30 September 2009

Greek lesson

In the Liturgy of the hours, today we have a hymn for S Jerome written by Dom Lentini himself. It is in a metre called variously the Second (sic my own Mods tutor, the fabulously erudite Margaret Hubbard; it was outside her study door as we queued up for a Homer Class - happiest of days - that I met Pam) or Fourth (sic Wickham) or Third (sic Page) Asclepiad. This consists of three asclepiads (tumtum tumtittytum tumtittytum tytum) followed by a glyconic (tumtum tumtittytum tytum). Those of you who did some Horace are most likely to remember it from Odes 1:33; where Horace frivolously tells the elegist Tibullus not to keep writing daft infatuated poems about Glycera, because she's going for a younger bloke; everybody always seems to go for someone unsuitable.

Like all of Horace's metres, this was used by the Greeks before him. An Oxyrrhynchus papyrus reveals that Alcaeus wrote at least a couple of (probably political) poems in the same metre. In Christian Latin, Rabanus Maurus, a Carolingian poet, may have written Sanctorum meritis and Bellarmine may be the author of Custodes hominum (which you will get in a few days time at Vespers of the Holy Guardianm Angels).

Why did Lentini select this metre?
Because there's no other metre used in Christian Latin into which you can fit Jerome - Hieronymus. But it will go into the Second Asclepiad, EITHER (this is the clever bit) if you read the name as short-short-long-short-anceps and elide the e of 'laude' before it, OR, in medieval style, pronounce the Hi- as J- without elision.

Shame Lentini went to all this trouble when, in direct contravention of the explicit mandate of the Council, the use of Latin in the Office was, to all intents and purposes, about to disappear and no John Mason Neale was at hand to translate the Office Hymns into an English which preserved the flavour of the Latin originals.

Did Christians ever worship inthe vernacular?

Writing in 1959, something like a decade before the Novus Ordo Mass was rendered into the impoverished English of Old ICEL, Christine Mohrmann showed that the very nature of Christian liturgical language, from the earliest times, had been sacral and hieratic. "Christians sought for prayer forms which were far removed, in their style and mode of expression, from the language of everyday life. This tendency was combined with a conscious striving after sacral forms of expression". Taking the Didache , that strange early text sometimes admired by liturgists unsympathetic to what were to be the classical forms of East and West, she shows "a linking up with the Old Testament sentence structure and parallelism - such as we find also in the New Testament Canticles and prayers, and ... the introduction of Aramaic and Hebrew elements which clearly indicate a striving after sacral stylisation. There is here an obvious differentiation from the language of everyday life ...". Moving on to the introduction of Latin into the worship of the Church, she demonstrates, as I showed in an earlier post, that the dialect deliberately constructed for this purpose was deliberately archaic and sacral; based upon those pagan Roman formulae of immemorial antiquity by which fields were lustrated or the gods of an enemy city persuaded to desert it. The "monumental verbosity coupled with juridical precision ... wealth of words ... parallelism, alliteration and rhyme ... " in the pagan formulae are to be found, above all, in the Canon of the Mass. " A sacral style has been created which links up with the old Roman prayer of the official Roman cult". One finds oneself idly wondering if the members of old ICEL were ignorant of Mohrmannn's weighty arguments, or whether for their own doctrinal-cultural reasons had decided deliberately to ignore her findings.

26 September 2009


I feel quite chuffed to see THREE photographs of myself on the NLM blog

See if you can identify me!

24 September 2009

Pope Benedict

The blogosphere suggests that once again Diabolical forces are having a go at the Holy Father.

I've said before and I'll say it again: this is no time for "On the one hand .... on the other ...". The Enemy just loves those who say "Of course there is much good in what he does and says, but ...". It is so clear that Pope Benedict is the front guy whom the forces of Evil are attacking because he is to them the ultimate personal symbol in the world of Christ's Body the Church and of its Tradition; indeed, the representative of Christ himself in a very special way. As so often in the past, those who attack are very commonly motivated by their own sexual incontinence to attack those whose witness, whose very existence, seems a condemnation. Our support must be unambiguous, and our prayers - for example, to the Mother of God of Walsingham - must be real.

While I'm on about it, I'm not keen either on listening to attacks on Patriarch Cyril and his close assistants.

Meddling galore

Since Orders depend upon a valid episcopate, where does all this leave Anglicans? I prefer not to answer this question by drawing out the implications of the last two posts, or to investigate the politicking of Cardinal Vaughan in the last years of the nineteenth century. For more than a century we Anglicans had persecuted the heroic young clergy from the Seminaries and cheerfully connived at the horrors of their execution simply 'for priesthood'. The condemnation of our Orders in the Bull Apostolicae curae is our justly deserved punishment for our collaboration in this evil. The bull settles the juridical question of our Orders - Leo XIII described it as hoc caput disciplinae - and we have to live with that and with its consequences. I am prepared to do so and I consider it both charitable and dignified not to criticise those involved in the events of the 1890s. And I have a rooted disinclination to go around saying that Roman Pontiffs have 'got it wrong'.

