the 1962 Missal (with a Good Friday prayer for the Jews) the Church has dumped fifty years of progress. Neusner points out that 'gli ebrei pregano per l'illuminazione dei gentili e non avviene niente di diverso nella controparte cattolica'. He thinks relations are progressing well, especially in the academic field, and hopes the Pope will visit the Holy Land and make, at Yad Vashem, 'un eventuale gesto di lutto e di memoria'.

A few weeks ago I found myself sitting at lunch with a 'Roman Catholic' enthusiast for interfaith relations, who told me that, after years of progress under JP II, the whole landscape had been ruined by Benedict XVI. The plain fact is that, despite everything that this kindly, gentle, and very clever man has done, there are still too many people around whose mindset was formed by the vicious media campaign against Cardinal Ratzinger and who have closed their bigoted minds against anything he says or does.

24 January 2009

Gaudium et Spes

What joy to see the SSPX excommunications lifted. I hope and pray that this augurs well for the reintegration of other sundered fragments of Latin Christendom.

Celebrating S Paul on Sunday

A number have bloggers have reminded us of the indult to celebrate one Mass tomorrow of the Conversion of S Paul in observance of the Pauline Year proclaimed by the Sovereign Pontiff and the Ecumenical Patriarch; and observed, correctly, that the Office is still to be of the Sunday. However, not everybody may be aware that the Instructio generalis de Liturgia Horarum, paragraph 245, allows, on a Sunday per annum, the celebration of a Votive Office, either in total or in part, either for a public cause or even just for devotion. It gives some examples of why one might do this; certainly an Ecumenical Pauline Year is more pressing than any of those examples. If one said the whole Office of S Paul, at First Evensong (that's what we call Vespers in the C of E) one would presumably repeat the forms provided for Second Evensong.

Incidentally, although Rome expects us to take the second Mass reading from the Sunday, here at S Thomas's, in an exotic act of biritualism, at that point in the Mass we are going to abandon momentarily the Bugniniliturgie for the Stancliffeliturgie and use the Common Worship Epistle, Galatians 1: 11-16a. Not that I am urging such lawlessness on anybody else.

23 January 2009

Important request for information.

Is a cleric in deacon's orders, who is appointed an honorary Canon of a Cathedral Church, entitled to wear a cassock with the same colour buttons and piping as if they were a presbyteral Canon? Personally, I can't see why not. And I bet there are precedents. For example, back in the ample days when young men of aristocratic family took Minor Orders so as to qualify themselves to hold lucrative benefices, without any intention of proceding to the subdiaconate with its obligation of celibacy, I bet there were some of them who held canonries. (Memories here of Gregory Dix's characteristically catty demonstration of the fact that medieval corruption survived more happily in the Protestant denominations than among Catholics: a young Hannoverian princeling was "elected bishop of Osnabruck" only a few months after his birth, enjoyed the revenues of the see all his life, and was addressed as "Right Reverend", without ever embarking on a remotely ecclesistical career.) Information, please. There might even be eighteenth century portraits settling the question. And, please, no cracks about how we ought to have more dignity than to accept baubles from That Lot. And don't correct my spelling of Hannoverian.

If everybody floods in with comments and suggestions, this Blog will probably, in a day or two, hit its 100,000th page view since it was founded on the Sollemnity of the Immaculate Conception in 2007. A Thank You to all who have continued to tap in, even when they found me irritating. And the biggest of Thank Yous to the Blog's Technical Officer, Mr John Hanks, whose middle name is sine qua non and who, if he were in Holy Orders (perhaps the Apostolic Administrator will tonsure him?) would deserve to have a cassock with gold piping. And don't correct my spelling of Sollemnity.

22 January 2009

What to do on Tuesdays in Oxford

5.oo on Tuesday: should I go to hear a former pupil, Professor Rana Mitter of this University, leading a China seminar with a couple of other distinguished experts? It would be good to hear him On the Job. I could compare his present technique with his deployment of his resources when he was a leading server in Lancing Chapel. It doesn't seem twenty years ago that I sat in Lancing's drafty Great School on Parents' Evenings and reported to his parents on how his Latin and Greek were going. The queue behind them tended to get quite long, because Rana's mama is distinctly fetching and I felt she would want to know about her son's progress in all possible detail. Even when behind them in the queue was a Foreign Office minister who claimed that he needed to get quickly 'back to the House for important business'. Happy days.

