30 March 2009


Local cinemas - even among the apices somniantes - are currently advertising LESBIAN VAMPIRE KILLERS. I am completely perplexed as to what this means. Does it mean Killers who are both Lesbians and Vampires? Or Lesbians who kill Vampires? Or people who kill Lesbian Vampires? It is a shaming example of the disadvantages of a Classical Education that I, who have spent the best decades of my life teaching Latin and Greek language and literature, am unable to understand a simple three-word sentence in my Mother Tongue. All those years spent inculcating the art of Latin Prose Composition ... teaching the gifted young how to turn a piece of English into Latin of the style of Caesar or Cicero ... have left me at a complete loss; although, come to think of it, perhaps I would understand modern English syntax better if I had instead taught the students to write in the clipped elliptical style of Tacitus.

What a sobering discovery to make at the end of a wasted life.

28 March 2009

Byzantium (4)

For some time, Orthodox Christianity has had something of a 'guru' status. It is respected and, for example, when Rome is violently attacked for its negative attitude towards other Christians, nobody seems to think there is any point in attacking Orthodoxy for being even more negative. (I have in mind the fact that the permissions given in the RC Ecumenical Directory for nonRCs to receive the Sacraments from RC clergy are far kindlier than the Orthodox rules). I suppose this is because we Westerners have been at each other's throats for centuries while the Orthodox were below the horizon; moreover, we Anglicans have used Orthodoxy polemically ("the Orthodox prove that you can be Catholic without being under the Pope"), which has created a sort of subconscious feeling among us that they are "on our side". But Orthodoxy has been high-profile in our country for quite a time now, and I think the time has come for us to be able to treat them with the same Christian frankness that we use in dealing with all our other ecumenical partners.

Another element in the 'guru' status enjoyed by Orthodoxy is the idea, widespread among impressionable Western laity, that Orthodoxy is so much more 'ancient' than our Western Christian cultures. More than half a century ago, Gregory Dix used to make himself unpopular by pointing out that this is quite simply not so. He emphasised that "the scientific study of liturgy inclines more and more to show that the old Roman Sacramentaries have preserved into modern use an incomparably larger body of genuinely primitive - and by this I mean not merely pre-Nicene but second and even first century - Christian liturgical material ... than any other extant liturgical documents ... ".
Let me take one detail: the question of the Eucharistic Epiklesis. Byzantine scholasticism - every bit as pigheaded as some Western scholasticism - has in effect treated this as essential. When 'Western Rite Orthodox' have been allowed, almost invariably the Roman Canon has been perverted by having a Byzantine-style epiklesis corruptly thrust into it. Since the Easterners were prepared to live in unity with a West which used this Prayer for a fair bit of a millennium, you might think that their own sense of respect for their own historic praxis might prevent them from such a crude and nasty violation. But not so. Any sign of the 'latinisation' of 'uniate' rites or culture is, justifiably, deployed as evidence that the West does not respect the integrity of the Christian East. But they treat with Byzantine hubris the ancient and exquisite liturgical and spiritual masterpiece of the West.

Two or three years ago, the theological periodical of the Moskow Patriarchate published an article arguing that the Roman Canon, as handed down, is indeed unexceptionable. A very good sign. We can do with more evidence that Orthodox are capable of respecting Western Catholicism.

But, at the Walsingham Conference, when the Orthodox representative at 'Questiontime' was asked what Orthodoxy could learn from the West, he dismissed the question with a comment that "Ecumenism is not a matter of exchanging parcels".

Indeed it isn't. It's about taking other Christians seriously.

27 March 2009

The EF this week

On Wednesday this year the Solemnity of the Annunciation deprived us of the chance of hearing the Mass of the Great Scrutiny, composed when on this day names were registered and instruction given for the Baptisms and Confirmations of the Easter Vigil. That Mass is full of themes of being washed with clean water and receiving Illumination. Then yesterday, Thursday, the catechumens were reminded that the prize of their Christian Initiation is Resurrection Life (the Raising of the Widow's Son at Naim). Today, the same point is rammed home with the Raising of Lazarus.


When I do the Via Matris in church, do I wear a violet or a white stole?

When people have venerated a relic, why do I tap the heads of males, but not females, with the reliquary? Is it something to do with headship? I must ask the 'Reform' Evangelicals at S Ebbe's [my neighbour church] about this. They know all about the Headship business.