But one can contextualise it. There has been a recurrent tendency throughout history for bad feeling between Christian groups or individuals to lead to hard words about the orders of other people, rather as when Pope Stephen VII 'annulled' the ordinations of his predecessor (and had his corpse exhumed and tried!). And an episode in Bede gives, in my view, a bit of a hint as to how we Anglicans might conduct ourselves. S Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, told S Chad that he was non rite consecratus; Chad had been consecrated by "Celtic" bishops according to "Celtic" rites. We do not know the rites used by "British" and "Irish" bishops when conveying orders or what S Theodore disliked about them; but Bede does not regard their orders as invalid and there has not been much of a tendency since then to consider that their orders were invalid. Current Roman praxis in Calendar and Martyrology certainly treats the "Celtic" episcopal Saints as truly bishops. But S Chad conducted himself with great humility; S Theodore then ordinationem eius denuo catholica ratione consummavit.

I think most Anglican Catholic priests will be more than happy, when received into Full Communion, to have their orders catholica ratione consummari, and their bishops to offer to recede from episcopal ministry. The Chad Solution!

23 September 2009

Do it yourself

Well, today, for Padre Pio, I used the old Mass of the Stigmata of S Francis, with the new collect for the Saint.

Tomorrow, following what was pre-Conciliar usage at the (Anglican) shrine of our Lady of Walsingham, for her feast I will say the old December Mass pro aliquibus locis of the Translation of the Holy House (omitting the words from the Collect about how it was miraculously placed in the midst of the Church). And I shall use the very beautiful Office for that festival.

Let him among you who is without sin cast the first stone.

21 September 2009

Catullus and the Continuum

I don't keep in touch with the Continuum, whatever that may be, but could friends who do so let me know if it still attacks me? I don't want to know what, if anything, they say, just whether ...

It occurs to me that, for Latinists who have read Catullus (XXXII), the word Continuum might refer to a species of sexual athleticism which is now well beyond an old gentleman like me.

English Missal

I am doing a bit of research on the genesis and early history of The English Missal Missale Anglicanum. I have been unable to detect a copy of the First Edition, said by Google to be 1910, in Bodley (which suggests that the Anglo-Catholic publishing firm of Knotts failed to send the statutory copies of its productions into the copyright libraries). Or indeed anywhere else in Oxford. But I'm not very good on computers; if anyone can detect a copy any Oxford library or church, I'd be grateful for the help. Or if anyone is aware of research already in the public domain on this subject.

I'm sure someone out there must possess as First Edition; if so, and if you're not in Oxford, it would be kind if you would send me your email address so that I can ask you some questions about it.

20 September 2009


The other day Pam and I walked up the Thames to Eynsham and - how nice to find a RC church unlocked - looked in S Peter's, built on the site of Eynsham Abbey. It was begun in 1940, but because of WW2 only the sanctuary was completed; the rest of the church was just a wooden hut. And that sanctuary was a nice apse in a pared-down Romanesque style, at the East end of the site, thus maintaining the old tradition of Orientation.

Fr Lopes, the priest responsible, was a resolute man, and was determined that the church should be completed to its original design; a good egg; One Of Us, you might say. So it wasn't until after his death that a scaled down version was built; consecrated in 1968.

By then, of course, the Smoke of Satan etc. etc.. So a new sanctuary was constructed at the West End with a free-standing Altar so that the priest would stand behind it (thus facing East) facing his people who would thus be facing West. In fact, just as in Roman basilicas such as S Peter's. The old apse at the East was converted into a baptistry.

Fast-forward to 2009. We have been taught, originally by Anglican liturgists such as Fr Michael Moreton but more recently by RCs such as Dr Lang , that 'Towards the East' is the proper thing. And so it is. There are heaps of patristic evidence for celebrating towards the East, from where we expect the Dayspring; the returning Saviour and Judge; because, as Origen put it, it is from the East that Redemption comes. But this has, in practice, mutated into something subtly different: a belief in the importance of celebrating versus apsidem; facing the sanctuary wall, facing away from the people and in the same direction as them. Much has been written to justify this.

But what are we to make of a church like S Peter's Eynsham? If you face East, you will be facing the people. If you celebrate 'with your back to the people', you will be facing West. Just imagine that one of the splendid new brand of High Church RC priests were appointed to Eynsham; let's call him, for convenience, Fr Theophilus Finegan (because the English RC Church is in dire need of as many Finegans as it can get). Should he get a local carpenter to make him a portable gradine so that when he says an EF Mass, he can pop it onto his altar and celebrate facing away from the people? Or should he face East, even at the cost of his face being visible to the laity, and use the rubrics in the EF Missal which give clear directions about how to use the Old Rite while facing the people (many people tend to forget that S Pius V gave careful instructions how to do this; he had to, didn't he, because he was Bishop of Rome and so many Roman basilicas are thus arranged).