But, as she left S Thomas's after Mass on Tuesday morning, Dr E A Livingstone, benefactress of all who have ever relied on her Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, rather pointedly asked if I were going to the Bampton Lectures. I equivocated, because the subject was Blaise Pascal, and what I know about the intellectual currents of mid-seventeenth-century France could be written on the back of half a hand. But then, talking it over with Pam, who always knows best, I agreed that there was a lot to be said for learning something new. Obvious really, but we chaps are very slow at spotting the obvious. So off we went, getting there in time for a hilarious introduction by Averil Cameron, Warden of Keble, who did a word-perfect impersonation of a sniffy schoolmarm who was afraid that her naughty charges might misbehave in front of a fairly indifferent visiting speaker. She admonished us to come regularly in the following weeks as well, and hoped Professor (Richard) Parish would not feel intimidated by having been preceded as Bampton Lecturer by distinguished scholars [one of these was my predecessor Dr Jalland, who used the opportunity to plug the Papacy].

We were very glad we went. Pascal's France seems similar to our own society; one in which an 'intellectual' 'elite' considers itself to have outgrown Christianity. He sounds not unlike the apologists of the twentieth century, Chesterton, for example, or Lewis, in that he had a Midas touch whereby he could transform what appeared to be arguments against Christianity (such as the unfairness of God blaming subsequent generations for Adam's transgression) into evidence in its favour. Like them, he was himself a convert from the ranks of the sneerers. He had a laudable dislike of Deism, regarding it as being as bad as Atheism. Indeed. It seems to me that the main problem with which 'Professor' Dawkins has presented us is not the points the poor fellow thinks he has scored, but the way in which he and his like give people the impression that the question is 'Does the God of the Deists Exist?' when, as we all know, whether to be a Christian or not has very little to do with that.

I hope that in future weeks we learn more about Pascal's conversion (what roles did emotion and intellect play?), and his relationship with Jansenism and with the culture of the Bourbon Court (a little bit on that this week, as we were introduced to Bossuet).

A very fine hour's entertainment. Deo volente, we'll go again next week ... come to think of it, it'll be a good day because there's another very important event in Oxford later that same evening.

20 January 2009


Somebody has criticised us for using terms like priestess and bishopess. Simple soul that I am, I am at a loss to understand the logic of this. Supporters of the Ordination of women devote enormous time and energy to attempting to show that the word presbytera in early Christian Latin and Greek means priestess (rather than, as any hellenophone could explain, wife of a priest). Similarly, that episcopa in a mosaic means bishopess (a word applied by Anthony Trollope to Mrs Proudie). So what's the problem? Is it that in their heart of hearts they know that their claims are spurious? Or is this a piece of lexicographical pedantry? Is my ferocious critic trying to tell me that the ever-protean modern game of political correctness now considers words like 'actress' offensive? If so, I must confess that she may be right. I have spent so much of my life teaching Latin and Greek that my reactions to the nuances of my native tongue may be a little blunt. Perhaps I had better stop making cracks about 'the bishop and the actress'; and promise faithfully to avoid funnies about 'the bishopess and the actor'. 'As the bishop said to the actor' perhaps must now become my stand-by formula.

But ... oh dear ... perhaps that will mean that I shall now be criticised for camping it up. It is so difficult to get things right, even if one is a father of five and celebrated ones Ruby Wedding a couple of years ago. (Another Anglo-Catholic priest-blogger, with whom I hope to stay next month, has six children, so he, like me, may not find he has much time or energy left for wooftering.) And it has long been a cheap game for our opponents to say 'You Anglo-Catholics are all woofters' - a remarkable and singularly nasty piece of group-slander, like the things Hitler used to say about the Jews. So I am sticking my neck out and risking onslaughts when I say that, while my view of the sinfulness of homosexual genital acts is totally consonant with that of orthodox Christian tradition, I do have just one caveat about the current preoccupation, in some circles, with the issues surrounding homosexuality.