26 March 2009


A friend of mine at Lancing, a presbyterian in origin, became Orthodox. At the Church of the Holy Trinity in Brighton (a church under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch), he was Chrismated (his presbyterian baptism, by implication, being deemed adequate). It was a very great and happy day, at which I was privileged to be welcomed.

Later, my friend discerned a vocation to the life of a monk on the Holy Mountain. There, in another part of the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch, he was required to be baptised and chrismated de novo.

There are several cumulative implications here. Firstly, that on Athos it was deemed that he had previously been, in effect, an unbaptised non-Christian, outside the Ark of Salvation. I am reminded of an Orthodox community I know in England which appears to take this view and to emphasise that the 'Pope' is not 'the canonical bishop of Rome'. Yes, I am aware that at high levels, for example in the diplomatic-liturgical relationships between the Vatican and the Phanar, the plain meaning of the rituals (for example, on the feasts of S Peter and S Andrew) is that Benedict is Bishop of Rome and Bartholomew is Bishop of Constantinople. But on Athos, no insignificant part of Bartholomew's jurisdiction, a different ecclesiology apparently holds sway.

This is no small matter. The starting point of all ecumenism is the recognition of Christ in the baptised fellow-Christian. I know that some Roman Catholics are very pleased to feel certain that I am not a priest. I find this made easier to bear by the knowledge that some Orthodox do not think that I am even a Christian.

I think Byzantine Orthodoxy could do with sorting this out. And I have some other grievances!

24 March 2009


At Walsingham I indulged myself a completely novel experience: a Communion Service in the Reformed Tradition held in the lovely little Methodist Chapel. The Sermon was by Fr Norman Wallwork, a Methodist minister, and was notable for its elegant explanation of why our Lady has to be seen as Co-Redemptrix (why are RCs so uneasy nowadays about this rather obvious inference from Scripture?). But the URC service itself:

This, again, was cleverly and intelligently put together, and among other things included formulae including the word "offer" which Anglican Evangelicals would undoubtedly have vetoed in the Church of England's General Synod. But I had a problem with the service. It appeared to require to be followed by keeping an eye upon a duplicated order of service. There were very nice responsories, for example, which could only 'come off' if they were followed textually.

I tend to feel that the People ought to be able to follow their service without published props. Their traditional interventions in both word and action should be known instinctively, off by heart, by long and inherited deep internal appropriation; they ought not to be the enacting of a photocopied sheet which they were given as they walked into church that morning. Worshippers ought to be at home in worship, not function like actors reading their parts in an early rehearsal. Come to that, I don't know that I much like the leaflets common in RC churches with the readings on them. Why can't the people simply listen with profound submission to the word of God proclaimed ... to the airwaves which have been transubstantiated into the very Word of the Incarnate Word? Am I not right in thinking that for our society reading happens in contexts associated with weighing up and judging rather than with hearing and obeying? (And, by the way, the one thing I thought really bad about the URC service was that we sat for the Holy Gospel. There is a risk that we might sit to be entertained; standing to hear a Word of Authority is so rare in our culture that its preservation during the proclamation of the Gospel must be held very precious.)

The invention of printing made it possible for the English government of 1549 to impose, overnight, a novel liturgy and then, a couple of years later, a profoundly different version of it. Bugnini, after the Council, had the same dangerously effective weapon at his disposal. That, in itself, represented a corruption of the organic and traditional quality of Worship. But at least the printed book, in a culture where books were a comparatively rare phenomenon, offered a degree of stability during the lifetime of the use of that book (and remember that for some generations after 1549 the officiant was very probably the only person to be holding a copy). The advent in our own time of the disposable duplicated sheet offers the probability of an even more profound disruption and destabilisation of Liturgy.

We ought to keep this medium for just long enough to enable the new ICEL version of the Roman Liturgy in English to bed down. Then we should proscribe it for ever.

