28 February 2009

Blessing them at the Altar rails

It is a long-standing custom in most types of Anglican churches for those in the congregation not qualified to receive the Blessed Sacrament to be welcomed at the altar rail (yes, vast numbers of Anglican churches still have these) and blessed by the priest either putting his hand on their heads, or making the sign of the cross over them with the Sacred Host, while saying some brief formula of blessing.

Last November the CDW in Rome banned this custom.

The reasons given included:
(1) Lay "extraordinary ministers" may not bless;
(2) ceremonies of any kind for remarried divorcees are forbidden;
(3) the laying-on-of hands has its own sacramental signification which is inappropriate here.

I suggest that in Anglican churches this custom is of an antiquity which brings it into the category of a custom which has acquired liceity. As to the the points above:
(1) Indeed, layfolk should not purport to bless. I have never seen this in the C o E, where the blessing is given by the priest who is administering the ciborium, and the layperson with the chalice simply passes the persons concerned.
(2) A separate blessing given to each of two individuals would not be a blessing of the couple;
(3) OK, so the blessing should be given by making the sign of the cross with the Sacred Host. After all, nobody seems to be suggesting that those disqualified from communion should not be allowed to enter a church and be present during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Which is the same thing more solemnly done. (How does the observation that the laying-on-of-hands has its own sacramental signification impinge upon the custom of the neo-ordinatus using it to give blessings?)

Incidentally, I have long wondered why the Peace is shared indiscriminately and promiscuously. See my earlier posts on the significance of the Peace in the Roman Rite. And if this rite is an intimate expression of unity between those who are about to share together the Lord's Body, should it not be confined to those who are going to communicate? But at the papal Inauguration, it seemed to be shared even with the unbaptised.

27 February 2009


The Feast of the Chair of S Peter was, this year, superseded and obliterated, according to the modern rubrics, by Mass and Office of last Sunday. Yet the Holy Father alluded to it in his address. Laurence Hemming's book Worship as a Revelation suggested that the modern fashion of permitting on each day one unitary celebration (instead of commemorations, Vespers a capitulo .... etc.) is an impoverishment in both diachronic and synchronic terms.

Perhaps the Sovereign Pontiff agrees with that.

26 February 2009

Rood Restoration

This morning, Mass at an altar in Thomas's which I do not think has been used for decades. It is at the west end and has over it a very large crucifix - two thirds of life size, I think - which comes from the long demolished chapel of our convent (now amalgamated with Wantage). It is very striking, when the rubrics order the celebrant to raise his eyes, to lift them up and meet the Lord's gaze. Among clergy who have done this are Mgr Ronnie Knox, who used to come to the convent chapel, on days when he was not on the rota to say Dr Cranmer's service in Trinity chapel, so that he could say a Latin Tridentine. Nearby, is a stone carving of the badge our S Thomas's Sisters wore: the Sacred Heart and the words Crux in corde et cor in Cruce. I will use this altar during Lent for the early Masses, and not least this Saturday, when I will say a votive of the Holy Cross on Foundation Day of the Societas Sanctae Crucis.

Those words "our sisters"! How I wish we could still use them. How I envy Fr Gilles Wach every time I read those proud words in the publications of his Institute!

24 February 2009


There ought to be a convention in the blogosphere that when a blogger is imparting information which will enrage his readers, he puts some sort of warning at the top of his post for the benefit of those who have to watch their bloodpressure. I felt that very acutely this morning when I read how the Tablet, having amused itself by doing its best to stir up trouble in his parish, came all serious and heavy about the infrigement of its copyright as soon as Fr Finigan took apart and exposed the squalid little article concerned.

You might have thought they would by now be rather ashamed of the cheap and nasty innuendoes in their article. You would certainly think that, as 'liberals', they would boast about a policy of free speech and a welcomed right to reply. Not a bit of it. Their true colours are now flying high enough for all to behold. And they are so b****y pompous.

For decades I declined to read the Tablet, since I found it just made me cross. It made me waste time drafting in my mind letters correcting what I judged to be errors. I still have a policy of never spending money on this deeply unpleasant publication. But I did read it online recently when they put it all on the internet because of the snow; I do sometimes have a quick look through if I see it at the back of a church; I do sometimes read the "free" items on their website. And I have been surprised by the mean tone of some recent pieces on the Roman Pontiff. Perhaps Fr Finigan should console himself by the reflection that, while they have been attacking him, energies have been taken up that might otherwise have been devoted to a campaign against the Holy Father.

Fr Finigan is well known among both Anglicans and members of his own Church for his quiet good manners and gentlemanly courtesy. His writings are distinguished by his accurate and careful scholarship. If the Tablet staff were not so mired in their own prejudices, I would invite them to take him as an example of how sensible people should write about their fellow Christians.

Problems of "Utraquism" and what did M l'Abbe Gilles Wach think?

A treat to see the great Fr Gilles Wach, Prior General of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, in choir at Saint Alyoggers at Vespers on Sunday. I am sure he will have admired the competence and naturalness with which the Oxford Oratorians do Vespers according to the pre-Conciliar Breviary. All right-minded people appreciate it, and I think a survey of how many Anglicans habitually turn up might yield interesting results. But there were some technical oddities for the M. le Prieur Generale to puzzle over.

We had Old Rite Vespers of Quinquagesima Sunday; but the liturgical colour was green as ordered by the New Rite. We omitted, of course, the Alleluia at the beginning, because in the old usage we say farewell to Alleluia on the eve of Septuagesima. But, between the Office and Benediction, we sang Chatterton Dix's great Anglican Eucharistic hymn "Alleluia, sing to Jesus" in which Alleluia re-echoes throughout every stanza.