Frankly, if my name were Finegan, I'd face (the real) East. (And if I were Fr T Finegan Cong Or I would feel a bit of a bias towards saying my Masses at that superb - real Italian Baroque - Lady Altar at Brompton which does face East.) But I bet a lot of you out there think - despite the insistance of the Fathers on facing East - that facing away from the people is the most important thing.

(Don't bother to write in with the obvious suggestion of getting the masons in and swinging the church round. And if anyone points out that several times a week I say Mass in S Thomas's at the Holy Rood Altar, which faces North, I shall delete the contribution unless it comes from one of my particular favourites.)

19 September 2009

Via Nordica Media

In i933 Dom Gregory Dix wrote a couple of scintillating articles about the errors of one Dr N P Williams (formerly, I have to admit, a priest on the strength of S Thomas's). Williams had invented "Nordic Catholicism", "neither Roman nor Byzantine ... non-Papal, but at the same time specifically Western in its outlook and temper". He associated this with the 'Nordic' lands of Britain, Scandinavia, Holland [included presumably so as to incorporate the minute gang of schismatics called the'Old Catholics'] and North Germany.

Interesting, isn't it, that a donnish Oxford Anglican should be devising this Aryan racist nonsense just as Hitlerism was on the up. Of course Williams did not get all this from Nazism; it is, rather, a superb example of how things can be in the air; the fashion of the times ... the spawn of the Zeitgeist ... an idea whose time has come and whose time will through the mercy of God undoubtedly go. You will recall the parallel of Eugenics and racial purity, which were already being peddled by birth-controllers in America and Europe when the euthanasia of the unfit and the elimination of European Jewry were merely a gleam in Herr Hitler's artistic eye.

Dix was merciless in the satirical bite of his articles (I believe Williams never spoke to him again). I will give but one example. Williams had written of the "essential religious genius of the Northern peoples ... mystical soaring quality ... beneath grey and weeping skies ... quality which urges it to pierce straight upwards to the ineffable Godhead itself, and forbids it to take over-much delight in symbols, or to rest with satisfaction in material objects of devotion". Dix begins his clinical demolition of this claptrap thus:
It is a vivid and sympathetic picture. One can almost see these mystical and polygamous freemen at their simple devotions, and catch the rustle of their golden beards as they bend forward to breathe unsuperstitious prayers into their winged casques, seated on damp logs beneath the grey and weeping dome of heaven.

At the end of his first article, Dix writes:
It has been the nemesis of all racial Christianities from St Paul's opponents to the present day that they have proved sterile and inadequate just in proportion as they have expressed only the emphatic qualities of a race. Truth will be held most entirely and in due proportion in a Church which is truly "universal", supra-racial, AND UNAFFECTED BY THE TRANSIENT SPIRIT OF A PARTICULAR AGE.

And in the other paper, he writes:
Above all else, the Oxford Movement was an attempt to recover for the magisterium of the Church that final control of belief which "liberalism"claims for irresponsible private scholarship. ... "liberal Catholics" ... seek to impose on the Oxford Movement a theology which is not its own, which springs indeed from the principles of that "liberalism" which, as Newman said, "is the enemy".

66 years later, how relevant are Dix's words to the Liberal establishment of today, to its servitude to the Spirit of the Age in matters such as Priestesses, and to its certain transience.


According to the Book of Common Prayer, the Missal of S Pius V, my Ordo, and the admirable S Lawrence Ordo, today is the Saturday of the the September Ember Days, or 'Quater Tense' as I have heard them called (Quatuor Tempora, Latin for 'Four Times'). We observe them on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Holy Cross Day. But the silly old C of E Common Worship moved them to the week before the Sunday nearest to Michaelmass - which would be next week.

At this point my eye strays to the Gricigliano Calendar hanging, for its nice pickies, beside my computer. Di immortales! There I see that the Institute is keeping these Ember Days on the Common Worship date. I find this highly mysterious. Does anybody know the reason? As an Anglican Catholic I feel I have to warn them that this is a slippery slope which will end up with Women Priests (just imagine them in the blue pompoms!) and Episcopussies (apologies to Professor Tighe for not using his rather clever flaminicae).

In am not often moved to miss my breakfast, but after all those readings and collects about fasting in this morning's EF Mass (I said that option), and the fact that today is also the anticipated Vigil of S Matthew, I was shamed into doing so.