22 March 2009

Questions, questions

During the Walsingham Pilgrimage, we had to vacate the Shrine Church on Thursday morning because of the Inauguration as Administrator of Bishop Lindsay. The Parish Church offered us hospitality; this was the Anglican Mass and I was to be celebrant; which way to face? which altar to use: the one in more-or-less the medieval place, or the newer versus populum one under the Rood? I rather inclined to the first; but wondered if that might make a point too bluntly. Also, the new altar looked a bit heavy and cumbersome to shift. So: the new altar. But versus whom? Why not strike a blow for the Benedictine arrangement? But is not that explicitly a second-best for the versus Orientem as devised by a pastoral Pontiff unwilling to promote too great a discontinuity with the last two generations? So I asked the Parish Priest if he would mind if I shifted candles and crucifix so as to face East. He looked at me in amazement: "Just how old are you?", he enquired. [68 is the answer.] Well, he had been very kind to us, and it seemed impossibly ungracious and massively ungrateful to make some chirpy aggressive reply like "Sunshine, you're the one behind the times; haven't you read anything written in the last thirty years about the theoretical and practical reasons for versus Orientem?" So I murmured a few confused words about how I was indeed tremendously old, and shifted the furnishings.

Well, no concelebration nowadays. We Anglicans are all too confused about who is in what-degree-of-impaired-communion with whom. But what about the Eucharistic Prayer? One authorised by Rome or a Common Worship formula? You will not be surprised to learn that I do not like the latter. But which prelates to name or not to name, which Roman Prayer to use, in which language?

My solution was nothing short of brilliant, although most readers will deem it barking mad. It was to use the old Anglo-Catholic custom of saying the Canon Romanus secretly to the end of the Quam oblationem; then Dr Cranmer's Consecration Prayer aloud [not that he called it that; the title is part of the recatholicising of Anglicanism in the generations after Cranmer]; then the Canon from Unde et memores onwards, secretly, and while the congregation sang the two-verse hymn Wherefore, O Father which gives the gist of the Oblatio of the Canon. I discovered that whoever devised this expedient did get the timing right; I was just concluding the per ipsum as the people ended the hymn. "Throughout all ages, world without end", I informed the congregation. "Amen", they responded with conviction.

For the Gloria, Creed, Sanctus, Agnus, I used the Prayer Book versions as slightly tidied and corrected by Common Worship. The happy point about this is that they are very close indeed to ... yes! you're right! the newest Roman translations. The hilarious thing is that the abortive ICEL versions dumped by Vatican instruction in the nineties will live for decades in the 'modern' options of Common Worship, which adopted them in the certainty that they were thereby promoting liturgical convergence. Quis dubitare possit Providentiam iocosissimam esse dominam?

I also included Cranmer's post-Communion prayer so as to affirm, in the spirit of the Book of Divine Worship, elements which are not heretical in the Anglican liturgical heritage.

How did the congregation react? I only heard kind comments; not least from a very dear Scottish Presbyterian minister whom the liturgical idiom reminded of his early years using the Book of Common Order. And from a charming Ukrainian Greek Catholic who told me that my homily was the highpoint of the entire Pilgrimage ... well, I would view him as charming, wouldn't I? The only criticism that was uttered for me to hear was from a distinguished Orthodox participant who, having convincingly assumed the sumbebekota of deep sleep during the second paragraph of my homily, was alert enough a little later to be able to complain afterwards that the Creed had included the Filioque.

Ah well. We all have our shibboleths.

21 March 2009

Spring in Norfolk

A few splendid days at Walsingham on the Ecumenical Marian Pilgrimage; incidentally, the pieces on Our Lady Of Victories were the sermon I preached at the Anglican Mass, which was on S Joseph's day.

Happily, I was able to say a couple of EF Masses. Bishop Lindsay, on the hectic eve of his installation as Administrator, very kindly took the time to unearth some Missals from the Archive Room(!), and I used a nice Burns and Oates edition of 1943. The bad news was that there are no maniples, burses, and veils. Are they all stuffed away in some forgotten cupboard? Surely Anglicans would never have disposed of them on a bonfire, as the Jesuits did with the reliquaries at S Aloysius. Mercifully, like a wise virgin I had taken Altar Cards, together with the Parish Treasurer, who has learned to serve the EF (the Churchwarden knows how to answer it; what a well equipped church S Thomas's is). I wonder whether I might be the first priest since the 1960s to say the Mass of Ages in the Shrine Church; a passing Franciscan said that Canon Ward had done so the other day for the benefit of his seminarians, but it turned out to have been a Latin Novus Ordo.

For one of the Masses I used the Altar of S Thomas the Martyr and S Philip Neri; what a Providential coincidence must lie in that combination - I have had a soft spot for S Philip since about 1956, when I met him in a church in Kensington. Under the Mensa was the big reliquary of S Thomas, which gave special meaning to the words quorum reliquiae hic sunt. The pair of them stared down at me, with evident approval, from Enid Chadwick's murals which show S Thomas against a background of the Canterbury of his day, while S Philip sits comfortably in Renaissance Rome.