In ecclesiis in quibus Ritus Romanus in utraque forma de more celebratur, quid agendum? In churches where the Ordinary Form is always or nearly always used, there are no Calendar problems. Ditto in those happy places where the EF is the standard. But what about churches which have a foot in both camps? Is Septuagesima time done in purple or green? Is Alleluia sung? Is the Paschal Candle extinguished and put away on Ascesion Day? Do we continue to use Paschal conventions through the Octave of Pentecost? And which dates for the memoriae of Saints does a priest observe who, like me, says the EF Mass perhaps as many as five times some weeks on weekdays but follows the OF for Sunday Mass and some weekday Masses? Switching from the one calendar to the other on a more or less daily basis would yield considerable confusion.

I suggest we could recover from the Hussites (who gave it a quite different meaning) the term Utraquist for such churches. And I think that, as the number of Utraquist churches grows, some guidance is called for. I expect many readers could suggest intelligent ideas. And, as the Pontifical Commission Ecclesis Dei is merged with the CDW, perhaps we could expect from the combined body some practical and sensible guidlines. (Incidentally. the same problems entangle those C of E churches in which some services are Common Worship and some are Book of Common Prayer.)

I wish I'd known Fr Wach was in Oxford. I would have invited him to preach in S Thomas's.

23 February 2009

Durham and the Roman Rite

A splendid few days in Durham; I went up to talk to the local Chapters of the Societas Sanctae Crucis, our Anglican Catholic priestly Society. (It resembles in organisation the SSPX, the FSSP, and particularly that Brazilian Priestly Society of S John Mary Vianney which was corporately eased into full communion with the Holy See a few years ago. Except that SSC is a bit older, dating from 1854.) They wanted to hear about the new English translation of the Roman Rite; quite apart from the fact that it is always rather splendid to meet brother priests who live according to the same Rule of Priestly Life and bear witness to the same Catholic Faith, it was a joy to experience their keen and intelligent interest and appreciation. A first-rate lot!

I was given the warmest possible hospitality by fellow-blogger Fr Jeff Steele, his beautiful wife Rhea, and their six children ... who never seem to stop smiling; Senior Daughter Hannah had nobly sacrificed her room to me, but she made sure that I didn't feel a cad about occupying it! Members of the sterile culture of death tendency don't realise what a wonderful community a big family is in the richness of its relationships and fertility of its multifaceted shared life. And, of course, it was good to have long talks with Father about our shared concerns at this time of great oppression of Anglican Catholics ... and about his research interest, Bishop Lancelot Andrewes, one of the first of our seventeenth century Anglican Fathers to recover the doctrine of the Eucharist as a propitiatory sacrifice after the negations and heterodoxies of the 'Reformation'. (Is it really true that our Holy Father keeps the Preces privatae beside his bed?)

And Durham must be one of the great cities of the world, with its castle and the romanesque cathedral, restored for Catholic worship in the 1660s after being smashed up by the Calvinists after the regicide, looming over the gorge carved out by the river Wear. S Cuthbert and S Bede, although the wealth of their shrines was robbed by Henry 'Syphilis' Tudor, still have their relics intact in the cathedral. The treasuries contain remarkable artefacts from the period of the Anglo-Saxon Church of England; an embroidered maniple showing Pope S Gregory the Great and his deacon Peter, with Pope S 'Syxtus' and his deacon Laurence, joined in maryrdom no less than in liturgy (see the Communicantes). And the fragments of the original coffin of S Cuthbert, adorned with carvings of the Lord; and of the Apostles listed in the same order as in the Communicantes of the Roman Rite, the ancient authentic liturgy of the Church of England from 596 onwards; and of the Great Mother of God Mary Most Holy - the earliest English image of her.

The Church of England claims to be the same Church as that founded by S Gregory and graced by SS Cuthbert and Bede. No literate person could look at the Durham treasures without realising that, of all the 'parties' in the C of E, the Papalist 'party' is the original, ancient, and authentic one. Yet Johnny-come-lately heretics purport to have the right to steer our provinces yet further from the Navis Petri and condescendingly behave as though it is at their discretion whether, and on what terms, we might be allowed to continue in our inheritance... we, whose faith is that sent to England by Pope Gregory and taught by S Bede and S Cuthbert. The monstrous impertinence of it.

Henry 'Syphilis' Tudor has a lot to answer for.

21 February 2009

Don't Bin it

Clerical cispontine readers who receive copies of the catalogues of church suppliers should not discard unread the offering from DM Hays. It contains a hilarious paragraph clearly dictated at the point of a gun by the lawyers of "the market leaders", Hayes and Finch. DMH had compared the prices they charge for the substance called British Wine, which is not reckoned to be valid matter for the Holy Eucharist, with H&F's prices for canon-compliant 'real' altar wine. The latter, as I understand it, is guaranteed pure fermented fruit of the grape, in which the 15% or so alcoholic content needed to keep the wine in an opened bottle from going "off" is secured by adding alcohol itself distilled from wine, so that the entire product is truly fermented grape juice.

I have been disquieted to see bottles of 'British wine' in some quite respectable sacristies ..."British Ruby wine" and that sort of thing. Fathers: if it is called "British Wine" it SHOULD NOT BE USED AT THE ALTAR. "English Wine" is a quite different substance, made in English vineyards, and is true wine. But, to be absolutely sure that what you are using is wine without invalidating additives, ALWAYS use wine which states on the label that it is certified by church authorities to confom to the Code of Canons of 1983.

It's dearer but it's valid matter.

20 February 2009


Lent is upon us; preparing us for Easter. Can I briefly seek help on something that is perplexing me about the liturgical structure and meaning of Eastertide.

The New Missal considered all the Eastertide Sunday collects in the Old Missal as utterly inappropriate for Eastertide, let alone for Sundays within Eastertide; it transferred them all to Sundays in Ordinary Time.