I shall make up later when the news comes through that Good S Januarius has liquefied. I hope Neapolitan readers will keep me informed.

16 September 2009


How lovely to see distinguished blogger Brother Lawrence Lew being solemnly professed in the Oxford Blackfriars on Sunday. May God bless him and give him multos annos in his service to his people.


A 'traditional' approach to the post-conciliar Divine Office would start, I suppose, with the proper implementation of the rubrics that are in the Liturgy of the Hours. Thus incense should, when the office is in common, always be used at the Gospel Canticles at Morning and Evening Prayer. This reproduces the Sacrifice of Incense in the worship of the Temple in Jerusalem, and, quite apart from reminding us of the proper dignity of those canticles and of those who uttered them (our Blessed Lady and S John Baptist), recalls the Temple basis of our worship and the Hebrew basis of our whole Faith.

And real doctrinaire enthusiasts for Vatican II could recall the assumption made there and expressed in the decree Sacrosanctum Concilium that the overwhelming majority of clergy apart from a few duffers would continue to say the Office in Latin.

Then there are things unmentioned in the new Office but arguably assumed, such as the old custom of Deo gratias at the end of Brief Readings and Tu autem Domine miserere nobis - Deo gatias at the conclusion of longer ones. [Thanks be to God; But do thou O Lord have mercy upon us: thanks be to God]

And next, things deliberately omitted but easily restored, such as the full dialogue (as in the Prayer Book) before the first office of the day; and the use of the versicle, response, and collect after the Marian anthem.

But these are slight details compared with my next suggestion. A big loss in the liturgical reforms was the concept of 'commemorations'; the idea that, as well as observing the Saint of the Day, just one observance on one day, the person praying the Office 'commemorates' some other saint. In the old rite, this meant that one remembered a saint who in a previous age of the Church had had a considerable cult, which had now faded and been overlaid by a more recent observance. 'Commemorating' created a diachronic unity with our fellow-believers of earlier centuries. And if one 'commemorates' a saint who is important today in some other part of the world, there is a synchronic unity with fellow Christians in another place now. As an ORDO compiler, it always irritates me that when one comes to November 17, one has to choose between S Hugh and S Hilda and S Elizabeth, or else subject one or more of of them to the indignity of being shifted off their 'proper' day.

'Commemorating' involved saying, after the collect of Lauds and Vespers, the following elements from the Office of the saint you are not treating as the main saint of the day but wish also to remember: the Antiphon which accompanied the Gospel Canticle, plus the Versicle and Response that followed the hymn (one could in the new Office use the Responsory or part of it) plus the Collect.

I remind readers that it is perfectly lawful to use parts of the old Office- Dominical and Festal Lauds and Vespers spring to mind - in place of the forms in the Liturgy of the Hours. One could for example use the ancient text of the Venite and the old usage of invitatories.

15 September 2009

Irish referendum

A reminder/call to prayer to all those who think that a Lisbonised Europe will be one that increasingly lies vulnerable to the imposition of the Zeitgeist and in which it will increasingly difficult to resist anti-Christian morality, particularly in the spheres of Life issues and Sexuality.

I support financially an organisation called COIR. They do admirable work in facing the pressures in Ireland for Abortion; I support them rather than British organisations because Ireland is one of the few countries in which the matter is still being fought over. And COIR are vigorous young people who propagandise attractively with effective roadshows, do not mind being roughed up by the Plods (Gods, I suppose, in Ireland), and get into colleges and universities. They are refreshingly free of a middle-aged desire to be restrained and responsible.

After the Referendum, I suspect that their coffers will be rather empty. Irish law prohibits us foreigners from financially intervening in Irish politics, but afterwards will be another matter.


14 September 2009

Married Priests: Practicalities

And I have tended also to chide those well-meaning Anglicanophile Irish with the Financial Question. "It's lovely to hear you so enthusiastic about our Anglican tradition of a clergy allowed to be married. I take it that you and your fellow laity would be prepared to put your money where your mouths are and shell out the much larger sums of money needed to support a married clergy". At this point they usually tend to go quiet and thoughtful.

It is no secret that English RC bishops have tended to cope with the Financial Question by appointing ex-Anglican married priests to the sort of chaplaincies which are well-paid because the Government provides the salaries. I cannot say that I would like to be a RC bishop constrained in his appointments by this consideration. And I can imagine the sort of thoughts that must go through the minds of celibate presbyters as they watch this policy in operation. And there have been sad cases of married Anglican clergy who have been received into full communion and have been extremely disappointed when they have been eventually refused presbyteral ministry on the grounds that there is no way of providing for their families.