I felt very much at home.

18 March 2009

Not much difference

Fr Blake laments that one of the problems about the Westminster appointment is that good 'traditional' priests are 'kept in the shadows'. Gracious. We Anglicans would feel at home if we poped. With us, the mechanism is that Diocesan bishops are very rarely appointed from outside the ranks of suffragan (assistant) bishops. And suffragans are appointed by Diocesans without any external control. So we have a self-perpetuating liberal oligarchy in which talent is not encouraged. Sour grapes? Well, have you ever meditated on why they had to invite a bishop of the autonomous Welsh Church to cross Offa's Dyke to become Primate of All England?

17 March 2009


I appreciate the unfailing good manners with which the Pastor in Valle Adurni cites my blog, although I am only an Anglican, when it sets him thinking. And thinking he is, very provokingly, about questions involved in the authority of Councils. I commend his thoughts to your edification.

I'm probably paranoid, but there's a query put to Fr Zed on his blog - about what I have called utraquism, but which Fr Zed calls biformality: the problems of clergy who use both forms of the Roman Rite - which looks to me suspiciously like a rewording of things I've been writing. It would be nice ... Ah, well, I will just add another ingredient to the utraquism pot to see if it come to the surface in Fr Zed's culinary wonderland. This: it's not just a question of adding a genuflexion here or an altar kiss there. There are structural differences which make it dangerous to forget which Form one is celebrating. Fraction/Pax/Agnus Dei, for example. You really have got to do one or the other, or risk irreverent confusion.

Mothering Sunday

(The historical facts can be discovered on Wikipedia.) Before I retired happy to the baroque ultamontane fortress of S Thomas's, while I was for six years an (equally happy) middle-of-the-road country parson in Devon with seven happy churches (well, one was redundant and one was not always happy: let's say five-and-a-half), I used to meditate on the paradox that Mothering Sunday, Midlenting, Refreshment, Laetare Sunday, having emerged from the Christian liturgy (specifically, from the Galatians reading found in the Book of Common Prayer and the 1962 Missal) had now been so secularised, as Mother's Day, that the problem was to reChristianise it. Wild in a lawless frenzy, I sometimes did Children's Masses with our Lady of Sorrows as the theme.

Because there are things you can do with Mothering Sunday. Take the passion common folk have for getting the kiddies to run around doing things with flowers on this day. I used to harness that to explain that we each have three Mothers:
our Mother Mary;
our Holy Mother the Church; and
our own Mother kata sarka (I can't remember now if I used that exact phrase).
So I had the tinies take bunches of flowers to a nice ikon, hand-painted in Thessalonika, of the Theotokos (a leaving present to me from the Classics Department at Lancing), and arrange them there. Then to the font, where I explained to the congregation (without, I think, actually quoting the Fathers) that this was the womb from whose waters they were born to new life. And, finally, to their Mothers.

I thought it seemed to work. But I expect they all thought I was mad.

14 March 2009


I am profoundly worried by the conclusions some are drawing, to the effect that the integration of PCED into CDF might represent a criticism of the way in which PCED has been reintegrating Lefebvreists into full communion. This can only refer to such events as the treatment of the Good Shepherd Lefebvreists in Bordeaux, who were told that they need not submit to any diktat, or drop any of their views on Vatican II, as long as they continued the dialogue within the unity of the Church and did so respectfully. If there is any suggestion that this style of Ecumenism is out of favour, and that such returning groups should simply accept V2 hook line and sinker and without glosses, I consider this to be very bad news. Why?

Because it would represent a brake on some very attractive ecumenical developments, in which those participating attempted to get behind the formulae of Catholic doctrine so as to express , perhaps in new ways, the authentic meaning of those formulae.

Two examples. Firstly: ARCIC eventually ('Clarifications') presented Rome with an agreement on the Eucharist which Joseph Ratzinger's CDF declared to be completely satisfactory. This implied going 'behind' the actual terminology of Trent.

Secondly: Rome came to an agreement with oriental 'Nestorians' on Christology, which constituted going behind, or glossing, Chalcedon.

Unless such processes are now to be set aside and disowned, it is hard to see how it can be right to present SSPX with a take-it-or-leave-it choice with regard to V2. And I find it very hard to believe that this is what our Holy Father intends.