The New Missal had trouble finding replacement Sunday collects which it deemed adequately "Paschal" elsewhere in the Roman sacramentaries. It ended up having to manufacture some from shreds and tatters elsewhere.

The collect which used to occur on the Saturday of Easter Week reads " ... festa paschalia peregimus ..." [we have finished the paschal feasts]. The New Missal transferred this to the Saturday before Pentecost.

I know that throughout the whole Fifty Days, we add alleluias to chants and things. I know the patristic citations which support the decision of the post-Vatican II revisers to enhance the Paschal emphasis of the whole Fifty Days.

But what the Old Rite suggests to me is that Easter, the real festivity, lasts for a week, and the remaining six weeks before Pentecost are AFTER Easter rather than "within the Easter Season".

In other words, that the 'Reform' created a new kind of Easter season previously unknown in Western Liturgical books.

Is this right? Can those more learned than I am suggest refences in primary or secondary literature?

19 February 2009

Bampton lectures

Again, I wonder why Professor Richard Parish's Bampton Lectures are not packed out with Catholics both Anglican and Roman. The distinguished RC expert on seventeenth century French spirituality this week dealt with the questions of the discernment of true and false spirits in the matter of visions and other supernatural occurrences. I was struck by how relevant it all was to the recently reported Vatican moves to put in place a normative document on such discenment, which, of course, is relevant to the question of the continuing phenomena at Medjugorje. The evidence adduced today suggested that humility on the part of the 'recipient' to the discerning role of church authorities is very important; and that a mark of true visionaries is their submission in these matters to authority. The Vatican rumours indicated that these points would indeed be at the heart of the new regulations.

Next week, Jansenism; the Tuesday after, 5.00 in the University Church, Quietism.

18 February 2009

Discernment and Inculturation

The F in F meeting last Saturday showed some signs of a division into two tendencies. There were those who set their sights on fighting the legislation for women bishops all the way to success; those who felt that the game was up and that Plan B should come into play. There floated before my eyes a draft Liturgy of Ecclesial Realignment:

Anglican priest Morning, Bishop. Having believed the whole Faith for 55 years as an Anglican priest, I have discerned that this is the moment humbly to seek full communion.
RC Bishop We don't accept single issue converts. If you're one of these troublemakers who have been so noisy about women bishops ...
Priest I don't believe that women can be bishops, but I'm not single issue. For all my life I've accepted all the defined doctrines of the Church including those of Vatican One ...
Bishop Did you say Vatican One?
Priest, failing to notice the thunderous brow Yup. Pastor aeternus and all that. First rate stuff.
Bishop That's as may be. I don't say it is and I don't say it isn't. But you sound a prickly sort of chap to me.
Priest Bishop, I just thought that, now your diocesan establishment is down to nine priests with an average age of 81, I might be of some use to you.
Bishop It's far too early to think about the possibility of ordination. You'll have to spend many, many years acclimatising yourself as a layman to our Catholic culture, before the question even arises.
Priest Well, I think I do know fairly well ...
Bishop Let me test you. What is the first thing that a priest says at the start of Mass after crossing himself in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit?
Priest Introibo ad altare Dei, ad Deum qui ...
Bishop (the veins in his firehead bulging dangerously) In fact, I think I have already discerned that God is not calling you to priesthood. You are clearly too young/old, you are under/over qualified, you are encumbered with a wife/unmarried and therefore presumably homosexual, in fact I think I recall my chum Jim/Jack/Bob/Bill, the bishop of Barchester, talking about you only the other day. He said that you were a pain in ... that you were not well adapted to modern models of collaborative ministry.

I think we need something supervised closely by Rome herself, a group reconciliation with in-built very fast tracks, with transfer of property to an Anglican Catholic entity in full communion but retaining its native culture. I do not yet feel called to abandon the unreformed baroque ambience of S Thomas's and my Tridentine Missal in order to spend my declining years in the lay state enduring whatever parodies of Christian worship go on in some RC parish churches. Not to mention the sermons. Yes, I know what conclusions some will draw from that.

16 February 2009

Bishopesses and Bishops

Fr Giles, on his blog onetimothyfour uses this term. I am told that it is regarded as politically incorrect. I suggest as an alternative which can offend no-one the word episcopussies.

So Linz is not to get Mgr Wagner as assistant bishop.
The RC Church is getting increasingly autocratic and paranoid about dissent. Just like when the Inquisition was in operation. Except that it's now the heretics who appear to hold the whip.

I had wondered whether The auxiliary Bishop of Linz might do nicely in a Limerick competition. (Older readers will recall Mgr Ronnie Knox and Vermont).

15 February 2009


You remember how actors used to be told that if they were acting a crowd scene, they all had to murmur "Rhubarb Rhubarb"? On the train last Saturday for London and the Forward in Faith meeting, perforce I had to hear the extraordinary chatter of a group of young women. Rendering them on stage would be a matter, I reflected, of "like like like" ("I'm like on the train ...", confided one of them into her mobile). My senior churchwarden, the lexicographer, tells me that "like" is called a "filler" and is of North American origin, coming probably from somewhere called "California". Oxford is full of North American girls whose fathers appear to see Oxford as a sort of finishing school. Not that I have anything against North Americans; a former colleague and friend, educated at Harvard, Tuebingen, and Wadham (at least two of which are reputable academic institutions), was an American, as is a current friend, an academic who is as at home with the denizens of the Tudor court as if he had been chatting with them all yesterday. But neither of them says "like" at all. Neither would the bimbos if they had been properly educated through the means of Latin Prose Composition. Which reminds me: I noticed on my computer the other day a course for teaching yourself liturgical Latin. It is called Simplicissimus, is sponsored by the Latin Mass Society, and looks a very good way of getting fast into exactly what you need for saying (parts at least of) the Mass and the Office in Latin. Talking about which: the Westminster Cathedral Bookshop and the nearby CTS bookshop have both acquired new stocks of the Liturgia Horarum in Latin; an update of the Second Typical Edition with, as far as I could see, none of the innumerable misprints removed. Ah, and by the way, there appeared to be significant disparities of price between the two shops. OOOh yes and did you see that bit in the papers about how discursiveness and forgetfulness are among the earliest signs of Dementia? Now, how did I mean to end this post ...