I believe that a married clergy is a major part of our Anglican patrimony which God calls us to bring into the unity of the universal Latin Church. And a real married clergy; not just a clergy in which the already married are tolerated as a concession for the first generation. But we can't expect other people to pay for it. We need to be a discrete organisation in which we raise the money to sustain our own custom. And there must be no sense in which our custom undermines the tradition of celibacy in the rest of the Latin Church. We would ordain the already married who had a long-term association with our community but those already ordained would not be allowed to get married and under no circumstances would we accept clergy from elsewhere who sought to join us so that they could get married. Our shortage of money would in any case prevent us from welcoming with particularly open arms Fr O'Murphy when he suddenly and simultaneously discerned his loves for the Anglican liturgical tradition and for the Sacrament of Matrimony.

Oh yes ... and I think we should come into line with the custom both of East and West of having a celibate episcopate. Would it be the end of the world for the ambitious to have to choose between a mitre and a wife?


Why is it that, in the authentic traditional ordination rites of the Western Church (by which I bet my RC clerical readers were no more ordained than I was ... let's just keep our respective fingers crossed and trust God that rites maimed by Cranmers or Bugninis do really work), presbyters had their hands anointed with the oil of catechumens, but bishops were anointed on the head with Chrism.

Is the difference of the oils used a mark of the superiority of bishops - to show that only the bishop has the summum sacerdotium of the Christos? Or something to do with the hierarchical superiority of heads over hands?

12 September 2009


Apologies to the confused. This medieval term for the Festival of the Holy Cross was indeed used for the Feast of its Invention [Finding] in May. Since that Feast is abolished in the NO Calendar, I have tended to keep the word alive by apply it to the surviving Feast of the Cross in September.

The abolition of the Invention was a great shame; not only because it was so popular a feast in the Middle Ages, but because it is good to reflect on the Cross in Eastertide; letting our appropriation of Resurrection illuminate the Passion and remembering that Passion and Resurrection are two sides of one coin. I believe S Margaret Mary believed our Lord wanted a feast of the Saqcred Heart in Easter Week.

Married Priests

If there is to be a proper set-up for Anglican Catholics united with the Holy See, among the subjects addressed must be that of a married priesthood - which is something deeply embedded in our Tradition.

Vatican praxis is that those clergy already married are accepted as married priests into Full Communion; but those not married upon their reception are not allowed to get married. Nor are widowed priests. And the acceptance of married clergy is restricted to the 'first generation'. No future married ordinands will be ordained. Let me explain what I think is right about this.

The Anglican Tradition of priests marrying needs a rethink. Few things are more indecorous than the old Anglican custom of a young curate arriving in a parish and being competed for by the unmarried young women of that parish. And the Great Tradition is not very welcoming of the concept of priests marrying. Anglicans of that peculiar type that rejoices in finding areas where our tradition coincides with the Byzantine tradition and stands against the Roman praxis tend to forget that Byzantines are far from keen on priests marrying.

What is wrong with current Vatican praxis is the refusal to accept that, after unity, future generations of married ordinands will be accepted. A married priesthood is a long-standing part of what we are, and is not repugnant to the practice of Byzantines both 'dissident' and 'uniate'. Refusing to contemplate the possibility of this continuing among us is a radical rejection of our faith-history and of what God has done among us; it is reminiscent of the bully-boy tactics of Latin bishops in America over the years to prevent the continuance of a married clergy among American 'uniates'. It is no secret that this has led to quite unnecessary dissensions and schisms.

Against and for a married clery continues.

11 September 2009

Our Lady of Oseney

Puritans always feel critical of the popular observances which popular piety heaps upon the Calendar. Thus, S Pius V, the saintly but rather Puritan pope under whom Raffael's great picture of the Madonna di Foligno was evicted from the Church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli on the Capitoline Hill (here at S Thomas's we have a superb copy as part of our High Altar), also evicted a number of popular commemorations from the Calendar, including SS Anne and Joachim. They very soon crept back in. The not-very-saintly-at-all Bugnini evicted ... well, quite a lot of people; but among the casualties of his era was the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary. Towards the end of the Pontificate of John Paul II this memoria was edged back onto September 12. It's the way of things.

When this commemoration returned, the Roman authorities made the suggestion that it would do very nicely as a day on which the makers of local calendars could include the Mother of God under some local title. Not a bad idea. I shall commemorate our Lady of Oseney, the Titular of the great abbey - one of the greatest in England - just across the railway lines from us, by whose monks the original S Thomas's was built. (Mind you, I think in future years I might go back to the usage of my learned predecessor Dr Jalland, who, in the 1930s, according to his Parish Newsletters, used to sing a Votive of our Lady for Oseney Abbey on the day after ther feast of S Thomas's Translation in July. Or - sometimes - on July 2, old Visitation day.)