When Ratzinger gave the OK to the deals with Anglicans and Nestorians, I don't recall liberal establishments rising in a hysterical frenzy against the processes concerned. They did not angrily demand that Anglicans and Nestorians should just accept Trent and Chalcedon as they stand. So why are they so sold on a totally fundamentalist approach to Vatican II?

The answer to my question, of course, is the worst kept secret in the world. The liberals are not in the least concerned with the documents of V2; on the contrary. Does anyone seriously suppose that Kelly and Conry and Hollis and Budd really spend time every evening meditating on the joyless pomposities of Gaudium et Spes? Pull the other one. "Vatican II", for liberals, is just a mantra to give respectability to an agenda of pushing ahead with such programmes and such tendencies as they themselves find congenial. Look back at the questions Elena Curti put to Castrillon Hoyos when he came to Westminster. What, to her simple sweet girlish mind constituted "Vatican II" was lots and lots of women Eucharistic Ministers in the Sanctuary.

From one point of view, the smartest thing Fellay could do would be to accept V2 in toto and thereby call their bluff. But I suppose the poor chap does have his own Hard Men (and Women) on the look-out for a sell-out.

13 March 2009


A very nice little communique has emerged from the Superior of the SSPX. In it he quotes from two documents, and each of them has been very dear to AngloCatholics since our 'Catholic Revival' began in the 1830s.

He quotes first from the 'Creed' called the Quicunque vult. This is still in the Book of Common Prayer, and the Anglican Common Worship even allows it to replace the 'Nicene' Creed at Mass. AngloCatholics have historically resisted firmly Liberal attempts to remove from our liturgy or to eviscerate this great monument to orthodoxy by removing the 'condemnatory clauses'. It is these clauses that Bishop Fellay quotes.

His second quotation is the phrase of S Vincent of Lerins: "Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus".

Three cheers for our Bernard.


I don't see how anybody but the fiercest bigot could fail to be moved by the Holy Father's letter to his Venerable Brethren. The only bit that made me raise my eyebrows was the apparent undertaking to comb the Internet. Won't he need a lot more staff to do that? But perhaps he anticipates that all those who were so critical of him for not keeping up-to-speed on Williamson's blog will be sending him loads and loads and loads of dosh to pay for the the vast new hyperdikastery which will be needed to monitor the airwaves and fibre-optics. And what becomes of Ecumenism? Just suppose, for example, the Sovereign Pontiff makes a positive move towards Orthodoxy. And it then turns out that some Orthodox prelate somewhere has said something daft. Will Benedict again be held responsible and pilloried? After all, the number of Orthodox bishops in the world is considerably in excess of four; and eccentricity ... even plain dottiness ... is not unknown in the colourful culture of Byzantium. Not that I'm sneering at my Orthodox friends; after all the stodgy and tedious Church of England contains the surreal figure of the Barmy Bishop of Bux.

I particularly liked the bit where our Holy Father sorrowfully compared the venom of his 'friends' with the attitude of sympathetic Jews. I feel, by the way, that not enough publicity has been given to the support he received from by far the greatest of today's Jewish theologians and scholars, Jacob Neusner - the same Neusner whom I rammed down the throats of my students for more than two decades and whose brilliance I intermittently commend to readers of this blog. And finally ...

At times one gets the impression that our society needs to have at least one group to which no tolerance may be shown; which one can easily attack and hate. And should someone dare to approach them - in this case the Pope - he too loses any right to tolerance; he too can be treated hatefully, without misgiving or restraint.

Benedict's words, not mine. What a bull's-eye! What a man! What a Pope!


I have just seen Thompson's blog and his transcription of the "summary" put out by the English RC bishops. I assume his account is accurate. If so, their malice seems almost unbelievable. When I wrote above about "the fiercest bigot ..." I never guessed that my rhetoric would be outflanked by that lot. What a mean miserable little gang of nobodies they are. From time to time, kindly well-meaning people suggest that I should go knocking on the door of some English RC bishop ... need I say more?


And now I've just read the contribution of the Archbishop of Liverpool. Suddenly into my mind came the words of the late, great, Anglican monk and mystagogue, Dom Gregory Dix. He claimed that he had chosen the name Gregory in Religion not with a reference to Pope S Gregory the Great, but Gregory VII, Hildebrand; and had done so because "he sacked more bishops than any other man in history". Doesn't the English RC Church need a bit of a clean-out?