14 February 2009


AGESIMA (sorry, that's very adolescent). In this Pauline year, what a pity that Sexagesima is no longer observed. Statio ad S Paulum, say the old Missals. Septua' had the Statio at S Lawrence; Quinqua' will be at S Peter. S Gregory fixed these three Sundays at a time of great stress. Lombards were running riot and hauling away columns of chained prisoners to be sold into slavery. Monte Cassino had been attacked a a lot of its monks had taken refuge in Rome in the Mone of S Andrew on the Caelian Hill. S Gregory saw the three great basilicas on the outskirts of the City dedicated to the three great Patrons of Rome as spiritual fortresses defending the City. So, on these three Sundays, the congrgations had a long and penitential traipse outwards for their Sunday Mass.

So, if you have a proper Missal, look at these three sets of propers. You will see that Sexa' is very Pauline, with the reference in the collect to the Teacher of the Gentes, the Epistle about the apostolic exertions of S Paul, and the Gospel so suitable to those exertions. Look at the chants and discern their relevance to the troubles of the times.

Good news. Many of those dragged away into slavery took with them and disseminated their Christian Faith. And a gang of monks from S Andrew's were sent to evangelise the non angelos sed Anglos. Silver linings.

13 February 2009


I wonder how the Mysteries of Light are bedding down. My own reactions were conflicting: respect for Roman Pontiffs and especially for JP2 as against a feeling that practically it made the distribution of the mysteries on weekdays complicated and unnatural, and historically it subverted the old and lovely notion of the Rosary as our Lady's Psalter. I soon slipped into a habit of occasionally adding the M of L to the usual mysteries, and of sometimes substituting one or more of them for one or more of e.g. the Joyful Mysteries. It had in any case been my habit to substitute occasionally other Mysteries (such as the Immaculate Conception, Presentation of Our Lady, Birth of John Baptist). The actual selection of Mysteries was of course quite late in the history of this devotion.

I have a personal eccentricity of treating the Our Father of my daily Mass, and the three Hail Marys in the Prayers for Russia, as the start of the first decade I say each day ... so as to have the daily Rosary springing out of the daily Mass. How wrong is this?

11 February 2009


As one who is exhilarated by our Holy Father's resolute promotion of the Hermeneutic of Continuity, there are few people I deplore more than those sad folk who believe that Vatican II was a sort of SuperCouncil which drew a line under every other magisterial decision of the previous two millennia and started the Church off again with a blank tabula rasa. But there is emerging another sort of Hermeneutic of Rupture, this time on the allegedly 'Traditionalist' side, which is just as dangerous as that 'liberal' Hermeneutic of Rupture which the Sovereign Potiff, despite opposition from the established liturgical and theological hippies of the last two decades, is so courageously facing down. It consists of 'traditionalists' who are fairly ignorant of the actual state of 'Tradition' in the centuries before Vatican II and who seem to me to love 'the old liturgy' a little less for itself than for the fact that in can be used as a big stick with which to belabour the 'liberals'. Example:
(1) The phrase "the Mass of the Ages" is a good one but not if it implies that every tiniest detail of the Books issued by Pius V is sacrosanct and the only possible rite for a real Catholic. Medieval rites such as those of Sarum and Paris and the Dominican Order differed very considerably from the Rite of the Roman Curia (which is what became the 'Tridentine Rite) in three areas: the Preparation at the foot of the Altar (including the text of the confiteor); the priest's Offertory prayers; and the priest's Prayers before Communion. When I was an undergraduate I used to attend Dominican High Masses in Oxford; Pius V explicitly allowed for the continuance of such variants of the Roman Rite provided that their sponsors desired to perpetuate them; and the Dominicans did just that. Yet there are folk around for whom such details as "how many confiteors?" are apparently crucial, and who write as if every syllable of the Roman Missal is almost Apostolic in antiquity.
(2) There are those who rubbish the concept of concelebration because of their horror at some modern goings-on, and their laudable desire that every priest should offer the Adorable Sacrifice, as we Anglicans call it, every day. And they even deny that the concelebration of new priests in the Mass of their ordination really is a real concelebration - contrary to the explicit teaching of the Church for centuries. I dealt with this last October, and I don't want to repeat it all now.
(3) There are those who are so horrified by the 'ecumenical' pranks of liberals that they deny, lock, stock and barrel, the ecumenical precedents set by Ecumenical Councils and Roman Pontiffs during the last six centuries - whereby entire segments of the Christian East were reconciled to the See of Peter on the understanding that, although wounded by their separation, they were still true Churches. When Joseph Ratzinger restated this position with complete (and totally 'traditional') lucidity in Communionis notio and Dominus Jesus, he was not inventing some new, flabby, and liberal heresy, but reaffirming the praxis over many centuries of the Holy See. Such documents do not stand on the Magisterium merely of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, but of some fifty Roman Pontiffs.

Benedict XVI is one of the most erudite theologians to sit on the Chair of S Peter since (at least) his homonymous predecessor Benedict XIV. I think it is a shame that there are some in the 'traditionalist' community who have no confidence that he will get things right. I believe he is also one of the most loveable of popes; and I suggest that his personal holiness is guaranteed by the venom with the forces of evil are gunning for him. That's what always happens to Holiness. We should pray for him; and trust him. Those who snipe at him 'from the right': what will they say to themselves if his critics drive him to another heart attack and a premature death?