Not that September 12 was the original date for the festival of the Name of Mary. Before the Calendar was reformed by S Pius X, quite a number of festivals were permanently lodged on Sundays. Liturgists tended to dislike this sort of thing, because it meant that the lovely old Roman Sunday Masses, with their prayers composed by fourth and fifth century popes, never got a look-in. And this feast (double major) occupied the Sunday in the Octave of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Third Sunday in September was the Festival of the Seven Dolours of our Lady; Pius X shifted it to the Octave day of her Nativity, which is also, most suitably, the day after Crouchmas (the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, as you RCs call it). It survives there as one of the tiny number of former Octave Days on the modern Calendar. The First Sunday in October was the Festival of the Holy Rosary; under Pius X it went happily to its natural day, October 7, anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto. S Joachim occupied the Sunday after the Assumption. You get the idea. People found that the 'Green' season did rather go on.

Frankly, I'd rather have interruptions of that sort than the endlessly fashionable So-and-so Sundays favoured by the modern English RC hierarchy (and by other modern hierarchies???).

10 September 2009

Local Sanctity

Mass this morning of Blessed Agnellus of Pisa, an associate of S Francis who came to Oxford to found our first Greyfriars. He must have been here while S Thomas's was being, or had just been, built; he founded the Franciscan Studium in Oxford and until the Dissolution his shrine was in the Greyfriars' Church. So perhaps his remains are somewhere underneath Sainsbury's, a few hundred yards from S Thomas's.

In the last year, the new Oxford Greyfriars has closed, due to the lack of sympathy on the part of a secularised University and a lack of Gumption on the part of the English Roman Catholic Church.

9 September 2009


Anglicanism is a nonsense religion, a dim, pathetic, ridiculous superstition, developed within the last 150 or so years. It relates to what is doctrinally distinctive about those in communion with the See of Canterbury. Sometimes it is expressed in terms of a via media: some sort of Middle Way between the excesses, on the one side, of Protestantism, on the other side, of Popery. Sometimes it appears in the form of an idea called the Branch Theory, in which Christ's Church is composed of three Branches: the Roman; the Greek; and the Anglican. No explanation is ever thought necessary as to why the 'Monophysite' Syrian Orthodox Christians who meet in S Thomas's are not a 'branch', or why the Methodists, or the Swedish Lutherans, or the Moravians, are excluded. Little consideration is ever given to the possibility that the Great Latin Church of the West might be deemed a Via media between those Western ecclesial bodies, including the Anglicans, who were exposed to the 'Reformation' with its radical denials of Tradition and of Sacramentality, and the Orthodox.

Sometimes this 'Anglicanism' is constructed by looking at the Prayer Book and the Articles. Sometimes, by examining carefully the writings of those divines, Caroline or Tractarian, who attempted to modify the damage done to the Provinces of Canterbury and York by the 'Reformation'. In each case, the unspoken assumption is that Anglicanism started with the breach from Rome. You have the bizarre situation in which Anglicans cheerfully claim to be the ancient Catholic Church of this land, yet if you asked any of them "Who founded the Church of England?", 95% would reply "Henry VIII". (I regarded it as a triumph of my 6-year ministry in Devon that, after I put that question onto a pub-quiz, my parishioners were a little uncertain whether the answer on Father's answer-sheet would be S Gregory or S Augustine.) The legal position in English law of the Church of England is that she was founded in 596; yet pretty well anybody would tell you that she started with the breach from Rome.

Funnily enough, there is a distinctive doctrine of the poast-Reformation Church of England, yes, just one; or rather, there was until comparatively recent times: the doctrine of Royal Supremacy. In a raw and murderous form under Henry VII, this meant that the Monarch could change the doctrine of the Church upon a moment's whimsy or confiscate the chalice in each parish church if he found himself strapped for cash. In the more gracious period of the Stuarts, when the C of E, instead of resenting the tyranny of the Tudors, rather welcomed the patronage and protection of a kindlier dynasty, this transformed itself into the dogma of Passive Resistance: that even a bad monarch ought to be resisted by nothing more violent than passive non-collaboration. This is what distinguished Anglicans from both Protestant and Popish dissent. Neither Catholics, nor Evangelicals, nor Liberals, make this the basis of their understanding of 'Anglicanism' nowadays.

The sooner that 'Anglicanism' is shovelled into the trash-can of History, the better.

I have one footnote to add to this tomorrow.

5 September 2009


In the dialogue between SSPX and CDF, I do not see how SSPX can avoid being asked to face up to the question of the status of the post-conciliar papal Magisterium. I am afraid I suspect some of them of being constructively Sedevacantist. I know that SSPX has waged a relentless war against those who are formally sedevacantist. But I cannot help sometimes feeling that though they formally acknowledge the validity of the election, say, of JP2, and of his pontificate, some members of SSPX behave as though in fact his magisterial pronouncements lack full status and do not demand obsequium. He was for them, one might say, a merely nominal or titular pontiff.