It lets the heat off the sinfulness of so many heterosexual genital acts. Although dominical teaching is very clear that a so-called marriage involving a divorced person is in fact merely an adulterous liaison, I have heard ferocious verbal assaults upon homosexuals made by persons who themselves are living in a second marriage. I do think that they ought to have enough logic, even if they lack the common decency, to keep their mouths shut. [Bit of a zeugma in the grammar there.] And I do not understand why, if it is acceptable for heterosexuals so deliberately to modify the mechanics of their sexuality that the possibility of fertility is structurally excluded, it can then be wrong in principle for homosexuals to employ sexual acts in which procreation is impossible.

Accordingly, I think there should be a new Rule of Discourse to the effect that anybody who desires to make intemperate attacks on homosexuals, whether Anglo-Catholic or not, should first of all state clearly where they stand on the encyclical Humanae Vitae.

My view is that it is one of the great, prophetic, documents of twentieth century Christianity. There. My cards, at least, are on the table.

17 January 2009

Who says the Pater noster?

During the last CIEL conference, just after the marvellous chapel of Merton College Oxford had hosted a solemn EF High Mass, Professor Eamon Duffy observed as we walked along Merton Street to the Examination Schools that what he really found difficult about the EF Mass was that God's laos didn't get to say the Lord's own Prayer. It set me thinking.

What is the historical basis of this? I venture a suggestion. It was S Gregory the Great who moved the Pater noster to its Roman position immediately after the Canon, and the explanation which he gave to critics of this piece of blatant Byzantinisation seems to suggest that he thought it had a consecratory power, and so was best said 'over the Lord's Body'; i.e. in conjunction with the Canon (I hasten to add that there is quite a number of variant explanations of what the Pontiff meant). And consider the rite by which layfolk in the early centuries received communion extraliturgically from the host which they had brought home with them from the Sunday Mass. Having received the Lord's Body, they received also a cup of wine which was regarded not as the Blood of Christ but as an antitype of the Precious Blood. This chalice had been blessed by the lay communicant himself. We are not told what form of prayer of blessing he used, but Dom Gregory Dix was convinced that it was the Our Father. And that this is why in the Mass of the Presanctified the Lord's Prayer precedes the act of communion in which also, in the classical RomanRite, a cup of unconsecrated wine was drunk after the Lord's Body had been received.

One can see a sort of analogy here which might have inclined S Gregory to think that, just as when used by a layman the Pater noster would bless a symbol of the Precious blood, so, when used by a bishop, it might part of the formula for consecrating the reality of Christ's Blood. And if so, it might be most proper for the bishop alone to say such a prayer.

16 January 2009

Num quid boni Mancuniae?

Having flipped quickly through the Report on how Old Mother Damnable (Wilfrid Ward's Phrase for the C of E?) would handle us after the 'consecration' of what Dr Tighe neatly terms Flaminicae, I am genuinely impressed, given the narrow parameters imposed by General Synod on the Manchester Group, by the ingenuity they have shown. Full marks to Sister Anne for her cleverness and diplomatic skills. But it remains true, for reasons explained by others, that It Just Won't Do. A path marked Code of Practice is every bit as enticing as Arbeit macht frei over the gates of Auschwitz and the string quartet playing just inside.

My only additional comment would be this. Under such a scheme, we would be at the mercy of the 'bishop' designated to 'look after' us by each diocesan. This would provide a magnificent field day and jobs-for-the-boys for a certain sort of episcopal aspirant: the priest who is technically 'opposed to the ordination of women' but not very much so; and certainly not to the point of being any sort of spanner in the works of the mainstream church. Already there are suffragans around who have been prepared to license women; to institute them; to 'support fully' the the ministry of ordained women; to let them join in with the imposition of hands in presbyteral ordination; to do anything except actually taint their own hands by ordaining them. I know of a case in which such a suffragan has even amused himself with the old Anglican episcopal pasttime of persecuting parishes that use the Roman Rite.

We don't want to go back to all that. Since John Richards and John Gaisford got the PEV game up and running, we've been well shot of it. We've had, for the first time since the Reformation, bishops who were truly our bishops. Being 'cared for' by such 'Vichy' bishops would be a return to (is this Newman's phrase for the C of E?) the House of Bondage.

More to the point, such gentry would be much more interested in sucking up to the mainstream church than they would in leading us on the next stage of our ecumenical journey.

No Code of Practice. No Quislings.