10 February 2009


The Apostolic Administrator reminds us of the propriety of invoking our Lady of Lourdes (memoria tomorrow), with regard to the meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England. Lots of Rosaries, perhaps. It worked for SSPX.

The Auxiliary Bishop of Linz

The Holy Father certainly is having a rough time, isn't he. I've just read the Tablet free on-line (I don't buy it, on principle) and it seems, as the secular press moves on to its next Story, our beloved Pontiff's enemies within his own Church are still sharpening their knives, and with renewed relish. Talk about Smoke getting into the Church; as an old style Cockney in my second parish would have said, it's a b***** peasouper. One of those Toxic Smogs we used to have in the 1950s. And Benedict has appointed an Austrian Auxiliary Bishop, whom the Media are getting their teeth into. One of his views is that there is too much Holy Communion going on.

I'm not sure that I agree with some of this Austrian cleric's other reported views, but that one strikes a chord. Pius X encouraged frequent Communion, even daily, against a background of eucharistic abstinence based ultimately on an intense reverence for the sacrament, and a real (wellfounded) apprehension of of the wickedness of receiving the Blessed Sacrament when in a state of sin. His assumption was that, in communicating more frequently, Christians would use the same means of Grace (principally, Confession) to assure their fitness to receive so great a gift, as they had done when they communicated less frequently. And so, would increase ever in holiness. It is obvious that in our own society Communion is received frequently and is frequently received with inattention (and, as far as appearances enable one to guess, with sinfulness).

I am reminded of an Orthodox priest once saying to me: " These Anglicans are always gabbling on about Intercommunion and wanting me to admit them to Communion; I've never had a single one who begged me to hear his Confession". It is notorious that in most Eastern Christian communities, and throughout most of the history of the West, Confession has been regarded as the natural preliminary to each act of Communion. It is instructive to consider the controversies in seventeenth century France; a period during which such as Madame Louise, a daughter of Louis XIV who became a Carmelite of great sanctity, was allowed to receive Communion daily with the permission of her Confessor. A Jansenist-influenced rigorist of this time, Antoine Arnauld (1612-94), argued that no one should approach communion at all unless he had done penance for all his sins and was sure he had a perfectly pure love of God. On the other side, S Francis de Sales (1567-1622) envisaged frequent, even daily, communion, but wrote " To communicate every week, one must be free from mortal sin, and from all affection to venial sin, and have a great desire of Communion; but to communicate daily, it is necessary, in addition to this, to have surmounted the greater part of our evil inclinations, and to have the consent of our spiritual father". A decree of the Congregation of the Council, confirmed by Pope Innocent XI in 1679, confirmed the anti-Jansenist view that the Faithful had a right to communicate even daily while exhorting bishops and pastors to do their utmost to secure in all who communicate the most pious and fervent dispoitions.

The pendulum needs to swing back. I trust we shall never again see such scenes as the sacrilegious irreverence which the television cameras picked up at Communion time within the Inauguration of the Petrine Ministry of Benedict XVI. Indeed, I wonder if those great 'Circus' Eucharists outside S Peter's are a good idea anyway.We seem to have come a terribly long way from the disciplina arcani of early Christendom. Perhaps it is no surprise that the Faithful have been robbed of their sense of wonder.

And, while I'm grousing about Bad Marini's arrangements at the Sovereign Pontiff's Inauguration, here's another complaint. All those ciborium clutching-priests in rows behind the Altar. I take it that those were unconsecrated ciboria (in view of the modern preference for administering Hosts consecrated at the same Mass). Now: I don't deny that the Holy Father, assuming that he made an act of intention so to do, could validly consecrate a large number of ciboria held by fidgeting clerics a hundred yards or more behind him. I am uneasy about the decency of such a liturgical arrangement. The Altar is the Mensa Domini as well as an Altar; and it seems to me deeply fitting that the Bread of Angels should be consecrated resting on the Table of the Great King. I am so old that my priestly liturgical formation was according to the old rite, and included the injunction: "Immediately after your ordination, form a general intention to consecrate whatever is on the corporal in front of you". And seeing the Elements reverently lifted and brought from the Altar after the hushed sanctity of the moment of Consecration should be a powerful aid in restoring a proper disposition among those who approach the altar.

Perhaps Good Marini will see to it that his predecessor's abuses do not recur.

9 February 2009

Surfing the Blogs

Despite the vacation being taken by that superb blog Massinformation, we are still very well served in re blogiana: by two Anglican Catholic Blogs which deserve the daily attention of all good women and true, onetimothyfour and de cura animarum. For a fine piece on sexual mores and a fine piece on the Anglican Primates' thingummy, which say just what I would say if I were less lazy, turn to those two blogs. They have the additional advantage of being done by incisive young priests who are the future of our Anglican Faith-Tradition, rather than by an old fuddy duddy like me (no need to write in to agree). And, by the way, the American magazine Touchstone has in its present number a good article or two on matters of sexuality.

De cura animarum did me the honour, a few days ago, of repeating my piece on the Perpetual Virginity of Our Lady. Among comments it elicited was a shirty piece by some character who said that I was intellectually shoddy, or something like that, for not mentioning the "explicit" statement of S Paul that Joseph was the father of our Lord.

This puzzled me. Because, of course, S Paul's letters do not contain any mention of S Joseph. I assumed that in some arcane sort of way, the writer was trying to draw an inference from S Paul's statement that Christ was descended (without any suggestion of whether this was on a father's or a mother's side) from David; and I just made a few sarcastic remarks in reply about the difference between the words Explicit and Implicit. It doesn't take much to resurrect the Schoolmaster in me.