For those with a sense of humour, an obvious solution presents itself. SSPX must accept the pronouncements of post-conciliar pontiffs ... with the same respect that liberals accord to those of pre-conciliar popes. And indeed, when some liberals demand that SSPX be made to adhere to 'every syllable' of the conciliar and post-conciliar Magisterium of Vatican II, it is right to check up that these gentlemen themselves adhere not only to every syllable in the documents of Vatican II but also to the totality of Vatican I and of Trent and of the post-Tridentine Magisterium. All that would most certainly have its funny side. But this is a serious matter. And canonical regularisation can hardly await the completion of scrutiny of every syllable in official documents since the 1960s.

I wonder if it might be felt that a regularised SSPX should be expected to show appropriate submission to future magisterial documents that emerge in a Church in the life of which they have been playing a full part; while, as far as previous magisterial enactments were concerned, they would demonstrate a polite respect which did not exclude the possibility, in theological discourse, of contextualising those documents. Raking up old problems just for the sake of it is not necessary in ecclesial life; although of course an old decision might need to be examined and reworked if the questions with which it dealt resurfaced disruptively in the life of the Church or in acrimonious dissent between theological schools. Here again, such an arrangement would look ahead to reconciliation with groups such as Byzantine Orthodoxy, where such an understanding would be unavoidable. A lot of water has flowed under the bridges of both Old and New Rome since 1054.

So, once more, I feel (and sometimes I wonder if this is what the Holy Father has in mind) that the SSPX/CDF dialogue could be a dry run for the Big One. Please God it may be so; and that the Spirit may rest upon those involved in this autumn's exchanges.

3 September 2009

Was Gregory Organic?

Someone coming from Sicily said to me that certain friends of his, whether Greeks or Romans I am not aware, as if through zeal for the Holy Roman Church, complained of my arrangements, saying, 'How is he proposing to keep in check the Church of Constantinople, when he follows its customs in every respect?' And when I said to him: 'What customs do we follow?', he answered 'Because you have caused Alleluia to be said at Mass outside Eastertide; because you have determined that subdeacons shall be without tunicles in procession; that Kyrie eleison shall be said; that the Lord's Prayer shall be said immediately after the Canon.

Thus Pope S Gregory the Great described the criticisms made of his liturgical changes (translation by G G Willis). His replies to this criticism of his Byzantinisation of the Roman Rite have some of the slippery characteristics of a Blair age politico. For example, he defends the introduction of the Kyries not by denying that they come from the East - they do - but by saying that we do them a bit differently in Rome; the moving of the Lord's Prayer to immediately after the Canon, which is exactly what he will have witnessed during his years as papal Apocrisiarius in Constantinople, is not, he cries, Byzantinisation: "In Rome only the Priest sings it, whereas in Constantinople everybody joins in".

The great Anglican liturgist G G Willis damned the introduction of alien Eucharistic Prayers into the Roman Rite after Vatican II with a phrase (borrowed from Juvenal's Third Satire: those were the days when scholars knew their classics) about the Orontes having flowed into the Tiber. Well, a gallon or two of Bosphorus got there well before Bugnini.

I think we should all take seriously the question of how much tinkering counts as 'inorganic' development. I don't intend to lay down the law on this matter; we all believe that Liturgy can never be, has never been, static; we all believe that too much change breaches the 'organic' rule laid down wisely by Vatican II and reemphasised by the Holy Father. Where, between those two principles, we discern a line, will to some degree be subjective.

I would just point out that this episode does give us a good example of the liturgical law that the pew-fodder do notice, and often complain about, substantive changes in what they are used to (this cuts both ways; both the Liberal radicals and the 'Reform the Reform' restorationists can be the victims of it). Perhaps what went wrong in the 1960s and 1970s was that a clericalist coup, effected by 'experts' who knew that they knew best, overrode this 'law'.

What should we learn from this?

2 September 2009


I rather wonder whether, in the imminent dialogue betwwen SSPX and CDF, the participants will be willing to confront the problem of the status of Councils in general and of Vatican II in particular. I hope they will. But it will be a bold move. Both for those who admire it and those who detest it, the Council is the towering fact of ecclesiastical life in the last half century. Papal documents have repeatedly cited it; and more than any council ever it made an almost overnight impact on the daily prayer-life of every Latin Christian and the liturgy of every parish church (I suspect that I am one of the few whom the Council has barely touched; I accepted it as a true Ecumenical Council, but I rarely bothered to read its documents and never regarded it as the Wunderkonzil which would put all to rights; nor did I feel it was a Satanic disaster and spend my time scouring its texts for error). Any radical nuancing or relativising of the status of the conciliar documents will elicit from the liberals (who in fact, more than most, completely ignore provisions they dislike) paranoid rantings. If the participants in dialogue refer such sensitive matters to the Pontiff himself, then the full weight of the satanic malevolence of the crypto-apostates who have not reached the canonical age of retirement, and of their lackey media, will fall upon that gentle and sensitive man.