15 January 2009

Marian Apparitions

So our Holy Father is to set up formal processes to investigate alleged appearances and other supernatural 'events'. That brings him into line with one of my (other) heroes, the great bishop Grandisson of Exeter. Immense though his devotion was to our Lady, he scrupulously investigated a 'shrine' at Frithelstock in Devon; deemed it to be spurious (it seems to have involved a fortune-telling racket); ordered its demolition; and turned very nasty when he was ignored. (That is why my friend Fr Hummerstone does not have a major Marian Sanctuary in his Devon parish within the Ebbsfleet Apostolic District.) Grandisson also administered a rocket to his Dean for allowing disorders to follow a spurious miracle in the Cathedral. That's how you behave if you believe that apparitions and miracles are possible; you investigate them with all the rational aids at your disposal. Credulously accepting any old claim; and credulously resisting something that lies outside one's own previous experience and assumptions; are both superstitious. And both unscientific.

Of course, everybody immediately thought of Medjugorie when this news broke. Assuming that M is investigated, condemned, and the 'seers' and their clerical cronies excommunicated, there is an alternative ecclesial group they could join which is much more inclusive and accepting of the Movements of the Spirit than is the boring old RC Church. It is called Affirming Catholicism and it is within an exciting ecclesial association calling itself 'the Church of England'. Here the Medjugorie crowd would find unqualified acceptance; they would be encouraged to 'tell their story'; they would be given endless scope for any childish excess that took their fancy. The seeresses could be consecrated bishopesses and everybody would live happily ever after. It would be nice for the 'Affcaths' too; their membership is minuscule and to get a major accession of adherents, even if in the distant Balkans, would be lovely for them. There is a lady called Christina Reese who could go to Bosnia and have visions.

Rumour has it that the Vatican might even employ atheists to investigate claimed visions. I hope the Sovereign Pontiff sends 'Professor' Dawkins to investigate Medjugorie. It would prove that Germans do have sense of humour after all.

12 January 2009

Ratzinger, hero of ecumenism

This post presupposes that anybody desiring to comment will have read the two previous posts on Ecumenism. It also presupposes that they are familiar with Communionis notio (1993) and Dominus Iesus (2000), documents issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during Joseph Ratzinger's stint as Prefect (and ordered to be published by the Sovereign Pontiff). Lack of such familiarity would render criticism of distinctly limited value. Otherwise, I welcome help. As a poor schismatical Anglican, I have no right to expect to pontificate on Roman Catholic teaching without the risk of correction.

We have seen that authentic sacramental ecclesial life can exist outside the canonical boundaries of the RC Church - what it seems to me convenient to call the Roman Unity. This is not the opinion merely of slushy post-Vatican II liberals; it is the praxis of Rome which has developed since very early days. But how can this be reconciled with the bed-rock tradition that the Roman Unity is the one true Church of Christ? - a tradition which I do not dispute. The answer lies in the teaching of the two CDF documents which I have noted above. They concentrate, not on 'denominations' or 'communions', but on the Universal Church and particular Churches. Such a particular church is, normatively, a local eucharistic community of Bishop, Presbyterate, diaconate, and laos. And even where canonical bonds with Rome are broken, such corporate entities remain true particular churches (the documents, of course, have the Byzantines and Orientals mainly in mind), although the absence within them of the ministry of the bishop of Rome means they are lacking an element of the fulness of what it is to be a Church. And they are true sister churches with particular churches within the Roman Unity. Careful: in the strict sense, the RC and Orthodox Churches are not, considered as denominations, sister churches. Quite the contrary. What I mean is that - for example - the Byzantine diocese of Patras (Bishop, Priests, deacons, and people) is a sister church of the Latin diocese of Palermo ... and of the Coptic diocese of Fayyum ... and so on. The Roman Unity is the One True Church; but outside that unity are elements which totally and exclusively belong to that one true church. In the case of Christians who possess valid Orders, those elements include the wholeness of authentic sacramental ecclesial life with all that flows from it. Ratzinger adds that such separated particular churches are wounded by their separation from the See of Peter; a statement which he neatly complements with an admission that the Roman Unity (my term) is itself wounded by the separation from it of ancient embodiments of authentic Christianity in other cultures.