Mulling it over, I feel inclined to recant. I think I credited that individual with far too much erudition. I now deem it more likely that he/she actually was under the impression that S Paul does speak of Joseph as the Lord's father. It is easy for the unwary to get this impression from Liberals who talk lengthily about the absurdity of the Virgin Birth and prop up their case with an 'argumentum e silentio' based on the fact that Paul never mentions it (just as, if I Corinthians had not not survived, the same gentry would use an argumentum e silentio to 'prove' that S Paul knew nothing about the Eucharist).

Actually, my piece was not on the Virgin Birth so much as on our Lady's virginity after the birth of the Lord. Had my primarily concern been the Virginal Conception of the Lord, I would of course have mentioned the three rather obvious pieces of evidence which show that S John's Gospel does bear witness to it.

Finally, thank you for nominations in the Daft Bishop category. On reflection, perhaps it is not Kind to list too many of those individuals who labour so devotedly under the burden of episcopacy that their minds give way. Can I just leave it that my own favourite three are, in no particular order:
Donald 'Ineffable' Trautman, whose nappy traing got so disastrously arrested in the liturgical early 1970s;
Richard 'Keep the Girls out of Winchester College' Williamson;
and, doyen of them all, the only Anglican to merit inclusion in such company, the Barmy Bishop of Bux.

8 February 2009

I Like Organix

I once attended a Patristix Conference with an 'Asterix' badge reading "I Like Dogmatix". "Organix" sounds pretty Kosher too. A friend suggests to me that calling the Tridentine Mass The Organic Mass would also indicate its propensity to grow on people.

Last week, I said the 1662 Cranmer Mass, interpolating a silent recitation of the Canon Romanus, of course, just as the Tractarians used to (a mixture authorised by Rome for the American 'Anglican Use' parishes), with a worshipper who commented " My goodness, how refreshing that was!" as she prepared to sally forth into the snow. That was Monday; on Tuesday, with a different parishioner, I said the form standardised by that admirable (well, he did excommunicate Elizabeth Tudor) pontiff Pius V. Then, off to Ascot for our Retreat, where our worship was Novus Ordo: but very Reform of the Reform (you know what the Apostolic Administrator is like), with the unabbreviated Canon Romanus, and versus Orientem and chanting and baroque vestments; everything very well done.

Of those three forms, or "usages", of the Roman Rite, I know which I find by far the most comfortable. The Organic form strikes me as so much more adult than the Novus Ordo, which somehow seems always to be inviting us to experiment or learn, as if we were kiddies. With Dr Cranmer's texts, one recalls their author's own heterodoxy, however much that is covered and burnished by the 450 years in which his words have been the sanctification of so many good and holy people.

Some extracts from Gregory Dix's most famous purple passage:
Was ever another command so obeyed? ... the eucharistic action became inextricably woven into the public history of the Western world. The thought of it is inseparable from its great turning points also. ... Alfred wandering defeated by the Danes staying his soul on this, while medieval England struggled to be born; and Charles I also, on that morning of his execution when medieval England came to its final end. ... This very morning I 'did this' with a set of texts which has not changed by more than a few syllables since Augustine used those very words at Canterbury on the third Sunday of Easter in the summer after he landed. Yet 'this' can still take hold of a man's life and work with it.

I can say the same about this week's Masses: in each of those three usages of the Roman Rite, the unforgettable words of the Canon Romanus, the invariable Eucharistic Prayer of the Church of England for two thirds of her history, were at the heart of it. God bless its cotton sox.

7 February 2009

Ebbsfleet Retreat

Away in company with the Administrator of the Ebbsfleet Apostolic District and his clergy to Ascot Priory for retreat. The Priory was founded by Dr Pusey, one of the great figures of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England. Among relics are the altar stone upon which he offered (as an inscription nearby puts it) 'the Adorable Sacrifice' while he was staying at Ascot. The main chapel very Victorian, "Ecce habitaculum Dei cum hominibus, et habitabit cum eis" written by the Tabernacle; "O salutaris Hostia" above the High Altar; and "Ecce Panis Angelorum" inscribed on its front. To the East, a rather more Art Deco Lady Chapel, with a lovely 1930s Altar, Exposition Throne above it. The Warden is a fellow seminarian of mine (in fact, in 1967 he was at Pam's and my Wedding) Canon Philip Ursell. Still as witty and incisive as ever.

If you get a chance to read the Pusey House Annual Report and Journal, don't fail to enjoy a very fine paper on Pusey and Newman by Fr William Davage. Very perceptive. Here is a paragraph for tasters:
Newman wrote to [T. W. Allies, a Tractarian convert to Rome] that " it is harsh to call any mistakes of [Pusey's] untruthfulness. I think they arise from the same slovenly habit which some people would recognise in his dress, his beard. He never answers letters ... which do not lie in the line of the direct work which he has on hand. And so, in composing a book, he takes uncommon pains about some points ...but he will combine this with extreme carelessness in respect to other statements". Both in his prose and in his appearance in portraiture Newman is fastidious in comparison with the invariably disheveled and prolix Pusey. But, as Professor Henry Chadwick once remarked [in conversation], " Pusey said everything Newman said before Newman said it, but Newman said it so much better".


I see that Fr Zed's blog is again touching on the question of Concelebration. I feel there is a risk that traditionalists who are laudably keen not to be corrupted by by modern fads and fantasies may fall into the error of despising concelebration. I don't want to deal with it again because I did around TEN posts on it last year, between October and December 2008. I attempted to expound, from the Tridentine liturgical books, what I see as the genuine Traditionalist Western teaching on this subject.