Vaticanologists have long been expert in detecting the relative status of a papal document. Where does a Motu proprio stand vis-a-vis an Encyclical or an Apostolic Constitution or a Post-synodal Exhortation? The same sophistication may need to be applied to the documents of Vatican II. As an ignorant Anglican, it would seem to me that those topoi which have featured most frequently in documents of the post-conciliar papal Magisterium, and portions appointed to be read in the Office of Readings, would take priority over portions which have been a dead letter in the life of the Church (but unfortunately it will be a great deal more complicated than that). And, above all, there has to be the hermeneutic of non-rupture: in other words, a glossing of the meaning of a document which renders it in harmony with the Tradition is manifestly preferable to a glossing which, although prima facie it might have seemed more probable, would involve an assumption of rupture.

Most Orthodox and Anglicans do not accept the Magisterium of "papal" Councils. The sort of contextualising that I describe would, in any case, be necessary in dialogue with henotically minded members of those traditions. That is why the dialogue with SSPX can be a gift to the whole of Christendom.

I hope to complete my discussion of the SSPX/CDF dialogue the day after tomorrow. Tomorrow, I hope to face up to the dodgy question of Pope Gregory's revision of the Roman Rite.

1 September 2009


Last time I referred to the great Anglican Papalist Mystagogue and writer Dom Gregory Dix, and his demonstration that Councils came upon the Church without, initially, there being any theory or awareness of their status and authority. Of course, Dix would have accepted implicitly the notion of Development in Dogma, and the status of Councils in modern Chrisian doctrine. Indeed, the whole series of articles that he wrote in the late Thirties was designed to show that both Nicaea and Vatican I "succeeded in preserving the whole of the original truth, while putting it into quite a different dress from that in which it was originally presented. No one would deny that there has been development in both cases. But it is a true development, as I see it, bringing out only what was implicit and in germ in the original conception, and guarding it from misunderstanding and error. The language of the Vatican [I] decrees on the Roman Pontiff is admittedly formidable at first reading. Yet its meaning seems on careful analysis very closely in line with what we have found in the second century".Dix showed that the Primacy of the Roman Church was an older and more integral part of Christian doctrine than Conciliarism. He showed that it has the same antiquity and status as Episcopal Jurisdiction. I would be the last person to deny that a doctrinal decree of an Ecumenical Council, confirmed by the Roman Pontiff, is infallible and irreformable. But I feel that the time has come to call the bluff of the bloated Conciliarism which has been doing the rounds since the 1960s. And in fact, the admirers of the Council, as well as its detractors, have common ground here. It is well known that those whose rhetoric suggests that they are keenest on the Council commonly invoke "the Spirit of the Council". This "spirit" (rather like the "Trajectory of Scripture" which some Anglicans invoke in order to draw a scriptural mantle over propositions upon the Scripures are silent) can encourage notions far beyond (and which even may contradict) what the Council actually decreed. This is in fact a tacit admission that the Conciliar texts are in se inadequate to the ecclesial life of our decade.

And of course they are inadequate. The Council was described both by the convoking Pontiff and by itself as Pastoral, and as not a Council imposing new dogma. If it was Pastoral, it was presumably pastorally addressed to the pastoral needs and pastoral problems of the 1960s. And by definition the 1960s are not the 2010s. If Vatican II addressed the 1960s, by definition it did not address any other period except in so far as theologians might plausibly infer that that its decrees gave expression to truths a suitable development of which might be valid in other ages. If Aggiornamento was its purpose, well, that giorno has now passed. Those of us who were ordained in the Conciliar period are now old men. The problems of the age in which we are now placed - problems, for example, of sexual morality and gender - are hardly mentioned in the Conciliar documents. In as far as they were beginning to arise - in the area of contraception - the Council, interestingly and significantly, was content that the matter be left in the area of Papal competence!

So one could elaborate a thesis of Conciliar Fade: that gradually the relevance of conciliar decrees to the life of the Church disappears. Rome has, after all, agreed formulae with "Nestorian" groups wich circumvent Chalcedon. And, were we to argue thus, we would again have the more fanatical devotees of Vatican II on our side. For they seem often willing to view the decrees of, say, Trent, as ... well, dated; and what's sauce for the goose .... Even within the documents of their own beloved Council, we know that most of these people are, in fact, less than enthusiastic about the provisions for the liturgical retention of Latin and of Gregorian chant. But I don't in fact believe that a Dogma of Fade is the way ahead.

I hope to return to the question next time.