Brilliant, in my view. There is only one Church; it is the Catholic Church; and yet separated particular churches are true particular (that is, local) churches (I iterate: this does not mean that, as old-style Anglicans liked to dream, the Roman, Eastern, and English 'Churches' are three great branches of one tree). Ratzinger has provided a rationale for the praxis which Rome had de facto applied in its ecumenical dealings for hundreds of years, and a basis for real ecumenical advance. Lefebvreists and other 'integralists' may accuse Ratzinger of 'liberalism', but I suspect their cupboard would be pretty bare when it came to giving an alternative theological explanation of the ancient and deeply traditional praxis I have described in my previous posts. As for liberals both inside and outside the RC Church who dislike the assertion that the Roman Unity is the one and only Church, well, I think they ought to grow up and try to get a real eccesiology. And as for all those who made such a rumpus when Dominus Iesus was published, I think they were intemperate bigots who ought to have read it. I don't exclude poor George Carey from these strictures.

Oh dear. I still haven't finished.

9 January 2009

More ecumenical oddities

So - see previous post - valid sacraments can exist outside the Church. But that could simply mean that individuals might 'possess' valid Baptism, or valid Order, as mere individuals, outside the boundaries of the Church. But Roman praxis soon went far beyond this minimalist approach. When groups of dissidents wished to be reconciled to the Holy See, they were in fact regarded as members of corporate churches; as, for example, in the 'Union' Councils of the Middle Ages. And when the Ukrainians sought union with Rome; when the Melchite patriarchate of Antioch did the same in the 1720s; they were received as Churches. Nobody said 'Well, your orders are valid but your clergy lack jurisdiction, so you'd all better go to Confession and make a General Confession now that you're Inside the Church'. Jurisdiction to absolve validly was assumed, in the relaxed atmosphere of the eighteenth century Aegean, to exist among the Byzantine clergy, and tidy theorists were still discussing in the early twentieth century exactly how it was that 'schismatics' did have jurisdiction (remember that in Western theology it is not enough to be validly ordained to absolve; you need jurisdiction). Nor, when the Great Western Schism was healed, did the papacy regard the countries which had adhered to (what became thought of as) antipopes as needing radical adjustments of the canonical life they had led while 'in schism'.

And consider England during the period 1534-1554. Suppose, in, say, 1548, you had a parish priest who was ordained in, say, 1540 by a bishop consecrated and installed in, say, 1536. The orders of both priest and bishop would be valid, but neither possessed jurisdiction (because the bishop was installed without papal mandate). But I do not recall that any of Cardinal Pole's enactments required much of the peasantry of England to make a general confession and be absolve from all the sins they had committed since the start of the Henrician disorders.

It had become accepted, not only that valid sacraments could exist outside the Roman Unity, but that authentic church life with real 'jurisdiction' existed ouside that unity. Whatever the notorious bull Unam sanctam of Boniface VIII, in which he stated the necessity of all to be subject to the Roman Pontiff, did mean, it was not in practice held to mean that (for example) the Byzantine churches were not in some sense real churches.

My tendency is increasingly to become prolix. I'm sorry. I'll get onto Joseph Ratzinger's contribution to ecumenical theology next time.

2 January 2009

Writing to the Times

On Boxing Day evening I emailed the following to the Times Letters Editor, and the next morning put it into this blog with a delayed posting date of January 2. I anticipate that it will not be published in the Thunderer.

There are two rules in writing to the Times, so I have discovered over the years:
(1) Unless you are very important, keep it brief; and
(2) Never attack the Times itself.

You will see that I kept to Rule no 1; my flagrant disregard for Rule no 2 is what, I assume, will send my letter straight into the bin.

Dear Sir,

As an Anglican priest, I have no vested interest in defending the views of the Bishop of Rome on gender and sexuality. But I cannot help feeling that ethical discourse may sometimes be a little more complex than journalists find it convenient to assume when they are pope-baiting (December 24).

If the Pope were to suggest that those with an exclusive sexual predilection for children are called to a life of celibacy, I wonder if your Leader Writer would treat his views with contempt. If there appeared to be scientific evidence that paedophilia had origins in genetic or environmental factors and was culturally widespread throughout human history, I wonder if your Science Editor would invite him to regard it as part of humanity's rich diversity.

Yours faithfully

John Hunwicke

It's just as well that it will never see the light of day. What Fr Zed would call the profanum vulgus has such a tenuous grasp upon logic that half of them would send me hate-mail for, as it seemed to them, defending paedophilia; and the other half for saying, so they would allege, that all homosexuals are paedophiles.