What a shame I can't induce interested Roman Catholics to read such posts. I see people are again disseminating the absurd notion that, when the Tridentine Pontifical required newly ordained priests to recite the Offertory and Eucharistic prayers with the bishop, it was just a matter of him 'showing them how to say Mass'. This is plain untrue. As demonstrated by many authorities including Pope Benedict XIV.

6 February 2009


It has suddenly occurred to me what the 'Tridentine' Mass should be called.

Actually, Tridentine is not a bad term. The revision was mandated by Trent. I don't suppose many of us really like 'Extraordinary Form'; we see the Holy Father's skill at work here, reassuring his timorous Venerable Brethren - but we wish it were not quite so Extra. Cardinal Castrillon's 'Gregorian Mass' is well-meant; but it doesn't distinguish this usage from other forms of Gregorian Mass, such as Dominican or Sarum. Usus Antiquior is quite nice, but some people aren't natural Latinists, poor things.

Vatican II said that changes in the Mass should be 'organic', and the old Mass certainly has evolved organically. And the word 'organic' is a good-vibes word in our society, pointing to what is wholesome and natural and would have been recognised by earlier generations. 'The Organic Mass'.

No? Ah well. Nobody ever takes anything I say seriously.

5 February 2009


We saw in an earlier post how the 'Conciliar' theory just doesn't deliver the goods. To prove otherwise, 'Conciliarists' are driven to desperate straights. Since there are a lot of councils littering the pages of the ecclesiastical histories, many of them contradicting each other, Conciliarists fall back on the notion of 'recepton'. A council is Ecumenical - genuine, Kosher, and to be obeyed - if 'The Whole Church' subsequently accepts it.

Let us suppose that Council A condemns Doctrine X. It excommunicates the adherents of X. They therefore go away, declare Council A to be spurious, and get on (for hundreds of years) living their ecclesial life out of communion with theose who accept Council A.

'Conciliarist' adherents of Council A then say 'The Xites are heretics and schismatics. Council A is a valid ecumenical council because the whole Church has accepted it'. The Xites demur: 'It hasn't been accepted by the whole Church. We haven't accepted it'. 'Ah', reply the adherents of Council A, 'you don't count because you aren't in the Church'.

For 'A', read Chalcedon. For Xites, read 'Monophysites'. Byzantine Orthodoxy has normatively held that Chalcedon is authentic and that the 'Monophysites' are schismatic because they reject it. Orthodox consider that Chalcedon is normative because the Orthodox Church has accepted it.

Now try it out reading, for 'A', 'Florence'. For Xites, read 'Anti-papal Orthodox'. The Latin West has normatively held that Florence is authentic and that the Anti-papal Orthodox are schismatics because they reject it.

Considering the line Orthodoxy has taken with the 'Monophysites', how has it got a leg to stand on with regard to its rejection of Florence? It can only get round the problem by saying "Ah, but we Orthodox are the Church"; and that means that a Council in itself is useless for telling anyone what truly is or is not true doctrine. It means that each party starts off with the unassailable conviction that "I am right" and accepts or rejects Councils on the basis of "Do they agree with me?" Councils can't hold themselves up to the wavering Christian as a way of deciding between conflicting truth-claims.

The argument goes like this:
Conciliarists: You're heretics because you don't accept the Council.
Their opponents: It isn't a true Council.
Yes it is.
How do you know that?
We know that because the whole Church has accepted it.
No it hasn't; we have rejected it.
You don't count because you're only schismatical heretics.
How do you know we're heretics?
Because you don't accept the Council.
It isn't a true Council.
Yes it is.
How do you know that?
We know that because the whole Church has accepted it.
No it hasn't; we have rejected it.
You don't count because you're only schismatical heretics.
How do you know we're heretics?
Because you don't accept the Council.
It isn't a true Council.
Yes it is.
How do you know that?
We know that because the whole Church has accepted it.
No it hasn't; wehave rejected it.
You don't count because you're only schismatical heretics.
How do you know we're heretics?
Because you don't accept the Council.
It isn't a true Council ...

That is what is called a circular argument. Circular arguments go nowhere and prove nothing. The question, as an American friend put it to me, is either "If Chalcedon, why not Florence?"; or, if you prefer, " If not Florence, why Chalcedon?"

3 February 2009


The frenzy with which the media and the chattering classes are attacking Pope Benedict XVI is truly remarkable. I've always steered clear in the past of those who give too precise accounts of how a highly personal devil might be conducting his affairs, but this lot really make me wonder if Screwtape may not be as real as, for example, the abortionist Obama.

Mind you, there is a very funny side to the business about that poor fool Williamson. For most of my life, the very concept ... I'll go further: the very word Excommunication ... has been a bete noire of the trendies. It evokes for them lurid pictures associated with notions of Truth Suppressed ... of brave and lonely Freethinkers struggling against intellectual tyrannies ... of bell and book and candle ... of the Inquisition ... of everything the Enlightenment dislikes most about doctrinal authoritarianism ... of prisons, of faggots piled round the stakes, of whatever the plural is of Auto da fe.

But - as the Nawab of Bannipur would have said - Goodness Gracious. Excommunication is now - would you believe it - the darling of the scribbling elite. And so the Ratzinger whom, with characteristically impoverished imagination they used repetitively to describe as a Rotweiler, as the Panzer Cardinal, as the sinister Grand Inquisitor, has now, they tell us, in his devilish ingenuity, dreamed up a new and even more fiendish crime, a new unheard of horror with which to crown the rest of his crimes against humanity. He has had the brazen effrontery, the wanton and heinous cruelty, to REMIT AN EXCOMMUNICATION!