11 March 2009

The laughter of fools ...

There are few unpleasanter things than having to listen to one's enemies laughing at one. I cannot stifle a feeling that both sides in the LMS spat ought to have put up with almost anything rather than give the Pillocks cause for delighted mirth.


They are celebrating, at Avignon, the 700th Anniversary of the start of the Papal 'exile' there. The common 'journalistic' view of this period is that it was a time of corruption and venality. I urge readers to use the means of research at their disposal to remind themselves how very fertile a period this was in the history of the Western Church. Find out where and by whom the feast of Corpus Christi was really given to the Church; and the exposition and processing of the Blessed Sacrament; and the Anima Christi; and the ringing of the Angelus bell; and ...

At a time when the Enemy are suggesting that Catholicism is 'anti-Semitic', find out where it was that (because it was in the Papal States and not the Kingdom of France) that synagogues could be built and Jewish communities flourish. And where the study of Hebrew and Greek was fostered. And ...

It would be fun for us ordinary, common folk who read and write blogs to do our bit to bring into the public arena the glories of this underrated period in our history as Western Catholics.

And, of course, there are the gastronomic delights of the place (Bourride; Tavel) and its architecture and art galleries (steer clear of the Palais des Papes and the Pont, where the tourists are decanted, and you can have the place pretty well to yourselves).

And on Sunday you can go to Mass in an exquisite late Baroque church, the Chapel of the Black Penitents (sounds like something from a novel by Ann Radcliff, doesn't it?), served by an organisation I don't like to name but which provides liturgy very close to the Anglican Catholic tradition.

10 March 2009

The Unbishop of Linz

His views about Hurricane Wozname being a punishment upon New Orlinz for its brothels and its sodomy niggle away at a distant corner of my mind while I say some of the EF propers for Lent. They do seem to suggest that the calamities of our lives are related to our sins. Take, for example, the Collect for the Friday after Ash Wednesday or the Introit for Ember Friday (selected at random).

Of course, such formulae do not suggest a precise correlation between the iniquity of the individual and the degree of suffering that a natural disaster inflicts upon him. Nor do they address the question of all the innocent folks who might suffer while a somewhat Old Testament Deity is busy clobbering the unrighteous.

In a general way, one might relate some natural disasters to human sin; for example, if a property racketeer driven by greed builds on a floodplain, the miseries caused by the inevitable eventual inundation are related to his sin. (Hardships following the global economic collapse also spring to mind.) But it might very well not be he who has to endure them.

Two ideas occur to me: (1) We could put behind us the Individualism encouraged by much 'Enlightenment' thinking and accept that sin embedded in corporate cultures and structures affects all those who are part of that corporate life. No man is an island. We have to accept our interconnectedness, for good and for ill. I take it that this is part of the sense of the concept of Original Sin.
(2) Without judging others, or speculating on how the 'misfortunes' of others relate to their sins, am I meant to relate my 'misfortunes' to my sins?

Quite honestly, I don't know.

9 March 2009


Utraquism - not in the sense of the heresy that it is essential to receive the blessed Sacrament in both kinds, but as regards the problems of clergy who habitually use the Roman Rite in utraque forma - affects one in a couple of other ways. One is tempted to
(1) reintegrate into the OF the manners, not explicitly forbidden, of the EF. I have in mind, for example, the joining of thumb and forefinger after the Consecration of the Host; kissing the Altar before turning away from it. I have kept away from doing this because of a feeling that life is complicated enough already; and if, as well as keeping OF and EF distinct in one's mind and habits, one also had to juggle with 'my own personal improvement of OF', life would be even more complex.
(2) use the EF 'private prayers of the priest' (as at the Offertory and before Communion) in the OF. I have avoided this for the same reasons; also because it would have knock-on effects, such as the Host resting on the Corporal from the Offertory onwards. Above all, of course, it would be contra legem and would amount to creating one's own rite which would be neither OF nor EF.

8 March 2009


I wished that the heating had not just broken down in S Thomas's; but I soldiered manfully on with the Ember Saturday Mass, with its four Old Testament lessons. The third was from II Macabees Chapter 1, where we are given the text of what the priests said in prayer, while a sacrifice was being consumed with fire. And - these distractions during Mass really are maddening - it struck me as structurally very close to the start of the old Roman Eucharistic Prayer; say, from Vere dignum ... down to accepta habeas et benedicas haec dona, haec munera, haec sancta sacrificia.