It gets even funnier. In that portion of the Lord's vineyard just behind the potting shed, where nothing much grows very well because it's where Granddad used to dump the arsenic (we call ourselves the Church of England), there is a noisy little group that calls itself Inclusive Church. A few years ago I found a pile of their literature in S Mary Mags church in this city (once a great Catholic centre). They apparently believe in not excluding anybody from the Church. All, it seems, without exception should feel welcomed into the Church. Everybody, wherever they stand in the rich spectrum of human diversity, whatever their views, whatever their practices, belongs inside the Lord's Family.

I'm waiting for Inclusive Church to make a high-profile announcement of their support for the action of Benedict XVI in remitting Williamson's excommunication. My breath is totally bated.

2 February 2009

Wolf Packs

They're closing in on Pope Benedict XVI. In the newspapers, on the television, in the blogosphere, in debates in legislatures, in trendy magazines. They think they've got him.

It's prejudice, prejudice, prejudice. In many cases it's their atavistic gut hatred of Rome, which they were prepared to put slightly on hold if a Pope (like John XIII) seemed to be behaving sufficiently unpopishly. In some cases it's fear of somebody who is cleverer than they are; they don't mind Christians as long we appear not very bright, because then they can feel unthreatened. For others, it's because they can see Benedict as a contradiction of their own corrupt and promiscuous lifestyles. In many cases it's the simple deep-down hatred many have of Holiness, because they are children of the Father of all lies.

This is a moment of pure contest of Evil against Good; something that we very rarely see in this world of Gray Areas. The Dark is rising. This is not a time to sit on the fence or hedge bets; to say " on the one hand ... and on the other". This is the time to show where one stands. In years to come, the question will still be: "What did you do, when the animals were baying for Benedict XVI?"

1 February 2009


There seems little doubt that the meaning, within the life of the Universal Church of Councils (particularly those called Ecumenical), is going to be high on the agenda in the near future.

One obvious reason is the Catholic/Orthodox dialogue. Orthodox have set much store by Councils, partly because they have felt the need to define themselves against the Papacy. They have needed a magisterium; and the authority of Seven Councils has provided them with authoritative texts and teaching. Those Councils live on in the life of Orthodoxy in a way that Westerners might find hard to understand - in their commemorations during the Church Year; in iconography.

But there are problems. Why did Councils - if they are so important - cease happening so soon? Error did not cease to happen. Orthodox have regarded "the Latins" as in error; but Orthodoxy has never held an Ecumenical Council to deal with "Latin heterodoxies". And why, for example, is the Synod of Bethlehem which condemned Protestantism not 'Ecumenical'? The desuetude of Ecumenical Councils raises the difficult problem of whether the Orthodox Churches constitute, in their own eyes, the Catholic Church of Christ. I say difficult' because it is notorious that Orthodox have not sorted this question out among themselves. Some think Orthodoxy is the Church: that everybody outside Orthodoxy is an unbaptised heathen. Others behave de facto as if Orthodoxy is not the Catholic Church tout court. Yet: for a decade or two the Orthodox have been making preparations for a Council. Why? If they have one to which non-Orthodox are not invited, will they regard it as Ecumenical? (Interestingly, the Orient was sent invitations to Vatican I. I wonder how modern integristes gloss that.)

Secondly, the probable regularisation of the position of the SSPX within the Roman Unity will enhance the status of dialogue about what Vatican II means. What is its magisterial status? The pope who convened it and the pope who concluded it both described it as a pastoral and not a doctrinal council. So how much 'religious obsequium ' is it owed? You might think that a pastoral council was more concerned with an immediate pastoral situation than with eternal verities; indeed, Bl John XXIII effectively admitted this with his talk about aggiornamento. If the Council effectively addressed the issues of 1965, by definition it did not address the very different issues of 1565 or 1365 or 565 or 65. Nor is it very likely to prove to have addressed the issues of 2265. But: and here's the rub ... to what extent do its texts address the issues of 2009? Our world is already a very different world from the world which the Council was summoned to address fifty years ago.

For example: whatever one's views on questions of feminism and gender, few are likely to dispute that those questions are now widely being posed in a way which, fifty years ago, was the preserve of no more than a tiny minority. Proof, if proof is needed, is provided by the English language post-Conciliar liturgical texts which consistently render Deus as Father without any realisation that, little more than a generation later, the latter word would widely be held to be offensively uninclusive. The Anglican Alternative Service Book of 1980 still shows little awareness of the feminist-linguistic revolution which was then about to happen.

Moreover, when ARCIC was set up in the 1960s, nobody dreamed that the whole optimistic process which it embodied would be wholly derailed by the question of the ordination of women. When Vatican II passed Unitatis Redintegratio, who would have guessed that the whole bright world of ecumenical convergence which Rome (as many thought) was then belatedly buying into, would be replaced by a world of new splits within ecclesial communites and new causes of division between denominations? What becomes of an affirmation of the unity inherent in the common baptism of all Christians when quite a lot of them a few decades later insist on administering 'baptism' invalidly by corrupting the Names of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity? How, in fact, does a Decree engaging sympathetically and positively with an ecumenism of convergence apply to an ecumenism of divergence? SSPX are not the only thoughtful people to be wondering about that little difficulty.

On pragmatic grounds I suspect that a pastoral ecumenical council is too cumbersome, blunt and crude an instrument in our age of rapid change; and that Vatican II has proved this. A dogmatic council might be a different matter; it could consider propositions, talk theology, and issue definitions and anathemata. But I doubt if this is what that senile old fool Kung has in mind when he speaks about the glories of the abortionist Obama and the need for a new Council to promote condoms.

But my real doubts about councils are theological. Orthodox, Anglicans, and medieval conciliarists have embraced the idea of councils as a solution to what they have seen as 'problems' with the Papacy. In a later post, I plan to deploy some ideas of Dom Gregory Dix to suggest that the Papacy itself is in fact very much less problem-ridden than the conciliar idea.