It interested me because, only the day before, I had found in Mr Zealley's bookshop (while effecting a purchase for Professor Tighe) an old CTS pamphlet written by a young man who, before poping, had been one of Nathaniel Woodard's masters in his College of our Lady and S Nicolas in the Valley of the Adur (want to see a picture of the chapel? Look at the picture heading the admirable Pastor in Valle Adurni blog). He argued that it doesn't matter to the laity that Mass is in Latin, or inaudible, because in sacrificial worship public prayers 'were not the great thing. What God ordered was the sacrifice; we nowhere read that he ordered any form of prayers ... of any form of public prayer no mention whatever.'

It reminded me of the episode in Newman's semi-biographical novel Loss and Gain, where an Anglican criticises the Roman Mass on the grounds that 'all parties conspire to gabble it over, as if it mattered not a jot who attended to it, or even understood it'. The reply is that the Mass 'is not merely a form of words - it is a great action, the greatest action that can be on earth ... words are necessary, but as means, not ends; they are not mere addresses to the throne of grace, they are instruments of what is far higher, of consecration, of sacrifice ...'.

Recalling the demonstration by the great Christine Mohrmann that the sacral dialect of the Roman Canon is consciously based on that of pagan Roman worship, I began to wonder what evidence we have, in Hebrew, Greek, and Roman contexts, of the relationship between the act of sacrifice and any formulae that might have been uttered; and what light - if any - all this throws on the genesis of the Canon Romanus.

Perhaps someone can help me. As a poor ignorant classicist, all that immediately sprang to my mind was the Greek paranoia that someone might utter an ill-omened word during the Rite: hence, the insistence on Silence as the safest policy. There must be more to it than this. If I were more competent in German, I would try Pauly-Wissowa ...

7 March 2009


Vespers (OF) this evening:
Veterem hominem cum actibus suis nos exspoliare concede.
Does anybody else think there's anything odd about the latinity of this, or is it just me?


OH dear: the Forward Plus Newspaper, in giving our S Thomas's Holy Week services and times, says that our Palm Sunday Liturgy is at 10.45. IT ISN'T. It's at our normal Sunday time of 10.00.

6 March 2009

A New Ecumenism

There was a time when Paddy Power estimated highly the chances that Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sidney, and a sound man, might have migrated to Westminster. Sadly, the odds seem to have lengthened. But it was no less pleasant to be among those joining him at EF Vespers in that long-time Tridentinist centre, Merton College Chapel. Incidentally, I was glad also to be able personally, and very humbly as an amateur blogger addressing a master craftsman, to congratulate Fr Tim Finigan both on the honour of being selected for an attack by the Tablet, and his triumph over that journal.

Thursday, back in the days before such things became suddenly unfashionable, was often seen as a day of Prayer for Christian Unity. EF Vespers for that day - whether by Divine Providence or Dame Fortune I couldn't say - includes the psalm Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum. And also the anthem of Anglican Catholics Super flumina Babylonis sedimus et flevimus, with its haunting cry "Quomodo cantabimus canticum Domini in terra aliena". A friend murmured to me "Years ago there would have been lots of College Chaplains here". And there would; back in the days when Unity was a sexy idea and a glorious hope, and when the clerisy of Oxford held a large proportion of Catholics, the black-backed gentry would have flocked to celebrate Vespers with a Cardinal Presbyter of the Holy Roman Church.

Who was there? 'Cradle Catholics', I trust, in some numbers. But in the large and predominantly young congregation, there were many I recognised as formerly Anglican Catholics; and many Catholics who are still within the Church of England (including one of our bishops). I felt: this is where we are now; and this is where Ecumenism is now.

Valde bonum erat et non minus iucundum, habitare fratres in unum, et ex cantionibus Sion canticum novum decantare Domino.

5 March 2009

Today's OF Collect

... is an interesting one. Found in the Leonine, Gregorian, and Gelasian Sacramentaries, it settled comfortably into the 'Green' season; Pentecost VIII in the Tridentine Rite but Trinity IX in many Northern European dialects of the Roman Rite, including Sarum, York, etc..

First point to note: the Bugnini revisers, having taken the fervour out of Lent, found the old Lenten collects too fierce and drafted into use to replace them collects from Ordinary Time.

Secondly, there is a textual oddity. Largire nobis, quaesumus, Domine, semper spiritum cogitandi quae recta sunt, propitius et agendi ... "Propitius" is a common word in liturgical Latin, which borrows it (I have Christine Mohrmann in mind here) from pagan liturgical Latin. It means that the Deity is or has been rendered favourable to the suppliant. Problem: it is separated from noun which it adjectivally qualifies - Domine - and dropped into mid-sentence. This is by no means impossible (" Grant to us, we beseech thee O Lord, ever the spirit of thinking the things which are right, and, being favourable, of doing them ..."), but it is pretty well as odd in Latin as it is in English. Cranmer found it so and simply left it out.

One of Bugnini's men had - or found somewhere - a very clever idea. Perhaps the word is a scribal corruption. m was often reproduced in abbreviation by a line over the previous vowel. This line could easily not be noticed in transcription. So if the original had read "promptius", that could easily appear as "proptius" - which is non-existent - and then be "corrected" to the very common " propitius".

"Promptius" would mean "and rather more promptly". So the prayer would mean that we desire the spirit of thinking good things; but not just of thinking them: of also getting on and doing them rather more quickly. I 95% buy it!

2 March 2009

Obartion and Pius XII; et QUAERUNTUR

The penny has dropped in my mind. I had been wondering where I had seen the Obama look before; that haunting expression, young yet unspeakably wise, accessible yet focussed upon realities far beyond the every-day. Even this side of the water, it constantly looks at us out of posters and will clearly soon be on the mass-produced teashirts that betoken the arrival of spring. Come back, Che Guevara, all is forgiven.

It was the image-gurus who handled Pius XII that had the same instincts. The Pontiff never seemed to do anything as vulgar as looking at camera. Like the abortionist Obama, he seemed always to be consumed with ethereal thoughts as he gazed at some meaningful and noble reality situated on a plane far above that of the commonplace.

I wonder how long it will be before the gullible millions rumble the fact that they have been taken for a ride ... by President Aborma, that is, not Pius XII.


Is there any reason why one should not say a Sunday Vigil Mass in the Extraordinary Form?

What is the status currently of the Prayers said at the foot of the Altar after Low Masses?

1 March 2009

The Bishop of Peoria

De Cura animarum has been running an interesting series of comments on the Papacy. Among comments there appeared the old - and valid - distinction between the Papacy and the way in which it has operated over the last 150 years in the West. For most of the history of the Church, the Papacy did not appoint each local bishop; so why does he need now to appoint every bishop of the Latin Church?

The answer clearly is that he doesn't. But this is not some massively novel and liberating discovery. In dialogue with Eastern dissident traditions, the Papacy has never tried to impose such a condition; indeed, it can point to the fact that it does not appoint 'uniate' bishops within the territories of their historic patriarchates.

Whether Now is a good time to eliminate the appointment by popes of bishops in the Latin Church - the conclusion which some people seem to assume is automatic - appears to me much more debateable. As Joseph Ratzinger used to point out, the post-conciliar liturgical 'reforms' were enforced by means of a maximalist view of the Papacy: the idea that a pope, especially if mandated by aCouncil can radically modify the Tradition, rather than (as Ratzinger argued that he should) act as the guardian of Tradition. The paradox is that having used a Papacy maximalised to the point of corruption and tyranny to impose their own faddish departures from Tradition, the Liberals have now suddenly discovered that, in their view, the time has come for a Reduced Papacy. It is hardly necessary to speculate on the reasons for these tergiversations.

I suggest the following: we need to keep the Maximalised Papacy for another couple of generations, or for as long as it takes to reverse the improprieies which the Maximalised Papacy allowed to be introduced in the last century. Then, when sanity is restored and the Smoke of Satan is eliminated from the Church, let's go for a Reduced Papacy. When presbyterates and laos are peacefully within the Great Tradition, that will be the time to consider giving them back the election of their bishop.

But even then, let us remember that the nodal institutions in the Church are: the local bishop, the Man of each Particular Church; and the Bishop of Rome, the universal focus of unity. The papacy has historically been at its best when it has protected local churches from bully-boys close at home. Anglican Catholics can explain, to anybody who wants to know, why Provincial Autonomy is the the Tyrant and Rome is the helpful friend to whom Christians are entitled to turn for succour and support.

Provincial systems of appointing bishops would be as undesireable and much, much more dangerous than papal appointments. When it is safe for the Roman Pontiff to retire from this particular chore, it is the truly local church which, in terms of precedent, should elect. Not entrenched bureaucracies.